Thursday, October 30, 2008

Exxon Mobil: Biggest profit in U.S. history

Exxon Mobil: Biggest profit in U.S. history

Largest U.S. oil company surges past analyst estimates to post net income of $14.83 billion.

By Aaron Smith

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Exxon Mobil Corp. set a quarterly profit record for a U.S. company Thursday, surging past analyst estimates.

Exxon Mobil (XOM, Fortune 500), the leading U.S. oil company, said its third-quarter net profit was $14.83 billion, or $2.86 per share, up from $9.41 billion, or $1.70, a year earlier. That profit included $1.45 billion in special items.

The company's prior record was $11.68 billion in the second quarter of 2008.

The latest quarter's net income equaled $1,865.69 per second, nearly $400 a second more than the prior mark.

The company said its revenue totaled $137.7 billion in the third quarter.

Analysts had expected Exxon to report a 40% jump in earnings to $2.38 per share, or net income of $12.2 billion, and a 28% surge in revenue to $131.13 billion, according to a consensus of estimates compiled by Thomson Reuters.

The company's earnings were buoyed by oil prices, which reached record highs in the quarter before declining. Oil prices were trading at $140.97 a barrel at the beginning of the third quarter, and had fallen to $100.64 at the end.

Compare that to 2007, when prices traded at $71.09 a barrel at the beginning of the third quarter, and rose to $81.66 by the end.

Last of the big quarters

Exxon's special charges include the gain of $1.62 billion from the sale of a German natural gas company. It also includes the $170 million charge in interest related to punitive damages from the Valdez oil spill off the Alaskan coast in 1989.

The Irving, Texas-based company said it lost $50 million, before taxes, in oil revenue because of Hurricanes Gustav and Ike. The company expects damages related to these hurricanes to reduce fourth-quarter earnings by $500 million.

Exxon's stock price slipped by about 2% in afternoon trading. Bernie McGinn, Chief Executive of McGinn Investment Management and owner of 30,000 Exxon shares, said he wasn't surprised, given the recent downturn in oil prices.

"That's probably the last of the big profit quarters, at least for now," said McGinn. "You can't make the case that it's going to continue."

Despite the surge in profit, Exxon said oil production was down 8% in the third quarter, compared to the same period last year.

The company also said it is spending more money to locate new sources of oil. Exxon said it spent $6.9 billion on oil exploration in the third quarter, a jump of 26% from the same period last year. The company said it began a new program to tap natural gas offshore from Nigeria.

More investments

Exxon also has an aggressive program for buying back stock, with 109 million of its shares repurchased during the third quarter, at a cost of $8.7 billion.

In a conference call with analysts, David Rosenthal, vice president of investor relations for Exxon, said the company's "first priority" is using profits to continue investing in exploration programs for oil and other resources.

Rosenthal said the company would also consider using new-found funds to bolster its dividend, buy back more shares and to purchase other companies, but he declined to offer specific details.

Phil Weiss, analyst for Argus Research, said he doesn't expect Exxon to break any more profit records in future quarters.

"I don't expect the fourth quarter to be nearly as good as the third because of lower oil prices," said Weiss.

Analysts also said that demand for gasoline is falling, which could impact Exxon and other oil companies.

"While oil companies benefit from high oil prices in the short run, they might lose in the long run," Anas Alhajji, chief economist for NGP Energy Capital Management, wrote in an email to "Higher oil prices lead to lower demand, as we have seen in recent months."

Earlier Thursday, Europe's leading oil company, Royal Dutch Shell PLC (RDSA), reported a 22% gain in net profit for the third quarter, to $8.45 billion. The company said sales rose 45% to $132 billion.

Exxon is the second-largest company in the Fortune 500 in terms of annual sales, behind Wal-Mart Stores (WMT, Fortune 500).

Exxon's stock price has fallen about 20% so far this year, compared to the S&P 500, which has fallen about 36%.

Expanding War, Contracting Meaning

Strategic Vacuum

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Even as the Bush presidency wears down, the Global War on Terror only expands. Perhaps the word should be "metastasizes." Just this week, the U.S. military, using SOFA-less Iraq as its launching pad, sent four helicopters with U.S. special forces soldiers across the Syrian border in an operation in which a number of people were killed. (The Syrians claim the assault was on a farm and that "a father and his three children, the farm's guard and his wife, and a fisherman" all died; the U.S. claims that its forces took out a key al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia operative.) After a several day delay, American officials told the Washington Post that the raid was "intended to send a warning to the Syrian government. 'You have to clean up the global threat that is in your backyard, and if you won't do that, we are left with no choice but to take these matters into our hands,' said a senior U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the cross-border strike."

It was also an operation, according to Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker of the New York Times, that may have been meant as a warning to Iran. Perhaps the most important party being signaled, however, was the next administration. They were undoubtedly being reminded that Bush Rules should rule the future, that no sovereignty but American sovereignty is ever worth a hill of beans, and that a newly enunciated Bush Doctrine "principle" -- "you can only claim sovereignty if you enforce it" -- should not be abandoned. A gaggle of unnamed "senior American officials," whispering to Schmitt and Shanker, "expressed hope" that such a doctrine "would be embraced by the next president as well."

At the very least, they are ensuring that, when that next president enters the Oval Office, he will be embroiled in a wider war across an inflamed Middle East. As the ground war in Afghanistan has grown worse, for example, another border-crossing set of actions, a CIA-operated air war in the Pakistani borderlands, only increases in intensity. The Timesfollowing figures on its front page: "at least 18 Predator [missile-armed drone] strikes since the beginning of August, some deep inside Pakistan's tribal areas, compared with 5 strikes during the first seven months of 2008." recently offered the

In Afghanistan itself, an increasingly unpopular U.S. air war, with all its "collateral damage," continues. Only last week, in a "friendly fire" incident, American planes leveled an Afghan Army checkpoint, killingblamed those casualties on "a case of mistaken identity on both sides.") And southwest of Kabul, reports came in that another American air strike had killed at least 20 private security guards for a road construction project. nine Afghan soldiers and wounding three. (After its usual initial reluctance, the Pentagon magnanimously

You can say one thing: To the bitter end the Bush administration clings to a fundamentalist belief that military power offers the royal path to all solutions. It's a conclusion that has already left an area from Somalia to Central Asia unsettled and increasingly aflame, and that seems only to draw more nations into the President's "global war" with, as Andrew Bacevich makes vividly clear, ever less of a rationale. You can listen to a podcast interview with Bacevich, whose bestselling book The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism is a must for your post-election bookshelf, by clicking here. Tom

Expanding War, Contracting Meaning

The Next President and the Global War on Terror
By Andrew J. Bacevich

A week ago, I had a long conversation with a four-star U.S. military officer who, until his recent retirement, had played a central role in directing the global war on terror. I asked him: what exactly is the strategy that guides the Bush administration's conduct of this war? His dismaying, if not exactly surprising, answer: there is none.

