Support Intelligent, In-Depth, Trustworthy Journalism.
In our news wrap Wednesday, COVID-19 cases in Tokyo are higher than any time since May — nine days before it hosts the summer Olympics. In the U.S., federal figures show 93,000 overdose deaths in 2020 — nearly 30% higher than 2019, with Fentanyl a major driver. The European Union unveiled sweeping plans to tackle climate change by cutting greenhouse gas emissions 55% from 1990 levels this decade.
In today's other news: The chair of the Federal Reserve, Jerome Powell, stuck by his forecast that inflation will stay high for a few months, before easing.
He told a congressional hearing that the problem is due largely to temporary fallout from the pandemic. We will take a closer look after the news summary.
COVID-19 infections are surging again worldwide, after falling for nine weeks. The World Health Organization reports a 10 percent increase just last week. Cases in Tokyo are higher than at any time since May at this moment, just nine days before it hosts the Summer Olympics. And cases in California are the highest since March.
In South Africa, rioting and looting rocked parts of the country again overnight. Police say more than 70 people have been killed and 1, 200 arrested since last week.
Nick Schifrin reports.
It started as political protests and devolved into chaos across two of South Africa's largest cities, of looting, ransacked shelves, and malls turned into smoldering buildings. Some looters admitted they stole, but said their crimes were born from poverty.
Sello Marakai (through translator):
I guess the real reason is because we have nothing. And when you see other people stealing, at some point, you realize that shops will close and you will be left with nothing.
In response, police and soldiers fired into crowds, and tried to restore order. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa accuses looters of taking advantage of civil unrest.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa:
What we are witnessing now are opportunistic acts of criminality.
The short-term spark was the imprisonment of former South African President Jacob Zuma for contempt of court. He's accused of fraud, racketeering, and money laundering.
But the long-term embers are entrenched poverty and unemployment, nearly 30 years after the end of apartheid.
Dr. Ralph Mathekga:
It is the dehumanizing effect of the — of inequality, and also the reality that South Africa just cannot continue the way in which we have been continuing.
Ralph Mathekga is a political analyst and fellow at the University of Johannesburg. He says the African National Congress party has failed to deliver the dignity it promised to South Africans, and is roiled by infighting.
And Zuma himself became synonymous with corruption. The pandemic led to severe lockdowns that further increased unemployment. This is the worst violence since apartheid, . And analysts warn, if the unrest leads to Zuma's freedom, that could challenge the country's rule of law.
If the court releases him, it will have meant that, if you orchestrate chaos, you are going to be able to evade accountability.
Today, parts of South Africa are still on fire, and there's no sign anyone can douse the flames.
For the "PBS NewsHour, " I'm Nick Schifrin.
In Afghanistan, the Taliban captured a key border crossing with Pakistan today.
Meanwhile, U.S. officials announced that evacuations of Afghan interpreters and translators who helped American forces will begin later this month.
And former President George W. Bush criticized the U.S. pullout, telling a German TV — quote — "The consequences are going to be unbelievably bad."
There is word that the opioid fentanyl helped to drive U.S. drug overdose deaths to a record high last year. Federal figures show 93,000 deaths, up nearly 30 percent from a year earlier. Difficulties in getting addiction treatment during the pandemic contributed to the increase.
The European Union unveiled plans today to cut greenhouse gas emissions 55 percent from 1990 levels during this decade. Among other things, E.U. leaders want tariffs on imported goods to tax the carbon emitted in their manufacturing.
European Commission President Ursula Von Deer Leyen:
There are some who will say that we should go slower, we should go lower, we should do less. But when it comes to climate change, doing less or doing nothing literally means changing everything.
Approval of the various measures could take two years.
Back in this country, fire crews in California have contained 70 percent of the state's largest fire this year. It is burning near the Nevada state line. Nearly 70 other fires are active in the West. One forced evacuation of a town on the Colville Indian Reservation in Washington state.
A U.S. Justice Department review blasted the FBI today for inexcusable delays in the Larry Nassar case. The former doctor for USA Gymnastics was accused of sexually abusing hundreds of women and girls. He is now in federal prison. The report says that the FBI received complaints in 2015, but did nothing for eight months. And it says Nassar abused more victims during that time.
In a statement late today, the FBI said the actions described in the report were — quote — "inexcusable and a discredit to this organization."
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos will donate $200 million to the Smithsonian Institution. Today's announcement is the institution's largest gift ever. It will upgrade the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., and add to its education programs.
And on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 44 points to close at 34933. The Nasdaq fell 32 points. The S&P 500 added five.
Watch the Full Episode
Support Provided By:
Support PBS NewsHour:
Subscribe to Here’s the Deal, our politics newsletter for analysis you won’t find anywhere else.
Thank you. Please check your inbox to confirm.
Additional Support Provided By: