Month: February 2020

Baltimore squeegee kids find work, risks, cash at stoplights

BALTIMORE — A clock starts ticking when the light turns red at Baltimore intersections. Young men huddled on the sidewalk jump into the street, a squeegee in one hand, a bottle of glass cleaner in the other.

For these “squeegee kids,” every idling windshield is an opportunity – to make a little cash, and to find work that doesn’t involve the drugs or gang violence that plague much of the city.

Nathaniel Silas’ goal is to make a dollar during every red light by cleaning windshields. Most drivers will give only a handful of change, if anything. Silas knows he has 24 seconds during each light. He keeps count in his head.

Silas is among about 100 squeegee kids — ages 14 to 21, mostly black and from low-income neighbourhoods — regularly working intersections in neighbourhoods across Baltimore, city officials estimate. For some, it’s a primary source of money; for others, a side hustle. They say it helps pay for groceries, rent and clothes. But many drivers call the squeegee kids a nuisance in a city with a complicated history of race relations and violence, and officials have tried for years to steer the workers to alternative jobs and have now launched a program to mentor them.

Silas, 19, scans motorists’ faces, watches for hand gestures. He passes cars with drivers mouthing “no” or shooing him away. Some turn on their wipers as a signal to stay away. But he also finds smiley drivers, and, after three years, he has regulars. He approaches one who gives a quick look of permission, and he stretches over the windshield. He jokes about accepting credit cards and Venmo.

He takes the change from the outstretched hand. The first windshield took 13 seconds. Other squeegee kids try to work at half that pace.

Silas and others know the work is illegal. Data analyzed by The Associated Press show that more than 3,100 complaints were logged about squeegee kids in 2019, the first year Baltimore used a specific designation for reports involving those cleaning windshields.

The City Council outlawed the practice in the 1980s, with white council members passing the ban and black ones opposing it. The city opened “squeegee stations,” where youths with approved badges could work after receiving safety and etiquette instructions. But the idea never caught on.

Baltimore officials have stopped short of arrests, a practice that made windshield washers virtually extinct in New York. Baltimore officers ask squeegee kids to leave the corner but don’t force them away. One was arrested in February after refusing to get off the street and fighting and biting an officer, according to a police report.

Squeegee kids – most of whom don’t want to share their name or other details because of the illegal nature of the work and the stigma attached to it – say the complaints don’t deter them.

Even so, the debate over the unsolicited window cleaning has reached a crescendo. Last year, the white CEO of Baltimore-based global investment firm T. Rowe Price requested a meeting with city officials to address the “adverse effects of the squeegee presence.” William Stromberg wrote that the “frustrations” created by the kids “negatively impact the quality of life” of his employees and city residents. Soon after, the city announced plans to help the squeegee kids with mentorship and workforce training programs.

But Silas, sitting on the sidewalk taking a break, isn’t sure he’s interested in the city’s “Squeegee Alternative Plan.” About 80 squeegee kids have connected with the incentive-based program in some way, said Tisha Edwards, head of the Mayor’s Office of Children and Family Success. Mentors have daily contact with the most active kids, encouraging them to return to school, helping them get the IDs they need for formal employment, and guiding them to workforce readiness training and permanent jobs. Organizers say about 25 kids have returned to school, and 15 now have conventional jobs.

“These are young people who’ve had a long history of not being successful in school, and they do what they know how to do, which is if the family is hungry or if the water bill needs to be paid or rent needs to be paid, they go back to the corner,” Edwards said. “We want young people to know there are opportunities available to them and they don’t have to make those hard choices of ‘If I go to school, how am I going to eat?’”

Silas has different career goals. He says he has considered saving some of his squeegee money to buy a van for a mobile car wash. Longer term, he hopes to work in real estate or own a car dealership.

