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Brexit transition deal REVEALED: Five things you MISSED from Theresa May’s draft report

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THE UK Government unveiled its Brexit implementation period report to take to Brussels for Phase Two of negotiations in Spring – leaving some Brexiteers mystified by its content. Here are five things you may have missed.

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Biden admin steps up efforts to raise Covid vaccination rates among teens

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WASHINGTON — A mixture of misinformation, low Covid-19 vaccination rates among U.S. teens and the spread of a variant causing concern is fueling urgency among policymakers and spurring a new push by the Biden administration to change those trends.

In an interview with NBC News following a public discussion at a Washington, D.C., school, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra called the arrival in the United States of the more contagious delta variant in addition to misinformation about the vaccine and apathy among unvaccinated teenagers “concerning.”

“It is very clear that this (misinformation) is real,” Becerra said.

“The next phase of this is getting out into the community, really getting to sit with families, sit with teens, be there, where there’s an opportunity,” said Dr. Drew Maurano, who leads a team of medical staff at one of D.C.’s largest vaccination clinics.

The exchange illustrates a deepening concern by some lawmakers and the Biden administration as the new coronavirus variant takes hold in the U.S. after ripping through primary schools in Britain.

And the administration is stepping up its efforts to reach adolescents. This includes the creation last week of a “Covid-19 Student Corps,” or teenagers who agree to serve as community ambassadors to their peers. The administration is also teaming up with social media influencers including Hollywood actors, “mommy bloggers,” the first lady, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and camp associations, Health and Human Services officials said.

The nation’s capital city is a prime example of the challenges. In Washington, 30 percent of white residents between 18 and 24 are at least partially vaccinated, but that’s true for just 14 percent of Black residents in the same age group, according to district health data. Just 4 percent of Black children ages 12 to 15 are fully vaccinated.

“Something is wrong in getting the word out to our young people,” a visibly irritated Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., said as she read out the Covid-19 vaccination rates among her city’s teenagers during the recent panel discussion at Anacostia High School.

The delta variant, first identified in India and now dominant in Britain, is spreading more in educational settings than any other the government has reviewed, according to British Health data, and it’s hitting those ages 12 to 20 especially hard. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. doctor, warned in a recent press briefing: “We cannot let that happen in the United States.”

According to U.K. government data, 217 outbreaks of the delta variant had been identified in educational settings, the largest number in any of the settings examined. Israel has also seen several school clusters. The U.K. Health Department has also warned the risk of hospital admission is higher in people with the delta variant.

A healthcare worker administers a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine to a teenager at Holtz Children’s Hospital in Miami on May 18, 2021.Eva Marie Uzcategui / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

“In England, we saw this variant spread first among school age children, and then to other age groups,” said Deepti Gurdasani, a British epidemiologist at Queen Mary University of London. “It is clear that schools are a major area of spread, when robust mitigations aren’t present,” she said.

“This variant, being more transmissible, more severe and more able to escape vaccines has the potential to change the shape of the pandemic,” she said. Prior restrictions to contain the alpha variant “are completely insufficient to contain this,” she said.

Meanwhile, some Anacostia High students said the vaccine is unimportant to many of their peers while others believe, falsely, it could hurt them.

London Dews, a 17-year-old unvaccinated student told Holmes Norton that social media myths about vaccines implanting tracking chips activated by 5G technology or that the vaccine will turn kids into “zombies” aren’t just fringe.

“One conspiracy is that the vaccine is implanting a chip into us and the government is tracking us. And another one is that this will, the vaccinations will be a start to a zombie apocalypse in the future,” Dews said.

“It’s circulating through YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, um, Twitter, you know, the big social medias that we use every day. I think (there are) a lot of people who believe this.”



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Earn our trust! Brexit row heats up as EU issues fresh warning to UK – anger at Lord Frost

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THE Northern Ireland Protocol must be “implemented in full”, an EU Commissioner has insisted, as the spat between Brussels and London over the key part of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement drags on.

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Obama slams GOP plan to filibuster voting rights bill

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Former President Barack Obama on Monday called the filibuster a “tool for obstruction” and urged Republican senators not to use it to block a key vote on the For the People Act voting rights bill this week.

“Republicans in the Senate are lining up to try to use the filibuster to stop the For the People Act from even being debated,” Obama said during a tele-town hall with former Attorney General Eric Holder and grassroots activists about the bill, which Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., will put to a procedural vote Tuesday to take up the measure. That motion is not expected to receive the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster and proceed to the bill.

“Think about this: In the aftermath of an insurrection, with our democracy on the line and many of the same Republican senators going along with the notion that somehow there were irregularities and problems with legitimacy in our most recent election, they’re suddenly afraid to even talk about these issues and figure out a solution on the floor of the Senate,” Obama said.

“That’s not acceptable,” he added.

Obama said the bill isn’t perfect, but he touted several of its provisions, including one that would cut down on partisan gerrymandering. Allowing people in power to manipulate the boundaries of legislative districts had deepened the political divide in the country and made it “so that the incumbents can choose their voters, rather than the voters choosing their elected officials,” he said.

The former president also pointed to provisions mandating early voting and increasing transparency on donations, and noted that Democratic senators have said they’re open to compromises. The bill might undergo changes, but “we as a people should all say Senate, Congress, do something.”

“Whatever else we may argue about, the one thing we should agree on the bedrock idea that we as Americans have been taught to take pride in, this is the fact that we’re a democracy,” Obama said.

“The issue of voting rights might not set off alarms for most of us,” but “the violence that occurred in the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6th should remind us we can’t take our democracy for granted,” he said.



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