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Sen. Tom Cotton Still Pitching Debunked Theory About Coronavirus




The lab theory, which has been circulating in right-wing publications and on the internet, also suggests the virus may have started as an unleashed biological weapon. “We don’t know where it originated,” Cotton said on Fox News on Sunday. “But we do know we have to get to the bottom of that. We also know that just a few miles away from that food market is China’s only biosafety level 4 super laboratory that researches human infectious diseases.”Although Cotton admitted there was no evidence to suggest the disease actually originated at the Wuhan National Biosafety Laboratory, he then complained about China’s “duplicity and dishonesty.” 
Cui Tiankai, Chinese ambassador to the U.S., denounced Cotton’s theory on “Face The Nation” earlier this month.

“It’s very harmful, it’s very dangerous to stir up suspicion, rumors and spread them among the people,” Cui said. “For one thing, this will create panic. Another thing is that it will fan up racial discrimination, xenophobia, all these things that will really harm our joint efforts to combat the virus.”

Vipin Narang, an associate professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told The Washington Post that “we don’t have any evidence” that the general population was exposed to a virus through an accident at a lab. He called Cotton’s speculation a conspiracy theory that was borderline irresponsible.
“Cotton should spend more time funding the agencies in the United States that can help contain and combat the virus rather than trying to assign blame,” Narang said.

Richard Ebright, a professor of chemical biology at Rutgers University, also told the Post that there was nothing in the genome sequence of the virus that indicated it had been engineered.
“The possibility this was a deliberately released bioweapon can be firmly excluded,” Ebright added.
The coronavirus, know as COVID-19, has killed at least 1,666 people and infected more than 68,500 people globally, the vast majority in mainland China.



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More Than 40 Americans Infected With Coronavirus On Quarantined Cruise Ship




More than 40 Americans are among several hundred people who have tested positive for the coronavirus while quarantined on a cruise ship in Japan, health officials said Sunday.
A total of 355 people aboard the Diamond Princess are infected with the virus, according to Japanese health minister Katsunobu Kato.
Forty-four of those infected passengers are Americans, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told The Washington Post.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Several dozen Americans are among the 355 people who have become infected with the coronavirus while on the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan.

The passengers have been under a mandatory quarantine for more than a week while docked in the Japanese port city of Yokohama, near Tokyo.
Everyone infected on the ship will be taken to hospitals in Japan while all others will be evacuated to the U.S., where they will undergo a second quarantine, Fauci said on “Face The Nation.”
“They are not going to go anywhere,” Fauci said. “The degree of transmissibility on that cruise ship is essentially akin to being in a hot spot.”
Anyone who begins to show symptoms while being evacuated to the U.S. will be separated on the return flight, he added.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Buses carrying American passengers from the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship leave a port in Yokohama, near Tokyo, on Monday.

The news comes one day after authorities confirmed that an 83-year-old American woman who had been cleared to leave a cruise ship in Cambodia and then flew to Malaysia has since tested positive for the virus.
Fauci warned that the outbreak is “on the verge” of becoming a global pandemic “unless containment is more successful than it is right now.”
Globally, there have been 51,857 laboratory-confirmed cases of the virus since the outbreak began in China late last year, according to the World Health Organization.
The vast majority of the cases have been in China, though 15 people in the U.S. who were recently in China have also tested positive for the illness.

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American Woman On Second Cruise Ship Has Been Diagnosed With Coronavirus




