‘Very reasonable’ for local officials to reimplement mask mandates amid delta surge: Dr. Vivek Murthy

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(NEW YORK) — Local officials have the right to reimplement mitigation strategies to stop the spread of COVID-19 amid a surge in cases fueled by the delta variant, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy said Sunday.

“Unfortunately we’re seeing rises, particularly among the unvaccinated in many parts of the country now,” Murthy told ABC “This Week” co-anchor Martha Raddatz.

Approximately 97% of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the U.S. are among the unvaccinated and at least 58% of current reported cases were directly linked to the delta variant. At the end of May, the variant was estimated to account for just over 3% of new cases.

The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention has for the last two months said that vaccinated individuals can enter public, indoor spaces without a mask. Amid a surge in cases, Los Angeles County reinstated its indoor mask mandate in all public places for all individuals, regardless of vaccination status and at least 10 additional counties in California, including the city of Berkeley, have highly recommended all residents wear masks indoors again.

“In areas where there are low numbers of vaccinated people, where cases are rising, it’s very reasonable for counties to take more mitigation measures, like the mask rules coming out of LA,” Murthy continued. “And I anticipate that will happen in other parts of the country — and that’s not contradictory to the guidance the CDC issued.”

Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chair Hilda L. Solis told Raddatz in a separate interview on “This Week,” that the new mask mandate was not punishment for the vaccinated, but prevention.

“We still have 4 million people out of 10 million that haven’t been vaccinated — and many of them are young people,” Solis told Raddatz. “And we’re seeing that this transmission is so highly contagious that it will cost more in the long run.”

Murthy reinforced his support for LA County’s decision as an acceptable mitigation approach based on data on the ground. The county reported over 1,000 new COVID-19 cases daily this past week.

“We saw this during the last year of the pandemic, that we have large numbers of people gathering in indoor spaces that is the right setup for COVID-19 to spread,” Murthy said, adding that the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention will provide surge response teams to assist regions experiencing high coronavirus cases.

Raddatz asked Murthy about the World Health Organization’s warning that the delta variant and three additional variants of concern could prolong the pandemic and possibly lead to the emergence of deadlier strains of COVID-19.

“If we don’t get this under control now, what do you anticipate the fall looking like?” Raddatz asked.

“I am deeply concerned,” Murthy responded. “We’ve made so much progress over this past year, but what I worry about are those that we still have — millions of people in our country who are not vaccinated.”

“We have to still protect our children under 12 who don’t have a vaccine available to them.” Murthy added. “Our kids depend on the people around them being protected, being vaccinated in order to shield them from the virus. And that’s why, again, it’s so important for us to get vaccinated.”

“We have to still protect our children under 12 who don’t have a vaccine available to them.” Murthy added. “Our kids depend on the people around them being protected, being vaccinated in order to shield them from the virus. And that’s why, again, it’s so important for us to get vaccinated.”

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Why some civil liberties advocates worry about crackdown on ‘misinformation’

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(NEW YORK) — Misinformation – false information spread regardless of intent – is rampant across popular social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook.

Most speech, whether true or false, is protected under the U.S. legal system.

But questions about inaccurate information, spread maliciously or not, and its effects on many facets of our lives have led to efforts by social media platforms, fact-checkers and others to try to crack down.

The territory is murky and has ignited an intense debate as technology companies struggle to define the problem and attempt to get a handle on the flood of false and misleading information.

In the U.S., the situation came to a head during the 2020 presidential election cycle when social media platforms decided to fact-check and remove election-related statements from former President Donald Trump and ultimately decided to suspend or ban him in the wake of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol for tweets that ran counter to the company’s glorification of violence policy. Facebook later announced the suspension would be lifted in two years under certain conditions.

The move led to an outcry, largely from conservatives as well as civil libertarians about free speech and the rights of social media companies to regulate what has become what many consider the new public square.

Misinformation has become such a crisis, in fact, that the U.S. surgeon general, Vivek Murthy, recently issued a warning about false information surrounding COVID-19 vaccines. And President Biden Friday said it was “killing people,” a description Facebook took exception to.

Some governments, however, have taken steps to go even further, and there are fears of using the concept of misinformation broadly to target dissent.

In recent years, Singapore, for example, implemented a law that requires platforms to remove certain posts that go against “public interest” such as security threats or the public’s perception of the government.

Similarly, Russia can legally fine those who show “blatant disrespect” online toward the state.

