Stocks Edge Higher, Iceland’s Government Collapses
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JUDY WOODRUFF: In the other news of this day, Wall Street managed to post gains today despite the wave of job losses. The market got a boost from the Pfizer-Wyeth drug merger and from a rise in home sales in December.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 38 points to close at 8,116. The Nasdaq rose 12 points to close at 1,489.
The government of Iceland collapsed today, amid a deepening financial crisis. Conservative Prime Minister Geir Haarde and his cabinet resigned after Social Democrats quit the ruling coalition. Iceland’s banks were nationalized last fall. The government also accepted $10 billion in loans from the International Monetary Fund and other sources.
The rival Palestinian groups Hamas and Fatah held reconciliation talks in Egypt today. It was their first meeting in 10 months, and it followed a three-week Israeli assault on Hamas in Gaza.
Also today, the new American peace envoy, George Mitchell, met with President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton before leaving for the Middle East. The president said that the U.S. will stay vigorously and consistently involved.
U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I am absolutely confident that, if the U.S. is engaged in a consistent way and an early — in early fashion, that we can make genuine progress. Now, understand that Senator Mitchell is going to be fully empowered by me and fully empowered by Secretary Clinton. So when he speaks, he will be speaking for us.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Mitchell had no plans to meet with any Hamas leaders during his trip.
The Obama administration made it clear today that it wants direct talks with Iran. The new United Nations ambassador, Susan Rice, said that Iran’s nuclear program is a top priority and needs direct diplomacy. Later, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said that Rice was simply re-stating the position the president took during his campaign.
Four U.S. service members were killed in Iraq today when their helicopters crashed. They went down west of Kirkuk in what appeared to be an accident. It was the worst single American loss since mid-September.
The news came as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said that he thinks U.S. troops can leave sooner than expected. A recent security deal set out a three-year timetable.
The impeachment trial of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich began today. The State Senate considered charges of abuse of power. They include allegations the governor tried to sell the Senate seat vacated by President Obama.
Blagojevich boycotted the trial. Instead, he was in New York, talking to network TV shows and to reporters.
GOV. ROD BLAGOJEVICH, D-Ill.: There’s an impeachment process going on in the state of Illinois where it’s pre-ordained and the fix is in to remove a governor elected twice by the people. And if the senators in Illinois and the lawmakers in Illinois can do that to a sitting governor, imagine what they can do to average, ordinary citizens.
JUDY WOODRUFF: It will take a two-thirds vote by the state senate to convict the governor and remove him from office.
Also today, a lawsuit challenging the outcome of the U.S. Senate race in Minnesota went to court. Democrat Al Franken has been certified as the winner by 225 votes, but Republican Norm Coleman wants to count thousands of rejected absentee ballots.