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In our news wrap Tuesday, the United Nations is appealing for a record $5 billion in humanitarian assistance for Afghanistan and neighboring countries as the U.S. announced $300 million in aid. Also, the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the U.S. hit a new record, Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell testified for his re-nomination, and North Korea test-fires a ballistic missile.
In the day's other news: The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the U.S. has hit a new record. There were nearly 146,000 as of today, topping the peak of 142,000 last January.
Also today, Chicago teachers ended a walkout that canceled five days of classes. They have agreed on new COVID safety measures. And New Orleans reimposed an indoor mask mandate as it readies for visitors during Mardi Gras season.
President Biden today defended his response to the pandemic. He said he is — quote — "confident we're on the right track."
His top COVID adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci, accused a longtime critic of lying about him to gin up campaign donations. At a U.S. Senate hearing, Fauci charged that Republican Rand Paul's attacks are encouraging potential violence.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, Chief Medical Adviser to President Biden: And, all of a sudden, that kindles the crazies out there, and I have life — threats upon my life, harassment of my family, and my children with obscene phone calls, because people are lying about me.
So, go to Rand Paul Web site, and you see "Fire Dr. Fauci" with a little box that says, contribute here. You can do $5, $10, $20, $100.
Fauci cited the arrest of a man in Iowa last month with an assault-style rifle. Police have said that he had a hit list with Fauci's name on it.
An arctic wave moved into New England today with subzero temperatures. Public schools in Boston and elsewhere canceled classes, for fear of students suffering frostbite. Windchills hit minus-72 on Mount Washington, New Hampshire. The observatory there posted an image of a fork sticking straight out from a plate of frozen spaghetti.
The head of the Federal Reserve system says the U.S. economy is recovering strongly, but that inflation is now a serious threat.
Jerome Powell had his Senate confirmation hearing today for a second term as Fed chair. He acknowledged the need to act, with price hikes at a 40-year high.
Jerome Powell, Federal Reserve Chairman:
If we have to raise interest rates more over time, we will. We will use our tools to get inflation back. And the main reason is this. A reason is this, that to get the kind of very strong labor market we want, with high participation, it's going to take a long expansion.
Fed officials have already indicated that they expect three rate hikes this year. Powell's remarks indicate there could be more.
North Korea claimed a successful launch today of a hypersonic missile. South Korea says the weapon was fired from a province near China, and flew east into the sea, reaching 10 times the speed of sound. Around the same time, U.S. aviation officials briefly grounded some flights on the West Coast. They gave no explanation.
The United Nations is appealing for a record $5 billion in humanitarian aid for Afghanistan and neighboring countries. The world body cites a looming catastrophe for 23 million people. In response, the U.S. announced $300 million in aid today. Afghanistan's international funding dried up when the Taliban took over in August.
A Russian-led military alliance will begin withdrawing more than 2,000 troops from Kazakstan. That comes as violent protests have been quelled and nearly 10,000 Kazakhs detained. The nation's president made the announcement today in a teleconference with his Parliament.
Kassym-Jomart Tokayevk, President of Kazakstan (through translator): The situation in all regions is stable. Thereby, the main mission of the peacekeeping forces has been successfully completed.
In two days' time, a phased withdrawal of the contingent will begin. The withdrawal process will take no more than 10 days.
The Kazakh leader also announced new economic measures to narrow the country's wealth gap.
Back in this country, the U.S. Navy will drain an underground fuel facility that is blamed for contaminating drinking water around Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. A Navy official confirmed today that the service will comply with a state order. People had long complained of tap water smelling like fuel and reported getting sick after using it.
On Wall Street, tech stocks led a market rebound. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 183 points to close at 36252. The Nasdaq rose 210 points, nearly 1.5 percent. The S&P 500 added 42.
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