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  • Russia's Rosneft has transferred its assets in Venezuela to a company fully owned by Vladimir Putin's government, a move apparently intended to shield Russia's largest oil producer from U.S. sanctions while Moscow continues showing support for Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in the wake of a U.S. narcotics indictment. The sale, announced Saturday, follows the recent sanctioning of two Rosneft subsidiaries in an effort to cut a critical lifeline Russia extended to Maduro after the U.S. government made it illegal for Americans to buy crude from Venezuela. Rosneft, led by Russian Putin's longtime associate Igor Sechin, said that its move means that “all assets and trading operations of Rosneft in Venezuela and/or connected with Venezuela will be disposed of, terminated or liquidated.” It did not name the new company that would take over the assets, which include multiple joint ventures, oil-field services companies and trading activities. The move comes at a critical time for Maduro's government. The spread of the coronavirus pandemic threatens to overwhelm Venezuela's already collapsed health system all the while depriving its crippled economy of oil revenue on which it almost exclusively depends for hard currency. Amid the pandemic, which has claimed two victims and another 113 infected in Venezuela, the U.S. is stepping up pressure to remove Maduro. On Thursday, it made public indictments against the socialist leader and several top aides for allegedly leading a narcoterrorist conspiracy that converted the Venezuelan state into a platform for violent drug cartels, money launderers and Colombian guerrillas who sent 250 metric tons of cocaine a year to the U.S. Francisco Monaldi, a Venezuelan oil expert at Rice University in Houston, said the move would protect Rosneft and its two largest minority shareholders, BP and the government-run Qatar Investment Authority, from U.S. retaliation. “They didn’t want to lose those assets right now,” Monaldi said. “It seems like a logical step.” But Russ Dallen, head of Caracas Capital Markets brokerage, cautioned that it's too early to know for sure whether the move is intended to bolster Maduro. “We don't know whether the new state entity is a cemetery corporation, where companies go to die, or whether the Russians are simply doing it to take Rosneft — which is their crown jewel and provides a large portion of Russia's income — out of the way of sanctions and Putin will use the new company to continue to help Maduro,” he said. In February, the U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions on a Rosneft subsidiary based in Geneva that sells crude to European customers. U.S. authorities vowed to keep applying pressure, and hit a second Rosneft subsidiary with sanctions earlier this month. Rosneft spokesman Mikhail Leontyev said the company's decision was aimed at “protecting the interests of our shareholders' and that he expects the U.S. will now waive sanctions against its subsidiaries. 'We really have the right to expect American regulators to fulfill their public promises,” he added in remarks carried by Russia's Tass news agency. Konstantin Kosachev, the Kremlin-connected head of the foreign affairs committee in the upper house of Russian parliament, reiterated that Russia's view is that “unilateral U.S. sanctions against Venezuela are unlawful and inhumane.” 'Moscow and Caracas will remain partners amid the U.S. sanctions against Venezuela,' he told the Interfax news agency. The U.S. was first among nearly 60 nations to recognize opposition leader Juan Guaidó a year ago as Venezuela's rightful leader. The international coalition considers Maduro illegitimate after 2018 elections widely deemed fraudulent because the most popular opposition candidates were banned from running against him. Russia's support has helped Maduro to face down U.S.-backed efforts to unseat him. — Goodman reported in Miami. AP Writer Scott Smith in Caracas, Venezuela contributed to this report
  • The coronavirus pandemic has upended the lives and finances of millions. A federal relief package aiming to provide payments to distressed consumers passed Friday — but that money is not likely to land for a number of weeks. While you'll have to wait for whatever money you might be eligible for, now is the time to prep your finances and plan. The best use of this money depends on your individual circumstances. Here’s how to think it through. DO THIS PREP WORK, REGARDLESS OF YOUR SITUATION This is the time to examine your money situation and build savings, if possible. The fallout from the pandemic may continue for some time. Taking even small steps can help you feel empowered and less stressed. First, take stock of your regular expenses, such as housing costs, car loans and credit card or other debt payments. A budgeting worksheet can help account for everything and show what’s going to needs, wants and savings and debt. Once you see the big picture, consider trimming where you can because of the current uncertainty. “We’re all operating on a limited cognitive load right now,” says Kristen Holt, CEO of the nonprofit credit counseling agency GreenPath Financial Wellness. “Writing everything down and thinking it through first before you spend any of the money out the door would be a good idea.” IF YOU’VE LOST YOUR JOB, DON’T WAIT TO ACT Those who’ve lost jobs might feel like the floor has fallen out from under them. Money from the government will provide a much-needed boost, but it might be weeks or even months before you get it. And you’ll likely need to supplement and stretch it. “The amount of these checks is not going to go very far for paying people’s regular bills,” says Carol Fabbri, principal at Fair Advisors, a Colorado-based financial planning firm. “They need to reduce their bills as much as they possibly can, then think about Maslow's hierarchy of needs — you need to eat, you need shelter — and focus your spending there.” With that in mind: TAKE ADVANTAGE OF ALL SOURCES OF HELP: Pick up the phone and call your creditors. Explain your situation and work out a way to either delay payments for a few months or work out new minimum payments. Given the unprecedented nature of this moment, many creditors are offering ways to make payments more manageable for consumers. For homeowners, there are mortgage assistance programs you can tap if you can’t pay your mortgage. Explore resources to help manage and minimize expenses. File for unemployment if you’re eligible and use any resources your former employer may offer. Calling 211 will connect you with local health and social services organizations. MAKE A PLAN FOR THE MONEY YOU GET: Focus on necessities, like housing and food, to ensure your basic needs are met. If you have anything left over, you might be tempted to throw this money at debts. But saving should take priority right now, says Diane Pearson, a financial adviser at Pearson Financial Planning in Pennsylvania. “We don’t know how long this situation might last and there might be a need for this money down the road,” Pearson says. IF IT’S STILL NOT ENOUGH: For many people, this money won’t cover all of their expenses, even after all governmental and nonprofit resources are tapped. In that event, accruing debt to cover expenses may be a last-resort option but can be done strategically. Many of the “rules” about using credit cards don’t apply right now. “If you're going to get further in debt, do it with a plan and make sure you’re utilizing the best available options for you,” Holt says. “Don’t assume there aren’t options.” She suggests exploring loan options from local credit unions, for example, and steering clear of high-interest loans like payday loans. IF YOU STILL HAVE YOUR JOB, BUILD SAVINGS For those who still have a regular income but not much in the bank, a government payment is a chance to build financial resilience. BUILD SAVINGS: If you don’t have an emergency fund or you’ve exhausted it already, starting one with this government money would be a good idea. “An emergency fund is more essential right now than it has been in all of our lifetimes,” Fabbri says. “We’re all vulnerable in this economic situation.” Fabbri suggests putting your money in a high-yield account, like an online savings account, so you can earn more interest than you would in a traditional checking account. Designate your emergency fund for exactly that — a cash crunch. The economic impact of the pandemic is likely to last, so conserve cash as a safeguard for whatever headwinds you encounter. IF YOU’RE FINANCIALLY SOUND, CONSIDER HELPING If you’re still employed and have some emergency funds, consider yourself fortunate. If you qualify for a government payment, think about using it as stimulus, not relief. Consider donations to charities — avoid scams by navigating directly to known and trusted organizations — or patronize small businesses that are hurting. “If you’re in the lucky place where you have protected yourself already, then it’s a wonderful time to give,” Fabbri says. “Get a gift certificate for a nail salon or restaurant that you typically go to. If you can afford to do that, it’s a great way to support your community.” ___ This article originally appeared on the personal finance website NerdWallet. Sean Pyles is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: spyles@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @seanpyles.
