Clem’s Chronicles: Fort Hood Memorial/DC Sniper Executed/Sesame Street turns the big 4-0

By Clem Lane

Nov 10, 2009 9:46pm

Good evening folks. Quite a lot of news today-here's the missive…….

FORT HOOD MEMORIAL-Today a chance for the nation to come together to mourn the loss of those killed last week in Fort Hood, Texas. While most of us couldn’t be there, the Consoler-in-chief went, and spoke eloquently on America’s behalf. As Charles Gibson said on WORLD NEWS earlier this evening, “The President came to Fort Hood to be part of the military family he commands.” He relayed stories of each of the deceased-a wide and varied group in age alone (from 19 to 61). Their individual paths leading up to last week’s tragedy as varied as you might imagine-as Gibson noted “they represent so much of the fabric of American life”.
The President also talked about the suspect thought responsible for the loss of life, and was clear in his condemnation-the President saying “no faith justifies these murderous and craven acts. No just and loving God looks upon them with favor. And for what he has done, we know that the killer will be met with justice-in this world and the next.”
Bob Woodruff, filing for WORLD NEWS, showed us how far and wide the grief “extends beyond the walls of this military post.” He took us from St. Paul, MN to Spokane, WA where family members and friends of two of those slain watched. Woodruff also took us to those praying for wounded still suffering-“in Homewood, Illinois, the family of 21-year-old Najee Hull is clinging to hope…Hull remains in critical condition in a Texas hospital.”
Back at Fort Hood, the President noted “the greatest generation” continues to be right before “our very eyes”. President Obama added “Long after they are laid to rest, it will be said of this generation that they believed under the trying of tests. That they persevered not just when it was easy, but when it was hard. And that they paid the price and bore the burden to secure this nation, and stood up for the values that live in the hearts of all free peoples.”
FORT HOOD HOMECOMING TONIGHT/NIGHTLINE REMINDER-On a day with so much sorrow, perhaps a fitting ending, or at least a happier one. Soldiers from the 1st Cavalry are returning tonight from Iraq and were due to land a short while ago at Fort Hood’s Cooper Field. We’ve got a producer and crew there –please tune into NIGHTLINE tonight where Bob Woodruff will have the latest on this most moving of days.

FORT HOOD PROBE:  FBI agents and military investigators continue their full court press in the Fort Hood killings.  Though they’re not commenting on the probe, it’s apparent they are focused on the motivation of the only suspect in the attack, Major Nidal Hasan.  Brian Ross tells us that just today, they showed up at the Mosque in Killeen that Hasan attended, rummaging through a trash bin.  Brian says a lot of data has been collected on the Army psychiatrist:  “Agents seized Hasan's computer in a search of his apartment last Thursday night, and all of his internet contacts and writings are under examination.  The Washington Post reported today that Hasan presented this power point presentation at Walter Reed Hospital in 2007, saying "It's getting harder and harder for Muslims in the service to morally justify being in a military that seems constantly engaged against fellow Muslims." Under comments he wrote, "We love death more than you love life." And he recommended Muslim soldiers be given the option of being released from the military as Conscientious Objectors to decrease what he called adverse events.”  There were also questions as to how much contact Hasan had with cleric Anwar Awlaki, a top recruiter for al Qaeda who’s based in Yemen.    Ross reports that “US officials now confirm Hasan sent as many as 20 emails to Awlaki which authorities intercepted, but later deemed innocent or protected by the First Amendment.  The FBI said it turned over the information to the Army, but Defense Department officials today denied that.  What happened, officials say, is that the emails were given to one military investigator on a joint terror task force who concluded they did not merit further investigation.  The emails were never forwarded to the Pentagon, and the Army did not learn of them until the shootings.” (thanks to Marisa Bramwell for this entry)

FORT LEWIS MEMORIAL-From Karen Travers: “On the same day that President Obama honored the men and women killed at Ft. Hood last week, Vice President Biden spoke candidly about loss and sacrifice at a ceremony at Fort Lewis in Washington. The ceremony honored seven soldiers killed by an IED in Afghanistan on Oct. 27. The soldiers were assigned to the 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division.
Biden, who lost his wife and daughter in a car accident in 1972, spoke directly to the grieving families and community.
‘Although there's no way to fathom this now — I promise you, from my own experience, that the day will come that the memory of your son, your brother, your husband will immediately bring a smile to your lips, and not a tear to your eye,’ the vice president said. ‘That day will come, I promise you. But my prayer for all of you is it comes sooner than later.’

