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Trump’s Get Out of Jail Free Card for a Convicted Scammer Is Full of Half-Truths and Omissions

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Benjamin Hardy and Moiz Syed report in ProPublica:

On July 29, President Donald Trump commuted the sentence of Ted Suhl, an Arkansas businessman who was released after serving about two and a half years of a seven-year sentence for bribery and fraud, after a campaign led by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

We examined the White House announcement of the commutation and found multiple omissions and misleading statements. The White House did not respond to a request for comment. . .

Continue reading to see the annotated 3-page White House statement, with the lies and omissions highlighted and identified. This represents the US government at the highest levels today.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 August 2019 at 8:55 am

Jeffrey Epstein’s Intellectual Enabler

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Evgeny Morozov writes in the New Republic:

If you are an accomplished science or technology writer, your books are probably handled by the most powerful literary agency in the field: the famous Brockman Inc., started by John Brockman and now run by Max Brockman, his son. As it happens, Max is also my agent—and has been since my first book was sold in 2009. As agencies go, I only have positive things to report: The Brockmans fight for their authors and get us very handsome advances. That’s what agents are for.

But that’s not the whole story. John is also the president, founder, and chief impresario of the Edge Foundation, which has earned a stellar reputation as an eclectic platform for conversations that involve scientists, artists, and technologists. There is more than one Edge Foundation, though: There is the one meant for public consumption, with its “annual question”—e.g. “What are you optimistic about?”—answered by famous intellectuals and thinkers; and one meant for private consumption by members of Brockman’s elite network. The former exists primarily online. The latter has a vibrant real-life component, with sumptuous dinners, exclusive conferences, and quite a bit of travel on private jets—it functions as an elaborate massage of the ego (and, apparently, much else) for the rich, the smart, and the powerful.

Over the course of my research into the history of digital culture, I’ve got to know quite a lot about John’s role in shaping the digital—and especially the intellectual—world that we live in. I’ve examined and scanned many of his letters in the archives of famous men (and they are mostly men), such as Marshall McLuhan, Stewart Brand, and Gregory Bateson. He is no mere literary agent; he is a true “organic intellectual” of the digital revolution, shaping trends rather than responding to them. Would the MIT Media Lab, TED Conferences, and Wired have the clout and the intellectual orientation that they have now without the extensive network cultivated by Brockman over decades? I, for one, very much doubt it.

Lately, John has been in the news for other reasons, namely because of his troubling connections to Jeffrey Epstein, the so-called financier who reportedly hanged himself earlier this month while facing federal charges of sex-trafficking. Epstein participated in the Edge Foundation’s annual questions, and attended its “billionaires’ dinners.” Brockman may also be the reason why so many prominent academics—from Steven Pinker to Daniel Dennett—have found themselves answering awkward questions about their associations with Epstein; they are clients of Brockman’s. Marvin Minsky, the prominent MIT scientist who surfaced as one of Epstein’s island buddies? A client of Brockman’s. Joi Ito, the director of the elite research facility MIT Media Lab, who has recently acknowledged extensive ties to Epstein? Also, a client of Brockman’s.

Should we just write it off as natural collateral damage for someone with a network as extensive as Brockman’s? He is, after all, a networker’s networker. Based on my observations over the last decade, his whole operation runs on two simple but powerful principles. First, the total value of the network (and thus his own value) goes up if the nodes start connecting to each other independently of him. Second, the more diverse the network, the more attractive it is to newcomers as well as to all the existing members. Billionaires are rich, but they might harbor an insecurity complex related to not being very well-read (looking at you, Bill Gates!). Scientists, in contrast, are usually well-read but might aspire to fancier cars and luxuries and funding for their pet projects. And so on: There’s something for everyone—and, in the case of Epstein, someone seems to have done the matchmaking.

In Brockman’s world, billionaires, scientists, artists, novelists, journalists, and musicians all blend together to produce enormous value—for each other and, of course, for Brockman. This mingling of clients doesn’t happen in other literary agencies, at least not to this extent. Nor does this happen at Brockman Inc., as all such interactions that we know of took place under the umbrella of the Edge Foundation, a sibling organization, with Brockman as its president. Would Brockman Inc. exist without the Edge Foundation? Possibly—and it did, at the outset. Would it be as powerful, trading on Brockman’s ability to rub shoulders with academics and billionaires alike? Probably not. Still, I can attest that Brockman’s authors face no pressure to get involved with Edge: I, for example, diligently responded to their annual questions between 2010 and 2013—and then stopped, as I was put off by Brockman’s insistence that people responding to the annual question should keep away from politics.

