PARIS (AP) — In an industrial neighborhood on the outskirts of Bangladesh's largest city lies a factory with gleaming new equipment imported from Germany, its immaculate hallways lined with hermetically sealed rooms. It is operating at just a quarter of its capacity.
It is one of three factories that The Associated Press found on three continents whose owners say they could start producing hundreds of millions of COVID-19 vaccines on short notice if only they had the blueprints and technical know-how. But that knowledge belongs to the large pharmaceutical companies who produce the first three vaccines authorized by countries including Britain, the European Union and the U.S. — Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca. The factories are all still awaiting responses.
Across Africa and Southeast Asia, governments and aid groups, as well as the WHO, are calling on pharmaceutical companies to share their patent information more broadly to meet a yawning global shortfall in a pandemic that already has claimed nearly 2.5 million lives. Pharmaceutical companies that took taxpayer money from the U.S. or Europe to develop inoculations at unprecedented speed say they are negotiating contracts and exclusive licensing deals with producers on a case-by-case basis because they need to protect their intellectual property and ensure safety.
Critics say this piecemeal approach is just too slow at a time of urgent need to stop the virus before it mutates into even deadlier forms. Last month, WHO called for vaccine manufacturers to share their know-how to "dramatically increase the global supply."
"If that can be done then immediately overnight every continent will have dozens of companies who would be able to produce these vaccines," said Abdul Muktadir, whose Incepta plant in Bangladesh already makes vaccines against hepatitis, flu, meningitis, rabies, tetanus and measles.
Defying lethal shootings, Myanmar protesters back on streets
YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — Police in Myanmar's biggest city on Monday fired tear gas at defiant crowds who returned to the streets to protest the military's seizure of power a month ago, despite reports that security forces had killed at least 18 people around the country a day earlier.
The protesters in Yangon were chased as they tried to gather at their usual meeting spot at the Hledan Center intersection. Demonstrators scattered and sought to rinse their faces with water in vain attempts to ease the irritating effects of the gas.
In the capital, Naypyitaw, the country's ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi made a court appearance Monday via videoconference, the independent Myanmar Now online news agency reported. It said she received a charge under Section 505(b) of the Penal Code for allegedly inciting unrest. Further details of the court appearance were not immediately available.
Suu Kyi had already been charged with two other offenses — possession of walkie-talkies that had been imported without being registered, and violating an order issued under the Natural Disaster Management Law limiting public gatherings in order to fight the spread of the coronavirus.
The 75-year-old Suu Kyi was initially detained by the military at her Naypyitaw residence, but fellow members of her National League for Democracy party are uncertain of her present whereabouts. If she is convicted, the charges against her could provide a legal way of barring her from running in the election the junta has promised in a year's time.
Cuomo sorry for remarks aide 'misinterpreted' as harassment
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo acknowledged for the first time Sunday that some of his behavior with women "may have been insensitive or too personal," and said he would cooperate with a sexual harassment investigation led by the state's attorney general.
In a statement released amid mounting criticism from within his own party, the Democrat maintained he had never inappropriately touched or propositioned anyone. But he said he had teased people about their personal lives in an attempt to be "playful."
"I now understand that my interactions may have been insensitive or too personal and that some of my comments, given my position, made others feel in ways I never intended. I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation. To the extent anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry about that," he said.
Cuomo, one of America's most prominent governors, is facing the most serious challenge of his decade in office following claims he sexually harassed at least two women who worked for him. Democrats in New York and around the nation aren't rallying to his side, leaving him increasingly isolated from traditional allies.
His partial admission of wrongdoing came after a day of wrangling over who should investigate his workplace behavior.
Biden to meet with Mexican president amid migration issues
WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — President Joe Biden is planning a virtual meeting Monday with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador — a chance for the pair to talk more fully about migration, confronting the coronavirus and cooperating on economic and national security issues.
Mexico's president has said he intends during the meeting to propose to Biden a new Bracero-style immigrant labor program that could bring 600,000 to 800,000 Mexican and Central American immigrants a year to work legally in the United States.
A senior Biden administration official declined to say whether the U.S. president would back or oppose the proposal, saying only that both countries agree on the need to expand legal pathways for migration. The official insisted on anonymity to discuss private conversations.
The original Bracero program allowed Mexicans to work temporarily in the United States to fill labor shortages during World War II and for a couple of decades after the war. López Obrador said the U.S. economy needs Mexican workers because of "their strength, their youth."
The Biden official said the meeting will enable Biden begin to institutionalize the relationship with Mexico, rather than let it be determined by tweets — a preferred form of diplomacy by his predecessor, Donald Trump.
Trump calls for GOP unity, repeats lies about election loss
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Taking the stage for the first time since leaving office, former President Donald Trump called for GOP unity, even as he exacerbated intraparty divisions by attacking fellow Republicans and promoting lies about the election in a speech that made clear he intends to remain a dominant political force.
Speaking Sunday at the Conservative Political Action Conference, where he was hailed as a returning hero, Trump blasted his successor, President Joe Biden, and tried to lay out a vision for the future of the GOP that revolves firmly around him, despite his loss in November.
"Do you miss me yet?" Trump said after taking the stage to his old rally soundtrack and cheers from the supportive crowd.
Trump, in his speech, tried to downplay the civil war gripping the party over the extent to which Republicans should embrace him, even as he unfurled an enemies list, calling out by name the 10 House Republicans and seven GOP senators who voted to impeach or convict him for inciting the U.S. Capitol riot. He ended by singling out Rep. Liz Cheney, the No. 3 House Republican, who has faced tremendous backlash in Wyoming for saying Trump should no longer play a role in the party or headline the event.
