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    When his cruise ship sailed into Manila Bay after weeks of voyaging like a castaway amid port closures set off by the global pandemic, Erick Arenas felt he was finally home. But the 34-year-old dance performer of the Ovation of the Seas saw an ominous sign even before he can set foot on homeland. An array of the world’s best-known cruise ships was waiting at anchor off the Philippine capital to drop off thousands of Filipino crew members like him who were displaced across the world by the contagion. “I thought I was on my final mile to home,” said Arenas, whose homecoming was made tragic by the death of his father from pneumonia a few weeks before his ship reached Manila. Nearly a month after disembarking, however, Arenas was still stuck in complete isolation in a hotel used for quarantine in metropolitan Manila, about an hour’s drive from his home in Cavite province. “It’s not only COVID-19 that we’re fighting against. It’s our mental health, it’s our, you know, frustration,” Arenas told The Associated Press in an online video interview from his hotel room overlooking a business district devoid of the usual crowds under a lockdown. Tens of thousands of workers have returned by plane and ships as the pandemic, lockdowns and economic downturns decimated jobs worldwide in a major blow to the Philippines, a leading source of global labor. The sudden influx combined with the government’s limited quarantine and virus-testing capability and bureaucratic snags to set off chaotic delays and congestion in Manila hospitals, hotels and makeshift isolation structures. With public transport and flights restricted in the capital, the populous epicenter of the viral outbreak, the hordes of workers were effectively trapped from moving on to their provincial destinations. “It was a mix of chaos, impatience and longing for my family,” housemaid Lorna Alba said of her 38 days of isolation in a quarantine hotel in suburban Quezon City. The 28-year-old mother of three worked in Dubai in the oil-rich United Arab Emirates but was sent home when she caught fever and was suspected by her Arab employer of being a coronavirus carrier. She said a test showed she was not. Upon arrival at Manila airport in April, Alba said she and other workers from an Emirates flight were whisked off to the hotel, where she waited for half a month without being told what was happening before taking another test for the virus that showed she was well. “My stress was starting to worsen into a depression,” she told The AP. Faced with complaints, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered government agencies to help more than 24,000 workers, including Alba, to get home. He gave a one-week deadline ending on Sunday, sparking a flurry of movements. “I hope this will not happen again,” Duterte said in a televised meeting with key Cabinet officials Thursday, lamenting the difficulties encountered by the workers. At least 300,000 more displaced Filipinos were expected to journey home, “but this time, we should know what to do,” the blunt-speaking leader said. Hans Cacdac, who heads the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, told a congressional hearing Friday that public transport restrictions under the Manila lockdown prevented the workers from being moved out of the capital en masse, but said most have been brought back to their provinces this week after the president intervened. Only 4,000 remain stranded in the capital, including about 1,500 on board cruise ships in Manila Bay, he said. Lawmakers hit the lack of coordination and foresight that led to the congestion. Interior Undersecretary Epimaco Densing III said that a 14-day quarantine had been relaxed to allow the workers to immediately leave for home once test results clear them of infection. The move will help prevent quarantine congestion and will cut short the extra two-week wait in isolation that prolongs the homecoming of healthy workers, officials said. Christopher Bagay, a kitchen crew of the Aida Sol cruise ship in Europe, said it took him about two months to go through repetitive quarantines in Spain, Germany and Manila. Arriving home in Laguna province, south of Manila, on Thursday night, he sneaked into a room and hid from his 3-year-old son after deciding to go into 14 more days of home quarantine to protect his family. Arenas said he used the long quarantine that delayed his return home to record songs, mostly in duets with fellow entertainers, that were a tribute to his late father. He posted the poignant tunes on Facebook, including one with a message where he thanked friends around the world for reaching out to him. “It is challenging mentally to be isolated in your room,” Arenas said. “But it is even harder when you lose a family member back home while in isolation.” ___ Associated Press journalists Kiko Rosario in Bangkok, and Aaron Favila and Joeal Calupitan in Manila, Philippines, contributed to this report.
