News, July 24th

‘Tunkasila Sakpe’: Mt. Rushmore

The Shrine of Democracy, as Mt. Rushmore Memorial is often called, was named after New York City attorney Charles E. Rushmore, who was verifying property titles in 1884 when he asked local guide Bill Challis the name of this mountain.

Challis replied, “Never had a name but from now on we’ll call it Rushmore,” according to the non-profit publication National Parks Traveler.

However, the Native people from whom the location was usurped by treaty violation called it Tuŋkášila Šákpe, the name in the Lakota language for The Six Grandfathers. “The granite bluff that towered above the Hills remained carved only by the wind and the rain until 1927 when Gutzon Borglum began his assault on the mountain.”

So goes the oral history, as captured by the Chamberlain-based non-profit Native Hope, which advocates to reverse “injustice done to Native Americans.” One of its main tool’s is storytelling – to dismantle barriers and promote healing, it says.

Lakota holy man Nicholas Black Elk named The Six Grandfathers after a vision “of the six sacred directions: west, east, north, south, above, and below. The directions were said to represent kindness and love, full of years and wisdom, like human grandfathers,” Native Hope documents.

Borglum, fresh from sculpting on the massive Confederate Memorial bas relief at Stone Mountain in Georgia, answered the call of Black Hills tourism industry promoters to create a carving on this granite outcrop “to honor the West’s greatest heroes, both Native Americans and pioneers.”

However, Borglum had his own kind of vision and convinced backers to let him chisel and blast out the busts of U.S. President George Washington alongside White House successors Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln.

At U.S. President Donald Trump’s July 3 reelection campaign-stop here, he received applause for saying, “Today, we pay tribute to the exceptional lives and extraordinary legacies of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Teddy Roosevelt.”

He took advantage of the backdrop to fan the flames of national controversy over racist symbols in public art, part of unrest ignited a month earlier with the death of Black Minneapolis resident George Floyd under the knee of a white officer, in an incident proclaimed murder by the police chief.

“Our nation is witnessing a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values, and indoctrinate our children,” Trump said. “Angry mobs are trying to tear down statues of our founders, deface our most sacred memorials, and unleash a wave of violent crime in our cities.”

He received more applause for saying, “I am here as your President to proclaim before the country and before the world: This monument will never be desecrated, these heroes will never be defaced, their legacy will never, ever be destroyed, their achievements will never be forgotten, and Mt. Rushmore will stand forever as an eternal tribute to our forefathers and to our freedom.”

Meanwhile, what turned out to be a total of 20 Native Americans and accomplices who organized a civil disobedience action against the “trespass” on Lakota treaty lands were hauled off to jail.

Less than 80 years since the completion of the mountain carving, more than one participant in the civil disobedience demonstration triggered by the campaign stop here recast it as the Shrine of Hypocrisy.

In the leadup to the fateful day, Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Chair Harold Frazier objected strenuously to the campaign stop at the monument, saying, “Nothing stands as a greater reminder to the Great Sioux Nation of a country that cannot keep a promise or treaty then the faces carved into our sacred land on what the United States calls Mount Rushmore.”

He criticized a waiver of the fireworks ban allowing the campaign event to have a show in the Black Hills during fire danger season. “We are now being forced to witness the lashing of our land with pomp, arrogance and fire hoping our sacred lands will survive,” he said.

“Visitors look upon the faces of those presidents and extoll the virtues that they believe make America the country it is today. Lakota see the faces of the men who lied, cheated and murdered innocent people whose only crime was living on the land they wanted to steal,” he insisted.

Washington and Jefferson owned slaves. Roosevelt coined the phrase “the only good Indian is a dead Indian.” Lincoln, on the day after he signed the Emancipation Proclamation, ordered the largest mass execution in U.S. history, with the public hanging of 38 Dakota sons.

Borglum was “once high in the inner circle of the Klan,” writes author Charles Rambow in the South Dakota State Historical Society’s 1973 publication The Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s: A Concentration on the Black Hills.

Days before Trump’s campaign stop, both Frazier and Oglala Sioux Tribal President Julian Bear Runner had publicly advocated for “removal” of the landmark.

After 19th Century gold discovery attracted thousands of squatters to the Black Hills and the U.S. government broke its constitutional mandate to uphold the treaty protecting the area for the Oceti Sakowin, the effigies on a sacred mountain were seen as a desperate thrust of a failed conquest.

“For the Lakota, this was just one more violating act of colonization,” Native Hope relates.

“The Lakota have opposed Mount Rushmore since the very beginning,” said Nick Tilsen, leader of the civil disobedience action at the Trump stopover.

Tilsen’s national non-profit NDN Collective called for “closure of Mount Rushmore” but was quick and determined to stress that the cause is not as superficial as a symbolic sculpture.

Rather it is “for the Black Hills to be returned to the Lakota” in redress for more than a century of illegal use of the most sacred tract of ancestral territory.

Demonstrators accused the would-be second-term chief executive with turning a blind eye to the United Nations universal principle of indigenous peoples’ right to free prior and informed consent because he chose this location without asking tribal authorization.

While their main demand was to honor rights under the Constitution, which holds treaties as the highest law of the land, they also stood up for human and civil rights, bearing signs and slogans including Black Lives Matter and drawing attention to the crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.

