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WASHINGTON, D.C. (BNO NEWS) — With employers in the United States adding just 96,000 jobs last month, the national unemployment rate dropped to 8.1 percent as nearly four times as many people gave up searching for jobs altogether and left the labor force, the U.S. Labor Department (DOL) said on Friday.

Economists had expected payrolls to rise by at least 125,000 in August, and some even pushed their forecasts higher after positive private sector data on Thursday. And while a drop in the unemployment rate from 8.3 to 8.1 percent may seem positive, it was mostly the result of some 368,000 people who gave up their search for work.

In the August 2012 Employment Situation report released by the Labor Department on Friday, the department highlighted the addition of 4.6 million private sector jobs over the last 30 months, including nearly 2 million in the last year. Nonetheless, economists say the U.S. economy needs to add at least 150,000 to 200,000 jobs a month to make a significant dent in the jobless rate and to keep up with the population growth in the country.

U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis stated that “an economic crisis that was decades in the making will not be solved overnight,” noting that the economy was in ‘free fall’ when President Barack Obama took office. “Credit markets were frozen, and our nation was bleeding hundreds of thousands of jobs a month. But our recovery remains on a stable trajectory of positive job growth. Smart and steady wins the race.”

Republican Mitt Romney, who will face Obama in the presidential election on November 6, criticized the weak jobs report and claimed his plan would create up to 250,000 new jobs a month. “If last night was the party, this morning is the hangover,” he said, referring to Obama’s acceptance speech at the Democratic National Committee. “For every net new job created, nearly four Americans gave up looking for work entirely.”

Romney added: “This is more of the same for middle class families who are suffering through the worst economic recovery since the Great Depression. After 43 straight months of unemployment above 8%, it is clear that President Obama just hasn’t lived up to his promises and his policies haven’t worked. We aren’t better off than they were four years ago.”

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (BNO NEWS) — Initial claims for unemployment insurance in the United States dropped to 365,000 in the week ending September 1, a decrease of 12,000 compared to the previous week, according to figures released by the U.S. Labor Department (DOL) on Thursday.

Despite the positive numbers, which is a one-month low, the DOL report reveals only little progress in the U.S. economy as it continues to struggle to create new employment opportunities. But a private survey by payroll provider ADP suggests businesses stepped up hiring in August.

The 4-week moving average for unemployment benefits, a less volatile measure, was 371,250, an increase of 250 from the previous week’s revised average of 371,000, the report said. It also showed that the number of unemployed with unemployment insurance for the week ending August 25 remained the same at 2.6 percent when compared to the previous week.

However, there was also a decrease of 6,000 in the number of workers who claimed benefits under regular state unemployment programs, totaling 3,322,000 during the week ending August 25, according to the latest DOL report. The 4-week moving average was 3,320,750, a decrease of 3,500 from the preceding week’s revised average of 3,324,250.

The highest insured unemployment rates in the week ending August 18 were in Puerto Rico (4.2), Pennsylvania (3.7), New Jersey (3.7), Connecticut (3.7), Alaska (3.6), California (3.5), New York (3.1), Rhode Island (3.0), Oregon (3.0), and Massachusetts (2.9).

The largest increases in initial claims for the week ending August 25 were in New York (+3,110), North Carolina (+1,237), Georgia (+1,039), Massachusetts (+731), and Ohio (+631), while the largest decreases were in California (-1,757), Pennsylvania (-1,273), Michigan (-1,203), Florida (-844), and South Carolina (-787).

But the ADP survey, which is derived from actual payroll data and measures the change in total nonfarm private employment each month, showed private-sector employment increased by 201,000 from July to August on a seasonally adjusted basis. The estimated gain from June to July was revised up from the initial estimate of 163,000 to 173,000.

“According to this month’s ADP National Employment Report, the U.S. economy added 201,000 jobs in August, the largest increase in five months,” said Carlos A. Rodriguez, president and chief executive officer of ADP. “The improvement in job creation this month is encouraging and we hope it continues across all sectors of the U.S. economy.”

Joel Prakken, chairman of Macroeconomic Advisers, LLC, added: “The August increase of 201,000, following a solid gain in July, supports the notion that the underlying trend in hiring has picked back up after slowing sharply during the spring. The August increase was well above the consensus forecast for today’s release and for the official jobs number due out Friday from The Bureau of Labor Statistics.”

Prakken said the gain in private employment in August is strong enough to suggest that the national unemployment rate may have declined. “Today’s estimate, if matched by a similar reading on employment from the BLS on Friday, will alleviate concerns that the economy has slipped into a downturn,” he said.

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DE SOTO, MISSOURI (BNO NEWS) — Police in eastern Missouri are investigating the discovery of four bodies after a mother apparently shot her three young daughters in the head before killing herself on steps leading to the front door of her ex-boyfriend’s residence, officials said.

The four bodies were discovered on early Thursday morning in front of a residence in an area about 4.3 miles (6.9 kilometers) southwest of De Soto, a city in southern Jefferson County. The discovery was made by police officers after the ex-boyfriend of one of the victims called police.

Jefferson County Sheriff Glenn Boyer said three young girls were found dead inside a vehicle which was parked in the front yard of the residence. “A 32-year-old female was discovered a short distance away at the steps leading up to the porch of the front door to the residence,” he said. “All had suffered gunshot wounds to the head.”

Boyer said investigators are treating the incident as a murder-suicide, based on a preliminary investigation. He said the mother, identified as 32-year-old Lisa Cochran, had emailed family members, friends and her ex-boyfriend at 7:54 p.m. local time on Wednesday to say goodbye.

“The header on the email began with ‘Goodbye’ and made several references in the email about not being able to take it no more and the lives of four people,” Boyer told reporters during a news conference. “That information, the purchase of the shotgun, and compiling everything we have so far, leads us to believe that we’re dealing with a murder-suicide and not a homicide.”

It is believed that none of the woman’s family members, friends or the ex-boyfriend read the email before the incident. “We don’t have any indication that the people that received the email received it in time to where they could react to it,” Boyer said. “I mean how many of us check our email after 8 o’clock at night?”

Cochran had purchased the shotgun at a Walmart store in Arnold, Missouri, on August 29. “It was purchased by Lisa Cochran. We have investigators in Arnold now that are trying to recover the receipt and possibly, if it still exists, the in-store video of the purchase,” the sheriff explained.

The ex-boyfriend of the woman made the discovery of the crime scene but did not approach the vehicle or his house because Cochran had a court order against him. “He did not want to violate that court order, that’s the reason he didn’t drive up into that driveway when he saw her van there,” Boyer said.

“He simply backed out, contacted us, we responded back to the residence with him, and the officer went up to the van,” the sheriff added. “Unfortunately expecting to see her in the van, probably wanting to get some clothes which is common in these types of incidents, instead he was met with the three deceased children and located her a short distance away.”

The woman’s ex-boyfriend was interviewed by investigators and later released. “At this point in time we haven’t totally cleared anybody. He was never a suspect, he was a witness,” Boyer said. “I have to say that he was a very outgoing witness, he was very cooperative and gave us no indication that he was involved but we’re still in the middle of this investigation. We have a long way to go.”

The three children were identified as 22-month-old Faith Ehlen, 10-year-old Autumn Cochran, and 11-year-old Alyssa Cochran. The woman was the mother of all three children, but the ex-boyfriend was the father of only one of them. The two older girls are believed to be from a previous marriage.

It was not immediately known why the woman had a court order against her ex-boyfriend, but Boyer said his office was not aware of any incidents between them. “She probably went directly to the prosecutor’s office to obtain this court order,” he said. “There’s a good chance we were not involved at all.”

It was also not immediately known how long the two had been separated and how long they previously lived together. “It is my understanding she was currently living with her parents, and I have no idea how long she had been living together with her estranged boyfriend prior to moving out,” Boyer said.

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KABUL, AFGHANISTAN (BNO NEWS) — A coalition helicopter crashed in eastern Afghanistan on Wednesday, killing two American service members, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and a U.S. military official said. It comes less than a week after another crash.

