Palestinians Reject United States Threat

Ramallah, Jan 3 (Prensa Latina) The office of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas rejected the threat of US President Donald Trump to cut off financial aid to Palestinians if they do not resume negotiations with Israel.

According to Nabil Abu Rudeineh, the presidential spokesman, 'Jerusalem and its sacred places are not for sale, neither for gold nor silver.'

Peace and real negotiations must be based on Arab and international legitimacy and the Arab Peace Initiative that leads to the establishment of the independent Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital, the spokesman said.

If the United States has any concern for its interests in the Middle East, it must abide by the principles and resolutions of the Security Council and the General Assembly of the United Nations, otherwise, Washington will push the region to the abyss, Abu Rudeineh added.

The US government announced yesterday that it will cut funds to the Palestinians and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) as a means of pressure to resume peace talks with Israel.

Ramallah ended the negotiations on the matter after the US recognition, contrary to international law, of Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel.

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Trump Hits Democrats With No Solution to Dreamers Without the Wall

Washington, Dec 29 (Prensa Latina)US President Donald Trump threatened today lawmakers to veto any initiative on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, without first obtaining funds for his controversial border wall with Mexico.

The Democrats have been told, and fully understand, that there can be no DACA without the desperately needed wall on the southern border and the end of the horrible chain migration and the ridiculous Lottery Immigration System. We must protect our country at all costs!, wrote the President in his account of the social network Twitter.

The comments of the Head of the White House come after immigration activists and progressive groups threw strong criticism against the so-called "blue party" for not demanding legislative protection to the so-called "dreamers" in the newly proposed bill for temporarily financing the government.

The Democrats had promised not to leave Washington D.C. during the holidays at the end of the year, without achieving a deal in this regard.

We will not leave here without a solution for the DACA, said the leader of the minority in the House of Representatives and legislator for California, Nancy Pelosi, in early December.

Left-wing groups like Credo Mobile and Democracy For America criticized Pelosi and Senate minority leader Charles Schumer for failing to secure a clause in the bill to cover dreamers. Existing since June 2012, the DACA grants legal protection against the possibility of being deported, according to official sources, to some 800, 000 young people, the so-called ´dreamers´.

In addition, it allows those who arrived without documents to the United States when they were children to stay in their territory, and obtain work permits, renewable every two years, if they meet different requirements.

However, the US Government, through the Secretary of Justice, Jeff Sessions, announced the end of the DACA on September 5, which triggered several protests.

Afterwards, Trump granted Congress a six-month term to deal with the issue until March 5, but did not describe how he wants it to be done and left the determinations in the hands of senators and representatives.

The administration handed over to the legislative body on October 8 a long list of demands that must be fulfilled before reaching a pact on the dreamers, who have in their Democratic congressmen their biggest and constant defenders.

The Senate will address in January the situation of such young people, assured the Republican of the second highest rank of that entity, John Cornyn.

Since his election campaign, Trump insists on building a wall on the border with Mexico, one of his most controversial promises rejected by pro-immigrant activists and questioned by its very high costs and dubious utility to stop the entry of irregular immigrants.

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Trump: The Triumph of an Eventual Failure

A protest against the tax reform plan outside the Capitol in Washington DC, U.S. capital.

Miami Diario a website informed this Monday that the U.S. Congress approved "the largest cut of taxes in history", after giving the green light to the long expected tax reform.

The reform fueled by the president was passed after a last minute modification, due to an “error procedure” before its approval by the Senate.

The result of the voting was 224 republican votes in favor and 201 democrats against.

This way Republicans finished the largest tax cut in decades, said observers.

In a brief speech after the final vote, Trump remembered that he had promised a great cut of taxes for Christmas, something supposedly now fulfilled.

Next he pointed out: "I’d like to thank the members of the Congress who supported this historical bill that represents an extraordinary win for the families, the workers and the American companies”, in answer to the first integral tax reform in the United States since 1986.

The leader added: "By reducing taxes and reform the broken system, now we are pouring rocket fuel into the engine of our economy. The United States has won again, and we are growing like never before", and he rejoiced in his first legislative victory since his arrival to the White House.

Donald Trump thanked all those who made possible the passing of his tax reform, among them the republican Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell as well as Senator Susan Collins.

