Archive for April 13, 2012
From the minute you walk into Macy’s until you leave, you are being watched. There are surveillance cameras everywhere that cover almost every square inch of the store. Some are so sophisticated that they can read the address on your drivers license so how could Macy’s crack security team have arrested the wrong shoplifter? That’s exactly what has happened in Houston. KTRK-TV reports that a quick trip to a department store turned into a lengthy ordeal for one woman. And as she waits for answers and an apology, she has a lesson for all shoppers.
Monnicia Gainous can’t even remember how many times she was asked that at this Macy’s at Greenspoint Mall last Saturday afternoon. “He was like, ‘Where’s the stuff? We need our stuff,’” Gainous said. “They insisted that I had something.” And every time she says her answer was the same. “And I’m like, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about, I didn’t do anything,’” Gainous said. The 34-year-old says she was on her way out of the store when she was stopped by loss prevention officers. They accused her of stealing clothing. They searched her purse and even patted her down. “I didn’t have nothing on me,” she said.
From there, she was handed over to HPD and handcuffed. “It was in the back like this, like that,” Gainous said. The officer took her to the storefront, where a female officer again searched her. The outcome was the same and she was released. Gainous says she was held for up to an hour, not only inconvenienced but also embarrassed. “Being put in handcuffs and put in the back of the police car and walking out of the store and having people see me like that,” she said. Shoplifting from stores costs retailers an estimated $13 billion per year, according to online statistics. Macy’s store at Houston’s Baybrook Mall loses almost a million dollars a year. Loss prevention is also a big business but store officers don’t have the same authority as police when it comes to searches.
KTRK legal analyst Joel Androphy says Gainous cold have refused. “If you walk into a store, you don’t sacrifice your personal liberties just because you’re shopping there,” Androphy said. Gainous doesn’t plan to shop there again. The explanation she got two days later… “The supervisor called me and said that they had the wrong person,” Gainous said. And this is her advice to Macy’s: “They’re too aggressive and they need to change their policy; if they detain somebody and they don’t have nothing on them, they should let you go,” she said. KTRK Reporter Jessica Willey wanted to hear from Macy’s for this story, but our emails and calls starting Thursday were never returned — even though Gainous says since we sent our first email, she has received five phone calls from the corporate office.
Most President’s in Barack Obama’s position would not have a chance at re-election. Unemployment continues to hover at 9 percent, and a June poll from American Research Group says 39 percent of Americans disapprove of how he has handled the economy, which 71 percent of registered voters say will be “extremely or very important.” When asked whom they’d vote for in the 2012 presidential election, 47 percent said the “Republican Party’s candidate for president,” as opposed to the 39 percent who would support Obama. Yes, it would be easy to write off Obama for a second term.
Obama isn’t the only incumbent to start a re-election campaign with low approval ratings, but others enjoyed the advantage of a growing economy. Ronald Reagan might not have earned the reputation for political genius he’s been credited with had the economy stalled in 1984 instead of growing at a rapid clip. Likewise, Bill Clinton might not have regained his title as the “comeback kid” if the economy hadn’t begun to supercharge in 1995 and 1996. For Obama, even if the economy grows quickly in 2012, unemployment will still top 8 percent, and per-capita income growth (a major predictor of presidential elections) is projected to stagnate.
Taken together, this is bad news for the White House. But this is the Obama White House and this is 2012. We haven’t seen an election like this one. There is optimism in this White House. To begin with, the President is far more popular than he should be under the current conditions. The relationship between presidential approval and unemployment is well established, and with the jobless rate at 9.2 percent, Obama should have approval numbers in the high 30s, on par with George H.W. Bush’s performance in the last year of his term. According to Gallup, however, his job approval is at 49% while his disapproval rating is around 44% Obama maintains high approval ratings among core Democratic constituencies — liberals, African Americans, and the poor — and a plurality of Americans still trust him to do right by the country. Obama ranks much better than Congress which is mired at a 15% approval rating.
A plurality of Americans hold negative views about the Republican Party as a whole, by a margin of 47 percent to 42 percent. This extends to the state level; Republican governors in swing states are deeply unpopular with their constituents. Governor Rick Scott of Florida leads the loser pack with an approval rating of 29 percent — the worst of any governor in the country. Governor John Kasich of Ohio and Governor Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania follow with approval ratings of 33 percent and 39 percent, respectively. This doesn’t guarantee votes for President Obama, but it could drive Democratic turnout in those states if activists use those unpopular governors to mobilize voters and increase turnout.
