In other news Tuesday, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh accused the U.S. of directing unrest in his country from an operations room in Israel. A U.S. State Department spokesman denied the charge, and hundreds of thousands of Yemenis took to the streets for the largest day of protests. Protests also continued in Iran and Oman.
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The president of Yemen is now accusing the U.S. of instigating protests against his rule. President Ali Abdullah Saleh has been a U.S. ally, but he charged today the White House is directing the unrest from an operations room in Israel. A U.S. State Department spokesman denied that charge.
Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of people staged the largest protests yet in Yemen. They turned out in cities across the country, demanding again that Saleh step down.
In neighboring Oman, troops were deployed near the border and north of the capital, Muscat, to try and rein in anti-government protests. And in Iran, witnesses said police used tear gas and batons to disperse crowds of protesters there in Tehran. They were demanding the release of two opposition leaders. Activists have reported Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi were jailed in recent days.
The unrest in Iran and the rest of the Middle East pushed the price of oil back up today. It gained more than $2 in New York trading to settle above $99 a barrel.
At a U.S. Senate hearing, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said the resulting spike in gas prices has not damaged the economy yet.
BEN BERNANKE, Federal Reserve chairman:
Higher gas prices take income out of the pockets of consumers and reduces their spending and their confidence. And so it can also be a problem for recovery.
And so we have to look at it from both perspectives. My sense is that the increases that we have seen so far, while obviously a problem for a lot of people, do not yet pose a significant risk either to the recovery or to the maintenance of overall stable inflation.
Bernanke did suggest the recovery would be hurt if prices stay high over the long term.
And that assessment sent Wall Street tumbling. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 168 points to close at 12,058. The Nasdaq fell nearly 45 points to close at 2,737.
The Securities and Exchange Commission has charged a former board member of Goldman Sachs with insider trading. Rajat Gupta allegedly leaked information about the investment bank’s earnings and an impending investment by Berkshire Hathaway. The SEC says the tips went to a hedge fund manager. According to the charges, the hedge fund group made more than $16 million in illegal gains.
The NATO death toll in Afghanistan grew by three more today. One soldier was killed by insurgents in the south. The alliance said two others died in a bombing in the east on Monday. That brought the toll to 36 for February and 68 for the year so far.
This was a day of mourning in New Zealand for the estimated 240 victims of last week’s earthquake. People across the country stopped to observe two minutes of silence. It began at the precise moment the quake rocked the city of Christchurch one week ago today. Hundreds of rescue and recovery workers also paused from their efforts.
Those are some of the day’s major stories.