Posts Tagged ‘ethics’

Alphabet’s DeepMind forms ethics unit for artificial intelligence

October 4, 2017

AFP

© AFP | Deepmind is setting up an ethic unit to allay growing fears that artificial intelligence could slip out of human control
WASHINGTON (AFP) – DeepMind, the Google sibling focusing on artificial intelligence, has announced the launch of an “ethics and society” unit to study the impact of new technologies on society.

The announcement by the London-based group acquired by Google parent Alphabet is the latest effort in the tech sector to ease concerns that robotics and artificial intelligence will veer out of human control.

“As scientists developing AI technologies, we have a responsibility to conduct and support open research and investigation into the wider implications of our work,” said a blog post announcing the launch Tuesday by DeepMind’s Verity Harding and Sean Legassick.

“At DeepMind, we start from the premise that all AI applications should remain under meaningful human control, and be used for socially beneficial purposes. Understanding what this means in practice requires rigorous scientific inquiry into the most sensitive challenges we face.”

The post said the focus would be on ensuring “truly beneficial and responsible” uses for artificial intelligence.

“If AI technologies are to serve society, they must be shaped by society’s priorities and concerns,” they wrote.

Google and DeepMind are members of an industry-founded Partnership of AI to Benefit People and Society which includes Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft and other tech firms.

DeepMind, acquired by Google in 2014, gained notoriety for becoming the first machine to beat a grandmaster in the Asian board game Go last year.

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Some Chinese Worried About Their Own Cultural Sense of Right and Wrong

June 11, 2017

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In this Saturday, June 10, 2017 photo, a website shows a frame from a video of a woman as she is run over by a car at a traffic junction displayed on a computer in Beijing, China. The grainy video of a traffic accident in the city of Zhumadian surfaced on Chinese social media this week, the initial reaction was one of outrage directed at the more than 40 pedestrians and drivers who passed within meters of the woman, all failing to offer help. Chinese character at bottom reads “Tragedy” Women hit and unassisted gets run over, what kind of accident is this?” (Ng Han Guan/Associated Press)

June 10 at 9:56 PM
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BEIJING — A speeding taxi knocks the pedestrian off her feet, sending her hurtling through the air. Dozens of people stand gawking or walk past, as if the young woman sprawled in the busy intersection simply doesn’t exist. A full minute passes, and another speeding vehicle, this time an SUV, tramples the prone woman. Her unconscious body churns under its large wheels like a lumpen sack.After a grainy video of a traffic accident in the city of Zhumadian surfaced on Chinese social media this past week, the initial reaction was one of outrage directed at the more than 40 pedestrians and drivers who passed within meters of the woman, all failing to offer help.But for many Chinese, the video was something more: a 94-second reminder of their society’s deep rot.

Even as China presents itself outwardly as a prosperous rising power, around kitchen tables and in private WeChat groups, Chinese citizens routinely grumble about a nation that’s gone bankrupt when it comes to two qualities: “suzhi,” or “personal character,” and “dixian,” literally “bottom line” — or a basic, inviolable sense of right and wrong.

Here, the common refrain goes, is an unmoored country where manufacturers knowingly sell toxic baby formula and fraudulent children’s vaccines. Restaurants cook with recycled “gutter oil” and grocery stores peddle fake eggs, fake fruit, even fake rice. Many Chinese say they avoid helping people on the street because of widespread stories about extortionists who seek help from passers-by and then feign injuries and demand compensation — perhaps explaining the Zhumadian incident.

“It’s a problem with the entire country: our moral bottom line has fallen so low,” Tian You, a novelist based in the southeastern city of Shenzhen, said by phone. “If I’m truly honest, I wonder, would I myself have dared to help the woman?”

After the Zhumadian video surfaced this week, garnering more than 5 million views in its first 24 hours before being censored, local police were forced to disclose that the accident took place weeks earlier, on April 21. The woman, surnamed Ma, died, while the two drivers who hit her were held under investigation, police said, without giving further details.

The news swept through social media and even state media outlets. The Communist Youth League, an influential party organization, circulated the video on its Weibo account, urging its 5 million followers to “reject indifference.” An opinion column on china.com, a state media organ, asked citizens to “reflect” on the tragedy. Others used the episode as a starting point to vent about social ills.

“Like the polluted haze facing our country, we see boundless corruption, left-behind children, medical disputes and so forth,” a columnist in the Chengdu Economic Daily wrote. “Have our society’s morals gotten better or worse in the last 10 years? What about our future, are you confident about that? Don’t ask me, because I’m not.”

Public concern about China’s morals has reached back decades and across age groups. Ever since China began its free market reforms in the 1980s, older citizens have frequently griped about its moral decay and profess nostalgia about a more innocent socialist era, while younger, worldly Chinese wonder why fraud and fake products aren’t as rampant in other countries.

Chinese scholars say that many issues that leave the middle class disillusioned are a result of lagging government regulation and the dislocating forces of swift development.

“In the West, law, faith and morality are a three-legged stool,” said Ma Ai, a sociologist at the China University of Political Science and Law. “Our legal system is catching up, but we don’t have religion and a new moral system has not established after China transformed away from a traditional, collectivist society.”

A national debate flared up following a similar case in 2011, when an unattended 2-year old was hit by a truck on a busy street in Guangdong province and laid in a pool of blood without any help from bystanders for seven minutes. She died later. In the following years, several cities, including Beijing and Shanghai, enacted Good Samaritan laws.

To be sure, examples of bystander apathy are ubiquitous, from the case of Kitty Genovese, the woman stabbed to death in daylight in a Queens apartment complex in 1964, to last year in Chicago, where a man who was knocked unconscious in an assault was run over and killed by a taxi after a group of bystanders walked away from him.

In India, a video showed a man unsuccessfully pleading for help following a road accident that killed his wife and child in 2013. That same year, passers-by refused to stop to help a naked, bleeding gang-rape victim after she was dumped from a bus onto a New Delhi street. The 23-year-old student died of her injuries.

But the Chinese have been particularly self-critical on the matter.

In 2009, the People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s official mouthpiece, ran a provocative story with a picture of a dog standing by another injured dog in a busy street and pondered whether humans would do the same. The report was headlined, “Do Chinese people lack compassion?”

A 2014 state media poll found that Chinese thought “lacking faith and ethics” was the No. 1 social problem, followed by “being a bystander or being selfish.”

Many in China’s intelligentsia reject the idea that an ancient strain of Chinese culture that focuses on the immediate family explains modern tragedies like Zhumadian. Confucius, after all, taught the Golden Rule. And Mencius, another revered philosopher, urged his disciples to love others’ children and respect others’ parents as one would their own.

More frequently heard are indictments of the Communist regime that has suppressed religion and traditional values and emphasized stability over justice.

Tian, the Shenzhen writer, cited the Cultural Revolution unleashed by Mao Zedong in the 1960s, which turned families and neighbors against each other in a battle for survival. Hyper-capitalistic, no-holds-barred competition consumed the reform era that followed Mao’s death.

“Our political system doesn’t regulate the things it should and it manages things it shouldn’t,” said Zhang Wen, a well-known Beijing commentator who pointed out that many charitable organizations have disbanded due to government pressure, resulting in a decline of “charity spirit.”

In his own middle-class circle, Zhang said, many friends speak about feeling “emotionally withdrawn” in the pressure-cooker economy.

“We’ve become individuals, alienated and doing whatever we can to get ahead,” he said. “There is no space left to care for others.”

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Follow Gerry Shih at http://www.twitter.com/gerryshih

Disclosures Outline The Wealth Of The Trump Administration — Wealthiest administration ever — Many unanswered ethical questions

April 2, 2017

Jared Kushner and Stephen Bannon in September 2016 in Canton, Ohio.

Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Updated at 5 a.m. ET Sunday

Financial disclosures from members of the Trump administration are revealing the extent of their wealth and much of where it comes from.

Beginning on Friday, the White House said it would make available roughly 180 financial disclosures for White House officials. It begins to paint the picture of just how the Trump administration is the wealthiest administration ever.

Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump and real estate

In 54 pages of a financial disclosure, President Trump’s son-in-law and key White House adviser Jared Kushner lists assets and debts owned by him and his wife, Trump’s daughter Ivanka. Pages and pages are devoted to the family’s massive real estate investments.

The couple has emerged as influential advisers in Trump’s White House, unpaid to avoid triggering anti-nepotism rules. Kushner was cleared for the job in January, while Ivanka Trump announced this past week that she would assume an official role.

Friday’s financial disclosures show that Trump’s daughter and son-in-law have assets valued at more than $200 million. According to the The New York Times, they “will remain the beneficiaries of a sprawling real estate and investment business still worth as much as $741 million, despite their new government responsibilities.”

The documents show Kushner divested dozens of businesses and investments to avoid conflicts of interest with his public service. He has also resigned from more than 260 posts at various organizations and corporations.

According to the AP, Kushner’s lawyers, “in consultation with the Office of Government Ethics, determined that his real estate assets, many of them in New York City, are unlikely to pose the kinds of conflicts that would trigger a need to divest.”

In the documents, Ivanka Trump also reports a stake in the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., with her share valued between $5 million and $25 million. The filing says she made between $1 million and $5 million in profit off this stake in 2016 and part of 2017.

Given Ivanka Trump’s recent decision to become an official White House employee, her financial disclosures and ethics agreements are expected to be filed later. The Times reports that Ivanka Trump will maintain her stake in the Trump hotel in Washington even as she takes on official government duties.

Stephen Bannon and the Mercers

Others disclosures include Steve Bannon, former Breitbart executive chairman and Trump’s chief strategist at the White House. Bannon “earned at least $1.4 million in the last year and held assets valued between $10.7 million and $48.6 million when he joined the administration,” according to a tally by The Wall Street Journal.

Bannon reports income of $191,000 from the right-wing Breitbart News, $125,333 from Cambridge Analytica, which analyzes election data, and $61,539 from the Government Accountability Institute, a nonprofit he co-founded. The three organizations all have links to hedge fund manager Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah Mercer, both of whom are active in funding conservative political causes, as The New Yorker‘s Jane Mayer detailed.

Bannon’s largest single source of income listed is just over $493,000 from Bannon Strategic Advisors, Inc. The New York Times notes:

“The disclosure suggests that Bannon Strategic Advisors served as an umbrella company for receiving fees he earned from interests in other companies such as Breitbart News, Cambridge Analytica and Glittering Steel, a company that produced the documentary “Clinton Cash,” on which Ms. Mercer served as an executive producer, as well as ads for Republican candidates.”

Gary Cohn and Goldman Sachs

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Gary Cohn, the National Economic Council director who is a former Goldman Sachs president, is one of the wealthiest members of Trump’s team. He reported assets worth at least $254 million and income of at least $48.3 million over 2016 through early 2017, according to Bloomberg.

