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News Wrap: City of Detroit Files for Bankruptcy

July 18, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT

KWAME HOLMAN: Detroit declared bankruptcy today, the largest American city ever to do so. The city’s state-appointed emergency manager made the filing with a federal judge. It would let him liquidate assets in a bid to pay off creditors and city pensioners.

Those parties have rejected a fiscal restructuring plan that would have paid them pennies on the dollar.

A new bipartisan has deal has been struck that surfaced in the Senate on student loans. It’s the latest attempt to rescind a doubling of interest rates on federally subsidized Stafford loans. The compromise would tie rates to financial markets, as Republicans wanted.

For now, the rates for undergraduate loans would fall back below 4 percent.

Maine independent Angus King praised the agreement today.

SEN. ANGUS KING, I-Maine: People signing up for loans in the next month for college this year are going to pay about half of what they would have paid if the law had stayed as it was. We were able to come together, talk to each other, listen to each other, and find not only a compromise solution, but a good compromise solution.

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KWAME HOLMAN: The rates could rise over time. Undergraduate rates would be capped at 8.25 percent, something Democrats demanded. The bipartisan deal is expected to reach the Senate floor in the coming days. The House already has passed student loan legislation that also ties loan rates to the markets.

The Senate confirmed two more members of President Obama’s second-term Cabinet today. A party-line vote cleared Thomas Perez to be the new secretary of labor. He’s currently head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

Later, Gina McCarthy won confirmation as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. The votes followed this week’s agreement between Democrats and Republicans to end delays on nominees for top administration posts.

In Jordan, Secretary of State John Kerry heard the sharp criticism of angry Syrian refugees who demanded stronger action against the Syrian regime. Kerry sat down with six refugees living in the Zaatari camp, where 115,000 Syrians have taken shelter. They insisted the U.S. and the international community establish a no-fly zone and safe havens inside Syria. The meeting lasted 40 minutes, and Kerry said he promised to relay the complaints to Washington.

SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY: I think they are frustrated and angry at the world for not stepping in and helping. I think there are — and I explained to them I don’t think it’s as cut-and-dry and as simple as some of them look at it. But if I were in their shoes, I would be looking for help from wherever I could find it.

KWAME HOLMAN: In Washington today, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army General Martin Dempsey, said he’s laid out options for President Obama on using U.S. military power in Syria. Republican Senator John McCain pressed Dempsey to say what he would do, but the general declined.

GEN. MARTIN DEMPSEY, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman: The decision to use force is the decision of our elected officials.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-Ariz.: You know, I just ask the — Chairman, just ask you if you would give your personal opinion to the committee if asked. You said yes. I’m asking for your opinion.

GEN. MARTIN DEMPSEY: About the use of kinetic strikes? That issue is under deliberation inside of the — our agencies in government, and it would be inappropriate for me to try to influence the decision, with me rendering an opinion in public about what kind of force we should use.

KWAME HOLMAN: Afterward, McCain said Dempsey must share his recommendations with the committee and he will block Dempsey’s nomination for a second term as chairman of the Joint Chiefs until he gets an answer.

A military judge refused today to dismiss a charge of aiding the enemy against Army Private 1st Class Bradley Manning. It’s the most serious of 21 charges in Manning’s court-martial for leaking of reams of classified documents to WikiLeaks.

If he’s found guilty on that count, Manning could serve life in prison without parole.

A Southern California wildfire still is growing, after forcing 6,000 people from their homes. The fire has burned across 35 square miles southeast of Los Angeles. Residents from the town of Idyllwild packed up yesterday, as the blaze threatened more than 4,100 homes, cabins and hotels. By today, it was only 15 percent contained.

The U.S. credit rating got a boost today. Moody’s investors service upgraded the outlook for federal debt from negative to stable. It cited data showing the government is on track to record its lowest deficit in five years. On Wall Street today, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 78 points to close at 15,548. The Nasdaq rose one point to close at 3,611.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.