February 1st, 2011
By Barry Secrest
"I Love My Yob"....
February 1st, 2011
CHICAGO — A winter weather colossus roared into the nation's heartland Tuesday, laying down a paralyzing punch of dangerous ice and whiteout snow that served notice from Texas to Maine that the storm billed as the worst in decades could live up to the hype.
Ice-covered streets were deserted in Super Bowl host city Dallas. Whiteouts shut down Oklahoma City and Tulsa. And more was on the way. Chicago expected 2 feet of snow, Indianapolis an inch of ice, and the Northeast still more ice and snow in what's shaping up to be a record winter for the region.
The system that stretched more than 2,000 miles across a third of the country promised to leave in its aftermath a chilly cloak of teeth-chattering cold, with temperatures in the single digits or lower.
Winds topped 60 mph in Texas. The newspaper in Tulsa, Okla., canceled its print edition for the first time in more than a century. In Chicago, public schools called a snow day for the first time in 12 years, and both major airports gave up on flying until at least Wednesday afternoon.
The storm also led Chicago officials to close the city's busy and iconic Lake Shore Drive while crews tried to plow snow Tuesday night. City officials said the move was temporary but that they could have to close it again if high winds push 25-foot waves from nearby Lake Michigan onto the roadway.
Everyone "should brace for a storm that will be remembered for a long time," said Jose Santiago, executive director of the city's office of emergency management.
Cities across middle America shut down hours ahead of the snow. Scores of schools, colleges and government offices canceled activities or decided not to open at all. Large sections of busy Midwest interstates were closed, and 9,000 flights had been canceled across the nation.
Advice to stay home was followed widely. Thousands of office workers in Chicago's famous downtown Loop district left early to avoid any transit troubles. Pete Donaghue, a 49-year-old commodity trader, missed an early train before catching a 2:35 p.m. ride to suburban Wilmette.
"Big mistake," he said. "I'd be home right now, with my feet up, clicker in hand."
At the city's elegant apartment buildings closest to Lake Michigan, employees weren't fazed by the storm, but they kept an eye on the lakefront nonetheless. The wind was strong enough outside one building's lobby to send the heavy revolving door spinning by itself.
"This is nothing to play with here. This is gale-force wind," doorman Edward Butler said as he peered outside at snow blowing horizontally and in small cyclones.
The management at Butler's building called in extra employees for the storm. They bought the staff dinner and offered to put them up for the night at a nearby hotel, but Butler planned to drive home no matter what.
"If you're a true Chicagoan, you don't back down from this kind of storm." But, he added, "if you don't respect it, you'll pay a price."
In Missouri, more than a foot of snow had fallen by midday, with no end in sight. For the first time in history, the state of Missouri shut down Interstate 70 between St. Louis and Kansas City due to a winter storm.
"The roads are just pure white. There's no traffic. Nothing," said Kristi Strait, who was working at Clinton Discount Building Materials in Clinton, Mo.
Meteorologist Jeff Johnson of the National Weather Service in Des Moines said the storm was sure to "cripple transportation for a couple of days." The snow and the wind were a dangerous combination, even in areas where not that much snow was expected.
"You don't want to get caught out in the rural areas in your vehicle in this storm. It's a good night to stay home," he said.
The storm was so bad in Polk County, 200 miles west of St. Louis, that emergency officials requested help from the National Guard because local officials did not have enough vehicles to get the elderly and shut-ins to shelter if the power went out.
In state capitols across the Midwest and East, lawmakers cut short their workweek because of the storm. Normally bustling downtown streets were quiet, too. And many stores were closed, with signs on the windows blaming the weather.
Others didn't let the weather keep them from work. The bakery Chez Monet in downtown Jefferson City was open, adding hot oatmeal for chilled customers. Owner Joan Fairfax said she road to work without trouble. She wasn't sure about her ride home, but said she could walk if necessary.
"I have never missed a day of work because of weather in 20 years," said Fairfax, 54.
The leading edge of the storm slammed first into Texas and Oklahoma after moving out of the Rockies. The blizzard halted production of the print edition of Wednesday's Tulsa World, marking the first time in the paper's nearly 106-year history that is has not published an edition.
Both of Oklahoma's major airports were closed. Outside Tulsa, at the Hard Rock Casino, the snow caused the partial collapse of a roof, but no injuries were reported.
In Texas, thousands of people lost electricity during the frigid conditions. Utility company Oncor reported nearly 27,000 customers without power statewide, with nearly half of the outages in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
St. Louis-based AmerenUE had 1,100 linemen on standby, some borrowed from companies in other states. Six trailers stocked with wire, replacement lines and other supplies were dispatched to possible trouble spots.
Few immediate outages were reported. But Chip Webb, Ameren's superintendent of reliability support services, expected that to change.
