Category Archives: Corruption

Foreign Invasion at the U.S. Border in San Diego | Apr 29

Central American asylum seekers gather at U.S. border as hundreds cheer them on

|| U-T San Diego

“As they prepared to present themselves at the San Ysidro Port of Entry today, a group of asylum seekers from Central America gathered at the border fence in Playas de Tijuana Sunday morning cheered on by supporters on both sides of the border.

The boisterous gathering grew to hundreds, with some waving Honduran flags, calling out chants, waving bouquets of yellow flags, and some of the younger members climbing to the top of the tall metal bollards. Others sat quietly, clutching infants, wondering what awaits them in U.S. custody.

Reina Isabel Rodriguez, 52, had traveled from El Salvador with her two grandchildren. “I fear that they will separate me from them,” she said.

She is among dozens of the Pueblo Sin Fronteras Caravan seeking asylum from the U.S. government — undeterred by fierce criticism from President Trump.

But some members may have to remain in Tijuana for a while longer before they can be processed by U.S. authorities at the San Ysidro Port of Entry, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Pete Flores, director of field operations in San Diego for the agency, said on Saturday that “depending on port circumstances at the time of arrival, individuals may need to wait in Mexico as CBP officers work to process those already within our facilities.”

The Central Americans would not be the first group to be forced to wait in Mexico. When thousands of Haitians sought entry at San Ysidro in 2016, CBP worked with Mexican officials to accept limited numbers each day so as not to overwhelm the port’s processing capacity.

By foot, bus and train, the caravan participants have been journeying through Mexico since leaving the southern border city of Tapachula on March 25 with the aim of reaching the Tijuana-San Diego border. Most are from Honduras, and tell of gang violence and extortion back home.

On Saturday, as they lingered near the U.S. border at Plaza Viva Tijuana, many appeared weary and ready to move on.

Those expected to ask for asylum are a small percentage of a traveling group that at one point swelled to more than 1,700 members, according to organizers. They said that about 400 caravan participants, many of them women and children, had completed the journey to Tijuana, and some small groups already been surrendering at the San Ysidro Port of Entry in recent days.

David López was among dozens pondering their next move on Saturday afternoon. López, 25, who until recently worked on the staff of an elementary school, said “organized crime and our country’s government” had prompted him to flee the Copan area of Honduras with his wife and their three-year-old daughter.

Mother and child had presented themselves at San Ysidro Port of Entry ten days ago, but López remained behind. He said his wife and their daughter have been released from custody while their asylum claim is under review and are staying with family in South Carolina.”

….Continue reading more @ U-T San Diego

 

Border Patrol Catches Migrants ‘Associated with’ Caravan Crossing Illegally

|| Breitbart

“U.S. Border Patrol reported Saturday that it had apprehended several individuals “associated with the Central American Caravan” who were trying to cross illegally into the country.

While many members of the group reportedly planned to apply for asylum at the San Ysidro point of entry on Sunday, others had tried to enter the U.S. “by climbing over the dilapidated scrap metal border fence” on Friday and Saturday, according to a statement by U.S. Customs and Border Protection Chief Patrol Agent Rodney S. Scott.

“In several of these incidents, children as young as 4-years-old, and in one case a pregnant female, were detected entering the United States illegally through a dark, treacherous canyon that is notorious for human and drug smuggling,” Scott said.”

…..Continue reading more @ Breitbart

 

‘Their Country Is Being Invaded’: Exodus of Venezuelans Overwhelms Northern Brazil

|| New York Times

“PACARAIMA, Brazil — Hundreds turn up each day, many arriving penniless and gaunt as they pass a tattered flag that signals they have reached the border.

Once they cross, many cram into public parks and plazas teeming with makeshift homeless shelters, raising concerns about drugs and crime. The lucky ones sleep in tents and line up for meals provided by soldiers — pregnant women, the disabled and families with young children are often given priority. The less fortunate huddle under tarps that crumple during rainstorms.

