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News Wrap: Great Plains Snowstorm Kills at Least 6, Closes Major Highways

December 20, 2011 at 12:00 AM EDT

HARI SREENIVASAN: Wall Street had its best day in months, after encouraging news at home and abroad. The Dow Jones industrial average surged ahead 337 points to close at 12,103. The Nasdaq rose 80 points to close at 2,603.

The gains came as Germany reported increased business and consumer confidence, investors became more confident that Spain could repay its debts, and the U.S. government said housing starts rose in November.

A snowstorm howled across the Great Plains for a second day, killing at least six people. High winds and driving snow had closed major highways in five states by late Monday from eastern New Mexico to Kansas. Whiteout conditions stopped many travelers in their paths, and hotels and motels along many routes were booked solid. Two feet of snow fell in some places.

WOMAN: It went from rain to sleet to snow. And by the time we hit Kansas, it was really crazy. I slid off in the median, was there for several hours waiting for help. And it took me three hours to get 30 miles.

HARI SREENIVASAN: As the day went on, conditions improved a bit across the Plains and major highways reopened. But the brunt of the storm headed into Missouri and the Great Lakes region.

In Egypt, troops and riot police raided Cairo’s Tahrir Square in a new bid to evict protesters against military control. At least 14 people have been killed in five days of violent confrontations. In response, hundreds of women marched through central Cairo today criticizing military brutality.

There have been repeated attacks on women, including one who was stripped half-naked, beaten by soldiers and dragged through the streets.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.