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Saturday, October 08, 2005

Its worse than anyone thought

Quake Kills More Than 18,000

in South Asia

By CHRISTOPHER TORCHIA, Associated Press Writer
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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - A powerful earthquake flattened entire villages of mud-brick homes, triggered landslides and toppled a 10-story apartment building on Saturday, killing more than 18,000 people as it devastated a mountainous swath touching Pakistan, India and Afghanistan.

The casualty toll from the 7.6-magnitude tremor rose sharply Sunday as rescuers struggled to dig people from the wreckage, their work made more difficult as rain and hail turned dirt and debris into sticky muck. Maj. Gen. Shaukat Sultan, Pakistan's chief army spokesman said early Sunday that more than 18,000 had been killed — 17,000 of them in Pakistani Kashmir, where the quake was centered. Some 41,000 people were injured, he said.


Is This the Death of America?:

America's sense of itself - its pride in its power - has been profoundly damaged

By Dermot Purgavie

10/08/05 "Daily Mirror" -- -- This week Karen Hughes, long-time political adviser to George Bush, began her new mission as the State Department's official defender of America's image with a tour of the Middle East.

She might have been more help to her beleaguered president had she stayed at home and used her PR skills on her neighbors. At the end of a cruel and turbulent summer, nobody is more dismayed and demoralized about America than Americans.

They have watched with growing disbelief and horror as a convergence of events - dominated by the unending war in Iraq and two hurricanes - have exposed ugly and disturbing things in the undergrowth that shame and embarrass Americans and undermine their belief in the nation and its values.

With TV providing a ceaseless backdrop of the country's failings - a crippled and tone-deaf president, a negligent government, corruption, military atrocities, soaring debt, racial conflict, poverty, bloated bodies in floodwater, people dying on camera for want of food, water and medicine - it seemed things were falling apart in the land where happiness is promoted in the constitution.

Disillusioning news was everywhere. In the flight from Hurricane Rita, evacuees fought knife fights over cans of petrol. In storm-hit Louisiana there were long queues at gun stores as people armed themselves against looters.

America, which has the world's costliest health care, had, it turned out, higher infant mortality rates than the broke and despised Cuba.

Tom De Lay, Republican enforcer in the House of Representatives, was indicted for conspiracy and money laundering. The leader of the Republicans in the Senate was under investigation for his stock dealings. And Osama bin Laden was still on the loose.

Americans are the planet's biggest flag wavers. They are reared on the conceit that theirs is the world's best and most enviable country, born only the day before yesterday but a model society with freedom, opportunity and prosperity not found, they think, in older cultures.

They rejoice that "We are No.1", and in many ways they are.

But events have revealed a creeping mildew of pain and privation, graft and injustice and much incompetence lurking beneath the glow of star-spangled superiority.

Many here feel the country is breaking down and losing its moral and political authority.

"US in funk" say the headlines. "I am ashamed to be an American," say the letters to the editor. We are seeing, say the commentators, a crumbling - and humbling - of America.

The catalogue of afflictions is long and grisly. Hurricane Katrina revealed confusion and incompetence throughout government, from town hall to White House.

President Bush, accused of an alarming failure of leadership over the disaster, has now been to the Gulf coast seven times for carefully orchestrated photo ops.

But his approval has dropped below 40 per cent. Public doubt about his capacity to deal with pressing problems is growing.

Americans feel ashamed by the violent, predatory behavior Katrina triggered - nothing similar happened in the tsunami-hit Third World countries - and by the deep racial and class divisions it revealed.

The press has since been giving the country a crash course on poverty and race, informing the flag wavers that an uncaring America may be No.1 on the world inequities index.

It has 37 million living under the poverty line, largely unnoticed by the richest in a country with more than three million millionaires.

The typical white family has $80,000 in assets; the average black family about $6,000. It's a wealth gap out of the Middle Ages. Some 46 million can't afford health insurance, 18,000 of whom will die early because of it.

The US, we learn, is 43rd in the world infant mortality rankings. A baby born in Beijing has nearly three times the chance of reaching its first birthday than a baby born in Washington. Those who survive face rotten schools. On reading and math tests for 15-year-olds, America is 24th out of 29 nations.

On the other side of the tracks, 18 corporate executives have so far been jailed for cooking the books and looting billions. The prosecution of Mr Bush's pals at Enron - the showcase trial of the greed-is-good culture - will be soon.

But the backroom deal lives on and, in an orgy of cronyism, billions of dollars are being carved up in no-bid contracts awarded to politically-connected firms for work in the hurricane-hit states and in Iraq.

The war, seen as unwinnable, is becoming a bleak burden, with nearly 2,000 American dead. Two-thirds think the invasion was a mistake.

The war costs $6billion a month, driving up a nose-bleed high $331billion budget deficit. In five years the conflict will have cost each American family $11,300, it is said.

Mr Bush says blithely he'll cut existing programs to pay for the war and fund an estimated $200billion for hurricane damage. He won't, he says, rescind his tax cuts. Republican Senator Chuck Hagel says Mr Bush is "disconnected from reality".

Americans have been angered by a reports that US troops have routinely tortured Iraqi prisoners. Some 230 low-rankers have been convicted - but not one general or Pentagon overseer. Disgruntled young officers are leaving in increasing numbers.

Meanwhile, further damaging Americans' self image, there's Afghanistan. The White House says its operations there were a success, yet last year Afghanistan supplied 90 per cent of the world's heroin.

America's sense of itself - its pride in its power and authority, its faith in its institutions and its belief in its leaders - has been profoundly damaged. And now the talking heads in Washington predict dramatic political change and the death of the Republicans' hope of becoming the permanent government.

© 2005 The Daily Mirror UK

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Between friendly countries

Last update - 06:50 07/10/2005

Pentagon official Larry Franklin, a Middle East expert and researcher, confessed this week to having passed classified information to a senior diplomat at Israel's embassy in Washington and to two senior employees of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). The affair has been under investigation for a long time, and it appears that the FBI has been employing wiretaps in the probe since 2002. The assessment is that most of the parties involved in the investigation exercised maximum caution in order to avoid causing excessive damage to those under investigation, who included senior American and Israeli diplomats.

The indictment against Franklin does not make any claim that employees of either AIPAC or the Israeli Embassy in Washington engaged in espionage; rather, it accuses him of illegally passing on information about national security issues. There is no claim that the Israeli Embassy recruited Franklin to spy for it. But even this lesser charge against Franklin is sufficient to land him with an extremely heavy sentence and to cause shock waves in the relationship between the two countries.

The two senior AIPAC employees, Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, were fired even before indictments were submitted against them. Thus, the accusations are not directed against AIPAC as an organization. It is clear that a deal was cut between AIPAC's attorneys and the American prosecutors. But in any event, the two men, who worked for Israel's benefit as they understood it, should not be abandoned by Israel and its friends.

Despite the precautions that AIPAC took, pessimists nevertheless fear that relations between the United States and Israel will be negatively affected. AIPAC needs no warnings from the U.S. administration. It is an American organization, even though its declared goal is to improve relations between America and Israel and to make the U.S. administration and Congress cognizant of Israel's needs and of its contribution to American policy.

The other side of the Franklin affair relates to the Israeli Embassy and senior Israeli diplomat Naor Gillon. Ever since the Jonathan Pollard espionage case, Israel has shied away from anything liable even to recall this sorry affair. Israel, as a country whose representatives in Washington have regular contact with many administration officials, has no reason to act as if it were a guilty party in this new affair.

The FBI is an American investigatory agency, not an Israeli one, and if it wishes to obtain information about employees of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, or about former Mossad agents, it must submit an official request to Israel, rather than contact the people in question directly. There are several rules that friendly countries do not allow themselves to break when it comes, for instance, to a friendly country's former intelligence agents.

Without anybody wishing it, and perhaps due to neglect, lack of caution and lack of alertness, the ground between Israel and the United States has become strewn with unnecessary mines. These include the spare parts for an Israeli assault drone that were sold to China, the classified information that was leaked from the Pentagon to AIPAC employees and the information that Franklin passed to a senior Israeli diplomat. These mines must be disarmed, and no additional booby traps must be added to them

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Setting Up Abbas:

By Jeff Halper

10/08/05 "ICH" -- -- From Sharon's point of view it's a done deal. Israel has won its century-old conflict with the Palestinians. Surveying the landscape - physical and political alike - the Israeli Prime Minister has finally fulfilled the task with which he was charged 38 years ago by Menachem Begin: ensure permanent Israel control over the entire Land of Israel while foreclosing the emergence of a viable Palestinian state.

With unlimited resources at his disposal, Sharon set out to establish irreversible "facts on the ground" that would preempt any process of negotiations. Supported by both Likud and Labor governments, he oversaw the establishment of some 200 settlements (almost 400 if you include the "outposts") on land expropriated from Palestinians in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. Today almost a half million Israelis live across the 1967 border. With financial backing of the Clinton Administration, a system of twenty-nine highways was constructed in the Occupied Territories to incorporate the settlements into Israel proper. In the meantime 96% of the Palestinians were locked into what Sharon calls "cantons," dozens of tiny enclaves, deprived of the right to move freely and now being literally imprisoned behind concrete walls twice as high as the Berlin Wall and electrified fence. Although comprising half the population of the country between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River, the Palestinians - including those with Israeli citizenship - are confined to just 15% of the country.

