The War in Context  
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Disarray marked the path from hurricane to anarchy
By Eric Lipton, Christopher Drew, Scott Shane and David Rohde, New York Times, September 10, 2005

The governor of Louisiana was "blistering mad." It was the third night after Hurricane Katrina drowned New Orleans, and Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco needed buses to rescue thousands of people from the fetid Superdome and convention center. But only a fraction of the 500 vehicles promised by federal authorities had arrived.

Ms. Blanco burst into the state's emergency center in Baton Rouge. "Does anybody in this building know anything about buses?" she recalled crying out.

They were an obvious linchpin for evacuating a city where nearly 100,000 people had no cars. Yet the federal, state and local officials who had failed to round up buses in advance were now in a frantic hunt. It would be two more days before they found enough to empty the shelters.

The official autopsies of the flawed response to the catastrophic storm have already begun in Washington, and may offer lessons for dealing with a terrorist attack or even another hurricane this season. But an initial examination of Katrina's aftermath demonstrates the extent to which the federal government failed to fulfill the pledge it made after the Sept. 11 attacks to face domestic threats as a unified, seamless force. [complete article]

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A comeback for big government
By Peter G. Gosselin and Janet Hook, Los Angeles Times, September 10, 2005

President Bush, who came to office pledging to complete the Reagan revolution against big government, is set to preside over one of the biggest government undertakings in recent U.S. history -- the reconstruction of the storm-ravaged Gulf Coast.

In doing so, the president is turning to many of the New Deal and Great Society programs that he long criticized as too costly and a threat to Americans' sense of self-reliance.

The size of the administration's relief and recovery plan alone threatens to swamp much of what had been Bush's second-term agenda -- making previously approved tax cuts permanent, introducing personal investments to Social Security and advancing other "ownership society" programs.

The top-down nature of the relief plan and the White House's seemingly open-ended commitment to spend on reconstruction has left many of the president's conservative allies rattled. [complete article]

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A barrier that could have been
By Ralph Vartabedian and Peter Pae, Los Angeles Times, September 9, 2005

In the wake of Hurricane Betsy 40 years ago, Congress approved a massive hurricane barrier to protect New Orleans from storm surges that could inundate the city.

But the project, signed into law by President Johnson, was derailed in 1977 by an environmental lawsuit. Now the question is: Could that barrier have protected New Orleans from the damage wrought by Hurricane Katrina?

"If we had built the barriers, New Orleans would not be flooded," said Joseph Towers, the retired chief counsel for the Army Corps of Engineers New Orleans district.

Tower's view is endorsed by a former key senator, along with academic experts, who say a hurricane barrier is the only way to control the powerful storm surges that enter Lake Pontchartrain and threaten the city. Other experts are less sure, saying the barrier would have been no match for Katrina.

The project was stopped in its tracks when an environmental lawsuit won a federal injunction on the grounds that the Army's environmental impact statement was flawed. By the mid-1980s, the Corps of Engineers abandoned the project. [complete article]

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Uprooted and scattered far from the familiar
By Timothy Egan, New York Times, September 10, 2005

Carrying the scraps of their lives in plastic trash bags, citizens of the drowned city of New Orleans landed in a strange new place a week ago and wondered where they were. The land was brown, and nearly everyone they saw was white.

"I'm still not sure where I am - what do they call this, the upper West or something?" said Shelvin Cooter, 30, one of 583 people relocated from New Orleans to a National Guard camp here on a sagebrush plateau south of Salt Lake City, 1,410 miles from home.

"We're getting shown a lot of love, but we're also getting a lot of stares like we're aliens or something," Mr. Cooter said. "Am I the only person out here with dreadlocks?"

Hurricane Katrina has produced a diaspora of historic proportions. Not since the Dust Bowl of the 1930's, or the end of the Civil War in the 1860's have so many Americans been on the move from a single event. Federal officials who are guiding the evacuation say 400,000 to upwards of one million people have been displaced from ruined homes, mainly in the New Orleans metropolitan area. [complete article]

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Iraq hurt Katrina response, general says
AP (via CNN), September 9, 2005

The deployment of thousands of National Guard troops from Mississippi and Louisiana in Iraq when Hurricane Katrina struck hindered those states' initial storm response, military and civilian officials said Friday.

Lt. Gen. Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau, said that "arguably" a day or so of response time was lost due to the absence of the Mississippi National Guard's 155th Infantry Brigade and Louisiana's 256th Infantry Brigade, each with thousands of troops in Iraq.

"Had that brigade been at home and not in Iraq, their expertise and capabilities could have been brought to bear," said Blum. [complete article]

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Iraq is 'the' post 9/11 terror battleground: analysts
AFP, September 9, 2005

Four years after the deadly September 11 attacks on US soil which instigated US President George W. Bush's war on terrorism, Iraq has become the main battleground for Islamic extremists, analysts say.

After chasing Al-Qaeda fighters in the Afghan caves of Tora Bora in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, they say United States is now fighting its staunchest foes seeking to carry out their jihad (holy struggle) against the 'enemies of God', this time in the Sunni regions of Iraq.

Earlier this week, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan lamented that the war-torn country had become a major hub of terrorism, and called the situation "worse" than it was in Afghanistan.

"One used to be worried about Afghanistan being the centre of terrorist activities... My sense is that Iraq has become a major problem and in fact is worse than Afghanistan," he said. [complete article]

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Security contractors in Iraq under scrutiny after shootings
By Jonathan Finer, Washington Post, September 10, 2005

The pop of a single rifle shot broke the relative calm of Ali Ismael's morning commute here in one of Iraq's safest cities.

Ismael, his older brother Bayez and their driver had just pulled into traffic behind a convoy of four Chevrolet Suburbans, which police believe belonged to an American security contractor stationed nearby. The back door of the last vehicle swung open, the brothers said in interviews, and a man wearing sunglasses and a tan flak jacket leaned out and leveled his rifle.

"I thought he was just trying to scare us, like they usually do, to keep us back. But then he fired," said Ismael, 20. His scalp was still marked by a bald patch and four-inch purple scar from a bullet that grazed his head and left him bleeding in the back seat of his Toyota Land Cruiser.

"Everything is cloudy after that," he said.

A U.S. investigation of the July 14 incident concluded that no American contractors were responsible, a finding disputed by the Ismaels, other witnesses, local politicians and the city's top security official, who termed it a coverup. No one has yet been held responsible. [complete article]

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War on global terrorism was destined to fail
By John B. Judis, The Australian, September 9, 2005

The Bush administration has insisted that the September 11, 2001, attacks against the US constituted a turning point or a watershed in US and world history.

"The fires of September 11 signalled the start of a new war, and the lessons of September 11 have a profound effect on the way the United States is fighting that war," Vice-President Dick Cheney said on the second anniversary of the terrorist attacks. "The attacks on September 11 were a turning point for our nation," President George W. Bush declared on the third anniversary last September.

There are ways in which September 11 has dramatically altered the US. American voters, who had largely ignored the world outside, became preoccupied with national security, to the benefit of Bush and the Republican Party. The Government reshuffled its departments and priorities, creating, among other things, an unwieldy Department of Homeland Security incapable of responding to Hurricane Katrina. But in responding to the September 11 attacks, the Bush administration adopted a strategy that was neither novel nor effective. [complete article]

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Inescapable accountability
By E. J. Dionne Jr., Washington Post, September 9, 2005

The following is brought to you by the word "accountability."

Keep that word in mind whenever you hear defenders of President Bush accusing his political opponents of playing the "blame game" by daring to pose pointed questions about why so many people in New Orleans, most of them very poor, had to wait so long for relief from their suffering.

The Bush White House must have run the phrases "blame game" and "finger-pointing" through its focus groups. In his Wednesday briefing, White House press secretary Scott McClellan used variations on those formulations eight times each.

McClellan neatly rolled them into a single sentence when he told off a reporter who had the nerve to ask whether the president had confidence in those who oversaw the federal relief effort. "If you want to continue to engage in finger-pointing and blame-gaming, that's fine," McClellan harrumphed. Nice job, Scott. [complete article]

See also, Point those fingers (Paul Krugman) and Democratic leaders reject GOP storm inquiry plan (NYT).

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Swimming to New Orleans
By Nick Glassman, Pacific News Service (via AlterNet), September 9, 2005

I just returned this past weekend from my first trip to Louisiana since Katrina. It's beyond what you can imagine -- it's hell on Earth.

I flew into Baton Rouge, which sits about 80 miles northwest of New Orleans, and the city is destroyed, but not by the storm. There are hundreds of thousands of refugees from New Orleans in Baton Rouge. People are camping on the side of the roads, in their cars if they have them, and all over the LSU campus. The first thing you notice is how outraged everyone is.

The people of Baton Rouge don't want us here, and you can't blame them. There seems to be no plan for the New Orleaneans once they are dropped off in Baton Rouge, and locals are confused, horrified or worse. They know this is potentially a permanent situation, or at least the way it will be for the next several months. It's safe to say they're as scared as the homeless and exhausted refugees that litter their streets. [complete article]

See also, Eight big lies about Katrina (AlterNet).

