Tag Archives: USA

EU welcomes US execution moratorium

Brussels 03.07.2021 “The European Union welcomes United States’ Attorney General’s announcement on Thursday, July 1,to impose a moratorium on federal executions until the US Department of Justice reviews its policies on the death penalty. This is a promising first step that we hope will bring a definitive end to this practice at federal level, and pave the way for the nationwide abolition of capital punishment in the US” reads the statement by the European External Action Service (EEAS) spokesperson on halting federal executions.(Image above: EU building).

“The European Union strongly opposes the death penalty at all times and in all circumstances. It is a cruel and inhumane punishment, which fails to act as a deterrent to crime and represents an unacceptable denial of human dignity and integrity”.

“The European Union continues to work for the universal abolition of the death penalty”.

Attorney General Merrick Garland announced a moratorium on federal executions, a shift from the Trump administration, which had resumed the use of the death penalty in federal cases.

Garland wrote in the memo that the Justice Department would also review its policies and procedures to make sure they “are consistent with the principles articulated in this memorandum.”

“The Department of Justice must ensure that everyone in the federal criminal justice system is not only afforded the rights guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States, but is also treated fairly and humanely,” Garland announced in a statement. “That obligation has special force in capital cases.”

Derek Chauvin mother claims his innocence

Brussels 25.06.2021 Derek Chauvin the former Minneapolis police officer found guilty of murdering George Floyd, is sentenced to spend more than 22 years in prison.

The sentencing comes just hours after his team unsuccessfully tried to throw out the original verdict, a sign that they may launch an appeal. Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill handed down the sentence following four victim impact statements from Floyd’s friends and family, including his 7-year-old daughter Gianna, his nephew Brandon Williams who said his family “is forever broken,” and Floyd’s brother Terrence.

Chauvin’s mother, Carolyn Pawlenty, spoke on his behalf saying she will always support him, believes in his “innocence,” and said, “the public will never know the loving and caring man he is but his family does.”

Chauvin spoke briefly at the hearing and stated his condolences to the Floyd family, but added: “There’s going to be some other information in the future that would be of interest. And I hope things will give you some peace of mind. Thank you.”

Outside the courthouse, a crowd was gathered. Some listened to the hearing on their cell phones and responded to the testimonies accordingly.

Chauvin had been sitting in a maximum-security prison cell since a 12-member jury in April found him guilty of second- and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in Floyd’s May 25, 2020, death. Forty-five people testified at Chauvin’s trial, which lasted three weeks. The jury deliberated a little more than 10 hours before returning a guilty verdict. Chauvin did not testify in his own defense, has never apologized, but has claimed he is the product of a broken system.

“Between the incident, the video, the riots, the trial – this is the pinnacle of it,” Michael Brandt, a Minneapolis criminal defense attorney who has been following the case closely, said.”The verdict was huge too, but this is where the justice comes down.”

Under Minnesota law, Chauvin could only be sentenced on the most serious charge – unintentional second-degree murder which carries a sentence of up to 40 years.

Prosecutors had pushed for a 30-year-sentence, arguing that there were five aggravating factors in Floyd’s death. Last month, Cahill said the prosecution had proven four of those factors. He ruled Chauvin abused his position of trust and authority; treated Floyd with cruelty; committed the crime with children present “who witnessed the last moments” of Floyd’s life; and had actively participated in the crime with at least three people.

Cahill said prosecutors failed to prove Floyd was vulnerable at the time.

Floyd’s death sparked national outrage and led to coast-to-coast protests.

He was killed after police officers responded to a report that he had used a counterfeit $20 bill. The 46-year-old was handcuffed facedown on the street. He yelled, cried out for his mother, and repeatedly said he could not breathe as Chauvin pressed his knee to his neck for nine minutes. Bystanders who watched the incident unfold were also heard on the video footage telling officers Floyd could not breathe.

Chauvin’s conviction was rare. He is one of 11 nonfederal law enforcement officers who have been convicted of murder for on-duty killings since 2005, Philip Stinson, a criminal justice professor at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, said.

The three other Minneapolis police officers that were at the scene and charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and manslaughter will be tried in March. Thomas Lane, who held Floyd’s legs down, J. Alexander Kueng, who knelt on Floyd’s back, and Tou Thao, who tried to block bystanders, had previously been scheduled to go to trial in August, but the judge decided to delay their trial so that the federal case against them could go first.

A federal grand jury indicted all four former officers on charges of violating Floyd’s constitutional rights.

Just hours before sentencing, Cahill denied Chauvin a post-verdict motion for a new trial.

Cahill ruled that Chauvin’s legal team “failed to demonstrate … the court had abused its discretion or committed error such that defendant was deprived of his constitutional right to a fair trial.”

Cahill also ruled that Chauvin failed to prove prosecutorial or juror misconduct.

