Workers criticize Amazon on climate despite risk to jobs
SAN FRANCISCO — Hundreds of employees are openly criticizing Amazon’s record on climate change despite what they say is a company policy that puts their jobs at risk for speaking out.
On Sunday, more than 300 employees of the online retail giant signed their names and job titles to statements on blog post on Medium. The online protest was organized by a group called Amazon Employees For Climate Justice, an advocacy group founded by Amazon workers that earlier this month said the company had sent letters to its members threatening to fire them if they continued to speak to the press.
“It’s our moral responsibility to speak up, and the changes to the communications policy are censoring us from exercising that responsibility,” said Sarah Tracy, a software development engineer at Amazon, in a statement.
Amazon said that its policy on external communications is not new and is in keeping with other large companies. It said the policy applies to all Amazon employees and is not directed at any specific group.
“While all employees are welcome to engage constructively with any of the many teams inside Amazon that work on sustainability and other topics, we do enforce our external communications policy and will not allow employees to publicly disparage or misrepresent the company or the hard work of their colleagues who are developing solutions to these hard problems,” according to an Amazon spokesperson.
Amazon, which relies on fossil fuels to power the planes, trucks and vans that ship packages all over the world, has an enormous carbon footprint. And its workers have been vocal in criticizing some of the company’s practices.
Last year, more than 8,000 staffers signed an open letter to CEO and founder Jeff Bezos demanding that Amazon cut its carbon emissions, end its use of fossil fuels and stop its work with oil companies that use Amazon’s technology to locate fossil fuel deposits.
Amazon said in a statement that it is passionate about climate change issues and has already pledged to become net zero carbon by 2040 and use 100% renewable energy by 2030.
AP Business Writer Joseph Pisani contributed to this story from New York.
Hospital in Seattle to close emergency rooms ahead of strike
SEATTLE — Swedish Medical Center has posted signs at its hospitals and on its website warning of its plans to close two emergency departments during a strike this week of 7,800 registered nurses, caregivers and staff.
Swedish said it plans to close emergency services at its campuses in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle and in Redmond starting Monday at 7 p.m.
The strike, set to last three days, will begin at 7 a.m. Tuesday, according to the Service Employees International Union Healthcare 1199NW, which represents the workers.
The Seattle Times reports the union delivered its strike notice to Swedish more than a week ago, which prompted hospital officials to pull its most recent offer and announce it would not return to the bargaining table until the picketing ended.
In a recent statement, Swedish CEO Guy Hudson said the hospital’s most recent offer included an 11.25% wage increase over the next four years.
The hospital said it is bringing in nurses from elsewhere this week.
Both the Ballard and Redmond campuses have 18-bed emergency rooms, according to Swedish’s website.
The hospital is advising patients who might need emergency or urgent care services in Ballard or Redmond to go to one of its other facilities, including its emergency departments at Seattle’s First Hill and Cherry Hill campuses. The hospital network also has emergency departments at its hospitals in Issaquah, Edmonds and Mill Creek in Everett.
Poland’s president invited to Israel amid row over WWII
WARSAW, Poland — Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Monday invited his Polish counterpart for talks in Jerusalem aimed to boost bilateral relations following tensions over Poland’s World War II history.
Rivlin spoke in southern Poland during observances of the 75th anniversary of the liberation by the Soviet Red Army of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp that Nazi Germany operated in occupied Poland.
He said the centuries-long bond between Poles and Jews, including the Holocaust, is one that “looks to the future from an unshakable commitment to the memory of the facts of the past.”
Bilateral ties have been clouded by disputes over the Holocaust narrative and by an international Auschwitz-Birkeanu anniversary forum organized by a private foundation in Jerusalem last week, which some saw as belittling Poland’s role in fighting the Nazis.
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, who previously tried to place some blame on Poland for the war’s outbreak, was given prominence at that anniversary forum. Poland’s President Andrzej Duda, who was not offered a slot to speak in Jerusalem, boycotted the ceremony.
“We reach out to the Polish people today and ask to once again work together to form the futures of the next generatio n, respecting history and inspired by values of peace, justice, tolerance and partnership,” Rivlin said.
He added that he invited Duda to Jerusalem for “discussions that will strengthen our relations and the important cooperation between our countries.”
