Vice President Joe Biden and Republican vice-presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan squared off in the first and only vice-presidential debate Thursday night with a series of lively exchanges over domestic and foreign policy. Biden was seen as playing a more aggressive role in a debate that saw sharp critiques on both sides. Topics ranged from Medicare and abortion to Iran. The deadly attacks on the U.S. embassy in Libya featured prominently in the debate, with Ryan criticizing the administration over what he said was a lack of embassy security.
Rep. Paul Ryan: “We should not be imposing these devastating defense cuts, because what that does when we equivocate on our values, when we show that we’re cutting our own defense, it makes us more weak. It projects weakness. And when we look weak, our adversaries are much more willing to test us. They’re more brazen in their attacks, and our allies are less willing to trust us.”
Vice President Joe Biden: “With all due respect, that’s a bunch of malarkey.”
Moderator Martha Raddatz: “And why is that so?”
Vice President Joe Biden: “Because not a single thing he said is accurate. First of all” —
Martha Raddatz: “Be specific.”
Vice President Joe Biden: “I will be very specific. Number one, the — this lecture on embassy security — the congressman here cut embassy security in his budget by $300 million below what we asked for, number one. So much for the embassy security piece. Number two, Governor Romney, before he knew the facts, before he even knew that our ambassador was killed, he was out making a political statement, which was panned by the media around the world.”
The 2012 Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to the European Union at a time when the 27-nation body is embroiled in a debt crisis that has sparked mass protests in Spain and Greece. The Nobel Committee cited the EU’s historical leadership, including efforts to rebuild the continent after World War II and promote stability after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. But critics note that more recently the EU has backed crippling austerity cuts in struggling countries such as Greece, where new figures Thursday showed unemployment had risen above 25 percent in July. This year’s Nobel Prize for Literature went to the Chinese novelist Mo Yan. Critics accused the author of being too close to China’s ruling Communist government, a claim he denied Friday, saying his writing has always been on the side of the people.
Turkey has defended its forced grounding of a Syrian passenger plane, saying the cargo included Russian ammunition and other military equipment bound for Damascus. Syria and Russia have both condemned Turkey’s actions and denied there was anything illegal on board the plane. Turkey says it is examining cargo that it confiscated. Tensions between Syria and Turkey have been rising since mortar fire from across the Syrian border killed five Turkish civilians last week. On Thursday, U.S. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said the United States “strongly supports” Turkey’s actions.
Victoria Nuland: “More broadly, we strongly support the government of Turkey’s decision to inspect the plane. And while, you know, we would send you to them for more details on what they found, we would be concerned by any effort to supply military equipment to the Assad regime, because it’s clearly being used by the regime against their own people.”
Turkey has sided with rebels opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Fighting over the 18-month conflict between the regime and rebel forces has displaced an estimated 300,000 Syrians, sending them fleeing into Turkey, Jordan, Iraq and other countries. On Thursday, a Syrian refugee described the conditions at one camp in a rebel-controlled area near the Turkish border.
Refugee: “We are living in very difficult conditions. We are witnessing a lot of sorrow. The garbage is thrown everywhere; there are only two toilets to serve over 2,000 people. There is over 500 families here. Words can’t express the hardships we live in. I challenge anyone to attempt to live here for even two hours.”
The leader of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah has admitted to launching an Iranian-made drone over Israel in a rare incursion into Israel’s carefully controlled airspace. The unmanned drone was shot down by Israel, which regularly sends its own fighter planes over Lebanon.
U.S. drone strikes killed at least 16 people in a tribal area of northwestern Pakistan Thursday and wounded a dozen others. Anonymous officials said the targets were militants at a compound.
A U.S. Border Patrol agent opened fire on people throwing rocks from the Mexican side of the border, apparently killing a teenage boy. Sixteen-year-old José Antonio Elena Rodríguez was found dead from gunshot wounds, according to Mexican authorities. Border Patrol says they were responding to reports about smuggling when they saw two people abandon an amount of drugs and flee across the border back into Mexico Wednesday night. An agent opened fire after people started throwing rocks from the Mexican side and did not heed orders to stop.
New data shows the number of people filing for jobless benefits in the United States has fallen to its lowest point in more than four-and-a-half years. The number of claims dropped by 30,000 last week, according to government figures. While the unexpected dip may have been partly distorted by seasonal adjustments, it comes amidst other signs of improvement in the job market that could bolster President Obama’s bid for re-election. Last week the government reported the unemployment rate had dropped to 7.8 percent in September, its lowest rate since Obama took office.
President Obama’s challenger Mitt Romney is facing criticism over his remarks Thursday that uninsured Americans are able to have their healthcare paid for if they simply go to the hospital. Romney told the Columbus Dispatch newspaper people do not die from lack of insurance, saying: “No, you go to the hospital, you get treated, you get care, and it’s paid for, either by charity, the government or by the hospital. We don’t have people that become ill, who die in their apartment because they don’t have insurance.” In fact, a 2009 study by researchers at Harvard Medical School found 45,000 people die in the United States each year due largely to a lack of health insurance and inability to access quality care. That comes out to one death every 12 minutes.
Prosecutors in Guatemala say they have detained nine members of the military accused of killing peaceful protesters last week. Eight people were killed and 34 wounded after the military opened fire on a group of mostly indigenous Guatemalans who blockaded a highway to protest education policy, constitutional amendments and a massive rise in utility costs. According to the attorney general’s office, it is the first time members of the military have been prosecuted for abuses committed during a protest since the end of the Guatemalan dirty war in 1996.
Activists in Puerto Rico are celebrating a key victory after a controversial gas pipeline dubbed the “death route” by its critics has effectively been halted. Puerto Rico’s electric power authority reportedly sent an official request Thursday asking the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw a permit application for the 92-mile pipeline. Opponents said the pipeline would have devastated the environment and put residents at risk of deadly explosions. Last year, activist and biology Professor Arturo Massol appeared on Democracy Now! to talk about the project.
Arturo Massol: “The concern, from the community point of view, is the ecological damage and the risk that the pipeline will pose to over 200,000 people. It’s also about the economy. It won’t reduce the cost of energy. We have engineers evaluating all of the infrastructure and potential benefits, and there’s no benefit for the people of Puerto Rico, economically speaking.”
In East Texas, activists protesting the construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline are continuing their attempts to block tree-clearing efforts for a third week amid reported crackdowns against journalists. Two reporters embedded with the activists were arrested and held overnight before charges against them were dropped. Activists say TransCanada, the company behind the oil pipeline, is paying local police to provide security. Two journalists from the New York Times were also held in handcuffs before being released. Activists with the Tar Sands Blockade say they are attempting to the protect the environment and local water supplies from toxic tar sands oil.
A Portland, Oregon, activist has been remanded into federal custody for refusing to testify before a grand jury about fellow activists in the Pacific Northwest. Leah-Lynn Plante is the third activist in the region to be jailed for refusing to cooperate with a grand jury. The 24-year-old could remain in custody for 18 months for choosing to remain silent. On Wednesday, Leah-Lynn Plante made a video saying she was ready to go to prison.
Leah-Lynn Plante: “I view this state repression like this: The state thinks it is a black hole that can destroy whatever it wants. In reality, it is much more like a stellar nursery wherein it unintentionally creates new, strong anarchist stars. I do not look forward to what inevitably awaits me today, but I accept it. I ask that people continue to support us through this process by writing us letters, sending us books, donating and spreading awareness. My convictions are unwavering and will not be shaken by their harassment. Today is October 10, 2012, and I am ready to go to prison.”