  • California prison officials said Friday that they suspended multiple employees who made racist jokes about the death of an African American man in police custody in Minneapolis, a disclosure that came amid protests across the state and nation. The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation “was made aware of abhorrent comments made on social media by some employees that will not be tolerated,” spokeswoman Dana Simas said. “The employees who made the comments were immediately suspended, and we are investigating the incidents fully.” Secretary Ralph Diaz said in a letter to his staff that what he described as “distasteful jokes and comments” about the death of George Floyd dishonored the department. He called the comments “extremely hurtful and disrespectful to (Floyd's) family and members of the community.” “In addition to racist remarks, a religious group was also singled out for disparagement,” he said, without elaborating. Simas would not say how many employees were suspended, where they are located, or whether they are correctional officers or have other duties, citing the active investigations. Diaz said unethical or racist conduct will not be tolerated regardless of whether employees are sworn correctional officers or other employees, or happen while they are on duty or off duty. The union representing correctional officers did not immediately comment. Floyd died after several Minneapolis police officers sat on him and one was shown in a viral video with his knee on Floyd's neck. That officer, Derek Chauvin, was charged Friday with third-degree murder and manslaughter.
  • Major league teams have released hundreds of young players with the minor league season in doubt due to the coronavirus pandemic. Over 200 players were cut Friday and more than 400 have been released over the past month according to transactions posted at MiLB.com. The start of the minor league season was postponed in March and players were mostly sent home from spring training. While Major League Baseball and the players' association are negotiating terms to play big league ball this summer, it's unlikely there will be minor league games. Minor league players not on 40-man rosters were promised $400 per week through May 31 by a policy drafted by MLB. At least 15 teams have promised to extend those allowances through at least June, with Oakland the only club known to be ending its stipends at the end of May. The Chicago White Sox were among the clubs to make cuts, but they will continue to pay $400 per week to the 25 players released last week. Kansas City general manager Dayton Moore said the Royals will not release any minor leaguers amid the pandemic and will continue providing the $400 per week allowances. “The minor-league player, the players that you’ll never know about, the players that never get out of rookie ball or High-A, those players have as much impact on the growth of our game as 10-year, 15-year veteran players,” Moore said. “They have as much opportunity to influence the growth of our game as those individuals that play for a long time because those are the individuals that go back into their communities and teach the game. They work in academies. They’re junior college coaches. They’re college coaches. They’re scouts. They coach in professional baseball. They’re growing the game constantly because they’re so passionate about it.” Lower-level players were hit hardest by cuts, with at least 172 players released from the rookie-level Gulf Coast, Arizona and Dominican Summer Leagues. It's not unusual for big league teams to release minor leaguers at this time of year. Cuts are routine ahead of the June draft as franchises make space for newly acquired players, and teams also kept more players than usual after spring training this season. It's unclear if more minor league players are being released this season than normal. Baseball will hold its amateur draft June 10, but MLB has shortened the draft from 40 rounds to five. ___ Follow Jake Seiner: https://twitter.com/Jake_Seiner ___ More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
  • One person was arrested after eight homeless people were given poisoned food that sent several to the hospital, Southern California authorities said Friday. The poisonings occurred over the course of about a week in mid-May in Huntington Beach in Orange County south of Los Angeles, authorities said. The victims were given food laced with oleoresin capsicum, “which is twice as strong as the pepper spray used by police, and their reactions to the poisoned food were filmed,' according to an advisory from the county district attorney's office, which planned to provide more details at a news conference next Monday. “The victims suffered a variety of symptoms including seizure-like symptoms, difficulty breathing, vomiting, and intense mouth and stomach pain,' the announcement said. “Several of the victims required hospitalization.' No deaths were reported. An investigation continued to determine whether there are more victims or suspects, authorities said.
