A fierce winter storm has dumped over a foot of snow in areas along the East Coast from the Carolinas to Maine. Passengers have been stranded with thousands of flights as well as train and bus routes canceled until at least Tuesday. The National Weather Service issued blizzard warnings from Maine to New Jersey and a winter storm warning for nearly the entire East Coast. Some areas experienced thunder and lightning as the snow came down Sunday, an extremely rare occurrence of "thundersnow." States of emergency have been declared in North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, Maine and Massachusetts.
In Pakistan, a suicide attack on a World Food Program distribution center has killed 45 people and left tens of thousands without food aid. The attack came in the district of Bajaur, where some 300,000 have recently returned after being displaced by U.S.-backed Pakistani operations against Taliban forces.
In other news from Pakistan, at least 18 people were killed in a suspected U.S. drone strike earlier today. The attack came in the North Waziristan tribal region near the Afghan border. According to the Washington Post, the CIA has carried out at least 112 drone strikes in Pakistan this year. Earlier this month, the U.S. recalled the CIA station chief in Pakistan, Jonathan Banks, after a Pakistani journalist revealed Banks’ identity in a lawsuit over a fatal drone strike. The journalist, Kareem Khan, is seeking millions in compensation for the killing of his 18-year-old son and brother.
New figures show the number of civilians killed or wounded in the Afghan war has increased by 20 percent this year. According to the U.N., militant groups were responsible for killing or injuring over 4,700 civilians during the first 10 months of the year, while Afghan and U.S.-led NATO forces were responsible for the deaths and injuries of 742 civilians. At least 162 people were killed and 120 wounded in U.S. air strikes.
Federal investigators are warning that the participation of companies involved in the Gulf Coast oil disaster is compromising a government probe. The chair of the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, Rafael Moure-Eraso, criticized a decision allowing firms to take part in examining the blowout preventer that failed to stop the oil rig’s explosion. In a letter of protest issued last week, Moure-Eraso writes that the companies’ involvement has "seriously undermined the credibility of the testing" and "jeopardizes the public’s trust in the examination process."
The warning comes as a new independent investigation has found that the April 20th explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig occurred because every single one of the rig’s defenses failed. According to the New York Times, every defense mechanism to prevent an explosion either didn’t work, was activated too late, or wasn’t deployed at all.
State Department cables from the online whistleblower WikiLeaks have provided new details on the global operations of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. According to the New York Times, the DEA has expanded far beyond its mandate to engage in intelligence gathering and eavesdropping worldwide. In Panama, Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli asked the DEA to help him spy on leftist political opponents. The cables say the request was denied.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has announced he’s reached a $1.5 million book deal to write his autobiography. Assange says he doesn’t want to write the book but has been forced to undertake it to help cover his legal costs. Assange is currently in Britain fighting extradition to Sweden to face questioning on allegations of sexual crimes. He also continues to be the reported target of an ongoing Justice Department investigation into WikiLeaks.
In Israel and the Occupied Territories, dozens of international protesters held a rally on Sunday against Israel’s West Bank separation wall and restrictions on Palestinian movement. At least nine people were arrested at an Israeli military checkpoint.
Protester: "We are a group of 80 people from all over France, demonstrating today to emphasize the problem of the Palestinian people. We wanted to pass this checkpoint, and as you could see, this was quite violent. They took people and several wounded people."
Thousands of Palestinian solidarity activists, meanwhile, gathered at a Turkish port Sunday for the return of the flagship vessel in the Gaza-bound aid flotilla attacked by Israel earlier this year. Nine people were killed when Israeli troops stormed the Mavi Marmara and seized the boat along with several other ships. Israel released the Mavi Marmara in August, but it’s since been under repair.
Paveen Yaqub: "How many more humanitarian workers is Israel going to kill? When they kill one, thousands will stand in their place, and this is what we have to remind Israel. They can take our ships. They can keep taking our ships. They can keep taking our brothers. But they won’t take our spirit. They won’t take our determination. They won’t take our sense of humanity."
Bolivia has become the latest Latin American country to recognize an independent Palestinian state in the Occupied Territories. Last week, Bolivia followed Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay in recognizing an independent Palestine in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Bolivian President Evo Morales unveiled the decision.
Bolivian President Evo Morales: "Bolivia cannot continue waiting with arms folded in front of human rights problems, territorial problems, sovereignty problems. As other countries, like Brazil, recognize it as a state, Bolivia agrees with acknowledging the independence and sovereignty of the State of Palestine."
A pending merger between the nation’s largest cable television company, Comcast, and the television and movie giant NBC Universal has moved a step closer to completion. Media democracy advocates have widely criticized the merger. But last week, Federal Communications Commission chair Julius Genachowski issued a draft order approving the deal if the companies pledge to share television content with rival broadcasters and online platforms. If approved, the merger would give Comcast control of the NBC network, the Spanish-language Telemundo, cable channels including MSNBC, dozens of local television stations and the Universal film studio.
Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger has apologized following the release of White House tapes showing he once said the U.S. wouldn’t be concerned if the Soviet Union sent its Jewish population to gas chambers. On the 1973 tape, Kissinger is heard telling then-President Richard Nixon that the U.S. isn’t interested in helping Soviet Jewry emigrate to the United States. Kissinger adds, "And if they put Jews into gas chambers in the Soviet Union, it is not an American concern. Maybe a humanitarian concern.” Kissinger now says his remarks were taken out of context.
The Senate has confirmed President Obama’s nominee Stacia Hylton to head the U.S. Marshals Service. Hylton’s bid had come under criticism over her ties to the private prison industry. Hylton previously worked as a consultant for the GEO Group, the second-largest private prison firm in the United States.
And Homeland Security officials have apologized after adding the local American Civil Liberties Union chapter in Tennessee to a list of "terrorism events and other suspicious activity." The ACLU was included after the group issued a plea to Tennessee schools to ensure that holiday celebrations are inclusive for all religions. The list was put out by Tennessee’s Fusion Center, a collaboration of state and federal law enforcement agencies.