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News Wrap: Obama Nominates Two New Members of Economic Team

May 2, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT
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KWAME HOLMAN: President Obama nearly rounded out his second-term Cabinet today, making two nominations to his economic team. The president chose one of his longtime fund-raisers, billionaire philanthropist Penny Pritzker to lead the Commerce Department. And he tapped current economic adviser Michael Froman to be the next U.S. trade representative. Froman is a former executive at Citigroup.

Mr. Obama made the announcements in the White House Rose Garden.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I have had a chance to get to know Penny and Mike not just as leaders and professionals, but also as friends. One of the reasons I’m proud to nominate them is they don’t forget what matters. They know this is not about just growing balance sheets. It’s about growing opportunity for people. It’s about growing a sense of security for the middle class. And most of all, they operate with integrity and they understand that public service is a privilege.

KWAME HOLMAN: Both nominees are predicted to have easy Senate confirmations. One final Cabinet nomination remains, to lead the Small Business Administration.

There were reports out of Syria today that 50 to 100 people, including women and children, were killed by government troops and gunmen. The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said President Assad’s forces took over a village near the Mediterranean coast. Many reportedly were executed by gunfire or knives. People who fled said other bodies were found burned.

A North Korean court sentenced an American citizen to 15 years hard labor for what it said were crimes against the state. The U.S. State Department swiftly called for amnesty for 44-year-old Kenneth Bae.

We have a report narrated by John Sparks of Independent Television News.

JOHN SPARKS, Independent Television News: Here’s what we do know about Kenneth Bae. He’s an American citizen, a devout Christian, and he’s been sentenced to 15 years hard labor in a North Korean work camp.

Still, further details are harder to come by, Mr. Bae convicted of hostile acts in the country’s top court, but the regime hasn’t provided information on the proceedings or details of the crimes. He was arrested last November in Rason, a special economic zone on the border with China. Mr. Bae was leading a tour group at the time, but it’s thought his interest in assisting North Korean orphans may have got him into trouble.

But there is another explanation for his sentence. Mr. Bae not the first American to be arrested for hostile acts, and in recent years, dignitaries like former Presidents Carter and Clinton have made the trip to win their release. Bill Clinton helped free two U.S. journalists in 2009.

LAURA LING, Journalist: When we walked in through the doors, we saw standing before us President Bill Clinton.

JOHN SPARKS: But these visits are orchestrated by a regime desperate for aid and assistance.

KWAME HOLMAN: A State Department spokesman said today the U.S. still is trying to learn the facts of Bae’s case. No one from the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang, which handles consular matters in North Korea for the U.S., was at the legal proceeding today.

The number of deaths from the collapse of a garment factory in Bangladesh rose to 433 today. Relatives of the missing searched for the remains of their loved ones as bodies were laid out for identification. Police reported 149 people still are missing. It’s the worst disaster in Bangladesh’s garment industry, worth an estimated $20 billion dollars a year.

A fire threatened — a wildfire threatened homes and a university campus in Southern California today.

It erupted this morning near Camarillo, 50 miles west of Los Angeles. Gusty Santa Ana winds made the fire hard to control as it raced along the US-101 freeway; 500 firefighters were battling the blaze, but it remained uncontained.

The U.N.’s annual climate report shows last year was the ninth hottest since records started in 1850. And that was in spite of the cooling effect of the weather pattern La Nina. 2012 also marked the 27th straight year in which the global average temperature surpassed 58 degrees Fahrenheit, the average of all the years from 1961 to 1990.

Stocks on Wall Street rose today as the European Central Bank cut its key interest rate and American jobless claims fell. The Dow Jones industrial average gained more than 130 points to close at 14,831. The Nasdaq rose 41 points to close above 3,340.

Those are some of the day’s major stories — now back to Jeff.