In other news Thursday, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice withdrew her name from consideration as a possible replacement for resigning Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Rice fell under criticism by leading Republicans in Congress for what they cited as her poor response to attacks on a U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
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As Judy just mentioned, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice, withdrew her name from consideration for the office of secretary of state today. President Obama released a statement saying he'd accepted her decision, but regretted the — quote — "unfair and misleading" attacks on her in recent weeks.
Rice has come under criticism from congressional Republicans for not immediately calling the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, a terrorist action. In her letter, Rice wrote: "The position of secretary of state should never be politicized. I'm saddened that we have reached this point."
In U.S. economic news, the number of Americans filing new claims for jobless benefits fell sharply last week to its second lowest level this year. And retail sales rebounded in November, rising 0.3 percent, but that seemingly good news did little to help stocks on Wall Street today. The Dow Jones industrial average lost almost 75 points to close at just under 13,171. The Nasdaq fell more than 21 points to close at 2,992.
The European Union came a step closer to a full-fledged banking union today. After an all-night meeting in Brussels, E.U. finance ministers agreed to give the European Central Bank oversight of Eurozone banks, as well as banks in other E.U. countries that choose to opt in.
The European commissioner for economic and monetary affairs said the agreement was an important step forward for Europe.
OLLI REHN, European commissioner for economic affairs: Last night's decision on the single supervisory mechanism for euro area banks is a breakthrough towards a true banking union, which is significant and crucial in order to restore and to reinforce confidence into the European economy.
The banking supervisor role must be approved by the European Parliament, but the position could be up and running by March of next year.
Separately, finance ministers agreed to give Greece its next bailout payment of $64 billion. In return, Greece has agreed to reduce its debt load by buying back devalued bonds from private investors.
The European Court of Human Rights issued a landmark ruling today condemning the CIA's extraordinary renditions programs. It ruled that a German car salesman, Khaled el-Masri, was a victim of torture and abuse for four months at the hands of the CIA. El-Masri said he was kidnapped from Macedonia in 2003, interrogated and tortured at an Afghan prison run by the CIA, and then dropped on an Albanian mountainside when authorities realized he posed no threat.
Macedonia agreed to pay nearly $80,000 in damages. The U.S. has closed internal investigations into the el-Masri case.
Starting today, there should be one less reason to reach for the television remote. A new federal law went into effect banning broadcasters from airing commercials at volumes louder than the programming they accompany. The television industry has had one year to adopt the new rules. Violations can be reported on the Federal Communications Commission's Web site.
Mobile phones are a dangerous distraction for many American pedestrians. That was the finding of a University of Washington study published in the journal "Prevention." It tracked 1,100 pedestrians in Seattle, Wash., and found more than a third of people text, talk or listen to music when they cross the street. Only one in four people followed the proper safety protocol, looking both ways and obeying the light.
Vehicle-pedestrian accidents kill 4,000 people every year in the U.S. and injure 60,000 others.
The man who co-invented the bar code, Joseph Woodland, has died in New Jersey. Woodland's bar codes are on nearly every product in stores today. He came up with the idea after drawing Morse code dots and dashes in the sand on a Miami beach, absentmindedly letting his fingers drag a series of parallel lines instead. The idea was patented in 1952, but not put into wide use until the 1970s. Woodland was 91 years old.
Those are some of the day's major stories.