Cohn lists his 2016 salary from Goldman Sachs as $1.85 million with a cash bonus of $5.74 million from 2015. Adding in dividends and interest from Goldman-affiliated assets, Cohn made at least $40 million, according to the AP and CNBC.

He made more than $1 million — there are no details of how much more — from dividends from the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China.

Flynn and Russia

On Saturday, the White House released two forms detailing the assets of former national security adviser Michael Flynn. The first, electronically signed by Flynn on Feb. 11, did not include details of payments he received from organizations linked to Russia.

Two days after that, he resigned as national security adviser after reports emerged about his meeting with Russia’s ambassador and his misleading of Vice President Mike Pence and other officials about the meeting.

The second form, signed by Flynn on March 31, lists “speaking engagements” with RT TV, the Russian government-backed news network, cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Government Security Solutions, Inc. (the parent company, Kaspersky Labs, has underwritten NPR), and Volga-Dnepr Airlines. The payments are in the section labeled as “sources of compensation exceeding $5,000 in a year.”

Last month, NPR’s Jackie Northam reported that Flynn’s income from the three organizations totaled more than $50,000, as detailed in separate documents released by congressional Democrats.

Flynn lists an income of at least $1.37 million on the more recent disclosure. Of that, he made $827,055 from Flynn Intel Group LLC, his consulting firm, which has been “inactive” since December.

Trump, Pence to disclosures to come later

The disclosed documents provide a snapshot of each appointee’s holdings as they took office. Many of the records showing subsequent divestitures or resignations will be released later this year. The White House says some appointees are still in the process of divesting assets.

Typically, appointees in a new administration hash out their financial agreements and divestitures before assuming public office. However, the Trump administration has announced a number of appointees before these negotiations took place. Data from the Office of Government Ethics has shown that compared with the Obama administration, the Trump White House has been much slower to submit its nominees’ financial arrangements for review by OGE.

As Trump has appointed numerous hyper-wealthy individuals, the White House points out that its ethics lawyers have been working through highly complex financial arrangements. Estimates for the cumulative wealth of the Trump Cabinet by various media organizations have ranged from $6 billion to $14 billion.

The release of the financial disclosure forms is in compliance with a federal ethics law that requires high-ranking executive branch appointees to disclose their financial holdings and reach agreements with ethics officials. These agreements aim to ensure that none of the appointee’s holdings conflict with his or her duties. Often, the agreements require a sale of assets, resignations from posts or recusals from handling particular matters.

The president and vice president, as elected officials, do have to file financial disclosures, but at a later time. The two of them are also exempt from many conflict-of-interest and ethics laws that apply to their staff.

NPR’s Peter Overby and Tamara Keith contributed to this report.

http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/03/31/522202561/filings-show-just-how-complex-ivanka-trumps-and-jared-kushners-finances-are

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WASHINGTON — The husband-and-wife team of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, now both senior federal government officials, has been alongside President Trump as the White House has hosted dozens of chief executives and a handful of world leaders in recent weeks.

It is a rarefied crowd, one that has included the top executives of some of the world’s largest automobile, airline, chemical, pharmaceutical and tech companies. Mr. Kushner will continue to keep such select company now that he has helped create a new office that Mr. Trump is calling the White House Office of American Innovation.

But the financial disclosure report released late Friday for Mr. Kushner, which shows that he and his wife still benefit financially from a real estate and investment empire worth as much as $740 million, makes clear that this most powerful Washington couple is walking on perilous legal and ethical ground, according to several prominent experts on the subject.

Unlike Mr. Trump, who is exempt from conflict of interest laws, both Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump — who took a formal White House position this past week — are forbidden under federal criminal and civil law to take any action that might benefit their particular financial holdings.

Donald Trump can evade legal responsibility even if the conflicts of interest remain,” said Noah Bookbinder, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a liberal nonprofit group. “His daughter and son-in-law don’t have that escape hatch.”

More at the Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/01/us/politics/ivanka-trump-jared-kushner-conflicts-business-empire.html?_r=0

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President Trump and his administration are offering the country a graduate-level course in the selling of the presidency. Much attention has focused on how Mr. Trump is using the White House for personal gain, but many other officials, including members of his family, friends and close aides, also stand to rake it in at the public’s expense.

Mr. Trump has driven right over the Constitution by allowing foreign governments to funnel money to him through his hotels and golf courses, in violation of the emoluments clause. So it comes as no surprise that the people who work for him have felt free to abuse their positions and run roughshod over ethics rules. He has created an anything-goes culture in which some aides and advisers are openly working to bend government policy to serve their personal interests. In other cases, the potential for corruption is less obvious but no less dangerous. Here are some of the most egregious offenders.

THE FAMILY The mere fact that Mr. Trump has appointed his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and his daughter Ivanka to positions in the White House is deeply disturbing. The biggest dangers are that the president is not seeking the best possible candidates for important jobs and that other government employees will be reluctant to speak up for fear of contradicting his family. That’s why Congress enacted an anti-nepotism law in 1967. But the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel said in January that the law prohibits the hiring of relatives at federal agencies, not at the White House — an interpretation that goes against several previous opinions by that office.

Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump have been given broad and sweeping authority within the administration, which will raise a raft of conflicts. Their lawyers have said they will comply with federal ethics law by putting some of their assets in trusts and giving up management control of their businesses. Ethics filings released Friday night show that they could be beneficiaries of as much as $741 million worth of investments and that Ms. Trump continues to hold a stake in the Trump International Hotel in Washington.

Such arrangements make a mockery of the ethics laws and rules. Mr. Kushner is handing control over his real estate business to his family. His relatives could hand those assets right back to Mr. Kushner once Mr. Trump has left office. The same goes for Ms. Trump, who has also put her business interests into a trust managed by Mr. Kushner’s family. Yet, Ms. Trump will still have the final say on new deals, and the choice of when and whether to recuse herself from government business will be hers alone. It will be very difficult, perhaps impossible, for the public to know whether they are using their positions to aid their businesses.

WALL STREET PAL Where Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump have tried to apply a patina of ethical compliance to their affairs, others don’t even seem to care about appearances. The standout in this regard has to be Carl Icahn, a brash investor whom Mr. Trump has named as a special adviser on regulatory reform. Mr. Icahn has been pushing the Trump administration to change an Environmental Protection Agency rule that guides the way ethanol is blended into gasoline. It just so happens that this would directly benefit an oil refiner, CVR Energy, in which he owns a majority stake. The company has said that it would have saved $205.9 million last year had the change Mr. Icahn is advocating been in place then.

Still, Mr. Icahn and the administration claim that he is not subject to conflict-of-interest laws and rules because he is not a government employee. This is an obvious ruse. He is operating like an employee, and the president has given him tremendous access and influence — for example, Mr. Icahn interviewed the head of the E.P.A., Scott Pruitt, for that job. Mr. Icahn’s use of his proximity to the president to advance his own financial interests is a flurrying ethical red flag if there ever was one.

A HEALTH INDUSTRY INSIDER Mr. Trump has nominated Dr. Scott Gottlieb to run the Food and Drug Administration. Dr. Gottlieb has been a consultant to and investor in health care companies, including pharmaceutical businesses seeking F.D.A. approval for their drugs. He says he will recuse himself for a year from any decision the agency takes involving 20 companies with which he has worked. Those recusals are fine, but they don’t solve the underlying problem. His deep industry ties make Dr. Gottlieb a bad choice to run the F.D.A.

He has argued that the F.D.A. is too cautious about approving new drugs and medical devices, a frequent criticism of industry executives. But many public health experts say that this is not true. The agency, in fact, approves most of the new drugs it reviews, and it approves them faster than regulators in Europe and Canada. A former top official at the F.D.A. in the George W. Bush administration, Dr. Gottlieb has already left the agency once to work for industry. He will have a strong incentive to keep drug makers happy, knowing that he will have another opportunity to walk through the revolving door between government and special interests.

THE ETHICALLY CHALLENGED GOVERNOR Mr. Trump’s nominee for agriculture secretary, former Gov. Sonny Perdue of Georgia, is dragging a trail of controversies into the federal government. For example, a state legislator, who happened to be his personal lawyer, engineered a change in Georgia law that gave Mr. Perdue a $100,000 break on capital gains taxes by making a new policy retroactive. While in office, Mr. Perdue collected $25,000 in gifts and benefits from companies and individuals in apparent violation of rules he put in place. And the State Ethics Commission ruled that he had violated state ethics laws twice on other issues and fined him during his tenure.

BANNON’S BACK CHANNEL Along with other senior White House officials, Steve Bannon, the president’s chief strategist, signed an ethics pledge that he would refrain from having any meetings or communications with former employers for two years. But two editors at Breitbart News, a platform for the alt-right that Mr. Bannon ran before he joined the Trump campaign last year, say they have been speaking to him, including about the website’s coverage of the administration. Unsurprisingly, the administration has taken no apparent steps to sanction Mr. Bannon, making it clear that ethics pledges by senior officials are largely meaningless in this White House.

PLAYING BOTH SIDES Chris Liddell, an assistant to the president and director of strategic initiatives, appears to have violated criminal conflicts-of-interest law prohibiting government employees from participating in discussions and policies in which they have a personal financial interest. Mr. Liddell took part in meetings between Mr. Trump and executives from companies including International Paper and General Motors in which he and his wife apparently have held stock.

These are just a few examples of the ways in which this administration is skirting ethical standards. The financial disclosure forms for high-level officials the White House has begun releasing may make for interesting reading, but they will do nothing to resolve these conflicts.

In an ideal world, Congress would take on that challenge and investigate. Alas, Republican leaders seem unconcerned about the integrity of the government when the president is a fellow Republican. That means both the offending officials and the party will be forever tarred by their association with one of the most ethically challenged administrations in modern history.

Op-Ed: If we’re going to rule out negotiations with North Korea, we have to be ready for war — Chinese air traffic controllers eager to chase away U.S. military aircraft

March 23, 2017

By Robert L. Gallucci
The Los Angeles Times

March 23, 2017

Image may contain: airplane and sky

Robert L. Gallucci

During a visit to Seoul last week, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson drew some reddish lines around North Korea.

“Twenty years of talking has brought us to the point we are today,” Tillerson said at a news conference. “Talk is not going to change the situation.” If North Korea threatens South Korean or American forces or elevates the level of its weapons program, Tillerson warned, preemptive military action is “on the table.”

Tillerson’s comments did not come entirely out of left field. For months, Washington has been abuzz over the possibility that North Korea may successfully test an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of delivering a nuclear weapon to an American city. In a New Year’s address, North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un indicated such a test could come sooner than we think.

