Vaccinations rise in some states with soaring infections
Vaccinations are beginning to rise in some states where COVID-19 cases are soaring, White House officials said Thursday in a sign that the summer surge is getting the attention of vaccine-hesitant Americans as hospitals in the South are being overrun with patients.
Coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients told reporters that several states with the highest proportions of new infections have seen residents get vaccinated at higher rates than the nation as a whole. Officials cited Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Missouri and Nevada as examples.
“The fourth surge is real, and the numbers are quite frightening at the moment,” Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said on a New Orleans radio show. Edwards, a Democrat, added: “There’s no doubt that we are going in the wrong direction, and we’re going there in a hurry.”
Pelosi says ‘deadly serious’ Jan. 6 probe to go without GOP
Unfazed by Republican threats of a boycott, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared Thursday that a congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection will take on its “deadly serious” work whether Republicans participate or not.
The Republicans’ House leader, Kevin McCarthy, called the committee a “sham process” and suggested that GOP lawmakers who take part could face consequences. McCarthy said Pelosi’s rejection of two of the Republicans he had attempted to appoint was an “egregious abuse of power.”
The escalating tension between the two parties — before the investigation has even started — is emblematic of the raw partisan anger that has only worsened on Capitol Hill since former President Donald Trump’s supporters laid siege to the Capitol and interrupted the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory. With most Republicans still loyal to Trump, and many downplaying the severity of the violent attack, there is little bipartisan unity to be found.
Ransomware victim Kaseya gets master key to unlock networks
The Florida company whose software was exploited in the devastating Fourth of July weekend ransomware attack, Kaseya, has received a universal key that will decrypt all of the more than 1,000 businesses and public organizations crippled in the global incident.
Kaseya spokeswoman Dana Liedholm would not say Thursday how the key was obtained or whether a ransom was paid. She said only that it came from a “trusted third party” and that Kaseya was distributing it to all victims. The cybersecurity firm Emsisoft confirmed that the key worked and was providing support.
Ransomware analysts offered multiple possible explanations for why the master key, which can unlock the scrambled data of all the attack’s victims, has now appeared. They include: Kaseya paid; a government paid; a number of victims pooled funds; the Kremlin seized the key from the criminals and handed it over through intermediaries — or perhaps the attack’s principle protagonist didn’t get paid by the gang whose ransomware was used.
Western wildfires grow, but better weather helps crews
Lower winds and better weather helped crews using bulldozers and helicopters battling the nation’s largest wildfire in southern Oregon while a Northern California wildfire crossed into Nevada, prompting evacuations as blazes burn across the West.
Oregon’s Bootleg Fire grew to 624 square miles (1,616 square kilometers) — over half the size of Rhode Island. However, authorities said higher humidity Wednesday and overnight and better conditions allowed crews to improve fire lines. The fire also was approaching an area burned by a previous fire on its active southeastern flank, raising hopes that a lack of fuel could reduce its spread and the forecast was for favorable firefighting weather again Thursday.
“Fire crews and support personnel have made significant progress in containing this fire in the last few days,” Joe Prummer, incident commander trainee of Pacific Northwest Incident Management Team 2, said in a statement. “However, we still have a long road ahead of us to ensure the safety of the surrounding communities.”
US jobless claims rise to 419,000 from a pandemic low
The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits rose last week from the lowest point of the pandemic, even as the job market appears to be rebounding on the strength of a reopened economy.
The Labor Department said Thursday that jobless claims increased last week to 419,000, the most in two months, from 368,000 the previous week. The number of first-time applications, which generally tracks layoffs, has fallen steadily since topping 900,000 in early January.
Economists characterized last week’s increase as most likely a blip caused by some one-time factors and partly a result of the inevitable bumpiness in the week-to-week data. Applications for jobless aid jumped last week, for example, in Michigan, where some auto plants have temporarily shut down production because of supply shortages.
Bin there, done that: Cockatoos learn to lift trash lids
A few years ago, a Sydney scientist noticed a sulfur-crested cockatoo opening his trash bin. Not every resident would be thrilled, but ornithologist Richard Major was impressed by the ingenuity.
It’s quite a feat for a bird to grasp a bin lid with its beak, pry it open, then shuffle far enough along the bin’s edge that the lid falls backward – revealing edible trash treasures inside.
Intrigued, Major teamed up with researchers in Germany to study how many cockatoos learned this trick. In early 2018, they found from a survey of residents that birds in three Sydney suburbs had mastered the novel foraging technique. By the end of 2019, birds were lifting bins in 44 suburbs.
“From three suburbs to 44 in two years is a pretty rapid spread,” said Major, who is based at the Australian Museum.
