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News Wrap: US Gulf Coast braces for storms, West faces deadly heat wave

In our news wrap Friday, the U.S. Gulf Coast is bracing for what could be the year's first tropical storm. Storm warnings extended across parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida — and Louisiana declared an emergency. Meanwhile, Western U.S. faced another day of searing heat — expected to last until next week. On Wall Street, stocks slumped on worries about future interest rate hikes.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    In the day's other news: The World Health Organization warned of a rising tide of COVID-19 cases in Africa. Infections across the continent jumped 50 percent in just the past week, and deaths rose 32 percent. Officials warned that it may get much worse, since less than 1 percent of Africa's population has been vaccinated.

  • Dr. Michael Ryan, World Health Organization:

    We have left vast swathes of the population and the vulnerable population in Africa unprotected by vaccines. To assume the next wave in Africa is just going to be a small passing shower, and will not be a storm, I think, is very, very premature.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Meanwhile, the COVID death toll in Brazil could hit 500,000 this weekend, second only to the United States. Only 11 percent of Brazil's population is fully vaccinated.

    The Japanese government's top medical adviser says the best way to keep COVID at bay during the Tokyo Olympics would be to bar all fans. He made the suggestion in a report today. Olympic organizers have planned for up to 10,000 people at some venues. A final decision is expected next week.

    Iran held its presidential election today, but turnout appeared far lower than four years ago. It came as economic conditions have crumbled and after hard-line leaders restricted the field of candidates. An ultra-conservative judge, Ebrahim Raisi, was the favorite to win.

    We will take a closer look later in the program.

    Back in this country, Western states faced another day of searing heat, with no relief in sight until next week.

    John Yang reports.

  • John Yang:

    A huge swathe of the Western U.S. is baking in triple-digit temperatures. Six states, from California to Montana, shattered daily temperature records even before the official start of summer. California's Death Valley hit 129 degrees. But that didn't keep the tourists away.

  • Marc Saia, Visitor:

    The temperature is ungodly hot. It's going to be 125 or 130 degrees today. It's really hot.

  • John Yang:

    Abby Wines is a spokeswoman for Death Valley National Park.

  • Abby Wines, Death Valley National Park:

    This is early, to have this much of a heat wave. It's happened before, but it's not that common.

  • John Yang:

    The mercury also hit unprecedented highs in Arizona, Phoenix notching a record 118 degrees on Thursday.

  • Man:

    I always think it's not going to be, like, that bad. I go out here. It's even worse.

  • John Yang:

    Power grid operators in Texas and California have urged customers to conserve to reduce the strain on their electrical systems. All this comes as the region grapples with extreme drought, hitting the area much harder, much earlier than normal.

    Scientists say climate change has increased the severity of the heat wave and drought. That's had a devastating impact on agriculture.

    Roger Tweedy is a rancher in Fresno, California.

  • Roger Tweedy, Rancher:

    It's a big concern because I will have to buy extra hay this year. We didn't get as much rain and not as much grass.

  • John Yang:

    It's also putting pressure on the region's water supplies. Lake Mead, on the Colorado River border between Nevada and Arizona, has fallen to its lowest level since the Hoover Dam was built in the 1930s. And it's expected to keep falling until November.

    The drought has also triggered an early start to the fire season in some Western states, like Montana and Arizona, where flames were fueled by tinder-dry brush.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm John Yang.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Meantime, the U.S. Gulf Coast is bracing tonight for what could be the first tropical storm to hit this year.

    Storm warnings extended across parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida, and Louisiana declared an emergency. All day, ominous clouds built over Orange Beach, Alabama, and other coastal sites, and swimmers were urged to stay away.

    Climate change, war, and persecution are driving the number of refugees worldwide to a new record. A United Nations report today said that nearly three million people were displaced last year. That pushed the global total to 82 million. That is the most ever.

    U.S. Catholic bishops have voted overwhelmingly to write a new document on holy communion later this year. It could deny the sacrament to elected officials, including President Biden, who are Catholic and who have protected abortion rights. Asked about the possibility today, the president said — quote — "I don't think that's going to happen."

    And on Wall Street, stocks slumped on worries about future interest rate hikes. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 533 points to close at 33290. The Nasdaq fell 131 points. The S&P 500 gave up 55. For the week, the Dow lost nearly 3.5 percent. The S&P fell nearly 2 percent, the most since February. The Nasdaq slipped a fraction.

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