August 25th, 2011
Editor's Note: Check out "Open Story: Hurricane Irene," a collaborative effort of CNN and iReport contributors who are documenting the storm as it moves across the Atlantic Ocean. Read more about Hurricane Irene from CNN affiliate WBOC.
By Ed Payne, CNN
Miami (CNN) -- Vacationers and residents prepared to evacuate North Carolina coastal areas on Thursday morning as Hurricane Irene roared toward the United States, where it's expected to hit this weekend.
The powerful Category 3 storm, now battering the Bahamas with sustained winds of 115 mph, is forecast to pound much of the eastern United States starting early Saturday.
Janeen Wall bolted before the storm, leaving less than a day after arriving at her Carolina Beach, North Carolina, accommodations.
"Since the second floor condo I was staying in is very close to the beach, I didn't really want to take my chances with a hurricane blowing into town," the Richmond, Virginia, resident said after making the five-hour drive back home.
"Also, if I waited for an evacuation order, I would have to share the road with more than a few thousand other folks trying to leave at the same time."
The mandatory evacuation order for Dare County, North Carolina -- home to Manteo, Nags Head, Duck and historic Kitty Hawk -- is only for tourists.
Residents can stay for now, but emergency officials have put them on notice.
Neighboring Hyde County declared a state of emergency for low-lying coastal plains, with evacuation orders in place starting Thursday morning.
With Irene still more than 700 miles south of Cape Hatteras, the National Hurricane Center issued storm warnings for sections of the Carolinas.
A hurricane watch is in place from north of Surf City, North Carolina, to the border with Virginia. A tropical storm watch was put up from Surf City south to Edisto Beach, South Carolina.
Irene is expected to strengthen to a Category 4 storm Thursday with winds in excess of 130 mph.
Irene pounded the central Bahamas early Thursday, whipping the island chain with gusts of up to 150 mph, a Hurricane Center advisory said.
As it stomped across Bahamas, the storm left a trail of destruction.
"Homes losing their rooftops, churches being destroyed," said Capt. Stephen Russell of the nation's emergency management department.
Officials are waiting the light of day to assess the full scope of the damage on the 500-mile long island chain.
In the capital, Nassau, businesses boarded up windows as tourists flocked to the airport and cruise ships pulled out of port ahead of Irene's arrival.
Early Thursday, CNN's Jim Spellman reported "punishing, pounding winds" as it approached. He said he had not seen any major damage.
In the Hurricane Center's 5 a.m. advisory, Irene was 80 miles east-southeast of Nassau.
Rainfall of 6 to 12 inches was expected across the Bahamas, the Hurricane Center said.
As the storm clears the Bahamas, it is expected to curve northward and then to the northeast as it nears the United States, with the latest projections suggesting the storm will skim the North Carolina coast Saturday morning.
South Carolina state officials have decided not to order evacuations, but urged boaters and swimmers to stay out of the water.
Storm preparations were less intense along the Virginia coastline and the Eastern Shores of Maryland -- the area swamped by Hurricane Isabel in 2003.
One resident was hopeful that Irene would pass close by.
"Dear Irene, please bring rain. Thank you," read a handwritten sign on a mailbox near Hampton Roads, Virginia, where a stubborn wildfire has been burning in historic Dismal Swamp.
"Hurricane Irene may be the only way to get enough rainfall to assist the firefighters and put this relentless fire out," said Penelope Penn.
Harold Barkley of Virginia Beach took the calm day before the storm to clean out his car, while keeping a wary eye on news reports.
"I have been watching the TV -- both the local and national TV weather services," Barkley told CNN affiliate WTKR-TV. "And I have thought very seriously about it, if I need to stay here or whether I need to get out."
He's never had to evacuate his home in the 35 years he's lived there.
In Crisfield, Maryland, 80 miles to the north, Ginger Wilson said her family will stay put as Irene approaches this weekend.
"We'll probably have some extra water, get some canned vegetables and foods, and make sure the pantry is full," she told CNN affiliate WBOC-TV. "Just have any extra supplies -- batteries, radios, anything that would be helpful."
The Hurricane Center's forecast map has Irene hugging the coast from the Carolinas to New York, before slicing through much of New England and into the Canadian Maritimes.
"Everywhere from North Carolina to Massachusetts remains in the cone of uncertainty," CNN meteorologist Jacqui Jeras said. "Even if Irene doesn't make landfall in the United States, it may very well bring flooding rains, damaging winds and power outages to the Northeast."
