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News Wrap: Italy Calls for Pause in Libya Fighting, Civilian Death Inquiry

June 22, 2011 at 12:00 AM EDT
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HARI SREENIVASAN: NATO is showing the first signs of a possible split over the mission in Libya. Italy called today for a halt to military action. Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said the fighting needs to stop to allow access for humanitarian aid. He also said civilian deaths from NATO air raids should be investigated.

France and Britain rejected the appeal. The British insisted the alliance is holding strong.

A security court in Bahrain sentenced eight top Shiite activists and opposition leaders to life in prison today. The court action stemmed from pro-democracy protests this past spring.

We have a report narrated by Jonathan Rugman of Independent Television News.

JONATHAN RUGMAN: This was the Pearl Roundabout, the symbol of Bahrain’s
largely Shia uprising against the Sunni monarchy.

WOMAN: We want freedom. We want a true parliament.

JONATHAN RUGMAN: But there was no revolution here. It was brutally quashed. Today, a military judge in battle fatigues sentenced 21 activists to long prison sentences, eight of them to life, guilty of plotting to overthrow the government with foreign help, presumed to be from Iran.

All but one of the guilty men were from the island’s Shia majority. Hasan Mushaima, a well-known opposition leader, faces life in jail. In Bahrain’s Shia villages, there were more protests after today’s verdicts. This one was contained by police.

Last night, protesters were calling for the royal family to be overthrown, despite promises of national dialogue due to begin on the 1st of July.

“How can you have dialogue?” says this leading Bahraini refugee in London, who, in absentia today, was sentenced to life.

SAEED AL-SHEHABI, Bahrain Freedom Movement: These despots and regimes and tyrants, when they are throttled by the will of the people, they just throw out such statements, but they don’t really mean it.

JONATHAN RUGMAN: Next week, sentences are due to be handed down on scores of doctors and nurses who treated the wounded. They stand accused of inciting revolt.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The Shiites sentenced today will have 15 days to appeal.

In China, renowned artist and dissident Ai Weiwei was released from jail today. He had been arrested in April after strongly criticizing the ruling Communist Party. Ai returned to his home in Beijing late at night, but he said he was on probation and could not talk. State media said he confessed to tax evasion, something his family had long denied.

Police in Northern Ireland are blaming an outlawed Protestant group for two nights of sectarian rioting in Belfast. It started late Monday in the run-up to a holiday when Protestants march across the region. Armored police vans filled the streets Tuesday, as hundreds of masked rioters threw bricks, fireworks and gasoline bombs. At least three people were shot, but none of the injuries were life-threatening.

The city of Minot, N.D., began to flood today as a bloated river poured over its levees. At the same time, thousands of people poured out of the city for the second time this month.

The sirens across town sounded the warning that the Souris River had topped the levees. The river threatened to engulf bridges and roads, cutting off whole areas and forcing some 11,000 people to evacuate Minot by nightfall.

WOMAN: We’re just waiting. I wasn’t leaving until they blew the sirens.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Traffic was bumper-to-bumper leaving the city, as families left with whatever they could carry.

Nearly 500 North Dakota National Guard soldiers were on hand to help, providing traffic control. Time was of the essence in one neighborhood, where the only road in had already been inundated.

MAN: The first time they came by, they said that the levee — a levee had been broke, that the dike had been compromised, so we needed to get out as soon as possible.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The Souris, which flows from Canada into North Dakota, has been bloated by heavy spring snowmelt and rain. Earlier this month, the river was less than an inch shy of the historic flood that swamped the city in 1969 — 10,000 residents were evacuated, then allowed to return, only to be told to leave again.

MAN: About two weeks ago, we had a big crew here and moved everything out, and moved everything back — or started moving back in this last weekend. And now we’re moving it all back out again.

HARI SREENIVASAN: On Monday, despite warnings, some held out, sandbagging through a downpour in a last-ditch effort.

WOMAN: You don’t know. It — it might be enough just to save one house, two, a whole neighborhood. You don’t give up.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was working, too, trying to shore up flood defenses where it could. But it may all be for naught. Forecasters project the Souris will reach an all-time high by the weekend, eclipsing records set in 1881. And it’s not expected to recede until mid-July.

The Federal Reserve has dialed back its growth forecast for this year and next. The Central Bank announced the lower estimates today. It said some problems, like supply chain disruptions from the Japanese tsunami, should begin to dissipate. But Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said other problems could be around longer than anticipated.

BEN BERNANKE, Federal Reserve chairman: Maybe some of the headwinds that have been concerning us, like the weakness in the financial sector, problems in the housing sector, balance sheet and de-leveraging issues, some of these headwinds may be stronger or more persistent than we thought.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Also today, the Congressional Budget Office warned that the national debt is on pace to exceed the value of the entire economy by 2023. The report came as congressional negotiators are struggling to craft a sweeping package to cut the deficit.

And, on Wall Street today, the Dow Jones industrial average lost 80 points to close at 12,109. The Nasdaq fell 18 points to close at 2,669.

Federal regulators have given a new safety endorsement to silicone gel breast implants. The Food and Drug Administration reported today there is no evidence they lead to significant health problems. It did acknowledge that many women will have to have the implants removed within 10 years, when they rupture or cause scar tissue.

The FDA review was the first since sales of silicone implants resumed in 2006. They had been banned for 14 years over concerns about possible links to cancer and other illnesses.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.