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U.S. Orders China To Close Houston Consulate By Friday

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The United States has ordered the Chinese Consulate in Houston, Texas to close after Houston police and fire responded to a fire in the building Wednesday night where documents were reportedly being burned by Consulate employees.

“We have directed the closure of [People’s Republic of China] Consulate General Houston, in order to protect American intellectual property and American’s (sic) private information,” said State Department Spokesperson Morgan Ortagus in a statement Wednesday, according to NPR.

A Houston resident, who lives within blocks of the Consulate, told this reporter Wednesday, “This happened in 2017 too,” adding that Wednesday’s fire took place in the same courtyard at the time and no one evacuated.

The fire Tuesday night was no different, she added, describing a “go-between” negotiator who kept exiting the consulate to speak with officials and entering back into the building.

“I see people in there all the time. And no one, no one ever came out of this building until this guy,” she explained.

“No one put out the fire. There was no ladder truck, there was no hose. It just kept burning.”

Fire officials and police never entered the building from what the resident saw. “I pulled up a chair and sat and watched it the entire time,” she said.

China’s Foreign Ministry received the notice Wednesday to vacate the building by July 24, NPR reported. Beijing, however, responded in condemnation, calling the move “an unprecedented escalation of its recent actions against China.”

The news comes amid rising tensions between the two countries that quickly escalated with the spread of the novel coronavirus earlier this year.

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Analysis: Biden unlikely to sanction Iran’s oil exports, gas prices ‘critical during an election year’

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Analysts say President Joe Biden is unlikely to “prompt dramatic sanctions action on Iran’s oil exports” due to “worries about boosting oil prices and angering top buyer China” according to Reuters.

Speaking to Fox News on Sunday, House Republican Representative Steve Scalise, said the administration had made it easier for Iran to sell its oil, generating revenues that were being used to “go fund terrorist activity.”

The Biden administration has maintained for months that among its primary goals is to keep the Gaza conflict between terror group Hamas and Israel from turning into a wider regional war. However, House Republican leaders accused President Joe Biden of failing to enforce existing measures and said they would take up this week a series of bills to sharpen sanctions on Iran.

Kimberly Donovan, a sanctions and anti-money laundering expert at the Atlantic Council, said that oil-related sanctions have not been strictly enforced in the past couple of years.

“I would not expect the administration to tighten enforcement in response to Iran’s missile and drone attacks against Israel over the weekend, mainly for concerns (that) could lead to increases in oil prices,” she said.

“The price of oil and ultimately the prices of gas at the pump become critical during an election year.”
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