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Ice on the Arctic Ocean has melted to its second-lowest level on record, according to researchers in Colorado who track this trend. The summertime melt coincides with a dramatic warming over the past decade, and it's already affecting wildlife in the Arctic Ocean.

The Arctic ice comes and goes with the seasons; typically about half of the wintertime ice melts away by mid-September. After that low point, the ice regrows. In 2007, the amount of ice left in September hit a dramatic low.

The newly formed congressional supercommittee's 12 members are charged with finding more than $1 trillion in budget savings this fall. Their clout could attract more campaign contributions, and lawmakers are demanding greater accountability for the money the panel's members take in.

Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) has a mixed voting record when it comes to campaign finance reform, but he is adamant about making the six Republicans and six Democrats on the deficit-reduction supercommittee more accountable.

Part two of a two-part report.

The gap in the wealth of white families and what's owned by blacks and Hispanics has widened in recent years. Researchers say it will widen even more unless steps are taken to break what's become a vicious cycle — the rich getting richer and the poor struggling to keep from falling further behind.

The city of San Francisco is taking one step to help even the playing field. Children entering the city's kindergartens are getting their own college savings accounts.

The families of two American hikers imprisoned in Iran received hopeful, and then wrenching news this week. Iran's president announced the two would be released, only to have the judiciary deny it the next day.

As President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad prepares to visit New York for the United Nations General Assembly, the political infighting among Iranian conservatives seems to be intensifying.

A partial shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration was averted right around 6:30 p.m., EST. That's when the U.S. Senate voted 92-6 in favor of a bill to temporarily extend funding for both the FAA and highway projects.

Sounds like an easy vote, right? Think again.

Things We Say Today And Owe To Shakespeare

Sep 15, 2011

A 20-year-old girl named Becky from London posted a picture of one the pages of her Moleskine notebook on Tumblr that, as they say, has gone viral and less than a week later is making waves across the Internet.

It's a simple thing: Becky wrote down, the "things we say today which we own to Shakespeare." It's phrases like "send him packing," "makes your hair stand on end," and "lie low."

The latest rhetorical artillery shell to be launched in the trench warfare between Washington Keynesians and supply-siders landed Thursday in the form of House Speaker John Boehner's speech to the Economic Club of Washington.

Something of a rebuttal to President Obama announcement of his jobs plan last week, a John Maynard Keynes-inspired stimulus in everything but name, Boehner didn't have nearly as catchy a hook as the president's "pass this bill."

Helle Thorning-Schmidt, of Denmark's center-left opposition, will become Denmark's first female prime minister. The Associated Press reports that the incumbent Lars Loekke Rasmussen conceded defeat with nearly all the votes counted.

"There is no parliamentary support for our government. Tomorrow (Friday) I will go to the queen at 11 o'clock and inform her of the outcome of the election and present the government's resignation," Rasmussen told Danish TV.

Nigeria's government had to step in, today, after a strange rumor started spreading across the country through text messages. The Nigerian Communications Commission issued a statement saying that receiving a call from the number 09141 cannot kill you.

The BBC reports that the text message warned that between seven and 10 people had died because of the phone call. The BBC adds:

This week, Sarah Palin kept the guessing game about her White House intentions alive.

(Still thinking about it, she told her employer, Fox News, and, by the way, the media is not the boss of her timetable.)

She weighed in on the Republican presidential debate.

She took to task her old buddy and White House hopeful, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, for his past support of a program to vaccinate girls against a sexually transmitted and potentially cancer-causing disease.

Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan would seem to be an unlikely icon for the Palestinians. Yet he is all the rage these days in the Palestinian territories. His picture is everywhere, even in places you would never expect it.

"All your receipts, all your notepads, everything has the picture of Erdogan," says Abdul Rahman Marra, a grocery store owner in the West Bank.

Mara then gestures to the posters of Erdogan on the walls. The Turkish leader stood up to Israel and defended Palestinian rights, Marra says, calling Erdogan the best leader in the Muslim world.

Menus at Olive Garden and Red Lobster are about to get a health makeover. Darden Restaurants, which owns the brands, is the latest corporation to collaborate with First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! campaign aimed ending childhood obesity.

Who Will Pay To Fix That Bridge In Ohio?

Sep 15, 2011

The gun-metal colored bridge spanning the Ohio River opened almost a half century ago with an 85,000 vehicle per day capacity. Today it carries nearly twice that and is rated functionally obsolete by the National Bridge Inventory.

As part of his jobs creation plan, President Obama will be making a trip to a bridge next week. You may not have heard of it, but the chances are you own a lot of things that have been across it. It's one of the busiest trucking routes in North America.

For 17 years, Linda and Roger Ward lived in their two-story dream house in a subdivision in Bastrop County, southeast of Austin, Texas. They loved to sit on their back deck and listen to the wind in the pines.

On the afternoon of Sunday, Sept. 4, everything changed.

A lot of parents might be worried about what's in their kids' sippy cups if they caught a recent report by TV talk show host Dr. Mehmet Oz about high levels of arsenic in popular brands of apple juice.

