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AP News in Brief at 12:04 a.m. EST

Last Updated Feb 4, 2021 at 12:14 am EDT

House GOP keeps Cheney as No. 3 leader, stands by Greene

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republicans decided Wednesday to stand by two GOP lawmakers who have polarized the party, voting to retain Rep. Liz Cheney as their No. 3 leader and saying they’d fight a Democratic push to kick Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene off her committees.

In a 145-61 secret-ballot vote, House Republicans overwhelmingly rebuffed a rebellion by hard-right conservatives to toss Cheney, R-Wyo., from leadership after she voted last month to impeach then-President Donald Trump.

Hours earlier, after Democrats slated a House vote for Thursday that would remove Greene from her committees, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy ridiculed them for it. His comments signalled he was dismissing bipartisan demands that the hard-right Georgia Republican be punished for her online embrace of racist and violent views and bizarre conspiracy theories.

The decisions over Greene and Cheney have subjected the GOP to a politically agonizing test of its direction as it moves beyond the Trump presidency. Since Trump grudgingly vacated the White House last month, the party has been ideologically adrift as it’s struggled over whether to embrace his norm-busting divisiveness or the party’s more traditional, policy-oriented conservative values.

But as Wednesday’s internal showdowns concluded, McCarthy and the House GOP decided against punishing two of their most high-profile women, whose views enrage opposite ends of the party’s spectrum. The moves were typical of McCarthy’s preference to avoid ruffling feathers as he charts his path to someday becoming House speaker.

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Study finds COVID-19 vaccine may reduce virus transmission

AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine shows a hint that it may reduce transmission of the virus and offers strong protection for three months on just a single dose, researchers said Wednesday in an encouraging turn in the campaign to suppress the outbreak.

The preliminary findings from Oxford University, a co-developer of the vaccine, could vindicate the British government’s controversial strategy of delaying the second shot for up to 12 weeks so that more people can be quickly given a first dose. Up to now, the recommended time between doses has been four weeks.

The research could also bring scientists closer to an answer to one of the big questions about the vaccination drive: Will the vaccines actually curb the spread of the coronavirus?

It’s not clear what implications, if any, the findings might have for the two other major vaccines being used in the West, Pfizer’s and Moderna’s.

In the United States, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, dismissed the idea of deliberately delaying second shots, saying the U.S. will “go by the science” and data from the clinical trials. The two doses of the Pifzer and Moderna vaccines are supposed to be given three and four weeks apart.

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Biden flexible on who gets aid, tells lawmakers to ‘go big’

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden encouraged Democratic lawmakers Wednesday to “act fast” on his $1.9 trillion COVID rescue plan but also signalled he’s open to changes, including limiting the proposed $1,400 direct payments to Americans with lower income levels, which could draw Republican support.

Biden told lawmakers in private comments he’s “not married” to an absolute number for the overall package but wants them to “go big” on pandemic relief and “restore the soul of the country.”

“Look, we got a lot of people hurting in our country today,” Biden said on a private call with House Democrats. “We need to act. We need to act fast.”

On the direct payments, Biden said he doesn’t want to budge from the $1,400 promised to Americans. But he said he is willing to “target” the aid, which would mean lowering the income threshold to qualify.

“I’m not going to start my administration by breaking a promise to the American people,” he said.

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Slain FBI agents worked to protect children from abusers

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — FBI Agent Daniel Alfin gained international attention when he led a team that shutdown a major worldwide child pornography website. Agent Laura Schwartzenberger worked more anonymously, teaching children and adults how to avoid online sexual exploitation

Alfin and Schwartzenberger, gunned down Tuesday while serving a search warrant at a child pornography suspect’s South Florida apartment, devoted their careers to capturing criminals who sexually abuse youngsters, often times testing the legal boundaries of computer privacy.

“We are still reeling from the news,” said Shelley Allwang, director of the Exploited Children Division at National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. “I feel lucky to have worked with people who had such commitment and resolve.”

The suspect was identified Wednesday as 55-year-old David Huber, who lived at the apartment complex. A law enforcement official familiar with the matter said investigators are looking into whether Huber may have been using a camera to monitor the agents’ activity before opening fire on them and believe multiple shots were fired through a door. The official could not discuss an ongoing investigation publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

Three other agents were wounded, with two of them hospitalized. Both of the hospitalized agents were released Wednesday. The third agent was treated at the scene. Huber apparently killed himself after a standoff.

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Ohio police officer charged with murder in Andre Hill death

COLUMBUS, OHio (AP) — A white Ohio police officer was charged with murder Wednesday in the latest fallout following the December shooting death of 47-year-old Andre Hill, a Black man, the state’s attorney general said.

Former Columbus Police Officer Adam Coy was indicted on a murder charge by a Franklin County grand jury following an investigation by the Ohio Attorney General’s office. The charges faced by Coy, a 19-year veteran of the force, also include failure to use his body camera and failure to tell the other officer he believed Hill presented a danger.

Coy will plead not guilty to the charges, his attorney, Mark Collins, said Wednesday night.

