Daily Archives: December 15, 2009

2 in one week: DNA testing clears wrongly convicted

Donald Eugene Gates

WASHINGTON (AP) — A man who spent 28 years behind bars for a rape and murder he said he didn’t commit walked out of a federal prison in Arizona on Tuesday with $75 and a bus ticket to Ohio after DNA testing showed he was innocent.

The conviction of Donald Eugene Gates, 58, was based largely on the testimony of an FBI forensic analyst whose work later came under fire and a hair analysis technique that has been discredited.

“I feel beautiful,” Gates told The Associated Press by telephone after leaving the U.S. penitentiary in Tucson, Ariz.

Just hours before, the same judge who had presided over Gates’ trial years ago in D.C. Superior Court ordered his release.

Prosecutors had agreed Gates should be released. However, at their request, Senior Judge Fred B. Ugast delayed Gates’ formal exoneration until next week to give the government a chance to conduct one more round of DNA testing.

Ben Friedman, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington, said Gates would be the first D.C. defendant who spent significant time in prison to be exonerated based on DNA evidence.

Gates was convicted of the 1981 rape and murder of Catherine Schilling, a 21-year-old Georgetown University student, in Washington’s Rock Creek Park. He was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison.

But the conviction was based largely on the testimony of FBI hair analyst Michael P. Malone whose work came under fire in 1997. At that time, the FBI’s inspector general found that Malone gave false testimony in proceedings that led to the impeachment and ouster of U.S. District Judge Alcee Hastings in 1989.

Ugast was incredulous that prosecutors had failed to inform him after Malone’s work was called into question. He ordered the U.S. attorney’s office to review all its cases in which Malone testified – something he said should have been done earlier.

Sandra K. Levick, one of Gates’ attorneys from the D.C. Public Defender Service, said she came across the inspector general’s report while doing her own research for the case. She then obtained more information through a Freedom of Information Act request that showed the FBI had issued warnings about the work of Malone and 12 other analysts who were criticized by the inspector general. As part of a review requested by the FBI, prosecutors confirmed they had relied on Malone’s work to obtain Gates’ conviction.

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Fla. man exonerated by DNA after 35 years in jail

BARTOW, Fla. (AP) — A Florida man who spent 35 years in prison has been freed after DNA evidence exonerated him. James Bain was sentenced to life in prison in 1974 for kidnapping and raping a 9-year-old boy. He’s been pushing for DNA testing and he finally got it after the Innocence Project of Florida got involved in his case.

Tests released last week showed he could not have committed the crime. A judge ordered him freed on Thursday and he walked out of a courthouse a free man.

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Filed under Courts, Crime, Forensics, Police, True Crime, Uncategorized, Washington, DC

President Obama and Warren Buffett share ancestral roots

Genealogists announced on Tuesday that President Obama and billionaire Warren Buffett are related through a 17th century Frenchman named Mareen Duvall

Warren E. Buffett, the billionaire investor who supported Barack Obama during the presidential campaign, might be more than just an informal adviser to the president: He might also be his distant cousin, according to a new study of Mr. Obama’s family tree.
Genealogists at Ancestry.com, the online genealogy site, reported Tuesday that Mr. Buffett and Mr. Obama are seventh cousins, three times removed, and share a great-grandfather who owned slaves in Maryland.
According to the online genealogists, Duvall — who immigrated to Maryland from France in the 1650s — is Obama’s 9th great grandfather and Buffett’s 6th great grandfather. The discovery was made by accident when the same team of genealogists who had researched Obama’s family tree went on to investigate details about Buffett’s relatives.
“We recognized the name Duvall and it made us wonder if this was a connection,” said Anastasia Tyler, the lead researcher on the project. “So we started focusing on Duvall.”
“We’re always looking for a way to show how interesting family history is. Like this, when you start finding similarities in family trees,” Tyler said in an interview. “The tree leads you in directions you don’t expect.”

