As global COVID-19 deaths top 4 million, a suicide in Peru

AREQUIPA, Peru (AP) — On the last day of Javier Vilca's life, his wife stood outside a hospital window with a teddy bear, red balloons and a box of chocolates to celebrate his birthday, and held up a giant, hand-scrawled sign that read: "Don't give up. You're the best man in the world."

Minutes later, Vilca, a 43-year-old struggling radio journalist who had battled depression, jumped four stories to his death — the fifth suicide by a COVID-19 patient at Peru's overwhelmed Honorio Delgado hospital since the pandemic began.

Vilca became yet another symbol of the despair caused by the coronavirus and the stark and seemingly growing inequities exposed by COVID-19 on its way to a worldwide death toll of 4 million, a milestone recorded Wednesday by Johns Hopkins University.

At the hospital where Vilca died on June 24, a single doctor and three nurses were frantically rushing to treat 80 patients in an overcrowded, makeshift ward while Vilca gasped for breath because of an acute shortage of bottled oxygen. 

"He promised me he would make it," said Nohemí Huanacchire, weeping over her husband's casket in their half-built home with no electricity on the outskirts of Arequipa, Peru's second-largest city. "But I never saw him again."

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Haiti's future uncertain after brazen slaying of president

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — An already struggling and chaotic Haiti stumbled into an uncertain future Thursday, reeling from the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse followed by a reported gunbattle in which authorities said police killed four suspects in the murder, detained two others and freed three officers being held hostage.

Officials pledged to find all those responsible for the predawn raid on Moïse's house early Wednesday that left the president shot to death and his wife, Martine Moïse, critically wounded. She was flown to Miami for treatment.

"The pursuit of the mercenaries continues," Léon Charles, director of Haiti's National Police, said Wednesday night in announcing the arrests of suspects. "Their fate is fixed: They will fall in the fighting or will be arrested."

Officials did not provide any details on the suspects, including their ages, names or nationalities, nor did they address a motive or what led police to the suspects. They said only that the attack condemned by Haiti's main opposition parties and the international community was carried out by "a highly trained and heavily armed group" whose members spoke Spanish or English.

Prime Minister Claude Joseph assumed leadership of Haiti with help of police and the military and decreed a two-week state of siege following Moïse's killing, which stunned a nation grappling with some of the Western Hemisphere's highest poverty, violence and political instability. 

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IOC's Bach arrives in Tokyo; greeted by state of emergency

TOKYO (AP) — IOC President Thomas Bach arrived in Tokyo on Thursday just as a ban on spectators at the Tokyo Olympics is likely after Japan Prime Minister Yoshihde Suga announced a state of emergency because of rising coronavirus infections in the capital. 

Suga said the state of emergency would go in effect on Monday and last through Aug. 22. This means the Olympics, opening on July 23 and running through Aug. 8, will be held entirely under emergency measures. The Paralympics open on Aug. 24.

"Taking into consideration the impact of the delta strain, and in order to prevent the resurgence of infections from spreading across the country, we need to step up virus prevention measures," Suga said in announcing the emergency measures.

Bach largely avoided cameras at Tokyo's Haneda Airport and, on a rainy afternoon, went to the International Olympic Committee's games headquarters in Tokyo, a five-star hotel in the center of the city. He is reported to need to self-isolate for three days.

Bach's arrival comes just two weeks before the postponed Tokyo Games are to open. The IOC and local organizers are attempting to hold the games during a pandemic despite opposition from the Japanese public and medical community.

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Tears, prayers mark end to search for Miami condo survivors

SURFSIDE, Fla. (AP) — A somber moment of silence marked the end of the two-week search for survivors of a Florida condominium collapse, as rescue workers stood at solemn attention and clergy members hugged a line of local officials while many of them sobbed.

The painstaking search for survivors shifted to a recovery effort at midnight Wednesday after authorities said they had come to the agonizing conclusion that there was "no chance of life" in the rubble of the Champlain Towers South condo building in Surfside.

"We have all asked God for a miracle, so the decision to transition from rescue to recovery is an extremely difficult one," Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said at a news conference.

The death toll stood at 54 late Wednesday. Officials said 86 people were unaccounted for, although detectives were still working to verify that each of those listed as missing was actually in the building when it collapsed.

Rescuers had spent two weeks digging through the rubble, searching in vain for any sign of life, Levine Cava said.

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More states agree to settlement plan for opioid-maker Purdue

More than a dozen states have dropped their longstanding objections to OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma's reorganization plan, edging the company closer to resolving its bankruptcy case and transforming itself into a new entity that helps combat the U.S. opioid epidemic through its own profits.

The agreement from multiple state attorneys general, including those who had most aggressively opposed Purdue's original settlement proposal, was disclosed late Wednesday night in a filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in White Plains, N.Y. It followed weeks of intense mediations that resulted in changes to Purdue's original exit plan.

The new settlement terms call for Purdue to make tens of millions of internal documents public, a step several attorneys general, including those for Massachusetts and New York, had demanded as a way to hold the company accountable.

Attorneys general for both states were among the 15 who agreed to the new plan, joining about half the states that had previously approved it. Nine states and the District of Columbia did not sign on.

