Monday, November 16, 2009

Why Good Journalism Is Important

There is a disturbing trend I have watched develop over the last decade or so.

Yellow Journalism seems to be taking over more and more respectable news sources.

Now, before anyone forgets, Faux News, I mean, Fox News, has never been even close to a semblance of a credible news source.

I mean, come on. One of their own spokesmen ADMITTED that they use propaganda on a consistent and constant basis.

Now that we have that out of the way, I would like to talk to YOU, CNN.

Yellow Journalism, as I learned it, is the use of attention-grabbing headlines in order to draw in readers or the practice of presenting opinion as fact.

Now, more than ever, we are bombarded with a never-ending stream of information. Whether it is the internet, cable news, or the slowly dying print media, if you want to find out about what is going on in the world, it is literally less than a click away.

The information junkie part of myself is in love with this fact, but the cynical side of me often wonders just how reliable these sources are that the information is coming from.

Really? A helium balloon can carry a six year old child? How stupid do you think we are? Do you mean to tell me you are seriously going to cover this ALL DAY when it takes 4 SECONDS for it to register in your brain that this is physically impossible??? Wow. Faaaaaaantastic.

You see, I don't know if it is because I am the daughter of a former Washington Post reporter and Virginian-Pilot editor or maybe I just have common sense, but more and more I am noticing a lot more opinion seeping in and less and less facts.

And, it bothers me.

It bothers me, immensely.

I see it as a personal responsibility as a journalist, no matter what "type" of journalist you are, to present the facts as they are and NOT what you think of said facts.

I understand that as a writer, you are allotted your own voice and must use it, BUT I draw the line when journalists delve into opinion territory while reporting facts.

Call me silly, but isn't that an editorial and not a report?

I truly believe that especially now we, the American people, DESERVE to be given facts.

Just the facts.

I don't know about you, but if you give me the facts, I can pretty much ascertain my OWN opinion from it, without the help of any "talking head."

And, I truly believe that the rest of us are perfectly capable of doing that, as well.

So, this is my open letter to you, Journalists of America. It is time to bring TRUE fact reporting back.

Walter Cronkite would be pleased.

Your thoughts?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A regular genius.

James P. Miller, 20, is shown Saturday, Oct. 31, 2009, in a police photoAP

Police: Breathalyzer-costumed man accused of DUI

AP – Wed Nov 4, 4:47 pm ET

OXFORD, Ohio – An Ohio man dressed as a Breathalyzer test for Halloween found himself blowing into one after police stopped him for allegedly driving the wrong way without headlights on a one-way street. Oxford police said they stopped 20-year-old James P. Miller on Halloween night and found beer in his front seat and in the trunk. Full Story »

Monday, November 2, 2009

Space hotel says it's on schedule to open in 2012

Galactic SuiteReuters – An artists rendering of a shuttle docking with the Galactic Suite hotel is seen in an undated publicity …

BARCELONA (Reuters) – A company behind plans to open the first hotel in space says it is on target to accept its first paying guests in 2012 despite critics questioning the investment and time frame for the multi-billion dollar project.

The Barcelona-based architects of The Galactic Suite Space Resort say it will cost 3 million euro (2.7 million pounds) for a three-night stay at the hotel, with this price including an eight-week training course on a tropical island.

During their stay, guests would see the sun rise 15 times a day and travel around the world every 80 minutes. They would wear velcro suits so they can crawl around their pod rooms by sticking themselves to the walls like Spiderman.

Galactic Suite Ltd's CEO Xavier Claramunt, a former aerospace engineer, said the project will put his company ( ) at the forefront of an infant industry with a huge future ahead of it, and forecast space travel will become common in the future.

"It's very normal to think that your children, possibly within 15 years, could spend a weekend in space," he told Reuters Television.

A nascent space tourism industry is beginning to take shape with construction underway in New Mexico ofSpaceport America, the world's first facility built specifically for space-bound commercial customers and fee-paying passengers.

British tycoon Richard Branson's space tours firm, Virgin Galactic, will use the facility to propel tourists into suborbital space at a cost of $200,000 (122,000 pounds) a ride.

