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

March 06, 2020 - 8:04 PM

Virus cases top 100,000 in 90 countries as markets take dive

PARIS (AP) — Crossing more borders, the new coronavirus hit a milestone, infecting more than 100,000 people worldwide as it wove itself deeper into the daily lives of millions, infecting the powerful, the unprotected poor and vast masses in between.

The virus, which has killed more than 3,400 people and emerged in more than 90 countries, edged into more U.S. states on Friday and even breached the halls of the Vatican. It forced mosques in Iran and beyond to halt weekly Muslim prayers, blocked pilgrims from Jesus' birthplace in Bethlehem and upended Japan's plans for the Olympic torch parade.

As financial markets dived again, repercussions from the virus also rattled livelihoods in the real economy.

“Who is going to feed their families?” asked Elias al-Arja, head of a hotel owners' union in Bethlehem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where tourists have been banned and the storied Church of the Nativity was shuttered.

At the White House, President Donald Trump signed a $8.3 billion bill to fight the coronavirus a day after Italy said it would double its own spending to 7.5 billion euros ($8.5 billion).

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Trump's CDC visit turns into scattershot defence on virus

ATLANTA (AP) — President Donald Trump's visit to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday turned into a scattershot defence of his administration's handling of the coronavirus outbreak, veering into political score-settling, exaggerations and talk harking back to his impeachment.

With financial markets slowing and the virus spreading, Trump tried once more to quell the growing alarm that has prompted travel to be curtailed and events to be cancelled from coast to coast. But Trump, wearing his “Keep America Great" campaign hat while discussing the global worry, repeatedly detoured from his message of reassurance.

Trump called Washington state's governor, who is dealing with the most serious outbreak in the nation, a “snake.” He said he'd prefer that people exposed to the virus on a cruise ship be left aboard so they wouldn't be added to the count for the nation's total number of infections. And he falsely claimed that a test for the virus was available immediately to all who want it.

He also suggested the accuracy of the coronavirus test was “perfect — like the letter was perfect." With that, Trump was making a comparison to the July phone call with Ukraine's president that led to his impeachment. Trump, who was acquitted by the Senate last month, has insisted he did nothing wrong.

Before departing Washington, Trump signed an $8.3 billion coronavirus response funding bill at the White House and instructed the public: “Be calm. It will go away."

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Nursing home showed few signs it prepared for virus outbreak

KIRKLAND, Wash. (AP) — In the days before the Life Care Center nursing home became ground zero for coronavirus deaths in the U.S., there were few signs it was girding against an illness spreading rapidly around the world.

Visitors came in as they always did, sometimes without signing in. Staffers had only recently begun wearing face masks, but the frail residents and those who came to see them were not asked to do so. And organized events went on as planned, including a purple- and gold-festooned Mardi Gras party last week, where dozens of residents and visitors packed into a common room, passed plates of sausage, rice and king cake, and sang as a Dixieland band played “When the Saints Go Marching In.”

“We were all eating, drinking, singing and clapping to the music,” said Pat McCauley, who was there visiting a friend. “In hindsight, it was a real germ-fest.”

That was just three days before last Saturday’s announcement that a Life Care health care worker in her 40s and a resident in her 70s had been diagnosed with the new virus. The news would be followed over the next few days by the first resident deaths: two men in their 70s, a woman in her 70s and a woman in her 80s.

Of the 14 deaths across the nation as of Friday, at least 10 have been linked to the Seattle-area nursing home, along with dozens of other infections among residents, staff and family members.

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Trump names Rep. Mark Meadows his new chief of staff

WASHINGTON (AP) — In the midst of one of the most daunting crises of his administration, President Donald Trump on Friday announced he had made a major staff overhaul, replacing his acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney with Republican Rep. Mark Meadows.

While much of the country was focused on the spreading coronavirus, Trump announced the surprise reshuffle by Friday night tweet, saying Mulvaney would become the U.S. special envoy for Northern Ireland.

“I have long known and worked with Mark, and the relationship is a very good one,” he wrote, thanking Mulvaney — who never shook his “acting” title — “for having served the Administration so well.”

The long-rumoured move comes as Trump has been pulling together a team of loyalists and allies ahead of what is expected to be a bitter reelection fight. But the timing — as his administration was already facing criticism over its handling of the outbreak — threatened to exacerbate concerns about the government's ability to protect the nation from a virus that has now infected more than 100,000 people worldwide.

Mulvaney had been leading the administration's interagency response to the virus until Trump designated Vice-President Mike Pence to lead the whole-of-government effort more than a week ago.

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One more victory: Biden wins most Super Tuesday delegates

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former Vice-President Joe Biden has put an exclamation point on his Super Tuesday victories by winning the most delegates on the presidential primary calendar's biggest night.

The Associated Press has allocated more than 92% of the 1,344 delegates that were up for grabs on Tuesday, and Biden has such a commanding lead that Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders cannot catch up as the remaining votes from that day's 14 state primaries are counted.

Biden built his delegate lead on Tuesday by racking up huge victories in Alabama, North Carolina and Virginia, while scoring a narrow win in Texas. In all, Biden won 10 states and Sanders won four.

