MANILA, Philippines -- Philippine police armed with truncheon, shields and water hose clashed Wednesday with more than 100 left-wing activists who rallied at the U.S. Embassy in Manila to oppose a visit by President Obama and a looming pact that will increase the American military presence in the Philippines.

Riot policemen blocked the flag-waving activists near the heavily fortified embassy compound but the protesters slipped past them, sparking a brief scuffle in view of motorists stuck in traffic.

The police sprayed the protesters with water from a fire truck to push them away. A police officer was punched in the face in the melee but no arrests were made. Some of the protesters carried paper U.S. flags with the message: 'Obama, not welcome.'

Obama arrives in Manila on Monday for an overnight stop after visiting Japan, South Korea and Malaysia on an Asian trip where he is expected to reassure allied nations enmeshed in long-running territorial disputes with an increasingly assertive China.

The United States and the Philippines, which are treaty allies, have been scrambling to overcome differences to finalize a new security accord in time for Obama's visit.

The accord will allow more U.S. troops, aircraft and ships to be temporarily stationed in selected Philippine military camps as a counterweight to China and as a standby disaster-response force. About 500 American soldiers have been based in the southern Philippines since 2002 to provide anti-terrorism training and intelligence to Filipino troops battling al Qaeda-linked militants.

President Obama is due in Tokyo Wednesday where he will kick start a trip to Asia aimed in part at renewing the U.S.'s security commitment to the region.

POTUS ABROAD: Obama heads to Japan to reassure Asia allies

Ahead of his arrival in Japan he confirmed that America's mutual security treaty with Japan applies to the islands at the center of a territorial dispute between China and Japan.

'The policy of the United States is clear,' he said in a written response to questions published in Japan's Yomiuri newspaper before his arrival in Tokyo at the start of a four-country Asia tour that will also see the president travel to South Korea, the Philippines and Malaysia, but not China, the regional superpower.

'The Senkaku islands are administered by Japan' and therefore fall under the U.S.-Japan treaty, he wrote. 'And we oppose any unilateral attempts to undermine Japan's administration of these islands.'

During a recent Asian tour, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel pledged to deploy two more ballistic missile defense destroyers in Japan by 2017 in a bid to allay Japan's worries over a territorial dispute with China and missile launches by North Korea.

Hagel also rebuked Beijing for escalating the territorial dispute, which is over Japanese-controlled islands in the East China Sea that Japan calls the Senkaku islands and China calls the Diaoyu.

In this April 23, 2013, file photo, a Japan Coast Guard vessel, left, sails along with a Chinese surveillance ship near the disputed islands called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China in the East China Sea.(Photo: AP)

The U.S. is obligated to protect Japan from attack, but has sought to avoid taking a stand on sovereignty over the islands.

Tokyo is hoping for more in the way of confidence building, said Hitoshi Tanaka, chairman of the Institute for International Strategy in Tokyo.

'We would like to see the president make a strong, clear statement about the Senkaku,' Tanaka said. 'There is a need for Japan and the U.S. to work to improve the security situation in East Asia.'

Obama's trip to Japan will be the first state visit to America's closest ally in Asia by a U.S. president since Bill and Hillary Clinton came in 1996. He will be the first sitting U.S. president to visit Malaysia since Lyndon Johnson in 1966. Allies South Korea and the Philippines, the two other stops on his agenda, are also keen to shore up security ties.

Hjelmgaard reported from London; Jackler from McLean, Va.; Contributing: Associated Press

Economic ties will also be a major focus of the trip with China's fast-growing economy likely to feature heavily.

TOKYO - President Obama arrived here on Wednesday evening to begin a four-country tour of Asia, after stopping to survey the devastation left by last month's deadly mudslide in Washington State. It was a fitting start, given that everywhere on this trip, he will witness the lingering fallout of other disasters, natural and man-made.

From South Korea, where public outrage is surging in the wake of a ferry accident that has claimed the lives of dozens of teenagers, to Malaysia, where the authorities face harsh scrutiny over their handling of the vanished Malaysian jetliner, Mr. Obama will encounter leaders under pressure from angry, often grief-stricken constituents.

In the Philippines, the government has labored to recover from withering criticism of its botched response to Typhoon Haiyan last fall. Even here in Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was tripped up by the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, faulted last summer for playing down a leakage of highly radioactive water from the plant.

White House officials, who have come with a busy agenda of economic and security issues, worry that the leaders - particularly President Park Guen-hye of South Korea, for whom the ferry tragedy is still unfolding - will be preoccupied when they meet Mr. Obama.

'The South Korea visit could really be overshadowed by the ferry,' said a senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

That would be a missed opportunity for the South Koreans, who appealed to the White House to add a stop in Seoul when news surfaced last fall that Mr. Obama planned to visit Tokyo. It will be the president's fourth trip to South Korea, the most visits he has made in office to any Asian country.

South Korean diplomats are characterizing it as a visit by an old friend - a pointed contrast to his more formal two-day stop in Japan, which includes an elaborate welcoming ceremony at the Imperial Palace, an audience with Emperor Akihito, and a state dinner.

Relations between South Korea and Japan have been deeply strained since Ms. Park and Prime Minister Abe came into office, with the two sides replaying World War II-era grievances. Earlier this month, Mr. Obama brokered a carefully orchestrated meeting between the leaders in The Hague that was meant to clear the air.

