الاثنين، 27 أغسطس 2012

Tropical Storm Isaac: Gulf Coast Braces For Possibility Of Storm Strengthening Into Hurricane

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Tropical Storm Isaac
Map locates Tropical Storm Isaac and its projected path for the next five days (AP/NOAA)
NEW ORLEANS — With its massive size and ponderous movement, Isaac could become a punishing rain machine depending on its strength, speed and where it comes ashore along the Gulf Coast.
The focus has been on New Orleans as Isaac takes dead aim at the city seven years after Hurricane Katrina, but the impact will be felt well beyond the city limits. The storm's winds could be felt more than 200 miles from the storm's center.
The Gulf Coast region has been saturated thanks to a wet summer, and some officials have worried more rain could make it easy for trees and power lines to topple in the wet ground. Too much water also could flood crops, and wind could topple plants like corn and cotton.
"A large, slow-moving system is going to pose a lot of problems – winds, flooding, storm surge and even potentially down the road river flooding," said Richard Knabb, director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami. "That could happen for days after the event."
The storm's potential for destruction was not lost on Alabama farmer Bert Driskell, who raises peanuts, cotton, wheat, cattle and sod on several thousand acres near Grand Bay, in Mobile County.
"We don't need a lot of water this close to harvest," Driskell said.
However, Isaac could bring some relief to places farther inland where farmers have struggled with drought. It also may help replenish a Mississippi River that has at times been so low that barge traffic is halted so engineers can scrap the bottom to deepen it.
Forecasters predicted Isaac would intensify into a Category 1 hurricane later Monday or Tuesday with top sustained winds of between 74 and 95 mph. The center of its projected path took Isaac directly toward New Orleans on Wednesday, but hurricane warnings extended across some 330 miles from Morgan City, La., to Destin, Fla. It could become the first hurricane to hit the Gulf Coast since 2008.
Evacuations were ordered for some low-lying areas and across the region, people boarded up homes, stocked up on supplies and got ready for the storm. Schools, universities and businesses closed in many places.
Still, all the preparation may not matter if the great danger becomes flooding. In Pascagoula, Miss., Nannette Clark was supervising a work crew installing wood coverings over windows of her more than 130-year-old home. But she said all that won't matter if a storm surge reaches her home, as it did after Katrina in 2005.
"The water was up to the first landing of the stairs," she said. "So I get very nervous about it."
Isaac's approach coinciding with the Katrina anniversary invited obvious comparisons, but Isaac is nowhere near as powerful as the Katrina was when it struck on Aug. 29, 2005. Katrina at one point reached Category 5 status with winds of over 157 mph. It made landfall over Louisiana as a Category 3 storm and created a huge storm surge.
Federal Emergency Management Agency officials said the updated levees around New Orleans are equipped to handle storms stronger than Isaac. Levee failures led to the catastrophic flooding in the area after Katrina.
"It's a much more robust system than what it was when Katrina came ashore," said FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate in a conference call with reporters.
In New Orleans, officials had no plans to order evacuations and instead told residents to hunker down and make do with the supplies they had.
"It's going to be all right," said New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu.
Isaac could pack a watery double punch for the Gulf Coast. If it hits during high tide, Isaac could push floodwaters as deep as 12 feet onto shore in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama and up to 6 feet in the Florida Panhandle, while dumping up to 18 inches of rain over the region, the National Weather Service warned.
As of 2 p.m. EDT on Monday, Isaac remained a tropical storm with top sustained winds of 65 mph (100 kph). Its center was about 280 miles (450 km) southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River, and it was moving northwest at 14 mph (22 kph).
On the Alabama coast, Billy Cannon, 72, was preparing to evacuate with several cars packed with family and four Chihuahuas from a home on a peninsula in Gulf Shores. Canon, who has lived on the coast for 30 years, said he thinks the order to evacuate Monday was premature.
"If it comes in, it's just going to be a big rain storm. I think they overreacted, but I understand where they're coming from. It's safety," he said.
The storm that left 24 dead in Haiti and the Dominican Republic blew past the Florida Keys with little damage and promised a soaking but little more for Tampa, where the planned Monday start of the Republican National Convention was pushed back a day in case Isaac passed closer to the bayside city.
Only a fraction of an expected 5,000 demonstrators turned out in Tampa to protest GOP economic and social policies outside the convention. Organizers blamed Isaac and a massive police presence for their weak showing.
The storm had lingering effects for much of Florida, including heavy rains and isolated flooding in Miami and points north. Gov. Rick Scott said that as of noon Monday, about 60,000 customers were without power in Florida as a result of the storm.
Scott, a Republican, was returning from the convention in Tampa to Tallahassee to monitor Isaac. Fellow Gulf Coast Republican Govs. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Robert Bentley of Alabama said they would not attend the convention at all. Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant delayed his travel through Wednesday, leaving open the possibility he could attend the final day of the event.
States of emergency were in effect in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.
The choppy ocean waters generated by Isaac weren't all bad for everyone, though. On Pensacola Bay, fishermen boasted big hauls.
"You get a little storm headed this way and they seem to run a little. When the barometric pressure drops, something causes them to run better," said Eric Roberts, who was out fishing for mullet.

