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Congress rolls out ‘Better Deal,’ new economic agenda

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Politics

Father and son extradited to Japan over Carlos Ghosn escape

father-and-son-extradited-to-japan-over-carlos-ghosn-escape

An American father and son wanted for helping the former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn escape Japan in a box were handed over to Japanese custody on Monday, ending a months-long battle to stay in the US.

Michael Taylor and his son, Peter Taylor, failed to convince US officials and courts to block extradition to Japan, where they will be tried on charges that they smuggled Ghosn out of the country in 2019 while the former auto titan was awaiting trial on financial misconduct charges.

The Massachusetts men, held at a suburban Boston jail since their arrest in May, were handed over early on Monday, said one of their attorneys, Paul Kelly. Their lawyers had argued the accusations do not fit the law Japan wants to try them under and that they will be treated unfairly and subjected to “mental and physical torture”.

They have accused Japan of pursuing the pair in an attempt to save face after the embarrassment of Ghosn’s escape.

Michael Taylor, a US army special forces veteran in the past hired to rescue abducted children, has never denied the allegations. He gave an interview to Vanity Fair last year in which he described the mission in detail. When asked why he did it, he responded with the motto of the special forces: “De oppresso liber” or “to liberate the oppressed”.

He refused to discuss the details of the case in an interview last month because of the possibility he would be tried in Japan. But he insisted that his son was not involved and was not even in Japan when Ghosn left.

Ghosn, who became one of the auto industry’s most powerful executives by engineering a turnaround at the Japanese manufacturer, had been out on bail after his November 2018 arrest on charges that he underreported his future income and committed a breach of trust by diverting Nissan money for his personal gain.

Ghosn has denied the allegations and has said he fled to avoid “political persecution”.

Carlos Ghosn had been charged with underreporting future income and diverting Nissan money for personal gain.
Carlos Ghosn had been charged with underreporting future income and diverting Nissan money for personal gain. Photograph: Hussein Malla/AP

Prosecutors have described one of the most “brazen and well-orchestrated escape acts in recent history”. Authorities say the Taylors were paid at least $1.3m.

On the day of the escape, Michael Taylor flew into Osaka on a chartered jet with another man, George-Antoine Zayek, carrying two large black boxes and pretending to be musicians with audio equipment, authorities said. Ghosn, free on bail, headed to the Grand Hyatt in Tokyo and met Peter Taylor, authorities say.

The elder Taylor and Zayek met the two others at the Grand Hyatt and shortly after split up. Peter Taylor took a flight to China while the others got on a bullet train and went back to another hotel near the airport, where Taylor and Zayek had booked a room. They all went in; only Ghosn’s rescuers were seen walking out.

Authorities say Ghosn was inside one of the big black boxes. At the airport, the boxes passed through a security checkpoint and were loaded on to a private jet headed for Turkey, officials said.

The Taylors had hired lawyers connected to Donald Trump, including the ex-White House attorney Ty Cobb, in an attempt to get Trump to block the extradition before he left office.

In his interview with the AP, Michael Taylor implored Joe Biden to step in and said he felt betrayed that the US would try to turn him over to Japan. But the Biden administration declined to block the extradition.

Under Trump, the state department agreed in October to hand the men over to Japan. But a federal judge in Boston put their extradition on hold shortly after their lawyers filed an emergency petition. The judge rejected their petition in January and the Boston-based first circuit court of appeals later denied their bid to put the extradition on hold while they appeal against that ruling.

The supreme court justice Stephen Breyer last month denied a bid for more time for an appeal, clearing the way for the men to be handed over to Japan.

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Politics

CDC director warns of potential ‘fourth surge’ in US coronavirus cases – live

cdc-director-warns-of-potential-‘fourth-surge’-in-us-coronavirus-cases-–-live

White House press secretary Jen Psaki was asked whether Joe Biden would consider sharing the US coronavirus vaccine supply with Mexico.

“No,” Psaki replied, saying the president is prioritizing the vaccination of Americans right now.

The question comes hours before Biden is scheduled to virtually meet with the president of Mexico, who is expected to raise the issue of vaccine-sharing as well.

White House says it does not intend to overrule Senate parliamentarian

White House press secretary Jen Psaki was asked about the Senate parliamentarian’s ruling that the $15 minimum wage provision did not meet the requirements for passage by reconciliation.

A group of House progressives has called on Joe Biden to overrule the Senate parliamentarian by having Vice-President Kamala Harris, the leader of the Senate, approve the inclusion of the minimum wage provision in the coronavirus relief package.

Psaki said having Harris overrule the parliamentarian is “not a simple decision,” and she noted the president and the vice-president both “respect the history of the Senate”.

“That is not an action that we intend to take,” Psaki said.

The press secretary reiterated Biden’s commitment to raising the minimum wage, which would require a separate bill if it is not included in the relief package.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki has taken over the briefing, and she was asked about Joe Biden’s decision not to sanction the Saudi crown prince over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Psaki defended the decision, claiming the administration had “recalibrated the relationship” with Saudi Arabia to ensure such violence does not happen again.

The press secretary said the president does “reserve the right to take any action” against the Saudi crown prince in the future, but she noted that past administrations have not typically sanctioned leaders of nations with which the US has diplomatic relations.

Alejandro Mayorkas was asked whether he would allow reporters access to the temporary detention facilities for migrant children in Texas.