President Bush will bequeath to his successor the ultimate self-licking ice cream cone. To defense contractors, lobbyists, think-tankers, ambitious military officers, the hosts of Sunday morning talk shows, and the Douglas Feith-like creatures who maneuver to become players in the ultimate power game, the Global War on Terror is a boon, an enterprise redolent with opportunity and promising to extend decades into the future.

Yet, to a considerable extent, that very enterprise has become a fiction, a gimmicky phrase employed to lend an appearance of cohesion to a panoply of activities that, in reality, are contradictory, counterproductive, or at the very least beside the point. In this sense, the global war on terror relates to terrorism precisely as the war on drugs relates to drug abuse and dependence: declaring a state of permanent "war" sustains the pretense of actually dealing with a serious problem, even as policymakers pay lip-service to the problem's actual sources. The war on drugs is a very expensive fraud. So, too, is the Global War on Terror.

Anyone intent on identifying some unifying idea that explains U.S. actions, military and otherwise, across the Greater Middle East is in for a disappointment. During World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt laid down "Germany first" and then "unconditional surrender" as core principles. Early in the Cold War, the Truman administration devised the concept of containment, which for decades thereafter provided a conceptual framework to which policymakers adhered. Yet seven years into its Global War on Terror, the Bush administration is without a compass, wandering in the arid wilderness. To the extent that any inkling of a strategy once existed -- the preposterous neoconservative vision of employing American power to "transform" the Islamic world -- events have long since demolished the assumptions on which it was based.

Rather than one single war, the United States is presently engaged in several.

Ranking first in importance is the war for Bush's legacy, better known as Iraq. The President himself will never back away from his insistence that here lies the "central front" of the conflict he initiated after 9/11. Hunkered down in their bunker, Bush and his few remaining supporters would have us believe that the "surge" has, at long last, brought victory in sight and with it some prospect of redeeming this otherwise misbegotten and mismanaged endeavor. If the President can leave office spouting assurances that light is finally visible somewhere at the far end of a very long, very dark Mesopotamian tunnel, he will claim at least partial vindication. And if actual developments subsequent to January 20 don't turn out well, he can always blame the outcome on his successor.

Next comes the orphan war. This is Afghanistan, a conflict now in its eighth year with no signs of ending anytime soon. Given the attention lavished on Iraq, developments in Afghanistan have until recently attracted only intermittent notice. Lately, however, U.S. officials have awakened to the fact that things are going poorly, both politically and militarily. Al Qaeda persists. The Taliban is reasserting itself. Expectations that NATO might ride to the rescue have proven illusory. Apart from enabling Afghanistan to reclaim its status as the world's number one producer of opium, U.S. efforts to pacify that nation and nudge it toward modernity have produced little.

The Pentagon calls its intervention in Afghanistan Operation Enduring Freedom. The emphasis was supposed to be on the noun. Unfortunately, the adjective conveys the campaign's defining characteristic: enduring as in endless. Barring a radical re-definition of purpose, this is an enterprise which promises to continue, consuming lives and treasure, for a long, long time.

In neighboring Pakistan, meanwhile, there is the war-hidden-in-plain-sight. Reports of U.S. military action in Pakistan have now become everyday fare. Air strikes, typically launched from missile-carrying drones, are commonplace, and U.S. ground forces have also conducted at least one cross-border raid from inside Afghanistan. Although the White House doesn't call this a war, it is -- a gradually escalating war of attrition in which we are killing both terrorists and noncombatants. Unfortunately, we are killing too few of the former to make a difference and more than enough of the latter to facilitate the recruitment of new terrorists to replace those we eliminate.

Finally -- skipping past the wars-in-waiting, which are Syria and Iran -- there is Condi's war. This clash, which does not directly involve U.S. forces, may actually be the most important of all. The war that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has made her own is the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Having for years dismissed the insistence of Muslims, Arabs and non-Arabs alike, that the plight of the Palestinians constitutes a problem of paramount importance, Rice now embraces that view. With the fervor of a convert, she has vowed to broker an end to that conflict prior to leaving office in January 2009.

Given that Rice brings little -- perhaps nothing -- to the effort in the way of fresh ideas, her prospects of making good as a peacemaker appear slight. Yet, as with Bush and Iraq, so too with Rice and the Palestinian problem: she has a lot riding on the effort. If she flops, history will remember her as America's least effective secretary of state since Cordell Hull spent World War II being ignored, bypassed, and humiliated by Franklin Roosevelt. She will depart Foggy Bottom having accomplished nothing.

There's nothing inherently wrong in fighting simultaneously on several fronts, as long as actions on front A are compatible with those on front B, and together contribute to overall success. Unfortunately, that is not the case with the Global War on Terror. We have instead an illustration of what Winston Churchill once referred to as a pudding without a theme: a war devoid of strategic purpose.

This absence of cohesion -- by now a hallmark of the Bush administration -- is both a disaster and an opportunity. It is a disaster in the sense that we have, over the past seven years, expended enormous resources, while gaining precious little in return.

Bush's supporters beg to differ, of course. They credit the president with having averted a recurrence of 9/11, doubtless a commendable achievement but one primarily attributable to the fact that the United States no longer neglects airport security. To argue that, say, the invasion and occupation of Iraq have prevented terrorist attacks against the United States is the equivalent of contending that Israel's occupation of the West Bank since in 1967 has prevented terrorist attacks against the state of Israel.

Yet the existing strategic vacuum is also an opportunity. When it comes to national security at least, the agenda of the next administration all but sets itself. There is no need to waste time arguing about which issues demand priority action.

First-order questions are begging for attention. How should we gauge the threat? What are the principles that should inform our response? What forms of power are most relevant to implementing that response? Are the means at hand adequate to the task? If not, how should national priorities be adjusted to provide the means required? Given the challenges ahead, how should the government organize itself? Who -- both agencies and individuals -- will lead?

To each and every one of these questions, the Bush administration devised answers that turned out to be dead wrong. The next administration needs to do better. The place to begin is with the candid recognition that the Global War on Terror has effectively ceased to exist. When it comes to national security strategy, we need to start over from scratch.

Andrew J. Bacevich is professor of history and international relations at Boston University. His bestselling new book is The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism (The American Empire Project, Metropolitan Books). To listen to a podcast in which he discusses issues relevant to this article, click here.

