San Francisco successfully recalls progressive DA Boudin

2 Chronicles 7:14 “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

Important Takeaways:

  • San Francisco Recalls Liberal DA Chesa Boudin
  • San Francisco on Tuesday has voted to recall progressive District Attorney Chesa Boudin in a heated campaign that bitterly divided Democrats over crime, policing and public safety reform.
  • Boudin was a baby when his parents, left-wing Weather Underground radicals, served as drivers in a botched 1981 robbery in New York that left two police officers and a security guard dead. They were sentenced to decades in prison.
  • Recall proponents said Boudin was ideologically inflexible and inexperienced, often siding with criminals instead of victims.
  • Recall opponents said the recall was a Republican power grab meant to undermine public safety reforms.

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San Francisco woke to a magnitude 4.1 earthquake

Luke 21:11 There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.

Important Takeaways:

  • Shaking was detected at 5:07 a.m. local time, with the epicenter located in the East Bay, near Bay Point.
  • California doesn’t yet have an early warning system for seismic activity
  • Focus remains on preparedness, with residents urged to make family plan to meet if separated and to stock up on three days’ worth of food, water and other essentials

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San Francisco becomes second U.S. city to mandate vaccines for bars, gyms

By Gabriella Borter

(Reuters) -San Francisco announced on Thursday that proof of full vaccination would be required for entry to restaurants, gyms and other indoor venues, aiming to curb a new wave of COVID infections that has prompted public health mandates across the country.

San Francisco, which launches its mandate on Aug. 20, is the second major city to pass a sweeping vaccine requirement for indoor businesses after New York, which only requires proof of one vaccination dose.

The vaccine mandates in two liberal cities have come as schools in some conservative states are fighting to require masks, going against their Republican governors’ orders.

The board of Houston’s public schools was expected to vote on Thursday to defy a state ban on mask mandates, joining other districts in Texas and Florida requiring face coverings in classrooms to fight a surge of COVID-19 infections, despite threats from state leadership.

The measure is likely to pass, with a majority of board members expressing support for requiring masks in schools, the Houston Chronicle reported.

As the start of the academic year coincides with a dire new wave of COVID-19 cases, schools have quickly become the focal point of the nation’s political fight over masking and vaccine mandates.

Florida has threatened to withhold the salaries of school officials who require masks, a move that has escalated tension between Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican, and the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden, a Democrat.

The White House is considering reimbursing Florida school officials if DeSantis, who is widely seen as weighing a potential 2024 challenge for the presidency, follows through on his threat.

The Delta variant appears to be flattening the pace of the U.S. economic recovery after a big upswing in the first half of 2021, according to Oxford Economics U.S. Recovery Tracker.

“Sharply deteriorating health conditions are the main reason why the South’s recovery is now losing momentum,” Oxford’s lead U.S. economist Oren Klachkin said. “And the rapid uptick in Covid cases in the region is causing activity to moderate and mobility and employment to stagnate.”

HEALTH CARE STRETCHED THIN

The worst of the U.S. COVID outbreak is concentrated in the South, including Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, where intensive care units have been stretched to capacity. While flouting federal recommendations on masks, Florida has asked Washington to help by sending ventilators.

The number of daily cases across the country has doubled in the last two weeks, according to a Reuters tally, reaching a six-month peak, while the average number of daily deaths has increased 85% in the last 14 days.

“Our frontline health care heroes are finding themselves stretched thin and physical and mental exhaustion is taking its toll,” Florida Hospital Association President Mary Mayhew said in a statement on Tuesday, adding that people in their 20s and 30s were being hospitalized with the virus.

Leaders in Democrat-led states and cities have moved swiftly to impose COVID-19 mask and vaccine requirements in the face of the Delta variant.

San Francisco’s new vaccine mandate for indoor businesses extends to employees as well as patrons. Employees of restaurants, gyms and other venues have until Oct. 13 to show proof of full vaccination, the order says. Proof of vaccination will also be required for attendees at indoor events of 1,000 people or more.

Meanwhile, California, Illinois, Kentucky and New Jersey, all led by Democratic governors, have required masks in all schools.

On Thursday, the National Education Association President Becky Pringle, who leads the largest teachers’ union in the country, said she supported vaccine mandates for teachers. Her statement came on the heels of a similar announcement from the American Federation of Teachers’ president earlier this week.

(Reporting by Gabriella Borter in Washington; Additional reporting by Peter Szekely and Dan Burns in New York and Manas Mishra in Washington; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

Chinese who took refuge at San Francisco consulate now in U.S. custody: U.S. official

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A Chinese researcher who took refuge from U.S. authorities at China’s consulate in San Francisco is now in American custody and is expected to appear in court on Friday, a senior U.S. Justice Department official said.

According to court filings in U.S. District Court in San Francisco this week, Juan Tang, who worked at the University of California, Davis, falsely claimed on her visa application that she had not served in the Chinese military. She was charged with visa fraud on June 26.

The Justice Department official told reporters Tang was detained on Thursday night and did not have diplomatic immunity as she was not declared as a diplomatic official.

“She’ll make her initial appearance in court later today,” he said, alleging that Tang was part of a network of associates who concealed their military affiliation when applying for visas.

The Chinese embassy did respond to a request for comment on the case.

(Reporting by David Brunnstrom and Daphne Psaledakis; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

FBI interviewing Chinese visa holders across U.S. about possible military ties: Justice Department

By Lisa Lambert

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The FBI has interviewed visa holders it believes to secretly be members of the Chinese military in more than two dozen U.S. cities, the Justice Department said on Thursday.

The department said it has arrested three Chinese nationals for visa fraud, while a fourth remains a fugitive staying at China’s consulate in San Francisco. The United States believes the four were members of China’s military posing as researchers.

“In interviews with members of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army in over 25 cities across the U.S., the FBI uncovered a concerted effort to hide their true affiliation to take advantage of the United States and the American people,” John Brown, executive assistant director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s national security branch, said in a statement.

Court filings show that the FBI believed the San Francisco consulate was harboring a fugitive since late June. U.S. law enforcement cannot enter a foreign embassy or consulate unless invited, and certain top officials such as ambassadors have diplomatic immunity.

U.S. appeals court blocks Trump policy forcing migrants to wait in Mexico

By Mica Rosenberg

(Reuters) – A U.S. federal appeals court in San Francisco on Friday blocked a Trump administration policy that has forced tens of thousands of migrants to wait in Mexico for months for hearings in U.S. immigration courts.

A 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel found the plaintiffs were likely to succeed in their argument that the program violated U.S. immigration law and international treaty obligations on the treatment of asylum seekers.

The program, which began a year ago and is called the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), is one of the most dramatic immigration policy changes enacted by the Trump administration.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who has made cracking down on immigration a central theme of his more than three years in the White House, has sought through a series of new policies and rule changes to reduce asylum claims filed mostly by Central Americans arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The U.S. Department of Justice did not immediately respond to a request for comment but the administration is likely to quickly appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court as it has done with other rulings.

Some 59,000 people have been sent back to Mexico under the program, which started in San Diego before being expanded to other ports of entry all across the U.S-Mexico border. [L2N25W1G1] It was not immediately clear what would happen to people already in the program.

Migrants, many of them children, have faced violence and homelessness as they wait for their court dates in dangerous border cities. At least 1,000 people returned under the program were violently attacked or threatened in Mexico, according to a Feb 28 Human Rights Watch report that documented kidnappings, rapes and assaults.

The Trump administration argued the program did not violate a principle in international law known as non-refoulement, which says asylum seekers should not be returned to places where they face danger. The administration has said migrants could tell officials at any point in the process they had a fear of returning to Mexico.