“Look, not long ago the press and the pundits declared this campaign dead, but this week we saw tremendous support across the nation,” Biden told supporters by phone Friday evening. “We changed the whole narrative."

Sanders won California and three other states — Colorado, Utah and his home state of Vermont. Although Sanders won the biggest state, California, he didn't rack up the commanding lead required to surpass Biden's haul.

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Roller-coaster week ends with bond yields, stocks sinking

NEW YORK (AP) — A dizzying, brutal week of trading dropped one last round of harrowing swings on investors Friday.

After skidding sharply through the day as fear pounded markets, steep drops for stocks and bond yields suddenly eased up in the last hour. By the end of trading, the S&P 500 had more than halved its loss for the day to 1.7% and even locked in a gain for the week.

It's the latest lurch in a wild ride that has sent stocks flipping between huge gains and losses — mostly losses the last two weeks. Investors are trying to guess how much economic damage the coronavirus will ultimately inflict, and they're shifting by the minute as the number of new infections piles up on one hand and central banks and governments offer stimulus on the other.

All the uncertainty has left markets churning.

“It’s anyone’s guess at this point why it rallied into the close,” Adam Taback, chief investment officer for Wells Fargo Private Bank, said of the last hour of Friday's trading.

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WSJ: Saudis arrest 2 princes for allegedly plotting coup

NEW YORK (AP) — Saudi officials arrested two members of the royal family early Friday for allegedly plotting to oust King Salman and the son he has designated to succeed him, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Quoting unidentified sources, the Journal said guards from the royal court detained one of the king's brothers, Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz al Saud, and one of his nephews, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef. Both men were arrested at their homes and charged with treason, it said.

There was no immediate comment from Saudi authorities on the report.

Mohammed bin Nayef, a once powerful figure as head of Saudi counterterrorism efforts, had been crown prince until 2017, when King Salman took away the title and put his son first in line for the throne of the longtime U.S. ally.

The crown prince, who is in charge of day-to-day governance in the kingdom, has been praised in the West for implementing social reforms, but he also has drawn intense criticism for a tough crackdown on Saudis perceived as critics of his policies.

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With spreading virus comes fears -- and lots of stockpiling

NEW YORK (AP) — As an Arizonan, Gregory Cohen has never had to stock up ahead of a hurricane or other natural disaster.

But fear of the new coronavirus has led the 51-year-old attorney to run up a hefty bill at the local grocery store last week on emergency supplies. That included 12 cans of diced tomatoes, 12 cans of chili beans, soap and six boxes of pasta that he says should last him and his family four weeks.

"My biggest concern is that we will all be asked to stay at home," said Cohen, who stored the supplies in tubs in his garage for his wife and teenage son. “This is my way of exerting control of the uncertainty of the current situation."

COVID-19, the disease that has sickened more than 100,000 people worldwide and killed more than 3,400 people, has created legions of nervous hoarders who are loading up on canned goods, frozen dinners, toilet paper, and cleaning products. Many like Cohen want to be prepared as they hear warnings about quarantines and watch a growing number of companies like Twitter, Microsoft and Amazon ask their employees to work from home.

Such stockpiling is expected to last for weeks, resulting in a boon for discounters and grocery stores as well as food delivery services that is also introducing logistical headaches at the same time. Costco Wholesale Corp.'s Chief Financial Officer Richard Galanti described the buying frenzy as "off the charts'' throughout the U.S. in a call with investors this week. Some like Kroger Co. are now placing limits on certain items such as cold and flu-related products to five each per order.

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Trump surveys tornado damage, marvels at 'tremendous heart'

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — President Donald Trump on Friday toured a neighbourhood reduced to rubble by a tornado earlier this week and marveled at “the tremendous heart" he witnessed. He also offered a message for survivors and those who lost family members: “We love them, they're special people," he said.

Trump assumed the role of national consoler as he travelled to Tennessee. Trump surveyed devastated communities in Putnam County, where a tornado tore a 2-mile-long path, killing 18 people, including five children under 13. Many more people were injured, some critically.

Statewide, the death toll stood at 24 from a pair of storms.

Trump was met upon his arrival by Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn and other top officials.

“It's been a painful, tragic week for our state," Lee said after surveying with Trump a street where eight people were killed.

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Publisher cancels plans to release Woody Allen memoir

NEW YORK (AP) — Woody Allen’s publisher has decided to cancel the planned release of his memoir “Apropos of Nothing.”

The announcement Friday by Hachette Book Group followed days of criticism focused on allegations that Allen sexually abused his daughter Dylan Farrow. On Thursday, dozens of Hachette employees staged a walkout.

“The decision to cancel Mr. Allen’s book was a difficult one. At HBG we take our relationships with authors very seriously, and do not cancel books lightly,” the publisher announced.

“We have published and will continue to publish many challenging books. As publishers, we make sure every day in our work that different voices and conflicting points of views can be heard.”

Allen’s book was scheduled to come out next month.

News from © The Associated Press, 2020
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