David Shepherd: News Blog

Journalist's Notebook

Explosives Found In Packages In Route to United States

By: David Shepherd [dshepherd@wtwo.com] – Friday, October 29, 2010

NBC News Photo

A terror attack on targets in the United States has been thwarted but law enforcement officials aren’t letting their guard down.

President Barack Obama briefed the country from the White House Press Briefing Room Friday afternoon calling the plot “a credible threat against our country.”

Mr. Obama confirmed earlier reports that packages carrying explosives were found aboard U.S. bound cargo planes in Dubai and the United Kingdom, Friday.

That discovery prompted heightened inspections of cargo plans and trucks in cities across the country.

 Terror officials believe al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula was behind the failed attack.  The devices were found in

The President said, “Although we are still pursuing all the facts, we do know that the packages originated in Yemen.  We also know that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a terrorist group based in Yemen, continues to plan attacks against our homeland, our citizens, and our friends and allies.”

 Mr. Obama said the packages were being sent to two Jewish places of worship in Chicago. 

 Synagogues in Chicago are now being warned to be on alert.

The President addressing the nation about the thwarted terror attacks on the United States

The President reminded Americans about the threat we live under.  “The events of the past 24 hours underscores the necessity of remaining vigilant against terrorism.”

Following the President’s remarks, White House counterterrorism chief John Brennan took the podium to discuss the situation in more detail. He said the devices were “in a form that was designed to try to carry out some kind of attack”.  Clearly, from the initial observation, the initial analysis that was done, the material that was found … was intended to do harm.”

U.S. officials told NBC News the amount of explosives in one of the packages was about five times greater than quantity carried by the would-be Christmas Day bomber. That would make it slightly less than a pound, but that’s a significant amount.

It was unclear how the devices were to be set off.

 FedEx and UPS have suspended receiving shipments from Yemen for “the foreseeable future.”

October 30, 2010 Posted by | News & Current Events | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

President Takes A Dip in the Gulf; Says It’s Clean & Safe

David Shepherd  [dshepherd@wtwo.com] – Saturday, August 14, 2010

Gulf Coast beaches are clean, safe and open for business, according to President Obama Saturday, as he and his family take a “working vacation” on Florida’s Panhandle.

The President pledged to “keep up our efforts until the environment is cleaned, polluters are held accountable, business and communities are made whole, and the people of the Gulf Coast are back on their feet.”

From Panama City to Biloxi, the Gulf Coast towns, which depend on tourism revenues, are more like ghost towns as the spill has many Americans making other vacation plans.

Before the spill, a hot summer weekend would attract thousands of vacationers to Panama City’s white sandy beaches and crystal blue Gulf waters.  Even before tar balls began coming ashore, there was a sharp decline in tourism revenues there.  As the spill grew, the number of tourists tanked. 

With so many people and businesses depending on the tourism dollars that continue to vanish because of the spill, the President sent a

NBC Photo

 confident message that Gulf waters are safe and open for business; he and daughter, Sasha, took a swim in the Gulf.

In a statement from the First Family, the Obamas say they came down to “enjoy the beach and the water — to let our fellow Americans know that they should come on down here.”

The trip has been on the books since Mr. Obama began taking heat for not heeding his own advice that Americans should vacation in the Gulf.  Critics point to the President’s North Carolina vacation and his planned trip to Martha’s Vineyard later this month, as not “practicing what he preaches.”

August 14, 2010 Posted by | News & Current Events, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Accused Russian Spies Gathered Intel on Nuclear Weapons; Other Sensitive Information

By: David Shepherd [dshepherd@wtwo.com] – Monday, June 28, 2010

It sounds more like an old spy novel than reality.  10 people were arrested for allegedly spying on the United States for the Russian Federation, the Justice Department announced Monday.

As details continue to unfold, the more bizarre and potentially dangerous the situation seems.  Authorities say the 10 have been living in the United States for close to 20 years; going to great lengths to cover up any ties to the Russian government.  Officials say they used American names to conceal their identity; using secret code words and making document exchanges in public places like New York City’s Central Park.

The Justice Department says the alleged spies had a special, “deep-cover” mission:  Penetrate U.S. policy-making circles while posing as U.S. civilians.

But now, it appears their lives were anything but ordinary.  They lived across Manhattan, Boston, Montclair, NJ, Yonkers, NY and Arlington, VA while secretly working for the Russian intelligence service, or SVR.  They are the successor to the Soviet KGB.

While 10 of the suspects were arrested Sunday, one was still at large as of Monday night.

Suspects Allegedly Worked For Russian Intel Agency

Court documents show a message sent from the headquarters of the SVR, intercepted by U.S. government officials, to two of the defendants says, “You were sent to USA for long term service trip. Your education, bank accounts, car, house, etc. — all these serve one goal: fulfill your main mission, i.e., to search and develop ties in policy-making circles in the US and send intels (intelligence reports) to Center.”

Another intercepted message talks about one of the alleged spies, known as Cynthia Murphy.  It states she “had several work-related personal meetings” with a man the documents describe as a prominent New York-based financier who was active in politics.

Court documents describe other messages from the suspects to Moscow discussing turnover in the highest levels of the CIA and the 2008 presidential election between President Obama and Senator John McCain.

Sources say the information was received during private conversations between at least one of the suspected spies and a former legislative counselor on Capitol Hill.

Mission: Gather U.S. / World Nuclear Info.

The Justice Department also says Russian intelligence officials wanted one defendant to gain information from a man, who has not been identified, who worked at a U.S. government research facility back in 2004.

The suspect’s intelligence report allegedly said that researcher, “Works on issues of strategic planning related to nuclear weapon development.

That same report claims the suspect had conversations with the researcher about “programs on small yield high penetration nuclear warheads (also known has nuclear “bunker-buster” warheads) recently authorized by the United States Congress.

U.S. intelligence officials say Moscow encouraged the suspects to “try to build up little by little relations,” and to gain more information about U.S. foreign policy, and about the White House “internal kitchen.”   It’s not yet clear what they mean by “internal kitchen.”

Moscow is also accused of sending directives to some of the defendants in advance of President Obama’s visit to Russia last year.  Documents show Moscow wanted information on the United States’ position on a new Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty as well as intelligence information about Afghanistan and Iran’s nuclear programs.

But, according to court documents, the alleged espionage didn’t stop there.  The documents show the defendants developed a short-range wireless network between laptop computers to communicate with other Russian agents.

As the investigation continues, U.S. intelligence officials are trying to determine how much the spies were able to learn during their time in the United States and if, or how, they damaged current or previous U.S. intelligence operations.

June 28, 2010 Posted by | News & Current Events | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Primetime Address: Lights, Camera, Action???

By: David Shepherd [dshepherd@wtwo.com] – Sunday, June 20, 2010

Did President Barack Obama forget to bring some action to his Tuesday night primetime address?  Some say yes.  Americans have been growing increasingly frustrated over the federal government’s response (or lack thereof for some) to the Gulf Oil Crisis.

 A new Associated Press (AP) poll, released Tuesday, shows 52% of Americans disapprove of the President’s handling of the oil spill.  It’s becoming clear this crisis and the federal government’s response, is frighteningly reminiscent of former President George W. Bush’s Hurricane Katrina catastrophe, where the majority of Americans polled felt like Bush’s response was insufficient.

Many hoped Tuesday’s Oval Office address would contain a bit more “Obama Kick-Ass.”  [The President told a reporter recently he met with experts to learn “whose ass to kick,” in the Gulf.]

The President addressed the nation in a somber tone from the hallowed chambers of the Oval Office, comparing the efforts in the Gulf to a battle and vowing to do everything in his power to make it right.

“Tonight I’d like to lay out for you what our battle plan is going forward:  what we’re doing to clean up the oil, what we’re doing to help our neighbors in the Gulf, and what we’re doing to make sure that a catastrophe like this never happens again.”  

But harsh attacks on BP were not the theme of this address.  The President obviously wanted to take a different approach.  He sounded like someone who has been there and understands what the people down there are going through because he has made several trips to the Gulf coast since the spill.

While his tone may not have been what all were hoping for, he did make it clear he will hold BP accountable for their actions.

“We will make BP pay for the damage their company has caused.  And we will do whatever’s necessary to help the Gulf Coast and its people recover from this tragedy.” 

Mr. Obama used a portion of his address to send a clear message to the American people that he is taking care of business.

Yahoo! News Photo

“Tomorrow, I will meet with the chairman of BP and inform him that he is to set aside whatever resources are required to compensate the workers and business owners who have been harmed as a result of his company’s recklessness.  And this fund will not be controlled by BP.  In order to ensure that all legitimate claims are paid out in a fair and timely manner, the account must and will be administered by an independent third party.”

As promised, Mr. Obama met with BP’s CEO at the White House.  In that meeting, the President ordered BP to create a $20 billion compensation guarantee and an apology to the nation from the company.  The fund would set up a large claims fund for shrimpers, restaurant owners and others whose livelihoods depend on the once beautiful waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

The White House also announced the compensation guarantee account would be led by Kenneth Feinberg, he’s the man who handled the 9/11 compensation account.

 

June 21, 2010 Posted by | News & Current Events | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

President Names New National Intelligence Director

By: David Shepherd [dshepherd@wtwo.com]  –  Sunday, June 6, 2010

Courtesy: MSNBC

President Barack Obama nominated retired Air Force Lt. Gen. James Clapper to be the new director of national intelligence.

Clapper, who retired in 1995 after 32 years in the service, has been the top Pentagon intelligence official, will replace Dennis Blair, who resigned last month.

If confirmed, Clapper will be the fourth DNI in the last 5 years.  The position was created after the 9/11 attacks as a way to coordinate and oversee the 16 agencies in the nation’s intelligence community.

June 6, 2010 Posted by | News & Current Events, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New Estimates Show Much More Oil Gushing Into Gulf Than Once Feared

By: David Shepherd [dshepherd@wtwo.com]

New estimates show 500,000 to 1 million gallons of oil are gushing into the Gulf of Mexico in the worst oil spill in the nation’s history.

BP engineers are using robots to place a cap onto the jagged edge of the oil well.  This is the company’s latest attempt to restrict the flow of oil gushing from the blown out well in the Gulf of Mexico.

5,000 feet below the Gulf’s surface, maintenance efforts are being hampered because the hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil gushing out is reducing visibility.

BP says this is not a fix.  Instead, it is meant to restrict, not cut-off, the flow of oil.  As the work is being done, there is the possibility the oil could flow faster than before for a short time (BP hopes).

A permanent fix won’t be ready until August.  With BP’s failure record, many question whether that fix will actually work.

Until Thursday, BP’s plans to stop the oil have failed time after time.  And while it’s too soon to

MSNBC: BP LIVE Video Feed

know if this plan will work, it’s the closest they’ve come so far.

Fears continue to grow along the Gulf coast where oil continues to spread.  So far, between 21 million and 46 million gallons of oil has spewed out of the blown out well and into the Gulf of Mexico.  As of Thursday, oil was spotted six miles from the white sand beaches along the Florida panhandle.

BP will soon be getting a bill from the federal government.  The White House says BP owes $69 million in costs so far.

What do you think?  Is it time for the federal government to take over the emergency efforts going on in the Gulf?  Leave comments and take my Soundoff news poll.

June 4, 2010 Posted by | News & Current Events, Polls, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

SoundOFF Web Poll: Illegal Immigration

Illegal immigration is a hot topic on the minds of many Americans right now.  In the wake of Arizona’s new, “get tough” reform law, state legislators around the country are wondering if they should be next to adopt immigration reform.

As the debate rages on from coast to coast, opponents of Arizona’s law says it’s unconstitutional because immigration is federal jurisdiction.  Those same opponents think the law will be challenged in federal court.  Some think the United States Supreme Court will have the final say.

What do you think about the issue?  Before you answer that question, have YOU read the Arizona Senate Bill 1070?  If not what are you basing your opinions on?  Most people get their opinions based on what they see on television news and in the newspapers.  But remember, the Washington spin machines (both on the left and the right) are in the business of selling their product (in this case public opinion of the Arizona immigration law is the product). 

The republican spinners are great public relations experts.  So are the democratic spinners.  They paint the best picture for the audience and hope it turns the tide of public opinion.  The only way to get PURE facts, without the spin, partisan bitch slapping, and childish he said, she said antics, is to read the bill for yourself. 

CLICK HERE to read the entire bill (It’s not very long).

Now.  What do you think?  Sound off by taking the web poll and commenting on this story.

May 31, 2010 Posted by | News & Current Events, Polls | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment