In other news Wednesday, cleanup workers struggled to clean oily waste from Lake Pontchartrain, north of New Orleans and militants targeting Shiite pilgrims in Iraq killed 38 people in attacks across Baghdad.
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Wall Street had its best day in more than month. It was driven partly by bargain-hunting and partly by an upbeat forecast on financial stocks. The Dow Jones industrial average gained more than 274 points to close back above 10000. The Nasdaq rose more than 65 points to close at 2159.
Cleanup workers struggled again today to keep up with the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Much of the focus was well inland, near New Orleans, where oil appeared on Monday.
By today, crews had collected 1,700 pounds of tar balls and other oily waste from Lake Pontchartrain, north of New Orleans. The city's recreational backyard sprang back to life in the '90s after decades of pollution. Now it's threatened again, as the Gulf spill creeps past protective barges.
It gets on your fingers, and you wash it and wash it, it just smears.
Down the coast, in Alabama, more tar balls and brownish foam stained beaches like this one. And, out on the Gulf, choppy seas kept most skimming boats off the water for another day.
The effort has largely been sidelined since a hurricane roiled the Gulf last week and smaller weather systems followed on its heels. The weather also delayed a large new ship that could siphon more of the oil from the well site. It is now expected to be operational in the next three days.
In the meantime, the Associated Press reported the Gulf of Mexico has more than 27,000 abandoned oil and gas wells. The report said no one is checking to see if those sites are leaking. The wells are sealed with cement, but geophysicist Roger Anderson at Columbia University said that is no guarantee.
ROGER ANDERSON, geophysicist, Columbia University: But the big question is, how long does cement last and to take it for it oxidize? And we don't actually know that even for our buildings that are — our skyscrapers that have a significant amount of cement in them, we don't know how long they will last.
Ironically, BP was injecting cement to seal the well under its Deepwater Horizon platform when it burst on April 20. It has been gushing ever since, and may not be plugged for another month.
Those Russians accused of spying in the U.S. may be heading home in a prisoner swap. It was widely reported today that an exchange is in the works. Five of the Russian suspects were being moved from Virginia and Boston to New York. The other five suspects are already there. They could be traded for several people convicted in Russia of passing secrets to the U.S.
More than 50 Iraqis were killed in attacks across Baghdad today. Thirty-two of them died in a suicide bombing. The victims were Shiite pilgrims crossing a bridge to a shrine to commemorate a Shiite saint. The attack came despite tight security.
The U.S. toll in Afghanistan rose again today, as three more troops died in a roadside bombing in the south. That made 10 Americans killed so far in July. Also today, an airstrike mistakenly killed five Afghan soldiers in the east. The Afghan Ministry of Defense, MOD, complained, and the International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, said a joint investigation was under way.
GEN. MOHAMMAD ZAHIR AZIMI, spokesman, Afghan Ministry of Defense (through translator): We have started investigating the incident since this morning. We also condemn this action. Unfortunately, this is not the first time. It has happened many times, but we hope this will be the last time.
BRIG. GEN. JOSEF BLOTZ, spokesman, International Security Assistance Force: We were obviously not absolutely clear whether there is Afghan national security forces in the area, but this is, as I said, right now subject to a very detailed investigation jointly between the MOD and ISAF. And I do clearly regret what has happened.
In another development, Britain announced plans to pull back from a volatile part of Southern Afghanistan — 1,000 British troops will leave the Sangin Valley in Helmand Province. Ninety-nine Britons have died there since 2001. U.S. Marines will take their place starting in October.
A federal indictment in Brooklyn alleges that al-Qaida was directly involved in last year's failed plot to bomb the subways in New York City. It named several al-Qaida figures, including Adnan Shukrijumah. He's on the FBI's list of most-wanted terror suspects.
And the man who was Osama bin Laden's cook pleaded guilty today at a war crimes tribunal at Guantanamo. In the plea deal, Ibrahim al-Qosi admitted helping bin Laden escape U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Al-Qosi has been at Guantanamo for eight years.
The former dictator of Panama, Manuel Noriega, now faces seven years in a French prison. He was convicted and sentenced today in Paris for drug money laundering in the 1980s. The court also seized nearly $3 million from his frozen assets. Noriega was deposed by a U.S. invasion of Panama in 1989. After that, he spent two decades in a U.S. prison.
An experimental plane took to the air today over Switzerland in a bid to fly 24 hours on solar power alone. The Solar Impulse has a wingspan of 207 feet, similar to the size of a large airliner. Solar cells on the wings are designed to capture enough power to let the plane fly through the night. The goal is to prove a similar plane can one day circle the globe relying solely on the sun's energy.
Those are some of the day's major stories — now back to Jim.