December 8, 2008

Obama's Large-Scale Public Works Plan

President-elect Barack Obama promised Saturday to create the largest public works program since the construction of the interstate highway system in the 1950s to provide 2.5 million jobs and resuscitate the suffering economy.

With unemployment numbers climbing and the recession deepening, Obama highlighted elements of the economic recovery program he and Congressional leaders are trying to form in hopes of being able to enact the plan - which could cost up to $700 billion - shortly after being sworn in on Jan. 20, according to the New York Times. The address followed a report on Friday saying that the country lost 533,000 jobs in November alone, bringing the total number of jobs lost over the past year to nearly 2 million.

The plan showcased Obama's determination to expand the definition of traditional work programs for the middle class, and includes massive investments in roads and other infrastructure programs reminiscent of President Eisenhower's highway program, according to the Los Angeles Times. That program ended up employing millions of people and costing tens of billions of dollars.

If enacted, Obama’s plan would cover a range of programs to expand broadband Internet access, to make government buildings more energy efficient, to improve information technology at hospitals and doctors’ offices, and to upgrade computers in schools.

December 6, 2008

Mars Rover Launch Delayed

NASA has pushed back the launching of its next Mars mission, which was already over budget, by two years due to lengthening delays and lingering technical issues, agency officials announced Thursday.

The Mars Science Laboratory, a S.U.V.-size rover that is to explore the Martian surface for two years, is now set to be launched in 2011, adding $400 million to the project's cost. It had been scheduled to lift off in fall 2009, but unsolved issues with some of the spacecraft’s electrical motors forced the postponement, Mars exploration chief Doug McCuistion told reporters at Los Angeles Times.

Because the Earth and Mars come close to each other only once every 26 months, the next chance for launching is not until fall 2011, according to the New York Times.

The originally approved cost for the missions was $1.63 billion in August 2006, but the Mars Science Laboratory’s budget has already swelled to $1.88 billion. NASA officials said in October that they anticipated the mission needed another $200 million next year to meet the delayed 2009 launch date.

The delay, as well as additional testing, will add $400 million, spread over several years, to the mission’s cost, bringing the total to about $2.3 billion.

November 23, 2008

Texas Pastor Encourages "More Sex, More Often" to Congregation

A week after Rev. Ed Young challenged husbands and wives to strengthen their union through seven days of sex, he gives advice to keep it going, reported the New York Times.

Rev. Young of evangelical Fellowhip Church in Grapevine, Tex., called his congregation of 20,000 to get closer to their spouses and engage in his sexperiment, "Seven Days of Sex."

The Times reporter quoted Young saying, "if you make the time to have sex, it will bring you closer to your spouse and to God, he has said. You will perform better at work, leave a loving legacy for your children to follow and may even prevent an extramarital affair."

His two book focus on the issue and are far from a publicity stunt. Young is looking into verses from the bible such as Genesis: “two shall become one flesh,? and Corinthians: “do not deprive each other of sexual relations.?

There is no shame in marital sex he told his crowd Sunday morning, God invented it.

Wisconsin Man Shoots Himself After Pulled Over

A Wisconsin man shot himself in the head Sunday morning after a state trooper pulled him over for speeding, reported the Star Tribune.

James Milliman,38, was pulled over for speeding on Hwy. 48 near Cumberland, Wis., traveling 70 miles an hour in a 55-mile zone. He was stopped about 8:35 this morning.

The trooper spoke with Milliman and returnde to his car where he then heard a gunshot. The trooper said the glass of the driver side door broke and he called for back up.

When authorities approached the vehicle, they founf Milliman had shot himself with a handgun and it was unclear as to his motive. Milliman was taken into custody and released Friday night after he was involved in a driving accident.

U.S. Gay Marriage Ban Spurs Protests

Tthousands of people in cities across the United States gathered Saturday to show support for same-sex marraige, giving voice to an issue many gay men and lesbians consider crucial for equality.

The New York Times reports rallies occurred in cities including San Francisco and Minneapolis only 11 days after California voters narrowly based a ballot revoking a previous law making same-sex ceremonies legal in the state.

Protestors across the country carried handmade signs with slogans like “No More Mr. Nice Gay? and “Straights Against Hate.? In New York, some 4,000 people gathered at City Hall, where speakers repeatedly called same-sex marriage “the greatest civil rights battle of our generation.? (New York Times)

“We are not going to rest at night until every citizen in every state in this country can say, ‘This is the person I love,’ and take their hand in marriage,? Representative Anthony D. Weiner of Brooklyn told the New York Times.

More than 700 people gathered on the plaza of the Hennepin County Government Center in Minneapolis on Saturday to protest constitutional amendments in California, Florida and Arizona prohibiting gay marriage, according to the Star Tribune.

November 16, 2008

Obama's choice of Clinton includes look at Mr. Clinton

Advisers to Barack Obama are looking into former president Bill Clinton's finances and activities to see if they indicate any reason to hesitate to appoint Hilary as secretary of state, the New York Times reported.

