Snowstorm Barrels Into Northeast; Officials Close City's Subways and Buses – New York Times

Slide Show | Snowstorm Barrels Into New York On Monday, a powerful winter storm reached New York as forecasts called for significant snowfall across the region.
By MARC SANTORA
January 26, 2015

Millions of people from New Jersey to Maine were forced to quit work early, rush to get off roads and highways and take shelter on Monday night as a snowstorm bore down on the region, bringing with it winds of near-hurricane force and the threat of coastal flooding and more than two feet of snow.

With the storm gathering in intensity as night fell, thousands of flights were grounded, public transportation was suspended or curtailed and travel bans were put in place in the half-dozen states in the path of the storm.

In New York City, after calls by the authorities to head home early, workers poured out of office buildings and crowded onto subway platforms, packed train stations and squeezed onto buses. Subway and bus service was to be suspended, starting at 11 p.m., the first time subways were shut down because of snow.

The Lincoln and Holland Tunnels were to close at 11 p.m., along with the George Washington Bridge and the Port Authority’s other crossings.

Graphic | Status of Airports, Trains, Schools and Other Services in the New York AreaWhat is open and closed as the New York region prepares for a blizzard.

As Sandeep Dutta, 42, waited for his train home at Jamaica station in Queens, he held tight to a backpack with emergency provisions, including waterproof boots and chemical warming packs.

“There’s just more anxiety,” Mr. Dutta said. “You’re anxious to get home, but so far things are working out.”

As the storm gathered moisture over the Atlantic and picked up energy, commuters also took to the roads — hoping to beat both the deteriorating weather and the widespread bans on driving that were set to go into effect late on Monday.

From Fort Lee, N.J., to Andover, Mass., nearly every road was declared off limits by government officials to everyone except emergency workers. The orders were both to keep people safe and to allow workers better access to start clearing roads.

Interactive Feature | Storm Updates From the Northeast

“This will most likely be one of the largest blizzards in the history of New York City,” Mayor Bill de Blasio warned.

Joe Pollina, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service, said on Monday evening that the storm remained on track to deliver as much as three feet of snow to parts of New York City. Most of the city, he said, could expect around two feet of snow, but in the southern parts of Queens and Brooklyn, totals could reach 36 inches, he said. The conditions were expected to worsen throughout the evening and then, after midnight, intensify rapidly, with winds topping out at 50 miles per hour.

The storm is expected to rage throughout the night and into Tuesday morning and clear out late in the afternoon.

But even as the authorities issued dire warnings, many reveled in the chance to take a day off from school or work and play.

Mr. de Blasio took the unusual step of ordering all drivers off the streets by 11 p.m. on Monday, a ban that he said covered “anything that has to do with leisure or convenience,” including, to the chagrin of many housebound New Yorkers, food delivery.

The call to completely clear the streets was a reflection of how seriously public officials were taking the threat of the storm, which was expected to affect a 250-mile stretch of the Northeast.

Across the region, governors declared states of emergency, deployed National Guard units and prepared fleets of snowplows and salt trucks.

Coastal areas including eastern Long Island, Cape Cod and other parts of New England were expected to be battered by winds that could blow nearly as high as a hurricane — the threshold is 74 m.p.h. — leading to possible flooding and widespread power failures that might last for days.

Map | How Much Snow Has FallenInches of snow and time of measurement as reported by the National Weather Service.

The public seemed to heed the warnings, crowding the aisles of grocery and home-goods stores to stock up on supplies.

Ed Russo, 48, said he was stranded in New York City during the 1996 blizzard, and waited hours in Pennsylvania Station during a 2010 snowstorm, so this time he gave himself plenty of time to get out of town.

“I’m going to check my email, hunker down, shovel out and make the best of it,” he said.

Given that cars stranded on roads and highways have proved to be a problem during recent storms, state leaders all had a common message — get off the roads as soon as possible.

