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News Wrap: Trayvon Martin’s Parents Attend Congressional Forum on Hate Crimes

March 27, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT
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HARI SREENIVASAN: Outrage over the killing of a black teenager in Sanford, Fla., reached the U.S. Capitol today. Congressional Democrats held a forum on racial profiling and hate crimes.

The parents of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin attended the forum. They thanked the panel for convening the event, but didn’t testify. A neighborhood watch volunteer, George Zimmerman, has said he shot Martin in self-defense. He has not been arrested.

In Sanford today, the new acting police chief defended the department.

DARREN SCOTT, acting chief, Sanford Police Department: We are working to provide unity and transparency of the actions in this department. In doing so, we will not compromise the integrity of any investigation to bend to the will of the media or the public. We realize that law enforcement may be viewed as an adversary, but we assure you that the Sanford Police Department is here to protect and serve.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The police have denied authorizing leaks that Trayvon Martin had been suspended from school for possession of marijuana. They confirmed that Zimmerman claimed Martin was the aggressor. He said he had followed the youth, then turned back. Then, he said, Martin confronted him, punched him in the nose, and banged his head on the pavement.

For the first time, the Environmental Protection Agency called today for limiting carbon pollution from new power plants. The proposal would force new coal-fired plants to capture half of their carbon emissions. Existing plants would be exempt, and so would those that begin construction within the next year. Some industry groups warn the rule will raise electricity prices and kill off coal energy as a resource. Environmentalists wanted the administration to go further.

In Cuba, Pope Benedict XVI called for renewal in the communist island nation. He also said he prayed for those deprived of freedom. The pope spoke as he visited a shrine to the Virgin Mary. It was the second day of his Cuban trip, the first by a pontiff since 1998. A Cuban vice president responded that the country is making economic changes, but he said flatly, in Cuba, there will not be political reform. Later, the pope flew to Havana.

An international nuclear security summit in Seoul, South Korea, came to an end today. Leaders from more than 50 nations called for ensuring that all nuclear material is secured within four years. They offered few specifics.

President Obama said the world has already made important strides in that regard, but he acknowledged there is much more to do.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: There are still too many bad actors in search of these dangerous materials, and these dangerous materials are still vulnerable in too many places. It wouldn’t take much, just a handful or so of these materials, to kill hundreds of thousands of innocent people. And that’s not an exaggeration. That’s the reality that we face.

HARI SREENIVASAN: On the summit sidelines, the president also sought to mend relations with a key counterterror partner, Pakistan. He met with Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, and he conceded that strains between the two countries have escalated in recent months.

Pakistan broke off high-level contacts after U.S. forces killed 24 Pakistani troops last year in a friendly-fire episode. The Pakistanis have also complained about U.S. drone strikes killing civilians.

The U.S. House overwhelmingly passed a jobs bill today designed to help new businesses grow. The measure would relax financial compliance rules for startups, making it easier to raise capital. Silicon Valley and the high-tech industry backed the bill. Some Democrats warned looser oversight might lead to new investment scams. The bill already cleared the Senate. The president is expected to sign it.

There’s fresh evidence that the economic recovery remains uneven. Two new reports today showed home prices fell in January, for the fifth straight month, and consumer confidence was down slightly this month. And Wall Street pulled back some today. The Dow Jones industrial average lost nearly 44 points to close at 13,197. The Nasdaq fell two points to close at 3,120.

A JetBlue flight from New York to Las Vegas had to land in Amarillo, Texas, today after the captain screamed there was a bomb on the plane. Passengers said he started shouting about Iraq, Afghanistan and al-Qaida and then yelled, “They’re going to take us down.” Federal officials said the pilot locked the captain out of the cockpit and passengers tackled and restrained him.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.