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News Wrap: Justice Department expected to expand limits of racial profiling

January 16, 2014 at 6:06 PM EDT
In our news wrap Thursday, the Justice Department is expected to revise their definition of racial profiling. The new rules are likely to include religion, national origin, gender and sexual orientation. Also, Vatican officials appeared at a UN hearing to answer claims that church leaders have protected pedophile priests.

GWEN IFILL: The Justice Department is likely to place new limits on racial profiling by federal agents. The current ban only prohibits profiling by race. The New York Times reported today it may be expanded to include religion, national origin, gender, and sexual orientation. Civil rights groups have said authorities continue to target Muslims and Hispanic Americans unfairly.

There are conflicting new claims about the safety of information on At a House hearing today, Medicare’s top cyber-security official said the federal Web site has passed full security testing. But at a separate hearing, the head of the security consulting firm TrustedSec LLC. warned the site is anything but secure. He cited more than 20 vulnerabilities.

Vatican officials got a grilling today over how they treat clergy who sexually abuse children. They appeared at a United Nations hearing in Geneva and answered claims that Roman Catholic Church leaders have protected pedophile priests at the expense of victims. The Vatican’s former sex crimes prosecutor said, the Holy See gets it, but he insisted only local police have the jurisdiction to act in such cases.

ARCHBISHOP CHARLES SCICLUNA, former Vatican sex crimes prosecutor: There are certain things that need to be done differently. I would talk about cover-up, for example, because this is a very important concern. The states who are cognizant of obstruction of justice need to take action against citizens of the country who obstruct justice.

GWEN IFILL: Pope Francis has appointed a Vatican commission on ways to protect children from abuse and help victims heal.

The destruction of Syria’s dangerous chemical weapons stockpile will be delayed again. The deadline had been the end of March, but the world’s chemical weapons watchdog agency said today it’s likely to slide to the end of June. It cited security problems and bad weather.

Separately, Secretary of State John Kerry accused the Syrian government of delaying humanitarian shipments.

SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY: I talked yesterday with Russian Federation Foreign Minister Lavrov in an effort to push still harder for access to some areas where the regime played games with the convoys, taking them around a circuitous route, instead of directly, in the way that the opposition had arranged for and was willing to protect them in. It is important that there be no games played with this process.

GWEN IFILL: Kerry also pressed the main Western-backed Syrian opposition group to attend peace talks in Switzerland next week. The Syrian National Coalition meets tomorrow to make its decision.

Early results from Egypt’s referendum on a draft constitution show more than 90 percent of voters favor the new charter. That’s according to state media reports today. An Interior Ministry official estimates voter turnout topped 55 percent. Ballots are still being counted and final results are expected to be announced by Saturday.

In the Netherlands today, four men accused of assassinating former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri went on trial in a U.N. court. Hariri and 22 others died in a Beirut bombing in 2005. The suspects, members of Hezbollah, were not in the courtroom today because they have never been arrested. The Shiite militant group condemns the trial as a U.S.- Israeli plot.

Hariri’s son, Saad, was there and insisted the killing of his father must not go unpunished.

SAAD HARIRI, son of Rafik Hariri: We never seek vengeance. And, hopefully, by the end of this trial, we will find out the truth, and we will get the justice that we called for in Lebanon.

GWEN IFILL: Prosecutors are expected to call hundreds of witnesses, and the trial will likely last months.

A searing heat wave forced the Australian Open tennis tournament to suspend play for several hours today, as temperatures in Melbourne hit 111 degrees. The world’s number three women’s player, Maria Sharapova, won a three-and-a-half-hour marathon match during the height of the heat. She used an ice vest to try to cool down. Players complained the last two days about the intense heat. One player’s water bottle even melted courtside.

The nominations for the 86th Academy Awards are in. The con artist sting movie “American Hustle” and space thriller “Gravity” led the pack with 10 nominations apiece, including best film and best director. Also recognized, the pre-civil war drama “12 Years a Slave,” nominated nine times, including for screenwriter John Ridley. We will revisit our conversation with him later in the program.

The number of homes heading into foreclosure fell sharply last year. The listing firm RealtyTrac reports they dropped 33 percent to the lowest level since 2006.

Meanwhile, Wall Street struggled today after big banks turned in disappointing earnings reports. The Dow Jones industrial average lost nearly 65 points to close at 16,417. The Nasdaq gained not quite four points to close at 4,218.