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Mission for ex-Jets star Lyons is granting ill kids' wishes

NEW YORK (AP) — Marty Lyons pauses, fights back tears and clears his throat nearly every time he mentions the children who are no longer here.The former New York Jets defensive lineman and longtime team radio analyst has seen way too many youngsters enter his life and then die from the cancer and other illnesses that have robbed them — and their loved ones — of bright futures.“I mean, these are little kids, but the pain that their families endure for the rest of their life is, sometimes it’s unbearable because there’s always going to be a missing face,” Lyons said during a telephone interview. “There’s always going to be a birthday to celebrate.”But also so many other days to remember the lasting impacts they made in just a few short years.“These kids that are unfortunately dying at an early age are teachers in the game of life, even though they might only be 4 or 5 or 6 years old," Lyons said. "They have a message. I remember one little girl I met, she looked at me and said, ‘Mr. Marty, why are you crying?’ "And I couldn’t get out an answer because she said, ‘I’m going to be OK. I’ve already seen the angels.’”Lyons has been on a mission — 38 years and counting — to fulfill the wishes of children between the ages of 3 and 17 who have been diagnosed with a terminal or life-threatening illness. He started the Marty Lyons Foundation in 1982 and the nonprofit has granted over 8,000 wishes and raised over $35 million while growing to 10 chapters in 13 states.The 63-year-old former football star also has a new book called, “If These Walls Could Talk: Stories From The New York Jets Sideline, Locker Room and Press Box.” Co-authored by Lou Sahadi, the book includes tales from Lyons' playing days at Alabama and then as a member of the “New York Sack Exchange” with the Jets, along with observations from his 19 years as a radio broadcaster. It's also packed with emotional stories about the young children he has met along the way.“I wanted to make sure that the readers understood that there was more to me than being a football player,” said Lyons, a member of the Jets' ring of honor. “Certainly, I appreciate it and I’m very humbled and honored to be a part of the Jets organization, and I loved every minute of it. But there is nothing more important than me telling crossover stories about kids that have lost their lives at an early age because of cancer."Lyons signed over all of the proceeds he gets from the book directly to his foundation, which was started after the most emotionally tough week of his life. His oldest son Rocky was born on March 4, 1982, and Marty's father was making plans to fly to New York to meet his grandson. Leo Lyons never made the trip, dying at 58 of a heart attack on March 8. While attending his father's wake in Florida two days later, Lyons called home and received the news that Keith, his little brother in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, died of leukemia just two months shy of his sixth birthday.“So, in a matter of six days, I was challenged,” Lyons recalled. “I kept asking myself, what am I doing wrong in life? Why would God do this to me? And the more I asked why me, the more I learned to understand I was actually saying, why not somebody else?”But Lyons didn't want anyone to feel the pain he was experiencing. So he approached Jets teammate Ken Schroy about what he could do to make more of a difference.From there, the Marty Lyons Foundation was born, and the two continue to brighten young children's days by granting wishes — a visit to Disney World, celebrity meet-and-greets, a computer, a swimming pool — and being there for their families during the darkest of times.“He takes that passion from his playing days and switched it to a passion for the children,” said Schroy, a former safety who was Lyons' Jets teammate from 1979-84. "It's amazing to see him interact with so many children. We've been to so many hospitals with children fighting for their lives. Granting the wishes was the easy part. Helping them fight the disease moving forward was tough.“And Marty, he just wears his heart on his sleeve. He always did. He's just an amazing man.”The coronavirus pandemic has hampered the Marty Lyons Foundation's abilities to grant as many wishes as it usually does. It's holding a virtual silent auction through its site from Nov. 27-Dec. 11 to help raise funds to fulfill more wishes.Lyons is quick to deflect credit for his foundation's work, insisting it's the group of staffers, friends and volunteers that has helped him build it to what it is today. The book has allowed him to recognize them, while also impacting readers.“I’ve had people reply back: ‘When I read the book, I found myself laughing and I found myself crying, and at the end of the book, I found myself inspired,'" Lyons said. “I know for me writing it, it was an emotional roller coaster.”The chuckles in the locker room and on the playing fields. The tears shed over the children and their families. And, the lessons learned over 38 years. “My dad loved life,” Lyons said, his voice cracking. "But, if I had to tell him, ‘Dad, you’re going to die so that I could start a foundation and I could help all these kids,' he would've said, ‘Fine. Let me have one more cigarette, one more beer and I’m good.' It doesn't take away the pain. But when I started the foundation, it was the vehicle for me to move on because life doesn't stop for any one of us. "When all is said and done and you look back at your life and what you were able to do and what you were able to accomplish, the biggest question you can ask yourself is, did I make an impact?”___More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Germany set to extend partial shutdown well into December

BERLIN (AP) — German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the country's 16 state governors are expected Wednesday to extend a partial shutdown well into December, and discuss tightening some restrictions while allowing somewhat more generous rules for the Christmas period.Germany embarked on a so-called “wave-breaker” shutdown on Nov. 2, shutting restaurants, bars, sports and leisure facilities but leaving schools, shops and hair salons open. It was initially slated to last four weeks.Proposals drawn up ahead of Wednesday's videoconference by state governors, who are responsible for imposing and lifting restrictions, call for extending the shutdown until Dec. 20.So far, the measures have succeeded in halting an upward surge in new coronavirus infections — but they have stabilized at a high level, rather than sinking back to levels at which authorities feel contact-tracing efforts can be successful.On Wednesday, the national disease control center, the Robert Koch Institute, reported 18,633 new cases over the past 24 hours — compared with 17,561 a week earlier. The number of deaths linked to COVID-19 climbed by 410, the highest single-day total yet.Proposals for Wednesday's gathering envision tightening contact restrictions and mask-wearing rules. The federal government reportedly plans around 17 billion euros ($20 billion) more in aid to compensate businesses hit by the shutdown, following more than 10 billion euros this month.Over the Christmas period, plans so far call for somewhat looser contact restrictions.Germany, which has 83 million people, was credited with a relatively good performance in the first phase of the pandemic. It still has a lower death rate than several other European countries, and its current shutdown has been relatively mild.Germany has reported a total of 961,320 virus cases since the pandemic began, including 14,771 deaths.___Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

