In other news Wednesday, John Kerry gave his farewell speech on the floor of the Senate before starting his new position as secretary of state. Also, donor countries pledged more than $1.5 billion in humanitarian aid for Syria.
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A wave of severe storms raked parts of the Southeast today, blasting buildings into splinters and killing at least two people. In Georgia, an enormous funnel cloud struck Cartersville and downtown Adairsville, 60 miles northwest of Atlanta. It tore homes, heavily damaged a large factory and flipped big trucks on their sides. Another tornado did damage in Mount Juliet, Tennessee. The storms erupted as a large warm air mass out of the Gulf collided with an incoming cold front.
John Kerry gave his farewell speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate today. The veteran Democrat is leaving, after 27 years, to become secretary of state. Today, Kerry looked back on his public career, starting with his service in Vietnam and as a leading anti-war figure. In the Senate, he focused on foreign policy and was his party's nominee for president in 2004.
SEN. JOHN KERRY, D- Mass.:
Eight years ago, I admit that I had a very different plan — slightly different, anyway — to leave the Senate. But 61 million Americans voted that they wanted me to stay here with you.
And, so, staying here, I learned about humility, and I learned that sometimes the greatest lesson in life comes not from victory, but from dusting yourself off after a defeat and starting over when you get knocked down.
In Boston today, the governor of Massachusetts tapped William "Mo" Cowan, a former aide to the governor, as interim senator. Cowan will become the second black member of this Senate. Cowan said he has no plans to run in the June special election to fill the remaining 18 months of Kerry's term.
Donor countries pledged more than $1.5 billion today in humanitarian aid for Syria. About a billion of the total will go to help neighboring countries who are hosting refugees. The rest will go to aid Syrians displaced inside their country. At the conference in Kuwait, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon appealed to all sides, especially Syrian President Bashar Assad.
BAN KI-MOON, United Nations Secretary-General:
And 60,000 people have been killed during the last 22 months. Personally, I am pained to think how many more people may have to be killed in the coming days and weeks and months, if we do not bring this situation to an end urgently.
It's estimated two million people inside Syria need food, shelter and other aid this winter. More than 700,000 others have fled to neighboring countries.
The Federal Reserve today said economic growth in the U.S. hit pause in recent months. In a statement, the Central Bank blamed bad weather and cuts in defense spending. It didn't announce any new action to stimulate the economy. Wall Street reacted by giving up some of its recent gains. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 44 points to close at 13,910. The Nasdaq fell 11 points to close at 3,142.