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What we know about those missing in the Miami condo building collapse

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SURFSIDE, Fla. — Loved ones of the almost 160 people who are unaccounted for continue to wait for news after a 12-story condominium building collapsed Thursday just north of Miami.

As of Friday, 159 people were still unaccounted for, authorities said. At least four people are dead.

Relatives issued a statement identifying one of the deceased as Stacie Fang. Her son, Jonah Handler, was rescued from the rubble hours after the collapse.

News of the condo collapse has reverberated globally as missing residents have roots around the world. Among them are Orthodox Jews from Russia, Argentine Americans and the sister of Paraguay’s first lady.

As of late Thursday, 20% of the people unaccounted for in the wake of the building’s collapse were South Americans, and news of the collapse was on the front page of news organization websites across the hemisphere.

‘We still have hope’: At least 4 dead, 159 unaccounted for in Florida building collapse

Before and after look: Champlain Towers South, the Florida building that partially collapsed

Crews in hardhats and rescue dogs scavenged through piles of concrete, maneuvering around personal belongings left among the wreckage, including televisions, computers and chairs. A children’s bunk bed perched precariously on a top floor. Two cranes removed debris as crashing glass and metal fell from their claws.

At a reunification center, families arranged chairs into semi-circles to wait. The semi circles grew as new family members made it pass the yellow police tape in search of relatives.

Here’s what we know about those who are missing:

Jewish community members

About 20 Jewish people are among the missing, including some with Israeli citizenship, Maor Elbaz-Starinsky, Consul General of Israel in Miami, told USA TODAY.

A rescue team of Orthodox Jews, called Hatzalah, joined law enforcement officers at the scene in Surfside, which has a large Jewish and Israeli population.

The local Jewish community from a nearby synagogue brought lunch for families of the missing and injured. Dozens and dozens of pizza boxes sat on tables alongside large aluminum trays filled with falafel, cucumber and tomato salad and red cabbage salad.

No families had filed any missing person reports with the consulate Thursday, but Israel offered rescue teams to help with recovery efforts, Elbaz-Starinsky said.

The University of Chicago sent a message to students and faculty confirming that Ilan Naibryf, a rising fourth-year physics and molecular engineering student, is among the individuals missing. Naibryf is also president of the university’s Chabad Student Board, according to an Instagram post being shared among students.

The post asked people to pray for Naibryf and his girlfriend Deborah Berezdivin. “They are dear friends, gems whom we love dearly,” the post said.

The Shul Jewish Community Center posted a sign offering meals, phone chargers, blankets and clothes. They asked people to reach out if they need a place for Shabbat dinner Friday evening.

Argentine American community

Surfside has also long been an enclave for the Argentine American community. Nine Argentines were missing as of Thursday afternoon, the country’s Miami consulate said on Twitter.

La Capital in Rosario, Argentina, reported that two Argentinian actors, Gimena Accardi and Nicolás Vázquez, were staying in the building but were able to escape to safety.

Silvana Juárez, 49, of Argentina, lives near the condo building and told USA TODAY that three of her good friends and a young child were missing.

Also among the missing are married couple Andres Galfrascoli and Fabian Nuñez and their 6-year-old daughter, Sofia, who had spent Wednesday night at the apartment of a friend, Nicolas Fernandez. Galfrascoli is a Buenos Aires plastic surgeon and Nuñez a theater producer and accountant.

“Of all days, they chose the worst to stay there,” Fernandez said. “I hope it’s not the case, but if they die like this, that would be so unfair.”

Researchers say: Collapsed Miami condo had been sinking into Earth as early as the 1990s

Relatives of the first lady of Paraguay

Six Paraguayans are unaccounted for, according to the country’s foreign ministry. Among them are relatives of the first lady of Paraguay, Leticia Robertti, a spokesperson for the Consul General of Paraguay in Miami, told USA TODAY.

They included the sister of the first lady, Sofia Lopez Moreira Bó, her sister’s husband, Luis Pettengill, and their three children and nanny, Lady Luna Villalba.

President Mario Abdo announced he had canceled activities for Thursday and Friday to be with his wife. The first lady is planning to travel to Miami on Friday night, Gilmer Moreira, press director of Paraguay’s presidential palace, said.

‘I have no hope’: Loved ones await news, survivors flee after condo building partially collapses near Miami

Among the missing: A doctor, teacher, yoga instructor

As of Friday morning, family, friends and colleagues hadn’t heard from Dr. Brad Cohen, a 51-year-old orthopedic surgeon. Colleagues at Cohen’s medical practice, Aventura Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine, held out hope.