An American woman from yet another cruise ship in Asia has been diagnosed with the coronavirus  — just as U.S. officials prepare to evacuate hundreds of U.S. citizens on a separate quarantined ship that has been docked off Japan.
An unidentified 83-year-old woman on the MS Westerdam that finally docked in Cambodia after being shunned by other countries was the first passenger onboard to test positive, health authorities revealed on Saturday, Reuters reported. She was cleared to leave the ship, but then tested positive later for the virus in Malaysia after flying there, reported The Washington Post.
Last week another American woman tested positive for the virus during quarantine on the Diamond Princess cruise ship that has been docked since Feb. 4 in a Japanese port.
“It was like a punch in the gut,” Diamond Princess passenger Rebecca Frasure, 35, of Forest Gove, Oregon, told CNN Saturday. “I was so sure that this was going to come out negative,” she added, referring to the test.
Frasure is one of at least 24 Americans among 355 passengers who were infected with the virus on the ship. None of them can now board a flight to the U.S. with some 380 other American passengers the government plans to evacuate from the ship Sunday evening. Frasure will have to remain in the isolation unit of a Tokyo hospital. Others diagnosed with the coronavirus must also stay behind for treatment in Japan.
Frasure’s husband, Kent, remains on the cruise ship that began with 3,700 passengers and crew members docked off Yokohama, and it’s unclear what he will do.
American passengers who choose to be evacuated face an additional 14 days in quarantine once they land in the U.S. They will be flown to Air Force bases in California or Texas.
Americans on board were angry that officials took so long to take steps to get them off the ship as an increasing number of travelers have become infected. 
One passenger told The Daily News that she feels like a “sitting duck,” adding: “I think that every single minute, I’m at greater risk of getting” the virus. She compared the situation to living in a “Stephen King novel.”
The Japanese government said Saturday that it “appreciates” the U.S. government’s decision to offer voluntary evacuation to American citizens on the Diamond Princess.
Frasure is expected to survive, according to Kent Frasure’s father, Evan. But the ordeal has been “scary” for the entire family, he told The Idaho State Journal. Frasure told The Oregonian she has only suffered a “light cough.”
It’s unclear when she will be allowed to leave the hospital.
The MS Westerdam passenger flew to Malaysia Friday from Cambodia along with 144 others from the ship, the Malaysian health ministry said in a statement. She is listed in stable condition, according to Reuters.
The woman’s husband also appeared to have symptoms, but has so far tested negative, Reuters reported. They were the only ones of the 145 who flew to Malaysia with symptoms.
The MS Westerdam docked in the Cambodian port of Sihanoukville Thursday with1,455 passengers and 802 crew. It spent two weeks at sea after being turned away by Japan, Taiwan, Guam, the Philippines and Thailand.
The passengers were tested regularly on board. Fewer than 300 people remained on the ship Saturday, Reuters reported.
The coronavirus, officially know as Covid-19, has killed at least 1,666 people and infected more than 68,500 people globally, the vast majority in mainland China.

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Carlin Ross Wants You To Have An Orgasm, So She Gave Herself One On TV




You’d be totally justified in being wary of Gwyneth Paltrow’s Netflix series “The Goop Lab” and its promised alternative outlook on wellness, based on Goop’s questionable past and the series’ promotional imagery: a wide-smiling Paltrow standing inside what appears to be a vagina. 
Gwyneth Paltrow welcomes you to The Goop Lab on January 24 pic.twitter.com/ZzeEEbAy9L— See What’s Next (@seewhatsnext) January 6, 2020

Or wait ― isn’t it a vulva? (Spoiler alert: It is.) 
But if you didn’t already know that, the third episode of the controversial series offers viewers a basic anatomy lesson that helps answer that very question.
The episode, “The Pleasure is Ours,” seems to be the most well-received of the series, thanks to 90-year-old sex educator Betty Dodson, her no-bullshit attitude, and her protege Carlin Ross. In the episode, Dodson and Ross discuss their work destigmatizing pleasure while helping women find self-acceptance (and orgasms). 
“The Board of Gynecologists came out and said, ‘We know [Paltrow] screwed up with the vagina eggs, but this episode has real information, and we stand behind it,’” Ross told HuffPost over the phone last week. “I was like ‘Whoa,’” she said, laughing.
Ross, an attorney, joined Dodson on her decadeslong mission in 2009 after interviewing Dodson, who has a Ph.D. in sexology and is widely regarded as a pioneer in women’s liberation, for a podcast. They shook on the partnership that day, and Ross now calls herself “keeper of all things Betty Dodson.” She runs their website, is president of the Betty Dodson Foundation and leads their workshops and certification program. 
“Both Betty and I saw in each other that we’ve always been criticized for being too aggressive, too male,” Ross said. “Whenever you know what you want, do what you want, like to have a fifth drink, like to have a good fuck, it’s like, ‘Oh, you’re a man.’ I’m not a man. I’m a full woman.” 
That confident attitude contributed in part to Ross agreeing to show her vulva, masturbating ― and orgasming ― on screen during their Goop episode, which features Dodson’s “Rock ‘n’ Roll” technique.
Ross told HuffPost she was the one who suggested appearing so openly in the episode, but she was “in denial” about whether it would actually happen.

Dodson & Ross

Betty Dodson and Carlin Ross’ mission is to help women find self-acceptance and pleasure.

“I knew I would shoot it because it’s an opportunity,” she said. “I thought of how different my life would be if, in my teens or 20s, if I had seen this kind of information. But there was a part of me that felt like they were going to shelve it, and part of me wanted them to.”
Among Ross’ trepidations was how she thought the episode might affect her four-year-old son.
“I’m like, ’Is he going to be on the playground and his friends will be like, ‘I saw your mom’s vulva!’” she said. “I don’t want to be like, that sex mom. I always make sure our house doesn’t have dildos all over the place, you know?”
Ultimately, though, Ross’s desire to educate outweighed her concerns, a mission that has driven Dodson throughout her decadeslong career.

