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U.S. Congress freezes $200 million in aid to Palestinians

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Key US lawmakers are blocking about $200 million in Palestinian aid in response to the territories’ UN statehood bid, congressional aides said Saturday.

Members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee have frozen the funding “until the Palestinian statehood issue is sorted out,” one of the aides told AFP.

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The economic package is separate from security aid, which the US lawmakers say would be counterproductive to block. They fear that withholding those funds would weaken the ability of Palestinian security forces to quell anti-Israel violence.

A coalition of Israel-backing Democrats and conservative Republican lawmakers are angered by the Palestinian bid for United Nations membership. Both the United States and Israel insist that only direct negotiations can produce an accord leading to Palestinian statehood.

US lawmakers earlier warned against the Palestinian bid.

“There must be consequences for Palestinian and UN actions that undermine any hope for true and lasting peace,” Republican Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said on September 23.

Representative Nita Lowey, the top Democrat on the House panel that oversees foreign aid, warned that the annual $500 million in economic and security assistance to the Palestinian Authority (PA) was at risk.

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Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and the number-two House Democrat, Representative Steny Hoyer, have accused Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas of shunning direct peace talks in favor of “diplomatic warfare” against Israel.

“Congress will not sit idly by. The US will likely reconsider its assistance program for the PA and other aspects of US-Palestinian relations should the Palestinians choose to move forward in requesting a vote on statehood,” they said in a joint September 22 opinion article in the New York Daily News.


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There’s no respite from Trump’s vindictiveness and foolishness

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As we know, even in the midst of a national emergency, Donald Trump could find time and bandwidth to continue his retribution campaign.

He dismissed Michael Atkinson, the inspector general for the intelligence agencies, for doing “a terrible job,” satisfying his own thirst for vengeance for anyone who actually adhered to law and practice over blind loyalty to Trump himself. Indeed, asked about it the next day, Trump underscored his action by saying, Atkinson “was no Trump supporter, that I can tell you.”

It was an act that we once would have labeled corruption, by Democrats and Republicans – that is using the office for personal purposes – if Congress and too many Americans had not since become inured by so many like instances.

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This is how Taiwan and South Korea bucked the global lockdown trend

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As the coronavirus pandemic sparks global lockdowns, life has continued comparatively unhindered in places like Taiwan, South Korea and Hong Kong after their governments and citizens took decisive early action against the unfolding crisis.

At first glance Taiwan looks like an ideal candidate for the coronavirus. The island of 23 million lies just 180 kilometres (110 miles) off mainland China.

Yet nearly 100 days in, Taiwan has just 376 confirmed cases and five fatalities while restaurants, bars, schools, universities and offices remain open.

The government of President Tsai Ing-wen, whose deputy is an epidemiologist, made tough decisions while the crisis was nascent to stave off the kind of pain now convulsing much of the rest of the world.

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Republican ex-lawmaker with coronavirus scolds Wisconsin GOP for forcing voters to risk their health

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On CNN Tuesday, former Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA), who is himself dealing with a bout of COVID-19, chastised the Wisconsin GOP for doing everything in their power to block the state elections from being moved — and forcing many voters to stand in line and risk exposure to the virus to cast their ballot.

"I have to tell you, here in Pennsylvania we have a Democratic governor and Republican legislature," Dent told host Don Lemon. "They postponed the election here from April 28 until June 2. Without any controversy. Everybody agreed it was the right thing to do and they moved on. I'm surprised Wisconsin took this risk, knowing they don't have to."

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