Category: Sirennet Blog

Canadian regulator authorizes AstraZeneca vaccine

By ROB GILLIES for the Associated Press

TORONTO (AP) — Canadian regulators on Friday authorized AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine for all adults.

It is the third COVID-19 vaccine given the green light by Canada, following those from Pfizer and Moderna.

Passengers are screened and get a COVID-19 test as they enter Canada from the United States at the land border crossing in Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Quebec, on Monday, Feb. 22, 2021. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press via AP)

Health Canada approved the vaccine for use in people 18 and over, expressing confidence it would work for the elderly even though some countries, including France, have authorized the AstraZeneca vaccine only for use in people under 65, saying there is not enough evidence to say whether it works in older adults.

With trials showing about 62% efficacy, the vaccine appears to offer less protection than those already authorized, but experts have said any vaccine with an efficacy rate of over 50% could help stop outbreakADVERTISEMENT

“It’s a good option,” said Dr. Supriya Sharma, Health Canada’s chief medical adviser.

Sharma said no one has died or become severely ill in trials of the vaccines now approved by Canada or in those of Johnson & Johnson and Novavax shots, which could be approved soon.

Health authorities in Germany and other countries have raised concerns that AstraZeneca didn’t test the vaccine in enough older people to prove it works for them, and indicated they would not recommend it for people over 65. Belgium has authorized it only for people 55 and under

Health Canada said its decision was based on pooled analyses from four ongoing clinical studies trials as well as data in countries where it has been approved.

“Based on the totality of the information, the benefit-risk profile of AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine is positive for the proposed indication in adults 18 years and over,” Health Canada said in information posted online.

“We’re starting to get real world evidence. There is evidence that in older age group it would be effective,” Sharma said.

Sharma said the AstraZeneca vaccine licensed by the Serum Institute of India, which uses the same recipe but a slightly different method, is also approved.

The AstraZeneca vaccine has already been authorized in more than 50 countries. It is cheaper and easier to handle than the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which needs deep-cold storage that is not widespread in many developing nations. Both vaccines require two shots per person, given weeks apart.

Canada has pre-ordered 20 million doses of the AstraZeneca shot, which was co-developed by researchers at the University of Oxford. It will also receive up to 1.9 million doses through the global vaccine-sharing initiative known as COVAX by the end of June.

Myanmar protesters injured as police escalate use of force

From the Associated Press

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — Myanmar security forces cracked down on anti-coup protesters in the country’s second-largest city on Friday, injuring at least three people, two of whom were shot in the chest by rubber bullets and another who suffered a wound on his leg.

An injured protester is escorted as police tried to disperse a demonstration against the military coup in Mandalay, Myanmar, Friday, Feb. 26, 2021. (AP Photo)

Protesters had gathered on a wide road outside a park in Mandalay in the early afternoon when security forces arrived and began firing what sounded like gunshots and using flash bang grenades to disperse the crowd.

Bullets, shell casings, and other projectiles were later found by local residents on one of the main streets and shown to journalists.

The victims were all taken to a private clinic for treatment. One of the men who was shot in the chest with a rubber bullet also had a white bandage wrapped around his head. The man with an injured leg was later photographed in a cast that stretched from his foot to his knee.

The confrontations underscore the rising tensions between a growing popular revolt and the generals who toppled the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi in a Feb. 1 takeover that shocked the international community and reversed years of slow progress toward democracy.

Also Friday, a Japanese journalist covering a separate protest in Yangon, the country’s largest city, was detained by police and later released, according to Japan’s Kyodo news agency. Yuki Kitazumi could be seen in a video circulating among media as police seized him, with one of the officers briefly putting a truncheon around the journalist’s neck.

Earlier in the day, security forces in Yangon fired warning shots and beat truncheons against their shields while moving to disperse more than 1,000 anti-coup protesters.

The demonstrators had gathered in front of a popular shopping mall, holding placards and chanting slogans denouncing the Feb. 1 coup even as the security presence increased and a water-cannon truck was brought to the area.

When around 50 riot police moved against the protesters, warning shots could be heard, and at least one demonstrator was held by officers. Security forces chased the protesters off the main road and continued to pursue them in the nearby lanes, as some ducked into houses to hide.

On Thursday, supporters of Myanmar’s junta attacked people protesting the military government, using slingshots, iron rods and knives to injure several of them. Photos and videos posted on social media showed groups attacking people in downtown Yangon as police stood by without intervening.

The violence erupted as hundreds marched in support of the coup. They carried banners in English with the slogans “We Stand With Our Defence Services” and “We Stand With State Administration Council,” which is the official name of the junta.

Late Thursday, police turned out in force in Yangon’s Tarmwe neighborhood where they tried to clear the streets of residents protesting the military’s appointment of a new administrator for one ward. Several arrests were made as people scattered in front of riot police who used flash bang grenades to disperse the crowd.

No pro-military rally appeared to be scheduled for Friday.

Suu Kyi has not been seen since the coup. Around 50 of her supporters held a prayer Friday opposite her home in Yangon. The mansion is where she spent many years under house arrest during previous military governments, and the residence has long had iconic status among her supporters.

“Because of the situation, on this day of the full moon we are sending love to, and reciting Buddha’s teachings for Mother Suu, President U Win Myint and all those unlawfully detained,” said Hmuu Sitt yan Naing, who joined the prayer group.

It is believed Suu Kyi is currently being detained in the capital Naypyitaw. She is due to face a court on Monday on charges brought against her by the military junta. The charges are widely seen as politically motivated.

Militia official: US strike in Syria kills 1, wounds several

By QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA, LOLITA C. BALDOR, and ROBERT BURNS for the Associated Press

BAGHDAD (AP) — A U.S. airstrike in Syria targeted facilities belonging to a powerful Iranian-backed Iraqi armed group, killing one fighter and wounding several others, an Iraqi militia official said Friday, signaling the first military action undertaken by U.S. President Joe Biden.

FILE – In this Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021, file photo, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby speaks during a media briefing at the Pentagon, in Washington. Kirby announced late Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021, that the U.S. military conducted airstrikes against facilities in eastern Syria that the Pentagon said were used by Iran-backed militia groups, in response to recent attacks against U.S. personnel in Iraq. Kirby said the action was authorized by President Joe Biden. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

The Pentagon said the strikes were retaliation for a rocket attack in Iraq earlier this month that killed one civilian contractor and wounded a U.S. service member and other coalition troops.

The Iraqi militia official told The Associated Press that the strikes against the Kataeb Hezbollah, or Hezbollah Brigades, hit an area along the border between the Syrian site of Boukamal facing Qaim on the Iraqi side. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak of the attack. Syria war monitoring groups said the strikes hit trucks moving weapons to a base for Iranian-backed militias in Boukamal.

“I’m confident in the target that we went after, we know what we hit,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told reporters flying with him from California to Washington, shortly after the airstrikes which were carried out Thursday evening Eastern Standard Time.

The Biden administration in its first weeks has emphasized its intent to put more focus on the challenges posed by China, even as Mideast threats persist. Biden’s decision to attack in Syria did not appear to signal an intention to widen U.S. military involvement in the region but rather to demonstrate a will to defend U.S. troops in Iraq and send a message to Iran.

The U.S. has in the past targeted facilities in Syria belonging to Kataeb Hezbollah, which it has blamed for numerous attacks targeting U.S. personnel and interests in Iraq. The Iraqi Kataeb is separate from the Lebanese Hezbollah movement.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based group that monitors the war in Syria, said the strikes targeted a shipment of weapons that were being taken by trucks entering Syrian territories from Iraq. The group said 22 fighters from the Popular Mobilization Forces, an Iraqi umbrella group of mostly Shiite paramilitaries that includes Kataeb Hezbollah, were killed. The report could not be independently verified.

In a statement, the group confirmed one of its fighters was killed and called the U.S. strike a crime. Kataeb Hezbollah, like other Iranian-backed factions, maintains fighters in Syria to both fight against the Islamic State group and assist Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces in that country’s civil war.

Defense Secretary Austin said he was “confident” the U.S. had hit back at the “the same Shia militants that conducted the strikes,” referring to a Feb. 15 rocket attack in northern Iraq that killed one civilian contractor and wounded a U.S. service member and other coalition personnel.

Austin said he had recommended the action to President Biden.

“We said a number of times that we will respond on our timeline,” Austin said. “We wanted to be sure of the connectivity and we wanted to be sure that we had the right targets.”

Earlier, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the U.S. action was a “proportionate military response” taken together with diplomatic measures, including consultation with coalition partners.

“The operation sends an unambiguous message: President Biden will act to protect American and coalition personnel,” Kirby said.

