i'm afraid i don't have the video links to tonight's broadcast…so here's the good old-fashioned print version……
WINTER WEATHER-Mother Nature’s not done yet. A gigantic winter storm dumped more than a foot of snow across much of the Midwest and New England, as well as heavy rain and flooding to parts of the South. But Barbara Pinto, reporting from Madison, Wisconsin for WORLD NEWS tells us strong winds remain with temperatures plummeting across the nation. Pinto: “The fierce winds snapped trees leaving thousands without electricity just as the temperatures begin to drop. Chicago is expected to plunge from 32 degrees to just 6 tonight…temps that touched the mid 50’s today in Pittsburgh and Indianapolis are plummeting into the 20’s…all in a matter of hours.” In northern New York, up to a foot of snow fell today in some places. They are looking at more than 3 feet by week’s end, according to forecasters. David Kerley, who will be reporting from the Buffalo, NY area for GOOD MORNING AMERICA noted a short while ago that “The strong winds have already kicked up. It is sleeting. That type of sleet that will slice through unprotected skin. The snow should start here in a few hours. It's going to be a miserable morning.” Areas in Maine and New Hampshire received up to a foot of snow, and warnings about winds of 40 mph to 50 mph were issued for coastal areas of Maine for this evening, said Dan St. Jean, a National Weather Service Forecaster in Maine.
PRESIDENT OBAMA/NOBEL PEACE PRIZE-The President and Mrs. Obama left Washington a short while ago, heading for Oslo where he will be accepting the Nobel Peace Prize tomorrow morning around 7:30am ET. Plenty of folks note the irony of a war-time President getting this award, including the President himself. Jake Tapper, who is already in Oslo this evening, reports: “President Obama will embrace ‘the elephant in the room’ and discuss his recent decision to deploy 30,000 more US troops to Afghanistan when he accepts the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway, on Thursday, his director of speechwriting told ABC News.
‘The big thing on the president’s mind is that he is receiving the Nobel Peace Prize as the commander-in-chief of a nation in two wars,’ speechwriter Jon Favreau said in an interview to preview the event.
So the President will be discussing what these wars mean – his role, the US role – in the context of peace, especially ‘the idea that the fact that the US is not going to be able to avoid war entirely redoubles the US commitment to finding peace wherever we can,’ Favreau said. When President Obama took office, there were approximately 32,000 US troops in Afghanistan; by the end of next year than number will be closer to 100,000.”
SENATE/HEALTH CARE REFORM-We know a bit more about the deal struck last night by liberal and moderate Democrats looking to craft a Health Care bill in the Senate. Jon Karl has the details: “The deal would set up a system similar to the one offered to members of Congress and other federal employees. The coverage is provided by private insurers, but premiums and benefits are negotiated by the federal government’s Office of Personnel Management. The idea-to introduce competition and bring down costs.” We’ve talked about the Medicare option over the past couple of nights, but to reiterate-Karl: “Americans between the age of 55 and 64 would have another option-buying into Medicare, not at deeply discounted rates offered to seniors, but at a rate-probably several hundred dollars a month that reflects the actual costs of the insurance. These options won’t be offered to everyone-only to the self-employed, people who work at companies with fewer than 50 employees, and those with no insurance at all.” Not sold on the Medicare option? Republicans, who Karl notes “said expanding Medicare is a terrible idea because the program is already going bankrupt.” But at least one swing vote, Connecticut independent Joseph Lieberman, says he’s “encouraged” by what he’s heard. His paper statement falls short of endorsement-Zach Wolf notes that “Lieberman says he will wait to see legislative language before making a decision.” With this agreement how do things look for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Jon Karl? Karl: “Reid says that this is a deal, but it’s not a done deal. We still don’t know how much any of the measures will cost or if the overall bill will have enough votes to pass.” George Stephanopoulos, discussing the matter with Charles Gibson on WORLD NEWS, concurs that cost is paramount. Stephanopoulos: “And that all depends on the congressional budget office, the most powerful actor in Washington right now, and how they score this bill. Conservatives and centrists are going to be looking at it, does the bill come in under $900 billion? Does it still reduce the deficit? Progressives are going to ask, does it do what we want the public option to do, create competition for the insurance companies to drive premiums down and increase coverage? Those answers are going to determine if this has the votes.”
