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Politics

WH Official Stephen Miller Broke The Law By Launching Into Anti-Biden Rant On Fox & Friends


White House official Stephen Miller appears to have broken the law during a Friday appearance on Donald Trump’s favorite morning program, Fox & Friends.

According to a new complaint filed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), Miller violated the Hatch Act by using his official government position for partisan purposes.

The complaint notes that Miller, from the grounds of the White House, “impermissibly mixed official government business with political views about former Vice President Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president.”

Just in case Miller’s violation of the Hatch Act wasn’t clear enough, the Trump campaign’s official Twitter account even posted a clip of the interview.

A portion of Miller’s comments:

Well as you know Joe Biden is stuck in a basement somewhere and he just emerges every now and again and somebody hands him a notecard and he says whatever his 23 year old staffer tells him to say and then, he dutifully disappears to be seen a week later. As for former President Obama the reality is that for eight years he delivered nothing but failure and betrayal to the people of this country.

As CREW notes in its filing, “This Hatch Act prohibits any executive branch employee from ‘us[ing] his official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election.’”

Business as usual for this lawless administration

The news that a White House official broke the law on live television might have meant something in previous presidencies, but it’s business as usual for the most lawless administration in history.

In 2019, the Office of Special Counsel found that Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway repeatedly violated the Hatch Act and recommended that she be removed from federal service.

Trump quickly stood by Conway, saying that he wouldn’t fire her for exercising her “free speech.”

In November, the American people will have the opportunity to remove Donald Trump and his band of criminals once and for all.

Follow Sean Colarossi on Facebook and Twitter





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Dining News

Grubhub and Postmates Are Actively Defying Portland’s New Delivery Fee Law


Three weeks after Portland City Council passed a new ordinance capping fees on food delivery apps at 10 percent, two companies — Postmates and Grubhub — are still flouting the rules, and taking fees of up to 30 percent from local restaurants.

In early July, City Council unanimously passed a fee cap to help small businesses struggling during the ongoing pandemic. Typically, when somebody orders delivery meals through an app like Grubhub or UberEats, the app takes a cut of the customer’s money, passing on the remainder to the restaurant — under the new cap, that “commission” can be no more than 10 percent of the value of a delivery order, or five percent for a pick-up order.

Katy Connors, an organizer with the Portland Independent Restaurant Alliance (PIRA), says that these companies may be taking advantage of the fact that city officials and lawyers are preoccupied with other issues, such as the unwanted presence of federal agents occupying the city.

“They know that cities and city councils don’t have the resources nor the ability to really understand what it means to enforce this.”

Eater PDX reached out to City Commissioner Chloe Eudaly for comment on the enforcement of the cap.

Last week, Portland Monthly reported that Grubhub and Postmates were violating the cap, but the bad press didn’t seem to change much: the day after that story was published, Han Hwang, owner of SE Division Street food cart Kim Jong Grillin’, received a message from a Postmates representative indicating that the company was actively not complying with the new law.

“We are not following the 10% [cap],” it read.

A subsequent email exchange between Hwang and another Postmates staffer said that the San Francisco-based company was working with the city “to understand the details of this new policy,” and that they “did not have a timeline as to when this cap will go into place”.

That email was sent July 29 — the cap took effect on July 8. Postmates has not yet responded to a request for comment.

Hwang told Eater PDX that as the owner of a small food cart, it’s not feasible for him to ditch apps like Postmates and hire his own delivery driver. Plus, with many customers preferring to stay home due to the ongoing pandemic, he says he has little choice but to sign up for apps and play by their rules to keep his business afloat.

“They’re fucking us, the restaurants, and then that forces us to fuck the customers…I can’t begin to explain how trapped and cornered we feel because we have to deal with them,” he said.

Connors says Postmates told her that it planned to follow the cap, and that it was working on implementing the fee change in its app — even though some other cities where Postmates operates have already put in similar caps.

“San Francisco was one of the first to implement a cap in April — we’re almost in August and they haven’t figured it out yet? I’m not sure that’s a legitimate reason.”

