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‘Let’s play strip poker’: Fmr. Cuomo aide accuses NY governor of sexual harassment

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UPDATED AT 3:52 PM (EST) TO INCLUDE STATEMENT FROM GOV. CUOMO’S OFFICE

In an essay, a former aide to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) on Wednesday accused him of sexually harassing her, alleging that the governor engaged in unwanted kissing and touching and that his top female staffers “normalized” his behavior.

Lindsey Boylan, who is currently running for Manhattan Borough President, back in December accused Cuomo of sexual harassment for making inappropriate remarks about her appearance but at the time did not elaborate on her experiences. She worked for the Cuomo administration from March 2015 to October 2018, first as executive vice president of Empire State Development and then as a deputy secretary for economic development and special adviser to the governor.

“Let’s play strip poker,” Boylan claimed Cuomo said on a flight from an event in October 2017, according to an essay she wrote on Medium that was published Wednesday.

In the essay, Boylan shares emails and screenshots of interactions, alleging that, shortly after an event in 2016, her former boss said that Cuomo had a “crush” on her.

Boylan also writes that, during a one-on-one briefing at Cuomo’s Third Avenue office in New York City, the governor “kissed me on the lips” as she was departing.

Cuomo, according to local station WRGB via CNYCentral, told reporters that Boylan’s claims were “not true.”

Cuomo’s press secretary, Caitlin Girouard, in a statement to this reporter doubled down on denying Boylan’s claims, calling them “quite simply false.”

Challenging Boylan’s story about the October 2017 flight, citing records and statements, Girouard’s statement claimed that “there was no flight where Lindsey was alone with the Governor, a single press aide, and a NYS Trooper.”

The press secretary pointed to the manifests from that month, which documented Cuomo’s daily work and travel schedule as well as the list of people on that month’s flights.

Girouard also brought up a statement attributed to administration officials she said were all on these flights with Boylan—John Maggiore, Howard Zemsky, Dani Lever, and Abbey Fashouer Collins—saying: “We were on each of these October flights and this conversation did not happen.”

Boylan and the officials who Girouard named, according to the manifests, were on flights together during that October.

“The Governor’s behavior made me nervous,” Boylan said at another point in her blog post, “but I didn’t truly fear him until December 2016.”

That month, Boylan said the governor arranged through his “body person” to meet her in his Albany office, with her hesitantly agreeing to see him. She writes that as Cuomo was giving her an office tour, he “smirked” and showed off a cigar box he said former President Bill Clinton gave him when he served as the secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

“The two-decade old reference to President Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky was not lost on me,” Boylan writes.

Additionally, Boylan said in her essay that when she joined Cuomo’s administration in 2015, a friend who served as an executive with an influential civic engagement organization warned her: “Be careful around the Governor.”

Boylan also alleged that Cuomo’s behavior “was all so normalized — particularly by Melissa DeRosa and other top women around him — that only now do I realize how insidious his abuse was.”

DeRosa has broken national headlines recently for privately admitting on a call with Democratic lawmakers, according to a February 11 New York Post report, that Cuomo’s administration withheld data about coronavirus-related deaths at New York nursing homes out of fear that it would be “used against us” by federal prosecutors.

RELATED: Report: Cuomo went after state Dem lawmaker for criticism over COVID-19 nursing home deaths

RELATED: ‘The bullying is nothing new’: de Blasio unleashes on Gov. Cuomo after lawmaker says he was threatened

In recent weeks, the administration revealed that 15,000 long-term care residents have died, up from the 8,500 previously disclosed, according to NBC News.

On March 25, when New York State found itself at the center of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, Cuomo ordered nursing homes to take in COVID-positive patients, which many have argued caused the thousands of coronavirus-related nursing home deaths. The order has since been rescinded.

Late last month, state Attorney General Letitia James (D) published a report showing that the number of nursing home deaths “may have been undercounted by as much as 50%.”

Currently, the U.S. attorney in Brooklyn and the FBI are investigating the Cuomo administration’s handling of the nursing home death data.

Cuomo has denied the reports and accusations that his administration covered up the nursing home numbers, saying last Friday: “It is a lie to say any numbers were inaccurate. […] Total deaths were always reported to nursing homes and hospitals.”

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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China Expands Charm Offensive in Southeast Asia to Squeeze out U.S.

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Similar to what is happening in the Pacific, the US is facing a significant uphill battle to balance China’s rise in Southeast Asia. During the recent G20 and ASEAN summits in Indonesia and Cambodia, the Chinese Community Party (CCP) media upped its propaganda war against the United States over Southeast Asia. Outlets like Global Times and Xinhua claim that China’s interests in Southeast Asia are focused on mutual benefits, while the US is a malicious force in the region. The CCP press also claims that China is generously giving robust and purposeful aid to the Southeast Asian countries, while the US is neglecting them.

