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News Wrap: First MH17 crash victims are returned to the Netherlands

July 23, 2014 at 6:02 PM EST
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JUDY WOODRUFF: The first of the victims from the Malaysian airliner shot down over Ukraine arrived back in the Netherlands today. Life in the grieving nation largely came to a halt, as the day’s somber events played out.

Jonathan Rugman of Independent Television News has our report.

JONATHAN RUGMAN: At Eindhoven military airport this afternoon, two aircraft, one Dutch and one Australian, ferried the first of MH17′s passengers and crew back to the country which lost the most; 193 of the 298 were Dutch, 32 Australian, and 10 from the U.K., 40 hearses for 40 coffins.

And before they were taken away for forensic investigation, the Dutch gave the bodies a hero’s welcome, with the sounding of the last post. The country’s new king, Willem-Alexander, and Queen Maxima, led a day of national mourning, the ceremony here meticulous in bright sunshine, and performed in front of about 1,000 relatives of the dead.

And what was most striking, the determination to give them a dignity in death that they never received in the fields of Eastern Ukraine. At the crash site itself, separatist rebels gave access to officials from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, but not to Dutch investigators, who said their safety wasn’t guaranteed.

The plane’s flight recorders have been taken to the U.K. for an examination which could take weeks. But six days on, there has been no professional investigation permitted here. On Monday, the U.K. said it had imposed an absolute arms embargo on Russia. But, today, it emerged that more than 200 export licenses, including for missile launching equipment, are still in place.

DAVID CAMERON, Prime Minister, United Kingdom: We have an arms embargo in place. We set out the terms of it, and we need to make sure that everything that’s happened since is consistent with the terms of that embargo. I believe that’s the case, but we will want to go through each one of these individually to very much make sure that it is the case. And if it isn’t, of course, we will act very swiftly.

JONATHAN RUGMAN: And amid disagreement among world leaders as to how to respond, pro-Russian separatists are continuing to shoot down aircraft. Today, it was two Ukrainian military jets, this just 25 miles from the MH17 site, the Ukrainians claiming the rockets were fired from Russia itself.

On the other side of Europe, though, the peeling of bells, and then a minute’s silence. Not a corner of the Netherlands has been untouched by this disaster. And the scenes this evening have been unprecedented, many thousands lining the streets to watch the hearses pass by, the first bodies from 11 nations in all, though none of them have yet been identified, yet all of them honored here by the country which less than one fateful week ago had sent them on their way.

JUDY WOODRUFF: European monitors said today there are body parts still at the site in Eastern Ukraine where the plane was shot down. And Australia’s prime minister warned it’s increasingly likely that some of the remains will never be recovered.

GWEN IFILL: And in other news today, in Taiwan, a TransAsia Airways plane crashed in stormy weather as it was trying to land on the small island of Penghu. At least 47 people were trapped and feared dead. Rescue workers used flashlights to comb through the wreckage in the darkness; 58 passengers and crew members were on board.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Republicans and Democrats in Congress offered up competing bills today on the flood of migrant children across the southern U.S. border. But there was no sign that either side can win over the other. House Republicans said their bill could cost $1.5 billion, far less than President Obama’s request of $3.7 billion.

Speaker John Boehner:

REP. JOHN BOEHNER, Speaker of the House: What the president is asking for is a blank check. He wants us to just throw more money at the problem without doing anything to solve the problem. The administration ought to get their act together. Without trying to fix the problem, I don’t know how we actually are in a position to give the president any more money.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Republicans also insist on speeding up deportations by changing a 2008 law that lays out a lengthy hearing process. In the Senate, Democrat Barbara Mikulski proposed legislation to cut the president’s funding request by $1 billion. But it wouldn’t change the 2008 law on deportations.

Homeland Security Department officials warn the border and immigration agencies will run out of money in the next two months unless Congress acts.

GWEN IFILL: Lawmakers in Iraq have again delayed voting on a new president. They agreed today to put off a decision until tomorrow, after the Kurdish political bloc asked for more time. At least 95 candidates are running. Meanwhile, the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for an overnight suicide bombing that killed 31 people at a checkpoint in Baghdad.

JUDY WOODRUFF: In Indonesia, a former general who lost the presidential election now plans to challenge the results in the nation’s highest court. His campaign alleges widespread fraud in the voting, although election observers have said that it was generally free and fair. Election officials declared Jakarta governor Joko Widodo the winner yesterday.

GWEN IFILL: The Costa Concordia cruise liner began its final voyage today, more than two years after it capsized off an Italian island. Two tugboats pulled the ship away from the port of Giglio. It will make a slow four-day journey to the northwestern port of Genoa, home to the company that owns the vessel.

FRANCO PORCELLACCHIA, Technical Team Leader, Costa Crociere: It is difficult to describe the feeling without being too emotional. The ship is heading north at a speed of two knots. Having reached the speed in such a short time, I’m confident that the expected arrival time in Genoa falling between Saturday night and Sunday morning.

GWEN IFILL: And 32 people died when the Concordia steered too close to land and struck a reef. The captain is now on trial on charges of causing the wreck and abandoning his passengers and for multiple counts of manslaughter.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Back in this country, General Motors has issued six more safety recalls covering another 700,000 vehicles. This time, the problems range from faulty seats to turn signal failures, to problems with power steering. All told, GM has issued a record 60 recalls this year, for nearly 30 million cars and trucks.

GWEN IFILL: Congressional investigators told House members today how they repeatedly qualified for subsidized health coverage using fake I.D.s. The Government Accountability Office said investigators succeed in 11 out of 18 attempts; they said they got around an online identity checking system by dialing government call centers instead.

Also today, a study by the Department of Health and Human Services estimated more than 10 million adults have gained coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The anthrax incident at a government lab has now cost the lab director his job. Michael Farrell submitted his resignation today from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He’d already been reassigned from a CDC facility in Atlanta that handles bioterrorism agents. Last month, that lab accidentally sent anthrax samples that were still alive to two other labs. Dozens of CDC workers were potentially exposed, but no one got sick.

GWEN IFILL: Wall Street had a mixed day after some mixed reports on corporate earnings. The Dow Jones industrial average lost nearly 27 points to close at 17,086. The Nasdaq rose 17 points to close at 4,473. And the S&P 500 added three to end at 1,987.