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Newswrap: Pentagon Eases Rules for Gays in the Military

March 25, 2010 at 12:00 AM EDT
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In other news Thursday, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced a relaxation of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy for gays serving in the military and a new taped message reportedly of Osama bin Laden surfaced on Al-Jazeera.
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HARI SREENIVASAN: The Pentagon issued new orders for enforcing the don’t ask, don’t tell law that bans gays from openly serving in the military. The new guidelines put higher-ranking officers in charge of inquiries and dismissals and impose tougher requirements for evidence used to out gay service members.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the new rules are effective immediately, and will not be retroactive. But current cases under review will be reexamined under the new regulations.

ROBERT GATES, U.S. secretary of defense: I believe these changes represent an important improvement in the way the current law is put into practice, above all by providing a greater measure of common sense and common decency to a process for handling what are difficult and complex issues for all involved.

HARI SREENIVASAN: President Obama has pressed Congress to repeal the don’t ask, don’t tell law. At least 13,000 people have been discharged from the military under the statute.

A new audiotape reportedly of Osama bin Laden surfaced today with a new threat. The short 74-second long message was aired on Al-Jazeera. In it, bin Laden threatened al-Qaida would kill any captured Americans if the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks is executed.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is in U.S. custody at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The Obama administration is still considering whether he will face a military tribunal or civilian trial.

President Obama is wrapping up final details on a new nuclear arms deal with Russia. It replaces a 1991 deal that expired in December. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the president plans to speak with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in the next few days. It was widely reported the deal will sharply reduce the nuclear arsenals of both countries, cutting the number of long-range nuclear weapons for each to about 1,500.

The Vatican came under fire again today for its handling of sex abuse cases. The latest to come to light is from Wisconsin, where as many as 200 deaf boys were allegedly molested beginning in the 1950s. The New York Times, citing church and Vatican documents, reported top Vatican officials ignored warnings from bishops and failed to defrock the accused American priest, Father Lawrence Murphy. The Vatican officials said the alleged abuse happened too long ago, and the priest should repent, rather than face trial. Murphy died in 1998.

In Milwaukee, Wisconsin one of the deaf abuse victims and his daughter spoke to reporters.

GIGI BUDZINSKI, daughter of abuse victim: He couldn’t enjoy his childhood. Everything was stolen from him. And now he’s 61 years old, and he’s still fighting for this.

And now it’s carried on to me, my family. Now my niece, his grandchildren, they all know about this, and it continues on down the — the family, that he hurt all of us. And this is what we deal with every day that Father Murphy did to my father.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The Vatican denied any cover-up and denounced it as a smear campaign against Pope Benedict XVI. At the time the case emerged, Benedict was the Vatican’s top doctrinal official and was reportedly informed of the matter.

The countries that use the euro reached agreement on a financial safety net for Greece today at a summit in Brussels. The bailout would draw funds from the 16 nations in the Euro Zone and the International Monetary Fund, but only as a last resort.

At the summit, German Chancellor Angela Merkel insisted a bailout should only be used if Greece could not borrow money from financial markets.

ANGELA MERKEL, German chancellor (through translator): I propose that we consider a combination of IMF help and bilateral aid as a last resort, if there is a situation in which Greece can’t obtain money itself. For me, it’s important that this focuses on that last resort. After that, we should consider what we have learned from this situation, because, really, we didn’t want to even be in such a situation.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The support package is likely to be worth between $27 billion and $29 billion.

On Wall Street today, stocks changed very little. The Dow Jones industrial average gained five points to close at 10841. The Nasdaq fell more than a point to close at 2397.

Those are some of the day’s main stories. I will be back at the end of the program with a preview of what you will find tonight on the “NewsHour”‘s Web site — but, for now, back to Jeff.