Saturday, September 03, 2005

New Orleans Chemical Depot Explodes

An explosion at a chemical depot jolted residents awake early Friday, illuminating the pre-dawn sky with red and orange flames over a city awash in corpses and under siege from looters. There were no immediate reports of injuries.
Vibrations from the blast along the Mississippi River and a few miles east of the French Quarter were felt all the way downtown. A series of smaller blasts followed and then a pillar of acrid, black smoke.

Halliburton gets Katrina contract, hires former FEMA director

The US Navy asked Halliburton to repair naval facilities damaged by Hurricane Katrina, the Houston Chronicle reported today. The work was assigned to Halliburton's KBR subsidiary under the Navy's $500 million CONCAP contract awarded to KBR in 2001 and renewed in 2004. The repairs will take place in Louisiana and Mississippi.

Volunteers Needed NOW in Houston

Volunteers are needed at the Astrodome. They should go to the Main Street Yellow Lot.
Volunteers will work 10-hour shifts covering all hours after a one- to two-hour training session.
Donations are no longer needed. Please do not drop them off at the Dome until requested.
City officials also asked for volunteers at the George R. Brown Convention Center in downtown Houston, which is being readied for evacuees.
Those interested should go to the Polk Street parking lot. Volunteers will work four-hour shifts.
The following items are also needed: Toiletry Items Towels Blankets Sheets, Bedding Cots Air Mattresses.

Donations should be dropped off at Exhibit Hall E.
please read more at:


Friday, September 02, 2005

Great apes in danger of being wiped out

Man's closest cousins could become extinct within a generation due to poverty, disease, hunting and logging, according to the first-ever World Atlas of Great Apes.
An unprecedented survey by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC) has resulted in a conservation map of the six remaining species and how their habitats are at risk.
As few as 350,000 great apes, which include chimpanzees, bonobos, eastern and western gorillas and Sumatran and Bornean orangutans, could now remain in the wild, the survey shows.

Condi's New York Adventure

All day Thursday, from the New York Post to several popular blogs, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice came under attack and ridicule for having fun in Manhattan while New Orleans sank and exploded in violence. By nightfall, she had cut short her vacation and returned to her post in Washington.
The Post started it with an early morning Page Six item about Rice playing tennis with Monica Seles at a court near New York's Grand Central. Then Drudge revealed that she had attended a Broadway play -- "Spamalot," no less -- the night before.
Wonkette and Gawker got in on the action, with the latter revealing that she had just been spotted shopping for expensive shoes at a chic New York City boutique -- where she had to endure another female customer shouting at her about enjoying herself in such a way while thousands were perishing down South. All of this sparked criticism at many other sites.

July 2005 article reveals New Orleans told poor: 'You're on your own'

A July 24, 2005 article in the New Orleans Times Picayune (not available online) reveals just how unprepared officials were for a hurricane, especially as it affected the city's poor, RAW STORY has learned. The first sentence alone reveals how little support the city expected to have for the poor in the event of a disaster, saying, "City, state and federal emergency officials are preparing to give the poorest of New Orleans' poor a historically blunt message: In the event of a major hurricane, you're on your own."
The article was first discovered in a detailed piece by the Philadelphia Daily News' Will Bunch.
The local Red Cross executive director was quoted as saying, "You're responsible for your safety, and you should be responsible for the person next to you. If you have some room to get that person out of town, the Red Cross will have a space for that person outside the area. We can help you. But we don't have the transportation."
Selected excerpts from July Picayune article by Bruce Nolan appear here.

Bulgaria to withdraw its troops from Iraq

Bulgaria's prime minister on Friday announced that his government is beginning preparations for the withdrawal of the country's 400 troops from Iraq.
Sergei Stanishev said that later this month consultations with the coalition partners will be launched on the details of Bulgaria's military pullout and its future participation in humanitarian activities, according to the AP.
"Our upcoming withdrawal does not mean that we are stepping back from our engagements in the broad anti-terror coalition," Stanishev said in parliament.
"We will remain a responsible and predictable partner of the multinational forces and of the Iraqi government," he added.

Why is the Department of Labor keeping U.S. citizens from having equal access to more than 50,000 IT jobs?

Why is the Department of Labor refusing to post on its Web site a database of more than 50,000 job openings — many for IT workers — for 2006? Are they precluded by law to do so, as a DOL spokesperson claims?
This issue is part of a controversy currently raging between the DOL and professional organizations such as the Programmers Guild about the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS, formerly the Department of Immigration and Naturalization) H-1B visa quota for 2006.
Here’s how USCIS defines an H-1B visa: “Established by the Immigration Act of 1990 (IMMACT), the H-1B nonimmigrant visa category allows U.S. employers to augment the existing labor force with highly skilled temporary workers. H-1B workers are admitted to the United States for an initial period of three years, which may be extended for an additional three years. The H-1B visa program is utilized … to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise in a specialized field. Typical H-1B occupations include architects, engineers, computer programmers, accountants, doctors and college professors.”
The DOL requires that U.S. employers who want to hire someone on an H-1B visa first submit what is called an LCA (Labor Condition Application). The LCA describes (briefly — sometimes just a title) the opening available. Thus far, the department has received 51,939 LCAs. Programmers Guild President Kim Berry and others are calling for the DOL to post these LCAs and make them searchable, so that anyone can apply for the open positions.

Denmark Tells CIA to Stay Out of Danish Airspace

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has made it quite clear to U.S. officials that Denmark does not want its airspace used for purposes that are in conflict with international conventions,” wrote Møller, in response to an inquiry from Frank Aaen, the Red-Green Alliance military affairs spokesman [a Danish political Party].
Reports surfaced in May that civilian aircraft secretly registered to the CIA had been sighted over Denmark. Human rights organizations claim that the planes are used to transport terror suspects to places where torture is conducted.

Gas Shortage: Rumor, Not Reality

The gas shortage is a rumor -- not reality, said AAA of Arizona.
Spokeswoman Yvette Lopez says Hurricane Katrina has not affected gas supplies in Arizona. Instead, a transportation problem delayed delivery to some independent gas stations. Also, some drivers were panic-buying, causing some sporadic shortages.
"Panic-buying is when consumers call their friends and family and they all go out and buy gasoline," Lopez said. "It puts a huge demand on the existing supply."
Lopez also said drivers should not hoard gasoline. Instead, they should just continue their normal usage, and even try to conserve.

Editorials, Including Those at Conservative Papers, Rip Bush's Hurricane Response

Editorials from around the country on Friday -- including at the Bush-friendly Dallas Morning News and The Washington Times -- have, by and large, offered harsh criticism of the official and military response to the disaster in the Gulf Coast. Here's a sampling.

