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Other News: General Motors to Cut 21,000 Jobs

April 27, 2009 at 6:25 PM EST
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JIM LEHRER: In other news, the flu scare took its own toll on Wall Street. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 51 points to close at 8,025. The Nasdaq fell nearly 15 points to close at 1,679.

General Motors announced plans to cut another 21,000 jobs and give the government outright control of the company. The plan includes an offer to swap $27 billion in bond debt for G.M. stock. That would give taxpayers a majority stake and leave existing shareholders at just 1 percent.

In addition, a top G.M. executive in Detroit announced the company will drop the Pontiac brand after 83 years.

MARK LANEVE, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, General Motors: My personal philosophy on brands is they only play offense well. They don’t play defense well. You either have a strategy that can win with a brand, given the level of competition we have, or you’d basically have to stop. And our conclusion was, after a fair amount of work, is that we just didn’t have a strategy that we were satisfied with that could allow us to win with the Pontiac brand.

JIM LEHRER: G.M. also plans to cut 40 percent of its 6,200 dealerships by the end of next year.

Meanwhile, Chrysler moved closer to avoiding bankruptcy by reaching a deal with the United Auto Workers. Details were not made public, but the union said the deal was crafted with Chrysler, Fiat, and the U.S. government. Chrysler also came to terms with the Canadian Auto Workers in a deal to cut labor costs.

The Taliban has declared a truce with the government of Pakistan is now worthless. On Sunday, Pakistani helicopters and artillery attacked militants in part of the northwestern Swat Valley. The army said the Taliban had violated a peace agreement in that region.

Today, in neighboring Afghanistan, the Pakistani foreign minister insisted his country is working hard to contain the militants.

SHAH MEHMOOD QURESHI, Foreign Minister, Pakistan: Please do not panic. We have a common vision. We have now a common enemy. And we’ve devised a common strategy to deal with that enemy.

We are a political government which believes in dialogue, which believes in reconciliation. That does not mean abdication. We will not surrender, we will not capitulate, and we will not abdicate.

JIM LEHRER: British Prime Minister Gordon Brown traveled to the region today. He warned areas on both sides of the volatile Afghan-Pakistani border “are the breeding ground, the crucible of terrorism.”

On Sri Lanka, thousands of civilians remained trapped between the army and Tamil Tiger rebels along a small coastal region. The military promised to stop using heavy artillery as it pushes to end a civil war that began in 1983.

We have a report from Nick Paton Walsh of Independent Television News.

NICK PATON WALSH: They thought they’d made it out alive, but this is the life that awaited them. The hunt for safety from the fighting replaced by the hunt for food, for water.

This baby’s mother fled the no-fire zone on Monday. She was born on Tuesday, her first week alive here in this uncertain new world.

In the last three days, over 30,000 people have arrived in this town and its heaving camps, some of their stories beyond words.

His friend behind him tells him to talk. “I got shot,” he says. Our hosts, the army, are filming, the bullets still inside him.

This town, Vavuniya, is swelling with the displaced. Many just days ago were human shields in the so-called no-fire zone.

This man said 27 people died around him.

SRI LANKAN MAN (through translator): Both sides were fighting. Both sides were shelling. We were trying to save our children so we couldn’t concentrate on who was doing the shelling.

NICK PATON WALSH: The government has released more pictures of its aid efforts and, also today, a confusing statement. It said it would stop using heavy weapons like artillery in the no-fire zone, but that’s something it’s already said it was not doing.

The U.N.’s top humanitarian official told me he was not convinced by their promises.

JOHN HOLMES, United Nations Under-Secretary-General: I am not satisfied it stopped. I can’t go…

NICK PATON WALSH: So it’s continuing?

JOHN HOLMES: Well, I don’t know. I can’t go and see it’s stopped. I’ve heard those stories, as well. I hope they’re not true. I fear they may be true. It’s absolutely important that what the government said is now respected.

NICK PATON WALSH: The army said today its push into the no-fire zone was continuing. And while it cannot say for sure how many people remain trapped there, no one can deny the overwhelming numbers who’ve already fled.

JIM LEHRER: The U.N. estimated more than 50,000 civilians remain in mortal danger in the conflict zone.