Libyan Rebels Attack Gaddafi’s Hometown of Sirte

Violence is escalating in Libya, where forces with the rebels’ National Transitional Council have launched new assaults on the remaining strongholds of Col. Muammar Gaddafi. At least 11 rebel fighters have been killed so far in a three-front rebel attack on Gaddafi’s hometown of Sirte.

Obama Drops Cuts to Social Security in Debt Reduction Plan

The Obama administration says it has dropped plans for major cuts to Social Security as part of a debt reduction plan to be presented to Congress next week. On Thursday, the White House said President Obama will no longer propose raising the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67, as well as cutting Social Security benefits. Obama had agreed to the changes as part of a failed effort to reach a deal with Republicans earlier this summer. The White House, however, is still moving ahead with a call to trim at least $340 billion from Medicare and Medicaid. Obama is also preparing to propose some $800 billion in tax hikes, a red line for Republicans.

Boehner: Tax Hike "Off the Table"

In a speech on Thursday, House Speaker John Boehner said tax increases should be off the table in discussions about the debt reduction plan.

House Speaker John Boehner: "Now tax increases, I think, are off the table. And I don’t think they’re a viable option for the joint committee. It’s a very simple equation: tax increases destroy jobs. And the joint committee is a jobs committee. Its mission is to reduce the deficit that is threatening job creation in our country. And we should not make its task harder by asking it to do things that will make the environment for job creation in America even worse. And I hope the President will meet this standard when he puts forth his recommendations for the joint committee next week."

House Votes to Limit NLRB over Boeing Ruling

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives has passed a measure to limit the authority of the National Labor Relations Board. On Thursday, Republicans voted to prevent the NLRB from ordering an employer to halt production or relocate workers if labor rights were found to have been violated. The measure came in response to the NLRB’s ruling earlier this year against Boeing for retaliating against striking workers. The NLRB found that Boeing illegally shifted production of its new 787 Dreamliner passenger plane to a non-union plant in South Carolina to punish striking union workers in Washington State. The measure now goes to the Democratic-controlled Senate, where it is unlikely to pass.

Supreme Court Halts Texas Execution of Duane Buck over Racial Bias Claims

The Supreme Court has halted the execution of an African-American prisoner over evidence that a key prosecution witness expressed racial bias. Duane Buck was set to be put to death Thursday night for a 1995 double murder. Although Buck’s guilt is not in dispute, defense attorneys have challenged his death sentence over the testimony of a state psychologist during the trial. The psychologist, Walter Quijano, told jurors that sparing his life could be dangerous because African-American criminals are more likely to pose a future danger to the public. The Supreme Court has agreed to take up one of two appeals filed by Buck’s attorneys over Quijano’s testimony.

Obama Admin Confident of Jailed American Hikers’ Release in Iran

The Obama administration says it is hopeful Iran will soon release two jailed American hikers, despite conflicting statements from the Iranian judiciary and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The judiciary caused confusion this week after denying Ahmadinejad’s announcement that the hikers would be freed. Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal have been imprisoned for more than two years after being arrested while hiking near the Iraq-Iran border. On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said the United States has received assurances the pair will be released.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta: "It’s very difficult for us to try to speculate as to the differences and battles that are going on in the political leadership within Iran and really understand just exactly what the nature of that is. Our goal here is to try to get these hikers released. And we’ve been assured that steps will be taken to make that happen."

U.S.: Top al-Qaeda Operative Killed in Pakistan

U.S. officials are claiming a top al-Qaeda operative has been killed in a new CIA drone strike in Pakistan. Abu Hafs al-Shariri was allegedly responsible for a number of attacks within Pakistan’s borders. The Pakistani government, meanwhile, has criticized the Obama administration for blaming a Pakistan-based group for this week’s deadly attack targeting the U.S. embassy and NATO headquarters in the Afghan capital of Kabul. A spokesperson for the Pakistani Foreign Office said the criticism threatens U.S.-Pakistani cooperation.

Tehmina Janjua: "These remarks seem to be out of line with the type of cooperation and the extent of cooperation that exists between the two sides on counterterrorism. Pakistan condemns terrorism and terrorist incidents anywhere in the world. Terrorism and militancy is a complex issue. It requires close cooperation amongst all concerned. Pakistan and the U.S. have cooperated in countering terrorism."

