AP News Digest 6:40 p.m.

March 26, 2020 4:03 PM

Here are the AP's latest coverage plans, top stories and promotable content. All times EDT. For up-to-the minute information on AP's coverage, visit Coverage Plan at https://newsroom.ap.org.








ESTONIA-GLOBAL OPIOIDS — Estonia won its war on fentanyl in 2017, when police busted the tiny Baltic nation's major suppliers. But the trouble was just starting. Drug users who couldn't get fentanyl didn't go back to using heroin. Instead, they began using combinations of different synthetic drugs, including amphetamines and alpha-PVP. The shift in Estonia from plant-based drugs, like heroin, to synthetic ones, like fentanyl, can be seen elsewhere, including in the United States. That’s potentially bad news for Mexican poppy farmers and good news for unscrupulous chemists, and it could help cement China's role as key supplier in the global narcotics trade. By Erika Kinetz. SENT: 1,800 words, photos, video.




VIRUS OUTBREAK — The human and economic toll of the lockdowns against the coronavirus mounted as India struggled to feed the multitudes, Italy shut down most of its industry, and a record-shattering 3.3 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits in a single week. The number of cases in the United States climbed above China, where the virus originated late last year, to become the world’s highest national total, though the U.S. death toll is well behind several countries. By Colleen Long, David Rising and Emily Schmall. SENT: 1,100 words, photos. With VIRUS OUTBREAK-THE LATEST and VIRUS OUTBREAK-WHAT'S HAPPENING

VIRUS OUTBREAK-GOVERNORS-TRUMP — Amid an unprecedented public health crisis, the nation’s governors are trying to get what they need from the federal government, and get it fast. But it's not always easy to understand the best way to deal with President Trump.. By Kathleen Ronayne and Jonathan Lemire. SENT: 1,200 words, photos. With VIRUS OUTBREAK-SHUTDOWN-Q&A — President Trump has the biggest megaphone. But it's governors and local officials who will decide when to begin reopening their economies. SENT: 680 words by 4 p.m., photo.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-TRUMP PROPERTIES — The $2.2 trillion emergency legislation meant to shore up the U.S. economy was carefully written to prevent President Trump and his family from profiting from the federal fund. But the fine print, according to ethics groups, reveals that businesses owned by Trump and his family may still be eligible for some assistance. By Jonathan Lemire and Stephen Braun. UPCOMING: 800 words, photos by 7 p.m.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-ENFORCING SOCIAL DISTANCING — In New York City, they've started dismantling basketball hoops to prevent people from gathering in parks and playing. In Lakewood, New Jersey, police broke up a wedding being held in violation of a ban on large gatherings. And in Austin, Texas, officers are encouraging people to call a hotline to snitch on violators of the city's orders for people to stay home. Police departments are taking a lead role in enforcing social distancing guidelines that health officials say are critical to containing COVID-19. By Tom Hays. SENT: 900 words, photos.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS — Nearly 3.3 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week — almost five times the previous record set in 1982 — amid a widespread economic shutdown caused by the coronavirus. The surge in weekly applications was a stunning reflection of the damage the viral outbreak is inflicting on the economy. By Christopher Rugaber. SENT: 1,270 words, photos, video. With FINANCIAL MARKETS - Stocks surge again after relief bill passed; indexes up 6%. SENT: 800 words, photos.

Find more all-format coverage on the Virus Outbreak featured topic page in AP Newsroom.

US-VENEZUELA-MADURO — The Justice Department alleges that Nicolás Maduro effectively converted Venezuela into a criminal enterprise at the service of drug traffickers and terrorist groups as he and his allies stole billions from the South American country. Several indictments against the embattled socialist and his inner circle were made public Thursday. By Joshua Goodman and Jim Mustian. SENT: 1,085 words, photos.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-ISRAEL POLITICS — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's chief rival was chosen as the new speaker of parliament, an unexpected step that could pave the way to a power-sharing deal between the two men as the country grapples with a worsening coronavirus crisis.. By Josef Federman. SENT: 1,000 words, photos.




