Although winter has just begun, there have already been 10 reported incidents concerning individuals falling through the ice, highlighting the dangers of warm winters and frozen bodies of water.
According to a release from the National Drowning Prevention Alliance (NDPA), experts have blamed the unseasonably warm temperatures and alternate freezing and thawing for the dangerous conditions this winter.
“We urge everyone to stay off all frozen bodies of water,” said Kim Burgess, executive director of the National Drowning Prevention Alliance. “The perceived recreational benefit is simply not worth the risk to yourself or your loved ones.”
The NDPA also advised against letting pets roam onto the ice, as these animals may fall through and inspire brave actions from onlookers. The organization noted that if a beloved companion does become submerged, calling 911 is a better solution than attempting a rescue mission.
Regions like the American Midwest have seen temperatures as high as 50 degrees as of January 11, and places like Albany have received only 6.5 inches of snow this winter, roughly 10 inches less than it normally gets by this point, according to the Washington Post.
Though the company filed for bankruptcy despite receiving hundreds of millions of dollars from the government, Solyndra is planning to dole out bonuses to persuade key employees to stay put, The Washington Times reported.
According to the news outlet, nearly two dozen employees could receive bonuses that range from $10,000 to $50,000 each under a proposal that was filed by legal representation for the company in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware.
The Times reported that the attorneys said the extra money would add motivation at a time when workers for Solyndra have little job security and more work due to firings following the company filing for bankruptcy.
“Within the last few months, the debtors have experienced a serious loss of personnel, which has made the continuation of the sales process in an orderly fashion more difficult,” attorneys for Solyndra disclosed in a recent filing.
The Wall Street Journal recently compared California’s proposed high-speed train to the failed solar company, calling the plan put forth by Governor Jerry Brown the “Solyndra on Wheels,” due to the $98.5 billion price tag for the project.
The U.S. has planned a major push for next week to jump-start peace talks with the Taliban, senior officials from the President Barack Obama Administration said.
The Wall Street Journal reported that this would be one of the first signs of progress toward a negotiated end to the war in Afghanistan. This news came amid the release of a potentially embarrassing video showing U.S. troops urinating on the corpses of Afghan insurgents.
According to the news outlet, Marc Grossman, the U.S. special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, will meet with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul to seek his approval for America to resume negotiations with representatives from the Taliban.
The Journal reported that senior Obama Administration officials said that the prospective confidence-building measures include the establishment of a political office for the Taliban in Qatar, a statement from the group distancing itself from international terrorism and the trasnfer of up to five militants held in Guantanamo Bay.
The New York Times reported that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton noted the Administration was “still in the preliminary stages of testing whether this can be successful.”
An amendment that would ban courts in Oklahoma from considering international or Islamic law discriminates against religions, a Federal appeals court said Tuesday, giving a Muslim community leader the right to challenge its Constitutionality, The Associated Press reported.
According to the news outlet, the court in Denver upheld U.S. District Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange’s order blocking the implementation of the amendment after it was approved by a majority of Oklahoma voters in November 2010.
The AP reported that Muneer Awad, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, sued to block the law from taking effect. He argued that the Save Our State Amendment was in direct violation of his 1st Amendment rights.
“The courts shall not look to the legal precepts of other nations or cultures,” the amendment had said. “Specifically, the courts shall not consider international law or Sharia law.”
The Los Angeles Times reported that the appellate court opinion pointed out that proponents of the law could not identify a single instance in which an Oklahoma court applied Sharia law or other international doctrines.
Suleiman al-Nahdi and dozens of other prisoners wait in a permanent state of limbo five years after he was cleared for release from Guantanamo Bay, The Associated Press reported.
“I wonder if the U.S. government wants to keep us here forever,” the 37-year-old Nahdi recently wrote in a letter to his legal representatives.
The prison turned 10 years old on January 11, and Gitmo appears more established than ever, the AP reported. The original deadline set by President Barack Obama to close Guantanamo Bay came and went two years ago and no detainee has left in a year due to restrictions placed on transfers.
“They would like to send a message that the prisoners of Guantanamo still reject the injustice of their imprisonment,” Ramzi Kassem, a law professor at the City University of New York, told the news outlet.
TIME Magazine reported that 36 of the 171 prisoners at Gitmo await trial for war crimes, but the other 135 detainees are being held due ot the fact that they are allegedly dangerous.
Several States that received a portion of the U.S. Department of Education’s $4.3 billion Race to the Top competition have had to delay plans for implementing significant reforms in their schools due to slow progress, The Associated Press reported.
According to the news outlet, that two of these States may lose money if they don’t get back on track. Officials released State reports on Tuesday that outlined the progress of all 12 winners, finding only three that were on schedule with their reform plans.
