YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — Myanmar's new leader said the military government installed after Monday's coup plans an investigation into alleged fraud in last year's elections and will also prioritize the COVID-19 outbreak and the economy, a state newspaper reported Wednesday.
Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing announced the moves Tuesday at the first meeting of his new government in the capital, the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper said.
The military has said one of its reasons for ousting the elected civilian government of Aung San Suu Kyi was because it failed to properly investigate its allegations of alleged widespread electoral irregularities. The state Union Election Commission declared four days before the military takeover that there were no significant problems with the vote.
The military has announced it will hold power under a state of emergency for a year, and then hold elections whose winner will take over government.
In the November 2020 election, Suu Kyi's party captured 396 out of 476 seats contested in the lower and upper houses of Parliament. The main opposition party, the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party, won only 33 seats.
Biden, Yellen say GOP virus aid too small, Democrats push on
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden panned a Republican alternative to his $1.9 trillion COVID rescue plan as insufficient as Senate Democrats pushed ahead, voting to launch a process that could approve his sweeping rescue package on their own, if Republicans refuse to support it.
Biden and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen joined the Democratic senators for a private virtual meeting Tuesday, both declaring the Republicans' $618 billion offer was too small. They urged big fast action to stem the coronavirus pandemic crisis and its economic fallout.
As the White House reaches for a bipartisan bill, Democrats marshaled their ever-slim Senate majority, voting 50-49, to start a lengthy process for approving Biden's bill with or without GOP support. The goal is to have COVID-19 relief approved by March, when extra unemployment assistance and other pandemic aid expires.
"President Biden spoke about the need for Congress to respond boldly and quickly," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said after the lunch meeting. "If we did a package that small, we'd be mired in the COVID crisis for years."
The swift action from Democrats on Capitol Hill underscores the urgency of delivering Biden's top legislative priority even as talks are progressing privately between Republicans and the White House, as well as with centrist Democrats, on potential changes to the package to win over broader bipartisan support.
Activists wary of broader law enforcement after Capitol riot
CHICAGO (AP) — As federal officials grapple with how to confront the national security threat from domestic extremists after the deadly siege of the U.S. Capitol, civil rights groups and communities of color are watching warily for any moves to expand law enforcement power or authority.
They say their communities have felt the brunt of security scrutiny over the last two decades and fear new tools meant to target right-wing extremism or white nationalists risk harming Muslims, Black Americans and other groups, even if unintentionally.
Their position underscores the complexity of the national debate surrounding how to balance First Amendment expression protections with law enforcement's need to prevent extremist violence before it occurs. In particular, many Muslim advocates oppose the creation of any new domestic terror statute modeled after existing laws that criminalize support for foreign terror organizations.
"The answer ought to be to sort of pause. Because the instinct to do something is something I'm really quite afraid of," said Maya Berry, executive director of the Arab American Institute, one of more than 130 civil and human rights organizations that say the FBI already has the tools it needs.
"There's an entire federal code in place that allows you to successfully go after this violence before you need to sort of say, 'Oh, wait, you know, there's this existing gap and we need more power,'" she added.
WHO team visits Wuhan virus lab at center of speculation
WUHAN, China (AP) — World Health Organization investigators on Wednesday visited a research center in the Chinese city of Wuhan that has been the subject of speculation about the origins of the coronavirus, with one member saying they'd intended to meet key staff and press them on critical issues.
The WHO team's visit to the Wuhan Institute of Virology was a highlight of their mission to gather data and search for clues as to where the virus originated and how it spread.
"We're looking forward to meeting with all the key people here and asking all the important questions that need to be asked," zoologist and team member Peter Daszak said, according to footage run by Japanese broadcaster TBS.
Reporters followed the team to the high security facility, but as with past visits, there was little direct access to team members, who have given scant details of their discussions and visits thus far. Uniformed and plainclothes security guards stood watch along the facility's gated front entrance, but there was no sign of the protective suits team members had donned Tuesday during a visit to an animal disease research center. It wasn't clear what protective gear was worn inside the institute.
The team left after around three hours without speaking to waiting journalists.
UK: New study vindicates delaying 2nd virus vaccine dose
LONDON (AP) — Britain's health chief said Wednesday that a new study suggesting that a single dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine provides a high level of protection for 12 weeks supports the government's strategy of delaying the second shot so more people can quickly be protected by the first dose.
Britain's decision has been criticized as risky by other European countries, but Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the study "backs the strategy that we've taken and it shows the world that the Oxford vaccine works effectively."
Hancock's comments came after Oxford University released a study showing the vaccine cut the transmission of the virus by two-thirds and prevented severe disease.
The study has not been peer-reviewed yet and does not address the efficacy of the other vaccine currently in use in the U.K., made by Pfizer. Pfizer recommends that its shots be given 21 days apart and has not endorsed the U.K. government's decision to lengthen the time between doses.
But the Oxford research was greeted with excitement by U.K. officials under pressure to justify their decision to delay the second dose for up to 12 weeks.
