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News Wrap: At Least 7 Killed by Syrian Government Forces in Overnight Assault

January 25, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT

HARI SREENIVASAN: Syrian government forces launched a new assault overnight in a key central region. The opposition said the military stormed districts around Hama. At least seven people were killed there and elsewhere. Amateur video showed military tanks patrolling Hama. Activists said shells had exploded throughout the night, and communications were cut off.
Meanwhile, the Russian foreign minister insisted again that Moscow will block any U.N. sanctions against its longtime ally.

SERGEI LAVROV, Russian foreign minister: We cannot support the proposal to give retrospective blessing to the one-sided sanctions against Syria by means of a U.N. Security Council resolution, as these were sanctions that were declared without any consultation with Russia or China or others. This is simply a dishonest approach.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Russia has called for talks between the Syrian government and the opposition, in lieu of sanctions.
The U.S. Federal Reserve today offered its strongest assurance yet that interest rates are not going up. The Fed announced its benchmark rate will stay at record lows until at least late 2014.
Chairman Ben Bernanke said it is based on reduced expectations for economic growth this year.

BEN BERNANKE, Federal Reserve chairman: That is, even if the economy were a bit stronger, the very low interest rates we currently have would still be valid, still be appropriate.
And so, for that reason, unless there’s a substantial strengthening of the economy in the near term, I would think that it’s a pretty good guess that we will be keeping rates low for some time from now.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The Fed announcement helped Wall Street come back from what had been a losing day. Instead, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 83 points to close well above 12,758, the highest since last May. The Nasdaq rose 31 points to close at 2,818.

Indiana moved a major step closer today to adopting a “right-to-work law.” The Republican-controlled statehouse passed it after Democrats ended a boycott. The bill bans unions from requiring workers to join and pay dues. It is expected to face little opposition in the state Senate. Indiana would be the first state in the union-dominated Rust Belt to adopt a right-to-work policy and the 23rd state overall.

The U.S. House enjoyed a rare day of political unity, as Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords formally served her last day. She resigned to focus on her recovery from being shot in the head a year ago. The three-term Democrat entered the House chamber to a standing ovation and hugs from colleagues on both sides, who cheered and wept.

A tearful Speaker John Boehner accepted her resignation letter.

And Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz read it aloud on Giffords’ behalf.

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), Fla.: “Amid all that was lost on Jan. 8, there was also hope and faith. This past year, it is what I have often clung to, hope that our government can represent the best of a nation, not the worst, faith that Americans working together in their communities, in our Congress can succeed without qualification.”

HARI SREENIVASAN: A number of lawmakers paid tribute to Giffords, including one who called her the spirit of bipartisanship that we should all learn from.
Those are some of the day’s major stories.