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News Wrap: U.S. Airways, American Airlines merger cleared for takeoff by DOJ

November 12, 2013 at 12:00 AM EST
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JUDY WOODRUFF: We will have more on extreme weather events in the context of climate change right after the news summary.

U.S. Airways and American Airlines have cleared the last major hurdle to merging into a single carrier. The Justice Department approved the deal today. It calls for the two airlines to eliminate 56 flights a day out of Washington and New York. They will also transfer some gates at other major airports to low-cost carriers. The moves are meant to prevent the merger from stifling competition.

Heart experts are calling for twice as many Americans to consider taking statin drugs that cut cholesterol. The American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology issued new guidelines today on heart attacks and strokes. Using a new formula, some 33 million Americans, one-third of all adults, meet the threshold to consider taking a statin.

President Obama faced new pressure today over cancellations of millions of health insurance policies. Former President Bill Clinton told the website OZY.com that Mr. Obama needs to keep his promise not to let that happen.

FORMER PRESIDENT  BILL CLINTON: I personally believe, even if it takes a change in the law, that the president should honor the commitment the federal government made to those people and let them keep what they got.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Mr. Obama has apologized for the problem, but has not said he’s willing to amend the law. As for the Clinton comments, White House spokesman Jay Carney had this response.

JAY CARNEY, White House Press Secretary: I think it’s important to note that President Clinton in that interview also said — and I quote — “The big lesson is that we are better off with this law than without it.”

The president, as you know, has pledged to ask his team, tasked his team to look at potential actions that could be taken to address this problem, because his focus is on making sure that people get quality and affordable health insurance.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The number two Democrat in the U.S. House, Maryland Congressman Steny Hoyer, also joined the call today to let people keep their existing policies.

Meanwhile, The New York Times reported that major insurance companies are asking to sign people up directly and bypass the troubled healthcare.gov Web site.

Hawaii is about to become the 16th state to legalize gay marriage. The state Senate moved today to give final approval to same-sex unions. The governor indicated he would sign the bill into law. A similar measure won approval last week in the Illinois legislature.

The U.N. Human Rights Council added new members today, and human rights activists were not happy about the results. China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Cuba all won seats, despite protests that they routinely abuse human rights and restrict basic freedoms. The U.N. General Assembly voted on the new members.

An international committee of architects has confirmed it: One World Trade Center in New York will be the tallest building in the U.S. when it’s completed next year. It’s being built at the site of the 9/11 attacks and will top out at 1,776 feet. But a dispute arose over the needle on top of the building and whether it’s to be counted toward that height. The announcement came today in Chicago.

ANTONY WOOD, Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat: In the end, we reached a consensus. It was close to unanimous. It wasn’t 100 percent unanimous, but it was close to unanimous. And so the debate — and this was a five-hour meeting. So the debate was — was pretty heated.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Chicago’s Willis Tower, formerly known as the Sears Tower, had been the country’s tallest building at 1,451 feet.

Violence erupted in two developing countries today as garment workers pressed for better pay and working conditions. In Cambodia, one woman was shot dead when riot police used tear gas and water cannon along with live ammunition. Demonstrators threw rocks and set some cars on fire. In Bangladesh, thousands of protesters battled police in two industrial towns, leaving dozens of people injured. More than 200 factories were closed.

In China, leaders of the ruling Communist Party vowed to let markets play a decisive role in allocating resources. The policy statement was announced at the end of a four-day summit in Beijing. The gathering focused on reforms to drive economic growth for the next decade. The leaders stopped short of ordering dramatic reforms that would end the dominance of state-controlled industries.

President Obama nominated a top Treasury Department official, Timothy Massad, to run the Commodity Futures Trading Commission today. The CFTC regulates the futures and options market, but it’s one of the smallest and most thinly funded U.S. agencies. The president urged Congress today to fully fund the commission.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average lost 32 points today to close at 15,750. The Nasdaq rose a fraction to close just short of 3,920.