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News Wrap: Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania Dies at 77

February 8, 2010 at 12:00 AM EST
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In other news Monday, Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., died at the age of 77, and the nation's capital and much of the Mid-Atlantic remained snowbound in the wake of a weekend blizzard.
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HARI SREENIVASAN: Veteran Congressman John Murtha died today at a hospital in Arlington, Virginia. He had complications from gallbladder surgery. The Pennsylvania Democrat was a Marine Corps officer in Vietnam and was known as a Democratic hawk. But, in November of 2005, he demanded President Bush withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq.

REP. JOHN MURTHA, D-Pa.: This is a flawed policy wrapped in an illusion. The American public knows it. And lashing out at — at critics doesn’t help a bit. You have got to change the policy. That’s what’s going to help with the American people. We need to change direction.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Murtha had been in the House since 1974, and was scrutinized a number of times over ethical questions. He was 77 years old.

The nation’s capital and the Mid-Atlantic region were still snowbound today, in the wake of the weekend blizzard. The snow closed down government, schools, and roads, and forecasters predict even more snow soon.

Across the region, people labored to dig out, in some places, up to three feet of snow. Nearly 100,000 power customers were still in the dark. And utility companies warned it could be days before electricity is fully restored. In Washington alone, federal agencies that employ nearly 230,000 people were closed, as many roads remained difficult, if not dangerous, to drive.

MAN: The District didn’t really handle this very well. I mean, they didn’t clean any of the streets. I haven’t seen any trucks on my street.

NED GOODWIN, commuter: I’m from New Hampshire, so this is nothing. But, obviously, there’s some damage, so the city has to get itself back on its feet.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Washington, D.C., Mayor Adrian Fenty insisted the city was trying to do just that. And like officials across Maryland and Virginia, he urged patience.

ADRIAN FENTY, mayor, Washington, D.C.: Even though we’re fortunate to have sun the last couple of days, not a lot of places where the snow could go. And, so, we’re working through all those issues, but making no excuses, trying to get the city open and running as quickly and fast as humanly possible.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Just how quickly that happens was critical for thousands of students and teachers, as schools remained closed at least through Tuesday.

But major airports resumed flights on a limited basis. Amtrak also restored train service, with delays. And Washington’s subway system was operated in a limited capacity. Aboveground service for the Metro was suspended.

In the meantime, a new winter storm warning is in effect, with as much as a foot or more of new snow expected to begin falling tomorrow.

Washington has had nearly 45 inches of snow this winter, just nine short of the record set in 1899. And Philadelphia may break its record this week, going back to 1884.

In contrast, there’s not enough snow in Vancouver, Canada, where the Winter Olympics are set to open on Friday. Workers have been using helicopters and trucks to haul snow to the sites of ski and snowboard competitions.

An avalanche killed at least 17 Indian soldiers today at a training center in the part of Kashmir controlled by India. Seventeen other soldiers were critically wounded. They had been in the middle of ski training exercises on the Himalayan slopes when the mass of snow and ice swept them away. More than 50 officers were rescued six hours after the avalanche.

In Ukraine, the opposition leader claimed a narrow victory in Sunday’s presidential election. Viktor Yanukovych took a pro-Russian stance against the pro-Western government. His opponent, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, charged election fraud, and threatened to call out supporters. In 2004, the presidential vote results were thrown out after Yanukovych initially won. But international monitors said this year’s election was — quote — “an impressive display of democracy.”

Iran may have moved closer to being able to produce a nuclear warhead. The country’s top nuclear envoy said today Iran will begin enriching uranium to higher levels. He insisted it’s only to provide fuel for research, not for weapons. In response, the U.S. and France said it’s time to pursue new sanctions.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates spoke in Paris.

ROBERT GATES, U.S. Secretary of Defense: If Iran continues and develops nuclear weapons, it almost certainly will provoke nuclear proliferation in the Middle East. This is a huge danger. The key is persuading the Iranian leaders that their long-term best interests are best served by not having nuclear weapons.

HARI SREENIVASAN: On another front, the U.S. and the European Union also urged Iran today to live up to its international human rights obligations. There is fear of another government crackdown later this week, marking the founding of the Islamic republic.

The death toll from an explosion at a Connecticut power plant site should stand at five. That was the word today from state authorities on the scene in Middletown. The blast erupted as workers were testing natural gas lines, but the exact cause remained under investigation. The power plant was under construction.

Wall Street took another hit today over new fears about rising debt in Europe. The Dow Jones industrial average lost more than 103 points, to close at 9908, its first close below 10000 since November. The Nasdaq fell 15 points to finish at 2126.

The former boss at Merrill Lynch will be the new chairman and chief executive at CIT Group. John Thain organized the sale of Merrill Lynch to Bank of America in late 2008. Later, he was forced out over bonus payments to employees and lavish renovations to his office. CIT is a major lender to small and midsized companies. It recently emerged from bankruptcy reorganization.

Michael Jackson’s personal physician was charged today with involuntary manslaughter. Dr. Conrad Murray is a cardiologist. He was with Jackson when the pop star died last June. Prosecutors said Murray acted improperly by giving Jackson powerful sedatives to help him sleep. The doctor pled not guilty at a court appearance.

Those are some of the day’s main stories. I will be back at the end of the program with a preview of what you will find tonight on the NewsHour’s Web site — but, for now, back to Jeff.