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A federal judge has temporarily blocked a Florida law that prevents cruise lines from requiring passengers to prove they’re vaccinated against COVID-19, saying the law appears unconstitutional and won’t likely hold up in court.

The “vaccine passport” ban signed into law in May by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis fails to protect medical privacy or prevent discrimination against unvaccinated people, but it does appear to violate the First Amendment rights of Norwegian Cruise Lines, U.S. District Judge Kathleen Williams wrote.

In a nearly 60-page ruling issued late Sunday, the judge said Florida failed to “provide a valid evidentiary, factual, or legal predicate” for banning requirements that passengers prove they’ve been vaccinated. Norwegian has shown that suspending the requirement will jeopardize public health, potentially causing “super-spreader” events wherever passengers disembark, she wrote.

Florida separately sued the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention seeking to block federal cruise ship vaccination requirements. The CDC lost on appeal, but then made its guidelines non-binding, and all cruise lines operating in Florida have agreed to keep following the CDC’s instructions on a voluntary basis, the judge wrote.

The CDC’s current guidelines, in effect until Nov. 1, say cruise lines can sail again with confirmation that at least 95 percent of passengers and crew have been vaccinated, the judge noted.

The plaintiffs are Surgeon General Scott Rivkees and the Florida Department of Health. The state’s attorney, Pete Patterson, previously said the law’s aim is to prevent invasions of privacy and discrimination against passengers who don’t get vaccinated.

DeSantis spokeswoman Christina Pushaw said the state will appeal Williams’ ruling. “A prohibition on vaccine passports does not even implicate, let alone violate, anyone’s speech rights, and it furthers the substantial, local interest of preventing discrimination among customers based on private health information,” the statement said.

The pandemic has cost Norwegian more than $6 billion to date by forcing the company to dock its entire 28-vessel fleet and send nearly 30,000 crew members home. Each canceled seven-day voyage would cost the company another $4 million, the judge noted.

The Norwegian Gem is set to depart from Miami on Sunday — the company’s first voyage from Florida since the pandemic halted its operations. More than 1,200 passengers have already booked tickets, promising to prove they’ve been vaccinated before boarding, the judge noted.


Armenia’s Constitutional Court on Saturday rejected an appeal challenging the results of the country’s snap parliamentary election.

The court’s verdict upheld the victory of acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s party in last month’s vote.

The June 20 election gave 71 parliament seats to Pashinyan’s party, while 29 went to a bloc headed by former President Robert Kocharyan. A different bloc led by another former president, Serzh Sargsyan, won seven seats.

Those blocs and two smaller parties appealed the election results, arguing to the Constitutional Court that they should be declared invalid because of alleged voting violations. Representatives of the losing blocs alleged Saturday that the court made its ruling under political pressure.

Pashinyan called the early election after months of protests demanding his resignation because of a November peace deal he signed to end six weeks of fighting with Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

The peace agreement saw Azerbaijan reclaim control over large parts of Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding areas that had been held by Armenian forces for more than a quarter-century. Protesters in Armenia denounced the deal as a betrayal of national interests,

Pashinyan stepped down as prime minister, as required by law to hold the election, but has remained in charge as the country’s acting leader. He stands to be formally appointed to the job by the newly elected parliament once it convenes.


Slovakia’s Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed a lower court’s acquittal of a businessman accused of masterminding the 2018 slayings of an investigative journalist and his fiancée.

A three-judge panel of the Supreme Court said the criminal court did not properly assess available evidence when it cleared businessman Marian Kocner and one co-defendant of murder in the killings of journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancée, Martina Kusnirova, both 27.

The judges said the Specialized Criminal Court in Pezinok evaluated the evidence without applying “elementary logic” in some instances and failed to consider it at all in others. They sent the case back to the lower court and ordered it to deal with all the objections. A date for the retrial has not been set.

“The suffering of the parents and dear ones of Jan Kuciak and Martina Kusnirova is not over ye,t but they’re a step closer to justice,” Slovakian President Zuzana Caputova said after the panel issued its ruling..

Kusnirova’s mother, Zlatica Kusnirova, said, “I have mixed feelings, but I’m glad that justice won.”

A Specialized Criminal Court judge said when the acquittals were handed down in September that there was not enough evidence for the convictions. A third defendant was convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison. Within hours, prosecutors appealed the verdicts to the country’s Supreme Court.

Kuciak was shot in the chest and Kusnirova was shot in the head at their home in the town of Velka Maca, east of Bratislava, on Feb. 21, 2018. Kocner had allegedly threatened the journalist following publication of a story about his business dealings. In total, Kuciak published nine stories about the businessman.

Kuciak filed a complaint over the alleged threats in 2017 and had claimed that police failed to act on it. He had been investigating possible government corruption when he was killed.


The Swiss bank Julius Baer agreed to pay nearly $80 million in fines and penalties for its role in illegal payments involving FIFA and the South American governing body CONMEBOL.