In an email to Hwang, Postmates also flagged the possibility of retroactively refunding fees taken from his restaurant, if the cap was eventually applied.

Considering these factors, Connors says she believes Grubhub poses bigger problems than Postmates.

In an email to Connors, Grubhub’s senior director of public affairs Amy Healy claimed that the company was already adhering to the 10 percent cap on fees. The company claimed that any additional costs were “marketing fees,” not “delivery fees”, and therefore weren’t covered under the cap.

“Unlike our competitors, who are focused on providing restaurants with delivery services, Grubhub is primarily a marketing engine for our independent restaurant partners,” Healy wrote as part of her explanation.

But this distinction is irrelevant, says Connors. Portland’s law is clear that apps can’t take fees totalling more than 10 percent of an order from a restaurant, regardless of whether the fee is for delivery, marketing, or any other service.

The receipts Grubhub issues to restaurants often contain three charges: a processing fee, a commision for delivery, and another for marketing.

Healy’s email went on to claim that these marketing fees were on an opt-in, although Connors says that after reading the fine print, she did not believe this to be the case. A statement from Grubhub to Eater reiterated this line of reasoning, too.

The Portland ordinance applies to “order and delivery” services and does not place any cap on marketing services that Portland restaurants choose to pay that are unrelated to our order and delivery services. While we have taken steps to comply, we continue to maintain that such fee caps are legally suspect and harm the very restaurants they are intended to help.

As many as 30 restaurants contacted Connors and PIRA with complaints relating to the delivery cap — in the meantime, Connors says she recommends that Portlanders avoid using that app.

“If Grubhub cannot comply and is unwilling to understand the plight of these small businesses, then we do not want them in our city.”



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Breaking New

Hong Kong University to Fire Law Professor Who Inspired Protests


HONG KONG — The University of Hong Kong’s governing body voted on Tuesday to fire an associate law professor who was convicted last year of charges related to his leading role in the 2014 Umbrella Movement protests and has remained a key figure in the city’s pro-democracy movement.

The legal scholar, Benny Tai, was convicted of public nuisance charges last year and sentenced to 16 months in prison, but he was released and remains on bail while his case is under appeal.

The university had faced widespread calls from members of the pro-Beijing establishment to dismiss Mr. Tai. But his supporters argued that dismissing him would undermine academic freedom that has already been imperiled by a new national security law imposed by Beijing.

The decision “marks the end of academic freedom in Hong Kong,” Mr. Tai said in a Facebook post. “Academic staff in education institutions in Hong Kong are no longer free to make controversial statements to the general public about politically or socially controversial matters.”

Last year the university began an investigation into Mr. Tai that led to Tuesday’s decision by the school’s council, a body dominated by members from outside the university. Arthur Li, its chair, is also an adviser to Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive.

The university’s senate, which is comprised largely of academic staff, found earlier this month that Mr. Tai’s conduct did not warrant his removal. The council rejected that recommendation, a move that Mr. Tai’s supporters called politically motivated.

“Arthur Li has completed his political mission, and Benny Tai has become a martyr to civil disobedience,” said Joseph Chan, a political-science professor at the university. “The University of Hong Kong has sacrificed its reputation and it will not be able to hold its head high in the international academic community. This day will become a major stain in the history of the University of Hong Kong that cannot be washed away.”

Lei Tsz Shing, an undergraduate representative of the university’s council, said in an opinion article on Tuesday that Mr. Tai’s termination would contradict messages that academic freedom would be maintained under the national security law.

“If the university at this moment ignores the senate’s recommendations and fires Benny Tai, it would be equivalent to declaring that academic freedom is being repressed,” he wrote on Tuesday in The Stand News, an online outlet.

The Hong Kong University Students’ Union had argued that Mr. Tai should not be dismissed, calling him a model scholar who was willing to put his knowledge into action.

“He has impressed on generations of students the responsibility of a public intellectual, with his genuine care of society and unwavering pursuit of universal suffrage,” the group wrote in a statement on Facebook.

Mr. Tai was a central figure in the 2014 Umbrella Movement, calling for a protest to push for more direct democracy in Hong Kong. What he had envisioned as a sit-in of a few days was pre-empted by student demonstrators who occupied a square near government headquarters.

