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Sunday Morning News Roundup

11 September 2005 at 9:05:39 AM

Hurricane Katrina. The NYTimes has a news analysis entitled "Casualty of Firestorm: Outrage, Bush, and FEMA Chief. which includes an interesting tidbit that answers the question of why Bush didn't go to New Orleans.

One prominent African-American supporter of Mr. Bush who is close to Karl Rove, the White House political chief, said the president did not go into the heart of New Orleans and meet with black victims on his first trip there, last Friday, because he knew that White House officials were "scared to death" of the reaction.

"If I'm Karl, do I want the visual of black people hollering at the president as if we're living in Rwanda?" said the supporter, who spoke only anonymously because he did not want to antagonize Mr. Rove.

In Bush's administration, people are not held accountable and Michael Brown, head of FEMA, is no exception.

Mr. Bush, characteristically, did not officially dismiss Mr. Brown, instead calling him back to Washington to run FEMA while a crisis-tested Coast Guard commander, Vice Adm. Thad W. Allen, was given oversight of the relief effort. The take-charge Admiral Allen, who commanded the Coast Guard's response up and down the Atlantic Seaboard after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, immediately appeared on television as the public face of the administration's response.

Insurance companies may attempt to get out of paying for homes damaged in Katrina.

The majority of homes in areas slammed by the hurricane have policies that cover wind and rain damage, but relatively few had extra insurance to cover flooding. Insurers are posturing to limit the amount of damages by saying massive flooding in storm-ravaged New Orleans is a separate event from the hurricane itself.

Bush Suspends Fair Wages for the Gulf Coast Cleanup

The President issued an executive order on Thursday that makes it possible for federal contractors to pay extremely low wages to workers hired for the Gulf Coast rebuilding. Bush accomplished this by suspending the 1931 Davis-Bacon law, which says that federal contractors must pay their workers a “prevailing wage” on construction projects. Contrary to the misinformation coming from the right wing – that prevailing wages are actually high “union wages,” as John Fund wrote on The Huffington Post last week – the truth is that the prevailing wage is just the average wage for a specific job function in a local area. In parts of the Gulf Coast, these wages for construction workers can be low – even as low as $7, $8, or $9 an hour.
Deep poverty is a major part of the story of Hurricane Katrina, as is now plain for all of us to see. How are New Orleanians and other people in the region supposed to get back on their feet if they can’t even make $7 an hour? Hundreds of thousands of people have just lost everything they had. America has to put Gulf Coast workers back to work – and at wages that can help them and their families get back on their feet. Davis-Bacon guarantees a wage floor when they get back to work. If the President wants to help storm victims he should rescind his executive order immediately.

Pat Robertson's Katrina Case-via Operation Blessing

Robertson's scheming hasn't abated one bit. He is accused of violating his ministry's tax-exempt, nonprofit status by using it to market a diet shake he licensed this August to the health chain General Nutrition Corp. (Robertson continues to advertise the shake on his personal website.) He has withstood criticism from fellow evangelicals for investing $520,000 in a racehorse named Mr. Pat, violating biblical admonitions against gambling. He was even accused of "Jim Crow-style racial discrimination" by black employees who successfully sued his Christian Coalition in 2001 for forcing them enter its offices through a back door and eat in a segregated area (Robertson has since resigned).

Cronyism:Firms with Bush ties snag Katrina deals

At least two major corporate clients of lobbyist Joe Allbaugh,   President George W. Bush's former campaign manager and a former head of the  Federal Emergency Management Agency, have already been tapped to start recovery work along the battered Gulf Coast.

One is Shaw Group Inc. and the other is Halliburton Co. subsidiary Kellogg Brown and Root. Vice President  Dick Cheney is a former head of Halliburton.

"The government has got to stop stacking senior positions with people who are repeatedly cashing in on the public trust in order to further private commercial interests," said Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight.

Bush Approval Rate at 39 percent-below 40 percent for the first time

For Bill Kane of Kingsland, Georgia, the government's slow response to the hurricane "was terrifying to see in our own country. It made you mad, because it made you think where's our money going?"

US/FEMA Attempted to Ban Media from Katrina Sites-Courts Overrule

CNN filed suit against Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Michael Brown, arguing that the officials who announced the decision were acting on FEMA's behalf. 

