TIME weather

Snow Emergency: Six Dead, 100+ Trapped in Monster Winter Storm

Snow covers a street at daybreak Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014, in south Buffalo, N.Y.
Snow covers a street at daybreak Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014, in south Buffalo, N.Y. Carolyn Thompson—AP

“When we say stay home, really, stay home,” Cuomo said

Troopers in all-terrain vehicles and rescue crews working without sleep set out Wednesday to reach drivers trapped in a ferocious winter storm that dumped more than 5 ft. of snow outside Buffalo, N.Y. — with plenty more on the way.

About 140 miles of Interstate 90, the main artery running east and west across New York State, remained closed, from Rochester to the New York–Pennsylvania state line. There was no word when it would reopen.

“Mother Nature is showing us who’s boss once again,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said. “This snowfall may break all sorts of records, and that’s saying something in western …

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME Immigration

Nearly Half of Americans Oppose Obama’s Impending Immigration Move

President Barack Obama speaks at the 'ConnectED to the Future', in the East Room of the White House in Washington D.C. on Nov. 19, 2014.
President Barack Obama speaks at the 'ConnectED to the Future', in the East Room of the White House in Washington D.C. on Nov. 19, 2014. Pablo Martinez Monsivais—AP

According to a new poll ahead of his primetime speech Thursday

Nearly half of Americans oppose President Obama taking his planned execution action on immigration, a move that could keep as many as 5 million undocumented immigrants in the country, according to a new poll released Wednesday.

Forty-eight percent of Americans oppose the move, according to the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll conducted Nov. 14-17, while 38% are in favor and 14% aren’t sure. Fifty-seven percent of Americans would prefer a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented, which could have been a possibility under a comprehensive reform law that passed in the Senate in 2013, but the House refused to take up the bill.

MORE: Obama Expected to Shield 5 Million Immigrants From Deportation in Executive Action

Among other measures, Obama’s proposal is said to allow parents of children who are legal citizens to stay, in addition to immigrants with high-tech skills. The long-promised reform is set to be announced Thursday at 8 p.m. ET in Las Vegas via a primetime address, the White House said Wednesday.

[NBC News]

TIME Immigration

Obama Expected to Shield 5 Million Immigrants from Deportation in Executive Action

"What I'm going to be laying out is the things that I can do with my lawful authority as president"

President Barack Obama will announce his long-promised executive action on immigration reform Thursday evening in a primetime address to the nation, the White House said. Obama’s action will defer deportations for roughly five million who reside in the United States illegally, advocates familiar with Obama’s move said.

In a video posted to Facebook, Obama said he would address the nation at 8 p.m. on Thursday. He will then travel to a high school in Las Vegas on Friday.

“What I’m going to be laying out is the things that I can do with my lawful authority as president to make the system work better even as I continue to work with Congress and encourage them to get a bipartisan comprehensive bill that can solve the entire problem,” Obama said.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Obama would host a dinner Wednesday night to discuss the executive actions with some Senate and House Democrats. And he said questions about the legality of Obama’s executive actions—the President has previously said it would be inappropriate for him to act unilaterally—would answered soon.

“There will be some material related to the legal justification… that will be released tomorrow,” Earnest said.

Obama announced in June that he would take executive action by the end of the summer, saying House Speaker John Boehner informed him the chamber would not take up the comprehensive immigration reform bill passed by the Senate in 2013. To assuage concerns of vulnerable Democrats, Obama decided to delay his action until after the midterm elections.

Congressional Republicans have threatened that unilateral action from Obama would poison the well for compromise in the new Congress.

“If ‘Emperor Obama’ ignores the American people and announces an amnesty plan that he himself has said over and over again exceeds his Constitutional authority, he will cement his legacy of lawlessness and ruin the chances for Congressional action on this issue—and many others,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said in a statement.”

“I think it would be a profound mistake for the President of the United States to use his executive authority to overturn American immigration law,” Indiana Gov. Mike Pence said.

An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released Wednesday found that 48% of Americans oppose Obama taking unilateral action on immigration, while 38% are in favor, with the results largely breaking along party lines.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who will become Minority Leader when Republicans assume control of the chamber next year, lauded Obama for taking action.