* Mareen Duvall
* Birth: about 1630 in Nantes, Loire-Atlantique, Pays de la Loire, France
* Death: 5 Aug 1694 in Middle Plantation, Anne Arundel, Maryland, USA
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The ancestor, Mareen Duvall, emigrated from France to Maryland as an indentured servant in the 1650s, the genealogists reported. By 1659, Mr. Duvall had purchased property in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, which he later named “Middle Plantation,” the report said.

According to historical records, Duvall belonged to a religious sect called the Jacobites, was a slave owner, planter and merchant and was “conservative in his political life.”

source:

Family History of Mareen Duvall: The Society of Mareen Duvall Descendants

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“Supermax” in Illinois to house Gitmo prisoners

LiveStream of announcement scheduled for: December 15, 2009 3:15 PM EST See below

U.S. to buy state prison in Thomson, Ill.
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama has directed the federal government to buy the near-empty state prison in rural Thomson, Ill., to house federal inmates and up to 100 detainees from the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, officials said late Monday.
The official announcement is planned for Tuesday and follows weeks of consideration of the Thomson Correctional Center as a site for Guantanamo detainees.
The decision is part of a complicated plan for shutting down the controversial Guantanamo detention center, a lightning rod for anti-American sentiment around the world as a result of what critics say were detainee abuses there during the Bush administration.

Administration officials as well as Illinois Sen. Richard Durbin and Gov. Pat Quinn will make the official announcement on Tuesday at the White House. source:

Live Stream:
December 15, 2009 3:15 PM EST

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Gitmo detainees will not be freed in US after prison
WASHINGTON (AP) — Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says Guantanamo Bay detainees brought into this country for trial will not be in the U.S. to stay.

Napolitano says a detainee tried in this country would be treated for immigration purposes as though he is at a U.S. border trying to get in – and he won’t get in whether he’s convicted, acquitted or completed a prison sentence.

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Why Progressives Are Batsh*t Crazy to Oppose the Senate Bill

Op-ed by Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.com

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Pick your sub-headline:

a) It’s time to stop being polite and start getting real.
b) Here’s hoping a picture is worth 1,000 words.



Any questions?

OK, I imagine that there will be a few. Here’s how I came up with these numbers.

Senate Bill. These estimates are straightforward — they’re taken directly from the CBO’s report on premiums for people at different income levels. A family of four earning an income of $54,000 would pay $4,000 in premiums, and could expect to incur another $5,000 in out-of-pocket costs. The $4,000 premium represents a substantial discount, because the government is covering 72 percent of the premium — meaning that the gross cost of the premium is $14,286, some $10,286 of which the government pays.

One caution: this reflects the situation before the public option was removed from the bill. But, provided that the subsidy schedule isn’t changed as well, that shouldn’t change these numbers much.

Status Quo. In 2009, the average premium for a family in the individual market was $6,328, according to the insurance lobbying group AHIP. However, this figure paints an optimistic picture for two reasons. Firstly, the average family size in the AHIP dataset is 3.03 people; for a family of four, that number would scale upward to $7,925, by my calculations. Secondly, the CBO’s estimates are based on 2016 figures, not 2009, so to make an apples-to-apples comparison, we have to account for inflation. According to Kaiser, the average cost of health coverage has increased by about 8.7 percent annually over the past decade, and by 8.8 percent for family coverage. Let’s scale that down slightly, assuming 7.5 annual inflation in premiums from 2009 through 2016 inclusive. That would bring the cost of the family’s premium up by a nominal 66 percent, to $13,149. And remember: these are based on estimates of premiums provided by the insurance lobby. I have no particular reason to think that they’re biased, but if they are, it’s probably on the low side.

Not only, however, would this family paying a lot more under the status quo, but they’d be doing so for inferior insurance. According to the CBO, the amount of coverage in the individual market would improve by between 27 and 30 percent under the Senate’s bill. Taking the midpoint of those numbers (28.5 percent), we can infer that there would be about $1,427 in additional cost sharing to this family in the status quo as compared with the Senate bill; this would bring their cost sharing to $6,427 total.

