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U.S. sending highest official to Taiwan since ties cut in 1979 – NBC News

TAIPEI, Taiwan — The U.S. secretary of Health and Human Services is scheduled to visit Taiwan in coming days in the highest-level visit by an American Cabinet official since the break in formal diplomatic relations between Washington and Taipei in 1979.

The visit by Alex Azar, and especially a planned meeting with Taiwan’s president, will likely create new friction between the U.S. and China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory to be annexed by force if necessary.

Taiwan is a key irritant in the troubled relationship between the world’s two largest economies, which are also at odds over trade, technology, territorial claims in the South China Sea and China’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

In Beijing, foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said China has lodged “solemn complaints” over the visit with U.S. officials in both Beijing and Washington.

“The Taiwan issue is the most important and sensitive issue in China-U.S. relations,” Wang said at a daily briefing. He said Washington needs to stop all forms of official contact with Taiwan and make good on its commitment to Beijing to “avoid serious damage to China-U.S. relations and peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.”

The U.S. maintains only unofficial ties with Taiwan in deference to Beijing, but is the island’s most important ally and provider of defense equipment.

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The American Institute in Taiwan, which operates as Washington’s de facto embassy on the island, said Wednesday that Azar’s “historic visit will strengthen the U.S.-Taiwan partnership and enhance U.S-Taiwan cooperation to combat the global COVID-19 pandemic.”

In a tweet, Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it looks forward to welcoming Azar and his delegation. “This is the highest-level visit by a U.S. Cabinet official since 1979! Taiwan and the U.S. are like minded partners cooperating closely in combating coronavirus and promoting freedom democracy & human rights worldwide.”

The ministry said Azar will meet with independence-minded President Tsai Ing-wen, with whose government Beijing cut off virtually all contacts four years ago, and with Foreign Minister Joseph Wu and top health officials.

People riding the subway wear face masks to protect against the spread of the coronavirus in Taipei, Taiwan, in July.Chiang Ying-ying / AP

AIT said Azar will discuss the disease, global health and Taiwan’s role as a supplier of medical equipment and technology.

The visit is believed to be scheduled for next week, although AIT said details on the timing and agenda would be announced later.

Azar would be the first HHS secretary to visit Taiwan and the first Cabinet member to visit in six years, the last being then-Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy. His Cabinet ranking is higher than previous U.S. visitors.

“Taiwan has been a model of transparency and cooperation in global health during the COVID-19 pandemic and long before it,” Azar said in the AIT statement. “This trip represents an opportunity to strengthen our economic and public health cooperation with Taiwan, especially as the United States and other countries work to strengthen and diversify our sources for crucial medical products.”

Azar’s visit was facilitated by the 2018 passage of the Taiwan Travel Act that encouraged sending higher-level officials to Taiwan after decades during which such contacts were rare and freighted with safeguards to avoid roiling ties with Beijing.

McCarthy’s visit to Taiwan in 2014 sparked a protest from China’s foreign ministry, which accused the U.S. of betraying commitments made to it about maintaining only unofficial links with Taipei.

China objects to all official contact between Taiwan and the U.S. But its increasing diplomatic pressure, including poaching Taiwan’s few remaining diplomatic allies and excluding it from international gatherings including the World Health Assembly, have fostered already considerable bipartisan sympathy for Taipei in Washington and prompted new measures to strengthen governmental and military ties.

Taiwan’s strong performance in handling its COVID-19 outbreak has also won it plaudits while highlighting its exclusion from the World Health Organization and other U.N. bodies. Despite its close proximity to China, where the global pandemic is believed to have originated, the island of 23 million has recorded just 476 cases and seven deaths from COVID-19.

“In contrast to authoritarian systems, U.S. and Taiwan societies and economies are uniquely equipped to drive global progress in areas such as medicine and science to help the world tackle emerging threats,” AIT said. “The COVID-19 pandemic is the most recent example of joint U.S.-Taiwan efforts to confront global challenges for the good of the world.”

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Sony’s Sending Out PS Plus Discounts to Subscribers on PS4 – Push Square

Check your notifications

PlayStation Plus Discount

It would seem that Sony’s sending out PlayStation Plus discount offers to lucky subscribers. Those who receive the offer can get 1/3 off the price of a 3 or 12 month PlayStation Plus subscription. The offer only lasts until the 9th August, but it’s worth remembering that even if you’re subscribed to the service right now, any additional months are stacked on top of your current subscription.

As with the £10/$10 PlayStation Store credit giveaway last month, you’ll need to check your PS4 notifications for this one. The notification itself will be from PlayStation.

Reports of this offer appear to be quite scarce (at least at the time of writing) so we assume that it’s being sent out at random. If it’s anything like the aforementioned giveaway, then your chances of actually getting a discount could be very slim indeed.

Have you received a notification? Would you take advantage of this offer if you got it? Give us some valuable data in the comments section below.


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MLB owners sending latest plan to MLBPA that includes sliding pay scale for players – USA TODAY

Published 1:55 p.m. ET May 26, 2020 | Updated 5:15 p.m. ET May 26, 2020


SportsPulse: Mackenzie Salmon spoke with former NBPA executive director Charles Grantham about the potential hurdles that could face MLB and its players as they try to stage a return to action.


PHOENIX — Major League Baseball dropped a revenue-sharing plan, and instead introduced a sliding scale of compensation to the Major League Baseball Players Association on Tuesday afternoon, the first time the two sides have formally discussed economic issues in an attempt to open the pandemic-shortened season by the July 4th weekend.

The plan, three people with knowledge of the proposal told USA TODAY Sports, proposes to pay players a prorated percentage of their salaries, with the players who make the most taking the biggest salary cuts. The three people spoke only on the condition of anonymity because negotiations are ongoing.

Younger players who make the least amount of money would receive most of their guaranteed prorated salaries. The proposal also includes a sliding scale of compensation that guarantees players a percentage of their salaries at different intervals of the season, through the postseason.

Owners are concerned the postseason, when they stand to make generate the most revenue on TV rights fees, could be wiped out if the country is hit by a second wave of the coronavirus in October or November.

The players agreed on March 26 to be paid on a prorated basis, but owners are seeking a new deal with revenues expected to fall significantly short as result of the 82-game season and postseason likely to be played without fans in the stands. Players would receive pay cuts of more than 50%, and perhaps as much as 75% for the game’s top-paid players.

The union views the pay cuts as being massive, and the initial reaction was not positive. 

“Interesting strategy of making the best most marketable player potentially look like the bad guys,” Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher Brett Anderson tweeted.

MLB did adhere to the union’s request of dropping its proposed 50-50 revenue sharing plan. The union was concerned that the revenue-sharing would lead to the introduction of a salary cap in future negotiations, while wary of further pay reductions, including the possibility of a percentage of their salaries placed in escrow.

There is a worry among several agents that the new proposal could create a division among the rank-and-file, but certainly there will be modifications, compromises and plenty of discussion with all players during these negotiations.

The owners insist that it’s necessary for the players take a further salary reduction because they will lose money during the regular season without fans in attendance. Yet, the owners also would be guaranteed $777 million in postseason TV revenue, which would be inflated to about $1 billion with the postseason format expanded to 14 teams instead of 10. The owners have discussed sharing a portion of the money with the players.

There’s no hard deadline for the negotiations to be completed, but the two sides would likely need to reach an agreement by around June 6 for the season to start on July 4. Players and coaching staffs need time to report for the resumption of spring training, which would last three weeks at a team’s home ballpark or their spring-training site in Florida or Arizona.

Follow Nightengale on Twitter: @Bnightengale


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