US gymnast Kara Eaker tests positive for coronavirus


The Washington Post 19 July, 2021 - 07:42pm 9 views

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The Japanese local government where the gymnasts trained for a few days after their arrival did not release the name of the gymnast who tested positive but said she is a teenager. The gymnast has moved to a hotel to isolate, the USOPC said in a statement. One additional athlete is considered a close contact, and she is quarantining in her room until she tests negative, according to the local government. USA Gymnastics said in a statement that athlete is also an alternate.

“Accordingly, on Monday, the Olympic athletes moved to separate lodging accommodations and a separate training facility, as originally planned, and will continue their preparation for the Games,” USA Gymnastics said in a statement. “The entire delegation continues to be vigilant and will maintain strict protocols while they are in Tokyo.”

This is the first known coronavirus case among Team USA athletes who traveled to Tokyo for the Games, which begin later this week. The gymnast tested positive for the virus Sunday, according to USA Gymnastics. The team arrived in Japan three days prior.

All six of the women’s artistic gymnasts set to represent the United States in Tokyo arrived at the Olympic Village on Monday evening, according to their social media posts. Simone Biles, Jordan Chiles, Sunisa Lee, Grace McCallum and MyKayla Skinner appeared in those photos and videos together. Jade Carey, the sixth member of the squad, posted a picture in the Olympic Village with her father, who is also her coach.

All four U.S. alternates — Eaker, Kayla DiCello, Emma Malabuyo and Leanne Wong — are teenagers. Wong, 17, said after last month’s Olympic trials that she had not been vaccinated, noting that her parents are scientists. Malabuyo has said she has been vaccinated, and DiCello’s father, Matt, said she has been as well.

Malabuyo and DiCello posted a video of them dancing together in their hotel Monday. Wong shared an Instagram story Monday night that said, “Prayers for a speedy recovery for one of our teammates.”

The U.S. squad includes a four-member team — Biles, Chiles, Lee and McCallum — that is heavily favored to win the gold medal, as well as Carey and Skinner, who will compete as individuals. The six Olympians trained at the same facility as the alternates in recent days. The women’s gymnastics competition in Tokyo begins Sunday with the qualification round.

The Tokyo Olympics begin officially July 23 with the Opening Ceremonies and end August 8. Here’s what you need to know about the Games.

Read full article at The Washington Post

US women's gymnast tests positive for Covid while training four days before Tokyo opening ceremony

Daily Mail 21 July, 2021 - 06:00pm

By Adam Manno and Charlie Lankston For

A fully-vaccinated alternate on the US women's gymnastics team has tested positive for COVID-19 while training for the Olympics in Japan, amid increasing concern over the safety of the Games. 

18-year-old Kara Eaker, from Kansas City, is understood to have tested positive on Sunday, having traveled to Tokyo with three other alternates and the six main athletes who are expected to compete in the Games, including defending champion Simone Biles. 

The news of her positive test was initially reported by Japanese officials on Monday morning, however they refused to name the athlete. She has since been identified by her coach, Al Fong, while USA Gymnastics confirmed that one of its alternate athletes had been infected and was quarantining in a local hotel.   

According to WHO-TV reporter Justin Surrency, who spoke with Kara's coach, the teenager will go through 8-14 days of isolation, which began on Sunday.  

Kara's father revealed to local Kansas City news outlet KSHB 41 that his daughter does not have any symptoms and that she is 'doing fine'; on June 27, shortly after she was selected as a traveling alternate for the US gymnastics team, Kara told the same publication that she was already fully-vaccinated.  

The gymnast is the latest in a growing line of Olympic athletes who have tested positive for COVID-19, with the increase in cases adding fresh fuel to the backlash over organizers' decision to push ahead with the Games, despite Japan going through a fifth wave of infections. 

On Sunday, it was announced that six British Olympic athletes and two team staff are also self-isolating in Tokyo after being identified as close contacts of a passenger who subsequently tested positive for coronavirus on their plane to Japan. 

Team USA women's gymnast Kara Eaker, 18, has tested positive for COVID-19 while training for the Olympics in Tokyo, her coach revealed on Monday  

Japanese officials announced on Monday that a member of the US women's gymnastics team (pictured) had tested positive but did not initially reveal her identity 

Simone Biles and the five other athletes who are expected to compete (pictured) are not understood to have been in close contact with Kara, whose identity was shared by her coach

Kara (pictured second from left) is one of four alternates who traveled to Tokyo with the six main members of the gymnastics team, including defending champion Simone, 24

Olympic organizers revealed the news shortly after the South African football team announced that two of its players had tested positive. 

