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

March 08, 2020 - 8:04 PM

California prepares to dock cruise ship with 21 virus cases

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — As the U.S. death toll from the new coronavirus reached at least 21, California Gov. Gavin Newsom and the mayor of Oakland sought Sunday to reassure the public that none of the passengers from a ship carrying people with the virus will be released into the public before undergoing a 14-day quarantine.

The Grand Princess carrying more than 3,500 people from 54 countries is expected to dock Monday in Oakland, in the east San Francisco Bay, and was idling off the coast Sunday as officials prepared a port site. Those needing acute medical care will come off first.

“This is a time that we must be guided by facts and not fears, and our public deserves to know what’s going on," Mayor Libby Schaaf said.

On Sunday, the U.S. State Department issued an advisory against travel on cruise ships. “U.S. citizens, particularly travellers with underlying health conditions, should not travel by cruise ship," the department said in a statement on its website. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “notes increased risk of infection of COVID-19 in a cruise ship environment."

Meanwhile, the number of infections in the United States climbed above 500 as testing for the virus increased.

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Italy quarantines north in drastic bid to slow virus spread

ROME (AP) — Italy took a page from China’s playbook Sunday, attempting to lock down 16 million people — more than a quarter of its population — for nearly a month to halt the relentless march of the new coronavirus across Europe.

Weddings and museums, movie theatres and shopping malls are all affected by the new restrictions, which focus on a swath of northern Italy but are disrupting daily life around the country. Confusion reigned after the quarantine was announced, with residents and tourists from Venice to Milan trying to figure out how and when the new measures would take effect. Travelers crammed aboard standing-room-only trains, tucking their faces into scarves and sharing sanitizing gel.

After mass testing uncovered more than 7,300 infections, Italy's outbreak surged to nearly equal South Korea's, which had been tapering off, and trailing China, where COVID-19 is in retreat. Italy's death toll rose to 366.

Around the globe, more and more events were cancelled or hidden behind closed doors, from the pope’s Sunday service to a Formula One car race in Bahrain to a sumo competition in Japan, where wrestlers arrived at the arena in face masks and were required to use hand sanitizer before entering. In Saudi Arabia, all schools and universities were to close starting Monday, following similar moves in central China, Japan and other Gulf countries. Questions grew about whether to maintain U.S. presidential campaign rallies and other potential “super-spreading” gatherings of people, as the virus entered new U.S. states.

Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte signed a quarantine decree early Sunday for the country's prosperous north. Areas under lockdown include Milan, Italy's financial hub and the main city in Lombardy, and Venice, the main city in the neighbouring Veneto region. The extraordinary measures will be in place until April 3.

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Oil plunges 25% as another virus-fueled trading week begins

NEW YORK (AP) — Oil prices are plunging amid concern a dispute among producers could lead a global economy weakened by COVID-19 to be awash in an oversupply of crude.

Brent crude, the international standard, lost $11.44, or 25.3%, to $33.83 per barrel in electronic trading in London. Benchmark U.S. crude fell $10.77, or 26.1%, to $30.49.

The dramatic losses follow a 10.1% drop for U.S. oil on Friday, which was its biggest loss in more than five years. Prices are falling as Saudi Arabia, Russia and other oil-producing countries argue how much to cut production in order to prop up prices.

The turmoil in the oil markets caused share prices to plunge in the Middle East and in Asia. While lower oil prices can be a boon for economies that rely heavily on imports to fuel their industries, such as South Korea, Japan and China, extreme uncertainty can wreak havoc.

Demand for energy is falling as people cut back on travel. The worry is that the new coronavirus will slow economies sharply, meaning even less demand.

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Pelosi, Schumer: Trump needs to support help for outbreak

WASHINGTON (AP) — The two top Democratic leaders in Congress are calling on President Donald Trump to support a series of steps to help Americans deal with the coronavirus outbreak — from paid sick leave to widespread and free testing and other moves.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said Sunday that Trump should put the health and safety of the public first and such steps should take priority over moves to help companies deal with financial losses — like tax cuts for corporations.

“We are demanding that the administration prioritize the health and safety of American workers and their families over corporate interests,” they said in a statement.

Among the steps they are pushing: paid sick leave for workers impacted by the quarantine orders or those responsible for caring for children in case of school closures; enhanced unemployment insurance for workers who may lose their jobs because of the outbreak; expansion of food programs to people impacted by coronavirus; and adequate protection for front-line workers in contact with those exposed.

Other steps they want are widespread, free coronavirus testing, affordable treatment for all; protections from price gouging; and increased resources in the medical system to respond to increased demands.

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Targets of crackdown in China fear government's reach in US

WASHINGTON (AP) — The photo of his father was barely recognizable. The old man looked unusually pale and tired, and his customary beard was shaved off. The son who received the photo over WhatsApp was immediately suspicious.

He hadn't heard from his family in western China for two years while he studied at a U.S. university.

His family are Uighurs, a predominantly Muslim ethnic group that has become the target of a massive crackdown in China. Since 2017, more than 1 million people have been confined to internment camps and many more are monitored in their own homes.

Why would he get this message now? And why would it come over WhatsApp? The messaging platform is censored for ordinary people in China, but often is used by authorities.

No words accompanied the photo, but he interpreted it as a kind of warning.

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N. Korea fires weapons after threatening 'momentous' action

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea fired three short-range projectiles off its east coast on Monday, South Korea’s military said, two days after the North threatened to take “momentous” action to protest outside condemnation over its earlier live-fire exercises.

Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the three launches were made from an eastern coastal town in the North’s South Hamgyong province. It said the multiple kinds of projectiles flew as far as 200 kilometres (125 miles) at a maximum altitude of 50 kilometres (30 miles).

The statement said South Korea expressed "strong regret” over the launches that it said violate a past inter-Korean agreement aimed at lowering military animosities. South Korea's national security director, defence minister and spy chief held an emergency video conference and agreed the North Korean action were not helpful to efforts to establish a peace on the Korean Peninsula, according to South Korea's presidential Blue House.

Japan's Cabinet Secretariat detected at least one projectile but said it presumably had not reached Japan’s territorial waters or exclusive economic zone. It said North Korea’s repeated launches pose a serious threat to international security.

In the past 10 days, North Korea has said leader Kim Jong Un supervised two rounds of live-fire artillery exercises in its first weapons tests since late November. Kim had entered the new year with a vow to bolster his nuclear deterrent and not to be bound by a major weapons test moratorium amid a deadlock in a U.S.-led diplomacy aimed at convincing Kim to abandon his nuclear program in return for economic and political benefits.

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Nashville church worships in the rubble after deadly tornado

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Bobbie Harris, 79, lost her rental home, her job and her church when a deadly tornado struck her community in North Nashville. But all she could think about was her blessings.

“Through it all, God is good,” Harris said.

Harris joined other members of Mount Bethel Missionary Baptist Church on Sunday to worship just outside the ruins of the church, which has been in the community for 135 years. The roofs of their two church buildings are gone, ripped away by strong winds early Tuesday.

The church pitched a tent in the parking lot and the congregants gathered to sing, pray and hold hands in what the church called “worship in the rubble.” Even contractors who were busily trying to replace downed power lines paused and took off their hard hats as Pastor Jacques Boyd led the congregation in prayer on the sunny, windy morning.

The National Weather Service has said at least six tornadoes hit middle Tennessee during last week's storms that killed 24 people and caused massive damage in parts of Middle Tennessee.

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Women fill streets of world's cities with call for justice

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Women filled the streets of the world's largest cities Sunday to protest gender violence and inequality on International Women’s Day, with the mothers of murdered girls leading a march in Mexico City and participants in Paris inveighing against the “virus of the patriarchy.”

While many protests were peaceful celebrations others were marred by tension, with security forces arresting demonstrators at a rally in Kyrgyzstan and police reportedly using tear gas to break up a demonstration by thousands of women in Turkey.

“In many different ways or forms, women are being exploited and taken advantage of,” Arlene Brosas, the representative of a Filipino advocacy group said during a rally that drew hundreds to the area near the Philippine presidential palace. Protesters called for higher pay and job security, and demanded that President Rodrigo Duterte respect women’s rights.

Turkish riot police fired tear gas to disperse thousands of demonstrators who, in defiance of a government ban, tried to march along Istanbul's main pedestrian street to mark International Women's Day, media reports said.

Turkish authorities declared Istiklal street, near Istanbul's main Taksim square, off-limits, and said the planned march down the avenue was unauthorized. Thousands of demonstrators, most of them women, gathered near Istiklal regardless and tried to break through police barricades to reach it, according to the opposition Cumhuriyet newspaper and other media.

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Royal farewell: Harry, Meghan on final duty before new life

LONDON (AP) — It’s definitely a farewell. But will it be fond?

Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, will fulfil their final royal commitment when they appear Monday at the annual Commonwealth Service at Westminster Abbey in London. It's the last time they will be seen at work with the entire royal Windsor clan before they fly off into self-imposed exile in North America.

The service marks the end of a two-month drama that began when the couple announced plans to walk away from their roles as senior members of Britain's royal family and into a world where they will have to earn a living, pay their own way and even open some doors for themselves.

It's uncharted territory for the House of Windsor, even as the family seeks to downsize.

"I think this is a blow because I don’t think (the Windsors) would have envisaged that the slimmed-down monarchy would have actually meant that there was no role for Meghan and Harry,’’ said Pauline Maclaran, co-author of “Royal Fever: The British Monarchy in Consumer Culture.” “I mean, they really brought a new dimension to the royal family brand."

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No fans, no fun: Athletes uneasy over empty-arena solutions

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — As U.S. sports leagues weigh whether to bar fans from ballparks and stadiums to help stall the coronavirus outbreak, San Francisco Giants pitcher Jeff Samardzija is one of the few players who can tell them exactly what that feels like.

“It’s not very fun,” he said.

Samardzija pitched for the Chicago White Sox in a 2015 game played without fans in Baltimore due to civil unrest in the city. It was a bizarre scene at Camden Yards — a sun-drenched stadium, empty except for the teams — but something that has already become common internationally and could happen in the U.S. if there’s no slowdown to the spread of the COVID-19 strain that has infected more than 100,000 people worldwide.

The global virus outbreak has caused concern about cramming tens of thousands of fans in for games that technically can go on without them.

Sports leagues in Europe, Asia and the Middle East have already locked supporters out of venues, and the NBA sent a memo to its franchises Friday warning them to prepare for the possibility that it may have to host games without fans.

News from © The Associated Press, 2020
The Associated Press

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