In other news Wednesday, Vice President Joe Biden met with Palestinian leaders in the West Bank as the international community pressures Israel to stop expanding settlements in east Jerusalem. Also, there are reports that much of the U.N.'s food aid to Somalia is not reaching the people it is intended to feed.
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Now, with the other news of the day, here's Hari Sreenivasan in our newsroom.
Vice President Biden sought to reassure Palestinians today about the U.S. commitment to their future. He met with Palestinian leaders in the West Bank, after holding similar meetings with Israelis yesterday in Jerusalem. And he said Palestinian statehood is a priority for the U.S.
U.S. VICE PRESIDENT JOSEPH BIDEN:
Our administration is fully committed to the Palestinian people and to achieving a Palestinian state that is independent, viable, and contiguous. Everyone should know, everyone should know by now, that there is no viable alternative to a two-state solution.
The vice president also warned again about actions that he said inflame tensions. Yesterday, he condemned an Israeli announcement enlarging an East Jerusalem settlement on disputed land.
Today, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the Israeli move is an obstacle to peace.
MAHMOUD ABBAS, Palestinian authority president (through translator): The decisions announced by the Israeli government during the previous two days about the establishment of thousands of new housing units in the Palestinian territories is destroying trust and is a decisive blow to the effort that has been made during the past months to launch indirect talks.
On Monday, the Israelis and Palestinians had agreed to hold indirect talks.
Much of the U.N.'s food aid intended for millions of hungry people in Somalia is being diverted. The New York Times and others reported that today, based on a draft study from the U.N. Security Council. The report said corrupt contractors, radical Islamic militants, and local U.N. workers are taking up to half the food.
Schools across the United States are now one step closer to a uniform set of math and English standards. The nation's governors and state school superintendents published new national guidelines today. They're expected to lead to standardized textbooks and testing. Texas and Alaska are the only states not taking part.
House Democratic leaders will stop setting aside projects for private companies in annual spending bills. Democrat David Obey, chairman of the Appropriations Committee, announced it today. He said he hopes to eliminate 1,000 earmarks. The move follows an ethics probe of allegations that seven House members earmarked funds in exchange for campaign cash. The investigation found no wrongdoing.
In economic news, the Senate approved a new stimulus bill worth nearly $150 billion. It extends jobless benefits and some tax breaks for another year. And, on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average gained nearly three points to close at 10567. The Nasdaq rose 18 points to close near 2359.