When the Epstein-Brockman connection first surfaced in the news, I wanted to give Brockman the benefit of the doubt. It’s possible, I thought, that Epstein was just one of the many rich people in Brockman’s orbit. Or maybe the two had been close only before Epstein’s first criminal case in the mid-2000s. Or maybe Brockman was in the dark about Epstein’s tendencies and they only talked about quantum physics and artificial intelligence.

In the last few weeks, such a charitable interpretation has become very hard to sustain, especially as other details—implicating Marvin Minsky and Joi Ito, who has apologized for taking money from Epstein—became public. John Brockman has not said a word publicly about his connection to Epstein since the latest scandal broke, preferring to maintain silence on the matter. That I have found quite infuriating.


Knowing that Brockman likes to brag about all the famous people he has met and befriended—you can easily count the seconds until he name-checks “Marshall” (McLuhan) or “Andy” (Warhol) or “Gregory“ (Bateson) in a casual conversation—I decided to look over our correspondence over the past decade and see if he might have name-dropped Epstein somewhere. And, of course, he did. Browsing through our email correspondence, I stumbled upon a most peculiar email from September 12, 2013.

It was very laconic: “JE, FYI, JB”—followed by my short bio and some media clippings. (You can check the entire PDF of the correspondence here.) Strangely, it was sent to me and had no other contacts in cc. Perhaps he wanted to send it to “JE” but put my email there by mistake. When I commented on the meaning of this cryptic message, he responded with the following message, reproduced here in full:

I missed that one.

Jeffrey Epstein, the billionaire science philanthropist showed up at this weekend’s event by helicopter (with his beautiful young assistant from Belarus). He’ll be in Cambridge in a couple of weeks asked me who he should meet. You are one of the people I suggested and I told him I would send some links.

He’s the guy who gave Harvard #30m to set up Martin Nowak. He’s been extremely generous in funding projects of many of our friends and clients. He also got into trouble and spent a year in jail in Florida.

If he contacts you it’s probably worth your time to meet him as he’s extremely bright and interesting.

Last time I visited his house (the largest private residence in NYC), I walked in to find him in a sweatsuit and a British guy in a suit with suspenders, getting foot massages from two young well-dressed Russian women. After grilling me for a while about cyber-security, the Brit, named Andy, was commenting on the Swedish authorities and the charges against Julian Assange.

“We think they’re liberal in Sweden, but its more like Northern England as opposed to Southern Europe,” he said. “In Monaco, Albert works 12 hours a day but at 9pm, when he goes out, he does whatever he wants, and nobody cares. But, if I do it, I’m in big trouble.” At that point I realized that the recipient of Irina’s foot massage was his Royal Highness, Prince Andrew, the Duke of York.

Indeed, a week later, on a slow news day, the cover of the NYpost had a full-page photo of Jeffrey and Andrew walking in Central Park under the headline: “The Prince and the Perv.” (That was the end of Andrew’s role at the UK trade ambassador.)

To which I responded:

thanks for clarifying this. I’m sure he’s an all-around sweet guy but I’ll have to think about it. It could be that I spent far too much time in the Soros bubble but I have zero interest in meeting billionaires – if I did, I’d be going to Davos every year. but I appreciate you taking the time.

Here is Brockman again:

A billionaire who owns Victoria’s Secret plus a modelling agency is a different kind of animal. But I hear you and basically agree. Gregory Bateson once advised me that ‘Of all our human inventions, economic man is by far the dullest.’

JB

And here is my final answer:

“A billionaire who owns Victoria’s Secret plus a modelling agency” –> one more reason to stay away actually.

I didn’t know who Epstein was at the time. Since I’ve never been very keen to hang out with billionaires, mine was a natural response (I similarly declined Brockman’s invitations to hang out on his farm or attend his famous billionaire dinners). So I didn’t think much of that invitation and eventually forgot about it. Needless to say, I never heard from Epstein—or from Brockman about Epstein.

