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Biden expands US investment ban on Chinese firms

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US President Joe Biden is set to ban Americans from investing in dozens of Chinese tech and defence firms with alleged military ties.

The new executive order will come into effect on 2 August, hitting 59 firms including communications giant Huawei. The list of firms will be updated on a rolling basis.

The move expands an order previously issued by ex-President Donald Trump.

Even before the official announcement, China suggested it would retaliate.

Under the new order, US investors will be banned from buying or selling publicly-traded securities for other companies including the China General Nuclear Power Corporation, China Mobile Limited and Costar Group.

It expands the previous list from 31 firms to include surveillance companies and is aimed at ensuring “US persons are not financing the military industrial complex of the People’s Republic of China,” one White House official said.

“The prohibitions are intentionally targeted and scoped to maximise the impact on the targets while minimising harm to global markets,” the official added.

Huawei recently said that sanctions imposed on it by the US in 2019 have had a major impact on its mobile phone business.

The US took action amid claims that the company posed a security risk and last July, and the UK said it would exclude the company from building its 5G network.

The new list of companies barred from US investment will update one from the Department of Defense.

“We fully expect that in the months ahead… we’ll be adding additional companies to the new executive order’s restrictions,” the White House said.

It comes as the surveillance of citizens, including Uyghurs in the Xinjiang region in particular, has come under scrutiny.

The Biden administration has also accused China of acting more aggressively abroad and more repressively at home.

The China-US relationship is crucial to both sides and the wider world, with Beijing repeatedly calling on the new administration in Washington to improve relations which deteriorated under predecessor Donald Trump.

In their first meeting under the Biden presidency last month, the two countries’ top trade negotiators held “candid, pragmatic” talks on their trading relationship.

President Biden has insisted, however, that existing tariffs will be kept in place for now as he looks to boost the US economy, which was hit hard early in the pandemic but is now recovering.

Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Wang Wenbin suggested China would retaliate against the latest measures.

“China will take necessary measures to resolutely safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese enterprises and resolutely support Chinese enterprises in safeguarding their rights and interests in accordance with the law,” he said.

Read from source: https://www.bbc.com/news/business-57334265\

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White House officials growing anxious over anticipated surge of migrants next month

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White House officials are increasingly anxious about an expected migrant surge at the end of May coinciding with the repeal of a restrictive Trump-era border policy that has let them turn people away.

The political fallout over the Biden administration’s decision to terminate a Trump-era pandemic restriction, known as Title 42, on the US-Mexico border has put into sharp focus the precarious position for the White House — between its goals to welcome immigrants and weighing using drastic Trump-era policies to try to stem the flow of migrants arriving at the border.
“People are worried about where this is going and weathering the storm,” a source familiar with discussions told CNN.
One source who is in regular contact with senior-most administration officials about immigration policy said concern at the White House about the situation at the border has only grown as the midterm elections approach — and all the more so in recent days after the announcement that Title 42 will officially end in May.
“It was always going to be hard,” the person said, “and now they’re closer to the midterms.”
Another source close to the White House described a “high level of apprehension” in recent weeks.
“They watch the border numbers every day,” the person said. “They’re very aware of what the situation is at the border.”
White House chief of staff Ron Klain and President Joe Biden’s domestic policy adviser Susan Rice — two powerful political voices in the administration — are among the top administration officials who have been intimately involved in discussing the situation.

