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State Department seeks to unblock $450 million for Egypt

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WASHINGTON — The US State Department said Monday it would work with Congress to try to unblock some $450 million in economic aid for Egypt, after a lawmaker froze the funds.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland confirmed the US administration had asked Congress to free up the money in two tranches to support the government in Cairo.

But she said there were “concerns” about the plan amid rocky ties between the United States and Egypt, under its new Islamist leader, President Mohamed Morsi.

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“We’re obviously going to have to work with the Congress in the coming days and weeks to explain why we think this money is so essential at a time of almost 12 billion (dollars) in budget gap in Egypt,” Nuland told reporters.

“Why we think supporting the democratic trajectory of Egypt in a phased way is in US interests, because we obviously firmly do. And we will continue to work with the Congress on that.”

The money is part of a billion dollars in extra support pledged to Egypt by President Barack Obama last year. It is separate from $1.3 billion in military funding which Washington already provides to Cairo.

Republican congresswoman Kay Granger, who chairs the Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Relations, on Friday put a “hold” on the application, meaning it could be held up indefinitely.

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“This proposal comes to Congress at a point when the US-Egypt relationship has never been under more scrutiny, and rightly so,” Granger said in a statement.

“I am not convinced of the urgent need for this assistance and I cannot support it at this time.”


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Putin aims a weaponized barb at Trump over Saudi attack – and hits the mark

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Russian President Vladimir Putin joked this week about selling defense systems to Riyadh following weekend attacks on Saudi oil facilities. The gag was aimed at US President Donald Trump and it hit the mark with the precision of a guided weapon.

It was a masterful piece of trolling by the czar of trolls – a snide, disparaging jibe with an element of truth twisted into absurdity for maximum effect and laughs. At a joint press conference with his Turkish and Iranian counterparts in Ankara on Monday, Putin cast his bait into the volatile Persian Gulf region just days after devastating attacks on Saudi oil facilities exposed the limits of the Gulf kingdom’s expensive defense systems.

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Black carbon from air pollution found in placentas: study

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Black carbon particles typically emitted by vehicle exhaust and coal-fired power plants have been detected on the foetus-facing side of placentas, researchers said Tuesday.

The concentration of particles was highest in the placentas of women most exposed to airborn pollutants in their daily life, according to a study in Nature Communications.

"Our study provides compelling evidence for the presence of black carbon particles originating from air pollution in human placenta," the authors said.

The findings, they added, offer a "plausible explanation for the detrimental health effects of pollution from early life onwards."

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‘You’re a witness — act like it’: Congresswoman owns Lewandowski when he tries to filibuster

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Corey Lewandowski had a difficult time debating Democrats who treated him like a hostile witness in a Congressional hearing Tuesday. When he tried to go off on a tangent and complaint, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) wasn't having it.

"We’re seeing a pattern of the president doing anything and everything to hide his misconduct from Congress and from the American people," she said. "The president tried to get you to deliver a secret message to the attorney general, all in an attempt to prevent the special counsel from exposing the president’s own misconduct. As soon as the special counsel published his report and the president’s misconduct was exposed, the president tried to cover that up, too. Isn’t it true that the president has repeatedly tried to discredit your and other witnesses’ testimony to the special counsel in the published report?"

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