'Dose of hope': Biden pushing rich nations to share vaccine
President Joe Biden is set to push well-off nations to do more to get the COVID-19 pandemic under control around the world, as world leaders, aid groups and global health organizations sound the alarm about the slow pace of global vaccinations.
Biden is convening a virtual vaccine summit on Wednesday, timed to coincide with this week's U.N. General Assembly, to prod more nations to follow the lead of the U.S., which has donated more doses than any other. According to a person familiar with the matter, Biden was set to announce a significant new purchase of vaccines to share with the world, and to set targets for other nations to hit. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity to preview Biden's remarks.
But even the American response has come under criticism for being too modest, particularly as the Biden administration advocates for providing booster shots to tens of millions of Americans before vulnerable people in poorer nations have received even a first dose.
"We have observed failures of multilateralism to respond in an equitable, coordinated way to the most acute moments. The existing gaps between nations with regard to the vaccination process are unheard of," Colombian President Iván Duque said.
In his own remarks at the U.N., Biden took credit on Tuesday for sharing more than 160 million COVID-19 vaccine doses with other countries, including 130 million surplus doses and the first installments of more than 500 million shots the U.S. is purchasing for the rest of the world.
Racism, climate and divisions top UN agenda as leaders meet
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Racism, the climate crisis and the world's worsening divisions will take center stage at the United Nations on Wednesday, a day after the U.N. chief issued a grim warning that "we are on the edge of an abyss."
For the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began, more than two dozen world leaders appeared in person at the U.N. General Assembly on the opening day of their annual high-level meeting. The atmosphere was somber, angry and dire.
China's President Xi Jinping warned that "the world has entered a period of new turbulence and transformation." Finland's President Sauli Niinistö said: "We are indeed at a critical juncture." And Costa Rica's President Carlos Alvarado Quesada declared: "The future is raising its voice at us: Less military weaponry, more investment in peace!"
Speaker after speaker at Tuesday's opening of the nearly week-long meeting decried the inequalities and deep divisions that have prevented united global action to end the COVID-19 pandemic, which has claimed nearly 4.6 million lives and is still raging, and the failure to sufficiently tackle the climate crisis threatening the planet.
COVID-19 and climate are certain to remain top issues for heads of state and government. But Wednesday's U.N. agenda will first turn the spotlight on the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the controversial U.N. World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, which was dominated by clashes over the Middle East and the legacy of slavery.
Officials: Many Haitian migrants are being released in US
DEL RIO, Texas (AP) — Many Haitian migrants camped in a small Texas border town are being released in the United States, two U.S. officials said, undercutting the Biden administration's public statements that the thousands in the camp faced immediate expulsion.
Haitians have been freed on a "very, very large scale" in recent days, according to one U.S. official who put the figure in the thousands. The official, with direct knowledge of operations who was not authorized to discuss the matter Tuesday and thus spoke on condition of anonymity
Many have been released with notices to appear at an immigration office within 60 days, an outcome that requires less processing time from Border Patrol agents than ordering an appearance in immigration court and points to the speed at which authorities are moving, the official said.
The Homeland Security Department has been busing Haitians from Del Rio to El Paso, Laredo and Rio Grande Valley along the Texas border, and this week added flights to Tucson, Arizona, the official said. They are processed by the Border Patrol at those locations.
A second U.S. official, also with direct knowledge and speaking on the condition of anonymity, said large numbers of Haitians were being processed under immigration laws and not being placed on expulsion flights to Haiti that started Sunday. The official couldn't be more specific about how many.
'Soul-crushing': US COVID-19 deaths are topping 1,900 a day
COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. have climbed to an average of more than 1,900 a day for the first time since early March, with experts saying the virus is preying largely on a distinct group: 71 million unvaccinated Americans.
The increasingly lethal turn has filled hospitals, complicated the start of the school year, delayed the return to offices and demoralized health care workers.
"It is devastating," said Dr. Dena Hubbard, a pediatrician in the Kansas City, Missouri, area who has cared for babies delivered prematurely by cesarean section in a last-ditch effort to save their mothers, some of whom died. For health workers, the deaths, combined with misinformation and disbelief about the virus, have been "heart-wrenching, soul-crushing."
Twenty-two people died in one week alone at CoxHealth hospitals in the Springfield-Branson area, a level almost as high as that of all of Chicago. West Virginia has had more deaths in the first three weeks of September — 340 — than in the previous three months combined. Georgia is averaging 125 dead per day, more than California or other more populous states.
"I've got to tell you, a guy has got to wonder if we are ever going to see the end of it or not," said Collin Follis, who is the coroner in Missouri's Madison County and works at a funeral home.
Ravaged by war, Syrian rebel area struggles with virus surge
BEIRUT (AP) — Coronavirus cases are surging to the worst levels of the pandemic in a rebel stronghold in Syria — a particularly devastating development in a region where scores of hospitals have been bombed and that doctors and nurses have fled in droves during a decade of war.
The total number of cases seen in Idlib province — an overcrowded enclave with a population of 4 million, many of them internally displaced — has more than doubled since the beginning of August to more than 61,000. In recent weeks, daily new infections have repeatedly shot past 1,500, and authorities reported 34 deaths on Sunday alone — figures that are still believed to be undercounts because many infected people don't report to authorities.
The situation has become so dire in the northwestern province that rescue workers known as the White Helmets who became famous for digging through the rubble of bombings to find victims now mostly ferry coronavirus patients to the hospital or the dead to burials.
"What is happening is a medical catastrophe," the Idlib Doctors Syndicate said this week as it issued a plea for support from international aid groups.
