[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/US/03/19/wtja.economy.jobs/art.census.taker.jpg caption="Census bureau employees, such as this one, gather federal data."]
Editor's Note: Update – According to the Census Bureau numbers released today, the 2008 poverty rate was 13.2 percent, up from 12.5 the previous year. The number of people living in poverty in 2008 was 39.8 million, up 2.6 million from the year before.
CNN Senior National Editor
On Thursday morning, the Census Bureau will release data expected to show a “statistically significant” increase in the national poverty rate, the percentage of Americans living below the government poverty line.
Based on an Associated Press interview with a Commerce Department official, the expectation is that there will have been nearly 39 million Americans living below the poverty line in 2008 – an increase of more than 1.5 million from the year before – pushing the poverty rate up to at least 12.7 percent, if not higher.
In reality, that number and that rate are something of a fraud.
In the first decade of the 21st Century, the U.S. government still determines who is poor with a formula created in 1963-64 using data from 1955.
Tonight we'll have the facts on Pres. Obama's health care reform pitch to Congress. His vision. His pitch. He faced an audience split on party lines. There was a lot of applause and even some booing from lawmakers. We'll look beyond the politics and show you reform could impact you and your family. We'll also have more remarkable reports from the war in Afghanistan.
Want to know what else we're covering? Read EVENING BUZZ
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[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/09/08/art.afghan.soldier.patrol.jpg caption="A U.S. Marine sweeps for Improvised Explosive Devices (IED's) along the pathways around their base at Camp Jaker."]
Peter Bergen | Bio
CNN National Security Analyst
Nawa District, Helmand, Afghanistan
If the southern Afghanistan province of Helmand were a country it would be the world’s leading producer of opium and its derivative, heroin. More than half the world’s heroin originates here – much of it destined for the veins of junkies living in Europe.
In June 2005, U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency officials and Afghan police raided the office of Sher Mohammed Akhundzada, the governor of Helmand, and found nine tons of opium in his office. He is no longer the governor.
According to an unpublished threat assessment by the Afghan army of the security situation as it was this April in Afghanistan which was obtained by CNN, Helmand province had the highest percentage of territory controlled by the Taliban of any of the country’s 34 provinces.
Nearly 60 percent of Helmand in April was fully Taliban-controlled, and the remainder was classified as “high risk” for Taliban attacks.
According to a senior Marine officer 20 percent of the Taliban in Helmand are “ideologues’ who are not from the local area and are influenced by the Pakistan-based central command of the Taliban – such as its leader Mullah Omar. The other 80 percent are local “opportunists” who are making money being paid by the Taliban to do jobs such as planting roadside bombs known as Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).
U.S. intelligence officials estimate that the Taliban can pay approximately $300 a month to its rank-and-file soldiers. An Afghan policeman is lucky if he makes $100 a month.
Since early July, some 4,500 American U.S. Marines and hundreds of Afghans soldiers have launc hed offensives against the Taliban in Helmand and, according to a senior US Marine officer, as a result the Taliban “are on their arse, literally.”
The officer said that of the 13 districts in Helmand, only one is now fully controlled by the Taliban. However, they continue to maintain a persistent presence in the province and are capable of launching IED attacks at will throughout Helmand.
In Dawa District, in central Helmand, Marines at a dusty, spartan base with no electricity or running water venture out on several-hour foot patrols. They move through canal-fed corn fields armed with metal detectors and a bomb-sniffing dog looking to discover and disable IEDs.
The IEDs range from simple victim- operated bombs, typically pressure plate devices made from wood and springs, to more complex devices that are remotely detonated using a command wire. The corn rows that stand 10-feet high provide an ideal environment in which the IED triggermen can hide.
During World War II, 3 percent of American combat deaths were caused by mines or booby traps. By 1967 during the Vietnam War the figure rose to 9 percent. In Iraq during the latter half of 2005, IEDs were the leading cause of American combat deaths, responsible for 65 percent of all fatalities and half of all nonfatal injuries.
According to Brigadier General Laurence Nicholson, who is in charge of the Marine brigade in Helmand, an astonishing 80 percent of the casualties of the Marines under his command are now caused by IEDs.
Just one more statistic that helps explain why Helmand remains one of the more dangerous places on the planet.
The White House
The Obama Plan: Stability & Security for all Americans
"It will provide more security and stability to those who have health insurance. It will provide insurance to those who don’t. And it will lower the cost of health care for our families, our businesses, and our government."
