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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


Copyright 2005 Pierre-Paul Feyte

Bush's Apology

Bush has bitten the bullet and realised that the only way out of the watery grave into which his political fortunes were washed by Katrina is by the time-honoured means of throwing money at the problem. However, he is still George W., and that means that the money will be heading into the pockets of his friends, cronies, and puppet masters. His apology appears directed at the recipients of this new government largesse: "Sorry I took so long to figure out another way to steal from the poor and homeless. That Sheehan woman must have rattled me more than I thought."

In the tradition of some of Bush's most memorable media events, the somewhat mistimed "Mission Accomplished" banner weeks into the Iraq invasion and occupation comes to mind, the wag the dog specialists dressed the stage of the royal master's mea culpa:

Bobby DeServi and Scott Sforza were on hand as we drove up about 8 p.m. or so EDT handling last-minute details of the stagecraft. Bush will be lit with warm tungsten lighting, but the statue and cathedral will be illuminated with much brighter, brighter lights, along nothing like the candlepower that DeServi and Sforza used on Sept. 11, 2002, to light up the Statue of Liberty for Bush's speech in New York Harbor. Here's a quote from DeServi on the lit up cathedral: "Oh, it's heated up. It's going to print loud.'' Bush will be hidden from street view by a large swatch of military camouflage netting, held in place by bags of rocks and strung up on poles, if I remember correctly. (Elisabeth Bumiller NYT, Cited by Wonkette)

Bush's speech to the victims was sorely missing the purported audience -- those left homeless by the devastation. Rather than face their wrath in the Astrodome or one of the detention camps into which they have been herded, Bush was carefully hidden behind military camouflage in the city his storm troopers had been fighting to empty of the hold-outs, the ones who suspected that were they to leave, they might never be allowed back in. As New Orleans' mayor Ray Nagin announced that certain neighborhoods would be open next week, we wonder about the real reason behind driving out those who wished to stay? Has FEMA suddenly become so efficient and effective that the threat of disease has ceased?

A report from Houston says that according to a poll, 44% of those evacuated don't want to return. They plan to stay where they are. That's one way to rid the city of its poor.

Behind the heart-felt manipulation of last night's speech lies a major political operation meant to save his administration and his political testament. So before we get all teary-eyed at the compassion Bush is showing for the victims, let's look at some thoughts on how the money is going to be spent...

First, the majority of those stranded in New Orleans were poor and black. So the first thing Bush does is to declare that the federal legislation requiring that minimum wage be respected during the reconstruction, the Davis-Bacon Act, does not apply. Is the logic that it will be better to poorly pay more people?

Will the contractors be forgoing part of their profit margins in the name of a humanitarian cause?

The next few articles look at what may be in store over the next months and years, and how the disaster will be turned into an opportunity to further entrench the neocon, neoliberal vision.

There are important questions, of which one of the most evident is how the reconstruction will be financed? Bush is promising $200 billion. Will he cut on the war in Iraq? Yeah, right! But it will have to come from somewhere, and the US economy is already in trouble with the huge deficits the war is imposing.

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Heritage Foundation Capitalizes on Katrina

Washington, DC's premier right wing think tank puts forward a laundry list of conservative proposals to rebuild the Gulf Coast
Bill Berkowitz
September 15, 2005

Drill the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, suspend environmental regulations including the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act, suspend prevailing wage labor laws, promote vouchers and school choice, repeal the estate tax and copiously fund faith-based organizations. These are just some of the recommendations a trio of hearty Heritage Foundation senior management officials are making to best facilitate the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast.

Just as the Iraq War has been a Petri Dish for the neoconservative foreign policy agenda, rebuilding the Gulf Coast in the wake of Hurricane Katrina could prove to be the mother of all testing grounds for a passel of active Heritage Foundation's domestic policy initiatives.

Washington, DC's most prestigious and influential right wing think tank has been rocking and rolling since Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.

In a WebMemo entitled "President's Bold Action on Davis-Bacon Will Aid the Relief Effort," Senior Research Fellow Ronald D. Utt applauded Bush for suspending provisions of the Davis-Bacon Act applying "to federally funded construction projects in the Gulf Coast areas hit by Hurricane Katrina."

Utt wrote that the president "is to be commended for showing the courage to take this important but controversial stand... eliminating the 'prevailing wage' clause [which] should lead to a more efficient and lower cost recovery." Finally, without a hint of irony as to which entities will actually capitalize on the disaster, Utt praises the president for showing courage "in denying the politically powerful labor unions the unfair benefits they would otherwise have reaped from others' misfortune."

Two Heritage Press Room commentaries warned against playing the "blame game":

In her September 9, commentary entitled "Preventing future catastrophes," Helle Dale, the director of the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at the foundation, deflects blame from President Bush while praising him for "the creation of an investigatory committee to look into 'what went right and what went wrong,' as the president put it."

James Carafano's September 13, Press Room commentary entitled "The Limits of Relief," provides a litany of so-called reasonable hypotheses as to why it took so long for the government to provide relief for the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

It will be interesting to see how the foundation's commentators spin President Bush's remarks on Tuesday, September 13, when he said that he "take[s] responsibility" for failures in dealing with Hurricane Katrina.

A far more impressive Heritage Foundation document, however, says it all: An expansive Special Report written by Ed Meese, Stuart Butler, and Kim Holmes, lay out the foundation's cross-pollinated all-encompassing plan for rebuilding the Gulf Coast. Entitled "From Tragedy to Triumph: Principled Solutions for Rebuilding Lives and Communities," the Special Report provides a set of guidelines and recommendations which come from the foundation's two-plus decade playbook.

Meese and comrades maintain that it is imperative "that taking action swiftly does not lead to steps that cause dollars to be used inefficiently or unwise decisions that will frustrate rather than achieve long term success."

The Heritage Foundation's "Guidelines" for rebuilding the Gulf Coast include:

  • The federal government should provide support and assistance only in those situations that are beyond the capabilities of state and local governments and the private sector. State and local governments must retain their primary role as first responders to disasters. The federal government should avoid federalizing state and local first response agencies and activities.
  • Federal financial aid, when necessary, should be provided in a manner that promotes accountability, flexibility, and creativity. In general, tools such as tax credits and voucher programs, which allow individuals and families to direct funds, should be utilized to encourage private-sector innovation and sensitivity to individual needs and preferences.
  • Consistent with genuine health and safety needs, red tape should be reduced or eliminated to speed up private-sector investment and initiative in the rebuilding of facilities and the restoration of businesses. Regulations that are barriers to putting people back to work should be suspended or, at a minimum, streamlined.
  • Congress should reorder its spending priorities, not just add new money while other money is being wasted. Now is the time to shift resources to their most important uses and away from lower-priority uses to use taxpayer dollars more effectively. It is critical that America focus on building capabilities for responding to a catastrophic disaster, not on catering to the wish lists of cities, parishes or counties, states, and stakeholders.
  • Private entrepreneurial activity and vision, not bureaucratic government, must be the engine to rebuild. New approaches to public policy issues such as enhanced choice in public school education should be the norm, not the exception...The critical need now is to encourage investors and entrepreneurs to seek new opportunities within these cities...The key is to encourage private-sector creativity -- for example, by declaring New Orleans and other severely damaged areas "Opportunity Zones" in which capital gains tax on investments is eliminated and regulations eliminated or simplified.
  • Funding from the federal government for homeland security and disaster response and relief activities should focus on national priorities, better regional coordination and communication, and capitalizing federal assets.
  • Catastrophic disasters will require a large-scale and rapid military response that only the National Guard can provide. The National Guard needs to be restructured to make it both more effective and quicker to take action.

According to Meese, Butler and Holmes the key to successfully rebuilding the Gulf Coast is to "encourage creative and rapid private investment through incentives and reduced regulation, and to channel long-term education, health, and other assistance directly to the people and areas affected so that they can control their future."

The report suggests that, "New Orleans and other affected areas" be declared "Opportunity Zones." In these areas, "the President should direct an Emergency Board, drawn from federal, state, and local agencies and the private sector, to identify regulations at all levels that impede recovery and should propose temporary suspension or modification of these rules."

Suspending Davis-Bacon "would significantly reduce the cost of reconstruction and provide more opportunities for displaced Americans who are without jobs to work on federal projects to restore their neighborhoods." They do not detail the putting in place of any mechanisms aimed at preventing the reconstruction of the Gulf Coast from turning into an Iraq-like rip off. In addition, they do not explain how workers, many of whom have lost everything, can possibly afford to rebuild their homes and their lives by working for wages at, or close to, the minimum wage.

They recommend "repeal[ing] or waiv[ing] restrictive environmental regulations that hamper rebuilding a broad array of infrastructure from refineries to roads and stadiums." They also advocate "substantial changes in environmental laws such as the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Clean Water Act" which they charge "have contributed to Katrina's damage,"

They believe the best way to get the energy infrastructure up and running is to "waive or repeal Clean Air Act (CAA) regulations that hamper refinery rebuilding and expansion," "waive or repeal gasoline formulation requirements under the Clean Air Act so as to allow gasoline markets to work more flexibly and efficiently and reduce costs to the American consumer," and "increase the production of oil in the United States" by drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).

As an indication of how out of touch the Heritage Foundation is with the vast majority of the victims of Hurricane Katrina, they are offering a so-called tax relief package that will have little to no effect on most of the victims' lives. Front and center are recommendations to: "streamline or suspend" parts of the federal tax code in the so-called Opportunity Zones; repeal the estate tax in order to prevent the victims of the disaster from being "hounded by the IRS"; "postpone payment of 2004 and 2005 individual and business income taxes for Katrina's victims," and "waive penalties for withdrawals from tax-advantaged savings such as IRAs and 401(k) plans."

How many of the folks that you saw on the roofs of their houses and stuffed into the crumbling Superdome have IRAs and 401(k) plans, Mr. Meese?

The report goes on to propose "refundable tax credits for the purchase of the kind of health insurance that best meets their personal needs," voucherizing public school education, and encouraging public/private partnerships "through leasing" instead of constructing new public schools.

Finally, the report advocates the elimination of any-and-all barriers that prevent "charitable and faith-based groups, as well as uncertified or non-union individuals," from participating fully in the reconstruction.

Comment: So, it doesn't take a crystal ball to see that the enourmous "opportunity" opened up by Katrina will see faith-based initiatives forming the base of the new levee that will be built to contain the poor. More proselytising to impose the dangerous mind-numbing creed of evangelical Christianity on a shell-shocked population. The Lord works in mysterious ways!

And while this is going on, the tried and true Christians will prove their great love in God, and, especially, how much God loves them back, by making them rich rebuilding the city. With the poor conspicuously absent from the rebuilding plans, we foresee New Orleans becoming a toxic waste area in more ways than one.

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Let's all be clear about one thing
Josh Marshall

Let's all be clear about one thing.

As we suggested last night, and as President Bush has now put us on notice, the Gulf Coast reconstruction effort is going to be run as a patronage and political operation.

That's not spin or hyperbole. They're saying it themselves.

The president has put Karl Rove in charge of the reconstruction, with a budget of a couple hundred billion dollars.

They've announced this in various ways over the last few days. But here's another, from today's Times ...

