News Wrap: Verizon workers protest expired contracts

In our news wrap Wednesday, nearly 40,000 Verizon employees across nine states walked off the job to protest the company’s alleged attempts to freeze pensions, make layoffs easier and hire more contract workers. Also, the CDC reported that Zika virus is confirmed to cause microcephaly in babies, and evidence also links it to other severe brain disorders.

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    Good evening. I'm Judy Woodruff.

    On the "NewsHour" tonight: two reporters on the ground in New York state on the battle for that next presidential primary. We hear the latest on the Republican and the Democratic races. Are Trump's and Clinton's lead as solid as they look?

  • Then:

    new hope in paralysis research. A quadriplegic man is given some of his mobility back with the use of microelectrodes and muscle stimulation.

    And training for the unthinkable — the people prepared to launch nuclear weapons, if given the order.

    1ST LT. KATHLEEN FOSTERLING, Commander Missile Combat Crew, U.S. Air Force: It's hard to think about it because you don't know what is going to happen in that situation. You just have to do your job, and whatever the outcome is, it is.


    All that and more on tonight's "PBS NewsHour."



    Nearly 40,000 Verizon landline and cable workers walked off the job in nine Eastern states today. They went on strike eight months after their contract expired, and with little progress in negotiations.

    Workers in New York and Philadelphia stood in picket lines, protesting what they said were Verizon's attempts to freeze pensions, make layoffs easier, and rely more on contract workers.

  • MAN:

    The five people in charge of our company make $235 million. They want to take away from me. I have got to work 70 hours a week to make ends meet. How is that right? I get paid a good salary. Forget about the rest of the world that doesn't get paid as good as we do. I don't know. Where does it end? When does it end?


    Verizon said the real issues are health care costs and contract provisions that are out of date. The company also said it's trained thousands of non-union workers to fill in, so customers won't be affected.

    Confirmation came today that the Zika virus, spread by mosquitoes, does cause microcephaly, abnormally small heads in babies. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that existing evidence also links Zika to other severe brain defects. It repeated the standing advice to pregnant women to avoid traveling to areas where Zika is spreading.

    In war-torn Syria, the government held parliamentary elections today in the areas it controls. The voting took place as peace talks resumed in Geneva. But the Syrian Foreign Ministry ruled any talk of a government without President Bashar al-Assad.

    Meanwhile, lawmakers in Iraq got into a brawl with as the political crisis deepened. The fighting broke out in a dispute over how to clean up corruption. Some demanded the prime minister sack his current cabinet and bring in technocrats.

    There's been a new incident at sea between Russia and the U.S. Pentagon officials say Russian jets repeatedly buzzed a U.S. Navy destroyer in the Baltic Sea this week, coming as close as 30 feet. A Russian helicopter also made passes. Video from the ship shows a jet sweeping past in what appeared to be a simulated attack.

    The White House today was critical.

  • JOSH EARNEST, White House Press Secretary:

    This incident, as you won't be surprised to hear, is entirely inconsistent with the professional norms of militaries operating in proximity to each other in international waters and international airspace. And we continue to be concerned about this behavior.


    The U.S. Navy says the destroyer took no action in response. It is latest in a series of such incidents in recent years.

    New trouble erupted between migrants and Macedonian police along the Greek border. At least 50 migrants tried to pull down parts of razor-wire fences at a closed crossing that's become a flash point. Macedonian police fired tear gas again to drive the crowd back. About 11,000 people are stranded in a makeshift tent city on the Greek side of the border.

    Voters in South Korea have dealt a surprise blow to their conservative leader. Early results indicate that President Park Geun-hye's ruling party lost their majority in Parliament today. The election took place as South Korea faces sagging growth, as well as North Korean provocation. The results threaten Park's plans for her final 20 months in office.

    A Chinese court today threw out the country's first legal challenge to laws against same-sex marriages. The case was brought by a gay couple who'd been denied a marriage license. Hundreds of supporters gathered outside the court in Changsha, and greeted the couple after the court turned them down. Their lawyer said the fight will go on.

  • SHI FULONG, Lawyer (through interpreter):

    Today is not the beginning and definitely not the end. The achievement of every right relies on the efforts of everyone and is not achieved overnight. I believe, as long as we try together, we will finally realize the rights of equality.


    Supporters say they're heartened that a Chinese court even agreed to hear the case and that state-controlled news media covered it.

    Back in this country, a task force in Chicago charged police in that city have abused minorities for decades with excessive force and a code of silence. The panel was established last year after an outcry over the shootings of black suspects. In a scathing report, the group concluded that Chicago police have — quote — "no regard for the sanctity of life when it comes to people of color."

    Five of the largest U.S. banks have flunked attempts to create so-called living wills. Federal regulators said today that their plans for surviving bankruptcy without a taxpayer bailout are — quote — "not credible." J.P. Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and others have until October to try again.

    The nation's largest U.S. coal mining company filed today for federal bankruptcy protection. Peabody Energy, based in Saint Louis, has seen its stock value cut in half in the past year. It's being pressed by cheap natural gas and tougher environmental regulations. Several other major coal companies have already made bankruptcy filings.

    And Wall Street surged again as financial stocks rebounded some. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 187 points to close at 17908. The Nasdaq rose 75 points, and the S&P 500 added 20.

    Still to come on the "NewsHour": a tale of two New Yorks, courting the state's urban and rural voters; a major windfall for cancer research courtesy of Facebook's first president; how science helped a quadriplegic man move his fingers; and much more.

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