Tuesday morning news – May 19, 2020

Many states loosen coronavirus restrictions this week » It’s a big week for reopening across the country. Almost half of all states are loosening restraints in some form this week.

On Monday, businesses like gyms and shopping malls put out the welcome mat in some states. 

Arkansas GOP Governor Asa Hutchinson told Fox Business…

HUTCHINSON: We’ve lifted a whole host of restrictions. In fact today, all retail shops in Arkansas are open for business, with some restrictions, but they’re all open. 

And Michigan’s Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer, said retail businesses in northern Michigan can reopen as well, but also with new safety measures. 

WHITMER: Going to work is going to feel different for a little while. These are big changes and we’re all adapting to them. But they’re absolutely necessary for the continued protection of our families.

But one day after Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said reopening states are not seeing spikes of COVID-19 cases, numbers out of Texas are drawing new scrutiny. The Lone Star State saw more than 1,400 new cases last Thursday—the state’s biggest single-day jump. 

But Governor Greg Abbott says that may be due to an increase in testing rather than a spike in new illnesses. 

Texas was among the first states to lift some restrictions. Gyms, factories and offices reopen in the state this week. 

Meantime in Oregon, a judge ruled Monday that Democratic Governor Kate Brown overstepped her authority with coronavirus orders. The judge tossed out the restrictions, saying she did not follow state law when she extended stay-at-home orders without seeking approval from lawmakers.

Markets rally on vaccine optimism, Fed remarks » AUDIO: [SOUND OF CLOSING BELL]

Renewed optimism about a coronavirus vaccine may have helped spur a big rally on Wall Street. 

The Dow and the S&P 500 both enjoyed their biggest one-day gains since early April. The Dow surged more than 900 points, almost 4 percent. The S&P 500 gained 3.2 percent. 

Recent comments from Fed chief Jerome Powell also helped boost the markets. Powell told 60 Minutes:

POWELL: When the virus outbreak is behind us, the economy should be able to recover substantially. 

And he added “there’s a lot more [the Fed] can do” to help the economy. And—quoting here—“I will say that we’re not out of ammunition by a long shot. There’s really no limit to what we can do with these lending programs that we have.”

WHO chief pledges independent probe of virus response » The World Health Organization on Monday bowed to calls from many of its member states to allow an independent probe of its coronavirus response.

Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus virtually addressed member states on Monday.

GHEBREYESUS: I will initiate an independent evaluation at the earliest appropriate moment to review experience gained and lessons learned. 

But he also defended the WHO’s handling of the pandemic. And he said the probe would stop short of looking into contentious issues such as the origins of the coronavirus. 

The Trump administration says the WHO was complicit in helping China conceal the extent of the outbreak at a critical early stage. And President Trump is considering whether to cut the annual U.S. funding from $450 million a year to $40 million.

Justice Dept: Saudi Pensacola air base gunman was connected to al-Qaeda » The Saudi cadet who went on a deadly shooting rampage at a Florida military base last year communicated with al-Qaeda before the attack. That according to Attorney General William Barr. He told reporters Monday that the FBI finally succeeded in unlocking the gunman’s phones.

BARR: The phones contained information previously unknown to us that definitively establishes Alshamrani’s significant ties to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, not only before the attack, but before he even arrived in the United States. 

The Saudi Air Force officer tried to destroy his phones before being shot and killed by a sheriff’s deputy.

Barr also sharply chastised Apple for not helping the FBI to unlock the phones.

FBI Director Christopher Wray said the evidence trail shows signs of his radicalization as far back as 2015. 

The gunman was at the Pensacola Naval Air Station as part of a program in which foreign militaries receive instruction in the United States. He killed three sailors and injured eight others in the December attack.

(Martial Trezzini/Keystone via AP) In this March 14, 2019 file photo Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), speaks at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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