In other news Thursday, a bipartisan group of senators wrapped up work on the major elements of an immigration reform bill. Also, Honda, Toyota, and Nissan announced a recall of more than 3 million vehicles due to air bag problems.
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A bipartisan group of senators wrapped up work today on the major elements of an immigration reform bill. That came after they agreed on a new farm worker program and visas for high-tech workers. The broader bill aims to improve border security and put 11 million people on a path to citizenship. It could be introduced on
Tuesday, once Senate staffers complete drafts of the legislation.
A wide swathe of severe weather has moved eastward, already blamed for killing at least two people. The system stretched all the way from Texas to Michigan and brought everything from tornadoes to ice and snow. At least one large funnel cloud ripped through eastern Mississippi today. Authorities reported one death and numerous injuries and damage. Last night, multiple twisters struck in eastern Missouri, damaging dozens of homes and a church.
Today, Gov. Jay Nixon toured the scene.
GOV. JAY NIXON, D-Mo.:
Homes were destroyed. Lives were changed forever. When you're in situations like this and in a few short minutes, the indiscriminate nature of Mother Nature puts tornadoes and high winds through your area, and your homes will never be the same. Your — many people homeless. Obviously, open up shelters, had a number of folks that stayed away last night. Friends and neighbors have been injured. It's very traumatic and it's really important everybody stay calm. HARI SREENIVASAN: In Minnesota and South Dakota, thousands of homes and businesses had no power today after heavy snow and ice pulled power lines down lines. Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton called out the National Guard to help clean up. U.S. officials now believe that North Korea probably can mount a nuclear warhead on a missile. That word came today in a Defense Intelligence Agency assessment made public at a House hearing.
Later, President Obama weighed in on the rising tensions with North Korea. He met with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon at the White House and urged the North to dial back on its war talk.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:
We both agree that now's the time for North Korea to end the kind of belligerent approach that they have been taking and to try to lower temperatures. Nobody wants to see a conflict on the Korean Peninsula.
The president said the U.S. will work diplomatically to reduce the tensions. And Secretary of State John Kerry headed to East Asia, planning talks with leaders in South Korea, China, and Japan.
Kerry and other G8 foreign ministers met in London today, but they failed to agree on arming the rebels in Syria. They criticized the Syrian government's use of heavy weapons in residential areas, but they went no further. Britain and France have pushed for sending weapons to the rebels. The U.S. has resisted. Today, Germany's foreign minister voiced concerns as well. .
GUIDO WESTERWELLE, German Foreign Minister (through translator):
I'm reluctant when it comes to the topic of direct arms deliveries to Syria, because, to date, I have seen no way to prevent these weapons getting into the wrong hands, mainly those of radicals. My concern is that weapons that are delivered in Syria will then get into the hands of jihadists and terrorists.
More than 70,000 people have been killed in the fighting in Syria that began with a popular uprising two years ago.
Major Japanese automakers are recalling more than 3 million vehicles around the world for problems with air bags. Nearly half are in New York. Toyota, Honda and Nissan announced the recall today. The potential problem is with passenger-side air bags. Faulty inflators could burst and send plastic pieces flying. The air bags were made by Japan's Takata Corporation.
In U.S. economic news, the number of foreclosed homes fell in March to the lowest level in more than five years. The listing firm RealtyTrac also reported a 21 percent decline in the last 12 months.
And on Wall Street today, the Dow Jones industrial average gained nearly 63 points to close at 14,865. The Nasdaq rose almost three points to close at 3,300.