Tropical Storm May Strengthen After Crossing Florida (Update2)

Aug. 19 (Bloomberg) — Tropical Storm Fay may emerge over the Atlantic and strengthen into a hurricane within the next two days after sweeping across South Florida.

Fay was almost stationary about 45 miles (72 kilometers) south-southwest of Melbourne, Florida at 9 p.m. local time and the storm’s winds slowed to 60 miles per hour from 65 mph earlier, the National Hurricane Center said in an interim advisory. The storm may start moving later today and turn to the north, it said.

The center issued a hurricane watch for stretches of the Florida and Georgia coast. The storm’s center is forecast to move offshore after midnight New York time near Vero Beach, Florida, about 129 miles north of Miami, said Dan Kottlowski, senior meteorologist at private forecaster AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania.

“There is a good chance it will become a hurricane,” Kottlowski said by telephone. “There is very warm water in the Gulf Stream current off the coast. If it can get over that, some computer information says it could strengthen to at least a Category 1 hurricane.”

Fay is expected to weaken more before strengthening once it crosses the coast and moves over the Atlantic Ocean, the hurricane center said.

Forecast Track

Surface measurements near Lake Okeechobee showed maximum sustained winds of about 65 mph with higher gusts recorded, Kottlowski said. Winds have accelerated from 60 mph when the storm made landfall on the west coast of Florida early today because there is no wind resistance on the lake, he said.

Kottlowski said models show the storm heading over the ocean then turning toward the west and making landfall in Georgia on Aug. 21 or 22. Storms become hurricanes once maximum sustained winds reach 74 mph.

Some models show the storm re-emerging in the Gulf of Mexico, said Brian Wimer, a meteorologist for AccuWeather.

If Fay enters the Gulf, it may then make landfall between New Orleans and the Florida panhandle on Aug. 23, Jeff Masters, director of meteorology at private forecaster Weather Underground Inc., said on his blog.

Fay was forecast to bring as much as 15 inches (38 centimeters) of rain to parts of Florida. Storm tides of 1 to 3 feet above normal are possible, as are isolated tornadoes, the hurricane center said.

A tropical storm warning was in effect along parts of Florida’s east coast as well as Lake Okeechobee.

Monroe, Collier, Lee, Hendry and Charlotte counties said on their Web sites that schools are closed today.

Caribbean Deaths

The storm killed more than a dozen people in the Caribbean, including several in Haiti, the Associated Press reported.

It killed five people in the Dominican Republic, the country’s Emergency Operations Center said on its Web site.

A man was seriously injured by flying debris in Marathon Key, Florida, while preparing for the storm, according to the Monroe County Web site.

Orange juice prices fell, after yesterday touching the highest this month as the storm approached. Florida is the world’s second-largest orange grower.

Orange juice futures for November delivery fell 3.8 percent to $1.0455 a pound on ICE Futures U.S., the former New York Board of Trade.

About 93,000 homes statewide were without power at 11 a.m. today, according to a Florida Power & Light Co. statement. The company is working with out-of-state personnel to restore service, it said.

The state was investigating about 40 complaints about retailers selling gasoline, batteries, water and other emergency supplies at inflated prices, said Sandi Copes, a spokeswoman for Florida’s attorney-general.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration closed its Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, for the day because of the storm, the space agency said in a statement.


Moscow accuses Israel of arming Georgia – day before Assad arrives for big arms purchases

The timing was precise. Tuesday, Aug. 19, the Russian Deputy Chief of General Staff Col.-Gen. Anatoly Nagovitsyn accused Israel at a Moscow news conference of arming and training the Georgian military.

Wednesday, Syrian president Bashar Assad arrives in the Russian capital for a two-day visit during which the Kremlin fully expects him to exploit the storm clouds blowing in from Georgia over Russian relations with the West to press for sophisticated weapons systems not so far released by Moscow.

On Aug. 17, DEBKAfile military sources reported Moscow’s planned retaliation for America’s missile interceptors in Poland and US-Israeli military aid to Georgia may come in the form of Iskandar surface missiles installed in Syria and its Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad.

Russian Baltic and Middle East warships, submarines and long-range bombers may be armed with nuclear warheads.

One plan on the table in Moscow to punish Israel, DEBKAfile’s sources report, is the establishment of big Russian military, naval and air bases in Syria and the release of advanced weapons systems withheld until now from Iran (the S-300 air-missile defense system) and Syria (the nuclear-capable 200 km-range Iskandar surface missile).