Biology researcher accused of visa fraud, working with Chinese military, to appear in court

The Chinese biology researcher accused of lying on applications to obtain a visa and gain access to the United States is now in custody and expected to make a court appearance via video conference Monday afternoon, the U.S. Attorney’s office said.

Tang Juan, who was staying in the Chinese consulate in San Francisco, according to the FBI, and three other researchers are accused of concealing their identities as members of China’s People’s Liberation Army. All have been charged with visa fraud.

Tang, a researcher at the University of California, Davis, stated on her J-1 visa application that she “had never served in the military, but open source investigation revealed photographs of her in the uniform of the Civilian Cadre of the PLA [People’s Liberation Army], and that she had been employed as a researcher at the Air Force Military Medical University, which is another name for FMMU [Fourth Military Medical University],” the FBI claimed.

According to a June 20 interview with FBI agents, Tang “denied serving in the Chinese military, claimed she did not know the meaning of the insignia on her uniform, and that wearing a military uniform was required for attendance at FMMU because it was a military school.”

The FBI said it executed a search warrant at Tang’s home and found a trove of evidence of Tang’s PLA affiliation.

“The FBI assesses that at some point following the search and interview of Tang on June 20, 2020, Tang went to the Chinese consulate in San Francisco, where the FBI assesses she has remained,” the bureau said.

The FBI filing against Tang came as part of a document that cited a slew of other episodes in which Chinese nationals allegedly lied on their visa applications by concealing their military ties.

The FBI said it has interviewed visa holders in more than 25 U.S. cities who are suspected of lying about their connection to China. The bureau believes the deception is part of an ongoing government-orchestrated effort to steal research on a variety of topics from American universities for China’s economic gain.

“Defendant’s case is not an isolated one, but instead appears to be part of a program conducted by the PLA – and specifically, the FMMU or associated institutions – to send military scientists to the United States on false pretenses with false covers or false statements about their true employment,” the FBI said, singling out Chen Song, another suspected spy.

In that case, prosecutors said Chen, a visiting medical researcher at Stanford University, entered the U.S. on a work-study visa in December 2018, identifying herself as a neurologist who was going to the California school to conduct research on brain disease.

In her visa application, Chen states she had served in China’s armed forces from September 2000 through June 2011 and listed her current employer as a civilian hospital in China. However, the FBI said research articles Chen submitted with her visa application identified her employers as hospitals controlled by the Chinese military.

An online profile of Chen on a Chinese website identifies her as a neurologist studying myasthenia gravis at a Chinese air force hospital and includes a picture of her in a military uniform.

As the allegations of visa fraud play out in court, the U.S. has ordered China to close its consulate in Houston, a move Beijing denounced as “outrageous.”

The physical closure of the consulate, one of six China has in the United States, is a bold step in the escalating tensions between the two superpowers that have not only been strained by assigning blame over the coronavirus pandemic but also by disputes over human rights, trade and escalations made by Beijing in the South China Sea.

In retaliation for closing the China consulate in Texas, China on Friday ordered the closure of the U.S. consulate in the western city of Chengdu.

“The measure taken by China is a legitimate and necessary response to the unjustified act by the United States,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Cuba makes its La Paz clinic available to the Bolivian people

De facto authorities in Bolivia, on the afternoon of July 21, publicly reported that the building known as the “Clinica del Colaborador,” owned by the Republic of Cuba, which was violently raided by police on November 15, 2019, would be made available, in the next few days, to treat Bolivian citizens with COVID-19.

This unilateral decision, which is presented as a humanitarian act, constitutes a violation of the rights of the Republic of Cuba as the legal owner of the aforementioned property, preceded by disregard for international law and an incessant campaign of lies and distortions about Cuba, particularly directed against the medical cooperation that our country provided in Bolivia, a campaign that this Ministry denounced in a statement, January 25, 2020.

It must be recalled that, in November of 2019, Bolivian authorities, with the leadership and support of the U.S. Embassy in La Paz, arrested several Cuban health collaborators under false pretenses and conducted searches and raids of their homes, while publicly inciting violence against our health personnel. This campaign has not stopped and is being used for internal electoral purposes.

The facility occupied by the Clinica del Colaborador was purchased and expanded by the Cuban State, in strict compliance with Bolivian law. It is located at 163 22nd Street, on the corner of Enrique Herson in the Achumani area of the city of La Paz. In accordance with Resolution 0410 of April 4, 2007, the Bolivian Ministry of Health, in accordance with the powers conferred by Act No. 3351 of February 21, 2006, the Ministry authorized the operation of the center to provide care for Cuban professionals working in the health and education sectors in the country.

The facility includes a 2-story house and a 3-story building. The small facility has 13 hospital beds, 6 for inpatient cases, 4 for observation and 3 for intensive care. It was one of the 158 health facilities where, by virtue of the 1985 Scientific-Technical Cooperation Agreement in the area of health between the governments of Cuba and Bolivia, and its subsequent updates, 18,015 Cuban health professionals offered the sister Bolivian people 73,557,935 medical consultations, performed 1, 533,016 surgeries, of which 727,138 were ophthalmological, and assisted 60,792 births. As part of this collaboration, 5,184 young Bolivians have graduated from medical school in our country.

In Bolivia, Cuba’s health collaborators provided their services in 34 Community Integral Hospitals, 119 Community Integral Centers and 5 ophthalmologic centers, in nine departments, 28 provinces and 42 municipalities in the country.

