Thursday, September 1, 2005                                               The Daily Battle Against Subjectivity
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"You get America out of Iraq and Israel out of Palestine and you'll stop the terrorism." - Cindy Sheehan

P I C T U R E   O F  T H E  D A Y

In this photo a rescued oil rig that collided with a bridge sits along the shore after being towed off in Mobile, Alabama. (Marc Serota/Reuters)

Unfortunately, many people stuck inside New Orleans and other towns hit by Katrina weren't quite so lucky.



NEW! Signs Commentary Books are Now Available!

For the first time, the Signs Team's most popular and discerning essays have been compiled into book form and thematically organized.

These books contain hard hitting exposés into human nature, propaganda, psyop activities and insights into the world events that shape our future and our understanding of the world.

The six new books, available now at our bookstore, are entitled:

  • 911 Conspiracy
  • The Human Condition
  • The Media
  • Religion
  • The Work
  • U.S. Freedom

Read them today - before the book burning starts!

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PART TWO: Feelings of Doom

New Song! Signs of the Times

As featured on our latest podcast page, Relic has written, produced, and performed a new song called "Signs of the Times".

"Signs of the Times" words & music by Relic

There are UFOs over Mexico
Hurricanes in Florida
You may be surprised to know
It's raining frogs in Serbia

Tornadoes over Texas
California quakes
The ring of fire is the next to blow
And all of Europe is left to bake


These are the Signs of the Times
The world is burning, yeah
These are the Signs of the Times
The tides are turning, yeah
See the signs

The weather's changed
Everything is strange, somehow
It's all connected

Our leaders lie
Our children die, somehow
It's all connected

Locust plagues and wildfires
Ice age follows climate change
What to do with the avian flu
And HAARP is turned on again

The beast of revelation
Is living in the states
Jesus seen in a grilled cheese
Virgin Mary's on the interstate


Butterfly wings
Start so many things, somehow
It's all connected

Gravity waves
Change your DNA, somehow
It's all connected

There's drought in Australia
While China floods
Tsunami wash it all away
Persian rivers run with blood

The sun's dark companion
Comes around again
Auroras in the atmosphere
Meteors falling down like rain


So raise your voice
Time to make a choice, somehow
It's all connected


Copyright 2005 Relic

Download MP3 (Right click and "Save link as...") (6 MB)

Let us know what you think.

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Another Terrible Casualty of the Iraq War

How New Orleans was Lost
September 1, 2005

Chalk up the city of New Orleans as a cost of Bush's Iraq war.

There were not enough helicopters to repair the breeched levees and rescue people trapped by rising water. Nor are there enough Louisiana National Guards available to help with rescue efforts and to patrol against looting.

The situation is the same in Mississippi.

The National Guard and helicopters are off on a fools mission in Iraq.

The National Guard is in Iraq because fanatical neoconsevatives in the Bush administration were determined to invade the Middle East and because the incompetent Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld refused to listen to the generals, who told him there were not enough regular troops available to do the job.

After the invasion, the arrogant Rumsfeld found out that the generals were right. The National Guard was called up to fill in the gaping gaps.

Now the Guardsmen, trapped in the Iraqi quagmire, are watching on TV the families they left behind trapped by rising waters and wondering if the floating bodies are family members. None know where their dislocated families are, but, shades of Fallujah, they do see their destroyed homes.

The mayor of New Orleans was counting on helicopters to put in place massive sandbags to repair the levee. However, someone called the few helicopters away to rescue people from rooftops. The rising water overwhelmed the massive pumping stations, and New Orleans disappeared under deep water.

What a terrible casualty of the Iraqi war--one of our oldest and most beautiful cities, a famous city, a historic city.

Distracted by its phony war on terrorism, the US government had made no preparations in the event Hurricane Katarina brought catastrophe to New Orleans. No contingency plan existed. Only now after the disaster are FEMA and the Corp of Engineers trying to assemble the material and equipment to save New Orleans from the fate of Atlantis.

Even worse, articles in the New Orleans Times-Picayune and public statements by emergency management chiefs in New Orleans make it clear that the Bush administration slashed the funding for the Corp of Engineers' projects to strengthen and raise the New Orleans levees and diverted the money to the Iraq war.

Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish, told the New Orleans Times-Picayune (June 8, 2004): "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."

Why can't the US government focus on America's needs and leave other countries alone? Why are American troops in Iraq instead of protecting our own borders from a mass invasion by illegal immigrants? Why are American helicopters blowing up Iraqi homes instead of saving American homes in New Orleans?

How can the Bush administration be so incompetent as to expose Americans at home to dire risks by exhausting American resources in foolish foreign adventures? What kind of "homeland security" is this?

All Bush has achieved by invading Iraq is to kill and wound thousands of people while destroying America's reputation. The only beneficiaries are oil companies capitalizing on a good excuse to jack up the price of gasoline and Osama bin Laden's recruitment.

What we have is a Republican war for oil company profits while New Orleans sinks beneath the waters. [...]

Paul Craig Roberts has held a number of academic appointments and has contributed to numerous scholarly publications. He served as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. His graduate economics education was at the University of Virginia, the University of California at Berkeley, and Oxford University. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions. He can be reached at:

Comment: The people of New Orleans are clearly not happy with Bush...

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Nagin: Entire City Will Soon Be Underwater
August 30, 2005

Problems Escalate To 'Another Level'

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin is "very upset" that an attempt to fix the breach in the levee at the 17th Street canal has failed, and he said the challenges that the city is facing have "escalated to another level." [...]

Nagin said the sandbagging was scheduled for midday, but the Blackhawk helicopters needed to help did not show up. He said the sandbags were ready and all the helicopter had to do was "show up." He said after his afternoon helicopter tour of the city, he was assured that officials had a plan and a timeline to drop the sandbags on the levee breach.

He said he was told that the helicopters may have been diverted to rescue about 1,000 people in a church, but he is still not sure who gave the order.

He advised people still trapped in New Orleans to evacuate to the west bank area if they can safely get there.

"If they can't, (they should) seek higher ground," the mayor said.

He said the water that is flowing out of the breach, which is about a 2-block breach at the 17th Street canal, will continue to flow "unimpeded at an accelerated level within 12 to 15 hours." [...]

Comment: So we see that someone in the Bush administration consciously chose to do nothing about the breach in the levee and allow ever more sea water to pour into New Orleans. It now seems clear also that someone in the Bush administration had been planning for a long time to leave the city exposed...

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"No One Can Say they Didn't See it Coming"
By Sidney Blumenthal

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.

Biblical in its uncontrolled rage and scope, Hurricane Katrina has left millions of Americans to scavenge for food and shelter and hundreds to thousands reportedly dead. With its main levee broken, the evacuated city of New Orleans has become part of the Gulf of Mexico. But the damage wrought by the hurricane may not entirely be the result of an act of nature.

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.

In the two weeks preceding the storm in the Gulf, the trumping of science by ideology and expertise by special interests accelerated. The Federal Drug Administration announced that it was postponing sale of the morning-after contraceptive pill, despite overwhelming scientific evidence of its safety and its approval by the FDA's scientific advisory board. The United Nations special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa accused the Bush administration of responsibility for a condom shortage in Uganda -- the result of the administration's evangelical Christian agenda of "abstinence."

When the chief of the Bureau of Justice Statistics in the Justice Department was ordered by the White House to delete its study that African-Americans and other minorities are subject to racial profiling in police traffic stops and he refused to buckle under, he was forced out of his job. When the Army Corps of Engineers' chief contracting oversight analyst objected to a $7 billion no-bid contract awarded for work in Iraq to Halliburton (the firm at which Vice President Cheney was formerly CEO), she was demoted despite her superior professional ratings. At the National Park Service, a former Cheney aide, a political appointee lacking professional background, drew up a plan to overturn past environmental practices and prohibit any mention of evolution while allowing sale of religious materials through the Park Service.

On the day the levees burst in New Orleans, Bush delivered a speech in Colorado comparing the Iraq war to World War II and himself to Franklin D. Roosevelt: "And he knew that the best way to bring peace and stability to the region was by bringing freedom to Japan." Bush had boarded his very own "Streetcar Named Desire."

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Thousands Dead In Mississippi?

Paramedic Rescue Operation

I have finally reconnected with my best friend who is a paramedic who was sent from Georgia 2 days ago to Gulf Port, Mississippi before the hurricane hit.

