In other news Thursday, the Democratic-led Senate Judiciary Committee approved a new ban on assault weapons. Also, President Barack Obama met with both Senate Republicans and House Democrats on Capitol Hill to push a long-term budget agreement.
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President Obama went back to the Capitol for a third day, bidding to build support for a long-term budget deal. He met today with both Senate Republicans and House Democrats. But it was unclear how much headway he will be able to make. Most Republicans are balking at any additional tax hikes to cut the deficit. Many Democrats are opposed to substantial cuts in entitlement spending.
The Democratic-led Senate Judiciary Committee approved a new ban on assault-style weapons today. The bill would outlaw the sale of 157 kinds of semiautomatic weapons and limit ammunition clip sizes to 10 bullets. It passed on a party-line vote of 10 to eight, with all Republicans opposed. But it faces long odds in the full Senate.
The head of the Transportation Security Administration is defending a proposal to allow small knives on passenger planes. The idea has provoked a backlash by pilots, flight attendants and others. But John Pistole told a House hearing today that the concerns are misplaced. He said an attacker could use any number of things already on planes.
JOHN PISTOLE, Transportation Security Administration:
A metal knife or fork, whether it's a wine glass or wine bottle that they break and use, there's any number of things that could be used as a deadly instrument. It really gets again to what is the intent of the person on board, as opposed to the object. So, if we simply focus on objects, then we're always behind the eight ball.
Pistole said airport screeners find some 2,000 small knives a day, and each one consumes several minutes of time.
In Afghanistan, the top U.S. commander is warning American troops to be ready for more attacks by Afghans. That's after Afghan President Hamid Karzai accused the U.S. and the Taliban of colluding to destabilize the country. The New York Times reported today that Gen. Joseph Dunford sent the warning to battlefield commanders. He told them in an email — quote — "We're at a rough point in the relationship."
Karzai issued a new statement today sing he wants to help reform relations with the U.S.
A coordinated attack on the Iraqi Justice Ministry killed at least 25 people today in Baghdad. Car bombers and gunmen launched the raid near the heavily fortified Green Zone. Fighting lasted for an hour, as ambulances attempted to remove scores of wounded. No group immediately claimed responsibility, but the assault bore the markings of al Qaeda in Iraq.
There's been a surge in the exodus of Syrians escaping the civil war in their country. U.N. officials reported today the number of registered refugees increased 10 percent just in the past week. That brought the overall count to more than 1.1 million. It's believed thousands more Syrians have fled, but have not registered.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reached an agreement today to form a new coalition government. It's the first in a decade to exclude ultra-orthodox Jewish parties, and it's expected to try to curb preferential treatment for that minority. The coalition may also push to restart peace talks with the Palestinians after four years of virtually no movement.
But, Netanyahu warned, none of it will be easy.
PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, Israel:
We are engaged in the final details of the coalition agreement, in order to bring Israel a new government next week. The next candidacy will be one of the most challenging in the history of the state. This is not lip service. We are facing great security and diplomatic challenges. There's no exaggeration. There is no exaggeration.
The new government is set to be sworn in on Monday, and two days before President Obama plans to arrive for his first visit since taking office.
Honda Motors is recalling 250,000 vehicles worldwide due to braking problems. The automaker said today the problem may cause braking even when the driver is not pressing the pedal. The recall affects four models made between 2004 and 2005, the Acura R.L. sedan, the Acura MDX SUV, the Honda Pilot SUV, and Honda Odyssey minivan. No accidents have been reported.
Wall Street pushed higher again today and the Dow Jones industrials rose for a 10th straight day, the most since 1996. The Dow gained nearly 84 points to close at 14,539. The Nasdaq rose nearly 14 points to close just short of 3,259.
Those are some of the day's major stories — now back to Jeff.