Bible Translators Hope for Every Language by 2025

Progress continues in Wycliffe’s Bible Translators’ efforts to translate at least part of the Bible in every one of the world’s 6,909 spoken languages in the next 15 years, the Denver Post reports. “We’re in the greatest period of acceleration in 20 centuries of Bible translation,” said Morrison resident Paul Edwards, who heads up Wycliffe Bible Translators’ $1 billion Last Languages Campaign. He said portable computers and satellites have helped speed up the process by about 125 years. “Wycliffe missionaries don’t evangelize, teach theology, hold Bible study or start churches. They give (preliterate people) a written language,” Edwards said. “They teach them to read and write in their mother tongue.” About 2,200 languages still have no written Bible.

U.K. Doctors: Fetus Can’t Feel Pain before 24 Weeks

British health experts say the human fetus cannot feel pain before the age of 24 weeks, so there is no reason to change the country’s abortion laws. The study says that nerve connections in the brain are not sufficiently formed to allow pain perception before 24 weeks. The government-commissioned study is a setback for anti-abortion activists, who want the country’s current 24-week time limit for terminations reduced.

  • The Bible says that life is “in the blood” (Lev. 17:11,14, Deut. 12:23), which science has shown forms in the first 6-10 days after conception

House OKs Campaign-Spending Disclosure Bill

Democrats in Congress, scrambling to rein in special-interest spending before November’s midterm elections, pushed through a bill Thursday that would require CEOs to appear in campaign ads they fund and impose broad new disclosure rules on political spending. The bill, which passed the House of Representatives by a 219-206 vote, was opposed by most Republicans, including House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio, who cast it as violating free-speech protections. The measure’s prospects are uncertain in the Senate, where Democrats lack the 60 votes needed to pass a bill over Republican objections.

Senate GOP Again Blocks Bill Extending Jobless Benefits

For the third time, Senate Republicans have blocked legislation to extend unemployment benefits through November and renew dozens of individual and business tax breaks. The vote was 57-41, with 60 votes needed to end debate and advance the bill. All 40 Republicans and one Democrat, Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, objected because the bill would have added $33 billion to the deficit. The legislation cost of about $100 billion did not offset the additional unemployment insurance with other tax increases or spending cuts.

States Tackle Oil Spill on Their Own

Increasingly, communities are taking oil spill matters into their own hands. Rather than wait for solutions from the federal government or oil giant BP, they are launching their own countermeasures. Local engineers in Alabama are overseeing the installation of a 1,100-foot-long floating boom across the waterway, known as Perdido Pass. It is a local idea implemented with state dollars to keep the oil out of the bay. Instead of waiting for the Coast Guard and BP to improve their strategy, the city hired local engineers who came up with the new fix and tapped into $4 million of a state fund created by BP, the energy giant responsible for the oil spill. It could have taken more than a month to get Coast Guard-BP approval.

Similar innovation is springing up elsewhere. At the mouth of the Fowl River in Mobile Bay, local officials asked the Coast Guard for more boom and a skimmer for more than a month. When those requests were ignored, county leaders drew up a plan to create a 600-foot-long berm made of empty oyster shells that would block the oil from spreading inland and filter the water passing through to one of the area’s most sensitive estuaries. More than 90 million gallons of crude has gushed into the Gulf since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded and sank in April.

Oil containment efforts in the Gulf of Mexico encountered a major setback Wednesday when an underwater vehicle struck the cap that had been collecting oil on the sea bottom, forcing engineers to remove it. The cap over the damaged well had been capturing 700,000 gallons a day, meaning that additional amount of oil was now flowing directly into the Gulf, according to the Deepwater Horizon Response. Late Wednesday, the cap had been reattached after being off more than 11 hours and was again capturing some of the crude.

  • The Governors of the States of Texas, Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi as well as the Lt. Governor of the State of Florida had all signed a proclamation, calling for a day of prayer on Sunday.   Let’s join with believers around the world to seek the Lord together for “His wisdom for ourselves and our leaders, and ask him for his merciful intervention and healing in this time of crisis.”

