After another war, displaced in Gaza face familiar plight

BEIT HANOUN, Gaza Strip (AP) — It took Ramez al-Masri three years to rebuild his home after it was destroyed in a 2014 Israeli offensive. When war returned to the area last week, it took just a few seconds for the house to be flattened again in an Israeli airstrike.

The despondent al-Masri once again finds himself among the thousands of Gazans left homeless by another war between Israel and the territory's Islamic militant Hamas rulers. He and the 16 others who lived in the two-story structure are scattered at relatives' homes, uncertain how long they will remain displaced as they wait with hope for international aid to help them rebuild the home.

"My children are scattered — two there, three here, one there. Things are really very difficult," he said. "We live in death every day as long as there is an occupation," he said, referring to Israel's rule over Palestinians, including its blockade of Gaza.

The United Nations estimates that about 1,000 homes were destroyed in the 11-day war that ended last Friday. Lynn Hastings, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for the region, said hundreds of additional housing units were damaged so badly they are likely uninhabitable.

The destruction is less extensive than in the 50-day war of 2014, in which entire neighborhoods were reduced to rubble and 141,000 homes were either wiped out or damaged. 


A little US city, battered by the virus, tells its stories

CENTRAL FALLS, R.I. (AP) — The beleaguered people of Central Falls moved quickly through the high school gym's injection stations and then to rest on dozens of metal folding chairs, borrowed from the Knights of Columbus.

Immunity was at hand, but no one was celebrating.

Central Falls — the poorest and smallest city in the nation's smallest state — is also among the hardest hit by COVID-19. Sorrow reaches across the city: The dead husband. The mother who came from Guatemala in search of a better life, only to die in a new land. The Polish priest who buried parishioner after parishioner.

The city has endured repeated waves of illness, with rates of confirmed cases that often dwarfed cities across New England.


India virus death toll passes 300,000, 3rd highest in world

NEW DELHI (AP) — India crossed another grim milestone Monday of more than 300,000 people lost to the coronavirus as a devastating surge of infections appeared to be easing in big cities but was swamping the poorer countryside.

The milestone, as recorded by India's health ministry, comes as slowed vaccine deliveries have marred the country's fight against the pandemic, forcing many to miss their shots, and a rare but fatal fungal infection affecting COVID-19 patients has worried doctors.

India's death toll is the third-highest reported in the world after the U.S. and Brazil, accounting for 8.6 percent of the nearly 34.7 million coronavirus fatalities globally, though the true numbers are thought to be significantly greater.

The health ministry on Monday reported 4,454 new death in the last 24 hours, bringing India's total fatalities to 303,720. It also reported 222,315 new infections, which raised the overall total to nearly 27 million. Both are almost certainly undercounts.

From the remote Himalayan villages in the north, through the vast humid central plains and to the sandy beaches in the south, the pandemic has swamped India's underfunded health care system after spreading fast across the country.


EU calls for probe after plane diverted to arrest journalist

BRUSSELS (AP) — Western leaders decried the diversion of a plane to Belarus in order to arrest an opposition journalist as an act of piracy and terrorism. The European Union and others on Monday demanded an investigation into the dramatic forced landing of the Ryanair jet, which was traveling between of the bloc's two member nations.

The airline said Belarusian flight controllers told the crew there was a bomb threat against the plane as it was crossing through the country's airspace and ordered it to land in the capital of Minsk. A Belarusian MiG-29 fighter jet was scrambled to escort the plane.

Raman Pratasevich, who ran a popular messaging app that played a key role in helping organize massive protests against Belarus' authoritarian president, was on board and he and his Russian girlfriend were led off the plane shortly after landing. The plane, which began its journey in Athens, Greece, was eventually allowed to continue on to Vilnius, Lithuania.

Western leaders forcefully condemned the move.

A group of the chairs of the foreign affairs committees of several Western countries' legislative bodies called it an act of piracy. 


Italy probes cable car crash as lone child survivor recovers

STRESA, Italy (AP) — Italy's transport minister vowed Monday to establish the cause of a cable car disaster that killed 14 people, after the lead cable apparently snapped and the cabin careened back down the mountain until it came off the line and crashed to the ground.

The lone survivor of Sunday's horrific incident, a 5-year-old Israeli boy living in Italy, remained hospitalized in Turin on Monday with multiple broken bones. 

The Israeli foreign ministry identified him as Eitan Biran. His parents, younger brother and two great-grandparents were among the dead, the ministry said, correcting an earlier statement that had included Eitan among the victims. 

Italian media identified all the other victims as residents of Italy.

The disaster, in one of the most picturesque spots in northern Italy — the Mottarone mountaintop overlooking Lake Maggiore and other lakes near Switzerland — raised questions anew about the quality and safety of Italy's transport infrastructure.


George Floyd's family holds rally, march in brother's memory

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Members of George Floyd's family, and others who lost loved ones to police encounters, joined activists and citizens in Minneapolis on Sunday for a march that was one of several events planned nationwide to mark the one-year anniversary of Floyd's death.

