Thursday, August 31, 2006

Celebrating Teachers -- Sept. 1

Dear friends,

Singapore celebrates Teacher's Day every year on September 1. Here is a
message for them to always have hope in the children. This is not always
easy in our stressful environment. But cast your eyes farther and see
the possibilities.

View Flash Movie at

Sing Cher Kwek

Title: A Teacher's Day of Hope

Always teach with hope in the children.
Because if not this time, then in some distant future,
they will need it, they will respond to it.
Leave behind heart prints for them to remember you.

Freely give your patient love, compassion,
kindness and understanding to them.
All these good things, if not now, will later take root in them
But you need to provide the seeds first.

As time goes on, you plant more seeds.
These gifts of life will grow into trees,
and spread far beyond you.
But it must begin with you first.

Eventually they will spread so far,
they cannot but return to you.
Sow well, sow hopefully.
Have faith.

So in the presence of the children,
live each moment and speak each word,
think each thought and take each action
as if it will come back to you.

For they surely do,
it will surprise you,
because it will be bigger than
you could ever imagine.

Teacher's Day will keep getting better

Copyright © 2006 by Kwek Sing Cher

Don't allow the crows to persuade you!

I came across this message today and it truly spoke to my heart. I hope it touches yours as well.

Hebrews 13:5 Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.

There is an old Persian fable of a hen, a mouse, and a rabbit who lived together in a little house in the woods. They shared all the work and lived in harmony. The chicken found the firewood, the mouse brought the water from a nearby brook, and the rabbit cooked the meals. Each did his work faithfully and contentedly.

One day, while the hen was out in the forest looking for wood, a nosy crow approached her and asked what she was doing. When he heard, the crow began caw, “That’s not fair! You’re doing the hardest part of the work! That rabbit and mouse are taking advantage of you!

The chicken continued about her work, but try as she would, she could not stop thinking about what the crow said. These feelings festered and festered, and by the time she got home, she was so upset that she burst out in tears, screaming, “It’s not fair! I do the hardest work of the three of us! That’s it! I’m not going to gather this heavy firewood anymore!”

Discontent spreads, as you know, and immediately the rabbit and mouse also began to argue that they had been doing the hardest work and that they were not going to do their jobs anymore either. The three argued until they were tired and finally decided to switch jobs – from now on the rabbit would gather the firewood, the hen would bring the water and the mouse would cook.

As the rabbit hopped into the forest for wood, a fox trailed him, caught him, and ate him. The chicken put the pail into the creek, but the current pulled the pail down under and the chicken with it. The mouse, while sitting on the edge of the big pot of soup, lost his balance and fell in.

Discontentment not only destroyed their happiness but their very lives.

We all have a job to do here. No job is greater than the next -- no person is greater than the next, no matter what those crows might tell you. We are all working for the same King and we can worship Him even while gathering firewood, if that’s what He’s called us to do!

This devotional was provided by
Worthy Devotions.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

News from the National Center For Missing & Exploited Children.

Office of Communications
703.837.6111 media line

The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) Child Victim Identification Program is partnering with the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Forces to launch the first-ever U.S.-based Victim Identification Lab. To learn more please click on the link below or visit NCMEC's News & Events section on Thank you,


The Dallas Crimes Against Children Conference to Serve as Host Site for First-Ever Victim Identification Lab

Monday, August 28, 2006

Inter-Religious Councils Tackle World's Conflicts

by Deidre May
"Whenever extremists attempt to hijack religion for violent ends, whenever politicians seek to exploit sectarian differences, and whenever the press mischaracterises our faith traditions, people of faith, religious communities and religious leaders must stand up, speak out and take action.''

In a world where people increasingly kill and die for their faiths, inter-religious councils (IRCs) offer the one ray of hope against the relentless spiral of violence and counter-violence, say religious leaders gathered in this ancient Japanese cultural capital.

Some 2,000 of the world's top religious heads, representing such diverse faiths as Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, as well as indigenous belief systems, are participating in the World Conference of Religions for Peace (WCRP) that got down to business on Saturday.

Taking place in the backdrop of the recent conflict in the Middle East between Israel and the Hizbollah in Lebanon and the alleged plans to bomb airliners midair, the world assembly of the WCRP plans to thoroughly examine over its four-day course the theme of 'Confronting Violence and Advancing Shared Security,' with IRCs and inter-faith understanding being given pride of place.

Significantly, the assembly is convening for the first time after the Sep. 11, 2001 aerial attacks on the United States.

''I believe it is possible for people to overcome differences in cultures and religions through dialogue and deepen mutual trust in order to overcome the difficulties and confrontations the world is confronted with," said Junichiro Koizumi, Prime Minister of Japan, which is hosting the meet after a gap of 36 years.

''Religious communities are gathering at a critical time because religion has been hijacked by extremists, politicians and the media,'' said William F. Vendley, secretary general of the New York-based Religions for Peace.

"Whenever extremists attempt to hijack religion for violent ends, whenever politicians seek to exploit sectarian differences, and whenever the press mischaracterises our faith traditions, people of faith, religious communities and religious leaders must stand up, speak out and take action.''

Already, IRCs have grown from 30, at the last world assembly in Amman in 1999, to over 70 at the present event, billed by the organizers as the largest non-sectarian coalition of religious groups in the world.

One of its publications, 'Women of the Book: A Jerusalem Collage' reflects the often painful and difficult process of Palestinian and Israeli women dialoguing.



Gore Lashes Out at Media Consolidation

by Jill Lawless

Read the entire article at:

"Democracy is under attack," Gore told an audience at the Edinburgh International Television Festival. "Democracy as a system for self-governance is facing more serious challenges now than it has faced for a long time.

"Democracy is a conversation, and the most important role of the media is to facilitate that conversation of democracy. Now the conversation is more controlled, it is more centralized."

He said that in many countries, media control was being consolidated in the hands of a few businesspeople or politicians.

Gore said in Italy much of the media is owned by former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. In Russia, President Vladimir Putin has stifled dissent on television, and in South Africa, Gore said, dissent "is disappearing, and free expression is under attack."

In the United States "the only thing that matters in American politics now is having enough money to put 30-second commercials on the air often enough to convince the voters to elect you or re-elect you," he said. "The person who has the most money to run the most ads usually wins."

Gore said there was a link between control of the media and a lack of political action to control climate change.

"Questions of fact that are threatening to wealth and power become questions of power," he said. "And so the scientific evidence on global warming - an inconvenient truth for the largest polluters - becomes a question of power, and so they try to censor the information."

