KWAME HOLMAN: Record floods in the Northeast and New England receded some today, leaving behind widespread damage. Rhode Island was hit the hardest, with entire communities transformed into lakes. The state already had double-digit unemployment. And Governor Don Carcieri said the deluge will only make things worse.
GOV. DONALD CARCIERI, R-R.I.: We’re going to have enormous costs. We have got enormous costs right now in loss of business, what you can see, businesses that cannot operate. People are going to be out of work. We have already got enough of that happening here in the state. So, we have got big issues there.
KWAME HOLMAN: Parts of Interstate 95 were due to reopen in Rhode Island, but Amtrak suspended some trains for a second day. Late today, President Obama got a flood briefing from the governor of Massachusetts, after giving a speech in Maine.
New federal rules for gas mileage and auto emissions became final today. Beginning with the 2016 model year, automakers’ vehicles are to average at least 35.5 miles a gallon. That’s better than current standards by about 10 miles a gallon. Cars and trucks also come under new limits for carbon dioxide emissions.
The milestone in Washington came as Japan’s first mass-market electric car went on sale today. Mitsubishi produced the four-seat bubble-shaped vehicle. Earlier this week, rival Nissan began taking orders for its own electric car. It’s due out in December. And, in the U.S., General Motors plans to begin selling the Chevrolet Volt in December as well.
March was a strong month for U.S. auto sales, thanks to heavy incentives for buyers. Nissan and Toyota today announced gains of more than 40 percent. Ford sales were up nearly that much. General Motors and Honda rose more than 20 percent each. Chrysler was down 8 percent.
Wall Street closed out the week on a high. The rally followed reports first-time jobless claims fell this week and factory output rose in March at the fastest rate in five years. As a result, the Dow Jones industrial average gained more than 70 points to close at 10927. The Nasdaq rose four points to close at 2402. The markets will be closed tomorrow for Good Friday.
Overall pay for corporate executives fell slightly last year. That finding came today in a survey done for The Wall Street Journal. It said executive compensation has been down two straight years, the first time that’s happened in 20 years.
At the same time, The Washington Post reported companies are ignoring federal guidelines and paying more executives in cash. The guidelines are designed to shift the focus of pay to longer-term corporate gains.
The confessed killer of an abortion doctor in Kansas defended his actions today at his sentencing. Scott Roeder has admitted he shot Dr. George Tiller last May at a church in Wichita. He said the killing was justified to save the lives of unborn children. Members of Tiller’s family were in attendance when Roeder made a lengthy statement to the court today before his sentencing.
SCOTT ROEDER, defendant: It is the duty of state of Kansas to protect all the people, including those whom George Tiller killed. Had the courts acted rightfully, I would have not shot George Tiller.
The blame for George Tiller — Tiller’s death lies more with the state of Kansas than with me. The state of Kansas permits, protects and promotes the slaughter of these children. George Tiller was their hit man.
KWAME HOLMAN: Roeder faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison. Tiller was the only doctor in Kansas performing late-term abortions. His clinic closed after his death.
A top Vatican official today defended Pope Benedict XVI against allegations he covered up sex abuse cases before he was pope. The New York Times had reported on the Vatican decision not to defrock a Wisconsin priest in the 1990s. Benedict then was in charge of investigating abuse cases.
Today, Cardinal William Levada, an American, took on The Times on the Vatican Web site. He wrote, “I am not proud of America’s newspaper of record as a paragon of fairness.”
The pope made no mention of the scandals as he led a ceremony dedicated to the priesthood. It was part of Holy Thursday services at Saint Peter’s Basilica.
Millions of doses of swine flu vaccine may wind up being destroyed if they go past their expiration dates. The Centers for Disease Control confirmed today large quantities of vaccine have gone unused. The government bought 229 million doses last year, but, when the flu outbreak waned, so did demand. As a result, more than half the doses are sitting on shelves.
This was Census Day in the U.S., the official day for Americans to return their census forms. The survey conducted every 10 years is used to allocate U.S. House seats and more than $400 billion in federal aid.
And India kicked off a campaign to count its estimated 1.2 billion people. The country’s president submitted her household information to a census worker at a ceremony in New Delhi.
Those are some of the day’s main stories. I will be back at the end of the program with a preview of what you will find tonight on the “NewsHour”‘s Web site — for now, back to Judy.