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What is coronavirus, the mystery illness sweeping through China?

The city of Wuhan, China, is racing to contain the potential spread of a deadly new strain of virus that has infected more than 200 people. Over the weekend, the number of cases of the “2019 novel coronavirus” or “2019-nCoV” quadrupled — and on Monday, a Chinese scientist confirmed cases of human-to-human transmission of the illness. 

There have been no confirmed cases of the virus outside Asia, but officials have been screening airport passengers to prevent the virus from spreading to the U.S. Here’s what you need to know:

What is a coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a large group of viruses that can cause illnesses as minor as a cold, or as serious as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), according to the World Health Organization. They often present with pneumonia-like symptoms.

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The viruses are transmitted from animals to humans — the virus that causes SARS, for example, was transmitted to humans from a cat-like animal called a civet. But in some instances, as appears to be the case with this new strain of coronavirus, they can also be transmitted between humans. 

The World Health Organization said there are multiple known coronaviruses circulating in animals that have not yet been transmitted to humans.

How did the new strain start?

The outbreak began in Wuhan, a city of 11 million people. Many of the patients have reportedly been linked to Hua Nan Seafood Wholesale Market, a large seafood and animal market in the city, according to CBS News’ Ramy Inocencio. But a rising number of people have apparently contracted the virus without exposure to the market, according to Chinese officials.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is closely monitoring an outbreak caused by a novel (new) coronavirus first identified in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China. CDC

How many people have died?

At least four people have died from the illness, according to the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission

The first patient, a 61-year-old man, died January 9. Two more patients died January 15 and January 18. 

The Commission announced the fourth patient’s death Monday, writing that an 89-year-old man died January 19 after he was admitted to the hospital with severe breathing difficulties a day earlier.

The Commission added that 169 patients are being treated in the local hospital. Thirty-five of those patients are in severe condition, and nine are in critical condition. 

Where is it?

While the virus originated in China, cases have also been reported in Thailand, Japan and South Korea, according to the CDC. 

How is it transmitted?

It’s well-established that coronaviruses spread from animals to humans, according to the World Health Organization. But on Monday, a Chinese official confirmed there have been cases in which the virus has also spread from human to human. 

State-run CCTM quoted Zhong Nanshan, a scientist at the China’s National Health Commission, as saying such transmission was “affirmative.” The scientist did not say how many cases were the result of human-to-human transmission  — but in one case, a hospital patient is said to have infected 14 medical workers, according to Inocencio.

What’s being done to stop the spread? 

The World Health Organization announced Monday that it will convene an Emergency Committee on the virus on January 22 in Geneva, Switzerland, to determine if the outbreak is a public health emergency.

Meanwhile, the CDC has deployed about 100 workers total to screen passengers at the three major ports of airline entry in the U.S.: New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Approximately 5,000 passengers from Wuhan are expected to pass through those airports in the coming weeks. 

The CDC also said it has developed a test to diagnose the virus. Currently, that test must be administered at the CDC — but the organization is working to share the test with domestic and international partners.

In Hong Kong, which was ravaged by SARS in 2002 and 2003, hospitals upped their alert level to “serious” and implemented temperature checkpoints for inbound travelers.

In China, airline workers are running temperature checks on flights leaving Wuhan. But there could be a problem: Hundreds of millions of people are moving through China to celebrate the Chinese New Year, stoking fears that the virus could spread even faster.

U.S. begins airport screenings as coronavirus spreads in China

Ramy Inocencio and Grace Qi contributed to this report. 

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Four teachers sue Delta Air Lines over California fuel dump

Four teachers from a Los Angeles-area school sued Delta Air Lines on Friday, saying they were exposed to jet fuel when a plane with engine trouble dumped its fuel over a densely populated area, including several schools, while making an emergency return to the airport.

At a news conference, the teachers described the fuel as drizzling down like raindrops with “overwhelming” fumes. They said their panicked students screamed and cried.

“The plaintiffs could feel the fuel on their clothes, their flesh, their eyes and their skin,” said the teachers’ attorney, Gloria Allred, who noted that her firm may add teachers or students to the lawsuit.

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“Fuel penetrated their mouths and noses as well, producing a lasting and severe irritation, and a lasting and a noxious taste and smell,” Allred said.

Officials have said nearly 60 schoolchildren and teachers were exposed to the vapor Tuesday and were examined for minor skin and lung irritations and told to wash with soap and water. No one was taken to a hospital.

The teachers said they sought medical treatment after the incident and suffered physical and emotional pain.

The lawsuit filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court by the four teachers at Park Avenue Elementary School in Cudahy seeks unspecified damages.

The plaintiffs, Lisette Barajas, Laura Guzman, Mariana De La Torre and Anabel Samperio, appeared at the news conference with their attorney but declined to be identified individually when they spoke.

