News Wrap: Israel, Hamas Agree to Prisoner-Exchange Deal
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KWAME HOLMAN: Israel and Hamas announced a deal late today, exchanging some 1,000 Palestinian prisoners for Israeli Sgt. Gilad Shalit. He’s been held in Gaza since 2006, when the militant Islamic group captured him in a raid along the border.
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu convened his cabinet this evening to approve the deal.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, Israeli prime minister (through translator): I believe we have reached the best agreement that was possible to reach at this time, a time of storms that are rocking the Middle East. I don’t know if the near future would allow us to achieve a better deal or a deal at all.
KWAME HOLMAN: Hamas officials also confirmed the deal, pending completion of technical arrangements.
Thousands of Egyptians protested overnight against the ruling military’s actions during demonstrations by Coptic Christians Sunday in Cairo. And, today, Egypt’s finance minister submitted his resignation in protest. At least 26 people were killed Sunday night when a peaceful rally by Christians erupted into all-out street fights with Muslims and police. Most of the victims were Christians.
The woman who led Ukraine’s pro-democracy Orange Revolution in 2004 was sentenced to seven years in prison today. Yulia Tymoshenko is now the main opposition leader. She was charged with abusing her authority while she was prime minister in signing a gas deal with Russia. Tymoshenko heard the verdict read today in a courtroom in Kiev.
She condemned the sentence, even as the judge was still reading.
YULIA TYMOSHENKO, former Ukrainian prime minister (through translator): This verdict will not stop me. We will fight and protest my honest name in the European court. And I’m sure that the European Court of Human Rights will give its own legal verdict.
KWAME HOLMAN: The European Union, Russia and the U.S. charged, the whole case was politically motivated. A White House statement called for Tymoshenko’s immediate release.
The effort to expand the European bailout fund ran into trouble today. The Parliament in Slovakia rejected the proposal. The other 16 Eurozone countries have passed it, but the decision has to be unanimous.
Wall Street had waited all day for the vote in Slovakia, which came moments after the closing bell. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 17 points to close at 11,416. The Nasdaq rose 17 points to close at 2,583.
Federal regulators have moved one step closer to barring banks from trading for their own profit. It stems from the 2008 financial meltdown. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation unanimously backed the so-called Volcker rule today. It’s named after Paul Volcker, a former Federal Reserve chairman. The Securities and Exchange Commission still must vote on the proposal.
In the presidential race, Republican Mitt Romney picked up a major endorsement from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Christie ruled out running himself last week. In New Hampshire today, he said Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, is the most qualified candidate to lead the country and defeat President Obama.
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, R-N.J.: America cannot survive another four years of Barack Obama. And Mitt Romney is the man we need to lead America. And we need him now.
His experience in the private sector, running businesses, turning them around, going in there, telling the people the truth about what needed to be done, and then coming up with the plan to get it done, and look at his experience as an elected official. We know that he brings the best of both to what we need for America right now.
KWAME HOLMAN: Also today, Romney urged Texas Gov. Rick Perry to repudiate accusations that Romney is not a Christian and his Mormon faith is just a cult. The claims were made by a Baptist minister from Dallas who’s backing Perry for president. A spokesman said Perry disagrees with the pastor, but he also rejects Romney’s challenge.
Global rates of tuberculosis fell last year, for the first time ever. The World Health Organization reported today 8.8 million people fell ill with T.B. in 2010. That was down by some 200,000 from the peak year of 2005. Better testing was cited for the improvement. T.B. took 1.4 million lives last year, the lowest total in a decade.
Those are some of the day’s major stories.