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News Wrap: Obama Waives No Child Left Behind Requirements for 10 States

February 9, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT

HARI SREENIVASAN: President Obama granted waivers to 10 states today, excusing them from requirements of the No Child Left Behind law. The law mandated that all public school students be proficient in reading and math by 2014. But opponents said the goal was unrealistic, and that schools falling short were being punished unfairly.

Republicans said the president was overreaching his authority in granting the waivers. States given a waiver will have to set new targets for improving student performance.

The U.S. House has overwhelmingly approved its version of a bill that bans members of Congress from insider stock trading. It also affects officials in the executive branch. The issue gathered steam after a CBS report last fall that lawmakers were enriching themselves by trading on information not available to the public.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor wrote the measure.

REP. ERIC CANTOR, R-Va.: People in this country have a right to know and trust that officials at all levels of government are living under the same rules they are. If there is even the slightest appearance of impropriety, we ought to go ahead and prevent that from taking place.

HARI SREENIVASAN: House Republicans rejected a provision that requires so-called political intelligence firms to register the same as lobbyists. Those companies collect information from lawmakers, and then sell it to Wall Street firms.

Democrats like Sheila Jackson Lee argued the House should have followed the Senate’s lead and included that language.

REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE, D-Texas: We are missing a large gap, Madam Speaker, by leaving out the provision on political intelligence, a $100 million industry. Yes, we’re going to support this legislation, but we can’t get to conference soon enough to make this bill comparable and ready for the American people.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The House and Senate will have to work out a compromise version of the bill. White House officials have said the president will sign it with or without the political intelligence section.

Wall Street managed only modest gains today. The Dow Jones industrial average added six points to close at 12,890. The Nasdaq rose 11 points to close at 2,927.

In Syria, the casualties climbed ever higher in the city of Homs. Opposition groups reported at least 100 people were killed there, as government forces blasted away again with artillery, mortars and rockets. Rebel fighters tried to resist, but were largely outgunned.

We have a report from Lindsey Hilsum of Independent Television News from neighboring Lebanon.

LINDSEY HILSUM: Their target is a Syrian army checkpoint on a road near Homs, just out of sight. The men of the Free Syrian Army have only light weapons. They’re inexperienced, and have neither the numbers nor the firepower they need.

At night, the women mourn the fighters who are losing their lives everyday.

“Bashar al-Assad is a dog,” she cries

Each death makes them hate the government more. A few miles away, in Homs, the shelling has made civilian life hell. Families cower inside. This is the sixth day of bombardment. Local men pull the injured and dead from houses blown apart by rockets and mortars.

The activist Danny Abdul Dayem wants the world outside to know what’s happening in Homs.

DANNY ABDUL DAYEM, activist: There’s bodies in that house, pieces of bodies in that house. This is a civilian house.

LINDSEY HILSUM: Medical supplies to treat wounded children are running out.

DR. MAHMOUD AL-MAHMOUD, Syria (through translator): Five children from the same family, five children from the same family. I appeal to the people of Aleppo and Damascus to take to the streets to put pressure on this criminal regime.

LINDSEY HILSUM: Activists in Idlib took these pictures of tanks on the streets. The rebels have been in control here, but for how much longer? There’s a diplomatic impasse, and the Syrian government is making the most of it.

HARI SREENIVASAN: U.S. officials said they were considering ways to get food and medicine to the people of Homs, but it was unclear how that might work.

The U.S. Marine Corps scrambled today to explain a photo of Marines in Afghanistan posing with what looks like the Nazi S.S. symbol. The image was taken in 2010. It showed Marines with an American flag and another banner displaying a double lightning bolt logo. That same symbol was used by Nazi S.S. forces that murdered millions of Jews and others in World War II. A Marine spokeswoman said the Marines thought the symbol stood for sniper scouts.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has approved the nation’s first new nuclear power plant in more than 30 years. The vote today endorsed a plan to build two new reactors south of Augusta, Ga. The last time the commission approved construction of a nuclear plant was in 1978, a year before the partial meltdown at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania.

Labor rights protesters called on tech giant Apple today to improve conditions at Chinese factories run by Apple suppliers. In Washington, the ethical iPhone group delivered nearly 200,000 petition signatures. There were similar events in a half-dozen other cities around the world. Apple has come under renewed pressure over reports of cramped working conditions, long hours and high injury rates at Chinese factories.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.