JIM LEHRER: In other news today, White House economic advisers reported stimulus efforts have already saved or created more than 1 million jobs. It was the first report to Congress on the recovery plan that cost $787 billion.
And Treasury Secretary Geithner said a number of financial rescue programs can begin winding down. He testified before a congressional oversight panel.
TIMOTHY GEITHNER, Treasury Secretary: I think the U.S. financial system today is in substantially stronger shape than it was three months ago, six months ago, nine months ago, and on the eve of this recession. There is, again, more capital, greater recognition of losses, and we are in a better position to get through this. But, remember, this is just the first quarter; we’re just starting to see signs of growth.
JIM LEHRER: New economic data also gave further signs the recession may be fading. The Labor Department reported first-time claims for unemployment benefits fell more than expected last week.
That news helped give Wall Street another boost. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 80 points to close at 9,627. The Nasdaq rose 23 points to close at 2,084.
The ballots from 83 polling stations in Afghanistan were thrown out today. A U.N.-backed commission rejected the votes from locations in three provinces after complaints of fraud. President Karzai had been expected to do well in all three regions. Karzai has more than 50 percent of the preliminary vote count, but if the commission throws out more votes, he could face a run-off against his main challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, who now has 28 percent.
Sending more U.S. troops to Afghanistan could face opposition at the highest levels of the U.S. Congress. House Speaker Pelosi warned today she does not think lawmakers or the public would support that idea. It’s widely expected the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, will ask for more troops. The U.S. presence is already due to reach 68,000 by year’s end.
New violence targeted northern Iraq today. A suicide truck bomb tore through a Kurdish village before dawn, killing at least 19 people. Scores of mud-brick houses were blown to rubble, and some 30 people were wounded. The driver of a second truck packed with explosives was killed before his bomb could go off.
The violence in Iraq should not delay plans to withdraw U.S. combat forces by next August; the American ambassador, Christopher Hill, gave that assessment at a U.S. House hearing today. He also tried to allay fears that Iraq could erupt in civil war between Shiites and Sunnis.
CHRISTOPHER HILL, U.S. ambassador to Iraq: The reality is that the Iraqi people have stood firm and have rejected retribution and a new cycle of violence. The bombings in recent months show that we still have to deal with al-Qaida in Iraq that tries to rekindle violence. To the great credit of the Iraqi people, however, they have not risen to the bait.
JIM LEHRER: Hill also said he does not expect the Iraqis to hold a national referendum on forcing U.S. troops to leave earlier than planned.
Iran has proposed a worldwide system to eliminate nuclear weapons. A top aide to President Ahmadinejad gave that information to the Washington Post today, but he said Iran will not negotiate ending its program of enriching uranium. The regime submitted its proposals yesterday. U.S. officials said the package fell well short of what’s needed. But Russia was receptive, and it vowed to oppose any oil sanctions on Iran.