CLIMATE CHANGE EMAILS: As world leaders gather in Copenhagen at the UN Climate Summit to discuss an international climate treaty, the controversy over stolen e-mails from a climate research center in the UK is heating up. David Wright reports: “In the emails, the scientists are downright dismissive of naysayers. In one message, a researcher at Lawrence Livermore Labs offers to ‘beat the crap out of’ a leading skeptic. In another, Penn State’s Michael Mann suggests hiding data from dissenters: ‘This is the sort of ‘dirty laundry’ one doesn’t want to fall into the [wrong] hands…one of the most damning e-mail exchanges credits Mann with a ‘trick’ to ‘hide the decline’ in temperatures. In another, the head of the National Center for Atmospheric Research writes a colleague: ‘The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment. And it is a travesty that we can’t.’” Statements like that have given climate change skeptics plenty of ammunition. “Climategate” proponents have called it the “biggest scam in history,” staged protests (many which are posted online), even crashing Al Gore’s book signing last week. And as Wright reported on WORLD NEWS, the emails “threaten to undermine the political effort underway in Copenhagen.”
“Global warming may be a scientific issue, but it is also a hot-button political debate. So now the scientists aren’t’ the only ones on the defensive. Politicians are too.” (thanks to Marisa Bramwell for this entry)
AFGHANISTAN CORRUPTION-Much has been made of the Obama Administration’s “get tough” policy with Afghan president Hamid Karzai over governmental corruption. Unfortunately, as Nick Schifrin noted on WORLD NEWS this evening, Karzai didn’t invent the practice. Schifrin: “Anti-corruption group Transparency International says Afghanistan is the second most corrupt country in the world…after Somalia.” Schifrin took us to Kabul’s Sherpur District where “the gaudy, garish and gigantic homes have a nickname-Poppy Palaces-named for their corrupt owners who have links to the drug trade. Many are senior members of the Karzai government.” Not that being in the government is the only link to corruption here. Schifrin notes the practice “extends all the way to the poorest in the country. According to a leading watchdog group here, the average Afghan family makes only $2 a day but has to pay nearly 20 percent of it in bribes.” That pervasiveness can only spell trouble for US and allied forces in the country-Schifrin reminds that “US officials say millions of stolen dollars fund insurgents who kill U.S. soldiers.”
AMERICANS DETAINED IN PAKISTAN-Five American men were arrested today in Pakistan and are being investigated for possible terrorist links. Pierre Thomas, filing for WORLD NEWS, notes the arrests “may resolve the mysterious disappearance of a group of young Americans late last month.” Thomas explains: “U.S. officials notified Pakistani authorities because of concerns the young men may have been radicalized by Islamic militants. One of the five men left behind a farewell video suggesting jihad and featuring images of American casualties.” Those concerns are not yet borne out, but Thomas notes that “intelligence officials are increasingly worried that al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations are trying to recruit Americans who might draw less attention when they travel to Pakistan or Afghanistan for training.” And they can point to a couple of recent events-Thomas: “A Denver man charged with traveling to Pakistan and planning possible attacks on New York…and a Chicago man charged with helping to plan last year’s Mumbai attacks in India.” Tonight, Thomas notes, a key offer of help from those Americans most impacted-Thomas: “The U.S. Muslim community is vowing to work with authorities and to protect their young men from those who try to brainwash them.”
