Monday, January 18, 2010

Phila. hotels cutting rates

Business is bad - real bad - at Philadelphia's hotels these days, and a price war is raging.

With 10,700 rooms to fill and little large-convention activity, Center City hoteliers are slashing rates and praying to get through a tough first quarter, which many say could be the worst in years.

"There are not enough guests to go around for all of us," said Julie Coker, general manager of the 350-room Hyatt Regency Philadelphia at Penn's Landing. "In this age, you are competing against everybody from the Holiday Inn to the Ritz-Carlton."

To fill rooms, the scissors have come out everywhere, upscale hotels and economy inns alike. The result: a bargain-hunter's dream.

For $39 to $89 weeknights, $109 to $189 weekends, if you book through, you can get a room at the Philadelphia Marriott on Market Street.

A room at the Best Western Center City Hotel, in the heart of the museum district, was $99 midweek and $109 for this weekend - about $10 less for each than a year ago.

At the Hyatt Regency, rooms are $190 midweek, down from $200-plus last January. On weekends, the rate is $119, down from $159.

Kelly Busse, 50, of Midland, Mich., a senior finance manager for Dow Chemical, checked in Friday afternoon at the Doubletree Hotel on the Avenue of the Arts, where she was meeting her husband for a weekend of sightseeing.

After investigating rates at two other hotels, Busse settled on the Doubletree, where she is staying through today for $152 a night.

"It's a good time to travel," she said with a big smile as a bellman picked up her bags.

Competition among hotels has intensified because there are fewer major conventions - those requiring at least 2,000 rooms and using at least two hotels - in the first three months of 2010 than in previous years, a result of the delayed opening of the expanded Convention Center, from late 2009 to March 2011.

"We're going into all our distribution lists and trying very aggressive marketing efforts," said Bill Walsh, general manager of the Philadelphia Marriott, which is connected to the Convention Center and relies heavily on large conventions to fill its 1,408 rooms.

Double-digit declines

"Our mantra is not to turn anyone away because of rate," Walsh said, noting that hotels have waged this price war for several months.

November figures from Smith Travel Research showed Center City hotel occupancy at 72 percent, down 4.7 percent from a year earlier; the average room rate down 16.7 percent, to $153.90; and revenue per available room down 20.6 percent, to $110.77. Numbers for December will not be available until later this month.

The five-county Philadelphia metro area did not fare much better in November, also showing double-digit declines in average room rate (down 14.6 percent) and revenue per available room (down 16.1 percent).

With what is typically the toughest quarter of the year under way, hoteliers are bracing for the worst.

"Every dollar in room rate that you give up really affects your profit more than a point in the occupancy does," said Peter Tyson of PKF Consulting Corp., which works with the hospitality industry nationwide.

The dearth of major first-quarter conventions is compounding the problem for the city's hotels. Only two 2,000-plus-room events have been booked: the National Soccer Coaches Association of America convention (7,298 rooms), which ended yesterday, and March's National Science Teachers Association conference (23,771 rooms).

Slim pickings?

When it opens, the expanded Convention Center will help solve some of the problems typical of the start of every year, said Jack Ferguson, executive vice president of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau, which books the center.

January tends to be dominated by events such as the Philadelphia Home Show, which opened yesterday and runs through next Sunday, Ferguson said.

"These shows all require a long move-in and move-out period, curtailing other convention groups from coming in," he said. The expansion will fix that by allowing both so-called gate shows and large conventions to occur simultaneously.

Until then, it could be slim pickings.

In a bid to fill more hotel rooms, the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corp. last week launched a revamped and renamed Web site,, and a $1.7 million winter marketing campaign with new TV, online, and print ads.

When hotels charge less, the tourism-marketing group and the Convention and Visitors Bureau - each of which gets a portion of its budget from the 8.2 percent city hotel tax - have less to spend touting the city's charms.

"We've had to eliminate advertising in Canada and to target closer-in areas and rely more heavily on partnerships," said Meryl Levitz, the tourism agency's president and chief executive officer, because last year about $1 million less was received from the hotel tax.

The Convention and Visitors Bureau got about $1.25 million less. "It's national. It's a buyer's market," said the bureau's Ferguson. "It's all about depressed occupancies."

Patrick Scholes, senior lodging analyst at FBR Capital Markets in Arlington, Va., said that in down times, "the road to recovery for the lodging industry, historically, is to get heads in beds. But to do that, you put everything on sale.

