In our news wrap Thursday, House Speaker Paul Ryan again denied any possibility that he would stand for the Republican presidential nomination at a contested RNC convention, saying those who argue otherwise should “knock it off.” Also, Russian president Vladimir Putin threatened to send warplanes and troops back into Syria if rebel forces compromise recent government military gains.
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Good evening. I'm Judy Woodruff. Gwen Ifill is away.
On the "NewsHour" tonight:
I'm glad you're sorry now. I'm glad you're taking action now, but it's a little bit late for the kids in Flint.
In a heated hearing, members of Congress grill Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and the head of the Environmental Protection Agency over Flint's water crisis.
Also ahead this Thursday: next steps in the political battle over President Obama's Supreme Court pick.
And as March Madness sets in, we look at some of the questions surrounding paying collegiate athletes.
ED O'BANNON, Plaintiff and Former NCAA Player: Close to 15 years later, and they're still making money off of my image. I just thought to myself, there's got to be something wrong about this.
All that and more on tonight's "PBS NewsHour."
President Obama's Supreme Court nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, began making the rounds on Capitol Hill today, this in the face of Senate Republicans saying they will not consider any Obama nominee this year.
Instead, Garland started with Minority Leader Harry Reid and Patrick Leahy, ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Leahy said the judge won't be commenting on the political fight.
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), Vermont: He's not going to go out before the press like I am and give his side of the story. Where he gets his chance to say anything tell is at a hearing, and that's what he ought to have.
A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called the visits a stunt orchestrated by the White House.
We will take a closer look at nomination politics in the Senate later in the program.
In the presidential race, House Speaker Paul Ryan tried again to shut down speculation that he might agree to be the Republican nominee if there's a contested convention. He said anyone who's saying otherwise should — quote — "knock it off."
But at a weekly briefing, Ryan also criticized Donald Trump for warning his supporters that they might riot if he's close and is still denied the nomination.
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), Speaker of the House: Nobody should say such things, in my opinion, because to even address or hint to violence is unacceptable.
The Republican front-runner also drew fire from Moscow. A spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin charged that an online ad for Trump reflects a — quote — "demonization of Russia." The ad refers to Putin as — quote — "one of our toughest opponents."
Separately, President Vladimir Putin warned today that he's prepared to send more warplanes and troops back to Syria if need be. Russian forces began a partial pullout this week after helping Syria's military make major advances in the run-up to peace talks.
At a Moscow ceremony, Putin made clear that he won't let those gains be lost.
PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN, Russia (through interpreter): If necessary, literally within a few hours, Russia can build up its contingent in the region to a size proportionate to the situation developing there and use the entire arsenal of capabilities at our disposal.
Meanwhile, Kurdish regions in Northern Syria announced that they're forming their own federal region. The area extends from the eastern border with Iraq to the cities of Kobani and near Aleppo farther west. The Syrian government and opposition groups rejected the move, and the United States said that it won't recognize any self-ruled region unless the Syrian people vote on it.
Secretary of State John Kerry formally declared today that the Islamic State group is committing genocide in Iraq and Syria, the targets, Christians and other minorities. Congress and human rights groups had pushed for the finding, and they set today as a deadline for the declaration. But the announcement doesn't obligate the U.S. to take any additional action.
In Turkey, a Kurdish militant group has claimed responsibility for Sunday's bombing in Ankara that killed 37 people. The group is an offshoot of the main Kurdish separatist group PKK. And it warned that there may be more attacks. For their part, German officials shuttered their embassy in Ankara and their consulate in Istanbul in response to a threat. They called it — quote — "concrete and very serious."
The European Union is wrestling again with how to stop the human tide flowing out of Turkey. A summit opened today, but there were signs that a tentative deal might fall through.
Alex Thomson of Independent Television News is watching developments from Greece, where some 40,000 migrants are stranded.
Still unable to agree, European leaders arrived in Brussels for another two-day summit to discuss the migration crisis, which saw more than 1.2 million migrants arrive in Europe last year.
DONALD TUSK, President, European Council:
Only if we all work together in a coordinated manner and keep our cool, we will achieve success. I am cautiously optimistic, but, frankly speaking, more cautious than optimistic.
Under the so-called one-for-one deal, for every Syrian refugee just across the water there in Turkey behind us that gets resettled here in Europe, a Syria refugee from here in Greece goes back across the Aegean.
Now, when all this was apparently arranged 10 days ago, the figures were vague. Since then, though, it's emerged that the E.U. is apparently only prepared to take 72,000 such people all up, and there is no commitment yet beyond that figure.
Further places may be available under a voluntary separate scheme, but this would require a change to E.U. law, and getting all 28 member states on board is a tall order, as the E.U. summit chairman has acknowledged.
But charities say the controversial plans are against European and international law.
All 28 E.U. member states must agree to any deal.
Saudi Arabia has announced that it's paring back combat operations in Yemen after nearly a year of airstrikes and ground combat. The kingdom has been leading a Sunni Arab coalition trying to roll back gains by Shiite rebels in Yemen. But the air raids have killed hundreds of civilians. And the United Nations today raised the death toll to 119 in a Saudi strike that took place Tuesday near the Yemeni capital of Sanaa.
The Earth's temperature was much higher than usual last month. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports February 2016 beat the old record by six-tenths of a degree, a far bigger margin than usual. In the process, Arctic Sea ice reached a record low. Scientists say the heat was partly due to a super El Nino effect.
Automatic braking systems will be standard in the U.S. for most cars and light trucks within the next six years. Twenty major automakers have agreed to that voluntary schedule today with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. U.S. drivers have nearly two million rear-end crashes each year.
And, on Wall Street, oil rose to more than $40 a barrel, and helped push stocks higher. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 155 points to close above 17480. The Nasdaq rose 11, and the S&P 500 added 13.
Still to come on the "NewsHour": Congress lambastes Michigan's governor and the EPA over the Flint water crisis; the economics of paying student athletes; SeaWorld ends its orca whale breeding program; and much more.