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    The chief judge of a secretive national security court demanded Friday that the FBI provide him with details about some of its investigations after the Justice Department inspector general identified problems with more than two dozen wiretap applications. The order from Judge James Boasberg signals growing concerns from the court that authorizes FBI surveillance about whether the bureau is providing inaccurate information when it applies to eavesdrop on suspected spies and terrorists. Those problems were highlighted in an earlier inspector general report about the FBI's Russia investigation, then amplified by a new audit this week that suggested far more pervasive problems in the bureau's use of its surveillance powers. The scrutiny from the court, which relies on truthful information from the Justice Department in issuing warrants, could prompt additional changes in how the FBI conducts surveillance and also fuel concerns from lawmakers who last month permitted certain tools to at least temporarily expire. The latest review found problems in 29 surveillance applications, from October 2014 to September 2019, that Inspector General Michael Horowitz's office reviewed. Those problems included factual statements in applications that were not corroborated by any supporting documentation. In a four-page order Friday, Boasberg directed the FBI to provide him with the names of the targets for each of the 29 applications. He also asked the FBI to evaluate whether the applications contained “material misstatements or omissions' and whether those misstatements make any of the applications that were granted by the court invalid. 'The OIG Memorandum provides further reason for systemic concern,' Boasberg wrote in his order. “It thereby reinforce s the need for the Court to monitor the ongoing efforts of the FBI and DOJ to ensure that, going forward, FBI applications present accurate and complete facts.' He said that when problems are identified in particular cases, the court “must evaluate what remedial measures may be necessary.' The FBI responded with a statement Friday that said it would continue working with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to ensure that its powers are used correctly. It also noted that the applications the inspector general reviewed were filed before FBI Director Chris Wray announced dozens of corrective steps after the conclusion of the Russia investigation report. “Maintaining the trust and confidence of the Court is paramount to the FBI and we are continuing to implement the 40-plus corrective actions ordered by Director Wray in December 2019,” the statement said. “Although the applications reviewed by the IG in this audit predate the announcement of these corrective actions, the FBI understands the Court’s desire to obtain information related to the applications,' it added. The inspector general last year found that the FBI made serious errors and omissions in surveillance applications targeting former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page in the early months of the investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. Though President Donald Trump has said those problems reveal law enforcement bias against him, additional revelations from the inspector general suggest the problems are more systemic and not isolated to a single investigation. ____ Follow Eric Tucker on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/etuckerAP
  • A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit by fantasy sports contestants who claimed they were damaged by sign stealing in Major League Baseball. Five men had sued MLB, MLB Advanced Media, the Houston Astros and the Boston Red Sox in federal court in Manhattan, claiming fraud, violation of consumer-protection laws, negligence, unjust enrichment and deceptive trade practices by teams that violated MLB’s rules against the use of electronics to steal catchers’ signs. “A sport that celebrates `stealing,' even if only of a base, may not provide the perfect encouragement to scrupulous play,” U.S/ District Judge Jed S. Rakoff wrote Friday in a 32-page opinion. 'Nor can it be denied that an overweening desire to win may sometimes lead our heroes to employ forbidden substances on their (spit) balls, their (corked) bats, or even their (steroid-consuming) selves. But as Frank Sinatra famously said to Grace Kelly (in the 1956 movie musical High Society), “there are rules about such things.“ MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred ruled in January the Astros violated rules against electronic sign-stealing during home games en route to their World Series title in 2017 and again in 2018. He suspended manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow for one season each, and both were fired by the team. Manfred fined the Astros $5 million, the maximum under MLB rules and stripped the team of its next two first- and second-round draft picks. Manfred fined the Red Sox in 2017 for using Apple Watches to pass along signals. Boston is being investigated for possible violations of electronic sign-stealing rules in 2018, when it won the World Series. “In 2017 and thereafter, the Houston Astros, and somewhat less blatantly the Boston Red Sox, shamelessly broke that rule, and thereby broke the hearts of all true baseball fans,” Rakoff wrote. 'But did the initial efforts of those teams, and supposedly of Major League Baseball itself, to conceal these foul deeds from the simple sports bettors who wagered on fantasy baseball create cognizable legal claim? On the allegations here made, the answer is no.” The five men who sued participated in fantasy contests hosted by DraftKings from 2017-19. “The connection between the alleged harm plaintiffs suffered and defendants’ conduct is simply too attenuated to support any of plaintiffs’ claims for relief,” Rakoff said. __ More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
  • With gas lines across Venezuela growing, a controversial shipping magnate has stepped in to prevent the country from running out of fuel amid the coronavirus pandemic, The Associated Press has learned. The fuel shortage, in the nation that sits atop the world largest crude reserves, is the latest threat to Nicolas Maduro's rule at a time he's under intense U.S. pressure to resign. Wilmer Ruperti’s Maroil Trading Inc. billed state-owned oil monopoly PDVSA 12 million euros last month for the purchase of up to 250,000 barrels of 95-octane gasoline, according to a copy of the invoice obtained by the AP. The gasoline was purchased from an undisclosed Middle Eastern country, said two people familiar with the transaction on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive dealings. The single gas shipment isn’t going to resolve Venezuela’s supply problems. But with the economy paralyzed, any amount of fuel that arrives will come as welcome relief, analysts said. Ruperti, a former oil tanker captain, has a colorful history coming to the rescue of Venezuela’s socialist revolution at critical junctures, something that endeared him to the late Hugo Chávez. But his latest gambit, which could help stave off a deepening humanitarian crisis, is bound to irritate the Trump administration, which this week doubled down on its campaign in support of opposition leader Juan Guaidó, sending naval ships to the Caribbean on a counternarcotics mission following Maduro's indictment in New York on narcoterrorist charges. Venezuela's oil fields and refineries have crumbled from years of mismanagement. More recently, fuel imports have dried up as the Trump administration tightened sanctions against Maduro, targeting two trading houses owned by Russia's Rosneft for providing a lifeline to the embattled leader. Then came the coronavirus, which sent crude prices crashing globally and paralyzed what little was left of domestic production. “In Venezuela, the only thing spreading faster than the coronavirus are the gasoline shortages,” said Russ Dallen, head of Caracas Capital Markets, a brokerage. In recent days, gas lines have popped up across Caracas, which is typically immune from days' long waits common in the rest of the country. But most stations had closed as supplies ran out. At one of the few gas stations still open in the capital Thursday, hundreds of cars, taxis and a flatbed trucks hugged the shoulder of a highway as heavily-armed soldiers stared down motorists, some of whom had been waiting three days to fill up. Among those in the 3-kilometer long line was Javier Serrano, who relies on a beat-up blue 1968 Ford Falcon to eke out a meager living as a taxi driver. “There’s a curfew at night and no public transportation,” the 49-year-old said. “One of my relatives could die at home because they don’t have a vehicle. We can’t even go from one house to another, or to a clinic.” The government blames U.S. aggression for the gas shortages. On Friday, it said it was formulating a “special fuel supply plan” to restore stockpiles in the “shortest possible time,” allowing the nation to combat the coronavirus. “We deplore the position of extremist sectors of the Venezuelan opposition that collude with foreign governments to plan and execute these actions against the Venezuelan people,” said Industry Minister Tareck El Aissami, the top economics adviser to Maduro. “History will mercilessly judge these traitors.” Enter Ruperti, who the leftist revolution has leaned on before to get it out of economic jams. In 2002, he chartered a fleet of Russian tankers to import gasoline amid a months' long strike at PDVSA seeking to remove Chavez. More recently, he funded the defense of First Lady Cilia Flores' two nephews in a politically charged U.S. narcotics trial as well as that of American Joshua Holt, who was held for two years in a Caracas jail on what were seen as trumped-up