Recovery workers pledge to press forward in condo collapse
Rescue workers now focused on finding remains instead of survivors in the rubble of a Florida condominium collapse paused briefly atop the pile Thursday to mark the two-week anniversary of the disaster but said they had no plans to pull back during the recovery effort.
The death toll rose to 60, with another 80 people unaccounted for, Miami Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said at a news conference Thursday. Detectives are still working to verify that each of those listed as missing was actually in the building when it collapsed. Meanwhile, rescue workers who have been at the site for two weeks are dedicated to the task of recovering as many victims as possible, Levine Cava said.
“The work continues with all speed and urgency,” she said. “We are working around the clock to recover victims and to bring closure to the families as fast as we possibly can.”
Biden says US war in Afghanistan will end August 31
President Joe Biden on Thursday said the U.S. military mission in Afghanistan will conclude on Aug. 31, saying “speed is safety” as the United States seeks to end the nearly 20-year war.
“We did not go to Afghanistan to nation build,” Biden said in a speech to update his administration’s ongoing efforts to wind down the U.S. war. “Afghan leaders have to come together and drive toward a future.”
Biden also amplified the justification of his decision to end U.S. military operations even as the Taliban make rapid advances in significant swaths of the country. The administration in recent days has repeatedly sought to frame ending the conflict as a decision that Biden made after concluding it’s an “unwinnable war” and one that “does not have a military solution.”
Zaila Avant-garde breezes to National Spelling Bee win
Whether dribbling a basketball or identifying obscure Latin or Greek roots, Zaila Avant-garde doesn’t show much stress.
The 14-year-old from Harvey, Louisiana, breezed to the championship at the Scripps National Spelling Bee on Thursday night, becoming the first African American winner and only the second Black champion in the bee’s 96-year history.
Zaila has described spelling as a side hobby, although she routinely practiced for seven hours a day. She is a basketball prodigy who hopes to play some day in the WNBA and holds three Guinness world records for dribbling multiple balls simultaneously.
Zaila twirled and leaped with excitement after spelling the winning word, “murraya,” a genus of tropical Asiatic and Australian trees.
2 Haitian Americans detained in slaying of Haiti president
Two men believed to be Haitian Americans — one of them purportedly a former bodyguard at the Canadian Embassy in Port au Prince — have been arrested in connection with the assassination of Haiti’s president, a senior Haitian official said Thursday.
Mathias Pierre, Haiti’s minister of elections, told The Associated Press that James Solages was among six people arrested in the brazen killing of President Jovenel Moise by gunmen at his home in the pre-dawn hours Wednesday.
Seven other suspected assailants were killed in a gunfight with police, according to Haiti’s director of National Police Léon Charles.
Avenatti sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison for extortion
A chastened Michael Avenatti, the brash lawyer who once represented Stormy Daniels in lawsuits against President Donald Trump, was sentenced Thursday to 2 1/2 years in prison for trying to extort up to $25 million from Nike by threatening the company with bad publicity.
Avenatti, 50, rose to prominence by sparring publicly with Trump, but criminal fraud charges on two coasts disrupted his rapid ascent. He was convicted last year of attempted extortion and other charges in connection with his representation of a Los Angeles youth basketball league organizer who was upset that Nike had ended its league sponsorship.
U.S. District Judge Paul G. Gardephe called Avenatti’s conduct “outrageous,” saying he “hijacked his client’s claims, and he used those claims to further his own agenda, which was to extort millions of dollars from Nike for himself.”
FDA trims use of contentious Alzheimer’s drug amid backlash
A month after approving a controversial new Alzheimer’s drug, U.S. health regulators on Thursday signed off on new prescribing instructions that are likely to limit its use.
The Food and Drug Administration said the change is intended to address confusion among physicians and patients about who should get the drug, which has faced an intense public backlash since its approval last month.
The new drug label emphasizes that the drug, Aduhelm, is appropriate for patients with mild symptoms or early-stage Alzheimer’s but has not been studied in patients with more advanced disease. That’s a big change from the original FDA instructions, which said simply that the drug was approved for Alzheimer’s disease in general.
Families fostering migrant kids offer what shelters cannot
Chris Umphlett and his family worked in small ways to help the 12-year-old girl from Honduras — who barely uttered a word when she arrived after crossing the Mexican border alone — feel comfortable in their Michigan home.
The couple and their four young children who live in the city of East Lansing invited her on walks and bike rides, and watched Disney movies with Spanish subtitles. A Honduran woman from their church made a home-cooked Honduran meal of meat and red beans and tres leches cake, which got a smile.
“I imagine her first introduction to the U.S. was probably not super friendly, was probably confusing,” said Umphlett, 37, who works for a software company. “We tried to give her a better experience.”
With fans back, ballpark workers enjoy chance to return
A suite attendant at the Miami Marlins’ home ballpark, Lisa Eckstein had a chance to reconnect with a familiar face when she returned to work this season.