VIRUS OUTBREAK-NYC HEALTH CARE WORKERS — At New York City-area hospitals on the front lines of the biggest coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., workers are increasingly concerned about how the disease is ravaging their own ranks, fearful that without adequate testing and protective gear it’s only a matter of time before they’ll all get sick. SENT: 1,310 words, photos.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-HOSPITAL BEDS — U.S. hospitals are rushing to find beds for a coming flood of COVID-19 patients, opening older closed hospitals and re-purposing other medical buildings. With total U.S. cases now doubling every three days, empty intensive care unit beds, needed by an estimated 5% of the sick, will rapidly fill. An AP analysis of federal hospital data finds more than 7 million people age 60 and older — those most at risk of severe COVID-19 illness — live in counties without ICU beds. SENT: 980 words, photos.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-CONGRESS — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is forecasting quick bipartisan approval of the massive $2.2 trillion coronavirus economic relief bill approved by the Senate. The package comes as fresh evidence emerges that the U.S. is sinking into recession. By Andrew Taylor and Alan Fram. SENT: 1,160 words, photos, video. With VIRUS OUTBREAK-RELIEF-BILL-UNEMPLOYED — Congress' relief bill would vastly expand unemployment aid; VIRUS OUTBREAK-HOUSEHOLD BENEFITS-Q&A — Q&A: How can the huge congressional aid package help you?. (both sent)

VIRUS OUTBREAK-GROCERY SHIELDS — Grocery stores across the U.S. are installing protective plastic shields at checkouts to help keep cashiers and shoppers from infecting one another with the coronavirus. SENT: 380 words, photos, video.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-G20 — The head of the United Nations told leaders of the world’s 20 major industrialized nations during an emergency virtual summit that "we are at war with a virus – and not winning it” despite dramatic measures by countries to seal their borders, shutter businesses and enforce home isolation for well over a quarter of the world's population. SENT: 1,240 words, photos.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-LAUGHTER AS MEDICINE — Are we allowed to chuckle? Experts say we'd better. Laughter really is the best medicine, they say, so long as it's within the bounds of good taste. And in a crisis, it can be a powerful coping mechanism. Says one comedian: “It's more than just medicine. It's survival.” SENT: 900 words, photos.

AFRICA-VIRUS OUTBREAK — South Africa's president appeared in full military uniform for the first time since the end of apartheid and told troops to be a “force of kindness” as a three-week lockdown begins at midnight and they ensure that 57 million people stay home. The mission is the "most important in the history of our country" as coronavirus cases near 1,000, the highest in Africa. “Our people are terrified right now and we should not do anything to make their situation worse,” President Cyril Ramaphosa told police. SENT: 800 words, photos.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-NATIONAL PARKS — The Trump administration is sticking with its crowd-friendly waiver of entrance fees at national parks during the coronavirus outbreak, even as managers at some parks try and fail to keep tens of thousands of hikers and tourists a safe distance apart and as communities appeal for shutdowns at some parks that are still open. SENT: 830 words, photos.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-TRUMP-FACT CHECK — President Trump has repeatedly boasted of travel restrictions on China that he suggests he decided on his own over the objections of health experts and saved “thousands” of lives. His claims aren’t substantiated. SENT: 670 words, photo.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-CANADA-US — Canada has told the U.S. it is is strongly opposed to a Trump administration proposal to put troops at the U.S.-Canada border amid the pandemic and said if it goes ahead it would damage relations between the two longtime allies. SENT: 660 words, photos.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-IMMIGRATION COURTS — Immigration attorneys have sported swim goggles and masks borrowed from friends to meet with clients in detention centers. Masked judges are stocking their cramped courtrooms with hand sanitizer for hearings they want to do by phone. The Trump administration is resisting calls from immigration judges and attorneys to stop in-person hearings and shutter all immigration courts. They say the most pressing hearings can be done by phone so immigrants aren't stuck in detention indefinitely.. SENT: 1,030 words, photos.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-CRUISE SHIP — Two men who traveled on a coronavirus-stricken cruise ship stalled for days off the California coast have died, federal officials said, and they confirmed that fewer than half the ship's passengers were tested for the virus despite assurances that everyone would be tested. SENT: 520 words, photos.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-BRAZIL-BOLSONARO — Brazil's governors are defying President Jair Bolsonaro over his call to reopen schools and businesses. They dismiss his argument that the “cure” of widespread shutdowns to contain the spread of the coronavirus is worse than the disease. SENT: 930 words, photos.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-ONE GOOD THING-CLUBS — The nightclubs in the German capital have decided to keep the beat going — at least online. SENT: 540 words, photos.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-DIARY-THE 4 YEAR OLD — Again, today, she asks me when we are going to the playground. Just like she did yesterday and the day before that. SENT: 640 words, photos. Virus Diary,” an occasional feature, will showcase the coronavirus saga through the eyes of Associated Press journalists around the world.

A separate wire advisory has been sent detailing AP's complete coronavirus coverage.

AP’s coronavirus podcast, “Ground Game: Inside the Outbreak,” today looks at the $2.2 trillion rescue package that aims to help American workers, business owners and the health care system deal with the damage done to the economy by the coronavirus. Listen to the podcast at 3 p.m. at https://appodcasts.com/category/ground-game/. Embed code is available on AP Coverage Plan.




VIRUS OUTBREAK-EASTER PEEPS — No more Peeps are being hatched for at least a couple of weeks — but it shouldn't affect Easter baskets. SENT: 130 words, photos.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-KLOBUCHAR — U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar says her husband has been released from the hospital and is recovering from the coronavirus at home. SENT: 320 words.

OBIT-RICHARD REEVES — Richard Reeves, an author and syndicated columnist who wrote about politics for more than 50 years and published books on American presidents, has died at age 83. SENT: 230 words, photo.

PEOPLE-ROBERT ENGLUND — After playing Freddy Krueger in eight films and on TV, Robert Englund says he looks forward to seeing the “A Nightmare on Elm Street” franchise revived with someone other than himself in the role. SENT: 400 words, photos.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-LOTTERY JACKPOTS — Dreaming of lottery riches? Virus could cut jackpots. SENT: 350 words, photos.




VIRUS-OUTBREAK-TRUMP — President Trump says federal officials are developing guidelines to rate counties by risk of virus spread. Trump wants to begin easing nationwide guidelines meant to stem the coronavirus outbreak. SENT: 610 words, photos.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-NATION'S CAPITAL — Officials in the nation's capital lash out at the $2.2 trillion coronavirus economic relief package moving through Congress, saying it cheats Washington, D.C., out of more than $700 million. SENT: 680 words, photos.




FOREIGN FIGHTERS DEADLY AMBUSH — The two former U.S. Army soldiers met in Ukraine, where they joined the same far-right paramilitary group. After getting deported, they planned to take a boat from Miami to South America. They wanted to fight the socialist Venezuelan government and kill “communists.” SENT: 910 words, photos.


BUSINESS __________________

VIRUS OUTBREAK-ITALY-INDUSTRIAL SHOWDOWN — Italy has become the first western developed nation to idle most of its industry to halt the spread of the coronavirus, a potential cautionary tale for other governments, such as the Trump administration, that are resisting such drastic measures. SENT: 1,000 words, photos.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-RESTARTING THE ECONOMY — President Donald Trump has called the country to open for business by mid-April, but some experts warn it's not as easy as flipping a switch: Economies run on confidence, and that is likely to be in short supply for as long as coronavirus cases in the United States are still rising. SENT: 1,190 words, photos.

FORD RESTARTING PLANTS — Ford, Fiat Chrysler, Honda and Toyota are taking steps to restart North American factories that have been closed to protect workers from the coronavirus. The plants would reopen in early or mid-April, restoring the largest source of cash for automakers that generally book revenue when they ship vehicles to dealerships. SENT: 970 words, photos.




AUTISM INCREASING — Autism has grown slightly more common in the U.S., but a gap in diagnosis of white and black kids has disappeared, according to a government report released Thursday. Closure of that gap — thanks to increased screening — is the main reason autism diagnoses are up a little, some experts said. SENT: 420 words, photo.




TV-Q&A-ROSARIO DAWSON — Rosario Dawson has graced both the big and small screens, in everything from dramas to comedies to Marvel superhero projects, yet she’s rarely been cast as the lead. That changes with her new USA series “Briarpatch” where she plays a fashionable political fixer who returns home to her Texas border town following the bombing death of her police officer sister. UPCOMING: 800 words, photos, video.

BRITAIN-DUCHESS OF SUSSEX — Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, has her first post-royal job. She will narrate a Disney documentary about elephants. SENT: 170 words, photo.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-ENTERTAINMENT-WHAT'S HAPPENING — Taylor Swift surprises some of her fans with money donations; ACM announces performers for at-home country music special. SENT: 780 words, photos.




BBO--OPENING DAY-2020 SOLUTIONS — Baseball's opening day isn't happening in Phoenix or anywhere else on Thursday as planned. The sport is on hold until at least mid-May while the world fights the coronavirus pandemic. If baseball does resume this season, there could be some radical scheduling solutions as MLB tries to squeeze in as many games as possible. By David Brandt. SENT: 900 words, photos.

HKN--ONLY BUSINESS IN HOCKEY — Signing college free agents is some of the only business that can get done in the NHL right now while the season is on hold. Hockey is on hiatus at all levels and players because of the coronavirus pandemic. By Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno. SENT: 750 words, photos.




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