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Spanish court summons prime minister’s wife in corruption probe
Bankruptcy | 2024/06/04 11:06
A Spanish investigative judge has summoned the wife of Spain’s prime minister to give testimony as part of a probe into allegations that she used her position to influence business deals, a Madrid-based court said Tuesday.

Begoña Gómez is to appear at court on July 5 to answer questions.

Gómez has yet to speak publicly on the case, but Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has called it a “smear campaign” to damage Spain’s leftist coalition government led by his Socialist party.

The probe is based on allegations against Gómez made by a group called Manos Limpias, or “Clean Hands.” Manos Limpias describes itself as a union, but its main activity is as a platform pursuing legal cases. Many have been linked to right-wing causes targeting leftist politicians, and most of them never succeed.

After the probe was launched in April, Sánchez stunned the nation by saying he would contemplate stepping down for what he said was the “attack without precedent” against his wife. After five days of silence, Sánchez said he had decided to remain in office.

The summoning of Gómez comes before this week’s European Parliament election, with Spaniards voting on Sunday. Far-right parties across Europe aim for big gains.

“I want to express our surprise for the fact and coincidence that this news is coming out precisely this week,” said Pilar Alegría, spokeswoman for Spain’s government.

“We are absolutely calm because we know there is nothing (to the allegations),” Alegría said. “What does exist is a mudslinging campaign by the right and far right.”

Manos Limpias has said its allegations against Gómez were entirely based on media reports: “If they are not true, it would be up to those who published them to admit to their falsehood, but if they are true, then we believe that the legal case should continue forward.”

Spain’s public prosecutors’ office recommended the probe be thrown out, but a provincial court ruled that the lower-court judge could continue the investigation. The judge will either table the probe or recommend it go to trial.


TikTok content creators sue the US government over potential ban
Bankruptcy | 2024/05/15 17:17
Eight TikTok content creators sued the U.S. government on Tuesday, issuing another challenge to the new federal law that would ban the popular social media platform nationwide if its China-based parent company doesn’t sell its stakes within a year.

Attorneys for the creators argue in the lawsuit that the law violates users’ First Amendment rights to free speech, echoing arguments made by TikTok in a separate lawsuit filed by the company last week. The legal challenge could end up before the Supreme Court.

The complaint filed Tuesday comes from a diverse set of content creators, including a Texas-based rancher who has previously appeared in a TikTok commercial, a creator in Arizona who uses TikTok to show his daily life and spread awareness about LGBTQ issues, as well as a business owner who sells skincare products on TikTok Shop, the e-commerce arm of the platform.

The lawsuit says the creators “rely on TikTok to express themselves, learn, advocate for causes, share opinions, create communities, and even make a living.”

“They have found their voices, amassed significant audiences, made new friends, and encountered new and different ways of thinking — all because of TikTok’s novel way of hosting, curating, and disseminating speech,” it added, arguing the new law would deprive them and the rest of the country “of this distinctive means of expression and communication.”

A spokesperson for TikTok said the company was covering the legal costs for the lawsuit, which was filed in a Washington appeals court. It is being led by the same law firm that represented creators who challenged Montana’s statewide ban on the platform last year. In November, a judge blocked that law from going into effect.

The Department of Justice said that the legislation that could ban TikTok “addresses critical national security concerns in a manner that is consistent with the First Amendment and other constitutional limitations. We look forward to defending the legislation in court.”

The federal law comes at a time of intense strategic rivalry between the U.S. and China on a host of issues and as the two butt heads over sensitive geopolitical topics like China’s support for Russia in its invasion of Ukraine. U.S. lawmakers and administration officials have aired concerns about how well TikTok can protect users’ data from Chinese authorities and have argued its algorithm could be used to spread pro-China propaganda, which TikTok disputes.

Under the law, TikTok’s parent company ByteDance would be required to sell the platform to an approved buyer within nine months. If a sale is in progress, the company will get a three-month extension to complete the deal.


Trump arrives in federal court in Florida for classified docs case
Bankruptcy | 2024/02/13 14:57
Former President Donald Trump arrived Monday morning at a federal courthouse in Florida for a closed hearing in his criminal case charging him with mishandling classified documents.

The hearing was scheduled to discuss the procedures for the handling of classified evidence in the case, which is currently set for trial on May 20. Trump faces dozens of felony counts accusing him of hoarding highly classified records at his Mar-a-Lago estate and obstructing FBI efforts to get them back.

U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon expects to hear arguments in the morning from defense lawyers and in the afternoon from prosecutors, each outside of the other’s presence.

“Defense counsel shall be prepared to discuss their defense theories of the case, in detail, and how any classified information might be relevant or helpful to the defense,” Cannon wrote in scheduling the hearing.

Trump’s motorcade arrived at the courthouse in Fort Pierce shortly after 9 a.m.

The hearing is one of several voluntary court appearances that Trump has made in recent weeks — he was present, for instance, at appeals court arguments last month in Washington — as he looks to demonstrate to supporters that he intends to fight the four criminal prosecutions he faces while also seeking to reclaim the White House this November.


Top UN court orders Israel to prevent genocide in Gaza
Bankruptcy | 2024/01/25 15:37
The United Nations’ top court on Friday ordered Israel to do all it can to prevent death, destruction and any acts of genocide in Gaza, but the panel stopped short of ordering Jerusalem to end the military offensive that has laid waste to the Palestinian enclave.

In a ruling that will keep Israel under the legal lens for years to come, the court offered little other comfort to Israel in a genocide case brought by South Africa that goes to the core of one of the world’s most intractable conflicts. The court’s half-dozen orders will be difficult to achieve without some sort of cease-fire or pause in the fighting.

