Thursday, December 30, 2010

Some claim workers delayed NYC snow cleanup

Some claim workers delayed NYC snow cleanup

By David Ariosto, CNN
December 30, 2010 2:26 p.m. EST
Sanitation workers clear snow at a Brooklyn intersection on Wednesday, December 29.
Sanitation workers clear snow at a Brooklyn intersection on Wednesday, December 29.
  • "It would be an outrage if it took place," the mayor said
  • The sanitation commissioner says he has seen no evidence of intentional delay
  • A city councilman says he was told supervisors ordered workers to slow down
New York (CNN) -- Four days after a monster blizzard blanketed much of the northeastern United States, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he will investigate whether sanitation workers intentionally delayed cleanup efforts over frustrations regarding citywide budget cuts.
"It would be an outrage if it took place," Bloomberg said Thursday, stressing that his administration's primary focus is clearing streets in the city's outer boroughs. Some neighborhoods remained snowbound for days after the storm.
Rumors swirled across New York on Thursday that sanitation officers ordered rank-and-file workers to slow down cleanup efforts in retaliation for the city's belt-tightening measures.
City Councilman Dan Halloran said three sanitation workers and two Department of Transportation supervisors came to his office saying their supervisors ordered the slowdown, telling workers that "the mayor will see how much he needs us" and that "there will be plenty of overtime."
Bloomberg: 'Response was inadequate'
Cabbie helps stranded traveler
Bloomberg said budget cuts had not yet taken effect but defended them, saying, "the state is facing a budget deficit that's going to filter down to us."
The slow clean-up effort hampered morning commuters, delayed first responders and even prevented aircraft service personnel from reaching airports where 29 international flights were stuck on the tarmac for more than three hours, officials said.
The head of New York's sanitation workers' union earlier blamed harsh winds and budget cuts as reasons for the slow response.
"We were 400 people short," said Harry Nespoli, president of the Uniformed Sanitationmen's Association. "There are certain services that should not be affected. The people pay taxes for it."
Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty said he had not seen evidence of a worker protest.
"But we have to look into that," he said.

America in Decline: Why Germans Think We're Insane

A look at our empire in decline through the eyes of the European media.

As an American expat living in the European Union, I’ve started to see America from a different perspective.
The European Union has a larger economy and more people than America does. Though it spends less -- right around 9 percent of GNP on medical, whereas we in the U.S. spend close to between 15 to 16 percent of GNP on medical -- the EU pretty much insures 100 percent of its population.
The U.S. has 59 million people medically uninsured; 132 million without dental insurance; 60 million without paid sick leave; 40 million on food stamps. Everybody in the European Union has cradle-to-grave access to universal medical and a dental plan by law. The law also requires paid sick leave; paid annual leave; paid maternity leave. When you realize all of that, it becomes easy to understand why many Europeans think America has gone insane.
Der Spiegel has run an interesting feature called "A Superpower in Decline," which attempts to explain to a German audience such odd phenomena as the rise of the Tea Party, without the hedging or attempts at "balance" found in mainstream U.S. media. On the Tea Parties:
Full of Hatred: "The Tea Party, that group of white, older voters who claim that they want their country back, is angry. Fox News host Glenn Beck, a recovering alcoholic who likens Obama to Adolf Hitler, is angry. Beck doesn't quite know what he wants to be -- maybe a politician, maybe president, maybe a preacher -- and he doesn't know what he wants to do, either, or least he hasn't come up with any specific ideas or plans. But he is full of hatred."
The piece continues with the sobering assessment that America’s actual unemployment rate isn’t really 10 percent, but close to 20 percent when we factor in the number of people who have stopped looking for work.
Some social scientists think that making sure large-scale crime or fascism never takes root in Europe again requires a taxpayer investment in a strong social safety net. Can we learn from Europe? Isn't it better to invest in a social safety net than in a large criminal justice system? (In America over 2 million people are incarcerated.)
Jobless Benefits That Never Run Out
Unlike here, in Germany jobless benefits never run out. Not only that -- as part of their social safety net, all job seekers continue to be medically insured, as are their families.
In the German jobless benefit system, when "jobless benefit 1" runs out, "jobless benefit 2," also known as HartzIV, kicks in. That one never gets cut off. The jobless also have contributions made for their pensions. They receive other types of insurance coverage from the state. As you can imagine, the estimated 2 million unemployed Americans who almost had no benefits this Christmas seems a particular horror show to Europeans, made worse by the fact that the U.S. government does not provide any medical insurance to American unemployment recipients. Europeans routinely recoil at that in disbelief and disgust.
In another piece the Spiegel magazine steps away from statistics and tells the story of Pam Brown, who personifies what is coming to be known as the Nouveau American poor. Pam Brown was a former executive assistant on Wall Street, and her shocking decline has become part of the American story:
American society is breaking apart. Millions of people have lost their jobs and fallen into poverty. Among them, for the first time, are many middle-class families. Meet Pam Brown from New York, whose life changed overnight. The crisis caught her unprepared. "It was horrible," Pam Brown remembers. "Overnight I found myself on the wrong side of the fence. It never occurred to me that something like this could happen to me. I got very depressed." Brown sits in a cheap diner on West 14th Street in Manhattan, stirring her $1.35 coffee. That's all she orders -- it's too late for breakfast and too early for lunch. She also needs to save money. Until early 2009, Brown worked as an executive assistant on Wall Street, earning more than $80,000 a year, living in a six-bedroom house with her three sons. Today, she's long-term unemployed and has to make do with a tiny one-bedroom in the Bronx.
It's important to note that no country in the European Union uses food stamps in order to humiliate its disadvantaged citizens in the grocery checkout line. Even worse is the fact that even the humbling food stamp allotment may not provide enough food for America’s jobless families. So it is on a reoccurring basis that some of these families report eating out of garbage cans to the European media.
For Pam Brown, last winter was the worst. One day she ran out of food completely and had to go through trash cans. She fell into a deep depression ... For many, like Brown, the downfall is a Kafkaesque odyssey, a humiliation hard to comprehend. Help is not in sight: their government and their society have abandoned them.
Pam Brown and her children were disturbingly, indeed incomprehensibly, allowed to fall straight to the bottom. The richest country in the world becomes morally bankrupt when someone like Pam Brown and her children have to pick through trash to eat, abandoned with a callous disregard by the American government. People like Brown have found themselves dispossessed due to the robber baron actions of the Wall Street elite.
Hunger in the Land of the Big Mac
A shocking headline from a Swiss newspaper reads (Berner Zeitung) “Hunger in the Land of the Big Mac.” Though the article is in German, the pictures are worth 1,000 words and need no translation. Given the fact that the Swiss virtually eliminated hunger, how do we as Americans think they will view these pictures, to which the American population has apparently been desensitized.

