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News Wrap: EU Softens Austerity Message in Bid to Spark Economic Growth

May 29, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT
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HARI SREENIVASAN: The European Union softened austerity demands for six countries today in a bid to spark economic growth. France, Spain and four other states will be given more time to get their deficits under control. That came as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development warned that recession in Europe is threatening the global recovery. The group predicted the Eurozone’s economy will shrink more than half-a-percent this year.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad served notice today that he will serve at least through elections next year and might even run again. The Syrian foreign minister made the announcement. He said the regime has new momentum from battlefield victories against the rebels. The statement could complicate U.S. and Russian efforts to convene a peace conference.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said today that Assad cannot cling to power.

JAY CARNEY, White House Press Spokesman: Bashar al-Assad long ago gave up the opportunity to participate in a transition process that would improve the future of the Syrian people and the Syrian nation. He chose instead to wage war on his people.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The Syrian opposition said today it might take part in peace talks, but only if there’s a deadline for a settlement forcing Assad out.

The carnage in Iraq has claimed at least 30 more lives. Bombings hit two neighborhoods in Baghdad after nightfall. Most of the victims were members of a wedding party passing by as the bomb exploded. Sectarian violence has flared in Iraq this month, killing more than 500 people.

China issued a new condemnation of computer hacking today, amid allegations that Chinese hackers stole data on more than two dozen major U.S. weapons systems. In Beijing, the assistant foreign minister didn’t directly address the allegations made in a Pentagon report. Instead, he said China opposes all cyber-attacks and has promised to work with the U.S. to fight them.

The first same-sex wedding was performed in France today, under a new national law making it legal.

We have a report narrated by Cordelia Lynch of Independent Television News.

CORDELIA LYNCH, Independent Television News: They say it’s a victory of love over hate, a kiss that changes France forever, Vincent Autin and Bruno Boileau, the first same-sex couple to marry there. It is the emotion you expect to see, but this was a wedding packed with strangers.

VINCENT AUTIN, France: Nothing is more beautiful than love. We have to love in our society. It’s hard enough as it is. So I beg you, love yourselves, love us, let’s love each other, because it’s important.

CORDELIA LYNCH: But, before they wed, they faced the voices of those who disagree. Their union in Montpellier has split their country. And these images may not mark the end of months of demonstrations and political rows.

Unlike the U.K., the debate is explosive and still raging. The law was passed less than two weeks ago, but these were scenes at the weekend. The largest protest against gay marriage drew nearly half-a-million people.

But it isn’t just elderly conservatives galvanizing the right. The young are playing their part, many Catholics opposed to gay adoption. But this was and still is about more than sexuality or an institution. It’s political and personal.

Many believe the president, Francois Hollande, obsessed over the bill, rather than dealing with troubled economy. His popularity is plummeting and gay marriage has mobilized right-wing voters.

HARI SREENIVASAN: In a related development, the French interior minister called for tougher penalties against anti-gay speech and actions.

Switzerland moved today to end a lengthy fight between Swiss banks and U.S. investigators over tax evasion. The Bern government said it will let banks sidestep their famed secrecy and disclose information on American clients. The deal needs approval of the Swiss Parliament. The goal is to avert U.S. criminal charges against the banks for aiding tax cheats. They could still face heavy fines.

Former Republican presidential contender Michele Bachmann is calling it a career in the U.S. House. The Minnesota congresswoman announced today she will not seek reelection. Bachmann narrowly won a fourth term last year. She said today she was not worried about another tough reelection fight. She also dismissed concerns about an investigation of how she financed her unsuccessful campaign for president last year.

This was the day 60 years ago that Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary became the first to climb Mount Everest, the world’s highest mountain. Since then, more than 3,000 people have scaled the peak in Nepal, at 29,000 feet above sea level. Today, the city of Katmandu, the Nepalese capital, staged a colorful parade to mark the occasion. Statues of the two climbers were adorned with flower garlands, and family members rode in that parade.

Those are some of the day’s major stories — now back to Gwen.