GWEN IFILL: Now, for the other news of the day, we go to Hari Sreenivasan in our newsroom — Hari.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Good evening. Five Americans held in Pakistan today denied having ties to al-Qaida. They also insisted they had not been plotting attacks there. The suspects arrived for their first court appearance amid tight security. They wore handcuffs as they entered the building. The five young Muslim men are from the Washington, D.C., area. They were arrested in early December.
Four U.S. troops were killed on Sunday in Afghanistan in a roadside bombing. They were the first American combat deaths of the new year. A British soldier died in a separate attack. And it turns out the suicide bomber who killed seven CIA employees in Afghanistan last week was a Jordanian. Reports today said he had been recruited to try to infiltrate al-Qaida.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki vowed today to keep the heat on private guards who worked for Blackwater USA. Five guards were accused of killing 14 civilians in Baghdad in 2007. But, last week, a federal judge in Washington threw out the charges. Today, Maliki promised lawsuits in both American and Iraqi courts.
NOURI AL-MALIKI, prime minister, Iraq (through translator): For our part, we have done what is necessary to protect our citizens and to punish those who committed the crime. And we have formed committees and filed a lawsuit against the Blackwater security firm, both in America and Iraq. We won’t abandon our right to punish this firm.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The Blackwater guards claimed they were ambushed. Prosecutors and many Iraqis said the guards’ use of machine guns and grenades was unprovoked.
The first business day of the new year saw a surge in stocks and the price of oil. Wall Street surged on encouraging news about manufacturing in the U.S. and China. The Dow Jones industrial average gained nearly 156 points to close just under 10584. The Nasdaq rose 39 points to close at 2308. And oil closed above $81 a barrel for the first time in nearly three months, as frigid weather gripped the Eastern U.S. and drove up demand.
The number of bankruptcies in the U.S. rose 32 percent in 2009. The Associated Press reported today consumers and businesses filed more than 1.4 million bankruptcy petitions. The number of cases fell sharply in 2006, after Congress overhauled U.S. bankruptcy laws. But they have been rising ever since.
The tallest building on Earth formally opened today in Dubai. We have a report narrated by Sally Biddulph of Independent Television News.
SALLY BIDDULPH: A celebration which measured up to the size of the building. Fireworks and fanfare heralded the official opening of the world’s largest tower in Dubai. The Burj Khalifa dwarfs all the surrounding skyscrapers and every other famous building across the world. You need three Eiffel Tower end to end and nine Big Bens to even get close. It’s more than half-a-mile tall — well, 828 meters, to be exact, and has enough steel to span halfway around the globe. Funded by Dubai’s financial boom years, the tower is opening against a backdrop of bust.
MOHAMED ALABBAR, chairman, Emaar Properties: The message is that, you know, we build for tens of years to come. Crises come and go. And the world has gone through two years of difficult times. We must have hope and optimism that we must move on.
SALLY BIDDULPH: The Burj Khalifa is home to more than 1,000 flats, a hotel, and offices, but not all of them are occupied. What’s more, the tower isn’t even finished. These pictures show parts of the inside on New Year’s Eve. Since then, there’s been a mad rush to get things shipshape. But there wasn’t even a hint of last-minute touches at the opening ceremony.
Dubai knew the world was watching, and it put on quite a show. This wasn’t just about Burj Khalifa. It was how the city wants to be viewed: powerful and opulent, an oasis in the desert.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The new tower in Dubai far outsizes the tallest building in the United States. The Burj Khalifa is nearly 300 meters taller than Chicago’s Willis Tower, formerly known as the Sears Tower. It’s also more than twice the height of the Empire State Building in New York City.
A huge oil spill in China has forced more than 800,000 people to stop drinking water from the Yellow River. Last Wednesday, a broken pipeline dumped 100 tons of diesel fuel into the Wei River, which feeds into the Yellow. The Yellow River is the main source of water for millions of people. China’s waterways are ranked among the most heavily polluted in the world.