News Wrap: Winter storm slams Northern California, Nevada

In our news wrap Monday, parts of Northern California and Nevada are buried under heavy snow after a major winter storm over the weekend. Thousands of people in Northern Brazil are bracing for a new round of flooding after two dams burst Sunday. President Biden signed a defense bill authorizing $770 billion in Pentagon spending. This year's holiday spending showed the biggest increase in 17 years.

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  • Amna Nawaz:

    President Biden is promising the federal government will do more to help states facing the new Omicron wave of COVID-19 infections.

    He spoke today as fresh data showed average daily infections are up 80 percent in two weeks. At the same time, the CDC issued new guidance for the infected, cutting quarantine time in half to five days.

    We will have much more on the pandemic after the news summary.

    South Africa has begun a week of public mourning for the late Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The Nobel Peace Prize winner died Sunday at 90, after a lifetime of fighting apartheid and working for racial unity.

  • Today:

    Bells rang at midday from St. George's Cathedral in Cape Town.

    And President Cyril Ramaphosa hailed Tutu's legacy.

  • Cyril Ramaphosa, South African President:

    This is a sad moment, but it is also a moment of celebration, celebrating a life well led and a life that is so gigantic. He was brave, he was forthright, and we loved him just for that, because he was a voice of the voiceless.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    We will take a longer look at the life of Desmond Tutu later in the program.

    In Northern Brazil, thousands of people bracing for a new round of flooding after two dams burst on Sunday. Two northeastern cities were ordered to evacuate in a region already hit by weeks of torrential rain. Even before the dams gave way, flooding had displaced nearly 20,000 people since early November. At least 20 people have been killed.

    Back in this country, parts of Northern California and Nevada are buried under heavy snow after a major winter storm over the Christmas weekend. A 70-mile stretch of Interstate 80 connecting Reno to Sacramento was closed in both directions due to poor visibility. The storm brought record cold and snowfall. Parts of Southern California were hit hard by rain and heavy winds.

    President Biden signed today a defense bill today that authorizes $770 billion in Pentagon spending. That's a 5 percent increase from last year. It includes a pay raise of 2.7 percent for troops and aid for Ukraine. It also directs that independent military prosecutors take over sexual abuse cases from military commanders.

    In economic news, this year's holiday spending showed the biggest increase in 17 years, despite Omicron's disruptions. The tracking service Mastercard SpendingPulse reports sales through Christmas Eve were up 8.5 percent from last year.

    And on Wall Street, that strong holiday showing helped boost major indexes by 1 percent or more. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 351 points to close at 36302. The Nasdaq rose nearly 218 points. The S&P 500 added 65 for a new record close.

    And two more passings of note.

    The world-renowned Harvard biologist Edward O. Wilson has died. He was known as Darwin's natural heir, arguing that a link existed between human behavior and genetics. From there, he went on to pioneering studies of ants and to a focus on preserving species and ecosystems.

    Wilson spoke with the "NewsHour" in 2016.

  • Edward O. Wilson, Biologist:

    The stakes are the future of life, the future of the living part of the environment. If we allow the living part of the environment to disappear, for me, it would be by future generations regarded as one of the most catastrophic, even evil periods in human history.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Edward O. Wilson was 92 years old.

    And Texas lawyer Sarah Weddington died Sunday in Austin, half-a-century after she argued the landmark abortion rights case Roe vs. Wade. She was just 26 years old when she first went before the U.S. Supreme Court. The justices' ultimate decision in 1973 legalized abortion nationwide. Sarah Weddington was 76 years old.

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