News briefs: China virus is on rise again as new cases reported

Associated Press

BEIJING (AP) — China reported a rise in new virus cases Monday, possibly denting optimism that disease control measures including isolating major cities might be working, while the operator of a cruise ship in Japan reported dozens of new cases.

The mainland death toll rose by 97 to 908 in the 24 hours through midnight Sunday and 3,062 new cases were reported. That was up 15 percent from Saturday and broke a string of daily declines. A government spokesman had said Sunday those declines showed containment measures were successful.

The operator of a cruise ship quarantined in Yokohama, near Tokyo, said an additional 66 cases were found aboard. That is in addition to 70 reported earlier.

Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said the Japanese government was considering testing all 3,711 passengers and crew on the Diamond Princess, which would require them to remain aboard until results are available. Health authorities are scrambling to deliver medicine requested by more than 600 passengers.

"We are doing the utmost to keep everyone in good health," Kato said.

Making Oscar history, 'Parasite' wins best picture

LOS ANGELES (AP) — In a milestone win that instantly expanded the Oscars' horizons, Bong Joon Ho's masterfully devious class satire "Parasite" became the first non-English language film to win best picture in the 92-year history of the Academy Awards. 

"Parasite" took Hollywood's top prize on Sunday night, along with awards for best director, best international film and best screenplay. In a year dominated by period epics — "1917," "Once Upon a Time ... In Hollywood," "The Irishman" — the film academy instead went overseas, to South Korea, to reward a contemporary and unsettling portrait of social inequality in "Parasite." 

True to its name, "Parasite" simply got under the skin of Oscar voters, attaching itself to the American awards season and, ultimately, to history. The win was a watershed moment for the Academy Awards, which has long been content to relegate international films to their own category. But in recent years, to diversify its membership, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences has invited many more overseas voters. 

Multiple standing ovations greeted Bong's several wins. "I am ready to drink tonight," Bong said, prompting roars from the crowd. Unexpectedly called up again for best director, Bong saluted his fellow nominees, particularly Martin Scorsese, and concluded: "Now I'm ready to drink until tomorrow."

After the Dolby Theatre had emptied out, the "Parasite" team still remained on the stage, soaking in their win. Backstage, Bong was still gobsmacked. "It's really f—-ing crazy," he told reporters, clutching his awards. 

Thai city copes with sorrowful fallout from mass shooting

NAKHON RATCHASIMA, Thailand (AP) — Authorities in northern Thailand began releasing bodies to relatives Monday after security forces cornered and killed a soldier who carried out the country's worst mass shooting in an hourslong siege at a shopping mall.

The soldier killed 29 people starting with his commanding officer in a stunning tragedy that began Saturday and ended Sunday morning when security forces shot dead the heavily armed attacker in Terminal 21 Korat, an airport-themed mall in Nakhon Ratchasima.

The gunman, Sgt. Maj. Jakrapanth Thomma, 31, was infuriated at a land deal brokered by his commander's mother-in-law, as far as authorities have been able to determine. She was another of his victims.

The death toll surpassed Thailand's last major attack on civilians, a 2015 bombing at a shrine in Bangkok killing 20 people that was allegedly carried out by human traffickers in retaliation for a crackdown on their network.

Messages of sympathy for the latest tragedy were sent by several countries. 

Israel accused of torturing Palestinians after fatal bombing

RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — One of the men was hospitalized with kidney failure and 11 broken ribs. Another was nearly unrecognizable to his wife when he was wheeled into a courtroom. A third was stitched up after being attacked by a security dog.

Then the three Palestinians were returned to their Israeli interrogators. They had been swept up in a sprawling manhunt launched after a roadside bomb killed a 17-year-old Israeli girl and wounded her father and brother as they hiked down to a spring last August in the occupied West Bank.

The attack raised fears of a sophisticated militant cell that might strike again, and Israeli interrogators appear to have treated it as a ticking time-bomb scenario. Israeli and Palestinian rights groups say there is strong evidence that they tortured several detainees in violation of Israeli and international law.

The allegations against Israel are the most serious to come to light in years, and the rights groups say they point to a loosening of constraints two decades after the Israeli Supreme Court outlawed most forms of torture.

Lawyers and family members of the three main suspects say they were tortured to the point of being hospitalized. Several other Palestinians swept up by Israel's Shin Bet internal security agency say they were threatened, beaten, forced into painful stress positions and denied sleep.

South Koreans explode with joy over 'Parasite' Oscar wins

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Koreans reacted with rare collective joy Monday after director Bong Joon Ho's "Parasite" won the Oscar for best picture and three other awards, good news that came as their country struggles to guard against a new virus and counter North Korea's nuclear threat.

The movie's wins made history in both the Hollywood and South Korean film industries. The class satire is the first non-English-language film to win best picture in the 92-year history of the Academy Awards, and is the first South Korean movie to ever win an Oscar.

"Can you believe that 'Parasite' won the Academy best picture?" South Korea's biggest newspaper, Chosun Ilbo, said in a headline. "It rewrote the Academy's 92-year-old history."

South Korean social media were overwhelmed with congratulatory messages. Bong, "Parasite" and other Oscar-related newsalso dominated search terms throughout Monday at major internet portal sites, which had been preoccupied with the outbreak of a virus in China that has killed more than 900 people and sickened tens of thousands of others, mainly in China. 

Worries about the virus have been growing in South Korea, where 27 cases have been reported, though no deaths have occurred. Sales at tour agencies, restaurants, movie theaters and department stores have sharply declined, raising worries about the impact on South Korea's already-lagging economy. Opposition parties are accusing the government of ineffectiveness in coping with the outbreak.

Merkel party's crisis deepens as designated successor quits

BERLIN (AP) — Chancellor Angela Merkel's center-right party plunged deeper into crisis Monday following a debacle in a regional election, as the long-time German leader's successor unexpectedly announced that she wouldn't stand for the chancellorship.

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer informed leading members of Merkel's Christian Democratic Union that she will begin the process of organizing a leadership contest in the summer. Germany is scheduled to hold its next general election in the fall of 2021 and the 65-year-old Merkel, who has led Germany for 15 years, said two years ago that she won't run for a fifth term as chancellor.

The move throws German politics into further turmoil, days after Merkel's party was heavily criticized for its handling of a vote for governor in the state of Thuringia that saw both the Christian Democrats and the far-right Alternative for Germany party back a centrist candidate. The vote broke what is widely regarded as a taboo around German political parties cooperating with extremist parties.

Kramp-Karrenbauer, often referred to by the acronym AKK, took over the leadership of the Christian Democrats in December 2018 after beating out Health Minister Jens Spahn and Friedrich Merz, a former party veteran sidelined by Merkel before she became chancellor in 2005.

Yet Kramp-Karrenbauer, 57, who is also Germany's defense minister, has struggled to boost the party's declining election results amid a stiff challenge from the far-right. 

Irish election produces an earthquake as Sinn Fein tops poll

DUBLIN (AP) — Ireland's political parties were scrambling to adjust to a new reality Monday, after an earth-shaking election that saw the left-wing nationalist party Sinn Fein win the biggest share of votes.

Sinn Fein, the party historically linked to the Irish Republican Army and its violent struggle for a united Ireland, received 24.5 percent of the first-preference votes in Saturday's election. That bested Fianna Fail and Fine Gael, the two centrist parties that have governed Ireland since it won independence from Britain a century ago. 

Fianna Fail received 22.2 percent of the votes and Fine Gael, the party of incumbent Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, got 20 percent.

Sinn Fein's left-wing proposals for tackling Ireland's housing crisis and creaking healthcare system proved a powerful draw for young voters in a country that is still dealing with aftershocks of the 2008 global financial crisis, which hammered its debt-driven "Celtic Tiger" economy.

Vote counting was resuming Monday to fill all the seats in the 160-Dail, the lower house of Ireland's parliament. Ireland uses a proportional-representation system in which voters rank candidates from first to last, with the lower preferences of elected or defeated candidates redistributed among their rivals. 

Fire sale: An Iran plant makes the US flags protesters burn

KHOMEIN, Iran (AP) — Near the hometown of the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, workers at a small Iranian factory diligently add all 50 stars and 13 red-and-white bars to what are supposed to be U.S. flags, and carefully imprint the blue Star of David on Israeli ones. 

That's even as all their work is destined to go up in flames. 

The company Diba Parcham Khomein serves as a major producer for the American and Israeli flags constantly burned at pro-government rallies in the Islamic Republic. Such flag-burnings are a sign of support for Iran's embattled clerical rulers and a throwback to the iconic images of the 1979 Islamic Revolution that branded the U.S. Iran's greatest foe and the "Great Satan."

Another batch of flags is being prepared for the 41st anniversary of the Iranian revolution on Tuesday. The celebrations will take on special symbolic importance amid renewed tensions with Washington after a U.S. drone strike in Baghdad killed Iran's top general, Qassem Soleimani, last month.

Yet the factory's owner, like many middle-class Iranians, holds out hopes for better relations between Tehran and the U.S. 

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