The last major hurricane to strike the United States was Wilma in 2005, which was a Category 3 at landfall, Jeras said.
Hurricane Katrina, earlier the same year, was also a Category 3 at landfall. The most recent hurricane to make landfall in the United States was Ike in 2008, which hit near Galveston, Texas, as a Category 2.
Irene is expected to pass well east of Florida, so only minimal effects are expected Thursday and Friday as the storm moves northward.
But the U.S. Coast Guard is worried boaters in south Florida are taking the threat too lightly.
Officials expect heavy rip currents and beach erosion in Miami.
CNN's John Fricke, Phil Gast and Josh Levs contributed to this report.
August 25th, 2011
A congressman from Ohio had cops grab the cameras of constituents during a town hall meeting. Steve Chabot, a Republican, had cell phones and cameras confiscated in order to “prevent an embarrassing Youtube video from making the rounds,” according to Carlos Miller, who runs a blog documenting efforts by the state to stifle the First Amendment rights of photographers.
See video of the incident below.
Police said the cameras were taken “to protect the constituents.” A local television station, however, was allowed to videotape the meeting and the brazen move by Chabot and the cops.
Think Progress, the Soros-funded media operation, also reported the incident, primarily because Chabot is an establishment Republican and protesters outside the event called for more taxes. The Democrat blog reported:
Media were permitted to record the event, making the ban on citizen cameras all the more baffling. Clearly no “security” threat existed; rather, as one of Chabot’s staffers told ThinkProgress, they wanted to “prevent” people from “making a show” of the event. Indeed, Chabot and his staff were worried enough about citizens voicing their anger at his policies that they only accepted pre-screened questions chosen by the congressman’s staff.
This should not be perplexing – the controlled corporate media can be trusted to not embarrass Rep. Chabot, at least not on points that matter, while citizens cannot.
It is also interesting that Think Progress attributes the current economic implosion to Chabot and the Republicans when Democrat Obama is in the White House and allegedly in control.
In fact, neither Obama or the Republicans control the economy. It is controlled by a Federal Reserve that has doubled the monetary base since last August.
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More From Infowars
August 24th, 2011
By Scott Stump
When former Vice President Dick Cheney releases his memoir early next week, it may cause the second earthquake in Washington, D.C., this month.
“There are gonna be heads exploding all over Washington,’’ Cheney told NBC’s Jamie Gangel in an exclusive interview that will air on NBC’s “Dateline” at 10 p.m. ET Aug. 29.
In the book, titled “In My Time,’’ Cheney addresses a broad range of topics, including the attacks of Sept. 11; a secret resignation letter he kept in a safe in case he experienced catastrophic health issues, and his thoughts about former President George W. Bush and ex-Secretaries of State Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell. The 46th vice president discusses those topics and more in his candid, unapologetic interview with Gangel, and he’ll likely have more to say when he appears live on TODAY with Matt Lauer on Aug. 30, the day his book hits stores.
One of the revelations in the book is the secret resignation letter that only one of Cheney’s staffers knew about. Signed in March 2001, the letter was locked in a safe at all times.
“I did it because I was concerned that — for a couple of reasons,’’ he told Gangel. “One was my own health situation. The possibility that I might have a heart attack or a stroke that would be incapacitating. And there is no mechanism for getting rid of a vice president who can’t function.’’
Cheney also expressed no regrets regarding the use of enhanced interrogation techniques, including waterboarding.
Slideshow: The private and public lives of Dick Cheney (on this page)
“I would strongly support using it again if we had a high value detainee and that was the only way we could get him to talk,’’ he told Gangel.
Cheney also addressed whether Bush will feel hurt or betrayed by the contents of the book, which details private conversations between the two on such topics as whether to attack a target believed to be Iraq president Saddam Hussein.
“I didn't set out to embarrass the president or not embarrass the president,’’ Cheney told Gangel. “If you look at the book, there are many places in it where I say some very fine things about George Bush. And believe every word of it.’’
More From MSNBC
August 24th, 2011
UK Daily Mail
The Obamas' summer break on Martha's Vineyard has already been branded a PR disaster after the couple arrived four hours apart on separate government jets.
But according to new reports, this is the least of their extravagances.
White House sources today claimed that the First Lady has spent $10 million of U.S. taxpayers' money on vacations alone in the past year.
