RICHMOND, Va., Sept. 9 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama's $447 billion job-creation plan would likely add 1.9 million payroll jobs and grow the U.S. economy 2 percent, a leading economist said.
The plan, which Obama outlined before a joint session of Congress Thursday, would likely cut the unemployment rate by a percentage point, Moody's Analytics Chief Economist Mark Zandi said as Obama prepared to tout the plan at Virginia's University of Richmond.
Obama is scheduled to speak at the university's 9,000-seat Robins Center arena, home to the university's Spiders basketball, at 11:35 a.m. EDT, the White House said.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va. -- who criticized the tone of Obama's Thursday address but told CNBC he applauded some proposals, including "business tax relief, reducing red tape, working to try and streamline the infrastructure spending in this country" -- will be in Richmond Friday holding his own jobs event.
More than half of Obama's proposal consists of payroll-tax cuts for employees and employers -- an idea the White House said it hoped would appeal to Republican lawmakers.
Advisers told The Washington Post Obama would blame Republicans for the jobs crisis if they don't accept his proposal.
The proposal would cut in half the employers' payroll tax for businesses' first $5 million of wages. Businesses adding new workers or increasing wages up to $50 million would have payroll taxes completely eliminated.
The plan would expand the payroll tax cut passed last year to cut workers' payroll taxes in half in 2012 -- a tax cut of $1,500 to the typical family earning $50,000 a year. This would not hurt Social Security funding, Obama said.
Bin Laden heir said behind alleged plot
WASHINGTON, Sept. 9 (UPI) -- Osama bin Laden's successor is believed behind a possible plot to attack New York and Washington around the Sept. 11 anniversary, U.S. officials said.
Ayman al-Zawahiri, who last month urged Muslims in a video message to target the United States to avenge bin Laden's killing in a U.S. raid, initiated the alleged plot, ABC News reported, citing intelligence officials.
Other U.S. officials were less specific, telling The Wall Street Journal al-Qaida leaders in Pakistan were believed to be behind the alleged plot.
Department of Homeland Security spokesman Matt Chandler called the threat "specific, credible, but unconfirmed."
U.S. intelligence agencies urgently hunted leads overseas to gauge the threat's seriousness, officials said.
"Pursue America, which killed the 'Imam of the Mujahedin' and threw his body into the sea, and then captured his women and sons," Zawahiri said on the video, referring to bin Laden, killed May 2 in a covert U.S. raid in Pakistan.
Three current al-Qaida leaders believed to present a particular threat to the United States because they've lived in the country are Adnan el Shukrijumah, alleged to have been involved in the 2009 New York subway bomb plot; Jude Kenan Mohammad, an American alleged to have helped recruit five Alexandria, Va., men; and Adam Gadhan, an American al-Qaida spokesman, The Wall Street Journal reported.
At least three suspects in the reported plot, including an American citizen, are believed to have entered the United States by air last month after leaving Afghanistan, a counterterrorism official citing a U.S. intelligence report told ABC News and The New York Times.
New York, Pennsylvania face major flooding
WASHINGTON, Sept. 9 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama signed disaster declarations for New York and Pennsylvania, both dealing with flooding triggered by the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee.
Thousands of people were forced from their homes by flooding along the Susquehanna River, which was forecast to crest Friday in some cities in the two states.
Major flooding was expected in New York from Ithaca to Syracuse to Utica and in Pennsylvania from Wilkes-Barre to Scranton to Monticello, CNN reported.
At least three people drowned in Pennsylvania due to the flooding.
The rising Susquehanna and Chenango rivers triggered evacuations in upstate New York where orders were issued for portions of Binghamton and the towns of Conklin, Endicott, Johnson City, Union and Vestal.
Engineers worked early Friday to fortify a levee along the Susquehanna that protects Wilkes-Barre, Pa., The Citizens Voice of Wilkes-Barre reported.
The project required more than 2,000 tons of rock.
Torrential rain that caused flash flooding was blamed for the deaths of three people in the Washington Thursday, The Washington Post reported.
One of the victims was a 12-year-old boy who was swept away by the flood-swollen waters of Piney Branch Creek in Vienna, Va.
The Virginia Department of Transportation ordered the Washington Beltway closed from Route 1 to Interstate 395 because of flooding.
Raging Texas wildfire destroys 1,400 homes
BASTROP, Texas, Sept. 9 (UPI) -- The most desolating wildfire in Texas history, destroying nearly 1,400 homes near Austin, was about 30 percent contained early Friday, fire officials said.
The home-destruction figure more than doubled the estimate released Wednesday as specialists continued a house-by-house tour of the damage.
Firefighters reported progress in their battle against the giant inferno, despite higher winds, the officials said.
The blaze in Bastrop County, 30 miles southeast of Austin, which destroyed about 60 square miles of land, could actually be more than 30 percent contained, county Judge Ronnie McDonald told the Austin American-Statesman, because he said firefighters were focused more on fighting the blaze than updating the percentage of containment.
The containment percentage means that quantity of the perimeter of the blaze is no longer spreading.
Another runaway wildfire that's consumed about 20 square miles north of Houston gained ground Friday and was 50 percent contained, officials said.
Firefighters battled nearly 200 blazes statewide.
"There were 176 fires burning in Texas on Wednesday and 120 of them were in East Texas," Texas Forest Service spokesman Warren Bielenberg was quoted by the Houston Chronicle as saying. "Of the 20 new fires that popped up this same day, we found 19 of them in East Texas."
About 21,000 Texas wildfires have burned nearly 4 million acres and destroyed more than 1,600 structures since December.
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