Galactic Suite Ltd, set up in 2007, hopes to start its project with a single pod in orbit 450 km (280 miles) above the earth, travelling at 30,000 km per hour, with the capacity to hold four guests and two astronaut-pilots.

It will take a day and a half to reach the pod - which Claramunt compared to a mountain retreat, with no staff to greet the traveller.

"When the passengers arrive in the rocket, they will join it for 3 days, rocket and capsule. With this we create in the tourist a confidence that he hasn't been abandoned. After 3 days the passenger returns to the transport rocket and returns to earth," he said.

Woman calls 911 to report herself as drunk driver

Woman calls 911 to report herself as drunk driver

NEILSVILLE, Wis. – The call came into the 911 dispatcher: "I don't want to hurt anybody. I'm drunk." And with that, Mary Strey, 49, of Granton, reported herself as a drunken driver about three miles northeast of Neilsville in central Wisconsin.

Clark County Sheriff's Chief Deputy Jim Backus said Monday that Strey's call on Oct. 24 led deputies to cite her for misdemeanor drunken driving with a blood-alcohol level double the legal limit to drive. She makes her first court appearance Dec. 10.

Backus said drunken drivers reporting themselves is rare.

In the 911 call, Strey said she wanted to report a drunken driver and the dispatcher asked if she was behind the suspect vehicle. "I am them," Strey said. She then followed the dispatcher's advice to pull over and turn on her flashers, telling him she had been "drinking all night long."

Ohio woman hopes trick-or-treater may find ring

AP – Mon Nov 2, 3:19 pm ET

TERRACE PARK, Ohio – A Halloween trick or treater in Ohio may have gotten a bigger treat than expected — a diamond ring. A woman in suburban Cincinnati said she thinks she may have lost her wedding ring when she was tossing candy into trick or treaters' bags on Halloween.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Church of Satan takes Television by Storm!

This is some seriously funny shit. "To hell with all of you!"
I only wish this were a regular program...

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Do You Have Toxic Neighbors?

Two things caught my attention strongly this week.

First, from the U.S. National Library of Medicine came the results of a study done on the incidences of Autism in proximity to point sources of environmental Mercury release.

An investigation on the release of mercury in the environment by the Environmental Protection Agency and autism count data collected by the Texas Educational Agency between 1998 and 2002 found that for every 1000 pounds of industrial release, there was a corresponding 2.6% increase in autism rates and a 3.7% increase associated with power plant emissions.

These findings are so significant that they have warranted further investigation.

In researching this more, I found a very enlightening section in the Dallas Morning News regarding industrial sites abutting residential neighborhoods.

Dallas county, alone, has 900 sites that house industrial chemicals.

Poor city planning and haphazard zoning has put industrial areas in close proximity to many residential areas, businesses, and even schools.

I highly recommend you read the entire incredibly interesting investigative report.

As someone who is increasingly interested in finding better, safer ways for the industrialization of our country, I found these stories to be very insightful!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Toronto Newsdesk

The WIRe – Week in Review

David Hunter

TORONTO – Here’s what stuck in my craw this week…the big story of the week of course was President Barack Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize, inviting controversy and surprise. I for one never expected it….two American women, Elizabeth Blackburn and Carol Greider, share the Nobel Prize for medicine, a first….Herta Mueller, a member of Romania’s ethnic minority who was persecuted for her criticisms of life behind the Iron Curtain, won the Nobel Prize for literature on Thursday, on the 20th anniversary of the Communist collapse…. Islamic extremist Zakaria Amara, 24, became the fifth member of the “Toronto 18” to plead guilty for plotting to bomb RCMP headquarters, nuclear power plants, and attacking Parliament; including plans to behead the Canadian Prime minister….earlier this week there were reports that the Toronto School Board was planning to ban the controversial book To Kill a Mockingbird after a parent complained, it has since been revealed that the woman’s child had never read the book, and the ban was taken off the docket. Mockingbird survives again, for now…..former British Prime Minister Tony Blair may be next in line for the newly created European President, or more accurately, the President of the European Union. Tea time for all….in a historic discovery, Canadian scientists decoded all three billion letters in the DNA sequence of a metastatic breast cancer tumor, identifying the mutations that cause the tumor to spread….meanwhile, University of Toronto researchers have developed a prototype chip that measures estrogen from tiny samples of blood and tissue – a technology they believe will assess a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer more quickly. I hope they all share a Nobel Prize if this works….