“We have people looking out in the hospitals and anywhere he might be,” receptionist Joselyne Cheramy said. “We’re clueless.”

“His phone is not picking up,” Khafizov’s realtor, Tatiana Asailov, said through tears, adding Cohen has a “very attached” daughter who is around 12 years old.

Asailov knows the condo like the back of her hand. “To me, his master bedroom where he would sleep is located right at the end, and I still hope that that room is still there,” Asailov said. “I look at the broken building and I hope.”

Pablo Rodriguez, 40, a Miami native, said his 64-year-old mother and 88-year-old grandmother lived in the wing that collapsed. He last spoke to his mom Wednesday when they chatted about weekend plans.

His grandmother’s 89th birthday is next month. Rodriguez was planning to surprise her with brunch at a nice restaurant.

“I came to the center, but I have no hope,” Rodriguez said in tears on Thursday.

The American Red Cross set up a reunification site for family and friends near the site of the partial building collapse of a 12-story condominium early Thursday, June 24, 2021 in Surfside, Fla.About 70 people crammed into a room with chairs and blue gym mats on the floor.

Arnie Notkin, a retired Miami-area elementary school physical education teacher, and his wife, Myriam, are also among the missing. Fortuna Smukler, a friend, described them as joyful people and said Notkin always had a story to tell.

“Originally there were rumors that he had been found, but it was a case of mistaken identity,” Notkin said. “It would be a miracle if they’re found alive.”

Ashley Dean rushed to South Florida from New Orleans after receiving a frantic call from her sister’s husband. Dean’s sister, Cassondra Stratton, a yoga instructor, was missing.

“We’re just holding out hope,” Dean said.

Also among the missing

  • Judith Spiegel, 65, is one of scores of residents still missing. Her husband, Kevin Spiegel, was in California on a business trip when woke in the middle of the night Thursday to an email alert from his Surfside condo saying the building had partially collapsed. He promptly called his daughter, Rachel, to drive to the building and look for Judith – Rachel’s mother – who was still inside. Rachel spent the entire day at the scene of the ruined building and the family reunification area, where she waited anxiously for news. “At the end of the day they asked me to do a DNA sample,” Spiegel said in a phone interview. “So it’s tough. It’s tough.”

  • Julio Cesar Velasquez, 67, and Angela Maria Velasquez, 60, lived in the building for nearly a decade, their son, David Velasquez, told the Washington Post. Angela owns a small men’s clothing shop called Fiorelli, the newspaper reported. Pilar Martinez, 52, a friend of the family, told the newspaper the couple arrived in the U.S. from Colombia in their teens. “She’s an icon there in Weston,” Martinez said. “Everybody knows who she is and that store.” The couple’s daughter, Theresa Velasquez, an executive at the entertainment company Live Nation, was visiting her parents and is also missing, the newspaper reported.

  • Edgar Gonzalez, 45, is an attorney who was in his unit with his wife and daughter, who were both rescued and are in stable condition after surgery, the Washington Post reported.

  • Marina Azen, 77, lived in the building for 20 years and suffered from asthma, the Washington Post reported.

  • Anaely Guara, 41, Guara’s husband, Marcos, 55, and their daughters, who are 4 and 11 years old could not be found by relative Betsy Gonzalez, the Washington Post reported. Gonzalez told the newspaper Anaely was born in Cuba and came to the U.S. as a teenager before she met Marcos, who worked in hotels.

  • Claudio Bonnefoy, a cousin of former Chilean President and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet’s father is among the missing, CNN Chile reported. His wife, Maria Bonnefoy, is also missing.

  • Vishal Patel, his wife Bhavna Patel, and their 1-year-old daughter Aishani Patel are missing, their niece Sarina Patel told CNN. She added that Bhavna Patel is four months pregnant.

  • Four Venezuelans who were studying in Gainesville, Florida are missing, América TeVé reported. Their names are Moisés Rodán, 28; Andrés Levine, 27 years old; Luis Sadovnic, 28, and Nicole Langesfeld, the station reported.

  • Luis Fernando Barth, 51, was visiting from Colombia with his wife, Catalina Gomez, 44, and their 14-year-old daughter, Valeria Barth, according to the Miami Herald and New York Daily News.

