The War in Context  
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Across U.S., outrage at response
By Todd S. Purdum, New York Times, September 3, 2005

There was anger: David Vitter, Louisiana's freshman Republican senator, gave the federal government an F on Friday for its handling of the whirlwind after the storm. And Representative Elijah E. Cummings, Democrat of Maryland and the former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, declared, "We cannot allow it to be said that the difference between those who lived and those who died" amounted to "nothing more than poverty, age or skin color."

There was shock at the slow response: Joseph P. Riley Jr., the 29-year Democratic mayor of Charleston, S.C., and a veteran of Hurricane Hugo's wrath, said: "I knew in Charleston, looking at the Weather Channel, that Gulfport was going to be destroyed. I'm the mayor of Charleston, but I knew that!"

But perhaps most of all there was shame, a deep collective national disbelief that the world's sole remaining superpower could not - or at least had not - responded faster and more forcefully to a disaster that had been among its own government's worst-case possibilities for years. [complete article]

Comment -- If Hurricane Katrina had struck America before the 9/11 terrorist attacks, there is little doubt that the nation -- and thus its politicians -- would have been able to assess the terrorist threat with a better sense of proportion. After the attacks the administration ramped up everyone's fears with grave warnings about mushroom clouds but we have now seen the awesome effect from a storm of vast destruction. Who can in all honesty say that the damage it has wreaked is less than the more remote danger posed by the possibility of nuclear terrorism?

Congress has authorized billions of dollars spent on creating a missile defense system and billions on a war being waged on the dubious premise that terrorism can be defeated through military combat, yet every single year storms of vast destruction brew in the Atlantic. With a predictability far easier to calculate than the chance of another devastating terrorist attack, they pummel this continent and occasionally strike a crippling blow. The danger cannot be eradicated, but a fund of knowledge already exists that should immediately be applied through public policy, sensible urban and environmental planning, engineering projects and implementation of emergency procedures that help minimize the impact of nature's wrath. Is this not how we should demand to see out tax dollars at work? Is this not what citizens are owed by their government?

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Experts: Focus on terrorism delays FEMA response to Katrina
By Alison Young and Seth Borenstein, Knight Ridder, September 2, 2005

The chaotic government response to Hurricane Katrina, which even President Bush said was "not acceptable," was the inevitable result of federal policies emphasizing protection from terrorist attacks at the expense of preparing for far more common natural disasters, state emergency officials and other experts said Friday.

As hurricane survivors died along roadsides and at shelters where they were told to take refuge, or pleaded for food and water or a ride to an overcrowded shelter, members of Congress called for hearings to find out how the response to this disaster could have failed so badly when the nation has spent unprecedented billions of dollars in the name of homeland security.

But the answer may not be much of a mystery. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, once a powerful independent agency focused solely on responding to earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and other natural disasters that occur on average about four times a month, was placed within the huge Department of Homeland Security after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The Department of Homeland Security sends $1.1 billion each year to states to combat terrorism, but just $180 million to help prepare for disasters such as Katrina. Much of the terrorism grant money is given under conditions that specifically exclude spending it on items or personnel that would be used in responding to hazards other than terrorism. [complete article]

See also, Storm disaster fuels doubts over US terror plans (Reuters).

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Katrina's assault on Washington
Editorial, New York Times, September 3, 2005

...if President Bush and his Republican Congressional leaders want to deal responsibly with a historic disaster of this scale, they must finally try the path of honestly shared national sacrifice. If they respond by passing a few emergency measures and then falling back on their plans to enact more tax cuts, America will have to confront the fact that it is stuck with leaders who neither know, nor care, how to lead.

The pre-Katrina plan for this Congressional season was to enact more upper-bracket tax cuts for the least needy, while cutting into the safety-net programs for sick and impoverished Americans. These are the very entitlement programs most needed by the sudden underclass of hundreds of thousands of hurricane refugees cast adrift like Dustbowl Okies. Will Congress dare to go forward with these retrogressive plans in the face of the suffering from Katrina? Its woeful track record suggests that, shockingly, the answer may be yes. [complete article]

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Government policy: We won't evacuate the poor
By Leonard Witt, PJNet Today, September 1, 2005

Last Sunday when I watched on TV as people lined up for hours trying to get in the New Orleans Superdome, I kept asking my wife, where are the buses to evacuate them. These were folks obviously with few resources and most likely no transportation of their own.

Rather than herding them into this potentially unsafe refuge of last resort, why not help get them out of harm's way, bring on the buses, the National Guard troop carriers. But there would be none of that. No help for the poor, car-less, aged, or infirm. Then I learned why in a New Orleans Times-Picayune article dated July 24. The city, state, and federal governments' official plan or non-plan was simply to tell the poor, car-less, aged and infirm that they were on their own. If a hurricane struck, we, your government, can't help you; we have no resources.

No resources for the poorest of the poor, the aged and infirm? Is this my America? Is this your America? Here are the Times-Picayune's opening paragraphs from the July 24 story:
City, state and federal emergency officials are preparing to give the poorest of New Orleans' poor a historically blunt message: In the event of a major hurricane, you're on your own.
[complete article]

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Troops begin combat operations in New Orleans
By Joseph R. Chenelly, Army Times, September 2, 2005

Combat operations are underway on the streets "to take this city back" in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

"This place is going to look like Little Somalia," Brig. Gen. Gary Jones, commander of the Louisiana National Guard's Joint Task Force told Army Times Friday as hundreds of armed troops under his charge prepared to launch a massive citywide security mission from a staging area outside the Louisiana Superdome. "We're going to go out and take this city back. This will be a combat operation to get this city under control."

Jones said the military first needs to establish security throughout the city. Military and police officials have said there are several large areas of the city are in a full state of anarchy. [complete article]

See also, Met by despair, not violence (LAT).

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Mayor C. Ray Nagin's interview
New York Times, September 2, 2005

Don't tell me 40,000 people are coming here. They're not here. It's too doggone late. Now get off your asses and do something, and let's fix the biggest goddamn crisis in the history of this country. [complete article]

Note - If you haven't already heard this interview, listen to the audio MP3 version. The transcript does not do the Mayor's words justice.

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'To me, it just seems like black people are marked'
By Wil Haygood, Washington Post, September 2, 2005

It seemed a desperate echo of a bygone era, a mass of desperate-looking black folk on the run in the Deep South. Some without shoes.

It was high noon Thursday at a rest stop on the edge of Baton Rouge when several buses pulled in, fresh from the calamity of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.

Hundreds piled out, dragging themselves as if floating through some kind of thick liquid. They were exhausted, some crying. [complete article]

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Demands of wars since 9/11 strain National Guard's efforts
By Bryan Bender, Boston Globe, September 2, 2005

The National Guard's scramble to bring aid and order to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast is hamstrung by the fact that units across the country have, on average, half their usual amount of equipment -- helicopters, Humvees, trucks, and weapons -- on hand because much of it has been siphoned off to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to military officials and security specialists.

The equipment the Guard needs to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina is in shorter supply because the gear is in use in combat zones, is battle-damaged, or has been loaned to cover gaps in other units, the officials said. The National Guard Bureau estimates that its nationwide equipment availability rate is 35 percent, about half the normal level, according to Pentagon statistics.

"In the four years since 9/11 that we have been at war, equipment has been beaten up, blown up, or simply left behind," said John Goheen of the National Guard Association of the United States. "States have had to borrow equipment and make do with a lot less equipment. We are short literally thousands of Humvees."

Meanwhile, in Louisiana and Mississippi, the states hit hardest by the hurricane, up to 40 percent of their National Guard troops are on active duty in Iraq. As a result, Guard commanders responding to the storm's havoc have been forced to look further afield for military police and other National Guard units and equipment from states as far away as Maryland, stealing precious time from the relief efforts. [complete article]

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'It reminds me of Baghdad in the worst of times'
By Julian Borger, The Guardian, September 3, 2005

The sprawling convention centre in New Orleans was no doubt once a source of civic pride, but yesterday the concrete and glass edifice was a symbol of national shame, giving out a stench that could be smelt two blocks away.

A dense mass of people - perhaps 20,000, almost all of them black - packed the cavernous building and filled the surrounding pavement, sitting amid debris left by Hurricane Katrina and the rubbish accumulated in four days of waiting for help.

A knot of police officers, mostly white, watched the throng warily from a small side road, armed with rifles and pump-action shotguns. More police watched from the Greater New Orleans Bridge high above.

They were the only sign that the official world was aware of the plight of the crowd below - and that was as close as they got. The previous day, some military rations and water had been dropped by relief workers from the bridge on to the car park. It was as if being poor and black was a contagious disease. [complete article]

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House members voice anger and call for bringing troops home
By Tom Curry, NBC, September 2, 2005

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus gathered in Washington on Friday to voice their frustration at the pace of hurricane relief efforts on the Gulf Coast and offered a few specific ideas that they thought might help, such as, every hotel chain in America opening its doors to people evacuated from Louisiana and providing donated accommodations.

Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill., also urged every American air carrier, from United to Delta, to fly planes to New Orleans to remove people from the city and bring them to other cities.

"Why can't we absorb them in New York, in Chicago, in Virginia, in Washington, D.C.?" Jackson asked, adding "Where are the hotels of America, where is the Hyatt, and the Hilton and the Holiday Inn and the Fairmont? Where are those airlines that we bailed out after 9/11 who suffered greatly because of that unspeakable tragedy as Americans turned away from the travel industry?" [complete article]

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A warning sent but left unheeded
By Tim Rutten, Los Angeles Times, September 2, 2005

As commentators and public officials survey the morass of loss and desolation that once was a great American city called New Orleans, one of the words we hear and read over and over again is "unimaginable."

In fact, the tragedy that this week destroyed a vibrant metropolitan area that was home to 1.4 million people and the city proper that was a national cultural treasure was not simply imagined but foreseen with a prescience that now seems eerily precise. [complete article]

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Iraqi envoy sees parallel in New Orleans looting
By Walter Pincus, Washington Post, September 3, 2005

The first to bring up New Orleans yesterday [at the annual convention of the American Political Science Association] during a discussion on Iraq was Barbara Bodine, a former U.S. ambassador to Yemen who served in Baghdad in 2003 as part of the original coalition group that entered the city in April 2003 to create a post-Saddam Hussein government.