But Tillerson’s warning did signal that the Trump administration is taking U.S. policy toward North Korea in a new direction — that we may be serious about abandoning engagement and willing to pursue containment through military action.

If North Korea is newly capable of striking an American city with a nuclear-armed missile, however, it would not be the first time that the U.S. was defenseless against an adversary’s weapons.

Americans lived for years with Soviet and Chinese missiles pointing in our direction. We had no way to defend against Soviet missiles in the 1950s, nor Chinese missiles in the 1960s. We were worried in 1960 when Nikita Khrushchev, then the Soviet leader, pounded his shoe against a table during a session of the United Nations General Assembly. For many reasons, Mao worried us even more.

Analysts can read Tillerson’s comments in different ways. If he meant to indicate that the U.S. would undertake a military strike on North Korea to prevent the testing and development of an ICBM — a “left of launch” program, as the Pentagon would call it — such an act could not properly be called preemption, because it would not be responding to an imminent attack. Rather, we would be taking preventive action and risking a preventive war with the goal of cutting off the emergence of a future threat. The invasion of Iraq in 2003, for instance, was a preventive war, not an act of preemption. Ethics, law and prudence are on the side of preemption but not on preventive strikes.

If, on the other hand, the U.S. intelligence community were to conclude that North Korea was about to launch a missile at Los Angeles, Seoul or Tokyo, we should fully expect Trump to order a preemptive strike to take out the missile before it is launched. If this is the only line Tillerson meant to draw, he should have saved the ink and not made news with the threat.

In either scenario, we can expect that attacking North Korea, even with an intended “surgical strike,” will bring retaliation, most likely against South Korean and American forces and civilians on the Korean peninsula — there are a lot of both within range of North Korean missiles and artillery — and possibly a second Korean War. The U.S. and its allies should be ready for this. At the moment, neither we nor our allies are prepared for war.

With so much at stake, Tillerson should disclose what exactly is new about the North Korean threat that makes deterrence suddenly unreliable. Certainly it is not the quality or quantity of North Korea’s nuclear weapons. At the height of the Cold War, the number of Soviet weapons — counting tactical and strategic weapons deployed in silos, on submarines and aboard bombers —reached 30,000 or so. The North Koreans have less than 20. It is possible that U.S. officials lack confidence in the rationality of Kim Jong Un. If this is the case, the American people should be informed that this is why we are risking another Korean War.

Some argue that an alternative to military action is the adoption of tougher sanctions together with more pressure on China to allow them to work. While there is nothing intrinsically wrong with such an approach, there is little reason to think it will be effective in stopping North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. So the real alternative to war is a negotiated settlement that addresses the threat. There is a lot of work yet to be done in order to set the table for productive negotiations. More than 20 years ago, we struck a deal with the North that froze plutonium production for almost a decade before the deal collapsed: They cheated and we caught them. That was still a deal worth making, and the next one will have to be better. For starters, we should require that North Korea improve the human rights of its citizens as a condition of normalizing relations with the U.S.

The United States has no real capability to shoot down ICBMs, but we never have. We have been defenseless against this threat for six decades. For all those years, we have relied on deterrence and the promise of devastating retaliation. The logic is that the capability of our conventional and nuclear weapons deters our enemies and provides for the nation’s security. If the U.S. is going to abandon this logic now, it should be done with great care, and with the full understanding that we are risking war.

Robert L. Gallucci is a professor of diplomacy at Georgetown University. He served in the State Department as chief U.S. negotiator during the North Korean nuclear crisis of 1994, and as an ambassador-at-large and special envoy dealing with threats posed by the proliferation of ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction.

http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-gallucci-north-korea-icbm-missiles-tillerson-20170323-story.html

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China threatens American B-1 bomber flying off South Korea: Stand off as Beijing claims US aircraft violated its ‘defense zone’

  • China has accused the US plane of operating in its airspace without permission 
  • Pliots of a Air Force B-1B Lancer bomber were forced to respond to controllers 
  • Chinese Air Traffic officials radioed the bomber flying 70 miles from Jeju Island 
  • The US bomber was in the controversial Chinese Air Defense Identification Zone
  • American and Japanese officials do not recognize the airspace China claism 

Chinese military officials have accused US bombers of flying too close to the country and operating in its airspace during a mission off South Korea.

Pilots of the US Air Force B-1B Lancer bomber were forced to respond to Chinese air traffic controllers during a flight about 70 nautical miles southwest of South Korea’s Jeju Island.

American officials told CNN the pilots told the Chinese controllers they were conducting ‘routine operations in international airspace and did not deviate from their flight path’.

Chinese military officials have accused a US B-1B Lancer bomber of flying too close to the country and operating in its airspace during a mission off South Korea

Chinese military officials have accused a US B-1B Lancer bomber of flying too close to the country and operating in its airspace during a mission off South Korea

This map shows where the bomber was flying when Chinese officials contacted the American pilots during the stand off

This map shows where the bomber was flying when Chinese officials contacted the American pilots during the stand off

The network revealed the tense moment was the result of the bombers had actually entered the Chinese Air Defense Identification Zone – a controversial area of sky over the East China Sea.

The airspace also covers islands claimed by Japan, and it is not officially recognized by the US.

‘Pacific Air Forces … did not recognize the Chinese Air Defense Identification Zone when it was announced in November of 2013, and does not recognize it today,’ US Pacific Air Forces spokesman Major Phil Ventura told CNN.

This map shows how the different airspaces in the area in question are divided up by the different countries in the region

This map shows how the different airspaces in the area in question are divided up by the different countries in the region

The US B-1B Lancer bomber was seen flying in formation with Japan Air Self Defense Force F-15s on March 21

The US B-1B Lancer bomber was seen flying in formation with Japan Air Self Defense Force F-15s on March 21

‘The ADIZ has not changed our operations.’

Chinese authorities demand airplanes flying over or through the airspace must first notify officials.

US Air Force sources said B-1 bomber was carrying out training operations with Japanese and South Korean jets in recent days.

On March 21, the American bomber was seen flying in formation with Japan Air Self Defense Force F-15s.

Mnuchin Defends Investments, Qualifications in Senate Hearing — Treasury nominee struggles to explain his ethical lapse

January 20, 2017

Trump’s pick for Treasury faces scrutiny of Democrats, hews to GOP line on some issues

Image may contain: 2 people, eyeglasses

Donald Trump’s nominee for Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, took questions on how a Trump administration would, or would not, follow precedent in discussing monetary policy. Photo: AP

Updated Jan. 19, 2017 11:52 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON—Donald Trump’s pick for Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, brushed aside a drumbeat of criticism from Democrats over his qualifications and investment holdings Thursday and sought to reassure lawmakers on a range of issues he would face as part of the Trump administration.

Mr. Mnuchin adopted several positions that sounded closer to the outgoing administration, including urging Congress to quickly raise the nation’s borrowing limit after a current suspension of the ceiling expires in March. He reaffirmed the..

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Health Secretary Pick Tom Price to Face Questions on Stock Trades, Obamacare Plans at Confirmation Hearing

January 18, 2017

Georgia Republican has played a key role in shaping GOP alternatives to the Affordable Care Act; questions have arisen about his investments in medical firms

Image may contain: 2 people

Tom Price. Getty Images

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Updated Jan. 18, 2017 5:47 a.m. ET

Lawmakers Wednesday plan to grill U.S. Rep. Tom Price, president-elect Donald Trump’s pick to run Health and Human Services, on Republican plans to overhaul the Affordable Care Act as well as on possible ethical issues surrounding Mr. Price’s stock purchases.

Mr. Price appears Wednesday before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. A second hearing before the Senate Finance Committee, which will vote on his…

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U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner seeking China’s Anbang Insurance Group to invest in a project in New York City

January 8, 2017

Sat Jan 7, 2017 | 4:08pm EST

The headquarters building of Anbang Insurance Group are pictured in Beijing, China, August 25, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Lee
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China’s Anbang Insurance Group is in talks to invest in a project to redevelop a flagship New York City building owned by Kushner Companies, the family real estate business run by U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, according to a person familiar with the discussions.

The talks to revitalize the 41-floor building located at 666 Fifth Avenue, were first reported by the New York Times on Saturday in an extensive article about Jared Kushner that detailed a November meeting between him and Anbang Chairman Wu Xiaohui days after Trump won the presidential election.

The deal has not been completed and key points remain in discussion, the newspaper reported, citing representatives for Jared Kushner. A source, who was not authorized to speak publicly, confirmed the talks to Reuters but did not elaborate.

 Related:

Representatives for Kushner and Trump did not respond to requests by Reuters for comment, while Anbang declined to comment.

Kushner is married to Trump’s daughter Ivanka and is the chief executive of Kushner Companies. He is believed to be in consideration for a senior White House role as a trusted confidant to his father-in-law, who takes office Jan. 20.

Kushner is studying with lawyers how we would have to divest and distance himself from the family business if he were to take a role in the Trump administration, the New York Times reported.

Kushner will also have to determine whether federal anti-conflict of interest laws, which prohibit the hiring of a family member including a son-in-law, would preclude him working in a government run by Trump.

Privately-owned Anbang, established in 2004 as an auto insurer, has emerged as one of China’s most aggressive acquirers of overseas assets in the past two years, spending more than $30 billion buying luxury hotels, insurers and other property assets. It owns the famed Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York City.

The Fifth Avenue building was purchased by Kushner Companies in 2006 for $1.8 billion, which at the time was the highest sales price for a single building in Manhattan.

(Reporting by Greg Roumeliotis in New York and Ginger Gibson in Washington; Writing by Mary Milliken; Editing by Carmel Crimmins and Chris Reese)

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Jared Kushner, a Trump In-Law and Adviser, Chases a Chinese Deal

On the night of Nov. 16, a group of executives gathered in a private dining room of the restaurant La Chine at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in Midtown Manhattan. The table was laden with Chinese delicacies and $2,100 bottles of Château Lafite Rothschild. At one end sat Wu Xiaohui, the chairman of the Waldorf’s owner, Anbang Insurance Group, a Chinese financial behemoth with estimated assets of $285 billion and an ownership structure shrouded in mystery. Close by sat Jared Kushner, a major New York real estate investor whose father-in-law, Donald J. Trump, had just been elected president of the United States.

It was a mutually auspicious moment.