This appears to be a picture of two mothers collecting food boxes from the charity Feed the Children.
Perhaps the only way for us to remember what we really look like in America is to see ourselves through the eyes of others. While it is true that we can all be proud Americans, surely we don't have to be proud of the broken American social safety net. Surely we can do better than that. Can a European-style social safety net rescue the American working and middle classes from GOP and Tea Party warfare?

Ohio Court Limits Power of Localities on Gun Laws

Ohio Court Limits Power of Localities on Gun Laws

CINCINNATI — The Ohio Supreme Court has upheld a 2006 law that prohibits cities and other local governments from enforcing ordinances that are more restrictive than state gun laws.
The City of Cleveland had challenged the statute in order to continue enforcing ordinances that officials said were tailored to fight urban gun violence, including registration of handguns, restrictions on children’s access to firearms and prohibitions on the possession or sale of assault weapons. Banning such ordinances would violate the state’s home-rule laws, the city argued.
But in a decision released Wednesday, the court upheld the statute, 5 to 2.
“Law-abiding gun owners would face a confusing patchwork of licensing requirements, possession restrictions and criminal penalties as they travel from one jurisdiction to another” without a uniform statute, according to the ruling, written by Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton.
Justice Paul E. Pfeifer dissented, arguing that the statute “infringes upon municipalities’ constitutional home-rule rights by preventing them from tailoring ordinances concerning the regulation of guns to local conditions.”
Robert J. Triozzi, Cleveland’s law director, who led the city’s lawsuit, said that gun owners would now be able to walk through a public square with rifles, handguns and assault weapons, and that safety rules for possession of guns near children would also be removed, endangering residents. Ohio bans some assault weapons, like sawed-off shotguns, but Cleveland banned a broader array.
“The inability to control guns in Cleveland, where large numbers of people live, work and gather in close proximity to one another, limits proactive strategies for protecting our community and puts all of us at greater risk,” said Marty Flask, Cleveland’s public safety director.
Mr. Triozzi said the broader implication of the decision was a shift in power toward state legislators and away from city councils.
“All the Legislature has to do is to declare that a given issue is their turf, and there will be no ability for municipalities to enact any meaningful legislation to make their situation better,” he said.
The ruling was hailed by the National Rifle Association, Ohioans for Concealed Carry and the National Shooting Sports Foundation, as well as Attorney General Richard Cordray, a Democrat, who lost his re-election bid in November to Mike DeWine.
Mr. Cordray said revisions to state gun laws in 2006 provided a comprehensive set of rights and responsibilities applicable throughout the state. “This is an important victory for every gun owner in Ohio,” he said.

Six Recess Appointments to Be Made, Obama Says

December 29, 2010

Six Recess Appointments to Be Made, Obama Says

HONOLULU — President Obama said Wednesday that he intended to install six appointees — including James Cole, his controversial pick for the No. 2 spot at the Justice Department — while Congress is in recess. The move will allow them to serve without confirmation by the Senate, where their prospects will only grow dimmer once Republicans gain strength in January.
Mr. Obama, who is vacationing here on the island of Oahu with his family, made the announcement via news release, without any explanation or comment, other than to say that the posts have “been left vacant for an extended period of time.”
But the White House and Congressional Democrats have been exceedingly frustrated by what they regard as Republican foot-dragging on Mr. Obama’s nominees, including Mr. Cole, a close friend of Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. whose views on terrorism and close ties to the insurance giant A.I.G. have drawn scrutiny from Republicans.
Mr. Obama’s action brings his recess appointees to 28; former President George W. Bush had made 23 recess appointments by this time in his presidency. Administration officials said the six nominees have been waiting an average of 114 days in the Senate. Another 73 candidates for politically appointed jobs, many of them judges, were awaiting confirmation when the Senate adjourned; Mr. Obama will have to renominate them if he wants them to serve.
Mr. Obama’s action will allow Mr. Cole and the other nominees — four ambassadors, as well as the official who runs the Government Printing Office — to serve for one year. The deputy White House chief of staff, Jim Messina, defended the move, saying Mr. Obama felt he had no choice, especially in Mr. Cole’s case.
“We’ve been working hard with the Republicans and have seen some movement forward,” said Mr. Messina, who is with the president here. “There were some that, for whatever reason, they could not help us with and we felt were mission critical, and clearly the deputy attorney general is a critical position to help enforce the laws of the land.”
Democrats applauded the move. Senator Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, called Mr. Cole “highly qualified” and complained that Republicans had refused to debate his nomination for more than five months. “I believe that he would have been confirmed by the Senate had his nomination been given an up-or-down vote,” Mr. Leahy said. “The delays in considering his nomination were unnecessary and wrong.”
Aside from Mr. Cole, the nominees include four ambassadors: Matthew J. Bryza to Azerbaijan, Robert Stephen Ford to Syria, Frances J. Ricciardone Jr. to Turkey and Norman L. Eisen to the Czech Republic. The first three are career foreign service officers. Mr. Eisen is a top adviser to the president on ethics who has been an irritant to Republicans since his days as the founder of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a watchdog group that investigated the former House Republican leader Tom DeLay.
Mr. Obama also installed William J. Boarman as public printer of the United States.
All administrations face delays in getting their nominees confirmed, and the problem has been worse under Mr. Obama.
While aides to the president insist the delays are the product of Republican obstructionism, Paul C. Light, a professor at New York University who studies the presidential nomination process, says other factors are also at work. The number of Senate-confirmed positions is on the rise, nominees are required to submit substantial background information that requires extensive vetting, and a single senator can easily put a hold on any nominee.
“Obama has set the record for the slowest process since J.F.K.,” Mr. Light said, as measured by the length of time it has taken to get his first class of roughly 550 appointees confirmed. “It’s really a mess.”