Krugman: A Can't-Do Government

I don't think this is a simple tale of incompetence. The reason the military wasn't rushed in to help along the Gulf Coast is, I believe, the same reason nothing was done to stop looting after the fall of Baghdad. Flood control was neglected for the same reason our troops in Iraq didn't get adequate armor.
At a fundamental level, I'd argue, our current leaders just aren't serious about some of the essential functions of government. They like waging war, but they don't like providing security, rescuing those in need or spending on preventive measures. And they never, ever ask for shared sacrifice.
Yesterday Mr. Bush made an utterly fantastic claim: that nobody expected the breach of the levees. In fact, there had been repeated warnings about exactly that risk.
So America, once famous for its can-do attitude, now has a can't-do government that makes excuses instead of doing its job. And while it makes those excuses, Americans are dying. [thanks, Tom P]

Thursday, September 01, 2005

FEMA suspends some operations amid violence of Katrina aftermath

Katrina's destruction is giving way to violence and anger in New Orleans.
FEMA has had to suspend rescue operations in some areas after gunfire broke out. There was also a report of a shot being fired at a military helicopter near the Superdome, where fights and trash fires have broken out.
Another 10,000 National Guardsman have been called into New Orleans and various parts of the Gulf Coast to beef up security and other operations.
Evacuations from the Superdome to Houston have begun, but thousands more people are desperately trying to get out. Heavily armed state troopers had to block a surging crowd that moved toward buses near the Superdome.
Outside the nearby convention center, dead bodies are mixed with crying children and adults chanting desperately for help.
There's no telling just how many people Katrina has killed. The official toll in Mississippi is up to 121. Refrigerated mobile morgues are cruising around Mississippi coastal areas like garbage trucks, picking up bodies left on sidewalks and in front yards.
New Orleans' mayor said Wednesday that thousands are likely dead in his city alone.

Destroying FEMA

In the days to come, as the nation and the people along the Gulf Coast work to cope with the disastrous aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, we will be reminded anew, how important it is to have a federal agency capable of dealing with natural catastrophes of this sort. This is an immense human tragedy, one that will work hardship on millions of people. It is beyond the capabilities of state and local government to deal with. It requires a national response.
Which makes it all the more difficult to understand why, at this moment, the country's premier agency for dealing with such events -- FEMA -- is being, in effect, systematically downgraded and all but dismantled by the Department of Homeland Security.
Apparently homeland security now consists almost entirely of protection against terrorist acts. How else to explain why the Federal Emergency Management Agency will no longer be responsible for disaster preparedness? Given our country's long record of natural disasters, how much sense does this make?
What follows is an obituary for what was once considered the preeminent example of a federal agency doing good for the American public in times of trouble, such as the present.
...This year it was announced that FEMA is to "officially" lose the disaster preparedness function that it has had since its creation. The move is a death blow to an agency that was already on life support. In fact, FEMA employees have been directed not to become involved in disaster preparedness functions, since a new directorate (yet to be established) will have that mission.
FEMA will be survived by state and local emergency management offices, which are confused about how they fit into the national picture. That's because the focus of the national effort remains terrorism, even if the Department of Homeland Security still talks about "all-hazards preparedness." Those of us in the business of dealing with emergencies find ourselves with no national leadership and no mentors. We are being forced to fend for ourselves, making do with the "homeland security" mission. Our "all-hazards" approaches have been decimated by the administration's preoccupation with terrorism.
To be sure, America may well be hit by another major terrorist attack, and we must be prepared for such an event. But I can guarantee you that hurricanes like the one that ripped into Louisiana and Mississippi yesterday, along with tornadoes, earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, floods, windstorms, mudslides, power outages, fires and perhaps a pandemic flu will have to be dealt with on a weekly and daily basis throughout this country. They are coming for sure, sooner or later, even as we are, to an unconscionable degree, weakening our ability to respond to them.
The writer is director of the King County, Wash., Office of Emergency Management.

Doctors Turn to the Associated Press for Help

Doctors at two desperately crippled hospitals in New Orleans called The Associated Press this morning pleading for rescue, saying they were nearly out of food and power and had been forced to move patients to higher floors to escape looters.
"We have been trying to call the mayor's office, we have been trying to call the governor's office ... we have tried to use any inside pressure we can. We are turning to you. Please help us," said Dr. Norman McSwain, chief of trauma surgery at Charity Hospital, the largest of two public hospitals.
Charity is across the street from Tulane University Medical Center, a private facility that has almost completed evacuating more than 1,000 patients and family members, he said.
No such public resources are available for Charity, which has about 250 patients, or University Hospital several blocks away, which has about 110 patients.
"We need coordinated help from the government," McSwain said.
..."We're afraid that somehow these two hospitals have been left off ... that somehow somebody has either forgotten it or ignored it or something, because there is no evidence anything is being done."
Hamm said there was relief Wednesday as word traveled throughout University Hospital that the National Guard was coming to evacuate them, but the rescue never materialized.
"You can imagine how demoralizing that was," he said.
Throughout the entire city, the death, destruction and depravity deepened even as the hurricane waters leveled off.
"Hospitals are trying to evacuate," said Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Cheri Ben-Iesan, spokesman at the city emergency operations center. "At every one of them, there are reports that as the helicopters come in people are shooting at them. There are people just taking pot shots at police and at helicopters, telling them, 'You better come get my family.'"

'Times-Picayune' Blog/Forum Reveals True Horror of Disaster Today

While the world, and the media, focus on major developments involving thousands of victims in New Orleans, individual horror stories -- and cries for help -- just get lost. The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, from the onset of the catastrophe, has managed to provide blogs, forums, and bulletin boards for readers to seek help or information. But this morning, the pleadings at one forum turned absolutely chilling. Here are a few samples from past few hours on Thursday (updated here from the top).

Karl Rove Makes Surprise Visit to Camp Casey

Driving his own pickup, with two trucks blockading both sides of the street, Bush Administration Senior Political Advisor and Deputy Chief of Staff, Karl Rove made a surprise sunset visit/photo-op Tuesday night to the half dozen or so Bush supporters camped across the street from "Camp Casey" in Crawford, Texas where Cindy Sheehan -- whose son, Casey, was killed in Iraq -- originally made her stand requesting a meeting and an explanation from George W. Bush. [Includes photos]

U.S. confirms its troops killed Reuters journalist in Iraq

The U.S. military confirmed on Thursday that its soldiers killed a Reuters journalist in Iraq but said their action was "appropriate."
Describing Sunday's incident, when television soundman Waleed Khaled was killed by multiple shots, Major General Rick Lynch said: "That car approached at a high rate of speed and then conducted activity that in itself was suspicious. There were individuals hanging outside with what looked to be a weapon.
"It stopped and immediately put itself in reverse. Again suspicious activity. Our soldiers on the scene used established rules of engagement and all the training received ... decided that it was appropriate to engage that particular car.
"And as a result of that the driver was indeed killed and the passenger was hurt by shards of glass."
Reuters cameraman Haider Kadhem, 24, like Waleed an Iraqi, was slightly wounded by flying fragments but survived in the passenger seat of the car, only to be detained for the next three days by U.S. troops. Kadhem was using a small video camera.

