Skip to main content

No one has been untouched.

Not the Michigan woman who awakened one morning, her wife dead by her side. Not the domestic worker in Mozambique, her livelihood threatened by the virus. Not the North Carolina mother who struggled to keep her business and her family going amid rising anti-Asian ugliness. Not the sixth-grader, exiled from the classroom in the blink of an eye.

It happened a year ago. "I expected to go back after that week," said Darelyn Maldonado, now 12. "I didn't think that it would take years."

On March 11, 2020, when the World Health Organization declared a pandemic, few could foresee the long road ahead or the many ways in which they would suffer -- the deaths and agonies of millions, the ruined economies, the disrupted lives and near-universal loneliness and isolation.

A year later, some are dreaming of a return to normal, thanks to vaccines that seemed to materialize as if by magic. Others live in places where the magic seems to be reserved for wealthier worlds.


House set to vote on virus relief, Biden on cusp of triumph

WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress is poised to approve a landmark $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, placing President Joe Biden on the cusp of an early triumph that advances Democratic priorities and showcases the unity his party will need to forge future victories.

The House was expected to give final congressional approval Wednesday to the package, which aims to fulfill Democrats' campaign promises to beat the coronavirus pandemic and revive the enfeebled economy. House and Senate Republicans have unanimously opposed the package as bloated, crammed with liberal policies and heedless of signs the dual crises are easing.

"It's a remarkable, historic, transformative piece of legislation which goes a very long way to crushing the virus and solving our economic crisis," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Tuesday. 

For Biden and Democrats, the bill is essentially a canvas on which they've painted their core beliefs — that government programs can be a benefit, not a bane, to millions of people and that spending huge sums on such efforts can be a cure, not a curse. The measure so closely tracks Democrats' priorities that several rank it with the top achievements of their careers, and despite their slender congressional majorities there was never real suspense over its fate.

They were also empowered by three dynamics: their unfettered control of the White House and Congress, polls showing robust support for Biden's approach and a moment when most voters care little that the national debt is soaring toward a stratospheric $22 trillion. Neither party seems much troubled by surging red ink, either, except when the other is using it to finance its priorities, be they Democratic spending or GOP tax cuts. 


Biden's first 50 days: Where he stands on key promises

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden laid out an ambitious agenda for his first 100 days in office, promising swift action on everything from climate change to immigration reform to the coronavirus pandemic.

He hits his 50th day in office on Wednesday as his administration eyes a major milestone: final congressional passage of his massive $1.9 trillion coronavirus aid package. The bill includes direct payments to millions of Americans and money to help the White House deliver on a number of Biden's biggest campaign promises, like reopening schools and getting more Americans vaccinated. 

Fifty days in, Biden has made major strides on a number of key campaign pledges for his earliest days in office, while others are still awaiting action. Where he stands on some of his major promises:


Biden prioritized addressing the coronavirus pandemic during his first weeks in office, and the focus has paid off. He's on pace to hit his goal of 100 million vaccine doses administered in his first 100 days as soon as the end of next week. The daily rate of vaccinations now averages more than 2 million shots, and more than 75 million doses have been administered since Biden was sworn in.


Royals' comments raise race issue in Commonwealth nations

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) — In countries with historic ties to Britain, allegations by Prince Harry and Meghan that an unnamed member of the royal family had "concerns" over how dark their unborn baby's skin might be have raised a thorny question: Do those nations really want to be so closely connected to Britain and its royal family anymore?

It was expected the interview would expose more rifts in the royal family. Now it seems to be risking divisions within the "family" of the Commonwealth — an association of 54 countries, most of them former British colonies, held together by historic ties. For decades, Queen Elizabeth II has been the driving force behind the Commonwealth.

After the TV interview, shown in the U.S. on the eve of Commonwealth Day, former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull cited it as another reason for the country to sever its constitutional ties to the British monarchy.

"After the end of the queen's reign, that is the time for us to say: OK, we've passed that watershed," Turnbull told Australian Broadcasting Corp. "Do we really want to have whoever happens to be the head of state, the king or queen of the U.K., automatically our head of state?"

The value of the Commonwealth has been debated before, with critics questioning if countries and people once colonized — and even oppressed — should remain in such an association with a former colonizer. Its stated aim is to improve international relations, but Britain's relationship with the members has been clouded by diplomatic missteps and the legacy of empire. In a speech to mark Commonwealth Day on Monday, the queen spoke of "the spirit of unity."


EXPLAINER: Why is Harry and Meghan's son not a prince?

LONDON (AP) — One of the most dramatic claims in Prince Harry and Meghan's interview with Oprah Winfrey was the allegation that their son was denied a royal title, possibly because of his skin color.

Harry and Meghan's son, seventh in line to the British throne, is Archie Mountbatten-Windsor. In contrast, the children of Harry's older brother, Prince William, are Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis.

Meghan said that while she was pregnant "they" — presumably the palace — "were saying they didn't want him to be a prince … which would be different from protocol."

She implied it might be a case of "the first member of color in this family not being titled in the same way that other grandchildren would be."