They were named as Thabiso Monyane and Kamohelo Mahlatsi.

Video Analyst Mario Masha from the South African squad also tested positive upon his arrival in Tokyo as the team prepares to face hosts Japan on Thursday.

Mahlatsi and Monyane were the first athletes in the Olympic Village to be reported positive.

The first infection - a coach traveling with Uganda's squad - was reported on June 20 when the team arrived at Narita airport, and since then, there have been more than a dozen cases among athletes and staff. 

Kara - who is the 16th person to have tested positive since arriving in Japan - is understood to have been staying in Narita, which is 35 miles away from Tokyo, where the US gymnastics team was training before heading to the Olympic Village ahead of the start of their events on Sunday, July 25. 

Simone, 24, and the other five women chosen to compete for Team USA at the Olympics - Suni Lee, Jordan Chiles, Mykayla Skinner, Jade Carey, and Grace McCallum - are not understood to have come into contact with Kara, who has been training separately from the main squad alongside the other three alternates. 

Four alternates were chosen to travel with Team USA's six-woman gymnastics squad; as well as Kara, Kayla DiCello, 17, Emma Malabuyo, 18, and Leanne Wong, 17, are all currently present in Narita, which is where the team has been training. 

Leanne's parents confirmed to KSHB 41 that their daughter, who is also from Kansas City, has tested negative, however she is currently isolating, having come into 'close contact' with Kara. 

On Monday morning, Leanne shared a message of support for her teammate, writing on her Instagram Story: 'Prayers for a speedy recovery for one of our teammates.' 

The US Olympic and Paralympic Committee issued a statement after news of Kara's positive test was shared, saying: 'In alignment with local rules and protocols, the athlete has been transferred to a hotel to quarantine. Out of respect for the individual’s privacy, we cannot provide more information at this time.'

Last week, USA Gymnastics revealed that the four replacement athletes for the women's team would be separated from the six gymnasts who are expected to compete in Tokyo - suggesting that Simone, 24, and her teammates may not have come into close contact with the person who has tested positive. 

The team's four alternates were also rooming together.   

Over the weekend, the women's gymnastics team dealt with what USA Gymnastics called a 'false positive' for an unidentified athlete but the ensuing test results for the athlete were negative, according to the organization.  

Kara's teammate and fellow alternate Leanne Wong is also isolating, having come into 'close contact' with her. Leanne's parents have confirmed that she has tested negative  

All four alternates, including Kayla DiCello (left) and Emma Malabuyo (right), have been training separately from Simone Biles and her five teammates, USAG revealed last week 

Biles, the defending world and Olympic champion, and the rest of the regular team have all been vaccinated, however it is unknown whether all four alternates have received their shots. Athletes were not required to have received the COVID vaccination in order to travel to Tokyo for the Olympics. 

The women's gymnastics team arrived in Japan on July 15 ahead of Friday's opening ceremony in Tokyo. 

The athletes stayed in their rooms and practiced in venues but did not spend time in the city of Narita, NBC News reports. 

On Monday, Simone and her teammates, Grace, Jordan, Suni, and Mykayla, were all posting images and videos from the Olympic Village on their Instagram accounts, in which the six athletes are seen seen wearing face masks and matching Team USA T-shirts while walking around the site. 

None of the four alternates have posted any social media content from the Olympic Village. 

Over the weekend, a visitor involved in organizing the games tested positive at the athletes' village in Tokyo, becoming the 15th person connected to the games to have tested positive for COVID-19 since July 1.

He was taken to a separate hotel to isolate for 14 days.  

The increasing number of infections among Olympic visitors to Tokyo comes amid furious backlash over the decision to push ahead with the Games, which were delayed by a year as a result of the Pandemic.   

Former Olympian and 2021 Games organizer Seiko Hashimoto addressed the outrage in a statement, insisting that they have a 'responsibility' to 'complete the mission' of hosting the global sporting event, despite rising case numbers and fears over participants' and locals' safety. 

‘We promised the world we would deliver the Games,’ she said.  

Simone and her teammate Jordan were seen posing in front of the Olympic rings on Monday, as the news about the positive test result was revealed 

Jordan was also seen posing alongside Grace, Mykayla, and Suni, in the same spot, while flashing their Olympic credentials 

The six gymnasts who make up the competing team all appear to have been given the all-clear and were seen out and about on Monday morning as news of Kara's infection broke

Defending champion Simone was seen scribbling her name on a wall of athletes' autographs 

‘We have a global challenge, we cannot postpone solving the issues - we have the responsibility to contribute to the solution. We have to complete our mission.’   

Olympic organizers have faced furious backlash from locals in Japan - which is currently suffering a fifth wave of increased COVID infections, prompting a state of emergency to be declared in the capital. 

That state of emergency is due to remain in place throughout the Olympic Games. 

This means that the majority of athletes at the Olympics will perform in front of empty stadiums, with no crowds present - after large gatherings were banned in an attempt to stem the spread of the virus.   

In the days since athletes and their coaches began arriving at the Olympic Village, there have been multiple infections reported, with the US gymnastics team becoming the latest in a growing line of squads to suffer a positive test result. 

On Sunday, 17-year-old tennis star Coco Gauff confirmed on social media that she would not be able to represent Team USA in the Tokyo Games, saying: 'I am so disappointed to share the news that I have tested positive for COVID and won't be able to play in the Olympic Games in Tokyo.

'It has always been a dream of mine to represent the USA at the Olympics, and I hope there will be many more chances for me to make this come true in the future.

'I want to wish TEAM USA best of luck and a safe games for every Olympian and the entire Olympic family.' 

When it is at peak capacity, the Olympic Village - which is a complex of apartments and dining areas in Tokyo - will house 6,700 athletes and officials. 

Guards block a road leading into the Tokyo Olympics athletes' village on July 19 after two South African football players tested positive for COVID-19 inside

COVID cases in Toyko are on the rise with 1,300 cases recorded on July 15

Current COVID cases are the highest figures in the Japanese capital within the last six months

COVID cases in Toyko are on the rise with 1,300 cases recorded on July 15 - the highest figures in the Japanese capital within the last six months.

It is not known what COVID variant the athletes have, but the rise in Japan's case figures has been attributed to the spread of the highly-infectious Delta variant, which first originated in India.

On Saturday, Games chief Seiko Hashimoto admitted athletes are 'probably very worried' about coming to Japan, pledging full transparency over COVID cases.

International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach also appealed for Japanese fans to show support, saying he was 'very well aware of the scepticism' surrounding the Games.

There is widespread concern that despite increased precautions, not enough can be done to stop the estimated 85,000 athletes, officials, journalists and other workers coming into Japan from introducing fast-spreading coronavirus variants.

Japan currently has a largely unvaccinated population already that is struggling with mounting cases.

'It's all based on the honor system, and it's causing concern that media people and other participants may go out of their hotels to eat in Ginza,' Takeshi Saiki, an opposition lawmaker, said of what he called Japan's lax border controls.

So far, the majority of Olympic athletes and other participants have been exempted from typical quarantine requirements.

Athletes are arriving in Japan to find a restrictive environment, with daily testing, social distancing and no movement possible outside the Olympic 'bubble'.

They are under orders to leave Japan 48 hours after their event.

The Japanese press is filled with reports of Olympic-related people testing positive for the coronavirus.

'There are big holes in the bubbles,' said Ayaka Shiomura, another opposition lawmaker, speaking of the so-called 'bubbles' that are supposed to separate the Olympics' participants from the rest of the country.

In another example of the difficulties, Australia's entire athletics team was quarantined before departure after a member of their entourage returned an inconclusive test. The official later tested negative.

Currently, Australia's most populous city, Sydney, and all of Victoria state - totaling nearly half the 25 million national population - are under stay-home orders after a flare-up of the highly infectious Delta virus strain began last month.

JUNE 20 - A coach with Uganda's squad tests positive on arrival at Narita airport and is quarantined at a government-designated facility. The rest of the team heads by bus for their host city, Izumisano near Osaka in western Japan.

JUNE 23 - A Ugandan athlete tests positive, Izumisano officials said.

JULY 4 - A member of Serbia's Olympic rowing team tests positive on arrival. The other four team members are isolated as close contacts.

JULY 9 - One Lithuanian and one Israeli athlete test positive, according to reports. Later reports say the Lithuanian's results were unclear and subsequently tested negative.

JULY 14 - A masseur for the Russian women's rugby sevens team tests positive, forcing the team into isolation for two days, the RIA news agency reports. Officials in Munakata, southwestern Japan, confirmed one staff member was hospitalised and said none of the team members could be considered close contacts.

- The refugee Olympic team delayed its arrival in Japan following a positive case with a team official in Doha. The infected official is in quarantine without symptoms and 26 of the 29 refugees will remain in their Doha training camp.

- Seven staff at a hotel in Hamamatsu, central Japan, where dozens of Brazilian athletes are staying, have tested positive, a city official said.

