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News Wrap: Saudi Arabia rebukes UN Security Council over Syrian conflict

October 18, 2013 at 12:00 AM EST
In our news wrap Friday, Saudi Arabia accused the UN Security Council of failing to resolve conflicts like the civil war in Syria, and appeared to reject its newly acquired seat on the body. Also, one of the gunmen in the Nairobi mall attack has been identified as a Norwegian citizen originally from Somalia.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: We lead off tonight with President Obama’s choice to head the Department of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson. The president made the official announcement today at the White House. Johnson is the Pentagon’s former top lawyer, who spent much of his career dealing with national security issues.

Both Johnson and the president said that experience would serve him well.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: He’s been there in the situation room at the table in moments of decision, working with leaders from a host of agencies to make sure everyone is rowing in the same direction.

JEH JOHNSON, Secretary of Homeland Security nominee: I love this country. I care about the safety of our people. I believe in public service.

And I remain loyal to you, Mr. President.

If confirmed by the Senate, I promise all of my energy, focus and ability toward the task of safeguarding our nation’s national and homeland security.

JUDY WOODRUFF: We will have more on who Johnson is and questions likely to come up during his confirmation process a little later.

Saudi Arabia appeared to reject its newly acquired seat on the U.N. Security Council today. It accused the 15-member body of failing to resolve international conflicts like the civil war in Syria. Its Foreign Ministry issued a statement that said: “Allowing the ruling regime in Syria to kill its people is clear proof and evidence of the U.N. Security Council’s inability to perform its duties and shoulder its responsibilities.”

But U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said he’s yet to receive official notification of Saudi Arabia’s withdrawal.

 One of the gunmen in the assault on a shopping mall in Kenya has been identified as a Norwegian citizen originally from Somalia. The Somali militant group Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for last month’s four-day siege that killed 67 people. Meanwhile, newly released security video showed four gunmen firing indiscriminately as panicked shoppers and employees tried to flee. Forensic examiners are still studying charred human remains found at the scene, hoping to identify more assailants.

Authorities in Florida conducted a manhunt today for two convicted murderers who were released from prison with the help of forged documents. Joseph Jenkins and Charles Walker were both serving life sentences when they were mistakenly set free on separate occasions in recent weeks. Florida’s Department of Corrections is changing its early release policy to verify with judges that they have signed the paperwork.

Commuters in San Francisco scrambled to look for alternative ways to work today, after Bay Area rapid transit workers went on strike. There were traffic jams all over the region, as many of the 400,000 commuters who regularly ride BART resorted to cars instead. The walkout began at midnight Thursday, after nearly 30 hours of negotiations. The biggest sticking point between the union and BART was over work rule issues.

PETE CASTELLI, Service Employees International Union: We’re very sorry. We understand that this strike, what it does to the Bay Area riders and we understand that it is a hardship. Our union represents a lot — thousands of folks. A lot of them are riders and we know that this process is difficult.

JUDY WOODRUFF: It’s the second strike in four months for the region’s largest transit system.

One day after most furloughed federal employees went back to work, the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington reopened to the public. The main gates swung open at 10:00 this morning and the zoo director and staff were there to greet visitors. It had been closed for almost three weeks during the government shutdown. All 401 of the country’s national parks are also now open.

Stocks edged higher on Wall Street today, boosted by several better-than-expected corporate earnings reports. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 28 points to close above 15399. The Nasdaq rose 51 points to close at 3914. For the week, the Dow gained 1 percent; the Nasdaq rose more than 3 percent.

Former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Tom Foley died today of complications from a stroke. He was 84. The Democrat represented Washington state for 30 years in Congress, more than five of them as speaker of the House. He also served as the U.S. ambassador to Japan under President Clinton. We will have more on his life and his work later in the program tonight.