Since the above-mentioned raid, Bolivian authorities have arbitrarily denied personnel from the Cuban embassy access to the Clinica del Colaborador.

The Cuban government has demanded the immediate restoration of its rights as the legitimate owner of the aforementioned property, through diplomatic notes No. 1079/20, from the Republic of Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Relations, April 13, 2020; and No. 26/20, dated June 18, 2020, from the Cuban embassy in La Paz, respectively, to which no response has been received.

We have attentively followed the tragic events the sister people of Bolivia are facing, suffering more than 60,000 SARS-COV-2 infections and more than 2,000 deaths from COVID-19, according to official data. Bolivia’s health system has not been able effectively confront the pandemic and is on the verge of collapse. Unfortunately, doctors and health workers have been infected and died, among them several young Bolivian graduates of the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM) in Cuba, who have honorably done their duty.

In this context, many Bolivian organizations and citizens have addressed Cuba, both publicly and privately, requesting support from Cuban health personnel and medicines that have proved effective with COVID-19 patients. Many have noted the contribution that would have been made by the Cuban Medical Brigade that was providing services in Bolivia before the coup if it had been present.

The generous Cuban people have not renounced their altruistic vocation. Aware that the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic requires urgent joint efforts of cooperation and solidarity and, without relinquishing ownership of the Clinica del Colaborador property or our rights as the legitimate owner, the Cuban government makes its use available to the sister Bolivian people to assist COVID-19 patients, as long as the crisis situation generated by this pandemic continues in Bolivia.

Children in Nigeria and surrounding countries, continuing to endure ‘horrendous violations’

Girls and boys in northeast Nigeria are continuing to endure brutal abuse at the hands of Boko Haram, and are also being deeply affected by military operations taking place to counter the terrorist group, despite noteworthy efforts, according the UN chief’s latest report on children and armed conflict.

“The children of Nigeria and neighboring countries continued to endure horrendous violations by Boko Haram”, said Virginia Gamba, the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, in a statement on Thursday, adding that the group’s expansion across the Lake Chad Basin region is “a serious concern” for Secretary-General António Guterres.

Between January 2017 and December 2019, the report described 5,741 grave violations against children in Nigeria.

Moreover, incidents in neighboring Cameroon, Chad and Niger were also reflected in the spillover of Boko Haram’s activities beyond Nigeria’s borders.

In September 2017, the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) group, that supports Nigerian forces locally against Boko Haram, signed an Action Plan with the UN to end and prevent violations. Prior to that, the group had recruited more than 2,000 children.

Meanwhile, children detained for their association with Boko Haram remain a grave concern – although actual numbers have proved difficult to assess because the UN was not granted access to facilities that housed the minors, says the report.

“Children formerly associated should not be further penalized through detention and I call on the Government of Nigeria to expedite the release of children from detention and prioritize their reintegration into society”, asserted Ms. Gamba.

“I also urge the Government to review and adopt the protocol for the handover of children associated with armed groups to civilian child protection actors”, she said.

The vast majority of the 1,433 UN-verified child casualties were attributed to Boko Haram, with suicide attacks the leading cause, according to the report.

And while over 200 children were affected by incidents of sexual violence, fear of stigma, retaliation, lack of accountability for perpetrators and lack of resources for survivors, have rendered those crimes vastly underreported.

At the same time, denying humanitarian access to children has affected the delivery of aid to thousands of minors.

The report also detailed that some of the most atrocious incidents by Boko Haram involved the abduction and execution of humanitarian workers.

The 2017 Action plan marked a turning point in the CJTF’s treatment of children.

“Progress has been consistent, and no new cases of recruitment and use have been verified” since the signing, according to the UN official, who urged the group to fully implement the plan and to “facilitate the disassociation of any remaining children”.

Ms. Gamba also stressed the need to provide a regional African response to the situation.

China-US friction: World shares slip as China orders US consulate closed

Worsening China-US friction and worries over aid to Americans and US businesses combined to push world shares lower on Friday.

Wall Street appeared set to extend losses from the previous day, with Dow and S&P 500 futures both down 0.3%. Germany’s DAX index fell 1.5% to 12,913, while the CAC 40 in Paris skidded 1.2% to 4,972. Britain’s FTSE 100 shed 1.1% to 6,144.

Trump administration officials have escalated their public condemnations of China in the last several weeks, with speeches by FBI Director Chris Wray, Attorney General William Barr, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Earlier this week, the US ordered the Chinese consulate in Houston, Texas closed. On Friday, as expected, China’s Foreign Ministry ordered the closure of the US consulate in the western city of Chengdu.

Shanghai led regional declines, with its Composite index giving up 3.9% to 3,196.77. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong lost 2.2% to 24,705.33.

The latest dust up between the two biggest economies comes amid allegations of theft of US intellectual property including by Chinese researchers with military and government connections for Beijing’s benefit.

Alongside the eviction of the Houston Chinese Consulate, the risk of the US-China conflict escalating into a ‘Cold War’ is worrying, said Hayaki Narita of Mizuho Bank.

A speech Thursday by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo saying that securing our freedom from the Chinese Communist Party is the mission of our time adds to the rhetoric certain to incense Beijing, making it still more difficult for either side to back down, he said.