Trump to meet Israeli PM, rival before peace plan rollout
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is holding back-to-back meetings Monday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his chief challenger Benny Gantz ahead of the unveiling of the U.S. administration’s much-anticipated plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The meetings come just a month before Netanyahu and Gantz are set to face off in national elections for the third time in less than a year and amid much speculation over whether the plan has any chance for success since the Palestinians haven’t been consulted and have preemptively rejected any proposal from a White House it considers biased toward Israel.
The so-called “Deal of the Century” is expected to be very favorable to Israel, and Netanyahu has hailed it as a chance to “make history” and define Israel’s final borders.
In the run-up to the March 2 vote, Netanyahu has called for annexing parts of the West Bank and imposing Israeli sovereignty on all its settlements there. Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Mideast war, and the Jordan Valley in particular is considered a vital security asset.
Reports in Israeli media have speculated Trump’s plan could include the possible annexation of large pieces of territory that the Palestinians seek for a future independent state. American approval could give Netanyahu the type of cover to go ahead with a move that he’s resisted taking for more than a decade in power.
Annexing Israel’s settlements in the occupied West Bank would appeal to Netanyahu’s hard-line nationalist supporters but would almost certainly torpedo the viability of an independent Palestinian state and likely infuriate neighboring Jordan. In 1994, Israel and Jordan signed a peace treaty, the second between Israel and its Arab neighbors after Egypt.
Netanyahu, with an eye to his base, invited several settler leaders to join him in Washington for the rollout of the plan.
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh denounced the still-unpublished proposal again Monday in Ramallah, saying it “doesn’t constitute a basis for resolving the conflict.” He said the plan violates international law and “comes from a party that has lost its credibility to be an honest broker in a serious and genuine political process.”
A Palestinian official said that President Mahmoud Abbas has rejected overtures from mediators in recent weeks to arrange a phone call with Trump. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was discussing a classified diplomatic issue.
The Trump administration took several steps in recent years that angered the Palestinians. Those included recognizing the contested city of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving the U.S. Embassy there, closing Palestinian diplomatic offices in Washington and cutting funding to Palestinian aid programs.
Regardless of the outcome of his summit with Trump, Netanyahu’s foray to Washington gives him a major boost. The long-time leader has been reeling from a stiff challenge from Gantz and the fallout of his indictment on corruption charges, The Israeli parliament is expected to reject his request for immunity in the coming days, and a damaging criminal trial looms.
Gantz, a former military chief, has focused his campaign on Netanyahu’s legal problems and his character, saying he is unfit for office. Netanyahu has sought to portray himself as a global statesman uniquely qualified to lead Israel through difficult times. He has tried to use his close friendship with Trump as a strategic asset to stay in power.
Trump, himself under the cloud of his impeachment trial in the Senate, appears poised to offer Netanyahu some needed help in the form of the most generous American peace proposal ever. Previous peace plans have included conditions for Israeli withdrawals and the prospect of evacuating Jewish settlements.
Netanyahu was charged in November with fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes in three cases involving accepting gifts from billionaire friends and trading political and regulatory favors for positive news coverage. Gantz’s centrist Blue and White party refuses to sit with him in government because of the charges but has been careful not to scare off his voters by veering too far left, and Gantz has expressed general support for Trump’s proposal.
Gantz’s decision to travel to Washington separately reflected his need to remain on good terms with Trump while keeping his distance from Netanyahu.
In two election rounds neither has been able to secure a required parliamentary majority without the other’s support. Each is seeking a knock-out punch in the upcoming third round.
Trump has delivered political favors to Netanyahu during the previous two races as well, only to see his friend fall short of victory. Netanyahu’s confidants have suggested that his motivations are mostly ideological, since he may be coming to terms with an end to his lengthy career and is eager to leave West Bank annexation behind as a form of legacy.
Bolton book pressures GOP to allow Senate witnesses
WASHINGTON — Pressure is increasing on senators to call John Bolton to testify at President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial after the revelation that a draft of a book by the former national security adviser undercuts a key defense argument — that Trump never tied withholding military aid to Ukraine to his demand the country investigate political rival Joe Biden.
