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News Wrap: WHO issues call to action on Zika virus

In our news wrap Monday, the World Health Organization declared the Zika virus, a mosquito-borne disease linked to birth defects in the Americas, an international public health emergency. Also, a suicide bomber blew himself up at a police headquarters in Kabul, killing at least 20 people.

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    Good evening. I'm Gwen Ifill.


    And I'm Judy Woodruff here in Iowa for our special coverage of tonight's presidential caucuses.

    We will be looking at the role of evangelicals in shaking out this crowded Republican field.

  • KENNEY LINHART, Pastor, The Kathedral:

    You want to see things change in Iowa? Do you want to see the glory of God come down to Iowa? Then you need to be involved in the political process.


    And we talk with Amy Walter and Tamara Keith about what's happening on the ground as candidates make their final push.

    Plus, David Brooks and Michelle Cottle are here to analyze the race.

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


    The World Health Organization today declared the Zika virus an international public health emergency. The mosquito-borne disease has been linked to birth defects in the Americas involving babies born with abnormally small heads, or microcephaly.

    In Geneva today, Margaret Chan, director general of the WHO, issued a call for action.

  • DR. MARGARET CHAN, Director-General, World Health Organization:

    The committee advised that the causes of microcephaly and other neurological complications constitute an extraordinary event and a public health threat to other parts of the world. In their view, a coordinated international response is needed.


    The WHO says restrictions on foreign travel and trade are not needed yet, but it's advising pregnant women in affected countries to take steps to prevent mosquito bites.

    In Afghanistan, new violence underscored the government's struggle to safeguard its own capital. A suicide bomber blew himself up at a police headquarters in Kabul, killing at least 20 people and wounding nearly 30 more. The Interior Ministry said the Taliban attacker detonated the bomb as he waited in line to enter the facility. Most of those killed and injured were civilians.

    The U.N.'s special envoy for Syria announced today the official start of talks aimed at ending the country's civil war. That came after a meeting with the main opposition group, the High Negotiations Committee, or HNC, in Geneva. It wants an end to the sieges and starvation of Syrian towns.

    STAFFAN DE MISTURA, Special Envoy for Syria, United Nations: We are actually listening with attention to the concerns of HNC. And we are going to tomorrow discuss and listen to the concerns of the government. The discussions are starting, but, meanwhile, the challenge is now, let's also have those who have the capacity of discussing this at a different level time to discuss about cease-fire.


    Meanwhile, the U.S. envoy charged with fighting the Islamic State was in Northern Syria over the weekend.

    Brett McGurk is the first senior U.S. official to set foot in Syria since August of 2014. He met with a variety of groups battling the militants, and said ISIS forces do not stand a chance.

    Back in this country, newly released documents shed a bit more light on last may's Amtrak crash in Philadelphia. Eight people died and nearly 200 were hurt. Interview transcripts show the engineer, Brandon Bostian, saying he remembers trying to pick up speed, then hitting the brakes when the train hit a sharp curve, going too fast.

    But lawyers for the victims said they don't believe him.

    ROBERT MONGELUZZI, Saltz Mongeluzzi Barrett & Bendesky: There was no problem with the signals, no problem with the tracks, no problem with the locomotive, no problem with the brakes. And what we have learned is, the problem was Brandon Bostian.

    We believe that his inconsistent story speaks volumes about him and his credibility and believability at trial.


    The National Transportation Safety Board says it has not yet reached any conclusions about the cause of the crash.

    And on Wall Street, stocks struggled to hold their own after a new plunge in oil prices. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 17 points to close below 16450. The Nasdaq rose six points, and the S&P 500 dropped a fraction of a point.

    Still to come on the "NewsHour": how the evangelical vote can make or break GOP candidates and why Republicans are revolting against the establishment; plus, full analysis of the Iowa caucuses from David Brooks, Michelle Cottle, and our Politics Monday duo.

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