Saturday, June 30, 2012
By Gary Fineout, NBCMiami.com
Florida Gov. Rick Scott now says Florida will do nothing to comply with President Barack Obama's health care overhaul and will not expand its Medicaid program. The announcement is a marked changed after the governor recently said he would follow the law if it were upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.
"Florida is not going to implement Obamacare. We are not going to expand Medicaid and we're not going to implement exchanges,'' Scott's spokesman Lane Wright told The Associated Press on Saturday. Wright stressed that the governor would work to make sure the law is repealed.
Scott told Fox News the Medicaid expansion would cost Florida taxpayers $1.9 billion a year, but it's unclear how he arrived at that figure.
Scott said the state will not expand the Medicaid program in order to lower the number of uninsured residents, nor will Florida set up a state-run health exchange, a marketplace where people who need insurance policies could shop for them.
"We care about having a health care safety net for the vulnerable Floridians, but this is an expansion that just doesn't make any sense,'' he told Fox host Greta Van Susteren.
Scott has gone back and forth on the issue after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Congress cannot withhold federal Medicaid funding from states that opt out of a requirement in the overhaul to expand coverage to those just above the poverty line.
On the day of the ruling Scott was cautious about the expansion, saying he wanted to read the ruling first. Then during an interview Friday morning on a Jacksonville radio station, Scott said it was unlikely he would go along with the expansion because of the potential cost to the state.
But the governor told the Tampa Bay Times later in the day that he was still evaluating the ruling and would come up with a plan within a few weeks.
Scott, the former CEO of a hospital chain, has been a vocal critic of the health care overhaul from the start. He made his first foray into politics by forming a group called Conservatives for Patients Rights that ran television ads criticizing the proposal before it was adopted by Congress.
Scott has also complained about the growing cost of Medicaid, the $21 billion safety net program that primarily aids the poor but also picks up nursing home bills for senior citizens. The governor backed a push by the Republican-controlled Legislature to shift Medicaid patients into managed care programs, a move that is still awaiting federal approval.
Scott has rejected federal money in the past, most notably $2.4 billion for high speed rail. His administration has also said no to some money attached to the Affordable Care Act.
But Scott has said yes to money associated with the federal stimulus program and he has changed some of the positions he advocated during his run for governor. Scott also must weigh the political calculations of saying no to Medicaid because of tight budgets, while it is likely he will continue to push for substantial tax cuts between now and his re-election campaign in 2014.
According to Census data released last year, Florida had the nation's third-highest rate of residents without health insurance during the past three years.
President Obama's health care law called for states in 2014 to expand Medicaid eligibility to those making up to 133 percent of the poverty level, or $29,326 for a family of four. While estimates vary, the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration has concluded that as many as 1.95 million more people would join Medicaid and other state-subsidized health insurance programs over the next five years.
Most of the cost, running into the billions, would be absorbed by the federal government. The Medicaid expansion would not cost the state anything until 2017 — although AHCA estimates that changes to other state-subsidized programs would require state money starting in 2014. AHCA estimates that the overall cost to the state would be $2.4 billion between 2013 and 2018 with the federal government picking up nearly $26 billion.
But other groups analyzing the potential changes contend that state officials have ``hyper-inflated'' the potential costs because they assume too many people will enroll.
The ultimate choice, however, won't be Scott's alone. It will also be decided by the Legislature.
TOKYO — Dozens of protesters shouted and danced at the gate of a nuclear power plant set to restart Sunday, the first to go back online since all reactors were shut down for safety checks following the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
Ohi nuclear plant’s reactor No. 3 is returning to operation despite a deep divide in public opinion. Last month, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda ordered the restarts of reactors No. 3 and nearby No. 4, saying people’s living standards can’t be maintained without nuclear energy. Many citizens are against a return to nuclear power because of safety fears after Fukushima.
Crowds of tens of thousands of people have gathered on Friday evenings around Noda’s official residence, chanting, “Saikado hantai,” or “No to nuclear restarts.” Protests drawing such numbers are extremely rare in this nation, reputed for orderly docility and conformity. A demonstration in Tokyo protesting the restart and demanding Noda resign was being organized in a major park Sunday.
