The world at a glance . . . United States
Don’t let it snow: Frustration was mounting in Spokane this week after freak winter storms buried the normally arid eastern Washington city in 6 feet of snow. The harsh weather has snarled traffic, disrupted garbage collection, and frayed the tempers of many residents. Police are reporting incidents of “snow rage,” including one in which a man allegedly shot at a snowplow operator, apparently for honking at him. “People are getting upset, angry, stressed out because of all this snow,” said Staci Cornwell of the city’s mental health department. Storms since mid-December have dumped 78 inches of snow on Spokane. The city’s typical snowfall for an entire winter is 50 inches. Gov. Chris Gregoire has dispatched 200 National Guard troops to help with cleanup.
Shooting stirs outrage: Leaders of San Francisco’s black community this week accused the city’s transit agency of hiding details of a fatal police shooting of an unarmed black subway rider on New Year’s Day. Oscar Grant, 22, died after being shot by Bay Area Rapid Transit Police Officer Johannes Mehserle, who is white. A video shot by a subway passenger shows an officer pinning Grant facedown just before Mehserle fires his gun. Mehserle, 27, has not yet given his account of the shooting, sparking suspicions of a coverup. The delay “raises questions about the integrity of the investigation,” said John Burris, a lawyer representing Grant’s family. Authorities promised a full investigation.
Tremors raise fears: About 500 small earthquakes have rocked Yellowstone National Park in recent days, raising fears that the ancient “supervolcano” on which the park sits could be nearing a massive eruption. The caldera, or crater, of the volcano is approximately 50 miles wide, and its geothermal activity powers some of Yellowstone’s most popular attractions, including the Old Faithful geyser. The floor of the caldera has risen more than 3 inches in the past three years, suggesting an eruption could be brewing. “It’s not business as usual,” said University of Utah geophysicist Robert Smith. “We are paying careful attention.” The last full-scale eruption occurred about 640,000 years ago, spewing tons of rock and dust into the atmosphere.
Another Bush for president? With one son about to leave the White House with historically low approval ratings, former President George H.W. Bush this week touted another son, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, as a future president. Admitting that “right now is probably a bad time” to make that suggestion, Bush told Fox News that he considered his second son “as qualified and able as anyone I know on the political scene.” Jeb Bush, for his part, did not completely rule out such a scenario. Bush, 55, this week said he had decided not to seek a U.S. Senate seat in 2010, but he left open the possibility of future campaigns. “While the opportunity to serve my state and country during these turbulent times is compelling,” he said, “now is not the right time to return to elected office.”
Bedbugs are biting: Cincinnati health officials are grappling with a bedbug infestation, with one in six citizens surveyed recently reporting at least one encounter with a bedbug in the past 12 months. City health inspectors can’t keep up with requests to check homes and offices for the pests. Bedbugs, reddish-brown insects about a quarter-inch long, all but disappeared from the U.S. in the 1950s, but they’ve made a comeback due to the explosion in international travel. Bedbugs rarely transmit diseases, but they’re hard to eradicate, and their bites can be painful and leave a nasty red welt. Officials had no explanation for why the problem seems particularly acute in Cincinnati.
Obama’s tax plan: President-elect Barack Obama said this week he would seek around $300 billion in tax cuts for individuals and companies as part of a massive $775 billion economic-stimulus package. Obama wants to give a $500-per-person credit to Americans making less than $200,000 a year. He would do that by reducing the amount withheld from paychecks rather than mailing out rebate checks. Wealthy Americans would not qualify for the credit, but an increase in their tax rate, which Obama had earlier proposed for this year, would be delayed. Businesses would get tax credits for creating jobs. Some GOP lawmakers criticized the size of the plan. “We should not bury future generations under mountains of debt,” said House Minority Leader John Boehner.