On Wednesday night, the president was to be taken to dinner by Mr. Abe to a well-known but tiny sushi bar in downtown Tokyo that seats 10 customers, an unusually informal choice for Japan.

The prime minister has aroused hopes in Washington because of his commitment to overhauling the Japanese economy. The United States would like to announce progress, if not a signed deal, in trade negotiations with Japan during the visit, to help bolster an American-led regional trade pact known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

While Mr. Abe is perhaps the least distracted of the leaders Mr. Obama will meet - the Fukushima disaster has largely receded - he faces a political fight in convincing Japan's powerful farmers to open markets in beef and pork, which is critical to reaching a deal.

Japan won a symbolic boost from Mr. Obama when he reaffirmed that a clump of disputed islands in the East China Sea that are at the center of tense standoff between Japan and China are covered under the mutual defense treaty between the United States and Japan.

'We oppose any unilateral attempts to undermine Japan's administration of these islands,' Mr. Obama said in a written answer to questions from the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper.

In Seoul, administration officials said, Mr. Obama hopes to build pressure on North Korea, which has reverted to a pattern of missile tests and other provocative actions. But Ms. Park is likely to be consumed by the desperate effort to find survivors in the sunken ferry.

On Monday, Chosun Ilbo, the largest South Korean newspaper, said in an editorial, 'People are descending into a collective sense of powerlessness, unable to trust the government with protecting them in emergency situations.' Ms. Park has characterized the captain's decision to abandon ship with passengers still trapped below decks as akin to murder.

Mr. Obama faces an even more delicate situation in Malaysia, which his advisers had hoped to celebrate as a reliable partner in counterterrorism operations and a model of a majority-Muslim democracy in Asia. Instead, it has become a byword for confusion and opacity in the wake of the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

Malaysia's hapless response, some critics say, reveals deeper problems with its government, which has long been under one-party rule, dominated by a hidebound Malay elite, and has compiled a record of human rights abuses that belies the White House's upbeat narrative.

With the United States already taking part in the painstaking search of the southern Indian Ocean, there is little more that Mr. Obama can do, except offer solace. He will also try to focus on other issues in what is the first visit to Malaysia by a president since Lyndon B. Johnson in 1966.

In the Philippines, at least, Mr. Obama will be able to speak openly about the typhoon and offer help for the next storm. He and President Benigno S. Aquino III are expected to sign a deal to expand access to bases for American warships and planes rotating through the archipelago.

Filipinos had long been opposed to a major American military presence. But the response of Marines and ships dispatched from Okinawa, Japan, after the typhoon, at a time that the local authorities were overwhelmed, was a reminder that such an arrangement has some advantages.

Correction: April 23, 2014

Korea Confronts Tendency to Overlook Safety as Toll in Ferry Sinking Grows Amid Search for Plane, Malaysian Leaders Face Rare Scrutiny

Credit: Reuters/Larry Downing

1 of 3. U.S. President Barack Obama prepares to board Air Force One to depart Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington to begin his seven-day four-nation Asian tour, April 22, 2014.

Obama's remarks, aimed at reassuring Japan and other allies, set against a robust commentary from China's state news agency Xinhua that also called the United States 'myopic', demonstrate the delicate balancing act Obama faces on a week-long Asia tour.

The four-nation trip that starts in Tokyo later on Wednesday comes at a time of rising tension in the region, and as the United States urges Japan's unpredictable neighbor North Korea not to conduct another nuclear test.

Obama, who will be making the first full state visit to Japan by a U.S. President since 1996, must assuage worries by Tokyo and other allies that his commitment to their defense in the face of an increasingly assertive China is weak, without hurting vital U.S. ties with Asia's biggest economy.

Noting Beijing and Washington could work together on issues such as North Korea's nuclear program, Obama told the Yomiuri newspaper, in written remarks: 'In other words, we welcome the continuing rise of a China that is stable, prosperous and peaceful and plays a responsible role in global affairs.'

He added: 'And our engagement with China does not and will not come at the expense of Japan or any other ally.'

Such assurances are likely to be high on the agenda when Obama meets Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at a symbolic summit on Thursday.

Japan, whose ties with rival China have chilled over the past two years, has been beset by anxiety over the degree to which reality matches rhetoric in Obama's promised 'pivot' of U.S. military and diplomatic assets to Asia.

China, for its part, fears the U.S. is pursuing a policy of containment through its network of Asian allies, several of whom have long-standing territorial disputes with Beijing in the East and South China Seas.

Wednesday's Xinhua commentary criticized U.S. policy in the region as 'a carefully calculated scheme to cage the rapidly developing Asian giant'.

'The United States should reappraise its anachronistic hegemonic alliance system and stop pampering its chums like Japan and the Philippines that have been igniting regional tensions with provocative moves,' it said.


Obama and Abe are expected to send a message of solidarity after strains following Abe's December visit to Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine, seen by critics as a symbol of Japan's past militarism.

Obama also assured Japan that tiny isles in the East China Sea at the heart of a territorial row with China are covered by a bilateral security treaty that obligates America to come to Japan's defense. That is long-stated U.S. policy, but the confirmation by the president is likely to be welcome in Japan.

