Saturday, September 10, 2005

Chile's 9/11

September 11th! For most in the USA the attacks on the twin towers are remembered.

But September 11th marks another anniversary.

On September 11th 1973 the US backed coup which toppled the popular government of Salvador Allende in Chile took place. It was the day the generals, led by the fascist Augusto Pinochet, began their bloody rule. According to “official” reports more than 3000 were eventually murdered by the Junta which ruled Chile for almost two decades, thousands more just disappeared. The numbers are conservative to say the least.

Across Chile police have increased their presnese in an effort to ward off angry protests that always mark the day.

Protests however have already this week erupted in numerous Chilean cities mark those times. El Panamá América reports that in Valpariaso students threw up barricades and blocked streets around the universities. Police attacks with water cannons and tear gas were met with molotov coctails. In Santiago protests were concentrated in the Nunoa district, a mainly residential part of the city. Many have been arrested across the country and several have been injured.

Since the ouster of Pinochet, hundreds of military officers have been tried for all types of human rights violations. Only a very few have been convicted of anything.

A group of right-wing legislators this week introduced a bill that would pardon any convicted military men completing 10 years in prison. The government suggested it may accept the bill as a step toward “reconciliation.”

Sen. Ricardo Nunez, president of the Socialist Party, told journalist that convicted officers must serve their sentences in full, regardless of their length. "None of the countries that won World War II even suggested that Rudolf Hess should have been released from prison," he said.

Last month ABC News reports, President Lagos, of that same Socialist Party, pardoned retired army Sgt. Manuel Contreras, who was midway through a 10-year prison term for the 1982 killing of a prominent union leader opposed to Pinochet. An uproar resulted. "One works hard to get a human rights violator indicted and then he is pardoned," complained Lorena Pizarro, who heads a group of relatives of dissidents who disappeared at the hands of Pinochet's security force told reporters. "Those who are guilty must be punished. We will continue to fight to gain even more convictions."

Pinochet, himself, has been indicted twice, faces hundreds of lawsuits, but because of “poor health” goes about his business a free man.

Now Prensa Latina reports that much of Pinochet’s wealth, estimated at 27 million dollars, is linked to arms trading. “Deposits were linked with the purchase of Mirage-5 fighter bombers and more than 200 Leopard tanks bought by Chile in the 90´s, when Pinochet was still in full control as the Army's Commander-in-Chief. Pinochet´s accounts include another 17 deposits made by the Army´s Factory and Arsenal (FAMAE) between March, 1996 and December, 1999, as well as payments by the British Aerospace.” The information was sent to judge Sergio Munos by the State Defense Council (CDE), a state-run, independent body acting as plaintiff in one of the law suits against the former fascist dictator.

September 11th is indeed a dark day in the history of Chile. Sources: Prensa Latina, Mainichi Daily, El Panamá América, IMC (Valparaiso), ABC News

Friday, September 09, 2005

Often on Friday the OD prints articles from other sources. Today's articles include one on Katrina and racism, one on Katrina and global warming.

Taken from the Black Commentator


When I woke up today, the only thought that came to mind was Reverend Jesse Jackson's indignant cry, "This is the bottom of the slave ship we are looking at."

I think Jesse actually put his finger on what happened to all of us this week. Those shots we've seen are, as he said, the bottom of the slave ships. I think that really goes to why all the rest of us watching are so traumatized. And I think it is necessary to repeat what he has said about how the people in this country have a high tolerance for viewing "black pain." Yes, while we are asking the unheard question as to why a third of New Orleans' population is poor and all black, everyone from the president on down is comfortable with these realities of our ongoing unemployment, overcrowding, homelessness, drug and alcohol addiction, neighborhood crime and despair.

Jesse's metaphor is also so apt in that you only had to listen to five minutes of reporting to know families had been separated in ways that could be irreparable – across states, even mothers from month-old babies...just evacuating babies without contact with the parents is such a nightmare, I hate even hearing about it. These are the people who were marginalized from the Internet as well; are they going to run to a computer site?

African Americans in this crisis are further having the devastating experience of watching parents suffer and die right in their faces on sidewalks where people were forced to stand, not even sit for days. And the people crowded next to them experienced the same deaths. And like our ancestors, the poor today will have no access to therapeutic treatment. This is where you just have to agree with Jesse that the people in charge have the capacity to tolerate scenes of suffering they know have been suffered by blacks for generations.

At the same time, people among the stranded have been made aware that they are being portrayed as lawless by media people who are freaking out at the idea of thousands of black people not guarded by police. That in itself is a legacy of slavery. And even as we watched, the reporters and anchors on both NBC and CNN last week both misidentified Congressman John Lewis as Congressman Elijah Cummings for hours. This is one of the staples of the era when I was young and black people first appeared on TV and no one could tell one of us from another. This is really tired, old nonsense. I found myself filing email complaints to the networks, even though I know John Lewis and many others probably told them.

Lastly, there is now what is called the Katrina Diaspora. This diaspora of people without resources puts the restoration of families and community at risk, and in the case of New Orleans' black community, probably makes that impossible. Even people who own land there are going to be in deep trouble trying to hold onto it when the real estate boondoggle gets in the courts. I'm afraid we'll be reading a lot of stupid crap about how they couldn't be found, taxes were owed, etc. as in times past throughout the South. That's why I hope Jesse gets someone to bring people like Congressman Bennie Thompson into the fold, as he is familiar with the commission that had to be set up in the Delta because people are still trying to get back land stolen in the 1930s. And the developers are probably asking for eminent domain to be declared even as I'm typing.

Will Jackson, Rev. Al, Rep. Elijah Cummings, et. al. be asking after the fact, after they've read about development plans in the papers that the black community be represented at the table of planning "the NEW New Orleans?" The cultural heritage of New Orleans, which is so singular, is in serious jeopardy. The perfect mix of forces and cultures was based in a particularly unique feature of the dispersion of Africans during slavery: a disproportionate share of the Yoruba brought here (who were a minority within the groups in Middle Passage) landed in that area. What happened after that in encounters with the French, the Caribbean and the peoples of the States, cannot be replicated. Replacing the architecture with vinyl versions of shotgun and camel back houses will not produce any Buddy Boldens, Jelly Roll Mortons or Louis Armstrongs. As a writer, I myself have used the invaluable records kept there of this unique heritage. Just as one had to worry in the several rounds of the bombing of Baghdad that not only were untold people being killed but some of the oldest treasures of human life, I feel even more concerned that no one will care that thousands have died in New Orleans, others thousands dislocated and that one of our own cultural treasures, the city of New Orleans itself, will be deprived of its cultural engine.

This is a tragedy not only for the millions there on the ground, and the national economy but for the culture at large. We are witnessing in a matter of days a dislocation one-fifth the size of Middle Passage – which took place over more than 200 years. And all those conveniences of modern social organization which would mitigate its effects for most of us – phone, internet, cars, gasoline, and family with ample housing – do not apply to this country's poor. For them, getting lost may mean not being found any more easily than in 1865 when people went on foot and in wagons following word of mouth leads to find where family members may have been sent.

It is unbearable, and unconscionable.

Thulani Davis's work as a writer includes theater, journalism, fiction, and poetry. She is the author of two novels, Maker of Saints and 1959, and Malcolm X, The Photographs (1993). She has written and narrated several television and radio documentaries. Ms. Davis is the librettist for three operas: Amistad (1997); X, The Life and Times of Malcolm X (1986) with Anthony Davis, and The E & O Line (1991), with Anne LeBaron. In 1993 she won a Grammy for album notes for Aretha Franklin, and was nominated for a Grammy for the opera X. Her play, Everybody's Ruby: Story of a Murder in Florida, premiered in 2001 at the New York Shakespeare Festival.


Taken from the Why Files


Katrina was a shock, but not a surprise. Everybody worried that a hurricane might someday drown the birthplace of the blues. After Katrina, the Big Easy and the neighboring Gulf Coast have a bucketful of blues.

Thousands may be dead. Hundreds of thousands who fled the city and its low-lying environs face economic ruin and months or years of displacement, even now that the levee breaks have been fixed and the big pump-out has begun. Only a final body count will tell if Katrina will surpass the 1900 hurricane that obliterated nearby Galveston, Texas, as the deadliest natural disaster in American history.

Back in 1900, nobody was tracking hurricanes with airplanes or satellites. But satellite photos showed Katrina bearing down on the Gulf Coast, and most residents left New Orleans -- if they owned a car, that is.

The human hand?

That little discrepancy is one of several signs that, before we label Katrina a "natural disaster," we need to consider the human role. Take the whole issue of land level -- critical in New Orleans, the only major American city built below sea level.

Before the 1800s, the ever-sinking land of the Mississippi Delta was regularly replenished when floods brought sediment from the Mississippi River. No longer. The vast network of dams on the Mississippi River system holds most of that sediment in the north. And the levees that protect New Orleans, ironically, channel the sediment that does reach the South directly to the depths of the Gulf of Mexico.

Those same levees also route sediment away from the many low-lying barrier islands between New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico. These islands temper hurricane winds and storm surges -- the ruinous mounds of hurricane-driven water that can boost sea level by 20 feet or more. The sediment shortage, compounded by development, channeling and oil pipelines, is annually destroying about 30 square miles of the barrier islands. In 50 to 80 years, New Orleans could stand naked before the Gulf.

