A qukck one from Reuters here, that fresh from his talks with top officials from China – there’s a further meeting in Anchorage, Alaska today – Antony Blinken will be headed to Europe on his next diplomatic mission.

He will visit Brussels next week to meet with Nato foreign ministers and European Union officials, the US Department of State said, as the Biden administration seeks to repair transatlantic ties.

At the Nato meeting, Blinken will join other foreign ministers to discuss proposed changes to the transatlantic organization as well as concerns over China and Russia, climate change, cyber and energy security and other issues, the department said.

Blinken will also meet with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to discuss the Covid-19 pandemic and economic recovery, and efforts to strengthen democracy, it said.

“The meetings in Brussels reaffirm the United States” commitment to our Allies and European partners on our shared agenda,” the department said in a statement.

The trip follows four years of Donald Trump’s harsh rhetoric toward the military alliance. Trump repeatedly accused the European members of Nato of not spending enough on their own defense.

Joan Biskupic, CNN’s legal analyst has an interesting piece this morning arguing that the Supreme Court’s conservatives want to topple abortion rights – but can’t seem to agree on how. She writes:

The aims of individual justices, based on their recent writings, range from reversing Roe v. Wade to forbidding clinics from challenging restrictions on behalf of women to relaxing the standard that states must meet to limit women’s access to the procedure.

New internal tensions in the age-old controversy have emerged, as the six Republican-appointed justices on the right wing diverge on curtailing precedent and more sharply clash with the court’s three remaining Democratic-appointed liberals. The justices could move a step closer to their next chapter as they meet privately on Friday to consider whether to take up Mississippi’s ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

Then again, the newly reconfigured court may want to wait to take any dramatic action on abortion. Multiple related laws are headed its way as states continue to adopt new prohibitions, including the near-total Arkansas abortion ban passed earlier this month with no exceptions for cases of rape or incest.

While the number of abortions nationwide has declined over the decades, culturally and religiously fraught state restrictions, and subsequent litigation, have not diminished. If the justices were to take up a 15-week abortion ban and consider reversing decades-old precedent, it would intensify national divisions. Even if the justices ultimately deny the Mississippi petition, the case could give individual justices a chance to issue statements relative to the denial, laying out their arguments for future rollbacks of reproductive rights.

Read more here: CNN – Supreme Court conservatives want to topple abortion rights, but can’t seem to agree on how

Nina Lakhani reports for us today from Texas, asking is there a crisis at the border?

After four years of racist, chaotic, anti-immigration policies by the Trump administration – as well as growing desperation fuelled by the pandemic and extreme climate events – the number of people seeking to enter the US is rising.

But advocates in the Rio Grande Valley, where undocumented migrants have long been relied upon for cheap farm labour, reject incendiary claims that the numbers are overwhelming.

“Migration goes up and down, that’s the reality of the border. Biden has different values and has given people hope, but there’s no border crisis, to say so is political manipulation,” said Ramona Casas, director of the migrant advocacy group Arise. “We need to address the root causes and transform the broken immigration system, not more militarization.”

Jenn Budd, a former senior border patrol agent turned whistleblower, said: “The only crisis at the border is the children, which the administration is trying to deal with, anything else is simply not true and an attempt to play politics, make Biden look bad and ensure the money keeps flowing to the border security industry.”

In 2000, a total of 9,212 border patrol agents detained an average of almost 137,000 undocumented migrants per month on the southern border. In the 2021 fiscal year until February, the average was just over 76,000 per month, but the number of agents is more than double compared to 2000.

Earlier this month, the Texas governor Greg Abbott deployed state troopers and the national guard to the border after claiming, without evidence, that illegal immigrants were spreading the coronavirus. Abbott’s unsubstantiated Covid claims came shortly after he announced plans to end the state mask mandate and ordered businesses to reopen at 100% capacity.

But illegal or undocumented migrants are not being released into the US. The two groups being allowed in are some existing asylum seekers, thanks to the repeal of Trump’s Remain in Mexico policy, and some new arrivals presenting at legal ports of entry, including unaccompanied children and young families, who have been permitted to remain in the country pending asylum court hearings. In Texas, everyone else continues to be turned back, say advocates.

Read more of Nina Lakhani’s report here: Is there a crisis at the border?: a look at both sides of the immigration argument

The Atlanta shootings, where a white gunman killed eight people, most of them Asian American women, has thrown a national spotlight onto the community, and the way it is treated by the political establishment.

“We’re becoming increasingly more visible and active in the political ecosystem,” said Georgia state Sen. Michelle Au, a Democrat who represents part of the growing, diversifying suburbs north of the city. Yet, Au said, “What I’ve heard personally, and what I have felt, is that people sometimes don’t tend to listen to us.”

Au said today’s White House visit, especially amid tragedy, is welcomed by a community whose influence and struggles are often overshadowed in national conversations about diversity. She notes President Donald Trump and other Republicans merely brushed off charges of racism when they dubbed coronavirus the “China virus” because of its origins.

Activists say they saw a rise of racist attacks. Nearly 3,800 incidents have been reported to Stop AAPI Hate, a California-based reporting center for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and its partner advocacy groups, since March 2020.

Vice President Kamala Harris, the first person of South Asian descent to hold national office, will be part of the visit to Atlanta today.

Associated Press report that the presidential trip was planned before the shooting, as part of a victory lap aimed at selling the benefits of pandemic relief legislation. But Biden and Harris will instead spend their visit consoling a community whose growing voting power helped secure their victory in Georgia and beyond.

