Meldungen (Feeds)

Private Prison Involved in Immigrant Detention Funds Donald Trump and His Super PAC

The Intercept - Engl. - Vie, 26/08/2016 - 23:43

Geo Group, the second largest private prison company in the U.S., and a major player in for-profit immigrant detention, filed a disclosure this month revealing that it provided $50,000 through its political action committee to Rebuilding America Now, the Super PAC backing the presidential campaign of Donald Trump.

While Trump has not used his campaign to purchase campaign advertisements, an unusual dynamic noted by many in the campaign press, Rebuilding America Now has become his de facto paid media voice, with $2 million in recent anti-Hillary Clinton ad buys.

Trump has promised sweeping policies to detain and deport millions of undocumented immigrants, a policy platform that he routinely references at rallies across the country.

“You’re going to have a deportation force, and you’re going to do it humanely,” Trump explained on MSNBC last year. He also called for tripling the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and ending birthright citizenship, a right enshrined in the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.

In its filing, Geo Group also disclosed that its PAC has donated to mostly Republican-leaning groups, including $45,000 to the Trump Victory fund, a joint fundraising committee between Trump and various state Republican Party groups; $50,000 to the Florida First Project, a new Super PAC backing the re-election campaign of Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.; and $1,500 to the Southwestern Border Sheriff Coalition, an organization supporting sheriffs that backs tough immigration enforcement policies.

Geo Group operates several immigrant detention policies on behalf of the government, such as the Adelanto Detention Facility in California, a prison widely criticized for overcrowding and alleged medical neglect, among other complaints.

Geo Group has a long history of donating to politicians behind an enforcement-first approach to immigration policy. Though the firm claims that it does not attempt to directly influence immigration issues, the firm disclosed that it lobbied on the comprehensive immigration reform bill debated in Congress in 2013 and openly concedes in regulatory statements that immigration laws are central to the company’s bottom line.

“Immigration reform laws which are currently a focus for legislators and politicians at the federal, state and local level also could materially adversely impact us,” the Geo Group’s 2011 annual report, filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, states.

The statement specifically cited the “relaxation of criminal or immigration enforcement efforts.”

Earlier this month, in a move widely perceived as a response to a number of investigations and political pressure highlighting problems at private prisons, the Department of Justice announced that it would be phasing out use of such prisons by the federal Bureau of Prisons. The decision will impact firms such as Geo Group and Corrections Corporation of America.

But as The Intercept noted it is not clear if U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency involved with contracting out immigrant detention centers, will follow suit.

Top photo: A guard escorts an immigrant detainee from his “segregation cell” back into the general population at the Adelanto Detention Facility on Nov. 15, 2013, in Adelanto, California. 

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Sheriff’s Raid to Find Blogger Who Criticized Him Was Unconstitutional, Court Rules

The Intercept - Engl. - Vie, 26/08/2016 - 23:09

An appellate court in Baton Rouge ruled Thursday that a raid on a police officer’s house in search of the blogger who had accused the sheriff of corruption was unconstitutional.

The Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeals argued that Sheriff Jerry Larpenter’s investigation into the blog ExposeDAT had flawed rationale: the alleged defamation was not actually a crime as applied to a public official.

The unanimous ruling from the three-judge panel comes after police officer Wayne Anderson and his wife Jennifer Anderson were denied assistance in local and federal court.

“I love it when justice is tangible,” Jerri Smitko, one of the Andersons’ laywers, told The Intercept.

“With that piece of paper it says that what they did was unconstitutional — that’s a great feeling because you’re holding it in your hand and it’s vindication for people that they intended to oppress,” she added.

The raid was sparked by the sheriff’s investigation into who was behind the anonymous blog that accused local officials, including him, of corruption and fraud. Through a blog and a Facebook page called “John Turner,” ExposeDAT used public records to show conflicts of interest.

The sheriff sought warrants when Tony Alford, a local business owner, filed a criminal complaint about the blog. On August 2, Larpenter and his deputies raided the Andersons’ house after they traced the IP address of the John Turner Facebook page through a warrant to AT&T.

The information AT&T provided, according to an affidavit, gave the sheriff an address and a name: Wayne Anderson.

The court found that the raid on the Andersons’ house was unjustified. “Anthony Alford, the supposed victim, is president of the Terrebonne Parish Levee and Conservation Board of Louisiana, and a public official,” the decision read. “Consequently, the search warrant lacks probable cause because the conduct complained of is not a criminally actionable offense.”

The ruling said that when applied to public officials, like Alford, the criminal defamation statute is unconstitutional.

Smitko said she now plans to go to the Terrebonne Parish Court and retrieve Anderson and his family’s electronic devices.

“I certainly believe that my clients have been damaged by this unconstitutional action,” Smitko said. “They’ve been deprived of their rights, and I anticipate that we’ll be meeting shortly to discuss pursuing a claim for damages against the parties involved.”

The electronic devices were being held for an investigation that was in the hands of the Louisiana attorney general. Now, the case is closed.

“We respect the First Circuit decision, we have no plans to appeal, and as far as the attorney general is concerned, the case is closed,” Ruth Wisher, press secretary for the attorney general, told The Intercept.

This week’s ruling comes after a tumultuous month of legal back and forth.

On August 5, following the raid, a post appeared on John Turner’s Facebook page. “Rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated,” he wrote, telling readers to “stay tuned.”

That same day, Judge Randall Bethancourt — the judge who signed the warrant ruled that it was within his jurisdiction to allow the search.

Anderson’s attorneys disagreed with the ruling but were initially unsuccessful in seeking relief. Arguing that their First-, Fourth-, and 14th-Amendment rights had been violated, Anderson and his wife sought intervention in federal court., asking for a temporary restraining order against Larpenter.

U.S. District Judge Jay Zainey denied the request.

“The judge could very well have erred in concluding that probable cause existed to believe that a crime was committed. But unless Larpenter lied to obtain the warrant, an error of law is not attributable to him,” Zainey wrote.

“I’m just very dismayed and actually aghast that this happened in the first place, and I am hopeful that our state appellate court will right the wrong,” Smitko told The Intercept after Zainey’s ruling.

While there have not been any new blog posts, the writer has taken to Facebook. On August 15, in a post that his since been taken down, the pseudonymous John Turner wrote: “Why is Sheriff Larpenter so angry about people exposing facts that are part of the public record?”

He went on to write a post similar in nature to his previous articles, outlining business ties among Parish officials.

Over the month of August, Larpenter had publicly defended his position. “They need to upgrade [criminal defamation] to a felony,” he recently said on local television station HTV10.

“The media come and all the different outlets, even our local media, wrote unsatisfactory accusations about me like, ‘Oh, they got freedom of speech. They can say what they want.’ Well that’s not true,” he said.

After the court of appeals decision, Larpenter told Houma Today, “we have to live with that ruling.”

On August 15, Larpenter was supposed to be honored for his service to the community by being inducted into the Louisiana Justice Hall of Fame. The ceremony was rescheduled because of flooding.

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Konflikt um EU-Flüchtlingspolitik - Vie, 26/08/2016 - 17:55

Merkel stößt in Prag und Warschau auf Widerstand –

Von HUBERT BEYERLE, 26. August 2016 –

Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel ist auf ihrer Reise durch Mittelosteuropa in der tschechischen Hauptstadt Prag gestern mit einem Pfeifkonzert empfangen worden. „Merkel muss weg“, war zu hören und auf Transparenten zu lesen. Immerhin Dutzende Demonstranten waren zusammengekommen, um gegen die Flüchtlingspolitik der Bundesregierung zu demonstrieren.

Die Haltung der tschechischen Regierung in der Flüchtlingsfrage ist ebenso klar. „Wir können keinem System zustimmen, das auf verpflichtenden Quoten zur Umverteilung von Flüchtlingen besteht“, betonte Ministerpräsident Bohuslav Sobotka. Zuvor hatte er der Zeitung Pravo gesagt: „Wir haben hier bei uns keine starke muslimische


Proibição do ‘burquíni’ funciona como propaganda do Estado Islâmico

The Intercept - Engl. - Vie, 26/08/2016 - 17:03

Fotos e um vídeo da polícia francesa emitindo multas a mulheres muçulmanas por violação da nova regulamentação local de mais de dez cidades da Riviera francesa espalharam-se pelas redes sociais na quarta-feira (24), gerando indignação e piadas por parte dos críticos à lei – que impede o uso de roupas mais comedidas por considerá-lo uma ofensa aos “bons costumes e ao secularismo”.

O tribunal administrativo mais poderoso da França, o Conseil d’Etat, determinou, na sexta-feira (26), que as proibições eram ilegais, mas o dano à reputação da nação já estava feito.

Let's stop pretending France is the land of "liberté" and "egalité" – when it allows something like this #WTFFrance

— ?? Elena Rossini ?? (@_elena) August 24, 2016

“Vamos parar de fingir que a França é a terra da “liberdade” e da “igualdade” quando permite que algo assim aconteça”

L?i?b?e?r?t?é?, égalité, fraternité

— Karl Sharro (@KarlreMarks) August 24, 2016

“Liberdade, igualdade, fraternidade”

Un dessin du Soudanais Khalid Albaih sur la polémique française du #Burkini

— David Thomson (@_DavidThomson) August 24, 2016

“Uma ilustração do sudanês Khalid Albaih sobre a polêmica francesa”

In my world, when men with guns tell a woman to undress, that's an extremely serious assault, not a secular value. #Burkini #WTFFrance

— Amy Lawton (@socialchangeftw) August 24, 2016

“No meu mundo, quando homens armados fazem uma mulher se despir, isso é uma agressão seríssima, e não um valor secular.”

