Nation and world news briefs

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Roberta McCain, mother of the late Sen. John McCain, dies at age 108

WASHINGTON — Roberta McCain, mother of the late Sen. John McCain of Arizona, has died at the age of 108, according to her daughter-in-law, Cindy McCain.

She was a fixture on Capitol Hill and a large presence on the trail during her son’s 2008 bid for president. During that campaign, the senator faced questions about his age and fitness for office, since he would have been the oldest person sworn in as a first-term U.S. president. Whenever pressed on the matter, he would point to his energetic mother, then 96 years old, as an example of genetic longevity.

“From both my parents, I learned to persevere,” John McCain wrote in “Faith of My Fathers,” his 1999 memoir. “But my mother’s extraordinary resilience made her the stronger of the two.”

In the acknowledgements, he called her a “natural storyteller” and thanked her for helping him dredge up memories for the book “despite her initial suspicion that I was ‘just trying to show off.’”

She was “extroverted and irrepressible,” he wrote.

At 108, Roberta McCain saw more than her share of American history. She was born in 1912, during the Taft administration, and lived through World War I, the Spanish Flu, the Great Depression, World War II, the Vietnam War, the felling of the Berlin Wall, 9/11 and the beginning stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better role model or a better friend,” Cindy McCain tweeted Monday.

Roberta McCain outlived son John, who died in 2018 at age 81 after battling brain cancer. She was also preceded in death by her husband, Admiral John S. McCain Jr.; her twin sister, Rowena Willis; and daughter Sandy McCain.

—CQ-Roll Call


Pursuing COVID-19 herd immunity is unethical, WHO chief says

GENEVA — The idea of letting COVID-19 spread through populations until enough people have developed immunity is a recipe for “unnecessary infections, suffering and death,” United Nations health chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Monday in Geneva.

In early October, health scientists from several countries issued an open letter in which they promoted the idea of herd immunity as a way to avoid lockdowns and its negative effects.

World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros pointed out that herd immunity is reached through vaccination, not by exposing people to a virus.

So far, 10% or less of the world population has contracted the coronavirus, leaving the vast majority at risk of still being infected, the WHO estimates.

“Allowing a dangerous virus that we don’t fully understand to run free is simply unethical. It’s not an option,” Tedros told a news conference.

The WHO chief argued that it is still unknown how long people remain immune to the novel coronavirus after they have been infected.

The scientists’ open letter said that elderly people who are more vulnerable to severe forms of COVID-19 should be actively protected, while younger people who are less likely to suffer grave illness should be allowed to live normally.

Tedros countered that people of all ages have died from COVID-19 and that some survivors develop long-term symptoms.

The open letter is called the Great Barrington Declaration, after the U.S. town that hosts the American Institute for Economic Research. The think tank has been arguing against COVID-19 lockdowns, in line with its agenda of limiting the role of government.



Haitian migrant groups detained at sea off Florida coast, Turks and Caicos Islands

MIAMI — A 25-foot pleasure craft carrying 23 undocumented Haitian migrants and two suspected Bahamian smugglers was intercepted Friday off the coast of Palm Beach.

The illegal craft was intercepted by the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Richard Etheridge and Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Operations after it was spotted approximately 10 miles east of Palm Beach.

The U.S. Coast Guard said during the interdiction at sea, its crew discovered 8 females, one of whom had to be medevaced during the interdiction; 15 males and two Bahamian males who are suspected of being smugglers. The suspected smugglers were transferred to Customs and Border Patrol for potential prosecution.

The interdiction off the Florida coast came on the same day that another group of Haitians — 206 — were caught trying to illegally enter the Turks and Caicos Islands.

The 145 males, 58 females and three children were intercepted at sea just west of Providenciales while traveling aboard a 45-foot wooden boat powered by two 45 horsepower Yamaha outboard engines.

During the operation, several migrants jumped overboard but were immediately detained, Turks and Caicos police said in a statement. The migrants have been handed over to immigration for processing and will be repatriated to Haiti.

The Coast Guard said approximately 418 Haitian migrants attempting to illegally enter the United States via the sea were interdicted during the 2020 fiscal year 2020, which began Oct. 1, 2019, and ended Sept. 30, 2020, compared with 885 Haitian migrants in fiscal year 2019.

These numbers represent the total number of at-sea interdiction, landings and disruptions in the Florida Straits, the Caribbean and Atlantic Ocean.

In recent months, the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince has been running ads on Haitian radios, warning Haitians of the danger at sea. Haitians, however, continue to ignore the warning even as the Haitian government insists the economy is improving.

—Miami Herald