Delta declined to comment on the pending litigation.

Also on Friday, the South Coast Air Quality Management District — the governmental agency that monitors air pollution for parts of Southern California —issued a violation to Delta for the fuel dump.

The agency alleges that the fuel created a public nuisance. Violations can result in civil penalties or lawsuits.

The airline previously said Flight 89 to Shanghai had an engine problem after takeoff and needed to quickly return to Los Angeles International Airport. The Boeing 777-200 landed safely after circling back over Los Angeles while dumping 15,000 gallons of fuel to reach a safe landing weight.

The weight of a full load of fuel carries a risk of damaging a jetliner during landing — which can be expensive for an airline to fix. Even if there isn’t damage, airlines try to avoid overweight landings because they are required to inspect planes, which puts them out of service.

Not much is known about the health effects of exposure to kerosene-type jet fuel, according to the federal Health and Human Services Department. Studies using military personnel suggest it can affect the nervous system, but that research involved people who work around jet fuel all the time. Rats that were fed kerosene showed no increase in tumors, the agency said in a 2017 summary.

The flight crew radioed that the jet needed to return due to a compressor stall, a potentially serious problem. The pilot or co-pilot initially said a fuel dump was not needed but the aircraft later did begin releasing streams of fuel from its wings.

The airline said it immediately began investigating, but no detailed information about the situation facing the pilots has been released.

The Federal Aviation Administration is also investigating the fuel dump, citing procedures that “call for fuel to be dumped over designated unpopulated areas, typically at higher altitudes so the fuel atomizes and disperses before it reaches the ground.”

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Sanders-Warren tension dominates final debate before Iowa caucuses

It was the tension between Senator Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren that dominated the seventh Democratic debate Tuesday night, following a report that Sanders had told Warren in a 2018 meeting that a woman couldn’t win the presidency. 

The two candidates, who have been generally friendly up to this point and avoided criticizing each other, changed their tune on Tuesday, with just under three weeks to go before the Iowa caucuses. The two were caught on camera in a tense exchange after the debate, with Warren appearing to decline a handshake with Sanders. 

After much of the first hour of the seventh Democratic debate was dominated by foreign policy questions amid U.S. tensions with Iran, the two finally got a chance to talk about what seemed to be a brewing feud between them. On Monday, Warren said during a private meeting in 2018 about their shared goals for the U.S. economy and defeating President Trump in 2020, Sanders told her he didn’t think a woman could win the presidency. Sanders vehemently denied ever having made the statement. 

Standing on the debate stage, Sanders reiterated his denial: “As a matter of fact, I didn’t say it.” He added that he had even deferred to Warren in 2015, in case she wanted to run in 2016 and stepped into the race when she declined. He also pointed out that Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democratic nominee, had won 3 million more votes than Donald Trump. He asked rhetorically how anybody could believe a woman can’t win the presidency.

Warren was asked what her response was when she was told by Sanders a woman couldn’t win (a question that assumed that Warren’s version of events is true, rather than Sanders’). “I disagreed,” Warren replied, adding that “Bernie is my friend, and I’m not here to fight with Bernie.” 

Instead, she said, it’s time to tackle the question about whether a woman can be president “head-on,” and she pointed out that on the debate stage, the women on the stage had a better record of winning. 
“The men on this stage collectively have lost 10 elections,” Warren said. “The women on this stage haven’t lost any.” 

Tuesday’s debate stage was the smallest yet, with only six candidates meeting the qualifications: Biden, Sanders, Warren, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar and Tom Steyer.

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Iranian man with weapons arrested near Mar-a-Lago

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Trump: New sanctions on Iran but U.S. “ready to embrace peace”

A former U.S. intelligence official described Soleimani as “most experienced guerrilla fighter operating globally,” running operations with Iranian forces and proxy militias in Lebanon, Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. The official described his death as “devastating,” and said the “very disruptive” assassination would likely cause a power struggle in Iran.  

Former acting CIA director: There will be “dead civilian Americans” as a result of Qassem Soleimani killing

In April 2019, the U.S. designated the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, including the Quds Force, a “foreign terrorist organization.” In making the announcement, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo singled out Soleimani. 

“With this designation, we are sending a clear signal, a clear message to Iran’s leaders, including Qassem Soleimani and his band of thugs, that the United States is bringing all pressure to bear to stop the regime’s outlaw behavior,” Pompeo said at the time. 

Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser under Barack Obama who was instrumental in the 2014 Iran nuclear deal, said there’s “no question that Soleimani has a lot of blood on his hands.”

“But this is a really frightening moment,” he added. “Iran will respond and likely in various places. Thinking of all US personnel in the region right now.” 

More than 700 Army paratroopers are headed to Kuwait, and as many as 5,000 more paratroopers and U.S. Marines were expected to be sent to the Persian Gulf in the coming days.

