Vaccine inequality in India sends many falling through gaps

NEW DELHI (AP) — As the coronavirus tears through India, night watchman Sagar Kumar thinks constantly about getting vaccines for himself and his family of five amid critical shortages of shots in the country. But even if he knew how to get one, it wouldn't be easy.

The main way is to register through a government website. But it is in English — a language the 25-year-old Kumar and nearly 90 percent of Indians can't speak, read or write — and his family has a single smartphone, with spotty internet service.

And even though his state of Uttar Pradesh gives free shots to those under 45, there is no vaccination site in his village, with the nearest hospital an hour away.

"All I can do now is hope for the best," Kumar said.

The pandemic's disparities already were stark in India, where access to health care is as stratified and unequal as many other parts of society. Now wealth and technology is further widening those chasms, and millions are falling through the gaps.


Defiant Ghosn pins hopes on French probes to clear his name

BEIRUT (AP) — Auto magnate-turned-fugitive Carlos Ghosn is campaigning to clear his name, and hopes a visit by French investigators to his home in exile in Lebanon will be his first real opportunity to defend himself since the bombshell arrest that transformed him from a visionary to a prisoner overnight.

In an interview with The Associated Press, the embattled former chairman of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance dissected his legal troubles in Japan, France and the Netherlands, detailed how he plotted his brazen escape from Osaka, and reflected on his new reality in crisis-hit Lebanon, where he is stuck for the foreseeable future.

Mending his reputation will be an arduous task. Ghosn was arrested in Japan in November 2018 on accusations of financial misconduct and fled to Lebanon a year later. He now faces multiple legal challenges in France after the Japanese accusations triggered scrutiny of his activities there. Meanwhile, several associates are in jail or on trial in Japan and Turkey, in cases related to his financial activities or escape. 

"There has been a lot of collateral damage . . . but I don't think I'm responsible for that. The people responsible for that are the people who organized the plot" to bring him down, Ghosn said Tuesday. 

Ghosn has denied accusations of underreporting his compensation and misusing company funds, contending he was the victim of a corporate coup linked to a decline in Nissan Motor Co.'s financial performance as the Japanese automaker resisted losing autonomy to French partner Renault. 


AP Investigation: Myanmar's junta using bodies to terrorize

Two black pickups speed down an empty city street in Myanmar before coming to a sudden stop. Security forces standing in the back of the trucks begin firing at an oncoming motorbike carrying three young men.

The bike swerves, crashing into a gate. More shots are fired as two of the passengers run away, while the third, Kyaw Min Latt, remains on the ground. Moans are heard as officers grab the wounded 17-year-old from the pavement, throwing his limp body into a truck bed before driving off.

The incident lasted just over a minute and was captured on a CCTV camera. It is part of a growing trove of photos and videos shared on social media that's helping expose a brutal crackdown carried out by the junta since the military's Feb. 1 takeover of the Southeast Asian nation.

An analysis by The Associated Press and the Human Rights Center Investigations Lab at the University of California, Berkeley, looked at cases where bodies of those targeted indiscriminately by police and the military are being used as tools of terror. The findings are based on more than 2,000 tweets and online images, in addition to interviews with family members, witness accounts, and local media reports.

The AP and HRC Lab identified more than 130 instances where security forces appeared to be using corpses and the bodies of the wounded to create anxiety, uncertainty, and strike fear in the civilian population. Over two-thirds of those cases analyzed were confirmed or categorized as having moderate or high credibility, and often involved tracking down the original source of the content or interviewing observers.


GOP senators ready $1T infrastructure counteroffer to Biden

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Republicans revived negotiations over President Joe Biden's sweeping investment plan, preparing a $1 trillion infrastructure proposal that would be funded with COVID-19 relief money as a counteroffer to the White House ahead of a Memorial Day deadline toward a bipartisan deal.

The Republicans said Tuesday they would disclose details of the new offer by Thursday, sounding upbeat after both sides had panned other offers. 

At the White House, press secretary Jen Psaki declined to address the new plan, but said: "We expect this week to be a week of progress."

Talks over the infrastructure investment are at a crossroads as Biden reaches for a top legislative priority. The White House is assessing whether the president can strike a bipartisan deal with Republicans on his American Jobs Plan or whether he will try to go it alone with Democrats if no progress is made in the days ahead. 

Yet the administration and the GOP senators remain far apart over the size and scope of the investment needed to reboot the nation's roads, bridges and broadband — but also, as Biden sees it, the child care centers and green energy investments needed for a 21st-century economy. They also can't agree on how to pay for it.


Rallies, moments of silence honor George Floyd a year later

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A family-friendly street festival, musical performances and moments of silence were held Tuesday to honor George Floyd and mark the year since he died at the hands of Minneapolis police, a death captured on wrenching bystander video that galvanized the racial justice movement and continues to bring calls for change. 

Floyd's sister Bridgett and other family members held a moment of silence at a "Celebration of Life" event at a downtown Minneapolis park that included music, food trucks, an inflatable bouncy house and a vaccination stand. A few miles away, at the site of the intersection where Floyd died, dozens of people kneeled around a steel fist sculpture for several minutes — symbolizing the 9 minutes, 29 seconds during which Floyd was pinned down.

"It's been a troubling year, a long year," Bridgett Floyd told the crowd downtown. "But we made it. ... The love is here. George is here." 

