News, July 2nd

China, pro-Beijing activists condemn ‘meddling’ in Hong Kong

China’s government and pro-Beijing activists in Hong Kong condemned what they called foreign meddling in the territory’s affairs on Thursday, as countries moved to offer Hong Kongers refuge and impose sanctions on China over a new security law.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said no amount of pressure from external forces could “shake China’s determination and will to safeguard national sovereignty and Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability.”

He urged the U.S. to abide by international law and stop interfering in Hong Kong’s affairs, and not sign a sanction bill into law.

His comments came after the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday joined the Senate in approving a bill to rebuke China over its crackdown in Hong Kong by imposing sanctions on groups that undermine the city’s autonomy or restrict freedoms promised to its residents.

If the bill becomes law, “China will definitely take strong countermeasures, and all consequences will be borne by the U.S. side,” Zhao said at a daily briefing.

Meanwhile, dozens of pro-Beijing activists and lawmakers protested outside the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong to demand that the U.S. stop meddling. The group said it gathered 1.6 million signatures online in support of its call.

Tam Yiu-Chung, Hong Kong’s sole delegate to the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, said on public broadcaster RTHK on Thursday that the new security law imposed by Beijing on Hong Kong was not harsh. If it were, no one would dare violate the law, he said.

His comments came a day after thousands of protesters marched against the security law, which took effect in Hong Kong late Tuesday.

The security law outlaws secessionist, subversive and terrorist acts, as well as any collusion with foreign forces in intervening in the city’s affairs. Critics say the law effectively ends the “one country, two systems” framework under which the city was promised a high degree of autonomy when it reverted from British to Chinese rule in 1997.

The maximum punishment for serious offenses under the legislation is life imprisonment, and suspects in certain cases may be sent to stand trial on the mainland if Beijing deems that it has jurisdiction.

The law takes aim at actions that occurred during anti-government protests last year. It says destruction of government facilities and utilities would be considered subversive, while damaging public transportation facilities and arson would constitute acts of terrorism.

About 370 people were arrested during and after Wednesday’s protests, including 10 on suspicion of violating the new security law. Some of those arrested allegedly possessed materials that advocated Hong Kong’s independence.

Hong Kong police arrested a man on a London-bound flight early Thursday on suspicion of having stabbed a police officer in the arm during Wednesday’s protests.

The 24-year-old man, surnamed Wong, was arrested on a Cathay Pacific flight after police received an anonymous tip-off about his travel plans, police said.

Wong had purchased a ticket on Wednesday and boarded the flight with no check-in luggage, police said. He did not respond to the crew when they called him by name and was not in his designated seat. Police identified him after conducting a sweep of the plane.

Meanwhile, two protesters were sentenced to four weeks in jail on Thursday for vandalizing a ticketing machine at a rail station in September last year. They were among nearly 9,000 arrests by police in connection with the anti-government protests between last June and May this year.

The central government’s passage of the security law for Hong Kong has triggered concern from the territory’s former colonial ruler, Britain, and other countries.

Britain announced Wednesday that it is extending residency rights for up to 3 million Hong Kongers eligible for British National Overseas passports, stressing that it would uphold its historic duty to its former colony. Those eligible will be able to live and work in the U.K. for five years before applying for settled status and then again for citizenship.

Zhao, the foreign ministry spokesman, condemned the move, saying that before the return of Hong Kong to China, Britain had made a commitment not to grant BNO holders the right of abode in the U.K.

“All Hong Kong compatriots, including those holding British National Overseas passports, are Chinese citizens,” Zhao said. “The British have violated their own commitment by now allowing BNO passport holders the option of staying and naturalizing in the U.K.”

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Thursday his government is considering a similar move to provide a “safe haven” to Hong Kongers, and Taiwan opened an office to help Hong Kongers move to Taiwan for employment and other purposes.

CRST sues Trump

The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, headquartered here, filed suit June 23 against U.S. President Donald Trump and a raft of federal officials to stop them from allegedly colluding in interference with the exercise of sovereign rights to operate Indian reservation highway checkpoints for Covid-19 pandemic safety.

