Minorities in Myanmar borderlands face fresh fear since coup

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Before each rainy season Lu Lu Aung and other farmers living in a camp for internally displaced people in Myanmar's far northern Kachin state would return to the village they fled and plant crops that would help keep them fed for the coming year.

But this year in the wake of February's military coup, with the rains not far off, the farmers rarely step out of their makeshift homes and don't dare leave their camp. They say it is simply too dangerous to risk running into soldiers from Myanmar's army or their aligned militias.

“We can’t go anywhere and can’t do anything since the coup,” Lu Lu Aung said. “Every night, we hear the sounds of jet fighters flying so close above our camp.”

The military's lethal crackdown on protesters in large central cities such as Yangon and Mandalay has received much of the attention since the coup that toppled Aung San Suu Kyi's elected government. But far away in Myanmar's borderlands, Lu Lu Aung and millions of others who hail from Myanmar's minority ethnic groups are facing increasing uncertainty and waning security as longstanding conflicts between the military and minority guerrilla armies flare anew.

It's a situation that was thrust to the forefront over the past week as the military launched deadly airstrikes against ethnic Karen guerrillas in their homeland on the eastern border, displacing thousands and sending civilians fleeing into neighboring Thailand.


With new aid, schools seek solutions to problems new and old

With a massive infusion of federal aid coming their way, schools across the U.S. are weighing how to use the windfall to ease the harm of the pandemic — and to tackle problems that existed long before the coronavirus.

The assistance that was approved last month totals $123 billion — a staggering sum that will offer some districts several times the amount of federal education funding they receive in a single year. The aid will help schools reopen and expand summer programs to help students catch up on learning. It also offers a chance to pursue programs that have long been seen as too expensive, such as intensive tutoring, mental health services and major curriculum upgrades.

“This feels like a once-in-a-generation opportunity for us to be able to make critical investments," said Nathan Kuder, chief financial officer of Boston Public Schools, which is expecting $275 million.

But the spending decisions carry high stakes. If important needs are overlooked — or if the money does not bring tangible improvements — schools could face blowback from their communities and from politicians who influence their funding. At the same time, schools must be wary of dreaming too big and taking on long-term costs they cannot sustain.

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said the assistance allows schools to “hit the reset button” and confront challenges that have long plagued the nation’s education system. He said schools can train teachers in social and emotional learning and work to close persistent racial disparities in education.


Hymns through masks: Christians mark another pandemic Easter

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Christianity’s most joyous feast day was celebrated worldwide with the faithful spaced apart in pews and singing choruses of “Hallelujah” through face coverings on a second Easter Sunday marked by pandemic precautions.

From vast Roman Catholic cathedrals to Protestant churches, worshippers followed regulations on the coronavirus. In some European countries, citizens lined up on Easter for their turn to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

In the Lombardy region of Italy, where the pandemic first erupted in the West, a hospital gave a traditional dove-shaped Easter cake symbolizing peace to each person waiting to get vaccinated. Many who came were in their 80s.

A soccer team in Lyon, France, opened its stadium as a vaccination center for the long holiday weekend. Some 9,000 people were expected to receive their shots there over three days as the French government tries to speed up vaccinations amid a fresh outbreak of infections.

In the Holy Land, travel restrictions and quarantine regulations prevented foreign pilgrims from flocking to religious sites in Jerusalem during Holy Week, which culminates in Easter celebrations. Pope Francis lamented that the pandemic has prevented some churchgoers from attending services.


Europe ramps up vaccinations as virus haunts Easter holidays

PARIS (AP) — The French city of Lyon's main stadium opened as a mass vaccination center during Easter weekend, and thousands spent the holiday lining up for injections at hippodromes, velodromes or other sites as France tried to speed up shots amid a new rush of coronavirus cases.