“Mother Nature has decided once again to come visit us in an extreme way,” said Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who banned driving on Long Island, where winds could exceed 70 m.p.h., and most of the counties in the southern part of the state starting at 11 p.m. “This is going to be a blizzard. It is a serious blizzard. It should not be taken lightly.”

Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts echoed those concerns. “This is a top-five historic storm, and we should treat it as such,” he said. “This is clearly going to be a really big deal.”

It is also the first storm Mr. Baker is facing since he was sworn in this month, and, like other politicians, he is aware that he will be judged on the state’s response.

Mr. Baker ordered a statewide travel ban in effect at midnight on Monday. The Boston subway system and commuter rail lines were also scheduled to shut down at midnight and remain closed on Tuesday.

Mayor Martin J. Walsh of Boston ordered drivers off the street on Monday evening and said residents would be notified by loudspeaker that a parking ban was going into effect at 6 p.m.

“You should not be driving in the city of Boston,” the mayor said. “All residents, once you park your car, leave your car there and do not leave your house.”

Mr. de Blasio said the decision to order all drivers off the roads in New York City was necessary to ensure that sanitation workers could clear streets and emergency workers could get where they needed to go. He said the order extended to those making food deliveries on bicycles.

“People have to make smart decisions from this point on,” he said. “It is not business as usual.”

While the city announced that parks would be closed to the public at 6 p.m., crews planned to work throughout the storm, clearing roads and paths and removing downed limbs.

In all, the city has deployed some 1,800 plows to clear more than 6,000 miles of roadways.

Subway service will continue on a limited basis after 7 p.m. on Monday, officials said, before shutting down entirely. Service on the Long Island Rail Road and the Metro-North Railroad was to be suspended at 11 p.m. New Jersey Transit was to stop running trains at 10 p.m. and officials said they did not expect rail service to be restored until Thursday. The PATH train system was scheduled to shut down at 11.

At Bleecker Street Pizza, in Greenwich Village, Greg Greenwood, a manager, said he and his team would abide by the mayor’s order, even though it might cut into to the “fair number” of pies that the restaurant typically delivered after 11 p.m.

Mr. Greenwood added that the pizzeria would remain open, despite the weather, until its usual closing time of 2 a.m. “People can trudge out and pick up pizza if they want to — we’ll be here,” he said. “And trust me, they will.”

The record snowfall in New York City came in 2006, when 26.9 inches of snow was measured in Central Park. A blizzard in 1947 left just over 26 inches, and one in 1888 brought 21 inches.

In southern New England, officials braced for as much as three feet of snow and high winds that could cause widespread power failures.

“This is not going to be a run-of-the-mill nor’easter,” said Alan Dunham, a meteorologist with the Weather Service forecast office in Taunton, Mass. “This storm has the potential to be a historic storm.”

With the authorities issuing warnings as early as Sunday, many who waited to stock up on supplies found themselves out of luck on Monday.

Richie Fioriello, 35, said a Stop & Shop supermarket on Staten Island was out of nearly everything but onion skins.

“My wife was like: ‘I want to make something for dinner. Can you pick up some onions?’ ” Mr. Fioriello said. “I was like, ‘I can’t even buy Tic Tacs.’ They were sold out of everything. It was sick.”

Reporting was contributed by Jess Bidgood, Matt Flegenheimer, Lisa W. Foderaro, Dan Glaun, Michael M. Grynbaum, Kristin Hussey, Amisha Padnani, Nate Schweber and Katharine Q. Seelye.

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Asia shares rise, euro steadies as Fed meets – WHBL Sheboygan

Monday, January 26, 2015 6:39 p.m. CST

By Wayne Cole

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Asian shares moved higher on Tuesday and the euro clung to rare gains, relieved that European markets had weathered Greece’s election outcome without much disruption.

Bad weather in the United States curbed activity on Wall Street in a busy week for earnings, while investors had reason for caution as the Federal Reserve holds its first policy meeting of the year.

Japan’s Nikkei firmed 1.2 percent in early trade, while Australia main index added 0.4 percent. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan edged ahead by 0.1 percent.