The bank will pay a $43.32 million fine plus $36,368,400 in restitution -- matching the total of the illegal payments -- for a total of $79,688,400, according to a plea agreement read into the record Thursday by U.S. District Judge Pamela K. Chen. The money is due within 10 days of the formal filing of the agreement later Thursday, Chen said.

Christoph Hiestand, Julius Baer’s Zurich-based group general counsel, appeared during a telephone hearing held at federal court in Brooklyn and said the bank’s board of directors and managing directors approved a resolution to have Julius Baer cooperate with U.S. prosecutors. The bank entered into a 42-month deferred prosecution agreement.

The bank said in November it was setting aside $79.7 million for an expected payment in the case. Julius Baer has cooperated with the prosecution since charges in the soccer case were first unsealed in 2015.

Jorge Arzuaga, a former Julius Baer banker, pleaded guilty before Chen on June 15, 2017, to one count of money laundering conspiracy and forfeited $1,046,000 to the U.S. and Swiss governments.

Julius Baer also was penalized in February 2020 by the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) for failing a duty to combat money laundering, including in its ties to FIFA officials.

Julius Baer, founded in 1890, admitted it transported, transmitted and transferred funds from February 2013 to May 2015 that it knew represented proceeds of unlawful activity and the transactions were designed in whole or in part to conceal ownership.

Julius Baer waived the right to object to the jurisdiction of the case in Brooklyn federal court and also waived the right to attempt to suppress any evidence. The bank also agreed to enhance its corporate compliance program.

The fine would be have been $45.6 million but was reduced 5% as part of the plea agreement.

More than 40 soccer and marketing officials and agencies have been convicted, entered guilty pleas, or been indicted. Some await sentencing or have yet to be extradited to the U.S.


Brazil’s Federal Police on Wednesday carried out searches to investigate whether Environment Minister Ricardo Salles and other key figures within the ministry facilitated illegal timber exports to the U.S. and Europe.

The Supreme Court authorized the search of nearly three dozen locations in Sao Paulo state, the Amazonian state of Para and Brazil’s federal district, according to a police statement.

The operation stems from a decision of the court’s Justice Alexandre de Moraes, who ordered the investigation of 10 officials at the ministry and the regulatory agency.

Nine of them were preventatively suspended from working, including agency President Eduardo Bim — but not Salles — according to a copy of de Moraes’ May 13 decision made public on Wednesday. He wrote that there appeared to be a contraband scheme with Salles’ involvement.

Local media G1 reported Salles told reporters in capital Brasilia that he understood the police operation to be overblown and unnecessary, and said his ministry always acts in accordance with laws. The ministry and regulator didn’t respond to requests for comment from The Associated Press.

The justice’s decision alleged that officials issued several certificates retroactively authorizing specific timber shipments after their seizure abroad and that subsequently, in February 2020, Salles and Bim met with lumber companies and lawmakers about exports from Para state.

Bim soon issued an order retroactively loosening requirements for “thousands of loads exported between 2019 and 2020 without respective documentaion,” de Moraes wrote. The judge’s decision also suspended Bim’s order.



At the World Economic Forum (WEF), the “Global Sustainable Management Companies List” was also released this year. Canadian Investment Research and Media Group Corporate Knights selects the top 100 global companies to rank for carbon and waste reduction, gender and diversity of leaders, profits from clean products, and the company’s overall sustainability. The No. 1 company this year is Chr. Hansen Holding A/S, which uses natural bacteria to protect crops and develops and uses natural solutions for animal protection. Second place is Kering SA, a French company that owns brands such as fashion brands Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent, and Alexander McQueen.



A Polish court on Monday ordered a record high compensation of nearly 13 million zlotys ($3.4 million) to a man who had spent 18 years in prison for a rape and murder of a teenager he didn't commit.

Tomasz Komenda's case has shocked Poland, and the right-wing government highlighted it as an example of why it says the justice system needs the deep changes it has been implementing.

Komenda, now in his mid-40s was arrested in 2000 over a 1997 rape and murder of a 15-year-old girl at a New Year's village disco party. He was initially handed a 15-year prison term, which was later increased to 25 years, despite him protesting his innocence.

As a result of family efforts, the prosecutors reviewed the case and came to the conclusion that he couldn't have committed the crime. Komenda was cleared after DNA tests, among other factors, showed that he wasn't involved.

Komenda was acquitted of all charges and released in 2018, having wrongfully served 18 years of his term. He had been seeking 19 million zlotys ($5 million) in damages and in compensation.

A court in Opole ruled Monday that he should receive most of that amount — the highest ever compensation awarded in Poland. The verdict is subject to appeal.

Two other men have been convicted and handed 25-year prison terms in the 1997 case. Komenda's story was told in 2020 Polish movie “25 Years of Innocence. The Case of Tomek Komenda.”

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