Lunar Astronaut Buzz Aldrin Sues Topps Trading Cards Over Iconic Photo

Lunar Astronaut Buzz Aldrin Sues Topps Trading Cards Over Iconic Photo

Aldrin says the company is unfairly profiting from the image of him on the moon.

Buzz Aldrin as photographed by Neil Armstrong July 20, 1969.
Buzz Aldrin as photographed by Neil Armstrong July 20, 1969. (NASA)

LOS ANGELES -- Former lunar astronaut Buzz Aldrin Wednesday sued a maker of trading cards over the use of an iconic photo of him on the surface of the moon.

The 80-year-old Aldrin sued Topps Inc. this week in federal court in Los Angeles, saying the company had unfairly profited from his historic achievement when they used the photograph of Aldrin standing on the moon in a series of "American Heroes" trading cards.

Topps attorney Michael Kahn told the Los Angeles Times that the firm has a First Amendment right to include a factual description of the Apollo 11 mission and it included an image of Aldrin in his lunar suit because he is "an American hero."

The lawsuit seeks unspecified monetary damages and an order prohibiting Topps from marketing the cards.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

China to crack down on official partying

The Associated Press
updated 27 minutes ago 2010-12-29T05:01:52

China is expected to announce a crackdown on lavish parties and seminars organized by officials in the coming year in the latest effort to curb corruption seen as undermining the government.
China's ruling party met Tuesday to address excessive spending on official functions as well as public money spent on cars for officials, the China Daily newspaper reported. Communist Party officials will hold a news conference later Wednesday to release a paper on efforts to fight corruption in 2011.
While bringing vast improvements in quality of life for most Chinese, economic growth has also brought massive corruption and a widening rich-poor gap. Ordinary Chinese frequently complain about the misuse of government money for elaborate banquets and sightseeing trips attended only by bureaucrats, and the Communist leadership have frequently said graft is a major threat to political stability.
In recent years, China has launched numerous anti-graft campaigns. One of the biggest scandals involved the powerful party boss of Shanghai, Chen Liangyu, who was sentenced in 2008 to 18 years in prison for his role in a pension fund scandal.
Since last year, a crackdown on corruption in the southwestern city of Chongqing exposed deep links between government officials and police officers who provided cover for crime syndicates. The trail led as high as the former director of the city's judicial department, Wen Qiang, who was executed after convictions involving bribery, rape, extortion and gang-related activities.
In July, the country issued rules requiring officials in government and state companies to report everything from personal assets to the business activities of spouses and children. But some critics say graft is too deeply ingrained in the system and can't be solved with regulations.
During Tuesday's meeting, officials addressed the importance of implementing preventive measures, especially in recent years where excessive celebrations and forums have created a new form of corruption, the China Daily report said.
China has a mixed record of cracking down on corruption, but when it does the punishments are often severe. The director of China's food and drug agency was executed three years ago for approving deadly fake medicine in exchange for cash.

Electroconvulsive Therapy: Will The FDA Whitewash It?

Electroconvulsive Therapy: Will The FDA Whitewash It?

The Huffington Post—December 28 , 2010
by Dr. Peter Breggin

For decades the FDA has allowed electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) to be used without requiring any proof of safety or efficacy. The machines and the treatment has been “grandfathered” into use rather than tested. A few years ago the FDA proposed to test the treatment but heavy pressure from the American Psychiatric Association caused the agency to reverse itself. ECT remains untested and widely used. Imagine that — the American Psychiatric Association doesn’t want an obviously dangerous treatment to be tested at all.  It just wants psychiatrists left alone to inflict it upon hapless patients.
Now the FDA is reconsidering whether to officially approve ECT without testing and it seems inclined to do so. Given the strength and influence of the American Psychiatric Association, we can anticipate results that will whitewash the dangers and allow the continued use of ECT unhampered by scientific testing. The hearings are scheduled for January 27 and 28, 2011. Anyone can attend and I encourage all interested citizens to get involved by contacting the FDA and asking for time to make a brief presentation.
I have written to the FDA explaining that the treatment has so little efficacy and is so obviously damaging — it routinely produces an acute state of delirium and confusion with severe memory loss — that it should be banned. That document has now been published in two scientific journals. It supplements my chapter on ECT in Brain-Disabling Treatments in Psychiatric: Drugs, ECT and the Psychopharmaceutical Complex, Second Edition (2008).
As I noted in my scientific article and my 2008 book, and in a previous blog, Sackeim and colleagues from the heart of the psychiatric establishment once again confirmed that ECT routinely produces long-term dementia in the form of multiple memory loss in combination with other persistent cognitive deficits. Now a new scientific analysis has confirmed all the bad news about ECT.
The recent review of the scientific literature by John Read (New Zealand) and Richard Bentall (Great Britain) found that ECT treatments show only the most minimal evidence for improvement during the treatment and no evidence for improvement afterward. As my own research confirms, they found no evidence that ECT reduces the suicide rate.
Read and Bentall summarized “strong evidence” for “persistent and, for some, permanent brain dysfunction.” They concluded that “the cost-benefit analysis for ECT is so poor that its use cannot be scientifically justified.” They further stated, “The continued use of ECT therefore represents a failure to introduce the ideals of evidence-based medicine into psychiatry.”
The sad truth is that psychiatry has always promoted brain-damaging treatments, including lobotomy, electroshock and toxic chemical substances. In the 1970s I conducted an intensive international campaign to stop the resurgence of lobotomy and others forms of psychosurgery, and if my campaign had not been successful, lobotomy would have once again become widely accepted within contemporary psychiatry. Using media citations and other sources, that campaign and its success is documented in The Conscience of Psychiatry: The Reform Work of Peter R. Breggin, MD.
Because ECT advocates have successfully lobbied against the states collecting data on ECT use, we can only speculate about the numbers of patients subjected to this treatment. Probably it is at least in the range of 150,000 to 200,000 per year. Most large cities have several facilities doing ECT including private psychiatric hospitals and university hospitals and general hospitals with psychiatric wards.
Elderly women on Medicare are the most frequent victims of this anachronistic abuse, but anyone who gets depressed and overwhelmed with feelings of helplessness can become vulnerable. It’s not your mental condition as much as your doctor’s moral condition that determines whether you get pushed into taking ECT. Recently I’ve encountered three relatively young physicians whose professional lives were ruined by ECT-induced mental dysfunction.
It’s time for public outrage and it’s time for the FDA to close the door on this abusive “treatment.”
Peter R. Breggin, M.D. is a psychiatrist in private practice in Ithaca, New York, and the author of dozens of scientific articles and more than twenty books. His two most recent books are Medication Madness: The Role of Psychiatric Drugs in Cases of Violence, Suicide and Crime and Brain-Disabling Treatments in Psychiatry, Second Edition: Drugs, Electroshock and the Psychopharmaceutical Complex. Dr. Breggin and his wife Ginger have founded a new organization, The Center for the Study of Empathic Therapy, Education and Living ( It will hold an international conference in Syracuse, New York, April 8-10, 2011. It’s time to sign up!

