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News Wrap: Daley Named White House Chief of Staff; al-Sadr Back in Iraq

January 6, 2011 at 4:06 PM EST
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In other news Thursday, William Daley, part of a Chicago political dynasty, was named White House chief of staff. Also, Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who commanded a militia combating U.S. and Iraqi troops, returned to Iraq from four years of exile. His political movement is now part of Iraq's new government.
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KWAME HOLMAN: President Obama has a new White House chief of staff. He named political veteran William Daley to the position this afternoon. Daley served as commerce secretary under President Clinton. He’s currently an executive at investment bank J.P. Morgan Chase.

The president said all that experience will help.

U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States: He’s led major corporations. He possesses a deep understanding of how jobs are created and how to grow our economy. And, needless to say, Bill also has a smidgen of awareness of how our system of government and politics works. You might say it is a genetic trait.

KWAME HOLMAN: Daley’s father was the late Chicago Mayor Richard Daley.

His brother is the city’s current mayor.

The new chief of staff thanked the president today for selecting him to replace Pete Rouse, who’s served on an interim basis.

WILLIAM DALEY, White House chief of staff: You, Mr. President, are proving your strength, your leadership, your vision during a most difficult time for our nation and for the world. You have also shown through your example that public service is an honorable calling, and I am pleased to answer your call.

KWAME HOLMAN: Daley is expected to start in his new job in the next couple of weeks.

There was a raucous welcome in Iraq today for Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. He’s been living in exile in Iran for four years, but returned home to Najaf on Wednesday. Today, hundreds of supporters rallied near Sadr’s compound and waited to catch a glimpse of him. He made no public appearances, but issued a statement urging followers to show discipline.

Sadr’s militia once battled U.S. and Iraqi troops. Now his political movement is part of Iraq’s new government.

In Pakistan, the government bowed to political pressure and agreed to repeal a 9 percent hike in fuel prices. The increase took effect a week ago, and within days, a major political party quit the governing coalition in protest. Pakistan imposed the fuel increase in a bid to cut its deficit and to qualify for continued loans from the International Monetary Fund.

Fresh rainstorms rolled across the flood zone in Queensland, Australia, today. Despite the new rain, the overflowing Fitzroy River in Rockhampton began to recede. Thousands of flood victims were anxious to get home, as officials warned it could take up to a year to recover.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard promised help.

JULIA GILLARD, Australian prime minister: Now, we’re not going to know the true dimensions of the damage until floodwaters recede and we can see what’s happened with roads, what’s happened with bridges, what’s happened with vital infrastructure like schools. But I can say we will be working every step of the way with the Queensland government.

KWAME HOLMAN: The total cost of the flooding still is to be determined, but estimates already have reached $5 billion.

More Americans applied for unemployment benefits for the first time last week. The number had reached a two-year low the previous week. The news was enough to hold Wall Street in check, waiting for tomorrow’s December unemployment report. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 25 points to close at 11697. The Nasdaq rose seven points to close near 2710.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.