Typhoon Batters Japan

A powerful typhoon slammed into Japan Wednesday, halting trains and leaving 13 people dead or missing in south-central regions before grazing a crippled nuclear plant and heaping rain on the tsunami-ravaged northeast. The storm, packing sustained winds of up to 100 mph, made landfall in the early afternoon. The typhoon brought new misery to the northeastern region already slammed by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, dumping up to 17 inches of rain in some areas. Authorities warned of a high risk of mudslides. Hundreds of tsunami survivors in government shelters in the Miyagi state town of Onagawa were forced to evacuate for fear of flooding. More than 200,000 households in central Japan were without electricity late Wednesday. No damage was reported at the nuclear plant.

Obama Tells Palestinians to Drop Petition for Statehood

U.S. support for Israel remains “unshakeable,” President Obama told the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday, and Palestinian leaders should ditch their plan to petition the international body for statehood. Obama’s speech followed an onslaught of criticism from Republicans and Israeli advocates, who said the president had been endangering Israel with his stated support for a Palestinian state. The president’s supporters in the American Jewish community heralded his remarks as demonstrating that he remains committed to safeguarding Israel. Unlike previous high-profile comments on the Middle East, Obama avoided any mention of borders of a future Palestinian state.

President Obama’s ambassador to the United Nations again endorsed the creation of an independent Palestinian state last Friday. “We are supportive and we want to see the creation of a Palestinian state. There is no question about that. And President Obama said so last year, again, here at the General Assembly,” said Susan E. Rice, the U,S, Permanent Rep to the U.N.

  • Obama is trying to walk a fine line as re-election difficulties loom large. Suddenly he’s calling on God, quoting the Bible and espousing support for Israel, all masking his real beliefs and intentions.

Federal Reserve Moves to Lower Long-Term Interest Rates

In a further bid to shore up the anemic economy, the Federal Reserve Board will buy $400 billion in long-term Treasury securities by June 30, 2012. The new program, called “The Twist,” after a similar ’60s-era program, means the Fed will sell its holdings of short-term Treasuries to finance its purchases on long-term notes and bonds. “This program should put downward pressure on longer-term interest rates and help make broader financial conditions more accommodative,” the Fed said in its statement Wednesday. The Fed will also buy mortgage-backed securities to keep mortgage rates low.

The Dow Jones industrial average plunged 284 points, or 2.5%, to 11,125, after the announcement, and was down almost 300 points shortly after the markets opened Thursday morning. “Such steps may erode the already weakened U.S. dollar or promote more borrowing by overleveraged consumers,” said a letter sent to Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke , which was signed by Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Republican Whip Jon Kyl, House Speaker John Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. The letter is unprecedented in recent times.

New Government Fees Riddle Obama Deficit Plan

It’s not just millionaires who’d pay more under President Barack Obama’s latest plan to cut the deficit. Air travelers, federal workers, military retirees, wealthier Medicare beneficiaries and people taking out new mortgages are among those who would pay more than $130 billion in government revenues raised through new or increased fees. These fees are advertised as “savings” in administration budget documents. Airline passengers, for instance, would see their federal security fees double from $5 to $10 for a nonstop roundtrip flight and triple to $15 by 2017. Federal employees would contribute more to their pensions. Some military retirees would pay a $200 fee to have the government pay out-of-pocket Medicare costs.

Wealthy Already Pay More in Taxes

President Obama says he wants to make sure millionaires are taxed at higher rates than their secretaries. The data say they already are. On average, the wealthiest people in America pay a lot more taxes than the middle class or the poor, according to private and government data. They pay at a higher rate, and as a group, they contribute a much larger share of the overall taxes collected by the federal government, reports the USA Today. The 10% of households with the highest incomes pay more than70% of federal income taxes, according to the Congressional Budget Office. 1,470 households filed tax returns with incomes above $1 million yet paid no federal income tax, according to the Internal Revenue Service. But that’s less than 1% of the nearly 237,000 returns with incomes above $1 million.

  • Liberals always see the glass as half empty in order to continue and even expand their socialistic spending habits

GOP Regroups after Loss on Spending Bill

U.S. lawmakers are scrambling again to prevent the federal government from running out of money next week after Republicans suffered a rare and embarrassing defeat on a temporary spending bill. Republicans, who won control of the House of Representatives last year largely on the strength of the anti-tax tea party movement, were confident ahead of Wednesday’s vote that their bill would pass. But it was defeated 230-195 after 48 Republicans broke ranks with leadership, viewing the spending in the bill to be excessive. They were joined by most of the Democrats, who opposed $1.5 billion in cuts to a government loan program to help car companies build fuel-efficient vehicles. The bill would have funded the U.S. government through mid-November. The vote highlighted the strong partisan divide in Washington as well as the tensions between the Republican leadership and party members allied with the anti-tax, small-government tea party movement. Republicans now need to make sure the government doesn’t shut down on Sept. 30, the end of budget year. More immediate is the risk that the government’s main disaster relief program could run out of money by next Tuesday.