weapons charges. Ruperti, 60, was decorated by Chavez with military honors for breaking the strike and saw his business as a prized PDVSA contractor boom. Ruperti showed his gratitude by giving the leftist leader two pistols used by independence hero Simon Bolivar, which reportedly cost him $1.6 million. Later, however, he was sued by a unit of the Russian shipping company for allegedly paying millions in bribes. Ruperti declined to comment when contacted by the AP. While U.S. sanctions have driven away from Venezuela many established shipping companies and commodity traders, Ruperti appears to be little fazed. One of the documents obtained by AP shows his Swiss-based Maroil Trading AG opened accounts in dollars, euros and rubles at Moscow-based Derzhava Bank in November. One person said the gas that Maroil billed to PDVSA is en route and should arrive to Venezuela in the coming days. Dallen estimates that it's enough to supply Venezuela's current demand for little more than a week. While there have been only five deaths so far due to the coronavirus and most Venezuelans are closely observing a government-mandated lock down, a tense calm prevails over much of the country due to the gas shortages and concerns the already collapsed health care system will be overwhelmed if more people are infected. Bouts of protests have started to emerge among farmers who complain that their produce is rotting because they can’t transport it to urban centers. “An acute gasoline shortage at this juncture would bring about a serious worsening of the country’s humanitarian crisis, putting Venezuelans’ lives at even greater risk,” said Francisco Rodriguez, a Venezuelan economist who launched Oil For Venezuela, a U.S.-based group lobbying for sanctions relief. Whatever Ruperti’s motivations, Serrano said he'd be grateful for any relief no matter who it comes from. He's spent the two last nights in line, taking catnaps in his car or striking up conversation with those all around him, seemingly oblivious to the authorities' call for social distancing. Serrano complained that the National Guard soldiers assigned to patrol the line had threatened to write down their license plate numbers if they didn’t leave. He said the soldiers told them they were in line illegally because the rationed gasoline was reserved for essential vehicles, like the trucks delivering food to markets. “We’re all in this same fight together,” he said. “We all have families and we all understand the situation. The soldiers are following orders, but they shouldn’t act on them just to keep us down.” — Follow Joshua Goodman on Twitter: @APjoshgoodman Follow Scott Smith on Twitter: @ScottSmithAP Goodman reported from Miami.
  • U.S. defense leaders are backing the Navy's decision to fire the ship captain who sought help for his cornonavirus-stricken aircraft carrier, even as videos showed sailors cheering him as he walked off the vessel. Videos went viral on social media Friday, showing hundreds of sailors gathered on the ship chanting and applauding Navy Capt. Brett Crozier as he walked down the ramp, turned, saluted, waved and got into a waiting car. Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly abruptly fired Crozier on Thursday, saying the commander created a panic by widely distributing a memo detailing the escalating virus outbreak on his ship and pleading his leadership for help. Modly said Crozier “demonstrated extremely poor judgment” in the middle of a crisis. The ship is docked in Guam, and so far 137 of the nearly 5,000 sailors on board have tested positive for the virus. The Navy has said as many as 3,000 will be taken off the ship and quarantined by Friday evening to stem the spread of the virus. Crew members are needed to remain on the shop to maintain critical systems and protecting the carrier. On Friday, Jonathan Hoffman, the chief Pentagon spokesman, said Defense Secretary Mark Esper supported Modly's decision to fire Crozier from his command job. He said Modly told Esper he had lost confidence in the captain. And Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told FoxNews that he trusted Modly's judgement. He said it was a difficult decision, and that Modly is accountable to the American people for it. Crozier, in his memo, warned of a growing outbreak of the coronavirus on the ship and asked for permission to isolate the bulk of his crew members on shore, an extraordinary move to take a carrier out of duty in an effort to save lives. And he said that if commanders didn't act quickly, they would be 'failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset, our sailors.” Videos posted online showed sailors chanting Crozier's name and applauding him as he left the ship. A number of lawmakers have questioned the firing as too hasty a decision. Hoffman said that 41 percent of the sailors on the ship have been tested, and results are still coming in. He said no sailors are hospitalized.