D.C.-AREA SNIPER EXECUTION-End of the line for John Allen Muhammad. The man convicted of the sniper attacks in 2002 that left 10 dead was executed earlier this evening. Muhammad died by injection at 9:11 p.m. at Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt, VA prison spokesman Larry Traylor said. He said Muhammad had no final statement and that Traylor didn't hear him utter any words during the execution.

UNITED PILOT/FLYING AND ALCOHOL-A United Airlines pilot scheduled to fly from London to Chicago was pulled from a plane and arrested shortly before take-off after a co-worker suspected him of being drunk. Scotland Yard confirmed that Erwin Vermont Washington, the 51-year-old pilot in question, was charged with being over the alcohol limit. United released a statement which said “Safety is our highest priority and the pilot has been removed from service while we are cooperating with authorities and conducting a full investigation. United's alcohol policy is among the strictest in the industry and we have no tolerance for violation of this well-established policy.” This is the latest of several incidents that have occurred this year concerning airline pilots and alcohol. 

GOOGLE/FLU SHOT FINDER-Google has teamed up with the Department of Health & Human Services to create the “Flu Shot Finder”, an application intended to help you find when and where you can get access to the seasonal and H1N1 vaccines in your neighborhood. It’s early days-Google noted in its’ press release that “It's important to note that this project is just beginning and we have not yet received information about flu shot clinics for many locations. In addition, many locations that are shown are currently out of stock. We launched this service now in order to help disseminate information about locations where vaccines are available, and also to make more vaccine providers aware of the project so that they can contribute.”

BRAZIL/MASSIVE POWER OUTAGE AFFECTING MILLIONS-Most of Brazil’s two-largest cities were hit by electrical blackouts earlier this evening. Millions of people living in Rio de Janiero, Sao Paolo and other cities are still without power. The G1 Web site of Globo TV says Brazil lost 17,000 megawatts of power after an unspecified problem happened at the Itaipu hydroelectric dam that straddles the border of Brazil and Paraguay. The blackouts come three days after CBS's "60 Minutes" news program reported several past Brazilian power outages were caused by hackers.

HEALTH CARE/BUBBA COMES A CALLIN’-Former President Bill Clinton made an unusual visit to the Democratic Party’s closed-door Senate caucus meeting today to urge Senate Democrats to pass health care reform legislation by year’s end. Clinton came at the invitation of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (NV). Though the meeting was closed Zach Wolf got a read on what was said by lawmakers who attended the meeting. Wolf: “First, he said the opposition is so loud because Democrats are so close to victory. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-RI, said Clinton attempted to settle Democrats’ fears about the boisterous opponents of health reform, who made themselves known at town hall meetings in August and at a large weekday rally with 5,000 or so demonstrators and Republican Congressmen on the West front of the Capitol last week.”
Mr. Clinton also had an answer for those who see flaws- “On the policy, there is no perfect bill,” he said. Wolf adds “And to that end, Clinton exhorted Senators of the ‘critical importance that individual senators refrain from laying down markers,’ according to Sen. Ben Cardin, D-MD.”

NOWAK PLEADS GUILTY-Remember Lisa Nowak? She was the former astronaut and Navy captain who drove 1000 miles from Houston to Orlando to confront the “other” woman involved in a romantic rivalry. Nowak plead guilty today to reduced charges of third-degree felony burglary and misdemeanor battery. She originally had been charged with two felonies – attempted kidnapping and burglary – along with misdemeanor battery. She could have faced up to life in prison under the more serious felony charges. 

BEAR STEARNS HEDGE-FUND MANAGERS ACQUITTED- Two Bear Stearns executives who ran hedge funds that collapsed after betting heavily on the shaky subprime mortgage market were acquitted today of lying to investors. A jury in federal court in Brooklyn deliberated about eight hours over two days before finding Ralph Cioffi and Matthew Tannin not guilty of conspiracy and other charges in an alleged scheme that cost 300 investors about $1.6 billion and nearly caused the demise of Bear Stearns itself. The firm avoided bankruptcy in a rescue buyout by JPMorgan Chase & Co. Jason Ryan notes “This is a STUNNING defeat for the Justice Department, this will likely reduce the chances of charges being brought in other ongoing subprime investigations which have been going on for sometime now. Earlier this year the FBI had acknowledged they had as many as 38 major corporate fraud investigations related to the economic crisis.”