In that old email, it seems clear that Brockman was acting as Epstein’s PR man—his liaison with the world of scientists and intellectuals that Brockman had cultivated. That Brockman has said nothing over this affair is rather bewildering. (He did not return requests for comment left on his email and voicemail.) . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 August 2019 at 8:51 am

How Amazon and Silicon Valley Seduced the Pentagon

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James Bandler, Anjali Tsui, and Doris Burke report in ProPublica:

On Aug. 8, 2017, Roma Laster, a Pentagon employee responsible for policing conflicts of interest, emailed an urgent warning to the chief of staff of then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis. Several department employees had arranged for Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, to be sworn into an influential Pentagon advisory board despite the fact that, in the year since he’d been nominated, Bezos had never completed a required background check to obtain a security clearance.

Mattis was about to fly to the West Coast, where he would personally swear Bezos in at Amazon’s headquarters before moving on to meetings with executives from Google and Apple. Soon phone calls and emails began bouncing around the Pentagon. Security clearances are no trivial matter to defense officials; they exist to ensure that people with access to sensitive information aren’t, say, vulnerable to blackmail and don’t have conflicts of interest. Laster also contended that it was a “noteworthy exception” for Mattis to perform the ceremony. Secretaries of defense, she wrote, don’t hold swearing-in events.

Laster’s alarms triggered fear among Pentagon brass that Mattis would be seen as doing a special favor for Bezos, which could put him in hot water with President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly proclaimed his antipathy to Bezos, mainly because of his ownership of The Washington Post. The swearing-in was canceled only hours before it was scheduled to occur. (This episode, never previously reported, is based on interviews with six people familiar with the matter. An Amazon spokesperson said the company was told that Bezos did not need a security clearance and that the company provided all requested information.)

Despite the cancellation, Bezos met with Mattis that day. They talked about leadership and military history, then moved on to Amazon’s sales pitch on why the Defense Department should make a radical shift in its computing. Amazon wanted the department to abandon its hodgepodge of 2,215 data centers, located in various Pentagon facilities and run using different systems by an array of different companies, and let Amazon replace that with cloud service: computing power provided over the internet, all of it running on Amazon’s servers.

That vision is now well on its way to becoming a reality. The Pentagon is preparing to award a $10 billion, 10-year contract to move its information technology systems to the cloud. Amazon’s cloud unit, Amazon Web Services, or AWS, is the biggest provider of cloud services in the country and also the company’s profit engine: It accounted for 58.7% of Amazon’s operating income last year. AWS has been the favorite to emerge with the Pentagon contract.

Known as JEDI, for Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, the project has been the subject of accusations of favoritism. Two spurned bidders have launched unsuccessful bid protests and one of them, Oracle, filed and lost a lawsuit. Meanwhile, there’s an ongoing investigation by the Pentagon’s inspector general.

The DOD defends JEDI. The agency’s decision-makers have “always placed the interests of the warfighter first and have acted without bias, prejudice, or self-interest,” DOD spokesperson Elissa Smith said in a statement. “The same cannot be said of all parties to the debate over JEDI.”

What’s happened at the Pentagon extends past the JEDI contract. It’s a story of how some of America’s biggest tech companies used a little-known advisory board, some aggressive advocacy by a few billionaires and some unofficial lobbying to open a backdoor into the Pentagon. And so, no matter who wins the JEDI contract, one winner is already clear: Silicon Valley. The question is no longer whether a technology giant will emerge with the $10 billion prize, but rather which technology giant (or giants) will.

There are certainly benefits. The Pentagon’s technological infrastructure does indeed need to be modernized. But there may also be costs. Silicon Valley has pushed for the Pentagon to adopt its technology and its move-fast-and-break-things ethos. The result, according to interviews with more than three dozen current and former DOD officials and tech executives, has been internal clashes and a tortured process that has combined the hype of tech with the ethical morass of the Washington industry-government revolving door.

Laster did her best to enforce the rules. She would challenge the Pentagon’s cozy relationship not only with Bezos, but with Google’s Eric Schmidt, the chairman of the defense board that Bezos sought to join. The ultimate resolution? Laster was shunted aside. She was removed from the innovation board in November 2017 (but remains at the Defense Department). “Roma was removed because she insisted on them following the rules,” said a former DOD official knowledgeable about her situation.