Drilling Ban Blocked

A federal judge in New Orleans on blocked a six-month moratorium on deep-water drilling projects that the Obama administration imposed after the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The White House swiftly vowed to appeal the ruling. In a 22-page opinion, the judge, Martin L. C. Feldman of United States District Court, issued a preliminary injunction against the enforcement of a late May order halting all offshore exploratory drilling in more than 500 feet of water. Citing potential economic harm to businesses and workers, Judge Feldman wrote that the Obama administration had failed to justify the need for such “a blanket, generic, indeed punitive, moratorium” on deep-water oil and gas drilling.

Obama’s Support Continues to Dwindle

Obama’s job approval rating is now down to 45 percent, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. In perhaps worse news for the White House, 62 percent of adults surveyed feel the country is on the wrong track — the highest level since before Obama’s election in 2008. The results show “a really ugly mood and an unhappy electorate,” said Democratic pollster Peter Hart, who conducts the Journal/NBC poll with GOP pollster Bill McInturff. “The voters, I think, are just looking for change, and that means bad news for incumbents and in particular for the Democrats.”

  • Hmmm. Didn’t Obama get elected on a platform of change? Be careful what you wish for, voters.

The U.S. Department of Illegal Alien Labor

President Obama’s Labor Secretary Hilda Solis is supposed to represent American workers. But at a Latino voter registration project conference in Los Angeles years ago, Solis asserted to thunderous applause: “We are all Americans, whether you are legalized or not.” So, the woman in charge of enforcing our employment laws doesn’t care about the fundamental distinction between those who followed the and those who didn’t. While in Congress, she opposed strengthening the border fence, supported expansion of illegal alien benefits (including driver’s licenses and in-state tuition discounts), embraced sanctuary cities that refused to cooperate with federal homeland security officials to enforce immigration laws, and aggressively championed a mass amnesty. She has now caused a Capitol Hill firestorm over her new taxpayer-funded advertising and outreach campaign to illegal aliens regarding fair wages: Solis says, “If you work in this country, you are protected by our laws. And you can count on the U.S. Department of Labor to see to it that those protections work for you.”

  • No wonder the Obama administration does absolutely nothing to secure our borders because it sides with granting full-scale amnesty

‘Homo Depot’?

Is Home Depot seeking to introduce children to the homosexual lifestyle? The home-improvement giant has sponsored yet another “gay” pride event and provided children’s craft workshops “in the midst of loud and boisterous gay activities” at the 2010 Southern Maine Pride Festival in Portland, Maine, according to the American Family Association. “The worst offense is that Home Depot has set up kids’ workshops at these gay pride festivals,” explains AFA’s director of special projects. “These are events that have loud, boisterous homosexual activists making their voices heard – and Home Depot is putting money behind setting up kids’ booths at these kinds of events.” In a letter to Home Depot, AFA tells the company its inclusion of children’s activities at homosexual events is “irresponsible.”

Native Americans Embrace Tradition to Defeat Diabetes

Of the 3.3 million American Indians and Alaska Natives in the USA, about 16% have diabetes, most of them type 2, says the Indian Health Service, part of the Department of Health and Human Services

. That’s almost twice the rate of diabetes in whites. Though the number of diabetes cases in tribal communities is daunting, it’s not the end of the story, say many tribal members and health care workers. A number of communities in recent years have taken on diabetes with a vengeance and are reaping healthy results. Individual efforts as well as government grants are helping. Improved access to health care, nutritional counseling in schools and businesses, school mentoring programs and community farming are among the programs making headway.

Preserving and renewing cultural identity is a key feature of the programs, Dawn Satterfield, a team leader for the Native Diabetes Wellness Program at the CDC says. “We’ve listened to tribe elders from the beginning, and through our Traditional Foods project, we’ve honored the concepts of harvesting, gathering and preparing traditional foods like squash and berries.” The CDC has been working with 17 tribal communities to improve access to local, fresh produce. For many people living on reservations, grocery stores can be dozens of miles away.

Baby Cribs Recalled

More than 2 million cribs from seven companies are being recalled over concerns that babies can suffocate, become trapped or fall from the cribs. With Thursday’s recall, 9 million drop-side cribs have been recalled in the past five years. Drop-sides, which have a side rail that moves up and down so parents can lift children from them more easily, have been blamed in the deaths of at least 32 infants and toddlers since 2000. The cribs are suspected in another 14 infant fatalities during that time.