But there's more. Following the earliest predictions of global warming, sea level is rising as glaciers melt and warming ocean water expands. If, as projected, sea level rises another 50 to 100 centimeters over the next century, storm surges will be yet more dangerous, and levees yet less effective.

So even if we ignore population growth along the coast and allegations that the federal government was lackadaisical in repairing levees, building up the barrier islands or responding to the flood, it's not clear that Katrina is entirely a "natural disaster."

Global warming is warming the oceans. Hurricanes are powered by warm seas.

Hurricanes: A global warming connection?

A series of horrific hurricanes in the Atlantic, capped by the cataclysmic Katrina, raises the question: Are hurricanes getting stronger now that global warming has started? Before we explore the relationship, let's recall some hurricane fundamentals:

Hurricanes are tropical cyclones -- rotating storms that develop in the tropics -- with winds exceeding 75 mph.

Tropical cyclones are driven by energy contained in water that evaporates from the warm sea surface.

Hurricanes don't develop when the sea-surface temperature is below about 26° C.

Hurricanes don't get much stronger than this.

Given these facts, you might think that the warming ocean, heated by the global-warming effect of greenhouse gases, would lead to more hurricanes -- and more intense hurricanes. But while the greenhouse effect has warmed the globe by about 0.5°C, hurricanes (called typhoons in the Pacific) have not grown more common. Reflecting a consensus among climatologists, Kerry Emanuel, a professor of meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, wrote: "There is no detectable trend in the global annual frequency of tropical cyclones" in historic data that would indicate that hurricanes are growing more common on the warming Earth.

But what about hurricane intensity? When you turn the heat up under a stewpot of gumbo, the prawns, chilies and okra start sloshing around with extra vigor. If you turn up the planetary thermostat, does that happen with hurricanes?

Let's cleave the question: Have hurricanes gotten stronger now that greenhouse gases have warmed the planet? Will hurricanes get stronger as the globe warms further?

Warming and storming in the real world

Two months ago, the answer to the first question was, we expect stronger hurricanes, but the data doesn't show an increase in intensity. Then, about a month before Hurricane Katrina, Emanuel published a major study showing a significant increase in hurricane power over the past 30 years. Emanuel looked at records of wind speed and hurricane duration from 558 Atlantic hurricanes, and 1,557 Pacific hurricanes. To calculate energy production, he multiplied wind speed by itself three times, then factored in how many hours the hurricane lasted. (Wind speed cubed correlates well with hurricane damage.)

Overall, Emanuel found that by his measure, hurricane power had more than doubled in the past 30 years in the Atlantic, and almost as much in the Pacific. And when he graphed intensity against the temperature of the ocean surface, the lines were similar. "It shows a big upward trend, globally, beginning in the 1970s, that's very much in concert with tropical ocean temperature," Emanuel told us.

Tellingly, the results were similar in the tropical Atlantic, the Western Pacific and the Southern Hemisphere, he said. "What give us confidence is that, in the three major places where we have hurricanes... the trend is upward, and the same magnitude." Regarding the intensity index and sea-surface temperature, he added, "It would really be a coincidence if these happened to covary [move together] in all the places you look."

But could hurricanes get almost twice as strong from a sea-surface warming of just 0.5° Celsius? Apparently. ".5 degree doesn't sound like much," Emanuel said, "but given the actual heat content of the tropical ocean, that is an awful lot, a big change. It has produced a temperature in the tropical ocean that is warmer than in the last several thousand years."

And half a degree is a lot less than the 1.7° C rise in sea-surface temperature that several climate models have projected for late the 21st century, after atmospheric carbon-dioxide has doubled. (We'll get to the predictions about future hurricanes shortly.)

Credibility gap?

The results have been noticed in the hurricane biz. "I was initially surprised, a bit stunned, because of the magnitude of the change he was showing," says Thomas Knutson of the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory. "A doubling of the power dissipation since the 1970s is a very large change, surprising. It's a very interesting paper." (Power dissipation is the amount of energy the hurricane extracts from the warm sea and uses to drive its winds.)

Emanuel's study merits scrutiny, says Galen McKinley, an assistant professor of atmospheric and oceanic science at University of Wisconsin-Madison. "Professor Emanuel is an expert on hurricanes, but these kind of things, when they are introduced, need some time to work through the scientific community and be generally accepted or refined." While most studies have looked at the number of hurricanes, or their Saffir-Simpson category, "This is another way of looking at it," she adds. "How do we want to define this index [of destructiveness]? There is always a debate about what is the proper index."

Experts are already prowling through the entrails of Emanuel's analysis. For one thing, Emanuel used the cube of wind speed, not wind speed itself, in his calculations, which had the effect of enhancing the impact of the worst storms. Although previous indexes of hurricane power have looked at velocity squared, Knutson observes that wind damage rises along with the cube of wind speed: "It's reasonable to look at velocity cubed."

Scratched records?

Another question concerns the bugaboo of climate history: the veracity of old records. "One thing he wrestled with was the character of the historical record," says Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research. "There's an inconsistency in the earlier years between estimates of velocity and central pressure. We know there is a very strong relationship between those in the last 20 years, where we have good data, but in the early years, the relationship is not so good, so it depends on which you believe more."

Trenberth, who directs NCAR's climate analysis section, has been thinking about the relationship between global warming and hurricanes, and suggesting a shift in focus from counting hurricanes to assessing intensity.

By evaporating more water from the sea, he says, global warming could easily raise intensity, because a higher sea-surface temperature "increases the energy available for storms." Although there is more water vapor in the atmosphere, "it's not at all clear how much goes into individual thunderstorms and how many of these are organized into hurricanes," which are vast collections of thunderstorms.

Trenberth suggests that global warming has probably already made hurricanes more severe, even if it's hard to see the signal. But Katrina has also flushed out skeptical climate experts. The Detroit News , for example, quoted William Gray, a noted hurricane expert at Colorado State University: "There is absolutely no empirical evidence. The people who have a bias in favor of the argument that humans are making the globe warmer will push any data that suggests that humans are making hurricanes worse, but it just isn't so."

But Trenberth says Gray's off base. "Sea-surface temperature is rising because of global warming, and the role of humans is clearly established in that. That increase in sea level contributes to the storm surge. The increase in sea-surface temperature is increasing water vapor, and that is increasing rainfall, which raises the potential for flooding." More water vapor also adds energy to the storms, he adds. To "unequivocally state that global warming has nothing to do with what going on in Katrina, I think they are wrong. ... To say it has no role is totally irresponsible in my view."

We tried, but failed, to reach Gray for comment.

Simmering simulation

One way to anticipate how global warming may affect future hurricanes is to simulate climate with computer models, and Tom Knutson of the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory is a master of the method. For a 2004 study (see "Impact of CO2-Induced Warming..." in the bibliography), Knutson and Robert Tuleya used nine different climate models to project climate change over the next 70 years. Each year, they jacked up the level of carbon dioxide 1 percent compounded (as a simplified experiment to mimic the expected net effect of various emissions caused human activity over the next 70 years or so.)

As sea surface temperature and other factors that affect hurricanes changed, the researchers "made hurricanes" in the computer, and found that they indeed gained intensity as the globe warmed:

Atmospheric pressure fall: increased 14 percent at the center of the storm.
Peak winds: Up 6 percent.

Rainfall: up 18 percent within 100 kilometers of the storm center.

Storm intensity: Up one-half category on the Saffir-Simpson scale.

A half notch on the Saffir-Simpson scale, notes McKinley, "is a significant increase," since it could add several feet to the destructive storm surge. In low-lying places like New Orleans, every foot matters in the battle between levee and lake or river.

While each computer model spat out a slightly different set of conditions, they all pointed in the same direction: stronger storms. "There are many different climate models, run at high CO2 levels, that uniformly, even with different options for key processes, show an increase in hurricane intensity," says McKinley. "Predictions of increased storm intensity are more in agreement than the studies of what has happened in the recent past. Drawing a signal from the past data is harder at this point."

Yet even skeptics who don't think global warming has -- or even will -- produce stronger hurricanes say we are in a for a bad string of storms. Hurricanes in any particular region seem to wax and wane over a scale of decades. In 1995, a bad string of hurricanes started in the Atlantic that is still lambasting the Caribbean and United States. "... the shift since 1995 to an environment generally conducive to hurricane formation-warmer North Atlantic SSTs [sea-surface temperatures] and reduced vertical wind shear-is not likely to change back soon," wrote Stanley Goldenberg of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and colleagues. "This means that during the next 10 to 40 years or so, most of the Atlantic hurricane seasons are likely to have above average activity, with many hyperactive, some around average, and only a few below average".

We tried to talk with Goldenberg, but got intercepted by a helpful government PR minder, who directed us to Chris Landsea, another NOAA scientist, to speak about the subject. But Landsea apparently had better things to do; we never heard from him.
Here's one final thought. Hurricanes are not predictable. The Gulf Coast may not see another category 4 hurricane for 10 years. Or it could get hit again in a week. NOAA just predicted that the bulk of the storms are still ahead; the hurricane season runs until Nov. 30.

The hurricane prediction experts at Colorado State University are no more comforting: in 2005, "we will witness seasonal tropical cyclone activity at near record levels."

Thursday, September 08, 2005

California Grand Juries Lock Up Witnesses

In San Diego, a federal judge ruled yesterday two activists must stay in jail in an effort to get them to testify before a grand jury investigating arson and a controversial speech from two years ago. The Union Tribune reports that the judge said “no” to defense attorneys who argued that enough time has passed to know that there's no chance the pair will testify.

