Oprah's port-a-potty visit

Some readers and people here in Chicago have shown much interest in the pictures I took last night of Oprah Winfrey’s visit to the port-a-potty (Yes she did). Here are the pics in all their glory.

Oprah’s minder shines a light on the ground before her, lest she fall.

Oprah makes her way to the port a loo

Oprah exits the port-a-potty, minder at her side, and straight into the glare of onlookers, who were falling over themselves to get a picture with the TV host/billionaire.

Oprah at Obama victory, toilet visit

As word spreads, a media scrum ensued.

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One guy (AJ Calloway from Extra!) actually bagged a TV interview while she was on her way to the bog. Once she was done with her potty business she was kind enough to give him the interview. In this video AJ explains to me and another Flip Ultra user what happened.

I guess we all have to go, and Oprah is no different. It was an interesting spectacle though.

Other blogs have picked up the story.

Election day in Chicago

The sun is rising over Lake Michigan as I write this. It’s 7am Central and at 8.30 we head out to some polling stations around Chicago to watch the election kick off. NPR were reporting last night that up to 1 million people could descend on Chicago today, with tickets only available for 75,000. This is going to be an interesting day, to say the least.

It is worth noting that the weather here is unseasonably warm. Yesterday it was extremely hot for November, which meant walking around downtown in a t-shirt, and it stayed warm and humid throughout the night. Today the forecast is no clouds with temperatures as high as 23 degrees.

Myself and Conor will likely be running on adrenaline all day, our late night boozing did not help, and the weather, combined with all that election stuff going on, should make it a day to remember.

Internet will likely be intermittent, so I will try updating via text to my Twitter.

Gori, looking south

I had a quick look round the tank base in Gori two weeks ago, and posted some photos. Towards the end of my trip to Georgia, I made my way up to the castle in the centre of Gori – it gives commanding views of the town and the surrounding area.

Looking south I took a high resolution image of the tank base, and the hills surrounding it. You can make out about eight destroyed tanks, that had moved from the tank base. To the very left of the tank base you can see one of the tower blocks bombed by the Russians. In the foreground you can see the Stalin museum (tall building, Georgian flag).

How many tanks can you make out? When in Flickr click on “All sizes” on the top left of the picture to see the picture at the full 8 megapixel resolution.

Gori, looking south

Russia pulls back

It is being reported that Russian forces are pulling back from their ‘buffer zones’ around Ossetia and Abkhazia.

I took some photos in Karaleti on October 1, between Gori and Tskhvinali. This checkpoint appears now to have been dismantled.

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It’s a little hard to make out, but you can see the extent of tracks in the tarmac I talked about before. Some journos packing up and leaving too.

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What does the US do now?

Bush said:

Russia’s government must respect Georgia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. The Russian government must reverse the course it appears to be on, and accept this peace agreement as a first step toward resolving this conflict.

Russia’s actions this week have raised serious questions about its intentions in Georgia and the region. These actions have substantially damaged Russia’s standing in the world. And these actions jeopardize Russians’ relations — Russia’s relations with the United States and Europe. It is time for Russia to be true to its word and to act to end this crisis.

Of course the question everyone is asking is: “Or what?”. If Russia does not do this, what can the US do about it?

Bush would not have said this if there were not plans in the works to follow up. Plans usually involve some sort of sanction or escalation. Bush can’t say these things to Russia without having actions ready to follow. So if Russia ignores US protests, what action could follow?

I guess there would be two strands to US action. The first would be public, the second would be private.

In public, Bush has a number of options. He could escalate the stakes by sending a US fleet to the Eastern Mediterranean or the Black Sea. He could send air assets to Turkish airbases, in a public/media driven demonstration of capabilities. He could publicly supply Georgia with equipment. He could seek support from regional allies in terms of military assets. He could send a submarine or two into the eastern Black Sea, surfacing purposely in sight of Russian ships. He could seek to impose economic sanctions beyond the remit of the UN.

In private, though perhaps with or without the knowledge of the Russians, he could arm Georgia with more advanced weaponry. This would take the form of anti-tank missiles like the Javelin or manpad systems like the Stinger. This option is perhaps less than likely.

But Bush cannot make statements like he did last night if there are not already plans in progress to back up his demands. This will all be moot if the Russians comply with those demands.

By Friday we will know if this was a week long skirmish, or if it will turn into a multi-year conflict.

Update: It now appears this may be moot, given Russian pronouncements.