But as Europe celebrated its second Easter in a row under the cloud of the pandemic, some cities put vaccinations on hold over during the long holiday weekend — defying French President Emmanuel Macron’s insistence that “there are no weekends or days off during vaccination.”

Medical workers need “a little rest at last,” said an official with the French city of Strasbourg, which shut down vaccination facilities from Good Friday through Easter Monday, a public holiday. To ensure that residents still had access to potentially life-saving vaccines, Strasbourg expanded vaccination hours and administered all of its weekly supply of doses between last Monday and Thursday, the official said.

Spain, Italy and Germany faced a similar holiday vaccination challenge.

Spaniards lined up for shots on Easter Sunday in Barcelona and other points around the country, but Madrid halted vaccinations at local health centers to give staff a break. The Spanish capital continued to give shots at a soccer stadium and a new hospital built to help handle pandemic cases.


'Trial of the Chicago 7' takes top honors at SAG Awards

The starry cast of Aaron Sorkin’s 1960s courtroom drama “The Trial of the Chicago 7” took the top prize Sunday at a virtual Screen Actors Guild Awards where actors of color, for the first time, swept the individual film awards.

The 27th SAG Awards, presented by the Hollywood actors’ guild SAG-Aftra, were a muted affair — and not just because the red carpet-less ceremony was condensed to a pre-recorded, Zoom-heavy, one-hour broadcast on TBS and TNT. The perceived Academy Awards frontrunner — Chloé Zhao’s “Nomadland” — wasn’t nominated for best ensemble, making this year’s postponed SAG Awards less of an Oscar preview than it is most years.

Still, the win for Netflix's “The Trial of the Chicago 7” marked the first time a film from any streaming service won the guild’s ensemble award. Written and directed by Sorkin, “The Trial of the Chicago 7” had been set for theatrical release by Paramount Pictures before the pandemic hit, leading to its sale to Netflix. The streamer is still after its first best-picture win at the Oscars.

Frank Langella, who plays the judge who presided over the 1969 prosecution of activists arrested during the 1968 Democratic National Convention, drew parallels between that era’s unrest and today’s while accepting the award on behalf of the cast.

“‘God give us leaders,’ said the Rev. Martin Luther King before he was shot down in cold blood on this very date in 1968 — a profound injustice,” said Langella, citing events leading up to those dramatized in "The Trial of the Chicago 7. “The Rev. King was right. We need leaders to guide us toward hating each other less.”


EXPLAINER: Legion of Chauvin prosecutors, each with own role

Viewers watching the trial of a former Minneapolis officer charged with murder in George Floyd 's death may be struck by the array of prosecutors taking turns presenting their case. The choice of who does what is no accident.

While Derek Chauvin ’s attorney, Eric Nelson, works alone, the prosecution is being handled by two assistant attorneys general, Matthew Frank and Erin Eldridge, and two outside lawyers, Jerry Blackwell and Steve Schleicher. Ten more are working behind the scenes, many for free.

Experts agree the roles played by prosecutors are based on the skill sets each brings, but appearances matter, too.

WHY DID BLACKWELL GIVE THE OPENING STATEMENT?

The undercurrent of racial tension — a white police officer accused of killing a Black man — can't be ignored. Blackwell is a prominent Black civil rights attorney and one of the founders of the Minnesota Association of Black Lawyers. Last year, he won a posthumous pardon for a Black man wrongly convicted of rape before the infamous Duluth lynchings of 1920.


Stanford holds off Arizona 54-53 to win women's NCAA title

SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Tara VanDerveer hugged each of her Stanford players as they climbed the ladder to cut down the nets, capping a taxing whirlwind journey and ending an exhausting championship drought for the Cardinal.

It took 29 years, that included 10 weeks on the road this season because of the coronavirus, for VanDerveer and the Cardinal to be crowned NCAA women's basketball champions again.

“We had some special karma going for us,” VanDerveer said. “Had the comeback against Louisville, dodge a bullet against South Carolina, dodge bullet against Arizona. Sometimes you have to be lucky. I’ll admit it, we were very fortunate to win.”

