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News Wrap: Congress Passes Funding Measure; Russian Blogger Imprisoned

July 31, 2012 at 12:00 AM EST
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KWAME HOLMAN: Bipartisan leaders in Congress agreed today to keep the government funded through next March. The stopgap measure is meant to avoid a shutdown when the federal fiscal year concludes in September.

Funding would continue at levels specified in last year’s debt limit agreement. Lawmakers still face automatic tax increases and defense spending cuts in January, unless they can agree on a deficit reduction package.

A major critic of President Vladimir Putin will face criminal charges. Alexei Navalny was accused today of stealing half-a-million dollars from a state timber company. Navalny organized mass rallies against Putin in Moscow before the presidential election in March. The protests drew up to 100,000 people.

Today, Navalny insisted he was framed as part of the Kremlin’s mounting efforts to silence Putin’s opponents.

ALEXEI NAVALNY, Russian opposition leader (through translator): We think the case was set up, and we are not going to do anything or play their games. The charges contradict the expertise and evidence. I don’t know how they will prove all that.

KWAME HOLMAN: If he’s convicted of the embezzlement charges, Navalny could serve up to 10 years in prison.

In Iraq, two deadly blasts struck Baghdad today, killing at least 21 people. The twin car bombs exploded in an upscale Shiite neighborhood during rush hour. The dead included six policemen; 57 other people were wounded. The violence came a week after a series of coordinated attacks claimed by al-Qaida killed more than 100 Iraqis.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney wrapped up his three-nation overseas tour today in Poland. Romney met with Polish leaders in Warsaw today. He cited the country as a model of economic liberty and smaller government and as a longtime comrade in arms.

MITT ROMNEY (R): Poland has no greater friend and ally than the people of the United States of America. You helped us win our independence. Your bravery inspired the allies in the Second World War. You helped bring down the Iron Curtain. And your soldiers fought side by side with ours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

We have fought together. We have died together.

KWAME HOLMAN: Romney also dismissed criticism of remarks during his trip about the Olympics, Jerusalem, and Israel’s economic superiority over the Palestinians.

He ignored shouted questions after laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Warsaw. But an aide argued with reporters, telling one to shove it.

Back in Washington, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said American leaders who go abroad should avoid controversy.

WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY JAY CARNEY: What they say is placed under a magnifying glass. And — and it carries great impact. And presidents, senators, congressmen, former governors need to be very mindful of the impact because of the diplomatic implications of what — you know, what you say overseas.

KWAME HOLMAN: From Poland, Romney is returning to the U.S. and resumes campaigning on Thursday. President Obama campaigns tomorrow in Ohio.

Unemployment in Europe has reached record highs. The European Union reported today that 17.8 million people were unemployed in June across the 17-country Eurozone. That’s the most since the euro currency union was formed in 1999. Spain and Greece have been hardest hit, with jobless rates well above 20 percent.

Wall Street fell back some today, waiting for Wednesday, when the Federal Reserve issues its latest statement on the economy. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 64 points to close at 13,008. The Nasdaq fell six points to close at 2,939.

The bestselling Irish author Maeve Binchy died Monday in a Dublin hospital. She’d had a brief unspecified illness. Binchy was widely known for her bestselling novels, including “Circle of Friends” and “Tara Road.” At her death, more than 40 million copies of her books had sold worldwide. Maeve Binchy was 72 years old.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.