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U.S. Orders Chinese Consulate in Houston to Close, China Promises Retaliation

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  • Employees at the Chinese consulate in Houston,Texas were spotted burning documents on Tuesday, raising questions and concerns about further deteriorating relations between the United States and China.
  • Later that night, the U.S. ordered the consulate to close by Friday, with the State Department citing concerns over American intellectual property.
  • The Justice Department has also charged two Chinese students with trying to steal U.S. intellectual property on behalf of themselves and the Chinese state, though it’s unclear if that is connected to the consulate’s forced closure.
  • The Chinese government has now threatened to retaliate, calling the closure “outrageous and unjustified.”

Chinese Consulate in Houston Burns Documents

The U.S. State Department has now ordered the Chinese government to clear out of its consulate building in Houston, Texas, by Friday.

That announcement, which came Tuesday night, sparked immediate condemnation from the Chinese government, which vowed to retaliate. 

The situation seemingly began Tuesday evening when people at that consulate building were spotted burning documents in what appeared to be trash cans.

Police and firefighters responded to the scene after calls from some residents in the area. Despite their presence, authorities never entered the consulate grounds because they weren’t granted access to it, a move that is in line with diplomatic rules. 

Several hours later, local TV station KPRC 2 captured more footage showing people inside the consulate grounds hosing down what appeared to be flaming containers.

The event raised several questions and concerns, particularly that U.S.-China relations had hit a new low. In fact, such a thought was not unrealistic. Both countries have continually ramped up tensions with one another over the last year. In addition to a trade war, both countries have also expelled or restricted each other’s journalists. They’ve slapped sanctions on each other’s government officials. On top of that, President Donald Trump has repeatedly referred to the coronavirus as the “Chinese Virus.”

More recently, the U.S. has declared that it no longer views Hong Kong as separate and autonomous from China. That came after China passed a controversial national security law that allowed it to impose its law enforcement on the city for the first time ever.

U.S. Orders the Consulate to Shut Down

Following the reports of burning documents, U.S. State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus officially announced the consulate’s closure. In a brief statement, she said the Trump administration had ordered it shut down in order “to protect American intellectual property and Americans’ private information.”

“The United States will not tolerate the [People’s Republic of China’s] violations of our sovereignty and intimidation of our people, just as we have not tolerated the PRC’s unfair trade practices, theft of American jobs, and other egregious behavior,” she added. 

Though she did not give a specific reason, Ortagus suggested that China had violated the Vienna Convention, which governs diplomatic relations between states, Notably, the rule of that convention state diplomats must “respect the laws and regulations of the receiving State” and “have a duty not to interfere in the internal affairs of that State.” 

Houston police have also confirmed that employees at the consulate, as well as at a building where many of them live, will be evicted on Friday.

As far as what China specifically did to prompt the U.S. to make this move, that much has not been released. In fact, it’s unknown why the U.S. singled out Houston’s consulate instead of another. 

While in Europe on Tuesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the U.S. has “long complained” about intellectual property theft by China. 

“President Trump has said ‘enough,’” Pompeo said. “We’re not going to allow this.”

There is reason to suggest that the move is tied to another event that occurred on Tuesday: the Justice Department’s indictment of two Chinese nationals on charges of hacking and targeting sensitive coronavirus vaccine research.

Those nationals, two former engineering students, are now charged with hacking companies connected to high-tech manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, and gaming software development. Additionally, they’ve been charged with dissidents, clergy, and human rights activists in the United States, China, and Hong Kong.

What’s more, the Justice Department has accused China of sponsoring them, alleging that they were aided by the Chinese Ministry of State Security. Notably, this is the first time the U.S. has ever charged suspected Chinese hackers of working on behalf of the state. 

“China steals intellectual property and research which bolsters its economy, and then they use that illicit gain as a weapon to silence any country that would dare challenge their illegal actions,” FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich said in a statement very similar to Ortagus’ comments. 

“This type of economic coercion is not what we expect from a trusted world leader,” Bowdich said. “It is what we expect from an organized criminal syndicate.”

Still, it is currently unclear if this situation is directly tied to the consulate’s closure. 

China Promises to Retaliate

Wang Wenbin, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson, called the consulate’s forced closure “outrageous and unjustified,” adding that it is an “unprecedented escalation” that violates international law.

“The U.S. has far more diplomatic missions and staff working in China,” Wang said in a threat to retaliate. “So if the U.S. is bent on going down this wrong path, we will resolutely respond.”

“#China’s consulate in #Houston is not a diplomatic facility,” Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fl.) said Wednesday. “It is the central node of the Communist Party’s vast network of spies & influence operations in the United States. Now that building must close & the spies have 72 hours to leave or face arrest. This needed to happen.”

While it’s unknown how China plans to respond, many media outlets have suggested that China may move to close either the U.S. embassy in Beijing or one of the U.S.’s five consulate offices scattered throughout China. 

One of those offices includes a consulate building in Wuhan that is currently seen as a likely candidate for closure. Part of that decision could be influenced by the fact that the U.S. evacuated that office in January due to the coronavirus outbreak, a move which insulted the central government in Beijing. In fact, that office still hasn’t reopened. 

So far, however, China’s only move has been issuing a renewed travel warning for Chinese students in the U.S. That warning advises them that they could face arbitrary interrogations, the confiscation of personal belongings, and potential detentions. Likely, that warning alludes to the Justice Department’s charges against those two former students. 

See what others are saying: (KPRC 2) (The Washington Post) (BBC)

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Wisconsin Police Deny Planting Evidence in Viral Video, Release Their Own Body Cam Footage

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The footage police released shows that during a search, officers found a corner tear from a plastic bag inside a backseat passenger’s pocket. An officer then discarded it into the car after determining that it was empty.


Viral Video Appears To Show Officer Planting Evidence

The Caledonia Police Department in Wisconsin has responded to a viral cell phone video that appears to show an officer planting a small plastic baggie inside of a car during a traffic stop.

The now-viral footage was posted to Facebook by a man who goes by GlockBoy Savoo.

The user, who also filmed the clip, wrote in his post’s caption that the officer did this “just to get a reason to search the car” and said the cop didn’t know he was being recorded by the passenger.

Source: Facebook/ GlockBoy Savoo

Police Shut Down Accusations With Their Own Footage

After that video spread across social media, many were outraged, calling the Caledonia police dirty for seemingly planting evidence. All the outrage eventually prompted the department to announce an investigation Saturday.

Within hours, the department provided an update, claiming that officers didn’t actually plant any evidence or do anything illegal.

Police shared a lengthy summary of events, along with two body camera clips from the incident. That statement explained that the driver of the vehicle was pulled over for going 63 in a 45mph zone.

Two passengers in the backseat who were then spotted without seatbelts were asked to identify themselves and step out of the car. During a search of one passenger’s pockets, an officer pulled out “an empty corner tear” from a plastic baggie.

Police claim the corner tear did not contain any illegal substances, though they said this type of packaging is a common method for holding illegal drugs.

In one body cam clip, an officer can be heard briefly questioning the backseat passenger about the baggie. Then, that piece of plastic gets handed off to different officers who also determined it as empty before the officer in the original viral video discarded it into the back of the car.

The officer can also be seen explaining where the plastic came from to the passenger recording him.

“Aye, bro you just threw that in here!” the front seat passenger says, as heard in his version of the events.

“Yeah, cause it was in his pocket and I don’t want to hold onto it. It’s on their body cam that they took it off of him…I’m telling you where it came from, so. It’s an empty baggie at the moment too, so,” the officer replies.

The department went on to explain that while it would discourage officers from discarding items into a citizen’s car, this footage proves that evidence was not planted.

Authorities also noted that no arrests were made in this incident and the driver was the only one issued a citation for speeding. The statement added that since four officers were present at the scene, police have more than six hours of footage to review but they promised to release the footage in full in the near future.

See what others are saying: (Heavy)(CBS 58) (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

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Medical Groups, Local Leaders Push for Healthcare Workers and Public Employees To Get Vaccinated

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The move comes as COVID cases have nearly quadrupled in the last month due to the rapid spread of the highly infectious delta variant.


Increased Calls for Mandatory Vaccinations in Certain Sectors

More than 50 of America’s largest medical groups representing millions of healthcare workers issued a statement Monday calling for employers of all health and long-term care providers to require mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations.

The groups, which included the American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association, and 55 others, cited contagious new variants — including delta — and low vaccination rates.

“Vaccination is the primary way to put the pandemic behind us and avoid the return of stringent public health measures,” they wrote.

The call to action comes as new COVID cases have almost quadrupled during the month of July, jumping from just around 13,000 infections a day at the beginning of this month to more than 50,000.

While the vast majority of new infections and hospitalizations are among those who have not received the vaccines, many healthcare workers remain unvaccinated. According to data collected by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, over 38% of nursing home staff were not fully vaccinated as of July 11. 

An analysis by WebMD and Medscape Medical News found that around 25% of hospital workers who were in contact with patients had not been vaccinated by the end of May when vaccinations became widely available.

In addition to calls for medical professionals to get vaccinated, some local leaders have also begun to impose mandates for public employees as cases continue spiking.

Last month, San Francisco announced that it was requiring all city workers to get vaccinated. Also on Monday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said that all municipal employees — including police officers and teachers — must either get the jab or agree to weekly testing by the time school starts in September.

Dr. Fauci Says U.S. Officials Are Considering Revising Mask Guidance for Vaccinated People

Numerous top U.S. health officials have applauded efforts by local leaders to mitigate further spread of the coronavirus, including the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who confirmed Sunday that federal officials are actively considering whether to revise federal masking guidelines to recommend that vaccinated Americans wear face coverings in public settings.

In May, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said people who are vaccinated do not need to mask in public. Although that was a non-binding recommendation, many states and cities that had not already lifted restrictions on masking began to do so shortly after.

But now, local leaders in areas seeing big spikes have begun reimposing mask mandates — even for those who are vaccinated — including major counties like Los Angeles and St. Louis.

In his remarks Sunday, Fauci also emphasized that, despite claims from many conservatives, those efforts are in line with the federal recommendations, which leave space for local leaders to issue their own rules.

While Fauci and other top U.S. public health officials have encouraged local governments to take action, Republican lawmakers in several states are taking steps to limit the ability of local leaders and public health officials to take certain mitigation measures.

According to the Network for Public Health Law, at least 15 state legislatures have passed or are considering bills to limit the legal authority of public health agencies — and that does not even include unilateral action taken by governors.

Some of the leaders of states suffering the biggest spikes have banned local officials from imposing their own mask mandates, like Arkansas, which has the highest per capita cases in the country right now, as well as Florida, which currently ranks third.

Notably, some of the laws proposed or passed by Republicans could go beyond just preventing local officials from trying to mitigate surges in COVID cases and may have major implications for other public health crises.

For example, according to The Washington Post, a North Dakota law that bans mask mandates applies to other breakouts — even tuberculosis — while a new Montana law also bars the use of quarantine for people who have been exposed to an infectious disease but have not yet tested positive.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (The Guardian)

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Couple Slammed Over Slavery-Themed Pre-Wedding Photoshoot

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Many have expressed outrage at the duo for trying to romanticize slavery while others were left completely dumbfounded by the entire ordeal.


Photoshoot Goes Viral

A couple has come under fire after sharing images on Instagram from their slavery-themed pre-wedding photoshoot.


The photos show a Black man in shackles looking deeply into his white fiancé’s eyes before she works to releases him.


1842. Days passed and everything changed, our love got stronger and stronger, he was no longer a slave, he was part of the family,” the post’s caption reads.


To indicate his transition from “slave” to family, a fourth image shows him wearing a long coat and top hat with well-shined shoes, as opposed to the white shirt, trousers, and straw hat he wore in the previous images.

Social Media Users React

It’s not immediately clear who these people are since the social media handle is redacted in the images circulating online.

Still, many have expressed outrage at the duo for trying to romanticize slavery while others were left just completely dumbfounded by this entire ordeal. Some also directed criticism at the photographer who agreed to the shoot, along with the hundreds of Instagram users who liked the original posts.

See what others are saying: (The Daily Dot) (Black Enterprise) (BET)

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