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GOP willing to negotiate on infrastructure but wants improvement from COVID talks: Wicker

Chip Somodevilla/Getty ImagesBY: DAVONES MORALES, ABC NEWS

(WASHINGTON) — Despite many Republicans signaling they do not support President Joe Biden's infrastructure proposal, Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., said on ABC's "This Week" that the GOP is willing to negotiate on a smaller package.

"I'm meeting with the president tomorrow," the senator told "This Week" anchor George Stephanopoulos on Sunday, referring to Biden's meeting with a bipartisan group of lawmakers.

"We are willing to negotiate with him on an infrastructure package. And this trillion dollar number is way too high for me -- I'll just say -- but negotiation has to be something different from what we had on the rescue plan," he continued.

Wicker's comments to Stephanopoulos echo the sentiment of 10 moderate Senate GOP lawmakers who signed a joint statement on Thursday, accusing Biden of "roundly dismissing" bipartisan talks during his last bipartisan meeting on the COVID relief bill.

"The administration roundly dismissed our effort as wholly inadequate in order to justify its go-it-alone strategy," the statement read. "Fewer than 24 hours after our meeting in the Oval Office, the Senate Democratic Leader began the process of triggering reconciliation which precluded Republican participation and allowed for the package to pass without a single Republican vote."

Stephanopoulos asked Wicker to respond to Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, who appeared in an earlier interview on "This Week.”

"You just heard Secretary Granholm, right there, said the only way America is going to win is if they pass this package now," Stephanopoulos said.

"Well, listen, we're willing to negotiate a much smaller package," Wicker said. "Americans voted for a pragmatic moderate that they thought Joe Biden was. Where is that centrist candidate they thought they were voting for back in November of last year?"

Biden has said that he welcomes debate on his $2 trillion plan but added that a narrowly focused infrastructure bill proposed by the GOP "is just not rational."

Wicker explained why the GOP wants a smaller infrastructure package.

"You've got a proposal here of the $2.3 trillion, 70% of which cannot by any stretch of the imagination be called infrastructure," Wicker said.

"This is a massive social welfare spending program combined with a massive tax increase on small business job creators," he continued. "I can't think of a worse tax to put on the American people than -- than to raise taxes on small business job creators, which is what this bill would do."

Stephanopoulos pressed Wicker on why the GOP is not reconsidering its opposition to a corporate tax increase to fund infrastructure after some of America's biggest corporations expressed support for it, even to a level lower than it was before former President Donald Trump's tax cuts went into effect.

The corporate tax rate stood at 35% prior to the Trump administration's tax cuts that dropped it to 21%. Biden's proposal will raise the rate to 28%.

"The evidence that those tax cuts actually increase any kind of investment is minimal," Stephanopoulos said.

"Well, I totally disagree," Wicker responded. "Back in February of 2020, before the COVID recession hit us, unemployment rate was 3.5%, an unheard of low amount."

"I think the tax package of 2017 really was our signature accomplishment, and it ushered in -- and was about to usher in before the pandemic took over -- it was about to usher in even greater economic growth," he continued.

Although it appears a corporate tax increase is a non-starter for Republicans, Wicker said they are still willing to go big on infrastructure.

"I think we can get somewhere and have a much bigger infrastructure package than we were able to do under the last administration." Wicker said.

"I'm in favor of that, and I think the majority of Republicans are, and we can get a lot of Democrats to help us on that," he added.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


United Arab Emirates names 1st Arab female astronaut

Mooneydriver/iStockBY: HATEM MAHER, ABC NEWS

(NEW YORK) — The United Arab Emirates named mechanical engineering graduate Nora AlMatrooshi as the first Arab female astronaut, a selection that she described as an "unforgettable moment."

AlMatrooshi was picked from more than 4,000 candidates to be part of the UAE's ambitious space program, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai and the country's prime minister, said on Twitter.

"We announce the first Arab female astronaut, among two new astronauts … to be trained with NASA for future space exploration missions," he said.