Bodine said she was not minimizing what was happening in New Orleans, but she recalled that, when looting took place in Iraq, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld described it as "messy stuff" that happens in a free country. "I would like to see Mr. Rumsfeld stand up and say that to the people in New Orleans," Bodine said.

Bodine noted that Louisiana officials are saying that the public should not stand for lawlessness and that the National Guard and police will arrest and even shoot looters. She cited as a disconnect the fact that about 30,000 troops are heading to a single city, in New Orleans's case, while about 140,000 U.S. service members were sent to bring security to the whole of Iraq. [complete article]

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U.S. lowers number of troops to be added for Iraqi elections
By Ellen Knickmeyer, Washington Post, September 3, 2005

The U.S. military has dropped plans to boost its presence in Iraq by more than 20,000 troops to safeguard elections, a senior U.S. commander indicated Friday, with Hurricane Katrina putting demands on a force already stretched thin by the conflicts here and in Afghanistan.

The United States now plans to deploy about 2,000 extra troops for the Oct. 15 referendum on Iraq's constitution, bringing the U.S. total here "pretty close" to 140,000, Lt. Gen. John Vines told reporters in Washington during a video news conference.

The United States has 138,000 troops in Iraq. Pentagon officials said in late August that they expected to temporarily boost that number to 160,000 as part of U.S. and Iraqi efforts to block an expected increase in insurgent attacks timed to the October vote and December parliamentary elections. Pentagon officials said at the time that the troop increase would be accomplished mainly by delaying the return home of some units and speeding the arrival of others slated to replace them. [complete article]

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5,000 U.S. and Iraqi troops sweep into city of Tall Afar
By Jonathan Finer, Washington Post, September 3, 2005

It was a clear and quiet dusk, with only the call to prayer echoing from minarets across this city, when a roadside bomb blasted an M1-A1 Abrams tank, shaking nearby buildings and filling the indigo sky with a plume of black smoke.

Crackling small-arms fire clanged off the damaged vehicle from an adjacent house. U.S. soldiers answered with increasingly violent volleys -- .50-caliber machine gun bursts, tank rounds and a TOW missile -- but the shots from inside the house kept coming. Finally, an ear-splitting succession of five rounds from the tank's big gun reduced the building to flaming rubble and lit the empty streets with white sparks from exploding power transformers.

In the largest urban assault since the siege of Fallujah last November, more than 5,000 U.S. and Iraqi troops entered this northern city before dawn Friday. But the 45-minute firefight at day's end suggested that the insurgents who have controlled much of Tall Afar for almost a year would not relinquish it easily. [complete article]

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Pentagon investigator resigning
By T. Christian Miller, Los Angeles Times, September 3, 2005

The Pentagon's top investigator has resigned amid accusations that he stonewalled inquiries into senior Bush administration officials suspected of wrongdoing.

Defense Department Inspector General Joseph E. Schmitz told staffers this week that he intended to resign as of Sept. 9 to take a job with the parent company of Blackwater USA, a defense contractor.

The resignation comes after Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) sent Schmitz several letters this summer informing him that he was the focus of a congressional inquiry into whether he had blocked two criminal investigations last year. [complete article]

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New Orleans chaos prompts criticism of U.S. response
Bloomberg, September 2, 2005

Reports of families stranded on rooftops, mass looting and violence more than three days after Hurricane Katrina hit the U.S. Gulf Coast are leading disaster experts and local officials to question whether the federal government should have moved quicker and could now do more.

"I need reinforcements, I need troops, I need 500 buses," New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin told radio station WWL-AM last night. "They're thinking small."

"This is a national disgrace, Terry Ebbert, the head of New Orleans' emergency operations, told Agence France-Presse. "We can send massive amounts of aid to tsunami victims (in Asia), but we can't bail out the city of New Orleans."

"It comes down to leadership, and this effort is without a leader," said George Haddow, deputy chief of staff of the Federal Emergency Management Agency from 1998 to 2000. "I don't think they understand how to do this at the top level." Haddow is now a lecturer at George Washington University's Institute for Crisis, Disaster and Risk Management in Washington.

FEMA's effectiveness was reduced when it was absorbed by the Homeland Security Department after the Sept. 11 attacks, Haddow said, and emphasis shifted from disaster preparedness to countering terrorism. [complete article]

See also, New Orleans mayor lashes out at Feds (CNN).

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Engineers' warnings and pleas for money went unheeded
By Andrew C. Revkin and Christopher Drew, New York Times, September 2, 2005

The 17th Street levee that gave way and led to the flooding of New Orleans was part of an intricate, aging system of barriers and pumps that was so chronically underfinanced that senior regional officials of the Army Corps of Engineers complained about it publicly for years.

Often leading the chorus was Alfred Naomi, a senior project manager for the corps and a 30-year veteran of efforts to waterproof a city built on slowly sinking mud, surrounded by water and periodically a target of great storms.

Naomi grew particularly frustrated this year as the Gulf Coast braced for what forecasters said would be an intense hurricane season and a nearly simultaneous $71 million cut was announced in the New Orleans district budget to guard against such storms. He called the cut drastic in an article in the magazine New Orleans City Business.

In an interview Wednesday night, Naomi said the cuts had made it impossible to complete contracts for vital upgrades that were part of the long-term plan to renovate the system. [complete article]

See also, They saw it coming (NYT).

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A city of despair and lawlessness
By Sam Coates and Dan Eggen, Washington Post, September 2, 2005

Federal and local authorities struggled Thursday to regain control of this ruined and lawless city, where tens of thousands of desperate refugees remained stranded with little hope of rescue and rapidly diminishing supplies of food and drinking water.

The chaos that has gripped New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina showed signs Thursday of spreading to Baton Rouge and along the storm-ravaged Gulf Coast, as weary refugees continued their slow and confused exodus to higher ground. Fresh waves of National Guard troops began pouring into the region in an attempt to quell the unrest, but large swaths of New Orleans and other sodden areas remained essentially ungoverned. [complete article]

See also, For those remaining, 'this is total chaos' (WP) Journalists begin to fear for their own safety in New Orleans (E&P).

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From margins of society to center of the tragedy
By David Gonzalez, New York Times, September 2, 2005

The scenes of floating corpses, scavengers fighting for food and desperate throngs seeking any way out of New Orleans have been tragic enough. But for many African-American leaders, there is a growing outrage that many of those still stuck at the center of this tragedy were people who for generations had been pushed to the margins of society.

The victims, they note, were largely black and poor, those who toiled in the background of the tourist havens, living in tumbledown neighborhoods that were long known to be vulnerable to disaster if the levees failed. Without so much as a car or bus fare to escape ahead of time, they found themselves left behind by a failure to plan for their rescue should the dreaded day ever arrive.

"If you know that terror is approaching in terms of hurricanes, and you've already seen the damage they've done in Florida and elsewhere, what in God's name were you thinking?" said the Rev. Calvin O. Butts III, pastor of Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem. "I think a lot of it has to do with race and class. The people affected were largely poor people. Poor, black people." [complete article]

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Katrina comes home to roost
By Sidney Blumenthal, The Guardian, September 2, 2005

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

A year ago the US army corps of engineers proposed to study how New Orleans could be protected from a catastrophic hurricane, but the Bush administration ordered that the research not be undertaken. After a flood killed six people in 1995, the Congress created the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project. Operated by the corps of engineers, levees and pumping stations were strengthened and renovated. In 2001, when George Bush became president, the Federal Emergency Management Agency issued a report stating that a hurricane striking New Orleans was one of the three most likely potential disasters - after a terrorist attack on New York City. But by 2003 the federal funding essentially dried up as it was drained into the Iraq war. By 2004, the Bush administration cut the corps of engineers' request for holding back the waters of Lake Pontchartrain by more than 80%. By the beginning of this year, the administration's additional cuts, reduced by 44% since 2001, forced the corps to impose a hiring freeze. The Senate debated adding funds for fixing levees, but it was too late. [complete article]

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U.S. disaster with few rivals
By Peter Grier and Patrik Jonsson, Christian Science Monitor, September 2, 2005

As its effects unspool throughout the nation, hurricane Katrina now seems likely to enter US history as an iconic disaster on the level of the Chicago fire of 1871, the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, and the Mississippi flood of 1927.

New Orleans and other hard-hit areas are struggling just to reestablish normal bonds of society. Gunfire disrupted initial attempts to evacuate refugees from the Superdome on Thursday. In Baton Rouge, La., armed men hijacked a nursing-home bus, evidence of the looting continuing in the region.

Elsewhere, Americans saw the hurricane's winds in the swiftly rising numbers on gas station signs. The price of other commodities may well rise, as the lower Mississippi is a great funnel through which vast amounts of goods flow. New Orleans is a major port for grains, coffee, and other bulk items. Fruit giant Chiquita Brands routes one-quarter of its fresh bananas through the area, for instance. [complete article]

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Katrina poses key test for stretched National Guard
By Mark Sappenfield, Christian Science Monitor, September 2, 2005

Even for a force formed before the foundation of the Republic, what lies ahead for the National Guard along the Gulf Coast is something unprecedented in terms of scope.

"We're making history again," says Lt. Col. Robert Horton of the Alabama Guard. "Never before have we supported so many state and federal missions."

If the Iraq war showcases how Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has recast the National Guard - turning it from a reserve deployed only in times of crisis to an active, operational force - then the aftermath of hurricane Katrina will go a long way toward determining whether this new mission is spreading America's part-time soldiers too thin, further taxing an already stressed force and endangering the nation. [complete article]

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A can't-do government
By Paul Krugman, New York Times, September 2, 2005

Before 9/11 the Federal Emergency Management Agency listed the three most likely catastrophic disasters facing America: a terrorist attack on New York, a major earthquake in San Francisco and a hurricane strike on New Orleans. "The New Orleans hurricane scenario," The Houston Chronicle wrote in December 2001, "may be the deadliest of all." It described a potential catastrophe very much like the one now happening.

