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WASHINGTON (AP) — With President Joe Biden on the verge of his first big legislative victory, a key moderate Democrat says he's open to changing Senate rules that could allow for more party-line votes to push through other parts of the White House's agenda such as voting rights.

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin stressed Sunday that he wants to keep the procedural hurdle known as the filibuster, saying major legislation should always have significant input from the minority party. But he noted there are other ways to change the rules that now effectively require 60 votes for most legislation. One example: the "talking filibuster," which requires senators to slow a bill by holding the floor, but then grants an "up or down" simple majority vote if they give up.

"The filibuster should be painful, it really should be painful and we've made it more comfortable over the years," Manchin said. "Maybe it has to be more painful."

"If you want to make it a little bit more painful, make him stand there and talk," Manchin added. "I'm willing to look at any way we can, but I'm not willing to take away the involvement of the minority."

Democrats are beginning to look to their next legislative priorities after an early signature win for Biden on Saturday, with the Senate approving a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief plan on a party-line 50-49 vote.


Revealing Meghan, Harry interview shakes UK royal family

LONDON (AP) — Britain's royal family was absorbing the tremors Monday from a sensational television interview by Prince Harry and the Duchess of Sussex, in which the couple said they encountered racist attitudes and a lack of support that drove Meghan to thoughts of suicide.

The couple gave a deeply unflattering depiction of life inside the royal household, depicting a cold, uncaring institution that they had to flee to save their lives.

Meghan told Oprah Winfrey that at one point "I just didn't want to be alive anymore" and had uncontrollable suicidal thoughts. She said she sought help through the palace's human resources department, but was told there was nothing they could do.

While most in Britain have yet to see the interview, which airs on Monday evening, anti-monarchy group Republic said the Winfrey interview gives a clearer picture of what the royal family is like — and it's not pretty.

"Whether for the sake of Britain or for the sake of the younger royals this rotten institution needs to go,'' Graham Smith of the campaign group said. 

Continue reading the story. 


After historic whirlwind visit, Pope leaves Iraq for Rome

BAGHDAD (AP) — Pope Francis on Monday wrapped up his historic whirlwind tour of Iraq that sought to bring hope to the country's marginalized Christian minority with a message of coexistence, forgiveness and peace. 

The pontiff and his traveling delegation were seen off with a farewell ceremony at the Baghdad airport, from where he left for Rome following a four-day papal visit that has covered five provinces across Iraq. 

As the pope's plane took off, Iraqi President Barham Salih was at hand on the tarmac, waving goodbye. 

At every turn of his trip, Francis urged Iraqis to embrace diversity — from Najaf in the south, where he held a historic face-to-face meeting with powerful Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, to Nineveh to the north, where he met with Christian victims of the Islamic State group's terror and heard their testimonies of survival. 

The pontiff's visit witnessed scenes unimaginable in war-ravaged Iraq just a few years ago. 


Jury selection is 1st battleground at trial in Floyd's death

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The fate of a former Minneapolis police officer who pressed his knee into George Floyd's neck as the Black man said he couldn't breathe will be decided by 12 Hennepin County residents picked after extensive grilling about their views on police and the justice system. 

Jury selection begins Monday in the trial of Derek Chauvin, who is charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter in Floyd's death. Picking a jury is expected to take at least three weeks, as prosecutors and defense attorneys try to weed out people who may be biased against them.

"You don't want jurors who are completely blank slates, because that would mean they're not in tune at all with the world," Susan Gaertner, a former prosecutor, said. "But what you want is jurors who can set aside opinions that have formed prior to walking into the courtroom and give both sides a fair hearing."

Floyd was declared dead May 25 after Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee against Floyd's neck for about nine minutes, holding his position even after Floyd went limp as he was handcuffed and lying on his stomach. Floyd's death sparked sometimes violent protests in Minneapolis and beyond, and led to a nationwide reckoning on race. 

Chauvin and three other officers were fired; the others face an August trial on aiding and abetting charges.


Biden to direct Education Dept. to review Title IX changes

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden is set to sign an executive order on Monday directing the Department of Education to review policies implemented by Donald Trump's administration, including changes to Title IX regulations that prohibit sex discrimination in federally funded institutions, according to administration officials.

Biden focused on gender equity during his campaign and promised to strengthen Title IX if he won the White House. He also will sign a second executive order formally establishing the White House Gender Policy Council, according to two administration officials who briefed reporters on the plan. Biden's transition team announced his plans to create the council before he took office.

The order directing the review of Title IX could pave the way to a major shift in how colleges handle allegations of sexual misconduct moving forward.

Trump's education secretary, Betsy DeVos, in 2018 rescinded an Obama-era administration standard in cases of reported sexual assault from requiring a "preponderance of evidence" — meaning it is more likely than not that sexual harassment or violence occurred — to "clear and convincing evidence."

The DeVos changes reduced the liability of colleges and universities for investigating sexual misconduct claims and bolstered the due process rights of the accused, including the right to cross-examine their accusers through a third-party advocate at campus hearings.


Guilt, envy, distrust: Vaccine rollout breeds mixed emotions

NEW YORK (AP) — Before posting a selfie with her COVID-19 vaccination card on Twitter, Aditi Juneja debated whether to include an explanation for why she was eligible for a shot.

"The first draft of the tweet had an explanation," says Juneja, a 30-year-old lawyer in New York City.