The scenes are reminiscent of the waves of desperate migrants who have escaped the wars in Syria and Afghanistan, spurring a backlash in Europe. Yet this is happening in Brazil, where a relentless tide of people fleeing the deepening economic crisis in Venezuela has begun to test the region’s tolerance for immigrants.

This month, the governor of the northern Brazilian state of Roraima sued the federal government, demanding that it close the border with Venezuela and provide additional money for her overburdened education and health systems.

“We’re very fearful this may lead to an economic and social destabilization in our state,” said the governor, Suely Campos. “I’m looking after the needs of Venezuelans to the detriment of Brazilians.”

The tens of thousands of Venezuelans who have found refuge in Brazil in recent years are walking proof of a worsening humanitarian crisis that their government claims does not exist.

They also constitute an exodus that is straining the region’s largely generous and permissive immigration policies. Earlier this month, Trinidad deported more than 80 Venezuelan asylum seekers. In Colombian and Brazilian border communities, local residents have attacked Venezuelans in camps.

During the early months of this year, 5,000 Venezuelans were leaving their homeland each day, according to the United Nations. At that rate, more Venezuelans are leaving home each month than the 125,000 Cuban exiles who fled their homes during the 1980 Mariel boat crisis and transformed South Florida.

If the current rate remains steady, more than 1.8 million Venezuelans could leave by the end of this year, joining the estimated 1.5 million who have fled the economic crisis to rebuild their lives abroad.”

…..Continue reading more @ NYT

 

LAPD Officer Accused of Sneaking Illegal Immigrants Across the Border

|| Townhall

“A Los Angeles police officer has been accused of sneaking in two illegal aliens into the United States earlier this week.

An officer by the name of Mambasse Koulabalo Patara was arrested on federal charges for allegedly violating immigration laws. The officer was apprehended at a U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint in Pine Valley.

The arrest occurred at approximately 12:15 AM on Tuesday, after “Patara drove up to the checkpoint with two male passengers in a 2006 Toyota Corolla.”

Patara told the Border Patrol agents that the two men were U.S. citizens. He informed Border Patrol agents that he was off duty and showed them his badge. Eventually the two men admitted they were illegal aliens. The  two illegal aliens gave conflicting stories. One said they had crossed the border days earlier and simply were hitching a ride from the officer. The other said that he had known Patara for at least 5 years and would often do yard work at his house.

Witnesses were reportedly dumbfounded by the arrest….”

….Continue reading more @ Townhall

Diamond & Silk Take it to Congress | Apr 27 2018

Diamond and Silk Testify Before Congress on Social Media Censorship Against Conservatives

|| Breitbart

“Diamond and Silk testified before Congress over social media censorship against conservatives, Thursday, with Diamond declaring during their testimony that “censorship is no hoax.”

“We would like to thank the judiciary committee for allowing us the opportunity to voice our concerns about conservatives being targeted and censored on social media platforms,” opened Lynette Hardaway, who is better known as Diamond. “Facebook along with other social media sites have taken aggressive actions to silence conservative voices such as ourselves by deliberately restricting and weaponizing our page with algorithms that censored and suppress our free speech. These bias algorithms are tactics designed to pick up on keywords, thus telling the pages how to behave in ways that repress and stifle expressed ideas including shadow-banning, which blocked our content from being seen by our followers while depriving our brand through the demonetization of our videos.”

“Followers stop receiving notifications when we posted videos & content. Followers were also mysteriously unliked from our page. Subtle and slowly Facebook used one mechanism at a time to diminish our reach by restricting our page so that our 1.2 million followers would not see our content thus silencing our conservative voices,” she continued. “When we reached out to Facebook for an explanation, they gave us the runaround. Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress and stated that the most important thing he cared about was making sure no one interferes in the 2018 elections. But after doing our research we wondered if Mark Zuckerberg was using Facebook to interfere in the 2018 elections by labeling users accounts as either Liberal, Very Liberal, Moderate, Conservative, or Very Conservative.”

