News briefs: Virus outbreak batters economies, raises fear of spread

Associated Press

TOKYO (AP) — Amid fears about where the next outbreak of a fast-spreading new virus would appear, infections and deaths continued to rise across the globe Sunday, emptying streets of tourists and workers, shaking economies and rewriting the realities of daily life.

Panic-buying of daily necessities emerged in Japan, tourist sites across Asia, Europe and the Mideast were deserted, and governments closed schools and banned big gatherings. Amusement parks have been shuttered and concerts cancelled. In Paris, priests stopped placing sacramental bread in worshippers' mouths.

While the new coronavirus has extended its reach across the world, definite geographic clusters of infections were emerging, with Iran, Italy and South Korea seeing rising cases. The United States, meanwhile, recorded its first death, a man in his 50s in Washington state who had underlying health conditions but who hadn't traveled to any affected areas.

"Additional cases in the United States are likely, but healthy individuals should be able to fully recover," President Donald Trump said at a Saturday briefing, where officials announced heightened warnings about travel to certain regions of Italy and South Korea as well as a ban on travel to Iran.

China on Sunday reported a slight uptick in new cases over the past 24 hours to 573, the first time in five days that number has exceeded 500. They remain almost entirely confined to the hardest-hit province of Hubei and its capital, the epicenter of Wuhan. 

Biden positions himself as leading moderate

WASHINGTON (AP) — Joe Biden bought himself time. It's unclear how much. 

Biden's victory in South Carolina on Saturday was emphatic enough to let him make the claim that it had reordered the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. He can now credibly argue he is the overwhelming favorite of black voters who are the backbone of the Democratic Party. And he is positioning himself as moderates' best alternative to blocking Bernie Sanders' path to the nomination. 

But the next three days will determine whether South Carolina was a one-off for Biden or the start of a true comeback for the former vice president. More than a dozen states vote on Tuesday, including California, the primary contest's biggest prize and a state where more than 1 million votes were cast early.

Biden faces serious challenges in many of those states, including a limited campaign infrastructure and virtually no money spent on advertising. He'll be dependent largely on name recognition built up during more than four decades in national politics and the perception of momentum coming out of South Carolina. 

Also standing in Biden's way: several other candidates who are vowing to stay in the race, including billionaire Mike Bloomberg. Most have no discernible path to the nomination, but they could keep Biden's support down and allow Sanders to rack up an insurmountable delegate lead. 

Biden hopes win boosts him on Super Tuesday

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Joe Biden scored a thundering victory in South Carolina's Democratic primary on the strength of African American support, a decisive win that could force moderate rivals out of the race and blunt the rise of progressive leader Bernie Sanders. 

Biden's win Saturday came at a perilous moment in his 2020 bid as he needed an emphatic rebound after underwhelming performances this month in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada. The race now pivots to the 14 states from Maine to California that vote on Tuesday in what effect will be a national primary. 

"We are very much alive," Biden declared at an exuberant post-election rally. "For all of you who have been knocked down, counted out, left behind -- this is your campaign." 

Biden won about three times as many delegates in South Carolina as his nearest rival. Sanders claimed a distant second place, a loss that gave a momentary respite to anxious Democrats who feared that the democratic socialist would finish February with four consecutive top finishes that would make it difficult for anyone to overtake him.

The Associated Press declared Biden the winner just after the polls closed in South Carolina. The AP based the call on data from AP VoteCast, a survey of the electorate conducted for the AP by NORC at the University of Chicago. The survey showed a convincing win for Biden. 

Wash. state sees 1st virus death in US, declares emergency

The governor of Washington declared a state of emergency Saturday after a man died there of COVID-19, the first such reported death in the United States. More than 50 people in a nursing facility are sick and being tested for the virus. 

Gov. Jay Inslee directed state agencies to use "all resources necessary" to prepare for and respond to the coronavirus outbreak. The declaration also allows the use of the Washington National Guard, if necessary. 

"We will continue to work toward a day where no one dies from this virus," the governor vowed. 

Health officials in California, Oregon and Washington state are worried about the novel coronavirus spreading through West Coast communities because a growing number of people are being infected despite not having visited an area where there was an outbreak, nor apparently been in contact with anyone who had.

The man who died was in his 50s, had underlying health conditions and no history of travel or contact with a known COVID-19 case, health officials in Washington state said at a news conference. A spokesperson for EvergreenHealth Medical Center, Kayse Dahl, said the person died in the facility in the Seattle suburb of Kirkland.

Friendly kissing poses European dilemma as virus spreads

MILAN (AP) — When French President Emmanuel Macron leaned in to give Premier Giuseppe Conte the Italian double-cheek kiss not once, but on two separate occasions, during a Franco-Italian summit in Naples this week, it was much more than a greeting.

It was a signal to citizens not to fear their neighbors as a new virus from China spreads, with Italy established as Europe's hotspot. 

Friendly kissing in the time of coronavirus has become a fresh dilemma, especially in effusive southern Europe, with perhaps the power to reshape customs. But even more-reserved northerners are grappling with whether to forgo the hallowed handshake. 

The government's special commissioner for coronavirus, Angelo Borrelli, has suggested that Italians' demonstrative nature could be contributing to the virus' spread, with more than 1,100 people testing positive and 29 deaths, almost all in the country's north. 

But there have been no official edicts on the social custom of kissing, which sociologists say is rooted in Italy's Mediterranean culture as well as its strong family and social structure. 

AP VoteCast: Black voters carry Biden to his first victory

WASHINGTON (AP) — Vice President Joe Biden has for weeks looked to the black voters of South Carolina to hand a win to his flagging campaign. On Saturday, they delivered. 

Biden won 60 percent of the votes cast by non-white voters, dominating a crowded Democratic field among a group that made up more than half of the electorate. Biden also performed strongly with older voters, women, regular churchgoers and moderates and conservatives, according to AP VoteCast, a wide-ranging survey of more than 1,400 voters in South Carolina's Democratic primary.

Biden's strength with the state's African American voters helped him edge out second-place finisher Bernie Sanders. The Vermont senator won roughly 14 percent of African American voters, while billionaire Tom Steyer won 15 percent. 

Sanders had hoped to chip away at Biden's support by winning over young black voters, who may be more likely to be drawn to Sanders' liberal politics and less likely to give Biden credit for serving as President Barack Obama's No. 2. 

But black voters under 45 were roughly split between the two candidates — a sign that Sanders' appeal among younger voters had its limits in South Carolina. Sanders held on to young voters under 30 overall, but his grip weakened among liberal voters.

Thousands of migrants mass at Greek border, more flee Syria

KASTANIES, Greece (AP) — The United Nations said Sunday that at least 13,000 people were massed on Turkey's land border with Greece, after Turkey officially declared its western borders were open to migrants and refugees hoping to head into the European Union. 

Turkey's decision to open the borders with Greece came amid a military escalation in Syria's northwest that has led to growing direct clashes between Turkish and Syrian forces.

In Syria, the government said it was closing its airspace for any flights or drones across the country's northwestern region. It said any aircraft that penetrates Syrian airspace will be treated as hostile and shot down.

The announcement came after two days of Turkish drone attacks in Idlib province that Syrian activists said caused heavy losses to Syrian government forces. These confrontations have added to soaring tensions between Turkey and Russia, which support opposing sides of the Syrian civil war. 

"Any jet that violates our airspace will be treated as a hostile target that must be shot down and prevented from achieving its goals," the Syrian military statement said. It was not immediately clear whether the statement referred to friendly Russian jets in addition to Turkish aircraft.

Weary and divided, Israel goes back to the polls

JERUSALEM (AP) — For the third time in under a year, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seeks re-election, and once again the Israeli leader is on the ropes. 

After two inconclusive elections last year, opinion polls forecast another stalemate — a troubling scenario for Netanyahu who will go on trial on corruption charges just two weeks after Monday's vote.

This election campaign has been especially tumultuous. President Donald Trump launched his long-awaited Mideast plan, a proposal that heavily favored Israel and was seen as an election gift to Netanyahu. The Israeli leader, meanwhile, was forced to drop his bid for immunity from prosecution, and just this week, Israel battled Gaza militants in a two-day round of fighting. 

Monday's election is seen as another referendum on Netanyahu, the country's longest serving prime minister. And once again, the country seems hopelessly divided.

With seeming boundless energy, the 70-year-old Netanyahu has taken to the airwaves and hit the campaign trail, presenting himself to adoring audiences as a global statesman uniquely qualified to lead the country through its many complicated challenges. In recent weeks, he jetted from the White House to Moscow to bring home a young Israeli woman jailed there on drug charges, and flew to Uganda for a meeting with a leader of Sudan, a longtime enemy country.

US and Taliban sign deal aimed at ending war in Afghanistan

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Acknowledging a military stalemate after nearly two decades of conflict, the United States on Saturday signed a peace agreement with the Taliban that is aimed at ending America's longest war and bringing U.S. troops home from Afghanistan more than 18 years after they invaded in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The historic deal, signed by chief negotiators from the two sides and witnessed by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, could see the withdrawal of all American and allied forces in the next 14 months and allow President Donald Trump to keep a key campaign pledge to extract the U.S. from "endless wars." But it could also easily unravel, particularly if the Taliban fail to meet their commitments.

At the White House, Trump told reporters the U.S. deserves credit for having helped Afghanistan take a step toward peace. He spoke cautiously of the deal's prospects for success and cautioned the Taliban against violating their commitments.

"We think we'll be successful in the end," he said, referring to all-Afghan peace talks and a final U.S. exit. He said he will be "meeting personally with Taliban leaders in the not-too-distant future," and described the group as "tired of war."

He did not say where or why he plans to meet with Taliban leaders. He said he thinks they are serious about the deal they signed but warned that if it fails, the U.S. could restart combat.

Dayton rallies around college hoops team

DAYTON, Ohio (AP) — Trey Landers survived one of his hometown's worst moments. Now he's contributing to one of its best.

A Dayton native, the senior guard has helped lead the University of Dayton basketball team to its best start ever at 27-2 and to No. 4 in the current Associated Press poll, its highest ranking in 64 years.

Nearly seven months earlier, though, he was running out of the back of a Dayton bar as a gunman approached with an an assault-type weapon.

People greet or email to "just thank me and my teammates for everything we're doing right now," Landers said. "Our team is helping pull the city together a little bit. ... It's bigger than us."

Dayton has been struggling for decades, its current population of some 140,000 down from nearly double that in 1960. Its signature company, NCR, moved to Georgia, a nearby General Motors plant closed, and in recent years, the opioid crisis hit hard.

Comments (1)
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junev
junev

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