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News Wrap: Libyan Rebels Retreat From Brega Under Heavy Shelling

April 5, 2011 at 6:49 PM EDT
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HARI SREENIVASAN: Libyan rebels were on retreat from the oil port of Brega today. Moammar Gadhafi’s forces battered them with sustained rocket and mortar fire, pushing them back toward Benghazi.

The battle happened on the road outside the strategic oil town, and burned-out trucks littered the area. Rebel fighters tried to salvage ammunition from the scene. A rebel military leader charged NATO is not doing enough to protect the opposition, even though, by NATO estimates, nearly a third of Gadhafi’s military power has been destroyed.

At least three people died in clashes in Yemen today. Tribesmen loyal to President Ali Abdullah Saleh fought with soldiers whose commander has sided with the opposition. The fighting happened in a suburb of the capital, Sanaa. In central Sanaa, the anti-government gatherings were mostly peaceful. But in Taiz in the south, police fired tear gas to disperse the crowds.

The Japanese government set its first radiation safety standards for seafood today. Contamination levels in the sea waters by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant have exceeded the legal limit, sometimes by multiple of several millions. The standards mean that some fish recently caught in Japan’s coastal waters would be dangerous. India became the first country to stop food imports from Japan in a three-month ban.

Meanwhile, operators at the nuclear plant said a radioactive leak appears to have slowed down. Engineers have tried a variety of fixes to stop the leak, including using a mixture of sawdust, newspaper and concrete.

The Federal Aviation Administration ordered airlines to inspect older Boeing 737 jets for fuselage cracks. It came as Southwest Airlines announced it found five planes in its fleet have cracks. The airline had grounded its older Boeing jets after a crack prompted an emergency landing over Arizona last week. The company said in spite of 700 canceled flights, it is now back on track.

In Washington, the chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board, Deborah Hersman, said her agency was investigating all the factors involved in the incident.

DEBORAH HERSMAN, National Transportation Safety Board: This aircraft is 15 years old. By many industry standards, that would not be considered an aging aircraft in the aging aircraft program.

The Safety Board is not — is not focused on the age or the cycles of the aircraft. We’re focused on the safety. And if we think that something needs to be done, whether an aircraft is 15 — 15 years old or 50 years old, we will address it.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The chief engineer for Boeing said today he didn’t expect to see wear so soon on a plane of that age. Paul Richter said it wouldn’t be expected until a plane had logged 60,000 takeoffs and landings.

Boeing is now ordering all 737s to be inspected at 30,000 cycles.

A line of powerful spring thunderstorms and tornadoes pummeled the Southern U.S. overnight, killing at least nine people. Most of the deaths were in Georgia. The storm system was wide, starting at the Mississippi River and stretching all the way across to the Carolinas. The National Weather Service received reports of at least 20 possible tornadoes across the region. High winds gusting up to 60 miles per hour toppled trees and knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of customers.

Today marked the first anniversary of a massive explosion at a West Virginia coal mine that killed 29 miners. The blast happened at the Upper Big Branch Mine owned by Massey Energy. It was the worst U.S. coal mining accident in 40 years. Today, dozens of mines owned by Massey idled production to honor those killed. Two workers survived the explosion.

State and federal regulators have yet to announce the complete findings of investigations into what caused the disaster.

President Obama picked a new chair for the Democratic National Committee, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. The Florida representative is in her fourth term in Congress. She’ll replace Tim Kaine, who announced today he’s running for the U.S. Senate from Virginia.

World markets were weighed down today by another downgrade of Portugal’s credit rating. It is the second downgrade in less than a month, as Portugal tries to avoid taking a financial bailout from the European Union similar to Greece and Ireland.

Markets on Wall Street today were mixed. The Dow Jones industrial average lost six points to close at 12,394. The Nasdaq rose two points to close at 2,791.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.