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News Wrap: Investigators conclude speed was a factor in N.Y. train derailment

December 2, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT
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JUDY WOODRUFF: This was touted as the biggest day of the year for online shopping, as hundreds of retailers tried to lure millions of holiday shoppers on Cyber Monday. Early numbers suggested a sharp increase over last year, after a four-day holiday weekend that turned out to be disappointing. In a few minutes, we will take a deeper look at the numbers and retailers’ prospects.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined today to decide whether big online retailers have to collect state sales taxes. The justices turned away appeals from Amazon and Overstock.com after they lost a case in New York State. In the absence of a national ruling, more states may try to tax sales on the Internet.

A New York commuter train was doing 82 miles an hour when it hit a sharp curve and derailed Sunday, killing four people. The speed limit there is 30 miles an hour. Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board announced the findings today from the train’s two data recorders. They said it’s clear what the train was doing, but not why.

EARL WEENER, National Transportation Safety Board Member: So the question is, was this human error or faulty equipment?

The answer is, at this point in time, we can’t tell. At this point in time, the data is preliminary, but we can say, here’s what happened. We know speeds and positions and power settings and brake application. We don’t know whether the brakes went to zero pressure because of a valve change or because of the train breakup.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The wreckage on the track meant some 26,000 commuters had to find alternative routes today.

The government’s health care Web site is hitting on more cylinders. White House officials say that it handled 375,000 customers by midday. That’s after weeks of work to fix the site’s disastrous rollout two months ago. We will get the details on that effort and what lies ahead right after the news summary.

A medical technician faces 39 years in prison, in New Hampshire, for infecting at least 46 people with hepatitis C. David Kwiatkowski was sentenced today. He admitted stealing painkillers and replacing them with syringes of saline tainted with his own infected blood. His victims were spread across four states.

In Thailand, the embattled prime minister pledged to do anything it takes to end days of violent protests, except give up power. But thousands of demonstrators demanded just that.

Jonathan Sparks of Independent Television News has this report.

JOHN SPARKS: It was supposed to be peaceful, a nonviolent campaign against the Thai government. But it’s turned into a bare-knuckle battle for power, parts of Bangkok streaked with tear gas and rubble bullets today as protesters tried to seize government ministries from the police.

Many here are driven by hatred for the country’s prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, and those seen to support her. We watched as protesters crept up to the barricades around the prime minister’s office with an assortment of homemade weaponry.

But several rounds of tear gas saw them off. The protest leader, a fiery politician called Suthep Thaugsuban, told euphoric supporters that the government would soon fall. The prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, also spoke, offering to hold talks. But Mr. Suthep refuses to negotiate.

It’s a problem I put to her foreign minister today.

He said he’s not negotiating.

SURAPONG TOVICHAKCHAIKUL, Thai Foreign Minister: I don’t know. That’s the way Suthep is thinking. Maybe he’s thinking right now he’s a god, he can do anything.

JOHN SPARKS: As evening approached, police lines were rammed with a rubbish truck. They responded with a scorching mix of water and pepper spray. The police won themselves a few minutes, but the protesters returned. And they will be there tomorrow as well.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Protests also raged for another day in Ukraine’s capital city. Thousands of demonstrators stormed government buildings in Kiev to demand integration with the European Union. In turn, the country’s president asked to renew talks with the E.U. and he appealed for calm. We will have a full report from Kiev and analysis from a former U.S. ambassador later in the program.

China launched its first robotic mission to the moon early this morning. The Jade Rabbit rover aboard a landing craft blasted off atop an unmanned rocket at 1:30 a.m. The rover is expected to land on the lunar surface in mid-December. If successful, China will become the third country to soft-land a spacecraft on the moon.

Wall Street retreated today after retailers got off to a disappointing start for the holiday season. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 77 points to close at 16,008. The Nasdaq fell 14 points to close at 4,045.