But the Food and Drug Administration and medical experts are attacking Oz's report, saying it's inaccurate and needlessly panics parents.

Presidential candidate Rick Perry's ties to campaign donors came under more scrutiny this week when he was challenged during Monday's Tea Party debate.

Perry defended taking a contribution from a drug company and then mandating use of the company's new vaccine. "I raised about $30 million, and if you're saying I can be bought for $5,000, I'm offended," he said.

Actually, the drug company, Merck, has given Perry $28,500 overall. But that's still pocket change compared with what Perry's truly big donors have given.

The economic indicators may all say that the United States is out of recession. But what is it like in the real world?

NPR's Robert Siegel traveled to Chillicothe, Ohio. Robert had visited in the fall of 2008, when the unemployment rate was 8 percent; he travelled there in January of 2010, when it was 12 percent. Today, it's 10.4 percent.

David Keith is a bit fidgety. Maybe that's because venture capitalists have asked to come see his carbon dioxide machine. Maybe it's because the project is running months behind schedule, as experiments so often do. Maybe it's because his critics say it'll never work.

Or maybe it's a taste of excitement, because it seems entirely possible that the trailer-truck-size machine that he's leaning up against is actually going to work.

"It's amazing to see all this talk and paper get turned into hardware," he says. "I really love it."

The pediatricians are on a roll. A federal judge in Florida has issued an injunction blocking a state law that would make doctors think twice before asking patients about guns.

Why would your doctor or your child's doctor want to know if you have guns at home? Well, having one in the house is a health risk. And the doctors want to be able to talk over those risks, and how to mitigate them.

A trillion is a huge number — when you're talking dollars or euros. But a trillion miles is not so much in the cosmic scheme of things. Astronomers say they've now found a planet that orbits two suns a mere thousand trillion miles from here. It's yet another example of a weird solar system being discovered around nearby stars.

Two years ago, NASA launched the Kepler observatory to look for Earth-like planets beyond our own solar system. It has found more than 1,000 apparent planets around distant suns.

"For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty," U.S. Marine Dakota Meyer was just presented with the nation's highest honor for valor on the battlefield. He's the first living Marine since the Vietnam War to receive the Medal of Honor.

Bomb Explodes At Funeral In Pakistan

Sep 15, 2011

At least 31 people, including three children, were killed Thursday in an attack at a funeral service in a Pakistani village near the Afghan border; 75 others were wounded.

According to Police Chief Saleem Khan, a suicide bomber walked up to the crowd of about 200 mourners in the northwest village of Lower Dir and detonated his explosives.

Police say the funeral was for Bakhat Khan, a member of the Mashwani tribe, which is reputed to be rabidly anti-Taliban. Residents near the scene of the bombing have raised volunteer militias against the Taliban.

For most of us, the idea of dinosaurs covered in feathers is still something we're getting used to. It's the same with the idea that they weren't olive-colored creatures, but instead were imbued in a wide array of pigments.

Today, brings news that thumbnail-sized feathers found preserved in amber are telling scientists some new things about these glorious creatures. First, it opens a window — as old as 85 million years — into the evolution of their feathers and secondly it gives scientists a better idea of what they looked like.

The world's major central banks are so worried about Europe's debt crisis that they are moving to shore up eurozone banks. The troubled banks hold billions in sovereign debt of Greece, Spain, Portugal and other struggling countries.

Left unchecked, this crisis could spill over into the U.S. economy. Here's how Europe's troubles could migrate to the U.S. and the rest of the world.

There was a funny moment during House Speaker John Boehner's appearance at The Economic Club of Washington a few minutes ago.

Asked if he might be a possible Republican vice presidential nominee in 2012, Boehner — who's known for his habit of tearing up — joked that it's unlikely he'd be good for that job:

"It's hard enough for me to go to funerals of people I know, much less don't know."

The beleaguered U.S. Postal Service, which is facing losses of up to $10 billion in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, today proposed what it says are "sweeping changes designed to save the organization up to $3 billion a year by cutting its network of processing facilities by over half and adjusting service standards."

Into The Wild: Alaskan Train Caters To The Intrepid

Sep 15, 2011

There aren't many rules on the train called the Hurricane Turn. Dogs roam the aisles and sit next to their owners on the seats. The baggage car doors are wide open, even when the train is moving.

"Oh yeah, this is like the best job in the whole railroad, you bet," says conductor Wade Sherwood.

The Hurricane Turn is one of the last whistle-stop trains in the U.S. — trains that allow travelers to hop on and off where they choose. With tight schedules to keep, most train operators have abandoned them.

The Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) stood by its decision of a life-time ban against Mohamed bin Hamman, the former Executive Committee member and FIFA presidential candidate.

The newest opinion host on cable news channel MSNBC is the Rev. Al Sharpton, a figure much better known for a past in which he cast more heat than light.

F. Scott Fitzgerald notwithstanding, Sharpton is now on at least his third act in public life: as a civil rights activist with a history of divisive and confrontational tactics; an increasingly accepted player in Democratic Party politics; and now, cable news pundit and host of PoliticsNation, which airs weeknights at 6.

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