Release of oil reserves has little effect

The US government on Wednesday agreed to lend refiners small quantities of oil from its strategic emergency stockpile to help ease the shortage of petrol caused by Hurricane Katrina.
But the relief it caused in the overheated oil market was cut short when it became clear that the move would have little impact on the problem and was as much a political gesture as an economic one.
In fact, helping the US deal with the loss of 20 per cent of its oil production and 10 per cent of its refining capacity has become a global tug of war between three powerful players.
The first is US President George W. Bush, who is facing some of his lowest approval ratings of his career courtesy of Iraq and oil. But he still has his most potent weapon to use: a broad release of oil from the same stockpiles that are now lending refiners small packets of oil.
This time the reason for tapping the reserves appears almost exactly what Mr Bush says the 700m barrels are meant for – a genuine shortage in the market.
But what the US now needs is petrol rather than crude oil.
The US has no emergency reserves of petrol while commercial reserves are near a two-year low and dwindling by the day as refiners are unable to replenish their storage tanks.

Hurricane Housing

Hurricane Katrina has left hundreds of thousands of people homeless. But thousands of people throughout the region are stepping into the breach to offer free shelter to those in need.

Offer Housing

Click here to offer free housing

You can FIND free housing by clicking HERE.

Institute for Policy Studies: A Declaration Of War

The 450 changes that Washington is demanding to the action agenda that will culminate at the September 2005 United Nations summit don’t represent U.N. reform. They are a clear onslaught against any move that could strengthen the United Nations or international law.
The upcoming summit was supposed to focus on strengthening and reforming the U.N. and address issues of aid and development, with a particular emphasis on implementing the U.N.'s five-year-old Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Most assumed this would be a forum for dialogue and debate, involving civil society activists from around the world challenging governments from the impoverished South and the wealthy North and the United Nations to create a viable global campaign against poverty and for internationalism.
But now, there’s a different and even greater challenge. This is a declaration of U.S. unilateralism, uncompromising and ascendant. The United States has issued an open threat to the 190 other U.N. member states, the social movements and peoples of the entire world, and the United Nations itself. And it will take a quick and unofficially collaborative effort between all three of those elements to challenge the Bush administration juggernaut.

Nuclear-reactor spacecraft poor for astronomy

Spacecraft powered by nuclear fission reactors are of limited use to astronomers, the US National Research Council panel has concluded. The report calls into question NASA's multi-billion-dollar Prometheus project, which aims to develop such spacecraft for future missions to the Moon, Mars, and the outer solar system.
Early reactor technology was used in space once by the US in 1965 and a couple of dozen times by the Soviet Union from 1967 to 1988. Now, NASA hopes to improve on the technology, which releases heat by splitting uranium.

Sidney Blumenthal: "No one can say they didn't see it coming"

In 2001, FEMA warned that a hurricane striking New Orleans was one of the three most likely disasters in the U.S. But the Bush administration cut New Orleans flood control funding by 44 percent to pay for the Iraq war.
...A year ago the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposed to study how New Orleans could be protected from a catastrophic hurricane, but the Bush administration ordered that the research not be undertaken. After a flood killed six people in 1995, Congress created the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, in which the Corps of Engineers strengthened and renovated levees and pumping stations. In early 2001, the Federal Emergency Management Agency issued a report stating that a hurricane striking New Orleans was one of the three most likely disasters in the U.S., including a terrorist attack on New York City. But by 2003 the federal funding for the flood control project essentially dried up as it was drained into the Iraq war. In 2004, the Bush administration cut funding requested by the New Orleans district of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for holding back the waters of Lake Pontchartrain by more than 80 percent. Additional cuts at the beginning of this year (for a total reduction in funding of 44.2 percent since 2001) forced the New Orleans district of the Corps to impose a hiring freeze. The Senate had debated adding funds for fixing New Orleans' levees, but it was too late.
The New Orleans Times-Picayune, which before the hurricane published a series on the federal funding problem, and whose presses are now underwater, reported online: "No one can say they didn't see it coming ... Now in the wake of one of the worst storms ever, serious questions are being asked about the lack of preparation."
The Bush administration's policy of turning over wetlands to developers almost certainly also contributed to the heightened level of the storm surge. In 1990, a federal task force began restoring lost wetlands surrounding New Orleans. Every two miles of wetland between the Crescent City and the Gulf reduces a surge by half a foot. Bush had promised "no net loss" of wetlands, a policy launched by his father's administration and bolstered by President Clinton. But he reversed his approach in 2003, unleashing the developers. The Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency then announced they could no longer protect wetlands unless they were somehow related to interstate commerce.
In response to this potential crisis, four leading environmental groups conducted a joint expert study, concluding in 2004 that without wetlands protection New Orleans could be devastated by an ordinary, much less a Category 4 or 5, hurricane. "There's no way to describe how mindless a policy that is when it comes to wetlands protection," said one of the report's authors. The chairman of the White House's Council on Environmental Quality dismissed the study as "highly questionable," and boasted, "Everybody loves what we're doing."
"My administration's climate change policy will be science based," President Bush declared in June 2001. But in 2002, when the Environmental Protection Agency submitted a study on global warming to the United Nations reflecting its expert research, Bush derided it as "a report put out by a bureaucracy," and excised the climate change assessment from the agency's annual report. The next year, when the EPA issued its first comprehensive "Report on the Environment," stating, "Climate change has global consequences for human health and the environment," the White House simply demanded removal of the line and all similar conclusions. At the G-8 meeting in Scotland this year, Bush successfully stymied any common action on global warming. Scientists, meanwhile, have continued to accumulate impressive data on the rising temperature of the oceans, which has produced more severe hurricanes.
In February 2004, 60 of the nation's leading scientists, including 20 Nobel laureates, warned in a statement, "Restoring Scientific Integrity in Policymaking": "Successful application of science has played a large part in the policies that have made the United States of America the world's most powerful nation and its citizens increasingly prosperous and healthy ... Indeed, this principle has long been adhered to by presidents and administrations of both parties in forming and implementing policies. The administration of George W. Bush has, however, disregarded this principle ... The distortion of scientific knowledge for partisan political ends must cease." Bush completely ignored this statement.

More Americans lack cover for ill-health

Despite the strength of the US economy, the number of Americans without health insurance in 2004 climbed for the fourth consecutive year to a record high of 45.8m and the poverty rate also increased, according to official figures yesterday.
The data from the Census Bureau the US government statistical agency identified an 800,000 increase in uninsured Americans, who make up 15.7 per cent of the population. Although the number of Americans without healthcare was at its highest levels since records began in the mid-1980s, as a share of the population it was still down from a peak of 16.3 per cent in 1998.