"There is ice on the lines," and it could be there for days, Webb said.
For those who insisted on braving the elements, the risks were many. "If you don't have enough fuel in your vehicle, you can run out, the heat goes out – and people can even freeze to death," said Greg Cohen, executive director of the Roadway Safety Foundation.
The storm was expected to roll into the Northeast on Wednesday, bringing still more snow to a winter-weary region. Towns that have been hit by several blizzards since December feared they wouldn't have anywhere to put more snow.
Ice-coated roads were nearly empty in Dallas, where the few motorists who braved the unfamiliar terrain slowed to a crawl as they passed jack-knifed tractor-trailers on slick highways. The NFL managed to stick to its Super Bowl schedule, holding media activities at Cowboys Stadium in suburban Arlington as planned.
Green Bay Packers fans Dieter Sturm and Mark Madson postponed plans to drive from Wisconsin to the Super Bowl in a Cadillac convertible, but said they planned to leave Wednesday morning if possible.
"We love driving in the snow," said Sturm, who works making snow for movies and commercials. "We love having the snow fall on top of us. We're from Wisconsin. We can handle that without a problem. The icy roads are another story."
The pair said they have personal heating systems, including clothes dryer hoses laced inside their jackets that rest beneath their chins to keep their "faces from freezing solid," Sturm said.
In Ryan Stratton's house in the northern Oklahoma town of Bartlesville, nine children and nine adults crowded together to play video games, at least as long as the electricity stayed on.
The area tends to lose electricity in storms, Stratton said, and that's one reason he invited two other families to join him while waiting for this one to pass. They prepared by stocking up on propane and food, but a power outage would cut out some of the fun.
"We've got Rock Band, a PlayStation 3 in one room, a Wii in another, an old PS2 in another," Stratton said. "And we've got cable. ... It's a good chaos today."
More From Huffington Rep. Dennis "UFO" Kucinich:
More From Huffington
Rep. Dennis "UFO" Kucinich:
February 1st, 2011
The Daily Caller
TheDC Exclusive – The Obama administration snubbed top GOP oversight official Rep. Darrell Issa on his first major document deadline as new chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, sending a short letter promising to comply in response to a major information request that was due Saturday at noon.
But Issa is hitting back Tuesday with a demand key documents be sent in two days.
The Obama snub is the first sign of how the administration will respond to demands for documents and testimony by key officials from Republicans in control of the House now that the GOP holds the power of congressional subpoena.
A Jan. 28 letter from the Department of Homeland Security promised to cooperate with Issa’s document request sent Jan. 14 – but Issa’s deadline for the documents expired the next day.
“I asked DHS to produce this information by Jan. 29 – two weeks from the date of my second letter,” Issa says in his Feb. 1 reply to the deadline snub, “The department gave no indication that it would not be able to comply with the deadline.”
Further, Issa charges that top DHS officials actually instructed career employees not to search for the documents he is requesting.
“I was disappointed to learn that on or about Jan. 20, 2011, DHS’s Office of General Counsel instructed career staff in the Privacy Office not to search for documents responsive to my request,” Issa says in the Feb. 1 letter.
Issa is requesting documents from DHS about political interference with Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to the agency.
In July, the Associated Press reported top DHS officials told career employees to steer sensitive FOIA requests to Obama’s political advisers for unusual scrutiny.
FOIA requests by lawmakers, watchdog groups and journalists were subjected to the special political reviews.
In his response to the deadline snub, Issa demands a set of key documents in two days, including e-mails between key DHS officials and the Obama White House.
Issa says the e-mails should be easy to find because all White House staff use similar e-mail addresses.
“As you know, e-mail to and from the White House is identifiable by the handle ‘@who.eop.gov’,” Issa says.
Further, Issa requests transcribed interviews with six top DHS officials about the issue, including Noah Kroloff, chief of staff to DHS Sec. Janet Napolitano. The interviews are set to begin the week of Feb. 7.
The Jan. 28 response from DHS to the document request says the agency is “in the process of retrieving other responsive documents” besides those already disclosed by the agency, which it says include “over a thousand pages of documents” and briefings to lawmakers including Issa.
But Issa says in his response to the deadline snub, “That statement is misleading. To date, DHS has produced six pages of documents and provided one briefing to this committee.”
In July, DHS published 1,051 pages of documents related to its FOIA process on its website. Issa says in his letter these documents are “heavily redacted” and requests unredacted copies by Feb. 3. An Issa spokesman notes the documents were not released to the committee.
Several passages of the letter appear to indicate Issa is receiving information on potential impropriety at DHS from someone inside the agency.
For instance, Issa mentions that “during the week of Jan. 10, 2011, my staff obtained material that called into question the statements supplied by the Department during” a September briefing on the issue.
Additionally, Issa includes his charge that career employees were instructed not to search for documents responsive to his request.
