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China To Suspend US Navy Visits To Hong Kong Over New Law

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China To Suspend US Navy Visits To Hong Kong Over New Law

China has on Monday suspended visits by US Navy ships and aircraft to Hong Kong after Washington passed legislation last week backing pro-democracy protesters in the semi-autonomous territory.

China’s Foreign Ministry announced that the measures were in response to U.S. legislation passed last week supporting anti-government protesters. It said it had suspended taking requests for U.S. military visits indefinitely, and warned of further action to come.

The ministry spokeswoman, Hua Chunying said at a news briefing in Beijing, “we urge the U.S. to correct the mistakes and stop interfering in our internal affairs. China will take further steps if necessary to uphold Hong Kong’s stability and prosperity and China’s sovereignty.”

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Beijing also unveiled sanctions against a number of US human rights groups.

Hua said China would sanction organizations including the National Endowment for Democracy, the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, Human Rights Watch, the International Republican Institute, Freedom House and others that she said had “performed badly” in the Hong Kong unrest, but did not specify what form the measures would take.

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Last week, President Donald Trump signed the Human Rights and Democracy Act into law, a law that mandates sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong officials who carry out human rights abuses and requires an annual review of the favorable trade status that Washington grants Hong Kong.

The legislation was backed by U.S. lawmakers who are sympathetic to the protesters and have criticized Hong Kong police for cracking down on the pro-democracy movement.

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Amid the ongoing protests, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has said she’ll accelerate dialogue but hasn’t offered any concessions since the elections.

The protests are blamed for driving the economy into recession. Tourism, airline and retail sectors have been hit particularly hard, with retail sales down about 20%.

Amid broader tensions between US and China, visits have at times been refused and two U.S. ships were denied access in August.

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Israel Will Hold Unprecedented Third Election In A Year

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Israel Will Hold Unprecedented Third Election In A Year

Israel will hold a record third straight election in just under a year, after no party was able to form a government by the deadline set to do so.  That triggered another election within three months.  The two main parties had earlier agreed on March 2 as the date for the new election.

Even as Israelis are deeply divided over the fate of prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was recently indicted on three counts of corruption, there is little indication the third election will be any more decisive than the first two.

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Neither Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party, nor the centrist blue and white party, led by the prime minister’s main rival, former military chief Benny Gantz, won enough seats in parliament for a governing majority in the previous two contests.

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In response to his recent indictment on corruption charges, Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing.  He is under no legal obligation to resign as a result of the indictment.  While in office, he can ask the legislature to grant him immunity from prosecution.

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As caretaker premier, Netanyahu would remain in the post until a new government is formed – a process that could stretch for months past a march ballot, as a coalition-building is likely to be tortuous just like the previous two attempts.

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Britain Votes To Decide The Fate Of Brexit, Again

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Britain Votes To Decide The Fate Of Brexit, Again

The British public is back to the polls today in the third general elections in five years.  At stake is the Brexit mess that ended Theresa May’s tenure as prime minister.

Current prime minister, Boris Johnson says he is the one who will finally honor the will of the British people as expressed in the 2016 Brexit referendum to leave the European Union.

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His opposition challenger, Jeremy Corbyn is promising to call for a second referendum on Brexit in which he believes Brits will change their mind and stay in the EU.

The Conservatives have an edge and are expected to win.  If the conservative should win a majority in parliament, the country would be poised to leave the EU at the end of January.  But if neither party has a majority, and labor party has more seats, then Corbyn would form a minority government, one that would bring forth a second Brexit referendum.

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If none of these permutations happen, and a smaller party had a stronger showing than expected, then the country may crash out of the EU without an agreement.

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Polls close at 10 PM London time.

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US, Mexico And Canada Sign Revised Trade Deal To Replace NAFTA

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US, Mexico And Canada Sign Revised Trade Deal To Replace NAFTA

As Articles of Impeachment were being unveiled against president Trump, he was also being handed a win by the same house that is impeaching him.

The house is voting into law the new U.S., Canada and Mexico trade pact the president had negotiated to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement.

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It took months of negotiations for house democrats to bring the new North American Trade pact to a vote.  The new provisions would strengthen the trade deal’s protections for workers.

The signing ceremony in Mexico City launched what may be the final approval effort for Donald Trump’s three-year quest to revamp the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA, a deal he has blamed for the loss of millions of US manufacturing jobs.

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The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, USMCA, was signed more than a year ago to replace NAFTA, but democrats controlling the U.S. House of Representatives insisted on major changes to labor and environmental enforcement before bringing it to a vote.

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