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News Wrap: Deadly Storms Strike As Heat Wave Continues

July 6, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT
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HARI SREENIVASAN: A large swathe of the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic were under excessive heat warnings today, as 100-plus-degree temperatures persisted. Over the past 30 days, the National Weather Service has tallied more than 4,000 record highs across the country. Even low temperatures are setting record highs.

The heat has spawned a number of violent storms, including one in Tennessee last night. Four people were killed, two of them in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The chief ranger said it affected all 500,000 acres of the park.

CLAYTON JORDAN, chief ranger, Great Smoky Mountains National Park: To have such a wide swathe of the park at a very busy time of the year to be impacted by such storms, severe storms, is highly unusual, certainly stressed our abilities to provide emergency care, as it did the outside agencies.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Another round of bad storms in the Mid-Atlantic last week is still wreaking havoc. More than 400,000 people are still without power, and roughly half of those are in West Virginia.

A member of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s inner circle has defected to France. Brigadier General Manaf Tlass was the most senior defector of the regime to date.

We have a report from Jonathan Rugman of Independent Television News.

JONATHAN RUGMAN: The general hometown’s, Rastan, was heavily shelled today.

And these soldiers also from Rastan announced that they too are defecting to the rebel cause. But Manaf Tlass, a renowned womanizer and playboy, was from Assad’s inner circle, from a well-known Sunni family which had served Assad’s Alawite-dominated dynasty for decades.

Tlass’ father, Mustafa, was Syria’s defense minister for over 30 years. Here he is visiting Assad’s allies in Moscow in 1991. He is now believed to be in Paris, awaiting his defecting son’s arrival.

Tlass’ defection is the latest evidence that Syria’s unrelenting violence is splitting its armed forces along sectarian lines.

His departure was welcomed by Hillary Clinton in Paris, who spoke of Syria’s military establishment starting to vote with its feet. The so-called Friends of Syria, around 100 nations, called for more sanctions. But the Russians and the Chinese didn’t turn up. And without them, Clinton’s hope of a U.N. resolution imposing sanctions will get nowhere.

SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY CLINTON: Now, what can every nation and group represented here do? I ask you to reach out to Russia and China and to not only urge, but demand that they get off the sidelines and begin to support the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people.

JONATHAN RUGMAN: And while diplomacy is proving slow and increasingly bitter, the diplomats can only hope that today’s crack inside the regime will do more to speed its downfall.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Meanwhile, the violence in Syria continued. Government forces went on a rampage to take back a northern city from rebels, killing 25 people and torching 100 homes as they went.

In Florida today, the man accused of killing Trayvon Martin was released from jail on a $1 million bond. George Zimmerman walked out of the Seminole County jail under a set of strict conditions. He must be electronically monitored, he cannot open a bank account, get a passport, or go to the airport.

Zimmerman has admitted to shooting Martin, but insists he acted in self-defense after the 17-year-old attacked him. His previous bond was revoked after it emerged Zimmerman wasn’t honest about his finances.

Two more states no longer have to follow many of the requirements of the No Child Left Behind education law. The Obama administration gave waivers to Washington and Wisconsin, bringing the total number of exempted states to 26. The 10-year-old law requires students to reach proficiency in math and reading scores by 2014. Many educators believe that is impossible.

The administration has said the waivers are a temporary measure while the education secretary works with Congress to rewrite the law.

Two hundred and fifty thousand computers around the world are in danger of losing Internet access on Monday. It’s all the result of malicious software dubbed the Internet doomsday virus. Back in November, it infected more than four million computers, directing users to false Web sites to steal information. The FBI set up a clean Internet server to take over from the malicious ones, but the clean servers are being shut down on Monday. The FBI Web site has information on how to check if individual computers are infected.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.