News briefs: House passes aid bill, Senate to consider next week

Associated Press

President Trump declares emergency; world steps up fight against virus

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House approved legislation early Saturday to provide direct relief to Americans suffering physically, financially and emotionally from the coronavirus pandemic. 

President Donald Trump on Friday declared the outbreak a national emergency, freeing up money and resources to fight it, then threw his support behind the congressional aid package.

From the Rose Garden, Trump said, "I am officially declaring a national emergency," unleashing as much as $50 billion for state and local governments to respond to the crisis.

Trump also announced a range of executive actions, including a new public-private partnership to expand coronavirus testing capabilities with drive-through locations, as Washington tries to subdue the new virus whose spread is roiling markets, shuttering institutions and disrupting the lives of everyday Americans.

But he denied any responsibility for delays in making testing available as his administration has come under criticism for being too slow to respond. 

Trump declares emergency; world steps up fight against virus

WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States declared a state of emergency Friday as many European countries went on a war footing amid mounting deaths as the world mobilized to fight the widening coronavirus pandemic.

At the White House, where President Donald Trump made the emergency decree, drug company executives vowed to work together and with the government to quickly expand the country's coronavirus testing capabilities, which are far behind those in many countries.

"We will defeat this threat," Trump told a news conference. "When America is tested, America rises to the occasion."

While the aggressive spread of the virus in Europe, North America and the Middle East has dashed any hopes for quick containment, dozens of countries have imposed increasingly severe measures over the past couple days — shutting borders, expanding testing, closing school for tens of millions of children and ordering tens of thousands of businesses to close their doors — to try to face down the disease.

The U.S. emergency decree will open up $50 billion for state and local governments to respond to the outbreak, said Trump, who also gave the secretary of health and human services emergency powers to waive federal regulations to give doctors and hospitals "flexibility" in treating patients.

Democrats, GOP forge virus outbreak into '20 campaign issue

WASHINGTON (AP) — Coronavirus is already coloring the 2020 campaign, with Democrats convinced President Donald Trump's muddled response to the outbreak leaves him and down-ballot Republicans vulnerable over the burgeoning health crisis, his competency and __ potentially most damaging __ the staggering economy. 

Republicans are fighting back by accusing Democrats of politicizing the fight against the virus and COVID-19, the sometimes deadly disease it causes. But mostly, a nervous GOP is hoping administration actions will reverse the stock market's nosedive, avert a recession and overcome the coronavirus in just a few months. 

That could allow time to prevent the problems from becoming Trump's Hurricane Katrina and defining November's election battles for the White House and Congress. Then-President George W. Bush was harshly criticized for his administration's belated handling of the deadly 2005 storm, which battered New Orleans, damaged his presidency and contributed to the GOP's loss of House control the following year. 

"The economy has been his whole schtick," said former Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., who once headed the House GOP's campaign committee. "If the market tanks and the economy goes down, I think Trump's whole reason for being in office goes away." 

"The way you respond to crises can be make-or-break moments for elected officials," said Whit Ayres, a veteran Republican pollster.

Iraq officials: Rocket attack hits base housing US troops

BAGHDAD (AP) — A barrage of rockets hit a base housing U.S. and other coalition troops north of Baghdad, Iraqi security officials said Saturday, just days after a similar attack killed three servicemen, including two Americans.

At least two Iraqi soldiers were wounded in the attack at Camp Taji, according to the Iraqi officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations. 

The officials said over a dozen rockets landed inside the base. Some struck the area where coalition forces are based, while others fell on a runway used by Iraqi forces. 

The was no immediate comment from the coalition regarding Saturday's attack.

The attack was unusual because it occurred during the day. Previous assaults on military bases housing U.S. troops typically occurred at night.

Iraq's protesters struggle to keep waning movement going

BAGHDAD (AP) — At the once bustling hub of the largest anti-government protest movement in Iraq's modern history, crowds have dwindled, and donation boxes have sprouted up. Loudspeakers resound with calls by activists for funds to keep their hard-fought revolution alive. 

The six-month-old movement has faced one setback after another, from the shifting positions of a mercurial Shiite cleric to an apathetic political class and, now, fears over an outbreak of the coronavirus that Iraq's decrepit health system has struggled to contain, with nearly 93 confirmed cases and nine deaths. 

Where once Baghdad's Tahrir Square had seen thousands every day, now only a few hundred protesters turn up. Morale has been dampened among young Iraqis who first took to the streets on Oct. 1 to decry rampant government corruption, poor services and unemployment. 

