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Top US diplomat says closing Embassy in Cuba ‘under review’

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Top US diplomat says closing Embassy in Cuba ‘under review’
By JOSH LEDERMAN, Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — The Trump administration is considering closing down the recently reopened U.S. Embassy in Havana following a string of unexplained incidents harming the health of American diplomats in Cuba, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Sunday.

Tillerson’s comments were the strongest indication to date that the United States might mount a major diplomatic response, potentially jeopardizing the historic restart of relations between the U.S. and Cuba. The two former foes reopened embassies in Washington and Havana in 2015 after roughly a half-century of estrangement.
“We have it under evaluation,” Tillerson said of a possible embassy closure. “It’s a very serious issue with respect to the harm that certain individuals have suffered. We’ve brought some of those people home. It’s under review.”

Of the 21 medically confirmed U.S. victims, some have permanent hearing loss or concussions, while others suffered nausea, headaches and ear-ringing. Some are struggling with concentration or common word recall, The Associated Press has reported.

Some victims felt vibrations or heard loud sounds mysteriously audible in only parts of rooms, leading investigators to consider a potential “sonic attack.” Others heard nothing but later developed symptoms.Tillerson once called the events “health attacks,” but the State Department has since used the term “incidents” while emphasizing the U.S. still doesn’t know what has occurred. Cuba has denied any involvement or responsibility but stressed it’s eager to help the U.S. resolve the matter.

The U.S. has said the tally of Americans affected could grow as more cases are potentially detected.

The last reported incident was on Aug. 21, according to a U.S. official briefed on the matter. The official wasn’t authorized to discuss the matter publicly and requested anonymity.
Tillerson spoke on CBS’ “Face the Nation” as world leaders and top diplomats descended on New York for annual U.N. General Assembly meetings. President Donald Trump will give his first speech on the major global platform this week.

 

Cuba is also represented at the U.N., but it’s not expected Trump will meet with any Cuban leaders or officials during his visit.

The U.S. hasn’t identified either a culprit or a device. Investigators have explored the possibility of sonic waves, an electromagnetic weapon, or an advanced spying operation gone awry, U.S. officials briefed on the probe told the AP. The U.S. hasn’t ruled out that a third country or a rogue faction of Cuba’s security services might be involved.

In Washington, lawmakers in Congress have been raising alarm over the incidents, with some calling for the embassy to be closed. On Friday, five Republican senators wrote Tillerson urging him to not only shutter the embassy, but also kick all Cuban diplomats out of the United States — a move with dramatic diplomatic implications “Cuba’s neglect of its duty to protect our diplomats and their families cannot go unchallenged,” said the lawmakers, who included Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, a prominent Cuban-American, and the No. 2 Senate Republican, John Cornyn of Texas.
The incidents have frightened Havana’s tight-knit diplomatic community, raising concerns about the potential scope.

At least one other country, France, has tested embassy staff for potential sonic-induced injuries, the AP has reported.
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Reach Josh Lederman on Twitter at http://twitter.com/joshledermanAP

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Trump Administration Plan To Reopen America Being Released Thursday.

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ABC News reports:

President Donald Trump’s plan to re-open the American economy after a near-total shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic consists of three graduated phases, according to a copy of the proposed actions obtained by ABC News.

Trump unveiled the plan in a video conference call with the nation’s governors on Thursday afternoon. The state leaders were instructed that they could move through the guidelines at their own pace and that the guidelines are not formal orders from the federal government, according to a person familiar with the call.

“Phase one” calls on employers to telework where possible, return to work in phases, minimize non-essential travel and make accommodations for the vulnerable populations within the workforce. It calls on all vulnerable individuals to “shelter in place,” and when in public, all individuals should continue social distancing.

However, a critical piece to this is the “gating criteria” that all states and regions should achieve before they can move on to phase one. This includes a “downward trajectory” of reported “influenza-like illnesses,” “covid-like syndromic cases” and “documented cases” or “positive tests as a percent of total tests” within a 14-day period, as well as the ability for hospitals to “treat all patients without crisis care” and have a “robust testing program in place for at-risk healthcare workers, including emerging antibody testing.”

In “phase two,” non-essential travel for employers can resume. Schools and organized youth activity can reopen. Bars, gyms and large venues can reopen with proper social distancing measures in places. Churches can open with social distancing. Elective surgeries can resume.

The third phase says bars, gyms and large venues can reopen with limited social distancing and proper sanitation.

The president described the guidelines “as a bit of a negotiation,” a source said.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

Preview the Trump Adminstration US reopening plan here or below.

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U.K. government extends national lockdown for at least three more weeks to slow country’s coronavirus outbreak.

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LONDON (AP) — U.K. government extends national lockdown for at least three more weeks to slow country’s coronavirus outbreak.

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Bernie Sanders Suspends Presidential Campaign

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Sen. Bernie Sanders, who saw his once strong lead in the Democratic primary evaporate as the party’s establishment lined swiftly up behind rival Joe Biden, ended his presidential bid on Wednesday, an acknowledgment that the former vice president is too far ahead for him to have any reasonable hope of catching up.

The Vermont senator’s announcement makes Biden the presumptive Democratic nominee to challenge President Donald Trump in November. 

Sanders plans to talk to his supporters later Wednesday.

Sanders initially exceeded sky-high expectations about his ability to recreate the magic of his 2016 presidential bid, and even overcame a heart attack last Octoberon the campaign trail. But he found himself unable to convert unwavering support from progressives into a viable path to the nomination amid “electability” fears fueled by questions about whether his democratic socialist ideology would be palatable to general election voters.

The 78-year-old senator began his latest White House bid facing questions about whether he could win back the supporters who chose him four years ago as an insurgent alternative to the party establishment’s choice, Hillary Clinton. Despite winning 22 states in 2016, there were no guarantees he’d be a major presidential contender this cycle, especially as the race’s oldest candidate.

Sanders, though, used strong polling and solid fundraising — collected almost entirely from small donations made online — to more than quiet early doubters. Like the first time, he attracted widespread support from young voters and was able to make new inroads within the Hispanic community, even as his appeal with African Americans remained small. 

Sanders amassed the most votes in Iowa and New Hampshire, which opened primary voting, and cruised to an easy victory in Nevada — seemingly leaving him well positioned to sprint to the Democratic nomination while a deeply crowded and divided field of alternatives sunk around him. 

But a crucial endorsement of Biden by influential South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn, and a subsequent, larger-than-expected victory in South Carolina, propelled the former vice president into Super Tuesday, when he won 10 of 14 states.

In a matter of days, his top former Democratic rivals lined up and announced their endorsement of Biden. The former vice president’s campaign had appeared on the brink of collapse after New Hampshire but found new life as the rest of the party’s more moderate establishment coalesced around him as an alternative to Sanders.

Things only got worse the following week when Sanders lost Michigan, where he had campaigned hard and upset Clinton in 2016. He was also beaten in Missouri, Mississippi and Idaho the same night and the results were so decisive that Sanders headed to Vermont without speaking to the media.

Sanders had scheduled a rally in Ohio but canceled it amid fears about the spread of coronavirus — and the outbreak kept him home as his campaign appeared unsure of its next move. The senator addressed reporters the following day, but also sounded like a candidate who already knew he’d been beaten. 

“While our campaign has won the ideological debate, we are losing the debate over electability,” Sanders said then.

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