So why were New Orleans and the nation so unprepared? After 9/11, hard questions were deferred in the name of national unity, then buried under a thick coat of whitewash. This time, we need accountability. [complete article]

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Waiting for the outside world
By Mike Ferner, Electronic Iraq, September 1, 2005

In the "old days" of the U.S. peace movement, when many people focused on the threat of a global nuclear "exchange" an organization called Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) postulated what would happen if a major American city was actually blasted by an atomic bomb.

The doctors described utterly horrific scenarios extending far beyond the numbers of dead and severely wounded. In plain words they described what the few survivors would experience: a landscape that not only had sustained unimaginable casualties, but which had also suffered the destruction of its transportation and health care infrastructure. No ambulances would arrive with lights and sirens to whisk away the suffering. Doctors, nurses, blood plasma, pain killers, antibiotics, bandages – all would be destroyed along with the hospitals and highways.

As difficult as it was to picture such a reality, the hardest thing to imagine was that in a nuclear war there would be no "outside" from where help will come. When every major city suffers the same fate as yours, no one "out there" can help you. "Out there" is all gone. Instantly, in city after city, life becomes a contaminated, pre-industrial struggle for survival. [complete article]

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Katrina: a shock too many for economy?
By Mike Dolan, Reuters (via Yahoo), September 2, 2005

Hurricane Katrina's second wave -- soaring gasoline and home-heating prices -- may be less deadly and destructive than the storm itself but poses much greater risks to the world's biggest economy.

U.S. economic health is so dependent on keeping its increasingly indebted households shopping that another drain on their already-stretched budgets could batter the economy.

American consumers, whose spending on goods, services and houses accounted for 76 percent of U.S. gross domestic product in the second quarter, have shrugged off many shocks over the past decade -- most notably the bubble burst of 2000 and the September 11, 2001 attacks.

They have done so largely by accumulating more and more relative cheap debts.

But economists worry that a fresh, even temporary, spike in energy costs as a result of damage to the Gulf region's oil infrastructure may be a shock too many. [complete article]

See also, Oil producers, at least, are smiling (NYT).

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Editorial, Washington Post, September 2, 2005

Just about every head of state will be in New York for a U.N. summit two weeks from now, but the preparatory diplomacy has been anything but statesmanlike. John R. Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, has demanded a long list of changes to the summit document that, though sometimes defensible in substance, has been presented in such a way as to deepen mistrust and resentment of the United States.

Neither U.N. officials nor Mr. Bolton's office have handled this dispute gracefully. Speaking in his capacity as a special U.N. adviser, Jeffrey D. Sachs, a Columbia University professor, has excoriated the Bush administration for backing away from a commitment to devote 0.7 percent of gross domestic product to foreign aid, but that was never a firm pledge. Meanwhile, Richard Grenell, Mr. Bolton's spokesman, reacted to a request for an interview with the ambassador by enunciating the principle that journalists need to support Mr. Bolton in order to have access to him. As to the diplomacy on the summit document, Mr. Grenell pooh-poohed its significance and predicted that it would fail anyway. [complete article]

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Silent majority of Americans oppose Iraq war, but don't support protests
By Steven Thomma, Knight Ridder, September 2, 2005

Far from the war protests outside President Bush's ranch, Teri Allison is torn about what her country should do in Iraq.

"I'm against it. I was against it in the beginning," said Allison, a 51-year-old accountant from Kansas City, pausing on her way to the bank. However, she added, "We just can't walk off. Whatever the cost - in money and lives - we have to put this thing to bed."

Allison is part of a New Silent Majority in the United States, defining public opinion and confounding its politics.

They're people who think the war was a mistake but feel the United States is stuck in Iraq and must finish the job. They're unwilling to demand a quick withdrawal and uninterested in joining protests. Few speak for them, in politics, on TV, in the newspapers or in demonstrations. [complete article]

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Iraq buries its dead but recriminations from the stampede have barely begun
By Kim Sengupta, The Independent, September 2, 2005

Families of the hundreds of people who died in Wednesday's catastrophic stampede in Baghdad have begun burying their dead amid bitter recriminations over the failure of the government to prevent the tragedy.

A protest march towards the bridge over the Tigris, where the stampede started, ended in more panic and injuries when guarding soldiers began firing in the air. [complete article]

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Israel halts plan to link West Bank and Jerusalem
Reuters (via NYT), September 2, 2005

Israel has frozen plans to build 1,000 new settler homes in the occupied West Bank near Jerusalem, a minister said on Friday, heeding U.S. opposition to a move Palestinians fear would deny them a viable state.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who removed settlers from Gaza last month, has long wanted to build a link between Jerusalem and Israel's biggest settlement Maale Adumim despite U.S. concern this could cripple any future Middle East peace push.

But Israeli officials recently signaled that the so-called ''E1'' plan was on hold and his deputy publicly confirmed it. [complete article]

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Video of 7/7 ringleader blames foreign policy
By Vikram Dodd and Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian, September 2, 2005

The man believed to be the ringleader of the July 7 bombing attacks appeared last night in a video claiming the killing of 52 people was directly linked to Tony Blair's foreign policy and promising Britain would suffer more suicide attacks.

British-born Mohammad Sidique Khan, from West Yorkshire, said civilians were legitimate targets because of the policies of the UK government, a reference to Iraq and Palestine.

He said: "We are at war and I am a soldier. Now you too will taste the reality of this situation." [complete article]

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The Big One
By Mark Schleifstein and John McQuaid, The Times-Picayune, June 24, 2002

Amid this maelstrom, the estimated 200,000 or more people left behind in an evacuation will be struggling to survive. Some will be housed at the Superdome, the designated shelter in New Orleans for people too sick or infirm to leave the city. Others will end up in last-minute emergency refuges that will offer minimal safety. But many will simply be on their own, in homes or looking for high ground.

Thousands will drown while trapped in homes or cars by rising water. Others will be washed away or crushed by debris. Survivors will end up trapped on roofs, in buildings or on high ground surrounded by water, with no means of escape and little food or fresh water, perhaps for several days.

"If you look at the World Trade Center collapsing, it'll be like that, but add water," Eichorn said. "There will be debris flying around, and you're going to be in the water with snakes, rodents, nutria and fish from the lake. It's not going to be nice." [complete article]

This article comes from a series, "Washing Away", that appeared in the New Orleans Times-Picayune in late June, 2002.

A disaster waiting to happen
By Jon Elliston, Best of New Orleans, September 28, 2004

...long before this hurricane season [2004], some emergency managers inside and outside of government started sounding an alarm that still rings loudly. Bush administration policy changes and budget cuts, they say, are sapping FEMA's long-term ability to cushion the blow of hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, tornados, wildfires and other natural disasters.

Among emergency specialists, "mitigation" -- the measures taken in advance to minimize the damage caused by natural disasters -- is a crucial part of the strategy to save lives and cut recovery costs. But since 2001, key federal disaster mitigation programs, developed over many years, have been slashed and tossed aside. FEMA's Project Impact, a model mitigation program created by the Clinton administration, has been canceled outright. Federal funding of post-disaster mitigation efforts designed to protect people and property from the next disaster has been cut in half. Communities across the country must now compete for pre-disaster mitigation dollars. [complete article]

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Why city's defences were down
By John Vidal and Duncan Campbell, The Guardian, September 1, 2005

Lloyd Dumas, professor of political economy and economics at the University of Texas at Dallas, criticised the government's failure to oversee a more efficient evacuation. "It's remarkable that with the massive restructuring of the federal government that took place with the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security, they don't have more well thought-out plans to evacuate a city like New Orleans," he said.

"An emphasis should be placed on plans that have multiple purposes, like evacuation plans for a city like New Orleans that can of course be useful in the event of a terrorist attack but also in the event of a natural disaster like this one ... There were plans during the cold war to evacuate major cities in a few days."

Professor Dumas added that not enough provision seemed to have been made for poor people. "There doesn't seem to have been much attention paid to people who didn't have private automobiles," he said. "I didn't hear anything about school buses or city buses being used to aim people out of town." He said that there appeared to be little forward planning to cater to those on low incomes who would be unable to return to their homes for up to two months but who would not have the money to pay for that time in a hotel. "The Department of Homeland Security says on its website that it deals with natural disasters," he said. "They don't seem to have done a very good job. There doesn't seem to have been any long-term planning." [complete article]

Comment -- It seems apparent that White House talking points are directing officials to place special emphasis on the word natural when they refer to this disaster. With the fourth aniversary of 9/11 only a few days away there is obviously a fear that like the levees around New Orleans, the foundation of this administration's support will get washed away if the majority of Americas start comparing the first disaster with the second and thence lose faith in the notion that the terrorists attacks are still the supreme defining moment in modern American history.

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The storm after the storm
By David Brooks, New York Times, September 1, 2005

We'd like to think that the stories of hurricanes and floods are always stories of people rallying together to give aid and comfort. And, indeed, each of America's great floods has prompted a popular response both generous and inspiring. But floods are also civic examinations. Amid all the stories that recur with every disaster - tales of sudden death and miraculous survival, the displacement and the disease - there is also the testing.

Civic arrangements work or they fail. Leaders are found worthy or wanting. What's happening in New Orleans and Mississippi today is a human tragedy. But take a close look at the people you see wandering, devastated, around New Orleans: they are predominantly black and poor. The political disturbances are still to come. [complete article]

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Government is to blame for the chaos
By James P. Pinkerton, Newsday, September 1, 2005

As we see the devastation from Hurricane Katrina - caused first by nature and now by looters, shooters and carjackers - it's time to state the obvious. We need a larger vision of homeland security, as well as a better focus on the American homeland.

Politicians of both parties have sounded warnings for some time, but true leadership on readying for disaster has been lacking. And so the images from New Orleans this week have recalled not only the panic of 9/11 in New York City but the chaos of April 2003 in Baghdad after the United States ousted Saddam Hussein - and the looters took charge. [complete article]

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'And now we are in hell'
By Ann Gerhart, Washington Post, September 1, 2005

Rochelle Montrel, dedicated middle school teacher, thought she should stay in town to prepare for the first day of classes. "We have all this testing now, earlier and earlier," she said Wednesday, "and I wanted to be ready."

