Other News: Markets Fall, Somali Pirates Renew Attacks
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GWEN IFILL: In other news today, Wall Street slumped on the news of sagging retail sales. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 137 points to close at 7,920. The Nasdaq fell 27 points to close at 1,625.
Somali pirates have seized four more ships since Sunday. That’s when U.S. forces killed three pirates and rescued an American ship captain, Richard Phillips. The pirates had vowed to retaliate.
Today, maritime officials confirmed the new seizures in the Gulf of Aden. They included a Lebanese cargo ship, a Greek-owned bulk carrier, and two Egyptian fishing boats. More than 60 crew members were taken hostage.
Anti-government demonstrations in Bangkok have ended, at least for the time being. Protest leaders called them off after days of fierce clashes that left two people dead and more than 120 hurt.
We have a report from John Ray of Independent Television News.
JOHN RAY: Thailand has teetered on the brink of mob rule. Another bus hijacked and torched as troops faced demonstrators who have brought mayhem to the streets of Bangkok.
Bullets and casings evidence of spiraling violence and raw emotion.
THAI CITIZEN: You have to help us. They have to help us.
THAI CITIZEN: Our government, yes, it’s really, really bad.
JOHN RAY: For this was their last stand. The red shirts, who vowed to bring down a government, were instead outnumbered by security forces.
What we are seeing here are protesters beginning to make their way home. They are surrounded by heavily armed troops and riot police. And although the mood is still defiant, hundreds have decided that today is not the day to stand and fight.
Some left claiming victory, but they have failed in their aim to bring back from exile the former prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra. His supporters were led through army lines, each photographed by police.
The street protests cleared, the street party could begin. This is the Thai New Year, but this tourist economy is counting the cost of crisis in empty bar seats and visitors who’ve stayed away.
For now, order has been restored, and even the troops can relax, but this nation is as divided as ever.
GWEN IFILL: Police issued arrest warrants for 14 of the protest leaders, including the ousted prime minister.
Former Cuban President Fidel Castro today welcomed a U.S. decision to allow Cuban-Americans more contact with the island nation. In a statement, he called it “positive, although minimal.”
Monday, President Obama lifted restrictions on family travel to Cuba and on money being sent back to relatives there. A broader trade embargo remains intact.
An American journalist accused of spying in Iran has now been tried behind closed doors. A spokesman for Iran’s court system confirmed Roxana Saberi had her one-day trial on Monday. He said a verdict will come in two to three weeks.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Robert Wood demanded Saberi be released.
ROBERT WOOD, State Department Spokesman: The charges as have been reported we maintain are baseless, without foundation. We remain committed to trying to secure her release. And that’s all I have. We’ll keep you abreast as we are able to, you know, obtain more information about the case.
GWEN IFILL: Saberi has dual American-Iranian citizenship. She was initially jailed in January on charges of working without press credentials.
A man accused of being a Nazi death camp guard, John Demjanjuk, will not be deported to Germany just yet. A federal appeals court in Cincinnati delayed the move this afternoon. Earlier, immigration officers removed the retired auto worker from his home in suburban Cleveland. He was taken out in a wheelchair as his wife looked on, weeping. Demjanjuk is 89 years old. He came to the U.S. after World War II.
Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich pleaded not guilty to federal corruption charges today. The former governor is accused of wire fraud, conspiracy, and trying to auction the Senate seat once held by Barack Obama.
Blagojevich spoke to reporters as he arrived for his court appearance in Chicago. He insisted he’s innocent.
ROD BLAGOJEVICH, Former Governor of Illinois: I know what the truth is as it concerns me. I’m glad that this day has started, because now we can begin the process of getting the truth out and I can clear my name and vindicate myself. And I have great respect for the court system. And we’re going to deal with this in the court system.
GWEN IFILL: Blagojevich’s brother is also charged in the case. He’s pleaded not guilty, as well.
The U.S. Senate race in Minnesota still isn’t over five months after the election. On Monday, after a trial that lasted seven weeks, a three-judge panel ruled that Democrat Al Franken won by 312 votes. But today, a lawyer for Republican Norm Coleman said he’ll appeal again, this time to the State Supreme Court.
The first family’s new dog was welcomed at the White House today. The Portuguese water dog, named “Bo,” toured the grounds before a bevy of photographers and reporters. Mr. Obama had promised his daughters a puppy during the campaign. Today, he said of the presidential pooch, “He’s got star quality.”