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Northern New England Representatives Urge Reopening of the US-Canada Border



CONCORD, NH (AP) – U.S. representatives from northern New England are urging the Department of Homeland Security to safely reopen the U.S.-Canada border, noting that Canadian tourists are vital contributors to the region’s economy.

Canadian tourists spent an average of $ 19 billion in the United States, with $ 500 million in northern New England, the Democrats wrote in the letter dated Thursday to Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

Governor Chris Sununu said Thursday at his weekly press conference that he expected this year’s Laconia Motorcycle Week to be well attended, but without the usual strong performance from Canada. The event starts this weekend.

The representatives’ letter also noted that 298 Canadian-owned businesses employ 17,000 northern New Englanders.

“Allowing vaccinated individuals to cross the land border for business travel will stimulate the US and Canadian economies by reducing a significant barrier to business operations,” said the letter led by US Representative Annie Kuster of New Hampshire.

Joining Kuster in the letter were US Representatives Peter Welch from Vermont, Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden from Maine, and Chris Pappas from New Hampshire.

The border has been closed to non-essential travel since March 21, 2020.


Belgium: the body of a far-right fugitive soldier apparently found



PARIS (AP) – Belgian police said the body of a far-right fugitive soldier who was the subject of massive persecution was found on Sunday.

Hundreds of security forces scoured a swath of northeastern Belgium after the May 17 disappearance of Jurgen Conings, who was on a counterterrorism watch list, had threatened a top virologist involved in the country’s COVID-19 program and he had accumulated heavy weaponry.

A body was found Sunday by people walking through the woods near the town of Dilsen-Stockem. Initial evidence indicates that it is Conings and that he committed suicide, but further examinations are underway, Belgian federal police said in a statement.

Conings, 46, had hidden anti-tank missile launchers and other heavy weapons in an army barracks before disappearing. He had threatened several people in recent months, including the virologist, and made it onto the federal counter-terrorism watch list in February.

Conings had a three-decade career under his belt as a skilled marksman before he began making threats and racist comments on Facebook. Disciplinary sanctions were imposed on him, but he was still allowed to work with weapons.

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New leaders, new era: US-Israel relations reach a crossroads



WASHINGTON (AP) – Their countries at a crossroads, the new leaders of the United States and Israel have inherited a relationship that is both threatened by increasingly partisan internal political considerations and deeply tied to history and a deep-rooted recognition that they are they need each other.

How President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett Managing that relationship will shape the prospects for peace and stability in the Middle East.

They are ushering in an era that is no longer defined by the powerful personality of Prime Minister Benjamin Netayahu, who repeatedly challenged the Obama administration and then reaped the rewards of a warm relationship with President Donald Trump.

The Bennett administration says it wants to repair relations with Democrats and restore bipartisan support in the United States for Israel. Biden, meanwhile, is pursuing a more balanced approach to the Palestinian conflict other Iran.

The relationship is essential for both countries. Israel has long viewed the United States as its closest ally and guarantor of its security and international standing, while the United States relies on Israel’s military and intelligence prowess in a turbulent Middle East.

But both Biden and Bennett are also constrained by domestic politics.

Bennett leads an uncertain coalition of eight parties from across Israel’s political spectrum whose main convergence point was removing Netanyahu from power after 12 years. Biden is struggling to close the gap in his party, where almost uniform support for Israel has eroded and a progressive wing wants the United States to do more to end Israel’s half-century occupation of land than the Palestinians. they want for a future state.

Shortly after taking office, the new Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid recognized the challenges facing Israel in Washington.

“We find a White House, a Senate and a House Democrats and they are angry,” Lapid said upon taking over the Israeli Foreign Ministry a week ago. “We need to change the way we work with them.”

A key test will be in Iran. Biden has tried to revert to the Iran nuclear deal that President Barack Obama saw as a signature foreign policy achievement. Trump withdrew from the pact to the applause of pro-Israel and pro-Israel US lawmakers. Although Iran has yet to accept Biden’s offer for direct negotiations, indirect discussions on the nuclear deal are now in a sixth round in Vienna.

The new Israeli government remains staunchly opposed to Biden’s efforts to resuscitate the agreement. But he maintains that he will discuss the issue behind closed doors rather than stage public confrontations, such as Netanyahu’s controversial speech in which he criticized the agreement before the US Congress in 2015.

In a conversation with Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday, Lapid said the two agreed on a policy of “no surprises” and keeping the lines of communication open.