Haley Jones scored 17 points and Stanford beat Arizona 54-53, giving the Cardinal and their Hall of Fame coach their first national championship since 1992 on Sunday night.

“Getting through all the things we got through, we’re excited to win the COVID championship," VanDerveer said. ”The other one was not quite as close, the last one. But we’re really excited. No one knows the score, no one knows who scored, it’s a national championship."


Florida works to avoid 'catastrophic' pond collapse

PALMETTO, Fla. (AP) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Sunday that crews are working to prevent the collapse of a large wastewater pond in the Tampa Bay area while evacuating the area to avoid a “catastrophic flood.”

Manatee County officials say the latest models show that a breach at the old phosphate plant reservoir has the potential to gush out 340 million gallons of water in a matter of minutes, risking a 20-foot-high (about 6.1-meter-high) wall of water.

“What we are looking at now is trying to prevent and respond to, if need be, a real catastrophic flood situation,” DeSantis said at a press conference after flying over the old Piney Point phosphate mine.

Authorities have closed off portions of the U.S. Highway 41 and ordered evacuations of 316 homes. Some families were placed in local hotels.

Manatee County Sheriff’s officials began evacuating about 345 inmates from a local jail about 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) away from the 77-acre pond first floor on Sunday afternoon, the Tampa Bay Times reported. Manatee County Administrator Scott Hopes said models show the area could be covered with between 1 foot (30 centimeters) to 5 feet (1.5 meters) of water, and the second floor is 10 feet above ground.


Amid outcry, states push mental health training for police

The officer who Cassandra Quinto-Collins says kneeled on her son's neck for over four minutes assured her it was standard protocol for sedating a person experiencing a mental breakdown.

“I was there watching it the whole time,” Quinto-Collins told The Associated Press. “I just trusted that they knew what they were doing.”

Angelo Quinto's sister had called 911 for help calming him down during an episode of paranoia on Dec. 23. His family says Quinto didn't resist the Antioch, California, officers — one who pushed his knee on the back of his neck, and another who restrained his legs — and the only noise he made was when he twice cried out, “Please don’t kill me.”

The officers replied, “We’re not going to kill you,” the family said. Police deny putting pressure on his neck. Three days later, the 30-year-old Navy veteran and Filipino immigrant died at a hospital.

It is the latest stark example of the perils of policing people with mental health issues. In response to several high-profile deaths of people with mental health issues in police custody, lawmakers in at least eight states are introducing legislation to change how law enforcement agencies respond to those in crisis.


Truck owner behind deadly Taiwan railway crash apologizes

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — The owner of a construction truck that caused Taiwan's worst rail accident in decades, killing 48 people, apologized in tears while being led away from his home by police on Sunday. The unmanned truck’s emergency brake was not properly engaged, according to the government’s disaster relief center.

An investigation is underway as to how exactly Lee Yi-Hsiang's vehicle slid down onto the tracks Friday from a nearby construction site on the mountainous coast of eastern Hualien county. The truck was hit by a passenger train carrying 494 people, which derailed just before entering a tunnel, crushing many passengers inside the mangled train carriages.

The death toll was revised down to 48 on Sunday, after rescuers initially said 51, then 50 people were killed. The changes came after some body parts were found to belong to one individual, a spokesperson for the Central Emergency Operation Center said. At least 198 people were injured.

“I have caused a serious accident on the Taiwan Railway Administrations' Taroko train number 480 during this year's Tomb Sweeping Holidays, causing deaths and injuries, to this I express my remorse and my sincerest apologies,” said Lee, who is also the construction site's manager, his words muffled by a face mask and by emotion. “I will cooperate with the authorities' investigation fully, and take responsibility.”

Prosecutors in Hualien county previously said they were seeking an arrest warrant for the truck’s owner, who was questioned along with several others.

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