Obama’s chief Republican competitors aren’t popular with the public, either or even their own party. Republicans are having a terrible time settling on Mitt Romney and the divisive and ugly primary is taking it’s toll. In a head-to-head matchup, Mitt Romney trails Obama. And if Americans are putting their money where their votes are, the President is well ahead in fundraising having raised $160 (M) million dollars to Romney’s roughly $70 (M) million. Voters hate the sluggish economy, and they are dissatisfied with the country’s direction. So far, though, that hasn’t translated into personal disdain for the president. Voters are still reluctant to saddle him with responsibility for existing economic conditions. By a 2-to-1 margin, according to a survey released last week by Quinnipiac University, voters still say that President George W. Bush is culpable for the current situation. This also holds true among independent voters — 49 percent blame Bush; just 24 percent blame Obama.
It’s easy to say that none of this will matter come October 2012, when the economy is still sluggish and unemployment is still high. If history and political science offer any insight, presidents lose when economic conditions are poor. But today’s political circumstances are unusual. Incumbents have never raised this much money, the electorate has never been this diverse, and — with the exception of the 1930s — the economy has never been this terrible. Political-science models are useful but limited, and we don’t have enough data to make conclusive judgments about the upcoming election.
At this point in the game, even with poor conditions, the 2012 election will be historical with the re-election of Barack Obama. Obama wins a second term not because of his personal popularity or his massive campaign operation but because of the Republican Party. The GOP has been captured by its most extreme members, and even the most moderate Republican candidate (Romney) will be forced to kowtow to the party’s far-right wing to win the nomination and as soon as he secures the nomination, we will do doubt go far to the right and pick Rick Santorum as his running mate assuring the independents and moderates vote for Obama. As Obama struggles with slow economic growth, the GOP’s fanaticism could be the thing that saves him. High unemployment aside, if the history of presidential politics shows anything, it’s that when you give voters a choice between the incumbent they know and the radicals they don’t, the former will win. Simply put Romney is too much like Obama and Santorum is nuts.
If you are looking forward to the 2012 Presidential race and hope to learn what the candidates plan to do for this great country…think again. John McCain knows a thing or two about nasty. Appearing on NBC’s Meet the Press, he reflectedon the current campaigns for a Republican presidential candidate to face off against Obama in November. Romney, Santorum, and Gingrich have all been criticized for waging war against each other in the form of attack ads in key primary states. In McCain’s words, “This is the nastiest [campaign] I have ever seen.” And he was quick to point fingers at the super PACs.
Superpacs or not, Americans are not likely to flock to the polls in November to vote for their favorite candidate. Instead, many will probably stay home fed up with the choices and of the choices the next occupant of the White House will be because of which candidate chases the most people away from the polls on election day. Simply put, hang on for some nasty…ugly campaigning. Neither candidate has offered any compelling reason…yet…why he should win the election. Instead they are focusing on why we should not elect the other guy. This is not likely to change.
When James Carville orchestrated Bill Clinton’s winning “War Room” strategy in 1992, there was no Facebook and no Twitter. Welcome to the 21st centuries first real social media campaign. The speed of light twitter explosion over a democratic strategist and CNN commentator’s ill-advised comment about the presumptive Republican nominee’s wife has made a the “war on women” the biggest media created issue of the week. So far. Yes, polls show President Obama winning the support of women by double digit margins over Mitt Romney and both sides were in the middle of a pitched battle over women. They all determined that a war over women was somehow good politics. And yes, an Obama supporter said something stupid and the Romney camp jumped on it and the Obama campaign attacked it as well. But policies are what’s not being talked about.
The Romney camp has trotted out a dubious statistic saying the Obama administration alone is responsible for 92.3 percent of jobs lost being women. When a Pulitzer Prize winning fact check organization said it was “mostly false” — the campaign attacked them. So, the battle this week has been over a statistic and a pundit’s slip of the tongue. Where does that leave us? This will be the nastiest election ever. Period. This is a consequence of the millions of negative attack television ads run by outside political groups — coupled with the reality that any one-time misstep or badly formed thought on live television from any one person anywhere in the political spectrum can turn into firestorm. (Etch A Sketch anyone?)
So get ready. Every late night pundit can make a stupid comment, just as one time Santorum and now Romney backer Foster Friess said contraception was a pill between a young girl’s knees — and what’s not being talked about is how to fix the country’s problems. Voters be warned: It’s going to be six months for hyper partisan battles over well, who knows what. Call it the grabbing at straws election as the two sides try to turn every-little-thing into a political advantage. At the end of the day, its politics alone and not policies that are driving the debate and what’s leaving the hundreds of millions of Americans not following the Twitter volleys frustrated at what the American political system has become and listen carefully because in between the name calling and why X is worse than Y you might hear someone with a plan for the nation but I wouldn’t count on it.
Robert Hendin is senior producer for “Face the Nation” and a CBS News senior political producer.
Nashville, Tennessee this afternoon.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand the North Koreans. Well…maybe it does. It’s really not that hard to understand why the North Koreans insist on testing nuclear weapons and launching rockets. In the parallel universe of Pyongyang, all that matters is power. Military and government power and the secession of the Kim regime. Anytime the North Koreans act out, it is to prop up the Pyongyang dictatorship that governs a starving country with a million man army. Pure and simple…that’s it and while Japan and South Korea scream that these missile tests and nuclear explosions make the peninsula less stable, the West wrings its hands collectively about how to engage Pyongyang.
