AP Information in Temporary at 6:04 p.m. EDT | Nationwide

EU regulator ‘convinced’ AstraZeneca benefit outweighs risk

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union’s drug regulator insisted Tuesday that there is “no indication” the AstraZeneca vaccine causes blood clots as governments around the world faced the grimmest of dilemmas: push on with a vaccine known to save lives or suspend its use over reports of clotting in some recipients.

The European Medicines Agency urged governments not to halt use of the vaccine at a time when the pandemic is still taking thousands of lives each day. And already there are concerns that even brief suspensions could have disastrous effects on confidence in inoculation campaigns the world over, many of which are already struggling to overcome logistical hurdles and widespread hesitancy about vaccines.

“We are still firmly convinced that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine in preventing COVID-19 with its associated risk of hospitalization and death outweigh the risk of the side effects,” said Emer Cooke, the head of the agency.

Many scientists have argued that even the loss of a few days in vaccinating vulnerable people could be far costlier than the impact of any rare phenomenon.

But a cascading number of countries have taken a different view and locked away shots from the Anglo-Swedish company, awaiting the results of an EMA review, promised Thursday.

In Pennsylvania, Biden showcases aid to small businesses

CHESTER, Pa. (AP) — President Joe Biden turned up at a minority-owned flooring business in suburban Philadelphia on Tuesday to highlight how his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package can help small businesses and to put a face on those who have struggled throughout the pandemic.

The visit to Smith Flooring, Inc. was Biden’s first stop in a cross-country administration roadshow — also involving his vice president and his wife — designed to publicize, and take credit for, the virus relief package.

It “took some loud, strong voices to get this done,” Biden said, making a subtle dig at Republicans during his visit to the small union shop that will benefit from the relief. “And it’s not like it passed with 100 votes. It was close.”

While Biden was in Pennsylvania for his first stop on the “Help is Here” tour, Vice President Kamala Harris and husband Doug Emhoff were reinforcing the small business theme Tuesday with stops in Colorado.

With Harris and Emhoff taking notes during a business roundtable in Denver, Lorena Cantarovici, who began making empanadas in her garage after emigrating from Argentina, told of how her small shop grew over the years into three Maria Empanada locations but then was forced to lay off workers when the coronavirus struck.

Child border crossings surge as DHS chief defends policies

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. authorities encountered nearly double the number of children traveling alone across the Mexican border on Monday than on an average day last month, an official said Tuesday, and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas conceded the surge was a challenge.

The Border Patrol came across 561 unaccompanied children at the border on Monday, including 280 in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, the official said, offering a snapshot of how quickly events at the border have changed during the first two months of Joe Biden’s presidency. By comparison, it encountered a daily average of 332 unaccompanied children in February, which itself was a 60% jump from January. The peak was 370 during a Trump-era surge in May 2019.

The U.S. official, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to discuss matters that were not intended for public disclosure, said the Health and Human Services Department was moving to open two additional facilities to process children traveling alone — one for 800 children at Moffett Federal Airfield near San Francisco and another in Pecos, Texas. It is also looking to expand a facility in Donna, Texas, in the Rio Grande Valley, to hold 2,000 people.

The Dallas Convention Center is scheduled to begin holding children as early as Wednesday with plans to accommodate up to 3,000. Another makeshift holding center in Midland, Texas, that opened last weekend for 700 children had 485 on Monday.

Faced with criticism from all sides. Mayorkas said the situation was under control as he defended the administration’s policy of allowing children crossing by themselves to remain in the country

Battle over Floyd’s 2019 arrest highlights key trial issue

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A lawyer for the former Minneapolis police officer who pressed his knee against George Floyd’s neck wants to bring up Floyd’s history of drug use and a previous arrest in an effort to show jurors that Floyd was partly to blame for his own death.

A prosecutor says it’s irrelevant and that Derek Chauvin’s lawyer is trying to smear Floyd to excuse his client’s actions. Chauvin is charged with murder and manslaughter.

Now it’s up to Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill to decide the critical question of how much the high-profile trial will revolve around Floyd’s own actions on May 25, when the Black man died after Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee against his neck for about nine minutes. Floyd’s death, captured on a widely seen bystander video, set off weeks of sometimes-violent protests across the country and led to a national reckoning on racial justice.

The judge previously rejected Chauvin’s attempt to tell the jury about Floyd’s May 2019 arrest — a year before his fatal encounter with Chauvin — but heard fresh arguments Tuesday from both sides. He said he would rule on the request Wednesday morning at the earliest.

Defense attorney Eric Nelson argued that new evidence makes the earlier arrest admissible: Drugs were found last December during a second search of the car Floyd was in, and were found in a January search of the squad car into which the four officers attempted to put Floyd.

US: Despite threats, foreign hackers didn’t disrupt election

Russia and Iran sought to influence the outcome of last November’s presidential election, but U.S. intelligence officials found no evidence that any foreign actor changed votes or otherwise disrupted the voting process, according to a government report affirming the integrity of the contest won by President Joe Biden.

The report released Tuesday from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence amounts to the most detailed description of the broad array of foreign threats to the 2020 election, including Russian influence operations that officials say were authorized by President Vladimir Putin and efforts by Iran to undermine confidence in the vote and harm Donald Trump’s re-election prospects. All told, the report says, the U.S. tracked a broader array of foreign election threats than in past cycles, including from the Middle East and South America.

In the end, officials said: “We have no indications that any foreign actor attempted to interfere in the 2020 US elections by altering any technical aspect of the voting process, including voter registration, ballot casting, vote tabulation, or reporting results.”

