In one of the biggest jihadist terrorist acts, Chechen rebels seized
a Moscow theater, and nearly 1000 hostages, five years ago. Russian
special forces moved in and took back the theater, knocking out
everyone inside with a secret gas. But the operation went horribly wrong.
** BUSH IN CALIFORNIA TOMORROW. President George W. Bush will be in the San Diego area tomorrow for a tour and statement on his plan to provide federal aid for the massive crisis of the Southern California fires.
For security and political purposes, I’ll be very vague about his schedule, which is provided to NWN for planning purposes only. Bush flies into the San Diego area tomorrow on Air Force One. During the several hours in which he is in the area, he will conduct an aerial tour of the fire damage and ongoing fires with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and others. He will then tour a neighborhood impacted by one of the many fires. He will receive a briefing from the governor, fire officials and others on the state of the crisis. He will make a public statement, which will of course be telecast live. He will have lunch with first responders. He will proceed by motorcade to Air Force One and depart California. More specifics on his schedule will be available tomorrow morning on NWN.
** 7:10 PM UPDATE: THE SCHWARZENEGGER FIRE TOUR. After a very busy morning, as reported earlier today, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger had, if anything, an even busier afternoon and earlier evening. Running close to an hour behind schedule, he just wrapped his fourth of four stops this afternoon around Southern California, this coming in Spring Valley, an unincorporated community in eastern San Diego County, which produced, among other things, a guy named Reggie Bush.
In the just completed webcast, which unfortunately I’m having trouble bringing to you via the usual NWN live link due to strains on the Schwarzenegger web site, Schwarzenegger appeared with a panoply of San Diego area pols, almost all conservative Republicans. Making it clear that they will be relying heavily on the state and federal governments to rebuild after heavy fire damage, they all praised Schwarzenegger greatly for his continuous action on the firefighting front.
Schwarzenegger, who had two stops this afternoon in Orange County and two in San Diego County, toured the fire scenes, encouraged the firefighters and people at the local evacuation centers, and got briefings in each locale before holding events to encourage residents — many of them evacuees from the various fires — and talk with the local press.
Schwarzenegger looked a little tired, but was upbeat, saying that with unusually high winds beginning to die down that state and federal air assets can come more prominently into play.
** TURKISH CRISIS: RICE TO ANKARA. US Secretary of State Condi Rice plans to go to Turkey next week to stave off a major military incursion against Kurdish guerillas using northern Iraq as a safe haven. She must be assuming that there won’t be any intervening provocations to trigger a major move by the Turkish forces poised along the border of Iraq. That may not be the safest of her assumptions.
** SOCAL FIRES AT A GLANCE. As expected, the unusually high-speed Santa Ana winds are beginning to diminish as Wednesday comes to a close. This means the firefighting aircraft, sidelined in large measure for the past few days, can do their work. Temperatures are also expected to drop by Thursday, which also aids the effort.
The LA County fires are mostly contained, and attention is focusing on the fires to the south. Some better news in the San Diego area, where some of the evacuees have been allowed to return to their homes.
At least two of the fires appear to have been deliberately set.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has continued to crisscross Southern California throughout the day by helicopter. At each stop, he’s gotten briefings from the field leaders, visited with the firefighters up and down the line, and held local press conferences.
I’m having trouble providing the usual NWN live link to webcasts of Schwarzenegger’s activities today because of very heavy traffic on the governor’s web site.
** BROWN TO PURSUE SOCAL FIRES PROFITEERING, ARSON. Former Governor-turned-Attorney General Jerry Brown is setting up an operation of his California Department of Justice to act against possible attempts to profiteer off of the unfolding tragedy of the Southern California fires. He’s also looking into possible arson in the setting of one or more the fires.
“It is illegal to exploit the state of emergency for personal gain,” said Brown, who points out that California’s anti-price gouging statute became immediately effective after Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declared the state of emergency on October 21st. Brown’s warning is to those who might try to illegally raise prices for goods, services, or hotels.
California law prohibits charging a price that exceeds by more than 10% the price of an item before the declaration of emergency. The law applies to those who sell food, emergency supplies, medical supplies, building materials, gasoline, repair or reconstruction services, emergency cleanup services, transportation, freight and storage services, and housing and hotel accommodations. If anyone thinks they’ve been taken of advantage of, click on this link. Or call (800) 952-5225.
** BUSH DECLARES DISASTER IN CALIFORNIA, SCHWARZENEGGER ANNOUNCES LOCAL ASSISTANCE CENTERS. President George W. Bush this morning accepted Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s recommendation that he declare a state of disaster in Southern California. This declaration will allow direct federal assistance to fire victims in Southern California, with regard to housing, income, and aid to affected businesses. Schwarzenegger, in a late morning event in Los Alamitos that is still underway, announced that five local assistance centers will open around Southern California tomorrow and Friday.