Coy and another officer had responded to a neighbour’s nonemergency call after 1 a.m. on Dec. 22 about a car in front of his house in the city’s northwest side that had been running, then shut off, then turned back on, according to a copy of the call released in December.

Police bodycam footage showed Hill emerging from a garage and holding up a cellphone in his left hand seconds before he was fatally shot by Coy. There is no audio because Coy hadn’t activated the body camera; an automatic “look back” feature captured the shooting without audio.

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Takeaways from legal filings for Trump’s impeachment trial

WASHINGTON (AP) — The legal sparring around Donald Trump’s impeachment trial is underway, with briefs filed this week laying out radically different positions ahead of next week’s Senate trial.

House prosecutors and the former president’s defence team are putting forward their arguments about Trump’s role in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol and on the legality of even holding a trial. They’re also debating the First Amendment and a blunt assessment by Democrats that the riot posed a threat to the presidential line of succession.

Here are some of the takeaways from the arguments of both sides:

‘SINGULARLY RESPONSIBLE’

Who’s responsible for the riot? Democrats say there’s only one answer, and it’s Trump.

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Myanmar charges Suu Kyi, giving legal basis to detain her

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — Myanmar authorities charged the country’s deposed leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, with possessing illegally imported walkie-talkies, her allies said Wednesday, a move that gives the generals who overthrew her legal grounds to detain her for two weeks.

The charge came to light two days after Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest and appeared to be an effort to lend a legal veneer to her detention, though the generals have previously kept her and others locked up for years.

The military announced Monday that it would take power for one year — accusing Suu Kyi’s government of not investigating allegations of voter fraud in recent elections. Suu Kyi’s party swept that vote, and the military-backed party did poorly.

National League for Democracy spokesman Kyi Toe confirmed the charge against Suu Kyi that carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison. He also said the country’s ousted president, Win Myint, was charged with violating the natural disaster management law. A leaked charge sheet dated Feb. 1 indicates they can be held until Feb. 15.

“It was clear that the military were going to look for some legal cases against the leaders of the National League for Democracy and especially Aung San Suu Kyi to actually legitimize what they’ve tried to do,” said Larry Jagan, an independent analyst of Myanmar affairs. “And that is really a power grab.”

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Biden set to boost US refugee admissions after Trump cut

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration is preparing to notify Congress and others that it will dramatically increase U.S. admissions of refugees.

Officials and people familiar with the matter say Biden plans to announce this week that he will increase the cap on the number of refugees allowed into the United States to more than eight times the level at which the Trump administration left it.

Former President Donald Trump had drastically reduced the refugee admissions cap to only 15,000 before he left office. Biden’s plan would raise that number to 125,000, an increase of 15,000 over the high ceiling set by former President Barack Obama before he left office.

The officials and others, who spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of the formal announcement, said Biden will make his plan public during a visit to the State Department on Thursday.

Biden may also address asylum claims for residents of Hong Kong there, according to one official. He indicated during his campaign that he was interested in providing protection to people persecuted by the Chinese government.

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5 challenges awaiting Amazon’s new CEO

NEW YORK (AP) — In 1995, few could imagine that the modest online bookstore built by Jeff Bezos would turn into a $1.7 trillion behemoth that sells everything from diapers to sofas, produces movies, owns a grocery chain and provides cloud computing services to businesses all over the globe.

Amazon has become all of that and more, and now it will be up to Andy Jassy to lead the company forward as CEO.

On Tuesday, Amazon announced that Bezos would step aside this summer and assume the role of executive chairman so he can focus on new products and early initiatives being developed at Amazon.

Although Bezos is expected to still play a big role at the company, it is Jassy who will inherit the many challenges born from Amazon’s meteoric rise. Here are some of them:

GROWING SCRUTINY

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With ‘Mank’ and ‘The Crown,’ Netflix dominates Globes noms

NEW YORK (AP) — After a year where the pandemic nearly emptied movie theatres, Netflix dominated nominations to the 78th Golden Globe Awards on Wednesday, with David Fincher’s “Mank” leading film nominees with six nods and “The Crown” topping all television series.

The Globes, delayed about two months due to the coronavirus, tried to muster some of the awards’ usual buzz on Wednesday in a largely virtual awards season bereft the kind of red-carpet glamour the Globes annually feast on. And perhaps to account for the otherwise lack of it, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association heaped nominations on two lavish period pieces rich in royalty — both the Hollywood variety (the black-and-white “Mank” dramatizes the making of “Citizen Kane”) and the British kind.

“Mank,” about “Citizen Kane” co-writer Herman Mankiewicz, landed nominations for best film, drama; best actor for Gary Oldman; best director for Fincher, best supporting actress for Amanda Seyfried; best score; and best screenplay for Jack Fincher, the director’s father who penned the script before dying in 2003.

“Sometimes you just have to think, what does it mean in the whole big scheme of things with this worldwide, global thing going on,” Oldman said from London. “But you know, we want to kind of get back to some kind of normalcy. Life goes on.”

Netflix, which topped all studios at the Globes last year, too, led with a commanding 42 nominations, with 22 coming in film categories and 20 in television. No other studio was close.

The Associated Press

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