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Other News: Treasury OKs Aid for Auto Parts Suppliers

March 19, 2009 at 6:20 PM EDT
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JIM LEHRER: In other news today, the Treasury Department made another move to stabilize the auto industry. It approved a $5 billion infusion to auto parts suppliers. That money comes from the financial rescue program known as the TARP. It will go to large suppliers who have not been paid by U.S. automakers for parts already supplied.

New claims for unemployment benefits grew less than expected last week, but the Labor Department reported that still means nearly 5.5 million Americans are getting the payments.

And on Wall Street, stocks had a down day after yesterday’s rally. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost more than 85 points to close under 7,401. The Nasdaq fell more than 7 points to close at 1,483.

The price of oil surged back above $50 a barrel. In New York, crude oil gained 7 percent to finish well over $51, a high for the year.

It was due partly to a sharp drop in the value of the dollar. The currency slipped after the Federal Reserve announced yesterday it will pump $1 trillion into the housing market.

More than a million people protested across France, demanding more action to fix that country’s ailing economy. Angry workers took to the streets with banners and signs in more than 200 demonstrations nationwide. They called for President Sarkozy to hold new talks on his policies.

BENOIT HAMON, spokesman, French Socialist Party (through translator): We have a crisis, as in any other country, except that we have a president who aggravates the crisis by making the wrong economic and social choices, by his deafness regarding the general dissatisfaction. He refuses to give answers regarding layoffs, regarding the cost of living, regarding the way to objectively avoid the rise in job losses in the public sector or in the public health system.

JIM LEHRER: Two million people in France are unemployed. President Sarkozy has agreed to aid banks and automakers, but he has rejected union demands for pay increases and better job protections.

In southern Afghanistan, an Australian soldier was killed trying to defuse a roadside bomb. He was the second Australian to die there this week.

And a bomb in Helmand province killed an Afghan lawmaker who’d been a vocal Taliban critic. Four of his bodyguards also died.

Today marked six years since U.S. forces invaded Iraq. More than 4,200 American troops have been killed in that war.

Osama bin Laden has been heard from again in a new audio message on the Internet. In it, the al-Quaida chief urges militants in Somalia to work against that country’s new president. Sheikh Sharif Ahmed is a moderate Islamist elected earlier this year. But bin Laden warned he won’t do enough to pursue the war in Somalia against Western influence.

OSAMA BIN LADEN, al-Quaida leader (through translator): These kinds of presidents are agents for our enemies, and their authority is null and void. Sheikh Sharif is one of them. He must be dethroned and fought.

JIM LEHRER: This was bin Laden’s second message posted in less than a week.

Mexico imposed new tariffs on U.S. goods. It was retaliation for a U.S. decision to block Mexican trucks from American highways. The tariffs will be placed on nearly 90 different items, from wine to washing machines.