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As the curtain falls on the Merkel era, Germany’s largest parties are set to vie for power

Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

(NEW YORK) -- After almost 16 years as leader of Europe's most powerful economy, Angela Merkel will be leaving the chancellorship behind as Germany votes on a new parliament. Merkel's successor -- either her Christian Democratic Union appointee, Armin Laschet, or Olaf Scholz of the center-left Social Democrats -- will be determined only once a new government is formed.

Sunday's general election saw Scholz's SPD win 25.7% of the vote, closely followed by the conservative CDU at 24.1%, according to official preliminary results released Monday morning. However, they alone don't have the majority needed to rule and will have to form strategic coalitions that will determine who will govern the country.

It's historically rare in German politics that the make-up of a leading coalition and identity of the next chancellor is so unclear. Despite Merkel's popularity, her CDU struggled to galvanize the conservative party's traditional base under Laschet, the governor of Germany's North Rhine-Westphalia state.

Laschet was gaffe-laden during the campaign, including being caught on camera laughing during a tribute to those who died in the devastating floods in West Germany in July. Even on voting day, Laschet made a blunder by folding his ballot the wrong way -- making his voting choice visible, which could make his vote invalid.

Climate change has played a central role during the election race. The environmentalist Greens gained more support than anticipated early on.

It could take weeks -- if not months -- of negotiations between the parties before a coalition government is fully formed. Dr. Ursula Münch from Germany's Academy of Political Education predicts the transition period to be drawn out.

"Many in Germany are speculating that Merkel might still have to hold the New Years' speech," Münch told ABC News.

One thing is certain: Merkel's exit will mark the end of an era. In her last few weeks, Germans are reflecting on the legacy that she leaves behind.

"Angela Merkel became chancellor when I was 14 years old," 30-year-old German citizen Svenja Beck told ABC News. "I can hardly remember anyone other than a woman ever ruling our country. It feels crazy that this era is coming to an end. In any case, I hope she can enjoy her well-deserved retirement, especially after these exhausting 1.5 years."

Indeed, there's a sense of nostalgia in some young Germans who have only known a country led by the leader known as "mutti," or mother.

After three terms as chancellor, Merkel is still a popular figure. Last week a survey by Gallup research recorded her approval rating at 71%.

Many Germans have admired her demeanor -- an assuring confidence, a pragmatism -- others have been assured by her steady economic policies that have enabled the country to weather several crises. She's also been valued for her ability to reach consensus across governments and political persuasions.

"Merkel's personal style has left certain marks," Münch said. "Her rather restrained, unpretentious and matter-of-fact nature does seem to be popular among a large part of the population."

Beyond that, Münch considers Merkel's legacy to be defined by her crisis management and ability to deal with adverse situations "step by step."

Münch noted that while Merkel may approach potential conflicts with hesitation at first, she'll quickly and thoroughly deal with them once she's in the thick of it.

"We saw this with the banking crisis, with the Euro rescue, during the refugee crisis and now in particular with the coronavirus," she added.

But throughout the years, Merkel has received criticism for being too complacent on certain fronts, with environmentalists being particularly vocal in accusing her of not doing enough to tackle climate change.

German citizen Steffen Mechlinski, who voted for the Greens on Sunday, said he's looking forward to some issues getting more attention under the new leadership:

"After 16 solid years, I am now hoping for an ambitious policy approach, particularly when it comes to climate change, social justice, education and digitalization," Mechlinski told ABC News.

Internationally, Merkel has enjoyed widespread popularity.

"She's considered to be a very dependable person in many parts of the world," Münch said, "although I'm sure that some eastern European and southeastern European states may not agree."

However, it's Merkel's willingness to involve everyone, including smaller states, in policy debates and decisions that gives her a reputation for fairness and dependability.

Münch doesn't foresee any dramatic changes to Germany's foreign policy.

"The CDU and the SPD are really not that different from each other," she said. "Both are transatlantically oriented parties. Both -- including the SPD under Olaf Scholz -- keep Russia at a distance and approach China with reservations."

Even the Greens, who will form part of the new government, won't dramatically impact the direction of Germany's foreign policy, particularly when it comes to the United States.

"All three parties are transatlantics," Münch added. "These are all people and parties who care a lot about German-American relations."

In her years as chancellor, Merkel has resisted taking a tougher stance on China, with trade between the two countries booming.

Münch doesn't expect doesn't anticipate dramatic changes toward China, saying that even the Greens must conduct a business-friendly policy.

"Perhaps, when it comes to China, the priority won't just be foreign trade," she said, "but that the approach will be more cautious, especially with regards to human rights policies."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Putin critic Navalny slams Google and Apple for accepting Kremlin censorship


(MOSCOW) — Russia's best-known opposition figure, Alexey Navalny, has criticized Google and Apple for bending to Kremlin demands for censorship during recent parliamentary elections, accusing the tech giants of "cowardice" and of becoming "accomplices" to president Vladimir Putin's efforts to suppress political opposition.

Both companies bowed to Russian government pressure to delete content relating to a tactical voting campaign promoted by Navalny during elections last weekend that saw Russia's ruling pro-Putin party retain its majority amid accusations of widespread ballot-rigging and a crackdown on anti-Kremlin opposition.

"If something surprised me in the latest elections, it was not how Putin forged the results, but how obediently the almighty Big Tech turned into his accomplices," Navalny said on Twitter on Thursday -- a message written from prison and published by colleagues.

Navalny's campaign, named Smart Voting, had called for people to vote for any candidate with the best chance of defeating the ruling party, United Russia. The online content had contained lists of registered candidates recommended by Navalny's team.

Google and Apple removed Smart Voting apps from their stores in Russia, and Google blocked two related videos on YouTube.

The removals are the biggest concession the tech firms have made to Kremlin demands to restrict content and it has set off fears among liberal Russians that it is a significant step towards the companies accepting broader censorship in the country.

Russian authorities outlawed Navalny's movement earlier this year, after jailing the anti-corruption activist and pro-democracy campaigner who survived a nerve-agent poisoning in 2020. The government in June designated Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation and its regional political offices as "extremist organizations," equating them to violent terrorist groups and requiring social media platforms to ban their content.

The designation has been widely condemned internationally, including by the United States, as politically motivated.

Neither Google nor Apple have made a public statement on the app removals, and each declined to comment to ABC News. In an email explaining the decision to the Anti-Corruption Foundation, published online by Navalny's team, Apple said it was obliged to follow local laws and cited Russian prosecutors' allegations that the app enabled "election interference."

Navalny accused the companies of allowing themselves to be used as instruments of the Kremlin to block legitimate efforts at peaceful opposition, saying they were worried about losing market access to Russia and calling them "hypocrites" for presenting themselves as firms driven by values such as improving the world. Google famously used "Don't be evil" as a company motto.

"In our case, the very intention to organize voters in order to put competitive pressure on the ruling party was declared criminal, and Big Tech agreed with this," Navalny wrote.

He also called on employees inside the companies to raise the issue, writing: "I know that most of those who work at Google, Apple, etc. are honest and good people. I urge them not to put up with the cowardice of their bosses."

Google and Apple in the past largely have resisted Russian government demands that they remove content that criticizes authorities, racking up fines imposed by Russia's state censor. But recently the Kremlin has escalated pressure on U.S. tech companies amid a broader crackdown on dissent.

The day before Apple and Google each removed the voting app, the companies were made to appear before a committee of Russia's senate. Andrey Klimov, a prominent senator who heads a commission -- Protection of State Sovereignty and Prevention of Interference in the country's Internal Affairs -- accused them of illegal election interference and threatened to penalize them with new legislation.

Days before that, court bailiffs visited Google's offices in Moscow, demanding the company pay unpaid fines imposed by the state censor. The New York Times reported Google made the decision to remove Navalny's app after authorities threatened to arrest local employees at Google's Moscow office.

Security experts have said they're concerned the Kremlin is now increasingly bent on taming foreign tech giants as it tightens its grip on the Russian internet. The government has blocked a growing number of sites and is developing infrastructure to allow it to cut off Russia's acces to the global web, if deemed necessary. This year it began slowing down Twitter after the company refused to remove content.

Andrey Soldatov, author of "Red Web," which examines the Russian government's efforts to control the internet, said last week's concession was unlikely to discourage the Kremlin from leaning on Google and Apple further. He said the government was increasingly confident in its technical capabilities to block major international platforms.

"To be honest," he told ABC News by phone, "things look really, really dark right now."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

China declares cryptocurrency transactions illegal as crackdown continues


(BEIJING) -- Bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies dipped in value on Friday after China declared all transactions involving these digital currencies "illegal."