David Agranoff, 31, and Danae Kelley, 21, have been in custody for 45 days, and their detainment has become more punitive than coercive, their attorneys argued before U.S. District Judge Irma Gonzalez.

Defense Attorney Jeremy Warren, told the judge. "I know Mr. Agranoff will not testify. "Warren said Agranoff has lost his job and a chance to go to school, but still refuses to testify before the grand jury.

Julie Blair, representing Kelley, said her client wouldn't testify
despite "miserable" conditions in jail. "She's never indicated to me that she's going to testify," Blair told the court. "She's never going to testify no matter how long it takes."

A third activist, Nicole Fink, has been jailed for two weeks for refusing to testify before the same grand jury.

The Grand Jury is reportedly investigating an arson that caused $50 million in damage to a massive condominium complex under construction next to the UTC shopping mall in University City on Aug. 1, 2003.

It is also investigating whether Rodney Coronado, a Tucson, Ariz., animal rights activist, broke a federal law in a Hillcrest speech that night when he demonstrated how he set an earlier arson.

The jailed activists were at that speech. Other grand jury witnesses have said the questions focused on the speech and who possibly attended.

Before they were taken into custody July 12, Agranoff and Kelley said they didn't know who started the fire and said it would violate their free-speech rights to be forced to testify in the secret grand jury proceeding.

Prosecutor Stephen Cook argued that the government should be able to hold the activists in until the grand jury investigating the case ends its service. The panel is scheduled to finish by the end of the year, but may have its service extended until June.

"The nature of today's hearing highlights the problem with the Grand Jury process," Warren said. "Everything's done in secret."

Meanwhile, just last week a judge up in the California Bay area jailed a former member of the Black Panther Party for refusing to testify before a grand jury investigating the killings of two San Francisco police officers in the early 1970s. Ray Michael Boudreaux, 62, who has worked for 23 years as an electrician for Los Angeles County, is being held indefinitely at San Francisco County Jail on the order of Superior Court Judge Robert Dondero.

Boudreaux served in the Vietnam War, returned home in 1968 and soon joined up with the Black Panthers in Oakland, his attorney said, working at a breakfast program in the schools. He now lives in Pasadena.

No one knows what the prosecution wants from Boudreaux. The special assistant attorney general, who is bringing the case before the grand jury, did not return calls seeking comment Wednesday. The prosecutor in court did tell the judge that Boudreaux is "a bright individual.”

FBI reports Boudreaux's attorney challenged the legal validity of the limited immunity offered by prosecutors, saying it failed to protect his client's Fifth Amendment rights. "The privilege against self-incrimination seems to be meaningless to them,'' attorney Michael Burt said.”They figure, 'We want your testimony. Testify against yourself -- you are just going to have to trust us that we are not going to make improper use of that.' It's a little scary."

Burt argued that Boudreaux had reason to be skeptical of any government deal. He called to the stand Jill Elijah, a Harvard Law School professor, who testified that given the FBI's history of civil rights violations against the Black Panthers, "Mr. Boudreaux would have no reason to trust any representations made to him by the government with respect to his immunity, his safety or his protection from prosecution.''

Elijah testified that "it's been well-documented that well over 30 members of the Black Panther Party across the United States were assassinated by the FBI, or in tandem with the FBI and local police force operatives.'' Sources: Voice of San Diego, Union Tribune (San Diego), FBI

Screw Ups Go On and On

More examples of the disastrous response by the feds to Hurricane Katrina continue to surface.

Did you know, for example, that a Canadian search-and-rescue team reached a flooded New Orleans suburb five days before the US military?

Reuters is reporting that Louisiana State Sen. Walter Boasso is expressing his thanks to the Canadians who beat both the Army and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to St. Bernard Parish east of New Orleans, where flood waters are still 8 feet deep in places. "Fabulous, fabulous guys," Boasso said. "They started rolling with us and got in boats to save people." He added, "We've got Canadian flags flying everywhere."

The stricken parish of 68,000 people was largely ignored by U.S. authorities.
The Canadians simply chartered a plane and flew down to help last Wednesday. Two FEMA officials reached the parish on Sunday and the U.S. Army arrived on Monday.

Meanwhile, the US government still can’t seem to get it together as far as just accepting help from other nations.

According to Canada’s Globe and Mail, “Many of the nations offering aid to the United States after hurricane Katrina – including India, South Korea, Japan, Sweden and Germany – said Wednesday that they are still waiting to hear back from Washington on whether their donations had been accepted.”

India has a planeload of supplies waiting but with nowhere to land. “The plane is parked at the airport here, and we are awaiting instructions on where to send the medicines and food items,” an External Affairs Ministry official said Wednesday, declining to be identified under government briefing rules.

India said it would give a $5-million (U.S.) cheque to the American Red Cross on Thursday in Washington. New Delhi also offered to send military medics and water purification equipment. “The offer to help is on the table. We are awaiting Washington's response,” the official said.

Taiwan’s Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Michel Lu said Taiwan is still waiting to hear from the US on what to do with $2 million.

South Korea has pledged $30-million and initially said it would send about 40 rescue workers and 100 tonnes of goods such as blankets, diapers, crutches, bunk beds and wheelchairs, to the United States by this weekend. However, it, too, isn’t going anywhere at the present.

Japan said it is in the process of transferring $200,000 to the Red Cross and had offered up to $300,000 in supplies such as tents, blankets, generators and portable water tanks, which are stored in Florida. But Tokyo is still waiting for Washington to identify which supplies are needed, a Foreign Affairs official said.

German officials say they have offered a wide range of aid, including search dogs, medical teams and even a military hospital ship, and say much of it has been on standby for delivery since Monday.

Sweden has a loaded a Hercules C-130 plane with water purification equipment, emergency power generators and components for a temporary cellphone network which has been ready to go since noon Saturday, but on Thursday it still had not been given clearance by Washington. "We are still waiting for the green light," Victoria Forslund said at the Foreign Ministry in Stockholm.

And, as for those Cubans, Florida Republican Sen. Mel Martinez said Wednesday that the U.S. government should accept Cuba's offer to send hundreds of doctors to treat victims of Hurricane Katrina, provided they are needed and ``reasonably well-trained.'' The Bush Administration contradicting health care workers across the gulf region and around the country where displaced persons have been evacuated indicates they aren’t needed.

Last week, President George W. Bush said the United States could take care of itself. "I do expect a lot of sympathy, and perhaps some will send cash dollars," he said. "But this country is going to rise up and take care of it."

However, according to the International Herald Tribune, last weekend, the State Department sent urgent requests for international aid through the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the United Nations and the European Union. At the top of the list was cash, but the United States also asked for food, water, medical supplies and diapers.

Like everything else the feds have been involved in here, the delivery of aid from the international community is being bungled. Sources: Reuters, CBC, Metro Toronto Newspaper, Globe and Mail (Canada), International Herald Tribune



Contact: Michael Avery, President, 617-573-8551
Marjorie Cohn, Executive Vice President, 858-484-2387
Paul Gattone, Executive Vice President. 520-631-6385

New York. The National Lawyers Guild urges the Democratic senators to use all means, including the filibuster if necessary, to defeat the nomination of John Roberts for Chief Justice of the United States. Roberts' record reveals a callous disregard for the rights the poor, for minorities, for women, for the disabled, for workers, and for a clean and safe environment.

John Roberts' career has established his credentials as an uncompassionate conservative. He has worked consistently to deny access to the courts to individuals who have suffered harm.

John Roberts:

§ tried to cut back the federal law that allows people to sue the government when they have been deprived of their federal rights, by arguing that the state of Virginia should not reimburse hospitals for Medicaid claims at reasonable rates. Roberts said the Medicaid Act did not create any enforceable rights.

§ viewed legislation to fortify the Fair Housing Act as "government intrusion."

§ condemned a Supreme Court decision striking down a Texas law that allowed schools to deny admission to the children of undocumented workers.

§ fought for a narrow interpretation of the Voting Rights Act that would have made it much harder for minorities to get elected to public office, and mischaracterized the Act as requiring "a quota system for electoral politics."

§ contended that Congress could pass a law to prevent all federal courts from ordering busing to achieve school desegregation, a position much more extreme than that adopted by the Reagan administration.

§ took the position that affirmative action programs are bound to fail because they require recruiting "inadequately prepared candidates," an unfounded and racist stance.

§ referred to the "so-called 'right to privacy'" in the Constitution, and argued that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided and should be overruled.

§ worked to keep women who have suffered gender discrimination out of court.

§ ridiculed the gender pay equity theory of equal pay for comparable work as a "radical redistributive concept."

§ supported a dramatic weakening of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, by arguing that a deaf student who got by in school by lip-reading and using a hearing aid was not entitled under the Act to receive the services of a sign-language interpreter in the classroom.

§ defended Toyota for firing a woman with carpal tunnel syndrome.

§ argued on behalf of the National Mining Association that West Virginia citizens could not prevent mining companies from extracting coal by blasting the tops off of mountains and depositing the debris in nearby valleys and streams.

Throughout his career, John Roberts has taken positions that demonstrate his insensitivity to the rights and needs of the disadvantaged. The 50-year-old Roberts would have the opportunity to shape the Supreme Court for the next two to three decades. A Roberts Court would threaten the rights of all but the rich and powerful.

