Companies that have containers on the Ever Given could have to help pay the up to $1 billion Egyptian authorities are demanding before the ship leaves the Suez Canal

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The Ever Given container ship in the Suez Canal on March 29, 2021.

  • The Suez Canal Authority said the Ever Given can’t leave until $1 billion in damages is paid.
  • The $1 billion would likely include paying for the tugboats and dredging ships that freed the ship.
  • The owner of the Ever Given declared “General Average,” so insurance could pay some of the damages.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Though three weeks have passed since the Ever Given first became stuck in the Suez Canal, the massive container ship is still anchored after Egyptian authorities announced $1 billion must be paid before it can leave.

“The vessel will remain here until investigations are complete and compensation is paid,” the head of the Suez Canal Authority, Lt. Gen. Osama Rabie, told a local news station.

But Rabie hasn’t publicly explained where the $1 billion estimate came from nor did he provide a breakdown of expenses from the incident.

An estimate of the damages that the $1 billion could include paying for:

  • Transit fees – Refinitiv, a London-based financial firm, estimated that Egypt lost $95 million in transit fees while the Ever Given blocked the Suez
  • Two dredger ships
  • 11 tug boats of varying size
  • Wages of 800 Egyptian workers that operated around the clock to free the ship
  • Damage to the canal
  • Other miscellaneous equipment used to free the ship, such as excavators

Abdulgani Serang, the general secretary-cum-treasurer of the National Union of Seafarers in India, likened Rabie’s $1 billion demand to a ransom and said the crew shouldn’t be held against their will while the ship is anchored and motionless.

“If the SCA has suffered losses, they can sort it out with those involved with the ship, but that cannot haul up seafarers in any manner,” Serang told the Times of India.

Serang told Insider that though they are not allowed to leave the ship, the crew are not imprisoned or on a form of house arrest.

“They are all onboard the ship and continuing with their work as required onboard,” Serang said. “Absolutely no cause to worry about their supplies, including their wages all being taken care of as per the union agreement like before the incident.”

The Ever Given’s newest challenge: insurance

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Container ship Ever Given stuck in the Suez Canal, Egypt on March 27, 2021.

Neither Egypt nor the Suez Canal Authority explained who could be responsible for the full $1 billion demand, but recent filings in London’s High Court suggest that the expenses could be split between the Evergreen, its insurers, and cargo owners on the boat.

The owners of the Ever Given filed a General Average claim in early April against Evergreen Marine Corp, the company leasing the ships. The suit included 15 other defendants who would likely be asked to chip in on the bill.

General average is a principle of maritime law that requires any of the ship’s customers to share the risk and costs involved if the ship faces a tragedy or failure.

“Evergreen Marine received a notice from the lawyer representing EVER GIVEN’s owner on the 1st April which specified that the owner had filed an Admiralty limitation claim at the High Court of Justice in the UK in accordance with the Merchant Shipping Act 1995, in view of the liabilities and compensation that may occur due to the grounding incident,” a spokesperson for Evergreen told Insider.

Declaring General Average would prevent Shoei-Kisen, the owner of the ship, and its insurance from paying the bulk of damages from the shipwreck but could lead to even longer waiting times for people to receive the goods still on the ship.

The British International Freight Association announced in a statement that if a company has containers aboard the ship, they will be asked for “an indemnity or deposit,” but noted that “any standard marine insurance policy” includes General Average losses. If a company did not insure the ship, however, then a cash deposit will be necessary to receive the containers.

If a company has cargo aboard the Ever Given without insurance and cannot pay the deposit, there is a possibility that the freight could be discarded, according to a release from the International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations.

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Sports and other large outdoor events are finally returning but experts say they shouldn’t be an ‘unregulated free-for-all’

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A view of the fans and the stands during the first inning of the game between the Texas Rangers and the Toronto Blue Jays at Globe Life Field on April 5, 2021.

  • The Texas Rangers welcomed a nearly full stadium on Monday for their opening day.
  • But experts told Insider while large events can resume in some places, precautions should be taken.
  • Some stadiums are requiring fans to be vaccinated or test negative for COVID-19 before attending.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The Texas Rangers on Monday drew tens of thousands of fans to Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas for opening day, with photos of the game looking like relics from the days before the COVID-19 pandemic.

It was the largest crowd size at a sporting event in the US since the pandemic began, Insider’s Erin Snodgrass reported, and as states continue to open up further, more large events are likely to follow.

However, infectious disease specialists told Insider that’s not necessarily dangerous, depending on the state and as long as some precautions are taken.

“Because it’s outdoors, I may surprise you here, but I do think they can play baseball in front of fans,” Andrew Noymer, an infectious disease specialist at the University of California Irvine, told Insider.

Read more: Teachers unions are gaslighting parents and resisting science to keep schools closed

While Noymer said he wouldn’t personally go to a Rangers game right now even if he were a fan, he thinks some outdoor events can go on in states where transmission is low and virus variants are not of immediately pressing concern.

In Michigan, for instance, where the surge in coronavirus cases is currently the worst in the nation, he would not recommend such events. The state is reckoning with the more transmissible and more deadly B.1.1.7 variant, which has now been documented in Michigan more than any other state.

And Michigan isn’t the only state facing a surge, as about half of US states are seeing a rise in their daily case numbers.

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The stadium was nearly at capacity during the game between the Texas Rangers and the Toronto Blue Jays at Globe Life Field on April 5, 2021.

But for states where the epidemiological situation is relatively good, like Texas or California, allowing large outdoor gatherings with precautions could do more good than harm.

“We may be in a worse spot later in the summer,” Noymer said, adding that even in places where the situation looks good now, that could change quickly. “We should save the limited tolerance that’s left for stay-at-home type orders for when it’s really necessary.”

Despite the good situation in Texas, Noymer said precautions should still be taken at large events. He said they should still be at 50% capacity, at most, but noted that when people cannot be spaced apart they should be wearing masks.

The Rangers game Monday was nearly at capacity, with 38,238 fans in attendance in a stadium that seats 40,300. While Gov. Greg Abbott lifted the state’s mask mandate last month against the recommendations of experts, Major League Baseball does require fans to wear masks. But photos of the game showed masks worn sparsely.

Noymer also said sporting events are better suited to go on with precautions than others, like a music festival, for instance, adding: “You could do Coachella at 30% capacity and it would still just form a blob of humanity.”

Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease specialist at the University of California San Francisco, agreed that for these large events to occur, precautions should be taken.

“What you don’t want is an unregulated free-for-all,” Chin-Hong told Insider. “You still can’t party like it’s 2019.”

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Fans walk to their seats during batting practice before the Texas Rangers take on the Toronto Blue Jays at Globe Life Field on April 5, 2021 in Arlington, Texas.

He said even in places that appear to be doing well, the situation is not yet stable and it’s not yet clear when it will be. As for large outdoor gatherings, he said a great way to reduce risk is a combination of vaccinations and testing for attendees.