Paul Ryan, president of the House of Representatives in his speech eulogized the leader and he even qualified his leadership as "exquisite."

On the other hand, the leader of the Higher Chamber, Mitch McConnell praised the president and assured that “he has put an end to the excess of regulation of the American economy”.

What was approved reduces significantly the contributions to the tax office.

Among the most controversial aspects, the legislation also revokes the command of individual insurance required by the sanitary reform of the former President Barack Obama since 2019, and it allows the drilling in a part of the National Wild Life Refuge of the Arctic.

Trump who has been pressing the Republicans of the Congress for months to achieve his first victory in the Legislative after several failures that still echo in Washington, has fulfilled a great tributary reform before the end of the year.

To this end, nevertheless, among other machinations, the republicans have had to resort to an unorthodox legislative technique to get to pass a legal reform of such proportions, or block any kind of obstruction from the democrats in the Senate, where conservatives have a very tight majority.

The democrats have assured that this measure will "destroy the country" and they have warned the republicans that they will "regret" what they have passed.

Observers remember that among Trump’s catastrophic failures appear, his intention of eliminating the well-known sanitary program best known as (Obamacare), to block the entrance to the country to millions of Muslims, and the most recent Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), among others.

Based on polls, several sources remember that Trump’s administration is the less popular ever in the United States in the last decades.

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China: 'US Has No Right to Act as Human-Rights Judge'

"We urge the United States to impartially and objectively look upon China's human-rights development and to stop acting as a so-called human-rights judge," said China's Foreign Ministry. 

Chinese officials have slammed the U.S. Treasury Department for sanctioning public security official Gao Yan, insisting that the United States has no right to act as a "human-rights judge."

RELATED: China Releases Human Rights Report on US: 'Terrible Problems'

In March 2014, Yan was head of the Chaoyan Detention Center, in Beijing, where rights activist Cao Shunli was detained and interrogated, according to Reuters, before dying in hospital while in police custody.

Human-rights groups have said that Shunli was both tortured and prevented from receiving medical care before she died.

U.S. President Donald Trump has now issued an executive order targeting Yan, blocking the property of foreign nationals involved in human-rights abuses.

Four Russians, including the head of the republic of Chechnya, were also placed on the sanctions list known as the Magnitsky Act, a 2012 U.S. law which inters the bank assets of those targeted.

In response, China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said: "We urge the United States to impartially and objectively look upon China's human-rights development and to stop acting as a so-called human-rights judge." 

She went on to state that the Asian country's police maintain public safety according to Chinese laws and the United States should refrain from using its domestic jurisprudence to determine which foreign nationals should be sanctioned.

Beijing officials have often criticized Washington for scrutinizing China's human-rights record. Earlier this year, China's State Council released its own report, denouncing the United States for its "terrible human-rights problems."

"With the gunshots lingering in people's ears behind the Statue of Liberty, worsening racial discrimination and the election farce dominated by money politics, the self-proclaimed human-rights defender has exposed its human rights 'myth' with its own deeds," the report said.

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Palestine Slams US 'Blackmail,' Says Jerusalem Not 'For Sale'

The Palestinian Liberation Organization called President Trump’s threat to countries voting against his Jerusalem decision extortion and blackmail.

The Palestinian leadership responded Wednesday to the U.S. threat to cut aid to countries defying Washington’s decision to declare Jerusalem as Israel's capital saying such tactics of “extortion” would only isolate the United States globally.

RELATED: Abbas Says 'Crazy' Seeing US as Mediator, Turns East in Quest for Statehood

"President Trump should know that there are things that are not for sale or subject to blackmail, particularly issues of principle, legality and morality,”  Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, Executive Committee Member at the Palestinian Liberation Organization said in a statement posted on the group’s website.

“Extortion is the most effective way for the US to isolate itself even further and to weaken its influence and standing globally. We will not be deterred or intimidated.”

Ashrawi added that she was confident that most countries at the United Nations will honor their “legal and political obligations on Palestine" in the upcoming vote at the U.N. General Assembly.

On Monday the U.S. vetoed a draft resolution calling on Washington to withdraw its decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital at the United Nations Security Council, while the 14 other members of the council voted in favor of the resolution.

