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Taiwan reports 2 imported COVID-19 cases from the Philippines

TAIPEI (The China Post/ANN) — The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC, 中央流行疫情指揮中心) reported 2 more imported COVID-19 cases from the Philippines on Thursday, bringing...

Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott stepping down at end of June

Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott is stepping down at the end of June, ending an 11-year tenure in which the conference landed a transformational billion dollar television deal but struggled to keep up with some of its Power Five peers when it came to revenue and exposure. The Pac-12 announced Wednesday night that the 56-year-old Scott and university presidents who make up the league’s executive committee mutually agreed that he would not seek a new contract.“It’s been quite the amazing journey," Scott told AP. “There's a lot of change going on in college sports. There's been a lot of change in our conference. I'm ready for the next chapter.”Scott’s current deal was set to expire June 2022, but instead he will finish out this academic year to assist with the transition to his successor.Scott said the decision came together quickly after a routine meeting with the Pac-12's executive committee last week.“There’s never a perfect time, but this felt pretty good," Scott said.Scott came to the Pac-12 in 2009 with no experience as a college sports administrator after two decades working in professional tennis, including a stint as the chairman and CEO of the Women's Tennis Association. He replaced Tom Hansen in 2009.“We appreciate Larry’s pioneering efforts in growing the conference by adding new competitive university programs and accelerating the Pac-12 to television network parity with the other conferences,” University of Oregon President Michael Schill said in a statement. “At one point, our television agreement was the most lucrative in the nation and the debut of the Pac-12 Network helped deliver our championship brand to US and global markets on traditional and digital platforms. That said, the intercollegiate athletics marketplace doesn’t remain static and now is a good time to bring in a new leader who will help us develop our go-forward strategy.”Under Scott, the Pac-10 became the Pac-12 by adding Colorado and Utah in 2011 and created a football championship game. The additions helped the conference secure a 12-year $3 billion media rights deal with Fox and ESPN that set the standard in the college sports market at the time.That move came after Scott made a bold attempt to raid the Big 12, at first trying to woo Texas and five other schools to create a 16-team conference and then again circling back on Texas and Oklahoma.Scott’s grandest plans never came to fruition. The additions did help the conference secure a 12-year, $3 billion media rights deal with Fox and ESPN. The contract set the standard in the college sports market in 2011 and brought Pac-12 football unprecedented national TV exposure. The Pac-12 also agreed to equal revenue sharing for the first time under the new deal.Those contract are up in 2024 and negotiating the next media rights deals will be a top priority of the next Pac-12 commissioner.Scott's other daring move has not panned out as well. The Pac-12 Network, launched in 2012, followed the lead of Big Ten Network but never could replicate it as a money-maker for its members.The Pac-12 chose not to partner with an existing cable network the way the Big Ten did with Fox and the Southeastern Conference later did with ESPN. Scott hoped that by the conference having full ownership of the network, it would eventually position the schools to cash in big on a changing media landscape, less dependent on traditional TV networks.That never panned out. While Pac-12 revenues have steadily risen in recent years — the conference distributed more than $32 million per school after the 2018-19 academic year — its members still lag behind the Big Ten ($55 million per school) and SEC ($45 million per school).Scott has also been criticized for moving the Pac-12 offices out of Walnut Creek, California, to San Francisco, which drove up operating costs. He is currently the highest paid conference commissioner at $5.4 million for 2019-20, according to USA Today.At the time, though, the move to San Francisco fell in line with the Pac-12 presidents’ charge to Scott: Modernize a conference that had fallen way behind its peers in major college sports.The Pac-12's highest profile sports, football and men's basketball, have failed to produce national champions during Scott's tenure, and some of his long-term plans failed to satisfy the short-term needs of administrators within the conference.The conference took off in the first few years of Scott's tenure and he was lauded as a visionary. The road got bumpy after that for Scott, and his time in the Pac-12 will come to end after the most difficult year of college sports trying to play through the pandemic. “This year was tougher than any that we've had,” Scott said. “But it also made you step back and reflect on what's most important in your life.”—-Follow Ralph D. Russo at https://twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP and listen at https://westwoodonepodcasts.com/pods/ap-top-25-college-football-podcast/___More AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

