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News Wrap: Obama Announces Tourism Efforts at Disney

January 19, 2012 at 12:00 AM EST
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HARI SREENIVASAN: With his Republican rivals focused on South Carolina, President Obama made a day trip to another key state today, Florida.

He used Walt Disney World as a backdrop and announced efforts to let more foreign tourists into the U.S., especially Florida. The state has been hard-hit by unemployment and home foreclosures. Tonight, the president is in New York City for a series of fund-raisers.

The U.S. government shut down one of the world’s largest file-sharing sites today. A federal indictment charged that Megaupload.com pirated films and other content worth more than half-a-billion dollars. The founder and several executives of the site were also charged.

General Motors is once again the world’s top-selling automaker. It sold more than nine million cars and trucks last year. That’s a million more than Toyota, which held the title since 2008. Volkswagen and Nissan-Renault came in second and third, while Toyota slipped to fourth. GM was bailed out by the U.S. government in 2009, but is now profitable again.

Wall Street had another day of quiet gains. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 45 points to close just short of 12,624. The Nasdaq rose 18 points to close at 2,788.

Freezing rain caused new problems in the Pacific Northwest today, one day after a massive snowstorm. The ice on top of Wednesday’s snow turned roads into a driver’s nightmare in Washington state. Gov. Christine Gregoire declared a state of emergency. The snow could soon give way to another threat, flooding, as rain and temperatures in the 40s are expected tomorrow.

The Earth was warmer than normal last year for the 35th year in a row. The National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration reported today the average global temperature was 57.9 degrees. That’s nearly a full degree above the average for the 20th century. Even so, 2011 was actually a bit milder than the last decade, due to a cooling pattern in the Pacific Ocean known as La Nina.

The seas calmed off northern Italy today, and search teams picked up where they left off. They’re looking for 21 people missing after last week’s cruise ship disaster.

We have a report from Martin Geissler of Independent Television News.

MARTIN GEISSLER: The rescue teams resumed work today. But they’re losing their race against time. Soon, they will have to make way for salvage experts, who will try to drain the Concordia and then move her.

More dramatic pictures emerged today of the moments after the Concordia ran aground, passengers scrambling along a listing deck, frantically hang on, disorientated and desperate. Just watch and listen and imagine what it must have been like for the 4,000 people caught up in this chaos.

As the days go by, reluctant heroes are beginning to emerge, like Mario Pellegrini, the deputy mayor of this tiny island, who jumped into a boat in the dark and headed out to the shipwreck, pulling passengers from the water and coordinating the rescue.

MARIO PELLEGRINI, deputy mayor of Giglio, Italy (through translator): I realized there was a complete lack of coordination. No one was giving orders. The real terror and panic started when the ship lurched onto its side.

MARTIN GEISSLER: Contrast that with the ship’s captain, who fled to shore early and claimed he couldn’t get back on board. Francesco Schettino still hasn’t been charged with any crime, but in a transcript released today, he tells prosecutors how he crashed.

“I was navigating by sight,” he said, “because I knew the depths well, had done this maneuver three or four times. But this time, I ordered the turn too late, and I ended up in water that was too shallow. I don’t know why it happened.”

The local bishop came to Giglio today to pray with the rescue teams and lift their spirits. This evening, the search for survivors continues, but prayer is about all they have left.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Eleven people are confirmed dead in the wreck. Two Americans are still among the missing.

In Pakistan, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani appeared before the country’s supreme court after being threatened with a contempt citation. The court has demanded that his government reopen a 10-year-old corruption case against Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari. So far, Gilani has refused.

Today, he told the court that he believes Zardari is immune from prosecution. The court agreed to hear additional arguments in two weeks.

Rupert Murdoch’s media conglomerate has reached settlements with 37 people whose phones were hacked by two of his British tabloids. The cash payments, announced today, will go to actor Jude Law and former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, among others. They’re among 60 people who’ve sued Murdoch’s newspapers.

A billionaire history buff will donate $7.5 million to help fix earthquake damage on the Washington Monument. The National Park Service announced David Rubenstein’s gift today. The earthquake that hit last August shook the 555-foot obelisk so hard that it caused severe cracking. Repair work begins later this year, and is expected to take up to a year. Rubenstein said he wants to help fund repairs so the monument can reopen as soon as possible.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.