Evening News Brief
The Associated Press
Wearing a turquoise-colored sash and beaded crown, reigning Mr. Southwest Two-Spirit Iann Austin entered the powwow ring carrying the flag of his Gila River Indian Community.
In front of Austin was the transgender pride flag and the rainbow flag among other Arizona tribal nation flags, the U.S. flag and the Arizona state flag.
It’s what powwow inclusivity looks like.
NEW YORK (AP) — Billionaire Mike Bloomberg ended his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination on Wednesday and endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden. It was a stunning collapse for the former New York City mayor, who had his 2020 hopes on the Super Tuesday states and pumped more than $500 million of his own fortune into the campaign.
Bloomberg announced his departure from the race after a disappointing finish on Super Tuesday in the slate of states that account for almost one-third of the total delegates available in the Democratic nominating contest. He won only the territory of American Samoa and picked up several dozen delegates elsewhere. Biden, meanwhile, won big in Southern states where Bloomberg had poured tens of millions of dollars and even cautiously hoped for a victory.
"I entered the race for President to defeat Donald Trump," Bloomberg said in a statement. "Today, I am leaving the race for the same reason: to defeat Donald Trump -– because it is clear to me that staying in would make achieving that goal more difficult."
As the coronavirus spreads outward from cosmopolitan hot spots eventually it’ll reach isolated rural areas. Think of a hamlet an hour or two down an unnamed dirt road in the Southwest or an Arctic village accessible only by plane.
Unfortunately, indications are rural areas harbor conditions that contribute to higher rates of infection and people getting more sick than in urban areas.
According to the First Nations Development Institute’s report Twice Invisible: Understanding Rural Native America, 54 percent of American Indian and Alaska Native people live in rural and small-town areas on or near reservations.
National Native American organizations will collaborate with Indian Country Today in a broadcast roundtable on Mar. 9 on the Pala Indian Reservation to publicize the importance of American Indian and Alaska Native participation in the 2020 census.
The idea of counting everyone living in the United States so that each person counts equally, it's really just an exciting idea, said Sandy Close, the founder of Ethnic Media Services. “There is such a need for conversation customized to Native American communities and this [live broadcast] is one way to do it."
The 27.7 percent of American Indian and Alaska Native population, alone or in combination with other races, in California ranks the state third when it comes to living in hard-to-count tracts, according to data by Indian Country Counts.
“It’s extremely important to take every opportunity to raise awareness and open up conversation,” Close said. She explains the distrust amongst Native Americans, “there is a lot of history of distrust, anger and a sense of indifference to the census among Native Americans.”
In 1879, the census opened up to Native Americans, but Close believes many still have the mentality of, “If the census never cared about them, why should they care about the census?”
SEATTLE (AP) — The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus climbed to 11 on Wednesday with a patient succumbing in California — the first reported fatality outside Washington state — as federal authorities announced an investigation of the Seattle-area nursing home where most of the victims were stricken.
Officials in California's Placer County, near Sacramento, said an elderly person who tested positive after returning from a San Francisco-to-Mexico cruise had died. The victim had underlying health problems, authorities said.
Washington also announced another death, bringing its total to 10. Most of those who died were residents of Life Care Center, a nursing home in Kirkland, a suburb east of Seattle. At least 39 cases have been reported in the Seattle area, where researchers say the virus may have been circulating undetected for weeks.
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah is poised to study the disproportionate violence inflicted against Native women and girls after the Utah Legislature voted to create a task force.
Indigenous communities gathered at the Utah Capitol to celebrate Tuesday after the proposal passed the Senate unanimously, the Deseret News reported. It now heads to Republican Gov. Gary Herbert's desk and his office did not immediately respond to an text message Wednesday seeking comment on whether he will sign it.
Stocks soar on plans for more stimulus measures, Biden wins
The Dow Jones Industrial Average soared more than 1,100 points, or 4.5 percent, Wednesday as governments and central banks around the globe took more aggressive measures to fight the virus outbreak and its effects on the economy.
The gains more than recouped the market's big losses from a day earlier as Wall Street's wild, virus-fueled swings extend into a third week.
Stocks rose sharply from the get-go, led by big gains for health care stocks after Joe Biden solidified his contender status for the Democratic presidential nomination. Investors see him as a more business-friendly alternative to Bernie Sanders.
The rally's momentum accelerated around midday after House and Senate leadership reached a deal on a bipartisan $8.3 billion bill to battle the coronavirus outbreak. The measure's funds would go toward research into a vaccine, improved tests and drugs to treat infected people.
Investors are also anticipating other central banks will follow up on the Federal Reserve's surprise move Tuesday to slash interest rates by half a percentage point in hopes of protecting the economy from the economic fallout of a fast-spreading virus. Canada's central bank cut rates on Wednesday, also by half a percentage point and citing the virus' effect.
Sanders refocusing his campaign after Biden's super Tuesday
WASHINGTON (AP) — His front-runner status slipping, Bernie Sanders refocused his Democratic presidential campaign on surging rival Joe Biden on Wednesday as the Vermont senator's allies grappled with the fallout from a Super Tuesday stumble that raised internal concerns about the direction of his White House bid.
Sanders targeted Biden's record on trade, Social Security and fundraising just hours after billionaire Mike Bloomberg suspended his campaign and Elizabeth Warren confirmed she was privately reassessing her future in the race. The dramatic shifts signaled that the Democrats' once-crowded nomination fight had effectively come down to a two-man race for the right to face President Donald Trump in November.
Sanders declared himself "neck and neck" with Biden as he faced reporters in his home state, Vermont, one of just four states he captured on the most consequential day of voting in the party's 2020 primary season. Biden won 10 states, assembling victories that transcended geography, race and class.
"What this campaign, I think, is increasingly about is, Which side are you on?" Sanders said.
The progressive candidate lobbed familiar attacks against the former vice president's record but ignored supporters' calls to be more aggressive and insisted his campaign would avoid any "Trump-type effort" that included personal criticism.
China's virus slowdown offers hope for global containment
The slowdown in coronavirus cases out of China offers a sliver of hope that the global outbreak can be controlled, but whether that can happen anytime soon without drastic measures remains to be seen, public health authorities say.
With China accounting for the overwhelming majority of the world's 94,000 infections and 3,200 deaths since the virus first surfaced there in late December, it's hard to see the country as a success story. But some experts believe the easing of the crisis — there are now more new cases being reported outside China than inside it — suggests containment is possible.
World Health Organization outbreak expert Maria Van Kerkhove, who recently traveled to China as part of a team from the U.N. health agency, said the international experts noted a drop in cases there since the end of January.
"We scrutinized this data and we believe this decline is real," she said, adding that the extraordinary measures undertaken in China — including the unprecedented lockdown of more than 60 million people — had a significant role in changing the direction of the outbreak.
"We believe that a reduction of cases in other countries, including Italy, Korea, Iran, everywhere, that this is possible," she said.
In Italy and beyond, virus outbreak reshapes work and play
ROME (AP) — Italy closed all schools and universities Wednesday and barred fans from all sporting events for the next few weeks, as governments trying to curb the spread of the coronavirus around the world resorted to increasingly sweeping measures that transformed the way people work, shop, pray and amuse themselves.
With the virus now reported in more than 80 countries, Saudi Arabia barred citizens from making the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, Iran canceled Friday prayers for a second week, and leader after leader pleaded with citizens to put an end to that traditional symbol of mutual trust, the handshake.
The Italian government decreed that soccer games and other sporting events will take place without fans present until at least April 3. Italy is is the epicenter of Europe's coronavirus outbreak. More than 3,000 have been infected and at least 107 have died, the most of any country outside China.
Italy also closed schools for 8.4 million students through March 15, after at least four other countries — Japan, the United Arab Emirates, Lebanon and Iraq — took similar action.
"I know it's a decision with an impact. As education minister, I obviously want my students back in school as soon as possible," said Education Minister Lucia Azzolina.
Cellphone alerts helped Tennessee couple escape to basement
BAXTER, Tenn. (AP) — Billy Dyer's cellphone blared out an emergency alert, then his wife Kathy's phone followed, giving them just enough time to get downstairs and flip on a TV to check the news.
Then the tornado hit.
When the sun rose Tuesday morning, the Dyers emerged to find the walls around their corner bedroom gone. Their mattress was perched precariously on their bed's headboard, with only sky all around.
"Thank God we had enough time to get downstairs to the basement or we would probably not be here," Dyer said.
State emergency officials said 24 people died when fast-moving storms crossed Tennessee early Tuesday. Eighteen of them, including five pre-teen children, died in Putnam County, some 80 miles (130 kilometers) east of Nashville. Eighty-eight more were injured in the county.
Food stamp change fuels anxiety as states try to curb impact
CHICAGO (AP) — Having food stamps offers Richard Butler a stability he's rarely known in his 25 years. He was in state custody at age 2, spent his teen years at a Chicago boys' home and jail for burglary, and has since struggled to find a permanent home.
The $194 deposited monthly on his benefits card buys fresh produce and meat.
"It means the world to me," said Butler, who shares a one-bedroom apartment with two others. "We can go without a lot of things, like phones and music. We can't go without eating."
But that stability is being threatened for people like Butler, who are able-bodied, without dependents and between the ages 18 and 49. New Trump administration rules taking effect April 1 put hundreds of thousands of people in his situation at risk of losing their benefits. They hit particularly hard in places like Illinois, which also is dealing with a separate, similar change in the nation's third-largest city.
From Hawaii to Pennsylvania, states are scrambling to blunt the impact of the new rules, with roughly 700,000 people at risk of losing benefits unless they meet certain work, training or school requirements. They've filed a multi-state lawsuit, expanded publicly funded job training, developed pilot programs and doubled down efforts to reach vulnerable communities, including the homeless, rural residents and people of color.
Twitter preps ephemeral tweets, starts testing in Brazil
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Twitter is starting to test tweets that disappear after 24 hours, although initially only in Brazil.
The company says the ephemeral tweets, which it calls "fleets" because of their fleeting nature, are designed to allay the concerns of new users who might be turned off by the public and permanent nature of normal tweets.
Fleets can't be retweeted and they won't have "likes." People can respond to them, but the replies show up as direct messages to the original tweeter, not as a public response, turning any back-and-forth into a private conversation instead of a public discussion.
The new feature is reminiscent of Instagram and Facebook "stories" and Snapchat's snaps, which let users post short-lived photos and messages. Such features are increasingly popular with social-media users looking for smaller groups and and more private chats.
Doctors try 1st CRISPR editing in the body for blindness
Scientists say they have used the gene editing tool CRISPR inside someone's body for the first time, a new frontier for efforts to operate on DNA, the chemical code of life, to treat diseases.
A patient recently had it done at the Casey Eye Institute at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland for an inherited form of blindness, the companies that make the treatment announced Wednesday. They would not give details on the patient or when the surgery occurred.
It may take up to a month to see if it worked to restore vision. If the first few attempts seem safe, doctors plan to test it on 18 children and adults.
"We literally have the potential to take people who are essentially blind and make them see," said Charles Albright, chief scientific officer at Editas Medicine, the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company developing the treatment with Dublin-based Allergan. "We think it could open up a whole new set of medicines to go in and change your DNA."
Dr. Jason Comander, an eye surgeon at Massachusetts Eye and Ear in Boston, another hospital that plans to enroll patients in the study, said it marks "a new era in medicine" using a technology that "makes editing DNA much easier and much more effective."