JIM LEHRER: In other news today, a bill designed to reform credit card practices became law. President Obama signed it in the White House Rose Garden. The measure will curb interest rate hikes and other surprise charges, but the president said it is not about excusing irresponsibility.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: So we’re not going to give people a free pass, and we expect consumers to live within their means and pay what they owe, but we also expect financial institutions to act with the same sense of responsibility that the American people aspire to in their own lives.
This is a difficult time for our country, born in many ways of our collective failure to live up to our obligations, to ourselves and to one another.
JIM LEHRER: Banks have warned the new law will actually cut the flow of credit to consumers. The new rules take effect in nine months.
Wall Street closed out the week on a losing note after an up-and-down day. The Dow Jones industrial average lost more than 14 points to close at 8,277. The Nasdaq fell 3 points to close at 1,692. For the week, both the Dow and the Nasdaq gained a fraction of a point.
Defense Secretary Gates today defended the president’s decision to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay. He told NBC Guantanamo has become a taint on America’s reputation. And he said, “The name itself is a condemnation of U.S. policy on terror.”
Mr. Obama wanted $80 million to shut down the site. But last night, the U.S. Senate approved a new war funding bill without including that money.
A top Pakistani general claimed government troops have surrounded Taliban fighters in a key town. It’s part of an offensive that’s focused on the Swat Valley. The general said the militants are now cut off in the town of Mingora.
And the U.N. appealed for more than $540 million in aid for some 2 million refugees. They’ve been displaced by this new offensive and earlier fighting.
In Lebanon, Vice President Biden made a show of support for maintaining a pro-Western government. He visited Beirut and met with the country’s leaders, and he said future U.S. aid depends on the outcome of elections next month.
VICE PRESIDENT JOSEPH BIDEN: I do not come here to back any particular party or any particular person. I come to demonstrate strong United States backing for certain fundamental principles, the principle that the Lebanese people alone — the Lebanese people alone — should choose their leaders.
JIM LEHRER: Biden did not mention Hezbollah by name, but the pro-Iranian faction stands a good chance of winning the elections. That group accused the vice president of interfering in Lebanon’s affairs.
Heavy new fighting has broken out between government troops and Islamic rebels in Somalia. Local reports said at least 22 people were killed. The fighting began when government forces attacked militant strongholds in Mogadishu, the capital. The U.N.-backed government controls just a small part of the city.