• U.S.
    Associated Press

    Another Catholic diocese seeks bankruptcy after abuse deals

    The Roman Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, filed for bankruptcy Wednesday, six months after disclosing it had paid millions of dollars to people sexually abused as children by its clerics. The diocese joins at least 20 others across the United States in seeking protection from creditors through the federal bankruptcy system, but it is the first diocese in Pennsylvania to take such a step. In August, the diocese said it paid 106 people a total of just over $12 million to compensate for claims of sexual abuse they suffered as children from its clerics, deacons and seminarians,and officials said Wednesday the current total is 111 settlements.

  • World
    Bloomberg

    Fear of Virus Spreading Grows as Passengers Start Leaving Ships

    (Bloomberg) -- Thousands of passengers on two cruise ships that had been held in separate ports in Asia to prevent the spread of the deadly coronavirus are disembarking -- only to face new hurdles on their journeys home.Japan allowed the first 500 guests aboard the Diamond Princess liner, quarantined off Yokohama for 14 days, to leave the ship, despite worries the country hasn’t done enough to prevent the spread of disease from the vessel. The cruise ship has the most infections anywhere outside China.In Cambodia, 781 remaining passengers from the Westerdam cruise liner tested negative for coronavirus. But now they must circumvent obstacles to get home after three nations moved to block their transit through some of Southeast Asia’s biggest airport hubs.Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand are refusing to let Westerdam guests enter or transit through the countries after an American passenger from the cruise was found to be infected. The ship had been turned away by five ports before Cambodia agreed to accept it. Hundreds of passengers from the Westerdam were already on their way home before the infection was detected.“It’s over the top,” said V. Padmanabha Rao, an 81-year-old retired surgeon from Virginia, of the travel bans. “Makes us feel like a pariah. It’s like what lepers were made to feel.”The plight of the thousands of passengers on the two ships, operated by units of Carnival Corp., have fanned fears of outbreaks on luxury liners and prompted a growing number of nations to block cruises from accessing their ports. Meantime, health authorities around the world are implementing plans, from quarantines to additional testing, to prevent transmission of the virus as passengers make their way home. The contagion has killed more than 2,000.In Cambodia, Rao said he and other passengers began to disembark Wednesday afternoon and were ushered onto buses, but they weren’t told where they were headed or given details of how they will get home.Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said Westerdam passengers will fly to Dubai, Japan and another Southeast Asian destination to catch flights home, local news outlet Agence Kampuchea Presse reported. Cruise operator Holland America Line said it’s working to complete arrangements.Two Thai nationals from the ship have agreed to self-quarantine, while two fellow travelers transiting through the airport are being held for monitoring for two weeks, even though they all tested negative for the virus, according to Thai authorities.Transmission RiskIn Yokohama, a slow and steady stream of people clutching travel bags walked off the ship. Many waved to surgical mask-wearing passengers perched on ship balconies, video images on Japanese television showed. Some were taken to public transportation hubs in Yokohama, told to keep a close eye on their health and get in touch with authorities if they get sick.While this may mean a return to normal life for many of those disembarking, hundreds of foreigners will be subject to another 14 days of quarantine once they return home, including 200 people Australia plans to fly out on a chartered plane. Hong Kong said a charter flight is also being arranged for as many as 330 of its residents, who will return home to a two-week stay at a quarantine center. A charter flight from Canada was due on Friday.The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said risks remain and Japan’s measures “may not have been sufficient to prevent transmission among individuals on the ship.” It imposed travel restrictions on the passengers and crew on the vessel, adding “there may be additional confirmed cases of Covid-19 among the remaining passengers on board the Diamond Princess.”Of the 3,700 passengers and crew on the vessel when it went into quarantine two weeks ago, 542 people were confirmed to have contracted the virus as of Tuesday.Aboard the Diamond Princess, guests were trading messages on private group chats about the testing process and were worried that not everyone was tested this week before they were cleared to leave.Kent Frasure, a 42-year-old passenger, said he was last tested for coronavirus on Feb. 8 as authorities evacuated his wife after she became infected. “My fear is that one or more passengers have the virus undetected and that will come out in the next few days or week from now and they’ll want to re-quarantine all of us,” he said. “It may become a never-ending saga.”Global WorryTop government spokesman Yoshihide Suga defended his country’s response, telling reporters Wednesday that Japan did all that was possible to protect the health of those aboard the cruise. He refrained from commenting on the restrictions put in place in other countries.With people aboard hailing from more than 50 nations, the end of the quarantine raises concern the vessel could spawn a fresh wave of global infections. The number of people with the virus worldwide rose above 75,000, with the vast majority in China.“It’s entirely possible to get tested, be negative and get on an airplane and be positive once you land,” said Keiji Fukuda, the director of the School of Public Health at Hong Kong University and a former World Health Organization official who has led responses to outbreaks. “That’s just how infections work.”Even though people test negative or are not symptomatic, it’s safest to assume some could be infected, he said, adding it’s prudent for countries to quarantine passengers.The risks became apparent after the U.S. evacuated more than 300 of its nationals over the weekend and received notice during the process that 14 passengers, who had been tested a few days earlier, had contracted the virus.Those who have tested positive on the ship have been taken to area hospitals, while people who tested negative but were in a room with someone infected are set for more checks and perhaps another two weeks of quarantine at a medical facility.A specialist on infectious diseases on Japan’s expert panel for virus measures said Tokyo’s decision to start letting people off the ship was reasonable.“We have to decide certain criteria. If we try to have zero risk, people have to be under quarantine for 40-50 days,” Hitoshi Oshitani, a professor of virology at Tohoku University Graduate School of Medicine, told reporters. When there are already infection clusters, it’s impossible to eliminate the risk entirely, he said.For Rebecca Frasure, news of the passengers’ release brought more uncertainty. She was evacuated from the ship, separated from her husband and taken to a Tokyo hospital when she became infected. She’s been told she will need two negative tests for coronavirus before she’s discharged--but the U.S. CDC is not allowing passengers from the ship to enter the U.S. for another 14 days. She’s not sure what awaits her when she finally makes it home.“I’m concerned about the stigma and whether I’ll be able to interact freely with people,” said Frasure. “I live in a small town. Even going to the gym--they’ll be afraid to go near me.”\--With assistance from Shoko Oda, Virginia Lau, Isabel Reynolds, Shiho Takezawa, Natnicha Chuwiruch and Philip J. Heijmans.To contact the reporters on this story: K. Oanh Ha in Hong Kong at oha3@bloomberg.net;Emi Nobuhiro in Tokyo at enobuhiro@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Brendan Scott at bscott66@bloomberg.net, Frank Connelly, Marthe FourcadeFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • World
    Associated Press