In order to secure permanent Israeli control, however, the "facts on the ground" had to be legitimized as permanent political facts. International law defines occupation as a temporary situation resolvable only through negotiations. It prohibits an Occupying Power from taking any steps that make its control permanent, specifically transferring one's population into an occupied territory and building settlements. Indeed, international law holds an Occupying Power such as Israel responsible for the well-being of the civilian population under its control. For help in by-passing international law and transforming Israel's Occupation into a permanent reality, Sharon turned to Israel's one and only patron in such matters, the US, which promptly obliged. In April, 2004, the Bush Administration formally recognized Israel's settlement blocs - euphemistically called "major population centers" - thus unilaterally removing from the Palestinians 20-30% of the already truncated area in which they wished to establish a small state of their own. It was tantamount to Mexico requesting that Spain return Bush's Texas. Israel's annexation of its settlement blocs was subsequently approved almost unanimously by Congress: in the House by a vote of 407-9, in the Senate by 95-3.

Still, Israel needs a Palestinian state. Although the annexation of the settlement blocs gives Israel complete control over the entire country between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River, it needs to "get rid of" the almost four million Palestinian residents of the Occupied Territories to which it can neither give citizenship nor keep in a state of permanent bondage. What Sharon seeks, and what Bush has agreed to, is a truncated Palestinian mini-state, a Bantustan, a prison-state on 10-15% of the country that relieves Israel of the Palestinian population while leaving it firmly in control of the country and its resources. Whether or not we like the term, this amounts to full-blown apartheid, the permanent and institutionalized domination of one people over another.

Having created irreversible "facts of the ground" and gotten American political recognition of an expanded Israel, Sharon lacks just one last piece to make Israeli apartheid official: either the signature of a Palestinian quisling-leader agreeing to a mini-state, or an excuse to unilaterally impose it. Arafat refused to play that role. Now it is Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' turn. When, just this week, Sharon's advisor on strategy, Eyal Arad, raised the possibility of turning unilateral disengagement into a strategy that would allow Israel to draw its own borders, the message to Abbas was clear: Either you cooperate or lose any input whatsoever into a political resolution of the conflict.

Sharon, in short, is priming Abbas for a set up, another "generous offer." It worked well for Barak, why not try it again, this time for the whole pot? What would Abbas say if Sharon offered Gaza, 70-80% of the West Bank and a symbolic presence in East Jerusalem? True, it is not a just or viable solution. The Palestinians would be confined to five or six cantons on 15% of the entire country or less, with no control of their borders, their water, even their airspace. Jerusalem, now encased in a massive Israeli "Greater Jerusalem," would be denied them, thereby removing the political, cultural, religious and economic heart of any Palestinian state. Israel would retain its settlement blocs and 80% of its settlers. But Sharon's "generous offer" would look good on the map and, he believes, viability is simply too complicated a concept for most people, including decision-makers, to grasp. But for Abbas it sets up a no-win situation. Say "yes" and you will be the quisling leader Israel has been looking for all these years, the one who agreed to a non-viable mini-state, to apartheid. Say "no" and Sharon will pounce: "See?! The Palestinians have refused yet another Generous Offer! They obviously do not want peace!" And Israel, off the hook, will be free to expand its control of the Occupied Territories for years to come, protected from criticism by American-backed annexation of the settlement blocs.

Israeli unilateralism means only one thing: it has nothing to offer the Palestinians, nothing worth negotiating over. The Road Map asserts that only a true end of the Occupation and the establishment of a viable Palestinian state will finally see the end of this conflict with its global implications. A genuine two-state solution may already be dead, the victim of Israeli expansionism. A two-state "solution" based on apartheid cannot be an alternative accepted by any of us. Yet apartheid is upon us once again. Sharon must act fast to complete his life's work before his term of office expires within the next year. This is the crunch. We cannot afford to have our attention deflected by any other issue, important as it may be. It is either a just and viable solution now or apartheid now. We may well be facing the prospect of another full-fledged anti-apartheid struggle just a decade and a half after the fall of apartheid in South Africa. In my view, the next three to six months will tell.

Jeff Halper is the Coordinator of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD). He can be reached at icahd@zahav.net.il

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Hostile fire blamed for copter crash that killed 2 Nevadans

Don Cox
-->Posted: 10/8/2005

As memorial services are scheduled for two Northern Nevada soldiers killed Sept. 25 in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan, investigators continue to look into the crash that is now believed to have been caused by hostile fire.

Nevada Army National Guard Sgt. Patrick Stewart and Chief Warrant Officer John M. Flynn died when their Chinook helicopter went down southwest of Deh Chopan, Afghanistan. According to an Army investigation, the Chinook was shot down by hostile fire.

Initially, Army officials said the crash was believed to be an accident. Militants claimed they had shot down the helicopter.

"The accident investigation board goes through several phases," said Air Force Capt. April Conway, the Reno-based spokeswoman for all Guard units in Nevada. "The whole accident investigation will take a couple months."

Investigators changed their preliminary opinion after examining crash wreckage, Conway said.

Stewart and Flynn were members of the Army Guard's Company D, 113th Aviation Regiment deployed to Afghanistan in support of U.S. military operations in the region.

Three other soldiers, two from Oregon and one from Arizona, died in the helicopter crash. The helicopter belonged to the Oregon portion of Company D, 113th Aviation based in Pendleton, Ore.

Memorial funds have been established for Stewart and Flynn.

Donations can be made to: Patrick D. Stewart Family Fund, Bank of America, account number 004971028272 and John M. Flynn Memorial Fund, Bank of America, account number 004970795551.


Public services for Flynn, 36, of Sparks are scheduled for 2 p.m. Monday at Summit Christian Church, 7075 Pyramid Highway, Sparks. Parking is limited at the church so an overflow lot will be provided at Lazy 5 Regional Park, about a mile north on Pyramid Highway, with bus service to the church.

Stewart's memorial service is scheduled for 10:45 a.m. Wednesday in Reno's Rancho San Rafael Regional Park. The Wednesday service for Stewart, 35, of Fernley is open to the public. Stewart's service in Rancho San Rafael will be conducted adjacent to the farm house in the park.

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The Maker of US policy

What a stroke of luck that God's advice to George Bush fits so neatly alongside US national interests

Mark Lawson
Saturday October 8, 2005
The Guardian

Given our previous knowledge of President Bush, the suggestion that he believes that God is dictating American foreign policy should be no more surprising than a revelation of the Pope's Roman Catholicism. And yet, surprisingly, the White House has been fiercely atheistic about such claims. A West Winger has rubbished suggestions by former Palestinian foreign minister Nabil Shaath (made in a new BBC2 series from the distinguished and highly reliable film-maker Norma Percy) that Bush had confided the Almighty's role as a sort of super national security adviser, a secretary of higher state.

According to Shaath's recall of Bush's confession, God, apparently addressing the president each time as "George", had told him, in three separate briefings: "Go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan ... go and end the tyranny in Iraq ... go and get the Palestinians their state and get the Israelis their security."

While it's clearly not in a columnist's interest to encourage other pundits, especially omniscient ones, it would also be fascinating to have the deity's opinion on whether it should be Clarke or Cameron and just how worried to be about Asian bird flu. But, as a commentator on foreign policy, what's perhaps most striking is the sudden shift from an Old Testament God (smiting terrorists and tyrants) to such a carefully nuanced position on the Middle East, respecting the key demand of each side.

It's perhaps surprising that divine revelation should so precisely coincide with state department policy during the Bush administration. A fundamentalist believer would explain this overlap by saying that the president is simply being obedient to God, but it seems rather convenient to have a supreme overlord whose politics so closely mirror your own. The really interesting question for Bush would be whether God has ever told him he was wrong about anything, whether the Maker has broken administration policy as well as making it.

We're unlikely to get clarification on this because the White House spokespeople seem to have decided, echoing Alastair Campbell's public line on the possibility that Blair looks to a higher power than Jack Straw on foreign affairs, that "we don't do God".

Given British embarrassment about religion, Campbell's judgment was probably correct, but Bush has spoken openly about his personal conversation with God in the past and in this very week could probably benefit from wearing his sacred heart on his sleeve, as his Christian-right supporters are upset by the nomination to the supreme court of White House counsel Harriet Miers, who is not thought by hardline believers to have put in enough knee-time in public.

But the likeliest reason for the White House's panic is that they can see the trap set by the Shaath anecdote. Bush's previous religious admissions have suggested that God was a kind of vice-president, whereas it now seems that George is the running mate.

The political risk of this is obvious. If God is directing American foreign policy, He is presumably also advising on domestic issues, such as supreme court nominations. If so, Bush would face the fascinating task of explaining to the Christian right why God advised against a supreme court justice who was too associated with Christian fundamentalists.

And, even before the Palestinian insight into his beliefs, we can guess that the president's theology was in a mess. Throughout his five years in office, Bush has sustained a simple old Sunday-school world view in which external evil threatens American interests and is then met by force which believes it has God on its side. The fact that the perceived aggressors (Bin Laden, Saddam) also feel divinely justified is no more of an obstacle to this belief system than it has been for the religious throughout history.

