...

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday vowed to protect Hong Kong pro-democracy campaigners who have fled the city and denounced China after Beijing said that police had ordered the arrests of overseas activists. “The Chinese Communist Party cannot tolerate the free thinking of its own people, and increasingly is trying to extend its reach outside China’s borders,” Pompeo said in a statement. “The United States and other free nations will continue to protect our peoples from the long arm of Beijing’s authoritarianism.” In an accompanying tweet, Pompeo said that Washington “condemns the Chinese Communist Party’s attempt to prosecute pro-democracy advocates resident outside of China, including in the United States.” Chinese state media said late Friday that Hong Kong police had ordered the arrest of six pro-democracy activists living in exile on suspicion of violating a tough new security law. One of them, Samuel Chu, head of the Washington-based Hong Kong Democracy Council, wrote on Twitter that he has been a U.S. citizen for 25 years. FILE – Pro-democracy activist Nathan Law attends a press conference in Hong Kong, January 27, 2018.The most prominent person targeted was 27-year-old campaigner Nathan Law, who recently fled Hong Kong for Britain and called the charges against him “trumped up.” Hong Kong police refused to comment on the charges. But China’s ambassador to the United States, Cui Tiankai, appeared to confirm and defend the charges. “All these law enforcement actions are taken according to the law,” Cui said in response to a question at the Aspen Security Forum. “Anybody, if they violate the law, they should be punished. That’s it. It doesn’t matter what kind of political views they might have.” China in late June passed a security law that bans subversion and other perceived offenses in the financial hub, sending a chill through a city that witnessed wide and occasionally destructive pro-democracy protests last year. The United States has denounced the law and said it would end special treatment for Hong Kong, to which Beijing promised freedoms before Britain handed back the territory in 1997.  

your ad here

U.S. lawmakers on Tuesday had tough questions for the U.S. special representative for Venezuela, asking why the Trump administration has not done more to stop Russia, China, Iran and Cuba from propping up Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. Under Maduro, more than five million Venezuelans have fled their once prosperous country. VOA’s Diplomatic Correspondent Cindy Saine reports from Washington.Produced by: Rob Raffaele 

your ad here

New York City’s health commissioner, Dr. Oxiris Barbot, resigned Tuesday, expressing her “deep disappointment” with the way New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has handled the COVID pandemic and his use of the department’s expertise.In her resignation letter, sent to de Blasio and members of the media, Barbot said, “I leave my post today with deep disappointment that during the most critical public health crisis in our lifetime, that the Health Department’s incomparable disease control expertise was not used to the degree it could have been.”Earlier this year, the New York Times reported de Blasio initially ignored Barbot’s advice about canceling large gatherings and closing businesses. Last month, he stripped control of the city’s COVID-19 contact-tracing program from the health department, and placed the program under Health and Hospitals, the agency that runs the city’s public hospitals.Barbot’s replacement was announced as Dr. Dave Chokshi—a Rhodes Scholar who served at the Louisiana Department of Health during Hurricane Katrina and was the principal health adviser to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs in the Obama administration.At his Tuesday news conference, de Blasio thanked Barbot for her service and the important work she did during the crisis. He told reporters it became clear it was time to move forward and “create a new approach” for how to handle the pandemic.Earlier this year, New York City was the epicenter of the pandemic in the United States, with daily deaths passing 400 per day. But this past month, the city saw the lowest number of hospitalizations since the pandemic began. 
 