And so, while the inevitability of deteriorating US-China relations as a structural feature of our geo-political landscape was never in doubt, the shifts appear to be hastened, Narita said.

In other Asian trading, the S&P/ASX 200 in Australia gave up 1.2% to 6,024.10. South Korea’s Kospi shed 0.7% to 2,200.44.

Analysts said investors also are wary over the unclear prognosis for further stimulus for the US economy, just as the end of a previous package of extra support for those made jobless by the pandemic looms.

Republicans in the Senate were set to unveil their proposals for a 1 trillion COVID-19 rescue package Thursday morning, but that got delayed. Finding a compromise with the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives could prove more difficult than it was in March, when Congress produced a 2 trillion rescue package.

A report Thursday that the tally of American workers applying, or unemployment benefits rose last week by 109,000 to a little more than 1.4 million broke a stretch of 15 straight weeks of improvements. That shook investor optimism that the recession might be shorter lived than expected.

The rise in unemployment comes as coronavirus counts continue to rise across much of the southern United States, leading to more business closures and the total number of confirmed cases has surpassed 4 million in the US.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury was steady at 0.58% on Friday, down from 0.59% late Wednesday. It tends to move with investors’ expectations for the economy and inflation.

Benchmark US crude fell back, rose 25 cents to 41.32 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude oil for September delivery gained 24 cents to 43.55.

In currency dealings, the dollar bought 106.34 Japanese yen, weakening from 106.86 yen. The euro edged down to 1.1589 from 1.1596.

French refinery leaks toxic chemical into marine life area

An orange-brown chemical sheet spread over 15 acres (6 hectares) of a nationally recognized marine life area in the French Mediterranean following a leak at a petrochemical plant in southern France, the local fire service said Friday.

The leak at the Lavera refinery spilled 200 gallons or more of iron chloride into the sea, American-owned chemical company Kem One, which runs the plant, said. Contact with iron chloride can harm eyes and mucous membranes and ingesting it can be fatal.

Refinery officials said the problem at the processing plant in Martigues, near Marseille, was reported at 1:50 a.m. Thursday. They said the iron chloride spilled from a tank onto a faulty safety system, which flooded into the nearby sewage systems and into the sea.

The area of the Mediterranean where the chemical ended up is listed on a French inventory as an ecosystem of outstanding natural fauna and flora for its coral and sea life. Authorities at the scene said they observed fish that were killed by the spill.

The French Maritime Prefecture banned leisure boat cruising, swimming, fishing, and diving in about four miles of the along the coast surrounding the contaminated area until at least midnight Friday. The prefecture told The Associated Press it was awaiting toxicity test results before declaring the waters safe.

The AP reviewed four legal orders from local authorities to the plant’s management demanding more stringent safety rules, the reinforcement of storage equipment and adherence to the refinery’s liquid waste management guidelines.

About 40 firefighters dispatched to the site where unable to stop the chemical spill, the Marseille fire service told The Associated Press. The polluted area receded to 2.5 acres (1 hectare) by 6:30 p.m. Thursday, and by Friday morning, the brown color had all but disappeared from the sea’s surface.

French environmental association Robin des Bois said it planned to file a legal complaint against plant officials for polluting the sea and other issues based on its damage assessment. The association said it suspects that coral and other sea creatures were burned or poisoned by the spilled iron chloride.

The group’s spokesperson, Charlotte Nithart, told AP the plant “has been on our radar for a few years” and needs a “profound inspection” of its storage capacity.

French Environment Minister Barbara Pompili said on Twitter on Thursday “the damage that will be determined will be repaired by those responsible for it.”

Governor Noem Thanks U.S. Department of Commerce for Economic Development Grants

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Commerce, Economic Development Administration (EDA) announced two CARES Act grants targeted at responding to the coronavirus pandemic in South Dakota.

“South Dakota is working to get back to normal, and the Trump administration has been a tremendous help to us in that effort,” said Governor Noem. “I’m grateful to Secretary Wilbur Ross and the Department of Commerce for continuing to support our small businesses with the capital they need to deal with the unique challenges that they’re facing.”

The EDA announced $4.4 million in CARES Act Recovery Assistance to the South Eastern Development Foundation, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, a 6-county region including Clay, Lincoln, McCook, Minnehaha, Turner, and Union counties.

The EDA also announced $1.8 million in CARES Act Recovery Assistance to the Northeast Council of Governments, Aberdeen, South Dakota, a 12-county region including Beadle, Brown, Campbell, Day, Edmunds, Faulk, Hand, Marshall, McPherson, Potter, Spink, and Walworth counties.

House passes massive spending bill in bid to thwart election year shutdown

The House approved a $259.5 billion spending package on Friday in Democrats’ opening bid to ward off a government shutdown — a potentially devastating scenario while the nation is embroiled in a pandemic and the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

The lower chamber cleared the package in a 224-189 vote. The four-bill minibus pads budgets at the departments of State, Interior, Agriculture, Veterans Affairs, and other agencies with billions of additional dollars, while imposing new restrictions on the Trump administration that guarantee it will never become law.

It’s the first appropriations measure to move through any chamber of Congress this year, but lawmakers are almost certainly hurtling toward a stopgap spending bill to keep the government open beyond the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30. Election year politics will likely sap political will to craft a bipartisan spending deal in the coming weeks, while Congress wrestles with another $1 trillion-plus coronavirus response package to combat creeping unemployment and spiking infections across the country.