The San Francisco Giants, for instance, are requiring fans older than 12 years old to provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test result in order to enter the stadium. And that’s in addition to a 22% capacity restriction. Instead of relying on controversial vaccine passports only, the model also mitigates the heightened risk involved with people who choose not to get the vaccine.

Chin-Hong said these precautions are smart even in a state that feels safe right now, like California, because those places are not yet risk-free and that they should be implemented alongside masks and spacing.

Large events could be an even more dangerous situation now than they would have been a year ago due to the variants, especially for young people who are not yet vaccinated but are attending these gatherings,

“It’s not like people are just getting COVID. They’re getting serious COVID,” he said, adding that Michigan has seen a significant increase in the number of coronavirus hospitalizations among people in their 20s and 30s.

Chin-Hong emphasized that the pandemic is dynamic and could change quickly, making it wiser to gradually lift restrictions, rather than all at once.

“I’m always humbled by this virus,” he said. “It’s better to be safer and then pull back rather than just assume it can be a free-for-all again.”

Have a news tip? Contact this reporter at kvlamis@insider.com.

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The Ever Given’s crew is safe, still onboard, and is getting paid while the ship’s being investigated

Ever given
The “Ever Given” container ship operated by the Evergreen Marine Corporation, sails through the Suez Canal, after it was fully freed and floated.

  • Egyptian authorities are investigating the Ever Given after it blocked the Suez Canal for six days.
  • The National Union of Seafarers of India’s general secretary is hopeful the crew will be absolved.
  • The union’s general secretary said the crew will continue to be paid as the inquiry continues.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The 25-person Indian crew of the Ever Given is stressed and tense, but is doing well as the massive container ship faces investigations after blocking the Suez Canal.

Abdulgani Serang, the general secretary of the National Union of Seafarers of India, gave Insider an update on their wellbeing on Friday.

The Egyptian government launched an inquiry into the event to uncover what went wrong after the ship became wedged in the canal and upended global trade. Investigators questioned the Ever Given’s crew on Wednesday, Suez Canal Authority Chairman Osama Rabie told local outlets, according to Reuters.

“There is a clear danger that the crew will be made scapegoats,” a senior authority in the shipping industry told the Times of India. The publication also said the Ever Given’s crew could be placed under house arrest until the investigation is completed.

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The Ever Given sits beached across the Suez Canal, blocking all traffic. The ship was re-floated on March 29.

Serang told Insider that the crew of the Ever Given is safe and awaiting the results of the investigation, and added that reports about the status of the crew have been blown out of proportion.

“We want the inquiry done so corrective measures can be taken in the future,” Serang told Insider, “but we don’t want to take a guess about house arrest. Let’s not jump the gun and just wait for the results of the inquiry.”

Despite the investigation, Serang told Insider he’s optimistic that the crewmembers won’t face consequences.

“We are hopeful that the inquiry will come out that the seafarers end up clean,” Serang said. “As of now, the reports are that it was purely a weather-related incident.”

The Ever Given was traveling faster than the speed limit of the Suez Canal before getting stuck, Bloomberg reported. Initial investigations suggested the ship became beached due to high winds and ruled out any mechanical or engine failures.

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A radar image taken by the Sentinel-1 satellite shows the Great Bitter Lake on March 31. The Ever Given is the bright ship on the lake’s eastern side.

The union secretary also said the Ever Given’s crew will continue to get paid even as the ship waits inspection in the Great Bitter Lake to determine if it can continue to its port of call.

“Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement is a company of repute,” Serang said, “and the company and union have an agreement in place. All the things will be taken care of and there is no cause to worry whatsoever.”

The owners of the Ever Given recently filed a lawsuit in the High Court of London, The Lawyer reported. According to a spokesperson for Evergreen Marine Corporation, the ship’s operators, the filing is in relation to the Merchant Shipping Act 1995 and relates to liability and compensation claims related to the beached ship.

The preemptive lawsuit was filed to limit the potential damages faced by the owners of the Ever Given and was not filed in retaliation against the ship’s crew, The Maritime Executive reported.

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Loud commercials are infuriating Americans, and streaming TV is making them even worse

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Loud commercials blowing out your eardrums lately? You’re not alone.

  • The CALM Act banned excessively loud television commercials, but it doesn’t apply to streaming TV.
  • Consumers lodge thousands of complaints annually about loud commercials, and they’re on the rise.
  • The FCC almost enforced the act twice in the past decade. Audio engineer experts are trying to fix it.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

On July 1, 1941, New York’s NBC station made history by airing the world’s first television commercial.

With about 4,000 televisions in the region at the time, audience-wise it was not all that different from paying a guy to yell about a product in Times Square. The ad for Bulova watches cost $9 and ran for 10 seconds. But the world changed forever.

A decade year later, in 1954, a similar moment occurred in the annals of television history. The Federal Communications Commission got its first consumer complaints about loud commercials on television.

Needless to say, it’s pretty much all gone downhill since.

The pandemic has forced people to spend more time in front of the television than they have in ages. Simple questions like “Is it just me or are the ads way louder than ‘Jeopardy!’ every night?” provoke evocative answers. Casually asking people if they’ve experienced loud commercials yields one of two general responses: “It’s so annoying!” and “It’s way worse on my streaming TV service.”

If you’re hearing things, you’re not alone: the four-month period from November 2020 to February 2021 saw FCC complaints of loud commercials up 140% compared to the same period a year ago, more than double the volume of complaints.

There is a law on the books – the CALM Act, passed in 2011 – that is supposed to rein in loud commercials. But the FCC hasn’t done any enforcement on it in the better part of a decade.

Most significantly of all, for the people angry about explosively loud ads on streaming, there’s absolutely nothing the FCC can do about that even if they were enforcing it. What’s more, it’s not entirely clear there’s any way to do anything about that even through Congress.

The CALM Act is supposed to regulate loud commercials but the FCC hasn’t enforced it

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Rep. Anna Eshoo and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse mark the implementation of the CALM Act, the federal law that requires TV ads be no louder than the programs that accompany them, on Dec. 13, 2012.

The story goes that Rep. Anna Eshoo wrote the CALM Act after a loud television commercial interrupted dinner, which may be the single best argument for being an elected member of Congress I have ever heard.

It cascaded through the legislature, passing the Senate unanimously and the House in a voice vote before then-President Barack Obama signed it. Eshoo remarked at the time it was the most popular piece of legislation she had ever introduced in Congress.

The CALM act is actually fairly simple; it doesn’t say “commercials must be this loud” and it doesn’t get into the nitty gritty of how to measure that or enforce it or what consequences shall befall an operator who violates it. It’s fairly clever: all it actually says is that broadcasters and cable operators have to abide by the A/85 standard approved by the Advanced Television Systems Committee, and that the FCC has to enforce that.