Biden admin stepping up community grants from COVID bill
President Joe Biden’s administration is beginning to make $3 billion in economic development grants available to communities — a tenfold increase in the program paid for by this year’s COVID-19 relief bill.
Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said her agency on Thursday will begin accepting applications for the competitive grants, which officials hope will create hundreds of thousands of jobs and help struggling cities and towns make long-term investments to drive development for years to come. Applications for the grants are available at the website for Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration.
“This is about real help for communities across the country as they rebuild,” Raimondo said Wednesday in an interview with The Associated Press. “It’s about longer-term investments to help communities build themselves back from the bottom up in the ways that work best for them.”
YIKES ! ! What will Amazon want to do next?
Amazon’s mission: Getting a ‘key’ to your apartment building
Amazon is tired of ringing doorbells.
The online shopping giant is pushing landlords around the country — sometimes with financial incentives — to give its drivers the ability to unlock apartment-building doors themselves with a mobile device.
The service, dubbed Key for Business, is pitched as a way to cut down on stolen packages by making it easy to leave them in lobbies and not outside. Amazon benefits because it enables delivery workers to make their rounds faster. And fewer stolen packages reduce costs and could give Amazon an edge over competitors.
Those who have installed the device say it reduces the constant buzzing by delivery people and is a safer alternative to giving out codes to scores of delivery people.
Death rates soar in Southeast Asia as virus wave spreads
Indonesia has converted nearly its entire oxygen production to medical use just to meet the demand from COVID-19 patients struggling to breathe. Overflowing hospitals in Malaysia had to resort to treating patients on the floor. And in Myanmar’s largest city, graveyard workers have been laboring day and night to keep up with the grim demand for new cremations and burials.
Images of bodies burning in open-air pyres during the peak of the pandemic in India horrified the world in May, but in the last two weeks the three Southeast Asian nations have now all surpassed India’s peak per capita death rate as a new coronavirus wave, fueled by the virulent delta variant, tightens its grip on the region.
The deaths have followed record numbers of new cases being reported in countries across the region which have left health care systems struggling to cope and governments scrambling to implement new restrictions to try to slow the spread.
AP-NORC poll: Parties split on some infrastructure proposals
The overwhelming majority of Americans -- about 8 in 10 -- favor plans to increase funding for roads, bridges and ports and for pipes that supply drinking water. But that’s about as far as Democrats and Republicans intersect on infrastructure, according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
President Joe Biden has bet that his handshake with a group of Republican senators can help power a $973 billion infrastructure deal through Congress, while Democrats would separately take up a $3.5 trillion proposal that could include money for child tax credits, schools, health care and other priorities. The dual-track approach has produced plenty of drama and uncertainty in Washington as negotiations continue, and those divisions seem to extend to the public at large.
Tokyo new virus cases near 2,000 a day before Olympics open
Tokyo hit another six-month high in new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, one day before the Olympics begin, as worries grow of a worsening of infections during the Games.
Thursday’s 1,979 new cases are the highest since 2,044 were recorded on Jan. 15.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is determined to hold the Olympics, placed Tokyo under a state of emergency on July 12, but daily cases have sharply increased since then.
Olympic scandals march on long after torch goes out
From doping to demonstrations to dirty officials, the Olympics have never lacked their share of off-the-field scandals and controversies that keep the Games in the headlines long after the torch goes out. The five-year gap since the last Summer Olympics has been no different. A brief look at some of the most notable news to hit the Olympic world since it last convened for the Summer Games:
SEX ABUSE — Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse of hundreds of gymnasts in the U.S. opened a window into an abusive culture that permeates throughout the sport and in all corners of the globe. Since Rio de Janeiro, the U.S. Center for SafeSport opened to investigate complaints about abuse in sports. It took the decision-making process of these cases out of the hands of organizations such as USA Gymnastics, which for years had been forced to pit members (gymnasts) against members (coaches) when abuse allegations arose. Other abuse allegations in taekwondo, water polo and figure skating were among those that came to light in the United States, and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee rewrote its own bylaws to, in part, prioritize the mental and physical well-being of its athletes instead of the chase for Olympic medals.
Al Jazeera News
‘Just the beginning’: US imposes new sanctions on Cuba
The United States imposed sanctions on a senior Cuban security official and an interior ministry brigade following a crackdown on anti-government protests earlier this month, the US Treasury Department announced Thursday.
The move marks the first concrete steps by President Joe Biden’s administration to apply pressure on the Cuban government as the United States faces calls from US lawmakers and the Cuban-American community to show greater support for the protesters.
“This is just the beginning,” Biden said in a statement. “The United States will continue to sanction individuals responsible for oppression of the Cuban people.”
Iran opens oil terminal to bypass strategic Strait of Hormuz
Outgoing President Hassan Rouhani has said Iran opened its first oil terminal in the Gulf of Oman, a move that will allow it to avoid using the Strait of Hormuz shipping route that has been a focus of regional tension for decades.
