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Other News: Markets Advance, Auto Dealers Gain Congressional Support

July 16, 2009 at 6:20 PM EST
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In other news, Wall Street advanced on tech stocks, and House members introduced a proposal that would force GM and Chrylser to restore franchise agreements with auto dealers.
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JIM LEHRER: In other news today, Wall Street kept its rally going as technology stocks advanced. The Dow Jones industrial average gained more than 95 points to close above 8,711. The Nasdaq rose 22 points to close at 1,885.

There was action on the auto front in the U.S. House. It came in a proposal to make General Motors and Chrysler restore franchise agreements with hundreds of auto dealers. Supporters said it would be a condition of continued government support. They pressed to add the provision to a larger spending bill. G.M. has dropped more than 2,000 dealers; Chrysler has cut nearly 800.

Democrats’ hopes for a health care overhaul have run into another warning. The head of the Congressional Budget Office reported today none of the bills would slow down rising medical costs. Douglas Elmendorf told a Senate committee the cost curve is being raised, not lowered, as the president said he wanted.

DOUGLAS ELMENDORF, director, Congressional Budget Office: We do not see the sort of fundamental changes that would be necessary to reduce the trajectory of federal health spending by a significant amount. And on the contrary, the legislation significantly expands the federal responsibility for health care costs.

JIM LEHRER: Even with that new warning, the American Medical Association endorsed the House Democrats’ bill today. It calls for extending health coverage to nearly all Americans, partly by raising taxes on wealthier people.

In Afghanistan, a Canadian soldier was killed in the south near Kandahar. With that, July officially became the deadliest month for international troops there since the war began eight years ago. In all, 47 international soldiers have died in Afghanistan this month. The total includes more than 20 Americans as the U.S. buildup continues.

Taliban commanders in Afghanistan are now threatening to kill a captured American soldier. A spokesman for the militants warned today the soldier would die unless the U.S. stops air strikes in two southeastern provinces. The American has been missing since June 30th.

Protesters and mourners in Russia took to the streets today over the killing of a human rights activist. Natalya Estemirova was kidnapped from her home yesterday in Grozny, the capital of Chechnya. She was found shot to death four hours later. Today, crowds gathered in Moscow and Grozny. They blamed the Chechen president, who has the backing of the Kremlin, for the killing, and they said Russian Prime Minister Putin shared responsibility.

In Germany, the Russian president praised the activist, but he dismissed accusations the Chechen government was behind the murder.

DMITRY MEDVEDEV, president, Russia (through translator): She did very important things. She spoke the truth. She openly, maybe even harshly assessed processes going on in the country. And this is valuable, even if it’s unpleasant to authorities. That’s the first thing.

The second thing is that, of course, such crimes must not be left unpunished. This crime will be investigated thoroughly.

JIM LEHRER: In Washington, White House officials also weighed in. A National Security Council spokesman urged the Russian government to bring the killers to justice.