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Immigrant Leaves Sanctuary Church After ICE Pledges Not To Immediately Deport Him


MAPLEWOOD, Mo. (AP) — After 3 1/2 years living inside a Missouri church to avoid deportation, Honduran immigrant Alex Garcia finally stepped outside Wednesday, following a promise from President Joe Biden’s administration to let him be.

Garcia, a married father of five, was slated for removal from the U.S. in 2017, the first year of President Donald Trump’s administration. Days before he would have been deported, Christ Church United Church of Christ in the St. Louis suburb of Maplewood offered sanctuary.

Sara John of the St. Louis Inter-Faith Committee on Latin America said Garcia’s decision to leave the church came after Immigration and Customs Enforcement declared that he was no longer a deportation priority and that the agency would not pursue his detention or removal.

Garcia, braced by a hand on his shoulder from a son and fighting back tears, told a cheering crowd of about 100 people that he was separated from living with his family for 1,252 days.

“Hi everyone,” Garcia said. “Thank you everyone for showing support for me and my family. Today is the day I’m going to get out of sanctuary after three years and a half.”

“We are not done yet,” Garcia said, reading from a written statement. “There is still so much work that has to be done,” he added, nothing that he will be fighting for “permanent protection.“



Honduran immigrant Alex Garcia addresses a crowd of family, friends, and supporters alongside his wife Carly at a news conference Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, where he announced he would leaving Christ Church United Church of Christ in Maplewood, Mo. After 3 1/2 years living inside the church to avoid deportation, Garcia finally stepped outside following a promise from President Joe Biden’s administration to let him be.

In his first weeks as president, Biden has signed several executive orders on immigration issues that undo his predecessor’s policies, though several Republican members of Congress are pushing legal challenges.
Myrna Orozco, organizing coordinator at Church World Service said 33 immigrants remain inside churches across the U.S. and that number should continue to drop.

“We expect it to change in the next couple of weeks as we get more clarity from ICE or (immigrants) get a decision on their cases,” Orozco said.

Others who have emerged from sanctuary since Biden took office include Jose Chicas, a 55-year-old El Salvador native, who left a church-owned house in Durham, North Carolina, on Jan. 22. Saheeda Nadeem, a 65-year-old from Pakistan, left a Kalamazoo, Michigan, church this month. Edith Espinal, a native of Mexico, left an Ohio church after more than three years.

In Maplewood, emotion spilled out during a brief ceremony marking Garcia’s departure. The church’s bell tolled. Mayor Barry Greenberg’s voice broke as he told Garcia he couldn’t grant him U.S. citizenship, but he could make him an honorary citizen of Maplewood. He presented a key to the city that Garcia’s young daughter immediately took out of the box to play with.

“Oh God, we want to burst into song!” Pastor Becky Turner said during a prayer, but noting that prayer “isn’t enough. We have to do the work that we pray for.“
Garcia’s exit came just two days after U.S. Rep. Cori Bush, a St. Louis Democrat, announced she was sponsoring a private bill seeking permanent residency for Garcia. Bush said Wednesday that she will still push the bill forward.

“ICE has promised not to deport Alex, and we will stop at nothing to ensure that they keep their promise,” Bush said in a statement.

Garcia fled extreme poverty and violence in Honduras, his advocates have said. After entering the U.S. in 2004, he hopped a train that he thought was headed for Houston, but instead ended up in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, a town of about 17,000 residents in the southeastern corner of the state.

He landed a job and met his wife, Carly, a U.S. citizen, and for more than a decade they lived quietly with their blended family.

In 2015, Garcia accompanied his sister to an immigration office for a check-in in Kansas City, Missouri, where officials realized Garcia was in the country illegally. He received two one-year reprieves during Barack Obama’s administration.





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Celebrity

Matt Helps Rachael After She’s Hurt, Serena P. Leaves


Sorting out their feelings. Matt James reconsidered how serious he was about the remaining four women during hometown dates on the Monday, February 22, episode of The Bachelor.

Michelle landed the first date, taking him bike riding and introducing him to her students via video chat. She told Matt her parents were hesitant for her to join the show because she had to put her life on hold, but they agreed to support her no matter what. Michelle revealed she would say yes if Matt proposed and she thought he was The One, while he said he would move to Minnesota for her.

Matt James ABC/Craig Sjodin

Rachael, for her part, organized a skydiving date because trust is a big factor for her in relationships. However, things took a turn when she slammed into the ground upon landing. Matt ran over to check on her and confessed that he didn’t realize how strongly he felt for her until watching her get hurt. She cried over his admission and was appreciative of his concern for her. She later told her mom that makeup was covering the injuries to her face.

Rachael’s family — specifically her dad — was skeptical about the fast process, but she hoped Matt would ask for her father’s blessing. She admitted she was in love with him and noted she would accept a proposal. Ultimately, she was let down when Matt opted not to ask for permission to pop the question. He didn’t want to do it with all four families, but he promised to call Rachael’s dad closer to time if the opportunity arose.

