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Judge: Florida Condo Collapse Victims Will Be Compensated At Least $150M

Judge: Florida Condo Collapse Victims Will Be Compensated At Least 0M
Judge: Florida Condo Collapse Victims Will Be Compensated At Least 0M

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Victims and families who suffered losses in the collapse of a 12-story oceanfront Florida condominium will get a minimum of $150 million in compensation initially, a judge said Wednesday.

That sum includes about $50 million in insurance on the Champlain Towers South building and at least $100 million in proceeds from the sale of the Surfside property where the structure once stood, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Michael Hanzman said at a hearing.

“The court’s concern has always been the victims here,” the judge said, adding that the group includes visitors and renters, not just condo owners. “Their rights will be protected.”

The $150 million does not count any proceeds from the numerous lawsuits already filed since the June 24 collapse, which killed at least 97 people. Those lawsuits are being consolidated into a single class action that would cover all victims and family members if they choose, the judge said.

“I have no doubt, no stone will be left unturned,” Hanzman said of the lawsuits.

So, far 96 victims have been identified, many of them using DNA analysis. Relatives and friends of three missing people say they are awaiting word on loved ones believed to have been in the building, meaning the overall toll could potentially go up to 98. Officials have not yet announced an end to the recovery effort.

On Wednesday, 24-year-old Anastasia Gromova was identified, according to her family and police. The young Canadian had just been accepted to a program teaching English in Japan and was visiting the condo for one last hurrah with friend Michelle Pazos. Gromova’s body was recovered three days ago and was one of the last to be identified.

Her grieving family rushed from Canada after the collapse and had spent weeks in agony waiting in Miami.

“It just makes it real and hard but on a different level. At least we can move on now.” her sister Anna Gromova told The Associated Press, describing her sister as a bright star that fell fast. “We will remember her forever.”

Her parents said she was bright, always on the go, constantly smiling and unafraid to take on difficult challenges.

“It’s hard because you knew the loss was preventable and still nothing was prevented,” her sister said.

Meanwhile, the site of the tragedy has been completely cleared of debris under the watchful eye of investigators from the National Institute of Standards and Technology — the agency leading a federal probe into the collapse, according to a receiver handling the finances on behalf of the condominium board.

Rubble considered key evidence is being stored in a Miami-area warehouse, with the rest in nearby vacant lots, said the receiver, attorney Michael Goldberg. All of that will be preserved as possible evidence for the lawsuits and for other experts to review, he said.

“It may take years for their report to become public,” Goldberg said of the NIST probe.

The building was just undergoing its 40-year recertification process when it collapsed. That came three years after an engineer warned of serious structural issues needing immediate attention. Most of the concrete repair and other work had yet to be started.

There remain differences of opinion among condo owners about what to do with the site. Some want the entire condo rebuilt so they can move back in. Others say it should be left as a memorial site to honor those who died. A third suggestion is to combine both.

Owner Raysa Rodriguez, whose unit was on the ninth floor, said she couldn’t imagine going back into a building in a place where so many friends died.

“I personally would never set foot in a building. That’s a gravesite,” Rodriguez told the judge. “I wake up in the middle of the night thinking of everyone who perished.”

Oren Cytrynbaum, an attorney who is informally representing some fellow condo owners, said it was important to think creatively about the building sale, including whether requirements might be added such as a memorial of some kind for future developers.

“It shouldn’t be a traditional land sale,” Cytrynbaum said. “We’re not on one path.”

Hanzman, however, said time is of the essence because victims and families need money to begin rebuilding their lives.

“This is not a case where we have time to let grass grow underneath it,” he said.

Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber has offered a tract of land in his neighboring city for construction of a Surfside memorial.

“All options will be considered,” the judge said, adding that any memorial must be paid for with public dollars. “It’s going to have to be funded by the general public, not these particular victims.”

Associated Press writer Kelli Kennedy contributed to this report from Fort Lauderdale, Florida.



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GOP Governor Says It’s Time To ‘Blame The Unvaccinated’ For Pandemic Surge

GOP Governor Says It’s Time To ‘Blame The Unvaccinated’ For Pandemic Surge
GOP Governor Says It’s Time To ‘Blame The Unvaccinated’ For Pandemic Surge

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A Republican governor in one of the states hit hardest by the delta variant of the coronavirus called out those who’ve refused the vaccine on Thursday. 