Republicans said Karl Rove, the White House deputy chief of staff and Mr. Bush's chief political adviser, was in charge of the reconstruction effort, which reaches across many agencies of government and includes the direct involvement of Alphonso R. Jackson, secretary of housing and urban development.

Karl Rove runs political operations and manages coalitions through patronage. That's what he does. And that's what this is about.

Everybody realizes that. Don't expect much if any discussion of this point in the major papers or on the networks.

It's shameless. But that's beside the point.

This is a time when the country needs an opposition party. Every Democrat should be hitting on this. Take the politics out of the reconstruction effort. He put his chief spin-doctor in charge of the biggest reconstruction and refugee crisis the country's probably ever faced. That tells you all you need to know about his values. Nothing that happened in the last couple weeks meant anything to him. And nothing has changed. Same as Iraq. Same stuff.

Comment: No surprise here.

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Speculators Rushing In as the Water Recedes

Would-be home buyers are betting New Orleans will be a boomtown. And many of the city's poorest residents could end up being forced out.
By David Streitfeld, Times Staff Writer

BATON ROUGE, La. - Brandy Farris is house hunting in New Orleans.

The real estate agent has $10 million in the bank, wired by an investor who has instructed her to scoop up houses - any houses. "Flooding no problem," Farris' newspaper ads advise.

Her backer is a Miami businessman who specializes in buying storm-ravaged property at a deep discount, something that has paid dividends in hurricane-prone Florida. But he may have a harder time finding bargains this time around.

In some ways, Hurricane Katrina seems to have taken a vibrant real estate market and made it hotter. Large sections of the city are underwater, but that's only increasing the demand for dry houses. And in flooded areas, speculators are trying to buy properties on the cheap, hoping that the redevelopment of New Orleans will start a boom.

This land rush has long-term implications in a city where many of the poorest residents were flooded out. It raises the question of what sort of housing - if any - will be available to those without a six-figure salary. If New Orleans ends up a high-priced enclave, without a mix of cultures, races and incomes, something vital may be lost.

"There's a public interest question here," said Ann Oliveri, a senior vice president with the Urban Land Institute, a Washington think tank. "You don't have to abdicate the city to whoever shows up."

For now, though, it's a seller's market, at least for habitable homes.

Two months ago, Steve Young bought a two-bedroom condo in New Orleans' Garden District as an investment for $145,000. Last month, he was transferred by Shell Oil to Houston. Last week, he put the condo on the market.

In a posting on Craigslist, an Internet classified advertising site, Young asked $220,000. He got a dozen serious expressions of interest - enough so he's no longer actively pursuing a buyer.

"I'm pretty positive the market's going to move up from here," he said.

So, to their surprise, are many others.

"I thought this storm was the end of the city," said Arthur Sterbcow, president of New Orleans-based Latter & Blum, one of the biggest real estate brokerages on the Gulf Coast.

"If anyone had told me two weeks ago that I'd be getting the calls and e-mails I'm getting, I would have thought he was ready for the psychiatric ward."

Messages from those wanting to buy houses - whether intact or flooded - and commercial properties are outrunning those who want to sell by a factor of 20, said Sterbcow, who has set up temporary quarters in his firm's Baton Rouge office.

"We're pressing everyone into service just to answer the phones," he said.

These eager would-be buyers may be drawing their inspiration from Lower Manhattan, which proved a bonanza for those smart enough to buy condos there immediately after the Sept. 11 attack.

Of course, in southern Louisiana, everything is hypothetical for the moment. The storm destroyed many property records and displaced buyers, sellers, agents and title firms, so no deals are actually being done. Insurance companies haven't started to settle claims yet, much less determine how, or whether, they will insure New Orleans in the future. The city hasn't even been drained.

But people are thinking ahead, influenced by a single factor: the belief that hundreds of billions of dollars in government aid is going to create a boomtown. The people administering that aid will need somewhere to live, as will those doing the rebuilding. So will employees of companies lured back to the area, and the service people that attend to them.

All this will lead to what Sterbcow delicately calls a "reorientation" of the city.

"Everyone I talked to has said, 'Let's start with a clean sheet of paper, fix it and get it right,' " he said. "Some of the homes here were only held together by the termites."

What the owners of the city's estimated 150,000 flooded houses will get out of "reorientation" is unclear, especially if the houses were in bad shape and uninsured.

Some black New Orleans residents say dourly that they know what's coming. Melvin Gilbert, a maintenance crew chief in his 60s, stood outside an elegant hotel in the French Quarter this week and recalled how the neighborhood had been gentrified.

He remembered half a century ago when the French Quarter had a substantial number of black residents.

"Then the Caucasians started offering them $10,000 for their homes," he said. "Well, they only bought the places for $2,000, so they took it and ran."

The white residents restored the homes, which rose quickly in value. Gilbert said he expected the same dynamic when the floodwaters receded in the heavily black neighborhoods east of downtown.

The question of who should own New Orleans is already sparking tension. The first posting seeking New Orleans property "in any condition or location" was placed on Craigslist on Aug. 29, while the storm still raged. With small variation, it was repeated numerous times over the next week.

Some readers were infuriated. "Do you read/watch/understand any of the news broadcasts coming from the city? Or do you just go to 'Cashing in on Desperation, Despondency, and Depression: How to Make a Zillion Dollars investing in Disaster Area Real Estate' seminars. Sheeeeeesh!" wrote one.

The process of tracking down owners of deluged houses is greatly slowed by the absence of records. It's not going to be easy to find these people, said Farris, the Baton Rouge real estate agent.

What would she pay for a ruined house?

Farris demurred, saying it was too early to tell, but probably only the value of the land, if that. Though the French Quarter may be back to life within months, outlying districts such as North Bywater and the Lower 9th Ward will take years, if they ever do. Investors might hope this is the equivalent of buying land on the outskirts of a boomtown, but it's not a guarantee.

For one thing, there are already proposals to convert certain flooded areas - including some water-logged neighborhoods - into parks. Under the Supreme Court's recent ruling broadening the definition of eminent domain, speculators could be forced to sell their properties to the government.

That would be a great outcome for many homeowners in the parishes south and east of New Orleans that bore the brunt of the storm.

Six months ago, Todd La Valla, a Re/Max real estate agent, bought a four-unit apartment building for $59,000 in the community of Buras, an unincorporated hamlet in Plaquemines Parish 55 miles southeast of New Orleans.

The tenants evacuated in the storm, or at least La Valla hopes they did. He's sure the building is gone too, like just about everything else in the area. La Valla had no insurance, which means his $10,000 investment is probably a complete loss.

Yet where there's disaster, there's opportunity.

"I've had calls from investors in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, New York looking to buy property," La Valla said. "This is going to be hard for the poor, the elderly, those that didn't have insurance. But it's going to be great for some people."

At first, Lucia Blacksher thought she was in the bad news group. In June, she and her boyfriend put their entire savings, about $35,000, into their dream house - a century-old shotgun Victorian in the New Orleans neighborhood of Mid-City. When the storm came, they fled to Blacksher's parents' house in Birmingham, Ala.

The house, which cost $225,000, is partially flooded. Her boyfriend, a Virginian who figures he's seen enough of hurricanes to last him the rest of his life, wants to move. The insurance company won't return calls.

Last week, Blacksher was worried she would lose her beloved house either to foreclosure or a forced sale. One of those bottom-feeders would get it.

She was more optimistic Wednesday. Somehow, she would get through this.

"Because the house survived the storm, it will be even more valuable," she said. "You could offer me $300,000 and I wouldn't take it. No way."

Comment: Notice that buzzword: "opportunity". Ah, sweet music to the ears of a forward-thinking, risk-taking entrepreneur. When misfortune strikes, the psychopaths are in their natural environment.

White folks will use the "opportunity" as a way to undertake a great experiment in social reshaping, eliminating housing for the poor, and creating the country's largest gated community.

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Fewer than half of Katrina evacuees in Texas want to go home again: poll says
11:39 AM EDT Sep 16

WASHINGTON (AP) - Fewer than half of the hurricane Katrina evacuees living in shelters in the Houston area want to go home again, according to a poll by the Washington Post and the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

Forty-three per cent said they wanted to move back home when they can. About the same number of evacuees - 44 per cent - said they wanted to permanently relocate, and most of them wanted to stay in Houston, said the poll published Friday.

The slow response to the storm strained faith in government. Six in 10 said the experience had made them feel that the government didn't care about people like them.

But their religious faith has been strengthened, eight in 10 said. And 90 per cent were hopeful about the future.

The evacuees polled, all from New Orleans or elsewhere in Louisiana, also said:

- More than half of their homes had been destroyed. Two-thirds were renters and a third were homeowners.

- Almost 75 per cent didn't have insurance to cover their losses.

- More than half didn't have health insurance, a usable credit card with them, or a bank or chequing account from which they could withdraw money.

- More than two-thirds said they didn't evacuate because they didn't realize how bad the storm and its aftermath would be. More than half - 55 per cent - said one factor was that they didn't have a car or a way to leave.

The survey of 680 randomly selected evacuees at Houston-area shelters was conducted Sept. 10-12 by ICR. The margin of error was said to be plus or minus four percentage points. The Harvard School of Public Health collaborated on the project.

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Ignorance and abdication that amounts to madness

All political leaders sometimes parry with the truth, but with Bush the disconnections are systematic

John Berger
Thursday September 15, 2005
The Guardian

As a consequence of the catastrophe that occurred in New Orleans, people in the US and throughout the world have started to re-examine the record of the present leaders of the first world superpower. A shift in opinion has taken place almost overnight. History, throwing us all back into our seats, suddenly opened its throttle.

Katrina - everyone refers to the hurricane by her name as if she were some kind of avatar - revealed that there is dire and increasing poverty in the US, that black people are typically treated as unwanted second-class citizens, that the systematic cutting of government investment in public institutions has produced widespread social disequilibrium and destitution (40 million Americans live without any aid if they fall ill), that the so-called war against terrorism is creating administrative chaos, and that within and against all this, voices of protest are being raised loud and clear.

All this though was evident before Katrina to those living it, and to those who wanted to know. What she changed was that the media were there for once, showing what was actually happening, and the fury of those to whom it was happening. With her terrible gesture she wiped the opaque screens clean for a little while.

In some gnomic way the as-yet-innumerable dead on the Gulf coast spoke not for but with the 100,000 Iraqis who have died as a consequence of the ongoing disastrous and criminal war. Time and again in the US press, Katrina and Iraq are being mentioned together. Yet Katrina was regular. She belonged to the familiar weather conditions which affect the Gulf of Mexico. She was not hiding in Afghanistan. And merciless as she was, she did not belong to any axis of evil. She was simply a natural threat to American lives and property, and she was heading for Louisiana.

It was in the self-interest (as well as the national interest) of the president and his chosen colleagues to meet the challenge she threw down, to foresee the needs of her victims and to reduce the ensuing pain and panic to the minimum possible. If they, the government, happened to fail to do this, they would be able to blame nobody else, and they themselves would be blamed. A child could foresee this. And they failed utterly. Their failure was technical, political and emotional. "Stuff happens," murmurs Donald Rumsfeld.