Canada-EU-UK-US statement on Belarus

Brussels 21.06.2021 “Today, we have taken coordinated sanctions action in response to the 23 May forced landing of a commercial Ryanair flight between two EU member states and the politically motivated arrest of journalist Raman Pratasevich and his companion Sofia Sapega, as well as to the continuing attack on human rights and fundamental freedoms. We are committed to support the long-suppressed democratic aspirations of the people of Belarus and we stand together to impose costs on the regime for its blatant disregard of international commitments” reads the Joint Statement by Canada, the European Union, United Kingdom, and United States on Belarus. (Image: archive, opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya).

“We are united in calling for the regime to end its repressive practices against its own people. We are disappointed the regime has opted to walk away from its human rights obligations, adherence to democratic principles, and engagement with the international community.

“We are further united in our call for the Lukashenko regime to cooperate fully with international investigations into the events of 23 May; immediately release all political prisoners; implement all the recommendations of the independent expert mission under the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) Moscow Mechanism; and, enter into a comprehensive and genuine political dialogue between the authorities and representatives of the democratic opposition and civil society, facilitated by the OSCE”.

JCPOA talks resume in Vienna

Brussels 20.06.2021 The Joint Commission of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) will resume on Sunday 20 June in Vienna. (Image: archive)

The Joint Commission will be chaired, on behalf of EU High Representative Josep Borrell, by the Deputy Secretary General/Political Director of the European External Action Service, Enrique Mora.

It will be attended by representatives of China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and Iran.

Participants will continue their discussions in view of a possible return of the United States to the JCPOA and on how to ensure the full and effective implementation of the JCPOA.

Russia’s permanent representative to the international organisations in Vienna said a consensus on the revival of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal is “within reach” as the parties to the agreement prepare to meet in the framework of the Joint Commission.

“The Joint Commission of JCPOA will meet on Sunday, June 20. It will decide on the way ahead at the Vienna Talks. An agreement on restoration of the nuclear deal is within reach but is not finalized yet,” Mikhail Ulyanov tweeted on Saturday, using an acronym for the official name of the nuclear accord, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

Also, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who has travelled to Turkey to take part in Antalya Diplomacy Forum in his Twitter micro blog, highlighting the responsibility of the United States, as the party that exited the nuclear deal and broke the agreement, to fix it.

The European External Action Service (EEAS) said in a press release that the JCPOA Joint Commission will resume in the Austrian capital on Sunday, with representatives of China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and Iran in attendance.

The meeting will be chaired, on behalf of EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, by EEAS Deputy Secretary General/Political Director Enrique Mora said.

“Participants will continue their discussions in view of a possible return of the United States to the JCPOA and on how to ensure the full and effective implementation of the JCPOA,” according to the press release.

Iran, P4+1 likely to reach agreement on JCPOA revival before Rouhani’s administration leaves office, Foreign Minister Zarif said. Zarif has suggested that Iran and the P4+1 group of countries are very likely to agree on ways to revive the JCPOA before the end of President Rouhani’s office in mid-August.
In recent months, envoys from Iran and the P4+1 group of countries have been engaged in the Vienna talks aimed at returning the US to compliance, according to the Iranian Press TV reports.

A US delegation is also in the Austrian capital, but it is not attending the discussions because the United States is not a party to the nuclear accord.

President Donald Trump abandoned the deal in May 2018 and reimposed sanctions that the JCPOA had previously lifted. He also placed additional sanctions on Iran in relation to the other issues next to the nuclear case as part of the “maximum pressure” campaign.

Following a year of strategic patience, Iran resorted to its legal rights stipulated in Article 26 of the JCPOA, which grants a party the right to suspend its contractual commitments in case of non-compliance by other signatories, and let go of some of the restrictions imposed on its nuclear energy program.

Now, the new US administration, under President Joe Biden, indicates that it wishes to compensate for 45th President Donald Trump’s decision to abandon the deal and make an effort to rejoin it, nevertheless it is demonstrating its intention for maintaining some of the sanctions as a tool of pressure.

Tehran insists that all sanctions should first be removed in a “verifiable manner” before the Islamic Republic reverses its remedial measures.

EU welcomes American tourists

Brussels 20.06.2021 Americans are admitted to visit the European Union again, vaccinated or not. The European Council has updated its list of countries whose citizens and residents should be allowed to travel freely to the bloc’s of 27 states, and the United States is finally on it.

But before you purchase ticket, be aware there may be catches. In fact, there could be 27 different combinations of them. While the updated list published Friday is a recommendation on who may be granted entry based on their home country’s health situation, each EU government makes its own border decisions.

This includes what nationalities to admit, whether to require PCR test or rapid antigen coronavirus test upon arrival, and whether quarantine is mandatory. And while the European Commission, the EU executive branch, emphatically urges countries to coordinate such rules with their neighbours to ensure mobility, that plea has often fallen on deaf administrative ears.