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Perry Hall High School Shooting: Student Shot On First Day Of Classes At Maryland School

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Perry Hall High School
Police say that a student was shot on the first day of school at Perry Hall High School.
PERRY HALL, Md. -- A 15-year-old student opened fire on the first day of classes Monday at a Baltimore County high school, getting off two shots and wounding a classmate before being rushed by teachers, authorities said.
Baltimore County Police Chief James Johnson said at a news conference that officers do not believe the victim, a 17-year-old male, was targeted by the shooter, a 15-year-old who is also a student at Perry Hall High School. A male suspect was taken into custody after the shooting, and police have the weapon, although police would not say what kind of gun it was.
Johnson said at about 10:45 a.m., a student walked into the cafeteria and pulled out a gun. He fired one shot before being grabbed by teachers, and then another shot went off as teachers grabbed him, Johnson said.
Kelsey Long, a junior at Perry Hall, said she was in the cafeteria when she heard gunshots.
"I heard a loud popping noise and we thought it was someone popping a bag, but then we heard it again and everyone started screaming and ran out to the front of the school," Long told The Associated Press in a Twitter message.
Police said several other students suffered minor, non-shooting injuries during the incident.
"We have some heroic and brave faculty members," Schools Superintendent Dallas Dance said. "They responded very quickly to minimize damage."
Johnson said the suspect acted alone. He did not answer numerous questions from reporters about a motive.
The school was evacuated, and students were escorted to a nearby shopping center and middle school.
WJZ-TV showed video of a shirtless male with his hands behind his back being put into a police cruiser.
Perry Hall is a middle-class community along the Interstate 95 corridor, northeast of Baltimore city. The school is the largest in the county, with 2,200 students.
County Councilman David Marks, who lives next door to the school, said he had received dozens of phone calls and text messages from worried parents and residents.
"This is a very comfortable, very safe community, and it's an excellent high school," said Marks, who graduated from Perry Hall. "I think this is an aberration, but clearly one that is horrifying, particularly on the first day of school."
Television coverage showed scores of police cars surrounding the school and parked on neighborhood streets. A group of officers with weapons drawn staked out a corner of the building, one of them lying prone on the ground and appearing to cover a particular area of the campus. Hundreds of students streamed away from the school toward a nearby shopping center where they met their parents.
Cathy Le, 15, said students were panicking as they tried to find out what was happening, texting and calling each other frantically as they waited in lockdown.
Le said she and other students were locked in their classrooms for more than an hour.
At the scene, buses, emergency vehicles and parents in cars filled the roadway between the high school and the shopping center. There were obvious signs of relief displayed as parents found their children.
Kristin Kraus, whose son James attends the school, described hearing about the shooting as "absolute terror." However, Kraus said, "within a couple of minutes he texted my husband that he was OK."
perry hall shooting
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Chris Matthews Explodes At Reince Priebus Over 'Race Card': 'Awful,' 'Embarrassment,' 'Garbage' (VIDEO)

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Chris Matthews Reince Priebus
Chris Matthews exploded at Reince Priebus on Monday's "Morning Joe," tearing into the Republican National Committee chairman and accusing his party of playing the race card.
"That cheap shot ... was awful," Matthews said, referring to the joke. "It is an embarrassment to your party to play that card ... you are playing that ethnic card there." As Priebus apparently laughed and co-host Joe Scarborough tried to get a word in, Matthews continued, "you can sit there and giggle about it, but the fact is your party is playing that card."
"You think Mitt Romney's playing the race card?" Scarborough asked.
"There's no doubt he did," Matthews said. Co-host Mika Brzezinski speculated that Romney may have said what he said because he is an "awkward joker."
Priebus said Matthews was just trying to "push his brand" with his "monologue."
"It just seems funny that the first joke he ever told in his life was about Obama's birth certificate," Matthews said.
Later when Priebus alleged that Obama was looking at European policies for guidance, Matthews lost it again.
"Where do you get this from?" Matthews shouted. "This is insane." He charged that Priebus was "playing that card again."
"Let's just work on tone," Brzezinski said. "Chris, let him answer the question," Scarborough said.
"I'm not going to get into a shouting match with Chris so you guys can move on," Priebus said. "Because you're losing, that's why," Matthews said. "Garbage, garbage," Priebus muttered.
"It's your garbage," Matthews fired back.

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Military Terror Plot: Murder Case Uncovers Terror Plot By 'Militia' Within U.S. Military

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Military Terror Plot
LUDOWICI, Ga. -- Four Army soldiers based in southeast Georgia killed a former comrade and his girlfriend to protect an anarchist militia group they formed that stockpiled assault weapons and plotted a range of anti-government attacks, prosecutors told a judge Monday.
Prosecutors in rural Long County, near the sprawling Army post Fort Stewart, said the militia group composed of active duty and former U.S. military members spent at least $87,000 buying guns and bomb components and was serious enough to kill two people – former soldier Michael Roark and his 17-year-old girlfriend, Tiffany York – by shooting them in the woods last December in order to keep its plans secret.
"This domestic terrorist organization did not simply plan and talk," prosecutor Isabel Pauley told a Superior Court judge. "Prior to the murders in this case, the group took action. Evidence shows the group possessed the knowledge, means and motive to carry out their plans."
One of the Fort Stewart soldiers charged in the case, Army Pfc. Michael Burnett, also gave testimony that backed up many of the assertions made by prosecutors. The 26-year-old soldier pleaded guilty Monday to manslaughter, illegal gang activity and other charges. He made a deal to cooperate with prosecutors in their case against the three other soldiers.
Prosecutors said the group called itself F.E.A.R., short for Forever Enduring Always Ready. Pauley said authorities don't know how many members the militia had.
Burnett, 26, said he knew the group's leaders from serving with them at Fort Stewart. He agreed to testify against fellow soldiers Pvt. Isaac Aguigui, identified by prosecutors as the militia's founder and leader, Sgt. Anthony Peden and Pvt. Christopher Salmon.
All are charged by state authorities with malice murder, felony murder, criminal gang activity, aggravated assault and using a firearm while committing a felony. A hearing for the three soldiers was scheduled Thursday.
Prosecutors say Roark, 19, served with the four defendants in the 4th Brigade Combat Team of the Army's 3rd Infantry Division and became involved with the militia. Pauley said the group believed it had been betrayed by Roark, who left the Army two days before he was killed, and decided the ex-soldier and his girlfriend needed to be silenced.
Burnett testified that on the night of Dec. 4, he and the three other soldiers lured Roark and York to some woods a short distance from the Army post under the guise that they were going target shooting. He said Peden shot Roark's girlfriend in the head while she was trying to get out of her car. Salmon, he said, made Roark get on his knees and shot him twice in the head. Burnett said Aguigui ordered the killings.
"A loose end is the way Isaac put it," Burnett said.
Aguigui's attorney, Daveniya Fisher, did not immediately return a phone call from The Associated Press. Attorneys for Peden and Salmon both declined to comment Monday.
Also charged in the killings is Salmon's wife, Heather Salmon. Her attorney, Charles Nester, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
Pauley said Aguigui funded the militia using $500,000 in insurance and benefit payments from the death of his pregnant wife a year ago. Aguigui was not charged in his wife's death, but Pauley told the judge her death was "highly suspicious."
She said Aguigui used the money to buy $87,000 worth of semiautomatic assault rifles, other guns and bomb components that were recovered from the accused soldiers' homes and from a storage locker. He also used the insurance payments to buy land for his militia group in Washington state, Pauley said.
In a videotaped interview with military investigators, Pauley said, Aguigui called himself "the nicest cold-blooded murderer you will ever meet." He used the Army to recruit militia members, who wore distinctive tattoos that resemble an anarchy symbol, she said. Prosecutors say they have no idea how many members belong to the group.
"All members of the group were on active-duty or were former members of the military," Pauley said. "He targeted soldiers who were in trouble or disillusioned."
The prosecutor said the militia group had big plans. It plotted to take over Fort Stewart by seizing its ammunition control point and talked of bombing the Forsyth Park fountain in nearby Savannah, she said. In Washington state, she added, the group plotted to bomb a dam and poison the state's apple crop. Ultimately, prosecutors said, the militia's goal was to overthrow the government and assassinate the president.
The Army brought charges against the four accused soldiers in connection with the slayings of Roark and York in March, but has yet to act on them. Fort Stewart spokesman Kevin Larson said he could not comment immediately on the militia accusations that emerged in civilian court Monday.
District Attorney Tom Durden said his office has been sharing information with federal authorities, but no charges have been filed in federal court. Jim Durham, an assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Georgia, would not comment on whether a case is pending.
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Mitt Romney Comments At Fundraiser Outrage Palestinians