  • Alfredo Leone and his son Lorenzo Leone were residents of unit 513, WPLG Local 10 reported.

  • Married couple Bonnie and David Epstein were on the ninth floor, WPLG Local 10 reported.

  • Members of the Shul, including Nancy Kress Levin, Jay Kleinman, Frankie Kleinman, Arie Leib, Yisorel Tzvi Yosef and Tzvi Doniel, were among those missing, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported.

  • Family of Sophia Lopez, who traveled to Florida from Uruguay, was been unable to contact her, WPLG Local 10 reported.

  • Friends say they have been unable to contact Luis Alberto Pettengill, Sophia Maria Margarita Pettengill and their children Anna Sophia, 6, Alexia Maria, 9, and Luis Vincente, WPLG Local 10 reported.

  • Mercy Urgelles, a pharmacy director, and her husband, Ray Urgelles, have not been found, WPLG Local 10 reported.

  • Magally Delgado, 80, was living on the ninth floor when the building collapsed, WPLG Local 10 reported.

  • Linda March, an attorney, recently moved back from New York to Surfside before the collapse, WPLG Local 10 reported.

  • Harry Rosenberg was visiting his daughter, Malky Weiss, and her husband, Bennie Weiss, friends told WPLG Local 10. All of them are missing, the station reported.

  • Family and friends are searching for Michael Altman, according to a family statement sent to WPLG Local 10.

  • Oresme Gil Guerra and Betty Guerra lived on the 9th floor, WPLG Local 10 reported.

  • Leon Oliwkowicz, 79, and Christina Elvira Oliwkowicz, 74, have not been found, their daughter told WPLG Local 10.

  • Gabriella Cattarossi and daughter, Estella, are missing, along with Cattarossi’s elderly parents, a friend told WPLG Local 10.

  • Luis Andres Bermudez and Ana Ortiz are missing, family told WPLG Local 10. Bermudez’s cousin told the station that Bermudez has muscular dystrophy and can’t walk.

  • Nicole and Ruslan Manashirov moved into the apartment just two months ago after they got married, WPLG Local 10 reported.

  • Simon Segal lived on the 11th floor, WPLG Local 10 reported.

  • Rosi Maza-Saez didn’t live at the building but was staying there overnight, loved ones told WPLG Local 10.

  • Richard Augustine and Elaine Sabino are missing, WPLG Local 10 reported.

  • Maria Rovirosa and her husband, Ricky, are missing, NBC Miami reported.

  • Ana Mora lived on the 10th floor with her husband, Juan, NBC Miami reported.

  • A friend of Estelle Hedaya has not been able to contact her, the New York Daily News reported.

  • Ruslan Manshirov and Nicole Doran-Manshirov lived on the seventh floor, NBC Miami reported.

Contributing: Thomas J. Weber, Fresh Take Florida; Adam Regan, The News-Press/Naples Daily News; Nada Hassanein and Mary Claire Malloy, USA TODAY; Antonio Fins, Palm Beach Post; The Associated Press.

Contact News Now Reporter Christine Fernando at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter at @christinetfern.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: List of missing people in Florida building collapse: Who are they?





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Where have all the workers gone?

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The boss of Youngs Transportation says a lack of HGV drivers is made worse by a shortage to driver training test slots.

It’s not often that economies face the disruption we’ve endured in the last year, and none of us should be surprised that it’s taking the labour market a while to settle down.

But some are wondering whether Covid is triggering an historic rebalancing of power between the bosses and the workers.

No-one in their right mind would compare Covid to the Black Death, which wiped out enough of the workforce in the 14th Century for peasant labour to be in short supply, with the result that farm wages rose by several tens of percent over the following years. Covid has certainly not disrupted employment in anything so direct a fashion.

But pandemics can accelerate social and economic change. In particular, in the last year, Covid has prompted many foreign workers in the UK to return home to sit things out. We can’t be sure all will choose to come back.

Anna Janczuk, the founder of a large Polish community organisation in Ealing, west London, told me that most of her close friends had moved back to Poland: “What they value is the close contact with their family. They re-evaluated their choices and priorities.”

Add Brexit into the equation, and the old assumption that companies can just hire extra people from Eastern Europe to fill any gaps can no longer be taken for granted.

Jobs in surburbia

Anecdotally, Covid has also led to more than a few people to think about what matters to them and to retire early or to leave employment to start a business of their own. Economic “inactivity” has risen during the pandemic, as data from the Office for National Statistics highlights.