Kirby said the U.S. airstrikes “destroyed multiple facilities at a border control point used by a number of Iranian-backed militant groups,” including Kataeb Hezbollah and Kataeb Sayyid al-Shuhada.

Further details were not immediately available.

Mary Ellen O’Connell, a professor at Notre Dame Law School, criticized the U.S. attack as a violation of international law.

“The United Nations Charter makes absolutely clear that the use of military force on the territory of a foreign sovereign state is lawful only in response to an armed attack on the defending state for which the target state is responsible,” she said. “None of those elements is met in the Syria strike.”

Syria condemned the U.S. strike calling it “a cowardly and systematic American aggression,” warning that the attack will lead to consequences.

“This aggression is a negative indication of the policies of the new American administration, which is supposed to adhere to international legitimacy, not to the law of the jungle,” a statement by Syria’s foreign ministry said.

Biden administration officials condemned the Feb. 15 rocket attack near the city of Irbil in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish-run region, but as recently as this week officials indicated they had not determined for certain who carried it out. Officials have noted that in the past, Iranian-backed Shiite militia groups have been responsible for numerous rocket attacks that targeted U.S. personnel or facilities in Iraq.

Kirby had said Tuesday that Iraq is in charge of investigating the Feb. 15 attack. He added that U.S. officials were not then able to give a “certain attribution as to who was behind these attacks.”

A little-known Shiite militant group calling itself Saraya Alwiya al-Dam, Arabic for Guardians of Blood Brigade, claimed responsibility for the Feb. 15 attack. A week later, a rocket attack in Baghdad’s Green Zone appeared to target the U.S. Embassy compound, but no one was hurt.

Iran this week said it has no links to the Guardians of Blood Brigade. Iran-backed groups have splintered significantly since the U.S.-directed strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in Baghdad more than a year ago. Both were key in commanding and controlling a wide array of Iran-backed groups operating in Iraq.

Since their deaths, the militias have become increasingly unruly. Some analysts argue the armed groups have splintered as a tactic to claim attacks under different names to mask their involvement.

The frequency of attacks by Shiite militia groups against U.S. targets in Iraq diminished late last year ahead of Biden’s inauguration.

The U.S. under the previous Trump administration blamed Iran-backed groups for carrying out multiple attacks in Iraq.

Trump had said the death of a U.S. contractor would be a red line and provoke U.S. escalation in Iraq. The December 2019 killing of a U.S. civilian contractor in a rocket attack in Kirkuk sparked a tit-for-tat fight on Iraqi soil that culminated in the U.S. killing of Iranian commander Soleimani and brought Iraq to the brink of a proxy war.

U.S. forces have been significantly reduced in Iraq to 2,500 personnel and no longer partake in combat missions with Iraqi forces in ongoing operations against the Islamic State group.

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Baldor and Burns reported from Washington, D.C.

Explainer: Mount Etna puts on its latest spectacular show

By FRANCES D’EMILIO for the Associated Press

ROME (AP) — Mount Etna, the volcano that towers over eastern Sicily, evokes superlatives. It is Europe’s most active volcano and also the continent’s largest.

Flames and smoke billowing from a crater, as seen from the southern side of the Mt Etna volcano, tower over the city of Pedara, Sicily, Wednesday night, Feb. 24, 2021. Europe’s most active volcano has been steadily erupting since last week, belching smoke, ash, and fountains of red-hot lava. (AP Photo/Salvatore Allegra)

And the fiery, noisy show of power it puts on for days or weeks, even years every so often, is always super spectacular. Fortunately, Etna’s latest eruption captivating the world’s attention has caused neither injuries nor evacuation.

But each time it roars back into dramatic action, it wows onlookers and awes geologists who spend their careers monitoring its every quiver, rumble and belch.

WHAT’S HAPPENING NOW?

On Feb. 16, Etna erupted, sending up high fountains of lava, which rolled down the mountain’s eastern slope toward the uninhabited Bove Valley, which is five kilometers (three miles) wide and eight kilometers (five miles) long. The volcano has belched out ash and lava stones that showered the southern side.

The activity has been continuing since, in bursts more or less intense. The flaming lava lights up the night sky in shocking hues of orange and red. There’s no telling how long this round of exciting activity will last, say volcanologists who work at the Etna Observatory run by the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology.