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Why FEMA failed
By Farhad Manjoo, Salon, September 7, 2005

Days before Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, the city of Chicago drew up a list of resources it was willing to make available for relief efforts in areas that might be hit by the storm. Chicago told the Federal Emergency Management Agency that in the event of disaster, it could spare more than 100 Chicago police officers, 36 Fire Department personnel, eight emergency medical experts, more than 130 staff from Chicago's Department of Public Health, 140 staff from the Department of Streets & Sanitation, dozens of trucks and two boats. These teams, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley told federal officials, could work in affected areas independently, bringing their own food, water and other supplies with them. But FEMA apparently wasn't interested. Despite the host of resources Chicago offered, and despite the televised lack of resources in New Orleans, as of late last week, FEMA had requested only one thing from Chicago - a single tanker truck. "I was shocked," Daley said at a news conference on Friday. "We are ready to provide considerably more help than they have requested. We are just waiting for a call." [complete article]

Leaders lacking disaster experience
By Spencer S. Hsu, Washington Post, September 9, 2005

Five of eight top Federal Emergency Management Agency officials came to their posts with virtually no experience in handling disasters and now lead an agency whose ranks of seasoned crisis managers have thinned dramatically since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

FEMA's top three leaders -- Director Michael D. Brown, Chief of Staff Patrick J. Rhode and Deputy Chief of Staff Brooks D. Altshuler -- arrived with ties to President Bush's 2000 campaign or to the White House advance operation, according to the agency. Two other senior operational jobs are filled by a former Republican lieutenant governor of Nebraska and a U.S. Chamber of Commerce official who was once a political operative. [complete article]

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It always lies below
By Timothy Garton Ash, The Guardian, September 8, 2005

Before our attention wanders on to the next headline story, let's learn Katrina's big lesson. This is not about the incompetence of the Bush administration, the scandalous neglect of poor black people in America, or our unpreparedness for major natural disasters - though all of those apply. Katrina's big lesson is that the crust of civilisation on which we tread is always wafer thin. One tremor, and you've fallen through, scratching and gouging for your life like a wild dog.

You think the looting, rape and armed terror that emerged within hours in New Orleans would never happen in nice, civilised Europe? Think again. It happened here, all over our continent only 60 years ago. Read the memoirs of Holocaust and gulag survivors, Norman Lewis's account of Naples in 1944, or the recently republished anonymous diary of a German woman in Berlin in 1945. It happened again in Bosnia just 10 years ago. And that wasn't even the force majeure of a natural disaster. Europe's were man-made hurricanes. [complete article]

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Many chiefs in White House recovery effort
By Jennifer Loven, AP (via WP), September 8, 2005

There are an awful lot of chiefs around the White House these days when it comes to Hurricane Katrina.

There's Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, whose portfolio has swelled to give him not only command of the massive nuts-and-bolts response operation, but also the job of the president's primary daily briefer and oversight of a White House task force set up to coordinate federal agencies' hurricane activities.

There's Andy Card, who as White House chief of staff is the supervisory point person for all things Katrina, even as domestic policy adviser Claude Allen runs the day-to-day doings and policy deliberations of the task force.

Then there's Vice President Dick Cheney, whom Bush dropped into the mix Tuesday when he announced he was sending his No. 2 to the region to ride herd on any government red tape that might be getting in the way of meeting storm victims' still-urgent needs. [complete article]

See also, Katrina underscores Bush's isolated style (Knight Ridder).

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Political issues snarled plans for troop aid
By Eric Lipton, Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker, New York Times, September 9, 2005

As New Orleans descended into chaos last week and Louisiana's governor asked for 40,000 soldiers, President Bush's senior advisers debated whether the president should speed the arrival of active-duty troops by seizing control of the hurricane relief mission from the governor.

For reasons of practicality and politics, officials at the Justice Department and the Pentagon, and then at the White House, decided not to urge Mr. Bush to take command of the effort. Instead, the Washington officials decided to rely on the growing number of National Guard personnel flowing into Louisiana, who were under Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco's control.

The debate began after officials realized that Hurricane Katrina had exposed a critical flaw in the national disaster response plans created after the Sept. 11 attacks. According to the administration's senior domestic security officials, the plan failed to recognize that local police, fire and medical personnel might be incapacitated.

As criticism of the response to Hurricane Katrina has mounted, one of the most pointed questions has been why more troops were not available more quickly to restore order and offer aid. Interviews with officials in Washington and Louisiana show that as the situation grew worse, they were wrangling with questions of federal/state authority, weighing the realities of military logistics and perhaps talking past each other in the crisis. [complete article]

Comment -- If the New York Times presented itself as a satirical publication I'd be one of its biggest fans. Take a line like this:
Officials from the Department of Homeland Security say the experience with Hurricane Katrina has demonstrated flaws in the nation's plans to handle disaster.
From the lips of Jon Stewart on the Daily Show those words would be darkly comical. Is the Times' carefully studied seriousness not the biggest joke of all?

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U.S. "war on terror" saves few lives, expert says
By Maggie Fox, Reuters, September 9, 2005

The U.S. "war on terror" is saving fewer lives than just spending the money on disease prevention and research, and has probably caused deaths by taking money away from basic services, an expert said on Thursday.

The accusation is not new, but Dr. Erica Frank of the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta said she has calculated the cost, in terms of lives, of the Bush administration's terror policies.

"The most recent effects of these diversions of funding have been seen in the unfolding tragedy of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and the surrounding area," Frank wrote in a commentary published in the British Medical Journal. [complete article]

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Bush's dream of democratic Middle East may rest on engaging with Islamists
By Simon Tisdall, The Guardian, September 9, 2005

Ignoring setbacks in Iraq and Syria and the post-Gaza impasse, George Bush continues to claim success for his policy of spreading democracy in the Arab world.

"Across the broader Middle East, we can see freedom's power to transform nations and deliver hope," he said in San Diego last week. "In Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, people have gone to the polls and chosen their leaders in free elections. Their example is inspiring millions across that region to claim their liberty and they will have it."

But Mr Bush's boast of a mass movement towards democratic participation rings hollow after Egypt's first multi-candidate presidential election on Wednesday resulted in turnout below 30% and cries of fraud and intimidation. [complete article]

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Powell calls his U.N. speech a lasting blot on his record
By Steven R. Weisman, New York Times, September 9, 2005

The former secretary of state, Colin L. Powell, says in a television interview to be broadcast Friday that his 2003 speech to the United Nations, in which he gave a detailed description of Iraqi weapons programs that turned out not to exist, was "painful" for him personally and would be a permanent "blot" on his record.

"I'm the one who presented it on behalf of the United States to the world," Mr. Powell told Barbara Walters of ABC News, adding that the presentation "will always be a part of my record."

Asked by Ms. Walters how painful this was for him, Mr. Powell replied: "It was painful. It's painful now." Asked further how he felt upon learning that he had been misled about the accuracy of intelligence on which he relied, Mr. Powell said, "Terrible." He added that it was "devastating" to learn later that some intelligence agents knew the information he had was unreliable but did not speak up. [complete article]

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U.S. forces chase ghost fighters amid Iraqis
By Jonathan Finer, Washington Post, September 9, 2005

The U.S. soldiers sensed something wasn't quite right when an ambulance carrying two dead bodies arrived Thursday morning at a checkpoint for people evacuating this city under siege.

Hanging off the sides of the vehicle were three young men who said they were escorting the remains of family members killed in the previous night's bombardment to a local hospital. But when an Iraqi policeman looked them over, he pointed to a man who wore white sweatpants and a white shirt and appeared to be in his early twenties. "I know him. He must be detained," the officer said. "He murdered a policeman."

The interrogation by American soldiers initially went nowhere. The man insisted he spoke Turkish, not Arabic, and therefore could not communicate with the Americans' interpreters. Asked his name, he kept alternating between "Habib" and "Faris." At one point, he rolled on the floor making retching noises as if he were going to throw up. But everything changed when exasperated soldiers said they had no choice but to turn him over to the Iraqis, who were anxious to take him into custody. [complete article]

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Insurgents open 'southern front' with deadly car-bomb in Basra
By Patrick Cockburn, The Independent, September 9, 2005

A series of deadly bomb attacks in and around the city of Basra this week has undermined the British Army's claim to have largely kept southern Iraq free from the violence engulfing the rest of the country.

Sixteen people were killed and 21 injured when a car bomb exploded outside a restaurant near a market in the centre of Basra on Wednesday. Two police cars and several shops were destroyed.
The most likely explanation for the rise in violence in the area is that al-Qa'ida wants to show that it can strike anywhere in Iraq. The restaurant blown up was in Hayaniyah market in a Shiah district of Basra, which is in keeping with al-Qa'ida's policy of attacking places where Shia civilians are known to gather. [complete article]

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Devolving power in Iraq threatens oil development
By Mariam Karouny and Ghaida Ghantous, Reuters, September 8, 2005

A federal Iraq is likely to plunge the country's vital oil sector into disarray and hamper much-needed investment if decision-making is decentralised, oil officials and analysts said.

Iraq's interim constitution, due to be put to a referendum next month, could lead to several autonomous zones under which a central government in Baghdad would not have complete control over oil resources.

Multinationals would then have to negotiate about developing fields in the country with the third largest crude reserves in the world with provincial governments, which want a greater share of oil revenues, and the central government.

"Unless there is some central control, like a national oil company, there is going to be chaos, especially if preference is given to regional laws that would override federal laws," said Muhammad-Ali Zainy, senior energy economic and analyst at London-based Center for Global Energy Studies. [complete article]

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Before the flood
By Simon Winchester, New York Times, September 8, 2005

The last time a great American city was destroyed by a violent caprice of nature, the response was shockingly different from what we have seen in New Orleans. In tone and tempo, residents, government institutions and the nation as a whole responded to the earthquake that brought San Francisco to its knees a century ago in a manner that was well-nigh impeccable, something from which the country was long able to derive a considerable measure of pride.

This was all the more remarkable for taking place at a time when civilized existence was a far more grueling business, an age bereft of cellphones and Black Hawks and conditioned air, with no Federal Emergency Management Agency to give us a false sense of security and no Weather Channel to tell us what to expect.

Nobody in the "cool gray city of love," as the poet George Sterling called it, had the faintest inkling that anything might go wrong on the early morning of April 18, 1906. Enrico Caruso and John Barrymore - who both happened to be in town - and 400,000 others slumbered on, with only a slight lightening of eggshell-blue in the skies over Oakland and the clank of the first cable cars suggesting the beginning of another ordinary day.

Then at 5:12 a.m. a giant granite hand rose from the California earth and tore through the city. Palaces of brick held up no better than gold-rush shanties of pine and redwood siding; hot chimneys, electric wires and gas pipes toppled, setting a series of fires that, with the water mains broken and the hydrants dry, proceeded over the next three dreadful days and nights to destroy what remained of the imperial city. In the end, at least 3,000 were dead and 225,000 homeless.