Expensive taste: Michelle Obama, pictured yesterday in Massachusetts, has been accused of spending $10m of public money on vacations
Branding her 'disgusting' and 'a vacation junkie', they say the 47-year-old mother-of-two has been indulging in five-star hotels, where she splashes out on expensive massages and alcohol.
The 'top source' told the National Enquirer: 'It's disgusting. Michelle is taking advantage of her privileged position while the most hardworking Americans can barely afford a week or two off work.
'When it's all added up, she's spent more than $10million in taxpayers' money on her vacations.'
His and her jets: The President and his wife, who are spending nine days on Martha's Vineyard, have come under fire for travelling on separate planes
The First Lady is believed to have taken 42 days of holiday in the past year, including a $375,000 break in Spain and a four-day ski trip to Vail, Colorado, where she spent $2,000 a night on a suite at the Sebastian hotel.
And the first family's nine-day stay in Martha's Vineyard is also proving costly, with rental of the Blue Heron Farm property alone costing an estimated $50,000 a week.
The source continued: 'Michelle also enjoys drinking expensive booze during her trips. She favours martinis with top-shelf vodka and has a taste for rich sparking wines.
'The vacations are totally Michelle's idea. She's like a junkie. She can't schedule enough getaways, and she lives from one to the next - all the while sticking it to hardworking Americans.'
Travelling in style: Mrs Obama during her $375,000 trip to Spain last year
High security: Bodyguards surround the First Lady and youngest daughter Sasha as they take a stroll on the Costa del Sol
While the President and his wife do pay for some of their personal expenses from their own pocket, the website whitehousedossier.com says that the amount paid by the couple is 'dwarfed by the overall cost to the public'.
The magazine also reported that Mrs Obama, whose fashion choices are widely followed, had been going on 'wild shopping sprees', much to the distress of her husband, who, its sources reveal, is 'absolutely furious' at his wife's 'out-of-control spending'.
The President has already come under fire this week over his decision to take a family vacation while millions of Americans are out of work and countless more are financially strapped.
Luxury break: The President and his family, pictured in December, splashed out more than $1.5million on a Christmas holiday in Hawaii
'Winter White House': The property in Kailua cost $38,000 to rent
But the situation sparked further anger after he and his wife elected to fly separately to the Massachusetts retreat - despite travelling on the same day.
Mr Obama left the White House aboard Marine One on his way to Andrews Air Force base to hitch a lift aboard Air Force One - along with First Dog Bo.
After landing at Cape Cod Coast Guard Air Station, he then took a final helicopter to his holiday destination to complete the remarkable 500-mile journey.
His wife and daughters, who arrived just four hours earlier, were also travelling from Washington, but took a specially designed military aircraft.
They would also have had their own motorcade from the airport to the vacation residence.
FIRST LADY OF LUXURY TRAVEL: HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE OBAMAS' LAVISH GETAWAYS OVER THE PAST 12 MONTHS
GIRLS' TRIP TO SPAIN: AUGUST 2010
The exact cost is unclear as Mrs Obama and her 40 friends footed many personal expenses, such as hotels and meals themselves.
But the U.S. taxpayer would have paid for the First Lady's 68-strong security detail, personal staff, and use of presidential jet Air Force Two.
Per diems for the secret service team runs at around $281 each - nearly $98,000 for the length of the summer break.
Use of Air Force Two, the Air Force version of a 757, comes in at $149,900 for the round trip. This does not include time on the ground.
Mrs Obama's personal staff, of which there are an unknown amount and might cost considerably more per day, should also be taken into account.
CHRISTMAS BREAK IN HAWAII: DECEMBER 2010
According to the Hawaii Reporter, the bill for the $1.5m trip included:
- $63,000 on an early flight bringing Mrs Obama and the children to Hawaii ahead of the President.
- $1,000,000 on Mr Obama’s return trip from Washington on Air Force One.
- $38,000 for the ‘Winter White House’ beach property rental.
- $16,000 to rent nearby homes for Secret Service and Navy Seals.
- $134,000 for 24 White House staff to stay at the Moana Hotel.
- $251,000 in police overtime.
- $10,000 for an ambulance to be on hand at all times
SKI TRIP TO VAIL: FEBRUARY 2011
Mrs Obama and her daughters stayed at the Sebastian hotel on Vail Mountain, where rooms cost more than $2,400 for multi-bedroom suites.
The family appear to have flown there on Air Force Two.