- Twenty-one members of the South African rugby team are in isolation after they are believed to have been in close contact with a case on their flight.

JULY 15 - Eight athletes from the Kenya women's rugby team were classified as close contacts after a positive coronavirus case was found on their flight to Tokyo, said an official with the southwestern city of Kurume, where they were set to hold a training camp.

- U.S. basketball star Bradley Bealâs Olympic dream was cut short when USA Basketball announced the Washington Wizards star will miss the Tokyo Games after he entered coronavirus protocols at the training camp in Las Vegas.

- An Olympic athlete under a 14-day quarantine period tested positive for the virus, but had not yet moved to the Olympic Village, the organising committee's website reported, without giving further details. They said one member of the Games personnel and four Tokyo 2020 contractors had also tested positive.

JULY 16 - Australian tennis player Alex de Minaur tested positive for COVID-19 prior to his departure for the Tokyo Olympics, the Australian Olympic Committee said.

- A member of the Nigerian Olympics delegation who tested positive for the coronavirus at Narita airport on Thursday has been admitted to a hospital, media said. The person, in their 60s, had only light symptoms but was hospitalised because of their advanced age and pre-existing conditions, TV Asahi said, adding it was the first COVID-19 hospitalisation of an Olympics-related visitor. No further details were available.

- An Olympic-related non-resident under a 14-day quarantine period tested positive for the virus, the organisers' website said, without giving further details. Three Tokyo 2020 contractors, all of whom are residents of Japan, also tested positive, organisers said.

JULY 17 - 15 people tested positive for the virus, the organisers said, including the first case at the athletes' village, who is a visitor from abroad and is involved in organising the Games. The rest are two members of the media, seven contractors and five members of the Games personnel.

An American runner joked that athletes are being forced to sleep on cardboard beds to stop them from having sex - but organizers have hit back, insisting the frames are 'sturdy' enough to withstand physical activity.

Paul Chelimo, a distance runner, poked fun at the 'sustainable' carboard beds on Twitter at the weekend - saying the beds can only support a single person 'to avoid situations beyond sports'.

But the official Olympics Twitter account soon responded, saying the beds are 'sturdy' while posting a video of Irish gymnast Rhys McClenaghan jumping on his.

'Fake news!' 21-year-old McClenaghan shouts as he repeatedly jumps up and down on the cardboard frame at the athlete's village in Tokyo. 

American distance runner Paul Chelimo joked that athletes' beds at the Tokyo Olympics were made of cardboard to stop people having sex in them once the competition is over

Cardboard beds in the athlete's village at the Tokyo Olympics are sturdy enough for sex, organisers said, alongside a video of Irish gymnast Rhys McClenaghan jumping on one

'Thanks for debunking the myth,' the Olympics official twitter account while retweeting the footage.

'You heard it first from Team Ireland - the sustainable cardboard beds are sturdy!'

It is far from the first time that organizers of the 'most sustainable games in history' have been forced to defend their unusual choice of beds.

In January last year officials denied the beds weren't suitable for post-competition antics among athletes- saying they will hold up provided the occupant of the bed only invites one other person into bed with them.

Manufacturer Airweave said the bed frames can withstand up to 440lbs (200kg).

'We've conducted experiments, like dropping weights on top of the beds,' an Airweave spokesperson said.

'As long as they stick to just two people in the bed, they should be strong enough to support the load.'

There are just fours days to go until the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics, which was delayed from last year due to the Covid pandemic.

The event is proving hugely controversial with most Japanese opposed to it going ahead as the country suffers through a fifth wave of Covid infections - with a state of emergency declared in the capital and due to run through the event.

Airweave, the company which makes the 'sustainable' beds, previously said they can hold up to 440lbs (200kg) - which should be enough for at least two people  

Meanwhile Czech volleyball player Ondrej Perusic (pictured right after getting his second Covid jab) tested positive for the virus Sunday in the latest case to affect athletes

It means that most athletes will perform without crowds present, with gatherings banned to stem the spread of the virus.

Infections are also threatening to de-rail the event for competing athletes, after a Czech beach volleyball player tested positive at the Olympic Village.

Ondrej Perusic submitted 'a positive sample during everyday testing in the Olympic Village on Sunday, July 18', Czech Olympic team head Martin Doktor said.

'He has absolutely no symptoms. We are dealing with all the details and... naturally, the anti-epidemic measures within the team,' he added.

Doktor said the team was also seeking the postponement of Perusic's first game at the Olympics with his teammate David Schweiner, scheduled for July 26.

