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Other News: Mullen Visits Front Lines in Afghanistan

December 17, 2009 at 12:00 AM EDT
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In other news, Adm. Mike Mullen traveled to the front lines in Afghanistan on Thursday to urge tribal leaders to clean up corruption within their ranks, and U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan killed at least 17 people near the Afghan border.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs journeyed to the front lines in Afghanistan today. In the Kandahar region, he urged tribal leaders to help clean up corruption. He also told American troops it’s urgent to control the area.

Meanwhile, The New York Times reported, a former top U.N. official in Afghanistan pressed to remove President Hamid Karzai. The report said American Peter Galbraith floated the plan when the presidential election was embroiled in fraud. He was later dismissed from his job.

President Obama will face new pressure in his own party over sending more troops to Afghanistan. The House could vote next month on a resolution to end the conflict. And Speaker Nancy Pelosi said last night she won’t round up votes to defeat it. She said — quote — “The president is going to have to make his case.” Republicans said today they still support the surge.

In Pakistan, intelligence officials said missile attacks by U.S. drone aircraft killed at least 17 people today near the Afghan border. They said some of the victims appeared to be foreign fighters. The U.S. has carried out more than 40 drone attacks this year inside Pakistan.

U.S. officials today played down reports that insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan have intercepted live video from American drones. An account in The Wall Street Journal said militants are using $26 software programs available online to hack into the feeds. A senior Pentagon official insisted the problem has been addressed.

The Senate Banking Committee has endorsed the nomination of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke for a second term. The vote was 16-7. Supporters said Bernanke helped stave off financial ruin, while opponents argued he should have seen the crisis coming.

SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD, D-Conn.: Had he and others not acted, some of whom sit on this committee, at a time of critical importance to our country, we would be looking at a very, very different and far more dire situation in our nation than is otherwise the case.

And I believe that Ben Bernanke deserves substantial credit, as chairman of the Federal Reserve, for helping us navigate those waters, certainly without — not with perfection, but certainly, I think, stepping up at a critical time in our nation’s history with some very wise leadership that benefited our nation.

SEN. RICHARD SHELBY, R-Ala.: Many have said that changing horses in middle of the stream will introduce an unacceptable level of uncertainty into the markets.

On the other hand, I would argue that it can be equally damaging to our economy and our form of government if we, the United States Senate, fail to use our constitutional authority to disapprove a nomination when a particular nominee has not executed his responsibilities in a manner consistent with his own claims and our expectation.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The nomination now goes to the full Senate.

Wall Street took a tumble on new worries about how strong the economic recovery will be. The Dow Jones industrial average lost more than 132 points, to close at 10,308. The Nasdaq fell more than 26 points, to close at 2,180.

Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Jones died today at her home in Malibu, California. Her Hollywood career soared in the 1940s and ’50s. In 1943, she won the Oscar for best actress in “The Song of Bernadette,” her first major film. She was nominated four more times, including in 1946, for “Duel in the Sun” opposite Gregory Peck. Jennifer Jones was 90 years old.

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 on tonight’s NewsHour Web site — but, for now, back to Jim.