The National Lawyers Guild, founded in 1937, comprises over 6,000 members and activists in the service of the people. Its national office is headquartered in New York City and it has chapters in nearly every state, as well as over 100 law school chapters.

National Conference for Ending the Korean War

From Veterans For Peace

We will observe the 60th anniversary of the landing of US troops in S. Korea this September. There are some 35,000 U.S. troops still stationed in S.Korea today because the Korean War is still going on. How long would it take to bring our troops from Iraq if it takes so long to bring our troops home from Korea? Is there a history lesson that we can learn from our past intervention in Korea?

In view of the continuing military tensions between the US and N. Korea at this time, it is imperative for the peace and justice groups in the U.S. to come together to learn about the current situation on the Korean peninsula and develop a common strategy to avoid another hot war; end the costly, lingering Korean War finally; and move the U.S. toward peace and normalized relations with North Korea.

This Conference will also provide an opportunity to exchange information on projects promoting peace and reconciliation between the U.S. and Korea. It is also hoped that a national network of peace/justice groups concerned with the peaceful resolution of the US-Korea conflict can be developed.

For those participants who want to engage with members of Congress, an optional visit to the Congress is planned for September 26.

Sept. 25, Sun., 10 am-5 pm

Georgetown Law Center,
600 New Jersey Ave., NW, Washington, D.C.


Keynote Speeches:
Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D) & Rep. Ron Paul (R) (Invited)

• Panel Discussion on Peaceful End to the Korean War:
• Don Oberdorfer, Army veteran, served in Korea, & Author of The Two Koreas: Contemporary History
• John Feffer, Author of North Korea/South Korea: U.S. Policy and the Korean Peninsula
• Doug Bandow, Author of Tripwire and Senior Fellow at Cato Institute
• Roundtable Group Discussion
• Reports
• Briefing on Capitol Hill
• Reception
Reg. Fee : $20/person (includes lunch)

RSVP/Info: or;

Cosponsored by:
Veterans For Peace-Korea Peace Campaign,
National Lawyers Guild-Korean Peace Project
& others

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Wednesday, September 07, 2005

What the Religious Nuts Are Saying About Katrina


It should come as no surprise that religious fundamentalists of all stripes have come out from beneath their rocks to declare that Hurricane Katrina was sent by God to punish New Orleans for one reason or another. For some Mississippi and Alabama must have just been collateral damage.

A Philadelphia group called Repent America said the hurricane was sent by God to prevent an annual gay-pride festival that was due to take place this weekend. "We must not forget that the citizens of New Orleans tolerated and welcomed the wickedness in their city for so long," said Repent America director Michael Marcavage. "May this act of God cause us all to think about what we tolerate in our city limits." Marcavage, suggested that “this act of God destroyed a wicked city. New Orleans was a city that opened its doors wide open to the public celebration of sin. May it never be the same.”

"Whenever this country encourages Israel to give up any part of their rightful God-given land we have suffered the consequences," wrote a discussion-board participant on the website of the Christian Broadcasting Network.

Rev. Alex McFarland from Focus on the Family, psychologist James Dobson's Colorado-based Christian ministry, said in a telephone interview with a slightly less blatant take, "When someone asks 'Why do innocent people suffer?' I will gently remind them that we are not really innocent," he said. "God did create a perfect world. But we humans introduced moral evil, sin, rebellion and disobedience. And after God judged human sin in Noah's flood, the weather patterns that we know today developed."

Franklin Graham, who heads the evangelical charity Samaritan's Purse, said on the Fox News Channel on Thursday night that the mayhem and looting in New Orleans could be traced to a lack of religious instruction. "This happens in our country when we have taken God out of our schools and God out of our, out of society. We don't have a moral standard," he said.

Christian journalist Stan Goodenough, in Israel, was struck by the juxtaposition in recent days of Jewish settlers being removed from their homes in the Gaza Strip and Americans being forced out of their homes in New Orleans. "Is this some sort of bizarre coincidence? Not for those who believe in the God of the Bible ...," he wrote in a column for the Web site Jerusalem Newswire. "What America is about to experience is the lifting of God's hand of protection; the implementation of His judgment on the nation most responsible for endangering the land and people of Israel."

Evangelical leaders like Jerry Falwell and Christian Broadcasting Network founder Pat Robertson urged their followers to pray for the victims and contribute to relief efforts, but made no public statements about the reason for the hurricane.

At South Philly's Tinsley Temple United Methodist Church last Wednesday, Louis Farrakhan said God sent Katrina to forcefully disapprove of America's preemptive war on Iraq. “New Orleans is the first of the cities going to tumble down ... unless America changes its course," Farrakhan said, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. "It is the wickedness of the people of America and the government of America that is bringing the wrath of God down."

The al Qaeda group in Iraq on Sunday hailed the hurricane deaths in America as the "wrath of God", according to an Internet statement. "God attacked America and the prayers of the oppressed were answered," said the statement, which was posted on an Islamic Web site often used by the insurgent group fighting the U.S.-backed Iraqi government.

A Kuwaiti Arabic-language newspaper published comments by Mohammed Yussef al-Mlaifi, director of the Kuwaiti Ministry of Endowment's Research Centre. For al-Mlaifi, it “is almost certain that this is a wind of torment and evil that Allah has sent to this American empire.” In a sarcastic note, al-Mlaifi noted “how strange it is that after all the tremendous American achievements for the sake of humanity, these mighty winds come and evilly rip (America's) cities to shreds? Have the storms joined the Al-Qaeda terrorist organization?” Citing a passage from the Qu’ran, he added: “The disaster will keep striking the unbelievers for what they have done, or it will strike areas close to their territory, until the promise of Allah comes to pass, for, verily, Allah will not fail in His promise.”

In Israel, some rabbis have also taken up the vengeful God theme. For some rabbis, Katrina is divine punishment against US President George W. Bush for having supported Israeli Prime Minister in the latter’s decision to force Israeli settlers out of Gaza. Shas Party spiritual leader and Former Chief Sephardic Rabbi Ovadia Yosef added his voice in is weekly sermon, when he said: “We had 15,000 people expelled here, and there 150,000 (were expelled). He (Bush) perpetrated the expulsion. Now everyone is mad at him…this is his punishment for what he did to Gush Katif, and everyone else who did as he told them, their time will come, too,” the rabbi said. Moreover, for Ovadia, New Orleans was also flooded because of its residents’ lax moral standards and “lack of Torah study”.

And finally, there is Steve Lefemine, an antiabortion activist in Columbia, S.C. Lefemine says he was looking at a full-color satellite map of Hurricane Katrina when something in the swirls jumped out at him: the image of an 8-week-old fetus. "In my belief, God judged New Orleans for the sin of shedding innocent blood through abortion," said Lefemine, who e-mailed the flesh-toned weather map to fellow activists across the country and put a stark message on the answering machine of his organization, Columbia Christians for Life. "Providence punishes national sins by national calamities," it said. "Greater divine judgment is coming upon America unless we repent of the national sin of abortion." Sources: Religious News Blog, Washington Post, The Temple News, Alert Net, Ekklesia, AsiaNews, Stuff (NZ), PrideSource

More Than 1500 Cuban Doctors Are Still Waiting, Mr. Bush

Last Tuesday, before President Bush figured out things weren’t looking so good in New Orleans, Cuba offered mobile doctors with backpacks of supplies to help out immediately. Cuba said the health care workers could be in the US in six hours.

The New Standard says, “Castro originally offered assistance last Tuesday, but did so through back channels due to the adversarial relationship the US and Cuba have endured since a communist revolution swept Castro into power more than 40 years ago.”

Cuba is still waiting to hear from the US Government.

The Cuban president, Fidel Castro, stated that in this kind of situation, it didn’t matter how rich a country might be, or the number of its scientists or technical advances. Quoted in Granma, Castro added, “What is required at this moment is a team of young, well-trained professionals who, with a minimum of resources, can be sent where human beings are in danger of dying."

On Sunday night Castro commented, "… we have not received any response to our offer," he noted. "We will wait patiently for as long as it takes.”

Castro said if no response arrives, or if Cuba’s cooperation were not necessary, it would not be any cause for discouragement among our ranks. "Very much on the contrary, we would be satisfied that we had fulfilled our duty, and extremely happy to know that not one more U.S. citizen out of those who suffered the painful and treacherous blow of Hurricane Katrina would die without medical attention, if that were to be the cause for our doctors’ absence," he affirmed.

Castro described the medical help available thusly, “This medical force, I mean the 1586 initially mentioned, includes:

• 1097 specialists in Comprehensive General Medicine, 600 of whom are pursuing Masters degrees in Medical Sciences;
• 351 general practitioners and intensive care specialists;
• 72 healthcare professionals with two medical specialties, and
• 66 specialists in cardiology, pediatrics, gastroenterology, surgery, psychiatry, epidemiology and other specialties.

Of this medical force:
• 699 doctors have served in one or more international missions in 43 different countries, and some have even served in three missions, and
• 727 were ready and about to leave Cuba to serve in missions in Latin America, Africa and Asia; they joined this force in view of the dramatic situation unfolding in the southern United States, while other similar professionals will meet our internationalist commitment in other countries.”

”Of the total force, 729 are men and 857 are women," he said.