Mr. Wu and Mr. Kushner — who is married to Mr. Trump’s daughter Ivanka and is one of his closest advisers — were nearing agreement on a joint venture in Manhattan: the redevelopment of 666 Fifth Avenue, the fading crown jewel of the Kushner family real-estate empire. Anbang, which has close ties to the Chinese state, has seen its aggressive efforts to buy up hotels in the United States slowed amid concerns raised by Obama administration officials who review foreign investments for national security risk.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/07/us/politics/jared-kushner-trump-business.html?_r=0

Federal Ethics Office Says Some Trump Nominees Haven’t Completed Financial Disclosure Before Hearings

January 8, 2017

The head of an ethics agency has expressed concern about the paperwork from some of Trump’s selections for key administration posts

President-elect Donald Trump and his nominee for Commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross Jr., in November. Many of Mr. Trump’s administration picks are wealthy business executives with complex financial portfolios. The federal Office of Government Ethics says it is concerned that some nominees haven’t completed disclosure papers ahead of Senate confirmation hearings set for this week.

President-elect Donald Trump and his nominee for Commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross Jr., in November. Many of Mr. Trump’s administration picks are wealthy business executives with complex financial portfolios. The federal Office of Government Ethics says it is concerned that some nominees haven’t completed disclosure papers ahead of Senate confirmation hearings set for this week. PHOTO:PETER FOLEY/ZUMA PRESS
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Updated Jan. 7, 2017 6:21 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON—The head of the independent federal agency charged with preventing ethical conflicts in government expressed concern that some of President-elect Donald Trump’s nominees haven’t completed disclosure paperwork in advance of their Senate confirmation hearings.

In a strongly worded letter released Saturday by Senate Democrats, the director of the Office of Government Ethics wrote that his agency hadn’t received even drafts of the required financial disclosures from some of Mr. Trump’s nominees, whose Senate hearings are scheduled for the coming weeks.

“I am not aware of any occasion in the four decades since OGE was established when the Senate held a confirmation hearing before the nominee had completed the ethics-review process,” wrote Walter Shaub, the ethics office director. He added: “In the past, the ethics work was fully completed prior to the announcement of nominees in the overwhelming majority of cases.”

Donald Trump's cabinet picks will have to disclose their financial information — eventuallySecretary of State-designate Rex Tillerson (Credit: AP)
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Mr. Shaub, appointed to his position by President Barack Obama in 2012, wrote that his office’s ethics review is labor-intensive and complex, and he warned it would take his agency significant time to ensure that congressional staffers had a full picture of the financial holdings and potential conflicts of Mr. Trump’s picks for his administration.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Trump’s transition team criticized Mr. Shaub’s remarks while declining to address the paperwork issue directly.

“President-elect Trump is putting together the most qualified administration in history and the transition process is currently running smoothly,” the spokeswoman said. “In the midst of a historic election where Americans voted to drain the swamp, it is disappointing some have chosen to politicize the process in order to distract from important issues facing our country. This is a disservice to the country and is exactly why voters chose Donald J. Trump as their next president.”

Mr. Shaub’s letter comes ahead of a busy week in the Senate, where Republican leaders have scheduled hearings for at least eight of Mr. Trump’s intended nominees for cabinet positions.

Capitol Hill Republicans asserted that in previous years some hearings have gone forward without ethics paperwork being fully submitted, contradicting Mr. Shaub. The office of Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, declined to comment.

Adding complications to the ethics-review process is that many of Mr. Trump’s intended nominees are wealthy business executives with complex financial portfolios. These include his pick for Treasury secretary, former Goldman Sachs Group Inc.executive Steven Mnuchin; Exxon Mobil Corp. CEO Rex Tillerson, who is Mr. Trump’s choice to be secretary of state; billionaire investor Wilbur Ross, the intended nominee for Commerce secretary; and fast food executive Andy Puzder, Mr. Trump’s choice to lead the Labor Department.

Federal law will require many to divest significant portions of their holdings and portfolios, necessitating difficult financial decisions and negotiations with federal officials.

Scheduled for confirmation hearings this week are Messrs. Tillerson and Ross, as well as Betsy DeVos, Mr. Trump’s choice for Education secretary; attorney general nominee Sen. Jeff Sessions; Ben Carson, who would be Housing secretary; Mike Pompeo, who would lead the Central Intelligence Agency; Elaine Chao, Mr. Trump’s choice for Transportation secretary, and Ret. Gen. John Kelly, who would head Homeland Security.

Concerns about ethics paperwork surround only some of Mr. Trump’s intended nominees. At least half of those with hearings this week have turned in forms to the ethics office, a survey of Senate committees by The Wall Street Journal found Friday. The committees have the necessary ethics paperwork for Messrs. Sessions, Tillerson and Pompeo and for Ms. Chao.

As of Friday afternoon, the committees didn’t have ethics paperwork for Ms. DeVos and Mr. Ross. Committee spokespeople didn’t respond to requests for comment about the status of ethics forms for Messrs. Carson and Kelly.

Republicans have said in the past ethics forms have been provided to committees several days before confirmation hearings, or else shortly afterward.

Still, this year the delayed receipt of ethics and other forms is slowing down some hearings. The Senate Finance Committee hasn’t scheduled hearings for Treasury Secretary-designate Steven Mnuchin or Rep. Tom Price (R., Ga.), the nominee for Health and Human Services secretary, because their ethics paperwork hadn’t come in from the government-ethics office.

Other intended nominees are even further behind. As of Friday, neither Rep. Ryan Zinke (R., Mont.), the Interior secretary-designate, nor former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, the Energy secretary-designate, was on the books for a confirmation hearing, because the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee didn’t have either a standard questionnaire or the ethics form from the government ethics office.

Republicans said ethics paperwork occasionally arrives close to a hearing date. Forms for Arne Duncan, a former Obama administration education secretary, arrived four days before his confirmation hearing, Republicans said, and paperwork for former Obama administration Labor Secretary Hilda Solis arrived three days before her hearing, and was then amended one week later.

Ms. Chao’s ethics forms didn’t arrive until several days after her hearing to serve as Labor secretary under President George W. Bush, Republicans said.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.), the Senate Democratic leader, said Republicans were trying to “jam through unvetted nominees.’’ He said the public deserves to know that nominees have plans to avoid conflicts of interest, and that “they’re working on behalf of the American people, and not their own bottom line.’’

The Office of Government Ethics was established in 1978 to bring more transparency and integrity to the federal government after the Watergate scandal that brought down President Richard Nixon.

OGE, an independent agency, is charged with helping executive branch officials avoid conflicts of interest. Its role is advisory and educational in nature, rather than enforcement. Investigations and prosecutions related to potential violations are handled by the Department of Justice.

Mr. Shaub previously has urged that members of the incoming Trump administration must avoid conflicts of interest. He authorized a series of tweets on the OGE’s Twitter account encouraging Mr. Trump to fully divest from his corporate holdings. Mr. Trump hasn’t yet announced a plan to deal with his business interests but is expected to do so in the coming months.

Corrections & Amplifications:
Senate committees haven’t received papers disclosing potential conflicts for at least four Trump administration nominees testifying next week, according to a review of the committees, though the Office of Government Ethics didn’t specify how many. An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the number was at least eight and mistakenly attributed a specific number to the OGE.

Write to Byron Tau at byron.tau@wsj.com and Siobhan Hughes at siobhan.hughes@wsj.com

http://www.wsj.com/articles/federal-ethics-office-says-some-trump-nominees-havent-completed-financial-disclosure-before-hearings-1483819592

Related from  Salon:

Donald Trump’s cabinet picks will have to disclose their financial information — eventually — Rules for financial disclosure vary by Senate committee. Some disclosures, like Rex Tillerson’s, will be restricted
http://www.salon.com/2016/12/23/donald-trumps-cabinet-picks-will-have-to-disclose-their-financial-information-eventually/

Right-to-die law faces skepticism in nation’s capital: ‘It’s really aimed at old black people’

October 18, 2016

The Washington Post
October 17, 2016

The D.C. Council is poised to approve legislation making the District the nation’s sixth jurisdiction to allow doctors to prescribe lethal drugs to terminally ill residents, adding momentum to a practice that had long been controversial but is gaining acceptance among elected leaders, the medical community and the public.

A majority of D.C. Council members say they plan to vote for the bill when it comes before them Tuesday.

But chances for enactment are unclear. The council will have to vote on the bill twice more by the end of the year. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) has not indicated whether she will sign the legislation, although her health director has testified against it, saying it violates the Hippocratic oath. It is not certain that proponents have enough votes for an override. And Congress could also strike down the legislation; a spokeswoman for House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) did not answer requests for comment.

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Although the law has been enacted in a handful of states with a mostly white population, it faces particular opposition in the nation’s capital, home to a large African American community. In national surveys, African Americans have consistently stood against assisted suicide.

Critics say the notion of doctors hastening death for terminally ill patients runs counter to religious teachings about the sanctity of life.

Among them is Pamela Wandix, a 59-year-old African American woman with esophageal cancer who lives east of the Anacostia River. She saw her sister die of bone cancer last year and has buried nine other siblings. Death is often on her mind.

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“I watch hundreds of people come and go at the oncologist’s office,” said Wandix, who has undergone chemotherapy. “They are not trying to give up. They want to live. We believe in God. That’s not even a question. I’m fighting for my life, and my God is going to show me how.”

 

Many in the black community distrust the health-care system and fear that racism in life will translate into discrimination in death, said Patricia King, a Georgetown Law School professor who has written about the racial dynamics of assisted death.

“Historically, African Americans have not had a lot of control over their bodies, and I don’t think offering them assisted suicide is going to make them feel more autonomous,” King said.

Some worry that blacks, who tend to have less access to treatment and preventive care, may think that ending their lives early is their best option when given a terminal diagnosis.

Rev. Eugene Rivers III, a black minister from Boston with a national reputation for his work against urban violence, is helping a group of opponents called No DC Suicide. Rivers has called the legislation “back end eugenics” aimed at eliminating poor blacks. No DC Suicide is endorsed by organizations including the Arc, the advocacy group for people with disabilities, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington and the D.C. Catholic Conference.

Some African American residents have said the legislation reminds them of the Tuskegee experiments, in which hundreds of black men with syphilis in Alabama unwittingly participated in a 40-year federal study of the disease’s long-term effect. The men were told they were being given “free health care” and were being treated for the disorder, when in fact they were not.

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This is a non-scientific user poll. Results are not statistically valid and cannot be assumed to reflect the views of Washington Post users as a group or the general population.

“They are afraid that somebody is going to take advantage of them the way they have been taken advantage of in the past,” said Omega Silva, the black D.C. physician working with Compassion and Choices, a national advocacy group trying to pass the legislation. “We have to assure them they are in control of everything.”

African Americans, who make up nearly half of the population in the District, have been the group most consistently opposed to the practice.

In 2013, the Pew Research Center found 65 percent of African Americans and Latinos nationwide opposed aid-in-dying, compared with 42 percent of whites. Although D.C. polling isn’t available, a Washington Post survey last year found that four in 10 black Marylanders supported similar legislation, about 20 percentage points lower than the state overall.

