Wednesday, March 01, 2006

BREAKING: Bush knew about Katrina threat -- and let it happen

I just got this from via email.

Dear MoveOn member,

This evening, the Associated Press released secret transcripts and video footage showing President Bush being personally briefed the day before Hurricane Katrina hit land. The predictions he heard were shockingly precise and accurate -- including the failure of the levees. He knew exactly what was coming.

The article is a smoking gun on Bush's unpardonable failure to keep us safe. In just a few hours, the White House will be filling the airwaves with spin, so it's important to reach out right now to pass on the straight story to family and friends. If each of us acts, we can directly reach millions of people before morning.

The full AP article is attached below. Can you help get the word out to at least 5 friends? You can forward on this note or follow the link below:

At the August 28th briefing, the president was told exactly what to expect:

- The chief scientist of the National Hurricane Center warned that a major levee breach was "obviously a very, very grave concern.
- Bush lied to the entire nation about this point just 5 days later.
- Michael Brown told the president that if New Orleans flooded the Superdome emergency shelter would likely be under water and short on supplies, creating a "catastrophe within a catastrophe."
- Experts and officials implored the President to prepare for, as the AP described it, "devastation of historic proportions."

President Bush didn't ask a single question during the briefing. In the next two days he campaigned, attended birthday parties and played guitar while the worst natural disaster in American history killed over 1,300 people and displaced hundreds of thousands.

There can now be no mistake: President Bush had a chance to lead, and he failed to keep us safe.

In the next few days, we'll be tracking this story carefully and coordinating our response with partners in New Orleans and around the nation.

The survivors of Katrina deserve to know why the president left them to suffer the storm. And the people of the United States deserve leadership we can trust to keep our families safe. We'll work hard together until we have both.

Tonight, let's start by spreading the word:

Thanks for all that you do,

-- Ben, Nita, Tom, Jen, Adam R, Justin, Adam G, Eli and the whole Political Action Team - Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Here's the full article from the Associated Press.

March 1, 2006

Video Shows Bush Was Warned Before Katrina

WASHINGTON (AP) -- In dramatic and sometimes agonizing terms, federal disaster officials warned President Bush and his homeland security chief before Hurricane Katrina struck that the storm could breach levees, put lives at risk in New Orleans' Superdome and overwhelm rescuers, according to confidential video footage.

Bush didn't ask a single question during the final briefing before Katrina struck on Aug. 29, but he assured soon-to-be-battered state officials: "We are fully prepared."

The footage -- along with seven days of transcripts of briefings obtained by The Associated Press—show in excruciating detail that while federal officials anticipated the tragedy that unfolded in New Orleans and elsewhere along the Gulf Coast, they were fatally slow to realize they had not mustered enough resources to deal with the unprecedented disaster.

Linked by secure video, Bush's confidence on Aug. 28 starkly contrasts with the dire warnings his disaster chief and a cacophony of federal, state and local officials provided during the four days before the storm.

A top hurricane expert voiced "grave concerns" about the levees and then-Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Michael Brown told the president and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff that he feared there weren't enough disaster teams to help evacuees at the Superdome.

"I'm concerned about ... their ability to respond to a catastrophe within a catastrophe," Brown told his bosses the afternoon before Katrina made landfall.

Some of the footage and transcripts from briefings Aug. 25-31 conflicts with the defenses that federal, state and local officials have made in trying to deflect blame and minimize the political fallout from the failed Katrina response:

-- Homeland Security officials have said the "fog of war" blinded them early on to the magnitude of the disaster. But the video and transcripts show federal and local officials discussed threats clearly, reviewed long-made plans and understood Katrina would wreak devastation of historic proportions. "I'm sure it will be the top 10 or 15 when all is said and done," National Hurricane Center's Max Mayfield warned the day Katrina lashed the Gulf Coast.

"I don't buy the `fog of war' defense," Brown told the AP in an interview Wednesday. "It was a fog of bureaucracy."

-- Bush declared four days after the storm, "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees" that gushed deadly flood waters into New Orleans. But the transcripts and video show there was plenty of talk about that possibility—and Bush was worried too.

White House deputy chief of staff Joe Hagin, Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco and Brown discussed fears of a levee breach the day the storm hit.

"I talked to the president twice today, once in Crawford and then again on Air Force One," Brown said. "He's obviously watching the television a lot, and he had some questions about the Dome, he's asking questions about reports of breaches."

-- Louisiana officials angrily blamed the federal government for not being prepared but the transcripts shows they were still praising FEMA as the storm roared toward the Gulf Coast and even two days afterward. "I think a lot of the planning FEMA has done with us the past year has really paid off," Col. Jeff Smith, Louisiana's emergency preparedness deputy director, said during the Aug. 28 briefing.

It wasn't long before Smith and other state officials sounded overwhelmed.

"We appreciate everything that you all are doing for us, and all I would ask is that you realize that what's going on and the sense of urgency needs to be ratcheted up," Smith said Aug. 30.

