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Sept. 14, 2011 at 5:00 PM   |   Comments

Obama touts jobs plan in N.C.

RALEIGH, N.C., Sept. 14 (UPI) -- U.S. President Obama went to North Carolina Wednesday to pump up support for his proposal to spur jobs growth.

At North Carolina State in Raleigh, Obama told a crowd -- estimated by a fire marshal at about 9,300 packed into a steamy auditorium -- he wanted to discuss "how America can get back to a place where we're creating good middle-class jobs again -- jobs that pay well; jobs that offer some security; jobs that are available for all the young people who are going to be graduating from N.C. State."

He outlined the American Jobs Act legislation he has sent to Congress, saying it would do two things: "It puts more people back to work, and it puts more money back into the pockets of working Americans."

He noted it contains items that have had bipartisan support in the past and will be paid for without adding to the deficit, including rebuilding the nation's infrastructure, including schools. And he called on Congress to pass it quickly.

"This is a common-sense idea," he said. "Governor [Bev] Perdue can tell you -- there are a lot of roads and a lot of bridges that need fixing. There is a lot of work that needs to be done in schools and airports. All these things are in need of repair.

"All across North Carolina, all across the country, there are schools with leaking ceilings and lousy heating; ventilation so poor it can make students sick. How can we expect our kids to do their best in places like that? And the answer is we can't.

"This is America. I don't know about you -- I don't know about you, but I don't want any of our young people studying in broken-down schools; I want our kids to study in the best schools. I don't want the newest airports or the fastest railroads being built in China; I want them being built right here in the United States of America. There are construction projects like these all across the country just waiting to get started. There are millions of unemployed construction workers looking for work. My question is, what's Congress waiting for? There's work to be done; there are workers ready to do it; let's pass this jobs bill right away and let's get it done."

Earlier, the president, accompanied by Perdue, toured a WestStar Precision plant in Apex that makes food trays for the airline industry.

"We've got good Pennsylvania aluminum coming down to North Carolina," Obama said.

WestStar employee Barry Blackman, 47, of Princeton, said he supports the president's jobs plan.

"He's got to get it through Congress and all that, but if he does it I think it'll be good for North Carolina and the United States," he said.

But Blackman is concerned about the federal deficit.


White House: House seat loss no harbinger

NEW YORK, Sept. 14 (UPI) -- The Democrats' loss of Anthony Weiner's House seat in New York is not a harbinger of things to come in next year's elections, the White House said Wednesday.

Seventy-year-old Republican Bob Turner, a political newcomer, claimed victory Tuesday night over David I. Weprin in the traditionally Democratic district in New York's Brooklyn and Queens boroughs in the special election to fill the vacancy created by Weiner's resignation.

Obama spokesman Jay Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One "special elections are often unique and their outcomes do not tell you very much about future regularly scheduled elections."

"And I'm sure that you and everyone else here did not write, after Democrats won all, I believe, the special elections in 2009 and 2010, that that foretold a certain outcome in the 2010 midterms," Carney said. "Certainly, this election has no other bearing."

He brushed aside assertions that this special election was different, coming after Congress passed major healthcare and financial reforms, saying it would be "foolish" to make predictions 14 months out based on one district's results.

Carney also rejected the contention the GOP's win should be viewed as a wake-up call, but acknowledged all elected officials need to recognize Americans in general are "anxious" and "not happy with Washington."

Turner becomes the first Republican to represent the New York City district since the 1920s, The New York Times reported.

NY1 News reported Weprin conceded Wednesday and complimented Turner for a "well-fought campaign."

"He [Turner] will now have the honor of representing Brooklyn and Queens in Congress, and I hope that he will work every day to represent all of the diverse communities that make up the 9th Congressional district," Weprin said.

The race appeared to be influenced by voter concerns over the economy. Some voters in the heavily Jewish district are also unhappy with President Barack Obama's Israel policy, and former Mayor Ed Koch urged Jewish Democrats to vote for Turner.

"I am a registered Democrat, I have always been a registered Democrat, I come from a family of Democrats -- and I hate to say this, I voted Republican," Linda Goldberg, a 61-year-old Queens resident, told the Times. "I need to send a message to the president that he's not doing a very good job. Our economy is horrible. People are scared."

Turner said his success foretells an Obama rout next year.

"We have lit one candle today," he said. "It's going to be a bonfire pretty soon."

Weiner resigned this year after admitting he sent sexually explicit photos of himself on Twitter.


Libya takes aim at Gadhafi holdouts

NIAMEY, Nigeria, Sept. 14 (UPI) -- The interim Libyan government has given Gadhafi-loyalist holdouts two days to leave one of their last strongholds, officials said Wednesday.

The National Transitional Council sent more troops to Bani Walid as well as to Sirte and Sabha, the other towns where forces loyal to former Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi have dug in, CNN reported. The 48-hour deadline for Bani Walid was issued late Tuesday, Abdulrahman Busin, a spokesman for the council, said.

A U.S. envoy arrived in Tripoli on Wednesday. Jeffrey Feltman, assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs and the highest-ranking U.S. official to meet with the former rebels since Gadhafi was ousted, said he was encouraged by his conversations with officials and representatives from non-government groups, CNN said.

"What an incredible accomplishment it is that we can meet and speak freely today," he said.

Saadi Gadhafi, one of the sons of ousted Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, has arrived in Niamey, the capital of Niger, officials there said Tuesday. After crossing the border from Libya during the weekend in convoys with others, Saadi Gadhafi was flown to Niamey on a military transport plane from the northern town of Agadez, the BBC reported.

Niger officials said he was granted refuge.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Tuesday he and others were apparently being detained under house arrest and that Nigerian authorities were working with the transitional government in Libya, the National Transitional Council.

Niger has recognized the transitional government's authority but says it hasn't decided whether to allow Moammar Gadhafi to enter the country, the BBC said.


Syria undeterred by foreign pressure

BEIRUT, Lebanon, Sept. 14 (UPI) -- Syrian forces launched a major offensive Wednesday against opposition protests near the Turkish border, activists said.

Troops and armored vehicles rolled into the Jabal al-Zawiya region in the northwestern province of Idlib, shelling the area and cutting off communications, the Financial Times reported.

"They used heavy guns in that area, starting from this morning," Rami Abdul Rahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights in London told the Times.

Opposition leaders said President Bashar Assad has ordered mass arrests all across the country, euronews reported.

More than 100 people have been killed this week by Syrian troops cracking down on protests, activist Rahman told the Times, and the United Nations has revised its estimate of the number of people killed to 2,600 since large-scale demonstrations began in March.

Envoys from the European Union, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Canada, the Netherlands and Japan attended a ceremony Tuesday in a Damascus suburb to mark the death of prominent activist Ghiyath Mattar, who died while being detained by Syrian troops.

"In all Syria they are arresting the first and second line of activity people, that's why you don't see big demonstrations, they're all in jail or killed or hiding," Rahman said.

Mounting pressure from Turkey and other nations to stop the crackdowns has had little effect, euronews said.

"We don't believe the West and other forces in the region when they talk about democracy and human rights," said Bouthaina Shabaan, an Assad adviser.


Texas wildfire burns for second week

AUSTIN, Texas, Sept. 14 (UPI) -- The 22 people reported missing in the area ravaged by a Texas wildfire have all been located, officials said Wednesday.

The last person on the list released Sunday turned out to be with relatives in Arizona, the Austin American-Statesman reported. Bastrop County Sheriff Terry Pickering said the other 21 have been in touch with authorities.

The Bastrop fire, which began Sept. 3, remained 70 percent contained Wednesday morning, officials said. Hot and windy weather was expected to hamper the firefighting effort.

Mike Fisher, the county's emergency management coordinator, said residents of two neighborhoods were barred from visiting their homes Tuesday because of the wind, with Thursday morning now the target time. He said there were 18 flareups Tuesday.

The fire has spread over 34,000 acres in the area about 50 miles southeast of Austin, killed at least two people and destroyed hundreds of buildings.

Texas is in the midst of a prolonged drought and has endured a blistering hot summer. The Texas Forest Service reported responding to 149 new fires in the past week covering 17,334 acres with 35 of them covering 9,752 acres reported Tuesday.

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