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News Wrap: Italy Fast Tracks Austerity Vote

July 15, 2011 at 12:00 AM EDT
In other news Friday, Italy's parliament gave final approval to a new set of austerity measures, two high-level resignations occurred in the Murdoch media empire and hundreds of thousands of protesters gathered in Syria in the largest rallies since the uprisings began.
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HARI SREENIVASAN: The lower house of Italy’s Parliament gave final approval today to a new set of austerity measures. Lawmakers passed the $99 billion package to balance the budget by 2014. It includes freezing pay for government workers and hiking health care fees. The Italian government fast-
tracked the vote to fend off the debt crisis which has already engulfed Greece, Ireland and Portugal.

The scandal swirling around the Murdoch media empire forced an apology from the very top today and two high-level resignations.

We have a report from Cathy Newman of Independent Television News.

 CATHY NEWMAN: This is the humbling of a media mogul. Rupert Murdoch has come to this Central London hotel to pay penance, to apologize for the first time to the Dowler family…

QUESTION: Mr. Murdoch, what did you say to Milly Dowler’s family?

CATHY NEWMAN: … over allegations the News of the World hacked into their daughter Milly’s phone after she died.

Just yesterday, Rupert Murdoch called The Wall Street Journal, one of his own papers, to insist that the phone hacking crisis had been handled extremely well in every way possible. He said there had only been a few minor mistakes.

Today, he tried to stop the rot.

RUPERT MURDOCH, Chairman and CEO, News Corporation: As the founder of the company, I was appalled to find out what had happened. And I apologized. And I have nothing further to say.

CATHY NEWMAN: The Dowler family’s lawyer said he believed the tycoon’s regret was genuine.

MARK LEWIS, Dowler Family Lawyer: Yes, he did apologize. He apologized many times. I don’t think somebody could have held their hands in their – head in their hands so many times to say that they were sorry.

CATHY NEWMAN: Rupert Murdoch’s used to having everything his own way, but no longer. He’s already abandoned his bid for BSkyB and closed the News of the World.

And this morning, he had to sacrifice News International’s chief executive, Rebekah Brooks, the paper’s former editor. In a statement, she said: “As chief executive of the company, I feel a deep sense of responsibility for the people we have hurt. And I want to reiterate how sorry I am for what we now
know to have taken place. I have believed that the right and responsible action has been to lead us through the heat of the crisis. However, my desire to remain on the bridge has made me a focal point of the debate.”

 TOM WATSON, British Parliamentarian: There is no chance of the lid being put back on this cover-up now. Rupert Murdoch knows that. He’s got to get all the facts out into the public domain. We need to get to the truth. And her departure helps that happen.

CATHY NEWMAN: Full disclosure could spell trouble for this man, the Metropolitan Police commissioner, Sir Paul Stephenson. He’s under fire for the close relationship he and his senior officers enjoyed with the News of the World. He even gave the paper’s former deputy editor a job last year.

 Politicians are asking if Scotland Yard’s links to the paper stopped police probing the phone-hacking scandal more deeply. Full disclosure is embarrassing, too, for the prime minister. A list of engagements released by Downing Street today show just how frequently he paid court to News Corp. executives, and they to him.

The prime minister won’t be saying sorry for that, but Rupert Murdoch will be apologizing again this weekend for what he called serious wrongdoing at the News of the World. He’s personally signed a letter which will run as an advert in seven national newspapers.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Later in the day, a second top Murdoch executive resigned. Since 2007, Les Hinton has been CEO at Dow Jones and Company, publisher of The Wall Street Journal. But, for 12 years, he chaired the company that oversaw the British tabloids now involved in the scandal.

He said in a statement today he was ignorant of what apparently happened, but felt it proper to resign.

For more on that part of the story, I’m joined by Rem Rieder of “American Journalism Review.” Thanks for being with us.

REM RIEDER, “American Journalism Review”: My pleasure.

HARI SREENIVASAN: So tell us a little bit about Mr. Hinton. Who is he? How important is this resignation?

REM RIEDER: Well, it is very important and it’s very inevitable.

Hinton has been very close to Murdoch for a long time and has quite a good reputation, actually, in this country for his work at The Journal. His problem was the fact that he oversaw the News of the World during the years of the hacking, and not only — you know, took any steps to halt it, if he indeed
knew about it — he says he didn’t — but twice assured Parliament that – that the work — the hacking was the work of a single rogue, that there was no systematic effort, that there was no pattern.

And, naturally, there is a lot of anger about that in Britain. So, even though he’s — I’m sure it was a tough day, losing two of his key people for Mr. Murdoch, they go back — these two go back 50 years — but there was no way this wasn’t going to happen.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Now, what about the relationship between Hinton and Rebekah Brooks? Does this mean that perhaps they were much closer and they knew that these things were happening?

REM RIEDER: I don’t think we know that, and I don’t think these developments really tell us much about that.

 It’s — yes, they certainly overlapped when Rebekah Brooks was running News of the World and Mr. Hinton was overseeing all of the British papers. But the question, of course, is — you know, is, how did they not know about it, or shouldn’t they have known about it?

But, you know, Hinton in his statement was very emphatic that it was in good faith that he twice told Parliament that this was the work of one person. And he said pointedly that he thought that the rot was gone when he left to come to the U.S. to run Dow Jones and The Wall Street Journal.

HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Rem Rieder of the “American Journalism Review,” thanks so much for your time.

REM RIEDER: Oh, it’s my pleasure. Thanks.

HARI SREENIVASAN: In Syria today, huge crowds of protesters challenged the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, and security forces once again opened fire. Activists reported at least 32 people were killed.

The demonstrators, hundreds of thousands strong, flooded into cities across Syria, even in Damascus, the capital. They clapped, cheered and waved banners in the largest rallies since the uprising began more than four months ago.

The U.S. and more than 30 other nations have formally recognized the main opposition group in Libya as the legitimate government. The announcement came at a gathering in Turkey today.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Moammar Gadhafi has forfeited his right to rule to the Transitional National Council.

U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON: Until an interim authority is in place, the United States will recognize the TNC as the legitimate governing authority for Libya, and we will deal with it on that basis. In contrast, the United States views the Gadhafi regime as no longer having legitimate authority in Libya.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The Libyan uprising began in February. The battle has since hit a stalemate, with Gadhafi controlling the capital, Tripoli, and much of western Libya. The rebels control the east, with NATO enforcing a no- fly zone and hitting government targets.

On Wall Street, stocks managed a late-day rally, after a rough week. The Dow Jones industrial average gained more than 42 points to close above 12479. The Nasdaq rose 27 points to close above 2789. For the week, the Dow lost more than 1 percent; the Nasdaq fell more than 2 percent.

After a four-year flight, NASA is ready for a rendezvous with the giant asteroid Vesta. The unmanned Dawn spacecraft has flown 1.7 billion miles, and, if all goes well, it will enter orbit around the asteroid tonight. It is expected to search for clues about the solar system’s origin. The spacecraft uses ion propulsion, so it can approach the asteroid slowly at just 60 miles an hour. A year from now, it will move on to an even larger asteroid.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.