News Wrap: House votes to suspend normal trade relations with Russia, Belarus

In our news wrap Thursday, the U.S. House voted overwhelmingly to suspend normal trade relations with Russia and Belarus over the war in Ukraine, the number of Americans who filed for unemployment benefits hit a fresh low, clean-up efforts are underway in Japan after a 7.4-magnitude earthquake struck, and average long-term U.S. mortgage rates topped 4 percent for the first time since May of 2019.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    In the day's other news: The U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly today to suspend normal trade relations with Russia and with Belarus over the war in Ukraine.

    The vote was 424 in favor, with eight Republicans voting no. This helps set the stage for President Biden to enact higher tariffs on Russian imports. The measure now heads to the Senate for final passage.

    Former California Governor and actor Arnold Schwarzenegger posted a passionate, nine-minute video online today, demanding Russian President Putin stop the war in Ukraine. He also told the Russian people that they are being fed misinformation, and warned them of the reality of Putin's actions.

  • Fmr. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA):

    It is a humanitarian crisis. Because of its brutality, Russia is now isolated from the society of nations.

    You're also not being told the truth about the consequences of this war on Russia itself. I regret to tell you that thousands of Russian soldiers that have been killed.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Schwarzenegger, who was born in Austria, said that his father had a similar traumatic experience as a soldier with the Nazi army during World War II.

    On Wall Street, stocks rallied for a third straight day, even as oil prices jumped back above $100 a barrel. The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 417 points to close at 34481. The Nasdaq rose 178 points, and the S&P 500 added 54.

    The number of Americans who filed for unemployment benefits hit a fresh low for the year, more evidence of a strong rebound in the U.S. job market. The Labor Department reported that new jobless claims fell last week to 214,000. That's down 15,000 from the previous week. And just over 1.4 million Americans were collecting unemployment benefits in early March. That's a 50-year low.

    White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeffrey Zients will be stepping down next month, after guiding the country through mass vaccinations and multiple variants. President Biden tapped Dr. Ashish Jha, who leads Brown University's School of Public Health, to succeed him.

    White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said it's a good time to make that transition.

  • Jen Psaki, White House Press Secretary:

    Right now, we're at a point in the process where we have all the tools and we know the operational systems that are needed. And so, right now, it's the appropriate time. And Jeff, of course, made this decision on his own. He extended a couple of times to stay longer through some ups and downs in the pandemic.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We will talk to one of the president's other top COVID advisers, Dr. Anthony Fauci, right after the news summary.

    A cleanup effort is under way in Northeastern Japan a day after a 7.4-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Fukushima, killing four people. Power was restored today to most of the two million people who lost electricity. Some residents woke this morning to collapsed roofs and smashed furniture. Officials also reported disruptions to transport.

  • Hirokazu Matsuno, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary (through translator):

    The Tohoku Shinkansen bullet train was derailed between Shiroishi Zao station and Fukushima station, but there were no injuries and all passengers have been rescued.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    This same area suffered a deadly quake and tsunami 11 years ago, which killed around 18,000 people and caused a nuclear reactor meltdown.

    Back in this country, the National Transportation Safety Board says that a 13-year-old was behind the wheel of a pickup truck that hit a van in West Texas Tuesday night. Nine people died, including six University of the Southwest students and their golf coach and the underage driver. Investigators said the truck was driving on a spare tire that blew out before the crash.

    A new study has found that drivers of large trucks and SUVs are more likely to hit pedestrians while making turns than cars. That's according to findings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Pedestrian deaths were up 4 percent between 2019 and 2020. Researchers say the increased popularity of larger vehicles might have factored in to the rising number of deaths.

    New data out today from the U.S. Census Bureau showed Americans earned more and had more education in the second half of the last decade. Median annual household income rose from $54,000 to about $65,000 from 2016 to 2020. During that time, the poverty rate also dropped from 15.5 percent to 12.8 percent. And a third of Americans over age 25 had a bachelor's degree or higher.

    And average long-term U.S. mortgage rates have topped 4 percent for the first time since May of 2019. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac reported the rise today, a stark contrast to last year's record low mortgage rates of under 3 percent. Homebuyers are already facing soaring home prices amid record high inflation.

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