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Other News: Wall Street Ends Second Week of Gains

March 20, 2009 at 6:05 PM EST
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JIM LEHRER: In other news today, Wall Street finished the week on a bearish note, as bank stocks fell. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 122 points to close at 7,278. The Nasdaq was down 26 points to close at 1,457. For the week, the Dow still gained more than 0.5 percent, and the Nasdaq rose nearly 2 percent.

The U.S. Postal Service will offer early retirement buyouts to 150,000 workers. It also plans to eliminate 1,400 management positions and close six district offices nationwide. The agency lost $2.8 billion last year and faces even larger losses this year.

President Obama made a new overture to the people of Iran in a videotaped message early this morning. It coincided with an Iranian festival that celebrates the arrival of spring and the beginning of a new year.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: From this season of new beginnings, I would like to speak clearly to Iran’s leaders. We have serious differences that have grown over time. My administration is now committed to diplomacy that addresses the full range of issues before us and to pursuing constructive ties among the United States, Iran, and the international community.

This process will not be advanced by threats. We seek, instead, engagement that is honest and grounded in mutual respect.

JIM LEHRER: At the same time, the president warned Iran cannot take its rightful place in the world through terror or arms.

In response, Iran said the U.S. must make fundamental changes in its policies to reverse decades of mistrust.

In another development, two U.S. Navy vessels collided in the mouth of the Persian Gulf near Iran. It happened at night in the Strait of Hormuz, a body of water that’s a key passageway for oil supplies. The incident involved the nuclear-powered submarine USS Hartford and the amphibious ship USS New Orleans, seen here in file photographs. The U.S. Navy said the submarine’s nuclear reactor was not damaged and both vessels sailed on. Fifteen sailors were slightly injured.

In Iraq, the U.S. military reported an American air strike north of Baghdad killed 11 insurgents. And a provincial leader in Pakistan insisted Taliban leader Mullah Omar is not hiding there, but in Afghanistan. He warned against expanding U.S. missile strikes into his region.

White House officials spent part of this day apologizing for a presidential quip. A spokesman said Mr. Obama made a “thoughtless joke” last night on “The Tonight Show.” He compared his poor bowling skills to competition in the Special Olympics for the mentally disabled. The president himself apologized right after the show.