Thousands took to the streets after police used pepper spray and tear gas on the protesters. They occupied major roadways in the city for 79 days, but ultimately failed to change how Hong Kong chooses its leaders.

He was convicted last year of conspiracy to commit public nuisance and incitement to commit public nuisance. The judge rejected the argument made on behalf of Mr. Tai and eight other defendants that the protests were an appropriate exercise of free speech.

Mr. Tai has remained active in politics, and this year helped organize a primary vote among the pro-democracy camp to choose candidates for a legislative election in September. More than 600,000 people participated, despite government warnings the exercise might be illegal under the new national security law. The turnout was an early indication of broad support for the opposition camp.

The primary was denounced both by Hong Kong government and Beijing’s representatives in the city, who singled out Mr. Tai for vehement criticism.

“Facts have proven that Benny Tai and his like are the chief culprits for creating the chaotic situation in Hong Kong, bringing disaster to Hong Kong and harming its people,” Beijing’s Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office said after the primary earlier this month.

Elaine Yu contributed reporting.



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Dining News

New Seattle Law Aims to Protect Small Businesses in Commercial Lease Default


As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage, many small Seattle restaurants are facing dire economic straits. But newly-passed legislation that offers protections in a lease default may give them at least some peace of mind.

On Monday, the Seattle city council passed a law that prevents landlords from seizing personal property should a small business of 50 or fewer employees (or a nonprofit) default on a commercial lease. The law will be in place throughout the current state of emergency, and stay in effect six months after.

Though forfeiture of personal property is a rare occurrence for commercial lease defaults, the specter of such an action can exacerbate an already-stressful situation. Seattle council member Andrew Lewis, who sponsored the bill, said that he spoke with a couple of small business owners fearful of losing personal assets, even if landlords in the city haven’t explicitly indicated they are pursuing them. “It was a more subtle sort of mafia style like, ‘Oh, it would sure be a shame if that personal guarantee was enforced …’”

“Nobody wants to close their business, but if they have no other choice they shouldn’t have to declare personal bankruptcy due to COVID-19,” says Jeanie Chunn, group director of Seattle Restaurants United, a local coalition that lobbied for the legislation. “They shouldn’t lose their home because they had to shutter their business for the sake of public health.”

Many family-owned restaurants in Seattle have a lot on the line when it comes to the ups and downs of their business. As Uttam Mukherjee — co-owner of Capitol Hill street food restaurant Spice Waala — wrote recently, he put much of his personal savings account into building his business: “If Spice Waala goes bust, all our savings would be gone with it.”

This legislation — like a moratorium on commercial rent evictions in Seattle, which expires on Aug. 1 — attempts to address mainly the worst-case scenario when it comes to lease defaults. But Seattle restaurants won’t truly find rescue until there’s some long-term plan for extended rent relief. During the stay-at-home order this spring, both landlords and tenants seemed to take a wait-and-see approach in anticipation of payroll protection program (PPP) loans and possible summer reopenings. But there’s been little talk about canceling rent this summer or fall.

Now that COVID-19 doesn’t look to be going away anytime soon, and Gov. Jay Inslee indicating restrictions on restaurants may need to be reinstated if things don’t improve, finding additional safety nets in commercial leases becomes that much more essential. The first of the month is looming.



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Hong Kong Security Law Sends a Chill Over the City


HONG KONG — A museum that commemorates the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre is rushing to digitize its archives, afraid its artifacts could be seized. Booksellers are nervously eyeing customers, worried they could be government spies. Writers have asked a news site to delete more than 100 articles, anxious that old posts could be used against them.

And on Wednesday, the anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to Chinese control — a day usually observed by huge pro-democracy marches — a scattered crowd of protesters tried to rekindle that energy, only to be corralled by the police and arrested over offenses that did not exist a day earlier.

The Chinese government’s new security law for Hong Kong is less than a day old, and already the city is feeling its chilling effect. The law was designed to stamp out the anti-government demonstrations that have wracked the semiautonomous territory for more than a year. But it also threatens the fabric of life that has made Hong Kong, with its freewheeling cultural scene and civil society, distinct from the rest of China.

