US Economy Grinds To Halt… Again

(2 pm. – promoted by ek hornbeck)


Calling it “basically no more than five rectangular strips of paper,” Fed chairman Ben Bernanke illustrates how much “$200”

is actually worth.
Nation Realizes Money Just A Symbolic, Mutually Shared Illusion

WASHINGTON-The U.S. economy ceased to function this week after unexpected existential remarks by Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke shocked Americans into realizing that money is, in fact, just a meaningless and intangible social construct.

What began as a routine report before the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday ended with Bernanke passionately disavowing the entire concept of currency, and negating in an instant the very foundation of the world’s largest economy.

“Though raising interest rates is unlikely at the moment, the Fed will of course act appropriately if we…if we…” said Bernanke, who then paused for a moment, looked down at his prepared statement, and shook his head in utter disbelief. “You know what? It doesn’t matter. None of this-this so-called ‘money’-really matters at all.”

“It’s just an illusion,” a wide-eyed Bernanke added as he removed bills from his wallet and slowly spread them out before him. “Just look at it: Meaningless pieces of paper with numbers printed on them. Worthless.”

According to witnesses, Finance Committee members sat in thunderstruck silence for several moments until Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) finally shouted out, “Oh my God, he’s right. It’s all a mirage. All of it-the money, our whole economy-it’s all a lie!”


The realization that money is nothing more than an elaborate head game seems to have penetrated the entire country: In Wilmington, DE, for instance, a collection agent reportedly broke down in joyful sobs when he informed a woman on the other end of the phone that he had absolutely no reason to harass her anymore, as her Discover Card debt was no longer comprehensible.

For some Americans, the fog of disbelief surrounding the nation’s epiphany has begun to lift, with many building new lives free from the illusion of money.

Read it all here…

In other news today:

Pentagon weighs preemptive cyber-warfare

Video: Beck fans cheer plan to shoot illegal immigrants

AP: US wasted billions rebuilding Iraq

Education secretary: Schools have been lying to students

Congress may sneak through Internet ‘kill switch’ in defense bill

Obama Administration Plans Mortgage Aid, HUD’s Donovan Says – in light of “Obama’s continued deference to the sensibilities of the financiers and his relative indifference to the suffering of ordinary people that threaten his legacy, not to mention the nation’s economic well-being” and that “There have been more than 300,000 foreclosure filings every single month that Obama has been president“, and that  “While Obama continued the Bush practice of showering the banks with bailout money, he did not demand a moratorium on foreclosures or call for increasing the power of bankruptcy courts to force the banks, which created the problem, to now help distressed homeowners”, the general idea now seems to be that the “Obama administration plans to set up an emergency loan program for the unemployed” perhaps to push them even further into debt slavery in case they ever find a job again.

Punting the Pundits

Punting the Punditsis an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Anne Applebaum: ‘It’s too soon to tell’ how the Iraq war went

On Tuesday, Barack Obama will make a speech about Iraq. With 50,000 troops still in the country in an “advisory capacity” he can’t declare victory, so he will instead celebrate “the end of combat operations.” If he follows others who have already marked this occasion, his comments will focus on Iraq: the state of Iraqi democracy, the level of violence, the impact seven years of war has had on Iraqi society.

All of which is fair enough. But I hope he spares a few minutes to assess the impact that seven years of war has had on American society — and American foreign policy. I supported the invasion of Iraq, I think the surge was a success and I believe that an Iraqi democracy could be a revolutionary force for good in the Middle East. Yet even if violence abates, even if all American troops go home, we have still paid a very high price for our victory — much higher than we usually admit.

Aside from the very real blood and the very real money spent in Iraq, there were other casualties, some of them hard to count and classify.

E.J. Dionne Jr.: Obama needs to relearn the art of politicking

President Obama’s address to the nation on Iraq this week underscores the agony of his presidency and its core political problem.

Seen from the inside, the administration is an astonishing success. Obama has kept his principal promises and can take credit for achievements that eluded his Democratic predecessors.

He pledged to have all combat troops out of Iraq by the end of this month and, as Obama will remind us on Tuesday, he’s accomplished just that. Congress enacted a comprehensive health-care bill and a sweeping reform of how the financial system is regulated. His rescue of the American auto industry worked, foiling predictions that he’d run GM and Chrysler as if they were arms of Chicago’s Democratic machine. There are many other legislative and administrative actions that, in normal circumstances, would loom larger if these were not such exceptional — and difficult — times.

Yet the challenging nature of the moment does not explain all of the president’s struggles. It’s true that his accomplishments will have important long-term effects, even if they have not resolved the country’s central concern: the continuing sluggishness of the economy.

Glenn Greenwald: Anti-mosque sentiment rages far from Ground Zero

One of the most under-reported political stories is the increasingly vehement, nationwide movement — far from Ground Zero — to oppose new mosques and Islamic community centers.  These ugly campaigns are found across the country, in every region, and extend far beyond the warped extremists who are doing things such as “Burn a Quran Day.”  And now, from CBS News last night, we have this:


Fire at Tenn. Mosque Building Site Ruled Arson

   Federal officials are investigating a fire that started overnight at the site of a new Islamic center in a Nashville suburb.

   Ben Goodwin of the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Department confirmed to CBS Affiliate WTVF that the fire, which burned construction equipment at the future site of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, is being ruled as arson. . . .

   The chair of the center’s planning committee, Essim Fathy, said he drove to the site at around 5:30 a.m. Saturday morning after he was contacted by the sheriff’s department.

   “Our people and community are so worried of what else can happen,” said Fathy. “They are so scared” . . .

   Opponents of a new Islamic center say they believe the mosque will be more than a place of prayer; they are afraid the 15-acre site that was once farmland will be turned into a terrorist training ground for Muslim militants bent on overthrowing the U.S. government.

   “They are not a religion. They are a political, militaristic group,” Bob Shelton, a 76-year-old retiree who lives in the area, told The Associated Press.

Dahlia Lithwick: The Female Factor

Will the presence of three women really change the court in any real way?

Much has been made of the fact that Elena Kagan’s confirmation last month means that for the first time in American history, there will be three women on the high court. But beyond a sense that the court will be slightly more representative of the American people, and the possibility of yet more intriguing white lacy scarves from on high, what does the difference between having one, two, or three women at the court really signify?

Harry Shearer: President Obama Speaks to New Orleans From Planet Zarg

NEW ORLEANS–Sorry, can’t be sure that’s the planet he’s living on, but this intelligent, well-informed man surely can’t be living on this orb. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have been able to start off his speech at Xavier University Sunday afternoon with this reprise of his town-hall remarks here last October:

“It was a natural disaster but also a manmade catastrophe; a shameful breakdown in government that left countless men, women, and children abandoned and alone.”

Note that the “manmade catastrophe” and “breakdown” are linked only to the response to the flooding of New Orleans, not the cause, as if this intelligent, well-informed man is unaware that two separate, independent forensic engineering investigations of the disaster, conducted over a period of a year or more, agreed on this conclusion (in the words of UC Berkeley’s ILIT report): the flooding of New Orleans was “the greatest man-made engineering catastrophe since Chernobyl”.

Joan Walsh: Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin’s unholy alliance

Abramoff ally Rabbi Daniel Lapin and bigot John Hagee help “restore honor” at the Lincoln Memorial

Where to begin telling the story of Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin’s “Restoring Honor” rally, on the site of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic “I have a dream” speech exactly 47 years later? As promised, we published Sarah Palin’s 8/28 speech alongside King’s, and Mark Benjamin reported from the event. I’m excited Beck announced his “Black Robe Regiment”; it’s long past time to retire the white robes.

Since Beck insists the gathering wasn’t about politics, but about religion, let’s take a look at a couple of the religious figures there.

Sam and I

Apparently I’m not the only one.

Beck Blasts Obama’s ‘Perversion Of The Gospel,’ While Evangelicals Blast Beck’s ‘False Gospel’

“Jesus Christ’s Church has universally rejected Mormonism’s Anti-Trinitarian theology and its claim that mortals may become God,” David Shedlock, an evangelical blogger, wrote on a FreedomWorks forum earlier this month. “Beck asks Christian leaders to ‘put differences aside,’ but Beck himself daily peppers his broadcasts with Mormon distinctives because he cannot keep his beliefs to himself.”


Report: Warnings about e-mails went unheeded in Bush White House

By Ed O’Keefe, Washington Post Staff Writer

Sunday, August 29, 2010; 8:06 PM

Top aides to President George W. Bush  seemed unconcerned amid multiple warnings as early as 2002 that the White House risked losing millions of e-mails that federal law required them to preserve, according to an extensive review of records set for release Monday.

The review, conducted by the nonprofit watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, follows a settlement reached last December between President Obama’s administration, CREW and the National Security Archive, a George Washington University research institute. The groups sued the Bush White House in 2007, alleging it violated federal law by not preserving millions of e-mails sent between 2003 and 2005.

The settlement resulted in the restoration of 94 days worth of e-mail and the release of documents detailing when the Bush White House learned of the missing e-mails and how it responded. The restored e-mails are part of the National Archives and Records Administration’s historic record of the Bush administration, but presidential historians and others seeking information in the coming decades about the major decisions of Bush’s presidency likely will be starved of key details, including messages sent between White House officials and drafts of final policy decisions, according to CREW.

(h/t Corrente)

The Big Fail

Monday Business Edition

It’s slowly starting to dawn on Institutional Democrats that they’re going to lose big in November.  The consequences are very real.  Racist Radical Reagan Republicanism is a proven failure.  And Institutional Democrats?  They’re a failure too because they knew what to do and didn’t do it.

I’ll put my policy prescription right up front, the only thing that will save Democrats at this point is massive downsizing- Rahm Emanuel, David Axelrod, Gibbs, Geithner and Summers, Salazar and Duncan.  Do I want heads on pikes?  Figuratively, yes.  These highly paid strikeout kings and clubhouse malcontents have to go for the good of the team.

And if not I hope you’re happy with the crappy offices that come with minority status and one term Presidencies you corporatist whores.  Anyone who claims to care about “electoral victory” is a liar.

It’s Witch-Hunt Season

By PAUL KRUGMAN, The New York Times

Published: August 29, 2010

So what will happen if, as expected, Republicans win control of the House? We already know part of the answer: Politico reports that they’re gearing up for a repeat performance of the 1990s, with a “wave of committee investigations” – several of them over supposed scandals that we already know are completely phony. We can expect the G.O.P. to play chicken over the federal budget, too; I’d put even odds on a 1995-type government shutdown sometime over the next couple of years.

It will be an ugly scene, and it will be dangerous, too. The 1990s were a time of peace and prosperity; this is a time of neither. In particular, we’re still suffering the after-effects of the worst economic crisis since the 1930s, and we can’t afford to have a federal government paralyzed by an opposition with no interest in helping the president govern. But that’s what we’re likely to get.

If I were President Obama, I’d be doing all I could to head off this prospect, offering some major new initiatives on the economic front in particular, if only to shake up the political dynamic. But my guess is that the president will continue to play it safe, all the way into catastrophe.

Opposition Pay-offs

by Dave Anderson, 2010 August 29

The stimulus as passed in ARRA was necessary but insufficient.  It was too small at the topline number for the size of the output gap we actually faced (as the recession was deeper than the earlier data showed) and poorly designed with too much money going to AMT fixes and ineffective lump-sum tax-cuts.  The effective parts were pared back to please Sens. Collins, Snowe and Nelson.  And this was because the Republican Party realized they were the opposition and the job of the opposition is to oppose.  It also was because the Obama Administration likes to punch dirty fucking hippies, especially when they are right on the math and the political outcomes.

