COVID has killed about as many Americans as the 1918-19 flu

COVID-19 has now killed about as many Americans as the 1918-19 Spanish flu pandemic did — approximately 675,000.

The U.S. population a century ago was just one-third of what it is today, meaning the flu cut a much bigger, more lethal swath through the country. But the COVID-19 crisis is by any measure a colossal tragedy in its own right, especially given the incredible advances in scientific knowledge since then and the failure to take maximum advantage of the vaccines available this time.

“Big pockets of American society — and, worse, their leaders — have thrown this away,” medical historian Dr. Howard Markel of the University of Michigan said of the opportunity to vaccinate everyone eligible by now.

Like the Spanish flu, the coronavirus may never entirely disappear from our midst. Instead, scientists hope it becomes a mild seasonal bug as human immunity strengthens through vaccination and repeated infection. That could take time.

“We hope it will be like getting a cold, but there’s no guarantee,” said Emory University biologist Rustom Antia, who suggests an optimistic scenario in which this could happen over a few years.


US officials defend expulsion of Haitians from Texas town

DEL RIO, Texas (AP) — More than 6,000 Haitians and other migrants have been removed from an encampment at a Texas border town, U.S. officials said Monday as they defended a strong response that included immediately expelling migrants to their impoverished Caribbean country and faced criticism for using horse patrols to stop them from entering the town.

Calling it a “challenging and heartbreaking situation," Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas issued a stark warning: “If you come to the United States illegally, you will be returned. Your journey will not succeed, and you will be endangering your life and your family’s life.”

Isaac Isner, 30, and his wife Mirdege, took wet clothing off their 3-year-old daughter Isadora after crossing the Rio Grande to Ciudad Acuña, Mexico, Monday afternoon. They had been in Del Rio, Texas, for seven days but decided to return to Mexico after a friend showed cellphone video of the U.S. expelling migrants.

"They were putting people on a bus and sent them to Haiti just like that without signing anything,” Isner said.

His family has an appointment this month with Mexico’s asylum agency in the southern city of Tapachula, and they think they could be safe in Mexico.


Canada networks project Trudeau to win most seats

TORONTO (AP) — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party will win the most seats in Canada’s election, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and CTV projected Monday night.

Trudeau gambled on an early election in a bid to win a majority of seats in Parliament, but it was not clear if he would do so.

The 49-year-old Trudeau channeled the star power of his father, the Liberal icon and late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, when he first won election in 2015 and now appears to have led his party to the top finish in two elections since.

Trudeau bet Canadians didn’t want a Conservative government during a pandemic. Canada is now among the most fully vaccinated countries in the world and Trudeau’s government spent hundreds of billions of dollars to prop up the economy amid lockdowns and he argued that the Conservatives’ approach, which has been skeptical of lockdowns and vaccine mandates, would be dangerous and says Canadians need a government that follows science.

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole didn’t require his party’s candidates to be vaccinated and would not say how many were unvaccinated. O’Toole described vaccination as a personal health decision, but a growing number of vaccinated Canadians are increasingly upset with those who refuse to get vaccinated.


Texas doctor who defied state's new abortion ban is sued

DALLAS (AP) — A San Antonio doctor who said he performed an abortion in defiance of a new Texas law all but dared supporters of the state's near-total ban on the procedure to try making an early example of him by filing a lawsuit — and by Monday, two people obliged.

Former attorneys in Arkansas and Illinois filed separate state lawsuits Monday against Dr. Alan Braid, who in a weekend Washington Post opinion column became the first Texas abortion provider to publicly reveal he violated the law that took effect on Sept. 1.

They both came in ahead of the state's largest anti-abortion group, which had said it had attorneys ready to bring lawsuits. Neither ex-lawyer who filed suit said they were anti-abortion. But both said courts should weigh in.

The Texas law prohibits abortions once medical professionals can detect cardiac activity, which is usually around six weeks and before some women even know they are pregnant. Prosecutors cannot take criminal action against Braid, because the law explicitly forbids that. The only way the ban can be enforced is through lawsuits brought by private citizens, who don't have to be from Texas and who are entitled to claim at least $10,000 in damages if successful.

Oscar Stilley, who described himself in court paperwork as a disgraced former lawyer who lost his law license after being convicted of tax fraud in 2010, said he is not opposed to abortion but sued to force a court review of Texas’ anti-abortion law, which he called an “end-run.”


Democrats tie government funding to debt bill, GOP digs in

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democratic congressional leaders backed by the White House announced Monday they would push ahead with a vote to fund the government and suspend the debt limit, all but daring Republicans who say they will vote against it despite the risk of a fiscal crisis.

Congress is rushing headlong into an all-too-familiar stalemate: The federal government faces a shutdown if funding stops at the end of the fiscal year, Sept. 30. At the same time, the U.S. risks defaulting on its accumulated debt load if the borrowing limits are not waived or adjusted.

All this while Democratic lawmakers are laboring to shoulder President Joe Biden’s massive $3.5 trillion “build back better” agenda through the House and Senate with stark opposition from Republicans.

“The American people expect our Republican colleagues to live up to their responsibilities and make good on the debts they proudly helped incur,” wrote House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer in a joint statement.

From the White House, the president backed the congressional leaders’ plan to hold the votes.


UN climate talks: Faint progress on money, none on pollution

Opening pocketbooks wider to fight climate change? That’s looking slightly more doable. Closing more smokestacks for the same goal? Not yet sold.

