Surfside building collapse latest: Death toll rises to 78 as recovery effort continues

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(SURFSIDE, Fla.) — At least 78 people have been confirmed dead after 14 bodies were recovered overnight from the rubble of a 12-story residential building that partially collapsed in South Florida’s Miami-Dade County last month.

As many as 62 people remain missing, officials said Friday.

The disaster occurred on June 24 around 1:15 a.m. local time at the Champlain Towers South condominium in the small, beachside town of Surfside, about 6 miles north of Miami Beach. Approximately 55 of the oceanfront complex’s 136 units were destroyed, according to officials. The rest of the building was demolished on Sunday night, due to concerns over structural integrity and an incoming tropical storm.

For over two weeks, hundreds of first responders carefully combed through the pancaked piles of debris in hopes of finding survivors. But no one has been found alive in the wreckage since the morning the building partially collapsed, and officials announced Wednesday evening that the search and rescue operation, in its 14th day, would shift to a recovery effort.

Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett told reporters that the decision was “a result of a consensus by those closest to the rescue efforts that the possibility of someone still alive is near zero.”

To mark the somber move, a moment of silence was held Wednesday in honor of all the victims, of whom 47 have been identified and their next of kin notified. A candlelight vigil was held later that night at the memorial site for the victims.

Reflecting on the transition the next day, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., told reporters: “When that happened, it took a little piece of the hearts of this community.”

Crews paused their work atop the piles early Thursday “for a brief moment of silence to honor the two-week mark since the collapse,” according to Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava. Several families who lost loved ones were also brought to the site to pay their respects Thursday, she said.

“We have now officially transitioned from search and rescue to search and recovery,” Levine Cava said during a press conference Thursday morning. “The work continues with all speed and urgency. We are working around the clock to recover victims and bring closure to the families as fast as we possibly can.”

“We are taking as much care as ever to proceed to find victims in the rubble,” she added.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis told reporters that crews “will identify every single person” who’s found, and that officials also would continue to help the survivors and the families of the victims get back “on their feet as best as we possibly can.”

On Friday, the Broward County Medical Office started coming on-site to assist Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner Department personnel and help teams rotate more frequently, Levine Cava said.

“It is very, very valuable and critical that we provide some relief to those men and women working in the medical examiner’s office doing this vital work,” the mayor said during a press briefing Friday afternoon.

Meanwhile, 200 people who were living or staying in the condominium at the time of the disaster have been accounted for and are safe, according to Levine Cava, who has repeatedly stressed that the figures are “very fluid” and “continue to change.”

Crews have hauled away more than 13 million pounds of concrete and debris from the vast scene, and the pile of rubble is almost at ground level, Burkett said Friday. Some debris remains below ground level.

Officials said it could take several weeks to get to the bottom of the wreckage. Crews have been working virtually nonstop, with help from teams who came from across Florida and elsewhere in the United States as well as from abroad. However, their efforts were halted for almost an entire day last week due to safety concerns regarding the still-standing structure, prior to the demolition. Poor weather conditions have also forced them to temporarily pause working.

The cause of the partial collapse to a building that has withstood decades of hurricanes remains unknown and is under investigation. Built in the 1980s, the Champlain Towers South was up for its 40-year recertification and had been undergoing roof work — with more renovations planned — when it partially collapsed, according to officials.

Levine Cava asked members of the public to submit any photos or videos they have related to the collapse to the National Institute of Standards and Technology here.

“The magnitude of this tragedy is growing each and every day,” Levine Cava said Friday.

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White House officials arrange confidential sales of Hunter Biden’s art

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(NEW YORK) — A New York gallery owner will facilitate sales of Hunter Biden’s original artwork, an arrangement meant to diffuse concerns over buyers paying top dollar to win influence with the president’s son, according to a source familiar with the situation.

The gallerist, Georges Berges, will independently set prices on the artwork of President Joe Biden’s son and keep the identities of buyers confidential, including from the president and administration officials. Berges will be the sole person authorized to collect, reject and agree on offers. Berges has agreed to reject any offer that seems unusual, including offers above asking price.

White House officials were involved in creating the arrangement, according to the source, as a way to avoid any suggestion of preferential treatment or conflict of interest.

According to the Washington Post, which first reported the story, Berges has said Hunter Biden’s artwork could be priced anywhere from $75,000 to $500,000.

But ethics experts are raising concerns about the agreement.

