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The 411 Last Updated: Dec 21st, 2012 - 11:19:50


Sandy: A Crisis Foretold
By the SB Crew, Compiled With Dispatches from DemocracyNow.org
Nov 5, 2012, 13:31

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A Crisis Foretold: Studies Warned New York Infrastructure Critically Threatened by Climate Change
Bloomberg Business Week reflected the post-Hurricane Sandy reality.
The massive damage Superstorm Sandy has caused to New York City and its infrastructure has not come as a surprise to everyone. Cynthia Rosenzweig, co-chair of the New York City Panel on Climate Change, says the city began looking at the impact of global warming more than a decade ago. She is the lead author of a 2011 report on the impact climate change will have in New York state’s "critical structure" like bridges and sewage systems, as well as public health and agriculture. A senior research scientist at NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies where she heads the Climate Impacts Group, Rosenzweig’s work with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Task Force on Data was recognized in 2007 with the Nobel Peace Prize awarded jointly to Al Gore and to the IPCC Task Force. To read the report, click here.


New York City Faces Housing Crisis for 40,000 Displaced Residents
In New York City, subway service has now been mostly restored as the city slowly continues its recovery. But with Sandy flooding and damaging thousands of homes, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg warned of a new housing crisis for up to 40,000 displaced residents in need of shelter.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg: "We don’t have a lot of empty housing in this city so it’s really a problem to find housing when we need it. We are not going to let anybody go sleeping on the streets or we’re not going to let anybody go without blankets, food, and water but it’s a challenge and we’re working on it as fast as we can."

On top of the displacement and loss of power, the recovery from Sandy will see further strain later this week when an early-season "Nor’easter" storm hits New England and the surrounding region


Sandy Kills 66 in Haiti, Cuba
The storm killed at least 66 people in the Caribbean, where it battered Haiti and Cuba. In Haiti, a top U.N. relief official warned of a heightened risk of a new outbreak of waterborne disease.

Johan Peleman: "So, the entire southern peninsula, including the province, the county where Port-au-Prince is, had been — has been very heavily affected with flooding. Rivers have burst out of their banks, the canals running through Port-au-Prince, because Port-au-Prince lies in a valley surrounded by hills. What we fear most is that there might be spikes in waterborne diseases, especially cholera, which we always see after flooding or rains in Haiti."


Sandy Destroys Haitian Agriculture, Threatens 1.5 Million With Hunger
Haiti is grappling with yet another crisis one week after Hurricane Sandy hit. The United Nations is warning that Sandy destroyed 70 percent of Haiti’s crops and left a million and a half people at serious risk of hunger. The death toll stands at 54 but is expected to rise. The storm destroyed some 21,000 homes and caused more than $104 million of damage. Large parts of Haiti’s south are still unreachable by land due to massive flooding, sparking fears of a new outbreak of cholera. The new devastation brought by Sandy comes as Haiti still tries to rebuild from the massive 2010 earthquake that killed some 300,000 people.


Sandy Death Toll Hits 98 in U.S.
The death toll of Superstorm Sandy along the Eastern Seaboard has jumped to 98 as more bodies are recovered by the day. Forty people have been killed in New York City, half of them on Staten Island, which was overcome with devastating flooding.


360,000 Gallons of Fuel Spills in New Jersey
New Jersey officials have disclosed that some 336,000 gallons of diesel fuel spilled into the Arthur Kill waterway when a Shell facility was hit by flooding. The spill has reportedly been contained by booms placed in the water.


Economic Toll of Sandy Could Top $50 Billion
Estimates of the economic damage caused by Superstorm Sandy have now topped $50 billion, more than double previous estimates. The storm has also caused a major shortage of fuel, prompting long lines at gas stations across the New York area.


Ex-FEMA Head Brown: Obama Responded "Too Quickly" to Sandy
Meanwhile, the former head of FEMA, Michael Brown, known for overseeing the Bush administration’s tepid response to Hurricane Katrina, drew ridicule on Tuesday when he criticized President Obama for responding "too quickly" to Sandy. Comparing Sandy to the killings of U.S. personnel in Libya last month, Brown said, "Why was this so quick? ... At some point, somebody’s going to ask that question."


