AP News in Brief at 6:04 am EDT
Train derails in eastern Taiwan, killing 48, injuring dozens TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — A train partially derailed in eastern Taiwan on Friday after colliding with an unmanned vehicle that had rolled down a hill, killing 48 people. With the train still partly in a tunnel, survivors climbed out of windows and walked along the train’s roof to reach safety after the country’s deadliest railway disaster.
The crash occurred near the Toroko Gorge scenic area on the first day of a long holiday weekend when many people were hopping trains on Taiwan’s extensive rail system. The train had been carrying more than 400 people. The National Fire Service confirmed the death toll, which included the train’s young, newly married driver, and said all aboard had now been accounted for.
More than 100 people were injured, it said. Railways news officer Weng Hui-ping called the crash Taiwan’s deadliest rail disaster. Weng said a construction truck operated by the railway administration slid onto the track from a work site on the hillside above.
No one was in the truck at the time. He said the speed of the train was not known. The train had only partially emerged from a tunnel, and with much of it still inside, many escaping passengers were forced to scramble out of doors and windows and scale the sides of the train to walk along the roof to safety.
Immigrants with temporary status have grown deep roots in US
SPRINGDALE, Ark. (AP) — Irma Chavez is a married mother of four who leads a business networking initiative in this small Arkansas city she calls home. It’s a long way from her life as a live-in housekeeper in California years ago, and further still from a childhood working in El Salvador’s coffee fields. What has indelibly marked the path of the 44-year-old marketing specialist is a government program that allows people from countries ravaged by disaster and war to live and work legally in the United States.
While the Trump administration tried to cancel the program for many immigrants, President Joe Biden is backing legislation that would give Chavez and hundreds of thousands of people like her a shot at becoming American citizens. It’s a monumental shift from just six months ago, when a court gave the Trump administration the right to halt Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, for four countries, stoking fear among many of the program’s 411,000 recipients that they could be sent back to their homelands. Many, like Chavez, haven’t lived there in decades.
Now, these immigrants are pinning their hopes on the Senate after the House passed a sweeping bill to let them call the United States their permanent home. The legislation, which faces uncertain prospects, would offer an eight-year pathway to citizenship to an estimated 11 million people in the U.S. illegally and put immigrants brought to the country as children and TPS recipients on an even faster track to becoming Americans. For Chavez, who lives in Springdale, Arkansas, and has been renewing her temporary status for two decades, the legislation could put an end to fears that she might be deported without her children.
It also would allow her to travel more easily to see her mother and sister in their humble Salvadoran hometown lined with dusty streets.
Duty sergeant: Officers could have ended Floyd restraint MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A Minneapolis police supervisory sergeant who was on duty the night George Floyd died testified that he believes the officers who restrained Floyd could have ended it after he stopped resisting. David Pleoger testified Thursday at the trial of since-fired officer Derek Chauvin, who is charged with murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death.
He noted that officers are trained to roll people on their side to help with their breathing after they have been restrained in the prone position. “When Mr. Floyd was no longer offering up any resistance to the officers, they could have ended the restraint,” Pleoger said.
“And that was after he was handcuffed and on the ground and no longer resistant?” prosecutor Steve Schleicher asked. “Correct,” replied Ploeger, now retired.
Israel’s dilemma: Can the unvaccinated return to workplaces? JERUSALEM (AP) — After spending much of the past year in lockdown, Tel Aviv makeup artist Artyom Kavnatsky was ready to get back to work.
But when he showed up for a recent photo shoot, his employer turned him away. The reason? He had not been vaccinated against the coronavirus.
“He didn’t take me because I didn’t get vaccinated,” Kavnatsky said. “It’s discrimination, and it’s not all right.” The breakneck pace of Israel’s vaccination drive has made it one of the few countries able to return to much of its pre-pandemic routine. Bars and businesses, hotels and health clubs have all sprung back to life in Israel, where some 80% of the adult population is fully vaccinated and new infections and COVID-19 deaths have plummeted.
While Israel provides a glimpse of what may be possible with high immunization rates, it also offers insight into the problems that lie ahead: Workplaces and schools are now grappling with what to do with those who refuse to get vaccinated as the next phase in the pandemic again pits public health concerns against individual rights and possibly new questions of equity. One case has already ended up in court, and others are expected to. Airlines are already considering if vaccination, or a recent negative test, might be required for travel, as is the European Union.
Some officials in Britain and the United States are exploring if proof of immunization could help large-scale gatherings to return, though there remains significant resistance to such measures in the U.S. Whether a shot is necessary to go back to work or class is an even thornier question.
Russian entrepreneurs adapt to virus lockdown challenges MOSCOW (AP) — Valentina Konstantinova remembers well when Russia locked down for the coronavirus a year ago.
Her 18-room boutique hotel, called Skazka, or “Fairytale,” was full, and within a couple of days, it had only one guest left. “I still don’t understand how people could have vanished in one day, and where,” she recalled. The lockdown lasted six weeks, but with borders closed, her business prospects were grim.
One year later, Skazka is still open — thanks to some creative thinking by its owners — but with fewer guests than before. Russia was never fully locked down again after last spring, and as a result, its economy and some of its businesses didn’t suffer as much as those in some countries during the pandemic. But it also has seen its mortality rates rise.
When infections surged again in the fall, the government resisted imposing restrictions that would have shut many businesses.
