In our news wrap Monday, South Korean officials renewed calls for caution amid speculation about Kim Jong Un. Rumors regarding the North Korean leader’s well-being have swirled as he has disappeared from view in recent weeks. Also, the United Nations reports that civilian deaths from fighting in Afghanistan during the year’s first quarter were the lowest for that period since 2012.
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In the day's other news: Wall Street opened the week with a rally, on investors' hopes of easing pandemic-related restrictions.
The Dow Jones industrial average gained 358 points close at 24133. The Nasdaq rose 95 points, and the S&P 500 added 41.
A second wave of emergency loans became available to small businesses today under the Paycheck Protection Program. Congress approved the extra $310 billion in funding last week. The initial round of loan money ran out in just two weeks' time.
Officials in South Korea today renewed calls for caution amid speculation about Kim Jong-un. Rumors about the North Korean leader's well-being have swirled as he disappeared from view in recent weeks. The South's unification minister said today that his government is confident there is nothing to the talk.
A spokeswoman followed up.
Cho Hye-Sil (through translator):
We can only say the same thing we have been saying. We have nothing to add regarding the rumor about Kim Jong-un's health. The National Security Council had said there are no unusual signs within North Korea, and that stance remains the same.
Meanwhile, state TV in North Korea today read what it said was a statement from Kim thanking workers who built a tourism resort. It didn't mention his health.
In Afghanistan, civilian deaths from fighting during the year's first quarter were the lowest for that period since 2012. The United Nations reports that 533 people were killed from January through March, including more than 150 children. but that was down 29 percent from one year ago, despite an escalation in attacks during March.
Back in this country, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that the federal government must pay insurance companies for losses during the early years of Obamacare. By 8-1, the court said companies can collect $12 billion under a provision of the law that Congress had sought to limit. The high court will hear a broader challenge to the law later this year.
And in the presidential campaign, the presumptive Democratic nominee, Joe Biden, picked up the endorsement of the nation's top elected Democrat today. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi put out a video statement praising the former vice president. She said Biden would be — quote — "a voice of reason and resilience."