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Wall Street Closes Out the Week on a Strong Note

September 24, 2010 at 5:35 PM EDT

HARI SREENIVASAN: Wall Street closed out the week with a big finish. Stocks took off after news that factory orders and business spending rose in August.

The Dow Jones industrial average gained more than 197 points to close at 10860. The Nasdaq rose 54 points to close at 2381. For the week, the Dow gained nearly 2.5 percent; the Nasdaq rose nearly 3 percent.

A federal judge in Takoma, Washington, has ordered the Air Force to

reinstate a former flight nurse. Major Margaret Witt was discharged under the military’s don’t ask, don’t tell policy after she revealed that she a lesbian. The judge found the dismissal violated Witt’s constitutional rights.

President Obama traded barbs with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

today in a new war of words. The Iranian leader addressed the U.N. General Assembly yesterday, and suggested that the U.S. government played a role in the 9/11 attacks.

Today, in an interview with the BBC Persian news service, Mr. Obama condemned the remarks.

U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: It was offensive. It was hateful. And particularly for him to make the statement here in Manhattan, just — just a little north of Ground Zero, for him to make a statement like that was inexcusable.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Ahmadinejad refused to back away from his claim. At a news conference in New York, he called the background to the 9/11 attacks suspicious.

MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, Iranian President (through translator): What I raised is a very clear discussion and a precise one. Don’t you feel that, if a fact-finding mission was present from the start to explore the true reason behind September 11, that we wouldn’t see the catastrophes in Afghanistan and Iraq? Why do you assume that all nations should accept what the U.S. government tells them?

HARI SREENIVASAN: Ahmadinejad also said Iran would consider a halt to enriching uranium if it receives nuclear fuel for a medical research reactor. And he said Iran is ready to resume international talks on its nuclear program.

Also at the U.N., President Obama urged Sudan to ensure a referendum on

independence will be fair and on schedule. Under a 2005 peace agreement, the people of South Sudan are due to vote in January on whether to secede from the north. The president warned that, if the vote is not credible, there could be new violence.

Parts of western Wisconsin and southern Minnesota were paralyzed today

after severe flooding. Remnants of Tropical Storm Georgette have dumped nearly a foot of rain this week. That sent rivers and streams rising out of their banks, washing out roads, and forcing hundreds of people to evacuate. The governors of both states have declared emergencies.

Comedian and satirist Stephen Colbert took his celebrity to a U.S. House hearing today to raise awareness about farm workers. Colbert recently spent a day picking beans in a United Farm Workers program called Take Our Jobs. It aims to show that few Americans will do such work, leaving low-paid illegal immigrants to do it.

STEPHEN COLBERT, host, “The Colbert Report”: I think there are way too many undocumented Mexican workers here in the United States doing jobs. And I think that we have ignored this issue for too long, and it is time to roll up our sleeves and face this issue mano a whatever the Spanish word for mano is.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Colbert stayed in character as a mock newscommentator for much of the hearing.

In India, athletes from around the world began to arrive in New Delhi for the troubled Commonwealth Games. The event has been plagued by negative publicity about unfinished venues and dirty accommodations for athletes. And the start of competition is just nine days away. Some athletes have pulled out, but New Zealand and Australia confirmed today their athletes will attend.

Rescuers in New Zealand scrambled today to save 24 stranded pilot whales. It was the second mass stranding in the last month, and the cause remained a mystery. The whales were trucked to another beach 30 miles away to be refloated. They were the only survivors from the pod of 80 whales that beached on Wednesday. Three more whales died during today’s rescue attempt.