“It’s time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks, not the regular folks,” said Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, per CBS 42 in Birmingham. “It’s the unvaccinated folks that are letting us down.”

Ivey, who was vaccinated in December, also seemed to throw some shade at Fox News and other right-wing media outlets. 

“Media, I want you to start reporting the facts,” she said. “The new cases of COVID are because of unvaccinated folks. Almost 100 percent of the new hospitalizations are with unvaccinated folks. And the deaths are certainly occurring with the unvaccinated folks.”

Although she didn’t name names, Fox News hosts, such as Tucker Carlson, have attempted to cast doubt on the effectiveness of the coronavirus vaccines. Carlson said the notion that the U.S. was now in a pandemic of the unvaccinated was “simply untrue” and “a lie.” 

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R), who was vaccinated in December, threw some shade at Fox News and other right-wing media outlets fo



Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R), who was vaccinated in December, threw some shade at Fox News and other right-wing media outlets for providing misinformation about the coronavirus vaccines.

One Alabama ER doc recently shared the haunting tales of dying coronavirus patients who begged for the vaccine that they had previously refused. 

“I hold their hand and tell them that I’m sorry, but it’s too late,” Dr. Brytney Cobia wrote on Facebook.

Alabama has seen a 311% jump in cases over the past two weeks, according to The New York Times, and a 92% increase in hospitalizations. The state’s rate of 23 new cases per 100,000 people was tied for the ninth highest in the nation. Alabama is also tied for the lowest vaccination rate in the U.S.  

Ivey has not exactly helped her case. Last week, she rejected a plan by President Joe Biden in which community-based volunteers would go door to door to encourage COVID-19 vaccination and offer help to those who need it. 

She also signed a bill banning “vaccine passports” in her state. That same law also banned businesses from requiring vaccination or even asking about vaccination status and banned schools, including colleges, from requiring the vaccine despite the fact that Alabama schools currently require multiple shots, with certain exemptions allowed.  

Earlier this week, Ivey rejected a call for wearing masks in schools that was made by the American Academy of Pediatrics



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Delta Variant Will ‘Find Everybody Not Immune,’ Warns Mayo Clinic Vaccine Expert

Delta Variant Will ‘Find Everybody Not Immune,’ Warns Mayo Clinic Vaccine Expert
Delta Variant Will ‘Find Everybody Not Immune,’ Warns Mayo Clinic Vaccine Expert

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One of the leading vaccine experts in the nation has a dire warning for Americans: The powerful, fast-spreading delta variant of the coronavirus will “find everybody who is not immune.”

There is “no question that we are going to see a surge,” Dr. Gregory Poland of the prestigious Mayo Clinic told WCCO-TV in Minnesota. 

Poland, who wears a mask indoors and outside in crowded conditions, warned the unvaccinated: “Do not be deceived that ‘I got this far and I’m OK.’ This is a very different variant. It will find you. This virus will find everybody who is not immune.”

He added: “This is a serious, current and present danger to you and your families’ health if you are not vaccinated.”

Though the major risk is to the unvaccinated, continuing numbers of those who don’t get the protection present a risk to everyone, he warned.

“The longer we go with large numbers of people unvaccinated, the greater and greater the risk that a new variant will develop that will evade vaccine-induced immunity. So we are our own worst enemies here,” Poland told KARE-11 TV. in Minneapolis.

Poland is especially worried about children too young to get the vaccine — as well as for teens whose parents are on the fence about vaccinations, especially because “we are seeing rises in severe disease and hospitalization among young people,” he said.

He strongly agrees with the recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics this week that children should wear a mask when they return to school, whether they’re vaccinated or not.

“A mask is not a political symbol. It is a medical symbol of taking care of yourself and others,” he said.

The significantly more transmissible delta variant now makes up about 83% of new COVID-19 cases in the U.S., with the majority of deaths occurring in unvaccinated people. The variant is driving cases up in every state in the nation.