After some thought, she decided to leave out out that her body mass index is considered obese, putting her at higher risk of serious illness if infected. A friend who disclosed the same reason on social media was greeted with hateful comments, and Juneja wanted to avoid that.

The rollout of COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S. is offering hope that the pandemic that has upended life around the world will finally draw to an end. But as distribution widens in the U.S., varying eligibility rules and unequal access to the coveted doses are also breeding guilt, envy and judgement among those who've had their doses — particularly the seemingly young and healthy — and the millions still anxiously awaiting their turn.

Adding to the second-guessing about who should be getting shots is the scattershot feel of the rollout, and the sense that some might be gaming the system. Faced with a patchwork of confusing scheduling systems, many who aren't as technically savvy or socially connected have been left waiting even as new swaths of people become eligible.


Myanmar security forces kill 2 anti-coup protesters

MANDALAY, Myanmar (AP) — Security forces shot dead two people in northern Myanmar on Monday, local media reported, as the military government continued its attempt to stamp out opposition to its Feb. 1 coup.

The Irrawaddy newspaper said the victims were shot in the head during anti-coup protests in Myitkyina in Kachin State. Graphic video on social media showed protesters in the street backing away from tear gas, responding with rocks, then fleeing after a fusillade of what seemed to be automatic gunfire.

Demonstrators hurriedly carried away a number of casualties, including one apparent fatality, a person who had clearly sustained a severe head wound. A second body was seen a little later, on a stretcher, his head covered with a cloth.

Security forces also clamped down on anti-coup protesters elsewhere Monday, firing tear gas to break up a crowd of around 1,000 people who were demonstrating in the capital, Naypyitaw. The protesters deployed fire extinguishers to create a smoke screen as they fled from authorities.

Meanwhile, thousands of protesters marching in Mandalay, the country's second-largest city, dispersed on their own amid fears that soldiers and police were planning to use force to break up their demonstration.


Zimbabwe's women battle gender discrimination amid pandemic

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — There are very few female truck drivers in Zimbabwe, but Molly Manatse doesn't like to be singled out for her gender.

"It has always been known as a male job, but don't say I am a female driver. We are just drivers, we do the same job," insists 31-year old Manatse, a Zimbabwean truck driver whose income helps take care of relatives who have lost jobs due to COVID-19.

From driving trucks and fixing cars to encouraging girls living with disabilities to find their places in society, women in Zimbabwe are refusing to be defined by their gender or circumstance, even as the pandemic hits them hardest and imposes extra burdens. As International Women's Day is marked around the world Monday, Zimbabwe's women celebrate the progress they have made in tackling discrimination in the workplace and acknowledge more effort is necessary. 

In many instances, Zimbabwean women have become leaders to help this troubled southern African country grapple with the double trauma of COVID-19 and ongoing economic deterioration. 

However, many women say it is not easy to achieve equality or professional recognition and they are often reminded of women's traditionally subservient role in Zimbabwe.


Deep freeze just latest disaster to befall Houston's needy

HOUSTON (AP) — Ernest and Hester Collins already faced their share of hardships before last month's deadly winter storm plunged much of Texas into a deep freeze and knocked out power to millions of homes, including their modest rental in one of Houston's historically Black neighborhoods, Fifth Ward.

The brother and sister were getting by on a fixed income without a car when the storm left them and many neighbors without light or heat for days. The storm caused their pipes to burst, leaving some in the nation's fourth-largest city without running water three weeks on because many couldn't afford repairs. Their dire circumstances left them unable to bathe and forced to use buckets as toilets.

The storm, which experts say may have caused billions of dollars in damage, is just the latest disaster in recent years to disproportionately affect Houston's communities of color and its poorest residents. These include major floods in 2015 and 2016, devastation from Hurricane Harvey in 2017 and, to a lesser degree, Tropical Storm Imelda two years later, a series of plant and refinery fires and explosions, and of course the coronavirus pandemic.

Not surprisingly, many in these communities are beyond frustrated by what they feel is a lack of assistance each time a disaster strikes.

"For some reason, we are not getting (help). They put us on the back burner," Ernest Collins, 56, said.


AP PHOTOS: Tsunami scars linger a decade later in Japan

TOKYO (AP) — The images still hold the power to shock.

Dazed survivors walk beneath huge sea tankers deposited amid an expanse of rubble and twisted iron that was once a busy downtown, the ships toppled onto their sides like children's toys. Grieving survivors pick through the flattened debris where their homes used to be. Deserted farms stand in the shadow of the Fukushima nuclear plant, where a catastrophic meltdown still reverberates.

These arresting images were captured by The Associated Press in 2011 after a massive wall of water leveled part of Japan's northeastern coast, washing away cars, homes, office buildings and thousands of people.

Ten years later, AP journalists have returned to document the communities that were ripped apart by what's simply referred to here as the Great East Japan Earthquake. The urge to rebuild in a land that has been wracked by millennia of disaster — volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, earthquakes, war and famine — is powerful, and there are areas where there's little or no trace of the devastation of 2011.

But this triple disaster in the Tohoku region of Japan — earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown — has been unlike any Japan has faced before, and the challenges of returning to what was normal a decade ago have been immense. Half a million were forced from their homes; tens of thousands have not returned, emptying towns that were already struggling to keep their young people from leaving for Tokyo and the other megacities. Radiation fears linger. Government incompetence, petty squabbling and bureaucratic wrangling have delayed building efforts.

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