News Wrap: U.N. sounds alarm over Afghan economy, says country has become a ‘frozen hell’

In our news wrap Wednesday, the secretary general of the United Nations sounded a dire warning about Afghanistan. The Federal Reserve is ready to ratchet up interest rates in a bid to beat back inflation. The city of San Jose, California, has adopted the nation's first law to make gun owners carry liability insurance.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    In the day's other news: The Federal Reserve is ready to ratchet up interest rates in a bid to beat back inflation.

    The Central Bank reaffirmed that stance today, and it signaled that the first in a series of rate hikes could come in March. We will get details after the news summary.

    Wall Street rallied for much of the day, and then gave it all back as the Fed acknowledged that inflation is still getting worse. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 129 points to close at 34168. The Nasdaq rose about three points. The S&P 500 slipped six.

    The U.S. and NATO have rejected Russian security demands, amid Moscow's troop buildup along Ukraine's border. The formal responses came today in official letters. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said there will be no concessions regarding Ukraine.

    We will return to this later in the program.

    The secretary-general of the United Nations sounded a dire warning today about Afghanistan. Antonio Guterres told the U.N. Security Council that millions of Afghans face extreme hunger in the dead of winter.

  • Antonio Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General:

    Six months after the takeover by the Taliban, Afghanistan is hanging by a thread. For Afghans, daily life has become a frozen hell. We need to jump-start Afghanistan's economy through increased liquidity. We must pull the economy back from the brink.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Most foreign aid to Afghanistan dried up after the Taliban took control in August. Guterres appealed today for action to free up $1.2 billion in World Bank funds.

    In Northeastern Syria, Kurdish-led forces, backed by U.S. coalition airstrikes, have retaken a prison. They had battled Islamic State fighters, who attacked the prison last week. Kurdish officials said the militants had used child detainees as human shields. This was the biggest ISIS attack since 2019.

    New COVID-19 infections reached 21 million worldwide last week, the most since the pandemic began. The World Health Organization reported the new data today. It also said that the global rate of increase in infections is slowing.

    Back in this country, the search is still on for 38 migrants believed missing off Florida's Atlantic Coast after their boat capsized. On Tuesday, authorities found a lone survivor. He said a storm swamped their boat as they tried to cross from the Bahamas on Saturday night. Later, the Coast Guard found one body.

    And officials said today, time is growing short.

  • Capt. Jo-Ann F. Burdian, U.S. Coast Guard:

    It is dire, the longer they remain in the water, without food, without water, exposed to the marine environment, the sun, the sea conditions. It is — every moment that passes, it becomes much more dire that — and unlikely that anyone could survive in those conditions.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Federal agents are treating the incident as possible human smuggling. They opened a criminal investigation today.

    A Texas man is now charged with selling the gun used in a hostage standoff at a Dallas area synagogue. A British man held four people for 10 hours earlier this month. They finally escaped, and he was shot and killed by the FBI. The alleged seller is accused of possession of a firearm by a felon.

    And the city of San Jose, California, has adopted the nation's first law to make gun owners carry liability insurance. The City Council overwhelmingly approved the ordinance last night. Gun owners say that it would violate their Second Amendment rights, and they sued today in federal court.

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