Saturday, September 03, 2005

No News is Bad News

No News is Bad News: CNN's Evacuation of New Orleans

PEJ News - C. L. Cook – The message has trickled from the Atlanta corporate head office of CNN: In the Age of Rage, the flagship of American television journalism is to desert its post; as have hundreds of police and fire-fighters in New Orleans. If you have, as have I, been monitoring the coverage of the unprecedented disaster unfolding in the American south these last days, you may have noticed: CNN’s coverage consists today of almost entirely re-cycled footage and heart-tearing stories, while ignoring the real situation on the ground in that God-damned city.

No News is Bad News:
CNN’s Evacuation of New Orleans

C. L. Cook

PEJ News
September 3, 2005

True, there have been approbations, but the decidedly angry-toned reports from “interns” in the field, so vividly depicting the Biblical scope and extent of the impacts of this disaster are now being subsumed by the accepted truth of the situation. Flaccid reports of inconveniences suffered by distant commuters, now paying unprecedented prices at the gas pump currently take precedence to true tales of those afflicted.

There’s little acknowledgement of America’s now nascent “Age of Rage.” Coming amidst this meteorological disaster, America itself is coming under increasing scrutiny. The system that would have itself replicated throughout the world is today, a shamble that underscores the rampant pollution that is its promise for the rest of the globe.

It is clear, as George W. Bush may say, that a caring federal government will come to the rescue, in the meantime, the misery of those people on the water-rich streets of New Orleans are left unimpressed. Fully five days after Katrina’s descent on the city, only now (Sept. 3) food and water being delivered to the stranded makes small amends for the too obvious agandonment of the city's citizenry. Stranded citizen already described as “criminals” and “the worst of the worst.”

Troubling, perhaps, to the thousands of ordinary citizens forced to “loot” grocery stores for the staples of daily life, in light of recent “shoot-to-kill” orders issued to National Guard being deployed to the area. But, not to worry; CNN reports, “the Sooners won today, despite being touted to lose.

These people, derided as shiftless layabouts, unwilling to heed official dictates to leave the ultimately doomed city, are now being painted as villains, worthy of the horrors similar to America’s war zones so soon to befall them.

It’s no wonder CNN has fallen silent.

Chris Cook hosts Gorilla Radio, broad/webcast from the University of Victoria. He’s also a contributing editor to, where you can read his dispatches on this, and other disasters.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

New Orleans and the Death of the Common Good

The Perfect Storm
New Orleans and the Death of the Common Good

"The river rose all day,
The river rose all night.
Some people got lost in the flood,
Some people got away all right.
The river have busted through clear down to Plaquemine:
Six feet of water in the streets of Evangeline.

"Louisiana, Louisiana,
They're trying to wash us away,
They're trying to wash us away."

-- Randy Newman, Louisiana 1927

The destruction of New Orleans represents a confluence of many of the most pernicious trends in American politics and culture: poverty, racism, militarism, elitist greed, environmental abuse, public corruption and the decay of democracy at every level.

Much of this is embodied in the odd phrasing that even the most circumspect mainstream media sources have been using to describe the hardest-hit victims of the storm and its devastating aftermath: "those who chose to stay behind." Instantly, the situation has been framed with language to flatter the prejudices of the comfortable and deny the reality of the most vulnerable.

It is obvious that the vast majority of those who failed to evacuate are poor: they had nowhere else to go, no way to get there, no means to sustain themselves and their families on strange ground. While there were certainly people who stayed behind by choice, most stayed behind because they had no choice. They were trapped by their poverty ­ and many have paid the price with their lives.

Yet across the media spectrum, the faint hint of disapproval drips from the affluent observers, the clear implication that the victims were just too lazy and shiftless to get out of harm's way. There is simply no understanding ­ not even an attempt at understanding ­ the destitution, the isolation, the immobility of the poor and the sick and the broken among us.

This is from the "respectable" media; the great right-wing echo chamber was even less restrained, of course, leaping straight into giddy convulsions of racism at the first reports of looting in the devastated city. In the pinched-gonad squeals of Rush Limbaugh and his fellow hatemongers, the hard-right media immediately conjured up images of wild-eyed darkies rampaging through the streets in an orgy of violence and thievery.

Not that the mainstreamers ignored the racist angle. There was the already infamous juxtaposition of captions for wire service photos, where depictions of essentially the same scene ­ desperate people wading through flood waters, clutching plastic bags full of groceries ­ were given markedly different spins. In one picture, a white couple are described as struggling along after finding bread and soda at a grocery store. But beneath an almost identical photo of a young black man with a bag of groceries, we are told that a "looter" wades through the streets after robbing a grocery store. In the photo I saw, this evil miscreant also had a ­ gasp! ­ pack of diapers under his arm.

Almost all of the early "looting" was like this: desperate people ­ of all colors ­ stranded by the floodwaters broke into abandoned stores and carried off food, clean water, medicine, clothes. Perhaps they should have left a check on the counter, but then again ­ what exactly was going to happen to all those perishables and consumer goods, sitting around in fetid, diseased water for weeks on end? (The mayor now says it could be up to 16 weeks before people can return to their homes and businesses.) Obviously, most if not all of it would have been thrown away or written off in any case. Later, of course, there was more organized looting by criminal gangs, the type of lawless element ­ of every hue, in every society ­ whose chief victims are, of course, the poor and vulnerable. These criminal operations were quickly conflated with the earlier pilferage to paint a single seamless picture of the American media's favorite horror story: Black Folk Gone Wild.

But here again another question was left unasked: Where were the resources ­ the money, manpower, materiel, transport ­ that could have removed all those forced to stay behind, and given them someplace safe and sustaining to take shelter? Where, indeed, were the resources that could have bolstered the city's defenses and shored up its levees? Where were the National Guard troops that could have secured the streets and directed survivors to food and aid? Where were the public resources ­ the physical manifestation of the citizenry's commitment to the common good ­ that could have greatly mitigated the brutal effects of this natural disaster?

"President Coolidge came down here in a railroad train,
With a little fat man with a notebook in his hand.
The president say, "Little fat man, isn't it a shame
What the river has done to this poor cracker's land?"

