AP News in Brief 02-23-20

  • A Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents in Florida on June 13, 2016. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel via AP, File)

  • Visitors wearing face masks walk near the Gwanghwamun, the main gate of the 14th-century Gyeongbok Palace, and one of South Korea’s well-known landmarks, in Seoul, South Korea, Saturday. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

Infections climb in South Korea as world fights virus

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea reported an eight-fold jump in viral infections Saturday with more than 400 cases mostly linked to a church and a hospital, while the death toll in Iran climbed to six and a dozen towns in Italy effectively went into lockdowns as health officials around the world battle a new virus that has spread from China.

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Some virus clusters have shown no direct link to travel to China. The spread in Italy prompted local authorities in the Lombardy and Veneto regions to order schools, businesses, and restaurants closed and to cancel sporting events and Masses. Hundreds of residents and workers who came into contact with an estimated 79 people confirmed infected in Italy were in isolation pending test results. Two people infected with the virus have died.

South Korea has reported 433 cases and its third death from the virus, a man in his 40s who was found dead at home and posthumously tested positive. There’s concern that the country’s death toll could grow. In and around South Korea’s fourth-largest city, Daegu, health workers scrambled to screen thousands. Virus patients with signs of pneumonia or other serious conditions at the Cheongdo hospital were transferred to other facilities, 17 of them in critical condition, Vice Health Minister Kim Gang-lip told reporters.

Globally, nearly 78,000 people have been infected in 29 countries, and more than 2,300 have died.

Security adviser: I’ve seen no intel of Moscow helping Trump

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s national security adviser said he’s seen no intelligence indicating that Russia is doing anything to try to help get the president re-elected.

Robert O’Brien’s comments were released Saturday in a transcript of an interview with ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” set to air on Sunday.

“The national security adviser gets pretty good access to our intelligence,” O’Brien said. “I haven’t seen any intelligence that Russia is doing anything to attempt to get President Trump re-elected.”

O’Brien’s comment came after he was asked about media reports that an intelligence professional told members of the House intelligence committee that it was Russia’s aim to favor Trump in the election.

Some officials familiar with the classified briefing said lawmakers were told that Russia was taking steps that would help Trump. And Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders acknowledged Friday that he was briefed last month by U.S. officials about Russian efforts to boost his candidacy.

Report finds Catholic charity founder sexually abused women

PARIS — A respected Catholic figure who worked to improve conditions for the developmentally disabled for more than half a century sexually abused at least six women during most of that period, according to a report released Saturday by the France-based charity he founded.

The report produced for L’Arche International said the women’s descriptions provided enough evidence to show that Jean Vanier engaged in “manipulative sexual relationships” from 1970 to 2005, usually with a “psychological hold” over the alleged victims.

Although he was a layman and not a priest, many Catholics hailed Vanier, who was Canadian, as a living saint for his work with the disabled. He died last year at age 90.

“The alleged victims felt deprived of their free will and so the sexual activity was coerced or took place under coercive conditions,” the report,commissioned by L’Arche last year and prepared by the U.K.-based GCPS Consulting group, said. It did not rule out potential other victims.

None of the women was disabled, a significant point given the Catholic hierarchy has long sought to portray any sexual relationship between religious leaders and other adults as consensual unless there was clear evidence of disability.

Judge halts plan to move virus patients to California city

COSTA MESA, Calif. — A court temporarily blocked the U.S. government from sending up to 50 people infected with a new virus from China to a Southern California city for quarantine after local officials argued that the plan lacked details about how the community would be protected from the outbreak.

A federal judge issued a temporary restraining order late Friday to halt the transportation of anyone who has tested positive for the new coronavirus to Costa Mesa, a city of 110,000 in the heart of Orange County. U.S. District Judge Josephine L. Stanton scheduled a hearing on the issue Monday.

City officials quickly sought court intervention after learning from the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services that U.S. officials planned to start moving patients to a state-owned facility in Costa Mesa as early as Sunday.

They said in court documents that local officials were not included in the planning effort and wanted to know why the Fairview Developmental Center was considered a suitable quarantine site and what kind of safeguards were in place to prevent the possible transmission of the virus that has spread worldwide.

“The city has not been part of any of the process that led to the consideration of the site, and it would be unfair to not include us in this kind of significant decision that has great impact on our community,” Mayor Katrina Foley told the Orange County Register.

Bus rollover kills 3, injures 18 outside San Diego

PALA MESA, Calif. — A charter bus swerved on a rain-slicked Southern California highway and rolled down an embankment Saturday, killing three people and injuring 18 others, authorities said.

Several passengers were thrown from the bus, and one of the dead was trapped under the vehicle after it landed on its roof shortly after 10 a.m. off Interstate 15 in Pala Mesa, an unincorporated community about 45 miles (72 kilometers) north of San Diego, North County Fire Protection District spokesman John Choi said.

“There were no seat belts on this bus,” Choi said. Another person who died was trapped inside the bus, he added.

The wounded were taken to three hospitals with varying injuries, Choi said.

A California Highway Patrol officer told the San Diego Union-Tribune thatone of the patients was in critical condition and three others suffered major injuries.

DEA agent accused of conspiring with Colombian cartel

MIAMI — A once-standout U.S. federal narcotics agent known for spending lavishly on luxury cars and Tiffany jewelry has been arrested on charges of conspiring to launder money with the same Colombian drug cartel he was supposed to be fighting.

Jose Irizarry and his wife were arrested Friday at their home near San Juan, Puerto Rico, as part of a 19-count federal indictment that accused the 46-year-old Irizarry of “secretly using his position and his special access to information” to divert millions in drug proceeds from control of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

“It’s a black eye for the DEA to have one of its own engaged in such a high level of corruption,” said Mike Vigil, the DEA’s former Chief of International Operations. “He jeopardized investigations. He jeopardized other agents and he jeopardized informants.”

Federal prosecutors in Tampa, Florida, allege the conspiracy not only enriched Irizarry but benefited two unindicted co-conspirators, neither of whom is named in the indictment. One was employed as a Colombian public official while the other was described as the head of a drug trafficking and money laundering organization who became the godfather to the Irizarry couple’s children in 2015, when the DEA agent was posted to the Colombian resort city of Cartagena at the time.

From wire sources

When The Associated Press revealed the scale of Irizarry’s alleged wrongdoing last year, it sent shockwaves through the DEA, where his ostentatious habits and tales of raucous yacht parties with bikini-clad prostitutes were legendary among agents

Yemen’s Houthi rebels impeding UN aid flow, demand a cut

Yemen’s Houthi rebels have blocked half of the United Nations’ aid delivery programs in the war-torn country — a strong-arm tactic to force the agency to give them greater control over the massive humanitarian campaign, along with a cut of billions of dollars in foreign assistance, according to aid officials and internal documents obtained by The Associated Press.

The rebel group has made granting access to areas under their control contingent on a flurry of conditions that aid agencies reject, in part because it would give the Houthis greater sway over who receives aid, documents and interviews show.

The Houthis’ obstruction has hindered several programs that feed the near-starving population and help those displaced by the nearly 6-year civil war, a senior U.N. official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the situation.

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“Over 2 million beneficiaries … are directly affected,” the official said.

The Houthis have been pushing back against U.N. efforts to tighten monitoring of some $370 million a year that its agencies already give to government institutions controlled mostly by the rebel group, documents show. That money is supposed to pay salaries and other administration costs, but more than a third of the money spent last year wasn’t audited, according to an internal document leaked to the AP.

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