your ad here

President Donald Trump’s demand that the U.S. government get a cut from a potential Microsoft purchase of TikTok is the latest unprecedented scenario in an unprecedented situation.  Microsoft is in talks to buy parts of TikTok, a forced sale after Trump threatened to ban the Chinese-owned video app, which claims 100 million U.S. users and hundreds of millions globally. The Trump administration says TikTok is a national-security concern. How a ban would have worked was not clear; that federal authority has never been used before with a consumer app. TikTok denies that it would send U.S. user data to the Chinese government.  Microsoft did not address a potential price when it confirmed the talks. FILE – The logo of the social media video sharing app Tiktok is displayed on a tablet screen in Paris, November 21, 2019Trump said Monday to reporters that the U.S. “should get a very large percentage of that price because we’re making it possible,” adding that “we want and we think we deserve to have a big percentage of that price coming to America, coming to the Treasury.”  Trump sometimes floats ideas or actions that get set aside without follow-through. Appearing on the Fox Business Network on Tuesday, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow appeared to walk back the idea of a payment to the Treasury, saying “I don’t know if that’s a key stipulation.” TikTok under reviewTikTok was under review by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, known as CFIUS, a U.S. government group chaired by the Treasury Secretary that studies mergers for national-security reasons, for its acquisition of another video app, Musical.ly, in 2017. The president can approve or disapprove a transaction recommended by the interagency panel. CFIUS collects filing fees, but those top out at $300,000. “I doubt that’s what Trump has in mind,” said Hal Singer, an antitrust expert and managing director at consulting firm Econ One. “Outside of that I can’t think of any means by which the U.S. could basically get its vig on its forced transfer.” A “vig” is slang for interest on a loan, usually in the context of illegal activity, or the fee charged by a bookie for a bet.  There’s no legal precedent in antitrust law for such a payment, said Gene Kimmelman, a senior adviser at the advocacy group Public Knowledge and a former antitrust official at the Department of Justice. “In terms of a foreign company agreeing to sell assets to a U.S. company subject to antitrust review, I can’t see any logical basis under which Treasury or the White House would be negotiating elements of the financial portions of the deal.” While noting that he is not an expert in all areas of U.S. law and the broad authority that the president has, he said the TikTok deal and the White House’s role in it was highly unusual. “Not in my experience have I seen any engagement from the White House in this manner,” he said. “It’s already a unique situation from start to finish with the government intervening to prevent use of a service in the U.S.” There are no “obvious antitrust or other legal bases” for the demand for “what is in effect a payoff to the U.S. government,” said Eswar Prassad, an economist at Cornell University. “The notion of a payment to the U.S. government sets a dangerous precedent of explicit entanglement between national security and economic considerations.” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany sidestepped a question Tuesday about what authority the federal government had to collect a portion of proceeds from the potential sale of TikTok, saying “I’m not going to get ahead of the president on any official action.” Treasury did not reply to questions about what legal precedent Trump is relying on to get a payment for the TikTok deal. Microsoft committed to dealIn a statement Sunday, Microsoft had said that that it was committed to the deal “subject to a complete security review and providing proper economic benefits to the United States, including the United States Treasury.” TikTok has said that it is loved by Americans and “will be here for many years to come.” In a memo ByteDance CEO Zhang Yiming sent Chinese employees Tuesday, a translated version of which ByteDance sent to The Associated Press, he said that he felt the goal of the Trump administration was not the forced sale of TikTok’s U.S. business to an American company through CFIUS, but “a ban or even more.” A representative for Microsoft did not reply to questions about the payment demand Tuesday. TikTok declined to comment beyond its Monday statement.  

your ad here

Tropical Storm Isaias is churning up the Mid-Atlantic U.S. after making landfall as a category 1 hurricane Tuesday night in South and North Carolina, triggering flooding and tornadoes.The National Hurricane Center said since Isaias moved inland, the winds decreased but strong gusts continued over coastal North Carolina and the coastal Outer Banks, knocking out power to thousands of homes and businesses. Isaias initially made landfall near Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina, with maximum sustained winds of 140 km/h just after 11pm EDT on Monday. Tropical Storm Isaias Approaches Carolinas, Set to Regain Hurricane Strength  Floods forecast as tropical storm drifts up US East CoastThe NHC said early Tuesday that strong winds, heavy rainfall and tornadoes were sweeping over eastern Maryland and the Delmarva Peninsula and predicted they would spread up the Mid-Atlantic coast throughout the day.Isaias was packing sustained winds of 110 km/h with higher gusts and is expected to gradually weaken throughout the day before becoming a post-tropical storm overnight.Heavy rainfall along the East Coast has sparked flash flooding along coastal areas of  North Carolina and the Mid-Atlantic and is expected to continue in the northeastern U.S. states later Tuesday.Tornadoes produced by Isaias killed at least one person and flattened at least 10 homes in a mobile home park in Windsor, North Carolina, according to the Bertie County sheriff’s department.Tropical storm warnings were in effect from the Virginia border north to the state of Maine, in the upper northeast.  President Donald Trump declared a state of emergency in North Carolina to free up funds for federal officials to help towns and cities coordinate disaster relief efforts. Trump made a similar declaration Saturday for Florida, which was spared the full impact of the storm. 