'The policy of the United States is clear - the Senkaku islands are administered by Japan and therefore fall within the scope of ... the U.S.-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security,' Obama said, using the Japanese name for the islands that are known as the Diaoyu in China, which also claims them.

'And we oppose any unilateral attempts to undermine Japan's administration of these islands,' he said.

Japanese and Chinese naval vessels and coastguard ships have played cat-and-mouse around the disputed islets since Japan's government bought the then-privately owned territory in 2012.

A joint statement to be issued at the summit will state the two allies will not tolerate any attempt to change the status quo by force - a phrase that implicitly targets China - but likely not mention the islands or China by name, Japanese media have reported.


Obama also reaffirmed Washington's commitment to the security of South Korea, and said it would stand firm in its insistence that a nuclear North Korea was unacceptable.

Seoul is the second stop on Obama's four-nation swing, which also includes Malaysia and the Philippines.

'The burden is on Pyongyang to take concrete steps to abide by its commitments and obligations, and the United States, Japan and South Korea are united in our goal - the complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula,' Obama said.

North Korea, already subject to United Nations' sanctions over its previous atomic tests, the third and most recent of which took place in early 2013, threatened last month to conduct what it call 'a new form of nuclear test'.

On Monday its KCNA news agency quoted a foreign ministry spokesman saying Obama's trip was a 'reactionary and dangerous one as it is aimed to escalate confrontation and bring dark clouds of a nuclear arms race to hang over this unstable region'.

The United States said on Tuesday it was watching the Korean peninsula closely after news reports quoted the South Korean government as saying that heightened activity had been detected at North Korea's underground nuclear test site.

'We continue to urge North Korea to refrain from actions that threaten regional peace and security and to comply with its international obligations and commitments,' State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told a regular briefing.


U.S.-Japan relations were strained after Abe in December visited the Yasukuni Shrine, where wartime leaders convicted as war criminals by an Allied tribunal are honored along with war dead. The visit prompted a U.S. statement of 'disappointment'.

Abe has since sought to soothe U.S. concerns that his conservative agenda to recast wartime history with a less apologetic tone is blocking improved ties with Seoul and giving China ammunition to paint him as reviving past militarism.

Last month, Abe told parliament that he has no plans to revise a landmark 1993 apology to women, many Korean, forced to work in Japan's wartime military brothels.

And while he sent a ritual offering to Yasukuni on Monday, Abe did not join the nearly 150 lawmakers who visited in person to commemorate its spring festival.

'Abe, by declining to visit Yasukuni for the spring festival, sent the message that he has heard the U.S., that the message has been received,' a former Western diplomat said. 'To that degree, the situation is different from some months back.'

The two leaders will also need to show progress towards a two-way trade pact seen as vital to a broader U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal.

The deal is both a pillar of Obama's Asia rebalancing and critical to Abe's strategy to revive the Japan's economy.

But significant gaps remain over Japan's desire to keep tariffs on politically sensitive farm products such as beef.

Failure could take the wind out of the push for a broader agreement among the 12-nation TPP group that would stretch from Asia to Latin America.

Some trade experts said that despite the hurdles, a last-minute agreement could not be ruled out.

U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman had arrived in Japan earlier than expected and was likely to meet Japanese Economy Minister Akira Amari, Japanese media reported on Wednesday.

(Editing by Alex Richardson)

President Obama plans a brief visit near Seattle to survey damage from a recent mudslide that killed more than three dozen people.

Obama will stop while on his way to the Asia-Pacific region for a four-country trip that begins Wednesday in Tokyo.

While in Washington state, Obama will also visit with victims of the deadly March 22 disaster, emergency responders and recovery workers.

The massive mudslide killed at least 41 people and buried dozens of homes in the small town of Oso, which is about an hour northeast of Seattle.

The Snohomish County medical examiner's office has identified 39 of the victims, with two not yet identified. Four names remain on a list of missing people.

Crews continue to dig through the wreckage in a search for bodies, focusing on a small area where the final four victims are believed to be buried.

At the request of Gov. Jay Inslee, Obama earlier this month declared that a major disaster had occurred in the state, making it and affected residents eligible for various forms of financial aid, including help covering the costs of temporary housing, home repairs and the loss of uninsured property. The Homeland Security Department, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers are also helping.

Obama recently asked the nation to send its thoughts and prayers to the state and to Oso.

'We know that part of this tight-knit community has been lost,' Obama said last month while attending a European summit just days after the tragedy struck. 'We hope for the best, but we recognize this is a tough situation.'

After the Oso visit, Obama continues on to the Asia-Pacific region, where he is scheduled to spend the rest of this week and part of next week conferring with the leaders of Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines.

BONNE TERRE, Mo. (AP) - Missouri executed an inmate early Wednesday only a few miles from the farm where prosecutors say he orchestrated the 1993 killing of a couple whose cows he wanted to steal.

William Rousan's last words were, 'My trials and transgressions have been many. But thanks be to my Lord and savior, Jesus Christ, I have a new home in his heavenly kingdom.'

Before dying, Rousan, 57, mouthed words to his brother-in-law and a minister he had invited. As the drug was administered, Rousan breathed deeply twice and then was still. He was declared dead at 12:10 a.m., nine minutes after the procedure started.

Michael Lewis, the son of the slain couple, Charlie and Grace Lewis, spoke afterward.

'I draw no real satisfaction from Mr. Rousan's incarceration or execution, for neither can replace or restore the moments lost with my parents or give my sons back the grandparents they never got to know,' he said.

According to prosecutors, Rousan, his teenage son, Brent Rousan, and his brother, Robert Rousan, murdered Charles and Grace Lewis on Sept. 21, 1993, at their farm near Bonne Terre. Rousan lived in the same area of St. Francois County, about 70 miles southwest of St. Louis.

Authorities say the three men drove by the farm, and William Rousan pointed out the cattle to steal. They parked about two miles away and hiked through the woods to the farm. They watched as the couple returned home. Charles Lewis, 67, began cutting the lawn with a riding mower while his wife, 62, spoke to the couple's daughter on the phone.

Brent Rousan, then 16, ambushed Charles Lewis, shooting him six times. Grace Lewis told her daughter on the phone she heard gunfire and stepped outside to check on the commotion. Brent Rousan shot her several times. She managed to go back into the home, but William Rousan followed her, placed a garment bag over her head and carried her outside.

He turned to his son and said, 'Finish her off.' Brent Rousan fired a single shot into the side of her head.

The men placed the bodies in a tarp and put them near a shed. Later that night, they returned along with another Rousan brother, loaded the bodies in the Lewis' pickup truck, and took two cows, a VCR, jewelry, a saddle and other items.

For almost exactly a year, they got away with the crime. The couple seemingly had vanished without a trace.

But in September 1994, investigators received two tips that helped them solve the case: Rousan's brother-in-law, Bruce Williams, called police and implicated Rousan in the couple's killings, and a sister of William and Robert Rousan sold the Lewises' stolen VCR to a pawn shop.

The couple's bodies were found in a shallow grave covered with concrete and a pile of horse manure on the farm where William Rousan was living. He was caught after a four-day manhunt.

Brent Rousan pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Robert Rousan cooperated with prosecutors and pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. He served seven years in prison and was released in 2001.

Gov. Jay Nixon declined William Rousan's clemency request Tuesday evening, clearing the way for the execution to proceed. In a statement explaining his decision, Nixon said he thought Rousan's sentence was appropriate for his alleged role as the mastermind behind the 'cold-blooded plot' that led to the couple's slayings.

Earlier Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court turned down Rousan's request to delay his execution.

Efforts to spare Rousan's life hinged an argument that has held little sway over the courts - concerns about the secrecy used to obtain the execution drug, and the possibility that a substandard drug could cause pain and suffering in the execution process.

Several states, including Missouri, now use compounded execution drugs purchased from unnamed pharmacies. Courts so far have allowed most executions to move forward. However, on Monday, the Oklahoma Supreme Court stayed the executions of two death row inmates who challenged the secrecy surrounding the process of procuring execution drugs.

Missouri has executed one death row inmate each month since November. Another Missouri inmate, Russell Bucklew, is scheduled for execution on May 21. Only Texas, with seven executions, has executed more inmates than Missouri's four so far in 2014. Florida has also executed four inmates this year.

The American middle class, long the most affluent in the world, has lost that distinction.

While the wealthiest Americans are outpacing many of their global peers, a New York Times analysis shows that across the lower- and middle-income tiers, citizens of other advanced countries have received considerably larger raises over the last three decades.

After-tax middle-class incomes in Canada - substantially behind in 2000 - now appear to be higher than in the United States. The poor in much of Europe earn more than poor Americans.

The numbers, based on surveys conducted over the past 35 years, offer some of the most detailed publicly available comparisons for different income groups in different countries over time. They suggest that most American families are paying a steep price for high and rising income inequality.

Although economic growth in the United States continues to be as strong as in many other countries, or stronger, a small percentage of American households is fully benefiting from it. Median income in Canada pulled into a tie with median United States income in 2010 and has most likely surpassed it since then. Median incomes in Western European countries still trail those in the United States, but the gap in several - including Britain, the Netherlands and Sweden - is much smaller than it was a decade ago.

In European countries hit hardest by recent financial crises, such as Greece and Portugal, incomes have of course fallen sharply in recent years.

The income data were compiled by LIS, a group that maintains the Luxembourg Income Study Database. The numbers were analyzed by researchers at LIS and by The Upshot, a New York Times website covering policy and politics, and reviewed by outside academic economists.

The struggles of the poor in the United States are even starker than those of the middle class. A family at the 20th percentile of the income distribution in this country makes significantly less money than a similar family in Canada, Sweden, Norway, Finland or the Netherlands. Thirty-five years ago, the reverse was true.

LIS counts after-tax cash income from salaries, interest and stock dividends, among other sources, as well as direct government benefits such as tax credits.

The findings are striking because the most commonly cited economic statistics - such as per capita gross domestic product - continue to show that the United States has maintained its lead as the world's richest large country. But those numbers are averages, which do not capture the distribution of income. With a big share of recent income gains in this country flowing to a relatively small slice of high-earning households, most Americans are not keeping pace with their counterparts around the world.

'The idea that the median American has so much more income than the middle class in all other parts of the world is not true these days,' said Lawrence Katz, a Harvard economist who is not associated with LIS. 'In 1960, we were massively richer than anyone else. In 1980, we were richer. In the 1990s, we were still richer.'

