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In our news wrap Wednesday, police in Myanmar charged ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi with possessing illegally imported "walkie-talkies, the U.S. passed 450,000 deaths from COVID-19, President Biden voiced openness to lowering the price of his $1.9 trillion aid plan, and a coalition of 180 groups calls for an international boycott of next year’s winter Olympics in Beijing.
In the day's other news, the United States neared 450,000 deaths from COVID-19, even as new infections are declining. At the same time, the head of the CDC, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, said it is safe to reopen schools, if everyone wears a mask and observes social distancing.
There is increasing data to suggest schools can safely reopen and that safe reopening does not suggest that teachers need to be vaccinated in order to reopen safely.
Also today, the city of San Francisco sued its own school system, to force a return to in-person learning. We will get back to this, later in the program.
President Biden suggested today that he's open to cutting his COVID stimulus plan below $1.9 trillion. He spoke virtually to House Democrats and reportedly said that he is — quote — "not married to that number." But he insisted he still wants $1,400 checks for most Americans.
Later, the president called Senate Democrats to the White House, and said again he thinks he can win over Republican votes.
Two more of President Biden's Cabinet picks have now advanced to the full Senate. The Senate Commerce Committee backed Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo to be commerce secretary today. And the Energy Committee cleared former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm for energy secretary.
In Russia, the Kremlin dismissed protests over the jailing of opposition leader Alexei Navalny. A Moscow court sent him to prison for two-and-a-half years for violating probation. Demonstrations erupted overnight, and police in riot gear arrested more than 1,400 people.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov condemned the protesters and outside criticism.
Sergei Lavrov (through translator):
The hysteria we have heard over the trial process for the Navalny case is, of course, off the scale. Absolutely, it's concealed from society that laws that regulate demonstrations and protests in the West are much stricter than in the Russian Federation.
The U.S. is urging Moscow to free Navalny and all of the protesters.
Police in Myanmar have charged ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi with possessing illegally imported walkie-talkies. She's been detained since Sunday's military coup in the former Burma. The newly announced charge allows authorities to hold her until at least mid-February.
Back in this country, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered all commanders to talk to their troops about the dangers of extremism. It's to happen over the next 60 days. The move follows disclosures that some current and former troops were involved in the assault on the U.S. Capitol.
The U.S. Justice Department withdrew a discrimination lawsuit against Yale University today. The Trump administration had accused Yale of illegally favoring others over white and Asian American applicants. A federal investigation of Yale's practices will continue.
And on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 36 points to close at 30723. The Nasdaq lost two points, while the S&P 500 added three.
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