  • The coronavirus pandemic is defining for the globe what's “essential” and what things we really can't do without, even though we might not need them for survival. Attempting to slow the spread of the virus, authorities in many places are determining what shops and services can remain open. They're also restricting citizens from leaving their homes. Stay-at-home orders or guidance are affecting more than one-fifth of the world's population. This has left many contemplating an existential question: What, really, is essential? Whether it is in Asia, Europe, Africa or the United States, there's general agreement: Health care workers, law enforcement, utility workers, food production and communications are generally exempt from lockdowns. But some lists of exempted activities reflect a national identity, or the efforts of lobbyists. In some U.S. states, golf, guns and ganja have been ruled essential, raising eyebrows and — in the case of guns — a good deal of ire. In many places, booze is also on the list of essentials. Britain at first kept liquor stores off its list of businesses allowed to remain open, but after reports of supermarkets running out of beer, wine and spirits, the government quickly added them. 'Recent events clearly demonstrate that the process of designating 'essential services' is as much about culture as any legal-political reality about what is necessary to keep society functioning,' said Christopher McKnight Nichols, associate professor of history at Oregon State University. Countries including India and U.S. states are listing the information technology sector as essential. The world's dependency on the internet has become even more apparent as countless people confined to their homes communicate, stream movies and play games online to stave off cabin fever. Several states where marijuana is legal, such as California and Washington, deemed pot shops and workers in the market's supply chain essential. For some, the emphasis is on medicinal uses, not enabling cooped-up people to get stoned. “Cannabis is a safe and effective treatment that millions of Americans rely on to maintain productive daily lives while suffering from diseases and ailments,” Erik Altieri, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said in an email. “It is the very definition of essential that these individuals can still access their medicine at this time.” Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont added gun shops to his list of essential businesses, generating shock and dismay among families of gun violence victims. His spokesman Max Reiss said Lamont is trying not to overly disrupt commerce or interfere with legal rights. Newtown Action Alliance, a group formed after a gunman killed 26 people in 2012 at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, urged Lamont to reconsider, noting a recent surge in gun and ammunition purchases. The group predicted an 'increased number of deaths due to unintentional shootings, homicides and suicides.” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a legal opinion Friday saying emergency orders in his state can't restrict gun sales. 'If you have a break down in society, well then our first line to defend ourselves is ourselves, so I think having a weapon ... is very important for your personal safety,” Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick told a radio interviewer. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf on Tuesday quietly allowed gun shops to reopen, but only by appointment during limited hours if customers and employees comply with social distancing and other protective measures. There is a lot of variation across the United States because a national stay-at-home order has not been issued, said Benjamin Clark, associate professor of planning, public policy and management at the University of Oregon. “We end up with places making up the rules that are culturally or geographically specific,” Clark said. “This is why we see so much variation, and potential risk.” In Europe, the current epicenter of the pandemic, Italy has the most stringent rules, with only essential businesses such as food shops and pharmacies remaining open. The manufacturing sector was ordered shut down on Thursday, though factories that make needed products like medical supplies will continue to operate after making conditions safer for employees. Britain, which was initially reluctant to shut down business, has issued orders to close nonessential operations. Restaurants and eateries must be shut, but Britons can still get fish and chips and other meals, as long as they’re carry-out. In France, shops specializing in pastry, wine and cheese have been declared essential businesses. In a nod to Israel’s vibrant religious life, people can gather for outdoor prayers — with a maximum of 10 worshipers standing 2 meters (2 yards) apart. Demonstrations — also allowed — have occurred outside parliament and the Supreme Court, with participants maintaining social distance. “In times of uncertainty, institutions and practices that are central to the cultural identities can become really important touchstones — material markers of certainty, comfort, and mechanisms to persist,” said Aimee Huff, marketing professor at Oregon State University, specializing in consumer culture. In China, authorities closed most businesses and public facilities beginning in late January but kept open hospitals, supermarkets and pharmacies. Truck drivers delivering food, disinfectant and medical supplies to locked-down cities were hailed as heroes. Now, the ruling Communist Party is relaxing restrictions to revive the economy after declaring victory over the outbreak. For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing conditions, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death. In the United States, lobbyists have been trying to influence