In the wake of several mass shootings, President Joe Biden is expected to roll out several new gun control measures Thursday.
President Biden included gun reform as part of his platform, citing that he wants to end America's mass shooting problem.
While there is currently no information regarding the plans expected Thursday, it is believed that the president will propose legislation banning "ghost" guns, guns that are assembled by parts purchased online and therefore do not have a serial number, and background checks.
President Biden is expected to announce the gun control plans alongside Attorney General Merrick Garland. In addition, the president is said he will use the press announcement to nominate the new Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives director.
A White House official says President Biden will select David Chipman, a former ATF agent who has worked with former Representative Gabby Giffords as a gun control advocate.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday will include a "combination of steps," including executive orders and presidential memos.
For Congress to advance any form of gun control, Democrats -- who control the House -- will require 10 Republicans in the Senate to help pass legislation.
The issue of passing bills along party lines has inspired progressive Democrats to call for the elimination of the 60-vote threshold to advance legislation.
In Brazil, the new epicenter of the world's COVID-19 pandemic, hospitals are overflowing, health care workers are stretched beyond their limits and cemeteries operate through the night to keep up with demand."It's super, super scary," said Fabio Biolchini, an emergency coordinator at Doctors Without Borders in Brazil. Intensive care units in 20 of Brazil's 27 states are above 100% occupancy, Biolchini explained, and thousands are waiting for an open bed in intensive care units.
Second only to the United States, Brazil has reported more than 12.8 million infections and 325,284 deaths from the virus as of Friday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
In the face of that devastation, the Brazilian government's response has been lackluster at best and downright dangerous at worst, experts say.
President Jair Bolsonaro, who has repeatedly downplayed COVID-19, dismissing it as a "little flu" early in the pandemic, took a new approach during a televised national address March 23. This time, Bolsonaro attributed Brazil's devastation to the new P.1 virus variant, which was first identified in January and is now the dominant strain in Manaus, the Amazon's biggest city. The P.1 variant is considered to be a "variant of concern" because evidence suggests that it is highly transmissible and has the potential to reinfect people who have recovered from infections caused by other variants.
But Dr. Mauricio Nogueira, a professor at São Jose do Rio Preto School of Medicine in Brazil, who has studied viral variants and how they emerge for more than two decades, questioned whether focusing solely on the new variant downplayed government missteps and widespread misinformation about COVID-19 treatments that have contributed to the current crisis.
"It's very convenient for the government to say that the variant is causing the problem, because it takes our responsibility out of the equation," Nogueira said.
He preferred to turn the question around. "Are they the cause or the consequence?" he asked of the variants.
"We're having these variants because we're having indiscriminate circulation of the virus in the country," he concluded.
Before the variants were identified, misinformation about preventing and treating COVID-19 was being spread from person to person, including at the highest levels of government.
"People in Brazil are still denying science," Biolchini said. "We're talking about hydroxychloroquine and drugs that supposedly help you avoid COVID. This is clearly not what the science says."
Cheap, easy, ineffective, dangerous: The hydroxychloroquine story
Like former President Donald Trump in the United States, Bolsonaro championed the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine in Brazil both as a treatment for COVID-19 and as a preventative medication.
"If I had taken hydroxychloroquine as a preventative measure, I would still be working," Bolsonaro said after he contracted COVID-19 in July.
Since then, a World Health Organization expert panel has released strong recommendations against using hydroxychloroquine as preventative medicine, writing in the British Medical Journal in March that hydroxychloroquine had no meaningful effect on death, hospitalization or laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 infections.
Instead, the drug has the potential to harm people who take it to prevent COVID-19. Hydroxychloroquine "probably increases the risk of adverse effects," the panel found.
While there aren't official statistics on how many people in Brazil are taking hydroxychloroquine and other unproven medications to prevent COVID-19, Dr. Bruno Caramelli, a cardiologist and professor at the University of São Paulo, said it's common among his patients to have taken, or still be taking, drugs like hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19.
This week, a patient of Caramelli's who owns a cattle farm in the western part of São Paulo state, called him panicked. His wife, family and his employees on the farm had all contracted COVID-19 and were taking hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin, an anti-parasite drug, for treatment. "I'm breathless," the patient told him. With local hospitals overrun, Caramelli convinced the patient and his wife to stop taking hydroxychloroquine and get an ambulance to São Paulo.
"They listened to me and they stopped," Caramelli said. The same could not be said of the farm employees, who Caramelli did not counsel directly, and were still taking hydroxychloroquine under the advice of local physicians.
"Every drug has a side effect," said Nogueira, who was involved in an early clinical trial of chloroquine, a malaria drug similar to hydroxychloroquine, which found that drug showed no benefit as a COVID-19 treatment. In addition to being ineffective, hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, especially when combined with other drugs, like azithromycin, can be toxic to the heart, Nogueira explained. Ivermectin is a safe drug for treating parasites, according to Nogueira, but Brazilians using the drug for COVID-19 without a prescription is already having consequences.
"We are seeing people getting liver disease," Nogueira said. "It's dangerous.”
'A fake feeling of safety'
Unproven, quick-fix treatments aren't just dangerous, they're also a distraction from measures that do stop the spread of the virus, like social distancing and masks.
"It gives the people a fake feeling of safety," Nogueira said of ineffective preventative treatments. Vaccination, the one preventative treatment that has been shown to be effective against COVID-19, isn't widespread in Brazil yet. Just 7% of Brazil's population had received one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine as of April 1, according to Our World in Data.
Quick fixes like hydroxychloroquine take "the need for isolation, lockdown and real treatment out of the focus," Caramelli said. "That's why we're seeing an escalating number of deaths." On Thursday, Brazil reported more than 3,000 deaths in a single day from the virus, according to data from JHU. During this current wave, that number first crossed 2,000 on March 10 and 1,000 on Jan. 4.
Still, Caramelli understands the appeal of a miracle. "You're very worried about dying and you have something that is presented as hope," he said.
In March, Caramelli started a Change.org petition asking the Federal Counsel of Medicine, Brazil's medical regulatory agency, to officially come out against what's known colloquially as a "COVID kit," a COVID treatment plan of unproven dtugs like chloroquine, hydroxychloroquine and invermectin. If the petition, which now has more than 18,800 signatures, is officially taken up by the CFM, doctors who continue to prescribe the unproven drugs for COVID-19 could be suspended or punished.
For now, the mismatch between people's belief in miracle cures and overflowing Brazilian hospitals is frustrating for doctors and nurses working on the front lines, according to Biolchini. When health care workers leave hospitals and see full restaurants or people walking around like nothing's going on, it's isolating, he explained.
"The doctors and nurses, they have the impression that they are the only ones fighting this battle," Biolchini said.
YouTube Video: Al Jazeera English
A group of people were arrested in Dubai on Saturday over widely-shared images that showed women posing naked on a high-rise balcony in the city, police said.
Photographs and videos circulated on social media on Saturday night depicting more than a dozen naked women who were lined up on the waterfront balcony of a residential building while being filmed in the upscale Dubai Marina neighborhood in broad daylight. State-linked newspaper The National reported that the display was "an apparent publicity stunt," without elaborating.
The Dubai Police Force later announced that a group of people who appeared in the "indecent" footage were arrested on charges of public debauchery and referred to the Dubai Public Prosecution. The identities of the individuals were not released.
"Dubai Police warns against such unacceptable behaviors which do not reflect the values and ethics of Emirati society," the agency said in a statement late Saturday.
Although the United Arab Emirates is seen as one of the more socially liberal countries in the Middle East, the images still came as a shock in a Muslim-majority nation where kissing in public have landed people behind bars.
Violations of the public decency law in the United Arab Emirates, which is based on Islamic law or Sharia, are punishable with a prison sentence of up to six months and a fine of up to 5,000 dirham ($1,360). The sharing of pornographic material can also result in prison time and a fine of up to 500,000 ($136,128).
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced Tuesday that her country will open a travel bubble with Australia in less than two weeks.
Quarantine-free travel between the neighboring nations, separated by the Tasman Sea, will commence at 11:59 p.m. New Zealand time on April 18.
"This is an important step forward in our COVID response and represents an arrangement I do not believe we have seen in any other part of the world," Ardern said at a press conference Tuesday, "that is safely opening up international travel to another country while continuing to purse a strategy of elimination and a commitment to keeping the virus out."
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison welcomed Ardern's announcement.
"This announcement will enable quarantine-free travel between Australia and New Zealand on both sides of the Tasman helping to reunite families and friends and giving tourism operators a significant boost," Morrison said in a statement Tuesday. "This latest major step in the resumption of international travel has only been possible due to the internationally recognised, world-leading responses to the COVID-19 pandemic by Australia and New Zealand."
Both countries have been successful in stamping out the spread of COVID-19. New Zealand, a nation of five million people, has had a total of 2,524 confirmed and probable cases, including 26 deaths. There are currently 74 actives cases, all of which are in managed isolation and quarantine, according to New Zealand's Ministry of Health. Australia, a country of 25 million people, has had a total of 29,365 confirmed cases, including 909 deaths. There are currently 149 active cases, according to Australia's Department of Health.
While Australia had previously allowed travelers from New Zealand to arrive without having to self-isolate, New Zealand had enforced a two-week quarantine period for travelers from Australia amid concerns about small outbreaks there. Both have had strict quarantine requirements for travelers from nations where COVID-19 is rife.
Ardern said the risk of transmission from Australia to New Zealand is now deemed low and that a trans-Tasman travel bubble would be safe. However, the prime minister warned that quarantine-free travel between the two countries "will not be what it was pre-COVID."
