The weather crisis continues down South, and it really isn’t funny. It’s easy for us up here in the North to laugh at a couple of inches of snow, but when a large city doesn’t have the equipment and experience to deal with it, it can be a disaster, as we are seeing right now in Atlanta.
As I said in the comment thread yesterday, I think the only good solution is to shut down the city and keep cars off the streets for a few days. That’s what Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis did here after the Blizzard of ’78. He declared a state of emergency, got businesses to shut down for a week, and ordered everyone to stay off the roads except for emergency and government vehicles. Then Dukakis appeared on TV everyday updating the public on the crisis and explaining what he and officials were doing to deal with it.
I hope JJ will be around today to update us on the latest news from the embattled Georgia city. Meanwhile, here are a few links for you to peruse.
From the Houston Chronicle: Snow, ice send South’s flagship city reeling
A storm that dropped just inches of snow Tuesday wreaked havoc across much of the South, closing highways, grounding flights and contributing to at least a dozen deaths from traffic accidents and a mobile home fire. Yet it was Atlanta, home to major corporations and the world’s busiest airport, that was Exhibit A for how a Southern city could be sent reeling by winter weather that, in the North, might be no more than an inconvenience.
The Georgia State Patrol responded to more than 1,460 crashes between Tuesday morning and Wednesday evening, including two fatal crashes, and reported more than 175 injuries.
At Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, more than 400 flights in and out were canceled by 6 a.m. Thursday, according to data from the flight tracking service FlightAware. Many of those flights were canceled before the day began.
Thousands of schoolchildren either slept on the buses that tried and failed to get them home, or on cots in school gymnasiums. All were back home by Wednesday evening, officials said.
State transportation crews spent much of Wednesday rescuing stranded drivers and moving disabled and abandoned vehicles that littered the interstates, medians and shoulders. Gov. Nathan Deal said emergency workers, police, and the National Guard would help drivers Thursday to recover their cars and would provide them with fuel if necessary.
Crews planned to use four-wheel-drive vehicles to take motorists to vehicles they abandoned to reclaim them Thursday. State officials also said they were creating a database to help motorists locate vehicles that were towed to impound lots.
At least the schools are closed today, but it’s still not safe to drive; and I have no clue why the governor is allowing people to do so. Trust me, the idiots will be out there on the ice. Can you believe it dripped to -15 degrees in Georgia last night?! And it will all freeze up again tonight when the temperatures once again drop below freezing.
New York Daily News: South still crippled by big chill after storm brings Atlanta to a standstill
The deep freeze that brought the South to its knees hasn’t released the region from its chokehold just yet.
Overnight temperatures were well below the freezing mark overnight on Thursday — complicating cleanup of frozen streets along across the storm weary state of Georgia.
For many, sitting in snarled traffic was a painful experience. For Amy Anderson, it felt like she was going into labor — until she realized she was actually about to give birth….
“We couldn’t go forward any more and that’s when I knew,” Anderson told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “The contractions had gotten so strong, I knew that this baby was coming, because we just couldn’t get through.”
Baby Grace was delivered safely and brought to an area hospital, where she is relaxing with her mother and father.
Read much more about the snow/traffic situation and see photos at the link.
From ABC News: Who’s to Blame for the Atlanta Storm Chaos?
Officials in Georgia are on the defensive, trying to explain why Atlanta was so ill-prepared for a snow storm that gridlocked highway traffic, leaving thousands of students stranded in schools and on buses, bringing out National Guardsmen and state troopers to help with rescue efforts.
The icy weather wreaked similar havoc across much of the South, closing schools and highways, grounding flights and contributing to at least a dozen deaths from traffic accidents and a mobile home fire.
Yet it was Atlanta, home to major corporations and the world’s busiest airport (According to Atlanta-Business-Directory.com/biz/c/home-services/), that was Exhibit A for how a Southern city could be sent reeling by winter weather that, in the North, might be no more than an inconvenience.
Instead of showing leadership, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal just let it happen and then whined about the weather forecasters and the media.
“At that time, it was still, in most of the forecasts, anticipated that the city of Atlanta would only have a mild dusting or a very small accumulation if any,” Deal said at a Wednesday press conference. “Preparations were made for those predictions.”
Forecasters erupted following the comments. The National Weather Service argued that the appropriate outlooks, watches and warnings were released two days in advance….