US Federal Reserve cuts interest rates as recession deepens

US Federal Reserve cuts interest rates as recession deepens

By Patrick O'Connor
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The Federal Reserve yesterday cut its benchmark federal funds interest rate by a half a percentage point to 1 percent. The rate reduction is the Fed's second this month and brings the official interest rate down to a record low first reached in 2003 and 2004.

The volatile US share markets recovered some ground in anticipation of the rate cut, with the Dow Jones index closing 10.9 percent higher on Tuesday. But yesterday the Dow declined in late trading, falling 0.82 percent.

New economic data released in the last two days provide further evidence that the US economy has entered a severe recession.

The Conference Board released consumer confidence figures on Tuesday showing that its index plunged to 38.0, the lowest mark recorded since data was first kept in 1967. Consumer confidence was down from the 61.4 index rating in September, and considerably lower than what most analysts had anticipated. John Ryding at RDQ Economics described the October figures as "a shockingly weak reading."

Also released Tuesday was the S&P Case-Shiller index on housing prices, which found that house prices across 20 surveyed cities fell by 16.6 percent in August compared with the same period in 2007. Houses in Las Vegas, Phoenix, Miami and San Francisco suffered the biggest declines of 25-30 percent. Goldman Sachs' economists predicted that house prices will fall further by an average of 15 percent nationally.

A Wall Street Journal article yesterday stated: "The current downturn is shaping up to be worse than the recessions of 1990-91 and 2001 and the prolonged downturn that ended in 1982. Banks are cutting back on lending, consumers are spending less, companies are shedding jobs amid sinking profits, and the housing bust that triggered the slide persists."

One indicator of the rising social distress being felt by broad layers of the population is the escalating credit card default rate. According to the New York Times, lenders wrote off $21 billion in bad credit card loans in the first six months this year. Analysts estimate another $55 billion could be lost in the next 18 months.

Credit card companies have responded by targeting the victims of the recession. The Times reported: "Lenders are shunning consumers already in debt and cutting credit limits for existing cardholders, especially those who live in areas ravaged by the housing crisis or who work in troubled industries. In some cases, lenders are even reining in credit lines after monitoring cardholders who shop at the same stores as other risky borrowers or who have mortgages from certain companies."

Mass layoffs are being announced every day. Appliance maker Whirlpool announced yesterday it would increase layoffs from the previously announced 2,000 to 5,000 by the end of 2009. The sackings, which will affect 7 percent of the company's total workforce, are driven by slowing sales as consumers delay replacing malfunctioning appliances. Whirlpool has cut production by 10 percent in the third quarter this year and will reduce output by a further 20 percent in the US and Europe in the fourth quarter by shutting plants.

Other recently announced layoffs include: telephone company Qwest Communications, which is to cut 1,200 jobs; publishing giant Time Inc., which plans to dismiss 6 percent of its workforce; Doubleday Publishing, which has cut 10 percent of its staff; and newspaper publisher Gannett, which is also slashing 10 percent of its staff, on top of a 3 percent cut, affecting 1,000 workers, announced in August.

Workers in auto-related industries remain among the hardest hit. Michelin's BFGoodrich is laying off up to 40 percent of its workforce at a tire plant in Woodburn, Indiana for at least eight weeks in response to lower demand from auto makers and customers. Similar cuts are reportedly planned at two other BFGoodrich plants in Alabama, affecting a total of 1,500 workers across the three factories.

Tenneco, which produces auto emission and ride control systems, announced on Wednesday that it was cutting 1,100 jobs and closing five plants. About 500 salaried workers will be laid off and 600 hourly positions eliminated. The plant closures include one in Milan, Ohio, another in Evansville, Indiana and an engineering operation centre in Australia.

North American auto sales fell by 15.5 percent in the third quarter on an annualized basis. General Motors' sales declined by 18.9 percent in North America over the same period, and 11.4 percent globally. The former industrial giant continues to lose hundreds of millions of dollars each month. On Monday, ratings agency Moody's downgraded GM's credit rating further into "junk" status. It is now just three rungs above the lowest possible rating.

GM and Chrysler have reportedly resolved outstanding issues in their merger negotiations and are now seeking the necessary financing from the federal government. GM's chief executive Rick Wagoner has met with officials in Washington to lobby for a handover of public funds, modeled on the Bush administration's bailout of the financial sector.

Reuters cited sources who said GM was seeking $10 billion, while the Treasury Department was reportedly considering $5 billion. According to the news agency, a bailout "could include capital injections and government purchases of bad auto loans." The Wall Street Journal said on Monday that the public money may be channeled through the Energy Department, by diverting a portion of the $25 billion in low-interest loans approved last month for the auto industry to build more efficient vehicles.

A publicly-assisted financing operation for a GM-Chrysler merger would have a devastating social impact. The top executives responsible for running their companies into the ground will no doubt either retain their lucrative salary packages or be offered multi-million-dollar "golden handshakes" on their way out. Auto workers, on the other hand, will be asked to make even greater sacrifices and swallow further attacks on their jobs, wages, and conditions.

An article in yesterday's Guardian gave some indication of the potential effect of a merger between the US auto giants: "The manufacturers employ 355,000 people directly but support an estimated 4.5 million further jobs in industries from steel to plastics, electronics and computer chips. The non-profit Centre for Automotive Research in Michigan has estimated that a failure of Ford or GM could take a toll of 2 percent on the gross domestic product and would jeopardize as many as 2 million jobs."

The economic crisis is seeing merger proposals across a number of sectors. In the airline industry, Delta Air Lines and Northwest this week received Department of Justice approval for their planned union, which will create the world's largest airline company. Thousands more jobs will inevitably be lost in the sector as a result.

The rapidity of the economic downturn has alarmed a number of economists who are now warning of a potential deflationary crisis. The Wall Street Journal cited the comments of former Federal Reserve governor Laurence Meyer: "The expected rise in the unemployment rate, paired with the rising threat of deflation, presents a risk that the [Fed] will have to ease even further, perhaps all the way to a zero federal funds rate."

In yesterday's Financial Times, senior columnist Martin Wolf wrote: "[T]he idea that a quick recession would purge the world of past excesses is ludicrous. The danger is, instead, of a slump, as a mountain of private debt—in the US, equal to three times GDP—topples over into mass bankruptcy ... Globalisation would spread the catastrophe everywhere. Many of the victims would be innocent of past excesses, while many of the most guilty would retain their ill-gotten gains. This would be a recipe not for a revival of 19th-century laissez faire, but for xenophobia, nationalism and revolution."

This extraordinary statement underscores just how conscious sections of the ruling elite are of the likelihood that a prolonged world economic crisis will trigger major social and political upheavals.

