News Wrap: At Least 15 Dead in Syrian Car Bomb Blast
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HARI SREENIVASAN: A suicide bomber in Syria blew up his car in Damascus today, killing at least 15 people. It happened in the city’s financial district. Rescue workers searched the smoking wreckage for survivors. The state news agency said the blast wounded 146 people. Other reports had that number at 53.
The body of an American diplomat killed in Afghanistan was flown back to Dover Air Force base in Delaware today for a private ceremony; 25-year-old Anne Smedinghoff was one of five Americans who died in a suicide bombing on Saturday. The group was delivering textbooks to schoolchildren in the southern city of Zabul. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.
North Korea has cut its last major ties to the South, suspending operations at a joint industrial complex. It was the latest North Korean move that’s raised tensions in the region.
We have a report narrated by Juliet Bremner of Independent Television News.
JULIET BREMNER, Independent Television News: The latest ratcheting up of North Korean rhetoric, the announcement on the state news, that all workers will be called out of the industrial zone jointly run with the South.
The complex is just about the only place where the fractious neighbors continue to cooperate. As workers were pulled out, it was seen as self-defeating for the North, who rely on the revenue. But it is another sign of their defiance.
At this time of heightened tensions, every action, every word has potentially devastating consequences. Dogs on training maneuvers with North Korean soldiers maul the face of the South Korean defense minister, who today was forced to retract earlier warnings that the North may be on the verge of carrying out another nuclear test.
The South, who have moved their military hardware up to the border, rapidly modified their statement, saying that activity around the underground test site didn’t amount to evidence that a fourth test was imminent. But it is causing increased anxiety amongst the international community.
The U.N. secretary-general calling the latest North Korean move provocative.
U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON: I sincerely hope that they will fully comply with the relevant Security Council resolutions. This is an urgent and honest appeal from the international community, including myself.
JULIET BREMNER: But no one can be certain just how far the new young leader will push his demands for international sanctions to be relaxed.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The website WikiLeaks staged a major new document dump today, even as founder Julian Assange remains holed up in London. The site released some 1.7 million U.S. government files from 1973 through 1976. They include a host of once-secret memos written by then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.
In Washington, a spokesman said WikiLeaks wants the material to see the light of day.
KRISTINN HRAFNSSON, WikiLeaks Spokesman: One form of secrecy is the complexity and the inaccessibility of documents. And it seems to be that the current government is not making a huge effort in making these historical documents accessible. In this way, we are providing a public service.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Assange appeared at the briefing via Skype from the Ecuadorian embassy in London. He sought asylum there last June to evade extradition to Sweden on sex crime allegations.
There was new fallout today in a sports scandal at Rutgers University. The school fired basketball coach Mike Rice last week after a video showed him shoving players and using gay slurs. Now Rutgers has announced an independent review of Rice’s conduct and the university’s initial response. The school president said he is also reviewing practice videos of other sports.
An annual report card on U.S. airlines shows they have turned in their second best performance in the 23 years they have been tracked. On-time performance in 2012 was up over a year earlier, and mishandled baggage rates were down. Even so, customer complaints rose, especially over shrinking seats and overbooked planes. Virgin America had the best overall performance; United Airlines had the worst.
The U.S. Senate confirmed Mary Jo White today as chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission. She’s a former federal prosecutor in New York.
And on Wall Street, stocks started the week on a high note. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 48 points to close at 14,613. The Nasdaq rose 18 points to close at 3,222.
Former Mouseketeer and teen movie star Annette Funicello died today. She passed away at a hospital in Bakersfield, California, of complications from multiple sclerosis. Funicello first gained fame on TV’s “Mickey Mouse Club” in the late 1950s, and then in several Disney films. Later, she teamed with Frankie Avalon in a series of beach movies in the early ’60s. Annette Funicello was 70 years old.
Those are some of the day’s major stories — now back to Gwen.