Andrei Codrescu: "Watching my beautiful city sink"

Commentator Andrei Codrescu has called Louisiana home for more than 20 years. Now, as he watches this flood, he knows that he is only one of many, many people who are overcome by the tragedy of New Orleans.

FDA women's health head resigns after Plan B decision

The Food and Drug Administration's assistant commissioner for women's health and director of the agency's office of women's health, Susan Wood, has resigned in the wake of the FDA's decision last Friday to again delay a decision on whether to allow over-the-counter sales of the contraceptive drug Plan B. The morning-after pill is made by Barr Laboratories Inc. (BRL) . A letter from Wood was released Wednesday by Reproductive Health Technologies Project, a contraceptive advocacy group, in which Wood called the decision contrary to her core commitment to improving and advancing women's health. "I have spent the last 15 years working to ensure that science informs good health policy decisions," Wood states in the letter. "I can no longer serve as staff when scientific and clinical evidence, fully evaluated and recommended for approval by the professional staff here, has been overruled." A call to the FDA seeking comment was not immediately returned.

Bolton Voices Opposition to U.N. Proposals

Bolton argued that the Security Council already had sufficient legal authority to send foreign troops to halt atrocities in places such as the Sudanese region of Darfur. He insisted that the U.N. charter "has never been interpreted as creating a legal obligation for Security Council members to support enforcement action." He also urged the deletion of language calling on nations to prevent "incitement" of mass atrocities, saying it runs counter to the U.S. First Amendment protections of speech.
Bolton wrote that the United States "stands ready" to intervene in select cases where governments fail to halt mass killings on their soil. But he said that world leaders should not "foreclose" the military option by the United States and other governments "absent authorization by the Security Council."
The U.N. doctrine of humanitarian intervention, known as the "responsibility to protect," has been promoted by Secretary General Kofi Annan, European governments and human rights advocates, who had been pressing U.N. members to accept greater responsibility for intervening in countries where atrocities are taking place. They have also been pressing to ensure a more central role for the Security Council in authorizing military action, a position that the Bush administration has strenuously opposed.
Bolton also pressed for changes in the U.N. document that would ensure that U.S. or Israeli forces would not be exposed to terrorism charges if they killed or injured civilians during military operations. Bolton wrote that the "scope" of the terrorism provision should be limited to "terrorist actions," not "military activities that are appropriately governed by international humanitarian law." Arab governments have insisted for years that the Israeli army has engaged in "state terrorism" against Palestinian civilians.

2 Ohio elections officials indicted for presidential recount

Two Cuyahoga County elections officials were indicted Tuesday on charges of not handling ballots correctly during the recount of the 2004 presidential election.
Kathleen Dreamer, manager of the board's ballot department, and the assistant manager, Rosie Grier, were each charged with six counts of failing to follow Ohio laws that spell out how ballots are selected and reviewed during a recount.
The most serious charges carry a maximum of 18 months in prison.
... The charges stem from a complaint first raised last December by Toledo lawyer Richard Kerger, who watched over the recount on behalf of two third-party candidates.
Kerger charged that elections officials failed to randomly select precincts that were supposed to be counted by hand and compared against ballots tabulated by a machine; conduct test-runs before witnesses; and investigate discrepancies between vote totals.
... Cuyahoga County's four elections board members issued a statement defending their employees and the voting process.
"These allegations are based on interpretation of procedures, not on any suggestion of fraud," they said.

N.Y. Judge Hesitant on Abu Ghraib Photos

A judge said Tuesday he was hesitant to release pictures and videotapes of detainee abuse at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison while top government officials insisted that deaths could result.
U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein commented as he listened to Manhattan's top government lawyer and an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, which was seeking release of the pictures.
The judge questioned whether he could disregard arguments by Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who has warned that releasing the photos would aid al-Qaida recruitment, weaken the Afghan and Iraqi governments and incite riots against U.S. troops.

How to Help

FEMA listed the following agencies as needing cash to assist hurricane and flood victims:

• American Red Cross, 800-HELP NOW (435-7669) English, 800-257-7575 Spanish.
• Operation Blessing, 800-436-6348.
• America's Second Harvest, 800-344-8070.
• Adventist Community Services, 800-381-7171.
• Catholic Charities, USA, 703-549-1390.
• Christian Disaster Response, 941-956-5183 or 941-551-9554.
• Christian Reformed World Relief Committee, 800-848-5818.
• Church World Service, 800-297-1516.
• Convoy of Hope, 417-823-8998.
• Lutheran Disaster Response, 800-638-3522.
• Mennonite Disaster Service, 717-859-2210.
• Nazarene Disaster Response, 888-256-5886.
• Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, 800-872-3283.
• Salvation Army, 800-SAL-ARMY (725-2769).
• Southern Baptist Convention — Disaster Relief, 800-462-8657, ext. 6440.
• United Methodist Committee on Relief. 800-554-8583.

Donations can be made online to most of these organizations through Network for Good.

Ideas That May Die in Coming Years

Albert Einstein claimed he never thought of the future. “It comes soon enough,” he said. FOREIGN POLICY decided to not grant 16 leading thinkers that luxury. Instead, to mark our 35th anniversary, we asked them to speculate on the ideas, values, and institutions the world takes for granted that may disappear in the next 35 years. Their answers range from fields as diverse as morals and religion to geopolitics and technology. We may be happy to see some of these “endangered species” make an exit, but others will be mourned. All of them will leave a mark. [some examples below...]

October 2001: Drowning New Orleans

A major hurricane could swamp New Orleans under 20 feet of water, killing thousands. Human activities along the Mississippi River have dramatically increased the risk, and now only massive reengineering of southeastern Louisiana can save the city.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Hundreds Dead in Stampede Over Baghdad Bridge

Trampled, crushed against barricades or plunging into the Tigris River, more than 700 Shiite pilgrims died Wednesday when a procession across a Baghdad bridge was engulfed in panic over rumors that a suicide bomber was at large.
Most of the dead were women and children, Interior Ministry spokesman Lt. Col. Adnan Abdul-Rahman said. It was the single biggest confirmed loss of life in
Iraq since the March 2003 invasion. Dr. Swadi Karim of the Health Ministry operations section said 769 were killed and 307 injured.

OK Go on NPR

A video by the band OK Go for its song "A Million Ways" has become a sensation on the Internet, with over 500,000 downloads. The video, of the band performing a complicated dance routine in Kulash's backyard, was never intended to be released publicly, but it has found a strong following. Robert Siegel talks with Damian Kulash, the band's singer/guitarist, and his sister Trish Sie, a former professional ballroom dancer and choreographed the dance. [With links to audio story and a link to the music video]

Justice Department's Top Prosecutorial Priority: Porn

When FBI supervisors in Miami met with new interim U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta last month, they wondered what the top enforcement priority for Acosta and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales would be.
Would it be terrorism? Organized crime? Narcotics trafficking? Immigration? Or maybe public corruption?
The agents were stunned to learn that a top prosecutorial priority of Acosta and the Department of Justice was none of the above. Instead, Acosta told them, it's obscenity. Not pornography involving children, but pornographic material featuring consenting adults.
Acosta's stated goal of prosecuting distributors of adult porn has angered federal and local law enforcement officials, as well as prosecutors in his own office. They say there are far more important issues in a high-crime area like South Florida, which is an international hub at risk for terrorism, money laundering and other dangerous activities.