Bolton writes in the forthcoming book that Trump told him he wanted to withhold hundreds of millions of dollars in security aid from Ukraine until it helped him with investigations into Biden. Trump’s legal team has repeatedly insisted otherwise, and Trump tweeted on Monday that he never told Bolton that.
Republican senators faced a pivotal moment as they arrived on Capitol Hill to resume Trump’s trial. Democrats are demanding sworn testimony from Bolton and other key witnesses, and pressure is mounting on at least four Republicans to buck GOP leaders and form a bipartisan majority to force the issue.
“John Bolton’s relevance to our decision ha become has become increasingly clear,” GOP Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah told reporters. He said it’s ”increasingly likely” that other Republican senators will now join the push for him to appear.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said she has always wanted “the opportunity for witnesses” and the report about Bolton’s book “strengthens the case.”
The White House has had Bolton’s manuscript for at least a month, and has challenged his use of certain material it considers classified, according to a letter from Bolton’s attorney.
Rep. Adam Schiff, who is leading the House prosecution team, called Bolton’s account a test for the senators sitting as jurors.
“I don’t know how you can explain that you wanted a search for the truth in this trial and say you don’t want to hear from a witness who had a direct conversation about the central allegation in the articles of impeachment,” Schiff said on CNN.
First, though, Trump’s legal team will begin laying out its case in depth on Monday, turning to several high-profile attorneys to argue against impeachment.
The lawyers revealed the broad outlines of their defense in a rare Saturday session, at which they accused House Democrats of using the impeachment case to try to undo the results of the last presidential election and drive Trump from office.
As for trial witnesses, four Republicans would have to break ranks to join Democrats to call any witnesses, which would extend the trial, which has been expected to conclude fairly rapidly. The Republicans hold a 53-47 Senate majority.
Bolton’s account was first reported by The New York Times and was confirmed to The Associated Press by a person familiar with the manuscript on the condition of anonymity. “The Room Where It Happened; A White House Memoir” is to be released March 17.
John Ullyot, a spokesman for the National Security Council that Bolton used to lead, said the manuscript was submitted to the NSC for “pre-publication review” and had been under initial review.
“No White House personnel outside NSC have reviewed the manuscript,” he said.
When the Times report went online Sunday night, the seven House Democratic managers immediately called on all senators to insist that Bolton be called as a witness and provide his notes and other relevant documents. Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Senate’s top Democrat, issued the same call.
Trump denied the claims in a series of tweets early Monday.
“I NEVER told John Bolton that the aid to Ukraine was tied to investigations into Democrats, including the Bidens,” Trump said. “If John Bolton said this, it was only to sell a book.”
Trump said people could look at transcripts of his call with Ukrainian President Vlodymyr Zelinskiy to see there was no pressure for such investigations to get the aid. In that call, Trump asked Zelinskiy to “do us a favor” with the investigations as he was withholding nearly $400 million in military aid to the U.S. ally at war with Russia.
Trump falsely claimed Monday that the Democrat-controlled House “never even asked John Bolton to testify.” Democrats did ask Bolton to testify, but he didn’t show up for his deposition. They later declined to subpoena Bolton, as they had others, because he threatened to sue, which could lead to a prolonged court battle.
House Democrats are showing no signs of trying to quickly subpoena Bolton’s testimony now, saying it is the Senate’s responsibility in the midst of the trial to call him and other witnesses whom the White House blocked in House proceedings.
Schiff said Bolton — known to be a copious notetaker — should also provide documents.
Bolton, who sent this book manuscript to the White House for review, is now enmeshed in a legal dispute with the White House over the manuscript’s use of direct quotes and other material from meetings and foreign leader discussions. That’s according to a person familiar with the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the person wasn’t authorized to speak on the record.
The White House has requested that Bolton remove material it considers classified, the person said, which has the book behind schedule.
Bolton acrimoniously left the White House a day before Trump ultimately released the Ukraine aid on Sept. 11. He has already told lawmakers that he is willing to testify, despite the president’s order barring aides from cooperating in the probe.
“Americans know that a fair trial must include both the documents and witnesses blocked by the President — that starts with Mr. Bolton,” the impeachment managers said in a statement.