While he insisted the division was merely a spat "between a handful of Washington, D.C., establishment political hacks and everybody else, all over the country," Trump had a message for the incumbents who had dared to cross him: "Get rid of 'em all."
Even more chaotic than usual, Globes still had their moments
In the opening moments of a Golden Globes night even more chaotic and confounding than usual, co-host Tina Fey raised a theoretical question: "Could this whole night have been an email?" Only the next three hours would tell.
Well, sure, it could have been an email. But then you wouldn't have had Chadwick Boseman's eloquent widow, bringing many to tears as she explained how she could never be as eloquent as her late husband. Or Jane Fonda, sharply calling out Hollywood for its lack of diversity on a night when her very hosts were under fire for exactly that. Or Chloé Zhao, making history as the first woman of Asian descent to win best director (and the first woman since 1984.)
Or 98-year-old Norman Lear, giving the simplest explanation for his longevity: never living or laughing alone. Or Jodie Foster kissing her wife joyfully, eight years after very tentatively coming out on the same telecast.
Of course, there were the usual confounding results and baffling snubs, compounded here by some epic Zoom fails. But then we had the kids and the dogs. And they were adorable.
Next year, can we still have the kids and the dogs, please?
India giving COVID-19 vaccines to more people as cases rise
NEW DELHI (AP) — India is expanding its coronavirus vaccination drive beyond health care and front-line workers, offering the shots to older people and those with medical conditions that put them at risk. Among the first to receive a vaccine on Monday was Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Those now eligible include anyone older than 60, as well as those over 45 who have ailments such as heart disease or diabetes that make them vulnerable to serious COVID-19 illness. The shots will be given for free at government hospitals and will also be sold at over 10,000 private hospitals at a fixed price of 250 rupees, or $3.40, per shot.
But the rollout of one of the world's largest vaccination drives has been sluggish. Amid signs of hesitancy among the first groups offered the vaccine, Modi, who is 70, got a shot at New Delhi's All India Institute of Medical Science. He received the vaccine produced by Indian vaccine maker Bharat Biotech — which has been met with particular skepticism. He appealed for all to get vaccinated, tweeting afterward, "together, let us make India COVID-19 free!"
The drive, which began in January in the country of 1.4 billion people, has recently taken on even more urgency, since new infections have begun to increase again after months of consistent decline, and scientists have detected worrisome variants of the virus that they fear could hasten infections or render vaccines or treatments less useful.
Scores of elderly people started lining up outside private hospitals on Monday morning. Sunita Kapoor was among them, waiting for a vaccine with her husband. She said that they had been staying at home and not meeting people for months to stay safe from the virus — and were looking forward to being able to socialize a bit more. "We are excited," said Kapoor, 63.
Netanyahu accuses Iran of attacking Israeli-owned cargo ship
JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday accused Iran of attacking an Israeli-owned ship in the Gulf of Oman last week, a mysterious explosion that further spiked security concerns in the region.
Without offering any evidence to his claim, Netanyahu told Israeli public broadcaster Kan that "it was indeed an act by Iran, that's clear."
"Iran is the greatest enemy of Israel, I am determined to halt it. We are hitting it in the entire region," Netanyahu said. Iran promptly dismissed the charges.
The blast struck the Israeli-owned MV Helios Ray, a Bahamian-flagged roll-on, roll-off vehicle cargo ship, as it was sailing out of the Middle East on its way to Singapore on Friday. The crew was unharmed, but the vessel sustained two holes on its port side and two on its starboard side just above the waterline, according to American defense officials.
The ship came to Dubai's port for repairs on Sunday, days after the blast that revived security concerns in Mideast waterways amid heightened tensions with Iran.
Thousands flee rebel violence in Central African Republic
BANGASSOU, Central African Republic (AP) — Monique Moukidje fled her home in Central African Republic's town of Bangassou in January when rebels attacked with heavy weapons, the fighting killing more than a dozen people.
"I ran away because the bullets have no eyes," the 34-year-old said sitting in the shade while waiting for water purification tablets, a tarp, and other supplies to help her in Mbangui-Ngoro, a village where she and hundreds of other displaced people are sheltering.
She is among an estimated 240,000 people displaced in the country since mid-December, according to U.N. relief workers, when rebels calling themselves the Coalition of Patriots for Change launched attacks, first to disrupt the Dec. 27 elections and then to destabilize the newly-elected government of President Faustin Archange Touadera. The rebels' fighting has enveloped the country and caused a humanitarian crisis in the already unstable nation.
Hundreds of thousands of people are also left without basic food or health care, and with the main roads between Central African Republic and Cameroon closed for almost two months, prices have skyrocketed leaving families unable to afford food.
The rebels control nearly two-thirds of the country, making it difficult to deliver humanitarian aid. Aid delivery was stopped for nearly a month in some zones.
Welcome back: Optimism abounds as MLB's spring includes fans
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Brian Delaney checked his ticket, found his seats and then sat down for a minute in the sunshine. It wasn't a typical late February day in Arizona — a little cool, a little breezy — but Delaney didn't complain a bit.
"You ever been through a Colorado winter?" the Colorado Rockies fan said with a grin.
The good humor and smiles were easy to find as baseball fans streamed into Sunday afternoon's spring training opener between the Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks. A downward trend in COVID-19 cases throughout most of the country has meant that a limited amount of fans are allowed back in spring training facilities throughout Arizona and Florida.
At Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, the crowd was capped at about 2,200 fans, which is 16 percent of the usual capacity. Delaney said he never hesitated to get tickets for himself and Debra Mierzwa once they went on sale a few weeks ago.
"Oh yeah," Delaney said. "We were never worried. This is great."