Blair to Join Carlyle Group?

The PM is being lined up for a highly lucrative position with the Carlyle Group - an American-based investment giant with strong links to the White House and the defence industry.
The firm has been nicknamed "The Ex-Presidents Club" because it has had a host of former world leaders on its books including George Bush Senior, his former secretary of state James Baker and former British PM John Major. There a also a large number of former US Army top brass.
Mr Blair has been keeping quiet about his plans after his departure from Number 10 - which could be as early as 2007 according to some Labour insiders.

Washington to be sued over global warming

In a landmark judgment, a court in California has allowed a coalition of environmental groups to sue the US government over global warming - the first time a court has recognised the potentially disastrous impact of climate change.
A judge in San Francisco gave permission for the two groups, along with four US cities, to sue two federal development agencies that provide billions of dollars in loans to fund projects overseas. Some of the projects are power plants that emit greenhouse gases while others include pipeline projects that allow the transfer of oil.

Sirota: Only One Thing Left to Conclude: The Media Want the War

Take MSNBC's Nora O'Donnell. In an interview with former FBI agent Coleen Rowley (now a candidate for Congress), O'Donnell claimed that Rowley "had decided to align [herself] with anti-war extremists" because Rowley visited Cindy Sheehan's supporters in Crawford. Or, take the Washington Post's Mike Allen. He said those who oppose the war are "PETA, hippies, Naderites" -- again, a blatant effort to paint those who oppose the war as fringe, even though polls show a majority of Americans oppose the war.
These nauseating examples need to be put into a context. They follow the media's open pushing of the Iraq War before the invasion and refusal to question what they knew were pre-war lies. They also come as polls show Americans oppose the war, want an exit strategy, and believe the entire mess is endangering U.S. national security. And they come even as Iraq War veterans themselves say they understand that criticism of the war is not criticism of U.S. troops.

Did New Orleans Catastrophe Have to Happen? 'Times-Picayune' Had Repeatedly Raised Federal Spending Issues

New Orleans had long known it was highly vulnerable to flooding and a direct hit from a hurricane. In fact, the federal government has been working with state and local officials in the region since the late 1960s on major hurricane and flood relief efforts. When flooding from a massive rainstorm in May 1995 killed six people, Congress authorized the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, or SELA.
Over the next 10 years, the Army Corps of Engineers, tasked with carrying out SELA, spent $430 million on shoring up levees and building pumping stations, with $50 million in local aid. But at least $250 million in crucial projects remained, even as hurricane activity in the Atlantic Basin increased dramatically and the levees surrounding New Orleans continued to subside.
Yet after 2003, the flow of federal dollars toward SELA dropped to a trickle. The Corps never tried to hide the fact that the spending pressures of the war in Iraq, as well as homeland security -- coming at the same time as federal tax cuts -- was the reason for the strain. At least nine articles in the Times-Picayune from 2004 and 2005 specifically cite the cost of Iraq as a reason for the lack of hurricane- and flood-control dollars.

New Rules Could Allow Power Plants to Pollute More

The Bush administration has drafted regulations that would ease pollution controls on older, dirtier power plants and could allow those that modernize to emit more pollution, rather than less.
The language could undercut dozens of pending state and federal lawsuits aimed at forcing coal-fired plants to cut back emissions of harmful pollutants such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, said lawyers who worked on the cases.
... The utilities, and the proposed new rules, take the position that decisions on whether a plant complies with the regulations after modernization should be based on how much pollution it could potentially emit per hour, rather than the current standard of how much it pollutes annually.
Under the new standard, a modernized plant's total emissions could rise if the upgrade allowed it to operate longer hours. In court filings, the EPA estimated in 2002 that an hourly standard would allow eight plants in five states -- including Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia -- to generate legally as much as 100,000 tons a year of pollutants that would be illegal under the existing New Source Review rule. That equals about a third of their total emissions.

Republicans accused of witch-hunt against climate change scientists

Some of America's leading scientists have accused Republican politicians of intimidating climate-change experts by placing them under unprecedented scrutiny.
A far-reaching inquiry into the careers of three of the US's most senior climate specialists has been launched by Joe Barton, the chairman of the House of Representatives committee on energy and commerce. He has demanded details of all their sources of funding, methods and everything they have ever published.
Mr Barton, a Texan closely associated with the fossil-fuel lobby, has spent his 11 years as chairman opposing every piece of legislation designed to combat climate change.

New Substance Harder than Diamond

Physicists in Germany have created a material that is harder than diamond. Natalia Dubrovinskaia and colleagues at the University of Bayreuth made the new material by subjecting carbon-60 molecules to immense pressures. The new form of carbon, which is known as aggregated diamond nanorods, is expected to have many industrial applications.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Poverty Rate Rises to 12.7 Percent

Even with a robust economy that was adding jobs last year, the number of Americans who fell into poverty rose to 37 million — up 1.1 million from 2003 — according to Census Bureau figures released Tuesday.
It marks the fourth straight increase in the government's annual poverty measure.
The Census Bureau also said household income remained flat, and that the number of people without health insurance edged up by about 800,000 to 45.8 million people.
"I was surprised," said Sheldon Danziger, co-director of the National Poverty Center at the University of Michigan. "I thought things would have turned around by now."
While disappointed, the Bush administration — which has not seen a decline in poverty numbers since the president took office — said it was not surprised by the new statistics.

Talking Primates with Frans de Waal

Frans de Waal is a primatologist who's challenged male supremacy in evolution, the belief that monkeys don't perceive images as we do, and the idea that they don't possess emotions ascribed to humans. His new book, Our Inner Ape, posits that the human duality of good and evil is in fact something we've inherited directly from primates. [from]

Bush accused of Aids damage to Africa

A senior United Nations official has accused President George Bush of "doing damage to Africa" by cutting funding for condoms, a move which may jeopardise the successful fight against HIV/Aids in Uganda.
Stephen Lewis, the UN secretary general's special envoy for HIV/Aids in Africa, said US cuts in funding for condoms and an emphasis on promoting abstinence had contributed to a shortage of condoms in Uganda, one of the few African countries which has succeeded in reducing its infection rate.