A price tag on trauma? College town weighs Black reparations

AMHERST, Mass. (AP) — Professor Edwin Driver arrived in Amherst in 1948 as one of the first Black teachers hired at a flagship state university in the country.

But the 23-year-old sociology instructor at what would become the University of Massachusetts Amherst says he was denied pay raises for decades, despite being one of its most published professors.

Driver and his wife, who was from India, also encountered roadblocks trying to buy a house in the mostly white college town. Their three children faced racism from neighbors and school officials alike.

"There's a lot of people in Amherst that have not gotten a proper share of things," the now 96-year-old professor emeritus said at his home in nearby South Hadley recently. "I ended up being the lowest paid professor in the department, but also its most productive."

Driver and other current and former Black residents may one day be compensated for their hardships. 


Burning tires: Lebanon's protesters send dark, angry message

BEIRUT (AP) — It's an expression of anger but also of helplessness: Anti-government protesters in Lebanon are burning tires to block key roads, releasing dense palls of smoke that rise above the capital Beirut and other parts of the country. 

The tactic has become the hallmark of a new flare-up of demonstrations against an intransigent political class that appears to do little as its country slides toward the political and economic abyss. Lebanon is mired in the worst economic crisis in its modern history, and the situation has been exacerbated by pandemic restrictions and an overwhelmed health care sector. 

"The fire releases our anger. It quiets our hearts," said Mounir Hujairi, a 23-year-old protester from Baalbek in northeastern Lebanon, who juggles his time between low-paying day jobs and protests. 

The tire soot and smoke blacken the faces of protesters in anti-virus masks at make-shift roadblocks that cut off traffic around Beirut and between cities. The persistence of the protesters and the daily burning of tires underscore how intractable the country's problems have become.

Anti-government rallies first began gripping Lebanon in late 2019. Since then, the local currency has collapsed, after being pegged to the dollar for nearly 30 years. Salaries have remained the same as inflation skyrocketed. People lost their jobs and poverty affected nearly 50 percent of the population.


Wide resistance to vaccines plagues Ukraine's COVID-19 fight

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — After receiving its first shipment of coronavirus vaccine, Ukraine found itself in a new struggle against the pandemic — persuading its widely reluctant people to get the shot.

Although infections are rising sharply, Ukrainians are becoming increasingly opposed to vaccination: an opinion poll released earlier this month by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology found 60 percent of the country's people don't want to get vaccinated, up from 40 percent a month earlier. The nationwide poll of 1,207 had a margin of error of 2.9 percentage points.

The resistance appears to be rooted in longstanding suspicion of vaccines dating back to the Soviet era, amplified by politicians' allegations about low-quality vaccines, corruption scandals and misinformation spread through social media. Even more surprisingly, the reluctance still appears even among those highest at risk who administer lifesaving drugs to others every day: medical workers.

In the mining town of Selydove, 700 kilometers (420 miles) east of Kyiv, only 5 percent of the medical staff agreed to be vaccinated. Those declining included Olena Obyedko, a 26-year-old nurse who works in the hospital's intensive care ward for COVID-19 patients, where people die every week. 

"I decided not to get vaccinated. I doubt the quality of the vaccine. I'm afraid there will be side effects," she said.


ANALYSIS: Communist Party seeking China's 'rejuvenation'

BEIJING (AP) — The catchword "rejuvenation" has been tucked into the major speeches at China's biggest political event of the year, the meeting of its 3,000-member legislature.

It encapsulates the ruling Communist Party's overriding long-term objective: To build the nation into a truly global power, one that commands respect from the rest of the world. 

That goal is intertwined with another one: retaining a hold on power. The party keeps a tight grip by censoring the digital space, controlling the news media and locking up those who publicly challenge its line. But it also tries to woo the public by stoking national pride in the country's growing global clout to justify its continued rule after more than 70 years at the helm.

"By enabling the Chinese nation to make another giant stride toward rejuvenation, the (Communist Party) Central Committee has delivered impressive results that our people are happy with and that will go down in history," Li Zhanshu, the party's No. 3 official, told lawmakers this week.

Rejuvenation is repeated like a mantra, even woven into a sprawling exhibit at the national art museum marking the Year of the Ox in the Chinese zodiac. The exhibit's introduction invokes the diligent ox and credits party leader and head-of-state Xi Jinping for deepening "the understanding of the great striving of the Chinese nation." 


AP PHOTOS: No-go zone near nuclear plant once hosted picnics

TOMIOKA, Japan (AP) — Part of the town of Tomioka, about 10 kilometers (6 miles) from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, is still a no-go zone 10 years after a meltdown sent radioactive fallout over the area.

The no-go zone is about 12 percent of the town, but was home to about one-third of Tomioka's population of 16,000. It remains closed after the rest of the town in northeastern Japan was reopened in 2017.

Only those with official permission from the town office can enter the area for a daytime visit.

Part of the area, called Yonomori, used to be a commercial center dotted with shops, houses, a 7-Eleven convenience store and a popular regional supermarket chain called York Benimaru.

The area also includes Yonomori Park, surrounded by streets lined with cherry trees, where townspeople used to gather for "hanami" parties, picnicking under the blossoms and walking through a tunnel of flowering trees. 

AP Logo little