Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Hurricane Katrina: The Aftermath

Andy Carvin, Program Director of the EDC Center for Media & Community and coordinator of the outstanding Digital Divide Network organization, has started a blog to assist with information about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina along America’s Gulf Coast. Blogs are a fast and effective way to mobilize people around an emergency like this so a big “Hat Tip” goes to Andy for thinking fast and organizing this effort. You can find out more at Andy’s Waste of Bandwidth. See the August 31, 2005 post Hurricane Katrina Mobcast or just hop over to the Katrina Aftermath blog and have your say (no TypeKey registration headaches required for leaving comments).

View this image of a New Orleans cemetery statue titled “
Indescribable Sadness” courtesy of Pinhole. A picture can truly say a thousand words and in this case for all of the people fighting floodwaters and loss of life and property along the American South’s Gulf Coast. Here is the link to the online photo-sharing service Flickr site for all images tagged HurricaneKatrina (again, thanks to Andy Carvin).

I haven’t seen flooding like this in the States since the
Great Flood of 1993 along the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. I was visiting my hometown near St. Louis, Missouri at the time of that devastating flood and there is very little you can do when the levee breaks except watch Mother Nature do her work and afterwards pitch-in to help out the people of the affected communities in whatever way you can. More than fifty people died, USD$ 21 billion in damages to property, some communities submerged under floodwaters for almost 200 days. Hurricane Katrina has already left more death and destruction than the Great Flood of ‘93 in her wake. Here are more useful links to help inform my readers about this storm:

National Weather Service, National Hurricane Center
NOAA: National Climatic Data Center, Historical Significant Events Imagery
Google News:
Hurricane Katrina
CNN: Conditions deteriorate in Katrina's wake (also see videos)

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Monday, August 29, 2005

Blogging Hurricane Katrina

The big news of the day back in the States is of course the massive storm Hurricane Katrina that at the time of this writing is slamming into America’s Gulf Coast. The beautiful and historic city of New Orleans, Louisiana and surrounding areas are taking the brunt of the 400Km-wide Category 4+ storm. Recent reports say that the hurricane may reach U.S. Gulf Coast cities as far away as Biloxi, Mississippi and east into the Florida panhandle.

Along with mainstream news media networks (MSM) such as CNN bloggers are also on top of this developing story. Michelle Malkin has a good roundup on the Hurricane Bloggers in her August 28th post “Katrina Blogging: Dire Outlook”. Have a look at Dr. Jeff Master’s The Weather Underground for August 28th-29th updates and stop over at Stormtrack where Jordan and Bryan are surfing the storm right to your doorstep. Here is the Hurricane Katrina Advisory from the NOAA’s National Weather Service. These are great examples of how weblogs authored by professionals and ordinary citizens can be very useful in natural disasters and weather emergencies. The Asian Tsunami of December 2004 was another good example of how blogs can work to help save lives. My thanks to Chrenkoff for his August 29th lead to Michelle Malkin’s posting.

Additional info can be found at the CNN special section Hurricane Season 2005 and to be fair CNN’s Miles O’Brien has a Cane Blog too. First a Space blog and now a Hurricane blog; I guess that Miles is serious about the Blogosphere. CNN’s website also has a feature on Citizen Journalists covering the storm. It can be found in this article "Katrina’s floodwaters inundating Gulf Coast" but it is limited to photos with brief text descriptions only. Wikipedia has a detailed article on the storm and a special section titled 2005 Atlantic Hurricane Season with lots of background information and facts on hurricanes and tropical cyclones around the world.

In the meantime lots of prayers and hope go out from around the world for the people in the path of this massive killer storm.

NOAA/NWS National Hurricane Center
Google News: Hurricane Katrina

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Friday, August 26, 2005

Robertson vs. Chavez Firestorm Just Won't Go Away

As an update to my August 24th post on evangelist Pat Robertson's comments about President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela I wanted to point my readers to two very good blog authors writing on this subject (and lot's of other good stuff). Boz of Bloggings by Boz stopped by to say thanks for a comment I left at his place yesterday. Boz specializes on Latin America and Foregin Policy issues and he provides very good analysis. Please read his informative post on the Robertson vs. Chavez debate titled "Run away from Robertson".