"That is a very important part of the recovery . . . that [hotel guests] take the deal, and from there, you slowly increase your pricing and build from that."

In Philadelphia, lower room rates will likely continue throughout 2010.

"Our forecast doesn't indicate anything happening in the pipeline that will make any substantial change to that forecast," said Walsh at the Philadelphia Marriott. "We will pick up no new demand in the city."

At the Hyatt Regency Philadelphia at Penn's Landing, where the average daily room rate is down 12 percent from a year ago and revenue per available room is off about 25 percent, general manager Coker is just as anxious.

Although she has not had to lay off any of the hotel's 250 employees, it's a possibility.

"If you can get out of the first quarter either flat or ahead of budget, it sets the tone for the balance of your year," she said. "Unfortunately, we're looking to come out behind budget in the first quarter."

But if you're a traveler, it's easy to think you've hit the jackpot.

Nashville psychologist Michael Myszka, 58, and son Jonah Powers-Myszka, 18, were paying $120 for each of two nights, a special group rate, at the Doubletree, where they arrived Friday for the soccer coaches convention, where Jonah was being honored.

"For a big city, the rates are very good," Michael Myszka said. "We are very pleased."

US Crosses the Bernholz Line -- Hyperinflation Early Warning Signal

Economic historian Peter Bernholz has identified that inflation starts to take on hyperinflationary characteristics some time after the deficits of a country as a share of government expenditure rise above a third and stay there for several years.

According to Bernholz, the great hyperinflations of France, Germany, Poland, Brazil, and Bolivia all occurred after deficits reached that magic percentage or higher (In Bolivia, it reached 91%). The United States crossed over the Bernholz line last year.

Japan is even deeper into the warning despite concerns of many that it has a deflation problem. Ambrose Evans-Pritchard writes:
2010 will prove to be the year that Japan flips from deflation to something very different: the beginnings of debt monetization by a terrified central bank that will ultimately spin out of control, perhaps crossing into hyperinflation by the middle of the decade...

Japan has been [above the Bernholz line]...almost continuously for the last eight years....Japan’s Bernholz index will rise above 50pc this year for the first time, meaning that it will have to borrow more from the bond markets than raises in tax revenue.
Clearly, crossing the Bernholz Line does not mean that hyperinflation is immediately around the corner. It's an early warning signal. What it does indicate is that a government is having trouble raising money outside of borrowing it. This results in tremendous supplies of new debt that the markets must absorb, pushing interest rates higher, and thus putting enormous pressure on a central bank to monetize the debt.

The specifics of how long after passing the Bernholz Line a hyperinflation kicks in varies greatly. But like a doctor, who detects in a patient the first signs of Alzheimer's, the prognosis is not good.

FDA says it's unable to regulate BPA

As 'indirect food additive,' substance is exempt from scrutiny

U.S. Food and Drug Administration officials say they are powerless to regulate BPA, although they have declared the chemical to be a safety concern for fetuses, babies and young children.

A quirk in the rules allows BPA makers to skirt federal regulation.

"We may have to go after legislation to change it," Joshua Sharfstein, the FDA's principal deputy director, told the Journal Sentinel. The newspaper has been investigating the government's lack of regulation regarding BPA for three years.

FDA officials announced Friday that they had reversed their position that bisphenol A is safe. The chemical, used to line most food and beverage cans, has been found in the urine of 93% of Americans tested.

The agency now considers BPA to be of some concern for effects on the brain, behavior and prostate glands of fetuses and the very young. Scientific studies have raised concerns about the chemical's link to breast and prostate cancer, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, reproductive failures and behavioral problems.

The FDA did not ban the chemical, although top scientists, including Linda Birnbaum, director of the National Toxicology Program, say they consider the safety of BPA to be uncertain. An agency source says some from within the FDA wanted to follow Canada's lead and ban it from baby bottles - or from the lining of infant formula cans - but administration officials have resisted, concerned that babies who rely on bottled formula would be left without healthy alternatives.

"They couldn't take it off the shelves when there aren't substitutes in place," said the source, who asked not to be identified because the issue is so politically charged in the agency.

FDA officials - including Sharfstein; Lynn Goldmann, a consultant to the FDA; and Jesse Goodman, the FDA's acting chief scientist - told the Journal Sentinel they were frustrated by the antiquated framework of the FDA's regulatory process.

Officials say they would like chemical manufacturers to report information about the chemical to them, including how much BPA they produce and where and how it is used.

But because BPA was classified years ago as an indirect food additive, it is not subject to the kind of scrutiny that other chemicals are. Without critical data about BPA, it is impossible to regulate the chemical, officials said.

BPA, first manufactured in 1891, was later developed as a plasticizer in the early 1960s. It was classified in 1963 as an indirect food additive and is listed among some 3,000 chemicals that are "generally regarded as safe." That designation exempts them from scrutiny.

According to the FDA's regulations, a substance that is granted that status is not subject to FDA review.

So, while the agency can broadcast its opinion that the chemical is not safe, it can't compel companies to provide certain information about the chemical.

Given concern about BPA, and the ongoing evaluation and studies on its safety, the FDA thinks that the more modern framework is more robust and appropriate for oversight of BPA, agency officials say.

The FDA candidly explains the limitations on its Web site:

Current BPA food contact uses were approved under food additive regulations issued more than 40 years ago. This regulatory structure limits the oversight and flexibility of FDA.

Once a food additive is approved, any manufacturer of food or food packaging may use the food additive in accordance with the regulation. There is no requirement to notify FDA of that use.

For example, today there exist hundreds of different formulations for BPA-containing epoxy linings, which have varying characteristics. As currently regulated, manufacturers are not required to disclose to FDA the existence or nature of these formulations.

Furthermore, if FDA were to decide to revoke one or more approved uses, FDA would need to undertake what could be a lengthy process of rulemaking to accomplish this goal.

Changes needed

FDA Administrator Margaret Hamburg said the agency needs to overhaul its regulatory framework because the structure limits its ability to monitor BPA production.

"We need to be more nimble," she said.

Sharfstein, the deputy director, said the agency can try to get the companies to volunteer the information but might have to get a change in the law.

The FDA's admission of its inability to regulate the chemical should give muscle to legislative efforts for a ban, said Jon Peterson Myers, chief scientist for Environmental Health Sciences, who has advocated for a BPA ban.

"Industry always uses the argument that the chemical is regulated," Myers said. "This shows that it is not. State and federal lawmakers need to consider that. They can't rely on this agency to regulate it if they don't have the tools to do so."

Minnesota, Connecticut, the City of Chicago and two counties in New York have banned BPA in baby bottles. Other measures are being considered in 30 states and municipalities. A federal ban on BPA in all food contact has been proposed in Congress.

The Journal Sentinel obtained e-mails through the Freedom of Information Act that showed how the agency's look at BPA had been influenced by BPA makers.

The newspaper found that industry scientists wrote sections of the FDA's earlier draft declaring the chemical to be safe for all uses. It later obtained e-mails that showed industry lobbyists were given priority treatment in scrutinizing studies and that FDA regulators looked to them for advice on how to deal with the media.

The newspaper also uncovered documents that showed how BPA makers borrowed the same tactics and some of the same people as the tobacco industry to downplay the health risks of their products. In a meeting held in Washington, D.C., last May, food packaging executives mapped out a public relations strategy that included finding a pregnant woman to serve as a spokeswoman for the benefits of BPA. Notes referred to such a person as "the holy grail."

Last year, more than 6 billion pounds of BPA was made, representing nearly $7 billion in sales. U.S. companies that make BPA are Bayer Material Science; Dow Chemical Co.; SABIC Innovative Plastics (formerly GE Plastics); Hexion Specialty Chemicals; and Sunoco Chemicals.

Company officials have evaded questions about their product. Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.) has written letters to BPA makers demanding information about their production levels but has gotten no reply.

"They absolutely stonewalled them, just like they stonewall anyone who wants information," said Fred vom Saal, a University of Missouri scientist who has advocated a ban of BPA. Vom Saal has debated against industry lobbyists at government hearings.

Chemical industry scientists maintain that BPA is safe. The American Chemistry Council, the lobby group for the chemical industry, issued a statement Friday saying that BPA is an important ingredient in preserving the integrity of food and drink.

The Obama administration committed $30 million to studies of BPA. The FDA's Sharfstein said the data is expected to be collected in the next 18 months to two years.

While the FDA considers how to deal with BPA makers, the market is moving away from using BPA in baby products. Last year, the six major baby bottle makers announced they would stop using the chemical in their products.