AlMatrooshi and Mohammad AlMulla, who was also selected in the UAE's Astronaut Program, will head to Texas to undergo training at NASA's Johnson Space Center.

The Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre said space has been AlMatrooshi's "passion since childhood." The 27-year-old, who holds a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering, currently works at the UAE's National Petroleum Construction Company.

"The nation gave me unforgettable moments today. I aim to work hard to script historical moments and achievements that will be etched forever in the memory of our people," an elated AlMatrooshi said on Twitter.

She also said she drew inspiration from Hazzaa Al-Mansoori, who became the UAE's first astronaut in 2019, spending eight days on the International Space Station.

In February, the UAE became the first Arab country and the fifth in the world to reach Mars after launching its "Hope Probe" spacecraft into the orbit of the red planet.

The country also set ambitious targets to land on the moon in 2024 and establish human settlement in Mars by 2117.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Police negotiators on scene at hotel after reports of a barricaded gunman, gunshots

kali9/iStockBY: JON HAWORTH, ABC NEWS

(HONOLULU) — A man who barricaded himself in a Honolulu hotel room after allegedly firing multiple shots has died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, officials said.

Honolulu Police Department Captain Brian Lynch said that a 911 call came in at approximately 5:40 p.m. Saturday reporting that multiple shots had been fired at the Kahala Hotel & Resort, according to ABC News’ Honolulu affiliate KITV-TV.

According to KITV, Lynch said that there were about five shots fired from a guest’s room on the fourth floor of the hotel and that hotel security responded as the suspect reportedly shot through the door of the room.

Lynch said that 18 police officers responded to the scene and immediately evacuated the adjoining rooms and all guests who were on the fourth floor of the Kahala Hotel & Resort.

Guests and staff in other areas on the property were asked to shelter-in-place. There have been no injuries reported but social media posts show hundreds of people in the resort’s grand ballroom, according to KITV.

The Kahala Hotel & Resort released a statement regarding the ongoing situation on the property.

“This evening, an individual with a firearm barricaded himself in one of the guest rooms at The Kahala,” read the statement obtained by KITV. “Our security personnel and law enforcement have evacuated guests and employees from the immediate area and everyone is sheltering in place. We ask that the public refrain from entering the area surrounding the hotel at this time. We will provide further updates as they become available.”

Lynch has confirmed that the male suspect involved with the ongoing situation is alone in the room and he may have family staying with him but says they are in a safe place.

KITV reports that the suspect is believed to be in the military and maybe stationed on Oahu.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Giant screens, spartan interiors: Electric vehicles go high tech

TeslaBY: MORGAN KORN, ABC NEWS

(NEW YORK) — Electric vehicles are transforming how Americans "refuel." There are changes happening inside the cabin, too. No more start/stop buttons. Radio dials now programmed into massive tablets that are mounted to the center dash. Simple functions like heated seats and climate control operated via an oversized screen.

Automakers are making EVs incredibly austere and geared toward motorists who are accustomed to doing just about everything on their mobile phones.

"A lot of it is playing 'follow the leader,'" explained Ed Kim, vice president at AutoPacific. "Tesla's Model S established the idea that a premium EV has a giant screen. There can be a strong tendency to emulate your benchmark. Right now Tesla is the benchmark."

Teslas attract buyers who are "tech savvy and have a high level comfort with technology," Kim said. Legacy and mainstream automakers, desperate to steal sales from Tesla, are mimicking the giant tablet-like screens and unembellished interiors found in every Tesla vehicle.

These ultramodern and experimental interiors have their drawbacks -- and detractors. Karl Brauer, executive analyst at iSeeCars.com, said large screens can be very distracting. They could also malfunction.

"The thinking is the computer is smarter than you. Without fail, I've come across a situation that the computer didn't know what to do," he told ABC News. "And if the screen goes down, everything doesn't work."

Dustin Krause, director of e-Mobility North America for Volkswagen, argued that futuristic technology should not deter American drivers, many of whom are still wary and unsure about EVs, from buying one. In Volkswagen's ID.4 crossover, a screen is not required to switch songs or turn on the ventilated seats.