On Wall Street, the Dow had ended Monday up a bare 0.03 percent, while the S&P 500 gained 0.26 percent and the Nasdaq 0.29 percent.

A blizzard engulfing New York is expected to keep many investment banks and fund managers on skeleton staff, though the main exchanges all plan to open as usual on Tuesday.

Around 30 percent of S&P500 companies report earnings this week, including tech heavyweights Microsoft, Apple, and Google. Of the 96 companies that have reported so far, 66 have topped forecasts, 18 disappointed and 12 were in line with estimates.

The U.S. Federal Reserve starts a two-day policy meeting on Tuesday and investors are keen to hear its take on the rash of policy easings from the euro zone to Canada and Switzerland.

The general assumption is the Fed will acknowledge the uncertain global outlook and stick to its promise to be patient on tightening. Yet its timetable remains for lift-off on rates by mid-year, a trajectory that presages further broad-based gains for the dollar.

The dollar was near an 11-year peak against a basket of major currencies at 94.925 having risen 11 percent in just the past three months.

It also nudged up to 118.58 yen , but lost a little ground on the euro to $1.1235 after reaching another 11-year top of $1.1098.

The Fed is hardly alone in meeting this week, with policy decisions awaited from Hungary, Thailand, Malaysia, New Zealand, South Africa, Mexico, Colombia and Russia.

In Europe, Greek left-wing leader Alexis Tsipras was sworn in on Monday as the prime minister of a new hardline, anti-bailout government determined to face down international lenders and end nearly five years of austerity.

Tsipras quickly sealed a coalition deal with the Independent Greeks party which also opposes Greece’s EU/IMF aid program.

The initial reaction in markets was modest by recent standards. Greek stocks fell 3 percent, led lower by bank stocks including Piraeus Bank which fell 17.6 percent. Greek 10-year bond yields rose, but stayed below the levels seen in the run-up to the vote.

The FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares ended 0.13 percent higher and close to a seven-year high.

In commodity markets, U.S. crude was quoted 11 cents firmer at $45.26. Brent had lost 1.3 percent on Monday to settle at $48.16.

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Asia shares rise, euro steadies as Fed meets – Reuters Canada

By Wayne Cole



SYDNEY (Reuters) – Asian shares moved higher on Tuesday and the euro clung to rare gains, relieved that European markets had weathered Greece’s election outcome without much disruption.



Bad weather in the United States curbed activity on Wall Street in a busy week for earnings, while investors had reason for caution as the Federal Reserve holds its first policy meeting of the year.



Japan’s Nikkei .N225 firmed 1.2 percent in early trade, while Australia main index .AXJO added 0.4 percent. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS edged ahead by 0.1 percent.



On Wall Street, the Dow .DJI had ended Monday up a bare 0.03 percent, while the S&P 500 .SPX gained 0.26 percent and the Nasdaq .IXIC 0.29 percent.



A blizzard engulfing New York is expected to keep many investment banks and fund managers on skeleton staff, though the main exchanges all plan to open as usual on Tuesday.



Around 30 percent of S&P500 companies report earnings this week, including tech heavyweights Microsoft, Apple, and Google. Of the 96 companies that have reported so far, 66 have topped forecasts, 18 disappointed and 12 were in line with estimates.



The U.S. Federal Reserve starts a two-day policy meeting on Tuesday and investors are keen to hear its take on the rash of policy easings from the euro zone to Canada and Switzerland.



The general assumption is the Fed will acknowledge the uncertain global outlook and stick to its promise to be patient on tightening. Yet its timetable remains for lift-off on rates by mid-year, a trajectory that presages further broad-based gains for the dollar.



The dollar was near an 11-year peak against a basket of major currencies at 94.925 .DXY having risen 11 percent in just the past three months.



It also nudged up to 118.58 yen JPY=, but lost a little ground on the euro to $1.1235 EUR= after reaching another 11-year top of $1.1098.



