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Other News: Wall Street Dips, Pakistan Reinstates Judge

March 16, 2009 at 6:20 PM EST
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JIM LEHRER: In other news, Wall Street fell short in its bid to rally for a fifth straight day. The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended with a loss of 7 points to close just under 7,217. The Nasdaq fell 27 points to close at 1,404.

Stocks were up for much of the day. They gave back the gains later, partly because American Express reported more credit cardholders are late on their payments.

The price of oil headed higher today. It rose back above $47 a barrel in New York, as stock market rallies outweighed OPEC’s decision not to cut output. The cartel’s secretary general blamed the U.S. and other leading countries for the financial crisis, and he said they need to take stronger action. He said oil nations did nothing to create the problem.

President Obama has unveiled a new $15 billion package to help small businesses. It comes from the overall financial rescue package known as TARP. At today’s announcement, Treasury Secretary Geithner insisted banks in the program start lending, especially to small businesses.

TIMOTHY GEITHNER, Treasury Secretary: I want to deliver a clear message to our nation’s banks. Across this country, thousands of small businesses are finding it harder to get the credit necessary to stay in business. Credit is essential to an economic recovery, and we need our nation’s banks to go the extra mile in keeping credit lines in place on reasonable terms for viable businesses.

JIM LEHRER: Under Geithner’s orders, 21 of the largest banks taking government money will have to make monthly reports on loans to small businesses. Other banks will have to report on a quarterly basis.

The government of Pakistan agreed today to reinstate a fired Supreme Court chief justice. The announcement prompted anti-government demonstrators to call off plans for a major march on the capital. We have a report from Lindsey Hilsum of Independent Television News.

LINDSEY HILSUM: Before dawn, lawyers gathered in celebration outside the Islamabad house of the former chief justice, Iftikhar Chaudhry. Former President Musharraf dismissed him when he became a focus of resistance, and it’s taken street protests and major political and diplomatic pressure to get the new government to reinstate him.

TARIQ MEHMOOD, Retired Judge (through translator): This is a victory for those Pakistanis who made a commitment to the rule of law. This is a happy message for those who are lucky enough to witness this day, but it will also increase our responsibilities in the weeks to come.

LINDSEY HILSUM: People waited all night for the prime minister’s TV announcement.

YOUSUF RAZA GILANI, Prime Minister, Pakistan (through translator): I announce here, according to the promises made by me and the president of Pakistan, the reinstatement of all deposed judges, including Iftikhar Chaudhry, back to their jobs.

LINDSEY HILSUM: Mr. Chaudhry then appeared on his balcony to greet the jubilant crowd. As chief justice, he had threatened to lift the amnesty granted to the current president, Asif Ali Zardari, over corruption charges, which is probably why President Zardari didn’t want him back. But after meeting with the army chief, it seems that he and the prime minister decided they had no choice.

It’s a triumph for President Zardari’s arch political rival, Nawaz Sharif. He rallied his supporters to the cause of the chief justice, vowing to march from Lahore to Islamabad together. Fearing instability and violence, British and American diplomats urged compromise.

Mr. Sharif has won this round of a seemingly endless political grudge match which distracts Pakistan’s politicians from the fight against the Taliban and keeps the country in a constant state of turbulence.

JIM LEHRER: And as the political drama played out, militants in northwest Pakistan staged a pre-dawn attack on a military supply depot. They set fire to vehicles packed with provisions destined for U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan. It was the second such attack there in as many days.

In Iraq, the U.S. military confirmed it shot down an Iranian drone aircraft over Iraqi territory last month. The statement said American fighter jets fired on the unmanned aircraft 60 miles northeast of Baghdad. It said the drone’s path was not an accident. The U.S. has accused Iran of funneling weapons and money to Shiite extremists in Iraq.

Also today, an American soldier was fatally injured during combat operations in Baghdad.

A pro-reform leader in Iran pulled out of the presidential race today. Former president Mohammad Khatami said he wants to avoid splitting the reform vote in the June election. He said another candidate has a better chance of winning the votes of reformers and conservatives.

The newly elected president of El Salvador is promising to unite the country after winning Sunday’s election. Former TV anchor Mauricio Funes led a party of former leftist guerrillas. He ended two decades of conservative rule. The president-elect celebrated with his supporters in San Salvador early today. He told supporters, “This is not the time for revenge. This is the time for political understanding.”