Ø      Recalls sure seem to be more prevalent these days, from food to autos to pet food to cribs

1 in 5 Women Going Childless

More women today are childless: Nearly one in five end their childbearing years without having a baby, compared with one in 10 just 30 years ago. That’s true for all racial and ethnic groups and for most education levels, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of Census data. A higher number of white women are childless, but the rate of childlessness has grown more rapidly among Hispanic and black women. But a very small group — the most highly educated — is the most likely to be childless.. In 2008, 9% of women in the USA had a master’s, doctorate or professional degree; of that group, 24% had not had children, down from 31% of the same group in 1994, the Pew analysis reports. The Census considers ages 40-44 the end of a woman’s childbearing years.

Spending on Local Projects Plummets

States and local governments are slashing spending on schools, roads, offices and other construction projects so fast that even federal stimulus money hasn’t filled in the gap. Investment in infrastructure is on pace to drop almost 7% this year to $269 billion, according to a USA TODAY analysis of federal data. That would be the first decline in state and local construction spending since the Census Bureau started tracking in 1993. The cuts are driven by several factors, including voters’ reluctance to take on more debt and fewer new residential subdivisions that require roads and other infrastructure. The stimulus program has helped soften the blow. It will pump $135 billion into state and local construction projects over several years. The types of spending favored in the stimulus bill are booming. Airport spending is up 12%. Mass transit work is up 17%. But the core of infrastructure spending — on schools, sewers, water plants, prisons, fire stations — has experienced sharp drops in nearly every category.

Economic News

The Federal Reserve’s policy-making arm said on Wednesday that it had decided to keep short-term interest rates near zero for “an extended period” in light of continuing threats to economic growth, including “developments abroad.” The Federal Open Market Committee’s decision to stick with its low-interest-rate policy was expected, given the persistently high unemployment rate and continuing weakness in housing and consumer spending.

New-home sales tumbled to a record low in May after a government tax credit for home buyers expired, raising more concerns about the outlook for housing’s recovery. Sales of new homes fell 32.7% from April to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 300,000, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. That was the lowest since the government began compiling data in 1963. The median sales price in May was $200,900, down 9.6% from a year earlier and the lowest since December 2003.

Initial claims for jobless benefits fell by the largest amount in two months last week but remain above levels consistent with healthy job growth. Despite the drop of 19,000, claims are about the same level they were at the beginning of the year. The stubbornly high level of requests for jobless aid is a sign hiring remains weak even as the economy recovers. First-time requests for unemployment insurance have been stuck about 450,000 since the beginning of this year.

The total number of people receiving benefits, meanwhile, dropped 45,000 to 4.5 million, mostly the result of people dropping off the rolls.. During the recession, Congress added up to 73 weeks of extra unemployment benefits on top of the 26 weeks typically provided by states. But those extensions expired earlier this month, leaving about 900,000 people without unemployment insurance, according to the Labor Department. That figure is expected to grow to 1.25 million by the end of this week. The House approved legislation to restore the 73 extra weeks but the Senate is still debating the bill.

The Commerce Department said Thursday that orders for big-ticket manufactured goods fell 1.1% last month as demand for commercial aircraft declined. But excluding the volatile transportation sector, orders rose 0.9%.

The main topic at this weekend’s G-20 summit of major and emerging economies in Toronto will be how to sustain the global recovery. China and India have led the recovery from the global recession with growth rates in the 9%-10% range this year, far surpassing the United States and Europe. In hopes of seeing other countries rebound, Asian leaders are likely to side with Obama against Europe in seeking only a slow turn toward austerity measures. The U.K.’s government is seeking tough spending cuts and tax increases, while Obama still favors additional stimulus measures.

AWOL Afghans Found … on Facebook

At least 11 of the 17 members of the Afghan military who went AWOL from an Air Force base in Texas and are considered deserters by their nation have turned up in the exact place you’d expect to find them in the year 2010. They’re on Facebook. And, by the look of things, they’re not unlike millions of other young men on the social networking site. One proclaims to be a fan of Paris Hilton and is a member of a group named “FREE Webcam Sex with ME!” Another is a fan of hip hop music, Michael Jackson, the tearjerker movie The Notebook, Family Guy and Sports Center. Another is a fan of soccer and the Godfather. But others have friends whose motives may be much more sinister. Some belong to the “Afghanistan Mujahideen” group, a page that features, among other content, videos from the American-born Al Qaeda spokesman Adam Gadahn, a.k.a. Azzam the American. Many of the men found on Facebook appear unconcerned that they are being actively sought by law enforcement officials, having made little or no attempt to disguise their identities or whereabouts.

