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A majority of people in the Republic of Congo get by on less than $1 a day, but money is no object for Denis Christel Sassou-Nguesso, the 24-year-old son of the country’s long-time ruler. The London-based group Global Witness has recently posted credit card bills racked up by Sassou-Nguesso,
the head of the state oil company’s marketing arm, that show he has racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in a global shopping spree. That includes stops in Paris (where he shopped at Louis Vuitton and stayed at the Bristol Hotel to Dubai (where he shopped at Rodeo Drive).
Young Sassou-Nguesso’s credit card bills were paid by Long Beach, an offshore company in Anguilla that he controls. Global Witness has found evidence that state oil revenues from the Congo have been flowing into the Long Beach account, which was established in 2004.
The Congo may be the only energy-rich nation in the world that is, more or less, shunned by the Bush Administration, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund. That gives you some idea of the level of corruption and political misrule. But the Congo does have at least one friend in Washington: Michael Ledeen, the neo-conservative champion of the Iraq War and now the Freedom Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.
A story last year in the New York Sun said that Ledeen was advising Congolese President Denis Sassou-Nguesso in his capacity as an associate at the Trout-Cacheris law firm. I checked records at the Justice Department’s Foreign Agents Registration office and found that Trout-Cacheris had been paid $1.5 million by the Congolese government through mid-2006 (records are not available beyond that date). The story in the Sun said Ledeen had known Sassou-Nguesso since the late-1980s and quoted him as saying that the Congolese ruler was a “terrific African diplomat.”
That’s a very interesting assessment, given that the same year that Ledeen was touting his friend’s diplomatic skills, Freedom House, a conservative human rights group, downgraded the Congo’s civil liberties rating “due to a steady erosion of the rule of law, including the failure of the courts to sanction high-ranking military officials for a massacre of refugees.”
More from Ken Silverstein:
Commentary — November 17, 2015, 6:41 pm
The Clintons’ so-called charitable enterprise has served as a vehicle to launder money and to enrich family friends.
i. stand with israel
I listen to a lot of conservative talk radio. Confident masculine voices telling me the enemy is everywhere and victory is near — I often find it affirming: there’s a reason I don’t think that way. Last spring, many right-wing commentators made much of a Bloomberg poll that asked Americans, “Are you more sympathetic to Netanyahu or Obama?” Republicans picked the Israeli prime minister over their own president, 67 to 16 percent. There was a lot of affected shock that things had come to this. Rush Limbaugh said of Netanyahu that he wished “we had this kind of forceful moral, ethical clarity leading our own country”; Mark Levin described him as “the leader of the free world.” For a few days there I yelled quite a bit in my car.
The one conservative radio show I do find myself enjoying is hosted by Dennis Prager. At the Thanksgiving dinner of American radio personalities (Limbaugh is your jittery brother-in-law, Michael Savage is your racist uncle, Hugh Hewitt is Hugh Hewitt) Dennis Prager is the turkey-carving patriarch trying to keep the conversation moderately high-minded. While Prager obviously doesn’t like liberals — “The gaps between the left and right on almost every issue that matters are in fact unbridgeable,” he has said — he often invites them onto his show for debate, which is rare among right-wing hosts. Yet his gently exasperated take on the Obama–Netanyahu matchup was among the least charitable: “Those who do not confront evil resent those who do.”
Pairs of moose-dung earrings sold each year at Grizzly’s Gifts in Anchorage, Alaska:
An Alaskan brown bear was reported to have scratched its face with barnacled rocks, making it the first bear seen using tools since 1972, when a Svalbardian polar bear is alleged to have clubbed a seal in the head with a block of ice.
A former prison in Philadelphia that has served as a horror-movie set was being prepared as a detention center for protesters arrested at the upcoming Democratic National Convention, and presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump fired his campaign manager.
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“Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'”