Thursday Reads: Snowzilla and Other NewsPosted: January 2, 2014 | |
This post is late because I had a computer emergency this morning. Fortunately I got it resolved after a struggle, but I was on the verge of panic for a bit. I hate computer problems.
The first big winter storm of 2014 has begun. Here in Greater Boston, we have a couple of inches on the ground. We were supposed to get heavy snow last night, and now they’re saying it will come tonight instead. We’re supposed to get light snow through out the day and we have blizzard warnings in effect for tonight with about a foot of snow expected by tomorrow. We’ll see . . . the weather people haven’t been that accurate so far this winter. But it’s a huge storm that will affect people across the Midwest, the Mid-Atlantic states and New England.
Reuters reports: Powerful storm bears down on U.S. Northeast with Arctic temps.
The double-barreled storm system stretching from the lower Mississippi Valley to the Atlantic coast could dump more than 12 inches of snow in some areas, especially southern New England, by Friday morning, the National Weather Service said.
“Heavy snow, strong winds, frigid temperatures and dangerous wind chills are in forecast for much of the region,” it said in a statement.
The storm is expected to snarl traffic on the I-95 highway corridor between New York and Boston, the weather service said. At the southern edge of the storm, Washington is expected to receive less than one inch of snow.
The powerful storm forced about 1,000 U.S. flights to be canceled and about 250 delayed, with the worst-affected airport Chicago’s O’Hare International, according to FlightAware, a website which tracks air travel.
NPR has a summary of the weather situation, with links: 100 Million People In Path Of 2014’s First Wintry Blast.
In the Arctic, the passengers on that stranded ship have finally been rescued. NBC News:
All 52 passengers who were stranded aboard an ice-locked ship in Antarctica for more than a week were rescued by helicopter early Thursday, officials said.
The Akademic Shokalskiy sent out a distress call on Christmas morning after it became surrounded by sea ice while on a scientific mission more than 1,700 miles south of Australia.
On Thursday, a helicopter from a Chinese ice-breaking ship Xue Long — or Snow Dragon — transported groups from a makeshift helipad which the passengers had stomped out in the ice near the ship.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) tweeted at 6.20 a.m. ET Thursday that all of the 52 passengers had been airlifted from the Akademik Shokalskiy and were now on board the Aurora Australis ice-breaker.
Photos and video at the link.
Yesterday an explosion started a fire in a Minneapolis building where many Somalis lived. The building was next door to a mosque. I hope this doesn’t turn out to be arson. From The Columbus Dispatch: 14 hurt in blast, fire in Minneapolis building.
MINNEAPOLIS — A billowing fire engulfed a three-story building with 10 apartments near downtown Minneapolis yesterday, sending more than a dozen people to hospitals with injuries — some critical — ranging from burns to trauma associated with falls.
An explosion was reported about 8:15 a.m., and within minutes, a fire raged through the building, said Robert Ball, a spokesman for Hennepin County Emergency Medical Services. Paramedics, responding amid sub-zero temperatures, found victims on the ground, some with injuries that suggested they might have fallen several stories.
“It’s not clear whether people were pushed out of the building from the explosion, or whether they fell or jumped out of windows to escape,” Ball said.
No fatalities have been reported, but authorities weren’t sure whether any residents still were in the building. Its roof had partially collapsed, making it too dangerous for firefighters to search the premises, said Assistant Minneapolis Fire Chief Cherie Penn.
There were reports of family members saying three people living in the apartment were not in the hospital and cannot be accounted for.
According to an update from CBS Minnesota, Investigators Search For Cause Of Massive Minneapolis Fire, three people are still reported missing.
The Minneapolis Fire Chief said even though many will be wanting to know the cause of this fire immediately, it may take a little bit to figure out what happened.
“You’re going to have to have some patience with us, it’s going to take law enforcement and arson investigators some time. It’s going to be a very difficult investigation. We’re going to determine the cause and origin, so it’s going to take us some time,” said Chief John Fruetel.
We know firefighters inspected the building in 2012 and issued a clean bill with no problems. The focus now is figuring out who the victims are. Fruetel said there is some confusion as to who was in the building or lived there. He said they’ve got some work to do figuring out who lived in the building, who may have had visitors, who were home and who were not home.
Officers are meeting with families to gather information, and several people don’t speak English so they need interpreters.
In addition to apartments, the building contained a store on the ground floor that was used as a “community center.”
Residents of Casselton, North Dakota were allowed to return to their homes, and the investigation into the causes of the derailment of a train carrying crude oil began yesterday. CNN reports that investigators were able to get closer to the wreckage yesterday, but they had already been examining video of the crash.
…[I]nformation taken from recording devices has been revealing, said National Transportation and Safety Board spokesman Robert L. Sumwalt.
A video camera at the head of the oil train recorded the crash as it slammed into a car of a derailed grain train.
“We looked at the last 20 seconds of the forward facing video from the oil train. And basically it shows the collision sequence,” Sumwalt said.