He just reached me within the last 10 mins via emergency cell phone to tell me he was alive.

Thousands of bodies have been discovered throughout Mississippi in Gulf Port, Waveland,Hancock County,Bay of St.Louis.

They are hanging in trees and they are pulling them out 30 at a time. Entire families found drowned in their homes and washing up on shore.

The stories he could tell me were brief. National Guard is on the scene and arresting anyone seen on the streets.

The numbers are staggering and what I have been told tonight will shake people to their foundation as the numbers will be coming out in the next 24-hours of just how many people have actually perished in these and 3 other beach communities.

Comment: The Guardian reports:

Terry Taylor, a teenager who had been wandering the streets for more than 24 hours looking for shelter, said: "There were dead people floating everywhere you looked."

Post-Katrina Looters: The Hungry, The Mean, The Dangerous
(AFP) Aug 31, 2005

For schoolteacher Jared Wood the scariest moment of Hurricane Katrina was not the killer winds or waters, it was the looter threatening to thrash him for trying to take his picture.

With most of New Orleans submerged and thousands of people trapped by waters strewn with bodies, authorities also fought an outbreak of plundering by locals taking away food, appliances, jewels, clothes and even guns.

But when their food ran out in Katrina's wake, the 29-year-old Wood and his companion Erin O'Shea, 28, both normally law-abiding teachers from upper New York State, judged it necessary to join the larcenous throngs.

"We looted a store because we had no food and we had to do something," Wood told AFP outside their French Quarter hotel while waiting for a ride to nearby Baton Rouge. "It was really scary while we were in there."

The pair said they leapt through a smashed window of a local Winn-Dixie supermarket and started to stock up on soup, power bars and soy milk while other looters gathered armfuls of soda and beer.

"We were trying to get stuff that would sustain us. Some people were going by and they had a plant," O'Shea said, shrugging in disbelief at the range of items hauled away.

She said that in the aftermath of Katrina, an intelligence network sprouted on the largely deserted streets of New Orleans letting looters know where the best pickings were.

"It's all hush hush, word of mouth thing. We've been finding out just by traveling around," O'Shea said.

But any camraderie among thieves stopped when Wood whipped out a camera and tried to take pictures of the looting in the Winn-Dixie shop.

"This guy was saying, 'Give me your camera or I'm going to beat the crap out of you,'" O'Shea said.

Wood also shuddered at the memory. "That guy wanted to kill me. It wasn't my smartest moment."

The pair saw one man scrounging among shelves of pharmaceuticals, apparently for drugs. But the teachers were more interested in getting their hands on O'Shea's favorite tabloid fare.

"So we took her Star magazine and we got out," Wood said.

Jeanette Brase, a 76-year-old retiree from the midwestern state of Iowa who was visiting New Orleans with her husband, said the looting was the only frightening part of her ordeal.

She never thought she would witness such behavior first-hand, Brase said after seeing looters stream in and out of a local pharmacy: "It's something you hear about and see on TV."

"It's actually kind of sickening. I don't know if they (the police) can stop them or if they just have too much to do."

Rosemary Rimmer-Clay, 51, a social worker from Brighton, England, who was here with her two grown sons, said Katrina made her trip "90 percent boredom and 10 percent sheer terror."

"The police said there was rioting and we saw people running with bags full of inappropriate items. It looked quite dodgy," she said. "It felt like a film set and we were in the middle of it."

Authorities sought to tighten security, with gangs of armed men reported roaming the city and one store emptied of its entire collection of weapons, according to the Times-Picayune newspaper.

One police officer was shot in the head but was expected to survive, the newspaper said.

In the Mississippi town of Biloxi, thieves were reported to have taken slot machines from devastated casinos.

Louisiana governor Kathleen Blanco said looting was a growing problem but not the top priority. "We don't like looters one bit, but first and foremost is search and rescue," she said.

At least one looter, however, was feeling pangs of remorse.

O'Shea said she and Wood had to return home by Tuesday in time for the start of classes and "I plan on sending a check to the Winn-Dixie for 50 dollars when I get back."

Comment: Speaking of "looters", Katrina has provided the mainstream press with an opportunity to reveal their fundamental racist beliefs. Consider the following two pictures with their captions taken from Yahoo News:

Two residents wade through chest-deep water after finding bread and soda from a local grocery store after Hurricane Katrina came through the area in New Orleans, Louisiana

A young man walks through chest deep flood water after looting a grocery store in New Orleans on Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2005. Flood waters continue to rise in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina did extensive damage when it

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New Orleans After Katrina
Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair
August 31, 2005

Tuesday night, as water rose to 20 feet through most of New Orleans, CNN relayed an advisory that food in refrigerators would last only four hours, would have to be thrown out. The next news item from CNN was an indignant bellow about "looters" of 7/11s and a Walmart. Making no attempt to conceal the racist flavor of the coverage, the press openly describes white survivors as "getting food from a flooded store," while blacks engaged in the same struggle for survival are smeared as "looters."

The reverence for property is now the underlying theme of many newscasts, with defense of The Gap being almost the first order of duty for the forces of law and order. But the citizens looking for clothes to wear and food to eat are made of tougher fiber and are more desperate than the polite demonstrators who guarded The Gap and kindred chains in Seattle in 1999. The police in New Orleans are only patrolling in large armed groups. One spoke of "meeting some resistance," as if the desperate citizens of New Orleans were Iraqi insurgents.

Comment: Bryan Newbury wrote in an article for Counterpunch:

While I must admit the footage of two NOPD ladies looting a Wal-Mart was priceless, the sanctimonious and unmistakably racist tone of the correspondent (and Tucker himself) was apalling. This was certainly not confined to MSNBC, though.

A sidenote: During the shot inside the Wal-Mart, the correspondent hounded the looters, who were loading up on supplies and a few choice gifts for their children, one man said to him that no one was worried about their lives, so why in the bloody hell would he worry about Wal-Mart's profit-loss ratio? Though I don't endorse looting, he has a point there. Cable news focused sharply on the forgotten and abandoned of New Orleans while not mentioning once (I withstood it all for around 3.5 hours) that these were folks of our very own Third World, the most economically disenfranchised class in the States. Where was the bus convoy to guide them to safety. In state government and FEMA terms, that would've been a pennance.

Also on Tuesday night the newscasts were reporting that in a city whose desperate state is akin the Dacca in Bangladesh a few years ago, there were precisely seven Coast Guard helicopters in operation. Where are the National Guard helicopters? Presumably strafing Iraqi citizens on the roads outside Baghdad and Fallujah.

As the war's unpopularity soars, there will be millions asking, Why is the National Guard in Iraq, instead of helping the afflicted along the Gulf in the first crucial hours, before New Orleans, Biloxi, and Mobile turn into toxic toilet bowls with thousands marooned on the tops of houses?

As thousands of trapped residents face the real prospect of perishing for lack of a way out of the flooding city, Bush's first response was to open the spigots of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve at the request of oil companies and to order the EPA to eliminate Clean Air standards at power plants and oil referiners across the nation, supposedly to increase fuel supplies--a goal long sought by his cronies at the big oil companies.

In his skittish Rose Garden press conference, Bush told the imperiled people of the Gulf Coast not to worry, the Corps of Engineers was on the way to begin the reconstruction of the Southland. But these are the same cadre of engineers, who after three years of work, have yet to get water and electrical power running in Baghdad for more than three hours a day.

It didn't have to be this bad. The entire city of New Orleans needn't have been lost. Hundreds of people need not have perished. Yet, it now seems clear that the Bush administration sacrificed New Orleans to pursue its mad war on Iraq.

As the New Orleans Times-Picayune has reported in a devastating series of articles over the last two years, city and state officials and the Corps of Enginners had repeatedly requested funding to strengthen the levees along Lake Pontchartrain that breeched in the wake of the flood. But the Bush administration rebuffed the requests repeatedly, reprograming the funding from levee enhancement to Homeland Security and the war on Iraq.

This year the Bush administration slashed funding for the New Orleans Corps of Engineers by $71.2 million, a stunning 44.2 percent reduction from its 2001 levels. A Corps report noted at the time that "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."

Work on the 17th Street levee, which breached on Monday night, came to a halt earlier this summer for the lack of $2 million.

"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," Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish, Louisiana told the Times-Picayune in June of last year. "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."

These are damning revelations that should fuel calls from both parties for Bush's resignation or impeachment.

The greatest concern for poor people in these days has come from President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, who ­ fresh from a chat with Fidel Castro, has announced that Venezuela will be offering America's poor discounted gas through its Citgo chain. He's says his price will knock out the predatory pricing at every American pump. Citgo should issue to purchasers of each tankful of gas vouchers for free medical consultations via the internet with the Cuban doctors in Venezuela.

No politician in America has raised the issue of predatory pricing as gasoline soars above $3. The last time there was any critical talk about the oil companies was thirty years ago.

Maybe the terrible disaster along the Gulf coast will awaken people to the unjust ways in which our society works. That's often the effect of natural disasters, as with the Mexican earthquake, where the laggardly efforts of the police prompted ordinary citizens to take matters into their own hands.

Comment: If anything, Katrina has added to the calls to pull out of Iraq:

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Bring Them Home...NOW!

The National Guard Belongs in New Orleans and Biloxi. Not Baghdad
August 31, 2005

The men and women of the National Guard shouldn't be killing in Iraq. They should be helping in New Orleans and Biloxi.

The catastrophic hurricane was an act of God. But the U.S. war effort in Iraq is a continuing act of the president. And now, that effort is hampering the capacity of the National Guard to save lives at home.

Before the flooding of New Orleans drastically escalated on Tuesday, the White House tried to disarm questions that could be politically explosive. "To those of you who are concerned about whether or not we're prepared to help, don't be, we are," President Bush said. "We're in place, we've got equipment in place, supplies in place, and once the -- once we're able to assess the damage, we'll be able to move in and help those good folks in the affected areas."

Echoing the official assurances, CBS News reported: "Even though more than a third of Mississippi's and Louisiana's National Guard troops are either in Iraq or supporting the war effort, the National Guard says there are more than enough at home to do the job."

But after New Orleans levees collapsed and the scope of the catastrophe became more clear, such reassuring claims lost credibility. The Washington Post reported on Wednesday: "With thousands of their citizen-soldiers away fighting in Iraq, states hit hard by Hurricane Katrina scrambled to muster forces for rescue and security missions yesterday -- calling up Army bands and water-purification teams, among other units, and requesting help from distant states and the active-duty military."

The back-page Post story added: "National Guard officials in the states acknowledged that the scale of the destruction is stretching the limits of available manpower while placing another extraordinary demand on their troops -- most of whom have already served tours in Iraq or Afghanistan or in homeland defense missions since 2001."

Speaking for the Mississippi National Guard, Lt. Andy Thaggard said: "Missing the personnel is the big thing in this particular event. We need our people." According to the Washington Post, the Mississippi National Guard "has a brigade of more than 4,000 troops in central Iraq" while "Louisiana also has about 3,000 Guard troops in Baghdad."

National Guard troops don't belong in Iraq. They should be rescuing and protecting in Louisiana and Mississippi, not patrolling and killing in a country that was invaded on the basis of presidential deception. They should be fighting the effects of flood waters at home -- helping people in the communities they know best -- not battling Iraqi people who want them to go away.

Let's use the Internet today to forward and post this demand so widely that the politicians in Washington can no longer ignore it:

Bring the National Guard home. Immediately.

Norman Solomon is the author of the new book "War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death."

Comment: When the announcement was made that Bush was going to cut his vacation short and visit the hurricane-stricken areas, Rove was no doubt wringing his hands with glee in the background and imagining how the Bush's arrival would play out: the Commander in Chief would gallop into New Orleans in a white helicopter, personally unloading food and supplies and handing them to a family in need. Then, while holding hands, everyone would sing God Bless America. Bush's abysmal ratings would get a boost, and everyone would forget all about Cindy Sheehan.

Unfortunately for the Neocons, their valiant efforts to "create reality" seemed to have been rudely interrupted by too many people asking too many good questions. The question of why National Guard troops are in Iraq instead of New Orleans is one that cannot be suppressed or spun in favor of the Bush regime; it ties directly to the issue that led to Bush's low ratings. When you toss in the fact that money that should have gone to reinforce the levees was diverted for the Iraqi invasion and "homeland security", it seems Katrina will be a political disaster for Bush.

As Will Bunch wrote in "Why the Levee Broke" at Alternet:

Washington knew that this day could come at any time, and it knew the things that needed to be done to protect the citizens of New Orleans. But in the tradition of the riverboat gambler, the Bush administration decided to roll the dice on its fool's errand in Iraq, and on a tax cut that mainly benefitted the rich. Now Bush has lost that gamble, big time.

It will be interesting to see what he does from here on out in an attempt to save himself...

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Storm economic impact seen modest - White House
Aug 31 11:57 AM US/Eastern

WASHINGTON - Hurricane Katrina is likely to have only a modest impact on the U.S. economy as long as the hit to the energy sector proves transitory, White House economic adviser Ben Bernanke said on Wednesday.

"Clearly, it's going to affect the Gulf Coast economy quite a bit," Bernanke told CNBC television. "That's going to be enough to have at least a noticeable or at least some impact on the aggregate (national) data.

"Looking forward ... reconstruction is going to add jobs and growth to the economy," he added. "As long as we find that the energy impact is only temporary and there's not permanent damage to the infrastructure, my guess is that the effects on the overall economy will be fairly modest."

He added that most indications suggested the effect on the energy sector would indeed be temporary.

Bernanke, chairman of President George W. Bush's Council of Economic Advisers, said the administration's decision to release oil from emergency stockpiles should be helpful.

"There are some petroleum refineries that don't have crude and by allowing them to draw from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve they will be able to produce more gasoline," he said.

Bernanke said the bond market's reaction to the hurricane, pushing market-set interest rates lower, showed more concern about the potential hit to growth than to the risk of a broad inflation surge due to soaring energy prices.

"I think that is a vote of confidence in the Federal Reserve," the former Fed governor said. "People are confident that inflation will be low despite these shocks to gasoline and oil prices."

Comment: This article appeared yesterday. Today, Bush himself was a tad less optimistic about the effects of an oil shortage:

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Bush tells victims: 'A lot of help coming'

Cabinet-level task force will coordinate relief efforts
Thursday, September 1, 2005; Posted: 7:54 a.m. EDT

WASHINGTON -- President Bush sought Thursday to reassure victims of Hurricane Katrina that the federal government was doing its best to send aid to the thousands of displaced and stranded people.

"I understand the anxiety of people on the ground," Bush told ABC's "Good Morning America." "... But I want people to know there's a lot of help coming."

Bush said he would visit the affected areas, but the trip was still being coordinated.

Bush surveyed Katrina's destruction from Air Force One on his way from Crawford, Texas, to Washington Wednesday.

Back at the White House, he announced a massive federal mobilization to help victims of the storm, but said recovery "will take years."

"We're dealing with one of the worst natural disasters in our nation's history," Bush said in an address from the Rose Garden, surrounded by members of his Cabinet. "I can't tell you how devastating the sights were."

"The folks on the Gulf Coast are going to need the help of this country for a long time. This is going to be a difficult road. The challenges that we face on the ground are unprecedented, but there's no doubt in my mind that we're going to succeed." (Transcript)

He told communities affected by the storm, "The country stands with you" and pledged, "We'll do all in our power to help you."

Bush announced that he has created a Cabinet-level task force to coordinate hurricane relief efforts across federal agencies, headed by Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff.

The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Michael Brown, will be in charge of the federal response on the ground in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

The White House also announced Wednesday that Bush has asked his father, former President George H.W. Bush, and former President Bill Clinton to spearhead an international relief effort for hurricane victims, similar to the effort they undertook for victims of last year's tsunami in South Asia.

Bush said the federal government's first priority is to rescue those still trapped and provide medical assistance. FEMA, the Coast Guard and the Department of Defense have sent resources to help with the search-and-rescue effort, he said.

The federal government also will use more than 400 trucks from the Department of Transportation to bring food, water and supplies to those whose homes have been damaged or destroyed, and plans are being made to provide housing, education and health care for the displaced, he said.

The president said the federal government would also undertake a "comprehensive recovery effort" to rebuild devastated communities and restore infrastructure, including roads and bridges wiped out by Katrina, an effort he said would take years. [...]

Bush also braced the country for a coming surge in energy prices in the wake of the destruction Katrina wrought on oil production in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Department of Energy is releasing supplies from the nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve to limit disruptions of supplies to oil refineries, which "will help take some pressure off of gas prices," and the Environmental Protection Agency has waived rules requiring low-pollution blends in some areas in order to increase availability of gas and diesel, he said.

"But our citizens must understand this storm has disrupted the capacity to make gasoline and distribute gasoline," the president said. [...]

Comment: Indeed, and Bush's comments seemed to be putting it mildly based on several articles we found...

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Shippers warn of supply chain chaos
By Dan Roberts, Jonathan Birchall, Kevin Allison and Amy Yee in New York
Financial Times
August 31 2005 23:06

Shippers on the Mississippi river are warning of disruption to supply chains and logistics across North America as the commercial impact of Hurricane Katrina extends far beyond initial worries about energy markets.

The port of New Orleans, a major gateway for commodities from grain to steel, remains closed while damage to navigational aids and debris also prevents larger ocean-going vessels from entering the Mississippi.

Rick Couch, president of Osprey shipping line, said: "This comes at a very bad time with the US agricultural harvest just a few weeks away. Some traffic can be diverted to Houston and ports upriver, but congestion is already building up."

Chemical plants and manufacturers have also warned that damage to local transport infrastructure could hinder recovery efforts after earlier shutdowns.

Big US retailers have been pushing to restock and resupply their stores in the hurricane-affected areas, with Wal-Mart and Home Depot setting up emergency centres at their headquarters to co-ordinate operations.

But the direct impact of the storm on sales at national chains will be offset by their comparatively limited exposure in Louisiana and Mississippi, whose combined population of around 7.5m is less than half the size of Florida's 17.4m. New Orleans itself is the 35th largest retail market in the US in terms of square footage of retail space, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers.

Traditionally, hurricane damage has resulted in stronger sales for home improvement retailers.

"I see complete disaster with flooding prevalent, so while Home Depot and Lowes might benefit in the longer term, in the short term I don't think there's going to be much of anything going on," said Bill Sims, a retail analyst at Citigroup.

Higher fuel prices and operational disruptions resulting from the storm will add to problems faced by struggling US airlines such as Delta Air Lines and Flyi, the parent company of Independence Air.

"Delta is already bleeding cash and at near-term risk of insolvency. The added financial pressure may hasten an already likely bankruptcy filing, which will probably occur within weeks," said Standard Poors, the debt ratings agency. "Closure of already raising gasoline prices significantly and is having an effect on jet fuel, as well," S&P said.

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At Least Ten U.S. Airports Face Closure Due To Jet Fuel Shortages August 31, 2005

Airlines and oil companies are working on plans to supply jet fuel to at least ten U.S. airports that could be shut down due to a lack of jet fuel caused by refinery and pipeline shutdowns from hurricane Katrina. The airports in most jeopardy for closure include Atlanta, Charlotte, Ft. Lauderdale, Ft. Myers, Orlando, Tampa, Washington Dulles and West Palm Beach.

AAG has learned that ChevronTexaco and Shell had cargoes loaded prior to the shutdowns destined for Florida ports. However, with the Colonial and Plantation pipelines shutdown due to a lost of power it could be sometime for shipments to reach airports from Atlanta to Washington D.C.

With future supply uncertain, airlines are working on plans to allocate jet fuel at critically short airports. While some airports may have up to five days of supply we have to expect that we won't receive additional shipments for some time. We either run down to flumes or we try to make it last as long as possible, said one airline fuel manager. Today, airlines are working on plans to allocate fuel in hopes of extending available supply at problem locations.

Initial reports vary as to the extent of damage to Gulf Coast refining. But a longer term problem may not be refining infrastructure but providing shelter for refinery workers.

"One of our refineries is scheduled to be back up soon but our real problem is finding housing for our workers. Most of their homes are destroyed or under water. Unless we can solve the housing problem we will not be fully operational for some time," said one major oil company representative.

Comment: Already in New Orleans, those who take food to feed their families and have dark skin are labeled "looters". The BBC reports survivors shooting at rescue helicopters. Rescue operations were called off as more National Guard troops arrived not to rescue those still stranded in the city, but to prevent more looting. Call us crazy, but if those stranded in New Orleans aren't going to be rescued, then they have to eat and obtain fresh water somehow. In the Louisiana heat, dehydration can be a big problem, especially if you are forced to camp out on the roof of your house. Not surprisingly, the population is angry with the Bush administration.

Martial law has been declared in parts of New Orleans.

Now imagine if there are nation-wide shortages of gas, certain foodstuffs, and other supplies...

It would appear that Katrina may also provide the Bush government with the opportunity to take America one step closer toward nation-wide martial law.

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Gas getting even costlier; lines reported
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 08/31/05

Lines at Atlanta area gas pumps grew along with prices this afternoon as word spread of possible fuel shortages.

By noon today, several metro Atlanta gas stations had posted prices above $3.15 per gallon. Some metro area stations were charging as much as $4.75 a gallon, according to a Web site that keeps track of such things,

Prices were rising so fast in some areas that signs at gas stations no longer matched what was being charged at the pumps.

Declaring that there's "credible evidence" of price-gouging at the gas
pumps, Gov. Sonny Perdue late Wednesday signed an executive order threatening to impose heavy fines on gasoline retailers who overcharge Georgia drivers.

"When you prey upon the fears and the paranoia, it is akin to looting, and it is abominable," Perdue said at a hastily called, 6 p.m. press conference.

The anti-gouging law does not prevent retailers from selling gas at higher rates but bars them from charging what the governor called "unreasonable or egregious" prices. It was last used after Hurricane Ivan hit Georgia.

Perdue also urged motorists to limit Labor Day vacation travel if possible.

"There is no reason to panic. There is plenty of gas on the way. The only way we would have problems is if people rush out and try to horde and try to accumulate gasoline they won't need for a while," the governor said today.

Comment: Of course, everyone will most likely rush out and horde gasoline...

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Ouch! $6 gas near Atlanta

Georgia governor outlaws gouging as stations jack up cost, lines form
Posted: August 31, 2005

As impacts of Hurricane Katrina affect both the production and transportation of fuel, gas stations in the Atlanta area today dramatically jacked up their prices, with one charging $5.87 a gallon.

WSB-TV in Atlanta confirmed to WND that a retailer in a rural area outside the city had priced its gas at $5.87, and the TV station indicated it had another unconfirmed report of $5.99. [...]

Most Atlanta stations that raised their prices placed them at between $3.50 and $4.

There were '70s-era gas lines at several stations.

Mike Brown, owner of Georgetown Chevron in Chamblee, Ga., said his station had run out of gasoline.

"People are just lined up,'' he told Bloomberg. "All of a sudden, people are panicking.'' [...]

Meanwhile, several gas stations in the Milwaukee area ran out of fuel for several hours at a time, having to post "Out of Gas" signs at their pumps. The outages were blamed more on logistical problems on the supply end than any increase in demand, reported.

As WorldNetDaily reported, many of the nation's truck drivers are encountering unprecedented fuel rationing at truck stops as they brace for a spike in prices.

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Katrina Damages NASA Facilities
(UPI) Aug 31, 2005

Hurricane Katrina while only causing minor damage to NASA spaceport facilities along the Gulf Coast is surrounded by a region facing long term recovery problems that will impact the ability of work to be conducted in the New Orleans area.

Reports say that NASA will relocate critical External Tank work to Florida and aim for a May 2006 launch window as the earliest date for a return to flight.

Damaged roofs and water leaks were found throughout the 832-acre Michoud complex, where Lockheed Martin manufactures the shuttle's external fuel tank.

In Michoud's main manufacturing building, concrete roof panels were blown away by winds gusting to 125 mph, leaving a large hole, the Orlando Sentinel reported.

Stennis Space Center is used by NASA to test rocket engines. That facility reported serious roof and water damage. Stennis is currently being used by state and federal officials as a shelter and base for relief operations.

If NASA is to meet its March 4-19 launch window, a newly redesigned fuel tank must leave Michoud by barge for Kennedy Space Center by mid-November. NASA officials say the chance of that occurring appears remote. The next launch window is May 3-22.

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Four Indicted in Alleged U.S. Terror Plot
Associated Press
Thu Sep 1, 6:57 AM ET

LOS ANGELES - Four men, including the head of a radical Islamic prison gang, were indicted on federal charges of plotting terrorist attacks against military facilities, the Israeli Consulate and synagogues in Los Angeles.

U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, in announcing the charges Wednesday in Washington, D.C., referred to the London mass transit attacks in July.

"Some in this country mistakenly believed it could not happen here. Today we have chilling evidence that it is possible," he said.

Named in the indictment were Levar Haley Washington, 25; Gregory Vernon Patterson, 21; Hammad Riaz Samana, 21; and Kevin James, 29.

The four conspired to wage war against the U.S. government through terrorism, kill armed service members and murder foreign officials, according to the indictment.

Prosecutors contend the plot was orchestrated by Washington, Patterson and Samana at the behest of James, an inmate at the California State Prison-Sacramento who founded the radical group Jamiyyat Ul-Islam Is-Saheeh.

According to the indictment, Washington pledged his loyalty to James "until death by martyrdom" and sought to establish a JIS cell outside prison with members with bomb expertise.

Washington, Patterson and Samana - who attended the same Inglewood mosque - allegedly conducted surveillance of the Los Angeles targets, as well as Internet research on Jewish holidays. Law enforcement officials have previously said that the military facilities included National Guard sites, though the indictment does not specify.

The attacks were to be carried out with firearms and other weapons at synagogues during Jewish holidays "to maximize the number of casualties," authorities said. Patterson allegedly bought a .223-caliber rifle in July.

In Los Angeles, authorities said the suspects could have attacked as soon as the Yom Kippur Jewish holiday in October.

"Make no mistake about it - we dodged a bullet here, perhaps many bullets," Los Angeles police Chief William Bratton said.

To finance the attacks, prosecutors said, Washington, Patterson and Samana robbed a string of gas stations in Los Angeles and Orange counties.

The case arose after Washington and Patterson were arrested July 5 by police in suburban Los Angeles for investigation of robbing the gas stations.

Counterterrorism officials began investigating after police who searched Washington's apartment said they found a list of possible terrorism targets. Samana, a student originally from Pakistan who lived in Inglewood, was taken into federal custody Aug. 2.

Attorney Winston McKesson, who represents Patterson, said his client asked him not to comment on the case. "He will allow the matter to be resolved in court," McKesson said.

Jerome Haig, Washington's public defender in the robbery case, declined to comment because he said he had not read the indictment. He added that he would not represent Washington in the federal terrorism case.

Samana's defense attorney did not immediately return calls seeking comment Wednesday.

James - known as Shakyh Shahaab Murshid, among other aliases - founded JIS in 1997 while imprisoned for attempted-robbery in Los Angeles County, prosecutors said. He preached that the duty of JIS members was to attack enemies of Islam.

Washington was paroled in November 2004, around the time authorities say he joined James' group.

James then instructed Washington to recruit five members without felony convictions and train them to conduct covert operations, acquire firearms with silencers and appoint a group member to help produce remotely activated explosives, prosecutors said.

The FBI recently ordered its agents nationwide to conduct "threat assessments" of inmates who may have become radicalized in prison and could commit extremist violence upon their release. FBI Director Robert Mueller said authorities have found no links between al-Qaida or other foreign terror groups and the alleged plot.

The defendants face life in prison if convicted of conspiring to kill uniformed members of the U.S. military. Another count the men face, seditious conspiracy, has not been widely used in terrorism cases.

Comment: Three more "American terrorists" have been arrested, and it seems the Bush government is monitoring countless others...

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FBI, Michigan Police Tag Peace, Affirmative Actions Groups as 'Terrorists'
By Matthew Rothschild
Republished from The Progressive
29 August 2005

FBI document reveals extensive monitoring of a whole bunch of organizations

An FBI document, released on August 29 by the ACLU, shows extensive monitoring of a whole bunch of organizations, ranging from the Aryan World Church and the Christian Identity movement to animal rights groups, an anti-war collective, and a leading pro-affirmative action coalition.

The document, dated January 29, 2002, is a summary of a domestic terrorism symposium that was held six days previously.

In attendance were the FBI, the Secret Service, the Michigan State Police, the Michigan State University police, and Michigan National Guard.

"The purpose of the meeting was 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," the document states.

One of those "terrorist groups" is By Any Means Necessary, which says its aim is "to defend affirmative action, integration, and fight for equality."

The FBI document said a detective, whose last name was blotted out, "presented information on a protest from February 8-10, 2002, in Ann Arbor, Michigan," by the group.

That "protest" was actually the Second National Conference of the New Civil Rights Movement, which was co-sponsored by the Reverend Jesse Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH, with keynote speaker Jonathan Kozol.

Comment: The Rainbow/PUSH Coalition's purpose is essentially the same as that of By Any Means Necessary. Therefore, the FBI must also think that the Rev. Jesse Jackson is a terrorist...

"We're standing up for education equity, and the American government is spying on us? That's an outrage," says Luke Massie, one of the national co-chairs of By Any Means Necessary. "This is palpable proof of what a lot of progressive people have worried about since 9/11: The Bush Administration is shredding our Bill of Rights before our eyes."

The February 8-10 conference was designed to build public support for affirmative action just as the Supreme Court was deciding two Michigan affirmative action cases.

"The timing of this shows the political motivation of the Bush Administration," says Shanta Driver, the group's other national co-chair. "We're completely nonviolent. But it's no surprise to us that people who are devoted to a new civil rights movement and the cause of equality would be targeted for this kind of surveillance and attack."

The FBI document acknowledged that the group was not violent. "Michigan State Police has information that in the past demonstrations by this group have been peaceful," the document states.

The FBI and Michigan law enforcement also discussed the Animal Liberation Front, as well as a local group. "Michigan State University (MSU) Public Safety . . . presented information on a group called East Lansing Animal Rights Movement," the document states. Then, after blotting out information about a student at Michigan State, the document adds: "MSU Public Safety feels that this group has approximately 12-15 members at this time."

On the web, ELARM identifies itself as a 'grassroots animal rights advocacy group' that 'believes strongly in the value of all animals, human or non-human, and therefore opposes any and all forms of animal exploitation. Our purpose is to educate the public regarding animal rights issues, and to expose and oppose animal abuse wherever it is found.'

The group actually is defunct now, according to Julie Hartman, who says she revived it in 2001 only to see it fold two years later.

"We did a couple of circus protests and that kind of thing," she says.

She got a copy of the FBI document last week.

"I was really surprised, considering we never once broke the law, that they would spend the time investigating us," she says.

The fact that the Michigan State University police estimated that there were twelve to fifteen members in her group creeps her out, she says.

"That seems to indicate that they would have to have come to a meeting to find out how many people were involved," she notes. "That actually made me start thinking, who was coming to our meetings?"

She believes the university police department has skewed priorities.

"It's certainly a waste of their resources," she says. "This is a large university. The number of rapes on this campus is astounding. The police always complain they don't have enough resources to do their job, but they're spending their resources to spy on peaceful groups! That's really just sickening."

The Michigan State University police gave no comment.

Another local group that law enforcement linked to ELARM is called Direct Action. Interestingly, the document notes that both groups had demonstrated against the FBI local office because of "perceived injustices by law enforcement." Included as an attachment to the FBI document was a clipping from the Lansing State Journal of January 19, 2002, about the protest, which was ironically entitled: "Dozens march against terrorism." The first sentence reads: "Dozens of students and others marched Friday to protest racial profiling and terrorism - which they say includes United States military action in Afghanistan."

On its website Direct Action says, 'We desire to challenge the calls for retribution, endless war, and destruction of civil liberties. Direct Action also wants to defend the gains made by the movement against corporate power that was birthed in this country on the streets of Seattle.'

Primarily a youth-based group, Direct Action is now focusing a lot of its work on counter-recruitment efforts.

Tommy Simon, a member of Direct Action, dismisses the terrorist label.

"What is a terrorist? The word is just a propaganda tool used to dissuade people from getting involved in activism - especially young people," he says. The group has never been violent, unlike the Bush Administration, he adds.

"We've organized protests and spoken out against the government, but that does not make us a threat in any way," he says. "We're working for peace here."

Sarah Mcdonald, a longtime member of Direct Action, was taken aback by the designation of her group.

