July 27, 2006 in Nation/World

Heat relief in sight; energy stress eases

The Spokesman-Review

Temperatures made a barely noticeable dip on the 11th day of 100-degree heat Wednesday, but the stress on California’s electric grid eased slightly, as did the possibility of rolling blackouts.

The number of deaths believed to be caused by the heat rose sharply, reaching 83 since the heat wave started baking the state July 16. The heat and the increased power use blew out thousands of transformers, and farmers reported animals dying in the fields and fruit and nuts scorched on the vine.

Hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses lost power at the peak, but just a few thousand remained in the dark Wednesday.

An achingly slow cooling trend will cause highs to drop a few degrees by the weekend in California, according to National Weather Service forecaster Jim Dudley.

“We’re seeing some relief coming, if you can call 105 relief,” he said. “We’re inching away from this superhot air mass we’ve had over us, though it’s tricky. … It’s hard to get those things to move.”

Vail, Colo.

Gerald Ford leaves hospital

Former President Ford was released from a hospital Wednesday, two days after being admitted for shortness of breath.

Ford, 93, was admitted Monday afternoon and released at noon Wednesday, Vail Valley Medical Center said in a written statement. Ford’s chief of staff, Penny Circle, said Ford planned to return to his home in nearby Beaver Creek.

It was at least the second time Ford has been hospitalized this year. He was admitted to a Rancho Mirage, Calif., hospital for treatment of pneumonia on Jan. 14 and released after 12 days.

He became the nation’s oldest living former president after the death of Ronald Reagan in 2004.


Democrats deplore Army readiness

Up to two-thirds of the Army’s combat brigades are not ready for wartime missions, largely because they are hampered by equipment shortfalls, Democratic lawmakers said Wednesday, citing unclassified documents.

In a letter to President Bush, Rep. Ike Skelton of Missouri, the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, said that “nearly every non-deployed combat brigade in the active Army is reporting that they are not ready” for combat. The figures, he said, represent an unacceptable risk to the nation.

At a news conference, other leading Democrats said that those strategic reserve forces are critically short of personnel and equipment.

“They’re the units that could be called upon or would be called upon to go to war in North Korea, Iran or any other country or region,” said Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., a decorated Marine who has called for a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq.

Murtha and Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., said they would like to see an emergency appropriation of $17 billion, but they will at least be asking for an increase of $10 billion in the $50 billion supplemental funding for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars that the administration requested for the first few months of the 2007 fiscal year.

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