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In our news wrap Friday, the world marked two years since COVID-19 was officially declared a pandemic, the Texas Supreme Court rejected a challenge to the nation's toughest abortion law, arrests of migrants inside the U.S. have fallen sharply in the past year, and negotiators trying to restore the 2015 Iran nuclear deal have stepped back amid signs they're close to an agreement.
In the day's other news: The world marked two years since COVID-19 was officially declared a pandemic.
Since then, there have been more than six million deaths worldwide, including 965,000 in the U.S. But a new study in the medical journal "The Lancet" estimates the real figure may be closer to 18 million deaths across the globe. That's three times the official count.
Lately, the number of new cases and deaths has fallen in most countries. But Germany's infection rate has risen for nine straight days, prompting a new warning today.
Dr. Kal Lauterbach, German Health Minister (through translator):
Objectively, the situation is much worse than the mood. The mood among the population, including in parts of the political landscape, is such that we have already overcome the pandemic. This is simply based on a misjudgment.
German officials say some of the increase comes from a more contagious version of the Omicron variant, known as BA.2.
The Texas Supreme Court today rejected a challenge to the nation's toughest abortion law. It bans the procedure after six weeks of pregnancy and lets private citizens sue those assisting in an abortion. The court said that state officials don't enforce the law, so they can't be sued by abortion providers. Opponents of the law already lost at the U.S. Supreme Court.
Arrests of migrants inside the U.S. have fallen sharply in the past year. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement reported today there were 74,000 arrests in 2021. That reflected the Biden administration's focus mainly on migrants who commit serious crimes. Deportations reached a historic low at 59,000. That's down 70 percent from the previous year.
Tensions rose today between India and Pakistan after New Delhi confirmed that it accidentally fired a missile into Pakistan. Indian officials blamed a technical malfunction. Pakistan's military said no one was hurt, but officials complained that the unarmed missile crossed commercial airspace between Sirsa in India and Eastern Pakistan.
Babar Iftikhar, Pakistan Militant Spokesman:
The incident could have resulted in a major aviation disaster, as well as civilian casualties on the ground. Pakistan strongly protests this flagrant violation, and cautions against the recurrence of any such incident.
The two nuclear-armed nations have fought four conventional wars since 1947.
Negotiators trying to restore the 2015 Iran nuclear deal have stepped back, despite signs they're close to an agreement. The European Union called a pause today, with no timetable for resuming. It followed Russian demands that sanctions imposed as a response to the war in Ukraine not affect its trade with Iran. The U.S. said that Tehran and Moscow need to make some key decisions.
In Chile, the leftist Gabriel Boric took office today as president today, pledging to attack poverty and inequality. He was sworn in before the Chilean Congress as the nation's youngest leader ever, just 36 years old.
Earlier, he reflected on the job ahead.
Gabriel Boric, Chilean President (through translator):
I'm very excited at this time, with a great sense of responsibility of the duty that we have before the Chilean people. Know that we are going to do our best, the best of us, to rise to the challenges we face as a country.
Boric's election came in the wake of mass protests over economic conditions.
China set a goal today of creating 13 million new jobs this year, to reverse an economic slowdown. The premier promised $400 billion in reduced taxes and fees for businesses. The Chinese economy is struggling against high debt, high energy costs, and recurring COVID outbreaks.
Back in this country, a Texas grand jury declined to indict Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson over allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault; 22 women had filed lawsuits accusing Watson of exposing himself, forcibly kissing them, and other acts. Eight of them filed criminal complaints. Watson has denied the accusations.
Congress has renewed a landmark 1990s law protecting victims of domestic and sexual violence. It's part of a $1.5 trillion government funding bill that won final passage last night. The Violence Against Women Act had lapsed in 2019, in a dispute over denying guns to men convicted of misdemeanor stalking.
And on Wall Street, worries about Ukraine and inflation kept stocks off-balance. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 230 points to close at 32944. The Nasdaq fell 286 points. The S&P 500 slipped 55. For the week, the Dow lost 2 percent, the Nasdaq fell 3.5 percent, the S&P 500 dropped almost 3 percent.
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