RISING CREDIT CARD RATES:  Banks are taking advantage of the final months before credit card legislation goes into effect by ramping up the fees it charges consumers.  “In February, the Card Act goes into effect which will limit the credit card industry’s ability to raise rates.  But a Pew Charitable Trusts Study of 400 different credit cards found not one is complying with the terms of the new law yet,” Elisabeth Leamy reported on WORLD NEWS.  The result? Sky-rocketing interest rates, even for the best consumers.  Leamy continues: “The American Bankers Association says rates are rising because in this tough economy many people can’t pay their bills and those losses are absorbed by other customers.”  Meaning higher interest rates to help pay off delinquent bills.  Matt Jaffe tells us that a Federal Reserve survey released Monday found that “about half of the banks…said they expect to increase interest rate spreads, reduce credit card limits, and lower the number of loans extended to consumers who do not possess credit ratings above a certain level,” in anticipation of the new law.  “Around 45 percent of banks reported that they expect to raise the minimum requirements for credit scores and around 40 percent said they expect to raise annual fees for prime borrowers, the central bank reported. For nonprime borrowers, around 75 percent of banks said they anticipate raising interest rate spreads and 60 percent said they will scale back the number of loans for consumers that do not meet the credit score cut-off,” Jaffe says.  Leamy notes that there is “one bright spot: when a bank tries to raise your rate, you now have 45 days to opt out, though it usually means canceling your card.” (thanks to Marisa Bramwell for this entry)

SESAME STREET TURNS 40:  Forty years ago today beloved children’s program “Sesame Street” premiered on television.  It was the first of its kind, “Its creators called it an ‘experiment.’ Could children actually learn from TV?  Would their parents turn it on?” David Muir asked on WORLD NEWS.  An experiment it was – featuring a cast of muppets like Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch and Bert who interacted with its diverse human cast. “Originally, the muppets and the actors weren’t going to interact.  Creators feared children would be confused.”
“Sesame Street” was so controversial when it aired in 1969,”it was banned in the first year in Mississippi because of that integrated cast,” Executive Producer Carol-Lynn Parente told ABC NEWS.  Today “Sesame Street” marked its 40th birthday with a visit from Michelle Obama, the first African-American First Lady. (thanks to Marisa Bramwell for this entry)

OFFICE PARK SHOOTING-Oregon police say a shooting at a drug-testing facility in Tualatin, a suburb of Portland, has left two people dead and two others wounded. Guidance that Pierre Thomas received from “a senior official” is that this looks to be a domestic violence killing with the shooter being one of the two dead. (Pierre Thomas)
ENERGY DEPT./EXPECT TO PAY MORE FOR GAS, HEATING OIL THIS WINTER-Pretty sure this won’t help our economic recovery- The government said Tuesday that oil prices should average about $77 a barrel this winter, 10 percent more than its estimates issued just last month. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) said it expects the national average gas prices to rise from $2.55 per gallon in October to $2.70 per gallon this month. Pump prices are estimated to rise to an average of $2.81 in 2010, with prices increasing to $3 a gallon during the summer driving season. The EIA said the average household will pay 4 percent more for heating oil.
HOUSING/EXISTING HOME SALES UP, PRICES DOWN-Good news…volume of home sales up in 45 of the 50 states in the 3rd quarter says a new report on existing home sales. Not so good news…prices paid continue to drop for the majority (80%) of markets. This due to the record number of foreclosures and short sales which make up over a third of all existing home sales. The National Association of Realtors  noted that price declines have “moderated” recently, a situation that can only improve as the unsold home inventory continues to shrink to a level that supports price stabilization. (Dan Arnall)
FISH FRY(GHT)- An EPA study of fish from US lakes and reservoirs has found mercury and PCBs “in every fish sample.”  Quoting from the study-“The data showed mercury concentrations in game fish exceeding EPA’s recommended levels at 49 percent of lakes and reservoirs nationwide, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in game fish at levels of potential concern at 17 percent of lakes and reservoirs. These findings are based on a comprehensive national study using more data on levels of contamination in fish tissue than any previous study.” (Brian Hartman)
TV VIEWING-If the networks are wondering where all the viewers have gone, they’re still there in the den watching the tube. They must all be watching a different channel. Nielsen tells us for the 2008-2009 TV season, the amount of television watched reached an all-time high as Americans spent four hours and 49 minutes a day on average in front of the TV, up four minutes from last year and up 20% from 10 years ago. The average household watched eight hours and 21 minutes a day on average, also at an all-time high. (Brian Hartman)
–YOU CAN GO HOME AGAIN BERNIE KERIK…ALBEIT BRIEFLY- A federal judge says former New York City police Commissioner Bernard Kerik can get out of jail for the holidays. Federal Judge Stephen Robinson said Tuesday that Kerik can be released until he is sentenced in February. Kerik pleaded guilty to eight felonies last week. Kerik left the federal courthouse in White Plains with his lawyers without speaking. The judge imposed some conditions, including home confinement and wearing an electronic monitoring device. (Richard Esposito/AP)

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