"I was shocked," she says. "I was really disturbed that the FBI is misusing its power this way. They're trying to squash dissent, and they're doing that by monitoring anti-war groups and other groups against the Bush Administration."

The ACLU also condemns the police surveillance and the use of the label "terrorist" to describe the peace group and the affirmative action group.

"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. "When the FBI and local law enforcement identify affirmative action advocates as potential terrorists, every American has cause for concern."

Wasn't me, says the FBI.

"A plain reading of the document clearly notes that there were presentations at the symposium by someone outside the FBI that discussed the groups By Any Means Necessary and Direct Action," says an FBI press office statement of August 29. "The FBI does not make any representation about these groups in the document other than to note they were discussed during the symposium."

Kary Moss, executive director of the ACLU of Michigan, is not impressed with that statement. "What else can they say, other than we didn't do it, someone else did?" The point is, she says, law enforcement, including the FBI, were discussing these political groups on the assumption that they were "involved in terrorist activities," as the document states.

"Whenever you give police increasing powers, there's going to be confusion about where to begin and where to end," Moss says. "And that's what we're seeing here."

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Pentagon modifies Guantanamo tribunals
Thu Sep 1, 3:16 AM ET

WASHINGTON - US military authorities announced changes to the military commissions that will try detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to make the trials "more like a judge and jury model", the
Pentagon said.

But critics of the special tribunals called the changes "window dressing" that would not lead to fair and open hearings.

The changes will make the tribunals's presiding officers function "more like a judge", while positioning the other panel members more like a jury, said the Pentagon in a statement.

The presiding officer will decide most questions of law, the Pentagon said, and the other panel members will determine commission findings and decide any sentence of the accused.

In the earlier structure of the commissions, which began hearing cases last year, the three panel members together determined findings, decided legal questions and set sentences.

The Defense Department also clarified rules on the presence of the accused at his own trial, and his access to classified information.

Under the new provisions, the accused will be present except when necessary to protect classified information, and when the presiding officer rules that admitting such information would not render the trial unfair, the Pentagon said.

The changes were made in response to "lessons learned from military commissions proceedings that began in late 2004" and "a review of relevant domestic and international legal standards," as well as suggestions from outside organizations, it said.

The New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, which had strongly criticized the earlier tribunal setup, assailed the rule changes as "purely semantics and window dressing" that "do not provide for substantive improvements or access to fair and open hearings".

After winning an appeals court challenge to the special commissions in July, the Pentagon was moving quickly to try four detained "enemy combatants" at Guantanamo, whose preliminary hearings last year were stopped by the court challenge.

The trials of Yemeni Salim Ahmed Hamdan, the former chauffeur of
Osama bin Laden, and "Australian Taliban" David Hicks, could resume in September, according to military sources.

"The most recent manipulations of the military commission procedures represent a desperate attempt to salvage the failed commission process and a confirmation that Mr. Hicks will not receive a fair trial," Joshua Dratel and Major Michael Mori, Hicks's lawyers, said in a statement.

"The meaningless changes admit that the military commission is flawed."

Comment: Instead of making the fascist tribunal hearings "more like a judge and jury model", why not simply use a real judge and a real jury? On the one hand, we are told that the American judicial system is as fair and just as one will find anywhere. On the other hand, prisoners in the war on terror - including US citizens - are tried in kangaroo courts. If American democracy and justice is so great, why not apply it to those accused of terrorist acts? Those who are guilty will be found guilty, and those who are innocent will be acquitted - right?

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Update: Outspoken critic of Halliburton's contract ousted

General says poor work reviews prompted removal of Corps official
Washington Post
Aug. 28, 2005, 9:33PM

WASHINGTON - A high-level contracting official who has been a vocal critic of the Pentagon's decision to give Halliburton Co. a multibillion-dollar, no-bid contract for work in Iraq, was removed from her job by the Army Corps of Engineers, effective Saturday.

Lt. Gen. Carl Strock, commander of the Army Corps, told Bunnatine Greenhouse last month that she was being removed from the senior executive service, the top rank of civilian government employees, because of poor performance reviews.

Greenhouse's attorney, Michael Kohn, appealed the decision Friday in a letter to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, saying it broke an earlier commitment to suspend the demotion until a "sufficient record" was available to address her allegations.

The Army said last October that it would refer her complaints to the Pentagon's inspector general. The failure to abide by the agreement and the circumstances of the removal "are the hallmark of illegal retaliation," Kohn wrote to Rumsfeld. He said the review Strock cited to justify his action "was conducted by the very subjects" of Greenhouse's allegations, including the general.

Carol Sanders, a spokeswoman for the Army Corps, noted the Department of the Army approves all actions involving members of the senior executive service.

Greenhouse came to prominence last year when she went public with her concerns over the volume of Iraq-related work given to Halliburton by the Corps without competition. The Houston-based oil services giant already had a competitively awarded contract to provide logistics support for the military in the Middle East and was awarded a no-bid contract to repair Iraq oil fields on the eve of the war there in 2003.

Greenhouse complained internally about that contract. Last fall she started giving interviews to national publications. In June she testified before a Democrat-sponsored event on contracting in Iraq.

"I can unequivocally state that the abuse related to contracts awarded to (Halliburton subsidiary) KBR represents the most blatant and improper abuse I have witnessed" in 20 years working on government contracts, Greenhouse said.

She said the independence of the Corps' contracting process was compromised in the handling of the contact.

In the lead-up to the Iraq war in 2003, Greenhouse objected to a decision to give a five-year, no-bid contract to KBR for putting out the oil fires that Pentagon officials believed retreating Iraqi troops would set.

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Iraq holds funerals as stampede toll nears 1,000
September 1, 2005

BAGHDAD - Mass funerals were being held across in Iraq for many of the nearly 1,000 Shiite Muslim pilgrims killed by a stampede on a bridge over the Tigris River.

Thousands of grieving people continued the grim search for loved ones on Thursday, as bodies were still being pulled from the river and refrigerated trucks had been brought in to handle the overflow from the morgue at a nearby hospital.

The death toll from the tragedy stood at 965 in what was by far the largest single loss of life in Iraq since the US-led invasion in 2003.

Most of the dead were women, children and the elderly, who were crushed to death, trampled underfoot or drowned Wednesday as panic swept through a massive crowd sparked by rumours of a suicide bomber in their midst.

Another 815 people were injured, and some 200 remained in hospital, officials said.

The stampede occurred shortly after rebel mortarfire targeted the nearby Kadhimiyah mosque, killing seven people and wounding 37, as up to three million Shiites converged on Baghdad for an annual religious commemoration. [...]

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Iraq war costs more per month than Vietnam - report
By Alan Elsner
Wed Aug 31,12:09 AM ET

WASHINGTON - The U.S. war in Iraq now costs more per month than the average monthly cost of military operations in Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s, according to a report issued on Wednesday.

The report, entitled "The Iraq Quagmire" from the Institute for Policy Studies and Foreign Policy in Focus, both liberal, anti-war organizations, put the cost of current operations in Iraq at $5.6 billion per month. This breaks down to almost $186 million a day.

"By comparison, the average cost of U.S. operations in Vietnam over the eight-year war was $5.1 billion per month, adjusting for inflation," it said.

As a proportion of gross domestic product, the Vietnam War was more significant, costing 12 percent of annual GDP, compared to 2 percent for the Iraq War. However, economists said the Iraq war is being financed with deficit spending and may nearly double the projected federal budget deficit over the next 10 years.

The U.S. Congress has approved four spending bills for Iraq so far with funds totaling $204.4 billion and is expected soon to authorize a further $45.3 billion.

"Broken down per person in the United States, the cost so far is $727, making the Iraq War the most expensive military effort in the past 60 years," wrote authors Phyllis Bennis and Erik Leaver.

As public support for the war drops, more politicians, including some Republicans, have begun to compare it to Vietnam. [...]

The total cost of the Vietnam War in current dollars was around $600 billion and there are some experts who believe the Iraq War will eventually surpass that total. [...]

Comment: It's no wonder that money was diverted away from New Orleans and into the Iraq war - Bush's crusade doesn't come cheap!

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Reuters cameraman ordered held in Abu Ghraib
August 31, 2005

BAGHDAD - A cameraman for Reuters in Iraq has been ordered by a secret tribunal to be held without charge in Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison until his case is reviewed within six months, a U.S. military spokesman said on Wednesday.

