HARI SREENIVASAN: The Electoral Commission in Iraq reported today it has counted two-thirds of the votes in the March 7 parliamentary elections. It didn’t release any new results. The official tally had Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his coalition leading in seven of the 18 provinces. His rival, Former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, was ahead in five provinces. The religious Shiite Alliance and the main Kurdish coalition led in three provinces apiece.
In Afghanistan, a rocket attack killed one person at Bagram airfield north of Kabul. It was unclear if the victim was a soldier or civilian. Over the weekend, Taliban bombings killed 35 Afghans in Kandahar. The group said it was a warning of what’s to come if NATO begins an offensive there.
The U.S. pressed Israel today to drop plans for expanding Jewish housing in East Jerusalem. The Israelis announced the plans last week while Vice President Biden was visiting. On Friday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned the move.
Today, spokesman P.J. Crowley said Clinton is waiting for a formal Israeli response.
P.J. CROWLEY: They involve not only specifics about the project in question that was announced last week, but really more so about the willingness of the parties to engage seriously in this process and — and jointly create conditions for its success and — and be willing to address the core issues at that heart of the peace process.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave no indication he will cancel construction of the 1,600 homes. Instead, he told the Israeli parliament, “The building of those Jewish neighborhoods didn’t hurt in any way the Arabs of East Jerusalem.”
The settlement issue also brought extra Israeli police into the streets of Jerusalem’s Old City. And Palestinian shopkeepers closed their stores for several hours to protest Israeli actions.
The president of Chile warned today his country could face more power blackouts due to damage from last month’s earthquake. A massive outage last night left millions of Chileans in the dark. It hit as a concert for earthquake victims was under way in Santiago, plunging the entire venue into darkness. The outage affected a 1,200-mile stretch of the country for an hour or longer. Today, President Sebastian Pinera said Chile’s main power grid will be unstable for at least another week.
There was no letup in the heavy rain across New England after a weekend of downpours. A huge nor’easter flooded roadways across the Northeastern U.S. over the weekend. It was blamed for at least nine deaths. Hurricane-force winds also blew over trees and knocked out power to nearly half-a-million people. Meanwhile, the Northern Plains states braced for major flooding later this week. The Red River was threatening cities in North Dakota and Minnesota.
Toyota cast doubt today on a San Diego man’s claim that his Prius zoomed out of control last Monday. James Sikes said the car raced to 94 miles an hour on a freeway, before a California Highway Patrol officer helped him slow to a stop. In San Diego today, Toyota said its engineers inspected the car and found the gas pedal and backup safety systems were working properly.
MIKE MICHELS, vice president, Toyota Motor Sales USA: While our analysis is not finalized, Toyota believes there are significant inconsistencies between the account of the event of March 8 and the findings of this investigation.
As I mentioned, this self-protective system was found to be working as designed and would’ve easily stopped the vehicle.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also checked the Sikes car. The agency said today inspectors have been unable to duplicate the incident.
For the record, Toyota is a “NewsHour” underwriter.
The Obama administration will send Congress a wide-ranging overhaul of the No Child Left Behind education program. It calls for states to adopt standards that ensure students get ready for college or a career. That means shifting away from math and reading tests that emphasize grade-level achievement. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said the new focus is a well-rounded education that also includes social studies, science, and the arts.
Wall Street had a relatively quiet day. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 17 points to close at 10642. The Nasdaq fell five points to close at 2362. And the price of oil slipped back under $80 a barrel for the first time in nearly two weeks.