WASHINGTON (AP) — As he rounds out his first 100 days in office, President Joe Biden's focus on reining in the coronavirus during the early months of his administration seems to have paid off: He can check off nearly all his campaign promises centered on the pandemic.
Biden has delivered on a number of his biggest campaign pledges focused on climate change and the economy as well. But some issues have proved to be tougher for the administration — including immigration, where Biden is grappling with how to enact promised reforms in the face of a steep increase in unaccompanied minors seeking to cross the border. On some of his promises, Biden is waiting for Congress to act.
Where Biden stands on some of his key promises:
— Raise refugee cap to 125,000, up from the 15,000 set by President Donald Trump.
PHOTOS: Mass funeral pyres reflect India's COVID crisis
NEW DELHI (AP) — Delhi has been cremating so many bodies of COVID-19 victims that authorities are getting requests to start cutting down trees in city parks for kindling, as a record surge of illness is collapsing India's tattered health care system.
Outside graveyards in cities like Delhi, which currently has the highest daily cases, ambulance after ambulance waits in line to cremate the dead. Burial grounds are running out of space in many cities as glowing funeral pyres blaze through the night.
India's surge in coronavirus infections, growing at the fastest pace in the world, has left families and patients pleading for oxygen outside hospitals, the relatives weeping in the street as their loved ones die while waiting for treatment.
The nation of nearly 1.4 billion people set a global record of new daily infections for a fifth straight day Monday. The 350,179 new cases pushed India's total past 17 million, behind only the United States. Deaths rose by 2,812 in the past 24 hours, bringing total fatalities to 195,123, the Health Ministry said, though the number is believed to be a vast undercount.
A stark symbol of the crisis are the overwhelmed graveyards and crematoriums, stacked to the brim with the dead.
'Nomadland' wins best picture at a social distanced Oscars
Chloé Zhao's "Nomadland," a wistful portrait of itinerant lives on open roads across the American West, won best picture Sunday at the 93rd Academy Awards, where the China-born Zhao became the first woman of color to win best director and a historically diverse group of winners took home awards.
In the biggest surprise of a socially distanced Oscar ceremony held during the pandemic, best actor went to Anthony Hopkins for his performance in the dementia drama "The Father." The award had been widely expected to go to Chadwick Boseman for his final performance in "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom." The night's last award, it ended the ceremony on a down note, particularly since Hopkins wasn't in attendance.
But the "Nomadland" victory, while widely expected, nevertheless capped the extraordinary rise of Zhao, a lyrical filmmaker whose winning film is just her third, and which — with a budget less than $5 million and featuring a cast populated by non-professional actors — ranks as one of the most modest-sized movies to win Hollywood's top honor. (Zhao's next film, Marvel's "Eternals," has a budget approximately 40 times that of "Nomadland.")
A plain-spoken meditation on solitude, grief and grit, "Nomadland" stuck a chord in a pandemic-ravaged year. It made for an unlikely Oscar champ: A film about people who gravitate to the margins took center stage.
"I have always found goodness in the people I've met everywhere I went in the world," said Zhao when accepting best director, which Kathryn Bigelow ("The Hurt Locker") was the only previous woman to win. "This is for anyone who has the faith and the courage to hold on to the goodness in themselves and to hold on the goodness in other no matter how difficult it is to do that."
Oscar moments: History, glamour ... and what a weird ending
If that's what you yelled at the TV during the final moments of Sunday's Oscars, you weren't alone. In what may have been the most abrupt ending since that closing shot of "The Sopranos," TV audiences expecting an emotional finale crowning the late Chadwick Boseman as best actor were left to ponder a huge upset, an absent winner, and a quick "see ya" from the Oscars.
It was one more unusual moment in the most unusual of all Oscar telecasts, one that defied convention in so many ways. Some of it was good: In a pandemic year when award shows faced unprecedented challenges, the Oscars brought back red-carpet glamour. And though many nominees weren't able to attend in person, it was truly heartening to see those who were.
