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News Wrap: Supreme Court to Consider Affirmative Action Challenge

February 21, 2012 at 12:00 AM EST
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KWAME HOLMAN: The U.S. Supreme Court will revisit the issue of affirmative action in college admissions in arguments this fall. The court agreed today to hear a case filed by a white student who was denied entry at the University of Texas in 2008.

She contends the school’s race-conscious policy is unconstitutional. The high court last ruled on the issue in 2003, when it upheld the use of race in admissions at the University of Michigan Law School.

Federal regulators moved today to ease critical shortages of two cancer drugs. The Food and Drug Administration announced it’s allowing temporary imports of a replacement drug for Doxil, used to treat ovarian cancer. The agency also approved new suppliers of methotrexate, a drug to treat children with leukemia.

An official at the American Cancer Society said patients need the relief.

DR. LEONARD LICHTENFELD, American Cancer Society: The current drug shortage has become a daily nightmare for cancer patients, their families, and those who treat them, with no clear understanding of when drugs currently in shortage will become available and an uncertainty of when additional drugs may go into shortage.

KWAME HOLMAN: FDA officials said there currently are 283 prescription drugs in scarce supply or simply unavailable in the U.S.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average broke 13000 for the first time since May of 2008, but it could not hold. Instead, the Dow ended with a gain of just 15 points to close at 12,965. The Nasdaq fell three points to close at 2,948.

A team from the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog agency held new talks in Iran today on the country’s nuclear program. The group is supposed to gauge whether Iran is getting closer to developing a nuclear weapon, but the Foreign Ministry said the U.N. team will not be visiting any nuclear facilities.

RAMIN MEHMANPARAST, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman (through translator): The titles of the members of the visiting delegation are not inspectors. This is an expert delegation from the International Atomic Energy Agency, led by the vice president of the director general of IAEA. The purpose of the visit is not inspection. The goal is negotiation and talks on cooperation between Iran and IAEA to create a framework for further talks and cooperation.

KWAME HOLMAN: Also today, the head — the deputy head of Iran’s armed forces warned the regime could launch a preemptive strike if it feels threatened. He did not name a target.

In Syria, opposition groups claimed up to 100 people were killed in fighting across the country. Many of the deaths, they said, were in the opposition stronghold of Homs. There, the neighborhood of Baba Amr came under a heavy new artillery barrage by the Syrian military. Rebel sources said shells rained down at a rate of 10 per minute, but activists said President Bashar Assad’s troops had been stymied in efforts to launch a ground attack.

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland appeared to open the door slightly to arming the opposition.

VICTORIA NULAND, State Department spokeswoman: We don’t believe that it makes sense to contribute now to the further militarization of Syria. What we don’t want to see is the spiral of violence increase. That said, if we can’t get Assad to yield to the pressure that we are all bringing to bear, we may have to consider additional measures.

KWAME HOLMAN: U.S. officials also supported a call by the International Red Cross for a daily cease-fire to allow deliveries of humanitarian aid.

Protests erupted in Afghanistan today after Korans inadvertently were burned last night at a U.S. military base. More than 2,000 Afghans demonstrated outside the facility. Some in the crowd shouted “Die, foreigners” as they set tires ablaze and threw stones at the main gate.

A Western military official said the Muslim holy books were removed from a nearby jail because detainees wrote extremist messages in them.

The NATO commander in Afghanistan said emphatically they shouldn’t have been added to trash meant for incineration.

LT. GEN. JOHN ALLEN, International Security Assistance Forces: We are thoroughly investigating the incident. We are taking steps to ensure this doesn’t ever happen again. I assure you, I promise you, this wasn’t intentional in any way. And I offer my sincere apologies for any offense this may have caused.

KWAME HOLMAN: Afghan President Hamid Karzai denounced the burning, and he ordered a separate inquiry into the incident.
Separately, three NATO soldiers were killed today in a roadside bombing in Southern Afghanistan; 47 NATO service members have died in Afghanistan so far this year.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.