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

March 04, 2020 - 8:04 PM

Sanders refocusing his campaign after Biden's super Tuesday

WASHINGTON (AP) — His front-runner status slipping, Bernie Sanders refocused his Democratic presidential campaign on surging rival Joe Biden on Wednesday as the Vermont senator's allies grappled with the fallout from a Super Tuesday stumble that raised internal concerns about the direction of his White House bid.

Sanders targeted Biden's record on trade, Social Security and fundraising just hours after billionaire Mike Bloomberg suspended his campaign and Elizabeth Warren confirmed she was privately reassessing her future in the race. The dramatic shifts signalled that the Democrats' once-crowded nomination fight had effectively come down to a two-man race for the right to face President Donald Trump in November.

Sanders declared himself “neck and neck” with Biden as he faced reporters in his home state, Vermont, one of just four states he captured on the most consequential day of voting in the party's 2020 primary season. Biden won 10 states, assembling victories that transcended geography, race and class.

“What this campaign, I think, is increasingly about is, Which side are you on?” Sanders said.

The progressive candidate lobbed familiar attacks against the former vice-president's record but ignored supporters' calls to be more aggressive and insisted his campaign would avoid any “Trump-type effort” that included personal criticism.

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China's virus slowdown offers hope for global containment

The slowdown in coronavirus cases out of China offers a sliver of hope that the global outbreak can be controlled, but whether that can happen anytime soon without drastic measures remains to be seen, public health authorities say.

With China accounting for the overwhelming majority of the world's 94,000 infections and 3,200 deaths since the virus first surfaced there in late December, it’s hard to see the country as a success story. But some experts believe the easing of the crisis — there are now more new cases being reported outside China than inside it — suggests containment is possible.

World Health Organization outbreak expert Maria Van Kerkhove, who recently travelled to China as part of a team from the U.N. health agency, said the international experts noted a drop in cases there since the end of January.

“We scrutinized this data and we believe this decline is real,” she said, adding that the extraordinary measures undertaken in China — including the unprecedented lockdown of more than 60 million people — had a significant role in changing the direction of the outbreak.

“We believe that a reduction of cases in other countries, including Italy, Korea, Iran, everywhere, that this is possible,” she said.

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Feds investigate nursing home as U.S. death toll hits 11

SEATTLE (AP) — The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus climbed to 11 on Wednesday with a patient succumbing in California — the first reported fatality outside Washington state — as federal authorities announced an investigation of the Seattle-area nursing home where most of the victims were stricken.

Officials in California's Placer County, near Sacramento, said an elderly person who tested positive after returning from a San Francisco-to-Mexico cruise had died. The victim had underlying health problems, authorities said.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a statewide emergency. Washington and Florida had already declared emergencies.

Washington also announced another death, bringing its total to 10. Most of those who died were residents of Life Care Center, a nursing home in Kirkland, a suburb east of Seattle. At least 39 cases have been reported in the Seattle area, where researchers say the virus may have been circulating undetected for weeks.

Seema Verma, head of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said the agency is sending inspectors to Life Care along with experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to figure out what happened and determine whether the nursing home followed guidelines for preventing infections.

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China's factories try to shield workers as output revives

BEIJING (AP) — To keep his 40 employees indoors and away from China’s virus outbreak, the manager of an electronics factory in Dongguan, near Hong Kong, says he hired a cook and arranged dormitories for them.

Cjtouch Electronic Co., which makes smartphone touch screens, is one of thousands of manufacturers trying to protect employees while they gradually reopen after anti-virus controls shut down much of the world’s second-largest economy.

“We have adopted strict prevention measures,” said its general manager, Zhang Feng.

Trying to curb the soaring cost of anti-virus controls, the ruling Communist Party has told local officials in areas deemed at low disease risk to help reopen factories that make the world's smartphones, toys and other consumer goods.

They were idled when Beijing extended the Lunar New Year holiday to keep workplaces empty in hopes of containing the virus that emerged in central China in December. Offices, restaurants, cinemas and shopping malls also were closed.

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Asian shares rise following surge in US on stimulus measures

TOKYO (AP) — Asian shares rose Thursday, taking their cue from a surge on Wall Street as governments and central banks took more aggressive measures to fight the virus outbreak and its effects on the economy.

Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 rose 0.8% in early trading to 21,264.80. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 added 0.9% to 6,381.50. South Korea's Kospi gained 0.6% to 2,071.99. Hong Kong's Hang Seng was up 0.5% at 26,339.33, while the Shanghai Composite was also up 0.5% at 3,025.23. Shares were also higher in southeast Asia.

The gains on Wall Street more than recouped big losses from a day earlier as wild, virus-fueled swings around the world's markets extend into a third week.

Stocks rose sharply from the get-go, led by big gains for health care stocks after Joe Biden solidified his contender status for the Democratic presidential nomination. Investors see him as a more business-friendly alternative to Bernie Sanders.

The rally's momentum accelerated around midday after House and Senate leadership reached a deal on a bipartisan $8.3 billion bill to battle the coronavirus outbreak. The measure's funds would go toward research into a vaccine, improved tests and drugs to treat infected people.

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Cellphone alerts helped Tennessee couple escape to basement

BAXTER, Tenn. (AP) — Billy Dyer's cellphone blared out an emergency alert, then his wife Kathy's phone followed, giving them just enough time to get downstairs and flip on a TV to check the news.

Then the tornado hit.

When the sun rose Tuesday morning, the Dyers emerged to find the walls around their corner bedroom gone. Their mattress was perched precariously on their bed's headboard, with only sky all around.

“Thank God we had enough time to get downstairs to the basement or we would probably not be here,” Dyer said.

State emergency officials said 24 people died when fast-moving storms crossed Tennessee early Tuesday. Eighteen of them, including five pre-teen children, died in Putnam County, some 80 miles (130 kilometres) east of Nashville. Eighty-eight more were injured in the county.

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Trump gets desired Democratic foes, but Biden worries linger

WASHINGTON (AP) — While Super Tuesday left the Democrats with a pair of front-runners whom President Donald Trump believes he can define and defeat, there are still some private worries in the White House.

There is concern that the Democrats' messy nomination contest may end up producing an emboldened version of the very man who once worried Trump so much as a foe that it led to the president's impeachment.

That would be Joe Biden.

Still, there was plenty for Trump to like in Tuesday's 14-state round of voting that transformed the Democratic race into a delegate shootout between an avowed proponent of democratic socialism (Bernie Sanders) and a longtime Washington insider (Biden). It banished from the race former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, whose endless millions had gotten under the president’s skin, and it pushed aside Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who could have proved to be a formidable rhetorical challenger against Trump.

That sets up Trump to run for reelection on familiar territory and allows him to revive some of the same lines of attack that proved successful in 2016.

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Roberts chides Schumer for 'dangerous' remarks on 2 justices

WASHINGTON (AP) — Çhief Justice John Roberts on Wednesday criticized as “inappropriate" and “dangerous" comments that Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer made outside the Supreme Court earlier in the day about Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.

Roberts was responding to Schumer's remarks at a rally outside the court while a high-profile abortion case was being argued inside. “You have released the whirlwind, and you will pay the price. You will not know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions,” Schumer said, naming the two appointees of President Donald Trump, according to video of the rally available online.

In a statement, Schumer spokesman Justin Goodman criticized Roberts, saying that “to follow the right wing’s deliberate misinterpretation of what Sen. Schumer said” shows the chief justice "does not just call balls and strikes.”

Goodman said Schumer's comments “were a reference to the political price Senate Republicans will pay for putting these justices on the court, and a warning that the justices will unleash a major grassroots movement on the issue of reproductive rights against the decision.”

He noted that the chief justice remained quiet in recent weeks when Trump questioned the impartiality of Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor.

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'Bob Durst killed his wife,' prosecutor says at his trial

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Robert Durst has never been charged in the 1982 New York disappearance of his wife Kathie Durst, who was later declared dead despite no body being found, but on Wednesday a prosecutor in a Los Angeles courtroom repeatedly told a jury that he killed her.

“Bob Durst killed his wife,” Deputy District Attorney John Lewin said at one point during his opening statement at the trial of the real estate heir Durst, who is charged only with the murder of his friend Susan Berman in 2000.

The judge in the case has ruled that the prosecution can provide evidence and say that Durst killed his wife to establish motive for Berman's killing, and Lewin took full advantage, repeating and emphasizing the statement.

“On the day that Durst killed her,” Lewin said as he opened one part of his presentation. “They were married at the time he killed her," he said in another part, “Durst killed Kathie when they were spending the weekend together," he said later .

He said it so much that it drove Durst's attorney Dick DeGuerin to interrupt.

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Jury decides Tavis Smiley must pay PBS in #MeToo dispute

WASHINGTON (AP) — A jury decided Wednesday that former television talk show host Tavis Smiley, who was fired amid allegations of workplace sexual misconduct at the height of the #MeToo movement, must pay about $1.5 million to his former employer, the Public Broadcasting Service.

Smiley was suspended in December 2017 and later fired from the PBS after the network said it had received multiple, credible allegations of misconduct by Smiley on his late-night interview show. He was on air with PBS for more than a decade, broadcast to more than 200 stations nationwide. Smiley, who is black, was the only minority to have served as the solo host in the history of the network, according to his lawsuit.

He was fired amid the wave of #MeToo reports of sexual misconduct in the workplace by powerful figures in movies, media and politics that began with allegations against Harvey Weinstein and also led to the departure of Smiley’s fellow PBS talk-show host Charlie Rose. Weinstein has been convicted in New York City of rape and sexual assault against two women and will be sentenced next week.

Smiley first sued PBS in D.C. Superior Court, contending that racial bias contributed to his dismissal and he was wrongly terminated without proof. He acknowledged having romantic relationships with colleagues over his career, but says they were consensual. He sought $1 million. The network counter-sued, arguing in part that Smiley owed the network for a season that didn't air.

At issue was the network's “morals” clause, which bars romantic relationships in the office and also disallows employees from acting in a way that would impact the employee or network in a negative way.

News from © The Associated Press, 2020
The Associated Press

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