AP News in Brief at 6:04 a.m. EST

Half a million dead in US, confirming virus’s tragic reach

For weeks after Cindy Pollock began planting tiny flags across her yard — one for each of the more than 1,800 Idahoans killed by COVID-19 — the toll was mostly a number. Until two women she had never met rang her doorbell in tears, seeking a place to mourn the husband and father they had just lost.

article continues below

Then Pollock knew her tribute, however heartfelt, would never begin to convey the grief of a pandemic that has now claimed 500,000 lives in the U.S. and counting.

"I just wanted to hug them," she said. "Because that was all I could do."

After a year that has darkened doorways across the U.S., the pandemic surpassed a milestone Monday that once seemed unimaginable, a stark confirmation of the virus's reach into all corners of the country and communities of every size and makeup.

"It’s very hard for me to imagine an American who doesn’t know someone who has died or have a family member who has died," said Ali Mokdad, a professor of health metrics at the University of Washington in Seattle. "We haven’t really fully understood how bad it is, how devastating it is, for all of us."

___

Biden mourns 500,000 dead, balancing nation's grief and hope

WASHINGTON (AP) —

With sunset remarks and a national moment of silence, President Joe Biden on Monday confronted head-on the country's once-unimaginable loss — half a million Americans in the COVID-19 pandemic — as he tried to strike a balance between mourning and hope.

Addressing the "grim, heartbreaking milestone" directly and publicly, Biden stepped to a lectern in the White House Cross Hall, unhooked his face mask and delivered an emotion-filled eulogy for more than 500,000 Americans he said he felt he knew.

"We often hear people described as ordinary Americans. There's no such thing," he said Monday evening. "There's nothing ordinary about them. The people we lost were extraordinary."

"Just like that," he added, "so many of them took their last breath alone."

___

Security officials to answer for Jan. 6 failures at Capitol

WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress is set to hear from former U.S. Capitol security officials for the first time about the massive law enforcement failures on Jan. 6, the day a violent mob laid siege to the building and interrupted the presidential electoral count.

Three of the four scheduled to testify Tuesday before two Senate committees resigned under pressure immediately after the deadly attack, including the former head of the Capitol Police.

Much remains unknown about what happened before and during the assault, and lawmakers are expected to aggressively question the former officials about what went wrong. How much did law enforcement agencies know about plans for violence that day, many of which were public? How did the agencies share that information with each other? And how could the Capitol Police have been so ill-prepared for a violent insurrection that was organized online, in plain sight?

The rioters easily smashed through security barriers on the outside of the Capitol, engaged in hand-to-hand combat with police officers, injuring dozens of them, and broke through multiple windows and doors, sending lawmakers fleeing from the House and Senate chambers and interrupting the certification of the 2020 presidential election. Five people died as a result of the violence, including a Capitol Police officer and a woman who was shot by police as she tried to break through the doors of the House chamber with lawmakers still inside.

Former Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Michael Stenger and former House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul Irving will speak publicly for the first time since their resignations at the hearing, which is part of a joint investigation by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and the Senate Rules Committee. They will be joined by former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund and Robert Contee, the acting chief of police for the Metropolitan Police Department, who sent additional officers to the scene after the rioting began.

___

A year on, India's riot victims say justice still unserved

NEW DELHI (AP) — The shooter shouted "Victory to Lord Ram," the Hindu god, before pulling the trigger that sent a bullet into Muhammad Nasir Khan’s left eye.

Khan placed his trembling hand on his bloody eye socket and his fingers slipped deep into the wound. At that moment, Khan was sure he would die.

Khan ended up surviving the violence that killed 53 others, mostly fellow Muslims, when it engulfed his neighbourhood in the Indian capital 12 months ago.

But a year after India's worst communal riots in decades, the 35-year-old is still shaken and his attacker still unpunished. Khan says he's been unable to get justice due to a lack of police interest in his case.

"My only crime is that my name identifies my religion," Khan said at his home in New Delhi's North Ghonda neighbourhood.

___

Wife of drug kingpin 'El Chapo' arrested on US drug charges

WASHINGTON (AP) — The wife of Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman was arrested Monday in the United States and accused of helping her husband run his multibillion-dollar cartel and plot his audacious escape from a Mexican prison in 2015.

Emma Coronel Aispuro, a 31-year-old former beauty queen, was arrested at Dulles International Airport in Virginia and is expected to appear in federal court in Washington on Tuesday. She is a dual citizen of the United States and Mexico.

Her arrest is the latest twist in the bloody, multinational saga involving Guzman, the longtime head of the Sinaloa drug cartel. Guzman, whose two dramatic prison escapes in Mexico fed into a legend that he and his family were all but untouchable, was extradited to the United States in 2017 and is serving life in prison.