'We are now looking into the possibility of postponing the games or other options that would allow the boys to start the tournament later on,' he added.

Perusic, 26, said he was 'very upset' but said he understood health was a priority.

'For now, I don't see this as the end of the world or a tragedy,' he said.

'I was vaccinated and I tried to comply with the public health standards.

'Unfortunately, I think I made a mistake somewhere and got infected. It's my responsibility above all,' he said. 

Car-maker Toyota has said it will not display any advertising at the event because of widespread anger that it is being allowed to go ahead

On Saturday, the Czech Olympic Committee reported a staff member had tested positive for Covid-19 upon landing in Tokyo for the Games that start on Friday.

Perusic's case appears to be the fourth in the Olympic Village after the infections of two South African footballers and their team's video analyst. 

The Olympic Village, a complex of apartments and dining areas in Tokyo, will house 6,700 athletes and officials at its peak during the Games.

Meanwhile Toyota, one of the International Olympic Committee's biggest sponsors, said it will not air any Olympic-themed TV advertising during the event - underlining fears about just how unpopular the competition has become.

'There are many issues with these Games that are proving difficult to be understood,' Toyota Chief Communications Officer Jun Nagata told reporters.

Chief Executive Akio Toyoda, the company founder's grandson, also confirmed he will be skipping the opening ceremony. 

That's despite about 200 athletes being affiliated with Toyota, including swimmer Takeshi Kawamoto and softball player Miu Goto.

Nagata said the company will continue to support its athletes.

Masa Takaya, a Tokyo 2020 spokesperson, said sponsors each make its own decisions on their messages.

'There is a mixed public sentiment towards the Games,' Takaya said.

'I need to emphasize that those partners and companies have been very supportive to Tokyo 2020. They are passionate about making these Games happen.'  

So-called 'breakthrough' COVID-19 cases occur when people contract the disease 14 days or more after receiving their second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine or the Johnson & Johnson one-shot jab.

Clinical trials have shown that Pfizer-BioNTech's vaccine is 95% effective in preventing symptomatic disease and the Moderna vaccine is 94.5% effective.

Meanwhile, real-world data showed the Pfizer jab is 91% effective against all disease for at least six months and the Moderna vaccine is 90% effective.

This means that fully vaccinated people are between 90% and 95% less likely to develop COVID-19 than unvaccinated people.

In addition, Johnson & Johnson's vaccine trials showed 72% efficacy in the U.S., meaning those who got the one-shot jab are 72% less likely to contract the disease.

When comparing fully vaccinated people who did and did not get sick, the risk is even lower.

The most recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data show that 10,262 of at least 133 million Americans who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 later contracted the disease.

This translates to 0.00716% of people who have completed their vaccine series have gone on to test positive.

It also represents the true odds of getting COVID-19 after full vaccination: less than 0.01%.

What's more, fully vaccinated people who test positive have mild illnesses, and are very unlikely to be hospitalized or die.

The CDC states that 99.5% of all deaths occur in unvaccinated people.

That means, if the figure applies to the 3,165 Americans who've died in July 2021 so far - as of July 13 - about 3,150 deaths would be among unvaccinated people and 15 deaths among fully vaccinated people.

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Games officials must be quick off the blocks in event of outbreaks

South China Morning Post 21 July, 2021 - 06:00pm

Editorials represent the views of the South China Morning Post on the issues of the day.

Tokyo Olympics: The athletes that have tested positive for COVID-19

CNET 21 July, 2021 - 06:00pm

The Tokyo Olympics, which was postponed in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, is now going ahead, despite health specialists calling for another postponement or outright cancellation.

And with good reason. Despite strict COVID protocols, multiple athletes attending the Tokyo Olympics have already tested positive for the virus. Toshiro Muto has admitted that a spike in new cases would result to "discussions" about the cancellation of the Olympics. ""We can't predict what will happen with the number of coronavirus cases," said Muto, in a press conference.

Here are the athletes who have tested positive for COVID-19 so far.

Thabiso Monyane and Kamohelo Mahlatsi, both members of the South African soccer team at the Olympics, have both been named as having tested positive for COVID-19. Mario Masha, the team's video analyst also tested positive and all three are isolating in their rooms in the Olympic village. According to the BBC, 21 players and officials were close contacts.

Ondrej Perusic, a 26-year-old beach volleyball player from the Czech Republic, was the third player to officially test positive for COVID-19 in the athlete village in Tokyo.