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Right-to-die measures were first passed in Oregon, followed by Washington state and Vermont. The practice was authorized by court ruling in Montana and it also was cleared in June in California, despite protests from Latino lawmakers and Catholics. Voters in Colorado will be asked to approve a right-to-die referendum next month, and lawmakers in Michigan are set to discuss it in January. The American Medical Association, which has formally opposed such measures since 1993, has said it will consider taking a “neutral” position in 2017.

Some in the District are counting on the council to pass the law.

“Medical aid-in-dying is not suicide — it’s the cancer that’s killing me,” said Mary Klein, a supporter and 68-year old resident of the Crestwood neighborhood whose ovarian cancer has metastasized. “I would like the option because I am dying, and I’m so close to death’s doors and I’ve done everything possible to extend my life. . . . I would like the option of a peaceful and dignified death.”

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Klein has endured surgery that split open her abdomen, weekly hospital trips and chemotherapy with side effects that left her feeling like she was “struck by a hurricane.”

“I don’t believe it’s compassionate to say to someone who only has a very short time left to live that they need to suffer intolerable pain,” she said.

Lawmakers from the District’s most heavily African American wards are split on the bill. Council member LaRuby May (D-Ward 8) supports the measure but Council member Yvette M. Alexander (D-Ward 7) says voters, not the council, should decide the matter through referendum.

[‘Act of kindness’ Medical aid-in-dying legislation advances in the District ]

The full council is expected to approve legislation that would allow doctors to prescribe lethal drugs to patients who are mentally sound and have less than six months to live.

[D.C. Council members hear impassioned testimony for and against assisted death ]

That is likely to put the council’s relatively young, progressive members at odds with the city’s older black residents, said Barbara Morgan, a longtime Ward 7 resident.

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With “smart” technology, cities will be able to address infrastructure challenges, food and water shortages, and constrained budgets.

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“I guess I’m from the old school. We just don’t believe in taking your own life,” said Morgan, 83. “If you want to go to heaven, you live right. It is a known fact if you commit suicide, you won’t.”

Activists on both sides of the issue say African Americans are apprehensive about discussing options in the face of terminal illness.

“End of life is not a discussion in my community that people want to have. Period,” said Donna Smith, an African American organizer for Compassion and Choices. “It’s almost as if talking about it will hasten it.”

Compassion and Choices has been trying to sway black residents in the District by enlisting volunteers in all eight wards to hold house parties to discuss the legislation and by recruiting Silva, a black physician, and James Jones, a bioethicist, to assure that no one would be coerced into an early death.

At one outreach event Monday at the predominantly black Faith United Church of Christ in the Michigan Park neighborhood, only three congregants showed up.

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Across the country, some of the most high-profile representatives of the right-to-die movement have been white, including the terminally ill California woman Brittany Maynard who publicized her decision to end her life on widely viewed YouTube videos and in national media appearances.

Most of the demonstrators at a recent rally outside the D.C. Council building for the “Death with Dignity” legislation were white.

“They are not people who look me,” said Leona Redmond, a 64-year-old longtime District community activist who has been organizing other African American seniors against the legislation.

She’s concerned that low-income black senior citizens may be steered to an early death. When she hears politicians discussing end-of-life care, she fears they are mainly concerned with reducing government health-care costs. And she notes that African Americans are less likely to be able to afford expensive treatment when faced with a terminal prognosis.

“Because of Jim Crow laws . . . we didn’t have the opportunity to have the same jobs to have the same insurance, the same retirement benefits,” said Redmond, who lives in senior citizen housing in the Northeast Washington neighborhood of Fort Lincoln. “It’s really aimed at old black people. It really is.”

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Aid-in-dying advocates say fears about coercion haven’t been realized in states that have the laws.

In fact, just one African American has chosen to exercise the provisions of the law in Oregon, which became the first state in the country with such a law in 1997.

Similar legislation has failed in at least 20 other states in recent years — including Maryland, where it encountered opposition from the state’s large black and Catholic communities.

Right-to-die advocates say passage in the District, especially after their California victory last year, would help break a key racial barrier in their national campaign.

“We need to show that this just isn’t a ‘white’ issue,” said Smith, the Compassion and Choices organizer. “This issue is for everyone whose facing unbearable suffering at the end of life.”

Emily Guskin contributed to this report.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/dc-politics/right-to-die-law-faces-skepticism-in-us-capital-its-really-aimed-at-old-black-people/2016/10/17/8abf6334-8ff6-11e6-a6a3-d50061aa9fae_story.html?hpid=hp_local-news_dcsuicide-545pm%3Ahomepage%2Fstory

We at Peace and Freedom have witnessed doctors telling loved ones to “let go of their Dad/husband/wife” only to find out later that the medical establishment just didn’t want to be bothered with the difficult fight for life that many choose…. New immigrants to America who are old are often singled out for early death…. with medical professionals using “right to die” as an option….

Related:

Worrying claim: Professor Patrick Pullicino said doctors had turned the use of a controversial ¿death pathway¿ into the equivalent of euthanasia of the elderly

Worrying claim: In Britain, Professor Patrick Pullicino said doctors had turned the use of a controversial ‘death pathway’ into the equivalent of euthanasia of the elderly

The Catholic Church’s Teaching on Euthanasia

ISSUE: What is euthanasia? Why does the Church forbid its practice?

RESPONSE: The glossary in the Catechism of the Catholic Church defines euthanasia as “an act or omission which, of itself or by intention, causes the death of handicapped, sick, or dying persons—sometimes with an attempt to justify the act as a means of eliminating suffering.”

Euthanasia is a form of murder and thus is prohibited by the Fifth Commandment. It is a grave offense against the dignity of the human person and also against God, the Author of human life. While motives and circumstances can mitigate one’s culpability, they do not change the nature of this murderous act, which must be forbidden (Catechism, no. 2277).

The Church affirms the right to life of all persons, from conception to natural death. The Church encourages those with terminal illness to unite their sufferings with those of Jesus Christ, for the sake of His body, the Church (cf. Col. 1:24). The Church also encourages caregivers and family members to treat sick or handicapped persons with “special respect” (Catechism, no. 2276).

DISCUSSION: Death is part of the human condition. While everyone is well aware of this reality, the presence of terminal or severe illness requires us to look more closely at this reality. As we approach death, we confront our own beliefs about the meaning of life, the value of suffering, and the prospect of life after death. In other words, the experience of our own mortality is a pivotal moment in our pilgrimage of faith (cf. Catechism, no. 1501). How we approach death is of utmost importance to the individual and to society. Further, the way we treat those in need, the least of our brethren (cf. Mt. 25:31-46), speaks volumes about who we are as a people.

In his encyclical letter on the “Gospel of Life” (Evangelium Vitae, “EV”), Pope John Paul II identifies several cultural factors that have contributed to the spread of euthanasia. He says that in today’s society we are increasingly unable to face and accept suffering, so we are increasingly tempted to eliminate it at the root by hastening the moment of death (cf. EV, no. 15). This points to the “crisis of faith” in the West, where the physical evil of suffering is considered to be “the epitome of evil, to be eliminated at all costs” (ibid.). The Pope points out several other factors, including modern man’s desire to control life and death and an assessment of human value based on medical costs, self-sufficiency, and societal “burden.”

We saw in the 20th century how Planned Parenthood and the little-known radical views of its founder, Margaret Sanger, subtly imposed its contraceptive, anti-natalist, racist, and eugenic agenda on the world. The result has been that conduct once considered unspeakably evil—the killing of unborn or even partially born children—is not only accepted but enshrined as an inalienable right. Less people, however, are aware that a similar effort is well under way to legitimize the killing of our elderly and sick citizens.

Palliative care - file picture

Credit: AMELIE-BENOIST / BSIP/SPL

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In 1938, Dr. Foster Kennedy, president of the Euthanasia Society of America (ESA), announced his organization’s support of legislation to legalize the killing of “defective” or “incurable” human beings—with or without their consent. Back then, such legislation was utterly intolerable to most people, so the ESA took a more strategic, incremental approach, employing deceptive language such as “death with dignity” and building upon the utilitarianism (“quality of life”) and radical autonomy (“right to choose”) championed by secular society and, unfortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court. Many now see euthanasia as a topic of political discussion, not an abomination.

God’s Timeless and Timely Word

It would not be realistic to expect Sacred Scripture to address contemporary issues regarding care for the dying. Even so, the biblical message—amplified by Church Tradition and definitively expounded by the Magisterium—is firmly and unequivocally on the side of life. Some relevant biblical themes include:

The value and dignity of human life.

The Bible begins with the creation narrative, which provides that man has been specially created in the image and likeness of God (cf. Gen. 1:26-27). The rest of the Bible is the story of God’s fatherly plan to draw all people to Himself. This plan culminates in the Incarnation of Christ. By becoming one like us, God amazingly demonstrates His solidarity with the human family and affirms the value and dignity of human life. Pope John Paul II connects the dots for us, telling us that a rejection of human life is really a rejection of Christ (EV, no. 104).

Prohibition of murder.

The Fifth Commandment expressly forbids taking another’s life (cf. Ex. 20:13). Jesus not only affirms the necessity of this commandment for eternal life (cf. Mt. 19:16-22), but actually tightens its requirements (cf. Mt. 5:21-26). He also roots the commandment in the positive requirement to love one’s neighbor “as one’s self” (cf. Mt. 22:34-40). This positive command presupposes a legitimate love of self that would exclude the rejection of the fundamental gift of life.

Respect for advanced age.

Throughout Scripture, old age is characterized by dignity and surrounded with reverence. Just one example of the dignity of the elderly can be found in the story of Eleazar, who accepted torture and martyrdom rather than violate God’s law. His heroic action is described as “worthy of his years and the dignity of his old age” (2 Mac. 6:23).

Jesus’ love for the sick.

The Gospels are replete with accounts of Jesus tending to the needs of the sick, handicapped, and dying. Jesus healed the sick and instructed His disciples to do the same (cf. Mt. 10:8). Caring for the sick has always been considered a “corporal work of mercy,” based on Our Lord’s own words in Matthew 25. And in the parable of the Good Samaritan (cf. Lk. 10:29-39), we see the Christian’s obligation to tend to the needs of our “neighbor” despite any perceived inconvenience or cultural bias.

Earthly life is not an absolute.

Scripture says we weren’t created simply for this life but for eternity (cf. Wis. 2:23). We are advised to be concerned most of all about threats to our eternal souls (cf. Mt. 10:28), realizing that while our “outer self” is wasting away, our “inner self” is being renewed each day (cf. 2 Cor. 4:12-5:1).

Trust God in life and death.