A political minefield

Issues related to the US-Mexico border and the entry of migrants into the country have long been politically fraught for both Republican and Democratic administrations.
Biden, who campaigned against Trump-era immigration policies, has received heated criticism from Republicans for his handling of border enforcement. But he’s also faced pushback from inside his own party for continuing to implement some of his predecessor’s policies that are unpopular with progressives.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki highlighted the administration’s plans in a Thursday press briefing, saying: “I would note the Department of Homeland Security also put together a preparedness plan to continue addressing irregular migration that involves surging personnel and resources to the border, improving border processing, implementing mitigation measures and working with other countries in the hemisphere to manage migration.”
In the span of a year, Biden has already grappled with a record number of unaccompanied migrant children at the US southern border and thousands of primarily Haitian migrants who camped in deplorable conditions under a bridge in Del Rio, Texas. Those incidents — which were used as fodder for Republicans looking to criticize the administration — are still fresh on the minds of officials bracing for busy weeks ahead.
“We can’t have another Del Rio happen to us,” US Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz said last month.
Avoiding that, though, might include the continued use of policies the administration has repeatedly criticized, like the Trump-era “remain in Mexico” policy that requires non-Mexican migrants to stay in Mexico until their US immigration court date. The policy, which restarted late last year after a court ruling, marked an unprecedented departure from previous protocols. Even so, the end of one Trump-era policy may give away to another growing in numbers.
“We will employ much greater numbers post-Title 42,” a Homeland Security official recently told reporters, referring to the “remain in Mexico” policy, which is formally called Migrant Protection Protocols.
“We are under a court order to reimplement MPP in good faith and as part of those good faith efforts, we have been systematically increasing our enrollment under MPP,” the official added.
The Department of Homeland Security has twice issued a memo trying to terminate the “remain in Mexico” policy, outlining its shortcomings and arguing it puts migrants in harm’s way, but the court ruling forced the administration to restart the policy. The administration is appealing the ruling.
As of April 3, nearly 2,000 people have been sent back to Mexico under the policy, according to the International Organization for Migration. That number is expected to grow, though given long-processing times and numerous other safeguards the administration has tried to implement, it’s unlikely to expand enough to stem the flow of migrants

Tens of thousands of migrants could surge to the border once restrictions lift

Still, Republicans and some Democrats have expressed concern over the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s decision to revoke Title 42 next month, arguing that it’s a reckless decision amid pent-up demand to come to the US among migrants who are facing deteriorating conditions at home.
Intelligence assessments have found that people are in a “wait and see” mode and trying to determine when they have the best likelihood of entry into the US, according to a federal law enforcement official, adding that some of the 30,000 to 60,000 people could seek entry within hours if the CDC rule is repealed.
The White House has held interagency meetings about the intelligence and the situation more broadly, the official said.
By pulling back Title 42, the administration is returning to the usual operating procedures that have been in place for decades for processing migrants. That includes releasing migrants who claim asylum into the US, sometimes under an alternative form of detention, or detaining migrants and deporting them back to their home country.
But given conditions in Latin America, which was hit particularly hard by the coronavirus pandemic, more migrants may want to journey to the US southern border.
“As a result of the CDC’s termination of its Title 42 public health order, we will likely face an increase in encounters above the current high levels. There are a significant number of individuals who were unable to access the asylum system for the past two years, and who may decide that now is the time to come,” US Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Chris Magnus said in a statement.
The Department of Homeland Security released detailed plans for varying scenarios that could unfold at the US-Mexico border in the coming weeks.
Three planning scenarios have been devised to trigger what resources might be needed. The first scenario is where current arrest figures are, the second scenario is up to 12,000 people a day and the third scenario is up to 18,000 people a day, according to a planning document.
The Department of Homeland Security has set up a “Southwest Border Coordination Center” to coordinate a response to a potential surge among federal agencies. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas appointed FEMA Region 3’s regional administrator, MaryAnn Tierney, in March to head the center.
As part of the preparation, CBP has deployed 400 agents from other parts of the US border to assist operations on the southern border, increased number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement personnel to assist in processing migrants, called on volunteers in the DHS workforce, and contracted to move thousands of migrants if need be.
CBP is also preparing to add new temporary facilities to alleviate any overcrowding. According to the DHS planning document, CBP holding facilities can hold over 16,000 migrants and expand to 17,000 with additional facilities opening in early April. Existing contracts can also be expanded to meet needs if there are up to 30,000 migrants in custody in a worst-case scenario.
But despite those plans, some Democrats are wary about moving forward with a return to the usual protocols on the border. Georgia Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock, who is up for reelection, doubled down on his opposition to reversing Title 42.
“Senator Warnock believes in protecting the humanity of migrants at the border, but before this policy is rescinded, the Administration should present a plan for how it will ensure our border security has the manpower, infrastructure, humanitarian and legal resources they need to prevent this policy change from making an already dire humanitarian situation worse,” a spokesperson for Warnock said in a statement.

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LA jail guards routinely punch incarcerated people in the head, monitors find

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Los Angeles jail guards have frequently punched incarcerated people in the head and subjected them to a “humiliating” group strip-search where they were forced to wait undressed for hours, according to a new report from court-appointed monitors documenting a range of abuses.

The Los Angeles sheriff’s department (LASD), which oversees the largest local jail system in the country, appears to be routinely violating use-of-force policies, with supervisors failing to hold guards accountable and declining to provide information to the monitors tasked with reviewing the treatment of incarcerated people.