░▒▓ ▓▒░ ░▒▓ ▓▒░ ░▒▓ ▓▒░ ░▒▓ ▓▒░ ░▒▓ ▓▒░ ░▒▓ ▓▒░

In lighter news, Miley Cyrus has quit Twitter, saying in her last tweet “FYI Liam doesn’t have a Twitter and he wants me to delete mine with good reason” ….oh Miley, so young, so stupid….it’s always the 1.5 million followers that have to suffer….Brazilian police are looking for TV host Wallace Souza who is accused of commissioning killings to boost ratings. His show, Canal Livre, features graphic footage of crime victims. The things people will do for ratings….A 25 year-old woman in Stamford Connecticut was attacked by six other women who didn’t like her performance. The woman suffered bruises and chipped teeth. Tough crowd….A New Orleans man has been sentenced to seven years in prison and fined $15,000 dollars after duping the Egyptian Government into paying 7 million bucks for a shipment of frozen chickens he never delivered. He’s getting more time then some accused killers, the Justice System DOES work….Kelly Osbourne is pissed off because a British body spray she used left her with burn marks all over her body. Lesson; buy American next time….Toronto finally gets a Google Street View application. Huzzah…Guy Ritchie says he still loves Madonna, “And of course, here you go, I still love her. But she’s retarded too.” He said. Aw Guy, you old smoothie you….The FBI is probing whether Anna Nicole Smith plotted to kill her tycoon husband, 91 year old J. Howard Marshall. All she had to do was have sex with him….Who wants to see a movie based on the life of Robert Pattinson? A feature length documentary of the Twilight star’s life is forthcoming. I’ll be sure to miss that one….our Prime Minister Harpo decided he was going to play the piano at the National Arts Center Gala this week in order to change his stuffy and uptight image. Mmm, no, it didn’t work, he’s still a tool….Elizabeth Taylor had successful heart valve surgery this week. She’s a fighter, that’s for sure….child rapist Roman Polanski loses his extradition battle, but his team of Lawyers are appealing. I’m appealing too; let him go to jail….Finally, NASA decides to bomb the moon! In an effort to find water on the moon they plan to smash a rocket onto it’s surface. Nothing like a little regression to cure what ails us…

End notes

This week had been rolling along fairly normally until I heard that Barack Obama had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. I was initially surprised at this, since he hasn’t even finished a single year in office. Some wags even suggested that Obama got the award just for not being George Bush. Granted, he hasn’t done much to warrant the award, but he carries a certain intangible that is rare; he galvanizes, communicates, and brings people together. He is a central figure, respected, and I can name no other United States President in recent history who shares those attributes. If I were American, I would be proud. I AM proud, as I view the President of the United States with as much reverence as the Prime Minister of Canada, our present PM Harpo excluded of course. …until next week……

David Hunter, Over and Out. -- The Toronto News desk,

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Earthquakes Rock South Pacific

(CNN) -- Three major earthquakes struck within an hour and 10 minutes Thursday morning near Vanuatu in the South Pacific, prompting a tsunami warning that was quickly lifted.
Thursday's quakes struck near Vanuatu in the South Pacific.

The first quake, with a magnitude of 7.8, struck at 9:03 a.m. (6:03 p.m. ET) at a depth of 35 km (22 miles) and an epicenter 295 km (180 miles) north-northwest of Luganville, Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

For more info visit CNN, and USGS (United States Geological Survey)

100 Arrested in Online Fraud Crackdown

In what it is calling Operation Phish Phry, the F.B.I. began arresting 53 people on Wednesday on charges of conducting a vast financial fraud based on phishing — the act of tricking Internet users into revealing their passwords and other information.

The arrests were in Southern California, Nevada and North Carolina, while the authorities in Egypt sought to arrest 47 people whom the F.B.I. said were co-conspirators.

