President Donald Trump gives thumbs up as he steps off Air Force One as he arrives Monday, Oct. 8, 2018, at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
OAN Newsroom UPDATED 11:00 AM PT – Monday, April 12, 2021
A new financial report confirmed President Trump’s assertion he not only did not profit off the presidency, but actually grew less wealthy as a result of his service to the American people.
This is according to estimates by Forbes, which were published in their annual Billionaires List on Tuesday. It assessed his net worth at $2.4 billion, which is down from $3.5 billion in 2017 at the onset of the Trump administration.
That means despite four years of accusations from the left that President Trump was enriching himself from the White House, his time in office actually cost him about 32 percent of his total wealth. This confirms the truth behind his numerous statements on the matter.
“I think I will, in a combination of loss and opportunity, probably it’ll cost me anywhere from three to $5 billion to be President,” he previously stated. “And the only thing I care about is this country…couldn’t care less, otherwise.”
Moreover, the analysis performed by Forbes and verified by industry experts also projected that had President Trump sold off all his assets and used the proceeds to invest in the stock market, he would have made himself $1.6 billion richer.
This is due to the thriving stock market overseen by the Trump administration and boosted by a business-friendly overhaul of the U.S. tax code, which was spearheaded by President Trump. According to Forbes, he refused to “cash in on a market boom he helped propel.”
While the Constitution mandates the president receive a salary amount decided by Congress and thus a sitting commander-in-chief cannot legally refuse it outright, President Trump still did not profit. While keeping one of his earliest campaign promises, he donated the totality of his salary, set at $400, 000 a year or $1.6 million over four years, to various government agencies throughout his presidency.
His first quarterly donation was in the amount of $78,333, which Forbes estimated were his post-tax earnings. This was topped off by an “anonymous” donor to a total of $100,000, which was the same amount President Trump donated every other quarter of his presidency. This suggests he was not only not taking in a salary, but dipping into his own private funds to pay taxes on that salary then donating the pre-tax amount back.
Yet, despite all those financial losses, President Trump said on repeated occasions he had no regrets over making that sacrifice for the sake of the American people.
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NAIROBI (Reuters) – Tanzania’s new President Samia Suluhu Hassan said on Tuesday she would lift a ban on all media in the country, a radical shift from a press crackdown implemented by her late predecessor John Magufuli.
Under Magufuli, who Hassan said died of heart disease at 61, rights groups said press freedom had nosedived. He had shut down newspapers and websites, jailed journalists and warned them that there were limits to their press freedom.
“I have heard there are media that were banned. Reopen them, we should not give them room to say we are shrinking press freedom,” the president told officials at the State House in the capital Dar es Salaam.
“We should not ban the media by force. Reopen them, and we should ensure they follow the rules,” she added.
Last June, the government revoked the license of the opposition-leaning newspaper Tanzania Daima, accused of spreading false information and violating journalism ethics.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said last year that since March 2019, Tanzanian authorities suspended at least three other media outlets.
Some activists welcomed Hassan’s decision to lift the media ban but urged her to amend laws stifling press freedom.
“Well put, however, repressive laws have to be repealed…,” tweeted Maria Sarungi, a renowned activist and director of Kwanza TV, one of the media organizations banned under Magufuli.
(Reporting by Nairobi newsroom; Editing by Bernadette Baum)
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The national president of the RSL has apologised after accusing a woman campaigning for a royal commission of looking to “assuage” her own guilt. Andrew Greene reports.
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The two countries also inked five MoUs to further boost their bilateral cooperation (File)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday called on Bangladesh President Abdul Hamid during which the two leaders discussed a wide range of issues pertaining to Indo-Bangla cooperation.
PM Modi is on the concluding leg of his two-day visit to Bangladesh. It is his first trip to a foreign country since the outbreak of the coronavirus.
“Had a wonderful meeting with President Abdul Hamid. We exchanged views on a wide range of subjects pertaining to India-Bangladesh cooperation,” the prime minister tweeted.
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in a tweet said PM Modi and President Hamid had comprehensive discussions on all aspects of bilateral relations and exchanged views on regional and international issues.
Before meeting the president, PM Modi held one-on-one and delegation-level talks with his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina. The two countries also inked five MoUs to further boost their bilateral cooperation.
On Friday, the prime minister attended the celebrations of the golden jubilee of the country’s independence and the birth centenary of “Bangabandhu” Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in Dhaka.
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The Senate took its first steps on Wednesday to advance one of Democrats’ top legislative priorities, convening the chamber’s opening hearing on a sweeping federal elections overhaul to expand voting rights and blunt Republican efforts to restrict access to the ballot box through a wave of new measures racing through state legislatures.
Chock-full of liberal priorities, the bill, called the For the People Act, would usher in landmark changes to make it easier to vote, to enact new campaign finance laws and to end to partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts. The legislation passed the House along party lines earlier this month. It faces solid opposition from Republicans who are working to clamp down on ballot access, and who argue that the bill is a power-grab by Democrats.
Democrats on the Senate Rules Committee hope that testimony from Eric Holder, the former attorney general; prominent voting experts; and anti-corruption advocates will help build on a rising drumbeat of support by liberals for its enactment.