Malawi setting up field hospitals to cope with virus surge
BLANTYRE, Malawi (AP) — Malawi faces a resurgence of COVID-19 that is overwhelming the southern African country where a presidential residence and a national stadium have been turned into field hospitals in efforts to save lives.
President Lazarus Chakwera, just six months in office, lost two Cabinet ministers to COVID-19 in January amid a surge that led him to declare a state of national disaster in all of Malawi's 28 districts.
Chakwera declared three days of national mourning over the deaths of the ministers of transport and local government, which shocked the nation and inspired a raft of new measures aimed at stemming the spread of the virus in a country with a poor health system. A more contagious strain of the coronavirus first reported in South Africa has since been confirmed in Malawi.
"Our medical facilities are terribly understaffed, and our medical personnel are outnumbered," Chakwera said in a recent address.
Malawi has seen its number of confirmed cases of the disease go above 23,000, including a total of 702 deaths as of Monday, according to Dr. John Phuka, co-chair of the presidential task force on COVID-19.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos may step down without stepping away
Even after stepping aside as CEO, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos appears likely to keep identifying new frontiers for the world's dominant e-commerce company. His successor, meanwhile, gets to deal with escalating efforts to curtail its power.
Tuesday's announcement that Bezos will hand off the CEO job this summer came as a surprise. But it doesn't mean Amazon is losing the visionary who turned an online bookstore founded in 1995 into a behemoth worth $1.7 trillion that sometimes seems to do a little bit of everything.
Bezos, 57, has never let Amazon rest on its laurels. In the last year alone, it bought a company developing self-driving taxis; launched an online pharmacy selling inhalers and insulin; and won government approval to put more than 3,200 satellites into space to beam internet service to Earth.
Long-time Amazon executive Andy Jassy will be the new CEO, but Bezos will be the company's executive chairman — corporatespeak for board leaders who, unlike most, stay involved in key operational decisions. Think Robert Iger at Disney, Howard Schultz at Starbucks, or Eric Schmidt at Google after handing off the reins a decade ago.
"Jeff Bezos has held a firm grip on the company for a long time, " said Ken Perkins, president of RetailMetrics LLC, a retail research firm. "I have to believe he will have a say in what is going on and have a big hand in big picture decisions."
In a Baghdad bar, a Syrian serves cocktails to fix war woes
BAGHDAD (AP) — From the outside, the building seems just one of the many in central Baghdad that are decaying from years of misuse — silent, windows shut.
After 6 p.m., one knock on its steel-plated doors and a portal is opened to a different world rarely found in Iraq's capital.
Bodyguards check bags for weapons. Names are checked against a list. Faint sounds of club beats resound, growing louder every level up a cascading staircase. At the top floor, a bartender works skillfully behind an illuminated counter. Above him, shelves of liquor glow like jewels under a neon sign with the name of the bar.
Ask for a menu, and he responds, coolly: "I am the menu," and produces a cocktail with the confidence of a magician.
The bar's manager Alaa, a Syrian national scarcely in Iraq one year, has a vision for the place: A clandestine establishment that can serve as a refuge for his hand-picked clientele wishing to evade the stigma of drinking alcohol in a conservative Muslim-majority society. But being a barman is a dangerous trade in Iraq, where alcohol shops are frequently targeted by disapproving militias.
'New chance at life': Man gets face, hands in rare surgery
NEW YORK (AP) — Almost six months after a rare face and hands transplant, Joe DiMeo is relearning how to smile, blink, pinch and squeeze.
The 22-year-old New Jersey resident had the operation last August, two years after being badly burned in a car crash.
"I knew it would be baby steps all the way," DiMeo told The Associated Press recently. "You've got to have a lot of motivation, a lot of patience. And you've got to stay strong through everything."
Experts say it appears the surgery at NYU Langone Health was a success, but warn it'll take some time to say for sure.
Worldwide, surgeons have completed at least 18 face transplants and 35 hand transplants, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing, or UNOS, which oversees the U.S. transplant system.
Golden Globes nominations could belong to Netflix
NEW YORK (AP) — Whether anyone will attend the Golden Globes in person remains uncertain and improbable. But nominations to the 78th Globes will be announced Wednesday, nevertheless.
Hollywood's strange and largely virtual awards season lacks the usual kind of buzz and red-carpet glamour that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association annually feasts on. More than perhaps any other award show, the Globes depend on a cavalcade of stars — something that won't materialize when the awards are handed out Feb. 28 in a ceremony hosted by Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.
On Tuesday, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association said the Globes — typically a bubbly dinner gathering with flowing drinks — will be held bi-coastally for the first time. Fey will host live from New York's Rainbow Room and Poehler will host from the awards' normal home, the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif. It's expected that nominees will be appear from locations around the world.
Nominations will be announced virtually at 8:35 a.m. ET Wednesday by presenters Sarah Jessica Parker and Taraji P. Henson. They will reveal 12 categories on NBC's "Today" show, with full nominees announced live on E! digital channels and the Golden Globes' website.
Without any in-person screenings or photo ops with stars, little is known about how the roughly 90 member press association — a notoriously unpredictable group, in normal times — is swaying this year. But one thing may be a lock: Netflix will land a whole lot of nominations.