Boz's post was also featured over at the new TPMCafe: The Coffeehouse blog in the Top Readers section (No decaf, please). Don't miss the TPMCafe's special guest blogger retired U.S. Army General Wesley Clark who will be blogging LIVE starting August 29th, 2005 at the Tabel for One section. Nice blog they have there, real nice, and they are using a very cool open-source community publishing software named SCOOP.

Boz points us to an award-winning blog named Venezuelan News and Views. Daniel, a Venezuelan national and author of this blog, has written a fine post titled "A Tale of Two Preachers". This blog has many useful links to other blogs and websites focused on Venezuela and Latin America, so do have a look around Daniel's place. Are these guys listed over at Global Voices Online? They certainly should be.

In my previous post on Robertson vs. Chavez I raised the question (tongue-in-cheek) about the legality of calling for the assassination of a foreign leader while standing on U.S. soil. You can do this openly in many other countries (I hear it all the time here in Germany, all the time) but you have to kinda watch that kind of thing back home. John Dean, former Counsel to the President of the United States (remember Richard Nixon?) writing for's FindLaw's Writ thinks that Marion "Pat" Robertson may have done just that: broken U.S. Federal laws. Here is an excerpt of what Mr. Dean had to say about all of this in his article titled:

Was Pat Robertson's Call for the Assassination of a Foreign Leader a Crime? Had he been a Democrat, he'd probably be hiring a Criminal Attorney.

"From the moment I heard Robertson's remark, on the radio, I thought of the federal criminal statutes prohibiting such threats. Do they apply?

For me, the answer is yes. Indeed, had these comments been made by a Dan Rather, a Bill Moyers, or Jesse Jackson, it is not difficult to imagine some conservative prosecutor taking a passing look at these laws - as, say, Pat Robertson might read them -- and saying, "Let's prosecute." ...
read more

I also went back today to review the streaming video of Pat Robertson's TV Blooper as featured on the Media Matters website on August 22nd and noticed a related article about the Fox News Channel TV broadcast Hannity & Colmes on the subject which aired August 25th. According to an interview conducted with former CIA operative Wayne Simmons calling for the assassination of foreign leaders may be reaching the EPIDEMIC STAGE back home! Here is an excerpt from that interview on Fox's Hannity & Colmes show. Tonto, let's go to the videotape of the August 24th edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes please:

HANNITY: But first, Pat Robertson caused a bit of a media firestorm this week when he advocated, some say, the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Now Pat Robertson apologized for those remarks today, but who is Hugo Chavez? Is he a threat to the United States that must be dealt with?


ALAN COLMES (co-host): Should we assassinate him?

SIMMONS: Well, listen, if a stray bullet from a hunter in Kentucky should find its way between these guy's -- this guy's eyes --

COLMES: Just by accident?

SIMMONS: -- no American --

COLMES: Who knew?

SIMMONS: Yes, who knew? No American should lose any sleep over it.

This guy Simmons worked for the Feds as a CIA operative?? You can't be serious! Oder? What was his field of expertise? Whacking foreign leaders and deer hunting?

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Evangelist Pat Robertson & President Hugo Chavez Face Off

While I’m on the Hot Button subjects of religion and politics it should be noted that last night while viewing international news I got the shock of my life. CNNI Europe ran a report showing U.S. TV evangelist preacher Pat Robertson calling for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo (the Bear) Chavez. That’s right, Robertson was advocating ASSASSINATION of a democratically elected president of a sovereign nation in the Americas on international TV! I couldn’t believe it! Don’t we have enough problems on our plates back home without this idiot getting the Venezuelans and half of South America riled up against U.S.?

