Saturday, September 03, 2005

Consumer Index Falls to 93.9 -- Lowest in 30 months

"Saturday September 03, 2005 --Katrina has devastated New Orleans and is also having a major impact on consumer confidence. For the third consecutive day, America's economic confidence has descended to new lows.

On Saturday, the Rasmussen Consumer Index fell another two points to 93.9. That's the lowest reading in thirty months and is down 22 points from a month ago.

The last time consumer confidence fell this low was March 19, 2003--the day before Operation Iraqi Freedom was launched to begin the War in Iraq. The Rasmussen Consumer Index measures the economic confidence of American consumers on a daily basis.
Just 27% of Americans now rate the U.S. economy as good or excellent. That's down from 30% a week ago and 35% a month ago.

Thirty-seven percent (37%) now rate the economy as poor. That's an eleven point jump over the past month and the most bearish assessment of 2005."...

Draining New Orleans could take 80 days- Army

"BATON ROUGE, Louisiana (Reuters) - Engineers may need up to 80 days to remove Hurricane Katrina's flood waters from the swamped New Orleans, a senior U.S. Army Corps of Engineers official said on Friday.

Work crews gained control over one of the breaches in the levee on Friday and expected to have another major gap closed on Saturday, Brig. Gen. Robert Crear told reporters at a briefing in Baton Rouge.

We're looking at anywhere from 36 to 80 days to being done," Crear said...

Replacement Pumps Don't Exist

"Efforts to drain New Orleans hit another snag Friday as the Army Corps of Engineers discovered that it could not buy new pumps to replace those damaged by the flooding.

Massive pumps capable of draining the city like those that have been keeping New Orleans dry for decades are no longer made and would have to be specially ordered, a process that would take too long, said Col. Richard Wagenaar, the senior corps official in New Orleans."

Instead, repair crews will have to dry out the existing pumps, which could take up to a week, before repairing them with replacement motors and parts and begin pumping water back into Lake Pontchartrain. The repair job could prolong efforts to drain the city, about 80% of which is submerged.

"These pumps are so big, you can't buy them off the shelf. You have to make them, and we don't have time for that," said Wagenaar, who spent about an hour Friday escorting President Bush around the levee damage at the 17th Street Canal.

The city, much of which is below sea level, relies on a network of 22 pumps to keep water out. Army engineers now believe eight pumps are underwater....

Firefighting gear stockpile unused

"WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Nine stockpiles of fire-and-rescue equipment strategically placed around the country to be used in the event of a catastrophe still have not been pressed into service in New Orleans, five days after Hurricane Katrina, CNN has learned."...

5,000 U.S. and Iraqi Troops Sweep Into City of Tall Afar

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

Iran Has Gas Type Used in Atom Bombs, Report Says (Update1)

"Sept. 2 (Bloomberg) -- Iran has produced almost 15,000 pounds of the gas used to enrich uranium, according to a confidential report by the United Nations' nuclear watchdog agency obtained by Bloomberg News.

The report by the International Atomic Energy Agency also said Iran has failed to clarify important questions about its secret nuclear activity after more than two years of investigation by the UN group.

``Iran's full transparency is indispensable and overdue,'' the report said. "...

The report said Iran has converted raw uranium into about seven tons of a gas called uranium hexafluoride that can be used to make atomic weapons. Former IAEA nuclear inspector David Albright said in a telephone interview from Washington that the amount would be enough for one atomic bomb.

The IAEA report also said it could not pinpoint all aspects of Iran's development of centrifuges, which are used in the uranium enrichment process. Under terms of a November agreement with the U.K., France and Germany, Iran pledged to stop producing them. The exiled opposition National Council for Resistance in Iran maintains that Iran didn't stop making centrifuges.

[bth: we are faced with the real possibility that thanks to help from Pakistan, N. Korea and China, Iran is on the verge of having an atom bomb. It was developed as the mullahs used the EU negotiations to play for time and while we burned resources in Iraq, often fighting political fires set by Iran there. Unfortunately the one thing we need most and lack at the moment to stop them is international credibility. We lost it. It looks like plan B, Israel's destruction of Iran's nuclear program is the probable course of action.]

Friday, September 02, 2005

Castro offers US medical help

"Some 100 doctors could board a flight to Houston, Texas, as soon as today and 1,000 could arrive tomorrow and the day after, Castro said in a radio and television address. Cuba would also send 26.4 tonnes of medicines.