"For an agency to unilaterally ban all coverage of a major component of its governmental function, that is, recovery of the deceased victims of the tragedy, is unprecedented," CNN argued in its legal brief. "Instead, the agency has made a subjective, content-based determination that publicizing the operation would be 'without dignity.'"

CNN's brief argued, "It is not the place of government to replace its own internal judgment for that of a free and independent media."

Because of controversy about how FEMA and other agencies handled the disaster response, CNN lawyers argued, "it is even more vitally important for the public, Congress and the administration to have an independent view of the conduct of this important phase of the operation."

Court Rules that the United States Can Confine American Citizens Without Charges-flies in the face of the principles this country was based on and underscores how important it is to put judges on the Supreme Court, where this case will undoubtely go next, who respect civil liberties and the constitution.

But Avidan Cover, a senior associate at Human Rights First, said the ruling "really flies in the face of our understanding of what rights American citizens are entitled to." Opponents have warned that if not constrained by the courts, Padilla's detention could lead to the military being allowed to hold anyone who, for example, checks out what the government considers the wrong kind of reading materials from the library.

Congress to Investigate 9/11 Loan Abuses

Congress will investigate the "flagrant abuse" of a federal loan program designed to help businesses recover from the Sept. 11 attacks and make sure such problems don't occur with Hurricane Katrina relief, a key Senate Republican announced Friday. AP quoted several business owners as saying they hadn't been hurt by the attacks and were embarrassed to learn their loans came from the program. And banking officials and SBA documents show the SBA encouraged lenders to give out the low-interest, government guaranteed loans using the loosest interpretation of the rules

Chief Justice Rehnquist's Drug Habit

And for the nine years between 1972 and the end of 1981, William Rehnquist consumed great quantities of the potent sedative-hypnotic Placidyl. So great was Rehnquist's Placidyl habit, dependency, or addiction—depending on how you regard long-term drug use—that by the last quarter of 1981 he began slurring his speech in public, became tongue-tied while pronouncing long words, and sometimes had trouble finishing his thoughts.

Ken Lay, Jeff Skilling and Rick Causey-defense team has issued a Motion to Dismiss

Actions of the Enron Task Force have deprived Lay, Skilling and Causey "of their constitutional rights both to secure and confront witnesses, thereby stripping defendants of their ability fully and fairly to prepare for and defend themselves at trial. Put simply, witnesses are afraid to talk to us," the request stated.

McCain Breaks McCain-Feingold Law

As they say, ignorance of the law is no excuse. Especially if you wrote the law.

Last week Sen. John McCain cut a TV ad endorsing an opponent to John Campbell, the Club for Growth PAC's endorsed candidate in the California special congressional election to replace Chris Cox.

As reported by the Orange County Register, "One thing the first airings of the ad did not include: [House Candidate Marilyn] Brewer does not state that she approved the ad. That's now required by law. Specifically, the law co-sponsored by McCain himself."

And recently PoliticalMoneyLine reported that "Talk of 2008 - Sen. John McCain's Straight Talk America" registered again as a federal PAC...The phone number on their form is also listed as the fax number on the website of the Reform Institute, a 501c3 organization supporting McCain's goals." The IRS has a strict prohibition against 501c3 organizations conducting political activity.

We're waiting for the so-called reformers to file a complaint...or McCain to turn himself in.

DeLay's state PAC indicted

Travis County grand jury indicted a business organization and a political committee founded by U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay on Thursday on felony charges of violating election laws by using corporate money to influence state elections.

The indictments accuse the DeLay-founded Texans for a Republican Majority Political Action Committee of two counts of illegally soliciting corporate money for political campaigns.

The indictment of TRMPAC is significant because it reflects on DeLay's role in overseeing the committee. DeLay served on its board of advisers and helped raise some of the corporate money at the core of the controversy.

Army changes story about soldier's death

Ballard's mother, Karen Meredith, of Mountain View, California, is a public critic of the war. She traveled last month to Crawford, Texas, to participate in the protest outside President Bush's ranch by another grieving mother, peace activist Cindy Sheehan.

On Memorial Day in 2004, the day after Kenneth Ballard died, the Army informed his family that he had been killed by enemy fire while on a combat mission in the south-central Iraqi city of Najaf.

The Army disclosed Saturday that Ballard, 26, actually died of wounds from the accidental discharge of a M240 machine gun on his tank after his platoon had returned from battling insurgents in Najaf.

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