When they showed my vulva on the big screen at the premiere of the episode, I grabbed Betty’s hand and was like, ‘It’s so big!’ But then you laugh and go, is it such a big deal?
Carlin Ross

“Women travel from all over the world to take our workshop,” Dodson told HuffPost over email. “I can’t believe it sometimes. We had two women from China who weren’t fluent in English. During the last ritual, I ask the women to choose one word that sums up their experience. They said ‘sisterhood’ and ‘freedom.’ Bodysex is deeper than words.”
Ross told HuffPost being with Dodson makes a person feel like they can do anything ― including shooting that scene.
“When they showed my vulva on the big screen at the premiere of the episode, I grabbed Betty’s hand and was like, ‘It’s so big!’ But then you laugh and go, is it such a big deal? You go into the Met and there are penises on every statue, penises everywhere. Everyone’s sending you unsolicited dick pics. It’s like, ‘Was it so crazy over-the-top?’ It was, but it shouldn’t be.” 

Dodson & Ross

Betty Dodson in 1970. She has made sex and pleasure education her career for decades.

Ross said she and Dodson are floored by the overwhelming response to their episode and the positive reactions. She tries to answer every email she receives ― many of which detail sexual trauma ― personally.
“They don’t just say, ‘I saw you on the show,’” she said. “They say, ‘I was in an abusive marriage,’ or ‘I was gang-raped and I’ve been carrying that’ or ‘I never got any information and I’m 50 and I’ve never had an orgasm.’ I never feel overwhelmed by the work, but I tear up sometimes and sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the need. These women are so isolated. What I always lead with is, as women, we’ve all been traumatized to some degree; you’re not alone.” 
Dodson and Ross travel the world hosting workshops, record videos discussing sex and love, and sell products ― including a stainless steel barbell Dodson created that serves as a pleasure device and vaginal exerciser that sold out immediately after appearing on “Goop Lab.” It’s all part of their mission to help women find and embrace pleasure.
“Pleasure is about self-love and independent orgasms,” Dodson told HuffPost. “Once a woman is orgasmic, she’s dangerous because she can’t be kept down. She’s in her power. I’m an old feminist warhorse who never thought we’d see a vulva and an orgasm on any screen, let alone Netflix. Fuck me, it feels wonderful.” 

Once a woman is orgasmic, she’s dangerous because she can’t be kept down. She’s in her power.
Betty Dodson

Ross added that having frank discussions about women’s bodies and their pleasure is a powerful way to move the culture forward in regards to sexual wellness and shatter the shame associated with sex and genitals. 
“We do our workshops nude, and at the beginning, we go around the circle and say, ‘How do you feel about your body and how do you feel about your orgasm?’” Ross said. “No one says, ‘I feel great about my body, I have multiple orgasms all the time.’ You connect because you hear your story in everyone else’s, you realized we have all been oppressed. That, in and of itself, is very liberating.” 
Watching Dodson work is equally as liberating. At 90, she told HuffPost she doesn’t recognize her aging body, but her self-love rocks (and rolls) on.
“Partners have come and gone, but the love affair I have with myself keeps on going,” she said. “I love me. I don’t masturbate as often but I have orgasms. Your clitoris never ages.” 
As for what she thinks of her “Goop Lab” episode and the reactions to it?
“It’s about time,” she said. 
Learn more about Dodson and Ross’ work here.

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France Announces First Coronavirus Death In Europe




