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March 2020
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Insane: China Expels American Journalists In Ridiculous, Unhelpful Spat About Covid-19

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There has been some absolutely ridiculous sniping between the Chinese government and the US government over "blame" for Covid-19. For idiotic reasons, President Trump and his sycophantic followers started referring to Covid-19 as "The Chinese Virus," a racist term that hints at putting blame on Chinese people for the virus or even implying that those of Chinese ancestry are more risky than others. The administration also stupidly limited the number of Chinese staffers allowed at the US bureaus of Chinese news organizations, partly in response to China expelling three Wall Street Journal reporters over a headline it didn't like.The Chinese government responded in an even more idiotic manner, trying to blame Americans for the disease.

China's state media have been equally involved in spreading skepticism of the virus's origin. Official Communist Party publication Xinhua has published several articles questioning COVID-19's provenance, and the state-run Global Times wrote, As the U.S. COVID-19 situation becomes increasingly obscure, the Chinese public shares the suspicion raised by Zhao Lijian that the U.S. might be the source of the virus and that the U.S. is subject [to] questioning and is obliged to explain [its role to] the world.
And the latest move is that China has now expelled American journalists working for the three big US newspapers: The NY Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal. No matter what you think of the journalism done by any of these news organizations, and no matter what you think of the way either the US or Chinese governments have been handling the crisis, this is very, very bad.We're at a point right now where it is more important than ever that there be open information and open communication about what is happening around the globe regarding Covid-19, and making sure that everyone has as accurate information as possible. Expelling journalists from either China or the US is extraordinarily short sighted and dangerous at this moment. The Chinese and American governments should set aside their petty spats for now. They can always pick it up back later when the world is not in so much peril (though, frankly, we'd be a lot better off if we stopped with all the pettiness between countries).

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posted at: 12:00am on 18-Mar-2020
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DEA Returns Money It Stole From An Innocent Woman, Gets Court To Let It Walk Away From Paying Her Legal Fees

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Just another reminder the Drug Enforcement Agency doesn't care all that much about drugs and/or enforcement. If there's money to be made, the DEA is all in. If it can score easy wins by engaging in entrapment, it will. But the drugs will flow and the damage will be done. And the DEA will be there to hoover up the cash… even when the cash has nothing to do with drugs.The DEA stole another person's life savings back in 2015. A raid of house predicated on the theory Miladis Salgado's husband was involved in drug dealing ended with the DEA walking off with $15,000 Salgado had saved for her daughter's quinceanera. This was money Salgado had saved while working at a duty-free shop in the Miami airport, along with gifts from friends and relatives.And it all was gone after the DEA raided her house. The good news is Salgado eventually got her money back. But it took time and it took a lawyer. In the end, the DEA admitted it had no evidence tying her husband to drug trafficking.

It would take two years for Salgado to recover her money from the DEA, which did not arrest her husband because agents discovered he had not been selling drugs after all. The lead DEA agent admitted in a court deposition that there was no evidence supporting the allegation.
If you sue (which means being able to pay a lawyer), sometimes (and only sometimes) you can get your money back. But that's not the end of the story. The DEA handed the money back to Salgado before a judge could rule on the merits of the case. The agency did this to ensure it didn't have to compensate Salgado for fighting to get her money back.
Before a critical ruling in the civil forfeiture dispute with Salgado, Justice Department lawyers on their own decided to return her money. But at the same time, they argued that Salgado had not really won because a judge granted the feds the right to refile their civil case in the future — even though they probably had no intention of doing so. As a result, the government argued it did not have to pay her attorney’s fees, which she said amounted to $5,000.
Unfortunately, the judge agreed with the government's arguments. It was clear the government had no intention of trying again at the state level. It had only given the money back to avoid a ruling against it that would have made it liable under CAFRA for her legal fees. The court somehow came to the conclusion that the last-minute release (after more than two years of litigation) of the seized money wasn't a bad faith maneuver by the DEA to dodge paying more than it had taken in.Salgado's case is now in front of the Supreme Court, which is expected to rule on her appeal in April. Hopefully, the court will align itself with citizens who've had money taken from them under the pretense that it's been illegally obtained -- all without a single criminal charge being brought against them. A North Carolina federal court wouldn't let the IRS duck fees in a forfeiture case where the government dropped the case after the victim fought back. Neither should the Supreme Court. Allowing government agencies to use the costs of litigation to deter people from recovering property the government admits (via dismissal, etc.) did not come from illegal sources makes it that much easier for the government to stay in the legalized theft business.

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posted at: 12:00am on 18-Mar-2020
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