Monday, June 27, 2011

North Dakota opens recovery centers for flood victims

Three recovery centers will open Monday in North Dakota -- two in Minot and one in Bismarck -- for residents in the throes of record-settings floods.

Residents can visit the locations to find out about assistance programs and have their questions answered, Gov. Jack Dalrymple said. But, he said, it is not necessary for residents to visit the centers to register for disaster assistance, which can be done by telephone or online.

Dalrymple said a tour of the area Sunday was "sobering, to say the least."

The Souris River at Minot crested at 1,561.72 feet above sea level Sunday morning, the National Weather Service said -- below earlier predictions but still almost 4 feet above an 1881 record. Water levels had fallen to 1,561.4 feet by early Monday, according to the weather service website.

"At this point, the river has had its crest so far in Minot, but a number of locations downstream still have some high water yet to come," said Richard Kinney, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Bismarck, North Dakota.

A boil-water order, issued as a precaution Saturday, remained in effect. Minot officials told residents that tap water should be boiled for at least a minute before consuming in order to kill any dangerous organisms.

Republican Rep. Rick Berg said he had been in touch with officials in Washington -- which has authorized FEMA to grant assistance -- and expressed optimism that the government will work well with residents to overcome the challenges.

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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Barack Obama pulling troops back to home from Afghanistan

Beginning to wind down a long and devastating war, President Barack Obama announced Wednesday night he was pulling home 33,000 troops from Afghanistan by next summer, withdrawing the "surge" of forces he had sent to rescue a flailing effort. Said Obama to a country eager for an exit: "The tide of war is receding."

A total of 10,000 troops will leave the war zone by the end of this year - fulfilling Obama's promise - and more than 20,000 additional forces will leave by the summer of 2012, shortly before the president will go before voters in search of a second term.

Still, almost 70,000 U.S. troops will remain in an unstable country, fighting in a war bound to see more Americans killed. Obama said they will leave at a steady pace, but the U.S. combat mission is not expected to end until December 2014 - and even then, a sizable and enduring contingent may remain in a different role.

Obama's announcement from the White House came in a perilous political environment, with Americans soured on the war and the economy, many members of Congress pushing him to get troops home even faster, and his Republican presidential rivals taking shots at his leadership at every chance. Conceding the economic strain of waging war at a time of rising debt and fiscal constraint, Obama said it was time for America "to focus on nation building here at home."

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