  • Martha McSally is volunteering at the Salvation Army. Mark Kelly is using his background as an astronaut to entertain kids stuck at home. The global pandemic that is shaking up the nation's way of life is also forcing Arizona's U.S. Senate candidates to reinvent the political playbook when rallies are verboten, door-to-door campaigning is off limits and voters are much more concerned about staying healthy and paying the bills than they are with politics. Political campaigns are about connecting with people. Inspiring and motivating them. Encouraging them to the knock on doors, speak to their friends and neighbors and get out the vote. That connectedness is the antithesis of social distancing. But they also can be helpful. Both campaigns say they are using their networks of staff and volunteers to check in on people and help those in need. Both have their aides working from home and have forgone door-to-door campaigning and large events for volunteers or supporters. The race is a top-tier contest that will help determine control of the U.S. Senate. Republicans' strong grip on Arizona politics is loosening with the growth of the Latino electorate and the GOP's growing weaknesses in the fast-growing suburban areas of Phoenix. In 2018, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema defeated McSally for the state's other Senate seat. McSally was later appointed to John McCain's former Senate seat and is hoping to hold onto it after the November election. “The election is seven months away,” Kelly said in a phone interview. “We've got time to figure this out, different ways to communicate with the electorate.” Kelly this week joined his brother, Scott Kelly, another former astronaut, to appear in a live 20-minute Instagram broadcast targeted to children. They twins took turns reading Mark Kelly's children's book, Mousetronaut, about a mouse that travels in space, then answered questions about their favorite space foods, if it's scary to travel in space and whether there are chickens up there. The brothers, both dressed in NASA jackets, never mentioned Mark Kelly's Senate race, though his campaign promoted the talk on social media. Kelly told kids think of their time away from school like a mission in space, their family the crew; everyone has to work together, listen, do their chores and and their work make a successful mission. It's the quarantine version of a strategy Kelly has employed for much of the campaign to date — using his four space missions to connect with children and talk about science instead of politics. McSally announced last month she was cancelling plans to air a new television ad, though the ad time hadn't been booked yet. This week she said she's donating her April paychecks to the Salvation Army and all money that comes into the campaign to the Salvation Army. On Friday, she volunteered at the organization, handing out food and supplies to people driving through. Through her Senate office, McSally has stepped up her use of telephone town halls that her office says reach tens of thousands of people, holding two of them in less than a week. She has touted the bipartisan rescue package to help people struggling with lost wages as the economy has shut down to slow the spread of COVID-19, the virus caused by the new coronavirus. She has fielded detailed questions from worried taxpayers, caregivers and business owners about how they will receive the $1,200-per-person stimulus money or how to apply for small business assistance. She has also pushed back against constituents suggesting the orders to stay at home are too aggressive or that only the elderly and sick need to worry. “It’s on each of us to go where the facts are,” McSally told one caller on a Thursday town hall. “This is a deadly virus.” Most people feel mild or moderate symptoms from the coronavirus, but some experience more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. Older people and those with existing health problems are most at risk for the severe complications, but others have experienced them too. Public health officials say staying home will slow the spread of the virus and help ensure hospitals aren't overwhelmed with sick people, which could raise the death toll of people with treatable problems who can't be effectively cared for.
  • Robert Wickens never gave up on his dreams. When his Formula One hopes fizzled, Wickens worked his way back through the ranks to compete in the IndyCar Series. When doctors told him he might not walk again following a horrific crash at Pocono in August 2018, he set out to prove them wrong. And now, with some technological help, Wickens is about to return to racing. The Canadian driver is scheduled to compete in the second round of the IndyCar iRacing Challenge — a 45-lap virtual race on an Alabama road course that holds real promise for Wickens' comeback hopes. “Although this is fun, I see this as the long-term project of getting me back into the race car,' he said Friday. “I always knew simulation was going to be the best way to try different hand-brake or paddle configurations. This is step one of 100 to get me back into the NTT IndyCar Series.' It certainly didn't seem plausible after the Pocono crash. Wickens was airlifted from the track to the hospital where he was diagnosed with a long list of injuries: Thoracic spinal fracture, fractured neck, fractured tibias and fibulas in both legs, fractures in both hands, a fractured right forearm, a fractured elbow, four fractured ribs and a pulmonary contusion. The most serious was the bruised spinal cord. When doctors told him their prognosis, Wickens was determined to prove them wrong and had the full support of the series' drivers and teams. Wickens took his rehab to social media so the whole world could watch. In January 2019, he posted a video that showed him walking with assistance. Two months later, he returned to his first race since the crash. In July, at Toronto, Wickens took the pace car for a parade-lap spin with the use of hand controls. Over the last five weeks, fans have witnessed Wickens doing push-ups, walking on a treadmill and working with a walker. And now, with NBCSN broadcasting the race, they will get a glimpse into the potential future Wickens and his colleagues