News Wrap: Biden sends thousands of troops to Europe as Russian forces amass near Ukraine

In our news wrap Wednesday, President Biden ordered several thousand U.S. troops to take up new positions in Eastern Europe as Russian forces crowd Ukraine's borders, militia fighters in Congo killed at least 60 people at a refugee camp, Jeff Zucker resigned as president of CNN, major oil-producing nations have agreed to raise output, and competition began in the Beijing Winter Olympics.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    On the "NewsHour" tonight: The pandemic persists. The U.S. approaches 900,000 COVID deaths, with a mortality rate far higher than other wealthy nations, as the vaccination campaign stagnates.

  • Then:

    a major lawsuit. A former NFL head coach sues the league for racial discrimination after being fired by the Miami Dolphins.

    And a silent outbreak. Scientists uncover rampant COVID infections in white-tailed deer, raising questions about the future of the pandemic.

  • Suresh Kuchipudi, Virologist, Penn State University:

    This is the first time a widespread natural infection of a wild animal species has been demonstrated, which really changes the way we ought to understand this pandemic and the virus.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    All that and more on tonight's "PBS NewsHour."

    (BREAK)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    President Biden has ordered several thousand U.S. troops to take up new positions in Eastern Europe, as Russian forces crowd Ukraine's borders.

    The Pentagon said today that 2,000 soldiers will deploy from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to Poland and to Germany. Another 1,000 will move from Germany to Romania.

  • John Kirby, Pentagon Press Secretary:

    These troops will not be going to Ukraine to participate in the defense of Ukraine. The president has been very clear about that. These forces are going to reassure and to bolster capabilities inside NATO's eastern flank.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Russia called the U.S. deployments destructive.

    Meanwhile, the Pentagon confirmed the validity of documents leaked to a Spanish newspaper. They indicate that the U.S. would agree to talks over reducing missile deployments in Europe if Russia backs away from Ukraine.

    In Congo, militia fighters attacked a refugee camp overnight with machetes and guns. Local officials say that at least 60 people were killed. It was the latest violence in the Eastern part of Congo in a long-running conflict between ethnic groups.

    Back in this country, a sprawling winter storm pushed east, closing highways and canceling 5,000 flights through tomorrow. Part of Interstate 70 was shut down in Missouri, with a foot or more of snow falling. Freezing rain and ice reached as far south as Texas. All told, nearly a third of the U.S. population was under winter weather alerts.

    The FBI has identified as many as six possible suspects in bomb threats against historically Black colleges and universities. News accounts today said that all of those being investigated are juveniles. At least 18 schools received threats on Monday and on Tuesday. No bombs were found.

    The CDC warned today that it is too soon to start lifting COVID-19 restrictions. That came amid reports that the U.S. death rate is running higher than in other wealthy nations, due in part to lagging vaccinations.

    The CDC's director acknowledged that infections are down sharply, but she said there are still too many cases.

  • Dr. Rochelle Walensky, CDC Director:

    Our hospitalization rates are still quite high, and certainly having hospital capacity challenges in many parts of the country still. So, we really do have to look to our hospitalization rates and our death rates to look to, when is time to lift some of these mitigation efforts?

    We will continue to reevaluate, and we know people are anxious.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Dr.Walensky said it is still true that most patients hospitalized with COVID are unvaccinated.

    Four men have been charged with narcotics conspiracy in the overdose death of actor Michael K. Williams. Federal prosecutors in New York said today the men were in a drug crew that sold heroin laced with fentanyl. Williams was found dead in his apartment last September. He was best known for his role in the TV series "The Wire."

    A leading figure in American television news, Jeff Zucker, resigned today as president of CNN. He acknowledged that he had failed to disclose a consensual romantic relationship with another senior CNN executive. It came up when former CNN anchor Chris Cuomo was investigated and then fired for helping his brother Andrew, who was then the governor of New York, during a sexual harassment scandal.

    The world's major oil-producing countries, OPEC and its allies, have agreed to raise output by another 400,000 barrels a day. It is part of an ongoing plan to restore deep cuts made when the pandemic hit. The increase is not expected to do much to cut oil prices, which are now at their highest since 2014.

    On Wall Street, communications and tech stocks kept this week's rally going. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 224 points to close at 35629. The Nasdaq rose 71 points. The S&P 500 added 42.

    And competition has begun in the Beijing Winter Olympics. In curling today, the U.S. mixed doubles team won its opening round against Australia. Initial action also got under way in hockey and skiing. The official Opening Ceremony takes place on Friday.

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