HARI SREENIVASAN: The Federal Reserve painted a brighter picture of the economy today. The Central Bank estimated unemployment will fall a little faster than expected this year and next. Chairman Ben Bernanke said that means the Fed may start scaling back its stimulus efforts later this year. He promised it will come in — quote — “measured steps” to reassure investors.
BEN BERNANKE, Federal Reserve Chairman: We are in a more complex type of situation, but we are determined to be as clear as we can, and we hope that you are and your listeners and the markets will all be able to follow what we’re saying.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Bernanke’s words did little to reassure Wall Street today. Stocks fell sharply on fears that if the Fed curtails its bond-buying program, interest rates will rise and growth will slow. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 206 points to close at 15,112. The Nasdaq fell nearly 39 points to close at 3,443.
The Internal Revenue Service is taking new fire, this time over plans to pay bonuses to employees. Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa said it comes to $70 million dollars, despite a White House directive to cancel such payments due to automatic spending cuts. The IRS said it’s doing what it’s legally required to do under a union contract.
The U.S. Naval Academy charged three male midshipmen today with raping a female classmate and making false statements about it. Officials have said the accused were football players. The incident allegedly happened at an off-campus party a year ago. The Naval Academy has been under pressure to act in the case amid reports of growing sexual abuse in the military.
President Obama today sought to ease European concerns about U.S. surveillance programs. He met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, and said the monitoring of phone calls and Internet data is — quote — “narrowly targeted.”
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: This is not a situation in which we are rifling through the ordinary e-mails of German citizens or American citizens or French citizens or anybody else. And all of it is done under the oversight of the courts. And, as a consequence, we have saved lives.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Merkel said it’s necessary to find an equitable balance between security and civil liberties.
In Somalia, seven militants from the Islamist group Al-Shabab attacked the main U.N. compound in Mogadishu today. They detonated a car bomb at the building’s front gate, then stormed the site with gunfire and explosives. At least 20 people were killed, including all seven of the militants.
The biggest protests to sweep Brazil in more than 20 years showed no sign of ending today. Overnight demonstrations led to looting and vandalism. Today, some 200 activists blocked a major highway in Sao Paulo. Meanwhile, in Fortaleza, police fired tear gas to disperse 15,000 protesters who cut off a main road to the soccer stadium ahead of a tournament game. The demonstrators are targeting corruption, poor services and high taxes, at a time when Brazil is spending billions to host next year’s World Cup of soccer.
The number of refugees worldwide has reached an 18-year high. Data from the U.N. Refugee Agency today showed more than 45 million people were counted as refugees last year or displaced within their own countries. The civil war in Syria was a major factor, along with fighting in Afghanistan.
There’s encouraging news on a vaccine against cervical cancer. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reported today that the HPV vaccine cuts infections among teenage girls by half. Officials said at the CDC — officials at the CDC said it underscores the need to have more girls get the shots. Right now, only about half of teen girls in the U.S. have had at least one dose. Only a third have had all three doses.
Those are some of the day’s major stories — now back to Ray.