your ad here

A top European Union diplomat has called for a delay in the vote to choose the Inter-American Development Bank’s new president, a closely watched election that has sparked controversy over the first-ever U.S. candidate.
In a July 30 letter seen by Reuters, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell cited the coronavirus pandemic and the nomination of President Donald Trump’s hawkish Latin America adviser Mauricio Claver-Carone as reasons to postpone the planned Sept. 12 vote until after March.
“This postponement is more advisable if we consider the submission, without precedent, of a candidacy to preside the Bank by the United States Government,” Borrell wrote in the letter to Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya.
 
Some U.S. lawmakers and former ministers and presidents in Latin America have publicly voiced their opposition to Claver-Carone, although he is favored to win the Sept. 12 election and has support from at least 15 countries.
 
Two Argentine government officials told Reuters the country, which has its own candidate, would favor postponing the IDB election. But with just over 11% of the voting power, they would need the support of other countries to delay the vote.
 
Claver-Carone dismissed the idea that Europe would oppose his candidacy in an interview last week, saying he was already in touch with European leaders about future plans.
 
“Do you think Europe is going to look at the majority of region which has already come out publicly in support of our candidacy and say, ‘Oh, we’re going to go with one country in the region versus the overwhelming majority of the region?’ The optics of that would be horrible,” Claver-Carone said.
 
A senior U.S. administration official told Reuters the EU was not party to the IDB as an entity, and all member states had agreed to the virtual September election.
 
“Any effort by a minority of countries, let alone by non-regional countries, to hijack the election process would be an affront to the region and be challenged,” the official said.
 
Luis Almagro, secretary general of the Organization of American States, also pushed back in a tweet on Sunday: “The region is independent, sovereign and can maturely make its own decisions.”
  

your ad here

A group of Republican and Democratic lawmakers is pressing the Trump administration to release $20 million in congressionally approved funds aimed at promoting internet access throughout the world, especially in authoritarian countries such as China and Iran.  Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement, “The Open Technology Fund provides a lifeline for people living under oppressive regimes.” He added, “Unfortunately, this critical programming is on the brink of collapse.”  Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, a Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called the funding hold “a gift to repressive governments in China, Iran and elsewhere,” according to the Washington Post.   Lawmakers spoke out after Laura Cunningham, the acting chief executive of the Washington-based Open Technology Fund, accused USAGM and its leader, Michael Pack, of forcing the OTF to halt 49 of its 60 internet freedom projects that assist human rights and pro-democracy advocates in about 200 countries, because of the funding lapse.   USAGM responded to Cunningham’s letter in a statement to VOA that did not say whether the agency plans to release the funds but said “advancing internet freedom and protecting the safety of journalists and activists are among USAGM’s highest priorities.” The statement also accused OTF of unspecified security failures that jeopardize its mission and the security of people working to advance internet freedom.  The Open Technology Fund is one of several government-funded global media entities, including Voice of America, overseen by Pack as chief executive of USAGM. He assumed control of USAGM in June after a protracted fight in Congress over his appointment by President Donald Trump.   USAGM announced last month that the agency is FILE – Michael Pack, President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the U.S. Agency for Global Media, is seen at his confirmation hearing, on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Sept. 19, 2019. Pack’s nomination was confirmed June 4, 2020.When he took over USAGM, Pack fired several heads of the government-funded media entities. But a federal appellate court in Washington recently blocked him from dismissing the board and officials at the Open Technology Fund, saying it believed the officials would eventually win their case contesting Pack’s ability to oust them.     In her letter, Cunningham said, “This arbitrary and unnecessary delay in funding has now compromised the work of our projects and jeopardized the lives of millions of users who rely on our technologies worldwide.     “This funding delay is needlessly undermining USAGM’s reach and impact abroad,” she said. “According to USAGM’s own analytics, 85% of USAGM’s audience in Iran and 40% of USAGM’s audience in China rely on OTF-supported technologies to access USAGM content.  “Most troubling is that these actions will directly strengthen the hands of internet freedom adversaries, like the Chinese and Iranian governments, who are actively working to undermine freedom and democracy around the world,” Cunningham said.   She asked Pack to release the funding “so that we can resume the truly critical work of countering repressive censorship and surveillance abroad.”  