Squeegee work can be dangerous, and he knows he can’t do it forever. But it’s good money – he can make upwards of $100 a day. It’s worth the risk of getting his toes run over and fingers hit by windshield wipers. It’s worth it even when he hears stories of occasional violence, like the woman who told police that her registered firearm went off after a squeegee kid leaned inside her car. And it’s worth it even when some drivers offer Silas nothing at all, and he walks back to the sidewalk with less of his generic cleaner and no cash to show for it.

“We ain’t selling no drugs, we ain’t gangbangers, we ain’t killing nobody,” Silas said. “I never did nothing like that. I came right here, and I’m trying to make some legit money.”

Lester Spence, a Johns Hopkins University associate professor of political science and Africana studies, believes the renewed scrutiny hinges on the squeegee kids’ race. He said it’s no coincidence the pushback is happening alongside growing concerns about crime and policing since the death in police custody of Freddie Gray, a young black man who, like the squeegee workers, grew up in poverty.

“It’s not that there is a problem with people being on these corners because if there was, then we would be talking about the homeless population, who usually just asks for money and doesn’t necessarily provide services,” Spence said.

Silas, who is black, agrees that his race plays a role. He also wonders whether city officials are just trying to save face with their plan. Its estimated annual cost is $992,000, and Baltimore can fund it only through June. Edwards said she hopes businesses will pledge funds to help once the city can show the program’s positive effect.

For now, Silas will keep squeegeeing. The money is putting new shoes on his feet and paying for his baby daughter’s needs.

“If you take it serious like a job, it can be a job, money-wise,” Silas said. “Three years ago, I was like broke for real. I would never have no money in my pocket or nothing.”

But attitudes and acceptance were different then, he said. “Now everybody is mad at us. Why you all mad at us?”

He runs back into the street, and the 24-second countdown begins again.

Regina Garcia Cano, The Associated Press



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By The Wall of Law February 29, 2020 Off

New coronavirus cases of unknown origin found on West Coast

Health officials in California, Oregon and Washington state worried about the novel coronavirus spreading through West Coast communities after confirming three patients were infected by unknown means.

The patients — an older Northern California woman with chronic health conditions, a high school student in Everett, Washington and an employee at a Portland, Oregon-area school — hadn’t recently travelled overseas or had any known close contact with a traveller or an infected person, authorities said.

Earlier U.S. cases include three people who were evacuated from the central China city of Wuhan, epicenter of the outbreak; 14 people who returned from China, or their spouses; and 42 American passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, who were flown to U.S. military bases in California and Texas for quarantining.

Convinced that the number of cases will grow but determined to keep them from exploding, health agencies were ramping up efforts to identify patients.

The California Department of Public Health said Friday that the state will receive enough kits from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control to test up to 1,200 people a day for the COVID-19 virus — a day after Gov. Gavin Newsom complained to federal health officials that the state had already exhausted its initial 200 test kits.

Santa Clara County in the San Francisco Bay Area reported two cases where the source of infection wasn’t known. The older woman was hospitalized for a respiratory illness, and rapid local testing confirmed in one day that she had the virus, health officials said.

“This case represents some degree of community spread, some degree of circulation,” said Dr. Sara Cody, health officer for Santa Clara County and director of the County of Santa Clara Public Health Department.

“But we don’t know to what extent,” Cody said. “It could be a little, it could be a lot.”

“We need to begin taking important additional measures to at least slow it down as much as possible,” she said.

Cody said the newly confirmed case in Santa Clara County is not linked to two previous cases in that county, nor to others in the state.

The Santa Clara County resident was treated at a local hospital and is not known to have travelled to Solano County, where another woman was identified Wednesday as having contracted the virus from an unknown source.

Dozens of people had close contact with the Solano County woman. They were urged to quarantine themselves at home, while a few who showed symptoms of illness were in isolation, officials said.

At UC Davis Medical Center at least 124 registered nurses and other health care workers were sent home for “self-quarantine” after the Solano County woman with the virus was admitted, National Nurses United, a nationwide union representing RNs, said Friday.

The case “highlights the vulnerability of the nation’s hospitals to this virus,” the union said.

