Texas cities prepare for Ike
MIAMI, Sept. 10 (UPI) -- Texas cities along the Gulf of Mexico were poised to urge voluntary evacuations Wednesday as forecasters report Hurricane Ike is picking up strength.
Ike is forecast to land between Corpus Christi and Port Lavaca, Texas, late Friday, AccuWeather.com said.
Ike's center was about 430 miles southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River, moving toward the west-northwest at 8 mph, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said in its late-morning advisory. The center said Category 1 hurricane, with sustained winds of about 90 mph, was expected to remain on its current path for the next few days.
Ike was expected to strengthen and become a major hurricane Thursday, forecasters said.
City officials in Galveston, Texas, were expected urge a voluntary evacuation of low-lying areas, the Houston Chronicle reported. Officials also were expected to declare a state of emergency and grant Galveston Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas emergency powers.
In Corpus Christi, Texas National Guard troops and Air Force personnel from MacDill Air Force Base in Florida have been preparing a medical triage area at the Corpus Christi International Airport since Tuesday, the Corpus Christi Caller-Times reported. Numerous school, church, athletic and social events have been canceled or postponed.
In Louisiana, the greater New Orleans area and Mississippi coast were under a coastal flood watch through Friday, The Times-Picayune reported.
Predator spy drones used to hunt bin Laden
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Sept. 10 (UPI) -- U.S. and Pakistani officials said they are changing tactics in the search for Osama bin Laden, using an unmanned Predator spy plane to hunt the al-Qaida leader.
U.S., Pakistani and European officials said they're also concentrating on seeking other al-Qaida leaders who have been sighted recently, hoping their activities could lead to bin Laden, who hasn't been traced since disappearing after the battle near Tora Bora, Afghanistan, in 2001, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.
Since January, two senior al-Qaida leaders have been killed in attacks by Predator drones, which are equipped with multiple cameras and Hellfire missiles, officials said.
The inability to find bin Laden has been attributed to a heavy reliance on the military, disruptions created by the war in Iraq and underestimating the enemy, the Post said. But officials told the newspaper the main reason is an inability to develop informants in Pakistan's isolated tribal regions thought to be bin Laden's hiding place.
While lacking verifiable evidence, U.S. officials said the only logical conclusion they can draw is that bin Laden is in Pakistan.
"In many ways, it's a perfect place," Bruce Riedel, a former South Asia analyst for the CIA and National Security Council., told the Post "But there's not a scintilla of evidence that we have any idea where he is."
N. Koreans deny leader is ill
PYONGYANG, North Korea, Sept. 10 (UPI) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong Il has suffered a stroke but is recovering, a South Korean lawmaker quoted the country's intelligence agency as saying Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Kim Yong Nam, North Korea's No. 2 in command, said there was "no problem" with the ruler's health and rumors to the contrary weren't true, The Guardian reported Wednesday.
However, Won Hye-young, a leader in South Korea's main opposition Democratic Party, said, "Kim suffered either a stroke or a cerebral hemorrhage but is recovering, the intelligence agency said. Pyongyang is not in a state of administrative vacuum," Yonhap News Agency reported.
"Although Kim is not fit enough for outside activity, he is conscious and able to control affairs," Won said.
North Korean officials took the unusual step of granting interviews with foreign news agencies, seeking to end speculation regarding Kim's health. He was absent from Tuesday's celebrations marking the 60th anniversary of the country's founding.
Observers said Kim, 67, has been known to disappear from public view for months but added that it was unusual for Kim to miss a major event, such as Tuesday's anniversary, the British newspaper said.
Kim's condition is of concern internationally because there is no clear line of succession and the country recently resumed its nuclear program. Officials said the United States' failure to remove North Korea from its list of states that sponsor terrorism led to the program's resumption.
'Lies' may not matter in U.S. election
WASHINGTON, Sept. 10 (UPI) -- Untrue accusations quickly gain credence as facts before they can be disproved in the frantic home stretch of a U.S. presidential campaign, analysts say.
Campaigners for U.S. Democratic Party nominee for president Barack Obama Monday used the word "lies" to describe Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin's assertion she opposed the infamous Alaskan "Bridge to Nowhere" congressional earmark, and GOP operatives say opponents are spreading lies about Palin on the Internet.
But even though such assertions made by campaigns may not be true, their veracity may not matter as much as the broader political themes they play into, observers told The Washington Post.
"The more The New York Times and The Washington Post go after Sarah Palin, the better off she is, because there's a bigger truth out there and the bigger truths are she's new, she's popular in Alaska and she is an insurgent," John Feehery, a Republican strategist, told the newspaper. "As long as those are out there, these little facts don't really matter."
"We have created a system where there is not a lot of shame in stretching the truth," Charlie Cook, editor of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, told the Post.
Mugabe, Tsvangirai resume Zimbabwe talks
HARARE, Zimbabwe, Sept. 10 (UPI) -- Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, moderated by South African leader Thabo Mbeki, met Wednesday in power-sharing talks.
The three arrived at a Harare hotel after expressing optimism Tuesday that a deal to allow Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change some measure of power in Zimbabwe was near and perhaps could be completed Wednesday, the South African Broadcasting Corp. reported.
Tuesday's reported optimism could mean that a new element had been added to the previously deadlocked negotiations, in which Mugabe reportedly had been unwilling to give up authority over the country's armed forces and security apparatus, an analyst told the Voice of America.
Harald Pakendorf, an independent South African political analyst, said: "I would think that if the report is correct then there must be an added something that we don't know about, perhaps a time line, something which says Mr. Mugabe would serve the government for a year and then Mr. Tsvangirai takes over or perhaps talks of another election."
Mugabe said after Tuesday's session there were two outstanding issues remaining but prospects of a deal were brighter than ever before, while Tsvangirai said a deal was within reach, SABC reported.
Four dead in southern Iran quake
BANDAR ABBAS, Iran, Sept. 10 (UPI) -- Four people died as a strong 6.1 magnitude earthquake struck Iran Wednesday near the southern port city of Bandar Abbas, state media said.
State-owned Press TV said local officials in Iran's Hormozgan Province described the quake as demolishing nearly 200 villages, killing at least four people and injuring 26 others, adding that rescue teams have been dispatched to the area.
The Gulf island of Qeshm bore most of the casualties, sources told the BBC, which reported the injured were being evacuated by boat to Bandar Abbas. The Iranian news agency Isna said five of them were deemed to be in serious condition.
A Red Crescent official, speaking on Iranian television, said it was unlikely the quake had caused a high number of casualties, the British broadcaster said.