Matt James Serena The Bachelor
Matt James and Serena P. ABC/Craig Sjodin

Bri and Matt went off-roading in a Jeep during their date. He wanted to move past their level of comfort with each other, but she was scared to tell him she was falling in love with him. Matt believed he and Bri had a special connection, and although she wanted to put up a wall, she told him about her feelings.

Serena P., meanwhile, introduced Matt to her Canadian culture. He then met her family, who expressed their doubts that she was ready to get engaged. Serena’s anxieties deepened about making a mistake with Matt since she had hoped her hometown date would help her become more confident about taking the next step.

Matt felt something was off with Serena, so he confronted her before the rose ceremony. He told her he intentionally spent more time with her than the other women to build their connection. She thought she was afraid of her feelings for him, but she realized he was not her person. Matt was shocked and disappointed, but he wanted Serena to be happy. She chose to leave, which made Matt worry that the remaining women might do the same.

At the rose ceremony, Matt encouraged Bri, Rachael and Michelle to be sure they were ready for an engagement before accepting a rose. They all decided to stay and received roses.

The Bachelor airs on ABC Mondays at 8 p.m. ET.

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‘Below Deck’ Alum Kate Chastain Leaves ‘Bravo’s Chat Room’


Sailing away! Kate Chastain will no longer appear on the Bravo’s Chat Room late-night TV show.

Us Weekly confirmed the news on Thursday, February 18, after the Below Deck alum, 38, was absent from the most recent episode of the talk show.

Chastain appeared on Chat Room alongside The Real Housewives of Potomac‘s Gizelle Bryant, The Real Housewives of Atlanta star Porsha Williams and Summer House‘s Hannah Berner. The show has been renewed for a second season, which the Florida native won’t be a part of.

Kate Chastain Gregory Pace/Shutterstock

Williams, 39, announced the show’s renewal on Thursday. Eagle-eyed fans noticed Chastain’s name was not included in her Instagram post.

“The CHATROOM continues!!! 13 MORE EPISODES!!!” she wrote in the caption. “Thank you for loving our show !! We love seeing your comments and tweets keep em coming !! Love ya Co-Host @gizellebryant @beingbernz #Blessed.”

Chat Room premiered at Bravo in September 2020. Despite only being ordered for six episodes, it has aired more than 30.

Chastain teased the show in an interview with Us in December 2020. “It just feels like I’m FaceTiming with three of my girlfriends,” she said of the show at the time.

She continued, “Yachting was a big part of my life for a long time and I enjoyed everything that came with it … but I definitely am enjoying land life.”

The former stewardess continues to appear on Below Deck Galley Talk, a Bravo aftershow dedicated to Below Deck. While promoting the show in an interview with Us recently, Chastain weighed in on which Real Housewives stars would make the best and worst crewmates. Among them was one of her former Chat Room costars.

Below Deck Alum Kate Chastain Leaving Bravo Chat Room
‘Bravo’s Chat Room’ Bravo Media

“Gizelle, I think, would make a great second stew. I think she’s very supportive. I think she’d be fantastic at the job. Also, Sonja Morgan would just make me laugh,” she explained of the Real Housewives of New York City star. “I don’t really think she’d be amazing at the job, but man she’d make me laugh.”

Chastain quit Below Deck in February 2020. She shared the news via Instagram in a statement meant to mirror that given by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in January 2020 about their decision to step away from their royal duties.

“After many months of reflection and internal discussions, I have chosen to make a transition this year in starting to carve our a progressive new land based role,” she wrote. “I intend to step back as a senior member of the Below Deck Family and work to become financially independent, while continuing to fully support His Majesty Andy Cohen.”

Bravo’s Chat Room airs on Bravo Sundays at 10:30 p.m. ET.

E! broke the news.

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Dining News

Portland’s Indoor Dining Return Leaves Restaurant Workers Uneasy


On February 9, Gov. Kate Brown announced that risk levels for COVID-19 in Multnomah, Clackamas, and Washington counties were low enough that restaurants would be permitted to serve a limited number of diners indoors this week. Indoor dining rooms closed in November, when infection rates were triple that of 2020’s summer peak; since then, bars and restaurants across Portland have worked to design winter-friendly patio seating, as well as takeout and delivery options, including cocktails. But starting Friday, February 12, dining rooms may reopen with seating limited to 25 percent of maximum capacity or 50 diners, whichever number is lower.

The sudden news was met with a variety of responses from those in the service industry; restaurant and bar owners as well as workers expressed everything from excitement about returning to work to dismay at the thought of allowing customers to return indoors. Some front-of-house workers described the difficulties in enforcing mask wearing and other safety precautions, while others shared fears and concerns about general increased exposure, especially with new, more infectious variants of the virus appearing in Oregon. And even with social distancing and mask wearing while face-to-face with diners, studies have suggested that no amount of indoor dining is safe.

