HARI SREENIVASAN: The focus in South Africa turned to former president Nelson Mandela today. He was hospitalized for the third time in four months at the age of 94.
We have a report from Rohit Kachroo of Independent Television News.
ROHIT KACHROO, Independent Television News: Nelson Mandela is not only the most revered person in the world, but an elderly man fighting a persistent lung infection.
His 94th birthday last summer was a rare chance to see him in public, surrounded by his family. Another glimpse of the former president last February. He had gained weight. He looked healthier, but he’s been taken to hospital twice since then.
Last night, he was taken from his Johannesburg home to an unnamed hospital.
MAC MAHARAJ, South African Presidential Spokesman: The doctors are attending to him and ensuring that the best — he receives the best possible expert medical treatment and is kept comfortable. President Zuma has wished Madiba a speedy recovery.
ROHIT KACHROO: Twenty-seven years in prison made Mandela a global icon, this country’s first black president, uniting his nation. Many South Africans yearn for his style of leadership today.
But this is a young country, and though South Africans celebrate his birthday, most are too young to remember the dark years of racial segregation. A figure from the history books, he may be, but he matters here and his health is a national concern.
HARI SREENIVASAN: This evening, the South African government said Mandela is responding positively to treatment. And, at the White House, President Obama voiced hope for Mandela’s recovery, and said he’s been an inspiration to all of us.
In Rome, Pope Francis marked Holy Thursday by washing the feet of young jail inmates. The pontiff performed the ritual washing and then kissing the feet of a dozen young people at a juvenile detention center. They included orthodox and Muslim detainees and two young women. Previous popes have celebrated the foot-washing ritual, but Francis is the first to include women in the rite.
New tensions are boiling over among thousands of Syrians who fled the civil war in their country. Refugees rioted today at one site in Jordan when guards stopped them from trying to go home. And unrest broke out in Turkey yesterday at a large camp near the Syrian border. Military police used tear gas and water cannons, but Turkey denied reports that it is deporting at least 600 rioters.
In Geneva, Switzerland, a spokeswoman for the United Nations said the claims, if true, would be troubling.
MELISSA FLEMING, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Spokeswoman: Deportations to Syria would be, if they occurred, against the principles of international law. And so we are very much hoping this didn’t occur. We do remind refugees that they have a responsibility to abide by the law in Turkey.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Meanwhile, in Damascus, mortar shells struck an outdoor cafeteria at a university there, killing at least 10 people. Syrian state TV broadcast images of the aftermath and the wounded. The regime blamed terrorists, the name it uses for all rebel groups.
The U.S. military answered North Korea’s new threats today with a show of force, flying a pair of B-2 stealth bombers over South Korea and dropping dummy munitions on a South Korean island. The Yonhap News Agency in South Korea captured stills of the B-2s south of Seoul on mock bombing runs. They flew from a base in Missouri, and returned there.
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said it’s a deliberate response to North Korea, formally known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
VICTORIA NULAND, State Department Spokeswoman: When a country says the kinds of things that the DPRK is saying, you have to take it seriously, and you have to take steps to ensure that, when we say in response we can and will defend our own nation and we can and will defend our allies, that that is credible.
HARI SREENIVASAN: North Korea has recently cut several hot lines with the South and even threatened to fire missiles at the U.S. That’s after the U.N. imposed new sanctions to punish the North for conducting a nuclear test last month.
Banks in Cyprus reopened today for the first time in nearly two weeks, but with strict controls on transactions. Long lines formed outside banks as people waited to do what business they could. The controls were designed to prevent runs that would drain all funds from the country’s financial system. To qualify for an international bailout, Cyprus has agreed to shrink its banking sector and to impose heavy losses on large depositors.
Wall Street passed a new milestone today. The S&P 500 closed at a record high of 1,569, topping its previous peak from October of 2007. The other main indexes also rallied. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 52 points to close at 14,578. The Nasdaq rose eleven points to close at 3,267.
Those are some of the day’s major stories — now back to Ray.