JUDY WOODRUFF: In other news today, federal investigators began work at the scene of a fiery plane crash outside Buffalo, New York. The plane went down last night in light snow, killing 50 people.
The crash site was still burning many hours after Flight 3407, a Continental Airlines commuter, plummeted into a residential neighborhood in the small town of Clarence, New York. It was the first fatal crash of a U.S. commercial flight in two-and-a-half years.
The National Transportation Safety Board quickly recovered the plane's black boxes. The data indicated the crew was dealing with ice and snow.
STEVE CHEALANDER, National Transportation Safety Board: The crew discussed significant ice build-up, ice on the windshield and leading edge of the wings. Airframe de-ice, which is a system in the airplane that helps de-ice those wings and windshield and surfaces on that aircraft, that the airframe de-ice was selected in the "on" position.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The 74-seat, twin-engine turboprop slammed into a single house around 10:20 p.m. Emergency crews were rapidly on the scene and fought the fire into the morning.
CRASH WITNESS: The flames were huge. I mean, 100 feet in the air, huge.
CRASH WITNESS: We heard the sputtering first, and then heard the loud noise, and it shook our house. Our whole house shook. I thought there was an earthquake. I didn't know what to do, and opened the front door, and you could -- the smoke was already there, and you could smell it.
CRASH WITNESS: There was heavy flame. I've been a paramedic for over 20 years, and you always hope there's something there. There was -- there was nothing, I mean, nothing at all.
JUDY WOODRUFF: All 49 people on board were killed, along with one person in the home. Two others on the ground were injured.
DAVE BISSONETTE, Emergency Coordinator, Clarence, New York: It's remarkable that it only took one house. As devastating as that was, it could've easily wiped out that entire neighborhood.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Flight 3407 took off from Newark Airport in New Jersey, headed for Buffalo. It was minutes from landing when radio contact from the plane abruptly stopped. Air traffic control repeatedly called out, but got no reply.
AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL: Colgan, 3407, Buffalo. Colgan, 3407, Buffalo tower. How do you hear?
Either state police or sheriff's department need to find out if anything is on the ground. The aircraft was five miles out, and all of a sudden we have no response that aircraft.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The family of First Officer Rebecca Shaw struggled to talk to the media.
LYN MORRIS, Mother of Victim: She experienced passion in life and in her career. And I've had the privilege of flying with her, and she was an amazing pilot, absolutely amazing. We couldn't be more proud of her as a family.
VICTIM FAMILY MEMBER: Amazing, brilliant, beautiful, excited. I mean, she would walk in and everyone would be in smiles, because you just couldn't help yourself.
BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States: Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends who have lost loved ones.
JUDY WOODRUFF: President Obama offered his condolences to the families this morning, and he recalled one passenger specifically.
BARACK OBAMA: Tragic events such as these remind us of the fragility of life and the value of every single day. And one person who understood that well was Beverly Eckert, who was on that flight and who I met with just a few days ago.
You see, Beverly lost her husband on 9/11 and became a tireless advocate for those families whose lives were forever changed on that September day. So she was an inspiration to me and to so many others, and I pray that her family finds peace and comfort in the hard days ahead.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Back at the scene of the disaster, initial operations today focused on recovery of the bodies.
The last fatal airliner crash in the U.S. was in August of 2006. A Comair flight went down on takeoff at Lexington, Kentucky, killing 49 people.
On Wall Street today, stocks fell on continuing doubts about the economy. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 82 points to close at 7,850, its lowest finish since last November. The Nasdaq fell 7 points to close at 1,534. For the week, the Dow lost 5 percent; the Nasdaq fell 3.5 percent.
Major banks announced today they're imposing a new moratorium on home foreclosures. The banks are JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, and Wells Fargo. The moratorium will last while the Obama administration works on plans to help the housing market, or at least through early March. The president will outline his housing ideas on Wednesday.
Secretary of State Clinton warned North Korea today against provocative action toward the South. She spoke ahead of a tour through Asia, her first overseas trip in her new post. Clinton said that North Korea must drop its nuclear program to get concessions from the U.S.
HILLARY CLINTON, Secretary of State: If North Korea is genuinely prepared to completely and verifiably eliminate their nuclear weapons program, the Obama administration will be willing to normalize bilateral relations, replace the peninsula's long-standing armistice agreements with a permanent peace treaty, and assist in meeting the energy and other economic needs of the North Korean people.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Clinton also said the U.S. and China will restart direct military talks later this month. They were suspended by China last year following U.S. arms sales to Taiwan.
At least 40 Shiite pilgrims in Iraq were killed today when a woman blew herself up. Some 80 others were wounded in the attack, the third in as many days. The blast struck a tent where women and children were resting. They had been on their way to the city of Karbala for a Shiite religious festival. Iraqi officials said that Sunni extremists may be trying to restart the sectarian war that raged two years ago.
U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke began his mission to Afghanistan today, meeting with President Karzai and other top officials. They held talks in Kabul, two days after a deadly Taliban raid on government ministries.
Meanwhile, the U.S. military reported an American soldier was killed in Afghanistan yesterday.
Kidnappers in Pakistan released a video today of an American United Nations worker. John Solecki was abducted on February 2 in Quetta, near the Afghan border. The grainy images made public today showed him blindfolded and appealing for help.
JOHN SOLECKI, American U.N. Worker: This is a message to the United Nations. I am not feeling well. I am sick. I'm in trouble. Please help solve the problem soon so that I can gain my release.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Solecki's captors threatened to kill him within 72 hours unless Pakistani authorities release 141 women from jails.
Police in Australia today charged a man with lighting one of the country's deadly wildfires. We have a report narrated by James Blake of Independent Television News.
JAMES BLAKE: From outside their house, one family films the fire as it sweeps through their garden. These images were released this morning from the town of Chub Creek, just outside Melbourne.
So far, the bushfires, which swept the region, have killed 181 people. Australian police have been investigating claims some fires were started deliberately.
One man has been arrested, charged with starting the fire in the town of Churchill, where 21 people died. He's 39 years old and also charged with possessing child pornography. He's been taken into protective custody for fear of revenge attacks.
DANNYE MALONEY, Assistant Police Commissioner: Let Victoria Police do its role. We have identified this person. We are prosecuting this person on behalf of the community. If we left that person there, it would only be a situation where people may go to where they believe him to be held.
JAMES BLAKE: The wildfires have destroyed an area twice the size of London, including 20 towns and almost 2,000 homes. Officials report that about 20 fires are still burning, many out of control. Police say they'll need help tracking other suspects who may have started the fires.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Officials have also said they expect the final death toll from the fires to exceed 200.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was released from a New York hospital today. She had surgery a week ago for pancreatic cancer. A statement by the court said doctors found the cancer had not spread to the lymph nodes. Ginsburg is 75 years old. She previously had colon cancer.