Idlib faces all the challenges that places the world over have during the pandemic: Its intensive care units are largely full, there are severe shortages of oxygen and tests, and the vaccination rollout has been slow.
House OKs debt and funding plan, inviting clash with GOP
WASHINGTON (AP) — The House voted to keep the government funded, suspend the federal debt limit and provide disaster and refugee aid, setting up a high-stakes showdown with Republicans who oppose the package despite the risk of triggering a fiscal crisis.
The federal government faces a shutdown if funding stops on Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year — midnight next Thursday. Additionally, at some point in October the U.S. risks defaulting on its accumulated debt load if its borrowing limits are not waived or adjusted.
Rushing to prevent that dire outcome, the Democratic-led House passed the measure Tuesday night by a party-line vote of 220-211. The bill now goes to the Senate, where it is likely to falter because of overwhelming GOP opposition.
"Our country will suffer greatly if we do not act now to stave off this unnecessary and preventable crisis," House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said shortly before the vote.
Backed by the White House, the Democratic leaders pushed the package to approval at a time of great uncertainty in Congress. With lawmakers already chiseling away at the $3.5 trillion price tag of President Joe Biden's broad "build back better" agenda, immediate attention focused on the upcoming deadlines to avert deeper problems if votes to shore up government funding fail.
Trump sues niece, NY Times over records behind '18 tax story
NEW YORK (AP) — Former President Donald Trump on Tuesday sued his estranged niece and The New York Times over a 2018 story about his family's wealth and tax practices that was partly based on confidential documents she provided to the newspaper's reporters.
Trump's lawsuit, filed in state court in New York, accuses Mary Trump of breaching a settlement agreement by disclosing tax records she received in a dispute over family patriarch Fred Trump's estate.
The lawsuit accuses the Times and three of its investigative reporters, Susanne Craig, David Barstow and Russell Buettner, of relentlessly seeking out Mary Trump as a source of information and convincing her to turn over documents. The suit claims the reporters were aware the settlement agreement barred her from disclosing the documents.
The Times' story challenged Trump's claims of self-made wealth by documenting how his father, Fred, had given him at least $413 million over the decades, including through tax avoidance schemes.
Mary Trump identified herself in a book published last year as the source of the documents provided to the Times.
EXPLAINER: Wide dangers ahead for Spanish volcanic island
MADRID (AP) — A small Spanish island in the Atlantic Ocean is struggling days after a volcano erupted, forcing the evacuation of thousands of people, and authorities are warning that more dangers from the explosion lie ahead.
Here is a look at the volcanic eruption on La Palma and its consequences:
WHERE DID THE VOLCANO ERUPT?
The eruption occurred Sunday afternoon on La Palma, one of eight volcanic islands in Spain's Canary Islands archipelago, which is strung along Africa's northwestern coast. It was the second volcanic eruption in 50 years for the island, which has a population of 85,000.
A 4.2-magnitude quake was recorded before the eruption. Huge plumes of black-and-white smoke shot out from the Cumbre Vieja volcanic ridge after a week of thousands of small earthquakes. Unstoppable rivers of molten lava, some up to 6 meters (20 feet) high, are now flowing downhill toward the ocean, engulfing everything in their path.
Germany's diversity shows as immigrants run for parliament
BERLIN (AP) — Ana-Maria Trasnea was 13 when she emigrated from Romania because her single, working mother believed she would have a better future in Germany. Now 27, she is running for a seat in parliament.
"It was hard in Germany in the beginning," Trasnea said in an interview with The Associated Press. "But I was ambitious and realized that this was an opportunity for me, so I decided to do whatever I can to get respect and integrate."
Trasnea, who is running for the center-left Social Democrats in Sunday's election, is one of hundreds of candidates with immigrant roots who are seeking a seat in Germany's lower house of parliament, or Bundestag. While the number in office still doesn't reflect their overall percentage of the population, the country's growing ethnic diversity is increasingly visible in politics.
"A lot has changed in Germany in the last few decades. The population has become much more diverse," says Julius Lagodny, a Cornell University political scientist who has researched migration and political representation in Germany. "Young immigrants are not only striving for political offices across almost all parties in Germany, they are demanding them. There's a whole new sense of assertiveness now."
There are about 21.3 million people with migrant backgrounds in Germany, or about 26% of the population of 83 million.
Apple, Google raise new concerns by yanking Russian app
BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) — Big Tech companies that operate around the globe have long promised to obey local laws and to protect civil rights while doing business. But when Apple and Google capitulated to Russian demands and removed a political-opposition app from their local app stores, it raised worries that two of the world's most successful companies are more comfortable bowing to undemocratic edicts — and maintaining a steady flow of profits — than upholding the rights of their users.
The app in question, called Smart Voting, was a tool for organizing opposition to Russia President Vladimir Putin ahead of elections held over the weekend. The ban levied last week by a pair of the world's richest and most powerful companies galled supporters of free elections and free expression.
"This is bad news for democracy and dissent all over the world," said Natalia Krapiva, tech legal counsel for Access Now, an internet freedom group. "We expect to see other dictators copying Russia's tactics."
Technology companies offering consumer services from search to social media to apps have long walked a tightrope in many of the less democratic nations of the world. As Apple, Google and other major companies such as Amazon, Microsoft and Facebook have grown more powerful over the past decade, so have government ambitions to harness that power for their own ends.
"Now this is the poster child for political oppression," said Sascha Meinrath, a Penn State University professor who studies online censorship issues. Google and Apple "have bolstered the probability of this happening again."