A/85 is essentially an intricate, 72-page technical document that gets extremely specific about how things should sound. It’s not written for most of us to understand. But it does set acceptable bounds for the soundscape of television.

The experts wrote A/85, and Congress passed a law that said A/85 is mandatory, so Congress doesn’t have to learn about audio and the problem gets solved.

It’s a smart approach, because Congress is home to lawyers, doctors, activists, and people with all manner of expertise, but conspicuously no audio engineers, and the Advanced Television Systems Committee is understandably full of them. Congress took a standard that industry professionals had approved, and simply started requiring it.

A/85 required the average loudness of a commercial should be about as loud as the dialnorm, or the average dialogue level of a show. Because commercials can appear on your screen through a number of different ways from a number of different sources – such as being inserted by the local station or television provider, or embedded with the content itself – a standard for the whole system, top to bottom, at least formalizes the acceptable volume.

After an initial surge in complaints about loud commercials to the FCC following the Act’s passage and implementation, the bill largely had the desired impact, with complaints leveling off after a few years.

“FCC data I’ve seen shows consistent annual decreases in complaints since 2014,” Eshoo told Insider. “If that trend has changed, investigations are warranted.”

The past several months show complaints on the rise, according to an Insider analysis of the FCC database of complaints. Should the current rate hold, 2021 is poised to be the worst year since the initial rollout.

All that said, on a practical level, the CALM Act is not enforced.

There is no pipe exiting a cable company that says “out” and there is no meter on that imaginary pipe that says “too loud.” In reality, large stations and providers were supposed to spot-check once a year during the first two years of the rollout, doing 24 hours of monitoring over a seven-day period. If they found a problem, they were supposed to tell the FCC. You will be positively shocked to discover that only two small stations asked for a waiver while they fixed issues they found.

And since then? The FCC doesn’t audit stations. The agency will only investigate in the event that a pattern or trend emerges based on consumer-submitted complaints. From 2012 to 2019, consumers submitted 47,909 complaints to the FCC about loud commercials.

“In 2013, the Enforcement Bureau sent letters of inquiry to two separate companies addressing potential violations of the CALM Act and associated regulations,” an FCC spokesperson told Insider in an email, drawing from a 2020 letter from FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai responding to questions from Eshoo. “There were no violations found in either case and there are no public documents associated with these letters of inquiry. Since the 2013 letters of inquiry, the Enforcement Bureau analyses have not uncovered any pattern or trend of complaints supporting further inquiry.”

That is to say, the sum total of FCC enforcement on disproportionately loud commercials in the decade since the CALM Act has amounted to two letters – and no enforcement.

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) commissioner Ajit Pai arrives at a FCC Net Neutrality hearing in Washington February 26, 2015. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
Then-Federal Communications Commission (FCC) commissioner Ajit Pai on February 26, 2015.

In 2014, the FCC did update their technical standards to address a clever workaround that some commercials had discovered. Basically, if the average volume of your commercial has to be on par with the average volume of the program, then you could hypothetically craft a 30-second advertisement that is 15 seconds of silence and 15 seconds at twice the volume of the program and technically not violate the standard, as you’ve technically maintained the average. The 2014 update discouraged this.

Despite thousands of complaints per year, the FCC has not discerned the kind of “pattern or trend of complaints” to support further inquiry.

The FCC declined to answer Insider’s questions regarding what precisely would qualify as a pattern or trend of complaints, whether the recent rise in complaints would qualify as a pattern or trend, or a question regarding the number of people working on CALM Act enforcement at a given time.

“If CALM Act-related complaints are increasing, the FCC should analyze the complaints to understand what is driving the shift,” Eshoo said. “If an analysis of the complaint data shows a pattern of legitimate complaints against specific companies, the FCC must investigate those companies. If the Commission finds violations through its investigations, it should bring enforcement actions.”

Increased enforcement could stymie the surge in complaints. However, as streaming television rises and cords are cut, more and more Americans are getting their television from services that are not covered by the CALM act, which applies to MVPDs, or multichannel video programming distributors, which is the official legal name for cable providers.

So, why not just pass a CALM Act for streaming?

The government can’t actually regulate streaming services

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The loud commercials hurt his ears.

When Insider asked that question of experts in government, legislature, and the industry, the response was similar to asking “Why not legalize civil unions for leprechauns” or “When will the Federal Aviation Administration crack down on Pogo sticks,” in that it reveals a fundamental misunderstanding about what the FCC is.

“The FCC’s subject matter jurisdiction is communication by wire or radio,” said Gigi Sohn, a Distinguished Fellow at the Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law & Policy. “The FCC doesn’t have jurisdiction over devices.”

The streaming landscape is vastly different from television. It may look like television, but it’s legally something else entirely, and while the offerings of a virtual over-the-top service may look nearly identical to the offerings of a traditional cable television service, legally it’s completely different, and not under the regulation of the FCC.

Streamers such as Netflix, Disney+, HBO Max, Youtube TV, FuboTV, Sling TV, and Hulu with Live TV may look aesthetically similar to a cable package, but from the perspective of the FCC, you may as well ask them to regulate your toaster. The FCC simply lacks jurisdiction over streaming services.

One side effect of this lack of jurisdiction is that for loud commercials, the FCC can’t do a thing. And the agency can’t address any of the other anxieties of modern streaming, including local blackouts, delivery issues, billing, usage caps, content exclusivity, bans, or any of the other policies enacted by fiat by the largest media companies on the planet.

Toward the end of the Obama administration, niche virtual streaming services sought classification as MVPDs. The companies – Pluto TV and Sky Angel – wanted the FCC to expand the definition of MVPD to include streamers like them, arguing that they should be under the FCC’s direction. In 2014, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler supported the move and the FCC began considering the shift.

“They determined the benefits that accrue to them justified the FCC oversight,” said Sohn, who was working for Wheeler at the time.

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Former FCC chairman Tom Wheeler.

But the move to expand the definition was opposed both by legacy MVPDs, as well as larger streaming companies, such as Amazon, which did not want the FCC encroaching on their business, with the main fear being that any regulation would open the door to further regulation.

Proponents of the change needed three of the five commissioners of the FCC to approve it.

“We didn’t have the votes,” Sohn said. The move never went through.

Commissioner Ajit Pai, who opposed the move, shortly after became the FCC chair, functionally killing the proposal. Last year there was some movement from network affiliates to reconsider it, but for the foreseeable future the virtual streaming services are unregulatable, and part of that means they can run commercials however loud they please.

While there is nothing to stop the FCC from adapting a definition of multi-channel video provider that would include the virtual providers, or even streaming services, the result would likely be a massive lawsuit that they would probably lose very badly.

In order for the FCC to have any authority over streamers, Sohn said, Congress would have to pass a law.

“I think this is a huge fight that might happen some day,” she said. “It’ll be a battle royale. Streaming services don’t want to be regulated.”

However, the difficulties that Congress faces in regulating streaming television doesn’t mean erratic commercial volumes on streaming is going to be a problem forever.

