AP News in Brief at 9:03 p.m. EDT | National

AP News in Brief at 9:03 p.m. EDT | National

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Cuomo digs in, shows no sign of heeding calls to resign

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has dug in for the fight of his political life despite the threat of potential criminal investigations and widespread calls for his impeachment over findings that he sexually harassed 11 women, including close aides.

Scores of Democrats, including President Joe Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and some past Cuomo loyalists, have urged him to leave office or face an impeachment battle he probably cannot win.

About two-thirds of state Assembly members have already said they favor an impeachment trial if he refuses to resign. Nearly all 63 members of the state Senate have called for Cuomo to step down or be removed.

“My sense is from what I’m hearing is he’s still looking for ways to fight this and get his side of the story out,” state Democratic party Chairman Jay Jacobs said in an interview with The Associated Press. But Jacobs added: “I just think that he’s going to, at some point, see that the political support is just not anywhere near enough to even make an attempt worthwhile.”

The governor’s lawyers have promised what will likely be a drawn-out fight to stay in office.


Mixed bag: Erratic Pandemic Olympics come to a nuanced end

TOKYO (AP) — It began with a virus and a yearlong pause. It ended with a typhoon blowing through and, still, a virus. In between: just about everything.

The Tokyo Olympics, christened with “2020” but held in mid-2021 after being interrupted for a year by the coronavirus, glided to their conclusion in a COVID-emptied stadium Sunday night as an often surreal mixed bag for Japan and for the world.

A rollicking closing ceremony with the theme “Worlds We Share” — an optimistic but ironic notion at this human moment — featured everything from stunt bikes to intricate light shows as it tried to convey a “celebratory and liberating atmosphere” for athletes after a tense two weeks. It pivoted to a live feed from Paris, host of the 2024 Summer Games. And with that, the strangest Olympic Games on record closed their books for good.

Held in the middle of a resurging pandemic, rejected by many Japanese and plagued by months of administrative problems, these Games presented logistical and medical obstacles like no other, offered up serious conversations about mental health — and, when it came to sport, delivered both triumphs and a few surprising shortfalls.

From the outset, expectations were middling at best, apocalyptic at worst. Even Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, said he’d worried that these could “become the Olympic Games without a soul.” But, he said, “what we have seen here is totally different.”


Fauci hopeful COVID vaccines get full OK by FDA within weeks

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — The U.S. government’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said Sunday that he was hopeful the Food and Drug Administration will give full approval to the coronavirus vaccine by month’s end and predicted the potential move will spur a wave of vaccine mandates in the private sector as well as schools and universities.

The FDA has only granted emergency-use approval of the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, but the agency is expected to soon give full approval to Pfizer.

The Biden administration has stated that the federal government will not mandate vaccinations beyond the federal workforce, but is increasingly urging state and local governments as well as businesses to consider such mandates. Fauci, who is President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, said “mandates at the local level need to be done” to help curb the spread of the virus.

“I hope — I don’t predict — I hope that it will be within the next few weeks. I hope it’s within the month of August,” Fauci said of FDA approval of the vaccine. “If that’s the case, you’re going to see the empowerment of local enterprises, giving mandates that could be colleges, universities, places of business, a whole variety and I strongly support that. The time has come. … We’ve got to go the extra step to get people vaccinated.”

Fauci’s comments come as the Biden administration is weighing what levers it can push to encourage more unvaccinated Americans to get their shots as the delta variant continues to surge through much of the United States.


Fire devours Greek island’s forests; residents urged to flee

PEFKI, Greece (AP) — Pillars of billowing smoke and ash turned the sky orange and blocked out the sun above Greece’s second-largest island Sunday as a days-old wildfire devoured pristine forests and encroached on villages, triggering more evacuation alerts.

The fire on Evia, an island of forested mountains and canyons laced with small coves of crystalline water, began Aug. 3 and cut across the popular summer destination from coast to coast as it burned out of control. Scores of homes and businesses have been destroyed and thousands of residents and tourists have fled, many escaping the flames via flotillas that even operated in the dark of night.

The blaze is the most severe of dozens that broke out in the wake of Greece’s most protracted heat wave in three decades, which sent temperatures soaring to 45 degrees Celsius (113 F) for days, creating bone-dry conditions.

“It’s already too late, the area has been destroyed,” Giannis Kontzias, mayor of the northern Evia municipality of Istiaia, lamented on Greece’s Open TV. He was one of several local officials and residents who took to Greek TV networks to appeal for more firefighting help, particularly from water-dropping planes and helicopters.

Evacuation orders were issued Sunday for four villages in northern Evia, including Pefki, but many residents refused to leave, hoping to save their properties.


Taliban takes key northern Afghan cities as battles rage on

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Taliban fighters seized most of the capital of northern Afghanistan’s key Kunduz province on Sunday, and took another neighboring provincial capital after a monthlong siege. The advances were the latest in a series of blows to government forces as U.S. troops complete their pullout after nearly two decades in the country.

The militiamen planted their flag in the main square of Kunduz city, where it was seen flying atop a traffic police booth, a video obtained by the Associated Press showed.