Full text: Draft of the Iraqi Constitution

PREAMBLE In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful Verily we have honored the children of Adam'' (Quran 17:70) We the sons of Mesopotamia, land of the prophets, resting place of the holy imams, the leaders of civilization and the creators of the alphabet, the cradle of arithmetic: on our land, the first law put in place by mankind was written; in our nation, the most noble era of justice in the politics of nations was laid down; on our soil, the followers of the prophet and the saints prayed, the philosophers and the scientists theorized and the writers and poets created. Recognizing God's right upon us; obeying the call of our nation and our citizens; responding to the call of our religious and national leaders and the insistence of our great religious authorities and our leaders and our reformers, we went by the millions for the first time in our history to the ballot box, men and women, young and old, on Jan. 30, 2005, remembering the pains of the despotic band's sectarian oppression of the majority; inspired by the suffering of Iraq's martyrs Sunni and Shiite, Arab, Kurd and Turkomen, and the remaining brethren in all communities inspired by the injustice against the holy cities in the popular uprising and against the marshes and other places; recalling the agonies of the national oppression in the massacres of Halabja, Barzan, Anfal and against the Faili Kurds; inspired by the tragedies of the Turkomen in Bashir and the suffering of the people of the western region, whom the terrorists and their allies sought to take hostage and prevent from participating in the elections and the establishment of a society of peace and brotherhood and cooperation so we can create a new Iraq, Iraq of the future, without sectarianism, racial strife, regionalism, discrimination or isolation. Terrorism and takfir'' (declaring someone an infidel) did not divert us from moving forward to build a nation of law. Sectarianism and racism did not stop us from marching together to strengthen our national unity, set ways to peacefully transfer power, adopt a manner to fairly distribute wealth and give equal opportunity to all. We the people of Iraq, newly arisen from our disasters and looking with confidence to the future through a democratic, federal, republican system, are determined men and women, old and young to respect the rule of law, reject the policy of aggression, pay attention to women and their rights, the elderly and their cares, the children and their affairs, spread the culture of diversity and defuse terrorism. We are the people of Iraq, who in all our forms and groupings undertake to establish our union freely and by choice, to learn yesterday's lessons for tomorrow, and to write down this permanent constitution from the high values and ideals of the heavenly messages and the developments of science and human civilization, and to adhere to this constitution, which shall preserve for Iraq its free union of people, land and sovereignty.

Iran to Start Trading Oil in Euros

On March 20th, 2006, Iran is planning to open an International Oil Bourse (market) for the express purpose of trading oil priced exclusively in Euros. The world currently does all oil trades in US dollars, commonly referred to as the petro-dollar. Introducing an alternative currency that directly competes against the US dollar will facilitate many global economic changes.
The US, of course, stands to be the most affected. Up until now, the Americans have been able to maintain a high demand for their currency due to its role in purchasing the world's primary energy resource. This demand has allowed the US to mushroom its debt to record levels supported by the selling of US treasury bills to foreign countries. How will the US continue to operate if countries stop floating their debt and turn instead towards the Euro?
Evidence of the US acting out of concern over their dollar hegemony can be seen in the war with Iraq. In September 2000 Iraq began selling all oil exports in euros. The euro then increased in value which added much profitability to European operations. The US invaded and shortly thereafter (four months to be exact) reverted all Iraqi oil trades back to the US dollar as well as nullifying previous foreign contracts. It has been surmised that the US invaded Iraq not just to control oil reserves but also to protect its all-important petro-dollar.

Louisiana National Guard troops watch Katrina from Iraq

More than 3,000 members of the Louisiana National Guard’s 256th Brigade serving in Iraq can only watch from Baghdad as Hurricane Katrina bears down on their families and homes in New Orleans and the other south Louisiana communities from which they hail. The deployed soldiers and their equipment, which includes high water vehicles, Humvees and generators, will be sorely missed as Louisiana attempts to prepare for and recover from the historic Category Five storm.

'Stars and Stripes' to Launch Weekly U.S. Edition

Stars and Stripes is about to make its American debut.
The daily newspaper for the U.S. armed forces stationed oversees is launching a product that will be made available as a weekly supplement to U.S. newspapers. Think of it as the military version of Parade magazine.
"With the transition of U.S. military going on missions and training, we felt it was important to get our information stateside," said Dan Krause, international advertising director of Stars and Stripes.

NY Times Editorial: Theocratic Threat to National Parks

Recently, a secret draft revision of the national park system's basic management policy document has been circulating within the Interior Department. It was prepared, without consultation within the National Park Service, by Paul Hoffman, a deputy assistant secretary at Interior who once ran the Chamber of Commerce in Cody, Wyo., was a Congressional aide to Dick Cheney and has no park service experience.
Within national park circles, this rewrite of park rules has been met with profound dismay, for it essentially undermines the protected status of the national parks. The document makes it perfectly clear that this rewrite was not prompted by a compelling change in the park system's circumstances. It was prompted by a change in political circumstances - the opportunity to craft a vision of the national parks that suits the Bush administration
...Mr. Hoffman's rewrite would open up nearly every park in the nation to off-road vehicles, snowmobiles and Jet Skis...
Mr. Hoffman would explicitly allow the sale of religious merchandise, and he removes from the policy document any reference to evolution or evolutionary processes. He does everything possible to strip away a scientific basis for park management...
...In short, this is not a policy for protecting the parks. It is a policy for destroying them. [via]

Roberts' Record Shows Lifelong Crusade Against Church-State Separation, Says Americans United Report

Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts has consistently sought to roll back constitutional safeguards protecting religious liberty, according to a report issued today (PDF) by Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
The 19-page report, “Religious Minorities At Risk,” concludes that Roberts throughout his legal and political career has opposed Supreme Court decisions upholding church-state separation and ensuring freedom of conscience for all Americans

Did Time intentionally deceive its readers in Plame case?

For some time, the central mystery in the Valerie Plame saga was which members of the White House staff leaked the undercover CIA operative's identity to reporters. Although there are still many unanswered questions, at least part of the mystery has been solved: Time magazine correspondent Matthew Cooper has testified that he was told about Plame by White House senior adviser Karl Rove and I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff. Yet while Cooper and his editors at Time spent two years keeping Rove and Libby's -- and their own -- role a secret, they published articles that reported, without challenge, a statement from the White House that they knew to be false.
The issue of Time's actions over the past two years was revived by an August 25 Los Angeles Times article stating that the magazine did not pursue a waiver from Rove allowing Cooper to testify in part because "Time editors were concerned about becoming part of such an explosive story in an election year." While the favor this "concern" did for the Bush re-election effort has been criticized, Time's lack of disclosure about its own role in the affair has gone largely unnoticed.

Whistleblower Greenhouse Demoted

US Army auditor who attacked Halliburton deal is fired. Bunnatine Greenhouse, senior Army Contracting Specialist and the highest-ranking civilian at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), who blew the whistle on Halibuton after Halliburton subsidiary Kellog Brown & Root got $12 billion worth of exclusive contracts for work in Iraq has been fired - ostensibly for poor performance. Ms Greenhouse testified in front of Congress (pdf). She asked many questions: Why is Halliburton -- a giant Texas firm that holds more than 50 percent of all rebuilding efforts in Iraq -- getting billions in contracts without competitive bidding? Do the durations of those contracts make sense? Have there been violations of federal laws regulating how the government can spend its money? She said that the decision to award KBR a $75 million extension for troop support in the Balkans was "the most blatant and improper abuse I have witnessed" in 20 years as a government contract supervisor. Last October, she was summoned to the office of her boss. Major Gen. Robert Griffin, the Corps' deputy commander, was demoting her, he told her, taking away her Senior Executive Service status and sending her to midlevel management. She was offered early retirement, but refused. Now she's been fired.

8 years in a Louisiana jail, but he never went to trial

When he was charged with murder in 1996, James Thomas, an impoverished day laborer in Baton Rouge, became like many other criminal defendants: With no money to hire a lawyer, he had to rely on the government to provide him with one.
He then spent the next 8½ years in jail, waiting for his case to go to trial. It never did.
Last spring, a Louisiana state appeals court ruled that prosecutors had waited too long to try him, and it threw the charge out. By then, Thomas was 34, his alibi witness for the night of the murder had died of kidney disease, and his case had become a symbol of the increasing problems within the nation's public defender system. "I can't think of any reason why he would have so completely fallen off their radar screen except to suggest (public defenders) were so busy and so understaffed and underfunded, they allowed his case to slip," says Chris Alexander, Thomas' new private lawyer. Alexander got the charge dismissed after Thomas' mother scraped together $500 to hire him.

Quit Stealing the F---ing Signs

British tourists have left the residents of one charming Austrian village effing and blinding by constantly stealing the signs for their oddly-named village.
While British visitors are finding it hilarious, the residents of F---ing are failing to see the funny side, The Sunday Telegraph newspaper reported.
Only one kind of crimimal ever stalks the sleepy 32-house village near Salzburg on the German border -- cheeky British tourists armed with a sense of humour and a screwdriver.
But the local authorities are hitting back and with the signs now set in concrete, police chief Kommandant Schmidtberger is on the lookout.
"We will not stand for the F---ing signs being removed," the officer told the broadsheet.
"It may be very amusing for you British, but F---ing is simply F---ing to us. What is this big F---ing joke? It is puerile."

Big Guns For Iraq? Not So Fast.

Even though President Bush keeps saying American forces won't leave Iraq until its forces can fight on their own, the United States isn't rushing to give the Iraqi military heavy weapons.
There is an official explanation for that - that such things take time.
But there is also another reason to go slow, one that illustrates how tightly American military success is intertwined with the political prospects of Iraq itself. This reason is little discussed in public by military officers, but it was evident last week on the explosion-scarred streets of Baghdad, in the skirmishes between rival Shiite forces in Najaf, and in the confusion of Iraq's struggle to complete a new constitution.
Simply put, Iraq remains too fragile for any planner to know what shape the country will be in six months or a year from now - whether it will reach compromises and hold together or split apart in a civil war.
And that presents a conundrum for American military planners. With those questions up in the air, they have to fear that any heavy arms distributed now could end up aimed at American forces or feeding a growing civil conflict. And the longer Iraq's army has to wait for sophisticated weapons, the longer American forces are likely to be needed in Iraq as a bulwark against chaos.

Weapons Sales Worldwide Rise to Highest Level Since 2000

The value of military weapons sales worldwide jumped in 2004 to the highest level since 2000, driven by arms deals with developing nations, especially India, Saudi Arabia and China, according to a new Congressional study.
The total of arms sales and weapons transfer agreements to both industrialized and developing nations was nearly $37 billion in 2004, according to the study.
That total was the largest since 2000, when global arms sales reached $42.1 billion, and was far above the 2003 figure of $28.5 billion.
The United States once again dominated global weapons sales, signing deals worth $12.4 billion in 2004, or 33.5 percent of all contracts worldwide. But that was down from $15.1 billion in 2003.

The More People Know About the Patriot Act, the Less They Like It

Fewer than half of Americans know the purpose of the Patriot Act, and the more they know about it the less they like it, according to a poll released Monday.
Fewer than half of those polled, 42 percent, are able to correctly identify the law's main purpose of enhancing surveillance procedures for federal law enforcement agencies, according to the poll conducted by the Center for Survey Research and Analysis at the University of Connecticut.
Almost two-thirds of all Americans, 64 percent, said they support the Patriot Act. But support dropped to 57 percent among those who could accurately identify the intent of the legislation.
The survey was intended to take a closer look at the high levels of public support the Patriot Act has gotten in various polls, said Samuel Best, the center's director.
"The Patriot Act has been a very visible piece of legislation," Best said. "We wanted to see if people had an understanding of the act that differentiated it from the war on terrorism generally."

Governor pardons all but himself in personnel investigation

When Gov. Ernie Fletcher leaves the grand jury room Tuesday, he said he wants the door to close on the investigation of his administration's personnel practices that has taken too much time and attention from more important matters.
Not only will the investigation not be ending, Attorney General Greg Stumbo said, it may expand to include possible federal crimes, a court challenge to the governor's authority to pardon and give ammunition to two agencies that are also investigating whether the administration bypassed more qualified people to reward political cronies with jobs.
Fletcher on Monday pardoned all nine of the current and former members of his administration who have been charged by the special grand jury. And he sought to extend an amnesty to "any and all persons who have committed, or many be accused of committing, any offense" through Monday.

Judy Garland's Famed Ruby Slippers Stolen

A pair of ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in "The Wizard of Oz" and insured for $1 million is missing from a Grand Rapids museum.
Police Chief Leigh Serfling said the slippers were stolen late Saturday or early Sunday. Someone entered the museum through a window and broke into the small display case holding the slippers.

Judge: Bush Plot Case Evidence Classified

The judge in the case of a man accused of joining al-Qaida and plotting to assassinate President Bush said Monday he possesses evidence that could help the defendant, but that he can't turn it over to defense lawyers because they lack required security clearances.
U.S. District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee said at a pretrial hearing that he received the classified material from prosecutors, who are required to turn over any evidence that's potentially beneficial to the defense.
Lee told the defense team for Ahmed Omar Abu Ali that ``from what I've seen, it's important information and it bears on your defense.''
Prosecutors allege that Abu Ali, 24, confessed to joining al-Qaida in 2002 while studying overseas in Saudi Arabia and that he discussed terrorist plots with al-Qaida members, including a plan to assassinate the president.
But Abu Ali, of Falls Church, says he gave a false confession after being tortured by Saudi authorities, and says he has the scars on his back to prove it. The U.S. government denies that Abu Ali was mistreated.

Language Corner

By Columbia Journalism Review, is incredibly helpful when it comes to learning the English language's subtle nuances and rather obvious rules. [from]

Monday, August 29, 2005

Alaska Gyrl in Crawford

Photoblog from Camp Casey.

