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News Wrap: Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice Addresses Senate Critics

November 27, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT
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HARI SREENIVASAN: Wall Street lost ground today over renewed concerns that deficit talks in Washington are not making progress. The Dow Jones industrial average was down 89 points to close at 12,878. The Nasdaq fell nine points to close below 2,968.

Earlier, there were more signs of a recovery in housing. The Standard & Poor’s Case-Shiller index for September found that home prices went up 3 percent in most major U.S. cities compared with a year earlier.

America’s ambassador to the U.N. failed to mollify Senate critics today on the attack at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Susan Rice met with Republican senators who’ve criticized her for saying five days after the attack that anti-American protests were to blame. In fact, U.S. officials already knew it was a terrorist strike. Today, Rice blamed faulty intelligence.

But Sen. Lindsey Graham said he was unimpressed.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.: Bottom line, I’m more disturbed now than I was before that the 16 September explanation about how four Americans died in Benghazi Libya by Ambassador Rice I think doesn’t do justice to the reality at the time, and in hindsight clearly was completely wrong.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Graham, along with Sen. McCain and Ayotte, have said they will oppose Rice if she’s nominated to be secretary of state.

But independent Sen. Joe Lieberman also met with Rice today, and he said he was satisfied with her explanation of events.

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN, I-Conn.: I found her statements to be significant. She was just as clear and absolute as she could be that she based her testimony and her statements on Sunday morning television on the talking points that she got from the intelligence community.

HARI SREENIVASAN: President Obama has strongly defended Rice. And a White House spokesman today criticized what he called the Republican — quote — “obsession” with her initial statements on Benghazi.

Protesters in Egypt staged nationwide rallies today against Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood. In Cairo, more than 100,000 people filled Tahrir Square to condemn Morsi’s decree that makes his decisions immune to judicial review. Earlier, there were clashes between protesters and police. The rallies were some of the largest since the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak last year.

In Syria, government warplanes bombed towns in the north and east, in the face of new advances by rebel fighters. In one attack, the planes dropped barrels filled with explosives and gasoline just west of Idlib city. Reports of the dead ranged from five to 20. The regime is using intensive air raids to try to beat back rebel gains.

Forensic experts took samples from the remains of Yasser Arafat today, hoping to determine once and for all if the late Palestinian leader was poisoned. Arafat died in 2004. His body was briefly exhumed today in Ramallah on the West Bank.

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

JOHN RAY: Eight years after they buried him, they sealed Yasser Arafat’s tomb for a second time, a dignified ceremony, but Palestine’s lost leader has not been allowed to rest peacefully.

Shielded by blue screens, scientists took samples from his body to try to clear up a near-decade of conjecture and a conspiracy theory that says that when a gravely ill Arafat said farewell to his people, he was dying from the poison administered by the agents of Israel.

DR. MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI, Palestinian activist: The time has come to maybe try to find the proof of what has happened and to bring justice. I think he deserves it. The Palestinian people deserve it.

JOHN RAY: To Palestinians, he was the ultimate fighter for freedom, to Israelis, the face of terror. They cornered him first into Lebanon and then to his West Bank headquarters. Allowed at last into exile, he died officially from a stroke. But traces of highly toxic polonium were recently found on his clothes. So, did Israeli secret services finally get their man?

Did Israel murder, assassinate, get rid of Yasser Arafat?

RA’ANAN GISSAN, ex-Israeli government adviser: I can tell you, you know, a definite, absolute no. They used to say that we — that our snipers had Arafat at their sights and the decision wasn’t to kill him.

JOHN RAY: Whatever dark secret this grave might or might not reveal, the timing is fortuitous, in the very week that Palestinians applied to the United Nations for recognition, a significant step towards the fulfillment of Yasser Arafat’s life work.

After Arafat’s death, experts warned that after so many years, definitive answers are likely to remain elusive.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Swiss, French, and Russian experts will examine the samples. Palestinian officials said it will take at least three months to obtain any results.

Four women in the U.S. military filed suit in San Francisco today, challenging the Pentagon’s ban on women in combat. They charged the ban violates the U.S. Constitution and blocks women from key promotions. They also said that, in fact, women are already serving unofficially in combat units. This is the second such lawsuit filed this year against the military.

Greece dodged another financial bullet today, with a new infusion of bailout cash. European leaders and the International Monetary Fund agreed to release $57 billion in loans after three weeks of negotiations. The money will help Greece stave off bankruptcy, recapitalize its banking industry, and pay back suppliers.

The man who built the Major League Baseball Players Union into a force has died. Marvin Miller passed away this morning at his home in New York, after suffering liver cancer. Miller led the Players Association for 16 years, including its first strikes and the legal battles that led to free agency for players. Marvin Miller was 95 years old.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.