Friday, September 09, 2005

Top CIA Official Resigns Over Leadership

Robert Richer, the second-ranking official in the CIA's clandestine service, has announced his retirement, telling colleagues that he lacked confidence in the agency's leadership, according to current and former intelligence officials.
Richer, who was one of CIA Director Porter J. Goss's key personnel choices, made his announcement last Friday at a meeting of the Directorate of Operations leaders, according to some of the officials.
Some of them said Richer's decision revolved around an ongoing debate over how to improve human intelligence and the direction of the CIA. The agency's role and influence have waned with the appointment of John D. Negroponte as the overall director of national intelligence.

Camp Katrina Protest on 9/11

On 9/11 survivors of Katrina will participate in a NONVIOLENT act of Civil Disobedience: building an encampment on the Washington DC Mall.
FEMA pens Katrina survivors like diseased cattle.
Bushville, DC will force politicians and reporters to see them every day.
We may be few on 9/11, but Bushville, DC will grow.
Bushville, DC isn’t an organization - it’s a vision.
Everyone come to the Mall and join the crowd.
You don’t need to be a Katrina survivor, all Bush survivors are welcome.

Pravda: Washington's evil and sinister foreign policy

What is so shocking is the cold-blooded arrogance, which once again proves that George Bush's United States of America has a total disregard for the rest of the international community and is not committed to any real changes in the UNO.
This stance is neo-colonialist and neo-imperialist, which goes hand in hand with the desire to control the world's resources, which do not belong to the USA, but rather to mankind and the citizens of the countries in which they are located.
Gone are the days when one could tame the wilderness with the gun and the bullet, civilizing savages and teaching them the power of the cross through acts of torture, rape and murder. In a civilized international community, there has to be a greater degree of balance in decision-making processes. To exclude a Latin American nation and to exclude Africa from the process is the same as telling the countries of these continents that they do not have the same rights as those who had the power to impose their will by force six decades ago.

Hunger strikers pledge to die in Guantánamo

More than 200 detainees in Guantánamo Bay are in their fifth week of a hunger strike, the Guardian has been told.
Statements from prisoners in the camp which were declassified by the US government on Wednesday reveal that the men are starving themselves in protest at the conditions in the camp and at their alleged maltreatment - including desecration of the Qur'an - by American guards.
The statements, written on August 11, have just been given to the British human rights lawyer Clive Stafford Smith. They show that prisoners are determined to starve them selves to death. In one, Binyam Mohammed, a former London schoolboy, said: "I do not plan to stop until I either die or we are respected."

Court Rules in Favor of President Holding Citizens Without Charge

President George W. Bush has the power to detain Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen who has been held in a South Carolina military brig for more than three years as a suspected enemy combatant without any charges, a federal appeals court ruled on Friday.
"The exceedingly important question before us is whether the president of the United States possesses the authority to detain militarily a citizen of this country who is closely associated with al Qaeda," wrote Judge J. Michael Luttig in the opinion for the three-judge panel.
"We conclude that the president does possess such authority," wrote Luttig, a conservative whom the Bush administration has been considering for a possible Supreme Court nomination.
The ruling by the court based in Richmond, Virginia, was a major victory for the Bush administration. Andrew Patel, an attorney for Padilla, said he thought the ruling would be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Hurricane Simulation Predicted 61,290 Dead

As Katrina roared into the Gulf of Mexico, emergency planners pored over maps and charts of a hurricane simulation that projected 61,290 dead and 384,257 injured or sick in a catastrophic flood that would leave swaths of southeast Louisiana uninhabitable for more than a year.
These planners were not involved in the frantic preparations for Katrina. By coincidence, they were working on a yearlong project to prepare federal and state officials for a Category 3 hurricane striking New Orleans.

On the Contribution of the Press to the Civil Rights Movement

I have often said that without the media the Civil Rights Movement would have been a bird without wings. I am not certain where we would be today as a nation, if the American public had not been made to acknowledge the struggles we faced in the American South. The non-violent protests of the sixties used peaceful means to demonstrate the senseless injustice of de facto and de jure segregation, the inhumanity and indignity of the Jim Crow South, and the extraordinary persecution American citizens suffered trying to exercise their constitutional rights. Without the media's willingness to stand in harm's way and starkly portray events of the Movement as they saw them unfold,
Americans may never have understood or even believed the horrors that African Americans faced in the Deep South.

Global Stocks of Nuclear Explosive Materials

In an exemplary exercise of what might be termed "public intelligence," the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) has published a new account of nuclear explosive materials around the world.
The ISIS database provides estimates of national inventories of plutonium and highly enriched uranium (as well as neptunium-237 and americium) for countries from Argentina and Armenia to Vietnam through the end of 2003. More than 50 countries were found to possess five kilograms or more of these materials. Such information is ordinarily very closely held, not only by the foreign governments themselves but also by U.S. government agencies.
"Some agencies would classify all of this stuff," observed a State Department intelligence official seated next to me at the ISIS briefing on September 7 presenting the new estimates. But of course classification renders information unavailable for public deliberation. The purpose of the ISIS publication, in contrast, is "to create a set of data that everyone can use," said ISIS President David Albright.
"We need a common language to discuss this," he said, particularly in light of the threat of diversion of nuclear materials by terrorists. "There is a lot of fissile material in the world," Albright said, noting that ISIS had estimated the production of nearly 4000 tonnes of highly enriched uranium and plutonium, enough for more than 300,000 nuclear weapons.
See "Global Stocks of Nuclear Explosive Materials," Institute for Science and International Security, published September 2005:

Media provide forums for administration officials and conservatives to spread falsehoods about hurricane relief efforts


