Content Section
  1. PANDEMIC Obama: H1N1 Is a National Emergency Harry Cabluck / AP Photo

    1. Obama: H1N1 Is a National Emergency

    President Obama declared H1N1 flu a national emergency on Saturday in order to help overwhelmed health-care facilities absorb the surge of new patients with the flu. Obama’s proclamation allows the secretary of Health to approve individual waivers that will exempt hospitals and other medical facilities from certain daily regulations that get in the way of treating the flu quickly and effectively. (The waivers must still be requested individually by hospitals.) The Obama administration said that elevating the pandemic to national-emergency status has nothing to do with new medical information about the flu’s threats, but rather is meant to make things easier for hospitals and other health-care facilities. "The H1N1 is moving rapidly, as expected. By the time regions or health-care systems recognize they are becoming overburdened, they need to implement disaster plans quickly," said White House spokesman Reid Cherlin.

    October 24, 2009 9:27 AM

  2. OFFENSIVES

    2. Pakistan Captures Key Taliban Town

    Pakistan’s military is taking steps toward monopolizing the country’s Taliban stronghold. On Friday night, troops overtook the Taliban town of Kotkai in South Waziristan, the home of Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud and infamous suicide-bomber trainer Qari Hussain. Journalists are not allowed to enter the town but the army reports that as many as 100,000 civilians have fled the area. Pakistan initiated the South Waziristan offensive last week following a series of attacks that likely came from the area, which is considered a haven for militants. Pakistani soldiers briefly took over Kotkai earlier this week, but the Taliban fought back on Tuesday morning and killed seven soldiers. Last night’s success is considered a "major breakthrough because it was the stronghold of Taliban,” said a Pakistani official. The BBC reports that the conflict will now move deeper into less urban and populated areas of the region.

    October 24, 2009 7:53 AM

  3. Creative Campaigns

    3. A Day for Climate Change

    As policymakers gear up for December’s international climate talks in Copenhagen, climate change activists have scheduled more than 45,000 events in 173 countries today. The massive outpouring is meant to encourage policymakers to cut carbon concentration levels from approximately 380 to 350 parts per million. The series of events, spearheaded by the organization 350.org, include creative demonstrations: Chinese university students will infiltrate highly trafficked shopping areas wearing scuba gear, children in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia will participate in a race through the city’s main square, and Washington D.C. is holding a free go-go concert in Malcolm Park. 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben says, "We're under no illusions that we will change the politics overnight. But the most widespread political event in the planet's history is a sign that in our new electronically-wired age, we can make disparate actions count, even across the enormous divides of wealth and poverty."

    October 24, 2009 12:25 PM

  4. Health Care

    4. Insurers Gouging Small Businesses

    In what industry experts say appears to be an act of last-minute price gouging, health-insurance companies, under pressure from Wall Street, are implementing drastic increases on premiums for small-business owners before Congress votes on health-care reforms that could cut into their profits. Entrepreneurs say their premiums are increasing by about 15 percent for the coming year—twice as much as last year. The big charges are squeezing businesses just when their revenue is falling. But they may also increase support for a government-run public option that would help control costs—something the insurance industry has fought hard against. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the premium increases underline "the urgent need for health-insurance reform, including a public option. We need to have competition for the insurance companies to keep premiums down.”

    October 24, 2009 3:43 PM

  5. Gender Gap

    5. Women's World? Not Really

    Despite a recent report that found mothers were the major breadwinners in 40 percent of families, Joanne Lipman writes that numbers are “spectacularly misleading” about the so-called women’s world we live in. In a column for The New York Times, the former editor of Portfolio writes, “Women haven’t come nearly as far as we would have predicted 25 years ago.” After she grew up looking derisively at the women’s liberation movement, Lipman now points to facts that show the slow growth of women in the workplace—when she graduated in 1983, women earned 64 cents for each dollar earned by a man. Now, women are up to 77 cents, and only 15 women run Fortune 500 companies. The aftermath of 9/11 is partly to blame, Lipman writes, as the trauma and the Iraq war tore America apart, giving rise to a louder, offensive soapbox on the Internet—not to mention cable pundits like Glenn Beck suggesting “ugly women” are probably “progressive as well.” Her advice? “After focusing for so long on better jobs and higher pay, maybe the best thing—the enduring thing—we can do is make sure respect is part of the equation, too.”

