Chilean Miners Found Alive after 17 Days

For 33 men found alive after 17 days trapped deep in a copper and gold mine, the toughest challenge now may be preserving their sanity during the months it may take to carve a tunnel big enough for them to get out. Chileans were euphoric Sunday after a narrow drill broke through 2,257 feet of solid rock to reach an emergency refuge where the miners had gathered. The trapped men quickly tied two notes to the end of a probe that rescuers pulled to the surface, announcing in big red letters: “All 33 of us are fine in the shelter.” And where many were beginning to give up hope, the scene above ground became a celebration Sunday night,.

Nearly 6 in 10 Americans Oppose War in Afghanistan

A majority of Americans see no end in sight in Afghanistan, and nearly six in 10 oppose the nine-year-old war as President Barack Obama sends tens of thousands more troops to the fight, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll. With just over 10 weeks before nationwide elections that could define the remainder of Obama‘s first term, only 38% say they support his expanded war effort in Afghanistan — a drop from 46% in March. Just 19% expect the situation to improve during the next year, while 29% think it will get worse. Some 49% think it will remain the same. The numbers could be ominous for the president and his Democratic Party, already feeling the heat for high unemployment, a slow economic recovery and a $1.3 trillion federal deficit. Strong dissent — 58% oppose the war — could depress Democratic turnout when the party desperately needs to energize its supporters for midterm congressional elections.

Former Blackwater Security Firm to Pay $42 Million Fine

The troubled security firm formerly known as Blackwater will pay $42 million in fines to settle thousands of violations of U.S. export control regulations, according to The New York Times. The newspaper reported on its website Friday that the Moyock, North Carolina-based company now known as Xe (zee) Services reached a settlement agreement with the State Department. The alleged violations included providing sniper training for Taiwanese police officers, illegal weapons exports to Afghanistan and making unauthorized proposals to train troops in south Sudan, the newspaper said. The State Department requires government approval before the transfer of certain types of military technology or knowledge to other countries. The private company provided guards and services to the U.S. government in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. It attracted sharp criticism over its role in those missions. It has been trying to rehabilitate its image since a 2007 shooting in Baghdad that killed 17 people and outraged the Iraqi government. A federal grand jury has indicted five Blackwater officials on conspiracy weapons and obstruction of justice charges. The company still has contracts to provide security for both the State Department and the CIA in Afghanistan.

Recalled Egg Total Passes Half a Billion

The nationwide effort to pull potentially salmonella-contaminated eggs off the market expanded significantly Friday when a second Iowa egg producer, Hillandale Farms, issued a recall of 170 million of its eggs, according to Associated Press reports. That brings the total amount recalled by two producers to more than half a billion eggs. The eggs recalled by Hillandale Farms of Pennsylvania were sold in 14 states under the brand names Hillandale Farms, Sunny Farms, Sunny Meadow, Wholesome Farms and West Creek. They were were sold in Arkansas, California, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Texas and Wisconsin. The type of salmonella found in the Hillandale eggs, salmonella enteritidis, is the same as that contaminating the eggs involved in the first recall, produced by Wright County Egg, also of Iowa, It’s the most common form of salmonella in eggs, and although the genetic fingerprints of the salmonella in both recalls are similar, the Food and Drug Administration can’t say yet whether the strains of the bacteria are genetically identical. The FDA is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on a more specific analysis. Both egg farms have ties to an Iowa business routinely cited for violating state and federal law.

Ground Zero Mosque Modeled after Notorious 9/11 Mosque

The New York imam behind the Ground Zero mosque has struck a partnership with the founder of the so-called 9/11 mosque in the Washington suburbs that gave aid and comfort to some of the 9/11 hijackers, WorldNetDaily has learned. Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf counts the lead trustee of the Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center among partners in his Cordoba Initiative, which features a 13-story mosque and a “cultural center” for his project to bring shariah, or Islamic law, to America. Jamal Barzinji, one of the founders of the radical Muslim Brotherhood in America, also founded Dar al-Hijrah in Falls Church, Va., which is run by the pro-jihad Brotherhood. The mosque has been tied to numerous terrorism plots, including the 9/11 attacks. In December 2008, the Brotherhood’s U.S. think tank — the International Institute of Islamic Thought, or IIIT – hosted Rauf. During their meeting, IIIT’s leadership, including Barzinji, “pledged cooperation and support” for Rauf’s project.