Incidentally there’s been a slight hint of a row-back from the confrontational meeting on the Chinese side this morning. Reuters have a quick snap that at China’s foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian’s regular press briefing this morning, he said there was a lot of confrontation at the Sino-US talks in Alaska, and that was not what Beijing was aspiring to.

The big overnight development has been the open public rebukes between the US and China at a high level meeting in Anchorage, Alaska. Justin McCurry reports for us:

The United States and China have publicly clashed during their first face-to-face high-level talks since Joe Biden took office, with one senior Chinese official urging the US to address “deep-seated” issues such as racism, and accusing his American counterparts of “condescension”.

Any hopes that the meeting, in Anchorage, would reset bilateral ties after years of tensions over trade, human rights and cybersecurity during Donald Trump’s presidency evaporated when the US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, and the national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, opened their meeting with China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi and the state councillor Wang Yi.

After Blinken referred to rising global concern over Beijing’s human rights record, Yang said: “We hope that United States will do better on human rights. The fact is that there are many problems within the United States regarding human rights, which is admitted by the US itself,” he said in a 15-minute speech that appeared to irritate Blinken.

He added that US human rights issues were “deep-seated … they did not just emerge over the past four years, such as Black Lives Matter”.

In his opening remarks Blinken had said world leaders had voiced “deep satisfaction” that the US was re-engaging with the international community after four years of Trump’s “America first” doctrine. “I’m also hearing deep concern about some of the actions your government is taking.”

Blinken, who added he had heard similar sentiments during his visits this week to Japan and South Korea, said the Biden administration and its allies were united in pushing back against China’s increasing authoritarianism and assertiveness at home and abroad.

In response, Yang angrily demanded that the US stop pushing its own version of democracy at a time when it was dealing with discontent among its own population.

Read more of Justin McCurry’s report here: US and China publicly rebuke each other in first major talks of Biden era

Cleve Wootson Jr and Amy Wang write for the Washington Post this morning about Biden’s trip to Georgia, and his administration’s wider attempts to engage with the Asian American community, saying:

President Biden has refocused his trip to Georgia on Friday so he can meet with Asian American leaders about violence against their community. He has ordered flags flown at half-staff after the shooting that killed six Atlanta-area women of Asian descent. His administration is backing a bill that allows the Justice Department to review coronavirus-related hate crimes.

And White House officials have spent two days working the phones, reaching out to leaders and advocates in the Asian American and Pacific Islander community and reaffirming their commitment to fighting anti-Asian hatred.

“What I’m conveying to them is, we want you to be a part of the solution,” Cedric L. Richmond, a White House senior adviser, said in an interview. “You all have been in the community running these programs. We want your expertise, we want your input into how we get past this. But it’s also been an intensive two days of making sure that we’re listening.”

But the flurry of activity comes as the massacre at three spas that left eight people dead is raising new questions about whether Biden has enough people of Asian descent on his staff to fully understand the needs and struggles of the more than 21 million Americans with Asian ancestry.

Several AAPI leaders said Thursday that they appreciate the White House effort — including forceful statements from Biden and Vice President Harris denouncing the shootings — but that the incident underscores the importance of having Asian representation in the most senior levels of Biden’s administration.

Read more here: Washington Post – Biden reaches out to Asian Americans after killings — but many remain frustrated by lack of representation

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris head to Atlanta in Georgia today in what was a planned trip, but which has now taken on additional significance after this week’s Atlanta spa shootings, in which six of the victims were women of Asian descent. The itinerary of the trip has changed significantly as a result. as NBC News reported overnight:

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that Biden and Harris will meet with representatives of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community, state lawmakers and community advocates to “hear about the impact of the incident on the community and to get their perspective on the rise of Anti-Asian hate incidents.”

Biden and Harris’ visit to Atlanta, which will be their first joint trip since taking office, had initially been scheduled as part of the administration’s “Help is Here” tour promoting the $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief package.

The shooting Tuesday night caused the White House to shift the focus of the visit, announcing Thursday afternoon that the American Rescue Plan event would be postponed to a later date.

Psaki said that Biden would offer his support to the Asian American community on Friday and highlight his commitment to “combating xenophobia, intolerance and hate.”

Good morning and welcome to Friday’s live coverage of US politics. The national focus on hate crimes against the Asian American community continues in the aftermath of the shooting in Atlanta, while strained US relations with China were on open display yesterday. Here’s where we are and what can we expect to see today.

Source: https://news.google.com/__i/rss/rd/articles/CBMilwFodHRwczovL3d3dy50aGVndWFyZGlhbi5jb20vdXMtbmV3cy9saXZlLzIwMjEvbWFyLzE5L2pvZS1iaWRlbi1rYW1hbGEtaGFycmlzLWF0bGFudGEtc3BhLXNob290aW5ncy1jaGluYS1nZW9yZ2lhLWNvdmlkLWNvcm9uYXZpcnVzLXZhY2NpbmUtbGl2ZS11cGRhdGVz0gGXAWh0dHBzOi8vYW1wLnRoZWd1YXJkaWFuLmNvbS91cy1uZXdzL2xpdmUvMjAyMS9tYXIvMTkvam9lLWJpZGVuLWthbWFsYS1oYXJyaXMtYXRsYW50YS1zcGEtc2hvb3RpbmdzLWNoaW5hLWdlb3JnaWEtY292aWQtY29yb25hdmlydXMtdmFjY2luZS1saXZlLXVwZGF0ZXM?oc=5

News – Biden and Harris head to Georgia to meet community leaders after Atlanta shooting – live updates