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News Wrap: U.S. House Votes to Renew Tax Cuts, Including for the Most Wealthy

August 1, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT
In other news Wednesday, the U.S. House voted to extend all Bush-era tax cuts, in contrast with the Senate bill which would extend tax cuts for all but the highest income brackets. Also, eight Olympic badminton players were disqualified for intentionally trying to lose matches in order to play weaker opponents in later rounds.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The U.S. House moved toward extending all of the Bush era tax cuts again for one year. Democrats objected, but majority Republicans argued that allowing any taxes to increase would hit the country at a moment of economic weakness.

At a briefing, Speaker John Boehner noted that President Obama and Democrats supported extending all of the cuts back in 2010.

(R-Ohio): The president said two years ago that raising taxes in a weak economy was the wrong thing to do; 119 Democrats voted with us to extend all of the current rates. There’s no reason that we shouldn’t be doing the same thing again.

HARI SREENIVASAN: This time, the president has endorsed the bill that Senate Democrats passed. It extends the tax cuts for all but the wealthiest income brackets.

Campaigning in Ohio today, Mr. Obama said again it’s about rebuilding the economy and the middle class.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We will not get there if we adopt these ideas that somehow spending more money on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires who don’t need them and aren’t even asking for them is actually going to improve the economy. We tried that. It did not work.

HARI SREENIVASAN: So far, there is no sign that the Republican or Democratic versions of tax cut extensions can clear Congress. If neither does, taxes will go up across the board on January 1.

For the first time, the U.S. Postal Service has defaulted on a financial obligation. Today, the agency failed to pay $5.5 billion for future retiree heath benefits. The default won’t affect mail service, and current retirees will still receive health benefits. The Postal Service is running huge losses as mail volume drops and reform efforts are stalled in Congress.

U.S. auto sales surged in July, as Japanese carmakers scored huge gains. Honda sales were up 45 percent, and Toyota ran 26 percent ahead of its pace a year ago, after the Japanese earthquake and tsunami. Chrysler also had a double-digit increase in July, but General Motors and Ford saw single-digit losses.

Despite the auto industry’s performance, U.S. manufacturing activity was down in July, for the second month in a row. That news did little to help the mood on Wall Street. And investors were also disappointed in the latest outlook from the Federal Reserve.

 The Dow Jones industrial average lost 32 points to close at 12,976. The Nasdaq fell 19 points to close at 2,920.

Evidence of a new atrocity in Syria emerged today, this time, apparently, by rebel fighters. It came amid the battle for control of Aleppo, the country’s commercial hub.

We have a report narrated by Inigo Gilmore of Independent Television News.

A warning: Some of the images may be disturbing.

INIGO GILMORE: With the fighting growing ever more ferocious, so too signs that atrocities are being committed by both sides in Aleppo.

Among this group of captured men, allegedly Assad loyalists, a bloodied man appears bewildered and terrified. Rebel fighters angrily accuse the local man of doing Assad’s dirty work, including killing many of their comrades. In this video which we cannot verify, the men are then led outside. They are lined up against a wall by fighters apparently from the Free Syrian Army.

Amid angry denunciations, some of the fighters step forward, eager, it seems, to take their revenge. As the men kneel before the fighters, suddenly, there’s an explosion of gunfire. We can’t show the pictures, but the video shows the men dead, apparently executed. The video showing the killing of unarmed prisoners has caused a storm, with the rebels now being accused of committing the sort of atrocities they have routinely condemned Assad’s regime for.

DONATELLA ROVERA, Amnesty International: It is worrying, but it’s happening against the background of 18 months of absolutely relentless, daily, very serious human rights abuses being committed by the Syrian regime and through its forces, including Shabiha militias, with the international community effectively standing by and watching.

INIGO GILMORE: This is increasingly a war where both sides appear to respect no rules. And these horrific pictures of an atrocity committed by rebels can only undermine their claims to be victims of a brutal regime.

HARI SREENIVASAN: In a written message today, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad urged the military to step up its efforts. Assad has not been seen since a July 18 bombing in Damascus that killed four of his top aides.

This was the fifth day of competition at the Summer Olympics in London. And we have some of the major results.

Spoiler alert: If you don’t want to know the results just yet, tune out for a moment.

In swimming, American Nathan Adrian won the 100-meter freestyle race by just a single one-hundredth of a second. And the U.S. women captured the gold medal in the 4×200-meter freestyle relay.

Meanwhile, eight badminton players were disqualified. The World Badminton Federation ruled that the eight women from China, South Korea, and Indonesia intentionally tried to lose matches to get weaker opponents in a later round.

Spokesman Mark Adams addressed the issue for the International Olympic Committee.

MARK ADAMS, International Olympic Committee: A very clear message has been sent to other athletes in other sports that we expect sporting behavior and we expect proper competition. That’s what people pay for. That’s what the spectators want. That’s what everybody wants. And I think this decision will go a long way to making sure that happens.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The disqualified Chinese women are the reigning world champions in badminton.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.