    October 24, 2009 1:49 PM

  6. POTUS Obama to Banks: Don't Be Stingy Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP Photo

    6. Obama to Banks: Don't Be Stingy

    In his weekly radio address on Saturday, President Obama encouraged banks to be more generous with lending to small businesses in light of the $700 billion financial bailout they received last year. Obama said that in the last 15 years, almost two-thirds of America’s jobs have come from small businesses, and banks need to help the business owners who have had difficulty acquiring credit as a result of the credit freeze caused by the financial crisis. "These are the very taxpayers who stood by America's banks in a crisis, and now it's time for our banks to stand by creditworthy small businesses and make the loans they need to open their doors, grow their operations and create new jobs," Obama said. The president criticized the finance industry earlier in the week for lobbying Congress to weaken new regulations.

    October 24, 2009 3:18 AM

  7. Injustice

    7. Lashing for Saudi Female Journalist

    Saudi journalist Rozanna al-Yami was sentenced to 60 lashes by a Saudi court on Saturday for working on a television show that featured a Saudi man speaking about his sex life and showing sex toys on air. The 22-year-old female journalist supposedly helped organize the program and advertise it online, and although she claims the judge dropped the charges, al-Yami says she was given the sentence, believed to be the first punishment of its kind for a Saudi woman journalist, “as a deterrence.” The main male guest on the show was sentenced to five years in prison and 1,000 lashes this month. The government also shut down the two offices belonging to the Lebanese LBC satellite channel that aired the show in July and three other male guests were sentenced to two years in jail and 300 lashes each.

    October 24, 2009 4:17 PM

  8. LOST AND FOUND

    8. Celeb-Obsessed Gang Robs from Stars

    Paris Hilton has reportedly recouped approximately $2 million worth of stolen jewelry from police Friday night, after police arrested 19-year-old Rachel J. Lee, who is suspected to be the ringleader of a celebrity-obsessed gang of teenagers who robs from the stars. The suspected burglars have also allegedly broken into the homes of Lindsay Lohan, Audrina Patridge, and Orlando Bloom. Lee is reportedly obsessed with celebrity fashion. Lee’s suspected co-burglars include Courtney Ames, 18, Diana Tamayo, 19, Alexis Neirs, 18, Roy Lopez, 27, and Nicholos Prugo, 18. Lee, Prugo, Ames, and Neirs have all been arrested, and the latter two were released after posting $50,000 in bail. "Paris went to the police station last night to retrieve her stolen belongings," Hilton’s publicist Dawn Miller told People. "She didn't get everything but fortunately most of her jewelry was returned. She is really pleased and thankful to the LAPD for their help." Rachel Bilson, Hayden Panettiere, and Kourtney Kardashian have also been the targets of recent burglaries, though it's unclear if those incidents are related.

    October 24, 2009 8:19 AM

  9. Flight Risks

    9. Airplane Overshoot Mystery Deepens

    Maybe they had the fish? In an interview with the Associated Press, the first officer of the Northwest Airlines flight that overshot its destination by 150 miles said he and his co-pilot weren't asleep at the wheel. "We were not asleep; we were not having an argument; we were not having a fight," pilot Richard Cole told the AP. But he refused to offer further explanation for why his plane flew so dramatically off-course, or why the pilots didn't respond to air traffic controllers' frantic attempts to reach them as the aircraft soared past Minneapolis and into Wisconsin before finally turning around. "I would tell you more, but I've already told you way too much," said Cole. Both pilots have been suspended while the incident is investigated.

    October 24, 2009 11:19 AM

  10. Roman Polanski

    10. Victim's Accusations Were Sanitized

    An excavation of the various testimonies given by the girl who was raped by Roman Polanski in 1977 shows a chilling evolution of her story. The L.A. Times traces her description of the assault from her very first statements to the police, all the way through to the plea bargain that would eventually reduce the filmmaker's charges to "unlawful intercourse with a minor." The trajectory of her accusations, which grew less and less pointed with time, shows in vivid detail how a victim's story can be massaged and manipulated by the various authority figures. Cops, lawyers, judges, journalists, and others who had a stake in Polanski's freedom gradually coaxed the girl to water down her allegations (or did it themselves when documenting them), until the incident, which she had originally recounted as a terrifying ordeal, sounds almost consensual.

    October 24, 2009 11:56 AM

  11. Public Option

    11. Reid Nears 60 Votes for Opt-Out Plan

    While Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is reportedly close to convincing 60 senators to support a public option with a clause allowing states to opt out, new reports indicate the White House is pushing back against the idea. Talking Points Memo reports the White House fears an opt-out clause could cost them the support of Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME). One source close to the negotiations says the administration is “skeptical of opt-out and are generally deferential to the Snowe strategy that involves the trigger.” (A “trigger” clause would mean the public option would only go into effect if private insurance companies don’t lower costs and cover more people within a certain timeframe.) High-level White House officials have reportedly continued to press the trigger proposal on numerous occasions, worrying senators who support the public option.

