In our news wrap Friday, the World Health Organization warns the window of opportunity to contain the international spread of novel coronavirus is closing. South Korea has become the latest front in the outbreak, with officials declaring a health emergency there after cases quadrupled. Also, Russian warplanes backed by the Syrian government targeted the last rebel-held areas in northwestern Syria.
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There is word tonight that Russia is trying to aid the presidential campaign of Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders, in addition to the reelection efforts of Donald Trump.
The Sanders team confirmed a Washington Post report today that U.S. intelligence officials briefed his campaign about Moscow's efforts. In California this afternoon, the Vermont senator warned Russia to stay out of U.S. elections.
We will have more on Russia's efforts in this U.S. elections later in the program.
In the day's other news: There has been a potential breakthrough in the war in Afghanistan. A week-long reduction in violence is now in effect. If that holds, the U.S. and the Taliban will sign the first phase of a peace agreement on February 29 in Qatar, which could pave the way for a broader deal to end the 18-year-long war.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo released a statement saying — quote — "Challenges remain, but the progress made in Doha provides hope and represents a real opportunity."
We will take a closer look at Afghan peace prospects after the news summary.
The World Health Organization warned today that the window of opportunity to contain the international spread of the coronavirus is closing. South Korea has become the latest front in the outbreak. The country declared a health emergency, as cases there quadrupled to more than 200 infections over the past two days.
Officials closed schools and banned mass gatherings, including services at a church that most of the sick attended.
Man (through translator):
No one has entered the church since Tuesday. We did disinfection work twice, on Tuesday and Wednesday. Right now, all the disinfection work is complete, and no one is entering the church.
Meanwhile, in China, the number of new infections fell for another day. Chinese officials have recorded over 75,000 cases, and more than 2,200 deaths so far. At least 12 more deaths have been confirmed outside of mainland China.
In Northwestern Syria today, Syrian government-backed Russian warplanes targeted the last rebel-held areas. Insurgents and government forces blasted heavy artillery in other parts of Idlib province as well.
Meanwhile, Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for an end to the Syrian-backed offensive there to end the growing humanitarian crisis.
Iran held its parliamentary elections today, in what is seen as a referendum on the country's hard-line leadership. Tehran banned 7,000 potential candidates from running, including many moderates and reformists. That raised fears of a lower voter turnout.
In Tehran, those who did show up said they are feeling the strain from U.S. sanctions that sent Iran's economy into a recession.
It's the first time I am voting for a parliamentary candidate. I know a young candidate that I think understands our pain very well. They should create good jobs for us young people and make housing affordable.
Initial results are expected to be announced tomorrow.
Back in this country, the jury in the Harvey Weinstein New York rape trial is deadlocked on two of the most serious counts of predatory assault. They carry a maximum sentence of life in prison. The jurors have reached a unanimous verdict on the other three charges, but those verdicts have not been made public yet. The judge ordered the jurors to resume deliberations on Monday to try to reach a unanimous verdict on all the charges.
Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg today offered to lift nondisclosure agreements for three women who worked for his media business information company. The women allege that he made inappropriate comments to them. The move comes after one of his rivals, Senator Elizabeth Warren, fiercely criticized the confidentiality agreements at the last Democratic debate.
Wells Fargo agreed today to pay $3 billion to settle criminal and civil probes into its sales practices. It's part of a settlement with the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission. The company acknowledged that its employees opened millions of unauthorized bank accounts in an effort to meet unrealistic sales goals.
And stocks were down sharply on Wall Street today, over fears about the economic impact of the coronavirus. The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 227 points to close at 28992. The Nasdaq fell 174 points, and the S&P 500 shed 35.