MANCHESTER, N.H. — Republican White House hopefuls criticized President Barack Obama’s handling of the economy from the opening moments of their first major debate of the campaign season Monday night and pledged to repeal the administration’s year-old health care law.
“When 14 million Americans are out of work we need a new president to end the Obama Depression,” said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, the first among seven contenders on stage at St. Anselm College to assail the president’s economic policies.
Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota used the occasion to announce she had filed papers earlier in the day to run.
Former Sen. Rick Santorum accused Obama of pursuing “oppressive policies” that have shackled the economy.
Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty labeled Obama a “declinist” who views America “as one of equals around the world,” rather than a special nation.
Businessman Herman Cain, a political novice, called for eliminating the capital gains tax as a way to stimulate job creation.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney stressed his experience as a businessman over 25 years as evidence that he can lead the nation out of a lingering recession.
Said Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, the seventh contender on the stage: “As long as we are running a program that deliberately weakens our currency, our jobs will go overseas. And that’s what’s happening.”
City official: Joplin tornado death toll at 153
JOPLIN, Mo. — A Joplin city official says two more fatalities have been reported from the tornado that devastated the southwest Missouri city last month.
Lynn Iliff Onstot, public information officer for Joplin, said as of Monday there were 153 fatalities from the tornado. Onstot said the city received the updated list from the Jasper County coroner and the Missouri Department of Public Safety.
Jasper County coroner Rob Chappel told The Associated Press the two new deaths were from people who had been hospitalized with injuries. The state agency referred calls about the death toll to the city.
The death toll from the May 21 tornado stood at 151 on Friday. It’s the nation’s deadliest tornado in more than six decades.
School lunch prices will rise this fall for some
WASHINGTON — School cafeteria lunch prices will rise modestly this year in districts that pad their food-service budgets with federal money designed to feed low-income children, under new federal rules posted Monday,
The new interim rules, designed to make school lunch prices better reflect their costs, will take effect July 1. They were submitted to the Federal Register on Monday.
They call for full-cost or “paid” lunches to increase by 5 or 10 cents per meal in the 2011-12 school year, depending on the school district. Prices for items sold at school snack bars, such as french fries and hamburgers, also will rise.
The price hikes are the first increases not driven by inflation that the federal government has required since the National School Lunch Program was launched in 1946.
The change is expected to raise $300 million over five years to help offset the cost of the higher-quality meals required under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.
The increase will affect only families that earn more than 185 percent of the poverty line, or about $41,000 for a family of four. They aren’t eligible for free or reduced-cost meals.
Report: Firefighter deaths in US lowest since 1977
BOSTON — The number of on-duty firefighter deaths last year in the United States was the lowest in more than three decades.
In a report released Monday, the National Fire Protection Association said 72 firefighters died on-duty in 2010. That’s a sharp drop from the 105 on-duty deaths in 2008 and 82 in 2009. The group said it’s the lowest annual total since it began tracking it in 1977.
This is the fifth time in the past 10 years that the total number of deaths has been below 100, the Quincy, Mass.-based NFPA said.
In 2009 and 2010, nine firefighters each year died in road vehicle crashes, the lowest number of deaths since 1983, the report said.