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News Wrap: Task force calls for extensive security changes in the U.S. Capitol

In our news wrap Monday, a task force called for extensive changes in U.S. Capitol security including a quick-reaction force and a permanent, retractable fence. Also, President Biden ordered a review of how colleges and universities handle sexual assaults, demonstrations continue in Lebanon, three more protesters were shot dead in Myanmar, and Pope Francis is back at the Vatican after Iraq tour.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    In the day's other news, A task force recommended extensive changes in U.S. Capitol security, including a quick-reaction force and a permanent, retractable fence. The report follows the January 6 storming of the Capitol.

    It also calls for a larger police force, expanded intelligence, better equipment and streamlined communications.

    President Biden today ordered a review of how colleges and universities handle sexual assaults. Trump era rules call for — quote — "clear and convincing evidence of wrongdoing." They also let the accused cross-examine accusers. The rules and the review come under federal Title IX, aimed at preventing sex discrimination in education.

    The U.S. State Department isn't commenting on a new peace plan for Afghanistan. Reports say that Secretary of State Antony Blinken has proposed a 90-day reduction in violence and an interim government that includes the Taliban.

    Blinken's main spokesman would not confirm or deny the reports today.

  • Ned Price:

    It is often important for our diplomatic efforts that we're able to conduct them in private. This is a moment in time where progress is possible. We want to do everything we can to facilitate that progress.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Secretary Blinken also reportedly wrote to the Afghan president, warning the U.S. could still withdraw all its troops by May 1.

    In Lebanon, protesters fed up with economic and political turmoil closed main roads for a seventh day. Near Beirut, they blocked highway entrances with burning tires and tents. The country's president ordered security forces to clear the roadblocks.

    At least three more people were shot dead in Myanmar today protesting the military coup. Security forces trapped hundreds of others in Yangon. That brought thousands more into the streets after dark defying a curfew. They chanted and banged on water bottles to distract police from making arrests.

    Pope Francis is back at the Vatican after his tour of Iraq, the first by any pope. He was seen off today by Iraqi President Barham Salih and his wife in Baghdad.

    Later, on his plane, Pope Francis defended meeting with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, a top Shiite Muslim cleric.

  • Pope Francis (through translator):

    You know that there are some critiques that say that the pope is not courageous, he's reckless, that he is doing things against Catholic doctrine, that is one step away from heresy.

    These are risks, but these decisions are always taken in prayer. They are not whimsical.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The pope said he prayed a lot before making the trip, amid concerns about spreading COVID. He drew large crowds, who mostly ignored social distancing and mask requirements.

    Back in this country, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the last of former President Trump's appeals to overturn the 2020 election results. Without comment, the justices dismissed a challenge to thousands of absentee votes in Wisconsin.

    Missouri Senator Roy Blunt announced today that he will retire, instead of running for a third term in 2022. Blunt is number four in the Senate Republican leadership. He now becomes the fifth GOP senator to pass up a bid for reelection.

    The city of Jackson, Mississippi, the state capital, is finishing a third week of having to boil drinking water. It's due to damage from last month's winter storm. Running water has been restored now to most of the city's 160,000 people. But crews were still working today to restore full pressure to the system.

    And on Wall Street, tech stocks took another beating, partly over interest rate worries, but the broader market advanced. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 306 points to close at 31802. The Nasdaq fell 311 points and is officially in a correction, down 10 percent from its peak last month. The S&P 500 slipped 20 today.

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