Jeffrey Epstein associate Ghislaine Maxwell to be sentenced Tuesday

Sylvain Gaboury/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

(NEW YORK) — Ghislaine Maxwell, the associate of Jeffrey Epstein who lured underage girls into the disgraced financier’s lurid world, could spend much of the rest of her life in prison after she is sentenced Tuesday in New York City following her December conviction on five criminal counts, including sex trafficking.

Maxwell, 60, and Epstein, who died by suicide in jail, “were partners in crime who sexually exploited young girls together,” federal prosecutors said as they asked the judge for a sentence of at least 30 years in prison.

Prosecutors said Maxwell and Epstein selected their victims carefully and asserted that it was no accident the four accusers who testified — “Jane,” “Kate,” Carolyn and Annie — came from single-mother households. The victims were isolated and plied with gifts, flattery, and promises of career help in what federal prosecutor Alison Moe described as a pattern of grooming and abuse.

“Ghislaine Maxwell played an instrumental role in the horrific sexual abuse of multiple young teenage girls,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum. “As part of a disturbing agreement with Jeffrey Epstein, Maxwell identified, groomed, and abused multiple victims, while she enjoyed a life of extraordinary luxury and privilege.”

Maxwell’s lawyer said Sunday that she had been placed on suicide watch while awaiting sentencing at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn — even though her attorneys had told the court she was not suicidal and that outside psychologists agreed with that assessment.

Maxwell, who maintains her innocence, accused the government of treating her “as if she were a proxy” for Epstein and asked the judge to impose a sentence well below the maximum 55 years.

“The witnesses at trial testified about Ms. Maxwell’s facilitation of Epstein’s abuse, but Epstein was always the central figure: Epstein was the mastermind, Epstein was the principal abuser, and Epstein orchestrated the crimes for his personal gratification,” defense attorneys said in their sentencing memorandum. “Indeed, had Ghislaine Maxwell never had the profound misfortune of meeting Jeffrey Epstein over 30 years ago, she would not be here.”

The defense also suggested Maxwell was susceptible to Epstein’s influence in part because of her relationship with her father, the late British publishing magnate Robert Maxwell, who the defense said verbally and physically abused her.

“Ghislaine vividly recalls a time when, at age 13, she tacked a poster of a pony on the newly painted wall of her bedroom. Rather than mar the paint with tape, she carefully hammered a thin tack to mount the poster,” the defense memo said. “This outraged her father, who took the hammer and banged on Ghislaine’s dominant hand, leaving it severely bruised and painful for weeks to come.”

Prosecutors called Maxwell’s efforts to deflect blame “absurd.”

“If anything stands out from the defendant’s sentencing submission, it is her complete failure to address her offensive conduct and her utter lack of remorse,” federal prosecutors said in their memo to the judge. “Instead of showing even a hint of acceptance of responsibility, the defendant makes a desperate attempt to cast blame wherever else she can.”

Maxwell’s defense insisted at trial that the government’s case relied on the “erroneous memories” of four accusers who defense attorney Laura Menninger said “inserted” Maxwell into accounts that initially included only Epstein.

“The accusers’ memories … started to shift,” Menninger said. “The truth was manipulated and changed over time.”

The defense also argued that money brought the accusers forward “with their personal injury lawyers right there next to them.” Menninger said each accuser took home millions, “and now they are stuck with the stories they told.”

Prosecutors, whose ten-day case included two dozen witnesses, said Maxwell “made the choice to sexually exploit numerous underage girls” as part of a scheme that ran from at least 1994 to 2004. Two women who testified said they were 14 when Epstein began to abuse them, sometimes with Maxwell present or directly involved.

“She personally engaged in sexual abuse when she fondled the breasts of Jane, Annie, and Carolyn. And she used her role as a supposedly respectable, glamorous, older woman to lure these victims into a false sense of security,” prosecutors said.

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Family of slain Robb Elementary student vow to keep fighting for change

Courtesy Angel Garza

(UVALDE, Texas) — It’s been one month since the massacre at Robb Elementary School that killed 19 children and two teachers, and forever changed the lives of dozens of families who are now coping to make sense of their new reality.

