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NCAA approves extra year for spring athletes

Tuesday March 31st, 2020 12:04:47 AM

The NCAA Division I Council voted Monday to grant an extra year of eligibility to all student-athletes in spring sports whose seasons were canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Bucs GM: Brady made sales pitch to join team

Monday March 30th, 2020 03:01:46 PM

While the Buccaneers were openly interested in signing Tom Brady, Tampa Bay GM Jason Licht said the 42-year-old quarterback gave the Bucs his best sales pitch in their first phone call.

Reid says CBA altered post-ballot, needs revote

Monday March 30th, 2020 09:47:43 PM

Free-agent safety Eric Reid wants the NFL's new collective bargaining agreement invalidated over language added following ratification of the pact earlier this month.

Sports stars rally to join raffle for virus relief

Monday March 30th, 2020 10:56:02 PM

More than 115 athletes, coaches and sports personalities from 13 countries have joined to raise money for a COVID-19 response fund aimed at providing assistance for individuals fighting the global pandemic.

Roger returns: Healing Federer shows off shots

Tuesday March 31st, 2020 12:42:43 AM

Roger Federer put on a show for fans via Twitter on Monday, pulling off trick shots against a wall in the snow.

Shaq says he 'stopped going' to 'Tiger King' zoo

Monday March 30th, 2020 11:18:31 PM

Hall of Fame center Shaquille O'Neal attempted to clarify his brief appearance on the hit Netflix documentary 'Tiger King,' saying that while he loves big cats, he 'had no idea' what was going on at the Oklahoma ranch.







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Rep. Mark Meadows Resigns From Congress, Takes Chief of Staff Role

Tuesday March 31st, 2020 01:52:10 AM

Republican U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows officially resigned from Congress on Monday, more than three weeks after he was chosen to be President Donald Trump’s new chief of staff.

Meadows, R-North Carolina, who announced in December that he would not seek re-election in 2020, was tapped for his new post by Trump on March 6, NBC News reports.

The resignation was effective at 5 p.m. Monday, and he will start his new role Tuesday, his spokesman said.

“Serving the people of North Carolina’s eleventh congressional district for these last seven years has been the honor of my life,” Meadows wrote in a resignation letter. “I will forever be grateful for the opportunity.”

Read the full story at NBCNews.com


FBI Reaches Out to Sen. Burr Over Stock Sales Tied to Virus

Tuesday March 31st, 2020 12:42:22 AM Eric Tucker

The FBI has reached out to Sen. Richard Burr about his sale of stocks before the coronavirus caused markets to plummet, a person familiar with the matter said Monday.

The outreach suggests federal law enforcement officials may be looking to determine whether the North Carolina Republican exploited advance information when he dumped as much as $1.7 million in stocks in the days before the coronavirus wreaked havoc on the economy.

Burr has denied wrongdoing but has also requested an ethics review of the stock sales.

The Justice Department’s action, first reported by CNN, was confirmed by a person familiar with the matter who was not authorized to discuss it and spoke on condition of anonymity. The Justice Department declined to comment.

In a statement, Alice Fisher, an attorney for Burr, said, “The law is clear that any American – including a Senator – may participate in the stock market based on public information, as Senator Burr did.

“When this issue arose, Senator Burr immediately asked the Senate Ethics Committee to conduct a complete review, and he will cooperate with that review as well as any other appropriate inquiry. Senator Burr welcomes a thorough review of the facts in this matter, which will establish that his actions were appropriate,” the statement said.

Burr, whose stock sales were first reported by ProPublica and The Center for Responsive Politics, is one of several senators whose financial dealings have generated scrutiny in recent weeks.

Senate records show that Burr and his wife sold between roughly $600,000 and $1.7 million in more than 30 transactions in late January and mid-February, just before the market began to nosedive and government health officials began to sound alarms about the virus. Several of the stocks were in companies that own hotels.

Burr has acknowledged selling the stocks because of the coronavirus but said he relied “solely on public news reports,” specifically CNBC’s daily health and science reporting out of Asia, to make the financial decisions.

There is no indication that Burr, whose six-year term ends in 2023 and who does not plan to run for reelection, was acting on inside information. The intelligence panel he leads did not have any briefings on the pandemic the week when most of the stocks were sold, according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss confidential committee activity.


Associated Press writers Mary Clare Jalonick and Michael Balsamo in Washington contributed to this report.


How Will We Vote? Outbreak Revives Debate on Mail-in Ballots

Monday March 30th, 2020 07:29:27 PM Nicholas Riccardi and Rachel La Corte

As the coronavirus pandemic knocks primary election after primary election off schedule, Democrats argue the outbreak shows the country needs to move toward one of their longtime goals — widespread voting by mail — to protect the November election.