Purdue sought bankruptcy protection in 2019 as a way to settle about 3,000 lawsuits it faced from state and local governments and other entities. They claimed the company's continued marketing of its powerful prescription painkiller contributed to a crisis that has been linked to nearly 500,000 deaths in the U.S. over the last two decades.

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Black students, faculty: UNC needs self-examination on race

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — When the University of North Carolina first declined to vote on granting tenure to journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, kicking off a protracted battle marked by allegations of racism and conservative backlash over her work examining the legacy of slavery, Black students and faculty at UNC saw yet another example of the institution's failure to welcome and support scholars and students of color. 

For years, Black students and faculty at UNC have expressed frustration with the way they are treated, from disproportionate scrutiny by campus police to the dearth of Black professors and staff. Without meaningful self-examination and change, they said, UNC risks its ability to recruit and retain students and faculty of color and continues to alienate its Black community. 

"Right now, the relationship between the University of North Carolina and its Black students, faculty and staff is broken," said Jaci Field, advocacy committee co-chair of the Carolina Black Caucus, a faculty group. "But have no fear. You belong. This is your home, too." 

UNC's Black student and faculty groups presented a list of demands to the institution at a news conference Wednesday. Many centered on eliminating structural barriers Black students face, such as formalizing access to resources that many only learn about through word of mouth. The groups also urged the university to hire Black counselors and support staff in offices that work with students. 

"It is hypocritical for this university to claim that Black lives matter, while disregarding the pain they have caused their own Black students and faculty," said Julia Clark, vice president of the Black Student Movement. 

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Study: Northwest heat wave impossible without climate change

The deadly heat wave that roasted the Pacific Northwest and western Canada was virtually impossible without human-caused climate change that added a few extra degrees to the record-smashing temperatures, a new quick scientific analysis found.

An international team of 27 scientists calculated that climate change increased chances of the extreme heat occurring by at least 150 times, but likely much more. 

The study, not yet peer reviewed, said that before the industrial era, the region's late June triple-digit heat was the type that would not have happened in human civilization. And even in today's warming world, it said, the heat was a once-in-a-millennium event.

But that once-in-a-millennium event would likely occur every five to 10 years once the world warms another 1.4 degrees (0.8 degrees Celsius), said Wednesday's study from World Weather Attribution. That much warming could be 40 or 50 years away if carbon pollution continues at its current pace, one study author said.

This type of extreme heat "would go from essentially virtually impossible to relatively commonplace," said study co-author Gabriel Vecchi, a Princeton University climate scientist. "That is a huge change."

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Israel levels West Bank home of Palestinian-American suspect

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli forces on Thursday demolished the family home of a Palestinian-American man accused of being involved in a deadly attack on Israelis in the West Bank in May.

Associated Press video footage showed Israeli army troops leveling the two-story home of Muntasser Shalaby in the village of Turmus Ayya with controlled explosions. 

Israel says Shalaby carried out a May 2 drive-by shooting in the Israeli-occupied West Bank that killed Israeli student Yehuda Guetta and wounded two others. He was arrested days after the attack. His wife, Sanaa Shalaby, told the AP they were estranged for several years and that he spent most of his time in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he had married three other women in unofficial Islamic ceremonies. The entire family has U.S. citizenship.

The Israeli Supreme Court upheld the demolition order in a decision last month. 

The case drew attention to Israel's policy of punitive demolitions of the homes of Palestinians who attacked Israelis. Israeli officials say the demolitions deter future attacks, while rights groups view them as a form of collective punishment. 

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Free samples are back, but with safety in mind

NEW YORK (AP) — When Pat Curry spotted bite-sized wood-fire rotisserie chicken with portabella mushroom at her local Costco in early June, she felt "giddy." After a 14-month hiatus, free samples were back.

"It was one of the markers that told me that we turned a corner," said the 60-year-old who lives in Augusta, Georgia. "It's the little things that you do that were taken away, and now they're back."

When the pandemic was declared in March 2020, retailers worried about the potential spread of the coronavirus so they cut off free sampling of everything from food to makeup to toys. But now with vaccinations rolling out and the threat of COVID-19 easing in the U.S., stores like Costco are feeling confident enough to revive the longstanding tradition. 

For customers, sampling makes it fun to shop and discover new items — not to mention getting all the freebies. For retailers, they're critical tools to keep shoppers coming back and battle against online retailers like Amazon. 

Food sampling converts browsers into buyers at a 20% higher rate than if customers weren't allowed to test, says NPD Group Inc., a market research firm. The conversion rate is 30 percent higher when beauty products are sampled. 

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EU fines 4 German car makers $1B over emission collusion

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union on Thursday handed down $1 billion in fines to four major German car manufacturers, saying they colluded to limit the development and rollout of car emission control systems. 

Daimler, BMW, VW, Audi and Porsche avoided competing on technology to restrict pollution from gasoline and diesel passenger cars, the European Commission said.

Daimler wasn't fined after it revealed the cartel to the European Commission. 

EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager said that even though the companies had the technology to cut cut harmful emissions beyond legal limits, they avoided to compete and denied consumers the chance to buy less polluting cars. 

"Factories compete with one another also when it comes to reducing carbon emissions from the cars," Vestager said. "Manufacturers deliberately avoided to compete on cleaning better than what was required by EU emission standards. And they did so despite the relevant technology being available." It made their practice illegal, Vestager said. 

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