This in-depth look at Mr. Clinton's history shows how serious Obama is in considering his pre-election rival to his cabinet. He met with Mrs. Clinton in Chicago Thursday to discuss the possibility.

Obama advisers are looking into how Mr. Clinton's role if Hilary is chosen as a cabinet member as he has many interactions with foreign governments and ties to pharmaceutical companies. His philanthropic organization has been working to help fight AIDS, poverty and climate change across the globe, taking money from interested businesses and foreign officials along the way.

The Washington Post writes, "If Hillary Clinton is secretary of state, she will oversee many of the U.S. government's foreign aid programs, potentially turning the couple into an overwhelming force in global aid as said by some leaders in the philanthropic community."

Some foreign policy experts said exploiting Bill Clinton's reach and experience could prove a mistake and his presence could encourage some world leaders to question the authority of the new president.

A California Wildfire May Be Human-Caused

CNN reported from authorities one of three wildfires in burning in Southern California has been ruled out as accidental and are a search is ongoing for leads of suspected arson.

The fire that has ruined 210 homes and injured two in Santa Barbara County is believed to have "startedin the Tea Garden Estate, a privately owned multi-acre property, about one mile north of Santa Barbara's exclusive Westmont College". It was 75 percent contained on Sunday.

Investigators are still searching for the exact determinants of the cause of the fire and are looking for anyone who may have seen any behavior that may have instigated the fire Thursday.

The other major fires are in the northern Los Angeles area and in Orange County. 20,000 acres have been destroyed and over 10,000 people have been evacuated from their homes.

The Washington Post reported firefighters from across the state numbered more than 1,500 by Saturday morning to help concur the blazes. So far six firefighters have been injured.

The Washington Post has put together a picture slideshow of the fires and has created a page for readers to post their own photos taken from their homes in the area.

November 8, 2008

National Unemployment Rate at 14-year High

The American economy is losing jobs at the fastest pace since 2001, according to government papers reported by the New York Times, and the losses could accelerate to levels not seen since the deep recession of the early 1980s.

The unemployment rate is up to 6.5%, according to the LA Times. It is reported that the economy lost 240,000 jobs in October, the steepest one-month decline in a contraction that began last January.

Since August, the economy has lost 651,000 jobs — more than three times as many as were lost from May to July. So far, 1.2 million jobs have been lost this year.

“Clearly, these are very bad numbers,? said Nigel Gault, chief domestic economist at IHS Global Insight. “Businesses had been paring back for most of the year, but I suspect that it had been more caution on hiring rather than firing.?

The stock market initially fell over 400 points on Thursday in anticipation of a dismal jobs report, but rose over 90 points in early trading in relief that the numbers weren't even worse.

Peter Kretzmer, senior economist at Bank of America in New York, told Los Angeles Times reporters that job losses were only likely to accelerate in coming months and the unemployment rate could rise to near 8% by the end of next year.

"The October employment report indicated that businesses sped up their layoffs as the financial crisis deepened in September," Kretzmer said in a note to clients. "With the economy in recession and GDP declining at about an average 3% . . . we expect rapid payroll declines to continue well into 2009, before gradually abating."

November 2, 2008

New President to Decide Fate of Guantanamo Detainees

reported over 255 prisoners remaining in the Guantánamo Bay camp have been captured for affiliation with Al Queda and other serious terrorism credentials leaving the next president with an important call for action after ignaguration.

Both presidentail hopefuls have said they would close the detention camp, but the review of the government’s public files underscores the challenges of fulfilling that promise.

The Times said, "The strength of the evidence is difficult to assess, because the government has kept much of it secret and because of questions about whether some was gathered through torture."

The extensive use of secret evidence and information derived from aggressive interrogations has led critics around the world to conclude that many detainees were wrongly held.

Ohio Minister Shot Dead in Kentucky Church

A gunman fatally shot a Cincinnati minister and wounded a church deacon just after the two men arrived at a northern Kentucky church to attend a funeral, police told Yahoo! News.

Court records in Hamilton County, Ohio, revealed a yearlong dispute between the accused gunman and the minister, the Rev. Donald Fairbanks Sr.

Fairbanks and Dowdell Cobb were shot just before 11 a.m. Saturday, police said. The gunman chased one of the men to a nearby park, where he shot the man a second time, said Lee Russo, the police chief in Covington, Ky.

It was unclear which of the men was shot in the park.

Frederick L. Davis, of Covington, quickly surrendered to police and was charged with murder, first degree assault, criminal mischief and violating an emergency protection order. He was being held without bail and is scheduled to appear in court on Monday.

Fairbanks, pastor of Cincinnati's New St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church, died later Saturday at St. Elizabeth Medical Center in Covington, authorities said. Cobb, a deacon at the church, was treated at University Hospital in Cincinnati. A hospital spokesman declined to release information on Cobb's condition, said Yahoo! News.