Arrêté anti-burkini: une nouvelle photo de femme voilée verbalisée à Nice

— L'Express (@LEXPRESS) August 24, 2016

“Parem com o antiburquini: nova foto de mulher com véu sendo multada em Nice”

Voici la vidéo des deux jeunes filles se faisant sortir de l'eau par la police à #Nice06 Sans porter de burkini…

— Feiza Ben Mohamed (@FeizaK) August 22, 2016

Verbalisées pour un simple voile : la dérive des arrêtés "anti-burkinis"

— L'Obs (@lobs) August 24, 2016

"Madam i have to ask you to get off your clo…."
"Ah it is ok , i confused u w/ someone else" #France

— Ali Shoaib (@CoolGrumpy) August 24, 2016

“Senhora, preciso pedir que retire suas rou…” “Ah, não têm problema, eu a confundi com outra pessoa”

It’s like Martin Luther’s 95 theses, it’s so courageous. #nice06 #Burkini arrête, posted at every beach.

— carpetblogger (@carpetblogger1) August 23, 2016

“É como as 95 teses de Martinho Lutero. Tão corajoso. Postado em todas as praias.”

Mas as mesmas imagens foram recebidas com satisfação pelos extremistas que defendem que muçulmanos praticantes não têm lugar nos países europeus. Uma série de fotos publicadas pelo Daily Mail — mostrando policiais armados abordando uma mulher vestida com um véu, calça leggings e camisa de manga comprida em uma praia em Nice na terça-feira (23) — foram elogiadas pelo político holandês anti-islamismo Geert Wilders.


Armed police order Muslim woman to remove burkini on packed Nice beach via @MailOnline

— Geert Wilders (@geertwilderspvv) August 24, 2016

“Fantástico. Policiais armados forçam mulher a remover burquíni em praia cheia em Nice.”

David Thomson, um jornalista francês que acompanha a atividade jihadista on-line, disse à Radio France que simpatizantes do Estado Islâmico nas redes sociais pareciam surpresos com policiais em Nice “criando propaganda em nome deles” e, dessa forma, criando o exemplo perfeito para o argumento de que a França humilha muçulmanos.

“Para eles, isso foi um presente divino”, disse Thompson. “A narrativa jihadista insiste há anos que é impossível ser muçulmano e praticar sua religião com dignidade na França;” O analista contou que minutos depois da publicação, as fotos se tornaram um dos assuntos mais debatidos na “jihadosfera” on-line.

“Essas fotos de Nice”, acrescentou, “vão alimentar anos de propaganda jihadista”.

A ironia, observou Thompson na semana passada, é que a vestimenta que foi banida, o traje de banho que cobre todo o corpo, conhecido como “burquíni”, é considerado indecente por teóricos islâmicos. Essas vestimentas, explicou, são o tipo de adaptação à cultura ocidental que mulheres muçulmanas nas colônias francesas no norte da África foram estimuladas a adotar.

"The body of the Muslim woman has always been a way for the French state to assert power over an entire population"

— ????? ??????? (@Boutaina) August 22, 2016

“O corpo da mulher muçulmana sempre foi uma forma do governo francês controlar uma população inteira.”

Na quinta-feira (25), ativistas de um partido francês anticapitalista, o NPA, realizaram uma manifestação contra a proibição em uma praia em Leucate, cantando: “C’est aux femmes de décider: trop couvertes ou pas assez!” (“São as mulheres que decidem: cobertas ou nem tanto!”)

— NPA (@NPA_officiel) August 25, 2016

Em Londres, manifestantes trouxeram areia para a Embaixada da França, em um protesto contra a proibição chamado “Vista o que quiser”.

NOW: #WearWhatYouWant beach outside French Embassy to say NO to controlling women's bodies #BurkiniBan

— India Thorogood (@indiathorogood) August 25, 2016

“AGORA: Praia #VistaOQueQuiser na embaixada francesa (em Londres) para dizer NÃO ao controle dos corpos femininos”

Na sexta-feira (26), o Conselho de Estado explicou a sentença em que suspende a ordem emitida pelo prefeito de Villeneuve-Loubet, uma cidade próxima à Nice, alegando que os policiais excederam os limites de suas autoridades. A restrição do acesso de certas pessoas à praia, disse o conselho, ameaça liberdades fundamentais garantidas pela lei francesa, como a livre circulação e a liberdade de consciência, algo que só poderia ser justificado por uma ameaça grave à ordem pública. “Na ausência de tais riscos”, determinou a corte, “emoções e preocupações em função de ataques terroristas, incluindo os cometidos em 14 de julho em Nice, não são suficientes para justificar em lei a proibição contestada”.

Embora as autoridades de Nice tenham confirmado o incidente relatado pelo Daily Mail — e que pelo menos 23 outras mulheres foram multadas em 38 euros (R$ 138) esta semana — defensores da proibição do “burquíni” acusaram a mulher não identificada de participar de uma “provocação” armada.

Jérémie Boulet, membro do partido xenofóbo Front National, declarou que a mulher poderia estar tentando atrair as autoridades francesas para abordá-la por usar a vestimenta em um dia tão quente. Ele também sugeriu, de forma incorreta, que ela estava sentada em uma toalha quando foi abordada pelos policiais.

– Photo de bonne qualité
– Sans serviette sur des galets
– Habillée sous 36°
La provocation est réussie! #WTFFrance

— Jérémie Boulet (@BouletJeremie) August 24, 2016

Christian Estrosi, ex-prefeito de Nice e agora presidente regional de Côte d’Azur, publicou uma nota na quarta-feira (24) em que qualifica o comportamento de mais de vinte mulheres multadas por suas vestimentas como “provocações inaceitáveis” com o objetivo de “prejudicar os policiais da cidade”. Entrosi também alertou que as pessoas compartilhando as imagens da polícia emitindo multas às mulheres nas redes sociais poderiam ser processadas por colocar em risco a segurança dos policiais.

O vice-prefeito de Nice, Rudy Salles, declarou em uma entrevista polêmica com Razi Iqbal da BBC que as mulheres usando os trajes em questão para ir à praia devem ter sido coagidas a fazê-lo por radicais islâmicos.

ICYMI: interview with Dep Mayor Nice #rudysalles #burkiniban #france #islamaphobia @BBCNewshour @bbcworldservice

— razia iqbal (@raziaiqbal) August 24, 2016

“Entrevista com vice-prefeito de Nice”

Dep mayor of Nice defends burkini ban on basis of extremism. Mate, if you've got armed police ordering women to strip, you're the extremist.

— Ian Dunt (@IanDunt) August 25, 2016

“Vice-prefeito de Nice defende a proibição do burquíni devido ao extremismo. Amigo, se você coloca homens armados para despir mulher, você é o extremista.”

Uma agência de fotografias da França que adquiriu os direitos sobre as imagens contou ao jornal Libération que as fotos “definitivamente não tinham sido armadas, como alegado”, e que foram tiradas por um fotógrafo independente “que estava na praia por acaso” em busca de imagens da proibição sendo aplicada. Ele estava a aproximadamente 100 metros da mulher, quando observou a abordagem dos policiais e fotografou o encontro com uma lente teleobjetiva.

“O freelancer testemunhou a cena, que ocorreu às 11hs da terça-feira (23) e durou aproximadamente 10 minutos”, declarou em nota a agência Best Image. “A mulher recebeu uma multa e deixou a praia poucos minutos depois” Isso foi tudo que o fotógrafo presenciou”.

A especulação de que a situação poderia ter sido armada foi alimentada pelo fato do nome do fotógrafo não ter sido divulgado, mas o incidente ocorreu no mesmo dia que uma jornalista francesa, Mathilde Cusin, testemunhou algo ainda pior: uma mulher em Cannes sendo multada por policiais e hostilizada por curiosos. A mãe de 34 anos, identificada como Siam, contou à Agence France-Presse que recebeu a multa por sentar na praia com sua família usando um véu e calça leggings. “Eu não pretendia nadar”, contou.

Em uma entrevista para a revista semanal Le Nouvel Observateur, a mulher contou que ficou perplexa quando os policiais disseram que os frequentadores da praia eram obrigados a “vestir-se adequadamente”, de acordo com a nova regulamentação. Ao perguntar aos oficiais o que isso significava, foi comunicada que somente poderia permanecer na praia se concordasse em amarrar o hijab como uma bandana.

“Meus filhos estavam chorando por conta da humilhação”, contou Siam à revista. “Nem eu conseguia parar de chorar. Eles nos humilharam”.

Durante o impasse com a polícia, uma multidão de curiosos se aproximou. Alguns deles a defenderam, alegando que ela não estava fazendo mal a ninguém e não estava usando um “burquíni”. Outros, porém, dirigiram insultos racistas a mulher. “Eu fiquei chocada”, admitiu. “Ouvi insultos que nunca tinha ouvido antes, como “Vai para casa””. Siam, que nasceu em Toulouse e tem pais franceses, contou que alguém acrescentou: “Somos católicos aqui”.

“As pessoas exigiram que ela fosse embora ou removesse o véu. Foi muito violento”, Cusin contou à revista. “Tive a impressão de assistir a um bando perseguindo uma mulher sentado no chão às lágrimas com sua filha pequena.”

“O que mais me chocou foi que as pessoas, em sua maioria, tinham em torno de 30 anos, não eram mais velhos como se poderia imaginar”, acrescentou Cusin.

“No país dos direitos humanos, não vejo vestígios dos princípios de liberdade, igualdade e fraternidade”, disse Siam. “Estou indignada que isso pôde acontecer na França.”

Na quinta-feira, em entrevista em inglês à BBC, Siam disse sentir-se “uma estranha em seu próprio país”.

“Hoje, fomos banidas das praias,” contou em entrevista ao programa AJ+ da Al Jazeera. “Amanhã seremos banidos das ruas.”

This Muslim woman was forced to undress by armed French police. Social media reacted with #WTFFrance.

— AJ+ (@ajplus) August 24, 2016

“Esta muçulmana foi forçada a se despir por policiais franceses armados.”

“Somos mulheres. Somos adultas,” acrescentou. “E se o véu for uma opção pessoal, e as mulheres quiserem usá-lo, por que impedi-las?”

