As Tokyo Olympics approach, virus worries rise in Japan
TOKYO (AP) — The pressure of hosting an Olympics during a still-active pandemic is beginning to show in Japan.
The games begin July 23, with organizers determined they will go on, even with a reduced number of spectators or possibly none at all. While Japan has made remarkable progress to vaccinate its population against COVID-19, the drive is losing steam because of supply shortages.
With tens of thousands of visitors coming to a country that is only 13.8 percent fully vaccinated, gaps in border controls have emerged, highlighted by the discovery of infections among the newly arrived team from Uganda, with positive tests for the highly contagious delta variant.
As cases grow in Tokyo, so have fears that the games will spread the virus.
"We must stay on high alert," Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told reporters on July 1. Noting the rising caseloads, he said "having no spectators is a possibility."
Storm threat hangs over renewed search at Florida condo site
SURFSIDE, Fla. (AP) — A ramped-up rescue effort at the collapsed South Florida condo building faced new threats from the weather as a tropical storm approached the state.
On Monday, lightning forced crews to pause the search for victims of the June 24 collapse in Surfside and a garage area in the rubble filled with water, officials said.
The latest forecasts showed Tropical Storm Elsa moving westward, mostly sparing South Florida, but the area near the collapsed building experienced thunderstorms, and another day of unsettled weather was expected.
The delays frustrated rescue crews, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said.
"Truly they live to save lives, and they've pushed ahead no matter what is thrown in their way," she said at an evening news conference.
Hunt for Capitol attackers still on 6 months after Jan. 6
The first waves of arrests in the deadly siege at the U.S. Capitol focused on the easy targets. Dozens in the pro-Trump mob openly bragged about their actions on Jan. 6 on social media and were captured in shocking footage broadcast live by national news outlets.
But six months after the insurrection, the Justice Department is still hunting for scores of rioters, even as the first of more than 500 people already arrested have pleaded guilty. The struggle reflects the massive scale of the investigation and the grueling work still ahead for authorities in the face of an increasing effort by some Republican lawmakers to rewrite what happened that day.
Among those who still haven't been caught: the person who planted two pipe bombs outside the offices of the Republican and Democratic national committees the night before the melee, as well as many people accused of attacks on law enforcement officers or violence and threats against journalists. The FBI website seeking information about those involved in the Capitol violence includes more than 900 pictures of roughly 300 people labeled "unidentified."
Part of the problem is that authorities made very few arrests on Jan. 6. They were focused instead on clearing the building of members of the massive mob that attacked police, damaged historic property and combed the halls for lawmakers they threatened to kill. Federal investigators are forced to go back and hunt down participants.
The FBI has since received countless tips and pieces of digital media from the public. But a tip is only the first step of a painstaking process — involving things like search warrants and interviews — to confirm people's identities and their presence at the insurrection in order to bring a case in court. And authorities have no record of many of the attackers because this was their first run-in with the law.
9 arrested over alleged plot to plant bombs around Hong Kong
HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong police on Tuesday said they arrested nine people on suspicion of engaging in terrorist activity, after uncovering an attempt to make explosives and plant bombs across the city.
The arrests come amid a political divisive time in Hong Kong, two years after months of massive pro-democracy protests rocked the semiautonomous Chinese city. The arrests come a year after Beijing imposed a harsh new security law on the former British colony.
Of the nine arrested, six are secondary school students. The group were attempting to make the explosive triacetone triperoxide (TATP) in a homemade laboratory in a hostel, police said.
They planned to use the TATP to bomb courts, cross-harbor tunnels, railways and even planned to put some of these explosives in trash bins on the street "to maximize damage caused to the society," police said.
The nine arrested are five men and four women between 15 and 39 years old, according to Senior Superintendent Li Kwai-wah of the Hong Kong Police National Security Department.
In Myanmar, the military and police declare war on medics
JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — The clandestine clinic was under fire, and the medics inside were in tears.
Hidden away in a Myanmar monastery, this safe haven had sprung up for those injured while protesting the military's overthrow of the government. But now security forces had discovered its location.
A bullet struck a young man in the throat as he defended the door, and the medical staff tried frantically to stop the hemorrhaging. The floor was slick with blood.
In Myanmar, the military has declared war on health care — and on doctors themselves, who were early and fierce opponents of the takeover in February. Security forces are arresting, attacking and killing medical workers, dubbing them enemies of the state. With medics driven underground amid a global pandemic, the country's already fragile healthcare system is crumbling.
After troops exit, safety of US Embassy in Kabul top concern
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — As the end to America's "forever war" rapidly approaches, the U.S. Embassy and other diplomatic missions in Kabul are watching a worsening security situation and looking at how to respond.
In the countryside, districts are falling to the Taliban in rapid succession. America's warlord allies are re-arming their militias, which have a violent history, raising the specter of another civil war once the U.S. withdrawal is finished, expected in August.
A U.S. Embassy spokesperson told The Associated Press that security assessments are frequent these days. Speaking on condition of anonymity in line with briefing rules, she said the embassy is currently down to 1,400 U.S. citizens and about 4,000 staff working inside the compound the size of a small town.
A well-fortified town, that is. Besides its own formidable security, the embassy lies inside Kabul's Green Zone, where entire neighborhoods have been closed off and giant blast walls line streets closed to outside traffic. Afghan security forces guard the barricades into the district, which also houses the Presidential Palace, other embassies and senior government officials.
The only route out is Kabul's Hamid Karzai International Airport, currently protected by U.S. and Turkish troops. Before America can declare its war over, the security of the airport will have to be settled. Ankara is in talks with Washington, the United Nations and the Afghan government to decide who will protect the airport and who will foot the bill.
Plane with 28 on board missing in Russian Far East region
MOSCOW (AP) — A plane with 28 people on board went missing in the Russian Far East region of Kamchatka on Tuesday, local officials said.
An Antonov An-26 plane with 22 passengers and six crew members, flying from the city of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky to the town of Palana, missed a scheduled communication, local emergency officials said. The plane also disappeared from radar, the local transport ministry.
The plane belonged to a company called Kamchatka Aviation Enterprise. The plane has been in operation since 1982, Russian state news agency Tass reported. The company's director, Alexei Khabarov, told the Interfax news agency that the plane was technically sound.
An investigation has been launched, and a search mission is underway. Media reports have suggested the plane may have crashed into the sea, but there has been no official confirmation of that yet. Two helicopters and an airplane have been deployed to inspect the missing plane's route, local officials said.
The state RIA Novosti news agency reported that several ships have also been searching for the plane. The town of Palana is located on the coast of the Okhotsk Sea.
Israel blocks law that keeps out Palestinian spouses
JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel's parliament early on Tuesday failed to renew a law that bars Arab citizens from extending citizenship or residency rights to spouses from the occupied West Bank and Gaza, in a tight vote that raised doubts about the viability of the country's new coalition government.
The 59-59 vote, which came after an all-night session of the Knesset, marked a major setback for Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.
The new Israeli leader, who had hoped to find a compromise between his hard-line Yamina party and the dovish factions in his disparate coalition, instead suffered a stinging defeat in a vote he reportedly described as a referendum on the new government. The vote means the law is now set to expire at midnight Tuesday.
The Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law was enacted as a temporary measure in 2003, at the height of the second intifada, or uprising, when Palestinians launched scores of deadly attacks inside Israel. Proponents said Palestinians from the occupied West Bank and Gaza were susceptible to recruitment by armed groups and that security vetting alone was insufficient.
Under it, Arab citizens, who comprise a fifth of Israel's population, have had few if any avenues for bringing spouses from the West Bank and Gaza into Israel. Critics, including many left-wing and Arab lawmakers, say it's a racist measure aimed at restricting the growth of Israel's Arab minority, while supporters say it's needed for security purposes and to preserve Israel's Jewish character.
Tropical Storm Elsa, back over water, takes aim at Florida
HAVANA (AP) — The conditions in southern Florida have begun to deteriorate as Tropical Storm Elsa took aim at the Florida Keys early Tuesday, prompting a hurricane watch for portions of the west coast of state, according to the National Hurricane Center.
In addition to damaging winds and heavy rains, the Miami-based center said the peninsula was in danger of life-threatening storm surges, flooding and isolated tornadoes. A hurricane watch was issued for the west-central and Big Bend coast of Florida from Egmont Key to the Steinhatchee River.
Three to 5 inches of rainfall with localized maximum totals of up to 8 inches of rain are expected through Wednesday across the Keys and into southwest and western portions of the Florida Peninsula. A few tornadoes are possible across south Florida Tuesday morning and across the Florida Peninsula later in the day, the center forecasted.
Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday expanded an existing state of emergency to cover a dozen counties that span an area of Florida where Elsa is expected to make a swift passage on Wednesday and President Joe Biden approved an Emergency Declaration for the state ahead of the storm.
A ramped-up rescue effort at the collapsed South Florida condo building faced new threats from the weather as the tropical storm approached the state. On Monday, lightning forced crews to pause the search for victims of the June 24 collapse in Surfside and a garage area in the rubble filled with water, officials said.
Building collapse lawsuits seek to get answers, assign blame
Even as the search continues over a week later for signs of life in the mangled debris of the fallen Champlain Towers South, the process of seeking answers about why it happened and who is to blame is already underway in Florida's legal system.
Authorities have opened criminal and civil investigations into the collapse of the oceanfront condominium building, which left at least 28 confirmed dead and more than 117 unaccounted for. Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle pledged to bring the matter soon before grand jurors, who could recommend criminal charges or simply investigate the cause to suggest reforms.
And at least five lawsuits have been filed on behalf of residents who survived or are feared dead. One lawyer involved in the litigation said the collapse raises widespread concerns about infrastructure issues and the trust we put in those responsible for them.
"We deserve to be able to walk into buildings without worrying that they're going to come crumbling around us and to know that our loved ones can go to bed at night without worrying that they're going to plummet 12 stories to the ground below in their sleep," said Jeffrey Goodman, whose Philadelphia-based firm filed suit on behalf of the children of missing resident Harold Rosenberg.
The lawsuits filed to date accuse the Champlain Towers South Condominium Association, and in some cases a local architect and engineer, of negligence for failing to address serious structural problems noted as far back as 2018. A Surfside town building inspector had also been part of the discussions, and Goodman's firm has given notice of plans to add the town as a defendant.