Saturday, September 11, 2010

On politicized Sept. 11 anniversary, mourners gather.


NEW YORK — A day of mourning for nearly 3,000 Sept. 11 victims began Saturday with moments of silence and tears near ground zero, and with observers bracing for protests over a mosque planned blocks away on what is usually an anniversary free of politics.
Family members gathering at observances in New York and Pennsylvania brought flowers, pictures of loved ones and American flags, but no signs of opposition or support for the mosque. The names of all the people killed at the World Trade Center site were read aloud at a three-hour ceremony Saturday on the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Demonstrators began to gather in support of an Islamic center that's generating controversy because it's two blocks from ground zero.
"Let today never, ever be a national holiday. Let it not be a celebration," said Karen Carroll, who lost her brother, firefighter Thomas Kuveikis. "It's a day to be somber; it's a day to reflect on all those thousands of people that died for us in the United States."
Bagpipes and drums played to open the ceremony, followed by brief comments by Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
"Once again we meet to commemorate the day we have come to call 9/11. We have returned to this sacred site to join our hearts together, the names of those we loved and lost," Bloomberg said. "No other public tragedy has cut our city so deeply. No other place is as filled with our compassion, our love and our solidarity."
Moments of silence were held at 8:46 a.m. and 9:03 a.m., the times hijacked jetliners hit the north and south towers of the World Trade Center. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama were attending separate services at the Pentagon in Washington and a rural field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Muslim group to distribute replacement Qurans in response to planned burning.


(CNN) -- A major Islamic group will announce an initiative Thursday to distribute 200,000 Qurans to replace what it says are 200 copies that a Florida church plans to burn in a gesture that has sparked controversy worldwide.
The Rev. Terry Jones, pastor of Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, said he will go ahead with plans to burn Qurans on the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Jones' plan comes amid increased pressure and warnings that doing so could endanger U.S. troops and Americans worldwide.
On Wednesday, the Vatican joined a chorus of groups imploring the church not to burn Islam's holy book, saying it would be an "outrageous and grave gesture."

The president of the General Assembly also expressed concern about the planned Quran burning. Ali Abdussalam Treki said it will "lead to uncontrollable reactions" and spark tension worldwide.
Earlier this week, Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, warned that the plan "could cause significant problems" for American troops overseas.
Despite the growing pressure, Jones has rejected the pleas, saying his message targets radical Islamists.
"The general needs to point his finger to radical Islam and tell them to shut up, tell them to stop, tell them that we will not bow our knees to them," Jones said on CNN's "AC360."
"We are burning the book," Jones said. "We are not killing someone. We are not murdering people."
In response, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Muslim civil liberties and advocacy group, plans to hold a news conference in Washington on Thursday to address the issue. The group's "Learn, Don't Burn" initiative includes the distribution of of 200,000 Qurans and other activities planned for Friday and Saturday.

"This educational initiative is designed for those who seek a proactive and constructive response to the church's very un-American actions," said Nihad Awad, CAIR national executive director.
"The tiny group of extremists carrying out the book burnings clearly do not represent our society or its values and have been repudiated by all mainstream religious and political leaders."
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is one of the few public officials who defended Jones' right to go ahead, even as he condemned the idea as "distasteful."
"I don't think he would like if somebody burned a book that in his religion he thinks is holy. ... But the First Amendment protects everybody, and you can't say that we are going to apply the First Amendment to only those cases where we are in agreement," Bloomberg said, citing the section of the Constitution that promises freedom of speech.
The planned action has drawn sharp criticism worldwide.
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation, which is dedicated to protecting U.S. troops from religious intolerance, has promised to buy one new Quran and donate it to the Afghan National Army for each one burned in Florida.
Petraeus has warned that the burning will endanger the lives of the 120,000 U.S. and NATO-led troops still battling al Qaeda and its allies in the Islamic fundamentalist Taliban movement.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

4 missing, 136 homes burned in Colo. wildfire


BOULDER, Colo. — The number of homes destroyed by a wildfire ripping through foothills near Boulder has hit 136, authorities said Wednesday.
Authorities provided the dire assessment as firefighters encountered a tangle of rattlesnakes, downed power lines and combustible propane tanks and struggled to get an upper hand on the inferno.
The Boulder County sheriff's office said Wednesday that 136 homes have been destroyed — a toll likely to rise as the blaze rages on and firefighters get a clearer picture of the damage.
About 3,500 people have been evacuated from about 1,000 homes stemming from a fire that broke out in a parched area near of Boulder on Monday. Four people remain missing as some residents have stayed behind and risked their lives to try to save their homes.

