September 7, 2005

News for September 7, 2005

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Storms as of September 6, 2005

Morticians Prep for 40,000 Bodies (September 6, 2005) - As the water level in much of New Orleans begins to slowly recede, officials are preparing to deal with thousands of dead bodies – bodies floating in contaminated water, hidden in damaged homes and even piled together in the freezer of the city’s convention center. “DMort is telling us to expect up to 40,000 bodies,” Dan Buckner, a funeral home director, said, quoting officials with the Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team, a volunteer arm of the Department of Homeland Security. According to a report in the Shelbyville Times-Gazette of Tennessee, Buckner, co-owner of Gowen-Smith Chapel, and his partner are on their way to the Gulf Coast to help deal with the mounting number of dead. The 40,000 estimate does “not include the number of disinterred remains that have been displaced from ... mausoleums,” Buckner told the paper. The Dmort teams include morticians, medical examiners, coroners, pathologists, anthropologists, odontologists, dental assistants, photographers, police, DNA, X-ray, evidence, fingerprint, mental health and computer specialists, and others such as heavy-equipment operators. “Until they search each and every remaining house and remove all the fallen materials ... they will not know how many people are there,” Buckner said. more...


Is FEMA Ready For Bay Area Earthquake? (September 6, 2005) - The federal government is facing intense criticism for its response to Hurricane Katrina. Now, many people in the Bay Area are wondering how the feds will respond when a major earthquake hits our region. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, is now part of the Department of Homeland Security, where the emphasis is on terrorism -- not natural disasters. That has affected the government’s preparation for disasters like New Orleans, as well as earthquakes. Randolph Langenbach spent 12 years working at FEMA. “I left FEMA a year ago,” he said. “I took an early retirement, and one of the reasons I did was that the agency had substantially changed.” Langenbach says the agency used to have a clear purpose, but started to suffer from low morale and high turnover. “When I started work for FEMA, there was a real sense that this was an important activity,” he said. “The sense of mission had disappeared and they were just ready to get out.” Langenbach says it was clear the Bush administration was far more focused on terrorism than on natural disasters like hurricanes and earthquakes. In California, people like Susan Tubbesing of the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute say the change is unmistakable -- not only at FEMA, but at the state level as well. more...


Former CIA Director Tenet Threatens Disclosures? (September 6, 2005) - Former CIA director George Tenet, said to be the target of what the Washington Times called “a scathing report by Inspector General John Helgerson” - may go public with embarrassing disclosures about the Bush administration and its actions leading up to Sept. 11, 2001. The CIA report, prepared as the result of a 17-month investigation by a team of 11 CIA officials, blames Tenet and several top CIA officials for its failure pre-9/11 to deal with al-Qaida. But former Reagan White House aide and intelligence expert John B. Roberts II, quoting an anonymous source close to Tenet, wrote in Thursday’s Washington Times that the former chief spook has no intention of taking it lying down. The report, delivered to Congress this week, recommends punitive sanctions against Tenet, former Deputy Director of Operations James L. Pavitt and former counter-terrorist center head J. Cofer Black. Roberts writes, “George Tenet is not going to let himself become the fall guy for the September 11th intelligence failures, according to a former intelligence officer and a source friendly to Mr. Tenet.” In retaliation, Roberts says that Tenet may turn the tables and put the blame on President Bush. Tenet, he claims, has already written a fiery, 20-page, “tightly knitted rebuttal” to the Inspector General’s report. But Tenet's response has been marked “classified,” in contrast to usual CIA practice. Also unavailable to the public is the report itself. more...


SScientists baffled by changes in Saturn’s rings (September 7, 2005) - New observations by the international Cassini spacecraft reveal that Saturn’s trademark shimmering rings, which have dazzled astronomers since Galileo’s time, have dramatically changed over just the past 25 years. Among the most surprising findings is that parts of Saturn’s innermost ring -- the D ring -- have grown dimmer since the Voyager spacecraft flew by the planet in 1981, and a piece of the D ring has moved 125 miles inward toward Saturn. While scientists puzzle over what caused the changes, their observations could reveal something about the age and lifetime of the rings. Cassini-related discoveries were discussed Monday at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society’s division of planetary sciences in Cambridge, England. “I don’t think Saturn’s rings will disappear anytime soon, but this tells us how the rings are evolving and how long they might last,” deputy project scientist Linda Spilker said in a telephone interview from England. more...


Quake felt in Jordan Valley, Tel Aviv (September 7, 2005) - An earthquake was felt in the Jordan Valley and near Tel Aviv Wednesday around noon. The quake measured 3.7 on the Richter scale; No injuries or damage were reported. In a striking coincidence, the government's ministerial committee for earthquake preparedness met on Wednesday morning (before the earthquake struck). Experts told the ministers that in case of a major quake, as many as 51,000 structures throughout the country could collapse, Army Radio reported. Members of the committee, which was formed after the Tsunami disaster in Southeast Asia, met as the United States continued to grapple with the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina. According to the current assessment, the structures built prior to 1974 that are three stories tall or more are most likely to collapse. more...


