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News Wrap: Italian Political Instability Prompts Wall Street Tumble

February 25, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT
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HARI SREENIVASAN: Wall Street had one of its worst days of the year, amid new fears about instability in Europe. Stocks went into a late-day sell-off after reports that Italy might be unable to form a new government. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 216 points to close at 13,784. The Nasdaq fell 45 points to close at 3,116.

Those reports of paralysis in Italy followed crucial parliamentary elections there. Turnout was low, and a protest movement led by a comedian won nearly a quarter of the vote. As officials counted ballots, partial results showed no clear winner. Instead, it appeared opposing coalitions would split control of Parliament. That prompted warnings of a stalemate.

STEFANO FASSINA, Economic Spokesperson for Democratic Party: If a rejection, very worrying. If they are confirmed, it means that Italy will not have a government, so it will be a very, very dangerous — very, very dangerous scenario.

HARI SREENIVASAN: If no party is able to form a government, there could be new elections at a time when Italy is still grappling with severe financial problems.

NATO has found no evidence so far that U.S. special forces tortured civilians in Eastern Afghanistan. The coalition issued that statement today after Afghan President Hamid Karzai ordered all U.S. special forces to leave a key region within two weeks. Local officials in Wardak Province have blamed Americans in the disappearance of at least nine men and the murder of a university student.

A trial opened today in New Orleans on exactly who will pay how much more in the 2010 Gulf oil spill, the nation’s worst offshore oil disaster. BP says it has already paid $24 billion dollars in spill-related expenses. Now a federal judge will decide the liability of the oil giant and its partners, Transocean and Halliburton, for $20 billion dollars in civil claims. The trial is expected to last months, but the judge has promised not to let it drag on.

Major new research finds that eating Mediterranean-style can cut your risk of major heart problems by 30 percent. A study in Spain, published today, praised the benefits of olive oil, nuts, fish, and vegetables. The study lasted five years and involved 7,500 people. It was by far the most detailed look at Mediterranean diets. The findings were published in “The New England Journal of Medicine.”

Former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop died today in Hanover, New Hampshire. Koop gained national notoriety in the 1980s under President Reagan by endorsing condoms and sex education to stop AIDS, and campaigning against smoking. He spoke about his anti-smoking efforts on the NewsHour in 1989.

C. EVERETT KOOP, Former U.S. Surgeon General: I could not work for a tobacco company. I couldn’t even work on an assembly line making cigarettes. In fact, I once talked to a man in one of the cigarette-producing cities. And he said, “You know, I have come to believe that even the machine that turns out those little white things is evil.”

I think you have got to recognize that if we suddenly ran on tobacco tomorrow as something we didn’t know anything about before, there would be no doubt about the fact it would be treated the way we treat toxic wastes or other things that threaten the health of our people.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Koop left office that same year and founded an institute at Dartmouth in Hanover to teach basic values and ethics to medical students. C. Everett Koop was 96 years old.

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