No deaths or injuries have been reported at this point, and the cause of the fire was not known.
The fire west of Boulder is not large in terms of size — only about 6,200 acres, or about 10 square miles. But it struck in a populated area that inflicted major property damage.
The reported loss of homes surpasses that of the 2002 Hayman fire in southern Colorado that was the most destructive in the state's history. That fire destroyed 133 homes and 466 outbuildings over 138,000 acres in a more sparsely populated area that includes national forest land.
Sheriff's Cmdr. Rich Brough said Wednesday that 20 people were initially reported as missing. Authorities later said the number had been reduced to four. It's unclear if the missing were in homes that have been destroyed or had just not checked in with friends and family.
"Even if you go to the house and it's burned down," Brough said, "you're not going to be able to tell if someone's in it. That will take an investigation."

Firefighters said mapping now shows the blaze had burned 6,168 acres, or about 9½ square miles. The fire was still zero percent contained.
No injuries have been reported. The cause is still under investigation.
Crews on Wednesday continued to battle the blaze as well as other obstacles: downed power lines, propane tanks that could explode, rattlesnakes, steep terrain and poison ivy.
About 3,500 people have been evacuated from about 1,000 homes since the fire broke out Monday.
Air tankers dumped 35,000 gallons of fire retardant on the blaze and crews began building containment lines on the eastern side of the fire. The large plume of smoke the fire had been producing since it started Monday dissipated because of the favorable weather. However, the fire was still actively burning and threatening structures, forcing some deputies doing an inventory of the damage to retreat.
At the Colorado Mountain Ranch, 60-year-old Mike Walker has been making a stand against the fire with his wife and 25-year-old daughter in a desperate effort to save the children's summer camp and outdoor recreation center they operate.
"He's safe, he's up there," said Walker's 19-year-old daughter Rose, who evacuated. "He just won't leave. We never doubted where he was, he just won't leave for anybody."
Video: Firefighters struggle to squelch Colo. wildfire (on this page) Rose Walker said her father, mother and sister are trying everything to save their ranch, with her father using a tractor to scoop up flames away from structures, "literally dragging the fire away from the buildings." On Wednesday, Rose Walker said her family were still at their ranch, using rakes and backpacks filled with water and a hose to put out any hot spots.
Fire conditions were expected to worsen Thursday night into Friday and the risk of any new fires quickly spreading was high along the populated Front Range region, according to the National Weather Service.
Seven of the country's 19 heavy air tankers have been sent to Colorado to fight the blaze, considered the nation's top firefighting priority. Two more have been dispatched to the fire, said Ken Frederick, spokesman for the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho.
Slideshow: Wildfire rages in Colorado (on this page) Families like the Walkers have been carrying out their own fight against the fire.
Firefighters have been supplying them with water when they can and Rose Walker said she's been crossing into the fire zone to bring her family food and supplies, although authorities have been reluctant to let her come up to the ranch.
Despite her family's efforts, 35 structures have burned, including the family's home, sheds, barns and work areas, Rose Walker said. It's not clear if those are among the total structures that authorities have already confirmed have burned.
"It's everything to us. It's home, it's our work, it's our life," Rose Walker said.
Story: Detroit assesses damage after fires sweep city She said family friends have started a Facebook page for the family to encourage people to make donations to help with supplies, food and help replace the tools her father has lost in the fire.
Brough said authorities don't have the time or manpower to force people to leave. However, he said that if a missing person is linked to a burned home, authorities will have to go to the home to see if there are any human remains, tying up resources.
"People are going through trying times right now. We don't have the resources to go up and arrest everybody that's not leaving the area," Brough said.
Meanwhile, those who abided by the evacuation order were frustrated that they couldn't do more to help.
William Bradshaw has grown restless watching the smoke plume over Boulder as he stays in a shelter at the YMCA.

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