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Other News: Senate Passes $106 Billion War Funding Bill

June 18, 2009 at 6:15 PM EDT

JIM LEHRER: In other news today, the U.S. Senate approved a new war funding bill and sent it to the president. It totals $106 billion, mostly for military operations and economic aid in Iraq and Afghanistan.

There’s also money to fight a possible flu pandemic. And the bill includes $1 billion to pay people who trade in old, gas-guzzling cars for newer models.

In Pakistan, officials and witnesses reported a U.S. drone aircraft attacked a Taliban training camp. The accounts said the unmanned plane fired missiles at a tribal region, killing at least eight militants. Pakistani government forces are now building up for an offensive in that same region.

A suicide bombing in Somalia killed at least 25 people, including the national security minister. The target was a hotel where the minister was staying in a key town north of Mogadishu, the capital. Another senior security official was killed yesterday. Last month, insurgents backed by Islamic militants opened a new drive to topple the Somali government.

There was word today that U.S. forces have moved more missile defenses close to Hawaii. A Japanese newspaper reported North Korea might test-fire a long-range missile toward Hawaii sometime around the Fourth of July.

At the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Gates said the U.S. is watching the situation very closely.

ROBERT GATES, Secretary of Defense: We do have some concerns, if they were to launch a missile to the west, in the direction of Hawaii. Without telegraphing what we will do, I would just say we are — I think we are in a good position, should it become necessary, to protect American territory.

JIM LEHRER: U.S. officials also said they are watching a North Korean ship at sea as part of newly adopted U.N. sanctions. Those sanctions bar efforts to ship missile parts and nuclear weapons material abroad. That ship left North Korea on Wednesday.

The captain of a transatlantic airliner died in mid-flight today en route from Belgium to the United States. Two co-pilots landed the plane safely. The Continental Airlines jet arrived in fog and mist at Liberty International Airport in Newark, New Jersey. A doctor on board said it appeared the pilot had a heart attack. The 247 passengers were not told what had happened until after the plane was on the ground.

NASA has launched a rocket to the moon for the first time in a decade. The unmanned Atlas V blasted off from Cape Canaveral in Florida this afternoon. It carried two robotic probes designed to search for hidden ice and possible landing sites. The space agency plans to return astronauts to the moon by the year 2020.

In economic news, the number of Americans on unemployment benefits dropped in early June for the first time since January. The Labor Department reported the total number of unemployed fell just below 6.7 million.

On Wall Street, the news helped the Dow Jones industrial average gain 58 points to close at 8,555. The Nasdaq fell a fraction of a point to close at 1,807.