“Today, in the 21st Century, there is a concerted, nationwide effort to limit the rights of citizens to vote and to truly have a voice in their own government,” said Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader.
He called the voting rollbacks in the states an “existential threat to our democracy” reminiscent of the Jim Crow segregationist laws of the past, chanting “Shame! Shame! Shame!” at Republicans who are promoting them.
Republicans were equally adamant in their opposition to a measure that promises to be an extraordinarily heavy lift for Democrats. They call the measure an attempt by Democrats to give themselves a permanent political advantage by driving up turnout among minority groups and by preventing Republicans, who control a majority of statehouses, from drawing new congressional districts later this year that would tilt the playing field in their favor.
“This is an attempt by one party to write the rules of our political system,” said Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the minority leader. “We can’t afford to go further down this road.”
So far, not a single Republican supports the nearly 800-page bill, and Democrats are unlikely to win support even from all 50 of their members without substantial changes.
Democrats’ best hope for enacting the legislation increasingly appears to be to try to leverage its voting protections — which many liberals view as a life or death matter not just for American democracy, but their own political chances in the future — to justify triggering the Senate’s so-called nuclear option: the elimination of the filibuster rule requiring 60 votes, rather than a simple majority, to advance most bills. For now though, even that remains out of reach as long as conservative Democrats in the 50-50 Senate are opposed.
To make the case against it, Republicans turned two officials who backed an effort to overturn President Biden’s election victory.Mac Warner, the secretary of state of West Virginia and Todd Rokita, the attorney general of Indiana, both supported a Texas lawsuit late last year asking the Supreme Court to invalidate the election results in key battleground states Mr. Biden won, citing groundless claims of voting fraud and other irregularities being spread by former President Donald J. Trump.
Two former Republican chairmen of the Federal Election Commission were also set to testify in opposition on Wednesday.
Republicans are particularly alarmed about provisions that would create a new public campaign financing system for congressional candidates and restructure the F.E.C., making it more partisan and punitive.
“Talk about ‘shame,’ ” Mr. McConnell said.
President Biden’s demand for new gun control measures on Tuesday was the latest in what has become a doleful ritual in Washington: making a renewed call for legislation after a deadly mass shooting, the latest one at a Colorado grocery store where 10 people, including a police officer, were killed on Monday.
But while polling regularly shows broad support for tighter gun laws and specific policies like a ban on assault weapons, Republicans in Congress remained all but immovable on the issue, repeating longstanding arguments on Tuesday that gun violence should be addressed through steps like more policing rather than limiting gun rights.
“There’s not a big appetite among our members to do things that would appear to be addressing it, but actually don’t do anything to fix the problem,” said Senator John Thune of South Dakota, the No. 2 Senate Republican.
Even before the recent shootings, which also included a deadly rampage at massage parlors in Atlanta, Democrats had begun advancing stricter gun control measures. But those proposals face long odds in the 50-to-50 Senate, where it takes 60 votes to overcome a filibuster.
House Democrats passed two bills this month aimed at expanding and strengthening background checks for gun buyers by applying them to all gun buyers and extending the time the F.B.I. has to vet those flagged by the national instant check system.
The twin pieces of legislation passed in the House have been deemed ineffective and too expansive by most Republicans; only eight House Republicans voted to advance the universal background check legislation. The bills would almost certainly not muster 60 votes in the Senate.
Nevertheless, Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, vowed on Tuesday to put the bills to a vote on the Senate floor, and Mr. Biden urged their passage while also calling for an assault weapons ban. The gunman in the Colorado shooting was armed with both a military-style semiautomatic rifle and a pistol.
Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, said that he was “open to the discussion” around gun control measures, but that he was opposed to the two House-passed bills.
“What I’m not attracted to is something that doesn’t work, and there have been deep-seated philosophical differences between Republicans and Democrats about how to deal with gun violence,” Mr. McConnell said.
Mr. Biden, for his part, expressed uncertainty when asked by a reporter whether he had the political capital to move forward with gun safety measures.
“I hope so,” he said, crossing his fingers. “I don’t know. I haven’t done any counting yet.”
The White House said Tuesday that it would appoint a senior official to focus on Asian-American priorities after the Senate’s two Asian-American Democrats called on President Biden to address what they said was an unacceptable lack of representation at the highest levels of his administration.
In a late-night statement, Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said Mr. Biden would name “a senior-level Asian-American Pacific Islander liaison who will ensure the community’s voice is further represented and heard.”
“The president has made it clear that his administration will reflect the diversity of the country,” Ms. Psaki said. “That has always been, and remains, our goal.”
The announcement came hours after Senators Tammy Duckworth of Illinois and Mazie K. Hirono of Hawaii promised to withhold their votes on some nominees until Mr. Biden engaged more actively on the issue amid a rising tide of racism toward Asian-Americans during the pandemic, culminating in last week’s deadly shootings in the Atlanta area.
With the Senate divided evenly between the two parties, the move temporarily threatened to derail the president’s hopes of confirming several executive branch officials, including the Pentagon’s No. 3. Apparently, it also created considerable pressure to find a solution to a diversity problem the senators said they had been quietly raising for months.