T prepare the ground, Gen. Nagovitsyn charged Israel with arming the Georgian military with mines, explosive charges, special explosives for clearing minefields and “eight kinds of unmanned aerial vehicles.”

He added: “In 2007, Israeli experts trained Georgian commandos in Georgia and planned to supply Tbilisi heavy weaponry, electronic weapons, tanks and other arms at a later date, but the deal didn’t work out,” he said without explaining why.

Nagovitsyn also said that Russian soldiers had detained 20 mercenaries near the Georgian city of Poti, including three Arabs, all wearing Georgian army uniforms.

US left isolated over Nato plans to maintain relations with Russia

US diplomats attending an emergency NATO summit in Brussels had called on the alliance to suspend ministerial meetings with Russia, held twice a year, as a way of demonstrating the West’s disapproval of the war.

But other members of the alliance, including Britain, rejected the plan, saying that it would be foolish to isolate Russia. Instead diplomats released their strongly-worded statement, stopping short of concrete action, at least for now.

David Miliband, the foreign secretary, implicitly criticized Washington’s proposal to suspend the Nato-Russia council, established six-years ago to improve dialogue between Moscow and the West, as short-sighted.

“I am not one that believes that isolating Russia is the right answer to its misdemeanours,” he said. “I think the right answer is hard-headed dialogue.” A French diplomat, however, signaled that Nato was getting fed up with Russia’s failure to carry out repeated pledges to withdraw its troops from Georgian territory and warned that the time could come for a re-examination of the West’s ties with Moscow.

“We are at risk of entering, if there is not a very rapid evolution on the ground, into a relationship which will be of a different nature to what it was until now,” he said.

Russia, however, seemed unfazed by the mounting criticism. Its troops smashed their way into the Black Sea port of Poti, blockaded it and then took 22 Georgian servicemen prisoner.

Russian forces last week used explosives to sink Georgian naval ships and coastguard vessels in the port as part of what appears to be a plan to damage the country’s civilian and military infrastructure.

Russia has brought transport and the passage of goods, including oil bound for the West, to a halt by blowing up an important railway bridge, closing down the country’s main highway and attempting to bomb a crucial BP pipeline.

There was also little sign of a Russian military withdrawal from other towns in undisputed Georgian territory where, far from pulling out, troops have been digging trenches and building concrete barricades.

Russia yesterday warned that its withdrawal was being hampered by Georgia’s refusal to abide by the terms of a French-brokered ceasefire to pull back its own forces to positions held before the fighting erupted.

“Such actions seriously complicate the general situation and impede the withdrawal process,” Gen Anatoly Nogovitsyn said.

With Russia in control of much of the country, there has been little sign of Georgian forces attempting to return to the positions they fled after suffering a crushing victory on the battlefield.

Russian troops, on the other hand, have taken advantage of the truce to advance within 25 miles of the Georgian capital Tbilisi.

Rice: Moscow playing ‘dangerous game’ with bomber patrols off Alaska

*Uh-oh…doesn’t sound good at all*

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Monday ruled out accelerating Georgia’s admission to NATO in response to the Russian invasion. But she warned Moscow that it is playing “a very dangerous game” by resuming Cold War-era strategic bomber patrols close to the Alaskan coast.

“Russia is a state that is unfortunately using the one tool that it has always used whenever it wishes to deliver a message, and that’s its military power,” Rice told reporters en route to an emergency meeting of NATO foreign ministers set for Tuesday. “That’s not the way to deal in the 21st century.”

With Europe divided between former Soviet bloc nations, which seek tough measures, and major powers such as Germany, which is hesitant to jeopardize significant business and energy ties with Russia, it was unclear whether NATO would produce a robust response to Russia’s invasion of Georgia.

Russian forces Monday continued to move around Georgia with impunity, and senior U.S. defense officials said they were troubled by intelligence showing the Russians had deployed SS-21 ballistic missiles into South Ossetia with a range to strike Tbilisi, the Georgian capital.

Rice said Russia has raised questions about its place in the international community through the invasion and other actions, including the resumption last year for the first time since the 1991 collapse of the former Soviet Union of air patrols near the Alaskan coast by Tu-95 strategic bombers, code-named Bears by NATO.

