TGIF folks. Here's our nightly missive……..
THE ECONOMY/CONSUMER SPENDING-The market giveth and the market taketh away. Fresh off yesterday’s 200 point gain and widespread enthusiasm that an economic recovery was underway, a reversal of engines and optimism on this Freaky Friday before Halloween. The Dow dropped some 250 points today begging the question, can an economy be considered bi-polar? Betsy Stark, reporting tonight on WORLD NEWS, noted “the volatility in the stock market…reflects the push and pull in the broader economy right now. Some things are getting better, others are getting worse.” Today we learned that personal spending for September was down and Stark tells us that’s a “clear sign that Americans are hard-pressed to spend without a big government incentive.” Retailers have noticed. Stark says they are “lay(ing) on the holiday charm earlier than usual. A day before Halloween at Sears stores nationwide, they were setting the stage for the kind of door-buster sales normally reserved for the day after Thanksgiving.” They’re not alone-Kmart/Best Buy and Toys R Us are also battling for that early holiday dollar. Stark does have one potential positive for retailers-“Americans, worried about the economy and their job security, have been saving more than usual. And some analysts think they’ll dip into these savings to pay for the holidays.”
STIMULUS JOBS- The White House today declared that nearly 650,000 jobs have been created or saved by the Obama administration’s $159 billion dollar stimulus plan. And adding in jobs linked to $288 billion in tax cuts, the stimulus has created or saved more than 1 million jobs. The new job numbers are from businesses, contractors, state and local governments, nonprofit groups and universities. Teachers and other education employees represent the largest number of jobs in the report — about 325,000. And California Governor Schwarzenegger said today that 62,000 education jobs in his state were saved by the stimulus money. But Jake Tapper reports in his World News piece that there are questions on how the White House is adding up these numbers; there is no uniform set of standards as to what it means to save a job verses to create a job. Plus the job market has yet to show signs of recovery, putting pressure on the White House to show that the stimulus was worth its hefty price. As Jake also points out – if the one million jobs is accurate – that would come to around $160,000 per job. The White House calls those numbers “calculator abuse.” (thanks to Jason Volack for this entry)
CHILD LABOR ALIVE AND WELL IN THE GOOD OLE USA-The term “child labor” usually evokes images of the early days of the Industrial Revolution or the impoverished third-world nations around the globe. You don’t think Michigan. Brian Ross explains: “The Adkin Blue Ribbon Packing Company of South Haven, Michigan is one of the country’s big blueberry growers. This is where ABC NEWS found five-year-old Suli, lugging buckets of berries picked by her parents and older brothers, older meaning eight-year-old Picho and seven-year-old Christobal.” But isn’t that illegal? Yep-Ross says that “it’s a violation of federal law for this grower to use any child under the age of 12.” Ross reports that “Adkin was cited this week by the Department of Labor and Wal-Mart and Kroger suspended doing business with him after learning of the ABC NEWS investigation in what many legal-aid lawyers say is a widespread practice.” Ross closed his report by noting that “the new Secretary of Labor (Hilda Solis) has promised to crack down on child labor”. Any chance that the child labor is exclusive to Adkin? Nope-Ross told WORLD NEWS anchor Charles Gibson that the practice is found “in virtually every state in fruit and vegetable fields where they are picked by hand.”
CLINTON DIPLOMACY:“Trust is a two way street” according to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who has wrapped up a three day visit to Pakistan. On her final day in the country, Clinton held a number of public meetings, including one with a group of residents from the tribal region and another with prominent women TV news anchors. Many lashed out over America's military policies, particularly the use of U.S. drones to attack militant targets. During one live broadcast interview with Clinton, an audience member said the drone attacks amounted to "executions without trial" for those killed. Jim Sciutto had the opportunity to sit down with the Secretary of State and asked about her blunt comments on Thursday suggesting Pakistani officials know where terrorists are hiding. Though she doesn’t believe the Pakistanis are harboring terrorists, Clinton said it’s important that both sides are honest with each other: "There is a trust deficit. … It will not be sufficient to achieve the level of security the Pakistanis deserve if we don't go after those that are still threatening not only Pakistan but Afghanistan and the rest of the world, and we wanted to put that on the table, and I think it was important that we did." Back in Washington, the White House stood firmly behind the Secretary of State. Press secretary Robert Gibbs said that Clinton's public comments echoed what U.S. officials tell the Pakistanis in private. He said they do not undermine Pakistani anti-terror cooperation and added: "I think those remarks were completely appropriate." On a more personal note, Jim Sciutto asked Secretary Clinton about the remark by Obama campaign manager David Plouffe that she was seriously considered as Barack Obama’s running mate. Clinton told Jim she is happy with her job and thinks Vice president Biden is doing a great job, too. (thanks to Ed Bailey for this entry)
AFGHAN ELECTIONS-Talks between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and presidential challenger Abdullah Abdullah over the upcoming November 7th election have broken down. Nick Schifrin: “We can report that, according to people who have been negotiating between the two candidates, Abdullah is EXPECTED to boycott the runoff, most likely in a speech on Sunday. He has scheduled meetings in Kabul on Saturday and Sunday. As of a few hours ago, there had been no final decision.”
