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News Wrap: Syrian Students Demonstrate, Organize Friday Rallies

April 20, 2011 at 5:46 PM EDT

HARI SREENIVASAN: Wall Street had its best day in a month just two days after a warning about U.S. debt caused a sell-off. Today, stocks shot higher on strong earnings by Intel and others. The Dow Jones industrial average gained more than 186 points to close at 12,453, its best finish in nearly three years. The Nasdaq rose 57 points to close at 2,802.

And the price of oil surged back above $111 a barrel. It’s up 20 percent since the start of the year.

Thousands of students in Syria demonstrated today against the government and organizers planned huge rallies for Friday. More than 4,000 students gathered in Daraa and surrounding areas. There were also protests at Aleppo University in the north. The government of President Bashar Assad has cracked down on protesters with more than 200 killed in recent weeks. Yesterday, Assad ended nearly 50 years of emergency rule, but also warned against more protests.

In Yemen, gunmen on motorcycles sprayed bullets at hundreds of anti-government protesters in a Red Sea port city. At least one person was killed and several others were wounded. Meanwhile, thousands of people also demonstrated in Sanaa, the capital. They chanted slogans demanding again that President Ali Abdullah Saleh step down. Later Saleh assured his supporters he won’t be ousted by what he called conspiracies or coups.

A new terror alert system was unveiled today in Washington. It replaces the old five-step color-coded alerts with two threat levels: elevated and imminent. The National Terrorism Advisory System, or NTAS, will provide details on terror threats and recommend steps the public can take.

The secretary of homeland security, Janet Napolitano, spoke today in New York.

HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY JANET NAPOLITANO: We want people to — to live in a state of alertness and awareness. And we want people to know how they can help themselves, how they can assist their community.

So — and one way to do that is to provide people with more information and more ways to access information. That’s what the NTAS is designed to help do.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Officials say they will begin posting the alerts on Facebook and Twitter starting next week.

There was word today that millions of dollars in donated malaria drugs have been stolen in recent years. The Associated Press reported the medicine was taken from the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The report cited internal documents from the group. They said drugs have disappeared in 13 countries, mostly in Africa.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.