Fires force over 500,000 from California homes

SAN DIEGO

Faced with unrelenting winds whipping wildfires into a frenzy across Southern California, firefighters conceded defeat on many fronts yesterday to an unstoppable force that has chased more than 500,000 people away.

Unless the shrieking Santa Ana winds subside, and that’s not expected for at least another day, fire crews say they can do little more than try to wait it out and react – tamping out spot fires and chasing ribbons of airborne embers to keep new fires from flaring.

“If it’s this big and blowing with as much wind as it’s got, it’ll go all the way to the ocean before it stops,” said San Diego Fire Capt. Kirk Humphries. “We can save some stuff but we can’t stop it.”

WASHINGTON

Bush wants missile shield in Europe to counter Iran

President Bush said yesterday that plans for a U.S.-led missile defense system in Europe are urgently needed to counter an emerging threat of attack by Iran.

“If (Iran) chooses to do so, and the international community does not take steps to prevent it, it is possible Iran could have this capability,” Bush said. “And we need to take it seriously – now.”

Bush’s latest warning about Iran’s nuclear ambitions came in a broad defense of his security policies at the National Defense University and it came not long after Defense Secretary Robert Gates told a news conference in the Czech Republic that the administration might delay activating the proposed missile defense sites until it has “definitive proof” of a missile threat from Iran.

WASHINGTON

Rice orders more oversight for private guards in Iraq

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice yesterday ordered new measures to improve government oversight of private guards who protect U.S. diplomats in Iraq, including cultural awareness training for contractors and a board to investigate any future killings.

The steps, recommended by an independent review panel she created after last month’s deadly Baghdad shooting involving Blackwater USA, also would tighten the State Department’s rules of engagement and bring them into line with those of the military.

BAGHDAD

Iraq deaths decline for second straight month

October is on course to record the second consecutive decline in U.S. military and Iraqi civilian deaths and Americans commanders say they know why: the U.S. troop increase and an Iraqi groundswell against al-Qaida and Shiite militia extremists.

Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch points to what the military calls “Concerned Citizens” – both Shiites and Sunnis who have joined the American fight. He says he’s signed up 20,000 of them in the past four months.

As of yesterday, the Pentagon reported 28 U.S. military deaths in October. That’s an average of about 1.2 deaths a day. The toll on U.S troops hasn’t been this low since March 2006, when 31 soldiers died – an average of one death a day.

– Compiled from Daily wire reports

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