In other news, the Dow Jones industrial average and the NASDAQ both closed higher Monday. In Venezuela, a plane carrying 51 people crashed and killed at least 14.
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Wall Street kept its recent rally going today. Stocks advanced on word of new global banking rules, growth in China and corporate mergers. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 81 points to close at 10,544. The Nasdaq rose 43 points to close above 2,285.
A plane carrying 51 passengers and crew crashed in eastern Venezuela today. At least 14 people were killed. The airliner was coming from a Caribbean island. It went down shortly before reaching the airport in Puerto Ordaz. There was no immediate word on what caused the crash.
A Nigerian man accused of trying to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight near Detroit has fired his lawyers. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab announced his decision at a federal court hearing today, and he suggested he might plead guilty to some of the charges. Last Christmas, Abdulmutallab allegedly tried to set off explosives in his underwear before being subdued.
The Muslim cleric who wants to build an Islamic center and mosque near Ground Zero in New York City insisted today he is "exploring all options." Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf did not say directly if that includes finding another location. He did challenge the image that opponents have painted of the current site.
IMAM FEISAL ABDUL RAUF:
First of all, it is absolutely disingenuous, as many have said, that that block is hallowed ground. You know, with a strip joint around the corner, with betting parlors, to claim that it is hallowed ground, it's hallowed ground in one sense, but it doesn't add.
Rauf said organizers of the project were surprised by the furor over their plans. He said he wants the best possible outcome for all.
In Kashmir, Indian troops killed 14 protesters after reports of Koran burnings in the United States. A police officer was killed as well. Violent protests erupted across Kashmir after Iran's state-run press TV repeatedly aired images of a man destroying a Koran in Tennessee. A Florida pastor had backed down from his threats to burn the Koran. Separately, two protesters in Afghanistan were killed on Sunday at anti-Koran burning demonstrations.
Federal investigators in San Bruno, California, asked for the public's help today in probing last week's natural gas pipeline explosion. They urged anyone who smelled gas beforehand to come forward. Four people were killed and at least 60 others injured in Thursday's explosion and fire. Nearly 50 homes were destroyed and dozens more were damaged. Meanwhile, a 28-foot section of the pipeline was readied for shipment to a federal lab in Washington today.
Hard-pressed firefighters in Colorado have a new wildfire to worry about. It broke out Sunday, near Loveland. That is about 35 miles north of the blaze that destroyed nearly 170 homes near Boulder last week. The Loveland fire quickly destroyed two homes. Helicopters and air tankers that were fighting the Boulder fire were shifted to battle the new threat. A spokesman for the Larimer County sheriff's office said today's weather conditions will help.
BILL NELSON, Larimer County Sheriff’s Department:
We need to control it today. And assuming that our weather holds like it is and we can get the air resources up in the air, I think we have enough resources to do that, but it's dependent on what happens with the weather. And the weather forecast, from what we got last night, compared to what we were told this morning, has actually improved for our side.
The fire outside Boulder was expected to be fully contained today.
The communist government in Cuba will lay off at least 500,000 state employees by mid-2011. Today's announcement said the cuts will begin immediately. At the same time, the government will allow more Cubans to work in private-sector jobs. Currently, the state employs 95 percent of the official workforce. Cuban President Raul Castro has said the system promotes inefficiency and has to change.