Read more at The New York Times

Breaking News: Breast Cancer Breakthrough....

VANCOUVER, CANADA (BNO NEWS) – Canadian scientists on Wednesday said they have achieved an unprecedented breakthrough in breast cancer research, opening new doors to new breast cancer treatment targets and therapies.

For the first time ever, scientists at the B.C. Cancer Agency were able to decode all of the three billion letters in the DNA sequence of a metastatic lobular breast cancer tumor, a type of breast cancer which accounts for about 10 percent of all breast cancer cases. The scientists were able to find all the mutations, or "spelling" mistakes that caused the cancer to spread further.

Read more... at BNO NEWS

Monday, October 5, 2009

10,000+ Hotmail Accounts Exposed [Alert]

It has now been confirmed that the usernames and passwords of more than 10,000 Hotmail users were posted online last week to a website for sharing code snippets. Read more at MASHABLE:

It is being advised that you change or alter your password as soon as possible.

The Toronto News Desk --

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The WIRe – Week in Review

From the National Affairs Desk: Toronto

TORONTO – Been a busy week, so let’s get to it….Swiss cops arrested Film director Roman Polanski as he was flying in for the Zurich Film Festival. He faces extradition to the U.S. for statutory rape charges for having sex with a 13 year old in 1977. Polanski claims it was consensual; I guess that means its okay…. 73 year old Dennis Hopper was taken to a New York Hospital this week; eyewitnesses say he was brought into the emergency room wearing an oxygen mask and had numerous tubes connected to him….Spencer Pratt says he’s afraid to have sex with wife Heidi Montag because he’s afraid she’ll get pregnant. Really, we all should have such problems….Tufts University in Boston has a new dorm policy banning sexual activity while a roommate is in the same room. That one’s just too easy….Apparently Canadian actress Ellen Page enjoys shoveling Goat manure, helps her relax…..Madonna, when asked this week if she’ll ever marry again stated: “I’d rather get hit by a train…” now THERE’S a ringing endorsement for marriage….. An earthquake measuring 7.6 hit Sumatra Wednesday with death tolls estimated at 1100, according to the UN….Meanwhile flooding in the Philippines leaves 140 dead after a month of rain falls in just 12 hours….astronomers say a bright flash in the sky over Ontario was likely a meteor streaking momentarily, and was possibly the size of a microwave….Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi cancelled his mysterious trip to St. John’s Newfoundland this week. His reason for cancelling the trip is just as mysterious as why he wanted to go there in the first place…. Chancellor Angela Merkel is re-elected with a majority government in Germany’s latest election, Portugal re-elects the Socialists, and Canada is still stuck with mister poopy-head in office….Lucy Vodden, classmate of Julian Lennon and inspiration for John Lennon’s classic song Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds, has died after a long battle with Lupus, she was 46….A toxicology report confirms that Adam Goldstein, AKA DJ AM, died of a lethal overdose of prescription drugs and cocaine….Jenny Slate, newcomer to Saturday Night Live, drops an F-bomb in the middle of a skit on live TV; “You know what? You stood up for yourself, and I fucking love you for that…” she said, before rolling her eyes and blushing at her mistake…...David Letterman must be blushing too; this week he came out and admitted he had sex with staff members, He also said a man had threatened to expose the relationships unless a payment of $2m was made. CBS employee and 48 Hours producer Robert "Joe" Halderman has been implicated. Didn’t know you had it in you, Dave, or hanging out of you… author, columnist, and Pulitzer Prize winner William Safire has died at the age of 79 after a battle with cancer. Safire penned more than 3000 columns over 30 years for the New York Times and wrote Spiro Agnew’s famous line “nattering nabobs of negativism.”

..On the Lighter Side…..

I nominate Canadian cutie Ellen Page as the Inaugural “National Affairs Girl of the Week” for her Brains, Beauty and Toughness, and her willingness to shovel Goat manure:

Thanks to all our contributors this week, and for making the NAD the great blog that it is. The conversation got a little heavy this week; a lot of religious discussion, and a lot of opinions. Sorry I didn't weigh in on it, but as I said, it's been a busy week. Thanks for reading! until next time...