© 2006 Associated Press
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A Brave and Startling Truth

By Maya Angelou


We, this people on a small and lonely planet

Traveling through causal space

Past aloof stars, across the way of indifferent suns

To a destination where all signs tell us

It is possible and imperative that we discover

A brave and startling truth


And when we come to it

To the day of peacemaking

When we release our fingers

From fists of hostility

And allow the pure air to cool our palms


When we come to it

When the curtain falls on the minstrel show of hate

And faces sooted with scorn are scrubbed clean

When battlefields and coliseum

No longer rake our unique and particular sons and daughters

Up with the bruised and bloody grass

To lie in identical plots in foreign lands

When the rapacious storming of churches

The screaming racket in the temples have ceased

When the pennants are waving gaily

When the banners of the world tremble

Stoutly in the good, clean breeze


When we come to it

When we let the rifles fall from our shoulders

And children dress their dolls in flags of truce

When land mines of death have been removed

And the aged may walk into evenings of peace

When religious ritual is not perfumed

By the incense of burning flesh

And childhood dreams are not kicked awake

By nightmares of abuse


When we come to it

Then we will confess that not the Pyramids

With their stones set in mysterious perfection

Not the Garden of Babylon

Hanging as eternal beauty

In our collective memory

Not the Grand Canyon

Kindled in delicious color

By Western sunsets

Not the Danube flowing in its blue soul into Europe

Not the sacred peak of Mount Fuji

Stretching to the rising sun

Neither Father Amazon nor Mother Mississippi who, without favor,

Nurture all creatures in the depths and on the shores

These are not the only wonders of the world


When we come to it

We, this people, on this miniscule and kithless globe

Who reach daily for the bomb, the blade, the dagger

Yet who petition in the dark for tokens of peace

We, this people on this mote of matter

In whose mouths abide cantankerous words

Which challenge our existence

Yet out of those same mouths

Can come songs of such exquisite sweetness

That the heart falters in its labor

And the body is quieted into awe


We, this people, on this small and drifting planet

Whose hands can strike with such abandon

That in a twinkling, life is sapped from the living

Yet those same hands can touch with such healing, irresistible tenderness

That the haughty neck is happy to bow

And the proud back is glad to bend

Out of such chaos, of such contradiction

We learn that we are neither devils or divines


When we come to it

We, this people, on this wayward, floating body

Created on this earth, of this earth

Have the power to fashion for this earth

A climate where every man and every woman

Can live freely without sanctimonious piety

And without crippling fear


When we come to it

We must confess that we are the possible

We are the miraculous, the true wonders of this world

That is when, and only when

We come to it.

Thought For A New Week -- Be Still!

Psalms 46:10 Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.

In one passage in John, Mary and Martha come running to Jesus, asking Him to heal Lazarus, who was critically ill. Since Lazarus was a good friend of Jesus, I’m sure they were expecting that Jesus would come immediately to his aid. The scripture says, however, that Jesus stayed two more days in the place where He was. It was in those two days that Lazarus died.

It’s so hard to understand why it is that God waits to do the things we ask of Him. It’s good for us to remember, though, that He has His purposes for waiting. God was about to teach everyone involved a much deeper lesson here. As Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, He made sure they all understood that He is the resurrection and the life for all who believe.

God has His perfect timing for everything under heaven. You may be waiting for God to intervene in some area of your life. You may have been begging and pleading with God for years on that particular thing. But we can relax and know that God’s timing is perfect. We never know what God is doing behind the scenes, in order that our joy would be made full. Remember that He knows best what would bless us most and He is working all things for those of us who love Him and are called according to His purposes.

Relax. God is in control. He has greater things for you than what you could ask or think!

This devotional was provided by Worthy Devotions.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

He Knows The Plans He Has For You

My prayer today is that we will all soon see and love ourselves and each other as He sees and love us. Have a wonderful weekend.

Be Encouraged
Pamela Lyn

The following are two E-Mail Ministry messages.


TO: Jesus, Son of Joseph
The Woodrcrafter's Carpenter Shop
Nazareth 25922

FROM: Jordan Management Consultants
Jerusalem 26544

RE: Personnel Evaluations

Thank you for submitting the resumes of the twelve men you have picked for managerial positions in your new organization. All of them have now taken our battery of tests, and we have not only run the results through our computers, but also arranged personal interviews for each of them with our psychologist and vocation aptitude consultant.

It is the opinion of the staff that most of your nominees are lacking in background, education and vocational aptitude for the type of enterprise you are undertaking. They do not have the team concept. We would recommend that you continue your search for persons of experience in managerial ability and proven capacity. We have summarized the findings
of our study below:

Simon Peter is emotional, unstable and given to fits of temper.

Andrew has absolutely no quality of leadership.

The two brothers, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, place personal
interests above Company loyalty.

Thomas demonstrates a questioning attitude that would tend to undermine

We believe it is our duty to tell you that Matthew has been blacklisted
by the Greater Jerusalem Better Business Bureau.

James, the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddeus, definitely have radical
leanings. Additionally, they both registered high scores on the manic
depressive scale.

However, one of the candidates shows great potential. He's a man of
ability and resourcefulness; he is a great networker; has a keen
business mind; and has strong contacts in influential circles. He's
highly motivated, very ambitious and adept with financial matters. We
recommend Judas Iscariot as your Controller and Chief Operating Officer.

All the other profiles are self-explanatory. We wish you the utmost
success in your new venture.

What if Jesus had chosen the twelve based on the modern methods of
leadership selection? Most of them would have never had a chance to
participate. Jesus chooses people not for who they are, but for what
they can become in Him. Aren't you glad that when Jesus looked at you,
He didn't take you for what you were (a sinner); but He took you for
what you could be? Jesus sees the potential in all of us, and has
called us to be disciples. Jesus is still saying, "Follow Me!"

-- Author Unknown

<>< <>< <>< <>< <>< <>< <>< <>< <>< WHAT YOU WILL BE

As I gazed up at the mountains, I was awed by their majesty;
I bowed my head and asked myself, "Why should He care for me?
I am not great like the mountains that tower so high above,
What is there about me that God can find to love?"

"Father, I am not strong like the wind that makes your tall trees sway,
I cannot sing sweetly like your birds; will you love me anyway?
But most of all, I am simply me, and often have cause to fear,
In spite of all my weaknesses, do you promise to be near?"

With eyes closed tight against my tears, I wished He could hear me pray.
Then I felt His Spirit tell me, "Child, look up, I have something to
"You are simply you, the spirit I love, a part of my great plan.
I put you here to learn of life and to return to me again."

"You are more beautiful to me than the loveliest mountain I made,
And your strength exceeds that of the wind's, so do not be afraid.
I love you not for what you are, but for what I know you will be.
I am always beside you watching you grow, you are very special to me."

