Tag Archives: Office

“Hi, Mom” continues box office success

“Hi, Mom” continues box office success

BEIJING, Feb. 28 (Xinhua) — Domestic comedy “Hi, Mom” continued to lead daily box office chart on the Chinese mainland Saturday, raking in about 132 million yuan (about 20.4 million U.S. dollars).

The film generated more than 4.7 billion yuan since its debut on Feb. 12, according to figures from the China Movie Data Information Network Sunday.

“Detective Chinatown 3” finished the day with 47.88 million yuan in daily revenue.

Chinese comedy-drama “Endgame” ranked third with a daily earning of about 35.47 million yuan.

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Salmond, Scottish Parliament, SPCB and Crown Office.

Salmond, Scottish Parliament, SPCB and Crown Office.

Jonathan Mitchell QC suggestions for journalists

When it comes to the legal position regarding Alex Salmond’s evidence and the committee on the Scottish Government’s Handling of Harassment Complaints, some knowledgeable advice can be of real assistance for those trying to dig through the spin.

Jonathan Mitchell QC set out clearly the relationship, framework and restrictions the committee, The Scottish Parliament and SPCB needed to operate within on Twitter yesterday.

Jonathan Mitchell QC suggestions for journalists
JJonathan Mitchell QC no2
Jonathan Mitchell QC
Jonathan Mitchell QC

The position of The Crown Office should not be confused with the present government or any previous devolved government. The Lord Advocate is a member of the government just as his predecessors were. They do not sit in cabinet and are not involved in day to day decisions.

The present Lord Advocate is James Wolffe QC. The Lord Advocate’s key functions are:

  1. as head of the systems for the investigation and prosecution of crime and investigation of deaths
  2. principal legal adviser to the Scottish Government
  3. representing the Scottish Government in civil proceedings
  4. representing the public interest in a range of statutory and common law contexts
  5. All prosecutions on indictment run in the name of the Lord Advocate

Andy Wightman

Andy Wightman MSP and a member of the committee, has also spoken about the role and responsibilities of Scottish Parliament bodies.

“[The Scottish Parliament] is is a creature of statute with legal personality in the form of the SPCB (which owns building/employs staff etc.) As a public body, it can be judicially reviewed, prosecuted for contempt and any manner of sanctions that UK Parliament cannot be subject to [because] it is supreme.

“Furthermore, the members of the SPCB could be found personally liable for contempt with up to 2 years in jail.

And finally (and this needs stated), public prosecutors will therefore treat the SPCB with the same rigour as the guy who was jailed today for 6 months for breaching Lady Dorrian’s Order” Our emphasis.

The Faculty of Advocates

Alex Salmond has criticised The Crown Office and called for the resignation of the Lord Advocate which has not gone down well in Scotland’s legal circles. The Faculty of Advocates issued a statement on 25th February as they had become “increasingly concerned at the debate”.

“The Faculty wishes to remind all concerned of the importance of maintaining confidence in the judicial system and in the rule of law. Maintaining that confidence requires, amongst other things, recognition of the importance of the independent role of the Lord Advocate, the independent role of the courts and, perhaps most importantly, the vital place of the verdicts of impartial juries in criminal proceedings.”

The paragraph above is an extract from the full statement

Andrew Tickell, aka @PeatWorrier

The following is a detailed explanation from Andrew Tickell, a law lecturer at Glasgow Caledonian University and columnist for The National who first made clear the significance of s162 on the illegal use of trial evidence used in another context. The text is from his Twitter feed.

Did Alex Salmond know of the implications of s162 when his defence case was published by The Spectator and Wings? He certainly knew about it by the time he got his lawyers to ask for immunity from prosecution with regard to his committee appearance. It would have been illegal for the committee to offer such and they did not. Andrew Tickell explains s162 below.

Now over to Andrew Tickell:

How can it be there is evidence Alex Salmond is prohibited by law from disclosing in Holyrood, which he suggests discloses a wide-ranging conspiracy against him, but which wasn’t brought out in the criminal trial? Some legal context, some explanations, and some questions:

When it comes to legal restrictions on Holyrood’s proceedings on the Scottish Government’s handling of sexual harassment complaints – most of the focus has, understandably, has been on the impact of the contempt of court order on a parliamentary process which isn’t privileged.