'Cuba is ready to help immediately,' he said. 'We offer concrete things, doctors to the site of the tragedy, which is exactly what is missing now.'

Castro said a diplomatic note containing the offer was sent today to the US Interests Section, the American mission in Havana, and was the second such offer of its kind made this week.

He said the first offer to send Cuban doctors to aid in hurricane relief efforts was made during a meeting with Cuban foreign ministry and US officials in Havana on Tuesday, days before the extent of the hurricane's catastrophic damage was known.

At the time, American officials had asked Cuban authorities not to publicise their offer of aid, said Castro, who indicated Havana was still awaiting a response from Washington"

"(American) authorities are going through a difficult time, we are not asking for anything," said Castro, whose country has not had diplomatic relations with the United States in more than four decades. "We're not criticising anyone."

The United States has enforced an economic embargo against its communist nemesis Cuba for four decades.

In July, Cuba declined Washington's offer of humanitarian assistance in the wake of Hurricane Dennis, which killed at least 11 people in the communist-ruled island.

Live from New Orleans

Here is a video of New Orleans police evidently looting a Walmarts.

Here is a blog that has a webcam feed from downtown New Orleans out their window watching a hotel fire. The blog is worth reading too.

Gifts from home Posted by Picasa

Buy Wisely - Cook Carefully - Store Carefully - Use Leftovers Posted by Picasa

Iraqis in Husaybah, Al-Qaem fighting Al-Zarqawi

"BAGHDAD, Sept 1 (KUNA) -- The Iraqi citizens in Husaybah and Al-Qaem areas are fighting Abu Musaab Al-Zarqawi and his followers in Al-Anbar province.

A statement for the Multi-National Forces said Thursday that local Iraqi source indicated that the Al-Qaeda terrorist members in Iraq are killing the Iraqis who are against their organization and ideology.

According to intelligence reports, the statement said the terrorists are trying to take control of the border area as it would enable the movement of the foreign fighters and weapons across the Syrian-Iraqi borders.' The statement affirmed that the US marines carried out precision air strikes against several Al-Qaeda sites during the past five days and launched attacks against armed al-Qaeda members in Iraq, affirming that 'those terrorists and their hideouts are considered a threat to the coalition forces in the area.' According to the statement, the coalition forces will continue to attack Al-Qaeda organization in Iraq and the extremists who are trying to deprive the Iraqis their freedom and ability 'to choose how to be governed.

'There is no reliable information to confirm the number of foreign fighters taking part in this latest violence,' the statement indicated."

DoD destroyed 'Able Danger' documents

"WASHINGTON, Sept. 1 (UPI) -- The Pentagon said Thursday that three more people who worked on a top secret data mining project now corroborate claims that it identified the Sept. 11 ringleader as linked to al-Qaida more than a year before the attack, but that documents the project generated were destroyed."...

Ex-Halliburton worker pleads guilty to bribes

"HOUSTON (Reuters) - A former Halliburton Co. worker pleaded guilty late last week to taking more than $110,000 in bribes from an Iraqi company in 2004 and defrauding the United States, court documents showed. "...

We do not tolerate this kind of behavior by anyone at any level in any Halliburton company," Halliburton spokeswoman Cathy Mann said in an e-mail.

Another former KBR employee, Jeff Alex Mazon, was also indicted in March for devising a scheme to defraud the U.S. military of more than $3.5 million under a contract to supply fuel tankers for operations in Kuwait....

FBI Arrests Russian U.N. Official

" The chair of a powerful United Nations budget committee was arrested by the FBI Thursday on money laundering charges, a federal law enforcement official said. "

Vadim Kouznetsov, who heads the General Assembly panel that oversees the U.N. budget, was the second Russian U.N. official to be arrested by the FBI for alleged money laundering in recent weeks....

A big dog, an ugly woman and two shotguns Posted by Picasa

Operation Truth - Funding Choices: Public Safety or Wars Abroad?

... "Steps must be taken now to clear land and prepare transitional, temporary housing for all of those evacuated from the area. Right now, many are being moved out of immediate danger but that danger will become pervasive to all as the hours pass that water, food stocks, and medical care are not available for follow-on. The cities will uninhabitable for months.