The report, filed in federal court on Thursday, adds to a long string of scandals for the department. The monitors – first put in place in 2014 to settle a case involving beatings – suggested that some problems in the jails appeared to be getting worse after they visited the facilities in December 2021.

The monitors, Robert Houston, a former corrections official, and Jeffrey Schwartz, a consultant, alleged that the use of “head shots”, meaning punches to the head, had been “relatively unchanged in the last two years or more, and may be increasing”. They also wrote that deputies who used force in violation of policy were at times sent to “remedial training” but that “actual discipline is seldom imposed”. And supervisors who failed to document violations were also “not held accountable” .

The authors cited one incident in which a deputy approached a resident who had “walked away from him” while he was being escorted. “With no hesitation, Deputy Y grabbed [his] chest and slammed him into the wall. Deputy Y punched [him] 5‐9 times in the head, and Deputy Z punched [him] 6‐8 times in the head as they took [him] to the floor because they ‘feared’ that the Inmate might become assaultive”.

The report also documented an incident on 7 September 2021, when there were reports that a firearm “might have been smuggled” into Men’s Central jail. Guards responded by instituting a “shakedown” and strip-search of residents.

“They said they were taken out of their cells in the morning, given no explanation (except for one inmate who said he was told the reason for the search by a deputy), strip-searched, then walked naked en masse through the jail and down to the room with the X‐ray machine,” the report said, citing complaints from jail residents. “Passing large numbers of male and female staff members, some of whom … mocked them or made other humiliating comments”.

Those interviewed said they eventually got underwear, but still no shoes, and were taken to a yard where they were forced to wait for hours until they returned to their cells later that night.

LASD did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the report on Friday.

The monitors said they had written officials in January to ask if this was standard procedure, and whether the residents were given food, water and access to bathrooms while waiting. According to the monitors, the department responded that it had completed a “report” about the incident with “corrective action plans”, but in the three months since, it had not sent documents or further information.

The report raised further concerns about the department’s use of the “Wrap” device, which functions like a full-body restraining jacket and is used to “immobilize” people. The Wrap procedures pose a serious risk of asphyxiation, and “the continuing practice … cannot be justified”, the monitors said.

The department had failed to fulfill its requirement to write a Wrap policy that the monitors had approved, and it had further misled the monitors about how the jail was using the device, the report alleged: “The practices used with Wrap appear to be almost diametrically opposed to the way in which the Department explained that Wrap was being used.”

In 2018, a man in jail in northern California died of asphyxiation after being subjected to the Wrap device, sparking widespread scrutiny of the practice.

The LA jails have for years been plagued by corruption and obstruction of justice scandals, with the former sheriff Lee Baca and his second in command both convicted in cases stemming from misconduct investigations. Guards in the Men’s Central jail have also long been accused of being part of a “deputy gang”, known for allegedly using excessive force. The department has also faced mounting questions this year about the death of a 27-year-old in solitary confinement.

“These are not one-time incidents – this is the culture and history of the department,” said Mark-Anthony Clayton-Johnson, executive director of Dignity and Power Now, a group that has long been fighting to shut down the Men’s Central jail. He said the report reminded him of the misconduct allegations and obfuscation from department leaders in a 2012 case. “After 10 years of exposure, 10 years of scandal, 10 years of reform, this department has had a lot of opportunities to get this right … but has continued to revert back to some of the most vicious attacks on Black and brown people.

“It is clear our loved ones are not safe in the custody of the sheriff’s department,” he added.

Peter Eliasberg, chief counsel at the ACLU Foundation of Southern California, said it was especially disturbing that the problems seemed to be escalating under sheriff Alex Villanueva, who was elected in 2018: “They are treating incarcerated people in the jails in a sub-human manner … There’s just an utter lack of accountability, which ultimately goes to the top.”

Helen Jones, an organizer whose 22-year-old son died in LA sheriff’s custody in 2009, said she wasn’t surprised by the report: “It’s been this way for so long, it’s just the norm. It’s out of control, and there are no consequences.”

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West Virginia students to stage walkout over Christian revival at high school

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Between calculus and European history classes at a West Virginia public high school, 16-year-old Cameron Mays and his classmates were told by their teacher to go to an evangelical Christian revival assembly.