Life is a gift from God, and whether we live or die is in His hands (cf. Ps. 16:15). The just man is depicted not as seeking deliverance from the burdens of old age, but as putting his trust in God’s loving providence. The Bible does not teach a mere fatalism or resignation, but elicits faith in God and trust in His mercy and promises.

Salvific value of suffering.

Through dying on the Cross for us, Jesus Christ reveals the life-giving value of suffering. Christ’s sacrifice redeemed the whole world, but in appropriating this redemption for ourselves, we are instructed to follow Jesus’ example and carry our own crosses, laying down our lives for others. All our thoughts, words, and actions, but particularly our sufferings, have salvific value when united with Christ’s sacrifice.

Here we have to understand the distinction between martyrdom, which involves accepting suffering and even death out of love for Christ, and suicide, which involves seeking death for its own sake, i.e., rejecting the good of human life. St. Jerome, a 4th-century Doctor of the Church, expressed the distinction this way: “It is not ours to lay hold of death; but we freely accept it when it is inflicted by others.”

For 2,000 years, the Church’s Tradition has consistently taught the absolute and unchanging value of the commandment, “Thou shall not kill.” Pope John Paul II cites the Didache, the most ancient non-biblical Christian writing, which condemns crimes against human life as being part of the “way of death” that Christians must reject (EV, no. 54).

St. Augustine, writing in the fifth century, made several statements that support the Church’s constant teaching on euthanasia, such as his assertion “that no man should put an end to this life to obtain that better life we look for after death, for those who die by their own hand have no better life after death” (City of God, I, 26).

Magisterial Pronouncements

The Catholic Church has firmly and explicitly confirmed its condemnation of euthanasia in recent decades. Notably, at the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), the universal Church taught:

The varieties of crime are numerous: all offenses against life itself, such as murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia, and willful suicide . . . are criminal: they poison civilization, and they debase the perpetrators more than the victims and militate against the honor of the Creator (Gaudium et Spes, no. 27, emphasis added).

Even more recently, in response to what he calls the “culture of death,” Pope John Paul II definitively reiterated the Church’s perennial teaching:

In harmony with the Magisterium of my predecessors and in communion with the bishops of the Catholic Church, I confirm that euthanasia is a grave violation of the law of God, since it is the deliberate and morally unacceptable killing of a human person. This doctrine is based upon the natural law and upon the written Word of God, is transmitted by the Church’s Tradition, and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium (EV, no. 65).

Guilt by Association?

The patient who requests euthanasia in effect commits suicide, which the Church has always considered a “gravely evil choice” (ibid., no. 66). While suicide in all its forms is an objective violation of the Fifth Commandment, we must recognize that psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the person who commits suicide (Catechism, no 2282). We cannot know the eternal fate of such a person: “We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives” (Catechism, no. 2283).

Then there is the physician and others who help to bring about the patient’s death, including those who provide lethal drugs or other means of enabling a patient to commit the form of euthanasia commonly known as “assisted suicide.” All those who knowingly and willingly perform or assist in carrying out the act of terminating the patient’s life have committed murder (cf. Catechism, no. 2277). While there may be mitigating factors in a particular case, especially when it comes to family members who are coping with a loved one’s catastrophic illness, the act nonetheless is seriously wrong, even when the patient requests it. “True ‘compassion’ leads to sharing another’s pain; it does not kill the person whose suffering we cannot bear” (EV, no. 66).

Finally, there are those public officials who pass laws legalizing euthanasia in their jurisdiction. A law that tolerates—or even requires—the killing of the innocent is unjust, non-binding, and brings about the obligation to oppose it by means of conscientious objection (ibid., no. 73). The fact that civil laws allow an evil or that there is a diversity of views on the subject does not alter this requirement, which the Holy Father summarizes:

In the case of an intrinsically unjust law, such as a law permitting abortion or euthanasia, it is therefore never licit to obey it, or to take part in a propaganda campaign in favor of such a law, or vote for it (ibid.).

The Problem of Pain

In discussing the topic of euthanasia, some further distinctions need to be made. First, the Church recognizes the legitimacy of palliative care, which involves making suffering more bearable in the final stage of illness and ensuring that the patient is supported and accompanied throughout his or her ordeal (cf. EV, no. 65).

Surely, Christians are called to find in their suffering and pain a unique opportunity to participate in Our Lord’s Passion. Excessive pain, however, brings the prospect of draining a patient’s moral resources, interfering with his spiritual well-being, and even tempting him to consider euthanasia. Therefore, the patient’s request for pain relief should be respected; those who cannot express their wishes can generally be assured to want such relief.[1]

In treating some serious illnesses such as cancer or AIDS, the doses of narcotics needed to effect adequate pain management can bring about a foreseeable risk of shortening the patient’s life. Pope Pius XII taught in a 1957 address that it is permitted to relieve pain with narcotics, even when the result is decreased consciousness and a shortening of life, “if no other means exist, and if, in the given circumstances, this does not prevent the carrying out of other religious and moral duties.”

The Church has subsequently reaffirmed the moral liceity of authentic palliative care, so long as the medicines are not taken or prescribed with the intention of bringing about the patient’s death. The Catechism calls palliative care a special form of charity which should be encouraged (no. 2279).

It Is Finished

A second issue arises as to what measures must be taken to preserve life. Patients, family members, and health care providers are not morally obligated to pursue every possible avenue of extending human life. Instead, “it needs to be determined whether the means of available treatment are objectively proportionate to the prospects for improvement” (EV, no. 65).

The Church has distinguished between “extraordinary” and “ordinary” care, with only the latter being morally obligatory:

Discontinuing medical procedures that are burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary, or disproportionate to the expected outcome can be legitimate; it is the refusal of ‘over-zealous’ treatment. Here one does not will to cause death; one’s inability to impede it is merely accepted (Catechism, no. 2278).

Even when death is considered imminent, patients by virtue of their human dignity should continue to receive “ordinary” care. The Charter for Health Care Workers (Pontifical Council for Pastoral Assistance for Health Care Workers, 1995) says that such care includes nursing care, hygiene, and palliative care. It also involves nutrition and hydration, orally or with artificial assistance (i.e., a feeding tube), if this will support the patient’s life without imposing serious burdens on the patient.

Allowing the patient to die a natural death with dignity is not euthanasia. While it is not permissible and indeed reprehensible to cause a patient’s death through starvation or dehydration, in the case of a patient in the final stages of the dying process, where providing him with food or water would cause greater hardship than relief, those tending to the patient may forego such care (cf. National Conference of Catholic Bishops, Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, no. 58).

In both the case of palliative care and the case of foregoing “over-zealous” treatment, the goal is not to terminate the life of the patient, but on the contrary to treat the patient with dignity and respect. The patient’s death is accepted without being willed or deliberately accelerated. And in both cases we see the principle of double effect in action. Some forms of treatment may have two effects, one good (e.g. pain relief) and one evil (shortening of patient’s life). In appropriate circumstances, the treatment may be provided because of the intended good effect, despite the possibility of the foreseeable but unintended bad effect (cf. Catechism, no. 1737). The pivotal issue is what one is trying to accomplish through a given medical decision. If the intention is to kill or shorten the patient’s life, then it is not morally justifiable.

Christian Beatitude

Our Lord says, “Blessed are those who mourn, they shall be comforted” (Mt. 5:4). Modern man tends to resist mourning, to resist embracing the reality of human suffering and death, opting instead for a cosmetic, shallow, and ultimately disposable existence. Our Lord does not say that He will take away our temporal pain and anguish, but He does promise to “comfort” us, which literally means that He will be strong with us, through the power of His Holy Spirit.

He also tells us that when we care for the sick, the marginalized, and the dying, we are truly caring for Him, such that the late Mother Teresa would often say that she was serving the “hidden Jesus” in the poorest of the poor in Calcutta.

We affirm the Gospel of Life, and in particular the value and dignity of the elderly and ill in our midst, when we tend to their physical, psychological, and spiritual needs. This could involve just sitting with them, offering them reassurance, or making the sacraments available to them—particularly Confession and Anointing of the Sick, the underappreciated “Sacraments of Healing”—as well as the Eucharist, which is called “viaticum” when received in anticipation of passing over to eternal life (cf. Catechism, no. 1517). Thus by our actions as well as by our words, we must be ambassadors of God’s mercy and compassion to those who are dying.

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Recommended Reading:

Holy Bible (Catholic edition)

Catechism of the Catholic Church

Vatican II Documents

Pope John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae

Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration on Euthanasia

Russell Shaw, ed., Our Sunday Visitor’s Encyclopedia of Catholic Doctrine

William Brennan, Dehumanizing the Vulnerable

 

Other Available FAITH FACTS:

 Organ Donation • Debunking the Overpopulation Myth • Canonical Misconception: Pope Pius IX and the Church’s Teaching on Abortion • The Truth About Birth Control

Call 1-800-MY-FAITH (693-2484).

FAITH FACTS are a free membership service of Catholics United for the Faith.

Catholics United for the Faith
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Source: http://www.cuf.org/2004/04/true-compassion-for-the-dying-the-churchs-teaching-on-euthanasia/

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From Eternal Word Television (EWTN)

The court-ordered starvation and dehydration of Terri Schiavo in 2005 raised a number of issues—moral, legal and constitutional, about the right to life and the so-called right to die. Most coverage of the case focused on the question of her guardian’s right to decide according to her alleged wishes and the due process of the judicial proceedings. However, at base the question was a moral, not a legal, one: under what conditions, if any, may a patient, a guardian, medical personnel or civil authorities, withhold or withdraw nutrition and hydration?

Catholic Teaching on Extraordinary Means

The natural law and the Fifth Commandment1 requires that all ordinary means be used to preserve life, such as food, water, exercise, and medical care. Since the middle ages, however, Catholic theologians have recognized that human beings are not morally obligated to undergo every possible medical treatment to save their lives. Treatments that are unduly burdensome or sorrowful to a particular patient, such as amputation, or beyond the economic means of the person, or which only prolong the suffering of a dying person, are morallyextraordinary, meaning they are not morally obligatory in a particular case. Medical means may be medicallyordinary, but yet morally extraordinary.

The many advances in medicine during recent decades has greatly complicated the decision whether to undergo or forego medical treatment,  since medicine can now save many people who would simply have been allowed to die in the past. Further, having saved them, many people continue to live for long periods in comatose or semi-conscious states, unable to live without technological assistance of one kind or another. The following Questions and Answers will address some of the complexities of this issue.

Q. When may medical therapies, procedures, equipment and the like be withheld or withdrawn from a patient.

A. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states,

2278. Discontinuing medical procedures that are burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary, or disproportionate to the expected outcome can be legitimate; it is the refusal of “over-zealous” treatment. Here one does not will to cause death; one’s inability to impede it is merely accepted. The decisions should be made by the patient if he is competent and able or, if not, by those legally entitled to act for the patient, whose reasonable will and legitimate interests must always be respected.

