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US looking to reconfigure China tariffs in ‘coming weeks’: Treasury secretary Yellen 

The United States is considering lifting some of the punitive Trump-era tariffs imposed on China in an effort to ease surging inflation, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Wednesday.

US tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars of Chinese imports will begin to expire in July, unless renewed, and President Joe Biden has faced growing calls to get rid of the so-called “Section 301” duties to help combat the highest inflation in over four decades.

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Yellen told lawmakers the administration would provide more information “in coming weeks” on the tariff plans.

Biden’s inherited the tariffs imposed by his predecessor Donald Trump beginning in 2018 to combat China’s trade practices, but has been slow to make changes.

Yellen said while Beijing was “guilty of unfair trade practices,” the measures “really weren’t designed to serve our strategic interests.”

The higher costs “ended up being paid by Americans, not by the Chinese, hurt American consumers and businesses,” Yellen said in testimony before the House Ways and Means Committee.

The Biden administration is looking at how the punitive duties can be “reconfigured in a way that would be more strategic,” she said.

“In the coming weeks, we expect I can give you a firm timeline, but with respect to the exclusion process and tariffs. That’s something that’s under active consideration.”

US prices for food and gasoline have spiked due to supply chain blockages brought on by Covid-19 and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, prompting the Federal Reserve to aggressively raise interest rates in an attempt to combat inflation.

Supporters argue that ending the tariffs on China would help ease price pressures by making imports cheaper.

Successive rounds of tariffs imposed by Trump eventually covered about $350 billion in annual imports from China in retaliation for Beijing’s theft of American intellectual property and forced transfer of technology.

The first round of measures will lapse July 6 unless there is a request to continue them, at which point they would be subject to review.

Biden said in May he was “discussing” ending the tariffs on China, but that likely would entail a political risk for the pro-labor White House, which does not want to be branded weak on China.

USTR officials have said they are reaching out to businesses and the public to seek comment on whether to extend the tariffs.

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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

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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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