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Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- "So far," a deal among the U.S., the Taliban and the Afghan government to reduce violence "is working," according to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

But, Pompeo said, the U.S. will only sign an agreement with the militant group to withdraw American troops if that reduction holds until Saturday and is declared a success.

While the top U.S. diplomat hailed the temporary reduction as a "historic opportunity for peace," there are strong doubts about what comes next for Afghanistan, nearly 20 years after the U.S. invasion toppled the Taliban government that harbored the al Qaeda operatives responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks. This comes after years of gains in equality and economic empowerment for women, as well as of devastating violence across the country.

The U.S. announced a deal with the Taliban and Afghan government last Friday to reduce violence for seven days, starting at midnight local time. While the Taliban claimed Saturday that it allowed them to still attack Afghan security forces, the U.S. and Afghan government -- which the Taliban refuses to recognize -- said it included Afghan troops and extended nationwide.

Since then, the truce has largely held, according to Pompeo: "It isn't perfect, but it's working," he told reporters Tuesday.

"If -- and only if -- it's successful," he added, the chief U.S. negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad and senior Taliban officials will sign a deal on Saturday that means the beginning of a "conditions-based and phased" U.S. withdrawal and the "commencement" of Afghan negotiations where "all sides of the conflict will sit down together and begin the hard work of reconciliation."

In particular, Pompeo was pressed Tuesday on whether the U.S. is committed to ensuring women's rights are defended in a future Afghan government. But he said that would be up to Afghan negotiators to decide, signaling it is not an explicit part of any U.S.-Taliban agreement.

"Our mission set there has been much broader than that," he said, latter adding "the Afghans will drive the solution."

The U.S. will assist those talks, providing structure and support along with other countries like Germany and Norway, he said.

The talks will bring together a Taliban delegation with other Afghan leaders, including tribal chiefs and members of the government. But because the Taliban rejects the government, those officials will have to participate in a "personal" capacity, even after being chosen by President Ashraf Ghani's administration.

Instead of guaranteeing any particular outcome from those talks, Pompeo made clear the phased U.S. withdrawal will depend only on the Taliban's commitments to the U.S. -- sitting for those negotiations in the first place and, perhaps more importantly to the administration, severing ties to terrorist groups.

"We're not required to leave unless they can demonstrate they are fulfilling every element of their end of the bargain," he said. "Our conditions-based withdrawal sets a high bar for the things that will take place in order for America to ensure that we can accomplish both of those missions" -- peace and reconciliation among Afghans and keeping the U.S. homeland safe, he added.

While Pompeo said he was "very confident" that women's rights "will be addressed as part of these conversations," the withdrawal of U.S. forces doesn't seem contingent upon it -- and that's what has women's rights advocates most concerned.

"What we Afghan women fear is that this situation will get worse after international forces withdraw from Afghanistan next year. We fear we will lose our rights and security, particularly if the Taliban are brought back into government," according to Tamana Heela, an Afghan women's rights activist. "Afghan women need continued international support to ensure that doesn't happen."

It's a message that Afghan women have tried to press upon Khalilzad -- the former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq and the United Nations -- during his year and a half of negotiations with the Taliban.

The Taliban have been "calling the shots," Mahbouba Seraj, a women's rights activist, told ABC News last June. "They want to get anything and everything the way they want to. Amongst them, of course, is our freedom, whatever we have so far and what we have worked so hard with the help of the world to get for the last 18, 19 years."

A State Department official told ABC News at the time that U.S. negotiators "assert that civil rights must be protected in any peace agreement, and that women must be an integral part of intra-Afghan dialogue and negotiations."

They have also made clear that any future relations with the U.S. and the rest of the international community "will rest in part on what [Afghanistan] does to maintain the civil rights of women," the official added.

But Pompeo has also stressed since last spring that it is the role of Afghan women to speak up and demand equality -- an act that has gotten many, including Heela's mother, killed.

"I hope the women of Afghanistan will demand that of their leaders," he told Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., in April. "We've always done our part there."

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ABC News(NIIGATA, Japan) -- The Japanese man who was recently named the world's oldest living male person has passed away at the age of 112.

Chitetsu Watanabe was honored by Guinness World Records with a certificate and celebration less than two weeks ago and died on Sunday.

Watanabe, who credited smiling for his longevity, was confirmed dead on Tuesday by the organization and funeral home taking care of him, according to The Associated Press.

Watanabe, who was the oldest of four siblings, was born March 5, 1907, in Niigata, Japan.

He was four years shy of the record for the oldest man ever, according to Guinness World Records, which was held by Jiroemon Kimura, also from Japan, who died at the age of 116 in June 2013.

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mrtom-uk/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- The White House is requesting $1.25 billion in emergency funding from Congress as part of a total commitment of $2.5 billion to fight the novel coronavirus, according to a congressional official.

If approved, the funds will be earmarked for accelerated vaccine development, to support preparedness and response activities, and for the procurement of equipment and supplies, according to the White House Office of Management and Budget.

However, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the request "long overdue and completely inadequate to the scale of this emergency." She also accused President Donald Trump of leaving "critical positions in charge of managing pandemics at the National Security Council and the Department of Homeland Security vacant."