Susanne Rust, a former Journal Sentinel reporter involved in the paper's BPA investigation and now a freelance writer, contributed to this report.

Q+A: Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan tops $1 trillion

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The cost to U.S. taxpayers of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001 has topped $1 trillion, and President Barack Obama is expected to request another $33 billion to fund more troops this year.

Over two-thirds of the money has been spent on the conflict in Iraq since 2003. This year is the first in which more funds are being spent in Afghanistan than Iraq, as the pace of U.S. military operations slows in Iraq and quickens in Afghanistan.


Congress has approved $1.05 trillion dollars for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the National Priorities Project, a nonpartisan budget research group that has a continuously running war cost counter on its website.

The tally topped $1 trillion last month, when U.S. lawmakers approved the fiscal 2010 defense spending bill that included $128 billion to be spent on the two conflicts through September 30. The trillion-dollar total includes war-related costs incurred by the State Department, like embassy security.


The lion's share of the spending -- $747.3 billion -- has been allocated to the war in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion there in 2003.

The other $299 billion has been for Afghanistan, where the United States invaded to fight al Qaeda and topple the Taliban after the September 11 attacks in 2001.

War funding for fiscal 2010, which ends September 30, included $72.3 billion for Afghanistan and $64.5 billion for Iraq, making this the first year that Afghanistan was more expensive, the National Priorities Project said.


Obama announced in December he was adding 30,000 more U.S. troops to the Afghan war effort to join 68,000 already there fighting a resurgent Taliban. Defense officials say he will shortly ask Congress for $33 billion to pay for the surge, when he sends lawmakers his budget request.

That would take care of 2010. Future expenses are a question mark, partly because troop levels are uncertain. Obama says he wants to start withdrawing forces from Afghanistan in mid-2011, but this will depend in part on conditions on the ground. No deadline for leaving has been set.

Estimates of the cost per troop per year in Afghanistan vary from $500,000 to $1 million depending on whether expenditures on troop housing and equipment are included along with pay, food and fuel. Medical costs for the injured and veterans' compensation balloon as time goes on.

In Iraq, the U.S. force is supposed to fall to 50,000 by the end of August, from some 115,000 last month. The 50,000 can remain until the end of 2011, under an agreement with Baghdad.

A year ago the Congressional Budget Office projected that additional costs for the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts could be $867 billion over the next decade, if combined troop levels fall to 75,000 by about 2013.


Obama's Democratic Party has the majority in Congress but is divided over the wisdom of continuing the Afghan war. This means he needs Republicans to get congressional approval of the next tranche of funds sometime this spring.

He is expected to get that approval, in part because many lawmakers who don't approve of sending more combat troops are loath to cut off funds to soldiers in the field.

"I think that in general the American people, while obviously this is very difficult financially for us, will continue to support the troops that are there and the Congress will reflect that," Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin said this week.

But with Americans tiring of war and getting more concerned about U.S. indebtedness, political pressures are expected to grow for winding down U.S. military operations and their costs in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Americans Pledge Millions, but Cash Flow Takes Weeks

Thousands of Americans have pledged $9 million to Haitian relief agencies this week by punching a code and sending a text on their cellphones. But it could be weeks, if not months, before any of that money actually can be used.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, CNN, and users of Twitter Inc. have urged people to punch 90999 and then type in the word "HAITI" on their phones to send $10 to the American Red Cross. But the money won't be routed from most U.S. wireless carriers to relief efforts until cellphone users pay their phone bills.

That could take 30 to 90 days, telecommunications officials estimate, well after the critical initial days in which humanitarian aid organizations are trying to deliver medical supplies, food and water to save injured earthquake victims and help others with their most immediate needs. The needs for money and supplies are staggering, disaster relief experts say, following Tuesday's earthquake that struck close to the capital city of the Western Hemisphere's poorest country.

Following questions about the lag time, Verizon Wireless said late Friday that it planned to go ahead and send nearly $3 million customers have pledged to the American Red Cross, and that it would continue to advance funds as pledges come in.

The wildfire-like popularity of the program—and the resulting delay in moving the money—highlights both the power and limitations of increasingly popular social-network and text-messaging technologies. In effect, pledging $10 via text-messaging ends up yielding actual money as fast as an old-school telethon pledge drive that needed to wait for an actual check to arrive.