The four-bill minibus is the first of two fiscal 2021 funding bundles that House Democrats plan to pass by the end of the month. The House will take up a seven-bill, $1.4 trillion package next week that would fund the Pentagon and the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, Homeland Security, Justice, Transportation, Energy and more.

Once both packages are passed, House Democrats will have approved nearly all of their fiscal 2021 appropriations bills, except the measure that funds parts of the Legislative Branch. That bill didn’t include a cost-of-living adjustment for lawmakers, which a number of members believe is crucial to living in D.C. after enduring more than a decade of pay freezes. House leaders could still decide to bring the Legislative Branch bill to the floor as a standalone measure.

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The Congressional Progressive Caucus is also pushing to strip the Homeland Security spending bill from the massive $1.4 trillion minibus, with some members loath to fund the agencies charged with implementing the president’s immigration agenda and carrying out paramilitary action in Oregon and Washington state.

But the Congressional Hispanic Caucus is backing the Homeland Security bill and top appropriators have no plans to yank it from the floor. CHC Chair Joaquín Castro (D-Texas), Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.) and others have also submitted an amendment that would rein in the administration’s efforts to quell protests in Oregon and Washington.

“We really can’t afford not to pass this,” Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.), the chair of the House Homeland Security spending panel, told POLITICO on Friday. “We need to send a very clear message to DHS that this isn’t business as usual. They have to be held accountable and there’s going to be consequences. “

The fiscal 2021 appropriations process is the last for retiring Chair Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), who was the first woman to wield the gavel of the powerful committee.

“My parting request to you is this: Do not succumb to the pervasive partisanship that permeates what can feel like all aspects of our professional — and even sometimes our personal — lives,” she said earlier this month.

“Always strive to use the power of the purse to unlock the full potential of this nation,” she said.

The four-bill measure passed by the House on Friday would provide $65.9 billion for the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and other programs, marking an $8.5 billion increase over current funding or a nearly 15 percent hike. That includes more than $10 billion for global efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

Democrats also included $12.5 billion in emergency funding to address rising veterans’ health care costs. The Environmental Protection Agency and the Interior Department would receive more than $9 billion and nearly $14 billion, respectively. More than $4 billion would go to rural development programs and more than $3 billion would flow to the Food and Drug Administration.

The package also takes a number of shots at the Trump administration, including provisions that would criticize the president’s “go it alone” approach to foreign aid, restore funding for the World Health Organization, block the administration’s crackdown on food stamps and bar drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The Senate, meanwhile, hasn’t even begun its appropriations process this year. Democrats in the upper chamber want to add billions of dollars in emergency pandemic aid to annual spending bills, in addition to police reform provisions, just as House Democrats did. But Senate Appropriations Chair Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) has said those issues should be dealt with separately.

The first House minibus comes after Congress secured a two-year budget deal last summer which boosted spending and allotted a total of $740.5 billion in defense funding and $634.5 billion in nondefense funding for fiscal 2021.

Johnny Depp trial sees video of ‘violent’ Amber Heard

Johnny Depp’s legal team played an anonymous tipster’s video at his libel trial on Friday aimed at proving ex-wife Amber Heard had a violent streak and once beat up her sister.

The last-minute submission came in the third week of Depp’s lawsuit against Britain’s tabloid The Sun in London’s High Court over a 2018 story accusing him of being a “wife beater.”

The “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise actor, 57, says the false allegation ruined his reputation and cost him lucrative Hollywood jobs.

The Sun counters it can back up its claim by 14 cases of abuse against the 34-year-old model and actress in a three-year span leading up to Heard’s 2016 decision to file for divorce.

Depp’s lawyer, David Sherborne, interrupted planned testimony on Friday and asked judge Andrew Nicol to allow him to play what he called “critical” new evidence in the case.

Nicol agreed despite the star-studded case running behind schedule on what was supposed to be its last day.

The undated video showed Amber’s sister Whitney chatting with a group of women by a pool.

“I can’t believe Amber beat your ass,” one of the women tells Whitney in the clip.

“Did you get in a fight?” she asks. A woman then appears to inspect Whitney’s cheek and arm.

“I’m not talking about that,” says Whitney.

“She really did whip your butt,” the woman insists.

“Oh, we are not talking about it,” Whitney repeats.

Depp’s lawyer said he received the video after Whitney denied on Thursday that Heard had a temper and regularly attacked her husband.

Sherborne said the tipster understood Whitney was lying and had video proof.

The lawyer added that it proved that Whitney was tailoring her testimony to fit her sister’s own account.

“There is no denial of the fact that Ms. Amber Heard beat up Whitney Heard and that there are injuries,” Depp’s lawyer said.

Depp claims that Heard attacked him regularly and he only acted out against her in self-defense.

Whitney explained on Friday that the video was an outtake of a “really bad reality TV show” in which the cast was trying to make “a very, very boring story more interesting.”

“We were referencing a verbal argument my sister and I had got into the night before,” she said.

Whitney added that other members of the cast were “looking for injuries that were not there.”

Both legal teams have accused the other sides’ witnesses of lying under oath.

Whitney testified on Thursday that Heard only hit Depp on one documented occasion and had never been violent toward her or anyone else.

The case is due to finish after legal submissions on Tuesday.

