News briefs: Debate night brawl

Associated Press

LAS VEGAS (AP) — From the opening bell, Democrats savaged New York billionaire Mike Bloomberg and raised pointed questions about Bernie Sanders' take-no-prisoners politics during a contentious debate Wednesday night that threatened to further muddy the party's urgent quest to defeat President Donald Trump.

Bloomberg, the former New York mayor who was once a Republican, was forced to defend his record and past comments related to race, gender and his personal wealth in an occasionally rocky debate stage debut. Sanders, meanwhile, tried to beat back pointed questions about his embrace of democratic socialism and his health following a heart attack last year. 

The ninth debate of this cycle featured the most aggressive sustained period of infighting in the Democrats' yearlong search for a presidential nominee. The tension reflected growing anxiety among candidates and party leaders that the nomination fight could yield a candidate who will struggle to build a winning coalition in November to beat Trump.

The campaign is about to quickly intensify. Nevada votes on Saturday and South Carolina follows on February 29. More than a dozen states host Super Tuesday contests in less than two weeks with about one-third of the delegates needed to win the nomination at stake.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren was in a fight for survival and stood out with repeated attacks on Bloomberg. She sought to undermine him with core Democratic voters who are uncomfortable with his vast wealth, his offensive remarks about policing of minorities and demeaning comments about women, including those who worked at his company.

Analysis: Dems' civility gives way to combustible conflict

WASHINGTON (AP) — Through a year of campaigning, the Democratic presidential candidates played nice, talking up party unity, disagreeing mostly politely on policy.

No more. 

Wednesday's debate signaled a sharp turn in the Democratic contest, with civility giving way to a combustible conflict that laid bare both the ideological divisions roiling the party and the personal animosities that have simmered for months.

Elizabeth Warren criticized Bernie Sanders for leading a movement that has provided a haven for online harassment. Amy Klobuchar accused Pete Buttigieg of calling her dumb. And all the candidates piled on first-time debate participant Mike Bloomberg, launching aggressive attacks on his record on race, gender and how he is wielding his vast personal wealth in pursuit of the Democratic nomination. 

For many of the candidates, it was a strategy shift born of urgency and necessity. Though just two states have voted thus far, time is running out for some contenders, including former Vice President Joe Biden, to prove they still have a viable path to the nomination as the contest hurtles toward larger, more diverse states. 

9 killed in suspected far-right attack in Germany

HANAU, Germany (AP) — A 43-year-old German man shot and killed nine people at several locations in a Frankfurt suburb overnight in attacks that appear to have been motivated by far-right beliefs, officials said Thursday.

The gunman first attacked a hookah bar in central Hanau at about 10 p.m. Wednesday, killing several people, before heading about 2.5 kilometers (1.5 miles) west and opening fire again, claiming more victims.

Hookah lounges are places where people gather to smoke flavored tobacco from Middle Eastern water pipes, and some of the victims appeared to be Turkish.

Witnesses and surveillance videos of the suspect's getaway car led authorities quickly to his home, near the scene of the second attack, wherehe was found dead near the bodyof his 72-year-old mother, said Peter Beuth, the interior minister for the state of Hesse. 

Both the suspect and his mother had gunshot wounds, and the weapon was found on the suspect, Beuth said.

S Korea reports 1st virus death as 2.5M urged to stay home

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea reported its first death from a new virus on Thursday while the mayor of a southeastern city urged his 2.5 million people to refrain from going outside as viral infections, linked to a church congregation, spiked.

The death of a previously confirmed patient in South Korea marked the world's ninth virus fatality outside mainland China. Other deaths have occurred in Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines and France.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the South Korean man, believed to be around 63 years old, died at a hospital on Wednesday and posthumously tested positive for the virus. It said authorities were investigating the exact cause of his death. 

The center confirmed 22 additional cases of the virus, raising the total in South Korea to 104. 

Earlier Thursday, the mayor of Daegu urged its 2.5 million people to stay home and wear masks even indoors if possible, after the southeastern city and its nearby towns reported 35 additional cases of infection with the new coronavirus. The 35 cases didn't include the additional 22 that were reported later Thursday.

New Chinese virus cases decline, but method revised again

BEIJING (AP) — New virus cases in China have again declined, up just 394, after authorities on Thursday again changed how they count new daily infections. They are now discounting cases that came back negative after laboratory tests. 

Another 114 people reportedly died from the new illness, COVID-19, as health inspectors went door-to-door to attempt to find every infected person in the worst-hit city of Wuhan.

Japan's health ministry said two former passengers of a virus-stricken cruise ship died, raising the number of deaths in Japan to three. The Diamond Princess has by far the most cases outside China with 621 passengers and crew testing positive. 