  • President Donald Trump on Friday vetoed a measure that would have overturned a policy that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos issued in 2019 making it harder for students to get their loans erased after being misled by for-profit colleges. The Senate gave final approval to the bipartisan measure in March, dealing a rare rebuke of DeVos from the Republican-led chamber. But Trump on Friday said DeVos' rules are better than an Obama-era policy that would have been restored if the measure succeeded. In issuing his veto, Trump said the rules created by former President Barack Obama “defined educational fraud so broadly that it threatened to paralyze the nation’s system of higher education.” He added that DeVos' policy “strikes a better balance, protecting students’ rights to recover from schools that defraud them while foreclosing frivolous lawsuits that undermine higher education and expose taxpayers to needless loss.” Democrats condemned the move and promised a House vote to override the veto. Rep. Susie Lee, D-Nevada, who led the the bill in the House, said the fight is “far from over.” 'President Trump sent a message to the American people that he cares more about enriching predatory schools than protecting defrauded students and veterans,” Lee said. A statement from the Education Department thanked Trump for the veto. “This administration is committed to protecting all students from fraud and holding all schools accountable when they fail their students,” the department said. “This administration’s rule does just that, despite false claims from many corners.” Lawmakers moved to overturn DeVos’ policy through the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to overturn federal rules with a simple majority of both chambers and approval of the president. The resolution sought to strike down DeVos’ changes to a policy known as borrower defense to repayment, which erases federal student loans for borrowers whose colleges commit fraud. The policy dates to the 1990s but was expanded under Obama to forgive loans for thousands of students who went to for-profit college chains that used false claims to get them to enroll. When DeVos took office, though, she suspended the rules and began writing her own, saying the Obama policy allowed too many students to get their loans erased at the expense of taxpayers. Her changes were opposed by borrower advocates but embraced by for-profit colleges, who said their industry had unfairly been targeted by the Obama administration. DeVos' 2019 update made it harder for students to get their loans discharged by requiring them to prove their colleges knowingly misled them and caused personal financial harm, among other changes. Congress' effort to reverse the rules were supported by advocates for military veterans, who make up a major share of students at for-profit colleges. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who led the measure in the Senate, said the veto hurts veterans while helping DeVos and the “fraud merchants at the for-profit colleges.” 'My question to the President: in four days did you forget those flag waving Memorial Day speeches as you vetoed a bill the veterans were begging for?” Durbin said. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said her chamber “will soon vote to overturn this veto, which poses a grave harm to the financial security and futures of America’s students.” The congressional measure was applauded by education advocates who said DeVos' rules made it nearly impossible for defrauded students to get loans erased. James Kvaal, president of the Institute for College Access and Success, said he was “crestfallen” by the veto. “As a direct result of today’s action, hundreds of thousands of students cheated by colleges will have no way to get a fresh start,' he said. “The message to unscrupulous colleges is that there will be little or no consequences for illegal wrongdoing.”
  • Health officials said Friday that they were seeking to “inform mass numbers of unknown people” after a person who attended crowded pool parties over Memorial Day weekend at Missouri's Lake of the Ozarks tested positive for COVID-19. Camden County Health Department said in a release that the resident of Boone County in mid-Missouri tested positive on Sunday after arriving at the lake area a day earlier. Officials said there have been no reported cases of the virus linked to coronavirus in residents of Camden County, where the parties seen in videos and photos posted on social media took place. Because “mass numbers of unknown people” need to be notified, the officials released a brief timeline of the person's whereabouts last weekend, including stops at a bar called Backwater Jacks, a bar and restaurant that has a pool, as well as a dining and pool venue called Shady Gators and Lazy Gators. Backwater Jacks owner Gary Prewitt said previously in a statement that no laws were broken, though the images appeared to show people violating Republican Gov. Mike Parson’s state order requiring social distancing. Parson allowed businesses and attractions to reopen May 4, but the state order requires 6-foot (2-meter) social distancing through at least the end of May.
