News Wrap: Anti-abortion activists protest Roe v. Wade

January 22, 2014 at 7:00 PM EST
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Much of the Northeast endured a new cold wave today, on the heels of a winter storm that dumped more than a foot of snow in some places. The aftermath left states from Kentucky to Maine in cleanup mode. Schools were closed in a number of major cities. Airlines canceled another 1,400 flights, on top of 3,000 yesterday, and millions of people faced a mess on the roads, trying to get to work.

STEVE ARECCHI, Commuter: It’s been pretty rough out here. These roads are real bad. The ice has been stacking up. And, I mean, we have got a couple of inches of snow that they have still got to get out of here. So, it hasn’t been fun.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And in the nation’s capital today, thousands of anti-abortion activists braved the bitter cold for the annual March for Life. They rallied against Roe vs. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in 1973.

It was rough sledding today at the opening of the Syrian peace talks in Switzerland. For the first time, the Syrian government and members of the opposition sat at the same table, along with dozens of diplomats from other countries. But after a day of fierce exchanges, the U.N. secretary-general summed up, saying, no one underestimated the difficulties. We will get a full report right after the news summary.

In Ukraine, the standoff between protesters and police turned bloody overnight. The clashes in Kiev claimed two lives, but crisis talks later produced no resolution.

Matt Frei of Independent Television News is in Kiev.

 MATT FREI: Today is supposed to be Unity Day in the Ukraine, but only on the calender. This is the sound of a country divided, bitterly and, today, tragically. Everyone is making a noise, and no one is listening. The wolf of Kiev is ready for battle.

This is now the front line of this crisis. The mood is extremely tense. Just about an hour ago, two protesters were killed by the police using rubber bullets. And, as you can see and hear, both sides are now spoiling for a fight, first a barrage of rocks from the demonstrators — the answer, a barrage of stun grenades from the riot police, and then the guns, shotguns firing these rounds.

They’re always heard. Sometimes, they even kill. The riot police advance like a phalanx of legionnaires, moving like a millipede. And when they catch a demonstrator, they’re merciless.

And the police finally take the entire street in front of Parliament, but, minutes later, they walk away. The demonstrators flood back, this time armed with burning tires. The battle lines go back and forth, and so do the country’s leaders, stalemate on the streets, paralysis in the palace.

President Yanukovych met with opposition leaders this afternoon, in the middle, the towering figure of champion-boxer-turned-politician Vitali Klitschko. But the talks were fruitless, and the government is digging in its heels.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Israel announced today that it has stopped an al-Qaida plot to attack the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv. The internal security agency Shin Bet said it arrested three Palestinians who planned to supply explosives for bombing the embassy. It said they also planned to attack other sites.

An apparent hoax has raised new concerns about security at next month’s Winter Olympics in Sochi. A number of European countries reported — received e-mails and letters in Russian threatening terror attacks and warning their delegations to stay home.

Later, Olympic officials in Hungary said the threats were not serious.

ZSIGMOND NAGY, Hungarian Olympic Committee: The Sochi organizing committee actually made their official statement and they officially declared that this — after the analysis of the letter, that this threat is not real, and that this person actually has been sending all kinds of messages to many members of the Olympic family.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Officials in Austria said someone in Israel sent the e-mails and has sent others over the last few years.

China held a six-hour criminal trial today for one of its highest-profile dissidents. Xu Zhiyong is accused of disrupting public order. The legal scholar started the New Citizens Movement to expose government corruption. Xu refused to speak at the trial, in an act of protest. He could get five years in prison.

Chinese authorities are also investigating a major Internet glitch. Hundreds of millions of Chinese were rerouted yesterday to the home page of a U.S.-based company that helps users evade censorship. The company is tied to Falun Gong, a spiritual group that is banned in China.

There’s word today of a virtual epidemic of sexual assaults in American colleges. The White House Council on Women and Girls reported 20 percent of all female students say they have been raped. But only a fraction ever tell police because of the fear of stigma, among other factors.

President Obama called it an affront to basic decency and humanity.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: It is estimated that one in five women on a college campus has been sexually assaulted during their time there, one in five.

These young women worked so hard just to get into college. Often, their parents are doing everything they can to help them pay for it. So, when they finally make it there, only to be assaulted, that is not just a nightmare for them and their families. It’s an affront to everything that they have worked so hard to achieve.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The president gave a new task force 90 days to recommend ways of preventing assaults and letting the public know any given school’s track record.

A separate White House body wants election reform, including expanded early voting and a guarantee that no one waits more than 30 minutes to cast a ballot. The Presidential Commission on Election Administration issued a 112-page report today. It was established after voters waited hours in line in November 2012.

State and local governments have struggled to find the funds and overcome partisan divisions to expedite the voting process. West Virginia demanded more information today from a company involved in a chemical spill this month. Environmental regulators ordered Freedom Industries to disclose everything that leaked from a storage tank, tainting the water supply for 300,000 people.

The company initially said a chemical used to clean coal was involved. Yesterday, it reported a second, less toxic chemical leaked as well.

Wall Street failed to make much headway today. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 41 points to close at 16,373. The Nasdaq rose 17 points to close at 4,232.