One of those families is that of 10-year-old Amerie Jo Garza. Her mother, Kimberly Garcia, and stepfather, Angel Garza, are angry at the pace of the investigation, as well as frustrated as they recount the events of that fateful day.

“It’s day by day, some are better than others. And then more information comes out and it’s like we’re back to square one,” Garza told “Good Morning America.”

“There [were] so many officers at that school. And they were so busy trying to keep us away. And they were so busy trying to tase and put people in handcuffs. Instead of saving our kids, they were doing that, and it makes me hurt so much because my child and these other kids were scared, the way they felt in that classroom,” Garcia said. “These people took an oath. They took that oath to protect. And they didn’t do that. I feel like some of these kids could have been saved, but because they were in there for 77 minutes, we’ll never get to see them again. None of them, none of our kids, all those parents will never see their child, ever.”

In the hours and days since the shooting, Amerie’s parents learned that their daughter was one of the children who tried calling the police that day. Another student in the classroom told Amerie’s parents she had tried keeping Amerie from leaving her side, but that Amerie was determined to help her classmates by getting to a cell phone and calling for help when she was shot.

Now, while they wait for answers, Garza and Garcia are vowing to never stop pushing for change to prevent any other parent from feeling their pain. They are also committed to never let the world forget about their daughter, who they describe as brave, a nurturer, a protector and a fiercely loyal friend.

“She always made sure that people knew that they had a friend,” Garcia said. “She always wanted to help. Always wanted to make people feel just good and just make people know or show people that she was there to help you.”

“She just wasn’t afraid to be different. She didn’t care to be like the cool kids,” Garza said. “She didn’t care to, you know, jump in and do something just because everyone was doing it. She was the type that’s gonna step up for someone and if, you know, somebody’s getting bullied or something, she’s gonna say, ‘hey, that’s not cool’ or she’s gonna stick up for them. She didn’t care if she had, you know, beautiful, perfect, $100 shoes. She didn’t care if she had, you know, designer jewelry on. She didn’t care about none of that. She was comfortable, and she was happy in the skin that she was in.”

In their home, Garcia and Garza now live surrounded by memories of Amerie and all of her artwork, her passion. Her parents smiled as they recounted how she would run into their room, excited to show them her latest clay creation. With summer break around the corner, she was looking forward to sleeping in, playing with her iPad and spending time at home with her mom, they said. Her favorite color was lavender — not purple, and she was quick to correct you on that, her parents said. She was also a fan of BTS and was part of their fanbase, which call themselves “BTS ARMY.”

“Their fanbase is just vowed to just stick together and they just they all support each other and they want to look out for each other, and I think that’s part of the reason that she liked them so much is because, I mean, that’s pretty much who she was,” Garza said.

While working through their grief, her parents are finding ways to honor Amerie, hoping to open an art scholarship in their daughter’s name.

“That would mean the world to her, she would be so proud, we would be so proud for her to carry that and for people to remember that, you know, in her name because, like we said, that was her, an artist,” Garcia said.

Garcia and Garza wish others will be inspired to live life like Amerie.

“Just being more like her, caring about one another,” Garza said. “Don’t be afraid to do things that you love to do. Don’t be afraid to be different.

“It’s OK to be you,” Garcia added.

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US forces kill senior terrorist leader in Syria

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(WASHINGTON) — U.S. forces killed a senior terrorist leader in an airstrike in Syria on Monday, according to military officials.

U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) said the target of the strike, Abu Hamzah al Yemeni, was a senior leader of an al-Qaida-affiliated terrorist group known as Hurras al-Din.

The leader was riding alone on a motorcycle in Idlib province at the time of the attack, CENTCOM said.

Violent groups like Hurras al-Din pose an ongoing threat to the U.S. and its allies, according to the statement.

“The removal of this senior leader will disrupt Al Qaeda’s ability to carry out attacks against U.S. citizens our partners, and innocent civilians around the world,” the statement said.

An early review showed no sign of civilian casualties, according to the U.S. military.

The strike came 10 days after a rare ground raid by U.S. forces in northwestern Syria captured a top ISIS leader.

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3 dead, at least 50 injured after Amtrak train derails in Missouri: Officials

Robert Alexander/Getty Images, FILE

(MENDON, Mo.) — Three people are dead and dozens are injured after an Amtrak train derailed after hitting a dump truck that was in an uncontrolled public crossing in Mendon, Missouri, according to Amtrak and officials.