  • The Arizona Diamondbacks have laid off or furloughed about one-quarter of the team’s employees because of lost revenue due to the coronavirus pandemic. The organization made the moves on Friday. Remaining staff will take pay cuts that average less than 15%, with the team's highest earners losing a bigger percentage of their income. The D-backs will continue to pay their minor league players through at least the end of June. The team’s baseball operations department was largely unaffected. Many of the jobs lost were on the business side, particularly in ticket sales. “We care deeply about our employees which makes these decisions even more difficult,” owner Ken Kendrick and team president Derrick Hall said in a joint statement. “We have tried to minimize the impact as much as possible but these are truly unprecedented economic times and we recognize that this is affecting everyone in our organization and community. “We continue to hope and believe that we will play baseball in 2020, but it has become clear that this will be without fans, that the financial losses will be very significant and will undoubtedly carry into next season. Unfortunately, these changes were necessary in order to be in a position to recover when we are able to return to normal operations.” The Arizona Republic first reported the job cuts. The MLB season was suspended during spring training in March. The players’ union and owners are in discussions to possibly begin an abbreviated 82-game season in July, but likely without fans in attendance. ___ Follow David Brandt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/davidbrandtAP ___ More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
  • The Big 12's revenue distribution to its 10 schools decreased only slightly because of the pandemic that led to the cancellation of spring sports, though there is still plenty of uncertainty ahead. Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said Friday at the end of the league's virtual spring meetings the league was distributing an average of $37.7 million to each school for the 2019-20 school year, just $1.1 million less than the last year. That ended a 13-year streak of increasing revenues for the conference. The Big 12 got about $14 million less from the NCAA, which cancelled showcase events like the NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments, and the College World Series. Plus, the amount of money in member participation subsidies for conference championships was cut in half, from about $36 million last year to $18 million, after the cancellation of the Big 12 basketball tournaments, as well as baseball, softball and other spring sports. Oklahoma made the College Football Playoff for the third year in a row, and Baylor also played in a New Year's Six game with its Sugar Bowl appearance. Either Baylor or Kansas topped the AP men's basketball poll for the final 2 1/2 months of the season, and the Baylor women were looking for a chance to defend their 2019 national title. “Despite the fact that we had an abbreviated year, we had a pretty good year,” Bowlsby said. “The financial state of the Big 12 just in general is really healthy,” said Baylor's Mack Rhoades, chairman of the Big 12 ADs. “I think the ability to make institutions whole, or very close to whole, has been a big-time positive for every institution.” Those distribution figures don’t include third-tier broadcast rights, such as what Texas gets from ESPN for the Longhorn Network. TCU Chancellor Victor Boschini, chairman of the Big 12 board, said his school has lost about $50 million for different reasons because of the coronavirus. “As far as how we’re going to make it out, we’re scrambling to do that right now,” Boschini said. “We’re cutting costs everywhere. We’re not giving raises till January, taking lots of measures like that. All the campuses, I think are doing similar things.' The Big 12 board last week set June 15 as the first day campuses can be open to voluntary workouts for football players, with other athletes to follow in July. Each school is still working through protocols, such as testing and cleaning, to facilitate the safe return for students and staff. The league has contracted with Infection Control Education for Major Sports to help with the procedures. Before the pandemic, the Big 12 had projections of revenue distribution reaching the mid-$40 million range per school. The conference's current broadcast rights deal with Fox and ESPN expires in five years. It is hard now to predict future revenues. There is still a lack of clarity for what football season will look like, such as how many fans might be allowed to attend games. “I’m optimistic that we’ll start the season somewhere around Labor Day,' Bowlsby said. “I also think that we’ll likely have some interruptions. And we’ll have some moments on campuses and even within athletics departments where we have outbreaks and we’ll have to deal with them in real time. So I’m bullish about our opportunity, and more so than I was 30 days ago to answer your question directly. And I hope I’m even more so 30 days henceforth.” Boschini described himself as “very optimistic” about the football season starting on Labor Day weekend as scheduled. “I think it's going to happen,” he said. The Big 12 board of directors, made up of school presidents and chancellors, approved a 10-percent reduction in the league's operation budget for fiscal year 2021, which begins July 1. “We just think that’s good planning in order to get in position in case we need to do less and save more. But we’re planning and expecting to be able to capture that television money,” said Bowlsby, though acknowledging the possibility of television partners seeking reductions if the league can't deliver the required games for broadcast. “We can’t do anything other than manage to our contracts right now and then be flexible enough to make adjustments.” Bowlsby said Big 12 schools aren't planning to push toward regionalization of Olympic sports, though the league is looking at a variety of scheduling models, and for ways to save money in everything it does. “Cutting championships is probably the last thing we’re going to do to save money,” he said. “'That doesn’t mean that we wouldn’t alter the way that we manage the championships in order to optimize our spending.” ___ More AP college football: https://apnews.com/CollegeFootball and http://www.twitter.com/AP_Top25