Is it possible that this administration is mad? Let us try to define the variant of madness, for it may be that it has never occurred before. It has very little to do, for example, with Nero when he fiddled while Rome burned. Any madness, however, implies a severe disconnection with reality, or, to put it more precisely, with the existent.

The variant we are considering touches upon the relationship between fear and confidence, between being threatened and being supreme. There is no negotiation between the two. Their "madness" operates like a switch which turns one off and the other on. And what is grave about this is that it is in the long periods of negotiating between fear and confidence that the existent is normally surveyed and observed in its multitudinous complexity. It is there that one learns about what one is facing.

Five days after Katrina had struck, when President Bush finally visited the devastated city, he astounded journalists by saying: "I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees." On the same day, in the wrecked small town of Biloxi, the president's flying visit was preceded by a team who quickly cleared the rubble and corpses from the route his cortege would take. Two hours later the team vanished, leaving everything else in the town exactly as it was.

The calculations of the present US government are closely related to the global interests of the corporations, and what has been termed the survival of the richest, who today also vacillate abruptly between fear and confidence.

The lobbyist Grover Norquist, who is a talking head for corporate interests and to whom Bush and co listened when planning their tax reforms for the benefit of the rich, is on record as saying: "I don't want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub."

All political leaders sometimes parry with the truth, but here the disconnections are systematic and crop up not only in their announcements but in their every strategic calculation. Hence their ineptness. Their operation in Afghanistan failed, their war in Iraq has been won (as the saying goes) by Iran, Katrina was allowed to produce the worst natural disaster in US history, and terrorist activities are increasing.

An ignorance about most of what exists, and an abdication from the very minimum of what can be expected of government - are we not approaching disconnections which amount to what can be called madness when found in the minds of those who believe they can rule the planet?

Comment: Madness, certainly, but perhaps not completely in the sense Mr Berger has identified. Suppose these same leaders are well-aware that the past due date on modern civilisation expired at the turn of the millennium and that we are living as it were on borrowed time? What if they were aware that the changes in climate are irreversible, that ever greater disasters, disasters that will make Hurricane Katrina and the tsunami in Southeast Asia seem tame in comparison, are inevitable?

Rather than the fruit of ineptitude and contempt, might we not find their policy borne of calculation and contempt? (You didn't think we'd leave the contempt out of the equation, did you?)

We think that this is in fact was is happening. Leaders like Bush and those pulling his strings know very well that Katrina is not an isolated incident. They are expecting worse. In order to prepare, they are locking down the planet in order to be able to control the population, to contain the damage that they, themselves, will suffer while buried deep in their bunkers and underground cities as they ride out of storm.

To fall for the explanation of ineptitude is to react as they are planning, as they are hoping, because as long as we fool ourselves into thinking they are bumbling idiots, we will not see the truly sinister plans their tom-foolery is hiding. As with 9/11 where we were fed the line that it was an "intelligence failure", once more we are being told that these men are "disconnected". Yes, they are disconnected in the sense that they are psychopaths who are incapable of feeling anything for another human being. But these people are not disconnected from reality. They may have a better view on reality than most of their critics because they know what is coming, and they are actively preparing for it while the "opposition" is lost in the illusion that things haven't changed, that the ground-rules are the same.

Whether or not global warming is the result of human action or is a natural cycle, it is here and it is having an effect. We think that even if human action may play a role, it is not the only cause, and some of the causes are things over which we have no control. Think changes in the cosmos. Think meteors falling like rain.

Our leaders know that this is what is on the way. We can see how they are reacting, how they are preparing.

What are the rest of us going to do about it?

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Katrina website popular
Manawatu Standard
14 September 2005

Yesterday city councillor Lynne Pope woke up to find 191 emails waiting for her.

Now she is trying to figure out what to say to the family from New Orleans who, after watching police shoot a family member, pinned a note to his body - but now can't find him.

And how does she reply to the mother looking for her 22-year-old son who is autistic and can't communicate, or to the mother who asked to have her eight-year-old daughter's name taken off the missing person's list because the child's body has been found.

Pope, along with Peter Koch in Switzerland and Texan Jonathan Cutrer are the core of a group of volunteers who have set up a website, Katrina Evacuee Help Center at, to help those affected by Hurricane Katrina.

Pope, who runs an internet design business, was participating in an international software development forum, online, when a pastor from Louisiana, who is in charge of the shelters in his area, posted a message asking for help with his website, Pope said. "When Peter got talking to him we found the problem wasn't his website, but that there was not a centralised unified database for people to use. We actually thought that the Federal Government disaster agency would have set something up before the disaster . . . so as nobody had done it, we did."

In the first 24 hours more than 500 people visited the site and by the time it was launched 12 families had made contact with each other for the first time since the hurricane struck, she said.

"We didn't even get to develop the site and test it before people were using it.

"The need is so urgent."

The site contains the names of more than 300,000 people still missing after the hurricane.

While Pope receives a couple of emails a day asking to have names removed from the list because people have been found, she receives "dozens and dozens" asking to remove names because their bodies have been found, she said.

"There have been many tears."

The team members, who do not get paid, have had hundreds of volunteers from all around the world, including web designers and software programmers, helping out and have been working hard out for 18 to 20 hours a day for the past 11 days, she said.

A big problem is getting word out to people on the ground that there is a large website worth looking at, she said.

As well as missing persons, other features of the site include downloadable government aid forms, a volunteer register, morgue listings and a job registry. The database can be searched via cellphone and one volunteer group has been distributing cellphones around the shelters and others have been setting up internet booths at the shelters.

Pope said they are now getting support from US senators and many agencies were contacting them to add their databases to one central location.

"It's getting bigger by the day."

Comment: More than 300,000 people are still missing, yet all we see on the mainstream news is that far fewer people were killed by Katrina than expected. So, where did all the people go??

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Bush Lays Out Gulf Coast Rebuilding Plan
Associated Press
September 16, 2005

WASHINGTON - President Bush is urging Congress to approve a massive reconstruction program for the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast and promising that the federal government will review the disaster plans of every major American city.

The government failed to respond adequately to Hurricane Katrina, Bush said Thursday night from storm-damaged New Orleans as he laid out plans for one of the largest reconstruction projects ever. The federal government's costs could reach $200 billion or beyond.

The president, who has been dogged by criticism that Washington's response to the hurricane was slow and inadequate, said the nation has "every right to expect" more effective federal action in a time of emergency such as Katrina, which killed hundreds of people across five states, forced major evacuations and caused untold property damage.

Disaster planning must be a "national security priority," he said, while ordering the Homeland Security Department to undertake an immediate review of emergency plans in every major American city.

"Our cities must have clear and up-to-date plans for responding to natural disasters and disease outbreaks or a terrorist attack, for evacuating large numbers of people in an emergency and for providing the food and water and security they would need," Bush said.

He acknowledged that government agencies lacked coordination and were overwhelmed by Katrina and the subsequent flooding of New Orleans. He said a disaster on this scale requires greater federal authority and a broader role for the armed forces. He ordered all Cabinet secretaries to join in a comprehensive review of the government's faulty response.

"When the federal government fails to meet such an obligation, I as president am responsible for the problem, and for the solution," Bush said, looking into the camera that broadcast his speech live on the major television networks from historic Jackson Square in the heart of the French Quarter. "This government will learn the lessons of Hurricane Katrina."

Bush faced the nation at a vulnerable point in his presidency. Most Americans disapprove of his handling of Katrina, and his job-approval rating has been dragged down to the lowest point of his presidency also because of dissatisfaction with the Iraq war and rising gasoline prices. He has struggled to demonstrate the same take-charge leadership he displayed after the Sept. 11 terror attacks four years ago.

In his speech, the president called for a congressional investigation besides the administration's self-examination. [...]

House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., speaking after the president's address, acknowledged that the recovery programs would add to the nation's debt. GOP leaders are open to suggestions from lawmakers to cut government spending elsewhere, but the task is urgent, he said.

"For every dollar we spend on this means a dollar that's going to take a little bit longer to balance the budget," Hastert said.

Congress already has approved $62 billion for the disaster, but that is expected to run out next month.

Even before Bush spoke, some fiscal conservatives expressed alarm at the prospect of such massive federal outlays without cutting other spending.

"It is inexcusable for the White House and Congress to not even make the effort to find at least some offsets to this new spending," said Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla. "No one in America believes the federal government is operating at peak efficiency and can't tighten its belt."

Bush repeated a hotline number, 1-877-568-3317, for people to call to help reunite family members separated during the hurricane. Moments later, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., criticized Bush, saying "Leadership isn't a speech or a toll-free number."

"No American doubts that New Orleans will rise again," Kerry said. "They doubt the competence and commitment of this administration."

Bush proposed establishment of worker recovery accounts providing up to $5,000 for job training, education and child care during victims' search for employment. He also proposed creation of a Gulf Opportunity Zone in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama offering tax breaks to encourage businesses to stay in the devastated region and new businesses to open.

Bush said the goal was to get evacuees out of shelters by mid-October and into apartments and other homes, with assistance from the government. He said he would work with Congress to ensure that states were reimbursed for the cost of caring for evacuees.

He also said he would ask Congress to approve an Urban Homesteading Act in which surplus federal property would be turned over to low-income citizens by means of a lottery to build homes, with mortgages or assistance from charitable organizations.

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Congressman says Pentagon employee ordered to destroy hijacker data
07:32 AM EDT Sep 16

WASHINGTON (AP) - A Pentagon employee was ordered to destroy documents that identified Mohamed Atta as a terrorist two years before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, a congressman said Thursday.

The employee is prepared to testify next week before the Senate judiciary committee and was expected to identify the person who ordered him to destroy the large volume of documents, said U.S. Representative Curt Weldon, a Pennsylvania Republican.

Weldon declined to identify the employee, citing confidentiality matters. Weldon described the documents as "2.5 terabytes" - as much as one-fourth of all the printed materials in the Library of Congress, he added.

A Senate judiciary committee aide said the witnesses for Wednesday hearing had not been finalized and could not confirm Weldon's comments.

U.S. army Maj. Paul Swiergosz, a Pentagon spokesman, said officials have been "fact-finding in earnest for quite some time."

"We've interviewed 80 people involved with Able Danger, combed through hundreds of thousands of documents and millions of e-mails and have still found no documentation of Mohamed Atta," Swiergosz said.

He added certain data had to be destroyed in accordance with existing regulations regarding "intelligence data on U.S. persons."

Weldon has said Atta, the mastermind of the Sept 11 attacks, and three other hijackers were identified in 1999 by a classified military intelligence unit known as Able Danger, which determined they could be members of an al-Qaida cell.

On Wednesday, former members of the Sept. 11 commission dismissed the Able Danger assertions. One commissioner, former U.S. senator Slade Gorton (R-Wash.) said: "Bluntly, it just didn't happen and that's the conclusion of all 10 of us."

Weldon responded angrily to Gorton's assertions.

"It's absolutely unbelievable that a commission would say this program just didn't exist," Weldon said Thursday.

Pentagon officials said this month they had found three more people who recall an intelligence chart identifying Atta as a terrorist prior to the Sept. 11 attacks.

Two military officers, army Lt.-Col. Anthony Shaffer and navy Capt. Scott Phillpott, have come forward to support Weldon's claims.

