Belarus sprinter says punishment awaited her back home

MOSCOW (AP) — Belarusian Olympic sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, who plans to seek refuge in Europe after accusing team officials of trying to force her to leave the Tokyo Games early, said Tuesday that officials from her country "made it clear" she would face punishment if she returned home.

Tsimanouskaya, who had criticized the management of her team on social media, said officials hustled her to the airport and tried to put her on a plane back to Belarus, where the autocratic government has relentlessly stifled dissent and any criticism. She said she hopes to continue her career, but for now her safety remains a priority.

In the dramatic standoff, several countries offered her help, and Poland granted her a humanitarian visa Monday. She plans to fly to Warsaw later in the week, according to an activist group that is helping her.

"They made it clear that upon return home I would definitely face some form of punishment," the 24-year-old sprinter told The Associated Press in a videocall interview. "There were also thinly disguised hints that more would await me."

She added that she believed she would be kicked off of the national team. She hopes to be able to continue running once she has reached safety.

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Biles sticks landing in balance beam, wins Olympic bronze

TOKYO (AP) — Simone Biles stuck the landing.

The American gymnastics superstar won bronze during the balance beam final on Tuesday, a week after she took herself out of several competitions to focus on her mental health.

Biles earned her seventh career Olympic medal — tied with Shannon Miller for the most by an American in gymnastics — by drilling a slightly watered-down version of her usual routine in front of a crowd that included IOC President Thomas Bach.

Biles, using a double-pike dismount — no twisting required — posted a score of 14.000. That was good enough for bronze behind the Chinese duo of gold medalist Guan Chenchen (14.633) and Tang Xijing (14.233).

Olympic all-around champion Sunisa Lee of the United States finished fifth. The 18-year-old Lee won three medals in Tokyo, including silver in the team final and bronze on uneven bars.

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US hits 70 percent vaccination rate -- a month late, amid a surge

The U.S. on Monday finally reached President Joe Biden's goal of getting at least one COVID-19 shot into 70 percent of American adults -- a month late and amid a fierce surge by the delta variant that is swamping hospitals and leading to new mask rules and mandatory vaccinations around the country. 

In a major retreat in the Deep South, Louisiana ordered nearly everyone, vaccinated or not, to wear masks again in all indoor public settings, including schools and colleges. And other cities and states likewise moved to reinstate precautions to counter a crisis blamed on the fast-spreading variant and stubborn resistance to getting the vaccine.

"As quickly as we can discharge them they're coming in and they're coming in very sick. We started seeing entire families come down," lamented Dr. Sergio Segarra, chief medical officer of Baptist Hospital Miami. The Florida medical-center chain reported an increase of over 140 percent in the past two weeks in the number of people now hospitalized with the virus. 

Biden had set a vaccination goal of 70 percent by the Fourth of July. That figure was the low end of initial government estimates for what would be necessary to achieve herd immunity in the U.S. But that has been rendered insufficient by the highly contagious delta variant, which has enabled the virus to come storming back.

There was was no celebration at the White House on Monday, nor a setting of a new target, as the administration instead struggles to overcome skepticism and outright hostility to the vaccine, especially in the South and other rural and conservative areas.

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Clean, repeat: At Tokyo Games, virus is Olympians' chief foe

TOKYO (AP) — Holding each other tighter than lovers, the wrestlers smear each other with sweat, spittle and — when they inadvertently cut each other — sometimes blood. Lungs heaving, mouths agape, they huff and puff into each others' flushed faces. On their glistening bodies, it's impossible to tell their opponents' fluids and theirs apart. 

Underscoring the health risks of such proximity: They are the only people in the cavernous hall not wearing face masks. 

Watching Olympic wrestling in the midst of the pandemic of a deadly airborne disease feels like being part of a virological experiment, a real-life study of droplets, aerosols and fluid dispersion. 

A germophobe's nightmare, it's a messy spectacle best observed from the stands where volunteers hold signs reading "keep physical distance" for non-existent crowds, barred from the Tokyo Games because of surging coronavirus infections in the Olympic host country where less than one-third of the population is vaccinated.

But because wrestling is the most close-contact sport of the Olympics, it also speaks loudest of the all-out war against the virus that athletes have waged to get to Tokyo and, once here, continue to fight to stay free of infection and compete. 

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Bipartisan bill leaves out key climate, clean energy steps

WASHINGTON (AP) — The $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package unveiled by the Senate includes more than $150 billion to boost clean energy and promote "climate resilience" by making schools, ports and other structures better able to withstand extreme weather events such as storms and wildfires.

But the bill, headed for a Senate vote this week, falls far short of President Joe Biden's pledge to transform the nation's heavily fossil-fuel powered economy into a clean-burning one and stop climate-damaging emissions from U.S. power plants by 2035.

Notably, the deal omits mention of a Clean Electricity Standard, a key element of Biden's climate plan that would require the electric grid to replace fossil fuels with renewable sources such as solar, wind and hydropower.

Nor does it include a Civilian Climate Corps, a Biden favorite and a nod to the Great Depression-era New Deal that would put millions of Americans to work on conservation projects, renewable energy and helping communities recover from climate disasters.

The White House says the bipartisan deal is just the first step, with a proposed $3.5 trillion, Democratic-only package following close behind. The larger bill, still being developed in Congress, will meet Biden's promise to move the country toward carbon-free electricity, make America a global leader in electric vehicles and create millions of jobs in solar, wind and other clean-energy industries, supporters say.

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Landlords, tenants fill courts as eviction moratorium ends

PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island (AP) — Gabe Imondi, a 74-year-old landlord from Rhode Island, had come to court hoping to get his apartment back. He was tired of waiting for federal rental assistance and wondered aloud "what they're doing with that money?"

Hours later, Luis Vertentes, in a different case, was told by a judge he had three weeks to clear out of his one-bedroom apartment in nearby East Providence. The 43-year-old landscaper said he was four months behind on rent after being hospitalized for a time.

"I'm going to be homeless, all because of this pandemic," Vertentes said. "I feel helpless, like I can't do anything even though I work and I got a full-time job."

Scenes like this played out from North Carolina to Virginia to Ohio and beyond Monday as the eviction system, which saw a dramatic drop in cases before a federal moratorium expired over the weekend, rumbled back into action. Activists fear millions will be tossed onto the streets as the delta variant of the coronavirus surges.

The Biden administration allowed the federal moratorium to expire over the weekend and Congress was unable to extend it. 

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After Beirut blast, winning justice becomes a life's mission

BEIRUT (AP) — After the massive explosion at Beirut's port a year ago, only a small part of Ibrahim Hoteit's younger brother was identified: his scalp. Hoteit buried his brother — a large man, a firefighter, a martial arts champion — in a container the size of a shoebox.

Since then, Hoteit has sold his business, a perfume and accessories shop. He sleeps only a few hours a night. Black circles ring his eyes. 

One thing drives him now: winning justice for the victims of the Aug. 4, 2020, explosion that killed more than 214 people and punishing Lebanon's political elite, blamed for causing the disaster through their corruption and mismanagement.

"I don't see a minister or president or parliament speaker. I am seeing the person who killed my brother and others with him," said Hoteit, who says he gets anonymous threats. "This is what gives me strength. I see that I have nothing to lose." 

Hoteit and his wife, Hanan, have built an association of more than 100 families of those killed. They are waging a campaign of protests and rallies trying to shame, pressure and force politicians to allow the truth to come out. 

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China orders mass testing in Wuhan as COVID outbreak spreads

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese authorities announced Tuesday mass coronavirus testing in Wuhan as an unusually wide series of COVID-19 outbreaks reached the city where the disease was first detected in late 2019.

Wuhan, a provincial capital of 11 million people in central China, is the latest city to undergo city-wide testing. Three cases were confirmed there on Monday, its first non-imported cases in more than a year.

China has largely curbed COVID-19 at home after the initial outbreak that devastated Wuhan and over time spread to the rest of China and globally. Since then, authorities have tamped down and controlled the disease whenever it pops up with quick lockdowns and mass testing to isolate infected people. 

The current outbreaks, while still in the hundreds of cases in total, have spread much more widely than previous ones, reaching multiple provinces and cities including the capital, Beijing. Many of the cases have been identified as the highly contagious delta variant that is driving a resurgence in many countries.

The National Health Commission said Tuesday that 90 new cases had been confirmed the previous day, 61 locally spread ones and 29 among people who had recently arrived from abroad. 

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Rapid virus spread through Indonesia taxes health workers

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Irman Pahlepi is back at work in Jakarta's Dr. Suyoto public hospital, immediately resuming his duties treating COVID-19 patients after recovering from an infection himself — for the second time. 

With numbers of infections in Indonesia skyrocketing and deaths steadily climbing, health care workers are being depleted as the virus spares nobody, Pahlepi, 30, felt he had no option but to jump right back in.

"We have so many extra patients to treat compared to last year," he said. "The number of COVID-19 patients is four times higher now than during the previous highest spike in January." 

Indonesia, the world's fourth most populous country, had its deadliest day with 2,069 deaths from COVID-19 last Tuesday and fatalities remain high. As of Sunday, total official cases stood at more than 3.4 million with 97,291 deaths, though with poor testing and many people dying at home, the real figures are thought to be considerably higher. 

As the region grapples with a new coronavirus wave fueled by the delta variant, Indonesia's death rate hit a 7-day rolling average of 6.5 per million on Aug. 1, second only to Myanmar and far higher than India's peak rate of 3.04 that it hit in May during the worst of its outbreak. 

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Hubbard shy about making history as a transgender Olympian

TOKYO (AP) — Weightlifter Laurel Hubbard was never seeking the attention that inevitably came with becoming the first openly transgender woman to compete in the Olympics.

The 43-year-old was the focus of intense scrutiny at the Tokyo Games. Ultimately, she didn't win — Hubbard couldn't complete any of her first three lifts and finished out of contention for a medal.

But in the end, going home to New Zealand empty-handed was secondary to being authentic.

"All I've ever wanted to be is myself," she said. "I'm just so grateful that I've had the opportunity to come here and be me."

Hubbard, who was largely quiet in the run-up to the Olympics and during the competition except for statements released by the federation, is soft-spoken and intensely private. But as an athlete and competitor, the Olympic stage beckoned.

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