Economic Pessimism Deepens

Americans’ pessimism about the economy and its future is deepening, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds, and they are increasingly willing to hold President Obama responsible for hard times. Eight of 10 say the economy is in a recession, and nearly as many say it hasn’t improved over the past year. Even more ominous: Six in 10 predict the economy a year from now will be the same or worse than today, a downturn from the public’s views last year and the year before. That gloomy outlook, economists say, can become a self-fulfilling prophesy, with consumer spending accounting for 70% of the nation’s economy. For the first time since Obama took office, a majority of Americans say he deserves the blame for the nation’s economic woes.

Recession Changed the American Way of Life

The dismal economy is having a profound effect on the American way of life, from delaying marriage and divorce to reducing car ownership and private school enrollment, according to new Census data. The median age of first marriage has crept up to 28.7 for men and 26.7 for women, up from 27.5 and 25.9 respectively in 2006. At the same time, fewer people are taking a trip to the altar. If the marriage rate had stayed the same as in 2006, there would have been about 4 million more married people in 2010. There were about 65,000 fewer divorces in 2010 than in 2008, a 7% drop. There were 200,000 fewer births to women ages 20 to 34 in 2010 than just two years before even though the number of women in this prime age for having children grew by more than 1 million. The home vacancy rate, a direct consequence of the housing collapse and record foreclosures, rose again in 2010 to 13.1% compared with 12.6% in 2009 and 11.6% in 2006.

Repeal of Gay Ban in Military Effective 9/20

After years of debate and months of final preparations, the military can no longer prevent gays from serving openly in its ranks. Repeal of a 1993 law that allowed gays to serve only so long as they kept their sexual orientation private took effect Tuesday at 12:01 a.m. EDT. The Army was distributing a business-as-usual statement Tuesday saying simply, “The law is repealed,” and reminding soldiers to treat each other fairly.

Obama Administration Building New Drone Bases

The Obama administration is expanding its drone program far beyond Pakistan, building secret bases in the Horn of Africa and Arabian Peninsula in a move to target dangerous al-Qaeda affiliates. A senior U.S. military official with knowledge of the program told Fox News that the expansion has been underway for over a year. It started with a base in the Seychelles, an archipelago northeast of Madagascar, followed by the development of one in Ethiopia. The drone program has ramped up significantly in recent years under the Obama administration, being used primarily to take out top terror leaders in the vast tribal areas of Pakistan. Drone attacks have also been reported in Libya, Somalia and Yemen, as well as the two more formal war zones of  Afghanistan and Iraq..

Explosives Costing More U.S. Troops Their Limbs

The number of severe wounds that have resulted in loss of limbs to U.S. service members has been rising this year because of increased foot patrols in areas mined with buried explosives, and is on a pace to exceed any year since the Afghanistan War began. “Nobody has ever seen this degree of injury before,” says Lt. Col. John Oh, the director of trauma care at the Army’s Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, which provided the data and treats nearly all casualties from Iraq and Afghanistan. Through July, 134 service members lost limbs in combat this year. In addition, there have been 79 cases of multiple amputations this year, more than any previous full year.

Islamic Center Opens Near Ground Zero

n Islamic cultural center near the site of the terrorist attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center held its first exhibit Wednesday evening, the enthusiasm at the opening belying its troubled beginnings. Sharif El-Gamal, the center’s developer, said the biggest error on the project was not involving the families of 9/11 victims from the start. “We made incredible mistakes,” El-Gamal told The Associated Press. The building at 51 Park Place is two blocks from the World Trade Center site. The project has drawn criticism from opponents who say they don’t want a mosque near the site of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The center is open to all faiths and will include a 9/11 memorial, El-Gamal said.

U.S. Violent Crime Down by 6% Last Year

Violent crime dropped 6% in 2010, marking the fourth straight year-to-year decline, while property crime was down for the eighth straight year, falling 2.7%, the FBI reported Monday. Robbery fell 10%, rape dropped 5%, and murder, non-negligent manslaughter and aggravated assault fell more than 4%. Nationwide, there were an estimated 1.2 million violent crimes reported to authorities in 2010 and an estimated 9 million property crimes. An aging population, better policing and continued high rates of imprisonment for criminals are helping to drive down crime rates, criminologists say.

