News briefs: Democrats worry about beating Donald Trump

Associated Press

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A Democratic campaign that has cost more than $1 billion, dashed the ambitions of veteran politicians, forced conversations about race, gender and identity and prompted fierce debate over health care and taxes crests Monday in the Iowa caucuses. 

By day's end, tens of thousands of Democrats will have participated in the famed Iowa caucuses, the premiere of more than 50 contests that will unfold over the next five months. The caucuses will render the first verdict on who among dozens of candidates is best positioned to take on President Donald Trump, whom Democratic voters are desperate to beat this fall. 

It is a moment thick with promise for a Democratic Party that has seized major gains since Trump won the White House in 2016. But instead of optimism, a cloud of uncertainty and deepening intraparty resentment hangs over Monday's election, which, after a multi-year buildup, will finally begin to reveal who and what Democrats stand for in this tumultuous era.

"If anybody tells you they know who's going to win, either they've got a whisper from God or they're loony, because nobody knows," said Deidre DeJear, the former state chair for Kamala Harris and the first black woman to win a statewide primary in Iowa.

Polls suggest that Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders may have a narrow lead, but any of the top four candidates — Sanders, former Vice President Joe Biden, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg — could score victory in Iowa's unpredictable and quirky caucus system as organizers prepare for record turnout. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who represents neighboring Minnesota, is also claiming momentum, while outsider candidates such as entrepreneur Andrew Yang, billionaire activist Tom Steyer and Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard could be factors.

China opens virus hospital, market plunges as toll grows

BEIJING (AP) — China sent medical workers and equipment to a newly built hospital, infused cash into financial markets and further restricted people's movement in sweeping new steps Monday to contain a rapidly spreading virus and its escalating impact.

China's updated figures of 361 deaths and 2,829 new cases over the last 24 hours, bringing the Chinese total to 17,205 cases, come as other countries continued evacuating citizens from hardest-hit Hubei province and restricted travel by Chinese or people who recently traveled in the country. The World Health Organization said the number of cases will keep growing because tests are pending on thousands of suspected cases.

Reopening of schools was also delayed to keep the virus from spreading further in Hubei, where the 1,000-bed hospital in the provincial capital Wuhan was completed in just 10 days. A second hospital with 1,500 beds will open within days. Restrictions were tightened still further in one city by allowing only one family member to venture out to buy supplies every other day.

Medical teams from the People's Liberation Army were arriving in Wuhan to relieve overwhelmed health workers and to work at the new hospital, located in the countryside far from the city center. Its prefabricated wards, where patients began arriving by late morning, are equipped with state-of-the-art medical equipment and ventilation systems. 

Leading Chinese epidemiologist Zhong Nanshan said additional hospital space was crucial to stopping the spread of new infections. 

Time passages: Mahomes leads comeback for the ages for KC

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — They were celebrating the passage of time as much as football at this Super Bowl: 100-year-old war veterans at midfield for the pregame coin flip, a 50-years-young pop diva handling halftime, and, of course, a quarterback who turns 25 this year saving the best part of the show for last. 

That quarterback is Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs. 

It is easy, especially after the improbable, blink-and-you-miss-it escape act he engineered to win the title Sunday, to say Mahomes — a mobile, dual threat with a rocket arm — is what the perfect quarterback will look like as the NFL gets ready to embark on its second century of football next season. 

But what Mahomes did on a cool, crisp evening in South Florida was grounded in the most basic of sports concepts, one that harkens to the days of leather helmets and long bus rides to the games.

"My mindset," Mahomes said, "is always to play and compete to the very end."

UK to announce new rules for militants after street stabbing

LONDON (AP) — The British government plans to announce new rules for the imprisonment of convicted terrorists after an Islamic militant who was recently released from prison stabbed two people in south London, the second such attack in less than three months. 

Home Secretary Priti Patel, who is in charge of the police, said the government would release its plans Monday. Following Sunday's attack and a Nov. 29 attack in which two people were killed in central London, the government said it would effectively stop the early release of convicted extremists, double terror sentences and overhaul the conditions under which they are released back into the community.

The government will be "announcing some fundamental changes, in addition to what we've already said, that we will do to deal with counter-terrorism and counter-terrorist offenders,'' Patel said late Sunday.

A man police identified as 20-year-old Sudesh Amman strapped on a fake bomb and stabbed two people on a busy London street Sunday before being shot to death by police.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Lucy D'Orsi said Amman had been convicted of publishing graphic terrorist videos online and had stockpiled instructions on bomb making and knife attacks.

Ukraine: Recordings show Iran knew jetliner hit by a missile

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — A leaked recording of an exchange between an Iranian air-traffic controller and an Iranian pilot purports to show that authorities immediately knew a missile had downed a Ukrainian jetliner after takeoff from Tehran, killing all 176 people aboard, despite days of denials by the Islamic Republic.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy acknowledged the recording's authenticity in a report aired by a Ukrainian television channel on Sunday night. 

In Tehran on Monday, the head of the Iranian investigation team, Hassan Rezaeifar, acknowledged the recording was legitimate and said that it was handed over to Ukrainian officials. 

After the Jan. 8 disaster, Iran's civilian government maintained for days that it didn't know the country's paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, answerable only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had shot down the aircraft. The downing of the jetliner came just hours after the Guard launched a ballistic missile attack on Iraqi bases housing U.S. forces in retaliation for an earlier American drone strike that killed the Guard's top general, Qassem Soleimani, in Baghdad.