Well, we all know what happened to those vital resources. They had been cut back, stripped down, gutted, pilfered ­ looted ­ to pay for a war of aggression, to pay for a tax cut for the wealthiest, safest, most protected Americans, to gorge the coffers of a small number of private and corporate fortunes, while letting the public sector ­ the common good ­ wither and die on the vine. These were all specific actions of the Bush Administration ­ including the devastating budget cuts on projects specifically designed to bolster New Orleans' defenses against a catastrophic hurricane. Bush even cut money for strengthening the very levees that broke and delivered the deathblow to the city. All this, in the face of specific warnings of what would happen if these measures were neglected: the city would go down "under 20 feet of water," one expert predicted just a few weeks ago.

But Bush said there was no money for this kind of folderol anymore. The federal budget had been busted by his tax cuts and his war. And this was a deliberate policy: as Bush's mentor Grover Norquist famously put it, the whole Bushist ethos was to starve the federal government of funds, shrinking it down so "we can drown it in the bathtub." As it turned out, the bathtub wasn't quite big enough -- so they drowned it in the streets of New Orleans instead.

But as culpable, criminal and loathsome as the Bush Administration is, it is only the apotheosis of an overarching trend in American society that has been gathering force for decades: the destruction of the idea of a common good, a public sector whose benefits and responsibilities are shared by all, and directed by the consent of the governed. For more than 30 years, the corporate Right has waged a relentless and highly focused campaign against the common good, seeking to atomize individuals into isolated "consumer units" whose political energies ­ kept deliberately underinformed by the ubiquitous corporate media ­ can be diverted into emotionalized "hot button" issues (gay marriage, school prayer, intelligent design, flag burning, welfare queens, drugs, porn, abortion, teen sex, commie subversion, terrorist threats, etc., etc.) that never threaten Big Money's bottom line.

Again deliberately, with smear, spin and sham, they have sought ­ and succeeded ­ in poisoning the well of the democratic process, turning it into a tabloid melee where only "character counts" while the rapacious policies of Big Money's bought-and-sold candidates are completely ignored. As Big Money solidified its ascendancy over government, pouring billions ­ over and under the table ­ into campaign coffers, politicians could ignore larger and larger swathes of the people. If you can't hook yourself up to a well-funded, coffer-filling interest group, if you can't hire a big-time Beltway player to lobby your cause and get you "a seat at the table," then your voice goes unheard, your concerns are shunted aside. (Apart from a few cynical gestures around election-time, of course.) The poor, the sick, the weak, the vulnerable have become invisible ­ in the media, in the corporate boardroom, "at the table" of the power players in national, state and local governments. The increasingly marginalized and unstable middle class is also fading from the consciousness of the rulers, whose servicing of the elite goes more brazen and frantic all the time.

When unbridled commercial development of delicately balanced environments like the Mississippi Delta is bruited "at the table," whose voice is heard? Not the poor, who, as we have seen this week, will overwhelmingly bear the brunt of the overstressed environment. And not the middle class, who might opt for the security of safer, saner development policies to protect their hard-won homes and businesses. No, the only voice that matters is that of the developers themselves, and the elite investors who stand behind them.

"Louisiana, Louisiana,
They're trying to wash us away"

The destruction of New Orleans was a work of nature ­ but a nature that has been worked upon by human hands and human policies. As global climate change continues its deadly symbiosis with unbridled commercial development for elite profit, we will see more such destruction, far more, on an even more devastating scale. As the harsh, aggressive militarism and brutal corporate ethos that Bush has injected into the mainstream of American society continues to spread its poison, we will see fewer and fewer resources available to nurture the common good. As the political process becomes more and more corrupt, ever more a creation of elite puppetmasters and their craven bagmen, we will see the poor and the weak and even the middle class driven further and further into the low ground of society, where every passing storm ­ economic, political, natural ­ will threaten their homes, their livelihoods, their very existence.

"Louisiana, Louisiana,
They're trying to wash us away
They're trying to wash us away
They're trying to wash us away
They're trying to wash us away"

Chris Floyd is a columnist for The Moscow Times and regular contributor to CounterPunch. A new, upgraded version of his blog, "Empire Burlesque," can be found at

John Bolton: Undoing the UN

A Declaration Of War

Phyllis Bennis

08/31/05 "" -- -- The Bush administration has declared war on the world.

The 450 changes that Washington is demanding to the action agenda that will culminate at the September 2005 United Nations summit don’t represent U.N. reform. They are a clear onslaught against any move that could strengthen the United Nations or international law.

The upcoming summit was supposed to focus on strengthening and reforming the U.N. and address issues of aid and development, with a particular emphasis on implementing the U.N.'s five-year-old Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Most assumed this would be a forum for dialogue and debate, involving civil society activists from around the world challenging governments from the impoverished South and the wealthy North and the United Nations to create a viable global campaign against poverty and for internationalism.

But now, there’s a different and even greater challenge. This is a declaration of U.S. unilateralism, uncompromising and ascendant. The United States has issued an open threat to the 190 other U.N. member states, the social movements and peoples of the entire world, and the United Nations itself. And it will take a quick and unofficially collaborative effort between all three of those elements to challenge the Bush administration juggernaut.

The General Assembly's package of proposed reforms, emerging after nine months of negotiations ahead of the summit, begins with new commitments to implement the Millennium Development Goals—established in 2000 as a set of international commitments aimed at reducing poverty by 2015. They were always insufficient, yet as weak as they are, they have yet to be implemented. The 2005 Millennium Plus Five summit intended to shore up the unmet commitments to those goals. In his reform proposals of March 2005, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan called on governments north and south to see the implementation of the MDGs as a minimum requirement. Without at least that minimal level of poverty alleviation, he said, conflicts within and between states could spiral so far out of control that even a strengthened and reformed United Nations of the future would not be able to control the threats to international peace and security.

When John Bolton, Bush's hotly contested but newly appointed ambassador to the United Nations announced the U.S. proposed response, it was easy to assume this was just John Bolton running amok. After all, Bolton, a longtime U.N.-basher, has said: "There is no United Nations." He has written in The Wall Street Journal that the United States has no legal obligation to abide by international treaties, even when they are signed and ratified. So it was no surprise when Bolton showed up three weeks before the summit, demanding a package of 450 changes in the document that had been painstakingly negotiated for almost a year.