Over the week ending Tuesday, the U.S. has averaged 239 deaths per day from the virus — which is nearly a 48% increase from the prior week.

Check out a clip of Poland’s interview with WCCO-TV below. An extended interview with KARE-11 TV is up top.

A HuffPost Guide To Coronavirus



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2 People Shot In Popular Washington Restaurant District

2 People Shot In Popular Washington Restaurant District
2 People Shot In Popular Washington Restaurant District

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Two people were shot in Washington, D.C., on Thursday night as diners were gathered for dinner and drinks on a street popular for its restaurants and bars.

HuffPost’s Igor Bobic, who was on the scene, said he heard 20 to 30 gunshots near 14th and R streets in the Logan Circle neighborhood of Washington shortly after 8 p.m., which sent people running from restaurants. A witness said a black sedan pulled up outside several restaurants and began shooting onto the sidewalk.

It appeared that multiple people were injured, including one inside the Mexicue restaurant.

Police were at the scene Thursday night.

“All of a sudden, me and my friends heard a shot and then a couple more shots. Some of us thought it was just a firework or a tire. They just kept coming … and we all got down on the ground and tried to get behind a table,” said Claire Goldberg, who was at the Garden District bar.

Goldberg added that she saw at least three ambulances on the scene when she walked out of the bar.



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Director Of Tokyo Olympics Opening Ceremony Fired For Holocaust Joke

Director Of Tokyo Olympics Opening Ceremony Fired For Holocaust Joke
Director Of Tokyo Olympics Opening Ceremony Fired For Holocaust Joke

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TOKYO (AP) — The Tokyo Olympic organizing committee fired the director of the opening ceremony on Thursday because of a Holocaust joke he made during a comedy show in 1998.

Organizing committee president Seiko Hashimoto said a day ahead of the opening ceremony that director Kentaro Kobayashi has been dismissed. He was accused of using a joke about the Holocaust in his comedy act, including the phrase “Let’s play Holocaust.”

“We found out that Mr. Kobayashi, in his own performance, has used a phrase ridiculing a historical tragedy,” Hashimoto said. “We deeply apologize for causing such a development the day before the opening ceremony and for causing troubles and concerns to many involved parties as well as the people in Tokyo and the rest of the country.”

Tokyo has been plagued with scandals since being awarded the Games in 2013. French investigators are looking into alleged bribes paid to International Olympic Committee members to influence the vote for Tokyo. The fallout forced the resignation two years ago of Tsunekazu Takeda, who headed the Japanese Olympic Committee and was an IOC member.

The opening ceremony of the pandemic-delayed Games is scheduled for Friday. The ceremony will be held without spectators as a measure to prevent the spread of coronavirus infections, although some officials, guests and media will attend.

“We are going to have the opening ceremony tomorrow and, yes, I am sure there are a lot of people who are not feeling easy about the opening of the Games,” Hashimoto said. “But we are going to open the Games tomorrow under this difficult situation.”

Kentaro Kobayashi, a key director of Tokyo Olympics’ opening ceremony, was dismissed on Thursday.



Kentaro Kobayashi, a key director of Tokyo Olympics’ opening ceremony, was dismissed on Thursday.

Earlier this week, composer Keigo Oyamada, whose music was to be used at the ceremony, was forced to resign because of past bullying of his classmates, which he boasted about in magazine interviews. The segment of his music will not be used.

Soon after a video clip and script of Kobayashi’s performance were revealed, criticism flooded social media.

“Any person, no matter how creative, does not have the right to mock the victims of the Nazi genocide,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean and global social action director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Los Angeles-based human rights group.

He also noted that the Nazis gassed Germans with disabilities.

“Any association of this person to the Tokyo Olympics would insult the memory of 6 million Jews and make a cruel mockery of the Paralympics,” he said.

Kobayashi is a former member of a popular comedy duo Rahmens and known overseas for comedy series including “The Japanese Tradition.”

Japan is pushing ahead with the Olympics against the advice of most of its medical experts. This is partially due to pressure from the IOC, which is estimated to face losses of $3 billion to $4 billion in television rights income if the Games were not held.