The Dr. Peter Breggin Hour appears weekly on the Progressive Radio Network where it is archived for convenient listening. Dr. Breggin’s professional website is

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Time Warner Cable and Sinclair spar

Time Warner Cable and Sinclair spar


Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc.
12:00am EST
Time Warner Cable Inc.
3:00pm EST
12:00am EST
The entrance to the Time Warner Center is seen at Columbus Circle in New York August 4, 2010. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
NEW YORK | Tue Dec 28, 2010 2:53pm EST
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc said it has been unable to reach a programming agreement with Time Warner Cable Inc, meaning millions of homes could lose some of their local stations on New Year's Eve.
Sinclair said Time Warner Cable rejected its proposal asking for a monthly increase of 10 cents per subscriber and declined to provide a counter-offer.
The broadcaster, which transmits local TV station affiliates like Fox and ABC channels, said Time Warner Cable had effectively ended negotiations, and as result the cable company would no longer carry its stations on its systems after midnight on Dec 31.
Time Warner Cable denied it had ended negotiations with Sinclair. "Sinclair's statement is false," it said in a statement. "Time Warner Cable has at no time told Sinclair that we were terminating negotiations."
Sinclair said the agreement with the No. 2 U.S. cable company relates to the carrying of 33 television stations received by more than 8.5 million homes. It could affect Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks customers in cities including San Antonio, Tampa and Columbus, Ohio.
Cable companies pay broadcasters like Sinclair to run their local stations on their cable networks, and negotiations over the fees sometimes result in these kinds of disputes.
Time Warner Cable has been at the center of several public programming disputes in the last two years ,including a drawn-out battle with Walt Disney Co's over ABC and its cable channels which was resolved in September without losing any programming.
Cablevision Systems Corp lost News Corp's Fox stations for 15 days in October before reaching a new agreement.

Skiers Plummet 30 feet When Ski Lift Derails

Skiers Plummet 30 feet When Ski Lift Derails

200 People Trapped on Lift in Frigid Temperatures

Winds were about 40 mph when the lift derailed.
Winds were about 40 mph when the lift derailed.

CARRABASSETT VALLEY, Maine -- A chair lift derailed in high winds at Maine's tallest ski mountain Tuesday, sending skiers plummeting as far as 30 feet to the slope below and injuring several people.

The Sugarloaf resort in Carrabassett Valley, about 120 miles north of Portland, said in a news release that about six people were injured when five chairs fell an estimated 25 to 30 feet.

The resort's ski patrol evacuated the lift.

None of the injuries appeared to be life-threatening, the resort said. All the injured were treated and taken to hospitals. About 220 people were on the lift at the time.

Jay Marshall, who said he was hunkered down in a cold wind while on a lift next to the broken one, told The Associated Press that his lift was moving but that the broken one was not.

He said there was a "loud snapping noise," then screams.

"The next thing I know, it was bouncing up and down like a yo-yo," he said. Some skiers tumbled from their chairs.

Gideon Hacker, a skier from Princeton, N.J., said he saw at least one person taken off the mountain in a gurney pulled by a snowmobile. He said Sugarloaf workers used a pulley device to lower skiers to safety.

Jill Gray, a spokeswoman for Franklin Memorial Hospital about in Farmington, about 45 miles from the mountain, said that one person was taken there and immediately on to Maine Medical Center in Portland.

Another person was being treated in Franklin's emergency room, she said, and the hospital expected to receive five more patients. She did not give details on the injuries.

A spokeswoman for the Maine Emergency Management Agency said they were sending a representative to the scene but had no details.

At the time of the accident, high winds were buffeting Maine a day after a blizzard swept across the region.

The National Weather Service has no wind sensors near Sugarloaf. But a weather balloon launched Tuesday morning in Gray, in southern Maine, showed winds of 40 mph at 1,000 feet, a weather service meteorologist.

At 4,237 feet, Sugarloaf is Maine's second-highest mountain after Mount Katahdin.