Harper's: Ohio, the election, and America's servile press

The press has had little to say about most of the strange details of the election—except, that is, to ridicule all efforts to discuss them. This animus appeared soon after November 2, in a spate of caustic articles dismissing any critical discussion of the outcome as crazed speculation: “Election paranoia surfaces: Conspiracy theorists call results rigged,” chuckled the Baltimore Sun on November 5. “Internet Buzz on Vote Fraud Is Dismissed,” proclaimed the Boston Globe on November 10. “Latest Conspiracy Theory—Kerry Won—Hits the Ether,” the Washington Post chortled on November 11. The New York Times weighed in with “Vote Fraud Theories, Spread by Blogs, Are Quickly Buried”—making mock not only of the “post-election theorizing” but of cyberspace itself, the fons et origo of all such loony tunes, according to the Times.
Such was the news that most Americans received. Although the tone was scientific, “realistic,” skeptical, and “middle-of-the-road,” the explanations offered by the press were weak and immaterial. It was as if they were reporting from inside a forest fire without acknowledging the fire, except to keep insisting that there was no fire.[2] Since Kerry has conceded, they argued, and since “no smoking gun” had come to light, there was no story to report. This is an oddly passive argument. Even so, the evidence that something went extremely wrong last fall is copious, and not hard to find. Much of it was noted at the time, albeit by local papers and haphazardly. Concerning the decisive contest in Ohio, the evidence is lucidly compiled in a single congressional report, which, for the last half-year, has been available to anyone inclined to read it. It is a veritable arsenal of “smoking guns”—and yet its findings may be less extraordinary than the fact that no one in this country seems to care about them.

Recent "Brain Drain" at FEMA

Five of eight top Federal Emergency Management Agency officials came to their posts with virtually no experience in handling disasters and now lead an agency whose ranks of seasoned crisis managers have thinned dramatically since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
FEMA's top three leaders -- Director Michael D. Brown, Chief of Staff Patrick J. Rhode and Deputy Chief of Staff Brooks D. Altshuler -- arrived with ties to President Bush's 2000 campaign or to the White House advance operation, according to the agency. Two other senior operational jobs are filled by a former Republican lieutenant governor of Nebraska and a U.S. Chamber of Commerce official who was once a political operative.
Meanwhile, veterans such as U.S. hurricane specialist Eric Tolbert and World Trade Center disaster managers Laurence W. Zensinger and Bruce P. Baughman -- who led FEMA's offices of response, recovery and preparedness, respectively -- have left since 2003, taking jobs as consultants or state emergency managers, according to current and former officials.

World Bank: Katrina rings alarms on climate change

an Johnson, the World Bank's vice president for environmentally and socially sustainable development, told Reuters the storm's heavy damage in the southern United States would have important implications for poorer countries.
"Just think of the catastrophic impact it's had in a country that's pretty well organized, pretty rich. Transfer that to a country that isn't and may not have the same level of capacity to deal with these sorts of things," Johnson said in an interview.
"Katrina is a terrible tragedy, but maybe it is a wake-up call to all of us to begin understanding what catastrophic events, what damage can occur," he added.
In addition to fostering talks on emissions and promoting clean energy products, Johnson said the World Bank is working with private industry to find ways to protect poor nations from the expected environmental shifts linked to global warming.

Brian Williams: Reporters at Gunpoint in New Orleans

The short version is: there won't be any pictures of this particular group of Guard soldiers on our newscast tonight. Rules (or I suspect in this case an order on a whim) like those do not HELP the palpable feeling that this area is somehow separate from the United States.
At that same fire scene, a police officer from out of town raised the muzzle of her weapon and aimed it at members of the media... obvious members of the media... armed only with notepads. Her actions (apparently because she thought reporters were encroaching on the scene) were over the top and she was told. There are automatic weapons and shotguns everywhere you look. It's a stance that perhaps would have been appropriate during the open lawlessness that has long since ended on most of these streets. Someone else points out on television as I post this: the fact that the National Guard now bars entry (by journalists) to the very places where people last week were barred from LEAVING (The Convention Center and Superdome) is a kind of perverse and perfectly backward postscript to this awful chapter in American history.

FEMA Director's Padded Resume

Since Hurricane Katrina, the FEMA director has come under heavy criticism for his performance and scrutiny of his background. Now, an investigation by TIME has found discrepancies in his online legal profile and official bio, including a description of Brown released by the White House at the time of his nomination in 2001 to the job as deputy chief of FEMA. (Brown became Director of FEMA, succeeding Allbaugh, in 2003.)
Before joining FEMA, his only previous stint in emergency management, according to his bio posted on FEMA's website, was "serving as an assistant city manager with emergency services oversight." The White House press release from 2001 stated that Brown worked for the city of Edmond, Okla., from 1975 to 1978 "overseeing the emergency services division." In fact, according to Claudia Deakins, head of public relations for the city of Edmond, Brown was an "assistant to the city manager" from 1977 to 1980, not a manager himself, and had no authority over other employees. "The assistant is more like an intern," she told TIME. "Department heads did not report to him." Brown did do a good job at his humble position, however, according to his boss. "Yes. Mike Brown worked for me. He was my administrative assistant. He was a student at Central State University," recalls former city manager Bill Dashner. "Mike used to handle a lot of details. Every now and again I'd ask him to write me a speech. He was very loyal. He was always on time. He always had on a suit and a starched white shirt."

The Education Department's Paid Apple Polishers

An "angry op-ed" in the Dallas Morning News claimed the city's school system was "limiting the future and opportunities for our children" by not enacting policies mandated under the federal No Child Left Behind law more quickly. The author, Marcela Garcini, described herself as a "ninja parent," neglecting to disclose that the nonprofit organization she heads had "received two unsolicited grants, totaling $900,000, from the U.S. Education Department." USA Today reports, "Federal investigators probing the department's public relations contracts ... say the department has given nearly $4.7 million to groups including Garcini's to promote administration education priorities since 2002, but that in 10 of 11 cases examined, the groups didn't disclose - in print, on radio or in other media, such as brochures or handbooks - that taxpayer funds were used." Such disclosure is mandated by law, but the department's Inspector General says these lapses do not constitute "covert propaganda."