Everyone who survived remembered: there was at first a shocked silence; then the screams of the injured; and then, in a score of ways and at a speed that matched the ferocity of the wind-whipped fires, people picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, took stock and took charge. [complete article]

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Bush requests $51.8 billion more for relief
By Jonathan Weisman and Amy Goldstein, Washington Post, September 8, 2005

President Bush sent Congress a request for $51.8 billion in additional hurricane relief yesterday, raising Katrina's cost to the federal government to $62.3 billion so far, easily a record for domestic disaster relief.

Separately, Republican leaders moved to try to contain the political fallout from Katrina, forming a joint House-Senate review committee of senior lawmakers who will investigate the government's preparation and initial response to the catastrophe. Democrats called again for an independent probe similar to the investigation of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The mounting cost of the hurricane and its aftermath comes at a time when federal budget deficits were finally in retreat after three successive years of rising red ink. Katrina's impact, coupled with the stubbornly high cost of the war in Iraq, will probably keep the deficit well above $300 billion and near record territory in 2006, budget analysts said. [complete article]

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Hiding bodies won't hide the truth
By Terry M. Neal, Washington Post, September 8, 2005

Cadavers have a way of raising questions.

When people see them, they wonder, how did they get dead?

When a lot of people see a lot of dead bodies, politicians begin thinking of damage control.

Echoing a Defense Department policy banning the photographing of flag-draped coffins of American troops, representatives from the much-maligned Federal Emergency Management Agency said on Tuesday that it didn't want journalists to accompany rescue boats as they went out to search for storm victims, because "the recovery of the victims is being treated with dignity and the utmost respect." An agency spokeswoman told Reuters, "We have requested that no photographs of the deceased be made by the media."

Whatever the objective, those pesky questions about accountability are not going away. And a full-scale political storm over the federal government's response to Hurricane Katrina continued to rage around the White House this week, despite the best efforts of the president's supporters to deflect criticism by tagging it as partisan--even though many of the critics are themselves Republicans. [complete article]

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Money flowed to questionable projects
By Michael Grunwald, Washington Post, September 8, 2005

Before Hurricane Katrina breached a levee on the New Orleans Industrial Canal, the Army Corps of Engineers had already launched a $748 million construction project at that very location. But the project had nothing to do with flood control. The Corps was building a huge new lock for the canal, an effort to accommodate steadily increasing barge traffic.

Except that barge traffic on the canal has been steadily decreasing.

In Katrina's wake, Louisiana politicians and other critics have complained about paltry funding for the Army Corps in general and Louisiana projects in particular. But over the five years of President Bush's administration, Louisiana has received far more money for Corps civil works projects than any other state, about $1.9 billion; California was a distant second with less than $1.4 billion, even though its population is more than seven times as large.

Much of that Louisiana money was spent to try to keep low-lying New Orleans dry. But hundreds of millions of dollars have gone to unrelated water projects demanded by the state's congressional delegation and approved by the Corps, often after economic analyses that turned out to be inaccurate. Despite a series of independent investigations criticizing Army Corps construction projects as wasteful pork-barrel spending, Louisiana's representatives have kept bringing home the bacon. [complete article]

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Floods scour the political landscape, too
By Tina Brown, Washington Post, September 8, 2005

Even though it is so familiar in our imaginations, it is still a wonderful moment in the upcoming Discovery documentary "The Flight That Fought Back" when the doomed passengers on Flight 93 seize the food cart and race it down the aisle toward the cockpit like a battering ram, united in courage and rage. At the preview of the movie at the Bryant Park Hotel in Manhattan you could feel the exhalation of tension in the audience during the reenactment: the wish-fulfillment, the satisfaction at the virility of the gesture.

New York may have superficially recovered since 9/11, but the Bush victory in the election last year left a hangover of self-doubt that drained the city's mojo. Katrina's perfect meteorological and political storm has at least blown away that mood. New York's sullen sense of carrying around a deviant secret -- that President Bush is an empty flight suit -- has gone with the wind. [complete article]

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Navy pilots who rescued victims are reprimanded
By David S. Cloud, New York Times, September 7, 2005

Two Navy helicopter pilots and their crews returned from New Orleans on Aug. 30 expecting to be greeted as lifesavers after ferrying more than 100 hurricane victims to safety.

Instead, their superiors chided the pilots, Lt. David Shand and Lt. Matt Udkow, at a meeting the next morning for rescuing civilians when their assignment that day had been to deliver food and water to military installations along the Gulf Coast.

"I felt it was a great day because we resupplied the people we needed to and we rescued people, too," Lieutenant Udkow said. But the air operations commander at Pensacola Naval Air Station "reminded us that the logistical mission needed to be our area of focus."

The episode illustrates how the rescue effort in the days immediately after Hurricane Katrina had to compete with the military's other, more mundane logistical needs.

Only in recent days, after the federal response to the disaster has come to be seen as inadequate, have large numbers of troops and dozens of helicopters, trucks and other equipment been poured into to the effort. Early on, the military rescue operations were smaller, often depending on the initiative of individuals like Lieutenants Shand and Udkow. [complete article]

Comment -- The heroes in any crisis are invariably those whose sense of personal responsibility is stronger than their willingness to obey orders, yet as the commander referred to above makes clear, military culture generally prizes obedience above conscience.

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The eye of the hurricane
By Matthias Gebauer, Der Spiegel, September 8, 2005

They produced a paper on-location until the last possible minute; they fled as their trucks were in danger of flooding. Now reporters at the Times-Picayune are working from a provisional office and have turned their paper into a strong voice for the powerless -- and into a forum for the sinking town.

The reports Jim Amoss got from his staff at the Times-Picayune were "bad news" in the truest sense. No sooner had editor-in-chief Amoss bought a new pair of pants and a fresh t-shirt than a reporter stopped him at the office door. "I just went by your house," he said. "It got looted." For a moment Amoss looked astounded. Then he murmured, "I was afraid that might happen." His cell phone was in one hand; he'd just been discussing the next day's issue. He couldn't take time to worry about the house. There was a lead story to edit. [complete article]

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Mexican army convoy with doctors, mobile kitchens heads for U.S.
By Susana Hayward, Knight Ridder, September 7, 2005

A Mexican army convoy and a navy amphibian warship are on their way to New Orleans to assist in Hurricane Katrina relief efforts, the first time the Mexican military has operated north of the Rio Grande River since Texas won its independence in 1846.

The Mexican forces are bringing helicopters, 14 trucks, a mobile surgical unit, emergency personnel, three tons of purified water, food and giant kitchens.

"We will do anything within our reach to help this unfortunate situation. Mexico is a friendly neighbor, and in difficult times, good friends are there for each other," President Vicente Fox said last weekend in offering aid. U.S. Ambassador Tony Garza said that "the American people are grateful" for the assistance. [complete article]

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'Minnesota Nice' goes to war
By Richard Chin, Knight Ridder, September 7, 2005

Here's what happens when a nice girl from Minnesota - "Minnesota Nice" is what the locals call it - gets a .50-caliber machine gun and goes to war.

"I was not an aggressive person. I was the most passive person: 'It's OK, you go first,'" said Michelle Maxwell, who works in a nursing home in Austin, Minn.

Then eight months ago, the Army National Guard specialist, 21, was sent to Iraq, taught to operate the heavy machine gun turret of a Humvee and told to shoot or run over anybody who threatened the truck convoys she was assigned to protect.

"I said, 'There's just no way.' I put old people to bed. There's no way I could run over a kid," Maxwell said.

That was before she saw fellow soldiers in her transportation unit getting blown up on the roads of northern Iraq.

Now she talks about the "rush" of confronting insurgent attacks, forcing civilian traffic out of the way and stitching the pavement with her machine gun if another vehicle gets too close. [complete article]

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Some Iraq projects running out of money, U.S. says
By T. Christian Miller, Los Angeles Times, September 8, 2005

The U.S. will halt construction work on some water and power plants in Iraq because it is running out of money for projects, officials said Wednesday.

Security costs have cut into the money available to complete some major infrastructure projects that were started under the $18.4-billion U.S. plan to rebuild Iraq. As a result, the United States is funding only those projects deemed essential by the Iraqi government.

Although no overall figures are available, one contractor has stopped work on six of eight water treatment plants to which it was assigned.

"We have scaled back our projects in many areas," James Jeffrey, a senior advisor on Iraq for the State Department, told lawmakers at a hearing of the House Appropriations subcommittee on foreign operations. "We do not have the money." [complete article]

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Basra bombs kill 16 Iraqis and 4 U.S. contractors
By Robert F. Worth, New York Times, September 8, 2005

A taxi packed with explosives blew up outside a crowded restaurant on Wednesday evening in the southern city of Basra, killing 16 Iraqis and wounding two dozen others, hours after a bomb killed 4 American contractors in the same city.

The bombings were the worst violence in more than a year in Iraq's second largest city, and raised the prospect of sectarian violence on a scale that Basra has not seen before. The guerrilla attacks that plague the rest of the country have been rare in Basra, where Shiite religious parties and their militias maintain a tight grip on security.

The parked taxi exploded at 8:45 p.m. in the central Khalij al Arabi neighborhood, near large crowds of people walking and shopping, witnesses said. The blast shredded the facade of the restaurant, Sayid Khaled, and destroyed two minibuses in the street outside. [complete article]

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Sadr City success story
By T. Christian Miller, Los Angeles Times, September 7, 2005

Sadr City has become one of the rare success stories of the U.S. reconstruction effort, say local residents, Iraqi and U.S. officials. Although vast swaths remain blighted, the neighborhood of 2 million mostly impoverished Shiites is one of the calmest in Baghdad. One U.S. soldier has been killed and one car bomb detonated in the last year, the military says.

The improvements are the result of an intense effort in the wake of the street battles last August with fighters loyal to anti-American cleric Muqtada Sadr. Within a month, U.S. officials decided to make Sadr City a showcase for rebuilding, and increased spending to $805 million in a neighborhood long neglected under Saddam Hussein.

Having covered the U.S. reconstruction effort in Iraq for the last 22 months, I decided to take a measure of progress by going back to the same people I interviewed last August, in addition to talking with U.S. and Iraqi officials involved in the program.

Their stories provide insight into why the rebuilding of Sadr City is an impressive, if imperfect, accomplishment in Iraq, where many projects remain incomplete and U.S. promises unfulfilled. [complete article]

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Don't ignore Western Europe, terrorism expert warns U.S.
By Walter Pincus, Washington Post, September 8, 2005

Western Europe is a core recruiting ground for Muslim terrorists that is being overlooked given the U.S. focus on Iraq and the Middle East, according to Francis Fukuyama, academic dean of Johns Hopkins University's Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies.

The failure of European countries to assimilate their large and growing Muslim populations in the era of globalization has caused an alienation among the young that has created a "hard core for terrorism," Fukuyama said in Washington at a bipartisan policy forum on terrorism and security, sponsored by the New America Foundation.

"Fixing the Middle East is only part of the problem. It is a West European problem, too," Fukuyama said. He pointed out that the leaders of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks came out of a cell in Hamburg and that most of the extremists participating in the more recent bombings in Spain and England were born in those countries. [complete article]

See also, The suicide solution (Christopher Dickey).

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Apathy and chaos mar Egyptian poll
By William Wallis, Financial Times, September 8, 2005

Shambolic organisation, voter apathy and allegations of irregularities threatened to put a dampener on Egypt's first experiment with contested presidential elections as the counting began on Thursday.

Reports of people wandering for hours in search of polling stations where their names were registered were common. They provided a sharp contrast to the tight organisation at President Hosni Mubarak's campaign headquarters.

Speaking on the Arab satellite television station Al Jazeera on Thursday, Ayman Nour, the best known of the nine opposition contenders, called for a re-run of Wednesday's election. But Mohamed Kamal, one of the managers of the Mubarak campaign, said a decision on a re-run was up to the Presidential Election Commission, chaired by the president of Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court. [complete article]

See also, Egypt's multiple-choice vote has 1 answer: Mubarak (NYT).

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U.N. hits back at U.S. in report saying parts of America are as poor as Third World
By Paul Vallely, The Independent, September 8, 2005

Parts of the United States are as poor as the Third World, according to a shocking United Nations report on global inequality.

Claims that the New Orleans floods have laid bare a growing racial and economic divide in the US have, until now, been rejected by the American political establishment as emotional rhetoric. But yesterday's UN report provides statistical proof that for many - well beyond those affected by the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina - the great American Dream is an ongoing nightmare.

The document constitutes a stinging attack on US policies at home and abroad in a fightback against moves by Washington to undermine next week's UN 60th anniversary conference which will be the biggest gathering of world leaders in history.

The annual Human Development Report normally concerns itself with the Third World, but the 2005 edition scrutinises inequalities in health provision inside the US as part of a survey of how inequality worldwide is retarding the eradication of poverty. [complete article]

See also, Our homegrown Third World (LAT) and The real costs of a culture of greed (Robert Scheer).

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Hurricane's toll is likely to reshape Bush's economic agenda
By Edmund L. Andrews, New York Times, September 7, 2005

Hurricane Katrina is about to blow a hole in the federal budget, and it is already jeopardizing President Bush's agenda for cutting taxes and reducing the deficit.

Administration officials told Republican lawmakers on Tuesday that relief efforts were running close to $700 million a day, and that the total federal cost could reach as high as $100 billion.

That would be many times the cost of any other natural disaster or even the $21 billion that was allocated for New York City after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. [complete article]

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The Department of Homeland Security is doomed to failure without a structural overhaul
By Fred Kaplan, Slate, September 7, 2005

A crucial question to be asked in the coming slew of investigations: Did the Department of Homeland Security do such a dreadful job on Hurricane Katrina because of incompetent officials and insufficient funds -- or because of the organization and incentives of the DHS itself? Is it enough to make heads roll and budgets swell -- or does the whole department need a structural overhaul? [complete article]

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Rebuilding may cost as much as war in Iraq
By David Adam and John Vidal, The Guardian, September 7, 2005

Engineers in New Orleans face an unprecedented rebuilding programme as operations to pump water out of the flooded city began yesterday. Flood levels in some areas were said to have dropped by a foot after army engineers plugged a major gap in the levees.

Yesterday it emerged that many of the roads, sewers and pipes carrying water and gas will have to be replaced and that contamination by sewage and toxic chemicals could mean some areas of the city have to be rebuilt completely.

Hugh Kaufman, senior policy analyst for emergency response at the Environmental Protection Agency, said New Orleans may need one of the largest public building programmes ever seen in the US at a cost of $80-100bn - approximately the same as the yearly cost of the war in Iraq.

"You have to repair and rebuild the sewage treatment plant and sewer infrastructure, as well as the drinking water infrastructure.

"You're talking about a massive public works programme of rebuilding that I don't think we've seen in this country before. We're talking about like how much money we're putting into Iraq," said Mr Kaufman, who worked on the clean-up of New York after the terrorist attacks of September 11. [complete article]

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New Orleans: The toxic timebomb
By Andrew Gumbel and Rupert Cornwell, The Independent, September 7, 2005

The devastation of Hurricane Katrina has created a vast toxic soup that stretches across south-eastern Louisiana and Mississippi, and portends the arrival of an environmental disaster to rival the awe-inspiring destruction of property and human life over the past week.

Toxicologists and public health experts warned yesterday that pumping billions of gallons of contaminated water from the streets of New Orleans back into the Gulf of Mexico - the only viable option if the city is ever to return to even a semblance of its former self -would have a crippling effect on marine and animal life, compromise the wetlands that form the first line of resistance to future hurricanes, and carry deleterious consequences for human health throughout the region. [complete article]

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FEMA chief waited hours to ask for Homeland Security help
By Ted Bridis, AP, September 6, 2005

The government's disaster chief waited until hours after Hurricane Katrina had already struck the Gulf Coast before asking his boss to dispatch 1,000 Homeland Security employees to the region -- and gave them two days to arrive, according to internal documents.

Michael Brown, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, sought the approval from Homeland Security Secretary Mike Chertoff roughly five hours after Katrina made landfall on Aug. 29. Brown said that among duties of these employees was to "convey a positive image" about the government's response for victims.

Before then, FEMA had positioned smaller rescue and communications teams across the Gulf Coast. But officials acknowledged Tuesday the first department-wide appeal for help came only as the storm raged. [complete article]

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Putting down new roots on more solid ground
By Susan Saulny, New York Times, September 7, 2005

From across the economic spectrum, whether with heavy hearts or with optimism, the hundreds of thousands of people who fled the wrath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans are already putting down roots in new cities. If even a fraction of them decide not to return, the migration threatens a population crash that could be nearly as devastating to the New Orleans area as the storm itself.

And city officials know it. After days of asking, then demanding, now practically begging the residents of New Orleans to leave, they have mentally if not publicly changed gears and are devising strategy behind the scenes about how they will accomplish a titanic shift - in effect, a reverse evacuation.

Since its population peaked at almost 630,000 in 1960, New Orleans has been steadily losing its people. According to the last census, 445,000 people lived there. But a trickle of people over the decades is quite a different matter from what the city now faces, a sudden population bust that could subtract up to 250,000 people.

"I look at the situation, and it brings fear," said Rodney Braxton, the city's chief legislative lobbyist. "If there's one thing that gives me sorrow beyond the loss of life, it's that."

Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, head of the department of urban planning at the University of California, Los Angeles, underscored the size of the problem. "If a big chunk of the population doesn't come back, it's going to be horrific for the city," she said. [complete article]

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Use of the word 'refugee' stirs newsroom debate
By Jocelyn Noveck, AP, September 6, 2005

What do you call people who have been driven from their homes with only the clothes on their backs, unsure if they will ever be able to return, and forced to build a new life in a strange place? News organizations are struggling for the right word.

Many, including The Associated Press, have used "refugee" to describe those displaced by the wrath of Hurricane Katrina.

But the choice has stirred anger among some readers and other critics, particularly in the black community. They have argued that "refugee" somehow implies that the displaced storm victims, many of whom have been black, are second-class citizens -- or not even Americans.

"It is racist to call American citizens refugees," the Rev. Jesse Jackson said, visiting the Houston Astrodome on Monday. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus have expressed similar sentiments. [complete article]

Comment -- I have no doubt that it is with the heartfelt intention of protecting the dignity of displaced hurricane victims that Jesse Jackson and others object to them being called refugees, yet one of the many lessons of the last ten days is that American citizens are not immune from the hardships that befall many non-Americans who are freely termed "refugees" without the label triggering accusations of racism. Ironically, because the term "refugee" has been objected to, it is now often being substituted with "evacuees" when these so-called evacuees are actually victims of a non-existent evacuation plan. As hundreds of thousands of people are now being scattered across America like seeds in the wind, to call them refugees (even if technically they are not, because they remain within these borders) is merely to underline the tremendous loss that they have had to endure.

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Osama and Katrina
By Thomas L. Friedman, New York Times, September 7, 2005

Well, if 9/11 is one bookend of the Bush administration, Katrina may be the other. If 9/11 put the wind at President Bush's back, Katrina's put the wind in his face. If the Bush-Cheney team seemed to be the right guys to deal with Osama, they seem exactly the wrong guys to deal with Katrina - and all the rot and misplaced priorities it's exposed here at home.

These are people so much better at inflicting pain than feeling it, so much better at taking things apart than putting them together, so much better at defending "intelligent design" as a theology than practicing it as a policy. [complete article]

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With death at their door, few leave Iraqi city
By Jonathan Finer, Washington Post, September 7, 2005

On one side of the concertina wire lining an avenue stood 100 U.S. troops, five Bradley Fighting Vehicles and two M1-A1 Abrams tanks. Across the street were about 1,000 men, women and children of this embattled northwestern city.

