By Gabriela Baczynska and Sara Ledwith BRUSSELS (Reuters) - In early March, Europe's migration chief Dimitris Avramopoulos squelched through a muddy refugee camp on Greece's border with Macedonia and peered through the barbed-wire topped fence that stands between tens of thousands of migrants in Greece and richer countries that lie to the north. "By building fences, by deploying barbed wire," he said, "it is not a solution." But Avramopoulos has not always preached that message – and his changing views capture the tangle Europe has got itself into as more than a million migrants and refugees have floated in on Greek waters since the start of 2015. In 2012, when he was Greek minister of defense, Greece built a fence and electronic surveillance system along its border with Turkey. The cement and barbed-wire barrier and nearly 2,000 extra guards were designed to stop a sharp rise in illegal immigrants. The 62-year-old former diplomat was not directly involved in the project. But in 2013 he defended it, telling a news conference the wall had borne fruit. "The entry of illegal immigrants in Greece by this side has almost been eliminated," he said. The official European response to Europe's migrant crisis – championed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel last August – is for member states to pull together and provide shelter for people, especially Syrians, fleeing war or persecution. But in reality, most members have failed to take their quotas of refugees and nearly a dozen have built barricades to try to keep both migrants and refugees out. The bloc is now trying to implement a deal which would see Turkey take back new arrivals. The European Union was founded in the ashes of World War Two, in part on a principle of freedom of movement among member states. But since the fall of the Berlin Wall, European countries have built or started 1,200 km (750 miles) of anti-immigrant fencing at a cost of at least 500 million euros ($570 million), a Reuters analysis of public data shows. That distance is almost 40 percent of the length of America's border with Mexico. Many of these walls separate EU nations from states outside the bloc, but some are between EU states, including members of Europe's passport-free zone. Most of the building was started in 2015. "Wherever there have been large numbers of migrants or refugees trying to enter the EU, this trend has been followed up by a fence," said Irem Arf, a researcher on European Migration at rights group Amnesty International. For governments, fences seem like a simple solution. Building them is perfectly legal and countries have the right to control who enters their territory. Each new fence in Europe has sharply curbed the numbers of irregular immigrants on the route they blocked. For at least one company, fences work. The firm which operates a tunnel between France and Britain says that since a major security upgrade around its French terminal last October, migrants have ceased to cause trouble. "There have been no disruptions to services since mid October 2015, so we can say that the combination of the fence and the additional police presence has been highly effective," Eurotunnel spokesman John Keefe said. But in the short term at least, they have not stopped people trying to come. Instead, they have diverted them, often to longer, more dangerous routes. And rights groups say some fences deny asylum-seekers the chance to seek shelter, even though European law states that everyone has the right to a fair and efficient asylum procedure. Forced to find another way, migrants and refugees often turn to people-smugglers. CROWD CONTROL Greece's border fence was one of the first, and Avramopoulos still defends it. He says Greece built it to divert people towards official crossings where they could apply for asylum. Much of Greece's frontier with Turkey is delineated by a fast-flowing river, the Evros. But there is a 12 km stretch where people used to sneak through on land after making the river crossing in Turkey. "The Evros river is a very dangerous river," Avramopoulos told Reuters in his upper floor office suite in February. "Hundreds of people had lost their lives there." At least 19 people drowned in the Evros in 2010, according to the United Nations refugee agency. Neither the Greek authorities nor Europe's border agency Frontex could provide more data. In practice, rights groups say Greece's barrier – and others including one built by Spain in Morocco – effectively turn everyone away, denying vulnerable people a chance to make their case for protection. This is partly because some new barriers have passport controls like those at an airport. People need travel documents to exit one country and reach the checkpoint of the EU country where they want to seek asylum. Many refugees don't have any papers, so they are automatically blocked. With barriers come security guards, cameras and surveillance equipment, which all make it harder for people to make their asylum cases. Rights groups have documented many reports of border officials beating, abusing, or robbing migrants and refugees before dumping them back where they came from. This approach, known as push-back, has become an intrinsic feature of Europe's external