It was immediately clear that it was no ordinary flight -- when this morning, on final approach, the Bay of Pigs was visible in the distance off the right wing.
Landing in Cuba is always a feast for the eyes of an aviation buff. There are old DC-3 tail-draggers in various stages of air-worthiness. In another direction, in the shadow of the thoroughly modern, Western-style control tower, there's a Russian-made passenger jet... and all along the tarmac are the assembled aircraft in town for the summit. The Boeing Business Jet of the Government of Brunei, commercial airliners from Vietnam, Pakistan, Iran... a Gulfstream from Algeria. A DC-8, a beaten-up TriStar, an old Connie missing an engine. They're all here.
We were driven from the tarmac to the terminal in a late-model Ford Econoline van. From there, through Immigration (a smiling, pleasant, uniformed woman looked at my passport and asked, "You like New York?") and then it was onto the streets of Havana -- and the usual assortment of "land that time forgot" automobiles, right off the set of a Scorsese film: a '58 Oldsmobile, a '56 Merc, and a tricked-out, rusted-out '57 Chevy... the automobiles that were new back when the curtain came down on the outside world. (Note to Coppola fans: think of the cars lined up outside the party when Michael was driven to the airport on New Year's Eve, 1959, following "the kiss" that cooked Fredo.)
Photo caption: The control tower of Jose Marti International Airport in Havana, with a Russian passenger jet in the foreground. Photo by Subrata De, NBC News.
Brian recorded today's vlog on the flight from Miami to Havana. Click the link to the right (below the advertisement) to watch.
I hope many of you saw Brian anchor, live from Havana, NBC News coverage of President Bush's news conference. Click here to watch video of Brian talking to NBC's Tim Russert after the speech. And click here to read MSNBC.com's wrap and analysis.
We're expecting Brian's daily vlog from Havana in the next hour or so, and I've also asked Chief White House Correspondent David Gregory to weigh in on his questioning of the president about redefining Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions.
Last but not least, Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent Andrea Mitchell is covering the "Nonaligned Summit." She has filed a couple reports on MSNBC-TV already today about Fidel Castro's hospital room embrace of Hugo Chavez. Click here to watch one of them.
We are at Miami International Airport awaiting clearance to take off. We first have to clear our departure with the U.S. government, and with the Havana tower: you don't want any mistakes involving aircraft approaching Cuban airspace. President Bush has called a news conference for 11:15 a.m., and so we may see a modern-era television first: anchoring a Presidential news conference from Cuba... scene of the gathering of most of our nation's enemies over the next few days. Communications from there are both shaky and monitored, so future posts may be sparse and terse. We'll see you tonight from Havana.
The news from Ford is stunning. This is a game-changer. It will have an incalculable effect on Detroit, though I understand the analysts and executives who say: it's restructure or die. Cars have changed and so has the market for them. We'll report on the news of the day and what this means.
Also tonight: the President goes to the Hill, and David Gregory will bring us up to speed on politics. Andrea Mitchell is in Havana for the summit of non-aligned nations... meaning basically all those who didn't want to be our friend or the Soviet Union's (with exceptions, of course) back in the 60s. What an interesting gathering... how often do all of this nation's enemies gather in the same hotel ballroom, after all? The fact that it's happening 90 miles off the coast of Florida makes it all the more interesting.
We have interesting reports on things military, on science, medicine and technology. Colin Powell made news today, and we'll talk about that, too. I've got to go get my hands in the mix. Off to the newsroom. I hope you can join us for our Thursday night effort.
HAVANA, Cuba -- This city is festooned with signs and banners welcoming foreign leaders to a gathering that looks like a reunion of President George W. Bush's "Axis of Evil." Cuban officials tell me the point is not to attack America, but many of the billboards here tell a different story: they portray President Bush with fangs, call him an "assassin" and even compare him to Adolf Hitler. (The Castro government is accusing the U.S. of harboring a man known here as the Osama bin Laden of Cuba -- a Cuban exile now jailed in Texas on immigration charges, but accused in Havana of terror plots. It's part of the backdrop for the angry rhetoric against the U.S.)
Brian will be anchoring from here tomorrow night, which is a very big deal. Cuba TV -- part of the government here -- has already talked about his anticipated arrival.
Brian anchors the broadcast tonight from New York, but Chief White House Correspondent David Gregory is on 'Early Nightly' duty. Click the link to the right (below the advertisement) to hear some of the stories we're working on for tonight's broadcast.
We are watching this unfolding situation in Canada very carefully. What an awful event. At this writing we don't know where it will place in the order of stories tonight. Elsewhere in the broadcast, we'll report on the war on terror, we'll debut the newest NBC News poll numbers (interesting data on the status of the GOP and the Administration's recent evocation of Hitler and appeasement) and we'll talk to Tim Russert. We'll also stay with our coverage of what we last night called the worst fire season out West (in terms of acreage burned) in possibly 75 years.
We'll talk about today's troubling projection concerning children and obesity, a new requirement for cars (coming soon) and the latest media hoax, unmasked.
Why is Brian wearing a sweatshirt in today's vlog? Click the link to the right (below the advertisement) to find out!
Federal authorities have declined to prosecute a man who tried to open a cabin door during a United flight from Los Angeles to Washington Dulles airport last night [story link].
Flight 890 was about two hours from Dulles when the man walked to the rear of the plane and flipped up the handle on the rear cabin door. Because those doors cannot open when a plane is in flight, nothing happened to the door. But the same cannot be said of the man. A federal investigator says he was immediately jumped by nearby passengers and beaten. "They roughed him up quite a bit," a federal official says.