Eight passenger cars and two locomotives, which is where the engines are, derailed at about 12:42 p.m. local time, Amtrak said.

Missouri State Highway Patrol Cpl. Justin Dunn said two of the train passengers were killed, along with someone who was in the dump truck.

Eric McKenzie, the superintendent with Chariton County Ambulance Service, told ABC News at least 50 people were injured.

The train was en route from Los Angeles to Chicago with 243 passengers and 12 crew members on board at the time of the crash, Amtrak said. All the train occupants from the scene were evacuated, according to Dunn.

At least 13 victims have been hospitalized. Officials at Hendrick Medical Center accepted four patients from the scene, while officials at MU Health Care University Hospital/Columbia said its facility is treating nine patients as of 5:57 p.m. ET.

Passenger Rob Nightingale, 58, told ABC News Live his car tipped to the side and he climbed through a window to escape. He said he saw a little girl crying and her family trying to comfort her.

Nightingale said he saw some people covered in blood.

Missouri Public Safety officials, highway patrol troopers and other personnel are responding, Gov. Mike Parson tweeted.

The National Transportation Safety Board said it is launching a 14-member go-team to investigate the crash. The team is scheduled to arrive Tuesday.

Mendon is about 100 miles northeast of Kansas City, Missouri.

This comes one day after an Amtrak train collided with a car in California, killing three people.

ABC News’ Sam Sweeney contributed to this report.

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Planned Parenthood clinic doctor details hard decisions following state’s abortion trigger law

Kelly Terez/ABC News

(LITTLE ROCK, Ark.) — Dr. Janet Cathey, the lead physician at the Planned Parenthood in Little Rock, Arkansas, said her team spent weeks prepping for the end of legal abortions in her state in anticipation of the Supreme Court striking down Roe v. Wade, but she still couldn’t quite wrap her head around how quickly it all ended with the ruling Friday morning.

“I just thought we’d have Friday and Saturday,” she told ABC News’ “Start Here” podcast. “I was just banking [on it]. I told patients, ‘you’ve got to get in here. If you get in here this week, I think we’ll be OK.'”

Arkansas was one of the first states to trigger its “trigger law,” which outlawed the vast majority of abortions in the state, just hours after the court made its decision on June 24.

The Little Rock Planned Parenthood scheduled its first appointment that day at 10 a.m., but within minutes patients were being told their appointments were canceled.

Despite all the news about Roe being potentially overturned, many of the patients weren’t looped into the news enough to know this possibility was even on the radar, according to Cathey.

“We had patients that we called that said, ‘No, I’m almost there. I’m in my car,'” she said. “Most of them are just young people that are just trying to go to school, and live their lives, and take care of their kids.”

Cathey said she fears that women who are seeking abortions will have to struggle more and live with long-lasting repercussions as the number of legal clinics and facilities are shut down throughout the South.

Anyone who performs or attempts to perform an abortion can be charged with a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000, under the Arkansas Human Life Protection Act. The law provides an exception for when the patient’s life is in danger but does not provide exceptions for rape or incest.

Cathey, who took ABC News on a tour of her facility’s empty rooms Sunday, said that she saw more patients come out of neighboring states that enacted strict abortion bans in the lead-up to the Supreme Court case. Now, those patients will have to travel farther, and in some cases take a plane to seek a safe, legal abortion.

“Imagine a teenager trying to navigate this system,” she said. “The laws are very confusing. The news is very confusing. I think a lot of women are not going to know where they can go,”

Cathey added that many patients expressed concerns that they might be arrested or prosecuted for crossing state lines to get an abortion.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, who put the law into effect on Friday, told ABC News’ “Start Here” that her message to patients looking to seek legal abortion in her state is, “if they’re not ready to be a mom then to be responsible.”

She acknowledged that victims of sexual assault don’t choose to become pregnant, but defended penalties for administering an abortion for those women, contending “we hurt for those women” but “those children and those individuals had the opportunity to live and for the women to punish an innocent life because some cruel evil person hurt her and harmed her…two wrongs don’t make a right, as they say.”

Rutledge said that she would focus on providing more resources to support the adoption of those babies, but didn’t give specifics. Cathey and abortion rights proponents have criticized what they see as a lack of a safety net for those forced to carry a baby to term.

