Articles of Interest, September 26, 2008

Google phone to cost $179, debut Oct. 22

NEW YORK (AP) – The first cell phone running Google Inc.’s mobile software looks something like Apple Inc.’s iPhone and has a large touch screen, but it also packs a trackball, a slide-out keyboard and easy access to Google’s e-mail and mapping programs.Google made its debut as a cell phone software provider Tuesday at an event where wireless carrier T-Mobile said it will begin selling the G1 phone for $179 with a two-year contract. The device hits U.S. stores Oct. 22 and heads to Britain in November and other European countries early next year.

The phone will be sold in T-Mobile stores only in the U.S. cities where the company has rolled out its faster, third-generation wireless data network. By launch, that will be 21 cities, including New York, Los Angeles, Houston and Miami.

In other areas, people will be able to buy the phone from T-Mobile’s Web site. The phone does work on T-Mobile’s slower data network, but it’s optimized for the faster networks. It can also connect at Wi-Fi hotspots.

The data plan for the phone will cost $25 per month on top of the calling service, at the low end of the range for data plans at U.S. wireless carriers. And at $179, the G1 is $20 less than the least expensive iPhone in the U.S.

Real Clear Politics, wire and Internet reports

269 tie: An electoral college ‘doomsday’?

President Obama, with Vice President Palin? President Biden? President Pelosi? Call them the “Doomsday” scenarios — On Nov. 5, the presidential election winds up in a electoral-college tie, 269-269, the Democrat-controlled House picks Sen. Barack Obama as president, but the Senate, with former Democrat Joe Lieberman voting with Republicans, deadlocks at 50-50, so Vice President Dick Cheney steps in to break the tie to make Republican Sarah Palin his successor.

“Wow,” said longtime presidential historian Stephen Hess. “Wow, that would be amazing, wouldn’t it?”

“If this scenario ever happened, it would be like a scene from the movie ‘Scream’ for Democrats,” said Democratic strategist Mary Anne Marsh. “The only thing worse for the Democrats than losing the White House, again, when it had the best chance to win in a generation, but to do so at the hands of Cheney and Lieberman. That would be cruel.”

Sound impossible? It’s not. There are at least a half-dozen plausible ways the election can end in a tie, and at least one very plausible possibility – giving each candidate the states in which they now lead in the polls, only New Hampshire – which went Republican in 2000 and Democratic in 2004, each time by just 1.5 percent – needs to swap to the Republican column to wind up with a 269-269 tie.

There are currently 10 tossup states, according to RealClearPol-itics.com, which keeps a running average of all state polls. If Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain wins Ohio, Virginia, New Hampshire and Indiana – not at all far-fetched – and Mr. Obama takes reliably Democratic states Pennsylvania and Michigan, and flips Colorado (in which he holds a slight poll lead), with the two splitting New Mexico and Nevada, the electoral vote would be tied at 269.

Absurd? Possibly, and there is not complete agreement among constitutional experts on whether a newly elected Congress or the currently sitting House and Senate would make the decision.

So try this scenario: The newly elected House, seated in January, is unable to muster a majority to choose a president after a 269-269 tie, but the Senate, which is expected to be controlled by Democrats, picks Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. from the Democratic ticket. If the House is still deadlocked at noon on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, Mr. Biden becomes acting president.

Or try this one on for size: Neither the House nor the Senate fulfills its constitutional duty to select the president and the vice president by Jan. 20, so House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, becomes acting president until the whole mess is sorted out.

“That would cause all kinds of lawsuits: We would have 50 Floridas, and we might not know who the president is for two years,” said Judith Best, a political science and Electoral College specialist at the State University of New York in Cortland.

The archaic system in the Constitution was set up in the days of oil lamps and horse-drawn carriages. After the presidential vote on the first Tuesday in November, electors have until the Monday after the second Wednesday in December, this year Dec. 15, to reach the state capital, where they cast their ballots for president.

Brigade homeland tours start Oct. 1

The 3rd Infantry Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team has spent 35 of the last 60 months in Iraq patrolling in full battle rattle, helping restore essential services and escorting supply convoys.

Now they’re training for the same mission — with a twist — at home.

Beginning Oct. 1 for 12 months, the 1st BCT will be under the day-to-day control of U.S. Army North, the Army service component of Northern Command, as an on-call federal response force for natural or manmade emergencies and disasters, including terrorist attacks.

It is not the first time an active-duty unit has been tapped to help at home. In August 2005, for example, when Hurricane Katrina unleashed hell in Mississippi and Louisiana, several active-duty units were pulled from various posts and mobilized to those areas.