But Democrats’ hopes for using the crisis to expand voting by mail face firm Republican opposition, as well as significant logistical challenges. In some states, it would amount to a major revamp of their voting system just eight months before an election.

Vote-by-mail boosters already lost the first round of the fight. Democrats tried and failed to insert a broad mandate expanding voting by mail in the stimulus bill, a proposal that could cost as much as $2 billion. Instead, the bill included $400 million to help states adjust elections however they see fit before November.

But Democrats in Washington say they will keep pressing the issue, pointing to the increasing number of states that are shifting to mail-in voting for primaries as evidence that the time is right. A poll from the Pew Research Center released Monday found that about two-thirds of Americans would be uncomfortable voting at polling places during the outbreak.

“Practically every single Tuesday, we see another state reacting to their inability to run their election in the middle of this incredible health care pandemic,” said Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, the first state to vote entirely through the mail. He called expanded mail voting “not even a close call.”

Former Vice President Joe Biden, the leading Democratic presidential candidate, joined the push Sunday. “We should be looking to all-mail ballots across the board,” Biden said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “We should be beginning to plan that in each of our states.”

Every state already allows some form of voting by mail, but only six Western states are set up to allow all-mail voting in every county, according to Wendy Underhill at the National Conference of State Legislatures. Meanwhile, 17 states require a formal excuse for voters to get ballots they can mail in, and some have additional requirements. In Alabama, for example, applications for ballots must be returned with a copy of a state ID.

Democrats have long sought to eliminate such rules — either on the state level or by federal mandate — arguing they are barriers to voting, particularly for minorities, the elderly or the disabled.

While Republicans have backed the trend toward mail voting, the party remains suspicious of widespread use of the method — even though there is evidence that its voters benefit the most from it.

President Donald Trump summed up GOP complaints about Democrats’ mail-in-voting proposal during an interview Monday on “Fox & Friends.” “The things they had in there were crazy. They had things — levels of voting that if you ever agreed to it you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again,” Trump said of Democrats.

Many Republicans argue that a major expansion of mail-in voting opens up new concerns about fraud and security and that the decisions should be made at the state level rather than be dictated by Congress.

“These people who are saying all these states have to change and vote by mail don’t know what they are talking about,” said John Merrill, Alabama’s Republican secretary of state who has worked to expand mail voting in his home state. “I think every state ought to be able to make up their mind about what to do in elections.”

There are other, practical hurdles. Mail-in voting requires an expensive upfront investment in machines to process mail ballots, poll workers and election judges to be retrained to use the devices and verify voters’ signatures on their envelopes and other wrinkles.

“You can’t just flip the switch and go from one system to another,” Underhill said. She noted that official ballots must be printed on durable paper stock, and states may not be able to secure enough for November without sufficient advanced planning. “You can’t just get it at Kinko’s.”

It’s also not clear that voting by mail is necessarily pandemic-proof. In Washington state, an early epicenter of the outbreak, Secretary of State Kim Wyman, a Republican, recommended that a special election set for April 28 across 18 counties be canceled because of the virus.

She noted that, under Washington law, voters can register up until Election Day, which requires personal contact with government workers. And sorting of mail ballots typically takes place in crowded offices.

“Most people focus on Election Day and people being able to return a ballot. But there’s lots of activities on the back-end in elections offices,” she said.

Many local officials are focused on finding ways to make voting in person safer. In Alabama, Merrill, who pushed local primaries back until mid-July because of the virus, said he plans to spend more money ensuring that polling stations are heavily cleaned and that poll workers have access to protective equipment and sanitizer.

He doesn’t want to try to change the state’s voting system in a few months. “We’re not for introducing new problems. We’re for fixing current problems, Merrill said.

Some Republicans see Democrats as trying to take advantage of a crisis.

“Some of these are things that have been kind of partisan issues for a long time and now are being presented as a kind of response to COVID-19,” said Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, a Republican who opposes a federal mandate. “I’ve called that crisis opportunism. I don’t think making big policy changes in response to a crisis is the right thing to do.”

Ohio’s March 17 primary was delayed at the last minute and changed to an almost-exclusively mail-in contest for April 28.

Michael McDonald, a professor at the University of Florida who tracks voting issues, notes secretaries of state have long resented mandates from Washington on how to conduct elections. But after upfront costs, mail voting is demonstrably cheaper than casting ballots in-person, McDonald said. It also may favor Republicans, whose voters tend to be older and more likely to cast absentee ballots, McDonald found, while Democrats are more likely to vote in person.

