Claudette regains tropical storm strength after 13 deaths

ATLANTA (AP) — Claudette regained tropical storm status Monday morning as it neared the coast of the Carolinas less than two days after 13 people died — including eight children in a multi-vehicle crash — due to the effects of the storm in Alabama.

The children who died Saturday were in a van for a youth home for abused or neglected children. The vehicle erupted in flames in the wreck along a wet Interstate 65 about 35 miles (55 kilometers) south of Montgomery. Butler County Coroner Wayne Garlock said vehicles likely hydroplaned.

The crash also claimed the lives of two other people who were in a separate vehicle. Garlock identified them as 29-year-old Cody Fox and his 9-month-old daughter, Ariana; both of Marion County, Tennessee.

Multiple people were also injured.

Additionally, a 24-year-old man and a 3-year-old boy were also killed Saturday when a tree fell on their house just outside the Tuscaloosa city limits, said Capt. Jack Kennedy of the Tuscaloosa Violent Crimes Unit. Makayla Ross, a 23-year-old Fort Payne woman, died Saturday after her car ran off the road into a swollen creek, DeKalb County Deputy Coroner Chris Thacker told WHNT-TV.

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Iran's sole nuclear power plant undergoes emergency shutdown

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran's sole nuclear power plant has undergone an unexplained temporary emergency shutdown, the country's state TV reported.

An official from the state electric company Tavanir, Gholamali Rakhshanimehr, said on a talk show that aired on Sunday that the Bushehr plant shutdown began on Saturday and would last "for three to four days." Without elaborating, he said that power outages could result. 

This is the first time Iran has reported an emergency shutdown of the plant in the southern port city of Bushehr. It went online in 2011 with help from Russia. Iran is required to send spent fuel rods from the reactor back to Russia as a nuclear nonproliferation measure.

The report came as top diplomats said that further progress had been made at talks Sunday between Iran and global powers to try to restore a landmark 2015 agreement to contain Iranian nuclear development that was abandoned by the Trump administration. They said it was now up to the governments involved in the negotiations to make political decisions.

Earlier in the day, Tavanir released a statement saying that the Bushehr nuclear plant was being repaired, without offering further details. It said the repair work would take until Friday. 

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Biden and Congress face a summer grind to create legislation

WASHINGTON (AP) — Until recently, the act of governing seemed to happen at the speed of presidential tweets. But now President Joe Biden is settling in for what appears will be a long, summer slog of legislating.

Congress is hunkered down, the House and Senate grinding through a monthslong stretch, lawmakers trying to draft Biden's big infrastructure ideas into bills that could actually be signed into law. Perhaps not since the drafting of the Affordable Care Act more than a decade ago has Washington tried a legislative lift as heavy.

It's going to take a while.

"Passing legislation is not a made-for-TV movie," said Phil Schiliro, a former legislative affairs director at the Obama White House and veteran of congressional battles, including over the health care law. 

Biden appears comfortable in this space, embarked on an agenda in Congress that's rooted in his top legislative priority — the $4 trillion "build back better" investments now being shaped as his American Jobs and American Families plans. 

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Vaccine hesitancy puts India's gains against virus at risk

JAMSOTI, India (AP) — In Jamsoti, a village tucked deep inside India's most populous state of Uttar Pradesh, the common refrain among the villagers is that the coronavirus spreads only in cities. The deadly infection, they believe, does not exist in villages.

So when a team of health workers recently approached Manju Kol to get vaccinated, she locked up her house, gathered her children and ran to the nearby forest.

The family hid there for hours and returned only when the workers left in the evening.

"I would rather die than take the vaccine," said Kol.

A deadly surge of coronavirus infections that ripped through India in April and May, killing more than 180,000, has tapered off and new cases have declined. But the relief could be fleeting as a significant amount of the population is still reluctant to get the shots. This has alarmed health experts who say vaccine hesitancy, particularly in India's vast hinterlands, could put the country's fragile gains against COVID-19 at risk. 

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Ethiopia votes in greatest electoral test yet for Abiy

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — Ethiopia was voting Monday in the greatest electoral test yet for Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed as war and logistical issues meant ballots wouldn't be cast in more than 100 constituencies of the 547 across the country. 

The election, delayed from last year, is the centerpiece of a reform drive by Abiy, whose rise to power in 2018 seemed to signal a break with decades of authoritarian rule and led to him winning a Nobel Peace Prize the following year. He has described the poll as "the nation's first attempt at free and fair elections."

Long lines of voters were seen in some parts of the capital, Addis Ababa, while security was stepped up across Africa's second most populous country. Military vehicles were parked in key locations in the capital. More than 37 million Ethiopians were expected to vote.

"We need a government that brings us peace, unity and that will stop the killing everywhere, and we also need to be pulled out from these ethnic divisions," voter Desalgn Shume said. 

