Posted Tuesday, May 21, 2013, at 4:31 PM
Photo by Maj. Geoff Legler, Oklahoma National Guard Public Affairs/U.S. Department of Defense via Getty Images
Search Nears End: Associated Press: "The search for survivors and the dead is nearly complete in the Oklahoma City suburb that was smashed by a mammoth tornado, the fire chief said Tuesday. Gary Bird said he's '98 percent sure' there are no more survivors or bodies to recover under the rubble in Moore, a community of 56,000 people. His comments came after emergency crews spent much of the day searching the town's broken remnants for survivors of the twister that flattened homes and demolished an elementary school. The storm killed at least 24 people, including at least nine children. Every damaged home has been searched at least once, Bird said. His goal is to conduct three searches of each location just to be sure. He was hopeful the work could be completed by nightfall, but the efforts were being hampered by heavy rain. No additional survivors or bodies have been found since Monday night, Bird said."
Death Toll Difficult to Pin Down: More AP: "Earlier in the day, the state medical examiner's office cut the estimated death toll by more than half. ... Amy Elliott, a spokeswoman for the medical examiner, said she believes some victims were counted twice in the early chaos of the storm that struck Monday afternoon. Downed communication lines and problems sharing information with officers exacerbated the problem, she said. 'It was a very eventful night,' Elliott said. 'I truly expect that they'll find more today.'"
Safe Rooms Tied Up In Red Tape: NBC News: "Officials in the Oklahoma City suburb ravaged by deadly tornadoes Monday complained earlier this year about FEMA’s foot-dragging over $2 million in federal grants for 'safe rooms' in 800 homes that would protect people from severe weather. 'Our countywide Hazard Mitigation Plan still has not been approved by the State and FEMA,' said a statement posted in February on the City of Moore’s website. It said that changes to federal requirements occurred while the city’s contractor was preparing the plan, adding, 'We’ve found that the FEMA requirements … seem to be a constantly moving target.' ... In October 2011, the city collected the name of Moore residents interested in applying for the federal money. In order for residents to be eligible for the money, the city and other communities in Cleveland County had to submit an updated 'Hazard Mitigation Plan' for FEMA and state approval. ... In May 2012, according to city’s website, the county-wide plan was almost finished and the city anticipated final approval of the plan by November. ... But in an update in February, the officials said the Hazard Mitigation Plan had to be rewritten because of the 'new wrinkles.'"
(Another) Storms A-Comin': CBS News: "More severe weather is in the forecast for parts of the central United States already reeling from powerful tornadoes this week. Forecasters say golf ball-sized hail, powerful winds and isolated, strong tornadoes could strike areas of Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana and Oklahoma on Tuesday. The National Weather Service has issued a tornado watch for Central and North Texas until 7 p.m. ET and much of south and southwestern Arkansas until 10 p.m. ET. ... The area at risk for the worst weather does not include Moore, Okla., near Oklahoma City where dozens of people were killed in a monstrous tornado Monday. However, intermittent reports of lightning and strong rains continued throughout Tuesday in the area around Oklahoma City. Severe weather warnings extend through most of the central United States, with conditions ripe for large storms from Michigan to Texas."Read More »
Posted Tuesday, May 21, 2013, at 3:07 PM
A pro-life protester puts a "LIFE" sticker over her mouth while protesting at the Supreme Court.
Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
And the first of the recent string of strict state abortion laws falls, via the Associated Press:
A federal court in San Francisco Tuesday struck down Arizona's ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the law violates a string of U.S. Supreme Court rulings starting with Roe v. Wade that guarantees a woman's right to an abortion before a fetus is able to survive outside the womb. That's generally considered to be about 24 weeks. Normal pregnancies run about 40 weeks.