Arkansas rallies, then holds on to beat Auburn 75-73

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Desi Sills scored 14 of his 22 points in the second half to help Arkansas rally from a 12-point halftime deficit, and then hold on to beat Auburn 75-73 on Wednesday night. Sills scored four straight points during an 18-10 run to give Arkansas a 74-66 lead, its largest of the game coming with 2:40 to play. The Razorbacks trailed the entire first half and by 10 points early in the second. Auburn's Sharife Cooper answered with consecutive layups as part of a 7-0 surge that pulled the Tigers to 74-73 with 1:03 remaining. Moses Moody added a free throw for Arkansas with two seconds left and Allen Flanigan missed a 3-pointer to end it. Sills was 7-of-12 shooting and made 8 of 10 free throws. Jalen Tate added 14 points for Arkansas (11-4, 3-4 Southeastern Conference). Justin Smith and Davonte Davis had 10 points apiece. Smith's dunk stretched the Razorbacks' lead to 62-56 with about seven minutes left. Moody, a freshman who is one of four players in the SEC ranked among the top 15 in scoring and rebounding, was held to five points on 2-of-9 shooting and had five rebounds. Cooper scored 25 points for Auburn (8-7, 2-5). JT Thor had 12 points. Flanigan, who had reached double figures in 10 of the last 11 games, had just seven points against the Razorbacks.Auburn plays at South Carolina on Saturday. Arkansas plays at Vanderbilt on Saturday. ___For more AP college basketball coverage: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and http://twitter.com/AP_Top25

Hertl's shootout goal lifts Sharks past Blues, 2-1

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Tomas Hertl’s goal in a shootout lifted the San Jose Sharks to a 2-1 comeback victory over the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday night.It was Hertl’s third goal in four games this season and extended his points streak to four games.The Sharks appeared to get the game-winner with 11 seconds left in overtime, but the officials quickly waved it off for goaltender interference on Ryan Donato. After a review, the call was upheld.Marcus Sorensen also scored and Martin Jones made 23 saves for the Sharks, who snapped a six-game losing streak to St. Louis that started in the 2019 playoffs.Brayden Schenn scored in his second straight game and Jordan Binnington made 33 saves for the Blues.John Leonard almost gave the Sharks the lead, ringing a drive off the post early in the second period.Instead, Schenn put the Blues on top at 4:27 of the second off Jordan Kyrou's feed. It was the first time in four games that St. Louis scored first.Vince Dunn came close to building on St. Louis’ lead, but he hit the post late in the second.The Sharks took advantage, tying the game with 2:03 left in the second as Sorensen made a diving poke off Matt Nieto's shot to even the game 1-1.SPECIAL TEAMSThe teams combined to go 0 for 12 on the power play.St. Louis is now scoreless on its first 14 man advantages of the season, while San Jose entered the game second in the league, scoring on 45% of its power-play chances.SEASON DEBUTSSharks forward Dylan Gambrell was in the lineup for the first time this season. He centered the third line with John Leonard and Stefan Noesen.Blues defenseman Niko Mikkola saw his first action of the season, filing in for Marco Scandella. Mikkola was paired with Carl Gunnarsson, who made his season debut on Monday for Robert Bortuzzo, who was placed on injured reserve with an upper body injury.WELCOME BACKBlues forward Sammy Blais was back in the starting lineup after serving a two-game suspension for a hit on Colorado’s Devon Toews in the season opener. He took Kyle Clifford’s spot on the fourth line with Ivan Barbashev and Oskar Sundqvist.WHAT’S NEXTSharks: Continue their season-opening, eight-game road trip by starting a two-game set at Minnesota on Friday night.Blues: Continue their four-game homestand by hosting Los Angeles in the first of a two-game set Saturday night.More AP NHL coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL

Washington snaps 8-game skid, topples Colorado 84-80

SEATTLE (AP) — Marcus Tsohonis and his teammates celebrated as though Washington had just won something of significance rather than a midseason conference game.Snapping an eight-game losing streak felt much bigger for the Huskies than just a regular Pac-12 victory. “The sigh of relief of getting that win was perfect,” Tsohonis said. Tsohonis scored a career-high 27 off the bench, Erik Stevenson added 17 points before fouling out, and Washington picked up its first conference win of the season beating Colorado 84-80 on Wednesday night. Tsohonis was brilliant providing the Huskies (2-11, 1-7 Pac-12) a needed punch of scoring off the bench. He topped his career-high of 24 points set just a couple of weeks ago in a loss to Stanford. Washington's eight-game skid was its longest since the end of the 2016-17 season when the Huskies closed the season with 13 straight losses. Three of the Huskies eight losses during their skid were by more than 20 points.But the Huskies nearly beat UCLA last weekend in Los Angeles and got the better of the Buffaloes. “For them to get over the hump, and every team just needs a spark and hopefully that lit a match today for us,” Washington coach Mike Hopkins said. Tsohonis was 9 of 13 shooting and also hit four of Washington’s 12 3-pointers. The Huskies needed every bit of the outside shooting to counter being dominated on the interior by the Buffaloes. Jamal Bey scored 14 points and Quade Green added 11 for the Huskies.“I’m just glad that we were able to pull through," Tsohonis said. "Nobody’s really quitting on each other. We’re communicating. It's getting real close.”Jeriah Horne scored a season-high 24 for Colorado, but missed an open 3-pointer with seven seconds left that could have tied the game. Colorado (11-4, 5-3) saw its four-game win streak snapped and likely lost a chance to move into The AP Top 25 next week. Evan Battey added 18 points, but leading scorer McKinley Wright IV was held to 12 points. Colorado coach Tad Boyle called it one of his more disappointing losses. “The offense was not the issue. Even though it wasn’t great it wasn’t the issue," Boyle said. "The issue was on the other end of the floor, which is something we hang our hat on, but there was no hook tonight.” Boyle was concerned about letting Washington hang around and it was apparent Colorado missed its chance at an easy victory after the Huskies trailed by 10 late in the first half and pulled within four by the break. Down 55-48, Washington scored 10 of the next 12 points and took its first lead since early in the first half on Bey’s 3 with 13 minutes left. From there the teams exchanged the lead seven times over the next 10 minutes. Wright’s two free throws with 4:23 left pulled the Buffaloes even at 73-73 after drawing his fifth foul against Stevenson. Washington finally separated after consecutive baskets from Tsohonis, the second coming off a turnover with 1:04 left and gave the Huskies an 81-75 lead. Washington hit enough free throws and withstood Horne’s open look to tie, and was able to celebrate its first conference win. Washington was shooting just 40% on the season, but shot 64% in the second half. “Through all the resiliency and in the games before I think it’s really going to carry over to us moving forward,” Hopkins said. THE TAKEAWAYColorado: The Buffaloes have been a solid 3-point shooting team this season, making nearly 37% of their attempts coming into the game. But the touch from deep was missing as Colorado went 1 of 18 on 3s. The perimeter struggles were balanced by easy baskets inside. The Buffaloes held a 42-24 advantage on points in the paint. Washington: The Huskies were thumped by Colorado in a game that didn’t count in the conference standings last month in Las Vegas. Colorado won that game 92-69 after jumping out to a 52-30 halftime lead. UP NEXTColorado: The Buffaloes will face Washington State on Saturday. Washington: The Huskies will host Utah on Sunday. ___For more AP college basketball coverage: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and http://twitter.com/AP_Top25