China's central bank, the People's Bank of China, issued a statement on Friday saying that use of these virtual currencies is disrupting economic order and linked to money laundering, fraud and other illicit activities. While Chinese financial institutions already were banned from doing business with cryptocurrencies, the new statement made clear that cryptocurrencies do not have the same status as legal tender and cannot be used as currency in the marketplace.

Bitcoin dropped some 8% on the news, but recouped some initial losses and was down by some 5% late Friday morning. Ethereum initially shed more than 10%, but was down by some 7% as of 11:30 am ET, according to Coin Desk data.

The notoriously volatile digital currencies are down about 30% from all-time highs in the spring, but Bitcoin still is up some 40% since the start of the year and Ethereum has gained a whopping 290% in 2021.

Friday's notice from Beijing also made clear that it's illegal for overseas virtual currency exchanges to provide services to Chinese residents through the internet.

The announcement comes as China experiments on a small scale with its own digital currency issued by its central bank, the first to be created by a major economy. The digital yuan is expected to be rolled out at larger scale imminently, and while it has many similarities to current cryptos the major difference is that it can be more easily traced and controlled by the government.

U.S. financial markets held steady on the news, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 both opening relatively flat on Friday. Analysts and investors around the globe have been keeping a close eye on news out of China, however, amid silence on the Evergrande saga. Debt issues plaguing Evergrande, one of China's largest real estate developers, sent global markets tumbling earlier in the week as many predicted a default with possible spillover effects to the larger economy.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Border Patrol suspends using agents on horseback amid outrage


(WASHINGTON) -- Amid outrage over images the White House said President Joe Biden found "horrible," the U.S. Border Patrol has temporarily stopped using agents on horseback against Haitian migrants in Del Rio, Texas, Homeland Security officials said Thursday.

Shortly afterward, White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed the decision to end the horse patrols in what critics said was offensively harsh treatment of the migrants.

"We have taken very specific actions as it relates to the horrific photos that we -- we’re not going to stand for in this administration," she told reporters at her daily press briefing.

The agents have been put on administrative leave pending an investigation.

Images of Border Patrol agents using their horses for crowd control on the banks of the Rio Grande have incensed Democratic lawmakers, some of whom drew a connection to white supremacy and slavery.

“Haitian lives are Black lives, and if we truly believe that Black lives matter, then we must reverse course,” Democratic Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., said at a news conference Wednesday.

Pressley also called on the Biden administration to “immediately and indefinitely” stop the removal of Haitian nationals back to Haiti. Democrats and immigrant advocates remain concerned that the administration’s rapid removal of migrants from the border has limited their access to humanitarian protections outlined under the law.

Homeland Security official said Thursday the removals would continue.

Law enforcement agencies across the country use mounted patrols on a regular basis to traverse rough terrain, including in remote areas of the border that don't have paved roads.

While many were disturbed by what appeared to be aggressive behavior by the agents on horseback, Border Patrol agents who spoke to ABC News said their colleagues in the controversial photographs were following procedures. They said it's common practice for agents on horseback to use "long reins" to control the horse, apparently leading a photojournalist at the scene in Del Rio to describe them as "whips" being used by the agents.

Any use of whips, even on horses, would be out of line with agency policy, Border Patrol Agent and Union Vice President Jon Anfinsen told ABC News.

"These agents are highly trained along with their horses and they were doing exactly what they were trained to do," Anfinsen said.

About 4,000 migrants remain at the camp and the officials estimated that about two-thirds of the entire group that gathered in Del Rio were families.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

EU proposes legislation requiring all mobile devices, including iPhones, use a universal charger


(EUROPE) -- Lawmakers in Europe on Thursday unveiled a proposal to force smartphone makers to adopt a universal, brand-agnostic charging cable in an effort to reduce electronic waste.

The plans call for a USB-C cable to become the universal standard for all smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices. While years of collaborating with the industry on a voluntary approach have brought the number of mobile charger types from 30 to 3 within the last decade, according to a statement from the European Commission, the new legislation would establish a single common charging solution.

Apple, with its proprietary Lightning cables, remains one of the major holdouts to have a unique charger for its devices -- though some of its more recent devices do include USB-C charging. The company has previously argued that the proposal would impede innovation.

"Chargers power all our most essential electronic devices," Thierry Breton, the EU's internal market commissioner, said in a statement. "With more and more devices, more and more chargers are sold that are not interchangeable or not necessary. We are putting an end to that."

"With our proposal, European consumers will be able to use a single charger for all their portable electronics -- an important step to increase convenience and reduce waste," Breton added.

Margrethe Vestager, the European Commission’s executive vice president for the digital age, added that consumers have been "frustrated long enough about incompatible chargers piling up in their drawers."

"We gave industry plenty of time to come up with their own solutions, now time is ripe for legislative action for a common charger," Vestager said in a statement Thursday. "This is an important win for our consumers and environment and in line with our green and digital ambitions."

Some 420 million mobile phones and other portable electronic devices were sold in the European Union in 2020, the lawmakers said, and consumers on average own about three mobile chargers but only use two on a regular basis. The group estimates disposed of and unused chargers pile up to some 11,000 metric tons of waste each year.

The Commission also seeks to unbundle the sale of chargers from the sale of electronic devices in order to reduce the environmental footprint associated with the production and disposal of chargers. It also is asking producers to provide clearer information about charging performance, including how much power is required by a device for charging.

The lawmakers estimate that all together the new measures will help consumers in Europe limit the number of new chargers purchased and save nearly $294 million (€250 million) per year on unnecessary charger purchases.

Apple told ABC News that it is continuing to work with the European Commission to understand the full details of the proposal, but argued that the legislation could disrupt a thriving ecosystem, inconvenience users and actually create electronic waste.

"Apple stands for innovation and deeply cares about the customer experience. Some of the most innovative thinking at Apple goes toward building products with recycled and renewable materials," an Apple spokesperson said in a statement. "We share the European Commission’s commitment to protecting the environment and are already carbon neutral for all of our corporate emissions worldwide, and by 2030 every single Apple device and its usage will be carbon neutral."

"We remain concerned that strict regulation mandating just one type of connector stifles innovation rather than encouraging it, which in turn will harm consumers in Europe and around the world," the statement added. "We look forward to continued engagement with stakeholders to help find a solution that protects consumer interest, as well as the industry’s ability to innovate and bring exciting new technology to users."

The U.S.-headquartered company also noted that the European Commission previously sought to mandate that all smartphones only use USB Micro-B connectors, which would have restricted the advancement to Lightning and USB Type-C chargers.

The proposal will next need to be adopted by the European Parliament and the Council, and the lawmakers have proposed a transition period of two years -- which Apple has called concerningly short -- from the date of adoption to give the industry time to adapt.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

How threats at the United Nations General Assembly are handled: ANALYSIS


(NEW YORK) -- As the 76th General Assembly of the United Nations went underway in New York City beginning Sept. 14, authorities arrested Enrique Figueroa on Sunday for allegedly posting threats on social media against Luis Abinader, the president of the Dominican Republic, according to a court document.

The charges state that Figueroa "intentionally transmitted in interstate and foreign commerce a communication containing a threat to kidnap and injure" Abinader, according to the criminal complaint filed in federal court.

When questioned, Figueroa denied intent to harm Abinader, according to the complaint.

His arrest resulted from a joint effort by the U.S. Secret Service, the FBI and the New York Police Department, according to the document. That collaboration between the agencies is part of the protocol for maintaining security at the United Nations General Assembly where this year, up to 190 world leaders gathered in Manhattan for the 13-day event.

Threats at the UNGA can be politically-motivated, personnel-related, terroristic or cyber.

Since the UNGA is a designated National Special Security Event, or, an NSSE, and one of the largest annual security events in the world, the U.S. Secret Service is in charge of overall security management. The agency collaborates with other federal, state and local agencies to identify, mitigate or eliminate any threats at the UN's event.

As the lead agency, the Secret Service has to plan, coordinate and ultimately implement security operations for NSSEs.

For the UNGA, the Secret Service forms an executive steering committee that consists of senior representatives from other federal, state and local entities including the NYPD and the local office of homeland security and emergency management.

The executive steering committee gives final approval over a list of security and operational plans. Although the UNGA happens annually, that planning process is re-examined, revamped and updated every year.

The highest levels of government, including the directors of the Secret Service, FBI and secretary of homeland security are briefed on every facet involved in the UNGA's security planning. Some security measures include increasing police presence; having SWAT teams on standby; as well as deploying dogs and other bomb-related resources. Even the water is covered --- there is marine security staged near the UN.

Once world leaders and UN members are in New York City, there is close coordination among all security agencies. Part of that coordination is setting up operations and coordination centers throughout the city. These operations and coordination centers tackle everything from hotel lodging and logistics, to intelligence deconfliction, communication, medical response and air traffic. There are also redundant coordination centers and plans in place in the unlikely event of a major or catastrophic incident.

