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Kamala Harris under pressure to visit US-Mexico border

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Vice-President Kamala Harris has faced pressure to visit the US-Mexico border, as she tackled a record migration spike on her first official foreign trip.

Ms Harris had a testy exchange with a journalist who asked why she had not gone to the US southern boundary.

Members of Ms Harris’s own Democratic party meanwhile assailed her after she warned against illegal immigration.

On a visit to Mexico on Tuesday, she said Washington aimed to boost economic development in the region.

She and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said it was in the interests of both countries to address the root causes of migration.

About 178,000 undocumented migrants arrived at the US southern border this April, the highest total in more than two decades.

The vice-president’s staff initially said the border was part of Ms Harris’s portfolio when US President Joe Biden assigned her in March to stem migration from Latin America. But aides have recently been seeking to distance her from the politically toxic crisis.

While recent public polling suggests a generally favourable view of the Biden administration’s policies on the economy and pandemic, its handling of the immigration crisis has proven less popular.

 

Asked in an interview with NBC News aired on Tuesday morning whether she had any plans to visit the border, Ms Harris threw up her arms and responded: “At some point. You know… we are going to the border. We have been to the border.”

When the host pointed out that she had not herself visited the region, she said with a laugh: “And I haven’t been to Europe. I don’t understand the point you’re making.”

migrant kids in campsIMAGE COPYRIGHTREUTERS
image captionChildren detained at a holding facility for undocumented migrants in Donna, Texas, in March

Ms Harris again brushed off questions about why she had not gone to the border as she spoke to reporters on Tuesday in Mexico.

“It would be very easy to say,” she said, “we’ll travel to one place and therefore it’s solved. I don’t think anybody thinks that that would be the solution.”

Pressed on why she would not visit the border, Ms Harris said she had done so when she was a senator for California.

Ms Harris’s remarks came at the end of a two-day visit to Guatemala and Mexico, where she met both countries’ leaders in a bid to bolster diplomatic ties and help stem undocumented migration to the US.

Capping off her trip on Tuesday, Ms Harris met President López Obrador privately for more than an hour, said the vice-president’s aides.

It is unclear whether she pushed Mexico’s president to do more to detain migrants en route to the US. Mr López Obrador, a left-wing leader, has previously blamed the Biden administration for causing the record surge in undocumented migration.

An aide to Ms Harris later said she had pledged $130m (£92m) in US aid to support Mexican workers’ rights. She has already promised $310m to alleviate the impact of the pandemic and hurricanes last year in Central America.

Back at the White House daily briefing on Tuesday, Biden spokeswoman Jen Psaki was asked why Ms Harris had not visited the US-Mexico boundary.

“I think that at some point she may go to the border,” Ms Psaki said. “We’ll see.”

For as much as she may be coming under pressure to visit the border back at home, it’s what she said earlier on this trip which is causing dismay in Central America. Specifically her stark warning that would-be migrants “do not come” – three words she repeated for added emphasis.

A wide array of activists, human rights lawyers and journalists have pointed out the inconsistency in such a message. First, they say, it fails to take into account the reality on the ground for so many millions of the poorest in Central America. Battered by hurricanes, hunger, natural disaster, climate change and coronavirus, the economic downturn in the region could last for many years. That’s to mention nothing of the rampant gang violence and forced recruitment of vulnerable young people in the region.

Added to that, her statement appeared to ignore the fact that requesting asylum is a legal right, one which Ms Harris had berated the Trump administration for undermining while she was a candidate. More than one observer has commented on how it was particularly jarring to hear it from the vice-president, as the daughter of immigrants herself.

In Mexico, the focus shifted to broader bilateral issues: the economy, security co-operation, development plans for southern Mexico and Central America. Yet immigration remains the overriding concern for the Biden administration in this part of the world. For as much as both countries spoke at length of “orderly, safe and regular migration flows” or tackling the “root causes of migration”, most people will remember Vice-President Harris’s first international trip for those three short words: “Do not come”.

Why are fellow Democrats criticising Harris?

Critics across the political spectrum said Ms Harris’s remarks in Guatemala on Monday contradicted the Biden administration’s promise to usher in a more humane approach on migration.

“Do not come. Do not come,” the vice-president warned illegal immigrants, adding: “If you come to our border, you will be turned back.”

While running for the presidency in 2019, Ms Harris lambasted then-President Donald Trump for turning away undocumented immigrants at the border.

“What does Donald Trump do?” she said. “He says, ‘go back where you came from.’ That is not reflective of our America and our values and it’s got to end.”

 

Ms Harris’s remarks on Monday provided fodder for her regular Republican critics, but they also provoked rare rebukes from left-wing members of her own party.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the influential New York City Democratic congresswoman, called the remark “disappointing”.

“First, seeking asylum at any US border is a 100% legal method of arrival,” she tweeted.

“Second, the US spent decades contributing to regime change and destabilisation in Latin America. We can’t help set someone’s house on fire and then blame them for fleeing.”

A man detained in Arizona wears a t-shirt saying "please let us in"IMAGE COPYRIGHTGETTY IMAGES
image captionA man detained in Arizona wears a T-shirt saying “please let us in”

Fellow members of her ultraliberal group known as the Squad also criticised Ms Harris, who is herself the daughter of migrants – an Indian-born mother and a Jamaican-born father.

“The right to seek asylum is not just legally protected. It is a foundational universal human right,” tweeted Minnesota congresswoman Ilhan Omar, who was born in Somalia.

Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib also hit out at Ms Harris, writing: “This whole ‘stay there and die’ approach is not how our country will promote a more humane and just immigration system.”

Asked later about the criticism, Ms Harris said: “I’m really clear. We have to deal with the root causes and that is my hope. Period.”

bbc.com

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50 Cent Is Not Dead

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News of rapper 50 Cent’s death spread quickly earlier this week causing concern among fans across the world. However the June 2021 report has now been confirmed as a complete hoax and just the latest in a string of fake celebrity death reports. Thankfully, the rapper best known for hit songs like Candy Shop or In da Club is alive and well.

50 Cent death hoax spreads on Facebook

Rumors of the rapper’s alleged demise gained traction on Saturday after a ‘R.I.P. 50 Cent’ Facebook page attracted nearly one million of ‘likes’. Those who read the ‘About’ page were given a believable account of the American rapper’s passing:

At about 11 a.m. ET on Saturday (June 19, 2021), our beloved rapper 50 Cent passed away. 50 Cent was born on July 6, 1975 in New York. He will be missed but not forgotten. Please show your sympathy and condolences by commenting on and liking this page.

Hundreds of fans immediately started writing their messages of condolence on the Facebook page, expressing their sadness that the talented 45-year-old rapper, actor and business man was dead. And as usual, Twittersphere was frenzied over the death hoax.

Where as some trusting fans believed the post, others were immediately skeptical of the report, perhaps learning their lesson from the huge amount of fake death reports emerging about celebrities over recent months. Some pointed out that the news had not been carried on any major American network, indicating that it was a fake report, as the death of a rapper of 50 Cent’s stature would be major news across networks.

A recent poll conducted for the Celebrity Post shows that a large majority (92%) of respondents think those 50 Cent death rumors are not funny anymore.

50 Cent Death Hoax Dismissed Since Rapper Is ‘Alive And Well’

On Sunday (June 20) the rapper’s reps officially confirmed that 50 Cent is not dead. “He joins the long list of celebrities who have been victimized by this hoax. He’s still alive and well, stop believing what you see on the Internet,” they said.

Some fans have expressed anger at the fake report saying it was reckless, distressing and hurtful to fans of the much loved rapper. Others say this shows his extreme popularity across the globe.

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France regional election: Macron and Le Pen fail to make ground – exit poll

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Composite picture of Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le PenIMAGE COPYRIGHTEPA/REUTERS

Early results indicate both President Emmanuel Macron and his opponent Marine Le Pen will fail to make the gains they were hoping for in the first round of regional elections in France.

Mr Macron’s centrist party is projected to gain more than 10% of the vote – just enough to take part in the second round next weekend.

Ms Le Pen’s far-right National Rally has also fallen short of expectations.

Both are trailing the conservative party, Les Républicains.