As I indicated a few weeks ago, however, perhaps the most significant legal restriction in play here isn’t the order – but s.162 of the Criminal Justice and Licensing Act 2010. Here it is: legislation.gov.uk/asp/2010/13/se…

What is its significance? It says that if material is disclosed to an accused person by the Crown, they can only use or disclose that evidence for the purposes of their criminal defence and any appeals. It is a crime under s.163 to breach this. legislation.gov.uk/asp/2010/13/se…

It is this rule of law – passed when Alex Salmond was First Minister, without any exceptions or qualifications in it – which means he cannot “use or disclose” material turned over to him in the course of his criminal defence for anything else. That much is clear.

But – you may be asking yourself, if the Crown disclosures established evidence of a wide-ranging conspiracy by some of the complainers to make false allegations of sexual assault, why on earth was this evidence not used in the High Court trial? Here we need to look at another Act.

Under the Criminal Procedure Scotland Act, there are restrictions in place about the evidence which can be led in sexual offence cases. These are in sections 274 and 275 of the 1995 Act. These applied in principle in HMA v Salmond. legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1995/46/…

These rules were introduced to try to prevent accused people instructing their lawyers to explore – amongst other things – the sexual history of people alleging they were victims of sexual offences.

The way these provisions work is that if an accused wishes to lead evidence of a restricted topic, they apply to the Court in advance for a determination. On my understanding, this happened in HMA v Salmond in respect of the evidence he told Holyrood today he cannot disclose.

As I understand it, Lady Dorrian refused to admit this evidence at a preliminary hearing before trial under the s.274 procedure. If this evidence disclosed clear evidence of a conspiracy on the part of one or more of the complainers, this is a difficult decision to understand.

If this evidence disclosed proof of a conspiracy against him, I find it strange that Alex Salmond didn’t instruct his lawyers to appeal against Lady Dorrian’s decision excluding the evidence before trial. Under s.74 of the 1995 Act, he had this right. legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1995/46/

Yet no appeal was taken, the evidence wasn’t explored at trial & now the ordinary application of s.162 means this evidence cannot be used for any other purpose. If this evidence is compelling, I cannot understand why Lady Dorrian’s exclusion of it wasn’t vigorously challenged.

Apologies for a long thread – but hopefully an insight into this wider legal context may help to make sense of the legal context within which today’s evidence is (and is not) being given.

Keep an eye out for updates

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Development Finance Corporation’s first overseas office sparks controversy

Development Finance Corporation’s first overseas office sparks controversy

A controversy has erupted in Washington over a Trump-era plan to establish the first overseas office of the US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), covering all of Southeast Europe, in Belgrade, Serbia.  Signals that the Biden administration was taking a second look at this initiative — mainly focused on promoting the Trump-era Kosovo-Serbia economic dialogue — and rushed to approval in the final hours of the Trump administration in the style of a last-day-in-office presidential pardon, triggered alarm bells from some of the initiative’s politically connected supporters — largely but not exclusively in the powerful Greek American community.  

Ironically, most of the Washington groups engaged in the defense of the DFC Belgrade office initiative have little or nothing invested in the success of the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue.  Instead they jumped into the fray for one reason, believing that the DFC office itself was also a symbol of the so-far unrealized US commitment to use federal funds to support Greece’s extensive infrastructure and energy privatization/development projects and accordingly assist Greek economic development, something that US legislation on development financing partially restricts because Greece is an EU member state with a high per capita income level, and already has adequate access to EU financing.

The DFC is new in name only

Another unusual aspect of the developing debate is the relative lack of knowledge shown by many of the participants, who appear to believe that the DFC is some new federal agency with an all-new set of financial tools and capabilities and not just a re-imagination of its predecessor organization, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), which is the case of the DFC.  OPIC has done investment and insurance projects in Southeast Europe for many years. 

Trump signed the legislation authorizing the reorganization of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation into the DFC in October 2018.  It took over a year for OPIC’s reorganization to be completed, and DFC formally began operations in January 2020, after absorbing USAID’s Development Credit Authority into its existing structure.  

The plan to create the DFC was seen as the biggest change in US development policy in the last 15 years, and the newly rebranded organization was thought of, and sold as, a tool to partially counter China’s heavily funded One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative.  In Washington, there was strong bipartisan support for the policy changes Trump proposed.  The DFC was to be authorized to provide up to $60 billion in insurance, loans, and loan guarantees for projects mainly in developing countries, with the focus on infrastructure; but that massive funding stream has not materialized.   Much of the funding will come from the fees DFC charges for services provided.

DFC into the Balkan fray

There is a strong Trump legacy that explains the DFC’s moves to open its first overseas office anywhere in the world in Belgrade.  First of all, at the helm of the DFC, Trump nominated Adam Boehler, who was incidentally a college roommate of son-in-law Jared Kushner.  Boehler was thrust into supporting US policy in the region because the agreements the US had mediated over 2020 between Kosovo and Serbia all aimed to improve bilateral economic cooperation and transport infrastructure with US financing where possible.  

When the so-called “Washington Agreement” was signed in the White House in September 2020, Boehler and Kushner were important players in the signing ceremony; shortly thereafter Boehler was in Belgrade and Pristina signing vaguely worded cooperation agreements, enabling President Trump to claim a small foreign policy victory for his re-election campaign which many observers at the time believed was the principal motivating force.  

Boehler also participated in a rushed ceremony to open the DFC’s at-that-point-unstaffed Belgrade office and some documentation for that office was reportedly approved during Trump’s last day in office. Some EU sources claimed in September that the Trump Kosovo-Serbia negotiating team was working so fast to get documents ready for a Trump signature that it agreed to finance projects the EU was already planning to handle. 

It is unclear when the extra responsibilities for the rest of Southeastern Europe were added to the Belgrade office’s list of projects and responsibilities, but high-level interest from Greek officials in the DFC’s work, most likely a result of information provided by the US Embassy in Athens, was enough to add Greece to the list.  Boehler visited Greece as well and developed a good rapport with senior officials there, even though the DFC’s primary mandate is supposed to be targeted towards projects in low income and developing countries where Chinese project financing is often provided on a “take it or leave it” basis with no other options available. 

Rumors have been circulating in Washington in recent weeks that the DFC Belgrade office might not be a priority for the Biden administration and accordingly not get fully staffed up, triggering more concern and reaction from the Greek American Washington-based organizations than from others across the region who would be expected to show concern.  Reports have also surfaced that a good number of DFC officials believe the organization should focus its resources on lower-income countries, not those in Eastern Europe or EU members. 

However, it is completely normal in the Washington context for such ethnic lobby groups to take issue with US government staffing decisions, although usually, the focus is on the provision of consular services (visas and passport services) for groups of Americans abroad and not economic policy.    

As is often the case, once any kind of media release from these ethnic lobby groups is published, the Washington Greek media corps will lock onto the message.  In the DFC case, they rebroadcast it to Greece as evidence that the US commitment to Greece was somehow faltering, with local Greek correspondents quickly bombarding the DFC’s Washington media office with questions and on Twitter.  

Never allowing a signal of a “wavering US commitment” in the Greek media to go unchallenged, a senior level phone call was arranged on February 24 between the new DFC CEO and the Greek Minister of Development for damage limitation purposes.  DFC issued the following statement:    

“U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) Chief Operating Officer David Marchick today spoke by phone with Greek Minister for Development and Investment Adonis Georgiadis. Mr. Marchick and Minister Georgiadis discussed new opportunities to expand DFC’s work in Greece under the Biden administration. This engagement reflects the strength of U.S.-Greece relations and the importance of further deepening our countries’ partnership. DFC is strongly committed to advancing strategic investments and supporting development and economic growth in the Aegean, especially reinforcing energy independence and sustainability in Greece while the region faces increasing geopolitical competition.”

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On charges of espionage for the benefit of Egypt .. The trial of an employee of Merkel’s media office begins

On charges of espionage for the benefit of Egypt .. The trial of an employee of Merkel’s media office begins

The trial of an Egyptian-German employee in the media office of Chancellor Angela Merkel began in Berlin on Tuesday, on suspicion that he has been spying for many years for the Egyptian intelligence.

It is suspected that Amin K. He transferred information to the Egyptian General Intelligence Service between 2010 and 2019, taking advantage of his distinguished position in this office, in which he has worked since 1999.

The 66-year-old mainly worked in the visiting department of the German Federal Information Office, which is specifically responsible for communicating about the chancellery’s activities.

According to the indictment, he provided general observations about how the media dealt with domestic and international politics related to Egypt, followed up on requests from Egyptian intelligence agents and attempted to recruit another spy.

He is also suspected of providing the Egyptian General Intelligence Service with the names of five media office colleagues who were born in Syria.

In exchange for the information provided, he hoped to benefit from preferential treatment from the Egyptian authorities and to help his mother obtain her right to the Egyptian retirement pension.

He was sometimes invited to official receptions, for example to mark the farewell of the Egyptian ambassador to Germany in 2019, according to the German prosecutor’s office in mid-November in the indictment.

A hearing is scheduled for another two days, with a ruling due in early March. The German Internal Intelligence Report indicates that the Egyptian Foreign Intelligence Service and the Internal Intelligence Service are active in Germany.