"The President’s most recent budget called for slashing funding for the Centers for Disease Control, which is on the frontlines of this emergency. And now, he is compounding our vulnerabilities by seeking to ransack funds still needed to keep Ebola in check," Pelosi said in a statement on Twitter early Tuesday morning. "Our state and local governments need serious funding to be ready to respond effectively to any outbreak in the U.S. The President should not be raiding money that Congress has appropriated for other life-or-death public health priorities."

She added that lawmakers in the House of Representatives "will swiftly advance a strong, strategic funding package that fully addresses the scale and seriousness of this public health crisis."

As of Monday, 53 people in the United States had tested positive for the newly discovered virus, known officially as COVID-19, which emerged in China back in December. Of those cases, 39 are among people who were repatriated to the United States on charter flights from the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, or from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which remains quarantined in the Japanese port of Yokohama.

There have been 14 additional cases of COVID-19 diagnosed by the American health care system, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. All but two of those cases are among people who traveled to China, and the two cases involving human-to-human transmission occurred between individuals in the same household.

As of Tuesday, China's National Health Commission said it has received 77,658 reports of confirmed cases and 2,663 deaths on the Chinese mainland. More than 83% of the cases and all but one death were in Hubei province, which includes the city of Wuhan. Chinese authorities have since placed the city under lockdown.

An additional 121 confirmed infections have been reported in the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macao as well as Taiwan, with two deaths in Hong Kong and one in Taiwan, according to China's National Health Commission.

WHO experts in China are currently reporting a 2-4% fatality rate in Wuhan and a 0.7% fatality rate outside of the city. For mild cases of the disease, there's a roughly two-week recovery rate, and for more severe cases, the recovery rate is between three and six weeks.

COVID-19 causes symptoms similar to pneumonia, ranging from the mild, such as a slight cough, to the more severe, including fever and difficulty breathing, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There is no vaccine yet for the virus.

The novel coronavirus has continued to spread overseas, with at least 2,069 confirmed cases in 29 other countries, resulting in at least 23 fatalities, according to the latest data from the World Health Organization, which has declared the outbreak a global health emergency.

Although the virus "absolutely" has the potential to become a pandemic, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said it's still too soon to classify it that way.

"For the moment, we are not witnessing the uncontained global spread of this virus and we are not witnessing large-scale severe disease or deaths," he told reporters at a press conference in Geneva on Monday. "Does this virus have pandemic potential? Absolutely it has. Are we there yet from our assessment? Not yet."

South Korea reported another surge in new infections overnight, making it the second-highest national total behind China. As of Tuesday, South Korea's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recorded 893 confirmed cases and nine deaths.

The recent spike in cases promoted the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to issue a warning on Monday advising American to avoid traveling to South Korea. The federal agency raised its travel warning to the highest level -- "avoid unnecessary travel" -- for those contemplating travel to the East Asian nation.

The heightened warning came on the same day that officials said a relative of a U.S. service member in South Korea had been diagnosed with the novel coronavirus. In a press release, U.S. Forces Korea announced that it had been informed by South Korea's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that a military dependent living in Daegu had tested positive for COVID-19.

It's the first time a U.S. Forces Korea-related individual has been infected with the virus, according to the press release.

South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-Doo said that, as of Monday, there were 13 South Korean military personnel infected.

Partly as a result, U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Monday that the United States and South Korea were considering scaling back an upcoming joint military command exercise.

Japan has the third-highest national total, when including the nearly 700 cases diagnosed aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship.

The cruise ship has been quarantined at Yokohama port since Feb. 5 and 695 people on board have tested positive for COVID-19. Three passengers have died, all of whom were Japanese nationals and in their 80s, according to Japan's Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.

All those who have been infected were brought ashore for treatment, while the rest were confined to their rooms until the quarantine period ends. Passengers who have tested negative for the virus have been disembarking the ship since last Wednesday.

Clusters of coronavirus cases have also popped up in Italy and Iran, raising concerns of the global spread of the outbreak.

As of Monday, Italy's Ministry of Health had recorded 229 confirmed cases and six fatalities. About 75% of those cases were in the northern Lombardy region, prompting some towns to suspend public gatherings, demonstrations and sporting events and to close schools, businesses and restaurants.

The initial cases in Italy were linked to Chinese tourists, according to the health ministry.

At least 43 cases have been confirmed in Iran, along with eight deaths, according to the latest data from the WHO.

Schools were closed across the country on Tuesday for a second day, and health workers have begun a daily sanitizing of public buses and the Tehran metro.

Meanwhile, a tourist hotel on the island of Tenerife in Spain's Canary Islands has been placed under quarantine after an Italian guest tested positive for COVID-19. The guest, a doctor from Italty's virus-hit Lombardy region, went to a local hospital on Monday and was placed in isolation along with his wife, who tested negative for the disease, public health officials for the Canary Islands told ABC News.

Around 1,000 guests staying at the Costa Adeje Palace hotel have been confined to their rooms while health workers test everyone for the virus on Tuesday. All samples will be sent to Madrid for testing, officials told ABC News.

So far, Spain has two confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, according to the WHO.