That is no longer the case, Professor Katz added.

Median per capita income was $18,700 in the United States in 2010 (which translates to about $75,000 for a family of four after taxes), up 20 percent since 1980 but virtually unchanged since 2000, after adjusting for inflation. The same measure, by comparison, rose about 20 percent in Britain between 2000 and 2010 and 14 percent in the Netherlands. Median income also rose 20 percent in Canada between 2000 and 2010, to the equivalent of $18,700.

The most recent year in the LIS analysis is 2010. But other income surveys, conducted by government agencies, suggest that since 2010 pay in Canada has risen faster than pay in the United States and is now most likely higher. Pay in several European countries has also risen faster since 2010 than it has in the United States.

Three broad factors appear to be driving much of the weak income performance in the United States. First, educational attainment in the United States has risen far more slowly than in much of the industrialized world over the last three decades, making it harder for the American economy to maintain its share of highly skilled, well-paying jobs.

Americans between the ages of 55 and 65 have literacy, numeracy and technology skills that are above average relative to 55- to 65-year-olds in rest of the industrialized world, according to a recent study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, an international group. Younger Americans, though, are not keeping pace: Those between 16 and 24 rank near the bottom among rich countries, well behind their counterparts in Canada, Australia, Japan and Scandinavia and close to those in Italy and Spain.

A second factor is that companies in the United States economy distribute a smaller share of their bounty to the middle class and poor than similar companies elsewhere. Top executives make substantially more money in the United States than in other wealthy countries. The minimum wage is lower. Labor unions are weaker.

And because the total bounty produced by the American economy has not been growing substantially faster here in recent decades than in Canada or Western Europe, most American workers are left receiving meager raises.

American Incomes Are Losing Their Edge, Except at the Top

Inflation-adjusted, after-tax income over time

Finally, governments in Canada and Western Europe take more aggressive steps to raise the take-home pay of low- and middle-income households by redistributing income.

Janet Gornick, the director of LIS, noted that inequality in so-called market incomes - which does not count taxes or government benefits - 'is high but not off the charts in the United States.' Yet the American rich pay lower taxes than the rich in many other places, and the United States does not redistribute as much income to the poor as other countries do. As a result, inequality in disposable income is sharply higher in the United States than elsewhere.

Whatever the causes, the stagnation of income has left many Americans dissatisfied with the state of the country. Only about 30 percent of people believe the country is headed in the right direction, polls show.

'Things are pretty flat,' said Kathy Washburn, 59, of Mount Vernon, Iowa, who earns $33,000 at an Ace Hardware store, where she has worked for 23 years. 'You have mostly lower level and high and not a lot in between. People need to start in between to work their way up.'

Middle-class families in other countries are obviously not without worries - some common around the world and some specific to their countries. In many parts of Europe, as in the United States, parents of young children wonder how they will pay for college, and many believe their parents enjoyed more rapidly rising living standards than they do. In Canada, people complain about the costs of modern life, from college to monthly phone and Internet bills. Unemployment is a concern almost everywhere.

But both opinion surveys and interviews suggest that the public mood in Canada and Northern Europe is less sour than in the United States today.

'The crisis had no effect on our lives,' Jonas Frojelin, 37, a Swedish firefighter, said, referring to the global financial crisis that began in 2007. He lives with his wife, Malin, a nurse, in a seaside town a half-hour drive from Gothenburg, Sweden's second-largest city.

They each have five weeks of vacation and comprehensive health benefits. They benefited from almost three years of paid leave, between them, after their children, now 3 and 6 years old, were born. Today, the children attend a subsidized child-care center that costs about 3 percent of the Frojelins' income.

Even with a large welfare state in Sweden, per capita G.D.P. there has grown more quickly than in the United States over almost any extended recent period - a decade, 20 years, 30 years. Sharp increases in the number of college graduates in Sweden, allowing for the growth of high-skill jobs, has played an important role.

Other countries' middle class incomes have grown since 2000. The United States' has not.









United States








Elsewhere in Europe, economic growth has been slower in the last few years than in the United States, as the Continent has struggled to escape the financial crisis. But incomes for most families in Sweden and several other Northern European countries have still outpaced those in the United States, where much of the fruits of recent economic growth have flowed into corporate profits or top incomes.

This pattern suggests that future data gathered by LIS are likely to show similar trends to those through 2010.

There does not appear to be any other publicly available data that allows for the comparisons that the LIS data makes possible. But two other sources lead to broadly similar conclusions.

A Gallup survey conducted between 2006 and 2012 showed the United States and Canada with nearly identical per capita median income (and Scandinavia with higher income). And tax records collected by Thomas Piketty and other economists suggest that the United States no longer has the highest average income among the bottom 90 percent of earners.

One large European country where income has stagnated over the past 15 years is Germany, according to the LIS data. Policy makers in Germany have taken a series of steps to hold down the cost of exports, including restraining wage growth.

Even in Germany, though, the poor have fared better than in the United States, where per capita income has declined between 2000 and 2010 at the 40th percentile, as well as at the 30th, 20th, 10th and 5th.

More broadly, the poor in the United States have trailed their counterparts in at least a few other countries since the early 1980s. With slow income growth since then, the American poor now clearly trail the poor in several other rich countries. At the 20th percentile - where someone is making less than four-fifths of the population - income in both the Netherlands and Canada was 15 percent higher than income in the United States in 2010.