The military had warned in leaflets dropped by helicopter and messages played over loudspeaker Tuesday morning that it would soon raid the insurgent-controlled neighborhood of Sarai, east of the city center, and asked civilians to evacuate through checkpoints in the southern part of town. But the Sarai residents, most of them Sunni Turkmens, insisted they would either flee northward or remain in their homes, come what may.

After an eight-hour standoff marked by a cycle of negotiation, miscommunication, occasional gunfire and flashes of anger, one family, about 17 people, agreed to leave the city with a military escort, after a U.S. commander gave the crowd "one final chance." The rest retreated into Sarai, vowing to take their chances. [complete article]

Comment -- US military planners may feel confident that whatever turns out to be the fate of the residents of Tall Afar, in the Katrina aftermath-saturated US media the deaths of a few hundred Iraqi civilians will barely get a mention. Even so, as a few thousand residents of New Orleans are still reluctant to leave their homes it should not be difficult for us to understand that even in a dire situation, it is difficult to abandon everything and trek off into the unknown. And if the message to leave is coming from an invading military force, it is even less surprising that the residents would choose to hunker down.

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Expand settlements, Israel urged
BBC News, September 6, 2005

An Israeli cabinet minister says the government should take advantage of the withdrawal of settlers from Gaza by expanding settlements in the West Bank. Education Minister Limor Livnat said the pullout was a heavy price to pay, and Israel should now reap a dividend. She said this should be done even if it meant overriding American objections.

The US has urged Israel to keep to its commitment to freeze settlement building, outlined in the international peace plan known as the road-map.

The statement echoes quotations attributed to Prime Minister - and fellow Likud member - Ariel Sharon in a meeting of Likud mayors on Sunday. "There's no need to talk, we need to build, and we're building without talking," he is quoted as saying. [complete article]

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Troops back from Iraq find another war zone
By Ann Scott Tyson, Washington Post, September 6, 2005

Spec. Frank Atkinson, wearing his tan desert fatigues from his recent deployment in Iraq, alternately drove a Humvee through downtown New Orleans streets littered with debris and putrid garbage and held suspected looters at gunpoint with his M-4 rifle.

"It's just so much like Iraq, it's not funny," said Atkinson, of Woodlawn, Ark., "except for all the water, and they speak English."

For a year ending this spring, Atkinson's infantry company of the Arkansas National Guard patrolled Baghdad's deadly Haifa Street, and scores of its members were awarded Purple Heart medals after fighting insurgents. Those war-zone images and instincts came flooding back Friday when Atkinson and 300 other Arkansas guardsmen, wearing helmets and full body armor, rolled into the chaos of central New Orleans. [complete article]

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Residents survive with stone age skills
By Robert Tanner, AP (via Guardian), September 6, 2005

The 21st century was swept away here. The winds and the floods and the disasters that followed took it.

Some strange, more primitive time took its place, amid the useless computers and cars of the modern world. Those stranded were left behind to forage for food and water, share what little they have with neighbors, and find somewhere safe before night falls.

"Say goodbye to the Jetsons," Aaron Broussard, president of next-door Jefferson Parish, told residents on the all-night radio station and news lifeline. "We're back to the Flintstones." [complete article]

Comment -- While we focus on the failings of emergency management and flood protection it's easy for anyone who was not directly hit to forget about the larger message here: Nature - not the United States - is the greatest force on Earth. As much as the mismanagement of the aftermath and the failure of government to care for those most in need should be a cause for national shame, we should all be humbled by the sheer power of the storm. To say that survivors are now thrown back to the stone age implies a primative condition of pure deprivation yet our forebears possessed many skills that we now lack. Their inability to thwart nature compelled them to be more attentive to its lessons.

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At last, reporters' feelings rise to the surface
By Howard Kurtz, Washington Post, September 5, 2005

Journalism seems to have recovered its reason for being.

As in the weeks after 9/11, news organizations have plunged into the calamity in New Orleans, with reporters chronicling heartbreaking stories under harrowing conditions in a submerged city. Suddenly, there were no more absurdly hyped melodramas like those of Natalee Holloway or Terri Schiavo, just the all-too-real drama of death and destruction left behind by a monster hurricane. [complete article]

Comment -- While appreciating the fact that, at least right now, a good number of journalists seem to have shed their servile way of relating to politicians, I won't be holding my breath waiting to see whether there has been a groundshift in journalism. The challenge for television will be to move from images to stories and issues, yet in as much as the story right now is one of images - flood water, floating bodies, distraught survivors, ruined buildings, refugee centers - as these images fade away, so in all likelihood will the story.

Even so, as Howard Kurtz rightly notes, "For once, reporters were acting like concerned citizens, not passive observers." I dare say that many found this awakening of conscience a liberating experience. Let's hope their newfound honesty won't easily be shed.

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Navy ship nearby underused
By Stephen J. Hedges, Chicago Tribune, September 4, 2005

While federal and state emergency planners scramble to get more military relief to Gulf Coast communities stricken by Hurricane Katrina, a massive naval goodwill station has been cruising offshore, underused and waiting for a larger role in the effort.

The USS Bataan, a 844-foot ship designed to dispatch Marines in amphibious assaults, has helicopters, doctors, hospital beds, food and water. It also can make its own water, up to 100,000 gallons a day. And it just happened to be in the Gulf of Mexico when Katrina came roaring ashore.

The Bataan rode out the storm and then followed it toward shore, awaiting relief orders. Helicopter pilots flying from its deck were some of the first to begin plucking stranded New Orleans residents.

But now the Bataan's hospital facilities, including six operating rooms and beds for 600 patients, are empty. A good share of its 1,200 sailors could also go ashore to help with the relief effort, but they haven't been asked. The Bataan has been in the stricken region the longest of any military unit, but federal authorities have yet to fully utilize the ship. [complete article]

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In Europe, high-tech flood control, with nature's help
By William J. Broad, New York Times, September 6, 2005

On a cold winter night in 1953, the Netherlands suffered a terrifying blow as old dikes and seawalls gave way during a violent storm.

Flooding killed nearly 2,000 people and forced the evacuation of 70,000 others. Icy waters turned villages and farm districts into lakes dotted with dead cows.

Ultimately, the waters destroyed more than 4,000 buildings.

Afterward, the Dutch - realizing that the disaster could have been much worse, since half the country, including Amsterdam and Rotterdam, lies below sea level - vowed never again. [complete article]

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Chernobyl's harm was far less than predicted, U.N. report says
By Peter Finn, Washington Post, September 6, 2005

The long-term health and environmental impacts of the 1986 accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine, while severe, were far less catastrophic than feared, according to a major new report by eight U.N. agencies.

The governments of Ukraine, Belarus and Russia, the three countries most affected by radioactive fallout from Chernobyl, should strive to end the "paralyzing fatalism" of tens of thousands of their citizens who wrongly believe they are still at risk of an early death, according to the study released Monday.

The 600-page report found that as of the middle of this year, the accident had caused fewer than 50 deaths directly attributable to radiation, most of them among emergency workers who died in the first months after the accident. In the wake of the world's largest nuclear disaster, there were numerous predictions of mass fatalities from radiation. [complete article]

Comment -- Environmentalists should pay close attention to the findings of this report. In assessing the viability of nuclear power the key question is this: Can global energy consumption be reduced fast enough to mitigate the effects of greenhouse gas production, or is there now such an urgent need to replace current energy sources that nuclear power is indispensible? Protecting ourselves from man-made radiation accomplishes nothing if we end up speeding up global warming. James Lovelock and others have already spelt out the reasons why nuclear power is the only green solution.

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Insurgents assert control over town near Syrian border
By Ellen Knickmeyer and Jonathan Finer, Washington Post, September 6, 2005

Fighters loyal to militant leader Abu Musab Zarqawi asserted control over the key Iraqi border town of Qaim on Monday, killing U.S. collaborators and enforcing strict Islamic law, according to tribal members, officials, residents and others in the town and nearby villages.

Residents said the foreign-led fighters controlled by Zarqawi, a Jordanian, apparently had been exerting authority in the town, within two miles of the Syrian border, since at least the start of the weekend. A sign posted at an entrance to the town declared, "Welcome to the Islamic Republic of Qaim."

In other developments Monday, the U.S. Army warned noncombatants to leave a portion of the northeastern city of Tall Afar ahead of an expected assault on an insurgent stronghold there. Car bombs and other political violence around Iraq killed at least 33 Iraqi civilians and security force members. A U.S. soldier and two British troops also were killed, officials said.

The report from Qaim, about 200 miles west of Baghdad, marked one of insurgents' boldest moves in their cat-and-mouse duels with U.S. Marines along the Euphrates River. U.S. forces have described border towns in the area as a funnel for foreign fighters, arms and money into Iraq from Syria. [complete article]

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Petrol rationing in a country awash with oil
By Oliver Poole, The Telegraph, September 6, 2005

Drivers in Baghdad, the capital of a country with the world's third largest oil reserves, can now use their cars only on alternate days because of the continuing petrol shortages.

Under a new government directive that has left residents furious and traffic police complaining that the plan is unenforceable, cars with odd numbers at the end of their registration plate will be allowed on the roads one day and those with even numbers the next.

The order was issued on Sunday and comes into effect today, although it is uncertain how widespread its implementation will be. [complete article]

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Leader says other Arabs are insensitive to Iraq's plight
By Robert F. Worth, New York Times, September 6, 2005

In an unusual public rebuke, President Jalal Talabani angrily criticized other Arab states on Monday, saying they had insulted Iraq by not sending diplomats to Baghdad and had not sent condolence letters about the stampede last week in which almost 1,000 Shiite pilgrims were killed.

Mr. Talabani spoke just after two dozen insurgents staged a brazen dawn raid on the heavily guarded offices of the Interior Ministry in Baghdad, killing two police officers and wounding five. Two British soldiers were also killed by a roadside bomb in southern Iraq.