These are all developments that make life harder for employers, who would thus expect to pay more to find the workers they need – not just for the pandemic, nor for the pingdemic, but for ever after.

Minouche Shafik

Economist Minouche Shafik says furlough kept people in existing jobs, stalling moves to the jobs of the future.

James Reed, chairman of Reed, one of the UK’s biggest recruitment sites, told Radio 4’s PM programme that pay for jobs in hospitality and catering had gone up 18% on the jobs advertised on their sites, and 14% for all jobs paying £25,000 or less.

No wonder people have suggested that in a post-Brexit, post-Covid world, worker power is back.

However, there is another theory as to what has been going on: that we are simply in a temporary post-pandemic rut, and normal service will resume before long. On this account, we haven’t yet recovered from the spanner that Covid has thrown in the everyday workings of our labour market.

The argument goes like this: the pandemic has pulled the rug from certain kinds of activity, while pumping up demand elsewhere. It has switched demand for retail jobs to online shopping and delivery for example; it’s taken jobs from city centre sandwich shops and put them in to the suburbs where you find people working from home.

According to Baroness Minouche Shafik, former deputy governor of the Bank of England, this was evidence of a K-shaped recovery.

“Some sectors are growing fast and need to employ people – other sectors are in decline and are probably not going to rehire the people that they might have shed during the pandemic”, she said. “Furlough kept people in their current jobs as opposed to enabling people to move to where the jobs would be in future.”

Historic pivot?

While unusually large changes have occurred in working patterns, it’s easy to believe that furlough has put the labour market in suspended animation for much of the last year. The normal cogs that turn dying jobs into new ones have been thrown into a sticky syrup that has slowed everything down.

In an ordinary year, you might expect about one in ten workers to change jobs, with much more moving for the under-30s.

Who knows how many people who might have moved, felt it was better in 2020 to sit tight in a job – even on only 80% of normal pay in the Job Retention Scheme – than risking it and moving on elsewhere?

Mleczko Polish supermarket, South Ealing

London’s big Polish community spurred the opening food shops – but many people returned home during the pandemic.

If this account is right, it implies there will be shortages in the growing sectors, who can’t get the staff, while workers bide their time before moving on.

Right now, I think it does make sense to assume this is what is happening: Unless there is a large permanent change to migration, we are simply in the pains of a pandemic exit right now, rather than an historic pivot towards labour.

The example of Covid disruption that struck me most, was on visiting haulage firm Youngs Transportation and Logistics, at Purfleet, Essex, where I spoke to director Rob Hollyman about the shortage of HGV drivers.

He told me there have long been shortages of drivers. But right now, while it takes as little as two weeks to train, there is a Covid-caused backlog of test slots. So even if someone wanted to get the licence, they’d have to wait.

We might still find there is a permanent fall-out from the pandemic – there may even be a change in the political climate around pay and conditions.

But all we know now is that it is a bumpy old time out there while workers and employers find their feet.



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Arizona GOP’s ballot count ends, troubles persist

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PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona Republicans’ partisan review of the 2020 election results got off to a rocky start when their contractors broke rules for counting ballots and election experts warned the work was dangerous for democracy.

When the auditors stopped the counting and returned the ballots this week, it hadn’t gotten better. In the last week alone, the only audit leader with substantial election experience was locked out of the building, went on the radio to say he was quitting, then reversed course hours later. The review’s Twitter accounts were suspended for breaking the rules. A conservative Republican senator withdrew her support, calling the process “botched.” And the lead auditor confirmed what was long suspected: that his work was almost entirely paid for by supporters of Donald Trump who were active in the former president’s movement to spread false narratives of fraud.

All this came nearly 100 days into a process that was supposed to take “about 60 days,” according to the Senate Republicans who launched it. And it’s not over yet. Contractors are now producing a report on the findings that could take weeks or more to write.

The turmoil casts even more doubt on the conclusions of what backers describe as a “forensic audit” but what experts and critics say is a deeply flawed, partisan process.

“Not even a shred of being salvaged at this point,” said Sen. Paul Boyer, the first Republican state senator to publicly come out against the audit in May. “They’ve botched it at so many points along the way that it’s irrecoverable.”

Boyer’s opposition became less lonely last weekend when another Republican, Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, one of the Legislature’s strongest advocates for stricter voting laws, agreed that “the Trump audit” was “botched.” Along with all 14 Democrats, a majority of the Senate, which commissioned the audit, is now against it.

