Anti-American demonstrations spread Friday across the Muslim world. The week-long wave of protests, sparked by a video denigrating the Prophet Muhammad, on Tuesday claimed the life of the American ambassador to Libya. Sen. Bernie Sanders called the violence "senseless." In Washington, meanwhile, the Census Bureau reported a widening income gap in America. The Commerce Department reported that rising gasoline prices drove up sales. The Federal Reserve took steps designed to address chronic unemployment. And Sanders on Tuesday offered a progressive alternative to bring down deficits without cutting Social Security and other programs that help working families.
The Rev. Marcel Rainville and Sen. Bernie Sanders meet outside the Senate chamber on Thursday when the Roman Catholic priest from Vermont served as the guest Senate chaplain.
Demonstrations that started in Egypt spread by Friday to other countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. In Libya on Tuesday, Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed in an attack on the U.S. consulate. "I join President Obama in condemning the senseless acts of violence at our diplomatic post in Benghazi," Sanders said.
With automatic spending cuts set to begin in January, Sanders on Tuesday said there is a right way and a wrong way to bring down deficits. In a Senate speech, he outlined a fair and progressive plan to roll back tax breaks for the wealthy, close corporate loopholes and take a hard look at the Pentagon budget. He also is a leader in the fight against proposals by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan and others to cut Social Security, slash Medicaid and end Medicare as we know it.
The Commerce Department said Friday that gas station sales jumped 5.5 percent last month, the most in nearly three years and a reflection of sharp price increases. Gas prices averaged $3.87 a gallon nationwide on Friday, 16 cents higher than a month ago and just 7 cents below the 2012 average high. In Burlington, Vt., one of the most expensive places in America to buy gas, the price for a gallon of regular was $3.99 a gallon on Friday, 12 cents more than the national average.
Money & Politics
Sanders on Tuesday discussed the influence of money and the place of grassroots organizations in politics during a live chat on BillMoyers.com. "If the American people demand that the president and the Democratic leadership stand up to Wall Street, create a significant new jobs program, address global warming, and protect the social safety net, the Democrats will do that," he said.
The Federal Reserve on Thursday announced plans to start purchasing a total of $85 billion in bonds a month in an effort to fight unemployment. "The weak job market should concern every American," Chairman Ben Bernanke said at a news conference.
Income Gap Grows
The income of the typical U.S. family fell last year to levels last seen in 1995. The income gap between the wealthiest 20 percent of American households and the rest of the country grew sharply in 2011, the Census Bureau said in a report on Wednesday. Poverty remained constant and may have even decreased.
Health Coverage Expands
The number of people without health insurance fell last year to 48.6 million from 50 million in 2010, according to the Census Bureau. As incomes fell, more people became eligible for Medicaid, the state and federal program that covers health care for the poor. And as the oldest baby boomers began turning 65, Medicare also expanded.