While public fascination began with the first dramatic images this month, the explosive activity began in September 2019, becoming much stronger two months ago. The current activity principally involves the south-east crater, which was created in 1971 from a series of fractures.

HARD TO MISS

Etna towers 3,350 meters (around 11,050 feet) above sea level and is 35 kilometers (22 miles) in diameter, although the volcanic activity has changed the mountain’s height over time.

Occasionally, the airport at Catania, eastern Sicily’s largest city, has to close down for hours or days, when ash in the air makes flying in the area dangerous. Early in this recent spell of eruptive activity, the airport closed briefly.

But for pilots and passengers flying to and from Catania at night when the volcano is calmer, a glimpse of fiery red in the dark sky makes for an exciting sight.

LIVING WITH A VOLCANO

With Etna’s lava flows largely contained to its uninhabited slopes, life goes in towns and villages elsewhere on the mountain. Sometimes, like in recent days, lava stones rain down on streets, bounce off cars and rattle roofs.

But many residents generally find that a small inconvenience when weighted against the benefits the volcano brings. Lava flows have left fertile farmland. Apple and citrus trees flourish. Etna red and whites are some of Sicily’s most popular wines, from grapes grown on the volcanic slopes.

Tourism rakes in revenues. Hikers and backpackers enjoy views of the oft-puffing mountain and the sparkling Ionian Sea below. For skiers who want uncrowded slopes, Etna’s a favorite.

IT CAN BE DEADLY

Inspiring ancient Greek legends, Etna has had scores of known eruptions in its history. An eruption in 396 B.C. has been credited with keeping the army of Carthage at bay.

In 1669, in what has been considered the volcano’s worst known eruption, lava buried a swath of Catania, about 23 kilometers (15 miles) away and devastated dozens of villages. An eruption in 1928 cut off a rail route circling the mountain’s base.

More recently, in 1983, dynamite was used to divert lava threatening inhabited areas. In 1992, the army built an earthen wall to contain the lava, flowing from Etna for months, from hitting Zafferana Etnea, a village of a few thousand people. At one point, the smoking lava stopped two kilometers (just over a mile) from the edge of town.

Over the last century, a hiccup in geological time, low-energy explosive eruptions and lava flows, both fed from the summit and side vents, have characterized Etna.

Chief: Capitol assault much bigger than intel suggested

By MICHAEL BALSAMO, MARY CLARE JALONICK and NOMAAN MERCHANT for the Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — The acting U.S. Capitol Police chief was pressed to explain Thursday why the agency hadn’t been prepared to fend off a violent mob of insurrectionists, including white supremacists, who were trying to halt the certification of the presidential election last month, even though officials had compelling advance intelligence.

In this Feb. 2, 2021 file photo, acting U.S. Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman pays respects to U.S. Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington. (Erin Schaff/The New York Times via AP, Pool)

Acting Chief Yogananda Pittman denied that law enforcement failed to take seriously warnings of violence before the Jan. 6 insurrection. Three days before the riot, Capitol Police distributed an internal document warning that armed extremists were poised for violence and could attack Congress because they saw it as the last chance to try to overturn the election results, Pittman said.

But the assault was much bigger than they expected, she said.

“There was no such intelligence. Although we knew the likelihood for violence by extremists, no credible threat indicated that tens of thousands would attack the U.S. Capitol, nor did the intelligence received from the FBI or any other law enforcement partner indicate such a threat.”

Later, under questioning by the House subcommittee’s chairman, Rep. Tim Ryan, Pittman said that while there may have been thousands of people heading to the Capitol from a pro-Trump rally, about 800 people actually made their way into the building.

Pittman conceded that the agency’s incident command protocols were “not adhered to,” and that there was a “multi-tiered failure.” Officers were left without proper communication or strong guidance from their supervisors as the insurrectionist mob stormed into the building.

The panel’s top Republican, Washington Rep. Jaime Herrera-Beutler, said the top Capitol Police officials “either failed to take seriously the intelligence received or the intelligence failed to reach the right people.”

Pittman’s predecessor as chief testified earlier this week at a hearing that police expected an enraged but more typical protest crowd of Trump backers. But Pittman said intelligence collected before the riot prompted police to take extraordinary measures, including the special arming of officers, intercepting radio frequencies used by the invaders and deploying spies at the Ellipse rally where Trump was sending his supporters marching to the Capitol to “fight like hell.