have envisioned. “It’s been great watching his progress,' said Will Power, the 2014 IndyCar champion and 2018 Indianapolis 500 winner. “He deserves to be back in the series. Tremendous talent that you know was going to be a champion. I really hope that he gets back, that he can create a system where he can get back in the car and use his talent.' After the 31-year-old Wickens missed last week's event because he couldn't find a suitable steering wheel to bypass the pedals, two arrived this week — one through his team, the other from former IndyCar and Cup driver Max Papis. Wickens, who worked on simulators while pursuing an F1 career, couldn't start practicing until Thursday afternoon and already feels behind as he tries to dial everything in. While he doesn't expect to run up front on Barber Motorsports' 2.38-mile, 17-turn road circuit this weekend, Wickens has a different goal in front of a sports world starved for content because of the COVID-19 pandemic. “I see this as a great training tool for me to make my hand control second nature,' he said. “Now obviously with what’s going on in the world, the simulation, the virtual racing, esports, basically took center stage and made it all reality very quickly. I guess you could say I’m almost a beneficiary of what’s happening in the world right now.' Last week, NASCAR drew more than 900,000 viewers to its inaugural event — an esports record. IndyCar and iRacing streamed its race, at Watkins Glen, on YouTube and got 45,000 viewers Those numbers could increase this week, giving IndyCar an opportunity to showcase its sport, its technology and Watkins' dream quest. “It’s great to have him out here competing with us,' said Graham Rahal, who has competed against Wickens for almost two decades. “The likelihood he’s going to figure this out and kick all of our butts again... Hopefully we can keep up with him a little better on the sim than real life.' ___ More AP auto racing: https://apnews.com/apf-AutoRacing and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
  • More than a million people could swamp the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance marketplaces in the coming months as employers lay off staff during the coronavirus pandemic. The health insurance markets are a backbone of the Obama-era law that President Donald Trump has tried to demolish. They are now seen as a key option to help protect people from devastating medical bills while they search for another job and new coverage. Nearly 10 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits in the final two weeks of March, far exceeding the figure for any corresponding period on record. Here’s a closer look at the issue. WHAT’S THE RISK OF REMAINING UNINSURED? People would not have an insurer’s leverage to knock down the price of routine care like a doctor visit, but the real financial peril comes from expensive care like emergency room visits and hospital stays. Researchers say a hospital stay of several days could cost well over $20,000 depending on factors like where the patient lives and how much time is spent in an intensive care unit. “Now’s not the time to roll the dice (without insurance) and hope you don’t get sick,” said Peter Lee, executive director of California’s state-based health insurance exchange. WHAT PROTECTION CAN YOU GET? Insurers will typically pick up most of the bill for a hospital stay as long as the care takes place in their coverage network. Several major insurers have recently announced that they also will waive patient out-of-pocket expenses like copayments or deductibles through the end of May or June for coronavirus-related care. That includes hospital stays, which can stick patients with a deductible of several thousand dollars, depending on coverage. Since insurance is complicated, patients should call the 800 number on the back of their card to clarify that coverage. Vice President Mike Pence also said Thursday that the White House will soon announce a plan to implement direct payments to hospitals to cover COVID-19 treatment costs for the uninsured. Last week’s massive rescue package set aside $100 billion in funding for hospitals to handle uncompensated care and other coronavirus-related losses. WHO CAN SHOP ON THE INSURANCE MARKETPLACES? HealthCare.gov and state-run insurance markets normally limit enrollment to a regular sign-up window that starts each fall. But losing your health insurance triggers an opening that allows you to shop for a new plan. In addition to that, several states have started so-called “special enrollment periods” for people who didn’t sign up during the regular window but now want protection in case the coronavirus hits. Those states include Massachusetts, New York and Nevada. Governors and some advocacy groups are calling on the Trump administration to open a similar window for more Americans. But the administration has sent mixed messages on whether it will do so. Consumers may qualify for income-based tax credits to help pay for the coverage. “It’s an important option to try and connect people who are uninsured to some form of coverage during this public health crisis,” said Jennifer Tolbert, state health reform director at the non-profit Kaiser Family Foundation. More than 11 million people are covered through the health law’s insurance markets, which offer subsidized private policies to people who don’t have coverage on their jobs. The consulting firm Health Management Associates estimates that the individual market could increase by 365,000 to 2.1 million people due to the coronavirus pandemic. That depends on how high unemployment rates climb. Health Management Associates also predicts that the uninsured population could climb from around 29 million people to as much as 40 million with high unemployment. ARE THERE OTHER OPTIONS? Some people who have lost jobs might be able to switch to a spouse’s employer-based coverage. Others may see their income levels fall far enough to qualify for a state’s Medicaid program. Employers also may help. The benefits consultant Mercer found through recent online polling that some companies are providing subsidies to help their laid-off workers keep their coverage for a period of time. Mercer also found that many companies that put employees on a temporary furlough will continue to provide benefits, although some may commit to doing so for only a couple weeks. That will vary depending on things like the industry and the financial hit the employer expect to take from the downturn, said Beth Umland, Mercer’s director of research for health and benefits. ___ Associated Press writers Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Andrew Taylor contributed to this report from Washington, D.C. Murphy reported from Indianapolis. ___ Follow Tom Murphy on Twitter: @thpmurphy