Rutledge said that she would focus on providing more resources to support the adoption of those babies, but didn’t give specifics.

The attorney general declined to discuss the possibility of criminalizing Arkansas residents who travel out of state to get an abortion, claiming “that’s a conversation that we will be having at statehouses across the country.”

Sitting in an empty examination room that will no longer be used for abortion services, Cathey blinked back tears, describing patients who suddenly don’t know if their next move will break a law.

“It’s any range of emotions. Some of them were patients who were mad and there were patients who cried,” she said.

“That there’s going to be a fear. It’s going to be a public health issue,” Cathy added.

This report was featured in the Monday, June 27, 2022, episode of “Start Here,” ABC News’ daily news podcast.

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7 killed, 46 injured in 10 weekend mass shootings nationwide

Alfredo Alonso Avila / EyeEm / Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) — The shooting occurred early Sunday at a private venue in South Tacoma, where a large crowd was gathering.

A Texas trail ride, a barbecue in New York City and a stone bridge in Minneapolis were among the settings for at least 10 mass shootings that erupted across the country between Friday and late Sunday, marking the fifth consecutive weekend U.S. law enforcement officers have responded to multiple incidents, each involving four or more victims shot.

Combined, the shootings this weekend left at least seven people dead and 46 injured, according to the Gun Violence Archive, a site that tracks shootings across the country. The website defines a mass shooting as a single incident involving four or more victims, which differs from the FBI’s definition as a single incident in which four or more people, not including the suspect, are killed.

The string of consecutive weekend mass-casualty incidents began over the Memorial Day holiday, when at least 17 shootings left a total of 13 dead and 79 injured in cities across the country.

The shootings come in the wake of a May 14 mass shooting at a Buffalo, New York, supermarket that left 10 people dead and three wounded and the May 24 massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, that left 19 students and two teachers dead.

7 shot, 1 fatally, in Georgia town

One person was killed and six were injured when gunfire broke out early Sunday in a crowded business district of Blakely, Georgia, authorities said.

Police officers were patrolling an entertainment district of Blakely, a small southwest Georgia city of about 5,000 residents, when they heard numerous gunshots around 12:45 a.m., the Blakely Police Department said in a statement. The officers rushed to the gunfire, found several victims suffering from gunshot wounds and began providing first aid, police said.

One mortally wounded victim was taken to Lifebrite Community Hospital, where the individual was pronounced dead, police said.

Other victims were hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries.

“The shooting occurred in the densely crowded area of the nightclubs and food establishments on N. Church St.,” according to the police statement. “There were dozens of individuals who would have witnessed this incident and then left the area.”

No arrests have been announced. The Blakely Police Department is asking for anyone who witnessed the incident to “come forward and provide crucial information about this senseless crime.”

A motive for the shooting is under investigation.

8 shot at Tacoma, Washington, rave

At least eight people were injured early Sunday when gunfire erupted outside a rave in Tacoma, Washington, police said.

The shooting occurred at 12:45 a.m. at a private venue in South Tacoma, where police said the rave attracted a large crowd.

A barrage of gunfire erupted during an argument that broke out in an alley behind the venue, according to police.

The victims appear to have all suffered non-life-threatening injuries and were hospitalized in stable condition, the Tacoma Police Department said in a statement.

No arrests have been announced.

8-year-old among 4 shot at New York City barbecue

An 8-year-old boy was among four people shot Saturday night while attending a barbecue outside a residential building in New York City when two gunmen on a scooter pulled up and opened fire on the group, according to police.

Investigators suspect the victims were all innocent bystanders, authorities said.

The shooting erupted around 11:30 p.m. in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, according to the New York Police Department.

A group of people were barbecuing in the courtyard of a building when they were shot, according to police.

The child was grazed in the leg by bullet, authorities said.

Three adults — a 27-year-old man and two women, ages 35 and 46 — all suffered gunshot wounds to the legs, police said.

The victims were all treated at Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn.

No arrests have been announced and police were working Monday to identify suspects.

4 shot, 1 fatally, outside in San Antonio, Texas, nightclub

One person was killed and three others were injured when a shooting occurred early Sunday outside a San Antonio, Texas, nightclub, marking the second straight weekend police in the city have investigated a mass-casualty shooting.