Afghanistan

Prime Minister David Cameron says a British general is temporarily taking charge of NATO-led forces in Afghanistan following the ouster of American Gen. Stanley McChrystal. President Barack Obama accepted McChrystal’s resignation Wednesday and nominated Gen. David Petraeus to replace him. McChruystal was sacked for voicing criticism of Obama in the Rolling Stone magazine. Obama placed his hopes for the future of the war in Afghanistan on the same man — Gen. David Petraeus— who helped turned around the Iraq war for Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush. Petraeus, the current head of the military’s Central Command overseeing U.S. forces in the Middle East, helped craft the current Afghanistan strategy.

The man handpicked by President Obama to rescue the flagging American war effort in Afghanistan, Gen. David Petraeus, must wage a critical battle on two fronts: Taking on the Taliban while quelling bureaucratic rivalries in Washington that present a serious threat to military morale. Several military experts and commentators say disenchantment with how the administration is fighting the Afghanistan war transcends the loose-lipped McChrystal. Several analysts believe the McChrystal run-in reflects a growing distance between the Obama administration and some in the military. In part the friction appears to stem from infighting among Obama’s own advisers.

  • Narcissists can’t stand criticism, justified or not

Pakistan

Five American men were convicted Thursday on terror charges by a Pakistani court and sentenced to 10 years in prison in a case that heightened concerns about Westerners traveling to Pakistan to contact al-Qaeda and other Islamist extremist groups. The trial of the young Muslim men from the Washington, D.C., area was sensitive for the U.S., which has a duty to insure justice for its citizens but also has pushed Pakistan to crack down on militancy. Prosecutors said e-mail records and witness statements proved they were plotting terror attacks in Pakistan. One allegedly left behind a farewell video in the United States showing scenes of war and casualties and saying Muslims must be defended.

Earthquakes

A rare earthquake, measuring magnitude-5.5, struck at the Ontario-Quebec border region of Canada on Wednesday, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The midday quake was felt in the city of Toronto in Canada and in a number of U.S. states, including Michigan, Vermont and New York. There were no immediate reports of damage.

Wildfires

The Schultz fire in Arizona flared from an abandoned campfire Sunday and by Wednesday burned over 14,000 acres (20 sq. miles) of hiking and camping grounds popular with local residents and tourists that also include the town’s watershed, said Erin Phelps a public information officer for the Coconino National Forest. There have been no injuries or structures lost. Fire crews battling the enormous Schultz Fire north of Flagstaff fought fire with fire Thursday and won. The blaze was 40 percent contained Thursday evening after crews set a line of burnout fires to keep flames from the city’s precious “inner basin” watershed in the mountains north of the city. The idea is to contain and starve the main fire by burning out the fuel ahead of it.

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Bible Translators Hope for Every Language by 2025

Progress continues in Wycliffe’s Bible Translators’ efforts to translate at least part of the Bible in every one of the world’s 6,909 spoken languages in the next 15 years, the Denver Post reports. “We’re in the greatest period of acceleration in 20 centuries of Bible translation,” said Morrison resident Paul Edwards, who heads up Wycliffe Bible Translators’ $1 billion Last Languages Campaign. He said portable computers and satellites have helped speed up the process by about 125 years. “Wycliffe missionaries don’t evangelize, teach theology, hold Bible study or start churches. They give (preliterate people) a written language,” Edwards said. “They teach them to read and write in their mother tongue.” About 2,200 languages still have no written Bible.

U.K. Doctors: Fetus Can’t Feel Pain before 24 Weeks

British health experts say the human fetus cannot feel pain before the age of 24 weeks, so there is no reason to change the country’s abortion laws. The study says that nerve connections in the brain are not sufficiently formed to allow pain perception before 24 weeks. The government-commissioned study is a setback for anti-abortion activists, who want the country’s current 24-week time limit for terminations reduced.