Castro, said, ”The average age of these health professionals is 32 years. Most of them had not yet been born when the revolution triumphed and some had not even been born 15 years after the triumph of the revolution, they are the product of these hard years. The average work experience is of no less than 10 years. Some have more experience, some less, most have more experience.”

”Of the total force, 729 are men and 857 are women.”

Castro went on to say, “Our doctors’ backpacks contain precisely those resources needed to address in the field problems relating to dehydration, high blood pressure, diabetes Mellitus and infections in all parts of the body —lungs, bones, skin, ears, urinary tract, reproductive system— as they arise. They also carry medicine to suppress vomiting; painkillers and drugs to lower fever; medication for the immediate treatment of heart conditions, for allergies of any kind; for treating bronchial asthma and other similar complications, about forty products of proven efficiency in emergencies such as this one.”

”These professionals carry two backpacks containing these products; each backpack weighs 12 kilograms. Actually, this was determined when all of the backpacks were procured, since although they are quite large, only half of the supplies would fit in; it was then necessary to give each doctor two backpacks, and the small briefcase which carries diagnostic kits. These doctors have much clinical experience, this is one of their most outstanding characteristic, as they are used to offering their services in places where there isn’t even one X-ray machine, ultrasound equipment or instruments for analyzing fecal samples, blood, etc. With the increase in the number of doctors, the medications weigh a total of 36 tons. The initial figure was smaller.”

AIN reports that the group of more than 1,500 doctors was called the Henry Reeve Contingent by Cuban President Fidel Castro. Henry Reeve was a young American who, along with a group of his countrymen, joined the Cuban independence struggle in 1868. Reeve, affectionately called 'El Inglesito,' stood out for his exceptional bravery and reached the rank of Brigadier General in the Cuban Liberation Army. He died fighting for Cuba’s freedom in 1876.

Cuba has more than 130,000 health professionals of who more than 25,000 are on international missions in Latin America, Asia and Africa. Cuba has a history of helping countries in the Caribbean rim which have been struck by hurricanes.

According to the New Standard, “Though apparently no final decision has been made, the United States federal government appears ready to turn down the offer of hurricane relief from the Cuba, which is world-renowned for its health-care system.”

It is to be noted that Castro, unlike Bush, also figured out who was affected most by the storm. He said, “It was clear to us that those who faced the greatest danger were these huge numbers of poor, desperate people, many elderly citizens with health situations, pregnant women, mothers and children among them, all in urgent need of medical care.” Sources: Granma (Cuba), AIN (Cuba), New Standard, Caribbean Net News, Political Affairs

Here, There, and Everywhere

Rising fuel prices are raising hackles on folks around the globe.

The Daily Mail reports that protesters in the United Kingdom are threatening to shut down refineries if the government doesn’t bring down the tax on fuel. A spokesperson for Fuel Lobby, farmer and hauler Andrew Spence says if cuts don’t happen blockades will start one week from today.

"We want to see an immediate reduction in taxation to bring fuel prices down or as of 6am next Wednesday there won't be a refinery in the country left open. Every refinery will be blockaded," Spence warned.

Such a blockade occurred back in 2000 and it caused shortages and panic buying. The week-long protest five years ago was widely thought to have cost British business £1 billion.

Spence said, "Every time the fuel companies have raised the price of fuel, taxation inadvertently has risen with it. If we don't do something now then when does it stop? £1.10? £1.20? £1.30? When does the country have to stand up and say, 'look, come on, this is too much Mr. Blair'?"

The Treasury responded by stating that cutting the tax on fuel would not solve the problem of high oil prices that has been exacerbated as a result of Hurricane Katrina.

Phil Flanders, director of the Road Haulage Association in Scotland, said he had not been told about any plans for next week. But Flanders said anger had been "building and building" against the Government this year over the rising cost of fuel. "Haulers are really struggling at the moment and the Government is just not listening to them. The price of fuel keeps going through all the barriers and haulers are having to be really careful how much they spend."

Around three quarters of the cost of a liter of petrol goes to the British Government in duty and tax.

Meanwhile, Friends of the Earth (UK) called on the government to stand up to the threats and to refuse to cut fuel taxes. It says the government must stand firm if it is serious about tackling climate change. Friends of the Earth's Transport campaigner, Tony Bosworth, said. "UK emissions of carbon dioxide are rising. Climate change is the biggest threat the planet faces. Unless we take the situation seriously the consequences for us all will be disastrous. Caving in to the fuel protesters and cutting fuel duty will only make the situation worse. The Government must do far more to get people to drive more fuel-efficient vehicles, develop cleaner fuels and boost public transport. The Chancellor's decisions on fuel tax should be based on tackling climate change and reducing our dependence on oil, not on the threat of protests".

In Canada, the CBC reports that truckers clogged some stretches of the Trans-Canada Highway in New Brunswick on Tuesday in protest of high fuel costs which have now reached record levels. Drivers coming into New Brunswick were being stopped and asked to sign a petition against high gas prices. The protest is meant to last for three days, and the group organizing the protest is hoping it will spread across Canada, and into the United States and Mexico.

In Clovis, New Mexico, local residents are distributing fliers throughout the county urging vehicle owners to refrain from purchasing gas Saturday.

Neighbors Irene Tucker and Katherine Null told the Clovis News the grass roots, anti-oil company movement gained momentum on the Internet, with news of gas boycotts passing from one e-mail inbox to the next. The e-mail that landed in Tucker’s inbox said if everyone in the United States did not purchase “a single drop of gasoline” for one day at the same time, oil companies would suffer “a net loss of over 4.6 billion dollars.” The e-mail, sent by a Florida sales manager, goes on to declare Sept. 10th, “Stick It To Them Day.”

Tucker and Null said record-high gas prices are virtually clamping the wallets of low-wage workers. A simple visit to the grocery store, said Tucker, leaves her unable to perform other weekly errands. “Poor people can’t afford it,” an angered Tucker said.

“Clovis doesn’t have many high wage earners; I hope we can send the message that we won’t stand for these high gas prices,” said Null, a school bus driver.

And in India, Sify News says the Communist Party-Marxist (CPM) yesterday warned of large scale nation wide protests against the latest hike in fuel prices. "We demand a total rollback of the fresh hike in the price of petrol and diesel as it will increase the burden on the common man," Basudev Acharya, the leader of the CPM’s parliamentary party in the Lok Sabha, said. "The people of the country will protest the rise in the prices of petroleum products afresh. There will be large-scale protests against the hike," the CPM MP said. He said the demand for rollback of the latest price rise of petroleum products would be one of the issues of the nation-wide general strike called by the Left trade unions on September 29. Sources: Daily Mail (UK), Scotsman, Transport News Network (UK), CBC, Friends of the Earth, Clovis News (New Mexico), Sify News (India)

Demand corporate responsibility for Oregon dairy workers

From the UFW

For a year, workers at Oregon’s Threemile Canyon Farms have called on Sorrento Lactalis, maker of Precious and Sorrento brand cheeses, to take responsibility for deplorable conditions at this giant dairy. Sorrento Lactalis processes milk from Threemile Canyon Farms.

Sorrento has ignored the 12,000 signatures gathered online and additional thousands of emails demanding it does the right thing by denouncing sexual discrimination at the dairy and taking action to ensure these workers are represented by the United Farm Workers, the workers' union.

Sorrento Lactalis is owned by the French multi-national Groupe Lactalis. In France, small dairy farmers have been protesting Groupe Lactalis' policy of continuously lowering prices it pays for milk to the point that dairy farmers are not even receiving the cost of production.

On Sept. 7, the UFW will join these small dairy farmers in France in an international action to call attention to this multi-national company's indifference to the plight of farm workers at Threemile Canyon Farms as well as the increasingly desperate circumstances of small French dairy farmers.

We have the power to make Groupe Lactalis be a responsible corperate citizan for both Threemile Canyon farm workers and French dairy farmers. Join us in demanding stores that sell Groupe Lactalis' products hold them accountable for their actions.

Send your email to Krogers/Ralphs TODAY!


Another story of government incompetence in the response to Katrina comes from WJXT in Jacksonville, Florida

A medical mercy mission to a Mississippi city ravaged by hurricane-ravaged almost didn't happen.

Doctors and nurses with HealthSouth St. Augustine Sugery Center said Federal Emergency Management Agency officials refused to let their group carrying staff and a trailer of medical supplies into the restricted area.

"'Go home, we don't need you,'" Kathleen Floyan of HealthSouth said they were told. "If it wasn't for our state of Florida Highway Patrolmen ... (who) told us. 'Follow us, we'll put you in this location.' They put us across from the Waveland, Miss., Police Department."

The city, right on the water southwest of Biloxi, was almost leveled by Hurricane Katrina. Residents there said they felt forgotten, abandoned and neglected.

"They were devastated before they were banging on the door of the R.V.," registered nurse Cindee Wade said.

Katrina's victims were wheeled to these doctors in shopping carts or carried by relatives.

People brought injured hurricane victims to the doctors and nurse from St. Augustine any way they could.

The doctors said one woman in a wheelchair would have died without kidney dialysis. The St Augustine crew arranged to have her taken by air ambulance to a hospital in Mobile.

"It was incredible. We had tears; we had hugs," HealthSouth physician Dr. Robert de la Torre told Channel 4's Bruce Hamilton. "We saw all kinds of people just grateful for us being there."

