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News Briefs

DaimlerChrysler to Buy 34 Percent Stake in Mitsubishi


DaimlerChrysler’s announcement Monday that it will buy a 34 percent stake in Mitsubishi Motors Corp. gives the German-American company a fighting chance to meet goals of controlling 25 percent of the fast-growing Asian market as well as demands in Europe and the United States for cars that are more fuel-efficient and less polluting.

For the auto giant that was created in 1998 by fusing Daimler and Chrysler Corp., the effective takeover of the debt-ridden Japanese company would fill in the blanks of a global development strategy while allowing the combined company to stay focused on its signature product: the glamorous but gas-guzzling Mercedes-Benz.

The $2 billion acquisition would give DaimlerChrysler the small-car expertise it needs to produce automobiles that can meet tougher environmental standards that will come into force this decade in the European Union. DaimlerChrysler, which would become the world’s No. 3 auto group behind American giants General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co., also expects to take advantage of Mitsubishi experience and platforms to expand its ultra-compact Smart car lineup on the Continent.

“With the giant footprint of this group in the worldwide automotive market, we’re now where we always wanted to be,” DaimlerChrysler Chairman Juergen Schrempp said after announcing the deal, which is subject to shareholder and regulatory approval.

Senate Debates Flag Amendment Again


The Senate opened its latest politically charged debate over a proposed constitutional amendment empowering Congress to protect the American flag from desecration on Monday, with amendment supporters still facing an uphill fight.

Key senators said sponsors of the proposal appear to be a couple of votes short of the two-thirds majority required for the Senate to join the House in approving the amendment and submitting it to the states for ratification.

But the debate coincided with a Washington conference of the American Legion, one of the amendment’s principal backers, and some Senate supporters said a switch of one or two votes was possible.

The House last year approved the amendment by a larger than two-thirds majority. But the Senate has failed in three attempts to pass it, most recently in 1995, when the amendment fell three votes short. It appeared to have enough votes last year until two Democrats agreed to support an alternative that would seek to protect the flag by statute rather than constitutional amendment.

Last year, Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and other senators who opposed tampering with the First Amendment proposed a statute prescribing penalties for flag destruction that they said would pass constitutional muster. Sens. Kent Conrad and Byron L. Dorgan, both North Dakota Democrats, joined the effort, depriving the pro-amendment forces of their anticipated two-thirds majority.