AP News in Brief at 6:03 p.m. EDT – Miami Herald

Crews spend 5th day atop shaky pile of collapsed concrete

SURFSIDE, Fla. (AP) — Rescuers searching for a fifth day for survivors of a Florida condo building collapse used bucket brigades and heavy machinery Monday as they worked atop a precarious mound of pulverized concrete, twisted steel and the remnants of dozens of households.

Authorities said their efforts were still a search-and-rescue operation, but no one has been found alive since hours after the collapse on Thursday. Two more bodies were recovered Monday, bringing the confirmed death toll to 11. They were later identified as 50-year-old Frank Kleiman and 50-year-old Michael David Altman in a Miami-Dade Police news release that also named 52-year-old Marcus Joseph Guara as one of the bodies recovered on Saturday. More than 150 others are still missing in the community of Surfside, just outside Miami.

The pancake collapse of the building left layer upon layer of intertwined debris, frustrating efforts to reach anyone who may have survived in a pocket of space.

“Every time there’s an action, there’s a reaction,” Miami-Dade Assistant Fire Chief Raide Jadallah said during a news conference. “It’s not an issue of we could just attach a couple of cords to a concrete boulder and lift it and call it a day.” Some of the concrete pieces are smaller, the size of basketballs or baseballs.

Underscoring the risks of the work, he noted that families who rode buses to visit the site on Sunday witnessed a rescuer tumble 25 feet down the pile. Workers and victims must both be considered, he said.

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Despite warning, town deemed condo building in ‘good shape’

Despite an engineer’s warning of major structural problems, a town building official told board members their Florida high-rise condominium was in “very good shape” almost three years before it collapsed, according to minutes of that meeting released Monday.

The Surfside official, Rosendo “Ross” Prieto was quoted as making those comments at a meeting of the Champlain Towers South board on Nov. 15, 2018. That was just over a month after engineering firm Morabito Consultants issued a report describing key flaws in the structure.

The discussion with Prieto came as Champlain Towers was beginning to explore what work was needed under city and county ordinances for the building to meet a 40-year recertification that was to arrive in 2021.

The board meeting minutes say that Prieto told them in 2018 the Morabito engineering report had collected the necessary information and “it appears the building is in very good shape.”

A day later, Prieto told the then-town manager of Surfside he thought the meeting was a success and credited Champlain Towers with getting a good early start on the recertification process.

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Biden taking bipartisan infrastructure deal on the road

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden will look to sell voters on the economic benefits of the $973 billion infrastructure package while in Wisconsin on Tuesday, hoping to boost the bipartisan agreement that is held together in large part by the promise of millions of new jobs.

Biden will travel to La Crosse, population 52,000, and tour its public transit center, followed by a speech about the infrastructure package announced last week.

The president presented his message to Democratic donors on Monday that the agreement was a way for the United States to assert the principles of democracy and the economic might that can come from dramatic investments in the country’s economic future.

“This infrastructure bill signals to the world that we can function, we can deliver,” Biden said. “We can do significant things, show that America is back.”

White House officials issued an internal memo that highlights how the largest investment in transportation, water systems and services in nearly a century would boost growth. The memo notes that the total package is four times the size of the infrastructure investment made a dozen years ago in response to the Great Recession and the biggest since Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal in the 1930s.

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Ethiopia declares immediate, unilateral cease-fire in Tigray

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Ethiopia’s government declared an immediate, unilateral cease-fire Monday in its Tigray region after nearly eight months of deadly conflict as Tigray fighters occupied the regional capital and government soldiers retreated in a region where hundreds of thousands are suffering in the world’s worst famine crisis.

The cease-fire could calm a war that has destabilized Africa’s second most populous country and threatened to do the same in the wider Horn of Africa, where Ethiopia has been seen as a key security ally for the West. It comes as the country awaits the results of national elections that Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed promoted as the centerpiece of reforms that won him the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize.

Abiy’s transformation from making peace to waging war has appalled many observers since the fighting in Tigray erupted in November. Since then, the world has struggled to access much of the region and investigate growing allegations of atrocities including gang rapes and forced starvation. Thousands of people in the region of 6 million have been killed.

Ethiopia’s statement was carried by state media shortly after the Tigray interim administration, appointed by the federal government, fled the regional capital, Mekele, and called for a cease-fire on humanitarian grounds so that desperately needed aid can be delivered.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement that he had spoken with the prime minister and “I am hopeful that an effective cessation of hostilities will take place.”

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Northwest US faces hottest day of intense heat wave

SEATTLE (AP) — The hottest day of an unprecedented and dangerous heat wave scorched the Pacific Northwest on Monday, with temperatures obliterating records that had been set just the day before.

Seattle hit 108 degrees Fahrenheit (42 Celsius) by evening — well above Sunday’s all-time high of 104 F (40 C). Portland, Oregon, reached 116 F (46.6 C) after hitting records of 108 F (42 C) on Saturday and 112 F (44 C) on Sunday.

The temperatures were unheard of in a region better known for rain, and where June has historically been referred to as “Juneuary” for its cool drizzle. Seattle’s average high temperature in June is around 70 F (21.1 C), and fewer than half of the city’s residents have air conditioning, according to U.S. Census data.