“This is personal to me,” Reid said in a statement. “There is no issue I have worked on more in my time as Democratic Leader, than immigration reform. Comprehensive immigration reform brings relief to families being torn apart by our broken system. Comprehensive immigration reform is an economic issue and one we must address. That’s why I have been so disappointed that Republicans have ducked, dodged and skirted taking up legislation this Congress forcing President Obama to act administratively.”

TIME Know Right Now

Know Right Now: From the Arctic Chill to ‘Lake Effect’ Snow

Catch up on the latest trending stories

Among today’s trending stories, all 50 states saw below-freezing temperatures this week. More than 100 cities could break records for the lowest temperatures this time of year. As of noon on Wednesday, there were at least five deaths caused by the storm.

“Lake Effect” snow occurs when cold atmosphere moves across warmer lake water. The combination provides energy to absorb water vapor, which freezes and is dumped onto land. This weather phenomenon has pummeled the Great Lakes region and parts of upstate New York.

Buffalo has been hit with at least 76 inches of snow so far, a national record. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo dispatched the National Guard to assist in the most affected areas.

TIME Immigration

Obama to Visit Las Vegas as Immigration Moves Near

President Barack Obama gestures as he speaks during the ConnectED to the Future event in the East Room of the White House in Washington D.C. on Nov. 19, 2014.
President Barack Obama gestures as he speaks during the ConnectED to the Future event in the East Room of the White House in Washington D.C. on Nov. 19, 2014. Carolyn Kaster—AP

A top official said Obama's executive immigration actions will be comprehensive

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama will travel to Las Vegas Friday, a Democratic official said, heightening anticipation that he will announce executive orders on immigration this week.

The president is expected to take administrative steps to protect as many as 5 million people in the country illegally from deportation, and grant them work permits. Republicans are vehemently opposed to the president’s likely actions, with some conservative members threatening to pursue a government shutdown if Obama follows through on his promises to act on immigration before the end of the year.

The White House would not confirm Obama’s travel plans or the purpose for the visit. In 2013, the president visited Las Vegas’ Del Sol High School, which has a large population of non-English speaking students, to unveil his blueprint for comprehensive immigration legislation.

A wide-ranging immigration bill passed the Senate, but stalled in the Republican-led House. Obama vowed this summer to instead pursue changes to the immigration system using his presidential administrative authority, but delayed the measures until after the midterm elections, in part because of concerns from some Democrats facing tough races.

Democrats still lost control of the Senate in the midterm balloting.

Astrid Silva, an organizer for the group Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, said the president “has a duty to keep his promise and use his full legal authority to take action where Congress has failed.” The group said the White House has been in touch with Nevada activists about the trip.

The Democratic official insisted on anonymity because this person wasn’t authorized to confirm the president’s trip by name.

Meanwhile, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Obama’s executive immigration actions will be comprehensive and include border security measures.

Johnson said the administration came up with a variety of changes to the immigration system that he believes are not only legal but needed in light of inaction by Congress on immigration. Johnson spoke briefly about the president’s plan during an event at the National Press Club on Wednesday. He didn’t provide any details about Obama’s plan, saying he didn’t want to get out ahead of the president’s announcement.

Johnson also said more clarity is needed for internal directives outlining how immigration authorities decide which immigrants living in the country illegally should be deported. He didn’t provide details.

TIME Education

What California’s College Tuition Hike Says About the Future of Higher Education

CA: UC Berkeley Students Rally Against Tuition Fee Hikes
Students rallied to demonstrate against the university's plan to increase tuition fees over the next five years at the University of California, Berkeley campus on Nov. 18, 2014, in Berkeley, Calif. Alex Milan Tracy—Sipa USA

As state funding dwindles, students at public universities are being asked to pick up more of the tab

When does a public university system become one in name only? That’s the question facing California as officials in charge of the state’s prestigious, but financially-struggling university system clash over how to keep it afloat.

On Nov. 20, the regents that control the University of California system will vote on a proposal to increase tuition at its 10 campuses by as much as 5% a year for the next five years. This year’s tuition and fees for in-state students is $12,192, which could rise to $15,564 by the 2019-20 school year under the proposal. The plan was conceived and put forward by Janet Napolitano, who took over the UC system in 2013.

The fight over the tuition increase pits Napolitano, the former governor of Arizona and federal homeland security chief, against Governor Jerry Brown, a popular figure in the state who was just re-elected with a sizable mandate. Brown has said he opposes increasing tuition, and would restore some state funding cut during the recession only if it stays flat. Brown is a regent and is among a handful of those on the board who have already indicated they will reject Napolitano’s proposal.

“There is a game of chicken,” says Hans Johnson, a higher education expert at the non-partisan Public Policy Institute of California. “It’s not clear to me at all how it’s going to turn out.”

Underlying the clash of big personalities is a philosophical debate about the changing funding models for public universities. In 1960, California created a lofty master plan that said higher education should be free or very low-cost for residents. “We’ve moved away from that pretty dramatically,” says Johnson. “It’s almost traumatic for California to think about it.” In recent decades, the state has decreased the share of overall public higher education costs it pays for and the system has become increasingly dependent on student contributions, among other sources, for the difference. In the 2001-02 academic year, in-state tuition and fees for UC campuses was $3,429, about one-third of the cost today. Similar trends have played out in state university systems elsewhere as well.

The recession accelerated public schools’ reliance on private money. At UC, the system receives some $460 million less per year in state funds than it did in the 2007-08 school year.

“As a political matter, state officials have made the judgment they don’t want to pay for higher education for our citizens,” says David Plank, an economist at Policy Analysis for California Education, a non-partisan research center. “What were once public universities are now private universities that receive some subsidy from the states.”

Napolitano says that if UC is to remain a world-class educational and research institution, it needs more money, no matter the source. And she says students and families will need to fill the gap left by the state. The proposed tuition increase would affect only around half of the student body. Thanks to income-based federal and state grants, about 55% of UC students pay no tuition.

Gavin Newsom, California’s lieutenant governor, has said he and Brown were blind-sided by the tuition increase proposal. The governor’s office has said Napolitano’s plan could void a plan Brown has endorsed to increase state funding 4 percent per year if tuition stays flat. Napolitano has said she never made a deal and if was one was struck before she took charge, she hasn’t found any record of it. “It was unilateral. It wasn’t anything we agreed to,” says Steve Montiel, a spokesman for Napolitano.

On the eve of today’s meeting of the regents planning board, the speaker of the California state assembly reportedly proposed directing $50 million in additional state general funds to UC to stave off increased costs for students. The proposal followed student protests at at least two UC campuses this week.

TIME Crime

Missouri Just Tied its Lethal Injection Record

Missouri Execution Taylor
Leon Taylor, sentenced to death in the killing of a gas station attendant, was executed by lethal injection early Wednesday morning. AP

Leon Taylor's lethal injection is the state's ninth this year

Missouri executed a convicted murderer, Leon Taylor, early Wednesday morning, the state’s ninth lethal injection this year and the most since Missouri’s record-setting pace in 1999.

Taylor, convicted of killing a Kansas City gas station attendant in 1994 in front of the worker’s 8-year-old stepdaughter, was executed with a single dose of pentobarbital. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon declined to grant Taylor clemency, and the U.S. Supreme Court denied hearing the inmate’s appeals to halt his execution.

According to witnesses and prison officials, the execution went off without problems. Several prolonged lethal injections in Ohio, Oklahoma and Arizona earlier this year were widely considered to have been botched.

Missouri’s pace of executions this year is now second only to Texas, which has carried out 10 lethal injections in 2014 so far. According to experts, Missouri is executing inmates at a higher rate in part because it seems to have an adequate supply of the sedative pentobarbital, allowing Missouri to execute a number of inmates who have been waiting on death row for years.

TIME States

First Same-Sex Marriage Licenses Issued in South Carolina

Ahead of a planned move by the state's attorney general to block such unions

(CHARLESTON, S.C.) — A judge has issued the first same-sex marriage licenses in South Carolina, ahead of a planned move by the state’s attorney general to block such unions.

Early Wednesday, the office of Probate Judge Irvin Condon in Charleston said that he had issued six licenses to same-sex couples.

The judge’s attorney, John Nichols, says the way was cleared for issuing the licenses by a decision in a case in Columbia. On Tuesday, the judge in that case ruled that South Carolina must recognize the marriage of a same-sex couple performed in Washington, D.C.