Eytan Gilboa, an expert on US-Israel relations at Israel’s Bar-Ilan University, says that instead of trying to thwart any deal with Iran, the new government will pressure the US administration to maintain some sanctions against Iran and seek a “strategic trade-off”. “For Israel as part of any return to the deal.

Resolving differences over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be another major challenge for the two leaders.

Biden has already moved to reverse Trump’s Netanyahu-backed policies that alienated Palestinians and caused a near-total breakdown in official US-Palestinian contacts. Almost immediately after taking office, Biden restored US assistance to the Palestinians cut by Trump, which in just four months totals more than $ 300 million. He announced his administration’s intention to reopen the US consulate in Jerusalem, closed by Trump, which handled relations with the Palestinians. And administration officials have spoken of the imperative that Israelis and Palestinians enjoy the same security and prosperity measures.

However, neither Biden nor Blinken have signaled any moves to alter Trump’s most important pro-Israel steps. These include its abandonment of the long-standing US policy that settlements are illegitimate under international law, its recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and its recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, territory seized from Syria in the Arab-Israeli War of 1967. The administration also hopes to expand the Arab-Israeli normalization agreements that the Trump administration forged in his final months in office.

In a call on Bennett’s first day in office, Biden affirmed his “strong support for the US-Israel relationship” and “unwavering commitment to the security of Israel.” He vowed to work together on all security matters, including Iran.

Biden’s support for Israel’s heavy airstrikes during last month’s war with militant Hamas rulers in Gaza, which fired thousands of rockets at Israel, angered progressive Democrats in Congress. With a new strength in the numbers, they are demanding that the administration do more to support the Palestinians and that conditions be set for the enormous amount of military aid that the United States provides to Israel.

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While well-established Democratic lawmakers continue to tirelessly support Israel and its absolute right to defend itself, the growing number of progressive voices in their group have made the issue a hot political potato. The change in the government of Israel is unlikely to ease their calls to action as Israeli-Palestinian violence has continued In recent days.

However, the Biden administration has already urged the new Israeli government to ease tensions with the Palestinians. In two phone conversations with Lapid over the past week, Blinken has spoken of “the need to improve Israeli-Palestinian relations in practical ways” and vowed to deepen Israeli-Arab ties.

It is unclear if the new government will respond.

Centrist members like Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz clearly want to take a more cooperative approach with the Biden administration, while Bennett and his right-wing partners face pressure from their base to maintain Netanyahu’s hard-line approach, not just in Iran but in the conflict with the Palestinians.

The former prime minister, who is already thinking about returning to office, has called Bennett weak and inexperienced, and will likely pounce on any perceived capitulation.

The Israeli government is already faced with tough decisions, such as whether to evacuate an unauthorized settlement established last month and whether to intervene in the legal process through which settler organizations are trying to evict dozens of Palestinian families from their homes in the east of Jerusalem.

The Biden administration is pressing Israel to refrain from taking unilateral measures, such as settlement expansion or evictions, that could hamper the eventual revival of the peace process, which has been moribund for more than a decade. But Washington has yet to issue public condemnations of the settlement activity beyond blanket calls for both sides to refrain from taking unilateral measures that could inflame tensions or damage prospects for an eventual peace deal.

Bennett is a staunch supporter of settlements and opposes the Palestinian state, but is also seen by many as a pragmatist. He may be able to turn his weakness into a strength, arguing that any major concessions, to the Palestinians or the settlers, risk toppling the government and returning Netanyahu to power.

“The forces that brought this coalition to power are strong enough in my judgment to sustain pressure from the right and probably also US pressure to make a major policy shift toward the Palestinians,” Gilboa said.


Krauss reported from Jerusalem.

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Israel arrests Arab suspects in murder of Jewish man



JERUSALEM (AP) – Israeli police said Sunday they arrested eight Arabs suspected of killing an Israeli Jew during a wave of ethnic violence last month.

Yigal Yehoshua, 56, died after being stoned during clashes between Arabs and Jews in the mixed city of Lod.

Palestinian protesters and Israeli police in Jerusalem clashed every night during the holy month of Ramadan in April and May over restrictions on public gatherings and attempts by settlers to evict dozens of Palestinian families. The clashes spread to a holy site in Jerusalem, sparking mob violence in Israel’s mixed cities and an 11-day war in Gaza.

In Lod and other mixed citiesGroups of Jews and Arabs fought each other and rampaged through neighborhoods, setting cars and shops ablaze, and attacking anyone on the other side who crossed their path.

Israel’s Shin Bet police and security agency said six Arab residents of Lod and two Palestinians from the West Bank were arrested on suspicion of throwing stones at Yehoshua’s car. He died of his injuries several days later, on May 17, and his kidney was donated to an Arab woman.

