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News Wrap: European Union Nations’ Government Debt at Record High

October 24, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT
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HARI SREENIVASAN: The U.S. economy is improving moderately, but hiring remains sluggish. That assessment came from the Federal Reserve today, after a two-day policy meeting. The Fed stopped short of taking any further action. Instead, it’s proceeding with a new bond-buying program it launched last month in a bid to bolster growth.

On Wall Street, the Fed’s assessment of the economy put a brake on efforts to recover from yesterday’s big sell-off. Instead, the Dow Jones industrial average lost 25 points to close at 13,077. The Nasdaq fell more than eight points to close at 2,981.

Europe’s economic troubles are getting even worse. The European Union reported today that the overall government debt of Eurozone countries has hit 90 percent of their total economic output for the year. That’s the highest level since the euro was launched in 1999. Five of the nations that use the euro are already officially in recession, Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal, and Cyprus.

An Islamist group was quick to claim it attacked the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and the White House was told almost immediately. The Associated Press reported that today. It said the State Department e- mailed the information to the White House two hours after the attack. The e-mail cited claims by Ansar al-Sharia on social media.

But Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said today the information wasn’t solid.

SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY CLINTON: Posting something on Facebook is not in and of itself evidence. And I think it just underscores how fluid the reporting was at the time and continued for some time to be. What I keep in mind is that four brave Americans were killed, and we will find out what happened.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Republicans charge the president and top aides knew it was a terrorist attack early on, but played down that angle for political reasons.

A new burst of violence has erupted along Gaza’s border with Israel. Fighters from Hamas and a smaller militant group launched more than 70 rockets and mortar rounds at southern Israel. Two foreign workers were critically wounded. The Israeli military answered with airstrikes inside Gaza that killed at least two Palestinians. The Israelis also warned they will launch a ground offensive if the rocket fire doesn’t stop.

A late-season hurricane struck a blow at Jamaica late today. It was expected to head on to Cuba tonight. Hurricane Sandy brought heavy rain and strong winds to eastern Jamaica, especially around the capital, Kingston. The storm prompted airports to close and cruise ships to change course.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.