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Ahmet Dumanli/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images(CAIRO) -- Egypt's former strongman Hosni Mubarak, who was toppled by a popular revolt in 2011, has died at the age of 91, the country's state TV said on Tuesday.

Mubarak has been in an intensive care for over a month after undergoing surgery, according to his son Alaa. He was largely confined to his home in the last few years before his death.

In his last public appearance in October 2018, Mubarak appeared as imperturbable as ever.

In a YouTube video he released to commemorate the 45th anniversary of the war with Israel in which he was an air force commander, Mubarak spoke in a typically composed manner, one of that of an incumbent rather than a leader who was toppled by a popular uprising seven years earlier.

Mubarak never had a sense of guilt, saying over and over again that he did his best for the country. In a famous speech that was meant to be emotional a few days before his fall from grace, Mubarak said he would let history judge his legacy.

After he was dethroned, the aging man survived several charges leveled against him, including killing more than 800 protesters, even though his security forces used lethal force in attempts to end any challenges to his rule.

However, he was still convicted in a corruption-related case, for which he served three years in prison.

Indebted country


In the first decade of his rule, Mubarak was credited with steadying the ship after inheriting a heavily indebted country. He boasted of helping wipe out tens of billions of dollars in debts as a reward from the United States for Egypt's decision to enter a US-led military alliance to force Iraq out of Kuwait in the Gulf War of 1991.

"After three-month talks with the US and president (George H. W.) Bush, we finally made that deal even before the war began," Mubarak said in a 2005 interview with the national Egyptian television.

"At the time, we were struggling to even pay the debt interests. We would have never been able to move forward if that burden had persisted," he added.

Mubarak helped crush an Islamist militant insurgency that flourished in the 1990s, with one infamous attack claiming the lives of more than 60 people -- mostly tourists -- in the southern province of Luxor in 1997. He also survived an assassination attempt in Addis Ababa, Ethipoia, two years earlier after gunmen had opened fire on a motorcade carrying him to an African summit in the Ethiopian capital.

While Mubarak's security bodies eventually managed to tame the insurgency, heavy-handed tactics were also used against political and apolitical prisoners alike as a downward slide began in the early 2000s.

Corruption, cronyism and the ascent of powerful businessmen linked to the upper echelons of the regime started to bite, with private media, which had just started to blossom, growing more vocal.

Disparagement of the prime minister and ministers was rampant, although any criticism of Mubarak and his family was still considered off-limits.

Videos of prisoners being tortured flooded the internet and Mubarak's apparent attempts for reforms did little to appease public anger, including introducing constitutional amendments in 2005 that allowed for the first time multi-candidate presidential elections to take place.

In the same manner of his landslide victories in the now-disbanded referendums on the presidency, Mubarak romped to another win in the first multi-candidate elections in 2005, facing mild competition from opposition figure Ayman Nour, who was later imprisoned on what he believed were trumped-up charges of forging election endorsements.

The relative honeymoon Mubarak had enjoyed for decades was quickly over and an uptick of events in the following years was seen as the writing on the wall.

The sinking of a ferry in the Red Sea that killed more than 1,000 people in 2006, rare and large-scale protests that erupted against Mubarak two years later in the industrial Nile Delta city of Mahalla and notorious parliamentary elections that were rigged in favor of Mubarak's ruling party in late 2010 fueled public anger.

Widespread belief that Mubarak was grooming the younger of his two sons, Gamal, to succeed him did him no favors and the beating of a youngster to death by police forces in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria proved the last straw.

A Facebook page, co-run by then Google executive Wael Ghonim, mobilized protests in January 2011, inspired in part by the uprising in fellow North African country Tunisia that forced president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to flee.

Mubarak did offer some concessions as millions converged on public squares, including reshuffling his cabinet, but it was too little, too late.

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beyhanyazar/iStock(DELHI, India) -- At least nine people have died and over 100 more have been injured in Delhi, including a police officer, during riots that saw protesters for and against a controversial new citizenship law clash for a third consecutive day, threatening to overshadow President Donald Trump’s visit to India.

The violence began on Sunday when Kapil Mishra, a lawmaker for the governing Hindu nationalist BJP party, held a rally in favor of the citizenship law, which has sparked protests across the country for months on end.

On Monday, Delhi police responded to reports of rioting, arson and clashes between protest groups by firing tear gas in several districts in northeastern New Delhi, as hardline Hindu groups roamed through the streets.

Rival groups threw rocks at each other, and footage from the aftermath of the violence that circulated on social media showed burned out buildings and cars.

And on Tuesday there were reports of fresh violence, with local media reporting that the death toll had risen to nine. Delhi police imposed public order Sec. 144 Monday, a measure that prohibits unlawful assembly, and promised that “strict action will be taken against miscreants and anti social elements.”

Arvind Kejriwal, the Chief Minister of Delhi and member of the AAP, a rival party to the BJP, visited victims of the violence at two local hospitals and called for an immediate end to the violence Tuesday.

Despite the extra police presence, rioting continued in parts of New Delhi Tuesday, according to local media, with the #DelhiRiots trending on social media worldwide.

The rioting has cast a shadow over Trump’s trip to India, where he has talked up the U.S.-India partnership and his admiration for Narendra Modi, the Hindu nationalist prime minister.