Ø      The Bible says that life is “in the blood” (Lev. 17:11,14, Deut. 12:23), which science has shown forms in the first 6-10 days after conception

House OKs Campaign-Spending Disclosure Bill

Democrats in Congress, scrambling to rein in special-interest spending before November’s midterm elections, pushed through a bill Thursday that would require CEOs to appear in campaign ads they fund and impose broad new disclosure rules on political spending. The bill, which passed the House of Representatives by a 219-206 vote, was opposed by most Republicans, including House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio, who cast it as violating free-speech protections. The measure’s prospects are uncertain in the Senate, where Democrats lack the 60 votes needed to pass a bill over Republican objections.

Senate GOP Again Blocks Bill Extending Jobless Benefits

For the third time, Senate Republicans have blocked legislation to extend unemployment benefits through November and renew dozens of individual and business tax breaks. The vote was 57-41, with 60 votes needed to end debate and advance the bill. All 40 Republicans and one Democrat, Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, objected because the bill would have added $33 billion to the deficit. The legislation cost of about $100 billion did not offset the additional unemployment insurance with other tax increases or spending cuts.

States Tackle Oil Spill on Their Own

Increasingly, communities are taking oil spill matters into their own hands. Rather than wait for solutions from the federal government or oil giant BP, they are launching their own countermeasures. Local engineers in Alabama are overseeing the installation of a 1,100-foot-long floating boom across the waterway, known as Perdido Pass. It is a local idea implemented with state dollars to keep the oil out of the bay. Instead of waiting for the Coast Guard and BP to improve their strategy, the city hired local engineers who came up with the new fix and tapped into $4 million of a state fund created by BP, the energy giant responsible for the oil spill. It could have taken more than a month to get Coast Guard-BP approval.

Similar innovation is springing up elsewhere. At the mouth of the Fowl River in Mobile Bay, local officials asked the Coast Guard for more boom and a skimmer for more than a month. When those requests were ignored, county leaders drew up a plan to create a 600-foot-long berm made of empty oyster shells that would block the oil from spreading inland and filter the water passing through to one of the area’s most sensitive estuaries. More than 90 million gallons of crude has gushed into the Gulf since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded and sank in April.

Oil containment efforts in the Gulf of Mexico encountered a major setback Wednesday when an underwater vehicle struck the cap that had been collecting oil on the sea bottom, forcing engineers to remove it. The cap over the damaged well had been capturing 700,000 gallons a day, meaning that additional amount of oil was now flowing directly into the Gulf, according to the Deepwater Horizon Response. Late Wednesday, the cap had been reattached after being off more than 11 hours and was again capturing some of the crude.

Ø      The Governors of the States of Texas, Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi as well as the Lt. Governor of the State of Florida had all signed a proclamation, calling for a day of prayer on Sunday.   Let’s join with believers around the world to seek the Lord together for “His wisdom for ourselves and our leaders, and ask him for his merciful intervention and healing in this time of crisis.”

Drilling Ban Blocked

A federal judge in New Orleans on blocked a six-month moratorium on deep-water drilling projects that the Obama administration imposed after the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The White House swiftly vowed to appeal the ruling. In a 22-page opinion, the judge, Martin L. C. Feldman of United States District Court, issued a preliminary injunction against the enforcement of a late May order halting all offshore exploratory drilling in more than 500 feet of water. Citing potential economic harm to businesses and workers, Judge Feldman wrote that the Obama administration had failed to justify the need for such “a blanket, generic, indeed punitive, moratorium” on deep-water oil and gas drilling.

Obama’s Support Continues to Dwindle

Obama’s job approval rating is now down to 45 percent, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. In perhaps worse news for the White House, 62 percent of adults surveyed feel the country is on the wrong track — the highest level since before Obama’s election in 2008. The results show “a really ugly mood and an unhappy electorate,” said Democratic pollster Peter Hart, who conducts the Journal/NBC poll with GOP pollster Bill McInturff. “The voters, I think, are just looking for change, and that means bad news for incumbents and in particular for the Democrats.”

Ø      Hmmm. Didn’t Obama get elected on a platform of change? Be careful what you wish for, voters.