Throughout the local restaurant industry, even among industry groups and restaurant owners reopening dining rooms this weekend, owners worry about welcoming diners indoors while restaurant workers remain unvaccinated. Currently, only seniors over 80 years old, incarcerated Oregonians, health care workers, and teachers can get vaccinated in Oregon; the state has yet to identify when restaurant workers would be able to receive COVID-19 vaccines. At this point, the state estimates that Oregonians over 65 will be able to receive the vaccine on March 1, and it’s still unclear whether restaurant workers will be considered “critical workers,” who will be eligible for vaccinations after those seniors, by the state’s designation.

This lack of clarity has inspired some restaurant workers to campaign on social media to be prioritized for the next round of coronavirus vaccines. The combination of delayed aid for restaurant workers, both financial and related to the vaccine, has left many chefs and restaurant workers frustrated with the state. “They literally do not give a fuck about the people that work in restaurants,” says Han Hwang, owner of Korean food cart Kim Jong Grillin’. “Without any of us getting the vaccine, what the fuck is the difference between last week and the 12th of February?”

For restaurant workers who feel uncomfortable with the Friday opening, concerns center on the fact that people see vaccinations and reopening of indoor dining as a sign that the threat of the pandemic has been alleviated. “Our current COVID case numbers are still twice as high as this past summer’s COVID cases,” said one bartender who wished to remain anonymous for fear of professional retribution. “I can have some hope in the fact that vaccines are rolling out, but just because you’re vaccinated doesn’t mean you aren’t a carrier. Those carriers are walking around feeling loose when the majority of the food and beverage industry still haven’t gotten the vaccines.”

In many cases, restaurant workers have become the main enforcers of COVID-19 safety protocols. Back in the summer of 2020, when onsite dining first reopened, Portland restaurant workers and bartenders witnessed and interacted with diners who regularly forgot or ignored state guidelines for mask-wearing and social distancing. The idea of reopening again and taking on that role has some restaurant workers dreading the premise of returning to indoor dining — especially unvaccinated. “We don’t even have a date or even an idea of when we’re going to get vaccinated,” says Adriana Garnica Alvarez, bar director for República, a new Mexican restaurant in the Pearl’s Ecotrust building. Garnica Alvarez has been working to serve takeout or in-person meals since before she started at República, and expressed frustration with how some customers behave. “We are on the frontline, we’ve had a year to use masks, and people still don’t know how to keep them up over their nose.”

With concerns coming from many workers, a large number of Portland restaurants have already announced that they would not reopen for indoor dining. Bars like Aloha’s 649, St Johns’ Leisure Public House, and Foster-Powell’s 5 & Dime will remain closed for indoor dining for the time being, as well restaurants like lauded Thai spot Eem and pizzeria Char. None of these restaurants are particularly small, and most could accommodate a decent number of guests. But even with the possibility of a snowstorm, the owners are choosing to only offer takeout and outdoor dining.

Nevertheless, some restaurants are moving toward indoor seating. Quaintrelle, a dark and normally intimate restaurant on Mississippi Avenue, will open its indoor dining room in time for Valentine’s Day (weather permitting), with around six tables in the double-decker space; the restaurant will also continue serving customers on its patio. For bar manager Camille Cavan, the choice to reopen for indoor dining is an understandable but fraught one. She doesn’t fault business owners for wanting to keep their restaurants open and their workers employed, but resents that the state is allowing diners to eat inside without developing what she calls a “foundation” for restaurants and their workers: “no package from the government, no health insurance, no hazard pay, nothing to provide ownership or management help for if [their] workers get sick,” she says. “Bottom line: if the state is going to look at us like essential workers, they need to treat us like essential workers.”

The hesitation to return to indoor dining is not universal, though, even among workers. For some of those who have been unemployed since Brown closed indoor dining in November, a return to work is desperately needed. “I haven’t been able to pay my rent since last June, I haven’t been able to go to my gym, to take the kids anywhere fun besides the park. I’m really ready to open up a little bit,” says bartender Amy Snyder. A single mother of two, Snyder works as a bartender at strip clubs Lucky Devil Lounge and Kit Kat Club, both of which plan to reopen on Friday after being completely closed since November. Snyder supplemented her unemployment with a mask-making company at home, but sales died off over the last few months. “I’m shocked … hearing from people who are hesitant. All my friends are stoked — we cannot wait,” she says about returning to bartending.

Cliff’s, a neighborhood tavern on NE Russell Street, will open for some limited indoor seating as well, says co-owner Sierra Kirk. She and her husband currently operate the bar as a skeleton crew with just two other occasional workers. Being able to run the bar with her husband, without having to put multiple employees at risk, helped aid in their decision to open the indoor dining room. “Obviously, it’s scary, it’s an unknown thing, but I feel more comfortable about it because I’m in charge of the protocols,” she says. “if something is making me uncomfortable, I can immediately address it.” Like many others, Kirk also stresses the dire need for vaccinations for workers.

Other workers were less than thrilled, but resigned to return to work. “I’ll deal with it, as I need the money. But I’ll probably be more anxious,” says a barista who wished to remain anonymous. “I’m not looking forward to all the people who will inevitably want to wander maskless around the cafe.”

Beyond the threat of COVID-19 infections, there’s also the risk to business owners and workers who may be forced to close or laid off once again. In November, COVID-19 rates spiked enough that Gov. Brown temporarily closed all restaurants, including outdoor dining, only to reverse some of that decision weeks later. Naomi Pomeroy, owner of cocktail lounge Expatriate and meal service Ripe, has been a vocal advocate for the industry since the pandemic began, even after closing her seminal restaurant Beast. “There are people who have been waiting for this moment, they’re hanging on by a goddamn thread, but it’s unfair to have this toggling back and forth,” she says. “We’ve been asked to open and close so many times.” Only time will tell if restaurants will be forced to shut down their dining rooms again.





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Health

Digital Race For COVID-19 Vaccines Leaves Seniors Without Computer Skills Behind : Shots


Seniors and first responders try to snag one of 800 doses available at a vaccination site in Fort Myers, Fla.

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Seniors and first responders try to snag one of 800 doses available at a vaccination site in Fort Myers, Fla.

Octavio Jones/Getty Images

With millions of older Americans eligible for coronavirus vaccines and limited supplies, many continue to describe a frantic and frustrating search to secure a shot, beset by uncertainty and difficulty.

The efforts to vaccinate people who are 65 and older have strained under the enormous demand that has overwhelmed cumbersome, inconsistent scheduling systems.

The struggle represents a shift from the first wave of vaccinations — health care workers in health care settings — which went comparatively smoothly. Now, in most places, elderly people are pitted against each other competing on an unstable technological playing field for limited shots.

“You can’t have the vaccine distribution be a race between elderly people typing and younger people typing,” says Jeremy Novich, a clinical psychologist in New York City, who has begun a group to help people navigate the technology to get appointments. “That’s not a race, that’s just cruel.”

While the demand is an encouraging sign of public trust in the vaccines, the challenges facing seniors also speak to the country’s fragmented approach that has left many confused and enlisting family members to hunt down appointments.

“It’s just maddening,” says Bill Walsh with AARP. It should be a smooth pathway from signing up to getting the vaccine and that’s just not what we’re seeing so far.”

Glitchy websites, jammed phone lines and long lines outside clinics have become commonplace as states expand who’s eligible — sometimes triggering a mad dash for shots that can sound more like trying to score a ticket for a music festival than obtaining a life-saving vaccine.

After being inundated, some public health departments are trying to hire more staff to handle their vaccination hotlines and to specifically target seniors who may not be able to navigate a complicated online sign up process.

“Just posting a website and urging people to go there is not a recipe for success,” says Walsh.

“Terribly competitive”

Like many seniors, Colleen Brooks, 85, had trouble sorting through the myriad online resources about how to find the vaccine where she lives, on Vashon Island in the Puget Sound near Seattle, Wash.

“It was an overwhelming amount of information,” she says. “I knew it was here some place, but it wasn’t easy to find out how to get it.”

After making calls, Brooks eventually got a tip from a friend who had spotted the vaccines being unloaded at their town pharmacy. When she dropped by her health clinic to inquire about how to sign up, it happened they were giving out shots on that same day.

That was totally serendipitous for me, but I actually personally know several seniors who just kind of gave up,” says Brooks.

Finding out how to get a vaccine appointment was more straightforward for Gerald Kahn, 76, who lives in Madison, Conn.

Kahn got an email notice from the state’s vaccine registration system telling him to make an appointment, but he ran into problems at the very end of the sign up process.

“As much as I would pound my finger on the face of my iPad, it didn’t do me any good,” he says.

So Kahn did what many have and called a younger family member who was able to help him finish the sign up process.

“I think there are a lot of people my age, maybe the preponderance, who can only go so far into the Internet, and then we’re not only stymied but also frustrated,” he says.

When Helen Francke, 92, logged on for a vaccine at the designated time, she discovered the spots available in Washington D.C. filled up almost instantaneously.

“It was evident that I was much too slow,” she says. “It’s terribly competitive and clearly favors those with advanced computer skills.”

The next week, Francke tried calling and going online — this time with the help of her neighbors — without success.

“If I had had to depend on the D.C. vaccination website and telephone, I’d still be anxious and unsuccessful,” says Francke, who only got a shot after finding information on her neighborhood listserv that directed her to a local hospital.

In Arizona, Karen Davis, 80, ended up on a roundabout quest through state and hospital websites with no clear sense of how to actually book an appointment.

I kept trying to do it and kind of banged my head against the wall too many times,” she says.

Davis, who’s a retired nurse, called her doctor and the pharmacy, and then eventually turned to a younger relative who managed to book a 5 A.M. appointment at a mass vaccine site.

“I’m sure they did not expect older people to be able to do this,” she says.

Meanwhile, Miguel Lerma, who lives in Phoenix, says his 69-year-old mother has been unsuccessful in finding a shot.

“She’s not an English speaker and doesn’t know technology well, and that’s how everything is being done,” says Lerma, 31.

Lerma says it’s especially painful to watch his mother struggle to get the vaccine — because he lost his father to COVID-19 last year..

“She’s mourning not only for my dad, but she’s also suffering as an adult now because she depended on him for certain tasks,” Lerma says. “He would’ve handled all this.”

“Desperate” for a shot, seniors look for help

When the vaccine rollout began it lacked federal coordination, which resulted in a patchwork of different rules and systems that vary state-to-state and even county-to-county.

Seniors feel those shortcomings acutely because of the reliance on digital systems and other barriers to access like transportation, says Vivian Nava-Schellinger at the National Council on Aging and National Institute of Senior Centers.

Nava-Schellinger thinks the government should be more aggressively recruiting senior centers and community organizations to help reach older adults.

“When you don’t have a coordinated effort, you will leave seniors behind and most likely they will be seniors who are in the more vulnerable populations,” she says.

Philip Bretsky, a primary care doctor in Southern California, says his older patients would typically call him or visit their local pharmacy for vaccines like the annual flu shot, rather than rely on online scheduling systems.

“That’s not how 85-year-olds have interacted with the health care system, so it’s a complete disconnect,” Bretsky says. “These folks are basically just investing a lot of time and not getting anything out of it.”

California’s recent decision to change its vaccination plan and open it up to those over 65 only adds to the confusion.

Bretsky says his patients are being told to call their doctor for information, but he isn’t even sure when his office, which is authorized to give the vaccine, will receive any.

Patients in this age group want to know that they’re at least being heard or somebody is thinking about the challenges they have,” he says.

There are some local efforts to make that happen.

In the village of Los Lunas, New Mexico, public health workers held an in-person sign-up event for seniors who needed assistance or simply a device connected to the internet.

A Florida senior center recently held a vaccination registration event and a clinic specifically for people over 80 who might not have a computer.

Jeremy Novich, the clinical psychologist in New York, teamed up with a few people to create an informal help service for older adults. It began as a small endeavor, advertised through a few synagogues and his Facebook page. They’ve now helped more than 100 people get shots.

“We have a huge number of requests that are just piling up,” says Novich.

“People are really desperate and they’re also confused because nobody has actually explained to them when they are expected to get vaccinated… it’s a big mess.”

The ongoing shortage of vaccines has led Novich to halt the service for now.

This story is from NPR’s partnership with Kaiser Health News.



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Bachelorette Tayshia Adams’ Fear Comes True as 1 Man Leaves


A mixed bag. Tayshia Adams eased into her new role as the Bachelorette during the Tuesday, November 10, episode, but one man could not get over her predecessor, Clare Crawley.

The 16 remaining suitors were excited when Tayshia arrived, and many felt she was more their type than Clare. Just as the men got comfortable introducing themselves, Chris Harrison revealed that four more would be joining the cast: Spencer, Montel, Peter and Noah.

Tayshia Adams Craig Sjodin/ABC

Spencer rubbed some the wrong way when he stole Tayshia away before she had a chance to meet the first batch of guys, but she seemed unfazed by the move and later gave him her first impression rose. She also canceled the rose ceremony so she could have more time with the group before cutting anyone.

Tayshia was worried some of the men might be hung up on Clare, but she forged ahead to her first group date. Spencer played an aggressive match of pool basketball against his competitors, which led Riley to elbow him in the mouth. Ultimately, the winning team received extra time with Tayshia at a barbecue, but all the guys on the date were allowed to attend the afterparty, during which Tayshia connected with Eazy and Zac. She gave the group date rose to Eazy, while Riley and others warned Spencer about his overconfident attitude.

Clare Crawley Chris Harrison Dale Moss The Bachelorette recap
Chris Harrison, Clare Crawley, and Dale Moss Craig Sjodin/ABC

Jason, for his part, struggled with Clare’s departure after deciding to stay and give things a try with Tayshia. He subsequently realized that he was in love with Clare and could not give all of himself to Tayshia, so he left, despite Tayshia pleading with him not to close himself off to the possibility of a relationship with her.

Tayshia was shaken by Jason’s exit, but she put her anxieties aside for her first one-on-one date with Brendan. The two connected over their divorces; Brendan and his high school sweetheart fell out of love, and Tayshia alleged her ex-husband cheated on her. The pair discovered they had more in common than they thought, and Tayshia declared that she could see herself marrying Brendan after giving him a rose.

Elsewhere in the episode, Harrison caught up with Clare and her fiancé, Dale Moss, following their engagement. The couple once again insisted they had no contact prior to filming, and he confessed he felt love at first sight with her. Although they boasted about being on the same page throughout their journey, Dale suggested they will get married before having kids, and Clare had a “whatever happens” approach to their family plan. Clare then shared that she was “thrilled” for Tayshia and hopes she finds a love like she did.

