The United States Department of the Treasury imposed sanctions Friday on 11 Hong Kong and mainland China officials over their involvement in undermining Hong Kong’s autonomy and curtailing citizens’ freedom of expression and assembly through the implementation of the National Security Law.
Among those sanctioned is Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, characterized by the Treasury as “directly responsible for implementing Beijing’s policies of suppression of freedom and democratic processes.” The sanctioned individuals will have their assets in the United States frozen, and any financial transactions with them are henceforth criminalized.
The sanctions were imposed under President Trump’s Executive Order on Hong Kong Normalization issued in July.
Secretary of the Treasury Steven T. Mnuchin declared, “The United States stands with the people of Hong Kong and we will use our tools and authorities to target those undermining their autonomy.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a press statement, “Today’s actions send a clear message that the Hong Kong authorities’ actions are unacceptable and in contravention of the PRC’s commitments under “one country, two systems” and the Sino-British Joint Declaration, a UN-registered treaty.”
US Consulate General Hong Kong also released a statement in which it said, “We once again call on Beijing to respect the commitment it made to the people of Hong Kong, and to the international community, in the Sino-British Joint Declaration.”
The latest sanctions closely followed the executive order banning US transactions with the Chinese companies that own the apps WeChat and TikTok. The US has already imposed sanctions on Chinese Communist Party members and companies over alleged human rights abuses after issuing the President’s Executive Order.
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New York State Attorney General Letitia James announced Thursday that her office will seek judicial approval to dissolve the National Rifle Association (NRA) following the results of an extensive fraud investigation into the organization.
After conducting a multi-year investigation into the NRA’s finances, James said that four former and current officers – Executive Vice-President Wayne LaPierre, former Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer Wilson Phillips, former Chief of Staff and the Executive Director of General Operations Joshua Powell, and Corporate Secretary and General Counsel John Frazer – had breached their fiduciary duties and illegally stolen funds from the organization for personal use. In total, James alleged that the NRA lost more than $64 million over the course of three years for use by the four men for personal travel, vacations for family members, expensive gifts for personal friends, and other charges. In addition, James said that the NRA Board of Directors failed to properly exercise oversight of the organization’s funds, engaged in insider dealing for contracts and purchases, took steps to conceal the wrongdoing by officials, and fostered an “environment of non-compliance” with legal reporting requirements. As a registered 501(c)(4) non-profit charity, the NRA is required by New York state law to use funds “to be used in a way that serves the interests of NRA membership and that advance the organization’s charitable mission,” which James says the organization failed to do.
In a press release announcing the lawsuit, James said that “the NRA is fraught with fraud and abuse, which is why, today, we seek to dissolve the NRA, because no organization is above the law.” The lawsuit seeks to shut down the organization, prevent the four named men from serving in leadership positions for charities in the future, and undisclosed monetary damages to reimburse the costs of the funds stolen by the individuals.
Responding to James on Twitter, the NRA called the lawsuit a “baseless, premeditated attack on our organization and the Second Amendment freedoms it fights to defend” and alleged that it was politically motivated to coincide with the 2020 presidential election.
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Brazil’s Federal Supreme Court (STF) ordered the government on Wednesday to adopt measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 in indigenous communities. The decision came hours after Aritana Yawalapiti, a leader of the Yawalapiti ethnic group in the Upper Xingu River region, passed away after contracting the disease.
The judges unanimously declared that the indigenous groups must be isolated by the creation of sanitary barriers. The majority voted that 30 days must be provided to the government to formulate a strategy. They also agreed with the view of the rapporteur of the Fundamental Precept Failure Statement (ADPF) 709, Minister Luís Roberto Barroso, that invaders of indigenous lands must be removed. Barroso said in the first session of the case held on Monday that “[i]t is unacceptable for the government to inaction [sic] – perhaps everyone, up to now, to some extent – in relation to the invasion of indigenous lands, especially because of the serious risk it poses to the practice of environmental crimes.”
The action was brought by Articulação dos Povos Indígenas do Brasil (APIB), a group for indigenous communities, and six opposition parties in June. Last month, President Jair Bolsonaro vetoed portions of a bill formulated to protect indigenous groups during the pandemic. The President argued that the provisions were unconstitutional as they created expenses without generating revenue.