Nearly a dozen text-messaging programs have popped up nearly overnight, including ones that send money to relief operations operated by the Red Cross and singer Wyclef Jean. The Red Cross program has become one of the most popular efforts.

Wireless companies are touting the role they have played. On his Twitter feed, Verizon Wireless spokesman Jeffrey Nelson wrote Friday, "Mobile customers have already given $8 million by texting HAITI to 90999. It's a new paradigm in charity giving!"

But they acknowledge that they can't easily "front" the money, before customers pay their bills. Mr. Nelson and Jeannie Hornung, a spokeswoman for AT&T Inc., said their companies are trying to find a solution. AT&T wasn't immediately available to comment on whether it also plans to front pledges.

Wireless companies are working with at least two operations, called the Mobile Giving Foundation in Bellevue, Wash., and the mGive Foundation in Denver. The concept for the programs is similar to that of buying cell-phone ringtones or coupons. The proliferation of social networks and text-messaging helped spur this week's pledging. A spokeswoman for mGive confirmed that delays can occur. Mobile Giving wasn't available to comment.

In a texting donation, a person types a so-called short-code such as 90999 and then types in "HAITI" to donate a preset amount of $10. The cellphone user then gets a text back asking that they confirm the donation. After a confirmation, the person receives a text saying, "Thanks! $10 charged to your phone bill for Red Cross Int'l Relief."

But no money moves until a person pays their cellphone bill to cover the pledge. The money then is routed through a carrier that aggregates the donations before dispatching them to one of the foundations. Those then move the money to agencies such as the Red Cross.

Meantime, officials warned that hundreds of charities that may not be equipped to help often try to raise money and others are simply fraudulent scams. The Federal Bureau of Investigation warned Americans to ignore unsolicited emails and to be skeptical of individuals representing themselves as surviving victims.

Corporations, too, rushed to send millions of dollars in aid and supplies. U.S. companies pledged more than $43 million within the first 72 hours after the Tuesday quake, said Stephen Jordan, executive director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Business Civic Leadership Center. Twenty-two firms had pledged $1 million of assistance or more as of Friday afternoon, the chamber said. Other companies pledged money, water services, clothing, medicine and engineers to repair the country's battered infrastructure. Logistical problems, including airport access, complicated efforts.

Coca-Cola Co. is donating $1 million to the American Red Cross and said it will provide water and other drinks through its bottler in the neighboring Dominican Republic.

The PepsiCo Foundation said it will give $1 million to the relief effort and would allocate bottled water and Gatorade to disaster victims through its bottlers in Florida and the Dominican Republic.

Separately, investor George Soros pledged $4 million to the relief effort.

Nestlé Waters North America pledged $1 million in bottled water products, most of which will also be shipped over from nearby islands in the Caribbean.Meantim

Procter Gamble Co., working with several humanitarian relief agencies to donate funds and supplies, said its initial shipments of PUR water-purification powder packets arrived in Haiti yesterday, said spokeswoman Rotha Penn.

Climate change causes … heroin addiction?

In one of the odder discoveries related to climate change, researchers with the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) have found that rising carbon dioxide levels are causing opium poppies to become more potent.

Scienceline, New York University’s environmental reporting programme, says researchers have found that poppies grown today produce twice as many alkaloids — chemical compounds such as morphine (which can be used to make heroin) — as they did in 1950. Based on those growth levels, scientists expect the morphine levels in poppies could triple by 2050 and increase by 4.5 times by 2090.

As carbon dioxide levels keep rising, we can’t expect plants across the board to become more packed with certain chemical compounds, though. Lewis Ziska, a researcher with the USDA’s Crop Systems and Global Change Laboratory who conducted the poppy study, found in previous tests that tobacco plants produce less nicotine as carbon concentrations increase.

Such findings suggest a warming world will also be a more chaotic one for plants, which raises a host of possible problems for people as well. Wheat, for example, might produce more grains, Ziska said, while poppies and other plants such as poison ivy could become more potent.

Still other researchers have found similar plant chaos, with some plants growing taller and leggier — but less nutritious– in higher concentrations of carbon dioxide.

So are we looking at a future with more undernourished, but more overmedicated, people? Guess we’ll have to wait and see.