What Can Obama Really Do?

by Ian Welsh, 2010 August 29

The idea that Obama, or any President, is a powerless shrinking violet, helpless in the face of Congress is just an excuse.  Presidents have immense amounts of power: the question is whether or not they use that power, and if they do, what they use it for.

If Obama is not using that money and authority, the bottom line is it’s because he doesn’t want to.

Putting aside the question of what Obama could have accomplished already, if he wants to help everyday Americans, turn around Democratic approval ratings in time for the midterm elections, and leave behind him a legacy of achievement, he can still do it. If he wants to.

The Two Stories of This Terrible Economy, Yet Obama and the Dems Won’t Tell Theirs

Robert Reich, Friday, August 27, 2010

If Obama and the Democrats would connect these dots they’d have a story that would make Americans’ hair stand on end. We’re in this mess because of big business and Wall Street. Government is needed to get us out of it.

So why haven’t Obama and the Dems succeeded yet? Big business and Wall Street have used their money and political clout to stop government from doing as much as needs to be done.

The story is clear, and it has the virtue of being the truth. Why won’t Obama and the Democrats tell it? Is it because big business and Wall Street have the money and political clout even to prevent the story from being told?

Policy Options Dwindle as Economic Fears Grow

By PETER S. GOODMAN, The New York Times

Published: August 28, 2010

“There are many ways in which you can see us almost surely being in a Japan-style malaise,” said the Nobel-laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz, who has accused the Obama administration of underestimating the dangers weighing on the economy. “It’s just really hard to see what will bring us out.”

Japan’s years of pain were made worse by deflation – falling prices – an affliction that assailed the United States during the Great Depression and may be gathering force again. While falling prices can be good news for people in need of cars, housing and other wares, a sustained, broad drop discourages businesses from investing and hiring. Less work and lower wages translates into less spending power, which reinforces a predilection against hiring and investing – a downward spiral.

Deflation is both symptom and cause of an economy whose basic functioning has stalled. It reflects too many goods and services in the marketplace with not enough people able to buy them.

Banks’ Self-Dealing Super-Charged Financial Crisis

by Jake Bernstein  and Jesse Eisinger, ProPublica

Aug. 26, 10:09 p.m.

Over the last two years of the housing bubble, Wall Street bankers perpetrated one of the greatest episodes of self-dealing in financial history.

Faced with increasing difficulty in selling the mortgage-backed securities that had been among their most lucrative products, the banks hit on a solution that preserved their quarterly earnings and huge bonuses:

They created fake demand.

More Business News below.

Obama’s Old Deal

Why the 44th president is no FDR-and the economy is still in the doldrums.

by Michael Hirsh, Newsweek

August 29, 2010

Barack Obama was “incredulous” at what he was hearing, said one of his top economic advisers. The president had spent his first year in office overseeing the biggest government bailout of the financial industry in American history. Together with Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke, he had kept Wall Street afloat on a trillion-dollar tide of taxpayer money. But the banks were barely lending, and the economy was still mired in high unemployment. And now, in December 2009, the holiday news had started to filter out of the canyons of lower Manhattan: Wall Street’s year-end bonuses would actually be larger in 2009 than they had been in 2007, the year prior to the catastrophe. “Wait, let me get this straight,” Obama said at a White House meeting that December. “These guys are reserving record bonuses because they’re profitable, and they’re profitable only because we rescued them.” It was as if nothing had changed. Even after a Depression-size crash, the banks were not altering their behavior. The president was being perceived, more and more, as a man on the wrong side of an incendiary issue.

And so, prodded forward by Vice President Joe Biden-the product of a working-class upbringing in Scranton, Pa.-the president began to consider getting tougher on Wall Street. “We kept revisiting it,” said the economic adviser (who recounted details of the meetings only on condition of anonymity). One big proposal the White House hadn’t adopted was Paul Volcker’s idea of barring commercial banks from indulging in heavy risk taking and “proprietary” trading. In Volcker’s view, America’s major banks, which enjoy federal guarantees on their deposits, had to stop putting taxpayer money at risk by acting like hedge funds. This had become a grand passion for Volcker, a living legend renowned for crushing inflation 30 years before as Fed chairman. He had long been skeptical of financial deregulation. Beyond the ATM, Volcker asked, what new banking products had really added to economic growth? Exhibit one for this argument was derivatives, trillions of dollars in “side bets” placed by Wall Street traders. “I wish somebody would give me some shred of neutral evidence about the relationship between financial innovation recently and the growth of the economy,” he barked at one conference.

Yet for most of that first year, Obama and his economic team had largely ignored Volcker, a sometime adviser. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and chief economic adviser Larry Summers still questioned whether Volcker’s proposals were feasible. Now Obama was pressing them-very gingerly-to reconsider. “I’m not convinced Volcker’s not right about this,” Obama said at one meeting in the Roosevelt Room. Biden, a longtime fan of Volcker’s, bluntly piped up: “I’m quite convinced Volcker is right about this!”

Bankers Told Recovery May Be Slow

By SEWELL CHAN, The New York Times

Published: August 28, 2010

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. – The American economy could experience painfully slow growth and stubbornly high unemployment for a decade or longer as a result of the 2007 collapse of the housing market and the economic turmoil that followed, according to an authority on the history of financial crises.

The Reinharts examined 15 severe financial crises since World War II as well as the worldwide economic contractions that followed the 1929 stock market crash, the 1973 oil shock and the 2007 implosion of the subprime mortgage market.

In the decade following the crises, growth rates were significantly lower and unemployment rates were significantly higher. Housing prices took years to recover, and it took about seven years on average for households and companies to reduce their debts and restore their balance sheets. In general, the crises were preceded by decade-long expansions of credit and borrowing, and were followed by lengthy periods of retrenchment that lasted nearly as long.

op. cit.

(T)he recent slowing of the recovery cast a pall on this year’s gathering. As economists (some wearing jeans and cowboy boots) conferred on a terrace with a sweeping view of the 13,770-foot peak of Mount Teton, or watched a horse trainer tame an unruly colt at a nearby ranch, they anxiously discussed research like Ms. Reinhart’s. (Participants pay to attend the event, which is not financed by taxpayers, a Kansas City Fed spokeswoman emphasized.)

From Yahoo News Business

1 Japan announces fresh stimulus measures

by Kyoko Hasegawa, AFP

50 mins ago

TOKYO (AFP) – Japan on Monday unveiled an 11 billion dollar stimulus and announced monetary steps to safeguard a fragile economy and curb the impact of a strong yen, but markets were left unimpressed.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan announced the 920 billion yen stimulus package and the central bank extended a multi-billion-dollar loan scheme in a bid to boost an economy beset by deflation and curb the strength of the yen.

Kan said the plan will include steps to boost employment for graduates, investment in green industries and support for smaller businesses and measures to boost consumption, adding it would get final approval on September 10.

2 Zara takes the plunge into crowded online market

by Katell Abiven, AFP

Sat Aug 28, 11:19 pm ET

MADRID (AFP) – Europe’s largest clothing retailer, Spain’s Inditex, is taking its flagship Zara brand online, but it can expect stiff competition from other giants of high-street fashion already well-established in cyberspace.

Zara’s virtual boutique will be available on Thursday in selected European markets: Spain, Germany, France, Italy, Portugal and Britain.

From 2011, it will be expanded to the United States, Japan and South Korea.

3 Wall Street awaits US jobs report

by Ron Bousso, AFP

Sat Aug 28, 12:00 pm ET

NEW YORK (AFP) – Wall Street may be in for another rocky week, as traders brace for negative data topped by an expected rise in the US unemployment rate that could dampen economic recovery prospects.

All eyes will turn to the release of the monthly employment data next Friday, with most analysts forecasting non-farm payrolls to fall by 118,000 in August and unemployment to edge up to 9.6 percent from the current 9.5 percent rate.

“The most important number by far is going to be the job numbers on Friday. It is key to the entire economy and we haven’t had very good news lately about that,” said analyst Nicholas Colas of ConvergEx Group.

4 Singapore ramps up measures to cool property market


Mon Aug 30, 2:08 am ET

SINGAPORE (AFP) – Singapore on Monday announced fresh anti-speculation measures to cool its private property market as the city-state’s double-digit economic growth keeps upward pressure on demand.

Owners who sell houses and apartments less than three years after buying them will have to pay a duty of three percent of the resale value — a measure previously applicable to transactions within one year of the purchase.

For buyers with at least one outstanding loan, the minimum cash down payment was raised from five to 10 percent of valuation, while the maximum amount a bank can lend was capped at 70 percent, down from 80 percent.

5 Boeing further delays delivery of first Dreamliner


Fri Aug 27, 10:19 am ET

TOKYO (AFP) – Aerospace giant Boeing said Friday it would further delay the delivery of its first 787 Dreamliner aircraft until early next year, in another set-back for the troubled jet programme.

Boeing said it now expects to deliver the first Dreamliner in the middle of the first quarter of 2011 as it continues to carry out tests on the beleaguered plane, which is already more than two years behind schedule.

Confirmation that Boeing will not be able to hand over the first aircraft to Japan’s All Nippon Airways (ANA) this year came in a statement released in the US and Japan, after it warned in July it may have to delay.

6 Sanofi proposal heaps pressure on Genzyme

By Nina Sovich and James Regan, Reuters

47 mins ago

PARIS (Reuters) – Pressure mounted on Genzyme as its shares rose 6 percent in Europe a day after French drugmaker Sanofi-Aventis made public its month-old proposal to buy the U.S. biotech for $18.5 billion.

Sanofi Chief Executive Chris Viehbacher confirmed his $69 per share non-binding cash offer for Genzyme on Sunday, hinting he could make a hostile takeover bid following several unsuccessful attempts to hold talks with Genzyme management.

The French group stopped short of making a direct approach to Genzyme shareholders, however, and Viehbacher sounded a conciliatory tone in an interview with Les Echos newspaper that nonetheless suggested there was a limit to his patience.

7 BOJ eases policy to fight yen rise but impact seen slim

By Leika Kihara, Reuters

2 hrs 49 mins ago

TOKYO (Reuters) – The Bank of Japan expanded its cheap loan scheme on Monday, heeding government calls for action to curb a rise in the yen that threatens a fragile economic recovery and leaving the door open to more policy easing.

The yen surged more than 1 percent against the dollar after the central bank beefed up the supply of fixed-rate loans to banks, a move investors saw as a symbolic gesture that will do little to halt a climb in the currency that hurts exports and may prolong deflation.

“Today’s move is not a bold move,” said Simon Wong, regional economist at Standard Chartered Bank in Hong Kong. “If the yen continues to appreciate, say it appreciates beyond the 80 level, that could trigger more direct intervention at some point.”

8 Agrium says keen on Potash assets if BHP sells

By Bruce Hextall, Reuters

Mon Aug 30, 3:39 am ET

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Canada’s Agrium Inc said it would be interested in Potash Corp’s nitrogen and phosphates business, worth an estimated $12 billion, if miner BHP Billiton secures its $39 billion Potash takeover and decides to sell the assets.

Agrium Chief Executive Mike Wilson said on Monday his fertilizer and agricultural company was strong financially and would look at any assets up for grabs. His comments came after BHP told analysts it could look to divest Potash’s nitrogen and phosphates operations.