A transcript of the recording, published by Ukrainian 1+1 TV channel, contains a conversation in Farsi between an air-traffic controller and a pilot reportedly flying a Fokker 100 jet for Iran's Aseman Airlines from Iran's southern city of Shiraz to Tehran. 

Pompeo defends free press 

TASHKENT, Uzbekistan (AP) — For the past four days, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been calling for authoritarian governments in eastern Europe and Central Asia to ease restrictions on press freedom despite criticism for his own treatment of journalists at home. 

In Belarus, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan over the weekend and again on Monday, Pompeo raised human rights issues, including freedom of the press, with his interlocutors and denied any double-standard was at play.

Pompeo defended his unhappiness with a National Public Radio interviewer who asked him last month about the ouster of the former ambassador to Ukraine. Further, he said his conduct, which the journalist said included berating her with profanities once the interview was over, did not demonstrate a lack of respect for a free press.

Pompeo responded in an official statement that the interviewer had "lied" to him, and he called her conduct "shameful." He said the incident was "another example of how unhinged the media has become in its quest to hurt" President Donald Trump and his administration. NPR said it stood by its journalist's reporting.

Pompeo has complained about NPR's reporting in the past, notably over its coverage of the negotiations that led to the Iran nuclear deal in 2015. 

Built in 10 days, China's virus hospital takes 1st patients

BEIJING (AP) — The first patients arrived Monday at a 1,000-bed hospital built in 10 days as part of China's sweeping efforts to fight a new virus that is causing global alarm. 

Huoshenshan Hospital and a second 1,500-bed facility due to open this week were built by construction crews who are working around the clock in Wuhan, the central city where the outbreak was first detected in December. Some 50 million people are barred from leaving Wuhan and surrounding cities. 

The Wuhan treatment centers mark the second time Chinese leaders have responded to a new disease by building specialized hospitals almost overnight. As severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, spread in 2003, a facility in Beijing for patients with that viral disease was constructed in a week. 

The first patients arrived at Huoshenshan Hospital at 10 a.m. on Monday, according to state media. They gave no details of the patients' identities or conditions. 

The ruling Communist Party's military wing, the People's Liberation Army, sent 1,400 doctors, nurses and other personnel to staff the Wuhan hospital, the official Xinhua News Agency said. The government said earlier that some have experience fighting SARS and other outbreaks. 

Bernard Ebbers, ex-CEO convicted in WorldCom scandal, dies

NEW YORK (AP) — The former chief of WorldCom, convicted in one of the largest corporate accounting scandals in U.S. history, died just over a month after his early release from prison. Bernard Ebbers was 78.

The former telecommunications executive died Sunday, according to a family statement cited by WAPT-TV in Mississippi. 

WorldCom Inc. collapsed and went into bankruptcy in 2002, following revelations of an $11 billion accounting fraud that included pressure by top executives on subordinates to inflate numbers to make the company seem more profitable. The collapse caused losses to stockholders, including those who had invested through retirement plans. 

The Canadian-born Ebbers was convicted in New York in 2005 on securities fraud and other charges and received a 25-year sentence. A federal appeals court judge who upheld Ebbers' conviction in 2006 wrote that WorldCom's fraudulent accounting practices were "specifically intended to create a false picture of profitability even for professional analysts that, in Ebbers' case, was motivated by his personal financial circumstances."

According to an October 1997 profile by The Associated Press, the Canadian-born Ebbers received a basketball scholarship at Mississippi College, where he majored in physical education. After graduating, he coached high school teams for a year before investing in a hotel; he eventually amassed a chain of Best Westerns in Mississippi and Texas, as well as a car dealership in Columbia, Mississippi. 

The best and worst of Super Bowl ads

NEW YORK (AP) — During advertising's biggest night, Super Bowl Sunday, marketers battled it out to bolster their brands and promote new products. Advertisers paid up to $5.6 million for 30 seconds, and almost 100 million people tune into the big game. 

This year, Hyundai and Jeep scored with whimsical humor by poking fun at Boston accents and reuniting the "Groundhog Day" cast, Punxsutawney Phil included. Google struck heartstrings with a quiet message about aging and remembrance. Cheetos and Doritos both played off exaggerated dancing to good effect. 

But Pop Tarts and a Hard Rock action-movie commercial failed to connect with viewers.

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Lopez, Shakira in joyful, exuberant halftime show

NEW YORK (AP) — Seizing their opportunity to make a cultural statement, Jennifer Lopez and Shakira infused the Super Bowl halftime show with an exuberance and joy that celebrated their Latina heritage.

Their breathless athleticism matched that of the football players waiting in the locker room.

Shakira opened with, yes, a hip-shaking performance of "She Wolf" and a fast-moving medley that included bits of "She Wolf," "Whenever, Wherever" and a snippet of Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir." She managed a belly dance, some rope dancing and even backed into a crowd surf. Shakira ended her with her signature song, "Hips Don't Lie."

Lopez, in a black leather outfit that her dancers matched, started with a nostalgic snippet of "Jenny From the Block." She exhibited some startling pole-dancing moves, a reference to her much-celebrated turn in the movie "Hustlers." At one point she bent into a deep squat while standing on the shoulders of a dancer that likely had muscles aching across the country in sympathy.

She tore through "Love Don't Cost a Thing," "Get Right, "On the Floor" and "Que Calor," finding time to slip away from the black leather in to sparkling silver outfit that left little to the imagination.

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