Protesters have found it difficult to revive the strength of their leaderless movement after scoring victories early on, like pressuring lawmakers to pass a key electoral reform bill and forcing former Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi to step down. Assassinations, abductions and threats targeting prominent protesters have contributed to blunting the momentum. 

A looming economic crisis linked to the coronavirus pandemic and ongoing political dysfunction could eventually bring a new jolt that inspires Iraqis back to the streets. But for the moment, the movement is looking at what went wrong.

Lawyer: Man killed by officer was asleep when police fired

SILVER SPRING, Md. (AP) — A Maryland man who was shot and killed by a police officer was asleep in his bedroom when police opened fire from outside his house, an attorney for the 21-year-old man's family said Friday. The man's girlfriend was also wounded.

The Montgomery County Police Department said in a news release Friday that Duncan Socrates Lemp "confronted" police and was shot by one of the officers early Thursday. Rene Sandler, an attorney for Lemp's relatives, said an eyewitness gave a "completely contrary" account of the shooting. She said police could have "absolutely no justification" for shooting Lemp based on what she has heard about the circumstances.

"The facts as I understand them from eyewitnesses are incredibly concerning," she told The Associated Press.

The warrant that police obtained to search the Potomac home Lemp shared with his parents and 19-year-old brother doesn't mention any "imminent threat" to law enforcement or the public, Lemp's relatives said in a statement released Friday by their lawyers. Nobody in the house that morning had a criminal record, the statement adds.

"Any attempt by the police to shift responsibility onto Duncan or his family, who were sleeping when the police fired shots into their home, is not supported by the facts," the statement says.

 Inside massive DEA raid targeting drug cartel

CHANTILLY, Va. (AP) — In the darkness, the team suits up quietly, putting on their helmets and tactical gear. Federal agents lug battering rams, bolt cutters and heavy weaponry by foot up a hill on a residential California street that's softly aglow from street lamps. Then the agents turn onto the walkway of their target's home. 

"Police! Search warrant!" one officer yells as agents bang on the front door. "Police search warrant!" And then three thunderous bangs as the task force breaks down the front door. 

Moments later, a reputed member of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, known as CJNG, is walked out in handcuffs. 

In early-morning raids Wednesday, agents fanned out across the United States, culminating a six-month investigation with the primary goal of dismantling the upper echelon of CJNG and hoping to get closer to capturing its leader, one of the most wanted men in America. There's a $10 million reward for the arrest of Nemesio "El Mencho" Oseguera.

The gang controls between one-third and two-thirds of the U.S. drug market. It is so violent that members leave piles of bodies in streets and hanging from overpasses in Mexico, and they fill the city of Guadalajara with mass graves. They carry machine guns and hand grenades. They once used rocket launchers to shoot down a Mexican military helicopter. 

Stocks roar back on hopes for government's virus plan

NEW YORK (AP) — Wall Street roared back from its worst day in 30 years Friday with a broad rally that sent the Dow Jones Industrial Average nearly 2,000 points higher — its biggest point gain ever — after President Donald Trump declared the coronavirus pandemic a national emergency.

Fueled by a late-day surge while Trump was speaking, the Dow saw its largest percentage gain since 2008. The rally recouped many of the losses from a day earlier, when the index experienced its worst slide since the Black Monday crash of 1987 and European indexes had one of the worst drops on record. The major indexes each closed with gains of more than 9%.

The session capped a dizzying week on Wall Street, with wild swings driven largely by uncertainty over how much damage the coronavirus would cause to the global economy. By Thursday, the Dow had suffered two drops of more than 2,000 points and the longest-ever bull market had ended.

Then on Friday stocks rallied, shooting sharply upward in the last half-hour of trading as investors appeared to gain confidence that the Trump administration has a plan to combat the outbreak from both a health care and economic perspective.

Despite Friday's pickup, the market still ended the week with its second-worst weekly loss in the past 10 years. All the major indexes are in what traders call a bear market.

Masters, Boston Marathon postponed due to coronavirus

The shock waves from the coronavirus outbreak rattled sports for another day as two rites of spring, the Masters and Boston Marathon, were postponed.

There was at least some relief Friday that those events are expected to take place later in the year, unlike the stunning announcement the day before that the NCAA was canceling March Madness, one of the biggest events on the U.S. sports calendar.

"Well, postponed is a comforting word," pro golfer Xander Schauffele said. "Canceled is another."

Golf and car racing came around and called off weekend events, leaving fans with nothing to look forward to for several weeks. 

Augusta National offered no details for when the green jacket will be slipped over the shoulders of a new champion, except for Chairman Fred Ridley saying he hopes the postponement puts the club in the best position to safely host the Masters "at some later date."

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