News Wrap: More unconfirmed clues emerge in Metrojet investigation

In our news wrap Tuesday, U.S. officials say images shot from space may offer clues to a Russian airliner’s destruction over Egypt. Also, a Turkish crackdown on alleged followers of a major opposition leader intensified; at least 44 people accused of ties to the Muslim cleric were arrested.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    The puzzle of what brought down a Russian airliner over Egypt remained far from solved today. U.S. officials said images shot from space may contain clues to why the plane broke up on Saturday, killing all 224 people on board.

    Paul Davies of Independent Television News reports on the day's developments.

  • PAUL DAVIES:

    Stretcher bearers formed a guard of honor as the bodies recovered from the wreckage in the Egyptian desert finally completed their journey home to Saint Petersburg.

    This is a city in mourning. And there are more painful days ahead. Relatives have been arriving at the morgue to give DNA samples to help in the grim process of identification. Russian officials have been giving a daily update on the recovery operation and the spread of wreckage on the ground, but still no hard information on whether this was an act of terrorism.

    Bereaved families are having to make due with rumors. The latest clues are all unconfirmed. Russian media is reporting that unusual sounds were recorded by the plane's black boxes. American sources say their spy satellites detected a strong heat flash, which could have been an on-board explosion, and there are reports of mysterious debris at the crash site said not to be part of the plane. It's hoped the examination of flight recorders due to start tonight could turn rumors into answers.

    All that's known at this stage is that the Russian Airbus appeared to break up in midair after leaving the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, and that all 224 on board perished. Egyptian investigators say they will solve this mystery, but warn it could be a long process.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    In other news, in Turkey today, a crackdown intensified on alleged supporters of a major opposition leader.

    Police arrested at least 44 people accused of ties to Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who's in exile in the U.S. A former police chief and three state governors were among those detained. The Turkish government accuses Gulen of running — quote — "a terrorist group."

  • GWEN IFILL:

    China and Taiwan plan a historic summit on Saturday. They announced today that Chinese President Xi Jinping and Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou will meet Saturday in Singapore. It's the first such meeting since 1949, when communists won China's civil war.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    The head of U.S. Pacific forces played down tensions with China today over disputes in the South China Sea. Last week, the U.S. Navy sent a warship past Chinese-built islands, through waters that Beijing claims.

    At a meeting there today, Admiral Harry Harris said the move wasn't meant as a threat. But a top Chinese general complained that it soured relations.

    GEN. FANG FENGHUI, Chief of Staff, People's Liberation Army (through interpreter): I had planned to have a good talk with you on the South China Sea issue. However, regardless of the solemn representations of the Chinese side, the incident has created a disharmonious atmosphere. We are resolute in our determination and will to safeguard our sovereignty and maritime rights.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    At a separate meeting in Malaysia, China's defense minister told U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter that there's a — quote — "bottom line" on challenges to China's territorial claims. He didn't elaborate.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    The Iraqi politician who played a key role in promoting the U.S. invasion in 2003 has died. State TV reports Ahmed Chalabi had a heart attack and passed away in Baghdad. After 9/11, the exiled leader helped persuade officials in the Bush administration that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. That turned out to be false. Chalabi later served as Iraq's deputy prime minister. He was 71 years old.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    The Vatican faced new exposes today in book form about gross financial mismanagement. The Associated Press reported "Merchants in the Temple" tells of wasteful spending, outright greed and entrenched resistance to Pope Francis' reforms. A second book, "Avarice," claims that money from a hospital foundation went to renovate a Vatican official's plush apartment.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Back in this country, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump dismissed his rivals' complaints about debate formats and questions today, but he didn't confirm reports that his campaign plans to negotiate its own debate terms with TV networks. The billionaire celebrity was asked about the issue at a news conference in New York.

  • DONALD TRUMP, Republican Presidential Candidate:

    I will go anywhere they want. I don't care too much about the debates. Look, I'm the one that gets all the nasty questions anyway. I like the debates. I think they're good for me, but we have to be treated a little bit fairly.

    But, as far as I'm concerned, I really don't care that much. I just want to debate. I think debating is a good thing. It's healthy. It gets everything into the open.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Separately, Trump accused the U.S. Federal Reserve of keeping interest rates low at the request of President Obama. The White House flatly rejected that claim.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Japan's Takata Corporation will pay $70 million in U.S. fines for mishandling a huge air bag recall. It could reach a record $200 million if the company fails to comply with terms announced today. Takata now admits that it delayed recalling more than 20 million air bag inflators that can explode with too much force.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    The U.S. auto industry is now on track for a record year in sales. Most major automakers saw double-digit gains last month. GM led the way with sales up nearly 16 percent from a year ago.

    And on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 89 points to close at 17918. The Nasdaq rose nearly 18 points, and the S&P 500 added more than five.

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