The helicopter came down in Logar province, reportedly setting off a heavy firefight between coalition troops and Taliban insurgents. ISAF spokesman Captain Dan Einert confirmed two ISAF service members were killed in the crash, who a U.S. military official in Washington, D.C. said were American.

“The crash resulted in the deaths of two International Security Assistance Force service members,” Einert said. “It is far too early in the investigation to speak definitively about the cause of the crash. Pending the conclusion of the investigation additional information may be released as relevant.”

But Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed insurgents brought down the helicopter. “Amid bloody fighting Mujahideen (Muslim fighters) shot down a large Chinook helicopter, causing it to set on fire and killing all American terrorists aboard,” he said. Military officials have not released the type of aircraft involved in the crash.

Mujahid said two Taliban insurgents were killed in the subsequent firefight but insisted the majority of casualties were among coalition troops. “The area has remained surrounded by the invaders and their puppets, whereas Mujahideen are still lying in ambush, ready to strike terror in the hearts of the American cowardly troops,” he added.

The Taliban often exaggerates its account for propaganda purposes, and the group frequently claims credit for attacks which are later found to have been carried out by other insurgent groups or incidents which are determined to have been an accident. The insurgents are also known to fabricate false reports.

Wednesday’s crash follows a number of other helicopter accidents in recent weeks. Two Australian Special Forces soldiers were killed on August 30 when an ISAF helicopter crashed in Helmand province, just two days after another ISAF helicopter made a hard landing in eastern Afghanistan.

And on August 16, seven American service members and four Afghans were killed when a Black Hawk helicopter crashed in the Chinartu area of Shah Wali Kot district in Kandahar province. Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi claimed responsibility for that crash as well, but a formal cause has not yet been made public.

There are currently more than 129,000 ISAF troops in Afghanistan, including some 90,000 U.S. troops and more than 9,500 British soldiers. U.S. President Barack Obama previously ordered a drawdown of 23,000 U.S. troops by the end of this summer, and foreign combat troops are due to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (BNO NEWS) — A public memorial service for American astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, will be held at the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. on September 13, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced on Tuesday.

A NASA spokesperson said family and friends of Armstrong will join the public memorial service to honor the life and career of the astronaut. Among those attending will be NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and Right Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde, the bishop of Washington.

“Dignitaries, community and political leaders, and members of the NASA family, including current and former astronauts will attend,” a statement from NASA said. “A very limited number of seats will be made available to the public on a first-come, first-served basis. Details regarding the service and participants will be released as plans are finalized.”

Armstrong served as commander during the Apollo 11 mission, the first manned lunar landing mission, in July 1969. He immediately rose to fame around the world for being the first man to land a craft on the moon and then the first man to step on its surface, after which he and fellow astronaut Buzz Aldrin explored it for over two hours.

People from around the world gathered around their television sets to watch coverage of the moon landing and to hear Armstrong’s famous words as he stepped onto the moon’s surface. “That is one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind,” Armstrong said on July 20, 1969, as he became a part of history.

Armstrong died at a hospital in Ohio on August 25 as a result of complications from cardiovascular procedures. He had underwent surgery due to blocked coronary arteries earlier that month, just days after celebrating his 82nd birthday. It remained long unclear whether a public memorial service would be held as Armstrong often shunned publicity.

Armstrong was laid to rest during a private, family memorial service in Cincinnati, Ohio, last Friday. U.S. President Barack Obama signed a proclamation which ordered the flag of the United States to be flown at half-staff on the day of the funeral, which was attended by a number of politicians.

(Copyright 2012 by BNO News B.V. All rights reserved. Info: sales@bnonews.com.)

WASHINGTON, D.C. (BNO NEWS) — Hackers belonging to a group which calls itself ‘AntiSec’ on Tuesday claimed it infiltrated the laptop of an FBI agent in New York and stole a file containing some personal information and identification numbers for more than 12 million Apple products.

A post on the text-sharing website Pastebin said ‘Anonymous’ affiliate AntiSec hacked the laptop of FBI agent Christopher Stangl during the second week of March 2012 by using a vulnerability in the computer’s Java software. The group said it downloaded a CSV file which turned out to be a list of 12,367,232 unique device identifiers (UDIDs) for Apple devices.

AntiSec said the file also contained some user names, name of device, type of device, Apple Push Notification Service tokens, zip codes, cellphone numbers, addresses and other personal details. But the hackers acknowledged that the personal details fields were often empty, leaving the list incomplete.

To demonstrate it has the information, AntiSec released more than 1 million of the Apple numbers. “We will probably see their damage control teams going hard lobbying media with bullshits to discredit this, but well, whatever, at least we tried and eventually, looking at the massive number of devices concerned, someone should care about it,” the group said in its statement.

It added: “Also we think it’s the right moment to release this knowing that Apple is looking for alternatives for those UDID currently and since a while blocked axx to it, but well, in this case it’s too late for those concerned owners on the list. We always thought it was a really bad idea. that hardware coded IDs for devices concept should be eradicated from any device on the market in the future.”

Soon after the release of the data, the FBI’s official Twitter account denied that the agency has this information. “Statement soon on reports that one of our laptops with personal info was hacked. We never had info in question. Bottom Line: TOTALLY FALSE,” the tweet said.

An FBI spokesman later emailed a brief statement. “The FBI is aware of published reports alleging that an FBI laptop was compromised and private data regarding Apple UDIDs was exposed,” he said. “At this time there is no evidence indicating that an FBI laptop was compromised or that the FBI either sought or obtained this data.”

The leak raised questions online why the FBI would be in possession of such data. “No other file on the same folder makes mention about this list or its purpose,” AntiSec said in its statement. The group said it believes the data is for an FBI “tracking people project” and suggested the Apple devices are being tracked, but AntiSec provided no evidence to support that claim.

Technology security experts described the breach as serious but said the information will not allow hackers to break into peoples’ iPhones.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (BNO NEWS) — The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) on Tuesday fined Russia’s largest airline Aeroflot for violating new aviation rules in the United States which require carriers to advertise the full fare and allow customers to hold reservations for 24 hours.

New DOT airline passenger protection rules took effect on January 26 and require both U.S. and foreign airlines as well as ticket agents to advertise the full fare, including government taxes and fees. Previously, airlines and ticket agents were not required to include certain government-imposed taxes as long as these additional charges were clearly disclosed.

But U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said airfare searches on Aeroflot’s website after January 26 returned separate listings of base fares for outbound and inbound legs that did not include additional government taxes and fees. The total fare to be charged was ultimately disclosed at the bottom of Aeroflot’s website, but the carrier failed to advertise the entire price to be paid by the consumer when a fare was first stated.

LaHood said Aeroflot also violated a new rule which requires airlines to include a commitment in their customer service plans allowing reservations to be held at the quoted fare without payment, or cancelled without penalty, for at least 24 hours after a reservation is made if the reservation is made one week or more before a flight’s departure. A customer service plan posted on Aeroflot’s website between January 24 and March 13 did not include this commitment.

“Airline passengers should be able to easily determine the full price for air transportation before they travel, and have the opportunity to either reserve a ticket without payment or cancel without penalty for 24 hours,” LaHood said in a statement. “DOT will continue to stand up for consumers and take enforcement action when these rules are violated.”

The U.S. Department of Transportation said it fined Aeroflot a civil penalty of $60,000 and ordered the carrier to cease and desist from further violations. Aeroflot is the flag carrier and largest airline in Russia, flying millions of people a year to dozens of destinations around the world.

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ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN (BNO NEWS) — A suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden vehicle into a U.S. government vehicle in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar on Monday morning, killing two Pakistani nationals and wounding more than a dozen others, officials said.

The attack happened on Abdara Road in the University Town area of Peshawar when the suicide bomber crashed into the SUV of the U.S. Consulate which is located nearby. Journalists at the scene reported seeing burned U.S. passports, but police and government officials said no Americans were killed.

“We can confirm that a vehicle belonging to the U.S. Consulate in Peshawar was hit in an apparent terrorist attack,” said U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland. “Two U.S. personnel and two Pakistani staff of the Consulate were injured and are receiving medical treatment. No U.S. Consulate personnel were killed, but we are seeking further information about other victims of this heinous act.”

Police said more than 100 kilograms (220 pounds) of explosives were used in the attack, which resulted in a large explosion and left a crater at the scene. Two Pakistani nationals, one identified as Swat resident Barkatullah Kahn, were confirmed to have been killed while nineteen others were injured and taken to area hospitals.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton strongly condemned Monday’s attack during a press conference in Jakarta, Indonesia. “We pray for the safe recovery of both American and Pakistani victims and once again we deplore the cowardly act of suicide bombing and terrorism that has affected so many people around the world, and which we all must stand against,” she said.

Meanwhile, Charge d’affaires Ambassador Richard Hoagland from the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad thanked local authorities for their quick response after the attack. “I am grateful for the humane professionalism of the local Pakistani security forces who saved the lives of the two American Diplomats and two Pakistani local staff of the U.S. Consulate General Peshawar by pulling them to safety after their vehicle was attacked,” he said.

Hoagland added: “In this dangerous world where terrorists can strike at any moment, we must all work together – Pakistanis and Americans alike – because we have a strong mutual interest in defeating terrorism.”

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari also strongly condemned the attack, calling it a “heinous crime” and saying the perpetrators would not be spared. “The President expressed sorrow over the loss of lives and prayed for the departed souls to rest in peace,” his office said in a statement. “He directed best possible treatment for the injured.”

Interior Minister Rehman Malik ordered an investigation into the attack, for which no group immediately claimed responsibility.

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LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA (BNO NEWS) — American actor Michael Clarke Duncan, who starred as a death row inmate in “The Green Mile” and in other box office hits such as “Armageddon” and “Kung Fu Panda,” died at a hospital in California on Monday, his publicist said. He was 54.

Duncan suffered a heart attack nearly two months ago and had remained hospitalized at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. “The Oscar-nominated actor suffered a myocardial infarction on July 13 and never fully recovered,” said Joy Fehily, a publicist at public relations company Prime.

Reverend Omarosa Manigault, who was previously known to be Duncan’s girlfriend, announced his passing in a brief emailed statement from Fehily. “Manigault is grateful for all of your prayers and asks for privacy at this time,” she said, adding that Manigault was Duncan’s fiancé. It had not previously been reported that the couple was engaged.

“Celebrations of his life, both private and public, will be announced at a later date,” Fehily added.

Born in Chicago, Duncan is probably best remembered for his role as death row inmate John Coffey in the 1999 drama film “The Green Mile, which earned him an Oscar nomination. But he is also known for having portrayed Bear on the 1998 disaster film “Armageddon,” the voice of Commander Vachir in the 2008 computer-animated action comedy film “Kung Fu Panda”, and Franklin Figueroa in the 2000 adventure crime comedy film “The Whole Nine Yards.”

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BRENTWOOD, NEW YORK (BNO NEWS) — A worker was killed on late Saturday when he reached under a spinning amusement ride at a carnival on New York’s Long Island to grab something, police said on Monday morning. State and federal authorities are investigating the death.

The accident happened at around 7:25 p.m. local time on Saturday when the carnival worker, identified as 22-year-old Michael Austin of Mastic, had just gotten off of a break from his job at The Feast of Mother Cabrini fair in Brentwood, a hamlet of the Town of Islip in Suffolk County on the eastern portion of Long Island.

“He bent down and reached under the Scat ride to grab something,” said Commissioner Edward Webber of the Suffolk County Police Department, referring to a ride which features spinning baskets on a rotating arm. “When Austin stood up, he was struck in the head by the ride and was knocked to the ground at approximately 7:25 p.m.”

Webber said Austin was airlifted to Stony Brook Hospital by a Suffolk County Police helicopter but was later pronounced dead. “The ride, one of several at the fair that is being held at Suffolk County Community College, located on Crooked Hill Road, Brentwood, had passengers at the time of the incident but they were not injured,” he added.

Both the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Suffolk County Department of Labor were notified and are investigating the incident.

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