“We’ve had Russian strategic aviation challenging in ways they haven’t, even along our borders with the United States, which I might note is a very dangerous game and perhaps one that I suggest the Russians want to reconsider. This is not one that is cost-free,” Rice said.

She did not elaborate on a U.S. reaction to the flights, which have been widely seen as an attempt by Russia, flush with windfall oil profits, to reassert itself as a global power despite serious problems with its military.

Since the flights resumed in August 2007, U.S. and Canadian fighters have intercepted the Russian bombers and escorted them away from the U.S. coast.

U.S. officials have previously attached little real significance to the flights by the turboprop-powered Cold War relics, and defense officials said Monday that recent flights did not provoke concerns within the Pentagon.

Russian bombers also have made forays into neutral airspace near Norway and over U.S. aircraft carriers in the Pacific.

Rice said, however, that the Alaska patrols and the invasion of Georgia contradicted Russia’s stated desire for political and economic integration into the international community.

She charged that Russia’s offensive deep into Georgia was aimed at “undermining” the pro-U.S. government of President Mikhail Saakashvili and crippling the impoverished nation by damaging and destroying vital economic infrastructure.

“That is an objective that will be denied because Georgian democracy stands and it will stand with the help of its allies around the world,” Rice said. “Georgian infrastructure will be rebuilt. Georgia’s economy will be reinforced.”

Rice said that NATO foreign ministers would consider measures to reinforce U.S. and European support for Georgia’s territorial integrity. For its part, the United States is also sending teams to assess the re-equipping of Georgia’s U.S.-trained military, which was battered by superior Russian forces, and to evaluate reconstruction needs, she said.

But she said the United States would not push to accelerate approval by the 26 foreign ministers of plans for the admission to NATO of Georgia and the former Soviet republic of Ukraine.

Viewers of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert Score High on News Knowledge

The results of the new Pew Survey on News Consumption (taken every two years and released this afternoon) suggest that viewers of the “fake news” programs “The Daily Show”and “The Colbert Report” are more knowledgeable about current events (as judged by three test questions) than watchers of “real” cable news shows hosted by Lou Dobbs, Bill O’Reilly and Larry King, among others — as well as average consumers of NBC, ABC, Fox News, CNN, C-SPAN and daily newspapers.

The national average for answering the three questions was only 18%. But 34% of The Colbert Report fans got them right, with 30% of The Daily Show viewers doing so – even though the two Comedy Central shows draw younger audiences which generally scored less well on the “test” than older viewers/readers.

The Pew Report observed: “The Colbert Report and The Daily Show are notable for having relatively well-informed audiences that are younger than the national average.”

Topping the knowledge list were The New Yorker and The Atlantic (48%), NPR (44%), MSNBC’s Hardball (43%), and Hannity & Colmes at 42%.

While consumers of most news outlets scored poorly on the test, a separate question revealed that a vast majority believe they follow national news closely.

Respondents were asked to identify which party now controls Congress, who is the current U.S. secretary of state and name the new prime minister of Great Britain.

Coming in behind the two fake news show on the test were consumers of :

News magazines 30%
O’Reilly Factor 28%
Lou Dobbs Tonight 27%
C-SPAN 24%
Daily newspaper 22%
NBC News 21%
Letterman/Leno 20%
Larry King Live 19%
ABC News 19%
CNN 19%
Fox News 19%
CNBC 17%
Personality magazines 13%
Religious radio 12%
CBS News 10%
National Enquirer 9%
Greg Mitchell’s new book in Iraq and the media includes chapters on Colbert and Stewart. It is titled “So Wrong for So Long.”

Canadians warned not to eat certain Maple Leaf sliced meats over bacteria concerns

OTTAWA — The Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Maple Leaf Consumer Foods are warning the public not to eat certain lots of Sure Slice brand Roast Beef and Corned Beef because they may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

The following sliced meat products in one-kilogram packages are affected by this alert: Sure Slice brand Roast Beef with product code 21333 and a best before date of Aug. 9 and Sure Slice brand Corned Beef with product code 21444 and a best before date of Aug. 23.

These products have been distributed across Canada, mostly to restaurants, hospitals and nursing homes.

But they may also have been sold at deli counters.

There have been no confirmed illnesses from eating the meats.

CFIA says food contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes may not look or smell spoiled but eating food contaminated with this bacteria may cause listeriosis, which can cause high fever, severe headache, neck stiffness and nausea.