Other members of Floyd's family met in Washington with President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, who urged Congress to quickly pass a law in Floyd's name that would bring changes to policing. A moment of silence to honor Floyd was also held in New York and a rally was held in Los Angeles. Globally, a rally took place in Germany and Floyd's death was marked by U.S. embassies in Greece and Spain. 

Hours before the Minneapolis festivities, the intersection where Floyd died was disrupted by gunfire. 


New grand jury seated for next stage of Trump investigation

NEW YORK (AP) — New York prosecutors have convened a special grand jury to consider evidence in a criminal investigation into former President Donald Trump's business dealings, a person familiar with the matter told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

The development signals that the Manhattan district attorney's office was moving toward seeking charges as a result of its two-year investigation, which included a lengthy legal battle to obtain Trump's tax records.

The person familiar with the matter was not authorized to speak publicly and did so on condition of anonymity. The news was first reported by The Washington Post.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. is conducting a wide-ranging investigation into a variety of matters such as hush-money payments paid to women on Trump's behalf, property valuations and employee compensation.

The Democratic prosecutor has been using an investigative grand jury through the course of his probe to issue subpoenas and obtain documents. That panel kept working while other grand juries and court activities were shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic.


Belarusian leader defends his action to divert flight

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Belarus' authoritarian president on Wednesday defended his action to divert a European flight that triggered bruising European Union sanctions and accused the West of waging a "hybrid war" to "strangle" the ex-Soviet nation.

On Sunday, Belarusian flight controllers ordered a Ryanair jetliner flying over the country to land because of a bomb threat and a Belarusian fighter jet was scrambled to escort the plane to Minsk, just before it was to land in Vilnius, Lithuania, from Athens, Greece. Once the plane landed, Belarusian security agents arrested Raman Pratasevich, a 26-year-old journalist and activist, and his Russian girlfriend.

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko denied that the fighter jet was forcing the Ryanair plane to land as an "absolute lie" and defended his action to divert the flight as a necessary response to the bomb threat.

"I acted in a lawful way, protecting people in line with international rules," said Lukashenko, who has ruled the ex-Soviet nation with an iron fist for more than a quarter-century, relentlessly stifling dissent.

Outraged EU leaders quickly agreed to ban Belarusian airlines from using the airspace and airports of the 27-nation bloc, urged European airlines to avoid Belarus' airspace and imposed sanctions on officials linked to the diversion. They said the bloc will introduce more sanctions targeting businesses that are the main cash earners for Lukashenko's regime.


Blinken arrives in Egypt to shore up Gaza cease-fire efforts

CAIRO (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Egypt on Wednesday as he pressed ahead with a diplomatic mission aimed at shoring up a cease-fire that ended an 11-day war between Israel and the Gaza Strip's ruling Hamas militant group.

Blinken landed in Cairo a day after holding intensive talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders. In Egypt, he was to meet President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi and other top officials, before traveling to Jordan to meet with King Abdullah II.

Blinken has vowed to "rally international support" to rebuild the destruction in hard-hit Gaza while promising to make sure that none of the aid destined for the territory reaches Hamas. He is instead trying to bolster Hamas' rival, the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority.

Blinken described Egypt and Jordan as central players in trying to bring calm to the region. Both countries are key U.S. allies that have peace agreements with Israel and frequently serve as mediators between Israel and the Palestinians.

"Egypt played a critical role in helping to broker the cease-fire and Jordan has long been a voice for peace and stability in the region," he told reporters late Tuesday.


Many wait uneasily as Biden unwinds key Trump asylum policy

SAN DIEGO (AP) — In March of 2020, Estela Lazo appeared before Immigration Judge Lee O'Connor with her two children, her muscles tensed and a lump in her throat. Would they receive asylum?

O'Connor's answer: No – he wasn't even ready to consider the question. 

But he issued a ruling that seemed promising: It was illegal to force the Honduran family to wait in Mexico, under then-President Donald Trump's cornerstone policy to deter asylum-seekers. O'Connor said he was dismissing their case due to government missteps and scheduled another hearing in his San Diego courtroom in a month.

Paradoxically and typically, the family was sent back to Mexico to await its next day in court.

But when Lazo, her 10-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter appeared at a Tijuana border crossing for the follow-up hearing, U.S. authorities denied them entry because their case had been closed.


Countries eager to reopen to travel as pandemic recedes

Countries reliant on tourism are racing to reopen borders and revive economies decimated by the pandemic.

The World Travel & Tourism Council estimates that the sector lost nearly $4.5 trillion and 62 million jobs last year. Airlines alone lost $126 billion last year and are on track to lose another $48 billion this year, according to their largest trade group.

The rollout of vaccines against COVID-19 is giving government officials in many countries new confidence to welcome visitors. But time is critical.

"Summer is a strong season for most markets, particularly Europe and the U.K. We really hope to see restrictions ease," said Virginia Messina, interim leader of the World Travel & Tourism Council.

The patchwork of rules around the globe can be hard to follow for anyone planning a trip. Cyprus, for instance, has restrictions in place for countries deemed as higher risk, requiring arriving passengers to have a negative PCR test that's valid 72 hours prior to their departure and to undergo a new test upon arrival. They also have to self-isolate in Cyprus until their test results are issued.

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