Eventual acquittal is likely in a Senate where a two-thirds majority vote would be needed for conviction. Still, the White House sees the Senate presentation as an opportunity to counter the allegations, defend the powers of the presidency and prevent Trump from being weakened politically ahead of November’s election.
Trump faces two articles of impeachment. One accuses him of abusing his power by asking Ukraine to investigate while withholding military aid. The other alleges that Trump obstructed Congress by directing aides to not cooperate with the impeachment inquiry.
The legal team is portraying Trump as having been harassed by investigations from federal agents — and Democrats — since he took office. The lawyers have already hinted that they will focus attention on Biden just as he campaigns for a first-place finish in next week’s Iowa caucuses.
Monday’s presentation was expected to include appearances by Alan Dershowitz, who will argue that impeachable offenses require criminal-like conduct, and Ken Starr, the independent counsel in the Whitewater investigation that led to the impeachment of President Bill Clinton. Former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi is also expected to make arguments.
Many legal scholars reject Dershowitz’s arguments, saying the Founding Fathers meant for impeachable offenses to incorporate a broad range of conduct by presidents. Dershowitz told The Associated Press last week that he understood that some critics thought his argument was “bonkers” but encouraged them to listen nonetheless.
Democrats argued their side of the impeachment case for three days last week, warning that Trump will persist in abusing his power and endangering American democracy unless Congress intervenes to remove him before the 2020 election.
On Saturday, the president’s attorneys said there was no evidence that Trump made the military aid contingent on the country announcing an investigation into Biden. They also accused Democrats of omitting information that was favorable to Trump’s case.
Once Trump’s team concludes, senators will have 16 hours to ask questions of both the House impeachment prosecutors and the president’s legal team. Their questions must be in writing, and Chief Justice John Roberts, who has been presiding over the trial, will read them aloud.
2 arrested in S.C. bar shooting that killed 2 and wounded 4
HARTSVILLE, S.C. — Police have two suspects in a shooting at a South Carolina bar that killed two people and wounded several others, authorities said.
The suspects were being arrested and warrants served for the shooting around 2 a.m. Sunday at Mac’s Lounge in Hartsville. Their names weren’t immediately being released, Hartsville spokeswoman Lauren Baker said in a statement Monday.
Dicaprio Collins, 21, and Bryan Robinson, 29, were killed, Darlington County Coroner Todd Hardee said. Four others were hurt and taken to hospitals, Baker said.
According to its Facebook page, Mac’s Lounge also serves as a music venue. Hartsville is about 75 miles (120 kilometers) southeast of Charlotte, North Carolina.
Investigators have released little information about the shooting.
Democratic state Sen. Gerald Malloy called the shooting a “senseless loss of life” on Twitter. He said the club is about two blocks from his law office and he spent hours Sunday at the business.
A witness described a chaotic scene as bar patrons ran for their lives.
Samuel Dupree told WMBF-TV he was dancing when he heard something that at first sounded like a firecracker, but he turned and saw the gunfire. He said people in the bar were rushing toward the exit.
“People were trying to get through that tiny door and they couldn’t,” he said. “I helped someone up off the ground I saw get trampled. I’m not going to let this person just die from getting run over.”
The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division and the U.S. Marshals Service are assisting Hartsville police with the investigation.
Billie Eilish, a voice of the youth, tops the Grammy Awards
NEW YORK — Singer Billie Eilish, who gave voice to young people struggling with depression on a do-it-yourself album she made at home with her older brother, is atop the music world.
The 18-year-old made history at the Grammy Awards Sunday. Not only did she become the youngest person to win one of Grammy’s top awards — record, song and album of the year, and best new artist — Eilish is the first artist to sweep all four since Christopher Cross in 1981.
Her triumph came on a night made somber by the death of former Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant. It also ended a tumultuous week for the Recording Academy that included its ousted CEO accusing the Grammys nominations process of being rigged, and Diddy calling out the organization for not giving enough respect to R&B and hip-hop.
Eilish’s “When We all Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?” also won best pop vocal album. Her brother Finneas O’Connell also won awards for engineering and producing the album.
“The music I listened to when I was growing up, maybe 7, 8, 9 or 10, 13, that was the most important music to me forever,” Finneas said backstage after the ceremony. “Anytime a person that age comes up to either one of us and says (it is their favorite), I know how much that means to them. That’s why it means so much to me. I hope they’re celebrating. This is all because of them.”
He said that they never thought that an album that addresses depression, suicidal thoughts and climate change would be up for a Grammy.
Eilish noted that they made the album in a bedroom of the Los Angeles-area home where they grew up in.
“It’s like anything is possible,” she said.
In accepting her awards, Eilish noted that she had grown up listening to many of the artists at the ceremony in Los Angeles’ Staples Center. She also said she thought Ariana Grande deserved album of the year, an onstage moment that recalled Adele saying the same thing about Beyonce the same year Adele triumphed.
The success of a young, white girl came on a night the Recording Academy seemingly went out of its way to highlight diversity. Lizzo offered a powerhouse opening performance, and there were tributes to Prince and the late rapper Nipsey Hussle. Tyler, the Creator offered an incendiary version of “Earfquake” with Boyz II Men. Lil’ Nas X sang his omnipresent “Old Town Road.” Grande sang, as did H.E.R., host Alicia Keys and Gary Clark Jr. with the Roots.
Tyler, the Creator said later that the rap album Grammy was a backhanded compliment.
While he’s grateful to be acknowledged, “it also sucks whenever we, I mean guys that look like me, do anything that’s genre bending, they always put it in an urban rapper category,” he said. “I don’t like that urban word. It’s just a politically correct way to say the N-word to me.”
Earlier in the show, Keys sat at a piano to sing a rewrite of Lewis Capaldi’s song, “Someone You Loved” that name-checked many of the nominated artists but also included a few pointed lines about respect.
“I’m gonna be honest with y’all,” she said. “It’s been a helluva week.”
Keys also had the delicate task of addressing the shock of Bryant’s death in a helicopter crash, while onstage at the same arena where the former Laker won championships.
She sang “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday” with Boyz II Men. References to Bryant abounded — a Lakers jersey held up by Run-DMC during their performance of “Walk This Way” with Aerosmith, and adorning a couch on a set where Lil Nas X began “Old Town Road.”
“We’re all feeling crazy sadness right now,” said Keys, who received praise online for how she handled it.
“Alicia, you’ve been lighting this awards show up,” rapper Common said onstage. “Thank you.”
Besides her big opening, Lizzo took home three Grammys, including best pop solo performance for “Truth Hurts” and two R&B awards. She also seemed noticeably affected by Bryant’s death.
“We need to continue to reach out,” she told her fellow artists. “This is the beginning of making music that moves people again.”
Clark’s pointed “This Land” also won for best rock song and rock performance, and he won a third for contemporary blues album.
Among the show’s more touching moments was Tyler, the Creator bringing his tearful mother onstage with him to accept his Grammy. Singer Demi Lovato made a comeback appearance after her reported overdose, singing a song she said was written in the troubled days before that event. Camila Cabello sang “First Man,” a song dedicated to her father, and received a bear hug from a sobbing dad when it was done.
DJ Khaled helped lead the emotional tribute to Hussle, the Los Angeles rapper who was gunned down in March, not long after attending his first Grammy ceremony as a nominee. On Sunday, Hussle won two posthumous Grammys.
Tyler, the Creator, Lizzo and, of course, Eilish were among the acts who won their first-ever Grammys. Other first-time winners included Tanya Tucker, J. Cole, Lil Nas X, Billy Ray Cyrus, Michelle Obama, Sara Bareilles, Rosalia and 21 Savage.
Gospel legend Kirk Franklin received his 14th and 15th career Grammys.
Associated Press writers Mesfin Fekadu and Jonathan Landrum Jr. contributed to this report.
Mongolia closes border, China extends holiday to fight virus
BEIJING — China on Monday expanded its sweeping efforts to contain a deadly virus, extending the Lunar New Year holiday to keep the public at home and avoid spreading infection as the death toll rose to 81.
Mongolia closed its vast border with China, and Hong Kong and Malaysia announced they would bar entry to visitors from the Chinese province at the center of the outbreak following a warning by medical officials that the virus’s ability to spread was growing. Travel agencies were ordered to cancel group tours nationwide, adding to the rising economic losses.
Stock markets around the world were down sharply Monday as the lockdown in Chinese cities was expected to stifle travel, shopping and business for millions of people. Though markets in much of Asia, including China, were closed for the Lunar New Year, they slumped more than 2% in Japan and across Europe. Wall Street was expected to drop on the open and the international price of oil was down a sharp 4%.
China’s increasingly drastic containment efforts began with the Jan. 22 suspension of plane, train and bus links to Wuhan, a city of 11 million people in central China where the virus was first detected last month. That lockdown has expanded to 17 cities with more than 50 million people in the most far-reaching disease-control measures ever imposed.
The end of the Lunar New Year holiday, China’s busiest travel season, was pushed back to Sunday from Thursday to “reduce mass gatherings” and “block the spread of the epidemic,” a Cabinet statement said.
The government of Shanghai, a metropolis of 25 million people and a global business center, extended the Lunar New York holiday by an additional week within the city to Feb. 9. It ordered sports stadiums to close and religious events to cancel.
Tens of millions of peopl e in China and around Asia h ad been due to crowd into planes, trains and buses to return to work after visiting their hometowns or tourist sites for the holiday. Schools will postpone reopening until further notice, the Cabinet said.
The death toll rose Monday when the southern island province of Hainan in the South China Sea reported its first fatality, an 80-year-old woman whose family arrived from Wuhan on Jan. 17.
Hubei province, where Wuhan is located, has accounted for 76 of the deaths reported so far. There have been one each in Shanghai and the provinces of Hebei in the north, Heilongjiang in the northeast and Henan in central China.
The spread of the illness is being watched around the globe, with a small number of cases appearing in other countries. South Korea confirmed its fourth case Monday. Cases also have been confirmed in Thailand, Taiwan, Japan, the U.S., Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Nepal, France, Canada and Australia.
The U.S. cases are in Washington state, Chicago, southern California and Arizona.
China also reported eight cases in Hong Kong and five in Macao. Dr. Chuang Shuk-kwan, the head of Hong Kong’s communicable disease branch, said the city’s eight cases all have Hubei ties, so there was no no sign yet that it is spreading to Hong Kong’s general population.
Mongolia is the second country to close its border with China, following North Korea. Neither has reported any cases of the virus. Mongolia also closed its schools, universities and playgrounds for more than a month — until March 2.
China’s No. 2 leader, Premier Li Keqiang, visited Wuhan to “guide epidemic prevention work,” the Cabinet website said. Photos showed Li, in a blue smock and green face mask, meeting hospital employees.
Later, the premier, wearing a face mask and a dark windbreaker, visited a supermarket in the beleaguered city. Shoppers, also wearing masks, cheered to him, “Happy New Year!”
“To get the epidemic under control in Wuhan and the good health of people in Wuhan will be good news for the whole country,” Li told the crowd.
Elsewhere, the Potala Palace in Lhasa, the Tibetan capital, closed indefinitely to tourists on Monday. The former imperial palace in Beijing closed Friday until further notice and other major tourist sites also have shut down, including two of Hong Kong’s most popular tourist attractions, Hong Kong Disneyland and Ocean Park.
The disruption to industry and consumer spending threaten to depress Chinese economic growth that Beijing is struggling to shore up after it sank to a multi-decade low of 6.1% last year. That could spread shockwaves to other Asian economies that rely on China as a source of tourists and export markets.
Chinese regulators called on banks and insurers Monday to support to people and companies affected by the outbreak. The biggest impact will be on travel, hotels and restaurants but Chinese retail spending, factory output and investment also would suffer if the outbreak and quarantines last, forecasters say.
The outbreak is a “notable downside risk” to growth, though it “could potentially be a high impact but short-lived event,” said Tommy Wu and Priyanka Kishore of Oxford Economics in a report.
They pointed to the example of the 2002-2003 SARS outbreak, when economic activity plunged but recovered relatively quickly. The impact should be “less severe” than SARS because of faster official reaction and “increased transparency,” they said.
Abroad, economies including Hong Kong, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore and Philippines with big tourism industries that rely on Chinese travelers “seem most at risk,” said Wu and Kishore.
The U.S. Consulate in Wuhan, said it was arranging to evacuate its diplomats and some American citizens on Tuesday. The French government said it would fly its citizens in Wuhan to France and quarantine them there. Japan also was preparing to fly its citizens out of Wuhan.
French automaker PSA Peugeot Citroen, which has a factory in Wuhan, said it was moving foreign employees and their families by bus to be quarantined in another city.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said his government is considering evacuating its estimated 90 citizens in Wuhan.
T he National Health Commission said 2,744 cases in mainland China were confirmed by midnight Sunday. The youngest patient is a 9-month-old girl in Beijing.
China’s health minister, Ma Xiaowei, said the country was entering a “crucial stage” as “it seems like the ability of the virus to spread is getting stronger.”
President Xi Jinping has called the outbreak a grave situation and said the government was stepping restrictions on travel and public gatherings while rushing medical staff and supplies to Wuhan.
The epidemic has revived memories of the SARS outbreak that originated in China and killed nearly 800 people. Then, Chinese authorities were criticized for reacting slowly and failing to disclose information. The government has responded more aggressively to the latest outbreak.
The National Health Commission said anyone traveling from Wuhan is required to register with community health stations and quarantine themselves at home for 14 days — the virus’ maximum incubation period.
Hong Kong announced it would bar entry to travelers from Hubei, starting Monday. Hong Kong residents returning from the area will be allowed into the territory but were told to quarantine themselves at home.
Also Sunday, Wuhan banned most vehicle use, including private cars, in downtown areas.
Wuhan is building two hospitals, one with 1,500 beds and another with 1,000, for the growing number of patients. The first is scheduled to be finished next week.
The virus is from the coronavirus family that includes the common cold but also more severe illnesses like SARS and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome. The new virus causes cold- and flu-like symptoms, including cough and fever, and in more severe cases, shortness of breath and pneumonia.
The virus is thought to have spread to people from wild animals sold at a market in Wuhan. On Sunday, authorities banned trade in wild animals and urged people to stop eating meat from them.
Alabama fire chief confirms deaths as fire destroys 35 boats
SCOTTSBORO, Ala. — Boaters leaped into the water to escape an explosive fire that consumed at least 35 vessels docked along the Tennessee River early Monday. Authorities said there were fatalities as seven people were sent to hospitals and seven others were initially reported missing.
The blaze was reported shortly after midnight as people living in the boats were sleeping, and consumed the wooden dock and an aluminum roof that covered many of the vessels, cutting off escape routes and raining debris into the water.
“There were numerous people rescued from the water who had escaped by going into the water,” Jackson County Chief Sheriff’s Deputy Rocky Harnen told The Associated Press shortly after dawn. “We’re trying to get divers down here to search for possible victims in the water.”
The fire destroyed the B dock, about 50 yards (46 meters) from the A dock where the boat of Mandy Durham and her boyfriend is moored.
“We woke up hearing screams and popping noises,” Durham said. “When we woke up, we could see red through the window.”
“Within 15 to 20 minutes, the whole dock was in flames,” she said. “All these boats have propane tanks and gas tanks, and that’s a lot of fire.”
People were jumping onto a boat at the end of the dock because fire had consumed the middle portion and that was their only escape. But then the flames spread to that boat, leaving water as their only way out, Durham said.
“Water was the only place they had to go,” Durham said. “Its just extremely sad. It’s horrible.”
Harnen said “we have some confirmed fatalities, but we don’t have an exact number yet.” He added that several of those hospitalized suffered from being in the water, and some were burned.
Scottsboro Fire Chief Gene Necklaus said earlier that seven people were hospitalized and seven others were missing as the fire destroyed at least 35 boats docked in Jackson County Park.
Harnen said officials are trying to account for about seven people who had places on the dock.
“They had slips here,” Harnen. “That doesn’t mean they’re in the water and it doesn’t mean they’re dead. We’re making attempts to find them.”
It’s been a challenge for rescuers to reach the victims, Harnen said: “The damage from the dock has fallen on top of the boats, and some of the boats have drifted off,” he said. The aluminum roof and wood structure was destroyed, as were about three dozen boats. Crews also were using booms in an attempt to contain fuel in the water, he said.
Most of the boats on the dock that burned lived on their boats permanently, but some mainly spent weekends on them, Durham said.
Speaking with the AP shortly after dawn, Durham said there were rescue boats on the water. “Everybody is just hoping to find the ones they knew on that dock. There were families there. It’s devastating,” she said.
The park on the Tennessee River includes a boat ramp, a dock and a restaurant, and offers boat rentals, according to Jackson County’s government website.
Connecticut tribe takes issue with schools’ Indian names
MONTVILLE, Conn. — For decades the Montville High School athletic teams have competed as the “Indians” with the blessing of the Mohegans, the Native American tribe that traces its local history back centuries and today operates one of the world’s biggest casinos.
Then last week, the Mohegan Tribe announced that it no longer supports the use of Indian-related team names.
The reversal has unsettled many in the southeastern Connecticut town, which has considered itself immune to controversies stirred by Native American mascots elsewhere because of its close ties to the federally recognized tribe. Not only is the tribe behind Mohegan Sun a major presence in town, and a booster of its athletic programs, but many tribal members have been among the students to wear the black and orange of the Montville Indians.
The tribe and the school system have communicated over the years to ensure the name honors American Indians and is not used in a derogatory way. The mayor, Ronald McDaniel, said the school system will follow up with the tribe but the name has never been a source of friction.
“I don’t personally find it offensive,” said McDaniel, a Democrat. “We don’t use it in an offensive manner.”
Colleen Rix, a Republican town councilor and a 2000 graduate of Montville High, said the Indians name reflects pride in the history shared by the town and tribe.
“It’s never been a contentious topic,” she said. “I did go to school with several tribal members. It was never this clash between them and us. We were all there and it was, ‘Oh, he’s a tribal member, that’s cool,'” she said.
Supporters draw a distinction with other towns that have mascots wear stereotypical Native American dress or nicknames like “Redskins” or “Redmen” — the name the school board in Killingly, Connecticut, voted to reinstate this month after briefly adopting the name “Red Hawks.”
It was amid the fallout of that reversal that the Democratic speaker of the Connecticut House said state lawmakers should consider banning Native American names and symbols at public schools. Several states already have implemented similar bans or restrictions. Across Connecticut, 19 public schools still use Native American-themed names or imagery.
In a statement shared first last week with The Day newspaper, Mohegan Chief Lynn Malerba said the term “Indians” is not offensive in and of itself and in Montville’s case the name recognizes the first inhabitants of the area. But she said the tribe believes it is time to end the use of American Indian mascots and team names.
“While the stated intent may be to ‘honor’ American Indians, there is a great potential for less than respectful behaviors to occur in conjunction with these mascots. Additionally, people should not be considered mascots. It is demeaning to be relegated to a stereotyping of a people. This should not be allowed to continue,” Malerba said in the written statement on behalf of the tribal council, elders council and medicine woman.
Malerba said in an email there have not been recent conversations with the Montville school system on the topic but she anticipated there would be in light of the proposed legislation.
Montville Schools Superintendent Laurie Pallin said in a written statement to The Day that she has reached out to the tribe to indicate openness to discussions on the topic, saying the school system and tribe have both “viewed our identity as a sign of our combined history, mutual respect and continued collaboration.” She did not respond to requests for comment from The Associated Press.
The tribe’s history is recognized in this community of 20,000 people in other ways including streets named after tribal leaders, the Mohegan Elementary School named for the tribe, and the image of a Native American man on patches worn by Montville police officers.
The Indians name was adopted when Montville High School was built in 1965. The school has consulted with the tribe over the years on the use of the name. An early logo, featuring a Native American man in profile with a feather in his braided hair, has been phased out in favor of the current logo, an orange “M” in a white circle with two feathers falling off to the side.
The tribe, whose casino in town generates close to $1 billion in annual revenue, also has been a financial supporter of the schools and their athletic programs. In the last few years, the tribe has donated over $3,000 for new equipment for a concession stand and donated use of a skybox at a concert for a fundraiser, according to Rocky Stone, president of the Montville High Athletics Boosters Organization.
As far as Stone has heard, students have only been proud to play for Indians teams, including tribal members. If the tribe has a problem with the name, he said, they should reach out to the Board of Education.
“They are tremendous neighbors,” Stone said. “We are lucky to have them and nobody wants to offend them if somebody is offended.”