The Bachelorette airs on ABC Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET.

Listen to Here For the Right Reasons to get inside scoop about the Bachelor franchise and exclusive interviews from contestants



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It doesn’t matter who wins the election. The US leaves the Paris climate deal at midnight. – POLITICO



It will be bittersweet or the ultimate victory lap.

Finally, 1,253 days after U.S. President Donald Trump announced plans to leave the Paris climate deal, he will by Wednesday take his country out of the global agreement.

What does that mean?

The absence of the second biggest polluter on earth and the largest economy from climate geopolitics. That’s bad for progress on cutting emissions, both in the U.S. and overseas.

It gives cover to big fossil fuel producers, such as Brazil, Saudi Arabia and Australia, to do nothing. It gives others, such as India, a reason not to do more. It will throw pressure onto Europe to shoulder diplomatic leadership.

The 2015 pact between 197 countries committed to a goal to halt warming “well below” 2 degrees Celsius, and strive to hold it at 1.5 degrees, by garnering increasingly ambitious voluntary commitments from governments.

The U.S. State Department will no longer be an active member at U.N. climate meetings on the Paris deal. But it will remain an observer, allowed to sit in, and a member of the U.N. Framework Climate Convention (of which the Paris deal is just a part). No one really knows how this will work.

Is the timing coincidental?

Yes, totally.

Trump declared his intention to withdraw from the deal on July 1, 2017, but nothing actually happened. Under the rules of the Paris deal, any country wanting to withdraw had to wait three years from November 4, 2016 — the date the deal became international law.

The U.S. duly filed its divorce papers on November 4 last year. That means the one-year cooling-off period expires at midnight Eastern time on Tuesday: the same moment Americans and the world will be watching the new chapter of history unfold.

What would it take to go back in?

Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden has vowed to reenter the deal on his first day in office. He could do that through a brief executive order accepting the accord on behalf of the U.S. — just as Barack Obama did in 2016.

But a signature alone might not cut it. The U.S. would also need to submit a formal plan for cutting emissions, known as a nationally determined contribution or NDC. The rules aren’t clear about whether this is a prerequisite for joining or would have to follow shortly afterward.

Biden would have the Obama Administration’s NDC, which aimed to cut 26-28 percent of emissions between 2005 and 2025, sitting on the shelf. But he wants to raise the ambition of that pledge, along with much of the rest of the world, ahead of the COP26 U.N. talks in November 2021.

To do that, the administration would need a plan and policies — and, to implement it, the support of the U.S. Congress.

Is it really that easy?

There is the question of money. The U.S. committed $3 billion to the U.N. Green Climate Fund, which helps poorer countries cope with climate change and move to clean energy. Obama paid $1 billion of that amount.

Biden has said he will “recommit” to the fund, which implies back-paying the U.S. debt. But that commitment is several years old and the hosts of COP26 — the U.K. government — are calling for rich countries to double their previous climate finance commitments.

Meanwhile, the world is moving on. China’s President Xi Jinping last month declared his country would set a goal for net-zero emissions by 2060 — an announcement seen as an attempt to place Trump and the U.S. on the wrong side of a wave of political and economic momentum. Japan and South Korea followed with 2050 goals, and the EU looks set to dramatically increase its 2030 target next month.

There is also a question of trust. The U.S. has walked away from two climate deals it helped broker — Paris and the Kyoto Protocol. The world will take them back, but things won’t be the same.

This article is part of POLITICO’s premium policy service: Pro Energy and Climate. From climate change, emissions targets, alternative fuels and more, our specialized journalists keep you on top of the topics driving the Energy and Climate policy agenda. Email [email protected] for a complimentary trial.





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Politics

Violent Black Lives Matter Mob Attacks Sen. Rand Paul as He Leaves RNC in DC


Senator Rand Paul was assaulted by a violent Black Lives Matter mob as he left the Republican National Convention in DC on Thursday night.

The incident was caught on multiple livestreams.

As Sen. Paul and his wife were being escorted by police away from the event, a “protester” rushed up and shoved a police officer holding a bike into him.

TRENDING: You Knew This Was Coming… Nancy Pelosi: “I Don’t Think That There Should Be Any Debates… I Wouldn’t Legitimize a Conversation with Him” (VIDEO)

“Just got attacked by an angry mob of over 100, one block away from the White House. Thank you to @DCPoliceDept for literally saving our lives from a crazed mob,” Sen. Paul tweeted after the incident.

Sen. Paul is reportedly safe and unharmed.

DC became a warzone on Thursday night as “protesters” from all over the nation convened to oppose President Donald Trump’s RNC speech. Multiple people were assaulted and threats were made that they were going to burn down the historic St. John’s Church that they previously lit on fire in June.

