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State of the Union attendees needed a COVID test. 5 legislators tested positive : NPR


(L-R) Sen. Alex Padilla (D-CA), Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-CA), Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-WA), Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL)

Anna Moneymaker/Getty Photographs; Alex Wong/Getty Photographs; Anna Moneymaker/Getty Photographs; Karen Ducey/Getty Photographs; Samuel Corum/Getty Photographs


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Anna Moneymaker/Getty Photographs; Alex Wong/Getty Photographs; Anna Moneymaker/Getty Photographs; Karen Ducey/Getty Photographs; Samuel Corum/Getty Photographs


(L-R) Sen. Alex Padilla (D-CA), Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-CA), Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-WA), Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL)

Anna Moneymaker/Getty Photographs; Alex Wong/Getty Photographs; Anna Moneymaker/Getty Photographs; Karen Ducey/Getty Photographs; Samuel Corum/Getty Photographs

At the least 5 legislators introduced Tuesday that they’d examined constructive for COVID-19 forward of tonight’s State of the Union tackle.

To attend tonight’s speech, friends — even those that are totally vaccinated — are required to provide a damaging check.

California’s Sen. Alex Padilla and Rep. Pete Aguilar, Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, Rep. Suzan DelBene of Washington and Rep. Ted Deutch of Florida — all Democrats — introduced by statements or tweets Tuesday that they’d examined constructive.

Rep. Lauren Underwood of Illinois stated Friday that she had tested positive.

Usually, a State of the Union tackle is attended by 1,500 individuals or extra. Members of Congress and different political dignitaries convey friends and members of the family. However final yr, solely 200 individuals attended Biden’s joint tackle to Congress in April, simply as COVID-19 vaccines had began to change into extensively accessible to most American adults.

This yr, all 535 members of Congress had been invited to attend tonight’s speech, a call made with the steering of Brian P. Monahan, the Capitol’s attending doctor. Many Republicans have determined to skip the occasion. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) stated he wouldn’t attend as a result of he objected to the requirement that every one these current would want to take a COVID-19 check.

Attendees is not going to be required to put on masks tonight — a change to Monahan’s steering made within the wake of falling COVID-19 ranges within the D.C. space. The White Home additionally lately modified its masks coverage, permitting totally vaccinated workers members to go maskless.



Cold, surreal and socially distanced, the Beijing Olympics stood the (COVID) test of time


Beijing • Deep within the bowels of the Fundamental Media Heart, the conference center-turned-hub for the 9,000-plus journalists who descended upon the Beijing Olympics, sits a piece of the Nice Wall of China.

Or some affordable facsimile.

The less-than life-size cardboard cutout of a size of the 30,000-mile iconic stone construction, which was constructed 1,500 years in the past to maintain out invaders, is considered one of 4 reliefs of China’s most well-known landmarks that line the hallway to the eating corridor, the place robots make each Peking duck and hen McNuggets. Throughout a break from their toils, media sorts and volunteers alike can get their photos taken whereas kneeling behind a golden calf close to the Summer season Palace, admiring the colourful tower of the Temple of Heaven and considering a snarling lion statue on the Forbidden Metropolis. For these needing assist with their picture composition, close by indicators recommend a wide range of poses.

The actual Nice Wall, in the meantime, remained simply out of attain. It may very well be seen from a distance as a gold ribbon illuminated alongside the ridgeline behind the cross nation and ski leaping venues. Or, apparently, glimpsed out of a dirty window throughout the 80-minute bus experience from Beijing to Yangqing, the location of sliding sports activities and Alpine snowboarding. Visiting it in individual, nonetheless, was typically not permissible.

In some ways, that cardboard cutout of the Nice Wall served as the proper metaphor for these Olympics. Although the Winter Video games had been in China, they weren’t actually in China. Although their slogan was “Higher, Sooner, Stronger, Collectively,” the contributors and the folks had been by no means actually collectively, not less than in the event that they obeyed the “no sitting” indicators posted on each different chair. Although the motion occurred proper earlier than our eyes, it all the time felt — and sometimes was — an arm’s size from actuality.

“So you understand how they go into Lord Farquaad’s kingdom and the whole lot is ideal nevertheless it’s type of a ghost city. I type of envision it being like that. Or it may very well be completely epic and the Chinese language are going to be completely superior and loud and outgoing and cheering for everyone.”

