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News Wrap: EPA offers new rules on cutting sulfur levels in gasoline

March 3, 2014 at 8:50 PM EST
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GWEN IFILL: The situation in Ukraine shook Wall Street. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 153 points to close at 16,168. The Nasdaq fell more than 30 points to close at 4,277. And the S&P 500 dropped more than 13 points to finish at 1,845. The tensions also sent oil prices sharply higher, to nearly $105 dollars a barrel.

The winter of 2014 dealt another blow to much of the Eastern U.S. today. Ice and snow up to eight inches in places shut down much of the Mid-Atlantic, including official Washington. It also grounded thousands of flights and forced schools to close again. Meanwhile, in North Texas, an icy interstate caused a miles-long backup during the morning commute.

Snowstorms and freezing temperatures held back the U.S. auto business again last month. General Motors, Ford, and Toyota all reported sales were down by single digits. Volkswagen saw a 14 percent decline. Chrysler and Nissan fared better, reporting double-digit gains.

The Environmental Protection Agency has finalized new rules to dramatically reduce the amount of sulfur in gasoline. The chemical is linked to respiratory disease and can foul pollution control equipment in cars. The oil and gas industry warn the rules will drive gas prices up by six to nine cents a gallon. But the EPA says there will be virtually no effect.

President Obama sought today to salvage hopes for an Israeli-Palestinian peace plan. At a White House meeting, he pressed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for — quote — “tough decisions,” while Netanyahu held out little hope of a breakthrough.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: It is still possible to create two states, a Jewish state of Israel and a state of Palestine, in which people are living side by side in peace and security. But it’s difficult. It requires compromise on all sides.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, Prime Minister, Isreal: Israel has been doing its part, and I regret to say that the Palestinians haven’t. Now, I know this flies in the face of conventional wisdom, but it’s the truth.

GWEN IFILL: Even as the two met, Israel announced it started work on more than twice as many homes in West Bank settlements last year than the year before.

Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law went on trial in New York today on charges he plotted to kill Americans in his role as spokesman for al-Qaida. The Kuwaiti-born Suleiman Abu Ghaith was captured last year. He’s the highest-ranking member of al-Qaida to be tried on U.S. soil since the 9/11 attack. If convicted, Abu Ghaith could face life in prison.

The Supreme Court is set to decide whether an I.Q. score alone is enough to say someone qualifies for the death penalty. Lawyers for a man on Florida’s death row argued today he is mentally disabled, even though his I.Q. is above the widely accepted cutoff of 70. The high court banned executions of mentally disabled inmates 12 years ago, but the states decide who fits that definition.

House Republicans opened a campaign today for a total overhaul of social programs. House Budget Chair Paul Ryan issued a 204-page critique of federal anti-poverty efforts. He argued scores of programs actually create a poverty trap that keep people from getting ahead. The report came a day before the president lays out his budget plans for the coming fiscal year.

A slavery-era drama and a sci-fi thriller headlined the winners at last night’s Academy Awards. The best picture Oscar went to “12 Years a Slave,” which also won for best adapted screenplay and best supporting actress. “Gravity” won seven Oscars, the most of any film, including best director and most of the technical categories.