U.S. Politics

5 things you need to know now 1-28-2015

At a demonstration in Amman, Youssef al-Kasasbeh, right, the father of the Jordanian air force pilot captured by Islamic State militants in Syria, called for Jordan to make the exchange | Credit European Pressphoto Agency
Note: It seems I’m no longer receiving The Week’s “10 things…” report in my email so I have to settled for their public version which has been cut down to “5 Things…”

The Week

1.  Jordan agrees to swap jailed terrorist for ISIS hostage

On Wednesday, Jordan said it has offered to hand convicted terrorist Sajida al-Rishawi to Islamic State in exchange for a Jordanian air force pilot captured by ISIS, First Lt. Moaz al-Kasasbeh. ISIS had threatened to kill Kasasbeh and a Japanese journalist today if their demands weren’t met. Jordan’s statement didn’t mention the Japanese hostage, Kenji Goto. Earlier Wednesday, Kasasbeh’s father had angrily urged Jordan’s King Abdullah II to make the exchange.

Source: The New York Times

2.  New England digs out after blizzard

Despite an underwhelming snowfall in New York City, Boston and the surrounding parts of New England received plenty of snow on Tuesday — some parts of the region received almost three feet of snow. At midnight on Wednesday, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker lifted the state travel ban, and Boston’s MBTA transit system has resumed service. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said he hoped the city’s major roads would be cleared on Wednesday morning so the snow emergency could be lifted.

Source: Fox News, The Associated Press

3.  2 Israeli soldiers dead in Hezbollah attack on military convoy

Two Israeli soldiers were killed and 7 were wounded in a missile attack on an Israeli convoy in a disputed area near the Israel-Lebanon border, IDF officials said. Hezbollah has since claimed responsibility for the attack.

After the attack, Israel sent helicopters and fired at least 35 artillery shells into Lebanon, according to Lebanese security officials. Earlier Wednesday, Israeli jets hit Syrian military artillery posts, apparently in retaliation for Tuesday’s Syrian rocket attack into the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

Source: Reuters, The New York Times

4.  Obama drops plan to cut tax benefits on 529 savings accounts

On Tuesday, President Obama dropped his proposal to remove the ability for people to withdraw money tax-free from 529 college savings plans. The White House faced criticism from parents and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, who said the accounts are one of the best ways for families to save for college. Officials say the backlash became “such a distraction” that they decided to abandon the plan.

Source: The Washington Post

5.  Apple smashes revenue expectations behind massive iPhone sales

Apple Inc. on Tuesday reported a record profit for the last fiscal quarter, which ended Dec. 27, thanks in part to enormous sales totals of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. The tech giant sold 74.5 million iPhones in that three-month span, a 44 percent spike from the same quarter last year. The sales surge helped the company post $74.6 billion in quarterly revenue — a 30 percent increase from last year’s $57.6 billion haul, and well above the roughly $67.7 billion analysts expected.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

New England · Winter Storm Nemo

New England Snow Storm: Northeast Braces For Possibly Record-Setting Weather

Could this be the snow blizzard version of Hurricane Sandy?

The Huffington Post

New England braced on Thursday for a possibly record-setting winter storm, with forecasts of up to 2 feet (60 cm) of snow already causing airlines to cancel thousands of flights and utilities to prepare for power outages.

The storm was blowing in from the Midwest where it began dropping snow on the Chicago area on Thursday afternoon. It was due to bring light snow to the Northeastern United States on Friday morning before ramping up to blizzard conditions by afternoon.

In Boston, which was expected to see some of the heaviest snowfall, Mayor Thomas Menino ordered the city’s schools to close on Friday and urged businesses to consider allowing staff to stay home, to reduce the risk of commuters getting stranded.

“We are hardy New Englanders, let me tell you, and used to these types of storms. But I also want to remind everyone to use common sense and stay off the streets of our city. Basically, stay home,” Menino told reporters. “Stay put after noontime tomorrow.”

City officials up and down the northeastern United States were bracing for the storm, readying fleets of plows and salt trucks to keep streets clear, while airport officials advised travelers to try to reschedule flights ahead of the storm.

The National Weather Service said Boston could get 18 to 24 inches of snow (45 to 60 cm) on Friday and Saturday, its first heavy snowfall in two years. Light snow is expected to begin falling around 7 a.m. EST (1200 GMT) on Friday, with heavier snow and winds gusting as high as 60 to 75 miles per hour (95 to 120 km per hour) as the day progresses.