“This is one of the main underhanded ways to censor conservatives. So if I’m labeled as Very Liberal without the option to edit it, update and correct this setting, then algorithms are already put into place which allows advertisers that have Liberal views, services & causes to target me,” Hardaway explained, before adding that, “Diamond and Silk’s personal Facebook page has been labeled by Facebook as Very Liberal.”

Hardaway then declared that, “Even though we are not Very Liberal, Facebook does not give us the option to change this label to Conservative, making it less likely for us to see advertisement, news stories and services from a conservative point of view,” before asking, “If Facebook labeled our user account as very liberal and got it wrong, how many more other users account have they gotten wrong?”

Pointing to a screenshot of a Facebook notification which informed Diamond and Silk that restrictions had been placed on their Facebook page, and then to screenshots of their followers complaining that they can’t see their videos, Hardaway proclaimed, “They’re not receiving notification… They can’t watch our videos.”

Hardaway also showed screenshots comparing the number of views they used to get on videos compared to now, noting that anti-Trump pages with half the amount of followers were able to rack up hundreds of thousands of views, while Diamond and Silk’s views had dropped to just thousands.

“In 2016 with less than one million followers, our page reach would garner between 5 to 8 million people reached within a week. All of that changed when algorithms were placed on our page to suppress our reach,” she expressed, claiming that “YouTube also demonetized 95 percent of our videos in August of 2017 and categorized our videos as ‘hate speech,’ even though our account was in good standing.”

….Continue reading more @ Breitbart

Image of the Day |

 

 

Pentagon Kills LifeLog Project

| Wired – Feb 04 2004

The Pentagon canceled its so-called LifeLog project, an ambitious effort to build a database tracking a person’s entire existence.

Run by Darpa, the Defense Department’s research arm, LifeLog aimed to gather in a single place just about everything an individual says, sees or does: the phone calls made, the TV shows watched, the magazines read, the plane tickets bought, the e-mail sent and received. Out of this seemingly endless ocean of information, computer scientists would plot distinctive routes in the data, mapping relationships, memories, events and experiences.

LifeLog’s backers said the all-encompassing diary could have turned into a near-perfect digital memory, giving its users computerized assistants with an almost flawless recall of what they had done in the past. But civil libertarians immediately pounced on the project when it debuted last spring, arguing that LifeLog could become the ultimate tool for profiling potential enemies of the state.

Researchers close to the project say they’re not sure why it was dropped late last month. Darpa hasn’t provided an explanation for LifeLog’s quiet cancellation. “A change in priorities” is the only rationale agency spokeswoman Jan Walker gave to Wired News.

However, related Darpa efforts concerning software secretaries and mechanical brains are still moving ahead as planned.”

….Continue reading more @ Wired
“Facebook is an American online social media and social networking service company based in Menlo Park, California. Its website was launched on February 4, 2004, by Mark Zuckerberg, along with fellow Harvard College students and roommates Eduardo Saverin, Andrew McCollum, Dustin Moskovitz, and Chris Hughes.”
 – wiki

Zuckerberg Gets Grilled in Front of Congress | Apr 11 2018

IF CONGRESS DOESN’T UNDERSTAND FACEBOOK, WHAT HOPE DO ITS USERS HAVE?

|| Wired

“What many young people feel about Facebook is they’ve kind of turned on us,” said Emmanuel Sessegnon, as he waited to enter the hearing room. “Whereas before we had this expectation when I signed up when I was 13, that when you’re on Facebook what you want to be public will be public, but what you want to be private will be private. What we see here is all this information that was leaked out by Facebook to these third-party companies…”

 

FACEBOOK CEO MARK Zuckerberg received a less than warm welcome in Washington, DC, where he testified before a joint hearing of two Senate committees Tuesday. Among the crowds of spectators lining up to watch Zuckerberg get grilled were members of the activist group CodePink, wearing oversized sunglasses with the words, “Stop Spying,” written across them. Another group wore t-shirts with the hashtag #DeleteFacebook scrawled on them in red Sharpie.

“What many young people feel about Facebook is they’ve kind of turned on us,” said Emmanuel Sessegnon, as he waited to enter the hearing room. “Whereas before we had this expectation when I signed up when I was 13, that when you’re on Facebook what you want to be public will be public, but what you want to be private will be private. What we see here is all this information that was leaked out by Facebook to these third-party companies, we just feel its inappropriate.”

