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News Wrap: Syrian Forces Open Fire on Rallies, Kill at Least 24

October 21, 2011 at 12:00 AM EDT
In other news Friday, Syrian demonstrators filled the streets of Homs and other areas after Friday prayers, but at least 24 people were killed when government forces opened fire on the rallies. Also, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered another blunt warning to Pakistan to step up its anti-terror efforts.
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HARI SREENIVASAN: The death of Libya’s former dictator Moammar Gadhafi empowered anti-government protesters across Syria today. Demonstrators filled the streets of Homs and other areas after Friday prayers. They shouted slogans warning Syrian President Bashar Assad his turn is coming.

But Syrian forces opened fire on the rallies, killing at least 24 people. In all, more than 3,000 people have died in the now seven-month-long crackdown.

For a second day, secretary of state Hillary Clinton delivered a blunt warning to Pakistan over its anti-terror efforts.

NewsHour correspondent Kwame Holman has our report.

KWAME HOLMAN: The secretary of state renewed U.S. demands that Pakistan crack down on militants endangering American-led efforts in Afghanistan.

SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON: Terrorism is a challenge we share, and we want to work together to root out all of the extremists who threaten us, including the Taliban and the Haqqani Network.

We should be able to agree that, for too long, extremists have been able to operate here in Pakistan and from Pakistani soil.

KWAME HOLMAN: The Haqqani Network is a particular focus, blamed for ongoing and deadly attacks on U.S., NATO and Afghan forces. It operates from Pakistan’s borderlands and is believed to be behind recent spectacular attacks in Kabul on the U.S. Embassy last month and on a high-profile hotel in June.

But the secretary did confirm today that the U.S. had sought to open talks with the militant group this summer, much as the U.S. has pursued negotiations with the Taliban. But she also said the Haqqani effort didn’t progress past initial contact.

The secretary led an unusually high-level delegation to Pakistan, accompanied by the director of central intelligence, retired Gen. David Petraeus, and the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Gen. Martin Dempsey.

It’s been a rocky stretch for U.S.-Pakistan relations, with alleged ongoing Pakistani support for militant groups, strategic wrangling over Afghanistan, and the mission to kill Osama bin Laden inside Pakistan having frayed ties between the two nations.

Nonetheless, the Americans brought a stern message to Pakistan’s president, prime minister, and their powerful intelligence and military leaders. Secretary Clinton previewed that message yesterday in Afghanistan after meeting with President Karzai.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON: And they can either be helping or hindering.

KWAME HOLMAN: Today, Clinton reiterated that at a town hall-style meeting in Islamabad, and again assailed Pakistani support for extremists.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON: But no policy that draws distinctions between so-called good terrorists and bad terrorists can provide long-term security. And Pakistan has the opportunity to show regional leadership by helping to end the insurgency on both sides of the border.

KWAME HOLMAN: Clinton’s trip continues with visits to other regional players with a stake in the Afghan war, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Floodwaters began to gradually seep into Bangkok, Thailand, today, as several canals were opened north of the capital. The Thai government opened the floodgates to relieve the buildup of water outside the city and give the water a path to the sea.

In the commercial heart of the city, workers stacked sandbags preparing for the worst. And people living on the lower floors of buildings began moving their belongings higher up.

Democrats in the U.S. Senate moved on to the next piece of President Obama’s jobs bill today. It’s a $60 billion investment in infrastructure projects, like roads and bridges. The initial piece of the broken-up jobs bill, a measure to boost the hiring of teachers and first-responders, failed last night. All Republicans and a few moderate Democrats opposed it.

President Obama signed three trade deals into law today with South Korea, Colombia and Panama. The three deals took years to negotiate, and faced opposition from three-quarters of Democrats in the House, who voted against the measures. The deal with South Korea alone could boost exports by $10 billion, erasing the current trade gap.

Finance ministers from the Eurozone met in Brussels today to hash out how they will strengthen a bailout fund for 17 member countries. They have agreed Greece will get its next batch of bailout loans, likely in the first part of November. More meetings are set for this weekend, and then a second summit is scheduled for next Wednesday, when the bulk of decisions are expected.

On Wall Street today, anticipation of the Eurozone meetings pushed stocks higher. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 267 points to close above 11,808. The Nasdaq rose nearly 39 points to close at 2,637. For the week, the Dow gained more than 1 percent; the Nasdaq fell 1 percent.

Rupert Murdoch’s media empire has agreed to pay more than $3 million to the family of a murdered British schoolgirl. Milly Dowler disappeared in 2002 and was later found murdered. Reporters from Murdoch’s now-defunct News of the World tabloid had hacked into her voice-mails, giving the family hope she was still alive. Another million-and-a-half dollars will go to charities chosen by the Dowler family.

The governor of Ohio, John Kasich, announced plans for a new law cracking down on exotic pet auctions. The move comes three days after a man in Zanesville freed dozens of tigers, bears and other wild animals from his farm before committing suicide. Police had to shoot and kill most of the animals to protect the public. Ohio has faced widespread criticism for having some of the weakest exotic pet regulations in the nation.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.