Drill, baby drill the Presdent says…the Northeast is still underwater…and donors have pledged nearly $10 billion towards Haiti's reconstruction. I'm Marisa Bramwell and here's the latest from the ABC News Desk:
OFF-SHORE DRILLING PLAN: Republicans are applauding President Obama’s new energy plan that would open up off-shore oil and natural gas drilling off the U.S. coast, help create jobs, bring additional funds to states and lessen America’s dependence on foreign energy sources. Drilling for oil and gas would be allowed 50 miles off the Virginia coast, 125 miles from Florida’s Gulf Coast and in the Arctic Ocean. Jake Tapper reports: “The site in Virginia could contain, in total, 130 million barrels of oil and 1.14 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. The areas being assessed on the East Coast, Gulf and Alaska could contain up to 62 billion barrels of oil and 289 trillion cubic feet of natural gas total though that could take decades to extract.” The government estimates there will be about a 22-year supply of natural gas and 15-year supply of oil. Tapper also reports that “experts caution there will be no immediate impact at the pump. These moves will take years to take effect, and oil went up more than a dollar today, closing at $84 a barrel.” Exploratory drilling could begin as early as this summer in the Arctic and the government plans to hold sales for leases in the remaining areas by 2012.
NORTHEAST FLOODING: Three days of torrential rain finally came to an end for the Northeast today, but the swelling rivers forced more residents to evacuate in Rhode Island and officials warned the flood waters could linger for days. Residents living in Coventry, RI were ordered to evacuate to a local Red Cross shelter as the Pawtuxet River threatened to collapse the Laurel Avenue Bridge and dam in that town. Ron Claiborne reports from West Warwick, Rhode Island: “It will be days before the flooding ends. Swollen creeks and streams still need to drain out through the big rivers…which will keep the rivers and surrounding communities at flood level until all that excess water flows in to the ocean…it is too early to tally the cost of this 100-year flood, but it will surely be huge…businesses crippled or wiped out…homes damaged or destroyed.” Amtrak service between New Haven and Boston has been suspended due to the flooding, and a stretch of I-95 has been closed to traffic. There is a tiny bonus – the floods are giving tax payers in Rhode Island, eastern and central Massachusetts a filing extension to May 11. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano will tour Rhode Island on Friday.
HAITI DONATIONS: U.N. Secretary Ban Ki-moon says money pledged to help Haiti rebuild after this year’s devastating earthquake is “far beyond expectations.” More than a hundred countries taking part in a one-day donors’ conference at the United Nations have promised to provide Haiti $5.3 billion for the next two years, with a total longer term commitment of some $9 billion. An estimated 1.3 million people lost their homes in the January 12 earthquake. Dan Harris was among the first correspondents to arrive in Haiti after the quake and has been looking into what happened to all that money Americans donated to the earthquake victims: “Since the killer quake in Haiti…Americans have given a staggering $800.9-million to 23 charities that ABC News has been tracking. But only about 37 per cent of that money has been spent. Nearly $588-million of our donations is still sitting on the sidelines…as millions of Haitians continue to endure epic suffering.” The charities say they don’t want to spend the donated money too quickly because there is a lot of long-term work to be done. But Dan points out: “1.3-million people are still homeless…and a fifth of them still have no shelter…with the rainy season officially starting tomorrow…and the hurricane season shortly thereafter. Already tent cities have been slammed by torrential rains…creating a soggy new layer of misery.” Though some say the biggest issue is shelter, Dan says there are other needs, too: “With the number of amputations performed at 15-hundred and rising…there are still only 17 rehabilitation centers. Far too few. Of the 9000 latrines needed, only about half have been built. There has been real progress, however…with American dollars helping fund the delivery of food to 4.3-million people…and the delivery of 126-thousand liters of water to childcare centers.” All-in-all, the tracked charities believe Americans should feel confident that their donations are being well spent. (Thanks to Ed Bailey for this entry)
IRAN SANCTIONS: Looks like Secretary of State Clinton might have been on to something yesterday when she said Russia and China would eventually agree to new sanctions against Iran. Kirit Radia tells us: “China agreed today to begin talking with other world powers about sanctioning Iran over its nuclear program, a senior State Department official tells ABC News. The official stressed that China had not agreed to impose sanctions just yet, but said it was a positive sign that they were finally willing to even discuss the matter after stonewalling efforts at tougher measures for months. The change happened during a conference call today of the so-called P5+1 – the US, Russia, China, the UK, France, and Germany – which is seeking to deter Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. “President Obama said yesterday he hopes to have international sanctions against Iran in place in a matter of weeks. (Thanks to Ed Bailey for this entry)
CHOLESTEROL DRUGS FOR HEALTHY PATIENTS?: Medical experts are speaking out about the planned expansion of cholesterol drug Crestor for use in healthy patients as a preventative measure against heart attack or stroke. Dr. Richard Besser reports: “Primary care doctors are concerned because they don’t believe that starting patients on a drug should be the first step in reducing heart disease. All drugs have side effects, and before they put a patient on a drug for the rest of their life, they want to make sure they’re doing the things we know already work – stopping smoking, eating right, exercising and reducing salt…there is a new study out that shows long-term use of statins can increase the risk of diabetes by 9 percent. There are studies that show muscle pain in patients who are on these drugs. We know the drugs work, and in patients who are at high risk, the benefits clearly outweigh the risk. But in low-risk individuals, you really have to look at the side effects and the risks from the drugs themselves.”
HUTAREE MILITIA: An undercover agent infiltrated the Christian militia group Hutaree and provided reports detailing the group’s weapons and explosives training and a plot to assault on police officers, prosecutors said today. Eight of nine Hutaree militia members pleaded not guilty today in Detroit federal court, including leader David Brian Stone. A ninth member – Thomas Piatek – was in federal court in Indiana today – he did not enter a plea and will be arraigned at a later date in Michigan. According to prosecutors in July 2009 Stone urged militia members to train harder for the approaching war, and the group planned a “live training” in April during which they would use their guns and explosive devices. The Hutaree also had a hit list of law enforcement officials and judges.
RUSSIA BOMBINGS: Two suicide bombers blew themselves up in Dagestan, in southern Russia, two days after the deadly bombings in the Moscow subway. Twelve people, including nine police officers, were killed in today’s attack, with dozens more injured. The suicide bombings Monday killed 39 commuters and injured many more. A Chechen rebel leader, Doku Umarov, today claimed in an internet video that he ordered the Moscow attacks in revenge for Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's policies in the mainly-Muslim North Caucasus. Putin says the same rebel group could have been behind today’s bombings as well. (Thanks to Ed Bailey for this entry)
BARBARA BUSH: Doctors say former First Lady Barbara Bush may have had a mild relapse of Graves disease. Mrs. Bush, 84, first suffered from the thyroid disease in 1989. In a statement, the hospital said her medication was adjusted and that she is expected to make a full recovery. Mrs. Bush was released from the hospital today.
iPAD: Neal Karlinsky got a sneak peak at Apple’s iPad: “The all-in-one half-inch thick device will go head to head with Amazon’s popular Kindle in the growing e-book market. Amazon has so far dominated e-books and the company is worried about the iPad which comes with its own bookstore and the ability to play movies, surf the internet and more…whether the iPad is a hit or not, new businesses are already banking on it and the competition is worried.”