Mail voting can also delay election counts, especially in California, which allows voters to mail in their ballots on Election Day. The state is still counting votes from its March 3 primary, in part because the virus outbreak has scrambled staffing in county elections offices across the state.

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, a Democrat, said he was disappointed that Congress balked at including voting reforms in the stimulus.

“They missed a golden opportunity to strengthen the resiliency of our elections system,” Padilla said.

___

Associated Press writers Julie Carr Smyth in Columbus, Ohio, and Christina Cassidy in Atlanta contributed to this report.


New Trump Mileage Standards to Gut Obama Climate Effort

Monday March 30th, 2020 06:53:37 PM Ellen Knickmeyer and Tom Krisher

President Donald Trump is poised to roll back ambitious Obama-era vehicle mileage standards and raise the ceiling on damaging fossil fuel emissions for years to come, gutting one of the United States’ biggest efforts against climate change.

The Trump administration is expected to release a final rule Tuesday on mileage standards through 2026. The change — making good on the rollback after two years of Trump threatening and fighting states and a faction of automakers that opposed the move — waters down a tough Obama mileage standard that would have encouraged automakers to ramp up production of electric vehicles and more fuel-efficient gas and diesel vehicles.

“When finalized, the rule will benefit our economy, will improve the U.S. fleet’s fuel economy, will make vehicles more affordable, and will save lives by increasing the safety of new vehicles,” EPA spokeswoman Corry Schiermeyer said Monday, ahead of the expected release.

Opponents contend the change — gutting his predecessor’s legacy effort against climate-changing fossil fuel emissions — appears driven by Trump’s push to undo regulatory initiatives of former President Barack Obama, and say even the administration has had difficulty pointing to the kind of specific, demonstrable benefits to drivers, public health and safety or the economy that normally accompany standards changes.

The Trump administration says the looser mileage standards will allow consumers to keep buying the less fuel-efficient SUVs that U.S. drivers have favored for years. Opponents say it will kill several hundred more Americans a year through dirtier air, compared to the Obama standards.

Even “given the catastrophe they’re in with the coronavirus, they’re pursuing a policy that’s going to hurt public health and kill people,” said Chet France, a former 39-year veteran of the Environmental Protection Agency, where he served as a senior official over emissions and mileage standards.

“This is first time that an administration has pursued a policy that will net negative benefit for society and reduce fuel savings,” France said.

Delaware Sen. Tom Carper, the senior Democrat on the Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee, called it “the height of irresponsibility for this administration to finalize a rollback that will lead to dirtier air while our country is working around the clock to respond to a respiratory pandemic whose effects may be exacerbated by air pollution.

“We should be enacting forward-looking environmental policy, not tying our country’s future to the dirty vehicles of the past,” Carper said.

In Phoenix, Arizona, meanwhile, resident Columba Sainz expressed disappointment at the prospect of losing the Obama-era rule, which she had hoped would allow her preschool age children to break away from TV indoors and play outside more. Sainz reluctantly limited her daughter to a half-hour at the park daily, after the girl developed asthma, at age 3, at their home a few minutes from a freeway.

“I cried so many times,” Sainz said. “How do you tell your daughter she can’t be outside because of air pollution?”

Trump’s Cabinet heads have continued a push to roll back public health and environment regulations despite the coronavirusoutbreak riveting the world’s attention. The administration — like others before it — is facing procedural rules that will make changes adopted before the last six months of Trump’s current term tougher to throw out, even if the White House changes occupants.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which has been the main agency drawing up the new rules, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.

The standards have split the auto industry with Ford, BMW, Honda and Volkswagen siding with California and agreeing to higher standards. Most other automakers contend the Obama-era standards were enacted hastily and will be impossible to meet because consumers have shifted dramatically away from efficient cars to SUVs and trucks.

California and about a dozen other states say they will continue resisting the Trump mileage standards in court.

Last year, 72% of the new vehicles purchased by U.S. consumers were trucks or SUVS. It was 51% when the current standards went into effect in 2012.

The Obama administration mandated 5% annual increases in fuel economy. Leaked versions of the Trump administration’s latest proposal show a 1.5% annual increase, backing off from its initial proposal simply to stop mandating increases in fuel efficiency after 2020.

The transportation sector is the nation’s largest source of climate-changing emissions.

John Bozzella, CEO of the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, a trade group representing automakers, said the industry still wants middle ground between the two standards, and it supports year-over-year mileage increases. But he says the Obama-era standards are outdated due to the drastic shift to trucks and SUVs.