Zuckerberg came to Congress to answer for a series of scandals that have plagued the company since at least the 2016 election. The first, of course, was the news that a Russian propaganda group called the Internet Research Agency used Facebook ads, fake accounts, and pages to influence voters in the run-up to the 2016 US election. The most recent was Facebook’s admission that a data firm named Cambridge Analytica received unauthorized accessto up to 87 million users’ private data without their consent beginning in 2014.

Anyone expecting Tuesday’s hearing to be a bloodbath, however, likely came away disappointed. The five-hour marathon felt more like Social Media 101, as Zuckerberg spent the bulk of his time in the hot seat walking through Facebook’s terms of service, the way advertisers target users, the way app developers access people’s information, and how and when and why Facebook collects and stores data. For close observers of both the company and the online ad ecosystem in general, the questions were largely rudimentary. That wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.

FACEBOOK CEO MARK Zuckerberg received a less than warm welcome in Washington, DC, where he testified before a joint hearing of two Senate committees Tuesday. Among the crowds of spectators lining up to watch Zuckerberg get grilled were members of the activist group CodePink, wearing oversized sunglasses with the words, “Stop Spying,” written across them. Another group wore t-shirts with the hashtag #DeleteFacebook scrawled on them in red Sharpie.

“What many young people feel about Facebook is they’ve kind of turned on us,” said Emmanuel Sessegnon, as he waited to enter the hearing room. “Whereas before we had this expectation when I signed up when I was 13, that when you’re on Facebook what you want to be public will be public, but what you want to be private will be private. What we see here is all this information that was leaked out by Facebook to these third-party companies, we just feel its inappropriate.”

Zuckerberg came to Congress to answer for a series of scandals that have plagued the company since at least the 2016 election. The first, of course, was the news that a Russian propaganda group called the Internet Research Agency used Facebook ads, fake accounts, and pages to influence voters in the run-up to the 2016 US election. The most recent was Facebook’s admission that a data firm named Cambridge Analytica received unauthorized access to up to 87 million users’ private data without their consent beginning in 2014.

Anyone expecting Tuesday’s hearing to be a bloodbath, however, likely came away disappointed. The five-hour marathon felt more like Social Media 101, as Zuckerberg spent the bulk of his time in the hot seat walking through Facebook’s terms of service, the way advertisers target users, the way app developers access people’s information, and how and when and why Facebook collects and stores data. For close observers of both the company and the online ad ecosystem in general, the questions were largely rudimentary. That wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.”

….Continue reading @ Wired.com

 

FOUR QUESTIONS CONGRESS SHOULD ACTUALLY ASK MARK ZUCKERBERG

|| Wired

 

“Mark Zuckerberg testified for almost five hours Tuesday in a televised Senate hearing about Facebook’s privacy practices and data abuse. More than 40 Senators had five minutes each to ask questions. Zuckerberg’s most frequent response? “My team will follow up with you.” House members will have their own chance to coax answers from the evasive Facebook CEO on Wednesday when he testifies before that chamber’s Energy and Commerce Committee.

It’s a rare opportunity. Zuckerberg has been heavily coached for the DC leg of his apology tour, but for the controlling CEO, with a cautiously curated personal brand, these hearings provide a forum to pin him down with facts and get his statements on the record.

The impetus for the hearing was the scandal over Cambridge Analytica, which collected data on 87 million Facebook users without their consent. But some of the most telling lines of inquiry on Tuesday focused on the longstanding tradeoffs from Facebook’s business model and the mechanics of data collection that Zuckerberg would prefer to obscure: How Facebook tracks you online and offline; what personal data you inadvertent reveal; how a $477 billion company that makes money from advertisers might still respect privacy.

There were few revelations, and a longer list of not-quite-answered questions. Some lawmakers had clearly been briefed by tech-savvy Facebook critics, but still couldn’t quite hit it home.