“You can say this law is just targeting protesters and anti-Chinese politicians, but it could be anyone,” said Isabella Ng, a professor at the Education University of Hong Kong who founded a charity that helps refugees in the city.

“Where is the line to draw?” said Professor Ng, who worries that her charity could one day come under scrutiny. “Everything becomes very uncertain.”

The law, which went into effect as soon as it was released Tuesday night, confirmed many residents’ fears that a range of actions that they had previously engaged in had become hazardous. Though the law specifically bans subversion, sedition, terrorism and collusion, its definition of those crimes could be interpreted broadly to include various forms of speech or organizing.

Lobbying foreign governments or publishing anti-Beijing viewpoints could be punished by life imprisonment in serious cases. So could saying anything seen as undermining the ruling Communist Party’s authority. As a few thousand people gathered in a major Hong Kong commercial district on Wednesday, the police forced them off the streets and arrested more than 300 people, including at least nine over new offenses created by the security law. One of the nine was a 15-year-old girl waving a Hong Kong independence flag, the police said.

Officials insist that the law will affect only a small group of offenders, but many fear the government could use the law’s expansive definitions to target a wide array of people and organizations. In the mainland, the party has virtually eliminated independent journalism and imposed onerous restrictions on nongovernmental organizations.

Even before the law was passed, activists, journalists, bookshop owners and professors said they had begun second-guessing any speech that could be labeled political. The human rights group Amnesty International said it had drawn up a contingency plan.

Many Hong Kongers have expressed interest in emigration, a task that Britain has promised to make easier. The British foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, said on Wednesday that some Hong Kong residents would be allowed to live in Britain for five years — up from six months previously — and then apply for citizenship.

A former British colony, Hong Kong was promised a high degree of autonomy when it returned to Chinese control in 1997. It found success as a bridge between the mainland and the rest of the world, serving as a haven for Chinese dissidents and a base for academics, journalists and researchers to chronicle, unfettered, the country’s modernization.

But reminders of Chinese control were never far. The abductions of five Hong Kong booksellers in 2015 by the mainland authorities rattled others who had openly marketed salacious Chinese political thrillers or modern historical volumes. Though Hong Kong was long a sanctuary for books banned in the mainland, tighter border checks have recently choked the flow of books between Hong Kong and the mainland.

Now the security push has accelerated panic and a sense of foreboding.

“If you haven’t tasted what tyranny is, be prepared, because tyranny is not comfortable,” said Bao Pu, the founder of New Century Press, one of the city’s few surviving independent publishers.

Albert Wan, the co-owner of Bleak House Books, an independent bookstore, said that he closely tracked all his book shipments, regardless of whether they could be considered political, watching for any sign of delay.

He said that he had also grown wary of unfamiliar customers, and tries to decide if they are browsing for books or seemingly “building a profile” of him and his employees.

“We are being paranoid,” Mr. Wan said. “I don’t know how else to put it.”

For those who built their lives and livelihoods around Hong Kong’s unique freedoms, the security law has forced them to balance two seemingly irreconcilable goals: preserving their own safety, without giving in to fear.

The June 4 Museum, which chronicles Beijing’s bloody military crackdown on student protesters in 1989, has not made plans to move its artifacts overseas for safekeeping. The Chinese government has tried to quash any memory of the massacre, so to hide the archives would be to admit premature defeat, said Lee Cheuk-yan, of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, which runs the museum.

But reality has also forced the alliance to start an online fund-raiser in support of digitizing the museum’s archives, which include video footage of the protests and letters that protesters wrote to their families.

“We of course are racing with time,” Mr. Lee said.

The chill is not limited to local groups. Large international organizations are also evaluating their future in the city. The new law specifically said that the government would “strengthen the management” of foreign nongovernmental organizations and news agencies.

Amnesty International, the human rights group, has drafted plans for leaving Hong Kong, though it does not currently intend to move any employees, said Nicholas Bequelin, the director for Amnesty’s East and Southeast Asia operations. “The rule of law is going to come under very severe stress in Hong Kong,” he said.

