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AP News in Brief at 11:04 p.m. EST

Mourning starts as Houston officials probe concert deaths

HOUSTON (AP) — Investigators Sunday worked to determine how eight people died in a crush of fans at a Houston music festival, as families mourned the dead and concertgoers recounted the horror and confusion of being trapped in the crowd.

Authorities planned to use videos, witness interviews and a review of concert procedures to figure out what went wrong Friday night during a performance by rapper Travis Scott. The tragedy unfolded when the crowd rushed the stage, squeezing people so tightly they couldn't breathe.

Billy Nasser, 24, who had traveled from Indianapolis to attend the concert, said about 15 minutes into Scott’s set, things got “really crazy” and people began crushing one another. He said he “was picking people up and trying to drag them out.”

Nasser said he found a concertgoer on the ground.

“I picked him up. People were stepping on him. People were like stomping, and I picked his head up and I looked at his eyes, and his eyes were just white, rolled back to the back of his head,” he said.

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Aspiring border agent, dancer, engineer among concert dead

A teen who loved dancing. An aspiring Border Patrol agent. A computer science student. An engineering student working on a medical device to help his ailing mother. And his friend and high school football teammate.

Clearer pictures began to emerge Sunday of some of the eight people who died after fans at the Astroworld music festival in Houston suddenly surged toward the stage during a performance by rapper Travis Scott.

Authorities said Sunday they wouldn't release the names of the dead, but family members and friends shared accounts of their loved ones with journalists and through social media. Mary Benton, a spokeswoman in Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner’s office, said identities were expected to be made public on Monday.

The dead ranged from 14 to 27 years old, according to Houston officials. As of Sunday, 13 people remained hospitalized.

City officials said they were in the early stages of investigating what caused the pandemonium at the sold-out event founded by Scott. About 50,000 people were there.

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Biden vaccine mandates face first test with federal workers

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden is pushing forward with a massive plan to require millions of private sector employees to get vaccinated by early next year. But first, he has to make sure workers in his own federal government get the shot.

About 4 million federal workers are to be vaccinated by Nov. 22 under the president's executive order. Some employees, like those at the White House, are nearly all vaccinated. But the rates are lower at other federal agencies, particularly those related to law enforcement and intelligence, according to the agencies and union leaders. And some resistant workers are digging in, filing lawsuits and protesting what they say is unfair overreach by the White House.

The upcoming deadline is the first test of Biden's push to compel people to get vaccinated. Beyond the federal worker rule, another mandate will take effect in January aimed at around 84 million private sector workers, according to guidelines put out this past week.

On Saturday, a federal appeals court in Louisiana temporarily halted the vaccine requirement for businesses with 100 or more workers. The administration says it is confident that the requirement will withstand legal challenges in part because its safety rules preempt state laws.

“The president and the administration wouldn’t have put these requirements in place if they didn’t think that they were appropriate and necessary,” Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” “And the administration is certainly prepared to defend them.”

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Top Republicans bullish on 2022 prospects after Virginia win

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Fresh off a strong showing in last week's elections, some of the nation's leading Republicans expressed newfound confidence this weekend that they were well positioned to retake control of Congress next year and ultimately win back the White House.

Speaking at the Republican Jewish Coalition's annual leadership meeting in Las Vegas, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a potential presidential contender in 2024, boasted that Democrats were “freaking out” after losing the Virginia governor's race and nearly falling short in New Jersey. Ronna McDaniel, the chair of the Republican National Committee, called Tuesday's strong showing “a tsunami” and a “precursor of really great things to come in 2022.”

But beneath the bravado coursing through the grand Palazzo ballroom at the Venetian Resort, the GOP was still navigating around the shadow of Donald Trump, the former president who plans to play a major role in next year's midterms and may again run for the White House in 2024. Virtually everyone who addressed the crowd praised Trump, who also spoke by video. But for the first time since losing the 2020 election, he seemed relegated to the background as others encouraged the party to think about its future.

The Republican strength in Virginia and New Jersey last week was fueled by candidates who deliberately kept Trump at arm's length and successfully turned out rural conservatives who make up the former president's base, while also appealing to suburban voters who had abandoned the party in recent years. That could provide a model for GOP success in future elections.

But Chris Christie, the former New Jersey governor who may run for president again in 2024, warned that would only happen if GOP leaders, including Trump, focus on the future instead of re-litigating the past, including the former president's lie that last year's election was stolen.

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Plenty of pitfalls await Zuckerberg's 'metaverse' plan

When Mark Zuckerberg announced ambitious plans to build the "metaverse” — a virtual reality construct intended to supplant the internet, merge virtual life with real life and create endless new playgrounds for everyone — he promised that “you’re going to able to do almost anything you can imagine.”

That might not be such a great idea.

Zuckerberg, CEO of the company formerly known as Facebook, even renamed it Meta to underscore the significance of the effort. During his late October presentation, he effused about going to virtual concerts with your friends, fencing with holograms of Olympic athletes and — best of all — joining mixed-reality business meetings where some participants are physically present while others beam in from the metaverse as cartoony avatars.