A smile touched my lips - I knew it was true, my Father had always been
Giving me comfort and blessings and love and my own special talents to
So I do my best to make Him proud. I am not afraid, for you see,
He loves me not for what I am, but for what He knows I will be.

-- Author Unknown

<>< <>< <>< <>< <>< <>< <>< <>< <><>

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

God's Recruitment Strategy for Leaders
by Os Hillman, August 24, 2006

Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. - Acts 9:8a

When God calls one of His servants into service, there is often much travail. There are many examples where God makes His presence known through circumstances that tax the individual to his very soul.

Consider Paul, who was stricken blind on the Damascus road.

Consider Peter; when he denied Jesus after the crucifixion, he was in total despair.

Consider Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who were thrown into the fiery furnace.

Consider Daniel, who was thrown into the lions' den.

Consider David, who was forced to flee his former employer for many years and lived as a fugitive.

It may seem strange to us that God uses such incredible adversity to prepare His servants for greater service, but this is God's way. God knows that the human heart is incapable of voluntarily stepping into situations that take us beyond our comfort zone. He intentionally brings us into hard places to prove us and to drive us deeper into the soil of His grace.

In arid regions of the world, trees cannot survive unless their roots grow deeper to where the water table can be found. Once they reach the water, these trees become stronger than any tree that can be found in tropical climates. Their root systems ensure that they can withstand any storm. In the same way, God brings us into extremely difficult situations in order to prove His power and drive our spiritual roots deeper.

Friend, God may take you through times when you will question His love for you. In such times, you must cling to His coattail so that you see His purposes in it. Do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.

You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised. For in just a very little while, "He who is coming will come and will not delay. But My righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him" (Hebrews 10:36-38).

You can read more of OS Hillman's inspiring message everyday at:
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IRC | Increased Sexual Assaults Signal Darfur's Downward Slide

Read the entire article at:

23 Aug 2006 - More than 200 women have been sexually assaulted in the last five weeks alone around Darfur's largest displaced camp, Kalma, an alarming trend that is yet another sign of the region's plummeting security situation.

The situation is so dire that about 300 women convened a meeting in Kalma on Aug. 7 to plead for more help from the outside world -- particularly from African Union troops mandated to protect civilians.

"This is a massive spike in figures.

We are used to hearing of 2 to 4 incidents of sexual assault per month in Kalma camp," said Kurt Tjossem of the International Rescue Committee, which collected the figures.

The numbers from Kalma, in south Darfur, are one measure of Darfur's downward spiral, which is also being reflected in rising attacks on aid workers and in numbers of people fleeing their homes for displaced camps.

The signing of a peace deal on May 5 has done nothing to halt the insecurity.

Since the beginning of July, 14,780 newly displaced people have arrived at As Salaam camp in El Fasher, some after having spent two days on foot or riding donkeys to escape violence in north Darfur.

They are among 50,000 people who have been displaced across Darfur in recent weeks.

Last month alone, nine humanitarian aid workers were killed and 20 vehicles were hijacked in Darfur.

The women of Darfur are particularly vulnerable.

have chosen to risk being raped rather than let the men risk being killed," one woman said at the Aug. 7 meeting, summarizing how hopeless their plight has become.

In addition to the sexual assaults, which include rapes, an additional 200 women and girls say they have been attacked in other ways in the last five weeks, including being beaten, punched, and kicked by assailants who lie in wait a few miles outside Kalma.

"These women are demanding and deserve better protection," said Heidi Lehmann of the International Rescue Committee.

This must include regular and increased "firewood patrols" by armed AU troops, whose presence alongside women as they trek through the desert could deter attackers.

"Resuming regular African Union firewood patrols is vital to the women's immediate security needs.

What little protection exists in Darfur could be diminished further on Sept. 30, when the AU's mandate ends.

All parties to the Darfur conflict must adhere to a full and comprehensive cease-fire immediately and stop targeting civilians.

In addition, the IRC calls on the AU to provide a 24/7 presence and regular patrols, which would allow freedom of movement for civilians.

Founded in 1933, the International Rescue Committee is a global leader in relief, rehabilitation, post-conflict development, advocacy and resettlement services for refugees and others uprooted or affected by violent conflict and oppression.



Zimbabwe in Crisis



Zimbabwe: An Opposition Strategy

To avoid an explosion in Zimbabwe that could cost thousands of lives and shatter Southern Africa, the opposition may need to launch a risky strategy of nationwide, non-violent protest. The country is more polarised today than ever, and in many ways, prospects for change seem to be slipping further away. Political reform is blocked, and nearly every economic indicator is heading downward. The political opposition and civil society organisations have yet to tap effectively into the dissatisfaction based on declining living standards, but they could become the spark that finally sets Zimbabwe toward change.

To find out more, visit our “Zimbabwe: Time for Change” page, which has links to Crisis Group’s reports and opinion pieces on the conflict, details of our advocacy efforts to date, links to other resources, and information on what you can do to support Crisis Group’s efforts. 


Crisis Group reports and briefing papers are available on our website:


You can help Crisis Group by telling your colleagues, friends, and family about us. Click here to go to our tell-a-colleague page.


Wednesday, August 23, 2006

When War is on the Horizon, Follow the Money

by Gary Ferdman and Myriam Miedzian 
Published on Wednesday, August 23, 2006 by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (Washington)  
"During the Civil War, President Lincoln stated that those profiteering from defective weapons 'ought to have their devilish heads shot off.'"

Pop quiz: Who founded the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq?