David Hunter, the National Affairs Desk: Toronto

Friday, October 2, 2009

Judge Questions Texas Gay Marriage Ban

~From The Dallas Morning News: Click here for the full story!

Dallas state District Judge Tena Callahan ruled Thursday that two men, who prefer to remain unidentified, may divorce in the state of Texas and that the state's ban on gay marriage violates the U.S. Constitution. The men married in Cambridge, Mass., in September 2006 and in the interim since returning to Dallas have decided to dissolve their union.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott tried to intervene, arguing that because gay marriage is not legally recognized in Texas, a Texas court can not dissolve their marriage through divorce.

However, in March 2003, a Texas court became the first court outside Vermont to grant the dissolution of a civil union. The judge reversed his decision after a challenge by Abbott, a Republican.

Schulte, who represents one of the men in the divorce proceedings, was "surprised and ecstatic" by Judge Callahan's ruling and should have the order ready for the Judge to sign within "the next few weeks."

Abbot plans to appeal the ruling "to defend the traditional definition of marriage that was approved by Texas voters."

Texas Forensic Science Commission To Review Arson Ruling That Led To Execution

Cameron Tod Willingham was executed in February of 2004 for the suspected arson of his home that led to the death of his three children on December 23, 1991.

The Innocence Project has taken a closer look at the case, however, and their findings have prompted the Texas Forensic Science Commission to review a report Friday from an expert who has concluded that the arson determination may have been faulty.

Created by the Texas Legislature in 2005, the nine member panel will hear from others including the State Fire Marshal's Office and then release its own report. What happens after that is unclear. This is the commission's first review case; they do not have the authority to determine Willingham's guilt or innocence.

The purpose of this panel is only to determine forensic negligence.

Click here to read the full story on!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Hell comes to Somoa!!

Darkness decends on the small island of Somoa Wednesday around 7am as a 8.0 Earthquake and FOUR tsunami waves rip throught the terrian leaving hundreds dead in the wake!

Full story and pictures to come...

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The National Affairs Desk: Toronto

The WIRe – Week in Review

David Hunter

TORONTO -- A few things that came across the news desk here in Toronto this week; The 61st Prime Time Emmy’s were broadcast this week hosted by former child star Neil Patrick Harris and his forehead, and it featured a new category: reality programming. Here’s a reality: ZzzzZzzzzzzzzz….. A video has surfaced of Ben Stiller teaching 89 year old Mickey Rooney how to use Twitter. That ought to be worth a larf, since Mickey is older than electricity itself….Former chess champ Anatoly Karpov had a rematch with Gary Kasparov on the 25th anniversary of their title bout, which took almost as long to finish; the original match lasted five months and had to be called due to player “exhaustion”….Barack Obama, who became the first sitting U.S. President to guest on Letterman’s show, was intrigued by a heart-shaped potato brought in by a fan, and by Letterman’s question, “how long have you been a black man?”….Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper passed on addressing the United Nations at the G20 summit, dumping the duties on Deputy Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon. Wouldn’t want our PM to do anything IMPORTANT like being a statesman for our country now would we....speaking of the G20, Pittsburgh turned chaotic Thursday after protesters responded to calls to disperse by throwing stones and knocking over garbage cans, yeah, that helps…Former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau is being inducted into the Queer Hall of Fame for his role in de-criminalizing homosexuality....K-Fed is apparently okay with adding "fatso" to his other attributes "untalented" and "obnoxious"....Zooey Deschanel marries Death Cab singer Ben Gibbard, and this writer's heart is breaking....Canadian author Douglas Coupland's new book "Generation A" is being released; from X to A, eh Doug?.... Mackenzie Phillips, star of the 70’s sitcom One Day at a Time, and daughter of Papa John Phillips, has alleged in her new book that she and her father had a sexual relationship for ten years, by turns it was rape and consensual, she alleges… Mama Michele says she’s crazy because, “she’s had a needle up her arm for 35 years…” Gee mom, you’re swell….scientists have come to the brilliant conclusion that if you paint a Butterflies antennas black, they will become lost and be unable to migrate. I could have told you THAT without a science degree….Patrick Swayze’s memoir’s are set to hit the shelves soon, and in it he states that the script for his hit movie Dirty Dancing “seemed fluffy, nothing more than a summer camp movie”….why is former UFC champ Chuck Liddell dancing with the stars? Shouldn’t he be grounding and pounding them instead? It’d be more fun to watch….Jessica Simpson’s Maltipoo daisy was ingested…I mean EATEN… by coyotes and she is devastated. “Jessica has a very small inner circle,” one of her friends says, “but she always had Daisy. Daisy gave her unconditional love.”