Comment: Were Atta really identified as a terrorist, would it have made sense to destroy the documents? Or is it more likely that he was in fact an intelligence asset and the documents were destroyed to cover-up a vast intelligence operation?

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Extremist groups active inside UK universities, report claims
Matthew Taylor and Rebecca Smithers
Friday September 16, 2005
The Guardian

Extremist organisations are operating on university campuses across the country and pose a serious threat to national security, according to a new report.

Yesterday the education secretary, Ruth Kelly, ordered vice-chancellors to clamp down on student extremists in the wake of the July terror attacks in London.

But a report due to be published next week by Anthony Glees, the director of Brunel University's centre for intelligence and security studies, lists more than 30 institutions - including some of the most high-profile universities in the country - where "extremist and/or terror groups" have been detected.

"This is a serious threat," Professor Glees told the Guardian. "We have discovered a number of universities where subversive activities are taking place, often without the knowledge of the university authorities."

The study states that the Islamist groups Hizb ut-Tahrir and al-Muhajiroun, which are subject to a "no-platform policy" by the National Union of Students, are active on many campuses and often operate under different names. The report catalogues the activities of far-right organisations and animal rights extremists. [...]

Prof Glees said personal tutors often had no idea about their students' views and that many undergraduates spent very little time in lectures or tutorials."It is in this environment that these groups can flourish without being detected."

But Wakkas Khan, from the Federation of Student Islamic Societies, said although there were individual members of Hizb ut-Tahrir at many British universities they were not organised as a group and did not pose a threat. [...]

Comment: The article has a convenient list of universities and the dangerous organisations working at each. Clip it and put it on your fridge.

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'Eyeless in Gaza'

What we look for in others is what we need to see in ourselves

By John Kaminski

Sometimes it's hard - when you're standing amid the rubble of the latest New World Order war zone - to determine whether things happen as a result of somewhat natural social evolution, or whether some hidden hand from a dark corner of the human psyche constantly steers us all toward misery and crisis.

Put more simply: Is it testosterone or is it Tavistock? (You know, that British think tank that scripted women's lib, the Beatles, Timothy Leary et al to mime the populace into passivity.)

The title of Aldous Huxley's 1955 novel, "Eyeless in Gaza," alludes to the Biblical story of Samson, who revealed to Delilah the secret of his strength - his hair - and was betrayed to his enemies the Philistines. Deported as a slave to their city of Gaza and blinded to make him harmless, he was forgotten until feast day. By then his hair had regrown, and even blind he was able to pull down the temple on the heads of the celebrating Philistines (and kill himself at the same time).

Is this a parable of the human future?

Today Gaza is the scene of one of the most bizarre political song-and-dances in human history, where a supposed country has been established in the middle of an oppressive police state. The imprisoned Palestinians don't even have access to their own water, and their borders are lined by the Jewish Israeli war machine ready to shoot children in the head at a moment's notice.

This is what happens when people pretend they are gods.

Palestinians are the Navajos of the 21st century, forever to be marginalized after they are exterminated down to acceptable, zoo-like levels. Palestinians are the prototype for future Earth citizens ineligible for membership in corporate elysia, a herd that needs to be managed and occasionally culled.

Unless you understand that this has been the fate of the majority of humankind throughout history, you probably are unable to comprehend that this is the inevitable future forecast for all of us.

Gaza vividly and viscerally represents the condition of much of the world at this time - and to be fair, at all times.

Favored Jewish residents of Gaza received hundreds of thousands of dollars APIECE for vacating their homes to make way for the new Gaza megaprison. The soggy survivors of New Orleans got a couple of hundred bucks and a few Wal-Mart gift cards.

Contemplate the new American rubble zones strategically trashed around the world: the festering sore of Israel inevitably spreads outward and wraps its conquered non-Jewish subhumans in giant walls, which likely we are soon to see in New Orleans, the newest New World Order reconstruction project now being forever shackled by contracts with the folks who built Guantanamo.

Fifty years ago America was taken over architecturally by Jewish gangster Bugsy Siegel, who designed Las Vegas with the spreading mall virus, which has since infected the whole world. Now, the new standard of living will be set by the camps to which many New Orleans refugees will be assigned. It will resemble Guantanamo, and the code of ethics to be used there will be the manual for population control written at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad. Jewish movies from Hollywood will continue to be the standard viewing fare for all Americans, and all other "approved" citizens of the world.

Iraq remains a smoldering, poisoned cinder. The Garden of Eden, or at least the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, are now encased in a cancer-guaranteed zone of radioactive poison: truly, a stunning tribute to Western philosophy and technology.

Afghanistan is a free fire zone, also poisoned. Something there is about the powers that be wanting to keep rubbing two sticks together to keep the sparks flying, because it generates steady profits for their members by continuing the flow of ammunition and armaments. And this is the engine that creates our comfort, our leisure to debate these matters in cyberspace, then attempts to get them to spill out into the third-dimensional world without much success.

The names of nations and peoples being crunched up in the meat grinder of corporatization fly past our eyes, too extensive to comprehend. Somewhere between Kisangali and Kampala, people are actually eating pygmies. Two million everyday souls live in the landfills of Rio de Janeiro. In New Orleans, these same folks live in Houston.

War is where the real money is, although rebuilding entire societies like Sumatra is extremely profitable also. This is the gift that Western civilization has given us. We can even make money off the trashing of the planet.

Where in our own inner darkness do we process this information? What stratagem or philosophical canard do we use to explain this to ourselves?

How do we stifle the image that we are eating ourselves, as cannibalism's primal impulse glitters mysteriously in the bottom of the Communion cup?

Do we, like victims of the London Blitz, merely take cover and wait for the storm to pass? As a veteran hurricane dodger I can tell you it is definitely better to live to fight another day.

But only for a little while can avoidance be construed as prudence. When something nettles you for a long time it is always better to take definitive action to fix the problem rather than constantly continue to deal with its exasperations.

Will the parable come true? That's our question. Will Samson, in his blind, frustrated fury, yank on the chains so hard it will bring all of human society down in a heap of horrifying ruin?

Hey, blame our forebears. They made it happen. We inherited it. Now, the bus is moving, unstoppably toward its destination. If you stand in front of it, you'll be run down. I'd like to say sit back and enjoy the show, but it's probably going to hurt.

Just ask those folks who used to be from New Orleans. Or the displaced and debauched citizens of Fallujah and so many other places graced by the presence of those Zionist warmakers known as Blackwater mercenaries. They're stationed both in Baghdad and on the Cajun coastline, escorting Israeli advisers around the neighborhood to help out with the new fortification plans.

Now, contemplate the view of your future. Staring out vacantly from behind the barbed wire in your mind. Eyeless in Gaza.

John Kaminski is a writer who lives on the Gulf Coast of Florida whose Internet essays are seen on hundreds of websites around the world.

Comment: Kaminski writes:

Palestinians are the Navajos of the 21st century, forever to be marginalized after they are exterminated down to acceptable, zoo-like levels. Palestinians are the prototype for future Earth citizens ineligible for membership in corporate elysia, a herd that needs to be managed and occasionally culled.

Unless you understand that this has been the fate of the majority of humankind throughout history, you probably are unable to comprehend that this is the inevitable future forecast for all of us.

As powerful as these words are, we think he still hasn't grasped the ultimate truth, the final horror: that we are all someone else's experiment; that the pain and suffering enshrined in human history are the planned purpose of a nefarious overlord who feeds off of our hurt.

We think that unless you understand what lies behind the veil of mankind's fate throughout history, you will not only not understand that this is the future forecast, but you will ensure that it is, in fact, inevitable.

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'This is ten times worse than under Saddam'
Times Online
September 15, 2005

Saoud Faisal, 20, policeman:

"I drove my brother Mahmoud, 23, to al-Aruba Square, where all the labourers gather waiting for someone to hire them. Then I went into one of the restaurants to have breakfast. I saw an American military convoy of two Humvees driving past. I remember saying to myself that it could be really dangerous if anybody tried to attack the Americans while 300 people were gathered in one place. I never imagined that my thoughts would become true seconds later."

"There was a very big explosion and all the windows of the restaurant were smashed and my leg was injured by the glass. I was really worried about my brother. The scene was horrible. The place was covered with blood. Dead bodies, body parts lay scattered everywhere. I saw many cars burning."

"I was shocked and even forgot about my brother and started helping others to rescue the survivors and clear the bodies. I found my brother and both his left arm and leg were broken, and despite that he helped me to transfer four wounded people into our car."

"I drove fast but was too late. By the time I reached the hospital, all four men were dead."

Ahad Hussein, 19, came from al-Nasiriya to al-Aruba Square with his brother and cousin to look for work:

"There was a very big blast while I was standing there waiting. I was knocked unconscious and woke up here in the hospital and saw my cousin beside me."

"It took me a while to figure out where I was and what happened, then I asked about my brother. My cousin told me that he had been taken to another hospital as his injury was serious. I hope he is fine. We don't have any relatives here and our family in Nasiriya must be very worried about us now."

"It really makes you sad and angry when you find yourself a target. You see your friends and relatives getting killed daily without knowing who is doing that and why. What happened was just part of the deteriorating situation in Iraq. After the fall of the regime we thought Iraq was going to be a big workshop, then we ended up in a situation which is ten times worse than it used to be under Saddam."

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After Roberts, next Supreme Court fight takes shape
Thu Sep 15, 4:31 PM ET

WASHINGTON - With Chief Justice nominee John Roberts concluding his Senate testimony on Thursday and headed toward confirmation, both sides began maneuvering for the looming battle over the next Supreme Court vacancy.

Three days of questioning by Senate Judiciary Committee members left Roberts, President George W. Bush's conservative nominee to replace late Chief Justice William Rehnquist, largely unscathed and steaming toward confirmation by the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate.

Roberts' most ardent opponents on the left promised to keep up the fight against him, but said they would shift some of their effort toward framing the upcoming debate for the vacant seat of retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

"Part of the story at this point is keeping the next nomination in mind. We want to be sure we're talking about the right issues," said Ralph Neas, president of the liberal People for the American Way, which has led the fight against Roberts.

In the next few days, Senate Democrats must grapple with the question of whether to push for the strongest possible showing against Roberts or save their ammunition for the next fight, party strategists said.

Republicans hold 55 of the 100 Senate seats and even a united Democratic caucus has little hope of swaying six Republican senators to vote against Roberts.

With confirmation all but assured, Democrats have to calculate the tactical and political ramifications of their vote. Some Senate Democrats from conservative states, like Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Bill Nelson of Florida, are up for re-election next year and could face campaign pressure to back Roberts.

Neas said he would push all Democratic senators to oppose the nominee in hopes of putting the White House on notice.

"It's important to have a strong progressive Democratic vote against John Roberts," Neas said. "If there is a vigorous opposition, that will send a signal on the next vacancy that there could be a contested nomination."


Democrats and liberal interest groups voiced frustration at Roberts' refusal during the hearings to describe his views on a host of legal issues. Republican supporters and interest groups on the right said his smooth performance ended any suspense about the confirmation fight. [...]

Activists on both sides of the aisle said they did not expect Bush's political problems in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina would force him to choose a more moderate or less controversial replacement for O'Connor.

"I don't think that's in the president's character. Do you expect him to reject his conservative supporters? These are people the White House has built the entire administration around," Rushton said.