Concerns about the security law’s reach have also forced many writers and protesters to scrutinize their digital footprint for anything that might now be deemed subversive. Activists deleted their accounts on Twitter and on Telegram, a messaging app popular with protesters.

In recent weeks, around a dozen writers asked the editors of InMedia HK, a site that posts articles supporting democracy, to take down some or all of their archives, said Betty Lau, the site’s editor. Editors deleted more than 100 articles, Ms. Lau said.

Hong Kong’s reputation for press freedom has long stood in contrast with the mainland’s censorship regime and routine harassment of journalists. But the new security law has thrown the future of the city’s lively news media into question.

The Hong Kong News Executives Association, a group representing the top editors of the city’s major news outlets, expressed concern about the far-reaching impact of the security law ahead of its release. The Foreign Correspondents’ Club urged the government last week to guarantee that the authorities would not seek to interfere with the work of reporters. The government has not responded, but officials have sought to reassure the public that the city’s civil liberties will be protected.

During a recent end-of-semester meeting at Hong Kong University’s Journalism and Media Studies Center, staff members wondered aloud where the red line would be and whether certain topics would be off limits, said the center’s director, Keith Richburg.

“I’d be lying if I said I don’t think twice about posting something on Twitter before pushing the button,” said Mr. Richburg, a former foreign correspondent with The Washington Post.

One of the starkest indicators that the national security law was already having its intended effect came on Tuesday, directly after lawmakers in Beijing unanimously approved it.

Joshua Wong, the 23-year-old who is perhaps Hong Kong’s best-known activist, announced on social media that he would withdraw from Demosisto, the youth political group that he founded in 2016, citing fears for his safety. Demosisto, which has called for greater autonomy for Hong Kong, was for many the face of the protest movement’s future.

Soon after, three other leading members of Demosisto also resigned. A few hours later, the group announced it was disbanding altogether.

In a note explaining his decision, Mr. Wong wrote, “Nobody can be sure of their tomorrow.”

Austin Ramzy, Elaine Yu and Tiffany May contributed reporting. Bella Huang contributed research.



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Supreme Court strikes down Louisiana abortion law


“The Louisiana law imposes a burden on access to abortion just as severe as that imposed by the Texas law, for the same reasons,” wrote Roberts, who had voted to uphold the Texas restrictions in 2016. “Therefore Louisiana’s law cannot stand under our precedents.”

The case, the first abortion challenge heard by the Supreme Court since the addition of President Donald Trump’s two appointees, has been closely watched by activists on both side of the abortion debate, partly because of its close similarities to the Texas case. Monday’s decision suggests the ruling in the Texas case should be applied more broadly, which may limit the ability of anti-abortion states to mandate admitting privileges.

The ruling in June Medical Services v. Russo also comes just months ahead of a heated presidential election in which anti-abortion and abortion rights groups are spending tens of millions of dollars to mobilize voters. Once again, the court’s ability to shape abortion rights has played prominently in their messaging, with Trump promising to appoint more anti-abortion judges and Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, pledging to protect and expand access to the procedure.

Anti-abortion groups swiftly attacked the decision and said it will motivate conservatives to turn out at the polls in November.

“It is imperative that we re-elect President Trump and our pro-life majority in the U.S. Senate so we can further restore the judiciary, most especially the Supreme Court,” said Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser. “We will not relent until the Supreme Court once again respects the will of the people and ceases its lawless attacks on the right to life.”

The White House in a statement called the ruling “unfortunate.”

“Instead of valuing fundamental democratic principles, unelected Justices have intruded on the sovereign prerogatives of State governments by imposing their own policy preference in favor of abortion to override legitimate abortion safety regulations,” read the statement.

While Democratic lawmakers and abortion rights groups celebrated Monday’s ruling as a major victory, many stressed that the 5-4 ruling underscored the fragility of abortion rights.

