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In our news wrap Wednesday, Virginia became the crucial 38th state to ratify the 1972 Equal Rights Amendment, which bars discrimination on the basis of sex. Three-quarters of the states now approve the amendment. Also, Russia’s government abruptly resigned after President Vladimir Putin proposed sweeping constitutional changes that could keep him in power after his current term ends in 2024.
In the day's other news: President Trump signed phase one of a long-awaited trade agreement with China. Beijing pledged to increase its purchases of U.S. farm products and other goods.
But U.S. tariffs on $360 billion in Chinese imports will remain in place for now, as the trade negotiations enter their second phase.
We will take a closer look at what is at stake, and we will hear from one of the president's chief advisers on trade, later in the program.
A federal judge in Maryland today temporarily blocked President Trump's executive order allowing states and localities to bar refugees from resettling in their areas. There was no immediate word on whether the Trump administration would appeal. Last week, Texas became the first state to reject refugees, after taking in the most refugees of any state in the 2018 fiscal year.
Virginia became today the crucial 38th state to ratify the 1972 Equal Rights Amendment, which bars discrimination on the basis of sex. Its House of Delegates and state Senate approved the amendment today. It needed the backing of three-quarters of the states to add it to the U.S. Constitution.
However, ongoing litigation makes it unclear when or if it will be added.
Russia's government abruptly resigned today, after President Vladimir Putin proposed sweeping changes to his country's Constitution that could keep him in power after his term ends in 2024. The amendment would also give the Russian Parliament greater authority.
In his state of the nation speech in Moscow, Putin insisted that his overhaul proposal followed the law.
President Vladimir Putin (through translator):
The amendments do not affect the fundamental bases of our constitution, which means they can be approved by Parliament within the framework of the current law, through the adoption of the corresponding constitutional laws.
Hours later, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and his entire cabinet quit. Putin tapped Mikhail Mishustin, who is head of the Russian Tax Service, to be the next prime minister.
Iran's President Hassan Rouhani warned today that European soldiers in the Middle East — quote — "could be in danger" and should leave. It was the first direct threat that Rouhani has made to Europe, and it came a day after Britain, France, and Germany challenged Tehran over breaking the limits of its nuclear deal.
President Hassan Rouhani (through translator):
Today, the American soldier is in danger. Tomorrow, the European soldier could be in danger. Let's correct the security. We do not want insecurity in the world. We want you to leave this region, but not with war. We want you to go wisely. It is to your own benefit.
In a separate development, Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif admitted that his government lied about the cause of a plane crash that killed 176 people last week.
Tehran initially claimed that the Ukrainian airliner went down due to a technical malfunction. But new surveillance video appears to show two surface-to-air missiles hitting the plane. The accidental downing came amid heightened tensions between Iran and the U.S.
In Pakistan, search teams recovered 21 more bodies from homes crushed by avalanches in the disputed Kashmir region. Local residents and Pakistani troops shoveled snow looking for signs of survivors. Scores of people were believed to still be trapped inside their homes.
Abdul Rasheed Dar (through translator):
Where my relatives live, they got 11 to 12 feet of snow. And there is no access to the area. No ground or air communication is working, and we are not receiving any information about our relatives. We don't know what to do.
A severe winter storm in Pakistan and Afghanistan has killed 160 people since Sunday.
In other extreme weather news, this past decade was the hottest ever recorded on Earth. That is according to new data out today from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Scientists said that 2019 was the second warmest year on record. They attributed the global warming trend to manmade climate change.
And stocks managed modest gains on Wall Street today. The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 90 points to close at a record 29030. The Nasdaq rose seven points, and the S&P 500 added six.
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