what gets on lists of essential services, so their clients' businesses can remain open. “They were absolutely earning their pay” in Connecticut, said Reiss, the governor's spokesman. He noted lobbyists for manufacturers and the golf course industry were particularly active. Despite their efforts, golf wasn't deemed essential in Connecticut. But Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey included golf courses on his list. Officials in Phoenix encouraged the city's 1.7 million residents to “get outside, get exercise and practice responsible social distancing” in golf courses, parks and trails. Mayors of five other Arizona cities pushed back, telling Ducey that including golf courses and payday lenders was taking the definition of essential too far. In California, construction executives and others lobbied state officials to get construction exempted from the stay-at-home mandate, the Sacramento Bee reported. State health officials responded by including all construction as essential. If construction in America's most populous state stalls — as it it did during the Great Recession — it would be difficult to restart, said Erika Bjork of the Sacramento Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, which advocated for the industry. “We need to keep this engine humming, so when we come out of this we have housing,” Bjork said. Like Britain, some U.S. states allowed liquor stores to remain open, including New Mexico, which routinely ranks first in alcohol-related deaths per capita. State health officials were concerned that shutting them down would result in people with alcoholism seeking emergency medical attention, taking resources away from the coronavirus, said Tripp Stelnicki, a spokesman for New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. In New Hampshire, Gov. Chris Sununu said flower shops are among the essentials. Asked why, spokesman Ben Vihstadt said they provide essential services for funeral homes. ___ Associated Press reporters Susan Haigh in Hartford, Connecticut; Joe McDonald in Beijing; Carlo Piovano and Jill Lawless in London; Angela Charlton in Paris; Josef Federman in Jerusalem; Josh Hoffner in Phoenix; Morgan Lee in Santa Fe, New Mexico; and Michael Casey in Concord, New Hampshire contributed to this report. ___ Follow Andrew Selsky on Twitter at https://twitter.com/andrewselsky
  • Salvador Calzadillas isn't worried about catching the coronavirus when he's picking mandarin oranges in the trees in central California. But he said the mere act of getting to the groves each day puts him and his wife, also a farmworker, at risk, and there’s nothing they can do to change that. Farmworkers, after all, can't work from home. Calzadillas and his wife are among half a dozen workers who crowd into a car or van to get to the groves a 40-minute drive away. There, they are huddled in a group to get daily instructions — without regard for social distancing, he said. “There’s been no changes so far, everything is the same,” Calzadillas said. “Many of my co-workers say it’s like we’re immortal, we’re working just the same. There’s no prevention, and we keep working.” The 31-year-old is one of many workers on farms operating as essential businesses in the heart of California's farm-rich Central Valley, supplying food to much of the United States even as schools, restaurants and stores have closed down because of the virus. More than a third of the country's vegetables and two-thirds of its fruits and nuts are grown in California, whose farms and ranches brought in nearly $50 billion in 2018, according to the state Department of Agriculture. Agriculture groups and union leaders are urging employers to take extra precautions to prevent the outbreak from spreading among California's farmworkers, who are already in short supply. Workers getting sidelined by illness could jeopardize crop yields and disrupt the food supply. Some farms are heeding the call, union officials and growers say. But it can be difficult to separate workers by 6 feet (2 meters) as recommended because of the way certain crops are grown, said Dave Puglia, president of Western Growers, a group representing family farmers in California, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico. And efficiency is also critical, he said, with farmers facing pressure to restock grocery shelves. “You would have to stagger the workers who are harvesting,” Puglia said. “That is a very inefficient and a very, very costly way to operate, and most farmers wouldn't be able to do it. They would be losing way too much money.” Western Growers said many members have added sanitation stations in the fields and required hand-washing before and after work as well as spaced out workers in packing facilities. United Farm Workers is using the moment to push for longstanding requests, including removing the need for a doctor's note and other hurdles to getting sick pay. In a letter to the agriculture industry, the union said workers should be able to wash their hands frequently and be encouraged to stay home if they are sick. 