borders, according to Amnesty International. As a solution, some migrants and refugees buy fake papers. Others stow away in vehicles. Or they turn to people-smugglers. Greece's fence had a knock-on effect that continues to ripple through Europe as more countries wall themselves off. More migrants moving through Turkey began to enter Europe across the Bulgarian border, or by sailing to Greece in inflatable dinghies. In the eastern Mediterranean, the International Organization for Migration has recorded more than 1,100 migrant deaths since the start of last year. CULTURAL PURITY The EU refuses to fund fences, saying they don't work. As European Commissioner, Avramopoulos has tried instead to persuade fellow member states to show solidarity by offering homes to 160,000 refugees and migrants, mainly from Greece and Italy. As of March 15, just 937 asylum applicants had been relocated. For Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban, the idea of quotas is "bordering on insanity." Orban opposes a dilution of Europe's "Christian values" by multicultural immigrants and started building fences along Hungary's borders with Croatia and Serbia in late 2015. Since the ethnic cleansing of the 1990s in the former Yugoslavia, Balkan states have been particularly sensitive to the risks of ethnic and religious conflict. Other countries followed Hungary with fences – even if most said they installed them to control the flow of people, rather than to preserve cultural purity. When Austria started a barrier on its border with Slovenia in November 2015, it said it was necessary for crowd management. Then Austria capped the numbers of people it would admit, and how many it would allow through to Germany. By March, all these measures seemed to be having the desired effect: The number of migrants entering Germany from Austria had fallen more than sevenfold. Even so, there were new signs the fences were simply reshaping, rather than closing, the migration routes. The numbers making the perilous crossing from Africa to Italy had increased. Austria said it would add soldiers to defend its border with Italy. The fence Avramopoulos visited last month underlines the risks of such barriers. Built by Macedonia as part of a pact with states further north, it has sealed around 50,000 people into Greece. More than 10,000 – a third of them children – are camped in flimsy tents near the fence. Many families have refused to leave the border, waiting instead for it to open, as respiratory infections spread and frustration mounts. "All our values are in danger today," Avramopoulos said. "You can see it here." (Ledwith reported from London; Additional reporting by Alastair Macdonald in Brussels, Renee Maltezou in Athens, Tom Miles in Geneva and Himanshu Ojha in London; Edited by Janet Roberts and Simon Robinson)
- Associated Press
President Joe Biden's first calls to foreign leaders went to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador at a strained moment for the U.S. relationship with its North American neighbors. Mexico's president said Saturday that Biden told him the U.S. would send $4 billion to help development in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala — nations whose hardships have spawned tides of migration through Mexico toward the United States.
- The Independent
The Texas man also allegedly threatened a US Capitol police officer
- The Telegraph
A Republican congresswoman is facing calls to resign over reports that she helped to spread falsehoods about the Parkland school shooting. Marjorie Taylor Greene reportedly agreed with a conspiracy theory about the 2018 shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in which 17 people were killed. Facebook screenshots showed a discussion about why a police officer had not rushed into the building, and someone claimed that the mass shooting was a "false flag planned shooting." Greene replied: “Exactly!" The social media giant later removed the posts after they were reported to them. Cameron Kasky, a former Parkland pupil who co-founded the group Never Again MSD, said: "She should resign. She can apologise. I don’t think anybody will accept it.” The congresswoman was elected in Georgia in November, backed Donald Trump's claims of election fraud, and has previously expressed support for the QAnon conspiracy theory. Fred Guttenberg, who's 14-year-old daughter Jaime died in the Parkland shooting, said: "Your feelings on gun laws are irrelevant to your claim that Parkland never happened. You are a fraud who must resign. Be prepared to meet me directly in person to explain your conspiracy theory, and soon." The comments by the politician were first reported by Media Matters for America. In a statement Ms Greene accused Media Matters for America of being "communists' and "fake news". Meanwhile, US Capitol Police were investigating an incident in which a Republican congressman was found carrying a concealed gun while trying to enter the floor of the House of Representatives. Andy Harris, a staunch gun-rights advocate, set off a metal detector going through security on his way to the House floor . Metal detectors were installed outside the chamber to beef up security in the aftermath of the Capitol riots on Jan 6.