India takes on misinformation

In February, India, the world’s largest democracy, implemented new rules to regulate online content, allowing the government to censor what it claims to be misinformation.

Under the rules, large social media companies must appoint Indian citizens to a compliance role, remove content within 36 hours of legal notice and also set up system to respond to complaints, according to Reuters.

These restrictions give the government more power, in some cases, to dictate what can and cannot be circulated on digital platforms in the country.

For example, the World Health Organization (WHO) said that the COVID-19 variant “B.1.617,” now known as delta, was first detected in India last year.

According to Reuters, in May 2021, the Indian government sent a letter to social media companies demanding that all content that names or implies “India Variant,” as it became commonly (but not officially) known, be removed from platforms, calling that moniker “FALSE.”

In another case, late last year, farmers in India clashed with police over new laws that they believe will exploit their practices and reduce income while giving power to large corporations. In February, the Indian government issued an emergency order that demanded Twitter remove posts from the platform that used the hashtag “#farmergenocide.”

The government said in a statement that while India values the freedom of speech, expression “is not absolute and subject to reasonable restrictions.”

A Twitter spokesperson said in a statement to ABC News that when a valid legal request is received, it is reviewed under both Twitter Rules and local law. Should the content violate Twitter’s rules, it may be removed from the platform.

“If it is determined to be illegal in a particular jurisdiction, but not in violation of the Twitter Rules, we may withhold access to the content in India only,” they continued. “In all cases, we notify the account holder directly so they’re aware that we’ve received a legal order pertaining to the account.”

Separately, WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, has sued the Indian government, which is looking to trace its users, who use encrypted messages. The government wants to have the ability to identify people who “credibly accused of wrong doing,” according to Reuters. Although the Indian government said it will respond to the lawsuit, it hasn’t done so yet.

Krishnesh Bapat, a legal fellow with the Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF), an Indian digital liberties organization that seeks to ensure technology respects fundamental rights, highlighted the implications of the WhatsApp case.

“This is one of the most problematic consequences of these rules,” Bapat said. “Several experts have suggested that the only way to implement this would be to remove encryption.”

End-to-end encryption is a key feature for WhatsApp users, as it protects private conversations from being accessed by any entity outside the chat. WhatsApp claims the new rules are unconstitutional and a clear breach to user privacy.

“India is a big cautionary tale for how we have to be really careful of the most well-intentioned regulatory power,” said David Greene, senior staff attorney and civil liberties director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). “We used to say, ‘well that’s not a threat to democratic societies.’ I don’t think we can say that anymore, India’s a democratic society.”

ABC News could not immediately reach the IT Ministry for comment.

Difficulty in regulating

Platforms rely heavily on users flagging potentially harmful posts that break community guidelines, and that self-regulatory model may be the best bet for the future of content regulation, Greene said, as opposed to government or institutional regulation.

Similarly, A Yale Law review published earlier this year explains that a self-regulatory model should be considered to combat the spread of misinformation in India. The review says that implementing such a model should “ensure that the ‘outcomes-based’ code is not vague or tilted to serve state interests, and does not incentivize platforms to adopt an overly heavy approach to removing content. The outcomes should be built around common objectives, and should provide flexibility for platforms to develop protocols and technological tools to achieve them.”

The New York State Bar Association recently suggested that government policy and oversight can be just as important as a self-regulatory model when dealing with misinformation. It also mentions that combatting misinformation is not solely for one entity to address, claiming that it will require corporations, governments, educators and journalists to work together in an effort to prevent the continued spread of harmful, inaccurate information.

“Most democratic legal systems have robust free speech,” Greene said. “We find a lot of protection for false statements, and this is supposed to protect people because mistakes are inevitable. False statements have to actually cause a specific and direct harm before they’re actionable.”

This means that there must be a clear intent of defamation, written or spoken, in order for legal action to be taken, which is historically difficult to prove. In the U.S., libel laws in particular differ state to state, which adds an extra layer of complexity to any attempt at content regulation.

Greene also suggested that given the difficulty in casting information as verifiably false as well as the overwhelming number of posts that need to be reviewed, it’s nearly impossible for platforms to regulate content well.

In February 2018, the first Content Moderation & Removal at Scale conference was hosted by the Santa Clara University High Tech Law Institute. Experts and advocates gathered to “explore how internet companies operationalize the moderation and removal” of user-generated content. They developed what’s now known as the Santa Clara Principles.

