AP News in Brief at 12:02 a.m. EDT


New Orleans: Seniors left in dark, hot facilities after Ida

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Officials in New Orleans will thoroughly inspect senior living apartments in the city in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida after finding people living in buildings without working generators, which left residents trapped in wheelchairs on dark, sweltering upper floors, Mayor LaToya Cantrell said Monday.

Hundreds were evacuated Saturday and the city later said five people had died in the privately run buildings in the days after the storm. The coroner’s office is investigating whether the deaths will be attributed to the hurricane, which struck land nine days before.

The managers of some of the homes for seniors evacuated out of state without making sure the residents would be safe after the storm, New Orleans City Council member Kristin Palmer said at a news conference.

“They’re hiding under the loophole of ‘independent living,’” Palmer said. “It’s not independent living if there’s no power and you’re in a wheelchair on the fourth floor.”

The city is creating teams of workers from the health, safety and permits, code enforcement and other departments. Their first focus is to make sure the senior homes are safe and evacuate people if necessary, Cantrell said.

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Virginia is set to remove Richmond’s Lee statue on Wednesday

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A towering statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in Richmond, Virginia, is set to come down on Wednesday, more than 130 years after it was built as a tribute to a Civil War hero who is now widely seen as a symbol of racial injustice, state officials said Monday.

“Virginia’s largest monument to the Confederate insurrection will come down this week,” Gov. Ralph Northam said in news release on Monday. “This is an important step in showing who we are and what we value as a commonwealth.”

The imposing, 21-foot (6.4-meter) tall bronze likeness of Lee on a horse sits atop a granite pedestal nearly twice that high in the grassy center of a traffic circle on Richmond’s famed Monument Avenue.

Gov. Ralph Northam announced plans to take down the statue in June 2020, 10 days after George Floyd died under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer, sparking nationwide protests against police brutality and racism. The plans were stalled for more than a year by two lawsuits filed by residents opposed to its removal, but rulings last week by the Supreme Court of Virginia cleared the way for the statue to be taken down.

In Monday’s news release, state officials said that preparations for the statue’s removal will began 6 p.m. Tuesday when crews will install protective fencing.

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Biden directs federal aid to NY, NJ after deadly flooding

LAMBERTVILLE, N.J. (AP) — President Joe Biden approved major disaster declarations Monday greenlighting federal aid for people in six New Jersey counties and five New York counties affected by devastating flooding last week from the remnants of Hurricane Ida.

At least 50 people were killed in six Eastern states as record rainfall last Wednesday overwhelmed rivers and sewer systems. Some people were trapped in fast-filling basement apartments and cars, or swept away as they tried to escape. The storm also spawned several tornadoes.

Biden is scheduled to visit New Jersey and New York City on Tuesday to survey storm damage, the White House said. The storm killed at least 27 people in New Jersey and 13 in New York City.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, touring flood-damaged areas of Lambertville on Labor Day, said Biden’s major disaster declaration will allow individuals to receive assistance, including grants for temporary housing and home repairs and low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses.

An existing emergency declaration issued last week enabled state, county and local governments to get reimbursed for disaster spending, Murphy said.

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Lake Tahoe residents relieved homes spared from wildfire

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. (AP) — Connor Jones sunbathed with his dog on the otherwise empty beach at Ski Run Marina on Monday, as residents trickling back into town filled up their cars at a gas station behind him and employees of a water sports rental company docked jet skis and boats they had anchored away from the shores of Lake Tahoe to prevent them from igniting from wildfire.

He and others living in the resort city of South Lake Tahoe breathed a collective sigh of relief on Sunday when officials downgraded a mandatory evacuation order put in place a week ago to a warning.

“I figure they wouldn’t take repopulation lightly and, if they made the decision to allow people to come back, then they were probably confident that they’re not going to have any issues,” he said.

When the Caldor Fire gobbled up pine trees and crossed the Sierra Nevada last week, South Lake Tahoe, a scenic community of 22,000 people on the California-Nevada state line, transformed into a smoke-choked ghost town.

After worrying throughout all of last week about the fire approaching their homes and landmarks they hold dear, residents who returned on Monday said they were thankful firefighters had stopped the blazes on the town’s doorstep. But it appeared most residents remained away and most shops remained closed in usually thriving Labor Day destination town.

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Jobless Americans will have few options as benefits expire

NEW YORK (AP) — Millions of jobless Americans lost their unemployment benefits on Monday, leaving only a handful of economic support programs for those who are still being hit financially by the year-and-a-half-old coronavirus pandemic.

Two critical programs expired on Monday. One provided jobless aid to self-employed and gig workers and another provided benefits to those who have been unemployed more than six months. Further, the Biden administration’s $300 weekly supplemental unemployment benefit also ran out on Monday.

It’s estimated that roughly 8.9 million Americans will lose all or some of these benefits.

While the White House has encouraged states to keep paying the $300 weekly benefit by using money from the stimulus bills, no states have opted to do so. Many states even opted out of the federal program early after some businesses complained that they couldn’t find enough people to hire. The data have shown minimal economic benefits from cutting off aid early in those states.

