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News Wrap: White House Urges Shippers, Dockworkers to Settle Contract Dispute

December 27, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT
In other news Thursday, a White House spokesperson spoke in favor of reconciliation between shippers and union dockworkers to avoid a strike that would cripple ports on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Also, a severe winter storm that plowed through the South and Midwest reached the Northeast, bringing the death toll to 16.

KWAME HOLMAN: Wall Street was down much of the day, but trimmed its losses after news that the House will convene Sunday to focus on the fiscal cliff. In the end, the Dow Jones industrial average shed 18 points to close at 13,096. The Nasdaq fell four points to close under 2,986.

Also today, the Labor Department reported the number of new claims for unemployment benefits fell this week to the lowest level since March of 2008.

President Obama is urging dockworkers and shippers to avoid a crippling strike at Atlantic and Gulf Coast ports. It would be the first since 1977. The workers union contract expires this weekend. The White House spokesman said today the two sides need to agree on a contract extension as soon as possible. Talks broke down last week in a dispute over wages and royalties.

The Christmas season storm that blasted the South and Midwest swept across the Upper Northeast and New England today, and the death count climbed to 16. The system dumped a foot or more of snow in parts of Pennsylvania, Upstate New York and New Hampshire. In some places, snow brought road travel to a standstill. At the same time, operations at major airports improved, with far fewer delays than earlier this week.

In India, the embattled prime minister remained under pressure to take action against sexual assaults after a gang rape this month triggered violent protests. Manmohan Singh promised a thorough review of India’s rape laws and efforts to expedite trials.

Meanwhile, police moved to quell a rally by about 500 students protesting the treatment of women as they moved toward a monument in New Delhi. The students complained officials had declared the site off-limits.

AABHA PANDEY, protester (through translator): We are taking out this peaceful protest. We don’t have any conflict with the police. We have just come here to express our stand. All the students are expressing their opinions here, as you can see, so the police should just allow us to pass through to the place. This is our only demand, and nothing else.

KWAME HOLMAN: The rape that ignited the protests was that of a 23-year-old woman attacked by six men, then thrown from a moving bus. Overnight, she arrived in Singapore via air ambulance for treatment of severe internal injuries. Doctors described her condition as extremely critical.

The top prosecutor in Egypt has ordered an investigation of major opposition leaders for allegedly inciting revolt. An official in the prosecutor’s office said today the probe will focus on Nobel peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei, former Foreign Minister Amr Moussa, and former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahi. All three oppose Islamist President Mohammed Morsi and the country’s new constitution.

The new U.S. senator from Hawaii, Democrat Brian Schatz, was sworn in today. He’d been lieutenant governor for the last two years. Now he replaces fellow Democrat Daniel Inouye, who died this month at the age of 88.

Schatz took the oath of office on the Senate floor after being tapped by Hawaii’s governor. The new senator said he will seek election in his own right in 2014. Inouye wanted Hawaii Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa to take his seat. She said today she respects the governor’s choice.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.