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News Wrap: U.S. Government Funding Secured Through March

December 22, 2010 at 5:23 PM EST
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HARI SREENIVASAN: The federal government’s operations are now funded at least through March 4. President Obama signed a temporary spending bill today that freezes most agency budgets at current levels. And Congress authorized spending another $160 billion on military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The bill includes a military pay raise of 1.4 percent.

White House officials did damage control today after a lapse by the nation’s top intelligence official. On Tuesday, ABC News asked James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, about Monday’s news of a terror plot in Britain. Clapper had not heard about it.

Today, Homeland Security Adviser John Brennan said Clapper had been focused on tensions in Korea and the Senate debate on a nuclear treaty with Russia.

JOHN BRENNAN, U.S. deputy national security adviser: Should he have been briefed by his staff on those arrests? Yes. And I know there was breathless attention by the media about these arrests and it was constantly on the news networks.

I’m glad that Jim Clapper is not sitting in front of the TV 24 hours a day and monitoring what’s coming out of the media. What he’s doing is focusing on those intelligence issues that the president expects him to focus on.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Brennan said U.S. authorities are working round the clock to prevent any holiday-season attack. So far, officials have said there is no specific, credible threat.

One of the world’s busiest international airports made slow progress today getting back up to speed. Snow and a deep freeze had all but paralyzed Heathrow outside London since Saturday. That, in turn, roiled airline schedules around the globe.

We have a report from Chris Choi of Independent Television News.

CHRIS CHOI: Never have passengers been so relieved to escape the clutches of an airport. With both runways now open, Heathrow today aimed to carry two-thirds of scheduled flights. But the backlog that’s turned terminals into squats continues. And, tonight, we have learned police were called to the Thai Airways desk after angry scenes.

WOMAN: They had a few police turn up. I think, once again, it was just down to the passengers — just the frustration. I don’t think anyone wants to take it out on the Thai staff. I think it was just the sheer frustration of just nothing being done.

MAN: It’s just unbelievable that people are stuck up here, and only a courtesy to just talk to somebody in a polite manner.

CHRIS CHOI: The hibernation of Heathrow is ending, after five grueling snowbound days. But don’t get the impression things are back to normal. Planes and people have been left in the wrong places.

Again today, passengers were being turned away from terminals into the cold. Some of these travelers have been here since Saturday.

Tonight, the first figures of the overall impact are emerging. Since Saturday, 3,200 flights have been canceled, around 500,000 people stranded.

Today, 900 jets used Heathrow, around 70 percent of usual traffic. And, amid the chaos, unions attacked Heathrow’s boss, claiming his 944,000-pound salary and bonus was a reward for failure.

COLIN MATTHEWS, chief executive, Heathrow Airport: I’m responsible for Heathrow Airport. And we have had a crisis is in the last few days, so I have decided not to take my bonus for 2010. But, frankly, I haven’t about thinking about bonuses over the weekend. The only thing we have been thinking about is getting passengers back where they want to be.

CHRIS CHOI: The airport’s bosses promise to learn lessons, but tonight, nobody can be certain they will get answers before we get the next snow.

HARI SREENIVASAN: A huge rainstorm over Southern California triggered more downpours today. Heavy rain in the Los Angeles area raised new fears of mudslides. And rescuers saved several dozen people trapped by mud and high water. And, in Northwestern Arizona, flash floods in Beaver Dam tore away several vacant homes.

In Iraq, the small Christian community called off Christmas events in leading cities in the face of new threats by al-Qaida. Church officials in Baghdad and elsewhere confirmed they will not put up decorations or hold evening mass. They also urged worshipers not to decorate their homes. Last October, an attack on a Baghdad church killed 68 people.

Wall Street made slight gains in light trading before the Christmas holiday. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 26 points to close at 11559.

The Nasdaq rose just under four points to close at 2671. And oil climbed back above $90 a barrel on news that U.S. crude supplies fell more than expected. At the same time, the average price of gasoline hit $3 today for the first time since late 2008.

The women’s basketball team at the University of Connecticut now owns one of the greatest records in college sports. They won their 89th game in a row last night, breaking a record that stood for nearly 40 years.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

SPORTS ANNOUNCER: And UConn has one-up UCLA.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The top-ranked Huskies made their bit of history in Hartford, beating number 22 Florida State 93-62.

And senior All-American Maya Moore and her teammates celebrated before a sellout crowd.

MAYA MOORE, basketball player, University of Connecticut: We’re just excited. We’re — we’re just celebrating with the fans. This place is sold out. It’s amazing.

HARI SREENIVASAN: With the win, UConn coach Geno Auriemma team surpassed the 88-game streak set by John Wooden and his UCLA men in the early 1970s.

GENO AURIEMMA, head women’s basketball coach, University of Connecticut: It’s hard to describe it. You know, at the last couple of minutes of the game, when everybody’s got the — their signs and everything, it’s pretty amazing. It really is.

HARI SREENIVASAN: All the more amazing, the Huskies have beaten opponents by an average of more than 30 points during their streak. Moore has led the way for much of that time and had a career high 41 points last night.

GENO AURIEMMA: Every night when you need her to be at her best, she’s at her best. And I remember John Wooden said that’s what competitive greatness is, to bring your best when your best is needed. And every time we have needed Maya, she’s there. And I’m going to remember that for — forever.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The UConn women have not lost since April of 2008, and along the way, they have gained nationwide notice. President Obama was watching last night, and interrupted Auriemma’s post-game news conference with a call of congratulations.

GENO AURIEMMA: We have not lost since you have been inaugurated.

And…

(LAUGHTER)

… how about we keep that streak going for a couple more years, huh?

HARI SREENIVASAN: UConn now has its sights set on a third straight national championship.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.