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News Wrap: Part of Mississippi River Closed, Reopen Date Uncertain

May 17, 2011 at 12:00 AM EDT

HARI SREENIVASAN: Wall Street had its third losing day in a row. The economic news and a forecast of weaker sales at tech giant Hewlett-Packard weighed on stocks. The Dow Jones industrial average dropped more than 68 points to close at 12,479. It had been down as much as 170 points. The Nasdaq rose less than a point to close at 2,783.

The Coast Guard closed part of the Mississippi River today, and there’s no word on when it will reopen. Traffic at Natchez, Mississippi, was suspended because wakes from passing barges could put even more pressure on levees.

Meanwhile, floodwater continued a slow creep across Louisiana’s Cajun Country. But Gov. Bobby Jindal said the Army Corps of Engineers’ latest forecast has improved slightly.

GOV. BOBBY JINDAL, R-La.: They have lowered the amount of water. They have reduced the area where they expect there to be significant backwater flooding, but there are still areas that are going to be inundated. So, we encourage people, consult those maps to get the best information for your particular community, for your property, and then do — finally, do listen to the guidance from your local officials.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Nearly 5,000 people have already evacuated their homes as they await the flooding.

Pakistani troops exchanged shots with a NATO helicopter today in a new incident on the Afghan border. Two — the Pakistanis said two soldiers were wounded. It happened in the North Waziristan tribal region, a known sanctuary for Taliban and al-Qaida militants. NATO and Pakistani officials gave conflicting accounts of which side of the border the helicopter was on when the shooting started.

Anti-government protesters in Syria have called for a nationwide general strike tomorrow. It is their latest attempt to force President Bashar Assad to end a brutal crackdown and give up power. The strike call came as scores more Syrians crossed into Lebanon. They told of mass killings by security forces in a Syrian border town.

Queen Elizabeth II began her historic visit to Ireland today. It is the first trip there by a British monarch in more than a century. The 85-year-old queen arrived in Dublin under heavy security hours after a bomb was found on a bus near the city. She later met with Ireland’s president and laid a wreath honoring rebels who fought against British control.

The U.S. Senate debated gas prices and tax breaks for big oil companies today. Democrats pushed a measure to repeal the tax breaks and save the federal government $21 billion over the next decade.

Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York said the companies can afford it.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER, D-N.Y.: They’re doing just fine at almost every level of their business, and we’re giving them a taxpayer subsidy at a time when we have record deficits? Give me a break. We believe it’s a no-brainer. We believe it’s long overdue. These companies should be looked into, not lavished with handouts.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Republicans like John Thune of South Dakota argue the Democratic plan doesn’t get at the real issue, the cost of filling up.

SEN. JOHN THUNE, R-S.D.: For the average American, what this translates into is the price for a gallon of gasoline. I mean, that’s what they care about. That’s the economic impact on their pocketbook.

And it’s not — everybody who has looked at this has said that this is going to do nothing to reduce the price of gasoline at the pump for the average American.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Republicans plan to offer their own bill tomorrow to increase offshore drilling. Neither bill has the 60 votes needed to get past filibusters.

Former Calif. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has admitted he fathered a child with a former household staffer. He issued a statement last night after The Los Angeles Times interviewed the woman. The child was born before he first ran for governor in 2003. Schwarzenegger said he told his wife, Maria Shriver, after leaving office in January. Last week, the couple announced they have separated.

The Hall of Fame slugger whose silhouette inspired baseball’s logo died today. Harmon Killebrew passed away at his home in Scottsdale, Ariz. He had cancer of the esophagus. Killebrew began his 22-year career with the Washington Senators in 1954, and moved with the team when it became the Minnesota Twins. He hit 573 home runs and boasted eight seasons with 40 or more, second only to Babe Ruth. Harmon Killebrew was 74 years old.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.