Last month, the South Carolina Supreme Court told probate judges not to issue any marriage licenses until there was a decision in that case. Nichols says Tuesday’s ruling was that decision, so Condon is issuing licenses.

TIME States

No One Really Wants to Run the Republican Governors Association

2016 dynamics at play

Republican governors gathered at an opulent Florida resort this week to celebrate their victories in the midterm elections are finding the party tempered by an unusual challenge: no one really wants to run their campaign arm.

Usually a hotly-contested position for governors seeking to boost their national appeal and profile, the chairmanship of the Republican Governors Association (RGA) has proven hard to fill this year, according to multiple governors and staffers familiar with the deliberations.

“No one wants it,” one Republican governor said, speaking on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss the sensitive subject.

“It’s a mystery. None of the big shots are aiming for it,” added one gubernatorial aide.

Members of the group’s executive committee, long a training ground for new leaders, have proven largely uninterested. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the current chairman, is gearing up to announce a run for the White House, while the current vice chair and 2013 chair, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, is preparing to do the same. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, the 2013 vice chair, is contemplating a presidential bid, while Florida Gov. Rick Scott appears unlikely to seek the post, according to those familiar with his plans. Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, talked about as a possible 2016 contender, has ruled out taking the slot, as has South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who has been talked about as a potential Republican vice presidential selection. Texas Gov. Rick Perry is leaving office at the end of the year—and is looking at a White House run nonetheless—while Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett lost his reelection bid earlier this month. New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, a rising party star who has said she doesn’t have interest in national politics, is seen as uninterested in the slot.

RGA insiders say it would be a faux pas for a governor with eyes on the White House to seek the post, which allows governors to travel the country on the RGA’s dime to raise money for their colleagues. In 2011, Perry, then the RGA chair, did just that, and was forced to resign his post when he launched an ill-fated bid for the Republican presidential nomination. His departure upended a long-planned transition and pitted Christie against Jindal in a bitter succession battle.

Besides White House ambitions, the low-key nature of next year’s races is limiting the talent pool for the one-year gig. The 2015 RGA chair will be responsible for handling open elections in Kentucky and Louisiana, and Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant’s re-election. Eleven seats will be up for contention in 2016, making this year’s vice-chairmanship more appealing, some aides said.

“We have multiple governors interested in being the next RGA Chairman and leading a pragmatic group of 31 GOP Governors, the most for either party in 16 years,” RGA spokesman Jon Thompson said. “We’re fortunate to have many governors who have the potential of leading in multiple facets of the GOP, which attests to their incredible leadership and records of results.”

The most important qualification for the RGA chair is his or her ability to raise money. Under Christie’s leadership, the group raised $106 million and spent $130 million, defending a number of purple-state seats and winning several blue-state governorships.

According to multiple individuals familiar with the gubernatorial discussions, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, who was reelected this month, is the inside favorite for the post, though one governor described the situation as “very fluid” before governors meet to elect the new RGA leadership on Thursday afternoon.

TIME National Security

Feds Tracking 150 Americans Who Went to Syria Amid Terror Fears

Television cameras record FBI Director James Comey as he answers questions from reporters during a news conference at the FBI office in Boston, Mass., Nov. 18, 2014.
Television cameras record FBI Director James Comey as he answers questions from reporters during a news conference at the FBI office in Boston, Mass., Nov. 18, 2014. Brian Snyder—Reuters

Determined to prevent "a future 9/11"

American authorities are tracking about 150 U.S. citizens who have traveled to Syria in recent months amid fears they may have gone there to fight for militant groups, the head of the FBI said Tuesday.

“We have tracked coming up on close to 150 people who traveled from the United States to Syria, for all manner of motivations,” FBI Director James Comey told reporters in Boston, according to the New York Times. “A significant number of them to fight.”

Authorities are particularly concerned about Americans who may have gone to fight alongside militants of the group Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), which a U.S.-led military coalition has been hammering with air strikes in both Iraq and Syria for months.

“We are determined not to allow future lines to be drawn from a terrorist diaspora out of Syria to a future 9/11,” Comey added.

[NYT]

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