College football picks: Football feast missing some dishes

The Thanksgiving weekend football feast will be missing a few of the dishes that have become mainstays.Schedules altered and seasons delayed by the pandemic have taken off the table a bunch of rivalry games that have become a staple of the last weekend in November, including Michigan-Ohio State and all those in-state matchups of ACC and SEC schools such as Clemson-South Carolina.The Apple Cup between Washington and Washington State, canceled. Same with Minnesota and Wisconsin's long-running rivalry for Paul Bunyan's Axe; it's the first time since 1906 the Gophers and Badgers won't play.The three-day college football weekend is still quite a spread with the Iron Bowl between No. 22 Auburn and No. 1 Alabama as the main event Saturday and two games matching ranked teams Friday with playoff and conference title ramifications.No. 2 Notre Dame (CFP No. 2) plays at No. 25 North Carolina in a game that could mess up the Atlantic Coast Conference's hopes of putting two teams in the College Football Playoff.In the Big 12, No. 15 Iowa State faces No. 20 Texas. The Cyclones clinch a spot in the conference title game with a victory. A victory by the Longhorns makes things complicated, leaving all the contenders with at least two league losses heading down the stretch and head-to-head tiebreakers all over the place.The football feeding frenzy might not have everything you want but there is still plenty to choose from this weekend.The picks:FRIDAYNo. 2 Notre Dame (minus 4) at No. 25 North CarolinaA couple of bad losses have made the Tar Heels long shots to reach the ACC title game, but QB Sam Howell and crew have a formidable offense ... NORTH CAROLINA 35-31. No. 15 Iowa State (plus 1 1/2) at No. 20 TexasCyclones are 3-17 against the Longhorns and will try to beat Texas in consecutive seasons for the first time ... IOWA STATE 27-23.SATURDAYNo. 22 Auburn (plus 25) at No. 1 AlabamaLast six meetings when both teams are ranked, Tigers are 4-2, including last year. But the Tide hasn't lost consecutive Iron Bowls with Nick Saban as coach ... ALABAMA 42-21. No. 3 Ohio State (minus 28) at IllinoisIllini are allowing quarterbacks to complete 71% of their passes. They've been better the last three weeks, but here comes Justin Fields ... OHIO STATE 52-21. Pittsburgh (plus 24) at No. 4 ClemsonWill the Tigers take their FSU frustrations out on the Panthers? ... CLEMSON 45-17.LSU (plus 14 1/2) at No. 5 Texas A&MTigers have won eight of nine since the Aggies joined the SEC, but seem ripe for some A&M payback ... TEXAS A&M 38-28.Kentucky (plus 23) at No. 6 FloridaWildcats go from 60-point loss with a shorthanded roster against Alabama to facing the nation's hottest quarterback in Kyle Trask ... FLORIDA 45-20. No. 7 Cincinnati (minus 36) at TempleOwls are on their way to their first losing season since 2013, which is pretty amazing considering the history of the program ... CINCINNATI 35-3.No. 9 Oregon (minus 13 1/2) at Oregon StateDucks have won 11 of 12 in the rivalry that's looking for a new name since the Civil War was dumped ... OREGON 31-21.No. 11 Northwestern (minus 13 1/2) at Michigan StateSince gaining 537 yards in the opener against Maryand, the unbeaten Wildcats have been held under 300 yards in three of four games ... NORTHWESTERN 23-14.Maryland (plus 11 1/2) at No. 12 IndianaQB Taulia Tagovailoa and the Terps were rolling before a two-week COVID-19 pause ... INDIANA 35-27. No. 13 Georgia (minus 21 1/2) at South CarolinaAfter a rousing debut, what can Bulldogs QB J.T. Daniels do for an encore against one of the SEC's worst pass defenses? ... GEORGIA 45-17. No. 14 Oklahoma (minus 10 1/2) at West VirginiaSooners have won all eight meetings since the Mountaineers joined the Big 12 ... OKLAHOMA 31-17.No. 16 Coastal Carolina (minus 17) at Texas StateLet's hear it for the Texas State Bobcats, who are about play their 12th game of the season without a postponement ... COASTAL CAROLINA 42-21.Colorado (plus 13 1/12) at No. 19 USCTrojans will try to make it 15-0 all-time against the Buffs, if they can get past some COVID-19 issues ... USC 34-26.Texas Tech (plus 11) at No. 21 Oklahoma StateRed Raiders come in with a two-game winning streak against the Cowboys ... OKLAHOMA STATE 35-20.No. 23 Louisiana-Lafayette (minus 28 1/2) at Louisiana-MonroeSix of the last seven meetings have been decided by seven points or fewer, with the Ragin' Cajuns winning four of those close games ... LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE 38-17.TWITTER REQUESTSColorado State (plus 5) at Air Force, Thursday — @scott_callihanFalcons have won four straight in the in-state rivalry ... AIR FORCE 27-20.Kent State (plus 7) at Buffalo — @mattsarzMaybe the MAC's game of the year: Golden Flashes have put up 131 points in their last two games and the Bulls have scored at least 42 in each game during a 3-0 start ... BUFFALO 45-41.Memphis (minus 13 1/2) at Navy — @travelbyjohnmBeen a ragged season for both teams, but the winner is still alive for a spot in the AAC championship game ... MEMPHIS 35-18.Penn State (plus 2) at Michigan — @flaveydavieWinless Nittany Lions and the Wolverines coming off a big victory against Rutgers. Yeesh ... PENN STATE 26-24. Stanford (plus 1 1/2) at California — @adam_evarts19Big Game rivals have combined for four losses, two canceled games and no victories ... STANFORD 24-21. Mississippi State (plus 9 1/2) at Mississippi — @Brett_HudsonFirst Egg Bowl with Mike Leach coaching the Bulldogs and Lane Kiffin leading the Rebels. Let the fun begin ... OLE MISS 45-38.___RecordLast week: 14-4 straight; 11-7 against the spread.Season: 122-48 straight; 82-86-1 against the spread.___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/Collegefootball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