A. A prominent Iraqi political exile.
B. Bruce Jackson, former Lockheed Martin vice president
C. Neoconservatives William Kristol and Paul Wolfowitz.
Answer: b.
What does this mean? To understand our nation's foreign policy, including military interventions, follow the money.
This should come as no surprise. Our country is built on the profit motive; we proved its effectiveness by outlasting the Soviet Union.
While Americans understand that making money motivates McDonald's or Wal-Mart, and some are concerned about businesses donating large sums to influence politicians, most are unaware of how the profit motive helps shape U.S. foreign policy.
This is caused in part by our leaders draping decisions, especially wars, in patriotism. Take Iraq; President Bush leads Americans to believe that Saddam Hussein was involved in 9/11, has weapons of mass destruction, and threatens our national security. Once he invades Iraq, any questioning is portrayed as endangering our troops and homeland.
By the time most Americans realize that none of it is true, thousands of young soldiers are killed or maimed and hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars are flowing to often incompetent, politically connected Pentagon contractors.
For most decent, caring Americans it is almost unthinkable that the profit motive played a significant role in putting our soldiers in harm's way. It is painful to acknowledge that we have been lied to, and to ask, why? Why was this war started? What role did our president's, vice president's, and secretary of state's close ties to the oil industry play? Which powerful American companies stood to profit?
Bruce Jackson founded the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq in 2002, a few months after retiring from Lockheed Martin. In 2001, he and other members of the neocon Project for a New American Century wrote to President Bush stating that "American forces must be prepared to back up our commitment to the Iraqi opposition by all necessary means." A year earlier, Jackson had chaired the subcommittee that produced the Republican Party's foreign policy plank that George Bush ran on in 2000.
Any chance that the views Jackson promoted had something to do with the billions that Lockheed Martin pockets thanks to the war?
For war profiteers, soldiers returning maimed or in caskets, and a $500 billion Pentagon budget paid for by the taxes of ordinary citizens, are externalities -- costs and consequences borne by others.
There is nothing new about weapons manufacturers encouraging wars and profiteering from them.
During the Civil War, President Lincoln stated that those profiteering from defective weapons "ought to have their devilish heads shot off."
The role of weapons manufacturers in creating the tensions that led to World War I is well documented, and no doubt influenced President Roosevelt's 1934 message to Congress that "the uncontrolled activities of the manufacturers, and merchants of engines of destruction," were a menace to world peace.
Profiteering was so common during WWII that then-Sen. Harry Truman became a national hero by bringing to heel war contractors whose waste and inefficiency threatened the war effort.
In his famous farewell address, President Eisenhower warned the nation of the "undue influence" of the military-industrial complex, and the need to control it.
As the war in Iraq grinds on at a cost of more than $250 million per day, and another contractor-heavy organization, the Iran Policy Committee, calls for a pre-emptive strike against Iran, there is a dire need to act on his warning.
Just as government food inspection and child labor laws were enacted to protect us against the worst excesses of capitalist exploitation, our government must assure that corporate interests do not trump the national interest in foreign policy.
Pentagon contractors' congressional allies routinely defeat or bury in committee initiatives that could curtail war profiteering. This June, for example, all 55 Senate Republicans voted to kill an amendment strengthening laws governing waste, fraud and abuse in defense (43 of 45 Democrats voted for it).
In his farewell address, Eisenhower called for "an alert and knowledgeable citizenry" to stand up to the military industrial complex. Isn't it time to heed his call and demand that our representatives rein in the war profiteers?
Myriam Miedzian is the author of "BOYS WILL BE BOYS: Breaking the Link between Masculinity and Violence." Gary Ferdman is former executive director of Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities, dedicated to increasing federal support for education and health care using funds spent on Pentagon weapons.
©1996-2006 Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

When The Levees Broke -- Not Just The Story of The Post Katrina Gulf Coast

"Does this somehow sound familiar?  Did the builders of the Titanic design it in such a way that they aimed to kill the occupants of steerage? Not at all. They did, however, design it so that if anyone was going to die, it would be those in steerage. Their deaths were acceptable for the builders of the Titanic. After all, those in steerage were considered a less-relevant population than the rich on the upper decks."   a quote from The Titanic of Our Era  by Bill Fletcher Jr..
No matter where in this world you live,  if you have access to HBO and if you have not seen it yet,  please watch Spike Lee's documentary "When The Levees Broke:  A Requiem in Four Acts"  when it airs again on  Tuesday, Aug. 29 (8:00 p.m.-midnight EST ), the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
"When The Levees Broke" isn't just the story of the devastation of America's gulf coast it is the story of  political apathy, government incompetence, racism, classism and the legacy of colonialism
You may think that I'm mistaken in using the word colonialism but I've chosen that word very thoughtfully.  This documentary clearly paints a picture of a region that is resource rich, in that it supplies 30 percent of America's oil and natural gas, but where virtually none of the wealth garnered from those resources  has stayed in the region to benefit its people.
The gulf coast region in general, and Louisiana in particular,  has been treated like a third world nation within US borders.   It was not a coincidence that the media began referring to the displaced residents as "refugees".   In many ways, similar stories   unfold in many sub-Saharan African nations everyday.  


Kudos to BP -- If They Are Sincere

BP declares war on global warming - 4Car News from Channel 4
Read the entire article at:

Oil giant BP wants every motorist in Britain to do their bit to beat global warming by signing up for a new scheme called Target Neutral.

It's a web-based, non-profit way for drivers to fund ventures that cancel out the amount of carbon dioxide their driving adds to the atmosphere.

BP's UK boss Peter Mather said: 'An increasing number of members of the public want to do their bit and have a direct impact.

You register at a website,, that calculates the carbon dioxide likely to be produced by your driving over the year ahead, factoring in the car you drive and the way you drive it.

You can then pay (by debit or credit card) a sum of money that will provide funding for carbon-neutralising schemes, such as biomass plants and wind farms in India.

If you are a Target Neutral-registered driver and you buy your fuel at a BP garage, when you swipe your Nectar card that will trigger a contribution from BP, of up to 20p per fill-up.

To help counter cynicism about the scheme, it is being monitored by a green-friendly panel chaired by Jonathon Porritt, director of Forum for the Future.

It's about a bigger engagement with emissions, to help drivers get to grips with the need to change lifestyles and behaviour.

Every single one of the oil majors is going to be talking in these terms very soon.

BP's chief scientist Steve Koonin said: 'It may take several decades before alternative energy can make a major contribution to reducing carbon emissions.

Summarized by Copernic Summarizer


Pledge to redistribute Kenya land

By Odhiambo Joseph
BBC News, Mombasa

Read the entire article at:


The Kenyan lands ministry has said it will repossess all land owned by "absentee landlords" in the coastal strip and redistribute it to squatters.

Acting Lands Minister Professor Kivutha Kibwana said the ministry would invoke the compulsory acquisition clause in the Lands Act to repossess land given out to foreigners and companies in the 1920s by the colonial government, and distribute it to the coastal people immediately.

After many previous broken promises, local MP Samwel Gonzi Rai says the latest pledge should be treated with caution.

Retired Mombasa teacher and "senior squatter" Mwalimu Mwatata agrees: "The title deeds that they have these days are those of the colonial time," he says.

"We fought for independence to get our land, and it is now that we are to be given back our land.

"We have not had a process of trying to solve this problem right from the ground...

Summarized by Copernic Summarizer

Reflections On Friendship

"Every true friend is a glimpse of God."

-- Lucy Larcom

Friendship IXX

And a youth said, "Speak to us of Friendship."
Your friend is your needs answered.

He is your field which you sow with love and reap with thanksgiving.

And he is your board and your fireside.

For you come to him with your hunger, and you seek him for peace.

When your friend speaks his mind you fear not the "nay" in your own mind, nor do you withhold the "ay."

