WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden wants America to know that he's from the government and he's here to help.
That sentiment became a well-worn punchline under Ronald Reagan and shaped the politics of both parties for four decades. Democrat Bill Clinton declared the era of big government over in the 1990s, Barack Obama largely kept his party in the same lane and Republican Donald Trump campaigned on the premise that Washington was full of morons, outplayed by the Chinese and others.
But Biden is now staking his presidency on the idea that the government can use his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan not only to stop a pandemic and jobs crisis but also to catapult the country forward to tackle deep issues of poverty, inequality and more. The massive bill could be approved by Congress as early as Tuesday.
"When I was elected, I said we were going to get the government out of the business of battling on Twitter and back in the business of delivering for the American people," Biden said after the huge bill passed the Senate on Saturday. "Of showing the American people that their government can work for them."
Taken together, provisions in the 628-page bill add up to one of the largest enhancements to the social safety net in decades, pushing the country into uncharted territory.
Fully vaccinated people can gather without masks, CDC says
NEW YORK (AP) — Fully vaccinated Americans can gather with other vaccinated people indoors without wearing a mask or social distancing, according to long-awaited guidance from federal health officials.
The recommendations also say that vaccinated people can come together in the same way — in a single household — with people considered at low-risk for severe disease, such as in the case of vaccinated grandparents visiting healthy children and grandchildren.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced the guidance Monday.
The guidance is designed to address a growing demand, as more adults have been getting vaccinated and wondering if it gives them greater freedom to visit family members, travel, or do other things like they did before the COVID-19 pandemic swept the world last year.
"With more and more people vaccinated each day, we are starting to turn a corner," said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.
Explosive Harry, Meghan interview reverberates across globe
LONDON (AP) — Prince Harry and Meghan's explosive TV interview divided people around the world on Monday, rocking an institution that is struggling to modernize with claims of racism and callousness toward a woman struggling with suicidal thoughts.
During the two-hour appearance with Oprah Winfrey, Harry also revealed the problems had ruptured relations with his father, Prince Charles, and brother, Prince William, illuminating the depth of the family divisions that led the couple to step away from royal duties and move to California last year.
The palace has not yet responded to the interview, in which Meghan described feeling so isolated and miserable inside the royal family that she had suicidal thoughts and said a member of the family had "concerns" about the color of her unborn child's skin.
The family member was not Queen Elizabeth II or Prince Philip, according to Harry, sparking a flurry of speculation about who it could be.
Leaders around the world were asked about the interview, and citizens of many countries had an opinion.
EXPLAINER: Myanmar media defiant as junta cracks down
BANGKOK (AP) — Myanmar's military-controlled government is seeking to suppress media coverage of protests against its seizure of power as journalists and ordinary citizens strive to inform people inside and outside of the country about what is happening.
Authorities on Monday canceled the licenses of five local media outlets that had been offering extensive coverage of the protests, attempting to fully roll back such freedoms a decade after the country began its faltering transition toward democracy.
The government has detained dozens of journalists since the Feb. 1 coup, including Thein Zaw of The Associated Press.
The crackdown comes as the military has escalated violence against mass protests. Reports by independent media are still providing vital information about arrests and shootings by troops in cities across Myanmar. And they're using other platforms to distribute their reports such as social media.
Here's a look at the media situation in Myanmar:
Japan seeks 'recovery of people's hearts' decade after quake
TOMIOKA, Japan (AP) — Ten years after Japan's earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster, the lives of many who survived are still on hold.
On March 11, 2011, one of the biggest temblors on record touched off a massive tsunami, killing more than 18,000 people and setting off catastrophic meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Nearly half a million people were displaced. Tens of thousands still haven't returned home.
More than 30 trillion yen ($280 billion) has been spent on reconstruction so far — but even Reconstruction Minister Katsuei Hirasawa acknowledged recently that while the government has charged ahead with new buildings, it has invested less in helping people to rebuild their lives, for instance, by offering mental health services for trauma.
The Associated Press talked to people affected by the disasters about how far they have come — and how much more needs to be done.
Trial for ex-cop charged in Floyd's death forges on, for now
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The trial of a former Minneapolis police officer charged in George Floyd's death is forging ahead with jury selection, even though a looming appellate ruling could halt the case and delay it for weeks or even months as the state tries to add a third-degree murder count.
Prosecutors are asking the Court of Appeals to put Derek Chauvin's trial on hold until the issue of adding the third-degree murder count is resolved. The appeals court did not immediately rule on that request, and Judge Peter Cahill said Monday that he intends to keep the trial on track until he's told to stop.
"Unless the Court of Appeals tells me otherwise, we're going to keep moving," he said. Jury selection is expected to begin Tuesday, a day later than scheduled.
Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter in Floyd's death. The Court of Appeals last week ordered Cahill to consider reinstating a third-degree murder charge that he had dismissed. Legal experts say reinstating the charge would improve the odds of getting a conviction. Chauvin's attorney, Eric Nelson, said Monday he would ask the state Supreme Court to review the issue.
On Monday, prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed to dismiss 16 of the first 50 jurors they reviewed "for cause," based on their answers to a lengthy questionnaire. The dismissals weren't debated in court, but such dismissals can be for a host of reasons, such as views that indicate a juror can't be impartial.
'Bad news': Wave of GOP retirements signals battles ahead
This is not the way Republicans wanted to begin the year.
Missouri's Roy Blunt on Monday became the fifth Republican senator to announce he will not seek reelection, a retirement wave that portends an ugly campaign season next year and gives Democrats fresh hope in preserving their razor-thin Senate majority.
History suggests Republicans are still well-positioned to reclaim at least one chamber of Congress next year. But officials in both parties agree that the surge of GOP departures will make the Republicans' challenge more difficult in the Senate.
"Any time you lose an incumbent, it's bad news," said Republican strategist Rick Tyler, who briefly worked for failed Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin nearly a decade ago. "Missouri's not necessarily a safe state for Republicans. Democrats have won there."
The 71-year-old Blunt's exit is a reminder of how the nation's politics have shifted since the rise of Donald Trump. Blunt and his retiring GOP colleagues from Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Alabama represent an old guard who fought for conservative policies but sometimes resisted the deeply personal attacks and uneven governance that dominated the Trump era.
Gibraltar, a vaccine champion, launches 'Operation Freedom'
GIBRALTAR (AP) — Maskless parents pick up smiling Cinderellas, Harry Potters and hedgehogs from schools that reopened after a two-month hiatus just in time for World Book Day's costume display. Following weeks under lockdown, a soccer team resumes training at the stadium. Coffee shops and pubs have finally raised their blinds, eager to welcome locals and eyeing the return of tourists.
There's an end-of-hibernation feeling in Gibraltar. The narrow British overseas territory stretching between Spain and the mouth of the Mediterranean Sea is emerging from a devastating virus surge. COVID-19 has killed 93 people, nearly all of them in January and February this year, and infected over 4,000 of its 33,000 residents.
But the compact, high-density geography that is blamed — together with new virus variants — for the surge of infections has also been key to Gibraltar's successful vaccination campaign, with word-of-mouth facilitating the rollout.
The recent easing of restrictions — what Gibraltar authorities have dubbed "Operation Freedom" — also owes much to the steady delivery of jabs from the U.K.
By the end of March, Gibraltar is on track to have completely vaccinated all residents over 16 and its vast imported workforce, Health Minister Samantha Sacramento told The Associated Press. That's over 40,000 people. Only 3.5% have so far rejected the vaccine.
From a prolonged pandemic, a rethink of life's milestones?
Wedding anniversaries for Elizabeth O'Connor Cole and her husband, Michael, usually involve a dinner reservation for two at a fancy restaurant. Not this time around.
As the pandemic raged last May, the Chicago mom of four unearthed her boxed wedding gown from 19 years ago, got it zipped with help from one of her daughters and surprised her spouse.
Cole recreated their reception menu — a shrimp appetizer and beef tenderloin — and pulled out her wedding china and silver after enlisting another of her kids to DJ their first-dance song, "At Last," for a romantic turn around the living room. And the priest who married them offered a special blessing on Zoom with friends and family joining in.
"Spontaneous and a bit chaotic," O'Connor Cole pronounced the celebration. "Still, it was probably the most meaningful and fun anniversary we've had."
As the pandemic enters its second year, there's a pent-up longing for the recent past, especially when it comes to life's milestones. When the crisis finally resolves, will our new ways of marking births and deaths, weddings and anniversaries have any lasting impact? Or will freshly felt sentiments born of pandemic invention be fleeting?
Indian activist's arrest spotlights crackdown on dissent
NEW DELHI (AP) — To her friends, Disha Ravi, a 22-year-old Indian climate activist, was most concerned about her future in a world of rising temperatures. She was drawn to veganism, enjoyed watching Netflix and spent time on social media.
But her life changed last month when she became a household name in India, dominating headlines after police charged her with sedition, a colonial-era law that carries a sentence up to life in prison.
Her alleged crime: sharing an online handbook meant to raise support for months-long farmer protests on Twitter.
"If highlighting farmers' protest globally is sedition, I am better (off) in jail," she said in court two weeks ago.
She was released after 10 days in custody. Her mother told reporters in Ravi's hometown of Bengaluru that the case "has reinforced our faith in the system," and called her daughter strong and brave.