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News Wrap: Sarkozy Seeks to Reopen Refineries as Protests Drain Gas Stations

October 20, 2010 at 4:55 PM EST
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HARI SREENIVASAN: Wall Street rebounded today from Tuesday’s big losses. A fall in the dollar’s value encouraged buying of industrial and commodities shares. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 129 points to close near 11108. The Nasdaq rose 20 points to close at 2457.

In France, President Nicolas Sarkozy ordered riot police to clear blockades around the country’s oil refineries. Strikers angered by pension reforms had blocked the refineries for days, and a third of France’s gas stations ran dry.

Union members also blocked access to several major airports today, prompting flight cancellations. And strikes continued on the rail system. Meanwhile, teenagers in a Paris suburb and in the city of Lyon clashed with police. The officers fired back with tear gas and rubber bullets.

The U.S. announced a major arms deal with Saudi Arabia today worth up to $60 billion. The sale includes 84 new F-15 fighter jets and 140 Apache and Black Hawk helicopters. Assistant Secretary of State Andrew Shapiro said the sale will safeguard the Saudis in a dangerous neighborhood, with Iran pursuing a nuclear program.

ANDREW SHAPIRO, assistant secretary of state, Political-Military Affairs: It will send a strong message to countries in the region that we’re committed to support the security of our key partners and allies in the Arabian Gulf and broader Middle East.

And it will enhance Saudi Arabia’s ability to deter and defend against threats to its borders and to its oil infrastructure, which is critical to oureconomic interests.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Shapiro also said the U.S. consulted with Israel and doesn’t expect any objections from the government there.

Election officials in Afghanistan have tossed out more than a million ballots from last month’s election for Parliament. That amounts to 23 percent of the 5.6 million votes that were cast. The Elections Commission blamed fraud today, the same problem that marred last year’s presidential vote.

And, in the latest violence, a roadside bomb blew up a school bus, killing eight children. And NATO reported another soldier killed, number 48 this month.

The CIA has no plans to punish anyone for an attack that killed seven agency employees in Afghanistan in 2009. Director Leon Panetta said Tuesday no one person was to blame. Instead, he cited systematic failures. The attack involved a Jordanian double agent Humam al-Balawi. He was allowed in to a CIA base in Khost, and then blew himself up.

The wife of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has been rebuffed in a plea to Anita Hill to apologize. In 1991, at Thomas’ confirmation hearings, Hill accused him of sexual harassment. Thomas adamantly denied the claim. Then, earlier this month, Virginia Thomas left Hill a voice-mail, asking for an apology and explanation. Last night, Hill issued a statement that said she stands by her testimony.

The Graco company will recall two million baby strollers after reports that four infants were trapped and strangled. The Quattro Tour and MetroLite models were made in China and sold at retailers across the U.S. before 2007. The Consumer Product Safety Commission warned today that babies can slide down between the stroller tray and seat bottom.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.