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News Wrap: Zero U.S. Combat Deaths in Iraq in December

January 1, 2010 at 12:00 AM EDT

HARI SREENIVASAN: Good evening. December was the first month in the nearly seven-year-long Iraq war without a U.S. combat death. Today, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Army General Ray Odierno, called it a significant milestone, and attributed that to the decline in violence.

Meanwhile, the head of the U.S. Central Command paid a New Year’s visit to American troops in Baghdad. General David Petraeus said, the Iraqi elections scheduled for March 7 are of enormous importance to the country’s future.

Britain launched an immediate review of its current airport security measures, after the failed plane bombing over Detroit. Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he is considering installing new technologies, like full body scanners to screen passengers. We have a report from Paul Davies of Independent Television News.

PAUL DAVIES: Some may feel it’s an invasion of privacy, technology that can see under your clothes. But the British government appears to be the latest to decide it’s an acceptable price to pay, if it stops a potential suicide bomber. This system, which has been successfully trialed at Manchester, could soon be a fixture at all of Britain’s airports.

In a statement, Gordon Brown said: “The Detroit plot thankfully failed. But it has been another wakeup call.” He added, there was now a need “to enhance airport security systems beyond the traditional measures.”

Full body scanners have already been introduced at American airports. Here, a member of airport staff demonstrates how a concealed weapon can be spotted. In this case, it’s a knife, but the same technology could also spot explosives that may not alert conventional metal detectors.

Experts say the new scanners, while a useful addition to security, are not the complete answer, and that the best defense remain proper use of intelligence to identify those who could pose a threat to their fellow passengers.

PHILIP BAUM, aviation expert: We have to start to look at commonsense security. We need to profile passengers. We need to treat people differently. When you arrive at the airport, you shouldn’t know how you are going to be screened.

PAUL DAVIES: In fact, America has admitted conventional security and profiling should have highlighted the threat posed by 23-year-old Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Prime Minister Brown also called for an international summit to be held later this month in London on how to counter growing radicalization in Yemen. The world welcomed in 2010 today. Pope Benedict used his traditional New Year’s Day address to urge people to change their lifestyles in order to help save the environment.

In Pasadena, California, thousands of people lined the streets to watch the Rose Parade. And it was a day for college football, with five major bowl games being played across the country.

With the start of the new year, a long and varied list of new laws was implemented in states across the country.

MAN: Happy new year.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Revelers across the country welcomed the new year last night. And, this morning, they welcomed in a new set of state laws, which took effect at midnight. Many of the laws targeted public health. In California, restaurants can no longer serve food with more than half-a-gram of trans fat per serving.

MAN: Personally, I like the fact that there’s going to — not going to be smoking.

HARI SREENIVASAN: In North Carolina, a state steeped in its tobacco heritage, a smoking ban in restaurants and bars goes into effect tomorrow.

MAN: I believe in freedoms and I believe in choices. So, for me to say you can’t do this, but you can do that, you know, I just don’t think that’s the way we operate here.

HARI SREENIVASAN: State legislatures hope new laws will keep the country’s roads safer in 2010, with Oregon, Illinois, and New Hampshire banning drivers from sending text messages while behind the wheel. Eighteen other states have similar laws.

New Hampshire also replaced its civil union law with a law allowing gay marriage.

WOMAN: You are married.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Linda Murphy and her partner were among the 16 couples who made it official outside the statehouse in Concord at 12:01 this morning.

WOMAN: Indescribable, amazing, the best feeling ever.

HARI SREENIVASAN: In Washington, D.C., lawmakers are attempting to decrease waste. MAN: It’s a great idea. They should have done this a long time ago.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Shoppers who took home their purchases in plastic bags last year now have to pay 5 cents for each one, or use their own reusable bags.

SHEILA ALLEN, shopper: It’s pretty good, but they should have gave us a little bit more notice. I mean, sometimes, people forget to bring a bag with them. I know I do.

HARI SREENIVASAN: It’s the first major city in the country to impose such a surcharge. The fees will go to a fund to clean up the city’s Anacostia River.

MOLLY SMITH, shopper: Ultimately, everybody has to pay for that anyhow, as the city trolls and brings the garbage out. So, I actually think it’s really smart to do this.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Hundreds of other state laws, including an end to dog racing in Massachusetts and a ban on selling toy guns in Arkansas, also took effect.