Biden administration prepares for potential mass migration at US-Mexico border after Covid rule ends

Border authorities have been relying on a public health order, known as Title 42, to turn away migrants at the US-Mexico border since March 2020, but as the pandemic landscape evolves, discussions about terminating that order have picked up speed, the sources said.
Internal documents have shown estimations of how many people are within hours or days of the US-Mexico border who might plan to migrate to the United States, according to one of the sources. Those estimates, first reported by Axios, include potentially around 170,000 people coming to the US southern border and some 25,000 migrants already in shelters in Mexico, the source said.
Biden administration looking for ways to help Ukrainian refugees join family members in the US

The Department of Homeland Security has also set up a “Southwest Border Coordination Center” at its headquarters to coordinate across multiple agencies. DHS Deputy Secretary John Tien has also asked department personnel to volunteer at the US-Mexico border in an email sent to the workforce, another source said.

In a statement, White House spokesperson Vedant Patel said the administration is “doing (its) due diligence to prepare for potential changes at the border. That is good government in action.”

The White House has deferred to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the public health order that’s being used on the US-Mexico border. The order remains in effect for families and adults. Over the weekend, the CDC terminated the order as it relates to unaccompanied migrant children.
US Border Patrol made more than 158,000 arrests on the US southern border in February, according to recently released agency data. Those figures include people who tried crossing more than once. Apprehensions are expected to tick up as the warmer months approach, like past years.

This week, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas also visited Mexico and Costa Rica to discuss migration with government officials.

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RNC narrows 2024 convention finalists down to Nashville and Milwaukee

RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel traveled to Milwaukee on Wednesday for an official site visit, according to one of those people.

Two other contenders, Salt Lake City and Pittsburgh, have been ruled out, this person added. Salt Lake City’s main arena will be under renovation and unavailable in 2024, the person said.

“The RNC is very appreciative of the overwhelming interest and competitive bids from cities across the country, especially Salt Lake City and Pittsburgh, to host the 2024 Republican National Convention,” RNC senior adviser Richard Walters said in a statement Thursday. “We look forward to entering the final stages of the selection process and delivering an incredible convention for our Party.”

Politico first reported the two finalists.

While Nashville is the capital of Tennessee, a reliably Republican state, selecting Milwaukee would put the GOP’s 2024 convention in a key swing state. Republican nominee Donald Trump narrowly won Wisconsin in 2016 but lost it in 2020.

Milwaukee was the planned site of the 2020 Democratic National Convention. But due to the pandemic, Democrats scrapped nearly all of the events in that city, opting for a “virtual” convention. The 2020 RNC, meanwhile, was held partly in Charlotte, North Carolina, although the state’s Covid-19 restrictions limited some of the events. The prime-time addresses at that convention were instead conducted in Washington, DC.

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Iowa manhunt ends in murder charges in Texas

A multi-state manhunt that started in Iowa is officially over.The investigation began after a national trucking company reported a driver missing after finding his rig abandoned in Cedar Rapids.WLFI-TV reports that’s when authorities in Indiana took over. Interstate cleaning crews found a body in a ditch in White County.The coroner identified the body as Aristide Garcia and ruled his death a homicide. Then Indiana State Police found out there was another person traveling with Garcia.Detectives found the suspect in Arlington, Texas. Miguel Ibarguren was arrested without issue by Texas police officers.Now he’s awaiting extradition back to White County, where he faces a preliminary charge of murder.

A multi-state manhunt that started in Iowa is officially over.

The investigation began after a national trucking company reported a driver missing after finding his rig abandoned in Cedar Rapids.

WLFI-TV reports that’s when authorities in Indiana took over. Interstate cleaning crews found a body in a ditch in White County.

The coroner identified the body as Aristide Garcia and ruled his death a homicide. Then Indiana State Police found out there was another person traveling with Garcia.

Detectives found the suspect in Arlington, Texas. Miguel Ibarguren was arrested without issue by Texas police officers.

Now he’s awaiting extradition back to White County, where he faces a preliminary charge of murder.

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Justice Department charges Wisconsin man who said it was ‘satisfying’ to attack police on January 6

Riley Kasper was arrested on Thursday and is facing six federal charges, including assaulting law enforcement using a deadly or dangerous weapon. He is scheduled to make his first appearance in federal court Thursday.

According to videos highlighted in court documents, Kasper pepper-sprayed police officers who were standing between him and the Capitol building. In a Facebook message, Kasper said he was part of the first group to knock down the gate and force police to retreat.

“I pepper sprayed 3 cops so bad they got undressed and went home,” he wrote, adding, “I basically organized my own little militia and we f–ing took over Congress.”

“I didn’t drive 14 hours for nothing,” Kasper added.

The day after the insurrection, prosecutors say, Kasper brainstormed how he could disguise paintball guns as automatic rifles to trick and “incapacitate” police officers should he return to DC and described how “satisfying” it was to assault police.

“But yeah, one dude got pulled into the crowd and slammed on the ground on his back and his club, pepper spray, cuffs, radio everything got ripped from his belt,” Kasper said in one message highlighted in court documents. Kasper said he “took out his baton” and screamed at the officer to “just go home.”

“I’m pretty sure dude thought he was gonna die that day lol,” Kasper allegedly messaged.

More than 245 people are facing charges for assaulting or impeding law enforcement on January 6, and overall, nearly 800 people have been charged in connection with the insurrection.

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Biden to speak with Chinese President Xi Jinping Friday

The announcement from White House press secretary Jen Psaki comes days after a US diplomatic cable suggested China has expressed some openness to providing Russia with requested military and financial assistance as part of its war on Ukraine. It is not yet clear whether China intends to provide Russia with that assistance, US officials familiar with the intelligence told CNN earlier this week.

“This is part of our ongoing efforts to maintain open lines of communication between the United States and the PRC,” Psaki said, using the abbreviation for the People’s Republic of China. “The two Leaders will discuss managing the competition between our two countries as well as Russia’s war against Ukraine and other issues of mutual concern.”

The announcement of the call comes after an intense, seven-hour meeting in Rome, between Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan and top Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi. During the meeting, Sullivan warned his Chinese counterpart of “potential implications and consequences” for China should support for Russia be forthcoming, a senior administration official said.

Biden and Xi’s last known conversation took place in November during a three-and-a-half hour virtual summit. The highly anticipated summit yielded no major breakthroughs — none were expected ahead of time — and officials dismissed the notion the summit was intended to ease what has become an increasingly tense relationship. During their last meeting, Biden raised concerns about human rights, Chinese aggression toward Taiwan and trade issues, the White House said at the time.

Assistance from China would be a significant development in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It could upend the hold Ukrainian forces still have in the country as well as provide a counterweight to the harsh sanctions imposed on Russia’s economy.

One of Russia’s requests to China was pre-packaged, non-perishable military food kits, according to two sources familiar with the matter. The request underscores the basic logistical challenges the Russian military is facing and raises questions about its fundamental readiness. Russian forces have experienced logistical and strategic setbacks since their invasion began more than two weeks ago.

US officials say they believe Xi has been unsettled by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and how Russia’s military has been performing.

US officials, including White House press secretary Jen Psaki, have been increasingly critical of Beijing’s response to Russia’s war in Ukraine. Chinese domestic media coverage has promoted Russian disinformation campaigns and described the war as a “special military operation.” Psaki also tweeted that Beijing “has seemingly endorsed” false Russian claims that the US is developing chemical weapons in Ukraine.

The call will come days before the President is scheduled to travel to Europe to meet with world leaders to discuss Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The President will travel to Brussels to participate in a NATO summit on March 24 and will also join a European Council meeting.

Since taking office, the President has emphasized that managing competition with China is a long-term national security and economic priority of the United States. Biden has repeatedly stressed he believes the US is at an inflection point in its history and must show the world democracies can compete with autocratic regimes like China’s.

This story has been updated with additional information.

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22-year-old woman shot while driving in Woodlawn; child in car not injured

CHICAGO (CBS)– A woman was shot while driving in the Woodlawn neighborhood Wednesday night. 

Police said the 22-year-old woman was driving near 64th Street and King Drive around 11:30 p.m. when someone fired shots. 

The woman suffered a graze wound to her head. She drove herself to the University of Chicago Medical Center where she is in good condition. 

The child in the car wasn’t hurt.

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US coronavirus: This key indicator may determine how bad a BA.2 wave could be

As America casts a wary eye on rising cases caused by the BA.2 subvariant in Europe, the immune status of adults over the age of 65 will be a key indicator of how future variants will affect the US because the risk of severe outcomes rises dramatically with age.

“It’s really looking at that older age group and how much prior immunity they have, either from previous infection or vaccination, that I think has been the best indicator so far of how severe a given number of cases is going to end up being in terms of hospitalizations and deaths,” said Stephen Kissler, who specializes in infectious disease modeling at Harvard’s TH Chan School of Public Health.

An analysis by the UK Health Security Agency shows that the BA.2 subvariant of Omicron is growing about 80% faster than BA.1, the virus that caused the last wave of infections in the US over the winter. Cases and hospitalizations are rising in the UK and several other European countries where BA.2 has become the dominant strain.

Even though head-to-head comparisons with BA.1 indicate that BA.2 is not more likely to lead to hospitalization, this variant has the potential to overwhelm health care resources in the US once again if it finds enough vulnerable people to infect.

Forgoing boosters

The most vulnerable group is adults over the age of 65, especially those who have little immunity against the virus. This is why Pfizer and BioNTech asked the US Food and Drug Administration this week to green-light fourth vaccine doses for older adults.

“It’s that group that’s most problematic when it comes to the severe critical and fatal disease. It doesn’t mean that younger folks don’t wind up in the hospital at times; it’s just not at the same rate,” said Jeffrey Shaman, who specializes in modeling the spread of infectious diseases at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.

Hong Kong bet on zero-Covid. Now it's facing a 'preventable disaster'
Shaman points to Hong Kong, which is in the throes of a severe wave caused by BA.2. It has the highest Covid-19 death rate in the world.

“And they have not seen the full brunt of that because it lags a little bit, but it’s because they have an elderly population that wasn’t very well-vaccinated,” he said.

US officials don’t expect BA.2 to hit here as hard as it has in Hong Kong. That’s because the city has pursued a zero-tolerance Covid strategy. That policy kept cases and deaths low up till now, making it a model for Covid control.

But Omicron and BA.2 have overwhelmed those defenses and started to infect a population with little prior exposure to the virus.

Hong Kong also relied on a slightly different mix of vaccines than the US and Europe, including the Chinese-made Sinovac shots and Pfizer’s Comirnaty.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta: Is America ready to take the next step in its Covid-19 recovery?

Health officials are looking to the UK for clues to how BA.2 may behave in the US. But the they’re not analogous in all ways; mostly notably, the UK is more highly vaccinated.

Overall, in the UK, 82% of adults have had a third dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, something that is crucial to preventing infections and hospitalizations from Omicron because of how highly “immune erosive” these variants are, Shaman says. In the US, that number is just 36%.
Among Americans over the age of 65 who are eligible to get a booster, CDC data shows that 1 in 3 have not opted to get a third dose — leaving about 15 million older Americans without that critical extra protection.

Protection wanes over time

Recent studies show that vaccine timing matters, too. Data collected by the UK’s Health Security Agency shows that vaccine effectiveness against Omicron fell to 10% for infections, 35% of hospitalizations and 70% for deaths six months or more after the second dose.

Boosters restored much of that protection, but their benefits have faded, too. Four to six months after a third dose, boosters were about 40% to 50% effective at preventing Omicron infections and 75% to 85% at preventing hospitalizations, for all adults.

CDC estimates 140 million US Covid-19 infections

In the UK, about two-thirds of seniors have had a second, third or fourth dose of a Covid-19 vaccine within the past five months, but only about half of US seniors are within five months of their second or third vaccine dose.

Comparing antibody protection from a past Covid-19 infection or vaccination, the UK comes out ahead again. By the end of February, 98% of adults in the UK had tested positive for antibodies to Covid-19, according to the Office of National Statistics. In the US, the CDC estimates that 43% of Americans have antibodies from a past infection to fight off Covid-19. Seniors are the least likely to have this protection, however, with just 23% of adults over age 65 testing positive for antibodies from a previous infection.

“I do still think it’s a potential cause for concern that we may still see a higher case fatality rate and higher hospitalizations for Covid in the US than the UK because of the differences in underlying immunity,” Kissler told CNN.

So while a BA.2 wave in the US may not be as severe as it is for Hong Kong, it might not be the same experience as the UK is having, either.

“What we see happening in the UK is going to be perhaps a better story than we should be expecting here,” said Keri Althoff, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

With perhaps a few critical weeks to prepare, Kissler and Shaman say vaccinations and boosters for seniors are an important place to start.

“Every additional layer of protection that we get helps, and so I would highly recommend, especially somebody who’s elderly who has yet gotten vaccinated to do so, because it really can go a long way towards giving you the durable and robust immunity that you want,” Kissler said. “This is definitely the time.”

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Oil spikes back above $100 as Russia fears grow

After sinking below $94 a barrel earlier this week, US crude soared 8% to $102.65 a barrel in afternoon trading. Brent crude spiked 9% to $107 a barrel.

The swift rebound in oil prices will be watched closely by leaders in Washington and on Wall Street because high energy prices threaten to exacerbate inflation and slow the economy.

Energy traders blamed Thursday’s spike on growing pessimism about a resolution between Russia and Ukraine being reached in the near term.

Biden demands faster drop in gas prices as oil tumbles

“The mood has darkened a little bit,” said Robert Yawger, vice president of energy futures at Mizuho Securities. “It sounds like this is going to be a dragged-out situation.”

The recent drop in oil prices was driven in part by hopes for a potential ceasefire. The longer the war goes on, the bigger the threat to Russia’s oil flows.

“Given Putin’s actions in recent times we shouldn’t get our hopes up,” said Matt Smith, lead oil analyst of the Americas at Kpler.

The International Energy Agency warned Wednesday that a staggering 30% of Russia’s oil production could be knocked offline within weeks, exposing the world economy to a potential supply crisis.

“The implications of a potential loss of Russian oil exports to global markets cannot be understated,” the IEA said in its monthly report.

Despite Thursday’s rebound, oil prices remain well below their recent peaks. US crude spiked to a nearly 14-year high of $130.50 a barrel on March 6, while Brent hit nearly $140 a barrel.

Gasoline prices are only inching lower, drawing criticism of the energy industry from the White House.

The national average for regular gas dipped to $4.29 a gallon on Thursday, according to AAA. That’s down by two cents from Wednesday and four cents from the record high of $4.33.

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Aliaksandra Herasimenia: Olympic medallist who fled Belarus forced into exile again as Ukraine attacked

Herasimenia, a three-time Olympic medallist, found herself among thousands of Ukrainians massing at the border with Poland as Russian troops advanced on Kyiv.

On the second day of the Russian invasion last month, Herasimenia and her husband, Olympic swimmer Yauhen Tsurkin, scrambled to pack some belongings and set off on a 12-hour car ride to the Polish border with their young daughter and Herasimenia’s mother.

With explosions resounding in the background as they inched along congested roads, Herasimenia reassured her three-and-a-half-year-old daughter, telling her it was only thunder.

“Of course I had to make something up because how do you explain to a child that war has started?” Herasimenia, who is now in Warsaw with her family, told Reuters.

Herasimenia was among the elite athletes who fled Belarus in the wake of a crackdown against those who protested what they said was the fraudulent re-election of Alexander Lukashenko in August 2020.

Lukashenko, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has denied any wrongdoing.

Russia has used Belarusian territory to launch a multi-pronged invasion of Ukraine, where many Belarusians settled after escaping persecution at home. Moscow says it is conducting a “special military operation” to disarm and “denazify” Ukraine.

“We’ve been running for a long time,” said Herasimenia, whose family waited for nearly a day and a half at Ukraine’s border with Poland.

“Those who left were the best of Belarusian society, those who were against what happened after the election, those who spoke out against the violence and expressed their position.”

Aliaksandra Herasimenia shows off her bronze on the podium during the medal ceremony for the women's 50m freestyle final on Day 8 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium on August 13, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

‘Fighting for freedom’

Herasimenia heads the Belarusian Sport Solidarity Foundation, a group that supports athletes who have been jailed or otherwise punished for their political views.

These include Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, a sprinter who defected at the Tokyo Olympics last year after being removed from the Games against her will by coaches.

Russian gymnast Ivan Kuliak criticized for 'shocking behavior' after wearing 'Z' symbol next to Ukrainian athlete

Following a recommendation by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), several international sports federations have barred both Russian and Belarusian athletes from taking part in international events because of the invasion of Ukraine.

The foundation has backed the decision to ban Belarusian athletes but says it supports efforts by those who voiced opposition to Lukashenko to compete independently.

It is also determined to fight discrimination against Belarusians now that their country is viewed an “aggressor” by the public in many Western countries, Herasimenia said.

“A year and a half ago, we were the ones who were fighting for our rights, our freedom,” said Herasimenia, who won silver in both the 100m and 50m freestyle at the 2012 London Games, and bronze in the 50m freestyle at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

“We called on the Europeans, Americans and everyone in Ukraine for help. We warned that Lukashenko was very dangerous.

“It’s as if this never happened … No difference is being made between those who support Lukashenko and those who fought against him.”

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