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News Wrap: Penn State’s Paterno Comes Under Fire, May Be Forced Out

November 8, 2011 at 12:00 AM EDT
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HARI SREENIVASAN: Penn State football coach Joe Paterno came under growing pressure today amid charges that a former top assistant sexually abused boys for years.

A number of reports suggested Paterno might be forced out after 46 seasons. The coach left his house in State College, Pa., for practice, but didn’t hold his weekly news conference. University state administrators canceled it.

The European debt crisis has claimed another national leader. Italy’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi lost his majority in Parliament today in a budget vote. He then promised to resign after economic reforms pass.

We have a report from Krishnan Guru-Murthy of Independent Television News on the day’s developments in Rome.

KRISHNAN GURU-MURTHY: She’s the scourge of Berlusconi’s M.P.s when they enter Rome’s Parliament, but Annarella (ph) has had enough. And for her at least, resignation is the kind option.

Lots of people say they’re now embarrassed by him, that he should go.

SERGIO DE GREGORIO, Popolo della Liberta: We are not embarrassed for Berlusconi. He (INAUDIBLE) a bad man.

KRISHNAN GURU-MURTHY: He’s not a bad man?

SERGIO DE GREGORIO: No.

KRISHNAN GURU-MURTHY: But he’s losing allies by the hour.

Even key coalition partner Umberto Bossi of the Northern League said enough is enough and called on him to go. And when the vote came, Berlusconi had lost his majority. Italy’s public accounts were passed, but only due to massive abstentions.

“I ask you, Mr. Prime Minister,” said Italy’s opposition leader, “with all my strength to finally take account of the situation and resign.”

Berlusconi studied the numbers with notes, perhaps suggesting his options, listing traitors, confidence votes. “I resign.”

Every day this drags on, though, Italy’s debt situation gets worse, as the money markets demand nearly 7 percent on Italian government bonds. And that just adds to the pain ahead in spending cuts and tax rises. Tonight, the curtain does seem to be falling on Silvio Berlusconi. Exactly what follows for Italy, though, is still unclear.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The news from Italy gave Wall Street a boost. The Dow Jones industrial average rallied late to gain 101 points, and close at 12,170. The Nasdaq rose 32 points to close at 2,727.

The Air Force today reported gross mismanagement at the service mortuary that receives America’s war dead. A year-long investigation found workers at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware lost body parts at least twice in 2009.

The Air Force inspector general found no violations of law, but Gen. Norton Schwartz, the Air Force chief of staff, said three senior officials have been disciplined.

GEN. NORTON SCHWARTZ, Air Force chief of staff: I think that perhaps the best manifestation of how seriously we took this was taking responsibility, is fixing accountability, is acting promptly to correct efficiencies, and, importantly, improving processes.

HARI SREENIVASAN: A separate independent agency, the Office of Special Counsel, submitted its own report. It disagreed that no laws were broken, and it said some of the Air Force conclusions do not appear reasonable.

A federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., has upheld the president’s health care overhaul. The ruling issued today said Congress was within its rights to mandate that Americans have health insurance, or pay a penalty. Similar challenges have been working their way through the federal courts. The U.S. Supreme Court could decide on Thursday whether to hear those cases.

Attorney General Eric Holder voiced regret today about Operation Fast and Furious, the ill-fated attempt to target gunrunning into Mexico. Officials have acknowledged they lost track of some 1,400 weapons, and some ended up with Mexican drug cartels. Holder had initially denied Republican charges that there were serious problems. Today, he acknowledged the operation was flawed in concept and execution.

ERIC HOLDER, U.S. attorney general: Unfortunately, we will feel the effects for years to come, as guns that were lost during this operation continue to show up at crime scenes both here and in Mexico. This should never have happened, and it must never happen again.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The Justice Department has replaced three officials who played key roles in Fast and Furious. The department’s inspector general is still investigating.

Everything from abortion to union rights was on the ballot in off-year elections today. In Ohio, voters decided whether to repeal a new law that limits bargaining rights for public employees. And in Mississippi, voters considered a measure declaring life begins at fertilization. If it passes, it could trigger a new abortion challenge. Two states were choosing governors as well.

An asteroid the size of an aircraft carrier had a close encounter with Earth this evening. Astronomers estimated it came within 202,000 miles. The last time a large asteroid got that close to the planet was in 1976. This NASA animation showed the path the asteroid took as it neared Earth. Scientists analyzed images taken from radio telescopes, but they ruled out any chance that the space rock would do any damage.

LINDLEY JOHNSON, NASA Near Earth Object Observation Program: We know this is a miss. We know the orbit quite well. There will not be any gravitational interactions that will affect anything on the Earth’s surface. It’s just too small an object going by too quickly for there to be any effect noticed at the Earth’s surface.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The next time a large asteroid passes this close to Earth won’t come until 2028.

Former heavyweight boxing champion Joe Frazier died of liver cancer last night at the age of 67. The man known as Smokin’ Joe was one of boxing’s greats, and his rivalry with Muhammad Ali became legendary.

Madison Square Garden, March 8, 1971, undefeated heavyweights Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali geared up for their first match against each other, dubbed the Fight of the Century.

JOE FRAZIER, boxer: I’m cool, man.

(LAUGHTER)

JOE FRAZIER: Yes. I’m ready for this one.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The fight lived up to its billing. Frazier caught Ali with his powerful left hook in the 15th round and became the first man to beat the champion.

The two men fought twice more. And Ali won both times, once in 1974 and again in October 1975 for the Thrilla in Manila. That fight in the Philippines was widely regarded as a boxing epic. It ended with a bloody and swollen Frazier, whose trainer kept him from returning for a 15th round.

Born to a South Carolina sharecropper in 1944, Frazier began training as a boxer after moving to Philadelphia in his teens. He won a Golden Gloves championship and a gold medal in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. He turned pro in 1965, winning his first 11 fights with knockouts. Still, Frazier’s career would always be defined in relation to Ali.

The men were fierce opponents outside the arena as well. Ali was a black power advocate and often taunted Frazier with slurs. But over the years, the tension between them eventually calmed. And Ali, who now suffers from Parkinson’s disease, praised his rival today.

In a statement he said: “The world has lost a great champion. I will always remember Joe with respect and admiration.”

Joe Frazier is survived by 11 children, two of whom are also boxers.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.