Earlier Friday, Oregon confirmed its first coronavirus case, a person who works at an elementary school in the Portland area, which will be temporarily closed.

The Lake Oswego School District sent a robocall to parents saying that Forest Hills Elementary will be closed until Wednesday so it can be deep-cleaned by maintenance workers.

Washington state health officials announced two new coronavirus cases Friday night, including a high school student who attends Jackson High School in Everett, said Dr. Chris Spitters of the Snohomish County Health District.

The other case in Washington was a woman in in King County in her 50s who had recently travelled to South Korea, authorities said.

Both patients weren’t seriously ill.

The number of coronavirus cases in the United States is considered small. Worldwide, the number of people sickened by the virus hovered Friday around 83,000, and there were more than 2,800 deaths, most of them in China.

But health officials aren’t taking any chances. Some communities, including San Francisco, already have declared local emergencies in case they need to obtain government funding.

In Southern California’s Orange County, the city of Costa Mesa went to court to prevent state and federal health officials from transferring dozens of people exposed to the virus aboard a cruise ship in Japan to a state-owned facility in the city. The passengers, including some who tested positive for the virus and underwent hospital care, had been staying at Travis Air Force Base in Northern California.

On Friday, state officials said the federal decided it no longer had a crucial need to move those people to the Fairview Developmental Center in Costa Mesa. That’s because of the imminent end of the isolation period for those passengers and the relatively small number of persons who ended up testing positive, officials said.

The new coronavirus cases of unknown origin marks an escalation of the worldwide outbreak in the U.S. because it means the virus could spread beyond the reach of preventative measures like quarantines, though state health officials said that was inevitable and that the risk of widespread transmission remains low.

California public health officials on Friday said more than 9,380 people are self-monitoring after arriving on commercial flights from China through Los Angeles and San Francisco. That’s up from the 8,400 that Newsom cited on Thursday, though officials said the number increases daily as more flights arrive.

Officials are not too worried, for now, about casual contact, because federal officials think the coronavirus is spread only through “close contact, being within six feet of somebody for what they’re calling a prolonged period of time,” said Dr. James Watt, interim state epidemiologist at the California Department of Public Health.

The virus can cause fever, coughing, wheezing and pneumonia. Health officials think it spreads mainly from droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how the flu spreads.

As infectious disease experts fanned out in the Solano County city of Vacaville, some residents in the city between San Francisco and Sacramento stocked up on supplies amid fears things could get worse despite official reassurances, while others took the news in stride.

The woman in the community who has coronavirus first sought treatment at NorthBay VacaValley Hospital in Vacaville, before her condition worsened and she was transferred to the medical centre in Sacramento.

Sacramento County’s top health official told The Sacramento Bee on Friday that he expects several medical workers to test positive themselves in the next few days. Numerous workers at both hospitals have been tested, but the tests were sent to labs approved by the CDC and generally take three to four days to complete.

Peter Beilenson, Sacramento County’s health services director, said he expects even those who test positive to become only mildly ill.

Confusion over how quickly the woman was tested for coronavirus concerned McKinsey Paz, who works at a private security firm in Vacaville. The company has already stockpiled 450 face masks and is scrambling for more “since they’re hard to come by.” The company’s owner bought enough cleaning and disinfectant supplies to both scrub down the office and send home with employees.

But they appeared to be at the extreme for preparations.

Eugenia Kendall was wearing a face mask, but in fear of anything including the common cold. Her immune system is impaired because she is undergoing chemotherapy, and she has long been taking such precautions.

“We’re not paranoid. We’re just trying to be practical,” said her husband of 31 years, Ivan Kendall. “We wipe the shopping carts if they have them, and when I get back in the car I wipe my hands — and just hope for the best.”

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Associated Press writer Adam Beam contributed to this report.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Robert Jablon, Lisa Baumann And Andrew Selsky, The Associated Press




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AP News in Brief at 12:04 a.m. EST

Wall Street has worst week since 2008 as S&P 500 drops 11.5%

Stocks sank around the globe again Friday as investors braced for more economic pain from the coronavirus outbreak, sending U.S. markets to their worst weekly finish since the 2008 financial crisis.

The damage from the week of relentless selling was eye-popping: The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 3,583 points, or 12.4%. Microsoft and Apple, the two most valuable companies in the S&P 500, lost a combined $300 billion. In a sign of the severity of the concern about the possible economic blow, the price of oil sank 16%.

The market’s losses moderated Friday after the Federal Reserve released a statement saying it stood ready to help the economy if needed. Investors increasingly expect the Fed to cut rates at its next policy meeting in mid-March.

The Dow swung back from an early slide of more than 1,000 points to close around 350 points lower. The S&P 500 fell 0.8% and is now down 13% since hitting a record high just 10 days ago. The Nasdaq reversed an early decline to finish flat.

Global financial markets have been rattled by the virus outbreak that has been shutting down industrial centres, emptying shops and severely crimping travel all over the world. More companies are warning investors that their finances will take a hit because of disruptions to supply chains and sales. Governments are taking increasingly drastic measures as they scramble to contain the virus.

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Outbreak starts to look more like worldwide economic crisis

NEW YORK (AP) — The coronavirus outbreak began to look more like a worldwide economic crisis Friday as anxiety about the infection emptied shops and amusement parks, cancelled events, cut trade and travel and dragged already slumping financial markets even lower.

More employers told their workers to stay home, and officials locked down neighbourhoods and closed schools. The wide-ranging efforts to halt the spread of the illness threatened jobs, paychecks and profits.

“This is a case where in economic terms the cure is almost worse than the disease,” said Jacob Kirkegaard, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. “When you quarantine cities … you lose economic activity that you’re not going to get back.’

The list of countries touched by the illness climbed to nearly 60 as Mexico, Belarus, Lithuania, New Zealand, Nigeria, Azerbaijan, Iceland and the Netherlands reported their first cases. More than 83,000 people worldwide have contracted the illness, with deaths topping 2,800.

China, where the outbreak began in December, has seen a slowdown in new infections and on Saturday morning reported 427 new cases over the past 24 hours along with 47 additional deaths. The city at the epicenter of the outbreak, Wuhan, accounted for the bulk of both.

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US, Taliban set peace signing for America’s longest war

WASHINGTON (AP) — America’s longest war may finally be nearing an end.

The United States and the Islamists it toppled from power in Afghanistan are poised to sign a peace deal Saturday after a conflict that outlasted two U.S. commanders in chief and is now led by a third eager to fulfil a campaign promise to extricate America from “endless wars.”

More than 18 years since President George W. Bush ordered bombing in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the agreement will set the stage for the withdrawal of U.S. troops, some of whom were not yet born when the World Trade Center collapsed on that crisp, sunny morning that changed how Americans see the world.

Saturday’s ceremony also signals the potential end of a tremendous investment of blood and treasure. The U.S. spent more than $750 billion, and on all sides the war cost tens of thousands of lives lost, permanently scarred and indelibly interrupted. Yet it’s also a conflict that is frequently ignored by U.S. politicians and the American public.

In the Qatari capital of Doha, America’s top diplomat will stand with leaders of the Taliban, Afghanistan’s former rulers who harboured Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida network as they plotted, and then celebrated, the hijackings of four airliners that were crashed into lower Manhattan, the Pentagon and a field in western Pennsylvania, killing almost 3,000 people.

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Biden looks for first 2020 victory in South Carolina primary

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The Democrats’ 2020 nominating fight turned to South Carolina on Saturday for the first-in-the-South primary, with Joe Biden confident that his popularity with black voters will seal him a victory and help blunt some of front-runner Bernie Sanders’ momentum.

The primary stands as the first marker on a critical four-day stretch that will help determine whether the party rallies behind Sanders or embraces a longer and uglier slog that could carry on until the national convention.

“Only two things are going to happen: either Bernie or brokered,” said James Carville, a veteran Democratic strategist.