PR Industry Pitches Role As "Chief Integrity Officer"

The Knight Professor of Journalism Ethics at Washington and Lee University, Edward Wasserman, worries that the PR industry is doing a better job of attracting "the next generation of idealists" than journalism. He recounts that at a recent media academics conference that PR's promoters were pitching the role of PR professionals as a "senior counselor not just on what is persuasive and effective, but on what is right -- as chief integrity officer." While noting that for students considering their academic options the pitch "seems to be working", he wonders "who's going to hire this new priesthood of in-house scolds" and "what do they know about ethics." Wasserman will be speaking at the Public Relations Society of America's 2005 International Conference in Miami Beach, Florida in late October on the topic "Mission PR: Charting an Ethical Course for the Enlightened CEO."

Spinning A Disaster

The Director of Crisis Media for the PR firm Hill & Knowlton, Paul Clark, had a few words of advice on crisis management for public officials handling the Hurricane Katrina disaster. "One of the first concepts is to accept blame if it applies ... people forgive mistakes, but they don't forgive excuses," Clark told the St. Petersburg Times. "Make full disclosure of the facts, but don't speculate on things you don't know ... like death estimates." Several days earlier Associated Press reported that the Under Secretary of Emergency Preparedness and Response in the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Michael D. Brown, included a little PR advice in a memo seeking approval from his superiors for the dispatch of 1,000 Homeland Security employees to the disaster area. In the leaked memo Brown noted that the deployment of the employees would be expected to "convey a positive image of disaster operations to government officials, community organizations and the general public."

The United Nations in Bush’s firing-line

A key question that is barely mentioned in the establishment media is the way that elements in the United States – and others now horrified at the behaviour revealed in the report – turned a blind eye to and probably participated in the scandal. Paul Volcker has avoided naming the companies involved in the corruption, promising a list at some future date. Will the list include US companies that were taking the lions’ share of Iraqi oil production prior to the invasion? There is also no discussion at present of why, when the Americans and British seemed able routinely to listen to conversations around the UN, they were apparently ignorant of malpractice during the years of the oil-for-food programme.
The not-so-hidden agenda is to weaken the United Nations by depriving it of political and financial investment and then deride it for the very weakness that results. The United States has pursued a cover strategy, stretching back at least to the early years of the Bill Clinton administration, of seeking to free itself from such tiresome constraints as the need for a United Nations mandate for military action.

FEMA’s Blessing of Pat Robertson’s Operation

In a Bloomberg report, Walden complained that featuring Operation Blessing, an organization founded by right-wing televangelist M. G. "Pat" Robertson, ”gives Pat Robertson millions of extra dollars'” because of the heightened exposure in the immediate aftermath. Walden stated that he believes the “list is a departure from how the administration has handled previous disasters. To my knowledge they have never done it before with such a narrowly focused list of religious groups, some of whom are not known for being relief groups.''
...In the New York Daily News, Juan Gonzalez provides some background for Pat Robertson’s Operation Blessing by recounting how in 1999, the Virginia attorney general concluded that, while Robertson raised millions from viewers of his 700 Club to aid Rwandan refugees, the Operation Blessing “humanitarian” supply planes were used primarily to transport mining equipment for a Robertson-owned diamond mine.

Bush Ends Wage Rules for Reconstruction Workers

President Bush issued an executive order Thursday allowing federal contractors rebuilding in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to pay below the prevailing wage.
In a notice to Congress, Bush said the hurricane had caused "a national emergency" that permits him to take such action under the 1931 Davis-Bacon Act in ravaged areas of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi.
..."President Bush should immediately realize the colossal mistake he has made in signing this order and rescind it and ensure that America puts its people back to work in the wake of Katrina at wages that will get them and their families back on their feet," Miller said.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

FEMA: Photo Request "Not a Directive"

A FEMA spokesman said Thursday that the agency hopes news organizations won't show dead bodies as part of their coverage of Hurricane Katrina, but acknowledged that such coverage decisions lie with editors, not government officials.
"Decisions about running photos are up to members of the news media," said Mark Pfeifle. "Out of respect for the deceased [and their families] ... FEMA has asked that images not be shown. But it's up to the media whether they're shown or not."
"There's not a directive," he said. "It's just a request that FEMA people have made to members of the media."

New Orleans: Destroyed by Presidential Negligence

Before 9/11 the Federal Emergency Management Agency listed the three most likely catastrophic disasters facing America: a terrorist attack on New York, a major earthquake in San Francisco and a hurricane strike on New Orleans. "The New Orleans hurricane scenario," The Houston Chronicle wrote in December 2001, "may be the deadliest of all."
In 2001, the New Orleans district spent $147 million on construction projects. When fiscal year 2005 wraps up Sept. 30, the Corps expects to have spent $82 million, a 44.2 percent reduction from 2001 expenditures. ... Unfunded projects include widening drainage canals, flood-proofing bridges and building pumping stations in Orleans and Jefferson parishes. The Corps also wants to build levees in unprotected areas on the West Bank.
In fiscal year 2006, the New Orleans district of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is bracing for a record $71.2 million reduction in federal funding. It would be the largest single-year funding loss ever for the New Orleans district, Corps officials said. ... The cuts mean major hurricane and flood protection projects will not be awarded to local engineering firms. Also, a study to determine ways to protect the region from a Category 5 hurricane has been shelved for now.
"It appears that the money has been moved in the president’s budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that’s the price we pay. Nobody locally is happy that the levees can’t be finished, and we are doing everything we can to make the case that this is a security issue for us." -- Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish, Louisiana; New Orleans Times-Picayune, June 8, 2004.

I just got back from a FEMA Detainment Camp

[I don't know yet if this is legit... - McLir]
FEMA will not allow any of the kitchen facilities in any of the cabins to be used by the occupants due to fire hazards. FEMA will deliver meals to the cabins. The refugees will be given two meals per day by FEMA. They will not be able to cook. In fact, the "host" goes on to explain, some churches had already enquired about whether they could come in on weekends and fix meals for the people staying in their cabin. FEMA won't allow it because there could be a situation where one cabin gets steaks and another gets hot dogs - and...
it could cause a riot.
It gets worse.
He then precedes to tell us that some churches had already enquired into whether they could send a van or bus on Sundays to pick up any occupants of their cabins who might be interested in attending church. FEMA will not allow this. The occupants of the camp cannot leave the camp for any reason. If they leave the camp they may never return. They will be issued FEMA identification cards and "a sum of money" and they will remain within the camp for the next 5 months.