Foto principal: O texto de uma regulamentação que proíbe mulheres de usar trajes de banho que cobrem todo o corpo em uma praia de Nice, França. Tradução por Inacio Vieira

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BAE Systems Sells Internet Surveillance Gear to United Arab Emirates

The Intercept - Engl. - Vie, 26/08/2016 - 16:59

A Danish subsidiary of British defense contractor BAE Systems is selling an internet surveillance package to the government of the United Arab Emirates, a country known for spying on, imprisoning, and torturing dissidents and activists, according to documents obtained by Lasse Skou Andersen of the Danish newspaper Dagbladet Information.

The documents from the Danish Business Authority reveal an ongoing contract between the defense conglomerate, BAE Systems Applied Intelligence A/S, and the Middle Eastern oil federation dating back to at least December 2014.

The contract describes an internet surveillance product capable of deep packet inspection — “IP monitoring and data analysis” for “serious crime” and “national security” investigations. That could include capabilities like mapping a target’s social networks and extracting personal information and communications from devices including voice recordings, video, messages, and attachments.

According to the company’s contract, revealing any details about the agreement could have extreme consequences for its relationship with the “End User,” presumably the UAE government.

In a written statement, BAE Systems said, “It is against our policy to comment on contracts with specific countries or customers. BAE Systems works for a number of organizations around the world, within the regulatory frameworks of all relevant countries and within our own responsible trading principles.”

The Danish Business Authority told Andersen it found no issue approving the export license to the Ministry of the Interior of the United Arab Emirates after consulting with the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, despite regulations put in place by the European Commission in October 2014 to control exports of spyware and internet surveillance equipment out of concern for human rights. The ministry told Andersen in an email it made a thorough assessment of all relevant concerns and saw no reason to deny the application.

According to Edin Omanovic, a research officer with Privacy International, this is one of the first tests of the commission’s new export controls, which are due to be updated next month.

“This comes at a crucial time, just before the European Commission is set to decide whether or not it proposes updates to regulations regarding the export of surveillance technologies,” he wrote in an email to The Intercept. “The fact that the export license was granted by the Danish authorities to the UAE, where human rights abuses are well established, and that this information was not publicly available, underlines why these reforms are urgently needed.”

“Without such safeguards, the current assessment criteria used by European governments to approve license applications will only serve as a rubber stamp,” he continued.

The disclosure of the BAE Systems deal comes after researchers from the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab reported that a prominent human rights activist in the UAE was the target of an attempt to install potent spyware on his iPhone in an attack linked to the Israeli company NSO Group.

Human Rights Watch writes that the UAE “often uses its affluence to mask the government’s serious human rights problems,” which include arbitrary detention, torture allegations, threats to free speech, labor exploitation, and more. The UAE has led a systematic crackdown on members of the Muslim Brotherhood and other dissidents. Reporters have written about the UAE developing an emirate-wide surveillance program, while security researchers have uncovered weaponized malware attacks targeting Emirati activists and journalists.

And it’s not the first time the subsidiary, formerly known as ETI, has sold spyware to repressive regimes. Before being acquired by BAE Systems, the company sold surveillance equipment to the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Information previously reported, as well as the corrupt Zine El Abidine Ben Ali regime in Tunisia prior to the Arab Spring uprisings.

Following Bloomberg’s exposé on the sale to Ben Ali and the acquisition by BAE Systems, representatives from BAE told a Danish documentarian, Mads Ellesøe, that the company has since “enhanced” the subsidiary’s export control process to comply with its human rights policies — drawing the new sale to the UAE into question.

A spokesperson for BAE Systems Applied Intelligence, also known as BAE Systems Detica, said in an emailed statement that “Since acquiring ETI in March 2011, we have enhanced its processes including introducing the BAE Systems Code of Conduct and associated policies on ethical conduct which are now integrated into the processes that govern all aspects of the day-to-day business. … BAE Systems Detica has instituted a further formal process, governed through a business conduct committee, which assesses relevant opportunities on the basis of responsible trading risks, ethical concerns and reputational risks.”

Some surveillance companies have suffered after being exposed for selling equipment to repressive regimes, like Hacking Team — the Italian firm whose internal emails were leaked last summer. Hacking Team also sold spyware to the UAE, reportedly to help the government spy on pro-democracy activists. However, Hacking Team may be bouncing back, as it’s due to present new “cutting edge” surveillance tools at the trade surveillance show ISS Latin America in October.

The U.S. government’s National Security Agency hosts some of the top hackers and surveillance tools in the world, capable of “touching” more of the internet than Google through deep packet inspection. Its XKeyscore program, first revealed by The Guardian, feeds off of a truly massive stream of worldwide online traffic from the backbone of the internet and automatically analyzes and inspects that traffic as it flows in.

Top photo: U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown visits the London offices of BAE Systems Detica, now BAE Systems Applied Intelligence, in 2009.

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Democratic Pundits Downplay Serious Ethical Issues Raised by the Clinton Foundation

The Intercept - Engl. - Vie, 26/08/2016 - 16:16

The Associated Press story this week revealing that as secretary of state, Hillary Clinton frequently met with donors to the Clinton Foundation, set off a firestorm in the media. Many Democrats and sympathetic pundits are criticizing the article — and have made the sweeping claim that, contrary to many deeply reported investigations, there is no evidence that well-heeled backers of the foundation received favorable treatment from the State Department.

While there are some legitimate criticisms of the AP story — its focus, for instance, on a Nobel Peace Prize winner meeting with Clinton distracts from the thesis of the piece — it is nonetheless a substantive investigation based on calendars that the State Department has fought to withhold from the public. The AP took the agency to court to obtain a partial release of the meeting logs. Other commentators took issue with a tweet promoting the AP piece, which they said might confuse readers because the AP story reflected private sector meetings, not overall meetings.

But in challenging the overall credibility of the AP story, Clinton surrogates and allies are going well beyond a reasoned critique in an effort to downplay the serious ethical issues raised by Clinton Foundation activities.

One frequent line of attack heard this week is that stories concerning the Clinton Foundation, at best, only reveal that some foundation donors received help at the State Department with visa problems:

  • Vox writer Matthew Yglesias argued that “however many times they take a run” at the Clinton Foundation, journalists “don’t come up with anything more scandalous than the revelation that maybe billionaire philanthropists have an easier time getting the State Department to look into their visa problems than an ordinary person would.” The Vox piece was circulated widely by the Clinton campaign.
  • ThinkProgress editor Adam Peck wrote that “aside from an occasional assist with acquiring a visa, or meeting with executives from a cosmetics company to talk about ways to curb gender-based violence in South Africa,” there were no “shady dealings” conducted by the Clinton Foundation. He added, “If Hillary Clinton was abusing the power of her office by running an international multi-million dollar pay-for-play scheme, she did a lousy job of it.”
  • DailyKos writer Mark Sumner, in a piece shared by Blue Nation Review, a website owned by Clinton campaign operative David Brock, claimed that “extensive reviews haven’t found any evidence — any evidence — that [the Clinton Foundation] affected a single action at the State Department.”

The assertions above obscure the problems unearthed through years of investigative reporting on the foundation. Journalist David Sirota, who has reported extensively on the Clinton Foundation, rounded up a sample of the stories that provide a window into Clinton Foundation issues:

  • The Washington Post found that two months after Secretary Clinton encouraged the Russian government to approve a $3.7 billion deal with Boeing, the aerospace company announced a $900,000 donation to the Clinton Foundation.
  • The Wall Street Journal found that Clinton made an “unusual intervention” to announce a legal settlement with UBS, after which the Swiss bank increased its donations to, and involvement with, the Clinton Foundation.
  • The New York Times reported that a Russian company assumed control of major uranium reserves in a deal that required State Department approval, as the chairman of the company involved in the transaction donated $2.35 million to the Clinton Foundation.

The Intercept has also reported on the Clinton Foundation and the conduct of the State Department under Clinton. Leaked government documents obtained by The Intercept revealed that the Moroccan government lobbied Clinton aggressively to influence her and other officials on the Moroccan military occupation of Western Sahara, which holds some of the world’s largest reserves of phosphate, a lucrative export for the kingdom.

As part of its strategy for influence, the Moroccan government and companies controlled by the kingdom donated to the Bill Clinton presidential library, the Clinton Foundation, and hired individuals associated with the Clinton political network. Despite a statement by the Obama administration that suggested it would reverse the previous Bush administration support for the Moroccan government and would back a U.N.-negotiated settlement for the conflict in Western Sahara, Clinton announced there would be “no change” in policy — and has gone on to praise the Moroccan government’s human rights record.

As recently as Monday, we learned that after being denied an official meeting with the State Department, Peabody Energy, the worlds largest coal company, used a consultant who donated heavily to the Clinton Foundation to back channel and attempt to set up a meeting with Clinton via her aide Huma Abedin. The consultant, Joyce Aboussie, wrote that “It should go without saying that the Peabody folks” reached out to her because of her “relationship with the Clinton’s [sic].”

Peabody and Aboussie have declined to comment, and it is unclear if the meeting took place.

There may be many other potential influence-peddling stories, but the State Department has not released all of the emails from Clinton’s private server and other meeting log documents, while redacting identifying information that could shed light on other stories. For example, Mother Jones and The Intercept have reported that Clinton used the State Department to promote fracking development across the globe, and in particular her agency acted to benefit particular companies such as a Chevron project in Bulgaria and ExxonMobil’s efforts in Poland. Both ExxonMobil and Chevron are major donors to the Clinton Foundation.

The release of more meeting log documents and emails would certainly reveal a better picture of potential influence.

In further criticizing the AP, Yglesias wrote on Thursday that the Clinton Foundation faces a double standard and that similar charitable groups set up by Republicans were not criticized closely by the press. In fact, Democrats and media figures roundly criticized the public interest foundations set up by Republicans and funded by lobbyists and special interest groups, including nonprofit organizations affiliated with Newt Gingrich and George W. Bush.

Earlier this year, in similar fashion to the questions raised about the Clinton Foundation, Democrats in Arizona raised influence peddling concerns regarding the reported $1 million donation from the Saudi Arabian government to the McCain Institute for International Leadership, a nonprofit group closely affiliated with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. As chairman of the Armed Services Committee, McCain oversees a range of issues concerning Saudi Arabia, including arms sales. But none of the pundits rushing to the defense of the Clinton Foundation defended McCain.