Each agency, in turn, conducts its own threat analysis of existing threats and how to manage them.

The Department of Homeland Security also provides a threat assessment of the event and the potential impact on the surrounding area. This assessment, conducted by the DHS Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), is provided to the other agencies to help them develop a full-threat assessment picture of the event.

The FBI typically co-leads security, intelligence and threat management. Through the FBI's New York Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) and Joint Intelligence Operations Center (JIOC), threats are vetted and responses are coordinated. The JTTF is made up of over 50 federal, state and local partners. Those partners include: the Secret Service, which protects the president and visiting foreign heads of state; the Diplomatic Security Service which protects visiting minister-level officials including the U.S. secretary of state; the U.S. Marshals; domestic and foreign intelligence agencies; and the NYPD.

Any threat can potentially impact the security of the United Nations building such as the 2016 bombings in New York City's Chelsea neighborhood during that year's UNGA. That incident was an example of an existing threat that put all agencies involved with the UNGA on high alert.

Planning for an NSSE like the UNGA often takes over a year. During that time the nation’s front-line defenders work diligently to ensure that all risks are minimized and plans coordinated. This framework allows the planners to ensure that if something does happen, the response will be swift and strong.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Researchers launch Gulf Stream expedition in effort to slow down climate change

Courtesy Sailstone

(NEW YORK) -- This summer, the United States has seen the effects of climate change firsthand, as record-breaking wildfires, droughts and hurricanes have devastated parts of the country.

During his United Nations General Assembly speech on Tuesday, President Joe Biden called on countries to bring their best ideas to end climate change to COP26 in Glasgow in November.

"To keep within our reach the vital goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, every nation needs to bring their highest possible ambitions to the table," the president said.

To keep warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius -- which is what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says needs to happen to avoid the worst effects of climate change -- countries will have to lower emissions. One way to do that is to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

There is already a natural solution available: Take care of and learn more about the oceans. Oceans cover 70% of the world, leading to a vast reservoir capable of pulling in and storing carbon dioxide.

Since the dawn of the industrial revolution, scientists estimate oceans have pulled in around 30% of all the carbon dioxide humans have released into the atmosphere.

How much the ocean takes in each year varies, according to Dr. Jaime Palter, an associate professor of oceanography at the University of Rhode Island, who spoke with ABC Audio's "Perspective" podcast.

"We really would like to have a quantification of the ocean carbon dioxide uptake narrowed so that we can make really skillful predictions of where [the] climate is going and how quickly temperatures will stop rising once we go to net-zero human-caused emissions," she said.

Palter is part of a team trying to learn how much carbon the Gulf Stream absorbs and how it transports heat

"It's the perfect place for the ocean to take up carbon dioxide, both because of the weather of the region -- it's just so stormy -- and also because of the oceanography of the region," said Palter. "Second, once it's taken off, it can sequester it for hundreds of years if it manages to sink in the deep ocean."

Palter, along with Saildrone -- a company that produces unmanned ocean drones for research -- and the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasting will launch six 72-foot autonomous drones off the East Coast this fall.

"Those are very difficult seas, particularly in the winter months, and it's one reason why we know so little about that area," Anne Hale Miglarese, the program executive officer for impact science at Saildrone, said on the "Perspective" podcast.

The drones are wind- and solar-powered and are equipped with sensors and cameras to check CO2 levels, wind speed and several other variables. They navigate via predetermined way-points while a pilot supervises on land.

Once launched, the drones will spend the next 12 months crisscrossing the Gulf Stream.

The data will be fed back instantly to researchers on land via satellites.

The mission has two focuses: first, to better understand how the Gulf Stream absorbs carbon, and second, to learn how it transports heat, which is the ECMWF's focus.

"The European Commission for Medium-Range Weather Forecasting ... was very interested in understanding the track of the Gulf Stream and the temperatures, the air temperatures and the water temperatures, and the like," Hale Miglarese said.

The commission will use the data to improve forecasts.

Palter and the University of Rhode Island will lead the carbon measurement research to learn how much carbon the ocean absorbs.

"[We want to] improve the accuracy on the number, how much carbon goes into the ocean, also where it gets absorbed by the ocean, [and] what are the processes that the ocean takes it up," said Palter. "We can understand whether this is going to be a set of processes that remains stable into the future or ones that could be vulnerable as the ocean warms and the circulation changes."

Palter said the Gulf Stream is intriguing because of what could happen to the climate if the natural absorption process were to change.

"If that process were to slow down, the capacity of the ocean to store manmade carbon could also slow down," Palter said. "These are important things we want to learn so that we can have accurate predictions of future climate."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Why thousands of migrants, many from Haiti, are stuck at Texas-Mexico border


(TEXAS) -- A mounting crisis is unfolding at the U.S.-Mexico border where thousands of migrants, many from Haiti, have trekked across dozens of countries, facing blistering heat and other dangers to seek refuge in the United States.

But entering the land of the free has proved difficult after migrants waded across the border. They were met by Border Patrol agents and deportation efforts.

All eyes are on the small town of Del Rio, Texas, where at one point more than 14,000 migrants, the majority from Haiti, were sheltering under a bridge.

One of the migrants, Jean Baptiste Wilvens, told ABC News he crossed 11 countries to get to the U.S. after he and his family had been living in Chile for the last four years.

"I'm scared to go back there because right now I cannot live in my country," he said.

His pregnant wife and 10-year-old daughter are now back on the Mexican side of the border. He said they had made it to the U.S. camp but called it "hell."

On the U.S. side, Wilvens said they were only given a burrito and a bottle of water per day, but in Mexico, several people came to the camp to give away food, which some migrants got into a fight over.

The mayor of Del Rio, Bruno Lozano, called the scenes unfolding,"heartbreaking."

"The fact that they're putting their lives at risk is telling of the situation that they come from," he said.

Like so many migrants who arrive at the U.S.' southern border, the current wave has come from Central or South America. Many of them are Haitian refugees who left their country after the 2010 earthquake.

"For a variety of reasons, perhaps mostly economic, the economy suffered with COVID, we have seen them migrate up over the last few months to our southern border," said Elizabeth Neuman, a former Department of Homeland Security assistant secretary and ABC News contributor.

Now, the world watches to see how the Biden administration handles the influx.

For years after the 2010 earthquake, Haitians living inside the U.S. had been granted temporary protected status. The Trump administration let that designation expire.

However, after the assassination of Haitian President Jovenal Moise in July and another devastating earthquake earlier in August, the Biden administration restored that special status to Haitians.

"While that TPS is only applicable for people that are already here in the United States, that might have given the Haitian community hope that if they somehow got into the United States, maybe they could take advantage of that TPS as well," Neumann said.

Some of the migrants have claimed asylum and are awaiting the immigration process inside the U.S., but many have already been loaded onto planes and deported back to Haiti.

The Biden administration says one to three flights are leaving a day removing migrants who do not have a valid claim to stay in the U.S. based on Title 42, a Trump-era law prohibiting migrants from seeking asylum in the U.S., citing COVID concerns.

"If you come to the United States illegally, you will be returned. Your journey will not succeed, and you will be endangering your life and your family's lives," Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a Monday press conference.

"Title 42 is actually not immigration law as much as it is public health law that allows an emergency to be declared and basically the borders to be closed," Neumann said. "A year ago, you could definitely see the case. We did not have vaccines. We did not have a robust testing capability. We have those things now."

However, unaccompanied minors, and many families are exempt from Title 42. Still, migrant advocates like Guerline Jozef with the Haitian Bridge Alliance say that's not enough.

"Title 42 should not be used as a way to trap migrants, as a way to trap asylum seekers," she said. "Why can't we make sure they are tested, they are vaccinated and provide them the access? Jozef said.

On Capitol Hill, some lawmakers have called for the end of the use of Title 42.

"I urge President Biden and Secretary Mayorkas to immediately put a stop to these expulsions and to end this Title 42 policy at our southern border," Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Tuesday on the Senate floor.

Now, many migrants are living in fear of being sent back to Haiti after their exhaustive and perilous journeys.

One migrant named Josef, a social studies school teacher and father of three who didn't want to share his last name, told Nightline he crossed 10 countries to get to the U.S. to give his children the chance at a better life.

"When I saw that my child would not get the education that I wanted, I had to think that maybe the U.S., as a superpower, could give me some wisdom, and that my child could get social protection, a protection for education," Josef said.

Wilvens compared how the U.S. has welcomed Afghan refugees, but is turning away Haitians.

"The U.S. gives nearly 30,000 Afghans the ability to be refugees in the U.S. but Haitians are deported. Why is that?" Wilvens said.

Neumann said that "we have a debt that we owe the Afghan people," with the withdrawal of American troops in wake of the swift Taliban takeover and end of 10-year war in Afghanistan.

