Howdy folks-tonight's note.........
WARNING SIGNS/HASAN’S EMAILS-Brian Ross reported last Thursday that accused Fort Hood gunman Major Nidal Hasan had corresponded via email with American-born and now Yemen-based cleric Anwar Awlaki. What those emails contained was a mystery…until tonight. Ross reported on WORLD NEWS that “Major Hasan’s emails to the radical cleric in Yemen have been classified top secret, but tonight we’ve been able to learn some of what he said.” The emails were sent over a six-month period and Ross says that “US intelligence agencies intercepted 18 of them, 16 from Hasan, two back from the cleric Anwar Awlaki.” Content we’ve learned sure sounds ominous…Ross: “I can’t wait to join you in the afterlife Hasan wrote Awlaki, according to an American official who has seen them. Other messages include questions, the official said, ‘when is jihad appropriate?’, ‘is it permissible if there are innocents killed in a suicide attack?’” Did it raise any red flags? Ross: “Two FBI task forces, in Washington, D.C. and San Diego, received the intercepted messages but deemed them innocent.” That information didn’t sit well with U.S. Senators who held a hearing on the Fort Hood attack today. Connecticut Independent Senator Joe Lieberman, who chairs the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs noted today “The choice of this recipient of emails says a lot about what Hasan was looking for.” Ross expounds: “The American-born Awlaki is considered a recruiter for al-Qaeda. He has been in hiding since the shooting, but a Yemeni journalist told ABC NEWS today that the emails show Hasan was quote ‘almost a member of al-Qaeda’.” Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced an investigation of his own today, naming former Army Secretary Togo West and former Navy chief Vernon Clark to head a review of a broad range of Pentagon programs, ranging from medical and personnel policies to how well military bases are secured. In Ross’ close he notes that “Secretary Gates promised full and open disclosure but so far that has been in short supply. Every aspect of the case has been classified top secret and even members of Congress with top secret clearances say they can’t get their questions answered in classified briefings.”
FAA OUTAGE-So you’ve made it thru the line at the counter and you’ve got your ticket. You’ve braved the security lines and you’re on the “other side” with plenty of time to spare before your flight takes off. The dream scenario….unless that “plenty of time to spare” gets compounded by a “glitch in the air traffic control system.” That was the situation this morning. Lisa Stark, filing for WORLD NEWS, noted “no one was going anywhere fast…extensive delays stretched from New York to Atlanta to Houston.” What pray tell was the problem Ms. Stark? Stark: “The problems all began shortly after 5am ET-when a single circuit board failed in a computer center in Salt Lake City. It meant controllers around the nation were no longer receiving information about flights electronically. Instead they had to resort to phone calls and manually inputting flight information into their computers.” Holy 1980s Batman! Stark notes the glitch “may have caused as many as 2000 flight delays” but how did it impact other parts of the flight system, like the military? Stark: “ABC NEWS has learned the U.S. military, which since 9/11 is supposed to get FAA radar images showing the location of every plane in the air, was not getting some of that information. It managed to work around that. But as a precaution it also began using an AWACS surveillance plane as an extra eye in the sky.” As for the “glitch”, Stark notes that “this was the second time in a little over a year that a computer glitch brought the nation’s airlines and airports to a halt-increasing calls for better and more reliable equipment.”
