KWAME HOLMAN: A bomb exploded today on a bus carrying Israeli youth in Bulgaria. At least six people were killed, and more than 30 others were wounded.
The Israelis had just arrived in the Black Sea resort of Burgas about 250 miles east of Sofia, the Bulgarian capital. The explosion erupted in a parking lot at the city airport. No one claimed responsibility for the attack, but the Israeli government blamed Iran.
In Northern Afghanistan, a Taliban bomb attack destroyed 22 NATO trucks early today. They carried fuel and other supplies meant for U.S. and coalition forces. NATO also reported three of its soldiers were killed in other attacks. And militants killed a dozen Afghan soldiers in the east and south.
New data on the U.S. economy confirms growth and hiring have slowed this summer in much of the country. The Federal Reserve reported the regional findings today in its so-called Beige Book.
And at a House hearing, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke warned of a new recession if Congress fails to get a deficit deal. That failure would trigger automatic tax hikes and spending cuts in January.
BEN BERNANKE, Federal Reserve chairman: Less spending by the government means layoffs in the defense industries, for example, so it will slow the economy and actually mean that tax revenues will be less than expected and the benefits to — in terms of deficit reduction will be smaller than really was anticipated.
KWAME HOLMAN: On a positive note, the Commerce Department reported today new housing starts in June rose nearly 7 percent to the highest rate since 2008.
The housing news helped Wall Street rally. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 103 points to close at 12908. The Nasdaq rose 32 points to close at 2942.
More than two million credit card holders could soon receive refunds from Capital One Bank. The firm agreed today to pay $210 million to settle charges it tricked customers into buying payment protection and credit monitoring services. The settlement marked the first enforcement action by the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Nine U.S. enlisted men have been given administrative punishments for their part in a Secret Service prostitution scandal. The Associated Press reported today they will not face criminal charges. The seven soldiers and two U.S. Marines supported a Secret Service team working on a presidential visit to Colombia. Eight Secret Service members lost their jobs for misconduct involving prostitutes.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack appealed to Congress today to help farmers facing the worst drought in decades. Vilsack acknowledged the administration’s ability to respond is limited. He said it’s urgent that lawmakers quickly approve a new five-year farm bill or at least approve additional disaster aid.
SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE TOM VILSACK: If I had a rain prayer or a rain dance I could do, I would do it. But, honestly, right now, the focus needs to be on working with Congress. They have the capacity to help these producers by creating greater flexibility in programs, providing us some direction in terms of whether disaster systems can be revived. Those are the kinds of things we’re focused on.
KWAME HOLMAN: The administration already has issued disaster declarations for one-third of all the counties in the country. That makes farmers in those areas eligible for low-interest loans.
The number of people caught entering the U.S. illegally has dropped to the lowest level in four decades. It fell to just under 517,000 in 2010. The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics said today that’s less than a third of the total from back in 2000. At the same time, the number arrested on criminal immigration offenses has increased sharply.
AIDS-related deaths are dropping as more people gain access to lifesaving medication. The U.N. AIDS program reported the progress today. It said, in 2011, worldwide, 1.7 million people died from illnesses connected to AIDS. That was a decline of 26 percent from the peak number of deaths 2.3 million in 2005. The report said eight million infected people in developing countries received crucial drugs last year, up 20 percent from the year before.
Those are some of the day’s major stories.