But, in fact, this isn't about Bolton. This Bush administration’s position was vetted and approved in what the U.S. Mission to the U.N. bragged was a "thorough interagency process"—meaning the White House, the State Department, the Pentagon and many more agencies all signed off. This is a clear statement of official U.S. policy—not the wish- ist of some marginalized extremist faction of neocon ideologues who will soon be reined in by the realists in charge. This time the extremist faction is in charge.

The U.S. proposal package is designed to force the world to accept as its own the U.S. strategy of abandoning impoverished nations and peoples, rejecting international law, privileging ruthless market forces over any attempted regulation, sidelining the role of international institutions except for the IMF, the World Bank and the WTO, and weakening, perhaps fatally, the United Nations itself.

It begins by systematically deleting every one of the 35 specific references to the Millennium Development Goals. Every reference to concrete obligations for implementation of commitments is deleted. Setting a target figure of just 0.7 percent of GNP for wealthy countries to spend on aid? Deleted. Increasing aid for agriculture and trade opportunities in poor countries? Deleted. Helping the poorest countries, especially those in Africa, to deal with the impact of climate change? Deleted.

The proposal puts at great risk treaties to which the United States is already a party, including the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The U.N. Summit draft referred to the NPT's "three pillars: disarmament, non-proliferation and the peaceful use of nuclear energy." That means that states without nukes would agree never to build or obtain them, but in return they would be guaranteed the right to produce nuclear energy for peaceful use. In return recognized nuclear weapons states—the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia—would commit, in Article VI of the NPT, to move toward "nuclear disarmament with the objective of eliminating all such weapons." The proposed U.S. changes deleted all references to the three pillars and to Article VI.

The U.S. deleted the statement that: "The use of force should be considered as an instrument of last resort." That’s also not surprising given the Bush administration's “invade first, choose your justifications later” mode of crisis resolution.

Throughout the document, the United States demands changes that redefine and narrow what should be universal and binding rights and obligations. In the clearest reference to Iraq and Palestine, Washington narrowed the definition of the "right of self-determination of peoples" to eliminate those who "remain under colonial domination and foreign occupation."

Much of the U.S. effort aims to undermine the power of the U.N. in favor of absolute national sovereignty. On migration, for instance, the original language focused on enhancing international cooperation, linking migrant worker issues and development, and the human rights of migrants. The U.S. wants to scrap it all, replacing it with "the sovereign right of states to formulate and enforce national migration policies," with international cooperation only to facilitate national laws. Human rights were deleted altogether.

In the document's section on strengthening the United Nations, the U.S. deleted all mention of enhancing the U.N.'s authority, focusing instead only on U.N. efficiency. Regarding the General Assembly the most democratic organ of the U.N. system—the United States deleted references to the Assembly's centrality, its role in codifying international law, and, ultimately its authority, relegating it to a toothless talking shop. It even deleted reference to the Assembly's role in Washington's own pet project—management oversight of the U.N. secretariat—leaving the U.S.-dominated and undemocratic Security Council, along with the U.S. itself (in the person of a State Department official recently appointed head of management in Kofi Annan's office) to play watchdog.

The Bush administration has given the United Nations what it believes to be a stark choice: adopt the U.S. changes and acquiesce to becoming an adjunct of Washington and a tool of empire, or reject the changes and be consigned to insignificance.

But the United Nations could choose a third option. It should not be forgotten that the U.N. itself has some practice in dealing with U.S. threats. President George W. Bush gave the U.N. these same two choices once before—in September 2002, when he threatened the global body with "irrelevance" if the U.N. did not embrace his call for war in Iraq. On that occasion, the United Nations made the third choice—the choice to grow a backbone, to reclaim its charter, and to join with people and governments around the world who were mobilized to say no to war. It was the beginning of eight months of triumph, in which governments and peoples and the U.N. stood together to defy the U.S. drive toward war and empire, and in doing so created what The New York Times called "the second super-power."

This time, as before, the United States has threatened and declared war on the United Nations and the world. As before, it's time for that three-part superpower to rise again, to defend the U.N., and to say no to empire.

Phyllis Bennis, a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies , is the author of the forthcoming Challenging Empire: How People, Governments, and the U.N. Defy U.S. Power (Interlink Publishing, Northampton MA, October 2005

© 2005

Witch-Hunting Climate Scientists

Witch-Hunting Climate Scientists

PEJ News - C. L. Cook - While George W. Bush may have "zero tolerance" for the lawlessness occurring in the storm-torn Gulf region, he is entirely tolerant of those who would deny the laws of science to further his political agenda.

Witch-Hunting Climate Scientists
C. L. Cook

PEJ News
September 1, 2005

As students prepare to go back to America's college's and universities for the new school year, an unprecedented assault against scholarship and higher learning has preceded them. Those students may already be aware of the attacks on political professors by far-right Bush supporters Campus Watch, or David Horowitz and his variously well-financed organizations; they may too be familiar with the so-called Christian Right's proselytising for "Intelligent Design," the new package for creationism, to be included in school curriculae, but they likely haven't discovered what dark forces are now assailing the ivied walls of American academe.

The Manchester Guardian's environment correspondent, Paul Brown reports a new Bush administration attack aimed at research scientists not towing the party line on global climate change. (Republicans accused of witch-hunt against climate change scientists - Aug 30, 2005).

In a move described as an "intimidation tactic" Joe Barton, the chairman of the House of Representatives committee on energy and commerce, and long-time fossil-fuel lobby "associate," has descended his high office to demand three American scholars, all regarded as pre-eminent climate scientists, present to him the entire scope of their research, stretching back years, to "justify" their published findings.

More than this, Mr. Barton has also demanded they present all records of funding, and all material published throughout their careers, whether it be climate-related, or not.

The three: Michael Mann, Director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University; Raymond Bradley, Director of the Climate Research Center at the U. of Massachusetts; and Malcolm Hughes of Arizona's Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research are the targets of official attention, some say is reminiscent of McCarthy era attacks.

Together their organizations contributed to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the main motivators during the Kyoto debate, fingering man-made pollution as responsible in some part for global mean temperature rises. The IPCC report was issued in 2001 and led to the Kyoto Protocol, adopted by the world's major industrial countries and designed to reduce carbon emission. The United States has yet to sign on to Kyoto.