Making It Clear That a Clear Parking Space Isn’t

Making It Clear That a Clear Parking Space Isn’t

Katherine Taylor for The New York Times
Oh, look, a cleared parking spot! But be advised: Drivers who ignore makeshift space savers like these in South Boston may risk ugly repercussions.
BOSTON — By dawn on Tuesday, the space savers were out in abundance on East Seventh Street in South Boston. Someone had staked out a neatly shoveled parking spot with a potted plant, its dead fronds trembling in the wind. Someone else had reserved a space with a hot-pink beach chair.
Katherine Taylor for The New York Times
On East Fourth Street in South Boston, a shopping cart marks a cleared parking space.
Katherine Taylor for The New York Times
A bottle of detergent marks a parking space in South Boston’s Thomas Park.
Katherine Taylor for The New York Times
A house plant is used to lay claim to a parking space in South Boston.
Elsewhere in the neighborhood, the epicenter of the parking wars that erupt here after a snowstorm, the narrow streets were lined with bar stools and coolers, end tables and shopping carts, all meant as warnings: This shoveled-out space is mine until the snow melts. Occupy it at your own risk.
Marguerite Maguire, who had an orange parking cone ready to guard her spot, was hoping to avoid the kind of confrontation she got into after a 2009 snowfall, when someone tried taking her space the minute she finished clearing it.
“I told her, ‘Forget it, lady,’ and we yelled at each other for a few minutes until she pulled away,” Mrs. Maguire, 50, recalled. “I think she must have been new here.”
Though not unique to Boston — Chicago, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh are among the other cities that embrace it — space-saving after snowstorms has an impassioned history here, especially in scrappy, densely populated South Boston. When snow puts parking spots at a premium, as the blizzard that just left 18 inches of snow here did, snatching someone’s marked space can lead to hurled insults, slashed tires or worse — in 2005, a man was arrested after smashing a car window with a plunger during an argument over a freshly shoveled spot.
“A lot of people around here carry screwdrivers in their trunk,” said Kim Rader, 35, who had just started digging out her Mazda and predicted it would be a two-hour job.
Her boyfriend, Paul Melvin, 41, said he did not condone tire-slashing and other violent tactics but understood them.
“I’d prefer to stay away from that sort of behavior,” Mr. Melvin said, “but at the same time, it’s very disappointing and frustrating when someone comes along and takes a space without earning it.”
When Mayor Thomas M. Menino tried to limit the practice in 2004, saying it had gotten out of hand, and threatened to dispatch crews to remove what he called “this rummage sale” of space savers 48 hours after a snow emergency ended, the neighborhood known as Southie revolted. James M. Kelly, then the neighborhood’s representative on the City Council, warned Mr. Menino that residents had “more cones and barrels” than the city had “trucks to haul them away.”
The 48-hour rule remains on the books, but some residents said Tuesday that it was rarely enforced. The biggest gamble is to stake out spots with shopping carts from the local Stop & Shop, said Bernie Trager, a lifelong Southie resident, because the store pays someone to go through the neighborhood and retrieve them.
Mr. Trager, 54, digs out other people’s cars after snow for a fee, but does not dare move his own Dodge Ram and rely on a space saver.
“Last year, I shoveled out a spot,” he said. “I came back, and somebody had moved my buckets and taken it. It was my landlady’s daughter. I took that one on the chin, but I’m not taking any more chances.”
For the uninitiated, a local blog, Caught in Southie, helpfully lists the “unofficial rules” for saving parking spots, including: “If you move someone’s space saver and park your car in its place, you have no right to complain about what happens to your car. However, you are allowed to retaliate as long as you don’t get caught.”
The blog also suggests it is safe to ignore the 48-hour rule, saying, “As long as you’re not the last one with a cone out, you’re cool.”
But some residents chafe at neighbors who block off parking spots for weeks or even months.
“If they could,” said Phyllis Simon, 62, “some people would do it until the last piece of slush is melted.”
Mrs. Simon, a Southie native, said the most “awesome” space saver she had seen was a table set for two, complete with a bottle of wine. Mrs. Maguire said her weirdest sighting was a toilet — “I can’t imagine the person moving it every time they park,” she said — and Kevin Carroll, who marks his space with an orange cone, said his strangest sighting was “one of those old TVs in the wooden cabinets.”
Space savers spotted Tuesday included a tripod, several containers of kitty litter, a stroller, a cat scratching post, an air purifier and a laundry basket full of folded clothes. None, though, rivaled the bust of Elvis Presley that someone used in 2009.
Maria Bonanno, 18, who was coated in snow as she dug out her Volkswagen Jetta, paused when asked whether she had ever claimed someone else’s shoveled space.
“Um,” she said. “Yeah, probably once.”
There were no repercussions, she said, because it was a neighbor’s space and neighbors in Southie tolerate one another’s occasional slips.
“If you’re friends with them, it’s all good,” Ms. Bonanno said. “I know enough people to get me out of trouble if I need to.”

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Qld town faces 'worst flood in memory'

Qld town faces 'worst flood in memory'

Updated 50 minutes ago
Several southern Queensland towns have been affected by flooding as rain continues to fall across large parts of the state.
Residents at Chinchilla in Queensland's southern inland are bracing for their worst flood in more than a century.
More than 100 millimetres of rain has fallen in the town since last night and more heavy rain is forecast across the Western Downs.
The water level at Charleys Creek in Chinchilla has been rising steadily throughout the morning and the town is now isolated, with the Warrego Highway cut to the east and west.
Dozens of businesses are closed and homes have been evacuated.
The owner of the Club Hotel, Justin Byrnes, says his pub is among dozens of businesses affected.
"It's lapping the front verandah of our hotel, which is probably four foot off the ground, five foot off the ground," he said.
Mr Byrnes says it is the town's worst flood in memory.
"We've got up to 30 people here giving us a hand sandbagging, pumping water out, doing everything," he said.
"What we're hearing is that this will far exceed '83, which is probably the worst one in memory that's documented."
And the situation is expected to worsen.
The official flood record for Charleys Creek is 6.6 metres, and this afternoon authorities are bracing for 7 metres.
Bill McCutcheon, from the Western Downs Regional Council, says many homes are also at risk.
"The door-knocking is certainly being done. There'll be no forced evacuations," he said.
"All we'll be doing is helping people as they want to leave."
About 80 kilometres to the south-east in Dalby, Myall Creek is predicted to peak at 3 metres later this afternoon and roads are already closed in the area.


