Two days of rain storms has left the Northeast underwater, a former nuclear scientist for Iran defects and the President signs the health care "fix-it" bill…I'm Marisa Bramwell and here's the latest from the ABC News desk:
NORTHEAST FLOODING: A second day of storms brought record-breaking flooding across the Northeast today. The National Guard has been dispatched in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut, and states of emergency were declared for Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Rhode Island got nearly 5 inches of rain over the past day, setting a new rainfall record for March and swelling the state’s rivers, forcing hundreds of residents to evacuate their homes. “Rhode Island was just recovering from the last storm when this new one came in with a wallop. The state is now dealing with the worst flooding in 100 years,” Sam Champion reported on WORLD NEWS. “The back to back storms have shattered rainfall records along the east coast. Boston and Bridgeport, Connecticut are in the midst of the wettest march in their histories…with New York City and Newark, NJ close behind.” Here in New York Central Park got 10.63 inches of rain – setting a new record for the month of March. River levels in Rhode Island and New Jersey are expected to peak early Wednesday, and then taper off.
FOCUS ON IRAN: The Obamas had the Sarkozys over for dinner tonight at their residence in the White House. President Obama and French President Sarkozy met this afternoon to discuss a wide range of global issues but the subject of Iran’s nuclear program seems to be getting the most play. At a news conference after their meeting, President Obama said he hopes to have international sanctions against Iran in place soon – a matter of weeks, not months, according to Mr. Obama. Iran was also a concern of Foreign Ministers from the so called Group of Eight countries, meeting in Gatineau, Quebec. Secretary of State Clinton was there and suggested that skeptical nations such as Russia and China would eventually agree to the new sanctions. In the meantime, we have found out that the CIA has scored a pretty significant coup and it’s linked to the disappearance of an important Iranian scientist, Shahram Amiri, last June. Turns out, Amiri defected. Brian Ross has the scoop: “Today, we learned from people in the intelligence community the details of how he defected and was relocated to the U.S., though for security reasons we are not going to reveal all that we were told. He’s only in his 30s but the man was already an award winning nuclear physicist in Iran and his defection was a big breakthrough for the CIA.” Brian continues: “The CIA plan involved Amiri going on a religious pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia, he disappeared three days after arriving. Amiri’s disappearance set off alarm bells in Iran, where officials, including the foreign minister, quickly accused the US and the CIA of kidnapping him.” And it would appear that Amiri has some significant things to say: “Amiri has been extensively debriefed since his defection, by the CIA, according to people briefed on the situation. They say Amiri helped to confirm U.S. intelligence assessments about the Iranian nuclear program.” (Thanks to Ed Bailey for this entry)
HEALTH CARE “FIX-IT” BILL SIGNED: President Obama signed the health care reconciliation bill today, putting into effect a number of changes ranging from the Medicare “donut hole” to student loans. Jake Tapper reports: “With a stroke of the President’s pen, the US government eliminated the middle man in its loan program…instead of banks using government money to loan tuition, the government will lend the funds directly…the law puts a cap on annual loan payments for college graduates – never exceeding 10 percent of their income…a reduction from the current cap of 15 percent.” The bill also closes the Medicare prescription drug benefit “donut hole.” Tapper also reports “The Obama administration is issuing guidelines requiring insurance companies to offer insurance to all kids regardless of pre-existing conditions, and the insurance industry says they will abide by those regulations.” Also today, Indiana joined 13 other states filing suit against the federal government on the constitutionality of the health care bill.
FDA RADIATION RISKS: Today a former Food and Drug Administration scientist said he was fired from his job at the agency after he raised concerns about CT radiation levels. Dr. Julian Nicholas made the allegation during a public hearing discussing the risks of radiation from CT scans. In an interview with Dr. Richard Besser, Dr. Nicholas said “FDA MDs and scientists raised serious safety and effectiveness concerns about patients receiving radiation from CT devices.” But “the FDA says not true,” Dr. Besser reports: “that the agency’s approval of the scans was unanimous. And they say it’s not their job to determine what’s better for individual patients – CT scans or colonoscopy.”
BOY SCOUT ABUSE: In a videotaped deposition, a former Boy Scout master admitted to molesting scouts in his troop, including a 37-year-old victim who has filed a $25 million suit against the Boy Scouts of America. “The plaintiff’s case includes more than a thousand confidential Boy Scout letters and documents. A nationwide record of abuse, dating back to 1965,” David Wright reported on WORLD NEWS. “This is the first time in 25 years these so-called ‘perversion files’ have been presented at trial. There have been dozens of other lawsuits over the years. But this is the rare case when jury has been allowed to see ALL of these files.” The files included letters detailing a scout master who slept naked in front of scouts and showed the boys pornography.
NEAR-PLANE COLLISION: The NTSB and FAA are investigating a near-collision between a passenger jet and small plane over the weekend. A United Airlines plane was cleared for take-off from San Francisco International Airport for Beijing Saturday at 11:15am PT; when it reached an altitude of 1,100 feet, the pilot noticed a light high wing airplane just ahead. The United pilot then made a hard left turn to avoid the plane, passing just 200-300 feet below it. The plane continued to Beijing without further incident.
MILITIA ARRESTS: The nine members of Christian militia Hutaree will be in court Wednesday for a detention hearing. Josh Stone, the last member of the group captured Monday night by the FBI, was arraigned in federal court today. He’s being held without bond.