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News Wrap: Former NOLA Cops Granted New Trial for Katrina Bridge Killings

September 17, 2013 at 12:00 AM EST
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Five former New Orleans policemen won a new trial today in the shootings of unarmed civilians after Hurricane Katrina. Two people were killed and four wounded on the city’s Danziger Bridge. Today, a federal judge today threw out the officers’ convictions on civil rights violations. He accused prosecutors of — quote — “truly bizarre actions,” including posting anonymous comments online.

The toll of death and destruction in the Colorado floods climbed again today. Authorities confirmed eight dead, with several hundred still unaccounted for. At least 1,600 homes were listed as destroyed. Meanwhile, new evacuations began as the flood tide moved downstream. More on this later in the program.

In New Jersey, investigators have ruled a fire that destroyed more than 50 beachfront businesses was accidental. The fire spread up the boardwalk in Seaside Park and Seaside Heights last week. It engulfed a number of buildings that had only just been repaired after last year’s superstorm Sandy.

Today, officials said they traced the fire to wiring that was submerged during the storm.

JOSEPH CORONATO, Ocean County, N.J. prosecutor: I believe that the wiring was some time after 1970, that it’s possible that the wire, because just of its age alone, could have created this fire. But we also know that not only is age involved. We also know that there was a storm. And it’s very clear that water and sand affected this particular area of the boardwalk.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The officials warned there may be compromised wiring at a number of places that were hit by Sandy.

The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council met today on disposing of Syria’s chemical weapons. The U.S., Britain, China, France, and Russia are trying to craft a resolution based on a U.S.-Russian agreement. The Western powers want the U.N. to authorize military force if Syria fails to comply. Russia does not.

In Iraq, Baghdad was hit hard again by car bombings that killed at least two dozen. And in the west, suicide bombers attacked a police station in Fallujah, killing eight others. The death toll since the violence began in April is well over 4,000.

The president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, made clear today that he’s in no rush to sign a security deal with the U.S. It would set legal conditions for some foreign troops to remain after 2014, when combat forces withdraw. The U.S. wants a deal by next month, but Karzai insisted his demands for security guarantees and better weapons must be met.

PRESIDENT HAMID KARZAI, Afghanistan (through interpreter): If the Americans do not give us the guarantees we have asked for until October and we do not reach an agreement, they can wait for the next government. It’s not necessary for me to sign it. The next president will come. There will be an election, and they will sign it with them.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The Afghan presidential election is next April.

Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff, has delayed a state visit to the U.S. to protest spying by the National Security Agency. The announcement today followed revelations that the NSA intercepted Rousseff’s communications and hacked computers at the state-run oil company. Her office said the visit can be rescheduled when the U.S. provides satisfactory answers.

The wrecked Italian cruise ship Costa Concordia was pulled upright today off the coast of Tuscany. The operation drew worldwide attention, just as the ship did when it capsized in January of 2012.

We have a report from Emma Murphy of Independent Television News.

EMMA MURPHY: And so after the 21 months, the Costa Concordia is righted in the waters which engulfed her. But she’s a ship damaged beyond repair and bound for a scrap yard.

It’s very clear to see where this 114,000-ton vessel tipped on to the vast granite rocks bed. Now the full extent of the damage can be assessed, those who raised her are amazed she stayed in one piece. Ensuring she didn’t break up was crucial in protecting the waters around the island of Costa Concordia from an environmental disaster.

Little wonder then the man who masterminded the salvage has become something of a local hero.

So what about how it went?

NICK SLOANE, salvage master: Well, a bit slower than we expected, but — yes. Well, the result is right there. It’s perfect.

EMMA MURPHY: And are you hopeful now that — are you hopeful now that you might be able to recover the remains of those who are still lost on board?

NICK SLOANE: Yes. I think that’s — the authorities take over now, and that’s obviously the priority.

EMMA MURPHY: You must be very proud of what you have achieved.

NICK SLOANE: Oh, it was a massive team, so it has been a wonderful team effort.

EMMA MURPHY: The 500 million-pound operation took 19 hours. This time-lapse footage shows how the vessel was raised through 65 degrees in order to rest her on a false seabed designed to support her until she is taken from here.

For the 3,968 people who were able to escape from the sinking Concordia, these images will be a dreadful reminder of their ordeal. But there’s relief the ship was righted. She will forever be associated with tragedy.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Thirty-two people died when the cruise liner struck a reef and rolled over.

The U.S. poverty rate failed to improve in 2012 for the sixth year in a row. The Census Bureau reported today that some 46.5 million Americans were considered poor in 2012. That amounts to 15 percent of the population, statistically unchanged from the year before. The poverty line was set at an annual income of just under $23,500 for a family of four.

The Congressional Budget Office now estimates the government could default on its debts between the end of October and mid-November. The new timeline is about two weeks later than the previous estimate. Congress can prevent default by raising the national debt ceiling, but, in exchange, some Republicans are demanding that the president’s health care law be defunded.

In economic news, the Labor Department announced that home health care workers are now eligible for the federal minimum wage and overtime pay. Their ranks have grown to nearly two million.

And on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average gained almost 35 points to close above 15,529. The Nasdaq rose more than 27 points to close at 3,745.