Boston (CNN) — Widespread power outages, transit delays and long lines at gas stations marked the start of challenging week for millions of residents of the Northeastern United States, where a freak October snowstorm dropped more than 2 feet of snow in some places.
About 1.8 million customers in five states remained without power Monday, and officials warned it could be Friday before power is restored everywhere.
Utilities throughout the region reported significant progress in restoring power, but the cold, snowy conditions and house-by-house nature of the damage was slowing the work, officials said.
At least 13 deaths have been blamed on the weekend storm, which prompted emergency declarations from the governors of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts, and also put Halloween trick-or-treating plans in jeopardy. About a dozen Massachusetts cities have postponed the annual ritual, according to CNN affiliate WGGB.
By Al Arabiya
Iranian and U.S. government representatives have discussed ways to prevent Syria descending into bloody chaos should the regime of embattled President Bashar al-Assad collapse, French daily newspaper Le Figaro reported Sunday quoting a Syrian opposition figure in exile.
The paper said the back channel diplomacy between American and Iranian diplomats occurred at two meetings, one at the end of August and one at the beginning of September, but it did not indicate where.
“They spoke about putting in place a high military council on the Egyptian model, with generals running the country and responsible for making senior strategic option,” the paper quoted the Syrian opposition figure as saying.
According to a French diplomat in charge of the Syrian crisis quoted in the report, Iranian officials have adapted to the idea of a new government in Damascus and “even to a change at the top of the regime.”
The diplomat said that Iran was keen to avoid a civil war in Syria as it could spill over across its border. The paper said the relationship between Tehran and Damascus was not balanced and Iran weighs heavier, which explains the influence Iran has on the regime in Damascus.
Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) — The suicide bombing that killed 13 people in a NATO convoy on Saturday was the work of the Pakistan-based Haqqani network, an Afghan official said Monday.
“We have some contacts and some evidence on the ground and some information about the vehicles used and the people used,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said, stressing that the results of the investigation were preliminary.
U.S. officials have been increasingly vocal about the threat posed by the Haqqani network in recent months, arguing the organization has ties to Pakistani intelligence and enjoys safe havens in the country from which it is able to launch attacks across the border in Afghanistan.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said he would not “waste his time” talking about the body leading the opposition against him, as the Arab League was on Monday awaiting a response from Assad to its proposals for ending bloodshed in Syria.
The Arab League Chief, meanwhile, said that the proposed Arab plan to end months of bloodshed in Syria includes a demand to remove tanks from the streets.
“The Arab proposal to Syria calls for withdrawing tanks and all military vehicles to bring an immediate end to the violence and give assurances to the Syrian street,” Arabi told AFP in the Qatari capital Doha on Monday.
Editor’s note: LZ Granderson, who writes a weekly column for CNN.com, was named journalist of the year by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and is a 2011 Online Journalism Award finalist for commentary. He is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN the Magazine and ESPN.com and the 2009 winner of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation award for online journalism. Follow him on Twitter at @locs_n_laughs.
Grand Rapids, Michigan (CNN) — If you haven’t heard the audio clip of high school football coach Shawn Abel going off, you need to take two minutes out of your life to do so.
It is classic.
Dude is yelling and screaming and you can hear stuff being banged around, and I don’t believe any actor outside of maybe Samuel L. Jackson could come close to re-enacting the level of passion that is wrapped around each curse word that comes flying out of this man’s mouth.
It is ^%$^&!! unbelievable.
But based on that clip — and the fact Abel is smart enough to teach A.P. precalculus — if my son played football at Collierville, I would be perfectly fine with him having Abel as his coach. Unfortunately Coach Abel resigned this week because, well, this audio clip exists. Some of the players secretly recorded Abel’s pregame speech, and one of them posted it on YouTube.
The actions of the players make me more upset than Abel’s rant.
Coach was ticked because they weren’t playing together as a team. What kind of player leaks his coach’s speech to the press?
A selfish one, thus proving his point.
While I’m sure it was uncomfortable for some of the players to sit through, I didn’t hear anything that was offensive. He cursed, he yelled. Big deal. It’s football, not Sesame Street.
