Obama: Limiting Debt And Spending Is Good

CHICAGO, Aug. 4 (UPI) — Liberal Democrats must understand the importance of limiting U.S. debt and government spending, President Barack Obama told his re-election campaign supporters.

“All the progressives out there — I want you to understand, we can’t just ignore this debt and deficit,” he said in Chicago during the largest of three fundraising events the night before his 50th birthday.

The United States needs to get its fiscal house in order, Obama told the 2,400 cheering supporters at his first overtly political event since the deal over the debt ceiling was reached.

But he said, “Economic growth — making ourselves more competitive — isn’t just about cutting programs.”

He stressed the importance to Americans of the biblical teaching “I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sister’s keeper.”

One of the many things that make the United States a great nation is Americans’ responsibility for themselves and their neighbors, he said.

Looking ahead to the next round of debate over how to cut the federal debt an additional $1.5 trillion, Obama said: “I hope we can avoid another self-inflicted wound like the one we just saw over the last couple of weeks because we don’t have time to play these partisan games. We’ve got too much work to do.”

Later, during a small dinner with large-dollar donors who paid $35,800 each, he cast the debt deal as a badge of fiscal conservatism that adheres to core Democratic values.

“We have made a legitimate down payment on deficit reduction in a way that’s actually responsible,” Obama said. “But it also sets the stage for what is going to be a vigorous debate over the next year and a half.”

He added: “I give the other side credit — they are single-minded in their focus in wanting to cut programs and shrink government.”

Fears Euro System Will Collapse In Debt

ROME, Aug. 4 (UPI) — Fears mounted Thursday the system sustaining Europe’s debt crisis would collapse amid alarm Italy and Spain were sliding into debt that couldn’t be bailed out.

Italy and Spain — the eurozone’s third- and fourth-largest economies and the world’s seventh- and 10th-largest — opened the bond markets Thursday with borrowing rates near the 7 percent threshold that triggered bailout talks with Greece, Ireland and Portugal.

French and Belgian bonds opened after seeing volatile trading Wednesday.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso released a statement late in the day saying, “The tensions in bond markets reflect a growing concern among investors about the systemic capacity of the euro area to respond to the evolving crisis.”

The euro area, or eurozone, includes the 17 European Union countries that use the euro as their common currency and sole legal tender.

Barroso called Italy and Spain’s near-unprecedentedly high interest rates and weakening bond prices “a cause of deep concern.” European banks own so many bonds issued by their home countries that they are being weakened as the value of those bonds falls. Barroso urged governments to signal “resolve to address the sovereign debt crisis with the means commensurate with the gravity of the situation.”

Embattled Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi delivered an emergency address to Parliament late Wednesday, defiantly warning speculators they were wrong to bet against Italy.

He rejected renewed calls for his resignation and vowed Italy would make no more budget cuts or new austerity plans, calling economic growth the country’s best defense.

“We have sound economic fundamentals,” he said.

Italy’s $2.2 trillion debt burden is more than that of the United States, compared with the size of its economic output, but its annual budget deficit is 4 percent, The Washington Post reported.

Before Berlusconi spoke, Italian Finance Minister Giulio Tremonti, with whom Berlusconi has engaged in public battle, huddled with Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the Euro Group of eurozone finance ministers, in Luxembourg to discuss Italy’s intensifying debt crisis.

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero rushed back to Madrid Wednesday within hours of beginning his August vacation — after postponing it Tuesday — for emergency meetings with Spanish and European leaders about Spain’s increasingly desperate situation.

Spain was to sell as much as $5 billion in short-term sovereign bonds Thursday, and the European Central Bank was to meet in Frankfurt to discuss the crisis.

Switzerland’s central bank stunned markets Wednesday with a surprise attempt to devalue its popular safe-haven franc because it said it was “massively overvalued.”

The Swiss National Bank cut target interest rates to “as close to zero as possible” and said it would inject $65 billion into the Swiss money supply in an attempt to halt the franc’s relentless appreciation against both the U.S. dollar and euro.

