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News Wrap: U.S. poverty rate doesn’t budge, despite new measurement standard

November 6, 2013 at 12:00 AM EST
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JUDY WOODRUFF:  The Supreme Court returned today to the longstanding debate over the overlap of religion and government. The justices heard about the town council in Greece, New York, opening meetings with a prayer. A lower court ruled against the practice because nearly all the prayers were Christian. More on the history of the case and the day’s arguments later in the program.

The number of Americans living in poverty is higher than the official census count by some three million people. The Obama administration reported today that the real figure is 49.7 million Americans, based on a new way of measuring. The higher number takes into account out-of-pocket medical costs and work-related expenses that drive more people below the poverty line.

The Obama administration’s top health official told Congress today that delaying implementation of the new health care law is not an option. Kathleen Sebelius, the health and human services secretary, said, even with Web site problems, there’s still plenty of time to enroll. We will have highlights of her appearance later in the program.

Secretary of State John Kerry scrambled today to revive stalled peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. He met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and then Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank town of Bethlehem. And he said Israel’s settlement-building is a major stumbling block.

SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY: We consider now, and have always considered, the settlements to be illegitimate. And I want to make it extremely clear that at no time did the Palestinians in any way agree as a matter of going back to the talks that they somehow condone or accept the settlements.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Netanyahu answered by accusing the Palestinians of creating artificial crises to avoid facing tough decisions.

Swiss scientists have found evidence that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat may indeed have died of poisoning. Al-Jazeera reported today on the Swiss team’s testing of soil and bone samples taken from Arafat’s grave. It said the results moderately support the idea that the cause of death was polonium-210, a deadly radioactive substance. Arafat died in a French military hospital in 2004.

Carbon dioxide levels hit a record high in 2012, and they’re still climbing. The U.N. Weather Agency reported today the heat-trapping gas measured more than 393 parts per million. That’s 50 points higher than the level some scientists and environmental groups consider safe. Carbon dioxide stays in the air for 100 years or more, locking in the likelihood that temperatures will rise.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 128 points to close near 15,747, another record high. The Nasdaq fell nearly eight points to close just under 3,932.