The Fed is hardly alone in meeting this week, with policy decisions awaited from Hungary, Thailand, Malaysia, New Zealand, South Africa, Mexico, Colombia and Russia.



In Europe, Greek left-wing leader Alexis Tsipras was sworn in on Monday as the prime minister of a new hardline, anti-bailout government determined to face down international lenders and end nearly five years of austerity.



Tsipras quickly sealed a coalition deal with the Independent Greeks party which also opposes Greece’s EU/IMF aid program.



The initial reaction in markets was modest by recent standards. Greek stocks fell 3 percent, led lower by bank stocks including Piraeus Bank BOPr.AT which fell 17.6 percent. Greek 10-year bond yields rose, but stayed below the levels seen in the run-up to the vote.



The FTSEurofirst 300 .FTEU3 index of top European shares ended 0.13 percent higher and close to a seven-year high.



In commodity markets, U.S. crude CLc1 was quoted 11 cents firmer at $45.26. Brent LCOc1 had lost 1.3 percent on Monday to settle at $48.16.


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Man claims responsibility for drone crash at White House, says was an accident – Fox News

WH_dronepic.jpg

Shown here is a picture of the drone that crashed on the White House grounds in the early morning hours on Jan. 26. (Secret Service)

WASHINGTON –  A man has claimed responsibility for the drone that crashed onto the White House grounds early Monday, an incident that triggered an immediate lockdown and a Secret Service investigation. 

Secret Service spokeswoman Nicole B. Mainor said the individual contacted the agency Monday morning to “self-report” the incident. According to Mainor, “initial indications are that this incident occurred as a result of recreational use of the device.” 

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A U.S. official told The Associated Press the man said he didn’t mean to fly the drone over the White House; he is said to be cooperating with investigators. The New York Times reported he is a government employee, though he does not work for the White House. 

“This investigation continues as the Secret Service conducts corroborative interviews, forensic examinations and reviews all other investigative leads,” Mainor said, adding that the case will be presented to the U.S. attorney’s office in D.C. for a decision on possible prosecution. 

The development comes after the two-foot-long “quadcopter” drone crash-landed onto the grounds overnight. Brian Leary, a Secret Service spokesman, said that an officer posted on the south grounds of the White House complex “heard and observed” the device “flying at a very low altitude” shortly after 3 a.m. ET. Leary said the drone ultimately crashed on the southeast side of the complex. 

Though the White House says the device posed no threat, it is the latest in a line of security incidents at the complex. And the breach was bound to reinvigorate a long-running public debate about the use of commercial drones in U.S. skies — as well concerns about White House security. At the urging of the drone industry, the Obama administration is on the verge of proposing rules for drone operations that would replace an existing ban on most commercial flights. 

“With the discovery of an unauthorized drone on the White House lawn, the eagle has crash-landed in Washington; there is no stronger sign that clear FAA guidelines for drones are needed,” Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a statement Monday afternoon. 

The “device” was found while President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama were traveling in India. It was unclear whether their daughters, Sasha and Malia, were at home at the time of the incident with their grandmother, Marian Robinson, who also lives at the White House. 

Many small quadcopters are essentially sophisticated toys that can also be used for commercial activities like aerial photography and inspection. Often weighing only a few pounds, they sell for as little as a few hundred dollars or less, and were popular Christmas gifts last year. More elaborate models sell for thousands. 

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, speaking in New Delhi, acknowledged a “device” was found. “The early indications are that it does not pose any sort of ongoing threat to anybody at the White House,” he said. 

Police, fire and other emergency vehicles swarmed around the White House in the predawn hours, with several clustered near the southeast entrance to the mansion. The White House was dark and the entire perimeter was on lockdown until around 5 a.m., when those who work in the complex were allowed inside. 

After daylight, more than a dozen Secret Service officers fanned out in a search across the White House lawn as snow began to fall. They peered down in the grass and used flashlights to look through the large bushes that line the mansion’s driveway. 

Previous security breaches at the White House have led to questions about the Secret Service’s effectiveness. 

