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Palestinians say UAE deal hinders quest for Mideast peace

By JOSEPH KRAUSS

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s agreement to establish diplomatic ties with the United Arab Emirates marks a watershed moment in its relations with Arab countries, but the Palestinians say it puts a just resolution of the Middle East conflict even farther out of reach.

The UAE presented its decision to upgrade longstanding ties to Israel as a way of encouraging peace efforts by taking Israel’s planned annexation of parts of the occupied West Bank off the table, something Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu swiftly rebuffed by insisting the pause was “temporary.”

From the Palestinian perspective, the UAE not only failed to stop annexation, which would dash any remaining hopes of establishing a viable, independent state. It also undermined an Arab consensus that recognition of Israel only come in return for concessions in peace talks — a rare source of leverage for the Palestinians.

“I never expected this poison dagger to come from an Arab country,” Saeb Erekat, a senior Palestinian official and veteran negotiator said Friday. “You are rewarding aggression. … You have destroyed, with this move, any possibility of peace between Palestinians and Israelis.”

President Donald Trump has presented the U.S.-brokered agreement as a major diplomatic achievement and said he expects more Arab and Muslim countries to follow suit. Israel has quietly cultivated ties with the UAE and other Gulf countries for several years as they have confronted a shared enemy in Iran.

In Israel, the agreement has renewed long-standing hopes for normal relations with its Arab neighbors. Netanyahu has long insisted, contrary to generations of failed peace negotiators, that Israel can enjoy such ties without resolving its conflict with the Palestinians. For now, he seems to have been proven right.

“It’s hard to claim right now that the 53-year-old occupation is ‘unsustainable’ when Netanyahu has just proved that not only is it sustainable, but Israel can improve its ties with the Arab world, openly, with the occupation still going,” wrote Anshel Pfeffer, a columnist for Israel’s Haaretz newspaper.

But the Middle East conflict was never between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, which have fought no wars and share no borders. And the nature of the agreement will likely force the Palestinians to harden their stance and redouble their efforts to isolate Israel.

The Palestinian Authority issued a scathing statement in response to the move, calling it a “betrayal of Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Palestinian cause,” language clearly aimed at inflaming Arab and Muslim sentiment worldwide.

The Palestinians have called for an urgent meeting of the Arab League and the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation to condemn the move. But in those forums they will be pitted against the oil-rich UAE, which has deep pockets, allies across the region and even more influence in Washington following the agreement with Israel.

The international campaign is “meant to isolate the Emiratis so that other countries will not take the same step,” said Ibrahim Dalalsha, a Palestinian analyst. “Whether it will succeed in this or not, it remains to be seen.”

Iran and Turkey lashed out at the UAE, a regional rival, accusing it of betraying the Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims.

But the agreement, and the decision to pause annexation, was welcomed by much of the international community, including Egypt and the Gulf Arab nations of Bahrain and Oman. Many countries, including Germany, France, Italy, China and India, expressed hope it would help revive the peace process.

The Palestinians want an independent state in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza, areas seized by Israel in the 1967 war. Trump’s plan would allow Israel to keep nearly all of east Jerusalem, including holy sites sacred to Christians, Jews and Muslims, and annex up to a third of the West Bank. The Palestinians have angrily rejected the proposal.

Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas reiterated his country’s support for a two-state solution when he called to congratulate Israel on the “historic” agreement with the UAE.

“We stand by our position that only a negotiated two-state solution can bring lasting peace to the Middle East,” Maas said in a statement. “Together with our European partners and the region we have campaigned intensively in past months against an annexation and for the resumption of direct negotiations.”

That strikes many Palestinians as a return to a similarly unbearable status quo, in which Israel rules the West Bank and expands Jewish settlements while the international community calls for peace talks that never materialize.

Any serious negotiations, or lasting solution to the conflict, will require the Palestinians, who feel they have been brushed aside.

“We’re now in a situation where everybody is talking about us and no one is talking to us,” said Diana Buttu, a former legal adviser to the Palestinian Authority. It’s a “colonial approach,” she said, “as though we are just some problem that needs to be addressed without ever speaking to us.”

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas suspended all contacts with the U.S. after it recognized disputed Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in 2017. In May, the Palestinians cut all ties with Israel, including security coordination, in response to the threat of annexation, and said they would no longer abide by any past agreements with Israel or the United States.

In recent weeks, as the threat of annexation faded amid internal political disputes in Israel, some had speculated the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority would quietly back down, if only to restore the transfer of hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes collected by Israel.

Now, in the wake of the UAE agreement, many say that’s out of the question.

“This is not a way for them to climb down from the tree,” Buttu said. “It’s quite the opposite, I think it keeps them there.”