Switzerland is not a member of the European Union.

Gold hit another record high of $1,663.40 a troy ounce.

A full-blown Italian and Spanish debt crisis would hit large European banks hardest, the Post said, but could also dry up interbank lending worldwide.

U.S. banks and investment funds are also more exposed to Italy and Spain than they are to Greece. Direct and indirect U.S. holdings in Italian and Spanish debt amounts to about $450 billion, the Post said.

Three NATO Soldiers Die In Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan, Aug. 4 (UPI) — Two NATO soldiers were killed by an improvised explosive device in eastern Afghanistan, the military said.

NATO’s International Security Assistance Force said the two died Wednesday but gave no other details, CNN reported.

Also on Wednesday, another NATO solider died but CNN reported it was from non-battle related injuries. No other details were available.

Copter Crash In Indonesia, At Least 9 Dead

JAKARTA, Aug. 4 (UPI) — A helicopter, chartered by a mining company and carrying 10 people, crashed in Indonesia’s North Sulawesi province, authorities said.

China’s state-run Xinhua news agency, quoting a rescuer, said all 10 died in the crash Wednesday.

“Nine people were found dead (at) the scene and another was in critical condition, the person also died on the way to a hospital in Manado,” Rudiyanto, head of the search and rescue office in North Sulawesi, told Xinhua by telephone.

Those aboard included three Australians and five Indonesians, he said.

CNN, quoting the mining company, reported nine died in the crash and one was injured. The report said besides two Indonesia crew members, other included two Australians, two South Africans and four Indonesians.

The Jakarta Post, quoting a military official, said the helicopter went down minutes after takeoff Wednesday night.

China Calls White Paper ‘irresponsible’

BEIJING, Aug. 4 (UPI) — China termed as “irresponsible” Japan’s expressions of concerns about Chinese military’s recent maritime activities.

The Japanese concerns were expressed in its 2011 defense white paper released Tuesday by its Defense Ministry, calling attention to Chinese naval operations near Japan and the development of bases.

“The Japanese 2011 defense white paper made carping and irresponsible comments on China’s national defense construction,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Ma said China’s national defense and military modernization is only for safeguarding its national sovereignty, security and territorial integrity, not for targeting any other country.

“China’s development is offering significant opportunities to all countries in the world including Japan,” he said. “China has not, and will never be a threat to any other country.”

Ma said he hoped Japan “can learn from the past, seriously reflect on its own defense policy and do more to deepen mutual trust with neighboring countries …”

The white paper said, “China’s future actions are worrisome, given what can be interpreted as its overbearing ways to address its clashing interests with neighboring countries, including Japan,” Kyodo News reported.

Japan is concerned about China’s stepped-up activities near the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. One such activity included spotting of a Chinese marine research vessel last Sunday near Uotsuri Island in the islet group, which China claims, Kyodo reported.

China’s claims in the South China Sea are raising similar concerns among other neighboring countries in the region.

Tent City Prison Turns 18

PHOENIX, Aug. 3 (UPI) — The Tent City prison compound set up by Maricopa (Ariz.) County Sheriff Joe Arpaio commemorated its 18th year in operation Wednesday.

The compound is comprised of military-style tents and can house as many as 1,000 inmates at a time, The Arizona Republic reported.

The facility is for minimal to medium security risk inmates who are sentenced to less than one year in prison. Everyone at Tent City is required to work on a chain gang, in one of the jail-support facilities or at a community job through work-release and furlough programs.

Phoenix attorney Mike Manning says it’s a surprise the facility has last 18 years.

“It’s not delivered any of its promises except for publicity,” Manning said.

Hundreds of prisoners rioted in 1996, causing injuries to eight sheriffs employees and about $100,000 in damages.

Three years later, 200 inmates threw rocks at guards, lit tents on fire and tipped portable toilets over.

Arpaio downplays the incidents, noting that “1.3 million people come through the jails and I’m supposed to run the toughest jail in the universe, and [so then] where are all the riots?”