Speaking at a news conference, Mr. Talabani, a Kurd, amplified complaints by other Iraqi leaders about the Arab states' failure to recognize the stampede, which caused the highest one-day death toll since the American-led invasion. The complaints, aimed at mostly Sunni leaders, hinted at a sectarian bias against Iraq, where Shiites are about 60 percent of the population. [complete article]

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The eyes of Amal
By Anthony Shadid, Washington Post, September 4, 2005

In March 2003, a long-awaited war had arrived in Baghdad, and the apartment of Amal Salman, a vivacious girl who would turn 14 that week, was quiet.

She was gathered with her mother, Karima, and her four sisters, all of them reluctant to leave the relative safety of their home, which was off a busy, four-lane street in the working-class district of Karrada. Their three-room apartment overlooked a sagging brick sidewalk and was entered through a dented, rusted steel gate. Rats scurried underneath discarded furniture stacked in the hallway, and wires hung from the ceiling.

Inside, the monotony of wartime isolation ordered their lives. They shared sweet tea in the morning with neighbors who, in turn, shared feverishly traded rumors of an American army that had begun advancing across the Tigris and Euphrates river valleys. At night, at the top of each hour, they tried to pick up Arabic-language broadcasts of Radio Monte Carlo to hear what they considered unbiased reports on the war -- the mere mention of southern towns and cities like Umm Qasr, Nasiriyah, Basra and Najaf bringing fear to those whose relatives were soldiers or residents there. In silence, they scoured the broadcasts for any detail on fighting near Mosul, in the north, where their brother Ali, a shy and gaunt soldier, was stationed at an antiaircraft battery. [complete article]

After the fall, Amal surrenders her illusions
By Anthony Shadid, Washington Post, September 5, 2005

On April 10, 2003, the day after the fall of President Saddam Hussein, the veil had been lifted but no one was sure what it revealed.

Conquered no less than 15 times in its history, Baghdad was called free, but the city was a furious storm set down. Emotions -- euphoria, vindictiveness, desperation, confusion -- surged up from the people after years of silence and restraint. The city seemed like a dazed inmate stumbling out of his cell and squinting into the harsh sunlight. Some spoke of anarchy: Armed civilians had begun to crack the monopoly on violence held only weeks earlier by Hussein's government and the American military forces now occupying Iraq. Thousands of residents hurried to plunder everything from trucks and wooden carts to the urinals, copper pipes and electrical wiring of public buildings. Hospitals and embassies fell prey, along with ministries, government offices, Baath Party headquarters and the stone mansions, faced in onyx, of Hussein's lieutenants.

"The hospitals are being looted and no one is protesting! Why does the St. Rafael Hospital have an American tank protecting it? Is it because it is a Christian hospital? What about the Alwiya Maternity Hospital? What about the pregnant women there?" 14-year-old Amal Salman wrote in her journal on April 11. "Why has it befallen Iraqis? Wasn't it enough to loot government offices? Now the hospitals and even homes?"

She asked a question heard often in Baghdad in those days: "What are the Americans going to do with us?" The entry ended succinctly: "God, have mercy on us." [complete article]

An uncertain dawn on a scarred street
By Anthony Shadid, Washington Post, September 6, 2005

On June 23, 2005, a war more than two years old arrived at the busy commercial district of Karrada, where Amal Salman, now 16, lived with her family.

For months, hardly a day had passed without a car bomb somewhere in Iraq; the scenes unleashed in Karrada by the explosion at 7 a.m. were so familiar as to have become routine. Twisted wreckage smoldered, its acrid smoke mingling with the stench of seared flesh. Water cascaded over the fires, then, turning black, mixed with pools of blood. Shattered glass danced along the buckling asphalt like a hailstorm.

Left in the bomb's wake were the ruins of the Abdel-Rasul Ali Mosque, a neighborhood place of worship entered through wooden doors graced by a blue, floral-tiled portico and decorated by calligraphy invoking God, Muhammad and Imam Ali. In quieter months, under lazy fans and chandeliers, Amal, her mother and sisters had gathered there to celebrate the religious holidays of Shiite Muslims. [complete article]

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Who'll watch Egypt's historic vote?
By Charles Levinson, Christian Science Monitor, September 6, 2005

The contest to watch in Wednesday's historic vote here, pitched to Egyptians and the world as a major step toward democracy, is not the race among the 10 presidential candidates. Most expect President Hosni Mubarak to sail easily into his fifth six-year term.

The true duel will take place between those who seek to monitor the polls, and those trying to exclude them.

"If we have to, we will use force to supervise these elections and if they want to forbid us they must put us in jail," says Ngad al Borai, director of a local nongovernmental organization that received $250,000 of the $4.5 million spent by the US in Egypt this year to ensure fair elections. [complete article]

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Iran five years from nuclear arms, says IISS
Reuters (via FT), September 6, 2005

Iran, threatened with referral to the U.N. Security Council over its atomic ambitions, is still five years away from developing a nuclear weapons capability, a London-based think tank said on Tuesday.

"We estimate, if everything goes right, if they throw all their effort into solving their problems, they might be able to produce enough weapons-grade uranium for a single nuclear weapon within five years," Gary Samore, editor of a new report, told BBC radio. [complete article]

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An angry 'Times-Picayune' calls for firing of FEMA chief and others in open letter to president on Sunday
Editor and Publisher, September 4, 2005

[The text of the open letter] -- We heard you loud and clear Friday when you visited our devastated city and the Gulf Coast and said, "What is not working, we're going to make it right."

Please forgive us if we wait to see proof of your promise before believing you. But we have good reason for our skepticism.

Bienville built New Orleans where he built it for one main reason: It's accessible. The city between the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain was easy to reach in 1718.

How much easier it is to access in 2005 now that there are interstates and bridges, airports and helipads, cruise ships, barges, buses and diesel-powered trucks.

Despite the city's multiple points of entry, our nation's bureaucrats spent days after last week's hurricane wringing their hands, lamenting the fact that they could neither rescue the city's stranded victims nor bring them food, water and medical supplies.

Meanwhile there were journalists, including some who work for The Times-Picayune, going in and out of the city via the Crescent City Connection. On Thursday morning, that crew saw a caravan of 13 Wal-Mart tractor trailers headed into town to bring food, water and supplies to a dying city.

Television reporters were doing live reports from downtown New Orleans streets. Harry Connick Jr. brought in some aid Thursday, and his efforts were the focus of a "Today" show story Friday morning.

Yet, the people trained to protect our nation, the people whose job it is to quickly bring in aid were absent. Those who should have been deploying troops were singing a sad song about how our city was impossible to reach.

We're angry, Mr. President, and we'll be angry long after our beloved city and surrounding parishes have been pumped dry. Our people deserved rescuing. Many who could have been were not. That's to the government's shame.

Mayor Ray Nagin did the right thing Sunday when he allowed those with no other alternative to seek shelter from the storm inside the Louisiana Superdome. We still don't know what the death toll is, but one thing is certain: Had the Superdome not been opened, the city's death toll would have been higher. The toll may even have been exponentially higher.

It was clear to us by late morning Monday that many people inside the Superdome would not be returning home. It should have been clear to our government, Mr. President. So why weren't they evacuated out of the city immediately? We learned seven years ago, when Hurricane Georges threatened, that the Dome isn't suitable as a long-term shelter. So what did state and national officials think would happen to tens of thousands of people trapped inside with no air conditioning, overflowing toilets and dwindling amounts of food, water and other essentials?

State Rep. Karen Carter was right Friday when she said the city didn't have but two urgent needs: "Buses! And gas!" Every official at the Federal Emergency Management Agency should be fired, Director Michael Brown especially.

In a nationally televised interview Thursday night, he said his agency hadn't known until that day that thousands of storm victims were stranded at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. He gave another nationally televised interview the next morning and said, "We've provided food to the people at the Convention Center so that they've gotten at least one, if not two meals, every single day."

Lies don't get more bald-faced than that, Mr. President.

Yet, when you met with Mr. Brown Friday morning, you told him, "You're doing a heck of a job."

That's unbelievable.

There were thousands of people at the Convention Center because the riverfront is high ground. The fact that so many people had reached there on foot is proof that rescue vehicles could have gotten there, too.

We, who are from New Orleans, are no less American than those who live on the Great Plains or along the Atlantic Seaboard. We're no less important than those from the Pacific Northwest or Appalachia. Our people deserved to be rescued.

No expense should have been spared. No excuses should have been voiced. Especially not one as preposterous as the claim that New Orleans couldn't be reached.

Mr. President, we sincerely hope you fulfill your promise to make our beloved communities work right once again.

When you do, we will be the first to applaud. [complete article]

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'My Pet Goat' -- The Sequel
By Greg Mitchell, Editor and Publisher, September 3, 2005

While a rising chorus in the press has taken the White House, FEMA and the Pentagon to task for performing miserably in their response to the human disaster on the Gulf Coast, few have focused on the most telling aspect of the entire failure. It's not just incompetence. It's a shameful lack of concern: The 9/11 "My Pet Goat" dithering on an administration-wide scale.

Simply stated, the president and his top advisers chose vacation over action.

While the media has done a good job in portraying the overall deadly failure of leadership, it has not focused enough on this deadly dereliction of duty. [complete article]

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White House enacts a plan to ease political damage
By Adam Nagourney and Anne E. Kornblut, New York Times, September 5, 2005

Under the command of President Bush's two senior political advisers, the White House rolled out a plan this weekend to contain the political damage from the administration's response to Hurricane Katrina.

It orchestrated visits by cabinet members to the region, leading up to an extraordinary return visit by Mr. Bush planned for Monday, directed administration officials not to respond to attacks from Democrats on the relief efforts, and sought to move the blame for the slow response to Louisiana state officials, according to Republicans familiar with the White House plan.

The effort is being directed by Mr. Bush's chief political adviser, Karl Rove, and his communications director, Dan Bartlett. It began late last week after Congressional Republicans called White House officials to register alarm about what they saw as a feeble response by Mr. Bush to the hurricane, according to Republican Congressional aides. [complete article]

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Despite warnings, Washington failed to fund levee projects
By Richard A. Serrano and Nicole Gaouette, Los Angeles Times, September 4, 2005

For years, Washington had been warned that doom lurked just beyond the levees. And for years, the White House and Congress had dickered over how much money to put into shoring up century-old dikes and carrying out newer flood control projects to protect the city of New Orleans.