Although initially ignored by mainstream local media, demonstrations across the country have grown, as word gets out through social media such as Twitter, sometimes drawing Japanese celebrities, including Nobel Prize-winning writer Kenzaburo Oe and Ryuichi Sakamoto, who composed the score for “Last Emperor.”
All 50 of Japan’s working reactors were gradually turned off in the wake of last year’s earthquake and tsunami, which sent Fukushima Dai-ichi plant into multiple meltdowns, setting off the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.
But worries about a power crunch over the hot summer months have been growing. Oil imports are soaring. Officials have warned about blackouts in some regions.
The government has been carrying out new safety tests on nuclear plants, and says No. 3 and No. 4 are safe for restart.
Protesters like Taisuke Kohno, a 41-year-old musician among the 200 protesters trying to blockade the Ohi plant, aren’t so sure. He said protesters were facing off against riot police and planned to stay there day and night.
“It’s a lie that nuclear energy is clean,” he said. “After experiencing the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, how can Japan possibly want nuclear power?”
Kansai Electric Power Co., the utility that operates Ohi, in central Japan, was not immediately available for comment Sunday. It said on its website that a nuclear reaction was starting at No. 3 Sunday, a key step for a reactor to start producing electricity.
Fukushima Dai-ichi, in northeastern Japan, went into meltdowns and exploded after the March 11 tsunami destroyed backup generators to keep reactor cores cool.
In the latest problem at the crippled plant, Tokyo Electric Power Co., its operator, said it was still working to restore the cooling system for the pool for spent nuclear fuel at reactor No. 4, which broke down Saturday.
The cooling system must be restored within 70 hours, or temperatures will start to rise, spewing radiation. TEPCO spokesman Naohiro Omura said a temporary system was being set up Sunday.
The pool contains 1,535 fuel rods, 204 of them unused ones. Even spent fuel remains highly radioactive. The government has acknowledged that the spent fuel pool, if it cannot be kept cool, will cause a massive radiation leak that may require the evacuation of the Tokyo area.
Adding to the jitters are cracks and warping of the building that houses the pool, likely because of the damage from last year’s explosions, according to TEPCO. The utility, which is undergoing a massive government bailout, denies there is any danger and says radiation is being closely monitored.
Follow Yuri Kageyama on Twitter at http://twitter.com/yurikageyama
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
A 4.9 magnitude quake has hit 30 miles south of the California-Mexico border in Baja California - USGS
This webpage has been replaced by a new version and will be phased out in the future. Please use our new Real-time Earthquake Map to access the latest earthquake information and event details. The links to the World, US, and CA/NV maps that were in the navigation on the left side of the page have been replaced by the links at the top of the new Map. The Real-time Earthquake Map User Guide describes how to use the map and all its features.
- This event has been reviewed by a seismologist.
|Depth||9.9 km (6.2 miles)|
|Region||BAJA CALIFORNIA, MEXICO|
|Distances||6 km (3 miles) WNW of Delta, Mexico |
17 km (10 miles) NW of Guadalupe Victoria, Mexico
36 km (22 miles) SE of Mexicali, Mexico
40 km (24 miles) SE of Calexico, California
|Location Uncertainty||horizontal +/- 12.3 km (7.6 miles); depth +/- 2.9 km (1.8 miles)|
|Parameters||NST=129, Nph=138, Dmin=84.6 km, Rmss=1.22 sec, Gp=155°, |
M-type=body wave magnitude (Mb), Version=8
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The earthquake locations and magnitudes cited in NOAA tsunami statements and bulletins are preliminary and are superseded by USGS locations and magnitudes computed using more extensive data sets.
General Tsunami Information
Hundreds of thousands of Washington area residents, facing the prospect of days without electricity, spent Saturday dragging fallen trees from yards and streets, keeping cool in swimming pools and movie theaters, and searching in vain for open gas stations or outlets to charge their cellphones.