The Right Testicle of Hell: History of a Haitian Holocaust

Blackwater before drinking water

by Greg Palast for The Huffington Post

Bless the President for having rescue teams in the air almost immediately. That was President Olafur Grimsson of Iceland. On Wednesday, the AP reported that the President of the United States promised, "The initial contingent of 2,000 Marines could be deployed to the quake-ravaged country within the next few days." "In a few days," Mr. Obama?

There's no such thing as a 'natural' disaster. 200,000 Haitians have been slaughtered by slum housing and IMF "austerity" plans.

A friend of mine called. Do I know a journalist who could get medicine to her father? And she added, trying to hold her voice together, "My sister, she's under the rubble. Is anyone going who can help, anyone?" Should I tell her, "Obama will have Marines there in 'a few days'"?

China deployed rescuers with sniffer dogs within 48 hours. China, Mr. President. China: 8,000 miles distant. Miami: 700 miles close. US bases in Puerto Rico: right there.

Obama's Defense Secretary Robert Gates said, "I don't know how this government could have responded faster or more comprehensively than it has." We know Gates doesn't know.

From my own work in the field, I know that FEMA has access to ready-to-go potable water, generators, mobile medical equipment and more for hurricane relief on the Gulf Coast. It's all still there. Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré, who served as the task force commander for emergency response after Hurricane Katrina, told the Christian Science Monitor, “I thought we had learned that from Katrina, take food and water and start evacuating people." Maybe we learned but, apparently, Gates and the Defense Department missed school that day.

Send in the Marines. That's America's response. That's what we're good at. The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson finally showed up after three days. With what? It was dramatically deployed — without any emergency relief supplies. It has sidewinder missiles and 19 helicopters.

But don't worry, the International Search and Rescue Team, fully equipped and self-sufficient for up to seven days in the field, deployed immediately with ten metric tons of tools and equipment, three tons of water, tents, advanced communication equipment and water purifying capability. They're from Iceland.

Gates wouldn't send in food and water because, he said, there was no "structure ... to provide security." For Gates, appointed by Bush and allowed to hang around by Obama, it's security first. That was his lesson from Hurricane Katrina. Blackwater before drinking water.

Previous US presidents have acted far more swiftly in getting troops on the ground on that island. Haiti is the right half of the island of Hispaniola. It's treated like the right testicle of Hell. The Dominican Republic the left. In 1965, when Dominicans demanded the return of Juan Bosch, their elected President, deposed by a junta, Lyndon Johnson reacted to this crisis rapidly, landing 45,000 US Marines on the beaches to prevent the return of the elected president.

How did Haiti end up so economically weakened, with infrastructure, from hospitals to water systems, busted or non-existent - there are two fire stations in the entire nation - and infrastructure so frail that the nation was simply waiting for "nature" to finish it off?

Don’t blame Mother Nature for all this death and destruction. That dishonor goes to Papa Doc and Baby Doc, the Duvalier dictatorship, which looted the nation for 28 years. Papa and his Baby put an estimated 80% of world aid into their own pockets - with the complicity of the US government happy to have the Duvaliers and their voodoo militia, Tonton Macoutes, as allies in the Cold War. (The war was easily won: the Duvaliers’ death squads murdered as many as 60,000 opponents of the regime.)

What Papa and Baby didn't run off with, the IMF finished off through its "austerity" plans. An austerity plan is a form of voodoo orchestrated by economists zomby-fied by an irrational belief that cutting government services will somehow help a nation prosper.

In 1991, five years after the murderous Baby fled, Haitians elected a priest, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who resisted the IMF's austerity diktats. Within months, the military, to the applause of Papa George HW Bush, deposed him.
History repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce. The farce was George W. Bush. In 2004, after the priest Aristide was re-elected President, he was kidnapped and removed again, to the applause of Baby Bush.

Haiti was once a wealthy nation, the wealthiest in the hemisphere, worth more, wrote Voltaire in the 18th century, than that rocky, cold colony known as New England. Haiti's wealth was in black gold: slaves. But then the slaves rebelled - and have been paying for it ever since.

From 1825 to 1947, France forced Haiti to pay an annual fee to reimburse the profits lost by French slaveholders caused by their slaves’ successful uprising. Rather than enslave individual Haitians, France thought it more efficient to simply enslave the entire nation.

Secretary Gates tells us, "There are just some certain facts of life that affect how quickly you can do some of these things." The Navy's hospital boat will be there in, oh, a week or so. Heckuva job, Brownie!