What is clear is that the policy of containment and food aid restrictions don’t work. The North Koreans don’t care. North Korea, basically, has nothing to lose and quite a bit to gain by saber-rattling. “How much more isolated can you get?” asks James Acton of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The United Nations has sanctioned North Korea many times over for its provocative acts of the past, and the country’s largest economic and political benefactor China, is unlikely to support any additional penalties at the Security Council this time. “There may be some financial sanctions that the United Statesand its friends can unilaterally apply, but this is already by a long way the most isolated country on Earth,” Acton said. “The truth is that our ability to inflict significant costs on North Korea is not all that large.”
The timing of the launch was not coincidental, and that too played into the North Korean calculus. For years, North Korea has been planning to mark 2012 as a year in which it would show the world it has become a great and prosperous nation. In homage to the centenary of the country’s founder Kim ill Sung, his son and successor Kim Jong-Il had ordered the launchof the satellite around the birthday of Kim Il Sung on April 15. With a leadership succession to Kim Jong Un following the death of his father in December, many Korea watchers say the North could not back down from the launch because it would also serve to fracture the succession process, and expose faults and flaws in the system. “It’s become part of the national identity and nation building, it’s not simply a disguised ballistic missile test,” says Victor Cha, an analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and author of the book “The Impossible State: North Korea, Past and Future.”
For Cha, the launch is part of a national process of building a narrative and myth about the new young leader. For his grandfather Kim il Sung, the constructed narrative was that of a founding father of the ‘workers paradise,’ and for Kim Jong-il it was the development of a nuclear program to complement its ballistic missile technology as a means of protecting the nation from outside forces. “They need to build a new myth for him,” Cha says of Kim Jong Un. Part of that myth is “the notion of trying to reach new technological heights with indigenous technology, not relying on others. So space is the frontier they want to conquer.” There is likely a military component to the launch as well.
While the North portrays it as solely about putting a satellite in orbit to add an air of international legitimacy, the technology of launching satellites and ballistic missiles are similar, and the need to further test their military defense capabilities is needed to move forward. “This is about developing a long-range ballistic missile that is capable of hitting the United States,” said Acton with Carnegie. Before he left office, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates voiced concerns over the North’s military aims. “North Korea now constitutes a direct threat to the United States,” he said in an interview with Newsweek while voicing concern over possible future missile technology that would be more difficult to preemptively destroy. “They are developing a road-mobile ICBM [Intercontinental Ballistic missile]. I never would have dreamed they would go to a road-mobile before testing a static ICBM.” “North Korea needs these [static missile] tests to develop missile technology,” that could lead to advancement in mobile-delivery technology Acton said.
And the legacies of Iraq and Afghanistan may also be playing into the North’s thinking as well. “It’s not just politics, it’s the very life of the system and at the same time it sends a strong message to the world,” said Cha. As Director of Asian Affairs on the National Security Council during the George W. Bush administration, Cha said his North Korea interlocutors told them their large military buildup was largely a product of seeing that Iraq and Afghanistan lacked nuclear weapons, and would never have been attacked had they possessed them. Continuing a campaign of military advancement is a small price to pay to avoid a future U.S. attack in the North’s mind Cha says. “For them, they lose a little bit of food [aid], but in the end, its a win win for them at least in their own way of thinking.” “It’s always at best educated guess-work with the North Koreans,” says Mike Chinoy, a senior fellow at the U.S.-China Institute at the University of Southern California, and author of the book “Meltdown: The Inside Story of the North Korean Nuclear Crisis.”
Chinoy, who traveled to North Korea many times as a CNN correspondent, says there is more than just birthday celebrations and national defense capabilities at work. The North’s mortal enemy and neighbor, South Korea, is a factor as well. “There is a little bit of North-South competition here,” he told CNN. For decades, South Korea has been trying to put a satellite in orbit without any success. “If the North could actually get whatever this thing is on top of their rocket into orbit, they can trumpet that as a triumph over the South.” Most analysts who follow North Korea see a familiar script being re-written with North Korean provocation being followed by global condemnation, and a period of further isolation from the international community. Satellite, ballistic missile test or both, the regime appears certain in its abilities to weather the storm once again.
Chinoy says the invitationto a large contingent of foreign media by North Korea to visit the launch site and report the launch from inside the country is a sign the new regime is very confident of its hold on power, and keep control of events. “I have been there enough to know that the slightest twinge of anxiety and the door just slams shut.” Chinoy raises a most valid point and I would add that the Pyongyang government is learning about effectively using the power of the world press corp. It was meant to be a show-stopping display of military might, a rocket poised to enter orbit to celebrate 100 years since the birth of the man who founded North Korea.
But while the rapid disintegration of Unha-3 may have drawn sighs of relief from countries along its planned trajectory, one analyst says in this case failure may be more dangerous than success. “Given the technology failure on such an important occasion on the 100th anniversary of Kim Il-sung, and given the failure of the symbolism of that, there’s perhaps a need to compensate in some way,” said Rory Medcalf, program director of international security at the Lowy Institute. That compensation could come in the form of short-range missile tests, Medcalf said. However, he added that “they’ve done it so many times before that it’s not all that impressive.” The alternative might be a nuclear test, Pyongyang’s third since 2006, and another way for new leader Kim Jong Un to convey his power to the North Korean people. “I wouldn’t exaggerate it, but the chance of a nuclear test this year is now higher than it was yesterday,” he said.
In the days before Friday’s launch, South Korean intelligence officers predicted that North Korea would use the international chorus of condemnation over the rocket launch as an excuse to test its nuclear technology. In a report obtained by CNN, they said recent satellite images showed the final stages of a tunnel being dug at Punggye-ri, the site of two previous tests in 2006 and 2009. “Their nuclear test in 2006 is believed to have been a fizzer, the one in 2009 was still very small by standards of nuclear weapons, so there’s an argument that their military would want to test again anyway,” Medcalf said. “Also their previous tests used a plutonium design, and they may want to prove a uranium bomb.”
A nuclear test would also fit North Korea’s pattern of serial provocations, analysts said. “Certainly in 2006, you see a launch, you see a condemnation and some Security Council sanctions,” said Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. “You see some very tough words form the North Koreans and then you see a North Korean nuclear test. So it wouldn’t surprise me to see that pattern play out again,” he said.
While the cycle of North Korean provocation and diplomacy might follow a predictable path, questions remain as to why the country pressed ahead with a rocket launch that, based on previous attempts, seemed destined to fail. Unlike previous launches, international media was invited to view launch preparations. They were given an unprecedented tour of the launch site and then front-row seats in a press center that showed blank screens as word spread outside the country that the launch had failed. Lewis said, by inviting journalists, Pyongyang may have been seeking to remove a layer of secrecy surrounding the event, thus reducing the likelihood of harsh international sanctions to a launch planned well before recent negotiations with the U.S. over the resumption of food aid. “I really think that fundamentally they wanted to go ahead with this launch and they were trying to remove some of the pressure that was on them, reduce the chance of sanctions,” he said. “Bringing in the reporters was all part of their efforts at trying to be transparent. In a way they were sort of deluding themselves.”
In late February, North Korea announced an agreement to freeze its nuclear and missile tests, along with uranium enrichment programs, and allow the return of U.N. nuclear inspectors. At the same time, the U.S said it would provide 240,000 metric tons of food aid to the impoverished country. The deal is now off after the launch which the White House says “threatens regional security, violates international law and contravenes its own recent commitments.” Lewis said he believes Friday’s rocket launch was the main motivation behind Pyongyang’s recent willingness to engage with U.S. negotiators. “People have tended to assume it must have been about the nutritional assistance. But I think it makes much more sense to imagine that they knew that they were going to do this rocket launch. And they knew that would trigger a round of sanctions and hostility so they may have been bargaining to try to have the rocket launch, without all the sanctions,” Lewis said.
Any North Korean strategy to avoid tough international sanctions seems to have backfired amid a storm of criticism ahead of a U.N. Security Council meeting on the launch on Friday. The regime’s attempts to broadcast a powerful image to its people also seemed to have crashed along with the rocket debris. Pyongyang’s unprecedented admission of the launch’s failure is a sign, analysts said, that the regime is aware that it’s getting harder to shield the truth from its people. “It is just getting a little bit incrementally harder each year in North Korea to completely deceive its population about what’s known in the outside world. And in this case, you had that extra pressure of expectation from the 100th birthday celebrations and the presence of the foreign media,” Medcalf said. “Perhaps North Korea’s leaders recognize better than we imagined how much information technology has changed the world,” Lewis added.
Several things are a bit more clear after the failed rocket launch. The North Koreans are not going away and have…at the very least…opened the doors to the international media if only for a short time which is something they have never done before. Pyongyang shows no intention of slowing down its nuclear ambitions or it’s rocket launches and the policy of containment and sanctions has never worked and it’s clearly not working now. Maybe…just perhaps…it’s time to sit down at a table and talk to the Pyongyang government without threats, without arguing and with a serious full-fledged attempt to work together to secure peace on the Korean peninsula. Military exercises and threats by both sides have done nothing for decades except insure more saber-rattling. North Korea has opened the door, albeit ever so slightly so perhaps its time to at least try to talk.
CNN contributed to this report.
I realize that we are well into the 2012 Presidential campaign and the candidates are apt to say just about anything. Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney condemned the launch of a long-range rocket by North Korea, saying it puts the region at risk and highlights the “incompetence” of the Obama administration. Incompetence? Really? Compared to what? Compared to Jimmy Carter’s handling of North Korea? Gerald Ford? Richard Nixon? Reagan? Clinton? Bush #1? Bush #2? How…exactly…is Obama’s handling of North Korea “incompetent”?
Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney condemned the launch of a long-range rocket by North Korea, saying it puts the region at risk and highlights the “incompetence” of the Obama administration. Romney’s statement came a few hours after U.S. officials said the rocket was launched Thursday and broke apart before escaping the earth’s atmosphere and falling into the sea. “I condemn in the strongest possible terms the attempted North Korean missile launch,” he said. “Although the missile test failed, Pyongyang’s action is another blatant violation of unanimous U.N. Security Council resolutions and demonstrates once again that Pyongyang is committed to developing long-range missiles with the potential of carrying nuclear weapons.”
North Korea presents “a clear and growing threat to the United States,” he said, arguing the Obama administration’s response has been ineffective. The White House said the failed launch threatens regional security, violates international law and reneges on North Korea’s recent commitments. “North Korea is only further isolating itself by engaging in provocative acts, and is wasting its money on weapons and propaganda displays while the North Korean people go hungry,” the White House said in a statement. The GOP candidate and former Massachusetts governor has said he would invest more in the U.S. military, including shipbuilding for the Navy.
So…just to be clear. Romney, “in the strongest possible terms” condemns North K0rea? I am sure Kim Jung-un is shaking in his boots! And Romney’s solution is to invest more in shipbuilding for the Navy? I didn’t realize naval presence in the Yellow Sea or near Japan was an issue seeing that we carry out major exercises in the region several times a year. Romney’s comments are idiotic at best. Romney said President Barack Obama has “no effective response” to North Korea’s weapons program and supported a “food-aid deal” “that proved to be as naive as it was short-lived.”
On this issue, Romney is clearly not ready for prime time and is weighing in on something he obviously has no clue about. Obama’s policy toward North Korea is no different than the policies of previous President’s since the establishment of the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea. If Mitt thinks a few more ships are going to make a difference he is sorrowfully mistaken. The North Koreans simply do not care. I can hardly wait to hear how Mitt plans to increase job growth and grow the economy. Building ships is not the answer.
NORMAN, Oklahoma — (DMN/Accuweather) – A life-threatening, large outbreak of tornadoes is forecast to unfold across the central and southern Plains this weekend. According to AccuWeather.com Chief Meteorologist Elliot Abrams, “The risk is about as high as it gets.” Oklahoma City and Wichita lie in the heart of the tornado threat area that extends from near Wichita Falls, Texas, to near Omaha, Neb., late Saturday afternoon through Saturday night. Despite a seemingly tranquil start to the day Saturday, the environment will be such that numerous damaging thunderstorms will form from 4:00 p.m. CDT on through much of the night. A number of these storms will produce tornadoes.
Given current trends, it appears as if the severe weather late Saturday will, at the very least, reach the level of an outbreak with the potential for dozens of tornadoes. Such events are typically seen only a handful of times each year. Unfortunately, the worst-case scenario is also on the table. In this situation, there is the possibility of a large-scale outbreak of twisters. Some of the tornadoes could be very strong and remain on the ground for miles. AccuWeather.com Meteorologist Meghan Evans first warned of the threat for tornadoes earlier in the week, saying, “The ingredients for a tornado outbreak may come together across portions of the Plains later Saturday.”
Unfortunately, it now looks as if all those ingredients will come together. A powerful storm moving into the West today will reach the southern Plains by Saturday. The storm system, combined with a strong rush of wind aloft via the jet stream and a warm, moisture-rich air mass in place originating from the Gulf of Mexico, will allow thunderstorms to fire late in the day. The difference in wind direction well up in the atmosphere (from the west) and at the surface (from the south) will enhance the threat for tornadoes. The thunderstorms that will spawn the tornadoes will also drop large, damaging hail, and could produce powerful wind gusts in excess of 60 mph without the help of a funnel.
While a few isolated storms will be possible earlier Saturday, the more powerful storms will wait until late afternoon to fire, probably along and just to the west of the I-35/I-135 corridor from Oklahoma City to Salina, Kan. As Evans points out, the greatest risk for tornadoes will be across central and eastern Kansas through central Oklahoma Saturday evening. A smaller, although still serious risk will also exist farther to the south into central Texas and north into eastern Nebraska and Iowa. A dangerous situation will become even more precarious after dark with the threat for severe storms and tornadoes continuing and even expanding farther east into western Missouri, eastern Oklahoma, northern Texas and northwestern Arkansas.
Joplin and Kansas City, Mo.; Tulsa, Okla., and even the western suburbs of Dallas-Fort Worth could be in for a stormy night. Portions of several major highways will be at risk, including Interstates 20, 29, 30, 35, 40, 44, 70, 80, 135, 335 and 540. If you are traveling and a potential tornado is approaching, be prepared to abandon your vehicle and seek safe shelter. Better yet, stay off the roads if you hear that thunderstorms are approaching. Because of the threat, it is imperative that you keep up to date with the weather situation over the next several days, especially on Saturday. Have a plan of action before heading out or to bed. Immediately head to the basement or a storm shelter if a warning is issued. Mobile homes and trailers should always be evacuated, as well. Knowing ahead of time what to do in the event of a tornado or strong thunderstorm could save your life.
The next few days are expected to be warm and breezy in the Houston area, but a powerful storm system is likely to rake the region late this weekend and early next week, sparking possibly heavy downpours, hail and tornadoes. The upper-level disturbance is expected to hit sometime late Sunday or early Monday, bringing heavy winds and strong thunderstorms, according to the National Weather Service. Forecasters said some of the storms could be severe, packing hail and tornadoes. Most areas, forecasters added, can expect to see between about an inch and three inches of rainfall. Some spots could see up to about five inches of rain. A mild cold front is expected to follow the system into the region and the area dries quickly after the storm passes, forecasters added.
On Friday, the high temperature will top out near 84 degrees under partly sunny skies. South winds will be between about 5 mph and 15 mph with gusts up to 20 mph. The overnight low will be near 71. A 20 percent chance of showers is possible Saturday, especially after about 1 p.m. as the storm system approaches the region, forecasters said. The high will be near 84 degrees under mostly cloudy skies. Breezy south winds will be between 10 mph and 15 mph with gusts up to 25 mph. The low will be about 71.
Slight rain chances continue early Sunday, increasing to 50 percent at night as the storms arrives. The high will be about 83. South winds will be about 15 mph to 20 mph. Gusts could be as high as 25 mph. The overnight low will be about 68. Forecasters said drenching downpours are likely Monday, when a 50 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms is possible. The high will be about 77 degrees under mostly cloudy skies. The low will be near 68 as the mild cold front pushes through the region. Rain chances drop slightly to 40 percent at night. The area dries out Tuesday and cools down slightly much of next week. The highs will be in the lower 80s. The lows will range between the upper 50s and about 60 degrees. No rain is forecast.
Important Tornado Safety Tips to Follow
Accuweather and the Houston Chronicle contributed this report.
INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana — (DMN) – Scaffolding that collapsed during a storm and killed seven people during the Indiana State Fair last year was not up to standard, and the fair’s commission did not have adequate emergency planning in place, according to two investigative reports presented Thursday. “Calculations and in-situ physical testing determined the Jersey barrier ballast (support) system had grossly inadequate capacity to resist both the minimum code-specified wind speed (68 miles per hour) and the actual wind speed that was present at the time of the failure (approximately 59 miles per hour),” according to a report by Thornton Tomasetti Inc., an engineering firm.
The findings were presented by representatives from the firm and officials from Witt Associates, a public safety and crisis management consulting group. The National Weather Service had estimated winds of 60 to 70 mph were raking the area when the incident occurred in August. A massive gust of wind brought down the stage, killing five people and injuring dozens. Two others later died as a result of the collapse. “A big gust of wind came through. You could see a lot of people panicking. All the scaffolding and speakers — all that came crashing down — and the whole stand just collapsed,” said Aaron Richman at the time, who witnessed the collapse.
Sugarland, the country music duo of Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush who were scheduled to perform during the fair, issued a statement Thursday saying that, “In all the back-and-forth between the lawyers, the suggestion’s been made that we’ve somehow been trying to avoid having to answer questions about last summer’s terrible tragedy.” “This is simply not true,” they said. “There is no one who wants to get to the bottom of what happened more than we do, which is why we’re ready, willing, and able to give these depositions today and tomorrow.” They added that they “want all the facts to come out, not only for the sake of all the victims and their loved ones, but also so we can make sure that nothing like this ever happens again.”
Allan Mayer, the group’s spokesman added: “The fact is that Jennifer and Kristian never told anyone not to delay the concert because of the weather. They care deeply about their fans and, as they’ve said, nobody wants to get to the bottom of what happened more than they do.” Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels said his administration “will insist on immediate and complete implementation of the recommendations in this report.” “But it’s also now clear that most, if not all states, have been deficient in this area and have much to learn from this tragedy,” he said in a statement. “We will share freely all these findings and suggestions with any state who will listen, starting later this month at a national meeting in Indianapolis about national safety standards for outdoor temporary stages and structures.”
In February, the Indiana Department of Labor announced penalties totaling $80,800 following a worker safety investigation into the collapse. The largest fines — totaling $63,000 for what the agency said were three “knowing violations” — were levied on Mid-America Sound Corp., which built the stage structure and leased it to the fair. Metal scaffolding supporting the stage lights fell onto a crowd of fans and workers as a storm swept through the Indianapolis fairgrounds on August 13, 2011, right before Sugarland was to perform.