“It remains a relentless attack,” said Nancy Northup, the president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which argued the case on behalf of Louisiana’s clinics and has 30 other active cases against abortion restrictions. “We shouldn’t have to keep playing whack-a-mole. We won on the Texas case four years ago. We won today. But it’s not going to stop those hellbent on those banning access to abortion.”

The ruling is the latest in a series of high-profile defeats at the Supreme Court for the Trump administration and its conservative supporters, though the five conservative justices on Monday separately upheld a law allowing the U.S. to withhold HIV/AIDS funding to foreign groups that don’t formally denounce prostitution and sex trafficking. Conservatives have increasingly trained their ire on Roberts, who recently joined with the court’s liberals to extend civil rights protections to LGBT employees and invalidate the administration’s plan to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

“Justice Roberts, a so-called conservative, is clearly no longer running things,” said Heritage Action in a statement.

Roberts defended his finding at length, writing that he still believes the Texas case was wrongly decided but said “adherence to precedent is necessary to avoid an arbitrary discretion in the courts.”

The court also rejected Louisiana’s argument that abortion providers do not have legal standing to challenge restrictions on behalf of their patients. A ruling for the state on that point would have upended a nationwide pipeline of abortion litigation, since clinics typically lead such lawsuits.

Justices Brett Kavanaugh, Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch and Samuel Alito authored separate dissents but all agreed that abortion providers shouldn’t be allowed to challenge abortion restrictions, arguing they have a “conflict of interest.”

Louisiana abortion providers had argued the state’s admitting privileges law would hurt Louisiana residents by forcing two of the state’s three abortion providers to shut down. Further, they argued the requirement was unnecessary since patients experiencing complications from an abortion would be able to get hospital care regardless of whether their provider had admitting privileges.

The Louisiana law was passed in 2014 but only implemented briefly in 2016 before it was halted by federal courts — including the Supreme Court in early 2019 — while legal challenges were underway. While the law was in effect, most of the state’s abortion clinics suspended appointments and referred patients to a single facility in Shreveport, which had admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.

The Supreme Court found the circumstances around the Louisiana requirements were similar enough to the Texas law it struck down 5-3 just four years ago. In that decision, retired Justice Anthony Kennedy joined with the court’s liberal wing in finding the state’s admitting privileges law placed an “undue burden” on a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion. The court noted that the restrictions offer “few, if any health benefits for women,” since abortion-related complications that require hospitalization are very rare.

The court came to the same conclusion on the Louisiana law, writing Monday that “the state introduced no evidence showing that patients have better outcomes when their physicians have admitting privileges or of any instance in which an admitting privileges requirement would have helped even one woman obtain better treatment.”

The ruling ensures that Louisiana’s three remaining abortion clinics will be able to keep practicing for the time being.

While the case didn’t directly challenge Roe v. Wade, the ruling comes as a wave of recent state laws seeking to overturn the right to an abortion are being reviewed by lower courts. A number of conservative states, including Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi, have approved near-total bans on the procedure in the past two years, hoping the more conservative Supreme Court would be receptive to weakening or eliminating Roe.

But Thomas was the only justice Monday to indicate an interest in revisiting the landmark ruling that legalized abortion nationwide nearly 50 years ago. “Our abortion precedents are grievously wrong and should be overruled,” he wrote.



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Tiz the Law wins the 152nd Belmont Stakes in New York



The entire race took place without spectators due to the coronavirus pandemic. The three-year-old colt was ridden by jockey Manny Franco and is owned by Sackatoga Stables under 82-year-old trainer Barclay Tagg.

Dr. Post and Max Player came in second and third, respectively.

Typically the third and final leg of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes was the first leg for the first time in history. The race was originally slated to take place on June 6.

Traditionally, the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes preceded the Belmont Stakes, but those two races were postponed as well due to the pandemic.

The Kentucky Derby is expected to take place on September 5, while the Preakness Stakes is scheduled for October 3, with Tiz the Law and his connections now immediately targeting the second leg of the famed Triple Crown and dreaming of a clean sweep.

“I’ve got the horse for the race,” said Franco.

“I’m very happy with the opportunity the owner has given me, and the trainer, Barclay, I’m in good hands.

