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Other News: Death Toll Climbs from Baghdad Attacks

August 20, 2009 at 12:00 AM EST
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JIM LEHRER: In other news today, the death toll from yesterday’s Baghdad bombings rose to at least 101; more than 500 others were wounded. Today, smoke was still rising from the scene of the attacks, which mainly targeted government buildings. Prime Minister al-Maliki said Sunni insurgents linked to al-Qaida were to blame. He vowed to reassess his country’s security efforts. Iraqi authorities also asked the U.S. military to help with the forensic investigation.

The U.S. Department of Justice filed new charges against 10 alleged leaders of Mexico’s most powerful drug cartels. They are among 43 people named in indictments unsealed in New York and Chicago. Most are still on the loose. Three of the suspected kingpins allegedly oversaw a sprawling distribution network. Nearly 200 tons of cocaine and large quantities of heroin were reportedly shipped into the United States.

In Washington, Attorney General Eric Holder said the charges stem from two decades of criminal activity.

ERIC HOLDER, attorney general: These cartels are not abstract organizations operating in far-off places. They are multibillion-dollar networks funneling drugs onto our streets. What invariably follows these drugs is more crimes and more violence in our communities. The audacity of the cartels’ operations is matched only by their sophistication and by their reach.

JIM LEHRER: Holder said the U.S. is aggressively hunting down the cartel leaders so they can stand trial in U.S. courts.

Massachusetts Senator Edward Kennedy has asked state lawmakers for a faster way to pick his successor, if it comes to that. Kennedy is battling advanced brain cancer. Current Massachusetts law calls for a special election 145 to 160 days after the seat goes empty. But in a letter, the Democrat asked that the governor be empowered to fill the vacancy through an interim appointment until the election. The letter was one of several Kennedy wrote in early July.

There was unexpected news on jobs today. Government surveys found first-time claims for jobless benefits went up last week, rising to 576,000. More than 6 million people are currently receiving government aid.

Meanwhile, on Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average added nearly 71 points to close at 9,350. The Nasdaq rose 20 points to close at 1,989.