Open disputes between Mr. Biden and congressional Democrats have been relatively rare in his first months in office, and the senators’ ultimatum was an unusual public disagreement within a party in uniform control of Washington. But by late Tuesday, Ms. Duckworth and Ms. Hirono had dropped their threats and appeared satisfied by the administration’s response.
Ben Garmisa, a spokesman for Ms. Duckworth, said in a statement that the senator appreciated the White House’s “assurances that it will do much more to elevate A.A.P.I. voices and perspectives at the highest levels of government,” referring to Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders. He added that the White House had given assurances that its new appointee would work both to confirm more Asian-American and Pacific Islander nominees and to advance legislation that was “relevant and important to the community.”
“Accordingly, she will not stand in the way of President Biden’s qualified nominees — which will include more A.A.P.I. leaders,” Mr. Garmisa said of Ms. Duckworth.
Citing her own conversation with the White House, Ms. Hirono said on Twitter that she would also “continue voting to confirm the historic and highly qualified nominees President Biden has appointed to serve in his administration.”
New videos obtained by The New York Times show publicly for the first time how the U.S. Capitol Police officer who died after the Jan. 6 attack was hit with chemical spray — with one of the rioters seen reaching in a friend’s backpack to retrieve what he called “bear spray.”
The officer, Brian D. Sicknick, who had been guarding the west side of the Capitol, collapsed later that day and died the next night. Little had been known about what happened to him during the assault, and the previously unpublished videos provide new details that clarify the confusing sequence of events.
Two men, Julian Elie Khater and George Pierre Tanios, were arrested on March 14 and charged with assaulting Officer Sicknick and two other officers with chemical spray. The investigation is continuing, and federal prosecutors haven’t ruled out pursuing murder charges.
Here’s what the videos show.
Mr. Khater and Mr. Tanios arrive near the police line on the west side of the Capitol at 2:09 p.m., more than an hour into the battle between rioters and police officers. Mr. Khater observes the fighting as tear gas and chemical spray waft through the crowd, then turns back toward where Mr. Tanios is standing.
At 2:14 p.m., he and Mr. Tanios huddle just a few yards from the police line, according to the F.B.I. Part of their conversation is captured in a separate video.
“Give me that bear shit,” Mr. Khater tells Mr. Tanios, most likely referring to a canister of bear repellent spray that prosecutors say Mr. Tanios purchased earlier that day.
He appears to retrieve something from Mr. Tanios’s backpack. After Mr. Tanios tells him to wait, Mr. Khater responds, “They just sprayed me.” He holds a white spray canister in his right hand.
On Monday, federal prosecutors alleged in court that Mr. Khater and Mr. Tanios were carrying Frontiersman bear spray, which can be many times more powerful than pepper sprays sold for self-defense and is not meant for use on humans.
By 2:20 p.m., six minutes later, Mr. Khater has returned to the police line, where Officer Sicknick and his colleagues are standing behind a row of bike rack barricades. He stands just a few feet from Officer Sicknick, who can be seen wearing a blue Capitol Police jacket, bicycle helmet and black coronavirus face mask.
At 2:23 p.m., Mr. Khater raises his arm over other rioters and sprays something toward Officer Sicknick.
A thin stream of liquid is visible shooting from a canister in Mr. Khater’s hand. It is unclear in the video what Mr. Khater is firing, and prosecutors have alleged that Mr. Tanios brought two smaller canisters of pepper spray to the Capitol in addition to two cans of Frontiersman bear spray.
Officer Sicknick reacts immediately to the spray, turning and raising his hand.
The last time Officer Sicknick appears in the videos or the photographs, he is bent over by the scaffolding erected for President Biden’s upcoming inauguration.
Americans who need health insurance will now have even longer to select a health plan for the rest of the year. The Biden administration announced Tuesday that it would extend enrollment for Obamacare plans sold on Healthcare.gov until Aug. 15, from a May deadline.
The change was announced on the 11th anniversary of the signing of the Affordable Care Act, the law that established the markets where individuals could buy their own health insurance, and made plans available to shoppers regardless of pre-existing health conditions, among many other provisions.
“We have a duty not just to protect it but to make it better and keep becoming a nation where health care is a right for all and not a privilege for a few,” President Biden said at the Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital at the Ohio State University on Tuesday.
The stimulus bill signed this month expanded subsidies that help people buy such coverage, lowering the price of a typical plan to zero dollars for low-income families and offering financial assistance for the first time to households higher on the income scale. But it is taking time for the Department of Health and Human Services to implement the new provisions, and so far it has decided not to make the changes automatic. That means that even people who currently get coverage on the exchanges will need to go back to request new benefits. The extended enrollment period will give them more time to do that.
“Every American deserves access to quality, affordable health care — especially as we fight back against the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Xavier Becerra, the secretary of health and human services. His statement encouraged uninsured Americans to sign up and current Obamacare customers to review new discounts.