The heat forced schools and businesses to close to protect workers and guests, including some places like outdoor pools and ice cream shops where people seek relief from the heat. COVID-19 testing sites and mobile vaccination units were out of service as well.

The Seattle Parks Department closed one indoor community pool after the air inside became too hot — leaving Stanlie James, who relocated from Arizona three weeks ago, to search for somewhere else to cool off. She doesn’t have AC at her condo, she said.

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US: Big drop in migrant kids at largest emergency shelter

SAN DIEGO (AP) — The number of migrant children housed at the Biden administration’s largest emergency shelter for those who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border alone has dropped by more than 40% since mid-June, a top U.S. official said Monday, touting progress at the facility that has been criticized by child welfare advocates.

Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra told reporters that 790 boys were housed at Fort Bliss Army base in El Paso, Texas, and the last girl left Monday. All the girls were reunited either with relatives in the U.S. or a sponsor such as a family friend or sent to licensed facilities, which have a higher standard of care, according to the agency responsible for caring for migrant children.

In mid-June, the administration reported about 2,000 boys and girls were at the Fort Bliss facility amid child welfare advocates’ concerns about inadequate conditions. A high of 4,800 children were housed there in May.

Becerra said his agency was evaluating whether it can close some of the emergency shelters that the government opened in the spring as record numbers of unaccompanied children crossed the border. He declined to say whether Fort Bliss would be among them.

“Because we’ve been successful in managing the flow, we are prepared to begin the demobilization of several of our emergency intake sites,” Becerra said.

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House to vote on bill launching probe of Jan. 6 insurrection

WASHINGTON (AP) — A new committee to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol would have 13 members and the power to subpoena witnesses, according to legislation released by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Monday. The House is expected to vote on the bill this week.

The effort comes after Senate Republicans blocked the formation of an independent, bipartisan commission to probe the attack, in which hundreds of former President Donald Trump’s supporters violently broke into the Capitol and interrupted the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory.

The new, partisan House panel would have eight members appointed by Pelosi and five appointed “after consultation with” Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy. A Pelosi aide said the speaker is considering including a Republican among her appointments, which would bring the likely partisan split to 7-6. The aide was granted anonymity to discuss her thinking.

Pelosi said in a statement that Jan. 6 was “one of the darkest days in our nation’s history” and that the committee will seek the truth about it.

“The Select Committee will investigate and report upon the facts and causes of the attack and report recommendations for preventing any future assault,” she said.

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Amish put faith in God’s will and herd immunity over vaccine

When health care leaders in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country began laying out a strategy to distribute COVID-19 vaccines, they knew it would be a tough sell with the Amish, who tend to be wary of preventive shots and government intervention.

Early on, they posted flyers at farm supply stores and at auctions where the Amish sell handmade furniture and quilts. They sought advice from members of the deeply religious and conservative sect, who told them not to be pushy. And they asked three newspapers widely read by the Amish to publish ads promoting the vaccine. Two refused.

By May, two rural vaccination clinics had opened at a fire station and a social services center, both familiar places to the Amish in Lancaster County. During the first six weeks, 400 people showed up. Only 12 were Amish.

The vaccination drive is lagging far behind in many Amish communities across the U.S. following a wave of virus outbreaks that swept through their churches and homes during the past year. In Ohio’s Holmes County, home to the nation’s largest concentration of Amish, just 14% of the county’s overall population is fully vaccinated.

While their religious beliefs don’t forbid them to get vaccines, the Amish are generally less likely to be vaccinated for preventable diseases such as measles and whooping cough. Though vaccine acceptance varies by church district, the Amish often rely on family tradition and advice from church leaders, and a core part of their Christian faith is accepting God’s will in times of illness or death.

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Judge dismisses gov’t antitrust lawsuits against Facebook

WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal judge on Monday dismissed antitrust lawsuits brought against Facebook by the Federal Trade Commission and a coalition of state attorneys general, dealing a significant blow to attempts by regulators to rein in tech giants.

U.S. District Judge James Boasberg ruled Monday that the lawsuits were “legally insufficient” and didn’t provide enough evidence to prove that Facebook was a monopoly. The ruling dismisses the complaint but not the case, meaning the FTC could refile another complaint.

“These allegations — which do not even provide an estimated actual figure or range for Facebook’s market share at any point over the past ten years — ultimately fall short of plausibly establishing that Facebook holds market power,” he said.

The FTC said in a statement that it is “closely reviewing the opinion and assessing the best option forward.” The agency has 30 days in which to file a new complaint.

Boasberg closed that avenue for the states, however, in dismissing outright their separate complaint.

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She’s up! Bat girl 60 years in making reaches Yankee Stadium

NEW YORK (AP) — Gwen Goldman exchanged fist bumps with the New York Yankees she had been admiring for decades from afar, walked onto the field and waved to the crowd.

She got to be a Yankees’ bat girl on Monday night at age 70 — a full 60 years after she was turned down because of her gender.

Shaking with excitement, she beamed while recounting how it felt to be at Yankee Stadium on this day for the game against the Los Angeles Angels.

“I don’t know where to start, of which was the best, what did I enjoy the most?” she said during a news conference in the fourth inning.

“The whole piece, from walking in the front door of the stadium at Gate 2, to coming up to a locker with my name on it that said Gwen Goldman, and suiting up, then walking out onto the field. It took my breath away. It’s obviously taking my words away also.