Pennington County reports one death, two new cases

A Pennington County man in his 50s became the 26th person from the county and 122nd person from South Dakota to die from COVID-19 illness.

The state reported 57 new cases of coronavirus Friday on 924 tests. That brings the total positive tests in the state to 8,200 with 817 of those still listed as active – up nine from Thursday. The number of people hospitalized in the state continued to drop. There are 45 people in hospitals across South Dakota with seven of those in the Monument Health system.

Pennington County had its lowest number of new cases since May 11 with only two positive tests out of 83 that were returned Friday. Pennington County currently has 133 active cases.

Butte and Meade counties each had one new case on a total of 16 tests between them. Oglala Lakota, Fall River, Custer, and Lawrence counties all reported no new cases on a total of 41 tests from the four counties.

Other positive tests in the state included 21 from Minnehaha County and eight in Lincoln County. Turner County added five new cases Friday and Union and Dewey counties each reported three. Brown and Clay counties reported two new cases and Aurora, Beadle, Brookings, Charles Mix, Corson, Faulk, Lake, McCook, Spink, and Yankton counties all added one new case.

Senate Republicans, Trump administration reach agreement on COVID-19 relief package

U.S. Senate Republicans and the Trump administration have reached an agreement in principle on the next COVID-19 relief package, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday.

McConnell said Senate Republicans will release their proposal, which will focus on kids, jobs, and healthcare, next week as the Trump administration has requested additional time to review the fine details.

“We need to get Americans back to work and school while continuing to fight for our nation’s health. That is what CARES 2 is designed to do,” he said.

U.S. Congress passed the 2.2-trillion-U.S.-dollar CARES Act, or the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, in March to provide fiscal aid for households, businesses and healthcare providers, but some key provisions in the act are set to expire at the end of this month.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Thursday that the administration will not extend the extra weekly 600-dollar unemployment benefits under the CARES Act but will replace it with a roughly 70 percent match of a worker’s wages before they were laid off.

“As we’ve said before, we’re not going to continue within its current form because we’re not going to pay people more money to stay at home than work, but we want to make sure that the people that are out there that can’t find jobs do get a reasonable wage replacement, so it will be based on approximately 70 percent wage replacement,” Mnuchin said in an interview with CNBC.

Mnuchin also confirmed that the payroll tax cut, which President Donald Trump has repeatedly pushed for, will not be included in the relief package.

“The Democrats have stated strongly that they won’t approve a Payroll Tax Cut (too bad!). It would be great for workers. The Republicans, therefore, didn’t want to ask for it. Dems, as usual, are hurting the working men and women of our Country!” Trump tweeted Thursday, blaming Democrats for sinking the proposal.

U.S. lawmakers are under immense pressure to craft a new fiscal package as a resurgence of COVID-19 cases across the country threatens to derail the nascent economic recovery.

The number of COVID-19 cases in the United States surpassed the four-million-mark Thursday with more than 143,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The Rajasthan Tussle

THE political drama in Rajasthan, consequent to the revolt of Sachin Pilot who was the deputy chief minister and PCC president, is still unfolding.  But the essential contours have become clear.  The inner tussle in the Congress cannot be separated from the BJP’s drive to destabilize non-BJP state governments, in particular Congress ones.

Since the Modi government came back to power in May 2019, first the Congress-JD(S) government in Karnataka was toppled in July 2019 followed by the Congress government in Madhya Pradesh in March this year.

The BJP has been using hybrid tactics for destabilizing the government it targets. In Karnataka, it had perfected the method of getting defecting legislators to resign their seats to circumvent the anti-defection law. 15 Congress and JD(S) MLAs resigned as legislators leading to the government becoming a minority in the assembly. Those who resigned were later put up in the by-elections as BJP candidates and many of them were rewarded with ministerships in the Yeddyurappa ministry.

In Madhya Pradesh, 22 Congress MLAs owing allegiance to Jyotiraditya Scindia resigned and reduced the Kamal Nath government to a minority in the assembly.  Many of them have been rewarded with ministerships and perks like chairpersons of corporations even before they have contested by-elections.

In the case of Rajasthan, this route was not feasible as the 19 MLAs led by Pilot, with the support of the BJP MLAs, is not sufficient to overturn the Gehlot government.  Thus, the protracted fight which is now awaiting the next turn after the High Court verdict on July 24 on the speaker’s notice for disqualification of the 19 MLAs.

The BJP and the central government have worked out an array of tactics to destabilize governments. Firstly, use of large-scale money to lure MLAs, such huge sums can only be illegal money; for others, they dangle ministerships and plum positions as a reward.  Further, to pressure reluctant or recalcitrant legislators, the Income Tax and Enforcement Directorate are used to raid them, or, their relatives to make them fall in line. These agencies are also used to neutralize any countermeasures being taken by the incumbents in office. Finally, there is a pliable governor, who can intercede to favor the BJP camp whenever an opportunity presents itself.

It is such tactics which helped the BJP earlier in Goa and Manipur to form governments. In Rajasthan, these tactics have not fully succeeded, thus the prolonged fight. While the main feature of the present crisis in Rajasthan is the BJP’s destabilization game, it is necessary to see the other side of the picture too, which is the debilitated state of the Congress, the main opposition party in the country. It is riven by faction fights, and dynastic politics which have thrown up leaders who are self-centered and power hungry. The Rajasthan crisis was precipitated by the inner wrangling of the Congress.