The model, which is endorsed by EFF among other notable groups, provides three guiding principles for content moderators – being transparent about the numbers of people permanently suspended or banned, proper notice and reason for doing so and a “meaningful” appeals process.

Greene says that the Santa Clara Principles can be utilized as a guideline for companies in an effort to preserve basic human rights in content moderation. Alternatively, regulation that involves prescreening or filtering posts can have serious human rights implications, but although a post may include false information that contains offensive language appearing to hurt certain people or groups, it’s usually not illegal.

“By mandating filters, users are subjected to automated decision making and potentially harmful profiling,” Greene explained. “This has a chilling effect on speech and undermines the freedom to receive impartial information. When knowing to be censored, users change behavior or abstain from communicating freely.”

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Summer storms batter East Coast, while fires scorch West

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(NEW YORK) — There were over 170 reports of severe weather in the U.S. on Saturday, the majority of them on the East Coast. Out West, fire alerts range from California to Wyoming and wildfires continue to blaze.

In New Jersey, A 58-mph wind gust was reported at Newark Airport. A 78-mph wind gust was reported just off shore of Cape May.

Quarter-sized hail was reported in New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Nearly 4.55 inches of rain fell in Stanton, New Jersey, on Saturday. 3.39 inches of rain was reported near the New York-Connecticut border and nearly 4 inches of rain was reported near Buffalo, New York

New York City now has had 9.11 inches of rain so far for the month of July. The average rainfall for all of July is 4.60 inches. The wettest July on record in New York city is 11.89 inches of rainfall.

Boston has had 8.93 inches of rain so far in July. The wettest July on record in Boston is 11.69 inches.

Hartford, Connecticut, has had 8.40 inches for the month of July. The wettest July on record in Hartford is 11.24 inches.

There are still a handful of flash flood watches across parts of the Northeast Sunday. That is because some of the rain is still moving out and could cause some additional flooding. Some more rain showers will linger in parts of New England through the day Sunday. On Monday, there will still be an isolated chance of a shower, but overall the region will be drier and milder.

Temperatures will drop to comfortable levels in the Northeast for the next 48 hours, before the heat builds back up on Tuesday.

In the West, there are fire alerts from California to Wyoming. In California, monsoon storms could bring dry lightning which could easily start wildfires.

The Bootleg Fire in Oregon is now at 298,662 acres, still 22% contained. The Tamarack Fire in Alpine County, California, which began earlier in July, is now at 21,000 acres. This fire rapidly grew this weekend and there are new evacuation orders for parts of the region.

Excessive heat will continue today in parts of Idaho and Montana. The heat will slide eastward this weekend and give some of the upper Midwest hot temperatures including parts of North Dakota which could be over 100 degrees during the first part of this week.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Delta variant surge among the unvaccinated is ‘deeply concerning’: Dr. Vivek Murthy

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(NEW YORK) — Local officials have the right to reimplement mitigation strategies to stop the spread of COVID-19 amid a surge in cases fueled by the delta variant, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy said Sunday.

“Unfortunately we’re seeing rises, particularly among the unvaccinated in many parts of the country now,” Murthy told ABC “This Week” co-anchor Martha Raddatz.

Approximately 97% of new cases in the U.S. are among the unvaccinated and at least 58% of those cases were directly linked to the delta variant. At the end of May, the variant was estimated to account for just over 3% of new cases.

“In areas where there are low numbers of vaccinated people, where cases are rising, it’s very reasonable for counties to take more mitigation measures, like the mask rules coming out of LA,” Murthy continued. “And I anticipate that will happen in other parts of the country — and that’s not contradictory to the guidance the CDC issued.”

Los Angeles County reinstated an indoor mask mandate in all public places for all individuals, regardless of vaccination status and at least 10 additional counties in California, including the city of Berkeley, have fully reinstated mask mandates or highly recommended all residents wear masks indoors again.

Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chair Hilda Solis told Raddatz in a separate interview on “This Week,” that the new mask mandate was not punishment for the vaccinated, but prevention.

“We still have 4 million people out of 10 million that haven’t been vaccinated — and many of them are young people,” Solis told Raddatz. “And we’re seeing that this transmission is so highly contagious that it will cost more in the long run.”

Murthy reinforced his support for LA County’s decision as an acceptable mitigation approach based on data on the ground. The county reported over 1,000 new COVID-19 cases daily this past week.

