In Brief: January 3, 2021

California funeral homes run out of space as COVID-19 rages

LOS ANGELES — As communities across the country feel the pain of a surge in coronavirus cases, funeral homes in the hot spot of Southern California say they must turn away grieving families as they run out of space for the bodies piling up.

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The head of the state funeral directors association says mortuaries are being inundated as the United States nears a grim tally of 350,000 COVID-19 deaths. More than 20 million people in the country have been infected, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

“I’ve been in the funeral industry for 40 years and never in my life did I think that this could happen, that I’d have to tell a family, ‘No, we can’t take your family member,’” said Magda Maldonado, owner of Continental Funeral Home in Los Angeles.

Continental is averaging about 30 body removals a day — six times its normal rate. Mortuary owners are calling one another to see whether anyone can handle overflow, and the answer is always the same: They’re full, too.

In order to keep up with the flood of bodies, Maldonado has rented extra 50-foot (15-meter) refrigerators for two of the four facilities she runs in LA and surrounding counties. Continental has also been delaying pickups at hospitals for a day or two while they deal with residential clients.

3rd body found after landslide in Norway; 7 still missing

HELSINKI — Rescue teams searching for survivors four days after a landslide carried away homes in a Norwegian village found no signs of life Saturday amid the ruined buildings and debris.

Three bodies have been recovered but searchers are still looking for seven more people believed to be missing. The landslide in the village of Ask is the worst in modern Norwegian history and has shocked citizens in the Nordic nation.

Search teams patrolled with dogs as helicopters and drones with heat-detecting cameras flew amid harsh winter conditions over the ravaged hillside in Ask, a village of 5,000 people 25 kilometers (16 miles) northeast of Oslo.

Norwegian police pledged not to scale down the search even though a rescue team from neighboring Sweden has already returned home.

Local police chief Ida Melbo Oeystese said it may still be possible to find survivors in air pockets inside the destroyed buildings.

UK judge to rule on US extradition for WikiLeaks’ Assange

LONDON — WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will find out Monday whether he can be extradited from the U.K. to the U.S. to face espionage charges over the publication of secret American military documents.

District Judge Vanessa Baraitser is due to deliver her decision at London’s Old Bailey courthouse at 10 a.m. Monday. If she grants the request, then Britain’s home secretary, Priti Patel, would make the final decision.

Whichever side loses is expected to appeal, which could lead to years more legal wrangling.

However, there’s a possibility that outside forces may come into play that could instantly end the decade-long saga.

Stella Moris, Assange’s partner and the mother of his two sons, has appealed to U.S. President Donald Trump via Twitter to grant a pardon to Assange before he leaves office on Jan. 20.

From wire sources

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In graying Italy, the old defy biases laid bare by pandemic

ROME — From his newsstand at the bottom of two hilly streets in Rome, Armando Alviti has been dispensing newspapers, magazines and good cheer to locals from before dawn till after dusk nearly every day for more than a half-century.

“Ciao, Armando,” his customers greet him as part of their daily routine. “Ciao, amore (love)” he calls back. Alviti chuckled as he recalled how, when he was a young boy, newspaper deliverers would drop off the day’s stacks at his parents’ newsstand, sit him in the emptied baskets of their motorbikes and take him for a spin.

Since he turned 18, Alviti has operated the newsstand seven days a week, with a wool tweed cap to protect him from the Italian capital’s winter dampness and a tabletop fan to cool him during its torrid summers. A mighty battle therefore ensued when the coronavirus reached Italy and his two grown sons insisted that Alviti, who is 71 and diabetic, stay home while they took turns juggling their own jobs to keep the newsstand open.

“They were afraid I would die. I know they love me crazy,” Alviti said.

Throughout the pandemic, health authorities around the world have stressed the need to protect the people most at risk of complications from COVID-19, a group which infection and mortality data quickly revealed included older adults. With 23% of its population age 65 or older, Italy has the world’s second-oldest population, after Japan, with 28%.

Report: Talk show host Larry King in hospital with COVID-19

LOS ANGELES — Former CNN talk show host Larry King has been hospitalized with COVID-19 for more than a week, the news channel reported Saturday.

Citing an unidentified person close to the family, CNN said the 87-year-old King is undergoing treatment at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Hospital protocols have kept King’s family members from visiting him.

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The Peabody Award-winning broadcaster was among America’s most prominent interviewers of celebrities, presidents and other newsmakers during a half-century career that included 25 years with a nightly show on CNN.

He has had medical issues in recent decades, including heart attacks and diagnoses of diabetes and lung cancer.

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