Carville is uncomfortable with a Sanders nomination but fears that a brokered convention — in which party bosses or delegates in floor fights and negotiations decide the nominee after no candidate amasses enough delegates in the primary — would inflict serious damage on the party, as well. “It’s just hard for me to see beyond the two options,” he said.

In Saturday’s primary, Biden and his establishment allies hope to slow Sanders’ rise — and change the trajectory of the race — with a convincing victory demonstrating his strength among African Americans. But just three days later, Sanders believes he’s positioned to seize a major delegate advantage when 14 states and one U.S. territory vote on “Super Tuesday.”

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Court suspends ruling blocking sending migrants to Mexico

SAN DIEGO (AP) — A 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel voted unanimously Friday to suspend an order it issued earlier in the day to block a central pillar of the Trump administration’s policy requiring asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while their cases wind through U.S. courts.

The three-judge panel told the government to file written arguments by the end of Monday and for the plaintiffs to respond by the end of Tuesday.

The Justice Department said at least 25,000 asylum seekers subject to the policy are currently waiting in Mexico and expressed “massive and irreparable national-security of public-safety concerns.”

Government attorneys said immigration lawyers had begun demanding that asylum seekers be allowed in the United States, with one insisting that 1,000 people be allowed to enter at one location.

“The Court’s reinstatement of the injunction causes the United States public and the government significant and irreparable harms — to border security, public safety, public health, and diplomatic relations,” Justice Department attorneys wrote.

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NOT REAL NEWS: An outbreak of virus-related misinformation

In this week’s roundup of the most popular but completely untrue stories and visuals of the week, we focus on false and misleading reports spreading online around the new coronavirus outbreak, a situation the World Health Organization has dubbed an “infodemic.”

China attempted to contain COVID-19 that emerged in Wuhan in late 2019 through travel restrictions and city lockdowns, but the virus has now spread to 50 countries and infected more than 83,000 people.

False posts online have distorted symptoms of the virus and peddled miracle cures. Members of the public are urged to follow the advice of established institutions like WHO and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and to beware of claims suggesting ways to prevent the virus.

Here are some of the claims spreading online, and the facts you need to know about them.

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Turkey, Russia talk tensions in Syria as migrants push west

REYHANLI, Turkey (AP) — The presidents of Turkey and Russia spoke by phone Friday to try to defuse tensions that rose significantly in Syria after at least 33 Turkish troops were killed in an airstrike blamed on the Syrian government, and a new wave of refugees and migrants headed for the Greek land and sea border after Turkey said it would no longer hold them back.

The attack Thursday marked the deadliest day for the Turkish military since Ankara first entered the Syrian conflict in 2016 and also was the most serious escalation between Turkish and Russian-backed Syrian forces, raising the prospect of an all-out war with millions of Syrian civilians trapped in the middle.

It was not clear whether Syrian or Russia jets carried out the strike, but Russia denied its aircraft were responsible.

Turkey’s U.N. Ambassador Feridun Sinirlioglu told an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council that the country “lost 34 soldiers” — higher than the 33 previously reported by Turkish officials — and “a significant number” were wounded.

“We have not identified the nationality of the aircraft which struck our convoy and positions,” he said, but “the radar tracks demonstrate that (Syrian) regime and Russian aircrafts were in formation flight during that time.”

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Liberal gun owners face dilemma in 2020 field

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Like many liberals, Lara Smith considers herself a feminist, favours abortion rights and believes the nation’s immigration policies under the Trump administration have just been “vile.”

But when it comes to guns, Smith sounds more like a conservative: She opposes reviving the nation’s assault weapons ban, enacting red-flag laws or creating a registry of firearms. The 48-year-old California lawyer owns a cache of firearms, from pistols to rifles such as the AR-15.

Smith and liberal gun owners like her face a quandary as voting in the Democratic primary intensifies with Super Tuesday next week. They are nervous about some of the gun control measures the Democratic candidates are pushing and are unsure who to trust on this issue.

“You’re alienating a huge part of your constituency,” Smith says of the Democratic field’s gun proposals. “You have a huge constituency that is looking for something different and when you are talking about restricting a right which is so different than everything else you talk about, you are being anti-liberal.”

Gun owners have long been seen as a solidly Republican voting bloc, but there are millions of Democrats who own firearms, too.

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Grandfather, Navy vet among 5 victims of Wisconsin shooting

The five men who were killed by a co-worker at a Milwaukee brewery include an electrician, a Navy veteran, a father of two small children, a fisherman and a grandfather who is being remembered as someone who “always put his family’s needs before his own.”

Authorities said the five men were working at Molson Coors Brewing Co. on Wednesday when they were killed by a co-worker, who then turned his gun on himself. Milwaukee police Chief Alfonso Morales identified the victims on Thursday as Jesus Valle Jr., 33, of Milwaukee; Gennady Levshetz, 61, of Mequon; Trevor Wetselaar, 33, of Milwaukee; Dana Walk, 57, of Delafield; and Dale Hudson, 60, of Waukesha.

The gunman, 51-year-old Anthony Ferrill, was also identified Thursday. He was an electrician at Molson Coors and his motive remains a mystery. Police say the case is still under investigation, and they have yet to release details about how the shooting unfolded.

Molson Coors chief executive officer Gavin Hattersley said employees were grieving for the five who were lost.

“They were powerhouse operators, they were machinists and they were electricians,” he said. “But more important, they were husbands, they were fathers and they were friends. They were part of the fabric of our company and our community and we will miss them terribly.”

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Report: Los Angeles deputies shared Kobe Bryant crash photos

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Authorities are investigating whether deputies shared graphic photos of the helicopter crash scene where Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter and seven others were killed.

The Los Angeles Times reported on Thursday that a public safety source with knowledge of the events had seen one of the photos on the phone of another official in a setting that was not related to the investigation of the crash. He said the photos showed the scene and victims’ remains.

The source spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the allegations.

The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department said in a statement Friday it was investigating the allegations detailed in the newspaper’s report.

“The sheriff is deeply disturbed at the thought deputies could allegedly engage in such an insensitive act,” the statement said. “A thorough investigation will be conducted by the department, with the number one priority of protecting the dignity and privacy of the victims and their families.”

The Associated Press

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Restaurants in LA’s Koreatown reel amid coronavirus rumour

LOS ANGELES — In a Koreatown restaurant known for its beef bone broth soup, the lunchtime crowd Friday was half its normal size. The reason was a virulent rumour about a customer with coronavirus.

Han Bat Shul Lung Tang was one of five restaurants that lost business after being named in posts on a Korean messaging app that warned a Korean Air flight attendant with the virus had dined there during a layover in Los Angeles more than a week ago.

“It’s fake news,” owner John Kim said, and he had proof. His restaurant was closed at the time because of a water leak, a fact confirmed by the Department of Public Health.

The rumour about the flight attendant was dispelled Friday morning by the Republic of Korea consulate in Los Angeles. In a statement posted in Korean on Facebook, the consulate general said the attendant who visited Los Angeles on Feb. 19-20 had gone to two businesses but neither was in Koreatown. Later in the day, public health officials said the flight attendant was not contagious while in the city.

The rumour and the impact on the restaurants was a prime example of how fears of the virus combined with the speed and reach of social media can quickly cripple the healthiest of businesses and focus suspicion on ethnic communities.

The virus, which began in China, has been spreading worldwide and has taken a big toll lately in South Korea. Lawmakers and advocates for immigrant communities have warned about xenophobia and discrimination aimed at Asian Americans.

State Assemblyman Kansen Chu, D-San Jose, said Chinese businesses, in particular, were experiencing large economic losses as a result of racism and fear.

A group representing Koreatown restaurants said business in general was down about 50% since the rumour spread on the Kakao Talk app on Monday.

One message circulating on the app provided details of the flights the attendant worked on and listed the restaurants that said she purportedly visited with the message: “Please share with everyone to avoid these ktown spots,” using an abbreviation for Koreatown.