Temporary housing and shelters will eventually be constructed but there must be a transition from one to the other, where families can sort themselves out, triage can be performed, plans made. Every hour that passes without this work starting are days that people will die waiting for it to begin.

This is a national emergency and deserves a national response. The federal government is abdicating its responsibility to a disconnected and uncoordinated swathe of states and using the excuse of 'ongoing disaster' and waiting for requests to send states aid. Now is the time to anticipate and push supplies out. FEMA is actually asking for donations! The government should be in charge now and move in force. Once upon a time I would have believed that someone somewhere was putting a response in order. Listening to Michael Brown, the politically appointed head of FEMA say that there was plenty of food in the disaster area and say that he was waiting on requests when the mayor of New Orleans is on the same station sending SOS messages, I realize that may not be so. He is telling the reporters questioning him to report things in direct contradiction to what their cameras capture.

There are two Army divisions sitting at Fort Hood with some of the top expertise in world at civil engineering and stability operations. Declare martial law, suspend the posse comitatus act, and move those people in force to the area. Pick a chunk of land, commandeer it and start spreading gravel and erecting tents. Move a second set of sustainment supplies to it. Reevaluate the national priorities and see what the next worse case scenario is. Begin to prepare for that also. What if we are hit by a terrorist attack on one of the coasts now? Nationalize one of the networks to get as much information flowing into the area as possible. Grab fleets of buses and start them on the road. Piecemealing people to Texas is a start but they can't accomodate all the overflow of people that quickly and then then you will have multiplicity of support sites to sustain later. Now is the time to do the crazy shit. The administration keeps telling us what they are prepared to do - it should have been executed already.

The government is beginning to slowly, ponderously take some steps to alleviate the disaster. But, just as the chief executive was slow to move back to work, it is slow to address the disaster past - it must be quicker to address the developing crisis....

Afghan woman living in a cave shelter. Posted by Picasa

Automakers Post Weak August Sales Despite Discounts

"....Shares of the traditional Big Three automakers weakened, meanwhile, on fears higher gasoline prices stemming from damage to oil infrastructure caused by Hurricane Katrina (search) on the U.S. Gulf Coast will sap future demand for vehicles.

Big and fuel-thirsty pickups and sport utility vehicles, accounting for most of the automakers' profits, are especially vulnerable, analysts say. Stock in General Motors and Ford Motor Co. (F) fell about 3 percent on the New York Stock Exchange....

In sharp contrast to Detroit's results, Honda Motor Co. Ltd. (search) said sales jumped nearly 19 percent, making August its best sales month ever. Toyota Motor Corp. and Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. both said their August U.S. sales rose a robust 11 percent.

Gasoline prices were already high before Katrina struck and many of the domestic big pickups and SUVs, such as GM's Yukon or massive Hummer H2 (search), saw sales decline more than 30 percent in August....

Sales of new cars and trucks at GM, which is riding out a deepening financial crisis, were down 16.6 percent from the same month a year ago."

To be tried shortly after Oct 15 elections Posted by Picasa

Waiting for a Leader

"George W. Bush gave one of the worst speeches of his life yesterday, especially given the level of national distress and the need for words of consolation and wisdom. In what seems to be a ritual in this administration, the president appeared a day later than he was needed. He then read an address of a quality more appropriate for an Arbor Day celebration: a long laundry list of pounds of ice, generators and blankets delivered to the stricken Gulf Coast. He advised the public that anybody who wanted to help should send cash, grinned, and promised that everything would work out in the end."...

It would be some comfort to think that, as Mr. Bush cheerily announced, America "will be a stronger place" for enduring this crisis. Complacency will no longer suffice, especially if experts are right in warning that global warming may increase the intensity of future hurricanes. But since this administration won't acknowledge that global warming exists, the chances of leadership seem minimal.

America Calling Posted by Picasa

The lessons of Baghdad went unheeded in New Orleans

..."But it doesn't appear that governors did much about these concerns beyond griping to the press. The Louisiana Guard, for example, has about 11,000 members, of whom 3,000 are in Iraq.

And yet, of the remaining 8,000 in the Pelican State, fewer than half were on duty the day Katrina struck. Does that look like good leadership from Democratic Gov. Kathleen Blanco?