Toward the end of the hearing, Senator Kamala Harris (D-California) attempted to list the questions where she thought Zuckerberg had been less than candid. “During the course of this hearing these last four hours you’ve been asked several critical questions for which you don’t have answers,” Harris said.

With that in mind, we offer these suggested queries for House members:

1. How does Facebook track users when they’re not on Facebook?

Users are now accustomed to the notion that Facebook harvests every post, like, comment, and share to build profiles that inform the ads it displays to a user. But senators sounded a lot like ordinary Facebook users when they asked about whether, or how, Facebook tracks them when they are not on the social network. Consider this exchange with Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi).

Wicker: There have been reports that Facebook can track a user’s internet browsing activity even after that user has logged off of the Facebook platform. Can you confirm whether or not this is true?

Zuckerberg: Senator, I want to make sure I get this accurate, so it would probably be better to have my team follow up afterwards.

Wicker: You don’t know?

Zuckerberg: I know that people use cookies on the internet and that you can probably correlate activity between sessions. We do that for a number of reasons including security and including measuring ads to make sure the experience is the most effective, which of course people can opt-out of but I want to make sure that I’m precise.

Zuckerberg also got a lot of mileage from the line that Facebook doesn’t sell your data, until Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) shut him down by responding, “You clearly rent it!” Why not delve more into this rental agreement? The Wall Street Journal’s recent breakdown of all the data shared just to organize a pizza party is a good start.

Committee members could also ask about Facebook Pixel, its Like button, or other Facebook plugins that track consumers around around the web, even when they’re not logged in to Facebook. They could also probe more deeply about how data from Facebook gets combined with other sources, including shopping histories and public records.

2. Does Facebook behave like a monopoly?

Quite a few legislators asked tried to get Zuckerberg to admit that Facebook is a monopoly. Zuckerberg was asked to name Facebook’s competitors and identify a viable alternative for users who want to leave Facebook and go elsewhere. Zuckerberg responded that the typical American uses eight different communication apps, neglecting to mention that Facebook owns a few of those other apps too, including Instagram, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger.

A straighter route might be to ask Facebook about specific instances where it has allegedly engaged in anticompetitive behavior, such as brazenly copying Snapchat’s features or acquiring Onavo, a tool that help Facebook identify the next Snapchat it needs to buy or crush.

3. Pull out a laptop and ask Zuckerberg to walk us through the process of changing the privacy settings on a Facebook account.

This would be mostly for dramatic effect, but in keeping with this week’s corporate theater. But it would also prove a point. Zuckerberg repeatedly insisted that users own their own data, can remove it at any time, and can control who has access to it while they are on Facebook.

Exercising that control is not that simple, however. Start with Facebook’s 3,200-word user agreement. “I say this gently: Your user agreement sucks,” Sen. John Kennedy (R-Louisiana) told Zuckerberg. “The purpose of the user agreement is to cover Facebook’s rear end. It is not to inform your users about their rights. You know that and I know that.”

Then there are Facebook’s privacy controls, which are famously difficult to find and opaque. Warning: this question could go well over your five minute allotment.”

….Continue reading more @ Wired.com

44 Democrats & Pakistani Awan Bros in Congress IT Scandal Heats Up | Apr 3 2018

‘The Biggest Story You Never Hear About’: Reporter Sounds The Alarm On Awan Brothers Scandal

|| TGP

New Congressional documents reveal all 44 House Democrats who hired IT staffer Imran Awan waived the background check on the shady Pakistani national. 

“The Daily Caller reports:

‘Every one of the 44 House Democrats who hired Pakistan-born IT aides who later allegedly made “unauthorized access” to congressional data appears to have chosen to exempt them from background checks, according to congressional documents.

All of them appear to have waived background checks on Imran Awan and his family members, even though the family of server administrators could collectively read all the emails and files of 1 in 5 House Democrats, and despite background checks being recommended for such positions, according to an inspector general’s report. The House security policy requires offices to fill out a form attesting that they’ve initiated background checks, but it also includes a loophole allowing them to simply say that another member vouched for them.

