August 17, 2019

Indian authorities on Saturday began lifting restrictions in Kashmir, which has been on lockdown for nearly two weeks, following a decision to revoke the special status of the Muslim-majority region earlier this month.

Landline phone and mobile internet services are reportedly being restored throughout the region in phases, and India announced on Friday that schools and government offices are set to reopen on Monday. Despite the easing restrictions, many residents in Pakistan-administered Kashmir reportedly remain "anxious" and were still unable to contact their relatives in India-administered Kashmir. Asmat Pandith, a Kashmiri student in New Delhi told Al Jazeera that she and her fellow students were under a "mental siege" amid the lockdown that has prevented them from contacting their families. Students said they would only believe the Indian government has actually eased restrictions when they can see tangible results.

Critics have called the blackout an attempt to silence voices in Kashmir, a borderland region which has long been the focal point of tensions between India and Pakistan. Protests continued in the region on Friday, and police reportedly responded with tear gas and pellet-firing shotguns.

Further, the United Nations Security Council on Friday met to discuss Kashmir for the first time in 54 years. Pakistan welcomed the meeting, and the country's ambassador to the U.N., Maleeha Lodhi, considered it an achievement. But India maintains that Kashmir is an internal matter and warned against heeding statements from Pakistan that "masquerade as the will of the international community." Read more at The New York Times and Al Jazeera. Tim O'Donnell

8:39 p.m.

After Los Angeles County realized it had been sent 170 broken ventilators from the federal government, officials jumped into action to get them fixed as quickly as possible, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said Saturday.

Newsom said that instead of "complaining" and "pointing fingers" and generating "more stress and anxiety," officials put the ventilators on trucks and had them transported to Bloom Energy in Sunnyvale. Workers there are refurbishing the ventilators, and they will be returned to Los Angeles County by Monday. "That's the spirit of California," Newsom said. "That's the spirit of this moment." Bloom Energy, a sustainable energy company, is also refurbishing more than 500 older ventilators owned by the state, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Ventilators are used to help people who become critically ill from the COVID-19 coronavirus and are unable to breathe properly. As the coronavirus continues to spread, hospitals across California are preparing for ventilator shortages, and Newsom said the state is attempting to secure an extra 10,000 ventilators; so far, they have found 4,252. The 170 ventilators were sent to Los Angeles County from the national stockpile, and the Trump administration has not yet delivered any of the ventilators the state has requested, Newsom said. Catherine Garcia

7:56 p.m.

Joe Diffie, a country singer and member of the Grand Ole Opry for more than 25 years, died Sunday in Nashville of coronavirus complications, his publicist announced. He was 61.

On Friday, Diffie revealed that he had tested positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus. Singer John Rich said in a statement Diffie was "a real true honky tonk hero to every country artist alive today. No one sang our music better than he did, and to see his life and artistry cut short is beyond tragic. He was loved, cherished, and respected by all of country music and beyond."

Diffie had 18 singles in the top 10 on the country charts, and five reached No. 1, The Associated Press reports. His hits included "Pickup Man," "Bigger Than the Beatles," and "If the Devil Danced (In Empty Pockets)," and along with Marty Stuart, Diffie won a Grammy in 1998 for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals for "Same Old Train." He is survived by his wife, Tara Terpening Diffie, and seven children. Catherine Garcia

7:34 p.m.

As the COVID-19 coronavirus continues to spread across the United States, President Trump on Sunday said he is extending the federal government's social distancing guidelines to April 30.

"During this period, it's very important that everyone follow the guidelines," Trump said. "The better you do, the faster this whole nightmare will end."

Previously, Trump said he wanted to see the United States "opened up" by Easter on April 12. As of Sunday evening, there are 139,523 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States, with the death toll hitting 2,433.

Trump said modeling shows that the peak number of deaths will likely hit in two weeks, and he expects "that by June 1st, we will be well on our way to recovery ... a lot of great things will be happening." Catherine Garcia

3:29 p.m.

President Trump may be dealing with the novel coronavirus pandemic, but he apparently still has time to boast about one of his favorite topics: television ratings.

Trump went on a bit of a tweet storm Sunday afternoon, citing a four-day-old report from The New York Times, which highlighted the number of viewers tuning into his revived daily White House briefings. The president earlier tweeted that the "lamestream media," as he refers to many news sources, wants him to fail, and suggested he was driving them "crazy" with the high ratings that matched programs like The Bachelor and Monday Night Football.

Unsurprisingly, Trump's tweets have already drawn the ire of his critics, who are baffled about where his focus is during the crisis.

2:12 p.m.

Congress has completed three phases of its economic recovery plan as the United States reckons with the novel coronavirus pandemic, but not everyone is confident the momentum that carried the legislative branch through the previous rounds will last long enough for number four.

Per The Wall Street Journal, big spending bills often fill members of Congress with doubts, and this one may be no different. "My guess is that this bill won't wear well over time, and Congress isn't going to be inclined to do another big package," Andy Laperriere, a policy analyst for investor advisory firm Cornerstone Macro, told the Journal. "There will be fraud, companies getting money going into bankruptcy, things that people on the left and right won't like."

Stephen Moore, a fellow at the Heritage Foundation, doesn't think there will be much bipartisanship going forward, even if it's based on mutual disappointment. He says the next round of debates over new spending will re-open ideological splits. "The left is going to want to do infrastructure, welfare payments, and food stamps," he said. "Our side will want to do tax cuts and deregulation."

Despite such pessimism, lawmakers and Trump administration officials, as well as lobbyists, economists, and think tanks, are already back at working trying to set the framework for the next stage, as all sides look to once again find some sort of common ground. Read more at The Wall Street Journal. Tim O'Donnell

1:29 p.m.

The United States is preparing for a novel coronavirus epidemic that is national in scope.

"No state, no metro area will be spared," Dr. Deborah Birx, the coronavirus response coordinator for the White House Coronavirus Task Force, told NBC's Chuck Todd on Sunday's edition of Meet the Press.

Birx was clear that no area of the country will evade the effects of the virus, but said the sooner places react and instill mitigation measures, the easier it will be to "move forward."

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, also provided a sense of scale Sunday, but he said he doesn't want to be held to any prediction. Fauci told CNN's Jake Tapper that he's never seen an outbreak match the worst-case scenario of its models, and he believes that remains unlikely for the coronavirus, as well. Nevertheless, he thinks it's possible the U.S. could be looking at somewhere between 100,000 and 200,000 deaths. Tim O'Donnell

1:01 p.m.

As hospitals across the United States face a shortage of medical supplies in the face of the novel coronavirus pandemic, planes are gearing up to bring in reinforcements.

The first aircraft in a series of flights scheduled by the White House over the next 30 days arrived in New York from Shanghai on Sunday morning, bringing with it 12 million gloves, 130,000 N95 masks, 17.6 surgical masks, 50,000 gowns, 130,000 hand sanitizer units, and 36,000 thermometers, all of which will be distributed throughout the New York tri-state area. A non-government distributor had actually already bought the supplies and planned to sell them in New York, but they'd normally arrive on ships. A sea voyage would've taken over a month, so the government is expediting the process by air. Going forward, the U.S. has 22 similar flights coming in over the next two weeks that will distribute supplies to different parts of the country, per Axios.

Navy Rear Admiral John Polowcyzk, who is running the Federal Emergency Management Agency's coronavirus supply chain task force, said he doesn't think the U.S. has ever seen anything like this on its own soil. "I don't know of another effort like this," he told Axios.

Polowcyzk is hoping it's only a two- or three-week effort, but admitted planes could be coming in over the next month. Read more at Axios. Tim O'Donnell

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