The administration also announced that sign-ups for special subsidies for Americans who receive unemployment insurance this year will start July 1. Congress established a system for them to receive zero-premium health plans all year, but carrying out that provision quickly has proved complicated.
Enrollment in Affordable Care Act plans for most Americans is typically limited to a six-week period each year, as a means of encouraging people to enroll when they are healthy. But the Biden administration had already opened a second enrollment period this year, arguing that the pandemic and its economic effects presented an emergency that justified expanding options for coverage. The original special enrollment period had been set to expire in mid-May.
The changes apply in the 36 states that use the federal Healthcare.gov platform to manage their insurance marketplaces. But several states that run their own marketplaces have also extended their enrollment periods.
Mr. Biden, who wore a black mask throughout his speech in Ohio, said the extension would also benefit minority communities that “historically have gone without insurance at higher rates” and have been disproportionally impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Millions of families will be able to sleep a little more soundly at night,” the president said, “because they don’t have to worry about losing everything if they get sick.”
Congress has plunged once again into a red-hot dispute over the 2020 balloting, this time weighing whether to overturn the results of a House race in Iowa that could tilt the chamber’s narrow balance of power.
At issue is the outcome of November’s election in a southeastern Iowa district, where state officials declared Representative Mariannette Miller-Meeks, a Republican, the winner in one of the closest contests in American history. Ms. Miller-Meeks prevailed by only six votes out of nearly 400,000 cast in the state’s Second Congressional District; in January, she took the oath of office in Washington.
But her Democratic opponent, Rita Hart, has refused to concede the race, pointing to 22 discarded ballots she says would have made her the winner if counted. Now Democrats, who hold the majority in the House and spent months pushing back on President Donald J. Trump’s falsehoods about a stolen election — including his claim that Congress had the power to unilaterally overturn the results — are thrust into the uncomfortable role of arbiters of a contested race.
Ms. Hart has appealed to the House, including in a new filing on Monday, to step in to overrule the state and seat her instead, sending Ms. Miller-Meeks back to Iowa.
“This was not something I sought, believe me,” said Representative Zoe Lofgren, Democrat of California and the chairwoman of the panel looking into the race.
Ms. Lofgren and other Democrats say they have little choice but to take the appeal seriously under a 1960s law Ms. Hart has invoked. In recent weeks, Ms. Lofgren’s panel, the House Administration Committee, has opened a full-scale review into the contest that lawmakers say could lead to impounding ballots, conducting their own hand recount and ultimately a vote by the full House to determine who should rightfully represent the Iowa district.
Reversing the result would give Democrats a crucial additional vote to pad one of the sparest majorities in decades. The House is currently divided 219 to 211, with five vacancies.
House Republicans — more than half of whom voted to overturn Mr. Biden’s win — are accusing Democrats of a screeching, 180-degree turn now that flipping an election result would be to their advantage.
“One hundred percent, pure partisan politics,” said Representative Rodney Davis of Illinois, the top Republican on the Administration Committee.
America’s top two economic officials told senators on Wednesday that the economy is healing but still in a deep hole, and that continued government support is providing a critical lifeline to families and businesses.
Jerome H. Powell, the Federal Reserve chair, and Janet L. Yellen, the Treasury Secretary and Mr. Powell’s immediate predecessor at the Fed, are testifying before the Senate Banking Committee. Their prepared comments echoed their testimony before House lawmakers on Tuesday.
Mr. Powell said in his remarks that the government averted the worst possible outcomes in the pandemic economic recession with its aggressive spending response and super-low Fed interest rates.
“But the recovery is far from complete, so, at the Fed, we will continue to provide the economy the support that it needs for as long as it takes,” he said.
Ms. Yellen, who pushed hard for the recently-passed $1.9 trillion relief package, said that responding to a crisis with a needed surge of temporary spending without paying for it was “appropriate.”
“Longer-run, we do have to raise revenue to support permanent spending that we want to do,” she said.
She said that expanded unemployment insurance, part of the recent relief package, does not seem to be discouraging work and is needed at a time when the labor market is not at full strength.
“While unemployment remains high, it’s important to provide the supplementary relief,” Ms. Yellen said, noting that the aid lasts until the fall. She said that as the economy recovers, the aid “should be phased out.”
The Biden administration is also making plans for a $3 trillion infrastructure package. The fact that the government is spending so much, and contemplating spending more, at a time when the economy is recovering has stoked concerns about inflation among some economists and lawmakers.
Some onlookers fear that the Fed, which has interest rates at rock-bottom and is buying bonds in big quantities to help the economy, might be too slow to react to higher prices.
“I do worry that the Fed may be behind the curve when inflation inevitably picks up,” Senator Patrick J. Toomey, Republican from Pennsylvania, said during his opening remarks.
But Mr. Powell has consistently pushed back on concerns about runaway inflation, and did so again on Wednesday.
“We think the inflation dynamics that we’ve seen around the world for a quarter-century are essentially intact — we’ve got a world that’s short of demand, with very low inflation,” Mr. Powell said. “We think those dynamics haven’t gone away overnight, and won’t.”