“I would have acted sooner, and I think we learn from that and then we will act sooner the next time,” Deal told reporters.
“But we don’t want to be accused of crying wolf. Because if we had been wrong, y’all would have all been in here saying, ‘Do you know how many millions of dollars you cost the economies of the city of Atlanta and the state of Georgia by shutting down businesses all over this city and this state?'”
Hey, that’s the way it goes. You prepare for the worst, and if the predictions are wrong, you still took precautions and thousands of kids don’t get stuck on the roads and in their schools. That’s what Massachusetts officials learned after the ’78 blizzard. That wasn’t predicted either, and we ended up getting more than 20 inches of snow that landed on top of a previous snowfall of more than a foot. It was a disaster, and nowadays we prepare for the worst and just give a sigh of relief the worst doesn’t happen. If you don’t want to show real leadership, don’t run for governor. The problem with Republicans is that they don’t really believe in government, so they sit on their hands when disaster strikes.
In other news . . .
Italy is trying Amanda Knox for the third time–apparently over there, the government gets to keep appealing even in a murder case if they don’t get the verdict they want. They don’t have laws against double jeopardy. From the LA Times: Jury starts deliberating in Amanda Knox appeal.
FLORENCE, Italy — Lawyers for American student Amanda Knox warned jurors not to overlook mistakes made by investigators as deliberations began here Thursday in Knox’s new appeal of her conviction for the 2007 murder of British student Meredith Kercher.
“We are anxious about your verdict,” lawyer Luciano Ghirga told the judge and jurors moments before they filed out to consider the fate of Knox, 26, and her former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, 29.
Prosecutors have called for sentences of 26 and 30 years for Sollecito and Knox, the exchange student from Seattle who shared a house in the Italian town of Perugia with Kercher, then 21, who was found partially naked in a pool of blood with her throat slashed….
Surely President Obama won’t allow Knox to be extradited to Italy. I sure hope not.
Knox has refused to attend the second appeal, which opened in Florence last year, writing to the court from Seattle that she fears being “wrongly convicted.” [….]
In an interview with Italian television Wednesday, Knox said she would be waiting at home with her family for the verdict with “my heart in my mouth.”
“The proof is in the facts. There is no proof I was there when it happened,” she said.
I really don’t understand why this is happening.
Things are really getting out of control in the Ukraine–and that’s an understatement. Some updates:
Parliament backed an amnesty for detainees if protesters vacated the government buildings they had occupied and unblocked streets and squares.
The opposition has rejected this and protesters remain camped out in central Kiev and still occupy key buildings.
The protests began in November after President Viktor Yanukovych reversed a decision to sign an EU trade deal.
The next month he signed a $15bn (£9.2bn; 10.9bn euros) bailout deal with Russia….
The new amnesty law will not come into effect unless protesters leave the local administration buildings they have occupied across Ukraine within 15 days.
The pro-EU protesters have taken over a number of properties in Kiev and other cities which they are using as operation centres and dormitories, and to seek refuge from the freezing conditions outside.
Meanwhile, the president has called in sick. From the LA Times: As Ukraine’s troubles mount, president takes sick leave.
KIEV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich has taken a sick leave amid the nation’s political crisis.
“Ukraine’s president is on a sick leave in connection with an acute respiratory disease accompanied by high fever,” Alexander Orda, the presidential staff’s deputy health chief, said in a statement posted on Yanukovich’s official website Thursday morning.
The announcement came a day after Yanukovich compelled parliament to sign a conditional amnesty for more than 100 detained participants in protests that started over two months ago when Yanukovich refrained from signing an association and trade deal with the European Union.
The protests were predominantly peaceful until mid-January, when Yanukovich endorsed a number of controversial laws curbing rights to assembly and free speech. That move set off a fierce confrontation between thousands of protesters and riot police in central Kiev.
The conflict raged for most of last week and left at least four protesters dead, hundreds injured on both sides and dozens of protesters detained in Kiev and elsewhere in the country.
Read more at the link.
Yesterday the Snowdenistas were celebrating because the heard someone nominated their hero for a Nobel Peace Prize. Well guess who else was also nominated?
Yes, Vladimir Putin was nominated for the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize in October 2013. Maybe they can share the prize and go to the ceremony together. After all, they both live in Russia.