Laster filed a grievance, which was denied. “I’ve been betrayed by an organization I joined when I was 17 years old,” said Laster, who is 54. “This is an organization built on loyalty, dedication and patriotism. Unfortunately, it is kind of one-way.”

Other criticism, from Amazon’s rivals and the press, has centered on the actions of several DOD workers who had previously worked directly or indirectly for Amazon and have since returned to the private sector. The most important of those employees, Sally Donnelly — a former outside strategist for Amazon who had become one of Mattis’ top aides — helped give Amazon officials access to Mattis in intimate settings, an opportunity that most defense contractors don’t enjoy. Donnelly organized a private dinner, never reported before, for Mattis, Bezos, herself and Amazon’s top government-sales executive at a Washington restaurant, DBGB, on Jan. 17, 2018. The dinner occurred just as the DOD was finalizing draft bid specifications for JEDI. (Asked about the dinner and several others like it, the DOD’s Smith said: “One of the department’s priorities is to reform the way DOD does business. As part of this reform, leaders are expected to engage with industry — in a full and open manner within legal boundaries — to find ways to reform our business practices and build a more lethal force.” A spokesperson for AWS said the dinner “had nothing to do with the JEDI procurement, and those implying otherwise either are misinformed or disappointed competitors trying to distract with innuendo vs competing fairly with their technical capabilities.”)

Such meetings aren’t illegal, but they undermine public trust in defense contracting, said Charles Tiefer, a professor at the University of Baltimore School of Law and one of the nation’s leading experts on government-contracting law. “This is a particularly serious example of the revolving door among Pentagon officials and defense contractors, which has been problematic in recent years and is getting worse under the Trump administration,” he said.

In July, Trump expressed concerns about the process and whether it was skewed in Amazon’s favor. Early this month, his new defense secretary, Mark Esper, announced a fresh review, which will delay the selection of a winner. The judge in the JEDI-related case ruled in favor of the government but nonetheless summed up the process as containing conflict-of-interest allegations that were “certainly sufficient to raise eyebrows” and a “constant gravitational pull on agency employees by technology behemoths.”


The board that Bezos almost joined — called the Defense Innovation Board — was launched in 2016 by Ashton Carter, the last defense secretary in the Obama administration. Carter worried that the Pentagon’s information technology was falling behind. . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 August 2019 at 3:50 pm

Some of the Country’s Worst Prisons Have Escaped Justice Department Action

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Another example of how the American government has abandoned the American public. Jerry Mitchell reports in ProPublica:

Mississippi has saved a lot of money on its prisons over the past several years. But as the experiences of next-door neighbor Alabama show, rampant violence and understaffing can eventually draw scrutiny from the U.S. Justice Department, with potentially costly consequences.

In April, the Justice Department concluded that “there is reasonable cause to believe that the men’s prisons [in Alabama] fail to protect prisoners from prisoner-on-prisoner violence and prisoner-on-prisoner sexual abuse, and fail to provide prisoners with safe conditions.” It demanded that the state fix the problems or face possible litigation.

Alabama’s prisons are so bad, they violate the U.S. Constitution’s guarantees against cruel and unusual punishment, the Justice Department has said.

Mississippi’s prisons may be as bad, or even worse, the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting and ProPublica reported. The ratio of prisoners to guards at South Mississippi Correctional Institution is 23 to 1, several times higher than Alabama’s, which stands at 9.9 to 1.

FAMM, a national nonprofit group advocating criminal justice reform, has called on the Justice Department to investigate Mississippi’s prisons.

Kevin Ring, president of the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit, said the conditions remind him of prisons found in third-world nations. “They’re uninhabitable,” he said. “This is why we need the government to step in.

“When there is no oversight and accountability, this is what you get.”

The Department of Justice did not return an email requesting comment.

Rivers Ormon, press secretary for Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, a Republican, said public safety remains a prime concern for the governor. She noted that the inmate population in state prisons fell by 11% in the year after the state passed prison reform in 2014.

“Certain challenges have made managing the system more difficult,” Ormon said in a statement, adding that Bryant has confidence in his team at the Department of Corrections.

(Ormon’s statement failed to note that the prison population is increasing again and is poised to top the 2014 figure in 2020.)