The European Council has officially recommended European Union member states to lift restrictions on non-essential travel from the U.S. That’s welcome news for the many Americans that have been holding out hope of taking a post-pandemic European vacation this summer.

Several others were also added today to the E.U.’s so-called “white list” of nations, territories and special administrative regions from which leisure travel is allowed: Albania, Hong Kong, Lebanon, Macau, North Macedonia, Serbia and Taiwan.

This latest move by the EU institutions have a long way toward restoring Transatlantic travel in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, something which airlines have been pressing U.S. and E.U. officials to actively support as vaccination rates improve on both sides of the Atlantic.

Still, it’s important to note that the Council’s recommendations aren’t legally binding and that each member state is responsible for implementing these guidelines.

Bloc members can also choose to impose added regulations as they see appropriate, including quarantine, testing or vaccination requirements.

Cornwall G7: tempering ambitions

Brussels 11.06.2021 The G7 summit is being held in these often tranquil, and picturesque coastal communities less than 20 miles/32km from Land’s End in Cornwall. Although 5,500 extra police officers have been sent on errand there are not many around the harbour, and delivery vans are passing through without problems.

Preparations have been ongoing since the shock announcement in January 2021, and now the reality has arrived.

Following the unsuccessful UK-EU talks to resolve differences in implementing the Northern Ireland Protocol, French president Emmanuel Macron has repeated his insistence that the Protocol is not negotiable, according Bloomberg reports.

Macron is set to discuss the issue and the access of French fishermen to UK waters during a meeting with prime minister Boris Johnson on Saturday, June 12, on the sideline of the G7 Cornwall.

The UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and U.S. President Joe Biden appeared to put their differences behind them for the limelight in Cornwall. Johnson assessed the meeting with the American president as a “breath of fresh air”, reports the Telegraph newspaper.

Despite the previous reports Joe Biden was preparing to play down the differences with his British counterpart over the Northern Ireland Protocol, and the leaders traded compliments, and gallantries to underline the everlasting strength of the Atlantic ties.

Former Prime Minister Theresa May has criticised the “incomprehensible” travel rules that mean the UK is “shut for business”, the Telegraph newspaper reports.

While praising the UK’s advancing vaccine programme, May said that if ministers blocked travel every time there was a new COVID-19 variant, “we will never be able to travel abroad ever again”.

The Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to make a milestone decision next week on whether to go ahead with lifting the final Covid-19 restrictions on 21 June.

EU-US Summit on 15 June

Brussels 06.06.2021 The EU and US leaders are expected to address a wide range of issues of common concern, including COVID-19, climate, trade and investment, foreign affairs, and common values. The EU will be represented by the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, and the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen. The US will be represented by President Joe Biden.

Representatives from Washington and Brussels met in the Belgian capital on Wednesday,June 2, to reaffirm the strength of the EU-US partnership on foreign policy and security issues.

US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and Stefano Sannino, secretary general of the European External Action Service, met as the Biden administration seeks to reassure European allies after the transatlantic relationship took a battering under former president Donald Trump.

Sannino and Sharman called the upcoming summit “as an important step in the revitalized transatlantic partnership.”

Presidents of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen and European Council Charles Michel will host US President Joe Biden in Brussels, however Biden will participate at a NATO leaders’ summit in Brussels a day earlier.

The leaders are expected to hold talks on the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change, trade and regulatory policies, as well as various foreign policy questions at the summit.

President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. will travel to the United Kingdom and Belgium in June 2021. This will be the first overseas travel by President Biden. This trip will highlight his commitment to restoring our alliances, revitalizing the Transatlantic relationship, and working in close cooperation with our allies and multilateral partners to address global challenges and better secure America’s interests.

President Biden will attend the G7 Summit in Cornwall, U.K., which is happening from June 11-13, where he will reinforce our commitment to multilateralism, work to advance key U.S. policy priorities on public health, economic recovery, and climate change, and demonstrate solidarity and shared values among major democracies. He will also hold bilateral meetings with fellow G7 leaders, including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

From the United Kingdom the President will travel to Brussels, Belgium, where he will participate in the NATO Summit on June 14. President Biden will affirm the United States’ commitment to NATO, Transatlantic security, and collective defense. NATO leaders will discuss how to orient the Alliance to future threats and ensure effective burden sharing. The President will also hold bilateral meetings with fellow NATO leaders.

While in Brussels President Biden will participate in a U.S.–EU Summit, which will underscore our commitment to a strong Transatlantic partnership based on shared interests and values. The leaders will discuss a common agenda to ensure global health security, stimulate global economic recovery, tackle climate change, enhance digital and trade cooperation, strengthen democracy, and address mutual foreign policy concerns.

We look forward to having further details to share about this trip soon, including potential additional elements.

