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News Wrap: White House task force reports increase in COVID-19 vaccinations

In our news wrap Wednesday, the White House COVID task force reported an average of 1.7 million Americans are being vaccinated daily as President Biden called on labor leaders to endorse his $1.9 trillion relief package. Also, the U.N. secretary general pleaded for a more equitable distribution of COVID vaccines worldwide, and NATO leaders urged the U.S. to consult before leaving Afghanistan.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    In the day's other news: The White House COVID task force reported an average of 1.7 million Americans are being vaccinated daily. It was under one million a month ago. But the task force also said Johnson & Johnson has only a few million doses of its vaccine ready to distribute once it's approved.

    In a town hall last night, President Biden projected that enough vaccine will be available to inoculate all Americans by the end of July.

    The U.N. secretary-general is pleading for a more equitable distribution of COVID vaccines worldwide. Antonio Guterres said today that just 10 countries have administered 75 percent of all vaccinations so far, and that 130 countries have received no vaccine. He called it wildly uneven and unfair.

  • António Guterres:

    The rollout of COVID-19 vaccines is generating hope. But at this critical moment, vaccine equity is the biggest moral test before the global community. We must ensure that everybody everywhere can be vaccinated as soon as possible.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Meanwhile, Japan finally launched its vaccination campaign, beginning with medical workers. The late rollout has raised concerns about whether Japan can be ready to host the delayed 2020 Summer Olympics this July.

    President Biden called in labor leaders today to lobby for his COVID relief package totaling $1.9 trillion. They met in the Oval Office, and the president told them that — quote — "It's not about the money, but about the nation's needs."

    Separately, he said that he had a good conversation today with Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu. They had not spoken since Mr. Biden took office.

    Europe's top human rights court ordered Russia today to release opposition leader Alexei Navalny from prison. The court suggested that Navalny's life is in danger. Moscow rejected the ruling as — quote — "crude interference" in Russia's judicial system. Navalny's imprisonment has also triggered mass protests across Russia.

    NATO leaders are urging the U.S. to consult before leaving Afghanistan. President Trump's deal with the Taliban set May 1 as the deadline for pulling out the remaining 2,500 Americans. The Biden administration is reviewing that agreement.

    In Brussels today, the NATO secretary-general called for careful consideration.

  • Jens Stoltenberg:

    There are roughly 10,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan now. And the majority of them are not from the United States. And I think that demonstrates the value of NATO, also for the United States, because the United States, when they went into Afghanistan, they didn't go alone.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    NATO leaders also said the Taliban must curtail ongoing violence.

    The U.S. Justice Department charged three North Koreans today in a scheme of cyber-theft and revenge on behalf of their government. It included the 2014 attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment and an attempt to steal more than $1.3 billion from banks. None of the three suspects is in U.S. custody.

    Facebook has blocked Australians from viewing or sharing news on its platform. That action came today as the country's House of Representatives voted to make Facebook and Google pay for publishing Australian journalism. Google has responded by negotiating payment deals.

    South Carolina is about to become the latest state to ban nearly all abortions. It would be triggered once a fetal heartbeat is detected. Most Democrats in the Statehouse walked out in protest for a time today, but majority Republicans ultimately passed the procedure — or measure. The governor says he will sign it after a final procedural vote tomorrow.

    On Wall Street today, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 90 points to close at 31613. But the Nasdaq fell 82 points, and the S&P 500 slipped one point.

    Britain's Prince Philip, who is 99, is in a London hospital tonight. Buckingham Palace says that the husband of Queen Elizabeth was feeling ill, and that he will remain hospitalized for a few days. It is not believed related to it is not believed related to COVID-19, as the prince has already been vaccinated.

    And talk radio host Rush Limbaugh died today. For more than 30 years, he trumpeted a brand of conservatism that won him a huge audience and condemnation.

    Lisa Desjardins looks at his career.

  • Rush Limbaugh:

    My friends, my name is Rush Limbaugh.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    One of the most polarizing figures in American culture, Rush Limbaugh transformed talk radio and became a defining force in Republican politics.

    Born in Missouri, he started in radio in high school and dropped out of college to make it a career, one that became turbocharged in the 1980s, after the Reagan era ended the fairness doctrine, allowing broadcasters to air one-sided political views. "The Rush Limbaugh Show" launched in 1988.

    Limbaugh was a brash, unapologetic conservative, shaming Republicans he found wishy-washy and railing against the left, urging ideological warfare, including here against President Barack Obama.

  • Rush Limbaugh:

    We're talking about it remaining the country we were all born into and reared and grown into. And it's under assault. It's always under assault. But it's never been under assault like this from within before. And it's a serious, serious battle.

    (APPLAUSE)

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    But critics heard a voice for white male power. Limbaugh pushed the racist conspiracy theory that President Obama was born outside the United States. And he hurled slurs at college student and birth control advocate Sandra Fluke.

  • Rush Limbaugh:

    That makes her a slut, right? Makes her a prostitute.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Limbaugh's focus on culture war issues like immigration helped pave the way for Donald Trump.

  • Donald Trump:

    He was a unique guy. And he was a — he became a friend of mine.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    The former president called into FOX News today.

    In past months, Limbaugh amplified mister Trump's false claims of election fraud. Today, the former president stressed Limbaugh's support, including a call at the start of his campaign.

  • Donald Trump:

    When we came down the escalator, he liked my rather controversial speech. I made that speech that was a little on the controversial side. And he loved it. He was with me right from the beginning

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Limbaugh announced his lung cancer diagnosis last February, and, one day later, Mr. Trump awarded him with the Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian award, during the State of the Union address.

  • Donald Trump:

    Rush Limbaugh, thank you for your decades of tireless devotion to our country.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    His effect was on display, with Republicans standing and Democrats silent, some angry. Unusually, Limbaugh himself was speechless.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Lisa Desjardins.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Rush Limbaugh was 70 years old.

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