Ali Omar Abrahem al-Mashhadani was arrested by U.S. forces on August 8 after a search of his home in the city of Ramadi. The U.S. military has refused Reuters requests to disclose why he is being held. He has not been charged.

His brother, who was detained with him and then released, said they were arrested after Marines looked at the images on the journalist's cameras.

"The CRRB has determined that Mr. Mashhadani remains a threat to the people of Iraq and they recommended continued internment," Lieutenant Colonel Guy Rudisill said, referring to a hearing of the Iraqi-U.S. Combined Review and Release Board held at a secret location in Baghdad on Monday.

He said Mashhadani would be entitled to a review of his case within 180 days and would be held at Abu Ghraib.

Rudisill said he would not be allowed to see an attorney, his family or anyone else for the first 60 days of his detention, which began in Abu Ghraib last week.

Reuters Global Managing Editor David Schlesinger said: "I am shocked and appalled that such a decision could be taken without his having access to legal counsel of his choosing, his family or his employers.

"I call on the authorities to release him immediately or publicly air the case against him and give him the opportunity to defend himself."


Mashhadani's home was searched along with others in the neighbourhood after shooting in the area.

Such shooting is common in Ramadi, where Sunni Arab insurgents are active. Reuters assigned Mashhadani to film such incidents.

"The CRRB Board is an independent and unbiased board and consists of nine members: six representatives of the Iraqi government ... and three senior Multi-National Forces officers," the U.S. military said in a statement on the case.

Rudisill said he was aware of five journalists for major news media in detention, including Mashhadani and another freelance cameraman who has worked for Reuters, as well as a cameraman for the U.S. television network CBS.

Journalists for other major international organisations have recently been released without charge after many months in custody.

Reuters is urgently seeking a detailed account of any accusations against Mashhadani.

Reuters soundman Waleed Khaled was killed in Baghdad on Sunday, apparently by U.S. troops, and cameraman Haider Kadhem, who was wounded in the same incident, has been held ever since by the U.S. military for questioning. Reuters has demanded his immediate release.

Iraqi police said U.S. troops fired into the car carrying the Reuters team.

Koichiro Matsuura, the director-general of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization UNESCO, condemned the killing and urged military forces in Iraq to ensure journalists can do their work freely.

"I trust that the ongoing U.S. investigation will explain the circumstances of events fully and pave the way for improvements in the future," Matsuura said in the statement.

"This is essential as the ability of the press to report freely on the situation in Iraq plays a key role in the future success of the democratic reconstruction of the country."

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ADL, Zionist Policies Causing Rise In Anti-Jewish Sentiment
By Leland Lehrman

I am an American citizen of Jewish heritage concerned about the methods and doctrines that the criminal leadership of the Jewish and Zionist hierarchy have promoted worldwide. I feel that Jewish Americans need to affirm loyalty to the Constitution of the United States of America as well as the Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule, rather than the racist attitudes of the Talmud and other Jewish scriptures.

My former intelligence friends are advising that I move quickly to publicize my situation in order to protect myself through publicity. [...]

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Israel split on Arab victims' payments
By Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem
The Independent
01 September 2005

Arab and left-wing Knesset members are seeking a legal change after Israeli ministers ruled that four Israeli Arabs, killedby an extreme right-wing Army deserter in protest at the withdrawal of Gaza settlers, were not eligible for compensation as victims of terrorism.

The Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon went out of his way after the murders to say the act was "terrorism" and suggest that relatives of the victims should get the same monthly payments as Jewish victims of Palestinian attacks. But a ministerial committee decided this week that they would not be counted as terrorism victims because they were killed by a an ex-soldier who was acting alone.

Labour Knesset member, Yuli Tamir, wants to amend the law to ensure the definition of "terrorism" should cover anyone killed as a result of actions aimed at foiling government policy.

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Grief, anger on anniversary of Russian school siege
By Oliver Bullough
Thu Sep 1, 6:17 AM ET

BESLAN, Russia - Grief mingled with anger in the ruins of Beslan's School No. 1 on Thursday as the Russian town marked the first anniversary of a hostage siege that ended in the deaths of 331 people.

Weeping mothers who lost their children appealed for asylum abroad, saying they did not want to live in a country where officials -- who some say made the death toll worse by botching the rescue operation -- value human life so little.

In a provincial town 500 km (300 miles) away, President
Vladimir Putin, in a somber black tie, led a minute's silence for the Beslan victims but he faces tough questioning on Friday when he is to meet a group of the mothers in the Kremlin.

Half of Beslan's dead were children. They had, exactly a year ago, arrived in their smartest clothes for the start of the academic year, only to be met by heavily-armed hostage-takers.

In the school's wrecked sports hall, where many of the victims perished two days later in an explosion and fire, women pressed their foreheads against photographs of their dead children that hung in rows on the walls.

In some places, several photographs carrying the same surname hung next to each other -- a sign that a whole family had been wiped out in the bloodshed.

Klara Gasinova had brought her granddaughter, 18-month-old Alyona, to the sports hall to show the child a photo of her mother, Fatima, and sister, Kristina. Both had died and Alyona was rescued from the school in the arms of a soldier.

"We went and laid flowers and lit candles and we showed Alyona the picture. She said 'Fatima, Fatima', because that's what she calls her," Gasinova said.


Visitors had to pass through metal detectors, mirroring the tight security at schools across Russia as children arrived for the first day of the new term amid fears militants could mark the anniversary with new attacks.

Putin was visiting a university in the southern Russian city of Krasnodar where students, as throughout Russia, were taking part in traditional celebrations to mark the first day of term.

"Today, a year on from the terrible tragedy in Beslan, millions of people in our country and abroad, all those who know about this terrible catastrophe, anyone who has a heart, are of course remembering that nightmare," he said.

"Let us fall quiet for a few seconds and remember those children, all those who died, who suffered at the hands of terrorists," Putin said in televised remarks.

In Beslan, the first day of term for the surviving children was pushed back out of respect for the dead.

The school was seized by militants from Russia's Chechnya region, which has been fighting for 10 years for independence from Moscow.

In a bloody climax two days later, an explosion in the sports hall prompted security forces to storm the school. Hundreds died in the ensuing firefight.


A year on, the people of Beslan still have dozens of unanswered questions. Many relatives say the official response to the siege was inept, badly-organized and heavy-handed.

The Beslan Mothers' Committee, a support group had gathered about 500 signatures by Thursday on a petition appealing to foreign countries to grant them asylum. Some members of the group are to meet Putin on Friday.

"We have lost hope for an honest investigation into the reasons ... for our tragedy and we do not want to live any longer in a country where human life means nothing," they said.

"What happened with the hostages was like cattle to the slaughter. The majority of those killed were blown up, shot by tanks or grenade-launchers or burned by flamethrowers."

Two official inquiries into the tragedy have still not published their reports, and no senior official has been punished for incompetence.

Officials have denied the operation was botched. Dozens of police and troops were killed trying to rescue children from the school in a hail of gunfire.

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'Miracle mouse' can grow back lost limbs
28 Aug. 2005

SCIENTISTS have created a "miracle mouse" that can regenerate amputated limbs or badly damaged organs, making it able to recover from injuries that would kill or permanently disable normal animals.

The experimental animal is unique among mammals in its ability to regrow its heart, toes, joints and tail.

The researchers have also found that when cells from the test mouse are injected into ordinary mice, they too acquire the ability to regenerate.

The discoveries raise the prospect that humans could one day be given the ability to regenerate lost or damaged organs, opening up a new era in medicine.

Details of the research will be presented next week at a scientific conference on ageing, Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence, at Cambridge University. Ellen Heber-Katz, professor of immunology at the Wistar Institute, an American biomedical research centre, says that the ability of mice at her laboratory to regenerate appears to be controlled by about a dozen genes.

She is still researching their exact functions, but it seems almost certain that humans have comparable genes.

"We have experimented with amputating or damaging several different organs, such as the heart, toes, tail and ears, and just watched them regrow," she said. "It is quite remarkable. The only organ that did not grow back was the brain.

Heber-Katz made her discovery when she noticed that the identification holes that scientists punch in the ears of experimental mice healed without any signs of scarring.

