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ATLANTA (AP) — For Asian Americans, 2020 was a year of political success and newfound influence. But it was also a time of vulnerability to racist assaults. 

That painful dichotomy will be on display Friday when President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, the first person of South Asian descent to hold national office, visit Atlanta just days after a white gunman killed eight people, most of them Asian American women, in three metro-area massage parlors. The killings come after a spike of anti-Asian violence nationally. 

The presidential trip was planned before the shooting, as part of a victory lap aimed at selling the benefits of pandemic relief legislation. But Biden and Harris will instead spend their visit consoling a community whose growing voting power helped secure their victory in Georgia and beyond. 

As the fastest-growing racial demographic in the U.S. electorate, Asian Americans' political influence was felt across the country. In California, two Korean American Republican women made history with their congressional victories. The Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, typically dominated by Democrats, has its largest roster ever, including Asian American and Pacific Islander members and others who represent significant numbers of Asian Americans. 

"We're becoming increasingly more visible and active in the political ecosystem," said Georgia state Sen. Michelle Au, a Democrat who represents part of the growing, diversifying suburbs north of the city. Yet, Au said, "What I've heard personally, and what I have felt, is that people sometimes don't tend to listen to us." 

Europe pause of AstraZeneca sends ripple of doubt elsewhere

KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — The suspension of the AstraZeneca vaccine in several European countries over the past week could fuel skepticism about the shot far beyond their shores, potentially threatening the rollout of a vaccine that is key to the global strategy to stamp out the coronavirus pandemic, especially in developing nations. 

As things stand, it's either AstraZeneca or nothing for some poorer countries. The vaccine from the Anglo-Swedish drug maker is cheaper and easier to store than many others. It will make up nearly all of the doses shipped in the first half of the year by COVAX, a consortium meant to ensure low- and middle-income countries receive vaccines. 

With little other choice, most developing countries that had the AstraZeneca on hand pushed ahead with it even as major countries in Europe suspended its use over the past week after reports that unusual blood clots were found in some recipients of the shot — despite insistence from international health agencies that there was no evidence the vaccine was responsible.

But while governments in Africa and elsewhere expressed their determination to continue using the shot, not everyone is convinced.

"Why should I allow it to be used on me? Are we not human beings like those in Europe?" Peter Odongo, a resident of a town in northern Uganda, told the Daily Monitor newspaper this week. 

Biden says US to hit 100 million virus goal on Friday

WASHINGTON (AP) — With the U.S. closing in on President Joe Biden's goal of injecting 100 million coronavirus vaccinations weeks ahead of his target date, the White House said the nation is now in position to help supply neighbors Canada and Mexico with millions of lifesaving shots.

The Biden administration on Thursday revealed the outlines of a plan to "loan" a limited number of vaccines to Canada and Mexico as the president announced the U.S. is on the cusp of meeting his 100-day injection goal "way ahead of schedule."

"I'm proud to announce that tomorrow, 58 days into our administration, we will have met our goal," Biden said. He promised to unveil a new vaccination target next week, as the U.S. is on pace to have enough of the three currently authorized vaccines to cover the entire adult population just 10 weeks from now.

Ahead of Biden's remarks, the White House said it was finalizing plans to send a combined 4 million doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to Mexico and Canada in its first export of shots. Press secretary Jen Psaki said the details of the "loan" were still being worked out, but 2.5 million doses would go to Mexico and 1.5 million would be sent to Canada.

"Our first priority remains vaccinating the U.S. population," Psaki said. But she added that "ensuring our neighbors can contain the virus is a mission critical step, is mission critical to ending the pandemic." 

US and China spar in 1st face-to-face meeting under Biden

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Top U.S. and Chinese officials offered sharply different views of each other and the world as the two sides met face-to-face for the first time since President Joe Biden took office.

In unusually pointed public remarks for a staid diplomatic meeting, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Chinese Communist Party foreign affairs chief Yang Jiechi took aim at each other's country's policies on Thursday at the start of two days of talks in Alaska. The contentious tone of their public comments suggested the private discussions would be even more rocky.

The meetings in Anchorage were a new test in increasingly troubled relations between the two countries, which are at odds over a range of issues from trade to human rights in Tibet, Hong Kong and China's western Xinjiang region, as well as over Taiwan, China's assertiveness in the South China Sea and the coronavirus pandemic.

Blinken said the Biden administration is united with its allies in pushing back against China's increasing authoritarianism and assertiveness at home and abroad. Yang then unloaded a list of Chinese complaints about the U.S. and accused Washington of hypocrisy for criticizing Beijing on human rights and other issues.

"Each of these actions threaten the rules-based order that maintains global stability," Blinken said of China's actions in Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan, and of cyber attacks on the United States and economic coercion against U.S. allies. "That's why they're not merely internal matters, and why we feel an obligation to raise these issues here today."

Fleeing Myanmar policemen defy army order to kill protesters

MIZORAM, India (AP) — A group of Myanmar policemen recounted their escape to India after defying the Myanmar army's orders to shoot people who oppose the Feb. 1 coup in the southeast Asian country. While speaking, they raised a three-finger salute — a symbol of resistance to Myanmar's military rulers.

"We cannot hurt our people, that's why we came to Mizoram," said one of the policemen, who hails from the northwestern town of Tedim. Mizoram is a state in India's northeast, and shares a border with Bangladesh and Myanmar. 

After the army coup, the policemen were ordered to "shoot people and not just the people, we were told to shoot our own family if they are not on the side of the army," he said. The Associated Press has not been able to independently verify these claims. 