The U.S. Department of Illegal Alien Labor

President Obama’s Labor Secretary Hilda Solis is supposed to represent American workers. But at a Latino voter registration project conference in Los Angeles years ago, Solis asserted to thunderous applause: “We are all Americans, whether you are legalized or not.” So, the woman in charge of enforcing our employment laws doesn’t care about the fundamental distinction between those who followed the and those who didn’t. While in Congress, she opposed strengthening the border fence, supported expansion of illegal alien benefits (including driver’s licenses and in-state tuition discounts), embraced sanctuary cities that refused to cooperate with federal homeland security officials to enforce immigration laws, and aggressively championed a mass amnesty. She has now caused a Capitol Hill firestorm over her new taxpayer-funded advertising and outreach campaign to illegal aliens regarding fair wages: Solis says, “If you work in this country, you are protected by our laws. And you can count on the U.S. Department of Labor to see to it that those protections work for you.”

Ø      No wonder the Obama administration does absolutely nothing to secure our borders because it sides with granting full-scale amnesty

‘Homo Depot’?

Is Home Depot seeking to introduce children to the homosexual lifestyle? The home-improvement giant has sponsored yet another “gay” pride event and provided children’s craft workshops “in the midst of loud and boisterous gay activities” at the 2010 Southern Maine Pride Festival in Portland, Maine, according to the American Family Association. “The worst offense is that Home Depot has set up kids’ workshops at these gay pride festivals,” explains AFA’s director of special projects. “These are events that have loud, boisterous homosexual activists making their voices heard – and Home Depot is putting money behind setting up kids’ booths at these kinds of events.” In a letter to Home Depot, AFA tells the company its inclusion of children’s activities at homosexual events is “irresponsible.”

Native Americans Embrace Tradition to Defeat Diabetes

Of the 3.3 million American Indians and Alaska Natives in the USA, about 16% have diabetes, most of them type 2, says the Indian Health Service, part of the Department of Health and Human Services

. That’s almost twice the rate of diabetes in whites. Though the number of diabetes cases in tribal communities is daunting, it’s not the end of the story, say many tribal members and health care workers. A number of communities in recent years have taken on diabetes with a vengeance and are reaping healthy results. Individual efforts as well as government grants are helping. Improved access to health care, nutritional counseling in schools and businesses, school mentoring programs and community farming are among the programs making headway.

Preserving and renewing cultural identity is a key feature of the programs, Dawn Satterfield, a team leader for the Native Diabetes Wellness Program at the CDC says. “We’ve listened to tribe elders from the beginning, and through our Traditional Foods project, we’ve honored the concepts of harvesting, gathering and preparing traditional foods like squash and berries.” The CDC has been working with 17 tribal communities to improve access to local, fresh produce. For many people living on reservations, grocery stores can be dozens of miles away.

Baby Cribs Recalled

More than 2 million cribs from seven companies are being recalled over concerns that babies can suffocate, become trapped or fall from the cribs. With Thursday’s recall, 9 million drop-side cribs have been recalled in the past five years. Drop-sides, which have a side rail that moves up and down so parents can lift children from them more easily, have been blamed in the deaths of at least 32 infants and toddlers since 2000. The cribs are suspected in another 14 infant fatalities during that time.

Ø      Recalls sure seem to be more prevalent these days, from food to autos to pet food to cribs

1 in 5 Women Going Childless

More women today are childless: Nearly one in five end their childbearing years without having a baby, compared with one in 10 just 30 years ago. That’s true for all racial and ethnic groups and for most education levels, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of Census data. A higher number of white women are childless, but the rate of childlessness has grown more rapidly among Hispanic and black women. But a very small group — the most highly educated — is the most likely to be childless.. In 2008, 9% of women in the USA had a master’s, doctorate or professional degree; of that group, 24% had not had children, down from 31% of the same group in 1994, the Pew analysis reports. The Census considers ages 40-44 the end of a woman’s childbearing years.

Spending on Local Projects Plummets

States and local governments are slashing spending on schools, roads, offices and other construction projects so fast that even federal stimulus money hasn’t filled in the gap. Investment in infrastructure is on pace to drop almost 7% this year to $269 billion, according to a USA TODAY analysis of federal data. That would be the first decline in state and local construction spending since the Census Bureau started tracking in 1993. The cuts are driven by several factors, including voters’ reluctance to take on more debt and fewer new residential subdivisions that require roads and other infrastructure. The stimulus program has helped soften the blow. It will pump $135 billion into state and local construction projects over several years. The types of spending favored in the stimulus bill are booming. Airport spending is up 12%. Mass transit work is up 17%. But the core of infrastructure spending — on schools, sewers, water plants, prisons, fire stations — has experienced sharp drops in nearly every category.

