HARI SREENIVASAN: The U.S. military presence in Iraq has fallen below 100,000 for the first time since the war began in 2003. A spokesman in Baghdad said today the total force now numbers 98,000. All but 50,000 American troops in Iraq are due to leave by the end of August. The rest are scheduled to withdraw by the end of 2011.
The war of words over Iran’s nuclear program kept heating up today. In Tehran, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad warned other countries against trying to impose new sanctions on his government.
MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, Iranian president (through translator): If someone wants to act against Iran, our response wouldn’t be like previous times. We will not advise or clarify or explain anymore. Definitely, there will be a counteraction that will make them regret, as usual.
HARI SREENIVASAN: At the same time, Russia, France and the U.S. called for Iran to stop enriching uranium to higher levels. They wrote to the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency and questioned Iran’s claim that the uranium is only for medical purposes.
And, in Saudi Arabia, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the hope for a Middle East free of nuclear weapons is what’s at stake.
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, U.S. secretary of state: If Iran gets a nuclear weapon, that hope disappears, because then other countries which feel threatened by Iran will say to themselves, if Iran has a nuclear weapon, I had better get one, too, in order to protect my people. Then you have a nuclear arms race in the region.
HARI SREENIVASAN: On Monday, Clinton also warned that Iran is moving toward a military dictatorship under the Revolutionary Guard. Today, President Ahmadinejad dismissed the criticism. He said, “We don’t take her comments seriously.”
New optimism about the economic recovery washed over Wall Street today. Stocks surged on good earnings reports and other upbeat data. The Dow Jones industrial average gained more than 169 points, to close above 10268. The Nasdaq rose more than 30 points, to close at 2214.
The U.S. Department of Transportation demanded today that Toyota hand over internal documents on its sweeping recalls. It’s part of a federal investigation of problems with gas pedals and brakes in millions of Toyota vehicles. Also today, the Japanese automaker announced it will shut down two plants in Kentucky and Texas for now. It said the recalls may be creating a backlog of unsold cars and trucks.
For the record, Toyota is a “NewsHour” underwriter.
President Obama has announced $8 billion in loan guarantees for America’s first nuclear power plant in nearly three decades. The money would go to a project in Georgia.
The president spoke today in Lanham, Maryland. He said nuclear power is environmentally cleaner and economically vital.
U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: There are 56 nuclear reactors under construction around the world, 21 in China alone, six in South Korea, five in India.
So, make no mistake. Whether it’s nuclear energy or solar or wind energy, if we fail to invest in the technologies of tomorrow, then we’re going to be importing those technologies, instead of exporting them.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The president also conceded, nuclear energy has what he called serious drawbacks. He said a bipartisan group of nuclear experts and leaders will try to speed up efforts to store nuclear waste safely.
Texas today challenged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on its finding that greenhouse gases are dangerous to humans. Governor Rick Perry said it was based on flawed science and would damage farmers and energy producers. He said he’s asking a federal appeals court to intervene. Texas leads the nation in oil refineries, chemical plants, and coal-fired power plants, and in greenhouse gas emissions.
In Eastern India, police searched for more than 100 Maoist rebels who stormed a remote police base on Monday, killing at least two dozen officers. The rebels set the base on fire with grenades and land mines, and gunned down defenders with automatic weapons. Seven policemen were wounded. The government insisted it would continue a crackdown on the Maoists. They now operate in 20 of India’s 28 states.
The earthquake damage in Haiti may reach nearly $14 billion. That estimate came today from the Inter-American Development Bank. And Haitian President Rene Preval said, the huge job of clearing rubble will delay rebuilding.
He spoke to Associated Press Television News.
RENE PREVAL, Haitian president (through translator): I am going to tell you one thing. To take away the debris which is on the streets of Port-au-Prince, we need 1,000 trucks for 1,000 days. That makes it three years.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Preval also said the rebuilding must focus on investment in the provinces to discourage overpopulation in Port-au-Prince.
At the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada, the U.S. men’s hockey team won its first-round game over Switzerland. Germany won gold in the women’s biathlon. And Sweden took the gold in the 12.5-kilometer biathlon pursuit. But heavy snow forced officials to delay the men’s super combined ski race.
Those are some of the day’s main stories. I will be back at the end of the program with a preview of what you will find tonight on the “NewsHour”‘s Web site — but, for now, back to Judy.