KWAME HOLMAN: An Afghan government spokesman insisted today President Hamid Karzai is committed to fighting terror. Afghan lawmakers had said Karzai had threatened to join the Taliban unless the U.S. and others stop pressing him on reform.
But the spokesman denied it. He said, “That comment, whoever has come up with it, doesn’t make sense.”
On Wednesday, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs voiced new concerns about Karzai. He insisted the U.S. might cancel the Afghan leader’s planned visit next month. Meanwhile, NATO reported another service member killed today in the south, the ninth this month.
In Iraq, funerals were held in Baghdad a day after bombings killed 54 people. Hundreds of mourners marched in tribute to the victims. About 120 Iraqis have been killed in and around Baghdad in the last five days. Iraqi officials said militants are trying to undermine efforts to form a new government.
In Thailand, the government declared a state of emergency after protesters broke into parliament. A group known as the Red Shirts stormed the building, forcing lawmakers to flee by helicopter or by scaling the compound’s walls. The prime minister said the four-week-old protests had gone too far.
ABHISIT VEJJAJIVA, prime minister of Thailand: (through translator): The protesters are breaking more and more laws, especially in the past few days. They disobeyed law enforcement officers on duty. And, today, they even trespassed on an important government location. That is the case where they trespassed into the parliament.
KWAME HOLMAN: The decree allows the government to impose curfews, ban gatherings of more than five people, and censor any media that could cause panic. The Red Shirts support a prime minister who was ousted in 2006. They’re demanding new elections.
General Motors will pay off $6.7 billion in government loans by this June. That would be five years ahead of schedule. The automaker also reported today it could return to profitability later this year. GM said it lost $4.3 billion in the last half of 2009, but it said sales and production have increased since then.
A Toyota executive warned the company to come clean about accelerator problems just before Toyota announced a huge recall. The Associated Press reported today the warning was contained in an internal e-mail by Irv Miller, a company vice president. He since has retired. In the e-mail, Miller said, “We are not protecting our costumers by keeping this quiet.”
The automaker had no immediate response to the report.
For the record, Toyota is an underwriter of the “NewsHour.”
The former chairman of the Federal Reserve Alan Greenspan today defended his actions during the run-up to the financial crisis. He appeared before a bipartisan commission at a hearing focused on subprime mortgages. Those loans went bad in droves and fueled the meltdown in 2008. The panel’s chairman said it was the Fed’s fault. Greenspan blamed mortgage lending giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for pushing the risky loans.
PHIL ANGELIDES, chairman, Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission: Mr. Chairman, why, in the face of all that, did you not act to contain abusive, deceptive subprime lending? Why did you allow it to become such an infection in the marketplace?
ALAN GREENSPAN, former federal reserve chairman: I think things were better than they would have been. Were they enough to stop the surge in subprime lending? They were not.
And the reason for that is the extraordinary changes that were going in the marketplace, and, indeed, the actions of Fannie and Freddie, which we didn’t know about until September 2009, which altered the structure of that market from what was in, say, prior to 2002, a small, well-functioning institution.
KWAME HOLMAN: Greenspan conceded he did make mistakes, but he said, if the Fed had cracked down during the housing boom, then, in his words, “The Congress would have clamped down on us.”
Separately, the current Fed chairman, Ben Bernanke, said today there’s no sign yet of a sustained recovery in housing. In a Dallas speech, he also warned, government leaders will have to rein in Medicare and Social Security to control huge deficits.
The Federal Reserve reported today that consumer borrowing fell again in February. It was down for the 12th time in 13 months, a sign of continuing weakness in the economy. The news helped send the Wall — send Wall Street into a slide. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 72 points to close at 10897. The Nasdaq fell five points to close at 2431.
The FBI has arrested a California man for making dozens of threatening calls to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over health care reform. The bureau confirmed it today. On Tuesday, a Washington State man was charged with threatening Democratic Senator Patty Murray, also over health care.
In another development, five more states joined a lawsuit against the new health care law. It charges the overhaul violates states’ rights. In all, 19 state attorneys general have filed suit. Most are Republicans.
In women’s college basketball, Connecticut defeated Stanford last night 53-47, claiming its seventh national title. The Huskies rallied after scoring just 12 points in the first half. They finished with an undefeated record this season and 78 straight wins overall. The last time the UConn women lost was in 2008 to Stanford.
Those are some of the day’s main stories. I will be back at the end of the program with a preview of what you will find tonight on the NewsHour’s Web site.