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News Wrap: Militants make deadly attack on Pakistan university

January 20, 2016 at 6:50 PM EDT

GWEN IFILL: Good evening. I’m Gwen Ifill.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And I’m Judy Woodruff.

GWEN IFILL: On the “NewsHour” tonight: We go to the community of Flint, Michigan, where a water crisis has the governor on the defensive and residents outraged.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Also ahead this Wednesday: the virus now found in 20 countries and causing brain damage in infants.

GWEN IFILL: Then, we catch up with two reporters on the campaign trail to go beyond the polls in Iowa and New Hampshire.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And the second conversation in our series on Understanding Autism, telling the many stories of the disorder.

CAREN ZUCKER, Co-Author, “In a Different Key: The Story of Autism”: Some guy stood up and said, “Hey, he’s got autism. What’s your problem? What’s your reason for acting like a jerk?”

And what happened is a community formed around him.

GWEN IFILL: All that and more on tonight’s “PBS NewsHour.”


JUDY WOODRUFF: Wall Street spent another day on the downside, and the only question was, how low would they go? The Dow Jones industrial average was off 550 points before a late rally. It ended with a loss of 249 points to close at 15766. The Nasdaq fell five and the S&P 500 dropped 22. All this was driven by another sharp drop in oil prices to just over $26.50 a barrel.

GWEN IFILL: Numbers of a very different sort are also in, and they show 2015 was Earth’s hottest year on record. Scientists at NASA and NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, reported that today.

As this NASA animation shows, the data show a steady accumulation of heat in recent decades. And the researchers say it should make doubters of climate change think twice.

COMPTON TUCKER, NASA: Fifteen of the past 16 years have been the warmest years on record. And when you see a run like this, this is not something which people can easily dismiss and say it isn’t true; 15 out of 16 is a pretty good batting average.

GWEN IFILL: NOAA had already announced that 2015 was the second warmest year in the United States since record-keeping started 121 years ago.

JUDY WOODRUFF: In Pakistan, Islamist militants killed at least 18 students and two teachers at a university today and wounded 23 others. The attackers stormed the school in the northwestern city of Charsadda, before being cornered and killed by soldiers.

Ambulance sirens wailed outside Bacha Khan University even as the battle raged inside. Four militants had sneaked in under cover of early morning fog and started shooting.

MAN (through interpreter): We heard firing from the back of the campus. We thought maybe some people were fighting. Then the firing increased. Then he said, get into the rooms. Don’t go out.

MAN (through interpreter): There was so much panic and fear that a friend of mine jumped from the university building. The building is very high, yet he jumped from it in because he was so scared. We saw the militants chanting, “Allah is greatest.”

JUDY WOODRUFF: Police and military forces descended on the campus and counterattacked.

Washington Post reporter Tim Craig tracked the operation from Islamabad.

TIM CRAIG, Washington Post: It was quite foggy, so they actually used helicopters to sort of see the ground of the campus, because it was really foggy. So, helicopters were used. They rappelled commandos onto the school grounds to sort of fight the terrorists.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Friends and family waited for news of loved ones as a prolonged gun battle followed. Police say they had to proceed with caution.

SAEED KHAN WAZIR, Police Chief (through interpreter): This was a short lived operation, approximately two hours in duration, in which time we finished the militants. Two of them were on the hostel roof top, but there was some confusion that they might be students, as they were young-looking. Otherwise, we could easily have targeted them in the beginning.

JUDY WOODRUFF: A breakaway faction of the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility, but the main Taliban group called it un-Islamic. The attack echoed the 2014 massacre at a grade school in nearby Peshawar that killed more than 150 people, mostly children and teachers.

TIM CRAIG: Since then, the army has really sort of stepped up its response to this menace and this threat. And terrorism attacks went way down this year, depending on what study you are looking at, 50 percent down, 70 percent down.

But clearly, as a resident of Pakistan at the moment, I can say it’s a much safer place. With that said, as everyone around the world knows, it only takes one time for a terrorist to be able to enter a location to carry out a horrific attack.

JUDY WOODRUFF: After today’s attack, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif vowed again to wipe out the menace of terrorism in his country.

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, a Taliban car bomber killed seven people on a minibus in Kabul. The vehicle carried journalists for Tolo News, a private TV channel that’s reported on Taliban abuses.

GWEN IFILL: Iran’s supreme leader has thanked the country’s Revolutionary Guards for detaining 10 U.S. soldiers — sailors, that is, last week. The Americans were held for 15 hours after straying into Iranian waters. On his Web site today, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei praised the guard’s action, and said: “What they did in the Persian Gulf was right.”

Khamenei also said Iranian protesters who stormed the Saudi Arabian Embassy this month had harmed Iran and Islam. The Saudis severed diplomatic ties after the attack.

JUDY WOODRUFF: There’s confirmation today that Islamic State militants have destroyed Iraq’s oldest Christian monastery. Satellite photos obtained by the Associated Press show St. Elijah’s Monastery in Mosul was leveled in September of 2014. It had stood for 1,400 years.

REV. PAUL THABIT HABIB, Iraqi Priest (through interpreter): It became a spiritual place for the Christians to visit and to have religious ceremonies there. The monastery attracted all the people from Mosul, Christians and Muslims. All the poets, historians and travelers wrote about this monastery. It became a very important place for the history of the church in Iraq.

JUDY WOODRUFF: In the past 18 months, the Islamic State has damaged or destroyed hundreds of ancient cultural sites in Syria and Iraq.

GWEN IFILL: Back in this country, Senate Democrats blocked a Republican bill to toughen screenings for Syrian and Iraqi refugees entering the U.S. The two sides jousted over whether it would prevent Islamic State militants from entering the country or simply punish the innocent.

SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D), Illinois: I don’t understand why the Republicans in the Senate and the Republican presidential candidates have declared war on these poor refugees. I don’t understand why they ignore the fact that these people are going through closer scrutiny, more investigations, more questions, and more delays than any visitors to the United States from any other country.

SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), Texas: What this legislation is about, though, is about national security, people who are refugees, whether they’re adequately vetted by the appropriate authorities before they come to the United States and live in our communities. This is not about banning refugees.

GWEN IFILL: The bill cleared the Republican-led House last fall with a veto-proof majority.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Nearly all of Detroit’s 100 public schools were closed today, as teachers staged their latest and largest sick-out. They’re trying to draw attention to a lack of funding, low pay, crumbling buildings and large class sizes. The sick-out kept thousands of students home and coincided with President Obama’s visit to the city to tout the auto industry’s recovery.

GWEN IFILL: And an automobile with special status is going on the auction block in Philadelphia. Pope Francis used the black Fiat during his visit to the U.S. last September. The auction is set for January 29. Proceeds will go to the Roman Catholic archdiocese and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And coming up on the “NewsHour”: the latest on Flint, Michigan’s toxic water crisis; warnings against a spreading virus that causes child deformities; a call to de-emphasize test scores in college applications; and much more.