The rising Dawson River in the Queensland town of Theodore, west of Bundaberg, has prompted authorities to evacuate low-lying homes, the hospital and the retirement home.
The Dawson River has already surged to 13.7 metres - the trigger point for evacuations.
Banana Shire Acting Mayor Maureen Clancy says emergency plans are being put in place.
"We're trying to get our Red Cross coordinators into the town to coordinate some of this evacuation," she said.
"We're looking at getting the material that we need when we do evacuate - blankets and pillows - and the problem we have is the town is isolated.
"Getting it in there isn't that easy but all this is in progress."
Authorities are also keeping a close watch on rising river levels in other towns along the swollen Dawson River, including Moura and Baralaba.
Most towns along the river remain isolated.
Emergency Services Minister Neil Roberts and Deputy Premier Paul Lucas will fly to Emerald and Biloela this afternoon to meet local disaster management groups.
Some homes in the Central Highlands are expected to be inundated if the Fairbairn Dam continues to rise.
"It's really just to touch base to get a bit of a feel for what's happening in the region, but there are of course other areas across the state which are experiencing very severe weather conditions at the moment," Mr Roberts said.
However, the western Queensland town of Charleville, which was badly affected by flooding earlier this year, appears to have escaped the worst of the current wet weather.

North eases

As the trough continues to move south, the flood threat in the state's north is beginning to ease.
More than 100 millimetres of rain fell in the Ingham area over the past 24 hours, but the Bruce Highway has now re-opened in both directions.
There are reports that up to 2,000 cars were queued on the road.
Hinchinbrook deputy Mayor Andrew Lancini says people in the town are breathing sighs of relief, with water levels lower than last year's devastating flood.
"Speaking to some residents this morning they just can't believe how low the water was," he said.
"We've been spared gracefully."
Councillor Lancini says there have been no reports of homes being inundated.

Air travel stalls as blizzard unleashes fury on New York, New England

Air travel stalls as blizzard unleashes fury on New York, New England

By the CNN Wire Staff
December 26, 2010 10:37 p.m. EST
  • NEW: Traffic in and out of LaGuardia, JFK and Newark has been suspended, a spokeswoman says
  • American cancels 171 Monday flights, after carriers canceled hundreds of flights Sunday
  • Massachusetts police report numerous accidents and crawling traffic
  • The storm could dump as much as 20 inches of snow and include up to 60-mph gusts
iReport: Are you there? Send images, video
(CNN) -- Air traffic in and out of all three of New York's major airports halted Sunday night, as that region and other parts of the East Coast braved blizzard-like conditions.
Incoming and departing flights were suspended at New York's John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia airports, as well as Newark Liberty International Airport in neighboring north New Jersey, Port Authority spokeswoman Sara Joren said.
Those airports are still considered "open" and "active," with some passengers stranded overnight due to hundreds of flight cancellations, but air traffic won't resume until Monday.
That meant those airports, like many others throughout the Northeast -- which, normally, would be crowded and flush with activity after Christmas -- had gone largely quiet by early Sunday evening. Many would-be travelers stayed away, thanks in part to many airlines' pre-emptive cancellations.
To that end, American Airlines spokeswoman Mary Sanderson said shortly after 8 p.m. Sunday that the carrier would cancel another 171 flights Monday in and out of major airports from Washington through Boston. This is on top of more than 262 flights that the airline canceled Sunday.
Storm ruins holiday travel
Snow snarls traffic
What to do when your flight is canceled
Gallery: iReporters shoot winter weather
The steady and, at times, heavy snow falling from Virginia up the East Coast on Sunday evening also affected travel on the roads and the rails. Massachusetts state police reported numerous crashes, for example, while Amtrak stopped service as of late Sunday afternoon between New York and Portland, Maine, as well as between Newport News and Richmond, Virginia.
Governors on Sunday declared states of emergency in Virginia, Maryland and Massachusetts ahead of the approaching storm, a bid to get crews ready and expedite recovery funding depending on its impact.
The mayors of Philadelphia, Boston, Providence and Portland, Maine, also called snow emergencies, while New York City launched a winter snow storm operation and encouraged people to stay off the roads by taking mass transit or staying put.
"Unfortunately, our city is directly in the path," New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Sunday afternoon, amid a blizzard warning that extends until 6 p.m. Monday. "It's hard to stand up in a 55-mph wind, so this really is dangerous."
The storm's timing, coming over a holiday weekend, was fortuitous for some and disastrous for others. City and state officials predicted that the blizzard's impact on the economy and otherwise might be muted, because many people had the holiday weekend off and fewer were expected to be commuting into work than normal on Monday.
"With the people who are staying home for the holidays, it's great, but we know a lot of people who are trying to get home," said Brett Martin, claiming his hometown of Virginia Beach, Virginia, had received almost a foot of snow. "We're just playing games and hanging out by the fire."
Snow began falling in parts of the South on Christmas, where winter weather advisories expired Sunday evening in parts of Alabama, Tennessee and the Carolinas.
All along, though, the storm system was expected to have a larger impact Sunday night and into Monday further north up the East Coast.
Along with the advisory for suburban New York City, blizzard warnings are in effect for Virginia and Maryland's Eastern Shore through 5 a.m. Monday, with the National Weather Service predicting the heaviest bands of snow hitting around 10 p.m. and eventually piling up between 10 and 15 inches. The New Jersey shore's warning runs through 1 p.m. Monday.
"It does appear like the worst weather will be in the vicinity of the New York City area northeastward into the Boston area," said National Weather Service meteorologist Bob Oravec. "We do expect the winds to pick up."
Metropolitan New York could see between 15 and 20 inches of accumulating snow, with sustained winds of 25 to 35 mph and sporadically stronger gusts especially along Long Island, the weather agency predicts.
The Connecticut coast, Rhode Island, eastern Massachusetts, coastal New Hampshire and Maine also have a blizzard warning in effect through Monday evening, with expected snowfall of 12 to 16 inches and wind gusts reaching 60 mph.
Snow covers the ground on Christmas Day in Rutherfordton, North Carolina.
Snow covers the ground on Christmas Day in Rutherfordton, North Carolina.
Meanwhile, the NFL announced that a game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Philadelphia Eagles -- originally scheduled for Sunday night -- had been postponed until 8:20 p.m. Tuesday.
"It was dangerous for the players, dangerous for the fans," said Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, who called a state of emergency in anticipation of up to 14 inches of snow. "People still have to get out of the parking lot (and get in) their cars."
Nancy White, a AAA spokesman, said that 93 million Americans were expected to travel between Christmas and New Year's -- with nine out of 10 of them doing so by car.
"Hopefully, people will have a little bit of luxury and can take some time to stay grounded and stay safe tonight," she said.
While the worst wasn't expected for another 10 or so hours, the Massachusetts State Police reported around 7:30 p.m. Sunday that heavy snow was already falling, including whiteout conditions already in some locales. That contributed to traffic moving at a crawl in and around Greater Boston, with state troopers reporting minor crashes and spinouts.
The state's governor, Deval Patrick, told reporters earlier in the day that 1,000 plows, sand and salt trucks were working to keep state roads clear and that as many as 4,000 would be deployed as the storm worsens. He also warned of possible overnight flooding along Massachusetts Bay, with the danger peaking when high tide hits around 3:30 a.m. Monday.
"We expect visibility to be very low and travel to be extremely dangerous," Patrick said.
The system has already put a wrench in the travel plans for thousands of air passengers trying to get home after the holiday week, with more cancellations expected.
As of Sunday afternoon, as many as 1,000 flights had been canceled at New York's LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy International Airport and New Jersey's Newark International Airport, according to Port Authority spokesman Steve Coleman.
Coleman said that there was "very, very limited flight traffic" as of 4 p.m. at John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia airports, as airlines decided to cancel flights and get their planes out of the region ahead of the storm. That's left airports that otherwise would have been packed with people relatively quiet.
"For the most part, people have heeded the warnings ... and they've stayed put," he said. "Hopefully, they'll ride it out."
In addition to the American announcement, Delta Air Lines canceled 850 flights as of Sunday morning from the Carolinas through the northeast, roughly one-sixth of the typical 5,000 flight total for the day.
As of late Sunday morning, Continental Airlines, which is partnered with United Airlines, had canceled about 265 domestic mainline and regional departures for Sunday, spokesman Andrew J. Ferraro said.
"There's nothing you can do," said Michelle Forsyth, an assembly line worker for Lockheed-Martin, whose flight from New York to Dallas was canceled. "Be patient and let the weather do what it's going to do."
Those carriers, as well as AirTran Airways, are among the carriers waiving penalties for travelers who have to reschedule their trips over the weekend.
While specific information varies by carrier, most are offering penalty waivers for passengers traveling on December 26 and 27 at airports from North Carolina to Boston and beyond. Affected customers are being urged to contact the relevant airline either by phone or online.
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At South Station, passengers grapple with surprise shutdown by Amtrak