Neas said Bush "almost always chooses confrontation over cooperation. If I were to guess, I would say that one more time he'll stick his thumb in the eye of Democrats."

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Update: Reuters Explains Photo Of Bush Bathroom Note
By Daryl Lang
September 15, 2005

Don't blame the photographer.

That's the message from Gary Hershorn, a picture editor for Reuters, about the photo yesterday that shows President George W. Bush writing an all-too-human note during a UN meeting.

Bush is shown writing: "I think I may need a bathroom break. Is this possible."

The photo, which quickly became fodder for blogs and e-mails among friends, was taken by Rick Wilking, a contract photographer based in Denver who recently covered the flooding in New Orleans.

Hershorn, Reuters' news editor for pictures for the Americas, says he's responsible for zooming in on the note and deciding to transmit the photo to Reuters clients. He says Wilking didn't know what the note said when he shot the picture.

"I'm so adamant that Rick has nothing to do with this. He was just the guy who pushed the button," Hershorn says. [...]

So how did the picture happen?

According to Hershorn, Wilking was one of several photographers covering the United Nations Security Council meeting between about 11 and noon yesterday. He was part of a pool stationed on a balcony that faced Bush's back; a group of White House photographers was on a balcony facing the president.

Wilking shot about 200 images and sent two memory cards to the press room at the U.N., where Hershorn was working. Hershorn looked at the images on a computer and initially decided not to send any of them.

But a few hours later, he started to wonder about a note that Bush was seen writing in three of the pictures. Out of curiosity, he zoomed in to see if he could read it.

Once he saw what it said, Hershorn decided the note was interesting and worth publishing. The white parts of the picture were overexposed, so a Reuters processor used Photoshop to burn down the note. This is a standard practice for news photos, Hershorn says, and the picture was not manipulated in any other way.

Around 4:30 p.m., Reuters transmitted two versions of the photo, including one that was tightly cropped around the note and Bush's hand.

The caption says that Bush was writing the note to Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice; Hershorn says Wilking saw Bush write the note and hand the note to Rice. [...]

It's unclear how widely the picture was published; Hershorn says The (Toronto) Globe and Mail published it but he wasn't sure of any other outlets. Hershorn says he decided to transmit the picture because it was interesting.

"There was no malicious intent," he says. "That's not what we do."

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US poultry giant under fire after segregation scandal is revealed
By Andrew Buncombe in Washington
The Independent
Published: 16 September 2005

A group of black workers is suing the world's largest poultry meat producer, accusing it of tolerating a racist workplace where African Americans were routinely abused and a "whites only" sign was pinned to the lavatory door.

Tyson Foods is accused by 13 workers of maintaining a segregated system in a break area at one of its plants in Ashland, Alabama, that was "reminiscent of the Jim Crow era".

In addition to the posting of the "whites only" sign, the workers allege that the lavatory was padlocked and only white workers were given a key, that workers hung a noose in one of the recreation rooms and annotated a picture of monkeys with the names of black staff. When the workers complained, they say the plant manager told them the facilities had been locked because they were "nasty, dirty [and] behaved like children".

Speaking for the first time about the lawsuit, Jake Whetstone, one of the workers, told The Independent: "When I saw that sign it really hurt me. I'm 50. I grew up a time when there was segregation. I thought we had gotten over it and moved on but seeing that sign I had a flashback."

Mr Whetstone, who is married with four children, said the experience made him remember an incident from when he was a child. "I was four or five and my daddy had taken me to get ice-cream at a Dairy Queen in Alexandria City, Alabama. My daddy gave me the money and I went to the window, but the lady said she could not serve me from that window and I would have to go to another.

"I was just a child so I went to the other window and it was the same lady who came and served me. When I saw the sign on the bathroom I thought we were still locked back in that time."

Nicole De Sario, for the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a non-profit group that is supporting the workers, said since the men filed their lawsuit conditions at the factory had been increasingly tense. "The majority of them are still working at the plant," she said. "Ashland, Alabama, is a small rural town and there are not a lot of jobs available. They have children to feed."

She added: "They want to see it changed. They hate the idea of their children having to work in such conditions."

The 13 plaintiffs are suing in a civil court, alleging a breach of the 14th Amendment, which enforces equal protection of the law. They are also alleging that their rights under the 1964 Civil Rights legislation have been breached.

Tyson Foods is based in Arkansas and operates 123 processing plants throughout the US. Every week it produces around 150 million pounds of meat. Earlier this year it donated $100,000 (£55,000) for George Bush's inauguration celebration and in 1993 it donated to similar celebrations for Bill Clinton.

No one from the company was available for comment yesterday. A statement on its website said it was surprised by the claims, which were without merit. "Our company has zero-tolerance for discrimination in the workplace. Once we learn of possible discrimination it's immediately investigated and disciplinary action is taken when warranted. The presence of any sign suggesting "whites only" or segregation of any kind is a violation of our corporate policies and contrary to our corporate culture.''

Tyson Foods was one of several meat-packing companies highlighted by a report earlier this year by Human Rights Watch, which said jobs in the meat industry were among the most dangerous in the US. It said: "Dangerous conditions are cheaper for companies, and the government does next to nothing."

Comment: Especially when meat-packing companies donate money to presidential celebrations...

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Lights in the sky

The truth is out there -- and it may be as close as your own backyard.

Two months ago, on July 14 at 11:45 p.m., Nova Williams was sitting with her dog on the backyard patio of her family's Toronto home when she saw a shooting star flash past her head.

Only it wasn't a shooting star.

Williams said she took a closer look and described what she saw as a glowing object shaped like "a boomerang upside down" zooming east to west over Kingston Rd. at about the same altitude as would fly a small single-engine aircraft.

But unlike a Cessna, this object made no sound. Williams, 35, said it sped up and slowed down in one fluid motion, then stopped suddenly and hovered.

Moments later, it moved south -- without turning -- toward Lake Ontario, then returned and flew out of sight, she said.

"There was no engine sound. It was an eerie quiet," said Williams, who quickly sketched what she saw on a computer paint program. "I thought it was kind of neat. It didn't frighten me because I had seen something like it before."


Every year, in every corner of this country, hundreds of Canadians like Williams are seeing and reporting mysterious objects in the night sky.

Glowing orange orbs. Delta-shaped wings. Silent cigar-shaped craft. Saucers and balls of coloured lights that hover, then move too quickly -- and in too many directions -- to be conventional aircraft, they claim.

Even the fiercest of cynics would be hard-pressed to dismiss some of the UFO reports filed since 2000 with a variety of federal agencies and obtained by the Sun.

They include bizarre sightings by RCMP officers, air traffic controllers and dozens of military and commercial pilots -- even the pilot of an aircraft carrying the prime minister during a flight over Alberta in March 2004.

Officially, Transport Canada and the department of national defence say they have no interest in UFO sightings, which they pass on to Chris Rutkowski, a lone astronomer and volunteer in Winnipeg who receives one or two reports a day.

Hundreds more are reported independently to the National UFO Reporting Center (NUFORC), a Seattle-based organization that receives, records and attempts to corroborate eyewitness accounts. Others are sent to Canadian UFO researcher Brian Vike of HBCC UFO Research, which has a comprehensive website that includes photos, video footage, audio interviews of witnesses and a breakdown of reports by province.

It's a global phenomenon that, according to these reports, has repeatedly touched our own backyards. In the last three months, more than 40 UFOs have been spotted in Ontario, including:

- Whitby, Aug. 12: A bright white shape like a "teardrop" raced up into the sky at 1 a.m.

- Vaughan, July 13: An orange disc, its light fading in and out, hovering over the IKEA store on Hwy. 7.

- St. Catharines, July 5: Five friends camping in a park near the city claim they saw six saucer-like objects at 2 a.m. One of the objects reportedly dropped to within three metres of the ground and "emitted four pulses" of blinding light. The anonymous witness who reported the incident to NUFORC noted, "Three of my four friends made it clear that they never wanted to speak of the event again."

- Toronto, July 3: A V-shaped formation of more than 20 glowing oval objects flying over an apartment building at 919 Dufferin St.

Rutkowski, who describes himself as an "open-minded skeptic," said the majority of UFO sightings he receives can be explained away as satellites, aircraft or helicopters, the international space station, search lights, astronomical anomalies like meteorites and meteorological phenomenon such as ball lightning.

For instance, a "very bright light falling from (the) sky" reported by the pilot of the PM's aircraft and a number of other airliners in March 2004 was likely a meteorite.

But each year, there are a "handful to two dozen" well-documented sightings in Canada that simply can't be explained, Rutkowski said, noting he's never seen a UFO himself.

Science, he added, has a done itself a great disservice by ignoring a phenomenon that thousands of people around the world claim they have witnessed.

"If it's not a physical phenomenon, it's at the very least a social or psychological phenomenon and it should be investigated by science," Rutkowski said.

"It's very good to approach this with an open mind, as long as it's not so open your brain falls out."

Some of the most compelling reports obtained by the Sun were filed by people whose jobs entail sober thought and rational observation skills, such as pilots and police officers:

- The pilot of a Cessna Citation 560 twin-engine executive jet reported a "very large stationary metallic object beside the moon at a very high altitude" to air traffic control in Toronto on April 28, 2003. Several other pilots reported the same object, as the report notes: "(Aircraft) reporting was flying between Buffalo, N.Y., and London, Ont., and saw it for 30 min, and was flying at an altitude of 43,000, said (sic) the object was much higher. The shift supervisor at Toronto airport telephoned this in; he also said that several other (aircraft) reported same UFO."

- The pilot of Air Canada Flight 1185 flying over Saskatchewan in December 2001 reported a UFO to air traffic control in Winnipeg. The report, which was submitted to the Canadian Air Defence Sector, noted: "The (aircraft) pilot observed strobes and flashing lights which he estimated to be (7,600-9,000 metres) above him ... The co-pilot of the (aircraft) flight observed same. Pilot noted that it did not look like a satellite."

- An officer with the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary watched for about an hour and a half as two white objects moved north to south over Seal Cove in the Conception Bay area of the province on Aug. 3, 2001.

- On Sept. 8, 2004, the pilot of an Air Canada flight from Vancouver to Saskatoon reported a UFO "heading south at high speed -- passed directly overhead."

But, even the best-trained eyes can be fooled.

Cpl. Ed Anderson and then-Const. Jeff Johnston were based at the RCMP Pangnirtung detachment in Nunavut on Jan. 9, 2001, when they were called by a resident to check out a red light hovering in the sky over the remote northern hamlet on Cumberland Sound.

Armed with cameras and binoculars, the officers watched the mysterious object for more than 20 minutes.

In their separate incident reports, the officers described a stationary object that faded in and out "almost as though it was slowly rotating in the sky." After about 10 or 15 minutes, the light lowered until it was hovering above the ice, its light reflected in the snow.

"It appeared to be like a cylinder-type shape. The light then disappeared and was not seen again," Johnston noted in his report. "At this point, writer has no idea what the object was ... It was definitely a strange occurrence and at this time remains unexplained and unidentified."

Reached by the Sun in Moncton, Johnston said he and his partner reported their observations to several agencies, including Norad. They were told the object was likely a satellite that appeared odd because they were positioned so far north.