“This arrangement is problematic. The best disinfectant, in this case, would have been to have a publicly open process. The public could see who the purchasers are, and then it would be incumbent upon the Bidens to bear the burden of saying why it isn’t a conflict,” said Meredith McGehee, executive director of Issue One, a nonprofit dedicated to reducing the influence of money in politics.

“The White House went the absolute opposite way they should have gone. The only people, in the end, who won’t know who the buyers are is the public. By going the shadow direction, this raises more questions than answers,” she said.

In a statement to ABC News, White House deputy press secretary Andrew Bates said “the president has established the highest ethical standards of any administration in American history, and his family’s commitment to rigorous processes like this is a prime example.”

But Richard Painter, who was President George W. Bush’s top ethics lawyer, told ABC News he would have counseled against a secrecy deal for the president’s son during his time in the White House.

“The best solution would be to paint now, sell later, after his father is out of office,” Painter said.

“The problem is they chose the secrecy route and that just never works. I don’t want to say it’s like Trump’s tax returns, because he’s not the president. But whenever you don’t disclose something, whenever there’s secrecy people will assume the worst,” he added.

Still, Painter acknowledged Hunter Biden is not a government employee and has the right to do what he wishes with his art.

Hunter Biden has long used art as a way to cope with addiction and life tragedies, including the death of his brother Beau in 2015.

Biden said in a New York Times interview that painting “put my energy towards something positive.”

“It keeps me away from people and places where I shouldn’t be,” he said in the interview.

Don Fox, former general counsel of the Office of Government Ethics under the Obama administration, noted that career opportunities for children of any president are always subject to intense scrutiny.

“With visual art, the name of the artist is a huge factor in a piece’s value. The screening mechanism that has been put in place for the sale of Hunter Biden’s art may not be perfect, but it’s the best that could be done where the value of the product is so highlight subjective. Hunter Biden is entitled to earn a living,” Fox told ABC News.

Chris Clark, attorney for Hunter Biden, did not respond to a request for comment. A representative at Berges’s gallery declined to comment on the record.

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CDC puts out new guidance on masks in schools

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(ATLANTA) — Students who are vaccinated don’t have to wear masks in school this fall unless they are riding the school bus or their school decides otherwise, according to new guidance released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The new federal guidelines aren’t mandatory but are expected to influence school officials, local health departments and governors who are in the midst of preparing for students to return to the classroom full time this fall.

The recommendation also could encourage parents who were previously undecided. Kids older than 12 qualify for the Pfizer vaccine, which requires two doses three weeks apart.

“Achieving high levels of COVID-19 vaccination among eligible students as well as teachers, staff, and household members is one of the most critical strategies to help schools safely resume full operations,” the CDC stated.

The CDC recommendations specifically call for unvaccinated students and staff to continue mask-wearing and encourages schools to offer voluntary routine testing at least once a week. It also encourages 3-feet of distancing among unvaccinated kids in the classroom but says that recommendation shouldn’t prevent classrooms from reopening.

The CDC also recommends that all bus drivers and their passengers — vaccinated or not — wear a mask while traveling to school.

The biggest sticking point for schools though will likely be whether to require proof of vaccination. Most schools already require proof of childhood immunizations with few exceptions.

The CDC, which does not set vaccination requirements for schools or child care centers, makes clear in its recommendations that it will be up to schools and local officials to decide what to do. The agency specifically notes that schools may opt for a universal masking policy, particularly if they have unvaccinated populations and don’t want to require verification that a person has been vaccinated.

“We do allow for flexibility in our guidance,” said Capt. Erin Sauber-Schatz, who helped to write the guidelines as a member of CDC’s COVID response team.

In the end, “this is really about protecting the people who are either not yet eligible for vaccine due to their age, or people who are not yet fully vaccinated,” she added.

The Biden administration has said it won’t pursue a federal mandate for vaccines and is leaving it up to schools and businesses to decide what to enforce. But it has called for universal mask-wearing, even among vaccinated people, on airplanes, trains, buses and other public transportation because of the risk of variants spreading through travel.

So far, many businesses have been reluctant to mandate the vaccines or ask for proof, creating a kind of honor system. Health experts say that could change in a few months if federal regulators grant full approval to the vaccines, which are currently distributed under emergency authorization.

It’s likely that many schools will set their own policies anyway, even ignoring CDC guidance.

In Arizona, Chandler Unified School District, which welcomes back students July 21 — one of the earliest start dates in the nation — had already decided masks would be voluntary when Republican Gov. Doug Ducey signed a law that prohibits local counties and school districts from requiring students or staff to wear face coverings.

Sauber-Schatz said the CDC’s goal was to write useable guidance for all schools, even jurisdictions that were planning to forgo mask mandates.

Under the recommendations, the CDC advises schools to lift COVID protocols slowly — including for masks — if the community has low case numbers and high vaccination rates; on the contrary, areas with high cases and low vaccination rates should keep various strategies in place to prevent outbreaks, according to the CDC.

Parents also should know a child isn’t “fully immunized” until two weeks after their second shot. Because the shots are spaced three weeks apart, that means a teen hoping to become fully immunized by mid-August would need their first shot now.

“The message is really, if your child is eligible for vaccine, the time to get vaccinated is now,” Sauber-Schatz said.

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Tropical Storm Elsa hammers East Coast with heavy rain and wind: Latest forecast

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(NEW YORK) — More than 50 million Americans remain under a flash flood watch on Friday as Tropical Storm Elsa moves up the East Coast, bringing heavy rain and gusty winds.

After making landfall in Florida and pummeling the southeastern United States, Elsa is heading north with the eye of the storm sweeping over the coastlines of Delaware, New Jersey and New York on Friday morning before it is expected to reach Massachusetts by the afternoon, according to the latest forecast from the National Weather Service.

As of 8 a.m. ET, Elsa was moving to the northeast at 31 miles per hour with its center located about 90 miles southwest of Montauk Point in New York. The deadly storm was packing maximum sustained winds of 50 miles per hour.

The National Weather Service said it doesn’t anticipate a significant change in Elsa’s strength through Friday and that the storm, which has weakened from the first hurricane of the 2021 Atlantic season, is forecast to become a post-tropical cyclone by nighttime. Elsa is expected to move offshore from the northeastern U.S. coast by late Friday afternoon before heading to Canada’s Atlantic provinces by late Friday night and Saturday.

Flash flood watches are still in effect for the mid-Atlantic and northeastern regions, from Virginia to Maine. That includes several major cities, such as Philadelphia, New York City and Boston. The storm’s current track shows it hugging the northeast coastline, with those areas expected to see the heaviest rainfall.

Much of the northeast is forecast to receive 2 to 4 inches of rainfall through Friday, with up to 6 inches possible in parts of New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts. That could trigger “considerable flash and urban flooding,” the National Weather Service warned.

Tropical storm warnings also remain in effect for a large swath of the East Coast, from North Carolina’s Outer Banks to Massachusetts.

Meanwhile, a “tornado or two” will be possible over parts of New York’s Long Island and southeastern New England through early Friday afternoon, according to the National Weather Service.

Severe weather has already disrupted flight schedules at LaGuardia Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City’s Queens borough. New York City has also closed its mobile COVID-19 vaccination clinics through Friday due to the forecast.

New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority said there were system-wide delays for buses due to Elsa and the storm could impact service along some subway and rail lines. Meanwhile, empty tractor-trailers and tandem trucks are banned on the seven bridges and two tunnels that the MTA manages until at least noon on Friday due to the weather.

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Twitter extends partnership with NFL

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(NEW YORK) — The NFL and Twitter announced a new game plan on Thursday.

The league extended its partnership with the social network in a multi-year deal, which will include the use of Twitter Spaces, Twitter’s new live audio feature.

“The commitment to Twitter Spaces represents another innovative step forward in the longstanding partnership between the NFL and Twitter,” Blake Stuchin, the NFL’s vice president of digital media business development, said in a statement. “We’re excited to bring NFL fans a new way to engage with live audio ahead of our biggest events of the year and every week throughout the NFL season.”  

The league plans to host more than 20 Twitter Spaces for the upcoming 2021 season. They will “include participation from current NFL players and other NFL talent to discuss season matchups and insights,” the NFL said.

“We’re excited to super-serve NFL fans with even more of what they love to see on Twitter, including epic touchdown highlights all season long,” Twitter’s head of U.S. sports partnerships, TJ Adeshola, said in a statement. “In addition to fueling the timeline with the best moments from each game in real time, we’ll be doubling down on innovation by leveraging our live audio format, ‘Spaces’, to bring fans even closer to the game.”

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Taliban claim to control most of Afghanistan as US military exit looms

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(NEW YORK) — The Taliban has claimed it now controls most of Afghanistan as the United States military withdrawal from the country looms and a day after U.S. President Joe Biden defended his decision to bring home American forces following two decades of war.

A Taliban delegation gave a press conference in Moscow on Friday following a week where rapid advances by the militant group in northern Afghanistan unsettled neighboring Central Asian countries and heightened concerns over the U.S.-backed Kabul government to retain control after the final American exit.

The three Taliban officials at the press conference, though, sought to counter those concerns, presenting the group as ready to share power with. At the same time, they claimed the group now controls 85% of Afghanistan — a figure that is likely a substantial exaggeration.

“We don’t want to fight. We want to find a political solution through political negotiations. Negotiations of the kind are ongoing in Doha,” Suhail Shaheen, a Taliban spokesman told reporters in remarks quoted by the Russian news agency Interfax.

The officials said the Taliban was not seeking total control of power and wanted to include all members of Afghan society in government.

Taliban forces have surged in regions across Afghanistan, estimated to have captured more than a quarter of the country’s districts since the U.S. began the withdrawal of its troops in May. This week, Russia said the group now controls two-thirds of Afghanistan’s border with Tajikistan — and videos have emerged appearing to show Taliban officials now manning customs posts there.

It is difficult to assess how much territory the Taliban now controls and estimating it has long been highly contested. But an assessment by the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction in 2018 found that the Afghan government controlled just over half of Afghanistan’s districts.

That control has drastically shrunk again in recent weeks, with the Taliban succeeding in taking over dozens of districts.

Biden in a press conference on Thursday bluntly defended his decision to withdraw American troops and rejected that a Taliban takeover of the country is “inevitable.”

“The Afghan troops have 300,000 well-equipped — as well-equipped as any army in the world — and an air force against something like 75,000 Taliban. It is not inevitable,” Biden said.

Asked by reporters about Biden’s comment on Friday in Moscow, the Taliban officials said it was his personal opinion.

“We should declare that this is Mr. Biden’s personal opinion. You can see for yourselves that up to 14 districts have joined the Islamic emirates in a week,” Taliban official Shahabuddin Delawar said.

The rapid advances have deepened worries about the Kabul government’s ability to withstand a Taliban offensive after the U.S. exit, and the threat that could pose to human rights, in particular for those of women.

The Taliban gains have also added renewed urgency to the issue of thousands of former Afghan interpreters and their families whose safety could be at risk and who the Biden administration has promised to help leave amid accusations it has abandoned them.

The Pentagon has said it is looking at evacuating thousands of the interpreters and the families to U.S. territories, military installations and countries outside Afghanistan.

The Taliban delegation in Moscow pledged that the interpreters would not be harmed if they stayed in Afghanistan.

“We guarantee that they can be in Afghanistan, live normal lives, they will not be harmed,” Shaheen said.

There are approximately 18,000 Afghans seeking a Special Immigrant Visa, which gives those who worked for the U.S. military or diplomatic mission in Afghanistan and Iraq the chance to move themselves and their families to the U.S.

The U.S. has said the group may be moved to Afghanistan’s three northern neighbors: Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. But a U.S. official told ABC News this week the planning is still in the early stages.

The Taliban’s appearance in Moscow came as its advances in the north have disturbed Russia by unsettling its neighbor Tajikistan. Over 1,000 Afghan troops and other refugees fled into Tajikistan this week as the Taliban also took control of much of Afghanistan’s border with the country.

The moves alarmed Tajikistan which mobilized 20,000 troops in response. The tensions presage the possible regional upheaval that may follow the U.S. exit and have worried Russia, which has a military base in Tajikistan and sees the former Soviet countries of Central Asia as vital to its security.

Following talks on Thursday in Moscow, Russia’s foreign ministry said it had received assurances from the Taliban that the group would not allow its forces to violate the borders of Central Asian countries.

Russia has maintained relations with both the Taliban and Afghanistan’s government, hosting several rounds of Afghan talks in recent years. Moscow wants to prevent the conflict from destabilizing its Central Asian neighbors and stopping Islamic extremists, in particular the Islamic State, from infiltrating them from Afghanistan.

Delawar said the Taliban would not allow the Islamic State to exist in Afghanistan or for the country to be used to launch attacks on its neighbors.

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Experts differ on need for Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 booster shot

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(NEW YORK) — The Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine has been pitched with one major advantage over its counterparts since it was authorized for use: It requires just one dose. But with the exponential spread of the highly transmissible delta variant, questions have arisen over whether recipients might need to “top off” their immunity against the now-dominant strain in the U.S. with a second shot.

Although the J&J vaccine’s efficacy at protecting against symptomatic COVID-19 in clinical trials was less than the two-dose mRNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, it showed 100% effectiveness against hospitalization and death.

Recent research suggests that mRNA vaccines, such as the Pfizer and Moderna, appear to hold up against the delta variant as long as you’ve been fully vaccinated with two doses.

Pfizer reported Thursday that initial data showed that receiving a third dose, six to 12 months after being fully vaccinated, may give more protection and promised to have data to publish in the coming week to ask the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to recommend a third dose.

Johnson and Johnson has put out its own data suggesting that their single dose also holds up against the dominant variant, but it was a small study and people are thinking more is more.

The promising preliminary data suggests that the J&J vaccine offers good protection against the delta variant.

In a laboratory experiment, researchers analyzed the blood of 10 people who had been vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and tested it against multiple concerning variants, including delta.

They found the vaccine appeared to work against the variants, shown by “neutralizing antibody titers” and other immune system response indicators.

What level immune response is required to achieve protection is still open science, but the experiment offered promising clues, if not definitive proof of real-world protection.

The news offers some measure of reassurance for the more than 12 million Americans who have received the J&J vaccine; it’s also prompting some medical experts to reevaluate what role a “booster” shot might have — whether it’ll still be needed, and if so, when, and for whom.

“The new data does in fact change my opinion,” said Dr. John Brownstein, an epidemiologist from Boston Children’s Hospital and an ABC News medical contributor. “We try as much as possible to stick to the science when it comes to vaccine strategy, and overall this is really encouraging news.”

All vaccines available in the U.S. have so far shown to be both safe and effective for at least up to eight months. Brownstein said that receiving a booster is likely safe, and looks forward to further data. In the meantime, this new data lends some hope to those who received the J&J vaccine, that for now, they still have protection.

“We want to wait for data to support any kind of vaccine strategy that we recommend,” Brownstein said, highlighting the importance of uniform recommendations backed by data.

The science has yet to be settled, experts say.

“I think there are still open questions for those who are immunocompromised,” Brownstein said. “Talk to your doctor — especially if you’re in the high-risk category.”

Dr. William Schaffner, professor of medicine in the division of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, explained that “when talking about people who are immunocompromised, that includes a large spectrum of disease, and there are no studies at the present time to indicate that an additional dose will benefit you or what sort of reactions you might get from an additional dose.”

For now, Schaffner firmly stands against the idea of an additional booster shot without formal recommendations. He emphasized that the CDC is yet to recommend any booster, under any circumstances at the present time.

“People are making these recommendations on the basis of hope: hope that it would work and hope there wouldn’t be any adverse events. But there certainly has been no formal study to support it at this time,” Schaffner added.

In fact, following Pfizer’s announcement, the FDA and the CDC released a joint statement urging caution on the need for a booster shot, as still only 47.7% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated at this time.

“Americans who have been fully vaccinated do not need a booster shot at this time,” the agencies said in the statement Thursday. “FDA, CDC, and NIH (National Institutes of Health) are engaged in a science-based, rigorous process to consider whether or when a booster might be necessary.”

While many experts remain split on the issue of boosters, it’s not for lack of confidence in the single-shot vaccine doing its job. Dr. Vin Gupta, a critical care pulmonologist and faculty at University of Wisconsin Medicine, said an added booster shot on top of the single J&J vaccine would essentially be an additional layer of protection.

Gupta advocated for a booster not because he thinks the J&J shot doesn’t work well, but rather, to ensure level protection for all vaccines across the board. He stands by that stance.

“The idea is, if we are going to have one uniform set of policies, everyone should be entitled to the same level of immunity and effective vaccines,” Gupta said. “The point is a booster with mRNA doesn’t appear to be harmful and bringing everyone to the same level of immunity should be our goal.”

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Tropical Storm Elsa moves up East Coast, bringing flash flood threat to millions of Americans

ABC News

(NEW YORK) — More than 50 million Americans remain under a flash flood watch on Friday as Tropical Storm Elsa moves up the East Coast, bringing heavy rain and gusty winds.