Instead, she spent Monday clinging to her roof, and that turned to Tuesday, and then "the wonderful man" in the helicopter finally swooped in, after 24 hours, and delivered Montrel, her mother, father, sister and the poodle onto the ramp outside the Superdome. They had lived.

"We were so grateful," said Montrel, 35, "and now we are in hell." [complete article]

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Water may linger for months
By Ralph Vartabedian, Los Angeles Times, September 1, 2005

Draining the billions of gallons of water that have inundated New Orleans could take three to six months, substantially longer than some experts have expected, the Army Corps of Engineers said late Wednesday.

Col. Richard Wagenaar, the corps' senior official in New Orleans, said that the estimate was based on planning done as Hurricane Katrina approached and that it remained the corps' best estimate. He is directing the agency's recovery efforts.

The estimate depends on favorable weather. Additional rain or other problems could cause more delays, Wagenaar warned. [complete article]

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Critical U.S. supply line is disrupted
By Neil Irwin, Washington Post, September 1, 2005

The effects of the monster storm that devastated the Gulf Coast spread through the nation's economy yesterday, disrupting shipping and rail networks and sending prices for lumber, coffee and other commodities soaring.

Hurricane Katrina is likely to drag down U.S. economic growth in the months ahead, analysts said, threatening what has been a robust expansion.

Katrina's economic effects may be more lasting than those that usually follow big storms, economists and businesspeople said yesterday, owing to the severity of the damage and the unique geography of the New Orleans region. The storm hit a chokepoint in the U.S. economy -- a concentration of ports, rail lines, barge traffic and major highways making up one of the nation's major trade hubs. [complete article]

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Insurgents regain foothold, unleash terror in Fallujah
By Pamela Hess, UPI, September 1, 2005

The insurgents are back in Fallujah.

Last week, Ali Hassan, a 23-year-old soldier from Baghdad, was careful to wear civilian clothes and leave his gun behind when he went for a haircut, but it didn't help. Three extremists found him in the Fallujah barbershop and put a bullet through his head.

No one knows how many terrorists have returned to what was once their most formidable stronghold. They increase with the population, which now stands at about 130,000 -- half of what it was before a massive U.S. offensive in November.

After five months of relative quiet, U.S. forces training Iraqi soldiers in Fallujah say the pace of attacks is increasing, but it is not clear whether this is the beginning of a new crisis or a last-ditch effort to derail security before the October constitutional referendum. [complete article]

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Sticking points in constitution may come back to haunt Iraq
By Edmund Sanders, Los Angeles Times, August 31, 2005

Political leaders warned Tuesday that dozens of thorny issues deferred in an effort to placate ethnic and religious groups during the debate leading to Iraq's draft constitution could come back to haunt lawmakers early next year.

Iraq's 39-page draft constitution, which was submitted to the transitional National Assembly on Sunday, skirted many of Iraq's most controversial issues, such as the balance of power between Baghdad and the outlying regions, the rights of women and the sharing of oil revenue.

The latest version of the text includes more than 50 items that were left to next year's National Assembly, which will be charged with filling in the blanks of the constitution with dozens of new laws. [complete article]

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Bolton voices opposition to U.N. proposals
By Colum Lynch, Washington Post, September 1, 2005

John R. Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, has voiced firm opposition to U.N. reorganization measures that the Bush administration fears would inhibit U.S. authority to use force and place new legal obligations on countries to intervene where genocide, ethnic cleansing or war crimes were being committed.

Bolton outlined his positions in a series of letters to U.N. delegates participating in negotiations to draft a 39-page statement to be read by world leaders at a summit on development and U.N. reform that begins Sept. 14. The six letters, intended to clarify proposed U.S. amendments to the draft, constitute the most detailed public picture of Bolton's thinking on a range of issues since he became ambassador, including on the fight against poverty and terrorism, the promotion of human rights and the streamlining of the U.N. bureaucracy.

Together, the letters reflect Bolton's long-held opposition to international agreements that he considers incursions on U.S. sovereignty and provide a glimpse at how he is working to influence a lengthy internal negotiating process that has been dominated by foreign policy professionals in the State Department. [complete article]

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Netanyahu urges Israel to build more settlements
By Allyn Fisher-Ilan, Reuters, August 31, 2005

Benjamin Netanyahu launched his campaign to oust bitter rival Ariel Sharon as Israel's prime minister with a call on Wednesday for massive new West Bank settlement construction.

Staking out the battleground for the right-wing power struggle triggered by Sharon's removal of settlers from Gaza, Netanyahu urged immediate building -- in defiance of Washington -- on a particularly sensitive area outside East Jerusalem.

"The time has come to build here and I will build here," Netanyahu told reporters on the rocky hillside between Jerusalem and the biggest West Bank settlement of Maale Adumim.

Sharon says Israel plans to build in the E1-block despite U.S. criticism and the fury of the Palestinians, who fear it would further cut them off from the holy city they seek as the capital of a state under an eventual peace deal. [complete article]

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4 charged with terrorist plot in California
By Amy Argetsinger and Sonya Geis, Washington Post, September 1, 2005

Federal and local law enforcement officials said Wednesday that they had blocked a terrorist conspiracy with roots in the state prison system that had allegedly plotted to attack military facilities, synagogues and the Israeli consulate, among other Southern California targets.

A federal grand jury here indicted the head of a radical Islamic prison gang and three other men on charges of conspiracy to wage war against the U.S. government, conspiracy to kill service members and foreign officials, and other related crimes.

The conspiracy unraveled, officials said, after two of the men were arrested in early July in connection with a string of gas station robberies. A search of one suspect's home turned up jihadist literature, bulletproof vests and lists of potential targets. [complete article]

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Scientists complete genetic map of the chimpanzee
By Rick Weiss, Washington Post, September 1, 2005

Scientists said yesterday that they have determined the precise order of the 3 billion bits of genetic code that carry the instructions for making a chimpanzee, humankind's closest cousin.

The fresh unraveling of chimpanzee DNA allows an unprecedented gene-to-gene comparison with the human genome, mapped in 2001, and makes plain the evolutionary processes through which chimps and humans arose from a common ancestor about 6 million years ago.

By placing the two codes alongside each other, scientists identified all 40 million molecular changes that today separate the two species and pinpointed the mere 250,000 that seem most responsible for the difference between chimpness and humanness. [complete article]

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Iraq stampede kills 'up to 1,000'
BBC News, August 31, 2005

As many as 1,000 people may have died in a stampede of Shia pilgrims in northern Baghdad, Iraqi health officials have said. The incident happened on a river bridge as about a million Shias marched to a shrine for a religious festival. Witnesses said panic spread over rumours of suicide bombers. Radical Sunni groups have often targeted Shias in the past, but Iraqi officials said the tragedy had nothing to do with sectarian tension. [complete article]

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Strain of Iraq war means the relief burden will have to be shared
By Ann Scott Tyson, Washington Post, August 31, 2005

With thousands of their citizen-soldiers away fighting in Iraq, states hit hard by Hurricane Katrina scrambled to muster forces for rescue and security missions yesterday -- calling up Army bands and water-purification teams, among other units, and requesting help from distant states and the active-duty military.

As the devastation threatened to overwhelm state resources, federal authorities called on the Pentagon to mobilize active-duty aircraft, ships and troops and set up an unprecedented task force to coordinate a wider military response, said officials from the Northern Command, which oversees homeland defense.

National Guard officials in the states acknowledged that the scale of the destruction is stretching the limits of available manpower while placing another extraordinary demand on their troops -- most of whom have already served tours in Iraq or Afghanistan or in homeland defense missions since 2001. [complete article]

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Invasion of the isolationists
By Francis Fukuyama, New York Times, August 31, 2005

In the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, Americans would have allowed President Bush to lead them in any of several directions, and the nation was prepared to accept substantial risks and sacrifices. The Bush administration asked for no sacrifices from the average American, but after the quick fall of the Taliban it rolled the dice in a big way by moving to solve a longstanding problem only tangentially related to the threat from Al Qaeda - Iraq. In the process, it squandered the overwhelming public mandate it had received after Sept. 11. At the same time, it alienated most of its close allies, many of whom have since engaged in "soft balancing" against American influence, and stirred up anti-Americanism in the Middle East.

The Bush administration could instead have chosen to create a true alliance of democracies to fight the illiberal currents coming out of the Middle East. It could also have tightened economic sanctions and secured the return of arms inspectors to Iraq without going to war. It could have made a go at a new international regime to battle proliferation. All of these paths would have been in keeping with American foreign policy traditions. But Mr. Bush and his administration freely chose to do otherwise.

The administration's policy choices have not been restrained by domestic political concerns any more than by American foreign policy culture. Much has been made of the emergence of "red state" America, which supposedly constitutes the political base for President Bush's unilateralist foreign policy, and of the increased number of conservative Christians who supposedly shape the president's international agenda. But the extent and significance of these phenomena have been much exaggerated.

So much attention has been paid to these false determinants of administration policy that a different political dynamic has been underappreciated. Within the Republican Party, the Bush administration got support for the Iraq war from the neoconservatives (who lack a political base of their own but who provide considerable intellectual firepower) and from what Walter Russell Mead calls "Jacksonian America" - American nationalists whose instincts lead them toward a pugnacious isolationism. [complete article]

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Hurricane likely to leave deep mark on U.S. economy
By Eduardo Porter, New York Times (IHT), September 1, 2005

As Hurricane Katrina plowed through the Mississippi River basin, shutting down ports, flooding cities and cutting power lines, economists warned that it was likely to leave a deeper mark on the U.S. economy than previous hurricanes because of its profound disruption of the Gulf of Mexico's complex energy supply network.

"The typical pattern with a natural disaster like this is that the regional economy gets clobbered but you can barely see it in the national statistics," said Nariman Behravesh, chief economist at Global Insight in Lexington, Massachusetts. "This time it is very different because of the impact on the energy infrastructure." [complete article]

See also, No quick fix for Gulf oil operations (NYT).

