An American Crown Prince | The Omnipresent Camera Gaze | The Olympics & Constant Corruption

MARCH 22, 2019  /   SUBSCRIBE



“The lion cannot protect himself from traps, and the fox cannot defend himself from wolves. One must therefore be a fox to recognize traps, and a lion to frighten wolves.”

“There is no other way to guard yourself against flattery than by making men understand that telling you the truth will not offend you.”

– Niccolò Machiavelli




Nepotism in America and Saudi America: Jared Kushner is President Trump’s son-in-law. He enjoys a prominent place in the administration, as a close adviser to the president on many things including the Middle East. From the start of the Trump administration Jared, 38, has consistently argued that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is a vital US ally, particularly for bringing Palestinians into a promised Middle East peace plan. It was Jared who convinced his father-in-law to make Saudi Arabia the first stop on Trump’s first presidential trip abroad. On trips Jared has made to the Kingdom he has had private talks with the prince that lasted into the night. Jared maintained his support of MbS despite the ruler’s record on ordering the detention and shake-down of former officials, prominent businessmen and relatives, the torture of prominent women’s rights advocates, a lengthy military intervention in Yemen, and the murder of dissidents.

Critics of Trump and his son-in-law argue that possible personal financial connections hover over the administration’s dealings with the oil-rich rulers of the Persian Gulf. However, not a lot of attention has been paid so far to Jared’s younger brother, Josh Kushner, 32, the founder of an eight-year-old venture capital firm called Thrive Capital. Josh spent three days in Riyadh in October 2017 at an investment conference where MbS had promised to spend billions of dollars on a high-tech future for Saudi Arabia. Observers said the younger Kushner frequently ducked out of large audience speeches to have more exclusive conversations with Saudi officials. Josh flew out of the capital just a day before Jared flew in for an unannounced visit with the crown prince.

Josh had been at MbS’s retreat to discuss business, but Jared was there to discuss policy.

And although Jared severed his ties with Thrive Capital in January 2017 (prior to that, he sat on the firm’s board of directors), and appeared to have divested his interest in his brother’s funds around that time, he was still discussing American policy with the rulers of the Kingdom at the same time his brother was talking business with top aides. And according to financial disclosure forms filed in May 2018, Jared has received at least $8.2 million in capital gains from various Thrive funds while he’s been working in the White House. Perhaps it’s just coincidence, but as the Riyadh investment conference drew Wall Street Titans, some attendees wondered how a relatively small player was enjoying such high level access to Saudi officials.





A Real Wake-Up Call: Police busted a devious and disgusting spycam operation when they arrested two men for “online streaming” the “intimate private activities” of 1,600 unsuspecting South Korean motel guests. The men are accused of setting up hidden cameras in 30 motels across 10 cities, then showing the videos on a website and charging a monthly subscription. The tiny cameras were hidden in hair dryer holders, satellite boxes and closed electrical sockets. To evade detection, the suspects used overseas servers to conceal the camera users’ real IP addresses. The scheme brought in about $6,200 over three months. This was only the latest incident in a country dealing with waves of voyeuristic spycam crimes, called molka, in which people are secretly filmed in private places. Last year 6,800 cases of molka were reported to South Korean police. (NYT) Additional read: “Is there a Spy Camera in That Bathroom? In Seoul, 8,000 Workers Will check.” (NYT)

Planting The Seed (And Rifles) Of Revenge: Armed intelligence officers under the direction of Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro arrested opposition leader Juan Guaido’s chief of staff early Thursday morning. Robert Marrero, a lawyer, was taken from his home in southern Caracas around dawn to an unknown location. As he was being led away Marrero was able to tell a neighbor friend, Sergio Vergara, that police had planted two rifles and a grenade in his apartment as a pretext to charge him with terrorism. Vergara, a lawmaker and member of Guaido’s party, said armed intelligence officers had also broken into his apartment and searched it for several hours. The government has used similar tactics in the past to jail other opposition figures. The Trump administration previously warned Maduro that any repressive measures taken against Guaido or his inner circle would be punished. This new action is a significant escalation of the country’s political crisis and could provoke fresh punitive measures by the US. (NYT)

Nazarbayev’s Going Home: Kazakhstan, population 18 million, is the world’s ninth largest country, with an area of about a million square miles. It borders Russia to the north, China to the east, and has extensive oil reserves, making it strategically and economically important. Nursultan Nazarbayev has led the country since the fall of the Soviet Union, first as its Communist leader and then as president after independence. In a surprise address on national television Tuesday evening, the 78-year-old Nazarbayev announced his resignation after almost 30 years in office. The announcement comes just weeks after Nazarbayev dismissed the country’s government, and later announced a spending package of several billion dollars on social programs and state salaries. He also promised major investments in infrastructure. Nazarbayev said stepping down wouldn’t be easy, but he will retain his legal title as “leader of the nation” and will continue as chairman of the country’s powerful security council, and as the leader of the dominate parliamentary party Nur Otan. Nazarbayev is credited with maintaining stability and ethnic peace in Kazakhstan, but he has faced criticism for suppressing dissent and sidelining the opposition. He is expected to hand-pick his successor. (Guardian)

#NunsToo: Credit the #MeToo movement with engendering the #NunsToo movement. At long last, the dirty little secret that lies behind the wall of silence in the Roman Catholic Church is being acknowledged. It’s the widespread sexual abuse of nuns by priests. Lucetta Scaraffia, editor of Women Church World, first broke the silence in February in an article based on hundreds of stories from nuns. Scaraffia, a history professor, mother and feminist, blames the clerical culture of the all-powerful priesthood for the abuse of women and minors. It’s very hard for a nun to report she has been raped by a priest because of the mindset that, in sex, women can always say no. “These nuns believe they’re the guilty ones for having seduced that holy man into committing sin,” Scaraffia says, “because that’s what they’ve always been taught.” Adding to the trauma, raped nuns who get pregnant become outcasts from their orders. Sister Catherine Aubin says the abuse is the result of male domination in church leadership. “The Vatican is a world of men,” she says. “Some truly are men of God. Others have been ruined by power. The key to these secrets and silence is … abuse of power. They climb up a career staircase toward evil.” A 2018 investigation by the AP found that the Vatican had not punished offenders for the abuse of nuns in Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America. (NPR)




Corruption Wins the Gold At Every Olympic Committee: Former Olympic equestrian and now president of the Japanese Olympic Committee, Tsunekazu Takeda, is stepping down at the end of his term this summer as a result of an ongoing French corruption investigation into how Tokyo was chosen to host the 2020 Summer Games. Takeda was indicted in December and has professed his innocence, but the allegations have mired the games in scandal, further damaging the credibility of the Olympics bidding process and casting a shadow over what the Japanese government had hoped would showcase the country’s revival. Tokyo won the bid for the 2020 games at an Olympic committee meeting in Buenos Aires in 2013. But investigators believe officials representing potential host cities paid bribes to African Olympic committee members, including Papa Massata Diack, to win support. In 2016 prosecutors said the Tokyo bidding committee had made payments of more than $2 million to Black Tidings, a Singaporean company run by a close friend of Diack’s. French authorities previously tried unsuccessfully to extradite Diack from his home in Senegal on charges he manipulated the awarding of the 2016 Summer Olympics to Rio de Janeiro. (NYT)








“ happens in all human affairs that we never seek to escape one mischief without falling into another. Prudence therefore consists in knowing how to distinguish degrees of disadvantage, and in accepting a less evil as a good.” – Niccolò Machiavelli

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