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News Wrap: Supercommittee Shows No Public Signs of Progress

November 17, 2011 at 12:00 AM EST
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KWAME HOLMAN: Wall Street had another day of the jitters over debt problems here and in Europe. The Dow Jones industrial average lost nearly 134 points to close at 11,770. The Nasdaq fell more than 51 points to close just below 2,588.

There was no public sign of movement by Congress’ deficit super committee today. Instead, 72 House Republicans sent the panel a letter opposing any tax increases. It underscored the division in Republican ranks over raising taxes as part of a deal to cut deficits by at least $1.2 trillion over a decade. Democrats face their own divisions over major spending cuts.

Italy’s new government won an overwhelming vote of confidence from Parliament, as the prime minister unveiled his plan to save the country from bankruptcy. Mario Monti pledged to overhaul the pension system, fight tax evasion and reform welfare, among other things.

Monti told the Italian Senate ahead of the confidence vote that leaders have no choice but to act now.

MARIO MONTI, Italian prime minister (through translator): We must commit ourselves to ambitious goals on balancing the budget, on the decrease of the ratio between debt and gross domestic product. But we won’t be credible if we don’t start to grow.

If we are able to take advantage of this opportunity all together to start a constructive dialogue on general goals and decisions, we will be able to redeem the country and rebuild confidence in its institutions.

KWAME HOLMAN: The rescue plan was announced as anti-austerity demonstrations took place across the country. The gatherings turned violent, as thousands of protesters clashed with riot police in Milan, Rome and Turin.

President Obama arrived in Bali, Indonesia, today for a summit of East Asian nations. It’s the first time a U.S. president has taken part in one of the group’s meetings. It comes as the U.S. is trying to build up regional alliances to counter China’s growing influence.

Earlier, Mr. Obama rounded out his visit to Australia by addressing U.S. and Australian troops in Darwin. He’d already announced the U.S. military will deploy more forces to Australia.

In Syria, government troops launched a series of new raids today. They were aimed at Hama province, where army defectors attacked a checkpoint on Wednesday, killing at least eight government soldiers.

We have a report narrated by Jonathan Rugman of Independent Television News.

JONATHAN RUGMAN: This could have been a jihadist video. But it’s not Afghanistan or Iraq. It’s apparently a bomb attack on an army convoy in Syria. In Homs, the epicenter of the violence, government tanks are seen firing in built-up areas.

And then a tank is hit, more cries of “God is great,” while Russia’s foreign minister is talking of civil war.

SERGEI LAVROV, Russian foreign minister (through translator): This is already completely similar to a real civil war.

JONATHAN RUGMAN: In the capital, Damascus, President Assad’s opponents burned tires. The French and Moroccans have withdrawn their ambassadors, while the Arab League has given Syria three days to stop appalling scenes like this in Dara’a, where it all began.

Syria’s northern neighbor, Turkey, is also harboring rebel commanders, yet calling upon the world to mediate.

RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, Turkish prime minister (through translator): We have to see the tragedy in the area, to hear the screams and urgently take measures to stop the bloodshed.

JONATHAN RUGMAN: The Arab League will visibly stay in the lead, though. It’s meeting Syrian opposition leaders in Cairo on Sunday, and its rich Gulf states could persuade the Russians not to veto a new U.N. resolution.

But neither the so-called Free Syrian Army nor their political allies enjoy the legitimacy they seek. Scenes like this mean that economic and diplomatic pressure are mounting, even if nobody yet knows just what would replace him.

KWAME HOLMAN: The European Union’s foreign policy chief appealed today for additional action to make Syria stop its crackdown. And China left open the possibility it might reverse course and support U.N. sanctions.

From Louisiana to the Carolinas today, they tallied the deaths and damage from deadly storms overnight. At least six people were killed and dozens hurt in a series of tornadoes. Scenes like these today from Davidson County, N.C., showed smashed houses and wreckage strewn across the countryside. The storms also knocked out power to thousands of people.

Sponsors of California’s Proposition Eight, a statewide ban on gay marriage, won a round in their legal fight today. The state Supreme Court allowed them to defend the ban in court, even if the governor and attorney general won’t. Last year, a federal trial judge struck down the marriage ban, saying it violated the civil rights of gay citizens. Backers of the marriage ban now want a federal court of appeals to accept today’s state court decision and allow them to pursue the case.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.