“It’s the afternoon rush-hour time frame into the evening and overnight when the height of the storm will be,” said Kim Buttrick, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Taunton, Massachusetts.

Cities from Hartford, Connecticut, to Portland, Maine, expected to see at least a foot of snow.

Airlines have already canceled more than 2,200 flights planned for Friday, according to the website Flight Aware.com, with the largest number of cancellations at airports in Newark, New York, Chicago  .

Nearly 500 flights have been canceled for Saturday, according to the flight-tracking site.

Officials at airports across the region warned travelers to expect more delays and cancellations on Friday.

Continue here…


breakingweather @ breakingweather : MT @nwsboston: Don’t forget coastal flooding & very high seas a big issue with this storm. http://t.co/mJOwBM5I
1:58 AM – Today
CNN @ CNN : Over 3,000 flights in U.S. canceled Friday and Saturday because of blizzard.http://t.co/zIEsJn3b
1:11 AM – Today
EricHolthaus @ EricHolthaus : Other meteorologists (including myself) are impressed at the storm’s *current* appearance. Explosive growth phase just getting started.
12:47 AM – Today
weatherchannel @ weatherchannel : Development of nor’easter occurring right now off the South Carolina coast. #blizzard #Nemo http://t.co/mJ0QfgFm
This Week · Winter Storm Nemo

Everything you need to know about Winter Storm Nemo

A winter storm is coming — and it’s not going to be anywhere near as cute as its namesake.

FYI for our New England friends and beyond. The Week explains it all…

The Week

February 7, 2013

A storm of “historic” proportions is set to sweep across the northeastern United States, beginning with light flurries on Thursday night and lasting through Saturday evening. The powerful winter weather system is expected to dump snow, sleet, rain, and hurricane-force winds from Connecticut all the way up to Maine. Start stocking up on food and supplies; things could get pretty ugly out there. Here, everything you need to know about Winter Storm Nemo, 2013’s first nor’easter:

How much snow are we talking about?
The National Weather Service says that southern New England, which will get the brunt of the storm, could see anywhere from 18 to 24 inches between Friday and Saturday. Suffolk County in New York is under blizzard watch, as are parts of Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, reports The Associated Press. New York City is expecting slightly less snow — somewhere between 4 and 6 inches. The storm could be as bad as the historic blizzard of 1978, which dumped more than 2 feet of snow and blew through New England with hurricane-level winds. A few analysts say Nemo could be one of the 10 most powerful storms in the history of the region.

What kind of damage are forecasters anticipating?
The area could see “widespread power outages with winds of this force,” says Weather.com. Highways will likely be paralyzed by rush hour come Friday evening (so plan your commute accordingly). And communities in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Long Island could see some coastal flooding as well. In the below report, The Weather Channel gives Nemo a 10 out of 10 on its winter storm index:

So flying is out of the question then?
Most likely, yes. Delta, Jet Blue, US Airways, and American Airlines are already planning ahead, offering customers a chance to change their flights one time without additional fees.

Why is this storm so nasty?
Nemo is actually the convergence of two pressure systems: One traveling east across the Great Lakes, and another coming up from the south. On Thursday night, half the storm will move through Lower Michigan and continue into upstate New York. By Friday night, prepare for the worst: Heavy snow, rain, and strong winds will start blanketing New England, upstate New York, and the Lower Hudson Valley. These conditions will persist into Saturday.

Why is it called Nemo?
The Winter Storm Team dubbed the storm “Nemo” because of its potential impact. In Greek, Nemo is a boy’s name meaning “from the valley.” In Latin, however, the name means “nobody.” “The fact is, a storm with a name is easier to follow, which will mean fewer surprises and more preparation,” said Bryan Norcross of the Weather Channel.


U.S. Politics

10 things you need to know today: December 30, 2012

A pedestrian walks down Main Street in Greenfield, Mass., on Dec. 27 when an earlier storm hit the region before this weekend's snowfall.

