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Obama, McCain lay flowers at Ground Zero

NEW YORK, 31 (UPI) -- John McCain and Barack Obama walked side by side to the Ground Zero reflecting pool in New York to mark the seventh anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks.


Accompanying the two major-party presidential candidates down the ramp leading to the pit of what was once the World Trade Center were New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and McCain's wife, Cindy.

Michelle Obama was in Chicago with their children, CNN reported.

The two met with relatives of victims and first responders before placing roses in the pool already overflowing with flowers left by people who attended the commemoration of the seventh anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.

After placing the roses in the pool, McCain and Obama paused for a moment of reflection, then met with police and fire personnel.

During the earlier ceremony, somber music provided an aural backdrop as the names of the victims who died when the World Trade Center's Twin Towers collapsed were read by family members or representatives of the 95 countries that were in the towers that day.

Four times a moment of silence was observed -- once each for when the airplanes piloted by terrorists rammed the towers and once each when the towers collapsed. Participants, many carrying photos of the victims, openly wept.


The trading floor of the nearby New York Stock Exchange was quiet as the traders observed a moment of silence. Congress observed a moment of silence.

Commemorations also were held in Shanksville, Pa., and at the Pentagon, where the first of three permanent memorials was dedicated.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger issued proclamations declaring Sept. 11 Patriot Day and September "Heroes of Flight 93" month. All four hijacked planes were bound for California.

Hurricane Ike bears down on Texas coast

HOUSTON, Sept. 11 (UPI) -- Residents in low-lying areas of Houston began a mandatory evacuation Thursday afternoon as Hurricane Ike bore down on the Texas coast.

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett said, "We strongly urge you to evacuate before tomorrow (Friday)," CNN reported.

Ike's center was about 440 miles east-southeast of Corpus Christi and about 470 miles east-southeast of Galveston, the Hurricane Center in Miami reported. The Category 2 hurricane, with sustained winds near 100 mph, was moving across the Gulf of Mexico at about 10 mph.

Ike cut a wide swath across the Gulf, with hurricane force winds extending up to 115 miles from its center and tropical storm-force winds pushing out up to 275 miles, the NHC said.


City and county officials along Texas' Gulf of Mexico coastline urged residents to leave voluntarily.

Forecasters said the storm could slam into the shore south of Galveston as a powerful Category 3 storm late Friday or early Saturday.

Texas A&M University in College Station would be closed Friday and activities scheduled through the weekend canceled as a precaution, university officials said in a statement.

Reed Arena is being used as a facility to accommodate up to 500 special medical needs patients from other parts of the state, the university said.

In Washington, the House adjourned for the week Thursday so "the Texas congressional delegation, whose districts are threatened by Hurricane Ike, may return home," House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said in a statement.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry put 7,500 National Guard members on standby and issued a disaster declaration for 88 counties, his office said. U.S. President George Bush declared an emergency in Texas, making federal funds available for the state to prepare for the storm.

Pakistan army commander: U.S. keep out

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Sept. 11 (UPI) -- The commander of the Pakistani army has warned the United States against sending forces from Afghanistan into Pakistan to pursue Taliban and al-Qaida fighters.


Pakistani Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, who succeeded former President Pervez Musharraf as army chief in November, issued a statement Wednesday, The New York Times reported.

"No external force is allowed to conduct operations inside Pakistan," he said.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, who was sworn in Tuesday, has been widely criticized for refusing to rebuke the United States for a Sept. 3 raid, which Special Forces allegedly carried out without informing Pakistan.

An official told the Times that the Pakistani government is aware of a new U.S. policy to carry out cross-border raids without seeking prior permission. Kayani, in his statement, rejected that policy.

"There is no question of any agreement or understanding with the coalition forces whereby they are allowed to conduct operations on our side of the border," he said.

Poll: Voters less worried about terrorism

WASHINGTON, Sept. 11 (UPI) -- U.S. residents are less concerned about terrorism than they have been since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in New York and Washington, a poll finds.

Only 10 percent of those surveyed for the CNN/Opinion Research poll said that terrorism is the most important issue in the 2008 presidential election.

While 30 percent said a terrorist attack is likely in the near future, that is down 10 points from a similar poll last year and down 30 points from 2002, a year after the attacks. Only 14 percent said their own hometown is likely to be attacked.


The poll found that support for the Iraq War picked up slightly to 37 percent from 30 percent in June. But the war has also declined in importance as an issue, with only 13 percent saying it is the most important issue to them in their presidential choice.

President George Bush gets little credit for any success in Iraq or the war on terror and remains unpopular.

CNN polling director Keating Holland said a majority of those surveyed believe that Republican presidential nominee John McCain would do a better job on terrorism than Democrat Barack Obama. The bad news for McCain is that most of those who give terrorism top priority are Republicans and not a source of new votes.

U.S. denies Israel weapons for Iran attack

JERUSALEM, Sept. 11 (UPI) -- The United States won't give Israel a security aid package out of concern the Israelis would use it to attack Iran, diplomatic and security sources said.

U.S. and Israeli officials are said to have been discussing an Israeli request, which includes "bunker-buster" bombs, permission to use an air corridor, an advanced technological system and refueling planes, Haaretz reported Thursday.

In a series of meetings, U.S. officials told their Israeli counterparts that diplomacy would be used to try to persuade Iran to abandon its nuclear aspirations and that Israel didn't have U.S. approval to attack Iran, Harretz reported.


However, the United States did reportedly agree to beef up Israeli defensive systems, including an advanced U.S. radar system stationed in the Negev.

NRA sues to enforce lifting gun ban

CHICAGO, Sept. 11 (UPI) -- The National Rifle Association says it's going to court to force communities to accept a U.S. Supreme Court ruling to allow guns at home for self-defense.

The NRA has filed at least four lawsuits since the high court in June struck down a handgun band in Washington, which is a federal district, USA Today reported Thursday.

Some communities since have repealed their handgun bans, while others are waiting to see if the ruling applies only to federal districts or to state and local governments as well, USA Today reported.

"There is going to be a lot of litigation on this," said Dennis Henigan, a spokesman for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

The NRA lawsuits include the San Francisco Housing Authority and Chicago, Oak Park, Ill., and Evanston, Ill. Evanston ended its handgun ban last month but is considering reinstating it because a law firm has offered to defend the city at no cost, said Evanston Alderman Steve Bernstein.

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