America

19 Dead After Kabul Hotel Attack

Good morning.

Lots of eyes are watching what's going on in Greece, where the parliament is expected to narrowly pass an austerity package that's very unpopular with many Greeks — but is necessary, according to many economists, to keep the country from defaulting on its debt and to reduce similar pressures on other nations with troubled economies. We posted on the news earlier.

There's also already been word this morning that Bank of America has agreed to pay $8.5 billion to settle claims by some institutional investors that its Countrywide unit sold them poor-quality mortgage-backed securities and then ran up service fees instead of moving quickly to foreclose on the loans.

Other stories making headlines include:

— 19 Said To Be Dead After Attack On Kabul Hotel: The latest Associated Press report on Tuesday's attack on Kabul's Inter-Continental Hotel starts with word that the nearly five-hour assault "left 19 people dead — including all eight attackers." NATO forces, firing from helicopters, brought the assault to a close when they killed three of the attackers, who were on the hotel's roof. The Taliban has claimed responsibilty.

— Smoke, Not Nuclear Contamination, Thought To Be Biggest Danger From Fire Near Los Alamos: From New Mexico, where a massive wildfire has forced the evacuation of thousands in Los Alamos and the closing of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, the Albuquerque Journal reports that:

"While national news media have focused on the possible threat to the national lab's nuclear materials and radioactive waste, a top state environmental regulator told the Journal's John Fleck that ordinary forest fire smoke — not contamination from nuclear weapons work — is probably the biggest health threat from the fire burning along the lab's southern and western edge.

"Lab and firefighting officials also said Tuesday that there was little risk of fire at the lab's Area G radioactive waste storage site, where more than 10,000 drums of radioactive waste are in temporary above-ground storage, the Journal said."

— Nebraska's Two Nuclear Power Plants Are Safe From Flooding, NRC Chief Says: "After touring Nebraska's two nuclear power plants on the Missouri River on Sunday and Monday, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko assured the public that both facilities are operating safely. Jaczko told reporters that Fort Calhoun Station, about 20 miles north of Omaha, had faced some flood-preparedness challenges over the past two years, but those have been identified and corrected by the plant's owner and operator, the Omaha Public Power District." (Lincoln Journal Star)

Also: President Obama is scheduled to hold a news conference at the White House, starting at 11:30 a.m. ET. We're planning to live-blog as it happens.

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