End Notes
Thanks to all the NAD contributors this week, it’s been interesting. Although we had no rhyme, reason or theme this week, we can be thankful that all remaining celebrities are still alive and not dead as this Summer of Death comes to a close. Please scroll down and revisit some of this week’s great posts, and enjoy our comment sections, some of the best on the net, in my humble opinion. Until next week.

David Hunter's THE WIRe IMMENTENT!



Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Death Toll Hits 240 in Philippine Flooding

Jay Directo/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The town of Angono, just east of Manila, was still covered with floodwaters on Tuesday, three days after tropical storm Ketsana hit the country. More Photos >

Published: September 29, 2009

All Maximo Merioles Jr. could think about were his two children. As the floodwaters that had swamped his neighborhood came close to submerging him, he grabbed his two kids, ages 12 and 10, and swam toward another house, clambered up to the third floor, jumped between roofs and climbed down a wall to safety across the street.

Mike Alquinto/Associated Press

Residents of Pasig, a suburb of Manilla, on Tuesday. More Photos »

Mr. Merioles’s heart sank Saturday as he watched not just the flood but also a raging fire eat up most of the houses in Tatalon, a slum area in Quezon City, one of the cities that make up Greater Manila.

As residents dealt with the aftermath of Tropical Storm Ketsana, the government was facing criticism on two fronts: Did it provide enough warning before the floods, and was it doing enough to help people recover?

To help with the recovery, the government on Monday appealed for international help as the death toll rose to at least 240.

The American Embassy deployed Navy personnel to help out in the rescue and relief operations and also promised $50,000 in immediate disaster aid.

“The system is overwhelmed, local government units are overwhelmed,” Anthony Golez, a spokesman of the National Disaster Coordinating Council, told reporters during a briefing on Monday. “Our assets and people are spread too thinly.”

In Tatalon, unlike the other areas that were ravaged by the storm, what the flood did not destroy, the fire did. Seven residents died in Tatalon, officials said.

Mr. Merioles and the others interviewed in his neighborhood said electrical power remained in their area even as the floodwaters rose above four feet. No one knows exactly how the fire started. “Either you die from the fire or from the flood,” said Mr. Merioles, a stocky electronics repairman.

The tropical storm arrived in the Philippines over the weekend, releasing the largest amount of rainfall in nearly half a century and flooding 80 percent of Greater Manila before moving on to Vietnam, where it has killed at least 23 people, The Associated Press reported Tuesday morning.

Nearly 2 million people in the Manila area were affected, including more than 100,000 who were displaced after the storm dumped 16.7 inches of rain in just 12 hours on Saturday.

In Pasig City, one of the hardest-hit suburbs near the heavily silted and polluted Pasig River, the floodwaters in many communities hardly decreased. “The water is not moving,” a tearful Nene Monfort, 71, told ABS-CBN television in a live interview. She said she and her family, who have been holed up on the second floor of their apartment, could not come down because of the water.

The Health Department warned Monday of a possible spread of infectious diseases, especially in the refugee centers of Manila, which number more than 200.

And as the affected residents tried to rebuild their lives, they were seeking answers as well.

Many, like Rene Anselmo, 57, a retired driver in Tatalon whose three-story house was burned down except for about 5 feet of browned concrete and singed wood, wanted to know “why there was no warning about a flood this big.”

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration, the government’s weather bureau, denied in local reports that it had been negligent in warning people, saying it had issued warnings as early as Thursday, even raising storm alert levels the next day.

