News Wrap: Gunman Dressed as Iraqi Soldier Kills U.S. Troops
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HARI SREENIVASAN: A gunman dressed in an Iraqi uniform killed two U.S. soldiers and wounded nine others in Iraq today. The Americans were meeting with Iraqi forces at an army compound north of Baghdad when an argument broke out. The gunman was shot and killed. The fatalities mark the first American military deaths since U.S. combat operations ended a week ago.
In Pakistan, a suicide car bomb ripped through a police compound, killing at least 20 people, many of them women and children. It happened in the northwestern city of Kohat. The blast brought down a number of houses and buildings near the police compound. It was the latest in a string of attacks by militants, and came just hours after the Taliban threatened more suicide attacks on government targets.
Demonstrators took to the streets in more than 200 cities across France today to protest a government plan to raise the retirement age. It is one of a series of austerity measures under consideration.
We have a report narrated by Lindsey Hilsum of Independent Television News.
LINDSEY HILSUM: In Marseille, they beat drums and chanted against President Sarkozy’s attempt to raise the pension age to 62. In Lyon, they turned out despite the rain.
WOMAN (through translator): I’m 57, so it’s three years before I retire. I started work at 16. So, I really do want to retire at 60.
LINDSEY HILSUM: In Poitiers, they protested with vuvuzelas left over from France’s ignominious defeat in the World Cup. And in (INAUDIBLE) striking farm workers even got a cow on to the streets.
Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators brought parts of Paris to a standstill. The government says it has to raise the retirement age to plug a black hole in the state pension pot and because life expectancy has increased. The plan is for full benefits to be delayed from 65 to 67.
President Sarkozy says he remains firm, but might compromise with the unions and keep pensionable age lower for those who start work young or do hard manual labor.
BERNARD THIBAULT, general secretary, CGT Union (through translator): The government won’t be able to behave as if nothing happened today. Yes, this is an event with real social impact.
MARTINE AUBRY, Socialist Party leader (through translator): In our country, there are three million people who started work before the age of 19. They’re already 42, 43, 44 years old. And when they reach 60, you tell them, wait a couple more years. Where’s the justice in that?
LINDSEY HILSUM: More than half of France’s trains were at a standstill today. Planes were also grounded, another blow to the economy. Opinion polls show that two-thirds of voters think it’s unfair to raise the retirement age,
but they don’t believe these strikes will change anything.
HARI SREENIVASAN: A 24-hour labor strike also crippled public transit for millions of commuters in London today. Much of the city’s underground rail system was closed as workers protested government plans to cut jobs.
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard cobbled together enough lawmakers to form a new government today. Two independent members of parliament agreed to join her Labor Party, resolving more than two weeks of election impasse. At a news conference, Gillard promised a stable and effective government, even with only a one-seat majority.
JULIA GILLARD, Australian prime minister: What the Australian people told us — and they told us this in no uncertain terms on that day and on the days that have followed — is this, that we will be held more accountable than ever before and more than any government in modern memory. We will be held to higher standards of transparency and reform.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Gillard will lead Australia’s first minority government in more than 65 years. She is also Australia’s first female prime minister.
A series of strong aftershocks rocked Christchurch, New Zealand, days after a powerful 7.1-magnitude quake. All told, about 20 aftershocks hit overnight. Scientists predicted they will continue for several weeks, with the worst likely still to come. The city center remained cordoned off by troops today, as crews continued to clean up. No one was killed in the quake, and only two people were seriously injured. In comparison, the January earthquake in Haiti of a similar magnitude killed 230,000 people.
Tropical Storm Hermine lost some of its steam as it moved from the Gulf of Mexico into Texas. But it still dumped heavy rains overnight and knocked out power to 35,000 homes in the Rio Grande Valley. Flash flood warnings and watches were issued for much of Texas and Oklahoma. As it moved north, Hermine was expected to weaken to a tropical depression, but its effects were forecast to continue all the way to Kansas later this week.
In Colorado today, firefighters intensified their fight against a wildfire burning outside Boulder, as 3,000 people were forced to evacuate. The blaze started early Monday in Fourmile Canyon. Since then, heavy smoke has blanketed the area, and flames have scorched nearly six square miles, destroying dozens of homes. The cause of the fire remains unknown, but officials said there’s no indication that it was intentionally set.
The number of Americans who smoke held steady in the latest government report. One in five adults, or 46 million Americans, smoke regularly, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Since 2004, the smoking rate has basically been flat. And a separate report found nearly all children who live with a smoker have measurable tobacco toxins in their bodies.
Chicago’s longtime mayor, Richard Daley, won’t be running for reelection in 2011. The Democrat announced his decision today at city hall, citing personal reasons. He said it felt like the right time to step aside. Daley presided over the nation’s third largest city for 21 years, like his father did before him.
On Wall Street today, trading was light, but stocks fell on renewed concerns about European banks. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 107 points to close above 10340. The Nasdaq fell nearly 25 points to close above 2208.
Those are some of the day’s major stories — now back to Jim.