Marisa’s Musings: DC Metro Train Crash/Iran Update/Obama Poll/SCOTUS on Special Ed

By Marisa Bramwell

Jun 22, 2009 9:26pm

Happy Monday everyone, Marisa Bramwell here from the ABC News Desk.  This evening we continue to watch the developments in DC with the Metro train collision…Here's tonight's evening editorial note.

DC TRAIN COLLISION:  A rush hour train collision in Washington, DC has left at least 70 people injured and several killed.  ABC News’ Pierre Thomas reports: “Just before 5p a derailed subway train sitting on the track was struck by another speeding train in North East Washington. The collision was so catastrophic it sent one of the trains standing nearly straight in the air.  When the collision was over at least six were killed in the deadliest Metro accident in history.”   The female operator of the trailing train is among those killed.  The NTSB has launched a team to investigate the crash, and Metro officials said Tuesday the trains will operate under manual mode as opposed to automatic mode.   Lisa Stark reports on the difference:  “under [automatic mode ] the train should automatically come to a stop if there is another train on the track up ahead…[under manual mode] the engineer is running the train and responsible for stopping the train.”  It is not clear what mode the trains were operating under during the accident.  President Obama released a statement late Monday in response to the crash: “Michelle and I were saddened by the terrible accident in Northeast Washington D.C. today. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and friends affected by this tragedy.  I want to thank the brave first responders who arrived immediately to save lives. My staff has been in touch with Mayor Fenty⿿s office and will continue to monitor the situation.” The mayor, local officials and the NTSB will hold a briefing at 8am ET Tuesday. 

IRAN LATEST:  Iran’s Revolutionary Guard warned protestors to prepare for "revolutionary confrontation" if they took to the streets Monday:  "In the current sensitive situation … the Guards will firmly confront in a revolutionary way rioters and those who violate the law," said a statement posted on the Guards' website.  In Tehran military police stood by their word, using force and tear gas to break up several protests.  Eyewitnesses in the city told ABC News police broke up any gatherings of people -even a group of 200 that tried to hold a vigil for Neda, the 16-year-old girl shot and killed over the weekend – in an attempt to stop demonstrations before they start.   As night fell, once again people took to their rooftops to yell “Allah Akbar” and other chants of defiance.  A general strike is planned for Tuesday.  “Even though the streets are more calm, at the highest levels of the Iranian government there is turbulent disagreement,” Jim Sciutto reported on WORLD NEWS.  “On Sunday, the speaker of parliament said the government should listen to the protestors’ demands, after the supreme leader dismissed those concerns on Friday.  Then today, the government admitted irregularities affecting 3 million votes in 50 voting districts.  The problem?  More votes cast than eligible voters.”  Even so, Iran’s Guardian Council insists the presidential election results were not affected by the voting discrepancies.  Mirhoussein Mousavi  exhibited signs of his divided loyalties – while he issued a statement Sunday encouraging protests, Monday he called the paramilitary police responsible for the weekend’s violence “our brothers”  and "protectors of our revolution and regime.”   Mousavi has not been seen in days.  David Wright reports: “the regime is clearly doing its best to intimidate Mousavi…arresting his top lieutenants and prominent supporters.  Some government officials are even threatening to hold him ‘criminally responsible’ for the protests.  Mousavi is increasingly isolated.” Also Monday, Iran’s National Security and Policy Commission met to discuss allegations of Western interference in the elections. 

ABC NEWS/WASHINGTON POST OBAMA POLL:  The latest ABC News/Washington Post shows the president’s popularity among Americans is beginning to wane.   Gary Langer reports: “A still-impressive 65 percent of Americans in this new ABC News/Washington Post poll approve of Obama’s job performance. But there’s been a retrenchment in the expectation that his stimulus plan will improve the economy – and, consequently, a halt in what had been steadily improving views of the nation’s direction.  A narrow majority, 52 percent, now thinks Obama’s stimulus program has helped or will help the nation’s economy – down from 59 percent in late April. While he’s vulnerable elsewhere as well, it’s the economy that’s his make-or-break issue – and his advantage over the Republicans in trust to handle it, while still broad, has narrowed from a record 37 points, 61-24 percent, in April, to 24 points, 55-31 percent, today.”  George Stephanopoulos provided more analysis on WORLD NEWS: “It’s all about the economy…high unemployment is what the White House is concerned about.  You look at our poll, and they’re also really concerned about the deficit.  The president is below 50 percent on dealing with the deficit.  It seems like the bailout of the automakers – only 45 percent support that.  It seems to have crystallized concerns about government overreach.”

