HARI SREENIVASAN: Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney shifted today from direct criticism of President Obama over the embassy attacks. Romney had charged Wednesday that the administration was slow at first to condemn the violence.
Today, in Fairfax, va., he offered a more general criticism of the president's leadership in foreign affairs.
MITT ROMNEY (R): As we watch the world today, sometimes, it seems that we're at the mercy of events, instead of shaping events.
And a strong America is essential to shape events. And a strong America, by the way, depends on a strong military.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MITT ROMNEY: The world needs American leadership. The Middle East needs American leadership. And I intend to be a president that provides the leadership that America respects and will keep us admired throughout the world.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The president had rejected Romney's earlier criticism, saying the candidate should get his facts straight before speaking.
Today, President Obama campaigned in Golden, Colo., and he vowed again to defend American citizens and interests.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I have directed my administration to do whatever is necessary to protect all Americans who are serving abroad. It's one of my highest priorities as president. And we're also in contact with other governments to underscore that they have got an obligation to cooperate with us to protect our citizens. That's part of their job.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The president's Republican opponent in 2008, Sen. John McCain, charged today that the attack in Libya shows people believe the U.S. is withdrawing from the world. He called the president's foreign policy feckless.
The day's other major news came from the Federal Reserve, an aggressive new effort to stimulate the U.S. economy. The plan calls for buying $40 billion a month of mortgage-backed securities in a bid to make home-buying more affordable. The Fed will also keep short-term interest rates at record lows into 2015.
At a briefing, Chairman Ben Bernanke said the idea is to quicken the recovery.
BEN BERNANKE, Federal Reserve chairman: We're not promising a cure to all these ills, but what we can do is provide some support. And by assuring the public that we will be prepared to take action if the economy falters, we're hopeful that that will increase confidence and make people more willing to invest, hire and spend.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Wall Street surged on the Fed's announcement. Shares of banks and materials companies led the advance. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 206 points to close near 13,540. The Nasdaq rose 41 points to close near 3,156. Both the Dow and the S&P finished at their highest since December of 2007.
The U.S. House moved this evening to avert a government shutdown on Sept. 30 with a six-month spending bill. The stopgap measure allows spending to rise across the board over last year's budget deal between the president and Republicans. It's also $19 billion more than the budget written by Congressman Paul Ryan, but the Republican vice presidential nominee said he supported it reluctantly.
A Senate committee heard today the Social Security disability system is overwhelmed with claims. Investigators reviewed some 300 cases. They found that 25 percent of the time, officials awarded benefits without much review just to reduce the backlog. The Social Security Administration said the problem involves only a small number of its disability administrators, and it's working to improve.
In Mexico, the government hailed the capture of Jorge Eduardo Costilla Sanchez last night by Mexican marines. He is said to be one of the country's top drug bosses. Costilla was put on display today by naval officials in Mexico City in front of a table piled with guns and jewelry. He is known as El Coss and allegedly ran the Gulf drug cartel in the country's northeast.
ADM. JOSE LUIS VERGARA, Mexican Navy spokesman (through translator): El Coss was leading the Gulf Cartel, considered the second most powerful criminal organization in the country. Secretively, El Coss overcame internal division and directed violent confrontations in Tamaulipas and Nuevo Leon against his former allies, the Zetas.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The warfare between the rival gangs has plagued northeastern Mexico with shootings, beheadings, and other gruesome crimes. Costilla is also wanted in the U.S. The State Department had offered up to $5 million for his capture.
A volcano in Guatemala exploded into life today, forcing more than 33,000 people to flee. The eruption blew clouds of ash nearly two miles high and sent lava flowing down the mountain's slopes. Scientists said they expected the eruption to last at least 12 more hours.
In New York, the city board of health officially banned the sale of large sodas and other sugary drinks today. Restaurants, concession stands and theaters may no longer offer containers larger than 16 ounces of non-diet soda, sweetened teas and other high-calorie beverages. The rule doesn't apply to supermarkets and most convenience stores.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed the ban last spring in a campaign against obesity. He tweeted today it will help save lives.
Beef Products Incorporated is suing ABC News for a series of stories this spring on what critics called pink slime. The company claims the network misled viewers into thinking the product, officially known as lean, finely textured beef, was unsafe. The lawsuit alleges the reports led so many customers to back away that the company lost 80 percent of its business in a month and laid off 650 workers. ABC says the lawsuit has no merit and will be contested.
Those are some of the day's major stories.