Four high-ranking executives were reassigned this month, and former director Julia Pierson was forced to resign last year after a Texas man armed with a knife was able to get over a White House fence in September and run deep into the executive mansion before being subdued. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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UPDATE 1-US Senate blocks swift passage of Keystone XL pipeline bill – Reuters

(Adds details and background)

Jan 26 (Reuters) – Democrats in the U.S. Senate
blocked the Keystone XL pipeline bill from moving forward on
Monday, but supporters of the project vowed to push ahead and
eventually get a vote on the measure.

The Senate failed to get the 60 votes needed to limit
debate, voting 53 to 39 on the measure.

The Keystone bill allows Congress to approve TransCanada
Corp’s project to link Canada’s oil sands to refineries
on the Gulf Coast.

Democrats, who lost control of the Senate as a result of
November’s elections, flexed their muscles to deliver a message
to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that he will have to deal
with them even on bills that enjoy some bipartisan support.

McConnell has pledged that amendments to bills will be
debated in an open process. But Democrats said McConnell cut off
debate last Thursday on several amendments.

“He’s got to work with us and not try to jam us,” Senator
Chuck Schumer said of McConnell. Democrats are not trying to
delay the bill, but they don’t want McConnell to shut down the
open process at his whim, said Schumer, the Senate’s third
ranking Democrat.

Republicans have made passing the Keystone bill the first
priority of the new Senate.

But the White House has said President Barack Obama would
reject the bill, and Keystone supporters are four votes short of
the 67 needed to overcome any veto.

Senator Lisa Murkowski, the chairman of the energy
committee, vowed to work with Democrats on her panel to consider
additional amendments.

(Reporting by Timothy Gardner and Richard Cowan; Editing by
Sandra Maler)

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Northeast US braves 'crippling' blizzard, transit systems shut – Reuters

Mid-town Manhattan is pictured from the top of the United Nations building in New York January 26, 2015. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri


(Reuters) – A massive, wind-whipped blizzard slammed into the U.S. Northeast on Monday, creating havoc for more than 60 million people and forcing New York City to shut down on a scale not seen since Superstorm Sandy devastated the region in 2012.

The potentially historic storm which could affect 20 percent of the U.S. population, caused several states up and down the east coast to declare emergencies, forced the cancellation of thousands of flights, closed major mass transit hubs and schools.

Officials warned that the storm could dump as much as 3 feet (90 cm) of snow on the region.

New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts declared states of emergencies as people were urged to stay home with transit systems, including the New York City subway, suspending services and roadways closed amid white-out conditions.

The potentially historic storm poses the latest challenge to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has been under fire in recent weeks from police who criticized his support of public protests about white police violence against black men. In the last major storm de Blasio was vilified for keeping schools open.

The National Weather Service issued a blizzard warning from New Jersey to Maine, with conditions worsening overnight and wind gusting to over 50 mph (80 kph) in the New York City area. Coastal flood warnings were issued, with tides in the New York metro area expected to be as much 3 feet higher than normal early Tuesday morning.

Retailers ran short of everything from shovels and snowblowers to basic groceries. At a Shaw’s Supermarket in Somerville, Massachusetts, canned food shelves were thinned and checkout lines long. In Brooklyn, grocery store shelves were stripped of bread and bottled water.

“I’ve been to three or four stores and I can’t get any milk or eggs,” said Marcy Rivers, waiting in the snow for a bus in Bridgeport, Connecticut. “I don’t know what we are going to do now.”

SUBWAY SHUTDOWN

The brutal weather paralyzed the New York City metropolitan area, with an 11 p.m. deadline set for suspending all subway, bus and commuter rail service on Metro-North Railroad and Long Island Rail Road.

While New York’s subway system has shut down ahead of major tropical storms, such as 2012’s devastating Superstorm Sandy, transit officials said this was the first time they had canceled service solely due to snow.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a travel ban for all but emergency vehicles on every road in 13 counties in southern New York state, including New York City, suburban Westchester and Long Island, with the threat of a $300 fine for violators.