One might also ask: Where was President Bush as the storm brewed? And Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff? Katrina was identified on Aug. 24, and so national authorities had five days to prepare for its impact on the Gulf Coast. Perhaps there wasn't enough time to strengthen the lifesaving levees, but where was the comprehensive disaster response? Where were the planeloads of temporary generators and pumps to keep the electricity and water going?

And most of all, where were the battalions of law enforcers, including, if need be, troops from around the country? Nowhere.
The comparison to Baghdad two years ago is inescapable. Back then, Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld, in love with his vision of high-tech warfare, was unwilling to commit the "boots on the ground" that might have kept the peace. Instead, Rumsfeld waved away concerns about the collapse of Iraqi civil society with such airy comments as, "Freedom's untidy."

Back to New Orleans. On Wednesday, a tourist told The Associated Press that the city was "downtown Baghdad." That's an exaggeration, of course, but in both cities U.S. authorities scrimped on order-keepers - penny-wise pound-foolishness at its worst. "...

Hurricane Katrina Posted by Picasa

Conservation? It's Such a 70's Idea - New York Times

"WHERE are the plans for energy conservation? They are needed now.

The markets think that the United States will not have enough refined petroleum products to meet demand for at least a few months. The response of the government has been to relax environmental rules, which will allow more production, and to release crude oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which will do nothing to deal with inadequate refining capacity."...

Oil futures prices are up only 4 or 5 percent this week, but futures prices for gasoline, home heating oil and natural gas have soared. Gasoline for delivery in October is up 30 percent. The December contract has risen 13 percent, but the March gain is just 8 percent.

In the near term, the hurricane and its aftermath may seem to spur economic growth, as some sectors are stimulated by all the spending to first salvage New Orleans and then rebuild it and the equipment that has been damaged or destroyed. The way the statisticians measure gross domestic product, there is no subtraction for destruction, but there is addition for replacement of what was destroyed.

Some will prosper. Shares in Halliburton, the oil services company, sold for $8.60 in early 2002, when the oil economy was depressed. Yesterday, they hit $63.44, setting a record for the first time since 1997.

THERE was no mention of conservation when President Bush spoke Wednesday. By yesterday, he was talking of the need to conserve, but only in a general manner.

Perhaps the politicians are paralyzed by memories of the way Jimmy Carter was mocked for wearing a sweater as he urged us to adjust our thermostats during another energy crisis. The 55 miles per hour speed limit somehow seems to be a violation of the fundamental rights of American drivers. Sacrifice speed to help avert soaring prices? Surely you must be kidding....

New Orleans Posted by Picasa

Muslim Leaders Confront Terror Threat Within Islam - New York Times

..."'The emphasis has so much been on civil liberties that sometimes the right balance wasn't achieved, and civil liberties became our defining issue,' Mr. Hamid said. 'I think there is now a realization that freedom of speech should not be absolute.'

Extremist Muslims from abroad used to give speeches at American mosques, said Khaled Abou el-Fadl, an Islamic jurist and professor of law at the University of California, Los Angeles. Now some mosques' boards are requiring visiting lecturers to get board permission before giving speeches.

'Mosque leaders are realizing that they could be liable,' said Mr. Abou el-Fadl, author of 'The Great Theft: Wrestling Islam from the Extremists.' 'With some radical imams arrested and placed in deportation proceedings, that has definitely had a rather chilling effect on a lot of other people.'

'There's a transformation going on' among American Muslims, he said. 'The essential transformation that is taking place is a significantly lower degree of tolerance for irresponsible political diatribes.'

Some of it may be rhetoric, Mr. Abou el-Fadl said, 'but you would never have heard this rhetoric just a couple of years ago.'"

Official: Saddam's trial to begin in October

"Iraqi authorities plan to put Saddam Hussein on trial within five days after the Oct. 15 referendum on the new constitution, an official close to the proceedings said Thursday, AP reported."...

When you ride alone you ride with Hitler. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Critical U.S. Supply Line Is Disrupted

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

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

New Orleans is underwater, and its future is uncertain -- as is that of the $49 billion in goods, 60 percent of U.S. grain exports, and 26 percent of the nation's natural gas supply and crude oil that flow through nearby ports each year.

"The Mississippi River is the aorta of the American economy...

Fed Bank President Sparks Stock Rally

"NEW YORK, Aug. 31 -- Stocks rose Wednesday after the president of the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank signaled the central bank could change its interest rate policy in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Anthony M. Santomero called increasing oil prices a 'tax' and said in a television interview that it was too early to say whether the Fed would change its interest rate policy in light of hurricane damage.