New Jersey Nuclear Plant Placed on Alert after Sandy Hits
In New Jersey, the Exelon Corporation’s Oyster Creek nuclear power plant was placed on alert after rising waters threatened the cooling of uranium fuel rods. The alert-level designation is the second-lowest of four action levels for safety. Another New Jersey plant, the Salem 1, was shut down after its water pumps failed. The plant’s operator, PSEG Nuclear, says it is stable.


The U.S. Election
Ohio Sees 1.6 Million Early Voter Turnout; New ID Law Could Disqualify Ballots
As Mitt Romney and President Obama push for a strong election day turnout, the 2012 election will likely wind up setting a record for early voting. More than 1.6 million people have already voted in the critical battleground state of Ohio, either at the polls or with absentee ballots. Over the weekend, long lines were reported across the state as voters braved cold weather to line up for hours at the polls. Ohio Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted, meanwhile, has issued a new last-minute directive that would disqualify ballots not accompanied by a form accurately documenting the type of identification used. Attorneys for the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and the Service Employees International Union have filed a challenge in court.


Florida Dems File Suit to Extend Early Voting
In Florida, Democrats filed a lawsuit on Sunday seeking to force Republican Gov. Rick Scott to extend early voting. Scott and the Republican state legislature reduced early-voting last year and now voters are seeing waits of more than six hours at the polls. On Sunday, a judge ordered Florida to extend early voting in Orange County after an alleged bomb threat forced the closure of a polling station for several hours.


Studies: Outside Groups Spend $1.11 Billion on Election; 81% of "Dark Money" Benefits GOP
New figures show outside groups such as super PACs have spent more than $1.11 billion on the 2012 election. According to Demos and U.S. PIRG, the figure marks a 400 percent increase over outside spending in 2008. More than 60 percent of the nearly $441 million raised by super PACs came from a group of just 91 people. A separate report by the Sunlight Foundation has found that "dark money" groups — which are able to donate anonymously — have spent over $213 million through November 1, with 81 percent of the money going toward backing Republican candidates.


Report: Israeli Military Refused Orders to Prepare for Iran Strike
An Israeli television network is reporting Israel’s military leaders rebuffed orders from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Ehud Barak to prepare for a bombing of Iran two years ago. According to Channel Two, Netanyahu and Barak directed the military to ready an imminent strike on Iranian nuclear sites. But their order was rejected after Israel’s top army officials concluded that doing so would be illegal and set off a dangerous chain of events that could lead to global conflict.


Heavily Armed Police Carry Out Colorado Eviction
Video has emerged from Colorado of a heavily armed police contingent carrying out an eviction order at the home of a woman in Idaho Springs. Sixty-three year-old Sahara Donahue had enlisted the help of local Occupy activists after U.S. Bank ordered her to vacate her foreclosed home of 24 years. When the activists set up a barricade to delay the eviction last week, at least ten truckloads of police reportedly arrived at the scene, carrying heavy weaponry. The police forced the activists onto the ground at gunpoint before barging into the home and carrying out the eviction.


Save the Children: Global Inequality at 20-Year High
A new report is warning global inequality has reached a 20-year high. According to the group Save the Children, poverty that had previously been concentrated in the world’s lowest-income countries is now on the rise in "middle-income" countries, which account for 70 percent of the world’s poor.


Planned Parenthood Files New Lawsuit Against Texas Funding Ban
Planned Parenthood has filed a new lawsuit challenging a funding ban in Texas that seeks to exclude it from a program for low-income women. The Texas program offers cancer and health screenings, as well as birth control services to some 130,000 women, about 40 percent of whom are served through Planned Parenthood. But Texas Gov. Rick Perry has sought to bar Planned Parenthood’s involvement because the group also provides abortions. An appeals court upheld the ban last week, but on Friday a Texas judge issued a temporary restraining order pending arguments in a new challenge from Planned Parenthood. Attorneys for Planned Parenthood say the ban is illegal because it would force Texas to lose of 90 percent of the program’s funding from the federal government.


'A Travesty of American Criminal Justice’: Supreme Court Denies Holy Land Five Appeal
The Supreme Court has denied the Holy Land Five appeal and will not be issuing a decision in the case. This may mark the end of the legal appeal process.
The Holy Land Five -- Shukri Abu Baker, Mohammad el-Mazain, Ghassan Elashi, Mufid Abdulqader, Abulrahman Odeh -- were convicted of providing humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza through zakat committees allegedly connected with Hamas. The case relied on "secret evidence" from an anonymous Israeli intelligence source. Four of the five defendants are now serving sentences in a Communication Management Unit, or CMU, an "experimental" detention facility outside of oversight from the Federal Bureau of Prisons, where two-thirds of the inmates are Arab and/or Muslim. Detainees in these facilities are subject to arbitrary policies that restrict their movement within prison cells, and minimal contact with the families and attorneys.Nida Abubaker, the daughter of Holy Land Five member Shukri Abubaker, announced the decision over Twitter.


California Death Row Prisoner Wins Appeal for New Trial or Sentencing
A federal appeals has upheld a ruling vacating the death sentence of California’s longest-serving death row prisoner. The 9th Circuit ruled Monday that Douglas Ray Stankewitz is entitled to either a new trial or re-sentencing because of a failed effort to investigate his upbringing, including an abusive childhood and extensive substance abuse. Stankewitz, a Native American, has been on death row since 1978 for a kidnapping and murder.


Texas Agent Shoots Dead 2 Guatemalans Near Border
Two Guatemalan nationals have reportedly been shot dead along the U.S.-Mexico border in the latest in a spate of border killings by U.S. agents. The male victims were killed last week when a Texas Department of Public Safety sharpshooter fired from a helicopter on a pickup truck near the border town of La Joya. The incident is under investigation, with officials claiming the helicopter crew believed the truck was carrying drugs. The Guatemalan consul says both victims were seeking employment to support their children in Guatemala.


Barclays Faces $470 Million Fine for Energy Market Manipulation
U.S. regulators have threatened to fine Barclays bank about $470 million to settle claims the company manipulated electricity markets in California in order to turn a profit. It could be the largest fine ever imposed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and potentially surpasses the amount Barclays paid to settle allegations it rigged the key global interest rate known as Libor.


158,000 U.S. Workers Hired in October
New figures show U.S. companies added 158,000 jobs last month, the fastest pace in eight months. The figures were released by the payrolls processor ADP on the eve of today’s official employment report from the Labor Department.


Ex-Penn State President Charged for Abuse Cover-Up
Former Penn State President Graham Spanier has been indicted for his role in the cover-up of child sex abuse by former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky. Spanier was initially charged one year ago after it was revealed he and other top Penn State officials failed to report Sandusky to police despite evidence that Sandusky was abusing young boys. Sandusky was convicted in June of molesting 10 boys and sentenced to up to 60 years in prison. On Thursday, Spanier was charged with child endangerment, perjury and criminal conspiracy for hiding Sandusky’s crimes. Two other former Penn State officials were also hit with new charges.


Massachusetts Man Sentenced to 17 Years for Drone Plot
A Massachusetts physics graduate has been sentenced to 17 years in prison for planning to build explosives-laden drones to attack the Pentagon and the U.S. Capitol. The FBI says Rezwan Ferdaus conducted detailed surveillance to map out the attack and acquired a small aircraft as part of his plan to carry it out. The plot would have marked the first time that militants deployed the drone technology used by the United States to strike targets in foreign countries for an attack inside the United States. Ferdaus was caught with the help of undercover agents posing as al-Qaeda operatives who gave him the money to buy the drones, a tactic that has led to allegations of entrapment.


