Saturday, February 27, 2010

Obama says US prepared to assist Chile if asked

WASHINGTON — The U.S. "will be there" if Chile asks for rescue and recovery help after a powerful earthquake struck the South American nation, President Barack Obama said Saturday.

He also warned people in Hawaii, Guam, American Samoa and the West Coast to heed the instructions of local authorities about evacuations and other measures in advance of a tsunami moving across the Pacific Ocean.

"We can't control nature, but we can and must be prepared for disaster when it strikes," he said in a statement at the White House.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued a tsunami warning — its highest alert — for Hawaii. The first waves were expected to arrive in Hawaii late afternoon EST. A lower-grade tsunami advisory was in effect for the coast of California and an Alaskan coastal area.

Before he spoke, Obama had a 20-minute conference call with staff and Cabinet members who updated him on conditions in Chile and on the tsunami. Participants included Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

"The United States stands ready to assist in the rescue and recovery efforts and we have resources that are positioned to deploy should the Chilean government ask for our help," Obama said. Chile's president, Michelle Bachelet, said her government has not asked for assistance from other countries.

Clinton planned to leave Sunday for a previously scheduled trip to the region. Her itinerary included more than a day in Chile, but it was unclear Saturday whether she would stick to it.

The U.S. Embassy in Chile was working to learn the whereabouts of U.S. citizens in Chile, both diplomatic employees and other Americans who may have been living there or visiting, State Department spokeswoman Megan Mattson said.

There were no reports of U.S. casualties, and the U.S. military said it had no reports that any of its forces had been affected either on land or at sea.

The State Department advises Americans seeking information on family and friends in Chile to contact the Bureau of Consular Affairs at 1-888-407-4747.

There are 118 embassy employees in Chile. It was unclear how many Americans there are throughout Chile, but an estimated 1,000 live in and near Concepcion, which is Chile's second-largest city and only 70 miles from the earthquake's epicenter.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Airport Check-in: Washington, D.C., airports deal with snow

Washington, D.C.-area airports were closed to the public for much of last week after the record snowstorms that slammed the area and canceled nearly all flights.

But for hundreds of employees at Washington Dulles, Reagan National and Baltimore/Washington, it was all hands on deck as they worked around the clock to prepare for the reopening that started late Thursday.

"What we've gone through this winter, particularly this week, was memorable," says Margaret McKeough, COO of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which runs Dulles and National.

The 250 employees at Dulles and the 175 at National who are part of the designated "snow teams" were called in Feb. 5, shortly before the first major storm hit the region. Mostly composed of maintenance staffers who are trained on snow equipment, the teams worked in six-to-eight-hour shifts to run the plows and trucks, and slept on cots in offices and warehouses. They were given an option of going home one day. "It was pretty rough," McKeough says.

Iranian Americans Protest in Washington D.C.

Scores of Iranian Americans marched outside the White house in solidarity with the Iranian people's uprising on the anniversary of the 1979 revolution in Washington D.C. on Saturday.

The demonstrators say they're rallying to show support to the hundreds of thousands of Iranians who defied what they called "unprecedented repressive measures" taken by the Iranian regime.

They came out onto the streets of Tehran and other cities to call for a change in leadership.

Iranian American protesters also called on the Obama administration to stand with the Iranian people and take stronger measures against Tehran.

[Henry Goudarz, Protester]:
“We are trying to say to the White House that this is time for us to stand by Iranian people rather than standing by the Ayatollah."

One of the organizers of the protest said the main purpose of the rally was to show support to the people who defiantly risked death, and other grave consequences by marching on the streets of Tehran.

[Shirin Nariman, Organizer]:
“We are here in support of them to let them know that even we might be miles and miles away but we are with them in this. We also support them; we want also the regime change.”

The Iranian opposition movement calls itself The Green Movement and is made up of a number of pro-reform groups and parties. They seek political change in Iran and say that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won the June 12 election by fraud.

The crackdown against protesters in Iran has recently intensified. Iranian human rights organizations say since the June election, more than a thousand people have been arrested. They also say hundreds of students, activists and lawyers have lost their jobs or been prevented from continuing their education.

Thousands more have fled Iran because of security concerns. A handful of death sentences have also been handed down.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Washington DC covered in snow proves global warming wrong

It seems to be the logic of some right wing ‘journalists’ and uninformed people that the amount of snow falling in certain places lately – though noticeably not at the site of the 2010 Winter Olympics – somehow debunks the science of global warming or climate change. What’s being referred to as ’snowpocalypse’ – I guess that’s all they could come up with – has virtually shut down my hometown of Washington, DC. Luckily I live in London now, where people usually freak out at the sight of a lone snowflake see-sawing its way onto the perpetually sodden earth, where it promptly melts, never to be seen or heard from again. Yet the same facile arguments have been used here.

To reiterate what should be the obvious: Weather is not climate, events are not patterns, your backyard is not the world (even if it is Washington, DC) climate change is not just global warming, blah, blah, blah… I mean, did you guys like not see The Day After Tomorrow??

Anyway, watch this segment from the Rachel Maddow Show, which explains things in humorous, simple way – including some examples of the coolest way to win a basketball game – plus some actual science.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Washington DC snow storm, snow storm East Coast and mid Atlantic snow storm

Washington DC: Washington DC snow storm, snow storm East Coast and mid Atlantic snow storm. Washington was battling a blizzard. The capital is enveloped in 32 inches of snow. Normal life has been crippled. Most of the flights have been grounded due to atrocious weather. Besides, some part of the city has no power supply. Some 230,000 homes are functioning without power.