"There is a slightly different sentiment for those trying to reach us from the Southern Hemisphere. And I think that it's a good question for us to ask ourselves why," she said.

Harrowing images from the border have emerged over the past week showing border patrol agents on horseback aggressively attempting to push back migrants as they cross the Rio Grande into the U.S.

One image showed an agent on horseback grabbing a man by the back of his shirt.

"As I saw this, this image brought me back to slavery," Jozef with the Haitian Bridge Alliance said, overcome with emotion.

"As a Black woman, as a descendant of slaves, as a woman from Haiti whose forefathers and ancestors fought to end slavery, fought for freedom of all Black people, it is painful because we keep on being reminded that our lives do not matter, our pain [does] not matter," she said.

U.S. Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz initially defended the agents, saying, "We do not know who are the smugglers or who are the migrants. So it's important that the Border Patrol agents maintain a level of security," during a press conference Monday.

Homeland Security later slammed the video as "extremely troubling," saying a "full investigation, which will be conducted swiftly, will define the appropriate disciplinary actions."

President Joe Biden said he found the videos of tactics used by Border Patrol agents on horseback against Haitian migrants at the Texas border "horrific and horrible," said White House press secretary Jen Psaki.

But, Biden doubled down on the handling of the chaos at the border.

"We will get it under control," he said when asked about the crisis by reporters at the United Nations headquarters Tuesday.

Vice President Kamala Harris condemned the treatment of migrants at the border on Tuesday saying, "Human beings should never be treated that way. I was deeply troubled by it."

Meanwhile, the Del Rio mayor said of the images, "We don't know the situation that came out that caused that, that contrast to happen, but I can tell you what I've seen is, it's been a humanitarian effort of proportions that I've never seen in my life."

The union representing Border Patrol agents defended the images, arguing that's part of their training.

DHS says it now has agency monitors on the ground at the border to make sure policies are being followed.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott visited Del Rio Tuesday and asked the Biden administration for an emergency declaration.

"These border patrol officers are overwhelmed with the amount of work they are ordered to do and they're suffering the consequences of an administration that is not providing either the personnel or the resources they need," he said.

Neumann said she hopes the crisis will lead to "public pressure on Congress to once and for all address things that we are now on four presidents that have been trying to address this."

"We've got to fix it because the problem is just going to get worse," she said. "These are human beings that deserve to be treated better than we're capable of treating them today."

Jozef with the Haitian Bridge Alliance said people are coming to the border as a last resort.

"Because they are in need of protection, because they are dying, because they need support," she said.

Their desire for a better life often makes them vulnerable to smugglers and coyotes who have been known to charge migrants anywhere up to $15,000 per person to take them over the border, she said.

"If those people haven't had an avenue to properly present themselves to want to seek asylum, there would be no need for them to be engaged with those coyotes, to be engaged with those human traffickers, frankly, to be engaged with people who do not have their best interests at heart," Jozef added.

For families like those of Haitian school teacher Josef, making this treacherous journey for a chance at a better life is one of the last options they have left.

"I went through all these dangers with my family, my wife and my children, because the United States, I think, it's the last journey for us to make our dreams come true," Josef said.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Biden agrees with France's Macron that sub snub could have been handled better


(WASHINGTON) -- President Joe Biden for the first time admitted the diplomatic fallout with France over a recent defense deal could have been better handled, the White House said Wednesday in a joint statement with French President Emmanuel Macron's office.

Biden and Macron spoke on the phone Wednesday, in a bid to smooth over the diplomatic fallout from a defense partnership the U.S. struck with Australia and the United Kingdom.

"The two leaders agreed that the situation would have benefitted from open consultations among allies on matters of strategic interest to France and our European partners," the statement from the White House and Élysée Palace said. "President Biden conveyed his ongoing commitment in that regard."

The reconciliatory note could signal that France may tone down its criticism of Biden after he agreed to share nuclear submarine technology with Australia.

France's leaders have compared Biden to his predecessor, President Donald Trump, saying the U.S. surprised France, a key ally, with the agreement -- which resulted in Australia scuttling a major deal that had been underway with France.

Biden and Macron plan to meet in Europe in October, according to the statement. Biden is set to head to Glasgow, Scotland, that month for a summit on the climate crisis, although the two sides did not say where the leaders planned to meet.

Meanwhile, Macron will return the French ambassador to Washington next week -- France had recalled him in response to the defense news -- and the ambassador will who will "then start intensive work with senior U.S, officials," the statement reads.

The two leaders "have decided to open a process of in-depth consultations, aimed at creating the conditions for ensuring confidence and proposing concrete measures toward common objectives," the White House and Élysée Palace said. "They will meet in Europe at the end of October to reach shared understandings and maintain momentum in this process."

The statement also said Biden "reaffirms the strategic importance of French and European engagement in the Indo-Pacific region."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Biden admin missed red flags before Haitian migrant surge


(WASHINGTON) -- Months before the Haitian migrant surge at the southern border, Border Patrol agents on the front lines in Texas sounded alarms that Del Rio was vulnerable and resources could become overwhelmed, according to email messages reviewed by ABC News.

Despite the warnings, officials say preparations for the migrant surge only began when large waves started showing up this week. Now the Biden administration is scrambling to track, process and remove those gathered under an international bridge in the South Texas town of Del Rio that at one point ballooned to more than 14,000.

In one email to Del Rio sector management dated June 1, 2021, members of the National Border Patrol Council expressed the need for additional  measures to process migrants in the field in the event that facilities became overwhelmed. Agents offered specific suggestions including the use of digital tablets to allow for early initiation of the migrant intake process immediately after encounters with Customs and Border Protection.

In a second email days later, the Del Rio agents went so far as to ensure the tablets had wireless data capabilities with the right network provider so they could be used along the international boundary line.

The emails were sent to Del Rio Sector Border Patrol management, an arm of the Department of Homeland Security. Management responded weeks later to the June emails with a single line in red typeface:

"This is being explored, several other platforms are being considered which are more efficient."

"The agency did indeed consider the tablets, but it never materialized into anything of substance," said Jon Anfinsen, National Border Patrol Council vice president. "As the months went on, the groups continued to increase in size and frequency, but the temporary facilities are only now starting to come online over the past few days, after things had already spun out of control."

Anfinsen said the groundwork for the migrant surge only began last week as the border became overwhelmed.

Asked by Republican Rep. Michael McCaul on Wednesday about the emails, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said his Department does track migration in Central and South America but that the rate at which this group came together at the border was unprecedented.

"We watch the flow of individuals who are seeking to migrate irregularly through Mexico from the Northern Triangle countries, and further south we do indeed track it," Mayorkas said. "And nevertheless, a congressman, as I previously articulated the speed with which this materialized is unprecedented."

"Did you see this threat coming? And if so -- what if anything did you do?" McCaul pressed.

"We have not seen before such a rapid migration -- irregular migration -- of individuals as we have observed and experienced with respect to the Haitians who have crossed the border in Del Rio Texas," Mayorkas said. "That has been an unprecedented speed."

The Department of Homeland Security did not respond to a request to comment on the email exchange. U.S. Customs and Border Protection declined to comment.

There were other early warning signs, including reports of large migrants groups moving into Panama in the early weeks of summer. Panama's foreign minister was concerned about the mounting pressure after the country's migration division reported a 477% increase in border crossings between January and April, according to a June report from Bloomberg News.

Haitian migrants have been leaving the island nation in large numbers since the massive earthquake of January 2010. Many moved to reside in Brazil and Chile but have faced a lack of economic stability and security in South America.

Arrests at the border have neared record levels over the summer. CBP has made more than 1.5 million arrests or detentions so far this budget year. Immigration officials point out a significant portion, sometimes as much as a third, of those arrests involve repeat offenders and the administration has taken steps to send migrants further into the interior of Mexico to prevent recidivism.

Haiti has been devastated by natural disasters and political unrest with two major earthquakes in roughly the past decade. The first in 2010 sent thousands seeking refuge in South America. A less expansive, but still deadly, earthquake last month killed more than 2,200. But this most recent quake occurred after the July 29 deadline set by the Biden administration for any Haitians to receive refuge in the U.S.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Listen to Pink promise to send your little ones to sleep with CalmKids

Christopher Polk/NBC

If you've watched Pink's documentary All I Know So Far, you know that her two kids, Willow and Jameson, can be a handful sometimes -- especially Jameson.  But now she claims she's found a way to get them to take it down a notch.

Pink has partnered with the Calm app to promote its lineup of children's bedtime stories, read by celebrities like Kate Winslet, Leona Lewis, Anna Kendrick, LeVar Burton and more.  She's done a one-minute voiceover for an ad, in which she says, "Hi, I'm Pink, and I've got a bedtime secret that'll make you think/Once upon a #CalmKids in a land chockful of snooze/Sleep stories help gets your nights back/with calming tales kids get to choose."