Asked specifically about potential supply and demand mismatches — particularly in the context of a ship that had gotten stuck in the Suez Canal, but also in general as the economy reopens — he struck a similarly unconcerned tone.
“A bottleneck, by definition, is temporary,” he said.
He also batted back concerns about a recent increase in market-based interest rates. The yield on 10-year Treasury notes, a closely watched government bond, has moved up since the start of the year.
“Rates have responded to news about vaccination, and ultimately, about growth,” Mr. Powell said. “That has been an orderly process. I would be concerned if it were not an orderly process, or if conditions were to tighten to a point where they might threaten our recovery.”
Under President Donald J. Trump, the federal government did little to gauge the impact of the pandemic on the nation’s education system. President Biden promised to change that, and on Wednesday, his Department of Education released the first federal survey of how American public schools have operated amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The results paint a picture of a school system that remained severely disrupted as the pandemic neared its first anniversary.
It found that in January of this year, three-quarters of school buildings were open at least partially for in-person learning in the fourth and eighth grades, the two grade levels examined by the survey. Nevertheless, 43 percent of fourth graders and 48 percent of eighth graders were learning fully remotely. Only 28 percent of eighth graders and 38 percent of fourth graders were attending full-time, in-person school; the rest were on hybrid schedules, receiving a mixture of in-person and virtual instruction.
Racial disparities were stark. The majority of Black, Hispanic and Asian-American fourth graders were learning fully remotely, compared to only a quarter of white fourth graders. About half the white fourth graders were in full-time, traditional school.
Children with disabilities were only slightly more likely to be learning in-person than others, despite schools reporting that they had prioritized this population for classroom time.
“It’s sobering,” said Robin Lake, director of the Center on Reinventing Public Education, a research group that has spent the past year gathering its own, widely cited data on how school districts are functioning. “The data point us to the strong likelihood that the effects from lack of live instruction will add up to significant challenges for kids.”
In line with previous research, the survey found that urban schools, which serve large numbers of nonwhite students, were less likely to offer full-time, in-person schedules. But there is also evidence that significant numbers of nonwhite parents are opting for remote learning even when other options are available, in part because they are more concerned about the health risks of returning their children to school buildings.
The quality of remote learning varied widely, according to the federal survey. More than 1 in 10 students were offered less than two hours per day of live instruction from teachers. In some states, such as Oklahoma and Idaho, only a small percentage of remote learners received more than two hours of live teaching daily.
The survey is based on a representative sample of schools, and will be updated monthly throughout the academic year. Future surveys will look at additional grade levels.
Dr. Vivek Murthy, who helped found several health-related advocacy groups and later tackled the opioid epidemic and e-cigarettes as surgeon general during the Obama administration, was confirmed by the Senate on Tuesday to reprise that role for President Biden.
The vote, 57 to 43, was a much smoother ride for Dr. Murthy than the first time he was confirmed, in 2014, when Republicans cast him as a politically connected supporter of President Barack Obama who would use his position to push for stricter gun control. The fight dragged on for months, leaving the country without a top doctor for more than a year.
When President Donald J. Trump was elected, Dr. Murthy was asked to resign. He refused and was fired, his wife, Alice Chen, said at the time.
Dr. Murthy will return as surgeon general at a critical moment, as the president tries to steer the nation out of the worst public health crisis in a century while expanding access to health care for millions of Americans. During his confirmation hearing, he told the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee that he would make ending the coronavirus pandemic his highest priority.
Dr. Murthy, 43, helped found Doctors for Obama, a group that worked to elect Mr. Obama and now works to expand health care access for Americans. It now goes by Doctors for America.
As an undergraduate at Harvard University, he helped found two nonprofits, one focusing on H.I.V./AIDS education in the United States and India, and the other to train women as community health workers in rural India.
A son of Indian immigrants and the first person of Indian descent to hold the surgeon general’s post, Dr. Murthy, 43, was born in England and grew up mostly in Miami, watching his parents in their own medical practice. He invoked them during his confirmation hearing.
“I have tried,” Dr. Murthy said, “to live by the lessons they embodied: that we have an obligation to help each other whenever we can, to alleviate suffering wherever we find it, and to give back to this country that made their lives and my life and the lives of my children possible.”
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A few minutes drive from the U.S.-Mexico border, a bus station in Brownsville, Texas, has become an unlikely way station for Central American migrants fleeing their countries and risking all for a new life in the United States. Volunteers give out pizza, clothing and arrange transport while city officials conduct COVID-19 tests.
Irela Mejia, 24, and her five-year-old son from Honduras were among those picked up by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers while crossing the Rio Grande river onto U.S. land on a raft with dozens of other migrants.
“I came for a better future for my child,” said Mejia, who is hoping to reunite with her brother in Houston and apply for asylum. She says she had already lost her job due to the COVID -19 pandemic, before two hurricanes in November devastated Honduras.
Her son turned five on the month-long trek from Honduras. They came alone, vulnerable and reliant on smugglers.
“I was very afraid,” she said, her eyes filling with tears.
But her eyes light up when asked about whether Joe Biden becoming U.S. president influenced her decision to come to the border: “Yes, after he put out that immigrants could come over, I felt it would be a better future, that they might give us documents to be legal in this country.”
Mejia is one of tens of thousands of migrants who have arrived at the U.S. border along Mexico in recent weeks in hopes of an easier passage into the country under Biden’s administration. They have been undeterred by the government’s public plea to asylum seekers: “Don’t come now.”
In February, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials detained just over 100,000 people crossing the border — a 28 per cent increase over January, though below the record high of 144,000 hit in February 2019. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has said the number of people attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in 2021 is on track to hit the highest level in the last 20 years.
WATCH | Migrants flock to U.S border in hope of easier entry:
Hundreds of migrants from Central America are streaming into Texas from Mexico everyday, posing problems not only for the U.S. border patrol but for President Biden. 5:15
The surge of migrants is fast becoming an early and critical test for Biden to show he can be both firm and humane in dealing with immigration and set his administration apart from that of his predecessor, Donald Trump, whose policies restricted migrants from entering the U.S.
But the challenges are mounting. The Department of Homeland Security has acknowledged it is struggling to find space for more than 15,000 children under 18 travelling alone and picked up by U.S. border officials in the last several weeks.
Photos released Monday by Texas Rep. Henry Cueller, a Democrat, showed youth at a new, temporary processing centre in Donna, Texas, crowded together on sleeping mats and covered with emergency foil blankets. Reporters have not been allowed inside the facility.
U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas said on Sunday the Biden administration is expelling “family units and single adults” but would not “expel into the Mexican desert” young and vulnerable children. He said the government is working all hours to build up capacity to house them while they are processed.
Critics attack Biden over immigration
Across the border from Brownsville, in Matamoras, the largest migrant camp on the southwest U.S. border was closed March 6 after Biden reversed Trump’s Migrant Protection Protocols, or “Remain in Mexico,” policy, in place since 2019.
That policy prevented asylum seekers from staying in the U.S. to pursue their claim and ordered them back to Mexico, where thousands subsequently camped along the border. Biden’s swift reversal of that policy allowed migrants with active asylum claims back into the U.S. to pursue their case.
Critics, including Trump, accuse Biden of throwing open the border to migrants.
“We proudly handed the Biden Administration the most secure border in history,” the former Republican U.S. president said in a statement. They’ve “turned a national triumph into a national disaster.”
Charlene D’Cruz, an immigration lawyer who works in Brownsville and Matamoras, says the topic is a source of “pressure on every single president.”
“It is in no way the crisis or the situation some Republicans are making it out to be,” she said in Brownsville. “The way the previous president decided to take care of it is just to seal it [the border] until it’s reached a fever pitch; it’s like a tourniquet and when you let it go, of course there’s going to be [a big flow].”
Cruz, who has been working with migrants for 30 years, says there were surges in 2014, 2016 and 2019 and that the latest one started in spring last year with the pandemic and natural disasters adding to the existing threats of local violence in Central American countries.
Treated with respect and dignity
Aura Cruz, a 67-year-old from Guatemala, is still stranded in Mexico. She fled with her great granddaughter, then an infant, and four other families in 2019 after the baby’s mother was murdered in Guatemala. Dulce is now 2 years old, unaware of her uncertain future.
“I’m worried about the girl,” said Cruz, sitting outside the empty Matamoras camp. “I [could] suddenly die, so I’m eager to keep fighting for asylum.”
Global Response Management, a U.S. non-governmental organization that provides medical care and humanitarian relief, says migrants need to be given help to ensure they can seek asylum safely.
“We know more migrants are on their way, more are crossing every day,” said Mark McDonald, a paramedic and assistant project director with GRM. “They deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.”
WATCH | U.S. border officials detain migrants crossing border:
U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents unload migrants picked up in the fields between the border wall near Abram, Texas, and the Rio Grande River, which separates the U.S. and Mexico. After criminal and document checks, some will be released and allowed to pursue their asylum cases; others will be sent back across the border. 0:51
Getting to the root of the problem
For those who’ve cared for migrants for decades along the border, the surge has been predictable.
Sister Norma Pimentel manages a group of shelters in the Rio Grande Valley, including one in McAllen, Texas.
An advocate for migrants, she says restrictive policies only exacerbate the misery of migrants without stopping them from trying to cross the border.
“The reason why people come has never been addressed. The focus has been in militarizing the border, but the problem is not the border,” said Pimentel, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley. “The problem is back home, the root causes of why these families migrate in the first place.”
Dalila Moran de Asencio, 33-year-old teacher, and Edgardo Antonio Asencio, a 33-year-old public servant, and their two children fled gangs and violence in El Salvador 15 months ago. They crossed into the U.S. but were sent back under Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy. They’ve been living with 30 other migrants for over a year in a house managed by a Catholic charity in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico.
“It wasn’t easy, but our lives were in danger,” said Edgardo. “I never could imagine that a crime situation would force us to take such drastic decisions.”
Doctors without Borders provides mental health counselling for people stuck in limbo.
“They show symptoms relating to acute stress that’s associated with anxiety and depression,” said psychologist Catalina Urrego Echeverri, the group’s medical team co-ordinator in the area.