Coco Gauff, a 17 year old tennis player on Team USA, announced she was withdrawing from the Olympics after testing positive for COVID-19. She was set to be the youngest Olympic tennis player since Mario Ancic in 2000. 

Katie Lou Samuelson, a member of Team USA's 3 on 3 basketball team, tested positive for COVID-19. She'll be replaced by Jackie Young, a 23 year old who plays for the Las Vegas Aces.

Katie Lou Samuelson, who was placed under USA Basketball's health & safety protocols on Saturday, will remain in protocol & will be unable to participate in the Tokyo Olympic Games.

Samuelson hadn't yet made the trip to Tokyo.

Neil Powell is the South Africa Sevens rugby coach, he tested positive for COVID-19 upon arrival in Japan. He is currently isolating with the team in Kagoshima.

The US Olympic Committee (USOC) confirmed that a female US gymnast tested positive for COVID-19, but didn't name her. (It's not Simone Biles.) According to the USOC the athlete in question is an alternate and not a member of the main team.

Bradley Beal, a basketball player on the US team, has been ruled out of the Olympics, for health and safety reasons. Jerami Grant, another member of the basketball team was also placed in the health and safety protocol, but some are still hopeful he'll make it to Tokyo.

Alex de Minaur, Australia's highest ranked Tennis player, tested positive for COVID-19 and had to pull out of the Olympics. He tested positive on July 10.

Six members of the Great Britain Olympic team had to go into isolation after being exposed to a COVID-19 case on a flight to Tokyo. They are currently training in isolation and will be able to mingle with other athletes once they pass two PCR tests for COVID-19.

AP News in Brief at 11:03 p.m. EDT

Cadillac News 21 July, 2021 - 06:00pm

Partly cloudy this evening with more clouds for overnight. Low 52F. Winds ESE at 5 to 10 mph..

Partly cloudy this evening with more clouds for overnight. Low 52F. Winds ESE at 5 to 10 mph.

An Olympics like no other, Tokyo perseveres to host Games

TOKYO (AP) — It's an Olympics like no other — and the Tokyo Games are surely that — but this is an event that has persevered through wars, boycotts and now a pandemic over its 125-year modern history.

The Tokyo Olympics have already broken new ground because of the 12-month delay caused by the coronavirus pandemic, pushing it into an odd-numbered year for the first time. But with no fans permitted in Japan, foreign or local, it has the distinction of being the first Games without spectators.

“We’re in uncharted territory," said Steve Wilson, the former president of the Olympic Journalists Association who covered the Olympic movement for The Associated Press for nearly three decades until 2017.

“These will be Games without the carnival atmosphere, celebration and fun that we’ve come to expect and look forward to. Definitely one for the history books.”

There have been many other unusual editions of the Olympics in the past, however. The United States and many of its allies boycotted the 1980 Moscow Games to protest the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan. The Soviets and many of its allies reciprocated four years later by boycotting the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.

Monster wildfire tests years of forest management efforts

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Ecologists in a vast region of wetlands and forest in remote Oregon have spent the past decade thinning young trees and using planned fires to try to restore the thick stands of ponderosa to a less fire-prone state.

This week, the nation's biggest burning wildfire provided them with an unexpected, real-world experiment. As the massive inferno half the size of Rhode Island roared into the Sycan Marsh Preserve, firefighters said the flames jumped less from treetop to treetop and instead returned to the ground, where they were easier to fight, moved more slowly and did less damage to the overall forest.

The initial assessment suggests that the many years of forest treatments worked, said Pete Caligiuri, Oregon forest program director for The Nature Conservancy, which runs the research at the preserve.

“Generally speaking, what firefighters were reporting on the ground is that when the fire came into those areas that had been thinned ... it had significantly less impact.”

The reports were bittersweet for researchers, who still saw nearly 20 square miles of the preserve burn, but the findings add to a growing body of research about how to make wildfires less explosive by thinning undergrowth and allowing forests to burn periodically — as they naturally would do — instead of snuffing out every flame.

Schools confront more polarization with mask rules for fall

Students in Wichita, Kansas, public schools can ditch the masks when classes begin. Detroit public schools will probably require them unless everyone in a room is vaccinated. In Pittsburgh, masks will likely be required regardless of vaccination status. And in some states, schools cannot mandate face coverings under any circumstances.

With COVID-19 cases soaring nationwide, school districts across the U.S. are yet again confronting the realities of a polarized country and the lingering pandemic as they navigate mask requirements, vaccine rules and social distancing requirements for the fast-approaching new school year.

