News Wrap: UN says polio outbreak is global emergency


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GWEN IFILL: Fresh fighting erupted in Ukraine today in a key city seized by separatists who want to join Russia. That followed a weekend of violent confrontations.

We have a report from James Mates of Independent Television News.

JAMES MATES, ITN: The picture is unclear, the battlefield spread across the suburbs of the separatist stronghold of Slavyansk.

But these captured armored personnel carriers are believed to be returning from an ambush against Ukrainian soldiers that left four soldiers dead and 30 wounded. The separatists themselves suffer casualties, this man lying wounded. The Ukrainian claims they killed 20, but no prospect of confirming these numbers.

The biggest blow to the Ukrainian forces is that another one of their helicopters has been shot down. This is said to be video today of a military helicopter coming under gunfire. Smoke in the distance is said to be from the crash, though we can’t confirm this.

In the south of Ukraine, the city of Odessa has enjoyed a day of uneasy calm, spent by many mourning the 42 who died in riots and fire here on Friday. The names of the dead are still being added to a list outside the trades union building. Among them was 17-year-old Badin Papora, whose mother, Fatima, had come to see where he died. A sister, El Mira, translated for us.

WOMAN (through interpreter): When they found him lying on the ground, they see them amongst the people who were lying as well, different corpses, different, with man — boots, members like legs and head — hands.

JAMES MATES: Several thousand people have been through this building in the last two days, some to pay their respects, some to see for themselves what happened, some to express their anger that it was ever allowed to happen.

This is not the tragedy that is bringing this city together in its grief, in fact, quite the opposite. The funerals have already begun, this one a civic leader beaten to death in the rioting. It will be days before they buried last week’s dead, but how much more blood may yet be spilled before Ukraine’s crisis is over?

GWEN IFILL: Late today, the government of neighboring Moldova placed its borders on alert, in case the unrest in Ukraine spills over.

New fighting raged in South Sudan today, as the government struggled to put down a rebellion. The military said it overran an opposition base in Nasir, and retook the oil town of Bentiu. Later, the rebels launched a counter-offensive. Also today, Secretary of State John Kerry threatened the rebel leader with sanctions, unless he agrees to face-to-face talks with South Sudan’s president.

The World Health Organization has declared a global health emergency amid outbreaks of polio across Asia, Africa and the Middle East. The U.N. agency today reported 417 new cases last year, nearly twice as many as the year before. Officials say Pakistan and Syria are particular hot spots, as civil war and unrest hinder vaccinations.

Survivors of deadly landslides in Northeastern Afghanistan angrily complained today about lack of aid. As many as 2,700 people died in Friday’s disaster, and 4,000 were left homeless. Villagers continued digging for bodies of their loved ones today, as others rushed to line up for food. But some said they have been left to fend for themselves.

MULLAH ABDULLAH  (through interpreter): After the landslide, we are in huge misery. In the past three days, we have not received any assistance. Also, women and children in this area are all ill. So far, no one has showed any sympathy for us.

GWEN IFILL: Villagers also said the Afghan government has provided no heavy equipment to help with the digging.

A U.N. committee on torture pressed the Vatican today on its handling of sexual abuse by priests. At a Geneva hearing, committee members suggested, the church’s failings in the scandal could leave it open to legal claims that it condoned torture. Roman Catholic officials argue they are liable only for what occurs within Vatican City itself.

Back in this country, House Republicans are pressing ahead with a new investigation of the deadly 2012 attack on U.S. diplomats in Benghazi, Libya. Speaker John Boehner today named South Carolina Congressman Trey Gowdy to chair that panel. Democrats have not decided whether to participate.

That huge holiday-season data breach at Target has cost the company’s CEO his job. The retail giant announced Gregg Steinhafel’s resignation today. He’s been under pressure since hackers stole credit and debit card information from millions of customers. In a statement, Target’s board said it’s the right time for new leadership.

On Wall Street today, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 17 points to close at 16,530. The Nasdaq rose 14 points to close at 4,138. And the S&P 500 added three to finish at 1,884.

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