The AP reported that another six States are making some progress but facing delays, and three – Hawaii, New York and Florida – are said to have significant issues.
“New York made significant progress through Race to the Top over the last year but has recently hit a roadblock that not only impedes Race to the Top but could threaten other key reform initiatives,” U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a statement. “Backtracking on reform commitments could cost the State hundreds of millions of dollars for improving New York schools.
Although the reports don’t rank or compare efforts between the States due to differing initiatives, the assessments and comments made by Federal officials suggest Ohio and Massachusetts led the effort, The Columbus Dispatch reported.
The Federal government ran a deficit in December, the 39th straight month in the red, according to preliminary reports from the Congressional Budget Office.
The Washington Times reported that the streak dates back to the last days of former President George W. Bush and encompasses the entirety of President Barack Obama’s tenure.
According to the newspaper, not only is the government acquiring more debt each month, but the deficit of $84 billion in December was slightly higher than the number for that month in 2010. Payments to housing finance giants Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae accounted for much of the growth in spending.
Corporate income tax receipts were up, the Times reported, while payroll tax receipts were down due to the tax cut Congress and Obama agreed to a year ago.
USA Today reported that the U.S. national debt recently reached a symbolic tipping point, as it is now as big at the entire American economy.
“The 100 percent mark means that your entire debt is as big as everything you’re producing in your country,” Steve Bell of the Bipartisan Policy Center told the newspaper. “Clearly, that can’t continue.”
The price of gold rose by a significant margin as a resurgence of the euro versus the dollar, bringing the value of the metal past a 200-day moving average, according to Reuters.
Bloomberg reported that gold reached its highest price in almost three weeks due to speculation concerning an increase in physical demand for the metal. Coupled with the rise of the euro, the move by traders to the commodity pushed the value higher during trading.
According to the news outlet, the U.S. Mint sold 79,000 ounces of gold to date for the month of January, topping the total sales for the metal that were recorded during December.
“Physical investment and jewelry demand has been strong into price falls below $1,650, with Chinese buyers particularly active,” Nick Moore, an analyst at Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc, told Bloomberg. He noted that demand from China “is likely to increase this month irrespective of price, in the run-up to the Chinese New Year Holiday.”
The price of gold for February delivery rose $24.40 to $1,632.50 an ounce, marking an increase of 1.52 percent, according to CNN.
The Republican leader of the New Jersey Assembly collapsed and died at the Statehouse in Trenton on Monday, the final day of the legislative session, The Associated Press reported.
Assemblyman Alex DeCroce, 75, collapsed in a men’s room at the Statehouse and was pronounced dead at the scene. Governor Chris Christie, a personal friend of the lawmaker, confirmed the death of his fellow Republican.
“Tonight I lost a dear friend, colleague and mentor,” Christie said in a statement. “He helped to give me my start in elective politics in Morris County in 1993. He was one of the most kind, considerate and trustworthy people I have ever had the pleasure to know. This is an enormous loss for our State and for me personally.”
DeCroce’s death shocked lawmakers and legislative staff who had been working with him all evening as the State Legislature was ironing out the details on a flurry of last-minute bills, according to the AP.
CNN reported that DeCroce was the Republican leader in the New Jersey General Assembly since 2003.
An Iranian court has convicted an American man of working for the CIA and sentenced this individual to death, state radio reported on Monday, in a case that may add to the tension between the U.S. and Iran, The Associated Press reported.
According to the news outlet, Iran charges that as a former U.S. Marine, Amir Mirzaei Hekmati had received special training and served at bases in Iraq and Afghanistan prior to being sent to Iran for his alleged intelligence mission for the CIA.
State radio in Iran did not say when the verdict was issued, and Hekmati has 20 days to appeal the decision under Iranian law. The 28-year-old former translator for the military was born in Arizona and graduated from a Michigan high school. According to the AP, his father claims that his son is not a spy and was simply visiting his grandmother in Iran.
The New York Times reported that Hekmati is the first American to receive a death sentence in Iran since the Iranian revolution took place 30 years ago. He has been imprisoned in the Middle Eastern country since August.
In a move that seeks to streamline the immigration process, the President Barack Obama Administration proposed new hardship rules to make it easier for illegal immigrants to apply for legal status and remain in the U.S., The Washington Times reported.
According to the newspaper, the latest move by the Administration would help to ease the burden for illegal immigrants in the U.S., and supporters cheered it as a tremendous victory for these individuals.
The Times reported that Homeland Security officials said the change only applies when an illegal immigrant has a family member living in the U.S. legally who would undergo “hardship” if separated from each other.