The spread of the delta variant and the deep political divisions over the outbreak have complicated decisions in districts from coast to coast. Some conservative states, lawmakers have banned districts from requiring masks despite outcry from medical professionals. Schools are weighing a variety of plans to manage junior high and middle school classrooms filled with both vaccinated and unvaccinated students.

“I’m so frustrated that it’s become a political issue because it shouldn’t be. It’s science,” said Mary Tuttle, who operates an Indianapolis in-home day care center and hopes the city's schools require masks for her daughters.

She worries that the delta variant could lead to a return to virtual learning, which caused her 10-year-old daughter to become depressed and anxious last year. Another daughter will turn 12 six days after starting 6th grade and will be vaccinated as soon as possible.

Jeff Bezos blasts into space on own rocket: 'Best day ever!'

VAN HORN, Texas (AP) — Jeff Bezos blasted into space Tuesday on his rocket company’s first flight with people on board, becoming the second billionaire in just over a week to ride his own spacecraft.

The Amazon founder was accompanied by a hand-picked group: his brother, an 18-year-old from the Netherlands and an 82-year-old aviation pioneer from Texas — the youngest and oldest to ever fly in space.

“Best day ever!” Bezos said when the capsule touched down on the desert floor in remote West Texas after the 10-minute flight.

Named after America’s first astronaut, Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket soared on the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, a date chosen by Bezos for its historical significance. He held fast to it, even as Virgin Galactic’s Richard Branson pushed up his own flight from New Mexico and beat him to space by nine days.

The two private companies chasing space tourism dollars, though, have drawn criticism for catering to the rich while so many are struggling amid the pandemic.

Bezos' comments on workers after spaceflight draws rebuke

NEW YORK (AP) — The world's richest man wanted to say thanks to the people who made his brief trip into space Tuesday possible.

But for some, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos' expression of gratitude went over like a lead rocket.

“I want to thank every Amazon employee, and every Amazon customer because you guys paid for all this,” the 57-year-old Bezos said during a news conference Tuesday after becoming the second billionaire in just over a week to ride in his own spacecraft.

Bezos built Amazon into a shopping and entertainment behemoth but has faced increasing activism within his own workforce and stepped up pressure from critics to improve working conditions.

Labor groups and Amazon workers have claimed that the company offers its hourly employees not enough break times, puts too much reliance on rigid productivity metrics and has unsafe working conditions. An effort to unionize workers at an Amazon warehouse in Alabama failed earlier this year.

Japan tops Australia in softball as delayed Tokyo Games open

FUKUSHIMA, Japan (AP) — Host Japan got off to a winning start when the Tokyo Olympics got underway after a one-year delay, beating Australia 8-1 Wednesday in softball behind 39-year-old pitcher Yukiko Ueno, who won the 2008 gold medal game against the United States.

The game was played in a nearly empty stadium. Fans were barred from the Olympics because of the coronavirus pandemic, which caused a one-year delay. Many in Japan have questioned whether the Olympics should take place at all with low levels of vaccination in the nation.

Ueno allowed two hits over 4 1/3 innings and struck out seven, throwing 85 pitches for the win.

Minori Naito and Saki Yamazaki hit two-run homers off loser Kaia Parnaby and Yu Yamamoto, who had three RBIs, added a two-run drive against Tarni Stepto in the fifth that ended the game under a rout rule.

Ueno started Australia's Michelle Cox with a ball at 9:02 a.m. before a nearly empty Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium, beginning an Olympics whose viability has been repeatedly questioned.

Big infrastructure bill in peril; GOP threatens filibuster

WASHINGTON (AP) — The bipartisan infrastructure deal senators brokered with President Joe Biden is hanging precariously ahead of a crucial Wednesday test vote as they struggle over how to pay for nearly $1 trillion in public works spending.

Tensions were rising as Republicans prepared to mount a filibuster over what they see as a rushed and misguided process. With Biden preparing to hit the road to rally support for his big infrastructure ideas — including some $3.5 trillion in a follow-up bill — restless Democrats say it's time to at least start debate on this first phase of his proposals.

“It is not a fish or cut bait moment,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Tuesday, describing the procedural vote as just a first step to ”get the ball rolling" as bipartisan talks progress.

Six months after Biden took office, his signature “Build Back Better” campaign promise is at a key moment that will test the presidency and his hopes for a new era of bipartisan cooperation in Washington.

White House aides and the bipartisan group of senators have huddled privately since Sunday trying to wrap up the deal, which would be a first phase of an eventual $4 trillion-plus package of domestic outlays — not just for roads and bridges, but foundations of everyday life including child care, family tax breaks, education and an expansion of Medicare for seniors.

