Imposing Visa Restrictions on Additional Individuals Undermining Belarusian Democracy

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

The United States remains alarmed by the Lukashenka regime’s continuing violent crackdown on peaceful protesters, pro-democracy activists, and journalists. The February 16 raids on human rights organization Vyasna, the Belarusian Association of Journalists, and independent trade union workers, as well as the February 18 sentencing of journalists Katsiaryna Andreyeva and Darya Chultsova are particularly troublesome.

Today, the U.S. Department of State took action pursuant to Presidential Proclamation (PP) 8015 to impose visa restrictions on 43 Belarusian individuals responsible for undermining Belarusian democracy, making them generally ineligible for entry into the United States.  These individuals include: high-ranking justice sector officials; law enforcement leaders and rank-and-file personnel who detained and abused peaceful demonstrators; judges and prosecutors involved in sentencing peaceful protesters and journalists to prison terms; and academic administrators who threatened students for participation in peaceful protests.

Two earlier rounds of designations under PP 8015 imposed visa restrictions on 66 additional individuals who were determined to be responsible for undermining Belarusian democracy.  Those individuals included high-ranking Lukashenka regime officials, as well as Russian and Belarusian nationals complicit in hindering the work of independent media and otherwise undermining the integrity of media freedom in Belarus.

The United States continues to support international efforts to independently investigate electoral irregularities in Belarus, the human rights abuses surrounding the election, and the crackdown that has followed.  We stand with the brave people of Belarus and support their right to free and fair elections.