As recently as three months ago, the alarms were sounding -- and being brushed aside.

In late May, the New Orleans district of the Army Corps of Engineers formally notified Washington that hurricane storm surges could knock out two of the big pumping stations that must operate night and day even under normal conditions to keep the city dry.

Also, the Corps said, several levees had settled and would soon need to be raised. And it reminded Washington that an ambitious flood-control study proposed four years before remained just that -- a written proposal never put into action for lack of funding. [complete article]

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Why FEMA was missing in action
By Peter G. Gosselin and Alan C. Miller, Los Angeles Times, September 5, 2005

While the federal government has spent much of the last quarter-century trimming the safety nets it provides Americans, it has dramatically expanded its promise of protection in one area — disaster.

Since the 1970s, Washington has emerged as the insurer of last resort against floods, fires, earthquakes and — after 2001 — terrorist attacks.

But the government's stumbling response to the storm that devastated the nation's Gulf Coast reveals that the federal agency singularly most responsible for making good on Washington's expanded promise has been hobbled by cutbacks and a bureaucratic downgrading.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency once speedily delivered food, water, shelter and medical care to disaster areas, and paid to quickly rebuild damaged roads and schools and get businesses and people back on their feet. Like a commercial insurance firm setting safety standards to prevent future problems, it also underwrote efforts to get cities and states to reduce risks ahead of time and plan for what they would do if calamity struck.

But in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, FEMA lost its Cabinet-level status as it was folded into the giant new Department of Homeland Security. And in recent years it has suffered budget cuts, the elimination or reduction of key programs and an exodus of experienced staffers. [complete article]

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British tourists tell of their terror in rubble
By Gareth Walsh and Dipesh Gadher, The Sunday Times, September 4, 2005

The family of a British hurricane victim told last night how she and her boyfriend had been in fear of their lives as they scavenged for food while the authorities operated a shoot-to-kill policy against looters.

Tourists were forced to rummage among the rubble for food while dodging gangs and law enforcement sharpshooters. At the same time the American authorities were said to have blocked consular officials from entering New Orleans three times to help scores of Britons trapped amid the squalor.

The ordeal continued for tourists evacuated from New Orleans, who were initially told by Foreign Office officials who arranged emergency hotel accommodation that they would have to foot their bills.

Peter McGowan, whose sister Teresa Cherrie was trapped in the devastated area with her boyfriend John Drysdale, described yesterday how they had been reduced to looting to survive: "They are having to scavenge for food and Teresa is terrified," he said. "At first it was the gangs they feared, then it was trigger-happy cops." [complete article]

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The lost city
Newsweek, September 12, 2005

It wasn't exactly a surprise. "This ain't gonna last," New Orleans City Council President Oliver Thomas told his security guard as they watched the waters of Lake Pontchartrain rising and racing and eating away at the dirt levee beneath the concrete floodwall built to protect New Orleans from disaster. It was 4 o'clock on Sunday afternoon, Aug. 28. Hurricane Katrina was still 14 hours away, but the sea surge had begun. Thomas returned to the city's hurricane war room and announced, to anyone who was listening, "The water's coming into the city." [complete article]

The Big Easy's style is uniquely American
By Michael Hill, Baltimore Sun, September 4, 2005

In some ways, New Orleans was the first American city, the first city on the continent that wasn't a re-creation of one from England. From the time Thomas Jefferson purchased it - along with a swath of North America that extended to the Pacific Ocean - in 1803, New Orleans showed that a mixture of cultures could produce something new and different, something American.

And the city continues to demonstrate that the melting pot need not produce a bland pablum, but instead a spicy jambalaya.

New Orleans does that by being at once a part of the United States and apart from it.

"I think it's really a Caribbean city that by accident is part of the United States," says James Nolan, a writer and New Orleans native among a dozen refugees at Codrescu's house in Baton Rouge. "It's the last somewhere else left in the United States. As more and more of the country gets homogenized, the few unique places left are mythologized."

Lena Ampadu of the English department at Towson University says her hometown has many attributes that lead people to see it as foreign. "Critics who see it as atypically American can't quite comprehend its exoticism, its peoples' laissez-faire attitudes, alien culture - one emphasizing foreign words - and weather that is more like that of a developing Third World country," she says.

Says Polk: "It's about what we in English departments call 'otherness.' Differences among people are dealt with, within limits, in sort of a relaxed atmosphere, because of the music and the food. Even the heat is part of that mystique."

A century after Jefferson bought it, this foreign place produced Jelly Roll Morton and Louis Armstrong and a form of music - jazz - that many consider the only indigenous American art form. [complete article]

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Political science
By Daniel Smith, New York Times, September 4, 2005

When Donald Kennedy, a biologist and editor of the eminent journal Science, was asked what had led so many American scientists to feel that George W. Bush's administration is anti-science, he isolated a familiar pair of culprits: climate change and stem cells. These represent, he said, "two solid issues in which there is a real difference between a strong consensus in the science community and the response of the administration to that consensus." Both issues have in fact riled scientists since the early days of the administration, and both continue to have broad repercussions. In March 2001, the White House abruptly withdrew its support for the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, and the U.S. withdrawal was still a locus of debate at this summer's G8 summit in Scotland. And the administration's decision to limit federal funds for embryonic-stem-cell research four years ago -- a move that many scientists worry has severely hampered one of the most fruitful avenues of biomedical inquiry to come along in decades -- resulted in a shift in the dynamics of financing, from the federal government to the states and private institutions. In November 2004, Californians voted to allocate $3 billion for stem-cell research in what was widely characterized as a "scientific secession."

Yet what remains most divisive, according to Kennedy, is not the Bush administration's specific policies, but a more general sense that "scientific conclusions, reached either within agencies or by people outside of government, are being changed for political reasons by people who have not done the scientific work." It is this sense that science is being "misused" that has given rise to two Congressional bills. [complete article]

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Anxiety in Iraq for guardsmen from Gulf area
By Michael Moss, New York Times, September 4, 2005

Capt. Terrence P. Ryan has made a career out of helping Americans dig out from storms up and down the Gulf Coast. But now, with his own house underwater, he is stuck at Camp Victory in Iraq waiting for a flight home.

Captain Ryan and 4,200 other members of the National Guard from Louisiana have finished their yearlong tour of duty. Their replacements, from other states, began arriving last month. But the Louisiana guardsmen are not expecting to fly home for at least another week, maybe two, and the journey itself could take 4 to 10 days.

"It's our turn to help our own, and we're not there," said Captain Ryan, 37.

For some, the wait is excruciating. A handful of guardsmen have not been able to locate their families, and their fellow guardsmen in Louisiana have organized searches to track them down. [complete article]

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Al-Sadr vows revenge on Sunnis over stampede deaths
By Ali Rifat, The Sunday Times, September 4, 2005

The maverick Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has raised sectarian tension in Iraq by vowing vengeance against Sunnis he blames for the stampede that killed almost 1,000 pilgrims last week in Baghdad.

While more moderate clerics have avoided blaming Sunni insurgents for provoking the tragedy, al-Sadr claimed in a message from his mosque in al-Kufa, near Najaf, that civil war was already underway.
In a statement to newspapers al-Sadr identified "Ba'athists and Saddamists" and "fanatic sectarians" as likely culprits. "The number of dead is sufficient for us to prove that this incident was organised," he said. "You should ask about the dirty hands who spilt all this blood."

In a sermon later, the cleric promised further resistance to the American-led coalition, which he said had failed to prevent tensions between the Sunni minority and the Shi'ites from escalating.

"We condemn the view that the occupation's existence is beneficial because if it ended there would be sectarian war -- as if sectarian war has not already begun," he said. It was al-Sadr's first sermon in the mosque for more than a year, and appeared to hint that his uneasy truce with the coalition forces may be over. America and Britain are desperate to see Iraq’s political evolution continue, and hope the draft constitution can be approved in a referendum next month. [complete article]

See also, On a bridge to unity, or perhaps to war (NYT).

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Gunmen mount dawn raid on Iraq ministry
By Sebastian Alison, Reuters, September 5, 2005

Up to 30 gunmen in 10 cars fired on Iraq's interior ministry at dawn on Monday, killing two police and wounding five, ministry sources said, in what appeared a carefully coordinated attack on a sensitive target.

The attack came as campaigning was getting under way for a referendum due by October 15 on a contentious new constitution for the post-Saddam Hussein era, and ahead of the trial of Saddam himself, now confirmed for October 19.

"Two policemen were killed and five wounded," an Interior Ministry source told Reuters, adding that the gunmen had used rocket-propelled grenades, mortars and automatic rifles in the attack at 6:15 a.m. (0215 GMT). [complete article]

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U.S.-led assault in N. Iraq town meets little insurgent resistance
By Jonathan Finer, Washington Post, September 4, 2005

After spending the night in abandoned homes, the more than 5,000 U.S. and Iraqi troops who had swept into the northern city of Tall Afar awoke Saturday morning to broadcasts from mosques calling residents to fight the invasion.

But the troops met little resistance as they continued raiding houses Saturday to gather information about the insurgents who have controlled large parts of the city for nearly a year.

In one of the few pockets of fighting, insurgents fired seven rocket-propelled grenades at U.S. tanks from adjacent buildings in the western neighborhood of Qadisiyah. A U.S. jet destroyed much of the block with a 500-pound satellite-guided bomb, commanders said. Soldiers also destroyed at least half a dozen roadside bombs and discovered a large cache of artillery rounds hidden in one of the many lush valleys that divide the city. [complete article]

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How could this be happening in the United States?
By Kevin Sullivan, Washington Post, September 4, 2005

People around the world cannot believe what they're seeing.

From Argentina to Zimbabwe, front-page photos of the dead and desperate in New Orleans, almost all of them poor and black, have sickened them and shaken assumptions about American might. How can this be happening, they ask, in a nation whose wealth and power seem almost supernatural in so many struggling corners of the world?