By contrast, Americans at the 95th percentile of the distribution - with $58,600 in after-tax per capita income, not including capital gains - still make 20 percent more than their counterparts in Canada, 26 percent more than those in Britain and 50 percent more than those in the Netherlands. For these well-off families, the United States still has easily the world's most prosperous major economy.

Obama travels to Japan without the first lady, and Japanese tongues are wagging about what that says about Japan's place on the US priority list. After all, Michelle Obama and daughters recently went to (gasp!) China.

When Japan scored Caroline Kennedy as the new US ambassador to Tokyo last year, Japanese officials and media were ecstatic. That President Obama had named such a globally recognized figure and the daughter of a widely beloved and glamorous president to represent the United States in Japan was seen as a sign of the country's enduring importance to Washington.

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But that was then. Now on the eve of Mr. Obama's state visit to Tokyo this week, Japan is back to openly fretting about its place on America's priority list - particularly in comparison to rising rival China.

The reason? When Obama arrives Wednesday evening, he'll disembark Air Force One solo - without first lady Michelle Obama. Obama will be the first US president to come to Japan on a state visit in 18 years, but never mind: Michelle's absence has thrown Tokyo into a tizzy.

Media commentators, social media discussions, academics, even some officials, named and unnamed, are wringing their hands over Mrs. Obama's decision to sit out not just Japan but her husband's entire eight-day Asia trip, which will also take in South Korea, Malaysia, and the Philippines.

At least one miffed member of the Diet, Japan's parliament, has gone so far as to become snarky - so not like Japan - and intimate that the president's solo travel must say something about the state of the Obama marriage.

But for most of those doing the chattering, Mrs. Obama's absence is a woeful sign of Japan's retreat from the top tier of America's allies.

No doubt the first lady's no-show would have disappointed and prompted speculation under just about any circumstances. But what has really thrown the Japanese for a loop is that her failure to grace Japan with her presence comes within a month of Mrs. Obama's widely covered trip with daughters, Sasha and Malia, to (shudder at the thought) China.

To the Japanese, the sight of Michelle jumping rope with Chinese kids, feeding pandas, trying out tai-chi, and meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife, Peng Liyuan, was more than insult added to injury. It was proof of China's ascendency to the top rung of America's strategic priorities and Japan's fall to second class.

White House officials say it's nothing of the sort, of course. Obama doesn't accept just any foreign trip he makes to take on the stature of a state visit, they note. The fact his Japan stop rises to that level and will include an audience with Emperor Akihito says a lot about Japan's importance to the US, they add.

Aides to Mrs. Obama note that their boss has limited her time away from her daughters over the course of the Obama presidency - a reason cited for the relatively few overseas trips the first lady takes with her husband. The last lengthy trip Mrs. Obama made with the president was last summer to Africa - a trip that also included the Obama daughters. And don't forget that the Obama women's China trip occurred while the daughters were on spring break, the aides add.

Of course all the analyzing and speculation - that Obama is suggesting his lack of connection with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe by coming stag, or that Michelle is hinting at her disapproval of this or that Japanese policy or reality (perhaps whaling? or maybe the relative subjugation of Japanese women?) by staying home - may melt away once Obama lands in Tokyo and takes advantage of every occasion to laud what he'll call the strong and enduring US-Japan partnership.

The real test may come next fall, when Obama is expected to visit China. If Mrs. Obama accompanies the president on that trip, the Japanese may very well hark back to the first lady's no-show and start up the hand-wringing all over again.

BOSTON - After Zeituni Onyango, the woman President Obama once called Auntie, died in a South Boston nursing home this month, her closest relatives gathered her belongings at her nearby apartment. There, framed photographs of her with the president covered the wall.

Weeping before a polished wood coffin at her wake this past Saturday, they described Ms. Onyango, the half sister of the president's father, as 'the spirit of the Obama family' and talked about raising money to send her body back to Kenya. Mr. Obama helped pay funeral expenses and sent a condolence note, Ms. Onyango's family members said, but the president did not attend, as he was golfing.

Every complicated family is complicated in its own way. The Obamas, in that sense, are ordinary. But the natural drift that has occurred within the family - already separated by oceans and languages - is exacerbated by politics.

'He leads his life, and I lead my life,' said Mr. Obama's half brother Malik Obama, who flew in for the wake and spoke emotionally about Ms. Onyango, his aunt, who was 61. He said he 'wouldn't say' he and the president had stayed close. 'Because even my other brothers and sisters, they are all over the place,' Malik Obama added. 'Right now, I would say that things have changed.'

As president, Mr. Obama has kept his distance from, and even failed to acknowledge, members of this eclectic clan. In the time-honored tradition of eccentric presidential relatives, the assorted Obamas have faced deportation and drunken-driving charges, started Obama-branded foundations and written memoirs.

But they also made for a powerful element of the president's Kansas-meets-Kenya narrative as a candidate who could connect different worlds. A delegation of African relatives flew in for Mr. Obama's inauguration in 2009 and received royal treatment. An aunt beamed when the first couple admired her traditional dress on the platform, brothers and uncles partied at special balls and the whole family proudly posed with the new president after he led them on a tour of the White House.

