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News Wrap: Roadside Bombs Kill 5 NATO Soldiers in Afghanistan

August 23, 2010 at 5:58 PM EDT
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HARI SREENIVASAN: Roadside bombs killed five NATO soldiers in Afghanistan today, including two Americans. The attacks were in the north, south and east of the country. That followed three separate attacks yesterday that killed four U.S. soldiers.

Meanwhile, efforts to improve the security situation continue with the training of Afghan security forces. The U.S. Army general who heads the NATO training program said today the process is moving forward, but slowly.

LT. GEN. WILLIAM CALDWELL, commanding general, NATO Training Mission, Afghanistan: If somebody says when will the security force have to leave in a particular area, we will not have finished building the entire army until October of next year. It doesn’t mean in small, isolated pockets that they can’t have the lead with coalition enablers supporting them. But to say that they’ll be able to do much more before October next year would be stretching it.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The U.S. pullout is set to begin in July, 2011, but President Obama has said that is dependent on security conditions.

This was also a deadly weekend for American forces in Iraq. A U.S. soldier died Sunday in a rocket attack near Basra. It was the first American death since the last U.S. combat brigade withdrew from the country last week.

The United Nations reported today nearly 200 women were gang-raped in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The rapes happened in an eastern town earlier this month, in an area then controlled by Rwandan and Congolese rebels. Aid groups said the rebels terrorized the town during a four-day siege. Nearly all of the rapes that were reported were described as being perpetrated by two to six armed men at a time. The U.N. mission is still investigating the atrocities.

A close vote in Australia’s national election this weekend means no party has emerged a clear winner, and that the vote count could extend into next week. The incumbent Labor government and conservative opposition began competing for the support of Independents and Green Party members. The current Labor leader and prime minister, Julia Gillard, did not reveal what her party was prepared to offer in the confidential negotiations.

JULIA GILLARD, prime minister, Australia: I’m not going to play games of ruling things in and ruling things out. Our intention is to have both negotiations in good faith with due diligence, with respect, with the individuals involved. There’s a keen interest from the Australian nation in these discussions, of course, and we will be reporting to the Australian nation periodically as the discussions occur.

HARI SREENIVASAN: No Australian government has had to rely on the support of independent lawmakers to rule since 1943.

A federal judge in Washington put a temporary stop to government funding of human embryonic stem-cell research today. The district court ruling was in favor of scientists who contend stem-cell research destroys human embryos. The suit was against the National Institutes of Health, who distribute funding for the research. The Obama administration could appeal the decision or rewrite NIH guidelines to comply with U.S. law.

The new Gulf coast claims facility began operations today, taking over the claims process from oil giant BP. Kenneth Feinberg, President Obama’s choice to administer the claims, said the payouts will be more generous than if victims go through the courts. Feinberg also stressed it was his idea to include a no sue rule for anyone who receives a final settlement from the $20 billion compensation fund.

Stocks fell on Wall Street today over concerns the economic recovery is stalling. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 39 points to close at 10,174. The Nasdaq fell 20 points to close above 2,159.

Those are some of the day’s major stories. Now back to Gwen.