US defense secretary expands pre-emptive war doctrine to include nuclear strikes

US defense secretary expands pre-emptive war doctrine to include nuclear strikes

By Alex Lantier
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In a remarkable speech on nuclear policy delivered October 28 at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP), US Defense Secretary Robert Gates painted a dire portrait of international affairs and argued that Washington should expand the doctrine of pre-emptive war formulated by the Bush administration to include possible nuclear strikes.

It is widely rumored that, in the likely event that Democrat Barack Obama wins next week's US presidential election, Obama will keep Gates as defense secretary. Gates' speech, given in the waning days of the Bush presidency, has the character of a policy declaration of the next US administration.

Gates began by making extended and ominous parallels between the world situation today and that which prevailed at the founding of the Carnegie Institute in 1910, four years before the outbreak of World War I. At the time, he noted, Wall Street was passing through the panic of 1910-1911 and facing a credit crisis, the US had recently put down an insurgency in the Philippines at a cost of 4,200 American lives, comparable to today's US death toll in Iraq, and "Europe was arming itself to the teeth and forming a series of alliances whose implications were obvious to anyone who cared to look."

Gates argued that the pacifist illusions promoted by CEIP founder Andrew Carnegie—a US steel magnate at the turn of the 20th century, most famous in the working class movement for the brutal suppression of the 1892 Homestead strike against his company—— should not deter Washington from planning broader war.

He noted, "In August of 1913, Carnegie said that ‘the only measure required today for the maintenance of world peace is an agreement between three or four of the leading civilized powers... pledged to cooperate against disturbers of world peace.'" Gates pointed out that, writing four years later to President Woodrow Wilson, who had been elected in 1916 on a platform of keeping the US out of the world war, "the same Andrew Carnegie encouraged the president in the strongest terms to declare war, because, he wrote, ‘There is only one straight way of settlement.'"

Turning to US nuclear policy, Gates said, "As long as others have nuclear weapons, we must maintain some level of these weapons ourselves: to deter potential adversaries, and to reassure over two dozen allies and partners who rely on our nuclear umbrella for their security—making it unnecessary for them to develop their own."

This comment gives a sense of the highly tense and unstable character of international relations, and the paranoia of US officials. Gates' fears about the spread of nuclear weapons are not limited to existing programs of "potential adversaries," among which Gates included "rogue states such as North Korea and Iran, or Russian or Chinese strategic modernization programs." His fears extend to the nuclear policy of all states, including current US allies.

Gates later repeated this point: "We simply cannot predict the future. [...] our adversaries and other nations will always seek whatever advantages they can find. Knowing that, we have to be prepared for contingencies we haven't even considered."

Gates' list of US-friendly states that have chosen not to develop nuclear weapons was significant: South Korea, Taiwan, Brazil, Argentina, South Africa, and Libya. Two of the most obvious such countries—ex-World War II enemies Japan and Germany—were not included. Gates did not explain what political factors induced him to omit them.

Gates then issued a remarkable threat: "As long as other states have or seek nuclear weapons—and can potentially threaten us, our allies and friends—then we must have a deterrent capacity that makes it clear that challenging the US in the nuclear arena—or with other weapons of mass destruction—could result in an overwhelming, catastrophic response.

According to Gates, the US must be able to credibly threaten a nuclear holocaust against any state that "challenges" the US in the nuclear arena or with other "weapons of mass destruction." By his own words, such a challenge does not require a nation to threaten to attack the US. It does not even require that a nation possess nuclear weapons or other WMD. It is enough for a nation merely to "seek" such weapons for it to become a potential target for a preemptive "overwhelming, catastrophic response" from the United States.

Such a doctrine has immense implications not only for US nuclear weapons programs, but for the totality of US foreign policy. It stipulates that every foreign power in the world must believe that attempting to develop nuclear weapons invites US nuclear attack. Thus, the US would arguably be obliged to attack with nuclear weapons countries which it accused of developing nuclear weapons—such as Iran and North Korea—lest the rest of the world conclude that the US will not carry out its threats.

Gates is filling out the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive war—announced in advance of the unprovoked invasion of Iraq based on lies about supposed Iraqi weapons of mass destruction—with the proviso that a US first-strike can involve the large-scale use of nuclear weapons.

In his speech, he called for a substantial increase in nuclear weapons spending, including the possible resumption of nuclear weapons testing. "There is absolutely no way we can maintain a credible deterrent and reduce the number of weapons in our stockpile without either resorting to testing our stockpile or pursuing a modernization program," he declared.

Citing a "bleak" prognosis for overcoming technical and staffing problems of US strategic nuclear weapons programs, Gates explained that his policies involved the largest and most powerful US weapons: "The program we propose is not about new capabilities—suitcase bombs or bunker-busters or tactical nukes. [...] It is about the future credibility of our strategic deterrent."

Gates also addressed concerns about the command structure of the US Air Force's nuclear forces, sparked by his June 5 sackings of several top Air Force officials after it was discovered that US nuclear missile parts had been shipped to Taiwan. At the time, the World Socialist Web Site raised the question of whether the shipment to Taiwan had been part of an unofficial foreign policy carried out by rogue sections of the US military. However, the bourgeois press accepted official explanations that this had been a simple technical oversight.

But Gates' proposals centered not on fixing technical problems with Air Force shipping protocols, but rather on controlling Air Force policy. He announced measures to centralize "nuclear policy and oversight," including a new headquarters office at the Air Staff and a Nuclear Weapons Center at Kirtland Air Force Base, which is to be tasked with "clearing up ambiguous chains of command that have created problems in the past."

Gates closed by listing several types of attack that the US might use "deterrence," nuclear or otherwise, to prevent. He spoke of developing "appropriate" responses to cyber-attacks on US computer systems, to deterring attacks on US communications satellites (which could be carried out only by countries with technologically advanced militaries) and of developing "new technologies to identify the forensic signature" of nuclear material, which would allow the US to "hold any state, terrorist group, or other non-state actor or individual fully accountable for supporting or enabling terrorist efforts to obtain or use weapons of mass destruction."

It should be pointed out that several of these types of attack—especially cyber-attack and terrorist attacks with weapons of mass destruction—are by their nature difficult to track, and leave open the possibility of manipulation by Washington. This is perhaps best shown by the 2001 anthrax attacks, which were carried out using spores from a US Army lab at Fort Detrick and ultimately blamed on a US civilian scientist working at Fort Detrick, but which the media long blamed on Muslim terrorists.

In assessing the significance of Gates' remarkably bellicose comments, it should be noted that Gates' justification of pre-emptive nuclear war is not isolated. In April, then-Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said that if Iran attacked Israel, the US would respond by "obliterating" Iran. These comments are further evidence that the US ruling class will pursue an even more aggressive foreign policy after the 2008 elections than before.

