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News Wrap: Clearances Suspended for Military Members in Colombia Sex Scandal

April 23, 2012 at 12:00 AM EST
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KWAME HOLMAN: The political upheavals in Europe weighed on Wall Street today. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 102 points to close at 12,927. The Nasdaq fell 30 points to close at 2,970.

Wal-Mart shares were down more than 4.5 percent, some $10 billion. The New York Times had reported the retailing giant blocked an internal bribery probe involving executives in Mexico.

The scandal involving Secret Service agents and U.S. troops who allegedly patronized prostitutes in Colombia has widened again. Pentagon officials said today a 12th member of the military is under investigation. His unit provides secure communications for the president.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta flew to Colombia today on a long-scheduled visit. En route, he confirmed new disciplinary measures.

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE LEON PANETTA: We have suspended the security clearances of individuals there, pending the results of this investigation. Frankly, my biggest concern is the issue of security and what could possibly have been jeopardized by virtue of this kind of behavior.

KWAME HOLMAN: White House officials have ruled out misconduct by any presidential staffers.

NATO has suffered more fatalities in Afghanistan. The alliance announced today that two more service members were killed in a bombing on Sunday. That came a day after the U.S. and Afghan governments agreed to a long-term security pact. It calls for continued U.S. financial and military support until at least 2024. Most foreign forces are set to withdraw from Afghanistan in 2014.

In Syria, the opposition reported a new massacre in the city of Hama. Activists said government troops using heavy machine guns killed between 30 and 50 people a day after U.N. monitors visited. Today, the monitors moved to a suburb of Damascus, where thousands of protesters greeted them. The crowd chanted for the end of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

President Obama ordered new sanctions today aimed at Syria and Iran. The measures will impose penalties on countries that use cell phone and social media technologies to crack down on dissent and target protesters.

Mr. Obama spoke at the Holocaust Museum in Washington.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: It’s a bitter truth: Too often, the world has failed to prevent the killing of innocents on a massive scale and we are haunted by the atrocities that we did not stop and the lives we did not save.

We need to be doing everything we can to prevent and respond to these kinds of atrocities because national sovereignty is never a license to slaughter your people.

KWAME HOLMAN: The administration also announced grants to develop technologies that can warn people in countries where mass killings occur.

The Florida man accused of killing an unarmed teenager was released on bail overnight. George Zimmerman is charged with second degree murder in the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin. The case sparked protests nationwide. Zimmerman ignored reporters as he left the jail in Sanford around midnight. He followed another man to a car, but his destination was being kept secret.

The second perjury trial of former baseball star Roger Clemens is now under way. A federal jury was seated today in Washington, and opening statements began. Clemens is accused of lying to a congressional committee when he denied using steroids and similar drugs. The pitching great’s first trial ended last July in a mistrial, when prosecutors used video material that the judge had barred.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.