'What we're finding is that most growers are not communicating with their employees to even share the basics: how to practice best practices (like) washing your hands' and keeping distance from others, said Armando Elenes, secretary treasurer at United Farm Workers, which represents up to 27,000 seasonal workers. Joe Pezzini, president of vegetable grower Ocean Mist Farms, said his office and sales staff are working remotely wherever possible. He said the company, which operates in California's Coachella Valley and Central Coast, had workers use gloves and sanitized equipment to ensure food safety long before the virus appeared. “One of the biggest changes is just in the training and education,” he said, including encouraging workers to keep a safe distance from each other, even on breaks. “Partly for personal safety, but it’s also for, ‘Hey, we’re feeding the nation. We’re creating food the nation needs right now.’” The coronavirus crisis has drawn fresh attention to farmers' critical role, with residents finding some supermarket shelves cleaned out by people stocking up and then hunkering down in their homes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the threat of contracting COVID-19 from food or food packaging is low. Farmers and workers are mostly concerned about passing it to each other. For most, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. As of Friday, more than 90 people have died of the virus in California and over 4,600 have tested positive, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. Most cases are in the San Francisco Bay Area and around Los Angeles. Leti Martinez, who picks mandarin oranges, said her employer told her little about the virus except to explain that the farm is allowed to keep operating. The 31-year-old said she wears gloves to prevent her hands from getting cut and wraps a cloth around her face to keep out the dust. But she is worried about her commute with other workers and said they sometimes face a shortage of running water in the bathrooms once they’re there. Another concern is conditions for foreign workers in the U.S. on temporary agricultural visas, known as H-2As. They often live in close quarters, sometimes with bunk-style beds or in motels provided by their employers, and commute together in vans and buses. A coalition of farmworker advocates has asked U.S. officials to require employers to provide at least 6 feet between beds for such workers and that they be tested for the virus before entering the country. A Labor Department spokesman said this week that there were no announcements about changed working conditions for H-2A workers. Those workers account for a small percentage of farm labor overall but are significant in Colorado, which has a shorter growing season, and for certain crops, like berries, said Puglia of Western Growers. To address conditions at the thousands of farms that the California Farm Bureau Federation represents, its president, Jamie Johansson, said he has told farms to have workers go out in smaller groups “when possible.” His organization also says hand-washing on farms is routine for food safety reasons. Some small farms are taking extra measures. Heringer Estates, a 152-year-old family-owned vineyard and winery in Clarksburg, has 30 workers growing its grapes. Steve Heringer said workers now have more hand sanitizer and already use their own gloves for field work. “If they're working in rows, (we) have them working back to back” to maximize distance, he said. “It's had pretty little impact on the vineyard side, but we have a heightened awareness.” ___ Taxin reported from Orange County, California.
  • Stocks rallied this week as Washington acted to provide $2.2 trillion of relief to an economy shocked by the coronavirus outbreak, leaving some on Wall Street cautiously optimistic that the panicky selling that had gripped the market earlier may have come to an end. Even after a loss on Friday, the S&P 500 had its best weekly percentage gain since March 2009. The Dow Jones Industrial Average posted its biggest weekly rally since 1938. The gains came after two brutal weeks that conjured memories of the market’s sell-off in 2008 as the government and the Federal Reserve scrambled to contain the financial crisis. “The takeaway from this week is the initial down phase has probably run its course,” said Willie Delwiche, investment strategist at Baird. “Investors can get out of the duck-and-cover mode and start to figure out what they need to do. But it doesn't mean that we've gotten an all-clear signal.” The S&P 500 remains 25% below the record highs it set in February, however, after nearly relentless selling earlier this month. Strategists like Delwiche know the outlook is still uncertain, at least until more progress can be made fighting the pandemic and the number of new cases level off and start dropping. This week the U.S. passed China as the country with the most virus cases and the numbers continue to accelerate. A lot will depend on how badly the coronavirus outbreak stalled the U.S. economy. The government reported a historic spike in applications for unemployment benefits this week and more grim numbers are expected in the weeks ahead. Wall Street has been slashing its estimates for company profits even as the companies themselves say little publicly about the impact on their bottom lines. “The key at this point is getting a handle on the spread of the virus so that then we can start to think about what (economic) growth looks like for the remainder of the year,” Delwiche said. Some economists are predicting the U.S. economy will contract as much as an astonishing 30% in the second quarter as the full impact of business and factory closures, layoffs and the dramatic halt to Americans’ daily routine takes effect. On Friday, the S&P 500 fell 3.4%, erasing some of the rally from the previous three days. The index still finished with a gain of 10.3% for the week. The Dow closed with a weekly gain of 12.8%, led by a rebound in shares of Boeing. The Chicago-based airplane maker was one of the blue-chip companies investors rushed to buy this week after the stock has fallen to a nearly seven-year low. It gained 70.5%, yet is still down 41% in March. Besides the chance to buy companies seen as oversold, the overall downturn in the markets in recent weeks is creating good opportunities for investors to buy into sectors of the market that will be “prevalent” for the next decade, said Solita Marcelli, deputy chief investment officer, Americas, at UBS Global Wealth Management. That includes e-commerce and technology companies that focus on things like gene therapies. That said, Marcelli cautioned that the next few weeks will be challenging for investors, who should refrain from any drastic action. “Investors have to keep bracing for volatility,” she said. “This is not a time to make a complete portfolio makeover.” Much of this week's rally was driven by enthusiasm over a historic $2.2 trillion financial rescue package that was signed into law by President Donald Trump Friday. It includes direct payments to households, aid to hard-hit industries like airlines and support for small businesses. The push to deliver financial relief took on more urgency as the outbreak widened. The number of cases in the U.S. has surpassed those in China and Italy, climbing to more than 104,000 known cases, according to Johns Hopkins University. The worldwide total has topped 607,000, and the death toll has climbed to more than 28,000, while more than 130,000 have recovered. For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death. Investors have yet to get a clear picture of exactly how badly the crisis has hurt corporate profits, the ultimate driver of stock prices. Many companies have simply withdrawn the profit forecasts they issued earlier in the year. At the start of this year, analysts expected S&P 500 companies' earnings would grow 4.4% in the January-March quarter. They now expect earnings will be down 4.1%, according to FactSet. That may not fully reflect the size of the potential earnings declines this year, with only 15% of analysts having adjusted their estimates within the past couple of weeks, according to a report by Credit Suisse. Earnings for airlines, which have been hit by lost bookings as businesses and individuals canceled travel plans to minimize their risk of contracting the virus, are expected to be terrible. Wall Street’s estimate for Delta went from an expected 2.2% decline to a 108% plunge. Darden Restaurants, parent of Olive Garden and Longhorn Steakhouse, rose 43% this week, but is still down 43% for the month and 49% for the year. Analysts now expect the company to lose $1.46 per share in the fiscal fourth quarter ending in May, whereas back in February they expected a profit of $2.01, according to FactSet. Energy markets are also feeling the impact of the virus outbreak. The price of crude oil slid 4.8% to close at $21.51 a barrel. Goldman Sachs has forecast that it will fall well below $20 a barrel in the next two months because storage will be filled to the brim and wells will have to be shut in. That's sure to cause even more trouble for energy companies, which are lagging far behind the rest of the market. The price of oil has plunged recently, in part due to a price war that broke out early this month between Saudi Arabia and Russia. The energy sector of the S&P 500 has lost half its value this year. Shares of Exxon Mobil are down 47% so far this year. Shares of Continental Resources, which drills for oil in North Dakota and Oklahoma, have dropped 75%.

News

  • With more states imposing “safer at home” and quarantine orders because of the coronavirus, families and friends are searching for ways to stay connected. Sure, the telephone works, but more people are using video apps for face-to-face contact. It’s a good way for older citizens to connect with grandchildren without worrying about coming in contact. While hugs may be precious, people are becoming more aware of staying isolated. There are plenty of ways to connect. Here is a look at 12 video-chatting applications: Zoom: This app appears to be geared toward business, but families can use Zoom too. Users initiating a meeting are taken to a virtual room that looks like a table in a conference room. Personal groups of up to 100 people can meet online for free. Business options include packages for sale that allow up to 1,000 participants. Facebook Live: Viewers can connect in real-time from their cellphones, computers and even through their television set. FaceTime: This app, though the Apple store, allows users to make video and audio calls to groups of up to 32 people. FaceTime is available on Apple products including iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. Facebook Messenger: Similar to FaceTime, Messenger allows free video calling around the world for individuals or groups of up to six. It can be used on cellphones, tablets and computers. Skype: This app has been around for a while. Skype can accommodate groups of up to 50 people worldwide, It can be used on computers, mobile devices, XBox One and even smartwatches. WhatsApp: More than 2 billion users take advantage of the WhatsApp. The mobile app works on Android and iOS platforms, making it a good choice for people with friends owning diverse types of devices. The free app allows groups of up to four users per session. Tango: You know the old phrase. It takes two to Tango, and this app restricts video contact to two people. This free app is good but only two! The free app is good for video calling one other person at a time. You can also make voice calls, send messages and play games using Tango. Google Hangouts: This app is free in its basic form. Google Hangouts allows up to 10 participants at a time. You can even video chat through your Gmail accounts. Instagram: Up to six people can video chat at once via Instagram. Houseparty: This video chat app is owned by Epic Games, which developed Fortnite. Houseparty allows people to play video games or test trivia skills through its interface. It is available through Android, iOS, MacOs and Chrome. Snapchat: With Chat 2.0, Snapchat users can use a full, featured video chat service. Snapchat is free to use, but can chew up a lot of data time. It is recommended to connect to a wireless network before making your call. Viber: The Viber app is good for international calls and one-on-one video calls. Calls between Viber users are free, but a fee will apply for calling people without the app.
  • Tom Coburn, a former U.S. senator from Oklahoma known as a conservative political maverick, died after a battle with prostate cancer, according to The Associated Press. He was 72. Coburn retired from the Senate in 2015 after being diagnosed with cancer. He served two terms from 2005 to 2015, KOKI reported. “Oklahoma has lost a tremendous leader, and I lost a great friend today,' U.S. Sen. James Lankford said in a statement. “Dr. Coburn was an inspiration to many in our state and our nation. He was unwavering in his conservative values, but he had deep and meaningful friendships with people from all political and personal backgrounds. He was truly respected by people on both sides of the aisle.” In the Senate, Coburn was the ranking member of the Committee on Homeland Security and also served on the committees on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs; Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions; and Intelligence. From 1995 to 2001, Coburn represented Oklahoma’s 2nd Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. A family physician, Coburn was a member of the Committee on Commerce, where he sat on the subcommittees on Health and Environment as vice-chairman, Energy & Power, and Oversight and Investigations. Coburn was also selected co-chair of the President’s Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS in 2001. Services for Coburn have not been announced, KOKI reported.
  • Florida senior citizens who live in a downtown Orlando high-rise flickered the lights of their apartments Friday in a show of support for the doctors and nurses who are trying to thwart the spread of the coronavirus. Residents of Westminster Towers flickered their apartment lights at 9 p.m. to show support for the medical professionals working at Orlando Health. “Tonight, we flashed all of our lights to show our thanks to the hero health care workers at Orlando Regional Medical Center as they work hard to treat the sick and keep us safe from COVID-19,” Westminster Towers said on Facebook. “Thank you.” The display could be seen from the hospital campus, which is near the apartment building. “Thank you (Westminster Towers) for lighting up the night and our hearts,” the hospital network said on Facebook. “We’re all in this together.”