PARIS (AP) — France’s health minister on Saturday announced the first coronavirus death in Europe, an 80-year-old Chinese tourist who other French authorities say was initially turned away from two French hospitals when he first fell ill.
Minister Agnes Buzyn said she was informed Friday night of the death of the patient, who had been in intensive care at Bichat Hospital in Paris after testing positive in late January.
His daughter also tested positive for the virus that has spread across central China and was hospitalized. However, the health minister said she was doing well and should be leaving Bichat shortly. The hospital is among a handful in France with special isolation rooms.
As of Saturday, four of the 11 confirmed virus cases in France have been “cured” and left the hospital, the latest a French physician on Friday, she said. Six others still remain hospitalized.
The deceased patient, a Chinese tourist from the province of Hubei, had a serious lung infection caused by the COVID-19 virus.
There were contradictory reports about the timing of the man’s illness. Buzyn said he arrived in France on Jan. 16 and was hospitalized on Jan. 25 under strict isolation measures but his condition deteriorated rapidly.
Other French medical officials said earlier that the man had arrived in France on Jan. 23 and quickly fell ill.
Dr. Yazdan Yazdanpanah, head of Bichat’s infectious diseases unit, said the man had visited two French hospitals but because he “didn’t fulfill the definition” of someone at risk of having the virus, the hospitals decided it was unnecessary to test him. The man did not live in Wuhan, the central Chinese city hardest-hit by the virus, but was from Hubei province that includes Wuhan.
He later tested positive and was admitted to Bichat on Jan. 29, Yazdanpanah said.
Nine European countries collectively have 46 cases of the virus that first emerged in central China in December, with Germany having the most at 16.
The virus has infected more than 67,000 people globally and has killed at least 1,526 patients, the vast majority in China. The World Health Organization has called the virus a threat to global health.
Chinese authorities have placed some 60 million people under a strict lockdown, built emergency hospitals and instituted controls across the country to fight the spread of the virus. Restaurants, cinemas and other businesses have been closed nationwide and sports and cultural events have been canceled to prevent crowds from gathering.
In Munich on Saturday, chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told a gathering of the world’s top defense officials and diplomats that his country was “determined to fight and win this battle” against the virus, and suggested that its efforts were paying off.
“Dawn is breaking and we are seeing light coming through,” Wang said through a translator.
He said the epidemic has presented a “severe challenge” to China’s economy growth but said it was well positioned to rebound.
“The fundamentals sustaining strong economic growth have not changed, and will not change,” he said. “After the storm comes the rainbow, and we are confident that China will emerge stronger from the epidemic.”
Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said all Italians who sought repatriation from Wuhan due to the coronavirus have returned to Italy. The last was 17-year-old student who arrived on a military flight early Saturday after being twice refused passage due to a fever. The teen has tested negative for coronavirus, and will now spend two weeks in quarantine at a military facility near Rome.

David Rising in Munich, Frank Jordans in Berlin and Colleen Barry in Milan contributed.

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L.A. Officials Say Asian Teen Was Assaulted, Bullied Over Coronavirus Fears




A 16-year-old Asian student in Los Angeles County was sent to the emergency room this week after being assaulted over unfounded fears of the coronavirus outbreak, according to local authorities.
L.A. County officials held a news conference on Thursday to condemn the rise in anti-Asian sentiment, fearmongering and apparent violence that stems from misinformation about the virus known as COVID-19, which was first detected in mainland China. 
The victimized student, who was from the San Fernando Valley, was reportedly brought to the emergency room after an alleged assault and required an MRI to check for signs of concussion, KCBS-TV in Los Angeles reported. Los Angeles police are investigating the incident.
“A young person was bullied … , physically attacked and accused of having the coronavirus simply because he was Asian American,” Manjusha Kulkarni, executive director of the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council (A3PCON), said Thursday.
Kulkarni told HuffPost that the student’s family didn’t initially want to make the attack public “because they wanted to maintain their child’s privacy and were worried about his safety and well-being.” However, the family is currently working with school officials to respond to the alleged attack, she added. A3PCON has been communicating with the student and his family to support them during this time.
Officials didn’t further identify the victim nor the school. The student’s family was afraid to speak out, according to KABC-TV in Los Angeles.
Community leaders gather in #GrandPark to educate about how #coronavirus is transmitted and fight reported racist backlash @CBSLA pic.twitter.com/uUWVA15cZ2— Kara Finnstrom (@KaraFinnstrom) February 13, 2020

Misinformation surrounding the new coronavirus has led to spikes of racist fearmongering against Asian people.
Chinese restaurant owners in New York City have reported seeing fewer customers in recent weeks due to the fear of the spread of coronavirus, despite there being no confirmed cases of the new virus in the state.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) urged residents to support Asian businesses to combat anti-Asian sentiment driven by fear of the coronavirus during a visit Thursday to Flushing in Queens, which has one of the largest Chinese communities in the U.S.
“In hard times, New Yorkers know to stand by their neighbors,” de Blasio said. “We’re in Flushing today to embrace Asian American-owned small businesses and say to all New Yorkers: New York City’s Chinatowns are open for business.”
Kulkarni said that the backlash burdening Asians in the U.S. during the outbreak is linked to longstanding racism against Asian people that harks back to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and the Japanese American concentration camps during World War II.
“I think with groups of color or marginalized communities, there is a feeling that [those groups] did something to cause [the problem],” Kulkarni said. “The same was true with Ebola and H1N1. You can see that in some of the hate, which includes references to Chinese eating dogs or reptiles or other animals that Americans do not consume.”
There have been only 15 confirmed cases in the U.S. of the novel coronavirus in seven states, including eight cases in California.
Robin Toma, assistant director of the L.A. County Human Relations Commission, warned Los Angeles residents against unnecessary panic and fear.
“We also need to make sure we’ve educated ourselves on our own prejudices,” he said Thursday. “That means really checking ourselves, thinking before you act and make an assumption. Are you doing something based on a gross generalization or stereotype about another group?”
He also reminded people that being Asian doesn’t make someone more susceptible to the virus.
“Many may be quick to assume that just because someone is Asian or from China that somehow they are more likely to be carriers of the virus,” he said. “We need to speak out against this when we see it. We need to speak up, not be bystanders, be upstanders.”