Economic News

The number of people applying for unemployment benefits fell last week, though the decline isn’t enough to signal improvement in the job market. Weekly applications dropped 9,000 to a seasonally adjusted 423,000. Applications typically need to fall below 375,000 to significantly lower the unemployment rate.

The number of Americans who bought previously occupied homes rose in August. But sales were driven by an increase in foreclosures, evidence the housing market remains weak. Home sales rose 7.7% last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.03 million homes. That’s below the 6 million economists say is consistent with a healthy housing market. Last month’s pace was slightly ahead of the 4.91 million sold in August, 2010.

Housing starts fell 5% in August from July as fewer apartments were started and Hurricane Irene halted some construction. The Commerce Department said builders began work on a seasonally adjusted 571,000 homes last month. That’s less than half the 1.2 million economists say is consistent with healthy housing markets. But in a hopeful sign, building permits for future construction rose 3.2% from July, and 7.8% above August 2010.

The International Monetary Fund has lowered its global growth outlook, warning that “the global economy is in a dangerous new phase.” It now expects the world’s economic output to increase 4% in both 2011 and 2012, compared with growth of 5.1% in 2010.

Greece will suspend more civil servants than originally planned and impose more pension cuts as part of new austerity measures, the government said Wednesday, as it tried to persuade international creditors to continue bailout payments needed to avoid a debt default, causing. increased angst in a country mired in a deep recession, where the number of unemployed is rising to around one in seven.

Late Monday, S&P cut Italy’s credit rating by one notch in light of what it sees as the country’s weakening economic growth prospects and higher-than-expected levels of government debt.

Middle East

In the past two years, Palestinians who live in the West Bank have seen economic growth that would be the envy of other nations. The Israeli checkpoints that aim to stop terrorists but make travel difficult have been reduced by half. And there is an explosion of construction projects ranging from industrial parks to the first planned city in modern history in a territory that fails to treat much of its sewage. Both Israelis and Palestinians say the progress is the result of cooperative agreements between functionaries on both sides who have been working quietly but effectively to improve life in the West Bank while negotiations for a permanent independent Palestinian state are on hold. And some worry that the progress will be halted by the Palestinian Authority campaign at the United Nations this week for statehood without further negotiations.

A poll by the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion this year indicated that Arabs in East Jerusalem are split about who they want controlling the territory where they live – 30% said they would choose Palestinian citizenship; 35% Israeli citizenship; and 35% either declined to answer or said they didn’t know. East Jerusalem is home to 288,000 Arabs, and some Palestinian leaders, such as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, say it should be made the capital of an independent Palestinian state. Israel captured the eastern part of the city from Jordan in the 1967 Six-Day War and says Jerusalem will always be its undivided capital.

  • Secularists look at recent history to try and solve the Middle East puzzle, but the roots are Biblical and extend back over two thousand years to God’s promise to establish His Kingdom in Israel with Jerusalem as His capital. To ignore or thwart His plans is to invite the disaster known to us as the Great Tribulation

Afghanistan

A suicide bomber with explosives hidden in his turban killed the head of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council, former President Burhanuddin Rabbani, who had been tasked with trying to negotiate a political end to the war. The assassin struck at Rabbani’s home, which is in Kabul’s heavily guarded diplomatic enclave. Masoom Stanekzai, a senior adviser to President Hamid Karzai, was badly injured in the attack. Rabbani, a former leader of a powerful mujahideen party during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s, was chosen by Karzai to head the High Peace Council last October. His plan included offering amnesties and jobs to Taliban foot soldiers and asylum in third countries to its leaders. The assassination of the former Afghan president reflects the dangers of negotiations with the Taliban: any effort toward a peace deal can bring deadly action to stop it from factions within the multi-headed insurgency.

Iraq

The number of American troops in Iraq will fall to roughly 40,000 by the end of this month as the U.S. winds down the war, U.S. military officials said Tuesday. “We are on track to meet the president’s goal of withdrawing all American troops from Iraq by the end of the year,” said Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. When the U.S. officially ended its combat mission in Iraq on Sept. 1, 2010, it had about 50,000 troops. Under a 2008 agreement, all U.S. troops are to be out of Iraq by the end of this year.