“We are a global company that produce 8 million metric tonnes of nitrogen, phosphate and potash and markets 16 million so any assets that came on the market that fits with us we would certainly look at,” Wilson told Reuters in an interview.

9 Obama says economy not growing fast enough

By Caren Bohan, Reuters

Mon Aug 30, 12:05 am ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama said on Sunday the U.S. economy was expanding, but not quickly enough, and there was no “magic bullet” that will fix its problems.

Obama said in an NBC interview that the batch of grim economic data over the past few weeks was something his administration had anticipated.

Gloomy reports on gross domestic product and housing have raised fears the fragile economy could slip back into a recession or face a lengthy period of growth that is too slow to make much of a dent in the 9.5 percent unemployment rate.

10 Investors embark on treacherous month

By Edward Krudy, Reuters

Sun Aug 29, 11:30 am ET

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Beaten-up investors go into September, historically a weak month for stocks, facing key reports on jobs, manufacturing and services. If those disappoint, the S&P 500 could breach technical support levels, pushing stocks yet lower.

The S&P 500 index has fallen nearly 13 percent since April as investors fret about the chance of a double-dip recession. But the index has found solid support around the 1,040 level, with a sustained move below that proving tough.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke boosted stocks on Friday by signaling the Fed is ready to act if the economy worsens. But more weakness in upcoming indicators like non-farm payrolls and Institute for Supply Management surveys would intensify fears the economy is sliding back into recession.

11 Jobs data to show severity of malaise

By David Lawder, Reuters

Sun Aug 29, 3:01 pm ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The patient clearly looks ill, but is there at least a steady pulse?

August U.S. payrolls and other data this week will provide critical evidence on whether the U.S. economy is slipping into a coma of barely perceptible growth, as some economists fear.

“Our view is that the recovery is petering out, not sliding into a double dip,” said Mark Vitner, senior economist at Wells Fargo Securities in Charlotte, North Carolina. “In our mind, the employment situation likely deteriorated in August.”

12 Japan eases policy, plans new economic stimulus

By TOMOKO A. HOSAKA, Associated Press Writer

57 mins ago

TOKYO – Japan’s government and the central bank threw the economy a double lifeline Monday, seeking to contain a strong yen and revive a faltering recovery.

To boost liquidity, the central bank unveiled a new six-month low-interest loan program to financial institutions. Combined with an existing three-month funds-supplying operation worth 20 trillion yen ($236 billion), banks will now have access to a total of 30 trillion yen ($355 billion).

The 8-1 decision by the central bank’s policy board was accompanied by an unanimous vote to keep its key interest rate at a super-low 0.1 percent.

13 China in global talent search for state companies

By JOE McDONALD, AP Business Writer

2 hrs 42 mins ago

BEIJING – China’s government announced a global talent search Monday to fill top posts at 12 major state-owned companies in its latest effort to turn huge but inefficient government enterprises into global competitors.

Communist leaders want to build up 30 to 50 state companies as national champions in fields from oil to banking to airlines. Some are among the biggest in their global industries due to their protected position in China’s huge market but authorities acknowledge they lag behind foreign rivals in skills and efficiency.

State industries have hired managers from abroad but Monday’s announcement by the Cabinet agency that runs China’s biggest state companies was the most high-profile recruitment effort to date.

14 Calif. rare fruit growers meet to swap seeds, tips

By RAQUEL MARIA DILLON, Associated Press Writer

1 hr 21 mins ago

POMONA, Calif. – Persimmon grower Jim Bathgate handed out tiny yellow peaches to others at the California Rare Fruit Growers’ annual “Festival of Fruit” and watched with anticipation as they bit into the sweet and juicy flesh.

The fruit grew on a peach tree that sprouted accidentally in Bathgate’s persimmon grove, and he eagerly collected the sticky pits to plant more.

Bathgate was one of hundreds of rare fruit aficionados gathered to share seeds, cuttings and knowledge. The organization founded in 1968 encourages gardeners and hobby farmers to plant unusual fruit instead of commonplace fare, such as apples and oranges. Members search the globe for new varieties or seek to develop tastier, heartier strains suitable for backyard growing.

15 BP’s life on frontiers of energy industry at risk

By JANE WARDELL, AP Business Writer

Sun Aug 29, 2:51 pm ET

LONDON – At a celebration of BP’s centennial last October, CEO Tony Hayward boasted to guests that the oil company “lives on the frontiers of the energy industry.”

But this week, in the first major sign that the Gulf of Mexico oil spill may have caused lasting damage to the company’s long-term strategy of embracing projects with high risks, BP was frozen out of a potentially lucrative license to drill for oil off the coast of Greenland.

The Arctic setback comes as BP’s plans to begin deep-water drilling in Libya and the North Sea have been delayed, and its vast offshore U.S. operations remain under a cloud.

16 Asia assesses prospects as world recovery stumbles

By KELLY OLSEN, AP Business Writer

Sun Aug 29, 4:01 pm ET

SEOUL, South Korea – Talk of the global economic recovery fizzling doesn’t faze Cho Byung-cheol, president of a small South Korean technology company that has already set up a branch in China and plans one soon in the United States.

The company, which designs and makes semiconductor-based high-speed data storage and processing equipment, is planning to boost its South Korean workforce of nearly 60 by half, says Cho, who founded Seoul-based Taejin Infotech Co. in 1996. Sales, which totaled only 8.4 billion won ($7 million) last year, could swell fourfold this year and reach 100 billion won next year, he predicts.

Sitting in his spacious, well-ordered office, Cho’s confidence belies the grim mood that has settled over global stock markets in the past month as indicators from the U.S. to Japan show the economic rebound is running out of juice.

On This Day in History: August 30

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

August 30 is the 242nd day of the year (243rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 123 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1967, Thurgood Marshall becomes the first African American to be confirmed as a Supreme Court justice. He would remain on the Supreme Court for 24 years before retiring for health reasons, leaving a legacy of upholding the rights of the individual as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

Thurgood Marshall (July 2, 1908 – January 24, 1993) was an American jurist and the first African American to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States. Before becoming a judge, he was a lawyer who was best remembered for his high success rate in arguing before the Supreme Court and for the victory in Brown v. Board of Education. He was nominated to the court by President Lyndon Johnson in 1967.

Marshall was born in Baltimore, Maryland on July 2, 1908, the great-grandson of a slave who was born in modern-day Democratic Republic of the Congo.His original name was Thoroughgood, but he shortened it to Thurgood  in second grade because he disliked spelling it. His father, William Marshall, who was a railroad porter, instilled in him an appreciation for the Constitution of the United States and the rule of law.

Marshall graduated from Frederick Douglass High School in Baltimore in 1925 and from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania in 1930. Afterward, Marshall wanted to apply to his hometown law school, the University of Maryland School of Law, but the dean told him that he would not be accepted because of the school’s segregation policy. Later, as a civil rights litigator, he successfully sued the school for this policy in the case of Murray v. Pearson. As he could not attend the University of Maryland, Marshall sought admission and was accepted at Howard University School of Law.

Marshall received his law degree from the Howard University School of Law in 1933 where he graduated first in his class.

Marshall won his very first U.S. Supreme Court case, Chambers v. Florida, 309 U.S. 227 (1940), at the age of 32. That same year, he was appointed Chief Counsel for the NAACP. He argued many other cases before the Supreme Court, most of them successfully, including Smith v. Allwright, 321 U.S. 649 (1944); Shelley v. Kraemer, 334 U.S. 1 (1948); Sweatt v. Painter, 339 U.S. 629 (1950); and McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents, 339 U.S. 637 (1950). His most famous case as a lawyer was Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954), the case in which the Supreme Court ruled that “separate but equal” public education, as established by Plessy v. Ferguson, was not applicable to public education because it could never be truly equal. In total, Marshall won 29 out of the 32 cases he argued before the Supreme Court.

Marshall served on the Court for the next twenty-four years, compiling a liberal record that included strong support for Constitutional protection of individual rights, especially the rights of criminal suspects against the government. His most frequent ally on the Court (indeed, the pair rarely voted at odds) was Justice William Brennan, who consistently joined him in supporting abortion rights and opposing the death penalty. Brennan and Marshall concluded in Furman v. Georgia that the death penalty was, in all circumstances, unconstitutional, and never accepted the legitimacy of Gregg v. Georgia, which ruled four years later that the death penalty was constitutional in some circumstances. Thereafter, Brennan or Marshall dissented from every denial of certiorari in a capital case and from every decision upholding a sentence of death.[citation needed] In 1987, Marshall gave a controversial speech on the occasion of the bicentennial celebrations of the Constitution of the United States. Marshall stated,


“the government they devised was defective from the start, requiring several amendments, a civil war, and major social transformations to attain the system of constitutional government and its respect for the freedoms and individual rights, we hold as fundamental today.”

In conclusion Marshall stated


“Some may more quietly commemorate the suffering, struggle, and sacrifice that has triumphed over much of what was wrong with the original document, and observe the anniversary with hopes not realized and promises not fulfilled. I plan to celebrate the bicentennial of the Constitution as a living document, including the Bill of Rights and the other amendments protecting individual freedoms and human rights.”

He retired from the Supreme Court in 1991, and was reportedly unhappy that it would fall to President George H. W. Bush to name his replacement. Bush nominated Clarence Thomas to replace Marshall.

Marshall died of heart failure at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, at 2:58 p.m. on January 24, 1993 at the age of 84. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. His second wife and their two sons survived him

On November 30, 1993, Justice Marshall was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bill Clinton.

 1363 – Beginning date of the Battle of Lake Poyang; the forces of two Chinese rebel leaders- Chen Youliang and Zhu Yuanzhang-are pitted against each other in what is one of the largest naval battles in history, during the last decade of the ailing, Mongol-led Yuan Dynasty.

1574 – Guru Ram Das became the Fourth Sikh Guru/Master.

1590 – Tokugawa Ieyasu enters Edo Castle. (Traditional Japanese date: August 1, 1590)

1791 – HMS Pandora sank after running aground on a reef the previous day.

1799 – Capture of the entire Dutch fleet by British forces under the command of Sir Ralph Abercromby and Admiral Sir Charles Mitchell during the Second Coalition of the French Revolutionary Wars.

1800 – Gabriel Prosser leads a slave rebellion in Richmond, Virginia

1813 – Battle of Kulm: French forces defeated by Austrian-Prussian-Russian alliance.

1813 – Creek War: Creek Red Sticks carried out the Fort Mims Massacre.

1835 – Melbourne, Australia is founded.

1836 – The city of Houston is founded by Augustus Chapman Allen and John Kirby Allen

1862 – American Civil War: Battle of Richmond: Confederates under Edmund Kirby Smith rout a Union army under General Horatio Wright.

1862 – American Civil War: Union forces are defeated in Second Battle of Bull Run.

1873 – Austrian explorers Julius von Payer and Karl Weyprecht discover the archipelago of Franz Joseph Land in the Arctic Sea.

1897 – The town of Ambiky is captured by France from Menabe in Madagascar.

1896 – Eight provinces in the Philippines are declared under martial law by the Spanish Governor General Ramon Blanco. These were Manila, Cavite, Bulacan, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Bataan, Laguna, and Batangas.

1909 – Burgess Shale fossils discovered by Charles Doolittle Walcott.

1914 – Battle of Tannenberg.