Now, as the president has embraced the family more culturally near to him - the half sister on his mother's side with whom he remained close, the Ivy League-educated brother-in-law he bonds with over basketball, the mother-in-law who lives upstairs - the Obamas are often relegated to the farther branches of his family tree.

In the White House, officials who have seen the president's reaction to his African relatives say that he is unfairly expected to answer for people with whom he has little relationship. 'This is the president's personal family, so we are not going to have any comment,' said Eric Schultz, a White House spokesman.

Today, many are doing their own things, although often that has something to do with their connection to Mr. Obama. Malik Obama, the president's half brother and best man at his wedding, now splits his time between Nairobi and Maryland and runs the Barack H. Obama Foundation.

'What can I say? It's not doing as well as I would like for it to do,' said Malik Obama, 54, who has raised money for the charity from friends in Yemen and Libya, where he was supportive of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi. 'I'm committed to it, and the reason for setting it up was the memory of my old man.'

For years, Malik Obama has been promoting his book, 'Barack Obama Sr.: The Rise and Life of a True African Scholar.' But he is hardly the only Obama relative with a book to sell.

A younger half brother of the president, George, published 'Homeland: An Extraordinary Story of Hope and Survival.' A half sister, Auma, the African relative closest to the president, wrote a memoir, 'And Then Life Happens,' and was featured in the documentary 'The Education of Auma Obama.' (She declined to comment through her publicist.) Her former husband, Ian Manners, who is white and has met the president several times, is finishing a book about corruption in Kenya with the working title 'Our Brother, Mr. President.' He also unsuccessfully ran for the British Parliament in an Obama-inspired campaign.

Ms. Onyango also published a memoir, 'Tears of Abuse.' She met Mr. Obama in 1988, during his first trip to Kenya, and warned him about losing track of their African family.

In 2000, Ms. Onyango moved to the United States on a valid visa, and in 2001, when Mr. Obama was an Illinois state senator, she helped take care of his newborn daughter, Sasha, and did household chores for the family in Chicago, according to Obama family members. But she stayed illegally after unsuccessfully seeking asylum. When reporters found her in Boston public housing during the 2008 election, Mr. Obama's aides said he did not know she was in the United States illegally and returned her $265 in campaign contributions.

In 2010, she received asylum and celebrated by telling an interviewer: 'President Obama, I'm his aunt. If he does a wrong thing, I'm the only person on earth allowed to pinch his ears and smack him.'

Back in 1988, connecting to his African family was critical to Mr. Obama's path to self-discovery and ultimately to his political ambitions.

In his memoir, 'Dreams From My Father,' he meditated on Auntie Zeituni's use of the term 'getting lost' to describe a family member who had lost touch. The family's principal example at the time was the president's uncle, Onyango Obama, known as Omar, who moved as a young man to Boston and went on to live there illegally for decades. In 2011, he was arrested in nearby Framingham on drunken-driving charges and told the booking officer, 'I think I will call the White House.'

With an election on the horizon, the White House seemed to want nothing to do with the uncle, who also had an outstanding deportation order. White House officials said they had no record of any meeting between the president and his uncle, but in court last December, Omar Obama said his nephew had stayed with him for weeks in Cambridge before starting Harvard Law School in 1988.

'It's a good thing to let your nephew stay with you,' he said after the hearing, adding that in his family, 'your brother's kids are your kids as well.'

Mr. Schultz acknowledged awkwardly at the time that the president did live with his uncle in the late 1980s, and 'after that, they saw each other once every few months, but after law school they fell out of touch.' He added, 'The president has not seen him in 20 years, has not spoken with him in 10.'

It was Omar Obama, a taciturn man who now works in a Framingham liquor store, who helped take care of Ms. Onyango in her last weeks. He arranged her wake and held a fund-raiser afterward to collect more money to send her body to Kenya. On a recent afternoon, as he disposed of a stray bottle in the liquor store parking lot, he declined to comment about his contact with the president, saying only, 'You don't know more about my family than I do.'

Another of the president's uncles, Said Obama, said in an interview from Kenya that he did not resent the president for staying away. 'He can choose to get along with those people who he feels comfortable with,' he said.

The people the president feels at home with include Maya Soetoro-Ng, who is the daughter of his mother and her second husband, an Indonesian man. He is considerably less close to another half sibling with a foot in that part of the world.

Mark Okoth Obama Ndesandjo took a path that most parallels the president's own. Mr. Ndesandjo, another Ivy League-educated son of a white American woman, is a China-based pianist, writer and businessman who has an Obama-branded cultural foundation and is publicizing a memoir, 'Cultures: My Odyssey of Self-Discovery,' which unflatteringly depicts his late father and explores a rocky relationship with the president.

Visiting Nairobi at Christmas, Mr. Ndesandjo said by phone that he and the other African Obamas had not heard from the president for some time. 'Barack is almost trying to leave behind the family that he so passionately engaged in those early years as he moves through the presidency,' Mr. Ndesandjo said.

Afterward, Mr. Ndesandjo followed up with an email: 'Just a small point, but when I said it would be nice for Barack to call Kenya once in a while, I was specifically referring to Granny Sarah. He hasn't done so for a number of years now, and she is the oldest member of our family and may leave us any day. Perhaps your article can note that.'