The officers were satisfied with the explanation several nights later when they saw the same object in the same location.


But for others, like Nova Williams, there is no earthly explanation for what they see in the heavens.

An airshow enthusiast, a former volunteer auxiliary officer with Toronto Police, and until recently, an employee of a provincial professional association, Williams said she is certain that what she saw is not from this world.

The Scarborough woman's July encounter was not her first: In the early 1980s, when she was 12 or 13, she and her father were stargazing in the same backyard when they saw three similar objects flying in a V formation, she said.

Several times throughout that week, Williams said her family saw "tonnes of disc-shaped objects darting in and out of each other without losing speed" in the sky over their house. Her aunt was "terrified" and has refused to speak of it since, she said.

Another unexplained encounter involved a bright beam of light from the sky that filled the family's living room about six years ago while she and her mother were watching late-night TV.

As strange as it all sounds, Williams is not afraid to speak out about her experiences.

But when she recently asked her neighbours if they had seen the same objects, she was met with an awkward silence before they changed the subject.

"I think people are very narrow-minded," she said. "If they start thinking about it, it frightens them. So they don't think about it at all."

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Gestapo cells in Paris opened to public for first time

PARIS, Sept 16 (AFP) - "I am afraid," one prisoner awaiting interrogation and almost certain death at the hands of the Gestapo scrawled on the walls of his Paris prison cell.

"Never confess," reads another defiant message etched into the plaster nearby.

Heart-rending words transformed by history into epitaphs, these and other messages on long-forgotten walls in the Gestapo's World War II Paris headquarters will go on exhibit for the first time ever this weekend, part of France's annual heritage day.

More than 15,000 sites normally closed to the public, ranging from the national archives to the finance ministry, will open their doors to some 10 million visitors on Saturday and Sunday.

Most of the rooms at 11, rue de Saussaies in the 8ème arrondissement were renovated after the French interior ministry took possession of this notorious address where hundreds, if not thousands, of resistance fighters and other hapless victims of the Nazi occupation were tortured and condemned to die.

It was as if France's post-war leaders were eager to turn a page.

But a few prison cells were left untouched, and the plaintiff expressions of fear and foreboding, patriotism and pride, preserved on their walls stand today as a moving testament of Gestapo cruelty and human defiance.

"Frankreich uber alles" -- 'France above all' -- reads on inscription with biting irony, a play on words transforming the title of the German national anthem.

"Believing in yourself gives one the power to resist despite the bathtub and all the rest," reads another, a dark allusion to a preferred technique of torture practised by the Gestapo.

"Don't talk," commands another, as if to give courage.

Most of the unfortunates interrogated and tortured here were later executed or deported to camps, historians say.

The few rooms that remain from that era have been left intact: the ceiling lamp that still casts a wan, sinister light over over the room; the thick metal ring attached to the wall, to which prisoners were chained; the barred window with a view of the interrogation chambers on the other side of the courtyard.

The prisoner graffiti -- written with bits of lead or pencils hidden in shirt collars, or simply carved with any sharp object at hand -- is today protected by glass barriers.

Many of those detained here had no illusions as to their destiny. "Julien. 20 years old. Headed for the post," reads one, referring to the wooden poles to which prisoners were attached before being executed by firing squad.

"Labiscotte. Arrived June 8, 1944. For liberty or for death?" reads another, still daring to hope.

And yet another: "Honored to be condemned by the Boch. Goodbye forever to France and my loved one," it says, using a common epithet for Germans during the war.

Some inscriptions are like diary entries: "Marcel is thinking of Simone and Kiki"; "Guillaume loves Marianne"; "I cannot sleep for thinking about by parents and my beloved Louisette."

Other parts of the walls are like bulletin boards, with messages the authors hoped would, somehow, find their way to intended recipients. "Roger: your father, your cousin and Colette's father came through here 24-5-44."

There are even expressions of optimism -- "We will be free by Christmas 1944" -- and philosophical resignation: "Life is beautiful."

United in their misery, one finds the hammer-and-sickle emblem of communism next to Christian prayers. "My God I want, All that you want, Because you want it, As you want it, As much as you want it," reads one.

The walls were also common ground for the barely literate and the highly cultivated, such as Yvette Marie-Jo Wilbort who -- not daring to imagine that she would live to see the war's end -- quoted from memory, for her epitaph, a verse from a poem by Alfred de Vigny.

"Wailing, pleading, crying -- these are the coward's call. Assume your heavy and onerous burden, the one that fate has cast your way. And then, like me, suffer and die in silence."

Wilbort survived, one of the few.

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Global warming 'past the point of no return'
By Steve Connor, Science Editor
The Independent
Published: 16 September 2005

A record loss of sea ice in the Arctic this summer has convinced scientists that the northern hemisphere may have crossed a critical threshold beyond which the climate may never recover. Scientists fear that the Arctic has now entered an irreversible phase of warming which will accelerate the loss of the polar sea ice that has helped to keep the climate stable for thousands of years.

They believe global warming is melting Arctic ice so rapidly that the region is beginning to absorb more heat from the sun, causing the ice to melt still further and so reinforcing a vicious cycle of melting and heating.

The greatest fear is that the Arctic has reached a "tipping point" beyond which nothing can reverse the continual loss of sea ice and with it the massive land glaciers of Greenland, which will raise sea levels dramatically.

Satellites monitoring the Arctic have found that the extent of the sea ice this August has reached its lowest monthly point on record, dipping an unprecedented 18.2 per cent below the long-term average.

Experts believe that such a loss of Arctic sea ice in summer has not occurred in hundreds and possibly thousands of years. It is the fourth year in a row that the sea ice in August has fallen below the monthly downward trend - a clear sign that melting has accelerated.

Scientists are now preparing to report a record loss of Arctic sea ice for September, when the surface area covered by the ice traditionally reaches its minimum extent at the end of the summer melting period.

Sea ice naturally melts in summer and reforms in winter but for the first time on record this annual rebound did not occur last winter when the ice of the Arctic failed to recover significantly.

Arctic specialists at the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre at Colorado University, who have documented the gradual loss of polar sea ice since 1978, believe that a more dramatic melt began about four years ago.

In September 2002 the sea ice coverage of the Arctic reached its lowest level in recorded history. Such lows have normally been followed the next year by a rebound to more normal levels, but this did not occur in the summers of either 2003 or 2004. This summer has been even worse. The surface area covered by sea ice was at a record monthly minimum for each of the summer months - June, July and now August.

Scientists analysing the latest satellite data for September - the traditional minimum extent for each summer - are preparing to announce a significant shift in the stability of the Arctic sea ice, the northern hemisphere's major "heat sink" that moderates climatic extremes.

"The changes we've seen in the Arctic over the past few decades are nothing short of remarkable," said Mark Serreze, one of the scientists at the Snow and Ice Data Centre who monitor Arctic sea ice.

Scientists at the data centre are bracing themselves for the 2005 annual minimum, which is expected to be reached in mid-September, when another record loss is forecast. A major announcement is scheduled for 20 September. "It looks like we're going to exceed it or be real close one way or the other. It is probably going to be at least as comparable to September 2002," Dr Serreze said.

"This will be four Septembers in a row that we've seen a downward trend. The feeling is we are reaching a tipping point or threshold beyond which sea ice will not recover."

The extent of the sea ice in September is the most valuable indicator of its health. This year's record melt means that more of the long-term ice formed over many winters - so called multi-year ice - has disappeared than at any time in recorded history.

Sea ice floats on the surface of the Arctic Ocean and its neighbouring seas and normally covers an area of some 7 million square kilometres (2.4 million square miles) during September - about the size of Australia. However, in September 2002, this dwindled to about 2 million square miles - 16 per cent below average.

Sea ice data for August closely mirrors that for September and last month's record low - 18.2 per cent below the monthly average - strongly suggests that this September will see the smallest coverage of Arctic sea ice ever recorded.

As more and more sea ice is lost during the summer, greater expanses of open ocean are exposed to the sun which increases the rate at which heat is absorbed in the Arctic region, Dr Serreze said.

Sea ice reflects up to 80 per cent of sunlight hitting it but this "albedo effect" is mostly lost when the sea is uncovered. "We've exposed all this dark ocean to the sun's heat so that the overall heat content increases," he explained.

Current computer models suggest that the Arctic will be entirely ice-free during summer by the year 2070 but some scientists now believe that even this dire prediction may be over-optimistic, said Professor Peter Wadhams, an Arctic ice specialist at Cambridge University.

"When the ice becomes so thin it breaks up mechanically rather than thermodynamically. So these predictions may well be on the over-optimistic side," he said.

As the sea ice melts, and more of the sun's energy is absorbed by the exposed ocean, a positive feedback is created leading to the loss of yet more ice, Professor Wadhams said.

"If anything we may be underestimating the dangers. The computer models may not take into account collaborative positive feedback," he said.

Sea ice keeps a cap on frigid water, keeping it cold and protecting it from heating up. Losing the sea ice of the Arctic is likely to have major repercussions for the climate, he said. "There could be dramatic changes to the climate of the northern region due to the creation of a vast expanse of open water where there was once effectively land," Professor Wadhams said. "You're essentially changing land into ocean and the creation of a huge area of open ocean where there was once land will have a very big impact on other climate parameters," he said.

Comment: Meanwhile, there are more and more signs that indicate the rockin' and rollin' ain't over yet...

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Warming world blamed for more strong hurricanes
19:00 15 September 2005 news service
Fred Pearce

A massive global increase in the number of strong hurricanes over the past 35 years is being blamed on global warming, by the most detailed study yet. The US scientists warn that Katrina-strength hurricanes could become the norm.

Worldwide since the 1970s, there has been a near-doubling in the number of Category 4 and 5 storms – the strength that saw Hurricane Katrina do such damage to the US Gulf coastline late in August 2005.

Peter Webster of the Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, says the trend is global, has lasted over several decades and is connected to a steady worldwide increase in tropical sea temperatures. Because of all these factors, it is unlikely to be due to any known natural fluctuations in climate such as El Niño, the North Atlantic Oscillation or the Pacific Decadal Oscillation.

"We can say with confidence that the trends in sea surface temperatures and hurricane intensity are connected to climate change," says Webster's co-author Judy Curry, also of the Georgia Institute of Technology. The team looked at the incidence of intense tropical storms and the study results are the strongest affirmation yet that Katrina-level hurricanes are becoming more frequent in a warmer world.

Unnatural trend

The study finds there has been no general increase in the total number of hurricanes, which are called cyclones when they appear outside the Atlantic. Nor is there any evidence of the formation of the oft-predicted "super-hurricanes". The worst hurricane in any year is usually no stronger than in previous years during the study period.

But the proportion of hurricanes reaching categories 4 or 5 – with wind speeds above 56 metres per second – has risen from 20% in the 1970s to 35% in the past decade.

"This trend has lasted for more than 30 years now. So the chances of it being natural are fairly remote," says Greg Holland of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) at Boulder, Colorado

Moreover, says Webster, natural fluctuations tend to be localised. "When the east Pacific warms, the west Pacific cools, for instance. But sea surface temperatures are rising throughout the tropics today." The surface waters in the tropical oceans are now around 0.5°C warmer during hurricane seasons than 35 years ago.