The doctors and nurses left wishing they could stay longer, so they're organizing another relief effort and plan a return trip.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Saving Venice From Itself

Anti-capitalist protesters yesterday took on the Venice dam project. ANSA reports about 200 young anti-globalists staged a sit-in at the site where preliminary works are under way on the MOSE barrier scheme. Protesters sounded car-horns, shouted slogans and waved banners saying "Let's Stop The Eco-Monster" and "Mose Is Eating Up Venice." According to Ireland On Line, demonstrators have been holding daily protests during the Venice Film Festival.

Work on the project had to stop because of the protest and there was damage to machinery, including electric and hydraulic systems, said the New Venice Consortium, the government agency created to oversee the project.

The protest came a day after Veneto Governor Giancarlo Galan warned Venice "could suffer the fate of New Orleans" if a centre-left government comes to power next year. He claimed any new centre-left government would pull the plug on a project that "offers the only hope of making Venice and its lagoon safe for good."

Galan's statement stirred a wave of protests from opponents of the plan who believe only alternative projects can save Venice.

Last month an environmentalists' report said the project violated European Union environmental directives regarding sites of European importance.

Another report identified 19 violations of municipal, regional and European environmental laws.

The Moses project comprises 79 barriers, designed to rise from the seabed to block the lagoon from the Adriatic Sea when high tides are forecast. The threat to Venice appears to be increasing as heavier rains have hit northern Italy in recent years, weather experts say. Experts say there are three main reasons for high water in the city: the rising floor in the lagoon caused by incoming silt; the undermining of the islands by the extraction of methane gas in the sea off Venice; and the overall increase in sea levels caused by global warming.

Greenpeace, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), and a slew of environmentalists have condemned the plan which they say will not only fail to halt the island's sinking, but will also upset the region's already delicate ecological balance.

By periodically shutting off currents into and out of the lagoon, pollution levels will rise to dangerous levels, they say, and when the gates are reopened, the water will come pouring back in, causing damaging waves.

Both groups have said a more sensible solution would be to shut down a deep canal whose dredging has increased the flow of sea water to the region and eroded the floor of the lagoon.

Italia Nostra is the oldest national association for the defense of Italy's historical, cultural and environmental heritage. The group opposes the huge dam system proposed for Venice and its Lagoon. First, it says, for a central principle: the Lagoon's environmental imbalance is a cause of flooding in Venice, and this has to be addressed before considering a Pharaonic project that could aggravate the problem.

In addition to this fundamental objection, Italia Nostra has dozens of reasons for opposing this costly project. they are:

Environmental impacts

1. To anchor the huge dams on the sea bed, the construction companies would excavate about five million cubic meters of sediment, including parts of the hard layer of clay on which Venice itself rests.

2. Into the huge cavities to be dug in the Lagoon, the builders would then dump over 12,000 cement piles, over eight million tons of rock (enough to build the Great Pyramids at Giza!) for the foundations of their dams. They would also sink 50,000 tons of sheet metal for the underwater dams.

3. Just for construction, a further 10 hectares (25 acres) of Lagoon would be excavated.

4. A huge flotilla of barges and ships will be necessary to remove the excavated material and bring in the rock, cement and metal.

5. The Lido Outlet would be transformed with the creation of an artificial island, 9 hectares (22 acres) in size, for buildings and workshops, as well as a 20 meter (60 foot) high smokestack.

6. The coastline would be devastated at Ca'Roman, whose beaches are protected as a natural area under EU law.

7. Before the dams actually start operation, Venetians will have to undergo at least eight years of construction with high environmental impacts (for example, the sediment released to the Lagoon's waters could devastate shellfish harvested.)

8. When the dams are completed, anodes to protect their huge metals gates will release about 10 tons of zinc into the Lagoon each year. The toxic metal could accumulate in the food chain.

9. Construction will cost an estimated 3.7 billion Euros. In comparison, restoring the Lagoon's environmental balance would cost little.

10. Maintenance and operation of the dams will cost millions more each year. For example, up to 35 kilos (75 pounds) of mollusks and other animals and plants will encrust each square meter of metal gate. These will need regular cleaning. Moreover, every five years, each gate will need to be removed. The Lagoon will be become a permanent building site.

Will it be effective?

11. The colossal dams will render permanent the Lagoon's environmental imbalance: the deep channels dredged in the last century through its outlets will become concrete. The erosion that is now eating away the Lagoon's precious wetlands would become permanent, and this rich coastal lagoon, protected by European law, would be transformed into an area of open sea.

12. The dams may not even protect Venice! In the case of significant sea-level rise of 50 cm (20 inches) or more - according to scientists such as Venice's own Paolo Antonio Pirazzoli - they will not be effective.

13. The dams may not protect Venice in the case of exceptional events like the devastating 1966 flood. Water would steadily pass between the individual gates. Moreover, torrential rains on the mainland would also pour into the Lagoon, as in 1966.

14. Another risk is that oscillation of the individual gates in the face of heavy seas would allow through more water and may in extreme cases result in a complete breakdown of the system.

15. For smaller flooding events, on the other hand, the dams would not be used. At present, the dams would be raised only for the highest tides (those +110 cm above median sea level). In 2002, low-lying areas of Venice, in particular St. Mark's Square, were repeatedly flooded by these lesser events.

16. Italy's environmental impact commission also warned that the maintenance of this huge, underwater structure could face unexpected difficulties.
Legal issues

17. Italy's special laws for Venice call for the restoration of the Lagoon's environmental balance, the elimination of petrol tankers and the opening of the fishing valleys - before building any dam structure. Italy's cabinet reaffirmed these priorities in March 2001. None have happened.

18. The special laws also call for public works that are testable, reversible and gradual. The huge dam project has none of these characteristics: it will be a rigid system, cemented permanently into the Lagoon bed.

19. The national Environmental Impact Assessment Commission gave the dam project a negative assessment in 1998 (legal maneuvers invalidated the subsequent formal Minister's decree - but not the assessment itself). The dam builders are starting construction on initial, "complementary" works, approved only by a regional commission. Italia Nostra argues - in court - that only the National Commission can approve these works.

The monopoly problem

20. The dams' builders, the New Venice Consortium, hold an "exclusive concession" - essentially a form of monopoly - on studying, designing and building public works in the Lagoon of Venice. Private companies have a natural and legitimate interest to compete and make profits in the marketplace. Major public policy decisions, however, need good government and transparency to ensure that the public good is protect. For large public works, both design and construction should be open to competitive bidding (under EU and even Italian law). For complex works, design and construction may be combined - but again with open competition. In Venice, the "exclusive concessionaire" has never faced competition. Moreover, the builders were also in charge of most preliminary scientific and technical studies, which could have been used to develop and evaluate alternative approaches.

21. The builders dominate public information about flooding in Venice. Their information centre, press office and high-quality videos and materials present beautiful images of the dam project with hardly any discussion of its impacts and risks.

Missing studies

22. The national Environmental Impact Assessment Commission identified a series of important issues that need to be studied. These include: predicting exceptional tide events; assessing environmental risks; studying the sediment layers to be excavated; and reviewing the changes in the Lagoon's dynamics the dams would create.

The wrong approach

23. The Lagoon, goes an ancient saying in Venice, has a thousand names. Italy's National Environmental Impact Assessment Commission warned that Venice can not be protected without "complex management of the Lagoon system". This "system" includes the city itself, surrounding islands, salt marshes and other key ecosystems, as well as the mainland area whose waters flow into the Lagoon. It needs "an articulated union of works and actions" that are testable, reversible and gradual, according to the Commission. Instead, the dams try to address the problem of high tides with one single, huge project.

24. For centuries, Venice and Venetians have intervened in the Lagoon with extreme prudence. All works were extensively tested and discussed. Today, this prudence and the underlying respect for the complexity of an exceptional ecosystem are as indispensable as ever.

Italia Nostra says there are alternatives to the huge and costly dams. These alternatives not only can protect Venice, but also can restore the Lagoon's natural balance. Here is an outline of key measures that need to be taken.

An Action Plan to Protect Venice

At the Lagoon's three outlets to the sea:

• Reduce the depth and cross-section of the Lagoon's outlets with flexible, reversible methods. Reduce also the depth of the shipping channels that cut through the Lagoon, in particular the oil tanker channel to Marghera. Recent studies have shown that these measures would significantly slow high tides rushing toward Venice, thus reducing flooding - a fact that the Consortium behind the dams has finally admitted.

• Remove oil tanker traffic from the Lagoon, and construct an outer port alongside the Lido island for the largest cruise ships, similar to the one already built in Monte Carlo. Then the huge tankers and cruise ships would not enter the Lagoon, allowing shallower channels. These measures are also important in and of themselves. Already in 1973, an Italian law calls for the removal of oil tankers from the fragile Lagoon! And the huge cruise ships that now pass St. Mark's Square dwarf the city and risk eroding its foundations.

• Build new jetties outside the Lagoon to block the southern winds that create tide surges.

• Develop compatible projects to close the Lagoon's outlets in the event of extreme surges. The Venice City Council recently reviewed a proposal called ARCA, which effectively reverses the Consortium's dams and their heavy environmental impacts: instead of gates in huge underwater foundations, ARCA proposes floating structures that can be filled with water and sunk in place when needed.

• Study future methods of coastal protection in case of severe sea-level rise.

And throughout the Lagoon and surrounding areas:

• Continue and expand local measures against flooding, such as ongoing work to raise streets in Venice. Most important is the protection of St. Mark's Square, one of Venice's lowest points.