Many traders took Santomero's comment as a signal that the Fed's year-plus streak of rate increases might end sooner than expected."...

[bth: evidence of changing times.]

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

She can't stay on a focused agenda. Blaming the hurricane on Bush was just stupid. Blaming him for a lack of National Guardsmen would be something entirely different. Posted by Picasa

U.S. Suffered Most Combat Deaths in Aug

..."By either measure - combat deaths or total deaths - August was one of the worst months for U.S. troops since the invasion in March 2003. Only two months had more combat deaths: November 2004, with 125, and April 2004, with 126.

Roadside bombs, which the military calls improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, remain a major killer of U.S. troops."...

Hard to put a pretty face on this mess. Posted by Picasa

The Times, They Are A Changing

The destruction of the City of New Orleans and the anticipated rejection in October by Sunnis and al-Sadr Shiite followers of their national constitution will likely tip the national focus in the U.S. toward a domestic agenda.

Let’s review:
  • The vastly under funded levee broke. It didn’t have to happen this way but it did and someone is going to get the blame (see news account below).
  • Gas prices are surging to between $3 and $4 a gallon. Refineries, pipelines and electrical power grids required to operate them will take time to repair. Prices go up fast, but come down slow at the pump.
  • Detroit manufactured gas guzzling automobiles will rot on the lots while foreign imports with better gas mileage find true love.
  • The National Guard stretched thin, will stretch thinner.
  • Interest rates will likely flatten and perhaps fall while the federal deficit unexpectantly widens. This won’t be good for the dollar though some companies like Home Depot will surge.
  • GM North America may throw in the towel and declare bankruptcy in 2006. Healthcare costs and inflexible labor contracts are sinking it, but rising gas prices will push it underwater. This will freak out the political landscape and if I’m right, this will occur at an optimum time for a federal bailout – right before Nov. 06 elections.
  • Building repairs, civil works and related construction labor will go to full employment. Greenspan will bemoan the fact that the average working stiff might have a job which he tends to view as inflationary.
  • Foreign aid spending, war spending and tax cuts for the rich and famous will come to an abrupt end.
  • The public will grow angry at the President and Congress because they can’t blame themselves. Admit it, wouldn’t it be nice to hear Bush say “I feel your pain” just once for old-times sake?
  • The $26 billion required to repair the damage is equal to less than 5 months in Iraq. We can afford the cost, but it’s the terrible waste of treasure that will ultimately tip the American public. Why? Because not enough of them feel the pain of bloodshed, but plenty will feel the economic shock at the gas pump or as they visit the remains of their flooded out homes.

    The times, they are a changing.

Lt. Carlos Diaz from Puerto Rico, killed in Iraq. Posted by Picasa

Did New Orleans Catastrophe Have to Happen? 'Times-Picayune' Had Repeatedly Raised Federal Spending Issues

..."Over the next 10 years, the Army Corps of Engineers, tasked with carrying out SELA, spent $430 million on shoring up levees and building pumping stations, with $50 million in local aid. But at least $250 million in crucial projects remained, even as hurricane activity in the Atlantic Basin increased dramatically and the levees surrounding New Orleans continued to subside."

Yet after 2003, the flow of federal dollars toward SELA dropped to a trickle. The Corps never tried to hide the fact that the spending pressures of the war in Iraq, as well as homeland security -- coming at the same time as federal tax cuts -- was the reason for the strain. At least nine articles in the Times-Picayune from 2004 and 2005 specifically cite the cost of Iraq as a reason for the lack of hurricane- and flood-control dollars.

Newhouse News Service, in an article posted late Tuesday night at The Times-Picayune Web site, reported: "No one can say they didn't see it coming. ... Now in the wake of one of the worst storms ever, serious questions are being asked about the lack of preparation."

In early 2004, as the cost of the conflict in Iraq soared, President Bush proposed spending less than 20 percent of what the Corps said was needed for Lake Pontchartrain, according to a Feb. 16, 2004, article, in New Orleans CityBusiness.

On June 8, 2004, Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish, Louisiana; told the Times-Picayune: "It appears that the money has been moved in the president's budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that's the price we pay. Nobody locally is happy that the levees can't be finished, and we are doing everything we can to make the case that this is a security issue for us."