Dalila, whose dad died when she was 12, says her journey has been a difficult one.
“Sometimes I feel stressed and sad because I don’t come from a family with a great economic situation but with a lot of sacrifices, I finished university,” she said. “And I feel sad because I fought so hard and had graduated soon before I had to leave. From one day to the next we had to leave the country.”
She says the change in the U.S. presidency is the first hopeful sign in over a year.
“We’ve seen on the news that a lot of families have already been granted access to the U.S., to seek asylum inside,” she said. “We hope and trust that’s our case as well.”
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Tanzania’s new President Samia Suluhu Hassan has called for unity and says the country needs to bury its differences and avoid pointing fingers following the death of President John Magufuli.
President Hassan will also be the country’s first president born in Zanzibar
She assumes the presidency two days after she addressed the nation to announce the death of John Magufuli
Her leadership style is seen as a potential contrast from Magufuli
Ms Hassan, vice president since 2015, gave a brief and sombre address after she was sworn in as President, becoming the first female head of state in the east African country of 58 million.
“This is a time to bury our differences, and stand united as a country,” she said.
“This is not a time for finger-pointing, but it’s a time to hold hands and move forward together,” she said, addressing a crowd of current and former officials that included two former presidents and uniformed military officers.
Wearing a red hijab and taking her oath on the Koran, she was sworn in at State House in the country’s commercial capital Dar es Salaam.
Described as a soft-spoken consensus-builder, President Hassan will also be the country’s first president born in Zanzibar, the archipelago that forms part of the union of the Republic of Tanzania.
Her leadership style is seen as a potential contrast from Magufuli, a brash populist who earned the nickname ‘Bulldozer’ for muscling through policies and who drew criticism for his intolerance of dissent, which his government denied.
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Putin responds to Biden’s insinuation that’s he a ‘killer’: says US President is likely projecting, but ‘I wish him good health‘ — RT Russia & Former Soviet Union
18 Mar, 2021 11:47
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WASHINGTON — President Biden, under intense pressure to donate excess coronavirus vaccines to needy nations, moved on Friday to address the global shortage in another way, partnering with Japan, India and Australia to expand global vaccine manufacturing capacity.
In a deal announced at the so-called Quad Summit, a virtual meeting of leaders of the four countries, the Biden administration committed to providing financial support to help Biological E, a major vaccine manufacturer in India, produce at least 1 billion doses of coronavirus vaccines by the end of 2022.
That would address an acute vaccine shortage in Southeast Asia and beyond without risking domestic political blowback from exporting doses in the coming months, as Americans clamor for their shots.
The United States has fallen far behind China, India and Russia in the race to marshal coronavirus vaccines as an instrument of diplomacy. At the same time, Mr. Biden is facing accusations of vaccine hoarding from global health advocates who want his administration to channel supplies to needy nations that are desperate for access.
Insisting that Americans come first, the president has so far refused to make any concrete commitments to give away American-made vaccines, even as tens of millions of doses of the vaccine made by the British-Swedish company AstraZeneca sit idly in American manufacturing facilities.
“If we have a surplus, we’re going to share it with the rest of the world,” Mr. Biden said this week, adding, “We’re going to start off making sure Americans are taken care of first, but we’re then going to try and help the rest of the world.”
In fact, the president has a lot of work ahead of him domestically to make good on the promises he has made in recent days: that all states must make all adults eligible for vaccinations by May 1, that enough vaccine doses will exist by the end of May to inoculate every American adult, and that by July 4, if Americans continue to follow public health guidance, life should be returning to a semblance of normalcy.
Vaccine supply appears on track to fulfill those goals, but the president must still create the infrastructure to administer the doses and overcome reluctance in large sectors of the population to take them.
Still, Mr. Biden has also made restoring U.S. leadership a centerpiece of his foreign policy agenda after his predecessor frayed alliances and strained relationships with allies and global partners. His secretary of state, Antony J. Blinken, said in a recent BBC interview that a global vaccination campaign would be part of that effort; Washington, he said, was “determined” to be an “international leader” on vaccinations.
Foreign policy experts and global health activists see clear diplomatic, public health and humanitarian reasons for doing so.
“It’s time for U.S. leaders to ask themselves: When this pandemic is over, do we want the world to remember America’s leadership helping distribute lifesaving vaccines, or will we leave that to others?” said Tom Hart, the North America executive director of the One Campaign, a nonprofit founded by the U2 singer Bono and dedicated to eradicating world poverty.
The federal government has purchased 453 million excess vaccine doses, the group says. It has called on the Biden administration to share 5 percent of its doses abroad when 20 percent of Americans have been vaccinated, and to gradually increase the percentage of shared doses as more Americans receive their vaccines.
As of Friday, 13.5 percent of people in the United States who are 18 or older have been fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The authoritarian governments of China and Russia, which are less buffeted by domestic public opinion, are already using vaccines to expand their spheres of influence. While the Biden administration plans its strategy to counter China’s growing global clout, Beijing is burnishing its image by shipping vaccines to dozens of countries on several continents, including in Africa, Latin America and particularly in its Southeast Asian backyard.
