AP MORNING WIRE
Good morning. In today's AP Morning Wire:
- US passes 500,000 virus deaths, matching the terrible toll of 3 wars.
- UK to lift lockdown slowly; Agony of post-COVID-19 loss of smell.
- US Supreme Court won't halt turnover of Trump's tax records.
- One year on, Muslim victims of riots still look for justice in Modi's India.
DEPUTY DIRECTOR – GLOBAL NEWS COORDINATION, LONDON
AP PHOTO/JAE C. HONG
US passes 500,000 virus deaths, matching terrible toll of three wars; Biden mourns the dead, balancing nation’s grief and hope
The COVID-19 death toll in the United States surpassed 500,000, all but matching the number of Americans killed in World War II, Korea and Vietnam combined.
The lives lost are greater than that of Miami; Raleigh, North Carolina; or Omaha, Nebraska, report Heather Hollingsworth and Tammy Webber.
The U.S. toll is by far the highest reported in the world. Despite the rollout of vaccines since mid-December, a closely watched model from the University of Washington projects more than 589,000 dead by June 1.
The Human Impact of Half a Million Deaths: A top health researcher says it's hard to imagine an American who hasn't lost a relative or doesn't know someone who died. The virus has reached into all corners of the country and communities of every size. At other moments of epic loss, like the 9/11 attacks, Americans have pulled together to confront the crisis and console survivors. But this time, the nation is deeply divided.
Staggering numbers of families are dealing with death, serious illness and financial hardship. And many are left to cope in isolation, unable even to hold funerals. Experts warn 90,000 more deaths are likely in the next few months, despite a massive vaccination campaign, Adam Geller reports.
Biden Mourns with Nation: With sunset remarks and a national moment of silence, President Joe Biden acknowledged the country’s once-unimaginable loss — half a million Americans in the pandemic. Biden addressed what he called a “grim, heartbreaking milestone” directly. He spoke about the dead as though he knew them, adding that "there’s nothing ordinary about them. The people we lost were extraordinary.” Biden and his wife, Jill, along with Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff then stepped outside to observe a moment of silence at sunset, Jonathan Lemire and Josh Boak report.
PHOTOS: America's pandemic toll over the course of one deadly year. After a relentless march of death and tragedy, it's easy to forget the shocking images, so many day after day, scenes once unthinkable in a country of such wealth and power. As the year unfolded, AP photographers formed a pictorial record of suffering, emotion and resilience. It shows the year that changed America. Words by Jocelyn Gecker.
AP PHOTO/SCOTT HEPPELL
UK to lift lockdown slowly in spring; Enduring the agony of post-COVID-19 loss of smell
Britain has announced the gradual easing of one of Europe’s strictest lockdowns, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson laying out the step-by-step plan.
Faced with a dominant virus variant that is both more transmissible and more deadly than the original virus, the country has spent much of the winter under a rigid lockdown — the third since March 2020.
Children will return to class and people will be able to meet one friend for coffee in a park in two weeks, Jill Lawless and Danica Kirka report from London. But people longing for a haircut, a meal at a restaurant or a drink in a pub will have to wait for another two months, and people won’t be able to hug loved ones that they don’t live with until May at the earliest.
Britain has had Europe’s deadliest outbreak, with more than 120,000 deaths. Under the new plan, schools reopen March 8, while shops and hairdressers can reopen April 12, along with pubs and restaurants, though only outdoors.
Hopes for a return to normality rest largely on Britain’s fast-moving inoculation program that has given more than 17.5 million people, a third of the country’s adults, the first of two doses of vaccine. The government aims is to give every adult a shot of vaccine by July 31.
Vaccine Study: Two U.K. studies showed that vaccination programs are contributing to a sharp drop in hospitalizations, boosting hopes that the shots will work as well in the real world as they have in carefully controlled studies. Preliminary results from a study in Scotland found that the Pfizer vaccine reduced hospital admissions up to 85% four weeks after the first dose, while the AstraZeneca shot cut admissions up to 94%. In England, preliminary data from a study of health care workers showed that the Pfizer vaccine reduced the risk of catching COVID-19 by 70% after one dose, a figure that rose to 85% after the second.
Deadened Senses: A year into the pandemic, doctors are striving to better understand and treat patients who lose their sense of smell. Called anosmia, the condition is a common symptom of COVID-19. It is non-lethal but terribly vexing for long-term sufferers who many weeks after infection still cannot taste food or smell the things they love.
In the southern French city of Nice, virus olfactory disorders are being studied by medical researchers who were previously using scents in the diagnosis of Alzheimer's. They have also used fragrances to treat post-traumatic stress in children after a terror attack and now lend their expertise to help post-virus patients recover their sense of smell. John Leicester reports from Nice.
More from Around the World:
- The head of the World Health Organization pleaded with rich countries to check before ordering additional vaccine shots for themselves whether that undermines efforts to get vaccine shots to poorer nations.
- Portugal’s new daily infections have dropped below 1,000 for the first time since early October. It comes just weeks after Portugal was the worst-hit country in the world by size of population. Officials credited a national lockdown that began Jan. 15 with bringing the steep drop.