Cedar Rapids derecho damage worse than floods, National Guard activated

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RADIO IOWA – Cedar Rapids city leaders spoke publicly for the first time Thursday since the derecho slammed the eastern Iowa town.

City Manager Jeff Pomeranz says he’s already been asked how this disaster compares to the major floods they’ve battled in recent years. “I’m here as city manager to tell you that in my experience — and I was involved in the flood of ’08 as well as ’16 — this is a greater impact than we’ve ever seen in this community,” Pomeranz says.

He says he is not minimizing at all the impact the floods had on the city.
“In this particular occurrence, this storm, this derecho, every area of our city has seen destruction,” Pomeranz says. “And the impact goes well beyond Cedar Rapids.”

He tried to give a perspective on the two events. “The 2008 flood impacted approximately 14 square miles of our city. Our city is 75 square miles. And this storm event has impacted all 75 miles of our community,” according to Pomeranz.

He says the amount of damage is hard to imagine. “Someone said not long ago to me on Tuesday ‘are we still a tree city?’ We are very proud of being a tree city in Cedar Rapids. And now we have lost thousands of beautiful old trees, trees in our city,” Pomeranz says. “And seeing that is hard, seeing buildings knocked down, seeing roofs blown off is tough for all of us as Cedar Rapidians.”

Pomeranz says they had to wait to hold a public news conference because 98% of the electricity was off. Some 78% of the city still had the electricity out on Thursday and Alliant Energy’s Mike Wagner says it is going to take some time to get it all back on.

“We believe that we could substantially restore electricity to most of Cedar Rapids in the next five to seven days,” Wagner says. He says they have gotten electricity to the hospitals to allow them to go off generators.

There’s been many questions about whether the Iowa National Guard will be mobilized to help Cedar Rapids. Mayor Brad Hart says he got a lot of negative feedback from comments he made about the National Guard — and says he was not speaking about the overall need for the guard help.

“I said I think we are ready to handle our tree removal. That was all I said. I don’t think we need the National Guard to handle tree removal, there is nothing more to it,” Hart explained.

Governor Kim Reynolds is visiting Cedar Rapids today (Friday) and late Thursday said the National Guard is being sent there to help.

Preseason cross country rankings

The Iowa Track Coaches Association has released its preseason cross country rankings.  In Class 3A, Pella’s boys are ranked ninth and the Dutch girls ranked 14th.  While both Grinnell’s boys and girls teams are ranked 15th in 3A.  In Class 2A, Albia’s boys are ranked third in the state.  And in Class 1A, Pekin’s boys are ranked ninth, and the Panthers girls are ranked fourth.  The first cross country meets of 2020 will begin the week of August 24.  Oskaloosa’s first cross country meet will be September 1 at Williamsburg.

Rozenboom responds to ethics complaint

By: Joe Lancello

Here’s a follow-up to a story the No Coast Network told you first.  State Senator Ken Rozenboom of Oskaloosa says he’s puzzled by an ethics complaint filed against him earlier this week.  Food and Water Action and the Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement Action Fund claim Rozenboom’s support of legislation that bans undercover reporters who trespass at agricultural production facilities fails to avoid a conflict of interest.  Rozenboom responds to the complaint.

“A total shock.  I don’t understand it at all.  The idea that a state senator or any legislator votes on bills that deal with one’s employment or livelihood is, well, I guess on its face, ridiculous.  We’re a citizen legislature.

“The folks who filed this complaint base so much of their argument on a false premise. Based on these wild allegations that were made against me by this San Francisco animal rights group that proved to be unfounded by the law enforcement investigation.”

You’ll remember back in February, an animal rights complaint filed against Rozenboom by the group Direct Action Everywhere was ruled to be unfounded.

Rozenboom says when he is formally notified of the complaint, he will have ten days to file a formal response.  The No Coast Network will continue to follow this story.

Iowa farmers assess losses after storm flattened cornfields

By DAVID PITT

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Farmers across a wide swath of Iowa are dealing with the heartbreaking aftermath of a rare wind storm that turned what was looking like a record corn crop into deep losses for many.

The storm, known as a derecho, slammed the Midwest with straight line winds of up to 100 miles per hour on Monday, gaining strength as it plowed through Iowa farm fields, flattening corn and bursting grain bins still filled with tens of millions of bushels of last year’s harvest.

“It’s a problem of two years of crops here. You’re still dealing with what you grew last fall and you’re trying to figure out how to prepare for what you’re growing this fall,” said Iowa State University agriculture economist Chad Hart.

Farms in Illinois and Indiana also reported crop and property damage, but not to the extent seen in Iowa.

Before the storm hit, the U.S. Department of Agriculture had been expecting a record national corn crop this year of 15.3 billion bushels harvested from about 84 million acres. Iowa was to provide about 18% of that production. Iowa’s crop was valued at about $9.81 billion in 2019.

The Iowa Corn Growers Association said it is too soon to accurately describe how much of this year’s crop was lost. Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig said Tuesday that tens of millions of bushels of grain stored at farm cooperatives and privately on farms were damaged or destroyed.

Western Iowa has been declared an extreme drought zone and corn plants there were already weakened due to a lack of moisture. Those fields are likely a loss, Hart said.

According to a USDA report dated Aug. 1, farmers in much of central and eastern Iowa had been expecting near-record yields with healthy plants that could bounce back. For now, much depends on whether the plants snapped off or were just bent over by wind.

“There’s a lot more breakage or pinching of stalks than I thought there was now that I’ve been out and looked at more of it. That, of course, essentially has killed the plant,” said Meaghan Anderson, an Iowa State University extension agronomist who works with farmers in nine central Iowa counties.

Corn is flat on the ground in numerous fields in the region, Anderson said. The corn stalks had grown to full height and were in the final stages of producing ears and filling them out with kernels. Modern corn varieties can grow up to 8 feet tall making them vulnerable to powerful straight line winds.

For plants that were bent, and stalks not broken, there’s some hope, with a significantly reduced yield. But it will be difficult to harvest. If the stalks snapped, the plant will die. Those fields will be chopped and used as livestock feed.

Iowa Corn Growers Association CEO Craig Floss surveyed the storm damage on his father’s farm east of Des Moines on Wednesday. He found two machine sheds destroyed and grain bins significantly damaged. The corn was flattened and the family home in need of repair.

“The main message out there to folks is this really comes at a time when farmers are already significantly hurting due to the pandemic and trade disputes,” he said.

“There’s a lot of stress in the countryside. … It was already very stressful,” Floss said. “This just adds insult to the injury that was already there.”

Crop insurance programs will help with corn in the field as will a USDA indemnity program. Federal disaster aid could be coming if a presidential disaster is declared.

Bins were full as farmers were hanging on to last fall’s crops in hopes of improved prices. The USDA estimates about about 2.8 billion bushels remain in storage.

“We carried more grain than usual through the springtime and here into the summer, and now the derecho got ahold of some of that grain and we’re going to end up losing a significant chunk of value because it became vulnerable to the weather,” Hart said.

There’s no federal program to help farmers who lost stored grain, he said. Some may have private insurance to help but most will likely wait to see if federal or state programs are initiated.

Osky swimmers’ practice affected by coronavirus

When you think of high school sports teams changing their routines because of the coronavirus, you might not think a swimming team would have to change much.  Oskaloosa girls swimming coach Makenzie Kauffman says that’s not true.

“When we enter the YMCA (for practice), we are going to be masked.  We make sure equipment is sanitized before and after (practice).  Again, the chlorine level has been raised a little bit to keep our water safe.  It’s helpful that our team is actually a little bit smaller, so we can spread them out apart across the four lanes.  Locker room situation is different.  We’re not using the YMCA locker rooms, as well as keeping our bags six feet apart on the bleachers and only bringing in those essential things needed for practice.”

That’s a nice thing about swimming, there isn’t a lot of equipment.

“Right.  Exactly, just a kickboard and a pool boy and we spray them and then go.”

The Indians girls have their first swim meet Thursday, August 27 at Ottumwa.

Officials ‘pretty comfortable’ Iowa will get FEMA help

BY 

RADIO IOWA – The head of Iowa’s Homeland Security Emergency Management agency says there is no guarantee, but there’s a strong chance areas of the state that were hard hit by Monday’s derecho will qualify for Federal Emergency Management Agency assistance. Flinn spoke with reporters after a tour of damage in Marshalltown.

“We’re pretty comfortable based on the electrical utility damage as well as the debris which is a key piece of the declaration of this event that we will be able to successfully submit,” Flinn said. “We can’t, of course, promise that, but the team is already coordinating with FEMA and gathering the information and talking with them about the declaration request.”

Governor Reynolds says she spoke by phone with President Trump yesterday and he and his administration are well aware of the storm’s impact in Iowa, Illinois and Indiana. Vice President Mike Pence, the former governor of Indiana, is due to campaign in Iowa this afternoon and evening.

Ottumwa man arrested for weekend shooting

Ottumwa Police have arrested a man in connection with a weekend shooting.  Around 10:45 Saturday night (8/8), Police responded to a reported shooting in the 1000 block of West Main.  It was reported two vehicles had stopped in the road and someone in one vehicle fired gunshots at the other.  When Police arrived, both vehicles had left the scene, but there was evidence of a shooting.  A short time later, Wapello County Sheriff’s Deputies were told of a road accident west of Ottumwa on Highway 34.  It was determined that the vehicle where the gunshots came from had forced the other vehicle off the road.  No one was injured.  On Wednesday (8/12), Ottumwa Police searched a residence in the 400 block of North Jefferson.  They found the vehicle involved in the shooting and also recovered firearms.  27-year-old Shwee Htoo of Ottumwa was arrested and charged with intimidation with a dangerous weapon—that’s a Class C felony.