Rosa Parks’ Estate To Be Auctioned

NEW YORK, Aug. 3 (UPI) — An attorney for an organization named for Rosa Parks says the U.S. civil rights icon’s friend are “mortified” that her personal letters are to be auctioned.

The battle between Parks’ relatives and the Rosa and Raymond Institute for Self Development over her estate has been ongoing since Parks’ death in 2005, ABC News reported. A Michigan court settled the dispute by authorizing Guernsey’s Auctioneers and Brokers of New York to sell Parks’ property.

Among the items to be sold is civil rights-era memorabilia with an estimated value of $8 million to $10 million. It includes personal letters written by Parks as a teenager and later in life to her mother and husband, one of which details an rape attempt on Parks by a white neighbor.

“The folks who cared about Rosa Parks the most, the folks at her institute, her best friend, Elaine Steele, and others are mortified that her private thoughts have now been published,” said Steven Cohen, an attorney for the Institute.

Arlan Ettinger, president of Guernsey’s Auctioneers and Brokers said he is acting on the court’s authority.

“The court decided that the archive needed to be sold and that the proceeds would be divided by the court in a matter it saw fit,” Ettinger said. “The court has spoken repeatedly and repeatedly informed us to do what we’re doing. We are neutral here and simply following the dictates of the court.”

Man Bought Puffer Fish Poison To Kill Wife

CHICAGO, Aug. 3 (UPI) — A Chicago-area man pleaded guilty to attempting to kill his wife with poison from a puffer fish, court records show.

Edward F. Bachner IV, of Lake in the Hills, was trying to cash in on his wife’s $20 million life insurance policy, WBBM, Chicago, reported.

Bachner was arrested in July 2008 after the FBI found he had been buying the puffer fish poison, tetrodotoxin, from the biochemical manufacturing firm Biotium under the name Dr. Edmund Backer of EB Strategic Research.

Biotium sent Bachner 64 milligrams of tetrodotoxin in four separate shipments to a post office. Bachner ordered a fifth shipment from another biotech firm, Ascent Scientific, for 98 mg.

The fatality rate of ingesting tetrodotoxin is 50 to 60 percent; 1 to 2 mg can be lethal.

It took FBI agents and hazardous materials teams two days to search Bachner’s house for the poison when the man was arrested.

Bachner had previously been investigated in an alleged murder for hire plot but there was not enough evidence to charge him in that case.

No sentencing date for Bachner was reported.

3 In Ultra-Orthodox Cult Charged In Abuse

JERUSALEM, Aug. 3 (UPI) — Three members of an ultra-Orthodox cult in Jerusalem were charged with abusing women and children, officials say.

An investigation into the cult led to the indictment filed in Jerusalem District Court Wednesday, Haaretz reported.

The report names three men, the cult leader and two others — one said to be the leader’s top aide and the other said to have filled in for the leader at times. The three are accused of physically and sexually abusing women and children within the cult.

The undercover investigation came after a young woman filed a complaint with police more than two months ago.

The investigation was made public after police raided cult members’ homes in Jerusalem and Tiberias.

Convicted, Fined For Taunting Suicidal Man

SALEM, Mass., Aug. 3 (UPI) — A Salem, Mass., man pleaded guilty to a charge of disorderly conduct and was fined $150 for taunting a suicidal man.

David Duchesne, 19, was one of two men who yelled taunts at a suicidal man who was in a standoff with police Monday, The Salem News reported.

Duchesne pleaded guilty to yelling “jump, you [expletive expletive]” at the man.

“What were you thinking?” Salem District Court Judge Michael Lauranzano asked Duchesne Tuesday.

“I wasn’t,” said Duchesne, who was then asked how he would feel if the man had jumped — to which he replied “terrible.”

“You’re very fortunate the Legislature changed this statute because you’d be looking at six months in jail in a heartbeat,” the judge said.

Timothy Fleury, 20, who yelled “jump,” then further taunted, “you won’t do it,” was charged with disorderly conduct, but entered a not guilty plea and will appear in court at a later date.