News Wrap: Hollande, Merkel go to Moscow for Ukraine talks

In our news wrap Friday, leaders of France and Germany traveled to Moscow to try to end the war in Ukraine. Hundreds of people took advantage of the brief truce to flee the fighting between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian rebels. Also, Shiite Houthi rebels said they‘ve officially taken over the government in Yemen and dissolved the parliament.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    In the day's other major story, the U.S. economy showed the strongest evidence yet that it is rebounding in the latest government jobs report. It said employers added a net of 257,000 employees in January. That makes one million jobs created since November, including newly revised totals and the best three-month average in 17 years.

    The unemployment rate ticked up to 5.7 percent in January, as more people began to look for work.

    Jeffrey Brown will examine what's behind the numbers after the news summary.

    The jobs report unsettled Wall Street today. Signs of strong growth raised fears that the Federal Reserve might raise interest rates sooner than expected. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 60 points, and slipped closer to 17800. The Nasdaq fell 20 points on the day and the S&P 500 slid seven.

    In Yemen, Shiite rebels announced today they have officially taken over the government and dissolved the parliament. They said their revolutionary committee in charge of security and intelligence will now run the country. Yemen's government had been a U.S. ally in the war on al-Qaida. The White House said today it's deeply concerned by this turn of events.

    President Obama is defending his approach to Yemen, to the Islamic State and other challenges, in a new national security document. He's faced calls from Republicans and others for more robust U.S. action, but in the document released today, he said, — quote — "We have to make hard choices among many competing priorities, and we must always resist the overreach that comes when we make decisions based upon fear."

    The leaders of France and Germany took their diplomatic mission to Moscow tonight, in a bid to stop the war in Ukraine. At the same time, hundreds of people took advantage of a brief truce to escape the fighting between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian rebels.

    Jonathan Rugman of Independent Television News reports.

  • JONATHAN RUGMAN:

    They are on the road to Debaltseve to evacuate civilians, because last September's cease-fire is in tatters, and the town may be about to fall to pro-Russian forces.

    The sound of shelling frequently contradicted today's humanitarian truce. Those trapped in the crossfire have been deprived of water and electricity for almost two weeks now. And they now face this choice, either take a bus to the Ukrainian side of the front line or into the breakaway self-declared Republic of Donetsk.

    Separatist forces have them almost surrounded. And today's diplomacy in Moscow seems increasingly desperate. This was Angela Merkel's first trip to the Russian capital since this crisis began, a mark of how serious it now is. President Hollande of France flew in, too, in the hope of another cease-fire.

    Last September's so-called Minsk agreement led to a cease-fire and buffer zones along the front line. That agreement completely collapsed last month, when Ukrainian forces were forced to retreat from Donetsk airport. In the past few weeks, the fighting has been concentrated around Debaltseve, still held by Ukrainian forces, but shelled by rebels.

    These Ukrainian forces are demanding Western weaponry to defend themselves. But the Europeans fear that will expand this war, rather than end it. The question is whether Europe is so eager to stop the fighting that Vladimir Putin will emerge the victor here, and perhaps more inclined to push forward again.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    The Moscow talks ended after more than five hours, with word that the parties will work on a new peace document.

    Activists in Syria say the Assad regime has stepped up airstrikes this week, to deadly effect. More than 80 people were killed in attacks outside Damascus today after rebels fired rockets into the capital yesterday; 47 others died in Aleppo when army helicopters dropped barrel bombs.

    In Canada, the Supreme Court has struck down a ban on doctor-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients. The court today reversed its own 1993 decision, and said mentally competent adults with intolerable suffering have the right to die with dignity.

    The response on both sides was immediate.

  • GRACE PASTINE, British Columbia Civil Liberties Association:

    This is a case about real people with serious illnesses who through a change in the law can find some peace and comfort in knowing they have a choice.

    AMY HASBROUCK, Disability Advocate, "Not Dead Yet.": We find that this decision is the most destructive and least restrictive option in the world right now in terms of assisted suicide and euthanasia.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Assisted suicide is already legal in handful of nations and in the U.S. states of Washington, Oregon, Vermont, New Mexico, and Montana.

    A sitting member of the U.S. House of Representatives has died. Republican Congressman Alan Nunnelee of Mississippi passed away today in Tupelo, after battling a stroke and brain tumor. Nunnelee was reelected to a third term last year. He was 56 years old.

    And NBC News announced an internal investigation of its anchor Brian Williams and his statements about an incident in Iraq in 2003. He's admitted that his helicopter wasn't hit by a rocket-propelled grenade, as he previously claimed. But he's facing growing criticism.

    In a memo to staffers today, the head of NBC News said, "We're working on what the best next steps are."

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