More than 3,000 registered Coloradans barred from voting

More than 3,000 registered Coloradans barred from voting

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Thousands of Coloradans have been denied the right to vote because of a policy that may violate federal law.

Colorado Secretary of State Mike Coffman has authorized county clerks to purge newly registered voters under the so-called 20-day rule. Here, county clerks must send non-forwardable letters to newly registered voters. If the mail bounces back to the clerks, then they must remove the voter applicants’ names from the rolls.

Voting rights advocates say that the policy violates the 1965 National Voting Rights Act. The Advancement Project, a voter protection organization, filed suit on behalf of several other groups against Coffman to halt the practice and reverse course on other voter purges. According to the suit, 3,291 of these 20-day applicants have been removed since August 2007.

“We consider these voters to have been registered when they are entered into the SCORE database,” Jenny Flanagan, executive director of Colorado Common Cause told the Colorado Independent, referring to the state’s new voter database. “They have met the other requirements for registrations and they are taken off when the cards are returned. There are examples of when there could have been an error.”

Individuals ejected by the 20-day rule are among the 30,000 purged voters that make up the basis of the lawsuit. According to the complaint, Coffman also canceled duplicate registrations and registrations of people who moved. The NVRA specifies that the state may only cancel three types of voters within 90 days of a federal election: deceased people, felony convicts, and those who withdraw their own names.

Flanagan, who is also a plaintiff in the case, says that the 20-day rule is subject to human fallacy. A would-be voter might make a mistake on his or her own address on the form. But so could a registrar at the clerk’s office when entering the data. Postal employees aren’t immune to slip-ups either.

“We believe that it should not be allowed any time,” she says. “There are efforts to protect voters during this election, but there are some long term solutions we are seeking. We want to end this practice of canceling registrations and get the state in compliance with the NVRA.”

The NVRA does allow for voters to be removed from state rolls, but only after county clerks have sent a forwardable mail confirmation and waited two election periods to see whether the voters shows up to vote, according to Sarah Brannon, staff attorney with the Fair Elections Legal Network, a group acting as legal counsel on the lawsuit. “[Applicants] can’t be removed within 20 days,” she says.

Brannon says that the 20-day rule doesn’t disproportionately affect one population or another. But a Colorado Independent report published earlier this month showed that homeless people in particular are impacted by the legislation. Many homeless voters register using shelters or day centers as their mailing address. Counties send confirmation forms to these locations. But if homeless people don’t turn up within a week or two to pick up the mail, shelters typically return it to the sender. Which means that the homeless individuals are struck from the rolls.

Colorado isn’t the only state with a 20-day rule on the books. In Michigan, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Advancement Project — the same group bringing forward the suit in Colorado — successfully challenged a similar law; the state was ordered to stop purging voters whose confirmation cards were returned to county clerks.

The case will be heard on Wednesday afternoon.

Coffman’s office did not return repeated requests for comment. He has defended his purges in the past; Attorney General John Suthers has also backed Coffman, saying that the cancellations did not violate the NVRA.

Stop GOP Vote Suppression

Stop GOP Vote Suppression

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My friend and Nation writer Roberto Lovato has an important post today on his Of America blog. He outlines what to do before the election to safeguard against any possible dirty tricks and, if necessary, what would be an appropriate response to the unlikely instance of a repeat of the chaos and eventual theft of Election 2000.

If current polls and trends remain, it'll be extremely difficult for any possible fraud to affect the outcome of the presidential race. Moreover, the Obama campaign seems up to the task of protecting the vote and effectively pushing back against any GOP-inspired shenanigans

Yet you need not be a conspiracy theorist to worry about a stolen election, especially in countless down-ticket races that may still remain hotly contested. A recent report in the New York Times found that in some battleground states, for every new voter registered two other voters have been removed. Colorado, a state experiencing rapid population increases, has seen more than 100,000 voters erased from its rolls. Reports from other states of suppression and fraud involving computerized voting systems, voter purges, unreasonable demands for voter documentation and other methods show that the GOP's Rovian bag of tricks is still being put to use, as Andrew Gumble argues in a new Nation article this week.

The alarming fact is that these dirty tricks could still be decisive according to voting experts at, a group founded by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. to fight GOP efforts at voter suppression, who argue that Obama's leads are so slim in five out of nine key toss-up states that Republican vote suppression efforts could still tip the outcome of the presidential election.

Where could GOP vote suppression tactics flip the outcome on Election Day? Based on the state-level "poll of poll" survey averages reported at RealClearPolitics, Florida, Ohio and Colorado are particularly vulnerable.

Lovato outlines a few basic measures we can take to head-off fraud before it occurs, including voting early; helping document and monitor the election on November 2; immediately calling 1-866-OUR-VOTE, the country's largest election monitoring operation, to report irregularities, and, most importantly, pushing for a massive turnout to create a significant margin of victory for Obama. He also points to a general strike as the most effective protest vehicle in the face of a repeat of the selection of the president in Election 2000. ("In the event of a stolen election, local and national work stoppages, school walkouts, protests, and other actions communicate to the government, to corporate interests, and to the world that we will fight the decimation of democracy....Even without a strong labor movement, the immigrant rights mobilization of 2006 – the largest simultaneous marches in U.S. history – proved that you can make a powerful statement simply by not showing up to work and marching instead.")

No Voter Left Behind's Voter Guide, meanwhile, offers a useful primer on voting rights in the US and NVLB's compendium of each state's various election rules, regulations and deadlines answer many basic questions. Watch this space in the final week before the election for further ides on how to safeguard the franchise next Tuesday.

Meltdown in Paradise: Hawaiian Aspects of the Wall Street Disaster

Meltdown in Paradise: Hawaiian Aspects of the Wall Street Disaster

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An old Hawaiian proverb states “O ka makapo wale no ka mea hapapa i ka pouli” (only the blind gropes in the darkness). As the Wall Street meltdown spreads into the Hawaiian economy, the island’s business class and Republican Governor are doing their fair share of groping. The state’s extreme reliance on the tourist industry makes it one of the most vulnerable regions to what is quickly becoming a global recession. Couple this with the free-market ideology of Governor Linda Lingle and Hawaiian residents are faced with the very real prospects of a painfully deep recession.