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13 Amazing Photos You Missed This Week



With the never-stopping news cycle, it’s easy to miss great images that fly under the radar. We’ve got you covered.

We’re highlighting exceptional photos from around the world for the week of Feb. 8-14. Check them out below. 
Above: The year’s first supermoon is seen next to Selimiye Mosque in Edirne, Turkey, on Feb. 9, 2020. A supermoon is a full moon that roughly coincides with the closest distance that the Moon reaches to Earth, resulting in a larger-than-usual visible size of the lunar disk. 

Yawar Nazir via Getty Images

An Indian Muslim woman shows her indelible ink-marked finger after casting her vote outside a polling station on Feb. 8 in Delhi, India.

Suhaimi Abdullah via Getty Images

The Ba Yi aerobatics team from China’s Army Air Force perform an aerial display with J-10 fighter jets during the media preview for the Singapore Airshow on Feb. 9.

PAUL FAITH via Getty Images

Robyn Peoples (left) and Sharni Edwards kiss as they pose for photographs after becoming the first same-sex couple to get married in Northern Ireland. The ceremony was held in Carrickfergus, north of Belfast, on Feb. 11.

MARK RALSTON via Getty Images

Nacho Libre wrestlers perform during the Lucha Vavoom ‘Valentines Day’ show at the Mayan Theatre in Los Angeles on Feb. 12.

CATRINUS VAN DER VEEN via Getty Images

A man stands on the edge of a seawall during Storm Ciara in Harlingen, The Netherlands, on Feb.  9. The storm was marked by unusually high winds across Europe, causing many countries to cancel national and international sporting events.

Kevork Djansezian via Getty Images

Writer-director Bong Joon Ho had his hands full after the 92nd Annual Academy Awards show in Los Angeles on Feb. 9. His film “Parasite” won the Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and Best International Feature Film.

Alex Grimm via Getty Images

German Firat Arslan recoils from a punch thrown by South African Kevin Lerena during their IBO World Championship Cruiserweight title fight in Goeppingen, Germany, on Feb. 8. Lerena, the reigning champion in the division, won in 6 rounds.

PABLO GARCIA via Getty Images

Two migrants are pictured on board the Spanish NGO Maydayterraneo’s Aita Mari rescue boat on Feb. 10, a day after their rescue off the Libyan coast. 

Armando Franca/AP

Kai Lenny of Hawaii rides a wave during a surfing competition at Praia do Norte in Nazaré, Portugal, on Feb. 11.

LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA via Getty Images

Buddhist monks take their places before prayers during Makha Bucha celebrations at Wat Dhammakaya temple in Bangkok on Feb. 8.

Lee Jin-man/AP

South Korea’s You Young performs during the gala exhibition at the International Skating Union’s Four Continents Figure Skating Championships in Seoul, South Korea, on Feb. 9.

Idris Solomon / Reuters

A model presents a creation from the Marc Jacobs Fall/Winter 2020 collection during New York Fashion Week on Feb. 12.

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More Than 1,700 Chinese Health Workers Infected By Virus, 6 Die




BEIJING (AP) — More than 1,700 Chinese medical workers have been infected by the new virus that has killed nearly 1,400 people and spread to other parts of Asia and as far as the U.S. and Europe, a senior Chinese official announced Friday.
Six of the workers have died, Zeng Yixin, vice director of the National Health Commission, said at a news conference.
The health commission is “highly concerned about this issue” and has issued guidelines for the prevention and control of infection within medical institutions, he said.
Medical workers account for about 3.8% of confirmed cases as of several days ago, Zeng said.
The commission also reported another sizable rise in the number of infections as a result of a new way of counting adopted by Hebei province, the hardest-hit area.
Confirmed cases in mainland China rose to 63,851 by the end of Thursday, up 5,090 from the previous day. The death toll rose 121 to 1,380.
Hubei province is now including cases based on a physician’s diagnosis before they have been confirmed by lab tests. Of the 5,090 new cases, 3,095 fell into that category.
The acceleration in the number of cases does not necessarily represent a sudden surge in new infections of the virus that causes COVID-19 as much as the revised methodology.
The health commission has said that the change was aimed at identifying suspected cases so they can be treated more quickly, though experts also saw it as a reflection of the crush of people seeking treatment and the struggle to keep up with a backlog of untested samples in Hubei and its capital, Wuhan, where the disease first surfaced in December.
In Taiwan, about 100 family members of people stuck in Hubei province protested outside Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council headquarters in the capital, Taipei.
About 1,000 Taiwanese hoping to fly home on charter flights have sparked a dispute between their government and China.
One flight brought 247 people back on Feb. 4. Three were not on a passenger list that Taiwan gave to Chinese authorities and one tested positive for the virus, Taiwan’s Central News Agency has reported.
Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council wants China to step up quarantine work and reach agreements with Taiwan on the names of people on priority lists for flights.
China’s Taiwan Affairs Office accused Taiwan on Wednesday of “using all kinds of excuses to obstruct and delay” flights. China sees self-ruled Taiwan as part of its territory rather than an independent state.
“We don’t want to politicize it, we want charter flights,” said protester Chung Chin-ming, chairman of the Chinese Cross-Strait Marriage Coordination Association in Taipei.
Elsewhere, Japan confirmed seven more cases, a day after it reported its first death from the virus. Japan now has 258 confirmed cases, including 218 from a cruise ship, the Diamond Princess, that has been quarantined in Yokohama.
Health officials allowed 11 elderly passengers to leave the ship on Friday after they tested negative for the virus. They are the first group of dozens of older passengers expected to get off the vessel before their 14-day quarantine period ends on Feb. 19 to reduce risks of their health deteriorating.
Japanese Health Minister Katsunobu Kato on Thursday said passengers age 80 or older with chronic health issues or in cabins without windows that can open will be able to leave the ship if they pass the virus test.
More than 580 cases have been confirmed outside mainland China and three deaths, one each in the Philippines and Hong Kong and now a Japanese woman in her 80s. Health officials are investigating how she got infected.
In an unprecedented attempt to contain the disease, the Chinese government has placed the hardest-hit cities — home to more than 60 million — under lockdown. People are restricted from entering or leaving the cities, and in many places can only leave their homes or residential complexes for shopping and other daily needs.
Associated Press writers Ralph Jennings in Taipei, Taiwan, and Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo contributed to this report.

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Coronavirus Death Toll Nears 1,400 In China, With 5,090 New Cases




BEIJING (AP) — China on Friday reported another sharp rise in the number of people infected with a new virus, as the death toll neared 1,400.
The National Health Commission said 121 more people had died and there were 5,090 new confirmed cases.
The number of reported cases has been rising more quickly after the hardest-hit province changed its method of counting them Thursday. There are now 63,851 confirmed cases in mainland China, of which 1,380 have died.
Hubei province is now including cases based on a physician’s diagnosis and before they have been confirmed by lab tests. Of the 5,090 new cases, 3,095 fell into that category.
The acceleration in the number of cases does not necessarily represent a sudden surge in new infections of the virus that causes COVID-19 as much as a revised methodology.
China’s health commission has said that the change was aimed at identifying suspected cases in which the patient has pneumonia so they can be treated more quickly and reduce the likelihood of more serious illness or death. It was also seen as a reflection of a chaotic crush of people seeking treatment and the struggle to keep up with a backlog of untested samples.
“Clearly in Wuhan, the health system is under extreme pressure and so the first priority has to be the patient,” said Mark Woolhouse, a professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh.



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Texas Is The Next Battleground For The Green New Deal




Sunrise Movement, the youth campaign behind the Green New Deal, called 25,000 Iowans and persuaded 7,000 to sign pledges to vote for the candidate who advocated the most ambitious plan for rapidly lowering planet-heating emissions along with guaranteeing federal jobs to displaced workers. 
In New Hampshire, the group called 33,000 voters and racked up 12,000 pledges that it claimed delivered a win for Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. 
Now Sunrise Movement is pulling back from the presidential contest and redirecting its efforts toward a trio of March 3 congressional primaries in Texas, hoping a victory in the oil and gas industry’s mecca will add momentum to the two-year-old Green New Deal movement. 
On Thursday night, the group plans to announce its endorsement of Heidi Sloan, a democratic socialist running on the Green New Deal in the Democratic primary to take on Rep. Roger Williams (R-Texas), HuffPost has learned. 
Then, in the coming weeks, Sunrise Movement is sending its army of canvassers to knock on doors in support of Sloan, Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar’s left-wing challenger Jessica Cisneros and Mike Siegel, the progressive Green New Dealer running against two other Democrats in the race to take on Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas). 
The group plans to direct its nearly 350 local chapters across the country to make phone calls for the three candidates. Sunrise said it will marshall hundreds of Spanish-speaking volunteers to call voters for Cisneros, whose 28th Congressional District stretches southwest from San Antonio to the Mexican border. 
“For us, Texas is both the frontlines of the climate crisis and the extreme energy fossil-fuel industry,” Sunrise Movement’s political director Evan Weber told HuffPost by phone Thursday morning. “If we can show that running boldly on the Green New Deal without moderating or hedging is a path to victory for Democrats, we think it can transform the entire conversation in this nation.”
It’s the sort of brazen bet Sunrise has taken before. After forming in mid-2017 and cutting its teeth on a handful of progressive midterm campaigns, the nonprofit stormed into the national spotlight in late 2018 when it staged high-profile protests in then-incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office to demand the new Democratic House majority champion a Green New Deal slate of legislation. 
The demonstrations did little to convert skeptics in the party’s centrist establishment. But it made the Green New Deal a mainstay for progressives and established the concept of a sweeping green industrial plan paired with an aggressive expansion of the federal safety net as the climate lodestar for left-wing parties in Europe and Latin America. 

Money Versus People 
If Sunrise spent much of the year since painting its opponents in the Democratic Party as puppets of the fossil fuel industry, the Texas races offer an opportunity to spar with the puppeteers. 
Cisneros, a 26-year-old human rights lawyer, gained national attention last year when she announced her bid to take on Cuellar, a conservative Democrat with deep ties in the mostly-Hispanic district. Dubbed “Big Oil’s favorite Democrat,” Cuellar, 64, has close ties with Republicans in the state and once served as former Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s secretary of state. 

Veronica Cardenas / Reuters

Democrat Jessica Cisneros campaigns for a House seat in Laredo, Texas.

Cuellar has voted in line with President Donald Trump’s policy positions almost 69% of the time since the current Congress was inaugurated, according to a FiveThirtyEight tally. The League of Conservation Voters gave Cuellar a 42% cumulative score on its ranking of lawmakers’ pro-environmental votes. 
Cuellar’s allies are sending in cavalry of their own. Oil and gas political action committees spent $116,000 on his campaign since 2019, filings collected by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics show. Nine electric utilities, most of whose business depends on fossil fuels, pitched in another $28,500. 
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which does not disclose its donors but spent years funding climate misinformation campaigns, is already airing a 30-second ad in Spanish touting Cuellar’s record of passing the new U.S.-Mexico-China trade agreement and boosting auto manufacturing in the state. The group told the Federal Election Commission in a filing that it planned to spend $200,000 on TV ads mentioning Cuellar. A top U.S. Chamber of Commerce official publicly vowed to lock horns with Justice Democrats, the progressive group behind the campaign of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), which has backed Cisneros. 
“This is a first for us, and we’re putting our money where our mouth is,” Scott Reed, the U.S. Chamber’s senior political strategist, told The Texas Tribune this month. “It’s game on, Justice Democrats.” 
The U.S. Chamber did not respond to emailed questions about whether it planned to add any resources to back Cuellar or get involved in the other two races, but it said it would hold a “big endorsement event in Texas” ahead of the primary.
In the other two districts, the industry may be playing a game of wait and see. 
Cuellar’s 28th District leans Democratic by 9 points on the Cook Political Report PVI ranking. That made it a prime target for Sunrise and its allies, who have primarily focused on replacing pro-business Democrats in safely blue districts with Green New Deal progressives.
But Colin Strother, a Cuellar spokesman, said he’d never even heard of what he called “that Sunshine thing.” 
“If they have a footprint in this district, it must be the size of a small rabbit,” he said. He accused Cisneros’s campaign of being a social media Potemkin village, where the nationwide eyeballs on the candidate’s Instagram and Facebook posts don’t match the general disinterest on the ground in the district.
“Our opponent’s entire campaign has been doing it for the ’Gram,” he said. “None of it’s been real, but they’ve made it look real.” 
A spokeswoman for the Cisneros campaign did not respond to an interview request.
The 10th Congressional District, which sprawls from Austin’s northern suburbs to the area west of Houston, leans GOP by 9 percentage points and has elected McCaul eight times since 2005. The Republican boasts a paltry 5% lifetime score from the League of Conservation Voters and owns between $8.2 million and $19.1 million worth of stock in oil, gas and coal, making him, by the watchdog site Sludge’s estimate, “Congress’s biggest fossil fuel investor.” (He also, according to the Austin American-Statesman, used more water than any other resident of the Texas capital in 2017.)  

Rick Kern via Getty Images

Lawyer Mike Siegel gained attention for courting skeptical fossil fuel worker voters to win the Texas AFL-CIO’s endorsement. 