But it’s just as easy to imagine dystopian downsides. Suppose the metaverse also enables a vastly larger, yet more personal version of the harassment and hate that Facebook has been slow to deal with on today’s internet? Or ends up with the same big tech companies that have tried to control the current internet serving as gatekeepers to its virtual-reality edition? Or evolves into a vast collection of virtual gated communities where every visitor is constantly monitored, analyzed and barraged with advertisements? Or foregoes any attempt to curtail user freedom, allowing scammers, human traffickers and cybergangs to commit crimes with impunity?

Picture an online troll campaign — but one in which the barrage of nasty words you might see on social media is instead a group of angry avatars yelling at you, with your only escape being to switch off the machine, said Amie Stepanovich, executive director of Silicon Flatirons at the University of Colorado.

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The magic 1.5: What's behind climate talks' key elusive goal

Glasgow, Scotland (AP) — One phrase, really just a number, dominates climate talks in Glasgow, Scotland: The magic and elusive 1.5.

That stands for the international goal of trying to limit future warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) since pre-industrial times. It’s a somewhat confusing number in some ways that wasn’t a major part of negotiations just seven years ago and was a political suggestion that later proved to be incredibly important scientifically.

Stopping warming at 1.5 or so can avoid or at least lessen some of the most catastrophic future climate change harms and for some people is a life-or-death matter, scientists have found in many reports.

The 1.5 figure now it is the “overarching objective” of the Glasgow climate talks, called COP26, conference President Alok Sharma said on the first day of the conference. Then on Saturday he said the conference, which takes a break on Sunday, was still trying “to keep 1.5 alive.”

For protesters and activists, the phrase is “1.5 to stay alive.”

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Tension rises in Iraq after failed bid to assassinate PM

BAGHDAD (AP) — The failed assassination attempt against Iraq’s prime minister at his residence on Sunday has ratcheted up tensions following last month’s parliamentary elections, in which the Iran-backed militias were the biggest losers.

Helicopters circled in the Baghdad skies throughout the day, while troops and patrols deployed around Baghdad and near the capital’s fortified Green Zone, where the overnight attack occurred.

Supporters of the Iran-backed militias held their ground in a protest camp outside the Green Zone to demand a vote recount. Leaders of the Iran-backed factions converged for the second day on a funeral tent to mourn a protester killed Friday in clashes with security. Many of the faction leaders blame the prime minister for the violence.

Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi suffered a light cut and appeared in a televised speech soon after the attack by armed drones on his residence. He appeared calm and composed, seated behind a desk in a white shirt and what appeared to be a bandage around his left wrist.

Seven of his security guards were wounded in the attack by at least two armed drones, according to two Iraqi officials. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to give official statements.

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AP FACT CHECK: Biden hypes $1T bill impact on electric cars

WASHINGTON (AP) — Boasting about his $1 trillion infrastructure package, President Joe Biden overstated its reach by claiming it would result in 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations and meet his pledge to nudge half of U.S. drivers into EVs by decade’s end.

The measure receiving final congressional passage late Friday cuts in half the money that Biden had said was needed for the charging stations. Money could start flowing to the states within a month after the bill is signed, although construction can't begin until the Transportation Department approves their spending plans.

While a step forward, automakers have made clear they won't meet White House targets that half of all new car sales be electric by 2030 based on federal investment in that legislation alone.

A look at the claims vs. the facts:

BIDEN: “We’re going to build out the first-ever national network of charging stations all across the country — over 500,000 of them. ... So, you’ll be able to go across the whole darn country, from East Coast to West Coast, just like you’d stop at a gas station now. These charging stations will be available.” — remarks Saturday.

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'Nimblewill Nomad,' 83, is oldest to hike Appalachian Trail

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — An 83-year-old from Alabama started walking when he retired more than a quarter-century ago — and never stopped.

M.J. “Sunny” Eberhart strode into the record books Sunday as the oldest hiker to complete the Appalachian Trail.

Eberhart, known by the trail name Nimblewill Nomad, acknowledged that despite having tens of thousands of miles under his belt, the trail was tough going at his age, leading to quite a few spills on slippery rocks.

“I’ve a got a couple of skid marks on me, but I’m OK,” he said in a recent interview. “You’ve got to have an incredible resolve to do this.”

He hiked the trail out of order, in sections, to take advantage of optimal weather, and had already completed northern sections including Maine’s Mount Katahdin. He completed his final section in western Massachusetts, in the town of Dalton, in the same year in which a 5-year-old became among the youngest to complete the feat.

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Packers' special teams let down Love in 13-7 loss to Chiefs

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Green Bay Packers did all they could defensively to help out Jordan Love in his first career start.

Too bad for Love their special teams weren't on board.

In fact, the Packers were so bad on kicks and punts in a 13-7 loss to the Chiefs on Sunday it almost seemed as if they were trying to sabotage the backup quarterback, who was forced to start when Aaron Rodgers tested positive for COVID-19 this week.

There was the 40-yard field-goal attempt that Mason Crosby, their erstwhile sure-footed kicker, missed late in the first quarter that would have made it a 7-3 game. And the 37-yard attempt by Crosby that Chiefs defensive end Alex Okafor swatted away early in the second quarter as Kansas City took a 13-0 lead into the break.

There was the punt that bounced off downfield blocker Malik Taylor, which Kansas City recovered and turned into an easy field goal, and another punt early in the third quarter that Amari Rodgers muffed but was fortunate to recover himself.

News from © The Associated Press, 2021
The Associated Press

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