New government census figures show the number of Americans living in poverty has hit a record 46.2 million — one out six people. Nearly 50 million are without health insurance, the highest total in over two decades. The overall poverty rate has climbed to 15.1 percent from 14.3 percent, and from 2007 to 2010 rose faster than any similar period since the early 1980s. The percentage of Americans without health insurance rose from 16.1 percent last year to 16.3 percent. The gap between the rich and the poor has also grown. While the average income for the top five percent of the population dropped 1.2 percent, the same figure for the bottom fifth of households fell four percent.
The Congressional Budget Office is predicting sluggish growth for the U.S. economy over the next year. Speaking before the congressional “super committee” on the deficit, CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf said the official unemployment rate will remain above nine percent through next year’s elections.
Douglas Elmendorf: “Incoming data and other developments since early July suggest that the economic recovery will continue but at a weaker pace than we had anticipated. With output growing at only a modest rate, CBO expects employment to expand very slowly, leaving the unemployment rate, as depicted by the dots in the figure, close to nine percent through the end of next year.”
The bleak economic outlook comes as President Obama continues to tout his new jobs plan submitted to Congress earlier this week. On Tuesday, Obama addressed a rally in Columbus, Ohio.
President Obama: “Maybe there’s some people in Congress who would rather settle our differences at the ballot box than work together right now, but I’ve got news for them. The next election is 14 months away, and the American people don’t have the luxury of waiting that long. You’ve got folks who are living week to week, paycheck to paycheck. They need action, and they need it now.”
Obama has drawn praise from progressive Democrats for his $447 billion plan to spur job growth. But concerns are now being raised over Obama’s stated willingness to target entitlement programs such Medicare and Medicaid. In a new proposal next week, Obama is expected to call for nearly $300 billion to $500 billion in cuts to entitlements over a 10-year period.
Iran’s judiciary has contradicted a statement from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that a pair of jailed American hikers are set to be released from prison. Ahmadinejad had said Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal were being pardoned and would be sent home within the coming days. But earlier today, the Iranian judiciary issued a statement saying the case is only under review and that no decision has been reached. Bauer and Fattal were arrested in 2009, along with a third American, Sarah Shourd, while hiking near the Iraq-Iran border. In Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reacted cautiously to Ahmadinejad’s initial claim.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: “As you know, we have followed this very closely, and we are encouraged by what the Iranian government has said today, but I’m not going to comment further than that. We obviously hope that we will see a positive outcome from what appears to be a decision by the government.”
A Taliban-led assault on the U.S. embassy and NATO headquarters in the Afghan capital of Kabul has ended after nearly 24 hours. Armed with rocket-propelled grenades, AK-47s and suicide vests, the attackers had opened fire from a building overlooking the Western compound. At least 11 civilians and four Afghan police officers were killed.
Human Rights Watch is accusing U.S.-funded militias in Afghanistan of terrorizing civilians. In a new report, Human Rights Watch tracks how paramilitary forces armed and funded by the U.S. and Afghan governments have carried out a number of abuses, including murder, rape, torture, extortion, and smuggling contraband. Young Afghan children have been among those victimized. The backing of Afghan militias was expanded by U.S. Army General David Petraeus, who recently left his post as commander of the U.S.-led NATO occupation force in Afghanistan to helm the CIA.
The report on Afghan militias came as former U.S. Army General David Petraeus gave his first congressional testimony since taking over as CIA director. Speaking before a joint House-Senate intelligence committee hearing, Petraeus said the Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is the most dangerous al-Qaeda affiliate threatening the United States.
CIA Director David Petraeus: “Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, has emerged as the most dangerous regional node in the global jihad. Since December 2009, the group has attempted two attacks on the United States: a plot to blow up a U.S. airliner as it approached Detroit in 2009 and an effort to send bombs hidden in computer printers on two cargo aircraft in 2010.”
Palestinian Authority officials have confirmed plans to seek full statehood recognition from the U.N. Security Council next week. The move comes in the face of relentless Obama administration pressure and threats of a veto. In Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton criticized Palestinians for pursuing their bid at the United Nations.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: “We all know that no matter what happens or doesn’t happen at the U.N., the next day is not going to result in the kind of changes that the United States wishes to see that will move us toward the two-state solution that we strongly support. The only way of getting a lasting solution is through direct negotiations between the parties, and the route to that lies in Jerusalem and Ramallah, not in New York.”
A panel of United Nations experts has determined Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip violates international law. Reporting to the U.N.’s Human Rights Council, five independent experts argued the blockade has subjected Gazans to collective punishment in “flagrant contravention of international human rights and humanitarian law.” The assertion contradicts last week’s separate U.N. probe of Israel’s raid on a Gaza-bound aid ship in May of 2010. The so-called “Palmer Report” concluded the raid constituted a use of excessive force, but argued the blockade of Gaza is legal.
Harvard University law professor and consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren is set to officially announce her bid for the U.S. Senate, challenging Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown. Warren most recently served in the Obama administration, where she helped launch the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. She is the seventh candidate seeking the Democratic nomination for the race against Brown. Brown is vying for his first full six-year term in office after being elected to replace the late senator Ted Kennedy last year.
A Republican candidate has won the special election for the New York congressional seat formerly held by Democrat Anthony Weiner. Bob Turner’s victory over Democratic New York State Assemblyman David Weprin marks the first time a Republican has won the district in nearly a century. The seat opened up earlier this year after Weiner resigned over the disclosure he had sent lewd photos to women he met online. Turner’s background includes helping create the infamous talk show, The Jerry Springer Show, known for its crude subject matter and brawls among guests.
Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich has announced he is staying put in Ohio after state Republicans released plans on changes to his congressional district. Kucinich had long hinted at a run in Washington state if Republicans went ahead with a plan to drop his seat as part of redistricting. The Republican plan now creates a new district that includes around half of Kucinich’s old district and half of that of Democratic Congress Member Marcy Kaptur. Kucinich’s decision to stay means he could likely face Kaptur in a Democratic primary.
Newly disclosed records show Texas Gov. Rick Perry has received more financial support from the drug giant Merck than he has acknowledged so far. Perry came under criticism during the Republican presidential debate Monday night over his 2007 effort to force Texas schoolgirls to receive a vaccination for the sexually transmitted virus, HPV. A former top aide to Perry formerly worked as a Merck lobbyist, which stood to profit from the forced vaccinations. During the debate, Perry said Merck has only donated $5,000 to his campaign, saying: “If you’re saying that I can be bought for $5,000, I’m offended.” But according to the Washington Post, Merck has in fact donated nearly $30,000 to Perry’s gubernatorial campaigns since 2000. Merck has also given more than $380,000 to the Republican Governors Association, or RGA, since 2006 — the same year Perry began playing a prominent role in the group. Perry has served two stints as chair of the RGA, which in turn has given his campaign at least $4 million over the past five years.
The CIA has launched an internal review over whether it illegally helped New York police spy on ethnic communities in New York City, New Jersey and Connecticut. Although the CIA is prohibited from conducting domestic spying, the Associated Press revealed last month the agency helped the New York City Police Department develop a so-called “Demographics Unit” that used informants, known as “mosque crawlers,” to monitor sermons without any evidence of wrongdoing and spy on people carrying out jobs typically done by Muslims.
The oil giant Chevron says it has shut down a Louisiana pipeline over a potential leak into the Gulf of Mexico. The most up-to-date figures show around 4,000 liters of crude may have been released.
The British parliamentary panel investigating the phone hacking at Rupert Murdoch’s media empire has asked Murdoch’s son, James Murdoch, to return for additional questioning. The request comes days after former News Corp. executives testified James Murdoch was made aware of widespread phone hacking at his newspapers, contrary to his July testimony. The younger Murdoch continues to insist he was unaware of the scale of the hacking. Meanwhile, The Guardian newspaper claims to have uncovered two large caches of emails and documents within its archives that contain evidence of more phone hacking at the News of the World than previously disclosed.