The reporter behind the new Awan report, the Daily Caller’s Luke Rosiak, joined Fox Business Network Monday to discuss his story.

“If they would have run this background check it would have found out not only multiple criminal convictions, but $1 million bankruptcy, a dozen lawsuits… it would have found a whole host of major red flags and the Democrats didn’t do any of those checks,” Rosiak told host Maria Bartiromo.

“As a result they gave these guys access to everything and IG determined that they were funneling data off the House network.”

“This is the biggest story that you never hear about,” Rosiak added.

 “It’s a hack on the Congress by foreigners and the Democrats didn’t care about it, they didn’t stop it. These are the same people who were talking constantly about cyber breaches and Russia. And if you care about one, you’ve got to care about the other.”

“So why haven’t they addressed it?”

“It basically destroys that Russian narrative just because it shows that they didn’t actually care about cyber-security and they haven’t responded to this. And thirdly, it could just be a question of, do these guys have something on members of Congress?” the Daily Caller reporter said.

IT specialist Imran Awan worked for Debbie Wasserman Schultz for thirteen years since she was first elected to national office in 2004 as a Florida representative. She only fired him after he was arrested and would have kept paying her “IT expert” even after he fled to Pakistan. The Awan brothers IT ring had access to emails and computer data from an estimated 800 lawmakers and staffers.

Three Pakistani brothers who managed the IT affairs for several Democratic government officials were relieved of their duties in February on suspicion that they accessed specific computer networks without permission, also known as hacking Imran Awan, who started working for Wasserman Schultz in 2005, received $164,600 in 2016, with close to $20,000 of that coming from Wasserman Schultz.

His brother Jamal, who started working as a staffer in 2014, was paid $157,350.12 in 2016. Abid, who started working in 2005, was paid $160,943 in 2016. Imran’s wife, Hina Alvi, who was employed as a staffer since February 2007, was paid 168,300 in 2016. Rao Abbas was paid $85,049 in 2016. Abid, Imran, and Jamal Awan were barred from computer networks at the House of Representatives in February.”

…Continue reading more @ The Gateway Pundit

Facebook on the Hot Seat, Zuckerberg in Hiding | Mar 21 2018

Where’s Zuck? Facebook CEO silent as data harvesting scandal unfolds

|| The Guardian UK

Amid calls for investigation and a #DeleteFacebook campaign, company releases an official statement but its figurehead keeps quiet

“The chief executive of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, has remained silent over the more than 48 hours since the Observer revealed the harvesting of 50 million users’ personal data, even as his company is buffeted by mounting calls for investigation and regulation, falling stock prices and a social media campaign to #DeleteFacebook.

Facebook’s shares slid 6.77% on Monday following the news, knocking $36bn off the company’s valuation as investors worried about the consequences of the revelations. Zuckerberg owns 16% of the company and personally saw his fortune fall $5.5bn to $69bn, according to Forbes’ live tracker of the world’s wealthiest people.

The embattled social media company announced on Monday that it will engage a digital forensics firm to conduct an audit of Cambridge Analytica to determine whether or not the firm still has copies of the data in question.

The Observer reported this weekend that a company called Global Science Research (GSR) harvested tens of millions of Facebook profiles and sold the data to Cambridge Analytica. The New York Times reported on Saturday that Cambridge Analytica still possesses “most or all” of the harvested data. Cambridge Analytica has denied knowing that the data was obtained improperly.

“If this data still exists, it would be a grave violation of Facebook’s policies and an unacceptable violation of trust and the commitments these groups made,” Facebook said in a statement.

The engagement of the digital forensics firm Stroz Friedberg is unlikely to assuage officials in the US or UK, where lawmakers have issued calls for Zuckerberg to testify about the data breach. Representatives of Stroz Friedberg were at Cambridge Analytica’s office in London on Monday evening when the UK Information Commissioner’s Office asked them to leave so the authorities could pursue its own investigation, Facebook said hours after the first announcement.

