News Wrap: UN reports average year overall for tropical storms
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GWEN IFILL: Overall, it turns out, this has been just an average year for tropical storms. The U.N. Weather Agency reported today there have been 86 storms worldwide, three short of the annual average since 1981.
The Atlantic hurricane season was the quietest since 1994. But northwestern regions of the Pacific Ocean have had more storms than usual, including Typhoon Haiyan.
The first official numbers on sign-ups under the new health care law are out and they’re far below the original targets. The Department of Health and Human Services reported today that fewer than 27,000 people enrolled on the federal exchange in October. It serves 36 states. Nearly 80,000 others signed up on state exchanges. We will have more on this right after the news summary.
The odds against Congress acting on immigration reform this year grew longer today. House Speaker John Boehner said the House will not act on the sweeping bill the Senate passed in June. It provides a path to citizenship for the 11 million people living here illegally.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER, R-Ohio: The idea that we’re going to take up a 1,300-page bill that no one had ever read, which is what Senate did, is not going to happen in the House. And, frankly I will make clear we have no intention of ever going to conference on the Senate bill.
GWEN IFILL: Meanwhile, President Obama met with religious leaders to talk about immigration. The White House says they agreed there’s a moral imperative to overhaul existing law.
Secretary of State John Kerry appealed to Congress today to postpone action on new sanctions against Iran. He spoke before joining Vice President Biden in private meetings with the Senate Banking Committee and Democratic leaders. Kerry said sanctions won’t help efforts to get Iran to freeze its nuclear program.
JOHN KERRY, U.S. Secretary of State: We now are negotiating, and the risk is that, if Congress were to unilaterally move to raise sanctions, it could break faith with those negotiations and actually stop them and break them apart.
GWEN IFILL: Those nuclear talks between Iran and six world powers are set to resume next week.
Opium production in Afghanistan has surged to record levels this year. The U.N. drug control agency reported today it’s up nearly 50 percent since 2012. The poppy harvest produced more than 6,000 tons of opium, more than the rest of the world combined. In Kabul, a U.N. official warned the huge supply is fueling the use of opium among Afghans.
JEAN-LUC LEMAHIEU, U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (through interpreter): Afghanistan is confronted with an enormous addiction problem. They are hurting themselves, one million addicts and a growing population. We have the biggest opium cultivation witnessed ever, and this in a consecutive three years’ time.
GWEN IFILL: Cultivation of opium poppies in Afghanistan has spread despite billions of dollars in international aid to try to eradicate the crop.
In Iraq, a wave of new attacks marred the Muslim holy day of Ashura. At least 22 people died in bombings and shootings. Many were Shiites commemorating the death of the Prophet Mohammed’s grandson in the seventh century. Militants also assassinated the mayor of Fallujah in Western Iraq.
President Obama’s nominee to run the Homeland Security Department told senators today it’s essential to fix the agency’s internal problems. At his confirmation hearing, Jeh Johnson said filling personnel openings and boosting morale are even higher priorities than the core mission of fighting terrorism.
JEH JOHNSON, Secretary of Homeland Security-designate: Morale is driven in large part by just basic economic issues. When somebody hasn’t had a pay raise in a long time, and they’re threatened with sequestration or government shutdown, that takes its toll. So there’s — I expect to address morale, but there are limits to what you can do without giving people some basic relief.
GWEN IFILL: Most senators say they support Johnson. Republicans Lindsey Graham and John McCain say they will stall the nomination until they get more answers on border security and the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
Twenty-one nations in the Middle East and nearby regions declared today that eradicating polio is an emergency priority. The virus recently paralyzed more than a dozen children in Syria, and triggered mass vaccination campaigns in surrounding countries. The strain originated in Pakistan, where militants have attacked polio workers, claiming they’re trying to sterilize Muslim children.
In economic news, the United States produced more oil than it imported last month for the first time since 1995. It follows several years of steadily rising domestic production.
And on Wall Street today, the Dow Jones industrial average gained nearly 71 points to close above 15,821. The Nasdaq rose 45 points to close at 3,965.