Insider trading sentence of Vegas gambler commuted by Trump

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A Las Vegas professional gambler, real estate mogul and philanthropist who was convicted in an insider trading case said Wednesday he's grateful his prison sentence was commuted by former President Donald Trump.William “Billy” Walters said in a statement issued through publicists that he’ll continue to pursue a lawsuit against federal law enforcement officials in New York who won his conviction in 2017 in a case that drew headlines for its ties to professional golfer Phil Mickelson.“I am thankful to the president and extremely grateful for the longstanding support of friends and family, especially my wife, Susan,” Walters said.Walters was convicted of conspiracy, securities fraud and wire fraud after prosecutors told a jury that Walters helped Michelson earn $1 million in 2012 with stock trades in a Dallas-based company so the golfer cold cover gambling debts. The Securities and Exchange Commission cited Mickelson for the trades in a lawsuit, and Mickelson agreed to repay the money. Mickelson was not charged.Walters, whose business empire included golf courses and car dealerships, was sentenced in July 2017 to five years in prison and fined $10 million by a federal judge who noted “large and splashy displays of philanthropy” and Walters' ownership of a private plane, $17 million West Coast home and $175 million in earnings from 2011 to 2015.Walters, now 74, was released last summer to home confinement in the San Diego area after serving more than half his sentence.Trump issued pardons and commutations for 143 people, including former political strategist Steve Bannon, during the final hours of his presidency.Walters’ attorney, Pierce O’Donnell in Los Angeles, said he intends to prove in the lawsuit that Walters was entrapped by federal officials, including four prosecutors and an FBI agent who O’Donnell alleges covered up information about leaks to the news media of secret grand jury information.

Analysis: Biden faces a more confident China after US chaos

BEIJING (AP) — As a new U.S. president takes office, he faces a determined Chinese leadership that could be further emboldened by America's troubles at home. The disarray in America, from the rampant COVID-19 pandemic to the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, gives China’s ruling Communist Party a boost as it pursues its long-running quest for national "rejuvenation” — a bid to return the country to what it sees as its rightful place as a major nation.For Joe Biden, sworn in Wednesday as the 46th president, that could make one of his major foreign policy challenges even more difficult as he tries to manage an increasingly contentious relationship between the world’s rising power and its established one. The stakes are high for the both countries and the rest of the world. A misstep could spark an accidental conflict in the Western Pacific, where China's growing naval presence is bumping up against America's. The trade war under President Donald Trump hurt workers and farmers in both countries, though some in Vietnam and elsewhere benefited as companies moved production outside China. On global issues such as climate, it is difficult to make progress if the world's two largest economies aren't talking.A more confident China may push back harder on issues such as technology, territory and human rights. Analysts draw parallels to the 2008 global financial crisis, from which China emerged relatively unscathed. The country's foreign policy has grown increasingly assertive since then, from staking out territory in disputed waters in the South China Sea to its more recent use of Twitter to hit back at critics. China's relative success in controlling the pandemic could fuel that trend.The U.S. has also shifted, with wide support among both Republicans and Democrats for treating China as a competitor, and embracing the need for a tougher approach to China, if not always agreeing with how Trump carried it out. Biden needs to be wary of opening himself up to attacks that he is soft on China if he rolls back import tariffs and other steps taken by his predecessor. His pressing need to prioritize domestic challenges could give China breathing room to push forward its agenda, whether it be technological advancement or territorial issues from Taiwan to its border with India. Kurt Tong, a former U.S. diplomat in Asia, sees a stalemate in the coming few years, in which China keeps doing what it has been doing and the U.S. is not happy about it."I think it’s going to be a tough patch, it’s just going to be more disagreements than agreements and not a lot of breakthroughs,” said Tong, now a partner with The Asia Group consultancy in Washington, D.C. Biden has pointed to potential areas of cooperation, from climate change to curbing North Korea's nuclear weapons development, but even in those areas, the two countries don't always agree.The pandemic, first viewed as a potential threat to President Xi Jinping’s leadership as it spiraled out of control in the city of Wuhan in early 2020, has been transformed into a story of hardship followed by triumph.The Communist Party has sought to use the pandemic to justify its continued control of the one-party, authoritarian state it has led for more than 70 years, while rounding up citizen-journalists and others to quash any criticism of its handling of the outbreak.That effort has been aided by the failure of many other nations to stop the spread of COVID-19. Biden takes over a country where deaths continue to mount and virus-related restrictions keep it in recession. China is battling small outbreaks, but life has largely returned to normal and economic growth is accelerating.“It would have been more difficult for them to push that narrative around the world if the United States had not done such a poor job,” said Bonnie Glaser, director of the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic & International Studies in Washington, D.C. “That’s a theme that runs through many issues, that China’s just able to point to the United States and democracy in general as not delivering good governance.”It’s impossible to gauge support for the Communist Party in a country where many would be unwilling to criticize it publicly, for fear of repercussions. But Niu Jun, an international relations professor at Peking University, said that objectively, public trust should rise given China's faster recovery from the outbreak.“To ordinary people, the logic is very simple,” he said, predicting the pandemic would spark public thinking and discussion about which system of governance is more effective.“The party’s policies are good, our policies are not like the ones in foreign countries, ours are good,” said Liu Shixiu, strolling with her daughter in Wuhan, the city that bore the brunt of the pandemic in China. “We listen to the party.”It is unclear whether the Communist Party foresees exporting its way of governance as an alternative to the democratic model. For now, Chinese officials note that countries choose different systems and stress the need for others to respect those differences. “As China becomes more and more confident, maybe they’ll try to shape the internal operations or ways of thinking of other countries,” Tong said. "But to me, it feels more like they don’t want anyone to be able to say that China is bad and get away with it.”The leadership wants China to be seen and treated as an equal and has shown a willingness to use its growing economic and military might to try to get its way.___Associated Press video journalist Emily Wang Fujiyama contributed to this report.___Moritsugu, The Associated Press' news director for Greater China, has reported in Asia for more than 15 years.