The Week

In taped remarks for NBC’s Meet the Press, President Obama said that Republicans “have had trouble saying yes to a number of repeated offers” to avoid raising taxes on the middle class, adding that “now the pressure is on Congress to produce.” Unless lawmakers act by midnight on Monday, a set of tax increases and spending cuts will automatically be imposed on Jan. 1, which would affect virtually every taxpayer and government program. On Fox News Sunday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said “hats off to the president,” because “he is going to get his tax rate increases” on wealthy Americans. Obama’s last offer to Republicans included keeping tax cuts for all Americans except those making more than $400,000. But Republicans were seeking more cuts to programs like Medicare and unemployment benefits, which has remained a point of contention in negotiations. [New York TimesBuzzFeed]

A young Indian woman who died Saturday from the injuries she sustained from being gang-raped and battered on a New Delhi bus on Dec. 16 has been cremated. Her body had just been flown back to India from Singapore, where she had been transferred for treatment. The woman’s body was met at the airport by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi, head of the ruling Congress party, as officials have seen an outpouring of anger and grief by millions across the country demanding greater protection for women from sexual violence. Six suspects who were arrested for allegedly perpetrating the attack were charged with murder on Saturday. The men face the death penalty if convicted. [Associated Press]

A winter storm that began Saturday afternoon and ended early Sunday blanketed parts of New England with up to a foot of snow. Six to 12 inches of snow fell in Rhode Island, eastern Connecticut, and eastern Massachusetts. The storm spread over the Northeast and parts of Ohio just days after the regions was hit by another storm that moved in from the nation’s midsection. [Associated Press]

Lakdhar Brahimi, the international envoy to Syria, warned Sunday that as many as 100,000 Syrians could die in the next year if a solution to the country’s civil war is not found. Activists say that more than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict, which began in March 2011. Over the past week Brahimi went to Damascus where he met President Bashar al-Assad then flew to Moscow, one of Syria’s closest international allies, where he discussed ways of ending the country’s crisis. “The situation in Syria is bad. Very, very bad,” Brahimi said after meeting Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby. “The situation is deteriorating.” [Associated Press]

New York City woman Erika Menendez, 31, was charged with murder as a hate crime for allegedly pushing Sunando Sen in front of a 7 train in Queens on Thursday. Sen was crushed to death by the oncoming train. Menendez told police that she has hated Hindus and Muslims since Sept. 11 and pushed Sen because she thought he was Muslim. Sen, 46, was from India but it is unclear whether he was either Hindu or Muslim. Menendez could face 25 years to life in prison if convicted. This was the second subway-pushing death this month, though such incidents are generally rare. [CBS News]

The flu season in the United States has made its earliest debut in a decade, say the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which could make this flu season severe. In early December, the CDC said it was noticing an uptick in flu activity about a month before authorities normally see it. But officials said the vaccine formulated for this year is well-matched to the strains of the virus seen so far and urged those who have not been vaccinated to get a flu shot. [Washington Post]

Former President George H.W. Bush was moved out of intensive care at The Methodist Hospital in Houston on Saturday. Bush was hospitalized Nov. 23 for treatment of a bronchitis-related cough. He was moved to intensive care on Dec. 23 after he developed a fever. Bush, 88, is the country’s oldest living former president. [Associated Press]

Officials have found the bodies of 21 Pakistani tribal policemen in the Jabai area of Peshawar. The men, who were believed to have been kidnapped by the Taliban, were found shot to death. The policemen disappeared on Thursday when militants attacked two posts in the region. Meanwhile, in southwest Pakistan, a suicide bomber driving a bus packed with explosives rammed into a bus carrying Shiite Muslim pilgrims, killing 19 people. Pakistan has experienced a spike in killings over the last year by radical Sunni Muslims targeting Shiites who they consider heretics. [Associated Press (2)]

Amateur video of a Russian plane crash shows part of the passenger aircraft crashing into a highway, debris flying onto the road, before five people aboard were killed. The video shows a car swerving after the impact then straightening and continuing down the highway. Behind that car is the vehicle which had the camera, capturing the scene for just over 30 seconds. That driver dodged most of the debris and managed to pull over and stop. The plane, which is owned by the Russian airline Red Wings was carrying eight people, all of them crew members, when it careered off the runway Saturday while landing at Moscow’s Vnukovo Airport. The plane was traveling from the Czech Republic. [CBC News]

As part of her new multimillion dollar partnership with Pepsi, singer Beyoncé has asked her fans to submit photos of themselves to be featured in a TV ad promoting her Super Bowl halftime show performance on Feb. 3. Of those who submit pictures by Jan. 19, 50 will be given a pair of tickets to join the singer onstage at the Superdome in New Orleans. [MTV]

Regulatory Affairs

Meningitis outbreak: Massachusetts agencies ‘failed to enforce regulations’ on big pharma

Meningitis outbreak screenshot 100612

There seems to be little doubt in my mind that the Massachusetts agencies in question have a lot of explaining to do but my focus is on the corporations who have resisted regulatory oversight for a very long time.