    Iran state news agency says new virus has killed 2 citizens

    The new virus has killed two elderly Iranian citizens, Iran's state-run IRNA news agency reported Wednesday. IRNA quoted Alireza Vahabzadeh, an adviser to the country's health minister, as saying that both victims had been carrying the coronavirus and were located in Qom, about 140 kilometers (86 miles) south of the capital Tehran. Earlier on Wednesday, Iranian authorities confirmed two cases of the new virus, the first in the country, according to the semi-official ISNA news agency.

  • Politics
    The Daily Beast

    Trump’s Choice for Intel Chief Leaves Officials ‘Blindsided’

    President Donald Trump’s announcement that he had selected a loyalist and political ally as his administration’s next intelligence chief quickly raised eyebrows Wednesday on Capitol Hill among Democrats already concerned about the state of Team Trump’s attitude toward the intelligence community.On Wednesday night, Trump tweeted that Richard Grenell, the U.S. ambassador to Germany with a long history in Trumpworld’s orbit, would be named as the next acting Director of National Intelligence. The term of the current acting director, Joseph Maguire, was slated to expire on March 12. The president’s appointment of another acting official to serve as the chief overseer of 17 U.S. intelligence agencies allows him to effectively bypass the Senate confirmation process—which a full-time nominee would be subjected to—in order to install his preferred person for the post. Grenell has already been confirmed by the Senate for his ambassadorship. “Rick has represented our Country exceedingly well,” tweeted Trump, “and I look forward to working with him.”One former intelligence official told The Daily Beast that career officials in ODNI were “blindsided” by the announcement. Two other senior Trump officials said the news of Grenell’s appointment moved its way through the halls of the White House over the last few days.Grenell, who has been the top U.S. diplomat in Berlin since 2018, was a longtime spokesman for the George W. Bush administration at the United Nations, a foreign policy spokesman for Mitt Romney’s presidential run, and then later a pro-Trump political commentator and operative. He is close with several senior members in the Trump administration, including National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien. Friday Night Massacre’s Just the Beginning for Acquitted TrumpGrenell does not have any direct experience in the intelligence field—a fact that triggered alarm bells for some. Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, was blunt in his reaction to the appointment: “The President has selected an individual without any intelligence experience to serve as the leader of the nation’s intelligence community in an acting capacity. This is the second acting director the President has named to the role since the resignation of Dan Coats, apparently in an effort to sidestep the Senate’s constitutional authority to advise and consent on such critical national security positions, and flouting the clear intent of Congress when it established the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in 2004,” he said in a statement. “The intelligence community deserves stability and an experienced individual to lead them in a time of massive national and global security challenges,” he said. “And at a time when the integrity and independence of the Department of Justice has been called into grave question, now more than ever our country needs a Senate-confirmed intelligence director who will provide the best intelligence and analysis, regardless of whether or not it’s expedient for the President who has appointed him.”“Having someone who is a political appointee with little or any background in intelligence come there on an acting basis is really the wrong move,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), “and I hope that the president will appoint a real professional."The move is sure to be popular among Trump’s backers both on and off Capitol Hill, who have increasingly endorsed the president’s mistrust and antipathy toward the intelligence community. It was a CIA official who sparked impeachment proceedings by filing the whistleblower complaint that first described Trump’s fateful call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky—a process that Maguire, the current acting DNI, testified before Congress about in September 2019.Grenell would be the official most staunchly loyal to Trump to hold the position atop the  intelligence community: Maguire is a career official, and his predecessor, former Sen. Dan Coats, found himself at odds with Trump on fundamental questions, like the role of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Incidentally, Grenell first got a very public vote of confidence in Trumpworld in the midst of an episode that was at the heart of impeachment proceedings against Trump: the smear campaign against then U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch that ended with her ouster last year. Donald Trump Jr., referring to Yovanovitch, tweeted in March 2019: “We need more @RichardGrenell’s and less of these jokers as ambassadors.” During his time as Ambassador in Berlin, Grenell worked with European officials on the rise of the 5G network and the threats posed by China’s system. He was also an outspoken advocate for the administration’s so-called maximum pressure campaign on Iran.Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.

  • Business
    Reuters

    Foreign pilots at Chinese airlines return home on unpaid leave as demand plummets

    BEIJING/SYDNEY (Reuters) - Foreign pilots at some Chinese airlines have returned to their home countries and are considering other jobs after being placed on unpaid leave as demand falls because of the coronavirus, affected flight crew told Reuters. Meanwhile, Chinese pilots with greater job security said their income has been sharply reduced because most of their pay is based on flying hours. Data firm OAG estimates about 80% of scheduled airline capacity to, from and within China has been cut this week because of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that has killed more than 2,000 people.