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Colorado Commission on Judicial Discipline seeks independence from courts after lack of funding stalls investigation

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Colorado Commission on Judicial Discipline seeks independence from courts after lack of funding stalls investigation

The Colorado Commission on Judicial Discipline’s attempt last summer to hire a law firm to investigate allegations of widespread misconduct by judges stalled because the state Supreme Court did not fund the endeavor, commission members told legislators during a hearing Tuesday.

The commission is now seeking independent funding so that it can do its work without the influence of the judges and justices it is tasked with overseeing, commission chair Elizabeth Espinosa Krupa told lawmakers.

“To make sure that the public and citizens of Colorado are assured the integrity of the commission and the independence of the commission, we cannot have funding controlled by judicial leadership,” she said.

The Commission on Judicial Discipline is responsible for disciplining the state’s judges. The group consists of a volunteer board, a paid executive director and a part-time administrative assistant.

The commission has traditionally relied on either the state’s Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel or the Attorney General’s Office to conduct investigations when needed, but the commission is now asking for its state funding to be increased to about $1 million so that it can hire a full-time staff attorney and investigator to allow the commission to conduct its own investigations without relying on outside help.

District Judge David Prince, vice chair of the commission, said last summer’s probe by a special counsel stalled in part because judicial leadership was attempting to influence the scope of the investigation.

“We’ve been in disagreement with them now for about four months, and part of that disagreement has been judicial leadership asserting they have the authority to direct what would be the proper scope of our retention of counsel,” he said, adding later that funding is “independent in the written rules but it is not operating that way.”

Colorado Supreme Court Chief Justice Brian Boatright told lawmakers in a separate presentation Tuesday that he welcomed the commission’s independence.

“We completely support that,” he said. “We absolutely value the independence of the Judicial Discipline Commission. Their work is essential to people having confidence with regard to the branch.”

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Biden: Recession not inevitable, pain to last ‘some time’

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Biden: Recession not inevitable, pain to last ‘some time’

By JOSH BOAK and AAMER MADHANI

TOKYO (AP) — President Joe Biden says he does not believe an economic recession in the U.S. is inevitable despite record high inflation and supply shortages partly caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Speaking at a news conference Monday in Tokyo, Biden acknowledged that the American economy has “problems,” but said it was better positioned than other countries.

“We have problems that the rest of the world has,” Biden said, “but less consequential than the rest of the world has.”

Biden acknowledged the impact that severe supply shortages and high energy prices are having on U.S. families. He said his administration was working to ease the pain for U.S. consumers, but said there were unlikely to be immediate solutions.

“This is going to be a haul,” Biden said. “This is going to take some time.”

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

TOKYO (AP) — President Joe Biden on Monday promised “concrete benefits” for the people of the Indo-Pacific region from a new trade pact he was set to launch, designed to signal U.S. dedication to the contested economic sphere and address the need for stability in commerce after disruptions caused by the pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, Biden said the new Indo-Pacific Economic Framework would also increase U.S. cooperation with other nations in the region.

The White House said the framework will help the United States and Asian economies work more closely on issues including supply chains, digital trade, clean energy, worker protections and anticorruption efforts. The details still need to be negotiated among the member countries, making it difficult for the administration to say how this agreement would fulfill the promise of helping U.S. workers and businesses while also meeting global needs.

Countries signing on to the framework were to be announced Monday during Biden’s visit to Tokyo for talks with Kishida. It’s the latest step by the Biden administration to try to preserve and broaden U.S. influence in a region that until recently looked to be under the growing sway of China.

Kishida hosted a formal state welcome for Biden at Akasaka Palace, including a white-clad military honor guard and band in the front plaza. Reviewing the assembled troops, Biden placed his hand over his heart as he passed the American flag and bowed slightly as he passed the Japanese standard.

Kishida, in brief remarks, said he was “absolutely delighted” to welcome Biden to Tokyo on the first Asia trip of his presidency. Along with Biden, he drove a tough line against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, saying it “undermines the foundation of global order.”

Biden, who is in the midst of a five-day visit to South Korea and Japan, called the U.S.-Japanese alliance a “cornerstone of peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific” and thanked Japan for its “strong leadership” in standing up to Russia.

The White House announced plans to build the economic framework in October as a replacement for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which the U.S. dropped out of in 2017 under then-President Donald Trump.

The new pact comes at a moment when the administration believes it has the edge in its competition with Beijing. Bloomberg Economics published a report last week projecting U.S. GDP growth at about 2.8% in 2022 compared to 2% for China, which has been trying to contain the coronavirus through strict lockdowns while also dealing with a property bust. The slowdown has undermined assumptions that China would automatically supplant the U.S. as the world’s leading economy.

“The fact that the United States will grow faster than China this year, for the first time since 1976, is a quite striking example of how countries in this region should be looking at the question of trends and trajectories,” said White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan.

Critics say the framework has gaping shortcomings. It doesn’t offer incentives to prospective partners by lowering tariffs or provide signatories with greater access to U.S. markets. Those limitations may not make the U.S. framework an attractive alternative to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which still moved forward after the U.S. bailed out. China, the largest trading partner for many in the region, is also seeking to join TPP.