• Prohibit natural gas extraction in the upper Adriatic and its risk of further subsidence (falling land levels).

• Re-open the "fishing valleys" to the tides (though preserving their fish farming), as well as other areas. This would allow exceptional tides to expand further in the Lagoon, reducing flooding in Venice.

• Reduce risks of flooding on the mainland - in heavy rains, flood waters can flow into the Lagoon and towards Venice.

• Protect and recover the Lagoon's eroded salt marshes with environmental engineering techniques, instead the coarse methods historically used by the Consortium. A 1999 LIFE Project, financed by the European Commission, tested techniques for salt marsh recovery.

• Reduce motorboat traffic, whose waves and screw wash erode salt marshes (as well as Venice's foundations).

• Cut water pollution in the Lagoon. The deep channels and strong currents have had one positive effect, flushing heavy pollution out of the Lagoon. Along with healing these deep cuts and restoring the Lagoon's equilibrium, pollution to the Lagoon (from industry, urban centers and intensive agriculture) has to be reduced.

• Expand monitoring in the Lagoon and throughout the upper Adriatic to track sea-level rise.

• Renew experiments to raise Venice and the islands of the Lagoon, following earlier tests on the island of Poveglia.

The equilibrium between sea and Lagoon, between land and water and between fresh and salt water "is the reason that the environmental and human mosaic that defines the Lagoon itself has survived", according to Italy's National Environmental Impact Commission. The Commission concluded that this equilibrium can only be guaranteed with an "articulated system of works and actions" that are testable, reversible and gradual, as Italy's laws for Venice require. Sources: ANSA (Italy), ITALIA NOSTRA, Venice Chapter, Ireland On Line, Planet Ark

Papua's Brutal Police

Police in New Guinea are responding to crime there with crimes of their own. That’s what Human Rights Watch is reporting today in a 124 page report, "Making Their Own Rules': Police Beatings, Rape, and Torture of Children in Papua New Guinea."

The report tells the story of children being shot, knifed and beaten by police. It tells of some being forced to chew and swallow condoms, others gang raped in police stations and detained with adults in conditions described as “awful.”

"Extreme physical violence is business as usual for the Papua New Guinea police," said Zama Coursen-Neff, senior researcher for Human Rights Watch's Children's Rights Division. "Instead of protecting the public and children from violence, it is the police who are committing some of the most heinous acts of violence imaginable."

Australia, Papua New Guinea’s largest foreign donor directs much of its aid to the police force, yet according to Human Rights Watch, “…Australia does not make promotion of human rights an explicit purpose or condition of its aid.”

The Age reports, an Australian Foreign Affairs Department spokesman said the Government was aware of the report and was concerned about allegations of police violence referred to in it.

Human Rights Watch said that police abuses, such as police rape, targeting of sex workers and men and boys engaged in homosexual conduct, and harassment of people carrying condoms, may also fuel Papua New Guinea's burgeoning AIDS epidemic. These acts may spread the disease, deter people from carrying condoms, and drive marginalized populations underground and away from potentially lifesaving information on HIV prevention and health services. Experts believe that at least 80,000 people are living with HIV in Papua New Guinea-including 3 to 4 percent of adults in the capital-the highest rates in the region.

The report says during a raid of a venue called the Three-Mile Guesthouse in the capital, Port Moresby, in March 2004, police beat, sexually assaulted and humiliated women and girls, some of whom were prostitutes, forcing many of them to eat condoms, the report said. Several women were arrested and taken to a police station where at least four were gang raped by police, one victim told Human Rights Watch.

"Human rights abuses by the police are undermining desperately-needed HIV/AIDS prevention measures by the government, civil society and international donors," said Coursen-Neff.

Coursen-Neff also said, "There is no more important government responsibility than protecting children and other vulnerable people from violence. If the government is serious about the protection of children, it must start holding accountable police who beat, rape and torture children."

Bire Kimisopa, the Security Minister for the troubled Pacific nation that sprawls across mountainous jungle-clad islands just north of Australia, said police brutality is "…something we cannot hide from. It is simply because we have lost our way in the last 10, 20 years.”

Papua’s Post Courier Report writes that Kimisopa said the report was consistent with the constabulary’s review, but the issues were the signs of major problems that the constabulary had experienced over the years. “It clearly pointed out a number of things that we have not been able to deal with,” Kimisopa said. He said these included police housing, training and the ethical issues that police needed to be taught consistently “so that when it comes to discharging of lawful responsibilities, they know their ethical boundaries”.

Kimisopa said while the report highlights the police, there is more to the problem of human rights. He said human rights abuse was everywhere and not confined to the PNG police force. An example was at hospitals where people had died because they had waited for doctors for a considerable time. Sources: Sources: Radio Australia, Newsday, Alert Net, HRW, Post Courier Report (Papua), The Age (Australia)

Bush To Lead Investigation of Bush

President Bush this morning promised to lead an investigation of himself, “…because it is important.”

Bush hopes to find out why Bush flew quickly to San Diego in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and why, while there, Bush attempted to play the guitar.

Bush also hopes to find out why Bush cut funds to levee rehabilitation in Louisiana.

Further Bush hopes to discover the reason Bush appointed a horse association boss to run FEMA and why Bush cut funds to the organization as well.

Bush will investigate the reasons for Bush’s high praise of the Dept. of Homeland Security’s and Fema’s response to the catastrophe on the Gulf Coast while thousands were left to fend for themselves for days on end.

Bush wants to know what Bush was doing at a retirment community on August 29 and just why Bush was holding a birthday cake for John McCaine that day, as well.

Bush wants to figure out just why Bush never realized a Category 4 storm could flood New Oreleans when everyone else in the country knew.

Bush will look into the reasons Bush has refused to take seriously the loss of marsh lands along the Louisiana Coast and why Bush thinks global warming is a sham.

Bush also wants to know how all those national guardsmen and women got to Iraq and what they are up to there.

Bush wants to know why Bush supports Judge Michael Chernoff and exactly why Bush appointed him head of Homeland Security to begin with.

Bush also will investiage why Bush never knew there were poor people around anyway.

Bush also intends to find out once and for all just what Bush is always smiling about.

Finally, Bush plans to discover just why the front porch of Sen. Trent Lott’s home was allowed to be destroyed.

In other words the Bush committee will get to the bottom of Bush’s bottom.

Bush Telling It Like It Is

"We got a lot of rebuilding to do.... the good news is and it's hard for some to see it now but out of this chaos is going to come a fantastic gulf coast... out of the rubbles of Trent Lott's house -- the guy lost his entire house -- there's going to be fantastic house. I look forward to sitting on the porch."

George W. Bush, President of the United States, Sept. 2, 2005

Monday, September 05, 2005

"Merely sticking people in a stadium is unthinkable"

From Truthout

The Two Americas
By Marjorie Cohn
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Saturday 03 September 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."

"Merely sticking people in a stadium is unthinkable" in Cuba, Valdes said. "Shelters all have medical personnel, from the neighborhood. They have family doctors in Cuba, who evacuate together with the neighborhood, and already know, for example, who needs insulin."

They also evacuate animals and veterinarians, TV sets and refrigerators, "so that people aren't reluctant to leave because people might steal their stuff," Valdes observed.

After Hurricane Ivan, the United Nations International Secretariat for Disaster Reduction cited Cuba as a model for hurricane preparation. ISDR director Salvano Briceno said, "The Cuban way could easily be applied to other countries with similar economic conditions and even in countries with greater resources that do not manage to protect their population as well as Cuba does."

Our federal and local governments had more than ample warning that hurricanes, which are growing in intensity thanks to global warming, could destroy New Orleans. Yet, instead of heeding those warnings, Bush set about to prevent states from controlling global warming, weaken FEMA, and cut the Army Corps of Engineers' budget for levee construction in New Orleans by $71.2 million, a 44 percent reduction.

Bush sent nearly half our National Guard troops and high-water Humvees to fight in an unnecessary war in Iraq. Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for Jefferson Paris in New Orleans, noted a year ago, "It appears that the money has been moved in the president's budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq."

An Editor and Publisher article Wednesday said the Army Corps of Engineers "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," which caused a slowdown of work on flood control and sinking levees.

"This storm was much greater than protection we were authorized to provide," said Alfred C. Naomi, a senior project manager in the New Orleans district of the corps.

Unlike in Cuba, where homeland security means keeping the country secure from deadly natural disasters as well as foreign invasions, Bush has failed to keep our people safe. "On a fundamental level," Paul Krugman wrote in yesterday's New York Times, "our current leaders just aren't serious about some of the essential functions of government. They like waging war, but they don't like providing security, rescuing those in need or spending on prevention measures. And they never, ever ask for shared sacrifice."

During the 2004 election campaign, vice presidential candidate John Edwards spoke of "the two Americas." It seems unfathomable how people can shoot at rescue workers. Yet, after the beating of Rodney King aired on televisions across the country, poor, desperate, hungry people in Watts took over their neighborhoods, burning and looting. Their anger, which had seethed below the surface for so long, erupted. That's what's happening now in New Orleans. And we, mostly white, people of privilege, rarely catch a glimpse of this other America.

"I think a lot of it has to do with race and class," said Rev. Calvin O. Butts III, pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem. "The people affected were largely poor people. Poor, black people."

