WSJ: Americans Worked Less, Watched More TV in 2012
With the economy struggling to find its footing, Americans spent less time at work last year and found more time for leisure activities such as watching television, a new government survey finds. The average American aged 15 or older spent three hours, 32 minutes a day doing work-related activities last year, according to the American Time Use Survey released by the Labor Department on Thursday. That is down from 2011, when time spent on work jumped from three hours and 30 minutes to three hours and 34 minutes. While such changes may not seem big, average yearly changes in time spent on different activities tend to be small, and even minor changes are significant. The survey, which has been conducted annually since 2003 and includes both employed and unemployed persons, suggests America's sluggish recovery continues to hamper workers. While the U.S. unemployment rate fell last year from 8.3% to 7.8%—it is now at 7.6%—other trends are likely holding down average hours spent at work. The number of part-time workers was higher in 2012 than the year before, for example.
CNN: Colorado's devastating Black Forest Fire 100% contained
One of the most destructive fires in Colorado history was 100% contained Thursday after burning 16,000 acres in nine days, a spokesman for the county said. Officials made the declaration after extinguishing small areas of smoke that kept popping up in one small corner of the Black Forest Fire, El Paso County spokesman Dave Rose said. Sheriff Terry Maketa allowed residents back in Thursday night. The 16,000-acre Black Forest Fire killed two people and destroyed more than 500 structures, and it prompted thousands of people to flee. "This is the worst fire in Colorado history in terms of damage," Rose told CNN. Investigators are still trying to figure out what caused the fire. Investigators scouring a 24-square-foot area where the fire is thought to have begun on June 11 have "all but ruled out natural causes," Maketa said.
ALSO SEE: Denver Post: Colorado wildfires burning at multiple sites, some at zero containment
LA Times: Exodus ministry to shut down after apology to gay community
A controversial Christian ministry devoted to changing people "affected by homosexuality" announced Wednesday night that it was shutting its doors after operating for more than three decades. The announcement by Exodus International came during its religious conference in Irvine and after its President Alan Chambers apologized to members of the gay community for "years of undue judgment by the organization and the Christian Church as a whole," the Florida-based ministry said in a statement. "I am sorry I didn't stand up to people publicly 'on my side' who called you names.... I am sorry I have communicated that you and your families are less than me and mine," Chambers said in his apology. "More than anything, I am sorry that so many have interpreted this religious rejection by Christians as God's rejection. I am profoundly sorry that many have walked away from their faith and that some have chosen to end their lives."
CNN: James Gandolfini's remains await autopsy in Rome
The body of actor James Gandolfini was transferred to a hospital morgue in Rome early Thursday, where it awaits an autopsy. By law, medical examiners in Italy are required to carry out the postmortem 24 hours after the body's arrival in the morgue, a hospital spokesman said. Before Italian authorities can release his remains for transport back to the United States, the U.S. Embassy in Rome must issue a death certificate. Gandolfini was not alive when he arrived by ambulance at the Policlinico hospital late Wednesday, said spokesman Antonio Spasola. Though the cause of death is not yet known, his managers believe that a heart attack killed the man who portrayed Tony Soprano, a washed-up mob boss suffering from panic attacks. He was 51.
CNN: Afghanistan suspends security talks with U.S.
Afghanistan has suspended security talks with the United States - one day before American officials are set to meet with the Taliban for formal talks. President Hamid Karzai's office announced the suspension Wednesday, but offered a vague reason for doing so. "In view of the contradiction between acts and the statements made by the United States of America in regard to the peace process, the Afghan government suspended the negotiations," the statement from the office said. It wasn't clear whether Karzai's decision had anythig to do with the U.S.-Taliban meeting.
ALSO SEE: CNN: Taliban talks announced as Afghanistan assumes security
USA Today: Medical group recognizes obesity as a disease
The American Medical Association decided Tuesday to recognize obesity as a disease, requiring a range of medical interventions to advance obesity treatment. The American Medical Association, the nation's largest physician organization, decided Tuesday to recognize obesity as a disease that requires a range of medical interventions for treatment and prevention. The decision was made at the group's annual meeting in Chicago. Experts in obesity have struggled for years to have obesity recognized as a disease that deserves medical attention and insurance coverage as do other diseases. Previously the AMA and others have referred to obesity as "a major public health problem."
CNN: Afghan forces formally take over security of country.
Marking a key transition in the more than decade long war, Afghan forces have formally taken over security for the entire country from NATO-led troops, Afghan President Hamid Karzai announced at a handover ceremony in Kabul on Tuesday. "You are the sons and guardians of this country and it is your responsibility to protect it," Karzai told the troops. ""I wish a long-term peace in Afghanistan." The head of NATO said Afghans are now in charge. "The main effort of our forces is shifting from combat to support. We will continue to help Afghan troops in operations, if needed, but we will no longer plan, execute, or lead these operations," NATO secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen said at the ceremony. Inside a firefight with the Taliban Born solely to serve others Packing up, shippping out of Afghanistan "By the end of 2014, our combat mission will be completed," Rasmussen said.
