Rachel Olding Breaking News Editor
Billionaire rapper and shoe designer Kanye West’s company has received a multimillion-dollar loan as part of the federal government’s coronavirus stimulus package, according to records released Thursday by the U.S. Treasury’s Small Business Administration.
The money was handed out in the latest round of the Paycheck Protection Program, part of the Trump administration’s $2 trillion CARES Act designed to provide economic relief to small businesses during the coronavirus pandemic.
Yeezy LLC, a California company, is listed in the Treasury’s log as a recipient of a loan worth between $2 million and $5 million. The company self-identified as being male-owned and a Black or African-American business. It said 160 jobs were saved using the loan.
California business records list Kanye West as the manager of Yeezy LLC, a holding company established in Delaware and run out of a La Palma, California, office. West’s Yeezy sneaker empire reportedly made $1.5 billion last year.
West’s loan poses major questions of conflict of interest, given West’s outspoken support for President Donald Trump, his multiple visits to the White House, and the outrageously lavish lifestyle he leads with wife Kim Kardashian West.
Both he and his wife have celebrated attaining billionaire status recently. After being effectively broke years ago, West turned his fortunes around with his best-selling Yeezy sneakers and attained billionaire status in April, according to Forbes.
Last week, his wife claimed to be a billionaire, too. “I am so proud of my beautiful wife Kim Kardashian West for officially becoming a billionaire,” West tweeted, alongside a photo of some vegetables.
PPP loans, available for companies with fewer than 500 employees, are written off by the government if companies spend the money on eligible costs and retain a certain percentage of staff during the pandemic.
The list of 40,000 companies to receive loans of $150,000 and above was made public on Monday after complaints from Democrats that previous rounds of funding were not transparent.
The program has been plagued with issues, from digital portals that crashed as soon as applications opened, to banks prioritizing their biggest customers, to Trump-friendly companies receiving big loans. Several large companies, like Shake Shack and Harvard, returned loans after attracting negative publicity.
Loans of $150,000 and above represent about 13 percent of all loans approved but about three quarters of total loan dollars approved, according to CNBC.
Yeezy LLC has been contacted for comment.
By ROB GILLIES Associated Press
July 6, 2020, 2:39 PM 2 min read
TORONTO — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has turned down a White House invitation to celebrate the new regional free trade agreement in Washington with U.S President Donald Trump and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
Trump and López Obrador are due to meet Wednesday Washington, but Trudeau spokesperson Chantal Gagnon said Monday that while Canada wishes the U.S. and Mexico well, Trudeau won’t be there.
“While there were recent discussions about the possible participation of Canada, the prime minister will be in Ottawa this week for scheduled Cabinet meetings and the long-planned sitting of Parliament,” Gagnon said.
Trudeau is conducting online Cabinet meetings instead of in person meetings because of the coronavirus pandemic.
A senior U.S. administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to be quoted by name, said Trudeau had multiple conflicts related to the start of Parliament and coronavirus regulations which require Canadians who travel abroad to quarantine for 14 days on return. The official said Trudeau has asked to speak with Trump by phone.
Trudeau later spoke with López Obrador by phone and wished him a successful meeting with Trump, the prime minister’s office said.
Gagnon said the new treaty that took effect on July 1 “is good for Canada, the United States and Mexico. It will help ensure that North America emerges stronger from the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Nelson Wiseman, a political science professor at the University of Toronto, said Trudeau has less to lose by shunning Trump now that the new treaty is in effect.
“Trudeau losses in Canadian public opinion to be seen chumming with the very unpopular Trump,” Wiseman said. “Trudeau can afford to wait out Trump’s presidency now with less than four months to the U.S. election. Trudeau will still be power after the election, Trump much less likely so.”
Associated Press reporter Jill Colvin in Washington contributed to this report.
European Union officials eliminated the US early while deciding which countries to allow in for the bloc’s initial reopening this week, NBC News reported Thursday, citing three diplomats.