The report wades into the politically freighted assessments of ferreting out which foreign adversaries supported which candidates during the 2020 presidential election. That question took on added scrutiny when Trump, whose 2016 election effort benefited from hacking by Russian intelligence officers and a covert social media campaign, seized on an intelligence community assessment from last August that said China preferred a Biden presidency to Trump’s re-election.

Tuesday’s report, however, says China ultimately did not interfere on either side and “considered but did not deploy” influence operations aimed at affecting the outcome. Officials determined that Beijing valued a stable relationship with the U.S. and did not consider either election outcome as advantageous enough for it to risk getting caught.

Gunmen kill at least 58 in attack on Niger market sellers

NIAMEY, Niger (AP) — Gunmen on motorcycles attacked a group of civilians returning from market day in a volatile corner of Niger, leaving at least 58 people dead and then burning granaries to the ground, the government said Tuesday.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Monday’s massacres, though extremists belonging to the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara group are known to be active in the Tillaberi region where the villages were attacked.

The victims were returning home from a large livestock market in Banibangou, near Niger’s troubled border with Mali. The suspected extremists also destroyed nearby granaries that held valuable food stores.

The announcement was read on Niger state television Tuesday evening by government spokesman Abdourahmane Zakaria , who declared three days of national mourning for the victims.

Monday’s attacks underscore the enormous security challenges facing Niger’s new president, Mohamed Bazoum, who won the election in late February to succeed outgoing leader Mahamadou Issoufou.

Advocates, some AGs wary of Purdue Pharma bankruptcy plan

Some state attorneys general and opioid addiction activists pushed back Tuesday against a settlement offer from OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma, saying it didn’t include enough money and goes too far in protecting the company and family members who own it from future liability.

A group of nearly half the state attorneys general said it was disappointed in the plan Purdue filed late Monday night in federal bankruptcy court and some said they would seek changes. The lukewarm reaction from them and others raised doubts about how soon the company could emerge from bankruptcy and begin to compensate victims.

“We think it’s a step in the right direction, but we’ve got a long way to go,” said Joe Rice, one of the lead lawyers representing local governments that have sued Purdue and other companies over the toll of opioids.

The $10 billion plan calls for turning the Connecticut-based pharmaceutical giant into a new company, with its profits going toward efforts to combat the opioid crisis. Members of the Sackler family who own Purdue would contribute about $4.3 billion.

A new public health-oriented arm of the transformed company would produce addiction treatment and overdose antidote drugs, and a trove of company documents would be made public.

Battling bigness: Congress eyes action against monopolies

WASHINGTON (AP) — The battle against bigness is building. Whether it’s beer, banks or book publishing, lawmakers are targeting major industries they say have become so concentrated that they’re hurting competition, consumers and the economy.

The economic dislocation of the pandemic has laid bare the struggles of small businesses unable to compete with corporate giants that have been able to capitalize on the new order. Experts and lawmakers are throwing out stunning stats:

The four biggest airlines control about 65% of U.S. passenger traffic, five giant healthcare insurers control an estimated 45% of the market, pharmaceuticals are dominated by three major companies, the top four banks control about 44% of the market, the so-called Big Five book publishers control some 80% of the U.S. book market, and Google alone accounts for about 90% of web searches worldwide.

Beer and a burger? Four companies are estimated to control 80% of U.S. meat-packing; the top four brewers and importers control about 76% of the U.S. beer market.

Congress, federal regulators and states had already been putting Big Tech companies under intense scrutiny for nearly two years and even suing some for antitrust. Now with Democrats in the majority in Congress and President Joe Biden seemingly prepared to act on an anti-monopoly agenda, the focus is widening to the rest of corporate America.

Israeli experts announce discovery of more Dead Sea scrolls

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli archaeologists on Tuesday announced the discovery of dozens of Dead Sea Scroll fragments bearing a biblical text found in a desert cave and believed hidden during a Jewish revolt against Rome nearly 1,900 years ago.

The fragments of parchment bear lines of Greek text from the books of Zechariah and Nahum and have been dated around the first century based on the writing style, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority. They are the first new scrolls found in archaeological excavations in the desert south of Jerusalem in 60 years.

The Dead Sea Scrolls, a collection of Jewish texts found in desert caves in the West Bank near Qumran in the 1940s and 1950s, date from the third century B.C. to the first century A.D. They include the earliest known copies of biblical texts and documents outlining the beliefs of a little understood Jewish sect.

The roughly 80 new pieces are believed to belong to a set of parchment fragments found in a site in southern Israel known as the “Cave of Horror” — named for the 40 human skeletons found there during excavations in the 1960s — that also bear a Greek rendition of the Twelve Minor Prophets, a book in the Hebrew Bible. The cave is located in a remote canyon around 40 kilometers (25 miles) south of Jerusalem.

The artifacts were found during an operation in Israel and the occupied West Bank conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority to find scrolls and other artifacts to prevent possible plundering. Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 war, and international law prohibits the removal of cultural property from occupied territory. The authority held a news conference Tuesday to unveil the discovery.

Gonzaga, Baylor dominate AP All-America teams

Gonzaga and Baylor spent almost the entire season holding down the top two spots in the Top 25.

Makes sense they’d hold down a bunch of spots on The Associated Press All-America teams.

The Bulldogs’ Corey Kispert and the Bears’ Jared Butler led the way with first-team nods Tuesday from the national panel of 63 media members that vote each week in the AP Top 25 poll. They were joined by unanimous pick Luka Garza of Iowa, a two-time selection, along with Ayo Dosunmu of Illinois and Cade Cunningham of Oklahoma State.

Kispert and Butler had plenty of company, though.

The Bulldogs also landed big man Drew Timme and freshman sensation Jalen Suggs on the second team while Joel Ayayi was an honorable mention pick. The Bears had Davion Mitchell on the third team and MaCio Teague as an honorable mention.

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