Nation roundup for December 23


Start of winter brings snow, ice

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — The first full day of winter brought a wild mix of weather across the U.S. on Sunday: ice and high wind in the Great Lakes and New England areas, flooding in the South, snow in the Midwest and record-shattering temperatures in the 60s and 70s along the mid-Atlantic.

Snow and ice knocked out power to 400,000 homes and businesses in Michigan, upstate New York and northern New England, and also left more than 400,000 people without electricity in eastern Canada. It could be days before the lights are back on everywhere.

As of midafternoon, more than 500 airline flights had been canceled and about 3,800 delayed, according to aviation tracking website FlightAware.com.

The icy weather was expected to make roads hazardous through at least today from the upper Midwest to northern New England during one of the busiest travel times of the year.

High-temperature records for the date fell for the second straight day in the mid-Atlantic states because of a mass of hot, muggy air from the South.

In New York’s Central Park, the mercury reached 70 degrees, easily eclipsing the previous high of 63 from 1998. Records were also set in Wilmington, Del., (67), Atlantic City, N.J., (68), and Philadelphia (67). Washington tied its 1889 mark at 72.

Temperatures were expected to return to normal by tonight and Tuesday, dropping back into the 30s.

The scene was much more seasonal Sunday in Vermont, where Lynne White of West Charleston listened to the cracking of falling tree branches and gazed at the coating of ice on her home.

“It’s actually really pretty,” she said. “Not safe, I’m sure, but it’s pretty.”

Obama names new China envoy

WASHINGTON (AP) — The nomination of veteran Sen. Max Baucus as U.S. ambassador to China reflects the importance to Washington of advancing the economic relationship with the Asian power despite recent strains on security issues.

The Montana Democrat lacks foreign policy credentials but has a track record in pressing Beijing over trade barriers and its currency exchange rate. If his appointment is confirmed by the Senate, he will be looking to see that U.S. companies can benefit from market reforms the ruling communist party promised in November.

While the economic relationship between the countries is loaded with its own problems, including accusations of rampant Chinese cybertheft of U.S. trade secrets, it is one where their national interests are more aligned than on security, as China challenges decades of U.S. military pre-eminence in the Asia-Pacific.

China’s declaration of an air defense zone over disputed territory in the East China Sea and a near-collision of U.S. and Chinese naval vessels this month brought those concerns to the fore. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Thursday described China’s conduct in the Dec. 5 incident in the South China Sea as “irresponsible.”

But when President Barack Obama announced Friday his intent to nominate Baucus as ambassador, he was stressing the senator’s work over two decades on economic agreements with China that he said have created millions of American jobs. “He’s perfectly suited to build on that progress in his new role,” Obama said in a statement and called for a swift confirmation.

Calif. mom fights for daughter’s life

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The mother of a California girl declared brain dead after complications from a tonsillectomy pleaded for prayers and time to keep her daughter on a ventilator past today, when a temporary restraining order barring a hospital from disconnecting life support expires.

“Despite what they say, she is alive. I can touch her, she is warm. She responds to my touch,” Nailah Winkfield wrote about 13-year-old Jahi McMath Saturday.

“Given time I know (God) will spark her brain awake,” she wrote in the open letter.

Children’s Hospital of Oakland’s responded in a statement that while it sympathizes with Winkfield’s wishes, “it would be unfair to give false hope that Jahi will come back to life.”

Winkfield said her daughter bled profusely and went into cardiac arrest after undergoing a “simple procedure” to remove her tonsil to help with her sleep apnea. She criticized the hospital for initially giving her a cup, then a “bigger bucket” as her daughter continued to bleed in a recovery room.

“They did not answer our pleas for a doctor. Her surgeon never came back,” Winkfield wrote.

Jahi was declared brain dead on Dec. 12.

The hospital statement contends the surgery was complicated, and that it was committed to fully investigating what caused “this catastrophic outcome.”

Teenager shot at Colo. school dies

LITTLETON, Colo. (AP) — A suburban Denver high school student who was shot in the head by a classmate died Saturday afternoon, hospital officials and her family said.

Claire Davis, 17, was in critical condition after being shot at point-blank range at Arapahoe High School on Dec. 13.

“It is with heavy hearts that we share that at 4:29 p.m. this afternoon, Claire Davis passed away, with her family at her side,” a statement from Littleton Adventist Hospital said.

“Despite the best efforts of our physicians and nursing staff, and Claire’s fighting spirit, her injuries were too severe and the most advanced medical treatments could not prevent this tragic loss of life. Claire’s death is immensely heartbreaking for our entire community, our staff and our families.”

The Davis family said in a statement that they are grateful for the 17 years they had with their daughter.

“The grace, laughter and light she brought to this world will not be extinguished by her death; to the contrary, it will only get stronger,” the statement said.

The family said they appreciated the outpouring of support from the community and thanked the efforts of law enforcement, school officials and medical staff.

The date for a public memorial to honor the teen would be announced later, the hospital’s statement said.

Friends and well-wishers had posted prayers online and raised money to help pay for Claire Davis’ medical care in days following the shooting. On Friday, about 100 people gathered at a church near the school to pray for the teen.

The Denver Foundation said a fund had been created honoring her that would support the high school and community in programs for mental health, anti-bullying and other needs.

Karl Pierson, 18, shot Davis, who just happened to be sitting nearby with a friend as Pierson, armed with a shotgun, ammunition strapped to his body, Molotov cocktails and a machete, entered the school and headed toward the library. Davis appeared to be a random target, Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson has said.

Pierson likely intended to track down a librarian who had disciplined him, but Robinson said Pierson’s arsenal suggested Pierson intended to hurt many others at the school just 8 miles from Columbine High School.

Pierson set off one of the incendiary devices and fired five shots before killing himself just one minute and 20 seconds after entering the building. He knew a sheriff’s deputy assigned to the school was closing in, Robinson said at a news conference.

Senior Chris Davis, who is not related to Claire Davis, said she loved horses, had a lot of friends and always seemed happy. Chris Davis, whose locker is next to Claire’s, helped organize a fundraising effort for her family.

Students held vigils for Davis after the shooting. Typical was a story told by classmate Maggie Hurlbut.

“One time I remember I was upset in the hallway, and she came up to me and she just — it was like, ‘Hey Maggie, I know we don’t know each other well but are you doing OK?’ And I told her yeah, and she was like, ‘Anything you need, I’m here for you,’” Hurlbut said. “Again, that’s who she is, and she just wants to take care of others, and that was really just a good representation of her character and who she was.”

Gov. John Hickenlooper visited Davis and her family at the hospital and had asked for prayers.

Sheriff Robinson called Davis “a young woman of principle” and “an innocent young lady.”

Pierson’s original target was believed to be a librarian who coached the school’s speech and debate team. Pierson was a skilled speaker and debater on the team. The librarian, whose name was not released, had disciplined the teen in September for reasons that haven’t been disclosed. Robinson said Pierson had made some sort of threat against the librarian in September.

“We are looking into that, to the degree that it was understood, and then what interactions or interventions took place,” the sheriff said.

The librarian was able to escape the school unharmed, Robinson said.

Pierson legally purchased his shotgun at a local store a week before the shooting and bought the ammunition the day of the shooting. Anyone 18 and older is allowed to buy a shotgun in Colorado; only those over 21 can legally buy a handgun.

Pierson, whose parents were divorced, lived at least part of the time with his mother in a higher-end neighborhood in suburban Highlands Ranch.

The Arapahoe shooting came a day before the one-year anniversary of the Newtown, Conn., attack in which a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

 

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