GENERAL MILLS REDUCING SUGAR- General Mills – the maker of Lucky Charms, Trix and Cocoa Puffs – plans to reduce the amount of sugar in its cereals marketed to children. In a press release, the company said the goal was to reduce the amount until all cereals marketed to kids reach “single digit grams of sugar per serving”. No time frame noted for when this might be accomplished- the company expects to start rolling out its new products over the next year. (Lisa Stark/Brian Hartman)
TIGER WOODS’ TROUBLES: Experts are weighing in on just what Tiger Woods should do to recover from the public relations disaster that started with a suspicious post-Thanksgiving crash and snowballed into tabloid frenzy over alleged extramarital affairs. Some say Woods should do a high profile, one-on-one, tell-all interview with the likes of Oprah, or take a humorous approach by appearing on a comedy show: “Humor really cracks tension…so it’s part of a phase. After explosion comes the humor and then that is part of the healing or corrective process,” Michael Levine, founder of Levine Communications Office told ABC News. “The best weapon that Tiger Woods may have in his rehabilitations arsenal is Golf. He is really really good at golf,” John Berman reported on WORLD NEWS. “That might be enough for sponsors, and some day enough for fans. But for Tiger Woods and his family there may be problems that no putt, no tee-shot can easily solve.” (thanks to Marisa Bramwell for this entry)
SPIRAL LIGHT SHOW- Video footage taken from the Skjold miltary base, in northern Norway this morning, show without doubt that something exploded in the atmosphere of the Northern Hemisphere. Eyewitnesses recount a spectacular fireworks display, but were left wondering what it was they saw. UFO or military rocket? Norway’s TV2 sources think another unsuccessful launch of the Russian SLBM Bulava is the most likely explanation. So far no official comments have been forthcoming from the Russian military. Alex Marquardt is efforting confirmation from his home base of Moscow.
–STATE DINNER SUBPOENAES/YES TO PARTY CRASHERS NO TO WH-Members of the House Homeland Security Committee voted to subpoena Tareq and Michaele Salahi. As Pierre Thomas reported last night, the couple has indicated through their attorneys that they will invoke their Fifth Amendment rights not to answer questions. Republican efforts to also subpoena White House social secretary Desiree Rogers failed in a party-line vote. (John Parkinson)
–NO SANFORD IMPEACHMENT- South Carolina lawmakers voted down a measure to impeach Gov. Mark Sanford on Wednesday, but recommended a formal rebuke that said his travels and trysts with an Argentine mistress brought the state "ridicule, dishonor, disgrace and shame." Some members of a legislative panel said the Republican should resign, but they mostly agreed his affair and use of state planes was not serious misconduct that merited removal from office. (Robin Reese/AP)
–POTUS TO MEET WITH BANKING LEADERS MONDAY- President Obama will meet with major banking executives on Monday at the White House, an industry source told ABC NEWS Wednesday. CEOs from Bank of America, Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, State Street, American Express, PNC, Capital One, US Bancorp, and the Bank of New York Mellon will be represented at the meeting, the source said. While the industry has yet to be given an agenda for the meeting, the topics of discussion are expected to include increased lending – especially lending to small businesses – as well as financial regulatory reform and executive compensation. (Matt Jaffe)
–STRANDED HUNTERS IN ARIZONA- Officials were searching Wednesday for more than 30 hunters who became stranded after a powerful winter storm swept through northern Arizona. Gerry Blair of the Coconino County Sheriff's Office says significant snowfall trapped the hunters. Authorities received 11 reports, some from hunters themselves or others in the field and some from family members reporting the hunters overdue. By Wednesday evening, four of the original reports had been cleared and seven hunters rescued or found safe. But three other reports of stranded hunters had been received. (AP)
–ZELAYA TO MEXICO-Guess that Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa was getting old. Ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya will leave the country Wednesday for exile in Mexico after spending nearly three months holed up in the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa, sources said. A Mexican government source said Zelaya, a leftist overthrown in a June coup, would arrive in Mexico Wednesday night. ABC NEWS Mexico City producer Jose Cohen confirmed that Zelaya will arrive in Mexico City tonight. Zelaya's chances of returning to power received a serious blow last week when Congress voted he could not take office again. Hondurans chose a new president, Porfirio Lobo, in elections on Nov. 29 but many countries have yet to recognize the vote. Lobo is to take power in January. (Jose Cohen/Marisa Bramwell/Reuters)