Surprising jumps in auto sales for the month of March..waters are starting to recede in the Northeast…and it's Census Day…I'm Marisa Bramwell and here's the latest from the ABC News Desk:
MARCH AUTO SALES UP: Charles Herman reports: “Auto sales rose dramatically in March fueled by big incentives from auto dealers, especially Toyota after it was forced to recall millions of cars. From February to March sales rose 37%. Compared to a year ago, sales rose 24%. At the current sales rate, nearly 12 million cars will be sold in 2010. At this point a year ago, the sales rate was just under 10 million vehicles sold.” And despite the negative press tied to its recalls, Toyota had a record high month for sales – 41 percent over last year. “Toyota fought its image battles with an aggressive advertising campaign,” Chris Bury reported on WORLD NEWS, “the biggest incentives in Toyota’s history…nearly $2300 per vehicle…helped turn around two straight months of declining sales.” American car companies had a great month too – “at Ford, sales were up nearly 40%, GM up 22%. Chrysler, still struggling, posted an 8% decline,” Bury said.
NORTHEAST FLOODING: The floodwaters are starting to recede in the Northeast, allowing for residents to return home and assess damaged caused from three straight days of record-breaking rain. “Water levels are down dramatically in many places,” Ron Claiborne reported on WORLD NEWS. “Still Rhode Island – the epicenter of this epic flood – has been hit hard. As the floodwaters recede, the extent of damage is being revealed.” Authorities warned residents of environmental and health hazards resulting from the floods; a boil water order is in effect, and people there are encouraged to stay away from consuming or swimming in the water. President Obama made a surprise visit to a Massachusetts emergency agency to thank workers and volunteers. Obama also met with Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and called Rhode Island Governor Don Carcieri. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano will visit Rhode Island Friday.
CENSUS DAY: Today is Census Day and the decennial survey of American demographics wasn’t without its controversy, specifically when regarding the racial makeup of America. David Wright reports: “As the census tries to get an accurate snapshot of the country’s racial and ethnic mix, many say a multiple choice form is too blunt an instrument to capture the nuance…according to the most recent nationwide survey, 74 percent of the population identifies themselves as White, 12.3 percent call themselves as black, 15 percent identify as Hispanics or Latinos. Part of the goal of the 2010 Census is to see how much those numbers have changed. But many wonder, is the survey up to the task.” States are encouraging residents to return their census forms, which will affect how much government money they get and their representation in Congress. The governors of Ohio and Michigan have even bet on it – the state that has the highest percentage of forms returned will donate its state tree to the losing state on Arbor Day.
VETERAN PROTESTORS: The Supreme Court will hear the case of whether members of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas have the right to demonstrate at the funerals of fallen war soldiers. Albert Snyder, the father of a fallen Marine, sued the church after it picketed his son’s funeral. The appeals court ruled against him and now “in one of the strangest twists in this story…Snyder has been ordered to pay court costs…more than $16,000 to the very people who disrupted his son’s funeral,” David Kerley reported on WORLD NEWS. “The church says it will use the money to protest other funerals.” The decision has outraged citizens — including commentator Bill O’Reilly –who have sent donations to Snyder to cover the costs.
CHURCH SCANDAL: Pope Benedict XVI conducted a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica and a feet-washing ceremony in St. John’s Lateran Basilica in Rome this Holy Thursday. But the Pope made no mention of the growing scandal in the Roman Catholic Church over child abuse. Brian Ross has details on yet another troubling case: “One of the most controversial cases handled by the Pope when he was Cardinal Ratzinger involved a pedophile priest who has since been found to have sexually abused more than 20 young boys. But there are new allegations today about the priest, who founded a prominent church order, and his relationship with certain top Vatican officials. For years, under Pope John Paul II, the allegations against Father Maciel were ignored inside the Vatican, and in fact, the Pope regularly praised Maciel. Behind the scenes, according to investigative reporter Jason Berry, was a steady stream of cash and gifts over the decades to key Vatican officials.” Berry says Maciel “used money as a means to buy friendship, to buy support and to protect himself” from any future accusations. Brian points out: “Father Maciel had easy access to cash as the founder of a well-financed, highly conservative church order called the Legionaries of Christ.” But Brian adds: “The new reports say one of the Vatican officials to reject Maciel's payments was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict. Ratzinger was in charge of investigating Maciel in 2002.” Fast forward three years, Brian: “Once Cardinal Ratzinger became Pope Benedict, in 2005, he moved against Father Maciel and forced him into retirement although he did not defrock him, strip him of his priestly powers.” Many church officials, from Cardinals on down, have come to Pope Benedict’s defense – insisting that he has done plenty to crack down on sex abuse by clergy, as a top Vatican Cardinal and now as Pope. (thanks to Ed Bailey for this entry)
ABORTION DOCTOR KILLED: Scott Roeder took the witness stand today, detailing procedures doctors used to perform abortions during his sentencing hearing in Wichita, Kansas. Roeder said fatally shooting Dr. George Tiller last may was justified: "I stopped him so he could not dismember another innocent baby…Wichita is a far safer place for unborn babies without George Tiller." Roeder also criticized Judge Warren Wilbert for not allowing him to disclose the abortion procedures during his trial. Roeder was sentenced to life in prison with possible parole after 50 years.