In fact, the more Clinton’s allies have worked to defend big money donations to the Clinton Foundation, the more closely they resemble the right-wing principles they once denounced.

In one telling argument in defense of the Clinton Foundation, Media Matters, another group run by David Brock, argued this week that there was “no evidence of ethics breaches” because there was no explicit quid pro quo cited by the AP. The Media Matters piece mocked press figures for focusing on the “optics” of corruption surrounding the foundation.

Such a standard is quite a reversal for the group. In a piece published by Media Matters only two years ago, the organization criticized conservatives for focusing only on quid pro quo corruption — the legal standard used to decide the Citizens United and McCutcheon Supreme Court decisions — calling such a narrow focus a “new perspective of campaign finance” that dismisses “concerns about institutional corruption in politics.” The piece notes that ethics laws concerning the role of money in politics follow a standard, set forth since the Watergate scandal, in which even the appearance, or in other words, the “optics” of corruption, is cause for concern.

Photo: Goldman Sachs Chairman and CEO Lloyd Blankfein speaks as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton applauds at the Clinton Global Initiative.

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Ventimiglia: „Solidarität ist hier nicht willkommen“

IMI Tübingen - Vie, 26/08/2016 - 12:29
Vor mehr als einem Jahr wurden die Grenzkontrollen zwischen Italien und Frankreich wieder eingeführt. Seitdem prägen sowohl Migrant_innen, die in Italien blockiert sind, als auch die starke Polizei- und Militärpräsenz in der italo-französischen Grenzregion das Alltagsbild an der Côte d’Azur. (…)

Read the rest of this entry »

Führen aus der Mitte

German Foreign Policy - Vie, 26/08/2016 - 00:00
(Eigener Bericht) - Das Berliner Büro eines EU-weit vernetzten Think-Tanks warnt vor zunehmendem "Frust über die deutsche Dominanz" in den Mitgliedstaaten der EU. Die Bundesrepublik sei in den vergangenen zehn Jahren EU-weit zur unbestritten stärksten Macht geworden, heißt es in einer aktuellen Analyse des European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR). Die "EU-Partner" müssten nun "entscheiden, wie sie mit Deutschlands Stärke umgehen". Manche äußerten Unmut, andere setzten darauf, "ihre Strategien an Deutschland auszurichten", und suchten nun nach Möglichkeiten, "um die Berliner Polit-Maschinerie zu beeinflussen". Kein Zweifel könne bei alledem daran bestehen, dass "Deutschlands politische Klasse" die EU weiterhin "als den bestmöglichen Rahmen für die Artikulation ihrer nationalen Interessen" betrachte. Während die ECFR-Analyse den Blick vor allem auf das Polit-Establishment anderer EU-Staaten richtet, stellt sich auch darüber hinaus die Frage, wie mit der deutschen Dominanz umzugehen ist, immer dringlicher: Berlin treibt die Militarisierung der Außenpolitik sowie Überwachung und Repression im Innern massiv voran - Maßnahmen, die der Kriegsvorbereitung dienen und alle betreffen.

US-Finanzministerium kritisiert EU-Steuerermittlungen scharf - Jue, 25/08/2016 - 23:54


In den Steuerermittlungen der EU-Kommission kann es für Apple und den amerikanischen Fiskus um Milliarden gehen. Kurz vor der Entscheidung schickt die US-Regierung eine ungewöhnliche scharfe Warnung nach Brüssel.

Die US-Regierung verstärkt den Druck auf die EU-Kommission wegen der Steuerermittlungen gegen Mitgliedsländer, bei denen es unter anderem um eine Milliarden-Nachzahlung für Apple gehen kann. Kurz vor der erwarteten Entscheidung zum Apple-Standort Irland kritisierte das Finanzministerium in Washington das Vorgehen der Brüsseler Behörde in scharfen Worten und drohte mit nicht näher beschriebenen Gegenmaßnahmen.

Die Kommission wies den Vorwurf der Amerikaner, speziell US-Firmen im Visier zu haben, am Donnerstag zurück. „EU-Recht gilt gleichermaßen für


Embarreiramento de Marcelo Freixo e Luiza Erudina nos debates segue a lei, mas fere a democracia

The Intercept - Engl. - Jue, 25/08/2016 - 22:46

(este texto contém atualizações)

O que é, o que é o jogo em que o segundo colocado nas pesquisas de intenção de voto a prefeito fica de fora do primeiro debate realizado pela TV? A democracia brasileira. A brincadeira não tem nenhuma graça, mas foi exatamente o que aconteceu com Marcelo Freixo (PSOL), candidato a prefeito que ocupa o segundo lugar nas pesquisas no Rio de Janeiro, excluído no debate da TV Bandeirantes nesta quinta-feira, dia 25, pelos próprios oponentes.

Essa era a situação, pelo menos, até aproximadamente as 17h desta quinta-feira, 25, enquanto o Supremo Tribunal Federal votava sobre a manutenção da lei eleitoral. A maioria dos ministros defende que a lei não deve ser modificada, mas que candidatos já convidados pelas emissoras não podem ser vetados por seus concorrentes.

Procurado por The Intercept Brasil, Freixo comemorou o resultado do STF: “Toda a minha reclamação e a crítica que eu fazia à lei se confirmou, e o STF mostrou que estávamos corretos. É uma vitória, estaremos presentes nos próximos debates. Neste não será possível por questões burocráticas, não vai mais dar tempo. Manterei minha participação nos moldes de manifestação no Centro da cidade como havia marcado antes.”

Além de Freixo, no maior município brasileiro, São Paulo, sua colega de partido Luiza Erundina, empatada em 3º lugar com outros dois candidatos, também foi embarreirada. As duas situações são frutos de mudanças na legislação eleitoral que acabam beneficiando os interesses dos partidos mais fortes, ao custo de princípios democráticos fundamentais.

Segundo a nova lei eleitoral, para um candidato a prefeito ter presença obrigatória em um debate, seu partido precisa ter pelo menos dez deputados federais, e a presença de candidatos de partidos que não têm o mínimo exigido pode ser vetada pelos que têm lugar garantido no palco.

O que o trabalho de deputados que atuam na esfera legislativa federal tem a ver com a capacidade de um candidato agir no executivo em nível municipal?O resultado é que os votos de cidadãos dos demais estados e uma minoria de candidatos dos grandes partidos acabam pesando mais do que a opinião dos eleitores da própria cidade.  

O que o trabalho de deputados que atuam na esfera legislativa federal tem a ver com a capacidade de um candidato agir no executivo em nível municipal? Nem mesmo especialistas conseguem responder com clareza. Mas quem votou pela mudança, é claro, foram os próprios deputados.

Como se não fosse o suficiente, alguns dos mesmos deputados que votaram pela mudança hoje são, justamente, os tais candidatos a prefeito que fazem parte da lista VIP nos debates.

Luiza Erundina durante pronunciamento no Congresso.

Foto: Arquivo/EBC

Para entender a polêmica é preciso, primeiro, entender o que mudou. O texto da Lei 9504 foi alterado na minirreforma eleitoral presidida por Eduardo Cunha em setembro de 2015. Antes, para um candidato a prefeito ter lugar garantido nos debates, bastava seu partido ter apenas um deputado federal eleito. O critério era baseado na  ideia de que o partido do candidato tivesse representatividade política. A alteração subiu para dez o número de deputados necessários, isolando os partidos menores, mais novos ou com foco regional.

Fragmento da lei eleitoral que foi alterada na última minirreforma, aumentando o número de deputados federais necessários ao partido de um candidato.

Outra mudança fez com que o número de participantes nos debates fosse decidido em um acordo feito pelas empresas de comunicação com os candidatos obrigatórios. Para que algum candidato além dos obrigatórios seja convidado, é preciso que dois terços dos obrigatórios aprovem o número.

Mudanças na lei eleitoral permitem que os candidatos de partidos maiores definam o número de participantes de um debate.

O presidente do Tribunal Superior Eleitoral (TSE), ministro Dias Toffoli, diz que a lei “não promove a absoluta exclusão das legendas minoritárias dos debates eleitorais”. Ele afirmou que “os órgãos e os meios de comunicação poderão convidar todos os candidatos, independente do número de parlamentares que tenha (o partido)”.

Na prática, porém, a consequência da mudança é que, para definir quantos candidatos podem participar de um debate, precisa-se resolver um problema de lógica parecido com as questões matemáticas colocadas em provas escolares:

RESOLVA O PROBLEMA: A cidade de Maria tem 11 candidatos a prefeito. Sete deles são de partidos com mais de nove deputados federais no Congresso, por isso, sua participação em debates é obrigatória. Para definir o número de participantes em seu primeiro debate, a emissora de TV de João precisa que pelo menos dois terços dos participantes obrigatórios concordem com o total de convidados. Marcelo é um dos 11 candidatos e está em segundo lugar nas pesquisas eleitorais. Ele quer participar do debate, mas seu partido tem apenas cinco deputados federais. Pedro, Flávio e Antônio estão entre os nove obrigatórios, mas não querem sua presença. Marcelo conseguirá participar?


(Esta é uma obra de ficção, mas qualquer semelhança com nomes, pessoas, fatos ou situações da vida real não terá sido mera coincidência.)

A Associação Brasileira de Emissoras de Rádio e Televisão (Abert) divulgou uma nota pública defendendo que “na falta de consenso, rádio e TV poderão realizar debates eleitorais, bastando convidar todos os candidatos aptos e aqueles não aptos que julguem de maior representatividade”. A Abert explica ainda  que “essa escolha deve observar critérios objetivos, como o da posição nas pesquisas eleitorais”.

Segundo o presidente da Comissão Eleitoral da OAB-RJ, Eduardo Damian, a posição em pesquisas eleitorais não é um critério objetivo. “Por que um deputado bem ranqueado tem mais direito que outro? Um candidato pode liderar as pesquisas e perder a eleição”, explica o advogado, que foi chefe de gabinete do governo Sérgio Cabral (PMDB).