They were escorted to the resort by a motorcade of about a dozen vehicles, including 15 state and local law enforcement officers
SUMMER HOLIDAY ON MARTHA'S VINEYARD: AUGUST 2011
The Blue Heron Farm estate, where the Obama family are currently staying, rents for about $50,000 a week.
According to U.S. News and World Report, the Coast Guard is required to keep ships floating near the property, the presidential helicopter and jet remain at the ready and security agents will be on 24-hour duty.
August 24th, 2011
The Weather Channel
Hurricane Irene, a large, powerful Category 3 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale, continues to plow through the Bahamas, with more impacts in its sights.
As you can see on our projected path map below, Hurricane Irene will track towards the East Coast this weekend.
Interactive map: Hurricane Irene interactive projected path
To access our full collection of maps to track Hurricane Irene and its threats, use the links below or scroll down.
Click to access: Status | Satellite | Model Tracks | Watches & Warnings | Threat Level | East Coast Threats | What people are saying | Get prepared!
Find out the potential impacts from Hurricane Irene in the Bahamas and the U.S. on The Weather Channel's exclusive threat level graphics below.
We've added an "EXTREME" threat level category from eastern North Carolina to southern New England. According to Hurricane Expert, Dr. Rick Knabb and Sr. Meteorologist, Stu Ostro, "this is a particularly threatening situation and it's best for people to be on alert."
Computer models are currently trending toward a forecast solution of rare potency for portions of the Northeast.
Irene has the potential to be a serious and multi-hazard threat for the major metropolitan areas of the Northeast along and east of the I-95 corridor. This includes Philadelphia, New York City, Hartford, and Boston. This hurricane has the potential to produce flooding rains, high winds, downed trees (on houses, cars, power lines) and widespread power outages. Significant impacts along the immediate coast include high waves, surge and beach erosion. The severity of the impacts will be determined by Irene's exact path and intensity, which remain uncertain at this time.
For North Carolina, odds are increasing that the main impact will be confined to the Outer Banks and elsewhere in extreme eastern NC
Timing: Irene will make its closest approach to the Carolinas late Friday night through Saturday. Northeast U.S. impacts would be this weekend into early Monday of next week.
We remain several days away from Irene's direct impacts along the US East Coast and critical uncertainties remain. Stay tuned to The Weather Channel and right here on weather.com for further updates.
The threat level in portions of the central and northern Bahamas is extreme. Hurricane Irene will track from the southern Bahamas to the northern Bahamas late Tuesday through early Friday morning. This is a potentially very dangerous situation and preparations should be rushed to completion. Extreme wind damage and destructive storm surge flooding are possible.
> See Current Threat Level
The threat level from the Outer Banks of N.C. to southern New England is extreme. The potential for widespread damaging winds, flooding rain, and, in some locations, coastal flooding and storm surge is very real this weekend.
> See Current Threat Level
So, where exactly is the cyclone's center located now? If you're plotting the storm along with us, click on the "Current Information" map below to get the latitude/longitude coordinates, distance away from the nearest land location, maximum sustained winds and central pressure (measured in millibars).
Latest status including wind speed, location, movement and pressure.
> See Current Storm Information
How does the system look on satellite imagery. Click on "infrared" satellite imagery, to see how "cold" the cloud tops are. Brighter orange and red shadings concentrated near the center of circulation signify a healthy tropical cyclone.
The second link below is a link to a clickable, zoomable "interactive satellite" loop. Finally, we have a visible satellite loop, available only during daylight hours.
You will also find a link to the current wave heights in the vicinity of Irene.
Latest infrared and visible satellite imagery.
> See Infrared Satellite Loop
> See Interactive Satellite Loop (clickable/zoomable map)
> See Visible Satellite Loop (daylight hours only)
> Current Wave Heights
Meteorologists have a variety of numerical models to use as guidance in forecasting the track of tropical cyclones. Get an "inside look" at what these various models are saying regarding the track of this current system. (Important note: These model tracks should not be considered an official forecast. For the official forecast, see our current forecast swath.)
See where the various models forecast the center of this system to track.
> Enlarge Model Forecast Tracks
Are there any tropical storm or hurricane watches or warnings posted? You can see the latest watches and warnings in the maps below. If there are no advisories, the maps will say, "This graphic is currently not available." This doesn't necessarily mean these conditions will not affect any locations. Rather, it may be beyond the 48-hour window to issue advisories.
Latest watches issued for parts of the coast.
> See Watches
Latest warnings issued for parts of the coast.
> See Warnings