“I wanted to review our election processes and see what, if anything, could be improved,” Ugenti-Rita wrote on Twitter. “Sadly, it’s now become clear that the audit has been botched.”

The review includes a hand count of ballots, the analysis of voter data and a review of ballot-counting machines. It’s being led by Cyber Ninjas, a software security consultant with no election experience before Trump began trying to overturn the 2020 results. Its owner, Doug Logan, has supported the movement to spread false conspiracies about the vote count in battleground states.

On Wednesday night, Logan ended months of silence about who was paying him when he said a whopping $5.7 million had been contributed by political groups run by prominent Trump supporters including Michael Flynn, Sidney Powell, Patrick Byrne and correspondents from One America News Network. The figure dwarfs the $150,000 to be paid by the Senate.

Logan has said he was approaching the review objectively and his own views are irrelevant. Still, Logan appeared in “The Deep Rig,” a conspiratorial film claiming the election was stolen from Trump. The filmmakers were given access to restricted areas of the ballot-counting operation, including the secure area where ballots were stored.

The review’s integrity took another hit when former Secretary of State Ken Bennett, a Republican whose experience in elections lent credibility to the operation, found himself locked out of the building where the audit was underway because he’d given outside election experts data without authorization, he said.

Bennett told a conservative talk-radio host that he was quitting because he was expected to rubber-stamp the findings. Later the same day, he said he was not quitting after all. Senate President Karen Fann, a Republican, agreed Bennett “will have full access to all audit work spaces, procedures, and data.”

When the Cyber Ninjas’ hand count of ballots didn’t match the county’s official tally, a third count was ordered, this time using paper-counting machines to tally the number of ballots but not the winning candidates. The findings have not been released.

Meanwhile, the timeline for a final report, most recently expected in late July, has continued slipping.

Supporters of the effort blame stonewalling by Maricopa County. The county’s Republican leaders refuse to cooperate, saying “competent auditors” have everything they would need to fully review the vote count.

“It is unfortunate that the county has been recalcitrant,” Republican Sen. Warren Petersen, chair of the Judiciary Committee that issued subpoenas, said recently. “That doesn’t breed trust. It slows things down. It makes things difficult.”

Twitter this week suspended audit-related accounts, including the Arizona review’s official account and several others seeking similar reviews in other states. A Twitter spokesperson said the accounts were suspended “for violating the Twitter rules on platform manipulation and spam.”

The U.S. Justice Department has weighed in, warning any state that is looking to conduct an Arizona-style review that they will need to follow federal law that requires officials to retain and preserve election records, including ballot and ballot materials, for 22 months.

Earlier, Justice Department officials had alerted Arizona officials of the federal requirement. At this point, the Justice Department has not taken any public action beyond the letter. A Justice Department spokesperson this week declined to comment further.

“It’s being purported as though this effort is going to build confidence in our elections, when we know that that is not the motivation behind any of this,” said Tammy Patrick, a senior adviser at the Democracy Fund and a former Maricopa County elections official. “Because if that was the case, then they would tell the truth.”

The operation got off to a rocky start on day one. A journalist pointed out that workers were using blue pens in violation of a fundamental rule of election administration. Blue and black pens are strictly prohibited near ballots because those are the colors voters are told to use, creating the potential for workers to manipulate the count.

Days later, a former Republican state lawmaker who lost his reelection bid — and who would have been a Trump elector to the Electoral College had Trump won — was among the workers counting ballots. The auditors chased conspiracy theories, for a time shining ultraviolet lights to look for watermarks on ballots and taking high-resolution photographs to look for evidence, such as bamboo fibers in the paper, that fraudulent ballots from Asia were slipped into the stack.

“The audit process and its eventual results may be utilized to undermine popular confidence in our electoral system nationwide, thereby enabling the disenfranchisement of millions of Americans,” said Ralph Neas, a civil rights attorney and advocate who wrote a report on the audit’s flaws for The Century Foundation. “These are existential threats to our democracy and they have to be stopped in their tracks.”

___

Associated Press writer Christina A. Cassidy in Atlanta contributed to this report.



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At Tokyo Games beach volleyball, anything but business as usual

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TOKYO — “Love Rollercoaster” was blaring from the speakers at Shiokaze Park, but for American beach volleyball players Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil, it was another ride on the rollercoaster of weirdness as they took on a tough Brazilian team on a stiflingly hot Saturday morning.

