News Wrap: Iran Warns Against Rally in Support of Egypt Protests
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KWAME HOLMAN: Iran issued a warning today, as opposition groups planned a Monday rally supporting protesters in Egypt. The state prosecutor said, the people of Iran are vigilant, and if necessary, they will respond.
Instead, he said people should attend an officially sanctioned rally this Friday. Iranian authorities crushed mass protests that erupted in 2009.
A chain of bombings in northern Iraq killed seven people and wounded 80 others. The attacks centered on a Kurdish security headquarters in Kirkuk 180 miles north of Baghdad. The first explosion was captured on camera, as a suicide truck bomber slammed into a wall. Minutes later, two more bombs went off, ending a six-month lull in violence there. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
In Afghanistan, two British soldiers were killed on a patrol in Helmand Province in the south. That made 10 NATO deaths so far this February. Meanwhile, General David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander and NATO commander in Afghanistan, warned Taliban attacks likely will get worse this spring. He said: “They have to fight back. They’re losing momentum. That’s quite clear.”
The U.S. House will try again to extend key parts of the Patriot Act. Republican leaders fell just short of a two-thirds majority last night under a special procedure that allowed no amendments. They plan to raise the issue again next week. The security provisions would renew authority for extensive wiretaps, among other things. They expire at month’s end.
The chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, got a grilling today on inflation worries. Republicans at a House hearing charged the Fed’s interventions to boost the economy will send prices higher.
Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan said he’s worried the Fed will be slow to react.
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-Wis.): You’re going to see inflation after it’s already been launched. And given that you have a huge balance sheet, given that we are basically in uncharted territory with respect to, you know, the great recession and the responses that you had to — that you put out there, that we’re going to catch it after it’s too late.
BEN BERNANKE, Federal Reserve chairman: It is always an issue, as you know, Mr. Chairman, that, in the recovery period, you have to pick the right moment to begin removing accommodation and taking away the punchbowl. And we, of course, face that problem, as the Central Bank always does. But we are committed to making sure that we do — that we do it at the right time.
KWAME HOLMAN: Bernanke also said again that unemployment may stay high for several years.
That news did little to boost Wall Street. The Dow Jones industrial average managed a gain of six points to close near 12,240. The Nasdaq fell nearly eight points to close at 2,789.
A Greek supertanker loaded with up to $200 million in oil was seized by pirates today, after leaving the Persian Gulf. The attackers were believed to be Somalis. Their target, the Irene S.L., was bound for the U.S. when it was waylaid east of Oman. Twenty-five crew members were on board the ship. The supertanker was one of the largest vessels attacked by the pirates in recent years.
Another U.S. senator has announced plans to retire after 2012. Democrat Jim Webb of Virginia said today he will not run for a second term. He gave no reason. His retirement means Democrats will have at least three open Senate seats to defend next year.
Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is beginning to speak again after being shot in the head a month ago. A spokesman said today the Arizona Democrat uttered her first words this week since the Tucson attack. And he said she’s now speaking more and more. Giffords is recovering at a rehabilitation hospital in Houston.
There may be new hope for children with spina bifida. The National Institutes of Health reported a clear benefit today to operating in the womb to fix a hole in the spine of the fetus. Spina bifida babies who had the surgery were more likely to walk without help than when the surgery is performed after birth. They also were less likely to need a tube to drain fluid from the brain.
Those are some of the day’s major stories.