Fortunately the story didn’t get picked up (yet) in a major way over here in Germany by TV networks (not sure about the press), so I double-checked what’s shaking in the Blogosphere this afternoon and here is what I was able to find out:

First place I did a check was at Technorati and the Top Blog Topic of the Day is guess what?
Pat Robertson. 15,431 blog posts and counting and almost none of them are supportive of Reverend Robertson’s comments about the benevolent President Chavez, hero of the poor and downtrodden masses of Venezuela.

Then I went over to
Blogpulse (we’ll talk about them later, these folks are GOOD) to see what they had on the story and came up with some real gems. Check out their Blogpulse Newswire post for August 24, 2005 “Big Mouth Wednesday: Pat Robertson & Google Talk”. This is the first place online (Blogosphere & the Web) where I could find complete text and a streaming video replay of Pat Robertson’s TV Blooper of the Century. Here is an excerpt from what Robertson said and I quote:

“…You know, I don't know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it. It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war. And I don't think any oil shipments will stop. But this man is a terrific danger and the United ... This is in our sphere of influence, so we can't let this happen. We have the Monroe Doctrine, we have other doctrines that we have announced. And without question, this is a dangerous enemy to our south, controlling a huge pool of oil, that could hurt us very badly. We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability. We don't need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator. It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with…”

Unbelievable, isn’t it!! Unbelievable! And they (the Feds) didn’t lock this guy up yet! What about all of those new anti-terrorism laws Congress passed last year? Isn’t this kind of thing against the law in America?

I know that some of you out there don’t believe me, especially my blogger buddies working down in remote areas (jungles, deserts, etc.) without good access to the latest news and information. So checkout this article from the non-profit group Media Matters with the Instant Replay video:
Robertson called for the assassination of Venezuelan President…

Here are some excerpts and links to what some other well-known bloggers are saying about the right Reverend Robertson’s ideas on regime change in South America:

Tim Worstall:
Pat Robertson: Assassinate Hugo Chavez Aug. 24, 2005

“What is it we’re supposed to do? Condemn terrorism and similar outrages even if they do come from our own side? I’m not sure that Pa[t] Robertson is in fact on my side. Religious fundamentalists of any stripe are not "my side" but as he’s identified as "right wing" and some people, rather absurdly, seem to think that I am also such, here’s my response to his latest:”

A Fistful of Euros: Don’t Stand in the Middle, Just Duck Aug. 24, 2005

“…I do have one reasonably important difference with Tim on the deontological level I think: political assassination. I do not favour this, and recent US history in Latin America is not a happy one in this regard to say the least. Maybe my perspective is coloured regionally, but little as I like Chavez, I regard Vladimir Putin as a much worse global menace,…”

Booker Rising: Christians Behaving Badly Watch Aug. 23, 2005

"Now, I'm not a fan of Hugo Chavez. I think he is a demogogue that dresses up in democratic clothing. But the Venezuelan people did vote for him and that has to stand. Chavez already thinks we are looking to bump him off, we don't need some nutjob like Robertson trying to play to Chavez's assas[s]ination fantasies."

"I agree that Hugo Chavez ain't on the up and up. However, this is the same Pat Robertson who cozied up to Charles Taylor's tyrannical regime in Liberia in order to illegally set up a gold mining venture in that country? And Chavez is small fry compared to the mess that Chuckie (who is now passing time in exile in a villa in Nigeria) wrought in Liberia: a civil war that killed 12% of the total population, half of Liberia's women raped by various rebel forces and his henchmen..."

Jewels in the Jungle: My Comments to Booker Rising Post Aug. 24, 2005

“I almost choked on my beer and pretzels over here in Germany last night after seeing this nutjob Pat Robertson make an ass of the whole country on CNNI and BBC news! Cain't we do better than this, America?? Fortunately Robertson is not that well known abroad but I think that may change after his outrageous remarks about Chavez. Whack the President of Venezuela?? Is he crazy? I didn't know about the links between Robertson and Charles Taylor down in Liberia. Thanks for the tip in your comment over at Dean's World. This guy Robertson should be "Dead Meat" in the Blogosphere as of today. Did anyone back home make an official apology to the people of Venezuela? Did the price of a barrel of oil increase further because of this guy?"