Historically, the islands’ business class has transitioned from one monocrop economy to another. Sugarcane production peaked in the 1970s and has registered consistent declines from a high of 1.2 million tons produced to 200,000 in 2006. Pineapple production has also contracted from 680,000 tons in 1987 to 188,000 in 2006. A collapsing plantation economy was substituted for a dependence on tourist revenue which now accounts for nearly 25% of Hawaii’s Gross Domestic Product. Tourism dependence has fastened the Hawaii's economy to the now declining fortunes of both North American and East Asian economic zones. (National Agriculture Statistics Service, 2/7/08)

Tourist sector statistics anticipated the general slowing of the American economy. When the hotel occupancy rate topped out at 83% in 2004, it seemed that success in the tourist sector would once again guide the general economy. The unemployment rate was driven to a 30-year low of 2.2% in December of 2006. The first blow to the tourist sector was delivered in early 2008 as Aoha and ATA Airlines collapsed thereby reducing the number of available flights into the islands. Calls for the Hawaiian or Federal government to intervene and nationalize the airways were rejected by free-market Governor Linda Lingle. Consequently by mid-2008, the Bank of Hawaii reported that passenger volume from North America had declined on a year-to-year basis by more than 12%. By September, as the shock from Wall Street began to filter into the global economy, Hawaiian tourism was in a freefall. Room occupancy plunged to 65%, domestic arrivals declined by 22% and the economy lost $141 million in visitor spending. Business began immediate firings, 1,100 layoffs in the tourist sector alone, which drove the unemployment rate to more than double its 2006 level at 4.5%. (Bureau of Labor Statistics; Pacific Business News, 10/27/08; Hawaii Economic Trends, Bank of Hawaii, 8/26/08)

The emerging crisis could not be isolated in the tourist industry. As in other parts of the country, the housing bubble also burst producing a crisis in foreclosures. 594 homes were foreclosed on in September, a 77% increase from August. The spillover into the rental market forced the median average rent to nearly $1,200 a month. Residents have been driven to desperate measures to secure affordable housing. In the Honolulu neighborhood of Kalihi, slumlords created an improvised housing structure made of poles and plywood down the side of mountain. 50 families paid between $500 to $700 a month to live in this cramped, unsanitary and structurally unsound structure. Resident Bernadette Yockman described her unit, "It was unsanitary. It was terrible. But we needed a roof over our heads." The unstable mass of materials eventually collapsed sliding off the mountain into a nearby streambed with ten people still inside. Kalihi is an early signal of the coming barbarity of a society in recession. (Honolulu Advertiser, 10/28/08; Pacific Business News, 10/23/08)

In the face of these steep economic declines and their related social effects, Hawaii’s first Republican governor in 40 years, Linda Lingle, has proposed a “focus on innovation.” Lingle, who was a contender for John McCain’s Vice-Presidential nomination, understands the cutting of state spending as being particularly innovative and, in a September 21, 2008 speech, pledged that “we will continue to lower business fees and not increase taxes.” She also called for “frank discussions” with island’s trade unions and a continuance of the “state’s conservative budget structure.” Instead of mapping out a plan for relief she continues to tout Forbes Magazine's upgrading of the state's bond rating. Business leaders on the island have applauded Lingle’s conviction that the private-sector can inherently “stabilize and self-correct,” and that government intervention is futile. (see especially, Linda Lingle, Keeping Focused on the Future of Hawai’i, Honolulu Advertiser, 9/23/08)

Multinationals have read these political signals clearly and seem to be treating the financial meltdown as opportunity to move on weakened local businesses and real estate. The drugstore chain Walgreens recently announced the purchase of four local pharmacies on the island of Maui and seeks to expand further Disney has continued plans to construct a large-scale mixed-use resort which will feature more than 800 units. The 21-acre oceanfront resort in Oahu represents an expansion for Disney, since this vacation housing is not supported by a nearby theme-park and brings the company into direct competition with hotel chains such as Marriott and Hilton. One final effect of multinational corporations came indirectly in the food industry. The Flamingo Restaurant had, since the 1950s, made itself a staple throughout the islands by serving up a menu of American-style “comfort food.” In October of this year, one of the last Flamingo locations, only one other remains in operation, announced its closure, buckling under rising food costs, increasing lease payments and competition from low-priced fast-food businesses. A customer marked the loss “It is like a part of your family because you grew up with these local places, these eateries, yeah?” (Pacific Business News, 10/16/08; Star Bulletin, 10/23/08)

Hawaii is not as exceptional as it may seem. Other areas in the country equally reliant on Wall Street have been devastated and there is more pain to come. Yet, the early peak of the Hawaiian economy and the sharpness of its subsequent decline offer grim lessons for other regions just entering the worst of the recession. People can expect little assistance to automatically be provided local and state governments - power concedes nothing without a demand. Politicians such as Linda Lingle will remain committed to “market-based solutions” even while residents construct third-world slum housing. Large corporations view this power vacuum as an opportunity. A financial crisis will help Corporate America to accelerate their monopolization of every aspect of life. The question at hand is how much longer working people will be willing to blindly grope in the dark. Perhaps another Hawaiian proverb might provide guidance out of this disaster, “I ku ka makemake e hele mai, hele no me ka malo`elo`e” (if the wish to come arises, walk firmly).

Millions of Iraqis at risk from contaminated water, says Red Cross

Millions of Iraqis at risk from contaminated water, says Red Cross

Country continues to face one of the world's worst humanitarian disasters

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Improved security has failed to prevent Iraq becoming the scene of one of the world's most critical humanitarian disasters with water supplies and sewage systems putting millions at risk of disease, the Red Cross said today.

The statement from the International Committee of the Red Cross said the situation has not improved significantly since March this year when the organisation published its report, Iraq: No Let-up in The Humanitarian Crisis.

The report found that the humanitarian situation in Iraq following the US invasion was the worst in the world.

Today's findings state that water supplies in the war-torn country have continued to deteriorate with even the most basic infrastructure not functioning.

More than 40% of people are relying on poor quality and inadequate supplies and millions, especially children, are at serious risk of water-borne disease, the Red Cross said.

Cholera cases peaked in a number of provinces during the hottest months of August and September.

"Iraqis urgently need access to clean water. They try to get it from rivers and wells but these sources are contaminated throughout the country so many people become ill," said Patrick Yussef, head of the Red Cross sub-delegation in Baghdad.

Most of Iraq's water comes from its two main rivers, the Tigris and the Euphrates, which are heavily polluted by household waste and litter.

In poorer areas of Baghdad, streets are flooded with sewage, which seeps into walls and under the floors of houses until they collapse.

Even though 10 litres of bottled water costs only 50 US cents, many Iraqis cannot afford to buy it and have to drink water from the polluted rivers.

Hospitals are struggling to keep up with the numbers of sick. Equipment and medicines are in short supply and electricity shortages are common.

"There has been some improvement in recent months, both in terms of security and essential services," said Juan-Pedro Schaerer, head of the Red Cross delegation for Iraq. "But far too many Iraqis still have no choice but to drink dirty water and live in insalubrious conditions."

