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Other News: Firefighters Gain on Calif. Blaze; Biden Defends Stimulus Program

September 3, 2009 at 12:00 AM EST
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JIM LEHRER: In other news today, firefighters gained more control of that huge wildfire near Los Angeles. The big blaze was nearly 40 percent contained after it burned more than 140,000 acres. That made it one of the largest wildfires in Southern California’s history.

Los Angeles Deputy Fire Chief Mike Bryant toured the damage today with Governor Schwarzenegger.

MIKE BRYANT: I just can’t say enough of the efforts by firefighters. You look at this devastation, and it breaks our heart, too. We — we don’t like this. We don’t like to see this. But, in these areas — and you can look around and, you can look at the canopy and topography around us — the area we’re standing in is extremely dangerous.

JIM LEHRER: The giant fire destroyed more than 60 homes, and some residents in the hardest-hit area complained there was pressure to defend richer neighborhoods first. Commanders of the firefighting operation denied that charge.

The Obama administration mounted a new defense today of its efforts to stimulate the economy. Vice President Biden has overseen the $787 billion stimulus program. Congress passed it nearly 200 days ago.

In Washington, the vice president said it is working, despite criticism and doubts reflected in public polls.

VICE PRESIDENT JOSEPH BIDEN: Instead of talking about the beginning of a depression, we’re talking about the end of a recession eight months after taking office.

But the Recovery Act still has its critics. And one of the criticisms is that it’s a grab bag of too many different programs. But the fact is, the Recovery Act is a multifaceted piece of legislation. It doesn’t reflect a lack of design. That was the design.

JIM LEHRER: Biden pointed to private estimates that the stimulus has created or saved 500,000 to 750,000 jobs so far. At the same time, the Labor Department announced another 570,000 Americans filed for jobless benefits last week.

But Wall Street focused today on positive sales reports from key retailers in August. And the Dow Jones industrial average gained nearly 64 points, to close at 9344. The Nasdaq rose 16 points to close at 1983.

The Parliament of Iran has approved most of President Ahmadinejad’s new hard-line cabinet. The voting included a defense minister whose choice drew international criticism. Ahmad Vahidi was allegedly behind the bombing of a Jewish center in Argentina in 1994. That attack killed 85 people. Lawmakers also endorsed a health minister who’s the first female cabinet member since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.