  • The false social media posts started just hours after protesters first began chanting and carrying banners around the Minneapolis neighborhood where George Floyd, an African American man, died handcuffed in police custody. “The cop who killed George Floyd,” Facebook and Twitter users claimed, wrongly identifying a man pictured laughing alongside President Donald Trump at a rally as former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin. More fake videos and photos followed as the demonstrations turned violent the next day. Some speculated, without evidence, that Floyd’s death was staged or that protesters had been paid to stir up trouble, in tweets collectively shared thousands of times. Others said a video showed a protester driving a car through a shopping complex in Minneapolis, when in fact the footage was taken during an incident at an Illinois mall last year. Since a video of an officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck first surfaced, internet troublemakers and even celebrities have posted misleading or unsubstantiated claims around his death and the ensuing protests. The social media inaccuracies have created confusion around the unfolding news, tearing at the already loosely woven seams of America’s racial tapestry. “A good deal of this, if not all of this, is intentionally trying to stoke the racial flame that has been ablaze in the United States almost since slavery started 400-plus years ago,” said Lanier Holt, a communications professor at Ohio State University who studied in Minneapolis. While the falsehoods may have been unwittingly amplified by some, they have likely been planted by those preying on existing racial tensions, Holt said. “They put out that false information to get that narrative in the minds of people who already have these ... pre-existing biases,” he said. The online misinformation so far appears to have fallen along those racial divides. The day after Floyd died, Twitter and Facebook users shared a photo of a man wearing a “Make America White Again” red cap, claiming it was Chauvin, who was charged Friday with third-degree murder and manslaughter in Floyd's death. A version of the image was actually first posted online by a pro-Trump internet trickster who has previously duped media outlets into writing fictitious stories. Jonathan Riches confirmed to The Associated Press through messages that he was the man in the photo. Twitter later labeled rapper and actor Ice Cube’s tweet with the photo as “manipulated media.” After protests on Thursday night, the St. Paul Police Department denied rumors trending online that one of its police officers was responsible for breaking windows of an AutoZone store in neighboring Minneapolis. “We know with precision where that officer has been and who that officer has been with,” St. Paul Police spokesman Steve Linders said. “He was at work, and not at the location.” Meanwhile, others have posted old or out-of-context photos online and falsely suggested it showed the damage caused by Minnesota protesters. Hundreds of thousands viewed a short video clip circulating online that purported to show a car driving through the Mall of America, the massive shopping complex that sits in a Minneapolis suburb. “RIP to Mall of America,” one Twitter user wrote. Fact checkers debunked the video, but as of Friday afternoon, people on Facebook and Twitter continued to say that the mall had been looted by protesters. Facebook declined to comment Friday on misinformation on their platform around Floyd’s death or the protests. Divisive misinformation around Floyd’s death and the resulting protests thrives online because social media users choose who they do — or don’t — follow and are less likely to be exposed to differing viewpoints outside of their circle of pages, family and friends. “We thought social media was going to be this great equalizer,” Holt said. “People find networks of people who are just like them. If they don’t actually have literal black friends, this reinforces all the stereotypes that were fed to them.” ___ Associated Press writers David Klepper in Rhode Island, Ali Swenson in Phoenix and Beatrice Dupuy in New York contributed to this story.
  • Guest lineups for the Sunday news shows: ABC's “This Week' — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.; Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn.; White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien. ___ NBC's “Meet the Press” — Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla. __ CBS' “Face the Nation' — Benjamin Crump, a lawyer for the family of George Floyd; Scott Gottlieb, a former Food and Drug Administration commissioner; David Brown, superintendent of the Chicago Police Department; Tom Wyatt, CEO of KinderCare Education. ___ CNN’s “State of the Union” — Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J.; O'Brien. ___ “Fox News Sunday' — Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C.; Cornel West, Harvard University professor.