Ahead of the curve: The next 7 days
December 18th, 2011
07:46 PM ET

Ahead of the curve: The next 7 days

Here is a look at some of the stories that CNN plans to cover this week:

Storm death toll rising in Philippines; many survivors lack clean water

Aid workers are scrambling to help survivors of a tropical storm that the Red Cross says killed more than 650 people in the southern Philippines late last week.

Philippine Red Cross Chairman Richard Gordon, who said the situation was a "severe humanitarian crisis," planned to travel to the affected area Monday.

Flash flooding overnight Friday, following 10 hours of rain, fueled the devastation. As much as 8 inches of rain fell within 24 hours in some areas.

Survivors in the hardest-hit areas are contending with no electricity or clean drinking water. An estimated 100,000 people are displaced, according to the country's Department of Social Welfare and Development. Authorities have started distributing food rations for some 10,000 families affected by the storm while also handing out thousands of blankets and mosquito nets, the Red Cross said.

Blizzard watch issued for Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado

A wintry storm brewing in the Southwest is expected to bring blizzard conditions and heavy snow accumulations of more than 1 foot to the southern High Plains Monday, making travel across the region dangerous if not impossible, CNN meteorologist Sean Morris reported.

Winter storm watches and warnings were issued Sunday by the National Weather Service for much of New Mexico, the panhandles of Texas and Oklahoma, extreme northwestern Oklahoma, southeastern Colorado and southwestern and south-central Kansas.

A blizzard watch was issued Sunday for portions of southwestern Kansas, southeastern Colorado and the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles, where 15 to 18 inches of snow is expected to fall across the area Monday. North winds of 20 to 30 mph will accompany the snow for much of the storm. Frequent wind gusts of 35 to 45 mph will also be possible. The high wind, combined with heavy snow and blowing snow, are expected to cause near-zero visibility on Monday afternoon.

The heaviest snowfall and strongest winds are expected to begin Monday morning and last through Tuesday, the weather service said.

U.S. House to consider short-term payroll tax cut extension

The U.S. House on Monday is expected to consider a measure, passed Saturday by the Senate, that would extend a Social Security payroll tax cut and expanded federal unemployment benefits for two months. However, House Speaker John Boehner on Sunday indicated that he and other Republicans in the GOP-controlled House aren't in favor of the two-month extension and would rather continue negotiations to extend the tax cut for a full year.

The  deal, should it pass the House, also avoids cutting federal funds to physicians who accept Medicare and speeds up a decision over a controversial Keystone XL pipeline, giving the White House 60 days to make a call on the pipeline project.

President Barack Obama and Democratic congressional leaders have called for final approval of the Senate plan to decide the issue for now and set up further talks to reach a longer-term resolution after Congress returns from its holiday recess in January.

The payroll tax cut, unless it is extended, will expire December 31. The move cut workers’ Social Security payroll tax rate to 4.2% on the first $106,800 in wages this year, instead of the normal 6.2%. With that cut, people making $50,000 this year took home an additional $1,000.

Results due of inquiry into NATO attack that killed Pakistani soldiers

NATO's investigation into a NATO strike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers near the Afghan border last month - an incident that has soured Pakistani public opinion against cooperation with NATO and the United States – is due late this week.

U.S. officials have said it was a regrettable case of mistaken identity and miscommunication when NATO attacked an area in Pakistan in support of a nearby U.S.-Afghan joint patrol that believed it was under fire from the Taliban. Pakistani military officials contend that NATO forces knew they were firing at Pakistani troops throughout the attack and even apologized as they kept firing, evidence they say supports their assertions the attack was deliberate.

The incident has exacerbated an already fractious relationship between the United States and Pakistan, whose military has been on the defensive since the secret raid by U.S. Navy SEALs that killed Osama bin Laden in May.

Since the attack on bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, close to Pakistani military installations, tensions have been high. But last month's attack seems to have been the last straw, with Pakistan shutting NATO supply routes until it receives an official apology.

The United States has expressed "condolences" for the loss of the Pakistani soldiers but won't go as far as to issue an "apology" until the NATO investigation is complete. Pakistan has explicitly refused to cooperate with the investigation, saying it doesn't trust NATO.

Florida A&M trustees could suspend president over alleged hazing

The Florida A&M University board of trustees on Monday is expected to consider the Florida governor's request to suspend university President James Ammons amid an investigation into various issues at the university, including last month's death of a band drum major who allegedly was hazed by his band mates.

Some band members have said Robert Champion Jr., 26, died after taking part in a rite of passage involving a beating aboard a bus. One member, who spoke on condition of anonymity, explained that students "walk from the front of the bus to the back of the bus backward while the bus is full of other band members, and you get beaten until you get to the back."

Authorities have ruled Champion's death a homicide. School trustees already have placed band director Julian White on administrative leave.

Four students were expelled from the school, and 30 others were dismissed from the band after Champion's death, Ammons wrote in a letter to the board of trustees last month.

Hearing for WikiLeaks suspect continues

A hearing that will determine whether an American soldier suspected of leaking classified documents to the WikiLeaks website will be tried is expected to continue, and perhaps may wrap up, this week.

Pfc. Bradley Manning's Article 32 hearing - the military equivalent of a grand jury hearing that will determine whether enough evidence exists to merit a court-martial - began late last week at Fort George G. Meade in Maryland.

Manning is charged with aiding the enemy, wrongfully causing intelligence to be published on the Internet knowing that it is accessible to the enemy, theft of property or records, transmitting defense information, fraud and related activity in connection with computers and violating Army regulations, according to the military.

Testimony last week portrayed Manning, who turned 24 Saturday, as troubled by Army discipline during his deployment to Iraq, and someone who was struggling with sexual orientation and gender identification issues.

If convicted of all charges, he would face life in prison and a dishonorable discharge. He has been in confinement for 18 months.

Monday profile: Tales from inside the red suit

The men who spread cheer – whether for a season or a lifetime – are part of a special fraternity. But their jolly work comes with jarring challenges, such as dealing with tantrum-throwing toddlers or women demanding sex. Seven Santas share some of their secrets.

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Filed under: Ahead of the curve
soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. banasy©

    The Santa story had me laughing my head off, and wishing I could recapture some of my lost youth when I actually believed there *was* a Santa Claus.
    I have never even thought about the pros and cons about portraying Santa; they have infinitly more patience than I would.
    The little girl from Cleveland brought tears to my eyes...what a gracious man "Santa Lou" is!

    December 18, 2011 at 9:03 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  2. rio

    I am so sickened by the tax cuts to those who do not need them ... 50,ooo OH please. most of America lives on peanuts - they can see how this helps most Americans.

    December 18, 2011 at 9:54 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Sebastian

    CNN, Why aren't you reporting that SOPA is big news ahead? If that bill actually passes, it will fundamentally change the way the internet is used for the entire world? Or does your parent company have money being put into the senators pockets?

    December 18, 2011 at 10:19 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  4. rooney

    Looks like Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas & Colorado are going to be having a very white Christmas!

    December 19, 2011 at 7:11 am | Report abuse | Reply
  5. THE ONE AND ONLY DRAKOREX1

    ANYBODY GOT CHANGE FOR A NICKLE?

    December 19, 2011 at 10:04 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  6. accurateasalways

    Why not the larger story of why A.T.T. thought they could not fail? Using unions for cover, powerful lobbies, and sweetheart idealogical deals with the same government they supposedly do not need to interfere with business as
    usual? Really, it is the untold story: WHAT IS A.T.T.? Is it a kind of "priesthood"... a pyramid of old boy networks?

    December 20, 2011 at 12:29 am | Report abuse | Reply

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