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

March 12, 2020 - 8:04 PM

Asian shares plunge after Wall Street's worst day since '87

NEW YORK (AP) — Shares have plunged in Asia, with Japan’s benchmark sinking 10% after Wall Street suffered its biggest drop since the Black Monday crash of 1987.

Markets worldwide have retreated as fears of economic fallout from the coronavirus crisis deepen and the meltdown in the U.S., the world's biggest economy, batters confidence around the globe.

South Korea's Kospi sank 8.1%, Sydney's S&P ASX/200 gave up 7.6% and Hong Kong's Hang Seng shed 6.3%.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP's earlier story is below.

The escalating coronavirus emergency sent the stock market Thursday into its worst slide since the Black Monday crash of 1987, extending a sell-off that has now wiped out most of Wall Street’s big gains since President Donald Trump took office.

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Impact of pandemic stretches from schools to world's leaders

NEW YORK (AP) — Schools shut down across much of Europe. Gatherings were cancelled or banned from California to Germany. And the coronavirus reached directly into the world’s centres of power Thursday, with politicians in Canada, Brazil, Spain and elsewhere either testing positive for the new virus or putting themselves in quarantine as fallout from the pandemic further upended daily life.

The crisis has wreaked havoc on businesses and financial markets, sending U.S. stocks to their worst losses since the Black Monday crash of 1987. European markets closed with one of the worst days in history.

“We are in a global panic," said Estelle Brack, an economist in Paris. “We are in the deep unknown.”

The European Union pushed back against President Donald Trump's sharp restrictions on travel from Europe to the United States. The EU quickly slammed Trump's "unilateral" decision, declaring the virus a "global crisis, not limited to any continent, and it requires co-operation."

Trump defended his decision to not notify all EU leaders ahead of the announcement. “When they raise taxes on us, they don’t consult us,” Trump said. “I think that’s probably one in the same.”

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Virus testing is a 'failing,' leaving cases uncounted

NEW YORK (AP) — Seven weeks have passed since the first U.S. case of coronavirus was announced, and the government is failing to account for what could be thousands of additional infections because of ongoing problems with testing.

"The system is not really geared to what we need right now,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert at the National Institutes of Health. “That is a failing. It is a failing, let’s admit it.”

The effort initially was hobbled by delays in getting testing kits out to public health labs, but the stumbles have continued, leading scientists to conclude that the virus has taken root in more places than government officials say.

U.S. health officials, for example, promised nearly a month ago to tap into a national network of labs that monitor for flu. That system is only just getting started.

Large-scale testing is a critical part of tracking the spread of infectious diseases and allocating resources for treatment. The lack of comprehensive figures means U.S. health providers could quickly be overwhelmed by undetected cases.

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Analysis: With unease, Americans lurch into coronavirus era

So this is where we are:

Major League Baseball's opening day postponed. Broadway and Hollywood grinding to a halt, and March Madness cancelled. Universities from Harvard to UCLA telling students to stay away. Most travellers from Europe banned. Tom Hanks, Hollywood’s embodiment of everyday American-ness, in isolation in an Australian hospital with the virus. And the speaker of the House of Representatives taking this question Thursday morning: “How prepared is Congress to work from home?”

This, in mid-March 2020, is now the very abnormal normal in the new United States of Purell — a nation that watched for weeks as the coronavirus erupted in China, South Korea, Iran and Italy before starting down the path of figuring out how to encounter this threat itself.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, something tipped. Words and phrases used intermittently in recent days began coming at Americans in a dizzying fusillade: Cancelled. Postponed. Scrapped. Stay home. Don’t come in. Don’t embrace. Don’t shake hands. Social distancing. Unprecedented. Crisis.

“I think it’s finally sinking in how serious this is, and how incredibly unprepared we are going into this. And people are scrambling,” says Dr. Mical Raz, a medical historian and practicing physician who teaches at the University of Rochester.

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Americans adjust to new life, hunker down amid coronavirus

Workers lost their jobs, parents came up with impromptu home lesson plans for children kept home from shuttered schools. Families fretted over dwindling retirement accounts, the health of elderly parents, and every cough and sneeze in their midst.

Millions of people settled into new and disrupted routines Thursday as the coronavirus began to uproot almost every facet of American life.

The spate of event cancellations that drove home the gravity of the outbreak a day earlier only intensified Thursday, with Disney and Universal Orlando Resort shutting down theme parks, the NCAA calling off March Madness and Broadway theatres closing their doors in Manhattan. All the major professional sports announced they are halting play, and officials ordered a shutdown of every school in the state of Ohio for three weeks.

And with the cascade of closures, a new reality set in for American households.

In the Pacific Northwest, parents scrambled to devise homeschooling using library books or apps. Others, desperate to get to work, jumped on social media boards to seek child care or exchange tips about available babysitters.

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Pentagon: US strikes Iran-backed group that hit Iraq base

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. launched airstrikes Thursday in Iraq, targeting the Iranian-backed Shia militia members believed responsible for the rocket attack that killed and wounded American and British troops at a base north of Baghdad, the Pentagon said..

U.S. officials said multiple strikes by U.S. fighter jets hit five locations and mainly targeted Kataib Hezbollah weapons facilities inside Iraq. A Defence Department statement said the strikes targeted five weapons storage facilities “to significantly degrade their ability to conduct future attacks.”

The strikes marked a rapid escalation in tensions with Tehran and its proxy groups in Iraq, just two months after Iran carried out a massive ballistic missile attack against American troops at a base in Iraq. They came just hours after top U.S. defence leaders threatened retaliation for the Wednesday rocket attack, making clear that they knew who did it and that the attackers would be held accountable.

“The United States will not tolerate attacks against our people, our interests, or our allies,” Defence Secretary Mark Esper said. “As we have demonstrated in recent months, we will take any action necessary to protect our forces in Iraq and the region.”

The Pentagon statement said the facilities hit in the precision strikes were used to store weapons used to target the U.S. and coalition forces. It called the counterattack “defensive, proportional and in direct response to the threat” posed by the Iranian-backed Shia militia groups.

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1 year later, New Zealand mosque attacks alter many lives

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand (AP) — Fifty-one people were killed and dozens more injured when a lone gunman attacked two mosques in Christchurch last year. New Zealanders will commemorate those who died on the anniversary of the mass killing Sunday. Three people whose lives were forever altered that day say it has prompted changes in their career aspirations, living situations and in the way that others perceive them.

Aya Al-Umari

Aya’s older brother Hussein, 35, was killed in the attack at the Al Noor mosque

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When she first heard there had been a shooting at the mosque, Aya Al-Umari rushed to her brother’s house and then to the Christchurch Hospital, hoping to find out something, anything, about him. She was confronted with an overwhelming scene. Children were crying. Adults were covered with blood. Nothing was comprehensible. She spotted a policewoman, who calmed her down, told her to go home and promised to update her hourly.

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Scrubbed: March Madness leads long list of cancelled sports

The world's sports schedule cratered at warp speed Thursday, with one of the biggest events on the U.S. calendar, the fun-filled and colorful college basketball tournament known as March Madness, becoming the first mega-event to be scrubbed due to fear of the spread of the coronavirus.

Leaders at all levels of sports, including the NCAA, NBA, NHL, Major League Baseball, golf, tennis and soccer, decided the risk of playing games with the threat of the virus hanging over them was too great despite the billions of dollars — to say nothing of the trophies, pride and once-in-a-lifetime experiences — hanging in the balance.

By late in the afternoon of an extraordinary, headline-a-minute day across a pandemic-rattled globe, the NCAA, which regulates March Madness and virtually all major U.S. college sports, basically had no choice. With conferences and individual teams calling off their basketball seasons at breakneck pace, the NCAA followed suit. They scrapped all college winter and spring championships, the highlight of which is the men's basketball tournament — a three-week extravaganza that stands as the biggest event this side of the Super Bowl on the U.S. sports calendar.

The cancellation leaves a massive hole in American sports — from campuses across the country, to a growing passel of sports-betting businesses that rely on college hoops money, to say nothing of the hearts of players who were poised to get their first, or last, or only chance to shine on the big stage.

All of it was to be covered by CBS and its partners; about 80 per cent of the NCAA's $1.05 billion annual budget is bankrolled by the money the networks pay to present the 68-team tournament over the air, on cable and online.

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Biden pivots focus to Trump amid coronavirus concerns

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — Joe Biden blasted President Donald Trump's response to the coronavirus outbreak on Thursday and outlined how he would combat the threat differently by relying more heavily on global alliances and listening more closely to the recommendations of scientists.

“This administration has left us woefully unprepared for the exact crisis we now face,” Biden said from his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware.

The new coronavirus has upended the presidential campaign at a crucial moment. Just as Biden is beginning to pull away with the delegates needed to win the Democratic presidential nomination, in-person campaign activities are virtually ground to a halt. And many Americans who would otherwise be tuned into politics are instead preparing for what might happen if they become infected or asked to remain home for weeks at a time.

As financial markets spiraled, Biden sought to look past the turbulent Democratic primary and portray himself as a soothing counter to the chaos of the Trump era. Standing before a bank of American flags, he mixed indictments of Trump with his own policy proposals and the kind of national cheerleading and encouragement that he sees as critical aspects of the presidency.

“No president can promise to prevent future outbreaks, but I can promise you this: When I’m president we will be better prepared, respond better and recover better,” Biden declared. “We will lead with science, listen to the experts, will heed their advice. We’ll build American leadership and rebuild it to rally the world to meet the global threats that we are likely to face again.”

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Coronavirus brings entertainment world to a standstill

NEW YORK (AP) — The entertainment industry prepared Thursday for an unprecedented shutdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus, cancelling upcoming movies, suspending all Broadway performances and scuttling concert tours until it's safe to welcome crowds back.

To accommodate calls for social distancing, Hollywood moved to pause the normal hum of TV productions and the bustle of red-carpet movie premieres. After New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo banned gatherings of more than 500 people, Broadway theatres announced that they would close immediately and remain dark through April 12. The Tribeca Film Festival was called off too.

The closures amount to a nearly complete halting of the industry, from Lincoln Center to Disneyland, and the largest-scale shutdown of many of the country's major arteries of culture.

The Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center, the New York Philharmonic, Carnegie Hall, the Apollo Theater and the Kennedy Center in Washington all cancelled events through March 31. Live Nation Entertainment and AEG Presents, the world's largest live-entertainment companies, suspended all current tours through March, including those of Billie Eilish, the Strokes and Post Malone.

The dawning awareness of the virus' reach had already forced the cancellation or postponement of all major imminent events on the calendar, including the sprawling South by Southwest conference and festival in Austin, Texas; Hollywood's annual movie expo CinemaCon, in Las Vegas; this month's Kids Choice Awards in Los Angeles; and the sunny California music festival Coachella, which was put off until October. TV networks saw the scuttling of most major sporting events, including the NBA season, March Madness and the NHL season.

News from © The Associated Press, 2020
The Associated Press

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