Briefs: Nearly a million have died from COVID-19

This March 2020 photo provided by the family shows Ming Wang in Sydney, Australia. The 71-year-old was sickened in March on a cruise from Australia with his wife, a break after decades of running the family’s Chinese restaurant in Papillion, Neb. In the 74 days he was hospitalized, doctors desperately tried various experimental approaches, including enrolling him in a study of an antiviral drug that ultimately showed promise. Ming died on June 8. “It was just touch and go. Everything they wanted to try we said yes, do it,” said his daughter, Anne Peterson. “We would give anything to have him back, but if what we and he went through would help future patients, that’s what we want.” (Lu Wang via AP)

Associated Press

News for September 28th

The Associated Press

The nearly 1 million people around the world who have lost their lives to COVID-19 have left us a gift: Through desperate efforts to save their lives, scientists now better understand how to treat and prevent the disease — and millions of others may survive.

Ming Wang, 71, and his wife were on a cruise from Australia, taking a break after decades of running the family's Chinese restaurant in Papillion, Nebraska, when he was infected. In the 74 days he was hospitalized before his death in June, doctors frantically tried various experimental approaches, including enrolling him in a study of an antiviral drug that ultimately showed promise.

"It was just touch and go. Everything they wanted to try we said yes, do it," said Wang's daughter, Anne Peterson. "We would give anything to have him back, but if what we and he went through would help future patients, that's what we want."

Patients are already benefiting. Though more deaths are expected this fall because of the recent surge in coronavirus infections in the U.S. and elsewhere, there also are signs that death rates are declining and that people who get the virus now are faring better than did those in the early months of the pandemic.

"Some of the reason we're doing better is because of the advances," Dr. Francis Collins, director of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, told The Associated Press. Several drugs have proved useful and doctors know more about how to care for the sickest patients in hospitals, he said.

Federal judge postpones Trump ban on popular app TikTok

NEW YORK — A federal judge on Sunday postponed a Trump administration order that would have banned the popular video sharing app TikTok from U.S. smartphone app stores around midnight.

A more comprehensive ban remains scheduled for November, about a week after the presidential election. The judge, Carl Nichols of the U.S District Court for the District of Columbia, did not agree to postpone the later ban.

The ruling followed an emergency hearing Sunday morning in which lawyers for TikTok argued that the administration's app-store ban would infringe on First Amendment rights and do irreparable harm to the business.

Earlier this year, President Donald Trump declared that TikTok, owned by Chinese company ByteDance, was a threat to national security and that it must either sell its U.S. operations to American companies or be barred from the country.

TikTok is still scrambling to firm up a deal tentatively struck a week ago in which it would partner with Oracle, a huge database-software company, and Walmart in an effort to win the blessing of both the Chinese and American governments. In the meantime, it is fighting to keep the app available in the U.S.

India's confirmed coronavirus tally reaches 6 million cases

NEW DELHI — India's confirmed coronavirus tally reached 6 million cases on Monday, keeping the country second to the United States in number of reported cases since the pandemic began.

The Health Ministry reported 82,170 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, driving the overall tally to 6,074,703. At least 1,039 deaths were also recorded in the same period, taking total fatalities up to 95,542.

New infections in India are currently being reported faster than anywhere else in the world. The world's second-most populous country is expected to become the pandemic's worst-hit country in coming weeks, surpassing the U.S., where more than 7.1 million infections have been reported.

In the past week, nearly one in every three new infections reported in the world and one in every five reported coronavirus deaths came from India, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. While most of India's deaths remain concentrated in its large cities, smaller urban centers across the country's vast landscape are also reporting a surge in infections. 

Yet even as infections mount, India has the highest number of recovered patients in the world. More than 5 million people have recovered from COVID-19 in India and the country's recovery rate stands at 82%, according to the Health Ministry.

Rabbis ponder COVID-19 queries of ultra-Orthodox Jewish life

JERUSALEM — Must an observant Jew who has lost his sense of taste and smell because of COVID-19 recite blessings for food and drink? Can one bend the metal nosepiece of a surgical face mask on the Sabbath? May one participate in communal prayers held in a courtyard from a nearby balcony?

Months into the coronavirus pandemic, ultra-Orthodox rabbis in Israel are addressing questions like these as their legions of followers seek advice on how to maintain proper Jewish observance under the restrictions of the outbreak.

Social distancing and nationwide lockdowns have become a reality around the globe in 2020, but for religious Jews they can further complicate rites and customs that form the fabric of daily life in Orthodox communities. Many of these customs are performed in groups and public gatherings, making it especially challenging for the religious public to maintain its lifestyle. 