Biden takes the helm, appeals for unity to take on crises

WASHINGTON (AP) — Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States, declaring that “democracy has prevailed” and summoning American resilience and unity to confront the deeply divided nation's historic confluence of crises.Denouncing a national “uncivil war,” Biden took the oath Wednesday at a U.S. Capitol that had been battered by an insurrectionist siege just two weeks earlier. Then, taking his place in the White House Oval Office, he plunged into a stack of executive actions that began to undo the heart of his polarizing predecessor 's agenda on matters from the deadly pandemic to climate change.At the Capitol, with America's tradition of peaceful transfers of power never appearing more fragile, the ceremony unfolded within a circle of security forces evocative of a war zone and devoid of crowds because of the coronavirus pandemic.Instead, Biden gazed out on a cold Washington morning dotted with snow flurries to see over 200,000 American flags planted on the National Mall to symbolize those who could not attend in person. “The will of the people has been heard, and the will of the people has been heeded. We’ve learned again that democracy is precious and democracy is fragile. At this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed," Biden declared in his speech. "This is America’s day. This is democracy’s day. A day of history and hope, of renewal and resolve.”History was made at his side, as Kamala Harris became the first woman to be vice president. The former U.S. senator from California is also the first Black person and the first person of South Asian descent elected to the vice presidency and the highest-ranking woman ever to serve in the U.S. government.Biden never mentioned his predecessor, who defied tradition and left town ahead of the ceremony, but his speech was an implicit rebuke of Donald Trump. The new president denounced “lies told for power and for profit” and was blunt about the challenges ahead.Central among them: the surging virus that has claimed more than 400,000 lives in the United States, as well as economic strains and a national reckoning over race. “We have much to do in this winter of peril, and significant possibilities. Much to repair, much to restore, much to heal, much to build and much to gain,” Biden said. "Few people in our nation’s history have been more challenged, or found a time more challenging or difficult than the time we’re in now.”Biden was eager to go big early, with an ambitious first 100 days including a push to speed up the distribution of COVID-19 vaccinations to anxious Americans and pass a $1.9 trillion economic relief package. It included a blitz of executive orders on matters that don’t require congressional approval — a mix of substantive and symbolic steps to unwind the Trump years. His actions included re-entry into the Paris Climate Accords and a mandate for wearing masks on federal property. “There’s no time to start like today,” a masked Biden said. in the Oval Office. Then he swore in hundreds of aides — virtually — telling them, “You’re my possibilities.”The absence of Biden's predecessor from the inaugural ceremony underscored the national rift to be healed.But a bipartisan trio of former presidents — Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama — were there to witness the transfer of power. Trump, awaiting his second impeachment trial, was at his Florida resort by the time the swearing-in took place.Biden, in his third run for the presidency, staked his candidacy less on any distinctive political ideology than on galvanizing a broad coalition of voters around the notion that Trump posed an existential threat to American democracy. Four years after Trump’s “American Carnage” speech painted a dark portrait of national decay, Biden warned that the fabric of the nation's democracy was tearing but could be repaired."I know the forces that divide us are deep and they are real. But I also know they are not new. Our history has been a constant struggle between the American ideal that we are all created equal and the harsh, ugly reality that racism, nativism, fear, demonization have long torn us apart,” Biden said. “This is our historic moment of crisis and challenge, and unity is the path forward and we must meet this moment as the United States of America.” Swearing the oath with his hand on a five-inch-thick Bible that has been in his family for 128 years, Biden came to office with a well of empathy and resolve born by personal tragedy as well as a depth of experience forged from more than four decades in Washington. At age 78, he is the oldest president inaugurated.Both he, Harris and their spouses walked the last short part of the route to the White House after an abridged parade. Biden then strode into the Oval Office, a room he knew well as vice president, for the first time as commander in chief.At the Capitol earlier, Biden, like all those in attendance, wore a face mask except when speaking. Tens of thousands of National Guard troops were on the streets to provide security precisely two weeks after a violent mob of Trump supporters, incited by the Republican president, stormed the building in an attempt to prevent the certification of Biden’s victory.