Jet with 98 aboard crashes
KARACHI, Pakistan — A jetliner carrying 98 people crashed Friday in a crowded neighborhood near the airport in Pakistan’s port city of Karachi after an apparent engine failure during landing. Officials said there were two survivors from the plane but they also found at least 57 bodies in the wreckage. It was unknown how many people on the ground were hurt as the Pakistan International Airlines jet, an Airbus A320, plowed into an alley and destroyed at least five houses. The pilot was heard transmitting a mayday to the tower shortly before the crash of Flight 8303, which was flying from Lahore to Karachi and carrying many traveling for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr. Video on social media appeared to show the jet flying low with flames shooting from one of its engines. The plane went down about 2:39 p.m. northeast of Jinnah International Airport in the poor and congested residential area known as Model Colony between houses that were smashed by its wings. Police in protective masks struggled to clear away crowds amid the smoke and dust so ambulances and firetrucks could reach the crash site. As darkness fell, crews worked under floodlights, and a portable morgue was set up. The Sindh provincial health department said it had recovered 57 bodies, while PIA chairman Arshad Malik said finding all the dead could take two to three days.
Accelerating in Latin America
RIO DE JANEIRO — The coronavirus pandemic accelerated across Latin America on Friday, bringing a surge of new infections and deaths, even as curves flattened and reopening was underway in much of Europe, Asia and the United States. The region’s two largest nations — Mexico and Brazil — reported record counts of new cases and deaths almost daily this week, fueling criticism of their presidents, who have slow-walked shutdowns in attempts to limit economic damage. Brazil reported more than 20,000 deaths and 300,000 confirmed cases, making it the third worst-hit country in the world by official counts. Experts consider both numbers undercounts due to the widespread lack of testing. The virus “does not forgive. It does not choose race or if you are rich or poor, black or white. It’s a cruel disease,” Bruno Almeida de Mello, a 24-year-old Uber driver, said at his 66-year-old grandmother’s burial in Rio de Janeiro. Infections rose and intensive-care units were also swamped in Peru, Chile and Ecuador, countries lauded for imposing early and aggressive business shutdowns and quarantines. Many experts said the rising death toll across Latin America showed the limits of government action in a region where millions labor in informal jobs and many police forces are weak or corrupt and unable to enforce restrictions.
Stimulus check found in trash
GREENVILLE, N.C. — A car wash worker in North Carolina found treasure amid the business’s trash when he discovered a $1,200 IRS stimulus check mixed in with the garbage. Antonio Hernandez was taking out the trash at the Greenville car wash when he spotted the payment in the can, WITN-TV quoted his daughter, Michelle Alvarado, as saying. Hernandez and Alvarado were able to track down recipient Charles Thompson, who said he was not even expecting to get a check after recently moving to a new address. “I was behind on rent, I work construction so I work by the day, and I just try to keep going and going as best I can,” Thompson told the news station. “That money helped put me ahead and put me on the right track a little bit, to get back on my feet.” Hernandez and Alvarado added that they were happy to help connect Thompson with the lost funds, even though they and Thompson had no idea how the check ended up at the car wash in the first place. “It was very important for him to receive that check, especially in these uncertain times,” Alvarado said.
UK to start huge vaccine test
LONDON — British researchers testing an experimental vaccine against the new coronavirus are moving into advanced studies and aim to immunize more than 10,000 people to determine if the shot works. Friday’s announcement came as Chinese scientists who are developing a similar vaccine reported promising results from their own first-step testing, seeing hoped-for immune reactions and no serious side effects in 108 vaccinated people. Last month, Oxford University researchers began vaccinating more than 1,000 volunteers in a preliminary study designed to test the shot’s safety. Those results aren’t in yet but the Oxford team announced they’re expanding to 10,260 people across Britain, including older people and children. If all goes smoothly, “it’s possible as early as the autumn or toward the end of the year, you could have results that allowed use of the vaccine on a wider scale,” predicted Andrew Pollard, head of the Oxford Vaccine Group. But Pollard acknowledged there were still many challenges ahead, including how long it will take to prove the vaccine works — particularly since transmission has dropped significantly in Britain — and any potential manufacturing complications. The Oxford shot is one of about a dozen experimental COVID-19 vaccines in early stages of human testing or poised to start, mostly in China, the U.S. and Europe. Scientists have never created vaccines from scratch this fast and it’s far from clear that any will ultimately prove safe and effective.
Casinos getting ready to roll
LAS VEGAS — Free parking, but no valet service. Bartenders, blackjack dealers and waiters wearing masks. Hand sanitizer everywhere. Yes, dice will roll, cards will be dealt and slot machines will beckon. But poker rooms? Closed. Tourists returning to Las Vegas will see changes since gambling stopped in mid-March for the first time ever to stem the spread of the coronavirus. The stakes could not be higher, said Robert Lang, executive director of the Brookings Mountain West think tank at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. “Las Vegas can never be known as the place where people go and get sick,” he said. Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak has not set a restart date, but could at any time. Resort owners have submitted health and safety rules to state regulators in anticipation of the end to the shutdown. A workshop with operators and the state Gaming Control Board is set Tuesday. “We all know what we’ve gone through for the last 10 weeks. No one’s having fun,” said Bill Hornbuckle, acting chief executive and president of casino giant MGM Resorts International. “The simple idea that I could get out, come to a resort, lay at a pool, enjoy a nice dinner, sit at a blackjack table. There’s something to be said for all of that.” Many properties have aimed for a June 1 restart in the gambling mecca closed almost overnight in the middle of a hot streak — three consecutive $1 billion months in statewide casino winnings. The city had been drawing more than 40 million annual visitors. Once given the green light, the marquees and the managers will welcome people back to this 24/7 town built for crowds, excitement and excess. But not every resort will be open. Nightclubs, dayclubs and large venues will remain closed. Cirque du Soleil shows will stay dark, at least for now.
Another victim: Robocalls
Have you been missing something amid the lockdowns and stay-at-home orders? No, not human contact. Not even toilet paper. Robocalls. Industry experts say robocalls are way down — scam calls as well as nagging from your credit-card company to pay your bill. The coronavirus pandemic has inflicted millions of job losses, and scammers have not been immune. YouMail, which offers a robocall-blocking service, says 2.9 billion robocalls were placed in April in the U.S., down from 4.1 billion in March and 4.8 billion in February. That’s a daily average of 97 million calls in April, down from 132 million in March and 166 million in April. The main reason: many global call centers have closed or are operating with fewer workers, said YouMail CEO Alex Quilici. While it may be odd to think of scams being run out of call centers rather than a dark, creepy basement or a garage, that’s often the case, particularly in countries such as India and the Philippines, experts said. After a lockdown order went into effect in India in late March, “we saw the volume of calls basically half the next day.” That means scammers will probably be back in force once the call centers come back online.
Virtual graduation at USNA
WASHINGTON — In its first-ever virtual graduation and commissioning ceremony, the U.S. Naval Academy on Friday welcomed a new class of officers into the Navy and Marine Corps as the sea services steer through the coronavirus crisis. In remarks recorded earlier in the week, Defense Secretary Mark Esper congratulated the 1,017 graduating midshipmen, reminded them of the importance of character, trust and leadership, and pointed to the pandemic as an example of unexpected challenges they will inevitably face in their military careers. “While the coronavirus is a daunting and, in some ways, an unprecedented challenge, it is just one of the many trials you’ll experience throughout a lifetime of military service,” Esper said. “As new threats continue to emerge, you must remain ready, vigilant and prepared to defend our country, our people and our way of life.” The decision not to have a live Naval Academy graduation ceremony reflects concern about the coronavirus pandemic. It stands in contrast to the Air Force, which held a scaled-back live graduation ceremony in Colorado Springs, Colorado on April 18. The ceremony was attended by Vice President Mike Pence but without the large crowd that normally fills the academy’s football stadium. The Army is scheduled to hold a U.S. Military Academy live graduation ceremony at West Point, New York, on June 13 with President Donald Trump as the commencement speaker. Army leaders defended their decision to bring students back, saying that despite the coronovirus risk, students would have had to return anyway to prepare for their next duty assignment. The decision has been criticized as a political move to get Trump on stage at the academy, where he hasn’t yet given a graduation address. But Army officials said the students must return for final medical checks, equipment and training.
