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Other News: Automakers Race to Submit Restructuring Plans, Stocks Sink

February 17, 2009 at 6:05 PM EDT
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JIM LEHRER: In other economic news, Chrysler said it’s cutting another 3,000 jobs and asking for another $5 billion in federal loans. It already received $4 billion.

This was the deadline day for G.M. and Chrysler to submit their restructuring plans to the government. A spokesman traveling with President Obama said he won’t prejudge the companies’ ultimate fate.

ROBERT GIBBS, White House Press Secretary: The president of the United States wants to see a strong and vibrant auto industry that’s employing tens of thousands of hard-working Americans and building the cars of tomorrow for Americans right here. That’s what this president wants to see.

JIM LEHRER: G.M. received another $4 billion from the Treasury on top of $9 billion it accepted earlier. And later, the United Auto Workers reached a tentative agreement with G.M., Chrysler and Ford to cut costs.

Wall Street fell sharply today on worries about the auto industry and the recession in general. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost more than 297 points to close at 7,552. That’s near its lowest point in 11 years. The Nasdaq fell more than 63 points to close at 1,470.

And in more news of this day, President Obama approved sending 17,000 more troops to Afghanistan; 8,000 U.S. marines will go in first. They’re to be followed by 9,000 Army soldiers. The deployments will begin this spring, as part of a planned influx of U.S. forces to stabilize the country.

The U.N. reported civilian deaths in Afghanistan’s war rose sharply last year. More than 2,100 people were killed, up 40 percent to a new high. Insurgent attacks caused more than 55 percent of the deaths. Most of the other civilian deaths came at the hands of U.S., NATO, and Afghan forces.

NATO warned Pakistan’s new deal with the Taliban could give extremists a safe haven. The agreement halts a government offensive and imposes Islamic law in the Swat Valley, where the Taliban has largely gained control. In exchange, the militants are supposed to stop fighting.

Residents there welcomed the news today as a pro-Taliban cleric arrived. He urged fighters to lay down their weapons.

The new American envoy to the region, Richard Holbrooke, was in India. He did not comment directly on the deal, but he did say this.

RICHARD HOLBROOKE, Pakistan and Afghanistan Diplomatic Envoy: What happened in Swat demonstrates a key point and that is that India, the United States, and Pakistan all have a common threat now. For the first time in 60 years since independence, your country and Pakistan and the U.S. all face an enemy which poses direct threats to our leadership, our capitals, and our people.

JIM LEHRER: The Pakistani government insisted the agreement with the Taliban is not final until peace is restored in the Swat Valley.

A landmark genocide trial formally began in Cambodia. It was the first involving the mass murder of nearly 2 million Cambodians by the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s. The initial defendant was a man known as Duch, the former head of a prison in Phnom Penh; 16,000 people died there. In all, five Khmer Rouge members will face the tribunal. They were driven from power in 1979.

Back in this country, federal regulators charged Texas financier Alan Stanford and three of his companies with a massive fraud. It involved a program of certificates of deposit worth $8 billion. The charges in federal court in Dallas said Stanford fabricated high rates of return to prey on investors.

The furor over Illinois Democratic Sen. Roland Burris took a new turn. Last night, he told reporters he did try to help raise campaign funds for Gov. Rod Blagojevich. That was before the governor appointed him to the Senate. That comment appeared to contradict earlier statements by Burris, but he defended himself in Peoria, Illinois.

SEN. ROLAND BURRIS (D), Illinois: There were never any inappropriate conversations between me and anyone else. And I will answer any and all questions to get that point across to keep my faith with the citizens of Illinois. We are working on a concise document that will be provided to this public later this week.

JIM LEHRER: The governor was removed from office last month for allegedly trying to sell the Senate appointment.