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Destroying FEMA
By Eric Holdeman, Washington Post, August 30, 2005

In the days to come, as the nation and the people along the Gulf Coast work to cope with the disastrous aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, we will be reminded anew, how important it is to have a federal agency capable of dealing with natural catastrophes of this sort. This is an immense human tragedy, one that will work hardship on millions of people. It is beyond the capabilities of state and local government to deal with. It requires a national response.

Which makes it all the more difficult to understand why, at this moment, the country's premier agency for dealing with such events -- FEMA -- is being, in effect, systematically downgraded and all but dismantled by the Department of Homeland Security.

Apparently homeland security now consists almost entirely of protection against terrorist acts. How else to explain why the Federal Emergency Management Agency will no longer be responsible for disaster preparedness? Given our country's long record of natural disasters, how much sense does this make? [complete article]

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New Orleans' tragic paradox
By Kevin Sack, Los Angeles Times, August 31, 2005

In 1718, French colonist Jean Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville ignored his engineers' warnings about the hazards of flooding and mapped a settlement in a pinch of swampland between the mouth of the Mississippi River, the Gulf of Mexico and a massive lake to the north.

Ever since, the water has sustained New Orleans and perpetually threatened it. Somehow, until this week, the mystique of the water had always washed away the foreboding of disaster, as if carrying the city's worries downstream. That was true even early Tuesday morning, when Hurricane Katrina's last-minute veer to the east convinced many residents they had once again eluded the Fates.

But when the rainfall brought by Katrina breached levees and overwhelmed the city's pumping stations, the catastrophic consequences of Bienville's miscalculation could no longer be ignored. [complete article]

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Storm turns focus to global warming
By Miguel Bustillo, Los Angeles Times, August 30, 2005

Is the rash of powerful Atlantic storms in recent years a symptom of global warming?

Although most mainstream hurricane scientists are skeptical of any connection between global warming and heightened storm activity, the growing intensity of hurricanes and the frequency of large storms are leading some to rethink long-held views.

Most hurricane scientists maintain that linking global warming to more-frequent severe storms, such as Hurricane Katrina, is premature, at best.

Though warmer sea-surface temperatures caused by climate change theoretically could boost the frequency and potency of hurricanes, scientists say the 150-year record of Atlantic storms shows ample precedent for recent events.

But a paper [PDF] published last month in the journal Nature by meteorologist Kerry Emanuel of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is part of an emerging body of research challenging the prevailing view.

It concluded that the destructive power of hurricanes had increased 50% over the last half a century, and that a rise in surface temperatures linked to global warming was at least partly responsible. [complete article]

See also, Global warming may be to blame for Katrina - UK chief scientist (The Independent).

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New rules could allow power plants to pollute more
By Juliet Eilperin, Washington Post, August 31, 2005

The Bush administration has drafted regulations that would ease pollution controls on older, dirtier power plants and could allow those that modernize to emit more pollution, rather than less.

The language could undercut dozens of pending state and federal lawsuits aimed at forcing coal-fired plants to cut back emissions of harmful pollutants such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, said lawyers who worked on the cases.

The draft rules, obtained by The Washington Post from the Natural Resources Defense Council, an advocacy group, contradict the position taken by federal lawyers who have prosecuted polluting facilities in the past, and parallel the industry's line of defense against those suits. The utilities, and the proposed new rules, take the position that decisions on whether a plant complies with the regulations after modernization should be based on how much pollution it could potentially emit per hour, rather than the current standard of how much it pollutes annually. [complete article]

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Teaching of creationism is endorsed in new survey
By Laurie Goodstein, New York Times, August 31, 2005

In a finding that is likely to intensify the debate over what to teach students about the origins of life, a poll released yesterday found that nearly two-thirds of Americans say that creationism should be taught alongside evolution in public schools.

The poll found that 42 percent of respondents held strict creationist views, agreeing that "living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time."

In contrast, 48 percent said they believed that humans had evolved over time. But of those, 18 percent said that evolution was "guided by a supreme being," and 26 percent said that evolution occurred through natural selection. In all, 64 percent said they were open to the idea of teaching creationism in addition to evolution, while 38 percent favored replacing evolution with creationism.

The poll was conducted July 7-17 by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life and the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. The questions about evolution were asked of 2,000 people. The margin of error was 2.5 percentage points. [complete article]

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Netanyahu makes bid for power
By Chris McGreal, The Guardian, August 31, 2005

Binyamin Netanyahu launched a bid to unseat the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, yesterday in a challenge that threatens to split the ruling party and cause a radical realignment of Israeli politics.

Mr Netanyahu said he will seek the leadership of the ruling Likud party ahead of a general election next year, a contest he appears likely to win with the backing of the party's dominant rightwing, which is embittered by Mr Sharon's demolition of Jewish settlements in the Gaza strip.

But Mr Sharon, who commands more support than Mr Netanyahu with the wider public, is not expected to bow out of politics without a fight and some of his supporters are urging him to launch a new political party in alliance with the Israeli left. Opinion polls suggest such an alliance would win a national election.

Mr Netanyahu, who served as prime minister from 1996 for three years, launched his challenge by accusing the prime minister of betraying Likud's core belief in Israel claiming occupied land as its own. [complete article]

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A plan B for Iraq
By Tony Karon, Rootless Cosmopolitan, August 30, 2005

The current process as defined by the TAL [Transitional Administrative Law] can't resolve the deadlock: Even if the Sunnis turned out en masse to nix the constitution (and if they could muster three provinces, possibly with the support of Moqtada Sadr's base in Baghdad, although that may be a long shot), the result would simply be new elections to an assembly that would draft a new constitution draft. But while Sunni participation would ensure more directly elected representatives, their 20 percent slice of the electorate means they wouldn't rise above their current minority status, and the resulting constitution wouldn't look much different from the current draft. Another roll of the electoral dice would, in all likelihood, produce the same impasse.

But like the administration officials who emphasise the centrality of Sunni participation in containing the insurgency which has crippled the transition in Iraq, the Sunnis themselves clearly understand quite well that their leverage far exceeds what electoral muscle they can bring to the polls. They run a very competent insurgency, led by well-trained Baathist military and intel personnel, which has proved more than capable of keeping both the Americans and the new government off balance, and demonstrated the potential to dramatically destabilize Iraq's economy and society for the foreseeable future. [complete article]

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The Sunni Arab insurgency: a spent or rising force?
By Michael Eisenstadt, Washington Institute for Near East Policy, August 26, 2005

It is likely that armed Sunni insurgents number in the thousands, unarmed members of the insurgent underground number in the low tens of thousands, and that insurgent groups can draw on a much larger pool of supporters from among sympathizers in the general Sunni Arab population, as well as acquaintances, friends, family members, and fellow tribesmen. The total number of Sunni Arabs "involved" with the insurgency, in one way or another (including sympathetic or supportive family members), may therefore approach 100,000, with the number fluctuating in response to political, military, economic, and social conditions.

In light of recent warnings by Sunni Arab politicians that dissatisfaction with the draft constitution could spur additional violence, the more important conclusion, however, may be that only a small fraction of the Sunni Arab population that supports attacks on coalition forces or that has some kind of military or paramilitary training has been mobilized by the insurgency thus far. Should insurgent groups expand their recruitment efforts, succeed in broadening their appeal, or opt to fight a "popular war" against the Iraqi government (and coalition forces) by exploiting this untapped demographic potential, the worst may be yet to come -- with all that implies for ongoing efforts to stand up Iraq's new security forces and future plans to reduce the U.S. military presence in Iraq. [complete article]

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Sadr's disciples rise again to play pivotal role in Iraq
By Anthony Shadid, Washington Post, August 30, 2005

Hazem Araji's resume reads like a story of Iraq's recent past -- and perhaps its near future.

In the tumult that followed the U.S. invasion in 2003, he hit the streets with a clique of fellow Shiite Muslim clerics to organize what became Iraq's first postwar popular movement. Their symbol was Moqtada Sadr, a young, radical clergyman and son of a revered ayatollah. The next year, Araji emerged as the group's public face, as it twice fought U.S. troops. He and others were arrested, and for nine months he languished in U.S. custody in Abu Ghraib prison, then at Camp Bucca.

Now, as the country enters a time as politically uncertain as any since the fall of President Saddam Hussein, Araji is a free man. So are a handful of Sadr's other closest, most dynamic aides, men in their thirties who have helped shape the organization's combustible mix of Iraqi and Arab nationalism, millenarian religious ideology, grass-roots protest and gun culture. With customary bravado, Araji and the others today are sending a message: They are ready to make up for lost time. [complete article]

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Iraq's highest-ranking Sunni Muslim Arab criticizes constitution
By Hannah Allam, Knight Ridder, August 29, 2005

One of Iraq's two vice presidents criticized the country's proposed new constitution on Monday as a threat to national unity and said he's considering asking his supporters to reject it when it's presented to voters this fall.

The comments by Ghazi al-Yawer, the government's top-ranking Sunni Muslim Arab and a leading moderate who heads one of Iraq's largest tribes, underscored signs that the constitution is likely to widen, not heal, the rift between the Shiite-dominated government and the Sunni minority, the base for Iraq's insurgency.

Al-Yawer said Sunni Arabs are living under a "dictatorship of the majority," referring to the Shiite Muslims and Kurds who dominate the government.

"The Iraqi national identity is diminishing more and more, and this constitution is not helping that," al-Yawer said in an interview at his palatial home in Baghdad. [complete article]

See also, Sunni opposition to Iraqi draft constitution intensifies (NYT) and Charter steers Iraqis down a dangerous path (FT).

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Agreeing to disagree in Iraq
By Noah Feldman, New York Times, August 30, 2005

The term federalism first entered the Iraqi context as a politically acceptable way of preserving Kurdish autonomy in the northern regions while maintaining the legal unity of the new Iraqi state. Until a few weeks ago, federalism negotiations were always about the balance between the Kurds' regional government and the federal authorities in Baghdad, with distribution of oil revenues the biggest issue. Ultimately, a formula for sharing Iraq's only major asset was achieved, with the center exercising administrative control over existing revenues "with" the regional or local authorities.

