News Wrap: White House Chief of Staff Steps Down; Bombings in Iraq
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HARI SREENIVASAN: President Obama announced today his White House chief of staff, Bill Daley, is stepping down. Daley had been in the position for just one year. He’s a former commerce secretary who ran Vice President Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign.
At the White House, the president praised Daley’s tenure as chief of staff.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: On his very first day Bill took part in a meeting where we discussed Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad. This was all before he even had time to unpack his office.
Over the last year he’s been intimately involved in every decision surrounding the end of the war in Iraq and our support of the people of Libya as they fought for their freedom.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Daley originally committed to stay through the election. There was no explanation given for why he is leaving early, except his desire to spend more time with his family. He will be replaced by Jacob Lew, who is currently the president’s budget director.
A court-martial began today for the last U.S. Marine accused in the massacre of two dozen Iraqis. A military prosecutor said Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich fired on unarmed women and children in the town of Haditha after a fellow Marine was killed there in 2005. Wuterich is being tried at Camp Pendleton, California, for voluntary manslaughter in nine of the deaths. Six other Marines had charges dropped or dismissed, and one was acquitted.
Three bombs went off in Baghdad this evening, killing at least 17 Iraqis. It appeared to be the latest in a wave of sectarian violence that has left more than 90 people dead in less than a week.
And in Afghanistan, a man wearing an Afghan army uniform shot and killed a U.S. soldier at an American base on Sunday. It happened several hundred miles south of Kabul.
A nationwide strike over skyrocketing fuel prices brought Nigeria to a virtual standstill today. Thousands of protesters massed across the West African country, including more than 10,000 in Lagos alone. They burned tires and carried signs accusing the government of corruption. Witnesses said police shot and killed at least three protesters. The crowds demanded the return of subsidies that kept the price of gasoline artificially low.
In Yemen, hundreds of people protested against a new law granting President Ali Abdullah Saleh immunity from prosecution. The Yemeni cabinet approved it Sunday. It bars Saleh from being indicted for any crimes during his 33-year rule. Today, demonstrators filled streets in the capital city of Sanaa, waving banners and chanting slogans. They demanded that Saleh stand trial for killing hundreds of people during the uprising that began 11 months ago.
HUSSEIN HAJEB, protester (through translator): We reject completely the immunity which has been approved by the Parliament. We have already rejected the government that approved this law. We are gathered here with one demand, which is that the regime should go away with all its symbols and anyone who hurts any Yemeni person should be punished or put on trial.
HARI SREENIVASAN: President Saleh signed an agreement in November transferring power to his vice president. That is scheduled to take place on Feb. 21.
In U.S. economic news, the Federal Reserve announced consumers stepped up their borrowing in November by the most in 10 years. And on Wall Street, stocks managed modest gains. The Dow Jones industrial average gained more than 32 points to close above 12,392. The Nasdaq rose two points to close at 2,676.
The Obama administration will ban new mining claims around the Grand Canyon for 20 years. The ban applies to one million acres of public land in an area rich in high-grade uranium ore. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said uranium is still key to the nation’s energy strategy, but the Grand Canyon has to be protected as a national treasure. He said the ban would not affect more than 3,000 existing mining claims.
Those are some of the day’s major stories.