A string of ferocious summer storms whipped across the heat-scorched region Friday night, leaving 1.3 million homes and businesses without power and causing at least five deaths. Two elderly women were crushed by trees that fell through their roofs, two drivers were killed in their cars by fallen trees, and a man was electrocuted by a downed power line. An Alexandria man whose boat capsized in the Chesapeake Bay was missing and believed to have drowned.
With more thunderstorms predicted for Saturday night and more intense heat on the way Sunday, states of emergency were declared in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia. Emergency vehicles and crews raced to clear debris from hundreds of roadways, secure downed power lines, and restore electricity to hospitals, nursing homes and other critical facilities.
As the region suffered through a second day of 100-degree-plus heat, power companies said it could take up to a week before everyone has electricity again. State and local officials opened community pools, public libraries and special cooling centers. They also advised people to conserve water and help neighbors who might be especially vulnerable to heat. Temperatures on Sunday were expected to reach the upper 90s.
In Virginia, Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) authorized the National Guard to assist with clearing trees and directing traffic. “This is a very dangerous situation for Virginia,” he said.
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) called Friday’s calamitous weather a “historic event.” “Take care of yourself, and if your house has power and air conditioning, take care of a neighbor,” he said.
Obama in contact
Federal emergency officials said the storms also caused damage in Ohio, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, and the Associated Press reported 13 storm-related deaths across the eastern United States. The White House said President Obama spoke with O'Malley, McDonnell, and the governors of Ohio and West Virginia to receive updates.
Because of storm damage to local water-filtering plants, the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission issued mandatory water-use restrictions Saturday for all homes and businesses in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. It asked residents to postpone watering lawns, washing cars and clothes, and even flushing toilets when possible.
The swift-moving, unpredictable storms raced out of northwest Virginia and Maryland after night fell Friday, and they swept southeast toward the Chesapeake Bay. Dozens of communities across the region were engulfed by howling wind gusts, driving rains and lightning that flashed eerily.
Then, just as suddenly, the powerful storms passed and darkness returned. Residents groped for flashlights as they realized they had lost power or peered out at yards and driveways littered with branches. For many homes, the damage was much worse. For at least five local people, it was fatal.
(CBS News) COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - The high temperatures and tinderbox conditions are all but guaranteeing that progress in fighting the western wildfires will be spotty at best. We begin with this report from Colorado's Waldo Canyon fire, which began a week ago Saturday.
If the worst seems over here, this state is braced for more trouble somewhere else.
"It super dry all over," said Jerry Mard of the U.S. Forest Service. "It's just not on our force, it's up and down the front range throughout Colorado. We are still in extreme drought conditions."
This already brutal fire season is raising questions about the trend of people making a home in mountainous wildland areas. In Colorado Saturday, it's estimated that 1 in 4 houses is in a wildland area. That's more than a million people, a fifth of the state's population. And it makes a tough job for firefighters that much harder.
"When you have homes all intermixed in there," said Greg Heule, a retired Colorado Springs firefighter, "then your concentration is on those homes and takes lot more resources to do it. And then the wildland fire continues while you're concentrating on the homes that are in the wildland area.
Steve Holsenback and Carla DeVaughn were evacuated a week ago. They kept an eye on their house from a path and thought their house in the mountains above the city was gone after a picture showed fire behind their house. But it survived.
On Saturday, they were allowed in but warned to be ready for evacuation on 10 minutes notice. Still, they love living in nating.
"I'm sitting there eating breakfast and watching chipmunks and foxes sitting out there on the birdfeeders, eating like I'm eating," said Carla.
And facing this fire is not going to chase them away.
"I think I'll have less fear now that I have seen what the firefighters can do, how they can handle a situation like this," said Carla.
Despite all that bad weather elsewhere, some good weather here: lower temperatures, no big wind gust. Some good news announced just moments ago: this fire now is 45 percent contained.
- NEW: An Ohio man says he has never seen such winds and damage
- Two boys, ages 7 and 2, are killed while camping at a park in New Jersey
- They're among 12 killed in storms that left millions without power
- Cooling stations open up and down the East Coast due to extreme heat
(CNN) -- Their stay in Parvin State Park in southwestern New Jersey was supposed to be a getaway, a chance to enjoy the wilderness and quality time with family.
But when the line of strong storms came through shortly after midnight Saturday, two related families from nearby Millville decided to huddle together in a single tent hoping to ride out the strong winds and lightning together.
Then, after a particularly violent gust, a pine tree snapped -- and fell right onto top of them.
By the time help made it to the scene, past downed trees and power lines, a 2-year-old boy was already dead, said Larry Ragonese, a spokesman for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.
His 7-year-old cousin later died on the way to a hospital, the spokesman added.
Storms leave millions without power
"The rest of the family members miraculously were virtually unscathed -- a couple of scratches, but nothing to them," Ragonese told CNN. "What they have is the horror of what happened to the two boys."
The families weren't the only ones to experience tragedy when an extreme heat spell helped spawn a powerful line of thunderstorms that swept east from Indiana to New Jersey.
Millions were without power Saturday as a result, at a dangerous time given temperatures that soared past 100 degrees Fahrenheit in many of the hardest-hit locales. The combination of no electricity and extreme heat contributed to a host of unique challenges, leading officials to urge residents to do whatever they can to keep cool.
Scores of cooling stations were opened up and down the East Coast. At one, in Atlanta, workers unloaded bottles of water while a resident offered advice for the city's senior citizens.
"A lot of them don't realize that they are suffering from dehydration. And so to come to a place that is cool, come to a place where there's water provided, come to a place where they don't have to worry for about 7-8 hours in 106 degree temperature, it's really wonderful," said Savannah Potter.
Including the two boys from South Jersey, a total of 12 people died as a result of downed trees and power lines, officials said.
The millions lucky enough to survive the storms are hardly out of trouble, though, especially given the widespread power outages.
The strong winds, heavy rains and continued heat made it feel tropical, and certainly dangerous, in inland states like Ohio.
"It looked like a hurricane you would see on television -- the rain was falling horizontally, the patio furniture was moving," said CNN iReporter Louis Zur Muhlen from suburbs just north of Columbus, where he spotted burning power lines in the road.
"We have pretty severe weather with thunderstorms and such, but I have never seen winds like that, and I haven't seen this kind of damage."
Hospitals in Prince George's County in Maryland were buzzing Saturday as people came into emergency department waiting rooms trying to get cool, said Fran Phillips, deputy secretary for the state's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
Water was running out in Lowell, in southeastern West Virginia, because, without electricity, the town's water tanks couldn't be refilled, water and sewer operator Matt McLeish told CNN affiliate WTAP.
Residents in the town use about 50,000 gallons of water a day -- yet the main storage tank only has about 80,000 gallons left in it -- prompting officials there to urge people to conserve water.
In Rockville, Maryland, a mother and daughter were dealing with more ordinary, but still disappointing concerns. They were forced to cancel the young girl's birthday party Saturday at an ice skating rink after it lost power.
The family doesn't have electricity at its home.
"We're going to the mall. Montgomery Mall we hear has air conditioning so that's where we're off too now," said mom Alicia Lucero.
CNN's Nick Valencia, Jareen Imam, Athena Jones, Dana Ford, Maggie Schneider and Darrell Calhoun contributed to this report.
(AP) Violent evening storms following a day of triple-digit temperatures wiped out power to more than 2 million customers across the eastern United States and caused two fatalities in Virginia — including a 90-year-old woman asleep in bed when a tree slammed into her home, a police spokeswoman said Saturday.
Widespread power outages were reported from Indiana to New Jersey, with the bulk of the service interruptions concentrated on Washington, D.C. and surrounding areas. Earlier Friday, the nation's capital reached 104 degrees — topping a record of 101 set in 1934.
More than 20 elderly residents at an apartment home in Indianapolis were displaced when the facility lost power due to a downed tree. Most were bused to a Red Cross facility to spend the night, and others who depend on oxygen assistance were given other accommodations, the fire department said.
The storms, sometimes packing 70 mph winds, toppled three tractor trailers on Interstate 75 near Findlay, Ohio. Fallen trees were blamed on both deaths in Springfield, Va. — the 90-year-old woman in her home and a man driving a car, Fairfax County police spokeswoman Mary Ann Jennings said.
In addition, a park police officer was injured by an uprooted tree in the northern Virginia county, and an 18-year-old man was struck by a power line, Jennings said. He was in stable condition after receiving CPR, she said.
"Our officers and firefighters are out there with power saws, trying to clear the streets," Jennings said.
West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin declared a state of emergency after more than 500,000 customers in 27 counties were left without electricity.
At least four utility poles fell on a road in Columbus, Ohio, making it too dangerous for people in four cars to get out, police said. One person was taken to a hospital.
As of 1 a.m. Saturday, Pepco was reporting 406,000 outages in the District of Columbia and Montgomery and Prince George's counties, Md.
"We have more than half our system down," said Pepco spokeswoman Myra Oppel. "This is definitely going to be a multi-day outage."
In the Washington, D.C., area, the Metrorail subway trains were returned to their endpoints due to the storms and related damage, officials said.
"It has had a widespread effect on the region," Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said early Saturday. He said about 17 train stations were operating on backup power due to local power outages, but that he didn't anticipate service being disrupted on Saturday.
(Credit: Getty)(CBS News) Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes are calling it quits after five years of marriage, reports People. Pictures: Tom and Katie
Pictures: TomKat: Wedding morning
Pictures: Tom Cruise
Pictures: Katie Holmes
Pictures: Suri Cruise
Pictures: Celebrity splits
Cruise's rep told People that Holmes filed for divorce, adding, "Tom is deeply saddened and is concentrating on his three children. Please allow them their privacy.""Katie's primary concern remains, as it always has been, her daughter's best interest," Holmes' attorney Jonathan Wolfe told People.
TMZ reports that Holmes cited irreconcilable differences in divorce papers, filed Thursday, and she's asking for sole legal custody and "primary residential custody" of the couple's 6-year-old daughter, Suri.
Holmes didn't accompany Cruise to the recent "Rock of Ages" red carpet premieres. But they did step out together as recently as February at an Oscar party.
Cruise, 49, married Holmes, 33, in Italy in November 2006.
The actors began dating in April 2005, and shortly after, the media dubbed them "TomKat." Cruise expressed his love for Holmes during a visit to "The Oprah Winfrey Show" while famously jumping up and down on the couch. In October of that year, the couple announced they were expecting a baby. A year later, they were married. In the years since, the Hollywood pair have been subject to various tabloid reports, though they've always defended their love for each other. Some tabloids even reported that Holmes had signed a contract, stating she would stay married for five years.
In the June 2012 issue of Playboy, Cruise gushed over Holmes, saying, "She is an extraordinary person, and if you spent five minutes with her, you'd see it. Everything she does, she does with this beautiful creativity. She's funny and charming, and when she walks into the room, I just feel better."
Cruise has been married twice before - first to Mimi Rogers and then to Nicole Kidman. He has two children with Kidman.
Tell us: Are you surprised by the split?
HEIDELBERG, Germany – For more than 26 years, Hans Gritzbach has been taking care of a little garden outside the building of the U.S. Army's European headquarters.
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The military installation has been part of Gritzbach's lifeblood for more than 60 years.
But when the leaves begin to fall in the autumn of 2013, the U.S. Army is scheduled to shut down its Campbell Barracks in Gritzbach's home city.
For the 86-year-old German, an era will come to an end with the U.S. troop pullout.
"I owe a lot to the Americans. They paved the way for what I am today," the widower said in a soft, choked voice.
From refugee to part of a community
With all of his belongings in no more than a cardboard box, Gritzbach arrived in Heidelberg in 1947, shortly after the end of World War II. He was a “displaced person” or refugee. His family was expelled from what used to be Czechoslovakia because they belonged to a minority group of ethnic Germans.
When he arrived in post-war Germany, the young man had no work training and no profession, but he was given a job with the U.S. forces in Heidelberg.
Over the course of his 39-year career as a civilian employee with the U.S. Army in Europe, he worked as a quartermaster, in the finance department and the engineering division.
As the U.S. military in Europe shrinks, it leaves behind many friends in Germany. "It makes me sad because friends are leaving," said Hans Gritzbach, 86, choking back tears. "And now at my age, looking back, I realize that the Americans were wonderful people." NBC's Andy Eckardt reports.
After he retired, Gritzbach stayed on with the military community and took up volunteer work with his wife, Hilde, who passed away five years ago.
Weather and health permitting, the German visits his "American friends" three to four times a week to water the plants, do some weeding and simply engage in some small talk.
But now, his rose bushes, as well as the flowers and shrubs from the little garden he’s tended all these years, are being given new homes in local backyards before the military installation shuts down completely.
Since the end of the 1980s, the U.S. Army in Europe has divested more than 570 military installations, including military barracks, housing areas and isolated radar positions.
By 2015, more major garrisons are expected to be returned in Germany – Heidelberg, Mannheim, Bamberg and Schweinfurt – which the Army says will save $300 million per year.
Carlo Angerer / NBC News
Daniel Welch, has been working for the U.S. military as a "local national employee" in Heidelberg, Germany since 1980 and expects to lose his job next year.
Earlier this year, the Pentagon announced defense cuts of $487 billion over the next decade, as the United States seeks to move to a smaller, leaner and more agile force, putting a new strategic focus on the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region.
The Defense Department in January said that it would remove two of the four U.S. combat brigades stationed in Europe as part of its military restructuring.
Long gone are the demands of the Cold War, when the Soviet bloc and the United States faced off across the walls, fences and barbed wire of the Iron Curtain.
"Now we are trying to become more effective and more efficient in terms of cost savings, by consolidating and by combining garrisons," the commander of the U.S. Army in Europe, Lt.Gen. Mark Phillip Hertling, told NBC News.
Impact on German economy
Yet, for many local hires the drawdown will have severe consequences.
55-year-old Daniel Welch, who has been working for the military as a “local national employee” since 1980 and runs the Army’s environmental division in the greater Heidelberg area, expects to lose his job next year.
"I still have a mortgage to pay off and my daughter is planning to go to college in the U.S., I will need to find a new job somewhere," Welch said.
Back in 1954, his American father met his German mother in Heilbronn during his first deployment to Germany.
"Of course it is emotional," said Welch. "Part of you is closing. The school I attended, the housing area where I grew up, even the church where my parents got married, all closed, all gone."
NBC News speaks with citizens from around the globe, asking the question, 'What Does America Mean to You?'
City officials in Heidelberg expect annual financial losses of up to $25 million, as a result of the closures of U.S. bases in the region.
"We estimate that a total of about 1,000 civilian jobs will be lost, when the nearly 8,000 service members pull out," said Diana Scharl, a spokesperson for the city of Heidelberg.
At the auto dealership across the street from the military installation, the future looks grim too. Fred Ambrosio, 62, expects to close his Liberty Car sales in Heidelberg by September 2013. Like many local businesses, he tailored his car dealership to U.S. customer needs – and with regular troop rotation intervals over the past decades, his business was doing well.
But now, the immediate future does not look rosy.
"The closures in and around Heidelberg have been a real hardship on my income. I have lost about 60 percent of my turnover, and every month it is getting worse," Ambrosio said.
Fred has come up with a backup plan and will move his business and six employees to Grafenwoehr, where the U.S. Army still maintains its largest training facility in Europe.
But while many locals have been able to prepare for the changes and some have already found new jobs, it is still a difficult farewell for most.
"The military installation in Heidelberg was like a second home to me and my wife," said Gritzbach, the retiree. He started to cry as he talked about the memories of the “good old days.” He cut three roses to put on his wife's grave and waved good-bye as he walked off.
"It is so sad. I have gone through many bitter phases in my life, but this will be one of the most emotional and most difficult farewells of all," Gritzbach said.
This story is part of a series by msnbc.com and NBC News "What the World Thinks of US". The series aims to check the pulse on current perceptions of America's global stature during the election year and ahead of our annual Independence Day.
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