CDC endorses COVID booster for millions of older Americans

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday endorsed booster shots for millions of older or otherwise vulnerable Americans, opening a major new phase in the U.S vaccination drive against COVID-19.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky signed off on a series of recommendations from a panel of advisers late Thursday. 

The advisers said boosters should be offered to people 65 and older, nursing home residents and those ages 50 to 64 who have risky underlying health problems. The extra dose would be given once they are at least six months past their last Pfizer shot. 

However, Walensky decided to make one recommendation that the panel had rejected. 

The panel on Thursday voted against saying that people can get a booster if they are ages 18 to 64 years and are health-care workers or have another job that puts them at increased risk of being exposed to the virus. 

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Great Wall of Lights: China's sea power on Darwin's doorstep

ABOARD THE OCEAN WARRIOR in the eastern Pacific Ocean (AP) — It's 3 a.m., and after five days plying through the high seas, the Ocean Warrior is surrounded by an atoll of blazing lights that overtakes the nighttime sky. 

"Welcome to the party!" said third officer Filippo Marini as the spectacle floods the ship's bridge and interrupts his overnight watch.

It's the conservationists' first glimpse of the world's largest fishing fleet: an armada of nearly 300 Chinese vessels that have sailed halfway across the globe to lure the elusive Humboldt squid from the Pacific Ocean's inky depths. 

As Italian hip hop blares across the bridge, Marini furiously scribbles the electronic IDs of 37 fishing vessels that pop up as green triangles on the Ocean Warrior's radar onto a sheet of paper, before they disappear. 

Immediately he detects a number of red flags: two of the boats have gone 'dark,' their mandatory tracking device that gives a ship's position switched off. Still others are broadcasting two different radio numbers — a sign of possible tampering.

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The AP Interview: Hungary committed to contentious LGBT law

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The right-wing populist government in Hungary is attracting conservative thinkers from the United States who admire its approaches to migration, LGBT issues and national sovereignty — all matters that have put the country at odds with its European partners, who see not a conservative haven but a worrying erosion of democratic institutions on multiple fronts.

Hungary's top diplomat has a few things to say about that.

In an interview Thursday with The Associated Press on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly's meeting of world leaders, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said his country would not cede ground on policies that have caused the European Union to impose financial penalties and start legal proceedings against it over violations of the bloc's values.

"We do not compromise on these issues because we are a sovereign country, a sovereign nation. And no one, not even the European Commission, should blackmail us regarding these policies," Szijjarto said.

Topping the list of contentious government policies: a controversial Hungarian law that the EU says violates the fundamental rights of LGBT people. That led the EU's executive commission to delay billions in economic recovery funds earmarked for Hungary — a move Szijjarto called "a purely political decision" and "blackmail." The law, he says, is meant to protect children from pedophiles and "homosexual propaganda."

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Women's voices at UN General Assembly few, but growing

NEW YORK (AP) — With cascading crises casting a pall over the proceedings at this year's United Nations General Assembly, Slovakian President Zuzana Čaputová had this reminder on the first day of debate: "We cannot save our planet if we leave out the vulnerable — the women, the girls, the minorities."

But gender parity at the world's preeminent forum of leaders still seems far out of sight. Eight women are set to speak at the U.N. General Assembly on Friday. That's more than double the number — five — of women that spoke across the first three days of the summit. 

On Friday, three vice presidents and five prime ministers — including Bangladesh's Sheikh Hasina and New Zealand's Jacinda Arden — will take the rostrum or give their address in a prerecorded video.

"As the first female president in the history of my country, the burden of expectation to deliver gender equality is heavier on my shoulder," said Samia Suluhu Hassan, the president of Tanzania. When it comes to such equality, she said, ""COVID-19 is threatening to roll back the gains that we have made," 

Hassan was the lone woman to address the General Assembly on Thursday. 

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Biden hosts Indo-Pacific leaders as China concerns grow

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden is set to host the first in-person gathering of leaders of an Indo-Pacific alliance known as " the Quad" on Friday, wrapping up a tough week of diplomacy in which he faced no shortage of criticism from both allies and adversaries.

Biden's meeting with leaders from India, Japan and Australia at the White House gives the U.S. president a chance to put the spotlight on a central aim of his foreign policy: turning greater attention to the Pacific in the face of what the U.S. sees as China's coercive economic practices and unsettling military maneuvering in the region. The four leaders' talks are also expected to center on climate, COVID-19 response and cyber security. 

Before the summit, the Japanese and Indian governments welcomed a recent announcement that the U.S., as part of a separate new alliance with Britain and Australia, would equip Australia with nuclear-powered submarines. 

It's a move that will allow Australia to conduct longer patrols and give it an edge on the Chinese navy. But the announcement infuriated France, which accused the Biden administration of stabbing it in the back by squelching its own $66 billion deal to provide diesel-powered submarines. 

Tensions between Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron eased after the two leaders spoke Wednesday and agreed to take steps to coordinate more closely in the Indo-Pacific.

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Sub snub just one symptom of longtime French unease with US

NEW YORK (AP) — Liberty and Fraternity, yes. Equality, not so much.