On Jan. 3, Capitol Police distributed an internal intelligence assessment warning that militia members, white supremacists and other extremist groups were likely to participate, that demonstrators would be armed and that it was possible they would come to the Capitol to try to disrupt the vote, according to Pittman.

But at the same time, she said police didn’t have enough intelligence to predict the violent insurrection that resulted in five deaths, including that of a Capitol Police officer. They prepared for trouble but not an invasion.

“Although the Department’s January 3rd Special Assessment foretold of a significant likelihood for violence on Capitol grounds by extremists groups, it did not identify a specific credible threat indicating that thousands of American citizens would descend upon the U.S. Capitol attacking police officers with the goal of breaking into the U.S. Capitol Building to harm Members and prevent the certification of Electoral College votes,” Pittman said.

Steven Sund, the police force’s former chief who resigned after the riot, testified Tuesday that the intelligence assessment warned white supremacists, members of the far-right Proud Boys and leftist antifa were expected to be in the crowd and might become violent.

“We had planned for the possibility of violence, the possibility of some people being armed, not the possibility of a coordinated military style attack involving thousands against the Capitol,” Sund said.

The FBI also forwarded a warning to local law enforcement officials about online postings that a “war” was coming. But Pittman said it still wasn’t enough to prepare for the mob that attacked the Capitol.

Officers were vastly outnumbered as thousands of rioters descended on the building, some of them wielding planks of wood, stun guns, bear spray and metal pipes as they broke through windows and doors and stormed through the Capitol. Officers were hit with barricades, shoved to the ground, trapped between doors, beaten and bloodied as members of Congress were evacuated and congressional staffers cowered in offices.

Pittman also said the department faced “internal challenges” as it responded to the riot. Officers didn’t properly lock down the Capitol complex, even after an order had been given over the radio to do so. She also said officers didn’t understand when they were allowed to use deadly force, and that less-than-lethal weapons that officers had were not as successful as they expected.

While Pittman said in her testimony that that sergeants and lieutenants were supposed to pass on intelligence to the department’s rank and file, many officers have said they were given little or no information or training for what they would face.

’Four officers told The Associated Press shortly after the riot that they heard nothing from Sund, Pittman, or other top commanders as the building was breached. Officers were left in many cases to improvise or try to save colleagues facing peril.

Pittman also faces internal pressure from her rank and file, particularly after the Capitol Police union recently issued a vote of no confidence against her. She must also lead the department through the start of several investigations into how law enforcement failed to protect the building.

Capitol Police are investigating the actions of 35 police officers on the day of the riot; six of those officers have been suspended with pay, a police spokesman said.

___

Merchant reported from Houston.

Pro-military marchers in Myanmar attack anti-coup protesters

For the Associated Press

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — Supporters of Myanmar’s junta attacked people protesting the military government that took power in a coup, using slingshots, iron rods and knives Thursday to injure several of the demonstrators.

In this image taken from video obtained by Than Lwin Khet News, a woman helps an unidentified man lying on the sidewalk of Sule Pagoda Road after he was attacked by a group of men in Yangon, Myanmar, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. Members of a group supporting Myanmar’s military junta have attacked and injured people protesting against the army’s Feb. 1 seizure of power that ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi. (Than Lwin Thet News via AP)

The violence complicates an already intractable standoff between the military and a protest movement that has been staging large rallies daily to demand that Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government be restored to power. She and other politicians were ousted and arrested on Feb. 1 in a takeover that shocked the international community and reversed years of slow progress toward democracy.

In response, several Western countries have imposed or threatened sanctions against the military. On Thursday, Britain announced further measures against members of the ruling junta for “overseeing human rights violations since the coup.”

Amid the international outrage, Facebook also announced it would ban all accounts linked to the military as well as ads from military-controlled companies.

On Thursday, tensions escalated on the streets between anti-coup protesters and supporters of the military. Photos and videos posted on social media showed groups attacking people in downtown Yangon as police stood by without intervening.

The number of injured people and their condition was not immediately clear.

According to accounts and photos posted on social media, hundreds of people marched Thursday in support of the coup. They carried banners in English with the slogans “We Stand With Our Defence Services” and “We Stand With State Administration Council,” which is the official name of the junta.

When the marchers were jeered at by onlookers near the city’s Central Railway station, they responded by firing slingshots and throwing stones at their critics. Some marchers broke away to chase down a man and then stabbed and kicked him.

