On this second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, here is video footage from “storm chasers” Mike Theiss and Jim Reed, extreme weather photographers who went into the center of the hurricane as it struck Gulfport, Mississippi.
** SCHWARZENEGGER MEETS TOMORROW WITH GERMAN FOREIGN MINISTER ON CLIMATE CHANGE. While negotiations over California policy on redistricting reform, health care, and water continue, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger will meet tomorrow morning in the state Capitol with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the federal republic’s equivalent of the US secretary of state. Steinmeier, who will have just been in Norway, is coming to discuss climate change strategy with Schwarzenegger.
Germany’s new conservative Chancellor (the German title for prime minister) Angela Merkel pushed President George W. Bush hard on climate change issues at the recent G8 summit in a German resort. Schwarzenegger will be a key participant in next month’s UN meeting on climate change in New York.
** OUT OF CONTROL. Another sign the Permanent Campaign is getting out of control. Ignoring the sanctions against Florida, Wyoming’s Republicans just said they will go first in the country in the 2008 presidential race. With presidential caucuses on January 5th. Nine days before first-in-the-nation Iowa. Please give it a rest.
** FRED THOMPSON PICKS FAMILIAR FACE TO CALIFORNIANS AS COMMUNICATIONS CHIEF: TODD HARRIS. Apparently at last on the verge of announcing his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, former Senator and Law & Order star Fred Thompson today named Todd Harris as his communications director. Harris was deputy communications director for John McCain’s 2000 presidential campaign, and a top spokesman for Arnold Schwarzenegger when he was elected governor of California in the wild 2003 recall campaign. He continued to work for Schwarzenegger through 2005 as a partner with strategist Mike Murphy in the DC Navigators firm.
** SCHWARZENEGGER CALLS FOR ENERGY CONSERVATION AS CALIFORNIA POWER USE SPIKES. California’s summer has been much more mild this year than last, when a sustained heat storm pushed the electric power grid to new records of peak demand that had not been anticipated for at least another five years.
But today and tomorrow, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is asking Californians to look to their power use with an eye toward conserving. Not wanting to repeat anything like the scores of deaths caused by last summer’s heat storm, he’s declared heat emergencies in several counties around the state, and the grid manager, the California Independent System Operator (Cal ISO), has declared a power alert.
** MCCAIN LEAD NARROWS IN HOME STATE ARIZONA. A new Arizona State University poll shows Senator John McCain’s lead in the Arizona Republican presidential primary is down sharply. It’s McCain 24%, Mitt Romney 19%, Rudy Giuliani 18%, and Fred Thompson 17%.
McCain became the first Republican senator to call for the resignation of Idaho’s Larry Craig, who pled guilty to “lewd conduct” in a Minneapolis airport men’s room. Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman became the second. Craig has resigned from all his Senate committees, but not from the Senate itself.
** RUDY PLUGS A GAP. Despite his stature as hero of 9/11, former New York Mayor and Republican presidential frontrunner Rudy Giuliani has come under fire repeatedly from the firefighters union and some other 9/11 first responders and victims for allegedly overstating his role and for making a series of mistakes. Giuliani recently had to back away from what he called a misstatement regarding how much time he’d spent at Ground Zero, former site of the World Trade Center.
Today in South Carolina his presidential campaign unveiled a new group, First Responders for Rudy. Its national chair is Howard Safir, who previously served as both Police and Fire Commissioner for New York City. Joining Safir on the national team are U.S. Congressman David Reichert (R- Washington) and So9uth Carolina State Firefighters’ Association Executive Director Jim Bowie.
Reichert, the former sheriff of King County in the state of Washington, will serve as national chair of Law Enforcement for Rudy. Bowie, who worked at the South Carolina Fire Academy for 16 years, will serve as national chair of Firefighters for Rudy. Others are joining as co-chairs, and state chapters of the group are being organized, especially in the early states in next year’s nomination contest.
This is obviously designed to counter the criticism of Giuliani, which strikes at the heart of his appeal. It will be interesting to see how successful it is. Safir, a former veteran federal agent who once headed the Witness Security program, was appointed to both his posts in New York City by Giuliani.
** HURRICANE KATRINA PLUS TWO. On this second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, President George W. Bush is in New Orleans, the only American city in the modern era nearly destroyed. While he talks things up, thousands of people still live in FEMA trailers and most of the schools aren’t ready for the new school year. The trial balloon around the appointment of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, whose department presided over the debacle of disaster assistance, to replace Alberto Gonzales as US attorney general, appears to have been shot down.
You’ll enjoy the video footage from the storm chasers above. There is a network of people who literally chase after big storms, going inside them and measuring and documenting them. Expect this to become more of a phenomenon along with the phenomenon of extreme weather. It was presaged in the 1994 novel “Heavy Weather” by Bruce Sterling.
** CALIFORNIA HEALTH CARE REFORM. WHERE NEXT? Not surprisingly, as has been previously discussed on NWN, Republican legislators have no intention of voting for fees or taxes or whatever one wants to call them on businesses and medical providers to finance universal health care in California. That was reported first yesterday on NWN after Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Democratic and Republican legislative leaders held their “Big 5″ meeting. Meanwhile, the Census Bureau reports that 20% of Californians have no health insurance. When they get sick and get health care, we nonetheless pay for it through emergency rooms.
If there is to be a dramatic expansion of health coverage in the Golden State, unless Schwarzenegger has a great trick up his sleeve, it will be done with legislation that requires only a majority vote of the Legislature. The first half of Schwarzenegger’s funding plan, the employer mandate that can be satisfied if the employer does not provide health insurance by paying an in lieu fee, requires only a majority vote, as the history of John Burton’s SB 2 shows. (It was enacted in 2003 and knocked out very narrowly by referendum in November 2004 only following Schwarzenegger’s late intervention against it.) But the Legislature’s lawyers say that his fee on medical providers requires a two-thirds vote as a tax. So that is the question. Is that assessment correct? If so, only some version of the Democrats’ plan, which is not universal and does not have the medical provider fee, is doable.
** AL QAEDA’S AMERICAN PRISONERS STILL NOT LOCATED. American troops are now in the midst of a 107th day of searching for the remaining two US soldiers captured by Al Qaeda in an ambush south of Baghdad. They have had no luck so far. A video put out by Al Qaeda forces in Iraq claims that all three men were executed after being captured. But, with the exception of the Californian found floating in the Euphrates River, that claim can’t be confirmed. The US high command in Baghdad has revealed that ID cards for the other two American prisoners were found in an Al Qaeda safehouse on June 9th.
** Track global and national energy prices in near real time via Bloomberg. Crude oil prices have risen to the $70 to $73 per barrel range.
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