Global Wire: US Evangelist orders ‘fatwa’ for Hugo Chavez Aug. 24, 2005

“…Robertson is no stranger to controversy. Right after the September 11 tragedies, Robertson along with fellow evangelist Jerry Falwell agreed that the attacks were caused by "pagans, abortionists, feminists, gays, lesbians, the ACLU and the People for the American Way…"

Global Wire: Excerpt from comment at Booker Rising Aug. 24, 2005

“Robertson repeatedly supported Taylor in various episodes of his 700 Club program during the United States' involvement in the Liberian Civil War in June and July 2003. Robertson accuses the U.S. State Department of giving President Bush bad advice in supporting Taylor's ouster as president, and of trying "as hard as they can to destabilize Liberia." Robertson has been criticized for failing to mention in his broadcasts his $8 million investment in a Liberian gold mine. Taylor had been at the time of Robertson's support indicted by the United Nations for war crimes. According to Robertson, the Liberian gold mine Freedom Gold, was intended to help pay for humanitarian and evangelical efforts in Liberia, when in fact the company was allowed to fail leaving many debts both in Liberia and in the international mining service sector. Regarding this controversy, Richard Land, head of the Southern Baptist Convention's public policy said, "I would say that Pat Robertson is way out on his own, in a leaking life raft, on this one."

Update August 25th:
I should point out that Pat Robertson did make an apology for his "inappropriate comments" regarding President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, and I cleaned up my own inappropriate comment yesterday about Mr. Robertson's money trail to Liberia (as we have no definitive proof, yet). In addition I am adding to this post an interesting report on Prez Chavez by CBN News senior reporter Dale Hurd. Below is an excerpt from the CBN report "Hugo Chavez vs. America".

CARACAS, Venezuela - His name is Hugo Chavez. He is the president of oil-rich Venezuela. Mr. Chavez has decided that America is his enemy, so he is building up his army. He has forged an alliance with Fidel Castro, and many think he is going to make trouble for the United States.
Chavez believes he is in a fight with the devil. But the devil that Chavez fights does not reside in Hell. Chavez believes that the devil resides in Washington...
(read more)

Here is Dale Hurd's take on the world's reaction to Pat Robertson's comments about Chavez : "Reaction to Robertson's Comments on Chavez".

Obviously, Dale hasn't been cruisin' the Blogosphere lately. That oughta do it for today. I'm outa here.


Monday, August 15, 2005

Pope Benedict XVI Prepares for Visit to Germany

Pope Benedict XVI is busy preparing for his second trip outside Vatican City when he travels on August 18, 2005 to Cologne, Germany for World Youth Day. I haven’t seen much German TV news coverage of this important event in the past few days so I thought I would look into what’s going on. This excerpt from Germany’s news magazine Der Spiegel International - English Summaries for August 15, 2005 “Coming Home to the Unbelievers” helps explain what Pope Benedict will be facing on his return to the land of his birth, Deutschland:

SPIEGEL cover story: When Pope Benedict XVI lands in Cologne to attend World Youth Day, he will be setting foot in a country to which he has become a stranger. The churches are empty, politicians have no religious beliefs, and people in the east have no God at all. Now the biggest religious festival of the post-war era is meant to serve as a starting point for a new religious consciousness. With World Youth Day, the Roman Catholic Church wants to capture the attention of a youth that has grown up with little moral direction. The Pope is sure to evoke cheers from the young visitors - most of them Spanish, Italian and French - on Cologne's Rheinwiesen and in Marienfeld. Perhaps he will even succeed in finding a language of gestures and symbols without copying his predecessor. But what happens once the event is over?

In my opinion, the Pope will be traveling to (somewhat) hostile territory albeit the Germans will certainly put on a good show for such a high profile visit of a local boy who’s made good. Of course there is a lot of support for the new Pope around Koeln (Cologne) as it is at the heart of Catholic Deutschland and home to the fabulous Gothic cathedral the Koelner Dom. I happen to live up North in Luther’s Territory where Catholics (still) fear to tread. Of course I try to get along with people of all religious faiths. It is the way I was taught back home and I strongly believe in the principles of religious tolerance and respect. Everywhere.

