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Florida House Passes Election Integrity Legislation, Securing State…

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“The work of the House and the Senate this year to tackle another set of critical election reforms will greatly increase transparency and trust in the democratic process,” said Rep. Daniel Perez, Chair of the Public Integrity and Elections Committee.

The Foundation for Government Accountability (FGA) applauds the Florida House of Representatives for passing Senate Bill 524, once again leading the nation in securing future elections. This legislation, coupled with the election integrity measures passed in last year’s Senate Bill 90, will make Florida’s elections among the most transparent and trusted in the country.

S.B. 524, which passed on the floor today with a 76-41 vote, includes provisions that:


establish an Office of Election Crimes and Security within the Florida Department of State to investigate and defer matters for prosecution against alleged occurrences of election law violations or irregularities;
move toward ID requirements for absentee vote-by-mail ballots;
prohibit ranked-choice voting;
clean voter rolls;
create harsher penalties for ballot harvesters;
discourage non-citizen voting, illegal signature collection practices for ballot initiative petitions, and premature disclosure(s) of election results; and
strengthen last year’s ban to prohibit private funding of elections (Zuckerbucks ban).

The bill is now headed to Governor Ron DeSantis’s desk for signature. Gov. DeSantis and Secretary of State Laurel Lee have continued to push to make the Florida elections process better and better each year.

“The work of the House and the Senate this year to tackle another set of critical election reforms will greatly increase transparency and trust in the democratic process,” said Rep. Daniel Perez, Chair of the Public Integrity and Elections Committee. “We won’t stop our continual pursuit of commonsense election reforms that protect Florida voters.”

Last year’s election integrity bill, S.B. 90, enforces voter ID, prevents ballot harvesting, secures drop boxes, prohibits the private funding of elections, and helps ensure that voter rolls are up to date and accurate for each election.

The Foundation for Government Accountability (FGA) is a non-profit, multi-state think tank that promotes public policy solutions to create opportunities for every American to experience the American Dream. To learn more, visit TheFGA.org.

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Captured Ukrainian Medic’s Bodycam Footage Shows First-hand Horror of Mariupol

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A captured volunteer medic’s bodycam footage shows the horrors taking place in the ruined city of Mariupol after it was smuggled out in a tampon.

Yuliia Paievska is referred to as Taira in Ukraine, a moniker from the nickname she chose in the World Of Warcraft video game.

Using a body camera, the 53-year-old recorded 256 gigabytes of her team’s frantic efforts over two weeks to save people from the brink of death.

Image:
Yuliia Paievska recorded her efforts in Mariupol over two weeks

The bodycam was given to her in 2021 for a Netflix documentary on the Invictus Games, where she was meant to be competing, but she ended up using it to document a warzone instead.

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She managed to get the harrowing clips to journalists from the Associated Press as they left the city in a rare humanitarian convoy.

The data card was hidden inside a tampon, and the team passed through 15 Russian checkpoints before reaching Ukrainian-controlled territory.

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Ms Paievska and her driver were then captured by Russian soldiers the next day on 16 March – one of many forced disappearances in areas of Ukraine now held by Russia.

She is now a prisoner of the Russians and has not been seen since.

Russia has portrayed Ms Paievska as someone working for the nationalist Azov Battalion – a volunteer paramilitary militia formed in 2014 that has been fighting Russian forces in the Donbas War.

Image:
Two injured Russian soldiers, left and right, arrive at a hospital to be treated in Mariupol

The claim is in with Moscow’s narrative that it is attempting to “denazify” Ukraine, but no evidence of this has been found, with Ms Paievska’s friends and colleagues saying she has no links to Azov.

The bodycam footage captured by Ms Paiveska shows that she tried to save wounded Russian soldiers as well as Ukrainian civilians at a military hospital where she led the evacuations of the wounded.

A clip recorded on 10 March shows two Russian soldiers taken roughly out of an ambulance by a Ukrainian soldier.

One is in a wheelchair and the other is on his knees, hands bound behind his back, with an injured leg.

They wear white armbands as winter hats cover their eyes.

Image:
Yuliia Paievska and other medical personnel bandage the head of an injured serviceman

After a Ukrainian soldier curses at one of them, Ms Paiveska tells him: “Calm down, calm down.”

A woman asks her: “Are you going to treat the Russians?”

“They will not be as kind to us,” she replies, adding: “But I couldn’t do otherwise. They are prisoners of war.”

Ms Paiveska is a celebrated star athlete in Ukraine as well as the person who trained the country’s volunteer medic force.

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Her footage is an intimate record from 6 February to 10 March of a city under siege that has now become a worldwide symbol of the Russian invasion and Ukrainian resistance.

On the first day of Russia’s invasion, 24 February, Ms Paievska chronicled efforts to bandage a Ukrainian soldier’s open head wound.

Image:
Bodycam footage captures emergency personnel trying to save the life of a man

Two days later, she instructed her colleagues to wrap an injured Russian soldier in a blanket.