More than a dozen scientists from Princeton and Harvard have written letters to Mr. Barton, saying the scope of his demands, including entirely unrelated research work, is of "deep concern." They write:

"Requests to provide all working materials related to hundreds of publications stretching back decades can be seen as intimidation - intentional or not - and thereby risks compromising the independence of scientific opinion that is vital to the pre-eminence of American science as well as to the flow of objective science to the government."

This latest move has many educators worried. The Bush administration has shown it grant and other funding to be tied with projects they find politically harmonious. Alan Leshner, speaking for the American Association for the Advancement of Science weighed in too, saying the inquiry appeared to be:

"a search for a basis to discredit the particular scientists rather than a search for understanding."

Democrat Henry Waxman dismissed Barton's inquisitorial style as "dubious" saying it was nothing more than a:

"transparent effort to bully and harass climate-change experts who have reached conclusions with which you disagree".

While Republican chairman of the house science committee, Sherwood Boehlert called the move "pernicious" and "truly chilling" He too wrote to colleague Barton to:

"express my strenuous objections to what I see as the misguided and illegitimate investigation."

The committee now says it will proceed with evidence already received, saying in a terse press release:

"The committee will review everything we have and decided how best to proceed. No decision has yet been made whether to have public hearings to investigate the validity of the scientists' findings, but that could be the next step for this autumn."

Chris Cook
hosts Gorilla Radio, broad/webcast from the University of Victoria, Canada. He also serves as a contributing editor to PEJ News. You can check out the GR Blog here.

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Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Pointing Fingers in the Wake of the Flood

PEJ News - C. L. Cook - While the waters still rise in New Orleans and the monumental task of evacuating the entire city and environs begins, already accusing fingers are pointing directly to the White House and George W. Bush.

Pointing Fingers
In the Wake of the Flood
C. L. Cook

PEJ News
August 31, 2005

The job at hand has, by turns, been described as overwhelming and impossible. Will New Orleans be rebuilt? And, how to protect it from hurricanes that are both more frequent and more powerful than ever?

Hurricanes are nothing new to those Americans living in Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi. But Katrina, easily the most damaging storm to have ever hit the United States, befuddled many in all three of them. The states most effected were all, in one way or another taken off guard.

Though Floridians were warned when the approaching Tropical Storm Katrina became a full-blown hurricane, many hadn't bothered to take appropriate defensive measures. Louisianans kept a sharp eye as Katrina meandered the Gulf of Mexico, growing to its Category 5 peak, before wheeling back to the coast, but thousands of them failed to heed official advisories to evacuate the city.

How bad could it be?

We now know just how bad it could be. In fact, had Katrina's course been slightly closer to New Orleans and neighbouring Lake Pontchartrain, things could have been far worse. But, as it stands, one of the nightmare scenarios dreaded by SELA, the failure of the levees and subsequent flooding of the city has come to pass. The Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project is a joint federal, state, and local task force designed to mitigate just such an event. So what went wrong?

The imagined New Orleans catastrophe has been a topic of concern for decades, but in 1995, following rain floods that killed a half dozen people, SELA was set up by congress. For ten years, the Army Corp of Engineers spent close to half a billion dollars, shoring up levees, dykes, providing disaster relief, and building pumping stations. They had done a lot, but there was still more to do, a lot more.

Then, the money dried up.

In 2003, the effects of George Bush's tax cuts, the ongoing war in Iraq, and the implementation of the gargantuan Homeland Security bureaucracy put the Army in a pinch. The Corps cited the war in Iraq, directly blaming it for SELA's effective shutdown.

Local papers wrote extensively, in the years leading to disaster, complaining about the lack of hurricane and flood control funds. The Times-Pacayune wrote no less than nine articles on the subject, and on Tuesday night (Aug. 29) the now abandoned paper's web site posted a poignant reminder, saying:

"No one can say they didn't see it coming. ... Now in the wake of one of the worst storms ever, serious questions are being asked about the lack of preparation."

Early last year, President Bush's budget proposed spending less than a fifth of the money the Army Corp of Engineers requested for precisely the purpose of reinforcing the Lake Pontchartrain levee system. In June 2004 Emergency Mangement Chief for Jefferson Parish remarked on the budget reductions for his area, saying:

"It appears that the money has been moved in the president's budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that's the price we pay. Nobody locally is happy that the levees can't be finished, and we are doing everything we can to make the case that this is a security issue for us."

Likewise, last year, the Corps' project manager Al Naomi went begging to a local agency, the East Jefferson Levee Authority, saying $2 million was urgently required because Washington wasn't willing to pony up. He said then:

"The system is in great shape, but the levees are sinking. Everything is sinking, and if we don't get the money fast enough to raise them, then we can't stay ahead of the settlement."

"The problem that we have isn't that the levee is low, but that the federal funds have dried up so that we can't raise them."

Naomi got his money, only to find the Fed had ducked out of a 15 million dollar project to shore up the banks of Lake Pontchartrain in the 2005 budget. And, just months ago, despite 2004 being the most lively hurricane season in memory, a further 26 million dollars was being withheld from SELA.

It was the largest budget reduction for preparedness every made.

For New Orleans, the irony couldn't be greater; just last year, recognizing the growing number and magnitude of hurricanes, a study was proposed by the Corps that would examine how the city would handle Category 4 and 5 storms. But that too was shot down by the Bush administration. Again citing the cost of the war in Iraq, the New Orleans office was ordered to undertake no new studies.

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

A Newhouse News Service article published on the Times-Picayune website Tuesday noted:

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

Senators in Washington had been working on a proposal to reverse the heavy budget cuts to the hurricane and flood programs for fiscal year 2006.

No word if that effort will continue now.

Chris Cook hosts Gorilla Radio, broad/webcast from the University of Victoria, Canada. He also serves as a contributing editor to PEJ News. You can check out the GR Blog here.

Republicans accused of witch-hunt against climate change scientists

Paul Brown, environment correspondent
Tuesday August 30, 2005

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

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

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

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

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

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

The three US climate scientists - Michael Mann, the director of the Earth System Science Centre at Pennsylvania State University; Raymond Bradley, the director of the Climate System Research Centre at the University of Massachusetts; and Malcolm Hughes, the former director of the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research at the University of Arizona - have been told to send large volumes of material.

A letter demanding information on the three and their work has also gone to Arden Bement, the director of the US National Science Foundation.

Mr Barton's inquiry was launched after an article in the Wall Street Journal quoted an economist and a statistician, neither of them from a climate science background, saying there were methodological flaws and data errors in the three scientists' calculations. It accused the trio of refusing to make their original material available to be cross-checked.