"You just have to say 'Hello ID' to activate the voice assistant," Krause told ABC News. "Asking a car to do functions isn't so unusual -- consumers use [Apple's] Siri and [Amazon's] Alexa. It becomes second nature to most ID.4 drivers.”

He and a few engineers even tried to trick the system by saying "My butt is cold" instead of "Turn on the heated seats." The car was able to get the job done. The only command that's not possible? Rolling down the windows. Though that, too, could change in the near future.

ID.4's engineers decided against a humongous screen. But they converted the gear shifter to a twist knob and eliminated the start/stop button. Krause said the goal was to create a "simple and intuitive cockpit" and an "uncluttered center console."

"Just press on the brake pedal when you sit in and the car will start up," he said. "Select park and when you exit the vehicle the ID.4 will shut off."

He added, "We're trying to make the transition to an EV easy.”

Ford went to great lengths to solicit customer feedback when designing the slinky Mustang Mach-E SUV. It set up studios in the U.K., China and Michigan, inviting locals to sit in and rearrange a mock interior of the electric SUV that was made of Styrofoam. Designers watched from the sidelines and took notes, tweaking their sketches based on how participants reacted to the cabin.

"With this BEV [battery electric vehicle] platform, we got this opportunity to reimagine and reconfigure the space," Josh Greiner, senior interior designer of the Mustang Mach-E, told ABC News. "We were able to design exactly what we wanted and let the chassis kind of follow.”

The Mach-E features one of the largest screens in the EV segment -- 15.5 inches -- and many of the controls, including drive modes, are only accessible via the screen. The interior is also simplistic and sparse, which was intentional. Greiner referred to it as a "calm and serene environment."

"Everything on the Mach-E is digital, even the door handles," he said. "We didn't want levers and switches cluttering the interior.”

Ford's best-selling cars and trucks, like the F-150, are largely immune to the trend, Greiner said, adding, "You're more progressive about tech if you buy a BEV. This is for a very specific customer.”

The team behind BMW's upcoming iX Sports Activity Vehicle went for a dramatic interior, taking inspiration from modern architecture.

"We wanted to create something like a loft on wheels," said Adrian Van Hooydonk, BMW Group's design director. "A cozy seating arrangement, a large flat screen and not much more to be honest.”

The vehicle was designed "from the inside out" and the hidden speakers, slim instrument panel, lack of buttons and panoramic glass roof give the cabin an airy, spacious vibe.

"We're not switchless but we definitely have a lot less switches," Van Hooydonk said. "We've been able to reduce elements by combining them.”

The all-electric Kia EV6 crossover, which goes on sale in the second half of 2021, comes with a high-tech curved infotainment screen and seats made from recycled plastics.

Designing an "inspiring space" was the "most important thing for us," said Jochen Paesen, Kia's vice president for interior design. "We believe EV6 can inspire customers by boosting their creativity.”

A vertical, 11.15-inch screen replaces nearly all of the switches, buttons and knobs in the Polestar 2. Like the ID.4, the electric sedan has no dedicated start/stop button and navigation, entertainment and climate control are all handled on the screen. Polestar 2's inclusion of Google’s native infotainment system, an industry first, separates itself from the pack. The avant-garde, minimalist interior is a traditional Scandinavian design.

"The car is now part of your connected life -- if you want it to be," Polestar Chief Operating Officer Jonathan Goodman told ABC News.

The average screen size in vehicles is now 8 inches, according to AutoPacific research. Kim said consumers generally want more screen real estate, not less.

"There are functional benefits to having larger screens: Bigger fonts that are easier to read and less squinting. Larger screens do not necessary mean more distractions," he said.

There are limitations of the technology, even for Kim. He gave the examples of Tesla's Model 3 windshield wipers being controlled through the screen and the digital gear shifter on the Model S.

These redesigns "may be out of the comfort zone for a mainstream consumer," Kim acknowledged. "A difficult interface can absolutely turn off buyers, especially older ones.”

Brauer suggested that automakers are doing away with traditional buttons to reduce costs.