400,000 Displaced in Pakistan Floods

In Pakistan, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has canceled a trip to address the U.N. General Assembly amidst massive flooding. Nearly 300 people have been killed and some 400,000 have been displaced due to heavy rains in a southern province. The devastation comes one year after Pakistan suffered its worst-ever flooding.

Palestinian Authority Rejects U.S. Effort to Subvert Statehood Bid

The Palestinian Authority continues to reject last-ditch U.S. efforts to thwart their bid for statehood recognition at the United Nations next week. On Thursday, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki said Palestinians are open to hearing U.S. pleas, but they are likely too late.

Riyad al-Maliki: "We will see if any of them is carrying with him or her any credible offer that will allow us to look into it seriously, and then of course to be discussed among the Palestinian leadership. Otherwise, the 23rd, at 12:30, the President will submit the application."

Hundreds March in New York City Ahead of Palestinian Statehood Bid

The Palestinian Authority is expected to officially submit the statehood request to the United Nations Security Council next Friday. On Thursday, hundreds of Palestinian solidarity activists marched in New York City ahead of the bid.

Riham Barghouti: "We’re really here to send them a strong message. Next week there’s supposed to be a bid for Palestinian statehood. And our message really is that this is only one part of the Palestinian struggle and the Palestinian rights that we need to achieve. Ending the occupation is an important part, but having rights of the Palestinian people in the form of right of return and equality of Palestinians living inside Israel are also important and must be achieved, if we want true peace with justice."

Israeli Settlers Increase Vandalism in West Bank

As the statehood standoff intensifies, Israeli settlers are increasing attacks on Palestinians in the occupied West Bank. Sarit Michaeli of the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem said a wide range of Palestinian property has been targeted in recent weeks.

Sarit Michaeli: "We have noticed a sharp increase in the number of attacks by settlers against Palestinian property and acts of vandalism. We’ve seen an attempt to torch a mosque. We’ve seen a lot of racist graffiti and several cars that have been burnt, as well as attacks against agricultural crops, olive trees and grapes. To the best of our knowledge, the police haven’t arrested any suspects for these acts."

U.N. Probes Video of Peacekeepers’ Sexual Assault in Haiti

The United Nations has sent an investigative panel to Haiti to probe the apparent sexual assault of an 18-year-old Haitian man by Uruguayan troops with the international peacekeeping force. The incident has sparked protests and renewed calls for the force’s departure from Haiti. Speaking in Port-au-Prince, U.N. Assistant Secretary-General Anthony Banbury condemned the assault.

Anthony Banbury: "This incident is clearly unacceptable. What happened is wrong. But we don’t yet know all the facts. And before we reach any final conclusion, we have to wait for the investigation to be completed."

Denmark Elects First-Ever Female Prime Minister

Denmark has elected its first-ever female prime minister, unseating the right-wing political movement that has held office for 10 years. Initial results show a coalition led by Social Democrat Helle Thorning-Schmidt has won the election with a slim majority in the Danish parliament.

U.S. Postal Service to Cut up to 35,000 Jobs in $3 Billion Cost-Cutting Plan

The U.S. Postal Service has unveiled a plan to eliminate up to 35,000 jobs as part of an ongoing effort to avoid collapse. The $3 billion cost-cutting move would also see the closure of more than 250 mail-processing sites and the downsizing of the postal service’s transportation network nationwide.

Hundreds Expected for "Occupy Wall Street" Protest

Hundreds of people are expected to join a protest in New York City on Saturday dubbed "Occupy Wall Street." Organizers say they intend to "take over Wall Street" and stage popular assemblies. Organizer Justin Wedes said the protest is being called to help spark a mass movement against corporate dominance.

Justin Wedes: "More than having any specific demand, per se, I think the purpose of September 17th, for many of us who are helping to organize it and people who are coming out, is to begin a conversation, as citizens, as people affected by this financial system in collapse, as to how we’re going to fix it, as to what we’re going to do in order to make it work for us again."

Mother Files Lawsuit over Fatal Police Shooting of Unarmed 14-Year-Old Son

A grieving mother in San Antonio, Texas, has filed a lawsuit over the fatal police shooting of her unarmed teenage son. Fourteen-year-old Derek Lopez was shot to death after hiding from an officer who had witnessed him fight with another teenage boy. The officer, Daniel Alvarado, had previously been reprimanded 16 times, suspended without pay five times, and recommended for termination over earlier incidents. Lopez’s mother, Denys Lopez Moreno, is seeking punitive damages for civil rights violations, supervisory liability and negligence.

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