AFGHANISTAN: Can he deliver? That seems to be the $64,000 question after an inaugural speech by Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai, sworn in for a second five year term. Speaking in front of hundreds of dignitaries from across Afghanistan and many other parts of the world, President Karzai pledged to get tough on corruption and strengthen his own security forces so foreign troops can start going home. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was in Kabul for the occasion, welcomed Karzai’s remarks but added that the U.S. would “watch very carefully to see how that's implemented." As Martha Raddatz explains: “Secretary Clinton made that quite clear in a 90 minute arm twisting session with Karzai last night where she outlined benchmarks for-- Transparency in anti corruption programs…Cutting cronyism in the government And a clear accounting of where civilian aid dollars are being spent… Just as critical is Karzai's support of Afghan security forces. His inauguration comes as President Obama is making his final decision on whether to send tens of thousands of additional troops to this country . Karzai gave his strongest statement yet today ..saying Afghan forces could take full control of the country in five years.” Martha adds: “It is almost certain that President Obama will add at least 10,000 troops needed to train Afghan forces, but the decision on whether to add even more US troops is still weeks away.” (thanks to Ed Bailey for this entry)
OPRAH WINFREY SHOW CALLING IT QUITS-The “Oprah Winfrey Show” will call it quits in 2011 after 25 years on the air, Harpo Productions announced tonight. Winfrey plans to announce the final date tomorrow on the live broadcast of her show. This ends speculation that Ms. Winfrey would be transferring her show to her new cable network. Winfrey is widely expected to start up a new talk show on OWN:The Oprah Winfrey Network, a much-delayed joint venture with Discovery Communications Inc. that is expected to debut in 2011. OWN is to replace the Discovery Health Channel and will debut in some 70 million homes.
H1N1 ACTIVITY ON THE WANE?-The ABC NEWS MEDICAL UNIT has some encouraging news regarding the H1N1 virus-from Joanna Schaffhausen: “Across the country, there are signs in many places that H1N1 activity has peaked and is declining. We have reports from health departments in 9 states saying activity is down. Thirty hospitals, from all over the country, say activity is down or has peaked. Where a few weeks ago there were half a dozen or more hospitals reporting a number of H1N1 patients in their ICU, we are finding it difficult to find a hospital with large numbers of such patients. Health officials in Colorado, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Rhode Island and Wyoming say they hope their states have seen the worst of it. At the local level, many hospitals are experiencing declines. The ABC NEWS MEDICAL UNIT has now heard from 30 hospitals or medical centers that report flu activity is either holding steady or starting to decrease. These include centers in California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. The hospitals also illustrate the variable nature of these outbreaks. Some locations were never that busy to begin with; others, while showing a decline, are still well above what they usually see at this time. But the CDC warns that influenza is unpredictable and that we yet see another rise, especially in the winter months.” Dr. Richard Besser adds: “My interpretation is that cases have peaked. This doesn't mean that there won't be future peaks as was seen with the pandemic of 1957. Thanksgiving Holiday travel has the potential to increase transmission if ill people don't abide by the recommendations to stay home.”
KATRINA JUDGEMENT: In a landmark ruling that could open up the legal floodgates, a federal judge in Louisiana has blamed the Army Corp of Engineers for "monumental negligence" that caused some of the worst flooding from Hurricane Katrina. Residents of St. Bernard Parish and the Lower 9th Ward in New Orleans have long argued that Katrina was largely a man-made disaster, caused by the federal government's failure to maintain the levees protecting the city. A few families and one business decided to sue – and they were awarded a total of $720,000. Steve Osunsami reports: “The Corps’ handling of this shipping canal was the issue in this case. The judge said it was their poor maintenance of the canal that contributed to the disaster…specifically the flooding in two of the hardest hit communities. The government has long argued that nature was responsible. The next lawsuit, the big one, could cost the government an unbelievable 100-billion dollars, if the government loses again.” The court ruling, though still subject to appeal, opens the door to claims by more than 100,000 individuals, businesses and even government entities that have pending damage claims against the Corps. The plaintiffs' lawyers, in an effort to head off more litigation, plan to approach congressional leaders after Thanksgiving with a list of demands to settle the case. They want the federal government to compensate the residents of New Orleans, fix the region's broken infrastructure, restore the wetlands of south Louisiana and overhaul the way the Army Corps of Engineers operates. (thanks to Ed Bailey for this entry)
SENATE HEALTH CARE REFORM-We reported last night that the Democrats had fashioned a health-care reform bill. Tonight, Jon Karl fills us in on some of the particulars: “The bill would expand coverage to 31 million uninsured Americans. Require most people to get insurance or pay a fine. Provide subsidies for lower income households.” The tab? $848 billion over 10 years. Karl tells us how they plan to pay for it: “Nearly $500 million in reduced Medicare spending and about $500 million in new taxes, mostly on insurance companies and wealthier Americans. And it adds a new 5 percent tax on elective cosmetic surgery, called the Bo-tax.” Senate Republicans aren’t fans-Karl notes that “Republicans denounced (the bill) as a government take-over of the health care system.” “But Democratic leaders,” Karl adds, “said they were confident they’d have support from all 60 Democratic senators.” To ensure said support, Majority Leader Reid seems to have included at least one sweetener in the bill-Karl: “Buried in the bills’ 2074 pages of often incomprehensible language are three of those pages aimed at winning the vote of one skeptical Democratic, Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu, giving her state an extra $100 million in Medicaid subsidies.” We won’t have long to see if Landrieu is aboard-Karl: “The first big test vote comes Saturday night. Democrats are going to need 60 votes to officially begin debating the bill on the Senate floor. Right now, every single Republican is saying they will vote no. That means that Harry Reid will need the support of all of his Democrats.”