27 Arrested in Arizona Biker Shootout

Arizona authorities say 27 people have been booked on charges ranging from attempted murder to participation in a criminal street gang after shootings involving members of rival motorcycle gangs, the Vagos and Hells Angels. Detectives estimate at least 50 rounds were fired Saturday during the shootings in the small community of Chino Valley, north of Prescott. At least five people were shot but none of the wounds was life-threatening. The shootings brought dozens of Arizona law enforcement officers to the scene. No civilians were injured in the gunfight.

Beware Yellowstone Bears This Fall

Yellowstone’s grizzlies are going to be particularly hungry this fall, and that means more dangerous meetings with humans in a year that is already the area’s deadliest on record. Scientists report that a favorite food of many bears, nuts from whitebark pine cones, is scarce. So as grizzlies look to put on some major pounds in preparation for the long winter ahead, scientists say, they will be looking for another source of protein — meat — and running into trouble along the way. Wildlife managers already report bears coming down off the mountains and into areas frequented by hunters, berry pickers and hikers. Two people have been fatally mauled by grizzlies so far this year in Wyoming and Montana. Experts said that’s the most in one year in at least a century for the Yellowstone region, which also includes parts of Idaho. In the latest attack, a Michigan man was killed and two others injured when an undernourished bear and her three cubs marauded through a crowded campground near Cooke City, Montana.

Economic News

Regulators on Friday shut down a big community bank based in Chicago that has been known for its social activism but racked by financial troubles in recent months. A consortium funded by several of the biggest U.S. financial firms is buying its assets and pledging to operate the new bank by the same principles. The FDIC also seized seven other banks Friday, bringing to 118 the number of U.S. bank failures this year amid the recession and mounting loan defaults.

Nearly half of homeowners who enrolled in the Obama administration’s program to get lower mortgage payments found themselves canceled out by July. Treasury says 434,716 homeowners made it through the trial periods through June and have been accepted into the permanent program that lowers mortgage payments for at least five years. A total of 616,839 homeowners who enrolled in HAMP for three-month trial periods were told that they did not qualify for longer-term modifications. Cancellations are growing because of insufficient documentation from borrowers, missed payments, or because borrowers are found to earn too much to qualify. The median saving for borrowers in permanent modifications is $513.09 per month, or 36% of the median payment before modification.

Arizona’s unemployment rate of nearly 10 percent doesn’t come close to showing the full picture of just how tough the state’s job market has become. The figure is much higher when discouraged workers are included in the count. That brings the broader unemployment rate to nearly 1 in 5, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Renewed economic uncertainty is testing Americans’ generation-long love affair with the stock market. Investors withdrew a staggering $33.12 billion from domestic stock market mutual funds in the first seven months of this year, according to the Investment Company Institute, the mutual fund industry trade group. Now many are choosing investments they deem safer, like bonds. If that pace continues, more money will be pulled out of these mutual funds in 2010 than in any year since the 1980s, with the exception of 2008, when the global financial crisis peaked.

Middle East

Israeli and Palestinian leaders have agreed to new peace talks that will begin with meetings and a dinner involving President Obama on Sept. 1. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who announced the new initiative, said Obama will meet separately with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas before the dinner. Formal negotiations between the two leaders would begin in a joint meeting with Clinton on Sept. 2. The new negotiations take place without preconditions, and have a one-year time frame, she said. President Obama’s decision to restart Middle East peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians next week creates a big opportunity for him, but also huge risk, experts on the region say. By setting a one-year timetable, Obama relieves any diplomatic pressure before November’s congressional elections while building in time to get involved before his re-election campaign in 2012. There is little confidence — close to none — on either side that the Obama administration’s goal of reaching a comprehensive deal in one year can be met, reports the New York Times.

Iran

Iranian and Russian engineers began loading nuclear fuel into Iran’s first atomic power plant Saturday amid international concern that the Islamic republic is seeking a nuclear weapon. State television showed what appeared to be fuel rods being loaded into the core of the reactor, which is on the shores of the Persian Gulf near Bushehr. The plant is one of the first tangible results of Iran’s controversial nuclear program, which has been the target of increasingly tough international sanctions. It took more than 35 years to build the plant, with construction disrupted by the 1979 revolution, the war with Iraq in the 1980s and a decision by the original German contractor, Siemens, to pull out of the project. Rosatom, a Russian state nuclear corporation, helped finish the plant, which has cost Iran nearly $1 billion. Russia has pledged to supply the fuel, low-enriched uranium, for 10 years. Although Iran says it has been open about its nuclear-enrichment program, the United States and its allies say the country has concealed parts of its nuclear-fuel program, possibly to build a nuclear weapon, something Iran denies.