“I think a lot of partners are going to look at that list and say: ‘That’s a good list of issues. I’m happy to be involved,’” said Matthew Goodman, a former director for international economics on the National Security Council during President Barack Obama’s administration. But he said they also may ask, “Are we going to get any tangible benefits out of participating in this framework?”

It is possible for countries to be part of both trade deals.

Biden’s first stop Monday was a private meeting with Emperor Naruhito of Japan at Naruhito’s residence on the lush grounds of the Imperial Palace before the talks with Kishida.

The two leaders were also set to meet with families of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea decades ago. The Japanese premier took office last fall and is looking to strengthen ties with the U.S. and build a personal relationship with Biden. He’ll host the president at a restaurant for dinner.

The launch of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, also known as IPEF, has been billed by the White House as one of the bigger moments of Biden’s Asia trip and of his ongoing effort to bolster ties with Pacific allies. Through it all, administration officials have kept a close eye on China’s growing economic and military might in the region.

In September the U.S. announced a new partnership with Australia and Britain called AUKUS that is aimed and deepening security, diplomatic and defense cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region. Through that AUKUS partnership, Australia will purchase nuclear-powered submarines, and the U.S. is to increase rotational force deployments to Australia.

The U.S. president has also devoted great attention to the informal alliance known as the Quad, formed during the response to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that killed some 230,000 people. Biden and fellow leaders from the alliance, which also includes Australia, India and Japan, are set to gather in Tokyo for their second in-person meeting in less than a year. The leaders have also held two video calls since Biden took office.

And earlier this month, Biden gathered representatives from nine of the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Washington for a summit, the first ever by the organization in the U.S. capital. Biden announced at the summit the U.S. would invest some $150 million in clean energy and infrastructure initiatives in ASEAN nations.

Sullivan confirmed on Sunday that Taiwan — which had sought membership in the IPEF framework— isn’t among the governments that will be included. Participation of the self-ruled island of Taiwan, which China claims as its own, would have irked Beijing.

Sullivan said the U.S. wants to deepen its economic partnership with Taiwan, including on high technology issues and semiconductor supply on a one-to-one basis.

Biden will wrap up his five days in Asia on Tuesday with the Quad meeting and one-on-one talks with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Australia’s new prime minister, Anthony Albanese.

The center-left leader of the Australian Labor Party this weekend defeated incumbent Scott Morrison and ended nine years of conservative rule.

Modi, leader of the world’s biggest democracy, has declined to join the U.S. and other allies in levying sanctions against Russia over the invasion of Ukraine. In a video call last month, Biden asked Modi not to accelerate its purchase of Russian oil.

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Associated Press writers Zeke Miller and Darlene Superville in Washington contributed to this report.

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Tim Anderson’s 3-run homer punctuates the Chicago White Sox’s doubleheader sweep of the New York Yankees

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Tim Anderson’s 3-run homer punctuates the Chicago White Sox’s doubleheader sweep of the New York Yankees

Johnny Cueto was terrific in Game 1 of Sunday’s doubleheader against the New York Yankees.

Michael Kopech was even better in Game 2 as the Chicago White Sox swept the twinbill, beating the Yankees 3-1 and 5-0.

“What a day,” Sox manager Tony La Russa said.

Cueto allowed six hits in six-plus scoreless innings at Yankee Stadium but did not factor in the decision. The Sox gave up a late lead only to respond with two in the ninth for the Game 1 win.

Kopech retired the first 17 batters in Game 2. Rob Brantly broke up the perfect game with a two-out double in the sixth.

“I felt like everything was working today,” said Kopech, who lowered his ERA to 1.29. “The first time this season that’s been the case. It was nice to go out there and feel confident with every pitch I threw.

“I try to be perfect every time and I know that’s never going to be the case, but I feel like if I can hold on to that little bit as deep as I can into the game, then I’ll be in a good position. And I was able to do that for a lot of the day.”

Kopech — who returned from the paternity leave list after the birth Friday of his second son, Vander — allowed one hit with six strikeouts and two walks in seven scoreless innings.

“Kopech made so many great pitches and mixed them up great,” La Russa said. “He had so much command. When you see that, I don’t care how good the hitters are, they’re going to have a tough time.”

The Sox scored five with two outs in the eighth on RBI hits by Andrew Vaughn and Reese McGuire and a three-run home run by shortstop Tim Anderson — his third hit of the game.

“This guy is as good as anybody playing at that position and one of the best players in baseball,” La Russa said of Anderson.

Vaughn came through with two outs, singling to center against Jonathan Loáisiga to bring home José Abreu. McGuire followed with another single, bringing in Adam Engel.

Anderson — who was booed throughout the night by Yankees fans after Saturday’s words with Josh Donaldson and a bench-clearing incident — then homered against Miguel Castro.

“Tim’s going to show up every day ready to play and lead this team,” Kopech said. “And he did that again tonight.”