Arab and Muslim countries, infuriated by President Donald Trump’s decision on Jerusalem, called for an emergency General Assembly meeting in order to vote on the draft resolution. The 193-country body agreed to hold the rare meeting and will be held on Thursday.

As a response to holding the special session U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley, in a letter to dozens of U.N. states on Tuesday seen by Reuters, warned that Trump had asked her to "report back on those countries who voted against us." She bluntly echoed that call in a Twitter post: "The U.S. will be taking names."

RELATED: 70 Years of Broken Promises, The Untold Story of Israel's Partition Plan

Ashrawi’s statement came just hours after Trump doubled down Wednesday on the threat, telling reporters that his administration would cut aid to those countries that “voted against us.”

Last month the U.S. president ended decades of Washington’s policy stating that the status of the city of Jerusalem must be decided as part of a peace agreement between Israel and Palestine, a position that most of the international community continues to fully support.

In the 1967 war Israel took over the eastern part of the city as well as the West Bank from the Jordan. In 1980, Israel annexed East Jerusalem and declared it as its capital, a move that was rejected by most countries in the world.

Palestinians and most of the international community consider East Jerusalem as occupied territory and the future capital of a sovereign Palestinian state.

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Cuba and the US, a Different Scene Three Years Later

Millions of people in Cuba and the United States saw with optimism the events of December 17, 2014, when both nations announced the beginning of a process of normalization of relations that today is slowed down.

On that day, Cuban President Raul Castro highlighted the willingness to hold a 'respectful dialogue with the US government, based on sovereign equality, to deal with the most diverse issues in a reciprocal manner, without detriment to national independence and self-determination of our peoples.'

Only two days ago the Caribbean nation showed a similar will, since the director general of the U.S. Division in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Cuba, Josefina Vidal, said that her country continues interested in working in favor of better relations with the northern country.

However, Washington's disposition changed since President Donald Trump's arrival at the White House.

The United States is changing its relations with the people of Cuba and making the most significant changes in our policy in more than 50 years. We will end an antiquated approach that for decades has not been able to promote our interests, former President Barack Obama (2009-2017) said three years ago.

But his successor, under the influence of some Cuban-American members of Congress, decided to resume the path of that 'antiquated approach' criticized by Obama.

Until last January 20, the day of Trump's inauguration, Cuba and the United States reached 22 bilateral instruments in areas of common interest.

In addition, the embassies of the two countries in their respective capitals were reopened, exchanges increased in cultural, academic and scientific areas, and the number of American visitors to the island skyrocketed, despite the continuation of Washington restrictions that prevent tourism.

Those advances began to recede when on June 16, in a Florida theater, the Republican ruler pointed out that the direction of his administration with respect to the neighboring territory would be very different from that of the previous government.

'With immediate effect, I am canceling the completely unilateral treatment of the last administration, ' he said that day in the city of Miami before an unrepresentative group of Cubans whom the president addressed as if they embodied all those born on the island.

Although polls on the issue showed the majority support of the American people for normalization, Trump signed the National Security Presidential Memorandum on Strengthening the Policy of the United States towards Cuba.

This document announced future restrictions on travel by the Americans to the Caribbean territory and further obstacles to economic, commercial, and financial transactions between the two countries.

These new limitations were finalized on November 9, when the State, Commerce and Treasury departments began to apply 'coordinated actions' to limit trade and travel to Cuba.

As of that date, persons subject to US jurisdiction are prohibited from conducting direct financial transactions with some 180 Cuban entities and sub-entities, including five business groups, 83 hotels, two travel agencies and five marinas.

The trips, in as much, are only allowed for the 12 existing categories from before, none with tourist aims, but the educative individual visits 'people-to-people' without academic character were also eliminated, and the stays must be backed by an American organization.

These measures were added to others previously adopted, which damaged the work in the respective embassies and of Cubans living in both countries.

Such chapter of the relations between the two territories has had tinges of sensationalism, mystery, and some came to call it science fiction when officials of the North American diplomatic legation in Cuba reported health problems of origin until now unknown.

After knowing that news in August, and without knowing the causes of the reported symptoms or details of what happened, several US media reported the theory that these people were victims of some kind of sonic attack.