Para ele, convidar um candidato que não se enquadra na determinação da lei, mas é favorito nas pesquisas, é privilegiá-lo em detrimento dos demais: “Se os candidatos possuem os mesmos requisitos segundo a lei, uma emissora não pode convidar apenas um, o correto seria chamar todos”. Foi o que a rede Bandeirantes tentou fazer para o debate no Rio de Janeiro, que será veiculado nesta quinta-feira, 25, às 22h, mas não conseguiu.

O caso carioca ilustra perfeitamente a situação bizarra criada pela alteração da lei. Freixo foi barrado no debate porque três dos sete candidatos obrigatórios vetaram sua participação. A rede televisiva propôs, então, convidar todos os candidatos, mas parte dos políticos da lista VIP decidiu que já havia participantes suficientes.

Freixo tem 12%  das intenções de voto. Os partidos PSOL e Rede entraram na justiça com uma Ação Direta de Inconstitucionalidade (ADI) pedindo para participar dos debates em vários municípios.

Os ministros do Supremo Tribunal Federal votaram pela rejeição dos pedidos dos pequenos partidos, mantendo as regras como estão. Ao todo, foram abertas cinco ações por diferentes partidos, motivados por casos em várias cidades. O cientista político Leonardo Paz Neves, professor do Ibmec/RJ, considera essa uma consequência previsível para a minirreforma: “É possível predizer que o judiciário terá bastante trabalho para julgar o provável avalanche de recursos em função da insegurança regulatória”.  

Levy Fidelix também entrou na justiça pelo direito a participar dos debates.


Outros políticos estão sendo prejudicados pela alteração da lei. Em São Paulo, além de Erundina (PSOL),  o PRTB também entrou na justiça pedindo direito de participação nos debates. “Queremos que a população conheça as propostas de todos os candidatos. O debate é uma ferramenta importante para isso”, defende o candidato da sigla à prefeitura, Levy Fidelix.

No Rio, os candidatos que vetaram a participação de Freixo no debate são Flávio Bolsonaro (PSC), Pedro Paulo (PMDB) e Índio da Costa (PSD). Todos pertencem a partidos que votaram a favor da alteração da lei.

Pedro Paulo conquistou 6% dos eleitores até o momento, mas  seu partido elegeu nada menos que 80 deputados federais. Já Bolsonaro tem 11% das intenções de voto. Seu partido, o PSC, elegeu 11 deputados federais, mas hoje possui apenas sete deputados federais em exercício. Entre eles estão seu pai e seu irmão, que votaram a favor da mudança. Índio tem apenas 5% do eleitorado, e seu partido tem 42 deputados federais. Ele mesmo, inclusive, foi um dos deputados de seu partido que votou a favor da mudança que, agora, o privilegia.

Marcelo Crivella (PRB), líder nas pesquisas de intenção de votos para prefeito do Rio de Janeiro.


Para Paz Neves, “o fato de termos um sistema que tende a privilegiar os partidos faz com que os candidatos ao executivo sirvam de cabo eleitoral para os candidatos ao legislativo. A mudança da lei irá na realidade reforçar esse laço na medida em que agora as campanhas para prefeito dependem da representatividade do legislativo”.

O primeiro colocado, até agora, na disputa a prefeito carioca é Marcelo Crivella (PRB-PR-PTN), que tem  27% das intenções de voto. Os deputados de sua coligação partidária votaram contra a alteração da minirreforma. Questionado sobre a situação criada, Crivella disse que, ao vetar a participação de Freixo, os três oponentes “não estão pagando mico, estão pagando um gorila”.

ATUALIZAÇÃO: O texto foi atualizado para refletir a votação em andamento no STF. Até o momento, a maioria dos ministros concorda em manter a lei, porém considerando inconstitucional o veto à participação de candidatos já convidados pelas redes de televisão.

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Scharfe Kritik an Chemiewaffeneinsatz in Syrien - Jue, 25/08/2016 - 20:54

(25.08.2016/hg/dpa)  Nach einem neuen UN-Expertenbericht über den Einsatz von Chemiewaffen im syrischen Bürgerkrieg fordern Deutschland und Frankreich Konsequenzen des Sicherheitsrates. „Wir verurteilen den skrupellosen und rücksichtslosen Einsatz international geächteter chemischer Waffen gegen die syrische Bevölkerung, von welcher Seite auch immer, auf das Schärfste“, erklärte Bundesaußenminister Frank-Walter Steinmeier (SPD) am Donnerstag. Die syrische Opposition verlangte harte Maßnahmen gegen das Regime in Damaskus.

Eine vom UN-Sicherheitsrat in Auftrag gegebene Studie kommt zu dem Schluss, dass Syriens Regierung im April 2014 und im März 2015 in der nordwestlichen Provinz Idlib Chlorgas eingesetzt hat. Die Terrormiliz Islamischer Staat (IS) benutzte im August 2015 nahe Aleppo


Friedensabkommen für Kolumbien - Jue, 25/08/2016 - 20:54

(25.08.2016/hg/dpa) Nach über 50 Jahren Gewalt, Elend und Vertreibung schließen die kolumbianische Regierung und die linke Guerillaorganisation Farc Frieden. „Die Regierung und die Farc haben sich nach über einem halben Jahrhundert der Kämpfe darauf verständigt, den bewaffneten internen Konflikt ein für alle Mal zu beenden“, teilten die Unterhändler am Mittwoch in Havanna mit.

Mit der Einigung wird der älteste Konflikt Lateinamerikas beigelegt. Allerdings müssen die Kolumbianer am 2. Oktober noch in einer Volksabstimmung das durchaus umstrittene Paket billigen.

In den Auseinandersetzungen zwischen staatlichen Sicherheitskräften, linken Rebellen und rechten Paramilitärs waren seit den 1960er Jahren über 220 000 Menschen getötet worden. „Heute enden


The Death Toll in Yemen Is So High the Red Cross Has Started Donating Morgues to Hospitals

The Intercept - Engl. - Jue, 25/08/2016 - 20:37

Almost a year and a half into Saudi Arabia’s U.S.-backed bombing campaign in Yemen, the humanitarian toll has become so extensive that the International Committee of the Red Cross has taken the unusual step of donating entire morgue units to Yemeni hospitals.

“The hospitals were not able to cope,” said Rima Kamal, a Yemen-based spokesperson for the Red Cross. “You could have more than 20 dead people brought into one hospital on one single day. The morgue capacity at a regular hospital is not equipped to handle this influx of dead bodies.”

“At times several dead bodies had to be stored on one shelf to avoid further decomposition,” Kamal continued. “The situation was not sustainable.”

Saudi Arabia began bombing Yemen in March 2015, after Houthi rebels took control of the capital and forced Yemen’s Saudi-backed leader, Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, into exile. The United Nations has since attributed the majority of the war’s 6,500 deaths to the Saudi coalition, which the U.S. and U.K. have resupplied with tens of billions of dollars of weapons.

The Red Cross has donated body bags and refrigerated storage machines to three hospitals – two in the capital of Sana’a, and one in Dhamar, in southwestern Yemen. “More are in the pipeline,” said Kamal.

Aid workers also train hospital staff in the forensics of identifying bodies.

“It is not that common for the ICRC to donate morgues,” said Kamal. “The fact that we now do is telling of the size of the human tragedy in Yemen.”

Two people killed in a heavy shelling on their neighborhood are seen on stretchers at the entrance of the hospital. Their respective families still have to come in to identify them. Al-Rawdah Hospital. Taiz. Yemen.

Photo: ICRC

Yemen’s hospitals often store bodies for a long period of time before they can be identified. Displaced people often lose contact with their families, who don’t know where to search for missing relatives. After a while, unidentified bodies are buried in anonymous graves.

Shortages of electricity, fuel, and medical supplies also affect hospitals’ ability to provide care. The Red Cross has had to donate generators to help ensure medical facilities and morgue units were provided with power.

Both sides in the conflict are complicit in the hundreds of reported attacks on clinics and hospitals, which have led many to close, leaving more than 14 million Yemenis without access to healthcare.

Last week, for example, Saudi Arabia bombed an MSF-supported hospital, leading the charity to withdraw doctors from six hospitals in northern Yemen. The government-run Saudi Press Agency issued a statement expressing “deep regret” over MSF’s decision. Saudi Arabia had previously bombed MSF medical facilities and personnel three times.

Three morgue units donated by the ICRC are seen at Dhamar hospital. Dhamar. Yemen.

Photo: ICRC

In addition to a relentless bombing campaign, the Saudi-led coalition has maintained a strict naval blockade of the country, which previously imported 90 percent of its food, medicine, and fuel. As a result, the war in Yemen has spawned one of the world’s largest manmade humanitarian disasters.

UNICEF reported in May that more than 21 million people – nearly 90 percent of Yemen’s population –are in need of humanitarian assistance. Fourteen million people lack sufficient food, with more than 320,000 children under five-years old at risk of severe malnutrition.

The situation has been exacerbated by recent surge of airstrikes. In the days following the collapse of one-sided peace talks last month, the Saudi-led coalition bombed a key bridge to Sana, which Oxfam estimates carried 90 percent of World Food Program aid to the besieged city. Days later, Saudi Arabia announced the closure of the Sana airport, effectively cutting of humanitarian aid to millions of people.

As Yemen descends into chaos, the U.N. is facing a lack of resources. The current humanitarian response plan for Yemen calls for $1.8 billion, but the international community has only funded 28 percent of it. Ironically, 60 percent of the money comes from countries involved in bombing Yemen or supplying weapons to the coalition.

Under pressure from critics to end the war, Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, to participate in talks about the situation in Yemen. Kerry’s visit comes as numerous Human Rights groups are calling for a Saudi arms embargo, and as several U.S. congressmen are trying to block arms shipments.

Top Photo: A hospital operated by the the Paris-based aid agency, Doctors Without Borders (MSF), on August 16, 2016 in Yemen, a day after the hospital was hit by an air strike by the Saudi-led coalition.

