China’s new virus cases, deaths rise but increase is lower
BEIJING — New virus cases in China rose by just 394 from the previous day, with a rise in the death toll of 114, the government said Thursday, as health inspectors went door-to-door to find every infected person in the worst-hit city.
Mainland China has now reported 2,118 deaths and 74,576 total cases. While the overall spread of the virus has been slowing, the situation remains severe in Hubei province and its capital, Wuhan, where the new coronavirus was first detected in December. More than 80% of the country’s cases are in Hubei and 95% of the deaths, according to data from China’s National Health Commission.
The new daily figure is a notable drop from the 1,749 cases recorded the previous day.
Inspectors in protective suits went door-to-door Wednesday in Wuhan to try to find every infected person. “This must be taken seriously,” said Wang Zhonglin, the city’s newly minted Communist Party secretary.
Cities in Hubei with a combined population of more than 60 million have been under lockdown since the Lunar New Year holiday last month, usually China’s busiest travel period. Authorities halted nearly all transportation and movement except for quarantine efforts, medical care, and delivery of food and basic necessities. “Wartime” measures were implemented in some places, with residents prevented from leaving their apartments.
Trump picks pardon requests from wealthy pals and GOP donors
WASHINGTON — There’s a common thread among the 11 felons who found favor with President Donald Trump this week — all who were pardoned or set free had advocates among the president’s wealthy friends and political allies.
In at least some cases, including former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and ’80s junk-bond king Michael Milken, Trump has personal relationships with those he granted clemency. In three others he drew on the recommendations of a Tennessee grandmother he’d previously granted clemency at the urging of reality-TV star Kim Kardashian West.
“I rely on recommendations, very importantly,” Trump said Tuesday as he announced his decisions.
But, as with other aspects of Trump’s presidency, the president has veered from institutional norms. Historically, those recommended for presidential pardons are vetted through a formal process in which their petitions are reviewed by a team of Justice Department lawyers. In those past cases, typically there has been either strong evidence of wrongful conviction or the offenders have expressed remorse for their crimes and spent decades making amends.
Tuesday’s announcement from the White House instead often sought to minimize the severity of the crimes that had been committed, and listed the names of GOP mega-donors, celebrities and Fox News personalities who had advocated for the felons to get a break.
From wire sources
Lawyer: Assange was offered US pardon if he cleared Russia
LONDON — WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange plans to claim during an extradition hearing that the Trump administration offered him a pardon if he agreed to say Russia was not involved in leaking Democratic National Committee emails during the 2016 U.S. election campaign, a lawyer for Assange said Wednesday.
Assange is being held at a British prison while fighting extradition to the United States on spying charges. His full court hearing is due to begin next week.
At a preliminary hearing held in London, lawyer Edward Fitzgerald said now-former Republican congressman, Dana Rohrabacher, visited Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in August 2017.
Fitzgerald said a statement from another Assange lawyer, Jennifer Robinson, recounted “Mr. Rohrabacher going to see Mr. Assange and saying, on instructions from the president, he was offering a pardon or some other way out, if Mr. Assange … said Russia had nothing to do with the DNC leaks.”
Responding to the the lawyer’s claims, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said, “This is absolutely and completely false.”
Plaintiffs’ attorneys take aim at Boy Scouts’ `dark history’
SALT LAKE CITY — Like millions of other Americans in the 1950s and ’60s, Duane Ruth-Heffelbower spent his formative years learning to tie knots, build campfires and pitch tents with the Boy Scouts, whose wholesome, God-fearing reputation was burnished by Normal Rockwell’s magazine-cover paintings of fresh-faced Scouts, brave, courteous and cheerful.
Though he’s no longer involved in Scouting, the 70-year-old Mennonite minister from Fresno, California, has followed the slow deterioration of the Boy Scouts of America from afar and cringes to think what this week’s bankruptcy filing over a blizzard of sex-abuse lawsuits might mean for an organization already grappling with a steep decline in membership.
“It’s really sad. I’m afraid that people are going to be more skeptical than they were once about the organization and will be more inclined to look for other alternatives to Scouting,” said Ruth-Heffelbower, who grew up in Kansas. “Theses days there are so many things pulling at kids.”
With its finances and its vaunted reputation for moral rectitude damaged by scandal, the Scouts resorted to Chapter 11 bankruptcy Tuesday in hopes of pulling through the crisis by setting up a victims’ compensation fund for thousands of men who were molested as boys by Scout leaders over the decades.
The fund could top $1 billion, but to raise the money, the national organization could be forced to sell some of its real estate holdings, which include its headquarters in Irving, Texas, and a huge campground in New Mexico.
UN: Thousands fleeing Syrian offensive, kids dying in cold
UNITED NATIONS — Hundreds of thousands of people fleeing a Russian-backed Syrian offensive are being squeezed into ever smaller areas near Turkey’s border “under horrendous conditions” in freezing temperatures that are killing babies and young children, the U.N. humanitarian chief said Wednesday.
Mark Lowcock told the U.N. Security Council that “the unfolding humanitarian catastrophe” in northwest Idlib province, which is the last major rebel stronghold, has “overwhelmed” efforts to provide aid.
He said nearly 900,000 people have been displaced since Dec. 1 when the government offensive began, more than 500,000 of them children.
“Many are on foot or on the backs of trucks in below-freezing temperatures, in the rain and snow,” Lowcock said. “They are moving into increasingly crowded areas they think will be safer. But in Idlib, nowhere is safe.”
Lowock, the undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs, said almost 50,000 people have taken shelter under trees and in open spaces. “I am getting daily reports of babies and other young children dying in the cold,” he added.
Label: Rapper Pop Smoke slain in Hollywood Hills shooting
LOS ANGELES — Pop Smoke, a rising Brooklyn rapper who had a breakout year of hit songs and albums that made some of the biggest names in hip-hop his fans and collaborators, was fatally shot during a break-in Wednesday at a Hollywood Hills home, his label said.
“We are devastated by the unexpected and tragic loss of Pop Smoke,” said a statement from Republic Records, the label of the 20-year-old whose legal name was Bashar Barakah Jackson. “Our prayers and thoughts go out to his family, friends and fans, as we mourn this loss together.”
Los Angeles police did not immediately confirm the identification and have not announced any arrests.
Police officers found a victim shortly before 5 a.m. after responding to a 911 call from someone who reported intruders, including one armed with a handgun, were breaking in, police Capt. Steve Lurie said.
Public listings show that the home is owned by Edwin Arroyave and his wife Teddi Mellencamp, daughter ofRock &Roll Hall-of-FamerJohn Mellencamp and a star of “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.”