The Associated Press revealed a harrowing in-depth investigation on Monday that exposed rape and abuse in palm oil fields in Malaysia and neighboring Indonesia, which together produce 85 percent of the world’s most versatile vegetable oil.
“Palm oil is found in everything from potato chips and pills to pet food, and also ends up in the supply chains of some of the biggest names in the $530 billion beauty business, including L’Oréal, Unilever, Procter & Gamble, Avon and Johnson & Johnson, helping women around the world feel pampered and beautiful,” the AP reported.
It was the “first comprehensive investigation focusing on the brutal treatment of women in the production of palm oil, including the hidden scourge of sexual abuse, ranging from verbal harassment and threats to rape. It’s part of a larger in-depth look at the industry that exposed widespread abuses in the two countries, including human trafficking, child labor and outright slavery.”
“Almost every plantation has problems related to labor,” said Hotler Parsaoran of the Indonesian nonprofit group Sawit Watch, which has conducted extensive investigations into abuses in the palm oil sector. “But the conditions of female workers are far worse than men.”
More than three dozen women and girls from at least 12 companies across Indonesia and Malaysia were interviewed for the AP investigation. They met with female AP reporters secretly within their barracks or at hotels, coffee shops or churches, sometimes late at night, usually with no men present so they could speak openly, the AP reported.
There are an estimated 7.6 million women working on plantations in Indonesia, about half the total workforce, according to the female empowerment ministry. In Malaysia, there are a large number of foreign migrants working off the books and, therefore, the total number of women working on plantations is unknown.
“From birth until now, I am still on a plantation,” said one worker, who went by the moniker Indra for fear of retaliation.
“The location of palm oil plantations makes them an ideal crime scene for rape,” said Aini Fitri, an Indonesian official from the government’s women and children’s office in West Kalimantan province. “It could be dangerous in the darkness for people, especially for women, but also because it is so quiet and remote. So even in the middle of the day, the crime can happen.”
The AP investigation goes further into detail about the beauty brands and other products containing palm oil, including Girl Scout cookies. Read more here.
@AP investigation ties child labor in palm oil industry to the supply chains of popular food brands like Oreos, Pop-Tarts, KitKat candy bars – and Girl Scout cookies. Produced with support of @mcgrawcenter https://t.co/SKkcOtmGWg
— The Associated Press (@AP) December 29, 2020
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Top House Democrat Blasts ‘Yahoos in Texas’ and ‘Negligent’ Supreme Court Over Vigilante Abortion Ban
House Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) Tuesday morning vowed to protect women’s reproductive rights, blasting the Republicans in Texas who enacted a vigilante law that effectively bans almost all abortion, and the conservatives on the Supreme Court who refused to stop them.
“Later on this week,” Rep. Jeffries said, discussing the House majority’s agenda, “we will pass legislation sponsored by Judy Chu, The Women’s Health Care Protection Act, to make it clear that women across America should have the freedom to make their own reproductive health care decisions. Shouldn’t be determined by a bunch of yahoos in Texas, and a negligent Supreme Court.”
Two Longtime Republican Operatives Indicted — and There’s a Russia Connection: Report
Reuters legal reporter Jan Wolfe revealed Monday evening that two Republican Party operatives have been indicted after helping Russians donate to political campaigns in 2016.
The Justice Department revealed in a statement that Kentucky’s Jesse Benton and Florida’s Roy Douglas “Doug” Wead were “charged with one count of conspiracy to solicit and cause an illegal campaign contribution by a foreign national, effect a conduit contribution, and cause false records to be filed with the FEC, one count of contribution by a foreign national, one count of contribution in the name of another and three counts of making false entries in an official record.”
Benton was just pardoned by former President Donald Trump for a bribery scandal while working for Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) in Iowa in 2012. In that scheme, Benton and colleague John Tate bribed state officials to change their endorsements to Paul for the Iowa Caucus.
After being pardoned for that, Benton is now being indicted again along with Wead for arranging for a Russian National who wanted to donate to a 2016 presidential campaign to be able to meet with the candidate.
Developing: Two longtime GOP operatives have been indicted. They allegedly helped a Russian make a campaign contribution to Trump in 2016.
