Happy Friday folks-here's the news……
YEMEN STRIKE-Greenhouse gases…health care reform…issues come and go but the US fight against al-Qaeda continues, this time targeting militants in Yemen. Brian Ross, filing for WORLD NEWS, reports that “White House officials tell ABC NEWS the orders for the US military to attack the suspected al-Qaeda sites in Yemen on Thursday came directly from the Oval Office.” Ross explains the attack and its’ aftermath: “The US military used cruise missiles in the attacks on two separate locations in Yemen. Pictures broadcast tonight on al-Jazeera showed dozens of bodies covered by sheets. Officials said some 35 suspected al-Qaeda figures had been killed. Opposition groups said dozens of civilians were also killed.” While Ross notes that the attack “represents a major escalation” in the US fight against Yemen, he adds the President “hinted that action against Yemen could come” when he spoke about Afghanistan two weeks ago. “The al-Qaeda presence in Yemen has been steadily growing in the last two years” Ross tells us. Richard Barrett, from the UN’s Taliban/al-Qaeda Monitoring Committee, explains in Ross’ piece why that is NOT a good thing: “If (al-Qaeda) can go to Yemen just as easily or easier and get training there and come out again, well all your efforts in Pakistan and Afghanistan are a waste of time.” As Ross noted in his close, yesterday’s attack shows the White House determination to “decimate al-Qaeda wherever it is found”.
CLIMATE SUMMIT AGREEMENT-President Obama didn’t get shut out after all-an eleventh-hour agreement was reached tonight on climate controls, albeit a more modest one than the US had hoped for. Jim Sciutto, filing for WORLD NEWS explains: “All countries will submit written targets for reducing their greenhouse emissions by early next year. Nations will then submit to international analysis to verify whether they meet those targets. Overall, they agree to keep the temperature rise world-wide to no more than 2 degrees Celsius by 2050, which will mean would have to cut emissions by as much as 50 percent.” Sounds substantial. But….Sciutto adds that “as President Obama emphasized, the agreement is not legally binding for the US or any other nation.” Which means? Sciutto: “The final agreement falls far below expectations of a wide-ranging agreement with enforceable targets. In the end, countries will decide both how much they reduce emissions and how to reduce them.” And the President…how does he characterize today’s agreement? Sciutto: “(President Obama) said he preferred to take one step forward with an imperfect agreement than two steps back with no agreement at all.”
THE BIG ONE – A major snow storm continues to move up the East Coast. Sam Champion, reporting on WORLD NEWS, says the worst is yet to come. Champion: “We have a big storm in the making right now. This is going to be all snow, because the temperatures from Virginia all the way to northern New England are 10 to 15 degrees below normal”.
DC-In our nation’s capital, the snow has just begun (8:50pm ET). The DC forecast calls for 14-20 inches. DC Mayor Adrian Fenty declared a snow emergency Friday night. The emergency is effective starting at 7:00am Saturday. Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine declared a state of emergency in anticipation of the storm, placing the National Guard & other agencies on standby. Air Force One will be returning from Copenhagen early Saturday morning (approx 12:50am) at Andrews AFB. We don’t expect delays for POTUS. But Obama will opt for motorcade travel back to the WH instead of the usual Marine One jaunt to the South Lawn.
AIR TRAVEL-The fierce storm is expected to take a toll on holiday travelers. Delta Airlines told Lisa Stark that it’ll cancel all its flights from the three DC-area airports (National, BWI & Dulles) & and from Richmond, VA & Philadelphia on Saturday. They expect to resume operations at those airports Sunday morning or afternoon. In New York, Delta will run operations through early Saturday afternoon & then start cancelling flights.
PHILADELPHIA-Champion says snow will be hitting Philadelphia at around midnight tonight & drop anywhere from 9-12 inches of snow.
NEW YORK-New York can expect about 6-10 inches beginning late Saturday morning. State officials are warning there could be significant power outages. (thanks to George Sanchez in DC for this entry)
WINTER STORMS/WEEKEND HOLIDAY SHOPPING-From Charles Herman: “As a major winter storm hits the East Coast and is expected to snow in a significant portion of the population, retail sales will probably suffer this Saturday and Sunday; however, the overall impact on holiday sales is not clear. Retailers have all next week to recoup potentially lost sales from the weekend and other parts of the country will have better weather so sales there won’t be impacted by the storm.
Some worry sales on ‘Super Saturday,’ one of the largest shopping days before Christmas, will be seriously impacted by the storm. ‘This is bad news, as it will hit significant population centers,’ said Scott Bernhardt with Planalytics, which measures weather impacts on shopping behavior. ‘Lots of people will be affected by this storm.’
Others minimize the storm’s impact on holiday sales. ‘We are losing one day in one region versus last year when we probably lost seven days over many regions,’ due to snow, said Bill Kirk, CEO of Weather Trends International, another firm that works with retailers. He stressed that while the storm is very intense, it is in a narrow part of the country. Last year, he pointed out, over 60% of the country was covered in snow several days before Christmas.”
HEALTH CARE BILL/DR. TIM’S TAKE-The Senate’s health-care bill sure looks a lot different this week than last….for one, the public option has disappeared and then there’s the issue of Medicare expansion that’s also apparently died a death. Tonight on WORLD NEWS, Dr. Tim Johnson was asked by Charles Gibson “is this bill better than nothing?” Johnson: “I would say absolutely, Charlie. We have to remember that doing nothing leaves us with the status quo, a non-system that's headed for financial and health care disaster. The bill addresses insurance reforms. I'm told there are 400 pages in the bill that address reforms such as getting rid of pre-existing conditions, expanding by 30 million (additional individuals) that are not insured. It addresses projects for financial reform. I would prefer to have public option and/or Medicare expansion directly challenging private insurance, but what's left is not insignificant.”
AUTISM NUMBERS: Numbers out today confirm the rate of autism in this country is rising – dramatically. The CDC says autism now affects about one of every 110 children — up from 1 in 150. Health officials don't know how much is due to a true increase in cases, and how much to better diagnosis. CDC officials said the latest number comes from a more complete analysis of reports from 11 states. Autism is diagnosed by making judgments about a child's behavior; there are no blood or biologic tests. As more families face the challenges of having a child with the disorder, John Donvan for World News took a look at some of the growing number of businesses accommodating their needs. (thanks to Jason Volack for this entry)
BRAZIL CUSTODY BATTLE: New Jersey father David Goldman is locked in an international custody fight to get his son back. A day after Brazil's Supreme Court delayed a reunion with his 9-year-old son Sean pending a top court ruling on whether the boy's own wishes should be heard; David Goldman remains in Rio de Janeiro. He's asking Brazil's Attorney General to intervene — and return Sean — who lives with his stepfather. The Brazilian Attorney General's Office was weighing Friday whether to ask the court to lift the stay, though no action had been taken by the time the agency closed. Jeffrey Kofman today sat down with David Goldman who called the abduction unthinkable and beyond cruel. Kofman also sat down with U.S. congressman Chris Smith who questioned the merits of hearing testimony from a child who may be susceptible to pressure from adult relatives. Meanwhile Sergio Tostes, attorney for Sean's stepfather in Brazil issued a surprise invitation asking David to spend Christmas with the family. Cong. Smith, who is with Goldman, calls it "nothing but a ploy of the most cynical kind." (thanks to Jason Volack for this entry)
CHARLES GIBSON-Tonight was Charlie's last WORLD NEWS broadcast and there wasn't a dry eye in the house as the broadcast closed. The WORLD NEWS producers put together a pretty neat package of friends and family saying farewell. You can see it here.
–SOY FORMULA- An outside panel of scientific experts met today to give NIH guidance on whether soy infant formula is potentially hazardous. The concern is that soy contains a naturally occurring type of the sex hormone estrogen. So the question – is giving it to infants potentially dangerous? The panel, in a 10 to 2 vote, expressed only “minimal concern for adverse developmental effects in infants fed soy infant formula.” (Lisa Stark)
–BANK CLOSURES- Regulators have shut down banks in Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Michigan, bringing to 137 the number of U.S. banks that have failed this year. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. took over the four. Atlanta-based RockBridge Commercial Bank, with $294 million in assets and $291.7 million in deposits was shuttered, as was New South Federal Savings Bank, based in Irondale, Ala., with $1.5 billion in assets and $1.2 billion in deposits. Also closing their doors were Citizens State Bank of New Baltimore, Mich., with $168.6 million in assets and $157.1 million in deposits; and Peoples First Community Bank of Panama City, Fla., with $1.8 billion in assets and $1.7 billion in deposits. (AP)
–SAAB IS NO MAS-Looks like the Saab brand is no more-talks between GM, Dutch automaker Spyker Cars and the government of Sweden collapsed early today. Spyker said the sale was too complicated to complete quickly. With no other buyers on the horizon, GM plans to begin liquidating the brand in early January. (AP)