The official cost of the Olympics is $15.4 billion, but government audits suggest it’s much more. All but $6.7 billion is public money.

“We have been preparing for the last year to send a positive message,” Hashimoto said. “Toward the very end now there are so many incidents that give a negative image toward Tokyo 2020.”

Toshiro Muto, the CEO of the Tokyo organizing committee, also acknowledged the reputational damage.

“Maybe these negative incidents will impact the positive message we wanted to deliver to the world,” he said.

The last-minute scandals come as Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s government faces criticism for prioritizing the Olympics despite public health concerns amid a resurgence of coronavirus infections.

Koichi Nakano, who teach politics at Sophia University, wrote on Twitter that the opening ceremony chaos underscores a lack of awareness in Japan about diversity.

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said she learned of Koyayashi’s comments from Hashimoto.

“I was astonished,” she said.

Kobayashi’s Holocaust joke and Oyamada’s resignation were the latest to plague the Games. Yoshiro Mori resigned as organizing committee president over sexist remarks. Hiroshi Sasaki also stepped down as creative director for the opening and closing ceremonies after suggesting a Japanese actress should dress as a pig.

Also this week, the chiropractor for the American women’s wrestling team apologized after comparing Olympic COVID-19 protocols to Nazi Germany in a social media post. Rosie Gallegos-Main, the team’s chiropractor since 2009, will be allowed to finish her planned stay at USA Wrestling’s pre-Olympic camp in Nakatsugawa, Japan.



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Widespread Internet Outage Briefly Takes Down Major Websites

Widespread Internet Outage Briefly Takes Down Major Websites
Widespread Internet Outage Briefly Takes Down Major Websites

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NEW YORK (AP) — Major websites went down Thursday in what appeared to be a brief but widespread outage.

The websites of Airbnb, AT&T, Costco and Delta showed error messages around midday Eastern time. They seemed to be operating normally, however, by 12:45 p.m.

Akamai, a major behind-the-scenes internet network company, said the disruption lasted about an hour and that it was due to a software update in the system that directs browsers to websites. It said there was no cyberattack.

The company said it was reviewing how it updates software to try to prevent outages in the future.



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Former Trump Doctor Contracts Bad Case Of ‘Whataboutism’

Former Trump Doctor Contracts Bad Case Of ‘Whataboutism’
Former Trump Doctor Contracts Bad Case Of ‘Whataboutism’

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Thoughts and prayers are in order for Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-Texas), the former White House physician who has just contracted a terrible case of “whataboutism.”

Jackson, who previously served as Donald Trump’s presidential physician, apparently didn’t like reporters asking whether he was vaccinated against the coronavirus on Thursday morning. So he accused the questioners of political bias.

The question came up because COVID-19 cases have tripled in the U.S. over the last few weeks with the spread of the delta variant. At the same time, a large percentage of the population remains stubbornly resistant to vaccination amid an onslaught of misinformation ― some of it spread by allies of the former president publicly supporting vaccine conspiracy theories.

Jackson didn’t spout conspiracy theories. 

Instead, he asked why reporters were picking on him instead of other politicians.

“I think you as a press have a responsibility to ask questions of the Democrats as well,” Jackson complained. “How many of the Democrats are willing to say whether or not they’ve been vaccinated?”

The first-year lawmaker, it turned out, made a rookie mistake by asking a rhetorical question without knowing the answer.

As CNN fact-checker Daniel Dale noted, every Democrat in the House and Senate told the network back in May that they had been vaccinated, hence no need to raise the question again.

Democratic politicians chimed in.

Some people pointed out Jackson’s dubious past.

Others diagnosed Jackson’s “whataboutism.”

Jackson’s time as White House doctor was marked by controversy.

He became a target of ridicule when at a news conference he praised Trump’s “incredibly good genes” and said he told the president “that if he had a healthier diet over the last 20 years he might live to be 200 years old.” 

In March, the Department of Defense inspector general released a scathing report that concluded Jackson made “sexual and denigrating” comments about a female subordinate, violated the policy against drinking alcohol on a presidential trip and took prescription-strength sleeping medication that prompted worries from his colleagues about his ability to provide proper medical care.

A HuffPost Guide To Coronavirus



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