“We saw this during the last year of the pandemic, that we have large numbers of people gathering in indoor spaces that is the right setup for COVID-19 to spread,” Murthy said, adding that the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention will provide surge response teams to assist regions experiencing high coronavirus cases.

Raddatz asked Murthy about the World Health Organization’s warning that the delta variant and three additional variants of concern could prolong the pandemic and possibly lead to the emergence of deadlier strains of COVID-19.

“If we don’t get this under control now, what do you anticipate the fall looking like?” Raddatz asked.

“I am deeply concerned,” Murthy responded. “We’ve made so much progress over this past year, but what I worry about are those that we still have — millions of people in our country who are not vaccinated.”

“We have to still protect our children under 12 who don’t have a vaccine available to them.” Murthy added. “Our kids depend on the people around them being protected, being vaccinated in order to shield them from the virus. And that’s why, again, it’s so important for us to get vaccinated.”

Raddatz also asked Murthy about his warning about COVID-19 misinformation online and what else social media companies like Facebook need to do to stop it.

“I’ve been deeply concerned about the flow of misinformation across technology platforms and throughout society over the last many months,” Murthy responded.

“I’ve called for greater transparency in terms of the data that they have to share with independent researchers so we can get a better sense of how much misinformation is flowing on these sites and what strategies are working to address them,” he added.

“I also ask people across our country to stop and verify your sources, before you post stories online,” Murthy concluded.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Reinstating mask mandate in LA ‘not punishment, but prevention’: Solis

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(LOS ANGELES) — Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chair Hilda L. Solis said Sunday that restoring the mask mandate there is “not punishment, but prevention” as the county responds to the alarming spike in cases of the highly transmissible delta variant.

“We’re up to almost 1,900 cases and over 460 individuals that are now in our ICU unit. This is very disturbing,” Solis told ABC “This Week” co-anchor Martha Raddatz. “As responsible elected officials, we have to do something, and in this case, the county has the ability to do that through our health order, through our health officer.”

The county reinstated the mask mandate over the weekend, nearly a month after California Gov. Gavin Newsom waived many of the state’s COVID-19 restrictions. Though roughly 52% of LA County residents have been vaccinated, it applies to all county residents regardless of vaccination status.

“We’re seeing that this transmission is so highly contagious that it will cost more in the long run if we have to see our hospitals being impacted, our ICU units, as well as our health care workers,” Solis said Sunday.

Raddatz asked Solis about the possibility the move might disincentivize vaccines.

“A recent survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that once vaccine-hesitant people saw that vaccinated people could go out in the community, it was an incentive, and those easing of restrictions helped the hesitant people go out and get the shot. Are you worried that they won’t do that now?” Raddatz asked.

“No, in fact, just yesterday we held an event out in a park and we saw many adults coming in with their children. And I think, because of the heightened information regarding the delta variant, that more people are more concerned,” Solis replied.

Solis said that the county is promoting programs aimed at “lessening the hardships” to receive a vaccine and to ease vaccine hesitancy.

“We are going with groups on the ground to parks, to swimming pools, to swap meets — anywhere you can think of where we are encouraging people to get vaccinated,” Solis said.

“I just want to caution people that we still have many youngsters under the age of 12, who are not eligible to get vaccinated. So we, as responsible adults, should be taking a proactive approach and making sure that we mask up and that we also get vaccinated as soon as possible,” Solis also told Raddatz.

Solis added that she believes more California counties will introduce similar mask mandates in the near future.

“I think that other counties and other jurisdictions are going to also follow suit in the coming days and let these numbers go in the different direction, but right now they continue to rise,” she said.

Raddatz asked about enforcement.

“Enforcement is always an issue, but the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department released a statement saying they will not enforce mask-wearing, arguing the order contradicts CDC guidelines,” Raddatz said. “So how do you plan on enforcing this mask mandate?”

“Our public health department is typically the individuals that go out and do inspections, so I don’t see where the sheriff really has to come in and weigh in on the manner that he might have thought,” Solis said.

“I’m not concerned about that. I think the public, overall, is smart enough to understand what is being said and how to protect themselves,” she added.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Washington Nationals game halted after shooting outside park, fans told to leave

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(WASHINGTON) — The Washington Nationals game was called to an abrupt halt on Saturday night after a shooting outside the stadium.

Police said at a late-night press conference that the shooting was an isolated incident and believed to be a shootout between two vehicles.