Hurricane Katrina, though, severely challenges this exegesis. What can a president of such simple religious faith have made of the devastation of America by what insurance policies call an act of God? Whereas even an event as terrible as 9/11 could be sustaining and confirmational for someone of Bush's apparent Manichean convictions, a sudden drowning of the chosen invites only agonised study of the Book of Job. This affront to Bush's relationship with God may explain his public bewilderment during the weather crisis.

What we would give to know what Bush's secretary of higher state said to him after those events. But the president is likely to be less confessional to foreign politicians about these matters from now on.

There's nothing inherently dangerous about a leader having religious beliefs - politicians can be just as lethal if they believe too devoutly in themselves - but Bush's alleged conversation with Shaath suggests that the president has kicked all decision-making upstairs. And, even though American politics is theistically inclined, this is understood as too steep a genuflection.

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Bush's God controversy stirs press fury :

Papers in the Arabic world recoil at remarks attributed to President Bush by a Palestinian official, to the effect that God had told him to invade Iraq.

The White House denied the alleged comments were ever made, and Nabil Shaath, the Palestinian official who said the president had told him he was "driven with a mission from God", later said he never thought that Mr Bush's remarks should be taken literally.

Other papers in the region comment on Mr Bush's assertion, at a speech in Washington, that Islamic radicals were seeking to establish an empire of terror from Spain to Indonesia.

Editorial in pan-Arab Al-Quds Al-Arabi

US President Bush told his Palestinian guests that he was driven with a mission from God... Had those statements come from an ordinary person, he would have been arrested straight away and taken to a lunatic asylum for treatment... Such statements cannot be made by someone who is mentally sound.

Editorial in Saudi Arabia's Al-Jazirah

The statements attributed to US President Bush on God's message to fight terrorists in Afghanistan and end the tyranny in Iraq... indicate that America is striving to practise a series of firm ideological principles, even if this is a major source of detriment to US interests and the interests of the Middle East... The fallacy of Bush's ideology lies in the fact that Bush thinks it is America's right to decide people's fate.

Editorial in Egypt's Al-Ahram

US President Bush has warned of "a radical Islamic empire that spans from Spain to Indonesia"... This is simply a preposterous statement... It is illogical to rely on the views of small radical groups that have neither weight nor influence to create such a phantom called "radical Islamic empire".

Editorial in Saudi Arabia's Al-Watan

Bush might have been right about the expansion of the base of the terrorist network to span from Spain to Indonesia. This corresponds with reality and the statements of the Indonesian investigator about indications the Bali bombers belonged to a new generation of terrorists. After four years of war on terrorism and two consecutive wars that Bush dragged the world into, here we are reaping the benefits of these efforts represented in a new generation of terrorists.

Commentary by Farah Maamar in Algeria's Le Soir d'Algerie

Bush has just discovered "Islamist imperialism"! All the same, this awakening is late, all the more so since it has been more than a dozen years that Algeria has been struggling all alone against "the bogeyman" that is now being waved about by the White House!... Bin Ladin-style imperialism, we've experienced it!

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaus abroad.

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The Police State Is Closer Than You Think

By Paul Craig Roberts

10/08/05 "ICH" -- -- Police states are easier to acquire than Americans appreciate.

The hysterical aftermath of September 11 has put into place the main components of a police state.

Habeas corpus is the greatest protection Americans have against a police state. Habeas corpus ensures that Americans can only be detained by law. They must be charged with offenses, given access to attorneys, and brought to trial. Habeas corpus prevents the despotic practice of picking up a person and holding him indefinitely.

President Bush claims the power to set aside habeas corpus and to dispense with warrants for arrest and with procedures that guarantee court appearance and trial without undue delay. Today in the US, the executive branch claims the power to arrest a citizen on its own initiative and hold the citizen indefinitely. Thus, Americans are no longer protected from arbitrary arrest and indefinite detention.

These new "seize and hold" powers strip the accused of the protective aspects of law and give rein to selectivity and arbitrariness. No warrant is required for arrest, no charges have to be presented before a judge, and no case has to be put before a jury. As the police are unaccountable, whoever is selected for arrest is at the mercy of arbitrariness.

The judiciary has to some extent defended habeas corpus against Bush’s attack, but the protection that the principle offers against arbitrary seizure and detention has been breeched. Whether courts can fully restore habeas corpus or whether it continues in weakened form or passes by the wayside remains to be determined.

Americans may be unaware of what it means to be stripped of the protection of habeas corpus, or they may think police authorities would never make a mistake or ever use their unbridled power against the innocent. Americans might think that the police state will only use its powers against terrorists or "enemy combatants."

But "terrorist" is an elastic and legally undefined category. When the President of the United States declares: "You are with us or against us," the police may perceive a terrorist in a dissenter from the government’s policies. Political opponents may be regarded as "against us" and thereby fall in the suspect category. Or a police officer may simply have his eye on another man’s attractive wife or wish to settle some old score. An enemy combatant might simply be an American who happens to be in a foreign country when the US invades. In times before our own when people were properly educated, they understood the injustices that caused the English Parliament to pass the Habeas Corpus Act of 1679 prohibiting the arbitrary powers that are now being claimed for the executive branch in the US.

The PATRIOT Act has given the police autonomous surveillance powers. These powers were not achieved without opposition. Civil libertarians opposed it. Bob Barr, the former US Representative who led the impeachment of President Clinton, fought to limit some of the worst features of the act. But the act still bristles with unconstitutional violations of the rights of citizens, and the newly created powers of government to spy on citizens has brought an end to privacy.

The prohibition against self-incrimination protects the accused from being tortured into confession. The innocent are no more immune to pain than the guilty. As Stalin’s show trials demonstrated, even the most committed leaders of the Bolshevik revolution could be tortured into confessing to be counter-revolutionaries.

The prohibition against torture has been breeched by the practice of plea bargaining, which replaces jury trials with negotiated self-incrimination, and by sentencing guidelines, which transfer sentencing discretion from judge to prosecutor. Plea bargaining is a form of psychological torture in which innocent and guilty alike give up their right to jury trial in order to reduce the number and severity of the charges that the prosecutor brings.

The prohibition against physical torture, however, held until the US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. As video, photographic, and testimonial evidence make clear, the US military has been torturing large numbers of people in its Iraq prisons and in its prison compound at Guantanamo, Cuba. Most of the detainees were people picked up in the equivalent of KGB Stalin-era street sweeps. Having no idea who the detainees are and pressured to produce results, torture was applied to coerce confessions.

Everyone is disturbed about this barbaric and illegal practice except the Bush administration. In an amendment to a $440 billion defense budget bill last Wednesday, the US Senate voted 90 to 9 to ban "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" of anyone in US government custody. President Bush responded to the Senate’s will by repeating his earlier threat to veto the bill. Allow me to torture, demands Bush of the Senate, or you will be guilty of delaying the military’s budget during wartime. Bush is threatening the Senate with blame for the deaths of US soldiers who will die because they don’t get their body armor or humvee armor in time.

It will be a short step from torturing detainees abroad to torturing the accused in US jails and prisons.

The attorney-client privilege, another great achievement, has been breeched by the Lynne Stewart case. As the attorney for a terrorist, Stewart represented her client in ways disapproved by prosecutors. Stewart was indicted, tried, and convicted of providing material support to terrorists.

Stewart’s indictment sends a message to attorneys not to represent too dutifully or aggressively clients who are unpopular or demonized. Initially, this category may be limited to terrorists. However, once the attorney-client privilege is breeched, any attorney who gets too much in the way of a prosecutor’s case may experience retribution. The intimidation factor can result in an attorney presenting a weak defense. It can even result in attorneys doing as the Benthamite US Department of Justice (sic) desires and helping to convict their client.

In the Anglo-American legal tradition, law is a shield of the accused. This is necessary in order to protect the innocent. The accused is innocent until he is proven guilty in an open court. There are no secret tribunals, no torture, and no show trials.

Outside the Anglo-American legal tradition, law is a weapon of the state. It may be used with careful restraint, as in Europe today, or it may be used to destroy opponents or rivals as in the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany.

When the protective features of the law are removed, law becomes a weapon. Habeas corpus, due process, the attorney-client privilege, no crime without intent, and prohibitions against torture and ex post facto laws are the protective features that shield the accused. These protective features are being removed by zealotry in the "war against terrorism."

The damage terrorists can inflict pales in comparison to the loss of the civil liberties that protect us from the arbitrary power of law used as a weapon. The loss of law as Blackstone’s shield of the innocent would be catastrophic. It would mean the end of America as a land of liberty.

Dr. Roberts is John M. Olin Fellow at the Institute for Political Economy and Research Fellow at the Independent Institute. He is a former associate editor of the Wall Street Journal, former contributing editor for National Review, and a former assistant secretary of the U.S. Treasury. He is the co-author of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.

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Breaking News!!!!!!Pakistan earthquake toll reaches 18,000 dead and 41,000 injured, Pakistan military spokesman Maj. Gen. Shaukat Sultan tells CNN

British and American leaders likened to Nazi war criminals

By Andrew Sparrow, Political Correspondent

10/08/05 "The Telegraph" -- -- Tony Blair and George Bush were compared to Nazi war criminals yesterday by Scott Ritter, the former UN chief weapons inspector.