A hideous leftist militant also assaulted an elderly man.





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Dining News

Rick Bayless Leaves Randolph Street Restaurants Leña Brava and Cruz Blanca


Rick Bayless has left his West Loop restaurants, depleting Randolph Street of one of its biggest guns. Bayless, the Oklahoma-born chef that’s made a fortune cooking and selling Mexican food, has exited Leña Brava and Cruz Blanca, the neighboring restaurants that opened in 2016. Bayless has left the restaurants to his long-time business partner, Manny Valdes. The two founded Frontera Foods, the Mexican food company known for chips, sauces, and more. They sold Frontera in 2016 to ConAgra Foods.

Leña Brava centers around cooking food over a wood fire. A restaurant aimed to showcase Bayless’s talent along Randolph Restaurant Row, where pricey mezcal sits on shelves behind the bar. Bayless and Monteverde chef Sarah Gruenenberg famously danced behind the bar celebrating their wins at the James Beard Awards gala after party.

“For me, [leaving is] super painful, super sad,” says Bayless. “I’ve always dreamed of being able to have restaurant with all wood-fired kitchen. I grew up in barbecue with all that wonderful wood flavor and everything. Every restaurant I’ve opened had a wood-fired element — to be able to do a whole wood fired kitchen was such a dream for me.”

Cruz Blanca plays the casual little sibling as a Oaxcan taqueria and brewery. While draft beer has plumetted during the pandemic, retail beer sales have helped weather the storm, says Valdes. While Valdes says “we’ve had to throw away a lot of beer,” sales at stores like Mariano’s and Whole Foods are up 50 to 60 percent. It’s not enough to offset COVID-19 related losses, but it’s slowed the bleeding.

Rick Bayless on stage in 2019 in New York.
Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images for NYCWFF

Both Bayless and Valdes are frank about the fact that their partnership has deteriorated. Valdes wouldn’t go into specifics of how the relationship had frayed, but says they’ve been considering the change since March. The pandemic has been grueling, and for success it requires an owner-operator on premises, he says. Valdes naturally oversaw the West Loop restaurants, while Bayless focuses on River North’s Frontera Grill, Topolobampo, and Bar Sotano.

Bayless says he and Valdes were already moving in different directions before the pandemic hit. Then the industry was upended almost overnight, and the fissures between the two became untenable. “It [wasn’t] working for either one of us, to constantly be at loggerheads,” Bayless says. “He wanted to make decisions I wasn’t comfortable with, so we decided it’s time now… in better times maybe we would have been able to work things out, but not now — it’s just too much.”

The economics of a pandemic restaurant industry have Valdes hoping to make the Randolph Street feel more like an affordable destination for locals. Where a customer can easily come in for a glass of wine and some wood-fired oysters without a reservation. Cruz Blanco stayed open for carryout and delivery during the pandemic and Valdes says the support from West Loop neighbors has astonished him. Leña Brava’s menu will slowly add more small plates: “We really want to become a neighborhood restaurant,” Valdes says.

Bayless is not nearly so optimistic about the state of the industry in River North. Historically reliant in large part upon hotel guests in the Loop and downtown workers, his restaurants are now fighting for the same small group of diners as every other establishment in the area. Even if he could operate at full capacity indoors, the demand just isn’t there, he says. “We started off in River North 33 years ago when it was a horrible neighborhood, and we’ve helped build it into the good neighborhood that it is now,” he says. “We’re seeing that overnight it can go from one of the best neighborhoods [for restaurants] to one of the worst.”

He’s primarily concerned with his clutch of Clark Street establishments, but his other ventures have suffered too — in January, he opened Tortazo, a partnership with Filipino fast-food giant Jollibee, inside the Willis Tower. At the time, 16,000 people worked there, and it was the best address in the city for a fast-casual restaurant, according to Bayless. Six weeks later, restaurant was shut down because of the pandemic.

A corner restaurant.

Ownership wants to make Leña Brava more of a casual restaurant.
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

During the shutdown and early stages of reopening, Bayless has turned his attention to activism, in part through the Independent Restaurant Coalition. He’s among those advocating for a bipartisan bill — the RESTAURANTS Act of 2020 (Real Economic Support that Acknowledges Unique Restaurant Assistance Needed to Survive) — that seeks economic relief for operators sinking further into the red every day. “Every restaurateur we talk to is barely holding on,” Bayless says. “We need an influx of capital right now so we can stop losing money and start moving toward growing our business back to where we can break even.”

Valdes is of Cuban descent. Bayless’s story as becoming a cultural ambassador for Mexican food has been widely told, whether on PBS or elsewhere. The Bayless name has drawn even more attention to Randolph Street, a place where Robert DeNiro just last week opened a Chicago location of Nobu Hotel. But a big-time chef’s name can be intimidating to some customers who come in with preconceptions of what to expect, Valdes says. They may feel the restaurant is reserved only for special occasions.