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U.S. Military Now Says ISIS Leader Was Held in Notorious Abu Ghraib Prison

The Intercept - Engl. - Jue, 25/08/2016 - 19:56

In February 2004, U.S. troops brought a man named Ibrahim Awad Ibrahim al-Badry to Abu Ghraib in Iraq and assigned him serial number US9IZ-157911CI. The prison was about to become international news, but the prisoner would remain largely unknown for the next decade.

At the time the man was brought in, Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba was finalizing his report on allegations of abuse at Abu Ghraib’s Hard Site — a prison building used to house detainees singled out for their alleged violence or their perceived intelligence value. Just weeks later, the first pictures of detainee abuse were published on CBS News and in the New Yorker.

Today, detainee US9IZ-157911CI is better known as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State. His presence at Abu Ghraib, a fact not previously made public, provides yet another possible key to the enigmatic leader’s biography and may shed new light on the role U.S. detention facilities played in the rise of the Islamic State.

Experts have long known that Baghdadi spent time in U.S. custody during the occupation of Iraq. Previous reports suggested he was at Camp Bucca, a sprawling detention facility in southern Iraq. But the U.S. Army confirmed to The Intercept that Baghdadi spent most of his time in U.S. custody at the notorious Abu Ghraib.

Baghdadi’s detainee records don’t mention Abu Ghraib by name. But the internment serial number that U.S. forces issued when they processed him came from the infamous prison, according to Army spokesperson Troy A. Rolan Sr.

“Former detainee al-Baghdadi’s internment serial number sequence number begins with ‘157,’” Rolan said, describing the first three digits of the second half of Baghdadi’s serial number. “This number range was assigned at the Abu Ghraib theater internment facility.”

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi at the Grand Mosque in Mosul, July 4, 2014.

Source: YouTube

The details of Baghdadi’s biography have always been murky, and his time in U.S. custody is no exception. In June 2014, the Daily Beast reported that the United States held Baghdadi at Camp Bucca from 2005 to 2009, citing Army Col. Kenneth King, the camp’s former commanding officer. However, King backtracked after U.S. officials told ABC News that Baghdadi was out of U.S. custody by 2006.

Days later, the Pentagon confirmed that Baghdadi was only in U.S. custody for 10 months, from February to December 2004. The Department of Defense told the fact-checking website PunditFact in a statement that Baghdadi was held at Camp Bucca. “A Combined Review and Release Board recommended ‘unconditional release’ of this detainee and he was released from U.S. custody shortly thereafter. We have no record of him being held at any other time.”

In February 2015, the Army released Baghdadi’s detainee records to Business Insider, in response to a records request. They showed that coalition forces first captured Baghdadi on February 4, 2004, in Fallujah, Iraq, and held him at Camp Bucca. But a line on one of the documents also suggested that Baghdadi had been transferred to Bucca after being held elsewhere — a detail that was not widely reported.

It turns out that Baghdadi was held at Abu Ghraib, just a stone’s throw from where he was captured in Fallujah, for eight of the 10 months that he was in detention. He was only transferred to Camp Bucca, some 400 miles south of Baghdad, on October 13 — less than two months before his release on December 9.

In the occupation’s first few years, U.S. facilities like Abu Ghraib and Camp Bucca developed a reputation as “jihadi universities” where hard-line extremists indoctrinated and recruited less radical inmates. Analysts have long suspected that Baghdadi took full advantage of his time at Bucca to link up with the jihadis and former Iraqi military officials who would later fill out the Islamic State’s leadership.

In November 2014, the Soufan Group, a private intelligence firm, published a list of nine Islamic State leaders it said had been detained at Camp Bucca. The list included Baghdadi and Hajji Bakr, a former Iraqi military official who became head of the Islamic State’s military council and is widely reported to have spent time in Bucca.

However, when The Intercept requested their detainee files, the Army Corrections Command said it could not find records that any of the men besides Baghdadi were ever in U.S. custody. Richard Barrett, a senior adviser at the Soufan Group who authored the 2014 report, declined to share the source for his information about Camp Bucca but said that at the time the report was drafted, the U.S. government never denied holding the senior leaders.

“It may be that the Army Corrections Command were not very clear who they held, as numbers were large and the ability to check identities fairly limited,” Barrett said in an email. “Whatever the facts, it is clear that ex-Baathists and other opponents of the U.S. invasion of Iraq were able to make contact and develop plans.”

Camp Bucca prison near Basra, Iraq, Sept. 16, 2009.

Photo: Essam Al-Sudani/AFP/Getty Images

There is also still some confusion about where and when Baghdadi was held. The timeline in Army records puts him at either Abu Ghraib or Camp Bucca for his entire 10-month detention. However, one document also mentions the Camp Adder Holding Facility — a possible reference to a former U.S. military base in southern Iraq. The Army denies that Baghdadi was ever held in that facility.

“There is no record of an external transfer to a Camp Adder,” Rolan, the Army spokesperson, wrote over email. “The Camp Adder reference likely refers to an internal movement within Abu Ghraib.”

It’s impossible to know what effect Baghdadi’s detention at Abu Ghraib had on his trajectory.

In late April 2004, while Baghdadi was held at the facility, CBS News published photos that showed U.S. soldiers smiling next to piles of naked prisoners and a hooded detainee standing on a narrow box with electrical wires attached to his outstretched hands. An independent panel appointed by then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld called the abuse “acts of brutality and purposeless sadism.”

Officials blamed the photos on a few bad apples. But some U.S. interrogators in Iraq continued to use abusive techniques like stress positions after the photos were taken, according to Eric Fair, who has written a memoir about the time he spent as a civilian interrogator with the defense contractor CACI International at Abu Ghraib and in Fallujah in early 2004.

Fair does not believe that Baghdadi’s time in Abu Ghraib and Camp Bucca was a defining moment in the rise of the Islamic State. But, he says, the conditions inside U.S. detention facilities and the policy, early in the war, of housing extremists and former Iraqi military officials side by side contributed to the chaos that has engulfed Iraq and Syria.

“It’s the perfect playbook for how not to deconstruct an insurgency,” Fair said.

Top photo: Prisoners at Abu Ghraib, July 15, 2004.

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Depois de cortes sociais, extrema pobreza dobrou nos EUA

The Intercept - Engl. - Jue, 25/08/2016 - 17:41

Em uma segunda-feira de reuniões em Washington, D.C., um grupo de ex-funcionários do governo de ambos os partidos concordavam a respeito dos benefícios resultantes dos cortes na rede de proteção social americana.

Esta semana marcou o vigésimo aniversário da “Reforma do Estado de Bem-Estar Social”, a lei de 1996 aprovada pelo Congresso americano e implementada pelo Presidente Bill Clinton, que restringia a quantidade de assistência financeira oferecida às famílias americanas mais necessitadas. O programa de Auxílio a Famílias com Crianças Dependentes foi transformado em um programa mais limitado, o Auxílio Temporário para Famílias Necessitadas [que obrigou os segurados a conseguir um emprego em um prazo de 24 meses e instaurou um limite cumulativo de 60 meses de benefícios por pessoa].

Um dos principais impactos da lei foi ter dobrado o número de lares americanos vivendo em condições de extrema pobreza, o equivalente a menos de US$ 2 por dia.

O evento em Capitol Hill, organizado por uma organização de direita, Instituto Empresarial Americano (American Enterprise Institute), e pelo Instituto de Políticas Progressistas (Progressive Policy Institute), conhecido como “fábrica de ideias” do Presidente Bill Clinton, comemorou o vigésimo aniversário da lei. Seus principais idealizadores disseram não se arrepender de sua aprovação.

O ex-governador republicano do Michigan, John Engler, pioneiro dos cortes do estado de bem-estar social em nível estadual e que hoje atua como presidente do grupo de lobistas corporativos Business Roundtable (Mesa Redonda de Negócios), relembrou como o apoio de Bill Clinton foi importante para tornar possível a reforma do estado de bem-estar social.

“Foi incrível como, em 1992, tínhamos um candidato a presidente do Partido Democrata, ainda que tivesse 12 anos de experiência como governador, discutindo o “fim do formato atual do estado de bem-estar social””, contou o republicano. “Foi um momento decisivo.”

Foram inúmeros os elogios vindos da direita para Bill Clinton durante o evento. Robert Rector, um intelectual da Fundação Heritage, que já foi apelidado de O Poderoso Chefão Intelectual da reforma do estado de bem-estar, declarou que Clinton defendeu a mesma causa que Ronald Robert Rector, podendo, assim, frustrar George W.H. Bush. “Na minha perspectiva, esse foi o motivo para Clinton ter chegado à Casa Branca em 1993”, contou Rector.

Thompson, que atuou como outro republicano pioneiro da reforma enquanto era governador do Wisconsin, estava irredutível quanto ao impacto da revisão do estado de bem-estar social.

“Funcionou”, disse Thompson. “A pobreza diminuiu e mais pessoas estão trabalhando.”

Mas nem todos concordam com essa avaliação positiva. Luke Shaefer, professor de Assistência Social da Universidade de Michigan e um dos pesquisadores que documentaram o aumento da pobreza extrema desde a aprovação da reforma, contou ao The Intercept que as declarações de que a pobreza extrema havia sido reduzida e que o número de empregos havia aumentado estavam corretas até 2000. “Mães solteiras arrumaram trabalho, mas não é possível dizer se isso estava relacionado à reforma do estado de bem-estar social”, contou. A expansão do Crédito Fiscal sobre Rendimentos “foi obviamente muito mais importante. E sabemos que as mães que deixaram de contar com o estado de bem-estar social não melhoraram de vida, em alguns casos, pioraram”.

Shaefer trabalhou com o sociólogo Kathryn Edin em um livro lançado no ano passado que concluiu que, antes da reforma do estado de bem-estar, mais de um milhão de lares com crianças evitavam a pobreza extrema graças à assistência federal. Em 2011, esse número havia caído para aproximadamente 300 mil. Os pesquisadores estimam que 1,5 milhão de lares americanos, incluindo três milhões de crianças, vivem hoje abaixo da linha da extrema pobreza — o dobro do número em 1996.

