G-7 nations expected to pledge 1B vaccine doses for world

ST. IVES, England (AP) — The Group of Seven nations are set to commit to sharing at least 1 billion coronavirus shots with the world, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced Thursday, with half coming from the U.S. and 100 million from the U.K. as President Joe Biden urged allies to join in speeding the pandemic’s end and bolstering the strategic position of the world's wealthiest democracies.

Johnson's announcement on the eve of the G-7 leaders' summit in England came hours after Biden committed to donating 500 million COVID-19 vaccine doses and previewed a coordinated effort by the advanced economies to make vaccination widely and speedily available everywhere.

“We’re going to help lead the world out of this pandemic working alongside our global partners,” Biden said, adding that on Friday the G-7 nations would join the U.S. in outlining their vaccine donation commitments. The G-7 also includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan.

The prime minister's office said the first 5 million U.K. doses would be shared in the coming weeks, with the remainder coming over the next year. Biden's own commitment was on top of the 80 million doses he has already pledged to donate by the end of June.

“At the G7 Summit I hope my fellow leaders will make similar pledges so that, together, we can vaccinate the world by the end of next year and build back better from coronavirus," Johnson said in a statement referencing the U.S. president's campaign slogan.


UN: Don't forget to save species while fixing global warming

To save the planet, the world needs to tackle the crises of climate change and species loss together, taking measures that fix both and not just one, United Nations scientists said.

A joint report Thursday by separate U.N. scientific bodies that look at climate change and biodiversity loss found there are ways to simultaneously attack the two global problems, but some fixes to warming could accelerate extinctions of plants and animals.

For example, measures such as expansion of bioenergy crops like corn, or efforts to pull carbon dioxide from the air and bury it, could use so much land — twice the size of India — that the impact would be “fairly catastrophic on biodiversity,” said co-author and biologist Almut Arneth at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany.

Policy responses to climate change and biodiversity loss have long been siloed, with different government agencies responsible for each, said co-author Pamela McElwee, a human ecologist at Rutgers University.

The problems worsen each other, are intertwined and in the end hurt people, scientists said.


Schembechler son, players say Michigan coach knew of abuse

NOVI, Mich. (AP) — One of late University of Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler’s sons and two of his former players described in detail Thursday how they were molested by the team's longtime doctor and how Schembechler turned a blind eye when they told him about the abuse, telling one to “toughen up” and punching his son in anger.

Matt Schembechler, 62, and former Wolverines players Daniel Kwiatkowski and Gilvanni Johnson told similar stories about how Dr. Robert E. Anderson, who died in 2008, molested and digitally penetrated them during physical exams decades ago. They also talked about how Bo Schembechler, a Michigan icon whose statue stands outside a university building that bears his name, refused to protect them and allowed Anderson to continue abusing players and other patients for years.

Anderson “was supported by a culture that placed the reputation of the university above the health and safety of the students,” Matt Schembechler said during a news conference in the Detroit suburb of Novi. “That is the culture that made my father a legend and placed his statue in front of Schembechler Hall."

“Dr. Anderson was part of the University of Michigan team,” he continued. "He was part of Bo’s team, therefore, he was more important than any man. It’s very clear that Bo and the university always put themselves before any student-athlete or son, just to support the brand.”

The three are among hundreds of men who were allegedly abused by Anderson during his nearly four decades working for the university — a period in which he also treated staffers, their families and other patients. And their assertion that Bo Schembechler, who died in 2006, knew about the abuse and allowed it to continue calls into question his legacy at the university.


Fight over Canadian oil rages on after pipeline's demise

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — The Keystone XL is dead after a 12-year attempt to build the oil pipeline, yet the fight over Canadian crude rages on as emboldened environmentalists target other projects and pressure President Joe Biden to intervene — all while oil imports from the north keep rising.

Biden dealt the fatal blow to the partially built $9 billion Keystone XL in January when he revoked its border-crossing permit issued by former President Donald Trump. On Wednesday, sponsors TC Energy and the province of Alberta gave up and declared the line “terminated."

Activists and many scientists had warned that the pipeline would open a new spigot on Canada's oil sands crude — and that burning the heavily polluting fuel would lock in climate change. As the fight escalated into a national debate over fossil fuels, Canadian crude exports to the U.S. steadily increased, driven largely by production from Alberta's oil sands region.

Even before the cancellation, environmentalists had turned their attention to other projects, including Enbridge Energy's proposal to expand and rebuild its Line 3 pipeline in Minnesota, the target of protests this week that led to the arrest of some 250 activists.

“Don’t expect these fights to go away anytime soon,” said Daniel Raimi, a fellow at Resources for the Future, an energy and environmental think tank in Washington. “This is going to encourage environmental advocates to do more of the same.”


Secret recordings show Southern Baptist dispute on sex abuse

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Releases of leaked letters and secret recordings from within the Southern Baptist Convention intensified Thursday as critics sought to show top leaders were slow to address sexual abuse in the nation’s largest Protestant denomination and worried more about its reputation and donations than about victims.

A former executive of the denomination's ethics agency posted audio clips he clandestinely recorded in internal meetings to bolster claims that leaders of the SBC's Executive Committee sought to slow or block policies responding to abuse by ministers and other church leaders, and that they tried to intimidate those seeking a more robust response.