Prison guards in Mississippi are the lowest paid in the nation. Corrections Commissioner Pelicia Hall asked state lawmakers to give guards a significant pay raise, but that was rejected in favor of a more modest increase. The starting pay for guards is so low, those with families are eligible for food stamps.

Hall said she’s doing the best she can with the resources she has.

Alabama’s recent history offers lessons in what may happen if conditions in Mississippi don’t improve.

The Justice Department’s investigation of Alabama was triggered by allegations that officers were having sex with inmates. Investigators visited four Alabama prisons and talked to 55 employees and 270 prisoners.

“Alabama is deliberately indifferent to that harm or serious risk of harm and it has failed to correct known systemic deficiencies that contribute to the violence,” Justice Department investigators said in their report. “The deplorable conditions within Alabama’s prisons lead to heightened tensions among prisoners. And, as a result, the violence is spilling over so that it is affecting not only prisoners, but [Alabama Department of Corrections] staff as well.”

Separately, Alabama is being sued over its treatment of mentally ill inmates. A federal judge has ordered the state to add as many as 2,000 new officers in the next several years.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, a Republican, has called for Alabama to build new facilities to replace its “deplorable,” “horrendous” and “inadequate” prisons. The latest cost for replacing three men’s prisons? $900 million. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 August 2019 at 1:40 pm

The South loves to execute people

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That’s from a post by Kevin Drum at Mother Jones. Take a look.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 August 2019 at 9:04 pm

The First Inside Report from an Ice Mental-Health Facility

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Ken Silverstein writes in the New Republic:

As reports exposing the shockingly brutal conditions at immigrant detention centers have drawn comparisons to ethnic detention compounds under authoritarian regimes, it becomes ever more pressing for the country’s vast immigration bureaucracy to lean on whatever prestige it can muster at the height of the Trump border crackdown. And like everything else connected with this deranged chapter in our national nativist culture war, the present administrative charm offensive is steeped in gruesome irony: As U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) implements policies all but certain to engender lifelong trauma in detained children separated from their families at the border, it is simultaneously promoting an initiative designed to demonstrate compassion and competence toward adult detainees, particularly those diagnosed with mental illnesses. That’s right: An agency now sowing the conditions of mass traumatic stress among child detainees has been trying for years to set up shop as the caregiver of first resort for psychically traumatized undocumented immigrants.

ICE’s crown jewel in this initiative is a Miami facility called the Krome Service Processing Center, which is administered in conjunction with a host of private contractors. Krome was founded in the 1960s as a Cold War military base designed to protect the nation against the threat posed by Fidel Castro’s Cuba. Beginning in 1980, the U.S. government began transitioning it to hold immigration detainees.

ICE officials have previously bragged in the press about facilities at Krome. To hear them tell it, Krome is a state-of-the-art treatment facility for immigrants (documented and otherwise), housed at its nationwide complex of more than 200 detention facilities. It provides stellar medical services, agency officials say, and especially so in the pivotal realm of immigrant mental health.

For a crown jewel, though, Krome is awfully hard to find and access, if you’re not taking part in a prearranged press junket. I went out to see conditions there in June as part of a reporting trip funded by the Project on Government Oversight. The Krome complex is in a vast dead zone on the outskirts of Miami, just on the border of the Everglades. The gigantic Dolphin Mall is nearby, as is a resort and gambling complex run by the Miccosukee Tribe, but the facility sits at the end of an unmarked road off a major freeway. If you don’t have a detained relative or some other reason to know it’s there, it’s out of sight and out of mind. Locating detention camps in such isolated spots is not uncommon for ICE. For all the official hoopla surrounding the level of care supposedly available to suffering detainees in its ambit, Krome, like most other detainee facilities, operates far out of range of sustained public and media scrutiny.

In the years prior to the Trump presidency, this strategy worked like a charm. ICE’s carefully massaged narrative placing Krome on the vanguard of mental health care has gone largely unchallenged—while Krome garnered some press coverage over several decades, only a few outlets ever mentioned its mental health facilities at all, and most that did referenced them positively. A 2015 Miami Herald story, published after the newspaper got an official ICE tour, reported that the former military base—the “only visible remnants from that tense time are three diamond-shaped pads where Nike missiles once stood, ready to thwart an attack from Cuba”—was now “a fully renovated detention center.”

