News Wrap: Senate approves bill that bars good military service record as defense against sexual assault
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GWEN IFILL: The fate of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 remained a mystery today. There was still no confirmed sighting of any wreckage from the plane that vanished three days ago on a flight from Malaysia to China; 239 passengers and crew were on board. We will have more details on the search right after this news summary.
The Senate moved this evening to revamp the way the military deals with sexual assault. The bill bars using a good service record as a defense against sexual assault. It also gives accusers more say on whether their cases are tried in military or civilian courts. And it makes commanders more accountable for their handling of such cases. The issue moves now to the House.
Senate Democrats will be pulling an all-nighter on climate change tonight. At least 28 Democrats plan to talk nonstop about the importance of congressional action on the issue. No climate legislation is currently slated for debate in the Senate.
Ukraine’s foreign minister warned today his country is practically in a state of war with Russia. Meanwhile, Moscow warned of growing lawlessness in Eastern Ukraine, raising concerns it may intervene there as well.
We have a report from John Irvine of Independent Television News.
JOHN IRVINE, ITN: A naval base in Western Crimea, yet another piece of Ukraine that effectively became Russian overnight.
A mixture of locals, some supportive and some against the takeover, were at the gates facing a few of the 200 soldiers who had swamped what is a supply depot. Also hanging about outside were some of the garrison of 30 Ukrainians who had beaten a hasty retreat from the base shortly after their rude Russian awakening.
Ever since Ukraine became an independent country back in 1992, the defense budget has been slashed. Several Ukrainian defense ministers have, in fact, been pro-Russian, with no interest in building up the Ukrainian armed forces. Consequently, the Ukrainian military have been a pushover for Russian soldiers like these.
Most of the troops were masked and muted, trying to maintain the Putin fiction that they are somehow unaligned. But the humiliated Ukrainian naval commander who stayed on after ordering his men to flee said the soldiers wore Russian uniforms and addressed each other using Russian army ranks.
The pro-Russian forces here grew even larger today, with the swearing-in of a new Crimean unit by the new Crimean leader. It happened at the local government offices, where the Russian colors painted over the Ukrainian ones are barely dry.
This is an officer in Russia’s Black Sea fleet satisfying himself that all’s well at the naval base taken over last night. He refused to talk to us. But then what’s happening here speaks for itself.
GWEN IFILL: In Syria, 13 Greek orthodox nuns were freed today in a rare prisoner exchange between rebels and the Syrian government. The nuns had been held for three months by fighters linked to al-Qaida. They were released in exchange for 150 female prisoners held by the government. The nuns said they were treated well during their captivity.
The Taliban is warning the people of Afghanistan not to take part in the upcoming presidential vote. A statement by a Taliban spokesman today called the election a — quote — “American conspiracy,” and said the militants will use all force to disrupt it. The balloting is scheduled for April 5.
The nation’s top lawyer called for new action today to curtail deaths from heroin use. Attorney General Eric Holder posted a video message that said loss of life from the drug rose 45 percent between 2006 and 2010. In a video message, he called for cutting off supplies of heroin and more.
ERIC HOLDER, Attorney General: So, it is clear that opiate addiction is an urgent and growing public health crisis. And that’s why Justice Department officials, including the DEA, and other key federal, state and local leaders are fighting back very aggressively. Confronting this crisis will require a combination of enforcement, as well as treatment. The Justice Department is committed to both.
GWEN IFILL: Holder also called for letting all first-responders carry a drug that can reverse the effects of a heroin overdose.
A Japanese scientist is withdrawing new research on stem cells that drew worldwide attention in January. The study appeared to show a simple, cheap way to reprogram mature cells into embryonic stem cells. Today, the researcher acknowledged no one else has been able to replicate his findings and that his paper contained mistakes.
The share of Americans without health insurance has fallen to the lowest level since 2008. A Gallup survey finds just under 16 percent of U.S. adults are now uninsured, compared with 17 percent at the end of last year. That translates to about three million more Americans with health insurance. The deadline for signing up under the Affordable Care Act is March 31.
Colorado made $2 million from taxing recreational marijuana in January, the first month of legalized sales. The state revenue department today said that is based on total sales of $14 million. Much of the tax revenue is earmarked for school construction.
On Wall Street today, the Dow Jones industrial average lost 34 points to close at 16,418. The Nasdaq fell more than a point to close at 4,334. The Standard & Poor’s 500 was down less than a point, to finish at 1,877.