News Wrap: Pfizer, Allergan call off record merger

In our news wrap Wednesday, pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and Irish rival Allergan abandoned a merger agreement after the Obama administration imposed rules to block the company from saving millions of dollars in taxes. Also, former coal executive Don Blankenship was sentenced to a year in prison for his role in the 2010 disaster at Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia that killed 29 people.

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    Good evening. I am Judy Woodruff. Gwen Ifill is away.

    On the "NewsHour" tonight: Wisconsin's primary sets a potential turning point in the presidential race, as both party's front-runners are handed a loss.

    Also ahead this Wednesday: a dangerous rise in diabetes. The World Health Organization announces the number of adult cases quadrupled globally in less than 40 years.

    With this year's predicted strongest El Nino on record, scientists step up their efforts to better understand the weather pattern when forecasts predict the worst.

  • BILL PATZERT, NASA Climatologist:

    When these events impose themselves on the climate system, everybody on the planet feels it. And the droughts, floods are spectacular, and they're global.


    And remembering Merle Haggard, one of country music's original outlaws, who died today at 79.

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



    It's on to New York in the presidential campaign, after Wisconsin voters shook up the race.

    Republican Ted Cruz and Democrat Bernie Sanders won big in the Badger State on Tuesday. The candidates they are chasing, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, aim to do a lot better in New York, which is home to both. We will have a full report after the news summary.

    In the day's other news: Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and its Irish rival Allergan called off a record merger agreement. The deal would have saved Pfizer hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes by moving its corporate address overseas. But, on Monday, the Obama administration imposed rules to block such so-called tax inversions.

    At the White House today, spokesman Josh Earnest rejected criticism from the drug companies.

  • JOSH EARNEST, White House Press Secretary:

    Most corporate leaders in America understand that a strong American economy is good for their business. And the concern that we have is with the leaders of some corporations that are looking to take the best of America without making a contribution to the success of our country. And that is wrong.


    The merger would have been worth $160 billion.

    Former coal executive Don Blankenship was sentenced to a year in federal prison for a mine disaster that killed 29 people. Blankenship was CEO of Massey Energy, which owned the Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia when an explosion hit six years ago yesterday. His sentencing today came after a federal jury convicted him of conspiracy to violate safety standards. He was acquitted of more serious charges.

    New signs are emerging that the flow of migrants from Turkey to the Greek islands is finally slowing. The Turkish coast guard reports that it stopped 68 people trying to cross the Aegean Sea today. That is down sharply from 225 yesterday. Turkey's prime minister says it shows a deal with the European Union to deport illegal migrants is having an effect.

    More world leaders found themselves on the defensive today over offshore investments. They were detailed this week in a massive leak of documents, the so-called Panama Papers. British Prime Minister David Cameron said today that his family will not benefit from offshore funds or trusts in the future.

    And in Tokyo, Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko said that his offshore holdings were a blind trust that he created once he took office.


    The only purpose of that was a transparent separation of business of the Ukrainian president from any political influence. This is absolutely normal procedure, and I think this is the main difference from the blaming all the political figures in this Panama list.


    Also today, the documents leak led police in Switzerland to raid the headquarters of European soccer's governing body. They are focused on a TV contract that could be linked to a bribery scandal.

    Governments around the world carried out more executions last year than at any time since 1990. Amnesty International reports more than 1,600 people were put to death in 2015. Almost 90 percent of the executions came in three countries: Iran, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. There were 28 executions in the U.S., the lowest number since 1991. Amnesty says it's believed that China executes thousands of people every year, but won't confirm any figures.

    Back in this country, investment brokers are going to have to meet a higher standard when they advise people on retirement. Labor Department rules issued say advisers act as fiduciaries, legally required to put a client's best interest above all else. They also have to disclose fees they are paid to recommend a given investment. The rules will be phased in next year.

    On Wall Street, stocks broke out of a two-day slump thanks to gains in the health care and energy sectors. The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 112 points to close at 17716. The Nasdaq rose 76 points, and the S&P 500 added 21.

    And the University of Connecticut celebrated today, after the women's basketball team won their fourth straight national championship. The Huskies routed Syracuse last night 82-51. It marked the 11th championship overall for coach Geno Auriemma, the most in college basketball history.

    Still to come on the "NewsHour": all eyes on New York, as the presidential front-runners suffer setbacks in Wisconsin; the underlying cause of a global spike in diabetes; and much more.

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