After describing some of the stories that are on offer on the app, Pink concludes, "Sleep stories that entertain, soothe and create laughter/and once the lights are all turned off/It's sleepily ever after."  Pink's voice is pretty calming, too, though it's unclear whether she'll be reading a book for the app in the future.

"I am SO proud to partner with @Calm to help parents and caregivers everywhere find their sleepily ever after with #CalmKids," Pink writes on her socials. "Turns kids now look forward to an early bedtime."


A post shared by P!NK (@pink)

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Who's making Hispanic Latinx history right now: The 'GMA' Inspiration List 2021


(NEW YORK) -- National Hispanic Latinx Heritage Month is an annual observance of the remarkable achievements that Americans who identify as Hispanic, Latinx, Latino, and Latina have made throughout history. The celebration runs from September 15 through October 15, and encompasses the national independence days of Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Mexico, Chile and Belize -- just a snapshot of the many places to which people in the community can trace their roots.

Hispanic, Latinx, Latino, and Latina traditions have made and continue to make an undeniable impact on daily American life, from the food we eat and the music we listen to, to the ways we communicate with one another. During the month, we reflect on the idea that this group's history, including the ongoing fight for equality and increased representation, is at the heart of American history.

As we honor the community, we also embrace intersectionality and each person's individual background, identity, and story.

"Good Morning America" and ABC News asked influential people who identify as Hispanic, Latinx, Latino, and Latina to nominate fellow members of the community to create the "GMA" Inspiration List. Many of the people nominated for the list are rising stars whose influence and work could have the power to reshape our world. Others are figures who have made a significant impact but may not have received recognition they deserve.

This is the first "GMA" Inspiration List: Who's Making Hispanic Latinx History Right Now.


Gloria Estefan nominates Dr. Aileen M. Marty:

“Throughout the years we would talk about the things she was doing, like her impressive work with leprosy or the fact that she was on her way to help contain an Ebola outbreak in another country, and my admiration grew as it was made clear that her true calling, despite the dangers, was to help mankind and make the world a better and safer place.

Despite her incredible accomplishments and impressive resume, she remains a tireless soldier still fighting to protect and serve and has been one of the most trusted, rational and inspirational voices throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, serving as an advisor for our South Florida community and appearing on a myriad of television programs, speaking about how we can better protect ourselves from this horrendous health challenge. I kid with her all the time telling her that what she needs to do is get some sleep, but I know that as long as there is anything that Dr. Aileen Marty can do to help others, she will never rest. She is one of the most altruistic and service minded people that I have ever had the pleasure of knowing and I feel blessed and privileged to call her my friend.”

Gloria Estefan is an award-winning singer-songwriter, actress, author and activist. Along with breaking chart records and receiving countless awards throughout her career, she also became the first Cuban American singer-songwriter to receive the Kennedy Center Honors in 2017 and she has been honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.


Marc Anthony nominates Cami:

“In Chile, Cami is a staple female voice who has been praised by many. She is an absolute vocal powerhouse. Her exquisite voice … it's as if it emanates from every pore of her body. And as a live performer she immediately captivates her audience from the minute she walks on stage. I was blown away from the very first note, when I first saw her.”

Marc Anthony is an award-winning Latin singer-songwriter, actor and producer. He has sold over 12 million albums worldwide and is one of the best-selling salsa artists of all time. Anthony is currently on his Pa'lla Voy U.S. Tour, which runs until December 2021.


Cecilia Vega nominates Sister Norma:

“I was on assignment on the border in Texas earlier this year and I needed to find Sister Norma Pimentel. She is the executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley and has dedicated her life to helping migrants along the Mexican border. I couldn't get Sister Norma by phone so I decided to head to a bus station where refugees are known to be dropped off during their dangerous journey north. My plan was to walk block by block in search of Sister Norma. Sure enough, there she was. Right across the street from the bus station, working her cell phone, solving that day's crisis -- one of many.

Sister Norma is on the front lines. She helps the poorest of the poor -- people fleeing some of the world's most dangerous conditions -- find shelter, food and comfort once they've crossed the border in search of asylum. Sister Norma and her organization have helped more than 100,000 people, offering them something they rarely ever see during their life or death trek: compassion and dignity.”

Cecilia Vega is an ABC News anchor and the network's chief White House correspondent.


Pitbull nominates Sergio Garcia:

“A teacher changed my life. Her name is Hope Martinez, which one way or another got me involved in education and building schools. I would have never thought that someone that graduated from our high school would be someone that I'm looking at. I'm going, ‘Man, I'm so proud of you.’ And his name is Sergio. Sergio is someone that, basically we're from the same neighborhood, got pretty much the same story. Got the same passion, same love, same drive, same hustle and we don't take no for an answer. So to watch him live out his dream -- and not only being one of the top breakdancers in the world, soon we're going to see him in the Olympics -- but to be able to have him on tour, and him come out on a couple of shows around the United States of America, it just goes to show you that it comes full circle. So, when I watch him I'm inspired and I'm motivated, because it reminds me of when I was 18 out there trying to get it, trying to figure it out and nobody believed in me -- only a select few, which was Hope Martinez, clearly my mother, and [my mentor] Eddie, may he rest in paradise. But those are the people that push me, motivated me and inspired me. To watch Sergio doing the same, it's mind-blowing. I'm so happy for you Sergio. Congratulations. The world is yours, my friend, and everything in it. Why dream when you can live it? And I know you're about to knock it out of the park, man. So proud of you, papito. Keep it up. Dale.”

Pitbull, whose given name is Armando Christian Pérez, is a Cuban-American award-winning artist, activist and entrepreneur. The Grammy Award-winning rapper has released countless No. 1 singles, including hits like "Give Me Everything" and "Timber," and also prides himself on his education advocacy. He is a co-founder of Sports Leadership and Management (SLAM!), a public charter school in Miami, Florida.


Mónica Ramírez nominates Adriana Alejandre:

“We are facing a mental health crisis in our country. We have been reminded of this during the COVID-19 pandemic as we have heard stories of increased anxiety, depression and isolation. This is a problem that is impacting adults, children and people of all races and backgrounds. This is not a new problem in our country, but it is one that has been taboo for too long.

Adriana Alejandre is a Hispanic [person] making history by tackling this issue head-on. She is normalizing conversations about this problem through her social media platforms and the creation of her podcast, "Latinx Therapy." Adriana is also helping create solutions to address this problem. She launched the Latinx Therapy Network to connect Latinx therapists to develop a community of practice and by developing a directory of Latinx therapists for community members who need support.

Our mental health is just as important as our physical health. Adriana is actively working to de-stigmatize the way that people think and talk about mental health. She is helping people and communities heal in the process.”

Mónica Ramírez is an activist, attorney and the founder of Justice for Migrant Women, a nonprofit dedicated to advancing the rights and opportunities of migrant women and their families. Her work specifically addresses promoting gender equality, protecting the rights of immigrants and farmworker women in the workplace and fighting sexual violence.


Pati Jinich nominates Fany Gerson:

“I am delighted to nominate Fany Gerson for the ‘GMA’ Inspiration List, because I believe she has made a mark on the food industry through her relentless work: cooking and sharing so many of the sweet treats that help define much of Mexico's baking and dessert universe with enthusiasm, hard work, focus on community-building and being so incredibly entrepreneurial. She is making a difference in the world through her work; she starts businesses from the ground up that employ Latinos, give back to the Hispanic community, and help shine a light on so much of how our culinary heritage enriches America.”

Pati Jinich is a chef best known for her Emmy-nominated series "Pati's Mexican Table," which has won a James Beard Award.


John Leguizamo nominates Judge Marilyn Zayas and Ben DeJesus:

Judge Marilyn Zayas:

“How inspiring that a little girl from Spanish Harlem fought her way to becoming a twice-elected court of appeals judge in Ohio. Refusing to become a statistic, Judge Marilyn Zayas overcame a traumatic childhood, tough, crime-ridden New York City neighborhoods, and numerous educational obstacles. She is now one of 69 appellate judges in the state of Ohio, the first and only Latinx judge elected to an Ohio Court of Appeals, and the highest ranking Latinx judge in Ohio and its surrounding states.

She was even hand-selected to sit as a visiting judge on the Ohio's Supreme Court. Never forgetting her own struggles, Judge Zayas prioritizes mentoring and inspiring our youth to dream big and never give up. Through her partnerships with schools and universities, she educates students about the judiciary, shares her personal story, and reassures them that no dream is too big. While blazing the trail for others, Judge Zayas personifies a unique face and voice of the judiciary in a region where Latinos are severely underrepresented.”

