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News Wrap: California to cut off state-supplied water due to drought

January 31, 2014 at 6:02 PM EDT
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Supporters of the much-debated Keystone oil pipeline project won a key round today. A State Department review found completing the final leg of the pipeline, which would then run from Canada to the Gulf, would cause no serious environmental problems. We will have more on the review, and its implications, right after the news summary.

The state of California is cutting off state-supplied water to 25 million people in the face of severe drought. The unprecedented decision today means 29 water agencies will have to rely on local sources of water. The head of the state water control board says it’s essential to conserve what little water is left in state reservoirs.

FELICIA MARCUS, Chair, California Water Resources Control Board: This is the most serious drought we have faced if modern times. And we will have to face it head on and make many hard decisions in days, weeks and months to come. Everyone, farmers, fish and people in cities and towns will get less water because of the drought.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The cutoff also affects nearly one million acres of crop land in one of the nation’s richest farm belts.
A global sell-off sent Wall Street sharply lower. The Dow Jones industrial average lost well over 149 points to close below 15,699. The Nasdaq fell 19 points to close below 4,104. For the week, the Dow lost 1 percent; the Nasdaq fell more than half-a-percent. Overall, it was the market’s worst month since last May.

President Obama appealed to the nation’s CEOs today to hire the long-term unemployed. The president urged them to create opportunities for nearly four million Americans who’ve been out of work for six months or more. He spoke to leaders of eBay, Boeing, McDonald’s and a few others at the White House.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The folks who have been unemployed the longest often have the toughest time getting back to work. It’s a cruel catch-22. The longer you’re unemployed, the more unemployable you may seem. Now, this is an illusion, but it’s one that, unfortunately, we know statistically is happening out there.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Nearly 300 companies made commitments to focus more on the long-term jobless. The president also signed a memo ensuring the federal government won’t discriminate against such applicants in its own hiring.

A former New Jersey Port Authority official now says there’s evidence that Republican Governor Chris Christie knew about a major bridge closing while it was happening. Christie has said he found out after the fact. The new allegation comes from an attorney for David Wildstein, who ordered the bridge closing, allegedly to punish a Democratic mayor. Christie has denied any knowledge of a political motive. And his office says the Wildstein lawyer’s statement actually confirms his account.

The first round of the Syrian peace talks ended today in Geneva, with little to show. The Syrian government rejected opposition demands that President Bashar al-Assad give up power. The regime also refused to commit to a second round of negotiations. We will get a full report and explore what happens next later in the program.

Officials in Thailand are warning they may close polling stations if violence erupts during Sunday’s general election. The government is going ahead with the vote, despite protesters’ opposition. Today, the atmosphere at protest sites in Bangkok was festive, and demonstrators tried to drum up support. They have threatened to disrupt the polling to support calls for a boycott.

PONGPHAN NANTHASRI, Anti-Government Demonstrator (through interpreter): I’m not going to vote on Sunday, because if you do, that means you accept that this election right. We have been defying this government for a long time. We need to finish it this time.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The protesters are demanding the ouster of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. They say she’s a puppet of her brother, who was ousted as prime minister in 2006.

Members of the International Olympic Committee arrived in Sochi, Russia, today to view the security for themselves. Thousands of police and troops are being deployed, along with helicopters and radar sites. It comes in the face of threats by Islamist insurgents. Meanwhile, President Obama says he would advise friends it’s OK to go.

He told CNN — quote — “I believe Sochi is safe and that there are always some risks in these large international gatherings.”

The process of building an Obama presidential library has formally begun. Major supporters announced today they’re forming a foundation to raise money, develop building plans and pick a site. The leading possibilities include Hawaii, where the president was born, and the Chicago area, where he lived for many years and was first elected to office.