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Tropical Storm Andrés forms in the Pacific off southwest Mexico

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MEXICO CITY – Tropical Storm Andrés formed off the southwest coast of Mexico on Sunday, the first named storm in the eastern Pacific hurricane system.

The US National Hurricane Center said Andres is unlikely to pose a threat to land, predicting that he will stay well out to sea and head out into the open Pacific.

By mid-afternoon, the storm centered about 620 miles (1,000 kilometers) south of the southern tip of Mexico’s Baja California peninsula. It had maximum sustained winds of 65 kph (40 mph).

Forecasters said the storm was expected to weaken to a remnant low by Tuesday.

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‘Lower My Bills’: Proven $ 500 Payments in Upstate New York

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Annette Steele is not homeless or unemployed. But for one year, you’ll receive $ 500 a month in no-obligation payments as part of an experimental universal basic income program in upstate New York.

Places from Compton, California to Richmond, Virginia, are testing guaranteed income programs, which garnered more attention after the pandemic idled millions of workers.

Steele, a special education school aide, is paid through a program in Ulster County, which covers parts of the Catskill Mountains and the Hudson River Valley.

During the pilot program, funded by private donations, 100 county residents making less than $ 46,900 a year will receive $ 500 a month for one year. The income threshold was based on 80% of the county median income, which means that it includes both the poor and a portion of the middle class, people who face financial stress but do not normally qualify for government assistance. based on income.

For researchers, the pilot could give them a more complete picture of what happens when payments are sent to a variety of people who guarantee a basic life.

For Steele, 57, it’s a welcome financial boost that helped her pay for car insurance and groceries.

“Lower my bills,” said Steele, who lives in the town of Ellenville with her retired husband. “People think that because you have worked so many years, you earn this huge amount of money. But no, actually. “

Less than 100 miles (160 kilometers) north of New York City, Ulster County is a popular destination for weekends heading to Woodstock or the Catskill Mountains. Its big city, Kingston, is small, with 23,000 residents.

Basic income programs elsewhere tend to focus on cities. In contrast, this upstate program spans a mix of locations: a city, small towns, and remote areas, many miles from bus lines and supermarkets.

“To show that this approach will work not only in urban areas, but also in rural areas of the country, which we know is one of our great national problems, I think there is a great opportunity there,” said Patrick Ryan, County Executive. Ulster.

Ryan saw the cash payments as a way to help local families struggling to get ahead, or even get ahead, as the pandemic subsides. Many people in the county were already burdened by housing costs before the pandemic, when a large influx of New York City residents sent home prices skyrocketing, he said.

The first payments were made in mid-May. Recipients of the money can spend it however they wish, but will be asked to participate in regular surveys on their physical health, mental health, and employment status.

The University of Pennsylvania Guaranteed Income Research Center, which the school formed with mayors for a guaranteed income, is evaluating the pilot program.

Recipient Eric Luna, a 26-year-old electrical lab technician, said the money will help pay the bills for the house he recently helped his parents shop at Wallkill. But he also hopes to reserve something, possibly for a master’s degree.

“I’m also learning how to save money,” he said. “So this will be a learning experience.”

There were more than 4,200 applicants for the program in a county of 178,000 people. Co-founder of the Guaranteed Income Research Center, Stacia West, who is evaluating more than 20 such pilots, is interested in seeing how spending compares to cities like Stockton, California, where more than a third went to food. .

“Knowing what we know about barriers to employment, especially in rural areas, we may see more money going into transportation than we have seen before in any other experiment,” said West, also a professor in the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Tennessee. Works. “But it remains to be seen.”

Proponents of guaranteed income say beneficiaries can decide how best to spend the money, whether it’s on food, job hunting or to replace a refrigerator. The money can supplement the existing social safety net, they say, or it can be used as an emergency response when the economy begins to sink.

The end goal for several advocates is a universal basic income, or UBI, that would distribute cash payment programs to all adults.

The RBU idea helped fuel a stronger-than-expected Democratic presidential primary race last year for Andrew Yang, who proposed $ 1,000 a month for every American adult.

Yang, who has a second home in Ulster County, is now running for mayor of New York City with a basic income proposal to help low-income residents.

Officials say Yang has not been involved in the Ulster program, but that the nonprofit he founded, Humanity Forward, was helpful in sharing experiences on starting a UBI pilot.

Critics of cash transfer programs worry about their effectiveness and cost compared to aid programs that allocate funds for food, shelter, or assistance in raising children.

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Drake University economics professor Heath Henderson worries that programs are losing sight of those most in need who are least likely to apply, including the homeless.

While there are times when people could benefit from a cash injection, the money is unlikely to address structural problems that are holding people back, such as inadequate health care and schools, he said.

“If we keep thinking about remedying poverty in terms of throwing cash at people, you’re not thinking about the structures that reproduce poverty in the first place and you’re not really solving the problem at all,” Henderson said.

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Israel launches official investigation into deadly festival stampede

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JERUSALEM (AP) – Israel’s government on Sunday approved the establishment of an independent state commission to investigate a deadly disaster at a Jewish holy site in April that left 45 people dead.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said the commission would investigate major security deficiencies that led to a deadly stampede at the Lag Baomer celebrations on Mount Meron.

It will be presided over by a current or former superior judge, and its members will be selected by the president of the country’s Supreme Court of Justice.

Some 100,000 people, mostly ultra-Orthodox Jews, gathered for the April 29 holiday festival in northern Israel despite coronavirus restrictions limiting outdoor gatherings to 500 people and long-standing warnings about the security of such meetings. The state comptroller’s office had previously issued a couple of reports in 2008 and 2011 warning that conditions at Mount Meron were dangerous.

Hundreds of people were funneled through a narrow passage that descended to the holy mountain site during the festival. A slippery slope caused people to trip and fall, precipitating a human avalanche that killed 45 people and injured at least 150.

Police have launched an investigation into the disaster but have yet to make any arrests.

The government said the commission would investigate the officials “who made the decisions that led to the approval of the event and determine the framework that was approved and its terms.”

Powerful ultra-Orthodox politicians reportedly lobbied Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other government officials to lift restrictions on attending the religious festival.

Experts had long warned that the Mount Meron complex was not adequately equipped to handle the huge crowds that flock there during spring break, and that the existing infrastructure was a security risk.

Netanyahu’s political allies, including ultra-Orthodox lawmakers, withdrew from a Knesset committee hearing that discussed forming an investigation last month. The families of the disaster victims, mostly ultra-Orthodox, had asked Netanyahu to take action and form an independent state commission to investigate the incident.

Bennett said at the beginning of the first cabinet meeting of his newly formed government that “the responsibility is on our shoulders to learn the lessons to prevent the coming disaster.”

“The commission cannot bring back those who died, but the government can do everything possible to avoid unnecessary loss in the future,” he said.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz, one of the ministers who advanced the motion to launch the commission, said in a statement: “We must ensure that a tragedy of this nature is never repeated. The purpose of the task force is, above all else, to save human lives. ”

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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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