“Cover him because he is shaking,” she says in the clip. She also calls the young man “Sunshine” – a favourite nickname for the many soldiers she took care of – and asks why he came to Ukraine.

In somewhat confusion, he tells her: “You’re taking care of me.” She responds: “We treat everyone equally.”

Later that night, two children – a brother and sister – arrive seriously injured following a shootout at a checkpoint where their parents were killed.

Despite Ms Paievska’s best efforts to “stay with me, little one”, the little boy is later pronounced dead.

She turns away from his lifeless body and cries, saying, “I hate (this),” before closing his eyes.

Ms Paievska is one of the hundreds of prominent Ukrainians who have been kidnapped or captured, including journalists, activists and human rights defenders and local officials.

Image:
Yuliia Paievska, known as Taira, pauses in the pool during Invictus Games trials in Kyiv, Ukraine, in 2018

Some 204 cases of enforced disappearances have been recorded by the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine so far.

It is understood that some victims may have been tortured, while five have been found dead.

Meanwhile, the office of Ukraine’s ombudswoman said it had received reports of thousands of missing people as of late April, with around 528 believed to have been captured.

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European Gas Prices Soar After Moscow Imposes Sanctions on EU Energy Companies

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Russia’s state-owned gas supplier has said it will cut shipments to Europe through a major pipeline, sending prices surging and reinforcing President Vladimir Putin’s willingness to use energy as a weapon against the EU.

Gazprom said gas flows would no longer be possible through the Yamal pipeline after the Kremlin imposed sanctions late on Wednesday on European gas companies. The sanctioned companies include some of its own former units as well as Europol Gaz, Yamal’s owner. The pipeline runs from Russia to Germany via Poland.

“A ban on transactions and payments to entities under sanctions has been implemented,” said Gazprom in a statement. “For Gazprom this means a ban on the use of a gas pipeline owned by Europol Gaz to transport Russian gas through Poland.”

The move strikes out the flow of Russian gas to Europe from a second pipeline in as many days and underlines Moscow’s appetite to push through with warnings to halt gas supplies to Europe.

“On the whole, the situation is escalating,” said Robert Habeck, Germany’s economy minister. “It’s becoming evident once again that Russia is using energy as a weapon.”

The retaliatory action pushed gas prices higher. Future contracts linked to TTF, the European wholesale gas price benchmark, jumped on Thursday about 13 per cent to about €106 per megawatt hour, more than quadruple levels a year ago.

Prices have risen this week from a low of about €90 per megawatt hour as Russian gas supply to the continent faced fresh threats.

Electricity prices also rose. Prices for German power next year hit their highest level in the year to date at over €230 per megawatt hour, according to Refinitiv.

On Wednesday Ukraine’s pipeline operator shut down the flow of gas from one of the two major pipelines that bring Russian gas through the country to Europe, citing interference from Russian occupying forces.

While very little gas has been passing through the Yamal-Europe pipeline in recent weeks, the pipeline is relied upon when gas demand rises.

Tom Marzec-Manser, head of gas analytics at ICIS, a commodity data firm, said sanctions on Europol Gaz could be problematic for German energy security next winter when demand for gas picks up.

The sanctions from Moscow, which said they were imposed in response to a swath of western sanctions, also ban Russian entities from selling gas or transacting with Gazprom Germania, a group of gas trading and storage companies that were taken over by the German government last month.

Gazprom Germania’s assets include Rehden, Germany’s largest gas storage facility, which accounts for about a fifth of the country’s total capacity, as well as large German gas distributors Wingas, WIEH and WIEE that buy supplies from Gazprom.

Germany acknowledged that Russia’s action was already having an impact. Habeck said supply had dropped by 10mn cubic metres a day, or 3 per cent of Russian-delivered gas on an annual basis. But he insisted it was “manageable”.

“The volumes can be procured on the market from other sources, and that’s the task we’re facing, to buy these amounts,” he said. “The German government will do all it can to stabilise Gazprom Germania.”

He said the situation did not warrant triggering an alarm for gas supply, adding that Germany had “prepared for this situation, as well as all other possible scenarios”.

Moscow’s sanctions could hit European gas supply by 13bn cubic metres, according to modelling by the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies. Russia supplied the EU with 155 bcm of gas last year, or about 40 per cent of its needs.

Michael Müller, chief financial officer of RWE, one of Germany’s largest gas buyers, said that it was assessing the impact of the sanctions but it had assumed that the Russians “wouldn’t necessarily fill the gas storage facilities that fall under Gazprom Germania anyway”. These facilities were depleted before the war began after Russia withheld supplies over winter.

The European Commission said it was “analysing the Russian decision on sanctions against certain companies in the EU and the implications for the EU’s security of gas supply”.

It said the move underlined the need to cut dependency on Russian energy. It will unveil a proposal to boost alternative supplies, renewable energy and hydrogen on May 18. 

