JUDY WOODRUFF: In other news today: Officials in Iraq reported fewer than 90 civilians have been killed in attacks and fighting this month. It’s one of the lowest totals since the U.S. invasion in 2003. And it’s down sharply from October, when more than 300 Iraqi civilians were killed.
The vice president of Iran today defended plans to build 10 new plants for enriching uranium. He blamed the U.N. nuclear agency for demanding that Iran halt all enrichment. The Iranian official said:
“We had no intention of building many facilities, but, apparently, the West doesn’t want to understand Iran’s peaceful message.”
At the U.N., American Ambassador Susan Rice sharply criticized the announcement.
SUSAN RICE, United States ambassador to the United Nations: We view the Iranian announcement, if it is, in fact, accurate and implemented, that they intend to build 10 additional facilities, as completely inappropriate and further isolating Iran from the international community. We view that, frankly, as unacceptable.
JUDY WOODRUFF: France also condemned Iran, and warned, the government there is playing a dangerous game.
Pirates out of Somalia have hijacked a tanker filled with $20 million in crude oil bound for the U.S. It happened on Sunday, about 800 miles off East Africa. The tanker had 28 crew members on board. Somali pirates have hijacked a number of ships in recent months, but this is only the second oil tanker.
Stocks fell hard today in the United Arab Emirates over the debt crisis in the Gulf city-state of Dubai. It was the first day of trading since the conglomerate Dubai World said that it wants to defer payments on debts. It owes $60 billion. Today, the government of Dubai said that it won’t guarantee the huge debt.
Wall Street edged higher, despite Dubai’s problems and fears of weak holiday sales. The National Retail Federation reported, total spending on Black Friday was down from last year. Still, the Dow Jones industrial average gained nearly 35 points, to close above 10344. The Nasdaq rose six points, to close at 2144.
The U.S. Senate has formally opened debate on health care reform. The bill offered by Democrats would cost $848 billion over the next 10 years.
Majority Leader Harry Reid said today that it’s critical to act soon, and he warned senators they will be giving up some of their holiday time.
SEN. HARRY REID, D-Nev.: I say to everyone within the sound of my voice, the next weekends, plural, we will be working. I have events this weekend that I will have to postpone. Some, I will have to cancel. That’s the way it’s going to have to be with everyone. There is not an issue more important than finishing this legislation.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Republicans argued the bill shouldn’t pass before year’s end or any other time.
Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona said, the legislation is deeply flawed.
SEN. JON KYL, R-Ariz.: I don’t think this bill can be fixed. And, in fact, I don’t think the majority will allow it to be fixed. That’s why I, along with my Republican colleagues, believe that we should start over and attack the problems that face our country in a more realistic way.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Also today, the Congressional Budget Office reported that, under the Senate bill, premiums would be up to 60 percent lower for those who buy their own insurance. That’s after factoring in federal subsidies.
The Obama administration will push harder to make mortgage lenders keep people in their homes. The Treasury Department announced that it will start naming companies that need to modify more loans. Under an existing federal program, only about 1,700 homeowners have received a new restructured loan. Some 375,000 are eligible.
Alleged Nazi death camp guard John Demjanjuk went on trial today in Germany. He’s charged with being an accessory to the murders of nearly 28,000 Jews at the Sobibor death camp in Poland. The 89-year-old was wheeled into a Munich court, but proceedings were delayed again when he complained of pain and was taken out on a gurney. Demjanjuk has insisted that he is innocent.
Golfing star Tiger Woods will not compete again this year after a weekend car crash. Woods announced that today. He cited injuries suffered when he wrecked his SUV in Florida early last Friday morning. In a statement yesterday, Woods said it was all a — quote — “private matter,” and he dismissed rumors of an extramarital affair.