1918 – Fanny Kaplan shoots and seriously injures Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin. This, along with the assassination of Bolshevik senior official Moisei Uritsky days earlier, prompts the decree for Red Terror.

1922 – Battle of Dumlupinar, final battle in Greco-Turkish War (1919-1922) (“Turkish War of Independence”).

1942 – World War II: Battle of Alam Halfa begins.

1945 – Hong Kong is liberated from Japan by British Armed Forces.

1945 – Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, General Douglas MacArthur lands at Atsugi Air Force Base.

1956 – Lake Pontchartrain Causeway opens.

1962 – Japan conducts a test of the NAMC YS-11, its first aircraft since the war and its only successful commercial aircraft from before or after the war.

1963 – Hotline between the leaders of the U.S.A. and the Soviet Union goes into operation.

1967 – Thurgood Marshall is confirmed as the first African American Justice of the United States Supreme Court.

1974 – A Belgrade-Dortmund express train derails at the main train station in Zagreb killing 153 passengers.

1974 – A powerful bomb explodes at the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries headquarters in Marunouchi, Tokyo, Japan. 8 killed, 378 injured. Eight left-wing activists are arrested on May 19, 1975 by Japanese authorities.

1984 – STS-41-D: The Space Shuttle Discovery takes off on its maiden voyage.

1995 – NATO launches Operation Deliberate Force against Bosnian Serb forces.

Morning Shinbun Monday August 30

Monday’s Headlines:

Hurricane Katrina after five years: a symbolic funeral but anger lives on


Environmental groups face their future in climate-change debate

Small businesses win bigger share of federal contracts


Many migrant workers in UK are modern-day slaves, say investigators

The workers united: The strike that shook the Kremlin

Middle East

Israeli actors refuse to take the stage in settlement theatre

Abbas puts onus for talks on Israel


Muslim states vow $1bn Pakistan aid

Bank of Japan takes stimulus steps


How moderate Muslims in Africa view NYC mosque debate

In Egypt, more people call for civil instead of religious marriage

Latin America

Chile miners speak to loved ones for first time

The Misinformants

What ‘stealth jihad’ doesn’t mean.


Here is the latest semantic assault from the party that brought you “Islamo-facism” (circa 2005) and “Axis of Evil” (2002). The term “stealth jihad” is suddenly voguish among politically ambitious right wingers who see President Obama’s approach to terrorism as insufficient. If it sounds like a phrase from a military-fantasy summer blockbuster, that’s on purpose: in its cartoonish bad-guy foreignness, “stealth jihad” attempts to make the terrorist threat broader and thus more nefarious than it already is. The only thing scarier than an invisible, homicidal, suicidal enemy with a taste for world domination is one who’s sneaking up on you. In the words of former speaker of the House Newt Gingrich at a July speech at the American Enterprise Institute, “stealth jihad” is an effort “to replace Western civilization with a radical imposition of Sharia.”

Hurricane Katrina after five years: a symbolic funeral but anger lives on

Ceremony was supposed to give victims closure, but that is difficult for many who fled and can’t afford to rebuild or return

Chris McGreal in New Orleans, Sunday 29 August 2010 23.00 BST

The coffin lay open. The mourners approached one by one.

Some spat their contempt and turned away swiftly. Others reached inside the grand, silver casket and kept a hand there for a moment as if trying to purge the years of terrible memories and suffering. Each left a handwritten note.

“Since this is a church, I’m going to be nice,” said one. “You made me lose my home. You may have taken away my life as I know it but you’ll never take away my spirit.”

Another said: “Thank God you are gone but unfortunately you will never be forgotten.”


Environmental groups face their future in climate-change debate

By David A. Fahrenthold

Washington Post Staff Writer

Sunday, August 29, 2010; 9:10 PM

On Thursday, some of the country’s most respected environmental groups – in the midst of their biggest political fight in two decades – sent a group of activists to Milwaukee with a message.

We’re losing.

They put on what they called a “CarnivOil” – a fake carnival with a stilt-wearing barker, free “tar balls” (chocolate doughnuts), and a suit-wearing “oil executive” punching somebody dressed like a crab. It was supposed to be satire, but there was a bitter message underneath: When we fight the oil and gas industry, they win.

Small businesses win bigger share of federal contracts

The U.S. government paid small firms $96.8 billion to do a wide variety of jobs last year, up from $93.2 billion in 2008 but still short of its goal.

By Sharon Bernstein, Los Angeles Times

August 30, 2010

Small businesses won contracts worth more money from the federal government in 2009 than the year before, increasing their share of a key source of income.

The U.S. government paid small businesses $96.8 billion last year to do a wide variety of jobs including defense work, scientific research, technological support and even janitorial services, up from $93.2 billion in 2008.


Many migrant workers in UK are modern-day slaves, say investigators

Channel 4’s Dispatches says thousands of workers endure sexual, physical and psychological abuse from employers

Amelia Hill

The Guardian, Monday 30 August 2010  

Thousands of foreign domestic workers are living as slaves in Britain, being abused sexually, physically and psychologically by employers, according to an investigation to be screened tonight.

More than 15,000 migrant workers come to Britain every year to earn money to send back to their families. But according to a Channel 4 Dispatches investigation, many endure conditions that campaigners say amount to modern-day slavery.

Kalayaan, a charity based in west London that helps and advises migrant domestic workers, registers around 350 new workers each year.

The workers united: The strike that shook the Kremlin

Thirty years ago, a trade union forced the Communist Party into a retreat that marked the beginning of the end of Soviet Europe. Solidarity’s legacy – for Poland and beyond – mustn’t be forgotten, writes Neal Ascherson  

Monday, 30 August 2010

Thirty years ago, ordinary people challenged an armed dictatorship, and won.

On 31 August 1980, the strikers in the Lenin Shipyard at Gdansk forced the Communist authorities in Poland to sign an agreement. It promised them – among many other lesser things – a free and independent trade union, the liberation of political prisoners, plural and uncensored media and the right to strike.

Within days, other strike committees all over Poland were winning the same sort of terms from their Party bosses.

Middle East

Israeli actors refuse to take the stage in settlement theatre

By Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem  Monday, 30 August 2010

Five leading Israeli theatres were facing a mounting political row yesterday after a pledge by 60 of the country’s most prominent actors, writers and directors to boycott the companies’ planned performances in a Jewish West Bank settlement.

The companies triggered the protest by planning a programme of performances to mark the opening of a new £6.4m cultural centre in the West Bank settlement of Ariel later this year.

Abbas puts onus for talks on Israel

Palestinian president says peace talks are doomed if settlement building continues.

Last Modified: 30 Aug 2010  

The Palestinian president has warned that Israel would be to blame if resumed direct talks with Israel failed over the Jewish settlements issue.

Mahmoud Abbas said in a televised speech on Sunday that “the Israeli government alone will bear the responsibility of threatening these negotiations with collapse and failure if it continues settlement expansion in all its forms in all the Palestinian lands it has occupied since 1967”.

“We support the need of Israel and our people for security, but this cannot be a pretext to justify settlement activities and taking away other people’s land and rights.”

The Palestinians have earlier threatened to pull out of the direct talks due to begin on September 2 in Washington, unless Israel extends the self-imposed freeze on West Bank settlement building, which expires on 26 September.


Muslim states vow $1bn Pakistan aid

OIC pledge comes as rising waters threaten densely populated areas in Sindh province.

Last Modified: 30 Aug

Muslim countries and organisations have pledged nearly $1bn in cash and supplies to relief efforts for flood victims in Pakistan, the head of a group of Islamic states has said.

The announcement came as rising waters inundated the city of Thatta in the southern Sindh province and threatened the nearby town of Sujawal, home to 250,000 people.

“They [Muslim countries and organisations] have shown that they are one of the largest contributors of assistance both in kind and cash,” Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, head of the 57-member Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), said in Islamabad on Sunday.

The aid pledges come from OIC institutions and telethons held in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, he said.

Ihsanoglu did not provide a breakdown of the pledges or say how much of the money would go to the Pakistani government versus non-governmental organisations.

Bank of Japan takes stimulus steps

By Michiyo Nakamoto,

August 30, 2010  

The Bank of Japan moved to halt the rise of the yen and support the country’s faltering economy by expanding a special bank lending programme by half to Y30,000bn.

The central bank’s decision on Monday, a day before Naoto Kan, prime minister, is scheduled to unveil economic stimulus measures, highlights the growing sense of concern about the weakness of the Japanese economy and the negative impact of the yen’s sharp appreciation against the dollar.


 How moderate Muslims in Africa view NYC mosque debate

Senegal is a critical junction for US dialogue with the Muslim world. Reaction there to the NYC mosque debate has potentially far-reaching implications for the battle against Al Qaeda.

By Drew Hinshaw, Correspondent / August 29, 2010

Dakar, Senegal

Suburban Point E, on whose cobblestone backstreets Senegalese-American R&B roué Akon passed his boyhood years, already has a mosque. Several, actually, each megaphoning prayer songs across balmy Ramadan soirées. So, locals wonder, why shouldn’t downtown New York City get another mosque, too?

The question may seem trivial, coming from one of Africa’s smaller nations, but America’s controversy over the interfaith community center proposed by Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf has implications for the United States’ ability to thwart terrorism and defeat Al Qaeda. And Senegal, with a 95 percent Muslim population, represents a pivotal buttress in that campaign, say US military operatives.

In Egypt, more people call for civil instead of religious marriage

Controversial cases in Egypt have spotlighted a legal system that leaves regulation of marriage and divorce to religious institutions, limiting individuals’ freedom to make personal decisions.

By Kristen Chick, / Correspondent / August 29, 2010


Iriny has wanted out of her marriage for a decade. A member of Egypt’s ancient Coptic Orthodox church, she was pushed into marrying a virtual stranger by her family 12 years ago.

Problems quickly developed, and her husband began to beat her, explains Iriny. When they had a son, Iriny’s husband beat him, too. This is where her voice cracks.

Fearing for her son, she took him and left her husband to live with her parents.

But Iriny, a woman of modest means from a traditional family, cannot make a new life for herself because she is still married. In Egypt, the state leaves matters of marriage and divorce to the religious establishment, and the strict, patriarchal Coptic church will not grant her a divorce. “I want to continue my life,” says Iriny, who did not want her real name to be used. “I want my own home, to live on my own with my son. My life is all lost.”

Latin America

Chile miners speak to loved ones for first time

Miners who have been trapped underground in Chile for more than three weeks have had their first telephone contact with loved ones.

The BBC  30 August 2010

Families queued to use a special telephone cabin and were given one minute each to talk to the trapped men.

The breakthrough came as Chile’s mining minister insisted that the rescue shaft drilling – due to begin on Monday – was likely to take three to four months.

On Sunday reports from engineers working on a “plan B” option has suggested this could be cut by as much as half if an existing route down was adapted.

Ignoring Asia A Blog

Pique the Geek 20100829: Automobiles, Part III. How to Keep Everything Going at Once

We have talked about how engines work in the past couple of installments of this series, and now need to bring together some important engineering factors.  We have talked about intake strokes, compression strokes, and others, but only very superficially touched on how everything comes together.

For an engine to work properly, everything has to be coordinated.  For simplicity, we will consider a conventional four stroke, gasoline powered automobile engine.  Diesel engines are in some aspects simpler, and will be covered concomitantly.

Remember, an engine has to do all of the things about which we have discussed, completely synchronized, and EVERY time.  For an engine rotating at, say, 4000 times per minute, this can be a daunting task.

To review, let us remember that there are three critical events that have to occur properly to make the engine described above “go”.  First, the pistons have to move in a predictable manner for the four strokes.  Second, the valves have to open and close in a predictable, synchronized manner with the pistons.  Third, the source of ignition has to occur at just the right time, also synchronized with the movement of the valves and pistons.  Forth, for fuel injected engines, the introduction of fuel has to come at the right moment and be synchronized with the rest of the operations.

The pistons are attached to the crankshaft via push rods connecting rods (often just called rods) with bearing surfaces on both the piston end and the crankshaft end.  Oil is essential to keep them lubricated or else they will seize under load, but that is another story.

The valves, however, are NOT directly attached to the crankshaft, yet have to operate as if they were for everything to work at the proper time.  They have to open, stay open for a definite amount of rotation of the crank, and then close properly.

One the intake stroke, the piston moves down, making the volume in the cylinder larger, and thus producing a partial vacuum.  It is essential for the intake valve to open then, to allow air only (in a fuel injected engine) or and air and fuel mixture (in a carburetor equipped engine) to enter the combustion chamber.  This is done by a camshaft, which is somehow “tied” to the crankshaft, either by gears, a chain, or a belt.  These diverse methods aim for the same purpose:  to get the camshaft to rotate in communion with the crankshaft, over and over.

The camshaft is also borne on bearings that are lubricated with oil, and has some mechanism to keep it right with the crankshaft, as just said.  The camshaft has lobes that are shaped to open and close the valves at the proper times.  Those lobes are usually pretty much ellipses with one end (on the shaft itself) large and round, tapering off to a rather delicate, polished end that works the valve itself.  On most modern automobiles, because of the high stresses, the lobes operate valve lifters that are almost always hydraulically coupled to absorb stress betwixt the lobe of the cam and the stem of the valve.  Otherwise, wear is a real problem.  The valves are contained in the cylinder head on most modern engines.  In the old days the valves were in the engine block itself.  The valves are connected to the head by retainers and strong springs to keep them firmly closed until the valve lifter mechanically pushes it open.  By the way, valve lifter is a reference to the old days when valves opened “up”.  In overhead cam engines, valves open “down” since they are upside down relative to in block valves, but the term stuck.

Now, the cam has two lobes (at least) for each cylinder, because there are two (at least) valves per cylinder, an intake and an exhaust one.  On the intake stroke, one lobe of the cam opens the valve connected with the air supply, allowing air (or air and fuel) to be drawn into the cylinder.  Near BDC, the intake valve closes because the cam lobe is no longer in contact with the valve lifter as the cam rotates.  (If you are not hip with engines, it is important for you to go back and read the previous installments in this series to understand).  Now, the crank pushes the piston UP towards TDC with both the intake and exhaust valves closed, to allow the charge of fuel and air to be compressed.  (There is a slight difference for directly ported fuel injection, and we shall discuss that in a little bit).  Just before TDC, for reasons mentioned in past installments, the spark plug fires, igniting the fuel and air mixture.  For injected engines, the fuel is also introduced into the cylinder just before then, and for Diesel ones just at the moment of firing.

The ignition causes the piston to pushed DOWN the cylinder, and the energy from this ignition provides the energy for the power stroke.  It makes sense that no expanding gases escape during this time, so both valves are still closed tightly, just like in the compression stroke.  Near BDC, the camshaft’s other lobe, machined to contact the lifter that opens the exhaust valve, causes that valve to open as the piston rises.  That arrangement allows the spent gases to be pushed out of the cylinder.  Thus, in a typical engine, for every one cylinder that rides on a throw from the crank, there are two lobes on the camshaft that operates the valves.  Some engines have multiple valves per cylinder, so the cams are more complex, but the concept is the same.

Now we have integrated the piston action with the valve action, but we have left out when the spark plug fires (or on a Diesel engine, since they have no spark plugs, when the fuel is injected).  On gasoline engines from the 1920s to very recently, a mechanical distributor was used to coordinate when the spark plug fires with the other activities in the engine.  This device was almost always geared to the crankshaft, and operated mechanically. Its design was circular, with electrical contacts, the number of which depending on how many cylinders the engine had, contained in the rotor cap.  For a V-8 engine, there were eight contacts, at regular intervals, six for a six-cylinder engine, and thus.  My Geo had only three contacts, because it had only three cylinders, plus one contact no matter how many cylinders to allow the current into the distributor.  The rest feed the current to the spark plugs.

The distributor operated by allowing a high voltage electrical impulse to be directed to a particular spark plug in a given cylinder depending on the position of the piston in the desired cylinder.  It was powered by a coil that was always “hot”.  In other words, the coil stepped up battery power (either six or, later, 12 volts) up to around 35,000 volts or so, enough to make a spark betwixt the electrodes of the spark plugs.  Distributors worked mechanically, and the making and breaking of the DC circuit in the points induced a high voltage in the coil that was “distributed” to the particular cylinder (spark plug) that required it.  The points were mechnically activated electrical contacts, similar in function to a light switch on your wall.  This was all coordinated by gearing and geometry.  Because of the high voltages involved, the electrical contact mechanism (the points) eroded rapidly, even though platinum was often used to resist that.  A condenser was usually added to the circuit to reduce the impulse and spark at the points to make them last longer.  That required adjustments to make everything work on time, so the dwell was important.  The distributor actually has a tiny cam on it to open and close the points, and by slight movement of the of the contacting mechanism on the point set, the points could be held open for a greater or lesser amount of time.  That is what the dwell is:  the amount of time that points dwelled open or closed.  In addition, by loosening a retaining nut, the entire distributor could be rotated to advance or retard the spark plug firing with respect to the position of the piston.

So now we see that everything is either geared, chained, or belted together, and any deviation from this close dance will throw off the timing of the engine, with deleterious results.  But it that still is not so simple.

As engines are “revved”, it becomes necessary to ignite the spark more and and more before TDC, because of the lag in ignition of the air and fuel mixture and the complete combustion of it.  The speed of the explosion does not change, but the speed of the moving parts do, and this relative difference must have compenstation.  Thus, the distributor had to have some mechanism to make it fire more and more BTDC to keep the engine running right.  Most cars from the 1920s until the mid 1970s used a centrifugal device to advance the timing, because as the weights were thrown out by centrifugal force, the distributor was “twisted” sort of like loosening the retaining nut as mentioned before.  The rotation of the distributor shaft caused a rotating contact (often called a bug) to make contact from time to time with the contacts leading to the spark plugs.

I should talk about cranking a Model “T” Ford by hand.  There was a mechanical spark advance (timing from ATDC to BTDC) on the steering column.  To crank on by hand, you had to push the spark advance all the way to the upper stop, or you would break your arm.  Here is the logic:  If the engine starts ATDC, it continues on its merry way, round and round, but sputteringly.  If you start it BTDC, it may well turn the compression stroke to a power stroke before its time, and the impulse is sent to the crank that you are holding in your hand.  However, the engine would rev and would not run for long with the spark advance retarded.  Thus, you would crank it until it just started, then run to the steering column, and pull down the lever to advance the ignition timing.  Then she would settle down and run.

I compromised.  I used my foot with a few clicks of the advance lever down and just essentially kick started it.  With nothing for it to kick back into and injure, I could start the car with the first kick almost always, and did not have to hurry to advance the ignition.  But that was growing up learning to drive on a Model “T”.

Now everything is different, although the cams and the crank are still geared, chained, or belted together.  Very few modern production cars have a mechanical distributor, but rather an electronic module that, when ganged together with a position sensor on the crank, does the work that the distributor used to do, but much more efficiently.

In modern cars, the coil is replaced by a solid state, electronic module that collects data from the crank position, the rpms of the engine, and the power requirements to “know” when to fire the spark plug.  Oxygen sensors also contribute data to the computer to allow the engine to run at maximum efficiency, at least for regular cars.  It is possible to buy “chipping” darkware that alters the computer software to make the car perform better (insofar as acceleration and top speed goes) with the sacrifice of fuel economy.  That is almost like “camming” and older car and changing the timing advance.

Now the electrical timing is computer controlled, as is the injection of fuel for direct injection engines.  The less efficient indirectly injected ones work like the ones with a carburetor, except that squirts of liquid fuel hit an impinger and is then sucked into the intake manifold, much like the older technology.  The advantage is that the computer can meter the fuel, even in one of these, much better than the old technology ever could.

Since Diesel engines have no spark plugs (for reasons elaborated on in earlier installments), the ignition timing is governed by when the fuel is injected into the cylinder, because it ignites spontaneously because of the extremely high temperatures.  Thus, electricity is not directly involved in Diesel ignition, except for control electronics.  Thus, they never had distributors or electronic ignition modules.

As you can see, that are lots of things that have to happen at just the right time, over and over, often at thousands of times per minute, for an engine to work properly.  If any of the parts mentioned fail, then performance and economy suffer, or the engine may even fail to run at all.  In modern engines, most of which use timing belts to connect the cam to the crank, an even more serious thing can happen.  Timing gears and chains rarely fail catastrophically, but timing belts can, and do, break.  Gears and chains wear or stretch, causing performance to decrease, but on SOME engines if a timing belt break under load, severe engine damage can occur.

Think back to the valves and pistons.  In normal service, as the engine is near TDC, all valves are closed.  If a timing belt break (I am using the subjunctive mood of the verb “to break”, and the lack of a terminal “s” is intentional), and the camshaft be in such a position as to hold a valve open as the piston approaches TDC, it is possible for the piston to make contact with the protruding valve head, bending the valve shaft, breaking the piston, and doing other unpleasant mischief.  Not all engines have this problem, but some popular ones do.  I will leave it for the mechanics in the readership to point out the ones bad about this.

Finally, let us thing about the change in the meaning of “routine maintenance” of engines with modern (since around 1975, give or take a few years) and ones from the earlier years.  I have a 1998 Ford Windstar and a 1967 Chevrolet Camaro.  The Windstar is a V-6 and Camaro a V-8.  Both of them require regular oil changes, and the requirements for those have not changed much over the years.  By the way, the single most important thing that you can do to make your engine last is to change both your oil and filter (not changing the filter leaves dirty oil in the engine) on a regular basis.  We can discuss the frequency of that further in the comments if you wish.  Tire pressure, chassis lubrication, and other mundane operations are also similar.

Here is the big difference.  On the Windstar, I have to replace the spark plugs around every 90,000 miles or so.  The plug wires should be changed around every other plug replacement.  Other than the occasional timing belt, that is it.  Period.

In the Camaro, the spark plugs, points, condenser, rotor, and rotor cap have to be changed around every 12,000 miles, the timing and dwell reset, and the wires around every 60,000 miles.  In addition, the carburetor has to be adjusted periodically.  Older cars require much, more maintenance than modern ones.

Most of that is due to the modern, high energy, electronic ignition.  The old mechanical systems physically wore fast, and the low voltage spark wore the spark plugs fast.  The points would pit and fry (in a pinch, you could file them and reset the dwell to get a few more miles out of them) and had to be replaced.  The bug and distributor cap would arc and become poorly conductive, so they had to be replaced then as well.  With ignition voltages pushing 100,000 volts, spark plugs last much, much longer now.  That sounds sort of counterintuitive, but for the low voltage systems the gap between the electrodes on the spark plugs was normally around 0.035 inches, and on modern ones around 0.080 inches.  The hotter spark reduces fouling of plugs and for some reason erosion of the electrodes as well.  Better materials are also responsible, I am sure.

