HARI SREENIVASAN: A rare bombing in the south of Iraq killed at least 22 people today and wounded 37 more. Two explosions rocked the mainly Shiite city of Diwaniya, 80 miles outside Baghdad. Officials said at least one suicide car bomber struck as security forces were changing shifts. The attacker rammed into a police checkpoint, setting off a second blast when munitions in a police vehicle blew up. The last major attack in Diwaniya was in 2009.
The man who will preside over U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan swept his Senate confirmation today. Leon Panetta’s nomination to be defense secretary received unanimous support. He has served as CIA director since 2009. At the Pentagon, Panetta will succeed Robert Gates, who leaves office next Thursday.
The secretary-general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon, also won a unanimous vote today. The U.N. General Assembly elected him to a second five-year term. Ban has won praise for his work on climate change and his strong support of democracy movements in Arab nations, among other causes.
Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou and his reorganized cabinet have survived a late-night vote of confidence in Parliament. It set the stage for the government to advocate for new spending cuts and tax hikes. Otherwise, Greece will not get another $17 billion in bailout help from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.
In Brussels today, the European Commission president underscored that point.
JOSE MANUEL BARROSO, European Commission: Next week is the moment of truth, where Greece needs to demonstrate that it is genuinely committed to the ambitious package of further fiscal measures and privatizations put forth but by Prime Minister Papandreou’s government and agreed with European Union and the IMF.
HARI SREENIVASAN: In Athens, unions and grassroots activists protested outside the Greek Parliament again today. They have been demonstrating against the new austerity measures for the past three weeks. And the leader of the opposition party insisted tonight that the government’s plan simply will not work. He said it must be renegotiated.
State lawmakers in California won’t be getting paid for now because they failed to produce a balanced budget. The state comptroller announced his decision today, in accordance with state law. He said the numbers simply didn’t add up in a spending plan passed by Democratic lawmakers last week. Gov. Jerry Brown had reached the same conclusion. He vetoed the budget within hours of its passage.
On Wall Street today, stocks scored new gains on hopes the debt worries across Europe will ease. The Dow Jones industrial average was up more than 109 points to close at 12,190. The Nasdaq rose 57 points to close at 2,687.
Scientists from around the world are warning that some marine life in the world’s oceans face an impending mass extinction. They laid out the findings today in a report to the United Nations. The study was led by the International Program on the State of the Ocean. The group of 27 experts found the oceans are under siege from pollution, overfishing, and climate change. They said many marine species could disappear within a single generation.
First lady Michelle Obama began a trip to Africa today with a visit to the continent’s most revered leader, Nelson Mandela. Mrs. Obama and her two daughters met with the former South African president at his home outside Johannesburg. Mandela is 92 years old. He had not been seen in public since he was hospitalized at the start of the year.
Those are some of the day’s major stories.