Veteran Democratic Congressman John Murtha of Pennsylvania has died. Murtha, who was 77, has been suffering complications from gallbladder surgery. NPR’s Andrea Seabrook says Murtha represented his Pennsylvania district in Congress for more than 35 years.
Murtha was the Chairman of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. That's the panel that controls funding for the Defense Department and the military. Murtha was the first Vietnam War veteran to be elected to the House of Representatives. He was known for his hawkish stance on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and then later for his calls for withdrawal from Iraq. Murtha's dealings with defense contractors were scrutinized. He’s alleged to have steered huge government contracts to companies that work with his brother and former staffers. He was also successful in bringing defense contracts to companies in his congressional district in rural Western Pennsylvania. Andrea Seabrook, NPR News, the Capitol.
Michael Jackson’s personal physician has been charged with involuntary manslaughter in the death of the entertainer. Prosecutors have announced the charges against Dr. Conrad Murray who is a Houston cardiologist. Murray was with Jackson when he died back in June. Investigators say Murray had given Jackson a powerful general anesthetic and two other sedatives to help him sleep. If convicted, Murray would face up to four years in prison. Murray’s attorney says his client will plead not guilty.
Iran says it will start producing higher-grade enriched uranium tomorrow. The announcement is prompting calls by the US, Russia and France for consideration of tougher sanctions. Iran says it needs the higher-grade fuel for a medical reactor, but western nations are skeptical. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who's in Paris today, says the United States has no choice now but to press for new sanctions. Eleanor Beardsley in Paris reports Gates noted that Iran has not had a positive response to any of the international efforts to address the nuclear problem.
With French Defense Minister Herve Morin at his side, Gates said the international community and the US had given Iran every chance. "No US president has reached out more sincerely and frankly taken more political risk in an effort to try and create an opening for engagement with Iran and negotiate an end to their nuclear program. All of these initiatives have been rejected." Gates said resorting to internationally-backed sanctions was now the only way to proceed. For NPR News, I’m Eleanor Beardsley in Paris.
Utility crews in the Mid-Atlantic States are working to restore power to tens of thousands of homes and businesses that lost electricity during the powerful snowstorm that hit the region over the weekend. Federal government offices are closed today as the nation’s capital tries to make progress digging out before another storm that's expected to hit the northeast tomorrow.
On Wall Street, the Dow industrials have fallen below the 10,000 mark. The Dow down 32 points at 9,981; the NASDAQ is off two points.
This is NPR News from Washington.
Ukraine’s opposition leader Viktor Yanukovich, who was a loser in the Orange Revolution there several years ago, appears to be the winner of the country’s presidential election over the weekend. He’s calling for his opponent, the prime minister, to concede, but so far she has refused. Yanukovich’s win will be a major setback for the Orange Revolution of 2004 which was supposed to move Ukraine toward a European-style democracy.
At least 17 Indian soldiers have died in an avalanche at a high-attitude training center in the part of Kashmir that’s controlled by India. Vir Singh reports the incident occurred near a popular ski resort.
According to local news reports, more than 50 soldiers were rescued after the avalanche hit part of an army training facility near Gulmarg, a ski resort in Indian-administered Kashmir near the disputed border with Pakistan. A military spokesman said more than a dozen soldiers were critically injured. The incident occurred as the Himalayan region was hit with heavy snow and rain. Authorities said it was unlikely that any tourists have been affected, because skiing and related activities take place below and away from the area where the avalanche occurred. The government’s weather service has forecast continuing snow and rainfall for the next two days. For NPR News, I’m Vir Singh in New Delhi.
The space shuttle Endeavour is in orbit and beginning to close in on the International Space Station after a launch before dawn this morning that lit up the sky over the Kennedy Space Center. Endeavour is carrying the last major component for the orbiting outpost, the module with a dome that will give crew members sweeping views of Earth and outer space.