“This is a strategic move and an important step for Iran. It will secure the continuation of our oil exports,” Rouhani said in a televised speech on Thursday.
The new terminal is located near Jask port on the Gulf of Oman, just south of the Strait of Hormuz, allowing ships headed into the Arabian Sea and beyond to avoid the narrow route. Iran’s main oil export terminal is located at the port of Kharg inside the Strait of Hormuz, a waterway less than 40 kilometres (25 miles) across at its narrowest point.
Violence overshadows memorial service for slain Haitian president
A priest told mourners at a memorial service Thursday for slain President Jovenel Moise that too much blood is being shed in Haiti as authorities warned of more violence before his funeral.
The Reverend Jean-Gilles Sem spoke to dozens of people wearing white T-shirts emblazoned with Moise’s picture.
“The killings and kidnappings should stop,” he said, noting that poor communities are the most affected. “We’re tired.”
The mass at the cathedral in the northern coastal city of Cap-Haitien was about half-full as officials warned other events planned for later in the day could be cancelled amid concerns about violence.
Israel to reimpose COVID health pass as Delta variant hits
Israel has announced plans to allow only people who are deemed immune to COVID-19 or have recently tested negative to enter some public spaces such as restaurants, gyms and synagogues after a surge in coronavirus cases.
The government had removed most coronavirus restrictions after a rapid vaccination drive that pushed down infections and deaths.
The easing of restrictions included dropping a “Green Pass” programme that had allowed only people who had been vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19 to enter some public spaces.
But some measures have already been reinstated, including wearing protective masks indoors and tighter entry requirements for incoming travellers, because of the rapid spread of the more infectious Delta variant of the coronavirus.
More than 200 migrants scale fence into Spain’s Melilla enclave
More than 200 migrants and refugees have crossed into Spain’s North African enclave of Melilla after climbing the high fence that separates it from Morocco, according to local authorities.
In total, more than 300 migrants attempted to scale the six-metre (20 foot) barrier early on Thursday morning, the authorities said in a statement.
The 238 who made it into the territory were all men.
Three police officers were slightly injured when they tried to stop them from making the crossing, the statement added.
US House passes bill to provide 8,000 special visas for Afghans
The United States House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to authorize 8,000 additional special visas for Afghans who served the US during the occupation of Afghanistan now coming to an end after 20 years.
The bill, which now goes to the US Senate, would expand special visa eligibility to families of Afghans who were killed working for the US and for employees of non-governmental organizations.
The Taliban is threatening to take over Afghanistan after US and NATO forces leave at the end of August and have won battlefield advances across half the country, seizing local districts and key border crossings amid slow peace talks.
Stop Child Hunger Act Wins Backing Of Broad Coalition Of Groups
Hunger and food insecurity didn't disappear among 22 million children nationally who are struggling to get enough to eat; emergency pandemic benefits just put a Band-aid on the problem.
That's why 344 national, state and local groups are asking Congress to permanently extend the summer Electronic Benefits Transfer program for all children eligible to receive free and reduced-price school meals.
The letter urging Congress to pass the $25 billion Stop Child Hunger Act was signed by a broad coalition of more than three dozen education, hunger-relief and children's advocacy groups
In-Person School Led to COVID-19 Spread In Ohio: Study
In-person education contributed to spikes in COVID-19 cases across Ohio in 2020, according to a new study from the University of Pennsylvania and Carnegie Mellon University.
Remote education policies helped to stymie the spread of the virus in many Ohio counties, leading to fewer cases and fewer deaths than counties where schools predominantly used in-person learning, the study said.
In Ohio, 16 counties pursued primarily in-person learning in fall 2020, while 11 counties had online-only classes, and 59 counties implemented hybrid models. Two Ohio counties did not provide data to researchers. Researchers examined the chosen education method along with COVID-19 deaths in all of Ohio's 88 counties.
'Cancer Warrior' Wished For Backyard Oasis, Firefighters Step In
Four-year-old "cancer warrior" Lukas Voelz had one wish for the Make-A-Wish Foundation: to have a backyard oasis like the ones in the Animal Planet series "Insane Pools: Off the Deep End."
The foundation was only able to fulfill part of the wish by providing the Voelz family with a swimming pool in their backyard. So to top it off, firefighters from the Bolingbrook Fire Department that are part of the IAFF Local 3005 are building a deck for the family, completing the oasis.
"It's just so nice," said Nicole Voelz, Lukas's mom. "Lukas sits outside, and he was watching [the firefighters work] on Tuesday, and he was so excited. ... They work so hard and they're such good people, and they're great role models for all these kids around. They just have great hearts."
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