Indiana State Fair stage collapse: What went wrong?
No one took command as a storm approached, emergency plans were inadequate, the communications were ragtag and the construction was shoddy. Oversight of safety standards? Nonexistent. Yet top Indiana State Fair officials in charge at the time of last year’s fatal stage rigging collapse will keep their jobs — despite a pair of scalding reports issued Thursday. With the blessing of Gov. Mitch Daniels, the Indiana State Fair Commission announced that its president and executive director will stay on to run the fair and implement recommendations from two independent firms that investigated the tragedy.
The investigations — one a technical analysis of how the stage went down, the other focused on decision-making — criticized the Fair Commission as unprepared for the Aug. 13 storm that blew down the stage rigging as the band Sugarland prepared to go onstage. The collapse killed seven people and injured 58. The reports paint fair officials as disorganized, misinformed and inattentive to construction of the stage, which investigators said was flimsily constructed. “There was ambiguity of authority and decision-making,” said Charlie Fisher, vice president of Witt Associates, Washington, D.C. “It created uncertainty and confusion.”
Witt and New York City-based Thornton Tomasetti presented the long-anticipated reports at the regular meeting of the Indiana State Fair Commission, the quasi-governmental body in charge of the State Fairgrounds. The investigations cited several critical failures: inadequate emergency planning, indecision and communications breakdowns among those in charge as they tried to decide whether to evacuate the stands while a storm moved in. It also revealed that the rigging and wires that kept the stage upright were too weak to handle not only the 59 mph wind that blew it over but much lighter breezes. Fair officials promised to implement the firms’ recommendations, which include hiring a chief operating officer to oversee public safety. At least one victim of the tragedy said she would prefer to see improvements rather than an extended blame game. “I would feel better if people would just quit pointing fingers and tell exactly the truth of what happened and be honest,” said Lisa Hite, 49, who, with her 8-year-old granddaughter, sustained head injuries.
While much in the report focused on the performance of Executive Director Cindy Hoye, the commission voted to retain her and to hire another executive, who will be in charge of emergency operations. “These reports are really hard for me to read,” said Commission Chairman Andre Lacy. “But this meeting was never intended as a means of placing blame.” Hoye has offered several times to resign, Lacy revealed, but he wouldn’t accept it and urged her to “see it through.” In fact, Lacy said, no fair officials have been disciplined or reprimanded in connection with the tragedy. Hoye now will be responsible for making sure Witt’s recommendations are followed through. The commission also agreed to hire Witt to oversee implementation of its recommendations. “Cindy’s performance from now on will be defined by the actions I am proposing the commissioner to take,” Lacy said.
Lacy refused to say whether he had offered his own resignation, but Daniels’ office agreed that the commission deserved the benefit of the doubt. “Andre Lacy is demonstrating a sense of the kind of accountability, transparency and integrity that should be used to approach problems,” said Jane Jankowski, the governor’s spokeswoman. “The follow-up and implementation of the professionals’ recommendations will be the factor in whether he and his colleagues ought to continue their service.” Jankowski said Hoye is much sought-after and should also keep her job. “The governor said that retaining Cindy is exactly the right decision,” Jankowski said. “We know that there are other states and other organizations that would like to hire Cindy because she is known in the industry as being one of the best in the business. We’re lucky to still have her.”
Hoye, during her brief comments during the Fair Commission meeting, said the collapse haunts her. “Not a night goes by when I don’t replay the events in my head over and over,” she said, adding that she “understands the need for accountability.” “My hope is that these changes in some small way will honor the memories of those we lost and who were injured.” Hoye refused to talk to reporters after the meeting. The reports’ findings run counter to statements made by Daniels, who in the days immediately following the stage collapse called the powerful wind gust that upset the stage a “fluke.” “Well, we know a lot more today than we did back in August 2011, and that’s exactly why we hired the two firms to come in and to do the work that they’ve done,” Jankowski said. “This is the information that we need to move forward.”
In a statement released Thursday, Daniels said, “We’d give anything to have that night over, but occasionally something positive can come out of terrible tragedy, and we have to do all we can to make that happen here.” Daniels said he will insist on “immediate and complete implementation of the recommendations in this report.” “But it’s also now clear that most, if not all, states have been deficient in this area and have much to learn from this tragedy,” he said. “We will share freely all these findings and suggestions with any state who will listen, starting later this month at a national meeting in Indianapolis about national safety standards for outdoor temporary stages and structures. The meeting is being hosted here because of the State Fair accident.”
Among the studies’ recommendations are that the fair develop an emergency plan and follow through with it. “The plans in place were not fully developed, and what they had was not followed,” Fisher said. The Tomasetti probe found that the stage was so poorly built that the concrete anchorsthat secured it started sliding when winds hit 33 mph. The anchors should have been able to withstand winds up to 68 mph, Tomasetti officials said. Even if the four large barriers had stood their ground, the wires connecting them with the stage — and the latches to the stage — would have given way eventually.
