India's virus surge damages Modi's image of competence
NEW DELHI (AP) — India's hospitals were packed with coronavirus patients, relatives of the sick scrambled to find supplies of oxygen, and crematoriums were running near full capacity to handle the dead.
Yet despite those clear signs of an overwhelming health crisis, Prime Minister Narendra Modi pressed ahead with a densely packed campaign rally.
"I have never seen such a huge crowd before!" he roared to his supporters in West Bengal state on April 17, before key local elections. "Wherever I can see, I can only see people. I can see nothing else."
As another deadly wave of COVID-19 infections was swamping India, Modi's government refused to cancel a giant Hindu festival. Cricket matches, attended by tens of thousands, carried on, too.
The catastrophic surge has badly dented Modi's political image after he drew praise last year for moving quickly to lock down India's nearly 1.4 billion people. Now, he's been called a "super-spreader" by the vice president of the Indian Medical Association, Dr. Navjot Dahiya.
Biden aims to vaccinate 70 percent of American adults by July 4
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden set a new vaccination goal to deliver at least one shot to 70 percent of adult Americans by July Fourth as he tackles the vexing problem of winning over the "doubters" and those unmotivated to get inoculated.
Demand for vaccines has dropped off markedly nationwide, with some states leaving more than half their available doses unordered. Aiming to make it easier to get shots, Biden on Tuesday called for states to make vaccines available on a walk-in basis and he will direct many pharmacies to do likewise.
His administration for the first time also is moving to shift doses from states with weaker demand to areas with stronger interest in the shots.
"You do need to get vaccinated," Biden said from the White House. "Even if your chance of getting seriously ill is low, why take the risk? It could save your life or the lives of somebody you love."
Biden's goal equates to delivering at least the first shot to 181 million adults and fully vaccinating 160 million. It's a tacit acknowledgment of the declining interest in shots.
Myanmar's military disappearing young men to crush uprising
JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Myanmar's security forces moved in and the street lamps went black. In house after house, people shut off their lights. Darkness swallowed the block.
Huddled inside her home in this neighborhood of Yangon, 19-year-old Shwe dared to peek out her window into the inky night. A flashlight shone back, and a man's voice ordered her not to look.
Two gunshots rang out. Then a man's scream: "HELP!" When the military's trucks finally rolled away, Shwe and her family emerged to look for her 15-year-old brother, worried about frequent abductions by security forces.
"I could feel my blood thumping," she says. "I had a feeling that he might be taken."
Across the country, Myanmar's security forces are arresting and forcibly disappearing thousands of people, especially boys and young men, in a sweeping bid to break the back of a three-month uprising against a military takeover. In most cases, the families of those taken do not know where they are, according to an Associated Press analysis of more than 3,500 arrests since February.
Families mourn victims of Mexico City subway collapse
MEXICO CITY (AP) — José Luis Hernández Martínez crossed Mexico City every day on subway Line 12 between his home on the city's south side and the body shop where he worked repairing mangled cars.
The 61-year-old's train had emerged from beneath the city and was jostling along the elevated portion far from downtown late Monday night when two of its bright orange cars suddenly fell into a void.
Hernández Martínez was killed instantly, his son Luis Adrian Hernández Juarez said, one of 24 people who died in one of the world's largest subway system's worst accidents. More than 70 others were injured.
"My father was recovered without vital signs, with trauma to his thorax, his brain, his feet, his knees," Hernández Juarez said, gripping the death certificate. He said emergency personnel told him his father was crushed beneath other passengers. "It's really terrible to see your father that way for the last time."
Hernández Juarez planned to bury his father Wednesday as a string of funerals began across the city of more than 9 million people.
Facebook board's Trump decision could have wider impacts
Since the day after the deadly Jan. 6 riots on the U.S. Capitol, former President Donald Trump's social media accounts have been silent — muzzled for inciting violence using the platforms as online megaphones.
On Wednesday, his fate on Facebook, the biggest social platform around, will be decided. The company's quasi-independent Oversight Board will announce its ruling around 9 a.m. ET. If it rules in Trump's favor, Facebook has seven days to reinstate the account. If the board upholds Facebook's decision, Trump will remain "indefinitely" suspended.
Politicians, free speech experts and activists around the world are watching the decision closely. It has implications not only for Trump but for tech companies, world leaders and people across the political spectrum — many of whom have wildly conflicting views of the proper role for technology companies when it comes to regulating online speech and protecting people from abuse and misinformation.
After years of handling Trump's inflammatory rhetoric with a light touch, Facebook and Instagram took the drastic step of silencing his accounts in January. In announcing the unprecedented move, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the risk of allowing Trump to continue using the platform was too great.
"The shocking events of the last 24 hours clearly demonstrate that President Donald Trump intends to use his remaining time in office to undermine the peaceful and lawful transition of power to his elected successor, Joe Biden," Zuckerberg wrote on his Facebook page on Jan. 7.
Blinken takes anti-graft message, old Russia foe to Ukraine
WASHINGTON (AP) — When Secretary of State Antony Blinken travels to Ukraine this week he'll be carrying a tough anti-graft message and strong U.S. backing for the country's response to Russian aggression. He'll also be taking along a familiar face in the Washington-Moscow tug-of-war over the former Soviet republic: Victoria Nuland.
