KWAME HOLMAN: Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney moved today to get past criticism that he’s written off half the country. Romney’s been taking fire for saying last May that nearly half of Americans don’t pay income taxes and don’t care about tax cuts, so he can’t expect their support.
Today, in Atlanta, he insisted average Americans would do far better under him than under President Obama.
MITT ROMNEY (R): The question in this campaign is not who cares about the poor and middle class. I do. He does. The question is, who can help the poor and middle class. I can. He can’t. He’s proven it in four years.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
KWAME HOLMAN: Romney also cited a 1998 speech in which Mr. Obama said he believes in redistribution of wealth to make sure everybody’s got a shot.
But White House spokesman Jay Carney dismissed the criticism.
JAY CARNEY, White House: All of us who follow politics and policy, whether we’re on this side or your side of the podium, have seen circumstances like this, where a campaign is having a very bad day or a very bad week.
And in circumstances like that, there are efforts made — sometimes desperate efforts made — to change the subject.
KWAME HOLMAN: Also today, topics for the first of three presidential debates were announced.
The moderator, the NewsHour’s own Jim Lehrer, said there will be three 15-minute segments on the economy, and three more on health care, the role of government and governing. The debate is set for Oct. 3 in Denver.
A French satirical magazine published cartoons today that risk igniting new outrage in the Muslim world. They featured vulgar images of the Prophet Muhammad and satirized the violent reaction to an American-made film that insults Islam. Muslim leaders in France called the cartoons a disgraceful provocation.
But the magazine’s publishing director insisted it’s about free speech.
STEPHANE CHARBONNIER, “Charlie Hebdo” (through translator): Muhammad is sacred for the Muslims, and I can understand that, but for Muslims only. I am atheist. Muhammad is not sacred for me.
I understand perfectly that the Muslims don’t violate the law of blasphemy, and I don’t blame Muslims for not laughing at our drawings. But they shouldn’t tell me under which law I should live. I live under French law, and I don’t live under Koranic law.
KWAME HOLMAN: The French government appealed for calm, and stepped up security at its embassies in about 20 countries.
In Syria, a pair of bombs struck a suburb of Damascus. State media said the explosions caused a number of civilian casualties. Meanwhile, to the north, Syrian rebels captured a key border crossing on the Turkish frontier. That lets them ferry supplies into Syria, as they continue to fight for control of Aleppo some 100 miles away.
A senior coalition officer in Afghanistan declared today that Western troops will not allow insider attacks to ruin the NATO mission. So far this year, 51 international troops have been killed by Afghan soldiers and police. And, on Sunday, NATO scaled back joint military operations.
In Kabul today, Australian Brigadier General Roger Noble said his forces won’t let the Taliban drive a wedge between them and their Afghan comrades.
BRIG. GEN. ROGER NOBLE, ISAF: We’re all professional soldiers. We’re going to keep fighting here until hell freezes over. So, I mean, I still — I trust the people I deal with. I’m just careful. And that’s only sensible.
So, on a practical level, really, it’s not going to change the campaign or what’s happened here. Probably, the bigger impact is back where you are and the perception at home, about, what does it mean when your friends are shooting you?
KWAME HOLMAN: In another development, Afghan President Hamid Karzai urged his citizens to help find ways to make peace with insurgents.
Some Japanese businesses in China reopened today. That followed days of protests against Japan’s decision to buy disputed islands. The islands are in the East China Sea, known by different names in the two countries. They’re near possible gas and oil reserves.
On Wall Street today, stocks managed small gains after positive reports on home construction and home sales. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 13 points to close near 13,578. The Nasdaq rose nearly five points to close at 3,182.
Those are some of the day’s major stories.