If this is his only offense, the community should rally around the coach, encourage him to come back and tell the high school players to toughen up. They should not punish a man who has poured 25 years of his life into the community or someone who cares so much he talks about being a Collierville Dragon with pride.
Obviously if he’s been a teacher at the school for this many years, he clearly understands the difference between the field and the classroom, otherwise he would have been fired for going the ^%^%* off years ago. There is certainly language that I think is unacceptable under any circumstances, but I didn’t hear any of that on the clip.
He didn’t use any slurs; he didn’t threaten a player’s safety; he didn’t call the players anything other than apathetic and selfish. In some ways, it was one of the most respectful undressings I’ve ever heard. Since the story broke, there’s been a Facebook page established to show support. I’ve also seen anonymous quotes from Collierville players characterizing Abel as a “psycho” and noting that wasn’t his first rant. And I’m sure it wasn’t, given they had lost four of five games and need to win Friday to make the playoffs.
But funny, I didn’t see any quotes that denied Abel’s assessment of the team’s playing or their commitment to hard work. It was as if the players knew they weren’t playing up to their potential. They just didn’t like the way the coach said it. And having been around sports my entire adult life, I can tell you a lot of athletes — on every level — do not like it when a coach points out their faults. There is a line, but Abel didn’t cross it. There are some places in life where boo boos are met with a hug. The locker room is not one of them.
Near my home there is a gymnastics school, and plastered on the wall facing the highway it reads “Every child is a champion.” Each time I drive by, I just want to pull over, run inside and tell the kids the truth.
“Little Johnny, Little David, Mitch… these people are lying to you — only one of you can be a champion. They don’t hand out three gold medals… See you later.”
We are so obsessed with shielding kids from disappointment and discomfort that they have no idea how to deal with life when they leave the nest. That’s not parenting, that’s crippling.
Abel’s speech may have been shocking, but it may also have been the best thing to have happened to a kid in that locker room because it placed him in a highly stressful, highly confrontational situation, and the kid learned he can handle it.
I can hear parents now saying, “But this is just high school,” to which I say, yes it is, and Abel was trying to teach his players something. I hope they reinstate him as coach so he can finish the lesson.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of LZ Granderson.
By Al Arabiya
Embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad warned of an “earthquake” that would burn the Middle East if Western powers launched a military attack on his regime, in an interview with Britain’s Sunday Telegraph newspaper.
“Syria is the hub now in this region. It is the fault line, and if you play with the ground you will cause an earthquake . Do you want to see another Afghanistan, or tens of Afghanistans?
“Any problem in Syria will burn the whole region. If the plan is to divide Syria, that is to divide the whole region,” Assad said.
Previously, Syria’s grand mufti, Shiekh Ahmad Badreddin Hassoun, in a video posted on YouTube, said suicide bombers were present in the United States, France and Britain and are ready to strike if Western powers launch a military strike on his country.
“I say this to all of Europe, and I say this to America: We will prepare suicide bombers, who are already in your country, to strike you if you strike Syria or Lebanon. After today, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth and the initiator is the aggressor.”
“After the first rocket hits Syria, Lebanese and Syrian children will set off for Europe and Palestine, where they will be martyrs.”
U.S. Senator John McCain had raised the prospect of a possible armed intervention to protect civilians in Syria.
“Now that military operations in Libya are ending, there will be renewed focus on what practical military operations might be considered to protect civilian lives in Syria,” McCain told a World Economic Forum meeting in Jordan.
Syrian tanks shelled a historic district in the city of Homs, killing at least three people, activists said.
The violence came a day after one of the bloodiest days of the seven-month-old uprising, during which 40 people died after Friday protests.
More than 3,000 people have died in the unrest since protests calling for the government of President Bashar al-Assad to step down broke out in March.
Mr Assad warned of an “earthquake” if the West intervenes in his country.
A Taliban suicide bomber has rammed an explosives-laden car into a bus carrying members of the International Security Assistance Force in the Afghan capital, Kabul, killing 17 people.
The Isaf personnel – eight civilians and five soldiers – were all American, the Pentagon says.
Canada says one of its soldiers died.