The filing took place the day after Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Chair Harold Frazier received a letter from Washington vowing a federal takeover of the tribe’s law enforcement office “in 24 hours,” if the tribe didn’t restructure its police department according to specifications.

The letter was from Charles Addington, whose title is U.S. Interior Department Bureau of Indian Affairs Director of the Office of Justice Services.

Nicole Ducheneaux, attorney for the tribe in the case, responded, “The tribe’s law enforcement funding was pulled in middle of the coronavirus pandemic, leaving an already vulnerable population to deal with yet another health and safety crisis.”

Leading up to this, a conflict had been brewing for months over the checkpoints, which are fiercely defended by tribal members and adamantly opposed by state as well as federal officials.

“Astonishingly, the tribe’s efforts to protects its people with health safety checkpoints became a political flashpoint in the state of South Dakota, inspiring Gov. Kristi Noem to issue a series of ultimatums to the tribe,” the lawsuit states.

“When the tribe did not capitulate to Governor Noem’s demands, she escalated her offensive to the White House, seeking federal government assistance in her quest to shut down the tribe’s health safety checkpoints,” it documents.

Noem sent a letter to Trump on May 20 requesting that he unleashes federal authority to remove the roadside health inspection stations.

“Since Governor Noem’s White House plea, all named defendants have worked in concert, abusing the power of the federal government, to coerce the tribe to dismantle its comprehensive Covid-19 response plan, including shutting down the tribe’s health safety checkpoints,” the suit says.

When that did not work, highly-placed Trump Administration officials finally threatened to punish the tribe by taking over its Public Law 93-638 contract with the federal government, – “imperiling tribal public safety as well as public health,” according to the lawsuit.

P.L. 93-638 contacts guarantee tribes can operate their own services, such as law enforcement, rather than relying on the U.S. Interior Department’s Bureau of Indian Affairs for policing or other provisions.

The tribe put into effect a comprehensive Covid-19 response plan on April 2, setting up reservation roadside checkpoints to monitor and track individuals entering tribal territory from hotspots elsewhere.

Tribal Chair Harold Frazier highlighted his Administration’s choice to be “an island of safety in a sea of uncertainty and death,” when the tribe’s rate of infection remained significantly below the rate for South Dakota at large, with no Covid-19 deaths to date.

“The tribe’s Covid-19 response planning is essential to protect the tribal population, which suffers heightened vulnerability to the disease because of endemic poverty and health disparities,” the lawsuit states. The poorest county in the nation lies within reservation boundaries.

The tribal government sees its response as “especially critical in light of the state’s failure to meaningfully protect its residents, including the tribal population,” it says.

It adds that the screening system has “been so successful that the tribe has had only six reported cases of Covid-19 on its reservation, and each of those cases can be traced to entries identified through the tribe’s health safety checkpoint informational system,” the filing notes. No community spread has occurred.

Meanwhile, at the time of filing, South Dakota — one of five states that didn’t issue a shelter-in-place mandate — had 6,353 confirmed cases and 83 deaths outside the boundaries of the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation.

“The tribe’s health safety checkpoints are a lawful exercise of our sovereign authority and intended to protect our people from sickness and death. And it’s working,” said Ducheneaux, a Cheyenne River Sioux tribal member and partner at Big Fire Law & Policy Group.

Federal officials “have colluded to both coerce and punish the tribe for their checkpoints,” Ducheneaux said. “When the tribe informed White House and agency officials that they were not going to end their health checkpoints, the tribe’s law enforcement funding was pulled,” she said.

The filing details a series of bureaucratic closed-door dealings and threats to the tribe over its pandemic program, traceable to the offices of the state governor and federal officials.

When Noem sent her letter to Trump requesting that he use federal authority to remove the tribe’s checkpoints, she released copies to the media, but the tribe didn’t receive one, according to the suit. What’s more, according to allegations:

On June 7, Assistant Interior Secretary for Indian Affairs Tara Sweeney told Frazier on the phone that the deputization of checkpoint monitors was a breach of compliance with the tribe’s P.L. 93-638 law enforcement contract.