Sunday’s shooting occurred around 2:30 a.m. in the parking lot of the Manhattan Nightclub, according to the San Antonio Police Department.

The shooting happened after a disturbance inside the nightclub spilled outside, police said.

The name of the victim who was killed was not immediately released. Three others suffered non-life-threatening injuries in the episode.

No arrests were made.

The mass-casualty shooting came a week after five people were injured in a drive-by shooting in San Antonio that targeted a group of people having a barbecue outside a home, police said. No arrests have been announced in the June 18 shooting.

Street shooting in Paterson, New Jersey, leaves 5 injured

At least five people were injured, including three teenagers, when a shooting erupted early Sunday on a street in Paterson, New Jersey, police said.

Police said the victims were standing on a street corner at the intersection of Madison and Essex streets when gunfire broke out.

A 17-year-old boy and four men, including two 19-year-olds, were taken to Saint Joseph’s University Medical Center, where they were all treated for non-life-threatening gunshot wounds, according to a statement from the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office.

A motive for the shooting is under investigation. No arrests have been announced.

5 shot, 1 critically injured, at Texas trail ride and concert

A shootout between groups attending an organized trail ride and concert Sunday in Winona, Texas, left five people injured, authorities said.

The shooting occurred despite private security collecting firearms from attendees as they entered the event, which was held in a large pasture and billed by organizers as “a trail ride, ATV ride and horse show,” the Smith County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement.

A preliminary investigation showed a shooting initially erupted after a fight broke out near the event’s concert stage.

“Witnesses related that after the initial shooting that some of the groups ran and took their firearms back,” according to the sheriff’s office statement. “Subsequently, a second shooting took place in the area.”

The shooting remains under investigation and no arrests were announced.

One man was shot in the face and airlifted to a hospital in nearby Tyler, Texas, where he was in critical condition, the sheriff’s office said.

Four other injured people were treated at hospitals for non-life-threatening injuries and released, the sheriff’s office said.

The trail ride was organized by a group called the Unified Elite Trail Riderzz, which could not be reached for comment. The group posted a message on its Facebook page on Sunday, saying, “Unified Elite Trail Riderzz would like to send prayers out to families and friends involved in the incident from last night.”

8 shot, one fatally, at party in Sutherlin, Virginia

A 20-year-old man was killed and seven other people were injured when gunfire erupted at a party in Sutherlin, Virginia, early Sunday that was attended by more than 100 revelers, according to police.

“We’re going to do everything we can to bring justice to that family and to the other victims in this case,” Pittsylvania County Sheriff Mike Taylor said at a news conference.

The shooting unfolded about 1:30 a.m. in the rural community about 70 miles south of Lynchburg, Taylor said.

The man killed in the shooting was identified as Jerome Jahiem White, according to ABC affiliate station WSET in Lynchburg.

A motive for the shooting remains under investigation. No arrests have been made.

Taylor said investigators suspect that more than one shooter was involved.

Taylor asked that anyone who was at the party to contact police immediately.

“For the life of me, if I had a loved one who was at a party and was shot or hurt, if I had information, I would surely get that to the proper authorities,” Taylor said. “I can’t answer why people won’t cooperate.”

4 people shot near Minneapolis’ Stone Arch Bridge

Four people were injured, including three teenagers, when a shooting erupted Saturday at the Stone Arch Bridge near downtown Minneapolis, police said.

Minneapolis police officers responded to reports of multiple shots being fired at one end of the bridge and arrived to find a “chaotic scene” with fights breaking out among a large crowd gathered there, according to the Minneapolis Police Department.

After getting the crowd under control, officers found four people shot, including a man in his 30s who was shot in the head and taken to a hospital in critical condition, according to police. Three teenagers, including a 17-year-old girl, were also taken to hospitals with non-life-threatening injuries, police said.

A motive for the shooting is under investigation.

Detectives found multiple shell casings at the scene, leading them to believe a rifle and a pistol were used in the shooting.

Witnesses told police that a possible suspect fled the area in a white Dodge Charger.

No arrests have been announced.

4 teenagers shot, two killed, at Houston home

Four teenagers were shot inside a home during an argument between two groups of young people in Houston early Saturday morning, police said.