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin reached a breaking point Thursday night. "You mean to tell me that a place where you probably have thousands of people that have died and thousands more that are dying every day, that we can't figure out a way to authorize the resources we need? Come on, man!"

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff had boasted earlier in the day that FEMA and other federal agencies have done a "magnificent job" under the circumstances.

But, said, Nagin, "They're feeding the people a line of bull, and they are spinning and people are dying. Get off your asses and let's do something!"

When asked about the looting, the mayor said that except for a few "knuckleheads," it is the result of desperate people trying to find food and water to survive.

Nagin blamed the outbreak of violence and crime on drug addicts who have been cut off from their drug supplies, wandering the city, "looking to take the edge off their jones."

When Hurricane Ivan hit Cuba, no curfew was imposed; yet, no looting or violence took place. Everyone was in the same boat.

Fidel Castro, who has compared his government's preparations for Hurricane Ivan to the island's long-standing preparations for an invasion by the United States, said, "We've been preparing for this for 45 years."

On Thursday, Cuba's National Assembly sent a message of solidarity to the victims of Hurricane Katrina. It says the Cuban people have followed closely the news of the hurricane damage in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, and the news has caused pain and sadness. The message notes that the hardest hit are African-Americans, Latino workers, and the poor, who still wait to be rescued and taken to secure places, and who have suffered the most fatalities and homelessness. The message concludes by saying that the entire world must feel this tragedy as its own.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Odds and Ends

Knight Ridder Exposes Horsey Background of FEMA Chief

By E&P Staff

Published: September 04, 2005 10:00 AM ET

NEW YORK So who is Michael Brown, now catching all kinds of criticism for his handling of the catastrophe in New Orleans? It seems his primary career experience before nabbing a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) post was running a Arabian horse association. An article by Matt Stearns and Seth Borenstein for Knght Ridder Newspapers observes, "there was little in Michael D. Brown's background to prepare him for the fury of Hurricane Katrina."

The reporters quote Kate Hale, former Miami-Dade
emergency management chief: "He's done a hell of a job, because I'm not aware of any Arabian horses being killed in this storm. The world that this man operated in and
the focus of this work does not in any way translate to this. He does not have the experience."

During the 1990s, Brown served as judges and stewards commissioner of the International Arabian Horse Association. His job was to ensure that horse-show judges followed the rules and to investigate allegations against those suspected of cheating. "I wouldn't have regarded his position in the horse industry as a platform to where he is now," said Tom Connelly, a former association president. The reporter refer to Brown's stormy years with the horses as a "rocky tenure." Some have claimed that he was fired from his post.

But Brown knew Joe Allbaugh, President Bush's 2000
campaign manager. Allbaugh took over FEMA in 2001, and hired Brown as general counsel.
Cheney to Clean Up

The Navy announced yesterday that Vice President Cheney's former company, Halliburton, which has handled much of the repair work as well as support services for the U.S. military in Iraq, was hired to restore power and rebuild three naval facilities in Mississippi that were wrecked by Katrina.

Guard Plays Cards

New Orleans deputy police commander W.S. Riley said that for the first three days after Monday's storm, which is believed to have killed several thousand people, the police and fire departments and some volunteers had been alone in trying to rescue people.

"We expected a lot more support from the federal government. We expected the government to respond within 24 hours. The first three days we had no assistance," he told AFP in an interview.

Riley went on: "We have been fired on with automatic weapons. We still have some thugs around. My biggest disappointment is with the federal government and the National Guard.

"The guard arrived 48 hours after the hurricane with 40 trucks. They drove their trucks in and went to sleep.

"For 72 hours this police department and the fire department and handful of citizens were alone rescuing people. We have people who died while the National Guard sat and played cards. I understand why we are not winning the war in Iraq if this is what we have."


Gone Fishing

George Bush was vacationing in Texas, after a few side trips to Utah, Idaho and California. Dick Cheney was in Wyoming, and White House Chief of Staff Andy Card was in Maine.

They got together on the telephone and "video-conferenced," but nobody thought it important enough to take a firsthand look at the destruction left in the wake of Hurricane Katrina until days after the disaster.

Meanwhile, the survivors of the most expensive, if not most devastating, natural disaster ever to hit the United States, were stranded.


Editorial: Not Acceptable

The Times-Picayune Editorial Board

A day after a normally easy-going Mayor Ray Nagin blasted federal officials' seeming indifference to the plight of New Orleanians who are stranded and dying, President Bush stood on the lawn of the White House and conceded the point: The federal government did not move quickly enough or forcefully enough to help those people hit hardest by Hurricane Katrina. "The results are not acceptable," the president said before boarding a helicopter to go survey the storm's damage.

It's good to hear the president admit his administration's shortcomings, and it's even better to hear his promise to help all of us who are in need. But the sad truth remains that the federal government's slow start has already proved fatal to some of the most vulnerable people in the New Orleans area. Water has killed hundreds, if not thousands, of people. A lack of water to drink is exacting its toll on others.

"I don't want to see anybody do anymore goddamn press conferences," the mayor said during a WWL radio interview Thursday. "Put a moratorium on press conferences. Don't do another press conference until the resources are in this city."

The mayor had obviously become fed up with federal bureaucrats' use of future tense verbs. "Don't tell me 40,000 people are coming here," he said. "They're not here. It's too doggone late. Now get off your asses and do something, and let's fix the biggest goddamn crisis in the history of this country."

We applaud the mayor for giving voice to an entire city's frustration. How could the most powerful and technologically advanced nation in the history of the world have responded so feebly to this crisis?

The president's admission of his administration's mistakes will mean nothing unless the promised help is deployed immediately. Each life is precious, and there isn't a second chance to save a single one of them. No more talk of what's going to happen. We only want to hear what is being done. The lives of our people depend on it.

Cuba Offers 1,100 Doctors to Help Katrina Victims

Havana, Sept 2 (AIN) Cuban President Fidel Castro offered to send 1,100 experienced doctors in the coming hours to aid the Gulf State victims of Hurricane Katrina.

The Cuban leader announced that the first 100 doctors are ready to depart as early as Saturday morning for Houston's International Airport, the closest major facility to the disaster area.

>From there, he said, the medical personnel could be transported by air, water or land to the neighborhoods of New Orleans where they are most needed.

Speaking on Cuban television's nightly The Round Table program, President Castro said the medical personnel would each be equipped with basic medical equipment and 24 kilos of essential medicines necessary to save lives.

He said the doctors could work individually or in teams of two or more, according to the circumstances, and would stay for as long as they are needed.

Another 500 doctors would be ready to leave for Houston by Saturday afternoon and 500 more could depart Havana as early as Sunday morning, said Fidel Castro.

In summing up the island's offer to assist the hurricane victims, the Cuban president stressed that the total of 1,100 doctors would also take with them years of international experience and the basic knowledge of the English language to assist patients in New Orleans and other areas of Louisiana.


Daley 'shocked' at federal snub of offers to help

Tribune staff reports
Published September 2, 2005, 10:24 PM CDT

Frustration about the federal response to Hurricane Katrina has reached Chicago City Hall, as Mayor Richard Daley today noted a tepid response by federal officials to the city's offers of disaster aid.

The city is willing to send hundreds of personnel, including firefighters and police, and dozens of vehicles to assist on the storm-battered Gulf Coast, but so far the Federal Emergency Management Agency has requested only a single tank truck, Daley said.

"I was shocked," he said.

"We are ready to provide considerably more help than they have requested," the mayor said, barely able to contain his anger during a City Hall news conference. "We are just waiting for the call."

The mayor's remarks came at the announcement of a city-sponsored "Chicago Helps Fund," which will accept donations from citizens for the hurricane relief effort.

"The people we see suffering on television are our brothers and sisters," Daley said. "It's incumbent on all of us, as American citizens and fellow human beings, to do our part to help them through this terrible tragedy."

Donations to the Chicago Helps Fund can be made by cash or check at any J.P. Morgan Bank One branch or by sending a check to Chicago Helps, 38891 Eagle Way, Chicago IL 60678-1338. A toll-free telephone number will be announced later for those wishing to donate by credit card.

Asked if he believes Washington has bungled the job, Daley replied, "I think the president this morning said it publicly—which is smart—they don't think they responded as quickly as possible. ... Now, after that, let's do it. … I don't want to sit here and all of a sudden we are all going to be political—we are going to criticize this one or that. Just get it done."

Additionally, this weekend, Chicago firefighters will "pass the boot" at major intersections, and donations will be requested during the Chicago Jazz Festival in Grant Park, Daley said.

Also, the Chicago Football Classic on Saturday will donate a portion of its proceeds to the relief effort. And the Department on Aging is sending a "Meals on Wheels" truck to the Gulf Coast region with food, blankets and other necessities for seniors.

But the city is prepared to do far more, Daley said.

Even before the storm hit the Gulf Coast on Monday, he said, the city's Office of Emergency Management and Communications had contacted emergency response agencies in Illinois and Washington.

In the event of a disaster, the city offered to send 44 Chicago Fire Department rescue and medical personnel and their gear, more than 100 Chicago police officers, 140 Streets and Sanitation, 146 Public Health and 8 Human Services workers, and a fleet of vehicles including 29 trucks, two boats and a mobile clinic.

"So far FEMA has requested only one piece of equipment {ndash} a tank truck to support the Illinois Emergency Response Team, which is already down there," Daley said. "The tank truck is on its way. We are awaiting further instructions from FEMA."