Danish NSA spies on EU leaders

Bruxelles 30.05.2021 Denmark’s secret service helped the US National Security Agency (NSA) to spy on European leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, a European media investigation published on Sunday revealed. (Image: illustration).

The disclosure that the US had been spying on its allies first started coming to light in 2013, but it is only now that journalists have gained access to reports detailing the support given to the NSA by the Danish Defense Intelligence Service (FE).

The report showed that Germany’s close ally and neighbour cooperated with the American spying operations targeting the chancellor and president.

The then chancellor candidate for the German centre-left socialist party (SPD), Peer Steinbrück, was also a target, the new report disclosed.

The Danish government knew of the involvement of the country’s secret service in the NSA scandal by 2015 at the latest.

They began to collect information on the FE’s cooperation with the NSA between 2012 and 2014 in the secret Dunhammer report following the disclosures by the former NSA employee and whistleblower Edward Snowden, NDR reported.

The information they gathered made it clear that the FE had helped the NSA to spy on leading politicians in Germany, Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands and France.

Danish intelligence also helped the US agency to spy on the Danish foreign and finance ministries as well as a Danish weapons manufacturer. The FE also cooperated with the NSA on spying operations against the US government itself.

Upon discovering exactly how far the cooperation between the two countries’ intelligence services went, the Danish government forced the entire leadership of the FE to step down in 2020.

EU welcomes Israel-Palestine ceasefire

Brussels 21.05.2021 Israel/Palestine: Statement by the High Representative Josep Borrell on the ceasefire:

The European Union welcomes the announced ceasefire bringing to an end the violence in and around Gaza. We commend Egypt, Qatar, United Nations, United States and others who have played a facilitating role in this.

We are appalled and regret the loss of life over these past 11 days. As the EU has consistently reiterated, the situation in the Gaza Strip has long been unsustainable. Only a political solution will bring sustainable peace and end once for all the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Restoring a political horizon towards a two-state solution now remains of utmost importance. The EU is ready to fully support Israeli and Palestinian authorities in these efforts.

The EU is renewing its engagement with key international partners, including the United States, and other partners in the region, as well as with the revitalised Middle East Quartet, to this end”.

The ceasefire began early on Friday, bringing to an end 11 days of fighting in which more than 250 people were killed, most of them in Gaza.

Palestinians poured on to the streets of Gaza soon after the truce began, while a Hamas official warned the group had not let down its guard.

Both Israel and Hamas have claimed victory in the conflict.

US President Joe Biden said the ceasefire brought a “genuine opportunity” for progress.

Soon after it started at 02:00 on Friday (23:00 GMT on Thursday), large numbers of Palestinians took to the streets in cars and on foot to celebrate. In Gaza, drivers honked their horns, while loudspeakers from mosques pronounced “the victory of the resistance”.

Israel’s military said it was removing nearly all emergency restrictions on movement throughout the country.

Vaccine labels on dating apps

Major dating apps are adding vaccination badges and special benefits to users’ profiles who say they received the coronavirus vaccine in an effort to reach the Biden administration’s July 4 inoculation goal, the Hill newspaper reports.

“In support of President Biden’s goal of getting 70% of adults at least one shot by July 4, the largest dating apps in America will launch new features to encourage Americans to get vaccinated,” according to an announcement from the White House.

The news from the dating apps comes after President Biden earlier this month announced a goal of administering at least one shot of the coronavirus vaccine to 70% of adults by July 4.

Tinder, Hinge, Match, OkCupid, BLK, Chispa, Plenty of Fish, Bumble and Badoo are all giving special benefits to those who get vaccinated and adding new “vaccination badge” options to their profiles.

Tinder is allowing vaccinated people to get free premium content such as a “Super Like” and is encouraging users to add “Getting Vaxed” or “Vaccines Saves Lives” stickers to their profiles.

OkCupid users who add the “I’m Vaccinated” badge will get a free “boost” to their profile and, starting in early June, users will be able to search for vaccinated users in a system called “Vaccinated Stacks.”

“According to research from OKCupid, people who are vaccinated or plan to get vaccinated receive 14% more Matches than people who don’t plan to get vaccinated,” the announcement states.

The dating apps will also provide information about the vaccine and links to vaccines.gov.

Everyone above the age of 16 in the U.S. is now eligible for the vaccine, but vaccination rates have slowed since the mad dash to vaccination sites earlier in the year. Biden, congressional lawmakers, members of federal health agencies and state and local leaders have encouraged hesitant Americans to get the shots.

Some state governors have announced lotteries for those who receive a coronavirus vaccine. For example, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced Thursday that the state would be eligible for a lottery prize of $40,000.

Ohio reported a 28 percent increase in vaccinations after Gov. Mike DeWine (R) announced five lottery drawings for a chance to win $1 million dollars each draw.

Currently, over 60 percent of adults in the U.S. have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine.

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