Bayless and Valdes continue to work together. Valdes is a minority partner in Tortas Frontera, the fast-casual restaurants with locations inside O’Hare International Airport. In January, the concept was more or less rebranded as Tortazo. When the restaurant first opened, Bayless and company hoped to open others across the country. Valdes also is an investor in Bayless Disney World restaurant in Orlando, Florida.

900 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60607



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Chef Kwame Onwuachi Leaves Game-Changing Afro-Caribbean Restaurant Kith/Kin


National culinary star Kwame Onwuachi has resigned as executive chef at Kith/Kin, the high-end Afro-Caribbean restaurant on D.C.’s Southwest Waterfront. Onwuachi announced he was leaving the restaurant in an Instagram post today, then sent Eater a joint statement on the news from himself and the InterContinental hotel that housed Kith/Kin in the Wharf development.

At Kith/Kin, Onwuachi explored his family’s roots in Nigeria, Jamaica, Trinidad, and New Orleans through cooking that traced the routes of the African diaspora. He made dishes like jerk chicken with tamarind barbecue sauce, egusi stew with monkfish, and whole fried snapper escovitch while giving them a platform to be celebrated in a posh hotel setting. Since opening the restaurant in the fall of 2017, Onwuachi won the James Beard award for Rising Star Chef of the Year (2019) and published a well-received memoir that chronicled his rise in the fine dining world as a young Black chef. The chef often spoke with pride about the diverse makeup of the dining room a Kith/Kin, which became a destination for visitors to Washington and a place for the Black community to celebrate milestones.

In a statement sent to Eater, James Ryan, the general manager at the hotel, says the InterContinental is “excited for the future of this innovative, landmark restaurant and look forward to sharing more details soon.” Onwuachi tells Eater that the InterContinental has the ability to “do what they want” with the restaurant, and he’ll be seeking an ownership stake in his next venture. Onwuachi declined further comment, directing Eater to his comments in the statement:

The vision behind Kith/Kin was to open new doors for diners, to educate them and to excite them, which I absolutely think we have accomplished. I wanted a place to cook from my heart, showcasing the food of my life, and celebrating my diverse heritage. I am so grateful for the last three and a half years where my team and I were able to make that dream a reality. I’ve grown tremendously as a leader here and learned so many valuable lessons that I will take with me throughout my career. I’m thankful for my partnership with InterContinental Washington D.C. – The Wharf who allowed me to run with my dream of sharing Afro-Caribbean cuisine with the world. I wish only the best for my team and colleagues as I begin my next exciting venture.

Representing the InterContinental, Ryan starts his statement off by thanking “our colleague” Onwuachi “for his vision, passion and dedication in bringing Kith/Kin to life as Executive Chef.” Ryan’s statement calls the chef a “visionary of the global culinary community” and says the company has built “a lifelong relationship with Kwame that we value to no end.”

As an upscale dining option built for on-site eating, Kith/Kin shut down completely when D.C. instituted a dine-in ban to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus in mid-March. The restaurant reopened for takeout June 5, and begin accepting reservations for indoor dining last week.

Kith/Kin marked a big comeback for the Top Chef star. His first D.C. restaurant, the exorbitant and ambitious Shaw Bijou, flopped in a matter of months, raising questions over whether a majority-white food media establishment was overly harsh in the way it treated the chef.

In an Instagram post announcing his departure, Onwuachi returns to one his favorite themes, opening an Afro-Caribbean restaurant in a waterfront location that was once a launching point for ships carrying enslaved people.

“This place was for dreamers, least notably me, but dreamers who maintained faith that one day their culture would be accepted as equal and significant,” Onwuachi writes.

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This is hard. This isn’t easy, but it’s necessary. Yesterday was my last service as the Executive Chef of Kith/Kin. Opening Kith/Kin was a dream, for me and for many. It was a dream for the 272 slaves from Georgetown that sailed down the Potomac, leaving from right in front of where Kith/Kin stands, not knowing where they’d end up. For the 77 slaves in 1848 that were trying to achieve freedom by commandeering a ship from the wharf with the goal of equality. A dream for the Native Americans and Africans who
met here, where these buildings stand, trading ideas and practices in order to survive. This place was for dreamers, least notably me, but dreamers who maintained faith that one day their culture would be accepted as equal and significant.
The road has been tough, the journey sometimes treacherous, but what truly brought us joy was our ability to contribute – to make Washington, D.C. a place where those dreams can come true. A place where everyone is welcomed; where the inaudible have a voice, and anyone can be themselves.
To my team, I have learned so much from each and every one of you. Thank you for pushing 110% every day and giving us almost 4 beautiful years of service. To the District, thank you for giving us a platform in order to give opportunities to all. Change is difficult and sometimes uncomfortable, but change is necessary for growth. Whatever my next venture is I will continue the dream and open something of my own where we can all stand taller together. Thank you for everything.

A post shared by Kwame Onwuachi (@chefkwameonwuachi) on





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