HARI SREENIVASAN: A long-delayed bill designed to help small business is on its way to President Obama. The House approved the measure today. It establishes a $30 billion fund to help community banks lend to small businesses. It also cuts taxes by $12 billion over 10 years. Most Republicans opposed the loan fund, saying it was another bailout that will not work.
Wall Street had a down day, after news that first-time claims for unemployment benefits went up last week. The Dow Jones industrial average lost nearly 77 points to close at 10662. The Nasdaq fell seven points to close at 2327.
The Food and Drug Administration announced new limits on the diabetes drug Avandia. It has been linked to increased risk of heart attack. The drug will now be limited to new patients who cannot control their blood sugar with other medicines. The move came as Europe's drug regulating agency ordered Avandia off the market there.
Across France today, nearly one million people protested on a day of nationwide strikes, their target, plans by French President Nicolas Sarkozy to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62. We have a report from Lindsey Hilsum of Independent Television News.
LINDSEY HILSUM: Trade unionists, socialists and the occasional anarchist were out on the streets of Paris today fighting for right to a comfortable old age and a state pension at 60.
Whatever the mood of austerity across the rest of Europe, France, they say, is different.
Tell me why French people should retire earlier than everybody else in
MAN: Because we are French, and we are the best, you know?
MAN: French Revolution, you know? Human rights, you know?
WOMAN: Maybe because we are like in -- in advance about social
LINDSEY HILSUM: Less than 10 percent of the French work force is unionized, mainly in the public sector, but they can still make a lot of noise. This round of strikes and demonstrations has won concessions for women who have had children and manual laborers. But President Sarkozy says he won't back down on the central issue: retirement at 62.
The finance minister is certainly not for turning.
CHRISTINE LAGARDE, French finance minister: President Sarkozy was
elected to reform the country.
LINDSEY HILSUM: And now the French don't like it.
CHRISTINE LAGARDE: Well, but he's a very determined and very resilient
president. He was elected to do that. The people of France wanted the country to be more modern, to be more balanced, to be better financed. And all of that takes strength, determination, and, sometimes, impopularity. But that's the price to be paid.
LINDSEY HILSUM: Today, half the flights from Paris were canceled and half the trains across the country didn't run. France's economy isn't recovering from recession as quickly as Germany's.
A short rest over a glass of wine -- the demonstrators say they will be
out again next month, and are hoping other Europeans will follow suit.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The plan to raise the retirement age has passed the lower house of the French Parliament. It still faces debate in the Senate before becoming law.
In Afghanistan, officials released the first wave of partial results from last weekend's parliamentary elections. They came from a single province. Final nationwide results are not expected before the end of October, at the earliest. That is partly because of a probe into hundreds of allegations of fraud.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates insisted today he is confident in the U.S. war strategy in Afghanistan. At a Pentagon briefing, Gates offered his first reaction to a new Bob Woodward book, "Obama's Wars." It depicts a deeply divided presidential team, and suggests the war plan was driven more by politics than by military considerations.
Gates said today, he has not read the book, but he made several points.
U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE ROBERT GATES: The first is, conflict sells. The second, the relationship among senior officials in this administration is as harmonious as any I have experienced in my time in government. And the third is -- and I believe this very strongly -- presidents are always well-served when there is a vigorous and spirited debate over important issues.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The secretary said he wouldn't sign troop deployment orders if he had any reservations about the Afghan mission.
British police have arrested six men for posting an online video that appears to show them burning two Korans. Two of the men were arrested last week on suspicion of fomenting racial hate, and the others were brought in yesterday. The burning took place on September 11. A minister in Florida said he would burn a Koran that same day, but he backed down after appeals from top U.S. officials.
Virginia is set to execute a woman tonight, for the first time in nearly a century. Teresa Lewis faced death by lethal injection for the hired killings of her husband and stepson in 2002. Supporters argued the 41-year-old grandmother lacked the mental capacity to orchestrate the crimes.
The founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, will donate $100 million to the public schools in Newark, New Jersey. The system has been troubled for years by poor results and rampant mismanagement. Zuckerberg will make his announcement tomorrow on "The Oprah Winfrey Show." It coincides with the release of a new movie, "The Social Network," which suggests he stole the idea for his business from friends.