The one-day stop is intended to demonstrate America's continued commitment to Ukraine as it copes with Russia's support for separatists and a buildup of troops along its eastern border, as well as to press Kyiv on corruption. It comes at a time of heightened U.S. tensions with Russia not only on Ukraine but also because of U.S. criticism of Russia over human rights, hacking and interference in elections. Both countries recently ordered tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions.
Yet beyond these major issues, the mere presence in Kyiv of Nuland, now the No. 3 State Department official, is likely to irritate Russia. A Russia hawk, Nuland is reviled by the Kremlin and was a main target of Moscow's attacks on the U.S. during Ukraine's 2013-14 revolution and Russia's annexation of Crimea when she served as assistant secretary of state for Europe during the Obama administration.
Blinken said Monday in London that he would use the visit to show "our unwavering support for the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine." Other officials have said he would also press on institutional reform and anti-corruption measures. "There is a lot of hard work to be done to ensure a brighter future for all Ukrainians," the top U.S. diplomat for Europe, Phillip Reeker, said last week.
But Blinken's trip also comes on the heels of a Ukraine-related FBI raid on former President Donald Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and renewed questions about the Trump administration's dealings with Ukraine that led to the firing of a U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, and laid the foundation for GOP attacks against President Joe Biden.
Families, advocates mark day of awareness for Native victims
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — From the nation's capitol to Indigenous communities across the American Southwest, top government officials, family members and advocates are gathering Wednesday as part of a call to action to address the ongoing problem of violence against Indigenous women and children.
U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and other federal officials are expected to commemorate the annual day of awareness as a caravan of female motorcycle riders hits the streets in Phoenix, advocates take to social media, and families prepare for a night of candlelight and prayer vigils.
Haaland, the first Native American to lead a U.S. cabinet agency, called May 5 an unfortunate tradition.
The former Democratic U.S. representative from New Mexico remembers hearing families testify about searching for loved ones on their own and bringing clothing to congressional hearings that represented missing and slain Native Americans.
Haaland will display a red shawl on an empty chair in her office Wednesday to symbolize those who have disappeared and honor the movement that rang the alarm. She said she believes the nation has reached an inflection point.
Iraq pushes vaccine rollout amid widespread apathy, distrust
BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq's vaccine roll-out had been faltering for weeks. Apathy, fear and rumors kept many from getting vaccinated despite a serious surge in coronavirus infections and calls by the government for people to register for shots.
It took a populist Shiite cleric's public endorsement of vaccinations — and images of him getting the shot last week — to turn things around.
Hundreds of followers of Muqtada al-Sadr are now heading to clinics to follow his example, underscoring the power of sectarian loyalties in Iraq and deep mistrust of the state.
"I was against the idea of being vaccinated. I was afraid, I didn't believe in it," said Manhil Alshabli, a 30-year-old Iraqi from the holy city of Najaf. "But all this has changed now."
"Seeing him getting the vaccine has motivated me," said Alshabli, speaking by phone from Najaf where he and many other al-Sadr loyalists got their shots, Alshabli compared it to soldiers being energized when they see their leader on the front line.
US parents excited over prospect of virus shots for children
MISSION, Kan. (AP) — After more than a year of fretting over her 13-year son with a rare liver disease, Heather Ousley broke into tears when she learned that he and millions of other youngsters could soon be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.
"This day is the best day in the history of days!!! I love this day!!!" she texted, joining other parents and educators in welcoming the news that the Food and Drug Administration is expected to authorize Pfizer's vaccine by next week for children ages 12 to 15.
Ousley, who is president of the school board for the 27,000-student Shawnee Mission School District in Kansas, plans to get her 13- and 15-year-olds promptly vaccinated and then celebrate with ice cream. They have been learning from home with their younger brother since the start of the outbreak.
Pfizer is also anticipating the FDA will endorse use of its vaccine in even younger children sometime this fall. And results are expected by the middle of this year from a U.S. study of Moderna's shots in 12- to 17-year-olds.
Officials are hoping that extending vaccinations to children will drive down the nation's caseload even further and allow schools to reopen with minimal disruption this fall.
Nature at its craziest: Trillions of cicadas about to emerge
COLUMBIA, Md. (AP) — Sifting through a shovel load of dirt in a suburban backyard, Michael Raupp and Paula Shrewsbury find their quarry: a cicada nymph.
And then another. And another. And four more.
In maybe a third of a square foot of dirt, the University of Maryland entomologists find at least seven cicadas -- a rate just shy of a million per acre. A nearby yard yielded a rate closer to 1.5 million.
And there's much more afoot. Trillions of the red-eyed black bugs are coming, scientists say.
Within days, a couple weeks at most, the cicadas of Brood X (the X is the Roman numeral for 10) will emerge after 17 years underground. There are many broods of periodic cicadas that appear on rigid schedules in different years, but this is one of the largest and most noticeable. They'll be in 15 states from Indiana to Georgia to New York; they're coming out now in mass numbers in Tennessee and North Carolina.