Minorities Lead Urban Population Growth

WASHINGTON, Aug. 31 (UPI) — Growing Hispanic populations are driving demographic changes in the largest U.S. cities, The Brookings Institution reported Wednesday.

Demographer William Frey said census data for the 100 largest U.S. metropolitan areas shows minorities accounted for 98 percent of population growth in large metro areas from 2000 to 2010. Frey said 42 of the nation’s 100 largest metro areas lost white population and 22 cities now have “majority minority” populations.

The report said 29 of the 100 largest metro areas more than doubled their Hispanic populations, with Mexican-Americans seeing the most population growth.

Chinese-Americans remain the largest Asian minority group in the United States, although Asian-Indians accounted for more growth in 63 of the 100 largest metro areas.

The report said Atlanta, Dallas and Houston saw the largest black population gains. The black population dropped in metropolitan New York, Chicago and Detroit.

Colombia Passes Law Against Racism

BOGOTA, Aug. 31 (UPI) — The Colombian Congress approved a law punishing those guilty of discrimination with one to three years in prison and fines as high as $4,500, officials said.

The law passed Tuesday makes it a crime to discriminate against a person based on race, ethnicity, religion or gender, El Espectador reported.

Christian Salazar, of the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, said racial discrimination is a reality in Colombia that will not be tolerated.

“The Colombian government must focus on ending all discrimination,” Salazar said.

A Colombian newspaper reported earlier this year Afro-Colombians deliberately were rejected for housing in Bogota.

The law must be signed by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and approved by the constitutional court before going into effect.

Fla. Man Survives Anthrax Infection

MINNEAPOLIS, Aug. 31 (UPI) — Health authorities in Minnesota say a 61-year-old St. Petersburg, Fla., man has survived an infection by a rare and lethal strain of anthrax.

Doctors said Dan Anders apparently inhaled spores of a naturally occurring strain of anthrax during a summer vacation as he and his wife headed from Florida to North Dakota to visit Mount Rushmore, the St. Petersburg Times reported.

Reaching a friend’s home in Minnesota, Anders was feeling run down and was taken to a local hospital.

Blood tests revealed Bacillus anthracis, the anthrax bacteria.

On Aug. 5 Anders, already delirious at that point, was taken to a Minneapolis hospital for emergency treatment, where he was put in a medically induced coma and spent 11 days on life support.

“The reason the bacteria is such a problem is the toxins the bacteria produces,” said Dr. Mark Sprenkle, a specialist who treated Anders in Minneapolis. “The toxins can lead to many sorts of problems and people can go on to develop multisystem organ failure.”

The kind of infection Anders had, inhalation anthrax, is rare.

“They say it can lay in the ground for 60 years and then pop back up,” Anders said.

“They said I had a less than 5 percent chance of making it,” Anders said Tuesday, his voice hoarse and weak after 24 days in the hospital. “But I did.”

Kosovo, Serbia Issues Unresolved

UNITED NATIONS, Aug. 31 (UPI) — Skirmishes along the border between Serbia and Kosovo highlight simmering tensions in the region and the need to avoid unilateral action, a U.N. official said.

One person was killed after authorities in Kosovo tried to take control over checkpoints near the border with Serbia in late July.

Farid Zarif, acting U.N. special envoy for Kosovo, told members of the U.N. Security Council the number of cases like this one were increasing even though the situation was quickly controlled.

“They serve as a stark reminder that the issues underlying these incidents remain unresolved and constitute a serious threat to Kosovo’s peace and security,” he said. “It remains essential therefore that all sides refrain from any unilateral action, which could escalate tensions.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel last week in Belgrade said if Serbia wants to join the European Union, it needs to let European security teams do their work in the region and ensure bilateral ties are normalized.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008. Belgrade maintains Kosovo is a breakaway republic, however.

Serbian President Boris Tadic said his country was committed to finding a durable solution to the regional crisis.

“We are facing a very complex issue with Kosovo,” he was quoted by the BBC as saying following Merkel’s visit.

Obama Seeks Joint Session For Jobs Speech

WASHINGTON, Aug. 31 (UPI) — President Obama, in a letter, asked for a joint session of the U.S. Congress next week to deliver his jobs speech Wednesday.

The letter to congressional leaders requested a joint session for Sept. 7 at 8 p.m. EDT, The Hill reported.

“As I have traveled across our country this summer and spoken with our fellow Americans, I have heard a consistent message: Washington needs to put aside politics and start making decisions based on what is best for our country and not what is best for each of our parties in order to grow the economy and create jobs,” Obama said in his letter. “We must answer this call.”

Obama’s jobs speech is the same night as Republican presidential candidates debate at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, Calif.

In his letter, Obama said he would outline proposals Congress could consider immediately “to continue to rebuild the American economy by strengthening small businesses, helping Americans get back to work and putting more money in the paychecks of the middle class and working Americans, while still reducing our deficit and getting our fiscal house in order.”

Washington is responsible for finding “bipartisan solutions” to help the economy grow, Obama wrote, “and if we are willing to put country before party, I am confident we can do just that.”

House Republicans this week announced a fall agenda that includes votes on a business tax break and bills that would roll back 10 regulations GOP committee leaders say impede economic and job growth.

U.N. Alarmed By Atrocities In Libya

GENEVA, Switzerland, Aug. 31 (UPI) — The United Nations expressed deep concern over reports that Libyan prisoners were allegedly executed by pro-Gadhafi forces last week.

Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, said he was alarmed by allegations of atrocities committed in the battle for Tripoli last week.

Human Rights Watch said it discovered charred remains of roughly 45 bodies at a warehouse near Tripoli during the weekend. Two other corpses, unburned, were found outside near a military base in the Libyan capital.

The group said forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi likely executed detainees there Aug. 23. The warehouse burned three days later.

“We are also deeply concerned about reports that there are still thousands of people unaccounted for who were arrested or taken prisoner by Gadhafi security forces either earlier in the conflict, or before it even started,” Colville said in a statement.

Gadhafi and members of his inner circle are wanted for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed against the civilian population since February.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court, said he had evidence civilians were attacked in their homes, demonstrators were fired on with live ammunition and snipers were used to kill those leaving mosques after prayers.

With Libyan rebels controlling much of Tripoli, Moreno-Ocampo said last week he was briefed on the latest developments by members of the rebel-backed Transitional National Council. He said the TNC was working to establish control in the country and prevent further attacks against civilians.

U.S.: No SOFA Extension Request From Iraq

WASHINGTON, Aug. 31 (UPI) — To date, there hasn’t been a formal request by the Iraqi government to keep U.S. forces stationed there beyond a mandatory deadline, the State Department said.

U.S. military forces under the terms of a bilateral status of forces agreement signed in 2008 are obligated to leave the country by Dec. 31.

Baghdad announced it temporarily closed its international airport Tuesday because of a potential safety threat. U.S. troops haven’t turned over security of Iraqi airspace completely to the Iraqi government.

Iraq has experienced an uptick in violence as the Dec. 31 deadline approaches. A series of bomb attacks across the country early this week left at least 35 people dead and dozens more injured.

Baghdad, however, hasn’t asked Washington to keep any troops in the country beyond the mandated deadline, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters during her regular press briefing.

“Our plan is to withdraw our combat troops by the end of the year,” she said. “Were there to be a specific Iraqi request, we would be open to considering it, but to date, there has not been a formal Iraqi request.”

Stuart Bowen, the U.S. special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, warned in a July report to Congress Iraq was a very dangerous place more than eight years after the initial U.S.-led invasion.

“It is less safe, in my judgment, than 12 months ago,” he wrote.

World War II Flying Ace Dies

LONDON, Aug. 31 (UPI) — British World War II fighter ace Billy Drake has died at the age of 93.

The Daily Telegraph said Drake, who shot down some 25 enemy aircraft and was one of the most colorful and successful Allied “flying aces” of World War II, died Sunday. The cause of death and exact location could not be confirmed, The Washington Post said.

Drake, a descendant of Sir Francis Drake, was born Dec. 20, 1917, in London. His father was a British doctor and his mother was Australian. He was sent to boarding school in Switzerland as a child after several British schools were unable to contain his “lively temperament,” The Daily Telegraph reported.

Drake joined the Royal Air Force just before his 18th birthday after seeing an advertisement in a magazine. He saw his first enemy action in 1940 and actively participated in operational attacks until 1944 when he was sent to the U.S. Command School in Kansas before joining the staff of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force, the newspaper said.

Drake continued to fly and train other pilots until he retired from the RAF in 1963. He later moved to Portugal, where he managed properties and opened the successful “Billy’s Bar.” He returned to Britain in 1993.

Drake was married twice and is survived by two sons.

Man Decapitates Himself With Cable

NEWPORT NEWS, Va., Aug. 31 (UPI) — Police in Virginia say a man involved in a domestic dispute set fire to a trailer and then decapitated himself with a cable around his neck.

York County deputies were called to the location of the dispute Tuesday morning and were told the man had left the scene.

He was located about 15 minutes later as deputies responded to a report of a trailer on fire at an intersection in the development, the Newport News Daily Press reported.

Deputies said the trailer was being towed by a white Ford Explorer driven by the man, who refused to get out of the vehicle.

As firefighters approached, they saw the man had a cable wrapped around his neck with the other end attached to a nearby tree.

He suddenly accelerated his vehicle and the cable pulled him from the driver’s seat and decapitated him, police said.

The victim’s name has not been released, but York County Sheriff Danny Diggs gave the man’s age as 46 and said he had “most recently been living in Chicago.”

Kansas Must Restore Planned Parenthood Funds

WICHITA, Kan., Aug. 31 (UPI) — Kansas must restore federal funding for Planned Parenthood while the state appeals a ruling that had temporarily restored funding, a federal judge ruled.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Marten also ruled Tuesday funding should be provided quarterly, not monthly, as the state had requested, The Kansas City (Mo.) Star reported.

Planned Parenthood had threatened to close its Hays, Kan., clinic Friday unless it found out before then federal family-planning funding would be restored.

Planned Parenthood also said without the funding, it would have to eliminate sliding-scale fees based on patients’ incomes at its Wichita clinic.

“Residents of Wichita and Hays, Kan., will be best assured of continued family planning services by maintaining the status quo,” Marten wrote.

On Aug. 1, Marten temporarily barred enforcement of a Kansas law that would strip Planned Parenthood of about $330,000 in federal family-planning money for fiscal year 2011-12 and instead sent the money mainly to public health departments.

The state has argued Planned Parenthood never proved the loss of funding would reduce services at its clinics.

State lawyers, the Star reported, said the funding accounts for just 5.5 percent of Planned Parenthood’s revenue and said other operations, including abortions, would cover any funding gap at the Wichita and Hays clinics.