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News Wrap: Partisan standoff over SCOTUS continues

In our news wrap Tuesday, President Obama met face-to-face with Senate leaders over the vacancy in the Supreme Court, but Republicans remain opposed to any hearings before a new president is elected. Also, the FBI and tech giant Apple squared off before Congress Tuesday morning over the issue of cell phone security.

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    Good evening. I'm Judy Woodruff.


    And I'm Gwen Ifill.


    On the "NewsHour" tonight: Super Tuesday is finally here. Voters head to polls and caucuses, as the candidates prepare for a critical turning point in their campaigns.


    And we break down the numbers on how candidates can secure the delegates that will put them over the top.


    Plus, Mark Shields and David Brooks are here to give up-to-date analysis as results pour in from across the U.S.


    Also ahead, we continue our series on the integration of special education programs in Los Angeles schools — tonight, why some parents and teachers believe it could hurt more than help.

  • LINDA HILTON, Parent:

    I would say that their job is to educate my child and my job is to socialize my child. A safe environment is important, and many of these other schools just aren't safe.


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



    In the day's other news: President Obama and Senate leaders met face-to-face over the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court, but they resolved nothing. The president laid out his thinking in the Oval Office session, but Republicans remained opposed to any nomination this year.

    That drew a new blast from Democrats.

    SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), Minority Leader: And we're going to continue beating the drums. All we want them to do is fulfill their constitutional duty and do their job. And at this stage, they have decided not to do that. They think that they are going to wait and see what President Trump will do, I guess, as far as a nomination.


    Back at the Capitol, Republicans say they — said they're not budging, and they rejected the Democrats' criticism as so much political point-scoring.

    SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), Majority Leader: Do any of you think a Democrat majority in the Senate would be confirming a Republican president's nomination in the last year of his term? Of course not. This is going to be decided by the American people and the next president, whoever that may be, will fill this vacancy.


    The White House said the president is reading files on potential nominees, but doesn't yet have a short list of candidates.


    Another big swing on Wall Street. Stocks surged higher today, after construction spending in the U.S. jumped in January to the highest level in eight years. The Dow Jones industrial average gained nearly 350 points to close at 16865. The Nasdaq rose 131 points, and the S&P 500 was up 46.

    The battle between tech giant Apple and the FBI over unlocking a terrorist's iPhone played out before Congress today.

    The two sides argued their points before the House Judiciary Committee, as Hari Sreenivasan reports.

  • JAMES COMEY, FBI Director:

    The tools you are counting on us to keep you safe are becoming less and less effective.

  • BRUCE SEWELL, General Counsel, Apple:

    We're doing this because we think that protecting the security and the privacy of hundreds of millions of iPhone users is the right thing to do.


    FBI Director James Comey and Apple lead counsel Bruce Sewell used the hearing to lay out the cases they're making in federal court. The fight centers around an Apple iPhone used by Syed Farook last December in San Bernardino, California. He and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, shot dead 14 people.

    Federal agents have been unable to access the phone's content due to Apple's encryption, and Comey says it bespeaks a larger problem.


    All of our lives are on these devices, which is why it's so important that they be private. That also means all of the criminals, pedophiles, and terrorists' lives are on these devices. And if they can't, if they are warrant-proof, even a judge can't order access to a device, that is a big problem.


    A federal magistrate in California has ordered Apple to create special software that will help unlock the San Bernardino phone. Comey acknowledged today that would set a precedent. He argued it would be limited in scope.

    But Apple CEO Tim Cook has warned it could be used to compromise hundreds of millions of other phones.

  • Again, Bruce Sewell:


    The tool that we're being asked to create will work on any iPhone that is in use today. It is extensible. It is common. The principles are the same. So the notion that this is somehow only about opening one lock or that there is some category of locks that can't be opened with the tool that they're asking us to create is a misnomer.


    Apple says it's prepared to take the fight to the U.S. Supreme Court, if need be.

    In the meantime, the Justice Department is also seeking court orders for more than a dozen Apple devices in other cases. Yesterday, a federal magistrate in New York ruled in favor of Apple in a drug prosecution, saying the government is trying to gain impermissibly absurd results.


    Separately, Attorney General Loretta Lynch warned against letting Apple alone decide the outcome of the encryption debate. She spoke in San Francisco and called for cooperation between Silicon Valley and Washington.


    The International Criminal Court has brought its first-ever charges for destroying ancient cultural sites. A radical Islamist, Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi, was formally accused today. The case stems from the July 2012 destruction of ancient mausoleums at Timbuktu in the African nation of Mali. Al-Mahdi's defense lawyers suggested they will try to justify his actions on religious grounds.


    In Pakistan, tens of thousands of conservative Muslims protested against the execution of a policeman. He was hanged in Rawalpindi for killing a governor who opposed a blasphemy law. It mandates death for insulting Islam. Mourners walked for miles through the streets of Rawalpindi today amid tight security. They chanted support for the police officer and for the law against blasphemy.


    The migrant crisis in Greece grew ever more dire today, and the U.N. Refugee Agency warned of humanitarian disaster.

    James Mates of Independent Television News traveled to the Greek border with Macedonia, where growing numbers are stranded.


    Outside and looking in, almost 10,000 refugees and would-be migrants whose dreams of a new life in Northern Europe are now blocked by razor wire and armed police.

    Only a few weeks ago, they would have been waved through this border crossing, and bussed northwards towards Austria and Germany. When the Austrians started saying no, the domino effect rippled back towards Greece.

    "Open the borders," they chant, as they sit across the main north-south railway line. But those days may be gone for good. Well, it's past midday now. We have been here most of the morning, and so far not a single person has gone through this gate. No explanation as to why it's shut. Yesterday, these people rioted. Today, they're waiting patiently, but it's not getting them any further.

    And judging by the military hardware being rolled into place, the Macedonians are serious about this. And we saw Czech, Slovakian and Austrian police here reinforcing their Macedonian colleagues. Every country on this Balkan route seems to want it shut down.

    We met the Behar family, six young daughters who've been here for 10 days already. Their tiny cousin Andy has spent precisely half his life in this camp. And they want him out of here quickly. They don't speak much English, but know what they want most.

  • GIRL:

    Please, open the door, Macedonia.

  • MAN:

    Please open Macedonia. Please open Macedonia.


    And still they come along the railway lines, and by foot on all roads leading northwards, a bottleneck becoming more congested every day. At some point, something is going to have to give.


    Meanwhile, NATO's top commander in Europe, U.S. Air Force General Philip Breedlove, warned the refugee flow is — quote — "masking the movement" of Islamic State militants and others, and setting the stage for an attack.

    An update to a story we reported last night. Late today, the governor of South Dakota vetoed a bill that required transgender students to use the bathroom of their birth sex. The legislative fight had gained national attention.


    And astronaut Scott kelly returns to Earth tonight after setting an American record for the longest continuous stay in space. Kelly handed over command of the International Space Station yesterday. He's been in orbit 340 days, and he sent back a gallery of out-of-this-world videos and photos. A Russian, Valeri Polyakov, holds the record for longest space flight by any human, and that's at 437 days.


    Welcome home, Commander Kelly.




    Still on the "NewsHour": full coverage of Super Tuesday from reporters on the ground and in-depth analysis from Mark Shields and David Brooks; plus, the challenge of educating students with special needs without holding other students back.

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