HARI SREENIVASAN: Air traffic over Europe returned to near normal levels today. Airlines labored to recover after volcanic ash forced them to cancel more than 100,000 flights in the last week.
A normal day would see 28,000 flights over Europe, and virtually all were taking off today, fully loaded. Planes were packed as airlines tried to jam in passengers who have been stuck for days.
LUANA SANTOS, traveler (through translator): My mother died in Brazil, and I was supposed to be there three days ago. Costs have increased, but I’m happy to get there now, and that’s all that matters.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Carriers added more flights and larger planes, but they acknowledged there was no quick solution to the backlog. In the meantime, some travelers were treated to luxury. A chartered cruise ship picked up Britons stranded in Spain for the trip back home.
DOREEN YARDLEY, traveler: We have had so much trauma, you know, wondering whether you go one day, and then we have been, you know, promised the next day. So, it’s absolutely wonderful.
HARI SREENIVASAN: But the volcano in Iceland that caused the trouble was still erupting. Officials in Scandinavia and Scotland were forced to close airports again today, after shifting winds sent a new ash cloud into their airspace. That will only add to the staggering losses facing the airlines, now expected to reach $2 billion.
An offshore oil platform sank in the Gulf of Mexico today, raising fears of a major oil spill. The rig exploded into flames yesterday and had been burning ever since 50 miles off the coast of Louisiana. It finally went under today, with 11 workers still missing and feared dead. The Coast Guard said the damaged well could spill up to 8,000 barrels of crude oil every day.
Another Roman Catholic bishop has resigned in Europe, amid the growing child sex abuse scandal. Today, Bishop James Moriarty became the third high-ranking church official in Ireland to step down. He said he failed to challenge the culture of covering up for priests. The scandal also prompted apologies from Catholic bishops in England and Wales. They admitted — quote — “terrible crimes” were committed over the years.
New trouble today in Bangkok, Thailand — five grenades killed at least one person and injured more than 70 others. The grenades exploded near the site where anti-government protesters have camped in the city’s business district. The deputy prime minister said the weapons were launched from inside the camp. Protest leaders denied they were behind the incident, the latest in a standoff that has lasted weeks.
The government of Israel will not heed U.S. calls to stop building new settlements in East Jerusalem. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made that clear today in an interview on Israeli television.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, Israeli prime minister (through translator): I am saying one thing. There will be no freeze in Jerusalem. There should be no preconditions for talks. Regarding the demand for preconditions, I think it’s starting to be clear that such a demand should be put off. This doesn’t mean that the U.S. agrees with us about all the issues.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Netanyahu’s comments were broadcast shortly after U.S. Mideast envoy George Mitchell arrived in Tel Aviv. He’s trying to restart peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. A State Department spokesman said Mitchell wouldn’t have gone unless he thought there was hope of moving things forward.
In Iraq, a U.S. military jury acquitted a Navy SEAL in the beating of an Iraqi prisoner. Petty Officer 1st Class Julio Huertas was accused of failing to stop another SEAL from assaulting the Iraqi. The prisoner was the alleged organizer of a brutal attack on four American security guards in 2004.
This was the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. Events were held worldwide to raise awareness of the need to protect the environment. A major rally is also planned for Sunday on the National Mall in Washington. Its focus will be on urging Congress to pass climate change legislation.
On Wall Street today, stocks rallied late, after being down most of the day. The Dow Jones industrial average gained nine points to close at 11134. The Nasdaq rose 14 points to close at 2519.
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 Jeff.