Although at first, the State Department referred to the incident as health incidents, then it also began to use the term of attacks, and as a reaction, it reduced its personnel in Havana, stopped issuing visas there and expelled 15 Cuban diplomats from Washington DC.

All these events leave the relations between the two neighboring nations in conditions very different from those expected three years ago, and perhaps the most important thing of this moment is the persistence of many people in the United States interested in continuing the course initiated back then.

Several voices rose up against the new restrictions and condemned their political character, intended to please a group of members of Congress.

'No one wins with this terrible new policy, it is simply punitive. It damages Americans and Cubans equally,' Democratic Congresswoman Barbara Lee said in November, who, with that phrase, conveyed the same opinion that many US sectors have.

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US sends 'dangerous message' by turning blind eye to Guantanamo tortures - UN

The US is in “clear violation” of the United Nations Convention against Torture over “gruesome” abuses committed by its agents in locations such as Guantanamo Bay, according to a UN official.

The UN's special rapporteur on torture, Nils Melzer, noted in a Wednesday statement that "perpetrators and policymakers responsible for years of gruesome abuse have not been brought to justice, and the victims have received no compensation or rehabilitation," despite a 2014 Senate Intelligence Committee report acknowledging the use of torture in US custody.

The UN rapporteur also stated that torture reportedly continues at US sites, including Guantanamo, despite former President Barack Obama ending the use of "enhanced interrogation techniques" in a 2009 executive order.

Britain's opposition Labour Party Deputy Leader Tom Watson © Toby Melville

Melzer accused the US of being in "clear violation" of the UN's Convention against Torture and of sending a "dangerous message of complacency and impunity to officials in the US and around the world."
He stressed that his particular concern regards detainees who face "prolonged detention in almost complete isolation," according to a release on the website of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. 

Melzer noted the case of Guantanamo inmate Ammar al-Baluci, a Pakistani citizen and alleged 9/11 co-conspirator, who was named 153 times in the 2014 Senate Intelligence Committee report. Baluci is said to have suffered torture during more than three years at CIA "black sites" before eventually being moved to Guantanamo, where he reportedly endures further abuse.

“Mr al-Baluchi has been held in isolation at a severely restricted-access facility at Guantanamo Bay for more than a decade,” Melzer said, elaborating that "noise and vibrations are reportedly still being used against him, resulting in constant sleep deprivation and related physical and mental disorders, for which he allegedly does not receive adequate medical attention."

The special rapporteur made clear that the ban on torture and ill-treatment is "absolute and allowed for no exceptions whatsoever," according to the UN release. “This is one of the most fundamental norms of international law, and its violation is listed among the most serious international crimes, including crimes against humanity and war crimes,” Melzer said.

Omar Khadr © Todd Korol

"...I therefore now urge the US to live up to its legacy, to end its policy of impunity and to bring its own perpetrators to justice," Melzer added. He noted that a "society bruised by torture and abuse" can only heal when the "truth about secret policies and practices is fully disclosed to the public and when full reparation and rehabilitation is granted to victims."

Melzer also requested once again to be allowed an official visit to Guantanamo and to interview inmates. "I very much regret that, despite repeated requests, my predecessors and I have consistently been refused access to Guantanamo and other high security facilities, in accordance with the standard terms of reference of my UN mandate,” he said.

Guantanamo Bay, which turned 15 years old in January, has long been the subject of scrutiny from the US and abroad, particularly for its use of torture and for holding prisoners without charge. Although President Obama campaigned with a promise to shut it down, that vow was never fulfilled. Meanwhile, his successor Donald Trump has expressed his support for the facility.

"There should be no further releases from Gitmo," Trump tweeted in January, less than three weeks before his inauguration. "These are extremely dangerous people and should not be allowed back onto the battlefield."

@realDonaldTrump There should be no further releases from Gitmo. These are extremely dangerous people and should not be allowed back onto the battlefield.

Around 800 prisoners have been detained there over the years, often subjected to "enhanced interrogation techniques" including waterboarding. Some have reportedly been stripped naked and confined to dark cells for significant periods of time. Inmates went on a major hunger strike in 2013 to protest their detention and treatment at the facility, resulting in authorities force-feeding them.

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Trump loses his big bet on Alabama U.S. Senate race

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