Russia has supplied vaccines to Eastern European nations, including Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, at a time when Biden officials want to keep the European Union unified against Russian influence on the continent.
“We may be outcompeted by others who are more willing to share, even if they’re doing it for cynical reasons,” said Ivo H. Daalder, a former NATO ambassador and the president of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. “I think countries are going to remember who was there for us when we needed them.”
With worrisome and highly infectious new variants emerging in the United States and around the world, public health experts say vaccinating people overseas is also necessary to protect Americans.
“It has to be sold to Americans as an essential strategy to make Americans safe and secure over the long term, and it has to be sold to a highly divided, toxic America,” said J. Stephen Morrison, a global health expert at the Centers for Strategic and International Studies. “I don’t think that’s impossible. I think Americans are beginning to understand that in a world of variants, everything that happens outside our borders ups the urgency to move really fast.”
Mr. Blinken said as much to the BBC: “Until everyone in the world is vaccinated, then no one is really fully safe.”
The Quad Vaccine Partnership announced at the summit meeting on Friday involves different commitments from each of the nations, according to the White House.
Beyond assistance for the Indian vaccine manufacturer, the United States pledged at least $100 million to bolster vaccination capacity abroad and aid public health efforts. Japan, it said, is “in discussions” to provide loans for the Indian government to expand manufacturing of vaccines for export and will aid vaccination programs for developing countries. Australia will contribute $77 million to provide vaccines and delivery support with a focus on Southeast Asia.
The four countries will also form aQuad Vaccine Experts Group oftop scientists and government officials who will work to address manufacturing hurdles and financing plans.
Mr. Morrison said the administration deserved “some credit” for the effort, adding, “It shows diplomatic ingenuity and speed.” But a spokesman for the One Campaign, which focuses on extreme poverty, said his group would still like to see a plan for the United States’ vaccine stockpile and noted that Africa had administered far fewer doses per capita than Asia.
Mr. Biden’s efforts to ramp up vaccine production have helped put the United States on track to produce as many as a billion doses by the end of the year — far more than necessary to vaccinate the roughly 260 million adults in the United States.
What You Need to Know About the Vaccine Rollout
A deal the administration brokered to have the pharmaceutical giant Merck manufacture Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose vaccine, which the president celebrated at the White House on Wednesday, will help advance that goal. Also on Wednesday, Mr. Biden directed federal health officials to secure an additional 100 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine.
The administration has said those efforts are aimed at having enough vaccine for children, booster doses to confront new variants and unforeseen events. But Jeffrey D. Zients, Mr. Biden’s coronavirus response coordinator, told reporters on Friday that the deal between Johnson & Johnson and Merck would also “help expand capacity and ultimately benefits the world.”
In addition to resisting a push to give away excess doses, Mr. Biden has drawn criticism from liberal Democrats by blocking a request by India and South Africa for a temporary waiver to an international intellectual property agreement that would give poorer countries easier access to generic versions of coronavirus vaccines and treatments.
“I understand why we should be prioritizing our supply with Americans — it was paid for by American taxpayers, President Biden is president of America,” said Representative Ro Khanna, a liberal Democrat from California. “But there is no reason we have to prioritize the profits of pharmaceutical companies over the dignity of people in other countries.”
Mr. Biden recently announced a donation of $4 billion to Covax, the international vaccine initiative backed by the World Health Organization. David Bryden, the director of the Frontline Health Workers Coalition, a nonprofit aimed at supporting health workers in low- and middle-income countries, said money was also desperately needed to help train and pay those workers to administer vaccines overseas.
But that donation, and the announcement on Friday of the Quad’s financial support for vaccine production, still falls short of the urgent calls by public health advocates for the United States to immediately supply ready-to-use doses that can quickly be injected.
The Quad’s focus on Southeast Asia, however, most likely reflects an awareness of the gratitude to China in the region, which Beijing has made a focus of its vaccine distribution efforts.
If Mr. Biden is widely seen as helping the world recover from the coronavirus pandemic, it could become part of his legacy, as when President George W. Bush responded to the AIDS crisis in Africa in the 2000s with a huge investment of public health funding. More than a decade later, Mr. Bush and the United States remain venerated across much of the continent for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or Pepfar, which the government says spent $85 billion and saved 20 million lives.
Michael Gerson, a former White House speechwriter under Mr. Bush and a policy adviser who helped devise the Pepfar program, said that its effect had been both moral and strategic, and that the program had earned the United States “a tremendous amount of good will” in Africa.
“I think the principle here should be that the people who need it most should get it no matter where they live,” he said. “It doesn’t make much moral sense to give a healthy American 24-year-old the vaccine before a frontline worker in Liberia.”
But, he added, “that’s very hard for an American politician to explain.”
Ana Swanson contributed reporting
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BREAKING . . . [Editor’s Note: We have added ‘Breaking‘ as a new feature because . . . Drudge has gone away.] Mexican officials in internal assessments have expressed worry that the Biden’s administration’s immigration stance . . . is incentivizing gang activity and human smuggling. The authorities said organized crime is recruiting personnel and […]
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