The shooting unfolded around 1:35 a.m. at a home in the South Acres neighborhood of southeast Houston, Assistant Chief Ban Tien of the Houston Police Department said at a news conference.

Tien said about nine or 10 people were gathered at the home when a second group arrived and “some sort of argument or disturbance escalated into a shooting.”

He said a motive for the deadly confrontation is under investigation.

Officers who went to the home found two teenagers, a 17-year-old and an 18-year-old, both suffering from bullet wounds to the torso. The two teenagers, whose names have not been released, were pronounced dead at the scene.

Two other teenagers, one 17 and the other 18, were taken to hospitals. Their conditions were not released.

No arrests have been made in the shooting.

“It appears they are all acquaintances. They know each other,” Tien said. “At this time, we don’t know if they were invited or uninvited. But that will be part of the investigation.”

Several guns were recovered from the home, police said.

14-year-old killed in shooting in Hopewell, Virginia

Two teenagers, including a 14-year-old boy, were killed and two other juveniles were injured in a shooting Friday night in Hopewell, Virginia, police said.

The shooting happened about 10:30 p.m. near some railroad tracks in the Richmond, Virginia, suburb.

Police officers responded to reports of a shooting around 10:30 p.m. and discovered two victims lying on the railroad tracks suffering from gunshot wounds, officials said. They were pronounced dead at the scene.

The two other teenagers were hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries.

No arrests were announced and a motive remains under investigation.

Police identified the two slain teenagers as 14-year-old Micah Coles of Hopewell and 18-year-old Jasir Culver of Petersburg, Virginia.

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Amtrak train derails in Missouri, injuries reported

Robert Alexander/Getty Images, FILE

(MENDON, Mo.) — About eight cars of an Amtrak train derailed after hitting a dump truck at a public crossing in Mendon, Missouri, according to Amtrak and the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

Injuries have been reported but it was not immediately clear how many, Amtrak said.

Passenger Rob Nightingale, 58, told ABC News Live his car tipped to the side and he climbed through a window to escape. He said he saw a little girl crying and her family trying to comfort her.

Nightingale said he saw some people covered in blood.

The train was en route from Los Angeles to Chicago with 243 passengers on board at the time of the crash, which took place at about 1:42 p.m. local time, Amtrak said.

Missouri Public Safety officials, highway patrol troopers and other personnel are responding, Gov. Mike Parson tweeted.

Mendon is about 100 miles northeast of Kansas City, Missouri.

This comes one day after an Amtrak train collided with a car in California, killing three people.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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Fourth of July travel forecast: Best days to hit the skies and the road

Justin Paget/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) — This Fourth of July is expected to be the second-busiest for travel since 2000, with 47.9 million Americans taking trips, according to AAA.

Here’s what to know before you head to the airport or hit the highways.

Air travel

Friday, July 1 is shaping up to be the busiest day for air travel during the holiday weekend. Monday, July 4 will likely be the lightest, according to AAA booking data.

The top domestic destinations for the holiday this year are: Orlando; Seattle; New York; Anaheim, California; Anchorage, Alaska; Ft. Lauderdale; Las Vegas; Honolulu; Denver; and Chicago, according to AAA.

Fourth of July airfare is up 45% compared to 2019, now at an average of $437 for a domestic roundtrip, according to Hopper.

But the best prices for domestic trips can be found with a quick weekend trip, flying on Saturday, July 2 and returning on Monday, July 4, according to Hopper.

Road travel

The afternoons of Thursday, June 30 and Friday, July 1 are anticipated to be the most crowded days on the road as commuters leave work early and mix with holiday travelers, according to AAA.

If you’re going to brave the roads on Friday, before 10 a.m. or after 9 p.m. is best, according to analytics company INRIX. On Thursday, before 7 a.m. or after 8 p.m. is best.

July 3 and July 4 are expected to be the best days for traffic, according to INRIX.

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Hotter-than-normal temperatures are predicted through the summer: How cities must prepare

Gary Hershorn/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) — The heat is on this summer, and it’s forecast to stay that way.

Millions of Americans had already been given a taste of sweltering temperatures by the time the summer solstice — the longest day of the year and the official start of the summer season — arrived last week.