The snowstorm has turned the whole city into a ghost city. Trees have felled due to the blizzard. Other casualties included damaged utility poles. Workers of the Pepco electric company are busy fixing the fault so that power could be restored. But they have failed to do their job as massive snowstorm has made their lives difficult. The company issued a statement saying that it would take some day to restore power.

Washington Mayor Adrian Fenty assured locals that things would get back into normal by Monday morning. He told a local television: "[It's] certainly as much snow as many of us have seen in our lifetime in one particular storm."

The Mayor is working overtime with his other staff to combat the emergency situation. He said: "To have the city ready and open for business Monday morning."

For the time being even the presidential motorcade is having difficulties moving the city’s streets. However, no one has been injured in the historic blizzard.

OPM Federal Government Operating Status: Monday CLOSINGS Announced For Washington, D.C.

The OPM Federal Government Operating Status for Monday, Feb. 8, 2010 has been announced: federal agencies will be closed.

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management Web site has been experiencing problems, as people flood the site to find out the federal government's operating status for Monday in lieu of Washington D.C.'s "snowmageddon."

However, there are definitely closings in store for tomorrow.

The site was updated at 6 p.m. this evening and a message read:

The following message applies only to Monday, February 8, 2010: Federal agencies in the Washington, DC, area are CLOSED.
The site explained that this means "Federal agencies in the Washington, DC, area are closed. Nonemergency employees (including employees on pre-approved leave) will be granted excused absence for the number of hours they were scheduled to work."

It's noted that telework employees may still need to report for work on time, and emergency employees are also expected to report.

Snow grounds San Diego-D.C. flights

Several flights between San Diego and snowed-in WASHINGTON D,C, were cancelled today, according to United and Southwest airlines.

United, the sole airline that offers non-stop service between Lindbergh Field and Washington’s Dulles International Airport, cancelled two of three departures to San Diego from the airfield in Chantilly, Va., which reportedly received almost three feet of snow Friday and Saturday.

President Obama dubbed the storm “Snowmaggedon.” A third westbound United flight set to arrive in San Diego tonight remained tentatively scheduled.

Flights going the other direction, from San Diego to Dulles, continued today with only some delays. Officials are Dulles said they were running limited operations, mostly accepting arrivals.

Airlines pulled their planes from the airport before the storm, so few aircraft were available for departures. Southwest Airlines cancelled flights to and from Baltimore-Washinton International Airport, which remained completely closed.

Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport was also closed.

City News Service wrote and edited this story.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

At least 14 injured in Conn. power plant explosion

MIDDLETOWN, Conn. — Fourteen people have been brought to hospitals for treatment after an explosion at a power plant that was under construction in Connecticut.

Enlarge photo

Area fire and ambulance crews arrive near the scene in Middletown, Conn., Sunday, Feb. 7, 2010. Multiple people have died in an explosion at a power plant in Connecticut and an unknown number of people are injured. (AP Photo/Richard Messina, Hartford Courant)

Enlarge photo

Smoke comes from the the Kleen Energy plant on River Road in Middletown, Conn., Sunday Feb. 7, 2010, as emergency vehicles make their way to the scene of an explosion there. Multiple people have died in an explosion at a power plant in Connecticut and an unknown number of people are injured. (AP Photo/The Middletown Press, Catherine Avalone) MANDATORY CREDIT

Enlarge photo

Area fire and ambulance crews arrive near the scene in Middletown, Conn., Sunday, Feb. 7, 2010. Multiple people have died in an explosion at a power plant in Connecticut and an unknown number of people are injured. (AP Photo/Richard Messina, Hartford Courant)

Enlarge photo

An ambulance arrives near the scene of an explosion in Middletown, Conn., Sunday, Feb. 7, 2010. Multiple people have died in an explosion at a power plant in Connecticut and an unknown number of people are injured. (AP Photo/Richard Messina, Hartford Courant)

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Officials say multiple people died in the explosion Sunday at the Kleen Energy plant, though they do not know how many. Deputy Fire Marshal Al Santostefano says the number of injured is fewer than 50.

Brian Albert, spokesman for MiddlesexHospital in Middletown, says 11 people were brought in. Two were treated and released, eight are being treated for broken bones, abdominal injuries, blunt force trauma and similar injuries.

He says a seriously injured person was transferred to Hartford Hospital, and another may be sent there.

Hartford Hospital says two other people were brought there directly after the blast.

Albert says Middlesex Hospital did not expect to receive more patients.

Two killed in Connecticut power plant explosion

large explosion at a Connecticut power station has killed at least two people and injured scores. But rescue workers warned of the possibility of many more deaths.

The police said they expected "mass casualties" and that an undetermined number of people were buried under the rubble of the plant in Middletown. The blast was so large that some people mistook it for an earthquake, and it was felt 30 miles away.

"There are bodies everywhere," one eyewitness told the Hartford Courant newspaper. Other witnesses described a "huge ball of fire" and told the paper the "main plant building seemed to have been substantially levelled". Homes near the plant were also damaged. A caravan of ambulances and more than 100 firefighters streamed to the scene. Helicopters lifted out some of the injured.

Middletown's deputy fire marshal, Al Santostefano, said there were "confirmed fatalities" but was unable to say how many. "It was a massive blast," he said.