But the panel concluded that plaintiffs in the case, which included 11 individual asylum seekers and several immigration advocacy groups, “had shown a likelihood of success on their claim that the MPP does not comply with the United States’ treaty-based non-refoulement obligations.”

The Trump administration has said most asylum petitions are ultimately denied by immigration courts and releasing migrants into the United States to wait for hearings encourages people to disappear into the country. Officials say forcing migrants to wait in Mexico is a way to cut down on fraudulent asylum claims.

In a separate ruling on Friday, the 9th Circuit left in place a lower court’s block on a Trump administration regulation that barred migrants who cross the U.S.-Mexico border between ports of entry from seeking asylum.

A three-judge panel in that case found the regulation – issued in November 2018 and swiftly enjoined by a federal judge in the Northern District of California – conflicted with federal immigration statutes that govern asylum and amounted to “a categorical ban” on certain asylum seekers.

(Reporting by Mica Rosenberg in New York; Additional reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York, Ted Hesson in Washington and Kristina Cooke in Los Angeles; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Howard Goller)

California wildfires force evacuations, cause power outages

California wildfires force evacuations, cause power outages
By Subrat Patnaik and Rich McKay

(Reuters) – California emergency officials on Thursday ordered hundreds of people to evacuate a historic wine country town north of San Francisco, and nearly 200,000 were without power, as a growing wildfire spread in Sonoma County.

Driven by strong winds, the Kincade fire engulfed some 10,000 acres (4,047 hectares) by Thursday, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. The Sonoma County Sheriff issued a mandatory evacuation order for the town of Geyserville, home to almost 900 people.

A video posted on social media by a local reporter showed a glowing blaze against the still-dark backdrop of an early morning sky and a strong wind buffeting into the microphone.

Large parts of California were under red-flag alerts this week, suggesting a heightened risk of fire, amid high temperatures and powerful winds, officials said.

About 185,000 customers were without power in the state on Thursday morning, according to poweroutage.us.

More than half a million homes and businesses in the state could lose power this week as utilities, including Pacific Gas & Electric <PCG.N> and Southern California Edison <SCE_pe.A>, cut off electricity as a preventive measure against wildfires.

Over 308,000 customers in seven counties, including Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Ventura in southern California, were under consideration for Public Safety Power Shutoffs, Southern California Edison said.

National Weather Service meteorologist Marc Chenard said the worst of the winds would arrive later in the day and into Friday.

“It looks like at its worst, southern California will see wind gusts of 55 miles per hour (89 kph). Down in some of the coastal areas, the winds could reach 75 miles per hour (121 kph) later today,” he said.

Power lines could be knocked down, potentially igniting fires among arid trees and vegetation, according to earlier forecasts.

Bankrupt Californian power producer PG&E cut off electricity to more than 730,000 homes and workplaces in northern California earlier this month to try to reduce the risk of wildfires amid extremely windy and dry weather.

Chenard added that northern California could experience dangerous wind gusts of up to 45 mph.

“This is not going to abate until at least this weekend,” he said.

(Reporting by Subrat Patnaik in Bengaluru and Rich McKay in Atlanta, additional reporting by Maria Caspani in New York; Editing by Scott Malone and Bernadette Baum)

Apple pulls police-tracking app used by Hong Kong protesters after consulting authorities

By Stephen Nellis and John Ruwitch

SAN FRANCISCO/HONG KONG (Reuters) – Apple Inc has removed an app that helped Hong Kong protesters track police movements, saying it was used to ambush law enforcement – a move that follows sharp criticism of the U.S. tech giant by a Chinese state newspaper for allowing the software.

The decision to bar the HKmap.live app, which crowdsources the locations of both police and protesters, from its app store plunges Apple into the increasingly fraught political tension between China and the protesters that has also ensnared other U.S. and Hong Kong businesses.

Apple had only just last week approved the app after rejecting it earlier this month. The Chinese Communist Party’s official newspaper on Tuesday called the app “poisonous” and decried what it said was Apple’s complicity in helping the Hong Kong protesters.