America may not have won World War II and landed on the moon later if not for the contributions of a brilliant Chinese scientist named Qian Xuesen. Fearing communist presence after the war, the U.S., however, deported Qian to China, clueless that he would eventually spearhead programs that would target American troops and eventually propel China into space. Born to well-educated parents in 1911, it was evident from an early age that Qian had superior intellect.
- The Week
President Biden reeled in a record-breaking $145 million in so-called dark money from anonymous donors during his presidential campaign, topping the $113 million that went to Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) before his failed presidential bid in 2012, Bloomberg reports.It's not surprising that Biden set the mark given that the $1.5 billion he hauled in overall was the most ever for a challenger to an incumbent president, but it's notable in large part because Democrats have been at the forefront of a movement to ban dark money in politics since it means that supporters can back a candidate without scrutiny. Plus, Bloomberg notes, anonymous donors "will have the same access to decision makers as those whose names were disclosed, but without public awareness of who they are or what influence they might wield." As Meredith McGehee, the executive director of campaign finance reform advocacy group Issue One, told Bloomberg, "the whole point of dark money is to avoid public disclosure while getting private credit."Still, it seems the Democratic Party was willing to embrace the strategy in the hopes of defeating former President Donald Trump, who only brought in $28.4 million from anonymous donors. Read more at Bloomberg.More stories from theweek.com 7 brutally funny cartoons about Trump's White House exit McConnell is already moving to strangle the Biden presidency 'No way' McConnell has had a post-Trump 'epiphany,' political scientist says
- The Telegraph
Exclusive: Notorious Albanian gangster smuggles mobile phone into British prison cell to post birthday wishes to family
An Albanian gangster jailed for 27-years for smuggling huge quantities of heroin and cocaine into Britain has been making a mockery of justice by running a social media account from his prison cell. Posing with fellow gang members, Valjet Pepaj, has even used Instagram to flirt with women on the outside, boasting that he expects to be free in four years. The 31-year-old was given a lengthy sentence in April 2018 after admitting three counts of conspiracy to supply Class A drugs. He was jailed alongside two other men following a six month undercover police operation which resulted in the seizure of 50 kilograms of heroin and cocaine, worth in excess of £2 million.
- Associated Press
Someone in Michigan bought the winning ticket for the $1.05 billion Mega Millions jackpot, which is the third-largest lottery prize in U.S. history. The winning numbers for Friday night’s drawing were 4, 26, 42, 50 and 60, with a Mega Ball of 24. The winning ticket was purchased at a Kroger store in the Detroit suburb of Novi, the Michigan Lottery said.
- The Week
Trump's team fired the White House chief usher right before Biden took office, maybe at Biden's request
When President Biden and first lady Dr. Jill Biden arrived at the White House on Wednesday afternoon, there was no chief usher to greet them. He had been fired at about 11:30 a.m., half an hour before Biden was sworn in as president, The New York Times reports. Former first lady Melania Trump had hired the chief usher, Timothy Harleth, from the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., in 2017, after the previous chief usher, Angella Reid, was dismissed a few months into Donald Trump's term.The White House chief usher is in charge of the first family's residence, overseeing everything from personnel issues to budgets. It is typically an apolitical job, and ushers typically stay through several administrations. Reid, hired in 2011, was only the ninth chief usher since 1885, though she was the first woman hired for the job. The Bidens had communicated to the White House counsel that they intended to bring in their own chief usher, a person familiar with the process told the Times. A Biden White House official told CNN that Harleth "was let go before the Bidens arrived," though CNN reports it was the Bidens who gave him the ax.Harleth was already in hot water with Trump's team, though. He "had found himself in an untenable position" since the election, "trying to begin preparations for a new resident in the White House, even as its occupant refused to concede that he would be leaving the premises," the Times reports. And Trump's chief of staff, Mark Meadows, was "unhappy" with Harleth "for trying to send briefing books about the residence to the Biden transition team in November." Harleth "had worked with Jill Biden's staff for weeks to organize the move of household belongings," The Washington Post adds.The absence of a chief usher was one manifestation of the chaotic transition period, but it doesn't entirely explain the curious breach in protocol where nobody opened the doors for the BIdens when they arrived at the White House, the Times notes. The doors, which awkwardly stood closed for about 10 long seconds as the Bidens watched, are typically opened by Marine guards.Once the Bidens passed through the doors into the newly sanitized White House, things got better, the Post reports. "Awaiting Biden in a room adjacent to the Oval Office were two trays stacked with chocolate chip cookies, each one in plastic wrap with a gold presidential seal."More stories from theweek.com 7 brutally funny cartoons about Trump's White House exit McConnell is already moving to strangle the Biden presidency 'No way' McConnell has had a post-Trump 'epiphany,' political scientist says
- The Telegraph
Families who lost relatives during Wuhan's initial outbreak of coronavirus are being blocked in their legal efforts to hold the Chinese authorities responsible for the deaths, one year after lockdown first went in place at ground zero of the pandemic. Five families accuse the municipal and provincial governments for covering up the outbreak, neglecting to notify the public, and failing to act swiftly, causing infections to explode. More than two million people globally have died from coronavirus. The Telegraph has interviewed four of the five trying to bring unprecedented lawsuits, most of whom are seeking 2 million yuan (£226,000) each in reparations. They told this newspaper of a campaign of harassment and denial of justice. Chinese courts have rejected all lawsuits they have tried to file, though they continue to persist by attempting to sue at higher courts, defying government threats that have scared dozens of others into giving up. Pursuing their cases poses immense risks as they’re challenging China’s official narrative, which claims authorities acted swiftly and with transparency to contain Covid-19, glossing over missteps and the silencing of whistleblowers.
"Relief" is the top emotion some swing voters who used to support Donald Trump say they felt as they watched President Biden's swearing-in, followed by "hope."Why it matters: For voters on the bubble between parties, this moment is less about excitement for Biden or liberal politics than exhaustion and disgust with Trump and a craving for national healing. Most said Trump should be prohibited from ever holding office again.Support safe, smart, sane journalism. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.These were the biggest takeaways from our first Engagious/Schlesinger swing-voter focus groups on governance in the Biden era. * The two Jan. 21 sessions included 13 women and men who voted for Trump in 2016 but Biden in 2020, from a mix of the most competitive swing states, * While focus groups are not statistically significant samples like polls, the responses show how some voters in crucial states are thinking and talking about national priorities, expectations for Biden, and Trump's future.By the numbers: Ten of the 13 said their vote was more anti-Trump than it was pro-Biden, and nine said Trump should be barred from holding office again. * Eight support Trump's impeachment, but only one would would criminally charge him with inciting the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. * None believes the election was stolen from Trump.Between the lines: Coronavirus