Amtrak spokesman Cliff Cole said all trains between Boston and New York will be canceled as of 5 p.m. today.
"Blizzard like conditions associated with a major winter storm continues to impact a large portion of east coast," Cole said in a statement. "This has caused Amtrak to make several service adjustments including the cancellation Northeast Corridor service between Boston and New York beginning later this afternoon."

In addition, Cole said all Downeaster service between Portland, Maine and Boston has also been canceled for today. 
At South Station, where all Amtrak service from Boston to Washington D.C was canceled after 5 p.m., would-be passengers bundled with their luggage waited in line to reschedule their travel plans.
Alexis Ostnioff was trying to get home to New York City after her flight out of Logan International was canceled today. She then bought an Amtrak ticket via Washington D.C. but was left stranded with the cancellation of that train.
“I tried to get an earlier flight, but then I said ‘oh I’ll just take the train,’” the 30-year-old said. “I thought it would be the best shot.”
Ostnioff, who was visiting family in Medford for Christmas was tentatively rebooked on a 5:10 train tomorrow morning. She said she wasn’t sure if she was going to stay in a hotel near the station or bother her family to pick her up for the night. She said this was the first time her holiday travel plans had hit a serious snag because of weather.
“I’ve been lucky in the past avoiding this around a Nor’easter but I guess my time has come,” she said.
All MBTA commuter rail service at South Station appeared to be running on time.
Amtrak spokesman Cole said he was unsure at this time when the canceled service would resume.
"It's unknown at this time," Cole said. " We're going to look at the operations plan and come up with a plan for the morning."

