News Wrap: Obama Chooses Foreign Policy Adviser for New Chief of Staff
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KWAME HOLMAN: President Obama chose his longtime foreign policy adviser Denis McDonough to be the new White House chief of staff. Mr. Obama made the announcement this afternoon. He lauded McDonough, and told him, “I know you will always give it to me straight, as only a friend can.” McDonough will take over for Jack Lew, who’s been nominated to replace Timothy Geithner as the next treasury secretary.
Today was Geithner’s last day, after four years on the job. In a final interview, he said he’s hopeful the economy will strengthen this year.
The Defense Department has begun eliminating the jobs of all 46,000 temporary civilian employees at the Pentagon. The announcement today said it’s a response to mandatory across-the-board spending cuts. They’re scheduled to take effect March 1, unless Congress comes up with alternative cuts. Without changes, hundreds of thousands of full-time civilian employees will face furloughs and reduced paychecks by April.
The government of Syria called today for thousands of refugees to come home, including those opposed to the regime. Nearly 600,000 Syrians have fled the civil war and gone to neighboring countries. There’s been a new surge this week.
We have a report narrated by Alex Thomson of Independent Television News.
ALEX THOMSON: Save the Children say they have double-checked their figures. They have counted around 10,000 children crossing into the overcrowded camps in Jordan in just the past 24 hours. With their parents or gardens, they reckon that’s around 20,000 people in all.
With the winter cold and conditions like this in the camps, King Abdullah of Jordan took the plight of these people to the top today, to the World Economic Summit in Davos.
KING ABDULLAH II, Jordan: Jordan is hosting almost 300,000. The weakest refugees are struggling now just to survive this year’s harsh winter. More international support is desperately needed. And it’s only going to get worse.
ALEX THOMSON: Back in Syria, it is indeed getting worse, these people filmed getting out and leaving in the past 24 hours. It’s partly fuel shortage, heating oil in particular. But it’s also this, too, intense fighting during the past two weeks in the once densely populated areas stretching from Southern Damascus suburbs down to the border with Jordan itself.
It’s not just Jordan, of course. Syrian refugees now strung out across Lebanon, Iraq, northern Syria and here over the frontier in Turkey, where toys were hand out today and the little boys seemed pleased enough with them. These girls, however, appeared to have the weary stare of young people who have known already far too much of what life can bring.
KWAME HOLMAN: The U.S. plans to send $10 million more in humanitarian aid to help feed refugees inside Syria. The focus will be around Aleppo in the north.
There were clashes in Egypt today as anti-government rallies marked the second anniversary of the revolution. At least four people were shot and killed in the city of Suez. The scene in Cairo’s Tahrir Square was reminiscent of the massive crowds who helped topple President Hosni Mubarak. Street battles with police broke out in Cairo and elsewhere, and well more than 300 people were hurt.
The protesters said the revolution was hijacked by Islamists, who now control the government.
Thousands of anti-abortion protesters rallied in Washington today against Roe vs. Wade. The Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion was handed down 40 years ago this week. This year’s rally and march came in frigid temperatures. Protesters carried signs and chanted slogans on the steps of the Supreme Court. Abortion rights demonstrators staged a counterdemonstration there.
Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia will not run for a third term in 2014. In a statement today, Chambliss said, “This is about frustration.” He said he’s unhappy with President Obama’s direction and tired of partisan gridlock. Chambliss had angered Tea Party forces when he supported tax increases as part of a plan to tame the federal deficit.
Wall Street closed the week with another rally. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 70 points to close near 13,896. The Nasdaq rose 19 points to close at 3,149. The S&P 500 finished above 1,500 for the first time since 2007. For the week, the Dow gained nearly 2 percent; the Nasdaq rose half-a-percent.
Those are some of the day’s major stories.