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News Wrap: Fort Hood Shooting Suspect Able to Represent Himself in Court

June 3, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT
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KWAME HOLMAN: The man accused in the 2009 shootings at Fort Hood, Texas, will represent himself at his court-martial. A military judge ruled today that Army Maj. Nidal Hasan is mentally competent to act as his own defense lawyer. He’s charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted murder. Jury selection begins Wednesday. If convicted, Hasan could get the death penalty.

President Obama called today for Americans to bring mental illness out of the shadows. He spoke at a White House conference organized after the school shootings in Newtown, Conn. The president emphasized that most of the mentally ill are not violent, and he said it’s important to erase the stigma attached to their condition.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Too many Americans who struggle with mental health illnesses are still suffering in silence, rather than seeking help. And we need to see it that men and women who would never hesitate to go see a doctor if they had a broken arm or came down with the flu, that they have that same attitude when it comes to their mental health.

KWAME HOLMAN: According to the president, more than 60 percent of Americans with mental illness do not receive treatment.

A fire at a poultry plant in China killed at least 119 people early today. Survivors told state media that only one exit was unlocked, and the fire spread quickly.

We have a report narrated by Angus Walker of Independent Television News.

ANGUS WALKER, Independent Television News: The fire broke out just before dawn. More than 300 workers had already started their shift at a chicken processing factory in Northeast China.

Eyewitnesses say they heard explosions and then the building began to fill with smoke. Around 100 employees escaped from the plant, but others were trapped in tight corridors, leading to narrow doors or locked exits, according to firefighters. There’s growing public outrage, questioning the factory’s safety standards, as an investigation begins.

ZHAO XIAN, Local Government Official: We’re looking into the cause of this accident. And efforts are being made to identify the injured and dead.

ANGUS WALKER: At this early stage, it’s believed an ammonia leak may have caused explosions and the fire. An area of up to a kilometer around the factory was evacuated amid fears of further blasts. This is certainly one of the worst factory fires in China’s history, a country where industrial accidents are common.

KWAME HOLMAN: This was the third major industrial fire reported in China in the last four days.

The death toll went up to 14 in the wake of Friday night’s tornadoes in Oklahoma. Six people still were missing. One of the twisters caught people trying to drive to safety on an interstate west of Oklahoma City. It hit during the evening rush hour. Three of those killed were veteran storm chasers, Tim Samaras, his son Paul, and Carl Young.

Days of heavy rainfall in Central Europe have led to the worst flooding in centuries and at least eight deaths. In Southeastern Germany, water levels in Passau now are higher than they have been in more than 500 years. Today, with water pouring in from three rivers, emergency workers used boats to evacuate people trapped inside their homes.

In Afghanistan, nine schoolchildren and two NATO troops died in a suicide bombing today. The children were on their way home when the attacker struck close to members of a U.S. military delegation in the eastern province of Paktia. The Taliban and other militants have increased bombings nationwide in recent weeks, testing Afghan forces’ ability to secure the country.

The new head of the Internal Revenue Service acknowledged today that Americans have grave questions about his agency. Danny Werfel testified at a House hearing, his first since being named acting IRS commissioner. He addressed revelations that conservative groups were singled out, and said a thorough review is under way.

DANNY WERFEL, Acting Internal Revenue Service Commissioner: These failures have undermined the public’s trust in the IRS’ ability to administer the tax laws in a fair and impartial manner, and they must be corrected. The agency stands ready to confront the problems that occurred, hold accountable those who acted inappropriately, be open about what happened, and permanently fix these problems, so that such missteps do not occur again.

KWAME HOLMAN: The committee also heard about excessive spending by the IRS in recent years. A Treasury Department report being released tomorrow says the agency spent $50 million dollars on some 200 employee conferences between 2010 and 2012. Attendees received perks, including baseball tickets and stays in presidential suites.

President Obama is ready to name three nominees to the powerful federal appeals court based in Washington. It was widely reported this evening that the president has chosen Washington lawyer Patricia Ann Millett, law professor Cornelia Pillard, and federal district Judge Robert Leon Wilkins. The announcement is expected tomorrow. Senate Republicans say the appeals court doesn’t need more judges.

Apple went on trial today on charges that it broke federal antitrust laws and conspired to drive up the price of electronic books. A federal prosecutor in New York alleged that Apple joined five publishers in a scheme that cost consumers hundreds of millions of dollars. The high-tech giant insisted its actions actually helped spur competition. The publishers already have settled in the case.

U.S. auto sales rebounded in May after a dip in April. Nissan’s sales jumped 25 percent. Business at Ford and Chrysler also was up by double digits. General Motors reported a gain of three percent. On Wall Street, stocks rallied late after wavering much of the day. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 138 points to close at 15,254. The Nasdaq rose nine points to close at 3,465.

Those are some of the day’s major stories — now back to Jeff.