Earlier, the team had confirmed there was a shooting outside the Third Base Gate at Nationals Park. After initially telling fans to stay in their seats due to an “incident” outside, they were then told to exit the stadium through the Centerfield or Right Field gates.

The game was in the bottom of the sixth inning when fans heard loud pops outside the park. The game was halted as fans were seen heading for the concourse and some even exited the stands onto the field and into the dugouts.

The D.C. Metropolitan Police Department said two people were shot outside the park and there did not appear to be an ongoing threat. Police later said a third person, a woman who was attending the game but was outside the park, was also struck by gunfire.

She is expected to be OK, police said. Two others believed to be involved in the shooting are being questioned at the hospital.

One car involved in the shooting has been recovered and they are looking for the second, authorities said.

The Nationals were losing, 8-4, at the time the game was stopped.

The team said it will pick up the game on Sunday where it left off with a nine-inning game. The game will be part of a doubleheader.

A 6-year-old child was killed in a shooting in Washington, D.C., overnight with officials holding a press conference to announce a $60,000 reward for information into the shooting. Homicides have been on the rise in the city since 2017, according to city crime data.

ABC News’ Sarah Shales contributed to this report.

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Europe flood death toll surpasses 183: Latest updates

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(LONDON) — Europe’s devastating flood death toll rose to at least 183 on Sunday with hard-hit west Germany and Belgium reeling from fast-rising waters that destroyed neighborhoods, swallowed up streets and swept away cars.

There are at least 156 dead in Germany, according to authorities. The hardest-hit areas in Germany are Rhineland-Palatinate, where 110 were killed in the catastrophic flooding and in North Rhine-Westphalia, where 46 people died, the Koblenz Police and the German Ministry of Interior said. About 150 people remain unaccounted for in Germany.

In Belgium, at least 27 are dead and 103 others remain unaccounted for on Sunday, according to the Belgian Interior Minister. The death toll is expected to rise.

The front-runner candidate poised to succeed Chancellor Angela Merkel in Germany’s September election, Armin Laschet, faced backlash after he was seen in photos turning to another person and laughing as Germany’s president spoke about the catastrophic floods to reporters, The Associated Press reported. Laschet has since issued an apology.

“The fate of those affected, which we heard about in many conversations, is important to us,” he wrote on Twitter Saturday night. “So I regret all the more the impression that arose from a conversational situation. That was inappropriate and I am sorry.”

Western countries in Europe were hit with record rainfall that caused rivers to swell and triggered catastrophic flooding this week throughout Germany and Belgium, and southern parts of the Netherlands and Switzerland.

Horrific images revealed entire communities inundated with water, collapsed edifices and rescue workers combing through the wreckage.

The waters started to recede in some parts of Western Europe as of Saturday and efforts were launched to clean up the leftover debris and potentially discover more bodies.

Many areas are still grappling without electricity or telephone service.

Belgian broadcaster RTBF reported that some 17,150 houses in Belgium were without power as of Saturday and roughly 30,000 households did not have access to drinking water. About 3,500 homes had no gas and officials warned that a shortage of emergency supplies may last for several weeks.

Officials said 85% of the homes inspected in the Liege region of Belgium are at risk of collapsing.

As the water receded in some parts of Germany, an ABC News crew was able to reach the picturesque village of Ahrweiler, which had been cut off by flooding and where numerous homes dating back to the 16th century were damaged.

A large, concrete bridge leading into the Ahrweiler was destroyed by the flooding and some homes along the Ahr River were split in half. Uprooted trees littered the river.

Surrounded by medieval fortress walls, residents in the town were out over the weekend shoveling thick mud off of cobblestone streets and pointed out a water line that was well over six feet tall.

One man in Ahrweiler told ABC News he saved his elderly mother from the floodwaters. He said the water rose so quickly he sought refuge on the roof of his home where he watched as the flood carried cars down the street.

The severe weather triggered widespread evacuations. Some 700 people were evacuated from part of the German town of Wassenberg after the breach of a dike on the Run River. Thousands of residents in several Dutch towns evacuated Thursday and Friday were allowed to return home Saturday morning.

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier traveled Saturday to Erftstadt, southwest of Cologne.

Caretaker Prime Minister of the Netherlands Mark Rutte visited impacted towns Friday and said the region had been through “three disasters.”

“First, there was corona, now these floods, and soon people will have to work on cleanup and recovery,” he said. “It is disaster after disaster after disaster. But we will not abandon Limburg,” the southern province hit by the floods. His government has declared the flooding a state of emergency, opening up national funds for those affected.