On June 8, she informed the tribe in writing that the BIA would assume police duties on the reservation if the tribal government failed to “withdraw the deputations of those individuals who do not meet the standards required by federal regulation, as incorporated into the tribe’s law enforcement contract.”

On June 9, tribal staff told local BIA staff that checkpoint monitors are not P.L. 93-638 employees.

On June 11, Frazier responded in writing to Sweeney, clarifying that checkpoint monitors are not deputized as police officers and are not paid using the tribe’s P.L. 93-638 contract funding. He said the tribe would remove any patches and badges from the monitors to avoid confusion as to their status.

On June 12, Aberdeen District 1 Special Agent in Charge of Justice Services William McClure sent a follow-up letter to Frazier threatening specific monetary penalties and forcible dismantling of the tribe’s law enforcement program for continued failure to comply with corrective action demanded by the federal authorities.

Then, in a June 17 ice-breaking event, Sweeney praised Frazier and concurred in a telephone conference with him that they would work together to reach full compliance with deputization terms in the ongoing administration of the 93-638 contract for policing.

So the tribe was “very surprised” by Addington’s 24-hour edict “directly threatening immediate emergency” BIA seizure Cheyenne River Law Enforcement Services if the tribe did not “pull from service any member of the Cheyenne River Sioux tribal police department lacking ‘a completed and adjudicated background check on file equivalent to a federal officer performing law enforcement duties’,” according to the suit.

The Native Sun News Today was not very surprised, however, because four members of our journalistic have been investigating BIA activities since 2019, and:

A highly placed source in the U.S. Capitol informed us on condition of anonymity that long before pandemic checkpoints, Addington and Sweeney were trying to move control of P.L. 93-638 contracts out of the BIA Office of Justice Services to be supervised directly by Interior.

If that happens, all 574 federally recognized tribes would no longer be assured their option to give preference in hiring to native citizens in tribal law enforcement and other contract services.

Addington, McLure, Sweeney, Trump and others are among all defendants in the suit who are charged with violating their trust duty to the tribe under the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty and with breaching related laws.

Sweeney is singled out for the decision to demand the checkpoints shutdown and she is fingered for threatening the takeover of law enforcement, considered in the suit to be “arbitrary and capricious.”

The actions are labelled “an abuse of discretion” that “outrageously threatens government retaliation in an effort to curtail the tribe’s jurisdiction and impede the tribe’s right to self-governance.”

Also named as defendants are: White House Chief of Staff Mark R. Meadows, White House Intergovernmental Affairs Director Douglas L. Hoelscherm, White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Deborah L. Birx, Interior Secretary David L. Bernhardt, BIA Director David Lacounte, BIA Deputy Director James D. James, and BIA Great Plains Regional Director Tim Lapointe.

Johnny Depp libel case in UK can go ahead: Judge

A British news group on Thursday failed in its bid to have a libel case brought by Hollywood actor Johnny Depp thrown out, paving the way for a full court hearing.

Depp, 57, is suing News Group Newspapers (NGN) over an April 2018 article in The Sun tabloid that claimed he had been violent to his former wife, the actress Amber Heard.

He has strenuously denied the claims.

NGN tried to have the case dismissed, arguing Depp was in breach of a court order because he had failed to disclose documents from a separate libel case in the United States.

Judge Andrew Nicol on Monday agreed the “Pirates of the Caribbean” star had failed to hand over details of text messages, which allegedly referred to drugs.

But on Thursday he said he would grant Depp’s application for “relief from sanctions”, which means the trial will go ahead next week.

The text messages were sent in late February and early March 2015, shortly before what Heard, 34, claimed was a “three-day ordeal of physical assaults” in Australia, the judge was told.

Lawyers for the news group have argued the texts were “profoundly damaging to his (Depp’s) case.”

The alleged incident in Australia is one of 14 separate claims of domestic violence between early 2013 and May 2016 that NGN is relying on in its defense.

The judge has previously refused an application by Depp’s legal team to require Heard to disclose evidence, including a secret recording of a conversation with the actor.

He also asked for all communications between Heard and “Rocketman”, a contact saved in her phone who Depp claims is the SpaceX and Tesla founder Elon Musk, as well as with actor James Franco.

Lawyer David Sherborne told the court Heard had affairs with Musk and Franco while she was going out with or married to Depp.

He said it was relevant because it has been claimed Depp’s “supposed paranoia and mistaken belief that she was having affairs that caused him to be violent”.

But judge Nicol dismissed the application. “The central issue for the defense of truth is whether Mr. Depp assaulted Ms. Heard,” he said.

“Even if she had been unfaithful to him, that would be irrelevant on that central issue.”

The case, which was delayed because of the coronavirus outbreak, is due to start next Tuesday at the High Court of England and Wales in central London.

Depp’s former partners, the French singer Vanessa Paradis, and the Hollywood actress Winona Ryder, are due to give evidence.

The actor himself is also expected to attend, as is Heard.

June Jobs Numbers Shatter Expectations

Our Nation’s economy has broken another record as 4.8 million jobs were added in June, bringing the economic comeback to 7.5 million jobs added over the past two months, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ June Employment Situation report.

May and June rank as the two largest monthly jobs gains in history, with June’s numbers exceeding expectations once again. In June, nearly every major employment sector enjoyed a gain in jobs, with the leisure and hospitality industry seeing a gain of 2.1 million and retail trade increasing by 740,000. These gains likely reflect the reopening of State economies from May (based on the work week including May 12) through June (based on the work week including June 12).

Millions of Americans have felt the costs of the economic shutdown due to COVID-19, and while the speed of this recovery has far exceeded expectations, jobs have still not recovered the ground lost since the economic shutdown began. From February to April, nearly 22.2 million total jobs were lost. Over the past two months, 7.5 million (33.8 percent) of those jobs have returned. Figure 1 shows that while the leisure and hospitality industry saw the largest gains over the past two months, the industry still has 4.8 million jobs to make up to reach its pre-COVID level.

Additionally, the BLS June Employment Situation report estimates that the overall unemployment rate fell by a record 2.2 percentage points in June to 11.1 percent, and by 3.6 percentage points over the past two months.

Even the 3.6 percentage point reduction in the official unemployment rate since April likely understates the actual progress made. As BLS Commissioner William Beach recently explained, the unique circumstances COVID-19 caused has led the household employment survey to misclassify some workers as “employed” who should have been classified as “unemployed” due to temporary business closures. As the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) has previously noted in our May 8th blog, addressing this issue could have resulted in an unemployment rate upward of 19 percent in April. When accounting for this misclassification, CEA finds that the unemployment rate of 19.6 percent in April has fallen to 12.3 percent as of June (see figure 2). This 7.2 percentage point reduction is twice as large as the 3.6 percentage point reduction in the official unemployment rate over the same period.

The economic comeback has reduced unemployment across the board for several demographic groups. According to the BLS, the unemployment rate fell by 3.1 percentage points for Hispanic Americans and by 1.4 percentage points for Black Americans. In fact, Black Americans enjoyed the second largest employment gain on record, and female Black Americans over age 20 experienced the largest employment gain on record. Additionally, the female unemployment rate fell by 2.7 percentage points, which is larger than the decrease for men for the second straight month. As America’s businesses have reopened, teenagers saw a 6.7 percentage point unemployment rate reduction last month, consistent with the large job gains in the leisure and hospitality and retail trade industries.

While June’s jobs report is undoubtedly positive news for our Nation, millions of Americans continue to suffer due to the COVID-19 pandemic. An increasing number of long-term unemployed workers remain, low-wage earners still make up a smaller portion of the labor force, and more than one in every ten workers remains unemployed. The successes in the jobs report, however, should provide a source of optimism for all Americans as we look toward the future.

For two consecutive months, we have experienced the largest job gains in history, and the resilience of the American people remains strong as we have recovered roughly one-third of the COVID-related job losses from March and April. As we look ahead, we should be mindful of the work that remains, so that the forgotten Americans are forgotten no more.

Myanmar jade mine landslide kills 113

At least 113 bodies were found on Thursday, while several others were reported missing after a landslide hit a jade mining site in Myanmar’s Kachin state, officials said.

“A more than 304-meter-high cliff collapsed, burying those collecting stones,” Xinhua news agency quoted a rescue worker at the scene as saying.

Caused by the monsoon rains, the landslide occurred at the site in Sate Mu village tract of Hpakant township at 8 a.m., according to the Fire Services Department.

Rescue work is continuing for people still missing at the site.

Deadly landslides are frequent in Kachin state, known as land of jade.

Many local people make living by jade scavenging in the region and most of the landslides are caused by partial collapse of tailings heaps and dams.

A major landslide, which occurred in the region in November 2015, left at least 116 jade scavengers dead.

Myanmar is the world’s biggest source of jade, said a BBC report.

The country’s jade trade is reported to be worth more than $30 billion a year. Hpakant is the site of the world’s biggest jade mine.

Reopening’s stall as US records nearly 50,000 cases of COVID-19 in single day

Governors of US states hit hardest by the resurgent coronavirus halted or reversed steps to reopen their economies on Wednesday (July 1), led by California, the nation’s most populous state and a new epicenter of the pandemic.

New cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, shot up by nearly 50,000 on Wednesday, according to a Reuters tally, marking the biggest one-day spike since the start of the pandemic.

“The spread of this virus continues at a rate that is particularly concerning,” California Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, said in ordering the closure of bars, bans on indoor dining and other restrictions in 19 counties, affecting over 70% of the state’s population.

The change in California, which was the first US state to impose sweeping “stay-at-home” restrictions in March, will likely inflict more financial pain on the owners of bars and restaurants who have struggled to survive the pandemic.

The epicenter of the country’s COVID-19 epidemic has moved from the Northeast to California, Arizona, and New Mexico in the West along with Texas, Florida, and Georgia.

Texas again topped its previous record on Wednesday with 8,076 new cases, while South Carolina reported 24 more coronavirus deaths, a single-day high for the state. Tennessee and Alaska also had record numbers of new cases on Wednesday.

The United States recorded its biggest one-day increase of nearly 48,000 new infections on Tuesday, including more than 8,000 each in California and Texas, a Reuters tally showed.

New Mexico Governor Michelle Grisham, a Democrat, on Wednesday extended the state’s emergency public health order through July 15, saying that authorities would “aggressively” enforce mandatory mask rules.

“I want to be as clear as I can possibly be New Mexico, in this moment, still has the power to change the terrible trajectory of this virus,” Grisham said. “But our time is limited. And we are staring down the barrel of what Texas, Arizona and many other hard-hit states are grappling with.”

In Indiana, Republican Governor Eric Holcomb halted his state’s phased reopening until at least mid-July.

“We just have to accept the fact … that again this virus is on the prowl and it is moving, and it’s moving even within our borders,” he said.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat whose city was for months at the center of the US outbreak, said Wednesday he would postpone a plan to allow indoor restaurant dining beginning Monday.

“We see a lot of problems and we particularly see problems revolving around people going back to bars and restaurants indoors, and indoors is the problem more and more,” de Blasio told reporters.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll found Americans are increasingly worried about the spread of COVID-19, the serious and sometimes fatal illness caused by the coronavirus.

Roughly seven in 10 Republicans said they were personally concerned about the virus’ spread, up from six in 10 in previous polls. About nine in 10 Democrats said they are similarly worried, a level of concern that has not changed.

Worldwide COVID-19 situation varies, continuing fight urged

Countries around the world are facing varied COVID-19 situations as continuing fight and stronger responses from the international community are urged to tackle related challenges.

In the United States, where the national COVID-19 tally is approaching 2.7 million, some states continue to record daily case spikes as many have either paused or partially reversed their staged reopening.

In Texas, one of the four states worst hit by a coronavirus resurgence, a record 8,076 new COVID-19 cases were reported on Wednesday, and mayors are asking the state to scale back local reopening.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner tweeted on the day: “I and the mayors of other cities have sent a letter to Governor (Greg) Abbott asking to roll back capacity at gyms and bowling alleys.”

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Wednesday the city will postpone indoor dining indefinitely as several U.S. states have seen soaring new COVID-19 cases related to restaurants and bars, saying, “We cannot go ahead at this point in time with indoor dining in New York City.”

Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious-diseases expert, said on Tuesday the United States is “not in total control” of the pandemic, warning: “I would not be surprised if we go up to 100,000 a day if this does not turn around.”

U.S. economists and officials have warned a nationwide virus resurgence is threatening to derail the nascent economic recovery in the United States.

In South America which is in the winter season, Chile on Wednesday reported its total COVID-19 cases have increased to 282,043, with 5,753 deaths.

In Brazil, the death toll rose to 60,632 on Wednesday, out of a national caseload of 1,448,753 including 46,712 new cases reported in the past 24 hours.

In Israel, certain neighborhoods in the central city of Lod and in the coastal city of Ashdod were on Wednesday declared as “restricted areas” over high morbidity rates.

In China, which is forging ahead with economic resumption, the health authority said it received reports of three newly confirmed COVID-19 cases on the Chinese mainland on Wednesday, of which one was domestically transmitted and recorded in Beijing.

With 303 confirmed cases so far, including four newly reported ones, Myanmar on Wednesday announced that the 2020 general elections will be held on Nov. 8 this year, without delay.

In Tokyo, the metropolitan government on Wednesday confirmed 67 new COVID-19 infections, marking the sixth straight day on which daily cases in the Japanese capital topped 50 and the highest number since the state of emergency was lifted in late May. Downtown nighttime entertainment spots in Tokyo have seen clusters of cases emerge.

In the meantime, the novel coronavirus proves to still demand more and more understanding by mankind.

On Wednesday, the Nepali government highlighted a high number of infections in children under 18, which represents an alarming 14.67 percent of the national tally that rose to 14,046 on Wednesday.

“As many as 2,061 children below the age of 18 years have been infected with the novel coronavirus,” health ministry spokesperson Jageshwor Gautam told a regular press briefing.

In Denmark, a third mink herd has been confirmed to be infected with COVID-19, the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration said in a press release on Wednesday.

Following a massive round of testing on Monday of the animals on the farm in Hjorring municipality of North Jutland, 356 km northwest of Copenhagen, more than half of the 10,000-strong mink herd tested positive.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Wednesday in a speech to the Bundestag, the lower house of the German parliament, that Germany took over the presidency of the Council of the European Union from Croatia for the next six months in a “difficult time” due to COVID-19.

“Of course, our presidency will be marked by the coronavirus pandemic, the efforts to contain it and to deal with its consequences,” said Merkel, stressing that the European Council had agreed that “special solutions are needed.”

The United Nations (UN) Security Council on Wednesday adopted a resolution on COVID-19, demanding a general and immediate cessation of hostilities in all situations on its agenda.

Resolution 2532, which won the unanimous support of the 15 members of the council, calls on all parties to armed conflicts to engage immediately in a durable humanitarian pause for at least 90 consecutive days, in order to enable the safe, unhindered and sustained delivery of humanitarian assistance, provisions of related services by impartial humanitarian actors, and medical evacuations.

The resolution requests the UN secretary-general to help ensure that all relevant parts of the UN system accelerate their response to the COVID-19 pandemic with a particular emphasis on countries in need, including those in situations of armed conflict or affected by humanitarian crises.

Zhang Jun, China’s permanent representative to the UN, called the resolution’s adoption a victory of multilateralism and reiterated China’s support to the secretary-general’s appeal for a global cease-fire and the UN Global Humanitarian Response Plan.

Also, on Wednesday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres highlighted the financial needs of countries, particularly low- and middle-income countries, in their response to COVID-19.

“As we craft a comprehensive global response, action on finance must be central. If countries lack the financial means to fight the pandemic and invest in recovery, we face a health catastrophe and a painfully slow global recovery,” he told a roundtable on “Rebirthing the Global Economy to Deliver Sustainable Development.”

Published by jim

Curator of things...

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