HARI SREENIVASAN: Snipers opened fire on huge crowds of protesters in Yemen today. Doctors reported at least 46 people were killed. The government said it was 25. The shooting started after Friday prayers in Sanaa, when thousands of people gathered in a central square. They were demanding the ouster of President Abdullah Saleh.
In response, Saleh denied the snipers were his security forces, and he invoked new restrictions that give the police a freer hand.
ALI ABDULLAH SALEH, president of Yemen (through translator): The National Defense Council has decided to announce a state of emergency today in Yemen and impose a curfew on armed men in all cities. Security forces and armed forces will take responsibilities to maintain public security.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Security forces in Syria attacked protesters today, and witnesses reported at least three people were killed. The worst of the violence was in the city of Daraa. Police also broke up protests in several other cities, including Damascus. It was the most serious unrest in Syria in many years.
In Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah announced a $90 billion package of reforms, pay raises and other benefits. It included 60,000 new jobs in the security forces and cash for state employees and students. In a rare televised address, the king told Saudis he was proud of them for largely ignoring calls to protest. But he offered no political reforms.
In neighboring Bahrain, bulldozers destroyed a 300-foot-tall monument that had become the symbol of a month-long uprising by Shiites. Security forces cleared out the protesters on Wednesday.
The former President of Haiti Jean-Bertrand Aristide returned to his homeland today, ending seven years of exile in South Africa. He arrived just two days before a crucial presidential election in Haiti and against U.S. objections. Supporters greeted him with loud cheers at the airport in Port-au-Prince. Aristide was ousted by armed rebellion in 2004 for a second time. The Haitian Election Council has barred his political party from taking part in Sunday’s vote.
The battle over public employees in Wisconsin has taken a new turn. A state judge today put a temporary hold on a law that strips state workers of most collective bargaining rights. A Democratic lawsuit alleged Republicans violated the state’s open meetings law when the bill passed last week. A spokesman for Republican Gov. Scott Walker promised an appeal of today’s action.
On Wall Street, stocks rallied after the world’s richest nations announced plans to rein in the Japanese yen. Its record-high value makes exports more expensive and could hinder Japan’s recovery. The Dow Jones industrial average gained nearly 84 points to close at 11,858. The Nasdaq rose seven points to close at 2,643. For the week, the Dow lost 1.5 percent; the Nasdaq fell more than 2.5 percent.
NASA chalked up a first overnight, as Messenger went into orbit around Mercury after a six-year journey. As this animation shows, the satellite’s engine fired to brake its momentum and begin an egg-shaped orbit around the planet closest to the sun. Its yearlong mission is to snap pictures and of Mercury’s cratered surface and measure the magnetic field. Messenger is the second manmade object to visit Mercury. One of the Mariner spacecraft made a fly-by in the 1970s.
Those are some of the day’s major stories.