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News Wrap: Iraq strikes back against al-Qaida militants holding Ramadi, Fallujah

January 7, 2014 at 12:00 AM EST
In our news wrap Tuesday, the Iraqi government attacked al-Qaida militants who have been holding the cities of Ramadi and Fallujah for days. Also, a first round of chemical weapons have left Syria. The UN announced that poison gas materials were put to sea to later be destroyed on a U.S. Navy ship.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: J.P. Morgan Chase agreed today to pay more than $2.5 billion dollars to settle criminal charges in the Bernie Madoff fraud. Federal authorities charged, the bank ignored warning signs that Madoff was running a huge Ponzi scheme. We will get full details right after the news summary.

On Wall Street today, stocks finally had the first up day of the new year. The Dow Jones industrial average gained more than 105 points to close at almost 16,531. The Nasdaq rose 39 points to close at 4,153.

A bill to restore long-term unemployment benefits took its first step forward in the Senate today. Half-a-dozen Republicans joined Democrats to begin formal debate. Republicans also called for spending cuts to pay for the bill. We will have a full report on today’s action later in the program.

In Iraq, the government claimed it struck a key blow at al-Qaida militants holding two cities. The military said this video showed an airstrike on an operations center just outside Ramadi. It said 25 fighters died in the attack. The militants seized Ramadi and Fallujah last week when government troops pulled back. Today, Sunni lawmakers warned that the Shiite-led government should keep out.

MAN (through translator): The Iraqi troops were pulled out of Anbar because they were defeated. They faced tribes and so many armed men. The troops’ participation in civilian issues, which are in fact the responsibilities of local police, has created chaos in Anbar and the situation is out of control.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The Obama administration has pledged to help the Iraqi government by providing surveillance drones.

The first chemical weapons materials have left Syria. The U.N. announced today that poison gas ingredients were loaded aboard a Danish ship. The vessel took on the cargo in the port of Latakia, then put to sea until the next shipment arrives. Eventually, the chemicals will be destroyed on a U.S. Navy ship.

A corruption scandal in Turkey took a new turn overnight, as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan dismissed or reassigned 350 police officers. It was his latest effort to contain an investigation that he says is politically motivated. The corruption probe has grown steadily, to include cabinet ministers and businessmen close to the government.

The Los Angeles County sheriff announced today he will retire from running the nation’s largest county jail system in the face of a scandal. Last month, 18 current and former deputies were indicted on charges ranging from beating inmates to obstructing investigators.

Today, Sheriff Lee Baca said he decided not to seek a fifth term, to prevent further damage to the department.

LEE BACA, Los Angeles County Sheriff: The reasons for doing so are so many. Some are most personal and private. But the prevailing one is the negative perception this upcoming campaign has brought to the exemplary service provided by the men and women of the sheriff’s department.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Baca is 71 years old. He said he will step down at the end of month.

More than 100 former New York City police officers, firefighters and prison guards were charged today with faking mental problems to get federal disability benefits. Some falsely said they suffered ailments after 9/11. Prosecutors say four ringleaders coached officers on how to describe symptoms of depression and other problems. They received payouts as high as $500,000, and the ringleaders allegedly got kickbacks.

In Chicago, a ban on handgun sales is now in limbo. A federal judge ruled Monday that ordinances barring such sales are unconstitutional. But he agreed to delay his ruling from taking effect to give the city time to appeal. Last year, Chicago led all other American cities in homicides