Asian Americans were already worn down by a year of pandemic-fueled racist attacks when a white gunman was charged with attacking three Atlanta-area massage parlors and killing eight people, most of them Asian women.
Hundreds of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders turned to social media to air their anger, sadness, fear and hopelessness. The hashtag #StopAsianHate was a top trending topic on Twitter hours after the shootings that happened Tuesday evening.
"I think the reason why people are feeling so hopeless is because Asian Americans have been ringing the bell on this issue for so long ... We've been raising the red flag," said Aisha Yaqoob Mahmood, executive director of the Atlanta-based Asian American Advocacy Fund, which does political and advocacy work across Georgia.
Many were also outraged that the suspect, 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long, was not immediately charged with hate crimes. Authorities said Long told police the attack was not racially motivated, and he claimed that he targeted the spas because of a "sex addiction." Six of the seven slain women were identified as Asian.
Law enforcement needs "some training understanding what a hate crime is. This man identified targets owned by Asians," said Margaret Huang, president and CEO of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups. The gunman "was very clearly going after a targeted group of people."
EU regulator reviews AstraZeneca shot and blood clot links
LONDON (AP) — The world is awaiting a decision from Europe's top medical regulator on its investigation into whether there is any evidence to show the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine is linked to a small number of blood clots reported in people across the continent.
The European Medicines Agency's expert committee is set to announce the results of its investigation later Thursday.
Earlier this week, more than a dozen countries including Germany, France, Spain and Italy suspended immunization using the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine after reports of unusual blood clots in several people among the 17 million who have received at least one dose in Europe. Both the EMA and the World Health Organization have said there is no current evidence to suggest the vaccine was responsible and that the benefits of immunization far outweighed the potentially small risk of getting vaccinated. AstraZeneca said after a careful review of its COVID-19 immunization data, it found no evidence of any increased risk of blood clots in any age group or gender in any country.
On Tuesday, EMA executive director Emer Cooke said the agency's priority was the the vaccine's safety and that it would consider issues including if extra warnings needed to be added for the AstraZeneca vaccine. She noted the daily toll COVID-19 is continuing to take across the continent and said vaccines were critical to stopping its spread.
"We are worried that there may be an effect on the trust of the vaccines," she said. "But our job is to make sure that the products that we authorize are safe and we can be trusted by the European citizens."
Who deserves credit? Biden leans into pandemic politics
WASHINGTON (AP) — In President Joe Biden's war against the coronavirus, former President Donald Trump hardly exists.
The Democratic president ignored Trump in his first prime-time address to the nation, aside from a brief indirect jab. It was the same when Biden kicked off a national tour in Pennsylvania a on Tuesday to promote the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan. Now, as his administration is on the cusp of delivering on his promise of administering 100 million doses of vaccine in his first 100 days, Biden is in no rush to the share the credit.
In Biden's telling, the United States' surging vaccination rate, economic recovery and the hope slowly spreading across the nation belongs to him and his party alone.
On Thursday afternoon, Biden is set to provide an update on the state of the vaccination campaign, with what is expected to be an early victory lap on reaching the milestone more than a month before he promised. While the official figures won't be reported for days, the 100 millionth dose is likely to be administered on Thursday — his 58th day in office.
The president's approach represents a determination to shape how voters — and history — will remember the story of America's comeback from the worst health and economic crises in generations. In the short term, the debate will help decide whether Democrats will continue to control Congress after next year's midterm elections. And in the longer term, each president's legacy is at stake.
Migrant father charged with son's death on journey to Greece
VATHY, Greece (AP) — On a pine-covered hill above the sparkling blue Aegean lies a boy's grave, a teddy bear leaning against the white marble tombstone. His first boat ride was his last — the sea claimed him before his sixth birthday.
The Afghan child with a tuft of spiky hair stares out of a photo on his gravestone, a hint of a smile on his lips. "He drowned in a shipwreck," the inscription reads. "It wasn't the sea, it wasn't the wind, it is the policies and fear."
Those migration policies are now being called into question in the case of the boy's 25-year-old father, who is grieving the loss of his only child. Already devastated, the father has found himself charged with child endangerment for taking his son on the perilous journey from Turkey to the nearby Greek island of Samos. If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison.
The charges are a stark departure from Greece's previous treatment of migrant shipwreck survivors. This is believed to be the first time in the European Union that a surviving parent faces criminal prosecution for the death of their child in the pursuit of a better life in Europe.
The father's hopes were dashed on a cold November night against the rocks of Samos, a picturesque island that also houses Greece's most overcrowded refugee camp.
Suu Kyi payments claimed as Myanmar junta raises pressure
MANDALAY, Myanmar (AP) — A Myanmar construction magnate with links to military rulers said he personally gave more than half a million dollars in cash to deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi in a broadcast on state television aimed at discrediting the ousted civilian government.
The statement by Maung Waik could pave the way for more serious charges against Suu Kyi, who has been detained since the Feb. 1 military takeover while security forces increasingly use lethal force against a popular uprising demanding the restoration of democratically elected leaders.
The military has already tried to implicate Suu Kyi in corruption, alleging she was given $600,000 plus gold bars by a political ally. She and President Win Myint have been charged so far with inciting unrest, possession of walkie-talkies and violating a pandemic order limiting public gatherings.
