Friday, August 29, 2008

The Nightowl Newswrap - a roundup of news items that you might have missed

Poland seeks to reassure citizens about base: Poland's prime minister sought to reassure worried residents near the site of a planned U.S. missile defense base on Friday, pledging that they and the country would be more secure, despite threats from an angry Russia. Before facing residents at a town hall meeting in the city of Slupsk, Prime Minister Donald Tusk visited the former Polish air base in Redzikowo - just 115 miles from Russia's westernmost edge - that is to host the facility. "In case of war, Redzikowo and Slupsk will be more secure than other places, and not less secure," Tusk told reporters. Still, some people in Slupsk - a city of 100,000 about 3 miles away - needed more convincing. One person at the three-hour meeting in a theater could be heard shouting that "you condemned Redzikowo and Slupsk to annihilation like Hiroshima and Nagasaki."

Say hello to being annexed:Russia intends to eventually absorb Georgia's breakaway province of South Ossetia, a South Ossetian official said Friday, three days after Moscow recognized the region as independent and drew criticism from the West. Georgia, meanwhile, said it would recall all diplomatic staff from its embassy in Moscow on Saturday because of the Russian military presence in Georgia. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nestrenko criticized the move, saying it "will not benefit our bilateral relations," Russian news agencies reported.

Massive recall from GM: General Motors Corp. said Friday it was recalling 944,000 vehicles because of a problem with a windshield wiper fluid system that could lead to a fire. More than 850,000 sport utility vehicles, trucks and passenger cars in the United States and nearly 100,000 vehicles in Canada, Mexico and the Middle East are involved in the recall, the company said. GM said it includes the 2008 Buick Enclave, 2006-2008 Buick Lucerne, 2006-2008 Cadillac DTS, 2007-2008 Cadillac Escalade, 2007-2008 Cadillac Escalade ESV, 2007-2008 Cadillac Escalade EXT, 2007-2008 Chevrolet Avalanche, Silverado, Tahoe and Suburban, 2007-2008 GMC Acadia, Sierra, Yukon and Yukon XL, 2006-2008 Hummer H2 and 2007-2008 Saturn Outlook.

Here comes Gustav: Gustav is a hurricane again after the system expanded in size and intensified Friday as it rolled toward the Cayman Islands and Cuba...Hurricane center forecasters now expect Hurricane Gustav to rapidly develop as it moves past western Cuba and into the Gulf of Mexico, where the U.S. coast from south Texas to the Mississippi-Alabama border are in the five-day cone. All computer models are in agreement that Gustav will grow into a ferocious hurricane -- conservative estimates predict a Category 3 -- before it makes landfall sometime late Monday or early Tuesday. The question remains where exactly it will strike.

Did you even know there was a pineapple boom in Costa Rica? "The pineapple companies tell us the water is clean, but the government won't let us drink it.'' Last year, authorities detected small amounts of Bromacil, a pesticide used to thwart insects from pineapple plants, in the local aquifer. Since then, the government has delivered water by truck to nearly 6,000 people. The crisis has spawned an increasingly volatile movement among residents, who last week blocked the country's principal export artery, Route 32, between the capital of San Jose and the Caribbean port city of Limon, leaving hundreds of cars and trucks stranded for hours.

She sure isn't another Dan Quayle--Dan Quayle actually had a resume: We'll learn over the next few days how well Gov. Palin stands up to the pressures of a national campaign—her speech at the convention on Wednesday will prove critical. But whereas the very best that could be said of Dan Quayle is that he didn't harm Bush's candidacy all that much, the very least that can be said of Sarah Palin is that she has already put McCain closer to the White House. Now, contrast HER biography with Quayle's: Dan Quayle's public service began in July 1971 when he became an investigator for the Consumer Protection Division of the Indiana Attorney General's Office. Later that year, he became an administrative assistant to Governor Edgar Whitcomb. From 1973-74, he was the Director of the Inheritance Tax Division of the Indiana Department of Revenue. Upon receiving his law degree, he worked as associate publisher of his family's newspaper, the Huntington Herald-Press, and practiced law with his wife in Huntington. Dan Quayle's political career began when he was elected to the United States Congress in 1976 at age 29. He was elected to the United States Senate at age 33. On January 20, 1989 he took the oath of office as the 44th Vice President of the United States at age 41. There is NO comparison to Quayle--Quayle was far and away MORE qualified than Palin.

Demand for bomb techs is high: The Navy recently began allowing recruits to become bomb technicians as their initial job rather than requiring two years of service, a waiver that Army and Air Force already grant; Marines still have to serve two years before learning to defuse bombs. Meanwhile, the Army wants to double the number of soldiers graduating the military's multibranch school for bomb technicians to 1,000 a year. That all puts added pressure on war-weary bomb technicians like Gura, who has served three tours in Iraq, to perform overseas and share their knowledge back home. "We are the busiest we've ever been - period, all four services. All of our instructors have done multiple deployments," said Lt. Patrick Gerhardstein, the school's training officer, who's missed three of his son's four birthdays because of military duties.

Another ship to arrive in Georgia: A third US ship carrying humanitarian aid was due to arrive in Georgia next week, while two others that unloaded their aid in Batumi remain in the Black Sea, the Pentagon said Thursday. The USS Mount Whitney, flagship of the US 6th Fleet, "is going to swing by in Suda Bay (Crete) and pick up humanitarian supplies and will probably not arrive before some time next week," said Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman, without naming where the ship is to dock. "The Dallas (a US Coast Guard ship) has completed its offloading of humanitarian relief supplies in Batumi and has departed Batumi", Whitman added.

US chicken industry faces Russian ban: Russia, the top market for U.S. chicken exports, will be banning imports from at least 19 plants on Monday. While U.S. producers say these bans won't have much impact, they wonder if there are more bans to come — which could further dampen an already weak industry. On Thursday, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin announced the bans in an interview with CNN, citing what he said were ignored warnings about inspections. Companies affected, including Tyson Foods Inc., the world's largest meat producer, are vowing to right any wrongs, if need be. The industry's trade group said it had been expecting Russia to reduce imports anyway, as the country's own production rises. It downplayed any threat to the U.S. industry.

Brazil and blue water Navy ambitions: Brazil will spend US$160 million by the end of next year on the development of a nuclear-propelled submarine to protect the oil reserves found recently off its coast, the defense minister said Friday. The vessel — which officials hope to be complete by 2020 — would be the first nuclear-propelled submarine in Latin America. Brazil does not have nuclear weapons. The submarine is the highlight of the Brazil's new defense plan — to be made public on Sept. 7. Brazil is believed to be preparing to spend US$3.5 billion by the end of 2010 to upgrade its weapon systems, according to reports in the local media.

Don't show this to Blue Girl... With delays, airport congestion and sky-high jet fuel prices draining the romance and convenience out of air travel, Americans have increasingly turned to Amtrak for summer travel. Amtrak's systemwide ridership climbed to 7.9 million passengers from May through July, compared with 7 million in the same three-month period in 2007. The railroad expects 322,000 riders over Labor Day weekend, a 10 percent increase from last year. The airline industry is projecting a decline of 6.5 percent in domestic travel over the holiday period. And AAA expects the number of people who travel by automobile, who account for more than 83 percent of all holiday travel, to dip 1.1 percent.