Siegel, who was the Democratic nominee in the district in 2018, lost to McCaul by 46.8% to 51.2%. This time, Sunrise hopes the increased turnout of a presidential election and the added firepower of its national campaigners can push him over the edge. 
“We believe that in 2020, with higher voter turnout and having the Green New Deal movement at Siegel’s back, that we can really secure this seat for a Green New Deal champion,” Weber said. 
But first he’ll have to beat two other Democratic challengers: Pritesh Gandhi, a doctor whose climate platform hinges on a carbon pricing scheme, and Shannon Hutcheson, a lawyer running on an even thinner proposal to increase flood protection. 
Siegel told HuffPost he’s confident he’ll seize the nomination again. 
“My campaign far and away has the most grassroots and community support,” Siegel said by phone. “That’s reflected in our volunteer army, our field program and the fact that we’ve knocked 30,000 doors already and we have many more block walks lined up in the days ahead. Our ability to reach voters directly, person to person, is unparalleled.” 
Sloan’s primary fight is slightly different. The Democratic Socialists of America member is running against Julie Oliver, an Austin public health official and progressive whose platform also includes a Green New Deal. But at least one canvasser in the race compared the difference in styles between the candidates to how Sanders diverges from his progressive rival Elizabeth Warren, describing Sloan as the more movement-oriented leftist. 
Weber, whose group’s rank-and-file members voted to endorse Sanders last month, said Sunrise was “more attracted to Heidi’s theory of change.” 
Whoever emerges from the primary will take on Williams, who flipped a long-held Democratic seat red in 2013 and has held it ever since. Williams, whose $46.4 million net worth makes him the 11th richest House member as of 2016, is already amassing a considerable warchest, including nearly $91,000 so far in oil and gas donations. 
Neither McCaul nor Williams responded to requests for comment. 
Labor Support
All four Green New Deal supporters in the three races already won something rather historic: endorsements from the state’s largest labor union. The Texas AFL-CIO made a dual endorsement of Sloan and Oliver. But its support for Cisneros and Siegel captured national attention. For Cisneros, that’s partly because the union skewered Cuellar as “not on working people’s side.” For Siegel, it was because he won over skeptical oil industry workers who were ultimately sold on his promise, as he recounted to the New Republic, to “make our demands to take care of you as specific as our demands to unwind fossil fuel energy production.” 

For us, Texas is both the frontlines of the climate crisis and the extreme energy fossil-fuel industry.
Sunrise Movement political director Evan Weber

“Being from a union family, being a two-time union member myself, having a  unionized campaign staff, it was extremely important for me to win that endorsement,” he told HuffPost. “I was able to do that because I built trust and let these folks know I’m fighting for a Green New Deal and I’m not leaving these workers behind.” 
Climate Concerns
At 52%, a narrow majority of Texans understand that humans are causing climate change, according to a 2019 Yale Program on Climate Change Communication survey. Yet partisan divides remain stark. Last March, a University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll of registered voters in the state found 83% of Democrats supported strong government actions on climate change, compared with just 18% of Republicans. Independent voters, meanwhile, leaned toward more government intervention, with 43% favoring strong action, 26% supporting mild action and 24% preferring the U.S. government do nothing at all. 
Hurricane Harvey’s deadly 2017 deluge in Houston jolted many in the state’s urban regions, and a prolonged drought across much of the state may “persuade voters that pursuing a policy course that addresses that long term is a wise course of action,” said Brandon Rottinghaus, a professor of political science at the University of Houston.
But he questioned the logic of devoting resources to these three races in particular, calling them “unusual” and “various choices.”
“These are tough districts to win for progressives,” he said. 
Weber admitted that “these are not places where our movement has really shown it can be victorious yet.” But he said the campaigns’ enthusiasm for the Green New Deal and the potential to oust both a right-wing Democrat and conservative Republicans offers the opportunity to “really demonstrate the two types of victories that we need this year in order to win a Green New Deal.”
It’s a busy year ahead for Sunrise.
After the Texas primary, the nonprofit is gearing up for the March 17 elections in Illinois, where it has endorsed progressive Marie Newman against abortion foe Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.). It is also backing Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) challenger Robert Emmons Jr., a 26-year-old activist pitching the Green New Deal as a way to stem Chicago’s gun violence.
In Ohio, Sunrise Movement is backing activist Morgan Harper against Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio).
Sunrise then plans to shift its focus to Kentucky’s May 15 primary, where it’s hoping to boost Charles Booker’s underdog bid to take on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and secure a win for Sanders.
“We’re trying to focus as much as possible on the places where we can have an impact on the presidential primary as well as down-ballot races,” Weber said. “After how we made a difference in Iowa, and then even more so in New Hampshire, people are going to be seeing a lot more of us.”
Kyna Doles contributed to this report.  

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