CHENEY/CIA LEAK-From Jason Ryan: “The Justice Department has released documents from the CIA leak investigation of Dick Cheney's May 2004 interview with the FBI and Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, showing that the then Vice President had ‘No idea’ who had leaked the name of former CIA officer Valarie Plame.”
SEVERE WEATHER-Parts of the southern U.S. are saturated after days of heavy rain. Some areas in Arkansas have received more than four times the normal rainfall for the month of October. Reporting from Shreveport, Louisiana – Steve Osunsami said latest storm system dumped more than eight inches of rain and spawned at least three tornados in the state. Those winds were so strong in Shreveport that they knocked down a church steeple that is the size of a bus. Meteorologists blame these violent conditions on a cold front from the west that brought frigid temperatures that suddenly mixed with warm moist air from the gulf. The drenching rains are now moving eastward. (thanks to Jason Volack for this entry)
H1N1 UPDATES-Federal health officials reported that 114 children have been confirmed as dying from the swine flu. The addition of 19 deaths to the total represents the biggest one-week jump in child fatalities due to the swine flu. Grace Huang adds that “more than two-thirds of those have been children with underlying conditions.” CDC Director Thomas Frieden briefed the media today and Grace Huang sent a note out with the details earlier this evening. On the availability of the vaccine, Frieden said that “The gap between supply and demand is closing for H1N1 vaccine. Last week, we had 16.1 million doses available for shipment as of Fri morning. As of today, we have 26.6 million doses available for shipment. That’s an increase of 10.5 million doses in that seven-day period. Over 80% of available vaccine is being drawn down rapidly.”
–US HIKERS IN IRAN UPDATE– The Swiss ambassador to Iran met with the 3 detained American hikers yesterday, the second time she has been granted access to them since they were detained in late July. State Department deputy spox Robert Wood confirms the Swiss meeting on behalf of the US, in the absence of a US diplomatic presence in Tehran, but declined to provide any details on their condition citing privacy concerns. A statement released by the families of the hikers said “they were in good physical shape.” (Kirit Radia)
–MID AIR COLLISION/NO SURVIVORS FOUND YET-A Coast Guard C-130 and a Marine helicopter collided off the coast of San Diego last night. A huge search and rescue effort has so far been unable to find any survivors or remains. The 9 people aboard the two aircraft are feared dead. (Lisa Stark)
–WORLD SERIES RATINGS—Fox Network executives may be enjoying this World Series as much as Yankees and Phillies fans. The Yankees' 3-1 win over the Phillies on Thursday night on Fox earned an 11.7 fast national rating and 19 share. That's up 44 percent from the 8.1/13 for last year's Phillies-Rays Game 2. The network said on Friday it's the highest-rated Game 2 since the Red Sox-Cardinals in 2004.
–BAY BRIDGE CLOSED AT LEAST THRU THE WEEKEND, MONDAY MORNING LOOKING IFFY-State transportation officials say the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge will likely stay closed through the weekend and are unsure if it will open in time for Monday's morning commute.
–NEWSOM ANKLES CAL GOV RACE—San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom announced today that he is dropping out of the 2010 California Governor’s race. That leaves California State Attorney General Jerry Brown as the only Democratic candidate. Newsom said in a statement that between a young family and city hall duties, he could not devote the time “to complete this effort the way it needs to-and should be-done”. Another potential factor-he trailed Brown badly in the polls (Gary Langer notes Brown had a 20-point edge in the latest Field poll). (Teddy Davis)