In contrast with an engine, an electric motor is simplicity itself.  In future installments we shall discuss these in more detail.

Well, you have done it again!  You have wasted a many einsteins of perfectly good photons reading this low octane post.  And even though Glen Beck admits that is really all about him when he reads me say it, I always learn much more than I could ever hope to teach by writing this series, so please keep questions, comments, corrections, recollections, and other communication coming in the comments.  Remember, no technical or scientific subject is ever off topic here.

Warmest regards,


Crossposted at and at

Prime Time

TV Guide Network is broadcasting Weeds?!  “A pot-dealing suburban widow (Mary-Louise Parker) deals with her 15-year-old son and his girlfriend, who want to have sex, and a competing pusher”?

Curb Your Enthusiasm, it still doesn’t make up for your suck at being A TV GUIDE!  Assholes.

Oh, and there are Emmys and Throwball (Steelers @ Broncos) if you care about such things.

Marty, the future isn’t written. It can be changed, you know that. Anyone can make their future whatever they want it to be. I can’t let this one little photograph determine my entire destiny. I have to live my life according to what I believe is right in my heart.



Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

46 Story Final.

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 Pakistan on ‘war footing’ to save city

by Hasan Mansoor and Emmanuel Duparcq, AFP

Sun Aug 29, 1:16 pm ET

THATTA, Pakistan (AFP) – Pakistani troops and workers were on a “war footing” Sunday as they battled to save the southern city of Thatta after most of the population of 300,000 fled advancing flood waters.

Torrential monsoon rains have triggered massive floods that have moved steadily from north to south over the past month, engulfing a fifth of the volatile country and affecting 17 million of its 167 million people.

Southern Sindh is the worst-affected province, with 19 of its 23 districts ravaged as flood waters swell the raging Indus river to 40 times its usual volume.

2 Thousands flee as Indonesian volcano erupts

by Arlina Arshad, AFP

Sun Aug 29, 10:33 am ET

JAKARTA (AFP) – A volcano on the Indonesian island of Sumatra erupted for the first time in 400 years Sunday, spewing a vast cloud of smoke and ash into the air and sending thousands of people fleeing from their homes.

Indonesia issued a red alert after the Sinabung volcano erupted, blanketing the area in thick and acrid black smoke, disaster officials said, although no casualties have yet been reported.

“It’s clearly dangerous so we’ve raised the warning to the highest level, or red level,” said Surono, head of the nation’s volcano disaster alert centre.

3 Obama hails New Orleans ‘resilience’ five years post-Katrina

by Tangi Quemener, AFP

1 hr 5 mins ago

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (AFP) – President Barack Obama, marking the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans Sunday, praised the city’s resilience and pledged support for rebuilding “until the job is done.”

He acknowledged that the famed jazz city, where at least 1,500 people died in the storm and its aftermath, was still in need of support, but said community efforts had ensured “New Orleans is blossoming once more.”

“Together, we are helping to make New Orleans a place that stands for what we can do in America, not just for what we can’t do,” he said in a speech at the city’s Xavier University.

4 Trapped Chile miners to talk with loved ones

by Moises Avila Roldan, AFP

Sun Aug 29, 1:34 pm ET

COPIAPO, Chile (AFP) – The 33 men trapped in a collapsed Chilean mine were to finally hear the voices of their loved ones on Sunday in their first phone contact with relatives since they were discovered alive.

“On Sunday, there will contact between one family member and each miner, who will have the chance to speak for at least a minute and have some personal contact,” Mines Minister Laurence Golborne said Saturday.

To date, the only contact between relatives and the men, stuck 700 meters underground for 24 days, has been through notes and official intermediaries.

5 Drilling for trapped Chile miners to start Monday

by Moises Avila Roldan, AFP

Sun Aug 29, 6:36 am ET

COPIAPO, Chile (AFP) – Chilean rescuers will begin Monday the months-long task of drilling a shaft to rescue 33 miners trapped deep underground, as officials draft an accelerated rescue plan.

President Sebastian Pinera is reportedly pressuring rescuers to get the miners out before September 18, the bicentennial anniversary of Chile’s independence from Spanish colonial rule.

“Plan B has already been designed,” Health Minister Jaime Manalich said Saturday, noting details would be released soon.

6 Core business: Genome of the apple is laid bare


2 hrs 35 mins ago

PARIS (AFP) – One of the world’s most popular fruits, the apple, has been genetically sequenced, an exploit that could lead to crisper, juicier and more flavoursome harvests, scientists said on Sunday.

The genome comprises 600 million base pairs, or “rungs” of DNA in the ladder of genetic code, they reported in the journal Nature Genetics.

The apple is a member of the Rosaceae family, which includes a third of all flowering plants, among them a broad variety of fruit species, such as the peach, raspberry, pear and strawberry.

7 Sanofi-Aventis makes 18.5 bln dollar bid for US Genzyme

by Eve Szeftel, AFP

1 hr 28 mins ago

PARIS (AFP) – French pharmaceutical group Sanofi-Aventis unveiled Sunday an 18.5 billion dollar (14.5 billion euro) offer for US biotechnology firm Genzyme, hinting it may launch a hostile bid.

The non-binding cash offer of 69 dollars per share in the company which specialises in developing treatments for rare diseases, represents a 38 percent premium over the 49.86 dollars Genzyme’s shares closed at on July 1 before takeover rumours began to swirl, according to Sanofi.

Sanofi said it was disclosing to Genzyme’s shareholders the contents of its offer, which it initially made in July, after the company’s management rejected it on August 11 and declined to enter into constructive talks.

8 Nearly 15,000 war missing still haunt the Balkans

by Katarina Subasic, AFP

Sun Aug 29, 12:00 pm ET

BELGRADE (AFP) – Verica Tomanovic holds up a flyer as she talks about her Serb husband who disappeared in Kosovo more than a decade ago.

“This man went missing. If you know his whereabouts, please call KFOR or 92 (the police).”

Andrija Tomanovic, the 62-year-old chief of surgery in Pristina’s hospital, disappeared in broad daylight on June 24, 1999, two weeks after the war ended and NATO-led KFOR peacekeeping forces controlled the area.

9 Pakistan cricket rocked by alleged betting scam

by Robin Millard, AFP

47 mins ago

LONDON (AFP) – Pakistan’s cricket team were embroiled in an alleged betting scam Sunday after British police arrested a man on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud bookmakers during a Test match against England.

The News of the World newspaper said it paid 150,000 pounds (230,000 dollars, 185,000 euros) to a middle man in return for details about the timing of three no-balls in the match, which ended Sunday in victory for England.

The report said two Pakistan bowlers, Mohammad Aamer and Mohammad Asif, delivered blatant no-balls at the exact points in the match indicated by the alleged fixer in advance.

10 England thrash Pakistan amid ‘bet scam’ allegations

by Julian Guyer, AFP

Sun Aug 29, 8:50 am ET

LONDON (AFP) – England crushed Pakistan by an innings and 225 runs to win the fourth and final Test at Lord’s here on Sunday with more than a day to spare.

Victory, wrapped up before lunch on the fourth day, gave England the series, their last before they defend the Ashes in Australia in November, 3-1.

But Pakistan’s heaviest defeat in Test cricket, surpassing their innings and 198-run loss to Australia at Sharjah in 2002, was overshadowed by allegations they had been involved in a betting scam at Lord’s.

11 Cool Hamilton wins chaotic Belgian Grand Prix

by Gordon Howard, AFP

Sun Aug 29, 11:54 am ET

SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium (AFP) – Lewis Hamilton regained the initiative in the drivers’ world championship in emphatic style on Sunday when he won a dramatic and incident-filled Belgian Grand Prix.

McLaren’s 2008 champion took the lead at the start and then controlled the 44-laps race through two safety car periods and some perilous weather conditions on his way to a well-deserved victory.

It was the Briton’s first win in Belgium, his third win this season and the 15th of his career in his 64th Grand Prix.

12 Thousands march in Hong Kong over Manila bloodbath

by Polly Hui, AFP

Sun Aug 29, 10:21 am ET

HONG KONG (AFP) – Tens of thousands of people rallied in Hong Kong on Sunday to demand justice for victims of the Manila hostage bloodbath, as the city’s large Filipino community staged its own memorials for the dead.

Demonstrators voiced their anger over the Philippine government’s handling of the siege in the heart of Manila on Monday which left eight Hong Kong tourists dead amid widespread complaints of police bungling.

“It’s too late for the governments to do anything, but Hong Kong people hope that, at the very least, the Philippine authorities could tell us the truth,” Daisy Kwong, a telecoms firm project manager, told AFP.

13 India BlackBerry users hold breath over ban

by Penny MacRae, AFP

Sun Aug 29, 12:41 am ET

NEW DELHI (AFP) – India’s BlackBerry users are holding their breath as they wait to see if the government carries out a threat this week to ban encrypted messages sent on the phones due to fears of misuse by militants.

The government, worried that militants could use BlackBerry’s heavily encrypted services to plan attacks, warned earlier this month it would start blocking emails and instant messages sent on the smartphones unless the company comes up with a way for security agencies to decode the traffic by August 31.

There were indications late last week the deadline might be pushed back beyond Tuesday’s deadline as BlackBerry’s Canadian makers, Research in Motion (RIM), scrambled to satisfy the authorities.

14 Zara takes the plunge into crowded online market

by Katell Abiven, AFP

Sat Aug 28, 11:19 pm ET

MADRID (AFP) – Europe’s largest clothing retailer, Spain’s Inditex, is taking its flagship Zara brand online, but it can expect stiff competition from other giants of high-street fashion already well-established in cyberspace.

Zara’s virtual boutique will be available on Thursday in selected European markets: Spain, Germany, France, Italy, Portugal and Britain.

From 2011, it will be expanded to the United States, Japan and South Korea.

15 Pakistan survivors stalked by disease as waters ebb

By Zeeshan Haider, Reuters

Sun Aug 29, 6:02 am ET

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – A month after torrential monsoon rains triggered Pakistan’s worst natural disaster on record, flood waters are starting to recede — but there are countless survivors at risk of death from hunger and disease.

The disaster has killed at least 1,643 people, forced more than six million from their homes, inflicted billions of dollars of damage to infrastructure and the vital agriculture sector and stirred anger against the U.S.-backed government which has struggled to cope.

Despite generally lower water levels, officials said they were still battling to save the delta town of Thatta, 70 km (45 miles) east of Karachi, in the southern province of Sindh.

16 Campaign workers killed as Afghan violence spreads

By Paul Tait, Reuters

Sun Aug 29, 12:17 pm ET

KABUL (Reuters) – Gunmen shot dead five campaign workers for a candidate in Afghanistan’s parliamentary election next month, officials said on Sunday, another sign of rising insecurity as Washington prepares to review its war strategy.

The deaths of the five — from a group of 10 kidnapped in western Herat province — were confirmed only hours after a candidate in the September 18 poll from the same area, Haji Abdul Manan, was shot dead as he walked to a mosque to pray.

Manan was the fourth candidate to be killed. The rising toll drew a sharp condemnation from the U.N. mission (UNAMA) in Afghanistan, which is assisting with the election.