The Trump administration standards are likely to cause havoc in the auto industry because due to expected legal challenges, automakers won’t know which standards they will have to obey.

“It will be extraordinarily disruptive,” said Richard J. Pierce Jr., a law professor at the George Washington University who specializes in government regulations.

States and environmental groups will challenge the Trump rules, and a U.S. District Court likely will issue a temporary order shelving them until it decides whether they are legal. The temporary order likely will be challenged with the Supreme Court, which in recent cases has voted 5-4 that a District judge can’t issue such a nationwide order, Pierce said. But the nation’s highest court could also keep the order in effect if it determines the groups challenging the Trump standards are likely to win.

“We’re talking quite a long time, one to three years anyway, before we can expect to get a final decision on the merits,” Pierce said.

——

Krisher reported from Detroit.


New York Governor Begs for Help Amid ‘staggering’ Death Toll

Monday March 30th, 2020 09:49:45 AM Jocelyn Noveck, Larry Neumeister and Marina Villeneuve

New York’s governor issued an urgent appeal for medical volunteers Monday amid a “staggering” number of deaths from the coronavirus, as he and health officials warned that the crisis unfolding in New York City is just a preview of what other communities across the U.S. could soon face.

“Please come help us in New York now,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said as the state’s death toll climbed by more than 250 in a single day to a total of more than 1,200 victims, most of them in the city. He said an additional 1 million health care workers are needed to tackle the crisis.

“We’ve lost over 1,000 New Yorkers,” Cuomo said. “To me, we’re beyond staggering already. We’ve reached staggering.”

Even before the governor’s appeal, close to 80,000 former nurses, doctors and other professionals in New York were stepping up to volunteer, and a Navy hospital ship, also sent to the city after 9/11, had arrived with 1,000 beds to relieve pressure on overwhelmed hospitals.

“Whatever it is that they need, I’m willing to do,” said Jerry Kops, a musician and former nurse whose tour with the show Blue Man Group was abruptly halted by the outbreak.

He returned to his Long Island home, where he volunteered to be a nurse again. While waiting to be reinstated, Kops has been helping at an assisted-living home near his house in Shirley, N.Y.

The spike in deaths in New York was another sign of the long fight ahead against the global pandemic, which was filling Spain’s intensive care beds and shutting millions of Americans inside even as the crisis in China, where the outbreak began in December, kept easing.

More than 235 million people — about two of every three Americans — live in the 33 states where governors have declared statewide orders or recommendations to stay home.

In California, officials put out a similar call for medical volunteers as coronavirus hospitalizations doubled over the last four days and the number of patients in intensive care tripled.

“Challenging times are ahead for the next 30 days, and this is a very vital 30 days,” President Donald Trump told reporters. “The more we dedicate ourselves today, the more quickly we will emerge on the other side of the crisis.”

In Europe, meanwhile, hard-hit Italy and Spain saw their death tolls climb by more than 800 each, but the World Health Organization’s emergency chief said cases there were “potentially stabilizing.” At the same time, he warned against letting up on tough containment measures.

“We have to now push the virus down, and that will not happen by itself,” Dr. Michael Ryan said.

More than three-quarters of a million people worldwide have become infected and over 37,000 have died, according to a count by Johns Hopkins University.

The U.S. reported more than 160,000 infections and over 3,000 deaths, with New York City the nation’s worst hot spot, and New Orleans, Detroit and other cities also seeing alarming clusters.

“Anyone who says this situation is a New York City-only situation is in a state of denial,” Cuomo said. “You see this virus move across the state. You see this virus move across the nation. There is no American who is immune to this virus.”

Some hospitals are now parking refrigerated trailers outside their doors to collect the dead. At two Brooklyn hospitals, videos posted by bystanders and a medical employee showed workers in masks and gowns loading bodies onto trailers from gurneys on the sidewalk.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious-disease expert, similarly warned that smaller cities are likely about to see cases “take off” the way they have in New York City.

“What we’ve learned from painful experience with this outbreak is that it goes along almost on a straight line, then a little acceleration, acceleration, then it goes way up,” he said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

In other developments around the world:

— Bells tolled in Madrid’s deserted central square and flags were lowered in a day of mourning as Spain raced to build field hospitals to treat an onslaught of patients. The death toll topped 7,300.

— In Japan, officials announced a new date for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics — summer of 2021 — as a spike in reported infections fueled suspicions that the government had been understating the extent of the country’s outbreak in recent weeks while it was still hoping to salvage the Summer Games.

— Moscow locked down its 12 million people as Russia braced for sweeping nationwide restrictions.