More than a half dozen other states have recently passed similar laws that bar abortion beginning at 20 or 22 weeks, measures that directly challenge the existing legal consensus that a state can't ban the procedure until after a fetus can hypothetically survive on its own outside the womb. (The general threshold for viability among medical experts is 24 weeks, or at the very outside, 23 weeks.) More recently, North Dakota and Arkansas have passed even stricter legislation that amounts to bans at the 6-week and 12-week marks, respectively. Supporters of those laws, however, seem to concede that they're destined to be overturned by an appellate court.
Today's ruling, however, applies only to the nine Western states within the 9th Circuit, meaning that the vast majority of the state laws in question aren't directly impacted by the appellate decision. (Idaho is the only other state in the region with a similar ban.)
The rest of the Slate staff will likely have more analysis a bit later, but for now you can check out Emily Bazelon's piece from back in November arguing that Arizona's ban was clearly unconstitutional, and predicting today's appellate decision: "The Arizona law defies the spirit of Roe v. Wade and the letter of Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the Supreme Court’s 1992 affirmation of the core of Roe, which allows the state to regulate abortion before viability but to bar it only after that threshold has passed," Bazelon explained then.
Posted Tuesday, May 21, 2013, at 11:59 AM
Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Weigel touched on this earlier but it's worth highlighting again now that we have video and a current pull-quote. Oklahoma's two senators, Republicans Tom Coburn and James Inhofe, both voted against a federal aid packaged for those hit by the Superstorm Sandy. Given the damage in Moore, Okla., that has plenty of people wondering what the Sooner State senators will think of sending federal cash to the OKC suburb. Here's what Inhofe had to say during an MSNBC appearance this morning:
Here's that quote again: "Well, let’s look at that. That was totally different. They were getting things—for instance that was supposed to be in New Jersey, they had things in the Virgin Islands, they were fixing roads there, they were putting roofs on houses in Washington, D.C., everyone was getting in and exploiting the tragedy taking place. That won't happen in Oklahoma."
It is of course unclear how the Oklahoma Republican plans to ensure that any federal aid package stays pork-free—along with whose definition of pork he plans on using. (Although it's probably safe to say, his.) Coburn, meanwhile, has already said that any federal aid to Oklahoma must be offset by cuts elsewhere. Clearly, it will be interesting to see how they vote if/when their particular demands aren't met.
As the Huffington Post reminded everyone last night, Oklahoma currently ranks third in the nation (trailing only Texas and California) in terms of total federal disaster and fire declarations, actions that kickstart the federal emergency relief funding process.
Read more of Slate’s coverage of the Oklahoma tornado, and follow @JoshVoorhees and the rest of the @slatest team on Twitter.
Posted Tuesday, May 21, 2013, at 10:36 AM
As anyone who's been watching any of the TV interviews coming out of Moore, Okla., probably knows by now, locals are understandably finding it nearly impossible to talk about yesterday's deadly twister without at least a reference to the powerful F5 tornado that ripped through the same town on May 3, 1999. That storm brought with it winds that topped 300 miles per hour and did more than an estimated $1 billion worth of damage. We won't know the full scope of the storm or its damage for some time, but for those on the ground the tale of the tape is already clear. Here's the front page of this morning's Oklahoman, the Sooner State's largest newspaper.
And the Tulsa World, which also couldn't avoid the comparison:
Posted Tuesday, May 21, 2013, at 9:59 AM
Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images
A powerful, two-mile-wide tornado tore through Moore, Okla., Monday afternoon, killing an untold number of people, leveling at least two elementary schools, and destroying countless homes and buildings in the process. The latest word out of the Oklahoma City suburb puts the official toll at 24, a figure well below Monday's official estimates. Still, things don't look good and the tally may still climb higher. "Numerous neighborhoods were completely leveled," Sgt. Gary Knight of the Oklahoma City Police Department told the New York Times by telephone. "Neighborhoods just wiped clean."Read More »
Posted Tuesday, May 21, 2013, at 9:28 AM
Let's hope there are more stories like this coming out of Moore, Okla., where people continue to pick through the rubble of their town for family, friends, and pets who managed to survive the massive tornado. In the video below you'll meet Barbara Garcia, an elderly woman who rode out the storm by taking refuge in the bathroom of her since-destroyed home. Things get good—and may just get a little dusty in your office—at about the 1:35-mark when she discovers her missing dog, shaken but seemingly largely uninjured, in the rubble.* "Well I got God to answer one prayer to let me be OK, but he answered both of them because this was my second prayer," Garcia says, partly to the camera and partly to herself.