The deadly rioting on Monday in the capital came as Trump received a hero’s welcome at a cricket stadium full of tens of thousands of supporters in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. Trump told the crowd that India “proudly embraces freedom, liberty, individual rights, the rule of law.”

"Your nation has always been admired around the Earth as the place where millions upon millions of Hindus and Muslims and Sikhs and Jains, Buddhists, Christians, and Jews worship side by side in harmony, where you speak more than 100 languages and come from more than two dozen states, yet you have always stood strong as one great Indian nation," Trump said. "Your unity is an inspiration to the world."

At a press conference Tuesday, Trump claimed that he had spoken with Modi about the issue of religious freedom, and the prime minister “was incredible in what he told me.”

“They have worked very hard on religious freedom,” he said. “As far as Muslims are concerned, he told me they had 200 million Muslims in India, and a short while ago there were 14 million … [Modi] said they were working very closely with the Muslim community.”

“They have worked very hard on religious freedom,” he said.

Yet nationwide protests have raged for months over a controversial new citizenship law, the Citizenship Amendment Act, which activists and opposition politicians say discriminates against India’s Muslim minority. Critics of the law say the government is seeking to enshrine religious discrimination into Indian citizenship.

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Oleksii Liskonih/iStock(LONDON) -- The family of a British teenager killed in a crash involving the wife of an American diplomat has called for the United Kingdom to block the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the United States.

The U.S. government has declined the U.K. government's request to extradite Anne Sacoolas, who was allegedly driving the car that collided with Harry Dunn's motorcycle last August. By doing so, the United States "has launched the single greatest attack on the so-called special relationship between the countries in modern memory," Radd Seiger, an adviser and spokesperson for the Dunn family, said in a statement Saturday.

Seiger said the United States "is not behaving like an ally" and is "demonstrating an extraordinary amount of hypocrisy" in continuing to seek the extradition of people in the United Kingdom, including Assange, whose extradition hearing began in a London courthouse on Monday.

The 48-year-old Australian spent seven years in self-imposed exile inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London until he was evicted in April 2019 and subsequently arrested by British police for having jumped bail in 2012. U.S. authorities want to try Assange for 17 charges of espionage and one charge of computer hacking, all of which carry a maximum sentence of 175 years in prison.

"The principle of reciprocity is at the core of any extradition treaty," Seiger said. "In accordance with the principle of reciprocity which the U.S. is failing to abide by, on behalf of Harry Dunn’s family and the millions of concerned citizens in the U.K., I now demand that the U.K. authorities block any further extraditions to the U.S., including the one of Julian Assange, until such time as Anne Sacoolas is extradited and back on U.K. soil facing the justice system here."

"No one is above the law," Seiger added, "and no one must be allowed to evade justice if they manage to flee a country, whether diplomat or not."

When asked for comment on Seiger's remarks, a U.K. government spokesperson told ABC News in a statement, "Julian Assange is subject to an extradition request from the United States of America. He is accused of offenses including computer misuse and the unauthorized disclosure of national defense information. As this case is now before the courts, it would be inappropriate to comment further."

A spokesperson for the U.S. Department of State declined to comment Monday.

ABC News has reached out to Sacoolas' attorney for comment.

Dunn was riding his motorcycle along a roadway in the village of Croughton, England, on the night of Aug. 27, when a car traveling in the opposite direction on the wrong side of the road hit him head-on. The 19-year-old was taken to a nearby hospital where he died soon after, according to the Northamptonshire Police.

The driver of the car was Sacoolas, a 42-year-old U.S. citizen married to an American diplomat who worked at a British military station housing a base operated by the U.S. Air Force. The fatal collision occurred less than a mile down the road from the base.

Sacoolas attempted to help Dunn after the collision and waved down another car, according to a previous statement from Sacoolas' attorney, Amy Jeffress. She remained at the scene and spoke with first responders when they arrived. She also met with local police the following day and gave a voluntary interview several weeks later, Jeffress said.

Sacoolas and her family fled the United Kingdom about three weeks after the crash when U.S. authorities confirmed her diplomatic immunity, which protects diplomats and their family members from prosecution or lawsuits under the host nation's laws. The controversial move sparked a diplomatic rift between the two countries. Dunn's parents have repeatedly called on Sacoolas to return to England to face them and the police investigation.

Northamptonshire Police officers traveled to the United States in October to interview Sacoolas again. In December, the United Kingdom's Crown Prosecution Service authorized the Northamptonshire Police to charge Sacoolas with causing death by dangerous driving, paving the way for extradition proceedings to begin.

But U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo turned down the extradition request in January, a decision which the U.K. government condemned.

"Anne is devastated by this tragic accident and would do anything she could to bring Harry back. She continues to grieve for Harry and his family," Jeffress told ABC News in a statement on Jan. 10. "The U.S. government has made clear they will deny any extradition request and will uphold the longstanding agreement of diplomatic immunity between our two countries. We remain willing to work with the U.K. authorities to identify a path forward."

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iStock(NEW YORK) -- The creator of Lego's popular minifigure toy has passed away in Denmark following a battle with ALS.