Add the $6,247 to the $13,149 and you get an annual cost of $19,576 — for a family earning $54,000! Obviously, very few such families are going to be able to afford that unless they have a lot of money in the bank. So, some of these families will go without insurance, or they’ll by really crappy insurance, or they’ll pay the premiums but skimp on out-of-pocket costs, which will negatively impact their fiscal and physical health. But if this family were to want to obtain equivalent coverage to that which would be available to them for $9,000 in the Senate bill, it would cost them between $19,000 and $20,000, according to my estimates.

Status Quo with SCHIP. Fortunately, some families in this predicament do receive some relief via the SCHIP program. SCHIP eligibility varies from state to state; a family earning income at 225 percent of the poverty line, as this family does, is eligible for SCHIP in about half of the country.

Premiums are fairly cheap under SCHIP — for a family at 225 percent of poverty, generally on the order of about $60 per month to cover two children. We’ll assume that this will inflate slightly to $75 per month, or $900 per year, by 2016.

The two adults in the household will still have to buy insurance in the individual market, which will cost $7,684 by 2016. That makes the family’s total premium $8,584.

For the adults, we assume that the cost sharing component runs proportional to premiums, and totals $3,756. For the children, this calculation is a little bit more ambiguous. Out-of-pocket costs under SCHIP are capped at 5 percent of family income, which would be $2,700 for this family. But that’s a cap and not an average — we’ll assume that the average is half of the cap, or $1,350. Total cost-sharing, therefore, is $5,106 between the adults and the children.

This means that premiums plus out of pocket costs will equal $13,690 for this family. I estimate the subsidy by subtracting this figure from the cost of unsubsidized insurance in the individual market; the difference is $5,885.

Caveat/Disclaimer. There are, obviously, some simplifying assumptions here, especially with regard to SCHIP. The only thing I can promise you is that I’m “showing my work“. I would actively encourage people to pick apart these numbers and come up with their own, more robust estimates. One thing that should probably be accounted for is that the families in both the status quo and the status quo + SCHIP cases will frequently be able to deduct their health care expenses from their taxable income, especially if they’ve incurred substantial out-of-pocket costs. That means that the difference in net costs is slightly exaggerated by my figures.

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The closing…

Nate SilverI understand that most of the liberal skepticism over the Senate bill is well intentioned. But it has become way, way off the mark. Where do you think the $800 billion goes? It goes to low-income families just like these. Where do you think it comes from? We won’t know for sure until the Senate and House produce their conference bill, but it comes substantially from corporations and high-income earners, plus some efficiency gains.

Because this is primarily a political analysis blog, I think people tend to assume that I’m lost in the political forest and not seeing the policy trees. In fact, the opposite is true. For any “progressive” who is concerned about the inequality of wealth, income and opportunity in America, this bill would be an absolutely monumental achievement. The more compelling critique, rather, is that the bill would fail to significantly “bend the cost curve“. I don’t dismiss that criticism at all, and certainly the insertion of a public option would have helped at the margins. But fundamentally, that is a critique that would traditionally be associated with the conservative side of the debate, as it ultimately goes to mounting deficits in the wake of expanded government entitlements.

And please do pick apart my numbers: I’m sure that you will find some questionable assumptions and possibly some outright errors. But if you found a persuasive, progressive policy rationale against the bill, I’d be stunned.~~Nate Silver

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Filed under (Senate Majority Leader) Harry Reid, Government, Health, Health Care Reform, Media and Entertainment, Medicine, Nate Silver, Obama Administration, Politics, Pres. Barack Obama, Public Option, Senate, Uncategorized, United States

TNT’s 11th Annual Christmas in Washington Airs on Sunday, Dec. 20 at 8/7c

Just click here for updated videos and photos from Christmas in Washington

TNT is going to ring in the holidays in musical style with its annual presentation of the 11th annual presentation of Christmas in Washington, premiering Sunday, Dec. 20, at 8 p.m. (ET/PT). Mary J. Blige, Neil Diamond, Sugarland, Rob Thomas and Usher are scheduled to join host George Lopez in TNT’s spectacular holiday celebration.

