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News Wrap: Dozens of Atlanta Educators, Former Chief Indicted for Cheating

March 29, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT
In other news Friday, a grand jury in Atlanta indicted former school superintendent Beverly Hall and 34 others in a cheating scandal. Also, Christians around the world observed Good Friday.
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HARI SREENIVASAN:  A grand jury in Atlanta today indicted the city’s former school superintendent Beverly Hall in a cheating scandal. Hall and 34 other educators were charged with fixing standardized test outcomes to show artificially high scores. A state investigation in 2011 found nearly 180 educators took part in the cheating. Hall resigned days before the report.

Christians around the world marked Good Friday today, as they readied for Easter Sunday. From pilgrims to the pope, believers took part in services and ceremonies to commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus.

In Jerusalem’s Old City, thousands of Christian pilgrims retraced the Way of Suffering, believed to be the route Jesus took to his crucifixion. An Alabama priest played the role of Christ, flanked by men dressed as Roman soldiers. Others also carried wooden crosses as part of the procession.

In the West Bank, Palestinian Christians used an alternative route, after Israeli security blocked their entry to Jerusalem.

XAVIER ABU EID, Adviser to Palestine Liberation Organization: What our people are doing today, they are walking the real Via Dolorosa, the one we have today between two settlements, around the wall, around checkpoints. They are also demonstrating because they don’t have the right to get to Jerusalem.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  At the Vatican, Pope Francis presided over his first Good Friday since being named pontiff earlier this month.

And, elsewhere, thousands gathered in Germany for a mock crucifixion.

CHRISTOPH ESTCHMEIER, Germany: Easter is the most important holiday for the Catholics, and it was very authentic, what was shown here. Maybe it makes people a little more attached to religion.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  The reenactments were for real in the northern Philippines, where some two dozen devotees were nailed to crosses again this year.

Holy Week for Roman Catholics and Protestants concludes this weekend, with Easter Sunday. Orthodox Christians will mark Easter in May.

In Iraq, a series of car bombings rocked Shiite mosques today, killing at least 23 people and wounding dozens. Four of the attacks were in the capital, Baghdad, and one took place in the northern city of Kirkuk. They struck as worshipers left Friday prayers. The bombings bore the hallmarks of al-Qaida in Iraq, but no one claimed responsibility.

Prosecutors in Colorado are refusing to let James Holmes plead guilty in the Aurora movie theater shootings last summer. Holmes made the offer this week and agreed to accept life in prison to avoid the death penalty. But prosecutors said Thursday there’s no deal because the defense has refused to hand over key information. Holmes is accused of killing 12 people and wounding up to 70 in the July 20th shootings.

President Obama pushed plans today to attract private funds for rebuilding roads, bridges and other infrastructure. He said it would help create construction jobs. The president flew to the Port of Miami, undergoing $2 billion dollars in public and private upgrades.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We still have too many ports that aren’t equipped for today’s world commerce. We have still got too many rail lines that are too slow and clogged up. We have still got too many roads that are in disrepair, too many bridges that aren’t safe. We don’t have to accept that for America. We can do better. We can build better.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  Public-private partnerships were a key part of the president’s economic agenda in his State of the Union address last month.

Republican Congressman Don Young of Alaska drew a rebuke today for referring to Hispanic workers with a racial slur. In an interview yesterday, Young said his father once employed — quote — “50 to 60 wetbacks” on his California farm. Later, he said he meant no disrespect.

Today, House Speaker John Boehner demanded an apology. He called Young’s remarks offensive and beneath the dignity of the office he holds. Young is 79, and now in his 21st term as Alaska’s lone congressman.

There was good news today on former South African President Nelson Mandela. Doctors in Pretoria reported he is making progress and is in good spirits. Mandela is 94 years old. He was taken to the hospital late Wednesday night for a lung infection, his third hospitalization in four months.

Those are some of the day’s major stories — now back to Judy.