In June 2007, Fairbanks filed a complaint accusing Davis of making a threatening phone call to his wife, records showed from Yahoo! News. Davis, 40, pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct in October 2007, and a judge sentenced him to a year probation and ordered him to stay away from Fairbanks and New St. Paul Baptist Church.

“He preached about love,? said another St. Paul deacon, Rob Fuqua of Mount Airy to the Cincinnati Enquirer. “Everybody was welcome at the church,? which helps feed the needy and tries to keep kids off the streets.

October 19, 2008

SNL Receives Record Ratings Saturday

Sarah Palin and comedian Tina Fey earned "Saturday Night Live" its best ratings in 14 years after their performances Saturday.

Hopeful viewers were not able to see Palin and Fey interact with each other directly as the night went on. Palin was invovled in three skits, including the opening act and a portion of the "Weekend Update".

WCCO estimated an audience of nearly 17 million viewers during Palin's opening act, a considerable number for the time the show airs.

Fey opened the show as Palin at a press conference beginning with, "First off, I just want to say how excited I am to be in front of both the liberal elite media, as well as the liberal regular media. I am looking forward to a portion of your questions."

The camera then cut to the real Palin who was watching the monitor with the show's executive producer, Lorne Michaels, and was mistaken for as Fey by her 30 Rock co-star Alec Baldwin.

This season of SNL has been up 76 percent over last time this year, mostly thanks to Palin and look-alike Fey.

Obama Raises Record Donations in September

The New York Times reported Sunday that Senator Barack Obama and his campaign raised $150 million in the month of September shattering their previous record of $66 million in a single month.

Obama's campaign manage, David Plouffe, announced Senator Obama added another 632,000 donors in September bringing the campaign's total supporters to 3.1 million.

"The two groups that have given us the most contributions are retirees and students, which shows how Barack’s call for change has spanned the generations," Plouffe said for the New York Times.

Obama has raised nearly $600 million since the begining of his campaign, receiving donations from celebrities such as Orlando Magic, Melanie Griffith and Rita Wilson. According to the Campaign Media Analysis Group, the Obama campaign is outspending McCain 3 1/2 to 1 and airing television ads 4 to 1.

WCCO reported Obama is able to obtain such figures since he opted out of the public financing system for the fall campaign. John McCain chose to participate and is now limited to $84 miilion until election day.

McCain reacted to Obama's record on FOX News Sunday saying, "History shows us where unlimited amounts of money are in political campaigns, it leads to scandal."

The detailed report on Obama's fundraising will be released to Monday.

October 5, 2008

Jury turns more toward '95 aquittal, less toward witnesses in Simpson case

The New York Times reported the jurors who convicted O.J. Simpson of armed robbery and kidnapping said Sunday that they did not trust witness testimony and instead relied on recordings and other documented evidence to convict the former football star.

USA Today also reported the jury had strong opinions about Simpson's aquittal in 1995 although they weighed the Las Vegas events only in their decision to convict Simpson.

The jurors all denied they wanted to punish Simpson for past wrongs. One panelist, Dora Pettit, told the Times she prayed for him before and after the case.

''I think he's an ordinary man that made a bad decision,'' she said. ''I prayed for him and Stewart and the attorneys. I don't have any ill feelings, and if they walked out tomorrow, so be it.''

Simpson, 61, could receive up to life in prison when he is sentenced by Judge Jackie Glass on Dec. 5. Until then, he is being held at the Clark County Detention Center.

September 21, 2008

Helicopter Makes Crash Landing in Wisconsin Home

Two people died Sunday morning when a helipcopter crashed through the roof of their home in Kenosha, Wis.

The Star Tribune reported the helicopter fell through the roof, rolled down the staircase and landed on the lawn next door just missing a family of five.

Fog was reported at the time of the crash however the cause of the incident has yet to be determined reported Kare11.

"The engine just didn't sound right," Stielow told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for Kare 11. "It was sputtering. It was at full power, but it was sputtering real bad. Then you just heard a loud boom."

The two in the helicopter died immediately after it burst into flames.

September 14, 2008

Death Toll Reaches 25 California Train Wreck

Federal investigators are looking into the cause of the fatal collision of a commuter rail locomotive with a freight train on Friday afternoon.

The New York Times reports inestigators plan to subpoena the cell phone records of the engineer that ran the train through a red signal smashing into an oncoming train killing 25 people and injuring 135. It is believed Robert Sanchez had been exchanging text messages moments before the collision and although many questions remained unanswered as to why he would run the red warning signals.

The Washington Post reports the two trains were sharing a single track. "Commuter trains typically rent track usage from freight companies that own lines, and dispatchers monitor the shared tracks, signaling one train to pull over at a switch station and wait while another passes by," the Post said.

Experts speculate whether operator fatigue, a glitch in the stop signals, or poor visibility might have contributed to the California crash.

Union official Tim Smith told The NY Times, “He has been proactive about calling attention to things," referring to Sanchez. “He was known as one of the better engineers for Metrolink."

The Friday collision has been the worst U.S. train accident in 15 years.