17 Iraqis say war "not ending" despite U.S. drawdown

By Waleed Ibrahim, Reuters

Sun Aug 29, 1:31 pm ET

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – President Barack Obama’s message this weekend that Iraq would “chart its own course” may have been welcome news for war-weary Americans, but it has fueled anxieties about the future among Iraqis.

“The war is not ending. The war against terrorism continues here,” Nuri al-Moussawi, a 51-year-old Baghdad resident, said.

Obama said on Saturday the end of U.S. combat operations on Tuesday, and a fall in U.S. troop numbers to 50,000, helped fulfill a promise he made during the 2008 presidential campaign to end the 7-1/2-year war launched by his predecessor, George W. Bush.

18 Hong Kong march denounces bungled Philippine hostage rescue


Sun Aug 29, 8:55 am ET

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Tens of thousands marched in Hong Kong on Sunday to denounce the Philippines’ bungled hostage rescue in which eight Hong Kong tourists were shot dead.

The eight Hong Kong hostages and the gunman, a sacked policeman, died in Monday’s hijack and botched rescue which has been heavily criticized across the world, particularly in Hong Kong and China.

“Shame on the Philippine government and police,” read one banner waved above the marchers. “We are furious,” exclaimed another.

19 Newcomers, popular shows expected to shine at Emmys

By Jill Serjeant, Reuters

Sun Aug 29, 11:37 am ET

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – New kids on the block “Glee” and “Modern Family” challenge three-time Emmy champion “30 Rock” on Sunday as the Primetime Emmy Awards take on a populist tone.

The U.S. TV industry’s highest honors will be handed out in a three-hour show in Los Angeles that will also embrace Twitter and the Internet, and will be broadcast live across the United States for the first time since 1976.

With five first-timers among the 12 best comedy and drama series nominees alone, the Emmys are expected to reward a crop of new faces and popular shows — boosting network TV at a time of stiff competition from video games and social networking.

20 North Korea’s Kim not seen heading for retirement yet

By Jack Kim, Reuters

Sun Aug 29, 4:05 am ET

SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea’s ruling party holds its biggest meeting in 30 years early next month to pick a new leadership and likely anoint an heir to the dynasty as Kim Jong-il’s health deteriorates.

Kim, suspected of suffering a stroke in 2008, is believed to have accelerated succession plans, but analysts say the meeting of the Workers’ Party won’t send its supreme leader into retirement just yet.

The decision by the powerful Political Bureau of the party Central Committee in June to call September’s meeting indicated it will be a watershed, and that it will involve a major reshuffle of its officials for the first time in decades.

21 Belgian sex abuse tapes amplify Catholic scandals

By Tom Heneghan, Religion Editor, Reuters

Sun Aug 29, 9:23 am ET

PARIS (Reuters) – Leaked tapes of Belgium’s Cardinal Godfried Danneels urging a victim not to reveal he was sexually abused by a bishop are some of the most damaging documents to emerge in the scandal rocking the Roman Catholic Church.

The tapes, made secretly by the victim and published in two Belgian newspapers on Saturday, show the former primate of Belgium exhorting him to accept a private apology or wait one year until the bishop retired before making his case public.

Their meeting took place on April 8, at a time when the Vatican was under fire for allegedly covering up similar abuse cases by priests in other countries and shocking abuse claims dominated the news in several European states.

22 South Africa’s Zuma under pressure as strike widens

By Jon Herskovitz, Reuters

Sun Aug 29, 12:04 pm ET

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – A powerful South African labor leader threatened at the weekend to withdraw support for President Jacob Zuma’s African National Congress, ending a long- standing alliance strained by a nearly three-week-old strike.

Adding to the pressure on the government, a union representing Tire makers announced a strike for higher wages from Monday. Thousands of armed forces unionized members are also thinking of striking.

The government and unions have opened a new round of wage negotiations to end the dispute that has shut schools and prevented treatment of the sick, broadcaster eNews reported unnamed sources as saying

23 Beck, Palin urge patriotic values at D.C. rally

By Susan Cornwell, Reuters

Sat Aug 28, 5:33 pm ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Tens of thousands of Americans rallied in front of the Lincoln Memorial on Saturday to hear speeches about God and country in a conservative show of strength ahead of congressional elections this fall.

The organizer, Fox TV host Glenn Beck, who invited listeners to the U.S. capital to “restore America’s honor,” said he thought several hundred thousand people attended.

Many were members of the Tea Party, a loosely organized grassroots movement driven by conservative activists seeking lower taxes and more limited government.

24 Omega-3 margarines fail to help in heart study

By Ben Hirschler, Reuters

Sun Aug 29, 4:15 am ET

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Giving patients with a history of heart attacks a margarine enriched with omega-3 oils in addition to standard drugs appears to make no difference to their chances of having a repeat attack.

A 40-month study of more than 4,800 patients showed taking low doses of omega-3 fatty acids in margarine did not significantly reduce rates of serious heart attacks and other cardiovascular events, Dutch researchers said on Sunday.

The finding raised questions about the benefits of omega-3, which has been shown in previous studies to make for healthier hearts. The margarines used in the study were developed for the researchers by food and consumer goods giant Unilever.

25 AP IMPACT: US wasted billions in rebuilding Iraq

By KIM GAMEL, Associated Press Writer

54 mins ago

KHAN BANI SAAD, Iraq – A $40 million prison sits in the desert north of Baghdad, empty. A $165 million children’s hospital goes unused in the south. A $100 million waste water treatment system in Fallujah has cost three times more than projected, yet sewage still runs through the streets

As the U.S. draws down in Iraq, it is leaving behind hundreds of abandoned or incomplete projects. More than $5 billion in American taxpayer funds has been wasted – more than 10 percent of the some $50 billion the U.S. has spent on reconstruction in Iraq, according to audits from a U.S. watchdog agency.

That amount is likely an underestimate, based on an analysis of more than 300 reports by auditors with the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction. And it does not take into account security costs, which have run almost 17 percent for some projects.

26 7 US troops killed in latest Afghanistan fighting

By CHRISTOPHER BODEEN, Associated Press Writer

40 mins ago

KABUL, Afghanistan – Seven U.S. troops have died in weekend attacks in Afghanistan’s embattled southern and eastern regions, while officials found the bodies Sunday of five kidnapped campaign aides working for a female candidate in the western province of Herat.

Two servicemen died in bombings Sunday in southern Afghanistan, while two others were killed in a bomb attack in the south on Saturday, and three in fighting in the east the same day, NATO said. Their identities and other details were being withheld until relatives could be notified.

The latest deaths bring to 42 the number of American forces who have died this month in Afghanistan after July’s high of 66. A total of 62 international forces have died in the country this month, including seven British troops.

27 Obama pledges Gulf support on Katrina anniversary

By ERICA WERNER, Associated Press Writer

19 mins ago

NEW ORLEANS – Five years after Hurricane Katrina’s wrath, President Barack Obama sought to reassure disaster-weary Gulf Coast residents Sunday that he would not abandon their cause. “My administration is going to stand with you, and fight alongside you, until the job is done,” Obama said to cheers at Xavier University, a historically black, Catholic university that was badly flooded by the storm.

The president said there are still too many vacant lots, trailers serving as classrooms, displaced residents and people out of work. But he said New Orleanians have showed amazing resilience.

“Because of you,” the president declared, “New Orleans is coming back.”

28 Lincoln turns re-election bid into earmark defense

By ANDREW DeMILLO, Associated Press Writer

1 min ago

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Ignoring Republican complaints about wasteful federal spending, Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln is reminding voters – in dollars – of what’s she’s done for Arkansas during nearly 16 years in Washington.

Nearly every day, her campaign and Senate offices trumpet money that she’s helped secure for her home state – from $13,811 for the Hope Police Department to buy a new cruiser to a $102 million stimulus-funded grant for the state to pay for broadband Internet.

Defending projects typically derided as pork is a tricky stance for a vulnerable incumbent, but Lincoln has turned her re-election fight into an argument for pet projects – calling them the “great equalizer” for small, rural states like Arkansas.

29 Internet may phase out printed Oxford Dictionary

By SYLVIA HUI, Associated Press Writer

2 mins ago

LONDON – It weighs in at more than 130 pounds, but the authoritative guide to the English language, the Oxford English Dictionary, may eventually slim down to nothing. Oxford University Press, the publisher, said Sunday so many people prefer to look up words using its online product that it’s uncertain whether the 126-year-old dictionary’s next edition will be printed on paper at all.

The digital version of the Oxford English Dictionary now gets 2 million hits a month from subscribers, who pay $295 a year for the service in the U.S. In contrast, the current printed edition – a 20-volume, 750-pound ($1,165) set published in 1989 – has sold about 30,000 sets in total.

It’s just one more sign that the speed and ease of using Internet reference sites – and their ability to be quickly updated – are phasing out printed reference books. Google and Wikipedia are much more popular research tools than the Encyclopaedia Britannica, and dozens of free online dictionaries offer word meanings at the click of a mouse. even offers a free iPhone application.

30 NYC mosque debate will shape American Islam

By RACHEL ZOLL, AP Religion Writer

Sun Aug 29, 2:28 pm ET

NEW YORK – Adnan Zulfiqar, a graduate student, former U.S. Senate aide and American-born son of Pakistani immigrants, will soon give the first khutbah, or sermon, of the fall semester at the University of Pennsylvania. His topic has presented itself in the daily headlines and blog posts over the disputed mosque near ground zero.

What else could he choose, he says, after a summer remembered not for its reasoned debate, but for epithets, smears, even violence?

As he writes, Zulfiqar frets over the potential fallout and what he and other Muslim leaders can do about it. Will young Muslims conclude they are second-class citizens in the U.S. now and always?

31 Muslims donate nearly $1 billion to Pakistan

By ASIF SHAHZAD, Associated Press Writer

2 hrs 38 mins ago

ISLAMABAD – Muslim countries, organizations and individuals have pledged nearly $1 billion in cash and relief supplies to help Pakistan respond to the worst floods in the nation’s history, the head of a group of Islamic states said Sunday.

The announcement came as floodwaters inundated a large town in Pakistan and authorities struggled to build new levees with clay and stone to prevent one of the area’s biggest cities from suffering the same fate.

Foreign countries have pledged hundreds of millions of dollars to help Pakistan cope with the floods, which first hit the country about a month ago after extremely heavy monsoon rains. But some officials had criticized the Muslim world for not contributing enough.

32 Chile miners must move tons of rocks in own rescue

By PETER PRENGAMAN, Associated Press Writer

58 mins ago

SAN JOSE MINE, Chile – The 33 trapped Chilean miners who have astonished the world with their discipline a half mile underground will have to aid their own escape – clearing thousands of tons of rock that will fall as the rescue hole is drilled, the engineer in charge of drilling said Sunday.

After drilling three small bore holes in recent weeks to create lines of communication with the miners and deliver basic food and medicine, Chile’s state-owned Codelco mining company will begin boring a rescue hole Monday afternoon that will be wide enough to pull the men up through 2,300 feet (700 meters) of earth.

The first step will be to drill a “pilot hole” similar in size to the other three. Then much larger machine cutters will slowly grind through that hole, forcing crushed rock to fall down into the mine shaft area near the trapped men.

33 5 years after Katrina, a revival not yet complete

By CAIN BURDEAU and MICHAEL KUNZELMAN, Associated Press Writers

39 mins ago

NEW ORLEANS – Gulf Coast residents tried to put Hurricane Katrina behind them on Sunday, marking its fifth anniversary by casting wreaths into the water to remember the hundreds killed. But part of the catastrophe lives on, in abandoned homes still bearing spray-painted circles indicating they had been searched and whether bodies were found inside.

