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News Wrap: Obama Calls Trayvon Martin Killing a ‘Tragedy’

March 23, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT

HARI SREENIVASAN: President Obama publicly weighed in for the first time on the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager in Florida — 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was killed last month by a neighborhood watch volunteer in a suburban Orlando community. The volunteer, George Zimmerman, claimed it was an act of self-defense and so far has not been arrested.

Speaking at the White House, the president said the tragedy struck a chord with him personally.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I can only imagine what these parents are going through. And when I think about this boy, I think about my own kids.

You know, if I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon. And, you know, I think they are right to expect that all of us, as Americans, are going to take this with the seriousness it deserves and that we’re going to get to the bottom of exactly what happened.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Late yesterday, the governor of Florida appointed a new prosecutor to investigate the killing after the original one recused himself. Meanwhile, the Justice Department and FBI have launched a civil rights investigation. A grand jury is also considering charges.

The president’s comments came after he announced his pick to head the World Bank. Jim Yong Kim, the current president of Dartmouth College, was tapped for the spot during a Rose Garden ceremony. The South Korean-born physician is a global health expert and a pioneer in the treatment of HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. If approved, Kim will succeed Robert Zoellick, who steps down at the end of his term in June.
Online, Ray Suarez explains why the president may have picked a doctor to run a bank. Find his blog post on our site.

The European Union imposed a new round of sanctions on Syria today, this time targeting the family of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Foreign ministers voted to ban his British-born wife, Asma, from traveling to E.U. countries and freeze any assets she may have in them.

The E.U.’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, told reporters in Brussels the new sanctions will put added pressure on the regime.

CATHERINE ASHTON, European Union: They target individual entities in ways that prevent them from carrying on the business as usual. And, secondly, they make a strong political statement about how the international community feels about what’s going on.

Never underestimate them. Sanctions are a really important tool, but they’re not everything. And always they’re within a political framework of trying to move things forward.

HARI SREENIVASAN: In Syria today, witnesses reported fresh shelling from government forces in several areas from Aleppo to Homs. New amateur video showed black smoke hovering over the city skylines.

The U.N. estimated more — the U.N. estimates more than 8,000 people have been killed in the violent crackdown since it began a year ago. Today, UNICEF reported at least 500 of those deaths were children.

In Iraq, a manhunt was under way for 17 detainees who escaped from a prison in Kirkuk. Police said 10 of the prisoners have ties to al-Qaida. They escaped at dawn from a small window using blankets tied together into a makeshift rope.

GOP presidential contenders today made their final appeals to Louisiana voters, who head to the polls tomorrow for the state primary.

Rick Santorum fired practice shots at a sheriff’s shooting range. He leads Mitt Romney by double digits in recent polls. Romney attacked President Obama’s health care overhaul. Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul also campaigned, hoping to keep their chances alive.

The chief executive of MF Global, former Sen. Jon Corzine, gave the order to transfer $200 million of clients’ money just days before the firm collapsed. That’s according to a congressional memo released today by investigators trying to track $1.6 billion of missing customer funds. It included an e-mail sent by a firm executive stating the money transfer was — quote — “per J.C.’s instructions” to cover an overdraft.

Last December, Corzine testified before lawmakers that he didn’t know where any of the money went.

On Wall Street, stocks eked out small gains today. The Dow Jones industrial average gained more than 34 points to close above 13,080.

The Nasdaq rose more than four points to close at 3,068. For the week, the Dow lost more than 1 percent; the Nasdaq rose four-tenths of a percent.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.