News Wrap: Attacks Escalate in Syria Despite Cease-fire
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HARI SREENIVASAN: The Syrian military escalated attacks on rebel areas today, despite the government’s claim that it is adhering to a cease-fire.
In the central city of Homs, amateur video showed large plumes of smoke rising. Mortar rounds and shells rained down on rebel-held sections. Elsewhere, two vehicles carrying U.N. observers were surrounded by thousands of anti-government protesters near Damascus. Then, gunfire erupted as Syrian security agents fired on the crowd, and the observers were forced to flee.
In Brussels, Belgium, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned the violence.
SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY CLINTON: It is obviously quite concerning that while we are deploying these monitors pursuant to a Security Council resolution that confirms our commitment to Kofi Annan’s six-point plan, the guns of the Assad regime are once again firing in Homs, Idlib and elsewhere, and Syrians continue to die.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Clinton said Syria has reached a turning point, and she warned of new pressure on the government, unless it relents.
At least 22 soldiers died today in growing border fighting in East Africa between Sudan and South Sudan. There have been almost daily battles since South Sudan seized the oil town of Heglig last week. Sudan today demanded an immediate withdrawal. South Sudan claimed its independence last summer, but the border was never settled, and the two sides never agreed on sharing the region’s oil wealth.
In the U.S. presidential campaign, President Obama and Mitt Romney traded criticisms over economic policy. The president traveled to the swing state of Ohio, and he charged that Republicans are dead wrong on how to build a recovery.
He spoke to a community college in Elyria near Cleveland.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: In this country, prosperity does not trickle down. Prosperity grows from the bottom up, and it grows from a strong middle class out.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
BARACK OBAMA: That’s how we grow this economy.
And that’s why I’m always confused when we keep having the same argument with folks who don’t seem to remember how America was built.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Mitt Romney offered the Republican answer this afternoon in Charlotte, N.C.. He accused the president of pitting Americans against each other to divert attention from his own failed policies.
MITT ROMNEY (R): One of the things that is most disappointing to me in our president has been that, over the last 3.5 years, he has engaged in constant efforts to divide Americans and to find blame of one after another.
MITT ROMNEY: And each day, if there’s a problem of some kind, he points to some group of Americans that must be responsible for it, never saying he’s responsible for the mistakes he’s made, for policies that made it harder for businesses to start and for people coming out of school to find a good job.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Romney also said today he would clean house at the Secret Service. He called for firing 11 agents who allegedly used prostitutes in Colombia ahead of a presidential visit last week. This evening, the Secret Service announced three of the agents are leaving its employ. It says the investigation will continue.
Wall Street gave back some of its gains of the last few days. The Dow Jones industrial average lost more than 82 points to close at 13,032. The Nasdaq fell 11 points to close at 3,031.
A retired couple in southern Illinois has claimed the final share of last month’s record Mega Millions lottery jackpot. Merle and Patricia Butler came forward today and took home a lump sum of $111 million, after taxes. Butler said even when he matched the winning numbers to his $3 ticket, it took a few moments for the realization to sink in.
MERLE BUTLER, Mega Millions winner: After I looked at it for a couple minutes, I turn to my wife, who was right there with me, and I says, “We won.” And she kind of looked at me funny.
MERLE BUTLER: And I says, “No, we won.”
And then she started giggling.
MERLE BUTLER: And she giggled for about four hours, I think, you know?
HARI SREENIVASAN: The overall jackpot totaled $656 million. The other winners in Kansas and Maryland have chosen to remain anonymous.
The winningest coach in women’s basketball is stepping down. Pat Summitt announced today she will not be back as head coach at the University of Tennessee next season. Instead, she will become head coach emeritus. Summitt is 59. She announced last August that she has early-onset Alzheimer’s. During 38 seasons at Tennessee, her teams won 1,098 games and eight national championships.
Longtime television host and producer Dick Clark died today after a heart attack at a hospital in Santa Monica, California. He was dubbed the world’s oldest teenager, and became a TV fixture across several generations.
ANNOUNCER: Live from Philadelphia, it’s time for America’s favorite dance party, “American Bandstand.”
HARI SREENIVASAN: Dick Clark first gained notoriety in the late 1950s, hosting the TV dance party that ran for 30 years.
DICK CLARK, entertainer: This one’s called “Rock Around the Clock.”
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
HARI SREENIVASAN: Clark’s clean-shaven image helped rock ‘n’ roll go mainstream, and he helped open the national stage to black artists.
DICK CLARK: This is Sam Cooke singing “You Send Me.”
HARI SREENIVASAN: From “Bandstand,” Clark built a television empire, producing awards shows and hosting game shows, including “The $20,000 Pyramid.”
DICK CLARK: Happy new year 2001!
HARI SREENIVASAN: Starting in 1972, he helped ring in the new year and continued to host “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” in New York even after suffering a stroke in 2004 that affected his ability to speak and walk.
DICK CLARK: My speech is not perfect, but I’m getting there.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Clark never liked to say goodbye. Instead, he ended every broadcast with a salute:
DICK CLARK: For now, Dick Clark. So long.
HARI SREENIVASAN: At his death this morning, Dick Clark was 82 years old.
Those are some of the day’s major stories.