In our news wrap Tuesday, the U.S. State Department scrapped Trump-era human rights policies that promoted conservative causes like religious freedom and property rights, but sidelined abortion and LGBTQ rights. President Joe Biden announced new initiatives to address recent anti-Asian violence, and the Justice Department will also focus on the rising hate crimes against Asian Americans.
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In the day's other news: The United States officially passed 550,000 deaths in the pandemic. That's out of more than 30 million confirmed cases.
And independent experts convened by the World Health Organization formally reported that COVID-19 likely spread from animals and not from a Chinese laboratory. The lead investigator said all sides tried to influence the report, but to no avail.
Dr. Peter Ben Embarek:
In our discussion, in our work, we were never pressured to remove a critical element in our report. As I said, the report is something that all the scientists on the joint team can stand behind.
The head of the WHO acknowledged that China withheld data, and he voiced doubts about the findings. The U.S. and other nations demanded further investigation.
President Biden announced new initiatives on anti-Asian violence today. The measures include $50 million in COVID relief money for programs that help survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.
That announcement followed an attack on an Asian American woman in New York City. Surveillance footage showed a man kicking her and stomping on her face. Police say he shouted anti-Asian insults, and then walked away, as bystanders did nothing. The 65-year-old woman is hospitalized with serious injuries.
The U.S. State Department today scrapped Trump era human rights policies. They had promoted conservative causes, including religious freedom and property rights, but they sidelined abortion and LGBTQ rights. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called that approach unbalanced.
All people are entitled to these rights, no matter where they're born, what they believe, whom they love, or any other characteristic. Human rights are also co-equal. There is no hierarchy that makes some rights more important than others.
The State Department also denounced human rights abuses in China, Russia and Syria.
In Myanmar, ethnic Karen refugees faced new air attacks by the military. Thousands have already fled into neighboring Thailand. Meanwhile, protests continued against Myanmar's military coup. People filled the streets, despite new shootings by security forces.
We will return to all this after the news summary.
Gunmen in Eastern Afghanistan have killed three women who were giving polio vaccinations. They were shot in Jalalabad. That area has seen a spike in Islamic State attacks. Afghanistan and Pakistan are the only countries where polio is still endemic.
China tightened its grip on Hong Kong's elections today. Lawmakers in Beijing voted to enlarge the territory's legislature, but cut the share of its directly elected seats. Many in Hong Kong accused China of breaking a pledge to respect their autonomy.
Mary Cheung (through translator):
Hong Kong has changed already. There's no election. Are you joking? This isn't an election. It's merely a game that benefits certain people.
Ian Lee (through translator):
It was promised that Hong Kong wouldn't change for 50 years, but it hasn't been 25 years. I am worried about my future, as well as those of the people around me.
The changes also require that prospective candidates be vetted by a pro-Beijing committee.
Back in this country, lawmakers in Kentucky have expanded access to early voting, in a partial break with trends in other states. The bipartisan bill passed late Monday. It provides three in-person voting days before Election Day. And it also ends pandemic measures that expanded mail-in voting.
And on Wall Street, stocks slipped as interest rates climbed. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 104 points to close at 33067. The Nasdaq fell 14 points, and the S&P 500 slid 12.