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Other News: Pelosi Promises a Public Option

October 23, 2009 at 6:00 PM EDT
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JUDY WOODRUFF: In other news today, there were growing signs the idea of including a government-funded public option in health care reform is gaining new momentum. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi insisted again that the final House bill will include a public insurance option. She pointed to reports that Senate Democratic leaders are now leaning toward doing the same thing. Pelosi said the debate is turning from whether to have a public option to what form it should take.

REP. NANCY PELOSI, D-Calif.: They’re behind closed doors, but the conversations has — they have in their health bill a public option which is very similar to the Energy and Commerce Committee public option on our side.

Since that is now a possibility, a strong possibility, then I have to, again, discuss with my colleagues what’s the best approach to conference.

JUDY WOODRUFF: It was widely reported that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid might offer to let states opt out of a public option, if that will ensure Senate passage of a bill.

On Wall Street today, weak results from industrial companies sent stocks tumbling. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 109 points, to close at 9972. The Nasdaq fell more than 10 points, to close at 2154. For the week, the Dow lost two-tenths-of-a-percent. The Nasdaq dipped one-tenth of a percent.

But there was good news on the housing front. The National Association of Realtors reported that home sales were up 9.4 percent, to reach a two-year high.

NATO defense ministers signaled that they may send more international troops into Afghanistan to join U.S. forces. The group met in Slovakia, where they were also briefed by U.S. General Stanley McChrystal, the overall commander in Afghanistan. They gave his counterinsurgency plan calling for more troops their broad support.

And, at a news conference, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the U.S. is still committed to Afghanistan.

ROBERT GATES, U.S. Secretary of Defense: Other nations have put more than 35,000 troops on the ground in Afghanistan, and their views are important to us as we consider the way ahead.

I assured the allies this morning and will state again this afternoon that the United States has no intention of pulling out of Afghanistan or abandoning our core mission there.

JUDY WOODRUFF: President Obama is still considering several options on war strategy presented by General McChrystal. They range from ordering no major changes to sending as many as 80,000 additional troops.

There were more attacks in Pakistan today, bringing the death toll this month to nearly 200. A suicide bomber on a bicycle hit a major air base in the northwest. The blast killed seven people on their way to work at the complex.

Hours later, an explosion went off under a bus traveling to a wedding in the tribal region north of South Waziristan. The attacks came in the first week of a major military ground offensive against militants who are operating near the border with Afghanistan.

Iran did not meet a deadline to officially respond to a nuclear proposal. Iran’s envoy to the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency said that he would have an answer next week. The U.S., Russia and France officially endorsed the plan today, which included a proposal to ship most of Iran’s uranium abroad for enrichment. But Iranian state television reported that officials there want to instead buy the nuclear fuel that is needed for a reactor.

Federal officials intensified their efforts to explain how two pilots on a Northwest Airlines flight overshot their destination by more than 100 miles.

“NewsHour” correspondent Kwame Holman has more.

KWAME HOLMAN: The Airbus A-320 with 144 people aboard was bound from San Diego to Minneapolis, but flew on well beyond it before controllers could contact the cockpit. The plane landed safely in Minneapolis about 9:00 Wednesday night.

Today, the National Transportation Safety Board was examining the Northwest plane’s flight data and cockpit recorders. Investigators are considering whether fatigue played a role. Law enforcement officials said the pilots told them, “They were in a heated discussion over airline policy and they lost situational awareness.”

Northwest Flight 188 was out of radio contact for 75 minutes. As it flew over Wisconsin, Air National Guard units were contacted and fighter jets were preparing to intercept the plane. When the aircraft finally was turned around and landed in Minneapolis, passengers were unaware they had overshot the airport.

ANDREA ALLMON, Northwest Flight 188 passenger: Suddenly, there were cops all — airport police all over the airplane, and they told us to sit back down, so we all sat back down, wondered what was going on. They went into the cockpit, didn’t say anything else, and then said, OK, everybody off the plane.

KWAME HOLMAN: Others were mystified the pilots could miss their destination.

CARLA INNERFIELD, Northwest Flight 188 passenger: There’s more than just the pilot. I mean, there’s the co-pilot. There’s — what about the crew? The crew wasn’t aware of any of this? It’s outrageous.

KWAME HOLMAN: Former commercial airline pilot John Wiley is at “Aviation Week” magazine.

JOHN WILEY, “Aviation Week”: Radio silence for 78 minutes is extraordinary. I have never been on a flight where I have been with a silent radio for 78 minutes. No communications from the airplane, no communications that were acknowledge by the airplane, that’s highly extraordinary.

KWAME HOLMAN: Wiley says, today’s pilots run a real risk of suffering from exhaustion.

JOHN WILEY: A lot of people think of fatigue as just being tired, but what we’re talking about, after a period of time, is loss of cognitive functions, as they call it, or the ability to think. So, yes, you are mentally impaired.

KWAME HOLMAN: Delta Air Lines, which acquired Northwest last year, has suspended the two unidentified pilots, pending its own investigation.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The comedian who called himself Soupy Sales died at a hospice in New York last night. The slapstick comic was best known for his pie-throwing routine. His greatest success in the mid 1960s was “The Soupy Sales Show” for children. His co-stars were a cast of animal puppets.

Soupy Sales was 83 years old.