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Death Toll Climbs in Indonesia; Strikes Continue in France

October 28, 2010 at 5:42 PM EDT
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KWAME HOLMAN: First-time claims for unemployment benefits fell last week to the lowest point since July. It was due partly to fewer layoffs in construction.

But, on Wall Street, the focus was on weak corporate earnings. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 12 points to close below 11114. The Nasdaq rose four points to close at 2,507.

Rescuers in Indonesia found more bodies today from Monday’s tsunami. The death toll grew to 370, with hundreds still missing. We have a report narrated by James Mates of Independent Television News.

JAMES MATES: As another victim is hastily put into a body bag and buried in a shallow grave before disease can spread, no one will be surprised if the death toll here were to double.

Rio, tsunami survivor: Yes. What can I say? You know, everybody is sad, you know?

JAMES MATES: It’s not immediately clear if these villages were destroyed by the 7.5-magnitude earthquake or the tsunami that followed it. To those whose homes now give shelter from the sun, but nothing else, it probably matters little.

A few days ago, they were desperately poor. Now they have nothing. From the air, you can see what the waves did to these remote islands that lie in one of the most geologically unstable places on Earth. It’s hard to see what was here before, though, judging by the search effort going on, it was inhabited. There is, though, nothing here now.

Just six years ago, another tsunami killed almost a quarter-of-a-million people a few hundred miles up this coast. An early warning system has since been installed. But, even if it did work, eyewitnesses speak of an enormous wave coming just minutes after the quake.

Limited aid and medical help are reaching the survivors, but, with their homes gone and many with relatives missing, the thing these families may be shortest of is hope.

KWAME HOLMAN: Eight hundred miles to the east, the Indonesian volcano Mount Merapi erupted again today, but there were no injuries. An eruption earlier this week killed 33 people.

Strikes in France disrupted air travel today. They were aimed at new pension reforms approved by Parliament. In the streets, thousands of demonstrators waved union flags and signs, vowing to fight the reforms until President Nicolas Sarkozy signs them into law. Still, the rallies appeared smaller than in recent weeks.

For the first time, the U.S. government has announced what it spends on intelligence. The total for 2010 released today was just more than $80 billion. The new director of national intelligence, James Clapper, had promised to publish the figure. He said it’s time the public knows the cost of intelligence.

The head of Britain’s spy agency gave an unprecedented public address today. Sir John Sawers heads the secret intelligence service widely known as MI6. None of his predecessors ever spoke publicly. Sawers defended the need for secrecy to counter growing terror threats, like Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

JOHN SAWERS, chief of MI6: Secret organizations need to stay secret, even if we present an occasional public face, as I am doing today. If our operations and methods become public, they won’t work. Agents take risks. They will not work with SIS, will not pass us the secrets they hold, unless they can trust us not to expose them.

KWAME HOLMAN: MI6 is being investigated for allegations it went along with abuse of terror suspects. Sawers said his agents are obligated to stop any torture, even if it means letting a terror plot go forward.

The presidential commission investigating the Gulf oil spill is pointing a finger at cement supplied by Halliburton. Investigators reported today the mixture failed three out of four tests. But they said Halliburton and BP decided to use it anyway. Halliburton maintains the cement mix wasn’t at fault. It blames BP’s well design and operations.

The U.S. urged China today to spell out its policy on exporting rare earth minerals. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made the appeal in Hawaii, beginning an Asia-Pacific tour. She said the world got a wakeup call recently when China cut exports of exotic metals. The metals are critical to making computers and other high-tech soft — hardware.

Those are some of the day’s main stories — now back to Judy.