News Wrap: Suicide Car Bombers Kill Dozens in Damascus Suburb
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HARI SREENIVASAN: Wall Street tracked the ups and downs of the fiscal cliff drama in Washington today. At one point, the Dow Jones industrial average was off more than 100 points. But stocks made up the ground after the president’s talk of a deal by Christmas. The Dow ended with a gain of nearly 107 points to close at 12,985. The Nasdaq rose 24 points to close well over 2,991.
A moderate Republican senator, Susan Collins of Maine, voiced new concerns today about U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice. It stemmed from Rice’s initial account, on a Sunday talk show, of the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. At the time, she said it began as an anti-American protest, but she now says she was working off faulty intelligence. Rice met with Collins for 90 minutes today, but, afterward, the senator remained critical.
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS, R-Maine: I still have many questions that remain unanswered. I continue to be troubled by the fact that the U.N. ambassador decided to play what was essentially a political role at the height of a contentious presidential election campaign by agreeing to go on the Sunday shows to present the administration’s position.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Collins stopped short of joining other Republican senators who have said they will oppose Rice if she is nominated to be secretary of state. Later, President Obama again defended Rice. He called her — quote — “extraordinary,” and Cabinet members joined him in applause.
A pair of suicide car bombers in Syria blew themselves up today in a suburb of Damascus. At least 34 people were killed. The twin explosions shattered buildings and left streets littered with rubble. In addition to the dead, the state news agency reported dozens of people were wounded. Meanwhile, in the north, rebels said they shot down a government fighter jet with an anti-aircraft missile.
In Egypt, the political crisis took a new turn, as two top appellate courts went on strike against President Mohammed Morsi. They said they won’t return to work until Morsi rescinds decrees giving himself near absolute power. At the same time, the Supreme Constitutional Court rejected Morsi’s claims that it’s undermining his government.
MAHER SAMY, Egyptian Supreme Constitutional Court (through translator): The Egyptian Supreme Constitutional Court will not be terrorized from any threat or blackmail. It will not be subjected to any pressure from anyone, no matter how forcible the pressure. The Supreme Constitutional Court is ready to face this, whatever the consequences, which could be a high price, even if the price is the life of its judges.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The courts’ actions came a day after nationwide protests against Morsi’s decrees. And late today, there was word the Egyptian leader will address the country tomorrow about his actions and the response.
Rebels in Eastern Congo have begun pulling out of territory they seized from government troops just last week. Neighboring countries had issued an ultimatum for the M23 fighters to withdraw from the key town of Goma by Friday. The group is made up mainly of soldiers who deserted the Congolese army last April. U.N. experts and the Congolese government say Rwanda is backing the rebels, in a bid to seize mineral wealth. The rebels deny the charge.
Three BP employees were arraigned in New Orleans today on charges stemming from the 2010 oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. The charges ranged from manslaughter to concealing information. The two rig supervisors and a former executive pleaded not guilty. Separately, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency barred BP from new federal contracts indefinitely. It cited — quote — “a lack of business integrity.”
Those are some of the day’s major stories.