The key principle in this statement is that one does not will to cause death. When a person has an underlying terminal disease, or their heart, or some other organ, cannot work without mechanical assistance, or a therapy being proposed is dangerous, or has little chance of success, then not using that machine or that therapy results in the person dying from the disease or organ failure they already have. The omission allows nature to takes its course. It does not directly kill the person, even though it may contribute to the person dying earlier than if aggressive treatment had been done.

Q. Does this also apply to artificially provided nutrition and hydration?

A. Yes, when the moral conditions noted above are met. We must, therefore, ask the question “will the withdrawal of nutrition and hydration allow the person to die, or kill the person?” When it will allow a person to die from an underlying condition, rather than unnecessarily prolonging their suffering, it may be removed. So, for example, in the last hours, even days, of a cancer patient’s life, or if a sick person’s body is no longer able to process food and water, there is no moral obligation to provide nutrition and hydration. The patient will die of their disease or their organ failure before starvation or dehydration could kill them.

However, when the withdrawal of nutrition and hydration is intended to kill the person, or will be the immediate and direct cause of doing so, quite apart from any disease or failure of their bodies, then to withdraw food and water would be an act of euthanasia, a grave sin against the natural law and the law of God.

Q. What about the case of Terri Schiavo?

A. In Terri’s case, while there was some disagreement as to her exact medical condition, she was not dying. Indeed, when the other artificial means were withdrawn she continued to live, so that the withdrawal of her food and water directly caused her death. This was a violation of the natural law and the law of God.

Q. You mention the natural law, what is it?

A. The natural law is morality which reason can determine from the nature of man, without the assistance of God’s revelation. An example is the right to life. Almost all human societies throughout history, both religious and non-religious, have recognized that it is wrong to kill an innocent person. This is a conclusion which reason can easily come to, since all human beings  have an inborn desire to live. From this natural law principle we can easily see that any action that directly and intentionally kills an innocent person is an unjust taking of a human life. Therefore, withdrawing food and and water from anyone who is not about to die and who can still tolerate it, has no other reasonable name than murder.

Q. What does the Church say about this?

A. The Pope addressed this issue in an address to a group of physicians who were in Rome in March 2004 precisely to discuss it.

I should like particularly to underline how the administration of water and food, even when provided by artificial means, always represents a natural means of preserving life, not a medical act. Its use, furthermore, should be considered, in principle, ordinary and proportionate, and as such morally obligatory, insofar as and until it is seen to have attained its proper finality, which in the present case consists in providing nourishment to the patient and alleviation of his suffering.

The obligation to provide the “normal care due to the sick in such cases” (1) includes, in fact, the use of nutrition and hydration (2). The evaluation of probabilities, founded on waning hopes for recovery when the vegetative state is prolonged beyond a year, cannot ethically justify the cessation or interruption of minimal care for the patient, including nutrition and hydration. Death by starvation or dehydration is, in fact, the only possible outcome as a result of their withdrawal. In this sense it ends up becoming, if done knowingly and willingly, true and proper euthanasia by omission.

In this regard, I recall what I wrote in the Encyclical Evangelium Vitaemaking it clear that “by euthanasia in the true and proper sense must be understood an action or omission which by its very nature and intention brings about death, with the purpose of eliminating all pain”; such an act is always “a serious violation of the law of God, since it is the deliberate and morally unacceptable killing of a human person” (n. 65).  [Pope John Paul II, To the Congress on Life-Sustaining Treatments and Vegetative State, 20 March 2004)

(1) Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Iura et Bona, p. IV

(2) cf. Pontifical Council “Cor Unum”, Dans le Cadre, 2, 4, 4; Pontifical Council for Pastoral Assistance to Health Care Workers,Charter of Health Care Workers, n. 120

In this address the Holy Father draws the following significant conclusions:

1. Food and water are natural means of sustaining life, not medical acts, even if delivered artificially.

2. Nutrition and hydration are ordinary and proportionate means of care.

3. Food and water are morally obligatory unless or until they cannot achieve their finality, which is providing nutrition and hydrating and alleviating suffering.

4. The length of time they are, or will be, used is not grounds for withholding or withdrawing artificially delivered nutrition and hydration.

5. If the result of withholding or withdrawing nutrition and hydration is death by starvation and dehydration, as opposed to an undying disease or dysfunction, it is gravely immorally.

In summary, nutrition and hydration, like bathing and changing the patient’s position to avoid bedsores, is ordinary care that is owed to the patient. This is true even if it is delivered artificially, as when a baby is bottle-fed or a sick person is tube-fed. Nutrition and hydration may only be discontinued when they cannot achieve their natural purposes, such as when the body can no longer process them, or, when during the death process they would only prolong the person’s suffering. If such a case the patient dies of the underlying disease. On the other hand, if starvation and dehydration is the foreseeable cause of death, to withhold or withdrawn nutrition and hydration is gravely immoral.

Q. What can a person do to ensure that their wishes and their religious beliefs are respected by their family, medical personnel and the courts?

A. The best way is by means of an Advance Directive which states the patients wishes with respect to aggressive medical treatment. There are two basic kinds, a Living Will by itself or an Advance Directive with a Durable Power of Attorney (or Proxy) for Health Care Decisions. The merits of each are as follows:

1. Living Will. By this document a person decides completely in advance whether they want to be kept alive by technology. It is a “yes” or “no” statement, which then places the matter in the hands of the medical community. Many Catholic bishops and moralists consider this an unsatisfactory approach, as it does not provide for unforeseen circumstances. Despite the enthusiasm of the media, many medical professionals, and sadly even some Catholic institutions, Living Wills are NOT the way to go!

2. Advance Directive with a Durable Power of Attorney or Health Care Proxy. These documents give to a friend or family member the authority to make health care decisions according to one’s mind as expressed in an Advance Directive. By appointing an agent, or giving someone durable power of attorney, the patient allows for unforeseen circumstances. By stating in an  Advance Directive that one wants Catholic teaching adhered to, one can ensure that neither the agent or the medical institution will disregard that teaching. Together they ensure that a trusted person, rather than strangers, will make circumstantially appropriate decisions, in keeping with the Faith.

The following sample forms are provided through the courtesy of theNational Catholic Bioethics Center.

Health Care Proxy               Advance Directive

Adobe 4 or higher is need to read and print these forms.

https://www.ewtn.com/morals/end-of-life.htm

Hillary Clinton Emails Show More Than Half of the People Outside the Government who met with Hillary Clinton while she was Secretary of State gave money — “Pay to Play”?

August 23, 2016

Many donors to Clinton Foundation met with her at State — The frequency of the overlaps shows the intermingling of access and donations, and fuels perceptions that giving the foundation money was a price of admission for face time with Clinton

By Stephen Braun and Eileen Sullivan, Associated Press | Posted Aug 23rd, 2016 @ 3:01pm

WASHINGTON (AP) — More than half the people outside the government who met with Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of state gave money — either personally or through companies or groups — to the Clinton Foundation. It’s an extraordinary proportion indicating her possible ethics challenges if elected president.

At least 85 of 154 people from private interests who met or had phone conversations scheduled with Clinton while she led the State Department donated to her family charity or pledged commitments to its international programs, according to a review of State Department calendars released so far to The Associated Press. Combined, the 85 donors contributed as much as $156 million. At least 40 donated more than $100,000 each, and 20 gave more than $1 million.

Donors who were granted time with Clinton included an internationally known economist who asked for her help as the Bangladesh government pressured him to resign from a nonprofit bank he ran; a Wall Street executive who sought Clinton’s help with a visa problem and Estee Lauder executives who were listed as meeting with Clinton while her department worked with the firm’s corporate charity to counter gender-based violence in South Africa.

The meetings between the Democratic presidential nominee and foundation donors do not appear to violate legal agreements Clinton and former president Bill Clinton signed before she joined the State Department in 2009. But the frequency of the overlaps shows the intermingling of access and donations, and fuels perceptions that giving the foundation money was a price of admission for face time with Clinton. Her calendars and emails released as recently as this week describe scores of contacts she and her top aides had with foundation donors.

The AP’s findings represent the first systematic effort to calculate the scope of the intersecting interests of Clinton foundation donors and people who met personally with Clinton or spoke to her by phone about their needs.

The 154 did not include U.S. federal employees or foreign government representatives. Clinton met with representatives of at least 16 foreign governments that donated as much as $170 million to the Clinton charity, but they were not included in AP’s calculations because such meetings would presumably have been part of her diplomatic duties.

Last week, the Clinton Foundation moved to head off ethics concerns about future donations by announcing changes planned if Clinton is elected.

On Monday, Bill Clinton said in a statement that if his wife were to win, he would step down from the foundation’s board and stop all fundraising for it. The foundation would also accept donations only from U.S. citizens and what it described as independent philanthropies, while no longer taking gifts from foreign groups, U.S. companies or corporate charities. Clinton said the foundation would no longer hold annual meetings of its international aid program, the Clinton Global Initiative, and it would spin off its foreign-based programs to other charities.

Those planned changes would not affect more than 6,000 donors who have already provided the Clinton charity with more than $2 billion in funding since its creation in 2000.

“There’s a lot of potential conflicts and a lot of potential problems,” said Douglas White, an expert on nonprofits who previously directed Columbia University’s graduate fundraising management program. “The point is, she can’t just walk away from these 6,000 donors.”

Former senior White House ethics officials said a Clinton administration would have to take careful steps to ensure that past foundation donors would not have the same access as she allowed at the State Department.

“If Secretary Clinton puts the right people in and she’s tough about it and has the right procedures in place and sends a message consistent with a strong commitment to ethics, it can be done,” said Norman L. Eisen, who was President Barack Obama’s top ethics counsel and later worked for Clinton as ambassador to the Czech Republic.

Eisen, now a governance studies fellow at the Brookings Institution, said that at a minimum, Clinton should retain the Obama administration’s current ethics commitments and oversight, which include lobbying restrictions and other rules. Richard Painter, a former ethics adviser to President George W. Bush and currently a University of Minnesota law school professor, said Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton should remove themselves completely from foundation leadership roles, but he added that potential conflicts would shadow any policy decision affecting past donors.

Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon did not respond to the AP’s questions about Clinton transition plans regarding ethics, but said in a statement Tuesday the standard set by the Clinton Foundation’s ethics restrictions was “unprecedented, even if it may never satisfy some critics.”

GOP Vice Presidential candidate Indiana Gov. Mike Pence said the AP analysis was evidence of “pay-to-play” politics at Clinton’s State Department. He called for the foundation to be shut down and for an independent prosecutor to be appointed to investigate.

