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Other News: Auto Sales Drop, Pakistan Supply Route Cut

February 3, 2009 at 6:15 PM EDT
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JUDY WOODRUFF: In the rest of the news of this day, automakers reported another deep dive in sales for January. The worst was at Chrysler, where sales fell 55 percent.

General Motors was nearly as bad, down nearly 50 percent. G.M. also offered new buyouts to hourly workers today. Ford sales were off 40 percent, and Toyota posted a 32 percent drop.

On Wall Street, the auto news was tempered by word that housing sales actually rose in December. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 141 points to close at 8,078. The Nasdaq rose more than 21 points to close at 1,516.

Militants in Pakistan today cut a vital supply line to U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan. They blew up a bridge in the Khyber Pass region of northwestern Pakistan, along the Afghan border.

We have a report narrated by Nick Paton Walsh of Independent Television News.

NICK PATON WALSH, ITN’s Channel 4 News Correspondent: With the destruction of one bridge, three-quarters of the supplies NATO needs in Afghanistan have been cut off. That single blast hit just after midnight, severing this vital road in an already remote corner of northwestern Pakistan.

Locals may walk across, but the tons of NATO food, fuel and weapons needed across the border in Afghanistan are stuck here.

ZAR KHAN, Truck Driver: The blast occurred when I was driving over this bridge. I couldn’t make out what happened. Then my truck turned over.

NICK PATON WALSH: The trucks that took supplies daily from the Pakistani ports at Karachi to Kabul will now sit idle until it’s fixed. Now NATO troops risk not getting what they need in midwinter when shortages are felt hardest.

This incident, a glimpse of how much NATO needs Pakistan. The route, a regular target for Pakistan’s militants. In December, 160 NATO trucks were destroyed in a brazen attack on a supply base. The Pakistanis have tried to secure the route, but the area is now seen as too unstable.

So, with tens of thousands more troops due here this year, the top U.S. general in the region, David Petraeus, has had to negotiate a new supply route through the Central Asian states to the north. They need better security than Pakistan can provide.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, there was word today that top Pentagon officials want to escalate attacks on the Taliban and al-Qaida inside Pakistan. The Associated Press reported that it is part of a reassessment of strategy for Afghanistan. The report said the Joint Chiefs of Staff will urge a shift away from efforts at building a democracy there.

Iran announced a new space launch today, its first satellite made in Iran. The liftoff happened late Monday, as shown on state TV. President Ahmadinejad said that Iran’s intentions were peaceful. The U.S. immediately raised worries that the same rocket technology could carry nuclear and other weapons. A White House official says it is a matter of “acute concern.”

North Korea may be ready to test-fire a ballistic missile. South Korean officials warned today that the North is moving a long-range missile to a launch pad. The weapon is capable of striking the western U.S. Last week, North Korea abandoned agreements designed to avoid conflict with South Korea.