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News Wrap: Russia dumps illegal waste near Sochi, site of Winter Olympics

October 29, 2013 at 12:00 AM EST
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JUDY WOODRUFF: We will talk about the growing complaints that existing insurance policies are being canceled right after the news summary.

Lawmakers from both parties called today for barring the sweeping surveillance of phone calls and emails. But the chair of the House Intelligence Committee warned that it would hurt the hunt for terrorists. Meanwhile, White House officials said that President Obama is considering ending eavesdropping on allied leaders. More on all of this later in the program.

 Hard-hit areas of New York and New Jersey marked one year today since Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc along the Northeastern U.S. coastline. The storm was blamed for 181 deaths and $65 billion in damage across more than a dozen states. Seaside Heights, New Jersey, is one of the beach towns that remains heavily damaged. And many who are rebuilding say they’re concerned about getting affordable flood insurance.

MAUREEN MAZZUCCA, Hurricane Sandy victim: FEMA, the federal government, with all these associations that say they want to help you, but, in the end, you don’t qualify for anything.

MICHAEL MAZZUCCA, Hurricane Sandy victim: I mean, we don’t even know, to be honest here, whether we will be able to afford to keep our house once we’re in it.

JUDY WOODRUFF: In Washington, a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced a bill today to delay changes to the federal flood insurance program that would make it more expensive.

The Winter Olympics in Russia begin in 100 days, and now there’s word that illegal dumping could taint the water supply for the Games. The Associated Press reported today that contractors are burying construction waste at an illegal landfill outside Sochi. The site lies in a water protection zone. The Russian government promised a zero waste effort as part of its winning Olympic bid.

Police in China said today that a car crash in Beijing’s Forbidden City was likely a deliberate act. They said the people in the car apparently set themselves on fire.

We have a report narrated by John Sparks of Independent Television News.

JOHN SPARKS: Normality returned to Tiananmen Square today. The clouds came back, and the police did their checks, and it all seemed calm and orderly.

As for yesterday’s dramatic events, well, there really wasn’t anything to see. It’s impossible to deny what happened, however. A four-by-four burst into flames after it was driven at speed through a pedestrian thoroughfare packed with tourists. Five people were killed and 38 injured.

State media acknowledged the incident late last night, but the presenter had few details to offer. Police sources have reportedly described the incident as a suicide attack, and they have begun circulating this leaflet to local hotels asking for information about men in vehicles from Xinjiang, a restive region in Western China.

Xinjiang is home to the Muslim Uighurs, and many members of this ethnic group complain of cultural and religious repression. Frustration has turned to violence. Rioting there in 2009 cost the lives of 200, and this summer saw a large number of violent incidents. The police stepped up security in and around the capital today, on the lookout for future attacks. Such incidents are rare in Beijing, but they serve as a reminder of instability and the vulnerability of the world’s most populous state.

JUDY WOODRUFF: In Syria, the World Health Organization has now confirmed 10 cases of polio in the northeast, and it’s warning the disease could spread across the region. The WHO also urged the Syrian government and rebels to allow access to some 500,000 children who need to be immunized. We will have more on this story a little later.

The first underwater rail link between Europe and Asia was opened today in Turkey. The eight-mile tunnel runs beneath the Strait of Bosphorus, connecting the European and Asian sides of Istanbul. Construction began in 2004 and cost almost $3 billion. It’s one of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s mega-projects designed to modernize Turkey. Other projects include a massive canal and the world’s busiest airport.

The U.S. bailout of General Motors will end up costing taxpayers just under $10 billion. The inspector general for the bailout program reported the figure today. The effort initially cost $50 billion, but the Treasury has recouped much of that by selling its stake in GM.

On Wall Street, stocks racked up new gains on optimism that the Federal Reserve Board will continue its stimulus efforts. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 111 points to close at 15,680, an all-time high. The Nasdaq rose 12 points to close at 3,952. The S&P 500 also finished at a new record close near 1772.