Mr Barton then asked for everything the scientists had ever published and all baseline data. He said the information was necessary because Congress was going to make policy decisions drawing on their work, and his committee needed to check its validity.

There followed a demand for details of everything they had done since their careers began, funding received and procedures for data disclosure.

The inquiry has sent shockwaves through the US scientific establishment, already under pressure from the Bush administration, which links funding to policy objectives.

Eighteen of the country's most influential scientists from Princeton and Harvard have written to Mr Barton and Mr Whitfield expressing "deep concern". Their letter says much of the information requested is unrelated to climate science.

It says: "Requests to provide all working materials related to hundreds of publications stretching back decades can be seen as intimidation - intentional or not - and thereby risks compromising the independence of scientific opinion that is vital to the pre-eminence of American science as well as to the flow of objective science to the government."

Alan Leshner protested on behalf of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, expressing "deep concern" about the inquiry, which appeared to be "a search for a basis to discredit the particular scientists rather than a search for understanding".

Political reaction has been stronger. Henry Waxman, a senior Californian Democrat, wrote complaining that this was a "dubious" inquiry which many viewed as a "transparent effort to bully and harass climate-change experts who have reached conclusions with which you disagree".

But the strongest language came from another Republican, Sherwood Boehlert, the chairman of the house science committee. He wrote to "express my strenuous objections to what I see as the misguided and illegitimate investigation".

He said it was pernicious to substitute political review for scientific peer review and the precedent was "truly chilling". He said the inquiry "seeks to erase the line between science and politics" and should be reconsidered.

A spokeswoman for Mr Barton said yesterday that all the required written evidence had been collected.

"The committee will review everything we have and decided how best to proceed. No decision has yet been made whether to have public hearings to investigate the validity of the scientists' findings, but that could be the next step for this autumn," she said.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

New Orleans Sunk?

New Orleans Funeral March, Funeral for America?

PEJ News - C. L. Cook - It is a total disaster. The slow death of New Orleans, though defying worst case scenarios that have furrowed the brows of experts for years, is nevertheless a fait accompli. The failure of two vital levee guardians of the sub-sea level city means one of America's cultural icons, and arguably most important commerce ports is, as Louisiana Governor, Kathleen Babineaux Blanco says, "untenable." As analogue, the demise of the Big Easy mirrors the disaster that is George W. Bush's America.

New Orleans Funeral March,
Funeral for America?
C. L. Cook

PEJ News
August 30. 2005

The situation at this hour, as the sun dips below the horizon in New Orleans is all those myriad Doomsday video games promised. Save the rising of the dead, though coffins are expected to find their way down the thoroughfares and alleyways of the flooded city, the worst face of humanity is making itself bare in the streets of what looks to be a doomed city.

Thousands of restless, and waterless, evacuees strain against the privations of the city's SuperDome, their numbers increasing as rescuees, shown gleefully as they are plucked by over-worked helicopter crews, from roofs and branches find their rescue to only result in deliverance to the already volatile and over-crowded football stadium; a place the governor has already said should be evacuated, as she believes the entire city should be.

Already the comparisons to the Boxing Day disaster in Aceh, Indonesia, and bizarre similarities breathlessly intoned by CNN's Paula Zahn to Hiroshima after the atomic bomb America dropped there in 1945, are flying from the 24 Hours operations. And, the sites they profile are indeed devastated, but, none I've seen have begun to explore the full impact of New Orleans' fate, let alone what it means in the broader American context.

The waters are rising in the city, and there's rain in the forecast. The second levee, holding back Lake Pontchartrain has failed. This means the navel-shaped New Orleans is filling, like a bowl. And it means those now sheltered in the SuperDome, and other city shelters, will all have to be evacuated. This presents an enormous logistical problem the scope of which rivals the urgency of the current situation. Water is short in the stadium. New arrivals are constant, but no-one leaves. Toilets and electricity compromised, there have already been deadly incidents in the home of the New Orleans Saints, apparently sparked by stress, close quarters, and diminishing supplies of food and water.

In the streets, those not sequestered in the Dome are searching for food and water too. Some seek vehicles to escape the disaster, while others are using the chaos to enrich themselves. All the while, rescue efforts continue and military reinforcement is on the way. Vast areas are without electricity, or functioning services of any kind, and the water levels continue to rise. The fetid waters, dubbed already by Bayou wags as "Toxic Gumbo," has forced the evacuation of hospitals and shelters, and now threatens the entire city.

This is an unprecedented disaster in the colonial history of the continental United States. But, it is a disaster whom's ultimately cost will likely be trifling compared against the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Not to mention the myriad other adventures currently occupying the American military and Intelligence community.

George W. Bush's bummer summer worsens by the day; as do the future prospects for the greater world, the one not apparently recognized by Mr. Bush. The rampant racism and injustice inherent in modern day America is being revealed through this disaster. Ugly Americans are nothing new to the wider world, but seeing the lairds of the world fall upon each other while enduring crises commonly occuring around the globe, could mean the cracking of the mirror, the demolishment of the cornerstone of America's singular prestige, its alleged inherent decency.

The death of one of the cultural heartlands, a place revered by millions the world over, is almost impossible to contemplate. But, the facts today irrefutable affirm, New Orleans will never be the same. It's a lesson learnt hard, but one climate scientists have warned all coastal cities will suffer should current trends continue.

Chris Cook host Gorilla Radio, broad/webcst from the University of Victoria, Canada. He also serves as a contributing editor to PEJ News. You can check out the GR Blog here.

Katrina's Prisoners: SuperDome Lockdown

Katrina's Prisoners: SuperDome Lockdown

PEJ News - C. L. Cook - New Orleans' least fortunate, those too poor or infirm to flee Monday's killer hurricane, taking refuge in the city's Superdome football stadium today find themselves prisoners in a fast deteriorating situation.

[breaking 2:06pm pdt- Louisiana Governor announces an evacuation of one of New Orleans' emergency shelters due to rising water caused by the failure of a second levee protecting the city. Water too is accumulating in the biggest area of refuge, the SuperDome. Says situation "untenable" and the entire city must be evacuated as levee waters rise. And the rains have begun again.]

