News Wrap: VA secretary to announce department shake-up

In our news wrap Friday, the Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald will announce a major department overhaul, including dismissal or demotion of up to 1,000 staff members, in response to the scandal over long response times. Also, President Obama authorized 1,500 more non-combat troops to go to Iraq to advise and train forces who are fighting the Islamic State.

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    The U.S. economy created another 214,000 jobs last month. That makes nine straight months that employers have added more than 200,000 positions, the longest stretch since 1995. And the October unemployment rate fell to 5.8 percent, the lowest in six years.

    President Obama welcomed the news today at a Cabinet meeting.


    All this is a testament to the hard work and resilience of the American people. They have been steady and strong digging themselves out of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. And what we need now is to do is make sure that we build on this momentum.


    The president also acknowledged that many Americans still aren't feeling the recovery, a factor that played heavily in Tuesday's election wins by Republicans. We will return to the economy, as Paul Solman reports on part-time workers later in the program.

    Reports swirled today that the president will name the U.S. attorney in Brooklyn, New York, to be the next attorney general, Loretta Lynch. Several news organizations said Lynch is the choice to replace Eric Holder, who's stepping down after six years in the post. The White House said the president has not yet made a decision.

    The U.S. secretary of Veterans Affairs, Robert McDonald, is ready to announce a sweeping shakeup. In a CBS News "60 Minutes" interview, airing Sunday, McDonald says he will dismiss or demote up to 1,000 staffers. It's a response to this year's scandal over inadequate treatment and long wait times in the VA medical system.

    The president has authorized 1,500 more noncombat troops to go to Iraq, doubling the number already there. The Pentagon said today that some of the teams will move into Anbar province to help train Iraqis fighting Islamic State militants there. A spokesman denied that the election outcome influenced the announcement. Instead, he said the overall U.S. commander, General Martin Dempsey, and the regional commander recommended the move.

  • REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY, Pentagon Press Secretary:

    There was no political angle to the timing here. It was really driven by a request from the government of Iraq and General Austin's assessment about having — this being the right thing to do. And I would add that that was an assessment supported by not only Chairman Dempsey, but of course the secretary, who formally made this recommendation to the president that this wasn't only the right thing to do, but it was the right time to do it based on where we are in the campaign.


    The president is also asking Congress to authorize $5.6 billion to fund the effort.

    The last person to come in contact with Ebola patients in the U.S. came off monitoring today. They'd been around a Liberian man who died of Ebola in a Dallas hospital or one of two nurses there who contracted Ebola and were later cured. An American doctor who caught Ebola in West Africa remains hospitalized in New York, but is improving.

    The Japanese air bag maker Takata now faces accusations that it hid a deadly defect going back a decade. The New York Times reports that former employees at Takata secretly conducted tests on 50 ruptured air bags in 2004, but were ordered to delete the data. Four deaths and 30 injuries have been linked to the defective air bags, and automakers have now recalled 14 million vehicles.

    Japanese authorities have approved restarting a nuclear power plant under new safety rules for the first time since 2011. Nearly all of Japan's 48 working reactors were taken offline after an earthquake and tsunami destroyed the Fukushima Daiichi plant. With today's announcement, two reactors at a plant in Southern Japan are expected to go back online early next year.

    Ukraine charged today that Russia has sent major new military forces across the border to help pro-Russian rebels. That came amid continued fighting around the separatist strongholds of Luhansk and Donetsk.

    Ukraine's national security spokesman spoke in Kiev.

    ANDRIY LYSENKO, Spokesman, Ukraine National and Security Council (through interpreter): Supplies of military equipment and enemy fighters from the Russian Federation to the anti-terrorist operation zone are continuing. In particular, yesterday, the movement of military equipment, 32 tanks, 16 Howitzer artillery systems, and 30 trucks carrying ammunition and fighters was reported.


    Russia has routinely denied allegations that it is helping the rebels or that it has any forces inside Ukraine.

    An art installation lit up the city of Berlin tonight, as Germany marks 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Helium-filled light balloons stretched nine miles, and traced the exact path the wall took, dividing East from West during the Cold War. The balloons carry messages and they will be released into the air on Sunday, the actual anniversary.

    Back in this country, the U.S. Senate race in Virginia was finally decided today. Republican Ed Gillespie conceded to Democratic incumbent Mark Warner, who led by just over 16,000 votes, out of more than two million cast. That gives Republicans at least 52 seats in the new Senate, to 44 for the Democrats, with two independents. Races in Alaska and Louisiana are yet to be decided and could give the GOP two more seats.

    On Wall Street, stocks failed to get much a boost out of the jobs report. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 19 points to close near 17,574. The Nasdaq fell about six points to close at 4,632. And the S&P added just a fraction to finish near 2,032. For the week, the Dow gained 1 percent. The S&P was up more than 0.5 percent. The Nasdaq was virtually unchanged.

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