Team USA’s youngest-ever beach volleyball team was able to dispatch Ana Patricia Silva Ramos and Rebecca Cavalcanti Barbossa Silva in three sets to win their third straight victory in the Tokyo Olympics and stay in medal contention.

But Tokyo is under a state of emergency because of a rise in Covid-19 cases, so there was only a smattering of applause when it was over. Most of the 12,000 seats were empty.

“Yes,” they answered in unison when asked if they find it jarring to compete to an audience of empty seats.

“We’ve gotten kind of used to it, but it’s still weird,” Claes, her skin glazed with sweat and sand, said after the match. “You can’t feed off their energy, so we have to feed off our energy.”

What’s worse, Sponsil said, is they can’t really cut loose and celebrate. They’re only allowed to spend two hours a day together because Claes, 25, is in quarantine until Sunday.

Image: Rebecca Silva, Ana Patricia Silva Ramos, Sarah Sponcil, Kelly Claes (Petros Giannakouris / AP)

Why? Because on the flight over to Japan Claes sat near a passenger who tested positive for Covid.

“We’re used to literally being joined at the hip, so that’s hard,” said Sponsil, 24.

Getting into the venue requires passing through a gantlet of security.

Reporters arriving to cover the competition had their temperatures checked not once but twice and had to empty their pockets as they passed through security. Those who brought drinks had to open the bottles and take a sip.

“You must drink,” a smiling but insistent security guard said.

And they had to take the empty bottles with them when they left, because for security reasons, the garbage and recycling cans were sealed with plastic wrap to prevent anybody from using them.

Inside the stadium, a very enthusiastic deejay was blasting a mix of disco, dance music and rock that would have revved up a crowd if there was one.

Some members of sand maintenance team, rakes in hand, were swaying and clapping along to the music. But not the small army of ushers and security guards who outnumbered the athletes and reporters — they were vigorously policing all the empty seats.

When a reporter dared leave his assigned seat for an empty seat in the shade, an usher quickly materialized and shooed him back.

Before Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga declared the state of emergency, fans were given a list of things they would not be allowed to do. One of them was cheering for the athletes because of fears that it could spread Covid.

That rule appeared to be in place on Saturday as the handful of Brazilians and Americans in the stands, mostly people traveling with the Olympic teams, largely refrained from outbursts, tthough, from time to time, there was some enthusiastic clapping by the Brazilians.

Image: Kelly Claes and USA's Sarah Sponcil (Loic Venance / AFP - Getty Images)

Image: Kelly Claes and USA’s Sarah Sponcil (Loic Venance / AFP – Getty Images)

Because of the high temperatures that have blanketed Tokyo through much of the Games, maintenance crews have been wetting down the sand at the beach volleyball venue after the competitors complained it was burning their feet.

But neither the Brazilians nor the Americans appeared to be bothered by the steamy conditions as they fought hard for every point.

“Woo,” a smiling Sponsil said after the match.

Claes wiped her brow when she emerged from the venue a few seconds later.

“We knew it was going to be a battle,” she said. “And it was.”



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Finger pointing starts after House fails to extend federal eviction ban

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Three U.S. agencies have extended federal foreclosure-related eviction moratoria in an effort to protect renters after the House failed to pass legislation that would extend the ban.

Driving the news: House Democratic leaders did not secure enough votes to pass the legislation on Friday, adjourning the chamber for a six-week recess the day before the ban is set to expire. As many as 15 million people could face evictions, per estimates from the Aspen Institute.

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State of play: Democrats were split on how far ahead the ban should be extended, with progressive members accusing more moderate colleagues of prioritizing vacation over evictees.

  • Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.), who has been evicted three times in the past, sent a letter to her colleagues on Friday begging for more empathy.

  • “I know firsthand the trauma and devastation that comes with the violence of being evicted, and we have a responsibility to do everything we can to prevent this trauma from being inflicted on our neighbors and communities,” Bush wrote.

  • Some lawmakers also criticized the Biden administration for waiting until the last minute to request action.

  • President Biden caught them by surprise on Thursday when he urged Congress to extend the ban, according to the Hill.

  • He said his administration would no longer have the authority to unilaterally make the extension after the Supreme Court ruled that it can’t be extended beyond July 31 without congressional approval.

  • “That left House Democratic leaders scrambling to round up enough votes in their own caucus, given the widespread opposition from Republicans to extending the moratorium again,” the Hill writes.