It was the fourth provincial capital to largely succumb to Taliban fighters in less than a week, as they ramp up a push across Afghan’s regions, and wage an assassination campaign in the capital, Kabul.

Two provincial council members said the Taliban took control of the governor’s office and police headquarters after a day of firefights, as well as the main prison building, where 500 inmates including Taliban fighters were freed.

Kunduz’s capture would be a significant gain for the Taliban and a test of their ability to take and retain territory in their campaign against the Western-backed government.


Fire-friendly weather to return to Northern California

Thick smoke that held down winds and temperatures began to clear Sunday from the scenic forestlands of Northern California as firefighters battling the largest single wildfire in state history braced for a return of fire-friendly weather.

The winds weren’t expected to reach the ferocious speeds that helped the Dixie Fire explode in size last week. But they were nonetheless concerning for firefighters working in unprecedented conditions to protect thousands of threatened homes.

“The live trees that are out there now have a lower fuel moisture than you would find when you go to a hardware store or a lumber yard and get that piece of lumber that’s kiln dried,” Mark Brunton, operations section chief for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said in an online briefing Sunday morning. “It’s that dry, so it doesn’t take much for any sort of embers, sparks or small flaming front to get that going.”

Fueled by strong winds and bone-dry vegetation, the fire incinerated much of Greenville on Wednesday and Thursday, destroying 370 homes and structures and threatening nearly 14,000 buildings in the northern Sierra Nevada.

The Dixie Fire, named for the road where it started nearly four weeks ago, grew overnight to an area of 725 square miles (1,875 square kilometers) Sunday morning and was just 21% contained, according to CalFire. It had scorched an area more than twice the size of New York City.


1 Chicago officer killed, 1 wounded in traffic stop shooting

CHICAGO (AP) — A 29-year-old female police officer in Chicago was killed and another officer was seriously wounded in an exchange of gunfire during a traffic stop, officials said Sunday, the city’s mayor later citing the shooting as a reason for Chicagoans to work together to stem violence.

The officer killed Saturday night was identified as Ella French, according to a post on the Chicago Police Department’s Facebook page Sunday evening. French’s death was the first fatal shooting of a Chicago officer in the line of duty since 2018 and the first female officer fatally shot on the job in 33 years.

“We will never forget the true bravery she exemplified as she laid her life down to protect others,” the department said of French on Facebook, adding that fellow officers will “grieve the loss of this hero.” The department also requested support for French’s “wounded partner, who is in the hospital fighting for his life.”

At a Sunday news conference, Mayor Lori Lightfoot urged Chicagoans to end the acrimony between ardent police proponents who say officers are hampered by overly burdensome rules and staunch critics who say officers act with impunity.

“Stop. Just stop,” she said. “This constant strife is not what we need in this moment.”


Census experts puzzled by high rate of unanswered questions

Census Bureau statisticians and outside experts are trying to unravel a mystery: Why were so many questions about households in the 2020 census left unanswered?

Residents did not respond to a multitude of questions about sex, race, Hispanic background, family relationships and age, even when providing a count of the number of people living in the home, according to documents released by the agency. Statisticians had to fill in the gaps.

Reflecting an early stage in the number crunching, the documents show that 10% to 20% of questions were not answered in the 2020 census, depending on the question and state. According to the Census Bureau, later phases of processing show the actual rates were lower.

The rates have averaged 1% to 3% in 170 years of previous U.S. censuses, according to University of Minnesota demographer Steven Ruggles.

The information is important because data with demographic details will be used for drawing congressional and legislative districts. That data, which the Census Bureau will release Thursday, also is used to distribute $1.5 trillion in federal spending each year.


Zuckerberg’s cash fuels GOP suspicion and new election rules

DENVER (AP) — When Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg donated $400 million to help fund election offices as they scrambled to deal with the coronavirus pandemic late last summer, he said he hoped he would never have to do it again.

Republican legislatures are granting him that wish.

At least eight GOP-controlled states have passed bans on donations to election offices this year as Republicans try to block outside funding of voting operations. The legislation often comes as part of Republican packages that also put new limits on how voters can cast ballots and impose new requirements on county or city-based election officials.

The response is spurred by anger and suspicion on the right that Zuckerberg’s money benefited Democrats in 2020. Conservatives have long accused the tech mogul’s social media platform of censoring right-wing voices as part of its campaign against misinformation.

Zuckerberg’s money was largely distributed through a nonpartisan foundation that had liberal roots. Conservative groups cite analyses that the money went disproportionately to Democratic-leaning counties in key states such as Florida and Pennsylvania.


Pandemic set off deadly rise in speeding that hasn’t stopped

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Motorists put the pedal to the metal during the pandemic and police are worried as roads get busy with the final stretch of summer travel.

The latest data shows the number of highway deaths in 2020 was the greatest in more than a decade even though cars and trucks drove fewer miles during the pandemic.

“Summer is an incredibly dangerous time. And it culminates with Labor Day, that last hurrah,” said Pam Shadel Fischer of the Governors Highway Safety Association.

Traffic data indicates the higher death toll was related to higher average speeds in conjunction with more of those on the roads driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol and a slight decline in seatbelt use.

Motorists do not seem to be slowing down.

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