A reporter noted that the department of homeland security has so far rejected media organizations’ requests to access those facilities, citing the need to limit the risk of coronavirus spread.

“I’m happy to take a look at that,” Mayorkas said, adding that he would need to check with fellow DHS officials about why the request was rejected.

The DHS secretary said he was committed to providing “openness and transparency” during his tenure, and he said that principle would apply to the media.

Mayorkas also noted he was once a journalism student, but he said he “wasn’t a good enough writer to make it the whole way”.

Alejandro Mayorkas was asked by a reporter whether he believes there is a “crisis” at the US-Mexican border.

“The answer is no,” the DHS secretary replied.

Mayorkas acknowledged that there are challenges at the border, but he expressed confidence in his department’s ability to handle those challenges.

Alejandro Mayorkas took issue with the idea that the Biden administration’s handling of migrant children is similar to that of the Trump administration.

The DHS secretary noted that the Trump administration expelled migrant children from the US, which the Biden administration is not doing.

The Biden White House has received criticism on the right and the left for reopening a detention center for migrant children that was used under the Trump administration.

Alejandro Mayorkas offered some updates on the Biden administration’s task force to reunite migrant families who were separated as a result of Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policies.

Mayorkas announced that Michelle Brané will serve as the executive director of the task force. “She is an extraordinary talent that will bring justice,” the DHS secretary said.

Mayorkas added that the administration will “explore lawful pathways” to allow separated families to be reunited in the US, if they want to do so.

Alejandro Mayorkas said the department of homeland security is working on processing those in the “Remain in Mexico” program that was implemented during Donald Trump’s presidency.

The DHS secretary emphasized that this is not the time for migrants to attempt to enter the US.

“They need to wait,” Mayorkas said. “It takes time to rebuild the system from scratch.”

Mayorkas noted that those who attempt to enter the US may be returned to Mexico in order to observe guidelines on limiting the spread of coronavirus.

Trump ‘dismantled our nation’s immigration system in its entirety,’ DHS secretary says

The daily White House press briefing is underway, and Alejandro Mayorkas, the secretary of homeland security, is speaking to reporters in the briefing room.

Mayorkas, who was confirmed by the Senate last month, said the department of homeland security will “replace the cruelty of the past administration with an orderly, humane and safe immigration process”.

The cabinet secretary accused the Trump administration of having “dismantled our nation’s immigration system in its entirety”.

Mayorkas pledged to rebuild that system, saying, “It is hard, and it will take time, but rest assured: it will get done.”

Jeff Zients acknowledged that coronavirus vaccine scheduling remains “too frustrating” for “far too many people” in the US.

The White House coronavirus response team coordinator said the Biden administration is committed to helping states improve their scheduling systems, but he made no mention of a possible national scheduling portal.

The coronavirus response team’s press briefing has now concluded.

Jeff Zients, the coordinator of the White House coronavirus response team, announced the country distributed an average of 1.7 million doses a day over the past week.

Zients said vaccine distribution has rebounded after last month’s winter storm, which impacted deliveries across the central US.

According to Bloomberg, about 2.4 million vaccine doses were administered in the US yesterday.

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Politics

Louisiana police trooper kicked and dragged Black man who died in custody, records show

louisiana-police-trooper-kicked-and-dragged-black-man-who-died-in-custody,-records-show

A Louisiana state police trooper has been suspended without pay for kicking and dragging a handcuffed Black man whose in-custody death remains unexplained and the subject of a federal civil rights investigation.

Body camera footage shows Kory York dragging Ronald Greene “on his stomach by the leg shackles” following a violent arrest and high-speed pursuit, according to internal state police records obtained by the Associated Press.

The records are the first public acknowledgement by state police that Greene was mistreated. They confirm details provided last year by an attorney for Greene’s family who viewed graphic body camera footage of the May 2019 arrest and likened it to the police killing of George Floyd, whose death last year triggered widespread protests and a national reckoning with police brutality and systemic racism.

The video shows troopers choking and beating the man, repeatedly jolting him with stun guns and dragging him face-down across the pavement, the attorney told AP.

State police have repeatedly refused to publicly release the body camera footage. The agency has been tight-lipped about Greene’s death and initially blamed the man’s fatal injuries on a car crash outside Monroe, Louisiana.

York, who turned his own body camera off on his way to the scene, is seen on other body-cam footage yanking Greene’s shackles and repeatedly using profanity toward Greene before he died in custody.

York was suspended without pay for 50 hours following an internal investigation that also led to the termination of another trooper, Chris Hollingsworth, who died in a single-car crash after learning he had been fired over his role in the incident.

The AP last year published a 27-second audio clip from Hollingsworth’s body camera in which he can be heard telling a colleague: “I beat the ever-living fuck out of” Greene before he “all of a sudden he just went limp”.

“It is now undisputed that Trooper York participated in the brutal assault that took Ronald Greene’s life,” said Mark Maguire, a Philadelphia civil rights attorney who represents Greene’s family. “This suspension is a start but it does not come close to the full transparency and accountability the family continues to seek.”

Lamar Davis, who took over as state police superintendent last year, wrote York that his suspension had been decided by his predecessor, Kevin Reeves, adding he “would have imposed more severe discipline” had it been up to him.

York told investigators he turned his own body-worn camera off because it was beeping loudly and that his “mind was on other things” after arriving at the scene.

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