Firefighters waited five days for FEMA's OK to enter New Orleans, then gave up, returned to Houston

For days after the disaster, help and volunteers of all sorts headed for New Orleans with relief supplies and expertise, only to be stopped and turned away by FEMA.
Last night, one of my friends joined our regular Sunday chat. He had just come home from New Orleans with his group of volunteer firefighters from Houston, after they had waited outside New Orleans for since Tuesday for FEMA to let them help in New Orleans, or use them somewhere else in the stricken region.
FEMA's "reason" -- they wouldn't let anyone in "until the National Guard has secured the city."

FEMA turns down water, fuel for New Orleans, cuts area's emergency communication line

When Wal-Mart sent three trailer trucks loaded with water, FEMA officials turned them away, he said. Agency workers prevented the Coast Guard from delivering 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel, and on Saturday they cut the parish's emergency communications line, leading the sheriff to restore it and post armed guards to protect it from FEMA, Mr. Broussard said.
One sign of the continuing battle over who was in charge was Governor Blanco's refusal to sign an agreement proposed by the White House to share control of National Guard forces with the federal authorities.

Airboaters stalled by FEMA

As a flooded New Orleans sinks further into despair, up to 500 Florida airboat pilots have volunteered to rescue Hurricane Katrina victims, transport relief workers and ferry supplies.
But they aren't being allowed in. And they're growing frustrated.
"We cannot get deployed to save our behinds," said Robert Dummett, state coordinator of the Florida Airboat Association. He said the pilots, who range from commercial airboat operators to weekend pleasure boaters, "are physically sick, watching the New Orleans coverage and knowing that the resources to help these poor people is sitting right in our driveways."

FEMA Turns Away Emergency Personnel

Loudoun Sheriff's deputies and emergency personnel were on their way to hurricane-stricken Louisiana Thursday night but had to turn around when the federal government failed to come up with the required paperwork.
Sheriff Steve Simpson and his staff spent 12 hours trying to get the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the State of Louisiana Emergency Operations Center to act act. They didn't, and the 20 deputies and six emergency medical technicians - all volunteers -- turned around and came back to Loudoun.

College sophomores used fake press passes to circumvent FEMA's rescue roadblocks

A trio of Duke University sophomores say they drove to New Orleans late last week, posed as journalists to slip inside the hurricane-soaked city twice, and evacuated seven people who weren't receiving help from authorities.
The group, led by South Carolina native Sonny Byrd, say they also managed to drive all the way to the New Orleans Convention Center, where they encountered scenes early Saturday evening that they say were disgraceful.
"We found it absolutely incredible that the authorities had no way to get there for four or five days, that they didn't go in and help these people, and we made it in a two-wheel-drive Hyundai," said Hans Buder, who made the trip with his roommate Byrd and another student, David Hankla.

U.N. Report Cites U.S. and Japan as the 'Least Generous Donors'

A week before world leaders gather here to set a course for combating global poverty, a United Nations report released on Wednesday names the United States and Japan as among "the least generous donors" and says American and European trade policies are hypocritical and contribute to impoverishing African farmers.
The report also highlights shortcomings in developing countries. It notes that India's and China's progress in reducing the easily preventable deaths of children has slowed even as their economic growth has surged. India has 2.5 million deaths of children a year, while China is second, with 730,000.
The new document, the annual Human Development Report, calls on India and China to tackle health inequalities aggressively. It also maintains that rich countries must significantly increase aid if the goals they agreed to five years ago - to halve extreme poverty and reduce deaths of children by two-thirds by 2015, among others - are to be met.

US Unable to Accept Aid

Generous offers of aid for Hurricane Katrina victims are pouring in from scores of nations, but in many cases the United States is unprepared to receive the goods.
As a result, the State Department is pressing countries that are offering the use of helicopters, water purification equipment and telecommunications gear, among other items, to provide cash or ready-to-eat meals instead.
"The worst thing we could do, the worst thing, is to take things" and "have them sit on the ground and not be utilized, to have something rot," said Harry K. Thomas, the State Department's executive secretary, who is coordinating with other governments.

Former FEMA Chief Seeks to Profit from Katrina

While FEMA chief Mike Brown comes under fire for his agency's slow response to Hurricane Katrina, the Washington Post tracked down the Bush administration's first FEMA head, Joe Allbaugh, who is in Lousiana "helping his clients get business from perhaps the worst natural disaster in the nation's history."
The Dallas Morning News notes that Allbaugh himself is currently under fire himself for his work as a "strategic consultant" for Halliburton.

Project Censored: The Top 25 Censored Stories of 2006

#1 Bush Administration Moves to Eliminate Open Government

#2 Media Coverage Fails on Iraq: Fallujah and the Civilian Deathtoll

#3 Another Year of Distorted Election Coverage

#4 Surveillance Society Quietly Moves In

#5 U.S. Uses Tsunami to Military Advantage in Southeast Asia

#6 The Real Oil for Food Scam

#7 Journalists Face Unprecedented Dangers to Life and Livelihood

#8 Iraqi Farmers Threatened By Bremer’s Mandates

#9 Iran’s New Oil Trade System Challenges U.S. Currency

#10 Mountaintop Removal Threatens Ecosystem and Economy

See also:

Canadians Beat U.S. Army to New Orleans Suburb

A Canadian search-and-rescue team reached a flooded New Orleans suburb to help save trapped residents five days before the U.S. military, a Louisiana state senator said on Wednesday.
The Canadians beat both the Army and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the U.S. disaster response department, to St. Bernard Parish east of New Orleans, where flood waters are still 8 feet deep in places, Sen. Walter Boasso said.
"Fabulous, fabulous guys," Boasso said. "They started rolling with us and got in boats to save people."
"We've got Canadian flags flying everywhere."
The stricken parish of 68,000 people was largely ignored by U.S. authorities who scrambled to get aid to New Orleans, a few miles (km) away. Boasso said residents of the outlying parishes had to mount their own rescue and relief efforts when Hurricane Katrina roared ashore on August 29.

UN report: Parts of America are as poor as Third World

Claims that the New Orleans floods have laid bare a growing racial and economic divide in the US have, until now, been rejected by the American political establishment as emotional rhetoric. But yesterday's UN report provides statistical proof that for many - well beyond those affected by the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina - the great American Dream is an ongoing nightmare.
The document constitutes a stinging attack on US policies at home and abroad in a fightback against moves by Washington to undermine next week's UN 60th anniversary conference which will be the biggest gathering of world leaders in history.
The annual Human Development Report normally concerns itself with the Third World, but the 2005 edition scrutinises inequalities in health provision inside the US as part of a survey of how inequality worldwide is retarding the eradication of poverty.
... "There is an urgent need to develop a collective security framework that goes beyond military responses to terrorism," it continues. " Poverty and social breakdown are core components of the global security threat."
The document, which was written by Kevin Watkins, the former head of research at Oxfam, will be seen as round two in the battle between the UN and the US, which regards the world body as an unnecessary constraint on its strategic interests and actions.

TIMELINES of Katrina and Response

Just like for 9/11 and the Iraq war, sourced timelines are key in cutting through the Bush Administrations efforts to obfuscate the TRUTH. Here are some of the timelines that are beginning to take shape:

Very Brief Visual Timeline

More Detailed ThinkProgress Timeline

Very Detailed Wikipedia Timeline

Very Detailed Dkosopedia Timeline


Republicans block efforts to amend relief bill, hold vote without providing copy of bill

In the wake of what the Wall Street Journal projected may be the most expensive natural disaster in American history, the Republican Leadership in the House of Representatives limited floor consideration of the $52 billion Katrina relief bill proposed by President Bush and voted to reject any Democratic efforts to amend the bill to include a wider array of relief measures, RAW STORY has learned.
Democrats said no one had even seen a copy of the legislation.
Voting along party lines, Republicans denied a measure that would have allowed for two hours of discussion and opened up the measure to be amended.
The Republican leadership pushed through a Suspension Rule in the House Rules Committee that blocked any members from offering amendments to the bill. Rep. Louise M. Slaughter (D-NY), the ranking Democrat on the Committee, led opposition to the rule.

Memos Reveal Artificially Inflated Oil Prices

Oil companies, not environmentalists behind refinery shortages. The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) today exposed internal oil company memos that show how the industry intentionally reduced domestic refining capacity to drive up profits. Internal memos from Mobil, Chevron, and Texaco show different ways the oil giants closed down refining capacity and drove independent refiners out of business. In related news, petroleum industry analyst Tim Hamilton showed that from January 17th to April 18th 2005 gasoline prices jumped 65 cents per gallon and refiner profits rose [pdf] by 61 cents per gallon. [from]

Journalist Groups Protest FEMA Ban on Photos of Dead

"We have requested that no photographs of the deceased be made by the media," the [FEMA] spokeswoman told Reuters via e-mail.
On Wednesday, journalist groups protested the move.
"It's impossible for me to imagine how you report a story whose subject is death without allowing the public to see images of the subject of the story," Larry Siems of the PEN American Center told Reuters.
Rebecca Daugherty of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press said: "The notion that, when there's very little information from FEMA, that they would even spend the time to be concerned about whether the reporting effort is up to its standards of taste is simply mind-boggling. You cannot report on the disaster and give the public a realistic idea of how horrible it is if you don't see that there are bodies as well."

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

White House Enacts a Plan to Ease Political Damage

It orchestrated visits by cabinet members to the region, leading up to an extraordinary return visit by Mr. Bush planned for Monday, directed administration officials not to respond to attacks from Democrats on the relief efforts, and sought to move the blame for the slow response to Louisiana state officials, according to Republicans familiar with the White House plan.
The effort is being directed by Mr. Bush's chief political adviser, Karl Rove, and his communications director, Dan Bartlett. It began late last week after Congressional Republicans called White House officials to register alarm about what they saw as a feeble response by Mr. Bush to the hurricane, according to Republican Congressional aides.

Murder and rape - fact or fiction?

New Orleans police chief Eddie Compass said last night: "We don't have any substantiated rapes. We will investigate if the individuals come forward."
And while many claim they happened, no witnesses, survivors or survivors' relatives have come forward.

Bush Warned of Levee Break Last Year

John Breaux, the former Democratic Louisiana senator and close Bush ally, rejected the president's claim that nobody anticipated the failure of the city's levees, saying he talked to Bush about it last year.

Britons Smuggled Out of Superdome by Military

The military told all non-US citizens to stay together for safety, Ms Sachs added.
They later told them they would be secretly smuggled out in groups of 10 under cover of darkness as it had become too dangerous for them to remain in the stadium, she told BBC News.
"When we were leaving, people were going 'Where are you going?' and giving us looks.
"But the military got us out, which we were all thankful for."

Undoing Darwin

Most of the coverage of the newest quarrel about evolution is allowing evolution's enemies to frame the debate as a contest between scientific theories, rather than what it is — a religious challenge to an overwhelming scientific consensus. Chris Mooney and Matthew C. Nisbet explain.

Embryonic stem lines unstable

Human embryonic stem cells accrue changes in their genomes that could make them unusable therapeutically when cultured at length, an international team of scientists report in the October Nature Genetics.
"Some of the early embryonic stem cell passages were relatively aberration-free, at least using the technology we have access to, even at passage 30 or so, which would be unusual for most adult stem cells," coauthor Anirban Maitra of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore told The Scientist. Still, "over time, it appears that the majority of even embryonic stem cells do accumulate genetic and epigenetic changes."