Mississippi begged for more attention in that same briefing.

"We know that there are tens or hundreds of thousands of people in Louisiana that need to be rescued, but we would just ask you, we desperately need to get our share of assets because we'll have people dying—not because of water coming up, but because we can't get them medical treatment in our affected counties," said a Mississippi state official whose name was not mentioned on the tape.

Video footage of the Aug. 28 briefing, the final one before Katrina struck, showed an intense Brown voicing concerns from the government's disaster operation center and imploring colleagues to do whatever was necessary to help victims.

"We're going to need everything that we can possibly muster, not only in this state and in the region, but the nation, to respond to this event," Brown warned. He called the storm "a bad one, a big one" and implored federal agencies to cut through red tape to help people, bending rules if necessary.

"Go ahead and do it," Brown said. "I'll figure out some way to justify it. ... Just let them yell at me."

Bush appeared from a narrow, windowless room at his vacation ranch in Texas, with his elbows on a table. Hagin was sitting alongside him. Neither asked questions in the Aug. 28 briefing.

"I want to assure the folks at the state level that we are fully prepared to not only help you during the storm, but we will move in whatever resources and assets we have at our disposal after the storm," the president said.

A relaxed Chertoff, sporting a polo shirt, weighed in from Washington at Homeland Security's operations center. He would later fly to Atlanta, outside of Katrina's reach, for a bird flu event.

One snippet captures a missed opportunity on Aug. 28 for the government to have dispatched active-duty military troops to the region to augment the National Guard.

Chertoff: "Are there any DOD assets that might be available? Have we reached out to them?"

Brown: "We have DOD assets over here at EOC (emergency operations center). They are fully engaged. And we are having those discussions with them now."

Chertoff: "Good job."

In fact, active duty troops weren't dispatched until days after the storm. And many states' National Guards had yet to be deployed to the region despite offers of assistance, and it took days before the Pentagon deployed active-duty personnel to help overwhelmed Guardsmen.

The National Hurricane Center's Mayfield told the final briefing before Katrina struck that storm models predicted minimal flooding inside New Orleans during the hurricane but he expressed concerns that counterclockwise winds and storm surges afterward could cause the levees at Lake Pontchartrain to be overrun.

"I don't think any model can tell you with any confidence right now whether the levees will be topped or not but that is obviously a very, very grave concern," Mayfield told the briefing.

Other officials expressed concerns about the large number of New Orleans residents who had not evacuated.

"They're not taking patients out of hospitals, taking prisoners out of prisons and they're leaving hotels open in downtown New Orleans. So I'm very concerned about that," Brown said.

Despite the concerns, it ultimately took days for search and rescue teams to reach some hospitals and nursing homes.

Brown also told colleagues one of his top concerns was whether evacuees who went to the New Orleans Superdome—which became a symbol of the failed Katrina response—would be safe and have adequate medical care.

"The Superdome is about 12 feet below sea level.... I don't know whether the roof is designed to stand, withstand a Category Five hurricane," he said.

Brown also wanted to know whether there were enough federal medical teams in place to treat evacuees and the dead in the Superdome.

"Not to be (missing) kind of gross here," Brown interjected, "but I'm concerned" about the medical and mortuary resources "and their ability to respond to a catastrophe within a catastrophe."

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Northern California Earthquake Just Happened - 3.4 on the Richter Scale - Centered just out of Orinda, CA

I found this information at California Earthquake after feeling the apartment shake a bit:

Magnitude 3.4 - local magnitude (ML)
Time Wednesday, March 1, 2006 at 11:34:52 AM (PST)
Wednesday, March 1, 2006 at 19:34:52 (UTC)
Distance from Orinda, CA - 3 km (2 miles) SW (226 degrees)
Piedmont, CA - 5 km (3 miles) NNE (30 degrees)
Berkeley, CA - 6 km (4 miles) E (101 degrees)
Moraga, CA - 7 km (4 miles) WNW (285 degrees)
San Francisco City Hall, CA - 21 km (13 miles) ENE (63 degrees)
Coordinates 37 deg. 51.6 min. N (37.861N), 122 deg. 12.2 min. W (122.204W)
Depth 8.8 km (5.5 miles)
Location Quality Excellent
Location Quality Parameters Nst=150, Nph=150, Dmin=3 km, Rmss=0.1 sec, Erho=0.1 km, Erzz=0.2 km, Gp=21.6 degrees
Event ID# nc40183688
Additional Information 2-degree map
Topo map centered at earthquake (This link takes you offsite).

James Bond Fans Taking Out "License To Kill" Daniel Craig's Job As The New 007

Is Daniel Craig "The Riddler" in the Batman Begins sequal?