ALSO SEE: Reuters: Explosion in Kabul coincides with Afghan security handover
Secretary General of NATO Anders Fogh Rasmussen tweets:
AndersFogh Rasmussen @AndersFoghR28m
Responded to journalist on #US statement: int. community made clear: use #Syria chemical weapons completely unacceptable, breach of int. law
CNN: Colorado blaze leaves 2 dead as firefighters battle on
The forecast Friday provides little hope for firefighters trying to make headway against a raging wildfire northeast of Colorado Springs. The high temperatures and blustery winds will be back, along with little chance for meaningful rain. The weather is expected to cool some over the weekend, with calmer winds, but no significant showers. The Black Forest Fire has been dubbed the most destructive in state history after it scorched close to 16,000 acres, destroyed 379 homes and claimed at least two lives by Thursday evening.
CNN: Israel pushes ahead with settlement expansion
Israel said Thursday it will build 675 new settlement homes on the West Bank. The housing units are part of an old agreement and not a new plan, Prime minister spokesman Mark Regev has said. The expansion of Jewish settlements on the West Bank have been a lasting thorn in the side of Palestinians.
Reuters: UN documents 93,000 deaths in Syria, says real toll much higher
At least 93,000 people had been killed in Syria's conflict by the end of April this year, but the true number is "potentially much higher", the United Nations human rights office said on Thursday. An average of more than 5,000 people have been killed every month since last July, while Rural Damascus and Aleppo have recorded the highest tolls since November, it said in its latest study compiling documented deaths.
CNN: Colorado fires scorch state; thousands evacuated
Fast-moving wildfires lit up central Colorado, forcing thousands from their homes and scorching some 12,000 acres of brush and timber. Of the five fires burning, the most problematic was the Black Forest Fire. Tinder-dry conditions and gusty winds fueled the fire, just northeast of Colorado Springs, prompting mandatory evacuations over an area covering 24,000 acres and about 5,000 homes.
CNN: Ohio kidnapping and rape suspect Ariel Castro due in court
An Ohio man accused of murder, rape and holding three women against their will for close to a decade will be arraigned on Wednesday. Ariel Castro, 52, was indicted last week on 329 counts. His case has attracted national attention because of the unusual length and depravity of the crimes of which he's accused. "The horrific brutality and torture that the victims endured for a decade is beyond comprehension," said Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty. Two counts accuse Castro of aggravated murder for purposely causing the unlawful termination of a pregnancy.
CNN: State TV: Suicide attacks kill 14 in central Damascus
A pair of suicide attacks in central Damascus on Tuesday killed at least 14 people and injured 31 others, Syrian state TV reported. The explosions took place near a police station, a police source said. Syria's state news agency, SANA, reported a slightly higher casualty toll, reporting 33 injuries after "two suicide bombers" blew themselves up.
CNN: Turkish riot police move in on protesters at Taksim Square
Turkish riot police in sizable numbers moved into Taksim Square on Tuesday morning, where they engaged in a game of cat-and-mouse with a small, hard-core group of protesters. The protesters lobbed Molotov cocktails at armored vehicles and burned one. Police responded by spraying water cannons. The demonstrators, using wooden boards as shields, would pull back - only to return again, lobbing cocktails and firecrackers and flashing "victory" signs. Smoke from tear gas and fireworks wafted through the air as the armored vehicles shoved away makeshift barriers set up by the demonstrators.
CNNMoney: Seniors in 48 states face serious income shortage
Seniors in almost every state in the country are falling short when it comes to affording their golden years, according to a study released Monday. Nationwide, seniors are living off of a median household income of $35,107, roughly 57% of the median income of their younger counterparts ages 45 to 64, according to an analysis of 2011 U.S. Census Bureau data by Interest.com, a financial information website owned by Bankrate.com. "We found that many senior citizens are significantly underfunded and risk running out of money," said Mike Sante, the site's managing editor. Only seniors in Nevada and Hawaii have median annual incomes that meet the savings benchmark commonly recommended by financial planners.
CNN: Waning Andrea to dump heavy rain across East Coast
Tropical Storm Andrea is expected to drench the East Coast with heavy rains Friday as its strength weakens. A broader swath of the East Coast - including parts of 13 states, from Georgia to Maine - is under flash-flood watches. Flash flood warnings extend from Florida through coastal communities north to Virginia. The warning means a sudden deluge of rain could overwhelm sewers, and cause rivers and creeks to overrun their banks through the weekend. The watch area includes Washington, which the National Weather Service predicts could get up to 6 inches of rain Friday, and New York City, where forecasters say 1 to 2 inches of rain an hour could fall at times into Saturday.
CNN: As search in building collapse ends, lawsuits and investigations begin
Her family says she was brilliant, caring and had the ability to find beauty in everything. Anne Bryan was in her first year as a full-time student at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. She was among the six people killed Wednesday when a building collapse spilled rubble into a thrift store. Roseline Conteh, Borbor Davis, Kimberly Finnegan, Juanita Harmin and Mary Simpson also died, according to Mayor Michael Nutter. Nutter promised Thursday morning a "wide-ranging" investigation into the collapse of a four-story wall of a partially demolished building that toppled onto a Salvation Army store. For more than a dozen hours, searchers had climbed over shards of wood, concrete and rebar before calling off the search for possible survivors late Thursday afternoon. Fire Department Commissioner Lloyd Ayers said officials were "absolutely sure" there were no more victims in the huge pile of rubble. The scene will be turned over to accident investigators from the police and inspections departments and the fire marshal's office, he said.