Note just received from my friend. Her sister was found, dead; and her other sister had to bury her. Her father needs his anti-seizure medicines. That's a fact of life too, Mr. President.

Through our journalism network, we are trying to get my friend's medicines to her father. If any reader does have someone getting into or near Port-au-Prince, please contact immediately.

Urgently recommended reading - The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L'Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution, the history of the successful slave uprising in Hispaniola by the brilliant CLR James.

FBI admits Spanish politican was model for 'high-tech' Osama bin Laden photo-fit

The FBI has admitted using a photograph of a bearded Spanish politician as the basis for a mocked-up photofit image showing how Osama Bin Laden might look now.

The US state department was forced to withdraw the mocked up photo-image, circulated around the world last week, after the discovery that it was not quite as technically sophisticated as the FBI had originally claimed.

The digitally altered image of an older and greying Bin Laden was meant to show how the world's most wanted terrorist might now look without his trademark turban and long beard. It was released in a renewed effort to locate him, more than eight years after the September 11 attack which he ordered and directed.

But it created an unexpected stir in Madrid when a Spanish MP recognised strong elements of himself in the image and complained to the US.

Gaspar Llamazares, 52, a member of Spain's communist party and the former leader of the United Left coalition in parliament, said his forehead, hair and jaw-line had been "cut and pasted" from an old campaign photograph.

The FBI claimed to have used "cutting edge" technology to reproduce new images of 18 of the most wanted terrorist suspects for the State Department's Rewards for Justice website.

But yesterday Ken Hoffman, a spokesman the FBI, admitted that a technician "was not satisfied" with the hair features offered by the FBI's software programme and instead used part of a photo of Mr Llamazares, found on the internet. "The technican had no idea whose image he had found and no dark motive for using it," he said.

Mr Llamazares said the mistake showed the "low level" of US intelligence services. It could cause problems for any individual mistakenly seen to resemble the wanted terrorist, he said. "Bin Laden's safety is not threatened by this but mine certainly is."

Haiti Earthquake Hides the Cracks of Hypocrisy

Haiti Earthquake Hides the Cracks of Hypocrisy

Haiti Earthquake

A major destruction caused by an earthquake has caused an humanitarian situation and has brought the world together to help those in need. Donations through cell phones, non-profit organizations and governments have been pouring in. Nations have sent military and medical aid to help secure and get the needed supplies, food and water into the places where it is needed. People are helping move rubble away to get survivors out, and mass graves have been set up in order to handle the number of casualties. This has been a quick response and all of those who have been helping, donating and providing assistance should be commended. The United States has been a big pusher of a lot of this, the US news media has basically become a 24 hour ad like the ones you see asking for donations to help the orphaned children. Israel has been a big medical supplier and it has not gone unnoticed by the media either.

But, what happened during these disasters?

Gaza 2009 – Operation Cast Lead – Military Offensive – killed 1400 people, massive humanitarian disaster, continued prison. Cause: Israeli Military – US Weapons.


Afghanistan 2001-2010 – Military Offensive – killed millions, massive humanitarian disaster, continued occupation. Cause: US Military – US Weapons.


Iraq 2003-2010 – Military Offensive – killed millions, massive humanitarian disaster, continued occupation. Cause: US Military – US Weapons.


Where is the media, the donations, the outrage & support for the people if Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq? Why are we giving the US & Israel applause for helping in Haiti while they are continuing to destroy, occupy and murder millions half a world away? Why are we applauding George W. Bush and putting his name on a donation fund to help Haiti when he should be arrested for war crimes related to torture, invasion of a sovereign nation, use of white phosphorous & targeting civilians in two occupied lands?

My prayers and love go out to all of those within Haiti and I’m thankful so many people are donating money & time and anything else they can give. I’m glad we have leaders standing up and saying this is important to support. I’m glad President Obama is bringing people together in this tragedy. But, once this tragedy is no longer “news”, will we forget these same men and women are supporting the mass destruction of land & people.

We cannot stop natural disasters and we should all join together to help those in need. But we can stop man made disasters.

I would like to challenge the United States & Israel and all of those living within these two nations to do more to help deal with humanitarian needs & stop being the destruction force that causes the humanitarian need.

We are not hated for our freedoms or our wealth. We are hated because we occupy & destroy another land, murder & rape their citizens & fail to understand what we did wrong.