  • President Donald Trump announced new federal guidelines Friday recommending that Americans wear face coverings when in public to help fight the spread of the new coronavirus. The president immediately said he had no intention of following that advice himself, saying, “I'm choosing not to do it.' The new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encourages people, especially in areas hit hard by the spread of the coronavirus, to use rudimentary coverings like T-shirts, bandannas and non-medical masks to cover their faces while outdoors. The president exempted himself from his administration's own guidelines, saying he could not envision himself covering his face while sitting in the Oval Office greeting world leaders. “It's a recommendation, they recommend it,' Trump said. “I just don't want to wear one myself.” The new guidance, announced as states are bracing for critical shortfalls like those that other parts of the world have experienced, raises concern that it could cause a sudden run on masks. Trump and other administration officials sought to minimize any burden by stressing the recommendations did not amount to requirements and that a variety of homemade coverings were acceptable. Federal officials said that surgical masks and N95 respirator marks should be left for those on the front lines of fighting the spread of the infection. Friday's announcement capped an evolution in guidance from the White House that officials acknowledged has at times been inconsistent. “I want to unpack the evolution of our guidance on masks because it has been confusing to the American people,” said Surgeon General Jerome Adams. Adams, who had repeatedly and publicly advised against the need for face coverings, said Friday that although and he other public health experts initially believed wearing a mask would not have a substantial impact on curbing the spread, the latest evidence makes clear that people who don't show any symptoms can nonetheless pass on the virus. “We have told you that from the beginning that we are evolving our recommendations, and new recommendations will come as the evidence dictates,' Adams said. First lady Melania Trump embodied the contradictory messaging with a tweet endorsing the new guidance even as her husband chooses to disregard it. “As the weekend approaches I ask that everyone take social distancing & wearing a mask/face covering seriously,' she tweeted. The administration has said states should have done more to stockpile medical supplies, but it's not clear if anyone is prepared for the potential rush that could ensue if people try to obtain medical masks for themselves. In rural Florida, Okeechobee Discount Drugs has been sold out of face masks for almost two weeks, and “we don’t know where you can find any masks at this point,” said Stacey Nelson, one of the pharmacy’s owners. “It’s very hard to get these products, but people want them,” Nelson said. “They’ve been getting mixed messages and people aren’t sure if they should be wearing masks in our daily lives. It’s very confusing. Wear them, or don’t wear them?” 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, and death. In fashioning the recommendations, the administration appears to be striving to balance political concerns about wanting to preserve as much normalcy as possible with public health concerns that some infections are being spread by people who seem to be healthy. The White House has faced pushback against rigorous social distancing guidelines from states with lesser rates of infection. For the hardest-hit areas, where social distancing has already been in place for some time, the White House coronavirus task force thought there would be less risk of people ignoring the other guidance if they covered their faces. The CDC is recommending that people wearing cloth face coverings in public places, such as grocery stores and pharmacies, where “other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.' The guidance especially applies “in areas of significant community-based transmission.” The White House task force was debating into Friday on the final language of the CDC guidance. CDC scientists wanted to make it national guidance, believing that would do more to slow the spread of the virus. White House advisers, including Dr. Deborah Birx, wanted to limit the guidance to virus hot spots. Birx said Thursday that she feared wider guidance would lead to a false sense of security for Americans and cause them to back away from more critical social distancing. In the end, they found a middle ground: a national advisory with special emphasis that those in hard-hit areas should wear masks. Two people familiar with the discussions outlined the internal debate, speaking on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to describe it publicly. As with other public health guidance, the recommendation on face covering has been a moving target for the administration. Under the previous guidance, only the sick or those at high risk of complications from the respiratory illness were advised to wear masks. Adams wrote on Twitter at the end of February that people should “STOP BUYING MASKS' and said they were not effective in protecting the general public. On Monday, he noted that the World Health Organization does not recommend masks for healthy members of the population. Three days later, he tweeted that though there remains “scant' evidence that wearing a mask, especially improperly, can protect the wearer, “emerging data suggests facial coverings may prevent asymptomatic disease transmission to others.' ____ Schneider reported from Orlando, Florida. Associated Press writer Jill Colvin in Washington contributed to this report.