Ben DeJesus:

“What I love most about Ben as a storyteller is the passion, purpose and hustle he brings to every piece of content he directs and produces, whether it's inspiring documentaries about unsung Latinx heroes, digital and television content that enlightens and entertains, or theater productions that he helps bring to life. When I first started out, there weren't many other people out there telling our Latinx stories, with our flavor and our authenticity. Ben is part of a new wave of Latinx storytellers who are taking the torch and running with it, to make sure that our diverse voices are lifted up and heard.

Visual media is such a powerful medium. It has the power to change the way we look at the world around us. Ben is on a 24/7 mission to get more of our stories out there, because if people are able to see the incredible contributions that Latinx people make and have made to our society, imagine how they would look at our community. And more importantly, imagine how we would look at ourselves.

Many people talk the talk about representation, but Ben is on the front lines every day making sure the door is also open for other Latinx creators and talent to come through too. Any project I've ever seen Ben be a part of is full of diverse people from across the spectrum of Latinx, multicultural, LGBTQ, both in front of and behind the scenes. Through both his art and business sense, Ben is one of the people who's moving the needle in the right direction. Already, Ben has made an impact and has gotten some well-deserved recognition for his work. But I'm even more excited for what's coming next on his journey.”

Emmy-winning actor John Leguizamo has appeared in series including "Freak" and "ER" as well as films including "Super Mario Bros.," "To Wong Fu, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar," "Spawn" and the "Ice Age" franchise.


John Quiñones nominates Jesús "Cimi" Alvarez:

“My nomination is a young man I met just last week while shooting our ‘Hispanic Heritage Hour’ piece in El Paso, Texas. Jesús ‘Cimi’ Alvarez is a former graffiti artist who grew up in Segundo Barrio, one of the poorest areas of El Paso. He's now a muralist whose art is truly public ... on display throughout Texas, California and even in Mexico and Argentina. But, he initially become known for honoring the everyday Chicano population that strengthens the border culture in his hometown. He has painted nearly two dozen murals in El Paso. All of his works are ‘art with a message’ which pay tribute to his Mexican ancestors. He makes me and all of Texas ‘Chicanos’ proud.”

John Quiñones is the host of "What Would You Do?" and a correspondent for ABC News.


Sebastián Yatra nominates Elena Rose:

“Elena Rose is an insane singer and songwriter, and an incredibly talented human. She has an enormous present and future. I remember the first day I met her in the studio. I was so in awe of her talent as a songwriter. I knew I had to write with her, so I asked her to come back tomorrow so we could collaborate. We wrote a song together the next day, which I cannot wait for the world to hear. Elena is one of the most impressive artists I have worked with and I'm excited to showcase her on a forthcoming single.”

Sebastián Yatra is a Colombian singer-songwriter known for hits including “Pareja Del Año,” “Delincuente,” “Chica Ideal” and more. He released his latest single, “Tarde” on Sept. 16 and is set to appear on Enrique Iglesias and Ricky Martin’s North America tour later this year.


Jimmy Smits nominates Rashaad Ernesto Green and Reinaldo Marcus Green:

“I first met the Green brothers, Rashaad and Reinaldo, in 2002. They were graduate students working on their MFA in film at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. Both brothers received scholarships while they were in school from the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts (NHFA), of which I am a co-founder. From the get-go, it was clear that Rashaad and Reinaldo were going to have an impact as film directors. Their storytelling abilities were inspiring.

I remember when Rashaad was making his groundbreaking 2011 film ‘Gun Hill Road,’ he asked if NHFA could present his script -- about a coming-of-age trans youth -- to another NHFA co-founder, Esai Morales. Rashaad had him pegged to play the father role. Esai loved the script and virtually did it for free. ‘Gun Hill Road’ premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2011. The film was a touching subject ahead of its time featuring a transgender character played by a transgender actor (Harmony Santana, the first openly transgender actor to be nominated for the Independent Spirit Award).

He was also awarded the ‘Someone to Watch’ award from the Film Independent Spirit Awards in 2020 for his feature ‘Premature.’

In 2018, Reinaldo, the younger brother, wrote and directed, ‘Monsters and Men.’ The film won the Special Jury Award for Outstanding First Feature at Sundance Film Festival. Reinaldo's newest 2021 film ‘King Richard,’ stars Will Smith as Richard Williams, father of the legendary tennis champions Venus and Serena. Reinaldo is also the director for the six-part documentary series ‘Amend: The Fight for America’ featuring Will Smith, Bryan Stevenson of the Equal Justice Initiative, and Larry Whitmore from Comedy Central.

Both brothers are making their mark, while also supporting the next generation of Latino creators, and both are living out their dream to develop contemporary television and film content that features people of color.”

Actor Jimmy Smits has appeared in series including “L.A. Law" and "NYPD Blue" as well as "The West Wing" and "Sons of Anarchy." He has also appeared in three "Star Wars" films and this year starred in "In the Heights."


Joan Smalls nominates Pedro Julio Serrano and Ivana Fred Millán:

“I am in awe of these two amazing people. Pedro Julio Serrano and Ivana Fred Millán put themselves on the line every day in Puerto Rico to stand up and fight for what they believe in, and I couldn't be more honored to share their stories with others. Ivana and Pedro Julio have been human rights activists for over 20 years in the struggle for LGBTQ+ liberation, as well as HIV prevention and the rights of people living with HIV. They are both spokespeople for Puerto Rico Para Tod@s, an LGBTQ+ social justice organization that has been at the forefront of the human rights struggle in Puerto Rico, including two cases that achieved marriage and gender identity rights for LGBTQ+ people.

Ivana and Pedro Julio are true leaders that are actually looking to help those around them. Their efforts have aided in the approval of three pro-LGBTQ+ laws in Puerto Rico and they have worked with their government on trans initiatives around driver's licenses, electoral cards, and health care. They have even given training to media outlets on how to improve the representation of LGBTQ+ people, as well as to the Police Academy of Puerto Rico to make sure that trans people are treated correctly and justly under the law, as well as how to correctly implement the hate crime laws and protocols. Ivana and Pedro Julio have raised their voices to demand justice and have supported many families of victims and survivors of hate crime violence. They continue to advocate for pro-LGBTQ+ laws and stand up for their people.

I work in an industry that allows me to interact and engage with all different kinds of people from all kinds of backgrounds and it opens me up to worlds I may never have known otherwise, and I am so incredibly grateful for that. But Puerto Rico is my home, it is where my heart is rooted, and I want to see joy, happiness, and equality for all there and everywhere. Today's world can be a dark, lonely and unforgiving place, but it's people like Pedro Julio and Ivana that help shine light in the darkness. We need more people in this world who will stand up for the disenfranchised and their rights -- human rights. We cannot and will not leave our people to fight alone.”

Model Joan Smalls is known for becoming the first Latina model to represent Estée Lauder cosmetics in a worldwide campaign in 2011 and has broken barriers for those in the fashion world.


Gio Benitez nominates Yoani Sánchez:

“You may not have heard of Yoani Sánchez, but she happens to be one of the bravest people of our time. Just 90 miles south of Florida, Sánchez has been hard at work documenting the stories of Cuban protesters who were arrested or are still missing following the July 11 protests that sparked an international movement with the hashtag #SOSCuba. She founded Cuba's only independent digital newspaper, 14ymedio. With little to no internet access on the island right now, Cubans can't read the articles, but these journalists are still finding ways to publish their stories -- often investigating and criticizing the communist regime.”

Gio Benitez is ABC News' transportation correspondent.


Angie Cruz nominates Saraciea J. Fennell:

Saraciea J. Fennell is making history in the Latinx community by creating spaces to share Latinx literature and to spread literacy, both in her own community in the Bronx and beyond. The founder of The Bronx is Reading, Saraciea has hosted The Bronx Book Festival for four years and counting, where she brings together Latinx writers (like me!) and introduces them to her home borough, which has historically been a bookstore desert. And this fall she's coming out with another platform for Latinx writers, an anthology called ‘WILD TONGUES CAN'T BE TAMED: 15 Voices From the Latinx Diaspora,’ out November 2. The book showcases the richness of the community, exploring everything from Afrolatinidad to her own Garifuna (indigenous Honduran) heritage. I can't wait to see how she continues to foster and grow the Latinx literary community.”

Author Angie Cruz has penned three novels, including "Soledad" and "Dominicana," a "GMA" Book Club Pick, and currently teaches writing at the University of Pittsburgh.