"It's a lot cheaper to engineer a digital user interface than it is to produce multiple hard controls involving dials and springs and buttons," he said.

When Mercedes-Benz officially unveils its much-hyped all-electric EQS sedan on April 15, consumers may be in for a shock.

The sci-fi interior is the most extreme of any EV on the market. A curved, 56-inch wide "Hyperscreen" consisting of three separate displays cocoons the interior. Scratch-resistant aluminum silicate protects the display and the screen's advanced molding process reduces glare and distortion across the entire width of the vehicle, according to the company.

Gorden Wagener, chief design officer at Mercedes-Benz, said he first saw renderings of a 3D screen five years ago and "loved it."

"I had to make it happen," he told ABC News. "The car is super futuristic and revolutionary. As a designer, I am always aiming for reduction."

The start/stop button is the sole physical switch in the entire vehicle. The screen allows access to all functions but drivers can also depend on the A.I. voice assistant. Wagener admitted that voice commands will likely make even screens obsolete one day.

"The EQS is the first of its kind -- years ahead of anything else you can buy out there," he said. "We have entirely reinvented the car."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Prosecutor's office reviewing car crash case involving former Chiefs assistant coach Britt Reid

ABC NewsBy MEREDITH DELISO, ABC News

(KANSAS CITY, Mo.) -- The three-car crash involving former Kansas City Chiefs assistant coach Britt Reid that injured two children, including one critically, is being reviewed by the local prosecutor's office.

Police handed over the investigation to the Jackson County Prosecutor's Office in "recent days," the office confirmed to ABC News.

A spokesperson for the office had no additional comment on the case, including any timeline for reviewing it or any charges recommended by police.

The collision occurred Feb. 4 on a highway near the Kansas City Chiefs' training complex next to Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. Reid, 35, was driving a Ram pickup truck when he struck two vehicles that were stopped on the side of southbound Interstate 435 just after 9 p.m. local time, according to police.

A 5-year-old was in critical condition with a brain injury and a 4-year-old was hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries after the crash, police said. All other vehicle occupants suffered minor injuries.

Reid, the son of Chiefs head coach Andy Reid, was injured in the wreck and taken to the hospital with undisclosed injuries. He did not join the Chiefs in Tampa for the Super Bowl that weekend.

According to a search warrant application obtained by ABC News, an officer at the scene reported smelling "a moderate odor of alcoholic beverages emanating" from Reid, and that his eyes were bloodshot. Reid allegedly told the officer he had two to three drinks and had taken Adderall, according to the warrant.

Police had said they were investigating whether Reid was impaired before the crash.

Ariel Young, the 5-year-old critically injured in the collision, likely has permanent brain damage, her family's lawyer told "Good Morning America."

"We're going to be advocating for the most serious charges and the most serious sentence that Britt could ever receive," the attorney, Tom Porto, said in an interview last month. "We don't have the toxicology back -- I don't know what it is going to be. What I do know are the statements that he made to police that night. If you have two or three drinks, and then you get behind the wheel of a car, you are likely over the legal limit."

Reid, who was an outside linebackers coach for the Chiefs, was placed on administrative leave amid the investigation into the crash. His contract has since expired and he's no longer with the team.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Lost taste and smell from COVID-19? A new cookbook aims to help

AsiaVision/iStockBY: SAMUEL ROTHMAN, ABC NEWS

(NEW YORK) — One of the most common COVID-19 symptoms is the loss of taste and smell. For some people, those symptoms can last weeks. Now, a new cookbook aims to help people recover some of the joy of cooking and eating – even while senses are still inhibited.

The cookbook, "Taste & Flavour," was written by chefs Ryan Riley and Kimberley Duke. It blends aspects of culinary science and medical research by looking at taste, smell and other sensory perception to help people who lost their senses enjoy food again.

Some estimates show that loss of smell from COVID-19 typically lasts two to three weeks for roughly more than half of patients who test positive for the virus. According to one study from Dr. Piccirillo from the Department of Otolaryngology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, 95% of people who experience these problems recover completely.

