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News Wrap: New WikiLeaks Document Reveals U.S. Critique of Karzai

November 30, 2010 at 5:42 PM EDT

HARI SREENIVASAN: The WikiLeaks story took new turns today. The whistle-blower Web site released a secret U.S. diplomatic memo criticizing Afghan President Hamid Karzai. It said he freed dangerous detainees and pardoned drug dealers because of their ties to powerful people. WikiLeaks began releasing 250,000 State Department documents over the weekend.

But, today, Defense Secretary Gates played down the overall effect.

U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE ROBERT GATES: The fact is governments deal with the United States because it’s in their interest, not because they like us, not because they trust us, and not because they believe we can keep secrets. Many government — some governments deal with us because they fear us, some because they respect us, most because they need us.

We are still essentially, as has been said before, the indispensable nation.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Also today, the State Department cut off a U.S. military computer network from its database of diplomatic cables. That network is believed to have been the source of all the documents that were funneled to WikiLeaks.

U.S. consumer confidence hit a five-month high in November. The Conference Board, a business research group, said it suggests a measure of optimism about the first half of next year.

But Wall Street lost ground today over concerns about the ongoing debt crisis in some European nations. The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 46 points to close at 11006. The Nasdaq fell just under 27 points to close at 2498.

The European Union will investigate whether Google is manipulating online search results to stifle competition. The announcement today followed complaints by other online search companies. European officials said the probe could take at least a few months, while Google said there’s nothing to investigate.

They spoke separately, in Brussels and Paris.

AMELIA TORRES, spokeswoman, European Union Competition Commission: I think it is important to know that we are at the very beginning of an investigation. Basically, by opening this investigation today, what we are saying is that the allegations that we have received merit further investigation.

BILL ECHIKSON, senior communications manager, Google: We think that there’s lots of competition. I mean, yes, we’re a big player in online search, but if you’re looking for books, you can look for Amazon first before us. If you’re looking for travel, you might go to Expedia. So, there’s lots of ways of getting and finding information online.

HARI SREENIVASAN: This marks the first time a major regulatory agency has opened a formal probe into Google’s business practices. Microsoft and Intel have already faced investigations by Europe’s antitrust regulators, and been fined billions of dollars.

The Senate today easily passed food safety legislation, giving new powers to the Food and Drug Administration. The bill includes $1.4 billion to pay for increased inspections, stricter standards on imported foods, and mandatory recalls. It has to be reconciled with a House version, but prospects of final passage during this lame-duck session are unclear.

In other action, senators again rejected a ban on earmarking money for home state projects like roads and sewer lines. Most Republicans pushed for the ban. Most Democrats voted against it.

On the House side, lawmakers gave final approval to settlements for black farmers and American Indians. They will receive $4.6 billion for claims they were wrongly denied farm loans and cheated out of royalties.

There’s new evidence that taking high doses of Vitamin D and calcium supplements does little good. The results came today in a study by the U.S. Institute of Medicine, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences. It found the average American gets enough Vitamin D through sun exposure, multivitamins, and a diet rich in fortified foods. It also found no proof that mega-doses of Vitamin D can cut the risk of colon cancer, as some have claimed.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.