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News Wrap: Eurozone Leaders Focus on Preventing Greek Default

September 14, 2011 at 12:00 AM EDT

HARI SREENIVASAN: Wall Street had an upbeat day. Stocks rose amid new signs that European leaders would act to prevent Greece from defaulting on its debt. The Dow Jones industrial average gained nearly 141 points to close at 11,246. The Nasdaq rose 40 points to close at 2,572.

Markets in Europe also finished higher. The rally came as leaders of Greece, France, and Germany held an emergency teleconference. At the same time, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso warned there is no simple solution to the debt crisis.

JOSE MANUEL BARROSO, European Commission: We are confronted with the most serious challenge of a generation. This is a fight for the jobs and prosperities of families in all our member states. This is a fight for the economic and political future of Europe. This is a fight for what Europe represents in the world. This is a fight for European integration itself.

HARI SREENIVASAN: In a related development, the Italian Parliament passed a new austerity plan to reduce Italy’s deficit by $70 billion over the next three years. Hundreds of demonstrators protested in Rome against the plan’s tax hikes and spending cuts. The protesters threw smoke bombs as they clashed with police in riot gear.

A major investigation of last year’s Gulf oil spill put the overall blame on BP today. The U.S. Coast Guard and the federal bureau that regulates offshore drilling issued a final report. It said: “BP, as the designated operator, was ultimately responsible for conducting operations in a way that ensured the safety and protection of personnel and the environment.”

The report said BP violated a series of federal rules on the well’s cement seal and blowout preventer. Both failed, leading to the deaths of 11 rig workers and the worst offshore spill in U.S. history.

A new wave of attacks struck at Iraqi security forces today. At least 19 people died in three separate incidents. More than 50 others were wounded. The worst attack was south of Baghdad, near Hillah. A car bomb blew up outside a busy restaurant as local police were eating inside. At least 15 people died there.

In Afghanistan, an assault on the heart of Kabul finally ended after 20 hours with 27 Afghans and insurgents dead. NATO helicopters and troops killed the last insurgents in an unfinished high-rise building. From there, the militants had fired on the U.S. Embassy and other key structures.

U.S. Marine Gen. John Allen, commanding NATO forces, conceded the militants won a propaganda victory. But the American Ambassador Ryan Crocker rejected comparisons to the communist Tet Offensive in Vietnam in 1968.

RYAN CROCKER, U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan: You know, this really is not a very big deal, you know, hard day for the embassy and my staff, who behaved with enormous courage and dedication. But, look, a half-a-dozen RPG rounds from 800 meters away, that isn’t Tet. That’s — that’s harassment.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Crocker accused the Haqqani Network, based in Pakistan, of carrying out the assault.

Officials in Iran sent mixed signals today about the fate of two American hikers arrested in 2009 and convicted of spying. The judiciary system said it is still reviewing bail for Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal. It gave no indication when a decision would come. Just yesterday, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said a court has set bail of $500,000 dollars apiece and the two would be freed within days.

NASA has unveiled the general plans for its powerful new rocket to take astronauts into deep space. Shown in this animation, the giant space launch system would allow manned exploration of asteroids and Mars. It would carry six astronauts and more than three times the payload of the now-retired space shuttles.

In Washington today, Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida, chair of the Science and Space Subcommittee, said the program will cost $18 billion over the next five years.

SEN. BILL NELSON, D-Fla.: We are in an era in which we have to do more with less all across the board. And the competition for the available dollars will be fierce. But what we have here now are the realistic costs that have been scrubbed by an outside, independent third party in their study of NASA.

HARI SREENIVASAN: NASA hopes to start unmanned test flights of the new rocket in 2017 with the first crew in space by 2021.

The summer long Texas heat wave has reached another milestone. On Tuesday, it was over 100 degrees in Wichita Falls for the 100th day this year. The old record was 79 days, set back in 1980. And Laredo reached 100 again today for the 115th time this year. Just last week, Texas officially recorded the hottest June, July and August in the country ever.

There was bad news today in the latest SAT results for American high schoolers. Reading scores for the class of 2011 were the lowest on record. And the combined reading and math scores were the lowest since 1995. The College Board administers the test. It said the record size and diversity of those being tested affected the results.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.