Democratic Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi referred to his “30 years of experience” as a public official dealing with fires and other disasters in California, then went on to praise Schwarzenegger. “This particular effort is unprecedented,” said Garamendi, a once and possibly future Democratic gubernatorial candidate. “It took an incredibly effective and efficient organization in place. Your administration … it’s been done. It’s an extraordinary improvement. It’s worked. It really has worked. Governor, congratulations to you. A job very very well done by you and all of your administration.”
Garamendi was joined by a panoply of local officials from both parties in Southern California, including the Orange County fire chief who had criticized a lack of air support early on in his area, but specifically praised Schwarzenegger for his leadership.
** BUSH DOWN IN CALIFORNIA POLL. On the eve of his arrival in California, President George W. Bush finds himself at a continuing low ebb of voter approval in the Field Poll. Only 27% of California voters approve of his job performance. That’s the same it’s been all year. 70% of California voters are against the president’s policies in Iraq.
** TURKISH CRISIS WORSENS. Turkish forces have just launched strikes against Kurdish guerilla enclaves inside northern Iraq using artillery, helicopter gunships, and jet fighters. In addition, some 300 Turkish troops have been inside Iraq conducting raids.
This is not the big cross-border military incursion authorized by last week’s overwhelming vote of the Turkish parliament. But that may be coming. Especially since winter is also coming.
“We cannot wait forever,” Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned in London after meeting with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown on the crisis. “The military dimension will come into play” if Britain and the US are unable to get the Iraqi government to rein in the Kurdish guerillas, whose terrorist attacks inside Turkey have inflamed the country.
** FIVE YEARS SINCE MOSCOW’S HUGE TERRORIST INCIDENT. An armed group of 40 Chechen terrorists broke into a Moscow music theater the night of October 23, 2002. About 1,000 people including women and children were taken hostage in the middle of the show, the Russian musical Nord Ost. The majority of the hostages were rescued from the mined building. All the terrorists were killed.
After a siege, Russian special forces units used a secret gas on the building, then stormed it. The gas knocked out most everyone in the theater, and the terrorists were unable to set off their explosive charges to kill their hostages. At first it seemed a major triumph. But 130 of the rescued hostages died, almost all in the aftermath of the operation.
The gas sickened many of them. No antidotes were made available on the scene. And doctors in the hospitals to which the rescued hostages were taken, prepared for wounds from gunshots and explosions, were given no information on how to treat the effects of the gas.
The Russian penchant for secrecy led to a tremendous tragedy that still marks memories of the attack.
** LEADS FOR HILLARY, RUDY, AND HILLARY. Big leads for Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani in a new national poll by the Los Angeles Times and Bloomberg News Service. Clinton and Giuliani both lead by ratios of at least two to one over their closest rivals, Barack Obama and Fred Thompson, respectively.
Clinton also holds signficant leads over all Republican candidates. Obama also leads all Republicans, though his lead over Giuliani is only three points.
Clinton has a serious problem with polarization — barely more voters view her favorably than unfavorably, 48% to 44% — and independents. But her husband, former President Bill Clinton, is her ace in the hole with independents, a majority of whom not only favor him, but want to see him back in the White House with some major role, which of course he would have with his wife’s presidency.
Incidentally, in case we haven’t guessed this yet, what American voters really want is to return Bill Clinton to the presidency. Which they can’t do, due to term limits.
Giuliani has a problem in his party with social conservatives. But he is advantaged by the failure of any of the more traditionally conservative candidates in the field to mount a strong appeal to those voters. And so Giuliani actually leads among conservative Republican primary voters, due to his image of strength and emphasis on prosecuting the Terror War and combativeness with Hillary. That last part is my analysis.
** SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA FIRE UPDATES. Click here for the locations of and updates on the burgeoning fires of Southern California.
** 24/7 LIVE TV NEWS FEED FROM RUSSIA TODAY. Russia is fast re-emerging as one of the world’s great powers. Click here for a live TV news feed on your computer, bringing you English-language, jargon-free, fast-paced coverage of global and Russian news from the new Russia Today channel.
You probably already know about CNN International, BBC World, and Al Jazeera. Russia Today, which also features culture, entertainment, and sports, is based in Moscow and is owned and operated by the TV Novosti division of Russia’s state news agency, RIA Novosti.
While it’s foolish to expect to see, say, criticism of Vladimir Putin on Russia Today, the channel is quite interesting nonetheless. The NWN live link to RT does not constitute an endorsement of the channel’s views. It’s presented as an otherwise unavailable new media window. Moscow time is 11 hours ahead of Pacific time.
** TRACK GLOBAL AND U.S. ENERGY PRICES IN NEAR REAL TIME VIA BLOOMBERG ENERGY MARKET WATCH. Crude oil prices are in the $86 to $88 per barrel range on concern over situations in Iraq and Iran.
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