In an attempt to help deal with the aftermath of the storm, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo decided to open a portion of the grounds of the presidential palace to refugees. “The president has allowed the use of Malacanang itself, her own home, to be a center of relief operations,” said her press secretary, Cerge Remonde. He said the first family would be transferred to another area in the presidential compound.

The government also had declared a “state of calamity” in metropolitan Manila and 25 storm-hit provinces, including many that had not flooded before, allowing officials to use emergency funds for relief and rescue.

Mrs. Arroyo earlier announced that her government would not relent in its efforts to help those hurt by the storm.

Criticism of Mrs. Arroyo’s response could affect the presidential election, which is eight months away. The administration’s candidate is Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, who also leads the National Disaster Coordinating Council.

In the narrow streets of Tatalon, residents spent Monday taking out burned trash, dumping it on the main street outside of the slum, where mounds of black debris had been piled, practically blocking the street. Filthy floodwaters snaked beneath the rubbish.

Zoraya Tera, a 39-year-old homemaker, spent hours scrubbing her floor tiles and cleaning up her burned utensils. “Nothing is left, as you can see, but I am glad that none of my children were hurt,” she said, gesturing at what remained of her home, which had nothing in it except the burned and now rusting galvanized iron roofs.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Where the hell is Osama bin Laden??

By Peter Bergen
Special to CNN
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Editor's note: Peter Bergen, CNN's national security analyst, is a fellow at the New America Foundation, a Washington-based think tank that promotes innovative thought from across the ideological spectrum, and at New York University's Center on Law and Security. He's the author of "The Osama bin Laden I Know: An Oral History of al Qaeda's Leader."

Peter Bergen says Osama bin Laden is still alive and still significant eight years after September 11.

Peter Bergen says Osama bin Laden is still alive and still significant eight years after September 11.

HELMAND, Afghanistan (CNN) -- Eight years after September 11, the "war on terror" has gone the way of the dodo. And President Obama talks instead about a war against al Qaeda and its allies.

What, then, of al Qaeda's enigmatic leader, Osama bin Laden, who has vanished like a wisp of smoke? And does he even matter now?

The U.S. government hadn't had a solid lead on al Qaeda's leader since the battle of Tora Bora in winter 2001. Although there are informed hypotheses that today he is in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province on the Afghan border, perhaps in one of the more northerly areas such as Bajaur, these are essentially guesses, not "actionable" intelligence.

A longtime American counterterrorism analyst explained to me, "There is very limited collection on him personally."

That's intelligence community shorthand for the fact that the usual avenues of "collection" on a target such as bin Laden are yielding little or no information about him. Those avenues typically include signal intercepts of phone calls and e-mails, as well as human intelligence from spies.

Given the hundreds of billions of dollars that the "war on terror" has consumed, the failure to capture or kill al Qaeda's leader is one of its signal failures.

Does it even matter whether bin Laden is found? Yes, it does. First, there is the matter of justice for the almost 3,000 people who died in the September 11 attacks and for the thousands of other victims of al Qaeda's attacks around the world.

Second, every day that bin Laden remains at liberty is a propaganda victory for al Qaeda.

Third, although bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri aren't managing al Qaeda's operations on a daily basis they guide the overall direction of the jihadist movement around the world, even while they are in hiding.

Those messages from al Qaeda's leaders have reached untold millions worldwide via television, the Internet and newspapers. The tapes have not only instructed al Qaeda's followers to continue to kill Westerners and Jews, but some also carried specific instructions that militant cells then acted on.

In March 2008, for instance, the al Qaeda leader denounced the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in a Danish newspaper as a "catastrophe" for which punishment would soon be meted out. Three months later, an al Qaeda suicide attacker bombed the Danish Embassy in Islamabad, killing six.

Some reading this may think: But what's the proof that the al Qaeda leader is still alive? Plenty. Since September 11, bin Laden has released a slew of video and audiotapes, many of which discuss current events. After a nine-month silence, for instance, bin Laden released a 22-minute audiotape on March 14, sharply condemning the recent Israeli invasion of Gaza.

