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News Wrap: Firefighters Battle High Winds in Northern Colorado

June 18, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT
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HARI SREENIVASAN: Wall Street searched for direction today amid doubts about the way ahead in Europe. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 25 points to close at 12,741. The Nasdaq rose 22 points to close at 2,895, helped by a rally in Apple and other tech stocks.

More than 1,700 firefighters battled heat and high winds today, trying to corral a record-breaking fire in northern Colorado. The big blaze grew to 91 square miles over the weekend, forcing new evacuations. Conditions on Sunday saw 50-mile-an-hour winds fanning the flames. Crews had to struggle to maintain existing containment lines, and a local sheriff warned the fight is a long way from over.

JUSTIN SMITH, Larimer County, Colo., Sheriff: This isn’t a single battle. This is a campaign. This campaign is going to go on for some time. And we’re going to have some good days and we’re going to have some tough days. I would say we certainly anticipate with those same conditions it will probably be a tough day today.

HARI SREENIVASAN: So far the fire has destroyed 181 homes, the most in Colorado’s history. As of today, it was 45 percent contained. President Obama’s choice to be ambassador to Iraq has withdrawn. Brett McGurk had faced opposition from Senate Republicans after disclosures that he had an extramarital affair with a journalist. She later became his wife.

In a letter today to the president, McGurk said it was in the nation’s best interests and his own that he remove his name from consideration.
In Syria, fresh shelling ripped through the embattled city of Homs. Smoke billowed from buildings as Syrian forces fired on rebel-held neighborhoods. That was despite U.N. appeals to allow evacuations of families, the elderly, and the wounded.

A spokeswoman for the U.N. observer mission called again today for both sides to allow humanitarian measures.

SAUSAN GHOSHEH, spokeswoman, U.N. Mission to Syria: The parties need to change their positions and release these civilians without any preconditions. They must ensure their safety. They must protect and respect their human life. If and when the decision is taken by both parties to release the civilians, we are ready and — to be there and monitor their evacuation.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The surge in violence forced the 300 U.N. observers to suspend their mission on Saturday.
Meanwhile, President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed Syria today at the G20 summit in Mexico. But there was no sign they narrowed their differences. The U.S. has pressed Russia to stop blocking stronger U.N. action against Syria.

Three church bombings in northern Nigeria triggered reprisal killings today. The Red Cross reported at least 50 people had died since Sunday, with roughly 100 others wounded. Yesterday’s blasts targeted the state of Kaduna, which sits between the country’s largely Muslim north and predominately Christian south.

A radical Islamist sect, Boko Haram, claimed responsibility for the bombings.

The latest round of talks on Iran’s nuclear program began today in Moscow, but there was little progress. Six world powers, including the U.S., met with Iran’s chief negotiator. A spokesman for the European Union reported an intense and tough exchange. Diplomats said the Iranians insisted on relief from international sanctions before it curbs any nuclear activities.

A manned Chinese spacecraft successfully docked with an orbiting module today. It marked a first for the country’s ambitious space program.

We have a report from Angus Walker of Independent Television News.

ANGUS WALKER: More than 200 miles above the Earth, zooming through space at 17,000 miles an hour, docking has to be millimeter-perfect.

Relief for mission control, a great leap forward for China’s planned space station, the prototype, called Heavenly Palace, now a cramped home for a crew of three for almost a fortnight, a record-breaking stay in space for the Chinese.

If this mission continues to go to plan, then by the end of the decade while still officially a developing nation, China will be the only country with a working space station, a status symbol in the stars for the Chinese government.

And Liu Yang, China’s first female astronaut, is now a star among the stars, a national heroine back on Earth.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

ANGUS WALKER: As the rocket blasted off taking her to rendezvous with the space station, crowds gathered in her hometown, her parents guests of honor.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

HARI SREENIVASAN: China plans to put a permanent space station in orbit around 2020.
Google is reporting what it calls an alarming increase in attempts to censor its online search efforts. The company says government agencies around the world pressed for information on more than 12,000 users in the last half of 2011. Google complied 93 percent of the time.

In addition, U.S. agencies asked for items such as blog posts and search results to be removed nearly 6,200 times. The data come from a transparency report which the company made public overnight.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.