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In other news Thursday, rescue workers searched for dozens of workers underground after an explosion rocked the San Fernando Mine in Amaga, Colombia, killing 16. Also, European Union leaders adopted new sanctions against Iran and its nuclear program.
At least 16 miners have died in a coal mine explosion in northwestern Colombia. It happened last night at the SanFernando mine in Amaga, just south of Medellin. Today, rescue crews searched for dozens of workers still trapped underground and feared dead.
The force of the blast collapsed an access tunnel that is more than a mile long and plunges 500 feet down. Authorities said they believe a buildup of methane gas caused the explosion. At least nine people were killed at the same mine last August.
European Union leaders adopted new sanctions against Iran today over its nuclear program. The restrictions are designed to block investments in Iran's oil and gas sector and limit its refining and natural gas capability. The E.U. penalties go beyond those approved by the U.N. Security Council last week. The U.S. imposed its own new penalties yesterday.
Israel has eased its blockade of Gaza. A spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outlined the new terms today. They include letting construction materials for civilian projects into Gaza.
MARK REGEV, Israeli government spokesperson: The government of Israel took decisions to liberalize the system, under which civilian goods may enter the Gaza Strip, to expand materials for projects inside Gaza that are under international supervision.
But, of course, we must remain with the security procedures that prevent the import into Gaza of weapons and more materials that could strengthen the Hamas military machine.
The militant group Hamas rules Gaza, and a spokesman called the Israeli move nothing more than window-dressing. The chief negotiator for the Palestinian Authority, Saeb Erekat, was critical as well.
SAEB EREKAT, chief Palestinian negotiator: There is no such thing as easing the siege. This siege must be totally and completely lifted. This is a collective punishment against 1.5 million people living in Gaza. It has no political dimension.
An Israeli naval blockade of Gaza will stay in place. Last month, Israeli commandos killed nine people on aid ships bound for Gaza.
More than two dozen Pakistani soldiers are missing after they were attacked by militants. In all, about 40 troops disappeared on Monday, when their checkpoint was overrun near the Afghan border. Since then, at least 14 have been found or released.
The U.S. Justice Department has arrested nearly 500 people in a major crackdown on mortgage fraud. Attorney General Eric Holder announced today the roundup began in March, as part of Operation Stolen Dreams. He said investigators documented more than $2 billion in losses from fraud schemes nationwide, including this one in Chico, California.
ERIC HOLDER, U.S. attorney general: A prominent homebuilder caught with a significant amount of unsold new homes at the — as the housing market cooled allegedly used straw buyers to sell his houses at an inflated price, with undisclosed sales rebates. This scheme inflated prices on other homes in the area, creating artificially high comparable sales, and affecting the overall new home market.
Other major cases have unfolded in Detroit, Atlanta, New Jersey, and Duluth, Minnesota.
Wall Street managed slight gains despite some disappointing news. The government reported first-time claims for jobless benefits rose unexpectedly last week. Even so, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 24 points to close at 10434. The Nasdaq rose more than a point to close at 2307.
A panel of health experts concluded today a new morning-after contraceptive is safe and effective. The Food and Drug Administration will now consider whether to allow sales of the new pill, ellaOne. It's already approved for use in Europe. Anti-abortion groups have warned ellaOne is more like an abortion drug than emergency contraception.
Those are some of the day's major stories — now back to Jim.
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