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Biden relaunches Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships

Biden relaunches Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships

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Myanmar rattled by army movements, apparent internet cutoff

Anti-coup protesters hold posters with an image of deposed Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi as they gather outside the U.N. Information Office in Yangon, Myanmar, on Sunday. Vast numbers of people all over Myanmar have flouted orders against demonstrations to march again in protest against the military takeover.

President Joe Biden reestablished a White House office that coordinates federal policy with religious and community groups, reflecting his administration’s pledge to promote equitable treatment for all Americans.

Faith-based and other community-serving organizations are vital to addressing the needs of underserved communities, including people of color, Biden said in an executive order Sunday. The Office of Faith-Based and Neighbor-hood Partnerships is an effort by the federal government to strengthen those organizations and support them in delivering services to those groups.

“There are not Democrats or Republicans dying from this pandemic, or losing their jobs, going hungry and facing eviction in this economic crisis, or facing the sting of systemic racism or the brunt of the climate crisis,” Biden said in a statement. “They are fellow human beings. They are fellow Americans.”

The office dates to the George W. Bush administration and was continued under a slightly different name during the Obama-Biden administration. The Trump administration did not establish one. Biden said the new office begins operating 30 days from Sunday.

Kosovo chooses new parliament: Kosovo’s voters defied freezing weather to vote in a parliamentary election Sunday to form a new government amid the coronavirus pandemic, an economic downturn and stalled negotiations with wartime foe Serbia. About 1.8 million voters were eligible to chose 120 lawmakers among more than 1,000 candidates from 28 political groups and few irregularities were reported. About 100,000 Kosovars abroad were also eligible to vote by post. Those infected with coronavirus could vote through mobile polling teams. Voting had a preliminary turnout of 47%, which is more than 2 percentage points higher than the last election in 2019, according to the Central Election Commission.

“Today, Kosovo showed how elections should be held, despite the many challenges it faced,” said Valdete Daka, election commission chief. A new Cabinet will face the challenge of bringing the poor country’s economy back on its feet and reducing unemployment after battling back the pandemic, as well as fighting organized crime and corruption.

Myanmar rattled by army movements, apparent internet cutoff: Sightings of armored personnel carriers in Myanmar’s biggest city and an internet shutdown raised political tensions late Sunday, after vast numbers of people around the country flouted orders against demonstrations to protest the military’s seizure of power. Public concern has already been heightened for the past few nights by what many charge is the military’s manipulation of criminals released from prison to carry out nighttime violence and stir up panic.

Ambassadors from the United States and Canada and 12 European nations called on Myanmar’s security forces to refrain from violence against those “protesting the overthrow of their legitimate government.”

They condemned the arrests of political leaders and activists as well as the military’s interference with communications. “We support the people of Myanmar in their quest for democracy, freedom, peace, and prosperity,” they said in a joint statement issued late Sunday night. “The world is watching.”

The military seized power on Feb. 1, detaining the country’s elected leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, and members of her government and preventing recently elected lawmakers from opening a new session of Parliament. The junta, led by Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, said it was forced to step in because the government failed to properly investigate allegations of fraud in last year’s election, which Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party won in a landslide. The state election commission refuted that contention, saying there is no evidence to support it.

Israel, Cyprus reach tourism deal for vaccinated travelers: Israel and Cyprus announced a tourism agreement Sunday to allow citizens who have been vaccinated against the coronavirus to travel between the countries without the need to quarantine. The agreement between the two Mediterranean countries is a step toward restoring their tourism industries, which have been hit hard by the nearly year-long pandemic. Both countries have large tourism sectors. Last week, Israel reached a similar deal with Greece.

“This opens up the possibility of restarting tourism in the near future,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. “Cypriot tourists in Israel and Israeli tourists in Cyprus.”

Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades said he expected the deal to go into effect April 1. Anastasiades also said he was “very interested” in getting more details about a possible COVID-19 treatment being developed by Israel’s Ichilov hospital and said Cyprus would participate in upcoming clinical trials.

United Arab Emirates publishes first photo from Mars probe: The United Arab Emirates on Sunday published the first image from its Mars probe now circling the red planet. The picture, taken Wednesday, shows sunlight just coming across the surface of Mars. It shows Mars’ north pole, as well as Mars’ largest volcano, Olympus Mons.

The image comes from its “Amal,” or “Hope,” space probe. The probe swung into orbit around Mars on Tuesday in a triumph for the Arab world’s first interplanetary mission.

Police say Nicki Minaj’s father killed by hit-and-run driver: The 64-year-old father of rapper Nicki Minaj died after being struck by a hit-and-run driver in New York, police said.

Robert Maraj was walking along a road in Mineola on Long Island at 6:15 p.m. Friday when he was hit by a car that kept going, Nassau County police said. Maraj was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead Saturday. Police ask any witnesses to come forward.

Minaj, 38, was born Onika Tanya Maraj in Trinidad and was raised in the New York City borough of Queens. She has not made any public statement about her father’s death. An email seeking comment was sent to a representative for Minaj.

Duchess of Sussex expecting 2nd child: The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are expecting their second child, their office confirmed Sunday. A spokesperson for the couple said in a statement: “We can confirm that Archie is going to be a big brother. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are overjoyed to be expecting their second child.”

The baby will be eighth in line to the British throne.

Prince Harry and American actress Meghan Markle married at Windsor Castle in May 2018. Their son, Archie, was born a year later. In November, Meghan revealed she had a miscarriage in July 2020, giving a personal account of the traumatic experience in hope of helping others.

— From our wire services

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