German and Belgian officials said rescue and recovery efforts are now underway and crews are working to shore up dikes and protect roads.

In Germany, more than 19,000 emergency forces are conducting rescue operations in the state of North Rhine Westphalia, according to the regional government. In the western state of Rhineland-Palatinate, police said they received reports of 618 people injured, DPA reported.

Speaking alongside U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed shock over the scope of devastation from the flooding.

“I grieve for those who have lost their lives in this disaster,” Merkel said during a joint press conference at the White House in Washington, D.C. “I fear the full extent of this tragedy will only be seen in the coming days.”

Merkel returned to Germany over the weekend and visited the hard-hit town of Schuld in the Rhineland-Palatinate region. She described the devastation as “surreal” and “terrifying,” and pledged quick financial aid.

“Germany is a strong country,” Merkel told officials in Schuld. “We will stand up to this force of nature, in the short term, but also in the medium and long term.”

ABC News’ Morgan Winsor contributed to this report

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Europe flood death toll surpasses 160: Latest updates

Abdulhamid Hosbas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

(LONDON) — Europe’s devastating flood death toll surpassed 160 on Saturday, with hard-hit west Germany and Belgium reeling from fast-rising waters that destroyed neighborhoods, swallowed up streets and swept away cars.

Western countries in Europe were hit with record rainfall that caused rivers to swell and triggered catastrophic flooding this week in Germany, Belgium, southern parts of the Netherlands and Switzerland.

Horrific images reveal entire communities inundated with water, collapsed edifices and rescue workers combing through wreckage.

As of Saturday, the waters started to recede and efforts are underway to clean up the leftover debris and potentially discover more bodies.

In Germany, 141 people have been reported dead, with 98 confirmed dead in Rhineland-Palatinate state and another 43 in the neighboring North Rhine Westphalia state. Many are still missing more than two days after massive flooding hit the region, the outlet reported.

Belgium’s national crisis center said Saturday afternoon the country confirmed 24 deaths.

Many areas are still grappling without electricity or telephone service.

Belgian broadcaster RTBF reported that some 17,500 do not have power and approximately 30,000 households do not have access to drinking water as of Saturday morning in Belgium. About 3,500 homes have no gas and the lack of supply may last for several weeks.

The severe weather triggered widespread evacuations. Some 700 people were evacuated from part of the German town of Wassenberg after the breach of a dike on the Run River. Thousands of residents in several Dutch towns evacuated Thursday and Friday were allowed to return home Saturday morning.

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier is slated to travel Saturday to Erftstadt, southwest of Cologne.

Rescue workers launched a harrowing effort in Erftstadt on Friday after people got trapped when the ground gave way and their homes collapsed, according to The Associated Press. By Saturday morning no casualties in that incident had been confirmed, the outlet reported.

Caretaker Prime Minister of the Netherlands Mark Rutte visited impacted towns Friday and said the region had been through “three disasters.”

“First, there was corona, now these floods, and soon people will have to work on cleanup and recovery,” he said. “It is disaster after disaster after disaster. But we will not abandon Limburg,” the southern province hit by the floods. His government has declared the flooding a state of emergency, opening up national funds for those affected.

Rescue and recovery efforts are now underway to shore up dikes and protect roads, German and Belgian officials said.

In Germany, over 19,000 emergency forces are conducting rescue operations in the state of North Rhine Westphalia, according to the regional government. In the west state of Rhineland-Palatinate, police said they received reports of 618 people injured, DPA reported.

Speaking alongside U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed shock over the scope of devastation from the flooding.

“I grieve for those who have lost their lives in this disaster,” Merkel said during a joint press conference at the White House in Washington, D.C. “I fear the full extent of this tragedy will only be seen in the coming days.”

ABC News’ Morgan Winsor contributed to this report

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7 rescued, 1 missing after Boston Harbor boating accident

ABC

(BOSTON) — Seven people have been rescued and one person is still missing following a boating accident in the Boston Harbor early Saturday.

At about 3 a.m. a center console boat with eight people on board hit a day marker, “causing all 8 to enter the water,” the U.S. Coast Guard stated.

Officials responded to the incident and seven people were recovered, five of them transported by Boston EMS to a hospital, Boston Fire said.

The names and ages of the recovered boaters have not been released.

Now, an inter-agency search is underway for the missing boater.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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Biden said crime isn’t ‘a red or blue issue — it’s an American issue.’ What do Americans think?