Representative Lamar Smith (R-Texas) said that Obama was “bending long established rules to put illegal immigrants ahead of the interests of American citizens and legal immigrants. “Who is the president batting for — illegal immigrants or the American people?” the lawmaker asked rhetorically.
The Texas Tribune reported that the proposal would be posted in the Federal Register, and would be subject to a public comment period. Changes to the rule may take effect later this year.
China slammed America’s new Asian-focused defense strategy, noting that its accusations of a lack of opening in Beijing’s military policy were both “groundless and untrustworthy,” The Associated Press reported.
According to the news outlet, the new strategy, outlined last Thursday, shifts the focus of the U.S. military away from the Middle East and makes a renewed commitment to assert American influence in the Asia-Pacific region.
In response to this new strategy, China said it was committed to peaceful development and a defensive policy. According to the AP, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin told reporters that their strategic intent was clear, open and transparent.
“Our national defense modernization serves the objective requirements of national security and development and also plays an active role in maintaining regional peace and stability. It will not pose any threat to any country,” Liu told reporters. “The charges against China in this document are groundless and untrustworthy.”
Reuters reported that the new U.S. strategy will include keeping large bases in Japan and South Korea and the deployment of marines, Navy ships and aircraft to Australia’s Northern Territory.
The Department of Homeland Security is launching a hotline for individuals who have been jailed on immigration charges and believe they are victims of a crime or may be U.S. citizens, The Associated Press reported.
According to the news outlet, the toll-free hotline – 855-448-6903 – will be staffed 24 hours a day and run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement to answer questions from people held in local jails concerning possible deportation proceedings.
The AP reported that the hot line is the latest move by the Administration of President Barack Obama to address concerns about alleged illegal immigrants held in local jails. In early December, Homeland Security ended agreements that allowed deputies at an Arizona sheriff’s office to check the immigration status of local inmates.
This practice was halted after a Justice Department report outlined allegations of discrimination and racial profiling against Latinos.
The Los Angeles Times reported that interpreters will be available for alleged illegal immigrants who speak other languages.
“ICE personnel will collect information from the individual and refer it to the relevant ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations field office for immediate action,” immigration officials said in a statement.
The White House announced “Summer Jobs+,” a new call to action for the government, non-profits and businesses to work together to provide low-income and disconnected inner-city youth with a path to employment, according to a government release.
President Barack Obama proposed $1.5 billion for high-impact summer jobs and year-round employment for low-income youth ages 16 to 24 as part of the “Pathways Back to Work Fund.”
“America’s young people face record unemployment, and we need to do everything we can to make sure they’ve got the opportunity to earn the skills and a work ethic that come with a job,” said Obama. “It’s important for their future, and for America’s. That’s why I proposed a summer jobs program for youth in the American Jobs Act – a plan that Congress failed to pass.”
The Associated Press reported that the White House said with the help it has received from the private sector it has secured commitments for nearly 180,000 youth employment opportunities for next summer. Republicans have charged that the Federal government is taking credit for positions that were going to be created anyway, at places like CVS and Bank of America.
With impending June recall election becoming all the more certain, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has said the debate is no longer just about collective-bargaining rights, as union leaders have made it personal, The Washington Times reported.
"They want me dead. I don’t think that’s an exaggeration," Walker said in an interview with the newspaper.
The Times reported that his opponents have until January 15 to collect roughly 540,000 signatures and trigger another election. This would likely center around the successful efforts by the Governor to strip some of the collective-bargaining rights from teachers and other government employees.
This move was made by the Governor out of an effort to close budget gaps and put Wisconsin back on more solid footing, according to the newspaper.
The Hill reported that Walker, speaking at the American Enterprise Institute, urged his fellow governors to seek "structural reforms" like eliminating collective-bargaining rights.
"If you are going to do it, don’t go halfway," Walker said. The Governor also suggested that House Budget Committee Chairman Representative Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) shares his views.
Tehran will be the top threat in 2012, former CIA Director Michael Hayden predicted as Iran dominates the foreign policy debate in the U.S., according to Fox News.
“It is the single greatest destabilizing element right now with regards to global security,” Hayden told the news outlet. He noted that the trajectory that the Mideast nation is on concerning nuclear weapons and the recent Strait of Hormuz incident is one that the world should fear.
Hayden went on to say that the threats by Iran to close the waterway suggests that officials in Tehran may commit an “unforced error” in the next year.
The U.S. is not the only country that sees the Iranian threat as an impediment to the world’s progress, as Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper opined that the country must be put in check, according to The Jerusalem Post.
“In my judgment, [Iran] is the world’s most serious threat to international peace and security,” Harper said during an interview with a Canadian radio station. “The is a regime that wants to acquire nuclear weapons.”