Well, as I thought, many James Bond fans -- including me -- are underwhelmed with the new James Bond Daniel Craig. He -- well, doesn't look like "James Bond." In picking him it's like saying "We can get any old Welch bloke to play 007." There's even a new website to try and get Craig bounced from the role, It's a serious, yet funny creation that has great information. For example:

Would you cut off your nose to spite your face? It appears that Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson, the sister and brother producer team behind James Bond have done that and more! Pierce Brosnan was the most beloved actor to play Bond since Sean Connery, and his Bond films were among the most successful, and yet he is gone.

Although EON and CR Director Martin Campbell have made repeated remarks about Craig being their first choice all along, there is much information to make us believe otherwise. The truth may be that after they let Brosnan go for fear of being made to pay too much for him to reprise the role of 007, with the expectation that popular and attractive actors like Hugh Jackman or Clive Owen would accept the role. In reality, after EON lost out on both Jackman and Owen because they were
too cheap to pay them what they were already getting from other producers, EON was forced to consider actors of a lessor box office pedigree. The fact that they went with Craig just points to how lost and desperate they were once they walked
away from a sure thing like Pierce Brosnan.

Now, without a single known actor in their film, mainly because the most sought after Hollywood actresses wisely turned down the opportunity to be in this disaster in the making, EON is trying desperately to make the film more appealing
by developing Casino Royale as Bond's origin story. Given that Bond was not from the planet Krypton, nor did he ever develop arachnid powers after being bitten by a radioactive spider, his origin story is hardly appealing to the average moviegoer.

The fact is that both Bond fans and popular moviegoers alike would have been more than happy to see a Bond film that was nothing more than another entertaining outing with the highly charismatic Pierce Brosnan. They could have even made an attempt to add some more of the drama and depth which hard core Bond fans have craved since the days of Sean Connery. Instead we Bond fans are offered an insulting stupid reboot, that takes place not in the 1960's of Dr. No, but in the present.

Facing such an insipid offering, any Bond fan or movie lover should answer EON with a resounding "thanks but not thanks."

Stay tuned.

Muhammad Cartoons Rile UC Irvine "Conference"

If this were at Cal it would have gone a lot better and not been a Republican hate speech meeting. This is not going to solve the problem of a lack of culturally aware communication.

By GILLIAN FLACCUS, Associated Press Writer Wed Mar 1, 7:54 AM ET
IRVINE, Calif. - A student panel discussion that included a display of the Prophet Muhammad cartoons descended into chaos, with one speaker calling Islam an "evil religion" and audience members nearly coming to blows.


Organizers of Tuesday night's forum at the University of California, Irvine said they showed the cartoons as part of a larger debate on Islamic extremism.

But several hundred protesters, including members of the Muslim Student Union, argued the event was the equivalent of hate speech disguised as freedom of expression.

Although there were numerous heated exchanges, no violence was reported.

The panel, which included one Muslim speaker, was sponsored by the College Republicans and the United American Committee, a group that says it promotes awareness of internal threats facing America.

During the discussion in a nearly packed 424-seat campus auditorium, six cartoons were displayed: three depicting Muhammad and three anti-Semitic cartoons.

The discussion got off to a contentious start with the Council on American-Islamic Relations — an invited guest — boycotting the event and calling the United American Committee a "fringe group."

Tensions quickly escalated when the Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson, founder of the conservative Brotherhood Organization of a New Destiny, said that Islam was an "evil religion" and that all Muslims hate America.

People repeatedly interrupted the talk and, at one point, campus police removed two men, one of them a Muslim, after they nearly came to blows.

Later, panelists were cheered when they referred to Muslims as fascists and accused mainstream Muslim-American civil rights groups of being "cheerleaders for terror."

"I put out a call to Muslims in America: Put out a fatwa on (Osama) bin Laden, put out a fatwa on (Abu Musab) al-Zarqawi," said panelist Lee Kaplan, a UAC spokesman. "Support America in the war on terror."

Thousands of Muslims worldwide have protested, sometimes violently, after the cartoons were published in a Danish newspaper and in other European newspapers. Islam widely holds that representations of Muhammad are banned for fear they could lead to idolatry.

Osman Umarji, former president of the Muslim Student Union, equated the decision by the student panel to display the prophet drawings to the debasement of Jews in Germany before the Holocaust.

"The agenda is to spread Islamophobia and create hysteria against Muslims similar to what happened to the Jews in Nazi Germany," said Umarji, an electrical engineer who graduated from Irvine last spring. "Freedom of speech has its limits."

Brock Hill, vice president of the College Republicans, said his group had a First Amendment right to display the cartoons.

"We're not going against Islam whatsoever," he said. "This is about free speech and the free marketplace of ideas."

Mohamed Eldessouky, 20, a criminology student who attended the discussion, said he was disappointed because he felt the panel and the audience were biased against Islam.

"I entered it with an open mind, but I thought it was totally biased. I thought the panelists would be more balanced. I think it did more harm than good," he said.

Lauren Chramosta, 18, a freshman, said she didn't know much about Islam and attended hoping to learn more.

"It was helpful to listen to different views," she said. "But I think (the Muslim panelist) was shut down so many times that he didn't get a fair shake."