One of the defendants, Jesse Benton, managed campaigns for Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell. He got a Trump pardon (for an unrelated scheme). pic.twitter.com/DWiTuJJsxa
— Jan Wolfe (@JanNWolfe) September 20, 2021
“Benton reached out to individuals at Political Committee B, the national party committee for Political Candidate 1’s political party,” the indictment explains. “He then arranged for Foreign National 1 to attend a political fundraising event and get a photograph with Political Candidate 1, in exchange for a political contribution to Political Committee C, a joint fundraising committee comprised of the campaign committee for Political Candidate 1, Political Committee B, and related state committees. Foreign National 1 ultimately wired $100,000 to Company A, a political consulting firm owned by Benton.”
He then tried to disguise the wire transfer by labeling it “consulting services” and crafted a “cover story.”
Wead went to the fundraiser with the foreign national Sept. 22, 2016 with a translator (Foreign National 2). They all three had their photos taken with the candidate.
“Following the event, Benton repeatedly represented to a consultant working for Political Committee B and Political Committee C that he had already sent the promised contribution for the event, but in actuality he delayed sending the contribution,” said the DOJ. “Benton ultimately filled out a contributor form, indicated that he was the contributor, and used a personal credit card to make a $25,000 contribution. Benton retained the remaining $75,000 of Foreign National 1’s money. Because Benton falsely claimed to have given the contribution himself, three different political committees unwittingly filed reports with the FEC that inaccurately reported Benton, rather than Foreign National 1, as the source of the funds.”
Legal Experts and Critics Slam Justice Clarence Thomas for ‘Speaking Out Against Something He Is Actively Doing’
Critics are observing Constitution Day by responding to remarks U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas made on Thursday, when he blasted the media for criticizing decisions from the nation’s highest court and warning federal judges to not wade in to political discussions.
“When we begin to venture into the legislative or executive branch lanes, those of us, particularly in the federal judiciary with lifetime appointments, are asking for trouble,” Justice Thomas said, CNN’s Supreme Court reporter Ariane de Vogue reports, ironically observing that Justice Thomas made those remarks “during a sweeping lecture at the University of Notre Dame that also touched on themes of equality, race and the state of the country.”
The CNN report adds:
Of all the members of the high court, Thomas has made his views on Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that legalized abortion across the US, crystal clear. In 2007, he said that he believed that Roe and the follow-up decision called Planned Parenthood v. Casey had “no basis in the Constitution.” And in 2020, he said that Roe is “grievously wrong for many reasons, but the most fundamental is that its core holding — that the Constitution protects a woman’s right to abort her unborn child — finds no support in the text of the Fourteenth Amendment.”
Thomas also on Thursday “seemed to nod to the controversy” of “so-called court packing”:
“We have lost the capacity” as leaders “to not allow others to manipulate our institutions when we don’t get the outcomes that we like,” he said.
In rare public remarks, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas told a Notre Dame crowd, “I think the court was thought to be the least dangerous branch, and we may have become the most dangerous.” pic.twitter.com/EHK2pEGWdB
— The Recount (@therecount) September 17, 2021
Critics, including legal experts are weighing on on Justice Thomas’s remarks, blasting him for, as Daily Beast editor-at-large Molly Jong-Fast says, “speaking out against something he is actively doing.”
Keith Boykin, a CNN political commentator who earned his law degree at Harvard and served in the Clinton White House was even more pointed:
“Clarence Thomas didn’t seem too worried about ‘destroying our institutions’ when he cast the deciding vote to make Bush president in 2000 or to gut the Voting Rights Act in 2013 or when he sat silently from 2017-2021 as Trump trashed our institutions.”
Dr. Miranda Yaver, a political science professor (US law, public policy, health policy) at Oberlin blasted Justice Thomas, saying that “claiming that the Supreme Court isn’t political is nonsense and we all know it. FWIW, whenever I teach Constitutional Law and students go, ‘Who in the hell would write that opinion??’ the answer is invariably Clarence Thomas.”
Norman Ornstein, a political scientist and resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), laughed:
Clarence Thomas, whose rulings in key cases mysteriously always conform with his political and partisan preferences, says the justices do not make decisions based on politics. Hahahahaha https://t.co/Sxk1VVh0v2
— Norman Ornstein (@NormOrnstein) September 17, 2021
VOX senior correspondent Ian Millhiser, author of “The Agenda: How a Republican Supreme Court is Reshaping America,” also criticizes Thomas’s apparent hypocrisy:
Clarence Thomas believes that federal child labor laws are unconstitutional. Literally the only thing this troll has ever done in his entire career is try to burn down institutions. https://t.co/aSYdkxrmd9
— Ian Millhiser (@imillhiser) September 17, 2021
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