And when he is silent your heart ceases not to listen to his heart;

For without words, in friendship, all thoughts, all desires, all expectations are born and shared, with joy that is unacclaimed.

When you part from your friend, you grieve not;

For that which you love most in him may be clearer in his absence, as the mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain.

And let there be no purpose in friendship save the deepening of the spirit.

For love that seeks aught but the disclosure of its own mystery is not love but a net cast forth: and only the unprofitable is caught.

And let your best be for your friend.

If he must know the ebb of your tide, let him know its flood also.

For what is your friend that you should seek him with hours to kill?

Seek him always with hours to live.

For it is his to fill your need, but not your emptiness.

And in the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures.

For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.

-- Khalil Gibran

"Anyone can sympathize with the sufferings of a friend, but itrequires a very fine nature to sympathize with a friend's success." -- Oscar Wilde
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Iraqi Attitudes: Survey Documents Big Changes

ANN ARBOR - Over the last two years, Iraqi political values have become more secular and nationalistic, even though attitudes toward Americans have deteriorated, according to surveys of nationally representative samples of the population conducted in November 2004 and April 2006.

The Iraqi surveys, part of the ongoing World Values Surveys, are a collaborative project between the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research and Eastern Michigan University.

When asked what they thought were the three main reasons why the United States invaded Iraq, 76 percent gave "to control Iraqi oil" as their first choice.

But at the same time, significantly more Iraqis support democratic values, including the separation of religion and politics.

In 2004, 27 percent of the 2,325 Iraqi adults surveyed strongly agreed that Iraq would be a better place if religion and politics were separated.

"The findings of this second survey show that even though Iraqis have a more negative attitude to foreigners, especially Americans, they are moving closer to American values and are developing a much stronger sense of national identity," said Mansoor Moaddel, a sociologist at Eastern Michigan University and at the ISR.

Moaddel and U-M colleagues Mark Tessler and Ronald Inglehart, who directs the ISR World Values Surveys, analyzed the findings from the two face-to-face surveys, which were carried out by the Independent Institute for Administration and Civil Society Studies, a survey research firm in Baghdad.

The survey, supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation, included interviews with Shi'a and Sunni Arabs and with Kurds.

In one indication of a possible lessening of sectarian conflict, the proportion of Iraqis who identified themselves as Muslim Arabs rather than as Shi'a or Sunni Arabs increased from 6 percent in 2004 to 14 percent in 2006.

Despite increased political violence between the Shi'as and the Sunnis, the researchers found no significant change in the overall level of inter-ethnic trust among Iraqis.

This change was from 41 percent to 48 percent among Shi'as, 77 percent to 84 percent among Sunnis and 67 percent to 79 percent among Muslims.

Even so, Moaddel believes that changing Iraqi attitudes about secularism and territorial nationalism may bode well for Iraq's future.

"Iraqis' increasing attachment to national identity and increasing support for secular discourse may support the formation of a modern and democratic political order," he said.


Monday, August 21, 2006

A Little Laugh Medicine

At the conclusion of the sermon, the worshipers filed out of the sanctuary to greet the minister. As one of them left, he shook the minister's hand, thanked him for the sermon and said, "Thanks for the message, Reverend. You know, you must be smarter than Einstein." Beaming with pride, the minister said, "Why, thank you, brother!"

As the week went by, the minister began to think about the man's compliment. The more he thought, the more he became baffled as to why anyone would deem him smarter than Einstein. So he decided to ask the man the following Sunday.

The next Sunday he asked the parishioner if he remembered the previous Sunday's comment about the sermon. The parishioner replied that he did. The minister asked: "Exactly what did you mean that I must be smarter than Einstein?"

The man replied, "Well, Reverend, they say that Einstein was so smart that only ten people in the entire world could understand him. But Reverend, no one can understand you."

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Politicos beware: There Is A World Watching That You Can't Spin

Politicos beware: You live in YouTube's world. 
 | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
S.R. Sidarth never imagined his 15 minutes of fame would come from a sleepy campaign stop in the southwest Virginia town of Breaks.  Or that his handiwork with a camcorder would catapult to the list of most-watched videos on the Web's most-trafficked video site. Or that The Washington Post would devote an entire article to exploring exactly what to call the 20-year-old college student's hairstyle - a mohawk or a mullet?

But in the brave new world of YouTube politics, almost anything is possible.  And just 18 months after its launch, the website is already playing an integral role in campaigns.

Joseph Lieberman in the Connecticut primary Aug. 8, discovered that by capturing funny, embarrassing, and otherwise telling campaign moments on video and posting them on YouTube, they could reach voters in a way that's far more entertaining than over-the-top rants by bloggers.

For several years, political advisers have been instructing their clients to Google themselves and check their Wikipedia entries. "Now the third station of the cross is you've got to YouTube yourself," says Mr. Cornfield. "You have to know just what you look like and how many people are hitting on and redistributing your video."

Already, Web-savvy candidates across the globe are posting speeches, ads, and clips from community meetings on YouTube, though most are best viewed to combat insomnia.

Joe Biden (D) of Delaware appears on YouTube chatting with a young Indian American man about the explosive growth of the Indian population in his state, and elaborates with this: "You cannot go to a 7-11 or a Dunkin' Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent....

Senator Allen's exchange with Mr. Sidarth, a senior at the University of Virginia (UVA), Charlottesville, is more controversial. Last Friday, Allen was campaigning before a crowd in Breaks, Va., and then began addressing Sidarth, the only nonwhite person in the crowd, who Allen knew had been tracking his campaign all week for Democratic opponent Jim Webb. Allen called him "Macaca" at least twice, and then said, "Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia."


Action Alert: A Chance to Make Your Voice Heard on a Constitutional Amendment -- Right to Privacy

An announcement from Weekly Update August 14, 2006
Your Ideas:  Constitutional Amendment: Right to Privacy


As part of our focus on activists and their ideas, we present this proposed idea for legislation from Bonita Springs, Fl. 

A "Privacy Amendment" to state and the U.S. Constitutions that guarantees a right to privacy in all areas of our lives.  This would impact things  such as telemarketeing calls, medical records access, gun registration, abortion, gay rights and many other areas of personal behavior and activity. Most of these issues were impacted by courts' interpretations of a right to privacy and the debate as to whether the U.S. Constitution has an implied right to privacy as was decided for example in Roe v. Wade.  By passing an amendment, this issue and others would be decided once and for all.

