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News Wrap: Va. Tech Found Negligent in Killings; Iranian President Grilled

March 14, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT
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HARI SREENIVASAN: A jury in Virginia found Virginia Tech negligent today in the campus massacre there nearly five years ago. A student, Seung-Hui Cho, killed 33 people, including himself, on April 16, 2007. The jury said school officials failed to issue speedy alerts that might have saved lives. It awarded $4 million apiece to two families. State law calls for the awards to be cut to a maximum of $100,000 apiece.

The president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, faced an unprecedented grilling by his country’s lawmakers today. They accused him of mismanaging the economy and of defying Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Islamic Republic’s supreme leader. The Iranian parliament has the legal authority to ask the president questions, but it had never exercised that power until today — 10 questions were read out in a live broadcast.

ALI MOTTAHARI, Iranian parliament member (through translator): We thank God for having the chance to carry out one of our key duties as members of parliament, namely summoning the president for the first time in the Islamic Republic’s history. That will let the world know that democracy in Islamic Iran is real democracy, and not superficial and pretend democracy.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Ahmadinejad was defiant in the face of the allegations. At times, he answered with sarcastic jokes. And he denied challenging the authority of Ayatollah Khamenei.

MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, Iranian president (through translator): These false labels cannot be applied to the government. But my life shows that I have always tried to defend the religious position of the supreme leader through my action and through proper right and logical statements, and to show that it is a system of compassion, justice, progress, hard work and solidity.

HARI SREENIVASAN: If parliament finds Ahmadinejad’s answers unsatisfactory, the next step could be impeachment.

A tourist bus crashed in Switzerland today, killing 22 children and six adults on their way home to Belgium from a ski vacation. The bus slammed into a tunnel wall in the Alps, leaving mangled wreckage and trapping people inside — 24 other students were hospitalized. No other vehicles were involved. The cause of the accident was under investigation.

The U.S. Senate has wrapped up work on a two-year transportation bill. The measure passed easily today, with a bipartisan majority. It contains $109 billion for highway projects and related items. Current highway funding is due to expire at the end of March. But, in the House, Republicans have been unable to agree on their own five-year bill. The House returns next week from its current recess.

Wall Street was relatively quiet, after Tuesday’s big gains. The Dow Jones industrial average added 16 points to close at 13,194. The Nasdaq rose just under one point to close at 3,040.73.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.