In the latest salvo of allegations, Maung Waik, who has previously been convicted of drug trafficking, told state TV he gave cash to government ministers to help his businesses. He said the money included $100,000 given to Suu Kyi in 2018 for a charitable foundation named after her mother, $150,000 in 2019 for which he did not specify a reason, $50,000 last February and $250,000 in April, again with no purpose specified.
The country's Anti-Corruption Commission is investigating the allegations and vowed to take action against Suu Kyi under the Anti-Corruption Law, the state-run newspaper Global New Light of Myanmar reported Thursday.
Troubled US-China ties face new test in Alaska meeting
WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States and China will face a new test in their increasingly troubled relations when top officials from both countries meet in Alaska.
Ties between the world's two largest economies have been torn for years and the Biden administration has yet to signal it's ready or willing to back down on the hard-line stances taken under President Donald Trump. Nor has China signaled it's prepared to ease the pressure it has brought to bear. Thus, the stage is set for a contentious first face-to-face meeting Thursday.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken and national security adviser Jake Sullivan will meet China's top two diplomats, State Councilor Wang Yi and Chinese Communist Party foreign affairs chief Yang Jiechi in Anchorage, Alaska. Difficult discussions are anticipated over trade, human rights in Tibet, Hong Kong, China's western Xinjiang region, Taiwan, Chinese assertiveness in the South China Sea, and the coronavirus pandemic.
No agreements are expected.
"This really is a one-off meeting," said a senior administration official. "This is not the resumption of a particular dialogue mechanism or the beginning of a dialogue process." The official briefed reporters ahead of the meeting on the condition of anonymity.
Despite headwinds, House set to OK Dems' immigration bills
WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats seem poised to claim victory in the House's first votes this year on immigration, but moving legislation on the divisive issue all the way through Congress to President Joe Biden is an uphill fight.
The House was set to vote Thursday on one bill giving over 2 million young Dreamer immigrants and others full legal status and a chance for citizenship. A second measure would do the same for around 1 million immigrant farm workers. Both seemed certain to pass.
But party divisions and solid Republican opposition mean pushing legislation through the Senate on immigration remains difficult, especially for Biden's goal of a sweeping measure helping all 11 million immigrants in the U.S. illegally become citizens. The partisan battle shows little promise of easing before next year's elections, when Republicans could use it in their effort to regain House and Senate control.
Work on the legislation comes as the number of migrants attempting to cross the border has been growing since April and has hit its highest level since March 2019. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Tuesday that figure is on track to reach a 20-year high.
Scores of groups supporting the bills include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Among those arrayed in opposition is the conservative Heritage Action for America.
Yemeni rebel offensive threatens camps of those who fled war
CAIRO (AP) — Already displaced once in Yemen's grinding civil war, Mohammed Ali Saleh fled with his pregnant wife and their three children to central Marib province last year to seek refuge in a region that has known some relative peace and stability because of well-protected oil fields nearby.
But now the fighting is moving toward them again.
Iran-backed Houthi rebels are pushing to capture the province from the internationally recognized government to try to complete their control over the northern half of Yemen. If they succeed, the Houthis could claim a strategic win after a largely stalemated battle in almost seven years of fighting.
The sounds of war terrify Saleh and his family.
"It's a nightmare we are experiencing every night," he said from a camp for the displaced that had previously escaped violence.
Severe storms, tornadoes possible across the Deep South
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — The prospect of more tornadoes overnight and into Thursday across the Deep South had forecasters advising residents to take extra precautions after a wave of storms pounded the region throughout the day Wednesday, leaving a trail of splintered trees and damaged buildings.
Scattered severe thunderstorms are expected Thursday for portions of eastern Georgia, through the Carolinas into extreme southeast Virginia, according to the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center. All severe hazards are possible. Other isolated severe storms are possible from southern Ohio into the central Appalachians.
The biggest overnight threat of tornadoes remained over Alabama, according to the weather service, but severe storms and tornadoes were possible from east-central Georgia and northeast across South and North Carolina later in the day Thursday.
"Significant tornadoes, wind damage and large hail will be possible from morning into afternoon," the center advised late Wednesday. "Severe thunderstorms will also be possible from parts of the eastern Gulf Coast into the southern and central Appalachians."
The weather service advised residents throughout the region to keep the volume up on cellphones to hear emergency alerts throughout the night.
Tokyo Olympics: yet another scandal over sexist comments
TOKYO (AP) — In yet another setback for the postponed Tokyo Olympics — and another involving comments about women — games' creative director Hiroshi Sasaki resigned on Thursday after making demeaning comments about a well-known female celebrity in Japan.
The Tokyo Olympics are scheduled to open in just over four months, dogged by the coronavirus pandemic, record costs, and numerous scandals. And all of this converges as the Olympic torch relay starts next week from northeastern Japan, a risky venture with 10,000 runners set to crisscross Japan for four months.
When the International Olympic Committee awarded Japan the games 7 1/2 years ago, Tokyo billed itself as "a safe pair of hands." It has evolved into anything but that.
Japanese organizers did well with initial planning and organization. But they have been buffeted by the pandemic and seem snake-bitten with the Olympics causing new problems and more expenses almost daily. Support has plummeted with various polls suggesting about 80 percent of Japanese want the Olympics canceled or postponed again. They cite the costs and the risks of holding the mega-event during a pandemic.
"The IOC and Japanese politics are male-dominated territories," Dr. Barbara Holthus, deputy director of the German Institute for Japanese Studies in Tokyo, told The Associated Press. "Japanese politicians have a long history of furthering gender inequalities — besides many other inequalities."