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News Wrap: Top VA health official resigns after testimony

May 16, 2014 at 6:02 PM EST
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Firefighters wrangled five of the 10 wildfires burning around San Diego, California, today, thanks to cooler temperatures and calmer winds.

But at the Marine Corp’s Camp Pendleton base, two fires flared up overnight.  One grew from 600 to 8,000 acres.  Elsewhere, evacuees were permitted to return home to survey the damage.  Officials are still investigating the possibility of arson.  All told, 120,000 people were under evacuation orders at some point this week.

The U.S. Department of Transportation slapped a maximum $35 million fine on General Motors today for mishandling its ignition switch defects.  The problem affected some 2.6 million cars and, according to GM, resulted in at least 13 deaths.  It took the nation’s largest automaker nearly a decade to order recalls after engineers discovered the defect.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said that’s unacceptable.

ANTHONY FOXX, Secretary of Transportation: We know no one is perfect.  But what we cannot tolerate, what we will never accept is a person or a company that knows danger exists and says nothing.  Literally, silence can kill.

JUDY WOODRUFF: For its part, GM’s CEO, Mary Barra, issued a statement saying: “GM’s ultimate goal is to create an exemplary process and produce the safest cars for our customers.  They deserve no less.”

The top health official at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has resigned.  Dr. Robert Petzel gave his resignation a day after testifying before a Senate panel on the department’s failures to provide adequate health care for the nation’s veterans.  It comes in the wake of allegations of treatment delays and falsified records at VA hospitals, including one in Phoenix, where allegedly up to 40 veterans died while awaiting care.

Twin blasts went off in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi today.  At least 10 people were killed and 70 more injured.  Police said two improvised explosive devices were detonated in a market area near Nairobi’s downtown.  The White House condemned the bombings, as the U.S. ambassador to Kenya requested more security and is reducing the number of staff stationed at the embassy in Nairobi.

In Turkey, protests against lax safety conditions in the country’s coal mines turned violent today.  Police fired water cannon, tear gas and rubber bullets into a crowd of thousands gathered in the town of Soma.  That’s where almost 300 miners were killed in an underground explosion and fire on Tuesday.  The Turkish government and the mine’s operators denied any negligence was to blame for the disaster.

On Wall Street today, stocks staged a late afternoon rebound.  The Dow Jones industrial average gained 44 points to close at 16,491.  The Nasdaq rose 21 points to close at 4,090.  The S&P 500 was up seven points to close above 1,877.  For the week, the Dow slipped more than half-a-percent.  The Nasdaq gained half-a-percent.  And the S&P was largely unchanged.

Jeb Magruder, who was jailed for his role in the Watergate scandal, died on Sunday of complications from a stroke.  Magruder worked as an aide to President Nixon and then helped run his reelection campaign in 1972.  It was then that he conspired to break into the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate and to bug the chairman’s phone.  In later years, Magruder claimed that he heard President Nixon order the break-in.  Jeb Magruder was 79 years old.