While speaking to reporters off camera earlier Thursday, Esper said there were indications militias loyal to Iran were planning further attacks against Americans. 

“Do I think they may do something? Yes, and they will likely regret it,” he said.

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Michelle Williams pushes for abortion rights in Golden Globes speech

Michelle Williams took home a best actress Golden Globe Sunday night, but not before shining the spotlight on abortion rights. The actress used her time on stage to advocate for a “woman’s right to choose” — a right she said enabled her to be where she is today. 

Williams, who is pregnant, won the award for best performance by an actress in a limited series or a motion picture made for television, for her role as Gwen Verdon in FX’s mini-series “Fosse/Verdon.” The show was also nominated for best actor in a min-series and best mini-series. 

“As women and as girls, things can happen to our bodies that are not our choice. I’ve tried my best to live a life of my own making, and not just a series of events that happened to me,” she said. “… And I wouldn’t have been able to do this without employing a woman’s right to choose. To choose when to have my children and with whom.” 

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Cameras at the awards show honed in on the women of the room, including Busy Philipps, who could be seen tearing up and nodding in support of Williams’ remarks. Philipps has been a vocal advocate for abortion access and has often urged more conversation about women’s experiences with the procedure and how it shaped their lives. 

“I know my choices might look different but thank God or whomever you pray to that we live in a country founded on the principle that I am free to live by my faith and you are free to live by yours,” Williams said. “Women, 18 to 118, when it is time to vote, please do so in your own self-interest. It’s what men have been doing for years.” 

People and organizations watching the Globes quickly took to Twitter to comment on Williams’ speech, including Planned Parenthood. 

One user said her response was equal to that of Tiffany Haddish, who helped present Williams with the award. Haddish could be heard screaming “Preach!” as Williams gave her speech. 

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Officers receive over 50 rescue calls as storm slams Midwest

A fierce winter storm that created blizzard conditions in parts of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota shut down interstates and led to hundreds of vehicle crashes on Monday morning. The storm brought a metropolitan area of more than 200,000 people to a standstill. 

North Dakota Highway Patrol Captain Bryan Niewand said law enforcement responded to more than 50 rescue calls, most from people who drove on secondary roads because the interstates were shut down. Cass County Sheriff Jesse Jahner said some stranded travelers spent the night at a church in Page, northwest of Fargo.

Snow wasn’t the only issue during the weekend blast. Freezing rain on Saturday caused nearly 500 crashes on Minnesota roads and caused Metro Transit bus service to shut down in the Twin Cities, the first interruption of service in eight years.

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Residents in the Fargo and Moorhead, Minnesota, area who are used to snowstorms were told to stay home after a foot of heavy, wet snow fell on top of a sheet of ice, which made travel difficult and stoked early fears about spring flooding.

“This is one [of] the worst storms we’ve had, just because we had ice on the bottom of it and we received several more inches than we expected,” said Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney. “We’re telling people to be patient. Help your neighbor if you can. If you can make it a little easier for them to get around, please do that.”

While the blizzard warnings were allowed to expire in the Dakotas and some portions of the interstate highways were allowed to open, the storm continued to linger in the region. The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning in northeastern Minnesota, northern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where periods of heavy snow and gusty winds were expected to create difficult travel conditions.

Forecasters predicted 10 to 14 inches of snow along Lake Superior’s south shore. Wind gusts topping 60 mph whipped up waves that crashed over shoreline barriers in Duluth and Grand Marais, Minnesota, causing localized flooding Sunday.

Greg Gust, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Grand Forks, North Dakota, said the heaviest band of snow fell from Watertown, South Dakota, through the Red River Valley corridor in eastern North Dakota, where snowfall of 18 inches was common. Gust said the highest total so far is 21 inches in Ypsilanti, North Dakota.

Roof collapses were reported in Fargo and Virginia, Minnesota. Gust said the heavy, wet “Igloo snow” was making both driving and shoveling dangerous. He advised that snow clearing be done slowly on Monday, especially since the upcoming week calls for little measurable precipitation and above-normal temperatures.

“It’s a lot of heavy snow to move out of the way,” Gust said. “People should really take it easy. After that, enjoy the above-zero weather.”

Jonathan Wolfe, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Duluth, told the Star Tribune that Sunday’s precipitation and winds were just the first round of what he called an unusually strong winter storm. This season is already one of the top five snowiest to date for the area.

It also continued a trend of wet fall and early winter weather in the Red River Valley, where residents have dealt with chronic spring flooding for years. A diversion structure in Winnipeg, Manitoba, which prevents the north-flowing river from flooding the city, opened its floodgates in the fall for the first time, Gust said.

“The spring thaw and rain are always key factors (to a flood),” Gust said. “But we’re getting there. It’s setting up for a significant event.”

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