Unfortunately, as negotiations on the draft constitution reached the final stage, under extraordinary pressure from Washington on the Iraqis to meet the Aug. 15 deadline for completing the draft, a new wrinkle entered the federalism debate. Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, one of the two largest Shiite parties, suddenly insisted that as many of Iraq's 18 governorates as desired to should be permitted to unify into a region of their own, with all the self-governing privileges of the Kurdish north.

It is likely that at first this demand was nothing more than a negotiating tactic, intended to enable the nine overwhelmingly Shiite provinces in the south to reap greater advantages in the distribution of oil money. After all, southern Shiites have none of the ethnic or linguistic markers of national identity that distinguish Kurdish from Arab Iraqis, and there is scant evidence of any popular separatist movement in the south. Regardless, the argument had the air of fairness, since no one wanted the written constitution to give the Kurds asymmetrical federal power.

The trouble with the Shiite demand for their own mega-region, even if it was a bluff, was what it meant for Sunnis in the oil-poor center of the country: the prelude to a possible breakup of the country that would leave the middle of the country with no oil and so no visible means of support. Anyone living in the center would have felt similarly - the rebellious Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr, whose constituents mostly live in Baghdad, immediately opposed the demand, too. [complete article]

Comment -- Noah Feldman's assertion about the recent and restricted use of the term "federalism" in the Iraqi political lexicon might be accurate yet it is misleading. Almost a year ago, moves were afoot to set up an autonomous region in the south. Like many other stories that sprout up like mushrooms only to quickly wither away, the fact that this movement received so little attention in the intervening period probably says more about the nature of journalism than it says about Iraq's political evolution.

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Slight majority say Bush should meet with Sheehan
By Richard Morin, Washington Post, August 30, 2005

In the three weeks since she began her protest, Sheehan has quickly become the most visible symbol of the anti-war movement. Fully three in four Americans say they have read or heard about Sheehan and her protest.

[A new Washington Post-ABC News] survey also suggests, however, that Sheehan's anti-war vigil has failed to mobilize large numbers of Americans against the war. If anything, her opposition has done as much to drive up support for the war as ignite opponents, the survey found. [complete article]

Comment How imperceptive we become when driven by the passion of self-righteousness!

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War and antiwar
By Hendrik Hertzberg, The New Yorker, August 30, 2005

The war's political managers have made absolutely no effort to create even a simulacrum of equal sacrifice, and 9/11 did nothing to change what has been from the beginning, and remains, the Bush Administration's top priority, not excluding fighting terrorism: the use of the tax code to transfer wealth to the rich and, especially, the superrich. Next week, even as the national debt grows by another $11 billion and military recruiters scramble with ever-mounting desperation to fill their quotas, the Senate will reassemble to take up the proposal, already passed by the House, to permanently eliminate the estate tax, thereby shifting some $1.5 billion a week -- about the same as the Iraq war -- from the public treasury to the bank accounts of the heirs to the nation's twenty thousand biggest fortunes. [complete article]

Comment -- America is the victim of its own self-made mythology. The richest people in this society, rather than being viewed as social parasites who like bloated ticks engourge themselves by sucking in the blood of the nation, are instead admired for their success. Instead of feeling bled, we dream of the day when we might similarly fatten ourselves.

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More costly than 'the war to end all wars'
By David R. Francis, Christian Science Monitor, August 29, 2005

Despite the relatively small number of American armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan (140,000), the war effort is rapidly shaping up to be the third-most expensive war in United States history.

This conflict has already cost each American at least $850 in military and reconstruction costs since October 2001.

If the war lasts another five years, it will cost nearly $1.4 trillion, calculates Linda Bilmes, who teaches budgeting at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. That's nearly $4,745 per capita. Her estimate is thorough. She includes not only the military cost but also such things as veterans' benefits and additional interest on the federal debt. [complete article]

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Road map for U.S. relations with rest of world
By Julian Borger, The Guardian, August 27, 2005

For any student of the Bush administration's foreign policy, the US version of the draft United Nations summit agreement, leaked earlier this week, is an essential text.

The hundreds of deletions and insertions represent a helpfully annotated map to Washington's disagreements with most of the rest of the world on just about every global issue imaginable.

Most of the disagreements illustrated in this document are longstanding. President Bush was never going to sign a document urging UN member states to support the Kyoto protocol on climate change, or the international criminal court. The mystery is how these differences surfaced only at the end of a long drafting process. [complete article]

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Republicans accused of witch-hunt against climate change scientists
By Paul Brown, The Guardian, August 30 2005

Some of America's leading scientists have accused Republican politicians of intimidating climate-change experts by placing them under unprecedented scrutiny.

A far-reaching inquiry into the careers of three of the US's most senior climate specialists has been launched by Joe Barton, the chairman of the House of Representatives committee on energy and commerce. He has demanded details of all their sources of funding, methods and everything they have ever published.

Mr Barton, a Texan closely associated with the fossil-fuel lobby, has spent his 11 years as chairman opposing every piece of legislation designed to combat climate change.

He is using the wide powers of his committee to force the scientists to produce great quantities of material after alleging flaws and lack of transparency in their research. He is working with Ed Whitfield, the chairman of the sub-committee on oversight and investigations.

The scientific work they are investigating was important in establishing that man-made carbon emissions were at least partly responsible for global warming, and formed part of the 2001 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which convinced most world leaders - George Bush was a notable exception - that urgent action was needed to curb greenhouse gases.

The demands in letters sent to the scientists have been compared by some US media commentators to the anti-communist "witch-hunts" pursued by Joe McCarthy in the 1950s. [complete article]

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Iran's oil gambit - and potential affront to the U.S.
By Howard LaFranchi, Christian Science Monitor, August 30, 2005

Is the biggest threat Iran poses to the United States really its nuclear ambitions - or is it petropolitics?

Last month the Iranian government quietly reaffirmed plans to create by next year a euro-denominated exchange in oil, natural gas, and other petroleum products. If successful, such an exchange could start to lap at the walls of the two existing oil exchanges - London's International Petroleum Exchange (IPE) and the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) - both owned by American companies.

If the billions of dollars in oil sales ever got going in euros, experts say, that could dry up the demand for dollars that the heavily indebted US economy depends on, and it could mean big trouble for the US economy. It's enough to make the Great Satan-loathing visionaries behind the Iranian regime salivate. The chances of success, however, seem quite remote - at least in the short term. [complete article]

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Mideast course at the mercy of local factions
By Robin Wright and Glenn Kessler, Washington Post, August 29, 2005

For all the attention and resources the Bush administration has poured into the Middle East, the outcome of its two most critical initiatives is increasingly vulnerable to the sectarian passions, tumultuous history and political priorities of the local players, say U.S. officials and regional experts.

Two developments over the past week marked major movement for the U.S. agenda: Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip, a critical step in the creation of a Palestinian state and regional peace. And Iraq submitted a constitution to its national assembly, offering the legal foundation for a new Iraqi state.

President Bush yesterday and in his radio address Saturday hailed the two events as turning points in promoting democracy and peace in the region. On Iraq, Bush said its people have "demonstrated to the world that they are up to the historic challenges before them. The document they have produced contains far-reaching protections for fundamental human freedoms, including religion, assembly, conscience and expression."

But the actual implementation of Iraq's constitution and the viability of Gaza will now depend largely on forces beyond Washington's control -- and both face mounting challenges. [complete article]

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Crude surges above $70 a barrel
By George Jahn, AP (via WP), August 29, 2005

Crude oil futures briefly surged past $70 a barrel for the first time Monday as Hurricane Katrina barreled toward the heart of U.S. oil and refinery operations in the Gulf of Mexico, shutting down an estimated 1 million barrels of refining capacity.

The Category 4 storm advanced on an area crucial to the U.S. energy infrastructure -- offshore oil and gas production, import terminals, pipeline networks and numerous refining operations in the southern states of Louisiana and Mississippi.

"This is the big one," said Peter Beutel, an oil analyst with Cameron Hanover. "This is unmitigated, bad news for consumers." [complete article]

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Factions join hands against constitution
By Jill Carroll, Christian Science Monitor, August 29, 2005

Several Sunni leaders drafting Iraq's constitution staunchly object to provisions included in the document and have found common cause with an unlikely ally: radical Shiites.

Sunnis and supporters of firebrand Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr have said they will rally supporters to reject the constitution in October's national referendum.

Together the groups might convince two-thirds of voters in three provinces to vote down the document, prompting new elections for a national assembly that will draft another charter. A new vote would give both parties a chance to regain influence they lost when they boycotted last January's elections, leaving former exiled Shiite political parties and Kurds with a stronger hand.

While both groups have widely different visions for Iraq, both oppose federalism, which allows semiautonomous regions to spring up across the country. [complete article]

See also, Iraq charter a 'recipe for chaos' (BBC).

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In new Iraq, shaken faith
By Timothy M. Phelps, Newsday, August 26, 2005

For Yousef Lyon and other Christians in Basra, the downfall of Saddam Hussein has meant a terrible loss of religious freedom.

The social club where Lyon and his friends would gather in the evening to play dominoes, where families danced or listened to live music on holidays, is closed. Wedding celebrations are held quietly at home.

"Of course, during the Saddam regime it was better," said Lyon, 40, a member of the city's small Armenian community. "Now we are afraid from the religious parties that maybe they will throw a bomb at us."

Not just the Christians, but many of the city's minorities - from obscure sects like the ancient Sabeans to the Sunni Muslims who used to run Iraq and still predominate in the rest of the Arab world - live in fear of the hard-line Shia religious parties and their militias that now rule Iraq's second-largest city. [complete article]

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More journalists killed in Iraq than Vietnam
Reuters, August 28, 2005

More journalists have been killed in Iraq since the war began in March 2003 than during the 20 years of conflict in Vietnam, media rights group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said on Sunday.

Since U.S. forces and its allies launched their campaign in Iraq on March 20, 2003, 66 journalists and their assistants have been killed, RSF said.

The latest casualty was a Reuters Television soundman who was shot dead in Baghdad on Sunday while a cameraman with him was wounded and then detained by U.S. soldiers. [complete article]

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In West Bank, Israel sees room to grow
By Scott Wilson, Washington Post, August 28, 2005

In the tan hills a few miles east of Jerusalem, construction cranes dangle over a string of red-roofed neighborhoods that make up the largest Jewish settlement in the West Bank. It is here that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is reengaging with his electoral base following Israel's efficient but divisive exit from the Gaza Strip.