But this new mission marks the first time an active unit has been given a dedicated assignment to NorthCom, a joint command established in 2002 to provide command and control for federal homeland defense efforts and coordinate defense support of civil authorities.

After 1st BCT finishes its dwell-time mission, expectations are that another, as yet unnamed, active-duty brigade will take over and that the mission will be a permanent one.

“Right now, the response force requirement will be an enduring mission. How the [Defense Department] chooses to source that and whether or not they continue to assign them to NorthCom, that could change in the future,” said Army Col. Louis Vogler, chief of NorthCom future operations. “Now, the plan is to assign a force every year.”

The command is at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo., but the soldiers with 1st BCT, who returned in April after 15 months in Iraq, will operate out of their home post at Fort Stewart, Ga., where they’ll be able to go to school, spend time with their families and train for their new homeland mission as well as the counterinsurgency mission in the war zones.

Stop-loss will not be in effect, so soldiers will be able to leave the Army or move to new assignments during the mission, and the operational tempo will be variable.

Don’t look for any extra time off, though. The at-home mission does not take the place of scheduled combat-zone deployments and will take place during the so-called dwell time a unit gets to reset and regenerate after a deployment.

The 1st of the 3rd is still scheduled to deploy to either Iraq or Afghanistan in early 2010, which means the soldiers will have been home a minimum of 20 months by the time they ship out.

Commentary: Christian bookstore’s shameful actions

(CNN) — In the 19 years that Teresa Hairston has published her magazine, GospelToday, she has never faced a major situation with Christian bookstores across the country that carry the publication.

She’s tackled any number of issues over the years,and has featured a number of celebrities and ministers, ranging from Yolanda Adams to Bishop T.D. Jakes to Kirk Franklin.

But when the Atlanta, Georgia, entrepreneur decided to feature five female pastors on her cover this month, she says, Lifeway Christian Stores treated her like she had converted her Christian publication to something akin to the tastes of porn purveyor Larry Flynt.

Apparently, the owner of Lifeway, the Southern Baptist Convention, wasn’t too happy with Hairston telling the story of female pastors, because the women go against their 2000 decree that only men can serve in the role of reverend or pastor.

According to Hairston, the Christian company didn’t even give her the courtesy of a heads-up.

“We got an anonymous tip,” she told me Tuesday on The Tom Joyner Morning Show, and after checking it out, she discovered that the magazine had been removed from the shelves in all of Lifeway’s 100-plus stores nationwide and had been placed behind the counter.

“They have never called me,” Hairston said. “Never sent an e-mail. Nothing. I had to go see my distributor to verify what they had done.”

A new poll shows Americans think Obama will win the debates.

CNN Poll: Obama has higher expectations to meet in debates

(CNN) – It appears Barack Obama has higher expectations to meet at Friday night’s debate than John McCain does, a new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll suggests.

According to the new poll, nearly 6 in 10 Americans think the Illinois senator will win the debates, while only 34 percent think McCain will come out on top.

But that’s no guarantee Obama will be deemed the eventual winner, CNN’s Polling Director Keating Holland said.

“Four years ago, voters thought George W. Bush would beat John Kerry in the debates but Americans who watched the debates generally thought Kerry was the winner,” he said. “On the other hand, voters thought that Bill Clinton would win the debates in 1996 — and post-debate polls agreed with that assessment.”

Obama clearly goes into the first debate with a clear advantage in the issues. The new poll suggests 60 percent of voters say that the Illinois senator aggrees with them on the issues. Voters say they trust McCain more than Obama in international issues like Iraq and terrorism — but Obama has a clear 10-point edge (53-43 percent) on the overriding issue of the day: the economy. (In a CNN/ORC poll released Thursday, 56 percent of Americans said the economy was the No. 1 issue.)

But the two candidates are statistically tied on the question of whether voters feel they possess the personal qualities a president should have (62 percent say McCain does, while 64 percent say Obama does.) And in good news for McCain, voters are also tied on what they care more about in this election — issues or personal qualities. Forty-three percent of voters say that the candidates’ leadership skills and vision is more important to them than issues; 42 percent say issues are more important.

Americans are also split when it comes to the vice presidential debate, with 48 percent saying Joe Biden is the likely winner and 46 percent giving the edge to Sarah Palin.

“That’s probably an indication that Americans aren’t familiar enough with either candidate to be able to handicap their performance in a debate,” Holland said.

Investigators want to know if Gov. Sarah Palin fired a state employee for improper reasons.