A reprieve from the heat is likely not coming, forecasts into the coming months show.

Following back-to-back dangerous heat waves that impacted a large swath of the nation over the past two weeks, much of the country will be bracing for more rounds of intense heat as summer continues.

The final days of June and first days of July will likely bring above-average temperatures along the Gulf Coast, with building heat in the West. Rounds of intense summer heat and longer-duration heat waves will be likely over the next couple of weeks and heading through the month of July, according to long-range weather forecast models monitored by meteorologists.

Odds favor above-average temperatures across much of the South and along the East Coast, according to the latest July outlook issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center. While there will be breaks in the heat from time to time, more rounds of prolonged, dangerous heat will be more likely in these areas — which have already experienced triple-digit temperatures — heading into the middle of summer.

The Midwest, which saw some of the highest temperatures during the most recent heat waves, will be one of the few regions to experience relief from the heat in the coming days.

Heat is the No. 1 weather-related killer. On average, more people in the U.S. die from extreme heat than any other severe weather event, including tornados, hurricanes and flooding combined, according to the National Weather Service.

Vulnerable populations, including impoverished and marginalized communities and those with pre-existing health conditions such as asthma and heart disease, are most at risk when temperatures begin to skyrocket, Ladd Keith, an assistant professor in the School of Landscape Architecture and Planning at the University of Arizona, told ABC News.

“With climate change, we’ve already seen the number of heat waves increase,” he said. “In the 1960s, they were occurring twice per year. And we’ve already seen that increase to six times a decade in the last decade.”

As the heat index increased, cities all over the country began offering heat management strategies such as cooling and hydration centers. In Tennessee, utility company Middle Tennessee Electric even suspended disconnections for non-payment until at least July 6 amid the forecast for scorching temperatures.

Cities tend to be hotter than their natural surroundings because of the heat island effect caused by buildings, roads and other infrastructure, which absorb and re-emit the sun’s heat more than a natural landscape, Keith said. This is why is it important for cities to also implement heat mitigation strategies, such as planting trees, increase vegetation, and use cool pavements and cool roofs during new construction, he said.

“Just the average temperatures that are rising due to climate change — and how we built our cities — can expose people to unsafe temperatures throughout the summer season, particularly for historically hotter states,” Keith said. “And so that’s a concern, because it could certainly lead to things like dehydration, heat, heat exhaustion and up to heatstroke.”

Heat severity in urban areas is “drastic and inequitably distributed,” Keith said. Lower-income, marginalized minority neighborhoods are physically hotter because they have less vegetation, and they have less public investment that’s historically connected to those locations, he added.

In addition, a lot of critical urban infrastructure and systems, such as industry, airports and transportation hubs, are typically located in lower-income areas “intentionally,” Keith said.

“So that physically makes those places hotter, so they’re exposed to more heat just by where they live,” he said.

Combine that with the inability to access health care or afford basic utilities such as air conditioning, and people’s health can succumb to the heat, Keith said.

The heat and megadrought are becoming such a concern in the West that the city of Los Angeles named its first-ever chief heat officer earlier this month, while the Federal Emergency Management Agency has identified Los Angeles County as the nation’s most vulnerable county to heat waves.

Despite cities being hotter, there are actually more heat-related hospitalizations in rural regions, likely due to the types of occupations those residents hold and their travel patterns, Keith said.

The next heat wave is forecast to also hit the Pacific Northwest, a region that experienced triple-digit temperatures twice in 2021 — something that would have been unheard of two decades ago.

It is estimated that about 1,400 people in the U.S. and Canada died as a result of that heat wave.

“There’s just a less visible risk, and it kind of hides some of those deaths, unfortunately,” Keith said.

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Three dead, two injured after Amtrak train collides with car in California: Officials

KGO-TV

(BRENTWOOD, Calif.) — Three people are dead and two others seriously injured after an Amtrak train collided with a car in Brentwood, California, on Sunday, the East Contra Costa Fire Department told ABC News San Francisco station KGO.

The two people who were wounded, including a child, suffered serious injuries and were both sent to John Muir Medical Center, according to officials.

It’s unclear how many people were on the train.

Fire department officials said they have been called out to that train crossing up to twice a year because there isn’t a traffic guard at that location.

The crash is being investigated.

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