In the first game, AJ Pollock put the Sox ahead in the ninth with a leadoff homer to left on a 1-0 fastball from Yankees reliever Aroldis Chapman.

“You’ve got to stay short to him,” Pollock said. “He’s got some good velocity, good cut on his fastball, so just trying to hit a line drive and it worked out.”

Vaughn drew a one-out walk, moved to second on a wild pitch and to third on a passed ball before scoring on a double by Engel, making it 3-1. Liam Hendriks struck out two in a perfect ninth for his 13th save.

It was a nice bounce-back performance by the Sox after the Yankees tied the score at 1 in the eighth when Aaron Judge homered to left on an 0-2 sinker against reliever Kendall Graveman.

The Yankees put two on with one out in the inning, but Graveman rebounded to get Donaldson to fly out to center and Aaron Hicks to pop out to third.

“Most times when you do that, (you) lose your concentration and there is another run on the board,” La Russa said of Graveman. “He got the zero afterward, gave us a chance to win.”

Cueto put the Sox in an excellent position early.

“I had good command of all my pitches today and they had very good movement and I was able to locate them up and down the zone,” Cueto, who was receiving fluids in the aftermath of Game 1, said in a statement. “That was the key to keep the Yankees off-balanced today.”

The Sox went ahead 1-0 on an RBI single by Yasmani Grandal in the fourth.

And Cueto kept “dealing,” as Pollock said. He struck out five and walked two in the 95-pitch outing.

“He’s been awesome for us,” Pollock said. “Works fast and has all sorts of pitches to get them off-balanced. Shimmy shake (delivery). It’s awesome to play behind him. It’s great having him out there for the first game of a doubleheader because of the tone he just set for us.”

Cueto has pitched 12 scoreless innings, the third-longest streak for a Sox starter at the beginning of his tenure with the team since 1974, according to STATS. Ken Brett pitched 17 scoreless innings in 1976 and Jack McDowell went 13 innings in 1987.

Cueto allowed two hits and struck out seven in six scoreless innings against the Royals.

“He’s an artist,” La Russa said. “It’s fun to watch him pitch a game. And that’s what he’s been, an outstanding starting pitcher, because he gives you a different look four times in a game.”

Cueto exited after allowing two singles to begin the seventh. Joe Kelly struck out Marwin Gonzalez, picked off Hicks at second and struck out Jose Trevino to maintain the one-run lead.

“Kelly was just perfect,” La Russa said.

The Yankees got the run in the eighth, but Pollock came though with the big hit in the ninth to give the Sox what La Russa called a “hard-earned” victory.

The Sox made it two-for-two Sunday with more stellar pitching and clutch hitting.

“It just shows we have that in us,” Vaughn said, “and we’ve just got to keep going and keep building off of it.”

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With St. Paul community center ailing, Keith Ellison’s office demands reforms at Cameroon Community organization

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With St. Paul community center ailing, Keith Ellison’s office demands reforms at Cameroon Community organization

With high hopes and no small amount of fanfare, leaders of the Twin Cities’ Cameroonian community pooled their resources in late 2013 and purchased a 57,000-square-foot, two-level office building in St. Paul’s Bandana Square for the bargain price of $200,000.

It was a deal by any stretch of the imagination. The future MinCam Community Center off Energy Park Drive carried an assessed market value of $3 million, at least on paper, though it came with a requirement that the association pay off some $100,000 in outstanding property taxes.

But the community center has been rife with infighting and dysfunction, involving legal action and public accusations of mismanagement.

Last week officials with Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison’s office announced they had stepped into the fray as the state’s charity regulator.

The attorney general’s new 16-page “assurance of discontinuance” agreement, signed by a representative of the Minnesota Cameroon Community and filed in Ramsey County District Court, seeks to hold the association accountable for “inattentiveness and governance violations” that have “allowed this important community asset to fall into disrepair,” according to a statement from Ellison’s office.

According to documents from the attorney general’s office, the property tax debt ballooned to $172,000. A broken boiler went unattended for months, causing what some fear is irreparable building damage over the course of a winter. Water mains burst in February 2021. The building’s property insurance lapsed in 2017, and energy bills mounted.

Community center leaders can’t account for all of the funds collected for property tax payments and building repair, according to the attorney general’s office. Questions over who truly leads MinCam — its board of directors, its president, the representative assembly, the general assembly or the community center management team — flared into a legal dispute over who had the right to call elections in the summer of 2020.

Among the requirements imposed under the agreement with the attorney general’s office, MinCam cannot solicit further donations without first registering as a charity with the attorney general’s office, which leaders had failed to do.

MinCam must restructure its leadership so that a singular board controls the business and affairs of the organization. It must also maintain and comply with internal financial management practices developed in consultation with professionals, and adopt a conflict-of-interest, whistleblower and document-retention policy.

“MCC’s directors and officers are further required to properly maintain all books and records of the organization and adopt policies to ensure that funds are properly spent on the purposes for which they were given,” reads a statement from Ellison’s office.

A request for comment was not returned Friday by an attorney for MinCam. The listed phone number for the community center’s was out of service Friday.

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