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News Wrap: China Warns U.S. Not to Impose Will Through Internet Freedom Push

February 17, 2011 at 5:20 PM EDT

HARI SREENIVASAN: China warned the U.S. today not to use a campaign against Internet censorship to meddle in China’s affairs. Secretary of State Clinton announced the $25 million effort this week. She said it would help bloggers outflank digital barriers like China’s great firewall.

But in Beijing today, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said, “We are against any other countries using Internet freedom as a pretext for interfering.”

Meanwhile, Chinese censors deleted references to Clinton’s speech from websites available in China.

A U.S. intelligence estimate finds Iran’s leaders are split over how far to take their nuclear program. The Wall Street Journal reported on the classified findings today. It said international sanctions may be causing the divisions. According to the report, Iran has resumed enriching nuclear fuel, but its leaders are still debating whether to try to build a bomb.

The U.S. House moved closer today to adopting a Republican bill for funding the government the rest of this fiscal year. It included about $60 billion in spending cuts.

Speaker John Boehner insisted the House will not accept another continuing resolution, or C.R., without budget cuts.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-Ohio), speaker of the House: Our goal here is to cut spending. But I’m not going to move any kind of short-term C.R. at current levels. When we say we’re going to cut spending — read my lips — we’re going to cut spending.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Boehner’s warning drew a rebuke from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. He charged the speaker is flirting with forcing the government to close its doors, instead of negotiating a compromise.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-Nev.), majority leader: We’re terribly disappointed that Speaker Boehner can’t control the votes in his caucus to prevent a shutdown of government. And now he’s resorting to threats to do just that, without any negotiations. That is not permissible. We will not stand for that. He’s wrong.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The current measure funding the government runs out March 4.

In economic news, first-time jobless claims rose unexpectedly last week. And consumer prices were slightly higher in January than expected. Still, Wall Street managed modest gains today. The Dow Jones industrial average added nearly 30 points to close at 12,318. The Nasdaq rose six points to close at 2,831.

More than 100 doctors, nurses and physical therapists in nine cities were charged with Medicare fraud today. They’re accused of taking part in scams that illegally billed Medicare for more than $225 million. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced the nationwide bust in Washington.

U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER: With today’s arrests, we’re sending an important message: Health care fraud is not easy money. It’s a serious crime. And as we have shown today, we will make sure that it has serious consequences.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Court papers said the alleged scams included hemorrhoid removals that were never performed and toe surgery that amounted to little more than clipping the nails.

At least 25 people died in Tanzania overnight after explosions at a military ammunition depot. About 145 people were wounded. The explosions leveled homes in Dar es Salaam, the commercial hub of the East African nation. Thousands of people fled to a stadium for safety. Officials said it was an accident, but they gave no details.

Some of the largest solar flares in several years began assaulting Earth this week. The giant blasts first erupted on Valentine’s Day. They carried magnetic energy that can disrupt communications and satellite signals. The sun had been relatively quiet for nearly five years.

A longtime Washington journalist, Bill Monroe, died today at a Washington-area nursing home. He became Washington bureau chief for NBC News in 1961. And he hosted “Meet the Press” on NBC from 1975 to 1984, interviewing a long list of political figures. Bill Monroe was 90 years old.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.