One of the more vociferous  GOP talking points is less government intrusion and regulations on corporations.

Yet, this is just one small example of the consequence of such twisted logic.  A Laissez-Faire approach to government causes more problems, not less.

The real tragedy is that corporations have little sympathy for the  tragic results of their callousness toward rejecting regulations and it’s affect on the population.

The Raw Story

State agencies are facing questions over the enforcement of existing regulations covering compounding pharmacies like the New England Compounding Center

Authorities in Massachusetts have been accused of failing to properly enforce regulations aimed at protecting patients from contaminated drugs, after the death toll from an outbreak of meningitis linked to a medicine made in the state rose to 14.

The specialised compounding pharmacy at the centre of the escalating health scandal is being investigated for breaches of state and federal laws.

A patient from Minnesota, one of almost 14,000 patients at risk of contracting the disease after being injected with the potentially tainted steroid produced by New England Compounding Center, has filed what is expected to be the first of many lawsuits against the company.

Now state agencies are facing questions over their enforcement of existing regulations. On Friday, a congressional committee called on the state’s pharmacy regulator to provide information about its oversight of the company.

Massachusetts is one of just 17 states with regulations designed to protect patients from the sort of health scare which has now spread to 11 states. Two former compounding pharmacists who now work in the quality control industry told the Guardian that the risk to patients would have been minimal had the regulations, known as USP 797, been enforced.

“It’s abysmal that the local authorities are calling for greater oversight” said Eric Kastango, a committee member of US Pharmacopeia (USP), the industry body behind regulations governing compounding sterile drugs. “If someone just enforced Massachusetts law, these cases could have been avoided. They failed in their responsibility for enforcing what they already had.”

The scale of the outbreak makes it by far the worst of a series of fatal infections and overdoses connected to specialised “compounding” pharmacies.

Corporations are not “people too, my friend.”  They don’t get sick, or bleed or contract illnesses from their own callousness.

Continue reading here…

Sarah Palin

Palin: Bus Tour Not Canceled

Looks like Sarah Palin is saying….”not so fast, lamestream media!”

Associated Press (AP)

Sarah Palin is disputing online reports that she has canceled her bus tour of historic American sites, saying in a Facebook posting that her schedule will be tight the next few weeks because she’s been called for jury duty.

Palin said Wednesday that her “One Nation” bus tour would resume “when the time comes.” She added that she’s looking forward “to hitting the open road again.”

The 2008 vice presidential candidate traveled from Washington, D.C. to New England by bus in May in a trip that generated intense interest and fueled speculation about her national ambitions.

Palin is among the top tier of potential 2012 presidential candidates in polls of Republican voters. She has said she plans to visit Iowa, where the state’s caucuses begin the nominating season next year.

GOP · GOP Agenda · GOP Cluelessness · GOP Folly · GOP Hate-Mongering · GOP Hubris · GOP Lies · GOP Malfeasance · GOP Obstructionism · GOP Radicalism · Muslim Americans

With All Eyes On Capitol Hill, Muslims Watch Warily

I’m actually too outraged at this show of Un-American activity in the House to comment…

Huffington Post

They were moved when the first Muslim elected to Congress shed tears for a Muslim who died trying to save others on 9/11. They were irked by accusations from House members and annoyed when fellow Muslims maligned their faith.

At times they were an “Amen” corner. At other moments, they jeered and glared at the images beamed live from Capitol Hill.

But for the most part, the dozen Muslims gathered here on Thursday (March 10) at the home of a local grassroots activist sat silently as they watched the House Homeland Security Committee’s hearing on “the extent of radicalization in the American Muslim Community.”

The hearings, spearheaded by Chairman Peter King, drew loud protests from many U.S. Muslims before they even started. Too many politicians are blaming too many Muslims for the heinous actions of a few, they said.

In Boston, Aatif Harden went to New England’s largest mosque to watch, a facility that opened in 2009 after years of resistance from locals.

Harden, active in the Muslim American Society, had anticipated at least a few friends would join him at the mosque. But they were too busy with work or school, he said, to spend time watching Washington.

Malik Khan, president of the Islamic Center of Boston in Wayland, Mass., was among of those who skipped the viewing party. “Sometimes I think the hell with it,” he said. “We do so many good things, and people still just want to demonize us.”

So Harden watched the hearings alone. He didn’t say much, until Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., accused the Council on American-Islamic Relations of terrorist sympathies.

“All of this stuff is old,” he said. “What’s an unindicted co-conspirator anyways? What the hell is that?”

The feeling was much the same back in Virginia, where 28-year-old Salah Ayoubi called similar charges from King “ridiculous.” Saba Baig, a 34-year-old home-schooling mother, called CAIR, a Muslim civil rights group with chapters across the country, “our biggest voice.”


Holiday Snow

Major winter storm barrels up East Coast

We actually had a brief “white” Christmas here in Atlanta.  Snow fell here about 4:00 pm on Christmas Day.  It lasted for about a half hour.  The kids were excited, but couldn’t go outside because they all had colds. 

At about 5:30 pm it started to rain and what little snow accumulated had quickly disappeared.

Yahoo News

A winter storm that brought a rare white Christmas to parts of the South was barreling up the East Coast early Sunday, with forecasters predicting 6 to 10 inches of snow for Washington and blizzard conditions for New York City and New England.

Airlines canceled hundreds of Sunday flights in the Northeast corridor, with more likely to come as the storm intensifies.

Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina declared states of emergency early Sunday or Saturday night. As North Carolina road crews tried to clear snowy and icy highways, Mid-Atlantic officials spent Christmas Day preparing for up to a foot of snow, plunging temperatures and high winds.

“Our concern is tomorrow it’s going to get significantly colder,” Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell told The Weather Channel on Saturday evening. “Winds with gusts up to 45 miles per hour will cause blowing snow and that’s going to cause the worst of it … and we’re urging extreme caution in travel. Try to get home early and if you don’t have to travel don’t go.”   More…

Meg Whitman

Meg Whitman’s Sons’ Racism and Entitlement Were Stuff of Legend


Meg Whitman‘s sons, Griff and Will Harsh, have been kicked out of prep schools, an eating club, dormitories, and Princeton’s class of 2008, say people who know them. One incident involving the n-word is already internet famous.

Yesterday we documented big brother Griff’s beer-throwing and sheltered ways. Today, a glimpse at Will Harsh’s little brother blues—and how he compensated with white entitlement, according to a tipster/commenter and classmate:

Griff’s non-refundable membership to Cottage [eating club] was paid in full when he got suspended. So some of the officers would let Will attend some meals and formals events in his brother’s place until Will got banned from there.

The story goes that Will yelled “what are all these niggers doing here” one night when all the members of the Black Arts Company where there to celebrate a show they had performed. Cottage is known as one of the whiter clubs on campus so I assume that he was shocked to see so many black people there in a night. He was already on notice with Cottage officers because of an altercation he started with a bouncer early in the year.

This account varies from Guest of a Guest’s version, which has Will hurling the n-word at a specific person. Unless, of course, there was more than one epithet-related ban?

Sources say Will was kicked out of two prep schools (one New England boarding school and one local private school) and was eventually forced to endure the humiliation of—gasp!—public high school.

While we’re on the subject of scholarship, here’s another item on Griff, which is actually quite sad:

Griff didn’t walk at graduation. I was one of the students working the checkout fair and was responsible for giving students their cap/gowns. Griff wouldn’t take one because he said that he would be traveling.

Sure, walking at graduation is overrated, especially if it’s outdoors and you’re trapped in the sun in one of those awful, heavy black gowns. But there’s something profound about the scion of one of the university’s most generous and celebrated donors declining to walk. Was it too embarrassing? To him, or to his mother? (And, more powerfully: Why?) Or did Griff simply not care enough to move his vacation back a couple days? By his senior year, Griff may have tuned out on campus life, anyway—he had allegedly been banned from living in the dorms, including the $30M residential complex his mother built.

Continuing reading…