Supporters of the military have gathered in the streets before, especially in the days immediately before and after the coup, but had not used violence so openly.

Critics of the military charge its pays people to engage in violence, allegations that are hard to verify. They have been raised during earlier spells of unrest, including a failed anti-military uprising in 1988 and an ambush of Suu Kyi’s motorcade in a remote rural area in 2003, when she was seeking to rally her supporters against the military regime then in power.

Such confrontations could make it harder to resolve Myanmar’s crisis.

Later Thursday, police turned out in force in Yangon’s Tarmwe neighborhood where they tried to clear the streets of residents protesting the military’s appointment of a new administrator for one ward. Several arrests were made as people scattered in front of lines of riot police, who used flash bang grenades to disperse the crowd.

So far, according to the independent Assistance Association of Political Prisoners, eight people have been killed in connection with the junta’s crackdown and 728 people have been arrested, charged or sentenced since the coup.

As part of its efforts to quell the opposition, the ruling junta has sought to limit access to the internet, including trying to block Facebook — the gateway to the web for many people in Myanmar. Those efforts have proven largely ineffective.

But on Thursday, Facebook announced a ban of its own: on all military-linked accounts. The social media platform already had deleted several military-linked accounts since the coup, including army-controlled Myawaddy TV and state television broadcaster MRTV. The bans also apply to Instagram, which is owned by Facebook.

The company said in a statement that it considered the situation in Myanmar an “emergency,” explaining that the ban was triggered by events since the coup, including “deadly violence.”

Facebook and other social media platforms came under enormous criticism in 2017 when right groups said they failed to do enough to stop hate speech against Myanmar’s Muslim Rohingya minority.

The army launched a brutal counterinsurgency operation that year that drove more than 700,000 Rohingya to seek safety in neighboring Bangladesh, where they remain in refugee camps. Myanmar security forces burned down villages, killed civilians and engaged in mass rape, and the International Court of Justice is considering whether these actions constitute genocide.

The military says it took power because last November’s election was marked by widespread voting irregularities, an assertion that was refuted by the state election commission, whose members have since been replaced.

The junta has said it will rule for a year and then hold fresh elections.

Embattled Iowa mayor among town officials charged resigns

For the Associated Press

ARMSTRONG, Iowa (AP) — An Iowa mayor who is among a slew of town officials charged with a string of felonies and misdemeanors in a city embezzlement case has resigned his post.

Armstrong Mayor Greg Buum, 69, submitted his written resignation Monday night at a City Council meeting, the Des Moines Register reported. The Iowa Attorney General’s Office has charged Buum, the town’s police chief, its city clerk and two former clerks in an alleged plot to loot the city coffers.

Buum also is charged with misusing a saw from the town’s volunteer fire department to benefit his private carpentry business. He and the others — which include police chief Craig Merrill, city clerk Tracie Lang and former city clerks Connie Thackery and Mary Staton — were arrested earlier this month. Buum is free on $67,000 bond.

Armstrong is a community of 900 people located near Iowa’s border with Minnesota and is about 40 miles from the popular Okoboji vacation area in the state’s northwestern corner.

The Latest: Hearing exposes breach between security officers

For the Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on congressional testimony about the Capitol insurrection (all times local):

Former U.S. Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund testifies before a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs & Senate Rules and Administration joint hearing on Capitol Hill, Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, to examine the January 6th attack on the Capitol. (Erin Scott/The New York Times via AP, Pool)

1:25 p.m.

The former chief law enforcement officer of the U.S. House is denying allegations he didn’t want to call the National Guard before the Jan. 6 riot out of concern that it would look bad.

Paul Irving resigned as House sergeant-at-arms after the deadly insurrection. He testified Tuesday that he met with then-Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund on Jan. 4 and that he believed they agreed not to ask for the Guard. Sund alleged that Irving denied his request for the Guard, citing “optics.”

Said Irving, “I was not concerned about appearance whatsoever.”

The hearing has renewed a remarkable breach between Sund and Irving about why there wasn’t more security at the Capitol. Irving was one of Sund’s superiors.

Sund says he requested Guard help again at 1:09 p.m. on Jan. 6, as rioters were massing outside the building. Irving denies receiving a call at that time.