The small committee you’ve never heard of that might actually end loud annoying streaming ads

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She just learned about the Audio Engineering Society and she’s pumped.

When Congress passed the CALM Act, they passed a law that essentially took an existing audio industry standard and instructed the FCC to take the necessary steps to enforce that standard.

Right this moment, the Audio Engineering Society is designing a new audio standard for streaming television.

David Bialik is a systems engineer and the co-chair of the Audio Engineering Society’s Technical Committee on Broadcast & Online Delivery. If you’ve never heard of them, you’ve definitely heard them. This is the group of audio engineers who design the standards for much of how America’s media diet sounds.

The reason you change the channel and one isn’t materially louder than another, or if you’ve gone to a concert and not seen drastically different sounds between sets – all of that is genuine scientific work agreed upon by pros and at times set as standards.

And those standards may be the ticket to a better experience on web-based streaming.

The process by which an idea becomes a standard is not entirely like the serpentine process by which a bill becomes law. Think of it as a version of the Schoolhouse Rock song “I’m Just A Bill,” but instead of a bill it’s an intricate technical document, instead of congressional committees it’s a technical committee of audio experts, and in lieu of congressional votes it’s approval by the broader audio committee.

The equivalent of the presidential signature that makes it “law” is a vote that elevates the technical document to an official Standard, a move that in A/85’s case was carried out by the Advanced Television Systems Committee, but other standards go different routes.

Right now, the Audio Engineering Society’s technical committee is working on a new technical document that would address loudness on streaming services. And if it works, the issues of variable volumes on digital television could be solved without Congress at all.

“My hope is to see this released within the next 4 to 5 months,” Bialik told Insider. The gist is that programming material will come with loudness controls within metadata, indicating precisely how loud programming should be. They’re now getting comments from the 90 members of the committee. “It is our hope that our work gets elevated to a standard.”

“This isn’t something we’re taking lightly,” he added. The bigger players have good reason to play ball, namely because a unified consumer sound experience is good for the field as a whole.

“You want your content to be the same level as everyone else’s, on a level playing field,” Bialik said. A user touching the volume knob is bad. “When you invite the audience to touch the volume knob, you invite them to touch other knobs, too.”

Despite the many issues, Congress has been mulling an update to the 1992 Cable Act, which was the last major overhaul of the cable system. Needless to say, in the intervening years the landscape of television has changed somewhat, and to that end Republican Rep. Steve Scalise and Democratic Rep. Eshoo jointly introduced the Modern Television Act of 2019.

There’s little consumers can do outside of sending in official FCC complaints, or even just complaining about it on social media. In fact, those techniques are genuinely effective.

“I periodically hear from constituents about the annoyance of loud ads on streaming services and that worries me. I’ve also seen complaints on social media,” Eshoo said.

“Right now, I’m examining how large of a problem it is. If there is a real problem that we see beyond anecdotal reports, I will certainly consider legislation to address it.”

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A growing number of migrant children are reaching the border. Here’s what experts say the Biden administration can do to address the situation.

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Children play as families of asylum seekers wait outside the El Chaparral border crossing port as they wait to cross into the United States from Tijuana, Mexico on February 19, 2021.

  • The number of unaccompanied migrant children reaching the US Southern border is rising.
  • Overall migrant encounters have also increased due to a yearlong backlog stemming from COVID-19.
  • Experts say there are four key steps the Biden administration should take to address the situation.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The number of unaccompanied migrant children detained at the US Southern border has more than tripled in the past few weeks, straining facilities and ramping up pressure on the Biden administration to address the situation.

But while the thousands of children being held in Customs and Border Protection facilities may harken back to the horrifying images of the Trump administration’s family separation policy, immigration experts say the reality of the current border situation is more complicated than a simple “crisis.”

What’s happening and why?

The number of unaccompanied migrant children detained at the border has continued to rise throughout the first three months of 2021. According to senior administration officials, Customs and Border Patrol had approximately 4,500 unaccompanied minors in holding as of Thursday, while the Department of Health and Human Services has more than 9,000 children currently in its care.

Nearly 3,000 of the children detained by Border Patrol have been held beyond the 72-hour limit permitted by federal law before a child must be moved to an HHS facility, CBS News reported Tuesday.

But the increased numbers go beyond just children. Border agents encountered approximately 100,000 individuals attempting to enter the country in the month of February – a 28% increase over January, according to senior administration officials. January saw nearly 78,000 migrant encounters, a rate more than doubled from the same time last year, The New York Times reported.

Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, told Insider the border is seeing an increased number of migrants, in part, because of a backlog of people who have not been allowed in to the country over the past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the coronavirus pandemic took hold in spring 2020, former President Donald Trump implemented a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regulation known as Title 42 that effectively halted all crossings at the border in the name of COVID-19 prevention.

Since taking office in January, President Joe Biden has mostly maintained the policy, lifting the order for unaccompanied minors, allowing only children to cross and presenting a heartbreaking choice for migrant parents who reach the border: full family expulsion or send their child across alone.

Experts say Biden’s partial repeal of Title 42 has contributed to the increase in unaccompanied minors, while its year-long existence has led to a backlog resulting in the higher number of overall border encounters so far this year.

The increase could also stem in part from a friendlier administration, according to Southern Border Communities Coalition steering committee member Pedro Rios, who said some immigrants may see the Biden administration as a more welcoming government, though Rios stressed he was hesitant to suggest Biden was the “absolute” reason behind increasing migrant numbers.

In fact, Biden spoke directly to Central American migrants in a televised interview this week, rejecting that notion and telling them: “Don’t come over.”

“I heard the idea that they’re coming because I’m a nice guy,” he said.

Politicians and news outlets have responded to the increased numbers with alarm, calling the situation a “surge,” a “crisis,” and “unprecedented.”

But experts say that’s not quite the case.

Is the current border situation really a crisis for the administration? Or a pattern?

According to three immigration experts that Insider spoke with the situation is not yet a “crisis.”

“We’ve had higher numbers in the past and every time something like this happens, they call it a crisis, or a surge, or an influx,” Carol Anne Donohoe, managing attorney for Al Otro Lado’s family reunification program, said. “How many crises, surges, and influxes do you have before you say this is actually a pattern and we should do something proactively?”

Senior administration officials echoed that idea in a media call Thursday.

“Children presenting themselves at the border is not a national crisis,” one official said. “January 20 was not the moment that all of a sudden the border looked differently. Numbers increase and decrease all the time.”

Vicki Gaubeca, Southern Border Communities Coalition director, told Insider the situation is neither new nor unexpected, though the pandemic has complicated the response typically led by non-governmental organizations and volunteers at the border.

“I don’t think people should be panicking, it’s not a crisis,” Gaubeca said. “I agree with the Biden administration, it’s just a challenge that we need to figure out how to address.”

Earlier this month, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas denied there was a “crisis” at the border, calling the situation a “challenge.”

