Update as of 0700 Eastern Time:
Bottom Line Up Front:
1. Ike continues to strengthen.
2. Russian bombers in Venezuela.
3. South Ossetia claims they will join Russia.
4. Pakistan strikes.
From Fox News (Ike):
Gleaming skyscrapers, the nation's biggest refinery and NASA's Johnson Space Center lie in areas that could be vulnerable to wind and damaging floodwaters if Hurricane Ike crashes ashore as a major hurricane.
Forecasters expect the storm to make landfall this weekend somewhere between Corpus Christi and Houston, creating the potential for heavy punishment for Houston even if it's not hit directly.
Some forecasts say Ike could strengthen to a fearsome Category 4 hurricane with winds of at least 131 mph over the Gulf of Mexico, and emergency officials warned it could drive a storm surge as high as 18 feet.
If current projections of the storm's path hold up, the area surrounding Houston — home to about 4 million people — would be lashed by the eastern or "dirty" side of the storm, said meteorologist Jeff Masters, co-founder of San Francisco-based Weather Underground. This stronger side of the storm often packs heavy rains, walloping storm surge and tornadoes.
From CNN (Russian Bombers):
Two Russian bombers have landed at a Venezuelan airfield, from which they will carry out training flights for several days, the Russian Defense Ministry said Wednesday.
The Tupolev Tu-160 strategic bombers landed at Venezuela's Libertador military airfield and "will spend several days carrying out training flights over neutral waters, after which they will return to the base," Interfax reported, citing the Russian Defense Ministry.
Col. Alexander Drobyshevsky, a ministry spokesman, told Interfax that NATO fighters followed the bombers on their 13-hour flight over the Arctic Ocean and the Atlantic.
"All flights by air force aircraft have been and are marked by strict conformity to the international rules on the use of air space over neutral waters," Drobyshevsky told Interfax.
The U.S. will monitor the Russian training, said Pentagon officials who asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to speak on the information.
On Monday, Russia announced it might hold joint naval maneuvers with Venezuela in the Caribbean. The declaration came in the wake of increased tension between Russia and the United States over Russia's invasion last month of the former Soviet republic of Georgia, a U.S. ally that aspires to join NATO.
From CNN (South Ossetia):
The leader of South Ossetia said Thursday that the breakaway Georgian region intends to become part of Russia, news agencies reported.
Eduard Kokoity's comments -- to a group of Western foreign policy experts meeting in the Russian Black Sea city of Sochi -- are the latest confirmation of the tiny region's long-standing efforts to move permanently out of Georgian government control.
"Yes, certainly, we will become part of Russia," Kokoity was quoted as saying by Interfax, "and we are not going to make some independent Ossetia, because our ancestors made this choice, and this is how it happened historically."
Russia recognized South Ossetia as an independent nation, along with another separatist region, Abkhazia, after last month's Russian-Georgian war over the regions.
Abkhazia's leader, Sergei Bagapsh, told the same group Thursday that his region continued to insist on independence, the RIA-Novosti news agency reported.
From Fox News (Pakistan):
Two important Al Qaeda operatives were among four foreign militants killed in a CIA missile strike in Pakistan's northwest, officials said Wednesday.
Some Pakistani intelligence officials said one of the men was in charge of the terror network's activities in Pakistan's tribal regions, semiautonomous areas that the U.S. fears have become a haven for Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters.
However, another Pakistani official said none of the four appeared to be members of Al Qaeda's top leadership and a U.S. official said he believed the militants were mid-level operatives.
The missile strike occurred Monday in the North Waziristan tribal region, destroying a seminary and houses associated with a veteran Taliban commander. The tribal belt is considered a possible hiding place for Usama bin Laden and Al Qaeda No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahri.
From CNN (Pakistan):
Pakistan's military chief said Wednesday that no foreign forces will be allowed to conduct operations inside Pakistan in light of last week's "reckless" U.S. military ground operation.
Pakistan's "territorial integrity ... will be defended at all cost and no external force is allowed to conduct operations ... inside Pakistan," according to a military statement attributed to Chief of Army Staff Gen. Parvez Kayani, who succeeded Pervez Musharraf after he stepped down as Pakistan's army chief last year.
The announcement came as Pakistan's military resumed its battle against Taliban militants in its tribal region, two army spokesmen said. More than 20 militants and four security forces were killed in Monday's fighting in Bajaur Agency, they said.
NY Times (9-11):
As the nation pauses to mark the seventh anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the spotlight from a presidential campaign and a new memorial at the Pentagon are joining the familiar rituals of remembrance on this solemn day.
In New York, four moments of silence were planned Thursday morning to commemorate the precise times that two hijacked jetliners crashed into the World Trade Center, along with the times that each tower collapsed. Services also were to be held in a field in western Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon outside Washington, where terrorists crashed two other hijacked planes.
Presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama were to pay silent respects at ground zero Thursday afternoon and later attend a city forum on public service. McCain also was scheduled to attend a memorial service in Shanksville, Pa., for the 40 people killed aboard United Airlines Flight 93.
Family members and students representing more than 90 countries that lost citizens on Sept. 11, 2001, were to read the names of the more than 2,700 people killed in New York.
More to follow on my thoughts today.
God Bless America
Sphere: Related Content
A Deserved Demise
2 hours ago