At The Daily Beast, Michael Moynihan explains that “thousands of officials” can nominate anyone they want for the Nobel Peace Prize. He fully expects to be pilloried for it by the Snowden/Greenwald cult.
If you have a paper thin skin (as I do) and are paid to comment on the news (this, for some mysterious reason, also applies to me), it’s advisable to fully disengage from writing about the Edward Snowden saga. After the initial leaks, I offered a cautious piece, urging against the instant beatification of the former NSA contractor. We knew little about him, I argued, so let’s wait for it to play out, and we’ll be better situated to determine if he was more Pentagon Papers thanPumpkin Papers. But it’s one of those stories allergic to nuance: you’re either a lackey of empire (the Snowden skeptic) or a fulminating anti-American trying to undermine Obama’s foreign policy (the Snowden supporter). In a debate without shades of grey, I’d rather leave the whole business to those with more anger, passion, and energy.
But allow me to wade into one tiny aspect of the Snowden affair without wading into the debate: across Twitter and cluttering my inbox; in stories from Time, Bloomberg, The Verge, The Guardian, The Washington Post, Reuters, and dozens of others; and in breathless dispatches from the universe of Facebook, I have been repeatedly informed within that last twenty-four hours that Edward Snowden has been “nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.” Take that previous Nobel Peace Prize laureate Barack Obama!
Well, almost. Because all of the media outlets listed above, and all my Snowdenite friends on Facebook and Twitter, have fallen for the perennial person whose politics I share was nominated for the most meaningless prize on the planetstory. But what, dear reader, does it actually mean to be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize? The short answer: not much.
I hope you’ll read the rest at the link.
I have more links, but I’m running out of space and time, so I’ll put the in the comments. I hope you’ll do the same with any stories you want to share. Have a great day, Sky Dancers!!
I have quite a few articles to share this morning, a real Saturday potpourri! So let’s get started. First up, on Thursday Attorney General Eric Holder gave a wide-ranging interview to Ari Melber of MSNBC, and quite a bit of breaking news came out of it. Here are some of the resulting headlines: NY Daily News: Eric Holder: Could talk deal with NSA-leaker Edward Snowden, but no clemency
Holder told MSNBC that the Obama Administration “would engage in a conversation” about a resolution in the case, but said it would require Snowden acknowledge wrongdoing…. At a University of Virginia forum, where Holder was asked about Snowden, he elaborated on his position, saying, “If Mr. Snowden wanted to come back to the United States and enter a plea, we would engage with his lawyers. We would do the same with any defendant who wanted to enter a plea of guilty, so that is the context to what I said.” But he stressed that the NSA leaker would not walk. “We’ve always indicated that the notion of clemency isn’t something that we were willing to consider.”
Seattle PI: Holder: Marijuana banking regulations on the way
Attorney General Eric Holder says the Obama administration is planning to roll out regulations soon that would allow banks to do business with legal marijuana sellers. During an appearance Thursday at the University of Virginia, Holder said it is important from a law enforcement perspective to enable places that sell marijuana to have access to the banking system so they don’t have large amounts of cash lying around. Currently, processing money from marijuana sales puts federally insured banks at risk of drug racketeering charges. Because of the threat of criminal prosecution, financial institutions often refuse to let marijuana-related businesses open accounts.
There’s a good piece about this at Forbes, but they won’t even let you copy their headlines anymore. Mediaite: Eric Holder: Voter ID Used to ‘Depress the Vote’ of People Who Don’t Support GOP
Attorney General Eric Holder sharply criticized state-level voter identification policies and said that he believes those policies are a “remedy in search of a problem.” He added that, while some may be arguing for voter ID in good faith, he believes that most are advocating for this policy in order to “depress the vote” of those who do not support the “party that is advancing” voter ID measures. “I think many are using it for partisan advantage,” Holder said of voter ID. “People have to understand that we are not opposed to photo identification in a vacuum,” he continued. “But when it is used in — certain ways to disenfranchise particular groups of people, whether by racial designation, ethnic origin, or for partisan reasons, that from my perspective is problematic.” He added that “all the studies” show that in-person voter fraud “simply does not exist” at a level that requires a legislative solution.