Getting the Gulf Back on the Grid

During calmer times, the ad-hoc culture of open-source wireless, mesh networking and free municipal Wi-Fi is often seen as outside of the industry mainstream.
But those alternative approaches are perfect in crises where conventional infrastructure is damaged, said Sascha Meinrath of the Champaign-Urbana Community Wireless Network.
Last week, CUWireless launched the "Katrina Community Wireless Rapid Response" project to funnel grass-roots offers toward areas in need.
"We have a breakdown in many of the things that people rely on to deploy these systems, and then we have people whose expertise is in rubber-banding and bubble-gum-sticking and pulling together things with whatever's at hand," Meinrath told Wired News. "That's very much what we need right now -- people with that level of improvisation and expertise."

Rumsfeld at Padres Ball Game As New Orleans Sank

The seemingly carefree behavior of top Bush administration officials early last week, who stuck to their vacations as tens of thousands cried for help in New Orleans, gained another twist with revelations that Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld was taking in a ball game in San Diego last Monday night--about 24 hours after Katrina hit.
Rumsfeld has come under increasing criticism for the military's lack of early intervention in the rescue.

FEMA Chief Waited Until After Storm Hit

Federal Emergency Management Agency, sought the approval from Homeland Security Secretary Mike Chertoff roughly five hours after Katrina made landfall on Aug. 29. Brown said that among duties of these employees was to "convey a positive image" about the government's response for victims.
Before then, FEMA had positioned smaller rescue and communications teams across the Gulf Coast. But officials acknowledged Tuesday the first department-wide appeal for help came only as the storm raged.
Brown's memo to Chertoff described Katrina as "this near catastrophic event" but otherwise lacked any urgent language. The memo politely ended, "Thank you for your consideration in helping us to meet our responsibilities."

Saudi prince increases stake in Murdoch's Fox

Saudi Arabian investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal said he now holds a 5.5% voting stake in News Corp. and is ready to purchase more voting shares to protect the media company from any unfriendly bids, the WALL STREET JOURNAL reported Tuesday afternoon. Excerpts

Administration Fabricating Rescue Stats

In an effort to show the world that it's finally on top of the catastrophe unleashed by Hurricane Katrina more than a week ago, the Bush administration is producing a seemingly impressive battery of statistics.
Since Friday, as criticism has mounted against the administration for its perceived failure to act sooner, officials have sought to tangibly catalog crucial results, such as "lives saved," "people assisted" and "citizens evacuated."
But a closer look at the administration's claims shows some of the most important numbers seem to contradict each other, including assertions made as recently as Tuesday afternoon about the number of people rescued from life-threatening situations.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Blair apologises for lack of help

Tony Blair apologised yesterday to Britons who complained of lack of support from the Foreign Office after their Hurricane Katrina ordeal.
Mr Blair, speaking during his visit to Beijing, said: "It's been really tough for people, I know that, but it's been tough for our officials on the ground."
His comments came as the Foreign Office claimed that British diplomats had been unable to get into New Orleans until Sunday. A spokesman said more than 20 diplomats had been willing to go but requests for permission from the US state department and the Louisiana state government had been repeatedly rebuffed.

Growing Media Outrage Over Katrina Response

"For God's sake, are you blind?," a woman shouts at the head of the federal emergency management agency (FEMA), Michael Brown.
"You're patting each other on the back, while people here are dying."
The woman is not a victim of Hurricane Katrina. She is a reporter with US television network MSNBC who is so affected by the misery she has witnessed she can hold back no longer.
"Katrinagate" is the term being used by the media to describe the biggest challenge facing the political establishment in the US since the Watergate affair in the 1970s toppled Richard Nixon.
Not for decades has there been such merciless questioning of the president and his administration by the US media.

New Yorker editor says Bush 'failed in every respect;' And more: 'Cavalier, delinquent, self-deluded'

"Suntanned and relaxed after a vacation so long that it would have shamed a French playboy, Bush reacted with fogged delinquency, as if he had been so lulled by his summer sojourn that he was not quite ready to acknowledge reality, let alone attempt to master it," pens New Yorker Editor David Remnick in Sept. 12 editions of the magazine.
The New Yorker editor's piece is as unflinching and scathing as any written about the crisis, saying Bush "failed in every respect," and declaring the mismanagement of post-Katrina chaos mirrored the Bush Administration's work in Iraq, where Remnick sees: "the cavalier posture, the wretched decisions, [and] the self-delusions."
Remnick, who was named editor of the magazine in 1998, had previously worked as a Moscow correspondent for the Washington Post and recently wrote an eloquent portrait of politically vanquished former Vice President Al Gore. Selected excerpts follow.

Senators 'to demand answers' on slow action

Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., leaders of the Senate Homeland Security committee, will discuss their committee's plan for an inquiry into the response by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The agency is the disaster-response division of the Homeland Security Department...
"We intend to demand answers as to how this immense failure occurred," the senators said in a statement.

Iraq: US Influence 'Too Much'

"It is a matter of public record that in the final weeks of the process the newly arrived U.S. ambassador (Zalmay Khalizad) took an extremely hands-on role," Justin Alexander, legal affairs officer for the office of constitutional support with the United Nations Assistance Mission to Iraq (UNAMI) told IPS. "Even going so far as to circulate at least one U.S ... draft."
...Zaid al-Ali, a legal expert who also oversaw the drafting process in Baghdad, made a similar case at a meeting at the International Association of Contemporary Iraqi Studies in London.
"There are three ways in which the occupation intervened in the context of Iraq's constitution-writing process," he said. "Firstly, the occupation authorities selected and affected the makeup of the commission that was charged with drafting Iraq's transitional law, and its permanent constitution. Second, the occupation determined the limits and parameters within which the constitution was to be drafted. Third, the occupation authorities intervened directly in order to safeguard its interests in the context of the constitutional negotiations."

Warnings went ignored as Bush slashed flood defence budget to pay for wars

Vital measures to protect New Orleans from "catastrophic" hurricane damage were scrapped by the Bush administration to pay for its wars on terror and in Iraq, despite official warnings of impending disaster.
Funding for flood prevention was slashed by 80 per cent, work on strengthening levees to protect the city was stopped for the first time in 37 years, and planning for housing stranded citizens and evacuating refugees from the Superdome were crippled. Yet the administration had been warned repeatedly of the dangers by its own officials.
In early 2001, at the start of Mr Bush's presidency, his Government's Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) warned that a hurricane hitting New Orleans would be the deadliest of the three most likely catastrophes facing America; the others were a massive San Francisco earthquake and, prophetically, a terrorist attack on New York.
Fema's then director, the Bush appointee Joe Allbaugh, said that the warning caused him "great concern". But the President emasculated the agency, subsuming it into the Department of Homeland Security set up after the 11 September 2001 attacks, which concentrated on the terrorist threat.
This was only one of a series of warnings that predicted what happened last week, including the storm surges brought by the hurricane, the breaching of the levees, the floods covering the city, and the "toxic gumbo" of sewage, oil and chemicals.

NYTimes: Katrina's Assault on Washington

There are dozens of questions Americans will demand to have answered once this emergency has passed. If the Homeland Security Department was so ill prepared for a natural disaster that everyone knew was coming, how is it equipped to handle other kinds of crises? Has the war in Iraq drained the nation of resources that it needs for things like flood prevention? Is the National Guard ready to handle a disaster that might be even worse, like a biological or nuclear attack?
One thing is certain: if President Bush and his Republican Congressional leaders want to deal responsibly with a historic disaster of this scale, they must finally try the path of honestly shared national sacrifice. If they respond by passing a few emergency measures and then falling back on their plans to enact more tax cuts, America will have to confront the fact that it is stuck with leaders who neither know, nor care, how to lead.
The pre-Katrina plan for this Congressional season was to enact more upper-bracket tax cuts for the least needy, while cutting into the safety-net programs for sick and impoverished Americans. These are the very entitlement programs most needed by the sudden underclass of hundreds of thousands of hurricane refugees cast adrift like Dustbowl Okies. Will Congress dare to go forward with these retrogressive plans in the face of the suffering from Katrina? Its woeful track record suggests that, shockingly, the answer may be yes. [Thanks Tom P]

Bush Team Tries to Pin Blame on Local Officials

Bush administration officials yesterday blamed state and local officials for the delays in bringing relief to New Orleans, as the president struggled to fend off the most serious political crisis of his presidency.
His top officials continued to be pilloried on television talk shows by liberals and conservatives alike, but the White House began to show signs of an evolving strategy to prevent the relief fiasco from eclipsing the president's second term.

An Angry 'Times-Picayune' Calls for Firing of FEMA Chief, and Others, in Open Letter to President Bush

The Times-Picayune of New Orleans on Sunday published its third print edition since the hurricane disaster struck, chronicling the arrival, finally, of some relief but also taking President Bush to task for his handling of the crisis, and calling for the firing of FEMA director Michael Brown and others.
In an "open letter" to the president, published on page 15 of the 16-page edition, the paper said it still had grounds for "skepticism" that he would follow through on saving the city and its residents. It pointed out that while the government could not get supplies to the city numerous TV reporters, singer Harry Connick and Times-Picayune staffers managed to find a way in.
It also cited "bald-faced" lies by Michael Brown. "Those who should have been deploying troops were singing a sad song about how our city was impossible to reach," the staffers pointed out. "We’re angry, Mr. President, and we’ll be angry long after our beloved city and surrounding parishes have been pumped dry." [Includes text]

Russia opposes reporting Iran to UN

Russia said on Monday it opposed reporting Iran to the U.N. Security Council over its nuclear program, putting itself on a collision course with the United States in a global body where Moscow holds a veto.
U.S. and European Union officials have warned they will push for Iran's nuclear case to be sent to the Security Council -- which could impose sanctions -- if Tehran does not halt all nuclear fuel work and resume negotiations with the EU.
"In these circumstances we see no reason why the question should be sent to the U.N. (Security Council)," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on its Web site

School bus comandeered by renegade refugees first to arrive at Astrodome

Jabbar Gibson, 20, said police in New Orleans told him and others to take the school bus and try to get out of the flooded city.
Gibson drove the bus from the flooded Crescent City, picking up stranded people, some of them infants, along the way. Some of those on board had been in the Superdome, among those who were supposed to be evacuated to Houston on more than 400 buses Wednesday and today. They couldn't wait.
The group of mostly teenagers and young adults pooled what little money they had to buy diapers for the babies and fuel for the bus.

Daley 'shocked' as feds reject aid

A visibly angry Mayor Daley said the city had offered emergency, medical and technical help to the federal government as early as Sunday to assist people in the areas stricken by Hurricane Katrina, but as of Friday, the only things the feds said they wanted was a single tank truck.
That truck, which the Federal Emergency Management Agency requested to support an Illinois-based medical team, was en route Friday.
"We are ready to provide more help than they have requested. We are just waiting for their call," said Daley, adding that he was "shocked" that no one seemed to want the help.

Homeland Security won't let Red Cross deliver food

(Saturday, September 03, 2005) As the National Guard delivered food to the New Orleans convention center yesterday, American Red Cross officials said that federal emergency management authorities would not allow them to do the same.
Other relief agencies say the area is so damaged and dangerous that they doubted they could conduct mass feeding there now.
"The Homeland Security Department has requested and continues to request that the American Red Cross not come back into New Orleans," said Renita Hosler, spokeswoman for the Red Cross.
"Right now access is controlled by the National Guard and local authorities. We have been at the table every single day [asking for access]. We cannot get into New Orleans against their orders."
Calls to the Department of Homeland Security and its subagency, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, were not returned yesterday.

New Orleans Times-Picayune: An open letter to the President

Barbara Bush: Things Working Out 'Very Well' for Poor Evacuees from New Orleans

"And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this--this (she chuckles slightly) is working very well for them."

Love Canal-type landfill submerged in New Orleans floodwaters

A toxic landfill site on which low-income housing was built in central New Orleans is now under floodwaters with the potential to pollute and contaminate portions of the Gulf Coast. In the 1940s and 1950s, the site was routinely sprayed with DDT, but in 1962 some 229,300 cubic metres of excess fill was removed because subsurface toxic fires kept erupting (and got the site known as "Dante's Inferno"). According to the editor of Hazardous Waste magazine, the site -- now under water -- will almost inevitably leach toxic effluent into the floodwaters, with the potential of inflicting unpredictable damage on the coast, and those that live there -- a possible environmental catastrophe. Tests by the EPA in the 1980s and 90s found 149 chemicals - 44 of which are known carcinogens. Among the toxic substances found were arsenic, lead, mercury, barium, and other organic compounds that are associated with pesticides and the burning of waste. Finally, what is the status of the Waterford 3 nuke plant just north of New Orleans, and what is the status of that plant's nuclear waste ? News reports say it sustained damage to 'off-site buildings' but what does that mean? Were those waste containment facilities? [from]

Behind the Curtain

George Bush's photo-op tour of New Orleans yesterday has apparently driven Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu over the edge. Today she blasted FEMA for its feeble response to Hurricane Katrina and Bush for his phony, stage managed promises of action:

I understand that the U.S. Forest Service had water-tanker aircraft available to help douse the fires raging on our riverfront, but FEMA has yet to accept the aid. When Amtrak offered trains to evacuate significant numbers of victims — far more efficiently than buses — FEMA again dragged its feet. Offers of medicine, communications equipment and other desperately needed items continue to flow in, only to be ignored by the agency.
But perhaps the greatest disappointment stands at the breached 17th Street levee. Touring this critical site yesterday with the President, I saw what I believed to be a real and significant effort to get a handle on a major cause of this catastrophe. Flying over this critical spot again this morning, less than 24 hours later, it became apparent that yesterday we witnessed a hastily prepared stage set for a Presidential photo opportunity; and the desperately needed resources we saw were this morning reduced to a single, lonely piece of equipment. The good and decent people of southeast Louisiana and the Gulf Coast — black and white, rich and poor, young and old — deserve far better from their national government.

I'm almost worn out with anger reading about the decimation of FEMA under Bush's watch; the pathetic lack of response to Katrina from the federal government; the relentless television images of human degradation; and the endless excuses from administration hacks pretending that nobody could have predicted Katrina's devastation. I realize that it's no different from what's been happening in Iraq for the past two years, but Iraq is 8,000 miles away and the truth is that no matter how angry we are at what's going on there, it's to some extent an intellectual anger. What's happening in New Orleans is like a punch in the gut.

S. 517: A bill to establish a Weather Modification Operations and Research Board, and for other purposes

A bill to establish a Weather Modification Operations and Research Board, and for other purposes.
Introduced (By Sen. Kay Hutchison [R-TX])
This bill is in the first step in the legislative process. Introduced Senate bills go first to Senate committees that consider whether the bill should be presented to the Senate as a whole. The majority of bills never make it out of committee.
Introduced:Mar 3, 2005
Last Action:Mar 3, 2005: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. (text of measure as introduced: CR S2025-2026)
Sponsor:Sen. Kay Hutchison [R-TX]
Full Text:Text or PDF

See also: H.R. 2995

Budget cuts delayed New Orleans flood control work

Bush administration funding cuts forced federal engineers to delay improvements on the levees, floodgates and pumping stations that failed to protect New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina's floodwaters, agency documents showed on Thursday.
The former head of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the agency that handles the infrastructure of the nation's waterways, said the damage in New Orleans probably would have been much less extensive had flood-control efforts been fully funded over the years.
"Levees would have been higher, levees would have been bigger, there would have been other pumps put in," said Mike Parker, a former Mississippi congressman who headed the engineering agency from 2001 to 2002.
"I'm not saying it would have been totally alleviated but it would have been less than the damage that we have got now."
Eighty percent of New Orleans was under water after Katrina blew through with much of the flooding coming after two levees broke.
A May 2005 Corps memo said that funding levels for fiscal years 2005 and 2006 would not be enough to pay for new construction on the levees.

Record number of documents marked 'classified'

A just released report [pdf] from the organization states that the federal government has been classifying records at an astonishing rate. An example from the report: "The 'state secrets' privilege allows the sitting U.S. president to nearly unilaterally withhold documents from the courts, Congress, and the public. At the height of the Cold War, the administration used the privilege only four times between 1953 and 1976. Since 2001, it has been used 23 times." Lots more numbers like that in the report. A newspaper summarizes the report here. [from]

Meet The Press, Sunday September 4th

MR. BROUSSARD: Sir, they were told like me, every single day, "The cavalry's coming," on a federal level, "The cavalry's coming, the cavalry's coming, the cavalry's coming." I have just begun to hear the hoofs of the cavalry. The cavalry's still not here yet, but I've begun to hear the hoofs, and we're almost a week out.


MR. BROUSSARD: I'm telling you most importantly I want to thank my public employees...

MR. RUSSERT: All right.

MR. BROUSSARD: ...that have worked 24/7. They're burned out, the doctors, the nurses. And I want to give you one last story and I'll shut up and let you tell me whatever you want to tell me. The guy who runs this building I'm in, emergency management, he's responsible for everything. His mother was trapped in St. Bernard nursing home and every day she called him and said, "Are you coming, son? Is somebody coming?" And he said, "Yeah, Mama, somebody's coming to get you. Somebody's coming to get you on Tuesday. Somebody's coming to get you on Wednesday. Somebody's coming to get you on Thursday. Somebody's coming to get you on Friday." And she drowned Friday night. She drowned Friday night. . . Nobody's coming to get us. Nobody's coming to get us. The secretary has promised. Everybody's promised. They've had press conferences. I'm sick of the press conferences. For God sakes, shut up and send us somebody.

Video here. Haley Barbour came on afterwards, clean, showered, powdered. Make-up has never made anyone look worse.

Transcript for September 4, Michael Chertoff, Mark Fischetti, Marc Morial, Mike Tidwell and David Wessel [MSNBC]
UPDATES: Transcripts and video also at Think Progress and C&L