News Headlines 5/25/21

BLINKEN IN MIDDLE EAST ON TRIP TO BOLSTER ISRAEL-HAMAS CEASE-FIRE: Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Israel early Tuesday (May 25th), beginning a Middle East trip aimed at bolstering the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza that went into effect last Friday. The truce ended 11 days of an exchange of rocket fire from Hamas and airstrikes from Israel that left more than 250 people dead, most of them Palestinians, and also caused extensive destruction in Gaza. Blinken won’t be meeting with Hamas, a militant group that doesn’t recognize Israel’s right to exist. Instead, he will meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank, even though Abbas doesn’t have power in Gaza. Blinken will also go to Egypt and Jordan, which acted as mediators in the latest conflict, including Egypt brokering the cease-fire. President Biden said Blinken would work with regional partners on a effort to provide assistance and focus on reconstruction in Gaza.

EUROPEAN UNION TO SANCTION BELARUS AFTER PLANE FORCED DOWN TO ARREST JOURNALIST: European Union nations agreed yesterday (May 24th) to impose sanctions on Belarus, after a RyanAir flight was forced down Sunday in order to arrest an opposition journalist, which EU leaders called a “hijacking.” The passenger jet was flying from Greece to Lithuania when the forced diversion took place and Raman Pratasevich, a key opponent of authoritarian Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, was  taken into custody. The EU also demanded yesterday that he be immediately released. As part of the sanctions, the EU won’t allow Belarus airlines into its airspace or allow them to use airports in the 27-nation bloc. The EU also urged airlines based in the European Union to avoid flying over Belarus. In the U.S., President Biden late yesterday condemned what happened as  “outrageous” and also called for Pratasevich’s release. Biden said he’d asked his administration to develop appropriate options to hold those responsible accountable.

25 U.S. STATES HAVE FULLY VACCINATED AT LEAST HALF OF ADULTS: At least 25 states and Washington, D.C., have now fully vaccinated at least half of their adult population, according to  new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Four states — Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts and Vermont — have fully vaccinated more than half of their total population, not just adults. Nationally, about 61.3 percent of adults had gotten at least one Covid vaccine shot, and just slightly under half, 49.6 percent, are fully vaccinated. More than 49 percent of the country’s total population has gotten at least one shot, and more than 39 percent of the total population is fully vaccinated.

INSPECTOR GENERAL: MIGRANT PARENTS FORCED TO LEAVE U.S. WITHOUT CHILDREN: The Department of Homeland Security Inspector General said in a report Monday (May 24th) that under the Trump administration’s policy of separating families at the border, some parents were forced to leave the U.S. without their children. That information from the government watchdog contracts claims by Trump administration officials that parents were willingly leaving their children behind. The report said at least 348 cases were found in which there were no records showing migrants wanted to leave their children in the U.S, and there were also some cases in which parents were deported even though it was known they wanted to take their children with them. President Biden set up a task force to reunite families that were still separated, an effort that is ongoing.

SUSPECT ARRESTED IN SHOOTING AT N.J. BIRTHDAY PARTY THAT LEFT TWO DEAD, WASN’T RANDOM: A 36-year-old suspect has been arrested in a shooting at a birthday party in southern New Jersey late Saturday night that left two people dead and injured 12 others, some of them critically. State Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said the attack at the Fairfield Township party attended by hundreds of people wasn’t, quote, “a random act of violence,” but didn’t discuss a motive. Kevin K Dawkins was arrested on weapons charges, but authorities are asking for information from the public that could help lead to more arrests.