Daddy Yankee nominates Jasmine Camacho-Quinn:

“In these uncertain global times, with countless events occurring on my island of Puerto Rico and around the world, the Puerto Rican athlete Jasmine Camacho-Quinn has brought us a sliver of hope, not just for those living in Puerto Rico but [also for] those who have emigrated away. Jasmine Camacho-Quinn participated in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and won Puerto Rico's second-ever gold Olympic medal. Many obstacles pushed her back from winning at the 2016 Rio Olympics, but in 2021 nothing stood in her way. Her determination, discipline, and love for her homeland took her not just to accomplish a personal goal, but also froze an entire country that ran alongside her at every race. She wasn't born or raised in Puerto Rico, but Caribbean blood flows through her veins. To her, being Latino represents joy, festivity, hospitality, and feeling unconditional love and support from your close ones, and that's why she proudly carries our flag that has rooted into her since childhood. Without doubts, Jasmine Camacho-Quinn's achievements have generated a positive impact on all women, the youth, and new generations that aim to fulfill their dreams.”

Daddy Yankee, whose given name is Ramón Luis Ayala Rodríguez, is a Puerto Rican reggaeton singer-songwriter and rapper, who has sold around 30 million records throughout his career. His hit "Despacito," released in 2017 with singer Luis Fonsi, was a top-selling single of the decade and received the Latin song of the decade award at the 2020 Billboard Latin Music Awards.


Natti Natasha nominates Marileidy Paulino:

“I nominate Marileidy Paulino from my birth country, the Dominican Republic, because she is the perfect example of perseverance, faith and discipline. She did not count with all the resources she needed when she decided she wanted to be a track and field athlete, so she practiced barefoot. She's represented the Dominican Republic in the Olympics, where she's won multiple medals. She's not only an athlete, but she is also a corporal in the Dominican Air Force. There too, Marileidy has won various medals, while participating in Dominican Republic's Military Games. Congratulations Marileidy Paulino: You are the perfect role model for all the girls out there -- a true example of what you can become when you make things happen.”

Natti Natasha is an award-winning singer-songwriter from the Dominican Republic. She's released chart-topping hits with artists like Ozuna, Becky G, Pitbull and Daddy Yankee, and her debut album, "ilumiNATTIi," released in 2019, went platinum. Her next album, "NattiVidad" will be released on Sept. 24.


Stephanie Ramos nominates Cait Bonet:

“Cait is one of the few certified holistic nutritionists and health coaches in the Latinx community. She originally planned on going into the architecture and design field, like her father (a Latino who started his own interior architecture firm in the '90s), but when he passed away in 2017 from ALS, Cait discovered that the health and the wellness of the people she loved most became the priority. As a Cuban American, Cait grew up on cafe con leche, Cuban toast, croquetas, a lot of white rice, black beans and picadillo. She says she was never educated on the nutritional importance of consuming a variety of foods every day. As a holistic nutritionist, Cait brings awareness to our Latin community everyday and helps them understand their health plans through her Instagram profile, @cait.bonet. She teaches that overall wellbeing may require some lifestyle changes, but it doesn't mean you need to lose yourself or who you are in the process. Pa 'lante!”

Stephanie Ramos is a news correspondent for ABC News.


Maria Cornejo nominates Firelei Báez:

“I think Firelei's work is beautiful both in technique and color. I love the way she expresses the stories and importance of migration and the Caribbean from a different perspective -- not from victimhood, but what the people gave instead, the joy and the soul and color.”

Maria Cornejo is a Chilean-born designer and the founder of Zero + Maria Cornejo, a brand that focuses on responsible design and is mainly locally produced in New York City. She is a founding member of The Council of Fashion Designers of America's Sustainability Committee.


Christina Milian nominates Zulay Henao:

“I first met Zulay Henao when we filmed the show ‘The Oath’ in Puerto Rico back in 2018. We instantly clicked, and she's definitely a girl's girl. She's a mom just like me, and she really appreciates female energy. When I got home from filming, she sent me a box with some essential self-care items -- from crystals to soaps and candles, and she even included a handwritten letter. I really appreciated the personal touch and the positive energy; it was like instant relaxation. The box turned out to be more than just an incredible gift -- it was a taste of her new business venture and a sign of what was to come.

I think a lot of women get so caught up in work that we sometimes forget to take care of ourselves, so I love that her brand, Modern Muze, is a minority and female-owned company focused on taking care of women. The mental health aspect also drew me in. It's very special, very feminine. Almost a sense of restoration. There's a blog and so much more -- it's really a lifestyle hub for women to feel a sense of community. I nominated Zulay because I believe what she's doing is important, and it's important for our community to have these conversations and to check in on each other and lift each other up. I would love to see more of this, and of course, more of Modern Muze. It's growing and I'm really proud of her!”

Singer and actress Christina Milian, known for the song "Dip it Low," also appeared in the movie "Love Don't Cost a Thing" and season 17 of "Dancing With the Stars."


José Garces nominates Steven Larson:

“Steven is a fantastic person who does a lot of important work. His organization, Puentes de Salud, was one of the inspirations for the Garces Foundation, a non-profit organization committed to ensuring that Philadelphia's under-served immigrant community has access to health and educational services.

It was through Steven's assistance that the Garces Foundation was able to get treatment for Felipe, one of my former employees who fell terminally ill and became the first beneficiary of the Garces Foundation.

Steven has been doing amazing work in the community for years and is one of my personal heroes.”

A James Beard Award winner and restauranteur, José Garces is also an Iron Chef.


Wilmer Valderrama nominates Bamby Salcedo:

“Bamby Salcedo is the president and CEO of the TransLatin@ Coalition, a national organization that focuses on addressing the issues of transgender Latinas in the U.S. She is someone I've had the pleasure of calling a friend for a while now and I was so honored to have her join me recently for an episode of my podcast ‘Essential Voices with Wilmer Valderrama’ discussing how we can ensure the voices of trans Latinas are listened to and that they are supported as we continue to ride out the pandemic and beyond. Every time I have the pleasure of being in Bamby's company, I am amazed by her strength and intelligence as well as taking notes on how I can be a better ally. She is a true force in our community and I'm so happy that we get to shine a light on her work that is so essential to our world.”

Actor Wilmer Valderrama has appeared in series including "That 70s Show" and "NCIS" and, most recently, he launched the "Essential Voices" podcast. He also lent his voice to a main character in the upcoming Disney film, "Encanto."


Alex Perez nominates Sol Flores:

“Sol is currently the deputy governor of Illinois, but before that she spent most of her career at the organization she helped create, La Casa Norte. It is a nonprofit that has grown to help thousands of homeless youth, homeless adults, and homeless families get back on their feet and find their way. The organization helps all who are in need, but has particularly been a beacon of light to the homeless minority and LGBTQ youth. Sol now continues her work on an even bigger scale, overseeing a wide swath of the State of Illinois' Health and Human Services agencies. Sol is a proud Puerto Rican and takes a particular interest in helping other women and Latinos excel.”

Alex Perez is a national correspondent for ABC News.


Juan Pablo Di Pace nominates Marta Maineri:

“As an artist, nothing speaks louder to me than being given the tools early on in life to understand the value of freedom in creativity. Marta Maineri, born in Argentina in 1950, is a painter, sculptor and teacher. She was my first art teacher. She has taught art to kids in Buenos Aires for years, painted the ‘peace’ murals for the city, and is known for being the ‘painter of hands,’ focusing on the working hands, the spiritual hands and the loving hands of the world. She walks the line of sacred and profane. She painted the ‘Virgin Mary Untier of Knots’ for the inmates at the San Vittore prison in Milan, gifted Pope Francis with the ‘Universal Mary’ for the Vatican in Rome, and also captures the rawness of the human body, with its trials and its pain, throughout her work and vivid portraits. An incredible enabler, a survivor, a woman and an artist. I nominate my mother, Marta Maineri.”

A competitor on season 27 of "Dancing With the Stars," Juan Pablo Di Pace is also known for his roles in "Dallas" and "Fuller House."


Elwyn Lopez nominates all Hispanic journalists:

“I nominate all Hispanic journalists, many working tirelessly in their local and national newsrooms to highlight the importance of diversity, shouldering efforts to amplify underrepresented voices as a second full time job. It wasn’t until 2021 that a Latina was named chief White House correspondent. Our Cecilia Vega paving the way for the next generation of storytellers. Representation truly matters.”

Elwyn Lopez is a correspondent for ABC News.


Maria Mazon nominates Marisol Vindiola:

“I’m excited to nominate Marisol Vindiola because of the way she continues to bring together chefs and food artisans from across the border between the U.S. and Mexico. Through her work with culinary festivals, craft beer collaborations, bilingual media and more, she manages to not just promote those of us in the Hispanic community, but do it with a hell of a lot of soul. Marisol was the driving force behind the first-ever partnership between all-female brewers from Arizona and Mexico. With a shared passion for craft beer and the empowerment of women, the beer (named Las Hermanas) was a way for two nations to brew a new beer together. Diplomacy through craft beer is something I can definitely get behind.

Marisol co-coordinated, co-planned, and co-hosted the Délice Network Gathering in Tucson, an international food tourism event that brought together participants from 15 international cities to learn, share and connect over food and culture in the Tucson borderlands.