As reporter Alfonso Chardy noted at the time, the facility’s mental health treatment center—known in placid bureaucratese as the Krome Transitional Unit (KTU)—had never before been shown to the media. It had “30 beds where detainees deemed to have behavior problems are monitored and treated before they can join or rejoin the general detainee population,” Chardy wrote. “As part of the treatment, detainees are given group therapy sessions. In one of the day rooms in the transitional unit, a small group of detainees watched Pope Francis’ address to a joint session of Congress … in which he urged lawmakers to help immigrants.”

A digital news outlet, Statnews.com, was pleased to report in 2016 that even though ICE facilities “have reputations for neglecting mental health”—in some cases, consigning mentally ill detainees to solitary confinement “against the advice of prison doctors” and negligently leaving “immigrants at clear risk of suicide”—Krome was making great strides. The Florida facility had “set up a dedicated mental health wing,” Statnews writer Max Siegelbaum marveled, noting that its staff “works closely with local health professionals, attorneys, and immigration judges with expertise in the field to address the needs of detainees with psychiatric disorders.” This assessment was largely based on observations made by Elizabeth Hildebrand Matherne, “an attorney who has represented detainees.” Matherne, whose now-closed immigration practice was based in Georgia, and who currently works for a civil rights group in Alabama, appears to have little direct experience with Krome detainees. She could not be reached for comment.*

An ICE spokesperson, contacted about the quality of detainee treatment at Krome, replied with a statement citing the facility’s high standards of care for detainees facing both routine and emergency health issues. ICE seeks to ensure “timely and appropriate responses to emergent medical care requests” for all detainees “regardless of location,” the statement read in part. It also cited the Krome center’s high marks in both scheduled and unannounced inspections conducted by third-party contractors: “the facility has repeatedly been found to operate in compliance with federal law and agency policy. Krome was most-recently inspected in February and found to be fully compliant with the agency’s 2011 Performance Based National Detention Standards in each of the 41 categories the inspectors reviewed.”

My own trip to Krome came at the behest of Friends of Miami-Dade Detainees(FOMDD), which got me inside the camp as a community member. I thus became the first journalist to get unsupervised interviews with detainees. What emerged from the visit, along with months of additional reporting, was a far darker and more sinister picture than the one painted by the Trump administration, ICE, and the immigration system’s many media enablers.

Krome, a male-only facility, is designed for 611 detainees but, numerous detainees interviewed allege, is routinely overcrowded. Most detainees are held in about a dozen “pods,” a word that has a more pleasant ring to it than “cells.” Pods are single-room, enclosed rectangular units, roughly the size of a high school gym, where detainees sleep in row after row of steel bunk beds with thin mattresses, according to multiple accounts. Fiberglass chairs are bolted to the floor. Toilets and showers offer no privacy. TVs blare in Spanish and English, and the “pods” emanate an enormous, steady din.

As at detention camps elsewhere around the country, Krome’s broad medical care is horrendous. In addition to being fed terrible food—high-calorie-and-starch institutional fare with little to no nutritional value—detainees face long waits to see doctors and are rarely provided medicines other than Tylenol or other over-the-counter painkillers. What’s more, ICE officials—and the private contractors who run most of the agency’s facilities—have a long record of cost-cutting, avoiding spending that might eat up budgets and profit margins. Because of that, they sometimes refrain from sending detainees in their charge to outside hospitals until their health has deteriorated to a critical point. “You have to wait so long to be seen, you’ll get better or die first,” an advocate at Adelanto—the country’s second-largest detention camp, near Los Angeles—told me when she took me inside there last year.

While some media outlets have covered allegations of abuse and corruption at Krome, they’ve mostly failed—aside from some local publications like the Miami New Times—to seriously investigate the facility’s grotesque charade of providing high-quality mental health care . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 August 2019 at 4:35 pm

Jeffrey Epstein Learned His Sexual Depravity from Wall Street; Then Took It to the Next Level

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Pam Martens and Russ Martens write in Wall Street on Parade:

From 1976 to 1981, Jeffrey Epstein worked for the Wall Street investment bank, Bear Stearns. Epstein was found dead in his jail cell on August 10 while awaiting trial on charges of sex trafficking of underage girls, dozens of whom he allegedly sexually assaulted after grooming them first with “inappropriate touching.”