"Both these men could be pulled up as war criminals for engaging in actions that we condemned Germany in 1946 for doing," he said.

He said the Prime Minister and the US President were "guilty of the crime of planning and committing aggressive warfare". Speaking in London at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, Mr Ritter said the two leaders would have been in a much stronger position if they had got a UN resolution explicitly authorising the invasion.

He also said Britain gained very little from the "special relationship". "Britain gets nothing, other than to say they are America's closest ally in Europe," he said.

Mr Ritter, who was a UN weapons inspector in Iraq between 1991 and 1998, said intelligence services had been correct to say that Iraq's missile programme had been destroyed soon after the first Gulf conflict of 1991.

He recalled how he delivered a report in 1992 stating that the programme had been eliminated. It was met with "stony silence" and he was told that Iraq still possessed 200 missiles.

The inspectors returned to track down the weapons, which never materialised.

© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2005

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Earthquake Kills 3,000 Across South Asia

Salon: Could Gannon be charged under Espionage Act?


Salon.com's Joe Conason speculates that Jeff Gannon, the prostitute-cum-Talon News "reporter" who lobbed softball questions at President Bush last year before he was uncovered by bloggers, could be charged in connection with the CIA outing case. Conason writes:
Another intriguing possibility in the leaks case brings back the baroque personality of right-wing pressroom denizen Jeff Gannon, born James Guckert.

The New York Times reported Friday that in addition to possible charges directly involving the revelation of Valerie Wilson's identity and related perjury or conspiracy charges, Fitzgerald is exploring other possible crimes. Specifically, according to the Times, the special counsel is seeking to determine whether anyone transmitted classified material or information to persons who were not cleared to receive it -- which could be a felony under the 1917 Espionage Act.

One such classified item might be the still-classified State Department document, written by an official of State's Bureau of Intelligence and Research, concerning the CIA's decision to send former ambassador Joseph Wilson to look into allegations that Iraq had tried to purchase uranium from Niger. Someone leaked that INR document -- which inaccurately indicated that Wilson's assignment was the result of lobbying within CIA by his wife, Valerie -- to right-wing media outlets, notably including Gannon's former employers at Talon News. On Oct. 28, 2003, Gannon posted an interview with Joseph Wilson on the Talon Web site, in which he posed the following question: "An internal government memo prepared by U.S. intelligence personnel details a meeting in early 2002 where your wife, a member of the agency for clandestine service working on Iraqi weapons issues, suggested that you could be sent to investigate the reports. Do you dispute that?"

The Case Against Tom DeLay:

Go to Original

What has Happened to Grand Jury Secrecy in Texas?
By John W. Dean

Friday 07 October 2005

What is one to make of the criminal charges against Tom DeLay?

I spoke with several knowledgeable Texas lawyers, of both parties, about the case against DeLay; they were willing to speak, but only off-the-record. Or, as one put it, "Who in hell wants to get in the middle of a fight between a polecat and a skunk?"

(I don't like unidentified sources. But I will use them in this column, only because they are sharing nothing more their expertise, no inside information. They were offering their professional "speculation," if you will.)

There is no speculation, however, by the grand jurors who have spoken out in this case; they are familiar with the evidence prosecutors must have adduced, before them, to convince them to indict. And what they are saying appears dangerously close to breaking their oaths of secrecy.

The Charges Against DeLay

The (now) former Majority Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives was indicted on September 28, and again on October 2, by two different Travis County, Texas grand juries. The second indictment is far more serious than the first.

The first indictment charges DeLay with engaging in a criminal conspiracy in violation of Texas Penal Code Section 15.02. It states that DeLay and two of his associates (also indicted) agreed to make corporate political contributions which are prohibited by the Elections Code. If convicted, DeLay faces up to two years in jail and a $10,000 fine.

Six days later came the second indictment, which is twice the length of the first, with its two counts. The first count charges another conspiracy under Section 15.02, again to violate the election law - but ALSO to launder corporate money, in violation of Texas Penal Code Section 34.02, the state's money laundering prohibition. The second count charges DeLay outright with the offense of money laundering, and because the amount of the money allegedly laundered exceeds $100,000, that is a felony punishable by life in prison.

Not surprisingly, DeLay angrily responded that the charges are blatantly political, reckless, a sham, and "wholly unsupported by the facts." DeLay called the first indictment "one of the weakest, most baseless indictments in American history." He called the second indictment a "do over" by Texas prosecutor Ronnie Earle, suggesting that Earle was facing a legally-strong motion to toss the first indictment as defective, and hedging his bets with the second indictment.

The First Indictment is not Flawed but it is now Irrelevant

All those with whom I spoke said that DeLay's attorney, Dick DeGuerin, is extremely able. As one former judge, a Democrat who knows the players well, told me, "DeGuerin is A-1, probably several notches above Ronnie Earle." DeGuerin successfully defended Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson when Earle indicted her in 1994.

DeGuerin's motion to dismiss the first indictment has not been made public. All that is known is that the gist of his argument is a claim that the conspiracy statute cited in the initial indictment, Section 15.02 of the Texas Penal Code, was not applicable at the time of DeLay's purported offense, the alleged 2002 violation of the Election Code prohibiting corporate contributions.

Despite DeGuerin's skill, one of my sources suggests his tactic in filing the motion to dismiss the first indictment when he did, may have been faulty. "DeGuerin probably pulled the trigger too fast," one attorney told me. "Had he waited until it was clear the statute of limitations had passed, and had he made it clear DeLay's waiver of the statute of limitations had ended, he might have done to Earle again what he did in the Kay Bailey Hutchinson case, and raise the technical error when it was too late to fix it. But by going in guns blazing, trying to blow Earle out of the water, Earle simply issued a second indictment to cover himself."

Another Texas attorney told me he thought that, in any case, DeGuerin's technical argument about the defect in the first indictment would not fly. Texas has had a conspiracy statute forever. And it has had a prohibition against corporate contributions for about as long. So the fact that the state legislature did not get around to adding statutory language picking out, in particular, a conspiracy to violate the elections laws does not seem especially significant. Thus, it probably does not mean, as DeGuerin says, that there cannot be a conspiracy to violate the election laws. This lawyer, a former federal prosecutor, but now active criminal defense attorney, believes that any thinking judge will deny DeGuerin's motion to dismiss the first indictment.

"But it's irrelevant now, with the second indictment," he added, "and DeLay is in much worse shape under the second indictment."

Could the Second Indictment be Barred by the Statute of Limitations?

But what if the second indictment is barred by the statute of limitations for the offenses it describes?

The issue of whether the statutory limitations period has expired is complicated by the fact that DeGuerin at least temporarily waived his client's ability to raise the statute of limitations as a defense. In the first indictment, this waiver is set forth.

But only temporarily: When DeGuerin filed his motion to dismiss the first indictment, he simultaneously sent a letter to District Attorney Ronnie Earle, advising him that DeLay was now withdrawing his waiver of his client's ability to raise the statute of limitations as a defense. Clearly, this was a move by DeGuerin to cut off further indictments.

So now that the waiver has expired, has the statute of limitations elapsed vis-à-vis the second indictment? It seems the answer is probably no.

When I asked two Texas attorneys who have been following the case in the news, as well as on their respective local grapevines (but neither has insider information), I got a unanimous opinion that Earle's second indictment was timely. As one put it, "The reason DeLay is pissed is that Earle moved faster than they thought he could. He found a spanking new grand jury, and he had a new indictment within hours. That suggests to me that Ronnie Earle has some good evidence." "Those Austin grand jurors usually aren't push-overs," he told me.

This attorney continued, "It is my understanding that the reason Earle's office moved so fast was because the day the motion to dismiss arrived was the last day under the Texas statute of limitations to charge DeLay with money-laundering." So Earle got the second indictment just in the nick of time. (Incidentally, the same source reminded me that DeLay's associates, and now alleged co-conspirators, John D. Colyandro and James W. Ellis, had also been previously indicted for money laundering.)

While this attorney said he had not looked at the docket in the Colyandro and Ellis cases, he had read news accounts indicating that these defendants have been filing, and losing, a number of motion against their separate money laundering charges.

In short, it seems that Earle's money laundering case has been poked and probed, and found to be solid.

"These money launder charges against DeLay are going to trial," I was told with some assurance. "Unless the feds indict DeLay, and request that Travis County step back, and the judge and prosecutor agree."

But no one can predict what a Texas jury will do, if a trial does occur.

DeLay's Foolish Untruthful Public Statements about the Case

One experienced criminal defense attorneys (from Texas, who is following the case closely) volunteered his surprise that DeLay was going around to radio and television shows to speak out on the matter. DeLay has visited Rush Limbaugh's show, Sean Hannity's, and Chris Mathews's "Hardball" to mention a few. At each stop, DeLay repeats his claim that the grand jury had no basis, no evidence whatsoever, to indict him.

"It is just not smart for a criminal defendant to blabber on," the attorney told me. "Those public statements will come back to haunt Tom DeLay in a courtroom, probably early next year." I asked that he be more specific.

This attorney said he had watched DeLay contradict himself on "Hardball," and then, apparently, lie about never having been requested to appear before the grand jury. I pulled the transcript.

