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News Wrap: Magnitude-8.6 Earthquake Shakes Indonesia

April 11, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT

HARI SREENIVASAN: Wall Street found a way forward today, after a week-long slump. Stocks rallied on Alcoa’s earnings report that beat expectations and a bond sale in Spain that went better than expected. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 89 points to close at 12,805. The Nasdaq rose 25 points to close at 3,016.

In another development, a Federal Reserve survey found steady growth in each of the Fed’s 12 bank districts from mid-February through March.

A major earthquake magnitude-8.6 shook the Indian Ocean today off Indonesia’s western coast. The quake was centered under the ocean floor, some 300 miles southwest of Banda Aceh, on the northern tip of Sumatra. It was followed by an almost equally powerful aftershock. The shaking triggered widespread panic, but there were no reports of serious damage or injuries.

We have a report from John Sparks of Independent Television News.

JOHN SPARKS: Those who experienced it said it seemed to last forever, several minutes of terror and dismay in the city of Banda Aceh, as the ground rumbled, the walls shook and mothers clung to their loved ones.

They have learned to fear such events here. A tsunami, caused by a giant earthquake in 2004, killed 170,000 on this island. So, today, many reacted with panic. With tsunami warnings issued, people poured on to the streets, moving together, looking for higher ground. And, soon, the streets were jammed with cars and trucks and mopeds.

Not everyone made a run for it. Some sought sanctuary and comfort within the confines of local mosques. Yet, fear swept through the crowd as one of several powerful aftershocks rippled through the city.

“Don’t panic, stay alert,” said the man with the megaphone. Inside on the windowsills and metal gates, people kept watch for incoming waves, but their prayers, it seems, have been answered. The earthquake, while powerful, moved in a way that was less likely to cause tsunami waves, and the water, well, it rose less than a meter, said seismologists tonight.

Still, it was felt widely around the region. Here in Hat Yai, in southern Thailand, workers and guests fled their hotel down dimly lit stairwells, then regrouped in the shadow of the city’s swaying buildings. And on the Thai coast, holiday makers and residents evacuated the beaches, many heading for elevated bits of highway on the coastal road.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Today’s quake was one of the most powerful in the last 50 years. But geologists said, this time, the earth’s tectonic plates shifted horizontally and not vertically. That prevented the formation of huge tsunamis, like the ones that devastated western Indonesia in 2004 and northern Japan last year.

In Syria, the military kept up its assault on rebel-held areas, even as the government vowed to halt fighting in time for a cease-fire deadline tomorrow. Amateur video out of Homs showed fresh shelling, with impacts spraying debris into the air. Tanks rolled through the streets, and rebels said at least a dozen people were killed. Meanwhile, U.N. envoy Kofi Annan visited Iran, one of Syria’s closest allies, and appealed for help in ending the fighting.

Two more NATO troops have been killed in Southern Afghanistan. The alliance announced the deaths today, but gave no immediate word on the nationalities. The attacks came a day after Taliban suicide bombers killed at least 19 Afghans across the country.

The U.S. Justice Department and 15 states accused Apple and major book publishers today of illegally trying to raise electronic book prices. A federal lawsuit said they conspired to charge an extra $2 to $5 for each book.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder spoke in Washington.

ERIC HOLDER, U.S. attorney general: We allege that executives at the highest levels of the companies included in today’s lawsuit, concerned that e-book sellers had reduced prices, worked together to eliminate competition among stores selling e-books. As a result of this alleged conspiracy, we believe that consumers paid millions of dollars more for some of the most popular titles.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Three publishers — Hachette, HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster — have reached settlements with the Justice Department. The lawsuit will proceed against two others, Macmillan and Penguin.

Mass murder Charles Manson was denied parole again today in California, possibly for the last time. Manson and his cult followers terrorized Los Angeles in 1969 with the brutal killings of actress Sharon Tate and six others. He is now 77 years old. But the parole board ruled today he has made no attempt at rehabilitation. That means he will not be eligible for parole for another 15 years, when he would be 92.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.