After making landfall in Florida and pummeling the southeastern United States, Elsa is heading north with the eye of the storm sweeping over the coastlines of Delaware and New Jersey early Friday morning before it is expected to hit New York later in the morning and then Massachusetts by the afternoon, according to the latest forecast from the National Weather Service.

As of 5 a.m. ET, Elsa was moving to the northeast at 31 miles per hour with its center located about 5 miles southwest of Atlantic City, New Jersey. The storm was packing maximum sustained winds of 50 miles per hour.

The National Weather Service said it doesn’t anticipate a significant change in Elsa’s strength through Friday and the storm is forecast to become a post-tropical cyclone by nighttime, when it is expected to head into Nova Scotia and then out to sea.

Flash flood watches are still in effect for the mid-Atlantic and northeastern regions, from Virginia to Maine. That includes several major cities, such as Philadelphia, New York City and Boston. The storm’s current track shows it hugging the northeast coastline, with those areas expected to see the heaviest rainfall.

Much of the northeast is forecast to receive 2 to 4 inches of rainfall through Friday, with up to 6 inches possible in parts of New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts. That could trigger “considerable flash and urban flooding,” the National Weather Service warned.

Tropical storm warnings also remain in effect for a large swath of the East Coast, from North Carolina’s Outer Banks to Massachusetts.

Meanwhile, a “tornado or two” will be possible over parts of New York’s Long Island and southeastern New England through early Friday afternoon, according to the National Weather Service.

Severe weather has already disrupted flight schedules at LaGuardia Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City’s Queens borough. New York City has also closed its mobile COVID-19 vaccination clinics through Friday due to the forecast.

New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority said there were system-wide delays for buses due to Elsa and the storm could impact service along some subway and rail lines. Meanwhile, empty tractor-trailers and tandem trucks are banned on the seven bridges and two tunnels that the MTA manages until at least noon on Friday due to the weather.

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Houston police investigating murder-suicide at Downtown Aquarium

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(HOUSTON) — The Houston Police Department is investigating an apparent murder-suicide that took place at the Downtown Aquarium Thursday night.

In a press conference, police said a man and a woman, who appeared to be a couple, were having dinner at a bar inside a restaurant at the Houston Downtown Aquarium around 8:10 p.m. Thursday when a suspect walked around from the other end of the bar and opened fire.

The man immediately went down when shot, and the woman was injured but not killed.

The gunman then shot himself. He and the male victim were dead when police arrived, they said.

The woman was taken to the hospital and is in stable condition.

As of now, investigators don’t know if the victims and the shooter knew each other. Police said there was little, if any, interaction between them prior to the shooting.

The investigation is ongoing, and the police department is looking for any leads on the case.

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Suspect captured, charged with murder in triple homicide at Georgia golf course

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(ATLANTA) — After a statewide manhunt, a suspect has been captured and charged with murder in a triple homicide that unfolded at a country club near Atlanta last week, authorities said.

Bryan Rhoden was apprehended in Chamblee, Georgia, about a half hour from the crime scene, Thursday evening in connection with the shootings with help from the U.S. Marshals Service, the Cobb County Sheriff’s Office said.

He was charged with three counts of murder, three counts of aggravated assault and two counts of kidnapping, Cobb County Chief Tim Fox said during a press briefing Thursday night.

Rhoden was identified as a suspect in the days after the incident at the Pinetree Country Club in Kennesaw, and has ties to the metro Atlanta area, Fox said.

On July 3, a golf pro was gunned down in broad daylight at the country club’s golf course and two other men were found shot dead in the bed of pickup truck that was parked on the green, according to police.

Fox did not share details on any possible motive in the murders or how Rhoden was allegedly tied to the shootings due to the active investigation.

Eugene Siller, 46, a golf pro who worked at the course, was shot in the head on the green of the 10th hole after apparently stumbling upon a crime in progress, according to police. He was killed “because he witnessed an active crime taking place,” police said. There is no connection between Siller and the suspect, Fox said.

The two other victims — 76-year-old Paul Pierson of Kansas and 46-year-old Henry Valdez of California — were found in the bed of a white Ram 3500 pickup truck nearby. They were believed to have been killed on the golf course not long before they were found, Fox said. The chief did not share any further details on the kidnapping charge.

Police allege that Rhoden was the lone shooter in the incident.

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