Women's hoops set to begin: flexibility key in COVID times

Eight months after women's college basketball was stopped because of the coronavirus, the sport is back, with the new season tipping off Wednesday.This year, getting to the Final Four, which is slated to be played in San Antonio, might not be purely about having the most talented team. It also could very well hinge on who has the least disruptions because of the coronavirus.Flexibility, fluidity and adaptability are three words that every coach in the country has adopted this year as team mantras. Before games even started, dozens of teams have had to pause their practices because of positive COVID-19 tests. With a positive result comes an NCAA suggested 14-day quarantine period for entire programs. No. 3 UConn saw its first four games wiped out Monday when the Huskies had a positive result by someone in the program. Coach Geno Auriemma said it wasn't a player or coach. It didn't matter. The team is not allowed to practice for two weeks.That eliminated early season showdowns with No. 5 Louisville and potentially sixth-ranked Mississippi State.“Everybody is going to be in this scenario at some point,” Auriemma said. “Either already has been, is, or will be. You can just pretty much predict that.”Before the season started, 20 games that were scheduled to be played on Wednesday were either canceled or postponed, including one for Louisville. Cardinals coach Jeff Walz didn't let that stop him from getting a game. Knowing that this would be the norm this season, Walz started a text chain with a dozen coaches so that they could schedule games at the last minute when cancellations happened. Walz also went to social media. The result ended up being a game at Southeast Missouri State on Wednesday.“You just have to adapt and be flexible,” Walz said. “We know it's going to be pretty common this year to have games postponed late, so why not figure out a way to pick up a game a different way.”Walz's texting group has now grown to 25 members and will keep getting bigger.South Carolina was the early favorite, earning the first No. 1 preseason ranking in school history. Dawn Staley's squad returns many talented players from last season's team that lost just one game. While the NCAA announced that the entire men's basketball tournament will be played at single site this year to help avoid potential problems with COVID-19, the women haven't decided yet what they want to do. If they do end up playing their NCAA Tournament games in a single city, San Antonio would be the leading candidate because it had been awarded the Final Four.Here are a few other things to look forward to this season:CHASING PAT: Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer and Auriemma should both pass Hall of Fame coach Pat Summitt's record win total of 1,098. VanDerveer sits four victories behind the Tennessee great, while Auriemma is seven away. Predicting when either will get there is difficult because of games potentially being lost due to the virus.“In a normal year, you’d have a better answer for it, with what’s going on right now, makes you appreciate each game,” said VanDerveer's whose team is No. 2 in the preseason poll. “I don’t know what the number is; I purposely don’t think about it. I know it’s out there, reminds me what an incredible opportunity I have to work with the players I’ve worked with and the teams I have. It makes me appreciate it a little bit more.”NEW FACES: With so many stars lost to graduation, including four members of The Associated Press All-America first team from last spring, new players will have a chance to step into the spotlight. Kentucky's Rhyne Howard — the lone returner from the All-America team — is poised to continue breaking more records for the Wildcats. She was the nation's second-leading scorer last season. She was joined on this year's preseason All-America team by South Carolina's Aliyah Boston, Louisville's Dana Evans, Arizona's Aari McDonald and UCLA's Michaela Onyenwere.WELCOME BACK: There were many new coaching hires this past offseason, two though could have major impacts. Kara Lawson and Niele Ivey left NBA assistant coaching positions to take over at Duke and Notre Dame, respectively. It is Lawson's first college coaching position, while Ivey returns to her alma mater, where she was a longtime assistant before leaving for the NBA.Lawson said she had always wanted to coach at Duke if the opportunity presented itself.“I knew that if it ever came open, I’d try and put my best foot forward and try to secure the position. That’s how highly I thought of the institution and the job,” she said when she was hired. “I had no idea it would happen a year after I went to Boston. It wasn’t in the plans so to speak.”HALF A CENTURY: Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer will be entering her 50th season as a college coach, including the last 26th at Rutgers. The Hall of Famer will be the first NCAA women’s basketball coach to coach 50 seasons and just the fourth men’s or women’s basketball coach in any NCAA division to reach that milestone. She joins Phog Allen (50 seasons , also including time at Baker, Central Missouri and Haskell from 1906-56 besides being at Kansas), Jim Smith (51 seasons at Division III Saint John’s-Minn. from 1965-2015) and Herb Magee, who is beginning his 54th season on the sidelines at Division II Jefferson (formerly Philadelphia Textile), where he took over in 1967-68. ___Follow Doug Feinberg on Twitter at http://twitter.com/dougfeinberg___For more women's basketball news: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketballSuch

Asia Today | India reports over 44,000 cases, most in Delhi

NEW DELHI (AP) — India has registered 44,376 new confirmed coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours. The latest increase has taken the total number...

Californians urged to avoid Thanksgiving gatherings

LOS ANGELES (AP) — With California desperately battling an out-of-control coronavirus surge, the state's health secretary is urging families to avoid gathering for Thanksgiving and Los Angeles County appeared on the brink of issuing a stay-home order to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed.“It’s as important to say no even when it comes to the closest people in our family” Dr. Mark Ghaly said as counties continued to see record COVID-19 infection caseloads and hospitalizations.Ghaly, whose mother won't be at his family’s dinner table this year, said it wasn't too late to cancel or change plans to limit Thanksgiving celebrations to immediate family.Residents were urged to avoid nonessential travel during what is typically the busiest travel period of the year. Anyone entering California was advised to quarantine for two weeks.Public health officials are bracing for a wave of cases in upcoming weeks that could stem from gatherings at Thanksgiving, particularly as people arrive or return from states or areas with higher infection rates. Los Angeles International Airport reported 1 million travelers on Monday, Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said. “If you’re a public health person, you just start crying when you hear those numbers,” Ferrer said, noting the effect will likely be felt in the weeks to come because of a lag between exposure and developing symptoms of COVID-19.The state has set records on several recent days for total infections detected. Hospitalizations statewide have increased 81% in the past two weeks and by nearly 400 patients in a day. “Statewide, I don’t believe we’ve ever seen as many hospital admissions increase like we did just in the past 24 hours,” Ghaly said Tuesday. Ghaly has said about 12% of those infected will wind up in hospitals.The virus was spreading exponentially in some areas. Sacramento County on Tuesday reported nearly 1,000 new infections for its highest one-day total and three times the level of just a month ago.Forty-five counties with nearly 95% of the state's population are now in the state's COVID-19 “purple" tier, which has the most restrictive rules for business operations. Those include a ban on indoor dining, limiting outdoor dining capacity and a nighttime curfew.Los Angeles County, the state's largest, has seen a fourth of all COVID-19 cases and this week passed a threshold set by county public health officials to trigger a three-week stay-at-home order — the first major lockdown since spring.The Department of Public Health did not immediately issue that order Tuesday but the rapid rise in cases made its adoption more and more likely.“Our metrics are the most alarming metrics that we’ve ever seen,” county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Tuesday. “Inaction in the face of this devastating acceleration of cases will cause irreparable harm.”The county already has issued an order banning in-person restaurant dining as of Wednesday night for three weeks. Restaurants, many already teetering financially, have argued that they have taken safety precautions and aren't to blame for the surge.However, Los Angeles County supervisors on Tuesday rejected a motion to allow restaurants to continue to serve meals outdoors at half their seating capacity.Kathryn Barger, who was on the losing side of the 3-2 vote, said the closure of restaurants was “arbitrary and punitive” and that private gatherings and celebrations after the recent election, the World Series victory by the Dodgers and NBA championship win by the Lakers were larger sources of spread. “I feel like the restaurant industry was basically used as a pawn,” Barger said. Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, who said she had heard a “cacophony” of opposition from restaurant owners, said that closing restaurants was a difficult but necessary move.“This is a serious health emergency and we must take it very seriously,” Kuehl said. “This is the only business that allows its customers to remain — and often for quite a while — unmasked. And that I think is enough to single it out right there.”Restaurants went to court Tuesday to halt the restaurant closure from taking effect, but a Los Angeles judge rejected their case. The California Restaurant Association had argued that Los Angeles County health officials should have to provide medical or scientific evidence that outdoor restaurant dining poses an unreasonable risk to public health. ___Associated Press writers Michael R. Blood and John Antczak in Los Angeles and Daisy Nguyen in Oakland contributed to this report.