Satellite era

Hurricanes form when ocean temperatures rise above 26°C. "The fuel for hurricanes is water vapour evaporating from the ocean surface. It condenses in the air and releases heat, which drives the hurricane's intensity," says Webster.

"The tendency to Katrina-like hurricanes is increasing," Holland says. Without the warmer sea-surface temperatures, "Katrina might only have been a category 2 or 3".

All the data for sea surface temperatures and hurricane numbers and intensities come from satellite data. "We deliberately limited this study to the satellite era because of the known biases [in the data] before this period," says Webster.

This is the third report in recent months highlighting the growing risk to life and property round the world from hurricanes and tornadoes. In June, NCAR's Kevin Trenberth reported a rising intensity of hurricanes in the North Atlantic.

And in August, Kerry Emanuel of MIT found a 50% increase in the destructive power of tropical storms in the past half century.

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Tremors may mean 'Big One' on its way
Globe and Mail
Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Vancouver - A silent tectonic event, so powerful it has shifted southern Vancouver Island out to sea, but so subtle nobody has felt a thing, is slowly unfolding on the West Coast.

Scientists who are tracking the event with sensitive seismographs and earth orbiting satellites warn it could be a trigger for a massive earthquake -- some time, maybe soon.

But they are quick to add that the imperceptible tremors emanating from deep beneath the surface are sending signals scientists are not yet able to comprehend fully and "the Big One" might yet be 200 years off.

What they do know is that the earth is moving this week on the West Coast as two massive tectonic plates slip past each other.

"Southern Vancouver Island is sort of sliding towards the west right now. We're moving towards Japan," said John Cassidy, a seismologist with Natural Resource Canada at the Pacific Geoscience Centre near Sidney, B.C. "It's a very small amount. We've moved about three millimetres to the west over the past couple of days."

The event, known as an episodic tremor and slip, is a predictable, cyclical phenomenon that is adding pressure to a zone where the Juan de Fuca Plate and the North American Plate are locked, just off Vancouver Island. While the two plates are slipping in some areas, in another they remained locked. That locked zone is where the next megathrust earthquake is expected to come from when it suddenly releases.

Mr. Cassidy said a slip event occurs every 14 months, and when it does, scientists believe the chance of an earthquake the size that triggered the Asia tsunamis increases.

One researcher has likened the event to going up a step on a staircase, at the top of which sits a megathrust earthquake. But nobody knows where the top is or where we are on the staircase.

The geological record on the West Coast has shown that megathrust earthquakes occur roughly once every 500 years. The last one struck on Jan. 26, 1700, which leaves a window of possibility 200 years wide.

"We know there will be another megathrust earthquake, but we don't know when," Mr. Cassidy said.

But he said the slip is important because it is the only predictable event related to earthquakes, and it may hold clues as to when and where a megathrust will occur.

He said experts are so convinced the event is a potential trigger that they have advised emergency preparedness officials to be alert.

"We're in a time window of higher hazard," Mr. Cassidy said. "It's likely that one of these slip events will [one day] trigger a megathrust earthquake."

Mr. Cassidy said a slip event is not an earthquake but involves the release of tectonic pressure in tremors that seismographs are picking up.

"It's really a very subtle shaking. It's different from an earthquake. It has a different frequency content. It's more of a continuous signal, rather than an earthquake which would start with a bang. . . . There's no jolt to this so people don't feel it."

Satellites have tracked the shift of southern Vancouver Island to the west using global positioning technology that can detect minuscule movement.

Tectonic forces usually push the island east, but during a slip event it slides west for about two weeks.

"The normal movement to the east can be thought of as earthquake hazard. That's energy being stored for the next big megathrust earthquake and on top of that regular motion we have this cycle that adds a little more stress every 14 months. So that's why we say it becomes a trigger [event]," Mr. Cassidy said.

Herb Dragert, a seismologist with the Geological Survey, first detected the phenomenon of the slip event in 1999, and since then, it has been confirmed by scientists in the U.S. and Japan. [...]

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Major L.A. quake could be worse than Katrina
Thursday, September 15, 2005 Posted: 1411 GMT

WASHINGTON (AP) -- As many as 18,000 people dead. More than $250 billion in damages. Hundreds of thousands of people left homeless.

That's not the latest estimate of Hurricane Katrina's toll on the Gulf Coast. That's a worst-case scenario if a major earthquake were to hit Los Angeles.

The figures are hypothetical, from a model published in May by government researchers studying the Puente Hills fault under the city.

Scientists warn that there's little doubt a major quake will hit California in coming years or decades, though many scenarios are not as disastrous as Puente Hills.

As was the case with Katrina, experts say the federal government hasn't done enough to prepare.

"There's not enough money to carry out the research and implementation programs that need to be put into place," said Susan Tubbesing, executive director of the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute in Oakland, California. "If funds were available, if these were higher priorities, these kinds of things could be addressed now -- before an earthquake."

California has been hit by significant quakes about every 15 years over the past century. Experts say there's a better-than 60 percent chance that a quake with a magnitude around 6.7 will hit Southern California or the Bay Area within decades.

"The reality is when you have a disaster of that proportion, you need the federal government," Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said Wednesday in Washington, where he was meeting with federal officials.

"I think the question is, is the federal government prepared to provide the resources that we need? I think that, clearly, by what we've seen in Louisiana, the jury's out."

Just as Katrina exposed a failure to sufficiently strengthen the levees around New Orleans, experts say a big quake in California, Washington state or the Mississippi Valley could reveal that too little was done to make buildings, bridges and roads earthquake-proof. [...]

Congress created the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program in 1977 after a series of major quakes in Alaska, California and China. The goal was to reduce the loss of life and property by funding research on how buildings and structures respond to earthquakes, improving building codes, and conducting earthquake models along different fault lines.

But funding for the program has been essentially flat for more than a decade. [...]

"We have greatly reduced the number of people we have doing research, we have had to cut way back on field investigation programs, we've had to work smarter with less," Ellsworth said.

According to some experts, earthquake readiness has been hurt by the same shift of focus from natural disasters to terrorism that's being partly blamed for the bungled response to Katrina.

In 2003, when Congress moved FEMA to the Department of Homeland Security, lawmakers also moved the lead agency role for the earthquake program from FEMA to the National Institute of Standards and Technology. But they never gave NIST any money to perform its new leadership role.

"Right now you have a program that probably has appropriated somewhere around $130 million per year, and we don't have a lead agency to supervise or manage it," said Tom O'Rourke, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Cornell University. [...]

A key network of seismographs USGS is installing around the country is lagging -- only 563 of a planned 7,050 machines have been put in place, mainly because funding has stuck far behind planned levels. For example, Congress authorized $35 million for the network in 2005, but appropriated only $8 million.

Experts contend that spending on mitigation reaps huge dividends. They point out that retrofitted roads and buildings survived the Northridge earthquake, while others that hadn't been retrofitted did not. [...]

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Man in 'meteor' sighting over town
Shropshire Star
Sep 16, 2005

A north Shropshire man has told of his amazement at seeing a "massive glowing object moving through the sky".

Steve Powell, 49, who lives near Prees Green, saw what he believes was a huge meteor last night at around 11.45pm.

He described the object as a big orange ball, about the size of a full moon.

Mr Powell is now wondering if anyone else saw the phenomenon, which he believes was a meteor crashing to earth.

He said: "It looked like a UFO to start with and didn't seem to be moving, but it obviously was and had a bit of a trail."

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Solar Minimum Explodes

Solar minimum is looking strangely like Solar Max.

September 15, 2005: Just one week ago, on Sept. 7th, a huge sunspot rounded the sun's eastern limb. As soon as it appeared, it exploded, producing one of the brightest x-ray solar flares of the Space Age. In the days that followed, the growing spot exploded eight more times. Each powerful "X-flare" caused a shortwave radio blackout on Earth and pumped new energy into a radiation storm around our planet. The blasts hurled magnetic clouds toward Earth, and when they hit, on Sept 10th and 11th, ruby-red auroras were seen as far south as Arizona.

So this is solar minimum?

Solar Flare

Right: An X-flare photographed on Sept. 9th by Birgit Kremer of Marbella, Spain. [movie]

Actually, solar minimum, the lowest point of the sun's 11-year activity cycle, isn't due until 2006, but forecasters expected 2005, the eve of solar minimum, to be a quiet year on the sun.

It has not been quiet. 2005 began with an X-flare on New Year's Day--a sign of things to come. Since then we've experienced 4 severe geomagnetic storms and 14 more X-flares.

"That's a lot of activity," says solar physicist David Hathaway of the National Space Science and Technology Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

Compare 2005 to the most recent Solar Max: "In the year 2000," he recalls, "there were 3 severe geomagnetic storms and 17 X-flares." 2005 registers about the same in both categories. Solar minimum is looking strangely like Solar Max.

Scientists like Hathaway track the 11-year solar cycle by counting sunspots. When sunspot numbers peak, that's Solar Max, and when they ebb, that's solar minimum. This is supposed to work because sunspots are the main sources of solar activity: Sunspot magnetic fields become unstable and explode. The explosion produces a flash of electromagnetic radiation--a solar flare. It can also hurl a billion-ton cloud of magnetized gas into space--a coronal mass ejection or "CME." When the CME reaches Earth, it sparks a geomagnetic storm and we see auroras. CMEs can also propel protons toward Earth, producing a radiation storm dangerous to astronauts and satellites. All these things come from sunspots.


Above: Ruby-colored Northern Lights over Payson, Arizona, on Sept. 11, 2005. Photo credit: Chris Schur. [gallery]

As expected, sunspot numbers have declined since 2000, yet solar activity persists. How can this be?

Hathaway answers: "The sunspots of 2005, while fewer, have done more than their share of exploding." Consider sunspot 798/808, the source of the Sept 7th superflare and eight lesser X-flares. All by itself, this sunspot has made Sept. 2005 the most active month on the sun since March 1991.

Weird? Much about the sun's activity cycle remains unknown, Hathaway points out. "X-ray observations of flares by NOAA's Earth-orbiting satellites began in 1975, and CMEs were discovered only a few years earlier by the 7th Orbiting Solar Observatory. Before the 1970s, our records are spotty."

This means we don't know what is typical. Scientists have monitored only three complete solar cycles using satellite technology. "It's risky to draw conclusions" from such a short span of data, he says.

Flares Chart

Above: Sunspot counts and X-flares during the last three solar cycles. Note how solar activity continues even during solar minimum. Credit: David Hathaway, NASA/NSSTC.

Hathaway offers a cautionary tale: Before 2005, the last solar minimum was due in 1996 and the sun, at the time, seemed to be behaving perfectly: From late-1992 until mid-1996, sunspots began to disappear and there were precisely zero X-flares during those long years. It was a time of quiet. Then, in 1996 when sunspot counts finally reached their lowest value - bang! - an X-flare erupted.

"The sun can be very unpredictable," says Hathaway, which is something NASA planners must take into account when they send humans back to the Moon and on to Mars.

Returning to 2005: is this year an aberration--or a normal rush to the bottom of the solar cycle? "We need to observe more solar cycles to answer that question," says Hathaway. "And because each cycle lasts 11 years, observing takes time."