Claim #1: China’s Interest in Southeast Asia is Peaceful and Mutually Beneficial

China’s approach to Southeast Asia is benevolent and focused on mutual benefits, according to the CCP-run press. “China’s goal is to achieve a truly prosperous and peaceful ASEAN,” and “doesn’t interfere in ASEAN members’ internal affairs,” according to Global Times. “China focuses on pragmatic issues, such as promoting infrastructure construction, living standards, which are needed in those countries,” and “China is seeking a cooperative path toward common development,” according to another Global Times article. That same article quoted Chinese Premier Li Keqiang as stating that China and the ASEAN countries “are good neighbors who will always be there for each other…”

One country that is particularly thankful for growing Chinese influence, according to the CCP press, is Indonesia. Indonesians want China to “lead…the world to a more peaceful and prosperous future,” and view Chinese President Xi Jinping “with an apparent sense of affability and affection,” according to Global Times. Marzuki Alie, former speaker of the People’s Representative Council of Indonesia, praised China as “becom[ing] essential in improving global governance,” and that “the visionary concept of building a human community with a shared future proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping shows China is willing to work with other countries to create a peaceful and secure world with openness and inclusiveness,” according to Xinhua. And perhaps the most perplexing aspect of China’s “benevolence” in Indonesia is the “Peace Ark” – a hospital ship that has recently docked in Indonesia, but that is also a navy ship run by China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA), according to Global Times.

Malaysia has a favorable view of China as well, according to the CCP press. Koh King Kee, president of Center for New Inclusive Asia, a Malaysian think tank, stated that “China is the backbone of the global supply chain and acts as a ballast stone of the global economy in times of uncertainty,” according to Xinhua.

And in response to US concerns over rising Chinese influence in Cambodia’s Ream Naval Base, Chinese Ambassador to Cambodia Wang Wentian dismisses the base as not targeting any third party, according to Global Times. Cambodia’s Minister of National Defense Tea Banh further claimed that the Chinese involvement in that base is benevolent, stating that the base helps Cambodia “in cooperating with friendly countries and help[ing to] maintain regional peace, stability and prosperity,” according to that same article.

Claim #2: The US’ Interest in Southeast Asia is Manipulative, Malevolent

In contrast to China’s benevolence, the United States “only wants [ASEAN] to serve as its pawn to counter China, and to fulfill its own hegemony goal, according to Global Times. At the G20 conference in Bali, the US takes a “hegemonic, unilateral and protectionist approach,” and “is preaching war and confrontation,” according to that same article.

The US and the West are merely using the G20 summit in Bali “to advance their own geopolitical agenda against Russia, therefore preventing the crucial meeting from tackling serious economic issues,” according to another Global Times article. “Such a geopolitical focus “will worsen this uncertain and unstable world,” according to Veronika S. Saraswati, China Study Unit Convener at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies Indonesia.

According to another Global Times article, the US is using ASEAN “to drive a wedge between China and Southeast Asian nations in the future,” is attempting to “rope in the region via political, security, and value-oriented agendas,” and is trying “to buy off” Southeast Asian countries “by pledging to spend certain amount[s] of money.”

Claim #3: China gives Robust, Targeted Aid to Southeast Asia

CCP media taunts the extensive aid that China is giving to Southeast Asian countries. China has pledged $1.5 billion in “development assistance” to ASEAN countries in November 2021, and Chinese-ASEAN trade was about $878 billion in 2021, according to Global Times. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang claims that of the 160 “cooperation initiatives” that China has suggested with the ASEAN countries in the previous 10 years, over 99.5 percent of them have been implemented, as reported by another Global Times article.

Li also stated that China is planning to build emergency storage for medical supplies and rise within the ASEAN Plus Three (China, Japan and South Korea) framework, according to Global Times.

Chinese state-run media is particularly touting China’s Belt and Road investments in Southeast Asia, particularly in Indonesia and Laos. According to Global Times, the Jakarta-Bandung high speed railway will be operational in June 2023, and as a “flagship project of China-Indonesia cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative,” will be the first high speed train in Southeast Asia, according to Xinhua. China’s ambassador to Indonesia praised the project, claiming that the railway “will greatly reduce traffic jams, make travel more convenient for local people, improve local investment environment, boost businesses and tourism along the route, and accelerate the building of a high speed railway economic corridor.” The ambassador also mentioned that existing Belt and Road initiatives with Indonesia like the Indonesia Morowali Industrial Park and the PT Virtue Dragon Nickel Industry Park, “have generated tax incomes, job opportunities and foreign exchange earnings, and provided Indonesia with opportunities for greater participation in global industrial chains of stainless steel and new energy.”

Meanwhile, Global Times asserts that the China-Laos Railway has generated at least $1.7 billion in trade and has transported almost 10 million tons of goods.

Claim #4: US Investment Lags Behind China

On the other hand, the CCP media claims that the US is lagging far behind Chinese investments in Southeast Asia. President Biden’s newly announced “Comprehensive Strategic Partnership” with the ASEAN countries “…looks more like a symbolic act. The US is playing the catch-up game with China,” according to Koh King Kee, president of a Malaysian think tank, according to Global Times.

US and ASEAN trade, at $441 million in 2021, was almost half that of Chinese investment for that same time, according to Global Times. President Biden pledged to ask Congress for $850 million in aid for electric vehicles and clean energy to ASEAN countries, but this amount is “symbolic” and a “mere ‘drop in the bucket’,” according to Global Times. In May, Biden “announced a $150 million development and security package” for the ASEAN countries according to that same article, which pales in comparison to the amounts in aid that China claims it is giving those same countries.

According to Global Times, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang mentioned that US investment in ASEAN is “a drop in the bucket if compared to US support for Ukraine” during the Biden administration, which Global Times claims is “over $18.9 billion in security assistance.”

Conclusion

CCP media is waging a charm offensive targeting Southeast Asia. While China is investing heavily in these countries, the US has yet to devise a credible counter to such influence.

You can follow Steve Postal on @HebraicMosaic 

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