When students arrived at the event in the school’s auditorium, they were instructed to close their eyes and raise their arms in prayer, Mays said. The teens were asked to give their lives over to Jesus to find purpose and salvation. Those who did not follow the Bible would go to hell when they died, they were told.

The Huntington high school junior sent a text to his father.

“Is this legal?” he asked.

The answer, according to the US constitution, is no. In fact, the separation of church and state is one of the country’s founding basic tenets, noted Huntington high school senior Max Nibert.

“Just to see that defamed and ignored in such a blatant way, it’s disheartening,” he said.

Nibert and other Huntington students are planning to stage a walkout during homeroom period Wednesday to protest the assembly.

“I don’t think any kind of religious official should be hosted in a taxpayer-funded building with the express purpose of trying to convince minors to become baptized after school hours,” Nibert said.

The mini revival took place last week during Compass, a daily, “non-instructional” break in the schedule during which students can study for tests, work on college prep or listen to guest speakers, said Cabell county schools spokesperson Jedd Flowers.

Flowers said the event was voluntary, organized by the school’s chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He said there was supposed to be a signup sheet for students, but two teachers mistakenly brought their entire class.

“It’s unfortunate that it happened,” Flowers said. “We don’t believe it will ever happen again.”

But in this community of fewer than 50,000 people in south-western West Virginia, the controversy has ignited a broader conversation about whether religious services – voluntary or not – should be allowed during school hours at all. A group of parents, the American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia and other organizations say the answer to this question is also no. They say such events are a clear violation of students’ civil rights.

“It is inappropriate and unconstitutional for the district to offer religious leaders unique access to preach and proselytize students during school hours on school property,” Freedom From Religion Foundation, a non-profit that promotes the separation of church and state, wrote in a letter to the school district. The district cannot “allow its schools to be used as recruiting grounds for churches”, the letter reads.

Last week’s assembly at Huntington high featured a sermon from 25-year-old evangelical preacher Nik Walker of Nik Walker Ministries, who has been leading revivals in the Huntington area for more than two weeks.

During the assemblies, students and their families are encouraged to join evening services at the nearby Christ Temple church. More than 450 people, including 200 students, have been baptized at the church, according to Walker, who said he was scheduled to go to another public school and nearby Marshall University soon.

Bethany Felinton said her Jewish son was one of the students forced to attend the assembly at Huntington high. She said that when he asked to leave, the teacher told him their classroom door was locked and he couldn’t go. He sat back down in his seat, uncomfortable. Felinton said he felt he couldn’t disobey his teacher.

“It’s a completely unfair and unacceptable situation to put a teenager in,” she said. “I’m not knocking their faith, but there’s a time and place for everything – and in public schools, during the school day, is not the time and place.”

Mays’ father, Herman Mays, agrees. “They can’t just play this game of, you know, ‘We’re going to choose this time as wiggle room, this gray area where we believe we can insert a church service,”’ he said.

Walker said he has never contacted a school about coming to speak; it’s always the students who reach out to his ministry, he said.

“We don’t even have to knock on the door,” he said. “The students, they receive hope here [at Christ Temple Church] and then they want to bring hope to their school or to their classmates.”

Walker, originally from the small town of Mullens, West Virginia, has been traveling the state since he was 17 hosting church meetings at schools. He said he came to Huntington on 23 January with plans to leave three days later but saw a need he felt compelled to address.

Walker said he sees a lot of “hopelessness” in the Huntington area: students struggling with addiction, anxiety and depression.

“When you see regions like this, then you really know they need the Lord,” he said, drinking a cup of hot tea with honey to soothe his throat after a couple of hours of preaching.

Tolsia high school freshman Mckenzie Cassell said she was excited for Walker to come to speak to her and her peers. She attends Christ Temple church, where she said she is now seeing a lot more young people since Walker started his work in the schools.

“It’s awesome to see a lot of young kids coming,” she said.

Cassell’s guardian, Cindy Cassell said it’s been powerful to see someone make such an impression on young people in town.

“The kids want it and they’re ready for change in the right direction,” she said.

The Cassells attended a service at Christ Temple church in Huntington on Monday night with Walker and more than 400 others.

At the end of the service, Walker invited people to come to the front of the congregation, where fellow parishioners laid their hands on their backs. They were then escorted into a room next door, where they changed into white robes to be baptized. Some cried as they emerged from the water, the fabric clinging to their skin, their hands held aloft.

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