Gelernt agreed, saying the federal government has more than enough resources to handle the numbers, which are not historically high.

He also cautioned that the numbers could be misleading. Border counts of encounters and apprehensions don’t reflect the number of individuals seeking to enter the country, but instead, account for each incident, which often results in the same individual being counted multiple times.

Though he doesn’t think the current border circumstances constitute a crisis for the federal government, Gelernt did stress that the ongoing situation is a humanitarian crisis.

During his presidential campaign, Biden presented himself as the more humane immigration candidate. Now, the president faces growing political and public pressure to address the situation and avoid the horrifying aspects of the Trump administration’s immigration efforts.

Here are four steps immigration experts say the Biden administration should take to avoid a real crisis.

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Dareli Matamoros, a girl from Honduras, holds a sign asking President Biden to let her in during a migrant demonstration demanding clearer United States migration policies, at San Ysidro crossing port in Tijuana, Baja California state, Mexico on March 2, 2021.

End Title 42

All four experts agreed – the first and fastest step Biden can take to address the growing number of unaccompanied minors is to revoke the Trump-era holdover order.

Citing public health concerns, Trump invoked Title 42 last March, expelling all people apprehended between ports of entry and effectively eliminating migrants’ right to seek asylum in the US.

“We expected the Biden administration to eliminate that policy. It has not done so for adults or families yet, though it has for unaccompanied children,” Gelernt said. “Advocates throughout the country are becoming impatient.”

Ending Title 42 would allow parents and children to enter the country together and would restore asylum seekers’ right to a hearing.

Additionally, the Trump administration’s invocation of Title 42 likely did little to slow the spread of the virus, according to Donohoe and Gelernt, who both noted the federal government overruled the Centers for Disease Control last March when the agency’s top doctor told federal officials there was no evidence that implementing Title 42 would slow the spread.

Donohoe said the CDC has made it clear that border activities can continue safely if migrants are tested for COVID-19 and quarantined after crossing.

“I would argue that if we were concerned about immigrants and public health and all of that, we wouldn’t have our ICE detention facilities filled during a pandemic,” Donohoe said. “So my only guess is that this is a way to stem the flow of immigrants and asylum seekers.”

The ACLU is currently in discussions to settle a lawsuit over Title 42, Gelernt told Insider.

“We hope that the Biden administration is not allowing politics to interfere with its decision to provide families with asylum hearings and likewise, hope that the Biden administration is not using a public health measure to control migration flows unrelated to public health requirements,” Gelernt said.

Provide more funding and resources for holistic border support

Experts also encouraged the Biden administration to increase federal funding and resources to both address the growing numbers of migrants and avoid the horrific conditions that often come with influxes.

The agency in charge of processing asylum seekers – Customs and Border Protection – isn’t known for its welcoming demeanor, according to Gaubeca, who said the agency’s union was openly supportive of Trump both times he ran.

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Customs and Border Protection officers stand with shields at the border crossing, Monday, March 1, 2021, seen from Tijuana, Mexico.

“I think they like the idea of just being enforcement only. They don’t like having to take care of unaccompanied children,” Gaubeca said. “Border patrol wasn’t trained to take care of families.”

As a result, Gaubeca said the Biden administration should direct resources toward creating community-based welcoming centers staffed by medical professionals, trauma specialists, and childcare specialists.

Gelernt also stressed the need for more funding, urging the administration to coordinate with NGOs working around the border that have been preparing for increased migrant numbers for months. These organizations are ready to COVID-test families, house migrants, and provide basic necessities, according to Gelernt, but they need coordination from the Biden administration to do so successfully.

Gaubeca advocated for targeted federal funding toward addressing the root causes of mass migration – a step she said the Biden administration has already started to take by including money to address violence in Central America in its US Citizenship Act of 2021.

Don’t place children in carceral settings and keep their stays short

The surest way for the Biden administration to avoid the public outcry of 2018 that stemmed from immigrant children in cages is to simply keep kids out of cages, experts said.

Children should not be placed in carceral settings or unlicensed facilities, according to Donohoe and Gelernt, but instead should be kept in child-appropriate settings with small group settings and a high staff-to-child ratio.

“The idea is not to warehouse hundreds of children in one location,” Donohoe said. “It’s to spread them out into more home-like settings until…they can do their due diligence to find a sponsor or a safe foster family.”

A senior administration official said Thursday that the seven-day average length of care for unaccompanied migrant children in HHS facilities is 34 days. The official said the administration is committed to trying to reduce that number.

Donohoe and Gelernt both encouraged the administration to focus on quickly locating sponsors or relatives for unaccompanied children and to keep their detainment short. In order to expedite that process, other immigrants in the country acting as sponsors shouldn’t be made to feel afraid to come forward and claim a child, Donohoe said.

For-profit emergency shelters have drawn criticism from immigration experts who decry the centers’ lack of transparency and less-than-stellar conditions. While most child migrant facilities are subject to state licensing requirements, according to The Washington Post, temporary surge centers like the Texas tent facility, Carrizo, that the Biden administration reopened late last month, are not.

Licensed facilities are also more cost-efficient and well-regulated than overflow facilities, according to Donohoe, who said privately-run overflow facilities cost between $850 and $1,000 a day per child while licensed facilities cost between $200 to $300.

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In this March 27, 2019, file photo, Central American migrants wait for food in a pen erected by U.S. Customs and Border Protection to process a surge of migrant families and unaccompanied minors in El Paso, Texas.

Still, she cautioned people against latching on to easy sound bites like “kids in cages.”

“Cages come in many forms,” Donohoe said. “It doesn’t make it any better that it has cement walls versus a chain-link fence.”

Change the public perception of the border

Conversations about immigrants coming to the US often rely on water imagery and metaphors – like “surge” “flood,” “flow,” “stream,” and “waves” – according to Rios, who said that language tends to degrade and dehumanize the people who are migrating and their reasons for doing so.

“I think it takes away from some of the structural problems that are causing the reasons for why people are migrating,” Rios told Insider.

The other experts agreed.

“I do think there’s a shift in how we can talk about the border, not as being a place that needs to be secured but as a place that needs to be managed better,” Gaubeca said. “Changing the narrative about what the border is is really important.”

According to Donohoe, two institutions have a key role to play in changing that narrative: the Biden administration and the media.

“Public perception is driven by the press and what the administration says,” she said. “And I think any administration is hyper-aware of that.”

Calling the situation a “crisis” or a “surge” emboldens conservatives to ramp up criticism over Biden’s handling of immigration, according to Donohoe, who said that public disapproval and resulting panic often leads to the creation of more overflow facilities and harsher policies.

For four years Trump “dehumanized” immigrant populations and propagated a narrative that migrants were coming to take advantage of the US, Gelernt said. As a result, Biden now has a responsibility to change the narrative about who these people are and why they’re coming, according to the attorney.

“I would urge people to try not to think of immigrants in the abstract, but to think about the immigrant you know,” Gelernt said.