We take pride in presenting Christmas in Washington each year as we bring together musical artists from a variety of genres for a fantastic holiday concert,” said Michael Wright, executive vice president/head of programming for TNT, TBS and TCM. “This year, we’re especially thrilled to welcome a lineup of top-name performers and an equally amazing host, George Lopez. Together, they will make this a holiday celebration to remember.”

Annually attended by the President and First Lady and other Washington VIPs, Christmas in Washington is a holiday musical celebration benefiting the National Children’s Medical Center. The show was taped at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. Sunday, Dec. 13. This will be the 11th presentation of Christmas in Washington by TNT, which is in its 28th year overall.


Before the show started, four little girls dressed as elves helped the first couple place a gift for the Children’s National Medical Center under a Christmas tree. President Obama deemed the quartet – Avery, age 4, Anna, age 6, Abigail, age 4, and Reagan, age 7 – “Santa’s little helpers,” and introduced each, replacing their last name with “Elf.”

Though Anna Elf (on the left), seemed unimpressed, telling the President: “I’ve never seen you before!” He responded, laughing, “I’ve never seen you before.”

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Sugarland's  Kristian Bush, left, Mary J Blige, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle and George Lopez sing Christmas carols

Sugarland's Kristian Bush, left, Mary J Blige, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle and George Lopez sing Christmas carols

The nation’s capital got in the holiday spirit Sunday night when music legends Neil Diamond and Mary J. Blige performed for President Barack Obama at the annual “Christmas in Washington” concert. The festivities, hosted by comedian George Lopez, took place at the National Building Museum and benefited the Children’s National Medical Center.

President Obama spoke of helping those in need during the holidays, as well as honoring those in the military:

With our men and women in uniform serving far from home, in harm’s way, our fervent wish remains this season, and all seasons: Let there be peace on earth,” he said.

Diamond kicked off the concert by performing “Joy to the World” and “Winter Wonderland.” Blige wowed the crowd with “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire).”

Two of the holiday songs were original numbers. Country group Sugarland performed “Gold and Green” and Rob Thomas sang “A New York Christmas.”

R&B singer Usher sang “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and Internet sensation Justin Bieber performed “Someday at Christmas.”

Near the end of the show, Lopez introduced President Obama and First Lady Michelle. The President thanked the performers and offered some holiday thoughts:

This season we celebrate that sacred moment. The birth of a child, the message of the love we preach to the world. We are our brother’s keeper. We are our sister’s keeper. And pure in heart, we do unto others as we have them do unto us. We devote ourselves to good works. We are summoned to be peacemakers. More the 2,000 years later,that spirit still inspires us. That’s why this celebration tonight benefits Children’s National Medical Center and all the children whose lives they touch and they save.

That’s why so many of our fellow citizens struggle during tough times. We are called upon to help neighbors in need. That’s why, with our men and women in uniform serving far from home, in harm’s way, our fervent wish remains this season, and all seasons to let there be peace on Earth. To all Americans, from our family to yours, Merry Christmas and God bless.”

After addressing the crowd, the Obamas stayed on stage with all the performers to sing carols, starting with “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing.” The president wiped a tear from his eye during the sing-along.

Meet the Performers

Comedian/Actor George Lopez hosted the annual event

Comedian/Actor George Lopez hosted the annual event


George Lopez
(Host)

George Lopez is host of TBS’s new late-night series Lopez Tonight and one of the top five highest grossing comedians in the world. His groundbreaking sitcom, George Lopez, remains a hit in syndication and helped catapult Nick at Nite to one of the top 10 cable networks. His 2009 comedy special, George Lopez: Tall, Dark and Chicano, was the highest rated stand-up special on HBO in five years. This year, Lopez received the Teen Choice Award for Favorite Comedian. Lopez’s feature film career continues to thrive as well. Next year, Lopez has three films set for release: The Spy Next Door, Valentine’s Day and Marmaduke.

The Queen of Hip-Hop Soul donned a shimmery sheath while belting out her rendition of The Christmas Song.

The Queen of Hip-Hop Soul donned a shimmery sheath while belting out her rendition of The Christmas Song.

Mary J Blige
(Performer)

Mary J Blige is a nine-time Grammy-winning singer and songwriter with eight multi-platinum records and more than 40 million units sold since her 1992 debut of the modern classic What’s the 411. She has helped to redefine R&B and more importantly has been an artist that uses her gift of song to lift spirits and touch lives while bringing her heart, soul and truth to those who are willing to listen. She is loved for her passionate, chart-topping hits like “Be Without You,” “No More Drama” and “Family Affair,” all of which have made her a force in music. Blige’s new album, Stronger, is due for release on Dec. 22. As a multi-faceted mogul, Blige owns Matriarch Records, which produced the soundtrack for the heavily buzzed about film Precious – Based on the Novel Push By Sapphire, and co-owns Carol’s Daughter along with Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith and Jay-Z. Blige has worked her celebrity in the world of philanthropy.

Neil Diamond performing Joy to the World

Neil Diamond performing Joy to the World

Neil Diamond
(Performer)

Neil Diamond, whose most recent releases include A Cherry Cherry Christmas, Hot August Night NYC and the critically acclaimed #1 album Home Before Dark, has been a fixture in the music world for over four decades. This summer, CBS aired a primetime special featuring performances from his hugely popular Hot August Night NYC Live from Madison Square Garden DVD, which won the night in ratings. He has sold more than 125 million albums worldwide, with a remarkable track record of 16 Top 10 albums and 37 Top 10 singles. A Grammy-winning artist, Diamond has been inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame and is a recipient of the Sammy Cahn Lifetime Achievement Award. Among his many other honors, he has received a Golden Globe® and 12 Grammy nominations, and he was named the 2009 MusiCares Person of the Year. His many chart-topping songs include “Sweet Caroline,” “I Am…I Said,” “Song Sung Blue,” “Love on the Rocks” and “America.”

Sugarlands Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush performed Gold and Green, the title track off of their new holiday album.

Sugarlands Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush performed Gold and Green, the title track off of their new holiday album.

Sugarland
(Performer)

Sugarland, the country duo comprised of Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush, has sold more than 8 million records since exploding onto the music scene in 2004 with Twice the Speed of Life (“Baby Girl”/“Something More”). Enjoy the Ride (“Want To”/“Settlin’”/“Stay”) quickly followed in 2006, and their third studio album, Love On The Inside (“It Happens”/“Love”/“All I Want To Do”/“Already Gone”) in July 2008, which skyrocketed them to superstardom and drew fans from all genres and critics abroad. Sugarland is credited with co-writing all tracks from all three albums and co-producing the last two. In August 2009, the duo offered thanks to their loyal fans with Live On The Inside, a CD/DVD set of live tracks, covers and footage from their tour.

Matchbox Twenty's Rob Thomas sang his heart out on A New York Christmas, an original tune he penned after 9/11.

Matchbox Twenty's Rob Thomas sang his heart out on A New York Christmas, an original tune he penned after 9/11.

Rob Thomas
(Performer)

Rob Thomas is a Grammy-winning superstar who has sold more than 80 million albums and penned a remarkable string of #1 smashes, including “Her Diamonds” off his acclaimed new solo album, Cradlesong, as well as “Lonely No More,” “This Is How a Heart Breaks,” “Ever the Same,” “Streetcorner Symphony” and the Matchbox Twenty hits “Push,” “3AM,” “If You’re Gone,” “Bent,” “Disease” and “Unwell,” to name a few. In 1999, Thomas’ smash collaboration with Santana, the Thomas-penned “Smooth,” earned him three Grammys and today ranks #1 on Billboard’s Top Hot 100 Rock Songs chart and #2 on the magazine’s Hot 100 All-Time Top Songs. He has also worked with the likes of Willie Nelson, Mick Jagger, Marc Anthony and Bernie Taupin. In 2004, the Songwriters Hall of Fame presented Thomas with its first ever Starlight Award.

