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News Wrap: Haiyan, the most powerful storm of the year, hits the Philippines

November 7, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT
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GWEN IFILL: The most powerful storm on earth this year has hit the central Philippines with sustained winds of nearly 200 miles an hour. Thousands of residents were forced to evacuate, and officials warned of catastrophic damage. Hours before landfall, the typhoon was already dumping heavy rain. The target area included a province devastated by an earthquake just last month.

Trans fats could soon disappear from the American diet. The Food and Drug Administration wants to ban the artery-clogging substance found in processed foods from margarine to cookies to frozen pizza. The FDA says that could prevent nearly 7,000 deaths from heart disease each year. We will have more on this right after the news summary.

The Senate voted today to ban workplace discrimination against homosexual, bisexual and transgender employees. The outcome underscored the nation’s evolving attitude toward gay rights.

NewsHour congressional correspondent Kwame Holman has our report.

MAN: The bill, as amended, is passed.

KWAME HOLMAN: The vote on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, ENDA, marks the first major movement in nearly two decades on legislation aimed at barring employers from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. A similar measure failed by one vote in the Senate back in 1996.

SEN. JEFF MERKLEY, D-Ore.: Well, let the bells of freedom ring.

KWAME HOLMAN: Today, supporters celebrated a markedly different outcome, 64 to 32.

Democrat Jeff Merkley of Oregon:

JEFF MERKLEY: The Senate has clearly spoken to end discrimination in the workplace. We have fought to — to capture that vision of equality and liberty and opportunity and fairness embedded in our founding documents and our founding vision. We have taken a huge stride today in that direction.

KWAME HOLMAN: Ten Republicans and two independents joined all 52 Democrats who voted in passing the measure. Only Republicans voted no. Republican opponents mostly stayed silent over three days of debate, but, today, Indiana’s Dan Coats warned the bill could encroach on the religious beliefs of some employers.

SEN. DAN COATS, R-Ind.: So there’s two types of discrimination here that we’re dealing with, and one of those goes to the very fundamental right granted to every American through our Constitution, a cherished value of freedom of expression and religion. And I believe this bill violates that freedom.

KWAME HOLMAN: The bill does exempt religious institutions, but Republican Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania lost a bid to expand the number of groups that would qualify. The question now is whether ENDA will make it to the House floor.

Speaker John Boehner’s office issued a statement this week saying again he believes the bill is unnecessary and would subject businesses to frivolous lawsuits.

GWEN IFILL: Reports of sexual assaults in the military surged nearly 50 percent last fiscal year. The Pentagon said today the armed forces had more than 3,500 complaints in the first three-quarters of the year, up from about 2,400 the previous year. Officials said they can’t tell if the spike signifies an actual increase in sexual assaults or that more people are reporting them, or both.

Twitter went public today and turned out to be a hit. The stock closed its first day of trading at just under $45 a share, more than 70 percent above the initial price set by the social media giant. We will have more on that later in the program.

The Twitter debut couldn’t stop a sell-off on Wall Street. It started after third-quarter growth came in nearly a full point better than expected. The report raised fears that the Federal Reserve might curb stimulus efforts soon. The Dow Jones industrial average lost nearly 153 points to close below 15,594. The Nasdaq fell 74 points to close at 3,857.

The heads of British intelligence warned today that surveillance leaks are doing serious damage to efforts to stop terrorism. They made an unprecedented joint public appearance before a committee of Parliament.

Lucy Manning of Independent Television News reports.

LUCY MANNING: For the first time coming out of the cold, the heads of GCHQ, MI6, and MI5, the men in charge of our spies, and there was little doubt who they think is helping the enemy. Edward Snowden, the American intelligence analyst who leaked secrets to The Guardian and others has hurt, they claimed, the fight against terrorism.

SIR JOHN SAWERS, MI6: The leaks from Snowden have been very damaging. They have put our operations at risk. It’s clear that our adversaries are rubbing their hands with glee. Al-Qaida is laughing it up.

LUCY MANNING: The leaks from Edward Snowden, now in Moscow, have led directly, they said, to terrorists around the world changing the way they communicate.

SIR IAIN LOBBAN, Government Communications Headquarters: We have actually seen chats around specific terrorist groups, including close to home, discussing how to avoid what they now perceive to be vulnerable communications methods. And so the cumulative effect of the media coverage, global media coverage, will make the job that we have far, far harder for years to come.

LUCY MANNING: Across the river from Parliament, the agents at MI6 and the other spy agencies insist that, despite the Snowden allegations of mass surveillance, they aren’t actually listening to everyone’s phone calls or monitoring their e-mails. So have the Snowden allegations really damaged they job they do helping to protect the country?

JONATHAN FREEDLAND, The Guardian: It doesn’t surprise us that the intelligence chiefs would much prefer IF there was no disclosure of their work, that they would always warn that any daylight on their work will damage their ability to operate.

LUCY MANNING: And the terror threat is expanding, more Britons killed abroad this year and an increased risk from the hundreds fighting in Syria and returning to the U.K.

GWEN IFILL: Another revelation on U.S. surveillance surfaced today, this time involving the CIA and AT&T. The New York Times reported the spy agency is paying more than $10 million a year for access to company records, mostly on international calls. The report said AT&T is cooperating voluntarily. The data is used in overseas counterterror investigations.

The Pakistani Taliban has chosen a hard-line commander as its new leader, Mullah Fazlullah. He’s known for planning the shooting of teenage activist Malala Yousafzai last year. The new leader replaces Hakimullah Mehsud, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike last week. With today’s announcement, the Taliban ruled out peace talks with the Pakistani government.

Secretary of State John Kerry is warning Israel that if peace talks fail, there could be a new Palestinian uprising. Kerry spoke in Amman, Jordan, on his current round of shuttle diplomacy aimed at getting talks back on track. He said, if there’s no comprehensive agreement, Israel could face growing isolation, and Palestinians could resort to bloodshed.

JOHN KERRY, U.S. Secretary of State: As long as there is this conflict, and if the conflict frustrates yet again, so that people cannot find the solution, the possibilities of violence, of other kinds of confrontation, of other alternatives become more real.

GWEN IFILL: Kerry is making a previously unscheduled return visit to Jerusalem tomorrow for another meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The White House confirms the U.S. and other world powers might ease some sanctions on Iran if the Iranians dial back their nuclear program. That word came today as a new round of talks opened in Geneva. Iran’s chief negotiator suggested there could be a deal as early as tomorrow. We will have more on the nuclear talks later in the program.