Ex-prosecutor writes of drug addiction in sentencing letter

HONOLULU (AP) — A former Honolulu prosecutor, convicted of conspiracy in Hawaii's biggest corruption case that also took down her police chief husband, apologized for her actions in a handwritten letter to the judge Tuesday and blamed a prescription drug addiction for clouding her judgement. Katherine Kealoha is scheduled to be sentenced Monday, along with her now-estranged husband, Louis Kealoha. A jury convicted them of conspiracy in a plot to frame a relative to keep him from revealing fraud that enriched the couple's lavish lifestyle. “I have no doubt that prison is my cross to bear, to atone for my sins and to open my mind to spiritual teachings far beyond anything I could have ever imagined,” she wrote, describing how being confined has given her “the courage to speak the truth about my life.” Filed with her letter is a certificate for completing a drug abuse prevention program at the Honolulu Federal Detention Center. She had been abusing prescription medication since 2001, she wrote: “My abuse of prescription drugs was an addiction that clouded my judgment both personally and professionally." She also described being diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, which she didn't specify. She wrote that she takes “full responsibility for the widespread destruction that I've caused, and I am not going to make any excuses for my behavior." But she also wrote that she forgives those “in this case that did not speak the truth.” Prosecutors said the corruption included stealing from vulnerable victims — Katherine Kealoaha’s own grandmother and uncle — framing the uncle for a crime he didn’t commit, and using members of a secret police unit. All these actions were taken to cover up fraud that enriched the Kealohas and to maintain their status of prestige, prosecutors said.The Kealohas were once a respected power couple before a curious case of a mailbox reported stolen from their home in a swanky neighborhood led to their downfall and cast a spotlight on alleged corruption in the city’s police force and prosecutor’s office.Katherine Kealoha should go to prison for 14 years and her husband should be locked up for about half that time because the disgraced former power couple abused their positions of trust to commit corrupt acts at the highest levels of law enforcement, U.S. prosecutors wrote in sentencing recommendations.In her letter, she asks for leniency for her husband and two former officers convicted with them. “I took advantage of their friendships and of our relationships, and their only mistakes were in trusting me and associating with me,” she wrote, adding that her husband told her not to get involved with her family's financial matters and stayed with her after her infidelity. The case revealed that she spent some of the bilked money on her firefighter lover. Louis Kealoha filed for divorce after they were convicted.

Christmas traditions axed as pandemic sweeps rural Kansas

BELLE PLAINE, Kan. (AP) — It's barely a town anymore, battered by time on the windswept prairie of northwest Kansas. COVID-19 still managed for find Norcatur.Not much remains of the rural hamlet, save for service station, a grain elevator, a little museum, and a weekend hangout where the locals play pool, eat pizza and drink beer. The roof has collapsed on the crumbling building that once housed its bank and general store. Schools closed decades ago and the former high school building is used for city offices.But for the 150 or so remaining residents, the cancellation of the beloved Norcatur Christmas Drawing has driven home how the global coronavirus pandemic has reached deep into rural America.“Due to individuals who have COVID and refuse to stay home and quarantine it has been determined it is not safe for the citizens of Norcatur and the area to proceed,” read the notice tucked in the town’s newsletter and posted on its Facebook page. It blamed “negligent attitudes of lack of concern for others” for the cancellation.In a decades-old tradition that evokes Norman Rockwell nostalgia, the whole town typically gathers for a potluck dinner at Christmastime. Its namesake drawing features a plethora of donated meats, crafts and other goodies so every family can go home with prizes. The local 4-H Club puts on its bake sale. Santa Claus comes riding the firetruck.Decatur County has fewer than 3,000 people scattered across farms and small towns like Norcatur. As of Monday, the county had 194 coronavirus cases and one death, although medical providers say there are at least four more deaths of local residents that have yet to be added to the official toll.Carolyn Plotts, a 73-year-old Norcatur resident who never had symptoms and only found out she was positive for COVID-19 when tested for a medical procedure in October, said two of her former high school classmates who live in the county died because of the virus. Her husband also tested positive.“It's been very real to me,” she said.Plotts wondered whether the cancellation notice was maybe “talking about me.” During her quarantine she would only leave her house — with her doctor's permission and wearing a mask, she said pointedly — to care for a housebound friend who still believes the pandemic is a hoax.Carl Lyon, the Norcatur mayor who takes on the annual Santa role, said while most residents are “pretty good” about social distancing and wearing a mask, some have gotten the virus.“I know a couple of people had it and they were still kind of running around and whatnot,” Lyon said. “Didn't seem to bother them that they infected everybody else.”Decatur County Sheriff Ken Badsky estimated that 5% of county residents who should quarantine violate the restrictions and go out. His office has called some and “insisted they do what they are supposed to do,” but has taken no legal action.“I have so much other stuff to do. I don’t have time to follow people around,” Badsky said. “We have 900 square miles, we have three full-time officers and a part-time to take care of that and we are busy with everything else.”Such sentiments anger medical providers as coronavirus cases surge and it gets more difficult to find beds for their sickest patients as hospitals across the state fill up. “We need some backing to stop this virus and we are looking to people that need to do their job to do it, and so otherwise this thing is going to run rampant and it is going to put more pressure on our hospital,” Kris Mathews, the administrator of Decatur Health, a small critical access hospital in Oberlin, just 19 miles west of Norcatur.Stan Miller, the announcer for the Christmas Drawing for more than 25 years, has mixed emotions about the decision to forgo it this year. The 63-year-old Norcatur resident said he understands that there are elderly people who you don't want to get the virus. But it's also disappointing.“I like to see all the joy, especially the little kids,” Miller said. “We have Santa Claus after the drawing is over and to see them sit on Santa's lap and tell them what they want for Christmas, you know, always puts a smile on my face."

'America is back': Biden pushes past Trump era with nominees

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — Declaring "America is back," President-elect Joe Biden introduced his national security team, his first substantive offering of how he’ll shift from Trump-era “America First” policies by relying on experts from the Democratic establishment to be some of his most important advisers.“Together, these public servants will restore America globally, its global leadership and its moral leadership,” Biden said Tuesday from a theater in his longtime home of Wilmington, Delaware. “It’s a team that reflects the fact that America is back, ready to lead the world, not retreat from it.”The nominees are all Washington veterans with ties to the Obama administration, a sign of Biden’s effort to resume some form of normalcy after the tumult of President Donald Trump’s four years in office. Another sign that Biden will soon be in charge: He scheduled a Thanksgiving address to the nation for Wednesday afternoon, planning to focus his remarks on shared sacrifices during the holiday season and expressing confidence that Americans will get through the pandemic together.There are risks to choosing experienced hands from the previous Democratic administration. Besides Republican attacks, progressives fret that Biden is tapping some officials who were too cautious and incremental the last time they held power.Still, Biden's nominees were a clear departure from Trump, whose Cabinet has largely consisted of men, almost all of them white. Biden's picks included several women and people of color, some of whom would break barriers if confirmed to their new positions.On Tuesday they stood behind Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris spaced apart and wearing masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, a contrast with Trump and many of his top aides who have largely eschewed facial coverings.The president-elect’s team includes Antony Blinken, a veteran foreign policy hand well-regarded on Capitol Hill whose ties to Biden go back some 20 years, for secretary of state; lawyer Alejandro Mayorkas to be homeland security secretary; veteran diplomat Linda Thomas-Greenfield to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations; and Obama White House alumnus Jake Sullivan as national security adviser. Avril Haines, a former deputy director of the CIA, was picked to serve as director of national intelligence, the first woman to hold that post, and former Secretary of State John Kerry will make a curtain call as a special envoy on climate change. Kerry and Sullivan’s position will not require Senate confirmation.With the Senate’s balance of power hinging on two runoff races in Georgia that will be decided in January, some Senate Republicans have already expressed antipathy to Biden’s picks as little more than Obama world retreads.Sen. Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican and potential 2024 presidential candidate, argued that Biden is surrounding himself with people who will go soft on China. Sen. Marco Rubio, another potential White House hopeful, who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that will consider Blinken’s nomination, broadly wrote off the early selections.“Biden’s cabinet picks went to Ivy League schools, have strong resumes, attend all the right conferences & will be polite & orderly caretakers of America’s decline,” Rubio tweeted.Biden said his choices “reflect the idea that we cannot meet these challenges with old thinking and unchanged habits.” He said he tasked them with reasserting global and moral leadership, a clear swipe at Trump, who has resisted many traditional foreign alliances.The president-elect said he was “struck” by how world leaders have repeatedly told him during congratulatory calls that they look forward to the U.S. “reasserting its historic role as a global leader” under his administration.Trump, who has debated recently whether to mount another presidential campaign in 2024, appeared to defend his worldview on Tuesday.“We shouldn’t go away from that — America First,” he said at the annual turkey pardon, a lighthearted pre-Thanksgiving White House tradition.While Trump expected total loyalty from his Cabinet and chafed at pushback from advisers, Biden said he expected advisers to tell me “what I need to know, not what I want to know.”Further drawing a contrast with Trump, Haines said she accepted Biden’s nomination knowing that “you value the perspective of the intelligence community, and that you will do so even when what I have to say may be inconvenient or difficult.”Haines said she has “never shied away from speaking truth to power” and added “that will be my charge as director of national intelligence.”Biden celebrated the diversity of his picks, offering a particularly poignant tribute to Thomas-Greenfield. The eldest of eight children who grew up in segregated Louisiana, she was the first to graduate from high school and college in her family. The diplomat, in turn, said that with his selections, Biden is achieving much more than a changing of the guard.“My fellow career diplomats and public servants around the world, I want to say to you, ‘America is back, multilateralism is back, diplomacy is back,’” Thomas-Greenfield said.Mayorkas, who is Cuban American, also offered a nod to his immigrant upbringing. “My father and mother brought me to this country to escape communism,” he said. "They cherished our democracy, and were intensely proud to become United States citizens, as was I."But Mayorkas might pose the most difficult confirmation challenge from Biden’s early round of nominees.The Senate previously confirmed him in December 2013 by a party-line vote to be the deputy secretary of Homeland Security. The Senate was controlled by Democrats then, and all of the chamber's Republicans voted against his confirmation mainly because he was then under investigation by the inspector general in that department who had been appointed by President Barack Obama. At the time, the Senate historian’s office said it was unprecedented for the Senate to vote on a nominee who was under investigation.The inspector general, John Roth, found in March 2015 that Mayorkas, as director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, appeared to give special treatment to certain people as part of the visa program that gives residency preference to immigrants who agree to invest in the U.S. economy.Meanwhile, there were signs on Tuesday that the stalled formal transition of power is now underway. Biden's team now is in contact with all federal agencies, according to a transition official who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe developments that have not been announced.At the Pentagon, Kash Patel, chief of staff to the acting secretary of defense, is heading the department’s transition work. A transition task force has been assembled, led by Tom Muir, head of the Pentagon office that provides administrative and management services to all Defense Department facilities in the Washington area. Muir said the first meeting with Biden's team was held virtually on Tuesday morning and that he expected daily meetings to come — some virtually and some in person. He said normal accommodations for the Biden team have been made, including provision of briefing materials, video-teleconferencing capabilities, and office space inside the Pentagon.Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar also said his agency is working to get briefing materials to Biden’s aides immediately and pledged a “professional, cooperative and collaborative” transition.The moves came a day after the head of the General Services Administration wrote the necessary letter of “ascertainment” acknowledging Biden as the apparent winner of the election, triggering the transition process. Trump, who continues to press a legal challenge to overturn the election results, again on Tuesday refused to concede his election loss.Trump tweeted that “the GSA does not determine who the next President of the United States will be.”___Lee and Madhani reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Robert Burns in Washington contributed to this report.

Explainer | China’s claims of coronavirus on frozen foods

BEIJING (AP) — China has stirred controversy with claims it has detected the coronavirus on packages of imported frozen food. Frozen shrimp imported from an...