Number of Americans fully vaccinated tops 100 million
DALLAS — Disneyland reopened on Friday and cruise lines welcomed the news that they could be sailing again in the U.S. by midsummer, as the number of Americans fully vaccinated against COVID-19 reached another milestone: 100 million.
Visitors cheered and screamed with delight as the Southern California theme park swung open its gates for the first time in 13 months in a powerful symbol of the U.S. rebound, even though the self-proclaimed Happiest Place on Earth is allowing only in-state guests for now and operating at just 25% capacity.
The reopening and similar steps elsewhere around the country reflect increasing optimism as COVID-19 deaths tumble and the ranks of the vaccinated grow — a stark contrast to the worsening disaster in India and Brazil and the scant availability of vaccines in many poor parts of the world.
In fact, the U.S. announced Friday it will restrict travel from India starting Tuesday, citing the devastating rise in COVID-19 cases in the country and the emergence of potentially dangerous variants of the coronavirus.
While the overall number of lives lost to COVID-19 in the U.S. has eclipsed 575,000, deaths have plummeted to an average of about 670 per day from a peak of around 3,400 in mid-January.
US to restrict travel from India over COVID starting Tuesday
WASHINGTON — The U.S. will restrict travel from India starting Tuesday, the White House said Friday, citing a devastating rise in COVID-19 cases in the country and the emergence of potentially dangerous variants of the coronavirus.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said President Joe Biden’s administration made the determination on the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Biden signed a proclamation barring entry to most foreigners who have been in India in the past 14 days, with exceptions for legal permanent residents, spouses and close family members of U.S. citizens, and some others. He cited the spread of the virus and its variants.
“The CDC advises, based on work by public health and scientific experts, that these variants have characteristics of concern, which may make them more easily transmitted and have the potential for reduced protection afforded by some vaccines,” Biden said in the proclamation.
He said the CDC has concluded that “proactive measures” are needed to protect public health from travelers from India.
Suicide truck bomber hits Afghan guest house, killing 21
KABUL, Afghanistan — The death toll in a powerful suicide truck bombing that struck a guest house in eastern Afghanistan rose to 21 with as many as 90 others wounded, officials said Saturday.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the late Friday night bombing in Pul-e-Alam, the capital of Logar province. There was no indication why the guest house was targeted. In Afghanistan, guest houses are lodgings often provided for free by the government, usually for the poor, travelers and students.
The Interior Ministry quickly blamed the Taliban. There was no immediate response from the Taliban.
The attack came on the eve of the official date set for the start of the final withdrawal of U.S. and NATO troops from Afghanistan. The Taliban, who had demanded that all U.S. troops pull out of Afghanistan by May 1, have not offered any guarantees for the safety of the departing troops.
There was no indication the bombing was connected to the pullout and there are no U.S. or NATO troops in Logar province.
Hospital fire kills 18 virus patients as India steps up jabs
NEW DELHI — A fire in a COVID-19 hospital ward in western India killed 18 patients early Saturday, as the country grappling with the worst outbreak yet steps up a vaccination drive for all its adults even though some states say don’t have enough jabs.
India on Saturday set yet another daily global record with 401,993 new cases, taking its tally to more than 19.1 million. Another 3,523 people died in the past 24 hours, raising the overall fatalities to 211,853, according to the Health Ministry. Experts believe both figures are an undercount.
The fire broke out in a COVID-19 ward on the ground floor and was extinguished within an hour, police said. The cause is being investigated.
From wire sources
Thirty-one other patients at the Welfare Hospital in Bharuch, a town in Gujarat state, were rescued by hospital workers and firefighters and their condition was stable, said police officer B.M Parmar. Eighteen others died in the blaze and smoke before rescuers could reach them, Parmar said.
On April 23, a fire in an intensive care unit killed 13 COVID-19 patients in the Virar area on the outskirts of Mumbai.
Israel mourns deaths of 45 in stampede at religious festival
JERUSALEM — The holiday of Lag BaOmer is one of the happiest days on the calendar for Israel’s ultra-Orthodox community — a time of mass celebrations in honor of a revered sage. But in a split second Friday, the festive gathering in northern Israel turned into one of the country’s worst-ever tragedies, with at least 45 people crushed to death and dozens injured in a stampede.
The disaster prompted a national outpouring of grief as devastated families rushed to identify their dead relatives and bury them ahead of the Jewish Sabbath. There was also anger toward authorities over an accident that experts had long feared, further clouding Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hopes of remaining in office.
Netanyahu, who briefly visited Mount Meron at midday, offered his condolences. “In these moments our people unite and that is what we are doing at this moment as well,” he said.
He announced Sunday would be a day of national mourning and said he had joined the masses of people who donated blood for the victims. Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin lit 45 candles in honor of the dead. Messages of condolences poured in from around the world.