Alaska lawmakers: McCain campaign interfering in Palin probe

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (CNN) — Lawmakers investigating Gov. Sarah Palin’s firing of her public safety commissioner accused the McCain-Palin campaign on Thursday of stonewalling the probe by helping witnesses refuse to comply with subpoenas.

A state Senate committee subpoenaed Palin’s husband, several top aides and other advisers earlier this month, but none of those served with demands for testimony appeared before the panel when it met last week.

The panel is scheduled to meet again Friday. A member of the committee said Thursday that he expects more no-shows.

In court filings, lawyers for Hollis French, the Democratic state senator overseeing the probe, and Stephen Branchflower, the attorney hired to conduct it, say Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign has moved “on many fronts” to kill the investigation since Palin became the Republican vice presidential nominee.

“Indeed, recent events demonstrate that witnesses or participants who want to stonewall Mr. Branchflower’s fact-finding inquiry can count on plenty of assistance from lawyers and McCain campaign operatives,” the filings state.

The filings came in response to lawsuits that Palin’s allies filed last week seeking to stop the probe. The suits name as defendants the Alaska Legislative Council, the Republican-dominated committee that authorized the investigation in July, and its chairman, Democratic state Sen. Kim Elton.

The response calls the suits “clearly meritless” and “political, not legal” documents.

Yves Rossy is shown in flight last May over the Swiss Alps.

‘Human jet’ prepares for second Channel attempt

LONDON, England (AP) — Swiss adventurer Yves Rossy will try to cross the English Channel using his homemade jet-propelled wing Friday, a day after the thrill-seeking pilot canceled his attempt due to bad weather, organizers said.

Rossy plans to leap from plane more than 8,800 feet or a mile and a half off the ground, fire up his jets and try to make the 22-mile trip from Calais in France to Dover in England in about 12 minutes.

The stunt was postponed from its scheduled date Thursday when visibility deteriorated.

“It’s not so safe to fly across water if you can’t see,” Rossy told National Geographic Channel in a live television interview Thursday. “I don’t have any instruments, and I need to be able to see the landing site.”

The trip across the Channel is meant to trace the route of French aviator Louis Bleriot, the first person to cross the narrow body of water in an airplane 99 years ago.

Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities says the 30-inch-high head was once on the statue of a pharaoh.

In Egypt, a 3,000-year-old find

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) — Egypt’s antiquities council says that archaeologists have unearthed a 3,000-year-old red granite head believed to portray the 19th Dynasty Pharaoh Ramses II.

The Supreme Council of Antiquities says the discovery was made recently at Tell Basta, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) northeast of Cairo.

The council’s statement Thursday says the 30-inch-high head belonged to a colossal statue of Ramses II that once stood in the area. Its nose is broken and the beard that was once attached to the king’s chin is missing.

The site at Tell Basta was dedicated to the cat-goddess Bastet and was an important center from the Old Kingdom until the end of the Roman Period. Archaeologists are still digging at the location for the rest of the statue.

“Do You Want A Black President?”

White supremacist anti-Obama leaflets distributed in New Jersey town

Jewish family

Jewish families offered $50,000 to move to Alabama

DOTHAN, Alabama (CNN) — Given the stereotype of the Deep South as the Bible Belt, Rabbi Lynne Goldsmith’s glowing, Chamber of Commerce-like endorsement of Dothan, Alabama, is not what you might expect to hear.

“If you need a robust Orthodox community, we don’t have it,” Goldsmith said. “But if you want a community where your neighbors are friendly; where people smile at you in the grocery store even if they don’t know you, then Dothan’s for you.”

There’s a reason Goldsmith, who has been in the city a year, is encouraging people to relocate: She’d like to see more Jews in Dothan.

The city of 60,000 sits in the southeastern corner of Alabama, near the state’s borders with Georgia and Florida.

The Jewish community in Dothan was never one that would wow anyone with its size. At its height, about 100 families worshipped at Temple Emanu-El. Today, temple membership is about half that number.

As the faithful arrived on a recent Friday for 7 p.m. services, it was evident that there are not very many members, and most are older. The congregation recently decided that it needed to bring in some younger families, and they felt they had to do it with flair.

“We felt like it needed to be something that had enough sizzle that would get attention, and it really has,” temple member Larry Blumberg said.

Blumberg put up $1 million to help relocate 20 young Jewish families to Dothan. The congregation took out ads in Jewish newspapers offering up to $50,000 per family.

