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News Wrap: Appeals Court Rules Part of Health Care Law Unconstitutional

August 12, 2011 at 12:00 AM EDT
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HARI SREENIVASAN: A federal appeals court today ruled Americans do not have to buy health insurance. That mandate is a central provision of the president’s health care overhaul. The three-judge panel in Atlanta voted 2-1 against it. But the judges ruled the rest of the law may go forward.

In a statement, White House Spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter criticized the court’s conclusion on the individual mandate. She said, “We strongly disagree with this decision, and we are confident it will not stand.”

Similar cases are working their way through other federal courts, bound for the U.S. Supreme Court.

The U.S. Postal Service is proposing to lay off as many as 120,000 workers, 20 percent of its labor force. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe confirmed it today, in the face of mounting losses. He said the agency also wants to quit the federal health and retirement systems and provide benefits itself, at lower cost. Congress would have to let the Postal Service break its labor contracts to make the changes. Donahoe said he hopes that can happen by the end of September.

Crowds across Syria stepped up their defiance today in the face of a growing military crackdown. In some cities, protesters shouted for the death of President Bashar Assad. Activists said Assad’s soldiers shot and killed at least 14 demonstrators.

We have a report narrated by John Ray of Independent Television News.

JOHN RAY: After Friday prayers, in their thousands, they filled the streets once again. Five months on, these demonstrators seem as determined and as defiant as ever, despite the all-too-obvious dangers.

There was panic in this suburb of the capital. One witness has told ITV News they were shot at by snipers. He claimed security forces threw what he called a nail bomb. There is no way to verify his story, but across the country today, the death toll rose as the protests spread.

The regime’s brutal response has met an almost complete chorus of international condemnation. While the world watches on, the blood flows. This is thought to be a shooting in Hama today, a city the regime declared safe after a weeklong military occupation. But when the troops leave town, the protesters are quickly back onto the streets. This has become a protracted test of will, neither presidents nor people backing down.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Meanwhile, in Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged other nations today to cut trade ties with Syria.

SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON: We urge those countries still buying Syrian oil and gas, those countries still sending Assad weapons, those countries whose political and economic support give him comfort in his brutality to get on the right side of history. President Assad has lost the legitimacy to lead. And it is clear that Syria would be better off without him.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Clinton stopped short of flatly demanding that Assad step down. That’s partly out of concern from allied nations, especially Turkey. The Turkish government has voiced fears about further destabilizing Syria and sending mass flows of refugees north into Turkey.

In Afghanistan, NATO announced four more of its troops have been killed in action. That made nine in the last 24 hours. Five of those were U.S. soldiers who died on Thursday. Just a week ago, 30 Americans and eight Afghans were killed when their Chinook helicopter was shot down.

British police were out in full force today to guard against any resurgence of rioting over the weekend. Authorities also kept up the hunt for suspects in the aftermath of this week’s looting and violence. They used images of people captured on security cameras during the riots. In Birmingham, for example, a large screen in the city center was showing those images.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg acknowledged today there’s much to learn from the violence.

NICK CLEGG, British deputy prime minister: With the benefit of hindsight, we can all, you know, act as armchair generals, saying that this or that should have happened. I think the key thing is that what the public wants to see is that the streets are safe again, shops are safe again, homes are safe again, families are safe again, and that the people who did all of this are in court and are being properly punished.

HARI SREENIVASAN: So far, more than 1,700 people have been arrested, and nearly 700 in London alone have been charged. Meanwhile, the government has blocked a far-right group’s plan to hold a march in central England tomorrow, for fear it might spark new trouble.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.