Jens Nygaard Knudsen died last week at the age of 78. He had worked for the Lego Group Company for 32 years.

In addition to creating the iconic toy figurine, he was responsible for the Lego castle and space sets, representatives of the Danish company said in a statement Monday.

"He was a true visionary whose ideas brought joy and inspiration to millions of builders around the world and we thank him for helping to create some of our most loved play themes," Julia Goldin, the Lego Group's chief marketing officer, said in a statement.

One of Knudsen's former colleagues told Agence France-Presse that Knudsen had been living in hospice care and died on Wednesday.

"His imagination was so fantastic. If we had a brainstorm it was more like a brain hurricane, because he had so many ideas," Milan Pedersen told AFP.

ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, is a neurodegenerative disease that affects the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. The disease destroys motor functions slowly and leads to muscle atrophy.

Roughly 30,000 in the United States are affected by the disease, with 5,000 new cases diagnosed each year, according to The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, which runs an ALS clinic. There is no known cure for the disease.

Knudsen worked with the Lego Group from 1968 to 2000. The minifigure, or minifig, began as a simple toy with a smiling yellow face whose outfits could be substituted with different ones for each Lego set.

Today there are hundreds of variations of the minifig, including ones based on Marvel Comics superheroes, Lord of the Rings characters, and other pop culture figures.

The toy company has also sold minifigs of historical figures, such as its women of NASA set that was launched three years ago.

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iStock(DAEGU, South Korea) -- Hundreds lined up outside the E-mart store in Daegu, South Korea, before its opening on Monday morning as the supermarket chain is selling a high-demand item: face masks. Twenty-one million face masks were sold in two locations on Monday alone, and sales are now limited to 30 masks per person.

Fear is slowly gripping Daegu, designated a "special management zone" along with a nearby hospital where six patients died due to the latest novel coronavirus outbreak.

In this city of 2.5 million residents, eerie silence lies in the streets, businesses hang "closed" signs, and there are just a small number of people out to find daily necessities. The residents -- and anyone who has visited the area -- are advised to stay home and minimize movement outdoors for the next two weeks.

Patients surge 16-fold in five days

South Korea reported 231 additional cases of the novel coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19, and three more deaths, mostly in patients with preexisting conditions. A female dependent member of the U.S. Forces Korea, 61, also tested positive, according to a statement released by USFK.

The total as of Monday, 4 p.m. local, stands at 833 cases, a shocking 16-fold rise in just five days. Eight people have died. Almost 60% of all confirmed cases are from the Daegu area.

Health authorities are struggling to keep up with the growing number of confirmed patients; hospitals in and around Daegu area are quickly preparing wards, and the government is looking for medical staff volunteers to help with the unprecedented crisis.

"For now, we have 240 beds prepared for coronavirus patients. Not all patients at this hospital are in negative pressure rooms; it's more important that we isolate the infected patients and monitor their conditions," Dr. Chung Woojin, who is in charge of the coronavirus situation at the Keimyung University Dongsan Hospital, told ABC News.

Fear disrupts daily lives

There is nationwide fear that the outbreak may be getting out of control.

Stores and pharmacies in Seoul have few remaining face masks, and many are limiting the number a customer can buy. Online sites selling masks have thousands of users on the waiting list just to log in.

"People lined up in front of E-mart because the face masks were sold at a cheap price this morning, less than 1,000 won," Kim Kyuri, 30, a resident in Daegu, told ABC News Monday.

All public schools, which are currently on winter vacation, will resume classes a week delayed on March 9. Movie theaters are empty, scheduled concerts and sports events have been postponed or cancelled, and the National Assembly cancelled its plenary session after the building was closed for 24 hours when a confirmed patient attended a forum there.

Even people hosting weddings and funerals are advised to keep the events to a small scale.

Samsung and SK -- South Korea's largest conglomerates, employing hundreds of thousands of workers -- have said that all employees, except for essential staff, should be working from home until further notice.

Tech-savvy ways to avoid infection

Software developers have launched mobile apps for users to figure out where confirmed patients of the virus have been.

Coronaita, a free app, shows how many places within 3 kilometers were visited by a confirmed case patient at certain locations. Another app, CoBack, automatically rings an alarm within 100 meters.

CoronaNow, a website put together by high school students in Daegu, carries official data and latest COVID-19 news released by the government and health authorities. The web donates all profits from advertising banners to send masks to Daegu citizens in need.

"I try to avoid routes that the virus confirmed patients have passed through," Yoo Yongsu, a college student who uses the app before going outside, told ABC News. "When the app says zero within 3 kilometers, I can go out feeling relieved."

Public anger, bleak future

The sense of emergency became official when South Korean President Moon Jae-In raised the alert level for the coronavirus to its highest point on Sunday. But there is anger among the public that the government could have contained the spread had it realized the urgency earlier, as many experts had warned.

The head of the ruling Democratic party, Lee InYoung, said the country is "slowly winning" the fight against COVID-19 less than three weeks ago. Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun told the distressed public on Feb. 13 that there is no need to wear face masks in less crowded places. On the same day, President Moon drew a rosy picture, saying the spread of the virus "will come to an end in the near future."