Gas traders have been focused for weeks on a new rouble payment mechanism demanded by Russia, which has led to Poland and Bulgaria being cut off from Russian gas and could flare up again later in May when payments are due from more European buyers.

Additional reporting by Andy Bounds in Brussels

This article has been amended since original publication to correct Michael Müller’s title

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Groundbreaking Set for Large-Scale Veterans Memorial Park to Be Constructed in Cannon Falls, MN

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When complete the project will feature 11 war memorials, athletic fields, a history museum and a 200,000 square foot banquet hall and education center

CANNON FALLS, Minn., May 5, 2022 /PRNewswire-PRWeb/ — Toufong Lor, founder of the recently created nonprofit; American Veterans Memorial Park announced today the organization has closed on the purchase of 95-acres just south of Cannon Falls, MN in Goodhue County. The land will be developed into one of the largest Veterans Memorial Parks in the United States. A groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled for Saturday, May 7, with construction slated to begin this summer.

The project, set to be completed in phases, is envisioned as a destination attraction. It will eventually feature several miles of bike and hiking trails; an RV Park; a 200-thousand square feet banquet hall and education center; open 365 days a year that is open to the public and can be booked for any event including veterans holiday memorials, weddings and reunions. The center will also display war artifacts and have a small theatre with a seating capacity of 250 for speakers and presentations. In addition, developers will commission the creation of 11 U.S. war memorial monuments strategically scattered around the property. A first-of-its-kind Hmong Soldier War Memorial is also planned to pay tribute and honor to all Hmong-Americans who paid the ultimate sacrifice in battle.

Later, Phase Two of the project will bring athletic fields for soccer, football and lacrosse, along with pickle ball courts and an on-site hotel development.

“This is a project I am extremely proud about,” said Toufong Lor. “This will be a place for all people. We fully expect people from all over the world to visit.”

Toufong Lor explained that his father is the inspiration for this large-scale project. Xia Yeng Lor was born in Laos and worked as a crop and hog farmer before being recruited by the CIA in the early 1960s. U.S. Military in Thailand trained him to help defeat communism during the Vietnam War. Reaching the rank of Senior Commander, Xia Yeng Lor was stationed on the highest peak in Laos to deter attacks on United States Radar and Communications infrastructure. He also served as boots on the ground to help rescue any fighter pilot shot down in the region and rush them to medical assistance. During one such mission he stepped on a landmine and was severely injured in the blast that killed seven of the nine soldiers at the scene. His injuries were so bad that one of his legs needed to be amputated. In 1980 he immigrated his family of nine to Minneapolis.

“My father is my hero. His sacrifices helped to give me and my six brothers a better life,” said Toufong Lor. “There are so many soldiers who gave up so much to ensure American freedom. I hope this park is a place people go to learn and remember those sacrifices.”

The project is located just south of Cannon Falls, a community just 40 minutes from the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. City officials are excited for what the project could mean to their community.

Cannon Falls Mayor, Mayor Jon Atlhoff, a U.S. Air Force veteran, says he is looking forward to the project taking shape. “We expect this park will put our community on the map and bring people to town,” he said. “The scope of the project is robust, and its mission is sincere.”

City Administrator Neil Jensen said he believes the park will bring people to the area and allow them to explore the many things Cannon Falls has to offer. “The economic impact for Cannon Falls is going to be tremendous,” he said. “The plans for this project will make what’s happening here a destination.”

While it may be some time before the project is fully complete, Toufong Lor is confident that when complete the park will be unlike any other.

“This is a labor of love and a tribute to all veterans,” he said. “We cannot wait to transform this property into a venue for all people. It is something that will enhance the area greatly.”

Save the Date:

What: American Veterans Memorial Park Groundbreaking http://www.amvetsmempark.org

When: Saturday, May 7 at 1p.m.

Where: Just South of Cannon Falls off Hwy 52 where CC Rd 14 intersects

Who: Vet Park Founders, City & County Officials and all branches of the US military will be represented and honorably recognized.

Why: A formal groundbreaking ceremony featuring all stakeholders and brief speeches from honored guests. Huey Helicopter landing – adds to this fabulous Photo Opp.

About American Veterans Memorial Park:
The American Veterans Memorial Park located in Cannon Falls, MN will be the largest veterans commemorative park of its kind in North America and is the vision and commitment of founder Tou Fong Lor and his six Hmong brothers. The Lor Family immigrated to the United States and specifically Minnesota in the summer of 1980. Following in his father’s patriotic footsteps, Toufong Lor enlisted serving over a decade in the U.S. Navy and served four tours of duty during the Gulf War. In memory of their father and the freedom they all live under today; the family is dedicated to developing this 95-acre farm field into a massive tribute to all US Veterans.

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Media Contact

Robb Leer, Leer Communication & Consultants, 6127010608, robbl@leercommunication.com

SOURCE American Veterans Memorial Park

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