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News Wrap: Army Admits Mismanagement at Arlington Cemetery

June 10, 2010 at 12:00 AM EST
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JIM LEHRER: Still to come on the “NewsHour” tonight: South Africa gets ready for the World Cup; and the story of a platoon in Afghanistan — but, first, the other news of this day.

Here’s Hari Sreenivasan in our newsroom.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Wall Street rebounded sharply today, on upbeat economic reports. The number of Americans on long-term jobless benefits fell by the most in nearly a year. And China announced a strong increase in exports. In response, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 273 points to close at 10172. The Nasdaq rose nearly 60 points to close above 2218.

The Securities and Exchange Commission also installed new circuit breaker rules. They’re supposed to prevent a repeat of last month’s flash crash of 1,000 points in half-an-hour.

Some of the nation’s military dead may have been misplaced or misidentified at Arlington National Cemetery outside Washington. The U.S. Army acknowledged the problem today.

Funerals at Arlington National Cemetery are marked by somber ceremony and meticulous care. But the Army inspector general’s report today found at least 211 sets of remains have been misidentified or unaccounted for out of the 300,000 grave sites.

JOHN MCHUGH, secretary of the army: In some, the I.G. found Arlington’s mission hampered by dysfunctional management, a lack of established policy and procedure, and an overall unhealthy organizational climate

HARI SREENIVASAN: Army Secretary John McHugh said there’s no way to explain or justify sloppy record-keeping and mismanagement at a place like Arlington.

JOHN MCHUGH: As to the negative findings of the report, there’s simply no excuse. And on behalf of the United States Army and on behalf of myself, I deeply apologize to the families of the honored fallen resting in that hallowed ground who now may question the care afforded to their loved ones.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The Army inspector general, Steven Whitcomb, said part of the problem could be outmoded technology.

LT. GEN. R. STEVEN WHITCOMB, inspector general, U.S. Army: And we are still using at Arlington an analog method, a card system to verify what’s there, what isn’t there, when it happened, what changes were made. That — that was a substantial piece of one of our findings is, we need to bring the records-keeping at Arlington into the 21st century.

HARI SREENIVASAN: In addition, lawn mowing over the years sometimes knocked down gravestones, adding to the confusion. Secretary McHugh said the Army will do its best to fix all of the problem.

JOHN MCHUGH: I don’t know as anyone can ever assure everyone that — that circumstances are perfect. And I think you could say that about any — any cemetery in America. But what we can tell the family members is we’re going to make every effort to ensure and examine every possible technology and approach and system by which we can achieve that.

HARI SREENIVASAN: McHugh has formally reprimand the cemetery’s superintendent, who is retiring. The deputy superintendent has been put on administrative leave.

In Afghanistan, an American was killed by a roadside bomb, the 20th U.S. death this month and the latest in a wave of violence. Officials in Helmand Province said the Taliban hanged a seven-year-old boy on Wednesday. He had been accused of spying. The militants denied that they carried out a suicide bombing at a wedding party in Kandahar last night. At least 40 Afghans were killed there and more — and scores more were wounded.

Today, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan warned it will take longer to secure the Kandahar area than first planned. General Stanley McChrystal said — quote — “I think it’s more important we get it right than we get it fast.”

Russia will pursue talks to build more nuclear power plants in Iran. That word came a day after the U.N. Security Council imposed new sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program. The Russian Foreign Ministry said the sanctions do not affect the nuclear plant talks. It also said Moscow will keep a commitment to deliver surface-to-air missiles to Tehran.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder promised a thorough investigation today in a border shooting that’s raised tensions with Mexico. A 15-year-old Mexican boy was killed Monday night by a U.S. Border Patrol agent. It happened at a bridge that connects Juarez to El Paso, Texas. There have been reports that Mexican and U.S. authorities drew guns on each other after the shooting, but Holder emphasized cooperation today.

ERIC HOLDER, U.S. attorney general: The incident that we talked about is certainly a regrettable one, and one that we are looking into. But I think the relationship that exists between law enforcement in Mexico and in the United States is a good one, and is based on a series of solid accomplishments, the sharing of intelligence and information, and our — our generally working together.

HARI SREENIVASAN: U.S. and Mexican authorities have traded accusations about the circumstances surrounding the shooting. It came less than two weeks after a Mexican man died in California, after a U.S. border agent used a stun gun on him.

The U.S. Senate has turned back a bid to stop the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases. Republicans pushed to block regulations that are set to take effect early next year. The rules will force emission cuts at power plants and large factories. President Obama had threatened to veto the bill.

An estimated 15,000 Roman Catholic priests rallied in Rome today. The clerics began gathering early in the day in Vatican Square for an evening service. It celebrated the end of the church’s year of the priest. The rally was a show of support for Pope Benedict XVI. He’s been under fire for his handling of sex abuse allegations against clerics.

The city of Chicago celebrated today winning pro hockey’s Stanley Cup for the first time in 49 years. The Chicago Blackhawks downed the Philadelphia Flyers 4-3 in overtime last night to win the best-of-seven title series four games to two.

Also today, the NCAA banned the University of Southern California from postseason play for two years. An investigation found former running back Reggie Bush received improper benefits. A number of victories involving Bush will be wiped out, including a national title win over Oklahoma in 2005.

Those are some of the day’s major stories — now back to Jim.