New government data show U.S. corporations made record profits in the third quarter, earning at an annual rate of more than $1.6 trillion. That’s the highest figure since the government began keeping track 60 years ago. Overall corporate earnings are up 28 percent from the same time last year. Companies, however, have not been using the record profits to hire more workers. The Federal Reserve is predicting that the nation’s official unemployment rate will remain over nine percent for at least another year.
The Wall Street Journal reports the U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan has subpoenaed several major investment firms as part of a widespread insider trading investigation. Firms subpoenaed include hedge fund giants SAC Capital Advisors and Citadel, the big mutual fund company Janus Capital Group, and Wellington Management, one of the nation’s biggest institutional investment firms.
A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine has found that gay men could greatly reduce their chances of becoming infected with HIV if they took a daily dose of antiretroviral drugs. The study found the drugs reduced the HIV infection rate by nearly 44 percent in high-risk gay and bisexual men. Researchers have described the finding as a major advance in the fight against AIDS because it is the first study to show that taking drugs before infection can reduce the risk of HIV transmission.
The United Nations has announced the number of people dying from AIDS has significantly decreased as more gain access to treatment. The global incidence of HIV infection fell by 19 percent between 1999 and 2009. Sheila Tlou is the director of UNAIDS Regional Support Team for Eastern and Southern Africa.
Sheila Tlou: ”AIDS-related deaths have also fallen by nearly 20 percent in the last five years, from 2.1 million to 2.4 to 1.8 million in 2009. And the efforts of antiretroviral therapy are really evident, especially in our region of the world, Sub-Saharan Africa, where, because of access, we have seen 20 percent fewer deaths related to HIV than in 2004, before the expansion of access to antiretroviral treatment.”
The Catholic Church appears to be easing its opposition to the use of condoms. In a new book, Pope Benedict endorses the use of condoms in order to prevent the spread of HIV, but the Church remains opposed to the widespread use of condoms and other forms of contraception. In South Africa, Nonkosi Khumalo of the Treatment Action Campaign criticized the Church’s record.
Nonkosi Khumalo: “I think it is a bit too late for the Catholics to now, 2010, wake up and think, 'You know, we should now say it openly and say people should use condoms,' because there has been a lot of infections that could have been prevented, that we could not prevent because we hold dearly our values in terms of what the Church expects of us. But I think it is taking us forward. I think we should welcome it. I think it is very liberal of the Catholic. I hope others would follow suit.”
South Korea has found the bodies of two civilians who were killed Tuesday in a North Korean artillery attack on the island of Yeonpyeong near the disputed maritime border. The attack also killed two Korean marines and injured over a dozen people. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called Tuesday’s fighting one of the “gravest incidents” since the end of the Korean War. Meanwhile, the Guardian newspaper reports South Korea’s defense minister has raised the possibility that U.S. nuclear weapons could be deployed in his country for the first time in nearly 20 years.
In Portugal, a general strike against budget cuts and tax hikes has stopped trains and buses, grounded planes, and halted services from healthcare to banking. Labor unions organized the day of action, Portugal’s first general strike since 1988, to protest a raft of austerity measures including plans to cut wages for civil servants by five percent and freeze pensions. Graciete Cruz is a Portuguese trade unionist.
Graciete Cruz: “The workers, the men and women workers, and other layers of society certainly will fight against it, because we cannot accept that kind of policy, which is the policy that has been followed ever since, always. It has always been the workers paying for a crisis from which they are not responsible for.”
In Ireland, labor unions are planning a major protest in Dublin on Saturday against proposed spending cuts and the bailout of Irish banks by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. To meet the terms of the international bailout, Ireland’s government is expected to announce plans today to cut welfare spending sharply, lower the minimum wage, and raise taxes. In addition, reports are emerging that the Irish government will soon take control of the Bank of Ireland, the only major Irish bank not already under state control.
In news from Haiti, a top health expert has warned that as many as 400,000 Haitians may be infected with cholera over the next 12 months. So far, the cholera epidemic has killed about 1,400 people, but some say the tally could already be as high as 2,000. Jon Kim Andrus is the deputy director of the Pan American Health Organization.
Jon Kim Andrus: “We need to plan for enough supplies to treat as many as 400,000 cholera cases occurring over the next 12 months. We need to plan for up to half of those cases occurring over the next three months because of the explosive nature of this epidemic.”
Voters will go to the polls on Sunday for Haiti’s first legislative and presidential election since the devastating earthquake. Nineteen candidates are vying to be president.
In New Zealand, 29 miners are believed to be dead five days after being trapped underground in a massive explosion. Rescuers used robots and electronic devices to explore for life in the mine, but there were no signs that anyone had survived the initial blast. Earlier today, a 16-man rescue team prepared to possibly enter the mine when a second massive explosion occurred.
In other mining news, a new report from the Investigative Reporting Workshop has found that Massey Energy has the worst fatality record of any coal company in the United States and that Massey had that distinction even before a deadly explosion in April killed 29 people. The Workshop found that no company other than Massey was responsible for more miner deaths from 2000 to 2009, even though Massey was only the sixth-largest coal producer in the United States last year. Including this year’s fatalities, 54 workers have been killed at Massey mines since 2000, dozens more than those of any other company. The Pennsylvania-based Consol had the second worst safety record.
Thursday marks International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. On Tuesday, former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet spoke at the United Nations. Bachelet is now executive director of UN Women.
Michelle Bachelet: “Women and girls are at risk of gender-based violence throughout their lives. This violence is perpetuated by the people closest to them — intimate partners, family members, colleagues — as well as people they have never met. It takes place in rich and poor countries, in urban and rural areas, in situations of peace and conflict, and in the aftermath of natural disasters. It takes place in women’s daily life.”