By THOMAS HARGROVE
Scripps Howard News Service
March 04, 2006
Videos of top-level teleconferencing between federal and state officials released Wednesday showed that President Bush and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff were warned a day before Hurricane Katrina struck that there were "very, very grave concerns" that the levees protecting New Orleans might not contain the flood waters. And Michael Brown, the disgraced now-former Federal Emergency Management Agency chief, is showing warning of insufficient disaster teams "to respond to a catastrophe within a catastrophe" at the Superdome. The footage raised new questions by Democrats about Bush's claim that no one had foreseen the failure of the levees. "It looks like everybody was fully aware," said New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin.
Iraqi death toll after mosque bombing at least 500
Security forces in Baghdad banned truck and auto traffic during Friday prayers in hopes of calming Shiite-Sunni violence following the Feb. 22 bombing of the golden-domed Shiite shrine in Samarra. Although the casualty count has been in dispute, at least 500 people have died nationwide as Iraq teeters on the brink of civil war. The lull during the Moslem Sabbath came after at least 58 people perished Thursday, including 19 fatalities when gunmen attacked a power station where Shiite brick-factory workers slept. U.S. forces detained 61 suspected insurgents northeast of Fallujah.
White House starts second review of port deal
Heading off a likely revolt by Capitol Hill Republicans, the White House announced Monday that it would order a second review of possible security risks over a United Arab Emirates company assuming control of shipping operations at six major U.S. ports. Later that day a Senate committee released documents showing that the U.S. Coast Guard cautioned President Bush that it could not confirm whether Dubai-owned DP World might support terrorist operations. "There are many intelligence gaps," a Coast Guard report warned. Complicating the issue, it was revealed later in the week that another Dubai-owned company was trying to buy a British firm with plants in Georgia and Connecticut that manufacture parts for engines for military aircraft and tanks.
Mardi Gras returns to the Big Easy
An estimated 350,000 people assembled in New Orleans on Tuesday to celebrate Mardi Gras, about a third the normal number of partygoers. But city leaders hailed the event as an important victory for the Katrina-battered port city. "This is more than tossing beads and having a party. This is something that runs deep inside us," said Monk Boudreaux, Big Chief of the Golden Eagles tribe and one of the many traditional celebrants. "It's in our blood." Merchants along Bourbon Street reported business was well off last year's mark.
"Duke" Cunningham sentenced in bribery case
Former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, R-Calif., was sentenced to eight years and four months in prison - the longest term ever against a former member of Congress - by a San Diego judge Friday following his admission to accepting $2.4 million from defense contractors, the largest documented bribe in U.S. history. "I made a very wrong turn. I rationalized decisions I knew were wrong. I did that, sir," Cunningham told U.S. District Judge Larry Burns last month. Federal prosecutors had urged the judge to impose the maximum of 10 years in prison. Cunningham's sentence surpasses an eight-year term for former Rep. James Traficant, D-Ohio, convicted in 2002 for taking payoffs.
Saddam signed mass-death orders
Prosecutors in Baghdad, after five months of trial, finally produced evidence Tuesday that former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein directly ordered the execution of 148 men and boys in reprisal for an unsuccessful 1982 assassination attempt in the town of Dujail. One order recommended "executing in a secret manner" 10 males between the ages of 11 and 17. Prosecutors showed a note in Saddam's handwriting that said: "Yes, it is preferable that they are buried by the Mukhabarat," a reference to his feared intelligence service.
Bush signs nuclear pact with India
President Bush and Indian Prime Minister Singh announced Thursday a deal ending the United States' longstanding ban on sales of nuclear fuel and reactor components, while India promised to open its civilian nuclear facilities to international inspections. However, eight of India's 22 nuclear-power facilities would remain under military control and not open to inspection. In Washington, Democrats complained the secret military facilities would allow India to continue nuclear-weapons production unchecked.
Russians try to broker peace with Hamas
Leaders of the ruling Palestinian movement Hamas met with peace negotiators in Moscow on Friday as Russian leaders urged militants to soften their antagonism to Israel. Hamas political chief Khaled Mashaal continued a hard line with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, saying the Jewish state must withdraw from territories taken in 1967 before peace talks can resume. But Lavrov said Hamas appeared willing to honor peace agreements of the previous Palestinian administration. "I won't give overly optimistic forecasts, but this is a step in the right direction," Lavrov said.
Senate reauthorizes Patriot Act
The Senate, on an 89-10 vote, Thursday approved reauthorization of the USA Patriot Act following a few compromises that set modest curbs on the government's authority to investigate terrorism suspects. The House is expected to approve the bill before the old act expires March 10. "This bill will allow our law-enforcement officials to continue to use the same tools against terrorists that are already used against drug dealers and other criminals, while safeguarding the civil liberties of the American people," President Bush said while on a formal visit to India.
Bush visits Pakistan
Ignoring a suicide bombing that left four dead outside the U.S. Embassy in Karachi, President Bush went to the Pakistani capital on Friday under extraordinarily heavy security to meet with Pakistani Gen. Pervez Musharraf. "Terrorists and killers are not going to prevent me from going to Pakistan," Bush said. "It's important to talk with President Musharraf about continuing our fight against terrorists. After all, he has had a direct stake in this fight. Four times, the terrorists have tried to kill him."
State of emergency ended in the Philippines
Philippines President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on Friday lifted a state of emergency that banned political rallies, restricted news media and led to the arrests of dozens of people, apparently without warrants. Arroyo said her security advisers assured her that the government no longer was in danger of a coup. "I will act with steadfastness and determination each time our enemies undermine our nation and the economy," Arroyo said in a nationally televised address.
Robertson voted off religious-broadcasters board
Controversial Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson was not re-elected to the National Religious Broadcasters' board of directors, a post he's held for 30 years, following criticisms about some of his recent remarks. "There was broad dismay with some of Pat's comments," Board President Frank Wright said Tuesday. Robertson was widely criticized after calling for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and for suggesting that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's stroke was divine punishment for pulling out of the Gaza Strip.
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