Should your elected officials support or introduce a constitutional amendment that guarantees a right to privacy?  Write to President Bush, Congress and your governor and state legislature to let them know your views on this idea. Start by selecting your view: 

I Support A Right to Privacy Amendment to the Constitution

I Oppose a Right to Privacy Amendment to the Constitution

Post your letter for others to see with the "Letters to Leaders" option and share a picture of you or your issue and a bit about yourself for your elected officials and others to see by using the "See Me" option.

Look at the gallery of activists to see what people are interested in or read letters that others in your city or state have sent. Weekly Update Editors

Sinister, Arrogant, Greedy or All of the Above

or maybe he was smoking .... something? plk 


"It's true that babies born from women who smoke are smaller, but they are just as healthy as the babies born to women who do not smoke. 

Some women would prefer to have smaller babies."

Joseph Cullman, former president of Philip Morris


Published on Friday, August 18, 2006 by Agence France Presse 
Big Tobacco 'Guilty as Charged' over Decades of Lies 

A US judge has convicted the tobacco industry of orchestrating a sinister conspiracy stretching back decades to cover up the lethal effects of smoking.

Washington federal judge Gladys Kessler on Thursday ordered a ban from next January on the use of terms such as "light", "low tar" and "mild" on cigarette packets.

But she prompted an outcry from campaigners by rejecting government demands for "Big Tobacco" to fund a 10-billion-dollar stop-smoking campaign. Nor did she agree to forbid cigarette advertising in motor sports.

Nevertheless, Kessler endorsed the government's central argument that the tobacco giants had systematically tried to distort the fact that smoking kills.

"Despite internal recognition of this fact, defendants have publicly denied, distorted and minimized the hazards of smoking for decades," she ruled in a 1,683-page opinion issued at the end of a two-year trial.

One of the defendants, Philip Morris's parent Altria Group, said it would appeal on the grounds that much of Kessler's decision was not supported by the law and appeared to be "constitutionally impermissible".

The other defendants were American Tobacco, British American Tobacco (BAT), Brown and Williamson Tobacco, Lorillard Tobacco and RJ Reynolds Tobacco.

Kessler ordered the firms to take out advertisements on national television and in major newspapers to spell out the truth about smoking that they sought so long to hide.

The Department of Justice said it was "pleased with the court's finding of liability on the part of the defendants, but disappointed that the court did not impose all of the remedies sought by the government".

"Nevertheless, we are hopeful that the remedies that were imposed by the court can have a significant, positive impact on the health of the American public," it said in a brief statement.

Using an anti-racketeering law that was designed to hunt down gangland mobsters, the government sued the tobacco industry in 1999, alleging it had pursued an elaborate conspiracy to cover up the risks of smoking.

The lawsuit came a year after American states won a landmark settlement worth 246 billion dollars aimed at recovering the costs of treating smokers from the tobacco industry.

Cigarette makers will be back on the defensive after Kessler catalogued their deceptions down the years, including savage attacks on anti-smoking advice issued by the US surgeon-general.

She noted that up to the 1970s, tobacco executives continually insisted that they would be happy to remove any harmful elements from cigarettes "if and when" they were identified.

They knew full well from research by their in-house scientists that nicotine, for instance, was highly addictive.

The ruling quoted Joseph Cullman, then-president of Philip Morris, as "falsely" denying in a 1971 television interview that cigarettes posed a risk to pregnant women or their babies.

"It's true that babies born from women who smoke are smaller, but they are just as healthy as the babies born to women who do not smoke," Cullman said.

"Some women would prefer to have smaller babies."

The Campaign For Tobacco-Free Kids said the industry was "guilty as charged -- guilty of lying to the American people and marketing their deadly and addictive products to our children at untold cost in lives and suffering".

But the group urged the government to appeal for stricter constraints on the industry's future conduct.

The American Heart Association said tobacco firms' "misdeeds have finally been exposed", but complained that Kessler's remedies amounted to no more than "a slap on the wrist".

Copyright © 2006 AFP




A Grossly Underreported Story

One of the reasons that I was deeply opposed to turning over the security of United States ports to a firm based in Dubai is the fact that Dubai is widely recognized as a major port in human trafficking.  Sadly there is no great public outcry to end human trafficking and hence very little media coverage.  

"Human trafficking occurs worldwide where people are bought, sold and held in slave-like conditions. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) requires the federal government to promote international programs to ensure punishment of traffickers, to protect their victims and to prevent trafficking."

CONTACT: Government Accountability Office
Kirsti T. Garlock of House International Relations Committee, 202-225-5021 

Government Accountability Office Report Finds Improvements Needed to Enhance U.S. Efforts to Combat Human Trafficking
WASHINGTON - August 15 - A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released today finds that the U.S. government's efforts to combat human trafficking need: (1) a coordinated strategy to combat trafficking in persons abroad; (2) established performance measures or conducted evaluations of U.S. programs to combat human trafficking in foreign countries; (3) improved estimates of the number of trafficking victims or better analysis of human trafficking-related data that already resides within government agencies; and (4) more narrative to explain why the specific "country tier rankings" were assigned.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.), who requested this GAO report along with House International Relations Committee Chairman Henry J. Hyde (R- Ill.), said, "I am deeply concerned about the stark deficiencies highlighted by this report. I believe the report clearly illustrates the need for the President to move the preparation of the estimate of victims out of the intelligence community and assign it instead to the Human Smuggling and Trafficking Center (HSTC). The HSTC is a joint State, Homeland Security, and Justice clearinghouse for all relevant human trafficking information, so it should be able to accurately estimate the scale of human trafficking. The HSTC can also assist in improving the reliability of the country tier rankings."

Hyde stated, "The exploitation, mostly of women and children, into the commercial sex industry and the trafficking of men, women, boys and girls into forced labor on farms, in factories and domestic servitude is an offense to the dignity of human life. The congressionally mandated Trafficking in Persons Report has increased global awareness and prompted more anti-trafficking efforts. With each year, Congress will, no doubt, expect to see ever increasing improvements in both data gathering and program efficiency."

Human trafficking occurs worldwide where people are bought, sold and held in slave-like conditions. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) requires the federal government to promote international programs to ensure punishment of traffickers, to protect their victims and to prevent trafficking.

The State Department publishes an annual Trafficking in Persons Report, which includes a ranking of countries into tiers based upon an assessment of foreign governments' compliance with the four minimum standards for eliminating human trafficking set by the TVPA. Three of the standards address whether the countries' laws prohibit severe forms of trafficking and proscribe penalties for trafficking crimes, while the fourth standard is applied to assess actual efforts by the respective government to enforce the laws and eliminate trafficking.
What GAO Found:
The GAO report, titled "Human Trafficking, Better Data, Strategy and Reporting Needed to Enhance U.S. Anti-Trafficking Efforts Abroad," recommends that the government improve information on trafficking, develop and implement a strategy which clarifies agencies' roles and responsibilities and establish a way to gauge results abroad, and clearly document the rationale and support for country rankings.