— Israel said 70-year-old Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is quarantining himself after an aide tested positive for the virus. And in Britain, Prince Charles, the heir to the throne who tested positive for the virus, ended his period of isolation and is in good health, his office said.

Italy’s death toll climbed to nearly 11,600. But in a bit of positive news, newly released numbers showed a continued slowdown in the rate of new confirmed cases and a record number of people recovered.

“We are saving lives by staying at home, by maintaining social distance, by traveling less and by closing schools,” said Dr. Luca Richeldi, a lung specialist.

At least six of Spain’s 17 regions were at their limit of intensive care unit beds, and three more were close to it, authorities said. Crews of workers were frantically building more field hospitals.

Nearly 15% of all those infected in Spain, almost 13,000 people, are health care workers, hurting hospitals’ efforts to help the tsunami of people gasping for breath.

In a sign of the mounting economic toll exacted by the virus in the United States, Macy’s said it would stop paying tens of thousands of employees thrown out of work when the chain closed its more than 500 department stores earlier this month.

The majority of its 130,000 workers will still collect health benefits, but the company said it is switching to the “absolute minimum workforce” needed to maintain basic operations.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the virus can cause severe symptoms like pneumonia. More than 160,000 people have recovered, according to Johns Hopkins.

The crisis in China, where the outbreak began in late December, continued to ease. China on Monday reported 31 new COVID-19 cases, among them just one domestic infection, and the city at the center of the disaster, Wuhan, began reopening for business as authorities lifted more of the controls that locked down tens of millions of people for two months.

“I want to revenge-shop,” one excited customer declared.

Japanese automaker Toyota halted production at its auto plants in Europe, but all of its factories in China resumed work Monday.

___

Associated Press writers around the world contributed to this report.

___

Follow AP news coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak


Biden Debuts Podcast in His Virtual Campaign for President

Monday March 30th, 2020 05:59:35 AM

Former Vice President Joe Biden took his virtual presidential campaign to the next level Monday when he launched a podcast as the coronavirus forces him to get creative in reaching voters otherwise distracted by a global pandemic, NBC News reports.

The podcast “Here’s the Deal” is intended to provide listeners “a voice of clarity during uncertain times” by delving into pressing subjects affecting Americans’ day-to-day lives in conversations between Biden and “national top experts,” according to its media kit.

“Hey, Team Biden. It’s Joe, and I’m sitting in Wilmington, Delaware,” Biden says at the top of the debut podcast. “It’s a scary time, people are confused, things are changing every day, every hour so I wanted to have this conversation with you now if we could.”

The podcast is another way for the campaign to try to connect with voters confined to their homes — a challenge recent political candidates have not had to face. The launch comes one week after Biden debuted his home TV studio in his basement, where he was able to reinsert himself into the national conversation on cable news following several technical difficulties encountered in his first week of “working from home.”

Read the full story on NBCNews.com








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Liberty University Brings Back Its Students, and Coronavirus Fears, Too

Monday March 30th, 2020 03:29:49 PM Elizabeth Williamson
The decision by the school’s president, Jerry Falwell Jr., to partly reopen his evangelical university enraged residents of Lynchburg, Va. Then students started getting sick.

Philadelphia Hospital to Stay Closed After Owner Requests Nearly $1 Million a Month

Sunday March 29th, 2020 03:03:00 PM Maria Cramer
Hahnemann University Hospital could hold 500 patients with the coronavirus. But city officials said the cost was too steep.

Medical Expert Who Corrects Trump Is Now a Target of the Far Right

Saturday March 28th, 2020 07:08:24 PM Davey Alba and Sheera Frenkel
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the administration’s most outspoken advocate of emergency virus measures, faces a torrent of false claims that he is mobilizing to undermine the president.

Coronavirus Stimulus Package F.A.Q.: Checks, Unemployment and More

Saturday March 28th, 2020 10:01:57 PM Tara Siegel Bernard and Ron Lieber
The $2 trillion relief bill will send money directly to Americans, greatly expand unemployment coverage and make a number of other changes.

The U.S. Tried to Build a New Fleet of Ventilators. The Mission Failed.

Monday March 30th, 2020 12:28:19 AM Nicholas Kulish, Sarah Kliff and Jessica Silver-Greenberg
As the coronavirus spreads, the collapse of the project helps explain America’s acute shortage.

Nurses Die, Doctors Fall Sick and Panic Rises on Virus Front Lines

Monday March 30th, 2020 12:42:10 PM Michael Schwirtz
The pandemic has begun to sweep through New York City’s medical ranks, and anxiety is growing among normally dispassionate medical professionals.







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