On Monday, the US senator Ron Wyden sent Zuckerberg a detailed list of questions related to the breach, with a demand for answers by 13 April. Two members of the Senate judiciary committee, Democrat Amy Klobuchar and Republican John Kennedy, called for hearings with the CEOs of Facebook, Twitter and Google.

“It’s time for Mark Zuckerberg to stop hiding behind his Facebook page,” said the Conservative MP Damian Collins, chair of the digital, culture, media and sport select committee.

Referencing the government’s request for Facebook’s auditors to leave Cambridge Analytica’s offices, Collins tweeted: “These investigations need to be undertaken by the proper authorities.”

The three social media companies testified in Washington last fall, following the revelation that their platforms had been used by foreign agents seeking to illegally influence the US presidential election. All three companies sent their general counsels, a move that was criticized at the time. It is unlikely that Zuckerberg will be able to avoid congressional questioning a second time.

Experts have long criticized Facebook’s privacy practices, but their warnings have done little to dissuade users – now numbering more than 2 billion around the world – from signing up for the platform.

Whether the scandal will result in actual change in user trust of the company remains to be seen, but the hashtag #DeleteFacebook trended on Twitter on Monday as users shared their intention to log off the social network for good. Others tweeted #WheresZuck, in reference to the executive’s silence.

Also on Monday, the New York Times reported that Facebook’s chief security officer, Alex Stamos, would be leaving the company following disagreements with other executives over the handling of the investigation into the Russian influence operation.”

….Continue reading more @ The Guardian

Mitch McConnell and the Communist China Connection | Mar 18 2018

How McConnell and Chao used political power to make their family rich

|| New York Post

Peter Schweizer, who delved into the Clinton Foundation’s dealings in 2016’s “Clinton Cash,” has turned his sights to the money-making machinations of DC’s political elite.

His new book, “Secret Empires: How the American Political Class Hides Corruption and Enriches Family and Friends,” — due out Tuesday from Harper Collins — exposes how politicians engage in “corruption by proxy” by exploiting family and business ties to enrich themselves and their relatives.

Here, The Post’s Larry Getlen details the book’s revelations on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, ex-Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and others:

In 2004, current Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his wife, current US Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, had an average net worth of $3.1 million. Ten years later, that number had increased to somewhere between $9.2 million and $36.5 million.

One source of the windfall, according to a new book from Peter Schweizer, was a 2008 gift from Chao’s father, James Chao, for somewhere between $5 million and $25 million. But this gift could be seen as more than just a gift. It may have been acquired, according to Schweizer, thanks to the couple’s fealty to China, the source of the Chao family fortune. And that fealty may have occurred at the expense of the nation they had pledged to serve.

“Secret Empires,” the new book from the “Clinton Cash” and “Throw Them All Out” author, details myriad examples of corruption from members of both major political parties. Rather than focusing on direct forms of corruption, such as bribes, Schweizer hones in on the more indirect graft of the modern era.

Rather than risk their careers taking bribes for potentially minuscule rewards, Schweizer points out how today’s politicians are savvier, engaging in what he calls “corruption by proxy.”

While politicians and their spouses are often subject to rigid regulations on what gifts they can accept and what sort of business they can conduct, others around them — like their friends or children have no such obstacles. So while a politician could theoretically wind up in prison for accepting $10,000 for doling out favors, establishing overseas connections that could land your children multi-million-dollar deals is harder to detect, and often legal.

“Foreign governments and oligarchs like this form of corruption because it gives them private and unfettered gateways to the corridors of Washington power,” Schweizer writes. “Foreign entities cannot legally make campaign contributions, so using this approach creates an alternative way to curry favor and influence America’s political leaders. Simply camouflaging these transactions as business agreements provides another shield of plausible deniability.”

As Schweizer tells it, the Chao family fortune derives from the Foremost Group, a shipping company that Chinese native James Chao, a classmate of former Chinese president Jiang Zemin at Jiao Tong University, founded in New York in 1964. Chao remains Foremost’s chairman today, and his daughters Angela and Christine are the company’s deputy chairwoman and general counsel, respectively. Elaine Chao worked there in the 1970s, and has been quoted as saying, “Shipping is our family tradition.”