Referring to the fund-raising entity at the heart of the case, Texans for a Republican Majority PAC, DeLay told Mathews, "TRMPAC is a separate entity. I had no fiduciary responsibilities. I had no managerial responsibilities. I had nothing to do with the day-to-day operation. I was simply, along with four other elected officials, on an advisory board. They used my name as headliners for fund-raisers."

A few minutes later, though, the transcript reflects that DeLay is contradicting himself. He tells Mathews he was, in effect, deeply involved: "Everything TRMPAC did - and I insisted on - to even be on their board of advisers. Now, TRMPAC was my idea. I wanted the Texas House to be a Republican majority. And I went down there and worked with them to do that. We were successful."

One DeLay lie that seemed to stir several of the grand jurors into speaking out, was his false statement that the grand jury and the prosecutor had ignored him. In fact, they claimed, the grand jurors had requested DeLay be invited to appear, and Ronnie Earle had transmitted their request to DeLay, but DeLay refused, submitting an unsworn written statement in lieu of an appearance, which would have been required to be under oath.

Nevertheless, DeLay told Mathews: "The grand jury and prosecutor never asked me to testify, never doing anything for two years."

Grand Jurors put the Lie to DeLay: Have they Violated their Secrecy Oath?

Frankly, I was surprised to read, within 48 hours of DeLay's denials, and commentary on the grand jury, a response by no less than the foreman of the grand jury that issued the first indictment. "It was not one of those sugarcoated deals that we handed to [District Attorney] Ronnie Earle," William M. Gibson, a retired sheriff and state insurance inspector, was quoted telling the Dallas Morning News.

Even more remarkable was Gibson's interview with Aaron Brown of CNN. Gibson told the anchor, that while he was a Democrat, he was not politically motivated. Aaron Brown asked, "Was there any single compelling piece of evidence that said to you, Mr. DeLay knew that this money was being raised from corporations and sent to Washington and then sent back to Texas? That he knew it."

"We had information that was presented to us," Gibson continued, "and the twelve members of that grand jury decided that was enough evidence to warrant that indictment."

"Would you have liked to have heard from Mr. DeLay?" Gibson was asked.

"We had requested. He had answered with Ronnie Earle the district attorney. But he would not go under oath. He gave a statement to Mr. Earle. That statement was presented to the grand jury. We had requested that Mr. DeLay visit with us. He was given an open invitation but he never did appear."

This extraordinary peek inside the grand jury continued, as Brown pressed forward: "Let me ask you one other thing. There's an old saying that a good prosecutor perhaps, even a bad one, can get a grand jury to indictment a ham sandwich. Did you hear evidence that would have led you to believe beyond a reasonable doubt that Tom DeLay was guilty of a crime?"

Gibson, after congratulating Ronnie Earle's work, said, "We were provided with documentations, we had witnesses. I cannot go into what was said and everything, but I feel that the grand jury acted properly and I would have not put my name on that indictment had I not felt there was sufficient evidence to proceed on with this."

Clearly, Gibson was trying to be careful. But he appears perilously close to the line. The Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, Article 19.34, requires all grand jurors take an oath to "keep secret" their proceeding. And Article 20.02 is rather blunt in describing this secrecy: "The proceedings of the grand jury shall be secret."

And Gibson was not alone. Veronica Dixon, who sat on the jury that returned the first indictment, told the Houston Chronicle that the "only thing the grand jury bases its decisions on is the evidence presented to us. " "We had quite a lot of evidence," she said. Dixon, a state employee who said she voted Democratic in the last elections, added, "My decisions had nothing to do with what party I belonged to."

The Chronicle found a public copy of the list of the grand jurors' names, before it was sealed by a judge, and determined that seven of the 12 grand jurors had voted in Democratic primaries in recent years. One grand juror had voted in a Republican primary. Four of the grand jurors had no history or could not be fully identified by the Chronicle.

Interesting reporting. Clearly the grand jury was not totally stacked against DeLay politically, and clearly its members saw convincing evidence. But this reporting is also very close to the reporting described by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein in All The President's Men - reporting that came very close to landing the reporters in jail, for grand jury secrecy rules apply to the press, as well as grand jurors.

It seems the best thing that has happened to this case is this: It has gotten buried by the hubbub surrounding President Bush's controversial nomination of White House counsel Harriet Miers for Justice O'Connor's seat on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Both the prosecution and the defense are better off trying Tom DeLay's case in a courtroom, not in the news media. And it should be thrilling.


Link Here

Republicans Twist Arms on House Floor to Pass Energy Bill

t r u t h o u t Press Release

Friday 07 October 2005

Washington, DC - Rep. Louise M. Slaughter (D - NY), Ranking Member of the House Rules Committee, responded today to the Republican Leadership's deliberate attempt to thwart the will of the American people and to undermine the democratic process during a vote on the Gasoline for America's Security Act.

"Once again, on an issue of critical importance to the American people, the Republican Majority has chosen to trample the democratic process and manipulate the outcome of a vote on the Floor of the House of Representatives, after the vote was completed."

"This is an unethical subversion of our democracy. The Republican Leadership has brought shame on themselves and the House of Representatives."

"Today, we all see how the Republican culture of corruption has destroyed the credibility of this government and directly impacts the lives of each and every American."

Rep. Mike Simpson (R - ID), Speaker Pro - Tempore of the House, held open a five - minute vote on HR 3893, the Gasoline for America's Security Act, for over forty minutes. For nearly all of that time, Republicans were unable to produce a majority vote in favor of the bill. Rep. Simpson repeatedly stated that he was using his discretion to hold the vote open until all Members had voted. But as soon as Republicans had gained the needed number of votes to pass the Act, he closed the vote. The final vote total was 212 to 210.


The Republican Leadership abuses its power in the chair, and holds votes open for the sole purpose of reversing the outcome of the vote on a regular basis. On five separate occasions in the 108th Congress alone, votes were held open beyond the traditional 17 - minute limit in order to overturn the will of the majority. These votes include the infamous 3 - hour Prescription Drug vote in November 2003, which went far beyond any previous vote and broke all records in the history of electronic voting. By comparison, in 1987, the Republicans excoriated the Democratic Leadership for holding a vote open for only 30 minutes.

Before the Republican Leadership took over in 1995, votes were usually held open simply to decide what the next business should be on the House floor. This occurred after the outcome was already determined. Below is a chronological record of lengthy votes going back to 1987, and the time each vote was held open. "Arm - twisting" votes are noted by asterisks.

109th Congress

October 7, 2005
H.R. 3893 - Gasoline for America's Security Act vote began at 1:57 pm (a five minute vote) and was gaveled down at 2:43 pm) vote #519. 46 minutes (for a 5 - minute vote)
July 27 & 28, 2005 (legislative day of July 27, 2005)
H.R. 3045 - CAFTA the vote started at 11:00 pm on the 27th and went on until 12:03 am) Vote #443. 63 minutes

Previous Congresses

July 8, 2004
Sanders amendment on PATRIOT Act to FY 2005 Commerce - Justice State Appropriations bill. 38 minutes.
March 30, 2004
Motion to instruct conferees on PAYGO on the FY 2005 Budget Resolution. 28 minutes (on 5 - minute vote).

November 22, 2003
Final Passage of the Conference Report on HR 1, the Prescription Drug bill. 3 hours. (during this time frame, former Rep. Nick Smith claimed to have been offered a bribe by then Majority Leader Tom DeLay, which ultimately lead to DeLay's formal admonishment by the Ethics Committee)

June 26, 2003
Final Passage of HR 1, the Prescription Drug bill. 50 minutes.

March 20, 2003
Final Passage of Budget Resolution. 26 minutes.

July 12, 2001
Campaign Finance bill. This was a "time out" to determine what was to occur next on the floor. 130 minutes.

October 9, 1997
Passage of FY 1998 DC Appropriations bill. 33 minutes.

Longest Votes Prior to the Republican Majority in the House

October 3, 1994
Time out to accommodate numerous changes in the floor schedule. 44 minutes.
August 19, 1994
Time out to determine what to do next on Crime bill. 73 minutes.

October 14, 1993
Time out to determine floor schedule after rule on unemployment was defeated. 65 minutes.

October 29, 1987
Final passage of Reconciliation bill. 30 minutes.

Link Here

Iraq war - Six US marines killed in Iraq attacks

BAGHDAD - Six U.S. Marines were killed by roadside bomb blasts during combat operations in Iraq, the U.S. military said on Friday, bringing the total U.S. military death toll to at least 1,948 since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

A U.S. marine in western Iraq

A military statement said four marines died when a bomb went off in Gharma, near Falluja, on Thursday. Falluja, about 50 km (30 miles) west of Baghdad, is a stronghold of Sunni Arab opposition to U.S. occupation and the Shi'ite-led government.

Two more marines were killed on Thursday by a roadside bomb while on patrol in the vicinity of Qaim near the Syrian border, where the U.S. forces are conducting a major combat operation aimed at flushing out militant fighters, a separate military statement said.

U.S. and British in Iraq have been repeatedly attacked in recent months by "shaped charges" which are able to pierce armour and hence much more deadly than conventional roadside bombs.


