News Wrap: 2 Americans Killed in Ongoing Violence in Afghanistan
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HARI SREENIVASAN: The monthly U.S. death toll in Afghanistan reached 30 today, when two Americans died in a roadside bombing. Meanwhile, Congress scrutinized President Obama’s war strategy.
Senators, like Democrat Ted Kaufman of Delaware, again pressed General David Petraeus about the withdrawal timeline of July 2011.
GENERAL DAVID PETRAEUS, commander, U.S. Central Command: That’s the point at which, again, the term responsible drawdown of the surge forces begins at a rate to be determined by the conditions.
SEN. TED KAUFMAN, D-Del.: Exactly. So, it’s not whether we’re going to draw down; it’s the rate that is determined by conditions on the ground?
GENERAL DAVID PETRAEUS: That’s the policy. That’s correct.
SEN. TED KAUFMAN: And there will be no more new introduction of troops?
GENERAL DAVID PETRAEUS: That is not the intention right now. I would never rule out coming back and asking for something more. I think that would be irresponsible.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Also today, Defense Secretary Robert Gates cautioned against getting overly negative about the Afghan war. He said, while the current narrative among politicians and the media may be negative, that progress is being made.
The military in Kyrgyzstan tried today to regain control of the southern city of Osh, after days of ethnic killing. The official death toll grew to 189, as funerals for some of the dead were held. At least 1,900 others have been wounded, but other estimates range far higher.
Most of the victims were minority Uzbeks, and thousands tried to flee, but they have been denied entry into neighboring Uzbekistan, and are now huddled in makeshift camps along the border.
The head of a bankrupt U.S. mortgage lender has been indicted for allegedly plotting a huge fraud against TARP, the federal bailout program. Lee Bentley Farkas was chief executive of Taylor, Bean & Whitaker, or TBW.
The U.S. Justice Department said today Farkas and co-conspirators carried out a scheme they called Project Squirrel. It was part of a failed attempt save their company and a major bank.
LANNY BREUER, Assistant Attorney General, Department of Justice Criminal Division: Court documents allege that Mr. Farkas and others carried out a massive fraud that resulted in losses of more than $1.9 billion and contributed to the failure of TBW, along with Colonial Bank, one of the 50 largest banks in the United States in 2009. The fraud alleged here is truly stunning in its scale and in its complexity.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Farkas allegedly tired to get half-a-billion dollars out of the TARP program. Investigators alerted the U.S. Treasury before the money was paid out.
The government-sponsored mortgage lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will no longer be traded on the New York Stock Exchange. An announcement today said they’re being delisted after their average stock price fell below $1 a share.
As for the rest of Wall Street, it was a relatively flat day. The Dow Jones industrial average gained more than four points to close above 10409. The Nasdaq rose a fraction of a point to close at near 2306.
A federal judge in San Francisco heard closing arguments today in a landmark challenge to California’s ban on gay marriage. Two same-sex couples are suing to overturn the Proposition 8 ballot measure that voters approved back in 2008. Regardless of the outcome, the case is expected to go before an appeals court, and will likely reach the U.S. Supreme Court.
Those are some of the day’s major stories — now back to Gwen.