In other news Wednesday, at least 13 people were killed and 140 wounded in new sectarian violence in Egypt as Muslims attacked Christian demonstrators. The Christians were protesting the burning of a church. Also, a suicide bomber killed at least 36 people at a funeral in northwest Pakistan.
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A new outbreak of sectarian violence hit Egypt overnight and today. At least 13 people were killed and 140 wounded. There was burnt debris in the streets of Cairo after Muslims attacked Christian demonstrators late Tuesday. The Christians also turned out today, again protesting the burning of a church.
In Saudi Arabia, the foreign minister warned against plans for mass protests on Friday. He said the regime will cut off any finger raised against it. Instead, he said, reforms can be achieved through dialogue.
In northwest Pakistan, a suicide bomber killed 36 people and wounded more than 100 at a funeral attended by anti-Taliban militiamen. It was the deadliest attack in the country this year. About 300 people had gathered when the attacker struck. Later, men sorted through stacks of clothes and shoes belonging to the victims. The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the bombing.
Civilian deaths in Afghanistan spiked last year. The U.N. reported today that well more than 2,700 civilians were killed, mostly in roadside bombings, suicide attacks and similar incidents. Insurgents were blamed for 75 percent of those deaths. Deaths blamed on the U.S. coalition fell again.
But General David Petraeus, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, acknowledged it's still a serious issue.
GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, International Security Assistance Force:
We absolutely have to take measures to reduce to the absolute minimum civilian casualties in the course of our operations. Our forces understand that. We know that we're here to protect the Afghan people — and, by the way, to protect them from the Taliban, too.
Petraeus apologized earlier this week for an air raid that killed nine Afghan boys.
The man accused of trying to murder an Arizona congresswoman has pleaded not guilty to 49 new federal charges. Jared Lee Loughner appeared in a Tucson court. He's charged in the January shooting rampage that killed six people and wounded 13. One of those was Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who's recovering from being shot in the head.
The U.S. Senate rejected rival plans today to cut spending. One plan already adopted by House Republicans would cut more than $60 billion in the current fiscal year. The other offered by Senate Democrats would have cut $12 billion. Congress still has to come to a compromise in order to fund the government through September. The current funding expires March 18.
Wall Street finished the day with modest losses. The Dow Jones industrial average fell one point to close at 12,213. The Nasdaq lost 14 points to close at 2,751.
One of the nation's best-known political reporters and columnists, David Broder, died today. He passed away at a hospice in Arlington, Va., after complications from diabetes.
He was dean of the Washington press corps, and his column still appeared twice a week in The Washington Post, where he worked for 45 years. David Broder covered every national campaign and major party convention since 1960.
He earned a reputation for an even-handed approach and won the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished commentary in 1973. Broder frequently sat at NBC's "Meet the Press" roundtable, more than 400 times, far more than any other journalist.
He also appeared on PBS programs, including "Washington Week."
DAVID BRODER, The Washington Post:
Obama decided early on that he could compete.
And on the NewsHour in December 2000, Broder discussed the disputed presidential election between Al Gore and George W. Bush.
It's hard for me to see how Gore ultimately wins on the basis of tossing out absentee votes. I think that's an action that would really provoke a counterstroke from the Florida legislature, and then we're really in deep trouble.
Broder authored a number of books over the years, all with politics as the central theme. And, in later years, he found time to teach journalism at the University of Maryland and Duke University.
David Broder was 81 years old.
Those are some of the day's major stories.