Israeli prosecutors plan to charge seven of the murder suspects.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett congratulated the security forces. “Every enemy and terrorist who tries to harm us must know: the state of Israel will lay its hands on all evildoers sooner or later and bring them to justice,” he said in a statement.

Arab citizens of Israel make up about 20% of the population. They have citizenship and the right to vote but face widespread discrimination. They have close family ties to the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza and strongly identify with their cause, leading many Israeli Jews to view them with suspicion.

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Afghan Sons of Norway | Close up



A Norwegian mother creates a home for frightened Afghan children who arrive alone seeking safety.

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Israel orders investigation into deadly Mount Meron stampede | Middle East News



The April stampede killed 45 people at a Jewish pilgrimage site long considered dangerous by authorities.

Israel’s new government approved an official investigation into a stampede in April that killed 45 people and injured dozens at a Jewish pilgrimage site long considered dangerously crowded by authorities.

Although it was the worst civil disaster in the country, a large-scale investigation into the Mount Meron deaths lagged behind under the previous government amid a dispute between its ultra-Orthodox Jews and opposition politicians.

“The responsibility to learn the lessons and prevent the next disaster is on our shoulders,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said at his first cabinet meeting on Sunday.

“A commission cannot bring back those who have passed away, but the government can do everything possible to avoid unnecessary loss of life in the future.”

A cabinet statement said the investigation’s findings would help safeguard other mass attendance events in Israel, which has sites sacred to Islam and Christianity, as well as Judaism.

Authorities deemed the Mount Meron site dangerous years ago. [File: Reuters]

Tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews flocked to the Galilean hillside tomb of 2nd century wise Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai on April 30 for the annual Lag B’Omer festival that includes all-night prayer, mystical songs and dancing .

This year’s figures were lower than in previous years, but still beyond those allowed by COVID-19 sidewalks.

Some Israelis questioned whether Benjamin Netanyahu’s previous government and the police were reluctant to further limit the size of the crowd due to pressure from influential ultra-Orthodox leaders.

During the ceremony, part of the crowd entered a narrow tunnel and the 45 men and boys were suffocated or trampled.

Police are already conducting an investigation and Israel’s government watchdog, which years ago deemed the Mount Meron site dangerous, has announced its own investigation, although it cannot press criminal charges.

Netanyahu had promised a thorough investigation, but his cabinet, which included ultra-Orthodox Jewish ministers, never took formal action and major hostilities between Israel and Palestinian groups in Gaza erupted less than two weeks later.

Bennett is a religious observer, but his broad coalition does not include ultra-Orthodox parties. In his cabinet statements, he said that Meron attracts Jews “from all walks of life,” an allusion to denominations other than the ultra-Orthodox.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who pushed for the investigation to be carried out, said its findings would carry “heavy weight” and could not be ignored.

The commission of inquiry, headed by a judge, will have a budget of 6 million shekels ($ 1.8 million), the government said.

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Jordan’s unprecedented palace drama moves to the courtroom



AMMAN, Jordan (AP) – Jordan’s version of a century-old trial begins this week when a relative of King Abdullah II and a former head of the royal court are brought into the defendants’ cage at the state security court. to face charges. of sedition and incitement.

They are accused of conspiring with a member of the greater royalty, Prince Hamzah, the king’s half-brother, to foment riots against the monarch while requesting foreign aid.

The palace drama broke out in the open air in early April, when Hamzah was placed under house arrest. Since then, he has broken taboos in Jordan and sparked nervousness in foreign capitals, with Western powers backing Abdullah, an indispensable ally in an unstable region.

The case exposed rivalries in Jordan’s traditionally low-key Hashemite dynasty and generated unprecedented public criticism against the monarch. The defendants are the top figures in the establishment who appeared before the security court, which generally goes after drug offenders or suspected militants.

“As far as I know, there has not been such a big case in Jordan’s history,” said defense attorney Ala Khasawneh. He said the trial could start on Monday.

Hamzah, 41, is the central figure, although he does not face charges. In conflicting narratives, he is a defender of ordinary Jordanians suffering from economic mismanagement and corruption, or a disgruntled royal who never forgave Abdullah for stripping him of his crown prince title in 2004 in favor of the king’s eldest son.

The indictment, leaked to state-linked media, alleges that Hamzah “was determined to achieve his personal ambition” to become king. It says the prince and the defendants, Sharif Hassan bin Zaid, a royal, and Bassem Awadallah, a former royal adviser, conspired to generate discontent.

