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In our news wrap Wednesday, the World Health Organization voiced hope that the outbreak of novel coronavirus may be slowing, as Beijing enforces public health measures. Also, Syrian government supporters attacked U.S. troops, who shot and killed one of the Syrians. The U.S. military said the troops returned fire in self-defense; an investigation is underway.
In the day's other news: The World Health Organization is voicing hope that the coronavirus outbreak in China may be slowing. As of tonight, China has reported 44,600 cases and some 1.100 deaths. But new infections are declining, as Beijing enforces sweeping public health measures.
And WHO officials say the situation elsewhere is more promising.
Michael J. Ryan:
It is very hard, though, to predict. We definitely see that the behavior of the virus outside Wuhan and Hubei and the rest of China and outside China doesn't at this point appear to be as aggressive or as accelerated. And that's a good sign.
Meanwhile, China's President Xi Jinping promised tax cuts and other measures today to limit damage to the Chinese economy.
In Northeastern Syria, government supporters attacked U.S. troops today, and the troops, in turn, shot and killed one of the Syrians. State TV showed people throwing stones as a U.S. convoy passed through a checkpoint. Then, some of the men fired automatic rifles at the Americans.
The U.S. military said the troops returned fire in self-defense. An investigation is under way.
The latest negotiations on peace in Afghanistan may be reaching a crucial point. Taliban officials say they have offered to curtail attacks for one week, but they threaten to walk away if the U.S. doesn't respond. The ultimatum comes as U.S. officials have signaled an agreement to end the 18-year war may be close.
Meanwhile, the U.S. military says limits on money and manpower have curbed its fight against terror groups across West Africa. A report by three inspectors general finds the focus in the Sahel region has moved from attacking insurgents to containing their spread. At the same time, the report says that extremist violence in the region has spiked.
Pope Francis refused today to ordain married men in order to address a shortage of priests in South America's Amazon region. Bishops from that area had proposed the move. It would have been a dramatic shift in the Roman Catholic Church's centuries-old policies.
A top cardinal at the Vatican said that the pope favors other ideas instead.
Cardinal Michael Czerny:
He looks to the bishops, for example, to send more missionaries. He would like every diocese to have a good proportion of their priests spending at least some time in the Amazon.
Within this range of possibilities, there will be many ways of responding to the needs for the Eucharist and the sacraments throughout the Amazon.
Pope Francis also dismissed a recommendation to let Catholic women serve as deacons in the Amazon.
Britain has announced that it will give government regulators the power to sanction social media companies for harmful material on their platforms. It could mean fines for failing to take down content such as child abuse, cyber-bullying and terrorist propaganda.
Facebook and YouTube said that they support the proposed regulations.
On Wall Street today, solid earnings reports pushed stocks higher. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 275 points to close at 29551. The Nasdaq rose 87 points to a record close, and the S&P 500 added 21, also hitting a new high.
And a standard poodle named Siba is this year's top dog at the Westminster Kennel Club Show, the nation's oldest. The 3-year-old poodle took best in show last night in New York, beating out fan-favorites Daniel, a golden retriever, and Conrad, the Shetland sheepdog.
It's the first time a standard poodle has won at Westminster since 1991.
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