  • The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Georgia climbed to 2,366 Saturday as the state’s death toll reached 69. Since Friday evening, the confirmed number of Georgians who have died as a result of COVID-19 increased by four, according to the latest data from the Georgia Department of Public Health.  » COMPLETE COVERAGE: Coronavirus in Georgia Health officials also confirmed an additional 168 cases since the 7 p.m. update. Of Georgia’s overall cases, 617 people remain hospitalized, a rate of about 26%, according to the state’s noon figures.  Fulton County still has the most cases with 373, followed by DeKalb with 240, Dougherty County with 205, and Cobb with 181.  As of Monday, the number of confirmed cases across the state was fewer than 1,000 Since Friday evening, Fulton has 26 new cases, while DeKalb has 21 more and 18 more people tested positive in Cobb. Four counties also reported their first cases, including Murray, Walton, Jenkins and Pike.  » MORE: City under siege: Coronavirus exacts heavy toll in Albany A total of 11,051 tests have been conducted so far in Georgia. About 21.4% of those returned positive results. On Friday afternoon, the DPH started releasing data on where people died. Dougherty County leads the count with 13 deaths, followed by Fulton with 12, Cobb County with eight, and Lee County with five. About 2.9% of Georgians who have tested positive for the highly contagious disease have died. » DASHBOARD: Real-time stats and charts tracking coronavirus in Georgia For most, COVID-19 causes only mild or moderate symptoms. Older adults and those with existing health problems are at risk of more severe illnesses, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover in a matter of weeks. As numbers spike across the state, Gov. Brian Kemp is urging Georgians to stay home and practice social distancing. At a town hall broadcast Thursday evening, Kemp told residents to heed directives to avoid more restrictive measures, such as a statewide stay-at-home mandate. » RELATED: Kemp urges Georgians to heed virus warnings but balks at drastic steps Bars and nightclubs remain closed across the state, many public gatherings are banned, and the elderly and medically fragile are ordered to shelter in place. » PHOTOS: Metro Atlanta adjusts to shifts in daily life amid coronavirus crisis Many metro Atlanta cities and counties have issued their own stay-at-home orders to residents, shutting down nonessential businesses and imposing curfews. » MORE: DeKalb County issues stay-at-home order Speaking on CNN Saturday morning, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said metro Atlanta’s hospitals are already nearing capacity.  “...We are a large urban city in an even larger metropolitan area, so on a good day our hospitals and our ICU beds are at a premium,” she said. “What people have to realize is strokes don’t stop, diabetes and these things that send people into our emergency rooms, these things continue. It’s stressing our health care system and you add this pandemic on top of it and we have a real problem of it brewing right here in Atlanta.” » RELATED: Bottoms: Stay home so others ‘have an opportunity to simply live’ Those who believe they are experiencing symptoms or have been exposed to COVID-19 are asked to contact their primary care doctor or an urgent care clinic. Do not show up unannounced at an emergency room or health care facility. Georgians can also call the state COVID-19 hotline at 844-442-2681 to share public health information and connect with medical professionals.  — Please return to AJC.com for updates.
  • He has been a prominent face during the White House Coronavirus Task Force briefings. Now, Anthony Fauci’s face is prominently featured on doughnuts in a New York shop. According to WHAM-TV, Donuts Delite, in Rochester, introduced the sweet treat Monday as a tribute to Fauci, 79, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a doctor for the National Institutes of Health. Nick Semeraro, owner of Donut Delites, said his employees have made “thousands” of doughnuts, the television station reported. “We wanted to find a way to cheer up the people in our neighborhood,” Semeraro told CNN. “We noticed Dr. Fauci on (television), and we loved his message and how thorough he was, and how he kept everyone informed during the crisis... so we wanted to give back and say thanks.” The shop printed Fauci’s face on edible paper and put it on top of a buttercream-frosted doughnut, the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reported. Fauci’s image was then encircled with frosting decorated with red, white and blue sprinkles, the newspaper reported. “Right now, we’re selling over 100 an hour at least,” Semararo told WHAM. “We had no idea they would blow up like that. “It just started as a tribute,” Semararo told the television station. “It started as a thank you. It’s sticking, and I think it’s great. People are stuck at home and what’s happening is, it’s starting conversations. Whether they pick it up for someone, it starts that thinking outside of the box and giving back.” Semararo said he would continue to make the doughnuts as long as there is a demand. “I never met a guy that worldwide (who) is so loved,” Semeraro told CNN. “And a month ago, we never knew his first and last name... His political agenda is medical. It’s facts ... the American public needs facts now.”
  • The chief executive officer of Texas Roadhouse restaurants said he is giving up his salary and bonus so the chain’s front-line employees can be paid during the coronavirus pandemic. Wayne Kent Taylor will begin donating his checks from the pay period beginning March 18 through Jan. 7, 2021, Market Watch reported Wednesday. Louisville Business First reported Taylor’s total compensation package in 2018 was $1.3 million with his base salary being $525,000. In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Texas Roadhouse said it is also suspending its dividend in an effort to conserve cash during the pandemic, according to Market Watch. Texas Roadhouse, a publicly traded company based in Kentucky, employs more than 56,000 workers and has 563 locations in the U.S. and internationally, the website reported. Taylor, 63, founded the chain in 1993, opening his first restaurant in Clarksville, Indiana, USA Today reported.