The most vulnerable are those living in the countryside and suburbs and not connected to a water network.

The Red Cross is trying to gain more access into the country and said this has improved over the years.

But Schaerer stressed that the situation of many civilians remains precarious. "Clearly, fewer civilians are dying now than at the height of the conflict," he said. "Nevertheless, men, women and children are being killed and injured in indiscriminate attacks every day.

"The ICRC reminds all parties to the conflict that they have an obligation under international humanitarian law to protect and respect civilians."

Police fear riots if Barack Obama loses US election US police fear riots could break out if John McCain, the Republican presidential candidate, wins

Police fear riots if Barack Obama loses US election

US police fear riots could break out if John McCain, the Republican presidential candidate, wins the election next month.

By Catherine Elsworth

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Law enforcement officials say the intense public interest and historic nature of the vote could lead to violent outbreaks if people are unhappy with the results, encounter problems casting their ballots or suspect voting irregularities.

Police departments say they cannot rule out disorder and are mobilising extra forces and putting SWAT teams on standby.

In Oakland, near San Francisco, police will have tactical squads, SWAT teams and officers trained in riot control on standby.

"We always try to prepare for the worst," said Oakland police department spokesman Jeff Thomason.

"This election is going to mark in history a change in the presidency: you're going to have a woman in the presidency or an African American as president. I think everybody around here is voting for Obama, so if he gets in the White House everybody's going to be happy.

"But we'll have our SWAT teams on standby and traffic teams here, so if something goes off we'll organise and take care of the problem."

There have also been internet rumours about plans for protests or civil disobedience by supporters of Democratic candidate Barack Obama if he is beaten by Republican rival John McCain on November 4.

He said Oakland was prepared to deal with unrest as Oakland Raiders fans rioted in 2003 following their Super Bowl loss.

Other cities that have experienced unrest include Detroit, Chicago and Philadelphia and are also planning to deploy extra officers on election day.

James Carville, a strategist for former President Bill Clinton and advisor to his wife Hillary's 2008 presidential campaign, hinted Democrat supporters could be angry if Mr Obama lost, given his lead in the polls.

"If Obama goes in and he has a consistent five-point lead and loses the election, it would be very, very, very dramatic out there," he told CNN.

James Tate, of Detroit's police department, which dealt with violent celebrations after the Detroit Tigers won the baseball World Series in 1984, told congressional newspaper The Hill that problems could flare whichever candidate wins.

"Either party will make history and we want to prepare for celebrations that will be on a larger scale than for our sports teams," he said. "The worst-case scenario could be a situation that requires law enforcement."

In Chicago, where Mr Obama will hold a rally on November 4, the police department has been meeting to discuss security plans for the night. Law enforcement departments in Philadelphia and Cincinnati are also making preparations in case of problems.

Commentators point to the surge in voter registration and large turnout in the primaries as reasons why there could be problems on election day, questioning whether the system will be able to handle so many extra voters.

Election officials in Virginia are stepping up security at polling booths amid concerns over long waits and issues such as voter registration and identity verification.

Despite efforts to improve voting systems after the problems of 2000 and 2004, the Pew Research Centre has warned high turnout could again cause problems such as lengthy delays at the polls. Unexpectedly high number of voters in states with early voting such as Florida have already encountered long waits.

Hilary Shelton, director of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People's (NAACP) Washington bureau, said there could be a repeat of problems witnessed in some black inner cities in 2004, where voters waited for up to eight hours to cast their ballots.

In response to the expected high turnout among racial and ethnic minority voters, intense interest in the election and online rumours about unrest, the NAACP has written to election officials in every state asking them to try to prevent any problems that could lead to voters being "stymied" or "disenfranchised" such as too few voting machines or staff.

He was also concerned about the possibility of extra police presence causing intimidation.

"Our antennas go up in terms of what happens when law enforcement moves to provide additional security and support and what happens on election day and how that comes across.

"The issue we're raising now is are they being sensitive to the issues and the possibilities of intimidation and disenfranchisement, which could very well come out of them being too heavy handed. (Sometimes) the wrong strategy by law enforcement can actually create a problem rather than prevent one and it is our hope that we don't see those kinds of problems on election day and people are able to enjoy the security of our democracy."

Right-wing websites and blogs have been fuelling speculation about election unrest with unconfirmed reports of an online petition that pledges "civil disobedience" if Mr McCain wins.

Meanwhile, in a blog posting entitled 'A McCain "Win" Will Be Theft, Resistance Is Planned', David Swanson, Washington director of and a board member of Progressive Democrats of America, writes: "If your television declares John McCain the president elect on the evening of November 4th, your television will be lying.

"You should immediately pick up your pre-packed bags and head straight to the White House in Washington, DC, which we will surround and shut down until this attempt at a third illegitimate presidency is reversed.

"We may be there for days or weeks or months. But we must be there. We must be there by the millions. We must show each other, and the nation, and the world that we have had enough, that we will not stand for one more stolen election, that we will not give in to fear, lies, theft, and intimidation."

Mr Carville told The Hill that "a lot of Democrats would have a great deal of angst and anger," if Mr Obama lost. He predicted that on November 4, "the voting system all around the country is going to be very stressed because there's going to be enormous turnout."

Bio Lab in Galveston Raises Concerns

Bio Lab in Galveston Raises Concerns

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Much of the University of Texas medical school on this island suffered flood damage during Hurricane Ike, except for one gleaming new building, a national biological defense laboratory that will soon house some of the most deadly diseases in the world.

How a laboratory where scientists plan to study viruses like Ebola and Marburg ended up on a barrier island where hurricanes regularly wreak havoc puzzles some environmentalists and community leaders.

“It’s crazy, in my mind,” said Jim Blackburn, an environmental lawyer in Houston. “I just find an amazing willingness among the people on the Texas coast to accept risks that a lot of people in the country would not accept.”

Officials at the laboratory and at the National Institutes of Health, which along with the university is helping to pay for the $174 million building, say it can withstand any storm the Atlantic hurls at it.

Built atop concrete pylons driven 120 feet into the ground, the seven-floor laboratory was designed to stand up to 140-mile-an-hour winds. Its backup generators and high-security laboratories are 30 feet above sea level.

“The entire island can wash away and this is still going to be here,” Dr. James W. LeDuc, the deputy director of the laboratory, said. “With Hurricane Ike, we had no damage. The only evidence the hurricane occurred was water that was blown under one of the doors and a puddle in the lobby.”

The project enjoyed the strong support of three influential Texas Republicans: President Bush, a former Texas governor; Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison; and the former House majority leader, Tom DeLay, whose district includes part of Galveston County. Officials at the National Institutes of Health, however, say the decision to put the lab here was based purely on the merits. It is to open Nov. 11.