O impacto da reforma do estado de bem-estar foi particularmente duro em mulheres e minorias.  Muitas famílias chefiadas por mulheres perderam renda e mulheres foram forçadas a trabalhar em empregos com  salários baixos e sem assistência social.

Shaefer cita uma pesquisa de Jim Ziliak, um importante economista que estudou o problema para a Agência Nacional de Pesquisa Econômica dos EUA (National Bureau of Economic Research). “Em conjunto, os resultados dos estudos, análises e amostras nacionais de pessoas que deixaram o estado do bem-estar social sugerem que muitas mulheres acabaram em uma situação financeira pior depois da reforma”, diz a pesquisa. “Em especial, na parcela mais baixa da distribuição.”

Ainda assim, as pessoas consideradas mais vulneráveis não tiveram muito destaque no evento. Havia apenas duas mulheres entre os 19 palestrantes convidados.

Bill Clinton, ex-presidente dos EUA, dando um fazendo discurso sobre a reforma do sistema de bem-estar social, dia 28 de outubro de  1996, em Nashville, Tennessee.

Foto: Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images

Bruce Reed, um dos principais conselheiros de política interna de Bill Clinton e o homem por trás da proposta de campanha do ex-presidente para “acabar com o formato atual de bem-estar social”, admitiu que ainda há mais a ser feito pelos trabalhadores pobres, mas contou ao The Intercept que a reforma foi um “sucesso” de forma geral.

Na verdade, os números mais recentes da Suplemento de Segurança Alimentícia do Censo Populacional descobriu que 5,5% dos lares americanos — 6,7 milhões de lares, no total — precisaram usar os bancos de alimento ou outros órgãos de auxílio alimentação em 2014. Essa é a maior porcentagem desde que os dados começaram a ser registrados em 1995.

Mesmo com as reformas, o estigma de receber ajuda do governo permanece — e os contrários ao auxílio continuam a atacar os programas restantes, como o vale-refeição para os necessitados. O Governador do Maine, o republicano Paul Lepage, declarou recentemente que os beneficiários de vale-refeição em seu estado encontram-se em uma “dieta constante de barras de chocolate e refrigerante”.

Ao fim do evento, os palestrantes e o público atenderam a um banquete de bebidas alcoólicas, bolo de queijo, carnes finas e queijo gourmet.

Tradução de Inacio Vieira

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Jeff Wood’s Stay of Execution Casts More Doubt on the Texas Death Machine

The Intercept - Engl. - Jue, 25/08/2016 - 17:30

Terri Been was being interviewed by a reporter inside a Whataburger restaurant in East Texas on the afternoon of August 19 when the text came in: Her brother, Jeff Wood, on death row for his alleged involvement as an accomplice in the 1996 murder of his friend, and facing imminent execution, had been granted a stay. She read the text sent by Wood’s attorney twice before dialing him up. “Are you serious?” she asked.

It had been a long and emotionally taxing day: Been and her husband, her parents, Wood’s daughter, and another friend had traveled to Huntsville, Texas, the location of the state’s execution chamber, for the first of several eight-hour visits with Wood in anticipation that he would be executed sometime after 6 p.m. on Wednesday, August 24. The news from the lawyer, Jared Tyler, was a serious relief. “I consider it a miracle,” she told The Intercept. “He’s stopped Texas from killing my brother.”

That afternoon the state’s highest criminal court, the Court of Criminal Appeals, agreed with Tyler that a state district court should determine whether the punishment hearing portion of Wood’s 1998 trial was infected by junk science and misleading testimony offered by the notorious Dr. James Grigson. If the district court agrees that it was tainted, Wood could get a new hearing, and a chance to get off of death row.

Grigson, who died in 2004, was known even among peers in the psychiatric community as “Dr. Death” for routinely offering scientifically unsupportable testimony that helped to send defendants to death row in a number of capital cases. He was expelled from the American Psychiatric Association and its Texas counterpart prior to testifying in Wood’s case, where he opined that unless sentenced to die Wood would continue to be violent, a determination he made without ever examining Wood.

But the court majority sidestepped — at least for now — the biggest question in Wood’s case: Is he legally eligible for the death penalty? That prompted a strongly worded opinion from one of the court’s nine jurists, Elsa Alcala, who for at least the second time this year has called into question whether Texas’ death system itself is constitutional — an unusual stance for a jurist on such a conservative and notoriously pro-death penalty court in the state with the nation’s most active execution chamber. Indeed, Alcala has been airing concerns that have not been expressed in any meaningful way by any member of that court in nearly two decades. Wood, she wrote, “may be actually innocent of the death penalty because he may be categorically ineligible for that punishment.”

Elsa Alcala (center) during the State of the Judiciary speech at the Texas Capitol, February 2013.

Photo: Bob Daemmrich

An Unconstitutional Sentence

Wood is on death row even though he has never killed anyone. He was convicted and sentenced to die for the January 2, 1996, robbery of a convenience store that ended with the shooting death of his friend Kriss Keeran, who worked at the store. But it was another man, Danny Reneau, who entered the store armed, intending to rob the place, and who shot Keeran. Wood, Reneau, Keeran and another store employee had planned an inside-job robbery for the previous day, but the plan had been aborted. Wood said he had no idea that Reneau intended to rob the store that day, and certainly had no idea that Reneau would kill Keeran. After the murder, Wood admits that he did help Reneau steal money from the store, along with a surveillance videotape, but says he did so only after Reneau threatened to harm his daughter.

But a quirk of Texas law allows the state to seek the death penalty against a defendant who never killed or intended to kill anyone. Known as the law of parties, the law posits that if conspirators plan to commit one crime — in this case a robbery — but in the course of events someone ends up committing another crime (such as a murder) all parties are liable for the crime committed regardless of their individual intent, under the notion that everyone should have anticipated that the crime committed would occur.

Advocates and lawyers argue that Wood’s impending execution would violate the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment. It is an argument that would appear to be in line with U.S. Supreme Court precedent, which holds that a sentence must be proportional to the crime committed. In two cases involving parties to a planned crime that ended in murder, the court determined that the death penalty would be unconstitutional when a person lacked either the intent to kill or failed to exhibit a clear “reckless indifference” to human life.

No court has ever considered whether Wood’s sentence was proportionate to his crime. Although Tyler finally raised the question directly in Wood’s most recent appeal, in staying the execution last week the Court of Criminal Appeals declined to ask the lower court to address the issue — except for Alcala, who opined in favor of addressing the question head on. “Perhaps one might suggest that I should not concern myself with the fact that applicant’s death sentence appears to be unconstitutional under [Supreme Court precedent] because [Wood] should have raised this claim at some earlier stage of his post-conviction challenges and he is now procedurally barred from raising this challenge,” she wrote. “I, however, would disagree with that suggestion.”

It was the latest in a string of opinions by the conservative jurist questioning the legality of the death penalty and the approach of her colleagues to affirming death sentences. Alcala, who was appointed by Gov. Rick Perry, has questioned her colleagues’ reluctance to allow inmates to present evidence challenging the Texas system as racist and out-of-step with a nation that is moving away from the death penalty. She has written strongly-worded dissents in two notable cases, involving the question of whether racially discriminatory testimony and poor lawyering condemned Duane Buck to die, and in another urging her colleagues to act to “uphold the federal Constitution” by setting up a modern and fair system for determining which defendants are barred from execution because of their intellectual disability. In the absence of a legislative standard, the court set up its own scheme for determining cognitive disability, a standard based on the mental abilities of the character Lennie from John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men.

The level of skepticism Alcala has expressed regarding the state’s death penalty scheme — and her colleagues’ role in maintaining the status quo — hasn’t really been seen in Texas since Republicans took over the court in its entirety nearly two decades ago. As conservative jurists came to power in the 1990s, a waning contingent of Democratic judges held on, including Judge Charlie Baird, now a defense attorney in private practice in Austin. Baird said he and his colleagues would regularly dissent from the majority’s rubber-stamping of death convictions. In 1996 Baird authored a dissent  suggesting that Texas was not fulfilling its promise to the U.S. Supreme Court in the wake of the 1976 opinion that reauthorized the death penalty. Texas had promised “we would interpret the statute fairly and apply the death penalty fairly,” he recalled.  “And I don’t think we ever kept those promises.”

To be fair, other Republican judges have joined or written dissenting opinions in the intervening years, but none so clearly skeptical of the system as Alcala’s — save for a literal swan song opinion by Judge Tom Price, who opined in 2014, just before retiring his seat, that the death penalty “should be abolished.”

Although Alcala hasn’t uttered the same words, she nonetheless stands out even more than Price in one key way — her current term is up in 2018, meaning that speaking out could derail her chances to remain on the court in the future. In a profile published by Fusion, Alcala said it was “unlikely” that she’d run again, but also acknowledged that she has not made any definitive decision.

Attorneys with considerable experience litigating capital cases before the Texas court say that they are encouraged by Alcala’s opinions, but are nonetheless skeptical that her more moderate and thoughtful approach to considering death penalty cases would necessarily have any outwardly obvious effect on her colleagues.  “I’ve been waiting and I haven’t seen it. I just haven’t seen it,” said Keith Hampton, a veteran defense attorney who was behind the only successful bid to have a death sentence commuted by Perry during his three-term tenure as the state’s governor, during which time he presided over more executions than any other modern governor. Hampton said he could see Alcala’s approach evolving in recent years, and believes now that she’s “genuinely dedicated” to reform. “Clearly she’s not playing to the crowd — because we’re in Texas and there is no crowd for this here.” In fact, Hampton worries that Alcala’s writings and public posture may have given ammunition to any number of aggressive prosecutors who could try to force her recusal from considering appeals of their death cases.

Bryce Benjet, a former lawyer with the nonprofit Texas Defender Service who now works for the Innocence Project, said it might be more significant that the concerns Alcala has expressed haven’t “happened with more frequency” on the court. But what is especially noteworthy, he said, is that these concerns are coming from a former prosecutor for Harris County (which includes the city of Houston), a jurisdiction responsible for sending hundreds of defendants to death row, and the U.S. county responsible for the most executions since 1976.