Iran

Two U.S. hikers jailed in Iran two years ago on espionage charges have been freed on $500,000 bail. The BBC reported that Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal have been handed over to the Swiss embassy in Tehran, which represents U.S. interests in Iran. Iranian state TV reported that the Judiciary of the Islamic Republic Iran “has confirmed the release of two U.S. nationals, who had been convicted of illegal entry and espionage in Iran.” Sarah Emily Shourd, who had also been detained along with Bauer and Fattal, was released in September 2010 on a $500,000 bail. the bail of $500,000 for each of the men was posted after some last-minute bank problems were resolved, the AP reported. It was not known yet who put up the money.

Libya

Facing little resistance, revolutionary fighters captured the airport and other parts of a southern desert city that is one of the last remaining strongholds of Moammar Gadhafi’s forces, even as military offensives stalled to the north. A push to capture Gadhafi’s hometown of Sirte and the mountain enclave of Bani Walid has stalled as well-armed forces loyal to the fugitive leader fight back fiercely with rockets and other heavy weaponry.

Yemen

Yemeni government forces on Wednesday fired mortars at tens of thousands of mourners at funerals held for protesters killed in clashes and attacked an opposition base, shattering a cease-fire negotiated a day earlier to end the Arab nation’s latest bout of deadly violence. The two attacks killed 16 people. The mourners were gathered for funeral prayers for anti-government protesters killed in a deadly, three-day government crackdown in which the death toll topped 80 — a sudden spike in violence explained by protesters’ impatience with their longtime president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, who they say is dragging his feet instead of signing a deal to step down.

Turkey

Turkey’s interior minister says three people have been killed in an explosion in the capital that was probably terrorism. The explosion that also left 15 people wounded. The car that exploded in downtown Ankara was purchased a week ago but it was not yet registered.

Russia

Two car bombs killed a Russian policeman and wounded 60 other people in the capital of the violence-plagued republic of Dagestan early Thursday. The first blast was equivalent to about seven pounds of TNT. When police rushed to the scene of that explosion, a blast about 12 times more powerful went off. Of the 60 people injured in the blasts, 44 were police officers. Dagestan regularly sees attacks connected both to criminal gangs and to Islamic insurgents. The insurgency has its roots in neighboring Chechnya, where Russian troops have fought two full-scale wars against rebels since 1994.

Mexico

Suspected drug traffickers drove two trucks to a main avenue in a Mexican Gulf coast city and dumped 35 slaying victims during rush hour while gunmen stood guard and pointed their weapons at frightened motorists. The gruesome scene Tuesday in the downtown of Boca del Rio was the latest escalation in drug violence in Veracruz state, which sits on an important route for drugs and Central American migrants heading north. The Zetas drug cartel has been locked in a bloody war with other drug gangs for control of the state.

France

Praying in the streets of Paris is now against the law, after Interior Minister Claude Guéant warned that police would use force if Muslims, and those of any other religion, disobeyed the new rule to keep Paris’ public spaces secular, the Religion News Service reports. After a controversy arose in December when a French politician brought to national attention “more than a thousand” Muslims blocking streets every Friday to pray, and likened them to a Nazi occupation. “The street is for driving in, not praying,” Guéant said, adding that the ban could be extended to the rest of France. France has Europe’s largest Muslim population, an estimated total of five million.

Earthquakes

Four earthquakes struck the southeastern part of Guatemala in less than two hours Monday afternoon, causing at least one death as some walls collapsed, authorities said. At least three people were reported missing. the temblors were felt across much of the Central American country, the largest a 5.8 magnitude. All were centered in an area about 30 miles southeast of the capital, Guatemala City.

Officials say the death toll from a Himalayan earthquake that shook northeastern India, Nepal and China has reached 100, while troops trying to reach survivors are pushing through landslide debris with earthmovers. Local authorities reported extensive damage to homes and buildings across Sikkim. Helicopters are ferrying rescue workers and emergency supplies, while paramilitary troops use earthmovers to clear landslides on highways linking the region to the rest of India. Rescuers on Thursday finally reached some of the villages in India’s remote northeast that were cut off by the powerful earthquake and aftershocks.

Weather

Flood victims camped out near inundated fields and crowded hospitals on Monday as authorities and international aid groups struggled to respond to Pakistan’s second major bout of flooding in just over a year. Monsoon rains since early August have killed more than 220 people, damaged or destroyed some 665,000 homes and displaced more than 1.8 million people in the southern Sindh province.

Northeastern states are facing a jack-o’-lantern shortage this Halloween after Hurricane Irene destroyed hundreds of pumpkin patches across the region, farmers say. Wholesale prices have doubled in some places as farmers nurse their surviving pumpkin plants toward a late harvest. Some farmers are trying to buy pumpkins from other regions to cover orders. States along the East Coast are also dealing with a larger than usual number of mosquitoes from residual water from the late-August storm

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