Bernadette Nyland told a local television station, WTNH, that she was outside her house when she heard the blast. "They were doing the firing of the engines this morning and so something went wrong and it blew up and flames came shooting up almost as tall as that stack. Then the smoke came billowing. Blew out our windows. It was frightening, very frightening," she said.

The cause of the explosion at the Kleen Energy Systems plant was not immediately clear but reports said it had occurred on a natural gas pipeline when the power generating system was being tested. Part of the plant was under reconstruction. At least 100 workers were in the vicinity of the explosion.

The Hartford Courant said one witness who lived across a river from the plant thought someone had driven a vehicle into his house because the concussion from the explosion was so strong.

Other people told local television stations they thought a plane had crashed. "Everyone ran out of their houses. [There was a] huge boom followed by three or four seconds of the house shaking," wrote one on WTNH's website.

RAW DATA: Recent Power Plant Explosions

Feb. 3, 2009 – An explosion at the We Energies plant in Oak Creek Wisconsin left six injured, two with devastating burns on half their bodies.

Oct. 27, 2008 – A gas explosion rocked an outbuilding near Exelon Corp’s Quad Cities nuclear plant in Illinois, but no plant workers were injured.

Nov. 6, 2007 – Three workers at the Salem Harbor Power Station in Massachusetts lost their lives when a boiler’s water tube ruptured, spraying them with scalding hot steam.

Oct. 2, 2002 – Exhausted firefighters battled a nine-alarm blaze for hours at the Boston Edison plant in Massachusetts. Despite the magnitude of the fire, no fatalities were reported.

Aug. 23, 2000 – A natural gas leak took the blame for an explosion at a power plant in Russell, Kansas, that leveled the facility and cut power to over 5,000 people. Two plant workers suffered serious burns.

April 8, 1999 – Two workers were killed at a Tampa, Fla., electrical-power plant blast that was blamed on a hydrogen-gas leak. Another 49 were injured.

Sources: The Capital Times & Wisconsin State Journal, Reuters, The Associated Press, The Boston Herald, and The Seattle Times

Huge power plant blast rocks USA

Fifty people are feared killed tonight in a huge blast at a power plant in blizzard-hit eastern USA.

Many more are feared injured in the explosion at the power base in Middletown, Connecticut, USA.

President Obama is being kept informed of the ongoing situation - but early reports do not indicate any terror links.

The eastern USA has been badly hit by blizzards this weekend - said to be the worst in a century.

Roads are closed, airports shut and power blackouts have been hitting tens of thousands - a situation which will not be helped by today's explosion.

Huge explosion at Connecticut power plant may have killed as many as 50 people

AS many as 50 people are said to have been killed in a huge explosion at a US energy plant in Connecticut, a hospital spokesperson said.

Witnesses told the local Hartford Courant newspaper that as many as 100 people were injured in Sunday's blast at the Kleen Energy plant on the outskirts of Middletown on the Connecticut River.

"There are bodies everywhere," one witness was quoted as saying while others said victims may be buried in the rubble of the plant which was still under construction.

Officials would not immediately confirm any deaths or the number of injured, while CNN was reporting at least two fatalities.

"There was a massive explosion, there are multiple injuries and possible fatalities," Middletown police spokesman George Yepes said.

Dozens of emergency personnel swarmed around the sprawling energy complex after the explosion, which rocked nearby residential housing shortly before 11:30am local time, 3.30am this morning Melbourne time.

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The Hartford Courant reported that 20 ambulances were at the scene and said helicopters were airlifting some of the victims to nearby hospitals.

While US media reports talked of "mass casualties" at the gas-fired energy plant in Middletown, a spokeswoman at the main Middlesex Hospital nearby said they had not seen any deaths and had received less than 20 injured so far.

She told AFP an emergency command centre was being set up to deal with the incident. "We don't know what we've got at the moment," she added.

"There was an explosion at a Kleen Energy plant," Middletown Fire Department commissioner Bill Gregorio said. "There are some," he responded when asked about the number of injured.

Pictures of the site showed a convoy of ambulances driving into the facility, from which a huge, gray plume of smoke rose into the sky.

AFP could not immediately contact officials at the plant.

One witness told the Hartford Courant that the explosion took place during a test of the plant's power generating systems.

The 620-megawatt Kleen Energy plant, said to be one of the largest power facilities to be built in New England for many years, was still in the process of being built.

The gas-fired energy production plant is located on the outskirts of the city on the edge of the river, but close to some residential housing.

A company called Energy Investors Funds recently acquired 80 per cent of the Kleen Energy, which had been due to go online sometime in 2010.

Power plant explosion in Middletown, CT

At least two fatalities are reported from an explosion at a power plant under construction site in Middletown, Connecticut.

The explosion happened at the Kleen Energy natural gas and oil plant under construction on River Road around 11:30 a.m. Here are the details News Channel 8 has learned from authorities at the command post:

There are two fatalities.
This was a working construction site
Workers were doing a 'blow down' to clear gas from the lines when the explosion occurred
No word on where the workers are from
Fire is completely out
Local residents told to stay away
Windows at Conn Valley Hospital in Middletown broken out by the explosion
Two LifeStar helicopters were called to the scene. One has taken off carrying one patient. We do not know any details about the person's injuries.

State police have deployed detectives and cadaver dogs to the scene to help Middletown authorities, state police spokesman Lt. J. Paul Vance said.

There are reports there may have been 300 people in the building at the time of the explosion.