“They know what they’re doing and the horse is really good.”

Saturday’s race was shortened from a mile and a half to a mile and an eighth, as the Belmont Stakes is typically the final race and the longest of the three.



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New Jersey attorney general orders law enforcement agencies to publish list of disciplined officers



Law enforcement agencies will be required to publish the list of those who commit serious violations annually, with the first to come no later than December 31.

“Today, we end the practice of protecting the few to the detriment of the many. Today, we recommit ourselves to building a culture of transparency and accountability in law enforcement,” Grewal said in a statement.

Prior to this order, unless they have faced criminal charges, the disciplinary records of officers have generally not been revealed to the public, according to the attorney general’s office.

The directive comes as governments take on police reform following the death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis.

At a press conference, Gov. Phil Murphy said he was “proud” of the directive, calling it “a big step for transparency.”

“In the absence of information you assume the worst, with information you get a much clearer sense of the reality,” said Murphy.

As of now, state police publish summary information with regard to major discipline of troopers, said State Police Col. Pat Callahan, who also spoke at the press conference. Grewal’s directive will require including troopers’ names within the summary information.

“We talk about embracing the scrutiny, embracing transparency. It’s also important to note that the acts of a few should not tarnish the entire profession across the state or nation, and we’ll ultimately let the public decide for themselves on the nature of these allegations,” said Callahan.

State police will publicize all troopers who have faced disciplinary actions over the past two decades by July 15, Murphy said, adding it is around 400 cases.

In New Jersey, the attorney general has broad authority to issue policy documents known as “law enforcement directives,” which are binding on all law enforcement agencies.

Earlier this month, Grewal announced his plan to revise the use of force policy for the first time in two decades, which governs when the state’s 36,000 law enforcement officers may or may not use force against civilians.

Grewal said his office has launched an online portal for public comments and will be organizing community listening sessions in all 21 counties.



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New York passes police reform bill package that Gov. Andrew Cuomo will sign into law


This comes after two weeks of anti-police brutality protests nationwide as the country reels from the recent deaths of several black Americans at the hands of the police, including George Floyd, who died in Minneapolis last month after a white police officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes.

“There is a moment for change and we are going to make change, and we are going to pass legislation this week that I am going to sign that is going to lead the nation in police reform, releasing disciplinary records, what they call 50a, banning chokeholds, which should have been done a long time ago, and that will be in the state law,” Cuomo said Wednesday.

A coalition of police unions and associations has expressed opposition to many of the bills, calling them “anti-police.”

Most of the legislative actions aren’t new to legislators, never making it out of committee in recent years. But politicians say now is the time to get them passed.

“Make no mistake we know that what we did is not a cure. We know it’s a first step. It acknowledges that law(s) alone are important but they can’t fix racism in America,” Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said on the senate floor Wednesday as the legislative body voted on the final bill of the package.

“It begins to root out injustice and to bring justice to our justice system. It is a step and it is a path to equality. Sadly we all know that there will be more moments that will shake us all to our core but in this chamber we also understand that our response to those moments will make all the difference,” Stewart-Cousins said.

George Floyd protests have made police reform the consensus position

The state assembly and senate bodies, led by Democratic majority members, passed a bill mandating that a police officer who injures or kills somebody through the use of “a chokehold or similar restraint” can be charged with a class C felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

The bill is named for Eric Garner, an African American man who died as a result of a police chokehold during a 2014 arrest. The chokehold tactic was already prohibited by the NYPD at the time of the incident.

A version was first introduced by politicians after Garner’s death, but didn’t make headway.

Another bill will designate the attorney general as an independent prosecutor for matters relating to the deaths of unarmed civilians caused by law enforcement. This measure is technically codifying an executive order Cuomo mandated in 2014 in the wake of Garner’s death.

Civil rights activisit the Rev. Al Sharpton spoke in support of the legislation at a press conference with Garner’s mother last week.

“I thought about if we had passed these bills in New York and if there had been the prosecution of those that choked to death Eric Garner that maybe those police would not have thought they could have got away with it with Floyd because we saw the signal in New York. There was a signal from New York that you can get away with stopping someone from breathing if you had a blue uniform,” Sharpton said.