Enjoying a moment of international sympathy, Sharon's government is moving swiftly to capitalize on its unilateral withdrawal and ongoing demolition of 25 Jewish settlements. The government's efforts are focused largely in the West Bank, land of far more religious and strategic importance to Israel than the remote slice of coastline it has left behind.

A little more than 31,000 Israelis live in Maale Adumim, a suburban settlement built on land captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war. Israeli officials say it will grow to more than 50,000 people and eventually touch the edge of East Jerusalem, even though the U.S. government and Palestinian leaders have said that such growth would severely complicate efforts to establish a viable Palestinian state. [complete article]

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The common enemy in Gaza: religious zealotry
By Mona Eltahawy, Washington Post, August 27, 2005

Watching Israeli soldiers dragging Jewish settlers from Gaza was a reminder of just how much Palestinians and Israelis need each other. Without the "enemy," Israelis and Palestinians would divide along the fault lines that are barely concealed beneath the face of unity they put up to confront each other. And there is no bigger fault line than the secular/religious crack that exists in both Israeli and Palestinian societies. [complete article]

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Show me the science
By Daniel C. Dennett, New York Times, August 28, 2005

President Bush, announcing this month that he was in favor of teaching about "intelligent design" in the schools, said, "I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought." A couple of weeks later, Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, the Republican leader, made the same point. Teaching both intelligent design and evolution "doesn't force any particular theory on anyone," Mr. Frist said. "I think in a pluralistic society that is the fairest way to go about education and training people for the future."

Is "intelligent design" a legitimate school of scientific thought? Is there something to it, or have these people been taken in by one of the most ingenious hoaxes in the history of science? Wouldn't such a hoax be impossible? No. Here's how it has been done. [complete article]

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Strategizing a Christian coup d'etat
By Jenny Jarvie, Los Angeles Times, August 28, 2005

It began, as many road trips do, with a stop at Wal-Mart to buy a portable DVD player.

But Mario DiMartino was planning more than a weekend getaway. He, his wife and three children were embarking on a pilgrimage to South Carolina.

"I want to migrate and claim the gold of the Lord," said the 38-year-old oil company executive from Pennsylvania. "I want to replicate the statutes and the mores and the scriptures that the God of the Old Testament espoused to the world."

DiMartino, who drove here recently to look for a new home, is a member of Christian Exodus, a movement of politically active believers who hope to establish a government based upon Christian principles. [complete article]

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Can democracy stop terrorism?
By F. Gregory Gause III, Foreign Affiars, September/October, 2005

The United States is engaged in what President George W. Bush has called a "generational challenge" to instill democracy in the Arab world. The Bush administration and its defenders contend that this push for Arab democracy will not only spread American values but also improve U.S. security. As democracy grows in the Arab world, the thinking goes, the region will stop generating anti-American terrorism. Promoting democracy in the Middle East is therefore not merely consistent with U.S. security goals; it is necessary to achieve them.

But this begs a fundamental question: Is it true that the more democratic a country becomes, the less likely it is to produce terrorists and terrorist groups? In other words, is the security rationale for promoting democracy in the Arab world based on a sound premise? Unfortunately, the answer appears to be no. Although what is known about terrorism is admittedly incomplete, the data available do not show a strong relationship between democracy and an absence of or a reduction in terrorism. Terrorism appears to stem from factors much more specific than regime type. Nor is it likely that democratization would end the current campaign against the United States. Al Qaeda and like-minded groups are not fighting for democracy in the Muslim world; they are fighting to impose their vision of an Islamic state. Nor is there any evidence that democracy in the Arab world would "drain the swamp," eliminating soft support for terrorist organizations among the Arab public and reducing the number of potential recruits for them. [complete article]

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In a corner of Pakistan a debate rages: Are terrorist camps still functioning?
By David Rohde and Carlotta Gall, New York Times, August 28, 2005

Mujahid Mohiyuddin insists that he and his district are innocent.

Speaking in his religious seminary, or madrassa, in the Mansehra district of northern Pakistan, the young cleric admitted receiving military training in 1996 from Harkat-ul-Mujahedeen, or Movement for Holy Warriors, a Pakistani group linked to Al Qaeda and the killing of the American journalist Daniel Pearl.

But he insisted that the group had disbanded and that training camps no longer operated in the district. "The government has imposed restrictions on the holy war," he said. "There are not any training camps in the country, especially Mansehra."

This picturesque area of rolling Himalayan foothills, thick forests and isolated farms is the focus of bitter charges that Pakistan continues to allow terrorist training camps to operate on its soil. [complete article]

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Terror puts Jordan on the map
By Sami Moubayed, Asia Times, August 27, 2005

Iraq may not be able to export "democracy" to Jordan, but it already exports jihadis to the US's strongest ally in the Middle East.

More than 10,000 soldiers and 300 surveillance towers are positioned along the Syrian-Iraqi border. Yet there's none of this on the Jordanian-Iraqi border, and battle-hardened veterans in the Iraqi theater are streaming back, especially to Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Kuwait, their home countries. Some estimates suggest that there might be about 5,000 jihadis from the Gulf in Iraq.

The Iraq-Jordan link was vividly illustrated when three Katyusha rockets were fired at a US Navy ship in the Jordanian Red Sea port of Aqaba on August 19. All of them missed - one landed on a warehouse, killing a Jordanian soldier, another near a public hospital and the third in the resort of Eilat, nine miles from Aqaba. [complete article]

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Fiddling while Baghdad burns
By Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, The Observer, August 28, 2005

In 1453, the Ottoman armies were marching towards the gates of Constantinople while inside the city walls, the Greek Orthodox priests and a delegation of Latin Catholic cardinals were trying to come up with a Manifesto of Understanding between the two sects before forming an alliance that would fight the marching Muslim Turks. The clerics were engaged in futile discussions on issues such as how many angels can stand on the end of a pin and whether the angels were males or females.

They never found out the answers as the Ottomans soon overran the city.

Sunni, Shia and Kurdish Iraqi politicians and clerics, sitting in the fortified green zone behind huge, concrete blast walls and besieged by escalating waves of violence, have indulged themselves in the same sort of futile discussions to define the shape of their country, the role of religion and the influence of the clergy on family and state matters.

This is not to suggest that federalism and human rights are as banal as determining the angel's gender, but when the whole country is falling apart, when dozens of Iraqis die every day, when the insurgency is stronger than ever and the sectarian violence is already referred to by many as a civil war, and when inter-Shia violence is spreading throughout the south of the country in the midst of all this, it is simply unrealistic to be debating huge, important issues that will shape the future of Iraq. [complete article]

See also, Shiites cut off talks on charter (WP) and Abu Ghraib jail release fails to swing Sunnis behind constitution (The Times).

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Now Showing: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly Americans
By Martha Bayles, Washington Post, August 28, 2005

When Benjamin Franklin went to France in 1776, his assignment was to manipulate the French into supporting the American war for independence. This he accomplished with two stratagems: First, he played the balance-of-power game as deftly as any European diplomat; and second, he waged a subtle but effective campaign of what we now call public diplomacy, or the use of information and culture to foster goodwill toward the nation. For Franklin, this meant turning his dumpy self into a symbol. "He knew that America had a unique and powerful meaning for the enlightened reformers of France," writes historian Bernard Bailyn, "and that he himself . . . was the embodiment, the palpable expression, of that meaning." Hence the fur cap and rustic manner that made Franklin a celebrity among the powdered wigs and gilded ornaments of the court of Louis XVI.

Today, as we witness the decline of America's reputation around the world, we're paying far more attention to Franklin's first stratagem than to his second. Indeed, despite a mounting stack of reports recommending drastic changes in the organization and funding of public diplomacy, very little of substance has been done. And most Americans, including many who make it their business to analyze public diplomacy, seem unmindful of the negative impression that America has recently been making on the rest of humanity -- via our popular culture. [complete article]

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The Vietnamization of Bush's vacation
By Frank Rich, New York Times, August 28, 2005

Another week in Iraq, another light at the end of the tunnel. On Monday President Bush saluted the Iraqis for "completing work on a democratic constitution" even as the process was breaking down yet again. But was anyone even listening to his latest premature celebration?

We have long since lost count of all the historic turning points and fast-evaporating victories hyped by this president. The toppling of Saddam's statue, "Mission Accomplished," the transfer of sovereignty and the purple fingers all blur into a hallucinatory loop of delusion. One such red-letter day, some may dimly recall, was the adoption of the previous, interim constitution in March 2004, also proclaimed a "historic milestone" by Mr. Bush. Within a month after that fabulous victory, the insurgency boiled over into the war we have today, taking, among many others, the life of Casey Sheehan.

It's Casey Sheehan's mother, not those haggling in Baghdad's Green Zone, who really changed the landscape in the war this month. Not because of her bumper-sticker politics or the slick left-wing political operatives who have turned her into a circus, but because the original, stubborn fact of her grief brought back the dead the administration had tried for so long to lock out of sight. With a shove from Pat Robertson, her 15 minutes are now up, but even Mr. Robertson's antics revealed buyer's remorse about Iraq; his stated motivation for taking out Hugo Chavez by assassination was to avoid "another $200 billion war" to remove a dictator. [complete article]

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EARLIER: Global warming is expected to raise hurricane intensity
By Andrew C. Revkin, September 30, 2004

Global warming is likely to produce a significant increase in the intensity and rainfall of hurricanes in coming decades, according to the most comprehensive computer analysis done so far.

By the 2080's, seas warmed by rising atmospheric concentrations of heat-trapping greenhouse gases could cause a typical hurricane to intensify about an extra half step on the five-step scale of destructive power, says the study, done on supercomputers at the Commerce Department's Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton, N.J. And rainfall up to 60 miles from the core would be nearly 20 percent more intense.

Other computer modeling efforts have also predicted that hurricanes will grow stronger and wetter as a result of global warming. But this study is particularly significant, independent experts said, because it used half a dozen computer simulations of global climate, devised by separate groups at institutions around the world. The long-term trends it identifies are independent of the normal lulls and surges in hurricane activity that have been on display in recent decades. [complete article]

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War critics have backing, but not much of a following
By Doyle McManus, Los Angeles Times, August 28, 2005

After a summer of mounting discontent over the war in Iraq, President Bush will face renewed criticism from Democrats and Republicans when Congress returns to work next week. But he appears unlikely to come up against an effective challenge to his policy — because his critics in both parties are deeply divided over what change in course to propose.

"There is an alternative strategy," said Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), a leading foreign policy critic, but "not a united one."

Over the last two months, as U.S. combat casualties have risen and efforts to draft a new Iraqi constitution have sputtered, public support for the war has sagged. War protesters, rallied by Cindy Sheehan, a Vacaville, Calif., woman whose son died in Iraq, dogged President Bush at his ranch in Texas and at speeches in Idaho. [complete article]

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Coming home -- to what?
By Nathaniel Fick, Boston Globe, August 28, 2005

Iraq veteran Daniel Cotnoir learned that Baghdad rules don't apply in Lawrence. The former Marine sergeant, who was named 2005's ''Marine of the Year" by the Marine Corps Times newspaper, was charged earlier this month with two counts of armed assault with intent to murder after firing a shotgun near a crowd of revelers outside his home. He had already reported their noise to police and, when a glass bottle shattered his bedroom window, Cotnoir allegedly feared for the safety of his wife and children. The story chilled me, not because I could have been part of the crowd, but because I imagined myself as the shooter.

As a Marine officer from 1999 to 2003, I led platoons in Afghanistan and Iraq. Following two combat tours, I left active duty to go to graduate school, thinking I could seamlessly return to normal life. But even with a loving family, supportive friends, and solid future prospects, homecoming derailed me for a year. I woke up to nightmares, shook uncontrollably during Fourth of July fireworks, and felt myself switch into ''combat mode" when challenged. After a driver cut me off on my morning commute and I envisioned gutting him with my car key, I recognized classic symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. [complete article]

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An appointment in Samarra
By Luke Baker, Reuters, August 27, 2005

Death creeps up on you in Iraq. The longer you remain amid the country's violence, the more insistent, the more bullying it becomes.

Over time, more people you know die, or are maimed, or have scrapes with death that leave them psychologically scarred.

All along there have been stories about it -- those killed by aerial bombardments, children blown apart by suicide bombs, families caught in crossfire, slain at the hands of insurgents or murdered by criminals.

In March last year, I stood in the street in Kerbala as suicide bombers exploded among crowds of Shi'ite Muslim pilgrims, killing more than 100 people, including dozens standing around me -- strangers who became new victims of Iraq's conflict.

But in recent months, the deaths have grown more personalised -- it's not just random people who die anymore, but people you've met, people you've interviewed, some you know quite well, colleagues you work with every day, friends even. [complete article]

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Is Zarqawi the new Bin Laden?
By Bruce Crumley, Time, August 28, 2005

Al-qaeda's leader in Iraq, Abu Mousab al-Zarqawi, was rumored to be gravely injured or dead just a few months ago. Since then, his organization is believed to have been behind barbaric attacks in Iraq and has even claimed responsibility for a failed rocket assault on a U.S. ship in the Red Sea. It's hard to separate the man from the mythology, but recent European intelligence reports reviewed by TIME suggest that al-Zarqawi's al-Qaeda franchise is expanding far beyond Iraq and that he now rivals Osama bin Laden in influence among Middle Eastern and European jihadists. [complete article]

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Leak shows Blair told of Iraq war terror link
By Martin Bright, The Observer, August 28, 2005

The Foreign Office's top official warned Downing Street that the Iraq war was fuelling Muslim extremism in Britain a year before the 7 July bombings, The Observer can reveal.

Despite repeated denials by Number 10 that the war made Britain a target for terrorists, a letter from Michael Jay, the Foreign Office permanent under-secretary, to the cabinet secretary, Sir Andrew Turnbull - obtained by this newspaper - makes the connection clear.

The letter, dated 18 May 2004, says British foreign policy was a 'recurring theme' in the Muslim community, 'especially in the context of the Middle East peace process and Iraq'.

'Colleagues have flagged up some of the potential underlying causes of extremism that can affect the Muslim community, such as discrimination, disadvantage and exclusion,' the letter says. 'But another recurring theme is the issue of British foreign policy, especially in the context of the Middle East peace process and Iraq. [complete article]

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Outspoken cleric murdered after backing Iraq vote
By Akeel Huseen and Colin Freeman, The Telegraph, August 28, 2005

Like many of Baghdad's fiery Sunni clerics, Sheikh Omar Ibrahim al Duleimi was never afraid to stir things up at Friday prayers.

When he urged his congregation to rise up and fight the American occupation, United States troops would routinely haul him in for questioning.

When he urged his congregation to register to vote in elections, the threat came from his compatriots - insurgents, who sent him warning messages that he ignored.

The sheikh has now paid the ultimate price for his defiance. Two hours before he was due to be interviewed by The Sunday Telegraph, armed men stormed his home in Baghdad and kidnapped him. His body was found in the capital yesterday with a single gunshot wound to the head. [complete article]

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Big guns for Iraq? Not so fast
By Craig S. Smith, New York Times, August 28, 2005

Even though President Bush keeps saying American forces won't leave Iraq until its forces can fight on their own, the United States isn't rushing to give the Iraqi military heavy weapons.

There is an official explanation for that - that such things take time.

But there is also another reason to go slow, one that illustrates how tightly American military success is intertwined with the political prospects of Iraq itself. This reason is little discussed in public by military officers, but it was evident last week on the explosion-scarred streets of Baghdad, in the skirmishes between rival Shiite forces in Najaf, and in the confusion of Iraq's struggle to complete a new constitution.

Simply put, Iraq remains too fragile for any planner to know what shape the country will be in six months or a year from now - whether it will reach compromises and hold together or split apart in a civil war. [complete article]

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The Achilles heel of torture
By Karen J. Greenberg, TomDispatch, August 26, 2005

Last month, Americans were given a new and persuasive reason for objecting to the use of torture as a tool in administration policy; namely, its potentially harmful impact on any viable counterterrorism strategy that values information as essential in combating Islamic fundamentalist terror. This strategic concern was raised in a set of memos released by the government in its latest "dump" of documents into the public arena.

Since the spring of 2004, the government has been making public previously classified documents nearly weekly, often in response to Freedom of Information Act law suits (though the numbers of newly classified documents are increasing at a rate that more than nullifies any sense of transparency such releases might suggest). Many of these memos have been about torture -- whether to use it; how to use it; and, most of all, how to protect government agents and agencies against prosecution for using it. Among these documents have been memos from the Judge Advocate General's Corps (or JAG), written by military lawyers from the Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marines, and these constitute a welcome oasis of sanity in a desert of compliance with the government's decision to use torture as a weapon in its "war on terror." [complete article]

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Australian group campaigns to free Guantanamo prisoner
By Raymond Bonner, New York Times, August 28, 2005

In a little more than a week, a new grass-roots political movement here has gathered more than 7,000 names of supporters on its Web site in a campaign to free David Hicks, an Australian citizen being held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The organization, GetUp!, was founded this month by two young Australians. They collected the names for a letter to the Australian foreign minister, Alexander Downer, demanding that he take action to have Mr. Hicks, 30, brought back to Australia to stand trial.

Mr. Hicks was taken prisoner in Afghanistan in December 2001 and sent to Guantanamo. In June 2004, American prosecutors charged him with conspiracy to commit war crimes, attempted murder and aiding the enemy. [complete article]

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CIA report said to fault pre-9/11 leadership
By Scott Shane and James Risen, New York Times, August 26, 2005

A long-awaited C.I.A. inspector general's report on the agency's performance before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks includes detailed criticism of more than a dozen former and current agency officials, aiming its sharpest language at George J. Tenet, the former director, according to a former intelligence officer who was briefed on the findings and another government official who has seen the report.

Mr. Tenet is censured for failing to develop and carry out a strategic plan to take on Al Qaeda in the years before 2001, even after he wrote in a 1998 memo to intelligence agencies that "we are at war" with it, they said, speaking about the highly classified report on condition of anonymity.

The report was delivered to the Senate and House Intelligence Committees on Tuesday by Porter J. Goss, the current C.I.A. director. Its preparation and previous drafts have provoked strong emotions at the beleaguered agency, which has borne the brunt of public criticism in a series of major studies of intelligence failures. [complete article]

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Noteworthy articles from the last seven days:

The Iraqi constitution: DOA?
By Juan Cole, Salon, August 26, 2005

U.S., insurgents locked in stalemate
By Tom Lasseter, Knight Ridder, August 25, 2005

A CIA cover blown, a White House exposed
By Tom Hamburger and Sonni Efron, Los Angeles Times, August 25, 2005

Why Iraq's Sunnis fear constitution
By Dan Murphy and Jill Carroll, Christian Science Monitor, August 24, 2005

Grooming politicians for Christ
By Stephanie Simon, Los Angeles Times, August 23, 2005

The real goals of Islamist terrorism
By Olivier Roy, Le Monde diplomatique, August, 2005

Money, morals and Islam
By Timur Kuran, Los Angeles Times, August 21, 2005

No proof found of Iran arms program
By Dafna Linzer, Washington Post, August 23, 2005

Under U.S. noses, brutal insurgents rule Sunni citadel
By Omer Mahdi and Rory Carroll, The Guardian, August 22, 2005

Sunnis offer an exit plan
By Robert Collier, San Francisco Chronicle, August 21, 2005

Militias on the rise across Iraq
By Anthony Shadid and Steve Fainaru, Washington Post, August 21, 2005

'I will go to do jihad again and again'
By N.C. Aizenman, Washington Post, August 21, 2005

Executed: Anatomy of a police killing
By Jonathan Ungoed-Thomas, The Times, August 21, 2005

The settlers' retreat was the theatre of the cynical
By Jonathan Steele, The Guardian, August 19, 2005

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EMAIL UPDATES -- Click here to sign up for weekly email updates -- a digest of key articles from the last seven days. (Please include your name in the message and put "subscribe" in the subject line.)

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