Biden aims to vaccinate 70% of American adults by July 4
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden on Tuesday set a new vaccination goal to deliver at least one shot to 70% of adult Americans by July Fourth as he tackles the vexing problem of winning over the “doubters” and those unmotivated to get inoculated.
Demand for vaccines has dropped off markedly nationwide, with some states leaving more than half their available doses unordered. Aiming to make it easier to get shots, Biden called for states to make vaccines available on a walk-in basis and he will direct many pharmacies to do likewise.
His administration for the first time also is moving to shift doses from states with weaker demand to areas with stronger interest in the shots.
"You do need to get vaccinated,” Biden said from the White House. “Even if your chance of getting seriously ill is low, why take the risk? It could save your life or the lives of somebody you love.”
Biden’s goal equates to delivering at least the first shot to 181 million adults and fully vaccinating 160 million. It's a tacit acknowledgment of the declining interest in shots.
'Horrible' weeks ahead as India's virus catastrophe worsens
NEW DELHI (AP) — COVID-19 infections and deaths are mounting with alarming speed in India with no end in sight to the crisis and a top expert warning that the coming weeks in the country of nearly 1.4 billion people will be “horrible.”
India's official count of coronavirus cases surpassed 20 million Tuesday, nearly doubling in the past three months, while deaths officially have passed 220,000. Staggering as those numbers are, the true figures are believed to be far higher, the undercount an apparent reflection of the troubles in the health care system.
The country has witnessed scenes of people dying outside overwhelmed hospitals and funeral pyres lighting up the night sky.
Infections have surged in India since February in a disastrous turn blamed on more contagious variants of the virus as well as government decisions to allow massive crowds to gather for Hindu religious festivals and political rallies before state elections.
The reported caseload is second only to that of the U.S., which has one-fourth the population of India but has recorded over 32 million confirmed infections. The U.S. has also reported more than 2 1/2 times as many deaths as India, at close to 580,000.
US report: Taliban will likely curtail Afghan women's rights
WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. intelligence agencies are warning that any gains in women's rights in Afghanistan made in the last two decades will be at risk after U.S. troops withdraw later this year.
An unclassified report released Tuesday by the Director of National Intelligence says the Taliban remain “broadly consistent in its restrictive approach to women's rights and would roll back much of the past two decades' progress if the group regained national power.”
It's the latest U.S. warning of the consequences of the Afghan withdrawal now underway, two decades after an American-led coalition toppled the Taliban. Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Sunday that there would possibly be “some really dramatic, bad possible outcomes” for Afghan forces left on their own to counter the Taliban, but also noted, “We frankly don't know yet.” And CIA Director William Burns told Congress in April that the American ability “to collect and act on threats will diminish.”
President Joe Biden has set a September deadline for U.S. forces to withdraw. While Biden and his top officials have stressed that they will not end their engagement with Afghanistan or advocacy for human rights, the U.S. has also openly warned of gains for the Taliban, which has been locked in an insurgency with coalition and Afghan forces and already controls swaths throughout the country.
During the Taliban's rule in the 1990s, women were largely confined to their homes, and girls had no access to education. Despite protestations from the U.S. and Europe, the Taliban brutally enforced its extreme version of Islamic Sharia law with little consequence. It was only after the U.S.-led invasion toppled the group that had hosted Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida network that democratic governance and respect for human rights in Afghanistan became a Western priority.
Chauvin's lawyer seeks new trial, hearing to impeach verdict
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The defense attorney for the former Minneapolis police officer convicted of killing George Floyd has requested a new trial, saying the court abused its discretion, and he wants a hearing to have the verdict impeached because of what he says is jury misconduct, according to a court document filed Tuesday.
Derek Chauvin, who is white, was convicted last month of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the May 25 death of Floyd. Evidence at trial showed Chauvin pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck for 9 1/2 minutes as the Black man said he couldn’t breathe and went motionless.
Defense attorney Eric Nelson said he is requesting a new trial in the interests of justice. He said there were abuses of discretion that deprived Chauvin of a fair trial, prosecutorial and jury misconduct and that the verdict was contrary to law.
A request for a new trial is routine following a guilty verdict and often mirrors issues that will be raised on appeal, said Mike Brandt, a Minneapolis defense attorney who has been closely following the case. If this request is denied, it can add another layer of decisions for Nelson to appeal. Brandt and others have said Chauvin's convictions are unlikely to be overturned.
Nelson cited many reasons in his request for a new trial. He said Judge Peter Cahill abused the discretion of the court and violated Chauvin’s right to due process and a fair trial when he denied Nelson’s request to move the trial to another county due to pretrial publicity.
Wind, rain continue to pound South; flood fears in Alabama
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Relentless wind and rain continued to pummel large swaths of the South on Tuesday, causing tornadoes, sparking a flash flood emergency in Alabama and damaging homes from Texas to Virginia.
The National Weather Service issued the flash flood emergency for the Birmingham, Alabama, area at the start of rush hour, warning that torrential rains — as much as 5 inches (13 centimeters) in some areas — had already fallen and another 2 inches (5 centimeters) were possible before the storm system continued moving east.
Jefferson County Emergency Management officials urged residents to stay off the roads because so many were flooded and covered.
Strong winds blowing behind a line of storms were toppling trees across central Alabama, where soil was saturated with water. In the Birmingham suburb of Homewood, residents huddled on the second-floor balcony of an apartment complex that became flooded. Rescuers in a small boat paddled through the parking lot past submerged cars.
Parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee, as well as corners of Arkansas and Georgia were at enhanced risk for the worst weather, according to the national Storm Prediction Center. That zone is home to more than 11 million people and includes the cities of Nashville, Tennessee; Birmingham, Alabama; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; and Jackson, Mississippi, forecasters said.
Cheney could be 'toast' in fight with Trump over GOP future
WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy wants his party to stand firmly with Donald Trump, despite his false claims about the election being stolen from him.
No. 3 GOP leader Liz Cheney is trying to steer the party far from the former president’s claims about his defeat, charting a future without him.
The party, it became more apparent Tuesday, does not have room for both.
Cheney’s political future was increasingly in peril as McCarthy signaled he would no longer protect his lieutenant from those seeking her ouster from House GOP leadership, opening the possibility of a vote to remove her from the job as soon as next week. One Republican granted anonymity to discuss the situation said simply, “She’s toast.”
What could be seen as a skirmish between minority party leaders trying to find a way back to the majority has become a more politically profound moment for Republicans and the country. The party of Abraham Lincoln is deciding whether to let Trump’s false claims about the election of Democrat Joe Biden go unchecked — or to hold him accountable, as Cheney does, by arguing the country cannot “whitewash” the former president’s role in the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
Overpass collapse on Mexico City metro kills at least 24
MEXICO CITY (AP) — The death toll from the collapse of an overpass on the Mexico City metro rose to 24 Tuesday as crews untangled train carriages from the steel and concrete wreckage that fell onto a roadway.
Monday night's accident was one of the deadliest in the history of the subway, and questions quickly arose about the structural integrity of the mass transit system, among the world's busiest.
Another 27 people remained hospitalized of the more than 70 injured when the support beams collapsed about 10:30 p.m. as a train passed along the elevated section, Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum said.
On Tuesday, a crane carefully lowered a train car containing four bodies to the ground.
Of the 24 killed, 21 died at the scene, while the others died at hospitals. Only five have been identified so far. Children were among the fatalities, Sheinbaum said.
Facebook board's Trump decision could have wider impacts
Since the day after the deadly Jan. 6 riots on the U.S. Capitol, former President Donald Trump's social media accounts have been silent — muzzled for inciting violence using the platforms as online megaphones.
On Wednesday, his fate on Facebook, the biggest social platform around, will be decided. The company's quasi-independent Oversight Board will announce its ruling around 9 a.m. ET. If it rules in Trump's favor, Facebook has seven days to reinstate the account. If the board upholds Facebook's decision, Trump will remain “indefinitely” suspended.
Politicians, free speech experts and activists around the world are watching the decision closely. It has implications not only for Trump but for tech companies, world leaders and people across the political spectrum — many of whom have wildly conflicting views of the proper role for technology companies when it comes to regulating online speech and protecting people from abuse and misinformation.
After years of handling Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric with a light touch, Facebook and Instagram took the drastic step of silencing his accounts in January. In announcing the unprecedented move, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the risk of allowing Trump to continue using the platform was too great.
“The shocking events of the last 24 hours clearly demonstrate that President Donald Trump intends to use his remaining time in office to undermine the peaceful and lawful transition of power to his elected successor, Joe Biden,” Zuckerberg wrote on his Facebook page on Jan. 7.
Netanyahu misses deadline, political future in question
JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday failed to meet a midnight deadline to put together a new governing coalition, raising the possibility that his Likud party could be pushed into the opposition for the first time in 12 years.
The deadline closed a four-week window granted to Netanyahu by Israel's figurehead president. The matter now bounces back to President Reuven Rivlin, who announced just after midnight that he would contact on Wednesday the 13 parties with seats in parliament to discuss “the continuation of the process of forming a government.”
Rivlin is expected in the coming days to give one of Netanyahu’s opponents a chance to form an alternative coalition government. He also could ask the parliament to select one of its own members as prime minister. If all else fails, the country would be forced into another election this fall — the fifth in just over two years.
The turmoil does not mean that Netanyahu will immediately be forced out as prime minister. But he now faces a serious threat to his lengthy rule just as his corruption trial is kicking into high gear. His opponents, despite deep ideological differences, already have been holding informal talks in recent weeks in hopes of forging a power-sharing agreement.
Netanyahu had struggled to secure a parliamentary majority since March 23 — when elections ended in deadlock for the fourth consecutive time in the past two years. Despite repeated meetings with many of his rivals and unprecedented outreach to the leader of a small Islamist Arab party, Netanyahu was unable to close a deal.
Bill and Melinda Gates divorce could shake up philanthropy
As much as Bill and Melinda Gates might want to keep their pending divorce private, the split between the billionaire co-founders of the world’s largest private foundation is sure to have very public consequences, with the breakup having already sent a wave of anxious uncertainty through the worlds of philanthropy and community health.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, with an endowment of nearly $50 billion, donates about $5 billion annually to causes around the world. Last year, it donated $1 billion to combat COVID-19 through the administering of vaccines.
In a statement after the Gateses’ announced their divorce on Twitter, the foundation said the two would remain co-chairs and trustees and that no changes in the organization were planned.
“They will continue to work together to shape and approve foundation strategies, advocate for the foundation’s issues and set the organization’s overall direction,” the foundation said.
Despite such assurances, some say they worry that the split could shake up the foundation’s plans. According to a filing in King County Superior Court Monday, the Gateses had no prenuptial agreement but have signed a separation contract.
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