Inside the Beltway: NATO air force nuclear deterrence drills begin as Russia begins its own

Certain climes will be very busy, very soon.

“Air forces from across NATO will exercise nuclear deterrence capabilities involving dozens of aircraft over northwestern Europe from Monday. The exercise, which runs until October 30, is a routine, recurring training activity and is not linked to any current world event,” NATO said in a statement outlining the plans.

The exercise is titled “Steadfast Noon” and involves a dozen countries and about 60 aircraft of various types – “including fourth- and fifth-generation fighters, as well as surveillance and refueling aircraft,” NATO said.

Still faithful and durable B-52 long-range bombers will also participate in the exercise – courtesy of Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota.

Training flights will take place over Belgium, which hosts the exercise, as well as over the North Sea and the UK. No live weapons are used.

“This exercise helps ensure that the Alliance’s nuclear deterrent remains safe, secure and effective,” NATO spokesman Oana Lungescu said in a statement.

It is complicated.

“Steadfast Noon” could coincide with Russia’s “Grom” — that nation’s name for a similar annual exercise that puts nuclear-capable aircraft, submarines and missiles through their paces.

“With Russia expected to soon conduct large-scale exercises of its nuclear forces as president Vladimir Putin threatens to use them, the US and its allies will be challenged to make sure they can tell the difference between exercises and the real thing,” wrote Phil Stewarta Reuters analyst.

The power of independents

The Republican Party may have reason to be optimistic about the midterm elections.

“Republicans have a seven percentage point lead in their bid to regain control of Congress. If congressional elections were held today, 48% of likely American voters would vote for the Republican candidate, 41% would vote for the Democrat. Only four percent (4%) would vote for another candidate, but another seven percent (7%) are not sure,” says a new Rasmussen Reports survey.

The GOP lead is up 3 percentage points from last week, when they led 47% to 43%, it noted.

“The widening Republican lead is largely due to a 16 percentage point advantage among independent voters. 85% of Republican voters say they would vote for their party’s congressional nominee, while 82% of Democrats would vote for the Democratic nominee. Among voters who not affiliated with either major party, 46% would vote Republican and 30% would vote Democratic, while 9% would vote for another candidate and 15% are undecided, the analysis said.

The survey of 2,500 likely American voters was conducted 9-13 October.

Grassley’s big challenge

Late. Charles E. Grassley’s lead over Democratic challenger Mike Franken has narrowed to 3 percentage points with less than a month until election day. It’s the senior Iowa Republican senator’s “toughest re-election fight in 40 years,” according to the Des Moines Register.

The news organization conducted a poll to reveal that Mr. Grassley leads with 46% support among likely voters, Mr. Franken has support from 43%. Another 4% would vote someone else, 4% don’t plan to vote and 3% aren’t sure in the survey of 804 Iowa adults conducted Sept. 9-12. October.

Mr. Grassley, 89, is seeking his eighth term in the U.S. Senate. Mr. Franken, 64, is a retired Navy admiral.

“The numbers suggest a contest closer than any Grassley has faced since he defeated a Democratic incumbent by 8 percentage points to win his first Senate election in 1980,” the Register noted.

Mark Johannesa Dubuque resident, continues to support Mr. Grassley.

“I think he still represents Iowa. He works tirelessly. He’s been around every county this year. I’d see him at Iowa State football games. And for a man of his age and character, he carries it like he is 30 years old,” Mr. Johanns told The Register.

Ivy covered halls

So how are things in the nation’s higher education institutions these days?

“Democrats outnumber Republicans 98 to 1, according to an analysis of professors’ political affiliations across six humanities departments at Cornell University. The Department of Archeology sits alone in hosting a Republican professor. The Department of Gender Studies, along with Philosophy, Sociology, Government and Literature in English departments, all contained zero registered Republicans,” reports The College Fix, a student-written news organization.

“Using voter registration data from Tompkins County, The College Fix looked up the political party identification of 174 Cornell professors in philosophy, literature in English, archaeology, sociology, government and gender studies,” the report said.

“This is one of the many investigative reports that The Fix has published in recent weeks about professors’ political affiliations. The University of Georgia study found that Democratic professors outnumbered Republicans by a ratio of about 10 to 1, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill study found that Democratic professors outnumbered Republicans by about 16 to 1 ,” the report noted.

Today’s vote

• 47% of registered US voters expect the US economy to be “in recession” in the next year; 69% of Republicans, 53% of independents and 22% of Democrats agree.

• 24% of voters overall say the economy will be “slow but not in recession”; 17% of Republicans, 23% of independents and 30% of Democrats agree.

• 15% of voters overall say the economy will “hold up”; 6% of Republicans, 12% of independents and 27% of Democrats agree.

• 11% of voters overall say the economy will “grow but not boom”; 6% of Republicans, 10% of independents and 17% of Democrats agree.

• 3% of voters overall say the economy will “boom”; 2% of Republicans, 2% of independents and 4% of Democrats agree.

Source: A CBS News poll of 2,068 registered US voters conducted 12-14 October.

• Helpful information to jharper@washingtontimes.com

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