News Wrap: In Syria, Cause Unclear in Blast That Killed at Least 25
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HARI SREENIVASAN: In spite of the strong jobs report, stocks were mixed today, as Europe’s financial woes continued to weigh down Wall Street. The Dow Jones industrial average lost more than 55 points to close at 12,360. The Nasdaq rose four points to close at 2,674.
For the first week of 2012, U.S. stocks rose. The Dow gained 1.2 percent. The Nasdaq was up 2.7 percent.
In Syria, at least 25 people died when an explosion rocked a busy intersection in central Damascus today. Government officials claimed it was a suicide bombing, but opposition activists accused the Syrian regime of staging the attack.
We have a report narrated by Lindsey Hilsum of Independent Television News.
LINDSEY HILSUM: An explosion in the south of the Syrian capital. The target seems to have been three buses carrying policemen.
By the time a foreign reporter was taken to the scene nearly two hours later, the dead and injured had been removed. The government says this has the fingerprints of al-Qaida. But footage aired on state TV raises questions. Why is someone putting police shields in the bus after the blast? And why is a man carrying a Syrian state TV microphone placing these bags at the site?
The opposition say that the government carried out the bombing to discredit them. On December the 23rd, the day Arab League monitors arrived to observe the situation in Syria, a similar explosion killed 44 people. The government blamed armed gangs, but again, questions arise. The opposition say that 10 of the names of those listed as dead in the blast appear on other lists of people killed in different incidents.
Today, there were anti-government demonstrations in several cities. These pictures were posted on YouTube and not shown on Syrian television. It’s been reported that the Arab League observers saw Syrian soldiers shooting at the crowd in the Damascus suburb of Arbeen. The banner reads, “What is the use of the observers when Assad’s militias have fired shots before their eyes in Arbeen?”
This weekend, the observers will make their first report. The Arab League will then have to decide what, if anything, they’re going to do next.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The United Nations has reported more than 5,000 people have been killed in Syria’s 10-month-long crackdown on opposition protests.
Five NATO troops were killed in a series of bombings in Afghanistan today, on top of three who died yesterday. The deaths all happened in the south of the country, the most volatile part of Afghanistan. NATO officials did not give the nationalities of the troops who were killed. Separately, six children were killed in an explosion in the city of Trinkot in the south. They were rummaging through trash for food scraps when a bomb went off.
Pope Benedict XVI named 22 new cardinals to the Roman Catholic Church today. Most of those who will be elevated in next month’s ceremony are European. The list also includes two Americans, Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York and former Baltimore Archbishop Edwin O’Brien. The new group of cardinals includes 18 under the age of 80, making them eligible to choose the pope’s successor.
Adult brain function begins to decline as early as age 45. That’s according to research published in this week’s British Medical Journal. The 10-year long study, which followed 7,000 men and women between the ages of 45 and 70, also found cognitive deterioration occurs more quickly in older individuals. The finding runs counter to conventional wisdom that mental decline doesn’t begin before the age of 60.
Those are some of the day’s major stories.