Indian villagers in Mizoram have given shelter to 34 police personnel and one firefighter who crossed into India over the last two weeks. They spoke to an AP photojournalist on condition of anonymity because of fears of retribution against family members still in Myanmar.

Back in Myanmar, the three-finger salute, which traces its origins to the Hunger Games books and movies by Suzanne Collins, is being used by youth protesters at massive anti-army demonstrations.

710 days later, NCAA Tournament is back with 'First Four'

Who are we kidding? "First Four" still sounds more like an educational toy than the prelude to three of the best weeks in sport. 

But because of the pandemic, it's been 710 days since last we saw the NCAA Tournament — who's counting? — so let's not quibble over names and go straight to the opening-night review:

Pretty, pretty good.

In the finale pitting two of college hoops' marquee programs, UCLA outlasted Michigan State 86-80 in overtime. Two other games were decided by a single point: Drake beat Wichita State 53-52, and Norfolk State squeezed Appalachian State 54-53. In Thursday's opener, Texas Southern pulled steadily away from Mount St. Mary's and won 60-52.

The first four games were grafted onto the 64-team main bracket in 2011, naturally, to pad the NCAA coffers. They were originally dubbed "play-in" games, and then briefly the "First Round," which the NCAA quickly squashed to avoid any confusion with the 16 games that begin the tournament in earnest Friday.

Emergency sites for migrant children raising safety concerns

McALLEN, Texas (AP) — The U.S. government has stopped taking immigrant teenagers to a converted camp for oil field workers in West Texas as it faces questions about the safety of emergency sites it is quickly setting up to hold children crossing the southern border. 

The Associated Press has learned that the converted camp has faced multiple issues in the four days since the Biden administration opened it amid a scramble to find space for immigrant children. More than 10 percent of the camp's population has tested positive for COVID-19 and at least one child had to be hospitalized.

An official working at the Midland, Texas, facility said most of the Red Cross volunteers staffing the site don't speak Spanish, even though the teenagers they care for are overwhelmingly from Central America. When the facility opened, there weren't enough new clothes to give to teenagers who had been wearing the same shirts and pants for several days, the official said. And no case managers were on site to begin processing the minors' release to family elsewhere in the U.S. 

Bringing in teenagers while still setting up basic services "was kind of like building a plane as it's taking off," said the official, who declined to be named due to government restrictions. 

U.S. Health and Human Services notified local officials in Midland on Wednesday that it had no plans to bring more teenagers to the site, according to an email seen by the AP. HHS spokesman Mark Weber said taking more teenagers to Midland was on "pause for now." There were still 485 youths there as of Wednesday, 53 of whom had tested positive for COVID-19.

With striking of Black juror, Floyd activists see racism

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A prospective juror who once lived in the neighborhood where George Floyd was arrested told the attorney for an ex-officer charged in Floyd's death that he had a personal reason for wanting to serve on the jury.

"Because me, as a Black man, you see a lot of Black people get killed and no one's held accountable for it, and you wonder why or what was the decisions," Juror No. 76 said under questioning during jury selection in Derek Chauvin's murder trial. "So, with this, maybe I'll be in the room to know why."

But the man won't be in the room. Even though he said he felt he could weigh the evidence fairly, he was struck by the defense. It was an illustration of how difficult it can be for people who say they have personal experience with police misconduct to make it onto juries that hold them accountable.

"We have a Black man who was probably in the best position to judge the case being excluded," said Nekima Levy Armstrong, a civil rights attorney and head of a community activism organization called Wayfinder Foundation.

The man said he experiences daily racism, and he strongly agreed that police are more likely to respond with force on Black people than on white people. Levy Armstrong called the juror's exclusion a "huge slap in the face" that "just underscores why people believe there is systemic racism at work within these judicial processes."

Lebanese are gripped by worry as economic meltdown speeds up

BEIRUT (AP) — Shops closing, companies going bankrupt and pharmacies with shelves emptying — in Lebanon these days, fistfights erupt in supermarkets as shoppers scramble to get to subsidized powdered milk, rice and cooking oil. 

Like almost every other Lebanese, Nisrine Taha's life has been turned upside down in the past year under the weight of the country's crushing economic crisis. Anxiety for the future is eating at her.

Five months ago, she was laid off from her job at the real estate company where she had worked for years. Her daughter, who is 21, cannot find work, forcing the family to rely on her husband's monthly salary which has lost 90 percent of its value because of the collapse of the national currency.

The family hasn't been able to pay rent for seven months, and Taha worries their landlord's patience won't last forever. As the price of meat and chicken soared beyond their means, they changed their diet.

"Everything is very expensive," she said. 

Zoos, scientists aim to curb people giving virus to animals

SAN DIEGO (AP) — The coughing among the western lowland gorillas at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in January was the first warning sign. Soon the fears were confirmed: A troop of gorillas became the first apes known to test positive for the coronavirus.

Around the world, many scientists and veterinarians are now racing to protect animals from the coronavirus, often using the same playbook for minimizing disease spread among people: That includes social distancing, health checks and, for some zoo animals, a vaccine.

Karen, a 28-year-old orangutan, became the first ape in the world to get a coronavirus vaccine on Jan. 26 at the San Diego Zoo.

Karen has received two shots of a vaccine from Zoetis, a veterinary pharmaceutical company in New Jersey, and has shown no adverse reactions. Since then, nine other primates at the San Diego Zoo have been fully vaccinated: five bonobos and four orangutans. Four more animals — one bonobo and three gorillas — got their first shot this month and will get a second one in April.

"I was really convinced that we wanted to get that to protect our other great apes," said the zoo's wildlife health officer Nadine Lamberski, who explained she felt urgency to act after the eight gorillas fell sick.

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