US sanctions Chinese companies over Muslim abuse complaints

FILE - In this Nov. 3, 2017, file photo, residents line up at a security checkpoint into the Hotan Bazaar where a screen shows Chinese President Xi Jinping in Hotan in western China's Xinjiang region. The U.S. government has imposed trade sanctions on 11 companies it says are implicated in human rights abuses in China’s Muslim northwestern region of Xinjiang.

STATE

FORT WORTH (AP) — More than 500 women at a federal medical prison in Texas have tested positive for the coronavirus, in one of the largest confirmed outbreaks at a federal prison, the Bureau of Prisons said.

The number of confirmed cases at the Federal Medical Center-Carswell in Fort Worth jumped to 509 on Monday, just one day after the Bureau of Prisons reported that 200 women there had tested positive for COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Only the federal prison in Seagoville, also located in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, had more infected inmates, with 1,132 cases as of Monday.

“We’re like a whole bunch of hamsters in a cage chasing our own tails,” said Carswell inmate Holli Chapman.

Three weeks ago, the prison had reported only three confirmed cases of the virus among inmates. One prisoner, Andrea Circle Bear, died in April. On July 12, 69-year-old Sandra Kincaid became the second woman to die there from the virus.

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Some current and former employees of a company developing an oil refinery near Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota filed a lawsuit claiming they are owed wages and bonuses.

Meridian Energy Group first proposed the refinery just 3 miles (5 kilometers) from the park in 2016, with the goal of having it operating by next year. However, the project has been beset by funding and legal setbacks. Last year, CEO William Prentice told The Associated Press that the company had delayed the refinery’s startup until 2022.

The employees’ lawsuit, filed last week in Texas, says that starting in spring 2018, Meridian “began to sporadically defer payment of weekly payroll to employees due to alleged financial woes.” The company, in an effort to keep employees working, said it would reward them with yet-to-be paid bonuses, according to the lawsuit, which was first reported Monday by Bismarck blogger Jim Fuglie.

Five former and two current employees of Meridian Energy Group, including its operations manager, filed the lawsuit. Five of the people suing live in Texas and the other two live in Minnesota, according to the lawsuit.

NATION

MIAMI (AP) — A tropical depression formed Tuesday in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, though forecasters weren’t predicting a landfall location.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said the depression was centered Tuesday afternoon about 1,185 miles west-southwest of the Cabo Verde Islands. At 5 p.m. EDT, it had maximum sustained winds of 35 mph and was moving west-northwest at 8 mph.

Forecasters said it could reach tropical storm status during the night or sometime Wednesday. There were no coastal watches or warnings for the depression.

The depression could set a record for the earliest named seventh tropical storm of the Atlantic hurricane season if it strengthens into Tropical Storm Gonzalo before Friday. Tropical Storm Gert formed on July 24, 2005, making it the current record holder. So far this year, Cristobal, Danielle, Edouard and Fay have all set records for being the earliest named stormed of their respective place in the alphabet.

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A Minnesota judge on Tuesday lifted a gag order in the criminal case against four former officers charged in death of George Floyd, but said he would take a news media coalition’s request to make body camera footage more widely available under advisement.

Even though the gag order was vacated, Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill said he still expects all attorneys in the case to follow the rules on disclosure of information. In announcing his ruling, Cahill said he agreed with defense attorneys’ arguments that a gag order would be unfair to their clients and limit their ability to defend themselves against negative publicity.

Cahill also ruled Tuesday that he would not hold the lead prosecutor in the case, Attorney General Keith Ellison, in contempt of court as two defense attorneys requested, saying a statement Ellison made when he announced that additional attorneys would be assisting the prosecution was innocuous and did not violate the gag order.

Floyd, a Black man who was handcuffed, died May 25 after Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck for nearly eight minutes as Floyd said he couldn’t breathe. Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter. Three other officers who were at the scene, Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J. Kueng, are charged with aiding and abetting both second-degree murder and manslaughter. All four officers were fired.

WORLD

BEIJING (AP) — China said Tuesday it would take unspecified “necessary measures” after the U.S. government imposed trade sanctions on 11 companies it says are implicated in human rights abuses in China’s Muslim northwestern region of Xinjiang.

The sanctions add to U.S. pressure on Beijing over Xinjiang, where the ruling Communist Party is accused of mass detentions, forced labor, forced birth control and other abuses against Muslim minorities. Xinjiang is among a series of conflicts including human rights, trade and technology that have caused U.S.-Chinese relations to plunge to their lowest level in decades.

The Trump administration also has imposed sanctions on four Chinese officials over the accusations. Beijing responded by announcing unspecified penalties on four U.S. senators who are critics of its human rights record.

Three of the companies cited Monday were identified by investigations by The Associated Press in 2018 and 2020 as being implicated in forced labor. One company, Nanchang O-Film Tech, supplies screens and lenses to Apple, Samsung and other technology companies.

AP reporters found employees from Xinjiang at its factory in the southern city of Nanchang weren’t allowed out unaccompanied and were required to attend political classes.