Scott Nacheman, a vice president at Tomasetti, said the so-called “Jersey barriers” — familiar to motorists as highway barricades — slid from a couple of inches to 10 feet. He said the blowing of the tarp on top of the stage roof had little impact on the collapse because the stage was already on its way down. “Once gravity had taken over, there was no way the structure was going to support itself, and it ultimately was going to fail,” he said. The ultimate cause of the collapse, Nacheman said, was inadequate lateral support. Fair Commission officials had no idea the stage was so poorly constructed, Nacheman said. One finding concluded that the commission “has no records, documentation, plans, engineering reports or related technical data regarding the ISF structure that is erected at the fairgrounds on an annual basis.”
The Witt report cataloged the moments leading to the collapse and the decision to let the show go on despite several warnings of severe weather. It found that a severe thunderstorm warning at 8:39 p.m., issued after fair officials had been monitoring the weather all day, never got to Hoye because of communications foul-ups. Investigators also found — as others have — that the band Sugarland twice said it opposed postponing the show. As a result, Hoye agreed the band would go on at 8:50 p.m. Witt Vice President Ken Mallette said nobody with the fair quite understood who had final authority to call off a show. “Hoye, in my estimation, thought that the band could make the final call,” Mallette said.
In fact, Hoye stated in an interview with Witt investigators that “the bands had always led, and if the band wanted to go on stage, they went on stage. Nobody is going to tell them what to do.” But after talking to Indiana State PoliceCapt. Brad Weaver, she apparently changed her mind. Minutes before the collapse, she told Weaver “that he had the authority and should make the call,” according to the report. The decision to evacuate came too late, however. “Before they got to make the announcement, the structure collapsed,” Mallette said.
Though Fair Commission officials said assessing blame wasn’t the purpose for the reports, they will be used as ammunition in multiple lawsuits swirling around the tragedy. Don Asher, a spokesman for attorney Kenneth J. Allen, who’s representing several of the victims, said Allen’s law firm already had a good idea of who was responsible for the collapse. “The people that were in control of this performance were the decision-makers,” Asher said. “They had real-time weather, they had Doppler radar, they had all the information to know that a perilous situation was developing and did nothing. The cost of this egregious lack of good judgment took a human toll beyond measure.”
Allen couldn’t be at the meeting because he was in West Virginia to take depositions from Sugarland members Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush. Those depositions are expected to continue today. A statement issued by the band said, “In all the back-and-forth between the lawyers, the suggestion’s been made that we’ve somehow been trying to avoid having to answer questions about last summer’s terrible tragedy. This is simply not true. There is no one who wants to get to the bottom of what happened more than we do, which is why we’re ready, willing and able to give these depositions today and tomorrow. The judge has put limits on what can be discussed, but within those limits, we intend to be as honest and open as we can. “We want all the facts to come out, not only for the sake of all the victims and their loved ones, but also so we can make sure that nothing like this ever happens again.”
The findings from Witt Associates and Thornton Tomasetti didn’t surprise Hite, who is among a group of victims that filed a lawsuit in Marion Superior Court. She said it will be difficult to get closure until the people involved start accepting responsibility. “I really hope that everyone has learned from this tragedy,” she said, “and tries to make some honest changes to make sure that this type of thing doesn’t happen again.” The two firms’ reports echoed many of the conclusions made in an Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration report released in February. IOSHA issued $80,000 in fines, citing lack of emergency preparation and a failure to adequately build and inspect the stage rigging.
A spokeswoman for Mid-America Sound Corp., which owned the stage, said the company doesn’t want to comment on Tomasetti’s evaluation of the stage until it has had a chance to read the full report, which is nearly 1,500 pages. “Since the oral report that was delivered (Thursday) is just a portion of the larger report, we all really need to drill down and understand exactly what was behind some of what they were saying,” said Myra Borshoff Cook. But, she said, the company has been in business for 30 years and has lots of experience with setting up stages. “They’ve done hundreds of these events without incident,” she said.
Rep. Ed DeLaney, D-Indianapolis, who supported legislation this year to regulate outdoor stages, said he found the reports “very troubling.” “We were not prepared in terms of our procedures, and obviously there were multiple problems with the stage,” he said. “The wind was not as high as the minimum standard that was supposed to be protected against, and yet this happened.” The legislation was drafted quickly, so the legislature set it up to expire in 2014. DeLaney said the reports will go to committees that will study what went wrong and what provisions should go in a new bill. “We’ve got to find a long-term statute that will help address these issues,” DeLaney said. “This is pretty disturbing.”
CNN and the Indianapolis Star contributed to this report.
Indianapolis, Indiana this morning.