  • Worth noting: Even if House Democrats managed to pass the bill, Senate Republicans would’ve likely killed it.

What they’re saying: “Really, we only learned about this yesterday. Not really enough time to socialize it within our caucus to build … the consensus necessary,” Pelosi told reporters on Friday. “We’ve had beautiful conversations with our members … when it comes, though, to the technicalities of legislation, we just need more time.”

  • “There were obviously some concerns about landlords getting payments, as well as the renters,” said Majority Leader Steny Hoyer.

What’s happening now: After the House adjourned, the White House attempted to mitigate the situation.

  • The Agriculture Department, Housing and Urban Development, Veterans Affairs and the Federal Housing Finance Agency announced extensions on their own moratoria.

  • The agencies urged owners and operators of rental housing to access Emergency Rental Assistance resources to avoid evicting a tenant for failure to pay rent.

  • “Helping our fellow Americans, including our Veterans, keep their homes will go a long way in making sure that they have one less thing to worry about as they rebuild their lives coming out of this crisis and try to keep their loved ones safe,” the agencies said in a statement.

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Baltimore Aunt Drove Car for a Year With Kids Stuffed in Trunk: Cops

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Baltimore County Police Department

For about a year, a Baltimore woman allegedly drove a car with a gruesome secret: the dead body of her 7-year-old niece stashed in a suitcase in the trunk. Then in May she allegedly cracked the trunk’s lid to dump the body of her 5-year-old nephew beside it.

It wasn’t until months later that police discovered the decomposing bodies of siblings Joshlyn Marie James Johnson and Larry Darnell O’Neal.

Baltimore County Police said in a statement Thursday night that they were grieving over the “unspeakable deaths” after discovering the kids’ bodies when they pulled 33-year-old Nicole Johnson over in a traffic stop late Wednesday.

Police say the brother and sister, weighing just 21 and 18 pounds respectively, were likely malnourished before their death, WBAL reported. Their fragile bodies were brought to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner to determine a cause of death. Johnson was charged Friday in connection with neglect and abuse that caused the deaths.

Man Charged in Death of ‘Loving’ Toddler Poisoned With Cereal at Sleepover

“This truly was a devastating incident,” Chief Melissa Hyatt said on Friday afternoon, adding that it shocked the community and had a significant impact on the county’s patrol officers, forensic technicians, and detectives.

In charging documents obtained by local outlets, police allege Johnson told detectives that her sister, Dachelle Johnson, had asked her to look after the kids in 2019 when she was unable to care for them.

The documents allege Johnson said she had grown angry with Joshlyn more than a year ago, hitting her niece several times, resulting in the girl hitting her head. Johnson allegedly told police she put her niece’s body in a suitcase in her car in May 2020, where it has remained ever since.

She allegedly told police that Larry’s body was put in a bag alongside Joshlyn’s a year later, without providing details about how or when he died.

Johnson was charged with multiple counts of neglect and child abuse charges, as well as failing to report the deaths to authorities and unauthorized disposal of their bodies.

Summer Wells’ Mom Says She Fears Her Girl Was ‘Lured Away’

According to a probable cause statement obtained by the Baltimore Sun, Johnson was initially issued a citation to appear in court after cops noticed unauthorized tags and registration on her car, and found she had been driving without a license.

The car would be towed, an officer allegedly told Johnson.

It was then, the Sun reported, that Johnson told the officer: “It don’t matter, I won’t be here in five days.”

“Y’all going to see me on the news making my big debut,” she allegedly added.

The officer smelled the decomposing bodies while preparing the car to be towed, according to police documents. Johnson attempted to flee the scene when the officer opened the trunk and uncovered the first body in a suitcase before discovering a second in a plastic bag, the documents said. Johnson was then taken into custody.

One neighbor, Dani Medley, told WBAL that she hadn’t sensed anything was off.

“They always seemed happy. When the young lady dropped them off, they never seemed like something was wrong. They always seemed like happy kids with a lot of energy,” Medley said. “For someone who has been taking care of children for 20 some years, I can’t fathom, I couldn’t fathom.”

Police documents say Dachelle had repeatedly tried to reach her sister after leaving her son and daughter in their aunt’s care in 2019, but had been unsuccessful in finding them until she was told of their deaths, the Sun reported.

Baltimore police are still combing through the details of the case to determine what caused the kids to end up in their aunt’s trunk.

“Due to the nature of this case, it will take time to determine the exact circumstances that led to the children’s deaths,” Baltimore law enforcement said on Friday.

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Four vaccinated adults, two unvaccinated children test positive for COVID on Royal Caribbean ship

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Six passengers sailing on Royal Caribbean International’s Adventure of the Seas, which departed from Nassau Saturday, have tested positive for COVID-19, Lyan Sierra-Caro, spokesperson for Royal Caribbean, confirmed to USA TODAY Friday.

The tests came back as part of routine, end-of-cruise testing, which is offered as a courtesy by the cruise line since most passengers need to show proof of a negative test in order to return home. Travelers flying to the U.S. from international destinations are required to show proof of a negative COVID test or proof they recovered from the virus within the past three months.

“These guests were quarantined and then retested with a PCR test to confirm their diagnosis,” Sierra-Caro said. PCR and antigen tests were offered to passengers, depending on their destination. The tests that came back positive were rapid tests, and those passengers were retested Thursday or Friday with a PCR test, which is more reliable.

Not all passengers on board Adventure of the Seas have been notified of the COVID-19 cases on board. Close contacts, have been alerted and have been given a PCR test. Friday, the rest of the ship will be alerted through an announcement from the captain, according to Sierra-Caro.

The ship is currently docked in Freeport, Grand Bahama Island, where many passengers have disembarked for activities such as shore excursions. Typically, according to Sierra-Caro, an announcement like this will be made once passengers return to the ship before departing. The ship is scheduled to disembark in Nassau on Saturday, wrapping up a seven-night journey with stops at Royal Caribbean’s private island, Perfect Day at CocoCay, Cozumel, Mexico and Grand Bahama Island.

“Four of the guests, who are not traveling together, are vaccinated, three are asymptomatic and one has mild symptoms,” Royal Caribbean said in a statement provided by Sierra-Caro. “Two of the guests, who are in the same traveling party, are unvaccinated minors and asymptomatic.”

To sail on Adventure of the Seas, passengers 16 and older are required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and to receive a negative test before boarding. Children under 16 must test negative before boarding, too. All crew on board are fully vaccinated.

The passengers who tested positive and their close contacts were quarantined immediately upon receiving test results. The six passengers and their traveling parties will be flown home from Freeport, where the ship is docked, on Friday.

Sierra-Caro noted the passengers will be medically evacuated and taken door to door from ship to home via private transport to a private plane and then home. The transportation will come at no cost to the passengers.

The cruise line instructs COVID-positive passengers to quarantine for 14 days at home and to speak with their doctors.

For others on board the ship, the cruise will remain normal with no quarantining requirement. The ship is carrying 1,182 passengers and 900 crew members on board, including this reporter.

“Our security team has already done all of that and reached out to any close contacts who met that criteria,” Sierra-Caro said. All close contacts tested negative with PCR test results delivered Friday morning.

Royal Caribbean has not yet confirmed whether the cases are of the highly transmissible delta variant but is investigating further, according to Sierra-Caro.

COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective, but they’re not 100% effective. That means a small percentage of people who are fully vaccinated will still get COVID-19 if exposed to the virus that causes it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, vaccinated people who have breakthrough infections are much less likely to get severely sick or die.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Royal Caribbean cruise: 6 passengers sent home after COVID positive



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DeSantis signs onto Supreme Court brief supporting Mississippi effort to toss out Roe v. Wade

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis joined ten other Republican governors Thursday in asking the Supreme Court to essentially let states ban abortion and regulate it in ways not currently allowed, the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Why it matters: With the court’s newly-installed 6-3 conservative majority, this is the best chance Republicans have had in decades to take on abortion rights.

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What happened: The governors asked the court to reconsider its past decisions in 1973’s Roe v. Wade and 1992’s Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

  • Those cases established and reaffirmed the national constitutional right to an abortion, though Casey also made it easier for states to regulate abortion.

  • ​​The brief DeSantis signed onto was filed in support of a 2018 Mississippi law banning abortions after 15 weeks. Mississippi wants the court to overturn Roe and Casey.

  • Another brief filed by 228 congressional Republicans asked the same, writing that the rulings represent “a vise grip on abortion politics.”

The big picture: More abortion restrictions have been enacted across the U.S. this year than in any other, according to a new Guttmacher Institute report.

Local angle: Manatee County’s commissioner recently proposed a bill that would limit or ban abortions there, even though Manatee has no abortion facilities.

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