More from: Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

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    Two-thirds of U.S. public school districts have schools with physical barriers that may limit access for people with disabilities, according to GAO's survey of district officials. Barriers, such as a lack of accessible door hardware and steep ramps, can make it challenging for students, teachers, and others with disabilities to use public school facilities (see fig.). In 55 schools across six states, the most common areas with barriers GAO observed were restrooms, interior doorways, and classrooms. GAO also observed barriers related to safety and security. For example, for security, some schools had installed double-door vestibules with limited maneuvering space that could trap people who use wheelchairs. Examples of Doorway and Auditorium Barriers GAO Observed in Schools Note: Barriers presented in this figure potentially limit physical access for people with disabilities, but taken alone, would not necessarily establish whether a legal violation has occurred. An estimated 70 percent of districts had large-scale renovations, small-scale upgrades, or accessibility evaluations planned in the next 3 calendar years, but frequently cited funding constraints as a challenge to these efforts. Districts also identified the need to prioritize projects that keep buildings operational, such as roofing and heating projects. In addition, GAO's survey, observations during site visits, and interviews with national disability groups revealed a tension between making safety and security upgrades and improving physical accessibility. The Department of Justice (Justice) has not provided technical assistance on physical accessibility in schools, and GAO's surveys indicate such help is needed. Justice has authority to provide information on interpreting the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), including for public schools, and it has provided technical assistance regarding other public facilities, such as stadiums. In addition, Justice, along with the Department of Education (Education) and other federal agencies, recently launched a new website on school safety, but it does not include specific information on how to improve accessibility of public school facilities or provide information on ADA requirements in the context of school safety upgrades. Without such information, federal agencies may miss opportunities to help ensure that people with disabilities have safe and secure access to public school facilities. National reports have raised concerns about the physical accessibility of public school facilities for people with disabilities. These facilities serve important roles as schools, voting locations, and emergency shelters, among other things. GAO was asked to examine the physical accessibility of public school facilities. This report examines the extent to which (1) school districts have school facilities with physical barriers that may limit access for people with disabilities, (2) districts plan to improve the accessibility of school facilities and the challenges they face, and (3) Justice and Education assist districts and states in improving school facilities' physical accessibility. GAO conducted a nationally representative survey of school districts; surveyed states and the District of Columbia; examined 55 schools across six states, selected for variation in size and other characteristics; reviewed relevant federal laws, regulations, and guidance; and interviewed federal, state, and school district officials, and national disability groups. GAO recommends that Justice work with Education to (1) provide information specific to accessibility of public school facilities and (2) provide information on federal accessibility requirements in the context of public school safety and security. Justice neither agreed nor disagreed with GAO's recommendations. For more information, contact Jacqueline M. Nowicki at (617) 788-0580 or nowickij@gao.gov.
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  • Secretary Antony J. Blinken Introductory Remarks for Youth Speaker Xiye Bastida
    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • The United States Supports the Voices of the Venezuelan People
    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • Former Supervisory Corrections Officer Sentenced for Repeatedly Tasing Restrained Detainee
    In Crime News
    Former supervisory corrections officer Mark Bryant, 42, was sentenced today to 5 years in prison for repeatedly tasing a restrained pretrial detainee inside the Cheatham County Jail in Tennessee. In January 2020, a jury in the Middle District of Tennessee convicted Bryant of two counts of violating Title 18, U.S. Code, Section 242, for using excessive force while acting under color of law. 
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  • Operation Legend: Case of the Day
    In Crime News
    An Albuquerque man was charged on Sept. 29, 2020, in federal court for possessing fentanyl, heroin, and more than a kilo of methamphetamine, as well as four firearms.
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  • Man Who Worked At Local Research Institute For 10 Years Pleads Guilty To Conspiring To Steal Trade Secrets, Sell Them In China
    In Crime News
    A former Dublin, Ohio, man pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court today to conspiring to steal exosome-related trade secrets concerning the research, identification and treatment of a range of pediatric medical conditions. Yu Zhou, 50, also pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit wire fraud.
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  • Doctor Sentenced to Prison for Role in Unlawful Distribution of Controlled Substances
    In Crime News
    An Ohio physician was sentenced to 40 months in prison today for his role in illegally distributing controlled substances.
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  • Secretary Michael R. Pompeo Remarks to the Press
    In Human Health, Resources and Services
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  • NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Recharges Its Batteries in Flight
    In Space
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  • Florida Escort Pleads Guilty to Underreporting Income
    In Crime News
    A Fort Lauderdale, Florida, escort pleaded guilty today to filing a false corporate tax return, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Ariana Fajardo Orshan.
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  • Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice Releases Final Report
    In Crime News
    Today, following months of virtual meetings, testimony and study, U.S. Attorney General William P. Barr submitted the final report of the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice to the White House.  This report represents the first comprehensive study of law enforcement in more than 55 years.
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  • Federal Real Property: Additional Documentation of Decision Making Could Improve Transparency of New Disposal Process
    In U.S GAO News
    In 2016, the Federal Assets Sale and Transfer Act (FASTA) created the independent Public Buildings Reform Board (the Board) to support a new, three-round process for disposing of unneeded federal real property. The first of these rounds required the Board to identify and recommend at least five high-value disposal candidates with a total market value between $500 and $750 million. To identify these properties, the General Services Administration (GSA) collected and evaluated agency recommendations; a GSA-hired contractor analyzed real property data; and the Board held public hearings, visited properties, and met with federal officials. This process resulted in identifying 44 properties. The Board then took various steps to evaluate the 44 properties and recommended 12 final disposal candidates that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) approved in January 2020. (See figure.) However, the Board did not fully document the process used to evaluate these candidates. For example, the Board's rationales for why individual candidates were or were not recommended were vague or incomplete. Full documentation on the decision-making process would better position stakeholders, including members of Congress, to understand the Board's rationales, especially for decisions with financial implications. Process Used by Stakeholders for Identifying and Recommending High-Value Federal Real Property for Potential Disposal Candidates According to Board and selected federal agency officials, FASTA made it easier for agencies to pursue high-value property disposals due, in part, to exemptions from some requirements, such as having to first offer properties to federal, state, or local agencies. However, FASTA's effect on other long-standing challenges, including funding to prepare properties for disposal, is unclear. For example, FASTA created a dedicated funding source to implement Board recommendations including those related to covering disposal costs, such as relocating agency staff. However, officials expressed concern that access to these funds is not automatic and must go through the annual appropriations process, which rarely coincides with the timing of these projects. The administration proposed legislative language to make proceeds from the sale of assets in fiscal year 2021 available without additional actions by Congress. However, as of January 2021, legislation containing the proposed language had not been enacted. This report discusses elements Congress may wish to evaluate when determining whether to grant such budget-related flexibility. GAO designated federal real property management, including the disposal of properties, as a high-risk area in 2003. FASTA included a provision for GAO to review the recommendations and selection processes such as those used in the first round of identifying and recommending high-value properties as candidates for disposal. This report examines: (1) how stakeholders implemented FASTA to identify and evaluate high-value properties as potential disposal candidates and (2) stakeholder views on the extent to which FASTA helped agencies with the disposal of unneeded high-value properties and addressed long-standing challenges in disposing of federal properties. GAO reviewed FASTA and analyzed documents from the Board, OMB, GSA, and selected 14 federal agencies to examine the processes they used and the challenges they encountered under the FASTA process. Agencies were selected based on their recommendations of high-value properties and inclusion on the Board's final list, among other things. GAO also interviewed officials from the Board, OMB, GSA, and selected federal agencies. GAO is recommending that the Board fully document its process for recommending FASTA disposal candidates, including the rationales behind disposal decisions. The Board noted plans to develop more documentation of its future disposal decisions. For more information, contact David Trimble at (202) 512-2834 or trimbled@gao.gov.
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  • California Man Pleads Guilty to Scheme to Defraud Afghan Government on U.S. Funded Contract
    In Crime News
    A California man pleaded guilty Tuesday for his role in a scheme to defraud the government of Afghanistan of over $100 million.  These funds were provided to Afghanistan by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) for the purpose of constructing an electric grid in Afghanistan, in connection with the long-standing U.S. effort to strengthen that country’s basic infrastructure.
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  • Six Russian GRU Officers Charged in Connection with Worldwide Deployment of Destructive Malware and Other Disruptive Actions in Cyberspace
    In Crime News
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  • Boeing Charged with 737 Max Fraud Conspiracy and Agrees to Pay over $2.5 Billion
    In Crime News
    The Boeing Company (Boeing) has entered into an agreement with the Department of Justice to resolve a criminal charge related to a conspiracy to defraud the Federal Aviation Administration’s Aircraft Evaluation Group (FAA AEG) in connection with the FAA AEG’s evaluation of Boeing’s 737 MAX airplane.
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  • Hospital Researcher Sentenced to Prison for Conspiring to Steal Trade Secrets, Sell Them in China
    In Crime News
    A former Dublin, Ohio, woman was sentenced in U.S. District Court today to 30 months in prison for conspiring to steal exosome-related trade secrets concerning the research, identification and treatment of a range of pediatric medical conditions. Li Chen, 47, also conspired to commit wire fraud. Chen admitted in her guilty plea in July 2020 to stealing scientific trade secrets related to exosomes and exosome isolation from Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s Research Institute for her own personal financial gain.
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