Security agencies began monitoring them in mid-March, at a time of public uproar over an oxygen cut at a hospital in Salt City that killed eight coronavirus patients.

Hamzah met with grieving families shortly after the king visited Salt. The indictment alleged that the prince “took advantage” of the families’ pain to spread a populist message.

Hamzah’s popularity stems from the ties he has forged with the tribes of Jordan, the base of the Hashemite government. Atef Majali, a tribal leader in the city of Karak, said that he and other sheikhs have met with the prince more than a dozen times over the years, but denied that the king has been criticized for these events.

The indictment alleged that Hamzah and the two defendants were working on the social media messages that the prince was going to post, with the aim of “inciting some groups in society against the ruling system and state agencies.”

Hamzah has denied the sedition allegations, saying he is being punished for exposing corruption and mismanagement.

On April 3, the day he was placed under house arrest, more than a dozen tribal and public figures were arrested, including his top aide. Only Awadallah and bin Zaid remain in detention.

The prince has no legal problems, and the king says the matter is being resolved by the family and that his half brother remains in his care. The royal court has declined to comment when asked if Hamzah can leave his Amman palace or communicate with others. Atef Majali said that Hamzah’s staff were not allowed to return to work.

Khasawneh, who represents bin Zaid, a distant cousin of the king, said his client is “in shock” and plans to plead not guilty. In addition to sedition and incitement, Bin Zaid is also charged with possession of narcotics after two pieces of hashish were allegedly found in his home.

The lawyer said he plans to call Hamzah to the stand, potentially amplifying the sensational nature of the trial. It is unclear whether the palace, eager to quell the crisis, would allow the prince to make his case on such a public stage.

Khasawneh said his client plans to fight the charges and dismissed questions about a possible plea deal. During the trials in the security courts, the defendants stood in a cage in the courtroom. Awadallah and bin Zaid are also expected to be confined in the cage, wearing the detainees’ blue uniforms, said former head of the state security court Mohammad al-Afeef, who represents Awadallah. The defendants, who are being held in an intelligence compound in Amman, face up to 20 years in prison.

In the days leading up to the trial, a broader narrative has emerged, although it is only mentioned in the indictment.

In this version, the alleged conspirators sought foreign help to exploit the king’s perceived vulnerability at a time when he was under pressure from the United States and Saudi Arabia to agree to a Middle East plan of the now-defunct Trump administration often referred to as the deal of the century. Jordan has expressed concern that the plan will weaken the monarch’s historic role as guardian of the Al Aqsa Mosque, an important shrine in disputed Jerusalem and a pillar of Hashemite claims of legitimacy.

Accusations of overseas disclosure center on Awadallah, who has Jordanian, American and Saudi citizenship, once served as the king’s official envoy to Saudi Arabia and has close ties to Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. .

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In Jordan, Awadallah has been widely accused of economic policies that are seen to primarily benefit the wealthy and has been prosecuted on suspicions of corruption. In Riyadh, he had been visibly involved in efforts to attract foreign investment.

The indictment alleges that Hamzah and bin Zaid invited Awadallah to join them because of his ties to abroad. At one point, Hamzah allegedly asked Awadallah: “If something happened to me in Jordan, will Saudi officials help me or not?”

Saudi Arabia, a major financial backer of Jordan, immediately sent its foreign minister to the kingdom after the crisis broke out, publicly reaffirming its support for the king.

Mohammed Momani, a member of the Jordanian Senate and former Minister of Information, argued that there was a link between the alleged sedition plot and regional politics.

“When he sees that Jordan is under pressure from his main allies because of the Deal of the Century, then he probably saw this as an opening or as a possibility or opportunity to request some support from the outside world,” alleged Momani, who said he was briefed on the investigation.

Momani alleged that bin Zaid had approached a foreign embassy, ​​”trying to ask them for their reaction” if the alleged conspirators implemented their plan. He did not identify the embassy.

Jordanian officials have said the alleged plot was discovered in time, but posed a threat to stability.

Critics said claims of a threat appear exaggerated, noting that any plot would have required the backing of security forces.

“I can’t find any evidence that leads to this kind of trial,” said political analyst Amer Sabaileh. He and Momani are among 92 members of a political reform committee formed by the king to deal with the crisis.

Sabaileh said the saga may have caused lasting damage.

“It has opened the door for the Hashemites for ordinary people to look inward, and I think this is not good regardless of how it happened,” he said. “It is better for this family to be together and not show that there is this kind of competition or sense of revenge.”


Associated Press writers Omar Akour in Amman and Aya Batrawy in Dubai, United Arab Emirates contributed.