President Barack Obama is helping to coordinate a new Pentagon strategy for absorbing hundreds of billions of dollars in defense budget cuts, as this move will mark a turning point in U.S. security policy, The Associated Press reported.
According to the news outlet, Obama planned to make an appearance in the Pentagon press briefing room to announce the results of a strategy review that he ordered last spring. The aim of this was to streamline the military in an era where budgets are lower and to reassess the defense priorities in light of what is occurring in Asia.
The AP reported that Obama’s decision to announce the results himself underscores the political dimension of the debate in Washington over defense savings. The Administration has noted that cuts to the budget are essential, but will not come at a cost to the strength of the U.S. military.
According to POLITICO, the strategy focuses on crafting a nimble, tech-savvy military capable of swooping in to confront terrorists on a global scale. This force will supposedly be able to deter the nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea, along with countering a rising China in the western Pacific.
Only hours after appointing the head of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau while Congress was not in session, President Barack Obama bypassed opposition from the GOP to appoint three individuals to the National Labor Relations Board, Fox News reported.
According to the news outlet, the move was praised by union leaders, but Republicans threatened legal action and said Obama is setting a dangerous precedent in bypassing Congress.
Fox News reported that the board usually has five members, but has only been operating with three. It lost another member this week, hampering its ability to conduct regular business.
“The American people deserve to have qualified public servants fighting for them every day – whether it is to enforce new consumer protections or uphold the rights of working Americans,” said Obama during an announcement. “We can’t wait to act to strengthen the economy and restore security for our middle class and those trying to get in it, and that’s why I am proud to appoint these fine individuals to get to work for the American people.”
Reuters reported that the new members of the board will be sworn in for 18-month terms, and the five-member panel will consist of three Democrats and two Republicans.
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio, Jan. 5 (UPI) — Pumping wastewater from shale gas operations deep underground was the likely cause of minor earthquakes recorded recently in Ohio, scientists said.
A 2.7-magnitude earthquake rocked Ohio on Christmas Eve, followed by a 4.0-magnitude quake on New Year’s Eve.
Ohio authorities called on scientists at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory to conduct seismic studies of an area near Youngstown, Ohio, after nine small earthquakes were recorded last year.
All of the quakes were recorded within a 5-mile radius of a wastewater injection well run by Northstar Disposal Services, Scientific American reports.
Scientists with the Earth Observatory said the holiday quakes were triggered by operations tied to shale gas work in the area. John Armbruster, a lead scientist at the observatory, said the two quakes were centered within a half-mile of the injection well.
Armbruster’s team said the quakes were triggered by wastewater from shale gas operations that acted as a lubricant at a fault located about 1 mile underground.
Ohio lawmakers called on shale operators to stop working in the region during an investigation into the quakes.
Most criticism of shale gas has focused on the chemicals used in the process. A similar quake was associated with shale operations in Great Britain last year.
In another installation of the dramatic series of exchanges between the U.S. and Iran, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Iran is making threats on the Strait of Hormuz because the country is in a position of weakness, The Hill reported.
“It’s the latest round of Iranian threats and it’s confirmation that Tehran is under increasing pressure for its continued failure to live up to its international obligations,” Carney said at a press briefing on Tuesday. “Iran is isolated and seeking to divert attention from its domestic problems.”
According to the news outlet, U.S. and Iranian officials have been launching proverbial volleys since Iran threatened last week to close the Strait of Hormuz. This waterway is a key passage into the Persian Gulf through which nearly 20 percent of the world’s oil supply travels.
Bloomberg reported that Iran’s closing of the Strait would cut demand for the largest tankers by blocking their busiest route. Erik Nikolai Stavseth, an Oslo-based analyst at Arctic Securities ASA, noted that the closing of the passage would lead to a drop in volumes and negative ton-miles for oil companies and their vessels.
A state-appointed panel said Tuesday that California’s plan to build a high-speed rail system in the state is not financially feasible and needs to be placed on hold, The Associated Press reported.
According to the news outlet, the report from the California High-Speed Rail Peer Review Group noted that the state should not authorize the necessary $2.7 billion in bonds that would be used to build the initial section of the system.
The AP reported that in November, the California High-Speed Rail Authority approved a plan that requests $2.7 billion in state bonds to match the $3.5 billion that was granted by the Federal government. The funding would be used to build 130 miles of track between Chowchilla and Bakersfield.
The Los Angeles Times reported that Governor Jerry Brown has said he intends to ask the legislature this month to provide the funding, but the plan had been facing criticism even prior to the panel’s issuance of the report.
The panel cited a lack of clarity in the business plan that was unveiled in November as one of the reasons for their findings, according to the newspaper.