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

March 17, 2020 - 8:04 PM

With 2 more victories, Biden pulls further away from Sanders

WASHINGTON (AP) — Joe Biden swept to easy victories in Florida and Illinois on Tuesday, increasingly pulling away with a Democratic presidential primary upended by the coronavirus and building pressure on Bernie Sanders to abandon his campaign.

The former vice-president's third big night in as many weeks came amid tremendous uncertainty confronting the Democratic contest as it collides with efforts to slow the spread of the virus that have shut down large swaths of American life. Polls were shuttered in Ohio, and although balloting went ahead in Florida, Illinois and Arizona, election workers and voters reported problems.

Biden's quest for his party's nomination now seems well within reach. He needs less than half of the remaining delegates to become the nominee. The party establishment has also lined up behind him as the best option in November to try and unseat President Donald Trump.

Using a livestream to address supporters from his home state of Delaware, Biden seemed ready to move past the primary. He paid tribute to Sanders for advancing key issues like affordable health care and combating climate change.

“Sen. Sanders and his supporters have brought a remarkable passion and tenacity to all of these issues. Together they have shifted the fundamental conversation in this country," he said. “So let me say, especially to the young voters who have been inspired by Sen. Sanders, I hear you. I know what’s at stake. I know what we have to do.”

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Trump pushes for massive aid from Congress, checks to public

WASHINGTON (AP) — In a massive federal effort Tuesday, President Donald Trump asked Congress to speed emergency checks to Americans, enlisted the military for MASH-like hospitals and implored ordinary people — particularly socially active millennials — to do their part by staying home to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

His proposed economic package alone could approach $1 trillion, a rescue initiative not seen since the Great Recession. Trump wants checks sent to the public within two weeks and is urging Congress to pass the eye-popping stimulus package in a matter of days.

As analysts warn the country is surely entering a recession, the government is grappling with an enormous political undertaking with echoes of the 2008 financial crisis.

At the Capitol, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vowed the Senate would not adjourn until the work was done.

“Obviously, we need to act,” McConnell said. "We're not leaving town until we have constructed and passed another bill."

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Disruption frenzy: Nations try to slow virus, aid economies

BERLIN (AP) — Mass disruptions shuddered across the globe Tuesday as governments struggled to slow the spread of the coronavirus while trying to keep their economies afloat. The chaos included border traffic jams in Lithuania, the deaths of 17 elderly residents in one Madrid nursing home and a bus service halt in Detroit when drivers didn't show up for work.

European Union leaders agreed to shut down the bloc's external borders for 30 days. The final U.S. state to confirm a case, West Virginia, showed the virus has spread nationwide, and entertainment shutdowns reached the glitzy casinos on the Las Vegas Strip as Nevada's governor ordered all non-essential businesses to close.

The administration of President Donald Trump was considering a plan to immediately return to Mexico all people who cross the southern border illegally, according to two administration officials who spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because the plan hasn’t been finalized.

Increasingly worried about the economic fallout of the global shutdown, the U.S., Britain and the Netherlands announced rescue packages totalling hundreds of billions of dollars, while longtime International Monetary Fund critic Venezuela asked the institution for a $5 billion loan.

But it was everyday people who suffered most.

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AP VoteCast: Biden chips away at Sanders coalition

WASHINGTON (AP) — Joe Biden on Tuesday chipped away at Bernie Sanders' coalition of young, liberal and Latino voters, securing solid victories in Florida and Illinois in unsettled times.

The contests on Tuesday — along with one in Arizona — came amid growing concerns about the spread of the new coronavirus and a national mobilization to contain it. Not surprisingly, voters in all three states ranked health care as a top issue — and in Florida more said they trusted Biden over Sanders to handle the issue, according to AP VoteCast surveys of thousands of Americans voting in the presidential primaries.

In just a few weeks, the coronavirus has upended that race, the global economy and Americans' daily routines, as government officials have closed schools, warned against travel, shuttered restaurants and advised millions of workers to stay home.

Ohio chose to halt in-person voting on Tuesday and delay its primary to avoid the risk of spreading the virus. Illinois, Florida and Arizona went ahead, instituting some new safety measures for voters and poll workers.

AP VoteCast surveys are designed to capture voters' views regardless of when or how they voted, accounting for the many voters in Florida and Arizona who voted early. Here's a snapshot of voters' priorities and concerns as they cast their ballots:

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US life with COVID-19: A state-by-state patchwork of rules

As the nation struggles to reconcile itself to a new and spreading peril, it also struggles with a patchwork of rules that vary dizzyingly from place to place: For now, your life and lockdown in the shadow of COVID-19 depends on where you live.

In some places, many ordinary Americans are making public health choices, searching their own conscience and deciding for themselves what risk they’re willing to endure. In others, government has made at least some of those decisions.

Ohio cancelled its presidential primary to avoid crowds, but the polls opened Tuesday morning in Florida, Illinois and Arizona. Bars in some states prepared for hordes of St. Patrick’s Day revelers, while elsewhere others are stacking the stools up on tables and locking the doors.

Casinos in some states have shut down, yet others remain open, where hundreds or even thousands of people touch the same slot machines and gambling chips. Spring breakers are partying by the hundreds on some beaches, while police are sweeping others, ordering people away through loud speakers.

The federal government on Monday urged Americans not to gather in groups of 10 or more and asked older people to stay home, as the number of infections in the U.S. climbed to more than 4,500, with at least 88 deaths. But hard rules have been left up to the states, creating what New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo derided as a “hodgepodge."

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Trump mulls sending all who cross border illegally to Mexico

SAN DIEGO (AP) — The Trump administration is considering a plan to turn back all people who cross the border illegally from Mexico, two administration officials said Tuesday, using powers they say the president has during pandemics like the coronavirus outbreak to mount what would be one of the most aggressive attempts to curtail illegal immigration.

The plan is under consideration and no final decisions have been made, according to the officials, who spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because the plan hasn’t been announced.

The officials said the president has authority to take such action in a pandemic and that Mexico's efforts to stop the spread of the coronavirus, along with Venezuela's, have been the weakest in North and South America.

The administration had declared in November 2018 that anyone who crossed the border illegally from Mexico would be denied asylum, a measure has been blocked in court. Last month, a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel in San Francisco upheld a lower court decision to keep that asylum ban on hold while a lawsuit proceeds.

The ban now being considered, which was first reported by The New York Times, would turn back to Mexico all people who cross the border illegally, not just those seeking asylum.

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Iraqi officials say rockets strike Baghdad's Green Zone

BAGHDAD (AP) — At least three rockets struck Baghdad's fortified Green Zone near the American Embassy late Tuesday, a day after an attack on a training base south of Baghdad where U.S.-led coalition troops and NATO trainers were present, Iraqi security officials said. It was the fourth such attack in the span of a week.

At least three rockets struck the Green Zone, the seat of Iraq's government and home to several foreign embassies, two Iraqi security officials said. Myles Caggins, spokesman for the coalition, said the rockets fell at least 2 kilometres (1.2 miles) from the embassy.

There were no immediate reports of casualties.

The previous evening, rockets hit the Basmaya base near the Iraqi capital, an Iraqi army statement said. The projectiles landed in an area that includes agricultural land and a factory, according to the statement. No more details were provided.

A Spanish contingent of the coalition and NATO trainers are present at the Basmaya site. There was no immediate confirmation of the attack from the coalition and no militant group claimed responsibility for the assault.

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Facebook acknowledges a bug that blocked coronavirus news

Facebook says a bug in its anti-spam system is blocking the publication of links to news stories about the coronavirus. Guy Rosen, Facebook's vice-president of integrity, said on Twitter Tuesday that the company is working on fixing the problem.

Users are complaining that links to news stories about school closings and other information related to the virus outbreak being blocked by the company's automated system.

Rosen said the problems are unrelated to any changes to its content moderator workforce. The company reportedly sent its human moderators home this week.

A representative for Facebook did not immediately respond to questions on the status of Facebook's content moderators, many of whom do not work directly for the company and are not always able to work from home.

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When Irish eyes are absent: Virus subdues St. Patrick's Day

BOSTON (AP) — St. Patrick's Day revelers across the world tried to salvage the holiday with makeshift celebrations after parades and parties were scrapped and residents were urged to hunker down at home to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.

It was the first St. Patrick's Day in more than 250 years without a large parade in New York City, but a small group of organizers marched the rain-soaked streets early Tuesday anyway — observing "social distancing," they said — to keep the tradition alive.

Led by police cars with flashing lights, people in uniforms and sashes marched up Fifth Avenue before dawn with a banner and flags as bagpipe music played. The brief march wasn't advertised, and the sidewalks were largely empty.

In Savannah, Georgia, which cancelled its hugely popular parade for the first time in 99 years, there were no bagpipers, no cheering crowds — just two men in green blazers carrying a large Irish flag as they trudged along largely abandoned sidewalks.

“It's really strange,” said Bill Bradley, carrying the flag on its long wooden pole. “It's almost like a dream, like living in some kind of nightmare.” Bradley and his friend John Lowenthal, members of one of Savannah's Irish social societies, opted to walk the parade route on their own.

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Durant among 4 Nets to test positive for new coronavirus

NEW YORK (AP) — Four Brooklyn Nets players, including Kevin Durant, have tested positive for the new coronavirus, bringing the total to seven known players in the NBA.

The Nets did not name the players Tuesday, but Durant told The Athletic he was one of them, saying: “Everyone be careful, take care of yourself and quarantine. We're going to get through this.”

The Nets announced that one player is exhibiting symptoms, while the other three are asymptomatic. All four players have been isolated and are under the care of team physicians.

“The health of our players and staff is of the highest priority to the organization and the team is doing everything within its power to ensure that those affected receive the best care possible,” the Nets said in a statement.

Brooklyn's most recent game was March 10 in Los Angeles against the Lakers. After the Nets announced their test results, the Lakers — who have the NBA's second-best record this season and two of the game's biggest stars in LeBron James and Anthony Davis — indicated that their team will now be tested.

News from © The Associated Press, 2020
The Associated Press

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