News Wrap: Fighting Escalates in Damascus, Pulitzer Winning Columnist Dies at 76
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KWAME HOLMAN: Fed Chairman Bernanke defended the Central Bank’s response to a British banking scandal. Barclays has admitted under-reporting its cost of borrowing to artificially lower the LIBOR, a benchmark interest rate.
The Fed’s New York branch warned of the problem in 2008, but Bernanke said it lacked authority to do more. He also said the problem may not be over.
BEN BERNANKE, Federal Reserve chairman: I can’t give that assurance with full confidence, because the British Bankers’ Association didn’t adopt most of the suggestions that were made by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. They made a relatively small number of changes. I think it’s likely that the concerns are less now, because we are no longer in the crisis period.
KWAME HOLMAN: In addition to Barclays, British officials are investigating a number of other major banks.
Leaders of the British bank HSBC went before a U.S. Senate committee today over allegations of laundering drug money. A Senate investigation found the bank failed to stop Mexican cartels from running funds through its U.S. operations.
The head of the U.S. branch said HSBC had been lax.
IRENE DORNER, HSBC Bank USA: We must have the proper controls and systems in place to ensure that we are doing the right business in the right places with the right customers, and that our customers’ transactions are properly monitored.
KWAME HOLMAN: Also at the hearing, the bank’s top compliance officer announced he was stepping down from that position, but will remain at the bank.
In Syria today, fighting between government forces and rebels escalated in Damascus. And hundreds more people fled into neighboring Turkey and Jordan, where the British foreign secretary toured the scene.
We have a report on the fighting and the refugees from John Ray of Independent Television News.
JOHN RAY: This is a battle President Assad cannot afford to lose. So, his tanks and his troops are pouring into Damascus to confront rebel fighters who have held out for three days. These are not distant suburbs, but streets near the heart of the capital.
As the fighting has raged, so the numbers taking flight have soared to the searing heat of a dusty transit camp on the Jordanian border.
William Hague came here today to listen to their stories.
WILLIAM HAGUE, British Foreign Secretary: The sheer barbarity and criminality of the Assad regime is fully on display when you listen to the people here.
JOHN RAY: But to those suffering most, diplomatic efforts to solve this crisis seem, at best, irrelevant.
Some 2,000 people have arrived at this camp in the past three days. They have escaped with their lives, but little else. And this is just part of the price being paid for Syria’s descent into all-out civil war and the world’s inability to do anything to stop it.
Between them, these women have lost more than a dozen family members, husbands, sons and brothers.
“If we had stayed, we too would have been slaughtered,” she tells me.
But today in Damascus, even the call to prayer is drowned out by gunfire. Any regime that cannot control its capital is a regime losing its grip on power.
KWAME HOLMAN: The U.N. Security Council is to meet tomorrow on possible sanctions against the Syrian regime. So far, Russia and China have opposed a tougher response.
In the U.S. presidential campaign, Republican Mitt Romney charged President Obama had insulted American business leaders. On Friday, Mr. Obama pointed to government projects that contribute to commercial success. At one point, he said, “If you have got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”
Romney fired off a response today in Pennsylvania.
MITT ROMNEY (R): To say something like that is not just foolishness. It’s insulting to every entrepreneur, every innovator in America. And it is wrong.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MITT ROMNEY: President Obama attacks success and, therefore, under President Obama, we have less success. And I will change that.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
KWAME HOLMAN: The president didn’t respond to Romney as he campaigned today in Texas. Instead, he urged supporters not to be diverted by attacks on his record.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Their message is, the economy’s not where it needs to be, and it’s Obama’s fault.
So, there will be various — there will be variations on the theme, but it will be the same message over and over and over again. That’s what they’re banking on, because they can’t sell their actual economic plan.
KWAME HOLMAN: Also today, a Romney supporter, former New Hampshire Governor John Sununu, criticized the Obama record on business. He said, “I wish this president would learn how to be an American.” Later, Sununu said he meant the president needs to learn the American formula for creating business.
Wall Street managed gains today, thanks to stronger earnings from Mattel, Coca-Cola, and other big firms. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 78 points to close at 12,805. The Nasdaq rose 13 points to close at 2,910.
Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist William Raspberry died today at his home in Washington. He had prostate cancer. Raspberry wrote for The Washington Post for nearly 40 years, and became one of the most widely read black journalists of his generation. In 1994, he became just the second black writer to win the Pulitzer Prize for commentary. William Raspberry was 76 years old.
Those are some of the day’s major stories.