- Elementary students in more than half of Germany’s 16 states have returned to school after more than two months at home. It is the first major relaxation of the country’s pandemic measures since before Christmas.
- Mexico has received the first shipment of Russia’s Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine. Some 200,000 doses arrived last night.
- Japan’s Emperor Naruhito expressed concern about the impact the pandemic has had on people in remarks for his 61st birthday.
AP PHOTO/J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE
US Supreme Court won’t halt turnover of Trump’s tax records; Security officials to answer for Jan. 6 failures in Capitol siege
In a significant, substantial defeat for Donald Trump, the U.S. Supreme Court has declined to step in to halt the turnover of his tax records to a New York state prosecutor.
The court’s action was the apparent culmination of a lengthy legal battle that had already reached the high court once before, Jessica Gresko reports.
Trump’s tax records are not supposed to become public as part of prosecutors’ criminal investigation.
But the high court’s action is a blow to Trump because he has long fought to keep his tax records shielded. The ongoing investigation that the records are part of could also become an issue for Trump in his life after the presidency. He has called the probe a “fishing expedition” and “witch hunt.”
Trump's Legal Troubles: Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. fought for a year and a half to get access to Trump’s tax records. Now he will soon have them. But what will that mean for the investigation into Trump’s business affairs? Former prosecutors say the trove of records could give investigators new tools to determine whether Trump lied to lenders or tax officials, Jim Mustian and David B. Caruso report.
Capitol Breach: Congress is set to hear from former security officials about what went wrong at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 when a violent mob laid siege to the seat of U.S. democracy and interrupted the counting of electoral votes. Three of the four testifying today resigned under pressure immediately after the attack, including the former head of the Capitol Police. Much is still unknown about the attack and lawmakers are demanding answers, Mary Clare Jalonick reports.
India: Communal Riots
“My only crime is that my name identifies my religion,” says an Indian Muslim man who miraculously survived being shot in his left eye with the bullet exiting behind his ear, but hasn't had justice.
The shooter, a Hindu, had shouted “Victory to Lord Ram!,” the popular Hindu god, and pulled the trigger. The attacker is still unpunished.
As the first anniversary of bloody communal riots that convulsed the Indian capital approaches, Muslim victims are still shaken and struggling to seek justice, Sheikh Saaliq reports from New Delhi.
Many say they have run repeatedly into a refusal by police to investigate complaints made by Muslims against Hindu rioters. Some hope the courts will come to their help. But others believe the system under Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu-nationalist-led government has become stacked against them.
Victims’ accounts and reports from rights groups indicated that leaders of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party and the New Delhi police force had tacitly supported the Hindu mobs.
The riots left 53 people dead, most of them Muslims. Police have insisted that their investigation has been fair.
Many believe the catalyst for last year's riots was a fiery speech by Kapil Mishra, a leader from Modi’s party. On Feb. 23, 2020, he gave police an ultimatum, warning them to break up a sit-in by demonstrators protesting a new citizenship law Muslims say is discriminatory, or he and his supporters would do it themselves.
When his supporters moved in, it triggered pitched street battles that quickly turned into riots. For the next three days, Hindu mobs rampaged through the streets hunting down Muslims — in some cases burning them alive in their homes — and torching entire neighborhoods.
Other Top Stories
The wife of Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman has been arrested in the United States and is accused of helping her husband run his multibillion-dollar cartel and plot his audacious escape from a Mexican prison in 2015. The U.S. Justice Department says 31-year-old Emma Coronel Aispuro, a dual citizen of the U.S. and Mexico, was arrested at Dulles International Airport and is expected to appear in federal court in Washington today. Coronel is the mother of the couple's school-age twin daughters. Her husband was sentenced to life behind bars in 2019.
Australia’s government says Facebook has agreed to lift its ban on Australians sharing news after a deal was reached on legislation that would make digital giants pay for journalism. Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Facebook confirmed they have agreed on amendments to proposed legislation that would make the social network and Google pay for news that they feature. Facebook blocked Australian users from accessing and sharing news last week after the House of Representatives passed the draft law.
Generations of Jews have dropped spare change into the blue boxes of the Jewish National Fund. For 120 years, the Zionist organization has worked to acquire land, plant trees and carry out development projects in the Holy Land. But the Israeli group, known by its Hebrew acronym KKL, is now considering formally expanding its activities into the occupied West Bank. That has sparked fierce opposition from left-leaning Jewish groups in the United States, deepening a rift with the right-wing Israeli government. The KKL has been quietly operating in the West Bank for decades, building and expanding settlements that most of the international community considers a violation of international law.
NASA has released the first high-quality video of a spacecraft landing on Mars. The footage is so amazing that members of the rover's landing team say they feel as though they're riding along. The Perseverance rover landed last Thursday near an ancient river delta. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory landing team shared the three-minute video after spending the weekend binge-watching it. Five of the six descent cameras provided stunning footage of the enormous parachute popping open and the dust kicking up as the rocket engines lowered the rover to the surface with a sky crane.