SuperDome Lockdown
C. L. Cook

PEJ News
August 30, 2005

At this hour, more than 80 are feared dead in New Orleans, while reports coming from neighbouring Biloxi, Mississippi say "hundreds" may have been killed by a massive storm-surge wave. Looting and rising water has prompted curfews and a declaration of martial law. Car-jackings have been reported, allegedly by "refugees" desperate for a way out New Orleans. City jails too were evacuated, adding some 5,000 inmates to the growingly chaotic scene there. Thousands of National Guard, who would normally be in place to aid in resuce and evacuations, are currently stationed in Iraq.

The water is still rising in hard-hit New Orleans, as one of the city's levees gave way today, sending millions of gallons of storm water into the sub-sea level metropolis. It's merely more misery for the citizenry. But none are suffering in quite the way as the thousands who took refuge from Katrina in the Superdome.

An estimated 10-12 thousand people unable to evacuate prior to Katrina's landfall in the historic city and forced to seek shelter in the football stadium today find themselves locked down and under armed guard. The situation inside the dome is grim. Gaping holes torn from the roof of the decades-old structure allowed cascades of rainwater in, flooding the field and sending refugees scrambling for the nose-bleed seats. But, from the beginning, the Superdome operation was miserable.

In the hours leading to the landfall of the, ultimately Class 4 hurricane, thousands were left waiting for hours in the open while security checks were laboriously undertaken, with National Guard and police searching and confiscating liquor, guns, and other contraband. Though no comments have yet emerged, the racial dimension to the exodus was immediately apparent on television. Corporate newscasts of the long lines snaking around the Dome revealed the overwhelmingly Black cast of the evacuees. A cast contradicted by that of police and National Guard sent in to oversee the operation.

Trapped in the stifling heat and humidity of the Dome, Guardsmen allowed some access to the concourse winding around the building to get fresh air and relief. But, the Guard in still under orders to bar exit to those stuck for the second day. Utilities and waste-disposal systems inside are currently overwhelmed, with reports of the failure of air-conditioning and overflowing toilets and garbage bins adding to the people's trials. One woman, frustrated with the situation would rather take her chances outside, saying; "I don't care how bad my house is. It's got to be better than this."

One man was reportedly injured this morning in a fall from the heights of the Dome. It's unclear at this hour whether this was an accident, or intentional. Survivors today also learned they are to be sequestered until at least next Monday. Guard spokesperson and commander of Guard troops deployed to the Dome, General Ralph Lupin says he knows the situation is bad, but ruled out release, saying;

"We're doing everything we can to keep these people comfortable. We're doing our best. It's not getting any better, but we're trying not to let it get any worse." Adding; "I know people want to leave, but they can't leave." He said, "There's three feet of water around the Superdome."

Part of the concern is looting. National Guard are trying to get into the streets, while helicopter over-flights are reporting scavengers roaming the flooded city in search of anything they can find. There are also reports of grocery and convenience stores being looted in New Orleans and outlying towns.

The Superdome, billed as "hurricane proof" at the time of its construction faired less well than its architects hoped, with the outer skin peeling away in the high winds, with several large holes opened in the roof when panels were torn loose.

The Dome was opened in 1980.

[CNN is now reporting, those rescued from rising waters, plucked from roofs and trees are being transported to the Dome, swelling the numbers inside to an estimated 20,000. ]

[Blog's Eye view of Katrina's landfall.]

Chris Cook
hosts Gorilla Radio, broad/webcast from the University of Victoria, Canada. He's also a contributing editor to PEJ News. You can check out the GR Blog here.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Reuters Demands Wounded Cameraman's Release

Reuters Demand U.S. Military Release Wounded Cameraman

PEJ News - C. L. Cook - The surviving member of a news gathering team gunned down yesterday by U.S. snipers in Baghdad is being held incommunicado by the military. Reuters, the international news agency today demanded the immediate release of the wounded cameraman, and an investigation of the incident.

Reuters Demand U.S. Military
Release Wounded Cameraman
C. L. Cook

PEJ News
August 29th, 2005

Waleed Khaled became one of a lengthening list of killed journalists in Iraq yesterday when a single shot from a sniper's rifle struck him mortally in the head. His colleague, Haider Kadhem was wounded and taken into U.S. custody. His current whereabouts have not been revealed.

Already, journalist fatalities in the three and half years of the invasion and occupation of Iraq has eclipsed that of the more than twenty years of conflict in Vietnam.

More than forty journos have been killed and many more wounded in Iraq since March 2003, prompting many to question whether they are being deliberately targeted. Certainly, the family of Spanish journalist Jose Couso do, leading demonstrations in Spain every April 8th, the anniversary of his death in the infamous tank attack against Baghdad's Palestine Hotel, and demanding a full investigation into his killing be held. Former CNN executive, Eason Jordon paid with his job for his "off-the-record" remarks earlier this year at the World Economic Forum some interpreted as suggesting just that.

The U.S. military says they're investigating yesterday fatal shooting, but suggested in was just another "regrettable accident." Similarly, the shooting of freed Italian kidnapping victim, reporter Giuliana Sgrena and killing of her rescuer, Italian intelligence agent, Nicola Calipari in March, were brushed aside as an unfortunate accident.

Chris Cook hosts Gorilla Radio, broad/webcast from the University of Victoria, Canada. He also serves as a contributing editor at PEJ News. You can check out the GR Blog here.

Journalists Known Killed in Iraq in 2005

- Feb 9, 2005 - Abdul-Hussein Khazal, Basra correspondent of the U.S.-funded television station Alhurra, is shot dead.

- March 14 - In Mosul, gunmen kill Hussam Habib, an Iraqi cameraman working for Kurdistan Satellite TV. He had been kidnapped 12 hours before he was killed.

- April 23 - In Mosul, AP Television News cameraman Saleh Ibrahim dies after being shot three times in the chest when gunfire breaks out while he is reporting on an explosion.

- May 15 - Ahmed Adam and Najem Abd Khudair, reporters with the private Iraqi newspaper Al-Mada, are killed in Latifiya, south of Baghdad.

- May 31 - Jerges Mahmood Mohamad Suleiman, news anchor at Nineveh TV, is shot in Mosul. Nineveh TV is a local affiliate of Al-Iraqiya TV.

- June 24 - Knight Ridder reporter Yasser Shalihee is shot and killed while driving near a roadblock manned by U.S. and Iraqi troops.