Usher poses with his protege, Justin Bieber, at the Christmas in Washington holiday concert. The 15-year-old YouTube sensation was proud to sing Stevie Wonders Someday at Christmas for President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.

Usher poses with his protege, Justin Bieber, at the Christmas in Washington holiday concert. The 15-year-old YouTube sensation was proud to sing Stevie Wonders Someday at Christmas for President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.

Usher
(Performer)

Usher, whose latest CD, Raymond v. Raymond, is due in stores Dec. 21, has achieved global superstardom as a singer, composer, producer, film and television actor, businessman and philanthropist. Since hitting the music scene in 1994, he has sold more than 40 millions albums worldwide and won countless awards and accolades, including five Grammys. His fifth album, Confessions in 2004, sold more than a million copies during its first week of release, the highest debut-week numbers ever for a male R&B artist. It went on to become the biggest selling album of the year and earned Usher three Grammys and numerous other accolades. “Yeah!,” “Burn” and “Confessions Part II” all topped the charts as Usher became the first solo artist in history to have three singles within Billboard’s Top 10 simultaneously.

Justin Bieber performs onstage during TNT's Christmas in Washington

Justin Bieber performs onstage during TNTs Christmas in Washington

Justin Bieber
(Performer)

An old soul is the last thing you would expect to find inside Justin Bieber. But all it takes is one listen to the 15 year-old soul-singing phenomenon to realize that he is light years ahead of his manufactured pop peers. After posting dozens of homemade videos on YouTube in 2007, where the multi-talented Bieber put his impeccable spin on songs from artists like Usher, Ne-Yo and Stevie Wonder, Justin racked up over 10,000,000 views purely from word of mouth.

I started singing about three years ago,” says the Canadian native who grew up an only child in Stratford, Ontario. “I entered a local singing competition called Stratford Idol. The other people in the competition had been taking singing lessons and had vocal coaches. I wasn’t taking it too seriously at the time, I would just sing around the house. I was only 12 and I got second place.”

If you are interested in this story, please check out our Happy Holidays Special. It includes newly released videos and tons of photos from this event. 🙂

Just click here!

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44-D’s Twenty-five Days of Christmas Music Videos (Dec 15th)

Let It Snow Performed by Boys II Men

Boyz II Men are a Grammy Award-winning American group from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Initiated during 1988 as a quintet which originally included Marc Nelson, Boyz II Men found fame as a quartet, with members Nathan Morris, Michael McCary, Shawn Stockman,and Wanya Morris on Motown Records during the early 1990s. Nelson left the group before their first recording to pursue a solo career. The group specialized in new jack swing-style music.

Based on sales, Boyz II Men is the most successful R&B male vocal group of all time. They recorded five number 1 R&B successes between 1992 and 1997 and have sold more than 60 million albums. Three of its number 1 hits, “End of the Road“, “I’ll Make Love to You“, and “One Sweet Day” (with Mariah Carey), set and exceeded records for the longest period of time a single remained scored at number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100; “One Sweet Day” still holds the record. Although “On Bended Knee” did not exceed any records, it was still a very popular song that reached number 1 and made Boyz II Men the third artist (behind The Beatles and Elvis) to replace themselves at the number one rating of the Billboard Hot 100.


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Lyrics

Let It Snow Let it snow, Let it snow Hey, It’s another Christmas holiday
Its a joyous thing let the angels sing
Cause we’re together
We got a thing can’t let it slip away
No, outside its raining sleet
When our bodies meet
I don’t care about the weather CHORUS:
Let it snow, Let it snow
Outside its cold but the fire’s blazin’
So baby let it snow
Let it snow, Let it snow, Let it snow Ohhhh, come over here and help me trim the tree
I wanna wrap you up baby
Then you’ll see you’re the only present I need
There’s so much more
Waiting for you in store
From this precious day
I can gladly say
There’s no place I’d rather be
I know you are my everything, come a little closer
God must have sent you down from heaven CHORUS
Let it snow, Let it snow
Let it snow, Let it snow (Repeat 4x)
I don’t care what the weather may be
as long as you’re here with me. (Fade out)

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