In particular, they aim to collect information on opponents of the regime of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi residing in the country, especially sympathizers of the Muslim Brotherhood, which has been banned since 2013 in Egypt.

The army has ruled Egypt since 1952, except for the short period that followed the popular protest movement between January and February 2011 that overthrew President Hosni Mubarak.

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Met Office issue amber and yellow weather warnings in Ayrshire with heavy rain on the way

Met Office issue amber and yellow weather warnings in Ayrshire with heavy rain on the way

An amber weather warning has been issued for parts of Ayrshire with residents across the region set to batten down the hatches this week.

Heavy rain is on the way, according to the Met Office, with people living in areas within East and South Ayrshire on alert.

The amber warning has been put in place from 12noon on Tuesday, February 23 to 12noon on Wednesday, February 24.

There is a risk of flooding on already sodden land which could lead to buildings being damaged while some communities may be cut off, forecasters have warned.

Public transport could be disrupted while spray and flooding will make life difficult for motorists with road closures a possibility.

The Ayrshire Live app is available to download now.

Get all the local news in your area – plus features, football news and the latest on the coronavirus crisis – at your fingertips 24/7.

The free download features the latest breaking news and exclusive stories while you can customise your page with the sections that matter to you.

The Ayrshire Live app is available to download now on iOS and Android.

Meanwhile, a yellow warning is in place for the the whole of Ayrshire for the next two days as a spell of windy weather blows into the region from early in the morning.

Looking ahead to the next two days, Ayrshire police said: “A YELLOW weather warning is in place for heavy rain for all of Ayrshire and the central belt from 6am Tuesday, February 23 to 6pm Wednesday, February 24.

“A further AMBER weather warning is also in place for heavy rain in parts of South and East Ayrshire from 12noon on Tuesday, February 23 to 12noon on Wednesday, February 24.

“This will result in persistent heavy rain falling on already saturated ground increasing the the risk of flooding.

“Government restrictions on only travelling if your journey is essential remain in place and so please consider whether your journey is essential and if it can be delayed until conditions improve.

“If you deem your journey to be essential then please plan ahead to ensure you and your vehicle are suitably prepared.

“Please follow updates on the weather at the Met Office or Traffic Scotland.”

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Taking the fight to Dagestan. Alexey Navalny’s national movement says it’s opening an office in Makhachkala. Immediately after the announcement, a group of men attacked the team’s local coordinator.

Taking the fight to Dagestan. Alexey Navalny’s national movement says it’s opening an office in Makhachkala. Immediately after the announcement, a group of men attacked the team’s local coordinator.

The reason Alexey Navalny’s nationwide political movement has struggled to mobilize in Russia’s North Caucasus became immediately clear on February 19, when local campaign manager Ruslan Ablyakimov was jumped in a suburb outside Makhachkala, hours after “Team Navalny” announced that it will soon open an office in Dagestan. The attack was hardly surprising; Ablyakimov says he was being followed beforehand and anticipated something like this. In an interview with journalist Vladimir Sevrinovsky for Meduza, Ablyakimov explained the risks of political activism in the region, the goals of Navalny’s campaign office in Dagestan, and his own personal feelings about Navalny himself.

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“Hi, Mom” continues to top China box office

“Hi, Mom” continues to top China box office

BEIJING, Feb. 22 (Xinhua) — Time-travel comedy “Hi, Mom” continued to top the Chinese mainland box office on Sunday, extending its daily lead over other films following the Spring Festival holiday.

“Hi, Mom” raked in about 275.91 million yuan (around 39.95 million U.S. dollars) on Sunday, and the second-highest-grossing film “Detective Chinatown 3” finished the day at over 85.21 million yuan, according to data from the China Movie Data Information Network.

Both have seen their cumulative earnings creep up over 4 billion yuan as of Sunday.

Ranking third on Sunday’s daily box office chart was the fantasy thriller “A Writer’s Odyssey,” which generated a revenue of over 43 million yuan.

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Indigenous Screen Office takes a new approach to defining identity

Indigenous Screen Office takes a new approach to defining identity

Indigenous community and identity is very complicated, says Indigenous Screen Office (ISO) executive director Jesse Wente.

That’s why, following the recent controversy surrounding filmmaker Michelle Latimer, the ISO is making an effort to better define Indigenous identity—at least for the purposes of distributing funding and grants to Indigenous film and television talent.

