Happy Friday folks…have a safe and happy weekend!
TERROR CONCERNS/US-Word today that U.S. officials have continued concerns that al-Qaeda will strike again. Brian Ross, reporting for WORLD NEWS, says that “perhaps this time (a strike) with female suicide bombers traveling on Western passports.” ABC NEWS consultant Richard Clarke tells us that “U.S. intelligence does believe that there are other suicide bombers out there…that have not been found” and adds “There are also women who have been trained so al-Qaeda is looking to put together an attack using people that would not fit a profile that we’d be looking for.” Ross reports recent activities have authorities concerned: “US officials say in one 48-hour period last weekend, six different people on the no-fly list were stopped from boarding US flights.” The originating locations were all over the map-Ross notes that two were denied trying to fly from London and “the four others were stopped attempting to board flights in Nairobi, Kenya, the Caribbean island of St. Maarten and in Fort Lauderdale and Minneapolis.” That sounds pretty ominous…but there may be a less-onerous explanation. Ross: “U.S. officials say it is most likely the six no-fly list stops, a highly unusual number, is likely the result of the expanded no-fly list and extra scrutiny, but some law enforcement officials say it also has the appearance of a well-organized probe to find weak spots in the security system.” In her Q&A with Ross, Diane Sawyer asked if officials believed that “Yemen is still the most active breeding ground”. Ross: “absolutely. The FBI and other law enforcement agencies are beginning a sweep now in this country of every single person in the U.S. who they know has traveled to Yemen or contact with the radical cleric in Yemen, so a very tight focus now on anybody who has contacts with Yemen.”
TERROR CONCERNS/UK-Great Britain today raised its’ domestic threat level from “substantial” to “severe” which means an “attack is highly likely”. It’s the second highest threat level for the UK. British Home Secretary Alan Johnson released a statement confirming the move but said there’s no intelligence that an attack is imminent. He says the decision was based on a range of factors, including the "intent and capabilities of international terrorist groups in the U.K. and overseas." The move comes just days after Britain suspended direct flights to Yemen's capital in response to the growing threat from al-Qaida-affiliated militants there.
BEN BERNANKE-Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has certainly had his critics during his first term honchoing the central bank. Now he’s up for a second four-year term. Jon Karl, reporting for WORLD NEWS, says that “his reconfirmation had been considered a sure thing”. Note the word “had”…Karl continues: “But today, Senators in both parties came out to say they would oppose his nomination.” Not exactly what Wall Street wanted to hear-the market, already jittery about President Obama’s bank plan, continued its’ downward march today (see entry below for the specifics). So why the sudden pile-on? Karl: “Bernanke may become a victim of the populist anger that toppled the Democrats earlier this week in the Massachusetts special election.” Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), who came out today in opposition to another Bernanke term said in part “it is time for Main Street to have a champion at the Fed….our next Federal Reserve Chairman must represent a clean break from the failed policies of the past.” The White House clearly is hoping to keep Bernanke in his current post-Jake Tapper reports “A White House official tells ABC NEWS that Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel are making calls to wavering US Senators to encourage support for embattled Fed chair Ben Bernanke.” Well…does Bernanke have enough Senators in his corner for his reconfirmation? It appears the jury’s out on that…in his close Karl notes that “as of today, the overwhelming majority of Senators in both parties are simply refusing to say how they will vote on this.”
WALL STREET-Another lousy day for the Dow caps off a lousy week. Charlie Herman has the (bad) news: “Stocks fell for a third day as investors continued to worry about President Obama’s tough talk to reign in banks as well as fears that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke faces an increasingly difficult fight for a second term. It was the largest three day sell off since March of last year when stocks hit bottom before the recent 10-month run up in stocks. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 216.90, or 2.1%, to 10,172.98, off 5.2% over its three-day slide. For the week, the Dow was off 4.1% losing 436.67 points. It was the biggest weekly point drop since the week ended February 20, 2009 and the biggest percentage drop since the week ended March 6, 2009. The S&P 500 plunged 2.2% to 1091.75, off 3.9% for the week. The Nasdaq Composite Index ended down 2.7%, the worst decline of the major indexes. The tech heavy NASDAQ fell in part due to a drop in Google’s share price despite beating analysts’ expectations. The S&P lost 5.08% over the past three days, the worst three day loss since the week ending March, 9, 2009.”