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In this Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020, file photo, David Xol-Cholom, of Guatemala, hugs his son Byron at Los Angeles International Airport as they reunite after being separated during the Trump administration’s wide-scale separation of immigrant families, in Los Angeles.

How confident are experts the Biden administration will take these steps?

Donohoe, Gaubeca, and Gelernt all signaled they were cautiously optimistic about the Biden administration’s immigration efforts, acknowledging that his predecessor “wreaked havoc” on the border and left an “enormous mess” behind.

Still, Donohoe said immigration experts are “always wary,” and have “no illusions” that a Democratic president guarantees change.

Donohoe said Secretary Mayorkas has signaled the administration may soon be making changes to Title 42 concerning families – a move experts are impatiently awaiting.

“[The Biden administration’s] certainly more of a humanitarian administration than the one previous, ” Donohoe told Insider. “So anything that they undo is moving forward.”

Gaubeca too, said she’s seen signals the administration wants to make changes, but emphasized that processes take time.

“Realistically speaking, there are a lot of steps that the administration knows they have to take, but I think they’re trying to do things in a very measured way, and they’re also trying to build something that was pretty much destroyed by the former administration,” Gaubeca said.

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Judge who said QAnon Shaman ‘blatantly lied’ during ’60 Minutes’ interview released 2 new videos disproving shaman’s claims

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Jacob Chansley on the Capitol grounds during the July 6 pro-Trump insurrection.

  • The court released two new videos Tuesday depicting protesters swarming the Capitol on January 6.
  • The footage appears to debunk claims made by the QAnon Shaman that officers “waved” protesters in.
  • The “Shaman’s” lawyer said he was suspicious the videos had been released only after the hearing.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

One week after a federal judge decided Jacob Chansley would remain in jail until his trial, the court has released two new videos that appear to disprove one of Chansley’s claims about his participation in the January 6 insurrection.

In a jailhouse interview with “60 Minutes+” earlier this month, the self-described QAnon Shaman, his lawyer, and his mother all repeated the claim that Chansley had only entered the Capitol because police officers had “waved” protesters in, signaling to Chansley that the move was “acceptable.”

But in a March 8 motion remanding Chansley into custody, Judge Royce Lamberth skewered Chansley’s story, saying the 33-year-old “blatantly lied” about his alleged invitation into the building and referenced video footage obtained by the government that Lamberth said disproved Chansley’s claims about Capitol police officers.

“Not only is [Chansley] unable to offer evidence substantiating his claim that he was waved into the Capitol, but evidence submitted by the government proves this claim false,” Lamberth wrote. “A video submitted by the government captures protesters breaking through the windows of the Capitol building.”

On Tuesday, the court released that footage.

The two videos, first obtained by Law & Crime, depict the chaos inside and outside the US Capitol on January 6 as a pro-Trump mob appears to accost Capitol Police officers and eventually begins smashing the windows to enter the federal building en masse.

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Jacob Chansley standing on scaffolding outside the Capitol building on January 6.

In the first video, Chansley can be seen standing on scaffolding in the air, holding an American flag as the crowd chants “stop the seal.” Chansley is easily identifiable in both videos by his outfit, which includes red, white, and blue face paint, a horned headdress, and a bare chest.

The second video depicts a similar mob near the building, screaming “this is our country!” The protesters begin banging on the windows until they shatter and then start climbing through to enter the building. At the same time, Chansley and several others can be seen entering the building through a door.

It is unclear how or when the doors were opened.

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Jacob Chansley entering the US Capitol with a mob of pro-Trump protesters on January 6, 2021.

There don’t appear to be any police officers or security guards near the door as the crowd storms in, and no officers can be seen in the video waving protesters in.

“The government’s video shows that [Chansley] blatantly lied during his interview with ’60 Minutes+’ when he said that police officers waved him into the building,” Lamberth wrote. “Further this video confirms [Chansley] did not…enter, as defense counsel represents, in the ‘third wave’ of the breach. To the contrary, he quite literally spearheaded it.”

Chansley’s lawyer, Al Watkins, however, told Insider Tuesday that “it is strongly suggested the videos are one dimensional.”

“Subsequent scrutiny of the video footage (including the The New Yorker video specifically cited by the Government) has given rise to the identification of numerous ambiguities, irregularities, inconsistencies, timeline issues and concern about the assertions of the Government about the actions of Mr. Chansley based on the Government’s video footage,” Watkins said in a statement.

Watkins also issued a request for members of the public to “provide any video footage which depicts the Shaman in or around the Capitol on January 6, 2021,” and has set up an email address for the public to send any evidence, according to the outlet.

The Arizona-native is facing six charges and up to 20 years in prison over his role in the riot. In addition to accusations that he illegally trespassed when breaching the Capitol, court records claim Chansley also clashed with Capitol police officers, went into the Senate chamber, and left a note on then-Vice President Mike Pence’s dais saying “it’s only a matter of time, justice is coming.”

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Experts say Katie Hill’s lawsuit against media outlets that published ‘revenge porn’ probably won’t stand in court

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Rep. Katie Hill (D-CA) answers questions from reporters at the U.S. Capitol following her final speech on the floor of the House of Representatives October 31, 2019 in Washington, DC.

  • Katie Hill is suing her ex-husband and media outlets over nude photos of her they published.
  • The judge will likely strike The Daily Mail and RedState as defendants, per a draft decision Insider obtained.
  • Experts say the case against Hill’s estranged husband still has good chances.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The “revenge porn” lawsuit ex-Congresswoman Katie Hill brought against media outlets for distributing nude photos of her likely won’t stand in court, legal experts say.

Hill was elected as a Democratic representative in a California swing district in 2018 and the photos led to her resignation in 2019. She brought the lawsuit against her ex-husband Kenneth Heslep, who she says leaked the photos of her to the right-wing media outlet RedState and the British tabloid The Daily Mail. The lawsuit also targets RedState, The Daily Mail, and the individual journalists at those publications involved with publishing those photos.

Because Hill alleges that Heslep effectively laundered revenge porn through media outlets, taking advantage of the fact that she’s a public figure, the case has been described as a source of tension between the First Amendment and the California law designed to protect victims of harassment.

“The First Amendment isn’t supposed to have sympathy for people,” Philip Boesch, a California-based attorney who frequently represents media organizations, told Insider. “The First Amendment is sacred among all of us who care about it. But on the other hand, factual context is important for making decisions.”

A draft court decision obtained by Insider indicates that Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Yolanda Orozco will likely grant a motion to dismiss the case from the media outlets and individual journalists.

The “revenge porn” law Hill brings her lawsuit under, the draft decision says, has a carve-out for “distributed material [that] constitutes a matter of public concern.” Photos of a member of US Congress in an extramarital relationship and using drugs constitutes just that, the draft says.