Link Here

Bush Interferes in Latin American Politics

Here's an interesting power play: The U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick threatened the business community in Nicaragua on Wednesday. Who was that? Yes, you read it right: the business community in Nicaragua was threatened by the U.S. State Department.

Zoellick offered an ultimatum: either stop supporting political parties we don't like, or else the United States will cease to do business with you. The ultimatum came on the second day of Zoellick's trip in which he said, gathered before a group of business men and women, "Your opportunities will be lost."

In particular, Zoellick opposes (on behalf of the United States) a coalition that has emerged between political parties on the left and the right who have come together for the joint purpose of unseating Nicaragua's President before the 2006 elections.

Surprise, surprise. Zoellick claims he is justified in interfering in Nicaragua's affairs because the Bush administration wants to "preserve democracy."

But it gets even better. Nicaragua has still not ratified CAFTA - that pernicious piece of neoliberal investor rights protection that has masqueraded as a so-called "free-trade agreement".Although opposition to CAFTA has waned somewhat in recent months, Nicaragua's National Assembly remains nonetheless unable to come to an agreement. Thus enter Zoellick, dispatched by his boss to Nicaragua to champion the cause of democracy by casually dropping threats. Indeed, Zoellick even said that if Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega is elected in the presidential election next year that the U.S. would reduce its economic aid. Hence: the U.S. is really concerned with democracy as long as it goes our way.

Link Here

Katrina and Rita make significant environmental impact on Louisiana

Louisiana did not need any additional environmental problems. With a rapidly disappearing coastline, a number of invasive species that have played havoc with the ecosystem, a Formosan termite crisis in New Orleans of shocking proportions, and lax pollution laws, the state had major problems before Katrina and Rita landed. Now, it will have even more.

10,000 family foresters in southeast Louisiana may lose 90% of their income, according to an article in today's New Orleans Times-Picayune. The article featured Roy Wood, a forester with 800 acres of ecologically sound forest, which hosts one of the state's two remaining gopher tortoise dens. He has lost almost everything. The downed timber can be used to make plywood and paper, but much of it will have to be used as fuel wood, burned in boilers for energy.

Louisiana's national wildlife refuges have taken a huge blow from Hurricane Katrina. Big Branch Marsh, which extends from Mandeville to Slidell, lost too many trees to count. The cavity trees served as home to the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker, and between 40 and 50% of are gone. There was also coastal marshland erosion and the displacement of other wildlife.

Initial damages to the state's wildlife-and-fisheries facilities now exceed $94 million.

It is unknown how many animals drowned, how many birds were destroyed by high winds, or what the effect of oil and chemical spills will be on wildlife. Wildlife experts are concerned about southwest Louisiana's rich bird habitats, for there is both habitat loss and the loss of refuge from prey. It is estimated that 200,000 nutria died in the two hurricanes.

The only good news so far is that Lake Pontchartrain is relatively healthy and should return to full health. Several years ago, the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation set about cleaning up the lake, which was in abysmal shape because of shell dredging, dairy farm run-off, and the dumping of sewerage and chemicals.

Link Here

No Katrina RELIEF Effort!!!!!!!!!!

No Katrina RELIEF Effort

I’ve Been There


An American’s Plea To


[These are some snippets from my input into a log, write-ups from the Katrina volunteers of the American Red Cross (ARC). The Red Cross is providing temporary shelter, food, and water, some minor financial assistance, and small amounts of bulk goods to the survivors of Katrina & Rita in northeastern Louisiana and southeastern Mississippi. I participated in the first financial assistance and bulk goods operation 10-miles north of Louisiana, 90-miles north of New Orleans. That site, which became one of several that were set up subsequently, closed a few days ago. That’s all that’s been done since Katrina obliterated and Rita spiced the horrific nightmare that tens of thousands of people who are roaming around that region, searching for help. More people have electricity than a week ago, but people are crammed into damaged homes in sweltering heat, receiving no medical help, no ongoing food or water supplies, no information other than what they here from the volunteers or on the radio, and literally thousands and thousands of people are living in their cars. Katrina hit on August 29th. That was five weeks ago.]

[From the Montgomery, Alabama experience] Red Cross Katrina headquarters in 97-degrees and 89 percent humidity today in the revered home of Dr. King’s old church and Ms. Rosa Parks. Red Cross was downsized a month before Katrina hit, so they seem undermanned to the extreme. Found out that the American Red Cross (ARC) mission is very narrow, actually: Shelter, food, water, small amounts of financial assistance and bulk goods. Some full-time employees and veteran disaster team volunteers populate ARC. I guess it could be viewed as a form of organized chaos. However, without exception, it’s the most disorganized, poorly managed work operations I’ve ever seen. To a person, every volunteer I talked with agreed.

Few highlights: Hundreds of United Rental Trucks sat in the parking lot, unused. Tons of donated supplies were piled 20-feet high in an area the size of an acre. With nurses, doctors, psychologists, therapists, EMTs, rescue specialists, architects, contractors, former military, plumbers, electricians, construction workers, advocates, college students, retirees from an array of career fields, executives, managers, white and blue collar workers, the Katrina volunteer force in Montgomery was formidable. However, there was no assessment of those resources and how they could be utilized. Instead, the relatively small, silo-disconnected, greathearted, fragmented ARC workers feverishly fumbled and fawned at trickling-out what’s needed within ARC policy and procedure. I spent two full days just waiting.

This is the American Red Cross. The mantra goes like this, “we’ve never encountered a disaster of this magnitude and so we are developing our system as we go.” That sounds pretty good. However, ARC has been around for 125 years, through Galveston, Camille, Ivan, Andrew, St. Helens, San Francisco, and internationally via WWI, WWII, Korea, Viet Nam, Bosnia, Iraq. You mean to tell me that ARC doesn’t have a scalable disaster plan?

From what I’ve heard here, neither does FEMA, the military, or local, state, or our national systems. There are fantastic, dedicated, incredible people in these organizations. Nonetheless, people have and will die because of this failure, and thousands are suffering beyond all of our comprehension in unimaginable isolation as a result of it.

Pre-Deployment: The ARC Disaster Mental Health (DMH) coordinator asked me to stay after the Katrina mental health volunteer group introduced themselves, along with their professional summaries. She sat with me and asked more questions, then she told me about Tylertown. ARC was going to set-up their first financial assistance/bulk good operation in Tylertown, Mississippi, in the poorest region of the United States. There were some “incidents” in Tylertown and the situation was volatile. Reportedly, some prison-holding cells were emptied by way of the New Orleans’ flooding and dozens of convicts were roaming the area. The National Guard arrived recently, a curfew was in effect, and ARC determined that the situation could tolerate this set-up. As the day wore on, after talking with some 30-mental health volunteers, 9 agreed to sign up, to be deployed with the rest of ARC operations going to Tylertown, Mississippi.

[Tylertown, Mississippi] Cars lined-up each day for miles in both directions on the highway that led to the “arena” (a rodeo-like facility with bleachers and a large, metal roof). Temperatures soared into the upper 90’s with similar degrees of humidity, making the heat index around 110+ degrees. The hurricane victims have at best been living with anyone who’d take them in. Homes were packed with people, without electricity and until two weeks ago, without water. Thousands of victims lived in their cars. People had been searching for services, other than just food and water, traveling from county-to-county, wandering over northeastern Louisiana and southeastern Mississippi. ARC has an 800 number; however, in essence it doesn’t work. There’s TV, but no one could watch it without electricity.

The few ARC workers who managed the operations were great people, although stretched-out so thinly that, beyond basic parameters, the volunteers had to figure-out how to make the thing work. We formulated a plan that would organize the 500 to 700 victims allowed in each day, how to bring folks in, where to seat them on the bleachers, a method of reasonably moving folks through the ARC paperwork in order to get what assistance and good they could.

I became the primary crowd point-person, and Brian coordinated moving victims through the first element of ARC paperwork, in order to get folks inside the air-conditioned center as quickly and orderly as possible. We had a plan.

The heat and insects were overwhelming. We had shade, but it was sweltering anyway, with still, hazy air over the dirt horses and prize bulls are usually shown on. Love bugs, disgusting creatures with a foul odor mingled constantly with the victims and volunteers. Then there was the result of not having utilities or running water on people’s hygiene and the diseases that come along on that ride. We were also in a main root of white-to-black racism, the foundry of the South’s crucible for black people, the heartland of the Jim Crow laws. There were also great local people, black and white, who worked together outside the box, rippling the status quo in Tylertown. The Southern Baptist volunteers were there before the Red Cross and they were great. Nonetheless, the racism was as palpable as the heat in Tylertown.

I planned to conduct crowd “behavior management,” joining, reframing, explaining, providing needed information, problem-solving, encouraging, caring about, working around barriers, diffusing the potential for violence, and somehow, someway reconnecting with people without any. My role in our plan, connection, would prove pivotal at this point within this sociological context. After so many weeks of abject suffering, some brutalization, rampant rejection and isolation, and no response to horrible, horrible circumstances, the potential for something going wrong was very high and we had to try everything we could think of to prevent it from happening. I managed and embraced the crowd and the victims saved the ARC operations and me. I had four days of varying degrees of dehydration, one resulting in a time-out on the MD/RN cot. I also caught a sore throat, my voice was ravaged, I lost 10-pounds, and fatigue, stress, and physical elements were difficult. I used “Dr. Phil” as a known metaphor. I’d walk from section to section of the bleachers and say:

“Ladies, gentlemen. Good morning. I’m Dr. Bob. I’m from Los Angeles, California and I’m a volunteer with the American Red Cross. Everyone you see here is a volunteer. There are also a few folks who work for the Red Cross. Our American Red Cross manager is from the International Red Cross. He’s been all over the world and seen the worst of the worst. He’s a good guy, as are the other Red Cross folks here. Our volunteers have come from Canada, Ohio, Tennessee, Philadelphia, Florida, Washington, Oregon, and the Carolinas. Most of us were not Red Cross volunteers before Hurricane Katrina. But we signed up after this monster took your homes, your lives, your dreams, and released things beyond your greatest fears. We just want to help. From all of us, I want you to know that no matter what the Red Cross does or does not do, or FEMA, or that 800 number, or the government, or anyone else, I WANT YOU TO KNOW THAT PEOPLE, REAL PEOPLE ACROSS THIS COUNTRY AND THE WORLD CARE ABOUT YOU, ARE VERY WORRIED, AND WE WANT TO HELP. YOU’VE HAD NOTHING UP TO NOW, WE KNOW THAT. BUT TODAY, WITH YOUR HELP, TODAY WE WILL GET SOMETHING DONE!!!”

I’d then describe what was going to happen, how long it would take, how we’d do it, what information they needed, giving updates, etc. I’d then walk up and down the bleachers in between various “Dr. Bob” announcements or instruction, answering questions, hearing suggestions, diffusing a phenomenon of tension, and giving psychological first aid.

Throughout the day, the volunteers, including myself, would sit with victims outside, take down their information, then get folks inside to receive financial assistance cards, and then back outside for bulk goods. Everyone worked on everything, and worked as hard as people can. We worked with the local police, sheriff, National Guard, and had great support from out-of-area police form Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Every evening we spent time trying to figure out how to do it better. Other than a few “incidents,” a couple near riots, some hidden weapons, problems with how the local sheriff and police handed out tickets and sent people away, it worked. In fact, five other ARC assistance sites, set up over the time we were there (e.g., McComb, Centerville, Beckman), modeled operations after our system. The Red Cross did its job.

The People

The people who’ve been victimized by this natural, human, and inhumane disaster are the most remarkable humans I have ever encountered. The pain, loss, despair, suffering, anguish, and agony they have, are unlike anything any of us can comprehend. Thousands and thousands of people came from New Orleans. Their stories create pain in the listener; they are incredibly powerful.

A woman, who miscarried during the flooding, yet had her baby still inside her, walked for miles from one hospital to another, and no one treated her. A third hospital brought her in, got her baby out of her, and sent her on her way. She was told, “you can always have another baby.” A police officer and two assistants came up, taking a two-day break from New Orleans. Houses are marked with a red circle and a line through it, like a “no smoking” sign, to indicate that no one remains inside. An inverted triangle means there is a corpse for removal. The officer said there are not 10,000 dead, but there are probably hundreds. Rescue workers and officers tied or chained corpses to streetlight posts, signs, rails, tracks, and fences. One of the assistants said that they keep finding people in their homes. One fellow was holed up in the attic of a home marked as clear. He’d been there with minimal rations for three weeks. There are hundreds of folks still trapped in their homes. The relief and police services are undermanned. I asked how they could possibly handle so much death. The officer said one grows sort of numb to it, like how an MD might become. He said that if I dropped over in front of him, he’d check to see if I was alive and if I wasn’t, he’d just step over me and go on. Later, the assistant said that she cannot get to numb, that she’s been crying for hours in between trying to function, with each corpse is found. A man clung to his wife as they tried to get to their car when the water poured in from Lake Pontchartrain, but their hands were pulled apart suddenly and she was gone. So was his house, his pictures, all of his records, books, clothes, and he doesn’t know where the rest of his family wound up, if they made it.

[Sept 25th, Greenville, Mississippi] I went from Tylertown to Greenville Mississippi yesterday after completing a shortened ARC services day, due to the arrival of hurricane Rita. She hit landfall on Friday night. That was something in Tylertown, with wind, rain, air pressure, and a moving, counterclockwise eerie mass of Rita over us. Today, Rita’s tropical eye was about 50-miles away from Jackson, Mississippi when a former colleague and ongoing friend of mine met the ARC courier who driving me up from Tylertown. The rain and wind became so furious that we couldn’t see more that 20-feet beyond the vehicle. We finally had to stop on the highway. My friend has an 8,000-pound Hummer H2, and at times we would hydroplane sideways, even at 5 to 10 mph. Hurricanes carry tornadoes along as they travel about on land and Rita was no exception. There were several of them around us.

I came to Greenville, because my friend has taken matters into his own hands. In 1999, the VA completed the construction of an assisted living building in Greenville, Mississippi, and then abandoned it due to financial redirection. My friend works for a company that wants to make it available to take-in forensic psych patients, diminishing pressure on overloaded state hospital systems. My friend is now finalizing negotiations with FEMA to dedicate half of the 225,000 square foot facility to house survivors of Katrina, and do something far greater. The goal will be to integrate these folks into the community of Greenville (or wherever they choose), so they do not return to the abject poverty lived in before Katrina. I design and manage large operations and programs, and my friend wanted to talk with me about the project, lessons learned from Tylertown, and brainstorm it all into a plan for community, vocational training, medical, mental health, church and educational support for the survivors of Katrina who come to Greenville for relief. Yes, real relief. It’s about time someone stepped up to do it.

He’s a staunch Republican and I’m a Democrat. We vehemently disagree on many things, but we are the closest of friends and on what counts, we’re on the same page entirely.

[Los Angeles, California, back home in late September] Yesterday my armor came off and I spent a lot of time crying. I also began to feel the fatigue. I’m so grateful for what I have, and I love being home again with my beloved wife and sweet kids. I’m so tired, and still going in and out of a tiny bit of post-dehydration wooziness. Already had a call from someone in Tylertown. I guess a victim/survivor had a gun that fell through the bleachers. Never sit in the bleachers with a gun and a hole in the pocket you’re carrying it in, I’ve always said. My experience in Montgomery and Tylertown has opened another door in my life. I intend to go through it.

[October 7] Talked with an EMT, Dan, who’s continued to work in Tylertown until the Red Cross closed operations a few days ago. Scene remains the same, although more people have electricity. Standing homes are packed with people in sweltering heat, with health problems untreated, many folks living in their cars. Miles of cars wait each morning for Red Cross assistance, yet there remains no relief, no real help, and no one else is stepping-up.

People’s Heart

The most incredible, unbelievable and poignant part of this journey was the hope and faith of these amazing people. Almost to a person, over and over and over again, I heard about their faith in God and their preservation of hope. The unwavering love among those who found or attached themselves to each other was indescribable, and people were so grateful for help, even too little and too late. It was beyond astounding to me to hear such words after these accounts of infinite, ongoing suffering. I have never met people who carried such grace and love in the face of horror, inhumanity, annihilation, anger, despair, and sheer agony. It will change me forever. It was the greatest honor I’ve ever had, to be among them, wading for a time in the waters of courage, integrity, and spirit in purest definition.

May humanity meet the level of integrity, hope, and faith of the survivors of Hurricane Katrina.

A Plea for America

It will be important going forward to understand what should be improved, to make disaster relief and recovery in our country work the way it should. However, now, right now, thousands and thousands of New Orleans and Mississippi Americans are without power, living in their cars, homes are gone, friends and relative’s whereabouts unknown, food and water doled-out to our citizens, as though they are refugees. I’m just an American and in my view, this situation is intolerable.

No matter whose to blame or what should be done in the future, one thing should be abundantly clear: Bureaucracy is failing. The money is there, and there are phenomenal people in FEMA and the Red Cross doing everything they can to help, within the limits of their respective bureaucratic structures. The need in Mississippi and Louisiana screams, “think outside the box.” We cannot wait for the bureaucratic systems, public sector or non-profit, to figure this out. Too many Americans are alone in a Hell few can imagine. If we are moral, if we have values, if we are the great country that we all believe in, we must act.

I know from meeting so many, incredible volunteers who came to the American Red Cross with great heart and a multitude of skills that the necessary workforce is readily available. We’re lined-up to help. I believe many who read this are ready as well, to contribute their time, hands, and hearts to help fellow Americans. I will be sending this to news agencies, but more importantly to those who have the means, the economic power, and the influence to coordinate something Americans can do that government or agencies thus far can’t.

Americans need our help. There is a great lesson about color that we can all take away from this situation. It’s very clear: Red, White, and Blue.

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** Dahr Jamail's Iraq Dispatches **

October 08, 2005

“Violence leads only to more violence.”

Ongoing military operations continue unabated in Al-Anbar province. With
names like ‘Operation Iron Fist’ and ‘Operation Iron Gate’ which was
launched just days after ‘Iron Fist,’ thousands of US troops, backed by
warplanes, tanks and helicopters, began attacking small cities and
villages primarily in the northwestern area of Al-Anbar.