POTUS SMOKING BILL:  President Obama signed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which gives the FDA the authority to regulate the marketing, advertising and manufacturing of tobacco products.  “Each day, 1,000 young people under the age of 18 become new regular, daily smokers, and almost 90 percent of all smokers began at or before their 18th birthday…I know; I was one of these teenagers,” the president said. “And so I know how difficult it can be to break this habit when it's been with you for a long time.”

SUPREME COURT ON SPECIAL EDUCATION:  The Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in favor of allowing parents of special education students to seek reimbursement for private school tuition.  In their ruling, the Justices said, “We conclude that IDEA authorizes reimbursement for the cost of private special education services when a school district fails to provide a FAPE and the private school placement is appropriate, regardless of whether the child previously received special education or related services through the public school."   As John Donvan reported on World News, families seeking money will not automatically get it: “there are other legal requirements that need to be met. One very practical one, more challenging now than ever before, is that the money has to be there in the first place.” Example: the private school tuition sought in the case that won in the Supreme Court was $65,000 a year
 (thanks to Faisal Jamil for this entry)

INJURED CLINTON CANCELS TRIPS:  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has cancelled her overseas trips this week as she recovers from surgery for a broken elbow.  Clinton fell and broke her elbow last week at the State Department.  Kirit Radia reports other U.S. officials will represent Clinton at meetings in Italy and Greece this week. 

“MISSING” SC GOVERNOR:   It’s the case of the “missing” governor.  South Carolina governor Mark Sanford has not been seen by his family or office since last Thursday, but they do not seem to be too concerned; his wife told the Associated Press the governor was “writing something and wanted some space to get away from the kids.”  Jonathan Karl reports:  “The Governor’s office won’t say where he is or what he’s been doing…local authorities say not even his security agents know where he is.  The Lt. Governor — who would be in charge in the governor’s absence – didn’t even know he was going away.”
Apparently this is something the governor is known to do — on Monday his spokesman released a statement that said it was not uncommon for the governor to “go out of pocket for a few days at a time to clear his head.”  His office said the governor was “taking some time away from the office this week to recharge after the stimulus battle and the legislative session, and to work on a couple of projects that have fallen by the wayside. We are not going to discuss the specifics of his travel arrangements or his security arrangements."

RIP KODACHROME:  Eastman Kodak Co. announced it was retiring its oldest film stock, Kodachrome, because of declining customer demand.   Kodachrome, which Kodak sold for 74 years, now make up just 1 percent of the company’s sales; digital film products make up 70 percent of Kodak’s sales. 

MARKETS SLIDE/GAS PRICES:  Concerns about global economy recovery sent the Dow Jones Industrial down 200 points Monday to close at 8,339.01.  Gas prices increased two cents this week to $2.69.  It’s the eighth increase in a row, but Dan Arnall reports the increases are slowing down: “This week’s two cent increase is the smallest weekly increase since the end of April. We’re also nowhere near the record gasoline prices consumers were paying a year ago — $4.08 for the week of June 23, 2008, which is 35 percent higher than what people are paying now.”

MORTGAGE FORECAST:  The Mortgage Bankers Association announced Monday that it has revised its previous mortgage forecast for 2009; it now expects $2.03 trillion in mortgages to be issued in 2009, $700 billion less than the amount the group forecast in March.  The MBA attributes the revision to falling home prices (resulting in smaller loans), cash purchases of homes and increasing interest rates.  The group also said it expects new home sales in 2009 to be down 27 percent compared to 2008, and home prices will continue to fall about 10 percent this year. 

MADOFF ASSOCIATES CHARGED:  The Securities and Exchange Commission has filed charges of securities fraud against a New York-based broker-dealer and a California-based investment advisor in connection with Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme.  The SEC alleges Cohmad Securities Corp.’s chairman Maurice Cohn, COO Marcia Cohn and rep Robert Jaffe raised money to funnel to Madoff while ignoring signs the money manager was involved in fraudulent activities.  The SEC suit against Los Angeles-based Stanley Chais alleges he misrepresented his role in managing the assets of three funds that invested with Madoff and distributing false account statements.

ALLEN STANFORD:  Texas billionaire Allen Stanford is en route to Houston for a detention hearing in federal court Tuesday.  Stanford was arrested in Virginia last week on fraud, conspiracy and obstruction charges for allegedly running a $7 billion Ponzi scheme.

SENATOR BYRD:  Senator Robert Byrd remains hospitalized with a staph infection.  Byrd’s office said the senator – who’s been hospitalized since May 15th – continues to undergo physical therapy and treatment, and is not expected to be in the office this week. 

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