Meanwhile, first responders continue to search the downed homes and building in the Oklahoma City suburb. The state Department of Emergency Management says that at last count more than 100 survivors had been found alive by the search and rescue effort.
*Correction, May 21, 2013: An earlier version of this post identified the dog's name as "Toto." Upon further review, the dog's name is unclear. (I'm hearing "Bazzy" now, but for the life of me heard "Toto" this morning—although that may have just been wishful thinking on my part.)
Posted Monday, May 20, 2013, at 4:25 PM
Billionaire David Koch, chairman of the board of the conservative Americans for Prosperity (AFP) advocacy group, attends a rally in Washington on November 5, 2011
Photo by Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images
The White House's IRS Timeline Comes Into Focus: Washington Post: "Senior White House officials, including Chief of Staff Dennis McDonough, learned last month about a review by the Treasury Department’s inspector general into whether the Internal Revenue Service targeted conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, but they did not inform President Obama, the White House said Monday. The acknowledgement is the White House’s latest disclosure in a continual release of details concerning the extent to which White House officials knew of the IG’s findings that IRS officials engaged in the 'inappropriate' targeting of conservative non-profits for heightened scrutiny. Previously, the White House said counsel Kathryn Ruemmler did not learn about the final results of the investigation until the week of April 22nd, and had not disclosed that McDonough and other aides had also been told about the investigation. On Monday, Carney said the chief of staff and other aides learned of the probe the week of April 16, along with a member of Ruemmler’s staff. The White House has said President Obama did not learn of the IRS’s actions until he saw news reports on the matter earlier this month."
The Senate Still Has Questions: New York Times: "If the Internal Revenue Service and the Obama administration thought the Senate Finance Committee and its Democratic leaders would offer something of a respite from the battering they have been taking from Congressional Republicans, they learned otherwise on Monday. Senator Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat who is the chairman of the committee, and Senator Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, the ranking Republican, forwarded a six-page letter to Steven Miller, the acting I.R.S. commissioner, who announced his resignation last week. It contained 41 pointed questions about the I.R.S.’s efforts to single out for special scrutiny conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status. Those questions, which are to be answered by May 31, go well beyond the agency’s actions and address the questions Republicans have been asking for a week: Who in the Obama administration knew what? And when did they know it?"
Specifically: From the letter: "Provide copies of all documents between I.R.S. employee(s) and anyone else regarding the targeting of applications based on the existence of certain phrases and/or subjecting those targeted applications to full development and heightened scrutiny ... Was the decision to target any tax-exempt applications for review and subject them to full development or heightened scrutiny influenced or prompted in any way by political pressure directed at the I.R.S. from any members of the Congress or other elected officials? ... Provide documents relating to communications between any and all I.R.S. employees and any and all White House employees, including, but not limited to, the president, regarding the targeting." The panel also demanded the identiy "by name, grade and position title" of "every I.R.S. supervisor, I.R.S. manager or other I.R.S. employee who became aware that any individual in the White House or Treasury Department became aware of any improper targeting."
Rove's Crossroads Cries Foul: Los Angeles Times: "Crossroads GPS, the behemoth conservative advocacy group behind some of the most robust attacks against President Obama’s administration, said Monday that it believes it is among the organizations subjected to special scrutiny by the Internal Revenue Service. ... [O]n Monday, a spokesman for Crossroads said the group’s experience with the IRS indicates that it was also caught in the dragnet. The organization, which was co-founded by GOP strategist Karl Rove, applied to be recognized as a tax-exempt social welfare group in September 2010 and still has not been approved by the IRS. Its application, which is supposed to remain confidential unless the group’s status is approved, was released by the IRS to the investigative website ProPublica in December 2012 in response to a public records request. 'From everything we know -- the criteria used by the IRS to target conservative groups, the timing, the still outstanding application after nearly three years, the leaking of the application from the Cincinnati office, and other factors—Crossroads was one of the targeted groups,' Crossroads spokesman Jonathan Collegio wrote in an email."Read More »
Posted Monday, May 20, 2013, at 1:26 PM
Posted Monday, May 20, 2013, at 12:57 PM
Yahoo made it official Monday morning, confirming the weekend rumors that they were going to buy Tumblr for a whopping $1.1 billion. In her own Tumblr post, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer said they "promise not to screw it up," but that appears to have done little to ease the fears of Tumblr users who are convinced the acquisition is a death knell for their beloved blogging site.
Such a reaction is of course commonplace anytime the early adopters of a particular site discover that its owners plan to turn their labor of love into profit. But because this is Tumblr we're talking about, you can find a wide range of those reactions all in one place—on their own Tumblr page. A small sampling from the appropriately named Meltdowns About Yahoo Buying Tumblr:
- "I hate the people in my school and the people on other social sites. You all are so real. sometimes this is a great way to take my mind off things. I’ve talked to interesting people who I might not ever meet but I don’t care it was great to talk with them. I’m deleting my tumblr if this goes through."
- "The Yahoo acquisition is like coming home one day to the news that your family is going to be staying with you forever. They’re moving in. Its not family you like either. Its that annoying uncle who you never agree with and who you don’t feel safe around. No one understands why you’re as upset as you are because at least you still have your home. But it’s not your home anymore."
- "So Yahoo bought Tumblr, which means it’s time to pack my bags and move on. It’s been real good knowing you, Tumblr. ... I’ll delete my blog, and it’ll seem as if I was never here. But I was, and so were you."
- "Couldnt we always go back on livejournal or even..myspace? Those places died out because of tumblr, so if tumblr dies out couldnt we go back there..?"
- "Dear yahoo; Tumblr is that weird kid that sits in the back of class reading books and daydreaming and has vivid fantasies of people experiencing horrible things like stepping on Lego and contains lots of obsessions and is really horny. All the time. Please don’t change it because despite it being different, that’s why everyone loves it."
Tumblr hosts an estimated 50 million blogs, which at last count were creating 2.3 million posts per hour. It remains to be seen if any of the users behind that flurry of activity will actually follow through with threats of fleeing the site to never return, but in the meantime they at least have an easy place to vent: on Tumblr. You can read more meltdowns at the Tumblr in question here (h/t @JeremyStahl), or head on over to "Moneybox" for a slightly calmer analysis of the deal.
This post was updated at 1:12 p.m. to include additional examples from the Tumblr.
Posted Monday, May 20, 2013, at 10:48 AM
Photo by Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images
A 33-year-old man with a criminal past was charged on Sunday with gunning down a gay man on a busy stretch of New York City's West Village, only blocks from what is considered to be the birthplace of the American gay-rights movement. The alleged killer, police say, was only motivated by one thing: That the victim was gay.
"It's clear that the victim here was killed only because and just because he was thought to be gay," New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said at a press conference yesterday. "There is no question about that. There were these derogatory remarks. The victim did nothing to antagonize or instigate the shooter in this case. It's only done because the shooter believed him to be gay."
Elliot Morales was charged with murder as a hate crime, along with weapons charges, in the death of Mark Carson. According to police, Morales hurled anti-gay slurs at Carson and a male friend around midnight Saturday before ultimately shooting Carson in the head with a single bullet. Here's how the Wall Street Journal pieced together the chilling incident based on court records and police statements:Read More »