– President Barack Obama
If You Have Health Insurance – More Stability and Security
Ends discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions. Over the last three years, 12 million people were denied coverage directly or indirectly through high premiums due to a pre-existing condition. Under the President’s plan, it will be against the law for insurance companies to deny coverage for health reasons or risks.
Limits premium discrimination based on gender and age. The President’s plan will end insurers’ practice of charging different premiums or denying coverage based on gender, and will limit premium variation based on age.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/09/09/obama.speech/art.obama.speech.pool.jpg caption= "President Obama told a joint session of Congress that the "time for bickering" over health care is over."]
Right now, Pres. Obama is pressing his case for health care reform to a joint session of Congress and to you at home. While he's not the first President to call for change he said he's "determined to be the last."
Tonight, he's unveiling the most detailed description of his vision for health care reform. Will it be a bipartisan deal or a go-it-alone plan? Public option or cooperative? Will Medicare take a hit? Pres. Obama is addressing all of these issues in his speech. We'll have the highlights for you tonight on AC360°. Just the facts. No fiction.
Anderson is also reporting live from Afghanistan. Tonight he has an up close look at Patrol Base Jaker. It's home for the Marines of First Battalion 5th regiment. Temperatures can reach 120° F and there's no escape from the heat. There's dust everyone. The Marines call it moondust. It gets everywhere.
Also tonight, 360 M.D. Sanjay Gupta reports on an elite medical team racing the clock to save lives in Afghanistan. And, Michael Ware returns to Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban. Michael once lived in the Afghan city. He shows us how life has changed there and how it's still the same in some ways.
In other news, a replacement has been name for Paula Abdul on American Idol. We'll have that for you and more starting at 10pm ET. See you then!
CNN's truth squad is breaking down the details of the health care reform plan. Health care reform is a complicated issue, so we're making it straightforward by answering your questions. Take a look at this list of FAQs and let us know if you have more.
Will health-care reform start right away?
The Statement: A citizen asked U.S. Rep. Mike Ross, D-Arkansas, at an August 14 town meeting in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, "How soon can you do something about our health care that has to be fixed? … When will this take place? When will this reform take place? Do you have a goal in mind?"
The Facts: If the health-care overhaul is enacted in October, it will take several years for the plan to go into effect, according to the bill. But some benefits would start immediately, including provisions that would require private insurers to provide a minimum level of coverage, Medicare improvements, provisions to decrease administrative costs and targeted assistance for certain people ages 55-64.
"Wholesale reform can't happen overnight. We've got to create a new Health Insurance Exchange through which people will be able to purchase their insurance, and we've got to create a Health Benefits Advisory Committee to make recommendations on the essential benefits package. These changes will take some time," according to Frequently Asked Questions on the House Ways and Means Committee's Web site.
Ed Henry and Suzanne Malveaux
CNN White House Correspondents
President Obama is tweaking his pivotal health care address to a Joint Session of Congress right up until the last minute, with top aides saying he's putting a heavy imprint on a speech in which he will finally lay specific details on the table for Congress to consider.
Top aides say the President worked on the speech late into Tuesday night in the White House residence and then brought yet another new draft down to the Oval Office on Wednesday morning for his staff to work through. Obama had taken a rough first draft of the speech to Camp David this past weekend and spent a lot of time re-working it, bringing back handwritten notes of what he wanted to say.
"The President hopes tonight to bring some clarity to the debate," said one senior administration official.
We'll be digging deeper on President Obama's highly anticipated speech to Congress tonight. Will his message persuade legislators to support his health care initiative? Will he appeal to average Americans?
We will also talk about how different health care options will impact the country, both those who have insurance and people without coverage. Do you have questions? Let us know!
Send us a text message with your question. Text AC360 (or 22360), and you might hear it on air!
Ready for today's Beat 360°? Everyday we post a picture – and you provide the caption and our staff will join in too. Tune in tonight at 10pm to see if you are our favorite! Here is the 'Beat 360°' pic:
Actor George Clooney attends 'The Men Who Stare At Goats' premiere at the Sala Grande during the 66th Venice Film Festival on September 8, 2009 in Venice, Italy.
Have fun with it. We're looking forward to your captions! Make sure to include your name, city, state (or country) so we can post your comment.
UPDATE BEAT 360º WINNERS
"George Clooney learns that he had lost the “Best Looking TV Doctor” title yet again to Dr. Sanjay Gupta."
"Mamma mia! George Clooney suffers the aftereffects of Italian botox."