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News Wrap: Worsening Drought in Farm States Drives Up Food Prices

August 9, 2012 at 12:00 AM EST
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KWAME HOLMAN: Severe drought conditions have spread across even more of the U.S. breadbasket. That’s the latest finding from the Drought Monitor report by federal agencies and the University of Nebraska.

Their weekly map shows areas of extreme or exceptional drought — marked here in red and burgundy — grew by 2 percent from the week before. The lack of rainfall has hit producers of corn and soybeans especially hard and pushed world commodity prices sharply higher.

More bad news for the nearly insolvent U.S. Postal Service. It lost $5.2 billion from April to June, much more than the same period last year. The bulk of the loss came from the projected cost of health benefits for future postal retirees.  Last week, the Postal Service failed for the first time ever to make a scheduled payment for those benefits.

Syrian troops and rebels hammered away at each other today around the besieged city of Aleppo, Syria. Bombed-out sections of the city still were being targeted by government airstrikes. And the damage was so heavy, both rebels and government tanks reportedly were forced to pull back in some areas.

Also today, Iran, Syria’s main backer, convened a meeting on how to end the conflict. The Iranian foreign minister blamed Syrian rebels for a list of crimes, including the abduction of 48 Iranians last weekend.

ALI AKBAR SALEHI, Iranian foreign minister (through translator): Explosions, the kidnapping of ordinary citizens and pilgrims from other countries, using human shields and the increasing activities by extremist groups, with the support from some regional and international parties, indicate that some agendas beyond Syria are being pursued in the region.

KWAME HOLMAN: The rebels have said the Iranian hostages were members of Iran’s military on a spying mission. In all, 28 nations attended the Tehran conference today, but Western governments dismissed the gathering.

In Egypt, gunmen fired on a police station in the northern Sinai, touching off a new firefight with Egyptian forces. It was the latest in a series of attacks on the volatile peninsula where Gaza, Israel, and Egypt intersect.

Islamic militants struck a border crossing on Sunday, killing 16 Egyptian policemen. The Egyptian military retaliated yesterday with airstrikes.

At the London Olympic Games today, a dazzling display in track and a major win in soccer.

Spoiler alert: You may want to tune out for a few moments while we give some of today’s results.

In track, Usain Bolt ran to victory in the 200 meters, adding to his gold in the 100. He’s the only man to win both events at consecutive Olympics. The U.S. women’s soccer team captured a third straight Olympic gold, beating Japan 2-1 before 80,000 fans. And American middleweight Claressa Shields won gold in the Olympics debut for women’s boxing.

Google has agreed to pay $22 million over allegations it tracked millions of Web surfers. The settlement involved people who used Apple’s Safari Web browser. The Federal Trade Commission charged, the online search giant broke a promise not to mislead consumers about its privacy practices. It’s the largest fine the agency has ever imposed in such a case.

Wall Street never got much traction today. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 10 points to close at 13,165. The Nasdaq rose seven points to close at 3,018.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.