The Bigger Picture
By biconews On 1 Feb, 2000 At 05:00 AM | Categorized As Archives | With 0 Comments

By Sara Stanley

Russians Claim Advances in Grozny

After Chechen rebels ambushed Russians behind the lines last Monday, killing eight, the Russian military is trying to dispel rumors that their advance is bogging down. Under the new Head of the Interior Ministry of Troops in the area, Col. Gen. Vyacheeslav Tikhomirov, Russian troops are said to have pushed aside rebel snipers and taken positions around a square that serves as a gateway to the center of the Chechen capital, Grozny. The Russians have been struggling to seize Grozny for a month, and for a week have concentrated on Minutka Square in an effort to push rebels out of the city.

Despite daily reports of advance from Russian commanders, federal forces have made little progress fighting for the square. Russian servicemen often take buildings by day only to abandon them at night for fear of militant attacks. Many positions in the city have changed hands several times. A rebel fighter who escaped from Grozny along with six other rebels and 15 wounded people, said that the Russians only control a few blocks in several districts of Grozny, despite their claims.

Russian soldiers have complained that the heavy snowfall has made their green uniforms stand out, making them perfect targets. There is tension over the fact that security guards for officials have white suits to protect them, a benefit denied to rank and file soldiers. The winter weather has proven fatal for civilians in Grozny too. Chechnya’s Health Minister said 37 or more civilians trapped in Grozny died from hypothermia over two days, all while hiding in damp, unheated basements.

Friday Chechen President, Aslan Maskhadov, told his field commanders to hold their positions in Grozny until Feb. 23, which marks the “anniversary of the deportation of Chechens to Siberia and Kazakstan” [sic] under Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, the Interfax news agency reported.

Gore and Bush Gain in Polls After Iowa

The first poll results since Vice President Al Gore and Texas Governor George W. Bush won victories in Monday’s Iowa caucuses show both have improved their standings in New Hampshire, the site of the first U.S. presidential primary next Tuesday. The poll was conducted before the Jan. 26 Republican and Democratic debates which featured tense and sometimes personal, exchanges on campaign finance, abortion, taxes and heath care.

The Democratic debate was particularly personal, with Gore and Bradley accusing each other of lies and distortions. “Why should we believe that you will tell the truth as president if you won’t tell the truth as a candidate?” asked Bradley. “Don’t shoot the messenger,” Gore retorted saying he was merely pointing out legitimate problems with Bradley’s proposals. On the Republican side McCain and Bush clashed on several topics. One such issue was campaign finance, against which McCain claims to be a stronger opponent. McCain said “When I am in a debate with Al Gore, I am going to turn to Gore and I’m going to say, ‘You and Bill Clinton debased the institutions of government in 1996.’ George, when you’re in that debate, you are going to stand there and you’ll have nothing to say.”

Education provided one of the clearest distinctions between Bush and McCain. Bush said the federal government should measure public school performance and give parents more control in selecting their children’s schools. McCain said Bush supports corporate subsidies such as the federal ethanol program which benefits Archer Daniels Midland Co. instead of spending more for education.

Bradley has taken advantage of the few days left before the NH primary to turn up the heat on Gore. Calling the Democratic Party fundraising scandals of 1996 “embarrassing and disgraceful” Bradley warned: If we don’t clean our house, the Republicans will clean it for us in the fall.”

In his own remarks, Gore looked up from his prepared text to emphasize that he is just the fighter Democrats need to beat back Republicans in the general election. “Make no mistake about the passion that will be needed for the fight that lies ahead,” Gore said. “Make no underestimation of the forces of resistance that are out there hungry to take back the White House and bend the policies to the wishes of their special-interest-group friends.”

Concerning the New Hampshire Primary, Coos County Democratic chairman Paul Robitaille said: “There is Clinton fatigue. But whether this is going to be enough to turn the tide against Gore, I’m not sure.” For the Republicans, Ken Khachigian, one of McCain’s advisors, said “There would have to be a sea of change in voter attitudes for McCain to lose. The majority of public polls Friday gave McCain the lead, but they also offered Bush reason to hope. Conservative Steve Forbes was running a distant third.

South Braces for More Snow

Last week snowstorms buried the south and states such as Oklahoma received up to 17 inches and in Raleigh, North Carolina, there has been a record two foot snowfall. The intense winter conditions have prompted many states to ask for federal assistance and in Mississippi Governor Ronnie Musgrove activated about 300 National Guardsmen to help communities. President Clinton, meanwhile, approved a disaster declaration late Friday for 30 Georgia counties because of an ice storm last week that left 500,000 customers without electricity and caused an estimated $55 million in damage. In North Carolina, Gov. Jim Hunt asked Clinton to declare 26 counties disaster areas, which would make them eligible for federal funds. Roughly 25,000 utility customers throughout the state remained without power late Friday.

The South is digging its self out of one storm and preparing for another. Phil Badgen, a forecaster at the national Weather Service in Raleigh, said “it could be a very, very serious time for us if we get as much precipitation as we’re expecting-a half-inch to an inch of freezing rain-that would be crippling.” Some sleet and freezing rain was already falling in parts of Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina early Saturday morning.

Mahuad ousted in Ecuador

5000 Indians and junior officers ousted President Jamil Mahuad on Jan. 21. Mahuad’s plans to dollarize the Ecuadorian economy sparked concern over the country’s stability. A Junta was formed to run the government announced Gen. Carlos Mendoza, Minister of Defense and head of one of Ecuador’s largest organizations of Indigenous people. Hours later Gen. Mendoza gave in to widespread international condemnation, especially from the United States. He dissolved the Junta and proclaimed Vice President Gustavo Noboa the sixth president of Ecuador, in a course of four years. The attempted coup was a visible sign of Military and Indigenous frustration over the failure of the rigid political party system to approve needed changes.

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