News briefs

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Share of Democrats in US spikes after Biden win, poll shows

A new poll conducted since President Donald Trump left office shows a 9-point gap between the number of Americans who identify as Democrats or lean Democratic, compared to those aligned with the Republican Party, the largest gap in almost a decade.

A Gallup poll conducted from January to March showed that 49% of respondents consider themselves Democrats or leaning that way, while 40% consider themselves Republicans or lean that way.

Gallup said the jump comes mostly from Republicans leaving the party at the end of President Donald Trump’s tenure. Only 25% of U.S. adults firmly identify with the Republicans, down from 29% late last year.

Some 30% of respondents said they consider themselves to be Democrats. Gallup said it was not unprecedented for Democratic Party affiliation to rise after a Democratic candidate wins the presidential election, and cited similar increases after the elections of Presidents Bill Clinton in 1992 and and Barack Obama in 2008.

There has also been a spike in Americans identifying as independents, no matter which way they lean, since the election of President Joe Biden. some 44% of respondents made that choice. The number is up from 38% at the end of 2020.

The poll was conducted among nearly 4,000 adults and has a margin of error of 2 percentage points.

— Bloomberg News

Biden administration to restart assistance to Palestinians

The new U.S. government wants to reintroduce the support for Palestinians stopped by former president Donald Trump.

The State Department said Wednesday that $150 million is initially to go to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine (UNRWA) for humanitarian aid, and $75 million in development aid is earmarked for projects in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

Another $10 million is to be used for peace-building measures, and support for security issues is to be resumed. Among other things, the funds are to help the Palestinians cope with the coronavirus pandemic.

The U.S. wants to advance "prosperity, security and freedom" for both Israelis and Palestinians, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, adding that this also served the goal of making progress toward an agreement on a two-state solution.

The resumption of assistance was in Washington's interest, Blinken said.

It was not immediately clear to which period the announced aid sums referred.

In 2018, Trump's administration had almost completely cut off aid to the Palestinians, stopping payments to UNRWA.

The Palestinian leadership no longer regarded the U.S. as an acceptable mediator, but as a partisan protecting power of Israel. President Joe Biden's administration now wants to rebuild support and political contacts with the Palestinians to promote a two-state solution.

— dpa

NYC beaches and pools to open on time, mayor says

NEW YORK – New York City’s beaches and public pools will open on time this year, Mayor de Blasio announced Wednesday, almost a year after their re-openings were delayed during the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

The city’s eight public beaches are now set to open for Memorial Day weekend, which begins on May 29, and public pools are scheduled to open right after the end of school on June 26.

“Summer is right around the corner, and we’re gearing up for an on-time pool and beach season,” de Blasio said Wednesday. “These beautiful outdoor spaces mean so much to New Yorkers, especially after the year we’ve all had.”

Last summer, the city delayed opening beaches until July 1 over concerns that it would accelerate the spread of COVID. Pools began opening their doors later that month on July 24.

De Blasio announcement Wednesday comes as the city has so far distributed more than 4.6 million doses of COVID vaccines.

The mayor said the city will continue to “follow health guidance” from the state when it comes to beach and pool re-openings “to ensure the safety of everyone,” but suggested that mask wearing protocols could change as more vaccines are administered.

“Things are evolving,” he said. “I won’t be surprised if over the course of the summer there’s ways of doing things differently, and you know, giving people a little more freedom.”

— New York Daily News

White House denies any joint talks to boycott Beijing Olympics

The U.S. is not discussing “any joint boycott” of 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing with its allies, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters Wednesday.

“We have not discussed and are not discussing any joint boycott with allies and partners,” Psaki said at a White House briefing. “We of course consult closely with allies and partners at all levels to define our common concerns and establish a shared approach, but there is no discussion underway of a change in plans regarding the Beijing Olympics.”

Psaki’s comments came after State Department spokesman Ned Price on Tuesday said the Beijing Olympics “is an area that we certainly wish to discuss” with allies and that such talks “are underway.”

Price’s comments added further tensions to an already difficult relationship between the world’s two largest economies, although a senior State Department official later said the U.S. hadn’t discussed any joint boycott with other countries.

The Chinese foreign ministry hit back quickly. Spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters in Beijing on Wednesday that a boycott would harm the interests of athletes and “runs counter to the spirit of the Olympic charter.”

“The U.S. Olympic Committee and the rest of the international community will not accept that,” Zhao said. “We have confidence that we will work with all parties to ensure a successful and extraordinary Olympic grand event.”

— Bloomberg News