In brief: Obama appoints new envoys
Honolulu – President Barack Obama used his executive power to overcome what the White House called obstruction by Senate Republicans, announcing six recess appointments on Wednesday, including the first American ambassador to Syria in five years.
The appointments came amid deep White House frustration over the slow pace of Senate confirmations. A memo put out by the White House on Wednesday said that 79 of Obama’s nominations were pending in the Senate when the lame-duck session ended.
The six nominees appointed have been waiting a total of 888 days to start their respective jobs, the White House said.
“All administrations face delays in getting some of their nominees confirmed, but the extent of Republican obstruction of Obama nominees is unprecedented,” a White House official said.
The appointments fill a total of four ambassadorships, including Robert Stephen Ford as ambassador to Syria. Obama also appointed James Cole as deputy attorney general.
U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., has objected to the appointment of Cole. Chambliss is concerned about public comments Cole has made about prosecuting suspected terrorists in criminal courts, according to his office.
Others appointed Wednesday were: William Boarman, U.S. public printer; Matthew Bryza, ambassador to Azerbaijan; Norman Eisen, ambassador to the Czech Republic; and Francis Ricciardone, ambassador to Turkey.
Store leveled, two die in explosion
Wayne, Mich. – A blast felt miles away leveled a Detroit-area furniture store, where crews rescued the owner from the rubble alive and searched for more than 12 hours before recovering the bodies of a salesman and a clerical worker who were killed in the suspected natural gas explosion.
The massive explosion about 9 a.m. reduced the William C. Franks Furniture store to a pile of wood, crumbled drywall, twisted metal and broken bits of furniture. A bureau drawer could be seen. The blast shattered windows at nearby businesses.
Consumers Energy spokeswoman Debra Dodd said the utility believed natural gas was involved, but the cause of the blast is still unknown. The company had received a call of a possible gas leak in the area several hours earlier and a worker had been trying to track down the source when the explosion took place, Dodd said.
Electronic massager suspected in death
Miami – Her neck aching after a night of wrapping gifts on Christmas Eve, Dr. Michelle Ferrari-Gegerson used an electronic massager to relieve the pain.
What happened next is unclear, but Broward Sheriff’s Office detectives and the medical examiner suspect the electronic massager became ensnared with a necklace Ferrari-Gegerson was wearing, and strangled her.
Ferrari-Gegerson, 37, a Jackson Memorial Hospital radiologist, was discovered unconscious on the bedroom floor of her Parkland home about 9 p.m. Friday by her husband, Dr. Kenneth Gegerson, 43, a dentist.
When police and paramedics arrived, they found an electronic massager on the floor near Ferrari-Gegerson, according to the Broward Sheriff’s Office.
Police are withholding the brand and other details of the electronic massager while the investigation continues.