“Here we stand, just days after a riotous mob thought they could use violence to silence the will of the people,” Biden said. "To stop the work of our democracy. To drive us from this sacred ground. It did not happen. It will never happen. Not today, not tomorrow. Not ever. Not ever.”The tense atmosphere evoked the 1861 inauguration of Abraham Lincoln, who was secretly transported to Washington to avoid assassins on the eve of the Civil War, or Franklin Roosevelt's inaugural in 1945, when he opted for a small, secure ceremony at the White House in the waning months of World War II.But Washington, all but deserted downtown and in its federal areas, was quiet. And calm also prevailed outside heavily fortified state Capitol buildings across nation after the FBI had warned of the possibility for armed demonstrations leading up to the inauguration. The day began with a reach across the political aisle after four years of bitter partisan battles under Trump. At Biden's invitation, congressional leaders from both parties bowed their heads in prayer in the socially distanced service a few blocks from the White House.Biden was sworn in by Chief Justice John Roberts; Harris by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina member of the Supreme Court. Vice President Mike Pence, standing in for Trump, sat nearby as Lady Gaga, holding a golden microphone, sang the National Anthem accompanied by the U.S. Marine Corps band.When Pence, in a last act of the outgoing administration, left the Capitol, he walked through a door with badly cracked glass from the riot two weeks ago. Later, Biden, Harris and their spouses were joined by the former presidents to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Ceremony. By afternoon, a White House desolate in Trump’s waning days sprang back to life, with Biden staffers settling in and new COVID-19 safety measures, like plastic shields on desks, in place. In the evening, in lieu of the traditional balls that welcome a new president to Washington, Biden and Harris appeared separately at the Lincoln Memorial to take part in a televised concert that also marked the return of A-list celebrities to the White House orbit after they largely eschewed Trump. Among those in the lineup: Bruce Springsteen, Justin Timberlake and Lin-Manuel Miranda. The Bidens ended their evening watching fireworks from a White House balcony.This was not an inauguration for the crowds. But Americans in the capital city nonetheless brought their hopes to the moment. “I feel so hopeful, so thankful,” said Karen Jennings Crooms, a D.C. resident who hoped to catch a glimpse of the presidential motorcade on Pennsylvania Avenue with her husband. “It makes us sad that this is where we are but hopeful that democracy will win out in the end. That’s what I’m focusing on.” Trump was the first president in more than a century to skip the inauguration of his successor. After a brief farewell celebration at nearby Joint Base Andrews, he boarded Air Force One for the final time as president."I will always fight for you. I will be watching. I will be listening and I will tell you that the future of this country has never been better," said Trump. He wished the incoming administration well but never mentioned Biden's name. Trump did adhere to one tradition and left a personal note for Biden in the Oval Office. Biden would only tell reporters that it was "a very generous letter.”Trump, in his farewell video remarks, hinted at a political return, saying “we will be back in some form.” Without question, he will shadow Biden’s first days in office. Trump’s second impeachment trial could start as early as this week. That will test the ability of the Senate, now coming under Democratic control, to balance impeachment proceedings with confirmation hearings and votes on Biden’s Cabinet choices. ___Associated Press writers Jill Colvin and Darlene Superville in Washington and Michelle L. Price in Las Vegas contributed to this report.___Follow Lemire on Twitter at http://twitter.com/@JonLemire.