Three Afghan civilians and a police officer were also killed – in what is one of the worst ground attacks against foreign troops since 2001.
Such attacks are rare in heavily-fortified Kabul.
Separately, three Australian soldiers were killed by a man in Afghan army uniform. Nato said the gunman was also killed in that attack in the south of the country.
And a teenage girl carried out a suicide attack on a building of the Afghan spy agency, the National Directorate of Security, in the eastern province of Kunar, killing herself and wounding several NDS personnel.
Fewer attacks have hit Kabul this year, compared to 2010.
But the Taliban and the Pakistan-based Haqqani network, which is linked to it, have still been able to penetrate the city’s defences.
In September, the Haqqani network launched an attack on the American embassy and Isaf headquarters which lasted 20 hours.
(Reuters) – More than 1,000 activists protesting economic inequality reclaimed a downtown Oakland plaza late on Wednesday, a day after demonstrators were driven out and an Iraq war veteran was critically hurt in clashes with police.
The severe injury of Scott Olsen, 24, a former U.S. Marine who friends said served two tours of duty in Iraq, became a rallying cry among Occupy Wall Street supporters in Oakland and beyond as organizers urged protesters back into the streets.
Police kept their distance as protesters returned to the scene of Tuesday’s confrontations, while protesters largely avoided provoking them, although one activist defiantly set up a single, small tent in the square after midnight.
In Portland, Oregon, a crowd estimated to number at least 1,000 joined in a march organized by the AFL-CIO labor federation in support of the anti-Wall Street movement.
Demonstrators also rallied peacefully in San Francisco, and Twitter buzz suggested turnouts may have gotten a boost from outrage generated by news of the injured Oakland veteran.
Supporters in New York voted on Wednesday to send $20,000 and 100 tents to their peers in Oakland, according to a Twitter message from a protester identified as J.A. Myerson and re-tweeted by the Occupy Wall Street group.
The liberal activist group MoveOn.org said it was creating a “rapid response ad” from video footage of what it described as a “brutal crackdown” on Tuesday in which Olsen was hurt.
Rally organizers said Olsen was struck in the head on Tuesday by a tear gas canister police fired at protesters trying to reclaim a downtown plaza where a makeshift encampment had been forcibly removed before dawn on the same day.
A spokesman for Highland General Hospital in Oakland confirmed Olsen was in critical condition from injuries sustained in the protest but could not say how he was hurt.
Acting Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan told a news conference his department was investigating the incident.
He declined to confirm whether Olsen was struck with a projectile fired by law enforcement but said Oakland police did launch tear gas and so-called “bean bag” munitions on Tuesday when demonstrators defied orders to disperse.
Jordan, acknowledging his department had received complaints of excessive force during the protests, said his officers were under orders to accommodate peaceful rallies and marches. But he added that “no camping will be allowed overnight” on public property.
The altercations erupted on Tuesday when about 1,000 activists sought to retake an outdoor plaza adjacent to City Hall that police had already cleared, arresting 85 people.
On Wednesday night, a crowd of at least 1,000 demonstrators were allowed back into the square. Some immediately ripped down a fence erected to close off a grassy area after authorities had removed tents and sprayed disinfectant chemicals.
But the crowd was otherwise peaceful and activists met to discuss strategy, including a proposal to call for a general citywide strike next week.
In contrast with Tuesday’s events, police stayed on the sidelines even as the bulk of the crowd left the plaza to march, chanting, through downtown streets for nearly two hours. As demonstrators returned to the square around midnight, some danced to Beatles music blared from loudspeakers.
“It’s much different to be dancing on the steps of City Hall with a sign than to be running from tear gas from the police,” said one protester who identified himself only as a teaching assistant named Scott.
BADLY HURT AFTER TWO TOURS IN IRAQ
Keith Shannon, who said he served with Olsen in Iraq, told Reuters his friend suffered a 2-inch skull fracture and brain swelling and had been sedated in the hospital’s emergency room trauma center while neurosurgeons decided whether to operate.
The hospital declined to comment on those medical details.
“The irony is not lost on anyone here that this is someone who survived two tours in Iraq and is now seriously injured by the Oakland police force,” said his friend, Adele Carpenter, who spoke to Reuters by phone from the hospital waiting room.
The “Occupy Wall Street” protests, which began in New York City last month, take issue with a financial system they say most benefits corporations and the wealthy. They are critical of U.S. government bailouts of big banks, high unemployment and economic inequality.
Loosely organized protest groups have since sprung up across the United States and in countries around the world. Tensions were building in several cities where authorities have been treading a fine line between allowing peaceful protest and addressing concerns about trespassing, noise and safety.
In an early morning raid in Atlanta, police evicted dozens of protesters from a downtown park and arrested 53 who refused to leave. They were allowed to camp in the park for three weeks, but Mayor Kasim Reed said he decided to evict them because of fire code violations and crowd control issues.
In Orlando, demonstrators had been complying with orders to vacate a park overnight and left their belongings, only to have police confiscate the property. And in Baltimore, the city ordered protesters to drastically reduce the number of people who camped overnight from roughly 200 to two people in a single tent. Protesters were given a Wednesday deadline to comply.
In the birthplace of the demonstrations, New York City, authorities have largely averted confrontation. Over 700 protesters loudly but peacefully marched through lower Manhattan on Wednesday to denounce for-profit health care.
(Additional reporting by Mary Slosson in Los Angeles, Barbara Liston in Orlando, David Beasley in Atlanta, Dan Cook in Portland, Jason Tomassini in Baltimore and Chris Francescani in New York; Writing by Steve Gorman and Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Greg McCune, Jackie Frank and Cynthia Johnston)
A Misrata military council official says Muammar Qaddafi, his son Motassim and a top aide have been buried in a secret location, with a few relatives and officials in attendance.
In a text message read to The Associated Press, spokesman Ibrahim Beitalmal is quoted as saying the burial took place at 5 a.m. Tuesday, and that Islamic prayers were read over the bodies. The information could not be independently verified.
The three bodies had been held in cold storage in Misrata since Qaddafi was captured near his hometown of Sirte on Thursday. Qaddafi died in unclear circumstances within hours of his capture, and Libya’s new leaders have promised an investigation.
Beitalmal has said the burial site would remain secret to prevent vandalism.
An official with the National Transitional Council had said that Qaddafi would be buried on Monday “in a simple burial with sheikhs attending.”
“It will be an unknown location in the open desert,” the official told Reuters by telephone, adding that the decomposition of the body had reached the point where the “corpse cannot last longer.”
“No agreement was reached for his tribe to take him,” he added. Asked if Qaddafi’s son Motassim would be buried in the same ceremony, the official said: “Yes.”
Meanwhile the NTC said the deposed Libyan leader’s fugitive son, Saif al-Islam Qaddafi, is near the borders with Niger and Algeria and planning to flee the country using a forged passport.
“He’s on the triangle of Niger and Algeria. He’s south of Ghat, the Ghat area. He was given a false Libyan passport from the area of Murzuq,” the official told Reuters by telephone.
The official said Muammar Qaddafi’s former intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi was involved in the escape plot.
“In the south, they intercepted Thuraya (satellite telephone) communications. Abdullah Senussi has been on the border in that area to organize his exit and also a neighboring intelligence source tipped us off about that,” the official said.
Saif al-Islam, a fluent English speaker who studied at the London School of Economics, is the only one of Muammar Qaddafi’s sons still unaccounted for.
Two fled to Algeria, one is in Niger, two were killed earlier in the Libyan conflict and one, Mo’tassim, was killed after being captured with his father last week near the city of Sirte.
The International Criminal Court earlier this year issued an arrest warrant for Saif al-Islam, and another for al-Senussi.
The NTC official said it would be difficult to track Saif al-Islam’s movements and stop him crossing out of Libya.
“The region is very, very difficult to monitor and encircle. It needs warplanes. Even NATO cannot monitor this area,” he said.
“It needs a large force of our brigades to intercept and to be able to monitor and hunt him down. It is very, very difficult. All we have there is some small-scale patrols of our fighters.”
“The region is a desert region and it has many exits. It is also a smuggling route. It has many, many exit routes.”