"This is absolutely crazy; I can't believe the government ignored all those warning signs. Even we knew that it would take two weeks before the outbreak becomes visible," Ji-soo Kim, a clothing shop owner in Seoul, told ABC News. "Now I am really afraid. What's becoming of our country?"

The situation does seem to be quickly becoming more dire. Authorities significantly increased the total number of tests on Monday, so as of 10:30 pm local time, 11,631 people are in the process of getting tested, up from 8,057 people the same time the night before.

The government says it must contain this fast-spreading virus in Daegu within four weeks or else, Vice Health Minister Kim Gang-lip said at a press briefing, "there would be a large possibility [that the illness] spreads nationwide."

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LIVINUS/iStock(BERLIN) -- A 29-year-old man was arrested and questioned by police after he allegedly drove into a carnival procession in Germany Monday, police said.

At least 30 people, many of whom were children, were hurt in the crash that took place during the annual Rose Monday parade in the afternoon, investigators said. They were all taken to local hospitals with various degrees of injuries, some of which were serious, according to police.

The unidentified suspect, who police said lived in Volkmarsen, was immediately apprehended and was scheduled to make a court appearance after treatment for injuries he sustained during the crash, police said. The investigation was ongoing.

"No information can currently be given on the motive," police said in a statement.

As a precaution, all Mardi Gras events in the German state of Hesse were canceled, police said.

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sofirinaja/iStock(LONDON) -- China has postponed its most important political gathering as the country struggles to contain a deadly coronavirus outbreak, according to state media.

The nation's top legislature approved a draft decision on Monday to delay the annual parliament session set to take place in Beijing in March. A new date will be decided at a later time, according to state media outlet CGTN, which is owned by CCTV, the national media organization of China.

It's the first time in decades that the assembly has been postponed, since the Cultural Revolution.

The news came as the number of deaths in the country from the novel coronavirus topped 2,500.

As of Monday, China's National Health Commission said it has received 77,150 reports of confirmed cases and 2,592 deaths on the Chinese mainland. More than 83% of the cases and all but one death were in Hubei province, where the outbreak emerged in its capital, Wuhan, back in December. Chinese authorities have since placed the city under lockdown.

An additional 112 confirmed infections have been reported in the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macao as well as Taiwan, with two deaths in Hong Kong and one in Taiwan, according to China's National Health Commission.

The newly discovered virus, known officially as COVID-19, has spread overseas, with at least 1,769 confirmed cases in 28 countries, including the United States, according to the latest data from the World Health Organization, which has declared the outbreak a global health emergency.

There have been at least 17 deaths reported outside of China, bringing the worldwide death toll to 2,612.

Japan and South Korea have the second- and third-highest national totals behind China, respectively.

A vast majority of Japan's cases were from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which has been quarantined at Yokohama port since Feb. 5. Over 600 people on board have tested positive for COVID-19 and were brought ashore for treatment, while the rest were confined to their rooms until the quarantine period ends. Passengers who have tested negative for the virus have been disembarking the ship since last Wednesday.

Another passenger who had been hospitalized after being diagnosed with the disease died on Sunday, marking the third fatality from the ship, according to Japan's Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare. All three fatalities were Japanese nationals who were in their 80s.

Meanwhile, South Korea reported another spike in new coronavirus cases on Monday, bringing its total to 833 cases with seven deaths. South Korean President Moon Jae-in has raised the national alert level for the virus to "highest," the first time the country has done so in 11 years.

The WHO has yet to confirm the latest cases in South Korea.

The virus has also hit northern Italy, where the number of infections rapidly increased to 76 on Sunday. At least two people have died, according to the WHO.

The cluster of cases has prompted officials to suspend public gatherings, demonstrations and sporting events, as well as close schools, restaurants and businesses, in order to contain the virus, Italian Minister of Health Roberto Speranza said during a Friday news conference.

Iran reported 10 more confirmed cases on Sunday, bringing its national total to 28. At least five people have died, according to the WHO.

So far in the United States, at least 35 people have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That includes 21 Americans repatriated from either Wuhan, China, or from the Diamond Princess cruise ship.

COVID-19 causes symptoms similar to pneumonia, ranging from the mild, such as a slight cough, to the more severe, including fever and difficulty breathing, according to the CDC. There is no vaccine yet for the virus.

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omersukrugoksu/iStock(NEW YORK) -- As the humanitarian crisis in the last rebel-held province in Syria deteriorates, the U.S. embassy in Syria has commemorated the journalist Marie Colvin, killed by government forces while reporting in the war-torn country, on the eighth anniversary of her death.

Colvin was killed in Homs in February 2012 by a Syrian airstrike while reporting from there in the early months of the now eight-year long civil war at the age of 56. Colvin, a native of Oyster Bay, New York, spent the best part of three decades reporting from warzones, primarily as the Middle East correspondent for the Sunday Times.

The U.S. embassy in Syria tweeted in both English and Arabic on Sunday and Monday, highlighting that Colvin is one of more than 120 journalists killed in Syria since 2011.

The embassy account added that the “perpetrators of these barbaric acts must be held accountable” and that the U.S. would continue to illuminate the crimes of President Bashar Al-Assad’s Syrian government regime, which includes the “repeated use of chemical weapons, torture, arbitrary detention, and enforced disappearances.”