Analysis: Biden issues call to unity that comes with urgency

WASHINGTON (AP) — As newly inaugurated leaders often do, President Joe Biden began his tenure with a ritual call for American unity. But standing on the same Capitol steps where just two weeks ago rioters laid siege to the nation's democracy, Biden's words felt less like rhetorical flourishes and more like an urgent appeal to stabilize a country reeling from a spiraling pandemic, economic uncertainty, racial tensions and a growing divide over truth versus lies. “We must end this uncivil war,” Biden declared shortly after being sworn in as the nation's 46th president. Repairing the badly battered nation amounts to one of the greatest challenges to face an American president. The coronavirus pandemic has killed more than 400,000 Americans and is still raging out of control. The economy keeps shedding jobs, with unemployment hitting women and minorities the hardest. And the insurrection at the Capitol made clear the extent of the risks posed by the nation's deep political divisions and the embrace of conspiracies and lies by many followers of Biden's predecessor, former President Donald Trump. “Few people in our nation’s history have been more challenged or found a time more challenging or difficult than the time we are in now,” Biden said. Indeed, Biden, 78, is taking office at as grim a moment as many Americans can remember, and his inaugural celebration reflected that reality. There was no cheering crowd spread out before him on the National Mall when he took the oath of office as a consequence of the pandemic, but there were 25,000 National Guard troops securing the streets of Washington in response to the Capitol attack. Officials who did gather there wore face masks and were seated at a distance. Trump wasn't on hand to witness the fallout of his tenure, having defied tradition and left Washington earlier Wednesday morning. Historians have put the challenges Biden faces on par with, or even beyond, what confronted Abraham Lincoln when he was inaugurated in 1861 to lead a nation splintering into civil war or Franklin Delano Roosevelt as he was sworn in during the depths of the Great Depression in 1933. But Lincoln and Roosevelt's presidencies are also a blueprint for the ways American leaders have turned crises into opportunities, pulling people past the partisan divisions or ideological forces that can halt progress. “Crises present unique opportunities for large scale change in a way that an average moment might not,” said Lindsay Chervinsky, a presidential historian and author of “The Cabinet: George Washington and the Creation of an American Institution.” “The more intense the crisis, the more likely the country is to get behind someone to try to fix that — the concept of uniting in war or uniting against a common threat."But by some measures, Roosevelt and Lincoln had advantages Biden does not. Roosevelt's Democratic Party had solid majorities in Congress, helping him power through his expansive agenda. Lincoln's Republican majorities were added by the secessionist push that dwindled his opponents' ranks in Congress. Biden, meanwhile, will have the narrowest of Democratic majorities in Congress; in the 50-50 Senate, it will fall to Vice President Kamala Harris to break any ties. The Republican Party faces an existential crisis of its own making after the Trump era, and it is deeply uncertain how much cooperating with the new Democratic president fits into its leaders' plans for their future. Still, Biden has signaled he will press Congress aggressively in his opening weeks, challenging lawmakers to pass a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package to address the public health and economic crisis — all but daring Republicans to block him at a moment when cases and deaths across the U.S. are soaring. Biden's ability to get that legislation passed will significantly shape both his administration's ability to tackle the pandemic and his overall standing in Washington. He's staked much of the promise of his presidency on his ability to court lawmakers from across the aisle, touting his long working relationship with Republican senators and the reputation he cultivated as a dealmaker while serving as President Barack Obama's No. 2. But Washington has changed rapidly since then, a reality Biden's advisers insist he is clear-eyed about. Unlike Obama, he will quickly flex his executive powers on his first day in office, both to roll back Trump administration policies and to take action on the pandemic, including issuing a mask mandate on federal property. He's also pledged that his administration will vaccinate 100 million people against the coronavirus within his first 100 days in office, laying down a clear marker to judge his success or failure.Laura Belmonte, the dean of the Virginia Tech College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences and a professor of history, said that while Biden would be “naive” to think Washington is the same as it was when he was a senator or even when he left it as vice president, the experience he brings to the job will be invaluable in this moment. “We don't have time for a learning curve,” Belmonte said. “I cannot think of a modern president that has faced a more daunting landscape."As he addressed the nation on Wednesday, Biden was plainspoken about the challenges ahead and the reality that his presidency will be judged on his ability to overcome them. He also nodded to some of the reasons for optimism on the horizon, including the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines and an economy poised to rebound when the pandemic ultimately passes. But there is far less certainty about the ultimate challenge the new president faces: bridging the deep ideological, racial and factual divides that have pushed the nation to the brink. “Unity is the path forward,” he said. "We must meet this moment as the United States of America. If we do that, I guarantee you we will not fail.”___Editor's Note — Julie Pace has covered the White House and politics for The Associated Press since 2007. Follow her at http://twitter.com/jpaceDC.