“In the Korean-American community here, it went like wildfire,” Alex Won said Friday as he ate a bowl of beef brisket soup at Han Bat Shul Lung Tang. “It’s sad.”

Won said he got the message from friends and family members, but never really believed it because it wasn’t reported in the news. He stopped at the restaurant at the start of the week and found it closed because of a water leak. He was happy to return for a late lunch Friday and was surprised to find he was the only diner.

“I’ve never seen it this empty,” he said. “There’s always people here.”

Owners of other restaurants named in the post said business died almost instantly.

At Honey Pig, a Korean barbecue restaurant with 25 tables, only six parties were seated during one bad day of business this week, owner Chin Kim said.

Customers had been calling to inquire if the rumours were true, and some asked more outlandish questions, Kim said. One woman who had dined at the restaurant recently called to ask if it was safe to attend her daughter’s upcoming wedding, Kim said.

Owners were frustrated they couldn’t get more information from public health officials. Korean news media reported Thursday that South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed a female flight attendant who tested positive for the virus had travelled to Los Angeles.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said it was aware of reports about the flight attendant but had no confirmation from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention until late Friday. That’s when it said she did not develop symptoms of the illness known as COVID-19 until after leaving LA, so she posed no risk while in the city.

With a rumour they couldn’t confirm or deny, some restaurants took no chances. Video circulated on social media of a worker in a hazmat-type suit spraying down the floors at Hangari Kalguksu, a noodle soup house.

The sign outside Hanshin Pocha, a bar offering traditional Korean snack fare, boasts “never been closed since 1998.” Nevertheless, the establishment shuttered Tuesday to sanitize the restaurant. Bottles of hand sanitizer were lined up on a counter next to bottled water.

“It’s a bad rumour, but people like bad rumours,” said Jay Choi, manager of Hanshin Pocha.

Choi and others talked about the need to find and punish the person who started the rumour. He said he was looking into hiring a lawyer to take legal action.

On the streets of Koreatown, some pedestrians wore surgical masks. But they were not the norm.

Zhang Bin, a college student from China, and his roommate have worn the masks for protection since the virus broke out.

“I think even if the stewardess didn’t come to the restaurants, we still need to protect from the virus,” he said. “The speed and the spread of the disease is so fast.”

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David Yim in Los Angeles and Jae Hong in Tokyo contributed to this report.

Brian Melley, The Associated Press

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ACLU appeals in case alleging WV trans teen harassment

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Lawyers for a transgender teenager in West Virginia on Friday appealed the dismissal of a lawsuit that accused an assistant principal of harassing the student for using the boy’s bathroom.

The American Civil Liberties Union’s West Virginia chapter said it’s “not done fighting for justice” for client Michael Critchfield after the case was tossed by a judge last month.

The lawsuit alleges Liberty High School Assistant Principal Lee Livengood followed Critchfield into a boy’s bathroom in 2018 and said “You freak me out” and “You shouldn’t be in here.” Critchfield said he also was ordered to prove his gender by using a urinal. He was 15 at the time.

Livengood was suspended with pay but was later allowed to return to his position. The school board then voted not to renew his contract at the end of a three-year probationary period, but reversed itself a month later and reinstated him.

“Let’s remember that Mr. Livengood’s abhorrent behaviour and the board of education’s failure to ensure a safe environment exists for Harrison County students is what led to this litigation,” said Loree Stark, legal director for the ACLU chapter.

The lawsuit argued that the school board failed to crate a safe school environment. It sought unspecified damages and wanted to prohibit Livengood from having contact with Critchfield and his family.

In dismissing the case, Harrison County Circuit Judge Chris McCarthy ruled that the school board was immune from Livengood’s actions.

Livengood’s lawyer has said his client did not know about Critchfield’s gender identity and wasn’t told about an arrangement Critchfield had with the principal to use the boys’ restrooms.

The Associated Press

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By The Wall of Law February 28, 2020 Off