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Biden makes late-night TV debut as President, laughs off falling approval ratings

Joe Biden on Friday used his first late-night television talk show appearance as US president to highlight his infrastructure bill — and laugh off his flagging approval ratings.

Biden’s appearance on NBC’s “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” is the first by a sitting president since Barack Obama, and comes as the White House seeks to highlight the recently passed bill for upgrading the nation’s tattered transport networks.

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Despite its passage, Biden’s approval ratings have sunk to the low 40 percent area, in part due to the spike in inflation.

Asked by host Jimmy Fallon if he pays attention to approval ratings, Biden dead-panned: “Well, not anymore.”

“I’m joking. I was paying attention when it was in the mid-60s, but when it’s in the mid-40s I don’t pay attention,” said the president, to laughter from the studio audience.

Biden’s appearance by remote video comes after his predecessor President Donald Trump declined invitations for any late-night talk shows as president.

Obama frequently used programs hosted by Fallon and rivals such as Jimmy Kimmel and Stephen Colbert to speak to the wider US public.

Fallon opened the show by joking the pair would “discuss the economy, the infrastructure bill, and break down the first two episodes of the ‘Sex and the City’ reboot.”
Fallon managed one barb about inflation figures, claiming he had earlier asked the president how excited he was to appear on the show on a scale of one to ten.

“He said ten. But six without inflation.”

But during the interview, Fallon allowed Biden to set out policies including his landmark $1.8 trillion Build Back Better plan to improve social services and fight climate change, which faces a tough road in Congress.

Wearing a suit and tie, and seated in front of a festively decorated mantlepiece, Biden also urged Americans to get booster shots and highlighted steady declines in the unemployment rate.

“We do have inflation on things that in fact matter in people’s lives” such as gas prices, said Biden.

“It’s going to come down,” he promised.

The interview — in which Fallon praised Biden for “bringing class back to the office” of the president and asked “does anyone really understand how hard your job is?” — ended with the talk host being invited over to the White House for dinner.

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US: Bodies of two of three missing kids found in Minnesota lake

The bodies of two young children have been recovered from a Minnesota lake, and searchers are still looking for a third they fear may have been intentionally drowned.

Meanwhile, the father of the children died at a different location hours earlier, and their mother is missing. Names have not been released.

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The chain of events began Friday morning when the father was found dead at a mobile home park in the town of Maplewood, near Minneapolis. Police determined that the woman had left with the children, and a search began.

Maplewood Police Lt. Joe Steiner said the woman’s car was found near Vadnais Lake around 4 p.m. Friday. The shoes of the children were found on the shore.

A search of the lake found one child’s body Friday evening. A second body was found overnight. Searchers from several organizations were busy Saturday looking for the third, as well as the mother.

Authorities believe all three children were under the age of 5.

“There’s nothing more tragic than the loss of young children,” Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher said at a news conference on Friday. He called the deaths a “likely triple homicide.”

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Foreign firefighters arrive in Greece for summer wildfire season

Several dozen Romanian and Bulgarian firefighters took up their posts in Greece on Saturday, the first members of a European force being deployed to the country to provide backup in case of major wildfires during the summer.

More than 200 firefighters and equipment from Bulgaria, France, Germany, Romania, Norway and Finland will be on standby during the hottest months of July and August in Greece, where a spate of wildfires caused devastation last summer.

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A group of 28 Romanian firefighters with eight vehicles, and 16 firefighters from Bulgaria with four vehicles, were the first to arrive for the two-month mission, financed and coordinated under the European Union’s civil protection mechanism.

“We thank you very much for coming to help us during a difficult summer for our country, and for proving that European solidarity is not just theoretical, it’s real,” Greek Civil Protection Minister Christos Stylianides said on Saturday as he welcomed the members of the Romanian mission in Athens.

“When things get tough, you will be side by side with our Greek firefighters so we can save lives and property.”

The Bulgarian firefighters have been stationed in Larissa, in central Greece.

Last summer’s wildfires ravaged about 300,000 acres (121,000 hectares) of forest and bushland in different parts of Greece as the country experienced its worst heatwave in 30 years.

Following sharp criticism of its response to the fires, the Greek government set up a new civil protection ministry and promised to boost firefighting capacities.

In Greece’s worst wildfire disaster, 102 people were killed when a blaze tore through the seaside town of Mati and nearby areas close to Athens during the summer of 2018.

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One killed, six injured in shootout between migrant groups in Serbia

One migrant was killed and at least six others, including a teenage girl, were injured Saturday in a shootout between migrant groups in Serbia near the Hungarian border, the state-run RTS television reported.

The 16-year-old girl sustained life threatening injuries in the incident that occurred in a forest in the outskirts of Subotica, some 160 kilometers (100 miles) north of Belgrade, where the injured were hospitalized, RTS reported.

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Police, who made no immediate comment, blocked access to the forest where the incident took place, only around a kilometer from the Hungarian border.

Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin rushed to the scene.

The injured, aged between 20 and 30, have no documents, Subotica mayor Stevan Bakic told local media.

It is not known what triggered the incident, he added.

Local media reported that the shootout occurred between Afghan and Pakistani migrants most likely over human trafficking from the area to European Union member Hungary.

Serbia lies on the so-called Balkans route used by migrants heading towards Western Europe as they flee war and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

Although the route is nowhere as busy as it was during Europe’s migrant crisis in 2015, tens of thousands of illegal migrants still cross the region annually.

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