- Jul 1 - Khalid al-Attar, an Al-Iraqiya television journalist, is abducted in Mosul by unidentified gunmen and found shot to death.

- Aug 2 - Steven Vincent, a freelance investigative journalist and art critic from New York


Guiliana Sgrena Hit?

Reuters Demands Answers

Reuters Journalist Killed

Two Reuters Reporters Hit

Eason Jordon Resigns over Remarks

Gorilla Radio for Monday, August 29th

Gorilla Radio for Monday August 29th, 2005

This week on GR: Author, Martial Artist, and Vegan Mickey Z. and the 50 American Revolutions You're Not Supposed to Know.

Victoria-based writer and community activist, Jim Hedger finding alternatives to war and injustice.

And, Janine Bandcroft bringing us up to speed with all that's good to do in and around Victoria this week.

Chris Cook hosts Gorilla Radio, airing live every Monday, 5-6pm Pacific Time. In Victoria at 101.9FM, 104.3 cable, and on the internet at: He also serves as a contributing editor at the progressive web news site:

You can check out the GR blog at:

It’s the first refuge of the scoundrels who would keep the flow of blood and misery going in Iraq, and all the many theatres of war where America mounts military extravaganzas: “Support Our Troops” the mantra commands.

Implicit is the assumption that those speaking out against whichever foreign adventure Uncle Sam has chosen to expedite, bring aid and comfort to the “enemy,” thus undermining the security and safety of “our” troops. Thus, they are “little better than terrorists.”

Mickey Z. is a New York City-based activist and author whose books include: The Seven Deadly Spins, A Giant Mistake: Articles and Essays for Your Intellectual Self-Defence, The Murdering of My Years and his latest, 50 American Revolutions You’re Not Supposed to Know: Reclaiming American Patriotism.

Mickey Z. and the next American Revolution in the first half.

And; What does the distant battles of empire and hegemony mean for you and your community?

While treasuries bleed to support burgeoning military budgets and the corporations who love them, local services and aid necessary at home go begging.

Here in Canada, the last two decades have witnessed bipartisan assaults on the fragile infrastructure once known as the social “safety net,” while defence and policing budgets soar.

Jim Hedger is a Victoria-based writer, lecturer, and community activist. He’s involved with a myriad of local and international organizations working for peace, the environment, and social justice.

Jim Hedger and building community in the second half.

And; Janine Bandcroft will be here at the bottom of the hour to bring us up to speed with all that’s good to do in and around Victoria this week.

But first, Mickey Z. and America’s 51st Revolution?

G-Radio is dedicated to social justice, the environment, community, and providing a forum for people and issues not covered in the mainstream media.

Some past guests include: M. Junaid Alam, Joel Bakan, Maude Barlow, David Barsamian, William Blum, Luciana Bohne, Vincent Bugliosi, Helen Caldicott, Noam Chomsky, Michel Chossudovsky, Diane Christian, Juan Cole, David Cromwell, Jon Elmer, Reese Erlich, Jim Fetzer, Laura Flanders, Susan George, Stan Goff, Robert Greenwald, Denis Halliday, Chris Hedges, Sander Hicks, Julia Butterfly Hill, Robert Jensen, Dahr Jamail, Diana Johnstone, Kathy Kelly, Naomi Klein, Anthony Lappe, Frances Moore Lappe, Dave Lindorff, Jim Lobe, Jennnifer Loewenstein, Wayne Madsen, Stephen Marshall, Linda McQuaig, George Monbiot, Loretta Napoleoni, John Nichols, Kurt Nimmo, Greg Palast, Michael Parenti, William Rivers Pitt, Sheldon Rampton, Paul Craig Roberts, Paul de Rooij, John Ross, Danny Schechter, Vandana Shiva, Norman Solomon, Starhawk, Grant Wakefield, Paul Watson, Bernard Weiner, Mickey Z., Dave Zirin, and many others.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Frog Marching to the Future

The Rise Of The
Democratic Police State

John Pilger

August 26, 2005
The New Statesman

Thomas Friedman is a famous columnist on the New York Times. He has been described as "a guard dog of US foreign policy". Whatever America's warlords have in mind for the rest of humanity, Friedman will bark it. He boasts that "the hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist". He promotes bombing countries and says world war three has begun.

Friedman's latest bark is about free speech, which his country's constitution is said to safeguard. He wants the State Department to draw up a blacklist of those who make "wrong" political statements. He is referring not only to those who advocate violence, but those who believe American actions are the root cause of the current terrorism. The latter group, which he describes as "just one notch less despicable than the terrorists", includes most Americans and Britons, according to the latest polls.

Friedman wants a "War of Ideas report" which names those who try to understand and explain, for example, why London was bombed. These are "excuse makers" who "deserve to be exposed". He borrows the term "excuse makers" from James Rubin, who was Madeleine Albright's chief apologist at the State Department. Albright, who rose to secretary of state under President Clinton, said that the death of half a million Iraqi infants as a result of an American-driven blockade was a "price" that was "worth it". Of all the interviews I have filmed in official Washington, Rubin's defence of this mass killing is unforgettable.

Farce is never far away in these matters. The "excuse makers" would also include the CIA, which has warned that "Iraq [since the invasion] has replaced Afghanistan as the training ground for the next generation of 'professionalised’ terrorists'." On to the Friedman/Rubin blacklist go the spooks!

Like so much else during the Blair era, this McCarthyite rubbish has floated across the Atlantic and is now being recycled by the prime minister as proposed police-state legislation, little different from the fascist yearnings of Friedman and other extremists. For Friedman's blacklist, read Tony Blair's proposed database of proscribed opinions, bookshops, websites.

The British human rights lawyer Linda Christian asks: "Are those who feel a huge sense of injustice about the same causes as the terrorists - Iraq, Afghanistan, the war on terrorism, Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib - to be stopped from speaking forthrightly about their anger? Because terrorism is now defined in our law as actions abroad, will those who support liberation movements in, for example, Kashmir or Chechnya be denied freedom of expression?" Any definition of terrorism, she points out, should "encompass the actions of terrorist states engaged in unlawful wars."