Environmental Groups Seek Higher Monitoring of Fracking Toxins
A coalition of environmental groups has asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to subject oil and gas extracting companies to the same emissions oversight as other energy industry sectors. The Environmental Integrity Project, the lead organization behind the request, says companies, especially those that conduct natural gas fracking, should have to report their emissions to the Toxic Release Inventory, or TRI. In a statement, the group said: "Despite the many indications of the toxicity of the chemicals used in shale oil and gas removal, the extraction industry is one of the few within the energy sector that does not report to the TRI." The request comes on the heels of recent studies alleging increased health risks in communities exposed to fracking. A survey by Earthworks of residents in 14 Pennsylvania counties found that fracking has led to an 80 percent increase in sinus problems and 70 percent increase in throat irritation. A recent U.S. Geological Survey study in Wyoming found that fracking chemicals have again been found in the groundwater of the town of Pavilion, affirming the conclusion of an EPA study last year.


Wesleyan Students Protest End to Need-Blind Admissions
Students at Wesleyan University in Connecticut are continuing to protest against the school’s decision to change its admission practices by ending what is known as "need-blind admissions" to all applicants. Qualified students now face possible rejection if they are deemed unable to pay full tuition, now around $60,000 a year, making it one of the most expensive schools in the country. Students say the new policy will target the poor and middle class.

Daniel Plafker, Wesleyan student activist: "The reason we’re out here today is to stand in opposition to proposed cuts to the need-blind financial aid policy. Essentially what that allows the admissions office here to do, and in other places, is to actively discriminate against applicants based on their socioeconomic class. This is a decision that was made behind the backs of students, without transparency, behind closed doors, at a time when most of the students weren’t even on campus to know about it."


More International News
U.S. Calls for Overhaul of Syrian Opposition
The Obama administration is calling for a radical overhaul of the Syrian opposition, signaling a major break with the Syrian National Council. On Wednesday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Syria’s opposition should become more representative of those fighting the regime of Bashar al-Assad inside Syria, not just of those opposing him from abroad. Clinton said an international gathering in Qatar next week will be used as a forum to broaden the coalition against Assad, and added that the United States has already played a heavier role than previously thought. The United States has smuggled opposition members out of Syria to attend meetings and has recommended names of people who should be included in the new proposed coalition.


Video Shows Syrian Rebels Executing Soldiers
A new video has been released from Syria showing armed rebels executing a group of government soldiers. On the tape, 10 prisoners are forced to lie on top of one another at an overrun military checkpoint. Anti-government fighters are seen kicking and taunting the captured soldiers before opening fire. Amnesty International has condemned the footage, saying it depicts "utter disregard for international humanitarian law."


Clinton in Algeria for Talks on Mali Intervention
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in Algeria Monday for talks on an effort to oust Islamist militants in Mali. The United States is backing a potential U.N. intervention that would help the Mali government oust the rebels, who seized control of northern Mali in March.


4 Killed in U.S. Drone Strikes in Yemen
At least four people were killed Oct. 28 when U.S. drones struck northern Yemen. The victims were alleged militants in Saada province, though U.S. policy is to deem any adult-age male targeted by drones as a militant unless proven otherwise after they are killed. It was the fourth known U.S. drone strike inside Yemen this month.


U.N. Rapporteur Urges Boycott of Corporations Tied to Israeli Settlements
The top United Nations investigator on Palestinian human rights is calling for a boycott of all companies linked to settlements in the occupied West Bank. Richard Falk, the special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, said firms including Hewlett-Packard, Motorola, Volvo and Caterpillar are complicit in the Israeli occupation.

Richard Falk: "This is an attempt to reach out beyond the intergovernmental and international institutional system. And one of the things that our report recommends is encouragement of the boycott of these named corporations and encouragement of civil society actors to join in that boycott."

The Obama administration has rejected Falk’s proposal, calling it "irresponsible and unacceptable."


U.S. Questions Pakistani Politician on Opposition to Drones
A leading Pakistani politician and campaigner against U.S. drone attacks was detained and questioned over his political views last month while trying to enter the United States. Imran Khan says he was taken off of a flight from Toronto to New York City and interrogated by U.S. agents about his public opposition to drones. Announcing the episode after his questioning, Khan tweeted: "My stance is known. Drone attacks must stop." Earlier this month, Khan led a march of thousands of people in Pakistan to rally against the drones.


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