One religious publisher in Jerusalem released a book in July with over 600 pages of guidance from 46 prominent rabbis. Topics range from socially distanced circumcisions (allowed) to Passover Seders over Zoom (forbidden) to praying with a quorum from a balcony (it's complicated). 

One rabbi responded to a query about blessings on food for those who lost their sense of taste and smell due to the coronavirus. His ruling? Prayers are still required, for "even though one does not sense the flavor of the food, his intestines nonetheless benefit and are satisfied by the food and its nutrition." He then launched into a two-page legal argument citing rabbinic sources from the Talmud on down.

New US citizen refugees excited for first presidential vote

PHOENIX — They came fleeing war and persecution in countries like Myanmar, Eritrea and Iraq, handpicked by the United States for resettlement under longstanding humanitarian traditions. 

Now, tens of thousands of refugees welcomed into the U.S. during the Obama administration are American citizens, voting the first time in what could be the most consequential presidential contest of their lifetimes. 

With some states already sending out early ballots, the first-time voters from Arizona to Florida are excited but mindful of their responsibility in helping to choose the country's next leader. The winner will decide the future of the very resettlement program they benefitted from and that President Donald Trump has hollowed out and could halt altogether in the fiscal year starting Oct. 1. 

"Most refugees come to this county escaping political systems where the government is not their friend," said Hans Van de Weerd, vice president of resettlement for the International Rescue Committee, a top agency that brings refugees to the U.S. "To have their voices be heard is very powerful."

Republican and Democratic administrations resettled an average 95,000 refugees annually over four decades, but the Trump government whittled that down to a cap of 18,000. Only about half that number have come in this year amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

Pandemic overwhelms Trump's message in critical N. Carolina

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — President Donald Trump is fighting to fill a Supreme Court vacancy, howling with unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud and warning that violent mobs are infiltrating the suburbs.

But on a recent morning along Arbor Street, a peaceful tree-lined road with stately brick Colonials and Tudors near Winston-Salem, the women who are the targets of Trump's messages were confronting much more tangible threats.

As conservative activists canvassed the neighborhood, one young mother, a baby in her arms, shouted through a closed window that she was in quarantine. Across the street, another was focused on teaching her children their daily lessons at the kitchen table.

And a few doors down, 49-year-old Christina Donnell, an independent who voted for Trump four years ago, said through a black face mask that Trump's "terrible" handling of the pandemic and divisive leadership more broadly are her chief concerns.

"It's embarrassing to the country," Donnell, a lawyer who previously lived in Washington, said of Trump's leadership. "He's an embarrassing role model."

Trump ex-campaign boss hospitalized amid threat to harm self

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — President Donald Trump's former campaign manager Brad Parscale has been hospitalized after he threatened to harm himself, according to Florida police and campaign officials.

Police officers talked Parscale out of his Fort Lauderdale home after his wife called police to say that he had multiple firearms and was threatening to hurt himself when he was hospitalized Sunday under the state's Baker Act. That act allows anyone deemed to be a threat to themselves or others to be detained for 72 hours for psychiatric evaluation.

"Brad Parscale is a member of our family and we love him," said Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh. "We are ready to support him and his family in any way possible."

Parscale was demoted from the campaign manager's post in July but remained part of the campaign, helping run its digital operation.

Standing 6'8" and with a distinctive beard, Parscale had become a celebrity to Trump supporters and would frequently pose for photos and sign autographs ahead of campaign rallies. But Trump had begun to sour on him earlier this year as Parscale attracted a wave of media attention that included focus on his seemingly glitzy lifestyle on the Florida coast that kept him far from campaign headquarters in Virginia.

Church says Cardinal Pell returning to Vatican in crisis

CANBERRA, Australia — Cardinal George Pell, Pope Francis' former finance minister, will soon return to the Vatican during an extraordinary economic scandal for the first time since he was cleared of child abuse allegations in Australia five months ago, a church agency said Monday.

Pell will fly back to Rome on Tuesday, CathNews, an information agency of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference said, citing "sources close to" Pell.

Pell's return follows Francis last week firing one of the cardinal's most powerful opponents, Cardinal Angelo Becciu, over a financial scandal.

Pell was regarded as the third highest-ranking Vatican official and was attempting to wrestle the Holy See's opaque finances into order when he returned to his native Australia in 2017 to clear himself of decades-old allegations of child sex abuse.

Instead, Pell became the most senior Catholic to be convicted of child sex abuse crimes. He served 13 months in prison before Australia's High Court acquitted him in April of molesting two choir boys in the late 1990s when he was archbishop of Melbourne.

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