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

March 09, 2020 - 8:04 PM

Stocks plummet amid coronavirus fears and oil-price crash

Stocks took their worst one-day beating on Wall Street since the global financial crisis of 2008 as a collapse in oil prices Monday combined with mounting alarm over what the coronavirus could do to the world economy.

The staggering losses, including a 7.8% tumble in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, immediately raised fears that a recession might be on the way in the U.S. and that the record-breaking 11-year bull market on Wall Street may be coming to an abrupt end in a way no one even imagined just a few months ago.

The drop was so sharp that it triggered the first automatic halt in trading in more than two decades. European stock indexes likewise registered their heaviest losses since the darkest days of the 2008 meltdown and are now in a bear market.

Together, the sell-offs reflected growing anxiety over the potential global economic damage from the coronavirus, which has infected more than 110,000 people worldwide and killed about 4,000 while prompting factory shutdowns, travel bans, closings of schools and stores, and cancellations of conventions and celebrations big and small.

“The market has had a crisis of confidence,” said Willie Delwiche, investment strategist at Baird.

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Italy expands lockdown, Israel tightens entry to halt virus

SOAVE, Italy (AP) — The battle to halt the coronavirus brought sweeping new restrictions Monday, with Italy expanding a travel ban to the entire country, Israel ordering all visitors quarantined just weeks before Passover and Easter, and Spain closing all schools in and around its capital.

Even as workers in Beijing returned to their jobs and new infections in China continued to subside, Italians struggled to navigate the rapidly changing parameters of the nation's self-imposed lockdown.

The fears fanned by the virus sent Wall Street stocks tumbling to their biggest drop since 2008, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average down 7.8%. Global oil prices suffered their worst percentage losses since the start of the 1991 Gulf War.

“Now that the virus has a foothold in so many countries, the threat of a pandemic has become very real,” said World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “The great advantage we have is the decisions we all make as governments, businesses, communities, families and individuals can influence the trajectory of this epidemic.”

More than 113,000 people have been infected with the virus, and more than 3,900 have died of the COVID-19 illness it causes. Most of the cases are in China, but its proportion is shrinking as the caseload grows elsewhere. More than 62,000 people have already recovered. But Italy's intensifying struggle to halt the virus' spread emerged as a cautionary tale.

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Infected cruise ship unloads passengers in California

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The cruise ship forced to idle for days off the California coast because of a cluster of coronavirus cases aboard arrived in port Monday, and dozen of passengers began to leave for military bases where they would be quarantined or to return to their home countries.

The Grand Princess pulled into the Port of Oakland with more than 3,500 people aboard — 21 confirmed to be infected with the new virus. Passengers lining the balconies waved and some left the cabins where they had been in isolation to go on deck.

As the ship sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge to enter the harbour, passenger Karen Schwartz Dever said “everyone was hollering and clapping.”

Twenty-three people who needed acute medical care had been taken off the ship by late Monday afternoon, but it was not clear how many of them had tested positive for the virus, said Shawn Boyd, a spokesman for the California Office of Emergency Services.

Live TV footage showed at least one passenger, an older man wearing a face mask, climbing onto a stretcher and being lifted into the back of an ambulance. Officials have said the unloading will take up to three days.

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Trump wants payroll tax relief to calm virus-spooked markets

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump said Monday his administration will ask Congress to pass payroll tax relief and other quick measures as a public health and economic maelstrom brought on by the coronavirus drew closer to him personally.

Intending to calm the fears of financial markets over the impact of the epidemic, Trump told reporters he is seeking “very substantial relief" to the payroll tax. Trump also said he was seeking help for hourly-wage workers to ensure they’re “not going to miss a paycheque” and “don’t get penalized for something that’s not their fault."

He stepped forward with the contours of an initiative after markets dropped sharply and as the outbreak spread. Several Trump confidants in Congress disclosed they were isolating themselves after potential exposure to the virus; one travelled with the president from Florida on Air Force One on Monday; another was his just-tapped new chief of staff.

Trump said he would hold a press conference Tuesday to outline the proposals, saying his administration and Congress would be "discussing a possible payroll tax cut or relief, substantial relief, very substantial relief, that’s big, that’s a big number. We’re also going to be talking about hourly wage earners getting help so that they can be in a position where they’re not going to ever miss a paycheque.”

As Trump grappled with an epidemic whose consequences he has repeatedly played down, the White House asserted it was conducting “business as usual.” But the day's business was anything but normal. Lawmakers pressed for details on how the Capitol could be made secure, handshakes on the Hill were discouraged and a Pentagon meeting was broken into sub-groups to minimize the number of people in the same room.

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Stakes rise for Sanders heading into Michigan primary

DETROIT (AP) — Bernie Sanders proved his 2016 presidential bid was serious with an upset victory in Michigan powered by his opposition to free trade and appeal among working-class voters. Four years later, the same state could either revive the Vermont senator's campaign or relegate him to the role of protest candidate.

Michigan and five other states hold presidential contests on Tuesday at a critical point in the Democratic race.

Former Vice-President Joe Biden is looking to quash Sanders' hopes and cement his own front-runner status just a week after resurrecting his beleaguered White House bid with a delegate victory on Super Tuesday. He played up his underdog story on Monday as he campaigned across Michigan, reflecting on his stutter as a child and the deaths of his first wife and young daughter.

And Biden wasn't alone. The former vice-president courted the state's influential African American voters alongside the two most prominent black candidates previously in the 2020 race, Kamala Harris and Cory Booker, who endorsed Biden in recent days as part of a broader consolidation of support among party leaders.

Sanders is in an urgent fight to turn things around as the primary calendar quickly shifts to other states that could favour Biden and narrow his path to the nomination. The senator countered the parade of Democratic firepower lining up behind Biden by securing the endorsement of the Rev. Jesse Jackson and deploying Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., on his behalf.

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The preventable death of an asylum seeker in a solitary cell

Roylan Hernandez Diaz’s long journey ended inside a white-walled cell in the solitary confinement wing of a Louisiana prison.

Nearby were the last of his belongings: a tube of toothpaste, a few foam cups, and a sheet of paper explaining how he could request his release from immigration detention. He had already been denied three times.

The Cuban man had been placed in solitary six days earlier because he told his jailers he would refuse all meals to protest his detention. The jailers put him there even after medical staff had referred him for mental health treatment three times and documented an intestinal disorder that caused him excruciating pain.

And for at least an hour before he was found to have hanged himself, no one had opened the door to check whether he was alive.

His death might have been prevented. An Associated Press investigation into Hernandez’s death last October found neglect and apparent violations of government policies by jailers under U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, at a time when detention of migrants has reached record levels and new questions have arisen about the U.S. government’s treatment of people seeking refuge.

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Weinstein lawyers seek mercy after his 'historic' fall

NEW YORK (AP) — With prosecutors seeking a severe punishment for Harvey Weinstein in his landmark #MeToo case, his lawyers argued on Monday that he deserves mercy for his already “historic fall from grace” and serious health issues.

In a letter filed in advance of Weinstein’s sentencing on Wednesday for his New York City rape conviction, his defence team asked Judge James Burke to give him to only five years behind bars — a far cry from the potential 29-year maximum term allowed by law.

A man who was once admired for putting part of his fortune into charitable causes during his rise to one of Hollywood's most powerful producers now “cannot walk outside without being heckled,” the papers say. “He has lost his means to earn a living. Simply put, his fall from grace has been historic, perhaps unmatched in the age of social media.”

Even if the ailing 67-year-old defendant is given a lesser term, “the grave reality is that Mr. Weinstein may not even outlive that term” making it “a de facto life sentence,” the papers say.

From the start, Weinstein’s use of a walker to get in and out of court each day at his trial raised questions about his health. After his Feb. 24 conviction, he was sent to Bellevue Hospital amid concerns about high blood pressure and heart palpitations for more than a week before being transferred late last week in an infirmary on the notorious Riker Island jail complex.

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Juul Labs sought to court AGs as teen vaping surged

WASHINGTON (AP) — It was a blunt warning about the dangers of youth vaping: Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr announced late last month that his state had joined 38 others to investigate whether Juul Labs, the nation’s largest electronic cigarette company, promoted and sold its nicotine-heavy products to teens.

It was a moment Juul had worked to avoid.

Ten months earlier, a team of Juul representatives met with Carr and his senior staff. They delivered a 17-page presentation laden with information about the public health potential of Juul’s combustion-free vaping devices for adult smokers and the company’s “commitment to ending youth use,” a pledge that included more rigorous retail and online sales controls.

Juul had access, but it did not pay off. In that way, the company’s experience in Georgia was typical. Again and again, the company met with Carr and other state attorneys general, in many cases giving money to their campaign funds. But again and again, it was stymied in its efforts to forestall legal action.

The session in Carr’s Atlanta offices and meetings with other state AGs haven’t been previously reported. The Associated Press uncovered the influence campaign by reviewing Juul’s political donations and obtaining internal emails, meeting minutes and company records through open records requests to more than a dozen state attorneys general offices.

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'Exorcist' actor Max von Sydow dies at age 90

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Max von Sydow, the self-described “shy boy”-turned-actor known to art house audiences through his work with Swedish director Ingmar Bergman and later to moviegoers everywhere when he played the priest in the horror classic “The Exorcist,” has died. He was 90.

His agent Jean Diamond said Monday the actor, who was born in Sweden but became a French citizen in 2002, died the previous day in France.

"It is with a broken heart and with infinite sadness that we have the extreme pain of announcing the departure of Max von Sydow,” Diamond said.

From his 1949 screen debut in the Swedish film "Only a Mother," von Sydow starred in close to 200 film and TV productions, remaining active well into his 80s. He received two Academy Award nominations — for best actor in 1988 for his gripping portrayal of an impoverished farmer in "Pelle the Conqueror,” and best supporting actor in 2012 for his role as a mute in “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.” More recently, he received an Emmy nomination for his work as the Three-Eyed Raven in HBO’s “Game of Thrones.”

The Swede was a mainstay of nearly a dozen classic, angst-ridden films by Bergman, including “Wild Strawberries,” “Shame” and the 1957 release "The Seventh Seal," in which he featured in one of Bergman’s most memorable scenes, as the medieval knight who plays a game of chess against the grim reaper.

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AP PHOTOS: Life in the time of coronavirus

As cases of the coronavirus increase in Italy, Iran, South Korea, the United States and elsewhere, AP photographers around the world are capturing the impact on daily life.

Fear of the spreading illness has led to a run on sales of face masks, empty store shelves and the disruption of travel. Despite evidence that most people who aren’t sick don’t need to wear them, the face masks are seen everywhere. These images highlight the widespread effects, including the temporary closure of Tokyo Disneyland and a dearth of tourists in Venice.

News from © The Associated Press, 2020
The Associated Press

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