The U.S. government needs a coordinated strategy to combat trafficking in persons abroad. The U. S. government must measure the performance of its programs to combat trafficking and, consequently, evaluate which programs are effective. Its coordination mechanisms ought to clearly delineate roles and responsibilities for federal or international agencies, identify needs, or leverage activities to achieve greater results.

The State Department's annual Trafficking in Persons Report is intended to serve as a guide, but agencies managing overseas programs must use this diagnostic tool to identify and correct deficiencies. The report's country assessments must clearly explain how the Department of State assessed each country against anti-trafficking standards. The absence of detailed explanations lessens the ability to bring about reform.

The U.S. government estimates that almost 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders annually, but because of deficiencies in analysis and data gaps, the GAO finds that this estimate likely understates the extent of human trafficking.


Drug Companies Making Billions in Excess Profits Under Medicare Plan

CONTACT: Center for Economic and Policy Research 
WASHINGTON - August 15 - Pharmaceutical companies are making billions in excess profits under the new Medicare drug benefit, according to a report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research. In the first year of the Medicare Part D program, Pfizer will make $1.2 billion in excess profits on Lipitor and $585 million on Zoloft; Wyeth will make nearly $1 billion on Protonix; and Merck will make $1.6 billion on Zocor.

The report, "The Origins of the Doughnut Hole: Excess Profits on Prescription Drugs," by economist Dean Baker, calculated the difference between the average cost of 20 common drugs used by seniors and the cost when obtained through the Veterans Administration. It found excess profits totaling more than $7 billion in the first year of the program. The study also calculated prices for prescription drugs such as Actonel, Aricept, Celebrex, Fosamax, Nexium, Norvasc, Plavix, Prevacid, Toprol XL, and Xalatan.
Thousands of drugs cost more than necessary under the Medicare drug plan because Congress prohibited Medicare from negotiating drug prices directly with the pharmaceutical industry, as is done by the Veterans Administration. In the case of many drugs, the prices paid by insurers participating in the plan are more than twice as high as the prices paid by the Veterans Administration.

Millions of seniors and disabled Americans enrolled in Medicare Part D drug plans are discovering the "doughnut hole" - the $2,850 gap placed into the plan in order to save the government money. The Center for Economic and Policy Research has pointed out that this gap was only necessary because the plan's overall design added significant costs and complexity.

"The excess profits from just a small number of drugs account for a very large portion of the doughnut hole," said Baker. "The excess profits for the drug industry as a whole will be close to $50 billion in the first full year of Medicare drug benefit program. This is more than twice the size of the doughnut hole."


Sri Lanka: 'What Is the International Community Waiting For?'

Missionary Service News Agency (MISNA)
17 August 2006 - 19.00

“Even now, the army is engaging in artillery fire from the centre of the city to the southern districts; for weeks, not an hour passes without the sound of these shots and waves of bullets. The rebels respond in kind, shooting toward the port and the city.”

The bishop of Trincomalee-Batticaloa, monsignor Joseph Kingsley Swampillai, spoke to MISNA by phone from Trincomalee dalla MISNA. He describes what is happening in the northeastern port city. “This combat is different from what I have witnessed in the past” said monsignor Swampillai, who started to head the dioceses in 1983, the same year in which the ethnic conflict started.

“There are far more powerful and deadly weapons being used. Even the rebels appear to have these in great quantities. Obviously, the army has the advantage of the air force, which keeps bombing away as is this time they want to sweep everything away,” said the bishop, noting that recently both the rebels and the government army have violated all humanitarian laws. “Schools, hospitals, places of worship, civilian convoys: everything has been targeted by both sides. So what is the international community waiting for to intervene?” asks the bishop.

Monsignor Swampillai fears that weeks will pass before the international community “wakes up and starts looking on this side of the world” and puts pressure both on the government and the rebels to cease hostilities.

The latest official update from the army concerning today’s fighting in the Jaffna peninsula speaks of at least 98 dead and some 100 wounded, of which six military were killed and 60 wounded.

Meanwhile, Trincomalee is also experiencing a refugee problem. Monsignor Swampillai has just returned from visiting some schools and churches where Caritas has been helping 2500 people of Tamil ethnicity, who fled from Muttur two weeks ago due to intense fighting.

The ‘welcoming centers’ are all in the centre of the city, in the same areas as military posts. “It is the only area where you can get food and medicine supplies; transfer them to more isolated areas would cut them off and it is not a given that this would be more secure,” said the bishop to MISNA.

“I cannot give exact numbers, but I think there are at least 10,000 refugees in Trincomalee, assisted by NGOs, including Caritas”. The bishop also said that the government has given the green light to send aid to the refugees, but that as long as resources from the ministries are being used up, the NGOs are the ones taking care of refugees, preempting expenses and resources by borrowing from banks.

A Prayer for Friends

A list of hopes and wishes true friends would send to each other.

View Flash Movie at

Sing Cher Kwek

Title: A Prayer For My Friend

Lord, I ask You to bless my friend who is reading this right now.

Where there is pain,
may they find peace and mercy.

Where there is self-doubt,
may they gain a renewed confidence.

Where there is weariness or exhaustion,
give them understanding, patience, and strength.

Where there is fear,
reveal your love, and offer to them your courage.

Give them greater vision, bless their finances,
and raise up leaders and friends to support and encourage them.

May their spirit always be joyous and
their days rich and full with love and happiness,

And may they always know that they have a friend.

Author Unknown - 6th Circuit next to review the legality of surveillance

By Dan Sewell, Associated Press
Even though the administration's warrantless surveillance program is heading toward an appellate court loaded with Bush appointees, the court's mixed record makes it difficult to predict how it will view the surveillance, lawyers said.

"It is not a foregone conclusion that a conservative-dominated court is going to say, 'President Bush did this and we're going to uphold what he wants,' " said Robert Sedler, a law professor at Wayne State University.

On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor in Detroit ruled that the National Security Agency's warrantless surveillance program is unconstitutional. Within hours, the Justice Department filed notice of appeal with the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which hears federal appeals from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee.

Bush decried the ruling Friday, saying the program is a legal and vital tool for fighting terrorism. "I strongly disagree with that decision, strongly disagree," he said.  "That's why I instructed the Justice Department to appeal immediately, and I believe our appeals will be upheld."

The program monitors international phone calls and e-mail to or from the United States involving people the government suspects have terrorist links.  A secret court has been set up to grant warrants for such surveillance, but the government says it can't always wait for a court to take action.