Hundreds of people gathered for the rally in front of the courthouse in downtown Minneapolis where the Chauvin trial concluded a month ago, many carrying signs with pictures of Floyd, Philando Castile and other Black men killed by police. 

Amid chants of "no justice, no peace!" and "Say his name," Gov. Tim Walz, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter watched alongside a dozen of Floyd's family members as speakers called for justice for families of Black men slain by police.

"It has been a long year. It has been a painful year," Floyd's sister Bridgett told the crowd on Sunday. "It has been very frustrating for me and my family for our lives to change in the blink of an eye — I still don't know why."

Tuesday will mark one year since Floyd, who was Black, died after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin held his knee on Floyd's neck as Floyd pleaded for air. Chauvin, who is white, has since been convicted of murder and manslaughter for Floyd's death, which sparked worldwide protests and calls for change in policing in the U.S.


On a mission to heal after exposing her dad to deadly virus

SHARON, Mass. (AP) — For a year, Michelle Pepe awoke every day, recited the Kaddish, the mourner's prayer, and kissed a photo of her father. And coped with her guilt.

"'Dad," she says, "I'm so sorry that this happened."

"This" was COVID-19. In March 2020, just as the pandemic bloomed in the United States, Pepe traveled from Boston to Florida for her mother's 80th birthday. She believes she gave the coronavirus to her father; Bernie Rubin died weeks later.

"At the beginning, people would say, 'Well, how did he get it?' From me. That's how he got it — he got it from me," Pepe says, sobbing.

"Nobody's ever said, 'This is your fault and you gave it to him,' but I know it's true. I know I couldn't save him. It's just something I'm going to have to go to the grave with."


Japan opens mass vaccine centers 2 months before Olympics

TOKYO (AP) — Japan mobilized military doctors and nurses to give shots to elderly people in Tokyo and Osaka on Monday as the government desperately tries to accelerate its vaccination rollout and curb coronavirus infections just two months before hosting the Olympics.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is determined to hold the Olympics in Tokyo after a one-year delay and has made an ambitious pledge to finish vaccinating the country's 36 million elderly people by the end of July, despite skepticism it's possible. Worries about public safety while many Japanese remain unvaccinated have prompted growing protests and calls for canceling the games, set to start on July 23. 

Suga's government has repeatedly expanded the area and duration of a largely voluntary request-based virus state of emergency since late April and has made its virus-fighting measures stricter. Currently, Tokyo and nine other areas that are home to 40% of the country's population are under the emergency and a further extension is deemed unavoidable. 

With COVID-19 cases still high, Suga now says vaccines are key to getting infections under control. He has not made vaccinations conditional for holding the Olympics and has arranged for Pfizer to donate its vaccine for athletes through the International Olympic Committee, while trying to speed up Japan's inoculation drive as anti-Olympic sentiment grows.

Suga, speaking to reporters after a brief visit to the Tokyo center, said accelerating the vaccine rollout is an "unprecedented challenge." 


As Congress returns to funding earmarks, who will benefit?

HUFFMAN, Texas (AP) — Don't tell Laura Fields that providing $1.7 million to her flood-prone neighborhood would be wasteful spending. Her home in a Houston-area subdivision was filled with 10 inches (25 centimeters) of water during Hurricane Harvey.

"The stress of that was just horrific," Fields said. "You know, to see fish swimming through your house, it's not a good feeling," 

The money sought by her congressman, Republican Rep. Dan Crenshaw, to improve drainage and flood prevention in Huffman, Texas, is among thousands of requests that lawmakers have submitted as Congress begins to lift a moratorium on targeted federal spending, often referred to as earmarks.

Banished from Congress for over a decade, earmarks are marking a sudden and robust return. Lawmakers in both parties have grown frustrated by their inability to shape spending legislation and worry that Congress has ceded too much of the power of the purse to the executive branch. Aiming to avoid scandal, lawmakers have revamped and renamed the process. 

The experiment could rise or fall on the reaction from voters, particularly in places skeptical of Washington spending. Many Republicans in Congress are refusing to earmark as a matter of principle, characterizing it as graft. Crenshaw said in a statement that he was "proud" to advocate for resources that would help his constituents and that the flood control earmark "will ensure that we don't have to spend even more resources recovering from future flood events."


One more thrill: Phil Mickelson wins at 50 in raucous PGA

KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. (AP) — Standing on the 18th tee with a two-shot lead in a championship he refused to imagine himself winning, Phil Mickelson took one last violent swing with a driver — the club that betrayed him 15 years earlier in the U.S. Open.

His tee shot Sunday in the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island landed only a few yards off the fairway, but it still nestled among the people — the gallery packed tightly between the ropes and a row of hospitality tents — screaming the name of their aging hero.

After Mickelson's approach shot settled on the green, assuring the 50-year-old of becoming the oldest major champion in history, the crowd swallowed him up entirely.

Phil Mickelson, the people's champion.

"It's an incredible experience. I've never had something like that," Mickelson said. "It was a little bit unnerving, but it was exceptionally awesome, too."

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