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News Wrap: Russia launches missile strikes in Syria

In our news wrap Wednesday, Russia sharply escalated its military campaign in Syria by coordinating missile attacks with a ground offensive by Syrian forces. Also, the Associated Press reported that the FBI has foiled repeated attempts in Eastern Europe to smuggle radioactive material to Middle Eastern extremists, including the Islamic State.

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  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    In a moment, Judy's and Gwen's headline interviews with Hillary Clinton and Bill and Melinda Gates, but first the day's news, starting with Clinton's decision to oppose the Trans-Pacific trade agreement. It's her biggest break yet with President Obama, but she says the deal does too much for big drug companies and not enough to create jobs.

    Russia sharply escalated its military campaign in Syria today, adding missile might to an aerial assault. It came in conjunction with a new ground offensive. They launched from Russian warships in the Caspian Sea, as seen in Russian military video, 26 medium-range cruise missiles streaking toward Syria.

    Russian animation showed the missiles flew more than 900 miles, crossing Iran and Iraq, aimed at targets in Raqqa and Aleppo provinces, plus Idlib province to the northwest. Amateur video appeared to show some of the missile strikes were timed to coincide with a Syrian ground assault in Idlib and Hama provinces.

    From Moscow, meeting with his defense minister, President Vladimir Putin praised the results.

  • PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN, Russia (through interpreter):

    The fact that we have performed strikes with precision weapons from the Caspian Sea area to the distance of 1,500 kilometers and hit all the planned targets means good advance preparation of the military industrial sector and good training of the staff.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    But plenty of questions remained about who's taking the brunt of Russia's air campaign. Turkish leaders claimed again today the real targets are moderate rebels fighting the Assad government.

  • AHMET DAVUTOGLU, Prime Minister, Turkey (through interpreter):

    These airstrikes are not carried out against the Islamic State. Russian air forces carried out 57 airstrikes, and according to the information we received, only two of these airstrikes are against Islamic State.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    The head of one American-trained rebel faction confirmed that Russian planes have bombed his weapons depots in Aleppo and Homs.

    And in Italy, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter echoed the complaint.

    ASHTON CARTER, Secretary of Defense: They continue to hit targets that are not ISIL. We believe this is a fundamental mistake. Despite what the Russians say, we have not agreed to cooperate with Russia, so long as they continue to pursue a mistaken strategy and hit these targets.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Meanwhile, Russia's military buildup in the Eastern Mediterranean has escalated over the last week, now including 10 navy ships, a number described by NATO officials as out of the ordinary.

    A rebel group supported by the U.S. says Russian soldiers are taking part in the Syrian ground offensive. The Russians deny sending in any ground troops.

    There's word the FBI has foiled repeated attempts in Eastern Europe to smuggle radioactive material to Middle Eastern extremists. The Associated Press reported the findings today. It cited four incidents in the past five years, the latest in February involving gangs with suspected Russian ties. In that case, a smuggler sought a buyer from the Islamic State group.

    President Obama apologized today for a deadly airstrike in Kunduz, Afghanistan. Last Friday's attack killed at least 22 people at a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders. Mr. Obama telephoned the group's president today.

  • JOSH EARNEST, White House Press Secretary:

    He believed that it was appropriate for the United States to do what we have done before, which is to acknowledge that a mistake had been made, to offer an apology, to do so in a transparent way, to own up to our mistakes, and to vow to carry out a full investigation of to get to the bottom of what exactly happened, so that we can learn from this incident.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Doctors Without Borders has called for an independent investigation, but the White House says the president didn't directly address that demand today.

    A defense bill worth $612 billion is headed to the president's desk, despite a veto threat. The Senate approved it today 70-27, enough to override a veto. It already has passed in the House. The president objects to the way Congress provided the money by padding a war-fighting account and denying new money for domestic agencies.

    France and Germany joined forces today, urging the European Union not to fracture under the strain of debt and refugees. French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel appeared before the European Parliament, and Hollande warned against returning to go-it-alone nationalism.

  • PRESIDENT FRANCOIS HOLLANDE, France (through interpreter):

    Focusing on sovereign interest is a road to decline and it's also dangerous not to give a people hope, not to build anything together, but to turn in on each other, without any future. Faced with these trials, I am convinced that if we don't go further, it will be the end of the European project.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    For her part, Merkel said Europe faces a test of historic proportions.

    The flood disaster in South Carolina surged toward the coast today. One swollen river crested at record levels in Kingstree, and Conway and Georgetown braced for bad news as well. Back around Columbia, crews worked to shore up the 52-year-old Beaver Dam. But the governor rejected criticism that many of the state's dams have fallen into disrepair.

    GOV. NIKKI HALEY (R), South Carolina: You have got a 1,000-year flood. And out of thousands of dams, right now, we're watching 62 of them; 13 have failed. Look at the proportion of that. And even of the ones they're working on, when you have floods of this magnitude, it is really amazing that we have not had more issues than we have had.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    More than 400 roads and bridges are also being checked and remain closed for now. Long-distance traffic on part of Interstate 95 is having to make a 170-mile detour.

    Authorities in Roseburg, Oregon, have issued a detailed new account on how a gunman died after killing nine people at a community college. They say Chris Harper Mercer was wounded by police, then shot himself in a classroom in front of his dead and wounded victims.

    Meanwhile, "People" magazine is publishing the names and phone numbers of every member of Congress in an effort to encourage action to decrease gun violence.

    The Nobel Prize for Chemistry was presented today to three scientists who discovered how the human body repairs its own DNA. The honorees are Tomas Lindahl of Sweden, Aziz Sancar of Turkey and American Paul Modrich. Nobel officials say their research is leading to new treatments for cancer and other diseases.

    GUNNAR VON HEIJNE, Secretary, The Nobel Committee for Chemistry: It is based on the idea that cancer cells already have kind of a weakened DNA repair system. So then if you can come in with a drug that makes the DNA repair systems even less functional, the cancer cells will really go bad, because they cannot repair at all their DNA anymore. And very quickly, this will degrade the DNA and the cancer cells cannot survive.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Scientists estimate human DNA is damaged daily by everything from solar radiation to cigarette smoke to pollution.

    On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average gained more than 120 points to close at 16912. The Nasdaq rose more than 40 points, and the S&P 500 added 16.

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