His peers in Connecticut and Massachusetts imposed similar bans on driving.

“If you are in your car and you are on any road, town, village, city, it doesn’t matter, after 11 o’clock, you will technically be committing a crime,” Cuomo said. “It could be a matter of life and death so caution is required.”

Vacationers and business travelers faced headaches as airlines canceled about 2,700 U.S. flights, according to flight-tracking service FlightAware. New York authorities also said “virtually all” flights at LaGuardia Airport on Tuesday will be canceled and cancellations at John F. Kennedy International Airport will be “significant.”

SCHOOLS CLOSED

The blizzard knocked out entertainment events including Monday night Broadway performances and home games for the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets and shut New York City’s zoos, where snow leopards, puffins and polar bears frolicked in privacy.

The United Nations headquarters gave itself a day off on Tuesday. East Coast schools, including New York City with the nation’s largest public school system serving 1 million students, and universities, including Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, canceled classes for Tuesday.

“Hallelujah!” said Olivia Fitzsimmons, 8, looking forward to a snow day off from elementary school in Maplewood, New Jersey.

“After the blizzard, I’m going to make a girlfriend for him,” she said standing next to a carrot-nosed snowman in her yard.

Even Wall Street traders rushed home, although exchanges remained open.

As much as 24 inches (60 cm) of snow from the “crippling and potentially historic blizzard” was expected to blanket many areas along the East Coast, the weather service said. High winds raised the potential for power outages caused by tree limbs falling on overhead utility lines.

STATES OF EMERGENCY

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie declared a state of emergency and told all but the most essential government workers to stay home on Tuesday. New Jersey Transit commuter trains will stop running for at least one day, beginning at 10 p.m. on Monday, he said.

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker and Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy told residents to expect driving bans later on Monday and all of Tuesday. The Boston area transit system will be shut on Tuesday.

“We are anticipating an historic, top-five storm, based on the snowfall,” Baker said.

The biggest snowfall on record in New York City came during the storm of Feb. 11-12, 2006, dropping 26.9 inches (68 cm), according to the city’s Office of Emergency Management.

(Reporting by Luc Cohen, Sebastien Malo, Ellen Wulfhorst, Howard Goller and Jonathan Allen in New York, Dan Kelley in Philadelphia, Scott Malone in Boston, Richard Weizel in Milford, Connecticut, Roberta Rampton in New Delhi; Writing by Jonathan Allen and Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Jeremy Laurence, Jeffrey Benkoe and Bernard Orr)

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An Open Letter to the New Saudi King – Politico

Dear King Salman,

As a loyal subject of the Al Saud royal family, I congratulate you on your ascension to the throne. I join both fellow Saudis and world leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama, who will be here in Riyadh on Tuesday, in expressing my condolences for the recent death of King Abdullah and sending good wishes to you, our new king. At the same time, I share my fellow subjects’ dread of the future. When King Abdullah came into power a decade ago, people across the kingdom went out into the streets to express their happiness. His reputation for generosity and forgiveness filled Saudis with hope. Unfortunately, this is not likely to be the situation in your case. I sincerely hope you prove us all wrong. But I fear that our country, already so far behind the rest of the world in many ways, will stagnate under your watch.

Why? Let us begin with your appointment of Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef as second in line for the throne, after the 69-year-old Crown Prince Muqrin bin Abdul-Aziz. Since King Abdullah’s health began to fail in 2010, Bin Nayef, now a relatively young 55, has grown in power. And in his capacity as minister of interior, which gives him control of Saudi Arabia’s law enforcement, courts and prisons, he has given us a glimpse of a future kingdom under his rule: a police state reminiscent of Bashar Assad’s Syria and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. The more that King Abdullah’s health declined and the more frequent his treatments abroad became, the higher the number of people being threatened and imprisoned by the Ministry of Interior grew.