Rob Goldsmith, the rabbi’s husband, is director of the relocation project. He says the response has been beyond expectation.

Hillary Clinton speaks in New York earlier this week. Internet rumours claim she could still be picked as Barack Obama's running mate

Could Clinton still come back? Internet buzzes with rumours Biden will be replaced by Hillary as Obama’s running mate

The internet is buzzing today with the rumour that Barack Obama’s gaffe-prone running mate Joe Biden will drop out of the race for health reasons – to be replaced by Hillary Clinton.

John McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate has created so much interest in the Republicans that Mr Obama will have to make a radical move to regain momentum, the argument goes.

Mrs Clinton could be just the key. Mr Biden, who had surgery in 1998 to repair two brain aneurysms, would drop out after the vice presidential debates due to be held on October 2, according to the claims – leaving the way open for the former First Lady.

Most are dismissing the rumour as the usual internet chatter. But it has been given added weight by those who have not addressed it – namely Fight the Smears.

Fight the Smears is a website the Obama campaign set up to quash just such damaging Internet rumours – but it has not yet touched this one, though that may be out of fear of fuelling the rumour.

The Obama campaign has not commented on it, other than to say that Biden’s medical records will be released soon.

Snopes.com, a site devoted to picking apart online rumors and urban legends, has labeled the status of the claim “undetermined.” Several online discussion boards have been loaded up with denials.

Biden has caused several problems for the Obama campaign. This week he was forced to issue a clarification after he called one of his own campaign ads “terrible” in an interview with CBS News.

He was also rebuked Obama after he spoke out against the government bailout of American International Group last week before Obama was ready to take a position.

On Tuesday, he said that President Franklin Roosevelt had gone on television in 1929 to discuss the Wall Street crash – but Herbert Hoover was president in 1929 and the TV hadn’t been invented yet.

At one point, he even said Hillary Clinton might have been a better pick for Obama’s No. 2.

The Republican National Committee has gleefully set up a Biden “gaffe clock” to monitor his disasters on the campaign trail.

Nonetheless, Democratic supporters dismiss outright any speculation that he might be dropped from the ticket.

nuclear enrichment plant of Natanz in central Iran

Israel asked US for green light to bomb nuclear sites in Iran

Israel gave serious thought this spring to launching a military strike on Iran’s nuclear sites but was told by President George W Bush that he would not support it and did not expect to revise that view for the rest of his presidency, senior European diplomatic sources have told the Guardian.

The then prime minister, Ehud Olmert, used the occasion of Bush’s trip to Israel for the 60th anniversary of the state’s founding to raise the issue in a one-on-one meeting on May 14, the sources said. “He took it [the refusal of a US green light] as where they were at the moment, and that the US position was unlikely to change as long as Bush was in office”, they added.

The sources work for a European head of government who met the Israeli leader some time after the Bush visit. Their talks were so sensitive that no note-takers attended, but the European leader subsequently divulged to his officials the highly sensitive contents of what Olmert had told him of Bush’s position.

Bush’s decision to refuse to offer any support for a strike on Iran appeared to be based on two factors, the sources said. One was US concern over Iran’s likely retaliation, which would probably include a wave of attacks on US military and other personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as on shipping in the Persian Gulf.

The other was US anxiety that Israel would not succeed in disabling Iran’s nuclear facilities in a single assault even with the use of dozens of aircraft. It could not mount a series of attacks over several days without risking full-scale war. So the benefits would not outweigh the costs.

Iran has repeatedly said it would react with force to any attack. Some western government analysts believe this could include asking Lebanon’s Shia movement Hizbollah to strike at the US.

Obama camp: McCain’s ‘stunt’

Obama’s camp, after sniping at McCain’s “suspension,” dismisses it this evening as a stunt in a memo to the press:

So make no mistake: John McCain did not “suspend” his campaign. He just turned a national crisis into an occasion to promote his campaign. It’s become just another political stunt, aimed more at shoring up the Senator’s political fortunes than the nation’s economy. And it does nothing to help advance this critical legislation to protect the American people during this time of economic crisis.

John McCain sought to change the subject from his out-of-touch response to the economic crisis with a big announcement that he was “suspending” his campaign. But the only thing McCain really wants suspended is the American people’s disbelief. In fact, he’s been in full campaign mode the entire time.

Instead of heading to Washington right away, Senator McCain stuck around in New York to do TV interviews, spend the night, and give a scheduled speech. Though the McCain campaign announced yesterday that they were also “suspending” their attack ads, they continued to run Thursday.