was not the reason most turned against Trump. * Ten had made up their minds before last March; some had buyer's remorse almost immediately after the 2016 election. * Rather than one tipping point, voters mentioned his moral failings, weaponizing social media, acting unpresidential, bullying, firing Cabinet members for sport, antagonizing racial and partisan divisions in society and separating children and parents at the Mexico border. * Some felt duped for thinking he was a savvy businessman who could get things done that career politicians hadn't. * "I was just so over it," said one voter, Matt S. from Georgia."Joe Biden’s main value was to spare them four more years of Donald Trump," said Engagious president Rich Thau, who moderated the focus groups.What's next: Every member of the focus groups said they want the unity Biden called for in his speech. The most important things he can do, they said, are to get the virus under control, make the vaccine accessible and heal national divisions. * Biden said a lot of the "soothing" things "that needed to be said," said Kristi H. from Texas. * "It was so good to see everyone in masks," Lawrence G. from Florida said of the optics at the swearing-in. "It's just good to see people, maybe, taking it seriously."Details: All 13 want the $1,400 stimulus checks Biden is calling on Congress to pass. “I have friends and family who need that money,” said Jennifer C. of Texas. * All want Biden to embrace a moderate rather than liberal path. * Most favor the U.S. return to the Paris climate deal, but they split over a $15-an-hour federal minimum wage and revoking Trump's so-called Muslim travel ban. * Most expressed excitement or optimism around Vice President Kamala Harris. * Some worry Biden is too old, could be pulled too far to the left or could hurt the economy by increasing spending too much or raising taxes. Be smart: These voters aren't writing off the entire Republican Party for enabling Trump. Most said they'll make voting decisions on a case-by-case basis. * "Trump does not represent the entire Republican Party," said Matthew S. from North Carolina. "Overall, the Republican Party, it’s made up of people who are trying. They make mistakes just like the Democrats make mistakes."Get smarter, faster with the news CEOs, entrepreneurs and top politicians read. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.
- National Review
Tulsi Gabbard, the former Democratic representative from Hawaii, on Friday expressed concern that a proposed measure to combat domestic terrorism could be used to undermine civil liberties. Gabbard’s comments came during an appearance on Fox News Primetime when host Brian Kilmeade asked her if she was “surprised they’re pushing forward with this extra surveillance on would-be domestic terror.” “It’s so dangerous as you guys have been talking about, this is an issue that all Democrats, Republicans, independents, Libertarians should be extremely concerned about, especially because we don’t have to guess about where this goes or how this ends,” Gabbard said. She continued: “When you have people like former CIA Director John Brennan openly talking about how he’s spoken with or heard from appointees and nominees in the Biden administration who are already starting to look across our country for these types of movements similar to the insurgencies they’ve seen overseas, that in his words, he says make up this unholy alliance of religious extremists, racists, bigots, he lists a few others and at the end, even libertarians.” She said her concern lies in how officials will define the characteristics they are searching for in potential threats. “What characteristics are we looking for as we are building this profile of a potential extremist, what are we talking about? Religious extremists, are we talking about Christians, evangelical Christians, what is a religious extremist? Is it somebody who is pro-life? Where do you take this?” Gabbard said. She said the proposed legislation could create “a very dangerous undermining of our civil liberties, our freedoms in our Constitution, and a targeting of almost half of the country.” “You start looking at obviously, have to be a white person, obviously likely male, libertarians, anyone who loves freedom, liberty, maybe has an American flag outside their house, or people who, you know, attended a Trump rally,” Gabbard said. The Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act of 2021 was introduced in the House earlier this week in the aftermath of rioting at the U.S. Capitol earlier this month that left five dead. “Unlike after 9/11, the threat that reared its ugly head on January 6th is from domestic terror groups and extremists, often racially-motivated violent individuals,” Representative Brad Schneider (D., Ill.) said in a statement announcing the bipartisan legislation. “America must be vigilant to combat those radicalized to violence, and the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act gives our government the tools to identify, monitor and thwart their illegal activities. Combatting the threat of domestic terrorism and white supremacy is not a Democratic or Republican issue, not left versus right or urban versus rural. Domestic Terrorism is an American issue, a serious threat the we can and must address together,” he said.
- NBC News
A woman has been arrested and charged with murder after the dismembered remains of her missing roommate, Talina Galloway, were found in a freezer in the woods of Polk County, Arkansas last week. Talina, 53, was reported missing by her roommate, Kore Bommeli on April 17, 2020. Talina’s remains were found in the freezer on January 14, 2021. Bommeli, who has been a person of interest throughout the investigation, was located in Wisconsin and faces charges of murder and desecration of a corpse. Th
- Architectural Digest
“The materials and colors took center stage,” said David Lucas when it came to the design of the home.Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest
With the dawn of the Biden administration comes Cholleti Vinay Reddy, the country’s first Indian American presidential speechwriter. Reddy’s roots originate from Pothireddypeta, a rural village in the Indian state of Telangana, whose residents have been celebrating his latest milestone: Biden’s inaugural address. Born and raised in Dayton, Ohio, Reddy is believed to have acquired his political acumen from his grandfather, Tirupathi, who served as the village sarpanch (head) for 30 years.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is suing the Biden administration in federal district court over its 100-day freeze on deporting unauthorized immigrants, and asking for a temporary restraining order.Between the lines: The freeze went into effect Friday, temporarily halting most immigration enforcement in the U.S. In the lawsuit, Paxton claims the move "violates the U.S. Constitution, federal immigration and administrative law, and a contractual agreement between Texas" and the Department of Homeland Security. Be smart: sign up FREE for the most influential newsletter in America. * Leon Fresco, an immigration attorney, told Axios that the lawsuit is likely to fail at fully reinstating deportations because a judge cannot force Immigration and Customs Enforcement to remove any particular person. * The executive branch has broad authority over immigration enforcement, as was seen in both President Obama and President Trump's administrations. What they're saying: In the announcement of the moratorium on Wednesday, the Department of Homeland Security said the pause on deportations would "allow DHS to ensure that its resources are dedicated to responding to the most pressing challenges that the United States faces." * In Paxton's request for a temporary restraining order, he claims, "Without emergency relief, Texas faces irreparable harm from having to provide costly educational, social, welfare, healthcare, and other services to illegal aliens who remain in Texas because Defendants have ceased removing them."The White House has not yet responded to Axios' request for comment.Get smarter, faster with the news CEOs, entrepreneurs and top politicians read. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.
- The Independent
Priest who attended pro-Trump rally ahead of Capitol insurrection is suspended from post and may be defrocked
Reverend Mark Hodges described event as ‘joyful, positive and orderly’
- NBC News
Attorneys for Rittenhouse did not object to the changes. Rittenhouse is accused of killing two amid protests last year.
- Yahoo News Video
During a White House briefing on Friday, press secretary Jen Psaki announced the Biden administration’s plans to fight violent extremism in the U.S.
- Associated Press
The U.S. has reaffirmed support for Taiwan following China’s dispatch of warplanes near the island in an apparent attempt to intimidate its democratic government and test American resolve. The State Department on Saturday said it “notes with concern the pattern of ongoing (China's) attempts to intimidate its neighbors, including Taiwan.” “We urge Beijing to cease its military, diplomatic, and economic pressure against Taiwan and instead engage in meaningful dialogue with Taiwan’s democratically elected representatives," spokesperson Ned Price said in the statement.
- The Telegraph
Joe Biden is considering turning to Hollywood for his next British ambassador, according to UK officials who are working the phones to closely monitor his selection. Two top businessmen with a TV background are thought to be in contention for the London job, one of the plum assignments in the US diplomatic circuit. One is Jeffrey Katzenberg, the former chairman of Walt Disney Studios who is considered one of the most powerful men in the Los Angeles film scene. At Disney, Mr Katzenberg helped make hits like Aladdin and The Lion King. He later co-founded DreamWorks Animation, which produced Shrek and Kung Fu Panda. Mr Katzenberg hosted an event for Mr Biden during the presidential election campaign and gave $617,800 to the Biden Victory Fund. The second is David Cohen, who stepped down as senior executive vice-president of the telecoms giant Comcast this month, when the switch in US president took place.