Meanwhile, Hathaway is waiting for 2006 when solar minimum finally arrives. Who knows what the Sun will do then?

Comment: In her article Independence Day, written July 4, 2003, Laura Knight-Jadczyk wrote:

If there is a brown dwarf perturber that slams through the Oort cloud, and if we do have a cluster of comets being smacked into our solar system like a slingshot, then there is NO WAY to have ANY warning whatsoever without the willingness of the government and the scientists who have control of the instruments of observation to share their data with us. And we also have absolutely no way of estimating - or even guessing - when or where a strike could come. One is reminded of: "No one knows the day or the hour..." In short, other than suggesting that we are probably entering a period when the Earth is going to very likely get hit one or more times, there isn't much else to be said. We are probably entering a hundred year period of planetary dodge'em cars.

Based on what the Cassiopaeans have said, supported by our research to this point, it is very likely that we are already experiencing some of the comets from this event: the close passage of the Dark Star over 300 years ago at the time of the Maunder Minimum.

I think that we will witness some amazing astronomical phenomena in the next few years. "Signs in the Sun and Moon." I think that the powerful activity of the Sun during this sunspot maximum has been because these comets are drawing close - thousands or hundreds of thousands of them. There may be more solar activity. Earthquakes will shake the earth. Volcanoes will erupt.

And we have, indeed, seen some amazing solar activity, huge earthquakes, and volcanic activity since July 2003 - and it seems there is still more to come...

Of course, the Powers That Be are certain that their preparations will ensure their survival. They have been implementing mind control programs for millennia, starting with the monotheistic religions which deprive man of his ability and inclination to think which will, in the last instance of realization that he has been duped, deprive him also of hope. In the past 50 years, these programs have increased in complexity and effectiveness. Mankind is enslaved by their own minds.

The Powers That Be have been as busy as ants before a storm constructing underground enclaves in which they plan to "ride it out." They really think that this will protect them - and it may - though not from direct hits by a "big one."

Through Bush and the gang, the Powers That Be have taken charge of the oil which they plan to stockpile so that their survival will be supplied with all the "comforts of home."

The Powers That Be - whether Earthly or hyperdimensional it doesn't matter - have stepped up the activity in the past two years, sending a strong signal that they are desperate and that "Something Wicked This Way Comes."

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Japanese Probe Pulls Alongside Asteroid
Associated Press
Thu Sep 15, 8:54 PM ET

TOKYO - Bringing Japan's most complex space mission near its climax, a probe is within 12 miles of an asteroid almost 180 million miles from Earth in an unprecedented rendezvous designed to retrieve rocks from its surface.

The Hayabusa probe, launched in May 2003, will hover around the asteroid for about three months before making its brief landing to recover the samples in early November. The asteroid is located between Earth and Mars.

"The mission is going very smoothly and proceeding as planned," Atsushi Wako, a spokesman for JAXA, Japan's space agency, said Tuesday.

The asteroid, informally named Itokawa, after Hideo Itokawa, the father of rocket science in Japan, is only 2,300 feet long and 1,000 feet wide, and has a gravitational pull one-one-hundred-thousandth of Earth's.

Though it took two years to get there, the asteroid is among the closest neighbors to Earth other than the moon.

The probe's first mission will be to survey the asteroid with cameras and infrared imaging gear. It has already begun sending back images, Wako said.

When Hayabusa moves in for the rendezvous, expected to be over in a matter of seconds, it will pull up close enough to fire a small bullet into the asteroid and collect the ejected fragments in a funnel-like device. It won't be coming back with much - the amount of material planners hope to capture wouldn't even fill a teaspoon.

JAXA officials say Hayabusa would be the world's first two-way trip to an asteroid. A NASA probe collected data for two weeks from the surface of the Manhattan-sized asteroid Eros in 2001, but it did not return with physical samples.

Despite a glitch with one of Hayabusa's three gyroscopes, the mission has been largely mishap-free. Wako said the probe is set to return to Earth and land in the Australian outback in June 2007.

The success of the mission so far is a major coup for JAXA.

Japan was the fourth country to launch a satellite, in 1972, and this spring announced a major project to send its first astronauts into space and set up a base on the moon by 2025.

JAXA already has an unmanned moon survey mission planned. Its SELENE probe - originally scheduled for launch in 2005, but since delayed - is designed to orbit the moon, releasing two small satellites that will measure the moon's magnetic and gravitational field and conduct other tests for clues about the moon's origin.

It had to abandon a mission to Mars two years ago, however, after the probe moved off course. The explosion of a domestically designed H-2A rocket, the centerpiece of the country's space program, in November 2003 also marked a major setback for JAXA's plans. Controllers had to detonate that rocket and its payload of two spy satellites after a booster failed to detach.

The failed launch came just one month after China successfully put its first astronaut into orbit. Beijing has since announced it is aiming for the moon.

Japan returned to space in February with a successful H-2A launch, after 15 months on the ground.

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U.S. Buys $100 Million of Bird Flu Vaccine
September 16, 2005

WASHINGTON - Mass production of a new vaccine that promises to protect against bird flu is poised to begin, as the government on Thursday agreed to stockpile $100 million worth of inoculations.

The new contract with French vaccine maker Sanofi-Pasteur marks a major scale-up in U.S. preparation for the possibility that the worrisome virus could spark an influenza pandemic.

While the vaccine is still experimental, preliminary results from the National Institutes of Health's first testing in people suggest the inoculations spur an immune response that would be strong enough to protect against known strains of the avian influenza, sparking the new investment.

But just how many doses the $100 million will buy isn't yet clear.

That's because there is contrasting research on just how much antigen much be in each dose to provide protection, explained Sanofi spokesman Len Lavenda. The range is huge - from 15 micrograms of antigen per dose to 90 - and the protective amount likely will wind up somewhere in between, he said.

Previously, the government has said it has stockpiled 2 million doses of bird flu vaccine.

Sanofi stored that vaccine in bulk, and the 2 million estimate assumed a single 15-microgram dose per person, Lavenda said. In contrast, the preliminary NIH research suggested it may take two 90-microgram shots to provide protection.

Simple math suggests that means the $100 million purchase could provide enough doses to protect anywhere from 1.7 million people - "we're quite sure it's going to be a lot more than that," Lavenda said - to a maximum of 20 million people.

A study now under way in France pairs the vaccine with an immune booster, called an adjuvant, that may help stretch doses. Sanofi expects results later in the year.

Regardless of the ultimate number, clearing the way for mass production now is a big step. Sanofi's factory in Swiftwater, Penn., can produce bird flu vaccine in September and October - months not occupied making vaccine for regular winter flu - and separate bulk lots into agreed-upon doses later.

The government's ultimate goal is to stockpile 20 million vaccine doses, a first wave of protection if the H5N1 bird flu strain eventually sparks a pandemic.

It's a quest gaining urgency. The virus has now killed or led to the slaughter of millions of birds, mostly in Asia but in parts of Europe, too. Although it has killed only about 60 people, mostly poultry workers, that's because so far it doesn't spread easily from person to person. If that changes - and flu viruses mutate regularly - it could trigger a deadly worldwide outbreak, because H5N1 is so different from the flu strains that circulate each winter that people have no residual immunity.

The nation also plans to stockpile 20 million doses of anti-flu medication, and the government announced Thursday it was purchasing enough of the drug Relenza, from maker GlaxoSmithKline, to treat 84,300 people.

Already in stock is enough of a competing drug, Tamiflu, to treat 4.3 million. Tamiflu is a pill, while Relenza must be inhaled, a drawback. The government still is planning additional Tamiflu purchases.

"These counter-measures provide us with tools that we have never had prior to previous influenza pandemics," said Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt.

Comment: Melting ice caps, monster quakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, comets and asteroids, the flu threat, and - last but not least - bubonic plague!

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Mice with plague vanish at top-level N.J. lab
Ted Sherman
Newhouse News Service
Thursday, September 15, 2005

Newark, N.J. - Three lab mice carrying deadly strains of plague have disappeared from separate cages at a bio-terror research facility in Newark, sparking a hushed, intensive investigation by federal and state authorities. Officials said the animals could have been stolen from the center or simply misplaced in a colossal accounting error at one of the top-level bio-containment labs in New Jersey.

The incident occurred more than two weeks ago and was confirmed only Wednesday after questions were raised by The Star-Ledger newspaper.

The research lab is on the campus of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.

It is run by the Public Health Research Institute, a leading center for research on infectious diseases, now participating in a six-year federal bio-defense project to find new vaccinations for the plague - which federal officials fear could be used as a bio-weapon. The university has responsibility for the security of the building. At least two dozen employees and researchers at the lab have been interrogated and in some cases subjected to lie-detector tests.

However, the disease-carrying lab mice may never be accounted for, federal officials said. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is also investigating.

"The FBI has expended substantial resources and put many agents into this investigation to satisfy - among other things - the most compelling question of whether public safety is at risk," said agent Steve Siegel, an FBI spokesman.

Comment: Three lab mice carrying plague have been missing for over two weeks, and all federal officials can say is they may never be accounted for?? Perhaps the mice were recruited by an arm of al-Qaeda under the direction of Zarqawi...

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And Finally...

Dog shoots man
From correspondents in Sofia
September 16, 2005

A TUSSLE over prey between a Bulgarian hunter and his hound ended when the dog shot the man.

The man lost his temper and began beating his Deutsch-Drahthaar hunting dog with a rifle when the animal refused to release a killed bird it had brought back.

ut the dog's paw caught the trigger and the hunter was blasted with buckshot. The extent of his injuries was not reported - but local media said the dog injured a paw.

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NEW! 9/11: The Ultimate Truth is Available for Pre-Order!

On the fourth anniversary of the September 11th attacks, Laura Knight-Jadczyk announces the availability of her latest book:

In the years since the 9/11 attacks, dozens of books have sought to explore the truth behind the official version of events that day - yet to date, none of these publications has provided a satisfactory answer as to WHY the attacks occurred and who was ultimately responsible for carrying them out.

Taking a broad, millennia-long perspective, Laura Knight-Jadczyk's 9/11: The Ultimate Truth uncovers the true nature of the ruling elite on our planet and presents new and ground-breaking insights into just how the 9/11 attacks played out.

9/11: The Ultimate Truth makes a strong case for the idea that September 11, 2001 marked the moment when our planet entered the final phase of a diabolical plan that has been many, many years in the making. It is a plan developed and nurtured by successive generations of ruthless individuals who relentlessly exploit the negative aspects of basic human nature to entrap humanity as a whole in endless wars and suffering in order to keep us confused and distracted to the reality of the man behind the curtain.

Drawing on historical and genealogical sources, Knight-Jadczyk eloquently links the 9/11 event to the modern-day Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She also cites the clear evidence that our planet undergoes periodic natural cataclysms, a cycle that has arguably brought humanity to the brink of destruction in the present day.

For its no nonsense style in cutting to the core of the issue and its sheer audacity in refusing to be swayed or distracted by the morass of disinformation that has been employed by the Powers that Be to cover their tracks, 9/11: The Ultimate Truth can rightly claim to be THE definitive book on 9/11 - and what that fateful day's true implications are for the future of mankind.

Published by Red Pill Press

Scheduled for release on October 1, 2005, readers can pre-order the book today at our bookstore.

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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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