According to the US military and corporate media, the purpose of these
operations is to “root out” fighters from al-Qaida in Iraq, along with
so-called insurgents.

An Iraqi journalist writing under the name Sabah Ali (due to concerns of
retribution from US/Iraqi governmental authorities) recently returned
from the Al-Qa’im area of Iraq. Her report tells quite a different story.

Venturing into the combat zone at the end of September/beginning of
October, Sabah visited the village of Aanah, 360 km west of Baghdad,
accomplishing a feat no non-embedded western journalist has dared
undertake. The following is the report from Sabah, with photos, which
shows the effect of these operations on civilians in the area:


There are 1,500 refugee families
located now in this very new and modern city of Aanah (the old Aanah was
drowned under the Euphrates when a dam was constructed in the eighties).
The Aanah Humanitarian Relief Committee (AHRC) said that there are 7,450
families from Al-Qa’im and surroundings areas scattered in different
western cities, villages and in the desert. The AHRC report said that a
few hundred families are still being besieged in A-Qa’im; they could not
leave for different reasons. Some have disabled members (there are many
now in Al-Qa’im), or have no money to move, or they prefer to stay under
the bombing rather than living in a refugee camp.

Many families could not leave. Abu Alaa’, for example, whose house was
damaged earlier this year, whose wife lost her sight in that attack,
could not leave because his wife and his father in law were shot again
last week, injuring his wife again in abdomen; she is still in the
hospital, and he could not leave. We call upon the international society
to demand that these families are given the chance to leave before the
city is devastated. People who stay behind are not necessarily fighters.
They simply could not move.

Families remaining in the area are in the following
towns/villages/locations: The Projects area (2,500 families), Okashat,
(950 families), Fheida (500), Phosphate factory (400), Cement factory
(350), Tiwan (400), Aanah (1,500), Raihana (100), Hasa (200), Jbab
(125), Nhaiya (100), and Ma’adhid (75).

People are squatting in schools, public buildings, offices and youth
centers. Many are in tent camps
, living in tents donated by various local relief committees.

The luckiest are those who have friends or relatives to stay with in
proper houses. Many of them need medical help, the children and the
youth do not go to schools, they already lost a year last summer, and
the women are having unbelievable difficulties trying to keep the
families in impossible conditions. Aanah youth center
is turned into a refugee camp. Here there are 45 families who live in
tents, 17 families in the building.

Raja Yasin, a widow originally from Basra but was married and had her 10
children in Alqaim says; “If we had not run away we would have been
killed in the bombing. We have nothing now. We need blankets and food.”
Raja’s family is desperately poor. She has only her teenage son to help
feed the family. But Raja is happy that she ran with her family
[because]: “the attack will begin tomorrow,” she said.

Mrs. Khamis, a mother of eight and a wife of a high school teacher, is
not in a better situation: “We had to run bare foot; I left the lunch on
the stove when the attack began. There was heavy bombing and mortar
shelling, we had to run through the side streets with white flags” But
she is not comfortable in the camp either: “There is no hot water; I
have to give the children cold baths and the weather is changing. There
is only one toilet for all these families, all together: men, women, and
children. My brother tried to go back to Al-Qa’im three times to get
some clothes and stuff from our house but could not go through the check
points. We need blankets, food, fuel, and medicines…the attack will
begin tomorrow.”

The Khamis family did not receive the monthly food ration or salary for
the two months before the last attack.

Many health cases in the camp needed immediate medical attendance,
especially children, but the families are blocked in the camp. And after
the attack eventually began on Saturday, October 1, and the second
attack on Haditha under the name of ‘Operation River Gate’, all the
roads were completely closed.

Dr.Hamdi Al-Aloossy, General Director of the Al-Qa’im hospital was in
Aanah, meeting with Dr. Walid Jawad, the Aanah General Director of Aanah
hospital, obviously discussing what to do regarding the refugees and the
impending invasion of Al-Qa’im.

Dr. Hamdi
confirmed that the majority of Al-Qa’ims population of 150,000 left the
city, and that only the disabled and those who preferred to stay
remained. He also confirmed that many of the casualties he treated were
women and children (He has already confirmed this on Al-Arabia channel
three days earlier.) He explained that the families are not afraid of
the bombing, the fighting or the mortars as much as they are afraid of
an American-Iraqi invasion of the city, something which many families
mentioned too.

According to Dr. Hamdi: “After the families saw what happened in
Tal-Afar on TV, and after the threat of the Defense Minister to attack
Al-Qa’im, they were terrified. The immigration was crazy. It was an
irresponsible statement by the Defense Minister. There were no military
evacuation orders. These thousands of children and families are living
in the wilderness in very bad conditions. A child of two months got
seven scorpion stings. Another two families of 14 members each got
poisoned because of canned food. The health security in the camps is
zero. And the health security in the bombed and attacked areas is 100%
at risk. It makes me cry to think of those families. Child mortality
increased three times due to ordinary illnesses because we do not have
any vaccines, and no electricity to keep them. Women health cannot be
surveyed, many of them moved out of town. We used to receive 200 a day,
now 15-20. We do not have regular statistics. But we can say roughly
that the death percentage due to women cases increased by two times.”

“We repair the hospital every two months; the glass, the water; the
electricity…and it is bombed again, the government has to do something
about this. Violence leads only to more violence.”

of Aanah, said that his hospital cannot cover the huge numbers of refugees.

“We are receiving 500-600 patients a day; we do not have this capacity.
We do not have a surgeon, an aesthetician, emergency medicines and
supplies, children syrups, lab materials…etc.,” said Dr. Walid, “And in
Aanah now there are 3-5 families in each house.”

During our one hour visit to Dr. Walid’s office, patients never stopped
coming in and going out. The majority of them are from Al-Qa’im or Rawa,
another western Iraqi city which witnessed a very bad invasion three
months ago. A young woman of 18, Sabreen, limping, needs an operation
and natural therapy. She is one of five women workers in the Rawa
textile factory who were shot by the American troops three months ago.
Dr. Walid sent her to a surgeon in Ramadi, a friend of his.

In Aanah high school, we met 14 families; the majority of them were from
Rawa. They turned the classrooms
into guest rooms, living rooms, and kitchens
Class desks were used as kitchen tables, and they wash dishes and
clothes in the yard. Needless to say all the schools in the attacked
areas are closed. But in Aanah, where the situation is relatively calm,
the schools are open, but they use 2-3 class rooms and give the rest to
the refugee families to stay in.

The saddest thing about these families is that they do not know why they
are facing this destiny. Aala’ Ahmad
years old, does not understand how the American troops could take her
family’s house, occupy it and send them away, just because it looks out
on the whole town of Rawa: “They did not let us go back to our house,
they said that they need to come back regularly,” she said. Aala’ lost
her school year. Um Ismael
a mother of six does not understand why the American troops blew up the
gate of her house while it was open. “They searched and destroyed every
thing, and found nothing,” she said, “I do not even have young men for
them to arrest, what are we going to do now?”

The families with whom we spent our first night in Aanah were squatting
in a deserted unfinished construction site. It is a rather big, two
floor house. Its owner is a lawyer from a well known family. He meant it
to be a guest house. The women cleaned it from dead animals,
construction mess, waste…arranged for water, electric lights, and
plastic carpets on the floor, some rags on the windows openings, still
it is not comfortable to live in , bats raid the place at night, the
windows openings bring chilling air, stairs without railing…etc.

Afaf, a teacher and a mother of four, described what happened: “We left
3 weeks ago when the bombing on Al-Qa’im began. Some families left
earlier after the Defense Minister, Sadoon Al-Duleimi, threatened
Al-Garbiya area of an overall attack. They were clever because they had
time to take some furniture, clothes, food and stuff with them. When the
bombing began we had to leave as quickly as possible. It was a very sad
day. People were running out of the city, holding white flags,
terrified, some in cars, some on feet; some got trucks and helped the
old and the families.”

All these families
had more or less similar reasons to run away. But all of them agreed on
one thing: they were afraid of the impending American-Iraqi invasion.
“We have our daughters to worry about. Every thing can be fixed except
honor,” Afaf told us. They were afraid that the invaders would rape
their girls. “We saw what happened in Tal-Afar. They arrest all the men,
the women are left on their on, and the roads are closed. We do not want
to find ourselves in this situation,” Afaf said.

Other families
are living in horrible conditions in various refugee camps scattered
throughout northwestern Al-Anbar province.


Keep in mind that this visit took place just before the current major
military operations began. Reports from that area now confirm that the
situation has grown far, far worse.

Another friend of mine recently returned from the Al-Qa’im area where
she brought aid supplies to refugee families. During a phone call she
reported, “You can’t imagine the situation these people are living in
Dahr. There are so many of their homes bombed by warplanes
people living in camps
and families in the desert who just need blankets and food. It’s horrible.”

And now, according to a recent IRIN report, “Nearly 1,000 families have
fled their homes in Haditha in western Iraq following the launch of a
US-ld military operation to hunt down insurgents in the town in the
Euphrates river valley, according to residents in the area.” 1,000
families have fled their homes in Haditha in western Iraq following the
launch of a US-led military operation to hunt down in insurgents in the
town in the Euphrates river valley, according to residents in the area.”

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