News Wrap: Afghan refugees receive temporary protected status in the U.S.

In our news wrap Wednesday, the Biden administration said Afghan refugees will be allowed to stay in the U.S. at least 18 months without being deported under temporary protected status, the WHO reports COVID cases are rising again after falling for more than a month, Iran released two British-Iranian nationals who'd been held for years, and an earthquake struck Japan triggering a tsunami alert.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    In the day's other news: The Federal Reserve raised its benchmark short-term interest rate for the first time since 2018, in an effort to tame inflation.

    The rate had stayed near zero since the pandemic hit, but the Central Bank hiked it one-quarter-of-a point today. Fed policymakers signaled there that there could be up to six more rate increases this year, but Chair Jerome Powell said they will be flexible.

  • Jerome Powell, Federal Reserve Chairman:

    We will be looking to see whether the data show expected improvement on inflation. We will be looking at the inflation outlook, and making a judgment. And we will be going — each meeting is a live meeting, and if we conclude that it would be appropriate to raise interest rates more quickly, then we will do so.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The Fed also predicted much slower economic growth this year.

    We will explore all of this later in the program.

    Wall Street took heart from the Fed chairman's statements, and major stock indexes rose 1.5 to more than 3.5 percent. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 518 points to close at 34063. The Nasdaq rose 488 points. The S&P 500 added 95.

    On the pandemic, the World Health Organization reports that cases are rising again, after falling for more than a month. New infections worldwide jumped 8 percent last week. The WHO says the increase could be — quote — "just the tip of the iceberg."

    Afghan refugees will be allowed to stay in the U.S. at least 18 months without being deported. The Biden administration today granted temporary protected status to those already here if they pass a background check. More than 76,000 Afghans entered the U.S. after the Taliban takeover last year.

    Iran today released two British-Iranian nationals who'd been held for years. It came after London agreed to repay a 40-year-old debt of more half a billion dollars. Charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested six years ago and convicted of plotting to overthrow Iran's government, a charge that she denied. She was shown on Iranian TV today boarding a plane.

    Her husband and daughter waited in London for a long-delayed reunion.

    Richard Ratcliffe, Husband of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe: Well, I suppose that we can stop being a moment in history and start being a normal family again. Yes, it's been a long time, hasn't it? We were just saying — last night, Gabriella was asking us: "Is mommy really coming back tomorrow?"

    I said, well, I don't — I don't know for sure. I think we're close to her. And I now know, pretty surely, she is coming home.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Retired engineer Anoosheh Ashoori was released after five years. He had been convicted of spying for Israel, which he denied.

    North Korea has fired yet another missile, but this one exploded shortly after launch. South Korea's military said the failed launch took place just outside Pyongyang, the capital city. There's no word on the type of missile or whether debris and toxic fuel landed on civilian areas.

    An earthquake struck Northern Japan today, triggering a tsunami alert and power blackouts. It was centered at sea off Fukushima, where a deadly quake and tsunami in 2011 left a nuclear plant in ruins. Today's tremor shook large swathes of Eastern Japan, and offices and homes rocked violently in Tokyo. More than two million homes lost power.

    And a huge sandstorm from the Sahara Desert is sweeping across Europe. The dust cloud reached as far north as London today and as far east as Serbia. The worst was in Spain, where hazy skies and dust-covered much of the country for a second day. People in Madrid worked to clean away the dust and to draw a clear breath.

  • Jose Maria Carpintero, Madrid Resident (through translator):

    Well, it affects me because my lungs are not well. It affects me quite a bit. When I walk around here normally, I don't take the face mask off. If I'm short of breath, I move it down a bit.

  • Silvina Torres, Madrid Resident (through translator):

    Yes, it affects us. All the dust has made it into the store and has stained the products. When a person walks in, you have to mop, so, obviously, it affects us.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Similar storms blow out of North Africa every year, but this one is carrying even more dust than usual.

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