The committee members defended their actions, saying the recordings reflect the normal give-and-take of trying to develop the best policies.

The timing comes less than a week before the SBC's annual meeting, which is expected to draw its highest attendance in more than 25 years, amid tensions over abuse, race and other issues and growing calls for an independent investigation of the Executive Committee's response.

Phillip Bethancourt, a Texas pastor and former executive vice president of the denomination’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, posted the audio online in an open letter to Ronnie Floyd, president of the Executive Committee, and Mike Stone, then-chairman of the committee and now a candidate for convention president.


Trump DOJ seized data from House Democrats in leaks probe

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department under former President Donald Trump seized data from the accounts of at least two members of the House Intelligence Committee in 2018 as part of an aggressive crackdown on leaks related to the Russia investigation and other national security matters, according to a committee official and two people familiar with the investigation.

Prosecutors from Trump’s Justice Department subpoenaed Apple for the data, according to the people, who were granted anonymity to discuss the secret seizures. The revelations were first reported by The New York Times.

The records of at least twelve people connected to the intelligence panel were eventually seized, including Chairman Adam Schiff, who was then the top Democrat on the committee. California Rep. Eric Swalwell was the second member, according to spokeswoman Natalie Edelstein.

The records of aides and family members were also shared, including one who was a minor, according to the committee official. Apple informed the committee last month that their records had been shared, but did not give extensive detail. The committee is aware, though, that metadata from the accounts was turned over, the official said.

While the Justice Department routinely conducts investigation into leaks, including of classified information, opening such an investigation into members of Congress is extraordinarily rare. The Trump administration's attempt to secretly gain access to data of individual members of Congress and others related to the panel came as the president was fuming over investigations — in Congress and by then-special counsel Robert Mueller — into his campaign's ties to Russia. Trump called the probes a “witch hunt” and regularly criticized Schiff and other Democrats on Twitter.


Message in a jacket: Jill Biden offers 'love' during UK trip

CARBIS BAY, England (AP) — Jill Biden is sending a sartorial message of “love” as she accompanies her husband President Joe Biden overseas.

The first lady wore a black jacket with the word “love” outlined on the back in silver beading as she and the president met with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his wife Thursday. She wore the same jacket more than two years ago to kick off Biden’s presidential campaign.

“We’re bringing love from America,” she told reporters, explaining her fashion choice.

“This is a global conference and we are trying to bring unity across the globe and I think it’s needed right now, that people feel a sense of unity from all the countries and feel a sense hope after this year of the pandemic."

Biden is known for her sartorial choices, often donning bright pastels or eye-catching patterns for her outings on behalf of the Biden administration. She is rarely seen without a kitten heel or stiletto boot, adding height to her petite frame.


Israel's Netanyahu lashes out as end of his era draws near

JERUSALEM (AP) — In what appear to be the final days of his historic 12-year rule, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not leaving the political stage quietly.

The longtime leader is accusing his opponents of betraying their voters, and some have needed special security protection.

Netanyahu says he is the victim of a “deep state” conspiracy. He speaks in apocalyptic terms when talking about the country without his leadership.

“They are uprooting the good and replacing it with the bad and dangerous,” Netanyahu told the conservative Channel 20 TV station this week. “I fear for the destiny of the nation.”

Such language has made for tense days as Netanyahu and his loyalists make a final desperate push to try to prevent a new government from taking office on Sunday. With his options running out, it has also provided a preview of Netanyahu as opposition leader.


Mystery over claim world's 1st 'decuplets' born in S. Africa

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — South Africa has been gripped by the mystery of whether a woman has, as has been claimed, actually given birth to 10 babies, in what would then be the world's first recorded case of decuplets.

Gosiame Thamara Sithole from the Tembisa township near Johannesburg gave birth to the babies on Monday, according to the Pretoria News newspaper which quoted the parents. The babies — seven boys and three girls — have not made a public appearance or been captured on camera, although they were born prematurely, the newspaper reported.

The South African government said it is still trying to verify the claim.

That's led to South Africans obsessing on social media over whether the story of the “Tembisa 10” is indeed true.

The father, Teboho Tsotetsi, told the paper his wife had given birth in a hospital in the capital Pretoria. He said it was a big surprise for the parents after doctors only detected eight babies in pre-natal scans.


College Football Playoff considering expansion to 12 teams

There was a time not so long ago, 2012 to be exact, when the big news in college football was conference commissioners simply using the word playoff when talking about the future of the sports' postseason format.

Less than 10 years later, and eight years into College Football Playoff era, the number of teams that will have a chance to win a national title in the postseason is poised to triple.

The College Football Playoff announced Thursday it will consider expanding from four to 12 teams to settle the championship, with six spots reserved for the highest-ranked conference champions and the other six going to at-large selections.

“This proposal, at its heart, was created to provide more participation,” CFP Executive Director Bill Hancock said.

Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick, part of the group that has been working on an expansion plan, noted that only about 4% of major college football teams reach the playoff. In most other NCAA sports, more than 20% of the competing schools participate in the championship event.

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