    October 23, 2009 3:34 PM

  12. ODD COUPLE George Will Hearts Michele Bachmann J. Scott Applewhite / AP Photo

    12. George Will Hearts Michele Bachmann

    In a surprise column, the even-tempered intellectual George Will heaps praise on Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), a bomb-throwing provocateur generally regarded as too extreme to be taken seriously. Bachmann is perhaps most famous for calling on the press to investigate "anti-American" lawmakers in the run-up to the 2008 election and Will acknowledges the congresswoman is "a petite pistol that occasionally goes half-cocked." But he seems to like her fiery rhetoric when it’s used on government spending and bailouts, writing that, "Some of her supposed excesses are, however, not merely defensible, they are admirable." Will has been one of the leading conservative skeptics of Sarah Palin since her arrival on the scene and Bachmann is considered one of the ex-Alaska governor's closest political cousins. He acknowledges their similar social-conservative circles in his column, but writes that Bachmann "knows that economic hardship and government elephantiasis now trump other issues."

    October 24, 2009 3:19 AM

  13. AFGHANISTAN McChrystal's Plan Prevailing Joshua Roberts / Reuters

    13. McChrystal's Plan Prevailing

    General Stanley McChrystal, top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, has been criticized for his request for tens of thousands more U.S. troops to battle in Afghanistan, but it's looking like his proposed strategy will pass. NATO’s 28 defense ministers endorsed McChrystal’s approach Friday, as has British Prime Minister Gordon Brown—actions that will likely lay the groundwork for President Obama’s eventual decision. The Obama administration is moving toward adopting a hybrid strategy in the Afghan war, one that would combine elements of the counterinsurgency approach—including thousands more troops—as well as aspects of the counterterrorism plan that relies on drone attacks to kill al Qaeda leaders. This month, the White House rejected the strict counterterror approach favored by Vice President Joe Biden. The emerging U.S. strategy would move key assets (helicopters, surveillance equipment) from Iraq to Afghanistan, and shift tactics of conventional forces on the ground. But embracing the hybrid model wouldn’t guarantee the general all of the 40,000 troops he wants, and the president’s final decision is still weeks away.

    October 23, 2009 5:53 PM

  14. TRY AGAIN

    14. Will Fraud Haunt Afghanistan Runoff?

    News of a runoff election in Afghanistan is regarded as crucial to helping restore legitimacy to the government, but will the new vote be marred by the same allegations of fraud as before? The Obama administration's top State Department official for the region, Richard Holbrooke, is predicting a major improvement from the previous election. "It is reasonable to hope that there will be less irregularities this time for several reasons," Holbrooke told the Associated Press, citing fewer candidates, improved fraud detection, and better security. Holbrooke also denied a rift between he and President Hamid Karzai, saying that "I have absolutely no problems with him. And it's as simple as that."

    October 24, 2009 3:21 AM

  15. DUPED Disney Offers Refunds on Baby Einstein Jerry Arcieri / Corbis

    15. Disney Offers Refunds on Baby Einstein

    Parents now have yet another excuse why their child isn't an honor student. In what is widely regarded as an admission that the Baby Einstein video series is ineffective in boosting young children's IQs, Disney is offering a refund on copies of the ultra-popular DVDs. Disney already dropped the word "educational" from marketing materials after complaints to the Federal Trade Commission that pediatricians actually advised against any screen time for small children, and the company faced the prospect of a class-action lawsuit if it refused to compensate parents. Disney's announcement of new refund offers did not directly address the lawsuit threat, but Baby Einstein Co. Vice President Susan McLain told The New York Times in a statement that, "Fostering parent-child interaction always has and always will come first at The Baby Einstein Company, and we know that there is an ongoing discussion about how that interaction is best promoted." Less than three years ago, the company's founder, Julie Aigner-Clark, was a guest of honor at President George W. Bush's State of the Union address, where she earned a prominent mention in his speech.

    October 24, 2009 3:08 AM

  16. Fair Weather

    16. Obama to Skip Climate-Change Summit

    President Obama will likely not attend the Copenhagen climate-change summit in December, opting instead to give an acceptance speech for his Nobel Peace Prize that will outline his environmental goals. Though the White House has yet to give a definitive response on Obama’s attendance, officials have privately said “Oslo is plenty close”—the Nobel ceremony takes place two days into the Copenhagen convention. Administration officials have, however, confirmed that Obama will be in Oslo to accept the prize and sources revealed it was “hard to see the benefit” of his attending the summit if there was no climate deal for him to close or sign. Obama will disappoint the foreign leaders who urged him to attend; they had hoped his presence would bring them closer to a comprehensive treaty. But a United Nations official said last week that the treaty is now an “unrealistic” prospect.

    October 23, 2009 4:38 PM

  17. TONE DEAF Graydon Carter in Bermuda as Staff Cut Evan Agostin / AP Photo

    17. Graydon Carter in Bermuda as Staff Cut

    While as many as 20 people were laid off at Vanity Fair this week, following Condé Nast’s order to cut costs at the magazine by 27 percent, Editor in Chief Graydon Carter was soaking up some sun in Bermuda, The New York Post reports. "I think it is extraordinary that he let this happen," said a Condé Nast insider. "It says he is not a leader. That he is not in the trenches, that he is profoundly out of touch." Carter reportedly avoided firing employees that directly cater to him before jetting off to Bermuda, though one of the Post's sources excused his absence, saying he had no control over who was laid off. Condé Nast has ordered multiple staff cuts over the past three weeks in addition to shutting the doors of four magazines. S.I. Newhouse met with Carter and Vogue editrix Anna Wintour together (a rare occurrence) last week to discuss the cuts.

    October 24, 2009 5:11 AM

  18. Balloon Boy

    18. Wife Confirms 'Balloon Boy' Hoax

    Mayumi Heene, the mother of 6-year-old Falcon—better known as “balloon boy”—told authorities that last week’s helium-filled incident was in fact a hoax intended to draw media attention. On October 17, two days after the media madness, Heene told Larimer County investigators that she and her husband Richard knew their son was hiding in their home, but told authorities they thought he’d floated away in the balloon, leading to an intensive police and military search. Mayumi explained that the couple devised the plan two weeks prior to the incident and “instructed their three children to lie to authorities as well as the media,” according to documents. According to her, their intention was to “make the Heene family more marketable for future media interests.” Each of the boy’s parents, who met in a Hollywood acting school, are facing numerous charges, including conspiracy, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, and attempting to influence a public servant. The Heenes had reportedly approached TLC, the producers of the show formerly known as Jon & Kate Plus 8, months ago, but the network passed.

    October 23, 2009 5:47 PM

  19. UNRIGHTEOUS

    19. Priest Slain in New Jersey Church

    Father Edward Hinds alarmed his congregants when he did not show up for 8 a.m. Mass Friday morning at St. Patrick’s Church. Much to the surprise of the quiet commuter community of Chatham, New Jersey, a deacon and a maintenance worker found the priest dead, right before Mass. Hinds’ body was reportedly found in the kitchen, off a hallway that connects the church and the rectory, according to another priest. He was fully outfitted in formal black garb and had suffered multiple injuries. Prosecutors would not comment explicitly about the specific nature of Hinds’ wounds, but did say they were “consistent with a homicide.” The 61-year-old priest had experienced “excessive trauma,” according to the county prosecutor, suggesting that great force was used in ending Hinds’ life. No suspects have been identified and authorities would not comment on whether or not there were signs of forced entry. The sleepy town’s last homicide, a case of aggravated manslaughter, occurred in 1990. Some parents removed their children from the parish school Friday, The New York Times reports. “This is almost unbelievable,” Chatham Mayor V. Nelson Vaughan said. “I’ve lived here since 1950, and this is the second homicide in town I know of. It’s a peaceful, quiet, friendly town.”

    October 23, 2009 6:38 PM

  20. ENVIRONMENT

    20. China's Climate-Change Push

    As the leading emitter of greenhouse gases in the world and a rapidly growing economy, China is often cited as a major obstacle to confronting climate change. But the government and private sector there has taken a surprising, if modest, turn toward addressing climate change even as the American government's own efforts have slowed, The Washington Post reports. In the past five years, China has ended subsidies for motor fuel, and its fuel-efficiency standards for new urban vehicles is even higher than the United States, at 36.7 mpg. In addition, it’s shut down older, less clean power plants and set energy-efficiency standards in buildings and new coal plants. "We think this is a new business for us, not a burden," Gan Zhongxue, a scientist with a Chinese energy company researching green technology told the Post.

    October 24, 2009 3:06 AM