“We know it is essential to ask people who they are and what [is] their Indigenous affiliation,” Wente stated in an email. “It’s more a question of how we get better at determining what those questions are and how they are asked, as well as how we communicate our expectations and build relationships of trust with the people we support at the ISO.”

Earlier this month, the ISO partnered with broadcaster APTN to launch the Indigenous Identity Consultation Process.

The ISO made a call for submissions while describing a phased process involving discussions with “elders, organizational stakeholders and leaders with knowledge and expertise in implementing strategies around vetting Indigenous identity”.

The end goal is to avoid the kind of confusion and pain that followed the recent debate around Latimer’s Indigenous identity.

The current standard for self-identification in Canada: ticking boxes on forms to indicate you are Indigenous. But Indigenous identity is much more complex than paperwork, thanks largely to government policies that have resulted in many people being cut off from communities.

“There are plenty of people who are Indigenous,” Vancouver-based filmmaker Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers explained in a phone interview, “and are not connected to their community because of settler colonialism and everything that’s happened with residential school, the Sixties Scoop and the foster care system.

“Those people are on their journey to being reclaimed by their community and finding their roots. It’s not an easy conversation to have.”

A veteran filmmaker, Michelle Latimer rose to become one of the most well-known Indigenous-identifying figures within the industry, working with major funding bodies and broadcasters attempting to diversify production slates.

The filmmaker, who directed and produced the documentary Inconvenient Indian and primetime CBC series Trickster, appeared on the cover of NOW last fall discussing why having Indigenous authorship behind these stories was important. Both projects world premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival.

But since then, her identity faced scrutiny in a CBC report that cast doubt on her claims to having ancestry from the Kitigan Zibi community. Latimer apologized for publicly saying she is from Kitigan Zibi without having been claimed by that community or formally verifying a linkage.

Latimer said she genuinely believed she had a connection to the community, and that her Indigeneity claims are based on family oral history passed down from her grandfather.

In January, the CBC cancelled Trickster’s second season and also confirmed that Latimer also served the broadcaster with a notice of libel.

“It’s both exhausting and invigorating to see the direction that this conversation is taking,” Tailfeathers says, who wrote an op-ed describing the impact of the revelations. “There have been some really painful conversations that the Michelle Latimer controversy dredged up, but there’s also been a lot of generative work that is happening.”

The filmmaker, who codirected the East Vancouver dramatic feature The Body Remembers When The World Broke Open, says the ISO consultations are heartening.

Both Tailfeathers and Wente describe what’s ahead as an extremely nuanced and sensitive conversation about the difference between having Indigenous heritage and being Indigenous.

The Indigenous Screen Office was founded to be an advocate for the Indigenous film community that could also hold larger funding bodies and institutions to account, Tailfeathers says. She is assured by the ISO’s rigorous approach to defining identity, which involves elders and community leaders and a diversity of voices and lived experiences.

“We recognize that there are going to be different ideas on the table and support the sharing of these perspectives,” Wente says. “Ultimately, our goal will be to balance many perspectives to form policies in the context of the ISO and the people we serve.”

Wente says the ISO hopes to begin consultations in the spring and have new or refined policies in place before funding is distributed to artists in the fall.

The first phase of consultations with community leaders and industry bodies will include research into articles and reports that will inform a draft document. That will be taken to phase two, which is a broader community consultation, for feedback.

Tailfeathers says she plans to participate in the second phase, not just to contribute but also to listen.

“The process that they’re taking absolutely reflects those values of upholding Indigenous nationhood and respecting that different communities might have different protocols or ideas around who isn’t Indigenous and who belongs in their community.”

Others have proposed the Canadian government weigh in on authenticating identity claims.

At a press conference in January, Haida filmmaker Tamara Bell said Ottawa should introduce an “Indigenous Identity Act” that would legislate fines or jail time for people who falsely claim Indigenous identity for commercial benefit.

She pointed to American legislation passed in the 1990s that makes it illegal to falsely advertise that arts and crafts are made by an Indigenous person. Bell’s proposition would involve criminalizing what she calls “pretendians”.

However, Tailfeathers is wary of allowing the government to decide and enforce who is and isn’t Indigenous.

“I don’t think that’s the best approach just given the history here in Canada,” she says, arguing that Canada did that in the past in using the Indian Act in an attempt to destroy Indigenous nationhood and harm communities, families and individuals.

“Nationhood recognizes that an Indigenous community should have autonomy over who belongs to that community,” Tailfeathers explains. “It’s up to individual Indigenous nations to decide. It’s not up to a government body that has literally stolen our land.”


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