The success of Foremost is largely due to its close ties to the Chinese government, in particular the China State Shipbuilding Corp. (CSSC), a corporation with which Foremost has done “large volumes of business.”

The CSSC, Schweizer writes, is “a state-owned defense conglomerate … at the heart of the Chinese government’s military-industrial complex.” The main goal of the CSSC is to strengthen the Chinese military. James and Angela Chao have both sat on the board of a CSSC offshoot.

While Foremost is an American company, “their ships have been constructed by Chinese government shipyards, and some of their construction financed by the Chinese government.” In addition, writes Schweizer, “their crews are largely Chinese,” despite US Transportation Secretary and company founder’s daughter Elaine Chao having once said that “ships crewed by Americans are ‘a vital part of our national security.’”

Given all this, it’s worth noting how both McConnell and Chao, in their roles as high-ranking US officials, have personally interacted with, and then gone considerably soft on, China since their 1993 wedding.

When Senator McConnell — who took hardline positions against China prior to his marriage — met with high-ranking Chinese officials in 1994, it was not in his capacity as senator, but via a personal invitation from the CSSC arranged by James Chao. McConnell met with Zemin, then the country’s president, and vice-premiere Li Lanqing. After this meeting, McConnell “would increasingly avoid public criticism of China.” More meetings like it would follow in the years to come.

“As the Chaos and the Chinese government went into business together, the Chaos-McConnells tied their economic fate to the good fortunes of Beijing,” Schweizer writes. “Were McConnell to critique Beijing aggressively or support policies damaging to Chinese interests, Beijing could severely damage the family’s economic fortunes.”

In the ensuing years, McConnell has loudly defended China in its actions against Hong Kong and Taiwan, even claiming that “the United States needed to be ‘ambiguous’ as to whether we would come to the defense of Taiwan if attacked by China.” When Sen. Jesse Helms introduced the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act, pledging support for Taiwanese independence, in 1999, it had “twenty-one co-sponsors and heavy Republican support. But McConnell was not on the list.”

When Congress required China to document annual progress on human rights in order to maintain its trade status in the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square massacre, ditching the requirement became a priority for the country. In 2000, “McConnell cosponsored S.2277, which would do just that.”

McConnell also fought attempts to punish China for vigorously undervaluing its currency, a tactic that led Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to invoke the nuclear option, changing Senate rules on voting. The bill passed, 63-35, with McConnell voting against.

Chao has also done her part to support her ancestral home.

When she served as Secretary of Labor under George W. Bush, her department resisted efforts to “call out the Chinese government over its workers rights practices.” When a petition was filed against China on the subject of worker’s rights based on the US Trade Act of 1974, Chao opposed it.

After a bipartisan congressional report citing Chinese espionage against the US circulated in 2000, Chao “was critical of the report,” making clear she “in no way” agreed with its findings, and, Schweizer writes, “dismiss[ing] the idea that China could pose any threat to the United States.”

…..Continue reading more @ NY Post

 

Obama and Comey Had a Secret Meeting? | Mar 02 2018


FBI Denies Secret Comey-Obama Meeting Raises Integrity and Public Trust Issues

|| Daily Caller

“The FBI states it will not expedite the release of documents about secret meetings between FBI Director James Comey and former President Barack Obama, according to a letter the bureau sent to The Daily Caller News Foundation.

Such information is not “a matter of widespread and exceptional media interest in which there exists possible questions about the government’s integrity which affects public confidence,” David Hardy, the Section Chief for the bureau’s Record/Information Dissemination Section, told TheDCNF in a Feb. 26 letter.

TheDCNF, under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), requested records of all meetings between Comey and Obama and sought an “expedited process” as provided under the act when issues are of great interest to the media and the records address issues pertaining to government integrity. TheDCNF FOIA request was filed Feb. 16, 2018.

The issue prompting the FOIA request was the disclosure Comey held a secret Oval Office meeting with Obama on Jan. 5, 2017. Comey never divulged the meeting to Congress.”

….Continue reading more @ Daily Caller