Dr. LeDuc acknowledged that hurricanes would disrupt research. Each time a hurricane approaches the island, scientists will have to stop their experiments and exterminate many of the viruses and bacteria they are studying.

And Hurricane Ike did not provide the worst-case test the laboratory will someday face, some critics say. Ike’s 100-m.p.h. winds were on the low side for a hurricane, yet it still flooded most of the island’s buildings. The university’s teaching hospital, on the same campus as the lab, has been shut down for more than a month.

“The University of Texas should consider locating its biohazards lab away from Galveston Island and out of harm’s way,” Ken Kramer, director of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club, said. “As destructive as it was, Hurricane Ike was only a Category 2 storm. A more powerful storm would pose an even greater threat of a biohazards release.”

The laboratory is one of two the Bush administration pushed after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The second is being built at Boston University Medical Center, where it met stiff community resistance.

Not so in Texas, where there was hardly a whimper of protest. For starters, the University of Texas Medical Branch is one of the largest employers on the island of 57,000 people.

In addition, the leaders of the medical school skillfully sold community leaders and politicians on the high-tech safety measures at the lab and on the economic boon to Galveston, an impoverished town in need of the 300 jobs the laboratory would bring.

University leaders met twice a month with community leaders for several years to dispel fears of pathogens escaping. Then they created a permanent advisory committee of residents that included some of their critics.

The campaign to win over residents was effective. In 2004, the university built a small laboratory and won federal approval to study extremely lethal pathogens there. The smaller laboratory — named for Dr. Robert E. Shope, a virus expert — helped persuade federal officials it was feasible to erect the national laboratory next to it.

Nonetheless, some community members remain skeptical about the safety measures.

“It is not a geographically good location, and the safety measures are only as good as the people who work there,” said Jackie Cole, a former City Council member who now serves on a citizen’s advisory board for the laboratory.

Other environmentalists who might have fought the project were bogged down in a battle against a liquid natural gas plant that was to be built in Texas City, a refinery town across a narrow channel from the island.

“It kind of went under the radar,” said Bob Stokes, who heads the Galveston Bay Foundation, a group dedicated to cleaning up water pollution.

Dr. LeDuc and other scientists at the laboratory say it is almost impossible for diseases to escape. The air pressure in the laboratories is kept lower than in surrounding hallways. Even if the double doors into the laboratories are opened accidentally, air rushes in, carrying pathogens up and away through vents to special filters, which are periodically sterilized with formaldehyde and then incinerated.

All the laboratory tables have hoods that suck contaminated air through the vents to the filters, as do the rooms themselves. Liquid waste, feces and urine go to tanks on the first floor, where it is heated to a temperature at which nothing can survive before being put into the sewage system.

Other waste — carcasses of laboratory animals and disposable lab equipment — is sterilized in autoclaves, giant steam-pressure cookers, before being incinerated off site, Dr. LeDuc said.

When hurricanes threaten the island, researchers will shut down their experiments at least 24 hours before landfall, decontaminate the labs and then move the stocks of deadly pathogens into freezers on upper floors, where they are kept at 70 below zero, Dr. Joan Nichols, an associate director of research, said.

Even if the emergency power system were to fail, the freezers can keep the samples of killer diseases dormant for about four days, she said.

The precautions are necessary. The laboratory will do research into some of the nastiest diseases on the planet, among them Ebola, anthrax, tularemia, West Nile virus, drug-resistant tuberculosis, bubonic plague, avian influenza and typhus.

In the top-level secure laboratories, where deadly filoviruses like Ebola are studied, the scientists work in pressurized spacesuits inside rooms with airtight steel doors. Before leaving the secured area, they take a chemical shower for eight minutes in their suits, then a conventional shower, Dr. LeDuc said.

The university’s bid for the laboratory benefited from friends in Washington. Mr. DeLay, who resigned from Congress in 2006, pushed hard to bring the project to his district, as did Mrs. Hutchison, who sits on the Appropriations Committee.

On a visit to Galveston with Mr. Delay in 2005, Mr. Bush said: “This hospital is going to be the Texas center for bioshield research, to help us make sure that our country is well prepared as we engage in the war on terror. No better place, by the way, to do substantial research than right here at the University of Texas.”

Galveston’s medical school has long had a top-notch faculty in infectious diseases; the school’s proposal beat out bids from the University of California, Davis, the University of Illinois at Chicago and the Wadsworth Center in Albany, among others.

Dr. Rona Hirschberg, a senior program officer at the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, an agency of the National Institutes of Health, said politics played no role in the decision to build the lab here. The threat of hurricanes was outweighed, she said, by the presence of some of the best virologists in the country, she said.

“You could put it out in the middle of nowhere and it would be a safe, secure facility,” Dr. Hirschberg, a molecular biologist, said. “But the research wouldn’t get done.”

"They're Ba-ack..."

"They're Ba-ack..."

This Halloween, the powerful lobbyists at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) are trying to scare Washington with horror stories about "white spaces" -- vacant TV channels that can be used to bring high-speed Internet to rural and low-income Americans across the country.

The NAB’s hired guns have bombarded policy makers with false claims in a desperate, last-ditch attempt to hoard these airwaves and to disrupt a critical FCC vote taking place in just six days.

The FCC's five commissioners must not buckle under the intense lobbying pressure:

Tell the FCC: Don't Give in to NAB Scare Tactics

Here are the facts:

  1. If we open white spaces now, we can bring the social and economic benefits of a fast Internet connection to tens of millions of Americans now on the wrong side of the digital divide.
  2. FCC engineers have tested white spaces devices and determined that the technology can deliver high-speed wireless Internet, without interfering with adjacent TV broadcasts.
  3. The NAB and Big Media are doing everything in their power to close off access to white spaces because they fear competition from new innovators and losing control of the public airwaves.

The NAB is furiously spending millions of dollars on dirty tricks and political intimidation to scare the FCC away from white spaces. They have high-priced lawyers and lobbyists, but we have you.

Take just one minute to sign this Halloween action card and forward it to your friends. Free Press will deliver your cards to the FCC on Halloween and make sure they "treat" us by opening white spaces for eveyone's benefit:

This Halloween: Stand Up to the Lobbyists' Scare Tactics

With your support today, we'll expose Big Media's fear-mongering and make certain that white spaces are used to make fast, affordable Internet service a reality for everyone.


Timothy Karr
Campaign Director
Free Press

1. Maybe NAB lobbyists have seen Poltergeist one too many times. But whatever the case, we need to set the record straight by the time FCC commissioners gather to decide the future of white spaces on November 4. Click here to help Free Press fight back.

2. Learn more about the fight to open white spaces at