The nominees represented a huge advance in diversity, with more women and more actors of color nominated than ever before — but one oft-predicted outcome was not meant to be: a sweep of the acting categories by actors of color. Though supporting prizes went to Daniel Kaluuya ("Judas and the Black Messiah") and Youn Yuh-jung ("Minari"), the best actor and actress categories went unexpectedly to Anthony Hopkins and to Frances McDormand, winning her third trophy in the category, for"Nomadland."
But history was made nonetheless, especially by Chloé Zhao, the China-born director of "Nomadland" who became just the second woman to win best director, and the first woman of color.
Virus surge in crowded Gaza threatens to overwhelm hospitals
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — More than a year into the coronavirus pandemic, some of the worst fears are coming true in the crowded Gaza Strip: A sudden surge in infections and deaths is threatening to overwhelm hospitals weakened by years of conflict and border closures.
Gaza's main treatment center for COVID-19 patients warns that oxygen supplies are dwindling fast. In another hospital, coronavirus patients are packed three to a room.
For months, Gaza's Hamas rulers seemed to have a handle on containing the pandemic. But their decision to lift most movement restrictions in February — coupled with the spread of a more aggressive virus variant and lack of vaccines — has led to a fierce second surge.
At the same time, many of Gaza's more than 2 million people ignore safety precautions, especially during the current fasting month of Ramadan. In the daytime, markets teem with shoppers buying goods for iftar, the meal breaking the fast after sundown. Few wear masks properly, if at all.
"Corona is not a game," said Yasmin Ali, 32, whose 64-year-old mother died of the virus last week. "It will take the lives of many people if they don't protect themselves in the first place."
Packed parks, lurking virus? Worries mount as Italy reopens
MILAN (AP) — Italy's gradual reopening on Monday after six months of rotating virus lockdowns is satisfying no one: Too cautious for some, too hasty for others.
Allowing outdoor dining comes too little, too late for Italy's restaurant owners, whose survival is threatened by more than a year of on-again, off-again closures. The country's continued 10 p.m. curfew puts a damper on theater reopenings, and is seen as bad public relations for Italy's key tourism industry, which hopes the second summer of the pandemic can finally see the return of overseas visitors. The government has also been facing strong pressure to reopen from Italy's right-wing parties.
Yet the nation's weary virologists and medical workers worry that even the tentative reopening planned by Premier Mario Draghi's government will invite a free-for-all that risks a new virus surge before the current one is truly tamped down.
"Unfortunately, as I have had to repeat often: The virus does not negotiate. The virus, moreover, has succeeded in adapting itself, becoming more aggressive and more widespread,'' said Professor Massimo Galli of Milan's Sacco Hospital.
In a preview of what many fear, Italians on Sunday — a day before the virus restrictions loosened — crowded the streets, squares and parks of cities from Rome to Turin, Milan to Naples, as warmer weather pushed aside an unusually cold spring.
Help Wanted: In pandemic, worry about finding summer workers
BOSTON (AP) — The owner of seafood restaurants on Cape Cod has eliminated lunch service and delayed the opening of some locations because his summertime influx of foreign workers hasn't arrived yet.
More than a thousand miles away, a Jamaican couple is fretting about whether the rest of their extended family can join them for the seasonal migration to the popular beach destination south of Boston that's been a crucial lifeline for them for decades.
As vaccinated Americans start to get comfortable traveling again, popular summer destinations are anticipating a busy season. But hotel, restaurant and retail store owners warn that staffing shortages exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic could force them to limit occupancy, curtail hours and services or shut down facilities entirely just as they're starting to bounce back from a grim year.
The problem, they say, is twofold: The annual influx of seasonal foreign workers has stalled in places because of the pandemic. Businesses have also struggled to attract U.S. workers, even as many have redoubled their efforts to hire locally amid high unemployment.