Apple said in a statement on Wednesday it had begun an immediate investigation after “many concerned customers in Hong Kong” contacted the company about the app and Apple found it had endangered law enforcement and residents.

“The app displays police locations and we have verified with the Hong Kong Cybersecurity and Technology Crime Bureau that the app has been used to target and ambush police, threaten public safety, and criminals have used it to victimize residents in areas where they know there is no law enforcement,” it said.

Apple did not comment beyond its statement. The company also removed BackupHK, a separate app that served as a mirror of the HKmap.live app.

On Twitter, an account believed to be owned by the HKmap.live app’s developer said it disagreed with Apple’s decision and there was no evidence to support the Hong Kong police’s claims via Apple that the app had been used in ambushes.

“The majority of user review(s) in App Store … suggest HKmap IMPROVED public safety, not the opposite,” it said.

The app consolidates content from public posts on social networks and moderators delete content that solicited criminal activity and would ban repeated attempts to post such content in the app, it added.

Neither China’s foreign ministry nor the information office of the State Council had an immediate comment when asked about the HKmap.live app removal. Hong Kong police also had no immediate comment.

In a separate move, Apple also removed the Quartz news app from its App Store in China because Chinese authorities said the app violated local laws.

Quartz Chief Executive Zach Seward told technology publication The Verge in a statement: “We abhor this kind of government censorship of the internet, and have great coverage of how to get around such bans around the world.”

ANGER IN HONG KONG

The People’s Daily newspaper on Tuesday blasted Apple, saying it did not have a sense of right and wrong, and ignored the truth. Making the app available on Apple’s Hong Kong App Store at this time was “opening the door” to violent protesters in the former British colony, the newspaper wrote.

The HKmap.live app was taken down from Apple’s app store globally on Wednesday but continued to work for users who had previously downloaded it in Hong Kong, Reuters found. A web version was also still viewable on iPhones.

Word of the its removal spread quickly in Hong Kong, where residents have been campaigning for months in sometimes violent demonstrations – first to protest a now-withdrawn extradition bill and currently in a broader push for democratic rights.

“Does the entire world have to suck up to the garbage Communist Party?” one commentator called Yip Lou Jie said in an online forum, LIHKG, which is used by protesters in Hong Kong.

But Simon Young, associate dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Hong Kong, said Apple seemed to have a case given the circumstances.

“It sounds like they are being responsible. To do nothing when it’s being used for a specific purpose that actually facilitates these protests, to do nothing would be rather irresponsible,” he said.

Apple’s action has come amid a furor surrounding the National Basketball Association after a team official tweeted in support of the protests in Hong Kong and which has led Chinese sponsors and partners to cut ties with the NBA.

Cathay Pacific Airways, Hong Kong’s flagship carrier, has also felt the wrath of China’s aviation regulator, which has called for the suspension of staff who have taken part in the protests or expressed support.

Under Apple’s rules and policies, apps that meet its standards to appear in the App Store have sometimes been removed after their release if they were found to facilitate illegal activity or threaten public safety.

In 2011, Apple modified its app store to remove apps that listed locations for drunken driving checkpoints not previously published by law enforcement officials.

(Reporting by Stephen Nellis and John Ruwitch; Additional reporting by Greg Mitchell in San Francisco; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)

San Francisco tour guide charged with carrying U.S. secrets to China

By Dan Whitcomb and Katie Paul

(Reuters) – A San Francisco tour guide has been charged with being an agent of the Chinese government, accused of picking up U.S. national security secrets from furtive locations and delivering them cloak and dagger style to Beijing, federal prosecutors said on Monday.

Xuehua Peng, also known as Edward Peng, was arrested on Friday in the San Francisco suburb of Hayward, California, and was denied bail during an initial court appearance by a U.S. magistrate judge that same day, federal prosecutors said at a Monday morning news conference.