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AP Interview: Former President Says US Failed in Afghanistan



KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) – The former president of Afghanistan said Sunday that the United States came to his country to fight extremism and bring stability to his war-tortured nation and that he will leave nearly 20 years after failing both. .

In an interview with The Associated Press just weeks before the last US and NATO troops left Afghanistan, ending their “eternal war,” Hamid Karzai said that extremism is at a “peak” and that troops that leave are leaving behind a disaster.

“The international community came here 20 years ago with this clear goal of fighting extremism and bringing stability … but extremism is at an all-time high today. So they have failed, ”he said.

His legacy is a war-torn nation in “utter disgrace and disaster.”

“We acknowledge all our failures as Afghans, but what about the greater forces and powers that came here for exactly that purpose? Where do they leave us now? “He asked and replied,” In total disgrace and disaster. “

Still, Karzai, who had a troubled relationship with the United States during his 13-year tenure, wanted the troops to leave, saying the Afghans were united behind an overwhelming desire for peace and now needed to take responsibility for their future. .

“We will be better off without their military presence,” he said. “I think we should defend our own country and take care of our own lives. … His presence (has given us) what we have now. … We do not want to continue with this misery and indignity that we face. It is better for Afghanistan that they leave. “

The Karzai government followed the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001 by a US-led coalition that launched its invasion to hunt down and destroy the Al Qaeda network and its leader, Osama bin Laden, accused of the September 11 attacks on the United States. .

During the Karzai government, women re-emerged, girls again attended school, a young and vibrant civil society emerged, new skyscrapers were erected in the capital Kabul, and roads and infrastructure were built. But his administration was also characterized by accusations of widespread corruption, a burgeoning drug trade, and in recent years relentless disputes with Washington that continue to this day.

“The (US / NATO military) campaign was not against extremism or terrorism, the campaign was more against Afghan villages and hopes; put Afghans in prisons, create prisons in our own country … and bomb every village. That was very bad. “

In April, when President Joe Biden announced the final withdrawal of the remaining 2,500-3,500 soldiers, he said the United States was leaving having achieved its objectives. Al-Qaeda had declined enormously and bin Laden was dead. The United States no longer needed boots on the ground to fight terror threats that could emanate from Afghanistan, he said.

Still, America’s attempts to bring about a political end to decades of war have been elusive. It signed an agreement with the Taliban in February 2020 to withdraw its troops in exchange for a promise from the Taliban to denounce terrorist groups and prevent Afghanistan from being the scene of attacks against the United States again.

There is little evidence that the Taliban are honoring their end of the bargain. The United Nations claims that the Taliban and al-Qaida are still linked. The architect of the US agreement and current US peace envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, says some progress has been made, but without offering details.

Karzai has spoken harshly and uncompromisingly criticized America’s tactics of war for the past two decades in Afghanistan. Yet it has become something of a linchpin in a joint effort being launched by the United States and Britain to get Kabul’s rowdy Afghan leaders together enough to talk peace with the Taliban. The insurgent group has shown little interest in negotiating and has instead intensified its attacks on government positions.

The Taliban have made considerable progress since the May 1 start of the US and NATO withdrawal. They have invaded dozens of districts, often negotiating their surrender with Afghan national security forces.

But in many cases the fighting has been intense. Last week, a brutal Taliban assault in the northern province of Faryab killed 22 of Afghanistan’s elite commandos, led by a local hero, Colonel Sohrab Azimi, who was also killed and greatly lamented.

“The desire of the Afghan people, overwhelmingly, throughout the country is peace,” said Karzai, who despite being out of power since 2014 has lost little political influence and is often at the center of the country’s political machinations. .

Diplomats, Western officials, generals, tribal elders and politicians from all ends of Afghanistan’s political spectrum regularly make their way to the Karzai gate in the heart of the Afghan capital.

Given that the final military withdrawal is already more than 50% complete, the need for a political settlement or even a visible path to a final settlement seems to be taking on greater urgency even as thousands of Afghans seek a way out. They say they are frustrated by relentless corruption, marauding criminal gangs, some linked to powerful warlords in Kabul, and worsening insecurity and few see a future that is not violent.

Karzai had a message for both parties to the conflict: “The two Afghan parties, neither of them should be fighting. “While accusing both Pakistan, where the Taliban leadership is based, and the United States of stoking the fighting, Karzai said it is up to the Afghans to end decades of war.

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Charging …Charging …Charging …Charging …Charging …

“The only answer is for the Afghans to unite. … We must recognize that this is our country and we must stop killing ourselves. “


Follow Kathy Gannon on Twitter at

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