Pregnant women, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems are particularly at risk.
Infected pregnant women may experience only a mild, flu-like illness, however, infections during pregnancy can lead to premature delivery, infection of the newborn, or even stillbirth.

Credit crunch may take out large US bank warns former IMF chief

The deepening toll from the global financial crisis could trigger the failure of a large US bank within months, a respected former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund claimed today, fuelling another battering for banking shares.

Professor Kenneth Rogoff, a leading academic economist, said there was yet worse news to come from the worldwide credit crunch and financial turmoil, particularly in the United States, and that a high-profile casualty among American banks was highly likely.

“The US is not out of the woods. I think the financial crisis is at the halfway point, perhaps. I would even go further to say the worst is to come,” Prof Rogoff said at a conference in Singapore.

In an ominous warning, he added: “We’re not just going to see mid-sized banks go under in the next few months, we’re going to see a whopper, we’re going to see a big one — one of the big investment banks or big banks,” he said.

Rising anxieties over “worse to come” in the credit crisis sent shares tumbling in Europe and Asia.

In London, the FTSE 100 index extended opening losses as widespread fears over the financial sector’s woes led to another battering for stocks. The FTSE closed 129.8 points, or 2.38 per cent, lower at 5,320.4, pushing it into bear market territory — a level 20 per cent below the October 12, 2007 peak of 6730.71 — for the sixth time in two months. Germany’s Dax shed 2.4%, while the CAC 40 in Paris lost 2.5%.

Professor Rogoff, who was chief economist at the IMF from 2001 to 2004, predicted that the crisis would foster a new wave of consolidation in the US financial sector before it was over, with mergers between large institutions.

He also suggested that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the struggling US secondary mortgage lending giants, were likely to cease to exist in their present form within a few years.

His prediction over the fate of Fannie and Freddie came after investors dumped the two groups’ shares on Monday after reports suggested that the US Treasury may have no choice but to effectively nationalise them.

The professor also sounded a warning over rising US inflation, which rose last month to its highest since 1991, and criticised the Federal Reserve for having cut American interest rates too drastically. “Cutting interest rates is going to lead to a lot of inflation in the next few years in the United States,” he said.

As investors’ edginess over the threat of further financial turbulence sent equity markets into a further spin, bank shares were hit hardest. Among the biggest fallers in London trade were HBOS, down 6 per cent, Royal Bank of Scotland, whose shares plunged by 5 per cent, while HSBC fell 3.6 per cent. In continental Europe, Spain’s Banco Santander was off 2.35 per cent, and BNP Paribas lost 3.8 per cent.

Persistent worries over the rapidly deteriorating economic outlook in the UK also saw sterling succumb to fresh losses. The pound lost almost a cent against the dollar, dropping to $1.881, above the near-two year lows plumbed on Friday.

Earlier, there were fresh jitters in Asia, with the region’s leading bourses in sharp retreat after a dire overnight performance by Wall Street left the Dow Jones Industrial Average down by more than 180 points. Both Asian markets and Wall Street were unnerved by suggestions over the prospects for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

While Japanese banks have remained relatively under-exposed to sub-prime mortgage products, many fear that they would be heavily exposed to a nationalisation of Fannie and Freddie. The large Japanese financial houses hold around Y9.6 trillion (£47 billion) in bonds and mortgage-backed paper issued by housing finance groups in the US.

“If the recapitalisation talk is realised, there are no assurances that the securities that have been issued [by U.S. mortgage firms] will be 100 per cent guaranteed,” said Yutaka Shiraki, a senior equity strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Securities.

Financial sector shares were particularly badly hit in Tokyo, where they led the Nikkei 225 Index into a 300-point decline. The selling continued throughout the day, and peaked after a declaration by the Bank of Japan that the world’s second largest economy was now looking “sluggish”.

Although the central bank’s downbeat economic report included vague predictions of a return to growth over time, traders said that the comments had shattered any last hope that Asia’s export-led economy might somehow “decouple” from the woes in the US.

The picture was somewhat more stable in Shanghai, which spent a day in relative limbo following Monday’s 5.3 per cent nosedive. With Chinese stocks beating a daily retreat, investors are focused on the 2001 index high of 2,245-points. Some believe that level will hold up as a technical floor on the selling, others believe that it may shortly fail and unleash a much deeper collapse in stock values.