Bobby Whithorne, a DHS spokesman, defended the agency’s record on FOIA when contacted Monday about whether DHS met the weekend deadline.
“The Department responded directly to Chairman Issa last week. Our record is clear, under this Administration, the Department has reduced the FOIA backlog by 84%, released over 138,000 FOIA requests in the past year, the most of any federal agency, and substantially reduced the amount of time it takes to process FOIA requests,” Whithorne said.
More From The Daily Caller
February 1st, 2011
By Heidi Blake and Christopher Hope, The Daily Telegraph
Security briefings suggest that jihadi groups are also close to producing "workable and efficient" biological and chemical weapons that could kill thousands if unleashed in attacks on the West. Thousands of classified American cables obtained by the WikiLeaks website and passed to The Daily Telegraph detail the international struggle to stop the spread of weapons-grade nuclear, chemical and biological material around the globe.
At a Nato meeting in January 2009, security chiefs briefed member states that al-Qaida was plotting a program of "dirty radioactive IEDs", makeshift nuclear roadside bombs that could be used against British troops in Afghanistan. As well as causing a large explosion, a "dirty bomb" attack would contaminate the area for many years.
The briefings also state that al-Qaida documents found in Afghanistan in 2007 revealed that "greater advances" had been made in bioterrorism than was previously realized. An Indian national security adviser told American security personnel in June 2008 that terrorists had made a "manifest attempt to get fissile material" and "have the technical competence to manufacture an explosive device beyond a mere dirty bomb".
Alerts about the smuggling of nuclear material, sent to Washington from foreign U.S. embassies, document how criminal and terrorist gangs were trafficking large amounts of highly radioactive material across Europe, Africa and the Middle East. The alerts explain how customs guards at remote border crossings used radiation alarms to identify and seize cargoes of uranium and plutonium.
Freight trains were found to be carrying weapons-grade nuclear material across the Kazakhstan-Russia border, highly enriched uranium was transported across Uganda by bus, and a "small time hustler" in Lisbon offered to sell radioactive plates stolen from Chernobyl.
In one incident in September 2009, two employees at the Rossing Uranium Mine in Namibia smuggled almost half a ton of uranium concentrate powder - yellowcake - out of the compound in plastic bags. "Acute safety and security concerns" were even raised in 2008 about the uranium and plutonium laboratory of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the nuclear safety watchdog.
Tomihiro Taniguchi, the deputy director general of the IAEA, has privately warned America that the world faces the threat of a "nuclear 9/11" if stores of uranium and plutonium were not secured against terrorists.
But diplomats visiting the IAEA's Austrian headquarters in April 2008 said that there was "no way to provide perimeter security" to its own laboratory because it has windows that leave it vulnerable to break-ins. Senior British defence officials have raised "deep concerns" that a rogue scientist in the Pakistani nuclear program "could gradually smuggle enough material out to make a weapon", according to a document detailing official talks in London in February 2009.
Agricultural stores of deadly biological pathogens in Pakistan are also vulnerable to "extremists" who could use supplies of anthrax, foot and mouth disease and avian flu to develop lethal biological weapons. Anthrax and other biological agents including smallpox, and avian flu could be sprayed from a shop-bought aerosol can in a crowded area, leaked security briefings warn.
The security of the world's only two declared smallpox stores in Atlanta, America, and Novosibirsk, Russia, has repeatedly been called into doubt by "a growing chorus of voices" at meetings of the World Health Assembly documented in the leaked cables.
The alarming disclosures come after Barack Obama, the U.S. president, last year declared nuclear terrorism "the single biggest threat" to international security with the potential to cause "extraordinary loss of life".
February 1st, 2011
Some see Obama's move as a betrayal and that Washington can no longer be trusted
By Douglas Hamilton
JERUSALEM, Jan 31 (Reuters) - If Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak is toppled, Israel will lose one of its very few friends in a hostile neighbourhood and U.S. President Barack Obama will bear a large share of the blame, Israeli pundits said on Monday.
Political commentators expressed shock at how the United States as well as its major European allies appeared to be ready to dump a staunch strategic ally of three decades, simply to conform to the current ideology of political correctness. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has told ministers of the Jewish state to make no comment on the political cliffhanger in Cairo, to avoid inflaming an already explosive situation. But Israel's President Shimon Peres is not a minister.
"We always have had and still have great respect for President Mubarak," he said on Monday. He then switched to the past tense. "I don't say everything that he did was right, but he did one thing which all of us are thankful to him for: he kept the peace in the Middle East."
Newspaper columnists were far more blunt.
One comment by Aviad Pohoryles in the daily Maariv was entitled "A Bullet in the Back from Uncle Sam". It accused Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of pursuing a naive, smug, and insular diplomacy heedless of the risks. Continued...