Pick the comparison: New Orleans looks like Haiti, or Baghdad, or Sudan, Bangladesh or Sri Lanka. The images of all the rubble and corpses and empty-eyed survivors remind people of those places, not the United States. [complete article]

See also, Even as they pledge aid, nations express surprise at the ineffective U.S. response to the crisis (LAT).

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The two Americas
By Marjorie Cohn, Truthout, September 3, 2005

Last September, a Category 5 hurricane battered the small island of Cuba with 160-mile-per-hour winds. More than 1.5 million Cubans were evacuated to higher ground ahead of the storm. Although the hurricane destroyed 20,000 houses, no one died.

What is Cuban President Fidel Castro's secret? According to Dr. Nelson Valdes, a sociology professor at the University of New Mexico, and specialist in Latin America, "the whole civil defense is embedded in the community to begin with. People know ahead of time where they are to go."

"Cuba's leaders go on TV and take charge," said Valdes. Contrast this with George W. Bush's reaction to Hurricane Katrina. The day after Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, Bush was playing golf. He waited three days to make a TV appearance and five days before visiting the disaster site. In a scathing editorial on Thursday, the New York Times said, "nothing about the president's demeanor yesterday - which seemed casual to the point of carelessness - suggested that he understood the depth of the current crisis." [complete article]

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New Orleans left to the dead and dying
By Allen G. Breed, AP (via WP), September 4, 2005

As the last weary refugees from the Superdome and convention center headed to shelters, New Orleans drew closer to dealing with its dead, a gruesome landscape of corpses expected to number in the thousands.

No one knows how many people were killed by Hurricane Katrina and how many more succumbed waiting to be rescued. But the bodies are everywhere: hidden in attics, floating in the ruined city, crumpled in wheelchairs, abandoned on highways.

Echoing the mayor's prediction, Gov. Kathleen Blanco said Saturday she expected the death toll to reach the thousands. And Craig Vanderwagen, rear admiral of the U.S. Public Health Service, said one morgue alone, at a St. Gabriel prison, expected 1,000 to 2,000 bodies. [complete article]

See also, Katrina death toll in thousands (AP).

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We came, we saw, we ruined Iraq - to stay will wound it more
By Simon Jenkins, The Sunday Times, September 4, 2005

Two great cities, New Orleans and Baghdad, were last week plunged in horror. They both cried out for sympathy. One will get it, the other will not.

The thousands who have died in Louisiana and the 1,000 more who died during the Baghdad stampede show how even modern cities hover on the brink of disaster. People have always congregated in them for security. The levees of 19th-century New Orleans and the oil-rich oases of the Tigris invited people’s labour and offered protection in return. But protection requires order. Remove order and the old Muslim saying holds true. An hour of anarchy is worse than 100 years of tyranny.

It is ironic that both cities at their moment of crisis relied on federal Washington for support. [complete article]

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Falluja floods the Superdome
By Frank Rich, New York Times, September 4, 2005

As the levees cracked open and ushered hell into New Orleans on Tuesday, President Bush once again chose to fly away from Washington, not toward it, while disaster struck. We can all enumerate the many differences between a natural catastrophe and a terrorist attack. But character doesn't change: it is immutable, and it is destiny.

As always, the president's first priority, the one that sped him from Crawford toward California, was saving himself: he had to combat the flood of record-low poll numbers that was as uncontrollable as the surging of Lake Pontchartrain. It was time, therefore, for another disingenuous pep talk, in which he would exploit the cataclysm that defined his first term, 9/11, even at the price of failing to recognize the emerging fiasco likely to engulf Term 2. [complete article]

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Storm exposed disarray at the top
By Susan B. Glasser and Josh White, Washington Post, September 4, 2005

The killer hurricane and flood that devastated the Gulf Coast last week exposed fatal weaknesses in a federal disaster response system retooled after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to handle just such a cataclysmic event.

Despite four years and tens of billions of dollars spent preparing for the worst, the federal government was not ready when it came at daybreak on Monday, according to interviews with more than a dozen current and former senior officials and outside experts.

Among the flaws they cited: Failure to take the storm seriously before it hit and trigger the government's highest level of response. Rebuffed offers of aid from the military, states and cities. An unfinished new plan meant to guide disaster response. And a slow bureaucracy that waited until late Tuesday to declare the catastrophe "an incident of national significance," the new federal term meant to set off the broadest possible relief effort.

Born out of the confused and uncertain response to 9/11, the massive new Department of Homeland Security was charged with being ready the next time, whether the disaster was wrought by nature or terrorists. The department commanded huge resources as it prepared for deadly scenarios from an airborne anthrax attack to a biological attack with plague to a chlorine-tank explosion.

But Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said yesterday that his department had failed to find an adequate model for addressing the "ultra-catastrophe" that resulted when Hurricane Katrina's floodwater breached New Orleans's levees and drowned the city, "as if an atomic bomb had been dropped." [complete article]

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Brown pushed from last job: Horse group: FEMA chief had to be 'asked to resign'
By Brett Arends, Boston Herald, September 3, 2005

The federal official in charge of the bungled New Orleans rescue was fired from his last private-sector job overseeing horse shows.

And before joining the Federal Emergency Management Agency as a deputy director in 2001, GOP activist Mike Brown had no significant experience that would have qualified him for the position. [complete article]

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As White House anxiety grows, Bush tries to quell political crisis
By Elisabeth Bumiller and Adam Nagourney, New York Times, September 4, 2005

Faced with one of the worst political crises of his administration, President Bush abruptly overhauled his September schedule on Saturday as the White House scrambled to gain control of a situation that Republicans said threatened to undermine Mr. Bush's second-term agenda and the party's long-term ambitions.

In a sign of the mounting anxiety at the White House, Mr. Bush made a rare Saturday appearance in the Rose Garden before live television cameras to announce that he was dispatching additional active-duty troops to the Gulf Coast. He struck a more somber tone than he had at times on Friday during a daylong tour of the disaster region, when he had joked at the airport in New Orleans about the fun he had had in his younger days in Houston. His demeanor on Saturday was similar to that of his most somber speeches after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. [complete article]

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A nation's castaways
By Lynne Duke and Teresa Wiltz, Washington Post, September 4, 2005

Poor black people, says Lani Guinier, a Harvard University law professor, are "the canary in the mine. Poor black people are the throwaway people. And we pathologize them in order to justify our disregard."

But, she says, "this is not just about poor black people in New Orleans. This is about a social movement, with an administration that is bent on weakening the capacity of the national government to act. . . . I hope this is a wake-up call to all of America. To see this as the tip of the iceberg, the thin edge of the wedge. We ignored the early warning signals. But this is another early warning that we are ill prepared to function as a society."

Just as the United States was embarrassed globally by its ugly tradition -- racism -- being exposed during the civil rights movement, it is now shamed again by "the spectacle of a Baghdad on the Mississippi River and our own people being so poor and so destitute and so helpless at a time when we are talking about trying to spread democracy and curb looting in Baghdad," says Jim Sleeper, a lecturer in political science at Yale University. [complete article]

See also, What happens to a race deferred (NYT).

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You're on your own, Britain's victims told
By Mark Townsend, The Observer, September 4, 2005

British families trapped in New Orleans last night claimed that US authorities had refused to evacuate them as Hurricane Katrina approached the city.

Although assistance was offered to US residents, British nationals were told they would have to fend for themselves. According to those who remain stranded in the stricken city, police had visited hotels and guest houses on the eve of the hurricane offering to evacuate Americans, but not Britons.

The order meant UK holidaymakers without cars were left helpless in the face of the hurricane. Some have been trapped in hotels and guest houses since the hurricane struck at 7am local time last Monday.

One family from Liverpool, trapped in a flooded section of the city, told relatives yesterday of their bewilderment when they realised US citizens would be offered preferential treatment.

Gerrard Scott, 35, spoke to his brother Peter from the Ramada Hotel in New Orleans where he has been stranded without assistance with wife, Sandra, 38, and seven-year-old son Ronan for the past six days. 'Those that didn't fit their criteria were told to help themselves. The police said they were evacuating Americans, and took away the majority.

'The British who were left all thought the police would come back, but nobody has. They have just been left,' said Peter Scott last night. [complete article]

Comment -- Remember the stories from the tsunami where locals who had lost everything helped stranded tourists through acts of generosity?

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Katrina's shock to the system
By Jad Mouawad, New York Times, September 4, 2005

Drivers waiting in line for hours, and occasionally in vain, to fill up their tanks. Gasoline prices shooting up 50 percent or more overnight. The president urging everyone to curtail driving and conserve energy at home. Dark rumors of hoarding and market manipulation starting to spread. Economists warning that soaring energy costs will certainly slow economic growth - and maybe snuff it out completely.

As those scenes played out across the country last week, they may have looked familiar, a bit like a replay of the fallout from the Arab oil embargo of 30 years ago. Many energy analysts and economists are not surprised. When Hurricane Katrina ripped through the oil rigs and refineries along the Gulf Coast last week, it not only killed at least hundreds of people and caused billions of dollars in damage. It also set off the first oil shock of the 21st century.

"This is a lot like 1973," said Daniel Yergin, who wrote a Pulitzer Prize-winning history of oil, "The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money and Power," and is the chairman of Cambridge Energy Research Associates. "Since Monday, we've had a supply shock on top of a demand shock."

And just as the 1973 crisis led to a global shortage of oil that sent prices soaring and pushed the American economy into recession, today's sudden shortfall of gasoline that is rippling through the economy is likely to slow American growth by as much as a full percentage point. And it leaves global energy markets vulnerable, analysts and economists said. [complete article]

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Noteworthy articles from the last seven days:

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

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

Civil war looms as Iraq weeps over bridge of 1,000 sorrows
By Patrick Cockburn, The Independent, September 4, 2005

Washing away - the impact of a major hurricane
New Orleans Times-Picayune, June 23-27, 2002

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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