Economic News

The Federal Reserve’s policy-making arm said on Wednesday that it had decided to keep short-term interest rates near zero for “an extended period” in light of continuing threats to economic growth, including “developments abroad.” The Federal Open Market Committee’s decision to stick with its low-interest-rate policy was expected, given the persistently high unemployment rate and continuing weakness in housing and consumer spending.

New-home sales tumbled to a record low in May after a government tax credit for home buyers expired, raising more concerns about the outlook for housing’s recovery. Sales of new homes fell 32.7% from April to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 300,000, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. That was the lowest since the government began compiling data in 1963. The median sales price in May was $200,900, down 9.6% from a year earlier and the lowest since December 2003.

Initial claims for jobless benefits fell by the largest amount in two months last week but remain above levels consistent with healthy job growth. Despite the drop of 19,000, claims are about the same level they were at the beginning of the year. The stubbornly high level of requests for jobless aid is a sign hiring remains weak even as the economy recovers. First-time requests for unemployment insurance have been stuck about 450,000 since the beginning of this year.

The total number of people receiving benefits, meanwhile, dropped 45,000 to 4.5 million, mostly the result of people dropping off the rolls.. During the recession, Congress added up to 73 weeks of extra unemployment benefits on top of the 26 weeks typically provided by states. But those extensions expired earlier this month, leaving about 900,000 people without unemployment insurance, according to the Labor Department. That figure is expected to grow to 1.25 million by the end of this week. The House approved legislation to restore the 73 extra weeks but the Senate is still debating the bill.

The Commerce Department said Thursday that orders for big-ticket manufactured goods fell 1.1% last month as demand for commercial aircraft declined. But excluding the volatile transportation sector, orders rose 0.9%.

The main topic at this weekend’s G-20 summit of major and emerging economies in Toronto will be how to sustain the global recovery. China and India have led the recovery from the global recession with growth rates in the 9%-10% range this year, far surpassing the United States and Europe. In hopes of seeing other countries rebound, Asian leaders are likely to side with Obama against Europe in seeking only a slow turn toward austerity measures. The U.K.’s government is seeking tough spending cuts and tax increases, while Obama still favors additional stimulus measures.

AWOL Afghans Found … on Facebook

At least 11 of the 17 members of the Afghan military who went AWOL from an Air Force base in Texas and are considered deserters by their nation have turned up in the exact place you’d expect to find them in the year 2010. They’re on Facebook. And, by the look of things, they’re not unlike millions of other young men on the social networking site. One proclaims to be a fan of Paris Hilton and is a member of a group named “FREE Webcam Sex with ME!” Another is a fan of hip hop music, Michael Jackson, the tearjerker movie The Notebook, Family Guy and Sports Center. Another is a fan of soccer and the Godfather. But others have friends whose motives may be much more sinister. Some belong to the “Afghanistan Mujahideen” group, a page that features, among other content, videos from the American-born Al Qaeda spokesman Adam Gadahn, a.k.a. Azzam the American. Many of the men found on Facebook appear unconcerned that they are being actively sought by law enforcement officials, having made little or no attempt to disguise their identities or whereabouts.

Afghanistan

Prime Minister David Cameron says a British general is temporarily taking charge of NATO-led forces in Afghanistan following the ouster of American Gen. Stanley McChrystal. President Barack Obama accepted McChrystal’s resignation Wednesday and nominated Gen. David Petraeus to replace him. McChruystal was sacked for voicing criticism of Obama in the Rolling Stone magazine. Obama placed his hopes for the future of the war in Afghanistan on the same man — Gen. David Petraeus— who helped turned around the Iraq war for Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush. Petraeus, the current head of the military’s Central Command overseeing U.S. forces in the Middle East, helped craft the current Afghanistan strategy.

The man handpicked by President Obama to rescue the flagging American war effort in Afghanistan, Gen. David Petraeus, must wage a critical battle on two fronts: Taking on the Taliban while quelling bureaucratic rivalries in Washington that present a serious threat to military morale. Several military experts and commentators say disenchantment with how the administration is fighting the Afghanistan war transcends the loose-lipped McChrystal. Several analysts believe the McChrystal run-in reflects a growing distance between the Obama administration and some in the military. In part the friction appears to stem from infighting among Obama’s own advisers.