GEITHNER DEFENDS ADMINISTRATION (AND HIS JOB)-Job security. It’s something we all long for. Certain professions aren’t suited for the practice…news director….football coach. But what about Treasury Secretary? If today’s contentious appearance by Timothy Geithner before the Joint Economic Committee is any indication, you may have to add that Cabinet position to the list. The JEC’s top ranking Republican Kevin Brady (TX) gave a withering recap of the state of the American economy in the year since President Obama was elected and told Geithner “You are the point man on the economy…The buck in effect stops with you.” Brady cited remarks by Oregon Democratic Rep Peter DeFazio that Geithner should not remain in office, adding that “conservatives agree that as point person you’ve failed. Liberals are growing in that consensus as well.” Brady then asked Geithner “For the sake of our jobs, will you step down from your post?” Geithner’s response was neither a yes nor a no…it was a spirited defense of the Obama Administration’s actions in the face of the hand they were dealt. Geithner: “You gave this president an economy falling off the cliff, values of American savings cut almost in half, millions of Americans out of work…,” he said. “It’s just a basic fact: a year ago, a year ago this economy was falling at a rate of six percent a year. We were losing between half a million and three-quarters of a million jobs and that process was accelerating, not slowing, until the President of the United States came and took office.” Brady’s call for Geithner’s resignation was echoed later in the hearing by another Republican congressman from Texas, Michael Burgess. In light of the two Republican and one Democratic Representatives calling for Geithner’s ouster, the White House released a statement this evening which read “Secretary Geithner has helped steer the American economy back from the brink, and is now leading the effort on financial reform. His focus today - and ours - is on economic recovery and addressing the challenges the American people face every day. We invite anyone with good ideas, whether they agree with us or not, to be a part of the productive effort toward a solution.”
HOUSING/MORTGAGE DELINQUENCIES-Dan Arnall: “According to new data published by the Mortgage Banker Association this morning, nearly 1 in 10 American home loans were at least 1 month behind in payment at the end of the third quarter. The quarterly National Delinquency Survey shows that almost 1 in 20 mortgage loans were in the foreclosure process at some point during the quarter – a record level. The most disturbing part of today’s report? Subprime fixed and adjustable rate loans are beginning to perform better – fewer foreclosures in the past quarter in both those categories. The big increases in foreclosures and delinquencies are coming from the ‘prime’ category of loans held by the folks who were the best credit risks. ‘Thirty-three percent of foreclosures started in the third quarter were on prime fixed-rate and loans and those loans were 44 percent of the quarterly increase in foreclosures,’ said Brinkmann. ‘The foreclosure numbers for prime fixed-rate loans will get worse because those loans represented 54 percent of the quarterly increase in loans 90 days or more past due but not yet in foreclosure.’ It is a trend that has been predicted for some time – as go jobs, so go foreclosures.”
OTHER STUFF- -- ATLANTIS SPACE WALK-Crew of the shuttle Atlantis completed their first of three scheduled spacewalks today outside the International Space Station-Atlantis crewmen Michael Foreman and Dr. Robert Satcher Jr. (the first orthopedic surgeon in space!)-six hours and 37 minutes. Next spacewalk is Saturday (Gina Sunseri)