Abiy's ruling Prosperity Party, formed in 2019 by merging groups who made up the previous ruling coalition, is widely expected to cement its hold on power. The party that wins a majority of seats in the House of Peoples' Representatives will form the next government.

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Fear shakes Mexico border city after violence leaves 18 dead

CIUDAD VICTORIA, Mexico (AP) — Fear has invaded the Mexican border city of Reynosa after gunmen in vehicles killed 14 people, including taxis drivers, workers and a nursing student, and security forces responded with operations that left four suspects dead. 

While this city across the border from McAllen, Texas is used to cartel violence as a key trafficking point, the 14 victims in Saturday's attacks appeared to be what Tamaulipas Gov. Francisco García Cabeza de Vaca called "innocent citizens" rather than members of one gang killed by a rival. 

Local businessman Misael Chavarria Garza said many businesses closed early Saturday after the attacks and people were very scared as helicopters flew overhead. On Sunday, he said "the people were quiet as if nothing had happened, but with a feeling of anger because now crime has happened to innocent people." 

"It's not fair," said taxi driver Rene Guevara, adding that among the dead were two of his fellow taxi drivers whom he defended and said were not involved in crime.

The attacks took place in several neighborhoods in eastern Reynosa, according to the Tamaulipas state agency that coordinates security forces, and sparked a deployment of the military, National Guard and state police across the city. Images posted on social media showed bodies in the streets.

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Witness tells of horror as truck rams into Arizona bike race

PHOENIX (AP) — Bicyclist Tony Quinones had only just shaken hands with a fellow cyclist and wished him good luck in this weekend's community race in an Arizona mountain town when a truck sped into a crowd of bike riders. 

Suddenly, Quinones said in an interview Sunday, he was "watching bodies going on top of the hood, bodies going to the left, bodies going to the right" about six minutes after the race had started. 

The sounds of breaking and smashing as the truck plowed through the cyclists on Saturday was quickly replaced by their groans of pain — including those of the cyclist Quinones had just met.

Authorities in the small city of Show Low said the unidentified 35-year-old male suspect fled the crash scene in the pickup and was shot and wounded by officers a short time later. 

Of the seven cyclists hospitalized, six were in critical condition, and one was in stable condition on Sunday, police said in a statement. The suspect, described as a local resident, was in stable condition, police said.

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Tokyo Olympics to allow limit of 10,000 local fans in venues

TOKYO (AP) — The Tokyo Olympics will allow some local fans to attend when the games open in just over a month, organizing committee officials and the IOC said on Monday.

Organizers set a limit of 50 percent of capacity up to a maximum of 10,000 fans for all Olympic venues.

The decision was announced after so-called Five Party talks online with local organizers, the International Olympic Committee, the International Paralympic Committee, the Japanese government and the government of metropolitan Tokyo.

The decision contradicts the country's top medical adviser, Dr. Shigeru Omi, who recommended last week that the safest way to hold the Olympics would be without fans. He had previously called it "abnormal" to hold the Olympics during the pandemic.

The Tokyo Games are set to open on July 23.

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Paying fortifies ransomware gangs but scant support for bans

BOSTON (AP) — If your business falls victim to ransomware and you want simple advice on whether to pay the criminals, don't expect much help from the U.S. government. The answer is apt to be: It depends.

"It is the position of the U.S. government that we strongly discourage the payment of ransoms," Eric Goldstein, a top cybersecurity official in the Department of Homeland Security, told a congressional hearing last week. 

But paying carries no penalties and refusing would be almost suicidal for many companies, especially the small and medium-sized. Too many are unprepared. The consequences could also be dire for the nation itself. Recent high-profile extortive attacks led to runs on East Coast gas stations and threatened meat supplies. 

The dilemma has left public officials fumbling about how to respond. In an initial step, bipartisan legislation in the works would mandate immediate federal reporting of ransomware attacks to assist response, help identify the authors and even recuperate ransoms, as the FBI did with most of the $4.4 million that Colonial Pipeline recently paid. 

Without additional action soon, however, experts say ransoms will continue to skyrocket, financing better criminal intelligence-gathering and tools that only worsen the global crime wave.

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Inflation ahead? Even a top economist says it's complicated

WASHINGTON (AP) — Two months of sharply rising prices have raised concerns that record-high government financial aid and the Federal Reserve's ultra-low interest rate policies — when the economy is already surging — have elevated the risk of accelerating inflation.

In May, consumer prices rose 5 percent from a year earlier, the largest such year-over-year jump since 2008. 

Many economists see the recent spike as temporary. Others say they worry that higher consumer prices will persist. Jason Furman, a Harvard professor who was President Barack Obama's top economic adviser, thinks the reality is more complicated. He does, however, lean toward the higher-inflation-will-persist camp. 

Furman notes that while most economists expect inflation to slow from its current quickened pace, not all think it will fall back to the Fed's preferred level of 2 percent a year.

The Associated Press spoke recently with Furman about why higher inflation might prove only temporary, why it might persist and whether a little more inflation is all that bad. 

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