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News Wrap: President Obama Talks Gun Violence Prevention With Police Chiefs

January 28, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT
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HARI SREENIVASAN: President Obama kept the focus on gun violence today, meeting with police chiefs from Aurora, Colo.; Oak Creek, Wis.; and Newtown, Conn. They were the sites of the worst mass shootings of 2012. The White House meeting also included Vice President Biden and Cabinet officials, along with the heads of the Major Cities Chiefs Association and the Major County Sheriffs’ Association.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA, United States: We recognize that this is an issue that elicits a lot of passion all across the country. And, hopefully, if law enforcement officials who are dealing with this stuff every single day can come to some basic consensus in terms of steps that we need to take, Congress is going to be paying attention to them and we will be able to make progress.

HARI SREENIVASAN: President Obama renewed his push for a ban on assault-style weapons. But he also said Washington has to get serious about universal background checks and mental health issues.

The Boy Scouts confirmed today they’re reconsidering a longstanding ban on gay Scouts and leaders. A spokesman said the policy may be changed to let sponsors of individual units decide for themselves. Sponsoring groups are generally churches and civic organizations. Protests over the gay ban have prompted some corporations to stop donating money to the Scouts.

A $50 billion disaster aid measure for victims of Hurricane Sandy moved toward final approval this evening in the U.S. Senate. The House passed the bill two weeks ago, over the opposition of some conservatives. They wanted offsetting spending cuts to avoid adding to the nation’s debt.

Democrat Tom Harkin of Iowa is the latest member of the U.S. Senate to say he’s retiring. Harkin announced Saturday that he won’t seek reelection in 2014. He cited his age. He’s 73, and would be 81 at the end of another term. Harkin was first elected in 1984. His signature legislative work is the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act.

The city of Santa Maria in Southern Brazil was in mourning today for 231 people killed in a weekend nightclub fire. Police said they’d detained three people in connection with the blaze and were on the hunt for a fourth.

We have a report narrated by Neil Connery of Independent Television News.

NEIL CONNERY: The most painful journey has begun. Family after family carefully carry those they lost, as the funerals of the nightclub fire victims begin, this gymnasium now a makeshift morgue. The scale of loss and the tide of grief fill the hall.

Many of those killed were university students.

“I feel a lot of sadness because I lost my son,” this man says. “He was full of life and health.”

The names of the 231 victims are read out as family and friends wait for news. Rescuers battled against the flames and thick smoke as the fire took hold on Saturday night. Investigators are looking at reports that only one emergency exit was open and that some of the victims were even stopped by security as they tried to escape.

This is the club filmed on a previous occasion. The fire began when a band member on stage lit a flare, which set the ceiling alight. Many of those killed died from smoke inhalation and the stampede. As Brazil declares three days of mourning, the country’s president, Dilma Rousseff, has been comforting families and survivors.

As the questions and anger over what has happened continue, the first burials of those killed in the fire have taken place. Santa Maria’s suffering and loss are being felt across Brazil.

HARI SREENIVASAN: In addition to the dead, more than 100 people remained hospitalized for smoke inhalation. Some were sent to neighboring cities for treatment of burns.

Iran announced a new step today in its drive to put a man into space. State TV reported the Islamic republic launched a monkey into space and safely returned it to Earth. Still images showed the monkey being prepared for the flight, and images of the Pioneer rocket used for the mission. A similar flight two years ago carried a mouse, a turtle, and worms. The U.S. and others have said Iran’s real goal is to build long-range missiles armed with nuclear warheads.

The U.S. Treasury Department is now under fire for approving excessive pay at bailed-out companies. An internal report today found the bailout program, known as TARP, OKed all 18 requests for raises that it received last year. Most topped $100,000, and the largest was $1 million. The raises went to executives at insurance giant AIG, as well as General Motors and Ally Financial.

On Wall Street, stocks cooled off a bit after a rally that’s lasted most of the month. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 14 points to close just under 13,882. The Nasdaq rose more than four points to close at 3,154.

Stanley Karnow, the award-winning author and journalist who wrote about the Vietnam War, died Sunday. He had congestive heart failure. Karnow first went to Vietnam early in the conflict, 1958, for “TIME” magazine. He covered the war on and off over the next two decades. His reporting culminated in “Vietnam: A History,” which went along with a PBS documentary on the war. He also won a Pulitzer Prize in 1990 for a book on the Philippines. Stanley Karnow was 87 years old.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.  Now back to Judy.