Statesmen preseason rankings

Preseason polls are out from the Heart of America Athletic Conference’s coaches for women’s volleyball and men’s and women’s soccer.  William Penn’s women’s volleyball team is picked to finish tenth in the 14 team league.  On the soccer field, the Statesmen men are ranked fourth in the Heart of America…coming off a season when they reached the national tournament for the first time.  While the Statesmen women’s soccer team is picked to finish 11th out of 13 teams.

Hundreds of thousands without power days after Midwest storm

By RYAN J. FOLEY

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Hundreds of thousands of households in Iowa and Illinois remained without electricity Wednesday, two days after a rare wind storm that hit the Midwest devastated parts of the power grid, flattened valuable corn fields and killed two people.

Much of Iowa and parts of several other states suffered outages Monday as straight-line winds toppled trees, snapped poles and downed power lines. The storm known as a derecho had winds of up to 112 mph near Cedar Rapids, as powerful as a hurricane, as it tore from eastern Nebraska across Iowa and into Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana.

The derecho produced seven tornadoes in the Chicago metropolitan area, including an EF-1 tornado with 110 mph winds that hit the Rogers Park neighborhood on the city’s north side before moving onto Lake Michigan as a waterspout, the National Weather Service said.

That storm left damage along a 3-mile-long (4.8-kilometer-long) path before reaching the lake and was the first tornado of at least EF-1 strength to strike Chicago since a May 29, 1983, storm, the weather service said.

Another EF-1 tornado that swept through Wheaton, Illinois, knocked over the iconic white steeple atop College Church in the Chicago suburb that is the DuPage County seat.

The weather service also confirmed two tornadoes in southern Wisconsin and two in northern Indiana, including an EF-1 that swept the rural community of Wakarusa, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) southeast of South Bend, leaving behind smashed grain bins, damaged barns and farmhouses.

Crews throughout the region have been working around the clock to restore electricity, but they’ve been hindered by large trees that are blocking many roads and sitting on top of power lines. Those trees must be removed before power can be restored.

Iowa’s three largest metropolitan areas of Des Moines, Cedar Rapids and Davenport still had widespread outages as of Wednesday morning.

Alliant Energy said about 176,000 of its customers are without power, about half of which are in the Cedar Rapids area. MidAmerican Energy said about 139,000 of its Iowa and Illinois customers remain without power, half them in the Des Moines area.

As of late Wednesday morning, ComEd reported that about 200,000 of its Chicago-area customers remained without power. Northern Indiana Public Service Co. reported about 18,500 of its Indiana customers were still in the dark.

Mediacom said Wednesday that it has restored internet service to about half of the 340,000 customers that were offline a day earlier in Iowa, Illinois and Indiana. But many others may be without service until their power is restored, a process that could still take multiple days in places.

The storm caused extensive crop damage in the nation’s No. 1 corn producing state as it tore across Iowa’s center from west to east.

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig said Tuesday that about 10 million acres of Iowa’s nearly 31 million acres of agriculture land sustained damage. About 24 million acres of that is land typically planted primarily in corn and soybeans.

In addition, tens of millions of bushels of grain that were stored at co-ops and on farms were damaged or destroyed as bins blew away.

The only known death in Iowa was a 63-year-old bicyclist who was hit by one of several large trees that fell on a bike path outside of Cedar Rapids. In Fort Wayne, Indiana, the storm killed a 73-year-old woman who was found clutching a young boy in her storm-battered mobile home.

Many businesses, including banks, restaurants and a major corn processing plant in Cedar Rapids, remained closed Wednesday due to power outages.

The Cedar Rapids school district reported that over 20 of its buildings had roof and other structural damage, ranging from minor to significant, and that it was considering pushing back this month’s start date.

State Sen. Liz Mathis said she took cover in the basement of her suburban Cedar Rapids home Monday as the storm battered her neighborhood for 45 minutes. She said pictures fell of the wall, water seeped in through windows and she worried the glass would blow in and hurt her.

Mathis said the devastation is widespread across her district, and the “tree damage is unreal.” People are waiting an hour or longer at gas stations to fill up their vehicles and get fuel for chain saws, as some are closed or have run out of gas, she said.

Residents are clearing out their refrigerators and freezers after their food has spoiled. A local utility official told Mathis on Wednesday that it could be a week before everyone’s power is restored.

“The cities are going to look much different without the trees and it’s going to take a while to recover from this,” she said.

___

Associated Press reporter Dave Pitt contributed from Des Moines.

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