Of course, Blair is silent on western state terrorism in the Middle East and elsewhere; and for him to moralise about "our values" insults the fact of his blood-crime in Iraq. His budding police state will, he hopes, have the totalitarian powers he has longed for since 2001 when he suspended habeas corpus and introduced unlimited house arrest without trial. The Law Lords, Britain's highest judiciary, have tried to stop this. Last December, Lord Hoffmann said that Blair's attacks on human rights were a greater threat to freedom than terrorism. On 26 July, Blair emoted that the entire British nation was under threat and abused the judiciary in terms, as Simon Jenkins noted, "that would do credit to his friend Vladimir Putin". What we are seeing in Britain is the rise of the democratic police state.

Should you be tempted to dismiss all this as esoteric or merely mad, travel to any Muslim community in Britain, especially in the north west and sense the state of siege and fear. On 15 July, Blair's Britain of the future was glimpsed when the police raided the Iqra Learning Centre and book store near Leeds. The Iqra Trust is a well-known charity that promotes Islam worldwide as "a peaceful religion which covers every walk of life." The police smashed down the door, wrecked the shop and took away anti-war literature which they described as "anti-western".

Among this was, reportedly, a DVD of the Respect Party MP George Galloway addressing the US Senate and a New Statesman article of mine illustrated by a much-published photograph of a Palestinian man in Gaza attempting to shield his son from Israeli bullets before the boy was shot to death. The photograph was said to be "working people up", meaning Muslim people. Clearly, David Gibbons, this journal's esteemed art director, who chose this illustration, will be called before the Blair Incitement Tribunal. One of my books, The New Rulers of the World, was also apparently confiscated. It is not known whether the police have yet read the chapter that documents how the Americans, with help from MI6 and the SAS, created, armed and bankrolled the terrorists of the Islamic Mujahideen, not least Osama Bin Laden.

The raid was deliberately theatrical, with the media tipped off. Two of the alleged 7 July bombers had been volunteers in the shop almost four years ago. "When they became hardliners", said a community youth worker. "They left and have never been back and they’ve had nothing to do with the shop." The raid was watched by horrified local people. who are now scared, angry and bitter. I spoke to Muserat Sujawal, who has lived in the area for 31 years and is respected widely for her management of the nearby Hamara Community Centre. She told me, "There was no justification for the raid. The whole point of the shop is to teach how Islam is a community-based religion. My family has used the shop for years, buying, for example, the Arabic equivalent of Sesame Street. They did it to put fear in our hearts." James Dean, a Bradford secondary school teacher, said, "I am teaching myself Urdu because I have multi-ethnic classes, and the shop has been very helpful with tapes."

The police have the right to pursue every lead in their hunt for bombers, but scaremongering is not their right. Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner who understands how the media can be used and spends a lot of time in television studios, has yet to explain why he announced that the killing in the London Underground of the Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes was "directly linked" to terrorism, when he must have known the truth. Muslim people all over Britain report the presence of police "video vans" cruising their streets, filming everyone. "We have become like ghettoes under siege," said one man too frightened to be named. "Do they know what this is doing to our young people?"

The other day Blair said, "We are not having any of this nonsense about [the bombings having anything] to do with what the British are doing in Iraq or Afghanistan, or support for Israel, or support for America, or any of the rest of it. It is nonsense and we have to confront it as that." This "raving", as the American writer Mike Whitney observed, "is part of a broader strategy to dismiss the obvious facts about terror and blame the victims of American-British aggression. It's a tactic that was minted in Tel Aviv and perfected over 37 years of occupation. It is predicated on the assumption that terrorism emerges from an amorphous, religious-based ideology that transforms its adherents into ruthless butchers."

Professor Robert Pape of the University of Chicago has examined every act of suicide terrorism over the past 25 years. He refutes the assumption that suicide bombers are mainly driven by "an evil ideology independent of other circumstances." He said, "The facts are that since 1980, half the attacks have been secular. Few of the terrorists fit the standard stereotype... Half of them are not religious fanatics at all. In fact, over 95 per cent of suicide attacks around the world [are not about] religion, but a specific strategic purpose - to compel the United States and other western countries to abandon military commitments on the Arabian Peninsula and in countries they view as their homeland or prize greatly... The link between anger over American, British and western military [action] and al-Qaeda's ability to recruit suicide terrorists to kill us could not be tighter."

So we have been warned, yet again. Terrorism is the logical consquence of American and British "foreign policy" whose infinitely greater terrorism we need to recognise, and debate, as a matter of urgency.


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New Orleans Sinking?

New Orleans Sinking? Mammoth Katrina Spurs Evacuations

August 29, 2005 10:50 pdt - PEJ News - C. L. Cook - The storm Floridians discounted as minor last week has spent the weekend gathering strength over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Hurricane Katrina has now ballooned to an unprecedentedly large and powerful Catagory 5, with sustained wind speeds nearing 280 kph, and gusts topping 300kph.

New Orleans Sinking?
C.L. Cook

PEJ News
August 28, 2005

10:50 pdt- Evacuation orders have been given for more than a million people living in and around the city and State of Emergency for the entire coastal region of Lousiana has been declared by the federal government. The storm is expected to make landfall near the historic city at approximately 1pm local time tomorrow.

If timing estimates are correct, that would see Katrina hitting the low-lying city at the peak of high tide. New Orleans Mayor, Ray Nagin has warned the storm surge, massive ocean waves driven by the hurricane, could top 8 metres, overwhelming the network of levees and dykes protecting one of America's most vital seaports.

In an ominous announcement, the Mayor warned of what he termed an unprecedented threat to the city saying,

"Ladies and gentlemen, I wish I had better news for you but we are facing a storm that most of us have feared. This is a threat that we've never faced before."

The storm is currently about 350 kilometres offshore, moving landward toward the Mississippi River delta at roughly 20 kph. The National Hurricane Center has issued warnings of destructive winds stretching along the Gulf coast from Florida to Alabama.

The threat of the evacuation of oil and gas rigs in the Gulf is already effecting record high gasoline prices. Energy producers say oil output from their Gulf operations has been reduced by a third.

The storm Floridians dubbed, "Little Andrew" in deference to that disastrous 1992 hurricane, the costliest in U.S. history, has now matched Andrew's Category 5 status and could prove a more damaging than its namesake.

Chris Cook hosts Gorilla Radio, a weekly public affairs program, broad/webcast from the University of Victoria, Canada. He also serves as contributing editor to You can check out the GR Blog here.