Economists Peter McCrory and Daniel Silver of JPMorgan found “zero correlation″ between job growth and state decisions to drop the federal unemployment aid, at least so far. An economist at Columbia University, Kyle Coombs, found only minimal benefits.

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Taliban say they took Panjshir, last holdout Afghan province

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The Taliban said Monday they seized the last province not in their control after their blitz through Afghanistan last month, overrunning forces who had opposed their takeover.

Thousands of Taliban fighters charged into eight districts of Panjshir province overnight, according to witnesses from the area who spoke on condition of anonymity because they feared for their safety. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed that the province, which is north of the capital, was now held by their fighters.

“We tried our best to solve the problem through negotiations, and they rejected talks and then we had to send our forces to fight,” Mujahid told a news conference in Kabul later Monday.

The resisting forces were led by the former vice president, Amrullah Saleh, and also the son of the iconic anti-Taliban fighter Ahmad Shah Massoud. Experts had doubted that the holdout efforts could succeed long-term against the Taliban, whose rapid advance through Afghanistan met little resistance in the final days of America’s 20-year war in the country.

The U.S. withdrew its last troops a week ago and ended a harrowing airlift to evacuate Western citizens and their Afghan allies that was marred by scenes of desperation and horrific violence.

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Ex-Marine held without bond in shooting of Florida family

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — A former Marine sharpshooter accused of invading the home of apparent strangers in Florida and fatally shooting a woman, her 3-month-old baby and two others was ordered held without bail during his first court appearance Monday.

Authorities did not give a motive for the grisly attack, but they said Bryan Riley may have a mental illness and that he told investigators said he was high on methamphetamines at the time. His girlfriend said had been saying for weeks that he could communicate directly with God.

At this court appearance Monday, Riley, 33, said that he intended to hire a lawyer, but one will be appointed for him in the meantime.

Riley surrendered on Sunday morning after a furious gunbattle with authorities who brought in at least one armored vehicle during their standoff. After it was over, an officer rushed into the home and rescued an 11-year-old girl, who was still conscious despite being shot seven times. She was in critical condition on Monday, the sheriff’s office said.

According to Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, Riley told interrogators that the victims “begged for their lives, and I killed them anyway.”

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Justice Department will ‘protect’ abortion seekers in Texas

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department said Monday that it will not tolerate violence against anyone who is trying to obtain an abortion in Texas as federal officials explore options to challenge a new state law that bans most abortions.

Attorney General Merrick Garland said the Justice Department would “protect those seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health services” under a federal law known as the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act.

Garland said in a statement that federal prosecutors are still urgently exploring options to challenge the Texas law. He said the Justice Department would enforce the federal law “in order to protect the constitutional rights of women and other persons, including access to an abortion.”

The federal law, commonly known as the FACE Act, prohibits physically obstructing or using the threat of force to intimidate or interfere with a person seeking reproductive health services. The law also prohibits damaging property at abortion clinics and other reproductive health centers.

The new Texas law prohibits abortions once medical professionals can detect cardiac activity, usually around six weeks — before some women know they’re pregnant. Courts have blocked other states from imposing similar restrictions, but Texas’ law differs significantly because it leaves enforcement up to private citizens through lawsuits instead of criminal prosecutors.

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First responders nationwide resist COVID vaccine mandates

March 11, 2021. It was supposed to be a turning point in the coronavirus pandemic for Erin Tokley, a longtime Philadelphia police officer, Baptist minister and 47-year-old father of three. It was supposed to be the day of his vaccine appointment.

Instead it was the date of his funeral.

Tokley — “Toke” to his friends and family — died on March 3, becoming the Philadelphia Police Department’s sixth confirmed COVID-19 death.

Philadelphia officers first became eligible for their shots in late January and Tokley was eager to get it as soon as he could. But he fell ill in early February, before it was his turn to roll up his sleeve.

The resurgence of COVID-19 this summer and the national debate over vaccine requirements have created a fraught situation for the nation’s first responders, who are dying in larger numbers but pushing back against mandates.

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Actor Michael K. Williams, Omar on ‘The Wire,’ dead at 54

NEW YORK (AP) — Actor Michael K. Williams, who as the rogue robber of drug dealers Omar Little on “The Wire” created one of the most beloved and enduring characters in a prime era of television, died Monday.

Williams was found dead Monday afternoon by family members in his Brooklyn penthouse apartment, New York City police said. He was 54.

His death was being investigated as a possible drug overdose, the NYPD said. The medical examiner was investigating the cause of death.

Little, a “stick-up boy” based on real figures from Baltimore, was probably the most popular character among the devoted fans of “The Wire,” the HBO show that ran from 2002 to 2008 and is re-watched constantly in streaming.

Williams was also a ubiquitous character actor in other shows and films for more than two decades, creating another classic character as Chalky White in HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire” from 2010 to 2014, and appearing in the films “12 Years a Slave” and “Assassin’s Creed.” He is up for an Emmy for his role in HBO’s “Lovecraft Country.” A win at the Sept. 19 ceremony would be his first in four nominations.





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