The self-healing mice, from a strain known as MRL, were then subjected to a series of surgical procedures. In one the mice had their toes amputated - but the digits grew back, complete with joints.

In another test some of the tail was cut off but also regenerated. Then the researchers used a cryoprobe to freeze parts of the animals' hearts, only to see these grow back again. A similar phenomenon was observed when the optic nerve was severed and the liver partially destroyed.

Heber-Katz will describe some of her findings at the Cambridge conference and plans to publish her results in a research paper. "We have found that the MRL mouse seems to have a higher rate of cell division," she said. "Its cells live and die faster and get replaced faster. That seems to be linked to the ability to regenerate."

The researchers suspect that the same genes could confer greater longevity and are measuring the animals' survival rate. The mice are, however, only 18 months old and the normal lifespan is two years so it is too early to reach conclusions.

Scientists have long known that less complex creatures have an impressive ability to regenerate. Many fish and amphibians can regrow internal organs or even whole limbs.

Humans can regenerate their liver provided at least a quarter remains intact, as well as their blood and outer skin, but no other organs regrow.

This is probably because, although most mammalian cells start off with the potential to develop into any cell type, they soon become very specialised. This allows mammals to develop more complex brains and bodies but deprives them of the power of regeneration.

By contrast, if a newt loses a limb then cells around the injury revert back into so-called stem cells. These can develop into whatever types of cell are needed, including bone, skin or nerves.

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Tropical Storm Lee Forms in Atlantic
Wed Aug 31, 4:49 PM ET

MIAMI - Tropical Storm Lee formed Wednesday in the central Atlantic, but posed no threat to land, forecasters said.

At 5 p.m. EDT, Lee was about 900 miles east of Bermuda and moving north-northeast at 12 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami. On this track, the five-day forecast projected the storm would stay far from land.

The tropical storm had top sustained winds of 40 mph, just above the 39 mph threshold to be classified as a tropical storm.

Lee was the 12th named storm of the unusually active Atlantic hurricane season. Typically, there are only four to five named storms by late August, according to the hurricane center. Hurricane season began June 1 and runs through November.

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China evacuates 790,000 as typhoon slams into coast
Thu Sep 1, 2005

SHANGHAI - China evacuated more than 790,000 people as powerful Typhoon Talim slammed into its east coast after barreling across Taiwan, where it left three dead and dozens injured.

Talim was forecast to be the strongest storm to hit China this season and the observatory in Fujian province issued its highest-level alert, warning of potential landslides, flooding and widespread damage.

With a radius of 250 kilometres (155 miles), Talim was packing centre winds of up to 144 kilometres (86 miles) per hour on Thursday, according to the central weather bureau in Taiwan.

The China Meteorological Association said the storm made landfall at Putian city in Fujian late afternoon, bringing torrential rain and strong winds.

State television showed rising seas off the coast of Fujian as rains hammered coastal roads, but winds did not appear as strong as they were in Taiwan where three people died and 59 were injured on Wednesday and Thursday.

Nearly 500,000 people have been evacuated in Fujian and another 291,000 from neighbouring Zhejiang province, according to local officials, while some 30,000 fishing vessels returned to harbour.

Most flights from Fujian's capital Fuzhou were cancelled Thursday and schools province-wide have been ordered to close until Monday, state television said.

Talim is "probably the strongest typhoon China will experience in terms of wind this summer," said National Meteorological Centre expert Zhang Ling.

Wang Dongfa, head of Zhejiang's meteorological bureau, said they expect the typhoon to focus on Fujian but nevertheless warned of torrential rain to Wenzhou, Taizhou and Ningbo cities and surrounding areas.

East and southeast China are prone to typhoons and have been pummeled by dozens over the past 50 years.

Talim churned through Taiwan Wednesday but by late Thursday had largely left the island as it churned toward China.

Two men drowned in southern Tainan and northern Miaoli counties while a 60-year-old woman was hit by lightning in the southern Changhua county, the National Fire Agency said.

Offices, schools and financial markets closed in Taiwan, all domestic flights were canceled and many trains and international air services were delayed.

An air raid drill slated for Friday in Taipei was postponed until next week.

Electricity was cut to 1.7 million homes but most were expected to be reconnected before the end of the day.

In Taichung, a bridge connecting Kukuan, a popular hot spring, was submerged by flash floods, prompting the evacuation of hundreds of tourists.

In the northeastern county of Ilan, powerful waves smashed into the port of Wushi which was closed by the authorities.

Among those injured were eight prisoners and a policeman, hurt when their van rammed a crash barrier.

In the capital, where the rain and winds were less severe than elsewhere, bars, karaoke lounges and restaurants were crowded as people took advantage of the national holiday declared as a result of Talim.

Most air and land traffic was expected to return to normal later Thursday as the typhoon moved away.

Comment: It seems China didn't have any problem evacuating over 790,000 people, yet the US government couldn't even get roughly 500,000 people out of New Orleans?

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Boy struck by giant tropical fish
Sunday, 28 August 2005

The Grey family were fishing off the coast of Pembrokeshire when the ocean sunfish - weighing around 30kg - landed on top of their son Byron.

"It knocked him flying," said Vivienne Grey, from Little Haven.

Sunfish - the world's largest bony fish - are native to warm, tropical waters and are less common in the UK.

Mrs Grey and her husband Andrew had taken Byron and his brother Owen, 12, fishing for lobster in their 14ft boat. They were about 150m off the coast of Little Haven when the incident happened.

"My husband said he was glad we went with him, because he's sure we wouldn't have believed him if he'd come home and told us about it," she said.

"We spotted the fin of the sunfish in the water and, because we knew they were rare, we thought we'd take the boat a bit closer to let the children have a look.

"But as we got closer, it just disappeared. The next thing we knew, it had leaped out of the water and landed in the boat, right on top of Byron.

"We grabbed him from under the fish, and both boys were just shouting to their dad to get the fish out of the boat.

"It was very heavy, but Andrew managed to lift it and heave it over the side.

"Luckily, Byron got away with cuts and grazes.

"I didn't realise there were fish that big in our waters."

The experience has not put the family off sailing, and the boys were back out in the boat within days.

Marine-watchers said several sunfish - which normally live in warm, tropical waters - had been seen off the Pembrokeshire coast in recent months. [...]

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Earthquake off Martinique
Wednesday, 31 August 2005

People in Martinique and St. Lucia felt the effects of an ocean-based earthquake, which measured 5.1 on the Richter scale.

The earthquake occurred at a depth of 34 kilometers. Its position was 15.73 degrees north and 60.42 degrees west, making it 60 kilometers off the coast of Martinique.

Dawn French, the Director of Castries' National Emergency Management Office says it was a high strength quake, but its depth minimized the effects felt in the islands.

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Volcano Activity Puts El Salvador on Alert
The Associated Press
Wednesday, August 31, 2005; 10:04 AM

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador -- Salvadoran authorities activated emergency plans Tuesday as a western volcano continued to spew gas and vapor in what experts said was a "significant increase" in activity.

The renewed energy was first detected on Saturday, when experts from the National Service of Earth Studies witnessed 17 small earthquakes around the Ilamatepec volcano, said agency director Antonio Arenas.

On Monday, scientists began to observe incandescent rocks in a 2,150-square-foot area near where columns of gas and vapor reached to 3,280 feet, Arenas said.

"The volcano is showing a significant increase in activity, both in the number of seismic events as well as in the amount of energy being liberated," said Salvadoran Interior Minister Rene Figueroa.

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Pope tells Catholics to multiply
Thursday September 1, 3:15 AM

Pope Benedict XVI told Catholics to have more babies "for the good of society," saying that some countries were being sapped of energy because of low birth rates.

"Having children is a gift that brings life and well-being to society," he told about 15,000 people at his weekly audience in the Vatican, to which he arrived by helicopter from his summer residence southeast of Rome.

He said the decline in the number of births "deprives some nations of freshness and energy and of hopes for the future incarnate in children."

The pope also spoke of "the security, the stability and the force of a numerous family."

Although the Vatican bans all forms of articial contraception, this is widely ignored even in predominantly Catholic countries such as Italy and Spain, which have some of the lowest birth rates in the world.

The pontiff regretted that God is "unhappily often excluded or ignored" in many societies.

"A sound society certainly is born out of the commitment of all of its members, but it also has a need of the blessing and support of God," he said.

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