In 2019 a U.S. federal court ordered that the Syrian government was liable for the killing, and ordered that the family of Marie Colvin be paid over $300,000,000 in damages. The Syrian government has never responded to the suit, but maintains it does not know who killed her.

Colvin’s life and legacy has inspired both a Hollywood movie starring Rosamund Pike and a critically acclaimed documentary, Under the Wire.

Paul Conroy, who worked side by side with Colvin as her photographer throughout the 2000s, and was with her at the time of her death, said that the Syrian conflict was “completely different” from anything they had seen before.

"Even before we arrived, we were told by Lebanese intelligence that if journalists were caught near Homs, they were to be executed and have their bodies thrown onto the battlefield," he said prior to the premiere of the documentary in 2018.

Colvin was killed by a Syrian rocket, along with the French photographer Remi Ochlik, while on assignment at a local field hospital. Conroy managed to escape on the back of a rebel motorcycle after being trapped inside the rubble for four days.

“She died telling the story of the people of Homs and what was being done to them,” he said.

The anniversary of her death, eight years later, is all the more poignant as the civil war in Syria enters its desperate final phase.

Almost a million people are in a state of “grave danger” as government forces advance on Idlib, the last rebel-held region in the country. Over 900,000 people have fled their homes in Idlib since Dec. 1, 2019, with the United Nations describing the situation as “disastrous and getting worse.” Most of those internally displaced are women and children.

The fighting has seen Russia and Syria in conflict with Turkey, a U.S. ally, and there has been a growing chorus of international calls for the U.S. to do more to halt the humanitarian crisis.

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MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump's "America First" worldview has, at times, shaken the foundation of some of the United States' traditional alliances and earned the 45th president the reputation as a disrupter on the world stage.

What makes his approach to India unique is how consistent he has been in advancing the same core goals of his predecessors in looking to deepen the strategic and symbolic alliance, despite simmering tensions over trade.

As Trump touched down in India on Monday, he became the fourth consecutive U.S. president to visit the world's largest democracy. The brief, two-day visit is expected to be heavy on ceremony and light on substance, but is a symbolic display of the close alliance between the two nations.

But it wasn't always the case that relations between the U.S. and India were so warm and American presidents made a point of visiting.

President Bill Clinton broke what had been a 22-year drought with a five-day charm offensive in 2000 and opened the door for a new chapter in the U.S.-India relationship at a time when China's ascent made a strategic U.S.-India partnership attractive.

Bruce Riedel of the Brookings Institution organized Clinton's historic visit and compared his welcome to a rock star's.

"The nearest thing I can say to it was it must've been like what it was when The Beatles came to America for the first time. It was just crazy -- enormous crowds everywhere he went -- and this for the man who had just imposed the most intense economic sanctions on India in the history of the bilateral relationship, which were still in place during that visit. The outpouring was enormous," Reidel said.

Ever since, visiting U.S. presidents have come to consistently enjoy India's warm embrace.

"In some ways, American presidents go to India to feel loved," said Tanvi Madan, also of the Brookings Institution.

It's unbridled affection that President George W. Bush also benefited from when he visited India in 2006.

"Even President Bush, who was not considered to be very popular around the world, when he went to India towards the end of his administration, when he was getting criticized in U.S. allies and in other places, his popularity rating was very high and his favorability ratings were very high in India. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh then hugged him and told him that, 'All of India loves you,'" Madan said.

But Bush's visit to India wasn't without its detractors. Thousands of Indians, most of them Muslim, also came out to protest Bush over their opposition to the war in Iraq.

Beyond the pomp and protest of Bush's visit, his trip locked in the budding friendship between the two nations as a strategic alliance with the signing of a landmark nuclear agreement by which the U.S. effectively recognized India as a nuclear power.

President Barack Obama sought to deepen the U.S.-Indian alliance still further, and in a demonstration of that prioritization, he became the first American president to make the passage twice.

"I am the first American president to come to your country twice. But I predict I will not be the last. Because, as Americans, we believe in the promise of India," Obama said during his 2015 visit.

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iStock(SEOUL, South Korea) -- South Korea has raised the alert level for the novel coronavirus to “highest” on Sunday as confirmed cases continue to rise at an alarming rate.

"The COVID-19 incident has been confronted by a grave watershed," President Moon Jae-in said announcing the heightened response. "A few days from now is a very important moment," he said at a government meeting held to deal with the crisis. This is the first time in 11 years that the country has raised virus alert levels to the highest level. With the previous time being for influenza A (H1N1).

There have been 169 additional cases and four deaths confirmed in the last 24 hours making a total of 602 confirmed cases and six dead. Eighteen were reported to have been treated fully and 8,057 people are suspected to have symptoms are going through tests, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said.

Among the newly confirmed cases were 18 people who had toured Israel and the West Bank on a group pilgrimage for a week earlier this month. It is not clear whether they were infected while in Israel. Tel Aviv authorities on Sunday announced that all foreign nationals who have been to South Korea and Japan in the past 14 days will be banned from entering Israel.