FBI Document Labels Michigan Affirmative Action and Peace Groups as Terrorists

The American Civil Liberties Union today released an FBI document that designates a Michigan-based peace group and an affirmative action advocacy group as potentially "involved in terrorist activities." The file was obtained through an ongoing nationwide ACLU effort seeking information on the FBI's use of Joint Terrorism Task Forces to engage in political surveillance.
"This document confirms our fears that federal and state counterterrorism officers have turned their attention to groups and individuals engaged in peaceful protest activities," said Ben Wizner, an ACLU staff attorney and counsel in a lawsuit seeking the release of additional FBI records. "When the FBI and local law enforcement identify affirmative action advocates as potential terrorists, every American has cause for concern."
The document released today is an FBI report labeled, "Domestic Terrorism Symposium," and describes a meeting that was intended to "keep the local, state and federal law enforcement agencies apprised of the activities of the various groups and individuals within the state of Michigan who are thought to be involved in terrorist activities."
Among the groups mentioned are Direct Action, an anti-war group, and BAMN (By Any Means Necessary), a national organization dedicated to defending affirmative action, integration, and other gains of the civil rights movement of the 1960s. The FBI acknowledges in the report that the Michigan State Police has information that BAMN has been peaceful in the past.

Christian Science Monitor: War on Terror More Costly Than WWI

Despite the relatively small number of American armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan (140,000), the war effort is rapidly shaping up to be the third-most expensive war in United States history.
This conflict has already cost each American at least $850 in military and reconstruction costs since October 2001.
If the war lasts another five years, it will cost nearly $1.4 trillion, calculates Linda Bilmes, who teaches budgeting at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. That's nearly $4,745 per capita. Her estimate is thorough. She includes not only the military cost but also such things as veterans' benefits and additional interest on the federal debt.
But even in stripped-down terms, looking only at military costs and using current dollars, the war's cost for the US already exceeds that of World War I.

US dismisses Iran nuclear report

The US has criticised an independent investigation which found no evidence that Iran was working on a secret nuclear weapons programme.
The report said traces of bomb-grade uranium in Iran's nuclear facilities came from contaminated Pakistani equipment, not Iranian activities.
But the US said there were other ways Iran could be building nuclear weapons.

Pat Robertson's Age-Defying Shake

Did you know that Pat Robertson can leg-press 2000 pounds! How does he do it?
Where does Pat find the time and energy to host a daily, national TV show, head a world-wide ministry, develop visionary scholars, while traveling the globe as a statesman?
One of Pat's secrets to keeping his energy high and his vitality soaring is his age-defying protein shake. Pat developed a delicious, refreshing shake, filled with energy-producing nutrients.

Fixing FOI

The Cornyn-Leahy bill, dubbed the "Openness Promotes Effectiveness in our National Government Act" (S. 394) goes further. It would create a program to mediate disputes between the government and FOI Act requesters; prohibit agencies from using FOI Act exemptions if they exceed the 20-day response time and allow requesters to track their FOI Act requests, among other provisions.
For now, the senators have not tackled the overuse of exemptions to the FOI Act. Instead they have concentrated on these procedural changes, what Ho calls "common sense" reforms.
In March, Cornyn and Leahy teamed with Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) to introduce the "Faster FOIA Act" (S. 589) that would create and empower a 16-member commission to advise Congress and the president about FOI Act processing delays and ways to reduce them.
Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, introduced the House version of the bills — "OPEN Government Act" (H R. 867) and the "Faster FOI Act" (H.R. 1620).
In March, during the first Senate hearing on the FOI Act since 1992, groups as diverse as the conservative Heritage Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union told the Senate Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology and Homeland Security that they support the proposed FOI Act reforms.

Strategizing a Christian Coup d'Etat

At a time when evangelicals are exerting influence on the national political stage - having helped secure President Bush's reelection - Christian Exodus believes that people of faith have failed to assert their moral agenda: Abortion is legal. School prayer is banned. There are limits on public displays of the Ten Commandments. Gays and lesbians can marry in Massachusetts.
Christian Exodus activists plan to take control of sheriff's offices, city councils and school boards. Eventually, they say, they will control South Carolina. They will pass godly legislation, defying Supreme Court rulings on the separation of church and state.
"We're going to force a constitutional crisis," said Cory Burnell, 29, an investment advisor who founded the group in November 2003.
"If necessary," he said, "we will secede from the union."
Burnell has not moved to South Carolina himself - he promised his wife that they would stay in Valley Springs, Calif., until the end of next year - but believes that his 950 supporters will rally to the cause. Five families have moved so far.

Is Google Setting Up A Wi-Fi Network?

What if Google (GOOG) wanted to give Wi-Fi access to everyone in America? And what if it had technology capable of targeting advertising to a user's precise location? The gatekeeper of the world's information could become one of the globe's biggest Internet providers and one of its most powerful ad sellers, basically supplanting telecoms in one fell swoop. Sounds crazy, but how might Google go about it?
First it would build a national broadband network -- let's call it the GoogleNet -- massive enough to rival even the country's biggest Internet service providers. Business 2.0 has learned from telecom insiders that Google is already building such a network, though ostensibly for many reasons. For the past year, it has quietly been shopping for miles and miles of "dark," or unused, fiber-optic cable across the country from wholesalers such as New York's AboveNet. It's also acquiring superfast connections from Cogent Communications and WilTel, among others, between East Coast cities including Atlanta, Miami, and New York. Such large-scale purchases are unprecedented for an Internet company, but Google's timing is impeccable. The rash of telecom bankruptcies has freed up a ton of bargain-priced capacity, which Google needs as it prepares to unleash a flood of new, bandwidth-hungry applications. These offerings could include everything from a digital-video database to on-demand television programming.

Record Number of Anti-Abortion Laws this Year

This year's state legislative season draws to a close having produced a near-record number of laws imposing new restrictions on a woman's access to abortion or contraception.
Since January, governors have signed several dozen antiabortion measures ranging from parental consent requirements to an outright ban looming in South Dakota. Not since 1999, when a wave of laws banning late-term abortions swept the legislatures, have states imposed so many and so varied a menu of regulations on reproductive health care.
Three states have passed bills requiring that women seeking an abortion be warned that the fetus will feel pain, despite inconclusive scientific data on the question. West Virginia and Florida approved legislation recognizing a pre-viable fetus, or embryo, as an independent victim of homicide. And in Missouri, Gov. Matt Blunt (R) has summoned lawmakers into special session Sept. 6 to consider three antiabortion proposals.

Army official who questioned Halliburton deal reported demoted

The demotion removes her from the elite Senior Executive Service and reassigns her to a lesser job in the corps' civil works division, the report said.
Greenhouse's lawyer, Michael Kohn, called the action an "obvious reprisal" for the strong objections she raised in 2003 to a series of corps decisions involving the Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown & Root, Inc., which has garnered more than 10 billion for work in Iraq, The Times said.
Vice President Richard Cheney was chief executive at Halliburton before he joined President George W. Bush's election campaign in 2000.