PRESIDENT OBAMA TALKING JOBS IN OHIO- President Obama was in Ohio today promising to fight for jobs – more jobs.Jake Tapper was with the President and noted in his WORLD NEWS spot that Obama used the word "fight" or some variation over a dozen times as he tried out a revamped message focused mainly on the economy. Tapper also notes that since the inauguration – unemployment in Ohio has increased by nearly three percentage points and the president’s approval rating has plummeted. Anger over the economy is especially prevalent in Lorain, Ohio where two years ago – candidate Obama spoke at a drywall factory. Today that factory has laid off almost all of its employees. One of the few surviving workers told Tapper that they can’t understand why the president doesn’t “concentrate on getting jobs established.” After a tour of a sporting good factory, the president was presented with a custom made – presidential, state of the art football helmet. A reporter with the President joked that he might need it during Wednesday’s State of the Union Address. (thanks to Jason Volack for this entry)
STATE UNEMPLOYMENT FIGURES RISE IN DECEMBER-From the AP: “Unemployment rates rose in 43 states last month, the government said Friday, painting a bleak picture of the job market and illustrating nationwide data released two weeks ago. The rise in joblessness was a sharp change from November, when 36 states said their unemployment rates fell. Four states – South Carolina, Delaware, Florida and North Carolina – reported record-high jobless rates in December.” The article has lots more detail-email me if you’d like to see it.
HAITI: Ten days after the destructive earthquake that struck Haiti, rescuers are still finding more survivors. Doctors are amazed how an 84 year woman made it all that time without food and water, though they’re not optimistic she’ll recover. She was pulled from the rubble of her home in Port au Prince. Another man, just 22, is said to be in stable condition after an Israeli rescue team dug him out of a tunnel covered with the debris of another building. While many international search teams have already begun packing up, there’s another search going on now – a search for sites to build tent cities for the hundreds of thousands of homeless looking for shelter, food and water. A U.N. official sees a need to move quickly to find a way “to get people out of the sun and elements” before the usual floods and hurricanes that come every Spring. The U.S. is doing what it can to help out and Kirit Radia tells us: “USAID Administrator Dr Rajiv Shah and FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate will travel to Haiti tomorrow, Saturday January 23, to get a first-hand look at US operations there. Shah has been Obama’s point-man on the US relief efforts, taking on the role just a week after being sworn in as USAID head.” And there’s a big push to raise more money for Haiti. Tonight a “Hope for Haiti” celebrity telethon is taking place. Stars such as George Clooney, Bruce Springsteen and Madonna are taking part in the program, being broadcast by all the major networks. And there’s good news for those who donate, as we learn from Sunlen Miller: “A paper statement from the White House indicates that President Obama signed the Haiti tax deduction — passed in the House and Senate unanimously – into law today. You will be able to deduct donations to Haiti relief through March 1 from your ’09 returns due in April.” (thanks to Ed Bailey for this entry)
WESTERN WEATHER- For most of the week it’s been California getting the brunt of days of heavy rain. Now those storms have moved into Arizona where flooding swept through small towns, caused a train derailment and closed major interstates. Sam Champion for World News describes winds of 65 miles an hour in the Phoenix area. North of Phoenix, a 6-year-old boy is missing and presumed dead after he was swept away by rising waters yesterday. Rescuers spent Friday looking for him. Three others have died in vehicle accidents this week. And also in the north – Sam adds that 45 inches of snow fell in Flagstaff - collapsing roofs. Meanwhile – in Southern California, hundreds of evacuees were allowed to return home Friday as a week of lightning, vicious downpours and tornadoes dissipated into occasional thunderstorms. Still tens of thousands of people remained without power throughout the state. In one dramatic rescue Friday afternoon, a dog was hoisted from the Los Angeles River by helicopter after trying to scramble up the steep concrete sides for more than an hour. Forecasters expect rain to continue to soak Phoenix through tonight. Sam says the border area between New Mexico and Arizona could get 8-12 inches of rain.
–ROMAN POLANSKI-Well so much for being sentenced in absentia. A Los Angeles judge ruled today that 76-year old Roman Polanski must return to the United States to be sentenced for a 1978 sex crime. Polanski pled guilty to one count of unlawful sexual intercourse with a 13-year-old girl. Polanski’s lawyers had hoped to get their client sentenced in absentia to time already served. Today’s ruling is likely to be appealed. Polanski is currently at his vacation home in Switzerland under house arrest. A Swiss court still has to decide whether to extradite him to the US.