Initially, the threats, while harsh and unwarranted, were against activists who were truly outspoken in their demands for political rights and freedoms. In 2012, for instance, Mohammed Al Bajadi was tried and sentenced in a secret court on charges of disobedience of the rulers, speaking to foreign media, demonstrating and owning prohibited books on democracy. In 2013, Mohammed Al Qahtani was sentenced to 10 years in prison for documenting political prisoners and calling for a constitutional monarchy. Mikhlif Al Shammari was sentenced in the same year, for promoting anti-sectarianism. Raif Badawi established a web forum called The Saudi Liberal Network that facilitated the discussion and criticism of the radical Islam taught in Saudi schools. In return, he was sentenced last year to 10 years in prison and a thousand lashes. His lawyer, Abulkhair, was sentenced to 15 years for establishing an independent human rights organization. The list goes on and on.

As bad as that sounds, in recent years, the charges have become more extreme and the targets more frequent. By 2014, the Ministry of Interior’s patience had become so thin that a progressive Harvard-educated lawyer, Bandar Al Nogaithan, was tried as a terrorist and sentenced to five years merely for tweets critical of the judicial system and for retweeting a cartoon depicting a judge checking his cellphone while cobwebs grew around his client. Today, by human rights groups’ estimates, there are some 30,000 political detainees in Saudi Arabia. Many are in prison indefinitely without charge or trial. Some are secretly tortured and others publicly flogged. I cringe when the global community considers my country’s record comparable to the Islamic State’s, with our shared floggings and grotesque beheadings.

Perhaps the most absurd example of how extreme life under Bin Nayef will be is his reaction to the campaign for Saudi women to be able to drive. Unlike every other country on the planet, Saudi Arabia does not issue licenses to women. For the past three decades, Saudi women who defied the ban were stopped by the police and detained for a few hours. A year ago, the government’s reaction escalated to indefinitely impounding cars driven by women. Currently, Bin Nayef’s response is to try women who drive as terrorists. Yes, the Saudi kingdom equates operating a motor vehicle—for women—to acts of extreme intimidation and violence. Last November, two Saudi women, Loujain Al Hathloul and Maysa Al Amoudi, peacefully attempted to draw attention to the absurdity of the driving ban by driving their cars from the United Arab Emirates, a similarly tribal and Islamic country, to the Saudi border. There, upon the orders of Bin Nayef, their passports were confiscated, and they were arrested and transferred to Saudi Arabia’s Specialized Criminal Court, which handles terrorism cases. They are in prison while their lawyers appeal the transfer.

This article was written by a Saudi writer in Riyadh whose identity is kept anonymous to protect the writer’s security.

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Car belonging to missing Georgia couple found in lake – Reuters

(Reuters) – A car belonging to a missing suburban Atlanta couple was discovered on Monday submerged in a lake, and two unidentified bodies were found separately, Georgia police said.

Authorities in Georgia had been searching for the couple since they went to another part of the state to buy a vintage car off Craigslist.

“It’s a sad ending for us here in this community,” Telfair County Sheriff Chris Steverson told reporters. “It hurts us to know someone came to our community and met this fate.”

Bud Runion, 69, and his wife, June Runion, 66, of Marietta, were last seen on Thursday when they set off for Telfair County in southern Georgia to buy a 1966 Mustang convertible from a purported seller who responded to their ad on Craigslist, Steverson said.

The couple’s last telephone call was to a disposable cellphone owned by Ronnie Towns, 28, whom Steverson described as a suspect in the case.

Towns was interviewed by authorities shortly after the couple disappeared and has been charged with criminal intent to commit deception and lying to investigators, Steverson said. Towns turned himself in to authorities on Monday morning, he added.

Towns did not own a 1966 Mustang convertible, the sheriff said.

“I don’t think he had a car that was even similar to the one being sought by Mr. Runion,” Steverson said.

Before finding the two bodies, search teams combed the rural county about 160 miles south of Atlanta using all-terrain vehicles, aircraft and boats, Steverson said.

(Editing by David Adams, Colleen Jenkins and Peter Cooney)

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