News Wrap: American Airlines, U.S. Airways merge into world’s largest carrier

December 9, 2013 at 12:00 AM EST
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GWEN IFILL: The deal creating the world’s largest airline became official today. American Airlines emerged from bankruptcy to join with U.S. Airways. The new carrier will operate under the American Airlines name. The merger leaves four airlines controlling more than 80 percent of the American travel market. Passengers won’t see immediate changes to reservations or frequent flyer programs, and it remains unclear if the deal will mean higher fares.

Eight of the most prominent U.S. tech companies, including Apple, Google and Facebook, are calling for tighter controls on government surveillance. They sent an open letter to President Obama today, in the wake of revelations that the government collects personal data from their networks. We will hear from Microsoft on what’s driving the companies’ concerns right after the news summary.

An icy, snowy mix made its way into New England today after leaving a messy trail in its wake. Ice brought down power lines from Texas to Tennessee to Virginia, and commuters faced hazardous driving this morning. Air travel was also a big problem, with another 1,600 flights canceled today. People were stranded all over the country.

MAN: Last night, the lines for customer service, you couldn’t see the end of them. And they were handing out pieces of paper saying, here, call this number. You call the number, all circuits busy. It was just a nightmare.

GWEN IFILL: In all, there have been 6,100 flights canceled nationwide since Saturday and hundreds more delayed.

Eight Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states asked today for new federal curbs on air pollution created by their neighbors. They want nine Southern and Midwestern states to regulate power plant emissions that are carried northeast by prevailing winds. The Supreme Court hears arguments tomorrow in a related case involving 28 states.

South Africa made ready today for a mass memorial service honoring Nelson Mandela. At least 100,000 people, including nearly 100 world leaders, are expected to attend tomorrow. President Obama and Mrs. Obama left Washington this morning, joined on Air Force One by former President George W. Bush and his wife. Former Presidents Clinton and Carter will also attend.

There’s been more unrest in the Central African Republic, as gunmen refuse to give up their weapons to French troops. The French patrolled the capital city today, trying to disarm rival Muslim and Christian fighters who killed 400 people over the weekend. We will have a report from the CAR later in the program.

The prime minister of Thailand called for new elections today, in the face of protests against her rule. The opposition has accused her of corruption, insisting again she must go.

John Sparks of independent television news reports from Bangkok.

JOHN SPARKS: Protest leaders called it the day of reckoning, a time to do or die. And their call was answered on the streets of Bangkok by more than 150,000 people. And each one seemed determined to topple the Thai government.

MAN (through interpreter): We have got to get them out. We’re playing our last card.

JOHN SPARKS: They have been at it for weeks, a rolling protest against the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. With demonstrators converging on government headquarters this morning, the Thai prime minister made a surprise announcement. She dissolved the government.

Ms. Yingluck, who sounded shaken, said, “Let the people decide who governs next.”

Back on the streets, the prime minister’s big declaration had little impact. Many here don’t want elections. They want something completely different. The leader of these protests wasn’t taking questions this morning. He was surrounded by a phalanx of bodyguards. His name is Suthep Thaugsuban, and the silver-haired politician wants to replace the government with a non-elected body of experts.

Later, Mr. Suthep held court in front of a massive crowd, this his daily address. And he said they would need three extra days to take power. But the protesters have a problem. They don’t represent the majority in Thailand. If the elections take place, Yingluck will almost certainly win.

There seems no easy resolution to all this. And the battle for power will go on.

GWEN IFILL: In Ukraine, there were signs of a possible crackdown one day after hundreds of thousands of people protested against the government. Riot troops stormed an opposition party office in Kiev today, and police also tore down banners and tents blocking city offices. We will talk to a correspondent on the ground in Ukraine later in the program.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has expelled the country’s second most powerful figure, his uncle, from the ruling circle. State TV broadcast images Sunday that showed uniformed guards taking 67-year-old Jang Song Thaek into custody. The unusually public purge happened at a party meeting. Jang is charged with corruption, womanizing and abusing alcohol and drugs.

Eighteen current and former Los Angeles sheriff’s deputies face federal charges in a civil rights and corruption case. The announcement today alleged beatings of inmates and jail visitors, unjustified detentions and conspiracy to obstruct a federal investigation. The probe focuses on the county jail system, the nation’s largest.

Princeton University began immunizing nearly 6,000 students today against type B meningitis. The outbreak was deemed so serious that the Food and Drug Administration authorized use of a vaccine not yet licensed in the U.S. Since March, eight people at Princeton have been stricken by the potentially fatal disease. It’s spread through kissing, coughing and other contact.

The federal bailout of General Motors is officially over. The Treasury sold its remaining shares in the automaker today. In the end, the net cost to taxpayers was $10.5 billion. And on Wall Street today, the Dow Jones industrial average gained five points to close at 16,025. The Nasdaq rose six points to close at 4,068.