Friday, May 5, 2006

In Case You Missed It

Some news items require no commentary at all. plk
Excerpts from The Progress Report -- a publication of the American Progress Action Fund
May 4, 2006
KATRINA -- FEMA ABANDONS RECOVERY OFFICE IN NEW ORLEANS: In Sept. 2005, President Bush stood in Jackson Square in downtown New Orleans and pledged, "We will do what it takes, we will stay as long as it takes, to help citizens rebuild their communities and their lives." Nearly eight months later, "Housing remains in short supply, only a handful of public schools have reopened and many neighborhoods resemble ghost towns." The Bush administration's response is to cut and run; FEMA is closing its long-term recovery office in New Orleans. FEMA says it is leaving because it's tired of waiting for a plan from city officials. But "[o]ne major hold-up was the late release of FEMA's flood elevation advisories," WWL reports, "which offer guidelines on how high homeowners should raise their homes to qualify for flood insurance." The advisories were issued last week, months late. New Orleans officials say they need federal help to pay for the planning efforts, and the former director of the FEMA's recovery office "made a verbal promise to city officials to fund the effort." In fact, "[s]everal employees of the disbanded office agreed [that the city needs federal assistance], saying that at the beginning the office worked closely with city officials, helping implement their plans." Now that promise has been broken.
CONGRESS -- HOUSE PASSES SHAM ETHICS REFORM: House conservatives yesterday passed their lobbying reform bill by a narrow 217-213 vote. The Washington Post called the legislation a "sham," "diluted snake oil," and "an insult to voters." Instead of the comprehensive reform promised by lawmakers in early 2006, this bill fails to reform parts of the system most in need. One of the largest omissions is the lack of a ban on free trips; lawmakers will still be able to accept exotic privately-funded trips from lobbyists. Additionally, restrictions on lavish gifts will remain unchanged and lobbyists will be able to continue to pay $25,000 or $50,000 for a campaign fundraiser, with no oversight. Reps. Martin Meehan (D-MA) and Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) yesterday called on House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) and Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) to adopt several bipartisan measures to strengthen the reform bill. "Dressing up a series of meaningless cosmetic changes and simply calling them reform does not make them reform," said Meehan.

$6.89 billion: The first quarter profits of Royal Dutch Shell, the world’s third-largest oil company.

Former Homeland Security Inspector General Clark Kent Ervin on former Undersecretary Asa Hutchinson’s lack of response to airport security: “[H]e asked few if any questions, appearing to be totally unfazed by the whole thing. … I could only wonder why the man in charge of border and transportation security seemed so blase about how easy it had been to sneak guns, knives and bombs past airport screeners.”

A GAO report finds efficient customer service to be sorely lacking from the new Medicare prescription drug benefit. The report concluded that “Medicare’s telephone operators frequently give callers false or incomplete information…that call waiting times lasted from a few minutes to almost an hour, and the government Web site was so confusing that some people gave up before completing the process.”

Japan’s Defense Agency Director General Fukushiro Nukaga said the country is planning to withdraw troops from Iraq and will do so when British and Australian forces begin to withdraw their forces.

And finally: Sometimes, the apples fall far from the tree. An election on the central committee of the Erie County Democratic Party ended in a tie. The incumbent, William Crawford, has two voting age sons but they didn’t bother to vote. One of his sons lives at home, the other in a house across the street.

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