“The conduct charged in this case alleges a combination of age-old spycraft and modern technology,” U.S. Attorney David Anderson said.

“Defendant Xuehua (Edward) Peng is charged with executing dead drops, delivering payments, and personally carrying to Beijing, China, secure digital cards containing classified information related to the national security of the United States,” Anderson said.

Peng, 56, is not accused of stealing secrets from the U.S. government himself, but is charged with acting as a courier who between October 2015 and June 2018 picked up classified information from the “dead drops” in Oakland and Newark, California, and Columbus, Georgia and delivering them to his handlers from the Ministry of State Security (MSS) in Beijing.

FBI agents began conducting surveillance on Peng after a double agent, referred to in court papers only as “the Source,” was told by MSS officers in March 2015 that “Ed”, who had family and business dealings in China, could be relied on.

“I believe that ‘Ed’ – who was later identified as Peng – had been instructed in spycraft, practiced it and knew that he was working for intelligence operatives of the PRC,” FBI Agent Spiro Fokas, said in a sworn affidavit filed with the criminal complaint, referring to the People’s Republic of China.

An MSS officer told the Source that the ministry “control(s) everything about Ed’s” company and would “cut him off” if he did not do as told.

According to Fokas’ affidavit, the double agent on several occasions passed information to Peng for delivery to Beijing, dropping them at the front desk of a hotel or in rooms reserved by Peng.

The dead drops sometimes involved Peng leaving $10,000 or $20,000 taped in white envelopes inside the drawer of a television stand and retrieving secure digital cards with the classified information, according to the court papers.

Peng then flew to Beijing with the digital cards, the affidavit alleges.

Peng, who works as a sight-seeing tour operator for Chinese tourists in the Bay Area, faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted, prosecutors said. He has been ordered to return to court in San Francisco on Oct. 2.

(Reporting by Katie Paul in San Franciso and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; editing by Andrea Ricci and Bill Berkrot)

NRA sues San Francisco over ‘terrorist organization’ label

By Rich McKay

(Reuters) – The National Rifle Association (NRA) sued San Francisco on Monday, saying a declaration by the city’s Board of Supervisors that officials should limit businesses linked to the NRA because it is a “terrorist organization” was effectively a blacklist.

The confrontation follows heightened debate in the United States following a spate of mass shootings, including one last month at an El Paso Walmart in which 22 people were killed and about 24 wounded in the city near the U.S.-Mexico border.

The NRA, a gun club and gun rights lobbying group with deep political influence, alleged in the suit that the city was violating its free speech rights for political reasons.

“This lawsuit comes with a message to those who attack the NRA: We will never stop fighting for our law-abiding members and their constitutional freedoms,” Wayne LaPierre, the group’s chief executive officer, said in a statement.

The resolution declares: “The National Rifle Association is a domestic terrorist organization’ whose advocacy is a direct cause of arming “individuals who would and have committed acts of terrorism”.

Supervisor Catherine Stefani of the San Francisco board was confident the measure to limit city and county officials working with companies doing business with the NRA would stand up in court, according to the New York Times.

“It’s a resolution, it’s not an ordinance, it’s non-binding,” she told the newspaper.

It requires government officials to “assess the financial and contractual relationships with our vendors and contractors have with [the NRA],” and to “take every reasonable step to limit those entities who do business with the City and County of San Francisco.” It does not go into effect unless signed by San Francisco Mayor London Breed.

The suit asks the court to “instruct elected officials that freedom of speech means you cannot silence or punish those with whom you disagree.”

“The Resolution does not try to hide it animus towards the NRA’s political speech, nor its animating purpose: to remove the NRA from the gun control debate,” said the suit, filed on Monday in the District Court for the Northern District of California.

Neither city officials nor a representative for the NRA were immediately available for comment.

(This has been refiled to fix typo in the lead.)

(Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; editing by Paul Tait and Philippa Fletcher)