Bush has appointed six judges to the Cincinnati-based 6th Circuit, including two Michigan judges last summer who gave Republican appointees an 8-6 majority.

Cincinnati attorney Scott Greenwood, a former ACLU general counsel who has had some 40 cases before the 6th Circuit, said regardless of the court's makeup, judges are likely to take a hard look at the separation of powers issues in the wiretapping case.

Summarized by Copernic Summarizer


VOA News - U.S. Seeks to Continue Intelligence Program After Judge Finds It Illegal

The program lets the agency monitor the international calls and e-mail of individuals in the United States without the need for a court order.
The key issue here is surveillance without a court order.  No sensible person in today's society does not recognize the need for surveillance in order to prevent acts of terrorism. 
However,  if this government sets aside its fundamental beliefs in freedom in order to combat terrorism, have not the terrorists already won?   plk

A federal judge in the United States says the Terrorist Surveillance Program violates the Constitution.  This is the first such ruling against the secret program approved by President Bush.  The National Security Agency established the program after the attacks on the United States on September eleventh, two thousand one. 

The program lets the agency monitor the international calls and e-mail of individuals in the United States without the need for a court order.

The Justice Department is moving quickly to appeal the ruling by Judge Anna Diggs Taylor in Detroit, Michigan.  Her order Thursday to stop the program will not be enforced at least until she hears arguments on September seventh. 

The American Civil Liberties Union brought the case in January for a group including reporters, researchers and criminal defense lawyers.  They say the program interferes with their work and violates free speech and privacy rights.

Judge Taylor agreed.  She suggested that the president acted like a king and violated the separation of powers in the Constitution.  The judge is a former civil rights worker.  President Jimmy Carter appointed her to the court in nineteen seventy-nine.

Administration officials say the surveillance program is carefully administered and has helped stop terrorist attacks.  On Friday President Bush condemned the ruling.  He said those who praise it do not understand the nature of the world in which we now live.


Disabled People Left Behind in Emergencies

Read the entire article at:

Right now, there is no standardized federal preparedness plan for disabled people, so when a Katrina-level disaster strikes again, many will be left in the cold.

During Hurricane Katrina, Benilda Caixeta, a New Orleans resident with quadriplegia, tried for two days to seek refuge at the Superdome. Despite repeated phone calls to authorities, help never arrived for Caixeta. Days later, she was found dead in her apartment, floating next to her wheelchair.

"Benilda need not have drowned," testified Marcie Roth before the US House of Representatives Bipartisan Disabilities Caucus in November 2005. Roth, executive director of the National Spinal Cord Injury Association, had personally placed calls to prompt Caixeta's evacuation.

"People with disabilities are not in good hands," Roth said.

While there are no concrete estimates of how many people with disabilities died as a result of Hurricane Katrina, 71 percent of the 1,330 victims were older than 60, according to a 2006 report by the White House, suggesting people with special needs suffered disproportionately.

Disabled-rights activists have been calling for inclusive disaster-preparedness plans for years -- from wheelchair-accessible transportation to closed-caption emergency messages on television.  But despite some progress on both the federal and state levels, and even a 2004 Executive Order to strengthen preparedness plans to serve people with disabilities, critics say recent disasters illustrate how disabled people are still being left out of evacuation plans.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 requires that emergency preparedness and response programs be accessible to people with disabilities.  But critics say there is currently no standardized federal preparedness plan for disabled people, and many state and local emergency management offices do not have appropriate plans in place to account for special needs.

"There isn't ownership clearly defined by the federal government as to who is responsible for disability planning," Hilary Styron, director of the Emergency Preparedness Initiative for the National Organization on Disability, told The NewStandard.

While President Bush's executive order created the Interagency Coordinating Council on Emergency Preparedness and Individuals with Disabilities, the council is only instructed to "encourage" state and local jurisdictions to consider special needs in its planning.

The ADA defines a disability as a "physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such individual." There are an estimated 50 million people living with disabilities in the United States.

Disabled-rights advocates say traditional evacuation plans, which often rely on at least some walking, driving, seeing and hearing, are not appropriate for many people with disabilities.

Activists have been pushing for more responsive plans, and for governments to include people with disabilities and their advocates in the planning process.

Although some states have adopted measures that have begun to account for the needs of people with disabilities, such as a reverse 9-1-1 system and more accurate records on the locations of people with disabilities, gaps still exist.

Styron said emergency managers have difficulty planning for people with disabilities because there is no "one-size-fits-all approach."  She also said many states have seen emergency management funding cut in recent years.

According to the National Emergency Management Association, a national nonprofit that produces the only report to examine state-level emergency management funding, there is currently a $246 million shortfall in the government's Emergency Management Performance Grant Program.

The program is the primary federal funding source for states and local jurisdictions' emergency management programs.

A three-year study completed in 2006 by the Research and Training Center on Independent Living at the University of Kansas investigated 30 randomly selected counties, cities or boroughs in the US that had recently experienced a natural or man-made disaster.

Researchers found that only 20 percent of the emergency managers had specific guidelines to assist people with mobility impairments during emergencies.

Additionally, the study discovered that 57 percent of emergency managers did not know how many people with mobility impairments lived in their jurisdiction, and only 27 percent of managers reported completing a course offered by FEMA to help emergency responders understand the needs of people with disabilities.

"People [with disabilities] are being left behind," said Cat Rooney, project coordinator for the study.

FEMA and emergency management offices in Louisiana, Arizona, Florida, California and Delaware that were part of the University study, did not return TNS interview requests.

Disability un-preparedness Jeanne Abide, complaints specialist for the Advocacy Center, a disabled-rights organization in New Orleans, said there simply was not appropriate assistance for people with disabilities after the hurricane.

According to the National Council on Disability, 155,000 residents living in the three cities hardest hit by Katrina -- Biloxi, Mississippi; Mobile, Alabama; and New Orleans -- were disabled and over the age of five.

Abide told TNS that the preparedness problems specific to people with disabilities in New Orleans included a lack of appropriate transportation and emergency housing.

In February, the Center filed a lawsuit against FEMA, alleging that five months after the hurricane, the agency was still not supplying accessible trailers to people with disabilities.

Disabled-rights advocates say that people with disabilities have a host of concerns that non-disabled people may not consider during emergencies.

Groups say many people with disabilities in New Orleans were evacuated without their medicine, medical equipment, wheelchairs and even guide animals. "If someone has schizophrenia and they're put in a great big shelter with all these other people around them, and they don't have medication, that can cause a lot of problems," White told TNS.

Styron said she would like to see a disability coordinator at the federal level, a coordinator assigned to every FEMA region in the country, and a designated official within each state responsible for disability planning.