— Nick Goepper, slopestyle snowboarding silver medalist from Park Metropolis, on his pre-Video games prediction that the Olympic bubble in Beijing would resemble the city of Duloc from the film “Shrek”

The distancing began as quickly because the airplane pulled in subsequent to an in any other case vacant terminal of the Beijing Capital Airport. A team of workers in full hazmat fits greeted passengers and directed them to a ready space. Company then needed to cross inspections of their well being and of their baggage. This included a deep nasal swab and a baggage declare that resembled a swap meet, with suitcases and ski luggage specified by rows in a car parking zone and nobody prepared to get shut sufficient to assist kind via all of it.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Medical workers watch speedskating on the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing on Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022.

Entry to the lodge wasn’t significantly better. Company had been directed to go to their rooms and keep there till the outcomes of their exams arrived. Nearly each lodge worker besides the entrance desk workers — from home cleaners to COVID testers to room service deliverers — was clad in head-to-toe PPE.

On the venues and contained in the Olympic park, nonetheless, that wasn’t the case in any respect. There the foreigner-facing volunteers, all the time dressed of their gentle blue-and-white jackets and white KN-95 masks, sought out contact. They’d wave and bounce and rush towards anybody who seemed the slightest bit misplaced or confused with solutions on the prepared. Additionally all the time up for a selfie, they would supply the closest bodily contact a lot of the journalists would have for weeks — apart from bumping elbows with one another within the interview areas and on the snack desk.

“I bear in mind going to the Beijing Zoo, so each time we drive (to Capital Indoor Stadium) from the Village, I see the zoo and (assume), ‘Oh, I used to be right here once I was 10.’”

— Nathan Chen, Salt Lake Metropolis determine skating gold medalist

China established an “Olympic bubble” ostensibly to forestall the unfold of the coronavirus to most people and vice versa. No intermixing can be tolerated. Fences had been erected across the perimeter of the MMC with safety screenings and temperature checks in any respect entries. Devoted trains, buses and taxis shuttled Olympic personnel between venues, even these simply throughout the highway. No journey took lower than quarter-hour. Visiting both of the mountain websites, situated from 50 to 112 miles from town, required a minimal of three hours and 4 shuttles.

In some locations, although, the obstacles had been nearly imperceptible. That included the low fences encircling a pavilion simply exterior the media heart, the place journalists may watch Chinese language residents posing subsequent to a larger-than-life likeness of panda mascot Bing Duen Duen and the residents may watch the journalists of their pure habitat. So, whereas it was unattainable to go to the Beijing Zoo, which sits alongside the bus path to the determine skating and brief observe speedskating venues, it was straightforward to think about what it might be like inside — not less than from the caged animals’ perspective.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) A small group of followers watches freestyle snowboarding moguls {qualifications} on the Zhangjiakou Genting Snow Park throughout the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics on Thursday, Feb. 3, 2022.

The spectators introduced in teams for every occasion will need to have felt equally on show. At some occasions, such because the bronze-medal curling match between the USA and Canada, a back-and-forth affair between two rivals, it was painfully obvious they weren’t followers of the game. They sat stoically via the match, hardly ever uttering a sound. A couple of scrolled via their telephones. One even settled in with an excellent guide.

Different occasions generated extra pure engagement, nonetheless. Yells had been typically frowned upon as COVID spreaders, however sometimes outbursts erupted, particularly in occasions that featured a Chinese language medal contender. That went three-fold if her identify was Tao-Tao or Eileen Gu.

“Now we have reviewed your request and can’t reinstate your Google Voice service. Your Google Voice service has been suspended for violations of our Google Voice Insurance policies.”

— electronic mail from the Google Voice Staff

Along with the precise bodily separation at these Olympics, a notable tech hole existed. Google and Apple pulled in another country years in the past and their telephones and search engines like google didn’t play properly with in any other case unsecured hotspots.

As promised, China allowed inside the bubble a community with out restrictions. However accessing that community proved hit or miss wherever besides on the sector of play. And even when it was accessible, that didn’t preserve these corporations from elevating their very own inner crimson flags about somebody utilizing a Chinese language IP handle. From private expertise, Google Voice, Visa and the audio transcription service Trint all individually shut down entry to my account due to hacking considerations.

“It’s undoubtedly cold-cold.”

— Brad Wilson, moguls skier from Park Metropolis

Distant didn’t apply to 1 aspect of those Olympics: the chilly. Temperatures dipped to three levels Fahrenheit on some days, or -9 with the windchill. Photographers’ lenses cracked from the chilly. Life was sucked from batteries. Water bottles and fingers froze in pockets. Toes numbed, as did different physique components. The nippiness seeped into the bones of athletes and people supporting them.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Lindsey Jacobellis slides into the end, profitable the gold medal in combined staff snowboard cross on the 2022 Winter Olympics in Zhangjiakou, China, on Saturday, Feb. 12, 2022.