Afghanistan

Combat has intensified around the country amid an increase in the number of foreign forces battling the stubborn Taliban insurgency to about 120,000, including more than 78,000 Americans. Foreign troops are increasingly skirmishing in the vast south and mountainous east, where insurgents have long held sway. Militants also are attacking coalition forces in parts of the north and west where they were not previously active. Amid the continuing violence, President Hamid Karzai defended his decision to disband private security firms operating in the country, saying they were undermining Afghanistan’s police and army and contributing to corruption.

North Korea

North Korea has executed three underground church leaders and jailed another 20 Christians, Christian Today reports. The country has kept the executions under wraps since mid-May, and AsiaNews only recently uncovered the killings. North Korean police reportedly raided a house in Kuwal-dong in Pyungsung county, Pyongan province, and arrested all 23 believers who were gathered there for religious activity. The leaders were sentenced to death and soon after executed. The other 20 were reportedly sent to the infamous prison labor camp No 15 in Yodok. The 23 Christians had come to faith after some of them travelled to China on business and met with church members there. An estimated 40,000 to 60,000 Christians are currently in prison labor camps in North Korea because of their faith. Persecution watchdog Open Doors has ranked North Korea as the world’s worst persecutor of Christians for eight years in a row.

Mexico

The decapitated bodies of four men were hung from a bridge Sunday in the central Mexican city of Cuernavaca, which has been besieged by fighting between two drug lords. A gang led by kingpin Hector Beltran Leyva took responsibility for the killings in a message left with the bodies. The beheaded and mutilated bodies were hung by their feet early Sunday from the bridge. Cuernavaca has become a battleground for control of the Beltran Leyva cartel since its leader, Arturo Beltran Leyva, was killed there in a December shootout with marines. Mexican authorities say the cartel split between a faction led by Hector Beltran Leyva, brother of Arturo, and another led by Edgar Valdes Villarreal, a U.S.-born kingpin known as “the Barbie.”

Brazil

Heavily armed drug gang members engaged in an intense firefight with police, then fled into a luxury hotel popular with foreign tourists and held about 30 people hostage for three hours Saturday before surrendering. The upscale, beachside neighborhood of Sao Conrado where the Intercontinental Hotel sits was transformed into a war zone as upward of 50 gunmen with high-caliber rifles, pistols and even hand grenades faced off with police. A police spokeswoman said the gunbattle began when police spotted about 10 cars and vans leaving the Vidigal slum heading toward the nearby Rocinha slum, one of Latin America‘s largest. Both shantytowns are controlled by the Amigos dos Amigos (Friends of Friends) drug gang. Most of the gunmen fled into Rocinha, but 10 ran into the Intercontinental where they quickly grabbed hostages and holed up in the hotel’s kitchen. One woman was killed, and four bystanders and three policeman were wounded. “It seemed as if I was in Iraq,” neighborhood resident Jose Oliveira e Silva told the Globo television network.

  • As the Bible foretold, the spirit of lawlessness is growing during these end-times

Wildfires

A 215,000 acre wildfire in Idaho has destroyed ten structures and is only 10% contained as of Monday morning. An additional 8 large (over 100 acres) wildfires are also burning in Idaho, having consumed another 107,000 acres. In the bone-dry northwest, 11 other large wildfires are active across Oregon, Washington and Wyoming, burning almost 68,000 acres.

Weather

Flooding has forced the evacuation of more than a quarter-million people in northern China along its border with North Korea, state media said Monday. Heavy rains over the last several days caused the Yalu river, which marks the border, to breach its banks. Four people died, including a couple in their 70s and a mother and son, after their homes in Dandong were swept away by flash floods and 253,500 residents have been evacuated after the Yalu rose to its highest level in a decade. North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency said torrential rain and water from the overflowing Yalu swamped houses, public buildings and farmland in more than five villages near Sinuiju, the city opposite Dandong. It said at least 5,150 people had been evacuated and residents were clambering on rooftops or taking shelter on hilltops.

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