Eugene Volokh, a First Amendment scholar and a professor at the UCLA School of Law who’s written about the case, told Insider that the California legislature “has considered this very issue” to ensure the law doesn’t come into contradiction with free speech concerns.

“There is specifically an exemption for distributed material that constitutes a matter of public concern,” Volokh said. “That is a rare situation when it comes to nonconsensual distribution of pornography like this, but it sometimes happens. And this seems like a classic example.”

Attorneys representing Hill and Heslep didn’t immediately respond to Insider’s requests for comment.

The case against Hill’s ex-husband may still stand

Orozco said in a hearing Wednesday that she would delay her final decision in order to hear a decision from Jennifer Van Laar, the RedState reporter and a former Republican political operative, according to the Los Angeles Daily News.

But even if Orozco dismisses Hill’s case against the media outlets, that doesn’t mean she’ll dismiss it against Hill’s ex-husband.

Boesch described the photos of Hill as traveling through a “chain” of responsibility, where media organizations illustrate the photos as being in the public interest, while Heslep likely had different motives. Heslep might deserve less First Amendment protection, Boesch said.

“If he’s doing these things, it’s a malicious act with the intent to hurt,” Boesch said. “And arguably that is what she’s focused on.”

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In this Jan. 3, 2019, file photo, Rep. Katie Hill, D-Calif., and Hill’s husband, Kenneth Heslep, pose during a ceremonial swearing in on Capitol Hill in Washington during the opening session of the 116th Congress. Former U.S. Rep. Katie Hill sued her ex-husband and two media outlets for distributing “nonconsensual porn” without her consent that helped torpedoed her political career.

Volokh told Insider that the exemption cited by the judge’s draft order doesn’t draw a distinction between who’s distributing the photos. It only matters that the photos are “a matter of public concern.

“The question is, is the material that’s actually being distributed a matter of public concern? This is an unusual situation where it is,” he said, adding: “It’s not like there’s an exception for publication by a newspaper. It’s an exception for when the distributed material constitutes a matter of public concern.”

Heslep hasn’t responded to the lawsuit, which was first filed in December, according to court records reviewed by Insider. He is also involved in a separate lawsuit with Hill over allegations that he abused her while they were married.

Even if Heslep is ultimately found liable for leaking the photos, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the Daily Mail or RedState would be running afoul of the law, according to Hannah Bloch-Wehba, a professor at the Texas A&M School of Law who studies law and technology.

“The rule is typically that the media can’t be liable for just publishing information, even if the information is illegally obtained by the source,” Bloch-Wehba told Insider. “So whoever ultimately leaked the photograph might have done that in violation of the law. But as long as the media outlet didn’t itself violate the law in obtaining the photos, they are probably in the clear as a First Amendment matter.”

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Former Rep. Katie Hill of California.

Hill has characterized the RedState and The Daily Mail stories as a matter of partisan skullduggery rather than in the public interest. Jennifer Van Laar, who first published the photos on RedState’s website, worked as a Republican political operative before working for RedState, according to the Los Angeles Times.

But Bloch-Wehba said a person’s background wouldn’t matter when it comes to free speech protections.

“The rule is not that you’re entitled to First Amendment protection if you’re a perfectly objective commentator who’s never played a role in politics,” she said.

Hill previously told Insider’s Eliza Relman that she hoped to see Heslep prosecuted over leaking the photos. And she said she expected her civil lawsuit to be an uphill battle, given her public profile.

“It’s going to be a tough case – it’s kind of this intersection of the First Amendment and the right to privacy and where that line is drawn,” she said, adding: “I think it’s important for how we set the standard for the way women are treated as they run for office and are in the public eye, no matter what their circumstance is.”

Boesch told Insider he can imagine the judge wanting to “do justice” in the case even if she removes the media outlets as defendants.

“I look at what happened to her, and you almost think that a judge thinking about this is going to try to find ways to do justice, not just toss out the whole thing,” Boesch said.

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TikTok announced new tools to address the ‘unkind’ comments that plague the platform, but an online researcher says the changes don’t address core problems

TikTok
An iPhone user looks at the TikTok app on the Apple App Store in January 2021.

  • TikTok announced new features aimed at curbing “unkind” and “inappropriate” comments.
  • Creators have previously complained of hateful comments and harassment on the app.
  • The features remind users about community guidelines and allow creators to “filter” their comments.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

TikTok announced Wednesday new options for creators and users in an effort to limit the spread of “unkind” and “inappropriate” comments on the vertical-video platform.

The first of two changes announced is an option for creators to “Filter All Comments,” allowing TikTok creators to hide all of the comments on their videos until they approve them. As the company noted, the feature is an extension of existing options that filter spam, keywords, and “offensive comments.”

The second of the two new features, which were unveiled in a press release Wednesday authored by Tara Wadhwa, the company’s Director of Policy in the US, is a feature that will prompt users before leaving comments the app finds could be considered “unkind” or “inappropriate.”

When users attempt to leave a comment that the app deems as such, it will prompt them to edit or delete their message, reminding them of the platform’s community guidelines. The warning, however, does not prevent users from leaving the comment without amending it.

The company did not specify what words or phrases would trigger the warning for comments, though an example included in the press release involved a user receiving the prompt after attempting to leave a comment calling another user “ugly.”

In the press release, Wadhwa said the company had partnered with the Cyberbullying Research Center to further address cyberbullying on the platform.

“Creating a safe and positive app environment that allows creative expression to thrive is our priority. We’ll continue to strengthen our safeguards for users, build tools that provide people with more control to shape their experience, and keep listening to feedback from our community and experts,” Wadhwa said.

Carolina Are, a 28-year-old online moderation researcher at City, University of London, PhD, and TikTok creator who has previously spoken up about issues with nasty comments and moderation at TikTok, told Insider she wasn’t sure how effective the company’s “kindness” initiative would be in addressing the larger cultural issues with the app.

“I personally find the ‘be kind’ branding thing just really annoying,” Are, who said she has twice had her account @bloggeronpole improperly suspended by TikTok, said. “I find the ‘be kind’ expression has been co-opted by people that don’t want you to disagree with them,” Are said. “I’ve seen people getting called out for being racist answering with ‘be kind.’ So I personally am not a huge fan of framing it like that.”

“I also think that people who post those horribly offensive comments are not thinking of being kind and are probably not very kind. So I don’t think that would make a massive difference,” she added of the new prompt.

The feature allowing creators to “filter” or screen their comments before they are publicly posted puts more burden on creators to review harmful comments and determine which ones to post, she said. It could also allow users to create an echo chamber where they refuse to post comments that challenge their perspectives,” she added.

“Don’t get me wrong. I’m super, super happy that TikTok is doing something about online abuse because I think it’s the nastiest place on the internet for it at the moment,” she said. “But I do feel like a lot of these techniques do put more work on creators and there’s always the potential for censorship by users who just don’t want you to post something that they disagree with.”

