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News Wrap: Saudi Officials Issue Terror Warning Over al-Qaida Offshoot

October 19, 2010 at 5:02 PM EDT
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HARI SREENIVASAN: Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry confirmed today it has issued a new terror warning involving an al-Qaida offshoot group in Yemen.

This is the latest in a string of alerts about possible terror attacks in Europe. Saudi officials didn’t specify which countries were tipped off, but officials in France have acknowledged it was among those warned.

A rash of targeted killings rattled Pakistan’s largest city today. Gunmen killed 16 people in Karachi. And, since Saturday, as many as 50 people have been killed across the city, as political and ethnic rivalries escalate. Several political activists were among those killed. The violence coincided with an election to replace a provincial lawmaker killed in August.

NATO announced the deaths of three troops today in Afghanistan. Two died in roadside bombings, and one was killed in an insurgent attack. NATO didn’t release their nationalities. At least 47 NATO service members have been killed in October.

British Prime Minister David Cameron unveiled a host of cuts to his country’s defense budget today. It was the result of a strategic defense review, the first of its kind in more than a decade there — 42,000 jobs will be slashed over four years, and the overall budget will be cut by 8 percent. We have a report from Tom Bradby of Independent Television News.

TOM BRADBY: Mr. Cameron’s aides say that this is the result of the hospital pass they were given by the last government, but he was doing his best to put a brave face on it today.

DAVID CAMERON, British prime minister: This is not simply a cost-saving exercise to get to grips — to get to grips with the biggest budget deficit in post-war history. It is about taking the right decisions to protect our national security in the years ahead.

TOM BRADBY: And, he said, let’s keep today’s announcement in perspective.

DAVID CAMERON: We are the sixth-largest economy in the world. And even after this review, we expect to continue with the fourth largest military budget in the world. Britain has traditionally punched above its weight in the world. And we should have no less ambition for our country in the decades to come.

TOM BRADBY: And so to the cuts. The army will get more money for special forces, and troops will be pulled back from Germany. But there was no disguising the bad news.

DAVID CAMERON: We will retain a large, well-equipped army numbering around 95,500 by 2015. That is 7,000 less than today.

TOM BRADBY: So, 7,000 jobs go there. The RAF loses 5,000 personnel, all its Harriers, and the incredibly costly Nimrod spy plane. But the navy wasn’t spared either, 5,000 jobs loss. And since it turned out to be more expensive to cancel the aircraft carriers than build them:

DAVID CAMERON: We will build both carriers, but hold one in extended readiness.

TOM BRADBY: In other words, mothballed, or even, we’re told, sold — all this plus 25,000 civilian jobs to go in the Ministry of Defense, and all labor’s fault, Mr. Cameron said. Not so, said Mr. Miliband.

ED MILIBAND, leader, Labor Party: This review is a profound missed opportunity. It is a spending review dressed up as a defense review. It has been chaotically conducted. It has been hastily prepared. And it is simply not credible as a strategic blueprint for our future defense needs.

TOM BRADBY: Nor was that the only hostile reception Mr. Cameron got today. This was an exchange with a Harrier pilot at a base just outside London.

PILOT: Sir, I’m a Harrier pilot. I have flown 140-odd missions in

Afghanistan. And I’m now potentially facing unemployment. How am I supposed to feel about that, please, sir?

DAVID CAMERON: Well, first of all, can I thank you for everybody you have done for our country? But we do have to make decisions for the future.

TOM BRADBY: He can expect a lot more of that in the days ahead.

HARI SREENIVASAN: British officials are expected to announce more cost-cutting measures to other government departments tomorrow.

According to a Pentagon spokeswoman, the U.S. military is now accepting openly gay recruits for the first time in the nation’s history. But recruiters have also been told to alert those applicants a rule banning gays could be reinstated at any time, pending legal action. A federal judge in California has ordered the military to stop enforcing its don’t ask, don’t tell policy. And she’s likely to deny the government’s request to delay her order.

In Mexico, security forces seized at least 105 tons of marijuana bound

for the United States. The major seizure happened during predawn raids in the border city of Tijuana. The pot was found wrapped in 10,000 packages, with an estimated street value of $340 million. Eleven suspects were also arrested. Authorities will incinerate the packages after weighing and counting is completed.

Officials at the National Football League announced new rules for illegal hits. Beginning immediately, players will be suspended for any dangerous and flagrant hits, especially those that involve helmets. The move was sparked by a series of flagrant tackles in games last weekend, several that resulted in concussions.

The nation’s largest bank posted a $7.7 billion loss because of new government regulations on credit and debit cards. Without the one-time charge, Bank of America earned more than $3 billion in the third quarter. That was mainly because of a sharp drop in losses tied to defaulting loans.

Bank of America is a NewsHour underwriter.

The Central Bank in China today announced a surprise interest rate hike. It is the first rate hike in three years, and the first since the global economic crisis began. The move had an immediate effect on world markets, and dragged stocks down on Wall Street. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 165 points to close above 10978. The Nasdaq fell more than 43 points to close at nearly 2437.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.