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

March 07, 2020 - 8:05 PM

Italy announces quarantine affecting quarter of population

BEIJING (AP) — Italy's prime minister announced a sweeping coronavirus quarantine early Sunday, imposing restrictions on the movement of about a quarter of the country's population in a bid to contain a widening outbreak.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte signed a decree after midnight that imposes restrictions to the movement of people in the region of Lombardy and in at least 15 provinces. The measures will be in place until April 3.

“For Lombardy and for the other northern provinces that I have listed there will be a ban for everybody to move in and out of these territories and also within the same territory," Conte said. "Exceptions will be allowed only for proven professional needs, exceptional cases and health issues.”

There were chaos and confusion in the northern Italian city of Padua in the Veneto region as word spread late Saturday evening that the government was planning to announce the quarantine.

Packed bars and restaurants quickly emptied out as many people rushed to the train station in Padua.

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Frustration mounts over virus-stalled ship in California

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Cruise officials and passengers confined to their rooms on a ship circling international waters off the San Francisco Bay voiced mounting frustration as the weekend wore on with no direction from authorities on where to go after 21 people on board tested positive for the new coronavirus.

The Grand Princess was forbidden to dock in San Francisco amid evidence the vessel was the breeding ground for a cluster of about 20 cases that resulted in at least one death after its previous voyage. The ship is carrying more than 3,500 people from 54 countries.

Jan Swartz, group president of Princess Cruises and Carnival Australia, told reporters Saturday that cruise officials want guests and crew off the ship so they can receive proper care and evaluation, but they are awaiting direction from federal and state officials.

“Our preference is to get the guests and crew off the Grand Princess as soon as possible," she said.

The U.S. death toll from the virus climbed to 19, with all but three of the victims in Washington state. The number of infections swelled to more than 400, scattered across states. Pennsylvania, Indiana, Minnesota, Nebraska and Kansas reported their first cases.

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Experts: Cruise ships no place for a coronavirus quarantine

Cruise ships hit by coronavirus outbreaks have quickly found themselves with no ports for thousands of passengers as countries on four continents have quarantined vessels or kept them at sea for days.

Keeping all the passengers on board instead of letting them disembark on land is a strategy that can backfire, however, according to experts, because the ventilation systems and close quarters of cruise ships make them ideal places for illness to jump from one person to the next.

“They’re not designed as quarantine facilities, to put it mildly," said Don Milton, an epidemiologist with the University of Maryland.

A ship with more than 3,500 people aboard was sailing in circles off the coast of California on Saturday after 19 crew members and two passengers tested positive for the new virus. Originally bound for San Francisco, the Grand Princess might be sent instead to a non-commercial port, officials said.

While restaurants and other shipboard locations were closed, passengers were able to watch TV and use the internet, or if they were lucky enough to have one, go outside on their balcony overlooking the water.

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Sanders, Biden up attacks as head-to-head race takes shape

DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) — The Democratic presidential primary is down to two major candidates, and it shows.

Former Vice-President Joe Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders are spending their first weekend as their party's last top White House contenders increasingly taking aim at one another. Each wants to show he's the best choice before six more states — Idaho, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota and Washington — vote on Tuesday.

It reflects the new contours of a race that once featured 20-plus Democrats. An increasingly bitter matchup could endure for months as Biden and Sanders compete for the right to face President Donald Trump in November.

“We have a two-person race," Sanders said Saturday in Dearborn, a Detroit suburb with one of the nation's largest Arab American populations. "And all over this country, people are asking themselves which candidate can best defeat Trump. I have zero doubt in my mind that, together, we are the campaign that can beat Trump.”

Campaigning in St. Louis, Biden took a number of veiled swipes at Sanders, even as he called on Democrats to rise above Trump’s division.

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AP FACT CHECK: Trump's sunny side up take on coronavirus

WASHINGTON (AP) — As the stock market convulses, airline schedules buckle and businesses worry their overseas supply lines will snap, President Donald Trump is looking on the sunny side of an economy clouded by the coronavirus.

For several weeks he's played down the consequences of the public health emergency even as his agencies scramble to manage it. Now he's suggesting that a robust jobs report might be explained in part by the prospect that Americans are hunkering down and focusing more of their spending in their own country. There's no evidence that the virus has juiced jobs.

Trump's plentiful and sometimes inaccurate comments on the outbreak this past week prompted the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., to suggest that Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence stand back and “let the experts do the talking.” Trump paid that advice no heed.

A sampling of the past week's rhetoric on the virus and other matters and how it compares with the facts:

CORONAVIRUS

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Saudis' arrest of 2 princes called a warning to royal family

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Two senior princes in Saudi Arabia are under arrest for not supporting Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has consolidated control of all major levers of power with the support of his father, King Salman, two people close to the royal family said Saturday.

The arrests on Friday of the king's younger and beloved brother, Prince Ahmed bin Abdelaziz, and the king's nephew and former counterterrorism czar, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, came after an accumulation of behaviour that was provocative to leadership, one person in Saudi Arabia with knowledge of the arrests said.

Both princes had served previously in the post of interior minister, overseeing security and surveillance inside the kingdom.

The move came as a surprise, given that Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, 60, was widely known to be under close surveillance since he was shunted out of the line of succession by the king's son in mid-2017, a person close to the royal court said.

The arrest of Prince Ahmed, 78, was also unexpected since he is the king's full younger brother and also a senior member of the ruling Al Saud family.

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Gadgets for tech giants made with coerced Uighur labour

NANCHANG, China (AP) — In a lively Muslim quarter of Nanchang city, a sprawling Chinese factory turns out computer screens, cameras and fingerprint scanners for a supplier to international tech giants such as Apple and Lenovo. Throughout the neighbourhood, women in headscarves stroll through the streets, and Arabic signs advertise halal supermarkets and noodle shops.

Yet the mostly Muslim ethnic Uighurs who labour in the factory are isolated within a walled compound that is fortified with security cameras and guards at the entrance. Their forays out are limited to rare chaperoned trips, they are not allowed to worship or cover their heads, and they must attend special classes in the evenings, according to former and current workers and shopkeepers in the area.

The connection between OFILM, the supplier that owns the Nanchang factory, and the tech giants is the latest sign that companies outside China are benefiting from coercive labour practices imposed on the Uighurs, a Turkic ethnic group, and other minorities.

Over the past four years, the Chinese government has detained more than a million people from the far west Xinjiang region, most of them Uighurs, in internment camps and prisons where they go through forced ideological and behavioural re-education. China has long suspected the Uighurs of harbouring separatist tendencies because of their distinct culture, language and religion.

When detainees “graduate” from the camps, documents show, many are sent to work in factories. A dozen Uighurs and Kazakhs told the AP they knew people who were sent by the state to work in factories in China’s east, known as inner China — some from the camps, some plucked from their families, some from vocational schools. Most were sent by force, although in a few cases it wasn’t clear if they consented.

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First lady pushes back against critics of her tennis tweet

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Melania Trump pushed back Saturday after photos she tweeted of herself overseeing a White House construction project generated an online backlash.

“I encourage everyone who chooses to be negative & question my work at the @WhiteHouse to take time and contribute something good & productive in their own communities," the first lady said in a new tweet. She included a hashtag for Be Best, her program to teach children to be civil online.

On Thursday, the first lady tweeted a series of pics, including two of herself wearing a hard hat while reviewing blueprints for the construction of a tennis pavilion on the south grounds.

Critics lashed out, with some saying the photos were insensitive during the global coronavirus scare. Others referenced President Donald Trump's immigration policies in their comments.

The first lady helped break ground for the pavilion in October. The White House has said no public funds will be used for the project.

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Official: White House didn't want to tell seniors not to fly

NEW YORK (AP) — The White House overruled health officials who wanted to recommend that elderly and physically fragile Americans be advised not to fly on commercial airlines because of the new coronavirus, a federal official told The Associated Press.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention submitted the plan this week as a way of trying to control the virus, but White House officials ordered the air travel recommendation be removed, said the official who had direct knowledge of the plan. Trump administration officials have since suggested certain people should consider not travelling, but they have stopped short of the stronger guidance sought by the CDC.

The person who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity did not have authorization to talk about the matter. The person did not have direct knowledge about why the decision to kill the language was made.

In a tweet, the press secretary for Vice-President Mike Pence, Katie Miller, said that “it was never a recommendation to the Task Force” and called the AP story “complete fiction."

On Friday, the CDC quietly updated its website to tell older adults and people with severe medical conditions such as heart, lung or kidney disease to "stay home as much as possible" and avoid crowds. It urges those people to “take actions to reduce your risk of exposure,” but it doesn't specifically address flying.

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McCoy Tyner, iconic and influential jazz pianist, dies

NEW YORK (AP) — McCoy Tyner, the groundbreaking and influential jazz pianist and the last surviving member of the John Coltrane Quartet, has died. He was 81.

Tyner’s family confirmed the death in a statement released on social media Friday. No more details were provided.

“It is with heavy hearts that we announce the passing of jazz legend, Alfred “McCoy” Tyner. McCoy was an inspired musician who devoted his life to his art, his family and his spirituality,” the statement read. “McCoy Tyner’s music and legacy will continue to inspire fans and future talent for generations to come.”

Tyner was born in Philadelphia on Dec. 11, 1938. He eventually met Coltrane and joined him for the 1961 album “My Favorite Things,” a major commercial success that highlighted the remarkable chemistry of the John Coltrane Quartet. The album was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1998.

The quartet would go on to release more revered projects, becoming an international renowned group and one of the seminal acts in jazz history.

News from © The Associated Press, 2020
The Associated Press

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