Posted: Jul 5, 2014 4:00 AM
Updated: Jul 5, 2014 4:00 AM
5 factors that are giving the US an edge over other major economies
WASHINGTON (AP) How does the U.S. economy do it?
Europe is floundering. China faces slower growth. Japan is struggling to sustain tentative gains.
Yet the U.S. job market is humming, and the pace of economic growth is steadily rising. Five full years after a devastating recession officially ended, the economy is finally showing the vigor that Americans have long awaited.
Last month, employers added 288,000 jobs and helped reduce the unemployment rate to 6.1 percent, the lowest since September 2008. June capped a five-month stretch of 200,000-plus job gains the first in nearly 15 years.
After having shrunk at a 2.9 percent annual rate from January through March largely because of a brutal winter the U.S. economy is expected to grow at a healthy 3 percent pace the rest of the year.
Arthur downgraded to tropical storm, churns to Canada after leaving little damage at NC coast
MANTEO, N.C. (AP) Businesses on two of North Carolina's barrier islands hoped to salvage the rest of the holiday weekend after Arthur clipped the state without causing major damage before churning north toward Canada and losing strength early Saturday morning.
Arthur was downgraded to a tropical storm early Saturday as its winds weakened to 70 mph (110 kph). Arthur was moving at about 22 mph and located about 65 miles southwest of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.
A tropical storm warning was in effect for Nova Scotia, Cape Breton Island, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick, from the U.S.-Canada border to Grand-Anse.
Meanwhile, in North Carolina, some homes and businesses were flooded, trees toppled and initially thousands were without electricity after Arthur raced through the Outer Banks on Friday, but no deaths or serious injuries were reported. Independence Day fireworks were postponed. About 20 feet of the fragile road connecting Hatteras Island with the rest of the world buckled and required repairs.
The hurricane's effects were mostly confined to Hatteras and Ocracoke islands, and some vacationers were already back on beaches to the north and south on Friday.
First lady pledges to fight Republicans to 'bitter end' on effort to weaken school lunch rules
WASHINGTON (AP) First ladies typically avoid getting into public scraps, but Michelle Obama has jumped into perhaps her biggest battle yet.
She's fighting a House Republican effort to soften a central part of her prized anti-childhood obesity campaign and she says she's ready "to fight until the bitter end."
Mrs. Obama even mocked the GOP effort in an opinion column and argued her case before her Twitter followers.
"Remember a few years ago when Congress declared that the sauce on a slice of pizza should count as a vegetable in school lunches?" she wrote in The New York Times. "You don't have to be a nutritionist to know that this doesn't make much sense. Yet we're seeing the same thing happening again with these new efforts to lower nutrition standards in our schools."
Mrs. Obama lobbied largely behind the scenes four years ago for the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which requires more fruit, vegetables and whole grains in school meals, along with less sodium, sugar and fat. It was a major achievement, the first update to school lunch rules in decades designed to make school meals more nutritious.
Ukraine government claims victory in pro-Russian rebel stronghold; rebels say they're moving
DONETSK, Ukraine (AP) A rebel stronghold in east Ukraine has been taken by government troops, the country's president and a spokesman for the rebels said Saturday.
President Petro Poroshenko said in a statement that government troops took the city of Slovyansk, a city of about 100,000 that has been a center of the fighting between Kiev's troops and the pro-Russian insurgents, after a night of fighting.
Poroshenko commanded the armed forces to "raise the government's flag" over Slovyansk, which has been under rebel control since early April when they seized the city's administrative and police buildings.
Andrei Purgin of the separatist Donetsk People's Republic told The Associated Press that rebels were evacuating, but claimed the army's campaign had left the city "in ruins."
Alexei, a driver and local Slovyansk resident who would not give his last name for fear of reprisal, told the AP by phone that he heard bombing throughout the night. When the bombing stopped in the early morning, he left his house and saw that all the rebel checkpoints were abandoned. He said there was some damage to buildings in the center of the city, but said much of the rest of the city had been left untouched.
Clashes that followed Palestinian boy's funeral in Jerusalem spread to Arab areas
JERUSALEM (AP) Clashes between Israeli police and Palestinian protesters spread from Jerusalem to Arab towns in northern Israel Saturday following the funeral of an Arab teenager who Palestinians say was killed by Israeli extremists in a revenge attack.
Riots erupted in east Jerusalem Friday as thousands of Palestinians massed for the burial of 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir.
The violence spread to northern Arab towns on Saturday morning, Israeli police spokeswoman Luba Samri said. Protesters there threw rocks at passing cars, burned tires and threw rocks and fire bombs at police, who responded with tear gas and stun grenades. More than 20 people were arrested, she said.