With even more achievements I don't have space to mention here, she continues to find ways to bring Mexicans and Arizonans together which makes me so proud to call the Arizona/Mexico borderlands home. Thank you, Marisol, for all the ways you champion Hispanics in our region. I can't wait to see what you have planned next.”

A contestant on season 18 of "Top Chef" and a James Beard Award semifinalist, Maria Mazon is the owner and executive chef of BOCA Tacos y Tequila in Tucson, Arizona.


Victor Oquendo nominates Ron Magill:

“I’ve looked up to Ron Magill for years, both literally and figuratively. Magill is the communications director for Zoo Miami, a wildlife expert, and award-winning photographer. He’s also a towering six feet, six inches tall. A big man with an even bigger heart for animals.

Magill’s dad left Cuba much like my family did, in hopes of a better life in America. After attending school in Florida, Magill began working as a zookeeper. His love and passion for animals led him to establish the Ron Magill Conservation Endowment. Over the years, the endowment has provided tens of thousands of dollars annually to conservation projects. It is his way of helping to protect animals in the wild.

Magill is a regular guest on a variety of shows, including ‘Good Morning America.’ I’ve probably interviewed Ron a dozen times and I always walk away impressed with his knowledge and respect of the animal kingdom.

What keeps him going is seeing the faces of kids, investing in the next generations to understand the value of protecting wildlife. One of my favorite quotes from Magill is, ‘In the end, it doesn’t matter how much money you have in your bank account or what kind of car you drive or how big your house is. What matters is you made a difference in the life of a child.’ Man, that’s huge.”

Victor Oquendo is an ABC News correspondent.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

South Korean President Moon talks North Korea's nuclear activities, BTS' new diplomacy role

Oleksii Liskonih/iStock

(NEW YORK) -- South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Tuesday in an exclusive interview it was "concerning" if North Korea has resumed its nuclear activities "in earnest" and stressed the importance of reactivating talks between North Korea and the United States, as well as inter-Korea talks.

"I believe that we need to have North Korea understand that dialogue and diplomacy are the only way to achieve peace on the Korean Peninsula," Moon told ABC News anchor Juju Chang.

Moon is attending the United Nations General Assembly in New York City this week to talk about climate change.

The International Atomic Energy Agency reported last month that North Korea appears to have restarted the operation of its main nuclear reactor used to produce weapons fuels, as North Korea openly threatens to enlarge its nuclear arsenal amid dormant nuclear diplomacy with the United States.

When asked about North Korea's nuclear program, which is going "full steam ahead" according to U.N. atomic watchdog chief Rafael Grossi, Moon said while North Korea has been "intensifying tension, launching missiles and conducting other activities, it is of great relief that it has kept good on its moratorium on nuclear tests and ICBM launches."

Moon was also asked about North Korea's criticism of the United States' decision to provide nuclear-powered submarines to Australia. North Korean state media quoted an unidentified North Korean Foreign Ministry official who called the arrangement, made between the U.S., Britain and Australia, an "extremely" dangerous move, one that could set off a nuclear arms race.

Moon conceded it is a "great pity that the Korean Peninsula still is living in the era of the Cold War," adding that while "remarkable changes" have taken place during his time in office, they have "yet to consolidate peace on the Korean Peninsula."

Moon said he believes there is a "possibility of resuming talks" and thus finding "a way, a pathway to the solution."

Tensions have been high between North and South Korea. Both countries have recently tested ballistic missiles. This came as a stark contrast to their 2018 agreement when the two rival nations vowed to denuclearize the peninsula and end the long war between them.

ABC News also sat down with K-pop sensation BTS exclusively to talk about the band's new official role as South Korea's presidential envoys for public diplomacy.

As part of their new role, BTS attended the U.N. Global Assembly and performed at the United Nations. Their new video for "Permission to Dance," which was filmed inside and around the U.N., has already racked up millions of views online. BTS said it is bringing a message of hope and community, talking about the importance of COVID-19 vaccines and sustainability.

The exclusive interviews with Moon and BTS will air on Sept. 24, starting with "Good Morning America."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

20-year-old gas station cashier in Germany fatally shot by anti-masker: Police


(NEW YORK) -- A 20-year-old gas station cashier was fatally shot in Germany Saturday after telling a customer to put on a face covering, according to the Trier Police Department.

A 49-year-old man was taken into custody on suspicion of murder after the shooting in the town of Idar-Oberstein, in Rhineland-Palatinate.

The customer entered the gas station around 7:45 p.m. local time and got into an argument with the cashier, who asked him to mask up, police said in a press release. Germany currently has a requirement to wear masks in stores.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Pro-Putin party takes majority in Russian parliamentary election sullied by fraud


(MOSCOW) -- Russia’s ruling party, United Russia, which backs President Vladimir Putin, has kept its supermajority in the country’s parliament, sweeping elections that were marred with allegations of widespread ballot rigging and saw many of the Kremlin’s top opponents barred from running.

With virtually all ballots counted, Russia’s election’s commission said United Russia had taken nearly 50% of the vote and won nearly 90% of first-past-the-post districts, meaning the party will retain its two-thirds majority in the lower house of parliament, which allows it to change Russia’s constitution.

Russia’s elections are closely managed, and the pro-Kremlin party’s victory was seen as a foregone conclusion, but on Monday, opposition parties accused the Kremlin of using blatant fabrication to inflate the result and produce an overwhelming win even in Moscow, usually a center of dissent.

After polls closed Sunday night after three days of voting, early partial results showed several opposition parties and politicians making strong showings in the capital, with some seemingly in reach of victory with most votes counted.

But those results were all wiped out when, after many hours, authorities published results from online voting, which handed victories to pro-Kremlin candidates. Opposition parties, even those from the so-called "loyal opposition," cried foul, accusing the Kremlin of using the online votes to conceal vote manipulation and steal victory for its candidates.

The Communist Party, which largely acts as a tame opposition in the parliament, said it would not recognize the results in Moscow, where six of its candidates lost out once the online votes were added.

Critics started raising suspicions about Moscow’s online count after it took far longer for it to be completed than the paper ballot count for most of the rest of the country -- a sign, critics said, that officials were waiting to see how much they needed to alter the vote. The online voting was in effect a black box, with independent monitors unable to observe it or properly check how the results were signed off on by officials, independent monitors said. Workers at state companies and organizations have also reported being pressed by their managers to vote online en masse.

Several candidates called a protest at Moscow’s Pushkin Square on Monday. A few hundred people gathered under heavy rain to demonstrate, watched by a cordon of riot police.

"Such a giant difference between the results at the 'live' polling stations and the online vote can’t be true," Mikhail Lobanov, a Communist candidate with wide support among liberal voters, told the crowd, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

Lobanov said he had been on track to beat Yevgeny Popov, a pro-Kremlin TV personality, by a margin of 10,500 votes before the online votes suddenly gave Popov a lead of 20,000 votes at the last moment.

There were also allegations of widespread analogue ballot rigging around Russia. Throughout the weekend, there was a stream of videos seeming to show elections officials stuffing wads of ballots into voting urns or trying to block monitoring cameras while others did so.

Independent researchers also spotted that Russia's central elections committee now encrypts the results data published on its website, a step reportedly intended to prevent researchers from crunching the data themselves, which in the past has allowed them to identify signs of rigging.

"Online voting represents right now represents an absolute evil -- a black box that no one checks," Sergey Shpilkin, a data scientist who in the past has used statistical analysis to demonstrate likely falsification in Russian elections, told Russian news website Meduza.

The head of Russia’s elections commission Ella Pamfilova in a video meeting with Putin said the elections had seen far fewer violations than usual and claimed Russia’s system was "one of the most transparent" in the world.

The United States and some European countries criticized the elections as unfair amid the Kremlin's use of repressive laws to prevent opponents from participating. Ned Price, the U.S. State Department's spokesperson, in a statement said the Russian government had conducted "widespread efforts to marginalize independent political figures" and had "severely restricted political pluralism and prevented the Russian people from exercising their civil and political rights."

United Russia took nearly 50% of the vote despite polls suggesting its support was around 30%, as high food prices and unpopular pension reforms have eaten into its popularity. Ahead of the elections, the Kremlin launched a campaign of repression on a scale unprecedented under Putin’s 20 year-rule, barring dozens of opposition candidates from running, with many arrested and some forced abroad.

It dismantled the movement of its fiercest critic Alexey Navalny, who was jailed in January after surviving a nerve agent poisoning last year.

Navalny, from jail, had sought to exploit the Kremlin party’s unpopularity at the elections with a tactical voting campaign called "Smart Voting," advising people to vote for any candidate with the best chance of beating United Russia.

On Monday, he claimed the campaign had worked, arguing the campaign’s recommended candidates had won 12 out of Moscow’s 15 districts before the online votes were added.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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