While the science surrounding the changes in taste and smell from COVID-19 is still evolving, researchers have noted that for some patients when they do regain smell, fragrances they used to enjoy smell different, even unpleasant to them. This could be due to olfactory cells having to “rewire” as they recover.

According to Dr. Barry Smith, a scientist who worked on the cookbook, it’s possible to use food therapeutically.

While the recipes in the book won’t cure the loss of taste and smell, they can help people still find enjoyment in eating while these senses recover on their own.

Many people who experience these symptoms are still able to taste certain flavors such as sugar, salt, lemon juice or even the bitterness of coffee, according to Smith. He said his work showed that when taste and smell are altered, other senses can help people enjoy their food with certain textures. These can include stimulating saliva with umami flavor and stimulating the trigeminal nerve, which amongst other roles, regulates spicy-food sensations like stinging, cooling or even burning.

Riley provided an example of these principles with one of his favorite dishes from the book, miso butter potatoes with green herb vinegar. Miso and potatoes both have a strong umami flavor, which has been helpful for those struggling with changes in taste because of how well they elicit saliva. Smell, which he explained accounts for 80% of taste, is also satisfied via the vinegar, pepper and mint found in this dish. Mint, for example, stimulates the trigeminal nerve.

Meanwhile, the chefs said that garlic and onion, which normally are excellent bases for many dishes, are often found to be repulsive to patients suffering from altered taste and smell.

“It was all about having to create what's called safe, non-triggering foods. We know things like potatoes are really good for that, pasta rice, quite simple flavors," Riley told ABC News. "So then we then use the life kitchen principles, looking at using a lot of umami, which is our fifth taste or soy sauce, mushrooms, parmesan, and trying to add in all of that as the depth and the base that you would originally get from things like garlic and onions to create delicious tasting food.”

For people experiencing these symptoms, it’s not just about food. Studies show losing these senses or having them altered in some way is linked with depression and other mood symptoms.

“We saw that people were really struggling," Duke told ABC News. "They felt like they didn't have anyone who was helping them and, and they didn't feel like their partners and families understood what they were going through.”

“There's also a huge mental health aspect of this," Riley said. "We know from cancer that once you start not enjoying food, you don't eat as much, which is detrimental to the body. If you don't taste something for eight months, it can become really depressing."

And there are other risks. Lack of smell can also put people at risk for fires and food poisoning as they lack the ability to smell spoiled food or even smoke.

Duke and Riley embarked on this research prior to the pandemic to help cancer patients, who may also suffer from a loss of taste and smell because of the effects of chemotherapy.

"Both me and Kimberly lost our mothers to cancer when she was 15, and I was 20. And I wanted to become a food writer and a chef," Riley said. They founded a non-profit, Life Kitchen. Last year, their cookbook became the number four bestselling book in the UK.

For COVID-19 recovered patients, experts said more research is needed into exactly how some senses are processed in the brain before further treatments can be perfected.

But for now, Riley and Duke are hoping a few thoughtful recipes might bring some relief.

The cookbook can be downloaded for free.

Samuel Rothman, MD, is a psychiatry resident at the BronxCare Health System in New York City and a contributor to ABC's Medical Unit.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Phoebe Waller-Bridge signs on to 'Indiana Jones 5'

Chelsea Guglielmino/Getty Images(LONDON) -- Fleabag's Emmy-winning creator and star Phoebe Waller-Bridge has signed on to the upcoming fifth Indiana Jones adventure. 

The actress will co-star with Harrison Ford for director James Mangold's take on the dashing archaeologist, production of which has begun to spin up. 

Plot details are still hush-hush, but what is known is the fifth Indy movie is set to bow on July 29, 2022.

Incidentally, while the British actress and Killing Eve co-producer has never worked with Ford, she starred as the Millennium Falcon's sassy droid co-pilot L3-37 in Solo, which was about the early days of Ford's iconic Star Wars character.

Both projects were produced by Lucasfilm, which is owned by ABC News' parent company Disney. 

By Stephen Iervolino
Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Will the St. Louis Cardinals make the playoffs this year?