Within the girls’s staff dash, Rosie Brennan of Park Metropolis and former Westminster School athlete Jessie Diggins took turns circling the cross nation course in Zhangjiakou, the place race time was moved up two hours to keep away from the worst of the chilly. Their struggling didn’t finish with their leg of the race, although. Every then needed to discover a technique to keep heat in single-degree temperatures whereas sweaty till it was once more her flip to exit and ski.

“Now we have heated socks, windproof layers, I don’t know. Buffs, face tape,” Brennan stated. “Working round along with your parka on.”

To maintain her set off finger heat, Joanne Firesteel Reid taped hand heaters to the highest and backside of her wrists and pulled a kid-sized glove over them. As she stated, “If it really works, it really works.”

“Why did you let it go? Why did you cease preventing?”

— Eteri Tutberidze, coach of 15-year-old Russian determine skater Kamila Valieva

Maybe at no level did these Olympics really feel extra surreal than when 15-year-old Kamila Valieva was on the ice. Just like the Nice Wall, she struck awe into anybody who noticed her, along with her mixture of grace and quad jumps. However just like the images with the Nice Wall, it grew to become tough to decipher what was actual and what wasn’t as soon as she was discovered to be competing regardless of testing constructive for a banned substance.

Ultimately, she, like sections of the Nice Wall, crumbled. Her rocky free skate value her the title and allowed the IOC to keep away from an issue over whether or not or not it ought to maintain a medals ceremony within the occasion. Much more awe-inspiring, nonetheless, was the drama that adopted. Her personal coach appeared to admonish her for not withstanding the stress, a reception IOC president Thomas Bach later referred to as “chilling” whereas the silver-medalist threw a tantrum about not having a gold. The Kremlin, in the meantime, voiced approval of Tutberidze’s ways for the medals she produced.

“The harshness of a coach in high-level sport,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov stated, “is vital for his or her athletes to realize victories.”

“I by no means actually thought that I’d be capable of truly make it this far in my profession. I’d all the time dreamed about making the Olympics, however, you recognize, that’s exhausting. I didn’t know if I may make that occur. So, yeah, I imply, I haven’t actually had time to course of it totally, nevertheless it’s wonderful.”

— Nathan Chen of Salt Lake Metropolis, on profitable the gold medal in males’s determine skating

Contemplating all of the obstacles, each bodily and psychological, it’s a marvel any athletes or coaches or journalists made it to the Olympics in any respect. However they did make it, by the 1000’s. Of these, a couple of athletes broke via the haze and introduced us moments the place the Olympic spirit didn’t really feel so distant.

One was Chen seizing his second, gaining redemption over 2018 and profitable the gold medal though his mom and household from Beijing couldn’t be within the seats watching him.

One other was the palpable pleasure, reduction and Valentine’s Day love that stuffed the air round Genting Snow Park when China’s Xu Mengtao nailed her back-full-full-full on Feb. 14. Certainly one of a document 4 girls to aim the triple flip, she cleanly landed it to set the desk for China’s first gold medal in aerial snowboarding after 5 silvers. Although the win got here on the expense of Salt Lake Metropolis’s Ashley Caldwell, who had recorded the entire day’s high scores till then, the sheer variety of volunteers who discovered themselves huddled collectively there within the sub-zero temperatures to observe the finale and the variety of tears they and “Tao-Tao” shed indicated what a proud second it was for the Chinese language folks.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Erin Jackson (USA) wins the gold medal within the speedskating girls’s 500m on the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing on Sunday, Feb. 13, 2022.

There was Colby Stevenson profitable silver within the inaugural Olympic massive air ski competitors — set in opposition to the post-apocalyptic backdrop of an deserted metal mill — six years after a life-threatening automotive accident. A pair days later, two of his Park Metropolis buddies, Alex Corridor and Nick Goepper, collected gold and silver in slopestyle.

Then, in fact, there was essentially the most touching second of the Olympics: Erin Jackson’s speedskating gold. Jackson’s groundbreaking efficiency within the 500 meters, which made her the primary Black girl to earn gold in a person occasion on the Winter Video games was made even richer by its backstory.

Jackson’s teammate Brittany Bowe, whom she had seemed as much as since each had been inline skaters in Ocala, Florida, surrendered her personal spot within the race following the trials to provide Jackson a shot. That Jackson honored that gesture by profitable the gold is the stuff Disney films are manufactured from.

