RAY SUAREZ: In other news today, the justice secretary for Scotland defended his decision to release the bomber of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. Two hundred and seventy people died in that bombing. Abdel Baset al-Megrahi is dying of prostate cancer and was freed last week on compassionate grounds.
Today, at an emergency meeting of the Scottish Parliament, Kenny MacAskill stood by his decision.
KENNY MACASKILL, justice secretary, Scotland: I was conscious that there are deeply held feelings and that many would disagree whatever my decision. However, a decision had to be made. It was a decision based on the law of Scotland and the values I believe that we seek to uphold. It was not based on political, diplomatic or economic considerations.
RAY SUAREZ: In a related development, Britain canceled Prince Andrew’s scheduled visit to Libya next month. He was to travel to the country in his role as Britain’s trade ambassador.
In Iraq, bombs planted on two buses killed at least 11 people. Iraqi police said the bombs went off moments apart near the southern Iraqi town of Kut, a mainly Shiite area. The attack comes just days after a double truck bombing in Baghdad that killed more than 100 people.
Fire crews across Greece battled to contain wildfires for a fourth straight day. The worst were in the northern suburbs of Athens, but fires also burned on three islands. France, Italy and Cyprus dispatched water-dropping planes today to help with the efforts.
We have a report from Stephen Douglas of Independent Television News.
STEPHEN DOUGLAS: As the bells of this monastery tolled, the fires rage. It’s a warning to the local community to leave an area already engulfed by smoke, a place that fears the worst.
These nuns ready themselves with hoses and branches to beat the flames, but they’re up against a wall of fire. The blazes are now spread across a smaller area than before, but one just as dangerous.
The authorities’ best weapon is water taken from the Aegean Sea, as the burning threat from the edge of the cities fall from the sky.
Well, this is the epicenter of the fire that well and truly hit the suburbs of Athens. Despite planes repeatedly going over and dropping water like this, the fires just keep on springing up.
Across the valley, they watch in disbelief as their neighborhood burns before their eyes.
“We’re upset. We’re in pain,” this woman told me. “What can I say? We’re watching developments that they’ve asked us to leave our homes to save our lives.”
This is what they fear. Through mile upon mile of scorched earth, we traveled to one of the worst affected areas. But despite the flames they repeatedly face at their door, many, like Thomas Miliotos, refuse to leave.
“My home is here,” he said. “My livelihood’s here. My whole being is here. I’ve got nowhere else to go.”
The cloud of smoke that covers part of Athens has now been here for three days. It is a constant reminder to so many of a threat that lurks so near.
RAY SUAREZ: Heavy winds began to die down late today, as officials looked to adding up damage estimates.
A report from the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology labeled the swine flu a “serious health threat” to the nation. The document urged U.S. officials to help drug companies get vaccine supplies ready by mid-September. Last week, the Department of Health and Human Services said 45 million doses would be ready by mid-October.
On the first day of school in Washington, D.C., Education Secretary Arne Duncan told teachers and students they should be prepared to learn from home in case of widespread school closures.
ARNE DUNCAN, secretary of education: I think what we want all as parents is two things. We want to keep our children safe, first and foremost. And, secondly, we want to keep them learning. Some schools may experience large absentee rates. Some across the country may even need to be closed temporarily at some point during the school year. We must make sure that learning continues if the flu virus spreads.
RAY SUAREZ: Five hundred and twenty-two Americans have died from swine flu so far.
Pop star Michael Jackson died from lethal levels of the powerful anesthetic propofol. His official cause of death was revealed today in court documents unsealed in Houston, Texas. Jackson’s personal doctor, who has offices there, is under investigation in the singer’s death. The chief medical examiner in Los Angeles found propofol in Jackson’s system when he died in late June at the age of 50.
There was word today convicted financier Bernard Madoff is dying of cancer in a North Carolina prison. The New York Post, citing unnamed prison sources, said the 71-year-old told fellow inmates he doesn’t have much longer to live. Madoff was convicted of running a $65 billion Ponzi scheme. He began serving his 150-year sentence in June. A spokesman for the Federal Bureau of Prisons insisted Madoff is “not terminally ill” and has not been diagnosed with cancer.
What was left of Hurricane Bill moved out to sea today. Bill was the first hurricane of the 2009 Atlantic season. Over the weekend, Bill brought strong winds, heavy rain, and big waves up and down the U.S. east coast. The storm was blamed for two deaths, including a 7-year-old girl who was swept out to sea off the coast of Maine.
On Wall Street today, stocks ended the day with very little change. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 3 points to close at 9,509. The Nasdaq fell nearly 3 points to close just under 2,018.