What We're Watching: Biden's immigration dilemma, "illiberals" sue EU, China tramples on HK democracy, Lego sales soar

Migrant families with children walk along a dirt road after crossing the Rio Grande River into the United States from Mexico in Penitas, Texas, U.S., March 6, 2021.

Immigrants flock to the US-Mexico border: President Biden has already undone many of the Trump administration's harsh immigration programs, saying that he is ushering in more "humane" policies. Since then, an influx of migrants mainly from Central America has flocked to the US-Mexico border in the hopes of seeking asylum in the United States. The number of children and families reaching the border increased by more than 100 percent between January and February 2021, according to US Customs and Border Protection. Importantly, the number of children arriving on their own has also surged 60 percent in that time, presenting a particular challenge for the US president, who campaigned heavily against Trump's policy of detaining unaccompanied minors. The Biden administration says that the recent surge is linked to a renewed sense of "hope" after Trump's hardline immigration stance, but this development puts Biden in a massive bind: he wants to stay true to his image as a humane and compassionate leader, while also not opening the floodgates on immigration — still a hot button issue in the United States. Indeed, this problem is only going to get worse in the months ahead.


"Illiberals" vs EU: EU member states Hungary and Poland have filed a petition with the European Court of Justice over the bloc's budget provision that conditions disbursement of funds on respect for the "rule of law" within member states. The provision, which is baked into the EU's 2021-2027 budget as well as the 750 billion euro pandemic relief package passed last summer, has irked Budapest and Warsaw, who argue that doling out the cash should be linked solely to meeting key economic objectives and fiscal rules. For years, Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who often boasts of his country's "illiberal democracy," has been at loggerheads with the EU over his attacks on the independent judiciary and stifling of the media. Meanwhile, Polish President Andrzej Duda and his ruling Law and Justice Party have also clashed with Brussels over the conservative Polish government's erosion of democratic principles and discrimination against the LGBTQ community. The complaint now makes its way through the courts, a process that could take up to two years — delaying the disbursement of some funds that desperate Europeans need as the continent continues to grapple with a rising caseload and a sluggish vaccine drive.

China "fixes" Hong Kong elections: China's rubber-stamp parliament approved on Thursday the ruling Communist Party's plan to reduce the number of Hong Kong lawmakers elected by the public and replace them with appointees picked by a pro-Beijing committee. This means that more members of the city's legislature will now be chosen by the Chinese politburo than by Hong Kong voters. China's National People's Congress also consented to a rule requiring all aspiring lawmakers to pledge their loyalty to China in order to qualify as candidates under Beijing's draconian national security law. We've said this before, but Hong Kong democracy is effectively over since it'll be impossible for the pro-democracy bloc to ever win control of the territory's legislative council. Interestingly, the two proposals were backed by 2,985 members of the National People's Congress with zero votes against... and one (gasp!) abstention. We now expect to see the usual strong-worded condemnations from democratic governments around the world, which are likely to be met with the usual eye-rolls in China.

Soaring plastic bricks: Sales of Lego's colorful plastic bricks jumped nearly 20 percent in 2020. Kids trapped at home by the pandemic need something to do, and many parents want their diversions to be less digital and more imaginative. Fun bonus fact: many adults play with Lego sets too. #ThankYouDenmark.

Early employment can set a young person on a trajectory for success, providing both a paycheck and a stepping-stone for improving academic performance.

Bank of America is committed to investing in youth employment, funding $160 million since 2018 to connect youth and young adults to jobs and mentoring.

The minutiae of supply chains makes for boring dinner table talk, but it's increasingly becoming a hot topic of conversation now that packages are taking much longer to arrive in the consumer-oriented US, while prices of goods soar.

With the issue unlikely to be resolved anytime soon, right-wing media have dubbed President Biden the Grinch Who Stole Christmas, conjuring images of sad Christmas trees surrounded by distraught children whose holiday gifts are stuck somewhere in the Pacific Ocean.

It hasn't been a good run for Uncle Joe in recent months. What issues are tripping him up?

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Three years ago, Facebook changed its algorithms to mitigate online rage and misinformation. But it only made Facebook worse by boosting toxic engagement, says Nick Thompson, The Atlantic CEO & former WIRED editor-in-chief. Thompson believes Facebook simply got in over its head, rather than becoming intentionally "evil" like, say, Big Tobacco with cigarettes. "I think they just created something they couldn't control. And I think they didn't grasp what was happening until too late." Watch his interview with Ian Bremmer on the latest episode of GZERO World.

From overall health and wellness to representation in the global workforce, women and girls have faced serious setbacks over the past 18+ months. They also hold the key to more robust and inclusive growth in the months and years ahead: McKinsey & Company estimates that centering recovery efforts on women could contribute $13 trillion to global GDP by 2030.

On October 28th at 12pm ET, as part of our "Measuring What Matters" series, GZERO Media and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will look beyond traditional indicators of economic recovery to examine COVID-19's impact on girls and women, specifically in the areas of health and employment.

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This year, American kids who've asked Santa for L.O.L. Surprise! dolls, Nerf blasters, or classic Legos may be disappointed. The delivery of these and other in-demand toys could be delayed due to pandemic-related supply chain disruptions that are still hitting US businesses and consumers hard. Container vessels loaded with precious cargo are waiting days to enter busy US ports, while within the country truck drivers are working flat out to meet soaring demand for goods of all kinds. Products are getting wildly expensive or arriving late. Here's a snapshot of the problem, showing longer delivery times, skyrocketing freight and shipping costs, and trucker employment.

Bolsonaro accused of crimes against humanity: A long-running Senate investigation in Brazil has found that by downplaying the severity of COVID, dithering on vaccines, and promoting quack cures, President Jair Bolsonaro directly caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. An earlier version of the report went so far as to recommend charges of homicide and genocide as well, but that was pulled back in the final copy to a mere charge of "crimes against humanity", according to the New York Times. The 1,200-page report alleges Bolsonaro's policies led directly to the deaths of at least half of the 600,000 Brazilians who have succumbed to the virus. It's a bombshell charge, but it's unlikely to land Bolsonaro in the dock — for that to happen he'd have to be formally accused by the justice minister, an ally whom he appointed, and the lower house of parliament, which his supporters control. Still, as the deeply unpopular Bolsonaro limps towards next year's presidential election, a rap of this kind isn't going to help.

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11,412: Irmgard Furchner, a 92-year-old former typist at a Nazi concentration camp in Germany, is facing trial for contributing to the murder of 11,412 people there. Furchner tried to escape German authorities in late September by sneaking out of her nursing home, but was arrested hours later and slapped with an electronic wrist tag.

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If you had to guess which current world leader has made the most trips to Africa, who would you say? China's Xi Jinping? Nope, hardly — he's been there just four times. France's Emmanuel Macron? Pas de tout.

The answer may surprise you: it's Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who's been to the continent more times than the leader(s) of any other non-African state. Just this week he notched his 28th visit, with stops in Angola, Nigeria, and Togo. Sure, being in power for two decades creates a lot of opportunities for exotic travel, but even Russia's Vladimir Putin isn't close: he's been to Africa just five times, all to visit South Africa or Egypt.

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