"Those undertaking travel on either side of the ditch will do so under the guidance of flyer beware," she said. "People will need to plan for the possibility of travel being disrupted if there is an outbreak."
Nearly 2,000 inmates have escaped from a prison in southeastern Nigeria after heavily armed gunmen attacked the facility, authorities said.
The massive jailbreak occurred before dawn on Monday in Owerri, the capital of Imo state. Attackers wielding machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and explosives stormed the facility, blasting their way through the administrative block to gain entrance to the prison yard. They exchanged fire with on-duty guards "in a fierce gun battle" and "forcefully released a total of 1,844 inmates in custody," according to a press release from the Nigerian Correctional Service, the government agency in charge of the West African nation's prison system.
While most of the inmates fled, 35 stayed behind and at least six others have voluntarily returned to the prison. Authorities are investigating the incident and have launched a manhunt to recapture the escaped detainees, the Nigerian Correctional Service said.
The gunmen also attacked other government buildings in Owerri, including the Imo state headquarters of the Nigeria Police Force, the country's leading law enforcement agency. There were no deaths or injuries among police, apart from a constable who sustained a minor bullet wound to his shoulder.
"The attempt by the attackers to gain access to the police armory at the headquarters was totally and appropriately resisted," the Nigeria Police Force said in a statement Monday, adding that its inspector-general has ordered the "immediate deployment" of additional police units in Imo state.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but the Nigeria Police Force blamed the Eastern Security Network (ESN), the paramilitary wing of a secessionist movement active in the region known as the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). The group seeks to restore independence to the so-called state of Biafra in southeast Nigeria. Biafra secessionists had declared independence in 1967 but were defeated by the Nigerian federal government in a nearly three-year civil war that left 1 million people dead.
The United States Marshals Service has secured a "red notice" through Interpol in the search for Qinxuan Pan, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate student who is wanted for the murder of Yale University graduate student Kevin Jiang.
Matthew Duffy, supervisory deputy and public information officer of the U.S. Marshals' District of Connecticut Violent Fugitive Task Force, told ABC News that federal investigators are "expanding our reach internationally so if Pan has traveled or is going to travel outside of the United States, or is in transit, we are hoping to grab him with the red notice."
"Anywhere that has a treaty with the United States, he would be stopped in transit, secured and taken into custody," Duffy said. "At that point in time, we would go and get him and bring him back to the United States."
Interpol, formally known as the International Criminal Police Organization, enables police in 194 member states to work together to fight international crime. The organization publishes a red notice at the request of a member country for law enforcement worldwide to locate and provisionally arrest a person pending extradition, surrender or similar legal action. A red notice is an international wanted persons notice, not an international arrest warrant, according to Interpol's website.
"Interpol helps us with countries where there may be difficulty getting people out," Duffy told ABC News.
The move came more than a month after the U.S. Marshals expanded its manhunt nationwide for 29-year-old Pan, who is wanted for murder and second-degree larceny. Pan, described as a 6-foot Asian American man weighing 170 pounds, was last seen in the early morning hours of Feb. 11 driving with family members in the Brookhaven or Duluth areas of Georgia. Relatives said he was carrying a black backpack and acting strange, according to the U.S. Marshals.
Pan is the primary suspect in the Feb. 6 slaying of 26-year-old Jiang, who was shot and killed on a street in New Haven, Connecticut. Police found Jiang dead from multiple gunshot wounds that night in the East Rock neighborhood, near Yale University's campus. Police said Jiang was operating a vehicle at the time of the shooting but declined to say if he was inside or outside the car when he was killed. Authorities are investigating whether Jiang was targeted or if the shooting followed a road rage incident.
Jiang, a former member of the Army National Guard, had recently gotten engaged and was a graduate student at the Yale School of Environment, according to the university's president.
In late February, the New Haven Police Department obtained an arrest warrant charging Pan with murder, with a $5 million bond. Police had previously only named Pan as a person of interest in Jiang's killing.
Pan was accused of stealing a car from a dealership in Mansfield, Massachusetts, and swapping the plates on the day of the murder. The vehicle was found abandoned in a scrapyard in New Haven where it had gotten stuck on some railroad tracks, according to an application requesting a warrant for Pan's arrest on the larceny charge.
Pan was born in Shanghai, China, but is a U.S. citizen who was most recently living in Malden, Massachusetts, about five miles north of Boston. He received undergraduate degrees in computer science and mathematics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge in June 2014. He has been enrolled as a graduate student in MIT's Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science since September 2014, according to the school.
The U.S. Marshals is offering a reward of up to $10,000 for information leading to Pan's direct location and arrest. Anyone with information on his whereabouts is urged to contact the federal law enforcement agency at 1-877-926-8332 or submit tips online at www.usmarshals.gov/tips.
"Pan should be considered armed and dangerous," the U.S. Marshals said in a statement. "Individuals should not attempt to apprehend him themselves."
Source: ABC News