“I have a guest I’ve taken care of for 18 years,” she said. “Their initial reaction was to come and hug me because we’re like family — and then we’re doing the elbow thing.”
It would be premature to say the scene at major league ballparks has completely returned to normal, but there’s no question this season has been a step in that direction — perhaps most crucially for the people who work there. With fans back in the stands and concessions being sold, ballpark employees had a chance to return after the pandemic hit many of them hard.
Purdue Pharma exit plan gains steam with OK from more states
OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma’s plan to reorganize into a new entity that helps combat the U.S. opioid epidemic got a big boost as 15 states that had previously opposed the new business model now support it.
The agreement from multiple state attorneys general, including those who had most aggressively opposed Purdue’s original settlement proposal, was disclosed late Wednesday night in a filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in White Plains, N.Y. It followed weeks of intense mediations that resulted in changes to Purdue’s original exit plan.
The new settlement terms call for Purdue to make tens of millions of internal documents public, a step several attorneys general, including those for Massachusetts and New York, had demanded as a way to hold the company accountable.
Johnson confirms most British troops have left Afghanistan
Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed Thursday that most British troops have left Afghanistan, almost 20 years after the U.K. and other Western countries sent troops into the country to engage in what they described as a “war on terror.”
Johnson stressed that the threat posed by al-Qaida to the U.K. has substantially diminished, but he sidestepped questions about whether the hasty military exodus by his country and its NATO allies risks undoing the work of nearly two decades or leaves Afghanistan vulnerable to the Taliban, who have made rapid advances in many northern districts.
The prime minister declined to give details about the troop withdrawal, citing security reasons. But he said that “all British troops assigned to NATO’s mission in Afghanistan are now returning home,” adding that “most of our personnel have already left.”
Fighter jets scramble, interrupt leaders in Lithuania
A news conference at a NATO air base in Lithuania featuring Lithuania’s president and Spain’s prime minister got abruptly cut off Thursday when the pair of Spanish fighter jets serving as the leaders’ backdrop were scrambled to monitor errant military aircraft in the skies above the Baltics.
The Spanish government said an unidentified plane prompted the alert and briefly interrupted remarks by Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez. Spanish media reported that the plane was Russian, but the government’s statement didn’t specify.
A NATO official who spoke on customary condition of anonymity told The Associated Press later Thursday that Spain’s jets took off “to identify two aircraft flying into the Baltic Sea area.” The planes were two Russian Su-24 combat jets heading northeast, the official said.
Al Jazeers News
UNSC discusses Ethiopia dam amid strained ties with Egypt, Sudan
The United Nations Security Council tackled a bitter regional dispute on Thursday over a massive dam built by Ethiopia on the main tributary of the Nile River.
The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) is the source of an almost decade-long diplomatic standoff between Ethiopia and downstream nations Egypt and Sudan. Ethiopia says the project is essential to its development, but the governments in Cairo and Khartoum fear it could restrict their citizens’ water access.
Thursday’s open session comes after Egypt and Sudan turned to the 15-member body as Ethiopia began this week the second stage of filling GERD. The government in Addis Ababa insists the African Union (AU) should resume handling the talks.
Jordan, Israel agree to water deal; more West Bank trade
Israel and Jordan reached a deal on Thursday for the Jewish state to sell an unprecedented amount of water to the kingdom, while significantly boosting Jordanian exports to Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.
The agreements, concluded during a meeting between their foreign ministers, signaled improved relations with Israel’s new government following years of strained ties under former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Water resource cooperation has been a core issue between Israel and Jordan since a 1994 peace deal, but relations between the neighbours have frayed in recent years.
G-20 set to redefine world economic order post Trump, pandemic
Global finance chiefs this week will make their most concerted effort yet to redefine the world economic order in the era after Donald Trump and the coronavirus pandemic.
With trade tensions no longer bedevilling the Group of 20 economies in the way they did during the former US president’s tenure, the first in-person meeting of its finance ministers since the disease struck last year will attempt to forge consensus on unfinished business ranging from climate change to corporate taxation.
Alongside those issues, the July 9-10 gathering is likely to take stock of an incomplete global recovery, clouded by the persistent threat of setbacks from new variants of the coronavirus. That may focus minds on the need for continued fiscal efforts to support growth, amid mounting inflation concerns and oil prices that remain elevated following this week’s breakdown in OPEC+ talks.
Surging food prices fuel 40 percent jump in global hunger: UN
Acute food insecurity has soared 40 percent this year as recent food price hikes have exacerbated existing pressures from conflict, climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) said.
Defined as any lack of food that threatens lives, livelihoods or both, acute food insecurity is affecting, or is at high risk of affecting, a record 270 million people this year, the UN agency said.
“High food prices are hunger’s new best friend,” said WFP Chief Economist Arif Husain.
“We already have conflict, climate and COVID-19 working together. Now food prices have joined the deadly trio,” he added.
The Madrid barbershop helping young migrants build better futures
It is early afternoon and La Pelu de Maakum, or Maakum Barbershop, has just opened up in Spain’s Madrid region.
Reggaeton music plays from the speakers, the air conditioning is on full blast and Mohamed Elhkchin, a 17-year-old from Morocco, sweeps the floor.
It could be a scene from any barbershop in Getafe, a town of 180,000.
But a closer look suggests this is a more unique place.
The sign for the bathroom is in Arabic, poster art calls for “culture today, future tomorrow” and a display case features T-shirts with the logo of Maakum Ceuta Association, a not-for-profit that helps migrant children and young people who arrive alone in Spain.
Space eye: Hubble trouble continues as Webb telescope moves ahead
NASA’s next great eye in the sky, the golden-mirrored James Webb Space Telescope, passed a key review this week, bringing it one step closer to launching in November and observing new parts of the cosmos for scientists here on Earth.
That’s good news for the United States’ space agency, which has spent the last several weeks trying to troubleshoot issues with its current window on the universe, the Hubble Space Telescope.
The storied telescope that has revolutionised our understanding of the cosmos for more than three decades is experiencing a technical glitch. According to NASA, the Hubble Space Telescope’s payload computer, which operates the spacecraft’s scientific instruments, went down suddenly on June 13.
'Armed And Dangerous' Inmates Escape From Illinois Jail
A massive manhunt is underway after four inmates, considered to be "armed and dangerous," escaped from Fulton County Jail Wednesday night. Residents are advised to lock their homes and cars in the wake of the escape. The jail is in Lewistown, Illinois, about 40 miles from Peoria.
Police say they found one inmate missing from a cell block late Wednesday and, "upon further investigation," discovered three more inmates had escaped. The convicted felons had all been charged with weapons offenses, with at least one having been charged with home invasion.
Residents should notify police immediately if they see these inmates. "Under no circumstances should they be approached," police advise.
New COVID-19 Cases In FL Increase 42 Percent In 1 Week: Report
With 15,684 COVID-19 cases reported in the last seven days, Florida is seeing a surge in new coronavirus cases, according to a USA Today analysis of data reported by Johns Hopkins University on Tuesday.
That represents a 42 percent increase in new cases over the previous week, reports said.
This also brings Florida's total number of COVID-19 cases to 2.38 million since the start of the pandemic, according to Johns Hopkins. The state has also seen nearly 38,000 deaths from the virus since March 2020.
The new case positivity rate was 5.2 percent between June 25 and July 1, according to the Florida Department of Health's COVID-19 Weekly Situation Report. The state switched to weekly rather than daily COVID-19 reports in early June.
Texas Republicans revive voting restriction bills to begin special session
The Texas Legislature began a special session Thursday morning that Republicans are promising will allow them to enact new restrictive voting rules intended to prevent fraud.
As they began a session that's expected to last a month, Republicans filed a pair of bills, House Bill 3 and Senate Bill 1. The bills are similar to one Democrats blocked in May when they staged a late-night walkout that forced the Legislature to adjourn before the measures could pass. Democrats said they did so because the bill would have resulted in voter suppression, particularly of voters of color and disabled voters.
The House and Senate versions filed Thursday are similar. Both would require that voters have identification for mail voting and would ban drive-thru and overnight options for early voting. Harris County, a heavily minority and liberal area of the state, embraced those expanded early voting options during the 2020 general election.
Gov. Newsom asks Californians to cut water use, expands emergency as drought worsens
California Gov. Gavin Newsom called on residents Thursday to voluntarily cut back on their water consumption by 15 percent as the state dives further into drought and temperatures continue to soar past seasonal averages.
Newsom, a Democrat who faces a recall election in September, expanded a regional drought state of emergency to 50 of California's 58 counties, home to about 42 percent of the population.
Large counties like Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco are not included in the emergency proclamation.
"We're hopeful that people will take that mindset they brought into the last drought and extend that forward with a 15 percent voluntary reduction, not only on residences but industrial commercial operations and agricultural operations," Newsom told reporters in San Luis Obispo County.
Metal fencing fortifying Capitol complex set to come down Friday
When Senate lawmakers return next week from recess, the 7-foot-tall, black, metal fencing that served as one reminder of the horrors that took place there on Jan. 6 is slated to be gone.
The Capitol Police Board, the oversight body supervising security on Capitol Hill, has approved plans to begin removing the remaining temporary fencing around the Capitol on Friday, according to a memo sent to House offices and obtained by ABC News.
"Based on USCP’s assessment of the current threat environment and USCP’s enhanced coordination with District of Columbia, neighboring state and federal law enforcement partners, the Board supports USCP’s recommendation to remove the temporary fencing around Capitol Square," said a memo from House Sergeant at Arms William Walker sent to Congressional offices and obtained by ABC News.