News Wrap: Rescue Operations on Stricken Cruise Ship off Italy Halted Again
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KWAME HOLMAN: The Republican majority in the U.S. House voted today against raising the national borrowing limit by $1.2 trillion. It was symbolic only, since the Democratic-run Senate is not expected to go along.
But the issue still sparked an afternoon of argument, as Republicans railed against the increase, and Democrats argued the deal was already done.
REP. TIM SCOTT, R-S.C.: Where I come from down in North Charleston, South Carolina, we have a trouble digesting exactly what $1.2 trillion really means. Why is it so hard to simply say, we can’t afford it? Simple question. Why is it so hard to say that we can’t afford another $1.2 trillion of debt?
REP. JARED POLIS, D-Colo.: This is all Monday night quarterbacking. It’s after the fact. The money has been spent. The money has been spent — 147 Republicans voted in December to spend $915 billion. And now the credit card bill has come in January, and here they are saying, we don’t want to pay that credit card bill.
KWAME HOLMAN: President Obama notified Congress last week that the debt ceiling increase was needed. Under last summer’s debt and budget agreement, the increase is automatic, unless both houses of Congress vote against it.
The World Bank is warning that Europe’s continuing debt troubles could trigger a new global downturn that would especially harm emerging economies. In a report today, the bank said countries such as Brazil and India should brace for a global recession potentially worse than the crisis of 2008. The bank projected world economic growth of 2.5 percent this year. That’s down a full percentage point from an estimate last June.
Wall Street rallied today on encouraging news about factory output and housing. The Dow Jones industrial average gained nearly 97 points to close just under 12,579, its best finish since July. The Nasdaq rose more than 41 points to close above 2,769.
That wrecked cruise ship off northern Italy shifted again today, forcing rescue workers to call another halt to operations. The problem was highlighted by a satellite image from DigitalGlobe showing the huge vessel on its side, just off the island of Giglio.
We have a report from Martin Geissler of Independent Television News.
MARTIN GEISSLER: The Costa Concordia is unsteady in its resting place. The search for the missing stopped again today, another massive blow. The movement was tiny, but enough to cause genuine concern for the safety of the rescue teams and the stability of the ship.
It’s being held up by two rocks with water flowing underneath. There is a 70-meter drop below. It is particularly vulnerable to strong currents from the south, which could cause it to sway and slip. And tomorrow night, a storm is forecast from precisely that direction.
Giorgio Chimenti is an engineer specializing in shipwrecks. He has real concerns for the weeks ahead.
GIORGIO CHIMENTI, engineer: If sea strong, problem is probable.
MARTIN GEISSLER: It’s probable that the ship will fall?
GIORGIO CHIMENTI: Yes. Yes, yes.
MARTIN GEISSLER: There are more than 2,000 tons of oil on board the Concordia held in tanks not built to withstand deepwater pressure. And this is Europe’s biggest conservation area. A spill here could cause untold damage.
Specialists have been brought in to pump the oil out, but even in good conditions, that will take more than a month.
MAX IGUERA, salvage coordinator: It’s not like, you know, emptying a garden pool. It’s a thick oil containing 20 tanks of a ship laying on a side. It’s thick. And it has to be preheated before it can be made pumpable.
MARTIN GEISSLER: The first victim of this tragedy was officially identified today. Sandor Feher was a Hungarian violinist who played on board the ship. Pictures of the missing have been posted on walls around the port of Giglio, the relatives desperate for news.
This wreck still holds the answers to so many questions, agonizingly close to shore, but out of reach.
KWAME HOLMAN: Eleven people were killed when the cruise liner hit the rocks on Friday night. The number of missing was reduced today to 21 after a German passenger turned up alive and well back in Germany.
Some websites went ahead with blackouts today to protest anti-piracy bills in Congress. Wikipedia, the user-edited encyclopedia service, blocked access to its English-language articles for 24 hours. Google placed a blacked-out bar over its home page logo, but the site remained active. And users of the social news service Reddit were denied access for 12 hours.
The websites oppose calls to regulate sites that share copyrighted material. By this afternoon, several leading sponsors of the anti-piracy bills withdrew their support.
The Pacific Northwest got socked with a major winter storm today. Winds of more than 100 miles an hour hammered the Oregon coast. And in Washington state, nearly a foot of snow fell in Olympia, the state capital, by late morning. The snow clogged roads, shut down schools and wiped out flight schedules.
Those are some of the day’s major stories.