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Jen Psaki can’t say if Israel and Saudi Arabia are ‘important allies’

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Jen Psaki can't say if Israel and Saudi Arabia are 'important allies'

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki gave a vague, rambling answer Friday when asked at a briefing to reporters whether the Biden administration considers Saudi Arabia and Israel to be “important allies.”

“Can you please just give us a broad sense of what the administration is trying to achieve in the Middle East?” a reporter asked — in follow-up to an earlier question asking why President Biden has yet to call Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“For example,” the reporter asked, “does the administration still consider the Saudis and the Israelis important allies?

Rather than saying simply, “Yes,” Psaki gave this answer, according to a White House transcript of the late-afternoon briefing.

“Well, you know, again, I think we — there are ongoing processes and internal interagency processes — one that we, I think, confirmed an interagency meeting just last week — to discuss a range of issues in the Middle East. 

“We’re — we’ve only been here three and a half weeks, and I think I’m going to let those policy processes see themselves through before we give, kind of, a complete laydown of what our national security approaches will be to a range of issues,” she added.

Earlier in the press briefing, in insisting that Biden’s failure to call Netanyahu is “not an intentional diss,” Psaki said, “Obviously, we have a long and important relationship with Israel, and the president has known him and has been working on a range of issues that there’s a mutual commitment to for some time.

“It is just a reflection of the fact that we have been here three and a half weeks, he’s not called every single global leader yet, and he is eager to do that in the weeks ahead.”

A reporter followed up: “But he has called every other major ally in Europe and Asia,” to which Psaki answered, ‘He’s called many of them.”

“That is true,” she continued, adding, vaguely, “Some would argue they haven’t received calls yet, and they are still eager to receive them.”

“But I can assure you he will be speaking with the prime minister soon, and he’s looking forward to doing that.”

She declined to indicate when the call would happen, even to say if it would be a matter of days or weeks.

“They’ve known each other for some time,” she said. “There are certainly areas of mutual interest.”

“And as soon as he makes that call, we will let you all know.”

Psaki was also non-committal when asked more than a week prior about the lack of call to Netanyahu.

“We have a long and abiding relationship with Israel, an important security relationship, I’m sure they’ll discuss that and a range of issues when they do connect,” she said.

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Idaho protesters burn masks at state capital

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Idaho protesters burn masks at state capital

Protesters in Idaho staged a mask burning event at the state capital on Saturday, as frustration over coronavirus-related disruptions to daily life continue to fester.

At least three lawmakers from the state legislature and the Lt. Gov Janice McGeachin were there to cheer them on, according to local media reports from the scene.

Video posted to Twitter suggests that most of the actual burning of masks took place inside small, self-contained fires lit in garbage bins. At least one person was filmed burning a picture of Joe Biden.

Many protesters, often with children in tow, displayed signs reading “I will not self-suffocate,”

“We’re standing here today to rein back government. To reestablish our Republican form of government, a government that has balance between the branches,” said Daar Moon, a protest organizer, in a Twitter video. “It’s a widespread grassroots movement, an uprising in that regard, it’s come off very well today here in Boise.”

Last week Idaho legislators introduced a bill to make mask mandates illegal. Though there is no current statewide requirement, mask mandates are in force in seven of 11 Idaho counties, according to the Associated Press.

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Biden cheers passage of $1.9 trillion COVID-19 aid bill in White House speech

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Biden cheers passage of $1.9 trillion COVID-19 aid bill in White House speech

President Biden celebrated the party-line passage of his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill Saturday, saying the measure is another step for the country’s return to normalcy.

The bill will “get the country in a place to get back to normal” Biden said in a 9-minute address in the White House State Dining Room.

The rescue plan includes $75 billion for pandemic-related medical costs, such as vaccine production.

“I believe we’ll have enough by the middle of May to vaccinate — it’s going to take longer to get it in their arms, but that’s how much vaccine we’ll have,” Biden said.

He appealed to the House of Representatives — which the Democrats control by a slim 10-vote margin — to pass the Senate-revised bill in the next few days.

“By passing this plan we’ll have proved that this democracy, this government, can still work,” he said.

The House is expected to take up the bill on Tuesday.

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You can now be a ‘millionaire’ in Venezuela for 50 cents

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You can now be a ‘millionaire’ in Venezuela for 50 cents

All it takes to be a millionaire in Venezuela is a few American pennies: the beleaguered South American country’s economy is so bad, they’re introducing a million bolivar note worth roughly 53 cents.

According to a statement from the country’s central bank, Venezuela will also be printing 200,000 and 500,000 bills along with the 1,000,000 bills.

The move comes as hyperinflation has made smaller bills superfluous and worthless – and most citizens are “turning to the U.S. dollar for everyday transactions,” Bloomberg notes, adding “About 66 percent of transactions across the country are (now) estimated to be made in foreign currency.”

Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro has claimed he is going to make the country the world’s first fully digital economy, in an attempt to fight the inflation which ballooned to more than 3000 percent last year.

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