Attorney General Eric Holder waded into the controversy over former Defense Secretary Robert Gates’s new book Thursday, calling it “a mistake” for Gates to have published his recollections before President Barack Obama left the White House. “It’s my view that it’s just not a good thing thing to write a book about a president that you served while that president is still in office,” Holder said during an appearance at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center. “From my perspective I think the world of Bob Gates, but I think that the publication of that book — at least at this time — was a mistake.” [….] In the course of offering his critique of the timing of Gates’s book, “Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War,” Holder twice praised the former defense secretary for his leadership. “I like Bob Gates a great deal. He was a good secretary of defense,” the attorney general said.
“I think people just need to be a little patient,” Holder said, according to a transcript of an interview with MSNBC to air at noon Pacific time Friday. “I know it’s been a while. But we have other things that are in the pipeline.” [….] Holder has taken heat for telling a Senate hearing last year that some financial institutions were “so large that it becomes difficult to prosecute them” because criminal charges could hurt the U.S. and even world economies. Since then Holder has tried to emphasize that the Justice Department is not intimidated by the size of a financial institution and would bring any charges it believed it could prove.
As I said, quite a bit of news out of one interview. Good job by Ari Melber.
In other news . . .
The Economist has a brief article that provides some background on the situation in Ukraine: On the march in Kiev –The protests turn nasty and violent, but the president is not giving ground.
JANUARY 22nd was meant to mark Ukraine’s unity day, a celebration of its short-lived pre-Soviet independence. Instead, it was a day of civil unrest and perhaps the biggest test of Ukraine’s post-Soviet integrity. After two months of largely peaceful encampment on the Maidan in Kiev, the protests turned violent. Five people were reported killed and hundreds were injured. An armoured personnel carrier pushed through the streets. Clouds of black smoke and flames mottled the snow-covered ground. Never in its history as an independent state has Ukraine witnessed such violence. It was triggered by the passage of a series of repressive laws imposing tight controls on the media and criminalising the protests of the past two months. One law copied almost verbatim a Russian example, including stigmatising charities and human-rights groups financed from abroad as “foreign agents”. If Russian human-rights activists denounce their parliament as a “crazy printer” churning out repressive legislation, says Oleksandra Matviichuk of the Centre for Civil Liberties in Kiev, Ukraine has a “crazy photocopier”. The clashes show vividly the refusal of the protesters to heed such laws.
Brian Glyn Williams, the U. Mass Dartmouth professor who interacted with Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and recommended some sources of information on Chechnya for a report Tsarnaev was writing, has a post up at HuffPo on how the history of Chechya and Dagestan is coming back to haunt the Winter Olympics in Russia: The Dark Secret Behind the Sochi Olympics: Russia’s Efforts to Hide a Tsarist-Era Genocide. Here’s the conclusion:
The twin bombings in Volgograd in late December 2013 and an earlier one in October are clearly meant to show the Russians that the Chechen-Dagestani terrorists have reignited their terror jihad. They are also meant to remind the world of the tragedy that befell the Circassians of the Caucasus’s Black Sea shore exactly 150 years ago this winter. This is the dark secret that Russia’s authoritarian leader, Putin, does not want the world to know. Putin has thus far been very successful in conflating Russia’s neo-colonial war against Chechen separatists with America’s war on nihilist Al Qaeda Arab terrorists. Any attempt to remind the world of Imperial Russia/Post-Soviet Russia’s war crimes in the Caucasus is a threat to Putin’s pet project, the whitewashed Sochi Olympics. This of course not to excuse the brutal terroristic acts of the Caucasian Emirate or the Chechen rebels, but it certainly provides the one thing that Putin does not want the world to see as he constructs his “Potemkin village” in Sochi, and that is an honest account of the events that have made this the most terrorist fraught Olympic games since the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich.
Remember Erik Prince, the Michigan millionaire who founded Blackwater? Guess what he’s doing these days? The WSJ has the scoop: Erik Prince: Out of Blackwater and Into China. Erik Prince —ex-Navy SEAL, ex-CIA spy, ex-CEO of private-security firm Blackwater —calls himself an “accidental tourist” whose modest business boomed after 9/11, expanded into Iraq and Afghanistan, and then was “blowtorched by politics.” To critics and conspiracy theorists, he is a mercenary war-profiteer. To admirers, he’s a patriot who has repeatedly answered America’s call with bravery and creativity.