And now his wife, with whom he has two young daughters, has been charged with helping him run his criminal empire. In a single-count criminal complaint, Coronel was charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and marijuana in the U.S. The Justice Department also accused her of helping her husband escape from a Mexican prison in 2015 and participating in the planning of a second prison escape before Guzman was extradited to the U.S.

Coronel’s attorney Jeffrey Lichtman declined to comment Monday night.

___

What NY prosecutors could learn from Trump's tax records

NEW YORK (AP) — Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. fought for a year and a half to get access to former President Donald Trump’s tax records.

Now, thanks to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, he will soon have them. But what will that mean for the Democrat’s 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, before or after he took office.

"Prosecutors look for discrepancies in paperwork. For example, if Trump told the IRS he’s broke and lenders that he’s rich that’s just the type of discrepancy they could build a case around," said Duncan Levin, a former federal prosecutor who worked on a wide range of white collar cases as Vance’s chief of asset forfeiture.

"These documents are a very important piece of the jigsaw puzzle," Levin said.

___

Deb Haaland hearing is Indian Country's Obama moment

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — For Native Americans, Deb Haaland is more than an elected official on track to become the first Indigenous secretary of the Interior Department. She is a sister, an auntie and a fierce pueblo woman whose political stances have been moulded by her upbringing.

News of her historic nomination electrified Indian Country. Tribal leaders and organizations for weeks have urged people to write and call U.S. senators who will decide if she’ll lead the agency that has broad oversight over Native American affairs and energy development.

On Tuesday, Haaland’s confirmation hearing will be closely watched in tribal communities across the U.S., with virtual parties amid a pandemic. A day before, a picture of the New Mexico congresswoman was projected on the side of the Interior building with text that read "Our Ancestors' Dreams Come True."

Many Native Americans see Haaland as a reflection of themselves, someone who will elevate their voices and protect the environment and tribes’ rights. Here are stories of her impact:

________

___

Jews split over storied charity's support for settlements

JERUSALEM (AP) — Generations of Jews have dropped spare change into the iconic blue boxes of the Jewish National Fund, a 120-year-old Zionist organization that acquires land, plants trees and carries 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 increasingly right-wing Israeli government.

The debate has drawn attention to the fact that the KKL, which owns more than a tenth of all the land in Israel, 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.

A separate New York-based organization, also known as the Jewish National Fund, does not take a position on the settlements and mostly operates within Israel.

The controversy erupted earlier this month when the Axios news website reported that the KKL was considering a proposal to openly fund land purchases from Palestinians in the West Bank. The move could potentially channel hundreds of millions of dollars into the expansion of settlements, some of them deep inside the occupied territory.

___

Facebook says it will lift its Australian news ban soon

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Facebook said on Tuesday it will lift its ban on Australians sharing news after it struck a deal with Australia's government on legislation that would make digital giants pay for journalism.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Facebook confirmed that they have agreed on amendments to proposed legislation to require the social network and Google to pay for Australian news that they feature.

Facebook's co-operation is a major victory in Australian efforts to make the two gateways to the Internet pay for the journalism that they use. The company had blocked Australian users from accessing and sharing news last week after the House of Representatives passed the draft law late Wednesday.

The amended version of the proposed legislation would give digital platforms one month’s notice before they are formally designated under the code. That would give those involved more time to broker agreements before they are forced to enter the binding arbitration arrangements required by the proposed law.

Initially, the Facebook news blockade cut access — at least temporarily — to government pandemic, public health and emergency services, sparking public outrage.

___

Not to be sniffed at: Agony of post-COVID-19 loss of smell

NICE, France (AP) — The doctor slid a miniature camera into the patient’s right nostril, making her whole nose glow red with its bright miniature light.

"Tickles a bit, eh?" he asked as he rummaged around her nasal passages, the discomfort causing tears to well in her eyes and roll down her cheeks.

The patient, Gabriella Forgione, wasn't complaining. The 25-year-old pharmacy worker was happy to be prodded and poked at the hospital in Nice, in southern France, to advance her increasingly pressing quest to recover her sense of smell. Along with her sense of taste, it suddenly vanished when she fell ill with COVID-19 in November, and neither has returned.

Being deprived of the pleasures of food and the scents of things that she loves are proving tough on her body and mind. Shorn of odours both good and bad, Forgione is losing weight and self-confidence.

"Sometimes I ask myself, ’Do I stink?'" she confessed. "Normally, I wear perfume and like for things to smell nice. Not being able to smell bothers me greatly."

Read Related Topics

© Copyright Times Colonist

Most Popular

  • CARRIERS WANTED!

    The Times Colonist is looking for newspaper carriers to work in the Reader Sales and Service Department.


Find out what's happening in your community.