When McCain finally arrived in Washington, almost twenty-four hours after his announcement – and after Congressional leadership announced a deal in principle – he huddled with his lobbyist campaign advisors while his running mate held a political rally and his political spokesmen and surrogates were out in full force, continuing to attack Barack Obama.

So make no mistake: John McCain did not “suspend” his campaign. He just turned a national crisis into an occasion to promote his campaign. It’s become just another political stunt, aimed more at shoring up the Senator’s aimed more at shoring up the Senator’s political fortunes than the nation’s economy. And it does nothing to help advance this critical legislation to protect the American people during this time of economic crisis.

THE FOLLOWING CLIPS TELL THE STORY:

McCain Arrives After Deal Announced by Leadership, Continues to Huddle with Campaign Advisors.

* McCain’s “Straight Talk Air” landed at National Airport just after noon, and McCain’s motorcade sped toward the Senate. But by then, senior Democrats and Republicans colleagues were already announcing that a deal in principle had been reached. [WaPo, 9/25/08]

* “McCain met with congressional leaders earlier today and has now returned to his Senate office. But it’s increasingly implausible to think that what he’s doing is anything different than he’d be doing on the campaign trail, except he’s in person now instead of on his cell phone. Take this latest pool report below from the Trib’s Jill Zuckman, which basically confirms that he’s conferring with his closest political and policy advisers: Sen. McCain left his lunch in the Capitol at 1:50 pm and returned to his Russell Senate office with Sen. Lieberman and Rick Davis. Your pooler asked him if he was making any progress and he said something I couldn’t hear too well, but seemed friendly and basically nonresponsive. So your pooler said that I would be around all day and if there’s anything he’d like to tell me I’d be happy to hear. That got a laugh from Lieberman and a “thanks, Jilly” from McCain. As I type, Sen. Graham and Doug Holtz-Eakin have entered the Senate office.” [Politico, 9/25/08 ]

McCain Campaign Surrogates Continue to Attack Obama On Television.

* “In the five hours after McCain’s speech, aides Nancy Pfotenhauer, Tucker Bounds, and Mike Duhaime appeared on Fox News and MSNBC five times, frequently criticizing Obama and Democrats.” [Think Progress, 9/25/08 ]

* “Despite McCain’s claim that he’s put his campaign on hold, two of them directly attacked Barack Obama in political terms on television this morning.” [TPM, 9/25/08 ]

* “McCain’s campaign cease-fire apparently doesn’t extend to some surrogates and the Republican National Committee… Adviser Nancy Pfotenhauer, responding to the Obama camp taking credit for the bailout deal adopting some of his suggestions, said on Fox News Channel, ‘This is maybe perhaps part of the pattern that we’ve seen before where Senator Obama would claim that the housing bill came out of his committee — and he didn’t even sit on the committee. or that the stimulus package was his package and even his Democratic leader said that it wasn’t.’ The RNC went after Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Biden after he said in Greensburg, Pa., today that McCain is ‘proposing the largest tax increase on middle-class taxpayers in American history.’” [Boston Globe, 9/25/08 ]

* “Does a suspension include Nancy Pfotenhauer talking about Biden and Obama’s foreign policy on Fox?” [Politico, 9/25/08 ]

McCain Television Advertising Continues.

* “Readers in Iowa and Wisconsin emailed to say that they saw seen McCain ads on the air this morning, though he’s said he’s taking them down.” [Politico, 9/25/08]

* “Aside from the trip to Washington, the suspension seems not to take in fundraising or surrogates attacking Obama on television, and the ads haven’t come down all that speedily. A reader reports seeing on in the Tampa area at 12:45 this afternoon.” [Politico, 9/25/08 ]

McCain Campaign Offices Continue Normal Campaign Activity.

* “The Huffington Post called up 15 McCain-Palin and McCain Victory Committee headquarters in various battleground states. Not one said that it was temporarily halting operations because of the supposed “suspension” in the campaign. Several, in fact, enthusiastically declared the continuation of their work. Others hadn’t even heard that the candidate for whom they were devoting their time had officially stopped campaigning.” [Huffington Post, 9/25/08 ]

* “So, I called as well, and was told specifically that “volunteer activities are still ongoing” and that people are welcome/encouraged to come in and do so.” [Raising Kaine, 9/25/08 ]

Governor Palin Held a Press Avail and Campaign Rally.

