JIM LEHRER: In other news today, a federal bankruptcy judge approved Chrysler’s move to drop nearly 800 dealers. It’s part of efforts to cut costs and to reorganize.
And in Washington, Chrysler and Fiat asked the U.S. Supreme Court not to delay the bankruptcy case any further. On Monday, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg put a temporary hold on Chrysler’s planned sale of assets to Fiat. Several bondholders want to block that sale.
And in another development, General Motors announced Edward Whitacre will be chairman of the new G.M., once it emerges from bankruptcy. He’s the former chairman of AT&T.
The U.S. House has approved the so-called cash-for-clunkers bill. The government would give vouchers of $3,500 to $4,500 to people who trade low-mileage cars and trucks for new models that get better mileage. The one-year program could cost $4 billion. A similar bill is working its way through the Senate.
It was a quiet day on Wall Street. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 1 point to close at 8,763. The Nasdaq rose more than 17 points to close at 1,860.
And the price of crude oil climbed above $70 a barrel in New York trading; that’s the highest it’s been this year.
In Iraq, government officials confirmed the U.S. military has freed a man accused in the killing of five American soldiers. Letting him go could be tied to efforts to free five British hostages who’ve been held for two years.
We have a report narrated by Andy Davies of Independent Television News.
ANDY DAVIS: This is a U.S. military picture of Laith al-Khazali, a Shia insurgent whom the Americans detained two years ago. The American military has always believed that he and his brother, Qais al-Khazali, played a key role in the killing of five U.S. soldiers in January 2007.
It is widely accepted that these are also the men whose group kidnapped the five British hostages in Baghdad, which is why the release of Laith al-Khazali, understood to have taken place on Sunday in Baghdad’s Green Zone, was described by a Foreign Office official today as “potentially very significant.”
PETER MOORE, British Hostage: My name is Peter Moore. I’ve been held here for nearly eight months now. I miss my family very much. I live in Lincoln in England.
ANDY DAVIS: With the publication of the hostage-takers’ videos came their demands. Consistently they called for the release from U.S. custody of Qais al-Khazali and his close associates.
But the political landscape in Iraq changed significantly late last year when America signed up to a phased military withdrawal from Iraq and crucially agreed to start moving its thousands of detainees into Iraqi custody.
These photos from last December show American and Iraqi officials discussing the phased handover of detainees. And it was through this process, it’s understood, that Laith al-Khazali was moved by the Americans into Iraqi detention at the weekend.
Within hours, it’s been reported the Iraqi authorities ordered his release.
So was this the first step in a deal with the kidnappers, a phased exchange program of one prisoner for one hostage? British officials today were adamant that no such agreement existed.
JIM LEHRER: The U.S. military declined to comment on the developments in Baghdad. The Iraqi government said it was all part of national reconciliation efforts.
Suicide attackers in Pakistan bombed a luxury hotel used by foreigners and killed at least 11 people today. They struck in the country’s northwest, using a truck packed with explosives. In addition to the dead, 70 others were wounded. There’s been a series of attacks in the region near where the Pakistani military is battling the Taliban.
Across the border in northeastern Afghanistan, a grenade blew up near a U.S. troop convoy in a crowded bazaar. The explosion killed two Afghans and wounded 50 others. They included three U.S. soldiers and a number of children. A government official charged the Americans threw the grenade. The U.S. military said someone in a nearby building threw it.
The family of Kansas Dr. George Tiller will permanently close his Wichita medical clinic. Tiller was shot and killed last month. He was one of the few doctors in the U.S. performing late-term abortions. An abortion opponent, Scott Roeder, is charged with murder in the case. The Tiller family announced its decision today in a statement.
Police in France have launched a hunt for a sketchbook of 33 pencil drawings by the artist Pablo Picasso. The red notebook, dated from 1917 to 1924, was reported stolen from a Paris museum today. It’s valued at more than $11 million.