“I don’t assume both of us knew the magnitude of these actions,” stated Bowe, who later collected bronze within the 1,000 for her first particular person medal. “The quantity of assist and love that we’ve acquired has been actually humbling. In occasions of a lot division, to see some positivity on the information and lifting each other up and supporting one another, that has been actually uplifting the previous month.”

For a quick time, it was doable to neglect the issues retaining us aside and do not forget that kindness will deliver us collectively and elevate us up.

Possibly even larger than the Nice Wall.



For Some Refugees, Safe Haven Now Depends on a DNA Test | FRONTLINE | PBS


When Muna Guled, her husband and youngest daughter had been granted refugee standing in America two-and-a-half years in the past, their first precedence was to carry over Guled’s three different kids, nonetheless stranded in Ethiopia after escaping famine and violence in Somalia.

That dream will quickly turn into actuality — however for under two of the kids. The third, 17-year-old Roda, shouldn’t be technically Guled’s daughter. She is her niece, who Guled unofficially adopted after the lady’s mom went lacking and her father and grandparents died.

Up to now, this may not have been an impediment. However the USA now requires refugees hoping to reunite with their households to show that they’re associated — both via a DNA take a look at, or with official adoption paperwork, which will be inconceivable to acquire in war-torn international locations. So when Guled’s two organic kids board a aircraft to satisfy their mom and sister in Ohio within the coming months, Roda will seemingly be left behind.

This has been devastating information for the household.

“Roda doesn’t have anyone else. She is scared of what’s going to occur to her alone. She is scared she will likely be kidnapped by dangerous folks,” stated Guled via her 16-year-old daughter Awo, who translated by cellphone. “Roda has stated she is going to kill herself if she can not come.”

Awo paused.

“Only a second, my mom is crying once more,” she stated.

The household’s story highlights the problems which have arisen because the federal authorities has tightened constraints on the principle program refugees have used to reunite with household within the U.S. By means of the late Nineteen Nineties, this system was answerable for 15 to twenty % of all refugee arrivals in America, however due to a sequence of restrictions imposed since then, it at present accounts for lower than 1 %. The modifications have stymied fraud — as they had been meant to. However at a time when the U.S. is bracing for hundreds of recent functions for shelter from refugees displaced by struggle in Syria, the restrictions have slowed — and in some instances outright denied — authentic entries into the nation.

SCALING BACK

Battle can scatter households throughout continents — a actuality lengthy acknowledged by U.S. refugee coverage. Shortly after the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program was signed into existence by President Ronald Reagan in 1980, the company established a household reunification program for refugees — now generally known as the P-3 program — permitting immigrants to carry over members of the family fleeing disaster.

Within the years earlier than 9/11, as many as 13,000 refugees a yr joined kinfolk within the U.S. via this system, in line with State Division statistics.

Suspecting fraud, immigration officers started to rein in this system. Beginning in 1999, they no longer allowed prolonged households — siblings, grandparents, nieces and nephews — to use for entry, confining this system to spouses, kids and fogeys. In 2004, the Bush administration curbed this system additional. As a substitute of creating this system out there to any immigrant who arrived within the U.S. legally, it would solely be out there to these who had been granted refugee standing or asylum.

However the struggle in Syria, which has displaced greater than 4 million from their properties, is fueling requires the Obama administration to ease a few of these restrictions. The U.S. has introduced plans to take up a minimum of 10,000 Syrian refugees over the subsequent yr, and as soon as they arrive in America, these refugees will be capable to use the P-3 program.

Till then, although, the tens of hundreds of Syrians already in the U.S. via different immigration packages are barred from utilizing it to reunite with members of the family displaced by the violence. As a substitute, their main different is a separate visa program that at present has an eight-year ready checklist.

Earlier this month, 84 members of Congress despatched a letter to the Obama administration asking it to increase P-3 eligibility. Rep. Invoice Pascrell, Jr. (D-N.J.), one of many letter’s authors, advised FRONTLINE in an announcement that it made sense to simply accept refugees who have already got assist within the U.S.

“These households would have a house prepared for them, a supply of monetary assist, and the dedication to return to assist rebuild Syria after the struggle is over,” he stated.

A State Division official confirmed receiving the letter however declined to remark additional.

DNA TESTING

Even when these restrictions are loosened, refugees making use of for household reunification will face one other hurdle to clear: DNA testing.

The inspiration for this requirement was born in East Africa, the place greater than 1 million Somalians have been displaced from their nation by civil struggle and famine. Within the mid-2000s, the U.S. was offering refuge to about 10,000 Somalians a yr — lots of whom went on to use to the household reunification program to carry over kinfolk.

