Wednesday morning news – March 17, 2021

Homeland Security chief defends border policy shift » Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas is defending changes in immigration policy that some believe have fueled a growing surge at the southern border. 

MAYORKAS: Give us the time to rebuild the system that was entirely dismantled in the prior administration, and we have in fact begun to rebuild that system. 

Mayorkas, heard there are on Good Morning America. 

His remarks come as GOP lawmakers take aim at President Biden’s border policies. Thirteen Republicans traveled to the border this week to get a firsthand look at what they say is a growing humanitarian crisis.

Texas Congressman Michael Cloud… 

CLOUD: The willingness to overlook this as a crisis is very troubling coming from the White House. This is very predictable. Anyone who knows anything about this knew this would happen. 

Democrats say the surge is not a crisis. 

In a reversal of a Trump-era policy, the Biden administration is allowing teens and children who cross the border by themselves to remain in the country. And following that reversal, many more children are showing up at the border. 

Deputy Chief of the U.S. Border Patrol Raul Ortiz told The World & Everything in It that in the 2020 fiscal year, the Border Patrol had 29,000 encounters with unaccompanied minors. So far in this fiscal year …

ORTIZ: We’ve already surpassed that, and that’s going to continue to increase because traditionally, our high traffic months are April, May, and June. 

The surge of unaccompanied minors is on pace to hit a 20-year peak. 

Mayokas conceded that presents a challenge, but said the policy shift was the right thing to do, adding “they are vulnerable children.” 

Blinken, Austin meet with Asian allies in Tokyo » Secretary of State Tony Blinken spoke to reporters in Tokyo on Tuesday. He and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin are leading the Biden administration’s first Cabinet-level trip overseas. 

The secretaries talked strategy with regional allies about shared challenges, like containing North Korea. 

BLINKEN: We have no greater strategic advantage when it comes to North Korea than this alliance, and we’ll approach that challenge as an alliance.

As U.S. officials arrived in Japan, Kim Jong Un’s sister Kim Yo Jong said the United States should refrain from—quote—“causing a stink” if it wants to sleep in peace for the next four years. 

Blinken brushed aside the tough talk. But he did have some tough words for China. He said the Chinese government has used—quote—“coercion and aggression to” undercut  freedom and democracy in Hong Kong and Taiwan,” and to commit human rights abuses within its own borders.

And Secretary Austin added…

AUSTIN: China has modernized its military. In addition to that it has engaged in aggressive, and in some cases coercive behavior, and some of that behavior has been directed against our allies in the region. 

The secretaries will also hold meetings in South Korea this week before returning home. 

EU regulator stands behind AstraZeneca vaccine as probe continues » The European Union’s drug regulator said Tuesday that as of now, she and her agency still stand firmly behind the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine. 

The European Medicines Agency is investigating concerns that the vaccine may have caused blood clots in a small number of people. 

But the EMA’s Executive Director Emer Cooke said Tuesday…

COOKE: We are still firmly confirmly convinced that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine in preventing COVID-19 with its associated risk of hospitalization [and] death outweigh the risk of these side effects. 

She also said that right now, there is “no indication” that the vaccine causes blood clots. 

Dr. Jeffery Weitz is president of the International Society of Thrombosis and Haemostasis. He said perspective is key. He noted that out of about 5 million people vaccinated in Europe, there were 30 reported cases of blood clots.

WEITZ: In 5 million people with COVID-19, we would expect 100,000 people with blood clots. So getting the vaccine reduces your risk of blood clots by over 99 percent. 

The European Medicines Agency urged governments not to halt use of the vaccine.

Some officials worry that even brief suspensions could erode public confidence in vaccines all over the world. 

Missed cancer screenings could add to pandemic death toll » Health officials say COVID-19 will kill thousands more Americans in the years ahead because of missed cancer screenings.

Dr. Otis Brawley is former chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society. He said the National Cancer Institute has studied the impact of interruptions in medical care during the pandemic, and it now projects…

BRAWLEY: It’s going to lead to 10,000 additional breast cancer deaths and 10,000 additional deaths from colorectal cancer by the end of this decade. 

As COVID-19 vacuumed up medical resources last year, millions of cancer screenings were delayed and doctors diagnosed fewer cases. 

Archeologists discover more Dead Sea Scrolls » Israeli officials have announced the discovery of more Dead Sea Scrolls. WORLD’s Kristen Flavin reports. 

KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: Israel’s Antiquity Authority said it found nearly 80 first-century parchment fragments containing Greek text of the minor prophets Zechariah and Nahum. 

It’s the first new scroll discovery in the area in 60 years. Archeologists believe the pieces come from a scroll placed in the cave between A.D. 132 and 136. 

The researchers also discovered a 6,000-year-old mummified child skeleton and what could be the oldest known intact woven basket in the world.

In 2017, the Israel Antiquity Authority launched an operation to beat plunderers to the remaining artifacts in the West Bank’s desert caves. 

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Kristen Flavin. 

(Kim Kyung-hoon/Pool Photo via AP) U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, meets with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga at his office in Tokyo Tuesday, March 16, 2021. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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