Obama’s approval rating slips to new low, 49 percent

President Barack Obama’s national standing has slipped to a new low after his victory on the historic health care overhaul, even in the face of growing signs of economic revival, according to the latest Associated Press-GfK poll.

The survey shows the political terrain growing rockier for Obama and congressional Democrats heading into midterm elections, boosting Republican hopes for a return to power this fall.

Just 49 percent of people now approve of the job Obama’s doing overall, and less than that — 44 percent — like the way he’s handled health care and the economy. Last September, Obama hit a low of 50 percent in job approval before ticking a bit higher. His high-water mark as president was 67 percent in February 2009, just after he took office.

The news is worse for other Democrats. For the first time this year, about as many Americans approve of congressional Republicans as Democrats — 38 percent to 41 percent — and neither has an edge when it comes to the party voters want controlling Congress.

Attorney general: Capture of Bin Laden alive not likely

Under pressure from Republican critics, Attorney General Eric Holder said the U.S. still hopes to capture and interrogate Osama bin Laden but expects the al-Qaida leader won’t be taken alive.

Testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, the attorney general was peppered with questions about terrorism issues, including the planned shutdown of the Guantanamo Bay detention center and where those suspects should be sent for trial. The hearing didn’t have the confrontations that marked his appearance last month before House lawmakers, however.

During the earlier hearing, questions about what legal rights might be granted to suspected terrorists led Holder to tell lawmakers the chances of capturing the al-Qaida leader alive were very slim and “we will be reading Miranda rights to the corpse of Osama bin Laden.”


Israel believes Hezbollah is armed with Scud missles

Israeli defense officials said they believe Hezbollah has Scud missiles that could hit all of Israel, a day after Israel’s president accused Syria of supplying the Lebanese guerrillas with the weapons for the first time.

Israeli officials say the introduction of Scuds could alter the strategic balance with Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed militia that battled Israel to a stalemate during a monthlong war in 2006.

President Shimon Peres, speaking in Paris, charged that Syria is playing a double game, talking about peace, while “it is delivering Scuds to Hezbollah to threaten Israel.”

The remarks by Peres, whose position is largely ceremonial, went beyond public assessments of senior Israeli defense figures. He gave no details.


Iran processes uranium defying U.N. demand to stop

Iran has succeeded in producing its first significant batch of further enriched uranium, the country’s nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi said, a move defying U.N. demands to halt the controversial program.

The uranium has been enriched from around 3.5 percent to 20 percent purity, needed to fuel a medical research reactor, Salehi said, according to the ISNA news agency. That level is far below the more than 90 percent needed to build a nuclear weapon, but U.S. officials have expressed concern Iran may be moving closer to the ability to reach weapons-grade level.

Washington is accelerating its campaign for a new round of U.N. sanctions against Iran for its refusal to suspend enrichment, as demanded by the United Nations.

JAKARTA, Indonesia

Two dead and 130 wounded in protest over cleric’s tomb

An estimated 500 protesters wielding machetes, sticks and petrol bombs clashed with riot police in a series of running battles over a Muslim cleric’s tomb near the Indonesian capital’s main seaport, leaving two people dead and some 130 wounded.

About 2,000 city security officers and 600 police to beat back the protesters near the seaport of Tanjung Priok in northern Jakarta, city spokesman Cucu Kurnia said.


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