Widower seeking new start in Florida is missing in collapse

SURFSIDE, Florida (AP) — On a recent morning before communal prayers at a synagogue, Harry Rosenberg told a friend that his new beachfront condo in Florida offered a much-needed change of scenery after an awful year in which he lost his wife to cancer and both parents to COVID-19 in New York.

The home in Surfside was to be a gathering spot for visiting children and grandchildren, and his daughter and son-in-law were doing just that when they traveled to the condo last week from New Jersey to join him for the Sabbath.

Hours later, the building collapsed, and all three family members are missing in the rubble.

Their cascading tragedies — cancer, COVID-19 and now the flattening of the building — are reminders of the excruciating toll the collapse has taken on families after what was already a grief-filled year.

Elsewhere in the building, a woman also sought a fresh start in Florida after falling ill and recovering from COVID-19. Another man was visiting Florida to attend the funeral of an old friend who died after being infected, and a Colombian family was in Miami to get the vaccine.

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Youth of the pandemic revisited: Hopeful, resilient, nervous

A young woman in California, newly vaccinated, flashes a smile and a peace sign as she poses for a prom photo with her pals. She feels strange but elated without her mask.

In Australia, a girl still clings to the fluffy border collie that her family got to comfort them in the depths of lockdown last year. Just recently, she had to shelter at home again because of a COVID-19 outbreak near her.

A boy in remote northern Canada, now a young teen, feels relief when he lifts his T-shirt sleeve for the first of two vaccine shots.

A baby-faced teen in Rwanda who wanted to be a soldier has changed his mind. The pandemic, he says, has showed him a different way to help the world.

They are among a group of young people who first spoke with The Associated Press last year, just as the pandemic started to grip the world. The AP recently checked in with them again to see how they're doing – and how the global crisis has molded them.

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House poised to launch new probe of Jan. 6 insurrection

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House is poised to launch a new investigation of the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection on Wednesday with expected approval of a 13-person select committee to probe the violent attack. 

The panel would be led by Democrats, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appointing a chairperson and at least eight of the committee's members. The resolution up for a vote gives Pelosi a possible say in the appointment of the other five members as well, directing that they will be named "after consultation" with House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy. 

In a memo to all House Republicans late Tuesday, No. 2 House Republican Steve Scalise urged his members to vote against the resolution, saying the select panel "is likely to pursue a partisan agenda" in investigating the siege by former President Donald Trump's supporters. Scalise and McCarthy have so far declined to say whether Republicans will even participate. 

Pelosi is moving to form the select committee after Senate Republicans blocked the creation of a separate independent and bipartisan panel that would have been evenly split between the parties and modeled after a commission that investigated the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Republicans ready to move on from the insurrection — and Trump's role in it — argued against that as well, claiming it would be duplicative and partisan. 

The speaker has said that it was her preference to have an independent panel lead the inquiry, but that Congress could not wait any longer to begin a deeper look at the insurrection. 

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Trapped in Ethiopia's Tigray, people 'falling like leaves'

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — The plea arrived from a remote area that had so far produced only rumors and residents fleeing for their lives. Help us, the letter said, stamped and signed by a local official. At least 125 people have already starved to death.

Trapped in one of the most inaccessible areas of Ethiopia's conflict-torn Tigray region, beyond the reach of aid, people "are falling like leaves," the official said.

The letter dated June 16, obtained by The Associated Press and confirmed by a Tigray regional health official, is a rare insight into the most urgent unknown of the war between Ethiopian forces backed by Eritrea and Tigray's former leaders: What's the fate of hundreds of thousands of people cut off from the world for months?

As the United States warns that up to 900,000 people in Tigray face famine conditions in the world's worst hunger crisis in a decade, little is known about vast areas of Tigray that have been under the control of combatants from all sides since November. With blocked roads and ongoing fighting, humanitarian groups have been left without access.

A possible opening emerged this week when Ethiopia's government announced an immediate, unilateral cease-fire after Tigray fighters re-entered the regional capital and government soldiers fled. An official for the United States Agency for International Development told U.S. lawmakers on Tuesday that some aid groups were expected to test the cease-fire immediately in an effort to reach remote areas.

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Virus infections surging in Africa's vulnerable rural areas

ZVIMBA, Zimbabwe (AP) — For Pelagia Bvukura, who lives in a rural part of north-central Zimbabwe, COVID-19 had always been a "city disease," affecting those in the capital, Harare, or other, distant big towns.

"There was no virus for us. We only used to hear it was in Harare or other towns or when city people died and we buried them here," she said recently, referring to the custom in Zimbabwe where those who move to the city often are buried at their family's rural home.

That is changing now. A new surge of the virus is finally penetrating Africa's rural areas, where most of the continent's people live, spreading to areas that once had been viewed as safe havens from infections that hit cities particularly hard.

With facilities in the countryside ill-prepared to fight the coronavirus, residents like Bvukura worry that the next graves being dug could be for their neighbors — or even themselves.

Her village of Zvimba, 110 kilometers (68 miles) from Harare, has yet to record a major spike in infections, but it sits in a province that is the current epicenter of the virus.

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Kim berates North Korean officials for 'crucial' virus lapse

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un berated top officials for failures in coronavirus prevention that caused a "great crisis," using strong language that raised the specter of a mass outbreak in a country that would be scarcely able to handle it.

The state media report Wednesday did not specify what "crucial" lapse had prompted Kim to call the Politburo meeting of the ruling Workers' Party, but experts said North Korea could be wrestling with a significant setback in its pandemic fight.

So far, North Korea has claimed to have had no coronavirus infections, despite testing thousands of people and sharing a porous border with China. Experts widely doubt the claim and are concerned about any potential outbreak, given the country's poor health infrastructure. 

At the Politburo meeting, Kim criticized the senior officials for supposed incompetence, irresponsibility and passiveness in planning and executing anti-virus measures amid the lengthening pandemic, the North's official Korean Central News Agency said.

Kim said "senior officials in charge of important state affairs neglected the implementation of the important decisions of the party on taking organizational, institutional, material, scientific and technological measures as required by the prolonged state emergency epidemic prevention campaign," according to KCNA. This "caused a crucial case of creating a great crisis in ensuring the security of the state and safety of the people and entailed grave consequences." 

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Thailand bets on 'Phuket sandbox' program to save tourism

PHUKET, Thailand (AP) — Somsak Betlao covered the outboard motor on his traditional wooden longtail boat with a tarp, wrapping up another day on Phuket's Patong beach where not a single tourist needed his services shuttling them to nearby islands.

Since Thailand's pandemic restrictions on travel were imposed in early 2020, tourism has fallen off a cliff, and nowhere has it been felt more than the resort island off the country's southern coast, where nearly 95% of the economy is related to the industry.

So, despite spiking coronavirus numbers elsewhere in the country, the government is forging ahead with a program known as the "Phuket sandbox" to reopen the island to fully vaccinated visitors. It hopes it will revive tourism — a sector that accounted for 20% of the country's economy before the pandemic. 

Instead of the hotel quarantines required elsewhere in Thailand, tourists on Phuket will be able to roam the entire island, but not travel to other parts of the country for 14 days. Skeptics question whether people will be willing to accept multiple restrictions including repeated virus tests and mandatory tracking apps, but officials hope the allure of the island's famous beaches — and the idea of a beach holiday following lengthy lockdowns — will be enough. 

For islanders like Somsak, there is a lot riding on the tourists' return. 

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Tuskegee relatives promote COVID-19 vaccines in ad campaign

Tuskegee is the one-word answer some people give as a reason they're avoiding COVID-19 vaccines. A new ad campaign launched Wednesday with relatives of men who unwittingly became part of the infamous experiment wants to change minds. 

Omar Neal, 63, a former mayor of the Alabama town, said he was hesitant at first about the shots. Neal is a nephew of Freddie Lee Tyson, a family man who was among several hundred Black men who decades ago became involved without their consent in the federally backed syphilis study. 

Neal said he agreed to appear in the national campaign after doing research to gain confidence in the vaccines.

''I want to save lives,'' Neal told The Associated Press. ''I didn't want people to use Tuskegee and what transpired there as a reason for not taking the vaccine.''

In 1932 and over 40 years, Black men in Tuskegee, Alabama, were subjected to experimentation without their knowledge. Most of the 600 men had syphilis — including Tyson, who got infected before birth — but they were left untreated so researchers could study the natural history of the disease. 

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Sweltering heat wave linked to sudden deaths in Vancouver

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — A sweltering heat wave that has settled over western Canada for several days is believed to be a contributing factor in dozens of sudden-death calls received by police in the Vancouver area, authorities said Tuesday.

Cpl. Mike Kalanj of Burnaby Royal Canadian Mounted Police said the detachment responded to 25 sudden-death calls in a 24-hour period starting Monday. The deaths are still under investigation and many of the deceased were seniors, he said.

Temperatures in the Vancouver area reached just under 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 Celsius) Monday, but the humidity made it feel close to 104 degrees (40 Celsius) in areas that aren't near water, Environment Canada said.

The record-breaking heat wave could ease over parts of British Columbia, Yukon and the Northwest Territories by Wednesday, but any reprieve for the Prairie provinces is further off.

In Vancouver, the police department said it had redeployed dozens of officers and asked the public to call 911 only for emergencies because heat-related deaths had depleted front-line resources and delayed response times.

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Error mars vote count in NYC mayoral primary

NEW YORK (AP) — The Democratic primary for mayor of New York City was thrown into a state of confusion Tuesday when election officials retracted their latest report on the vote count after realizing it had been corrupted by test data never cleared from a computer system.

The bungle was a black mark on New York City's first major foray into ranked choice voting and seemed to confirm worries that the city's Board of Elections, which is jointly run by Democrats and Republicans, was unprepared to implement the new system.

The disarray began as evening fell, when the board abruptly withdrew data it had released earlier in the day purporting to be a first round of results from the ranked choice system.

That data had indicated that Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, a former police captain who would be the city's second Black mayor, had lost much of his lead and was ahead of former sanitation commissioner Kathryn Garcia by fewer than 16,000 votes.

Then the Board of Elections tweeted that it was aware of "a discrepancy" in its report on ranked choice voting results. It didn't initially explain what that discrepancy was, even as it pulled the data from its website.

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