HARI SREENIVASAN: There was a political back-and-forth today over U.S. economic policy. House Republican Leader John Boehner of Ohio called on President Obama to fire his top economic advisers, Treasury Secretary Timothy
Geithner and the head of the National Economic Council, Larry Summers. Beyond those changes, Boehner called on the president to revamp his economic strategy.
HOUSE MINORITY LEADER REP. JOHN BOEHNER,(R-OH): This is no substitute for a referendum on the president's job-killing agenda. That question will be put before the American people in due time.
But we do not have the luxury of waiting months for the president to pick scapegoats for his failing stimulus policies. We tried 19 months of government as community organizer, and it hasn't worked. Our fresh start needs to begin now.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Boehner also urged the president to extend Bush-era tax cuts that are set to expire soon. Later, in Washington, Vice President Joe Biden responded. He said Boehner failed to offer concrete solutions to the economic crisis.
U.S. VICE PRESIDENT JOSEPH BIDEN: The rest of this so-called plan doesn't offer any economic agenda. It's merely a list of the things that they think the president shouldn't do. So, after all this buildup and hype, all we know is what John Boehner and his Republican colleagues are against. I know what they're against. What I don't know -- other than the tax cut for the top 2 percent of the taxpayers in America, I don't know what they're for.
HARI SREENIVASAN: In other political news, voters went to the polls in five states for primaries and runoffs. In Arizona and Alaska, incumbent Republican Senators John McCain and Lisa Murkowski were expected to win their party's nomination against opponents who are backed by the Tea Party. And, in Florida, Congressman Kendrick Meek battled real estate mogul Jeff Greene for the Democratic Senate nomination.
A former employee of the U.S. Department of Agriculture said she will not return to work there. Shirley Sherrod resigned last month after video surfaced of her saying she initially declined to help a white farmer. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack had asked for her resignation before learning her comments were taken out of context. Today, in Washington, Sherrod said she may do some consulting work on racial issues for the department, but could not go back full-time.
In Pakistan today, President Asif Ali Zardari warned it could take at least three years to recover from devastating floods. The U.N. estimated that 800,000 of the 17 million people affected are only reachable by air. That prompted an urgent call for at least 40 more aid helicopters. The chief medical officer in one of the worst-hit areas in southern Sindh Province said medical treatment is also in high demand.
HAZOOR BUX, chief medical officer of Sukkur, Pakistan (through translator): In the last three days, we treated around 500 to 600 children. Most of them suffering were suffering with gastroenterological problems and skin diseases. We're providing them with clean water, oral rehydration therapy and all necessary medicines.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Also today, Pakistani government officials announced they will give the equivalent of $230 in initial assistance to each family affected by the flood disaster.
Insurgents hit a hotel in Mogadishu, Somalia, today, killing at least 32 people, including members of the government.
Bystanders and survivors dragged bodies out of the hotel after the attack. A suicide bomber and gunmen disguised in military uniforms stormed in this morning, firing indiscriminately.
ABDIRAHMAN HAJI ADEN IBI, deputy prime minister of Somalia (through translator): The total death toll of the explosion at the hotel is 32 -- six members of Parliament, five civil servants, and 21 civilians. Two militias from
Al-Shabab broke into their hotel and killed all of them. Later, the two men blew themselves up. As you can see, their limbs are everywhere.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The brazen attack was in the center of the capital city, in a violent area not far from Somalia's presidential palace. Al-Shabab, the country's most dangerous militant group, claimed responsibility.
The group has often been able to infiltrate heavily secure areas of Mogadishu, but, last month, it expanded its reach, targeting people in Uganda watching the World Cup final. Seventy-six people died in that attack. White House counterterrorism chief John Brennan said their movement abroad is cause for concern.
JOHN BRENNAN, U.S. Deputy National Security Adviser: They have brought that agenda outside of Somalia. They also have recruited a number of individuals from outside of Somalia, including from the West, including from the United States. This is something that we are very concerned about.
A number of these individuals have gone to Somalia, and many of them have lost their lives. So, it is something that we are continuing to look at very closely.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Al-Shabab is fighting to oust the 6,000 African Union troops that help support the Somali government. Only yesterday, the group's spokesman threatened massive war against those troops.
The commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps said today it will likely be a few years before Marines can leave Afghanistan. President Obama has said the process of troop withdrawal could begin in July of 2011, if security conditions allow it.
In Washington, General James Conway said that date may actually be giving the Taliban a morale boost.
GENERAL JAMES CONWAY, U.S. Marine Corps Commandant: In some ways, we think, right now, it's probably giving our enemy sustenance. We think that he may be saying to himself -- in fact, we have intercepted communications that say, hey, you know, we only have to hold out for so long.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Conway also said he believes some American units in Afghanistan will turn over responsibilities to Afghans next summer, but he doesn't believe they will be Marines.
In Afghanistan today, a U.S. soldier was killed in the fighting in the south. Thirty-one Americans have been killed there this month.
It was widely reported today that former President Jimmy Carter is traveling to North Korea to win the release of an American prisoner. Aijalon Mahli Gomes was arrested in January for illegally entering North Korea. He was sentenced to eight years in prison and fined $700,000. A top U.S. official told the Associated Press the North Korean government agreed to release Gomes if Carter would bring him home.
Four Americans were among the 14 killed when a small plane crashed into a hillside in Nepal. The aircraft was en route to the Mount Everest region when bad weather forced it to turn back. It crashed in heavy rain, breaking apart on impact. Some of the bodies were retrieved by a rescue helicopter and taken to Katmandu. The remaining bodies will be collected from the crash site tomorrow.
Those are some of the day's major stories -- now back to Jim.