More than * two million people* in Florida, Louisiana and Alabama have been ordered to evacuate their homes as Hurricane Ivan approaches the region. All three states have declared a state of emergency. Experts warn New Orleans could be devastated if the city is hit directly. The city’s emergency manager, Walter Maestri, is warning that as many as * 50,000 people could drown* if New Orleans was hit by a strong Category 4 storm such as Ivan. Already the city has 10,000 body bags on hand in case of a catastrophe. Maestri said, “You’re talking about the potential loss of a major metropolitan area.” New Orleans is the country’s largest city below sea level and is particularly vulnerable to flooding. Experts warn a direct hit would submerge the historic city for weeks in a stew of sewage, industrial chemicals and fire ants. Hurricane Ivan has already killed 70 in the Caribbean. The island of Grenada was hit hardest. 34 people were killed there and 90 percent of the homes were destroyed.
Many scientists have warned the warming of the world’s oceans has resulted in the * increased number of major hurricanes*. This year marks the first time ever that the United States has been hit by two storms that caused more than a billion dollars in damage. Hurricane Ivan will be the third major storm.
Meanwhile in Britain Prime Minister Tony Blair said yesterday that global warming has become the world’s * “greatest environmental challenge.”* He said, “It is now that timely action can avert disaster.”
In Iraq, the * death toll over the past four days has risen to over 150*. At a National Guard checkpoint south of Baghdad, a car bomb killed two and injured 10 earlier today. Meanwhile in Ramadi, 10 Iraqis were killed in a firefight between U.S. Marines and members of the Iraqi resistance. Yesterday Baghdad saw the city’s worst bombing attack in six months. 47 people died when a car bomb exploded outside the city’s main police station.
Much of Iraq also * lost power yesterday after sabatours blew up a major oil pipeline* near the town of Bayji in northern Iraq.
The chief of the Arab Leagye, Amr Mussa, warned yesterday that the * “gates of hell” had been opened in Iraq*. He called on Arab foreign ministers to “help Iraq through this crisis, reestablish sovereignty throughout the country and end the American occupation.”
In Washington, the Bush administration asked Congress for its OK to * shift nearly $3.5 billion from Iraq reconstruction projects* to beefing up security in Iraq. Of the $18 billion allocated by Congress for reconstruction only about $1 billion has been spent.
A new report by Amnesty International estimates * 32 million people in the United States have been the subject of racial profiling* and that nearly one-third of the country’s population are at high risk of being racially profiled. The reports states “Prior to 9/11, racial profiling was frequently referred to as 'driving while black,' Now, the practice can be more accurately characterized as driving, flying, walking, worshipping, shopping or staying at home while Black, Brown, Red, Yellow, Muslim or of Middle-Eastern appearance.” In its report titled * “Threat and Humiliation,”* Amnesty is calling on Congress to enact the End Racial Profiling Act of 2004.
In campaign news, more than 70 members of Ralph Nader’s leading supporters from 2000 have signed an open letter * calling on voters in swing states to support John Kerry and not Nader*. Signatories include Noam Chomsky, Phil Donahue, Barbara Ehrenreich, Manning Marable, Cornel West and Howard Zinn. In the letter, the group wrote “For people seeking progressive social change in the United States, removing George W. Bush from office should be the top priority in the 2004 presidential election. Progressive votes for John Kerry in swing states may prove decisive in attaining this vital goal.”
In related news it appears Ralph Nader’s name will appear on the ballot in Florida. Earlier this week Secretary of State Glenda Hood, an appointee of Governor Jeb Bush, ordered Florida’s election supervisors to * put Nader back on the ballot* despite a temporary injunction by a state judge that had knocked Nader off the ballot. Scott Maddox, the chairman of the Florida Democratic Party, said “Clearly, this is blatant partisan maneuvering by Jeb Bush to once again give his brother a leg up on Election Day.” The Democrats are continuing their effort to keep Nader off the ballot by appealing Hood’s decision in * three separate courts*. So far Nader is on the ballot in 33 states but in 12 of these states he is fighting efforts by the Democrats to kick him off the ballot.
In Sudan, the United Nations is now estimating up to 10,000 people are dying each month from disease and violence while living in refugee camps after being displaced from their homes due to ethnic violence.
The former chief of the CIA unit tracking Osama Bin Laden has told Congress that the Agency now has * fewer experienced case officers* assigned to dealing with Bin Laden than it did at the time of the Sept. 11 attacks. The officer Michael Scheuer described a situation where the unit tracking Bin Laden is stretched so thin that the CIA often relies on inexperienced officers who are rotated in and out of the unit every two or three months. Scheuer told Congress, “There has been no systematic effort to groom Al Qaeda expertise.”
A U.S. soldier seeking conscientious objector status is calling on the Army to * release him from military jail*. First Class Sergeant Abd Allah Webster has been jailed at a U.S. base in Germany since June after he refused to fight against fellow Muslims in Iraq. His appeal for conscientious objector status was rejected in May because his objection was not to war in general but to the Iraq war in particular. Webster, who served in the Army for 18 years, is now serving a 14-month term for refusing to fight. His wife criticized the Army for giving her husband a harsher sentence that Jeremy Sivits who admitted to torturing prisoners at Abu Ghraib. Sivits was given a one-year sentence.
While President Bush addressed members of the National Guard in Las Vegas yesterday, a group called * Military Guard Families Speak Out* held a press conference nearby to criticize the invasion of iraq. Among the speakers was Dante Zappala, who lost his brother Sherwood Baker in Iraq. Dante said, “My brother died trying to make an honest man of George Bush, hoping to find those illusive weapons of mass destruction. I don’t blame George Bush for his death. But I do believe that our President was careless with his responsibility to our troops. He has not supported our troops, but has used them to satisfy a very reckless agenda.”
In New York, the City Council is planning to hold a hearing this morning to examine whether the city violated the civil liberties of protesters during the Republican National Convention. During the week of protests, police arrested over 1,800 peaceful protesters including 1,100 in a single day. The city council is expected to discuss the city’s preemptive arrest policy, police surveillance, the conditions at holding center Pier 57 and excessive delays in processing arrests.