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News Wrap: Libyan Rebels Claim Capture of Gadhafi’s Son

October 13, 2011 at 12:00 AM EST
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HARI SREENIVASAN: Rebel forces in Libya announced today that they captured another of Moammar Gadhafi’s sons. They said Mutassim Gadhafi was taken as he tried to escape the city of Sirte. Pro-Gadhafi loyalists are continuing to hold out there. Gunfire continued in the city as rebel fighters kept pressing forward. They said the battle is now confined to one neighborhood.

In Syria, activists said government troops battled military defectors in two towns, leaving 13 dead. The reported clashes took place in the town of Binnish in the northwest and the village of Harra in the south. Yesterday, thousands of Syrians rallied in support of President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus. But protesters released videos of opposition rallies that took place across the country.

The people of Bangkok, Thailand, fought a desperate battle today against the worst flooding in decades. More than 280 people have died since July in a growing disaster brought on by monsoon rains.

We have a report from John Sparks of Independent Television News.

JOHN SPARKS: Bangkok, teeming metropolis and the nation’s capital, under threat by floodwaters from the north, on the outskirts, motorways backed up or cut to a single lane, and many of its riverside homes already consumed.

This is the Chao Phraya. It runs through the heart of Bangkok, and it has already burst its banks in places, just a thin line of sandbags now holding it back. They call it Bangkok’s defensive wall, but it’s under strain in Pathum Thani at the city’s northern edge, men on the ground here working to patch it up.

Further on, we found a giant car plant, owned by Honda, now deserted, and marooned in waters 15 feet deep. We saw motorists stuck on flyovers, forced to make camp on the roadside. A great inland sea opened up before us, the river and its floodplain merged as one, a great body of water moving slowly, inexorably towards the south.

We returned to Pathum Thani on Bangkok’s northern flank, where volunteers equipped with shovels, bags and plastic ties were hard at work, an ad hoc production line churning out sandbags by the thousand.

The government has commandeered supplies of sand. It’s got every plastic bag it can gets it hands on. And many of them are now being used in the defense of Bangkok, a three- or four-foot-high wall that is the front line now in this crisis.

The Thai government has moved into an air terminal to better coordinate its response. Various ministries share tables in the departures hall, the prime minister’s staff now working from the Muslim praying room, and they face a mammoth task, 2.5 million people displaced, a third of the country declared national disaster areas.

HARI SREENIVASAN: A heavy new surge of floodwater from the north will reach Bangkok this weekend just as high tides and new storms arrive.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta issued a new warning today about squeezing the Pentagon budget. The military already faces $450 billion in cuts over the next 10 years. Panetta told a House hearing that forcing even deeper cuts could be devastating.

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE LEON PANETTA: There are going to be risks here. I’m not kidding you. When you cut the budget by $450 billion, when you make the choices we’re going to have to make, there are going to be some risks that are going to be out there. Those risks have to be acceptable, but there are going to be risks. We need to know that.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Panetta wouldn’t give details about the cuts already in the works. He said they are still under review.

The Parliament of Slovakia reversed itself today and approved a plan to boost the Eurozone’s bailout fund. Slovakia was the last of 17 nations using the euro currency to approve giving the fund more power. Earlier this week, an initial vote in the Slovakian Parliament failed and briefly sent panic waves through world financial markets.

The news from Europe did little to cheer Wall Street. Instead, stocks were mostly down on concerns that the European debt crisis has hurt U.S. bank profits. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 40 points to close at 11,478. The Nasdaq rose 15 points with a late rally in tech stocks to close at 2,620.

A former billionaire hedge fund manager, Raj Rajaratnam, was sentenced today to 11 years in federal prison. It is the longest sentence ever given for insider trading. The founder of the Galleon Group was convicted last May. He also has to pay a $10 million fine and forfeit more than $50 million from illegal trades.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.