"It's the 'Hunger Games' for these employers, fighting for getting these guest workers into the country while also trying everything they can to recruit domestically," said Brian Crawford, an executive vice president for the American Hotel and Lodging Association, a Washington, D.C.-based industry group. "It's really frustrating. They're trying to regain their footing after this disastrous pandemic but they just can't catch a break."
Leaked recording of Iran's top diplomat offers blunt talk
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — A recording of Iran's foreign minister offering a blunt appraisal of diplomacy and the limits of power within the Islamic Republic has been leaked, providing a rare look inside the country's theocracy.
The release of the comments by Mohammad Javad Zarif set off a firestorm within Iran, where officials carefully mind their words amid a cut-throat political environment that includes the powerful paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, ultimately overseen by the country's supreme leader. Zarif has been suggested as a possible candidate for Iran's June 18 presidential election as well.
Outside of Iran, Zarif's comments could also affect talks in Vienna aimed at finding a way for Tehran and the U.S. to both come into compliance with Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. Already, sabotage targeted Iran's nuclear facility at Natanz during the talks as Tehran has begun enriching a small amount of uranium up to 60% purity, which edges the country closer to weapons-grade levels.
After the leak became public, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh did not dispute the tape's authenticity. He told journalists on Monday that the recording represented just a portion of a seven-hour interview Zarif gave to a well-known economist that was to be held for posterity by a think tank associated with the Iranian presidency.
Khatibzadeh called the release of the recording "illegal" and described it as "selectively" edited, though he and others did not offer opinions on how it became public. Zarif, visiting Iraq on Monday after a trip to Qatar, took no questions from journalists after giving a brief statement in Baghdad.
Analysis: A reckoning on racism? Not for many leaders of GOP
NEW YORK (AP) — If the nation is in the midst of a historic reckoning on racism, most leaders of the Republican Party are not participating.
On the same day last week that a jury convicted the police officer who killed George Floyd, Republicans in Washington focused much of their energy on condemning the longest-serving Black woman in Congress. In the days since, former President Donald Trump attacked what he called the "racist rants" of basketball icon LeBron James. And some of Trump's staunchest supporters on Capitol Hill are considering forming a new group that initially planned to champion "Anglo-Saxon political traditions."
Beyond simple rhetoric, Republican state lawmakers are pushing forward with new voting restrictions that disproportionately affect people of color and are resisting legislation designed to prevent police brutality.
The moves reflect a stark political reality: As America grows more diverse, the Republican Party continues to be led almost entirely by white people, particularly men, who cater to an overwhelmingly white base. And despite fierce criticism from civil rights leaders and growing concern from business leaders who are traditional allies, many Republicans see no problem.
"It's unfortunate that more in the Republican Party are not willing to stand up for what I would define as creating a more just and humane system," Martin Luther King III told The Associated Press. "It makes you wonder if they really even care."
China mutes reaction to Zhao's Oscars as S. Korea lauds Youn
TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Chloé Zhao's history-making Oscars sweep, winning best director and best picture, is being met with a muted response in her country of birth, and even censorship.
Zhao's "Nomadland" is the second film directed by a woman to win a best picture Oscar. She is the first woman of color and second woman ever to win the Oscars for best director.
Yet, in China, where Zhao was born, her history-making success has not been trumpeted or celebrated. State media in China remained silent as of Monday afternoon, with no mention of her win by either CCTV and Xinhua, the two main state-run outlets.
Instead, there was even censorship. A post announcing Zhao's directing win by film magazine Watch Movies, which has over 14 million followers on the ubiquitous Weibo microblog, was censored a few hours after it appeared Monday morning. A hashtag called "Chloe Zhao wins Best Director" was also censored on the platform with users coming across an error message saying, "according to relevant laws and regulations and policies, the page is not found."
Some users resorting to using "zt" to post about Zhao, using the initials of her full name in Chinese, Zhou Ting. Typing in Zhou's name in Chinese on Weibo brought up only unrelated posts from the beginning of April. A search for "Oscars" showed only official posts from the South Korean and U.S. embassies.