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HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT FORMER SECURITY OFFICIALS TESTIFYING ON THE CAPITOL INSURRECTION:

Testifying publicly for the first time about the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, former security officials say that bad intelligence was to blame for the disastrous failure to anticipate the violent intentions of the mob. That left them unprepared for the attack, which was unlike anything they had ever seen before.

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON:

12:20 p.m.

Police officials who were tasked with protecting the Capitol on Jan. 6 say the FBI did not flag to them an internal report suggesting extremists were preparing for “war.”

The report was issued a day before the riot by the FBI’s Norfolk, Virginia, field office. Washington Metropolitan Police acting Chief Robert Contee says the report came via email and says he believes a warning of that level “would warrant a phone call or something.”

Steven Sund resigned as Capitol Police chief the day after the riot. Sund testified before Congress on Tuesday he was unaware the department had received the report until weeks after the insurrection.

Sund and Contee have criticized the intelligence they received from federal law enforcement about Jan. 6. Sund has called for a review of how the intelligence community studies domestic extremism and shares information across agencies.

The head of the FBI’s office in Washington has said that once he received the Jan. 5 warning from the Virginia office, the information was quickly shared with other law enforcement agencies, including the Capitol Police.

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11:55 a.m.

The key officials in charge of security at the U.S. Capitol disagree on why they didn’t seek National Guard help before the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Steven Sund resigned as chief of the Capitol Police the day after the riot. Sund testified Tuesday that he requested the National Guard be called at 1:09 p.m. on Jan. 6.

Paul Irving is the former House sergeant-at-arms and was one of Sund’s superiors. Irving says he didn’t receive a request until after 2 p.m. Irving says he did not remember Sund making a request at 1:09.

Rioters breached the Capitol’s west side just after 2 p.m.

Irving says he and other Capitol security leaders agreed before Jan. 6 that “the intelligence did not support the troops and collectively decided to let it go.”

The result was Capitol Police officers were badly outnumbered by rioters who in many cases were better armed and prepared to try to disrupt the certification of Joe Biden’s presidential victory over Donald Trump.

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11:45 a.m.

A top security official has testified that he was “stunned” over the delayed response to a request for National Guard help during the mob riot at the Capitol.

Acting Metropolitan Police Chief Robert Contee III told a joint Senate hearing Tuesday that the former U.S. Capitol Police chief was “pleading” with Army officials to deploy Guard troops as the violence rapidly escalated Jan. 6.

The District of Columbia’s Metropolitan Police officers had joined to help U.S. Capitol Police during the attack.

Contee says police officers “were out there literally fighting for their lives” but the officials on the call appeared to be going through a ”check the boxes” exercise asking about the optics of stationing National Guard troops at the Capitol. Contee says there “was not an immediate response.”

The officials are testifying in the first public hearing over the siege as a mob loyal to Donald Trump stormed the Capitol to disrupt Congress confirming Trump’s defeat to Joe Biden in the presidential election.

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11:30 a.m.

The former chief of the U.S. Capitol Police says he learned this week that his officers had received a report from an FBI field office in Virginia that forecast in detail the chances extremists could commit “war” in Washington the following day — the day of the Capitol insurrection.

The head of the FBI’s office in Washington has said that once he received the Jan. 5 warning from the Virginia office, the information was quickly shared with other law enforcement agencies through the joint terrorism task force, including the Capitol Police.

Former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund testified to Congress on Tuesday that an officer on the joint terrorism task force had received the FBI’s memo and forwarded it to a sergeant working on intelligence for the Capitol Police. But Sund says the information was not put forward to any other supervisors. Sund says he wasn’t aware of it.

Sund says he did see an intelligence report created within the Capitol Police force warning that Congress could be targeted on Jan. 6. That report warned extremists were likely to attend and there were calls for people to travel to Washington armed.

Senegal launches vaccination campaign with China’s Sinopharm

By YESI FISCH for the Associated Press

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — Senegal launched its COVID-19 vaccination campaign Tuesday in the capital, Dakar, where the Health Minister received the first jab of the Sinopharm vaccine.

“This day is a historic day” said Abdoulaye Diouf Sarr, Senegal’s Health Minister after getting the injection.

A health worker administers a dose of China’s Sinopharm vaccine to a man during the start of the vaccination campaign against the COVID-19 at the Health Ministry in Dakar, Senegal, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021. The country is also expecting nearly 1.3 million vaccine doses through the COVAX initiative. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

The West African nation received 200,000 doses of China’s Sinopharm vaccine last week and now the vaccines are being given to health care workers, people over 60 years old, and those with comorbidities.

The health minister also announced that Senegal is negotiating with Russia to buy the Sputnik V vaccine. In March, the country is also expecting to get nearly 1.3 million vaccine doses through the World Health Organization’s COVAX initiative.

As a gesture of “solidarity,” the minister said Senegal will share 10% of the 200,000 Sinopharm doses with neighboring countries Gambia and Guinea Bissau.

“Senegal is one of seven countries -among the 54 countries of the African continent- to start the vaccination against COVID-19, the minister said.

As of Tuesday, Senegal, a country of 16 million, has registered more than 33,000 cases of COVID-19 and 814 deaths, according to the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Vaccinations start without rush in Australia, parts of Asia

From the Associated Press

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia started its COVID-19 inoculation program on Monday, days after its neighbor New Zealand, with both governments deciding their pandemic experiences did not require the fast tracking of vaccine rollouts that occurred in many parts of the world.

New South Wales Police officer Lachlan Pritchard receives the Pfizer vaccine at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital Vaccination Hub in Sydney, Australia, Monday, Feb. 22, 2021. Australia has started its COVID-19 vaccination program days after its neighbor New Zealand with both governments deciding their pandemic experiences did not require regulation short cuts. (Toby Zerna/Pool Photo via AP)

Other countries in the Asia-Pacific region that have dealt relatively well with the pandemic either only recently started vaccinating or are about to, including Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Singapore.

Catherine Bennett, an epidemiologist at Australia’s Deakin University, said countries that do not face a virus crisis benefit from taking their time and learning from countries that have taken emergency vaccination measures such as the United States.

“We’ve now got data on pregnant women who are vaccinated. Natural accidents, like incorrect dosing, happen in a real world rollout,” Bennett said. “All of those things are really valuable insights.”

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison had his first dose of the Pfizer vaccine on Sunday in a show of confidence in the product. Australia is prioritizing building public confidence in COVID-19 vaccines ahead of speed of delivery.

Health and border control workers, as well as nursing home residents and workers, started getting the Pfizer vaccine on Monday at hubs across the country. Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt will get the AstraZeneca vaccine when it becomes available within weeks.

The vast majority of cases in Australia are travelers infected overseas who are detected during 14-day mandatory hotel quarantines. Australia has recorded 909 coronavirus deaths.

New Zealand began inoculations last week after receiving its first batch of the Pfizer vaccine.

The nation of 5 million has successfully stamped out the spread of the virus, and the first people to get the shots are border workers and their families. That’s a different priority group than in most countries, and the idea is to stop the virus from spreading from any arriving travelers who are infected. After that, healthcare and essential workers, along with vulnerable older people, will be vaccinated.

However, the rollout of a program to vaccinate the broader population in New Zealand won’t begin until the second half of the year, behind many other countries.

In Australia, some infectious disease and ethics experts at Australian National University have accused the government of hoarding vaccines and argued that the government should send surplus supplies to countries in desperate need.

Elsewhere in Asia, Thailand, which has seen only 83 virus deaths, has yet to start vaccinations. It will receive the first 200,000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine on Wednesday. That is part of the Thai government’s plan that has so far secured 2 million doses from Sinovac and 61 million doses from AstraZeneca.

The government has a policy to provide free vaccinations to all Thais and aims to inject half of the population this year. The government said it hopes to begin the vaccinations a few days after the first batch of vaccines arrive.

Vietnam, which has recorded 35 deaths, announced last week that it will receive 5 million vaccine doses by the end of February and hopes to start inoculations as early as the beginning of March. Five million people — mostly front-line workers — will be given the first shots.

Cambodia, which has yet to report any virus deaths, received its first shipment of 600,000 vaccine doses from China on Feb. 7, part of 1 million doses Beijing donated. The country began the vaccination program on Feb. 10, starting with Prime Minister Hun Sen’s sons, government ministers and officials at a state run hospital.

In Singapore, which has reported 29 virus deaths, some 250,000 residents, including healthcare workers and other front-line workers, had been vaccinated as of last week, according to health officials. The aim is to get another 1 million people to receive their first dose of the vaccine by early April.

Laos, which also has reported no deaths, received 300,000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine on Feb. 8. A Health Ministry official said that it expects 20% of the Lao population, or 1.6 million people, to be vaccinated within the year.