Also that June, with the 2004 hurricane season starting, the Corps' project manager Al Naomi went before a local agency, the East Jefferson Levee Authority, and essentially begged for $2 million for urgent work that Washington was now unable to pay for. From the June 18, 2004 Times-Picayune:

"The system is in great shape, but the levees are sinking. Everything is sinking, and if we don't get the money fast enough to raise them, then we can't stay ahead of the settlement," he said. "The problem that we have isn't that the levee is low, but that the federal funds have dried up so that we can't raise them."

The panel authorized that money, and on July 1, 2004, it had to pony up another $250,000 when it learned that stretches of the levee in Metairie had sunk by four feet. The agency had to pay for the work with higher property taxes. The levee board noted in October 2004 that the feds were also now not paying for a hoped-for $15 million project to better shore up the banks of Lake Pontchartrain.

The 2004 hurricane season was the worst in decades. In spite of that, the federal government came back this spring with the steepest reduction in hurricane and flood-control funding for New Orleans in history. Because of the proposed cuts, the Corps office there imposed a hiring freeze. Officials said that money targeted for the SELA project -- $10.4 million, down from $36.5 million -- was not enough to start any new jobs.

There was, at the same time, a growing recognition that more research was needed to see what New Orleans must do to protect itself from a Category 4 or 5 hurricane. But once again, the money was not there. As the Times-Picayune reported last Sept. 22:

"That second study would take about four years to complete and would cost about $4 million, said Army Corps of Engineers project manager Al Naomi. About $300,000 in federal money was proposed for the 2005 fiscal-year budget, and the state had agreed to match that amount. But the cost of the Iraq war forced the Bush administration to order the New Orleans district office not to begin any new studies, and the 2005 budget no longer includes the needed money, he said."

The Senate was seeking to restore some of the SELA funding cuts for 2006. But now it's too late.

One project that a contractor had been racing to finish this summer: a bridge and levee job right at the 17th Street Canal, site of the main breach on Monday.

The Newhouse News Service article published Tuesday night observed, "The Louisiana congressional delegation urged Congress earlier this year to dedicate a stream of federal money to Louisiana's coast, only to be opposed by the White House. ... In its budget, the Bush administration proposed a significant reduction in funding for southeast Louisiana's chief hurricane protection project. Bush proposed $10.4 million, a sixth of what local officials say they need."

Local officials are now saying, the article reported, that had Washington heeded their warnings about the dire need for hurricane protection, including building up levees and repairing barrier islands, "the damage might not have been nearly as bad as it turned out to be."

[bth: this is the tipping point where the country turns from a foreign policy focus to a domestic one.]

Third deadliest month in Iraq Posted by Picasa

Pricing experts says $4 a gallon gas on the horizon - Aug. 31, 2005

"'There's no question gas will hit $4 a gallon,' Ben Brockwell, director of pricing at the Oil Price Information Service, said. 'The question is how high will it go and how long will it last?' "...

Incredible Posted by Picasa

Al-Qaeda linked group claims mortar attack in Iraq that led to stampede

"DUBAI (AFX) - An armed Sunni group linked to Al-Qaeda claimed a mortar attack close to a Shiite shrine in Baghdad that was followed by a stampede which killed more than 800 people, according to an internet statement.

'The mujahedeen of the Jaiech Al-Taifa al-Mansoura (Army of the Victorious Community) fired mortars and Katyusha rockets at the bastion of the infidels and apostates ... to punish the genocides committed against Sunnis,' it said.

It was not possible to verify the authenticity of the statement. The group has in the past claimed several attacks against US forces, Iraqi police and Iraqi Shiites.

The deadly stampede occurred after the Kadhimiya mosque came under mortar fire, leaving at least seven people dead and dozens wounded, as pilgrims massed for a ceremony commemorating the death of Imam Mussa Kazim. "

[bth: it amazes me that someone would take credit for murdering 800 innocent worshipers of any faith. Watch to see if any Sunni governments denounce this action for the barbarity it is, or will they remain quiet as usual?]

What a mess. Posted by Picasa

The 173rd Airborne has been engaged in fighting along the Paki-Afghan border throughout the summer and taking significant casualties from IEDs. It is barely reported in the US news. The casualty rate in Afghanistan has doubled year over year. Posted by Picasa

Foreign troops in north Afghanistan say "drug wars" the biggest threat

..."But while Islamic insurgents pose a threat to the contingent, the biggest danger, soldiers here say, comes from warlords who control the lucrative opium trade that floods the streets of far-away Europe with heroin.

'The enemy's motivation is mainly criminal, not political,' said Colonel Peter Baierl, the German commander of the Provincial Reconstruction Team in the northeastern city of Faizabad.

'Smugglers and drug wars' are ravaging parts of the district, areas where foreign soldiers of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) are 'not particularly welcome', he said."...

The United Nations said this week that, although drug production was down slightly this year, Afghanistan remains the world's biggest producer of opium, churning out more than 4,000 tons -- 87 percent of global supply.

F-22 Raptor Posted by Picasa

SITE Institute: Al-Qaeda Mouthpiece ... Analyzes Current al-Qaeda in Iraq Strategies

"An article entitled 'The Fighting Policies of the al-Qaeda organization in the Country of the Two Rivers' was posted to the internet yesterday by the Global Islamic Media Front, an al-Qaeda mouthpiece. The article provides interesting and analytical observation of the current strategies of al-Qaeda's campaign in Iraq. The author of the article, a Saudi from Najd-land area of northern Saudi Arabia , Abu Abdullah Ahmed al-Oram, indicates that al-Qaeda policy in Iraq consists of three important strategy points:

1. Isolating American forces from diplomatic and military support.
2. Removing the Iraqi government from the international community.
3. Combating Shiite centers of power.

These strategies will allow 'the jihadi operations[to] exceed the limits of Sykes-Picot . To reach the Arabic nations, which will follow Iraq, and nearest enemies, then it will reach the Western nations in an international jihadi movement.'

According to al-Oram, Zarqawi, described in the article as ' Emir of the jihad organization based in country of the two rivers and most likely Emir of the organization in the Middle East and North Africa', began preparing for the war 'one year before [the invasion of] Iraq' by sending 'agents for recruiting in every city' in the regions of 'Najd lands, Hijaz, [regions of Saudi Arabia] and Yemen'.

In order to isolate the American forces, al-Qaeda in Iraq is pursing two tactics: targeting Arabic translators and attacking Iraqi soldiers and policemen. According to the article, "The aim of [targeting translators] is to isolate the American army from communicating with Iraqi people so as to make them deaf" The Iraqi police and National Guard provide "shields" for American troops, the elimination of which would greatly harm the Americans.

To diplomatically quarantine the Iraqi government, the group has implemented a policy of targeting foreign ambassadors "to isolate the Iraqi government away from the international community and the neighboring countries".

al-Oram lastly describes their campaign against the Shiite Badr Brigade forces as an effort "To destroy this [Badr] brigade before the area will be empty of Americans… to make the area ready for the control of mujahideen from the land of Iraq and installing the Sharia courts". The article describes Iran and Syria as being two major loci of support for the Badr brigade.

Signs of the Times Posted by Picasa

At Least 600 Killed in Stampede Near Baghdad Shrine

"BAGHDAD, Aug. 31 -- Rumors of a suicide bomber in the midst of a crowd of Shiite Muslim pilgrims set off a stampede Wednesday on a Tigris River bridge, killing hundreds as panicked worshipers trampled others or hurled themselves off the bridge, according to witnesses and officials.

Col. Adnan Abdul Rahman, spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said 637 people died and another 183 were injured, though other estimates ranged widely....

The stampede occurred as hundreds of thousands of Shiite pilgrims walked to a Baghdad shrine in an annual religious commemoration that shut down much of Baghdad."

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Iraq mosque blast wounded locals in August 05 Posted by Picasa

My Interview on NECN - August 30, 2005

Last night I was interviewed on New England Cable News' NewsNight with Jim Braude. Here is a link to the webpage. Then go to the story titled, "Gold Star Families and "Peace Mom" Activist," to see the video clip. As usual there is some angst about how it went down, but like most things in life, you simply have to move on.

Dwight Tipton, Ft. Walton Beach, FL, Gold Star Father got names of those killed in Iraq placed on a war memorial in his town. Posted by Picasa

Douglas Farah - The Stunning Silence on Saudi Arabia's New Ambassador, and a Nigeria Twist

I have waited in vain for someone in the major media to run something telling the American people who the new Saudi ambassador to the United States--Prince Turki al-Faisal--really is. Yet his naming has passed almost unnoticed and uncommented since it was made last month.