President Joe Biden said he was heartbroken and had called Netanyahu to offer support. “The people of the United States and Israel are bound together by our families, our faiths, and our histories, and we will stand with our friends,” he said.
FedEx shooting victims to be remembered at big ceremony
INDIANAPOLIS — The eight people killed in a mass shooting at a FedEx warehouse will be remembered Saturday during a public ceremony at the downtown football stadium where the Indianapolis Colts play.
The three-hour event, expected to draw thousands to Lucas Oil Stadium, comes two weeks after a former FedEx employee fatally shot the eight people, including four members of Indianapolis’ Sikh community.
Indiana Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb, along with other elected officials, law enforcement representatives, interfaith leaders and Sikh community leaders are scheduled to speak.
While the Sikh community is hosting the event, the hope is that people from across the state will join to support the affected families “as Indianapolis begins the journey of healing together and helping each other during this excruciatingly difficult time,” said Rajanpreet Kaur, a spokesperson for the Sikh Coalition.
Private services for victims from the Sikh community are also expected to take place in the coming week. Their families are seeking roughly two-dozen fast-tracked visas so relatives overseas may travel for funeral rites. The proceedings will begin with cremation and then be followed by up to 20 days of reading of the 1,400-page Guru Granth Sahib scripture.
Texas voters head back to polls after congressman’s death
AUSTIN, Texas — The widow of a Texas congressman who died after contracting COVID-19 carried Donald Trump’s endorsement into a special election Saturday, while Democrats and GOP critics of the former president hoped voters would instead send a surprising message to the rest of the U.S.
The race has drawn only modest attention beyond Texas’ 6th Congressional District, which includes the booming corridor between Dallas and Fort Worth. Still, it poses an early test of suburban voters since Trump left office.
Trump waited until just days before the election to endorse Susan Wright, a GOP activist and widow of the late Rep. Ron Wright, who in February became the first sitting member of Congress to die after being diagnosed with COVID-19. Susan Wright had already been seen as a favorite in a crowded race to fill the seat of her late husband, who won the district by 9 points in November.
Nearly two dozen other candidates are on the ballot, making it likely that Saturday’s top two finishers will advance to a runoff if no one captures more than half of the vote.
Most of the Republicans in the running have made flagrant appeals to Trump and his supporters in a race that at times has resembled a typical Texas GOP primary. The lone exception is Michael Wood, a combat veteran whose campaign has become an early test for Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, who is trying to lead a revolt in his party away from Trump.
Venezuela gives US oilmen house arrest in gesture to Biden
MIAMI — Six American oil executives jailed in Venezuela more than three years ago on corruption charges were granted house arrest on Friday in a gesture of goodwill toward the Biden administration as it reviews its policy toward the politically turbulent South American country.
The partial release of the six employees of Houston-based Citgo was confirmed to The Associated Press by family members of the men.
Tomeu Vadell, Jose Luis Zambrano, Alirio Zambrano, Jorge Toledo, Gustavo Cardenas and Jose Pereira were hauled away by masked security agents while at a meeting in Caracas just before Thanksgiving in 2017. They had been lured to Venezuela in order to attend a meeting at the headquarters of Citgo’s parent, state-run oil giant PDVSA.
The so-called Citgo 6 were granted house arrest once before — in December 2019 — only to be re-jailed two months later on the same day that President Donald Trump welcomed opposition leader Juan Guaidó to the White House.
In releasing the men, Maduro could be betting he’ll receive a better hearing from President Joe Biden, who on the campaign trail called Trump’s policy of regime change an “abject failure” that has served only to strengthen the socialist leader.
Eli Broad, billionaire entrepreneur who reshaped LA, dies
LOS ANGELES — Eli Broad, the billionaire philanthropist, contemporary art collector and entrepreneur who co-founded homebuilding pioneer Kaufman and Broad Inc. and launched financial services giant SunAmerica Inc., died Friday in Los Angeles. He was 87.
Suzi Emmerling, a spokeswoman for the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, confirmed his death to The Associated Press. Emmerling said Broad died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center after a long illness. No services have been announced.
The New York Times first reported his death.
“As a businessman Eli saw around corners, as a philanthropist he saw the problems in the world and tried to fix them, as a citizen he saw the possibility in our shared community, and as a husband, father and friend he saw the potential in each of us,” Gerun Riley, president of The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, said in a statement Friday.
It was Broad (pronounced brohd) who provided much of the money and willpower used to reshape Los Angeles’ once moribund downtown into a burgeoning area of expensive lofts, fancy dining establishments and civic structures like the landmark Walt Disney Concert Hall. He opened his own eponymous contemporary art museum and art lending library, the Broad, in 2015 in the city’s downtown next to Disney Hall.