KWAME HOLMAN: The Obama administration will drop a reference to end-of-life counseling as a covered service under Medicare. The New York Times reported the policy shift today. A White House spokesman said it's because the proposal wasn't made sufficiently available for public comment. A similar provision was dropped from the health care reform bill when it came under fire from Republicans.
In economic news, the payroll firm ADP reported private employers added nearly 300,000 jobs last month. That's three times what was expected. The news gave Wall Street a small boost. The Dow Jones industrial average gained more than 31 points to close near 11723. The Nasdaq rose almost 21 points to close at 2702.
A presidential commission has concluded industry mismanagement was the
main cause of the Gulf oil spill. The Associated Press reported today on an excerpt of the commission's finding. The group found workers from BP, Halliburton and Transocean focused more on saving time and money than on risk. The commission warned it could all happen again without substantial reforms.
The flood disaster in Queensland, Australia, appeared to peak today, as damage estimates topped $5 billion. The city of Rockhampton remained cut off, but the flood tide there was holding below its predicted crest.
We have a report from Steve Scott of Independent Television News, who is in Rockhampton.
STEVE SCOTT: In the heart of Rockhampton's flood zone, there's a silence that belies the scale of this disaster. A deepwater maze feeds you past house after house abandoned, left for the flood to inflict its misery.
While most have left, some have decided to sit it out.
Hi, how are you doing?
But, these days, life for the Robb family consists of daily trips to the supermarket and not much else. The school holidays are not usually like this here.
MELINDA ROBB, Australia: Oh, it's OK. We are learning to manage. I mean, there are a lot of people out there worse than us, so...
STEVE SCOTT: Today, we joined the water police out on patrol, their main task, to discourage looting, intercepting boats they suspect of identifying empty houses, ready to return to break in during the night.
They are also monitoring those living on their own. Mary Youngs (ph) is nearly 91, but won't be letting nature's powers defeat her.
So, how are you getting on, Mary?
WOMAN: I'm getting on all right. Thanks.
STEVE SCOTT: We flew over acre after acre of farmland submerged by a river that is supposed to stretch barely 200 meters across. Crops are ruined and livestock has been washed away, although some are still clinging on to life, just. Factories are deserted, swamped by the swell.
Businesses in town are facing ruin. Not only have they been forced to close, but many are worried how they're going to pay for the damage.
BRAD CARTER, mayor of Rockhampton, Queensland: We don't even know where to start there. We won't know the extent of that damage until the waters recede. And that's still several weeks away.
STEVE SCOTT: The river may finally have peaked and will not reach record levels after all. Some have taken that as a signal to start moving back home. Others just continue to make a virtue out of the mess that has engulfed them. But, for most, it will be a long time before they can smile about new year 2011.
KWAME HOLMAN: The flooding also has forced nearly all of Queensland's coal mines to be closed.
In Afghanistan, three NATO troops were killed by roadside bombs today, two in the east and one in the south. Six have died in fighting since the start of the new year. And Afghan intelligence agencies announced they foiled plans for two major attacks in Kabul on the presidential palace and the home of the first vice president.
Those are some of the day's major stories.