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News Wrap: U.N. Pulls Out Non-essential Staff From Syria Due to Safety Concerns

December 3, 2012 at 12:00 AM EST
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HARI SREENIVASAN: Wall Street’s week got off to a wobbly start. Stocks slid on news that manufacturing in November was the weakest in more than three years. The Dow Jones industrial average lost nearly 60 points to close at 12,965. The Nasdaq fell eight points to close at 3,002.

A number of automakers posted strong U.S. sales in November, among them, Chrysler, Ford, and Toyota. Chrysler and Toyota reported sales increases in the double digits over a year ago. Ford sales rose more than 6 percent, but GM reported only a 3 percent increase. Volkswagen had its best November since 1973.

In Syria, the U.N. announced it is pulling out nonessential international staff for their own safety. Those who remain will be restricted to the capital city, Damascus. Separately, the U.S. voiced mounting concern about activity at Syrian government sites storing chemical weapons.

This afternoon, President Obama warned Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad not to cross that line.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Today, I want to make it absolutely clear to Assad and those under his command the world is watching. The use of chemical weapons is and would be totally unacceptable. And if you make the tragic mistake of using these weapons, there will be consequences. And you will be held accountable.

HARI SREENIVASAN: In response, Syria’s government released a statement saying it would never use chemical weapons on its own people. The regime has never confirmed it has such weapons.

There were warnings about greater curbs on the Internet, as the world’s nations gathered today for a summit on telecommunications. The 11-day conference in Dubai is the first such review since 1988, well before the Web was fully formed. The U.S. has raised concerns that China, Russia, and others will seek new limits on Internet access. The head of the U.N. regulatory agency insisted such claims are completely untrue.

Concerns about flooding eased in Northern California today, despite heavy downpours over the weekend. The region has had three powerful storms in the last week. As much as an inch of rain an hour fell in some communities yesterday. Rivers swelled, but the storm moved faster than expected, so flooding wasn’t as bad as it could have been. Still, strong winds, downed trees leaving some 57,000 people without power.

Some 20,000 public school students in five states will spend more time in the classroom next year. They’re part of a pilot program announced today in Colorado, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Tennessee. A total of 40 schools will add at least 300 hours to the standard school calendar. The goal is to see whether more time will make American students more competitive on a global level.

Britain welcomed news today that Prince William and his wife, Catherine, are expecting their first child. The announcement said the 30- year-old mother is in the early weeks of pregnancy. She’s hospitalized in London with a severe form of morning sickness, and she’s expected to remain there for several days. The baby will be third in line to the British throne. Prince Charles is first, followed by William.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.