Nation and world news at a glance
US health officials urge vaccinations as omicron spreads
Top federal health officials in the United States urged unvaccinated Americans on Sunday to get their shots and for eligible adults to seek out boosters, amid the discovery of a new variant. Appearing on several morning talk shows Sunday, Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, cautioned Americans that the emergence of omicron is a reminder that the pandemic is far from over. While the variant has yet to be detected in the U.S., maintaining vigilance and safeguarding public health through inoculations, masking indoors and distancing, remains critical, he said. “I know, America, you’re really tired about hearing those things, but the virus is not tired of us,” Collins said.
Man survives flight from Guatemala to Miami in plane’s landing gear
A 26-year-old man survived a flight from Guatemala to Miami on Saturday after hiding in the airplane’s landing gear compartment, officials said. American Airlines Flight 1182 from Guatemala City landed at Miami International Airport just after 10 a.m. Saturday, according to Alfredo Garduño, a spokesman for the airline. Once the plane landed, it “was met by law enforcement due to a security issue,” Garduño said in a statement. The airline was working with law enforcement agencies, he said. The man, whose name was not released, was taken to a hospital for a medical assessment, the agency said.
Leftist claims victory in Honduran vote, setting up showdown
Leftist opposition candidate Xiomara Castro claimed victory in Honduras’ presidential election Sunday, setting up a showdown with the National Party which said its candidate had won a vote that could end the conservative party’s 12 years in power. Preliminary results released late Sunday by the Electoral Council showed Castro with 53% of the votes and Asfura with 34%, but with just 16% of voting stations counted. The council said turnout was more than 68%. The competing claims of victory came just hours after the National Electoral Council reminded parties that such announcements were prohibited and violators would be fined.
Esper claims Defense Department is improperly blocking parts of his memoir
Former Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Sunday sued the agency he once led, accusing officials at Pentagon of improperly blocking significant portions of an upcoming memoir about his tumultuous tenure under President Donald Trump. The allegations by Esper, whom Trump fired shortly after losing his reelection bid last November, are laid out in a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. “Significant text is being improperly withheld from publication in Secretary Esper’s manuscript under the guise of classification,” the suit said. Esper’s book, titled “A Sacred Oath,” is expected to be published in May.
Swiss voters approve their government’s COVID policy in a referendum
A majority of Swiss voters backed the government’s COVID-19 response policy in a referendum held Sunday, after weeks of vitriolic public debate and protests. Official government results show 62% of voters agreed to keep the amendments parliament made to the nation’s existing COVID law, which includes the introduction of a COVID certificate that shows either proof of vaccination or recovery from the illness and is required to enter public spaces such as restaurants or museums. It is the second time this year that opponents have tried to overturn legislation introduced by the government in response to the pandemic, by collecting enough signatures to bring the matter to a referendum.
As China speeds up nuclear arms race, the US wants to talk
The United States has no nuclear hotline to Beijing. The two countries have never had an in-depth conversation about American missile defenses in the Pacific, or China’s experiments to blind U.S. satellites in time of conflict. And Chinese officials have consistently rejected the idea of entering arms control talks, shutting down such suggestions by noting that the United States and Russia each have deployed five times more nuclear warheads than Beijing possesses. President Joe Biden wants to change all that. The United States is trying to nudge China’s leadership into a conversation about its nuclear capability. U.S. officials say Biden and his top aides plan to move slowly.
Years of delays, billions in overruns: The dismal history of big infrastructure
As the nation sets out on a national spending spree fueled by the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill signed by President Joe Biden this month, the job ahead carries enormous risks that the projects will face the same kind of cost, schedule and technical problems that have hobbled ambitious efforts from New York to Seattle, delaying benefits to the public and driving up the price tag that taxpayers ultimately will bear. Agencies have less internal technical talent. Legal challenges have grown stronger under state and federal environmental laws. And spending on infrastructure as a fraction of the economy has shrunk, giving local agencies less experience in modern practices.
Israel and Morocco impose bans on all foreign travelers
Israel has become the first country to seal its borders to all foreign travelers in response to the coronavirus’s omicron variant, taking a step that appeared more severe but less discriminatory than other countries’ travel bans. Only four weeks ago, Israel fully reopened its skies to vaccinated tourists after it had barred foreign visitors early in the pandemic. But by midnight Sunday, its borders are expected to again be closed to foreigners. The reversal came after a meeting Saturday of Israel’s coronavirus cabinet and constituted a broader ban than those imposed by most countries. Morocco said Sunday it too would deny entry to all travelers for two weeks beginning Monday.
Former Wright Brothers bicycle shop faces demolition
In 1892, the brick building at 1005 W. Third St. had several large windows that allowed the residents of Dayton, Ohio, to peek inside and see the Wright brothers, who were still years from becoming pioneers of flight, run their bicycle shop. Now the building could soon be demolished. A Dayton zoning appeals board on Tuesday approved the city’s request to demolish the building where the state legends Wilbur and Orville Wright opened their first successful bicycle business. City officials plan to review developers’ proposals for the space. The building’s potential demolition is pitting some officials against preservationists, who contend that it holds historical importance and, if redeveloped, could qualify for tax credits.
By wire sources