Update as of 0800 Eastern Time:
Bottom Line Up Front:
2. Russia stalling over observers
From Fox News (Ike):
A massive Hurricane Ike ravaged southeast Texas early Saturday, battering the coast with driving rain and ferocious wind gusts as residents who decided too late they should have heeded calls to evacuate made futile calls for rescue.
Though it would be daybreak before the storm's toll was clear, already, the damage was extensive. Thousands of homes and government buildings had flooded, roads were washed out and several fires burned unabated as crews could not reach them. But the biggest fear was that tens of thousands of people had defied orders to flee and would need to be rescued from submerged homes and neighborhoods.
"The unfortunate truth is we're going to have to go in ... and put our people in the tough situation to save people who did not choose wisely. We'll probably do the largest search and rescue operation that's ever been conducted in the state of Texas," said Andrew Barlow, spokesman for Gov. Rick Perry
From CNN (Ike):
Ferocious wind and floodwaters from Hurricane Ike severed power to more than 4 million people in the Houston area early Saturday as the Category 2 storm made landfall on Galveston Island.
The storm's official landfall, with 110-mph winds, was at 2:10 a.m. CT (3 a.m. ET), the National Hurricane Center said. But it began its assault on the Gulf Coast 18 hours earlier, pushing Gulf of Mexico floodwaters on to Galveston Island.
Winds aloft in the storm were even higher, and officials feared they could hit Houston high-rises extremely hard as it moves inland.
Richard Kotrla in La Marque, Texas, about eight miles from Galveston Bay, said early Saturday that Ike was "shaking this house pretty good."
"My gazebo is a pretzel," Kotrla said.
Houston officials warned residents to stay put because it was no longer safe to try to escape.
Floyd LeBlanc of CenterPoint Energy Inc. said 1.8 million of the power company's customers -- or more than 4 million people -- in metro Houston are without electricity as high winds and heavy rains downed power lines. LeBlanc said 2 million customers represent about 4.5 million people.
"It's going to take several weeks to get all this power restored," he said. "We've been saying two to three weeks."
From CNN (Russia):
Talks with Russia on sending additional international monitors to keep tabs on South Ossetia and Abkhazia collapsed Friday, a senior Western diplomat said, warning that Moscow's hard-line stance had thrown into question its pledge to withdraw troops.
The official, who has been intimately involved in three weeks of negotiations, accused Russia of stalling for time in an effort to keep observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe out of the two breakaway regions.
"It has become clear that Russia doesn't want any agreement. I think they're afraid of what the observers will see," the diplomat told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to publicly discuss the talks.
"The talks have collapsed and there are no further discussions under way," he said.
The Vienna-based OSCE, Europe's largest security organization, now has a total of 28 monitors in Georgia. It has been trying to boost that presence to 100 in the aftermath of Russia's invasion last month, which came after Georgia attacked separatist South Ossetia.
But efforts to get Russia to agree on terms of the observers' deployment have bogged down over the central question of whether the unarmed military monitors would be allowed inside the two contested regions.
"For three weeks now, we have been fighting on how to deploy these extra 80 monitors without delay," the Western official said. "Everyone but Russia has said they should be able to get into all of Georgia, including South Ossetia."
Confidential OSCE documents obtained by the AP detail how Russian forces have allegedly restricted the monitors' movements.
From Fox News (Pakistan):
The furor intensified Friday over Washington's decision to pursue Islamic militant targets inside Pakistan, with opposition lawmakers threatening the country could pull out of the war on terror if the U.S. refuses to respect its borders.
About 100 protesters burned American flags after the latest missile attack left at least 12 people dead in the North Waziristan region of the troubled northwest. Residents said they heard the sound of propeller-driven U.S. Predator drones circling overhead before the explosions.
President Bush secretly approved more aggressive cross-border operations in July, current and former American officials have told The Associated Press.
Since Aug. 13, there have been at least seven reported missile strikes as well as a raid by helicopter-borne U.S. commandos that Pakistani officials claim killed 15 civilians in tribally governed territory where the government has little control. The frontier region is considered a likely hiding place for Usama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri.
Pakistan's government and military have issued stiff protests to Washington over the recent rash of cross-border strikes, although the criticism appeared to be mostly rhetoric aimed at soothing domestic anger, given that Pakistan has few options for stronger action.
God Bless America
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