To Tyler, Wood’s attorney, Alcala’s views are more in line with those of the U.S. Supreme Court than with her colleagues. He notes that the Supreme Court has accepted for review two recent cases where she authored stern dissents — in the Buck case and in the case challenging the state’s process for determining cognitive disabilities. And he said he believes the Supreme Court should take up Wood’s case as well, to finally decide whether Wood’s sentence is proportionate to his crime.

In the meantime, Wood’s family and supporters have attracted another contingent of unlikely supporters in the form of conservative state House members who have been airing their own concerns about whether Wood’s sentence is proper. Ultra-conservative members have each spoken out about their concerns and have been trying to persuade the Board of Pardons and Paroles and Gov. Greg Abbot to consider commuting Wood’s sentence. “I believe the death penalty, and in some cases the law of parties, has a place. Human life, being made in the image of God, is very precious,” East Texas state Representative David Simpson, wrote in a column published in the Dallas Morning News. “In the case of Wood, I have seen enough questions to warrant advocating that his life be spared. Ultimately, God will judge our actions, and as humans we make mistakes and our justice system is not perfect.”

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Why Did the Saudi Regime and Other Gulf Tyrannies Donate Millions to the Clinton Foundation?

The Intercept - Engl. - Jue, 25/08/2016 - 16:42

As the numerous and obvious ethical conflicts surrounding the Clinton Foundation receive more media scrutiny, the tactic of Clinton-loyal journalists is to highlight the charitable work done by the foundation, and then insinuate — or even outright state — that anyone raising these questions is opposed to its charity. James Carville announced that those who criticize the foundation are “going to hell.” Other Clinton loyalists insinuated that Clinton Foundation critics are indifferent to the lives of HIV-positive babies or are anti-gay bigots.

That the Clinton Foundation has done some good work is beyond dispute. But that fact has exactly nothing to do with the profound ethical problems and corruption threats raised by the way its funds have been raised. Hillary Clinton was America’s chief diplomat, and tyrannical regimes such as the Saudis and Qataris jointly donated tens of millions of dollars to an organization run by her family and operated in its name, one whose works has been a prominent feature of her public persona. That extremely valuable opportunity to curry favor with the Clintons, and to secure access to them, continues as she runs for president.

The claim that this is all just about trying to help people in need should not even pass a laugh test, let alone rational scrutiny. To see how true that is, just look at who some of the biggest donors are. Although it did not give while she was secretary of state, the Saudi regime by itself has donated between $10 million and $25 million to the Clinton Foundation, with donations coming as late as 2014, as she prepared her presidential run. A group called “Friends of Saudi Arabia,” co-founded “by a Saudi Prince,” gave an additional amount between $1 million and $5 million. The Clinton Foundation says that between $1 million and $5 million was also donated by “the State of Qatar,” the United Arab Emirates, and the government of Brunei. “The State of Kuwait” has donated between $5 million and $10 million.

Theoretically, one could say that these regimes — among the most repressive and regressive in the world — are donating because they deeply believe in the charitable work of the Clinton Foundation and want to help those in need. Is there a single person on the planet who actually believes this? Is Clinton loyalty really so strong that people are going to argue with a straight face that the reason the Saudi, Qatari, Kuwaiti and Emirates regimes donated large amounts of money to the Clinton Foundation is because those regimes simply want to help the foundation achieve its magnanimous goals?

Here’s one of the Clinton Foundation’s principal objectives; decide for yourself if its tyrannical donors are acting with the motive of advancing that charitable goal:

All those who wish to argue that the Saudis donated millions of dollars to the Clinton Foundation out of a magnanimous desire to aid its charitable causes, please raise your hand. Or take the newfound casting of the Clinton Foundation as a champion of LGBTs, and the smearing of its critics as indifferent to AIDS. Are the Saudis also on board with these benevolent missions? And the Qataris and Kuwaitis?

Which is actually more homophobic: questioning the Clinton Foundation’s lucrative relationship to those intensely anti-gay regimes, or cheering and defending that relationship? All the evidence points to the latter. But whatever else is true, it is a blatant insult to everyone’s intelligence to claim that the motive of these regimes in transferring millions to the Clinton Foundation is a selfless desire to help them in their noble work.

Another primary project of the Clinton Foundation is the elimination of wealth inequality, which “leads to significant economic disparities, both within and among countries, and prevents underserved populations from realizing their potential.” Who could possibly maintain that the reason the Qatari and Emirates regimes donated millions to the Clinton Foundation was their desire to eliminate such economic oppression?

It doesn’t exactly take a jaded disposition to doubt that these donations from some of the world’s most repressive regimes are motivated by a desire to aid the Clinton Foundation’s charitable work. To the contrary, it just requires basic rationality. That’s particularly true given that these regimes “have donated vastly more money to the Clinton Foundation than they have to most other large private charities involved in the kinds of global work championed by the Clinton family.” For some mystifying reason, they seem particularly motivated to transfer millions to the Clinton Foundation but not the other charities around the world doing similar work. Why might that be? What could ever explain it?

Some Clinton partisans, unwilling to claim that Gulf tyrants have charity in their heart when they make these donations to the Clinton Foundation, have settled on a different tactic: grudgingly acknowledging that the motive of these donations is to obtain access and favors, but insisting that no quid pro quo can be proven. In other words, these regimes were tricked: they thought they would get all sorts of favors through these millions in donations, but Hillary Clinton was simply too honest and upstanding of a public servant to fulfill their expectations.

The reality is that there is ample evidence uncovered by journalists suggesting that regimes donating money to the Clinton Foundation received special access to and even highly favorable treatment from the Clinton State Department. But it’s also true that nobody can dispositively prove the quid pro quo. Put another way, one cannot prove what was going on inside Hillary Clinton’s head at the time that she gave access to or otherwise acted in the interests of these donor-regimes: was she doing it as a favor in return for those donations, or simply because she has a proven affinity for Gulf State and Arab dictators, or because she was merely continuing decades of U.S. policy of propping up pro-U.S. tyrants in the region?

While this “no quid pro quo proof” may be true as far as it goes, it’s extremely ironic that Democrats have embraced it as a defense of Hillary Clinton. After all, this has long been the primary argument of Republicans who oppose campaign finance reform, and indeed, it was the primary argument of the Citizens United majority, once depicted by Democrats as the root of all evil. But now, Democrats have to line up behind a politician who, along with her husband, specializes in uniting political power with vast private wealth, in constantly exploiting the latter to gain the former, and vice-versa. So Democrats are forced to jettison all the good-government principles they previously claimed to believe, and instead are now advocating the crux of the right-wing case against campaign finance reform: that large donations from vested factions are not inherently corrupting of politics or politicians.

Indeed, as I documented in April, Clinton-defending Democrats have now become the most vocal champions of the primary argument used by the Citizens United majority. “We now conclude,” wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy for the Citizens United majority, “that independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.” That is now exactly the argument Clinton loyalists are spouting to defend the millions in donations from tyrannical regimes (as well as Wall Street banks and hedge funds): oh, there’s no proof there’s any corruption going on with all of this money.

The elusive nature of quid pro quo proof — now the primary Democratic defense of Clinton — has also long been the principal argument wielded by the most effective enemy of campaign finance reform, GOP Sen. Mitch McConnell. This is how USA Today, in 1999, described the arguments of McConnell and his GOP allies when objecting to accusations from campaign finance reform advocates that large financial donations are corrupting:

Senate opponents of limiting money in politics injected a bitter personal note into the debate as reformers began an uphill quest to change a system they say has corrupted American government. . . .

Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the legislation’s chief opponent, challenged reform advocate Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., to name Senate colleagues who have been corrupted by high-dollar political contributions.

”How can there be corruption if no one is corrupt?” McConnell asked, zeroing in on McCain’s frequent speeches about the issue in his presidential campaign. ”That’s like saying the gang is corrupt but none of the gangsters are.”

When McCain refused to name names, Sen. Robert Bennett, R-Utah, confronted him. Standing just eight feet from him on the Republican side of the chamber, Bennett charged that McCain had accused him of corruption in seeking pork-barrel spending for his home state.

”I am unaware of any money given that influenced my action here,” Bennett said. ”I have been accused of being corrupt. … I take personal offense.”

The inability to prove that politicians acted as quid pro quo when taking actions that benefitted donors has long been the primary weapon of those opposing campaign finance reform. It is now the primary argument of Democratic partisans to defend Hillary Clinton. In Citizens United, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote a scathing dissent on exactly this point, one that Democrats once cheered:

So if you want to defend the millions of dollars that went from tyrannical regimes to the Clinton Foundation as some sort of wily, pragmatic means of doing good work, go right ahead. But stop insulting everyone’s intelligence by pretending that these donations were motivated by noble ends. Beyond that, don’t dare exploit LGBT rights, AIDS and other causes to smear those who question the propriety of receiving millions of dollars from the world’s most repressive, misogynistic, gay-hating regimes. Most important, accept that your argument in defense of all these tawdry relationships — that big money donations do not necessarily corrupt the political process or the politicians who are their beneficiaries — has been and continues to be the primary argument used to sabotage campaign finance reform.

Given who their candidate is, Democrats really have no choice but to insist that these sorts of financial relationships are entirely proper (needless to say, Goldman Sachs has also donated millions to the Clinton Foundation, but Democrats proved long ago they don’t mind any of that when they even insisted that it was perfectly fine that Goldman Sachs enriched both Clintons personally with huge, numerous speaking fees (though Democrats have no trouble understanding why Trump’s large debts to Chinese banks and Goldman Sachs pose obvious problems)). But – just as is true of their resurrecting a Cold War template and its smear tactics against their critics – the benefits derived from this tactic should not obscure how toxic it is and how enduring its consequences will likely be.

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The post Why Did the Saudi Regime and Other Gulf Tyrannies Donate Millions to the Clinton Foundation? appeared first on The Intercept.

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