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News Wrap: U.S. Withdrawal From Afghanistan on Track for July Start

May 3, 2011 at 6:54 PM EST
In other news Tuesday, a White House spokesman said the death of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden won't affect the scheduled start of the U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan in July. In Syria, human rights activists reported more than 1,000 people have been arrested in an escalating government crackdown on demonstrators.
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HARI SREENIVASAN: A White House spokesman said today the death of Osama bin Laden will not affect the beginning of a U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. He said the plans remain on track to start the pullout in July.

Also today, a NATO soldier was killed in eastern Afghanistan. And Afghan police said a NATO airstrike hit a group of security guards in Ghazni Province, killing one. NATO said insurgents were the target.

In Syria, human rights activists reported, more than 1,000 people have been arrested in an escalating crackdown this week. They said thousands more are missing in a wave of house-to-house raids. And witnesses said security forces swept into the coastal city of Banias today to wrest control from the demonstrators.

U.S. military engineers blew up a Missouri levee overnight, flooding one place to save another. The move came after federal courts refused to intervene.

Muddy water from the Mississippi River flooded nearly 130,000 acres of farmland in southeastern Missouri today. Some homes remained islands, while nearly 100 others were flooded. The deluge came last night after a flash of light and an explosion. The Army Corps of Engineers destroyed a part of a levee at Birds Point, Mo., where the Mississippi and Ohio rivers meet.

It was a desperation move to save Cairo, Ill., just upriver on the Ohio. The town of 2,800 homes had been threatened with catastrophic flooding. Streets were virtually empty on Saturday, after the mayor ordered a mandatory evacuation. By Monday, water was seeping into streets far beyond the flood wall protecting Cairo.

But hours after the Birds Point levee was breached, water levels at Cairo had already fallen by a foot. The state of Missouri had fought the plan to blow up the levee in federal courts and lost.

And by last night local officials could only watch.

KEITH MOORE, Mississippi County sheriff: If it works and it’s for the good, then, like I said, my people and — and the citizens, we will make due. We will come ahead. And they’re good people. And we will — we will get through this.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Meanwhile, farther down the Mississippi, the
onslaught of recent rain also threatened record flooding in Tennessee and Mississippi.

The Republican presidential field for 2012 grew by one today to a total of six. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum announced he has established a presidential exploratory committee. Santorum served two terms in the Senate. He was defeated in his re-election bid in 2006.

Voters in Canada have given conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper a majority in Parliament. His party won 167 out of 308 seats in Monday’s election. Harper took office in 2006, but, until now, he never had a governing majority. He celebrated the victory last night with supporters in Calgary, and he appealed for unity.

STEPHEN HARPER, Canadian prime minister: We can now begin to come together again, as we must, as Canadians, as fellow citizens, friends and neighbors. For our part, we are intensely aware that we are and we must be the government of all Canadians, including those who did not vote for us.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

HARI SREENIVASAN: The election also shook up the opposition. The leftist New Democratic Party supplanted the Liberals as the country’s No. 2 party. For the first time ever the Liberals finished third.

Israel made a last-ditch effort today to halt a Palestinian unity deal between rival factions Hamas and Fatah. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appealed to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to cancel the agreement. He warned it would deliver a hard blow to the peace process. Hamas has called for Israel’s destruction but the militant group said today it would continue an unofficial truce with the Jewish state.

In economic news, U.S. auto sales rose last month. Chrysler and General Motors gained more than 20 percent. Ford was up 13 percent. And on Wall Street it was a relatively quiet day. The Dow Jones industrial average gained a fraction of a point to close at 12,807. The Nasdaq fell 22 points to close at 2,841.