Granny Sarah, or Sarah Ogwel Onyango, is the president's stepgrandmother, and is considered the matriarch of the Obama family. On a recent morning in Kenya, she sat in a bright orange dress and blue head scarf on the veranda of the Obama homestead. Recovering from a bout of malaria and rubbing the left knee that she blamed for keeping her from attending Mr. Obama's second inauguration, she said in the Luo dialect that language barriers impeded communication between her and the president.

But at the end of March, she said, Auma Obama, the president's half sister, called with a birthday wish from Mr. Obama. The president and his stepgrandmother also spoke through a translator this year when he called to wish her a happy New Year. She then gestured around the homestead and attributed the electricity, paved roads and running drinking water to Mr. Obama.

'He is still very central to my life today,' she said.

Behold the newest interesting twist in the Cliven Bundy case: the Nevada rancher will be getting some new neighbors soon. Burning Man organizer Sean Shealy is putting together a month-long BundyFest to take place across the street from the Bundy ranch.

In a video explaining BundyFest, Shealy says anyone can do what they want and camp anywhere they want because 'it's fucking anarchy!' He mock-tears up telling people to thank Bundy 'for the sacrifice he made' for freedom.

He does encourage people getting riled up about Bundy to calm down just a tad, saying, 'Get a grip, folks. It's about some cranky old dude and some cows in the middle of a barren desert.' And, from September 5th to October 5th, a whole bunch of BundyFesters.

You can watch Shealy's video below:

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Follow Josh Feldman on Twitter: @feldmaniac

Nina Agdal's on Instagram straight flexin'.

The Sports Illustrated cover model took to the social media site to show off her sculpted and toned bod by posting a topless photo of herself that flaunted her back muscle and bulging biceps. OK, maybe not bulging but they're pretty darn impressive.

',' Agdal captioned the sexy picture (she is both strong and full of wisdom).

However, it's not totally surprising that the 22-year-old beauty has one super-athletic bod.

PHOTOS: Here are some bulging biceps for ya!

Along with maintaining an enviable figure for all of her swimsuit shoots, Agdal showed off her athletic capabilities when she competed for charity recently.

The model and Jeremy Piven, as well as special guest actor and comedian Mario Cantone, competed in the first ever Kiehl's Since 1851 'Ride for Charity' event.

Nina competed in 60-second cycling competitions on Flywheel bikes at the NYC Kiehl's Flagship store against Jeremy, Mario and consumers, and was the clear champion, beating both Jeremy and Mario, while raising funds for Food Bank for NYC.

'Had so much fun riding for charity @FoodBank4NYC with @Flywheel @Kiehls thanks to @jeremypiven for competing with me,' Agdal tweeted. Piven responded, 'I want a rematch.'

Start training now, Piven.


The Bruins hadn't gone into the Joe Louis Arena and won in over seven years, so Red Wings fans were feeling good about their team's odds heading into Game 3.

Boston made sure that there was no doubt that no matter what the venue, they can win big when it counts, shutting down the Red Wings 3-0 to take a 2-1 lead in this best-of-seven series.

Tuukka Rask was locked in from the start, stopping all 23 shots that came his way for his fourth career playoff shutout. Jimmy Howard played well, saving all but two of the Bruins' 33 shots he saw, but his offense couldn't help him out as the Wings dropped their second straight game.

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Despite coach Mike Babcock saying before the game that the Red Wings would play their style in Game 3, the Red Wings came out very aggressively, trying to hit every Bruin they could see.

That plan backfired, as the Bruins took their hits and dished them back out to the Red Wings, outmuscling Detroit in all three zones. The Bruins defense was rock solid in the first period, holding the Wings to just four shots on goal.

The Bruins struck first nine minutes into the game, as Dougie Hamilton took the puck up ice on a power play and snapped a wrister past Jimmy Howard for his first career playoff goal.

Jordan Caron doubled the lead 6:48 later, cleaning up a rebound off of a shot by Shawn Thornton for his first playoff goal. It was the first goal Caron had scored since October 10, which also happened to be against the Red Wings.

The horn sounded to end the first period, and the Joe Louis crowd, who had been booing Public Enemy No. 1 Milan Lucic all night, turned their boos to their own team, as Detroit sulked back to the dressing room down two scores.

In what has become an unsettling trend through the first three games of these playoffs, the Bruins ran low on gas in the second period, allowing the Red Wings to get into an offensive rhythm. Aided by two Bruins penalties – a holding of the stick on Brad Marchand and a too many men on the ice call – the Red Wings tallied 12 shots on Rask. The Bruins didn't break though, totaling 12 shots of their own in the period and headed to the second intermission still holding a two-goal lead.

The Bruins amped up the intensity in the third period, making sure that they were not going to let this game slip away. Detroit got one last big chance with just over 10:00 to play, as Kevan Miller flipped a puck over the glass and was called for delay of game, leading to a 5-on-4 for the Red Wings.

The Bruins defense was superb in front of Tuukka Rask, not letting the Red Wings get comfortable at all in the offensive zone. The B's held the Red Wings to just seven shots in the third period.

Patrice Bergeron sealed the game with a nifty long range shot from behind his blue line to score an empty net goal with 1:59 to play.

The series will continue on Thursday, as the teams return to the Joe for Game 4, with the Red Wings needing a win to guarantee that there will be another contest in Detroit this season.