Here are some additional views from the international press and a blogger on the upcoming visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Germany:

Der Spiegel International (English Edition) – Opinion- July 29, 2005:
A Cold Wind from Rome

Catholic News Service August 11, 2005:
Pope’s visit to Germany will return young papacy to world stage

USA Today for August 10, 2005:
Religion Takes a Back Seat in Western Europe

Google News Search:
Pope Benedict XVI to Visit Germany

UCLA Law School - Professor Stephen Bainbridge’s blog:
Exclusive (anonymous) Photos of Pope Benedict XVI preparing his secret formula to win back the Lost Lambs of Deutschland.

O.K. I thought I would add a little humor to the end of the story for my German readers. Professor Bainbridge is certainly going to Hell for this one Boy. You Infidel!!

Last-Minute Papal Update!
Here is a blog post (auf Deutsch, German) about a Radio Vatican interview with Pope Benedict XVI speaking about his upcoming visit to World Youth Day in Cologne. A big "Hat Tip" to fellow blogger Matthias Heil for his cool posting with mp3 file download on The Pope. Matthias is a high school teacher of English and Religion at the Winfried Schule in Fulda, Germany.

Does this mean that The Vatican is moving into Podcasting soon? Maybe this Pope ain't so backwards as the (German) press has been trying to portray him. He's just different, that's all.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Space Shuttle Discovery Returns Home Safely

The NASA Space Shuttle Orbiter Discovery has landed safely at Edwards Air Force Base in California’s Mojave Desert at 14:12 CET today. A big sigh of relief went up from people all around the globe to hear and see Commander Eileen Collins and NASA JSC Mission Control guide that sweet baby through the dangerous period of re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere and make the final maneuvers for landing and touchdown.

Live TV video was only possible with infrared cameras due to the fact that it was the pre-dawn hour on America’s West Coast yet it was pretty cool to see this little white dot in the night sky over the Pacific finally take the distinctive outline and shape of the Shuttle Discovery as she glided in for a perfect landing. Commander Collins was at the wheel (the control stick) of course and this was only her second landing of a Space Orbiter. Eileen was a perfect pilot at the controls of this complex, hard-to-fly spacecraft and women and girls all around the world can be proud of her, showing the men and boys how it’s done right. Frauen Power!

As I have pointed out in an earlier posting NASA’s Discovery
Return to Flight website has just about everything space fans and ordinary folks alike could ever wish for regarding this special mission, the Discovery and her excellent crew. Don’t forget to checkout NASA’s main website for upcoming thrill-a-minute space adventures to the Moon and to Mars. This is where the future is, kids. Space.

For all of you new media producers and bloggers out there experimenting with
Podcasts, NASA’s STS-114 Mission Specialist Steve Robinson produced the very first Podcast from Space ever on this flight! That’s right, a podcast was created aboard the Shuttle Discovery and made available for download via the Internet. You know what this means, don’t you?? Bloggers in Space is the next logical step. Hey, I’m ready. Maybe I should go and revise my resume yet again for the folks over at NASA. I still wanna be a Spaceman so bad and I’m not getting any younger, Houston!!

Monday, August 01, 2005

Sudan: Vice-President John Garang killed in helicopter crash

Dr. John Garang, newly appointed Vice-President of Sudan, has been killed in a helicopter crash near the Sudan-Uganda border on Sunday. According to various media reports the crash occurred while Garang was returning to his home base city New Site in southern Sudan travelling aboard a presidential M-71 helicopter after a meeting with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni at his ranch in Rwakitura, southern Uganda. It was reported that as many as 17 bodies have been recovered from the wreckage, six of which were part of John Garang’s party. The SPLM/A leadership, now headed by Garang’s deputy Salva Kiir Mayardit, is urging all Sudanese people to remain calm and stressing that the crash was an accident due to bad weather over the mountainous region of the southern Sudan and northern Ugandan borders. The SPLM has requested from the Ugandan government details from the helicopter crash investigation and information from the helicopter’s flight recorder. Rioters and Sudanese security forces are clashing today in Sudan’s capital Khartoum and in some cities in southern Sudan according to several media reports. There are approximately 4 million Sudanese refugees living in and around Khartoum who were forced away from their land and homes during the 21-year civil war.