“The court is acutely aware of the extent of the human tragedy that is unfolding in the region and is deeply concerned about the continuing loss of life and human suffering,” said court President Joan E. Donoghue.

The ruling amounted to an overwhelming rebuke of Israel’s wartime conduct and added to mounting international pressure to halt the nearly 4-month-old offensive, which has killed more than 26,000 Palestinians, decimated vast swaths of Gaza and driven nearly 85% of its 2.3 million people from their homes.

Allowing the accusations to stand stung the government of Israel, which was founded as a Jewish state after the Nazi slaughter of 6 million Jews during World War II.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the fact that the court was willing to discuss the genocide charges was a “mark of shame that will not be erased for generations.” He also vowed to press ahead with the war.

The power of the ruling was magnified by its timing, coming on the eve of International Holocaust Remembrance Day.


Trump pushes for election interference trial to be televised
Bankruptcy | 2023/11/16 09:50
Donald Trump is pushing for his federal election interference trial in Washington to be televised, joining media outlets that say the American public should be able to watch the historic case unfold.

Federal court rules prohibit broadcasting proceedings, but The Associated Press and other news organizations say the unprecedented case of a former president standing trial on accusations that he tried to subvert the will of voters warrants making an exception.

The Justice Department is opposing the effort, arguing that the judge overseeing the case does not have the authority to ignore the long-standing nationwide policy against cameras in federal courtrooms. The trial is scheduled to begin on March 4.

``I want this trial to be seen by everybody in the world,” Trump said Saturday during a presidential campaign event in New Hampshire. “The prosecution wishes to continue this travesty in darkness and I want sunlight.”

Lawyers for Trump wrote in court papers filed late Friday that all Americans should be able to observe what they characterize as a politically motivated prosecution of the Republican front-runner for his party’s 2024 nomination. The defense also suggested Trump will try to use the trial as a platform to repeat his unfounded claims that the 2020 election that he lost to Democrat Joe Biden was stolen from him. Trump has pleaded not guilty.

“President Trump absolutely agrees, and in fact demands, that these proceedings should be fully televised so that the American public can see firsthand that this case, just like others, is nothing more than a dreamt-up unconstitutional charade that should never be allowed to happen again,” Trump’s lawyers wrote.

The request for a televised trial comes as the Washington case has emerged as the most potent and direct legal threat to Trump’s political fortunes. Trump is accused of illegally scheming to overturn the election results in the run-up to the violent riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, by his supporters.


Biden administration warns of disruption at border if judges halt asylum rule
Bankruptcy | 2023/11/10 08:05
The Biden administration on Tuesday urged an appeals court to allow sweeping new asylum restrictions to stay in place, warning that halting them would be “highly disruptive” at the border.

The government is urging a panel of judges in Pasadena, California — two appointed by President Bill Clinton and one by President Donald Trump — to overturn a July ruling that sought to block the new asylum restrictions. The new restrictions made it far more difficult to qualify for asylum if a migrant didn’t first apply online or traveled through another country, such as Mexico, and didn’t seek protection there. They have remained in place during the appeal.

Although the judges didn’t rule immediately and gave no indication how they were leaning, the arguments occurred against a backdrop of Senate Republicans seeking to legislate far-reaching changes to asylum eligibility as part of President Joe Biden’s request for military aid to Ukraine and Israel.

Courts blocked similar measures under Trump but the Biden administration says its approach differs because it is coupled with new legal pathways to enter the country and creates exceptions. However, advocates represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, Center for Gender & Refugee Studies and National Immigrant Justice Center argue that they are recycled Trump-era policies that violate U.S. law allowing people to seek asylum no matter how and where they arrive.

A mobile app introduced in January allows asylum-seekers to make 1,450 appointments per day at official border crossings with Mexico, while the Biden administration has allowed up to 30,000 a month from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela to pursue asylum if they apply online with a financial sponsor and arrive at an airport.

Those new pathways represent “a very significant difference” from Trump policies, said Brian Boynton, a Justice Department attorney. Boynton also noted that 12% of the 57,700 asylum-seekers who were subject to the new rule through September avoided it by proving “exceptionally compelling circumstances,” including “acute medical emergency,” “imminent and extreme threat to life or safety” or being a victim of human trafficking.


Kavanaugh predicts ‘concrete steps soon’ to address ethics concerns
Bankruptcy | 2023/09/08 11:31
Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh told a judicial conference on Thursday he hopes there will be “concrete steps soon” to address recent ethics concerns surrounding the court, but he stopped short of addressing calls for justices to institute an official code of conduct.

“We can increase confidence. We’re working on that,” Kavanaugh told the conference attended by judges, attorneys and other court personnel in Ohio. He said all nine justices recognize that public confidence in the court is important, particularly now.

Public trust in the court is at a 50-year low following a series of divisive rulings, including the overturning of Roe v. Wade federal abortion protections last year, and published reports about the justices’ undisclosed paid trips and other ethical concerns.

“There’s a storm around us in the political world and the world at large in America,” Kavanaugh said. “We, as judges and the legal system, need to try to be a little more, I think, of the calm in the storm.”

Justice Clarence Thomas acknowledged recently that he took three trips last year aboard a private plane owned by Republican megadonor Harlan Crow even as he rejected criticism over his failure to report trips in previous years.

Reporting by the investigative news site ProPublica also revealed that Justice Samuel Alito failed to disclose a private trip to Alaska he took in 2008 that was paid for by two wealthy Republican donors, one of whom repeatedly had interests before the court.


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