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(WASHINGTON) — President Joe Biden has focused the opening months of his presidency largely on domestic issues, including crime and gun violence.

Last month, he unveiled a multi-tiered strategy on gun crime that includes giving federal resources to police departments and letting communities use pandemic relief funds for prevention programs, including the hiring of counselors and social workers.

“This shouldn’t be a red or blue issue — it’s an American issue,” Biden said at the time.

But how to deal with crime, particularly during ongoing conversations regarding the role of policing and alternative crime prevention matters, tends to splinter along party lines — and within the parties themselves. Not all Democrats are in lockstep with Biden’s plans, and some Republicans agree with them. Some 26% of Democrats disapprove of Biden’s work on crime, according to a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll, while only 6% of Republicans approve of how Biden has handled the issue.

One of Biden’s plans — increased funding, especially in impoverished areas, for gun crime prevention — has support across both parties: 61% of Republicans and 90% of Democrats.

“I feel like there’s always room for improvement,” Bailey Dockery, a Democratic voter from North Carolina, told ABC News after telling a pollster she disapproved, but adding that Biden is likely “doing the best he can.”

Dockery said that there “needs to definitely be control over who’s allowed to have a gun,” but she doesn’t think gun control laws should involve confiscating people’s guns: “When somebody tells you not to do something, you want to do it 10 times harder.”

“Crime reform is not what I think it should be, with the corrections system, criminal justice system … not enough rehabilitation,” Robert Bell, a Democratic voter from Ohio who also said he disapproves, told ABC News.

The administration should focus more on “what are the initiating factors in crime,” he said, including a lack of housing and community resources.

The ABC News/Washington Post poll was released during an uptick in crime in the United States, with 24% more homicides and 22% more gun assaults in the first quarter of 2021 compared with that period in 2020, according to a study by the National Commission on COVID-19 and Criminal Justice. There are also ongoing discussions in both local and federal government about alternatives to policing aimed at the underlying causes of crime.

Federal policy on crime and related issues has also been under the microscope.

“Today, there is an emerging recognition that federal dollars have helped deepen today’s devastating fissures between police and the communities they purport to serve,” the non-partisan Brennan Center for Justice think tank at New York University School of Law wrote in a recent analysis.

But while most Republicans polled said they disapprove of the Biden administration’s work on crime, some said they support his efforts.

“There seems to be less violence going on since he’s been in power,” Paul Brazezicke, a Republican voter from Pennsylvania, told ABC News in a follow-up interview.

Sandra Buchanan, a Republican from Mississippi, said she approves of Biden’s handling of crime because “I think he’s doing a good job on everything he’s doing” and feels that crime isn’t the fault of the president but of individuals.

Other Republicans who spoke with ABC News said they’re skeptical of some alternatives to policing, including hiring more social workers to work alongside police, but they do believe improving economic opportunities in underserved areas would help.

“I just think, if someone’s at the point where they’re committing a crime” or in a similar high-stakes situation, they won’t be talked out of it by a social worker, said David Patton, a voter from Connecticut.

But he does believe increased funding for communities could have an impact. Patton said he was a driver for Frito-Lay who delivered to inner-city communities, and in “one city where they did some nice work … [it] made people more respectful to the area, for lack of a better word.”

Sheila Tabone of Mississippi, once a Republican but now a registered independent, said she felt that using social workers to reduce crime wouldn’t work “because it’s too little, too late in a lot of cases.”

She said she was a psychiatric nurse for six years, and focused on individuals with mental illness in the community at times, adding, “We do not have the resources for these people so they can live.”

When it comes to funding communities, Tabone said “throwing money at a problem without a plan doesn’t work,” but she supports plans to fund and train police departments, and plans “to help people who want to live a decent life to live a decent life.”

The views of Democratic voters not in lockstep with the administration or national Democrats on crime echo those of recent New York City Democratic mayoral primary winner Eric Adams, the Brooklyn borough president and a former police officer. He called the priorities of national Democrats on gun crimes “misplaced” in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper on Monday, saying more focus should be on the spread of handguns than on just assault rifles.

But Adams also was among the community leaders and law enforcement officials who met with Biden in the White House on Monday to discuss plans for reducing gun crimes. He told reporters afterward, “Why did it take so long before we heard the gunshots that families were listening and hearing every night. … This president said, this is not the America we’re going to live in.”

ABC News’ Molly Nagle contributed to this report.

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