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Other News: U.S. Markets Rally for Third Day

March 12, 2009 at 6:10 PM EST
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JUDY WOODRUFF: In other news, the president talked up his economic stimulus and budget plans today. And the stock market turned in another solid day, as the Dow Jones industrial average jumped more than 200 points.

NewsHour correspondent Kwame Holman reports.

KWAME HOLMAN: How to spend $787 billion in stimulus money wisely, that was the task at hand for state officials who gathered at the White House this morning. They heard words of encouragement, and admonishment, from President Obama.

U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: You know, it’s rare where you get a chance to put your shoulder to the wheel of history and move it in a better direction. This is such an opportunity; I hope all of you seize it.

What you do in the coming weeks and coming months over the next couple of years is going to make a huge difference in whether or not the trust that the American people have placed in us is justified.

KWAME HOLMAN: Vice President Biden presided over the meeting, and he put his advice more starkly.

VICE PRESIDENT JOSEPH BIDEN: If we don’t get this right, folks, this is the end of the opportunity to convince the Congress that anything should go to the states. Six months from now, if the verdict on this effort is that we’ve wasted the money, we built things that were unnecessary, or we’ve done things that are legal but make no sense, then, folks, don’t look for any help from the federal government for a long while.

KWAME HOLMAN: Not long afterward, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi doused reports that Democrats already are preparing another stimulus package.

REP. NANCY PELOSI, D-Calif., speaker of the House: I really would like to see this stimulus package play out. I think it’s important that the American people and the Congress of the United States have confidence in the recovery package that we have passed.

KWAME HOLMAN: Talk of further stimulus has echoed lately, as the American economic landscape feels the weight of negative numbers. Just today, the Labor Department reported new claims for jobless benefits rose by another 654,000 last week.

And the Federal Reserve said American households lost 9 percent of their net worth at the end of last year, the most in 50 years of record-keeping.

But Wall Street took heart that retail sales fell less than expected last month and that accounting rules might be eased.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose another 239 points to close at 7,170. The Nasdaq index gained 54 points to finish at 1,426.

Still, the momentary boost on Wall Street did little to help Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner at a Senate Budget Committee hearing.

SEN. JIM BUNNING, R-Ky.: Secretary Geithner, I see in the press that you have a plan to save the world’s financial system. Where is your plan to rescue the United States’ system? We’ve been waiting for that.

TIMOTHY GEITHNER, Treasury secretary: Senator, thank you for raising that. We have moved — again, we’ve been in office for six weeks. In that period of time…

SEN. JIM BUNNING: No, but you — excuse me.

TIMOTHY GEITHNER: I just want to — want to say this. Let me explain…

SEN. JIM BUNNING: But don’t — no, I’m not going to let you do that, because you were part of the problem. You were the head of the federal bank of New York.

KWAME HOLMAN: Democrat Kent Conrad focused on the Obama budget, saying huge deficits are “unsustainable.” Later, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said the president has great confidence in his economic team, and Mr. Obama defended his sweeping plans for health care and energy in a speech to the Business Roundtable.

U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I am not choosing to address these additional challenges just because I feel like it or because I’m a glutton for punishment. I’m doing so because they’re fundamental to our economic growth and ensuring that we don’t have more crises like this in the future.

KWAME HOLMAN: Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke planned to join the effort to explain government actions in an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes” this Sunday.

JUDY WOODRUFF: General Motors put out word today it won’t need a $2 billion federal loan installment this month. The automaker said its restructuring plan is helping conserve cash. But G.M. has said that it may ultimately need a total of $30 billion in federal loans.

Police and soldiers in Pakistan broke up protests today in the country’s largest city. Several hundred demonstrators filled the streets of Karachi, but police blocked them from trying to march on to the capital, Islamabad. The government defended its actions, while the opposition condemned them.

REHMAN MALIK, interior minister, Pakistan: And we’ve sent a number of delegations to them. We will not allow any protest on the Constitution Avenue because of the diplomats and the entire government functions are there. Of course we have offered them three venues, if they want to come.

SENATOR ISHAQ DAR, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz Group: This is totally undemocratic on part of the government to have, you know, done what they have done so far. It’s better that they should withdraw all, you know, these actions and they should release all the workers, all the, you know, participants, all the political leaders whom they have retained already.

JUDY WOODRUFF: As tensions escalated, U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke telephoned government and opposition leaders in a bid to restore calm.

Also today, Pakistani officials reported a missile strike killed at least seven people in the northwest. They said an unmanned U.S. drone aircraft launched the attack.

An Iraqi journalist has been sentenced to three years in prison for throwing his shoes at then-President Bush. The incident happened last December, as Mr. Bush held a news conference with Prime Minister al-Maliki in Baghdad. The journalist, Muntadhar al-Zeidi, said it was a protest against U.S. policies. He was sentenced today after being convicted of assaulting a foreign leader. Defense lawyers said they would appeal.

Philanthropist Leonore Annenberg died today at a hospital in Rancho Mirage, Calif. She took over the Annenberg Foundation after her husband, billionaire publisher Walter Annenberg, died in 2002. She was also a prominent patron of the fine arts. Leonore Annenberg was 91 years old.