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In our news wrap Thursday, the death toll from last Friday's tornadoes in western Kentucky rose to 75 with 16 people still reported missing. Also, twelve members of a U.S. missionary group have been freed two months after they were abducted, the Senate approved sanctions against China for abuses against Uighur Muslims, and factory output rose to its highest levels since January 2019.
In the day's other news: Officials across the Great Plains and the Midwest reported at least five deaths after a powerful storm front blasted the region with hurricane-force winds.
It also brought summer-like readings of 70 degrees that spawned tornado sightings. One in Minnesota would be the state's first ever recorded in December, if it is confirmed. The front moved north today across the Upper Great Lakes and into Canada.
Meanwhile, the death toll from last Friday's tornadoes in Western Kentucky rose to 75. Governor Andy Beshear reported 16 people are still missing. At the same time, he again offered hope to those who survived the destruction, but those whose lives have been shattered.
Gov. Andy Beshear (D-KY):
I'm not going anywhere, and this state is not going anywhere. We got a great commitment from the federal government that they're going to be with us too. Every step, every week, every month, and every year that it takes, we will get each one of these communities rebuilt.
Employees at a candle factory that was destroyed in Mayfield, Kentucky, have now filed suit. They say the company refused to let them go home early, despite the risk. Eight of their co-workers died. The company says it acted properly.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is moving to make abortion pills more easily accessible. The agency approved a permanent rule today to let them be shipped through the mail. That was already allowed temporarily during the pandemic. Some states have outlawed mail delivery, and the FDA decision is expected to face court challenges as well.
In Haiti, police say 12 members of a U.S. missionary group have been freed two months after they were abducted. They were among 17 people kidnapped by a gang that demanded $1 million ransom per person. Five people had already been released in recent weeks. It is unclear if any ransom was paid.
The U.S. Senate gave final approval today to a bill to punish China for oppressing Uyghur Muslims. It bans goods from Xinjiang province, where thousands of Uyghurs are in detention camps. That is unless importers prove no forced labor was involved. A dispute over the bill had blocked approval of Nicholas Burns as ambassador to China. The Senate confirmed him this evening.
The Biden administration withdrew today from negotiations with migrant families who were separated at the border under President Trump. The American Civil Liberties Union says the Justice Department opted against a broad settlement, so families will now have to pursue individual lawsuits.
At one point, the White House drew criticism over a reported proposal to pay several hundred thousand dollars to each family.
The fraud trial of Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes is winding down in San Jose, California, with closing arguments. Prosecutors told the jury today that Holmes lied about her blood-testing start-up's potential to attract billions of dollars in financing. The defense is expected to counter that Holmes never meant to mislead anyone.
And, on Wall Street, prospects of higher interest rates weighed on tech stocks and the broader market. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 29 points to close at 35897. The Nasdaq fell 385 points. That's 2.5 percent. The S&P 500 slipped 41.
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