APIB lawyer Luiz Eloy Terena said that “[t]his action is the voice of indigenous peoples in the Court (of the STF) and is a historic action because for the first time the indigenous people come to the judiciary in their own name.”
According to the latest APIB tally, 639 indigenous people have died after contracting the disease, and 22,656 individuals out of the 850,000 indigenous persons in Brazil are infected.
A US District Court judge on Friday granted the federal government’s request to terminate a set of antitrust rules, the so-called Paramount Decrees, that “for over seventy years have regulated how certain movie studios distribute films to movie theaters.”
The decrees, a result of the landmark 1948 Supreme Court case United States v. Paramount Pictures, Inc., banned Hollywood’s largest studios (including MGM, Paramount, 20th Century Fox, Warner, Universal, and Columbia) from “[controlling] the motion picture industry through their ownership of film distribution and exhibition.” The Court sustained findings that “[the studios] had engaged in a wide-spread conspiracy to illegally fix motion picture prices and monopolize both the film distribution and movie theater markets.”
The conditions of the decrees forced the companies to sell the theaters they owned, outlawed “block booking” (the practice of selling films as a package to coerce theaters into playing less-profitable films), and limited actions that prioritized certain theaters over others.
In late 2019, the Antitrust Division of the US Department of Justice moved to eliminate the decrees. In a press release issued Friday the DOJ said that “the motion picture industry has undergone considerable change” since the inception of the decrees. It credited multiplex theaters and technology advances as rendering the need for the decrees obsolete. “New technology has created many different distribution and viewing platforms that did not exist when the decrees where entered into… today’s consumers can view motion pictures on cable and broadcast TV, DVDs, and over the internet through streaming services.”
In a 17-page Order, Judge Analisa Torres acknowledged these changes as one of the reasons to grant the government’s request. The court found that termination was in the public interest, stating that “it is unlikely that [the studios] would collude to once again limit their film distribution to a select group of theaters in the absence of the decrees” and concluded that the government has “offered a reasonable and persuasive explanation” for terminating the decrees.
Moving forward, the Order includes a two-year “sunset” provision for ending the block booking ban, in an attempt to minimize market disruption and to “provide movie theaters a transitional time period to adjust their business models and strategies to any proposals to change the film-by-film, theater-by-theater licensing regime.”
The Washington DC Police Union filed suit Wednesday in the US District Court for the District of Columbia against the city, seeking to block part of an emergency police reform bill passed in July.
The Comprehensive Policing and Justice Reform Second Emergency Amendment Act of 2020 was approved by the District of Columbia (DC) Council on July 7, and Mayor Muriel Bowser signed the act on July 27. The emergency act was passed in response to the killing of George Floyd and resulting protests throughout the nation.
Section 116 of the act amended Section 1708 of the DC government Comprehensive Merit Personnel Act (CMPA), removing the right of the DC Police Union to negotiate with management regarding discipline of its members. Under the CMPA, all DC government employees had the right to bargain with management concerning the discipline of members. Out of 45 labor unions representing DC government employees, the DC Police Union was the only union stripped of the right to negotiate.
In the complaint, the union alleged that Section 116 violated the Equal Protection requirements of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, because the government placed law enforcement into a distinct class and discriminated against them by stripping their rights to bargain. The complaint also alleged that the legislation violated the Bill of Attainder Clause, because it was “offered as a punishment of sworn law enforcement officers in the District of Columbia to quell rising tensions and protests in the District coming as a result of the death of George Floyd in Minnesota.”
The union alleged that the law violated the Contracts Clause of the Constitution, because the government was impeding upon the DC Police Union’s contractual relationships. Finally, the union alleged that Section 116 violated substantive due process rights under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, because it “is an arbitrary, severe, and permanent infringement upon the rights of the District’s sworn law enforcement officers and the DC Police Union.”
Because of this, the union requested that the court declare Section 116 invalid and unconstitutional, and that the court permanently enjoin the approval, enactment, and enforcement of the section.
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