Bear Stearns collapsed in the early days of the 2008 financial crisis and was purchased by JPMorgan Chase. One of the last acts of Bear Stearns’ CEO, Jimmy Cayne, was to make a $2 million payment to a woman who charged that the legendary Chairman of Bear Stearns, Ace Greenberg, had engaged in “inappropriate touching.” The young woman was said to have had a witness to her charges.

In a 2017 report by the New York Times, a former Managing Director of Bear Stearns, Maureen Sherry, reported that “…it was mostly the same men who preyed on young women.” In a 2016 report by Maureen Callahan at the New York Post, a former Bear Stearns’ employee reports that men at Bear Stearns were “getting bl*w jobs in front of staff – that happened all the time.” Claims that men at Bear were demanding sexual favors from female colleagues and getting away with it date all the way back to the 1980s.

As more allegations emerge daily into the sexual assault horrors of Jeffrey Epstein and his band of enablers, a profile is emerging that bears a striking resemblance to how Wall Street has allowed its highest-producing brokers to behave toward vulnerable young female employees for decades. In both situations, there are the enablers; in both situations there is a failed justice system and powerful lawyers cutting deals; in both situations there are hundreds of different females asserting the same type of claims over a long period of time with no governmental authority stopping the abuse; and in both situations, powerful men who were an important cog in Wall Street’s insatiable quest for profits were allowed to walk away from a multitude of credible sexual assault allegations.

Jeffrey Epstein’s major divergence from the sexual assaults by Wall Street brokers’ is that he preyed on underage girls. It is notable, however, that many Wall Street firms hire young women just out of high school to be “trained” to work in their branch offices. The sexual grooming is not as overt as in the Jeffrey Epstein cases, where the young girls were hired to give a massage and then told, over time, the massage had to be administered by them naked; and then, after more time, upped to a full-scale sexual assault. But young women in these Wall Street offices are sent a clear message by their Human Resources departments that they need to “get along” with those big producing brokers who generate outsized profits for the firm.

Walk into any of the Wall Street retail brokerage offices that dot the landscape in every major town and city across America and you will see glass-windowed offices filled with white male brokers and pretty, young female sales assistants (a/k/a client service associates) sitting in a low-wage, subservient position at a desk directly outside that office.

Subservience to that broker is ingrained in the following ways: the sales assistant’s performance is officially evaluated by that broker and becomes a written, permanent part of her employment file; the broker, if he is a big producer for the firm, can have the sales assistant fired over any flimsy, trumped-up claim; and, importantly, most Wall Street firms pay these women low wages, leaving it to the broker they work for to give the woman a percentage of his commissions if he finds her “performance” to be to his liking.

All that Wall Street would have to do to alter these sexual and power dynamics is to pay these women a good salary and take the broker’s additional compensation out of the equation. The fact that Wall Street doesn’t alter this dynamic suggests that the industry likes its hunting band to hone their skills on the vulnerable prey in the office as a form of target practice.

Just as Epstein was able to keep his abuse hidden for decades by employing a roster of expensive lawyers who knew how to work the system, Wall Street has all of the largest law firms in America at its beck and call. These law firms have systematically convinced the U.S. Supreme Court and Appellate Courts around the country that Wall Street should be allowed to run its own private justice system; that it should be allowed to make its employees sign a waiver giving up their rights to access the nation’s courts and use Wall Street’s rigged kangaroo court system instead.

Most Americans would agree that Wall Street is the most corrupt industry in America. And yet, the most corrupt industry is the only industry that universally requires both employees and customers to waive their rights to use the nation’s courts to settle claims and, instead, must use the Wall Street-created mandatory arbitration system which has none of the procedural protections of a court of law.

What is hiding behind that rigged system of justice is akin to what happened in the Catholic Church where abusing priests were transferred from parish to parish and sexual assault claims were secretly settled with gag orders. At the hands of Wall Street and its private justice system, the media is deprived of a seat in an open courtroom; there are no publicly available court transcripts of the hearings; and the worst sexual assaults are settled quickly with a gag order on all parties. Invariably, the abusive broker keeps his job with no mark on his publicly available record about any sexual assault or sexual harassment settlement. The broker’s public record is maintained by Wall Street’s self-regulator, FINRA – the very same organization that runs the private justice system for Wall Street.

In March of last year Lorena Alcantara filed a . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 August 2019 at 9:47 am

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