President Barack Obama joined those hailing the recovery made so far in New Orleans, which he said has become a “symbol of resilience and community.” In a neighborhood that has seen little of that recovery, the Lower 9th Ward, it was the failures that seemed more apparent to residents.

“It don’t seem like much is getting done,” said Charlene LaFrance, a 42-year-old teacher who watched commemoration events on Claiborne Avenue. Brass bands played dirges and marches and politicians spoke about the nation’s failure to do enough to rebuild New Orleans, in particular the Lower 9th Ward.

34 Sanofi-Aventis offers $18.5 billion for Genzyme

By ANNE D’INNOCENZIO, AP Business Writer

2 hrs 25 mins ago

NEW YORK – French drug giant Sanofi-Aventis SA on Sunday publicly launched its $18.5 billion cash bid for American biotech firm Genzyme Corp. – a move that follows months of rumored interest and failed attempts to bring Genzyme’s management to the table.

Under terms of the proposed acquisition, Genzyme shareholders would receive $69 per share, representing a 38 percent premium over Genzyme’s closing stock price of $49.86 on July 1. That’s the day before speculation began to swirl that Sanofi was looking to buy an American drugmaker, possibly Genzyme, in a bid to help replace revenue being lost to mounting generic competition. Since then, the French company unexpectedly was faced with generic competition for its blockbuster injected anticlotting drug, Lovenox, which brought Sanofi $3.9 billion last year. Its blood thinner Plavix, the world’s second-bestselling drug, has patent protection only until 2012.

Genzyme is considered attractive because it has promising drugs for high cholesterol and other disorders in late development and it already sells some lucrative drugs for rare genetic disorders. That’s a hot niche as big pharmaceutical companies diversify beyond blockbuster pills that get slammed by cheaper generic rivals after several years. The Cambridge, Mass., company just received U.S. approval in late May for a new drug for Pompe disease, and its experimental biologic drug for multiple sclerosis is getting expedited review by the Food and Drug Administration.

35 Fate of Dodgers could rest in McCourt divorce case

By GREG RISLING, Associated Press Writer

Sun Aug 29, 2:02 pm ET

LOS ANGELES – As the Los Angeles Dodgers cling to playoff hopes, a more important struggle for their future is taking place off the field over who owns the team.

Starting on Monday, attorneys for former Dodger CEO Jamie McCourt will try to convince Superior Court Judge Scott Gordon she’s entitled to a stake in the team that her estranged husband, Frank McCourt, says belongs solely to him.

The key question facing the judge during an 11-day divorce trial is the validity of a postnuptial marital agreement signed by the couple in March 2004, shortly after purchasing the Dodgers for about $430 million. The pact supposedly gives Frank McCourt the Dodgers, the stadium and the surrounding land, worth hundreds of millions of dollars, while Jamie McCourt receives a half-dozen luxurious homes.

36 W.Va. gov. wins Democratic primary for US Senate

By LAWRENCE MESSINA and KEVIN MCGILL, Associated Press Writer

Sun Aug 29, 8:01 am ET

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Popular Gov. Joe Manchin won the Democratic nomination Saturday and will face GOP primary winner and wealthy businessman John Raese in the race to fill the Senate seat vacated by the late Robert C. Byrd.

Raese defeated a crowded field of Republicans and becomes part of the GOP quest to dismantle the Democratic Senate majority as high unemployment and the slow economic recovery take a toll on their political prospects this fall.

In Louisiana, scandal-tainted Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter easily beat two little-known challengers and will meet Democratic Rep. Charlie Melancon, who won his party’s primary, in November.

37 19 dead in shootout in Russia’s Caucasus

By MUSA SADULAYEV, Associated Press Writer

Sun Aug 29, 7:29 am ET

TSENTOROI, Russia – A shootout between the Chechen president’s personal protection detail and suspected separatist insurgents left 19 people dead early Sunday, including five civilians, officials and media reports said.

At least 12 suspected insurgents and two security officers were killed when the rebels entered Tsentoroi, Ramzan Kadyrov’s home village, his spokesman Alvi Karimov told The Associated Press. TV reports said five civilians were killed in the crossfire.

Kadyrov, who is thought to regularly supervise security operations in the field, was in the village at the time and directed the counter-offensive, Karimov said.

38 Asia assesses prospects as world recovery stumbles

By KELLY OLSEN, AP Business Writer

Sun Aug 29, 2:41 am ET

SEOUL, South Korea – Talk of the global economic recovery fizzling doesn’t faze Cho Byung-cheol, president of a small South Korean technology company that has already set up a branch in China and plans one soon in the United States.

The company, which designs and makes semiconductor-based high-speed data storage and processing equipment, is planning to boost its South Korean workforce of nearly 60 by half, says Cho, who founded Seoul-based Taejin Infotech Co. in 1996. Sales, which totaled only 8.4 billion won ($7 million) last year, could swell fourfold this year and reach 100 billion won next year, he predicts.

Sitting in his spacious, well-ordered office, Cho’s confidence belies the grim mood that has settled over global stock markets in the past month as indicators from the U.S. to Japan show the economic rebound is running out of juice.

39 Imam behind NYC mosque faces divisions over center

By CRISTIAN SALAZAR, Associated Press Writer

Sat Aug 28, 9:27 pm ET

NEW YORK – Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf has long worked to bridge divisions, be they fissures between interfaith husbands and wives or political chasms separating the United States and the Muslim world. The 61-year-old clergyman is now in the midst of a polarizing political, religious and cultural debate over plans for a multistory Islamic center that will feature a mosque, health club and theater about two blocks north of ground zero.

He is one of the leaders of the Park51 project, but has largely been absent from the national debate over the implications of building a Muslim house of worship so close to where terrorists killed more than 2,700 people.

Though Rauf has said the center, which could cost more than $100 million, would serve as a space for interfaith dialogue, moderate Muslim practice and peaceful prayer, critics say it will create a base for radical, anti-American Islam. Some critics have also asked where the funding for the center might originate and whether it may come from sources linked to Muslim extremists.

40 Beck: Help us restore traditional American values

By PHILIP ELLIOTT and NAFEESA SYEED, Associated Press Writers

Sun Aug 29, 7:38 am ET

WASHINGTON – Conservative commentator Glenn Beck and tea party champion Sarah Palin appealed Saturday to a vast, predominantly white crowd on the National Mall to help restore traditional American values and honor Martin Luther King’s message. Civil rights leaders who accused the group of hijacking King’s legacy held their own rally and march.

While Beck billed his event as nonpolitical, conservative activists said their show of strength was a clear sign that they can swing elections because much of the country is angry with what many voters call an out-of-touch Washington.

Palin told the tens of thousands who stretched from the marble steps of the Lincoln Memorial to the grass of the Washington Monument that calls to transform the country weren’t enough. “We must restore America and restore her honor,” said the former Alaska governor, echoing the name of the rally, “Restoring Honor.”

41 Iraq on highest alert for terror attacks

By LARA JAKES, Associated Press Writer

Sat Aug 28, 9:27 pm ET

BAGHDAD – Iraq’s prime minister put his nation on its highest level of alert for terror attacks, warning of plots to sow fear and chaos as the U.S. combat mission in the country formally ends on Tuesday.

The Iraqi security forces who will be left in charge have been hammered by bomb attacks, prompting fears of a new insurgent offensive and criticism of the government’s preparedness to protect its people. Still, President Barack Obama left no doubt Saturday in his weekly radio address that the U.S. is sticking to its promise to pull out of Iraq despite the uptick in violence.

In a statement to state-run television, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Iraqi intelligence indicated an al-Qaida front group and members of Saddam Hussein’s outlawed Baath party are collaborating to launch attacks “to create fear and chaos and kill more innocents.”

42 Original Navajo Code Talker still tells his story

By FELICIA FONSECA, Associated Press Writer

Sun Aug 29, 2:53 pm ET

ALBUQUERQUE – Tourists hurry inside a shop here to buy books about the famed Navajo Code Talkers, warriors who used their native language as their primary weapon.

Outside, on a walk sheltered from the sun, nine of the Code Talkers sit at a table autographing the books. Each is an old man now. They wear similar caps and shirts, the scarlet and gold of the Marine Corps, and turquoise jewelry.

One of these men, who signs his name as Cpl. Chester Nez, is distinguished from the others. Below his signature, he jots down why: 1st Original 29.

43 2 governors, 2 crooks. What’s wrong with Illinois?

By CHRISTOPHER WILLS, Associated Press Writer

Sun Aug 29, 2:26 pm ET

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Two Illinois governors from two different parties, two generations, two regions of the state. Both convicted of felonies.

Is there something about Illinois that encourages governors to go bad? Or is it just coincidence that two in a row have ended up as criminals?

A jury convicted Rod Blagojevich of lying to federal investigators about mixing political fundraising with his government work, but deadlocked on whether his other actions crossed the line into corruption. That should be resolved early next year, when the former governor faces a second trial.

44 Vicious, feared attack leaves Pa. inmate comatose

By MICHAEL RUBINKAM, Associated Press Writer

Sun Aug 29, 1:21 pm ET

SCRANTON, Pa. – If his diary and witness accounts are to be believed, Nicholas Pinto endured months of physical, sexual and mental abuse in prison. Guards roughed him up, made him stand naked in a cold cell for hours at a time, and taunted him relentlessly. A fellow inmate raped him night after night, beat him when he resisted, and stole his possessions.

And no one, he claimed, did a thing about it.

“The overall treatment I have received from both the prison and (the prison’s) medical providers (is) unconstitutional, insufficient, cruel, inhumane and shamefully unacceptable,” Pinto wrote in April.

45 Surf lessons open new vistas for disabled kids

By FRANK ELTMAN, Associated Press Writer

Sun Aug 29, 1:20 pm ET

LONG BEACH, N.Y. – The lesson begins on the beach with a youngster lying on a surfboard more than twice her size. After some brief orientation, the child, joined by a world-class surfing coach, is soon paddling about 30 yards into the ocean.

As a modest 2-foot wave appears, the coach and his student begin paddling furiously toward shore. In an instant, the coach eases away from the board and implores his charge to “pop up,” and stand on the board. A shriek explodes from excited parents on the beach who scream with glee as the newcomer stands and rides her first wave to shore.

“I knew what I was doing! exclaims 14-year-old Meghan Fink of Seaford, N.Y, who is vision-impaired. “I was able to stand up on that board and I felt the wind through my hair and the water came over my head a few times. It was just amazing.”

46 Numbers confirm it: Summer was a scorcher

By MARY ESCH, Associated Press Writer

Sat Aug 28, 5:05 pm ET

ALBANY, N.Y. – New numbers confirm what the sweaty brows of Northeasterners have been saying for months: The summer of 2010 was a record-breaking scorcher.

Preliminary figures provided by the Northeast Regional Climate Center at Cornell University on Friday show 28 cities from Washington, D.C., to Caribou, Maine, set record highs for average temperature from March through August.

A large swath of the country sweltered in early August, when scorching temperatures and high humidity made it feel like at least 100 degrees in many places and prompted heat advisories for 18 states. While unrelenting heat is the norm in the Deep South, it’s unusual in places like Burlington, Vt., and Portland, Maine, which saw their hottest spring and summer in more than a century.

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