When the oil train arrived, the other train transporting grain and soy bean had already derailed, and one of its cars was lying in the oil train’s path, he said.
The oil train slammed into it and burst into flames.
The derailment and fire that led to the evacuation of a North Dakota town has renewed the debate over whether it’s safer to ship oil by rail or pipeline as the U.S. completes a review of the Keystone XL project.
“Any time there is an incident, you have heightened talk and scrutiny on oil transportation,” Brigham McCown, a former director of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, said yesterday in an interview. “It will add to the conversation.” [....]
While climate change has been the focus of the fight over TransCanada Corp.’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast, a subset in the debate has been the relative safety of pipes versus trains. The U.S. State Department, reviewing the $5.4 billion project because it would cross the U.S. border, is weighing whether the pipeline would be in the national interest.
Keystone would allow about 100,000 barrels a day of crude from the Bakken formation in Montana and North Dakota onto the pipeline through a link in Baker, Montana.
“Bakken oil is going to come under increasing scrutiny,” as a result of the rail explosion, said Robert Schulz, a professor at the University of Calgary’s Haskayne School of Business. “You may see additional thoughts of, ‘Let’s approve Keystone because it’s going to be safer.’”
The North Dakota accident is the fourth major North American derailment in six months by trains transporting crude. Record volumes of oil are moving by rail as production from North Dakota and Texas have pushed U.S. output to the most since 1988 and pipeline capacity has failed to keep up.
There has been quite a bit of Edward Snowden news over the past few days. I’m not a huge fan of the WaPo’s Ruth Marcus, but I couldn’t help agreeing with her column yesterday: Edward Snowden, the insufferable whistleblower.
Time has not deflated Edward Snowden’s messianic sense of self-importance. Nor has living in an actual police state given the National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower any greater appreciation of the actual freedoms that Americans enjoy.
Insufferable is the first adjective evoked by Snowden’s recent interview with Barton Gellman in The Post, but it has numerous cousins: smug, self-righteous, egotistical, disingenuous, megalomaniacal, overwrought.
The Snowden of Gellman’s interview is seized with infuriating certitude about the righteousness of his cause. Not for Snowden any anxiety about the implications for national security of his theft of government secrets, any regrets about his violations of a duty of secrecy.
“For me, in terms of personal satisfaction, the mission’s already accomplished. I already won,” Snowden proclaimed. “Because, remember, I didn’t want to change society. I wanted to give society a chance to determine if it should change itself.”
And what gave Snowden the right to assume that responsibility? “That whole question — who elected you? — inverts the model. They elected me. The overseers,” he said. “The system failed comprehensively, and each level of oversight, each level of responsibility that should have addressed this, abdicated their responsibility.”
As you can well imagine, the column outraged Snowden’s primary promoter Glenn Greenwald. Marcus is now on his shit-list, and will remain there in perpetuity, because only Glenn is permitted to be that nasty to people who disagree with him. Greenwald is thrilled with The New York Times a the moment, however; because the editorial board called yesterday for President Obama to grant Edward Snowden clemency (as did Greenwald’s former employer The Guardian). I can’t imagine why Obama would do that, since it would set a dangerous precedent for dealing with future thefts of classified information.
Some reactions to two major newspapers calling for Snowden to be allowed to come home and not be prosecuted:
Susan Milligan at US News and World Report: No Clemency for Snowden.
Damien Thompson at The Telegraph: Let Edward ‘Pleased-With-Himself’ Snowden argue his case in an American courtroom.
Meanwhile, in Snowden’s adopted country, the FSB has been collecting unprecedented amounts of metadata on Olympic athletes and every foreign and domestic visitor to the Sochi winter games.
As the date for the Olympic Games in Sochi draws closer, Russia’s siloviki are becoming more active in terms of collecting data from Russians and foreigners. Although they can at least partially justify their decision to register every Russian who comes to Sochi during the Olympics with the desire to prevent terrorist attacks, the decree that Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev signed Nov. 8 has no relationship whatsoever to that goal.
That decree expressly authorizes the government to collect data on telephone calls and Internet contacts made by the Olympic Games’ organizers, athletes and foreign journalists.
Irina Borogan and I have already published an article in The Guardian in October explaining how the authorities had installed an advanced wiretapping and surveillance system in Sochi, but Medvedev’s order adds significant scope to those activities.
The decree provides for the creation of a database for the users of all types of communication, including Internet services at public Wi-Fi locations “in a volume equal to the volume of information contained in the Olympic and Paralympic identity and accreditation cards.” That is, the database will contain not only each subscriber’s full name, but also detailed information guaranteed to establish his identity. What’s more, the database will contain “data on payments for communications services rendered, including connections, traffic and subscriber payments.”
That is called “gathering metadata” in the language of intelligence agencies.
So far no objections to this surveillance have been registered by Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald, Julian Assange, or any other member of Wikileaks. I wonder why?
So . . . what stories are you following today? Let us know in the comment thread, and have a great day!