Storm Prompts Warning Along Florida Coast (September 7, 2005) - About 120 miles of Florida’s Atlantic coast were under a tropical storm warning Tuesday as a new system formed just offshore and threatened to dump up to 15 inches of rain in parts of the state. The tropical depression could strengthen into Tropical Storm Ophelia by Wednesday, which prompted the warning from north of Jupiter to Titusville, according to the National Hurricane Center. It could bring tropical storm conditions of winds of at least 39 mph to the state by Wednesday morning. “The primary concern is very heavy rains,” hurricane specialist Richard Pasch said. Five to 10 inches were expected over the next few days, with some isolated areas possibly getting 15 inches. At 11 a.m. EDT, the depression had top sustained winds of about 30 mph and was centered about 180 miles southeast of Cape Canaveral. It wasn’t moving, but it should start heading north-northwest later Tuesday, forecasters said. Ophelia would be the 15th tropical storm of the 2005 season. There are only six remaining names on this year’s list of such storms, according to the National Hurricane Center. more.........


Israel to Transfer Parts of Northern West Bank to Palestinian Authority (September 7, 2005) - The area where the four evacuated settlements, Ganim, Kadim, Homesh and Sa-Nur, used to sit is considered Area C - in full Israeli control - reportedly in order to keep it as a bargaining chip in future negotiations over the West Bank. According to government and defense sources, because Israel does not want to maintain a presence in the evacuated area, Israel has told the Palestinians during talks between officers that it intends to give them most of the responsibility for the region. The IDF will reportedly not enforce the prohibition against unauthorized Palestinian construction, as it does not in other areas of the West Bank, as long as building does not take place close to the separation fence or roads. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is to meet Wednesday for consultations with Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, Finance Minister Ehud Olmert, Vice Premier Shimon Peres and Minister without Portfolio Haim Ramon. On the agenda are control over the Gaza-Sinai border, the IDF’s evacuation of the Philadelphi route, and the timing of the transfer of responsibility for the Gaza Strip to the Palestinians. According to government and defense sources, Israel is leaning toward accepting an Egyptian-brokered compromise over the operation of the border crossing from Sinai to the Gaza Strip. According to the proposal, Egypt will close the present Rafah crossing for “renovations” for a period of six to nine months immediately after Israel leaves the Philadelphi route. People and goods will cross into the Gaza Strip via a new terminal Israel is building at Kerem Shalom at the Gaza-Sinai-Israel border, which will be under Israeli control. more...re...


Moussa Arafat Murder Is Widely Seen as Palestinian Authority Inside Job (September 7, 2005) - The assassination of Moussa Arafat was obviously well-planned and carefully staged. According to DEBKAfile’s counter-terror sources, the crime bears the hallmark of Palestinian minister for civilian affairs Mohammed Dahlan and his sidekick, Gaza preventive security chief Rashid Abu Shebak, two would-be Gaza strongmen who are no strangers to violence. Suspicion is strong that they contracted the Popular Committees’ Salahedin Brigades for the slaying. Scores of armed men dragged the former Palestinian military intelligence chief and head of national security forces in the Gaza Strip from his home, shot him dead and abducted his son Manhal. The fact that a large band of armed men was allowed to pump 23 bullets into Arafat’s body - whereas none of his bodyguards suffered a scratch - bespeaks betrayal and conspiracy. In Nablus, the local Palestinian intelligence chief Maher Yousuf wondered aloud how nearly 100 gunmen could have fired rocket-propelled grenades, automatic weapons and grenades for 45 minutes in the heart of Gaza City, which is packed with Palestinian Authority security men, without interference. Another Palestinian official, military security chief, Col. Maher Fares, accused interior minister Nasser Yousef of abetting the murder. He refused to believe the Popular Committees, whose Salahedin Brigades claimed the assassination, acted alone without the connivance of someone in authority. A third Palestinian Authority cited Hamas. The inevitable reprisal may be illuminating, although the round of accusations is a measure of the speed with which the Gaza Strip is already sinking into a bloody factional warfare in readiness for Israel’s pullback next week, Sept 12-15. more...


The Sharon-Netanyahu Contest and the Palestinian Agenda (August 30, 2005) - US president George W. Bush, Ariel Sharon and Mahmoud Abbas are certain the Israeli government did the right thing in uprooting Israel’s civilian presence from the Gaza Strip ahead of the final pullback of troops on Sept. 15. But their gratification is likely to be short-circuited by the rush of events on the ground. Already, Sharon is paying the price for his action. The praise he won from Bush and other world leaders for his courage in going through with evacuations is proving expensive: his Likud has set in train the first steps for his ouster, accusing him of deserting its principles by expelling Israeli communities for nothing at best, a heightened terrorist menace, at worst. His long-time challenger, Binyamin Netanyahu, translates Sharon’s courage and the praise thereof as “a headwind for Palestinian terror.” Netanyahu’s belated challenge to Sharon’s leadership is less important per se than the dangerous prospect of its outcome being determined not by the Israeli voter but by Palestinian terror tacticians. Had Abu Mazen followed up on the Israeli pull-back with determined action to disarm and disband Palestinian terrorist organizations and then moved forward to join Israel in peace negotiations, Sharon could taken the Netanyahu threat in his stride. But this is not happening. The fact of the matter is that the level of Palestinian terror is climbing day by day, and the first post-evacuation suicide attack has already taken place in Beersheba. Israeli troops are still in Gaza demolishing Israeli homes and dismantling their installations - and already they are targeted by the gunmen of the first outside Palestinian terror group to arrive from Lebanon, Ahmed Jibril’s PFLP-GC. more...