The diplomats, who spoke under the condition of anonymity, said the decision over which countries to reopen to was strictly based on epidemiological data.
So the US, which is grappling with the most coronavirus cases in the world, was never going to make the cut, they said.
“The US was never going to make it,” one of the diplomats told NBC News. “Just look at their coronavirus situation.”
The diplomats said the cuts were made by eliminating countries in multiple rounds, rather than evaluating on a country-by-country basis.
To pass the first round, countries’ rates of new coronavirus cases had to be the same as or lower than the EU’s average over a two-week period.
At the time, the EU rate was 15 cases per 100,000 residents. The US rate was almost 10 times as high: 145 cases per 100,000.
For this reason, the US didn’t even make it to round two, in which countries were evaluated on whether their infection rate was increasing or decreasing and on how reliable their government was at tackling the virus.
This looked at, for example, the accuracy of a country’s coronavirus reporting and availability of testing.
Fifteen countries made the list allowing residents to travel to the EU’s member states starting Thursday.
Among the countries that made the list are China, where the pandemic started, and the US’s northern neighbor, Canada.
The decision not to open the EU to travelers from the US will no doubt have an impact on Europe’s tourism industry, but the diplomats said they never took that into consideration.
“If we started talking about making exceptions for countries that provide a lot of tourism, even if they have a lot of coronavirus cases, that would not be the right approach,” one EU diplomat told NBC News.
A poll conducted in late April and early May found that majorities of people in numerous European countries including Germany, France, Spain, Denmark, and Portugal had lost trust in the US because of its response to the pandemic.
European health experts have also been stunned by the US’s slow response to its outbreak, as Business Insider’s Tom Porter reported.
LATEST UPDATES 7 hours ago The coronavirus pandemic
- The UK has put the US on its unsafe travel ‘red list’ because of the surge of coronavirus cases across America.
- EU diplomats say they barely considered letting Americans in for Europe’s reopening: ‘The US was never going to make it.’
- The US broke its April record for daily new coronavirus infections at least 4 times in the last 7 days, according to data from the CDC.
- The White House repeatedly denied the CDC permission to brief the public on the coronavirus, report says.
- Coronavirus cases are rising in 40 out of 50 US states. Experts say the Fourth of July holiday would make it worse.
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There are currently roughly 7,500 US military personnel, including 1,000 contractors, deployed in Africa. For comparison, that figure was only 6,000 just a year ago.
round 200,000 US troops are stationed in 177 countries throughout the world. Those forces utilize several hundred military installations. Africa is no exemption. On August 2, Maj. Gen. Roger L. Cloutier took command of US Army Africa, promising to “hit the ground running.”
The US is not waging any wars in Africa but it has a significant presence on the continent. Navy SEALs, Green Berets, and other special ops are currently conducting nearly 100 missions across 20 African countries at any given time, waging secret, limited-scale operations. According to the magazine Vice, US troops are now conducting 3,500 exercises and military engagements throughout Africa per year, an average of 10 per day — an astounding 1,900% increase since the command rolled out 10 years ago. Many activities described as “advise and assist” are actually indistinguishable from combat by any basic definition.
There are currently roughly 7,500 US military personnel, including 1,000 contractors, deployed in Africa. For comparison, that figure was only 6,000 just a year ago. The troops are strung throughout the continent spread across 53 countries. There are 54 countries on the “Dark Continent.” More than 4,000 service members have converged on East Africa. The US troop count in Somalia doubled last year.
When AFRICOM was created there were no plans to establish bases or put boots on the ground. Today, a network of small staging bases or stations have cropped up. According to investigative journalist Nick Turse, “US military bases (including forward operating sites, cooperative security locations, and contingency locations) in Africa number around fifty, at least.” US troops in harm’s way in Algeria, Burundi, Chad, Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan Tunisia, and Uganda qualify for extra pay.
