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News Wrap: Egypt’s Prime Minister Calls for 2-Month Respite From Protests

December 22, 2011 at 12:00 AM EST
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HARI SREENIVASAN: The economy showed new signs of life in new numbers released today. The Labor Department said first-time claims for unemployment benefits last week were the lowest in three-and-a-half years.

And a separate report lowered the estimate of third-quarter growth, but it was still the best this year. On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average gained nearly 62 points to close at 12,169. The Nasdaq rose 21 points to close at 2,599.

The prime minister of Egypt called today for a national dialogue and a two-month respite from protests. Kamal el-Ganzouri spoke after recent days of violent clashes between protesters and soldiers that left at least 100 dead. Ganzouri said the military, which appointed him to the job, is eager to return power to civilian rule. Another major protest rally is scheduled for tomorrow in Cairo.

In Italy, the new government led by Prime Minister Mario Monti won a vote of confidence, helping to ease one part of the debt crisis in Europe. The Italian Parliament approved the government’s nearly $40 billion package of tax hikes and pension changes.

Monti told lawmakers that Italy is now setting a new example.

MARIO MONTI, Italian prime minister (through translator): Italy will bring its contribution to stability in Europe, but also increasingly strong elements of reflection and action on economic principles needed by our peoples. There is no growth without financial discipline. There is no stability if public debts are not in order.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Meanwhile, across Europe, travelers heading out for Christmas faced delays caused by strikes against austerity measures. Part of the Eurostar train service was halted through Brussels after Belgian transport workers walked off the job. And, in France, a week-old airport security strike meant delayed flights there.

A preliminary hearing wound up today for Army Pvt. Bradley Manning, accused of giving reams of secret documents to WikiLeaks. In closing arguments at Fort Meade, Md., a military prosecutor charged that Manning violated the nation’s trust. The defense said the soldier was a troubled young man and that the leaked material did no real harm. Manning was then taken back to a military jail. He could get life in prison if he is court-martialed and convicted.

A new Army report says there are 64,000 discrepancies between grave markers and their corresponding paperwork at Arlington National Cemetery. Officials reported the findings to Congress today. The cemetery has been under fire over misidentified and misplaced graves. To address the problem, officials compared all of the nearly 260,000 headstones to Army records and logs going back to the 1800s.

In the U.S. presidential campaign, Republican Mitt Romney picked up the backing of a former Republican president. George H.W. Bush told The Houston Chronicle, “I just think he’s mature and reasonable, not a bomb-thrower.” Romney also rejected a challenge by Newt Gingrich to debate one-on-one before the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 3. He said it’s premature to narrow the field to just two candidates.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.