Italy may be in Easter lockdown, but the party’s on at sea ABOARD THE MSC GRANDIOSA (AP) — Italy may be in a strict coronavirus lockdown this Easter with travel restricted between regions and new quarantines imposed. But a few miles offshore, guests aboard the MSC Grandiosa cruise ship are shimmying to Latin music on deck and sipping cocktails by the pool.
In one of the anomalies of lockdowns that have shuttered hotels and resorts around the world, the Grandiosa has been plying the Mediterranean Sea this winter with seven-night cruises, a lonely flag-bearer of the global cruise industry. After cruise ships were early sources of highly publicized coronavirus outbreaks, the Grandiosa has tried to chart a course through the pandemic with strict anti-virus protocols approved by Italian authorities that seek to create a “health bubble” on board. Passengers and crew are tested before and during cruises.
Mask mandates, temperature checks, contact-tracing wristbands and frequent cleaning of the ship are all designed to prevent outbreaks. Passengers from outside Italy must arrive with negative COVID-19 tests taken within 48 hours of their departures and only residents of Europe’s Schengen countries plus Romania, Croatia and Bulgaria are permitted to book under COVID-19 insurance policies. On Wednesday, the Grandiosa left the Italian port of Civitavecchia for its weeklong Easter cruise, with 2,000 of its 6,000-passenger capacity and stops planned in Naples and Valletta, Malta, before returning to its home port in Genoa.
Biden’s ‘Jobs Cabinet’ to sell infrastructure as GOP resists
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden is setting about convincing America it needs his £2.3 trillion infrastructure plan, deputizing a five-member “jobs Cabinet” to help in the effort. But the enormity of his task is clear after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s vowed to oppose the plan “every step of the way.” Speaking in Kentucky on Thursday, McConnell said he personally likes Biden and they’ve been friends a long time.
But the president will get no cooperation from the GOP, which objects to the corporate tax increases in the plan and says they would hurt America’s ability to compete in a global economy. “We have some big philosophical differences, and that’s going to make it more and more difficult for us to reach bipartisan agreements,” the Republican leader said. White House chief of staff Ron Klain said the key to any outreach is that the proposal’s ideas are already popular.
Americans want smooth roads, safe bridges, reliable public transit, electric vehicles, drinkable water, new schools and investments in manufacturing, among the plan’s many components, he said. “We kind of think it’s just right,” Klain said in a televised interview with the news organization Politico. “But we’re happy to have a conversation with people, less about the price tag, more about what are the elements that should be in the plan that people think are missing.”
Myanmar cuts wireless internet service amid coup protests YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — Myanmar’s wireless broadband internet services were shut down on Friday by order of the military, local providers said, as protesters continued to defy the threat of lethal violence to oppose the junta’s takeover.
A directive from the Ministry of Transport and Communications on Thursday instructed that “all wireless broadband data services be temporarily suspended until further notice,” according to a statement posted online by local provider Ooredoo. After weeks of overnight cutoffs of internet access, the military on Friday shut all links apart from those using fiber optic cable, whose speeds are drastically slower. Access to mobile networks and all wireless — the less costly options used by most people in the developing country — was blocked.
The Norwegian telecoms company Telenor, one of the biggest carriers in Myanmar, confirmed it could no longer offer wireless services. It was offering fiber optic service of up to 40 megabytes per second in its packages as of Friday, well below high-speed access that’s at a minimum 100 Mbps. The government has shut down all but a handful of fully military-controlled media outlets.
Some of those banned or whose operations have been suspended have continued to publish via social media or whatever methods they can find.
Christians mark Good Friday as some holy sites reopen JERUSALEM (AP) — Christians in the Holy Land are marking Good Friday this year amid signs the coronavirus crisis is winding down, with religious sites open to limited numbers of faithful but none of the mass pilgrimages usually seen in the Holy Week leading up to Easter. The virus is still raging in the Philippines, France, Brazil and other predominantly Christian countries, where worshippers are marking a second annual Holy Week under various movement restrictions amid outbreaks fanned by more contagious strains.
Last year, Jerusalem was under a strict lockdown, with sacred rites observed by small groups of priests, often behind closed doors. It was a stark departure from past years, when tens of thousands of pilgrims would descend on the city’s holy sites. This year, Franciscan friars in brown robes led hundreds of worshippers down the Via Dolorosa, retracing what tradition holds were Jesus’ final steps, while reciting prayers through loudspeakers at the Stations of the Cross.
Another group carried a wooden cross along the route through the Old City, singing hymns and pausing to offer prayers. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built on the site where Christians believe Jesus was crucified, died and rose from the dead, is open to visitors with masks and social distancing.
Police: California office attack that killed 4 wasn’t random ORANGE, Calif. (AP) — A gunman who killed four people, including a 9-year-old boy, in a rampage at a Southern California office building knew all the victims and his motive may have involved personal or business relationships, police said.
“This was not a random act of violence,” Lt. Jennifer Amat said Thursday of the attack at a building that housed small businesses in Orange, southeast of Los Angeles. Aminadab Gaxiola Gonzalez, 44, was identified as the suspected shooter.
He was in critical but stable condition. It wasn’t clear whether he was wounded by police or shot himself, Amat said. Gonzalez, from nearby Fullerton, was staying at a motel in neighboring Anaheim and used a rented car to arrive at the two-story office building on Lincoln Avenue, Amat said.
He chained the front and rear gates to the complex with bicycle cable locks and was spotted on security video wearing a bandana over his face, brandishing a semautomatic handgun and hauling a backpack that contained pepper spray, handcuffs and ammunition, police said.
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