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News Wrap: Obama Requests Report on W.Va. Mine Explosion

April 9, 2010 at 12:00 AM EST
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In other news Friday, rescuers again struggled in their search to find four missing miners who were trapped by an explosion in a West Virginia coal mine on Monday. Also, thousands mourned those killed in this week's political violence in Kyrgyzstan.
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JEFFREY BROWN: And still to come on the “NewsHour”: Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the financial meltdown; health care on the minds of Virginia voters; and Brooks and Marcus.

But first: the other news of the day.

Here’s Kwame Holman in our newsroom.

KWAME HOLMAN: Rescuers struggled again today in their efforts to search a West Virginia coal mine. Four men have been missing there since an explosion on Monday that killed 25 others.

Smoke and signs of fire this morning pushed the rescue teams back for a second time in as many days at the Upper Big Branch Mine.

West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin:

GOV. JOE MANCHIN, D-W.Va.: We ran into some problems, and were notified this morning. And the teams worked around the clock, and got up into the section again, and ran into some — some bad conditions, and again had to pull the teams out for their safety.

KWAME HOLMAN: The missing miners were not in one chamber where they might have sought refuge, but the search was halted just before the rescue teams reached a second chamber.

Later, Kevin Stricklin of the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration said they have now managed to smother the fires.

KEVIN STRICKLIN, administrator for coal mine safety and health, U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration: We know that we have flushed this area out with nitrogen, and we shouldn’t have any smoke or fire.

KWAME HOLMAN: In Washington, President Obama said the country is praying for a miracle at the mine. He spoke in the White House Rose Garden.

U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: It’s a profession that’s not without risks and danger, and the workers and their families know that. But their government and their employers know that they owe it to these families to do everything possible to ensure their safety when they go to work each day.

KWAME HOLMAN: In fact, published reports said the mine owner, Massey Energy, escaped closer enforcement by federal officials, despite an increasing number of violations. The company promised its own extensive reviews of the Upper Big Branch explosion. It said it doesn’t condone any safety violation.

Meanwhile, funerals began today for some of the victims of the mine disaster. Late today, the rescue teams again reentered the mine.

In Kyrgyzstan, thousands of mourners honored at least 76 people killed in this week’s political violence. The crowd gathered outside the presidential palace in the capital of Bishkek. Many blamed President Kurmanbek Bakiyev for ordering troops to open fire during mass protests on Wednesday.

Separately, the interim government ordered safe passage for Bakiyev into exile in a bid to quell further fighting.

ROZA OTUNBAYEVA, leader, Interim Government of Kyrgyzstan (through translator): We will not let it happen. We will do everything possible not to allow civil war to happen. Before you came, I already said that we are controlling the situation here. We are mobilized, alert. We have the means, the resources and the possibilities. We have the people’s support.

KWAME HOLMAN: The interim leader also said a major U.S. air base in Kyrgyzstan will continue operating for at least a year. The base funnels supplies to U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

U.S. officials sought today to ease tensions with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. They have been rising amid a series of critical remarks by Karzai. But, today, President Obama’s national security adviser, Jim Jones, said, “We have gotten through this period.” He said a Karzai visit to Washington next month is still on.

In Afghanistan, a U.S. Air Force Osprey went down, killing three U.S. troops and a private guard. There was no word on the cause.

Pope Benedict XVI faces new questions about his role in handling sexual abuse cases, the Associated Press reported today on a 1985 letter he wrote as head of a top Vatican office. It said, any decision to dismiss an accused priest must consider the good of the universal church. The Vatican has said the pope played no role in blocking removal of such clerics.

In South Africa, hundreds of people turned out for the funeral of white supremacist leader Eugene Terreblanche. Mourners sang the apartheid-era national anthem as the coffin wheeled past. It was escorted by members of the Afrikaner Resistance Movement, the group that Terreblanche led. Two young black farmers — farm workers have been charged with beating Terreblanche to death. His followers said today they’re on their guard.

ANDRE VISAGIE, secretary-general, Afrikaner Resistance Movement: We are arming ourselves. And let me clarify this once and for all. We are arming ourselves to defend ourselves. We are not importing RPG-7s. We are buying pistols and we are buying revolvers, so that we can protect ourselves.

KWAME HOLMAN: White militants claim a top member of the ANC incited the murder of Terreblanche with a song that calls for killing white farmers.

A Michigan congressman who helped push through health care reform has announced he’s retiring after nine terms. Bart Stupak and other anti- abortion Democrats supported the health care bill after winning a presidential order that federal funding of abortion is still barred. Stupak faced strong opposition from Tea Party activists, but he said today, “The Tea Party did not run me out.”

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average traded above 11000 for the first time since September of 2008. It finished just short of that mark, gaining 70 points, to close at 10997. The Nasdaq rose 17 points to close at 2454. For the week, the Dow gained just more than half-a-percent; the Nasdaq rose 2 percent.