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News Wrap: Obama Announces Two Nominations for Heads of Regulatory Agencies

January 24, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT

HARI SREENIVASAN: President Obama announced his nominees today to run two key financial regulatory agencies. He tapped Mary Jo White to chair the Securities and Exchange Commission. She’s a former federal prosecutor in New York with a long record of prosecuting financial fraud and other white-collar crimes.

MARY JO WHITE, Securities and Exchange Commission: If confirmed by the Senate, I look forward to committing all of my energies to working with my fellow commissioners and the extremely dedicated and talented men and women of the staff of the SEC to fulfill the agency’s mission to protect investors, and to ensure the strength, efficiency, and the transparency of our capital markets.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The president renominated Richard Cordray to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The former Ohio attorney general has held that position for the last year, but his temporary appointment will expire in December.

RICHARD CORDRAY, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau: We understand that our mission is to stand on the side of consumers, our mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, sons and daughters, and see that they’re treated fairly.

For more than a year, we have been focused on making consumer finance markets work better for the American people. We approach this work with open minds, open ears, and great determination.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The president initially used a recess appointment to put Cordray in the job to get around Senate Republican opposition.

Senate leaders agreed today on a plan to limit the use of filibusters, at least somewhat. The new limits will reduce how many times filibusters may be used, and restrict the time spent debating bills and nominations. Some Democrats wanted to go much further, saying minority Republicans have abused the filibuster. Republicans said that’s because they’re frequently blocked from trying to amend bills.

Millions of Americans from the Midwest to New England endured another bitter day of cold temperatures, as an arctic cold wave refused to let go. Hardy skiers in New Hampshire braved subzero wind chills that extended from Upstate New York to northern New England. And several Midwestern states had to shovel out from lake-effect snow. Some of the most severely affected were on Staten Island, N.Y. People who’ve had no heat since Hurricane Sandy last October spent the night in tents with propane heaters.

Britain, the Netherlands and Germany are warning their citizens to get out of Benghazi, Libya. The alert today cited an imminent threat to Westerners in the city. There were no specifics, and the U.S. Embassy in Libya said it had nothing pointing to threats against Americans. The U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans died last September when Islamist militants attacked the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi.

North Korea declared today it will conduct a third nuclear test, defying newly expanded U.N. sanctions. The announcement came two days after the U.N. Security Council condemned the North for a long-range rocket test last month. In response, the North’s top governing body, the National Defense Commission, issued this statement on state TV:

MAN: We do not deny that a variety of satellites and long-range rockets will be launched, one after another, and a nuclear test of a higher level, which will be carried out by it in the upcoming all-out action. And a new phase of the anti-U.S. struggle that has lasted century after century will target the U.S., the sworn enemy of the Korean people.

HARI SREENIVASAN: There was no word on when or where the next rocket launch or a nuclear test would take place. In Washington, a White House spokesman said the North Korean statement was — quote — “needlessly provocative.”

In Syria, fighting raged around the outskirts of Damascus, as rebels pressed to cut a key road from the capital city to its main airport. Government planes and artillery also blasted rebel positions in a suburb to the southwest. It’s near a key military air base and government ministries. Meanwhile, President Bashar al-Assad was seen publicly for the first time in two weeks. State TV showed him attending a religious ceremony honoring the Prophet Mohammed’s birthday.

An American who helped plan the deadly 2008 attacks in Mumbai, India, has been sentenced to 35 years in federal prison. David Headley scouted out the targets for Islamist militants from Pakistan. The assault killed more than 160 people, including six Americans. Headley could have gotten life in prison, but federal prosecutors in Chicago asked for a more lenient sentence, citing his cooperation.

The United Nations opened a special investigation today into drone warfare. It will focus on civilian casualties resulting from strikes aimed at suspected terror cells. Under President Obama, the CIA has stepped up drone attacks, especially in Pakistan. Britain and Israel also use the unmanned aircraft. The U.N. report is due in October.

In economic news, first-time claims for unemployment benefits hit a five-year low last week. If that trend continues, it could signal a better job market. And on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 46 points to close at, 13825. But the Nasdaq fell 23 points to close at, 3130.