One of Mr Macron’s MPs, Aurore Bergé, described her party’s poor performance as a “democratic slap in the face for all of us”.

Ms Le Pen’s National Rally party was expected to top Sunday’s first round of polling, and win at least one region for the first time. Instead it is now predicted to come second.

Mrs Le Pen is not running as a candidate but she has been leading the campaign.

She described the record-low voter turnout – a projected 66% abstention – as a “civic disaster”.

She blamed the results on the government’s inability to inspire faith in political institutions. “Let’s face it, the results were marked by a torrential and also historic abstention of nearly 70% due to the mistrust of an electoral system, which leaves voters with the feeling that nothing can change, that everything has been confiscated,” she said.

 

Voters are choosing new councils for France’s 13 mainland regions, plus one overseas, as well as 96 departments. There are more than 15,700 candidates standing for 4,100 seats.

This election is being watched particularly closely, because the next presidential elections are less than a year away. It is being used to get a taste of voters’ mood.

An Ipsos exit poll shows the conservative Les Républicains winning 27% of the vote, followed by National Rally with 19%. The Greens, the Socialist Party and Mr Macron’s La République En Marche (LREM) are all on 11%.

This is the first time President Macron’s party has taken part in regional election – La République en Marche did not exist the last time they were held in 2015.

His party was not expected to do particularly well in this election. Last month a minister told AFP news agency: “These elections are never good for the party in power. You always get it in the neck.”

Yet LREM has still fared worse than expected. It will not win any region outright, having failed to gain enough support in local regions.

Mr Macron will now undoubtedly face a challenge ahead of the presidential vote in April 2022.

The regional election was delayed for three months because of the pandemic. There will be a second-round run-off on 27 June.

BBC.COM

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Covid: Brazil hits 500,000 deaths amid ‘critical’ situation

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People visit a cemetery in Manaus, Amazonas State, Brazil, on 9 MayIMAGE COPYRIGHTGETTY IMAGES
image captionThe virus continues to spread in Brazil amid a lack of co-ordinated measures

The number of deaths related to Covid-19 has passed 500,000 in Brazil, the second-highest in the world, as experts say the outbreak could worsen amid slow vaccination and the start of winter.

The virus continues to spread as President Jair Bolsonaro refuses to back measures like social distancing.

The health institute Fiocruz says the situation is “critical”. Only 15% of adults are fully vaccinated.

Congress is investigating the government’s handling of the pandemic.

President Bolsonaro has been heavily criticised for not implementing a co-ordinated national response and for his scepticism toward vaccines, lockdowns and mask-wearing requirements, which he has sought to loosen.

The opposition accuses the president of delaying the purchase of vaccines for political reasons, as he has consistently played down the severity of the pandemic.

 

The outbreak in Brazil has been fuelled by more transmissible variants of the virus, including the one first identified in the Amazon region and now known as Gamma. An average of 70,000 cases has been confirmed daily in the last week.

The rate of occupancy of intensive care unit beds remains at or above 80% in most states, and experts warn the start of winter in the southern hemisphere, next week, could result in more infections.

“Brazil faces a critical scenario of community transmission… with the possibility of worsening in the coming weeks due to the start of winter,” Fiocruz said.

On Twitter, Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga expressed solidarity with the “fathers, mothers, friends and relatives” of those who had died, saying: “500,000 lives lost due to the pandemic that affects our Brazil and the whole world.”

Only the US has reported more deaths related to Covid-19.

The seven-day daily average of deaths in Brazil has been above 1,500 since March. Gonzalo Vecina, the former head of the health regulator Anvisa, said the slow progress of the vaccine programme had and would continue to cost lives.

“There are 500,000 deaths, and unfortunately, it will continue to increase because it will take some time to increase vaccination coverage. Maybe this year will also be difficult because we depend on the delivery of vaccines, which were purchased very late,” he said.

On Saturday, thousands of people protested across the country against the Bolsonaro government and to demand the acceleration of the vaccination programme. Many cities have struggled with insufficient number of doses.

President Bolsonaro has opposed lockdown measures, saying their impact on the economy would be worse than the virus. But he insists he has done all he can to buy vaccines from several countries.

BBC.COM

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