Bernadette Nyland was outside in her yard with her dogs when she heard the blast. "They were doing the firing of the engines this morning and so something went wrong and it blew up and flames came shooting up almost as tall as that stack," she said.

There are reports that homes near plant have been damaged by the explosion. It was felt as far away as Wallingford, North Haven, North Branford and Cheshire.

News Channel 8's Darren Kramer said on Twitter was outside in North Guilford when he heard the explosion. "Sound was huge and low. Lasted several seconds. Assumed sonic boom."

Another Twitter follower named Jennifer said via Twitter, "First thought was earthquake or huge gust of wind--whole house shook, very brief but powerful."

Shelby wrote on Twitter "my whole town was writting on facebook asking if it was a easrthquake, Northford"

Others heard or felt the explosion in Oxford and as far away as Mystic.

Dozens of emergency personnel from multiple towns and agencies are on the scene. In the rush to offer assistance however it may be needed, Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton said via Twitter "Our HazMat and Decon trailer are on standby for Middletown."

Hospitals in Middletown and Portland have gone into a disaster mode. Bridgeport Hospital, which has a burn center, is on standby, but a spokesman says they have not yet been alerted that any patient is heading their way.

Governor Jodi Rell was on her way to the scene.

Report: 50 dead, 250 injured in Connecticut power plant blast

MIDDLETOWN, CONNECTICUT (BNO NEWS) — A large explosion rocked a power plant in the city of Middletown in Connecticut on Sunday, killing at least two people and injuring scores of others. News reports say up to 50 people may have died.

The natural gas explosion happened around 11.26 a.m. local time at the Kleen Energy Power Plant on River Road, a 620 megawatt gas-fired power plant which is currently under construction. A Middletown Police Department official said testing was ongoing at the plant at the time of the explosion, “but, obviously something went wrong,” he said. “A lot of mutual aid is coming in.”

Plant manager Gordon Holk confirmed at least two workers had been killed. He said crews were conducting gas blows, a practice used to clean pipelines. Holk said there were injuries, and said an unknown number of people are still unaccounted for. “A search and rescue of the rubble is underway,” he said.

The manager said the explosion caused damage to the construction site and nearby buildings. Holk said an investigation into the cause of the blast is underway.

Unconfirmed reports, which BNO News was not immediately able to verify with officials, suggested that as many as 100 people were injured.

WFSB-TV reported, citing sources, that at least 250 people were injured. Sky News, citing a local hospital, reported that up to 50 people had been killed. There was no immediate official confirmation.

Connecticut Governor Rell is en-route to the scene of the explosion and is expected to arrive there around 3 p.m. EST, according to Donna Tommelleo, a spokeswoman for the governor. Governor Rell has spoken by telephone with the Mayor of Middletown and the Chief of the Middletown Fire Department.

Tommelleo said Governor Rell has activated the Emergency Operations Center in Hartford which is being staffed by the state Department of Emergency Management, Homeland Security (DEMHS), the Department of Public Health (DPH), the National Guard and the Connecticut State Police. Tommelleo said Governor Rell will assess the situation when she arrives, and did not know if she will declare a state of emergency.

Governor Rell also activated the Urban Search and Rescue Team. The Department of Public Health is providing tents at the scene for shelter and medical triage.

The Middletown Fire Department said departments from all over the region are assisting local emergency responders, and hospitals in the area are put on stand by to receive casualties. The blast, which was felt as many as ten miles away, caused a fire which is now out.

Fire department officials are planning to hold a news conference before 3 p.m. EST.
More at : Report: 50 dead, 250 injured in Connecticut power plant blast


Broke a gas pipeline from a power plant in the city of Middletown, Connecticut. Local police spoke of "dozens injured"And is expected to be more fatalities.
The big explosion occurred in the plant Kleen Energy, Where he swiftly drew over 100 units of emergency, including ambulances, fire engines and helicopters to the scene.
In the words of Sergeant Chuck JacobbiTwo people killed and warned that it expects the death toll will increase because people are still looking.
The explosion was felt in nearby towns could see the black smoke for miles around. A plant official said that the installation was a gas power plant of 620 megawatts.
According to a neighbor indicated chain CNNDuring the morning had been doing work with the engines of the plant but "something went wrong" and we observed a large explosion

Gas explosion at U.S. plant - Hospital says up to 50 dead

Washington - With the explosion of a gas pipeline in a power plant in the U.S. state of Connecticut are media reports that several people were injured. Ambulances and a rescue helicopter were on the ground, the paper reported, "Middletown Press," on its website.

The blast occurred in the city of Middletown, therefore, which lies about 37 kilometers south of Hartford, the capital of the state. Above the power station "Kleen Energy" was a kilometer-tall column of smoke visible. The force of the explosion was felt in surrounding towns.

Dulles Airport affected due to Washington DC snowfall

WITH NEARLY two feet of snow covering the national capital, Washington DC has been literally cut off by the snowfall, with even postal services, buses and above ground subways cancelled on Saturday. The massive snowfall also caused the roof of a private jet hangar at the Dulles airport to collapse.

The Washington DC snowfall, which occurred due to the the raging winter storm in the mid Atlantic region on Saturday, also caused a power cut for a massive number of residents. Pepco, the primary power provider for Washington, has said that the power outage is affecting 11 per cent of its customers, rougly 196,000 people.