Some of Clinton’s most influential visitors donated millions to the Clinton Foundation and to her and her husband’s political coffers. They are among scores of Clinton visitors and phone contacts in her official calendar turned over by the State Department to AP last year and in more-detailed planning schedules that so far have covered about half her four-year tenure. The AP sought Clinton’s calendar and schedules three years ago, but delays led the AP to sue the State Department last year in federal court for those materials and other records.

S. Daniel Abraham, whose name also was included in emails released by the State Department as part of another lawsuit, is a Clinton fundraising bundler who was listed in Clinton’s planners for eight meetings with her at various times. A billionaire behind the Slim-Fast diet and founder of the Center for Middle East Peace, Abraham told the AP last year his talks with Clinton concerned Mideast issues.

Big Clinton Foundation donors with no history of political giving to the Clintons also met or talked by phone with Hillary Clinton and top aides, AP’s review showed.

Muhammad Yunus, a Bangladeshi economist who won the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize for pioneering low-interest “microcredit” for poor business owners, met with Clinton three times and talked with her by phone during a period when Bangladeshi government authorities investigated his oversight of a nonprofit bank and ultimately pressured him to resign from the bank’s board. Throughout the process, he pleaded for help in messages routed to Clinton, and she ordered aides to find ways to assist him.

American affiliates of his nonprofit Grameen Bank had been working with the Clinton Foundation’s Clinton Global Initiative programs as early as 2005, pledging millions of dollars in microloans for the poor. Grameen America, the bank’s nonprofit U.S. flagship, which Yunus chairs, has given between $100,000 and $250,000 to the foundation — a figure that bank spokeswoman Becky Asch said reflects the institution’s annual fees to attend CGI meetings. Another Grameen arm chaired by Yunus, Grameen Research, has donated between $25,000 and $50,000.

As a U.S. senator from New York, Clinton, as well as then-Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry and two other senators in 2007 sponsored a bill to award a congressional gold medal to Yunus. He got one but not until 2010, a year after Obama awarded him a Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Yunus first met with Clinton in Washington in April 2009. That was followed six months later by an announcement by USAID, the State Department’s foreign aid arm, that it was partnering with the Grameen Foundation, a nonprofit charity run by Yunus, in a $162 million commitment to extend its microfinance concept abroad. USAID also began providing loans and grants to the Grameen Foundation, totaling $2.2 million over Clinton’s tenure.

By September 2009, Yunus began complaining to Clinton’s top aides about what he perceived as poor treatment by Bangladesh’s government. His bank was accused of financial mismanagement of Norwegian government aid money — a charge that Norway later dismissed as baseless. But Yunus told Melanne Verveer, a long-time Clinton aide who was an ambassador-at-large for global women’s issues, that Bangladesh officials refused to meet with him and asked the State Department for help in pressing his case.

“Please see if the issues of Grameen Bank can be raised in a friendly way,” he asked Verveer. Yunus sent “regards to H” and cited an upcoming Clinton Global Initiative event he planned to attend.

Clinton ordered an aide: “Give to EAP rep,” referring the problem to the agency’s top east Asia expert.

Yunus continued writing to Verveer as pressure mounted on his bank. In December 2010, responding to a news report that Bangladesh’s prime minister was urging an investigation of Grameen Bank, Clinton told Verveer that she wanted to discuss the matter with her East Asia expert “ASAP.”

Clinton called Yunus in March 2011 after the Bangladesh government opened an inquiry into his oversight of Grameen Bank. Yunus had told Verveer by email that “the situation does not allow me to leave the country.” By mid-May, the Bangladesh government had forced Yunus to step down from the bank’s board. Yunus sent Clinton a copy of his resignation letter. In a separate note to Verveer, Clinton wrote: “Sad indeed.”

Clinton met with Yunus a second time in Washington in August 2011 and again in the Bangladesh capital of Dhaka in May 2012. Clinton’s arrival in Bangladesh came after Bangladesh authorities moved to seize control of Grameen Bank’s effort to find new leaders. Speaking to a town hall audience, Clinton warned the Bangladesh government that “we do not want to see any action taken that would in any way undermine or interfere in the operations of the Grameen Bank.”

Grameen America’s Asch referred other questions about Yunus to his office, but he had not responded by Tuesday.

Earlier this month, State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau acknowledged that agency officials are “regularly in touch with a range of outside individuals and organizations, including nonprofits, NGOs, think tanks and others.” But Trudeau said the State Department was not aware of any actions that were influenced by the Clinton Foundation.

In another case, Clinton was host at a September 2009 breakfast meeting at the New York Stock Exchange that listed Blackstone Group chairman Stephen Schwarzman as one of the attendees. Schwarzman’s firm is a major Clinton Foundation donor, but he personally donates heavily to GOP candidates and causes. One day after the breakfast, according to Clinton emails, the State Department was working on a visa issue at Schwarzman’s request. In December that same year, Schwarzman’s wife, Christine, sat at Clinton’s table during the Kennedy Center Honors. Clinton also introduced Schwarzman, then chairman of the Kennedy Center, before he spoke.

Blackstone donated between $250,000 and $500,000 to the Clinton Foundation. Eight Blackstone executives also gave between $375,000 and $800,000 to the foundation. And Blackstone’s charitable arm has pledged millions of dollars in commitments to three Clinton Global aid projects ranging from the U.S. to the Mideast. Blackstone officials did not make Schwarzman available for comment.

Clinton also met in June 2011 with Nancy Mahon of the MAC AIDS, the charitable arm of MAC Cosmetics, which is owned by Estee Lauder. The meeting occurred before an announcement about a State Department partnership to raise money to finance AIDS education and prevention. The public-private partnership was formed to fight gender-based violence in South Africa, the State Department said at the time.

The MAC AIDS fund donated between $5 million and $10 million to the Clinton Foundation. In 2008, Mahon and the MAC AIDS fund made a three-year unspecified commitment to the Clinton Global Initiative. That same year, the fund partnered with two other organizations to beef up a USAID program in Malawi and Ghana. And in 2011, the fund was one of eight organizations to pledge a total of $2 million over a three-year period to help girls in southern Africa. The fund has not made a commitment to CGI since 2011.

Estee Lauder executive Fabrizio Freda also met with Clinton at the same Wall Street event attended by Schwarzman. Later that month, Freda was on a list of attendees for a meeting between Clinton and a U.S.-China trade group. Estee Lauder has given between $100,000 and $250,000 to the Clinton Foundation. The company made a commitment to CGI in 2013 with four other organizations to help survivors of sexual slavery in Cambodia.

MAC AIDs officials did not make Mahon available to AP for comment.

When Clinton appeared before the U.S. Senate in early 2009 for her confirmation hearing as secretary of state, then- Sen. Richard Lugar, a Republican from Indiana, questioned her at length about the foundation and potential conflicts of interest. His concerns were focused on foreign government donations, mostly to CGI. Lugar wanted more transparency than was ultimately agreed upon between the foundation and Obama’s transition team.

Now, Lugar hopes Hillary and Bill Clinton make a clean break from the foundation.

“The Clintons, as they approach the presidency, if they are successful, will have to work with their attorneys to make certain that rules of the road are drawn up to give confidence to them and the American public that there will not be favoritism,” Lugar said.

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Bahrain, a Brutal Clinton Donor, Enjoyed ‘Expedited’ Access

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton shakes hands with Crown Prince of Bahrain Sheikh Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa in Washington, May 9, 2012.

 U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton shakes hands with Crown Prince of Bahrain Sheikh Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa in Washington, May 9, 2012. | Photo: AFP
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New emails show Bahrain’s crown prince enjoyed easy access to former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Newly released emails from Hillary Clinton’s time as U.S. secretary of state reveal that her staff helped grant access to Clinton Foundation donors, including the Bahraini al-Khalifa monarchy accused of killing and torturing hundreds of people during the 2011 Arab Spring-inspired uprising there. The monarchy of Bahrain – which hosts a major U.S. military base that’s home to the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet as well as CENTCOM – gave the foundation US$32 million.

RELATED:
Clinton’s Wall Street Donors Literally Sipping Cocktails over Sanders Defeat

Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group that released the documents on Monday, said in a statement that the emails show Clinton aide Huma Abedin “provided influential Clinton Foundation donors special, expedited access to the secretary of state.”

The emails show that top Clinton Foundation official Doug Band sent an email to Abedin in June 2009 saying that Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, the crown prince of Bahrain, was coming to the Washington for two days and seeking a meeting with Clinton, noting he is a “good friend of ours.” Abedin wrote back that the crown prince had asked to see Clinton through “normal channels.”

She added: “I asked and she said she doesn’t want to commit to anything for thurs or fri until she knows how she will feel. Also she says that she may want to go to ny and doesn’t want to be committed to stuff in ny.”

Two days later, Abedin wrote to Band saying they were offering up a morning meeting between Clinton and the crown prince. “If u see him, let him know. We have reached out thru official channels,” she wrote to Band.

The foundation’s site says the Crown Prince’s International Scholarship Program pledged US$32 million for the foundation’s Clinton Global Initiative program.

The small kingdom of Bahrain faced massive protests at the height of the Arab Spring in 2011, with up to 35 people killed following a major government crackdown on the majority Shiite population.

At the time, the U.S. expressed its support for the government. Saudi Arabia sent 1,000 troops and the United Arab Emirates sent 500 troops to aid the minority Sunni government in cracking down on the protests.

RELATED:
Major Hillary Clinton Donor Caught Up in Fresh Panama Papers Scandal

Additionally, several human rights organizations and activists accused the government of Bahrain of widespread state torture against its dissident citizens during the arrests and imprisonments.

Bahrain used the expertise of U.S. police in its crackdown on the protests. John Timoney, senior consultant for police and security matters for Andrews International, was recruited by Bahrain for police training during the protests.

Timoney, a former Miami and Philadelphia police chief, spoke to NPR in 2012 just months after the crackdown and seemed to brush off the crackdown in Bahrain as a mere concern about traffic.

“Here’s where the problem comes in. It’s a small city … clearly, if you have unauthorized protests that are happening during the daytime, I mean, the traffic comes to a standstill,” he told NPR, justifying the crackdown.

The latest revelations come as a judge ordered the U.S. State Department Monday to review for possible release 14,900 of Clinton’s emails and attachments that the FBI found when investigating her use of a private email server as secretary of state.

The judge scheduled a hearing on the release date in late September, making it possible that the emails could become public before the Nov. 8 presidential election between Democrat Clinton and her Republican rival, Donald Trump.

http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Bahrain-a-Brutal-Clinton-Donor-Enjoyed-Expedited-Access-20160822-0022.html

Related:

 (Wall Street Journal)

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