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News Wrap: Health care enrollment troubles continue for thousands of Americans

February 3, 2014 at 6:01 PM EST
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GWEN IFILL: The sell-off on Wall Street picked up today where it left off Friday, on worries about sluggish growth. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 326 points to close at 15,372. The Nasdaq fell 106 points to close under 3,997.

Amid the downturn, Janet Yellen was sworn in as chair of the Federal Reserve. She’s the first woman to lead the Central Bank in its 100-year history.

Frigid weather cut into the car business in January, as buyers stayed away from showrooms. Ford, General Motors, Toyota, and Volkswagen all reported today their sales were down from a year ago. Chrysler, Nissan and Subaru bucked that trend, reporting increased sales.

In a few years, all new cars and light trucks may come with technology that can prevent most wrecks. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced today he expects to make that proposal before the end of the Obama administration. It involves special transponders that link vehicles with each other. We will take a closer look later in the program.

Thousands of people who signed up for insurance on healthcare.gov are getting nowhere when they try to fix overcharges and other enrollment errors. The Washington Post reports 22,000 appeals are sitting untouched in a computer. Others are being rebuffed over the phone. So far, the Web site has no way to handle appeals.

Today, White House spokesman Jay Carney counseled patience.

PRESS SECRETARY JAY CARNEY, White House: We are talking here about a very small percentage of the number of people who have applied for coverage. We believe that many of the issues that caused people to file appeals are left over from when the Web site wasn’t working well, and many of those problems have since been fixed.

Later, officials in charge of Medicare and Medicaid announced they’re beginning a manual appeals process, until the Web site can do the job.

The abortion rate in the U.S. has dropped to its lowest since 1973. A private research organization, the Guttmacher Institute, reported today a 13 percent decline in abortions between 2008 and 2011. That coincides with a large decline in overall pregnancy rates. The study found no evidence that new state curbs on abortion are affecting the numbers.

In Ukraine, President Viktor Yanukovych returned to work after four days of sick leave. At a public appearance today, he warned against radicalism among those protesting his move toward closer ties with Russia. In turn, protest leaders said, in a parliamentary session tomorrow, they will seek changes to weaken the president’s powers.

Al-Qaida has disavowed its powerful affiliate in Syria. In a statement today, the terror network’s leaders said they will have no further ties with the Islamic Front in Iraq and Syria. The statement also condemned rebel infighting as — quote — “sedition that is occurring in Syria between factions of jihadists.”

Olympic organizers in Sochi, Russia faced questions today about unfinished hotel rooms five days before the opening ceremonies. As of Saturday, three of the nine hotels reserved for thousands of journalists were not fully operational.

Still, the president of the International Olympic Committee insisted today most accommodations are ready.

THOMAS BACH, International Olympic Committee: There are 24,000 rooms that have been delivered and 97 percent of them without any problem. For the remaining 3 percent, there are still some issues to be settled.

GWEN IFILL: Also today, there was word that Russian authorities have hired a pest control firm to exterminate thousands of stray dogs around Sochi. It’s unclear how the dogs are being killed or what’s being done with the carcasses.

The Seattle Seahawks today relished their first Super Bowl victory in what turned into the most-watched television event ever, with more than 111 million viewers. The team captured the title last night, blowing out the Denver Broncos 43-8 at the Meadowlands in New Jersey. A celebratory parade is slated for Wednesday.

Meanwhile, fans struggled to get home today as a new storm dumped up to eight inches of snow in the Northeast. Hundreds of flights were canceled or delayed.