The Dulles Airport suffers too - while the snow continues to build on the runways faster than it can be removed, it also caused a portion of a private jet hangar's roof to collapse here. This hangar suffered this damage at around 8:15 AM. Courtney Mickalonis, a spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority said, “As of this morning, the structural integrity was still in question.” Though planes were damaged, she reported that there were no injuries.

Apart from this, all flights were cancelled at the Ronald Reagon Washington National Airport. Crews were still working on clearing the runways, a job made tougher by the still continuing snowfall.

Postal operations in the Washington area were cancelled completely, as were buses and above ground subways. Many trains in the Northeast corridor, particularly those from Richmond to New York, were also cancelled.

DuPont Circle snowball fight erupts as Washington, DC blasted by snow storm

It's almost like that great cult classic from 1979. Except roving gangs of thugs aren't toting guns, knives, and baseball bats. Instead, these Washington-based warriors have come armed with, well... snowballs.

In a city famous for fighting on Capitol Hill, residents are out in -- reportedly by the thousands -- to partake in organized snowball fights across the area.

What else are you going to do? After all, it's the Snowmageddon. That's what President Obama called the winter weather today. Others are calling it the Snopocalypse.

Whatever. With two feet of snow hitting a town that is well-practiced in using social media to rally supporters at political events, why not use Facebook and Twitter to host a few snowball fights?

DuPont Circle showdown

Take the snowball fight at DuPont Circle this afternoon. With over 5,600 fans of the event and reports that more than 2,000 people showed up, it uniquely demonstrates once again the power of the new media.

So newsworthy was it that the mainstream media was there to cover the event. One local reporter was pelted by snowballs throughout his broadcast. But, he remained standing.

That's something you can't say about this participant. Armed with her iPhone, she successfully forged her way through the battle zone before getting clobbered and knocked to the ground.

"Came SO close to losing my iPhone. Phew," she tweets.

Want more video footage? Check out these clips from one guy who was live streaming the event.

Stay away

How big is the snowball fight? Big enough to snarl traffic (as if the weather wasn't doing that anyway). One radio station says keep away.

"WTOP radio: Drivers are advised to stay away from Dupont Circle due to the snowball fight in progress," tweets one DC resident.

The Five-Oh

One local blogger, Tom Bridge from, asks the DC police not to show up with guns this time.

In case you missed it, a cop did break up a DC snowball fight in December. And he was packing heat. Luckily, no one was hurt, but DC residents haven't forgotten about it.

Writes Carissa DeMargo at NBCWashington, "Wear your boots, your snow pants and your bullet-proof vest... you know, just to be on the safe side."

Did you know?

Oh yeah, and you can learn a lot from today's action even if you don't go outside.

Like this helpful hint from DoctorAwesomeMD: The best thing about getting snow in your pants is that you don't have to wash them, just let it melt.

Snow snobs

By the way, not everyone gets all the hub-bub. Those from locations used to getting a lot of snow scoff at all the attention.

Former Bush Deputy Press Secretary Scott Stanzel notes on his Facebook page that he flew out of DC just in time to avoid "the DC snowmageddon, or 'flurries' as we used to call it in Iowa."


Hey, we'll never throw a snowball at you. But if we do, we'll only tell people about it on Twitter. So follow us!

Washington, D.C., digs out after storm

Residents and road crews in Washington, D.C., began the long process Saturday night of digging out from one of the biggest snowstorms in history to hit the U.S. capital.

The storm, which began Friday, dumped up to 60 centimetres of snow on the district and even more on parts of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia and northern Maryland.

The capital's rail system announced it was shutting down four hours early on Saturday night and transit authorities cancelled all bus service and above-ground rail service for Sunday.

D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty told the Washington Post that more than 750 municipal workers and contractors will work through the weekend to try to get the city open by rush hour Monday morning.

"This is certainly the most snow as any one of us has seen in our lifetime," Fenty said.

Philadelphia, the sixth largest city in the U.S., was virtually shut down with a record snowfall of nearly 70 centimetres.

In Virginia, transportation officials said it could take until Wednesday or Thursday before crews finish plowing streets in subdivisions.

"Snowmageddon," President Barack Obama called it. Even the president's motorcade — which featured SUVs instead of limousines — fell victim to the blizzard. A tree limb snapped and crashed onto a motorcade vehicle carrying media members.

The snow fell too quickly for crews to keep up, and officials begged residents to stay home.

The usually traffic-snarled roads were mostly barren, save for some plows, fire trucks, ambulances and a few SUVs. The Capital Beltway, always filled with cars, was empty at times.

Airlines cancelled flights, churches called off weekend services and museums closed their doors.

The storm also left almost 190,000 people in the region without power.

According to the National Weather Service, Washington has received more than 30 centimetres of snow only 13 times since 1870.

The heaviest on record was 72 centimetres in January 1922. The biggest snowfall for the Washington-Baltimore area is believed to have been in 1772, before official records were kept, when as much as 90 centimetres fell, which George Washington and Thomas Jefferson noted in their diaries.

Washington DC, the world's newest ski resort

WASHINGTON: Best known for its hot, sticky summers, Washington DC was on Saturday transformed into a winter wonderland, with dozens strapping on
skis to navigate snow-clogged streets.

In the city of power suits and stilettos, the newest fashion items were snow shoes and thermal coats as residents battled a record-breaking blizzard which in less than 24 hours dumped some 20 inches of snow on some parts.

A German woman was out for a walk in her snowshoes. "I was being paranoid staying at home," she said, casually sipping coffee. She was in full ski gear - red ski jacket, black ski pants and a purple bobble hat. "It's like being in the Alps," said the woman, a former ski instructor from Gottingen in Germany. She works for the IMF and asked not to be named.

"I have Alpine skis but the city is too flat. Yesterday I wanted to buy some cross-country skis but there were none left in the shops, just like all the shovels had sold out," she said.

Just behind her jogged up Alix Lawe, who works with the US Air Force and was out for her daily run. "It's so fun. I'm from Florida, I've never seen so much snow," she said gleefully.

With the city's famous tree-lined streets and monuments blanketed in snow, artists and photographers were out in force to capture a historic moment.

Joseph Bratcher from Indiana was photographing the trees that buckled under the weight of a thick layer of white. "It's more snow than has ever fallen in DC since I moved here, six years ago," he said, snapping a tree which had toppled over in St Thomas Circle.

Visitor Ed Zuckermar came prepared when he flew into the capital from Washington state for a conference. "I knew it was going to snow," he said, catching his breath after sliding his way in cross-country-skis along one of the roads. "I just hope it doesn't melt too soon."

Weather forecasters see little chance of that, as they warned that while the monster storm would finally blow itself out later Saturday after more than 24 hours, temperatures would remain cold. Some people chose to ignore official advice to stay home and stay off the roads, and ran swiftly into trouble on the slippery streets.

Even the White House could not escape the fury of the blizzard, with men armed with shovels instead of sniper rifles throwing off snow from the roof. The roads leading to nation's presidential seat though were being kept meticulously clear.

And with many Washingtonians determined to make the best of the snow, the hip Dupont Circle area was the place to visit, with a massive snowball fight planned for the afternoon.

CBS news had set up its cameras slap bang in the middle of what is normally one of the most clogged traffic roundabouts in the city to capture the action

US snowstorm causes power cuts in Washington DC region

Hundreds of thousands of people remain without power like Pakistanin Washington DC and nearby states after a blizzard blanketed the area with record snows.

Electricity was cut to at least 300,000 homes as the snow felled trees, and cut power lines. Emergency workers are struggling to restore power.

Washington got up to 2ft (61cm) of snow, one of the heaviest snowfalls in decades.

The storm disrupted transport from West Virginia to southern New Jersey.

A record 3ft (91cm) of snow fell on Maryland.

Washington DC, Virginia and Maryland have declared emergencies, allowing them to activate the National Guard to help cope with the wintry onslaught.

US Snow: Your pictures
Some 300,000 homes are without electricity in Maryland and neighbouring Virginia - the two states which bore the brunt of the storm.

Another 250,000 customers were hit by blackouts in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, the New York Times reported.

Pepco electric company said its workers were scrambling to restore power, but warned it could be a few days before everyone was back up.

"We have a lot of scattered outages and the road conditions are not really working with us," spokesman Andre Francis told AFP news agency.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Sanford attends D.C. prayer breakfast on state plane

Gov. Mark Sanford was in WASHINGTON DC this morning to attend the National Prayer Breakfast.

The annual event featured a speech from President Barack Obama, University of Florida football player Tim Tebow and others, and is typically well-attended by members of Congress from both parties. The event is organized by The Fellowship Foundation.

Sanford sat at a front-row table "but way off to the side," according to a White House press corps pool report.

The event was not among those listed on Sanford's schedule released last Friday. Sanford flew to D.C. on the state plane, according to the S.C. Division of Aeronautics. Sanford spokesman Ben Fox said the governor conducted official business, too, meeting with U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan to discuss charter schools and education grants funded by the federal stimulus package.

Obama called for Democrats and Republicans to stop questioning each others motives in his speech, according to the New York Times, saying “Civility is not a sign of weakness.”

China-Bound "FedEx Panda Express" Takes Flight from Washington, D.C. with Precious Cargo on Board

WASHINGTON DC, Feb 04, 2010 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- The FedEx Panda Express, a specially-branded 777-Freighter in the FedEx aircraft fleet, took off today from Washington Dulles International Airport bound for Chengdu, China, with two very special passengers on board. FedEx Express, a subsidiary of FedEx Corp. /quotes/comstock/13*!fdx/quotes/nls/fdx (FDX 78.85, -3.27, -3.98%) and the world's largest express transportation company, is providing safe transport for two giant pandas--Tai Shan and Mei Lan--as they are returned home to aid the world's conservation efforts for this endangered species.

Send-off events were held at FedEx Express facilities at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta and Washington Dulles International Airport today as city officials, zoo representatives and others bid farewell to the pandas before take-off. FedEx has worked closely with representatives from the Smithsonian's National Zoo and Zoo Atlanta to provide for the safety and comfort of both pandas while on board the aircraft. Veterinarians from both zoos were granted special privileges to accompany the pandas throughout the 14 1/2 hour non-stop flight, ensuring the animals are well cared for.

"At FedEx, we ship millions of packages each business day, connecting businesses and people across town and around the world," said David J. Bronczek, president and CEO, FedEx Express. "While every package is important to us, we are especially proud to be entrusted the precious cargo on the FedEx Panda Express today. It's an honor to have worked with the National Zoo and Zoo Atlanta to provide Tai Shan and Mei Lan with a safe and secure trip for their return to China."

FedEx is well-known for its reliable and speedy transportation of some of the world's most critical shipments. In addition to the 3.4 million packages it ships on average each business day, FedEx Express also had the privilege of transporting several giant pandas in the past--including Tai Shan's parents Mei Xiang and Tian Tian in 2000. Later, in 2003, FedEx was again called upon to safely deliver Ya Ya and Le Le to the Memphis Zoo.

The company's commitment to providing the safe and secure transport of these rare animals is a testament to the FedEx commitment to business and cultural exchange between the U.S. and China, and its support for the communities in which it does business.

"Our ongoing support for business, community and cultural activities in the U.S. and China--combined with our renowned shipping expertise--make us confident that FedEx is 'Absolutely, Positively' the right team to make this delivery," said Bronczek.

Outside of its philanthropic commitments in the region, FedEx has a rich business history in China, with more than 25 years of experience serving customers shipping to and from this fast-growing market. FedEx currently employs more than 7,000 employees in China and serves 400 cities throughout the country. FedEx Express is also approaching the one-year anniversary of its new Asia Pacific hub in Guangzhou, China, opened on February 6, 2009.

About FedEx

FedEx Corp. /quotes/comstock/13*!fdx/quotes/nls/fdx (FDX 78.85, -3.27, -3.98%) provides customers and businesses worldwide with a broad portfolio of transportation, e-commerce and business services. With annual revenues of $33 billion, the company offers integrated business applications through operating companies competing collectively and managed collaboratively, under the respected FedEx brand. Consistently ranked among the world's most admired and trusted employers, FedEx inspires its more than 275,000 team members to remain "absolutely, positively" focused on safety, the highest ethical and professional standards and the needs of their customers and communities. For more information, visit

SOURCE: FedEx Corp.

For families: Happenings in the Washington, D.C., area Feb. 5-11

"RAPUNZEL" Friday at 10 and 11:30, Saturday and Sunday at 11:30 and 1, through Feb. 21. An adaptation of the Grimms' fairy tale featuring hand puppets. Glen Echo Park, Puppet Co. Playhouse, 7300 MacArthur Blvd., Glen Echo. 301-634-5380. $10.

"WAKE UP, BROTHER BEAR!" Friday and Saturday at 10:30 and 11:45 and Sunday at 11, through Sunday. Join Brother and Sister Bear as they discover the seasons. Imagination Stage, 4908 Auburn Ave., Bethesda. 301-280-1660. Best for ages 2 to 5. $7.

THE BANJO MAN Friday at 10:30. The Banjo Man performs folk- and bluegrass-inspired children's songs. Jammin' Java, 227 Maple Ave. E., Vienna. 703-255-1566. $5.

"OUR PLACE IN SPACE" Friday and Saturday at 7:30, Sunday at 1:30 and 3, through March 28. Explore the cause of day and night and the importance of the sun and learn about the universe and the planetarium. Arlington Planetarium, 1426 N. Quincy St., Arlington. 703-228-6070. $3, $2 seniors and age 12 and younger.

MEET HER ROYAL MAJESTIE, QUEEN ELIZABETH I Saturday at 9:30 and 11. Mary Ann Jung teaches her royal subjects the proper ways to bow and curtsy. National Theatre, 1321 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. 202-783-3372. Best for age 4 and older. Free tickets distributed 30 minutes before each show.

ROCKNOCEROS Saturday at 10:30. A three-man show that features original children's songs as well as standards. Ebenezers Coffeehouse, 201 F St. NE. 202-558-6900. $7.

"A PERFECT BALANCE" Saturday at 11 and Sunday at 11:30. Actor and visual artist Kevin Reese presents a one-man play inspired by Alexander Calder's mobiles. National Gallery of Art, East Building, Fourth Street and Constitution Avenue NW. 202-842-6252. Best for age 6 and older. Free.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Top 10 Apologies Barack Obama should make to the world

The first year of Barack Obama’s presidency was marked by a series of embarrassing and groveling apologies for his country on the world stage. From his apology to the French for America’s supposed “arrogance”, to his massive mea culpa before the Muslim world in Egypt, President Obama succeeded in elevating national humiliation into an art form.

In his second year, I would strongly encourage the president to stop apologising for his country, and project more pride in his great nation’s past. The United States, together with Great Britain, have done more to advance the cause of liberty and freedom on the world stage than any other nations in history. From defeating the menace of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Empire, to liberating tens of millions of Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan, the US and UK have consistently been at the forefront of the defence of the free world in the face of tyranny.

If President Obama does feel the urge to show contrition on the world stage in 2010, he should apologise not for his country but for his administration’s shoddy treatment of its allies as well as political dissidents fighting for freedom across the world. He has also shown extraordinary indifference towards the victims of Communist rule in Europe, as well as the hundreds of thousands who perished in Darfur at the hands of the Sudanese regime. While every dictatorship on earth, from Iran to Venezuela to Sudan has been earmarked for engagement by the Obama White House, some of America’s closest friends and supporters have been shunned, humiliated or left out in the cold.

So here is a list of apologies that Barack Obama should make on behalf of his own administration, for undermining America’s traditional alliances, treating America’s friends with contempt, and refusing to side with the victims of totalitarian regimes.

1. Apology to the British people

Barack Obama’s treatment of America’s closest ally has been little short of appalling. It started off badly when he threw a bust of Churchill out of the Oval Office within days of coming to power, and went downhill from there. He humiliated the British Prime Minister during his visit to Washington last March, treating him like the leader of a Third World country, and sent him packing with a gift of 25 DVDs. Obama has little interest in the Special Relationship, and cannot even bring himself to acknowledge the sacrifice of British troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. As an exceedingly rude and ignorant senior State Department official put it - “There’s nothing special about Britain. You’re just the same as the other 190 countries in the world. You shouldn’t expect special treatment.”