Huge Blizzard Snarls Travel and Transit in the Northeast

Andrew Burton for The New York Times
At Kennedy and the other two major airports in the New York area, more than 1,400 flights were canceled on Sunday. Amtrak canceled trains between New York and Boston. More Photos »
A monster two-day blizzard barreled up the coast and invaded the New York region and the Northeast on Sunday with barrages of wind-driven snow that closed airports, disrupted rail and highway travel and transformed a dozen states into enchanted and borderless white dreamscapes.
With the great abyss of winter yet to be crossed, forecasters in advance were reaching for superlatives, saying it was likely to be one of the biggest blows of the season, with wind gusts up to 55 miles an hour and snow two feet deep in spots. The National Weather Service predicted snowfalls of 16 to 20 inches in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut by Monday afternoon, when the storm was to taper off.
Its timing was diabolical — too late for a white Christmas, but just in time to disrupt the travel plans of thousands trying to get home after the holiday, to return unwanted gifts or to take advantage of post-holiday bargains at stores. Schools were not in session, but millions of commuters were told to expect nightmarish slogs in and around the cities.
By Sunday evening, the storm had already been blamed for at least one death, after a driver slammed into a utility pole in Mt. Olive Township, N.J., according to the police there.
Blizzard warnings — official forecasts of huge snowfalls with sustained winds of 35 miles an hour — were in effect from the Carolinas to New England. North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and New Jersey declared states of emergency, and New York, Philadelphia and Boston declared snow emergencies, imposing parking bans on major thoroughfares and urging residents to stay off the roads.
The weather service called it the biggest storm in the region since last February, when record snowfalls paralyzed the mid-Atlantic states but largely spared New York City, and the first blizzard since Feb. 12, 2006, when the 24-hour record for Central Park, 26.9 inches, was set.
The snow began falling in New York in late morning, and by 5 p.m. it had already eclipsed the average of 3.3 inches for the month of December.
Through the afternoon, the storm grew into an adventure. The snow came down in great sweeping curtains, drifting over parked cars and park benches to be sculpted into aerodynamic shapes.
Everywhere, the winds whispered and moaned in their secret Ice Age language. The blizzard spawned lightning flashes and thunder. Yet the sounds of the city were strangely muffled and distant. Sledders, snowboarders, hikers and even a few skiers were soon out, cutting fresh trails along the marbled Hudson or in the wilderness of Central Park.
The surrounding skylines were lost in the whiteout, and the playing fields of the Great Lawn might have been the plains of Nebraska or a steppe.
It was not a bad day to stay at home with the paper and watch the storm through panes etched with frost.
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, wearing a bomber jacket and wheezing with a cold at a late-afternoon news conference, called it a dangerous storm that could down trees, disrupt railroad signal systems and pose hazards for drivers and the homeless.
“The latest reports are qualifying this storm as a blizzard, and unfortunately our city is directly in its path,” Mr. Bloomberg said.
The mayor said major roads would be cleared by plows overnight, but he urged commuters to take mass transit on Monday. The Long Island Rail Road suspended service late Sunday night, but its trains were expected to run on a holiday schedule on Monday. Metro-North said it would operate Monday using a Sunday schedule. New Jersey Transit suspended all bus service Sunday night. (Read the latest updates on the status of mass transit.)
Amtrak, citing problems with high winds that affect signals, switches and overhead wires, canceled trains south of Washington to Richmond and Newport News, Va., and later those between New York and Boston, although service between Washington and New York was not affected.
“Better to have people stay safe where they are, despite the inconvenience,” Cliff Cole, an Amtrak spokesman, said of the cancellations.
Air travel was virtually impossible. More than 2,000 flights were canceled by major airlines on the Eastern Seaboard, 1,444 of them at Kennedy International and La Guardia Airports in New York and Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey. Spillback cancellations affected hundreds of other flights from Chicago and Atlanta, and even from London and Paris.
By Sunday night, Kennedy and Newark had suspended all flights, and few were operating out of La Guardia.
One terminal at Kennedy was transformed into a campsite of refugees. Entire families rested on stacks of luggage, slept on the floor in sleeping bags, watched movies on laptops and ate lunches on suitcases. People streamed to information booths, but it was hopeless: Boards listed nearly all flights as canceled.
On the AirTrain to Kennedy from Jamaica, travelers told their tales of woe and hope. Luciana and Marcelo Dossa were bound for Austin, Tex., after a week’s visit to New York. Their American Airlines flight had been scratched, but they went to the airport on the chance that something else might turn up. “We decided to come anyway because we need to find a way to get home,” Mrs. Dossa said.
People who ventured out in cars found major roads plowed but slippery; the police reported many spinouts and minor accidents on Sunday. Many bus carriers canceled service between Washington and Boston, where the New England Aquarium bubble-wrapped its four 5-foot penguin ice sculptures to protect them from the elements.
In Philadelphia, where 20 inches of snow was expected, the National Football League postponed the Eagles-Vikings game from Sunday night to Tuesday night. League officials said the last time a forecast of heavy snow changed a scheduled outdoor game was in 1932, when the league championship game between the Chicago Bears and the Portsmouth Spartans was moved indoors.
The Washington area, which had a series of rare snowstorms last winter, was largely spared by this one, an enclave of serenity in the crocodile-shaped mass that crawled up the Atlantic Coast. The weather service, which had predicted 6 to 10 inches of snow for the capital region, scaled it back at midday to 1 to 2 inches, and Ronald Reagan and Dulles International Airports remained open with normal service.
For retailers, who had enjoyed a big run-up to the holiday, there was a chill in the day-after-Christmas sales, traditionally one of the year’s biggest shopping days. In Brooklyn, the Atlantic Terminal Mall had only a smattering of customers, not the usual day-after frenzy.
Rebecca Godfrey, 28, a manager at Dead Sea Spa skin care kiosk, said that in 40 minutes only three people stopped in, and only one made a purchase. On the same day last year, she said, 40 to 50 visited, and half bought products. “Usually the day after Christmas is like my favorite day to work,” Ms. Godfrey said. “But today I just felt like being home.”
At the Doubletree Hotel in Times Square, three generations of the stranded Braceras family from Miami — 11 members in all — were sprawled in the lobby with suitcases, and dwindling options. They should have been on the ski slopes of Vermont, starting a weeklong vacation. But their connecting flight had been canceled, and hopes for a car service had been dashed.
At least they had a room upstairs. Sue Braceras, the matriarch, presided as her brood talked of an impromptu sightseeing tour, perhaps with stops at Radio City Music Hall to see the Rockettes, and to the American Girl shop on Fifth Avenue. But it was all doubtful.
“We’re going to have a ball,” Elizabeth Campo, one of the adult daughters, said through gritted teeth as five children scampered among the suitcases. “My husband went to the room already with the baby. He said he’s not leaving the room for two days.”
Reporting was contributed by Al Baker, Judy Battista, Michael M. Grynbaum, Angela Macropoulos, Liz Robbins, Noah Rosenberg and Sarah Wheaton.