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News Wrap: Saudi Arabia launches its largest war games ever

February 15, 2016 at 6:50 PM EST
Members of Saudi security forces take part in a military parade in preparation for the annual Haj pilgrimage in the holy city of Mecca September 17, 2015.  REUTERS/Ahmad Masood - RTS1M2J

JUDY WOODRUFF: Deadly attacks blasted hospitals and schools across Northern Syria today, killing nearly 50 civilians, many of them children. It signaled again there’s no end in sight for the war, despite plans for a temporary cease-fire.

Activists blamed Russian airstrikes, and the White House condemned the attacks. We will get a detailed account later in the program.

Amid tensions across the Middle East, Saudi Arabia today launched its largest war games ever. The drills involve 20 mostly Arab and African countries. The Saudis are already fighting Shiite rebels in Yemen, and they have offered to help fight the Islamic State group in Syria.

In Mexico, Pope Francis praised the country’s indigenous people and denounced their exploitation today. The first Latin American pontiff traveled to San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas state midway through his five-day visit. Francis celebrated mass in three languages native to the region before a crowd of thousands. And he condemned centuries of ill treatment of Mexico’s Indians.

POPE FRANCIS (through interpreter): On many occasions, in a systematic and organized way, your people have been misunderstood and excluded from society. Some have considered your values, culture and traditions to be inferior. Others, intoxicated by power, money and market trends, have stolen your lands or contaminated them.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The pope’s foray into Southern Mexico is aimed in part at boosting the Catholic faith in a region where Protestant denominations have made inroads.

Four American journalists are in custody in Bahrain after being detained on Sunday. Police say they were rounded up in the Shiite community of Sitra, having entered the country illegally. It happened during protests that marked a Shiite uprising in the Arab spring of 2011. The family of one of the Americans denies that they did anything illegal.

Steelworkers from across Europe converged on Brussels today to protest imports of cheap steel from China. Thousands carried flags and banners warning the European Union not to grant China market economy status. They said that would let Beijing flood the market with even more steel.

MAN: We are protesting because we want fair competition for the steel industry in Europe. Nowadays, huge amounts of steel are being brought in, imported in Europe from China, and we cannot compete with this, because the prices that are now paid in Europe are very low.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The European steel industry accuses China of using illegal export subsidies to sell products at below production cost.

And here in the U.S., Wall Street was closed for the President’s Day holiday, but world markets shot higher. The rally was led by stocks in Japan and hopes for more stimulus in Europe. Investors also welcomed news that China’s Central Bank has fixed the value of the Chinese currency at a stronger rate.

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