Born of a revolution fought for liberty, ties between the United States and its oldest ally, France, have long been fraternal, but they've also been marked by deep French unease over their equality.

French concerns about being the junior partner in the relationship boiled over last week when the U.S., Britain and Australia announced a new security initiative for the Indo-Pacific, aimed at countering a rising China. The AUKUS agreement scuttled a multibillion-dollar submarine deal that France had with Australia, but, more alarmingly for the French, pointedly ignored them, reinforcing a sense of insecurity that has haunted Paris since the end of World War II.

France has long bristled at what it sees as Anglo-Saxon arrogance on the global stage and has not been shy about rallying resistance to perceptions of British- and German-speaking dominance in matters ranging from commerce to conflict. 

Successive American presidents through the decades have ignored French warnings about military involvements from Indochina to Iraq. France's lessons learned in Vietnam and Algeria didn't translate. And, when France has on occasion supported military interventions, notably in Syria in 2013, the Americans have pulled back.

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German parties rally supporters ahead of Sunday election

BERLIN (AP) — Germany's political parties prepared to rally their supporters and win over undecided voters Friday, two days before a national election that will determine who succeeds Chancellor Angela Merkel after 16 years in power.

Merkel's center-right Union bloc, with Armin Laschet as its candidate for chancellorship, has made small gains in the polls in recent weeks. But it remains narrowly behind the center-left Social Democrats, headed by Finance Minister Olaf Scholz.

The Greens, who are putting forward their own candidate for chancellor for the first time, are trailing in third place, but could play kingmakers when it comes to forming a government.

Experts say one reason why this year's German election is tighter and less predictable than usual is that the candidates are relative unknowns to most voters.

"It's certainly not the most boring election," said Hendrik Traeger, a political scientist at the University of Leipzig. "There were those in which Angela Merkel stood as the incumbent and it was simply a question of who she would govern with."

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Haitians see history of racist policies in migrant treatment

The images — men on horseback, appearing to use reins as whips to corral Haitian asylum seekers trying to cross into the U.S. from Mexico — provoked an outcry. But to many Haitians and Black Americans, they're merely confirmation of a deeply held belief:

U.S. immigration policies, they say, are and have long been anti-Black.

The Border Patrol's treatment of Haitian migrants, they say, is just the latest in a long history of discriminatory U.S. policies and of indignities faced by Black people, sparking new anger among Haitian Americans, Black immigrant advocates and civil rights leaders.

They point to immigration data that indicate Haitians and other Black migrants routinely face structural barriers to legally entering or living in the U.S. — and often endure disproportionate contact with the American criminal legal system that can jeopardize their residency or hasten their deportation.

Haitians, in particular, are granted asylum at the lowest rate of any nationality with consistently high numbers of asylum seekers, according to an analysis of data by The Associated Press.

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Jailbreak shines light on mass incarceration of Palestinians

RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — The cinematic escape of six prisoners who tunneled out of an Israeli penitentiary earlier this month shone a light on Israel's mass incarceration of Palestinians, one of the many bitter fruits of the conflict.

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have passed through a military justice system designed for what Israel still portrays as a temporary occupation, but that is now well into its sixth decade and critics say is firmly cemented.

Nearly every Palestinian has a loved one who has been locked up in that system at some point, and imprisonment is widely seen as one of the most painful aspects of life under Israeli rule.

The saga of the six, who were eventually recaptured, also underscored the irreconcilable views Israelis and Palestinians hold about the prisoners and, more broadly, what constitutes legitimate resistance to occupation.

Israel classifies nearly every act of opposition to its military rule as a criminal offense, while many Palestinians see those acts as resistance and those engaged in them as heroes, even if they kill or wound Israelis.

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Buckle up: Arizona Republicans to show 2020 recount results

PHOENIX (AP) — Ten months after Donald Trump lost his 2020 reelection bid in Arizona, supporters hired by Arizona Senate Republicans were preparing to deliver the results of an unprecedented partisan election review that is the climax of a bizarre quest to find evidence supporting the former president's false claim that he lost because of fraud. 

Nearly every allegation made by the review team so far has crumbled under scrutiny. Election officials in Arizona and around the country expect more of the same Friday from the review team they say is biased, incompetent and chasing absurd or disproven conspiracy theories. 

"Every time Trump and his supporters have been given a forum to prove this case, they have swung and missed," said Ben Ginsberg, a longtime Republican election attorney and vocal critic of Trump's push to overturn the election.

The unprecedented partisan review — focused on the vote count in Arizona's largest county, Maricopa — is led and funded largely by people who already believe that Trump was the true winner, despite dozens of lawsuits and extraordinary scrutiny that found no problems that could change the outcome. They've ignored the detailed vote-counting procedures in Arizona law. 

Despite being widely mocked, the Arizona review has become a model that Trump supporters are eagerly pushing to replicate in other swing states where Biden won. Pennsylvania's Democratic attorney general sued Thursday to block a GOP-issued subpoena for a wide array of election materials. In Wisconsin, a retired conservative state Supreme Court justice is leading a Republican-ordered investigation into the 2020 election, and this week threatened to subpoena election officials who don't comply. 

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