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News Wrap: Al-Qaida Releases Bin Laden Recording Praising Arab World Revolts

May 19, 2011 at 12:00 AM EDT

HARI SREENIVASAN: Al-Qaida released a new audio recording of Osama bin Laden today praising the revolts in the Arab world. The 12-minute message was recorded shortly before bin Laden’s death and was posted on militant websites.

In the message, bin Laden urged Muslims everywhere to join the uprisings.

OSAMA BIN LADEN (through translator): I think that the winds of change will blow over the entire Muslim world with the permission from Allah. So, what are you waiting for? Save yourselves and save your children, because the opportunity is here.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Bin Laden was killed by U.S. Navy SEALs in a raid in Pakistan on May 2. It is not yet clear if he made any other recordings beforehand.

The government of Libya has denied reports that leader Moammar Gadhafi’s wife, Safia, and daughter Aisha fled to Tunisia this week. A Foreign Ministry spokesman said late Wednesday that the two women are safe and still in Tripoli. He also denied the Libyan oil minister had defected. The government also staged a rally overnight, with hundreds of loyalists proclaiming the rebellion is all but over.

In Eastern Afghanistan, more than 100 insurgents killed 35 workers and guards overnight at a road construction site. The massacre happened in a mountainous region of Paktia Province near the Pakistani border. The attackers stormed a NATO-funded work site with machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles. The ensuing firefight lasted two hours.

Meanwhile, a U.S. military study warned that increased fighting is taking a toll on U.S. troops in Afghanistan. It found the highest rates of mental health problems since 2005.

At least 27 people died today in a series of bombings in Northern Iraq. Most of the victims were police. The first blast erupted in a police station parking lot in Kirkuk. A second bomb went off as officers left their fortified headquarters to investigate. Thick smoke from dozens of burning vehicles billowed from the scene. A third bomb went off 45 minutes later on a road to the city hospital. In all, at least 70 people were wounded.

The Mississippi River has claimed its first flood victim since the water began rising in Mississippi and Louisiana. A 69-year-old man died early today after being rescued near Vicksburg, Miss., where the river was cresting.

In Louisiana, workers in Morgan City, including jail inmates, rushed to fill sandbags. They’re being used to shore up levees and a 20-foot flood wall.

For the first time, President Obama lost a fight today over a federal judge nominee. Senate Republicans blocked action on Goodwin Liu, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley. Democrats argued Liu, the son of Taiwanese immigrants, would bring much-needed diversity to the federal bench. Republicans charged that Liu is a liberal ideologue. The two sides jousted on the Senate floor.

SEN. BARBARA BOXER, D-Calif.: We are a melting pot, and we’re proud of this American dream. But if our court doesn’t reflect this diversity, it could still be fair, it could still be just, but not as good as if we have a diversity of thought and ethnic diversity.

SEN. JEFF SESSIONS, R-Ala.: Mr. Liu has extraordinary beliefs about our laws and Constitution, beliefs that fall far outside the mainstream. They just do. Professor Liu doesn’t believe judges are bound to apply the Constitution according to what it actually meant at its drafting, or what it plainly says.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Liu had been nominated for a seat on the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based in San Francisco.

On Wall Street today, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 45 points to close at 12,605. The Nasdaq rose eight points to close at 2,823.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.