Are these tapes real? Not one of the dozens of tapes released by bin Laden after 9/11 has been a fake. Indeed the U.S. government has authenticated many of them using bin Laden's distinctive voiceprint.

And what about the persistent reports that he is ill? In 2002, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said bin Laden had kidney disease, for which he required a dialysis machine, and was therefore likely dead. But the stories of bin Laden's life-threatening kidney problems are false, judging by his appearance in videos that he released in 2004 and again in 2007, in which he showed no signs of illness.

On the 2007 tape, the al Qaeda leader had even dyed his white-flecked beard black, suggesting that as the Saudi militant entered his fifth decade, he was not immune to a measure of vanity about his personal appearance.

In fact, bin Laden looked much better in those videos than he did in the video he released shortly after the battle of Tora Bora in late 2001, where he had narrowly escaped being killed in a massive American attack.

The situation is further complicated by the fact that bin Laden and al-Zawahiri are almost certainly hiding out in the tribal areas of Pakistan, on the Afghan border.

Arthur Keller, a CIA officer who ran a spy network in Pakistan's tribal areas in 2006, told me the problems of working in the region: "It's an incredibly remote area. They're hiding in a sea of people that are very xenophobic of outsiders, so it's a very, very tough nut to crack."

An additional factor operating in bin Laden's favor is the personal popularity he has long enjoyed in Pakistan. Three years after the September 11 attacks, for instance, a Pew poll found that al Qaeda's leader had a 65 percent favorability rating among Pakistanis.

However, it is clear from the videos of bin Laden and al-Zawahiri that aired in the years since the attacks that they are not living in caves.

In those tapes, both men's clothes were clean and well-pressed. Caves generally don't have laundry facilities. And the videos that they have released are well-lit and well-shot productions, suggesting access either to electrical outlets or to generators to run lights. Al-Zawahiri is often filmed in a library setting, and on one of his videos from March 2006, there are curtains clearly visible behind him, suggesting that the tape was shot in a house.

By early 2008, the Bush administration had tired of the Pakistani government's unwillingness or inability to take out al Qaeda's leaders, and in July, the president authorized Special Operations forces to carry out ground assaults in the tribal regions without the permission of the Pakistani government.

But in the face of the intense Pakistani opposition to American boots on the ground, the Bush administration chose to rely instead on drones to target suspected al Qaeda and Taliban leaders. Bush ordered the CIA to expand its attacks with Predator and Reaper drones.

Between July 2008 and this month, U.S. drones have killed dozens of lower-ranking militants and at least 10 mid- and upper-level leaders within al Qaeda or the Taliban.

This strategy seems to have worked, at least in terms of combating the ability of al Qaeda to plan or carry out attacks in the West. Law-enforcement authorities have uncovered no serious plots against U.S. or European targets that were traceable to militants who had received training in Pakistan's tribal regions after the drone program had been dramatically ramped up there.

The increased pace of the American drone attacks in Pakistani's tribal areas was motivated in part by the hope that it would increase panicked communications among the militants, which might help pinpoint the locations of the top leaders in al Qaeda or the Taliban, but that approach has not paid off when it comes to bin Laden.

If killing bin Laden with a drone has proved difficult, so too will be capturing him alive.

His former bodyguard Abu Jandal told Al Quds al Arabi newspaper, "Sheikh Osama gave me a pistol. ... The pistol had only two bullets, for me to kill Sheikh Osama with in case we were surrounded or he was about to fall into the enemy's hands, so that he would not be caught alive "

Should bin Laden be captured or killed, that would probably trigger a succession battle within al Qaeda.

While al-Zawahiri is the deputy leader of the terror group and therefore technically bin Laden's successor, he is not regarded as a natural leader. Indeed, even among his fellow Egyptian militants, al-Zawahiri is seen as a divisive force, and so he is unlikely to be able to step into the role of leader of al Qaeda and of the world jihadist movement that is occupied by bin Laden.

By the law of averages, eventually, bin Laden will be captured or killed. Yet the ideological movement that he helped spawn -- "Binladenism" -- will live on long after he is gone. That is bin Laden's legacy.