Trump inaugural committee head accused of being UAE agent

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The chair of former President Donald Trump's 2017 inaugural committee was arrested Tuesday on charges alleging he secretly conspired to influence U.S. policy to benefit the United Arab Emirates, even while he was seeking a position as an American diplomat.

Tom Barrack, 74, of Santa Monica, California, was among three men charged in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, with acting as unregistered foreign agents as they tried to influence U.S. policy on the UAE's behalf while Trump was running in 2016 and later while he was president.

The indictment goes to the heart of the U.S.' longtime close relationship with the UAE and directly ties its de facto ruler, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, to Barrack's charges.

Besides conspiracy, Barrack was charged with obstruction of justice and making multiple false statements during a June 2019 interview with federal agents. Also charged in a seven-count indictment were Matthew Grimes, 27, of Aspen, Colorado, who is a former executive at Barrack’s company, and Rashid al Malik, 43, a businessman from the United Arab Emirates who prosecutors said acted as a conduit to that nation's rulers.

One of Trump’s close personal friends for decades, Barrack is the latest in a long line of the former president’s associates to face criminal charges, including his former campaign chair, his former deputy campaign chair, his former chief strategist, his former national security adviser, his former personal lawyer and his company’s longtime chief financial officer.

McConnell urges Americans: 'Get vaccinated' as cases spike

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell implored unvaccinated Americans Tuesday to take the COVID-19 shot, issuing a stark and grave warning of a repeat of last year's rising caseloads and shutdowns if people refuse to protect themselves from the coronavirus.

McConnell urged Americans to ignore the “demonstrably bad advice” coming from pundits and others against the vaccines. As cases skyrocket, he noted that nearly all the new virus hospitalizations in the U.S. are among people who have not been vaccinated.

“If there is anybody out there willing to listen: Get vaccinated,” McConnell, R-Ky., said at his weekly press conference at the Capitol.

“These shots need to get in everybody's arms as rapidly as possible or we’re going to be back in a situation in the fall that we don't yearn for — that we went through last year,” he said. “This is not complicated.”

McConnell has been one of the most outspoken members of his party in urging vaccinations to stop the virus spread, speaking often in his home state of Kentucky of the need for people to get the shot.

Afghan war’s end quiets chaplain's litany of funeral prayers

DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. (AP) — This is the place where widows wailed, where mothers buckled to the tarmac in grief and where children lifted their teddy bears to see daddy carried off in a flag-covered box.

This is where presidents stood and generals saluted because this is the place where the price of the war in Afghanistan was made plain.

This is the place where Chaplain David Sparks saw it all. This is the place he found his calling.

“This,” the minister says, “is holy ground.”

The end of the war is sobering for those who have tended to the battle’s dead, who unzipped their body bags, dressed them in uniform one last time and clutched their bereft families.

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Total COVID-19 cases top 70 at Tokyo Olympics 20 July, 2021 - 08:44pm

A man rides his bike near the athlete’s village for the 2020 Summer Olympics and Paralympics, Thursday, July 15, 2021, in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

TOKYO (AP) — An American gymnast and a Czech beach volleyball player were added to the tally Tuesday of people accredited for the Tokyo Olympics who have tested positive for COVID-19 this month.

Tokyo Olympics organizers said 71 people have now tested positive. The total includes 31 people among the tens of thousands of international visitors expected in Japan to compete or work at the Games, which open Friday.

Positive tests for United States gymnastics alternate Kara Eaker and Czech team member Ondřej Perušič were announced Monday. Eaker was at a training camp in Chiba prefecture and Perušič stayed at the Olympic Village in Tokyo Bay.

Both went into 14-day quarantine, organizers said. That period includes all three of Perušič’s scheduled games with playing partner David Schweiner.

A new case among 13 added to the official total Tuesday includes a “games-concerned personnel” — a category including team officials and sports staffers — in Tokyo who is not staying at the village.

Other newly reported cases scattered across Japan include Games contractors and a volunteer.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Trademark and Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Former Scripps Health employee Matthew Lombardo was arrested on suspicion of wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and wrongfully disclosing medical information, according to a warrant and other court documents obtained by FOX 5.

Elder scored a swift court victory in Sacramento, where he challenged a decision by state election officials to block him from the September recall ballot.

California Highway Patrol officers began chasing the white van around 3 p.m., after the stolen vehicle pursuit was handed over to them by Torrance police, CHP Officer Stephan Brandt said.

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