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News Wrap: Obama critiques ‘vulgar’ campaign rhetoric, bans Atlantic drilling

In our news wrap Tuesday, the language and violence surrounding the 2016 presidential race drew sharp criticism from both parties, with President Obama publicly decrying the race’s “vulgar and divisive” rhetoric. Also, the Obama administration has banned oil drilling in the Atlantic Ocean, citing local opposition and military and commercial interests.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    Good evening. I'm Gwen Ifill.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And I'm Judy Woodruff.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    On the "NewsHour" tonight: It's a Super Tuesday sequel. Voters in five states head to the polls, as candidates count on tonight's results to save or to seal their presidential ambitions.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Also ahead this Tuesday: As Russia begins to withdraw forces from Syria, we look at the prospects for peace talks as that devastating civil war enters its sixth year.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    And how elite schools are boosting student diversity by attracting military veterans.

  • NICOLE LEADENHAM, Army Veteran:

    We're capable of more than what we have been pigeonholed into. So, I think it's important to know that we're not just these broken people coming back, incapable of succeeding within society.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    All that and more on tonight's "PBS NewsHour."

    (BREAK)

  • GWEN IFILL:

    In the day's other news: The language and violence in the presidential campaign drew criticism today from both parties in Washington. President Obama spoke at an annual St. Patrick's Day luncheon.

    Without directly mentioning Donald Trump, he deplored what he called the campaign's vulgar and divisive rhetoric.

  • PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

    While some maybe more to blame than others for the current climate, all of us are responsible for reversing it, for it is a cycle that is not an accurate reflection of America, and it has to stop.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    On the Republican side, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he spoke to Trump by telephone about attacks on protesters at his rallies.

    SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), Majority Leader: We had a good conversation, and I mentioned to him that I thought it would be a good idea for him, no matter who starts these violent episodes, to condemn it and discourage it.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Trump has rejected criticism that he is the one sowing division. Instead, he says he's a uniter.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    The Obama administration and its Interior Department, in a major policy reversal, today banned oil drilling in the Atlantic Ocean. A plan floated a year ago would have opened drilling lease areas off Virginia, the Carolinas and Georgia. Today, the department dropped the plan, citing local opposition, plus military and commercial interests.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Also today, the administration eased the trade embargo on Cuba again, five days before President Obama travels to Havana. The announcement ends the ban on Cuban access to international banking. It also opens the way for Cubans to play Major League Baseball and to relax limits on travel to Cuba.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Hundreds of migrants who crossed into Macedonia from Greece yesterday were forcibly returned today. The group of about 700 had bypassed a border fence and forded a river to gain entry, but they were made to walk back to Greece.

    One Syrian woman said she had to shelter her children under plastic bags overnight.

  • WOMAN (through interpreter):

    They told us walk, keep walking, they will let us in, and we will be done with all the rain and the cold. But they didn't let us through. We got scared for our children, and up there, it's very cold. We didn't have tents or anything with us.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Other refugees said they were beaten and stunned with Tasers by Macedonian forces.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    The U.S. military now confirms a top Islamic State commander has died after being severely wounded in Eastern Syria. Omar al Shishani, an ethnic Chechen, was targeted by a U.S. airstrike on March 4. A news agency affiliated with ISIS denied the report of his death.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    In Myanmar, half-a-century of military domination formally ended, as Parliament elected Htin Kyaw to be president. He's a close ally of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Lawmakers broke into thunderous applause when the result was announced. Suu Kyi says the new president will act as her proxy, because she is constitutionally barred from the office.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Back in this country, Washington, D.C.'s subway system announced an emergency shutdown starting at midnight tonight due to safety concerns. Officials ordered an inspection of all electrical components on the tracks after two fires in the last year. The shutdown runs at least into early Thursday morning.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    The National Football League today backed an executive who's acknowledged a link between football and the brain diseases like CTE. Yesterday, the NFL's top health and safety official said research — quote — "certainly shows a connection."

    Today, a spokesman said the comments — quote — "accurately reflect" the league's view.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    And on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 22 points to close above 17250. The Nasdaq fell 21 points, and the S&P 500 slipped three.

    Still to come on the "NewsHour": the latest from today's primaries with the highest stakes; Russia's withdrawal and the Syrian peace process; the mutual benefits of having more veterans on college campuses; and much more.

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