* “A local Philadelphia NBC News affiliate was reporting Thursday morning that Mr. McCain’s running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, was to hold a rally at the airport in Philadelphia upon her arrival there this afternoon. The most recent official schedule for Ms. Palin, which the campaign distributed late Tuesday night, did not include an airport event.” [NYT, 9/25/08 ]

* “Although the McCain campaign said Palin was suspending her activities – McCain on Wednesday called a halt to his campaign to deal with the financial markets rescue plan being negotiated by Congress and the Bush administration – Palin was heading to Philadelphia for a rally at the airport.” [AP, 9/25/08 ]

* “On Thursday, despite the McCain-Palin campaign saying they would suspend campaigning until Congress had dealt with the financial crisis, Ms. Palin made a campaign stop at ground zero in Lower Manhattan, and finally “fielded” four questions, according to a reporter in the small pool of journalists assigned to accompany her.” [NYT, 9/25/08]

* “The decision to have Palin hold her first avail ever today of all days is either brilliantly cynical or (in my opinion more likely) a sign of how little coordination there is this completely candidate-led campaign. As one senior aide put it recently: “It wouldn’t be a McCain campaign if knew what we were doing.” [Time.com, 9/25/08 ]

The McCain Campaign Is Still Sending out Top Surrogates For McCain.

* “Mitt Romney Campaigning in Michigan TODAY: Romney’s visit appeared to be on track even though McCain on Wednesday challenged Obama to suspend their campaigns, postpone Friday’s debate and work together to deal with the nation’s financial troubles. By Wednesday evening, Obama had rebuffed McCain’s suggestion, saying the debate should be held, but agreeing to go to Washington to meet Thursday with President Bush to discuss the bailout proposal.” [AP, 9/25/08 ]

McCain Rapid Response Operation Continues to Attack the Obama-Biden Campaign.

• “Not suspended: McCain rapid response operation.” [The Atlantic, 9/24/08 ]

* “McCain suspends campaign, but politics still simmer at surface: John McCain may have suspended his presidential campaign as of Thursday morning, but an appearance at President Clinton’s Global Initiative forum and his campaign’s releasing its daily note to reporters gave the Republican candidate a few remaining opportunities to weigh in politically on a proposed Wall Street bailout.” [FOX News, 9/25/08 ]

The McCain Campaign Continues to Circulate Campaign Press Clips.

* “What exactly constitutes a “suspended campaign?” Well, Team McCain is still working away this morning. Joe Pounder, the indefatigable press aide, blasted out his morning email of clips and quips to reporters with just a bit of dissonance.” [Politico, 9/25/08 ]

Russia offers Chavez nuclear help amid US tensions

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was to meet Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev on Friday after Russia risked Washington’s wrath by offering the fierce US foe help developing nuclear energy.The two were to meet in the city of Orenburg after hawkish Prime Minister Vladimir Putin told Chavez in Moscow on Thursday that Russia was “ready to consider the possibility of cooperation in nuclear energy.”

The countries have boosted ties in recent weeks following sharp US criticism of Russia’s incursion into Georgia, with Moscow dispatching long-range bombers and warships to Venezuela for exercises near US waters.

Putin made the nuclear offer after Russia this week delayed talks with the United States and other powers on fears Iran is developing nuclear weapons, concerns critics say have been exacerbated by civilian nuclear technology provided by Moscow.

Chavez called for increased ties with Russia as a counter-balance to US power.

“Today like never before all that you said on the multi-polar world becomes reality. Let us not lose time,” Chavez told Putin. “The world is fast developing geopolitically.”

In deployments not seen since the Cold War, Russia this month sent two long-range bombers to Venezuela for exercises and has dispatched a flotilla of warships from the Arctic base of Severomorsk to Venezuela, near US waters.

Putin thanked Chavez for the “warm welcome” given to the planes and said South America was growing in importance for Moscow.

“Latin America has become an important chain-link in creating a multipolar world, and we will pay more attention to this vector,” he said.

Pollster says election could end in landslide

Quantcast The presidential election might be a tight race now, but one of the country’s top pollsters thinks the race will end in an electoral landslide.

John Zogby, president of Zogby International, told a group of businesspeople today that it’s up to Democratic Sen. Barack Obama to convince voters to go with him. If he’s not successful, the country will likely vote for “a comfortable old shoe”, that being Republican Sen. John McCain.

Despite the books Obama has written, Americans are still asking, “Who are you, where are you from?,” Zogby said.

Zogby spoke at the College at Brockport’s Business Briefings breakfast series at the college’s MetroCenter campus on St. Paul Street. He was promoting his new book, The Way We’ll Be: The Zogby Report of the Transformation of the American Dream.

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