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News Wrap: Violence prevents access to MH17 wreckage

July 28, 2014 at 6:06 PM EDT
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JUDY WOODRUFF: It was an especially violent day in Ukraine as well, with government troops battling separatists in the east. The United Nations estimates violence in the region has killed more than 1,100 people just in the past four months.

For a second day, heavy fighting prevented an international police team from reaching the Malaysian airliner wreckage to secure the crash site. The deputy head of a European monitoring mission urgently appealed for calm.

ALEXANDER HUG, Deputy Chief Monitor, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe: On that site, there are still body parts missing, there are still bodies there, there is debris there. There is a job to be done. It can only be done if these guns are down and we have no risk on our way there. We are sick and tired of being interrupted by gunfights, despite the fact that we have agreed that there should be a cease-fire.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The U.N.’s High Commissioner for Human Rights today said the downing of flight MH17 could constitute a war crime, and demanded a quick investigation. Pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian authorities have blamed each other for shooting down the airliner, killing all 298 people on board.

GWEN IFILL: President Obama and European leaders have agreed on a new round of sanctions against Russia, to be announced later this week. National Security Adviser Tony Blinken said they will target Russia’s financial, defense and energy sectors. He also said the U.S. has seen a buildup of Russian forces along the border with Ukraine. That follows yesterday’s release by the State Department of satellite images that purport to show Russian troops firing on Ukrainian forces from across the border last week.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Russia was ordered to pay $50 billion in damages to former shareholders of the defunct oil giant Yukos. Russia immediately vowed to appeal The Hague arbitration panel’s ruling, calling it flawed and politically biased. The Hague panel has been reviewing the case since 2005, and concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin had manipulated the legal system to bankrupt Yukos.

GWEN IFILL: A federal appeals court in Virginia today ruled the commonwealth’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. The 2-1 ruling upheld a district judge’s decision from last February; 19 states and the District of Columbia now allow gay marriage. More than 70 lawsuits are pending in the 31 states that still prohibit it.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Medicare’s financial health is improving, and its hospital trust fund will remain solvent four years longer than projected, until 2030. The trustees who oversee the country’s Social Security and Medicare trust funds issued their yearly update today. The massive Social Security retirement program won’t be exhausted until 2034, but its disability program is projected to run dry in 2016 unless Congress takes action.

GWEN IFILL: Crews ramped up efforts today to contain two wildfires in Northern California. One blaze has burned about four square miles in and around Yosemite National Park. About 100 homes have been evacuated, but an air assault helped limit the fire’s spread. East of Sacramento, another wildfire spanned six square miles and was 65 percent contained.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Jury selection began in the corruption trial of former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen. McDonnell arrived at a federal courthouse in Richmond this morning. He and his wife face 14 counts of fraud and other charges for accepting $165,000 in gifts and loans from a political donor. Once considered a rising star in the Republican Party, McDonnell has insisted he did nothing illegal.

GWEN IFILL: President Obama honored 22 Americans with awards for their contributions to the arts and humanities today. The awards were handed out in the East Room of the White House. Singer Linda Ronstadt and public radio host Diane Rehm were among the recipients. The National Medal of Arts is the nation’s highest award given to artists and their patrons.

The Federal Aviation Administration proposed a $12 million fine against Southwest Airlines today for not complying with safety regulations. It’s a civil fine related to repairs on Boeing 737 jetliners that were returned to service even though they didn’t meet regulations. Southwest has 30 days to reply.

JUDY WOODRUFF: On Wall Street today, the waiting game was in effect as traders looked to the end of the week, when a slew of earnings reports are released. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 22 points to close at 16,982. The Nasdaq lost more than four points to close above 4,444. The S&P 500 gained less than a point to close just under 1,979.