Palestinian protesters in Jerusalem also used an electric saw to damage the light rail that connects the heavily Arab populated eastern sector of the city with the mostly Jewish West, Samri said.
Israel's Arab minority enjoys full citizenship rights but some complain of discrimination and the group widely identifies with the Palestinians.
NATO signals it's taking no new members for the present, but says its door 'remains open'
BRUSSELS (AP) Faced with a newly aggressive Russia, NATO has been mulling how to react, but it is ruling out one option: rapid expansion.
Four would-be members, including the former Soviet republic of Georgia, have been informed that admission to NATO isn't in the cards anytime soon. For some, that means dashed hopes. Macedonia's foreign minister told The Associated Press in a statement it was a "step backward."
The bottom line: The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, celebrating important anniversaries this year of a dozen nations joining its ranks, will welcome no new members when President Barack Obama and other leaders convene for a summit in Wales in early September.
Analysts say that NATO members are worried about granting, or being perceived as granting, security guarantees that could quickly be tested by Russia. That's particularly true of Georgia, which has been waiting since 2008 for the U.S.-led military alliance to make good on its promise of admission.
Before taking over Crimea from Ukraine, Russia invaded and occupied two regions of Georgia nearly six years ago and NATO is reluctant to take any action that might provoke a riposte from Moscow.
Pyrotechnics, parades, pigging out: Americans mark July Fourth despite Hurricane Arthur
The United States marks 238 years as an independent nation as it celebrates the Fourth of July with fireworks, food and music. Nature and politics also play a role this year, with Hurricane Arthur crashing holiday parties along the East Coast and subdued festivities in Moscow amid growing anti-American sentiment over the crisis in Ukraine. Here are some highlights of Independence Day celebrations across the globe:
FIRE IN THE SKY
Tens of thousands of people crammed the narrow cobble stone streets of a landmark seaport and the closed lanes of a riverfront highway to watch the Macy's Fourth of July fireworks show in New York City.
A brilliant 25-minute show of reds, whites and blues lit up the sky from three barges on the East River, sandwiched between Brooklyn and lower Manhattan and even some from the Brooklyn Bridge itself.
AP PHOTOS: Americans celebrate July 4th with fireworks, hot dogs despite Hurricane Arthur
The United States marks 238 years as an independent nation as it celebrates the Fourth of July with fireworks, food and music, despite Hurricane Arthur crashing holiday parties along the East Coast.
Here's a look at some of the Independence Day celebrations that have taken place across the nation.
Follow AP photographers and photo editors on Twitter: http://apne.ws/XZy6ny
Video shows California officer punching woman; CHP vows open investigation
LOS ANGELES (AP) The California Highway Patrol has vowed to carry out a thorough investigation after a video emerged of one of its officers repeatedly punching a pinned down woman on the side of a Los Angeles freeway.
The woman had been walking on Interstate 10 west of downtown Los Angeles, endangering herself and people in traffic, and the officer was trying to restrain her, CHP Assistant Chief Chris O'Quinn said at a news conference. O'Quinn said the woman had begun walking off the freeway but returned when the confrontation occurred.
The video shows the woman struggling and trying to sit up while the officer punches her in the face and head until an off-duty law enforcement officer appears and helps him handcuff her.
Passing Driver David Diaz recorded the Tuesday incident and provided it to media outlets including The Associated Press. He told the AP in a phone interview Friday that he arrived as the woman was walking off the freeway. He said she turned around only after the officer shouted something to her.
"He agitated the situation more than helped it," said Diaz, who started filming soon after.
Sri Lanka's government accused of turning a blind eye to attacks against minority Muslims
ALUTHGAMA, Sri Lanka (AP) The attackers stormed in close to midnight, tearing through town with gasoline bombs and clubs before carting away piles of cash and jewelry they stole from Muslim families in this tiny corner of Sri Lanka.
The onslaught incited by the Bodu Bala Sena, or Buddhist Power Force, a hard-line group that has gained thousands of followers in recent years, killed at least two Muslims and injured dozens more last month in the worst religious violence Sri Lanka has seen in decades.
Now, President Mahinda Rajapaksa's government is under fire, accused of failing to protect Sri Lanka's tiny Muslim minority and allowing radical Buddhists spewing illegal hate speech to operate with impunity for years.
Critics of Rajapaksa's government say it has turned a blind eye to the violence as a way to shore up its core constituency the Sinhalese Buddhist population which makes up about 75 percent of Sri Lanka's 20 million people.
"At the root of the failure of the government to check the violence is electoral politics," said Jehan Perera, head of the National Peace Council, a local peace activist group in Sri Lanka. "If the Sinhalese voters feel insecure for any reason they will tend to vote for the present government, which is seen as strong and pro-Sinhalese."