World leaders made “faint signs of progress” on the financial end of fighting climate change in a special United Nations feet-to-the-fire meeting Monday, but they didn't commit to more crucial cuts in emissions of the heat-trapping gases that cause global warming. So after two high-level meetings in four days, frustrated leaders are still pointing to tomorrow — or next month — for key climate-change fighting promises.

“If countries were private entities, all leaders would be fired, as we are not on track. Things remain the same,” Costa Rican President Carlos Quesada said after a closed-door session of more than two dozen world leaders at the United Nations. “It is absurd.”

Leaders said they had hope for promised “good news" coming Tuesday from U.S. President Joe Biden when he speaks at the U.N. Biden is expected to talk about America helping poorer countries develop cleaner energy and cope with climate change’s worsening harms. Other leaders are hoping rich nations will finally reach a long-promised $100 billion a year package to help poorer nations switch to cleaner energy and cope with climate change's worst impacts.

The focus on climate change this week comes at the end of another summer of disasters related to extreme weather, including devastating wildfires in the western United States, deadly flooding in the U.S., China and Europe, a drumbeat of killer tropical cyclones worldwide and unprecedented heat waves everywhere.


Pfizer says COVID-19 vaccine works in kids ages 5 to 11

Pfizer said Monday its COVID-19 vaccine works for children ages 5 to 11 and that it will seek U.S. authorization for this age group soon — a key step toward beginning vaccinations for youngsters.

The vaccine made by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech already is available for anyone 12 and older. But with kids now back in school and the extra-contagious delta variant causing a huge jump in pediatric infections, many parents are anxiously awaiting vaccinations for their younger children.

For elementary school-aged kids, Pfizer tested a much lower dose — a third of the amount that’s in each shot given now. Yet after their second dose, children ages 5 to 11 developed coronavirus-fighting antibody levels just as strong as teenagers and young adults getting the regular-strength shots, Dr. Bill Gruber, a Pfizer senior vice president, told The Associated Press.

The kid dosage also proved safe, with similar or fewer temporary side effects — such as sore arms, fever or achiness — that teens experience, he said.

“I think we really hit the sweet spot,” said Gruber, who’s also a pediatrician.


IS bomb attacks on Taliban raise specter of wider conflict

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The extremist Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for a series of deadly roadside bombs targeting Taliban fighters in eastern Afghanistan, raising the specter of wider conflict between the country’s new Taliban rulers and their long-time rivals.

A string of explosions struck Taliban vehicles in Afghanistan’s provincial city of Jalalabad over the weekend, killing eight people, among them Taliban fighters. On Monday, three more explosions were heard in the city, an IS stronghold, with unconfirmed reports of additional Taliban casualties.

The Taliban are under pressure to contain IS militants, in part to make good on a promise to the international community that they will prevent the staging of terror attacks from Afghan soil. There is also a widely held expectation among conflict-weary Afghans that — despite fears and misgivings about the Taliban — the new rulers will at least restore a measure of public safety.

“We thought that since the Taliban have come, peace will come," said Feda Mohammad, a brother of an 18-year-old rickshaw driver who was killed in one of Sunday's blasts, along with a 10-year-old cousin.

"But there's no peace, no security. You can’t hear anything except the news of bomb blasts killing this one or that,” Mohammad said, speaking at the family home where relatives and neighbors gathered for a memorial ceremony, drinking black tea and reciting verses from the Quran.


Oklahoma sets 7 executions in 6 months; 1st since 2015

Oklahoma scheduled seven executions Monday in what would be the first lethal injections for the state since putting them on hold six years ago following a series of mishaps.

Among the men scheduled to die is Julius Darius Jones, even though the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board just last week recommended that his death sentence be commuted to life in prison. The case that drew national attention after it was featured in 2018 on the ABC television documentary series “The Last Defense.”

The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals scheduled six other executions — one a month from October through March, with two in January.

Oklahoma once had one of the busiest death chambers in the nation. Executions were put on hold following a botched lethal injection in 2014 that left an inmate writhing on the gurney, followed by drug mix-ups in 2015.

Its first execution since that is set for Oct. 28. The man scheduled to die — John David Marion, 60 — was initially set to be executed in October 2018, but his lethal injection was among those delayed by the concerns over the execution drugs.


George Holliday, who filmed Rodney King video, dies of COVID

LOS ANGELES (AP) — George Holliday, the Los Angeles plumber who shot grainy video of four white police officers beating Black motorist Rodney King in 1991, has died of complications of COVID-19, a friend said Monday.

Holliday, 61, died Sunday at a Los Angeles hospital, where he had been for more than a month, according to Robert Wollenweber, a longtime friend and former coworker. Holliday was not vaccinated and was on a ventilator in recent days after contracting pneumonia, Wollenweber said.

Holliday was awakened by a traffic stop outside his San Fernando Valley home on the night of March 3, 1991. He went outside to film it with his new video camera, catching the Los Angeles officers punching, kicking and using a stun gun on King, even after he was on the ground.

A year later, Holliday's out-of-focus footage — about 9 minutes worth — was a key piece of evidence at the four officers' criminal trial for assault and excessive use of force.

When a jury acquitted all the officers on April 29, 1992, the city erupted in widespread violence. Hundreds of businesses were looted and destroyed over several days. Entire blocks of homes and stores went up in flames. More than 60 people died by shootings or other violence, mostly in South Los Angeles.

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