Ø      Narcissists can’t stand criticism, justified or not

Pakistan

Five American men were convicted Thursday on terror charges by a Pakistani court and sentenced to 10 years in prison in a case that heightened concerns about Westerners traveling to Pakistan to contact al-Qaeda and other Islamist extremist groups. The trial of the young Muslim men from the Washington, D.C., area was sensitive for the U.S., which has a duty to insure justice for its citizens but also has pushed Pakistan to crack down on militancy. Prosecutors said e-mail records and witness statements proved they were plotting terror attacks in Pakistan. One allegedly left behind a farewell video in the United States showing scenes of war and casualties and saying Muslims must be defended.

Earthquakes

A rare earthquake, measuring magnitude-5.5, struck at the Ontario-Quebec border region of Canada on Wednesday, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The midday quake was felt in the city of Toronto in Canada and in a number of U.S. states, including Michigan, Vermont and New York. There were no immediate reports of damage.

Wildfires

The Schultz fire in Arizona flared from an abandoned campfire Sunday and by Wednesday burned over 14,000 acres (20 sq. miles) of hiking and camping grounds popular with local residents and tourists that also include the town’s watershed, said Erin Phelps a public information officer for the Coconino National Forest. There have been no injuries or structures lost. Fire crews battling the enormous Schultz Fire north of Flagstaff fought fire with fire Thursday and won. The blaze was 40 percent contained Thursday evening after crews set a line of burnout fires to keep flames from the city’s precious “inner basin” watershed in the mountains north of the city. The idea is to contain and starve the main fire by burning out the fuel ahead of it.

There have been 28,278 wildfires so far this year in the USA, according to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise. The compares to the 10-year, to-date average of 37,355 fires. 1.37 million acres have burned, compared to the 10-year average of 1.54 million acres.

Weather

A suspected tornado tore through Connecticut‘s largest city Thursday — a rare occurrence in the state — toppling trees and power lines and collapsing a building as a powerful line of storms swept across parts of the Northeast. Remarkably, no serious injuries were reported. Hundreds of bricks shook loose from buildings, trees split in half and crushed cars, and a billboard hung precariously several stories up over Main Street. Tree limbs and power lines blocked traffic on some roads in Bridgeport.

The drought that has gripped northern Wisconsin for eight years is drying up lakes and distressing wildlife and forests. Parts of this state’s North Woods and the adjacent Upper Peninsula of Michigan are the only areas in the continental USA experiencing “extreme” drought. It’s the region’s most severe drought since the 1930s and its longest dry period since the 1950s. It will take 30-50 inches of precipitation to make up the deficit, probably over two or more years. Some of the drought’s visible effects are striking. The Rainbow Flowage, a reservoir just east of here, is down 13 feet from its maximum depth, exposing rocks that should be underwater and creating new beaches. The frog population has declined because shallow ponds have dried up. By hindering the growth of saplings, berries and other vegetation, droughts affect animals’ food supplies.

Weather

A suspected tornado tore through Connecticut‘s largest city Thursday — a rare occurrence in the state — toppling trees and power lines and collapsing a building as a powerful line of storms swept across parts of the Northeast. Remarkably, no serious injuries were reported. Hundreds of bricks shook loose from buildings, trees split in half and crushed cars, and a billboard hung precariously several stories up over Main Street. Tree limbs and power lines blocked traffic on some roads in Bridgeport.

The drought that has gripped northern Wisconsin for eight years is drying up lakes and distressing wildlife and forests. Parts of this state’s North Woods and the adjacent Upper Peninsula of Michigan are the only areas in the continental USA experiencing “extreme” drought. It’s the region’s most severe drought since the 1930s and its longest dry period since the 1950s. It will take 30-50 inches of precipitation to make up the deficit, probably over two or more years. Some of the drought’s visible effects are striking. The Rainbow Flowage, a reservoir just east of here, is down 13 feet from its maximum depth, exposing rocks that should be underwater and creating new beaches. The frog population has declined because shallow ponds have dried up. By hindering the growth of saplings, berries and other vegetation, droughts affect animals’ food supplies.

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