It is important to understand that Prince Turki not only has ties to U.S. intelligence dating back to the BCCI scandal of the 1980s. But more importantly, he was was head of Saudi intelligence for 24 years, and as such one of the chief propagators of the spread of wahhabism around the world. He also supported radical Islamic and wahhabist causes without hesitation or reserve. He resigned his intelligence position a month before 9-11, and, since 2002 was Saudi ambassador to Great Britain."...

[bth: I have to agree with him. I can't believe more media aren't discussing Turki's horrible past. He is no ally and he should not be trusted. I think Bush should have rejected his credentials out of hand.]

American wounded on an evacuation flight from Balad. Nov. 13, 2004 Posted by Picasa

George Monbiot: How to stop civil war

... "Almost two years ago Troy Davis, a democracy-engineering consultant, pointed out that if a constitutional process in Iraq was to engender trust and national commitment, it had to 'promote a culture of democratic debate'. Like Professor Vivian Hart, of the University of Sussex, he argued that it should draw on the experiences of Nicaragua in 1986, where 100,000 people took part in townhall meetings reviewing the draft constitution, and of South Africa, where the public made 2 million submissions to the drafting process. In both cases, the sense of public ownership this fostered accelerated the process of reconciliation. Not only is your own voice heard in these public discussions, but you must also hear others. Hearing them, you are confronted with the need for compromise.

But when negotiations are confined to the green zone's black box, the Iraqis have no sense that the process belongs to them. Because they are not asked to participate, they are not asked to understand where other people's interests lie and how they might be accommodated. And when the whole thing goes belly up, it will be someone else's responsibility. If Iraq falls apart over the next couple of years, it would not be unfair, among other factors, to blame the fact that Davis and Hart were ignored. For the people who designed Iraq's democratic processes, history stopped in 1787."...

Split down the middle Posted by Picasa

Jane Fonda won't be upstaged...

..." Maybe she just can't let Cindy Sheehan drive off with her thunder. Jane Fonda has announced the dates of her new anti-Iraq war bus tour, which was only a nascent rumor in recent weeks.

Miss Fonda plans to tool around the nation aboard a 'biodiesel' bus in the company of British politician George Galloway, who was expelled from the Labor Party for pacifist rhetoric, reported yesterday.

The Brit is quite giddy, calling the upcoming jaunt 'fantastic.' And of course he's also plugging his new book, 'Mr. Galloway Goes to Washington' -- because he is.

The Fonda tour kicks off in Boston Sept. 13 and ends in a rally in Washington on Sept. 24, and include stops in Chicago and Madison, Wis.

Mrs. Sheehan, meanwhile, will leave her Crawford, Texas, anti-war vigil on Sept. 1 and begin her own cross-country bus trip -- which will also wind up in the District on Sept. 24"....

[bth: Jane Fonda cares only about herself. She betrayed Americans in Vietnam and she will discredit the emerging anti-war movement by her stupid lunge for publicity.]

It looks like there will be a major peace rally the day before Gold Star Mothers day at Arlington National Cemetery. The peace rally appears to be around Sept 24 from what I can piece togethre and Gold Star Mothers day is Sept 25. Posted by Picasa

Anti-War Group Suspects it May be Victim of 'Infiltrators' -- 08/30/2005

"The anti-war group Code Pink, slammed by conservatives and some wounded veterans for co-sponsoring recent protests in front of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., now suggests that the most inflammatory signs held up at the protests might have been the work of 'infiltrators whose aim [was] to disrupt the vigil.'"...

[bth: there have been persistent comments on conservative websites of them infiltrating the Crawford movement. The release of photos of supposed protesters at Walter Reed posted by Drudge smelled from the beginning when the evidence was sent to them by a local branch of FreeRepublic. It was a Rover, surrogate hit team ala Swiftboat revisted, from the best I can tell.]

Basics of life like water are key factors in any peaceful resolution in Iraq. Posted by Picasa

Ways that the constitution hurts Sunnis

"BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraq's constitution works against the country's Sunni minority in many ways. Among them:... [those reasons are itemized in the article.]"...

[bth: in short the Sunnis have nothing to say yes to.]

Watchful eyes Posted by Picasa