Mainland China has reported 2,118 deaths and 74,576 total cases. While the overall spread of the virus has been slowing, the situation remains severe in Hubei province and its capital, Wuhan, where the new coronavirus was first detected in December. More than 80% of the country's cases are in Hubei and 95% of the deaths, according to data from China's National Health Commission.

The new daily figure is a notable drop from the 1,749 cases recorded the previous day. The commission said 279 cases were deducted from the daily report after nucleic acid tests showed negative results. 

AP FACT CHECK: Dems' debate flubs; Trump untruths at rally

WASHINGTON (AP) — The latest Democratic presidential debate was a raucous one, ripe for exaggerations and distortions as Mike Bloomberg made his debut on the debate stage and rivals went after him and each other. President Donald Trump weighed in on the feisty performance at a rally where he mischaracterized what some Democrats want to do with health care.

A look at how some of their claims Wednesday night stack up with the facts:

MIKE BLOOMBERG, on the stop-and-frisk policing policy when he was New York mayor: "What happened, however, was it got out of control and when we discovered — I discovered — that we were doing many, many, too many stop and frisks, we cut 95% of them out."

THE FACTS: That's a distortion of how stop and frisk declined. That happened because of a court order, not because Bloomberg learned that it was being overused.

Weinstein jurors focus on Sciorra as deliberations continue

NEW YORK (AP) — Jury deliberations in Harvey Weinstein's rape trial are set to continue for a third day on Thursday.

So far, jurors have been focusing a lot of attention on actress Annabella Sciorra's allegation that the once-heralded Hollywood mogul raped her in the mid-1990s.

Sciorra's allegation is too old to be charged on its own because of the statute of limitations, but it's a key component of the most serious charges that jurors are weighing in the closely watched #MeToo case.

Weinstein, 67, is charged with five counts stemming from the allegations of Sciorra and two other women — an aspiring actress who says he raped her in March 2013 and a former film and TV production assistant, Mimi Haleyi, who says he forcibly performed oral sex on her in March 2006.

Weinstein has maintained that any sexual contact was consensual.

NFL's Saints head to court in Catholic Church email dispute

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The New Orleans Saints headed to court Thursday in a bid to block the release of hundreds of confidential emails detailing the behind-the-scenes public relations work the team did for the area's Roman Catholic archdiocese amid its sexual abuse crisis. 

The request comes amid claims that the NFL team joined the Archdiocese of New Orleans in a "pattern and practice" of concealing sexual abuse — an allegation the Saints have vehemently denied. 

Attorneys for some two dozen men suing the church say the emails show team officials had a say in deciding which priests the archdiocese named on a 2018 list of dozens of "credibly accused" clergy members, a roster an Associated Press analysis found was undercounted by at least 20 names.

The Saints say their involvement was limited to a team executive preparing church leaders for the publicity surrounding the credibly accused list. 

Retired Judge Carolyn Gill-Jefferson will hear arguments Thursday and recommend whether the 276 documents in question should be made public. She was appointed "special master" in the dispute by an Orleans Parish Civil District Court judge overseeing a lawsuit against the archdiocese over a longtime deacon accused of abusing schoolchildren decades ago. 

Can AI flag disease outbreaks faster than humans? Not quite

BOSTON (AP) — Did an artificial-intelligence system beat human doctors in warning the world of a severe coronavirus outbreak in China?

In a narrow sense, yes. But what the humans lacked in sheer speed, they more than made up in finesse.

Early warnings of disease outbreaks can help people and governments save lives. In the final days of 2019, an AI system in Boston sent out the first global alert about a new viral outbreak in China. But it took human intelligence to recognize the significance of the outbreak and then awaken response from the public health community.

What's more, the mere mortals produced a similar alert only a half-hour behind the AI systems.

For now, AI-powered disease-alert systems can still resemble car alarms — easily triggered and sometimes ignored. A network of medical experts and sleuths must still do the hard work of sifting through rumors to piece together the fuller picture. It's difficult to say what future AI systems, powered by ever larger datasets on outbreaks, may be able to accomplish. 

Lawyer: Assange was offered US pardon if he cleared Russia

LONDON (AP) — WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange plans to claim during an extradition hearing that the Trump administration offered him a pardon if he agreed to say Russia was not involved in leaking Democratic National Committee emails during the 2016 U.S. election campaign, a lawyer for Assange said Wednesday.

Assange is being held at a British prison while fighting extradition to the United States on spying charges. His full court hearing is due to begin next week.

At a preliminary hearing held in London, lawyer Edward Fitzgerald said now-former Republican congressman, Dana Rohrabacher, visited Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in August 2017. 

Fitzgerald said a statement from another Assange lawyer, Jennifer Robinson, recounted "Mr. Rohrabacher going to see Mr. Assange and saying, on instructions from the president, he was offering a pardon or some other way out, if Mr. Assange ... said Russia had nothing to do with the DNC leaks."

Responding to the the lawyer's claims, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said, "This is absolutely and completely false." 

Comments