FDA expected to OK Pfizer vaccine for teens within week
WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expected to authorize Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine for youngsters ages 12 to 15 by next week, according to a federal official and a person familiar with the process, setting up shots for many before the beginning of the next school year.
The announcement is set to come a month after the company found that its shot, which is already authorized for those age 16 and older, also provided protection for the younger group.
The federal official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to preview the FDA's action, said the agency was expected to expand its emergency use authorization for Pfizer's two-dose vaccine by early next week, and perhaps even sooner. The person familiar with the process, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters, confirmed the timeline and added that it is expected that the FDA will approve Pfizer’s use by even younger children sometime this fall.
The FDA action will be followed by a meeting of a federal vaccine advisory committee to discuss whether to recommend the shot for 12- to 15-year-olds. Shots could begin after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention adopts the committee’s recommendation. Those steps could be completed in a matter of days.
The New York Times first reported on the expected timing for the authorization.
Biden quadruples Trump refugee cap after delay backlash
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden on Monday formally raised the nation's cap on refugee admissions to 62,500 this year, weeks after facing bipartisan blowback for his delay in replacing the record-low ceiling set by former President Donald Trump.
Refugee resettlement agencies have waited for Biden to quadruple the number of refugees allowed into the United States this year since Feb. 12, when a presidential proposal was submitted to Congress saying he planned to do so.
But the presidential determination went unsigned until Monday. Biden said he first needed to expand the narrow eligibility criteria put in place by Trump that had kept out most refugees. He did that last month in an emergency determination. But it also stated that Trump's cap of up to 15,000 refugees this year “remains justified by humanitarian concerns and is otherwise in the national interest," indicating Biden intended to keep it.
That brought sharp pushback for not at least taking the symbolic step of authorizing more refugees to enter the U.S. this year. The second-ranking Senate Democrat, Dick Durbin of Illinois, called that initial limit “unacceptable” and within hours the White House made a quick course correction. The administration vowed to increase the historically low cap by May 15 — but the White House said it probably would not hit the 62,500 Biden had previously outlined.
In the end, Biden returned to that figure.
Top general drops opposition to change in sex assault policy
WASHINGTON (AP) — In a potentially significant shift in the debate over combating sexual assault in the military, the nation’s top general says he is dropping his opposition to a proposal to take decisions on sexual assault prosecution out of the hands of commanders.
Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stopped short of endorsing the changes recommended by an independent review panel. But in an interview with The Associated Press and CNN, Milley said he is now open to considering them because the problem of sexual assault in the military has persisted despite other efforts to solve it.
“We’ve been at it for years, and we haven’t effectively moved the needle,” he said. “We have to. We must.”
The comments by Milley, as arguably the most influential officer and as the senior military adviser to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and to President Joe Biden, are likely to carry considerable weight among the service chiefs and add to momentum for the change.
Austin, himself a former senior commander and former vice chief of the Army, has not publicly commented on the review commission’s proposal, but it is his creation and thus its recommendations are seen as especially weighty. Lawmakers are also stepping up pressure for the change.
Whose 'Big Lie'? Trump's proclamation a new GOP litmus test
WASHINGTON (AP) — Donald Trump and his supporters are intensifying efforts to shame — and potentially remove — members of their party who are seen as disloyal to the former president and his false claims that last year's election was stolen from him.
On Capitol Hill, Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the No. 3 Republican in the House, risks losing her leadership post amid her increasingly public dispute with Trump. In Utah, Sen. Mitt Romney, a rare Trump foe in the GOP, faced the indignity over the weekend of reminding a booing crowd that he was once their presidential standard-bearer. And in Texas, the only openly anti-Trump Republican in a crowded special election for a congressional seat finished a lowly 9th.
Trump left office nearly four months ago with his reputation badly damaged after a mob of his supporters waged a deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol to prevent the certification of election results. But the recent developments suggest a revival of his political fortunes in which those who refuse to go along with his falsehoods find themselves on the defensive.
“It’s scary,” said Michael Wood, the Texas Republican congressional candidate who based his campaign on a vow to push the GOP past the “cult of personality” that is Trump. In the end, he garnered just 3% of the vote in Saturday’s special election, while two Trump supporters, including one he endorsed, will advance to a runoff.
Trump's grip on the party may only tighten in coming days.
Restrictions easing in US and Europe amid disaster in India
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Air travel in the U.S. hit its highest mark since COVID-19 took hold more than 13 months ago, while European Union officials are proposing to ease restrictions on visitors to the continent as the vaccine sends new cases and deaths tumbling in more affluent countries.
The improving picture in many places contrasts with the worsening disaster in India.
In the U.S., the average number of new cases per day fell below 50,000 for the first time since October. And nearly 1.67 million people were screened at U.S. airport checkpoints on Sunday, according to the Transportation Security Administration, the highest number since mid-March of last year.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation giving him sweeping powers to invalidate local emergency measures put in place during the outbreak. While the law doesn’t go into effect until July, the Republican governor said he will issue an executive order to more quickly get rid of local mask mandates.
“I think this creates a structure that’s going to be a little bit more respectful, I think, of people’s businesses, jobs, schools and personal freedom," he said.
Calls for justice at N.C. funeral of Andrew Brown Jr.
ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. (AP) — The Rev. Al Sharpton issued a powerful call for transparency and the release of body camera footage at the funeral Monday for Andrew Brown Jr., a Black man shot and killed by deputies in North Carolina, with the civil rights leader likening withholding the video to a “con" job done on the public.
“I know a con game when I see it. Release the whole tape and let the folks see what happened to Andrew Brown,” Sharpton told mourners in a scorching eulogy at the invitation-only service at a church in Elizabeth City.
“You don’t need time to get a tape out. Put it out! Let the world see what there is to see. If you’ve got nothing to hide, then what are you hiding?” he said, to loud applause.
A judge ruled last week that the video would not be made public for at least a month to avoid interference with a pending state investigation into the April 21 shooting of Brown, 42, by deputies attempting to serve drug-related search and arrest warrants.
An independent autopsy commissioned by his family said Brown was shot five times, including once in the back of the head. Family members who were privately shown a portion of the body camera video say Brown was trying to drive away when he was shot. The shooting sparked days of protests in the city in rural northeastern North Carolina.
Apple's 'walled garden' faces Epic attack in app store trial
SAN RAMON, Calif. (AP) — Apple’s lucrative app store was alternately portrayed as a price-gouging monopoly and a hub of world-changing innovation during the preamble to a trial that may reshape the technological landscape.
The contrasting portraits were drawn on Monday as lawyers for Apple and its foe, Epic Games, outlined their cases in an Oakland, California, federal court before U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, who will decide the case.
While Apple depicted its app store as an invaluable service beloved by consumers and developers alike, Epic Games attacked it as a breakthrough idea that has morphed into an instrument of financial exploitation that illegally locks out competition.
The trial, expected to last most of this month, revolves around the 15% to 30% commission that Apple charges for subscriptions and purchases made from apps downloaded from its store -- the only one accessible on the iPhone, iPad and iPod.
Epic, the maker of the popular Fortnite video game, laid out evidence drawn mostly from Apple’s internal documents in an attempt to prove the company has built a digital “walled garden” during the past 13 years as part of a strategy crafted by its late co-founder, Steve Jobs. The formula, Epic contends, is designed to make it as difficult as possible for consumers to stop buying its products and services.
Idaho intern reported rape, faced 'overwhelming' harassment
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The harassment began soon after a report by a 19-year-old intern, who alleged an Idaho lawmaker raped her, became public.
One state representative sought a copy of the police report and made inquiries into how the young woman herself could be referred for criminal charges for reporting the alleged rape. Another shared links to a far-right blog post that included the intern’s name, photo and personal details about her life with thousands of people in a newsletter and on social media. Members of a far-right, anti-government activist group tried to follow and harass the young woman after she was called to testify in a legislative public ethics hearing.
“I can take criticism. I can take people laying out their opinion on me,” the intern told The Associated Press in a phone interview Sunday evening. “But this, it’s just overwhelming.”
The AP doesn’t name people who report sexual assault unless they agree to be publicly named. The intern in this case asked to use the name “Jane Doe,” which is the name she testified under during a legislative ethics committee hearing last week.
The investigation into then-Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger, a Republican from Lewiston, underscores why many alleged sex crimes go unreported. While the #MeToo movement made it clear that sexual harassment and assault remains a widespread problem, survivors can face stigma and disbelief when they come forward. Today about three out of every four sexual assaults go unreported, according to the Rape and Incest National Network, and data from the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics shows that as many as one-fifth of sexual violence survivors who chose not to report their crimes to police cited the fear of retaliation as a primary reason.
Bill and Melinda Gates announce they are getting divorced
SEATTLE (AP) — Bill and Melinda Gates said Monday that they are divorcing but would keep working together at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, one of the largest charitable foundations in the world.
In identical tweets, the Microsoft co-founder and his wife said they had made the decision to end their marriage of 27 years.
“We have raised three incredible children and built a foundation that works all over the world to enable all people to lead healthy, productive lives,” they said in a statement. “We ask for space and privacy for our family as we begin to navigate this new life.”
Bill Gates was formerly the world’s richest person and his fortune is estimated at well over $100 billion. How the couple end up settling their estate and any impact on the foundation will be closely watched, especially after another high-profile Seattle-area billionaire couple recently ended their marriage.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and MacKenzie Bezos finalized their divorce in 2019. MacKenzie Scott has since remarried and now focuses on her own philanthropy after receiving a 4% stake in Amazon, worth more than $36 billion.
Mexico marks end of last Indigenous revolt with apology
MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico on Monday marked the anniversary of a 1901 battle that ended one of the last Indigenous rebellions in North America, by issuing an apology for centuries of brutal exploitation and discrimination.
Monday's ceremony was held in the hamlet of Tihosuco in the Mayan township of Felipe Carrillo Puerto, the headquarters of the rebellion. It comes amid broader commemorations of the 500th anniversary of the 1519-1521 Spanish Conquest of Mexico, and 200 years of Mexico's 1821 independence from Spain.
“For centuries, these people have suffered exploitation and abuse,” said Interior Secretary Olga Sánchez Cordero. “Today we recognize something which we have denied for a long time, the wrongs and injustices committed against the Mayan people.”
“Today, we ask forgiveness in the name of the Mexican government for the injustices committed against you throughout our history and for the discrimination which even now you are victims of,” she said.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador was accompanied by President Alejandro Giammattei of Guatemala, the neighboring country that has a majority Mayan population.