The charismatic tough leader of the SPLM was a hero to millions of southern Sudanese people for his relentless fight for justice against the brutal military regimes ruling the country for more than two decades from Khartoum. Born 1945 in the remote Bor district of southern Sudan, Garang was one of the few southern Sudanese young people to receive a secondary school education (in Tanzania) and he went on to study agriculture and economics at Grinnell College and the University of Iowa in the U.S.A. In 1970 Garang turned down a graduate fellowship at University of California - Berkeley to take up arms against the Khartoum regime. The Sudan Mirror published an editorial on Dr. John Garang before his death titled “Sudan’s Garang: From rebel leader to statesman”. Tributes and condolences are pouring in from ordinary citizens and political leaders from around the globe for the late Dr. John Garang.

I am personally very saddened about the news of John Garang’s death and concerned about the absence of any independent investigation into the crash by accredited international aviation accident experts. To make matters worse it wasn’t 2 weeks ago that I was discussing the taking of office by John Garang in Khartoum with a friend of mine here. My friend, a devout Muslim from Senegal, and I rarely agree on global politics and issues and we have especially heated debates (near fistfights) about issues in Africa and the Middle East but on one opinion we were in complete harmony: If John Garang remains in Khartoum the Bashir regime there would kill him. Now he is dead, by an accident, they say.

A very good independent news site to visit in order to keep track of developments surrounding the death of Dr. John Garang and the very fragile peace and power-sharing processes in the Sudan is the Sudan Tribune. Two popular news aggregator blogs on Sudan are Sudan Watch by Ingrid Jones in the U.K. and Sudan: The Passion of the Present based out of the U.S.A. I’m afraid that I could not find good profile info on the SPLM/A’s Salva Kiir Mayardit but I’m certain the folks over at Human Rights Watch (allegedly) know all about this guy. Here is a list of people HRW keeps track of in southern Sudan according to their 581-page 2003 report: Sudan, Oil, and Human Rights. The SPLMToday website has a good backgrounder on the evolution and union between the two main southern Sudan political parties, the SPLM and the SPLA.

UPDATE August 02:

The International Crisis Group has issued a statement of condolence to the people of Sudan and I thought that I would share it with my readers here today. The Brussels-based organization is well known for their excellent reports and briefs on Conflict Analysis and Resolution. I would recommend their special section Crisis in Darfur and all of their reports and briefs on Sudan, including the June 2005 Africa Brief No.26 - ICG/Zogby International Opinion Survey: Do Americans Care About Darfur? I would like to see a report from some credible organization about where the rest of the World's citizens stand nation-by-nation on Darfur but I wouldn't hold my breadth waiting on it. Here is the press statement from the ICG regarding the tragic death of SPLM leader Dr. John Garang:

Brussels, 1 August 2005:
The International Crisis Group offers its condolences to the people of Sudan and the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement (SPLM) following the tragic death of First Vice-President and SPLM Chairman Dr John Garang.

Dr Garang has left a legacy of peace, and we hope that the Comprehensive Peace Agreement which he negotiated and signed can still take root in Sudan. The SPLM and the Government of Sudan must continue their efforts to implement the agreement in order to fulfil his vision for peace and end the cycle of violent conflict.

The rioting and looting that have followed the announcement of Dr Garang's death threaten to further destabilise the situation if not brought under control. Calm and tolerance must now be promoted by all sides to help salvage this dangerous moment. The international community must continue to strongly support the peace agreement and help the SPLM at this critical time for it.

It is through the continued implementation of the peace agreement and a lasting end to hostility in Sudan that Dr Garang's legacy can best be remembered and honoured.