Patients sent to nursing homes
NEW YORK — More than 4,500 recovering coronavirus patients were sent to New York’s already vulnerable nursing homes under a controversial state directive that was ultimately scrapped amid criticisms it was accelerating the nation’s deadliest outbreaks, according to a count by The Associated Press. AP compiled its own tally to find out how many COVID-19 patients were discharged from hospitals to nursing homes under the March 25 directive after New York’s Health Department declined to release its internal survey conducted two weeks ago. It says it is still verifying data that was incomplete. Whatever the full number, nursing home administrators, residents’ advocates and relatives say it has added up to a big and indefensible problem for facilities that even Gov. Andrew Cuomo — the main proponent of the policy — called “the optimum feeding ground for this virus.” “It was the single dumbest decision anyone could make if they wanted to kill people,” Daniel Arbeeny said of the directive, which prompted him to pull his 88-year-old father out of a Brooklyn nursing home where more than 50 people have died. His father later died of COVID-19 at home. “This isn’t rocket science,” Arbeeny said. “We knew the most vulnerable — the elderly and compromised — are in nursing homes and rehab centers.” Told of the AP’s tally, the Health Department said late Thursday it “can’t comment on data we haven’t had a chance to review, particularly while we’re still validating our own comprehensive survey of nursing homes admission and re-admission data in the middle of responding to this global pandemic.”
Biden says he was too ‘cavalier’
ATLANTA — Joe Biden declared he “should not have been so cavalier” on Friday when he told a prominent black radio host that African Americans who back President Donald Trump “ain’t black.” The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee quickly moved to address the fallout from his remark. In a call with the U.S. Black Chamber of Commerce, added to his initial public schedule, Biden said he would never “take the African American community for granted.” That was an acknowledgement of the stinging criticism he received in response to his comments, which he made on “The Breakfast Club,” a radio program that is popular in the black community. The rebukes spanned from allies of Trump’s reelection campaign — anxious to go on offense after weeks of defending the president’s response to the coronavirus pandemic — to some black activists, who warned that Biden still must to court black votes, even if African Americans do overwhelmingly oppose the president. “None of us can afford for the party or for this campaign to mess this election up, and comments like these are the kinds that frankly either make black voters feel like we’re not really valued and people don’t care if we show up or not,” said Alicia Garza, a Black Lives Matter co-founder and principal of Black Futures Lab.
Eagle was stabbed in the heart
BRIDGTON, Maine — A bald eagle died last year in Maine after being stabbed through the heart by a loon. Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife biologist Danielle D’Auria believes it to be one of the strangest cases of eagle death she has ever seen. The bird had been found with a puncture would in its chest by a loon biologist in New Hampshire. A dead loon chick was also discovered near the eagle. When D’Auria heard about the case she had the bird radiographed fro a possible bullet wound as it is illegal in the U.S. to kill bald eagles. The evidence showed no gun residue but indicated that the big bird had been stabbed through the heart by the beak of a loon. “We know conflicts between bald eagles and loons have soared in recent years as a result of the recovery of our eagle population,” D’Auria wrote. “We are seeing more and more eagle predation on loon chicks and even adult loons.” The biologist believes the loon’s attack was a result of its attempt to protect its chick from the bird. D’Auria wrote the evidence is important because it shows an attack that appears to be the first recorded wherein a loon has killed an eagle. “Who would think a loon would stand a chance against such a powerful predator?”
Flooding forces evacuations
WEST BLOOMFIELD, Mich. — More Central Michigan riverside residents evacuated their homes Friday after being overwhelmed by flooding from two failed dams that submerged communities further upstream earlier this week, authorities said. About a dozen people who live near the Tittabawassee River in Spaulding Township have evacuated, but some in the community refused to leave their homes despite warnings, Fire Chief Tom Fortier said Friday morning.
Boy found dead
MIAMI — A 9-year-old autistic boy has been found dead hours after his mother told police he was abducted by two men who “ambushed” her during a late-night drive south of Miami An Amber Alert that had been issued for Alejandro Ripley was canceled on Friday morning after a body was pulled from a canal near the Miccosukee Golf & Country Club, about 4 miles from the spot he was allegedly abducted. Miami-Dade police said the child’s mother, Patricia Ripley, 47, told investigators she driving around 9 p.m. Thursday when she noticed she was being followed by a vehicle. Ripley told investigators the driver tried to side-swipe her car, forcing her to veer onto another road. The car then blocked her vehicle and a passenger got out and demanded drugs from her, police said. According to police, Ripley told the man she didn’t have any drugs. At that point he took her son and her cellphone. Authorities said the boy had autism and was non-verbal.