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Republican Convention Delayed
Republican officials delayed the start of the Republican Convention in Tampa on Saturday as Florida braced for Tropical Storm Isaac.
Republican convention officials reiterated their concern for the safety of convention delegates on Saturday on a last-minute conference call with reporters. The delegates would have been bused into downtown Tampa on Monday for a procedural roll call vote.
Bridges linking places like Clearwater and St. Petersburg to downtown Tampa are expected to flood if heavy rains hit the city, making passage extremely dangerous. Officials said the roll call vote would be moved to Tuesday, at approximately the same time.
Despite the severe weather threat, a party for delegates scheduled for Sunday night will go on as planned, and officials confirmed that they have not yet received any cancellations from state delegations.
Organizers of a veterans benefit concert Sunday also confirmed to HuffPost that Lynyrd Skynyrd is still set to lead the musical lineup. The iconic Southern rockers will headline the event, dubbed "Citizens Helping Heroes Presents Southern Tribute IV Honoring America's Heroes." The last time the band played a Republican convention was 2000, when the party nominated George W. Bush.
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus issued the following statement on the decision:
Due to the severe weather reports for the Tampa Bay area, the Republican National Convention will convene on Monday August 27th and immediately recess until Tuesday afternoon, August 28th, exact time to follow.
Our first priority is ensuring the safety of delegates, alternates, guests, members of the media attending the Republican National Convention, and citizens of the Tampa Bay area. RNC Convention officials and the Romney campaign are working closely with state, local and federal officials, as well as the Secret Service, to monitor Tropical Storm Isaac and preserve Florida's emergency management resources. Officials have predicted participants may encounter severe transportation difficulties due to sustained wind and rain.
The Republican National Convention will take place and officially nominate Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, and the Party has other necessary business it must address. We also are remaining in constant contact with state and federal officials and may make additional schedule alterations as needed.
The Convention staff is working around-the-clock to ensure the delegations housed in storm-impacted areas have alternative housing if needed. The Committee on Arrangements will provide additional information to delegates and alternate delegates who are affected by Isaac by Sunday morning. We will also provide guidance to those delegates and alternate delegates who may encounter travel difficulties due to the storm.
We will begin issuing revised convention programming as early as Sunday.
We have an experienced team that will ensure changes are operationally smooth and create as little disruption as possible. The most important concern is safety, but our Convention program will proceed.
UPDATE (1:25 a.m. ET):
The Lynyrd Skynyrd concert originally intended to kick off the Republican National Convention Sunday night in Tampa has been cancelled due to the threat from Isaac, organizers told HuffPost early Sunday morning.
In a statement, Lynyrd Skynyrd lead singer Johnny Van Zandt said: "We were excited to be participating in the Republican National Convention and the Liberty Plaza concert. With the weather conditions unknown and for the safety of our fans and friends, it is best to cancel the show and not put anyone in harm's way."
The news follows an earlier decision by the RNC to cancel Monday convention events. Isaac is expected to pass by Florida's West Coast on Monday, bringing tropical storm force winds that are likely to produce widespread flooding.
As of Sunday morning, concert organizers said scheduled performances by Trace Adkins on Tuesday, Kid Rock on Wednesday, and Journey on Thursday are moving forward as planned. 
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