Immigration officers suspected that some had been inventing “ghost kids,” and filling out functions for kids not associated to them. There had even been some studies of brokers who bought the ghost kids’s slots for revenue, in line with a U.S. Division of State official who spoke to FRONTLINE however requested to not be named.

So in early 2008, the State Division launched a pilot program to find out the extent of fraud by testing relationships utilizing DNA.

Within the preliminary pilot of 476 candidates in Nairobi, Kenya, solely 16 % had been genetically associated to each particular person they stated was of their household. One other 39 % examined false for a minimum of one member of the family. Within the remaining 45 % of instances, candidates both refused to take part or didn’t present up for the take a look at.

Officers interpreted these outcomes as proof of widespread fraud. The P-3 program was suspended, and didn’t reopen for greater than 4 years.

This surprised refugees all over the world, lots of whom had spent years ready for P-3 functions to be authorized. Most had been advised to use for an alternate visa, however it was much more restrictive than P-3 and shortly had a multi-year ready checklist.

The suspension was likewise criticized by refugee advocates, who argued that fraud wasn’t the one rationalization for the pilot program’s outcomes. For instance, if a household had 5 kids and only one examined false, they’d all be counted as fraudulent. And if any member of the household didn’t present up for a take a look at, that household would even be thought of fraudulent, even when the no-show was for a authentic purpose.

DEFINING FAMILY

Critics additionally took purpose on the slim “nuclear household” idea that DNA exams impose, famous a report by the  Immigration Coverage Heart, a nonpartisan immigration analysis group. Throughout struggle, kids whose mother and father are lifeless or lacking are normally taken in by kinfolk or neighbors. Official adoption paperwork shouldn’t be the norm.

“It’s utterly tone-deaf to the realities that refugees face,” says Jen Smyers, director of coverage and advocacy with the Church World Service Refugee and Immigration Program, a refugee resettlement company. “In Nairobi there are girls who, once they had been fleeing their village that was being burned, encountered a small baby on the aspect of the highway and picked it up and ended up elevating it for the subsequent 5 years. They know in the event that they’re requested, ‘Did this baby come out of your physique?’ and say ‘No,’ they gained’t be capable to carry the kid with them. So they are saying sure. That’s fraud, however it’s not gaming the system.”

There will be issues even when a baby does belong to the mom, famous lawyer Emily Holland in “Transferring the Digital Border to the Mobile Stage,” revealed within the California Regulation Evaluation: DNA exams can flip up “long-buried cases of infidelity and rape, typically hid because of concern, stigma and disgrace.” Uncovering them can introduce new crises to already traumatized households.

The United Nations Refugee Company has really helpful that refugee staff affirm relationships with paperwork, interviews and different instruments, and argues that DNA exams needs to be used solely as a “final resort.”

However when the P-3 program was lastly reinstated in 2012, it got here with the requirement that each one parent-child relationships be proved via DNA exams, or by official adoption papers. Refugees pay for the DNA exams, which may value a number of hundred {dollars}, however are reimbursed for optimistic exams.

Since then, fewer than 100 folks have arrived in the U.S. annually via the household reunification program, whereas a whole bunch of extra openings went unfilled. The State Division official stated it’s doable these figures may develop as extra folks work via the brand new necessities, however that household reunification was unlikely to return to its former numbers.

David Martin, a legislation professor on the College of Virginia who helped form the Refugee Act of 1980 and has labored with each administration since then to refine it, famous that there isn’t any straightforward method to the issue. Even these instances which might be fraudulent are sometimes “residing lives of determined privation” and badly in want of relocation, he stated. However so are hundreds of others, and it’s past the capability of the U.S. refugee program to take all of them.

“So that you make decisions, and when the selection is to order some spots for members of the family, it makes sense to verify they’re actually members of the family,” he stated.

He famous that the system does have some flexibility and may make exceptions to the DNA rule on a case by case foundation to accommodate extraordinary circumstances.

Muna Guled hopes her household’s circumstances will enable them to discover a method to carry her niece to America. Her different two kids had been residing in Mogadishu with their organic father, however they and Roda have now moved to Ethiopia as a result of it is going to be simpler to affix their household within the U.S. from there. Guled’s two organic kids have handed the DNA take a look at and they are able to fly to Ohio earlier than the tip of the yr.

Guled’s daughter, Awo, has turn into fluent in English in her two-and-a-half years in Columbus. She says she likes her new life in America.

“I believe my life is simply beginning now, I’m getting a superb schooling, I really feel good in America,” Awo stated. “I simply marvel when my brother and my sisters can come and luxuriate in with me this stunning life.”


Katie Worth

Katie Price, Former Reporter, FRONTLINE