Another action will allow disciplinary records for individual police officers, firefighters or corrections officers to be released without their written consent. It is the reversal of a 1976 statute known as Section 50-a of the New York State Civil Rights Law, which was originally enacted to exempt police officers from being cross-examined during criminal prosecutions, according to the bill.

“All it’s doing is reversing an exemption on police records, so now a police officer is like a school teacher … it’s just parity and equality with every other public employee. It is just fairness and equity across the board,” said Cuomo.

New York Police Department officials have acknowledged the need for reform in this area.

“The NYPD has long advocated for reforming the law. Department executives have spoken publicly about the need for fairness and transparency in the law and have testified in Albany in support of an amendment to accomplish that,” police spokesperson Sgt. Jessica McRorie said in a statement to CNN. 

Police unions, including the Police Benevolent Association of the City of New York, say the legislation reflects only one perspective and will result in unfair policies.

Regarding 50-a, the coalition said in a statement that it worries all complaints — including those not fully investigated or substantiated — will be released. It says a judge already has discretion on releasing such records and there are concerns officers would not have a chance to be heard.

Several other bills passed this week target police use-of-force and the demographics data behind those incidents.

Democrats offer sweeping police reform bill

One bill will mandate an officer to report any discharge of their weapon in which a person could have been hit, within six hours of the incident.

Another will require the courts to compile and publish racial and other demographic data of all low-level offenses, including misdemeanors and violations. It will require police departments to submit annual reports on arrest-related deaths.

A bill passed Tuesday will direct the Division of State Police to provide all state police officers with body-worn cameras that are to be used any time an officer conducts a patrol and prescribes mandated situations when the camera is to be turned on and recording.

Legislators address incidents like the recent viral video of Amy Cooper calling 911, in a bill that prohibits false race-based 911 reports and makes them a crime.

New York is just one of several government bodies working on police reform.

Democrats at the federal level announced sweeping legislation Monday in the most expansive effort in recent years to crack down at a federal level on policing practices across the US. It is, however, expected to face strong resistance from Republicans, police unions and local officials who don’t want Washington intervening in their policy making.



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Florida felons voting: Federal judge strikes down parts of law requiring felons to pay fines before voting



The ruling — which sets the stage for thousands of Floridians to register to vote — strikes down parts of a Florida law passed by Republican lawmakers that required residents with felony convictions to pay off all their legal financial obligations before casting a ballot.

US District Court Judge Robert Hinkle wrote in his decision that “this order holds that the State can condition voting on payment of fines and restitution that a person is able to pay but cannot condition voting on payment of amounts a person is unable to pay or on payment of taxes, even those labeled fees or costs.”

“This order puts in place administrative procedures that comport with the Constitution and are less burdensome, on both the State and the citizens, than those the State is currently using to administer the unconstitutional pay-to-vote system,” he continued.

Convicted felons in Florida had their voting rights restored with a constitutional amendment passed in November 2018. Amendment 4, which allowed convicted felons who complete “all terms of sentence” the right to vote, passed with nearly 65% of the vote, exceeding the 60% threshold required.

After Amendment 4 went into effect in January 2019, the GOP-led Florida legislature passed, and Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed, a bill that clarified “all terms of sentence” to include legal financial obligations such as fines, fees and restitution.

Multiple groups, including the Campaign Legal Center and American Civil Liberties Union, filed a flurry of legal challenges arguing the new law was unconstitutional and amounted to a “poll tax.”

“Today’s decision is a landmark victory for hundreds of thousands of voters who want their voices to be heard,” Paul Smith, vice president of CLC said in a news release Sunday.

“This is a watershed moment in election law. States can no longer deny people access to the ballot box based on unpaid court costs and fees, nor can they condition rights restoration on restitution and fines that a person cannot afford to pay.”

Last month, the case became a class action lawsuit — paving the way for Sunday’s decision to apply not just to the lawsuit’s 17 plaintiffs, but to more than 430,000 felons who would be eligible to vote but for unpaid financial obligations.



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