  • About 370 players who were at big league spring training with minor league contracts will get advance payments of up to $50,000 each from the Major League Baseball Players Association. The money approved Friday by the union’s executive board will be in addition to $400 weekly allowances being paid to all minor leaguers through May 31 by the Major League Baseball. Among the players eligible for payments from Friday’s allocation are Félix Hernández, Matt Kemp, Pablo Sandoval, Neil Walker, Derek Holland, Jerry Blevins, Edwin Jackson, Chris Iannetta, Brandon Morrow, Jonathan Lucroy and Trevor Cahill. Players can receive $5,000 if they have at least one day or major league service. The amount increases to $7,500 for one year of service, $15,000 for two, $25,000 for three and $50,000 for six. Any player may opt out of the money, which is being advanced against salaries. Players are eligible if they were at spring training on March 13, the day after play stopped. Veteran big leaguers who go to spring training with minor league deals usually are trying to earn big league roster spots, agreements that leave teams with little financial exposure. Most players find out during the final week of spring training whether they will be added to a 40-man roster. Players on 40-man rosters, 60-man injured lists and on outright assignments to the minor leagues with big league deals are covered by the March 26 agreement between MLB and the union. They each will receive $286,500, $60,000, $30,000 or $15,000, depending on their contract. That money comes from a $170 million advance fund paid by MLB over what was to have been the season's first 60 days. If games are played this year, that money would be offset against salaries. If the season is scrapped, players would keep the advances. ___ More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo is spending much of his time during the coronavirus-imposed hiatus working out, helping care for his newborn son and playing occasional video games. What the reigning MVP isn’t doing very often is shooting baskets since the NBA has closed team practice facilities. “I don’t have access to a hoop,” the Milwaukee Bucks forward said Friday during a conference call. “A lot of NBA players might have a court in their house or something, I don’t know, but now I just get my home workouts, (go) on the bike, treadmill, lift weights, stay sharp that way.” The hiatus is forcing thousands of athletes, pro and otherwise, to work out from home as they try to keep in shape. Equipment varies from player to player, too. “It all comes down to what they have and what they’re capable of doing,” Atlanta Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce said. “We can do a lot of body weight stuff. That’s how they stay ready. That’s the most I can offer as a coach for them to stay ready. I can’t say ‘Hey, can you find access to a gym?’ That would be bad management on my part.’’ For instance, Pierce said Hawks guard Kevin Huerter has access to a gym in New York and guard Jeff Teague owns a gym in Indiana. Other players face different situations. “I’ve seen LeBron’s Instagram,” Pierce said of Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James. “LeBron has a house with a full weight room and he has an outdoor court. He’s got a different reality right now that gives him a little more access to continue the normal. (Hawks rookie) Cam Reddish lives in an apartment and it’s probably a two-bedroom apartment. He can’t go in the apartment weight room because it’s a public facility. So he’s limited in all things.’’ Bucks coach Mike Budenhlolzer said he wanted his players to focus on keeping their bodies in shape and conceded that logistics surrounding the pandemic would make it tougher for them to do any basketball-specific activities. The Bucks are still finding ways to stay sharp. Bucks players said team officials have made sure they all have the necessary exercise equipment. Antetokounmpo noted the Bucks also had a catering company bring food to make sure they maintain a proper diet. Center Brook Lopez said workout plans have been sent to them via a phone app. “They’ve done a really good job of getting everything taken care of and still having tailored workouts for each individual player despite the situation,” Lopez said. But it’s difficult for them to work on their shooting without access to a court. “Since the practice facility is closed down, I don’t have any access to a basketball goal unless I go to one of my neighbors’ houses and shoot outside,’’ Bucks forward Khris Middleton said. “There’s really no basketball for me. It’s basically like Giannis said. Treadmill, jump rope, some weights and that’s it. I have a couple of basketballs I can dribble in my house or outside, but no actual goal to shoot on.” Pierce noted that Huerter recently asked him when players would be able to get back into the Hawks’ practice facility. “I told him, ‘I’ll tell you when we won’t,’ ‘’ Pierce said. “We won’t in April.” ___ More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports ___ AP Sports Writer Charles Odum in Atlanta contributed to this report.