The US African Command (AFRICOM) runs drone surveillance programs, cross-border raids, and intelligence. AFRICOM has claimed responsibility for development, public health, professional and security training, and other humanitarian tasks. Officials from the Departments of State, Homeland Security, Agriculture, Energy, Commerce, and Justice, among other agencies, are involved in AFRICOM activities. Military attachés outnumber diplomats at many embassies across Africa.
Last October, four US soldiers lost their lives in Niger. The vast majority of Americans probably had no idea that the US even had troops participating in combat missions in Africa before the incident took place. One serviceman was reported dead in Somalia in June. The Defense Department is mulling plans to “right-size” special operations missions in Africa and reassign troops to other regions, aligning the efforts with the security priorities defined by the 2018 National Defense Strategy. That document prioritizes great power competition over defeating terrorist groups in remote corners of the globe. Roughly 1,200 special ops troops on missions in Africa are looking at a drawdown. But it has nothing to do with leaving or significantly cutting back. And the right to unilaterally return will be reserved. The infrastructure is being expanded enough to make it capable of accommodating substantial reinforcements. The construction work is in progress. The bases will remain operational and their numbers keep on rising.
A large drone base in Agadez, the largest city in central Niger, is reported to be under construction. The facility will host armed MQ-9 Reaper drones which will finally take flight in 2019. The MQ-9 Reaper has a range of 1,150 miles, allowing it to provide strike support and intelligence-gathering capabilities across West and North Africa from this new base outside of Agadez. It can carry GBU-12 Paveway II bombs. The aircraft features synthetic aperture radar for integrating GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions. The armament suite can include four Hellfire air-to-ground anti-armor and anti-personnel missiles. There are an estimated 800 US troops on the ground in Niger, along with one drone base and the base in Agadez that is being built. The Hill called it “the largest US Air Force-led construction project of all time.”
According to Business Insider, “The US military presence here is the second largest in Africa behind the sole permanent US base on the continent, in the tiny Horn of Africa nation of Djibouti.” Four thousand American servicemen are stationed at Camp Lemonnier (the US base located near Djibouti City) — a critical strategic base for the American military because of its port and its proximity to the Middle East.
Officially, the camp is the only US base on the continent or, as AFRICOM calls it, “a forward operating site,” — the others are “cooperative security locations” or “non-enduring contingency locations.” Camp Lemonnier is the hub of a network of American drone bases in Africa that are used for aerial attacks against insurgents in Yemen, Nigeria, and Somalia, as well as for exercising control over the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait. In 2014, the US signed a new 20-year lease on the base with the Djiboutian government, and committed over $1.4 billion to modernize and expand the facility in the years to come.
In March, the US and Ghana signed a military agreement outlining the conditions of the US military presence in that nation, including its construction activities. The news was met with protests inside the country.
It should be noted that the drone attacks that are regularly launched in Africa are in violation of US law. The Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), adopted after Sept. 11, 2001, states that the president is authorized to use force against the planners of those attacks and those who harbor them. But that act does not apply to the rebel groups operating in Africa.
It’s hard to believe that the US presence will be really diminished, and there is no way to know, as too many aspects of it are shrouded in secrecy with nothing but “leaks” emerging from time to time. It should be noted that the documents obtained by TomDispatch under the United States Freedom of Information Act contradict AFRICOM’s official statements about the scale of US military bases around the world, including 36 AFRICOM bases in 24 African countries that have not been previously disclosed in official reports.
The US foothold in Africa is strong. It’s almost ubiquitous. Some large sites under construction will provide the US with the ability to host large aircraft and accommodate substantial forces and their hardware. This all prompts the still-unanswered question — “Where does the US have troops in Africa, and why?” One thing is certain — while waging an intensive drone war, the US is building a vast military infrastructure for a large-scale ground war on the continent.
Top Photo | U.S. Air Force, soldiers of the East Africa Response Force (EARF) depart from a U.S. Air Force C-130 Hercules in Juba, South Sudan, Dec. 21, 2013 (AP/U.S. Air Force, Tech. Sgt. Micah Theurich)