At the center of the recent surge of outbreaks, more than twelve-fold in the past four days, is a religious sect called Shincheonji. More than half of all confirmed patients are followers of this movement who had attended weekly services and gatherings this month. Health authorities have been screening all 9,000 worshipers known to have been there. The government on Sunday assigned ”special police forces” to track down about 600 other sect members left who were not reachable.

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iStock/akinbostanci(CAIRO) -- Egypt's restrictions on what it deems inappropriate forms of art have reached a new height with a ban on a popular genre of street music, striking a chord with conservatives and drawing sharp rebuke from intellectuals and young music enthusiasts.

Singers of mahraganat, which literally translates to "festivals" in English, were earlier this week banned from performing by the Musicians Syndicate -- a union that is responsible for issuing permits to performers. It operates under the auspices of Egypt's culture ministry.

The justification was clear -- they have crossed the line after the lyrics of a YouTube megahit, sung by two novice singers, were considered too lewd by the union's standards. One particular verse infuriated the union's head Hany Shaker, a veteran singer who rose to prominence in the 1970s with a string of soft-voiced romantic hits.

In the video for "Bint Al-Giran" (The Girl Next Door), which has been viewed on YouTube more than 115 million times since its release in early December, a man threatens to "drink alcohol and smoke hashish" if his lover abandons him.

"Mahraganat songs fall well below the standards of this country. Those songs rely on sexual suggestiveness and inappropriate words, which are totally rejected … how can we protect our children from that?" Shaker said in a television interview with MBC Masr satellite channel.

Mahraganat, which typically involves fast-paced and loud beats, is hugely popular among young, working class Egyptians, but has also made an impact on the country's music industry, and the genre is now commonplace at weddings and parties thrown by the younger members of the elite.

It's not clear how damaging the ban could be on the future of mahraganat, but a spokesman for the Musicians Syndicate believes the union has what it takes to enforce it.

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iStock(NEW YORK) -- Iran held its 11th parliament election on Friday amid the toughest sanctions on the country and after a few hectic months, domestically.

The competition for more than 290 seats in the parliament seems an already-won game for the conservative parties in the absence of many well-known reformist candidates.

The initial, yet unofficial, results indicate that the conservative party candidates are likely to take all 30 parliament seats in Tehran, Fars News Agency reported on Saturday.

Iran's Guardian Council is run by conservative officials and is responsible for supervising the election process, as well as approving the Islamic Republic’s qualification standards for candidates. Many of those registered as reformists in Friday's election -- including about 90 of the current reformist-majority incumbents -- were barred from running by the council.

The move discouraged many reformists from casting votes.

Maryam, a 21-year-old electrical engineering student in Tehran who did not want her full name disclosed, told ABC News that she did not cast a vote on Friday.

"There is no point in voting when it doesn’t make any change," she said. The last time she voted was for President Hassan Rouhani.

"I thought he was a reformist and close to my ideas, but he betrayed our votes by not standing with people. This time, even on paper, we do not have anyone who aligns with our social and political stances," she added.

While many reformists decided not to participate, voters who found their representatives on candidate lists, did show up to the polls.

"Why shouldn’t I vote? Our country is under siege by wolves in the world and their sanctions. I can’t convince myself to leave it alone," said Abbas Mehrabi, a 65-year-old taxi driver in Tehran. "We all suffer from high prices and difficulties to make ends meet, but I still believe that my vote counts."

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called the day a "national celebration" after casting his vote in Tehran soon after the polls opened on Friday.

"The truth is that elections guarantee the national interest of the country. Anyone who is interested in the country’s interests attends the election," the Supreme Leader said.

"Rouhani’s negotiation policy was a mistake," Reza, who did not want his last name to be mentioned, said. "Hopefully, the new parliament will make laws that lead the country towards using domestic potentials rather than looking for help from the West," he added.

Conservatives have been criticizing the Rouhani administration’s policy of negotiating with western countries, specifically over the nuclear deal the country signed with six world powers including the U.K., France, Germany, Russia China and the U.S.. According to the deal, Iran would curb its nuclear program and in return, the West would ease sanctions on the country.

Despite Iran’s commitment to the deal, President Trump withdrew from the pact and restored sanctions.

The move led to severe criticisms against the Iranian government's negotiation policy and gave more say to political hardliners in the country.

"I know we are under sanctions, but, through years, we have learnt the ropes how to bypass them," Reza said.

"We can survive the sanctions with the help of our loyal allies like China. No matter what the costs are, it is better than negotiating with the West," he added.

Maryam, however, said she is worried about Iran's isolation from the rest of the world. "Every time that we thought things can’t get crazier, we have been proven wrong. I fear that my country gets even more isolated and I am sad I can’t do much about it," she said.

Despite speculations about a low voter turnout, the spokesperson of the Guardian Council, Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei said in a press conference on Wednesday that Iran has never had a turnout less than 50%. "And, legally speaking, even if it happens, it does not contradict democracy as we have witnessed it in European countries," Kadkhodaei said.

The number of eligible people to vote in Iran's election is 57.9 million. According to the country's Ministry of Interior affairs, about 11 million people had cast their votes across the country until 3 p.m. on Friday. Abdoreza Rahmani Fazli, the minister of interior affairs said that the final turnout would be revealed after counting the votes on Saturday.

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