your ad here

Groups of dueling protesters that included police supporters carrying rifles and flags supporting President Donald Trump faced off outside a suburban Salt Lake City police department Monday night in response to use of force by officers at a demonstration the night before that resulted in the arrest of eight people.
The two groups yelled and chanted at each other from across the street, but no violence was reported.
About 100 people came to show their support for the officers’ actions, some holding signs that read “Back the Blue” and others who carried large guns and said they were part of a group called Utah Citizens Alarm.Across the street from the Cottonwood Heights police department, a nearly equal amount of protesters held “Black Lives Matter” signs to protest what they say was police brutality at the rally Sunday night.
The Sunday protest march was meant to remember a man who was fatally shot by police two years ago. His father was one of the eight people who were arrested. He and his wife blamed police for inciting conflict and ruining a peaceful rally intended to honor the memory of their son and bring attention to police brutality.
Officers used pepper spray, stun guns and batons during the arrests made after some protesters refused orders to keep the protest on sidewalks in the suburban neighborhood, said Cottonwood Heights police Lt. Dan Bartlett.
He said police were kicked, choked and hit, sending five officers to a hospital with broken ribs, a broken nose and other injuries.
Several protesters were wrestled to the ground by police, including one man who was left with a bloodied face, according to images of the events.
The ACLU of Utah questioned what motivated police to “escalate a peaceful dance/rally,” and a left-leaning watchdog group known as Better Utah called for an internal investigation of what it characterized as a “gross overreaction” by officers.
Bartlett said officers were defending themselves after getting “jumped” by protesters who sought out a confrontation.
“It’s a shame that we’re put in these no-win situations,” Bartlett said. “Use of force is never pretty. It never looks good. And it’s disturbing to people, which we certainly understand. We don’t want want to be put in that situation… to get people to follow the law.”
The protest march was held in memory of Zane James, a 19-year-old white man who was shot and killed by a Cottonwood Heights officer in 2018 as he left the scene of a robbery. Police said they found a pellet gun in his pocket after he was shot and that James was suspected of committing two armed robberies. He was shot by the officer who said James was reaching into his pockets and clothing as he fled.
His parents, Tiffany and Aaron James, previously alleged in a lawsuit against the police department that their son didn’t pose a threat and shouldn’t have been shot.
Aaron James was among those arrested Sunday on suspicion of riot, assault on an officer and interfering with an officer, Bartlett said.
James and his wife, Tiffany James, said Monday that police escalated the situation.
“This is exactly why we marched. This is exactly why we came together with this group of people. This is exactly why our son was shot,” Tiffany James said. “This is a culture of police power that is not community friendly and it needs to be addressed.”
Bartlett said he can’t comment on the lawsuit filed by the James family because it’s pending litigation.
Sunday’s rally began at a park in the community about 15 miles (24 kilometers) south of Salt Lake City. Protesters marched and danced into a residential neighborhood where the clashes with police occurred.

your ad here