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Army Corps of Engineers Navigates Miss. River Spillways

May 13, 2011 at 12:00 AM EDT
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HARI SREENIVASAN: Thousands of people in Louisiana’s Cajun Country spent an anxious day. They were waiting for military engineers to unleash the Mississippi River on their land.

As disaster loomed, even the schoolchildren in Stephensville, La., helped move their classrooms to higher ground.

DAN RAWLS, Stephensville Elementary School: We have been told it’s going to be one for the books. And if that’s the case, we have got to take every precaution to protect all of our desks, chairs, and our children, too.

HARI SREENIVASAN: In all, some 25,000 people in Louisiana were on notice, their homes could be inundated if the Army Corps of Engineers opens the Morganza Spillway this weekend. The move would ease the danger to larger cities Baton Rouge and New Orleans, but it would swamp small towns and thousands of acres of farmland.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal urged people not to wait.

GOV. BOBBY JINDAL, R-La.: Now is the time to review your plans. If you are in the northern part of the spillway, the water is — is only a couple of days away, at most. The southern part of the spillway, you have got a couple of additional days after that. It’s not going to come all at once.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Across the river, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour has a lake house near Vicksburg that’s already been flooded. He had advice today for citizens of his state.

GOV. HALEY BARBOUR, R-Miss.: Get your property out as early as you can, furniture, appliances. To the degree that you can literally remove those from the area that might get flooded, do it. If you hadn’t done it now, hurry up, because you may be too late. Secondly, elevate things that can be elevated. Third, tie down things that float.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Both Barbour and Jindal said the mainline levees along the Mississippi are holding and will likely not be breached.

Wall Street was hit with new worries today about debt problems in Europe. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 100 points to close at 12,595. The Nasdaq fell 34 points to close at 2,828. For the week, the Dow lost about a third-of-one-percent; the Nasdaq rose just a fraction.

The economy’s struggles have cut deeply into the solvency of Medicare and Social Security. The program’s trustees reported today that the Medicare hospital insurance fund will be exhausted in 2024. That’s five years earlier than last year’s projection. The Social Security trust fund will be depleted in 2036, one year earlier than the previous estimate.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said it underscores the urgent need to act soon. TREASURY SECRETARY TIMOTHY GEITHNER: We shouldn’t wait for the trust funds to be exhausted to make the reforms necessary to protect our current and future retirees. Larger, more difficult adjustments will be necessary if we delay reform. And by making reforms soon, that are phased in over time, we will help reduce uncertainty about future benefits.

HARI SREENIVASAN: In the case of Medicare, the recession has meant fewer people working and paying payroll taxes into the trust fund.

A double suicide bombing in Pakistan killed at least 66 police recruits today and wounded 120 others. Taliban militants said it was revenge for the killing of Osama bin Laden.

We have a report narrated by Lindsey Hilsum of Independent Television News.

LINDSEY HILSUM: Vengeance is ours, say the Taliban.

Two suicide bombs exploded this morning at a paramilitary training center in Northwestern Pakistan. With scores dead and injured, the fear is that this could be the start of a new campaign in Pakistan and beyond to avenge bin Laden’s death.

MASOOD AKHTAR, retired air marshal: After OBL has been taken out, today is the first symptom of what are the things to come. It could get very, very bad.

LINDSEY HILSUM: The hospital in nearby Peshawar was overwhelmed, and many Pakistanis are resentful.

SHAH ZAIB, Pakistan (through translator): It was the Americans who killed Osama, but it’s the blood of our people which is being spilt. Why? Why is this happening to us?

LINDSEY HILSUM: The Pakistani Taliban, who have claimed responsibility for the bombing, have the answer to that question.

MAN (through translator): We don’t consider Osama just as the leader of al-Qaida, but also as the leader of all Muslims. And we, the mujahideen, decided it was our duty to avenge his murder. We will not just wait until we can target Obama, but we will take our revenge on any of his allies, be they Pakistani, Afghan or American.

LINDSEY HILSUM: A memorial service to the cadets who died today. Thousands of Pakistani soldiers have died fighting the Taliban, and now more have died in this terror attack.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Hours after the bombings, Pakistani officials reported a U.S. drone attack killed five militants in the northwest.

The former first lady of Egypt Suzanne Mubarak will be held for 15 days in a corruption probe. Authorities issued the order today for the wife of ousted President Hosni Mubarak. A doctor said she passed out upon hearing the news. The Mubaraks are being investigated over claims that they illegally amassed wealth during their years in power.

In Jordan today, thousands of people demanded a separate Palestinian state and the right of Palestinian refugees to return home. They waved Palestinian flags and sang patriotic songs, and they called for Jordan to end its peace treaty with Israel. Sunday marks the anniversary of the founding of the Jewish state in 1948.

The U.S. special envoy to the Middle East has announced that he’s stepping down after two years on the job. Former Sen. George Mitchell had worked to get Israel and the Palestinians talking peace, without much success. Mitchell said today he always intended to leave after two years.

The Republican presidential field now has its second full-fledged candidate for 2012. Texas Congressman Ron Paul formally announced his candidacy today. Paul is 75 years old. He ran for president as a libertarian in 1988, and sought the Republican nomination once before in 2008.

Democratic Sen. Herb Kohl of Wisconsin will not run for a fifth term in 2012. His announcement today made him the fifth Democrat to say he is leaving the Senate after next year. Kohl was first elected to his seat in 1988. He said today he would rather step down a little early than wait until it is too late.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.