Sasser scores 26, No. 8 Houston defeats Tulsa, 86-59

HOUSTON (AP) — Marcus Sasser scored 26 points, Quentin Grimes added 18 points and seven rebounds and No. 8 Houston avenged its only loss with an 86-59 win over Tulsa on Wednesday night.Sasser, who scored 18 points in the first half, finished 8 of 15 from the field, including 6 of 12 on 3-pointers. Tramon Mark had 11 points and six rebounds for the Cougars.Houston (12-1, 7-1 American) shot 43%, including 13 of 32 on 3-pointers. The Cougars outrebounded Tulsa 52-24, and had a 26-7 advantage in second-chance points.The Cougars won their fifth straight since falling to the Golden Hurricane 65-64 in Tulsa on Dec. 29.Brandon Rachal scored 18 points, and Keshawn Williams added 10 points for Tulsa (8-5, 5-3). The Golden Hurricane shot 37% and were 7 of 22 on 3-pointers.Houston used a 23-3 run over an eight-minute stretch of the first half to open up a 29-9 lead, punctuated by a 3-pointer by Sasser, who had 13 points in the stretch.The Cougars ended the first half on a 7-0 run, capped by a dunk by Brison Gresham and took a 45-19 lead into halftime.BIG PICTURETulsa: Houston’s 86 points were the most allowed by Tulsa this season. The Golden Hurricane entered as the second-best defense in the American, allowing 60.9 points per game. Tulsa’s 19 first-half points tied for the lowest the Golden Hurricane has scored in the first half this season.Houston: Sasser’s 26 points were the most a player has scored against Tulsa this season. Houston forced Tulsa into 18 turnovers, which the Cougars turned into 26 points. Houston committed 15 turnovers. The Cougars had a 32-20 advantage in points in the paint.TECHNICALS ISSUEDFollowing a scrum for a loose ball less than two minutes into the second half, Gresham was issued a technical foul, and after another battle for a loose ball 10 minutes later, DeJon Jarreau and Elijah Joiner were each issued technical fouls. The teams combined for 35 fouls.UP NEXTTulsa: Hosts Tulane on Saturday.Houston: Travels to Temple on Saturday. The Cougars’ originally scheduled game against Cincinnati on Saturday was postponed due to positive COVID-19 cases and contact tracing at Cincinnati.___More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25