2. Apology to allies in Eastern and Central Europe

The Obama administration’s cowardly decision to appease Moscow by pulling out of an agreement to install missile interceptors and radars in Poland and the Czech Republic was an appalling betrayal of key US allies who had faced up to intense intimidation from Russia. As I wrote at the time, “the impending cancellation of Third Site is a shameful abandonment of America’s friends in eastern and central Europe, and a slap in the face for those who actually believed a key agreement with Washington was worth the paper it was written on.”

3. Apology to Iranian Dissidents

Barack Obama’s appeasement of the brutal Iranian regime in the name of “engagement” has not only emboldened Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Mullahs, but has also undercut the millions of Iranians who have bravely protested against the Islamist theocracy. President Obama has remained largely silent in the face of the brutal beating, rape, torture and murder of thousands of political dissidents since Ahmadinejad was fraudulently re-elected last year. Obama’s refusal to take a strong stand for fear of offending the Iranian regime is a disgrace, and a damning indictment of his world leadership.

4. Apology to the victims of Communism

Barack Obama made Berlin a central stage of his presidential election campaign when he addressed an adoring crowd of hundreds of thousands of Germans in July 2008. However in November 2009, President Obama could not be bothered to fly to Berlin to attend the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, when even the Russian president showed up. Hillary Clinton stood in for the commander-in-chief and delivered an underwhelming speech that was more about Obama than American leadership in the Cold War. The White House decision to snub the Berlin ceremony was an insult to the memory of the tens of millions who perished at the hands of Communism in Europe. It demonstrated a callous disregard for human suffering and a refusal to acknowledge the huge role played by Ronald Reagan and the American people in bringing down the Iron Curtain. It also displayed what can only de described as an arrogant disdain for the transatlantic alliance.

5. Apology to the victims of the Sudan genocide

The Obama administration’s decision to engage with the brutal regime in Khartoum led by Omar Hassan al-Bashir, was both shocking and morally sickening. Obama’s special envoy to Sudan, retired Air Force Major General J. Scott Gration summed up the new US strategy when he ludicrously declared: “We’ve got to think about giving out cookies. Kids, countries — they react to gold stars, smiley faces, handshakes, agreements, talk, engagement.” This sent an appalling signal to would be genocidal regimes across the world that even they can be rehabilitated after murdering hundreds of thousands of people. Although it has received relatively little attention, the White House’s offer to lift sanctions against Sudan in exchange for “concrete steps in a new direction”, was one of the worst decisions made by Barack Obama since he took office.

6. Apology to the people of Honduras

It is still difficult to fathom the reasoning behind the White House’s incredible decision to side with Marxist despot Manuel Zelaya after he was removed by the Honduran Congress with the backing of the country’s Supreme Court. The Obama administration immediately condemned the fully constitutional actions of pro-American legislators who acted against a power-hungry figure determined to stay in power beyond his fixed term of office. Bizarrely, the White House aligned itself with the likes of America-hating tyrants like Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro and Daniel Ortega against pro-democracy forces who love the United States.

7. Apology to the Israeli people

Barack Obama has shown less enthusiasm for backing Israel, America’s closest ally in the Middle East, than any president since Jimmy Carter. His speech before a Muslim audience in Cairo in June set the tone for his approach towards Israel when he controversially drew parallels between the plight of the Palestinians and the Jewish people during the Holocaust, and used the word “occupation” describing Palestinian refugee camps. Obama’s weakness in the face of the Iranian nuclear threat has also caused widespread concern, and has significantly increased the likelihood that Israel will have to defend itself against Iran.

8. Apology to pro-democracy forces in Venezuela

Barack Obama’s handshake with Hugo Chavez at the Summit of the Americas last April set the tone for a new, more amicable US relationship with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s chief ally in Latin America. It was a move that hugely undercut the democracy movement in Venezuela, and the millions of Venezuelans who are clamouring for freedom. Washington’s silence over widespread human rights violations by the Chavez regime is yet another blight on the Obama administration’s reputation. The president’s decision to reach out to Chavez was also a dangerously naive gesture that offered a veneer of legitimacy to one of the world’s biggest state sponsors of international terror, with close ties to Iran, Syria and Sudan.

9. Apology to the Dalai Lama

As The Telegraph reported last October, Barack Obama was the first US president to refuse to meet the Dalai Lama since the Tibetan spiritual leader first started visiting Washington nearly 20 years ago. This, despite the fact that he had been welcomed to the United States no less than 10 times, and had been awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest US civilian award. The White House decision was taken in order not to offend Beijing ahead of a November summit with Hu Jintao. There is now speculation Obama has changed his mind and will meet with the Dalai Lama later this month, despite strong Chinese opposition. A perfect opportunity then for an apology to one of the great symbols of freedom on the world stage.

10. Apology to Chinese dissidents

Freedom in China has been given short thrift by the Obama administration, which has attached less importance to human rights across the world than any American government in modern times. The position of the Obama team was put bluntly by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, when she was questioned about Chinese state oppression in a press roundtable in South Korea last February: “but our pressing on those issues can’t interfere with the global economic crisis, the global climate change crisis, and the security crisis. We have to have a dialogue that leads to an understanding and cooperation on each of these.” Not exactly a message of US support for thousands of Chinese pro-democracy activists who regularly face imprisonment, beatings and torture.