Ever since the Congress government was formed in 2018, Chief Minister Gehlot and Deputy Chief Minister Pilot were at loggerheads.  The conflict between them became a no-holds barred struggle when Sachin Pilot got a notice from the special operations group of the police for questioning in a case of plotting to destabilize the government. It is this tussle which has facilitated the BJP’s efforts to topple the government.

The Gehlot ministry will probably survive this confrontation, but the Congress party in its present state is unable to meet the BJP’s challenge politically, ideologically, and organizationally.

The present degeneration of electoral politics and elected representatives is directly connected to the invasion of big money and the all-pervasive influence of neoliberal capitalism on the political system. For a new breed of elected representatives in the assemblies and parliament, politics and business are intertwined. It is such elected representatives that the BJP preys upon.

The attack on democracy, on states’ rights and the drive to enforce one-party rule throughout the country are all manifestations of the Hindutva authoritarian regime.  They cannot be fought back by imitating its tactics.

WTO report shows members moving to facilitate imports even as trade restrictions remain high

While import-restrictive measures introduced by WTO members continued to affect a growing share of global trade, the Director-General’s latest mid-year report on trade-related developments presented to members on 24 July also indicates a shift towards import-facilitating measures, including products related to the COVID-19 crisis. Between mid-October 2019 and mid-May 2020, WTO members implemented 363 new trade and trade-related measures, 198 of them trade-facilitating and 165 trade-restrictive. Most of them, 256 (about 71 per cent) were linked to the pandemic.

“The report makes clear that a substantial share of world trade continues to be affected by new and accumulated import-restrictive measures, which is cause for concern at a time when economies will need trade to rebuild from the effects of the COVID-19 crisis,” said Director-General Roberto Azevêdo, who presented the report to WTO members. “On a more positive note, the report shows that members also introduced import-facilitating measures on an impressive scale and have started to scale back trade restrictions introduced earlier in the pandemic,” he added.

The report, which was reviewed at a meeting of the WTO’s Trade Policy Review Body, notes that 56 new trade-restrictive measures not related to the pandemic were implemented between mid-October 2019 and mid-May 2020 – mainly tariff increases, import bans, exports duties and stricter exports customs procedures. The new import restrictions covered traded merchandise worth an estimated USD 423.1 billion, the third-highest value since October 2012. WTO estimates indicate that the cumulative trade coverage of import-restrictive measures implemented since 2009, and still in force, amounts to USD 1.7 trillion or 8.7 per cent of world imports. This figure has grown steadily since 2009, both in value terms and as a percentage of world imports.

Even if trade restrictions remain widespread, the report also finds evidence of WTO members moving towards trade-facilitating policies across sectors during the review period, with 51 new trade-facilitating measures not related to COVID-19 implemented. These measures mainly included the elimination or reduction of import tariffs, the elimination of import taxes, the simplification of customs procedures and the reduction of export duties.

The trade coverage of non-COVID-19 related import-facilitating measures was estimated at USD 739.4 billion, which is significantly higher than the USD 544.7 billion recorded in the previous report (from mid-May to mid-October 2019) and represents the second-highest figure since October 2012.

The report shows that by mid-May 2020 WTO members implemented 256 trade and trade-related measures explicitly linked to the COVID-19 pandemic, with export bans accounting for the totality of the pandemic-related export restrictions recorded. These COVID-19 related measures appeared to have come in two clearly identifiable waves. In the early stages of the pandemic, several of the measures introduced restricted the free flow of trade but as of mid-May 2020, 57 per cent of all measures were of a trade-facilitating nature. In early May, some members began to phase out export constraints, targeting products such as surgical masks, gloves, medicine, and disinfectant. There is further evidence that a roll-back of other trade and trade-related measures taken in the early stages of the pandemic is also taking place. For instance, around 28 per cent of the COVID-19-specific trade-restrictive measures implemented by WTO members and observers had been repealed by mid-May.

Prepared against the backdrop of COVID-19, the report does not yet reflect the full impact of the pandemic on trade. According to WTO data published on 22 June, estimates for the second quarter of 2020 indicate a year-on-year drop in world trade of around 18 per cent.

Regarding general economic support measures, only 21 per cent of WTO members notified these actions in response to the Director-General’s request for information. From the limited information received, and from the research undertaken by the WTO, the current review period confirmed that WTO members appeared to continue to implement such measures as part of their overall trade policy.

Separate from these longstanding policies, the review period saw an unprecedented number of emergency support measures introduced by members in response to the economic and social turmoil caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of these measures appeared to be of a temporary nature. These include grants, monetary, fiscal, and financial measures, measures targeting micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), loans, credit guarantees and stimulus packages. Several measures were one-off grants while others included disbursements staggered over a few months and up to three years. Some of these measures form part of larger emergency rescue programs worth several trillion US dollars.

This report covers new trade and trade-related measures implemented by WTO members between 16 October 2019 and 15 May 2020. This period included the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has already delivered an almost unprecedented shock to the global economy and caused significant social disruption. Although the full impact of the pandemic is not yet reflected fully in trade statistics, it is expected to be very substantial.

In its trade forecast of 8 April 2020, the WTO considered two scenarios for the crisis, one relatively optimistic and the other more pessimistic. Under the optimistic scenario, the volume of world merchandise trade would fall by 12.9 per cent and world GDP would decline by 2.5 per cent. Under the pessimistic scenario, trade would contract by 31.9 per cent and GDP would shrink by 8.8 per cent. As at mid-June, preliminary trade data and trade-related indicators for the first half of 2020 were more consistent with the optimistic scenario than the pessimistic one, but actual outcomes could easily fall within or even outside of the forecast range, depending on how the crisis unfolds.

World trade was already slowing before the pandemic struck, weighed down by heightened trade tensions and slowing global economic growth. Merchandise trade was down 0.1 per cent in volume terms in 2019, marking the first decline since 2009. Trade growth also slowed in nominal terms in 2019, as the dollar value of merchandise exports fell by 3 per cent to USD 18.89 trillion. Although commercial services exports increased by 2 per cent to USD 6.03 trillion in 2019, the pace of growth was down sharply from 9 per cent in the previous year.

Overall, WTO members and observers implemented 363 new trade and trade-related measures during the review period, of which 198 were of a trade-facilitating nature and 165 were trade-restrictive. Seventy per cent of these measures (256 in total) were linked to the COVID-19 pandemic. Of these 256 measures, 147 facilitated trade and 109 restricted trade. In the early stages of the pandemic, several of the measures introduced by WTO members and observers restricted the free flow of trade, principally for exports. But as at mid-May 2020, 57 per cent of all COVID-19-related measures were trade-facilitating. Around 28 per cent of the COVID-19-specific trade restrictions implemented by WTO members and observers had been repealed by mid-May.

Excluding COVID-19-related measures, WTO members and observers implemented 107 trade and trade-related measures during the review period. These included 51 new measures aimed at facilitating trade. The trade coverage of these non-COVID-19-related import-facilitating measures implemented during the review period was estimated at USD 739.4 billion, the second-highest figure for such measures since October 2012. WTO members and observers also put in place 56 new trade-restrictive measures unrelated to the pandemic. The trade coverage for these new import-restrictive measures was estimated at USD 423.1 billion, the third-highest value recorded since October 2012. The trade coverage of import-restrictive measures implemented since 2009, and still in force, continues to increase. It is estimated that 8.7 per cent of world imports (USD 1.7 trillion) is affected by import-restrictive measures implemented since 2009 and still in force.

All WTO issues regularly covered by this report saw significant activity both before and after the outbreak of the pandemic. During the review period, 239 trade remedy actions were recorded for WTO members. The monthly average of trade remedy actions initiated was slightly higher than the average for the last eight years, while the monthly average of trade remedy terminations was the lowest over the same time span. During the review period, initiations of anti-dumping investigations accounted for around 80 per cent of all trade remedy initiations, which also includes safeguards and countervailing actions.

In services, most of the new measures introduced by WTO members and observers between mid-October 2019 and mid-May 2020 were trade-facilitating, but a number of new policies appeared to be trade-restrictive, including in areas related to foreign investment and in areas considered strategic or linked to national security. Most of the 99 services measures adopted by WTO members and observers in response to the pandemic appeared to be trade-facilitating.

WTO members continued to implement general economic support measures as part of their overall trade policy, a fact confirmed by WTO Secretariat analysis despite governments’ low response rate with respect to these measures. In addition, WTO members and observers also implemented a large number of emergency support measures in response to the economic and social turmoil caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of the 468 COVID-19-related general economic support measures identified, including monetary, fiscal, and financial measures as well as preferential loans, credit guarantees and stimulus packages, collectively worth several trillion US dollars, appeared to be temporary in nature. These emergency support measures are central to governments’ strategies to address the pandemic-induced economic downturn and to prepare the ground for a strong recovery. Regular monitoring of support measures introduced in the context of the pandemic will be important for members to be able to track their evolution and effects as the world exits the health crisis and enters a recovery period.

WTO members were very active in the Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) and Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Committees during the review period and notified a higher volume of SPS and TBT measures compared to the previous period. Most of the new notifications were submitted by developing members. From 1 February to 15 May 2020, 19 members notified 29 SPS measures taken in response to the pandemic. The nature of most of these measures shifted, from initial restrictions on animal imports and/or transit from affected areas and additional certification requirements, to from April trade-facilitating measures such as the use of electronic certificates for checks. As at 15 May 2020, 14 WTO members had submitted 53 TBT notifications/communications on standards and regulations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, covering a wide range of products including personal protective equipment, medical equipment, medical supplies, medicines, and food.

WTO members continued to extensively use the Committee on Agriculture review process and raised a total of 298 questions in relation to members’ individual notifications and on specific implementation matters. In relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, three WTO members informed the Committee of four temporary measures to respond to food security threats.

The report also covers developments in WTO members in trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights (TRIPS). Several members implemented specific IP-related measures aimed at facilitating the development and dissemination of COVID-19-related health technologies, as well as at relaxing procedural requirements and extending deadlines for administrative IP matters.

Work continued in the first months of 2020 to advance negotiations, particularly on fisheries subsidies, building on the decision taken by members at the 11th Ministerial Conference (MC11). Groups of members also continued to pursue their discussions on other issues, including electronic commerce, investment facilitation, women’s economic empowerment, domestic regulation in services, and micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs). However, the delegations’ ability to engage in detailed negotiations has been constrained by restrictions on movement and the refocusing of priorities to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

Published by jim

Curator of things...

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