TikTok creators have in the past spoken out about comments on TikTok and. Half-a-dozen transgender TikTok creators who spoke to Insider in February said they’d been harassed and experienced transphobia on the platform and felt that the app’s design unwittingly accelerated the harassment. Other creators have spoken up about their experience racism on TikTok.

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Critics blast Biden administration for denying entry to thousands of people still affected by Trump’s ‘Muslim ban’

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Anwar Alsaeedi sits with his children at their home in Sanaa, Yemen, Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021. Alsaeedi, who had hoped to provide his two children with a better future, said he rejoiced in 2017 when he was picked for the lottery’s “diversity visa” interview. Then he was ineligible due to the Trump administration’s travel ban that affected several Muslim-majority nations. “Our country is embroiled in wars and crises and we’ve lost everything,” he said. “Making it to America is a big dream.”

  • The Biden administration said it would offer visas to people denied entry due to Donald Trump’s “Muslim ban.”
  • But the administration is not granting entry to those who had obtained “diversity visas.”
  • Thousands of such visas are issued each year to members of underrepresented groups.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

The last administration’s ban on travel from several majority-Muslim nations was “morally wrong,” in the words of President Joe Biden. But the new administration is denying entry to thousands of people who were affected by it.

Biden, soon after taking office, rescinded the so-called “Muslim ban.” And, this week, his administration announced that a majority of those who were denied entry to the US because of it could apply again for a visa.

But the White House left out one significant group: thousands of people who were selected to receive “diversity visas” – intended, as the name suggests, to encourage migration from underrepresented people – only to have them taken away by an executive order by Donald Trump, who then tried to eliminate the diversity program altogether.

People like Anwar al Saeedi, a Yemeni man who in 2017 expected to be moving to the US with his wife and two young children.

“It was a big dream for me to be able to move my children to America to live in a respectable country, which respects human rights and where it’s possible to live in safety,” he told NPR earlier this year. He is, instead, living in the African nation of Djibouti, where he traveled with his family, spending thousands of dollars to attend interviews for his visa (the US embassy in Yemen has been shuttered amid years of war).

“It’s disheartening and disappointing,” Abed Ayoub, legal and policy director at the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, told Insider. The committee represents people like Anwar who made plans for a new life, only for it to be denied.

“These individuals are in a worse off position now,” Ayoub said, “because this government, regardless of whether it’s Biden or Trump, made a promise to them and they acted on that.”

The American Civil Liberties Union, one of several groups to challenge Trump’s travel ban, called the new administration’s decision a disgrace.

“President Biden just dusted off Trump’s ‘CLOSED’ sign and locked the door behind him,” the ACLU attorney Manar Waheed said in a statement. “This decision threatens to forever prevent thousands of Black and Brown immigrants who meet all of the legal requirements to immigrate to the United States from doing so, perpetuating the effects of the discriminatory ban.”

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on why it excluded diversity visa recipients from its reversal of the Muslim ban.

But one reason could be the law: The US State Department is limited to issuing 55,000 diversity visas a year, with a specific number set aside for various parts of the world. According to Reuters, Ned Price, a State Department spokesperson, on Monday said that the statute authorizing the program also requires applicants to demonstrate their qualifications within the same fiscal year they were chosen.

Ayoub thinks that’s something of a cop-out. His group had lobbied the administration to bypass any legal issue by granting “humanitarian parole” to those still hurt by the travel ban. Said parole can be issued, according to US Citizenship and Immigration Services, to someone “who is otherwise inadmissible into the United States for a temporary period of time due to an emergency.”

From there, a more permanent solution could be worked on. Ayoub said the goal now is legislation that would allow those on humanitarian parole to apply for asylum or some other residency-granting legal status once they are here.

“But we need the administration and Congress to be on the same page,” he said. “If you call the Muslim ban discriminatory, and you call it a stain, then you should the full extent to rectify what was done.”

Have a news tip? Email this reporter: cdavis@insider.com

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Biden grants Temporary Protected Status to as many as 320,000 Venezuelans living in the US

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A man from Venezuela seeking asylum in the United States holds his daughter at the entrance to the Paso del Norte International Bridge after the news that the Migrant Protection Protocols program was halted on February 28, 2020, in Ciudad Juárez.

  • The Biden administration is granting Temporary Protected Status to Venezuelans.
  • Venezuelans are the leading group of asylum-seekers. About 320,000 are eligible for TPS.
  • TPS protects recipients from the threat of deportation.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Venezuelans who have fled economic devastation and political repression will no longer have to fear deportation from the United States, the Biden administration announced Monday, fulfilling one of the president’s campaign promises.

An estimated 320,000 Venezuelans in the US are now eligible for Temporary Protected Status, as first reported by the Los Angeles Times. TPS is granted to nationals from countries where it would be unsafe to return.

Venezuela has been in an economic and political freefall since the collapse of oil prices in 2014, exacerbated by rank corruption and, since 2019, US sanctions on the country’s all-important petroleum sector. That has led to an exodus from the country – 5.4 million people, according to the United Nations, or nearly 20% of its population – with the vast majority settling elsewhere in South America, namely Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru.

But tens of thousands have also made it to the US. Fom fiscal years 2017 to 2019, the Department of Homeland Security reported that Venezuelans were by far the largest group of asylum-seekers, averaging more than 25,000 per year and exceeding the number from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, combined.

In its formal designation, DHS says Venezuelans are receiving protected status due to the “severe economic crisis” back home, as well as “a prolonged political crisis” sparked by President Nicolas Maduro’s disputed victory in the country’s 2018 election and effective dissolution of its democratically elected legislature.

To apply for TPS, Venezuelans will need to pay $135 in fees and another $410 for a work permit, The Miami Herald reported. Those who enter the US on or after March 8 are ineligible.

The announcement comes days after Colombia, home to nearly 2 million Venezuelan migrants, granted those refugees legal status for the next decade.

Juan Escalante, an undocumented immigrant from Venezuela and digital campaigns manager at FWD.us, which advocates for criminal justice and immigration reform, said he was relieved by the news.

“The chaos, turmoil, and political unrest that has consumed my native homeland of Venezuela is heartbreaking,” he said in a statement, “and the idea that more than 300,000 Venezuelans who have been living in and contributing to the US could be deported to a country where their lives and freedoms would be threatened is terrifying.”

While the last administration claimed to support Venezuelans, it continued to deport them back to a country that it publicly condemned as violent and authoritarian. It was only on January 19, a day before leaving office, that the former president offered legal protections to some 94,000 Venezuelans.

“This shows solidarity with the over 5 million Venezuelans that have fled the country,” Geoff Ramsey, director for Venezuela at the Washington Office on Latin America, a DC think tank, told Insider. He urged the administration to “go even further,” however, and pressure its allies in South America to increase social services for the Venezuelan diaspora elsewhere.

“Far too many other countries have backtracked on their commitments to fleeing Venezuelans,” he said.

Have a news tip? Email this reporter: cdavis@insider.com

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