Now, sitting in a boardroom above Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour, he explains his newest title, acquired this month: chairman of Frontier Services Group, an Africa-focused security and logistics company with intimate ties to China’s largest state-owned conglomerate, Citic Group. Beijing has titanic ambitions to tap Africa’s resources—including $1 trillion in planned spending on roads, railways and airports by 2025—and Mr. Prince wants in…. “I would rather deal with the vagaries of investing in Africa than in figuring out what the hell else Washington is going to do to the entrepreneur next,” says the crew-cut 44-year-old. Having launched Blackwater in 1997 as a rural North Carolina training facility for U.S. soldiers and police, Mr. Prince says he “kept saying ‘yes’ as the demand curve called—Columbine, the USS Cole and then 9/11.” In 100,000 missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, he says, Blackwater contractors never lost a U.S. official under their protection. But the company gained a trigger-happy reputation, especially after a September 2007 shootout that left 17 civilians dead in Baghdad’s Nisour Square. At that point, charges Mr. Prince, Blackwater was “completely thrown under the bus by a fickle customer”—the U.S. government, and especially the State Department. He says Washington opted to “churn up the entire federal bureaucracy” and sic it on Blackwater “like a bunch of rabid dogs.” According to Mr. Prince, IRS auditors told his colleagues that they had “never been under so much pressure to get someone as to get Erik Prince,” and congressional staffers promised, “We’re going to ride you till you’re out of business.”
Awwwwww…..Poor little rich boy. Where’s my tiny violin?
Speaking of entrepreneurs, Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos’ plans for his latest acquisition–The Washington Post–are becoming clearer, as he hires more right wing libertarians for the op-ed page. Now Pando Daily reveals what Don Graham is up to now that he’s dumped the family business: The company formerly known as WaPo moves into tech apps.
Today, the company formerly known as WaPo — now called Graham Holdings – has announced a new business endeavor in journalism. Surprisingly, said endeavor doesn’t have much to do with actual journalism at all — it falls squarely in the tech camp. It’s a content discovery app called Trove. Trove fits in the now-torrential trend of such applications. Companies like Flipboard,Prismatic, Rockmelt, and N3twork have all tread this ground long before Trove. They’re all convinced that places like Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS readers are not good enough for finding the best stories…. The two men behind Trove have rich and storied histories. Vijay Ravindran, the CEO of Trove, served as The Washington Post’s Chief Digital Officer before the sale, and ran ordering at Amazon for seven years before that. Reuters oped columnist Jack Shafer even divpredicted (incorrectly) that Ravindran would be named the new WaPo publisher after the sale. The other Trove heavyweight is product lead Rob Malda, who is also the co-founder and former editor-in-chief of Slashdot — the predecessor of every user-focused news aggregator since, from Digg to Reddit to Hacker News.
Read all about it at the above link.
A few short takes:
In other tech news, CSM’s Security Watch reports that Booz Allen, Snowden’s old firm, looking to help US government with ‘insider threats’. Author Dan Murphy asks, “Are defense and intelligence contractors the best choice to manage a threat they’ve contributed to?” Read it and weep.
According to Fox News, gun manufacturers Smith & Wesson and Ruger will no longer do business in California because they don’t want to comply with a new CA law that allows law enforcement to trace bullets to the individual gun they came from. After all, why would gun companies want to help police catch murderers? Unbelievable!
Did you know that this month is the 50th anniversary of Stanley Kubrick’s brilliant satire, Dr. Strangelove? IMHO, it is one of the funniest movies of all time. Well, Eric Schlosser has a not-so-funny article about it at The New Yorker: ALMOST EVERYTHING IN “DR. STRANGELOVE” WAS TRUE. Don’t miss this one; it’s a must read!
Apparently the latest food craze to emerge from San Francisco is “artisanal toast.” How did toast become the latest artisanal food craze? Ask a trivial question, get a profound, heartbreaking answer. John Gravois writes about it at Pacific Standard: The Science of Society. Weird.
A silly test to take at Buzzfeed: Which Pop Diva Are You? I got Pink. I know nothing about her…but she looks kinda cool.
Finally, I posted this link in the comments recently, but I don’t know if anyone looked at it. I’m posting it again, because I think it’s absolutely adorable. It’s some glamour shots of elderly people having fun dressing up and posing as various movie heroes and heroines. Here’s just one example: