'Leave no Tigrayan': In Ethiopia, an ethnicity is erased

HAMDAYET, Sudan (AP) — The atrocities have been seared into the skin and the minds of Tigrayans, who take shelter by the thousands within sight of the homeland they fled in northern Ethiopia.

They arrive in heat that soars above 38 C (100 F), carrying the pain of gunshot wounds, torn vaginas, welts on beaten backs. Less visible are the horrors that jolt them awake at night: Memories of dozens of bodies strewn on riverbanks. Fighters raping a woman one by one for speaking her own language. A child, weakened by hunger, left behind.

Now, for the first time, they also bring proof of an official attempt at what is being called ethnic cleansing in the form of a new identity card that eliminates all traces of Tigray, as confirmed to The Associated Press by nine refugees from different communities. Written in a language not their own, issued by authorities from another ethnic group, the ID cards are the latest evidence of a systematic drive by the Ethiopian government and its allies to destroy the Tigrayan people.

The Amhara authorities now in charge of the nearby city of Humera took Seid Mussa Omar's original ID card displaying his Tigrayan identity and burned it, the soft-spoken nurse said. On his new card examined by the AP, issued in January with the Amharic language, an Amhara stamp and a border of tiny hearts, even the word Tigray had vanished. 

"I kept it to show the world," Seid said. He added that only 10 Tigrayans remained of the roughly 400 who worked at the hospital where he had been employed, the rest killed or fleeing. "This is genocide … Their aim is to erase Tigray."

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Biden makes all adults eligible for a vaccine on April 19

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden said he's bumping up his deadline by two weeks for states to make all adults in the U.S. eligible for coronavirus vaccines. But even as he expressed optimism about the pace of vaccinations, he warned Americans that the nation is not yet out of the woods when it comes to the pandemic.

"Let me be deadly earnest with you: We aren't at the finish line. We still have a lot of work to do. We're still in a life and death race against this virus," Biden said Tuesday in remarks at the White House.

The president warned that " new variants of the virus are spreading and they're moving quickly. Cases are going back up, hospitalizations are no longer declining." He added that "the pandemic remains dangerous," and encouraged Americans to continue to wash their hands, socially distance and wear masks.

Biden added that while his administration is on schedule to meet his new goal of distributing 200 million doses of the vaccine during his first 100 days, it will still take time for enough Americans to get vaccinated to slow the spread of the virus. 

But he expressed hope that his Tuesday announcement, that every adult will be eligible by April 19 to sign up and get in a virtual line to be vaccinated, will help expand access and distribution of the vaccine. Some states already had begun moving up their deadlines from the original May 1 goal. 

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Survey: Even as schools reopen, many students learn remotely

Large numbers of students are not returning to the classroom even as more schools reopen for full-time, in-person learning, according to a survey released Wednesday by the Biden administration.

The findings reflect a nation that has been locked in debate over the safety of reopening schools during the coronavirus pandemic. Even as national COVID-19 rates continued to ebb in February, key measures around reopening schools barely budged.

Nearly 46 percent of public schools offered five days a week of in-person to all students in February, according to the survey, but just 34 percent of students were learning full-time in the classroom. The gap was most pronounced among older K-12 students, with just 29 percent of eighth graders getting five days a week of learning at school.

There were early signs of a shift, however, with more eighth grade students moving from fully remote to hybrid learning.

With the new findings, President Joe Biden came no closer to meeting his goal of having most elementary schools open five days a week in his first 100 days. Just shy of half the nation's schools offered full-time learning in February, roughly the same share as the previous month.

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Minneapolis officers line up to reject Chauvin's actions

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The parade of Minneapolis police officers rejecting a former officer's actions in restraining George Floyd continued at his murder trial, including a use-of-force instructor who said officers were coached to "stay away from the neck when possible."

Lt. Johnny Mercil on Tuesday became the latest member of the Minneapolis force to take the stand as part of an effort by prosecutors to dismantle the argument that Derek Chauvin was doing what he was trained to do when he put his knee on George Floyd's neck last May.

Several experienced officers, including the police chief himself, have testified that Floyd should not have been kept pinned to the pavement for close to 9 1/2 minutes by prosecutors' reckoning as the Black man lay face-down, his hands cuffed behind his back.

According to testimony and records submitted Tuesday, Chauvin took a 40-hour course in 2016 on how to recognize people in crisis — including those suffering mental problems or the effects of drug use — and how to use de-escalation techniques to calm them down.

Sgt. Ker Yang, the Minneapolis police official in charge of crisis-intervention training, said officers are taught to "slow things down and re-evaluate and reassess."

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Leaders of Russia and China tighten their grips, grow closer

MOSCOW (AP) — They're not leaders for life — not technically, at least. But in political reality, the powerful tenures of China's Xi Jinping and, as of this week, Russia's Vladimir Putin are looking as if they will extend much deeper into the 21st century — even as the two superpowers whose destinies they steer gather more clout with each passing year.

What's more, as they consolidate political control at home, sometimes with harsh measures, they're working together more substantively than ever in a growing challenge to the West and the world's other superpower, the United States, which elects its leader every four years.

This week, Putin signed a law allowing him to potentially hold onto power until 2036. The 68-year-old Russian president, who has been in power for more than two decades — longer than any other Kremlin leader since Soviet dictator Josef Stalin — pushed through a constitutional vote last year allowing him to run again in 2024 when his current six-year term ends. He has overseen a systematic crackdown on dissent.

In China, Xi, who came to power in 2012, has imposed even tighter controls on the already repressive political scene, emerging as one of his nation's most powerful leaders in the seven decades of Communist Party rule that began with Mao Zedong's often-brutal regime. Under Xi, the government has rounded up, imprisoned or silenced intellectuals, legal activists and other voices, cracked down on Hong Kong's opposition and used security forces to suppress calls for minority rights in Xinjiang, Tibet and Inner Mongolia. 

Xi has sidelined rivals, locked up critics and tightened the party's control over information. An ongoing crackdown against corruption has won popular support while also keeping potential competitors in line. 

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Iran ship serving as Red Sea troop base near Yemen attacked

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — An Iranian cargo ship believed to be a base for the paramilitary Revolutionary Guard and anchored for years in the Red Sea off Yemen has been attacked, Tehran acknowledged Wednesday. 

Iran's Foreign Ministry confirmed the attack on the MV Saviz, suspected to have been carried out by Israel. The assault came as Iran and world powers sat down in Vienna for the first talks about the U.S. potentially rejoining Tehran's tattered nuclear deal, showing that challenges ahead don't rest merely in those negotiations. 

The ship's long presence in the region, repeatedly criticized by Saudi Arabia, has come as the West and United Nations experts say Iran has provided arms and support to Yemen's Houthi rebels amid that country's yearslong war. Iran denies arming the Houthis, though components found in the rebels' weaponry link back to Tehran.

Iran previously described the Saviz as aiding in "anti-piracy" efforts in the Red Sea and the Bab el-Mandeb strait, a crucial choke point in international shipping. A statement attributed to Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh described the ship as a commercial vessel. 

"Fortunately, no casualties were reported ... and technical investigations are underway," Khatibzadeh said. "Our country will take all necessary measures through international authorities."

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Boat, snowmobile, camel: Vaccine reaches world's far corners

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — After enduring 40-knot winds and freezing sea spray, jostled health care providers arrived wet and cold on two Maine islands in the North Atlantic late last month to conduct coronavirus vaccinations.

As they came ashore on Little Cranberry Island, population 65, residents danced with excitement.

"It's a historic day for the island," said Kaitlyn Miller, who joined a friend in belting out "I'm not giving away my shot!" from the Broadway show Hamilton when the crew arrived.

Around the world, it is taking extra effort and ingenuity to ensure the vaccine gets to remote locations. That means shipping it by boat to islands, by snowmobile to Alaska villages and via complex waterways through the Amazon in Brazil. Before it's over, drones, motorcycles, elephants, horses and camels will have been used to deliver it to the world's far corners, said Robin Nandy, chief of immunization for UNICEF.

"This is unprecedented in that we're trying to deliver a new vaccine to every country in the world in the same calendar year," he said. 

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Asia Today: India sees another record rise in virus cases

NEW DELHI (AP) — India reported a record daily surge in new coronavirus cases for the second time in four days on Wednesday, while New Delhi, Mumbai and dozens of other cities announced they are imposing curfews to try to slow the soaring infections. 

The rise of 115,736 coronavirus cases reported in the past 24 hours, tops the 103,844 infections reported Sunday. Fatalities rose by 630 in the past 24 hours, the highest since November, driving the total death toll in the country to 166,177 since the pandemic began. 

The federal government has so far refused to impose a nationwide lockdown to contain the latest surge but has asked states to decide on imposing local restrictions.

"The pandemic isn't over and there is no scope for complacency," Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said on Twitter. He urged people to get vaccinated.

India now has a seven-day rolling average of more than 78,000 cases per day and has reported 12.8 million virus cases since the pandemic began, the highest after the United States and Brazil.

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Battle for Yemen desert city now a key to Iran, US tension

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The battle for an ancient desert city in war-torn Yemen has become a key to understanding wider tensions now inflaming the Middle East and the challenges facing any efforts by President Joe Biden's administration to shift U.S. troops out of the region. 

Fighting has been raging in the mountains outside of Marib as Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, who hold Yemen's capital of Sanaa, attempt to seize the city, which is crucial to the country's energy supplies.

Saudi Arabia, which has led a military coalition since 2015 backing Sanaa's exiled government, has launched airstrike after airstrike to blunt the Houthi advance toward Marib. The Houthis have retaliated with drone and missile attacks deep inside Saudi Arabia, roiling global oil markets.

The battle for Marib likely will determine the outline of any political settlement in Yemen's second civil war since the 1990s. If seized by the Houthis, the rebels can press that advantage in negotiations and even continue further south. If Marib is held by Yemen's internationally recognized government, it will save perhaps its only stronghold as secessionists challenge its authority elsewhere.

The fight is also squeezing a pressure point on the most powerful of America's Gulf Arab allies and ensnarling any U.S. return to Iran's nuclear deal. It's even complicating the Biden administration's efforts to slowly shift the longtime mass U.S. military deployments to the Mideast to counter what it sees as the emerging threat of China and Russia. 

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Beyond the Pandemic: London's financial hub seeks a rebirth

LONDON (AP) — On the surface, London's financial district appears to be a shell of its former self. No one is rushing to meetings. Chairs are flipped upside down on tables inside closed cafes and pubs. The roads are ghostly quiet on a bright spring morning. 

But a hive of activity is taking place at one spot, as builders lay the groundwork for the latest skyscraper to transform the skyline. Developers of the tower, called 8 Bishopsgate, are confident that when construction ends late next year, workers and firms will return to fill all 50 floors of the gleaming new office space.

When the coronavirus struck, nearly 540,000 workers vanished almost overnight from the business hub, known as the City of London, or simply "the City." A year on, most haven't returned.

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Plagues, fires, war — London has survived them all. But it has never had a year like this. The coronavirus has killed more than 15,000 Londoners and shaken the foundations of one of the world's great cities. As a fast-moving mass vaccination campaign holds the promise of reopening, The Associated Press looks at the pandemic's impact on London's people and institutions and asks what the future might hold.

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