Next months key for war in Afghanistan
The Defense Department’s top leaders estimate that the steps taken within the next 18 months to defeat the Taliban and other extremists will decide whether the war in Afghanistan has been won. Defense Secretary Robert Gates will be taking a closer look into the conflict and will be meeting with NATO allies who also have troops fighting in Afghanistan. “It’s very important for us to be able to show the American people that we are moving forward … to show some shift in momentum,” Gates said. He and Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen told senators they are hopeful about efforts to battle extremists along the remote Afghan-Pakistan border. The Pentagon chief previously said he is hesitant to send more soldiers to Afghanistan beyond the 68,000 already planned. There are currently 58,000 U.S. troops there now.
California wildfires fueled by heat
The intense wildfires in north Los Angeles that 2,500 firefighters are trying to tackle still remains very dangerous. The fires have been fueled by hot weather and dense, dry brush. The blaze doubled in size in a day to spread over 134 sq. miles of forest. About 12,000 buildings and key communications masts are under threat, and officials have said that the fire could easily double again over the coming days. Thousands of residents have fled the fires and about 6,600 homes are under mandatory evacuation orders. Two firefighters have died after flames overran their vehicle. Wildfires are a normalcy of the Californian summer, but it is very unusual for them to break out so close to a major population of cities. There are also a number of other fires that are burning in southern and central California.
Consumer incomes remain flat
Consumer spending increased last month due to the popularity of the Cash for Clunkers program. However, household incomes still remained flat. Rising unemployment, weak income growth and depleted investments have not helped the economy’s need to emerge from the recession. The Commerce Department said that consumer spending rose 0.2 percent in July. However, personal incomes remained unchanged. This fell short of expectations of a 0.2 percent gain. The lack of change in personal incomes followed large swings in May and June. This is mainly due to the payments that individuals have received from the government’s $787 billion economic stimulus program. The concern is that consumer spending, which accounts for 70 percent of economic activity, may not be strong enough to boost a recovery from the longest recession since WWII.
Political figures attend Kennedy’s funeral
Former U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy’s funeral was held on Saturday Aug. 29 at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Basilica in Boston. Many political figures were in attendance such as former Presidents Bush and Clinton. President Obama offered an emotional eulogy calling Kennedy “the greatest legislator of our time.” Ted Kennedy was the brother of Robert Kennedy and also former President John F. Kennedy, both of whom were assassinated. Kennedy was laid to rest on Saturday in Washington D.C. at Arlington National Cemetary.