Xi calls situation grave as China scrambles to contain virus

BEIJING — China’s leader on Saturday called the accelerating spread of a new virus a grave situation, as cities from the outbreak’s epicenter in central China to Hong Kong scrambled to contain an illness that has infected more than 1,200 people and killed 41.

2020 hopefuls stuck in Washington deploy surrogates for help

DES MOINES, Iowa — Steve Sovern had low expectations for a recent event he hosted to support Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign. Iowans are legendary for expecting to meet White House hopefuls in person — multiple times — and the candidate wasn’t going to be there, represented instead by California Rep. Katie Porter.

China locking down cities with 18 million to stop virus

BEIJING — Chinese authorities Thursday moved to lock down at least three cities with a combined population of more than 18 million in an unprecedented effort to contain the deadly new virus that has sickened hundreds of people and spread to other parts of the world during the busy Lunar New Year travel period.

Israel PM, election rival invited to US to talk peace

JERUSALEM — The White House said Thursday it has invited Israel’s prime minister and his main political rival to Washington next week to discuss the “prospect of peace” with the Palestinians, who have already rejected the administration’s long-awaited peace plan.

Planned Parenthood endorses challenger to Sen. Susan Collins

PORTLAND, Maine — Planned Parenthood on Tuesday endorsed a Democratic challenger to Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, saying Collins “turned her back” on women and citing her vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court as well as other judicial nominees who oppose abortion.

Pro-gun rally by thousands in Virginia ends peacefully

RICHMOND, Va. — Thousands of gun-rights activists from around the country rallied peacefully at the Virginia Capitol on Monday, protesting plans by the state’s Democratic leadership to pass gun-control legislation that have become a key flash point in the national debate over gun violence.

China virus outbreak may wallop economy, financial markets

BANGKOK — News that a new virus that has afflicted hundreds of people in central China can spread between humans has rattled financial markets and raised concern it might wallop the economy just as it might be regaining momentum.

Russia’s Putin remains secretive about his future role

MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin remained tight-lipped about his future role Wednesday as he fast-tracks a set of constitutional changes widely seen as an attempt to maintain his dominance over the nation’s political scene after his current term ends in 2024.

Mexico begins flying, busing migrants back to Honduras

CIUDAD HIDALGO, Mexico — Hundreds of Central American migrants who waded across a river into Mexico in hopes of eventually reaching the U.S. were sent back to their homeland or retreated across the border Tuesday after Mexican troops blocked their way.