Saturday, May 05, 2007

Following Hussein's Lead

Everything old is new again
Iraq is hemorrhaging doctors as violence racks the nation. To stem the flow, the Iraqi government has recently taken a cue from Saddam Hussein: Medical schools are once again forbidden to issue diplomas and transcripts to new graduates.

Hussein built a fine medical system in part by withholding doctors' passports and diplomas. Although physicians can work in Iraq with a letter from a medical school verifying their graduation, they say they need certificates and transcripts to work abroad.

It is a common refrain among war-weary Iraqis that things were better before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. Electricity in Baghdad was more reliable; sectarian hostility was rare; Iraq was safe -- except for the many victims of Hussein's tyranny. But rarely has the government embraced a policy that so harshly evokes the era of dictatorship. To some students and doctors, the diploma decision, like Iraq's crumbling medical system, provides clear proof of the government's helplessness and the nation's decline.


Auto Censorship

Is nothing sacred? Now they're coming for our personalized plates:
Heather Moriah loves the personalized license plates on her silver Prius encouraging the impeachment of President George W. Bush.

But somebody doesn’t agree. And that somebody complained to the state. Now, the South Dakota Division of Motor Vehicles is trying to recall the plates -- which read MPEACHW. And if Moriah doesn’t turn them in voluntarily, the state might send law-enforcement officers to pick them up.

Even so, she’s not immediately inclined to cooperate.

“I don’t think I’m going to play,” Moriah said Thursday afternoon. “The plate isn’t in poor taste. It‘s not sexual in nature or pornographic. To me, a political message should not be considered offensive.”

But Division of Motor Vehicles director Deb Hillmer said Thursday that the law clearly gives the state authority to recall the plates and have them forcibly removed if necessary. And although only one person complained about Moriah’s political statement, that’s all it takes to recall a set of vanity plates, Hillmer said.


Scary Nuns!

It's a Hill Country rumble:

It's a David versus Goliath battle heating up in the Hill Country — a group of nuns from Boerne is taking a stand against Wal-Mart.

The corporate giant reportedly labeled the nuns a security threat after they raised questions about Wal-Mart's business practices.

Sister Susan Mika is part of the Benedectine Sisters, which is part of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility. The center has been questioning Wal-Mart's business practices for years.

"We've been raising questions with them for about 17 years, so it's not like they don't know it," Sister Mika said.

Now, the sisters find themselves on Wal-Mart's security threat list. Sister Mika said the group has been wrongly labeled.


Friday, May 04, 2007

Al-Qaeda Poachers

Yet another unfortunate side effect of fundamentalist idiocy:
According to India's security services, police, intelligence analysts, local traders and forestry officials, Islamic militants affiliated to al-Qaida are sponsoring poaching in the reserve for profit. These groups have established bases in the formerly moderate enclave of Bangladesh and have agents operating all along the country's porous 2,500-mile border with India. They have gone into business with local animal trappers and organised crime syndicates around Kaziranga - as well as in parks and reserves in Nepal, Burma and Thailand - in a quest for horns, ivory, pelts and other animal products with which to raise "under the wire" funds that they can move around the world invisibly.

A small rhino horn, the size of a bag of sugar, with good provenance (the beast's tail and ears, presented to a prospective buyer) and in the right marketplace (in Asia, Europe or North America), can fetch £20,000. Big cat pelts can go for up to £10,000. Monkey brains, bear bile, musk, big cat carcasses, elephant feet, tails, horns and teeth have considerable value. A shipment worth £2.8m was recently intercepted by UK customs. Profits from the trade run from $15bn to an incredible $25bn a year, according to estimates from the WWF (formerly the World Wide Fund for Nature). The punishment for trading in these items is generally a fine as low as £300 in India and £900 in Nepal.


Continuing to Win Hearts and Minds

Nothing like systematic abuse to inspire love:
One in 10 of the US soldiers in Iraq mistreats civilians or damages their property, according to a survey published by the Pentagon last night. The report said the mental health of soldiers and marines deteriorated significantly as a result of extended or multiple deployments.

The study confirms the extent to which the US military is being strained by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.


Always on the Side of Wrong

Bush again threatens to veto any attempt to do good:
President Bush is warning Democratic leaders that any attempt to weaken federal policies that restrict abortion will be met with a veto.


Three in a Row! I Win!


Brazil Opts for Health

Call me crazy, but I think the AIDS crisis rather outweighs patents at this point:
President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva took steps Friday to make an inexpensive generic version of an AIDS drug made by Merck & Co. available in Brazil despite the U.S. drug company's patent.

Silva issued a "compulsory license" that would bypass Merck's patent on the AIDS drug efavirenz, a day after the Brazilian government rejected Merck's offer to sell the drug at a 30 percent discount.

A compulsory license is a legal mechanism that allows a country to manufacture or buy generic versions of patented drugs while paying the patent holder only a small royalty.

Brazilian law and rules established under the World Trade Organization allow for compulsory licenses in a health emergency or if the pharmaceutical industry uses abusive pricing.

Merck had offered to sell the drug for $1.10 per pill, down from $1.57, while Brazil was seeking to purchase the drug at 65 cents a pill, the same price Thailand pays.

Earlier in the day, Amy Rose, a spokeswoman for Whitehouse Station, N.J.-based Merck, said the company would be "profoundly disappointed if Brazil goes ahead with a compulsory license."

It was the first time Brazil has bypassed a patent.


A Different Kind of Prostitute

Gannon has moved on to a new form of selling himself:
Former White House correspondent Jeff Gannon, also know as James Dale Guckert, has a new gig these days, according to a Washington Post report. The one-time reporter for the one-time conservative news site has now become a spokesman for a Christian bible group.


Thursday, May 03, 2007

The Beautiful New Iraq

Another sign of our "success"? A gruesome brand of capitalism is flourishing:
Criminals in Baghdad are stealing corpses from the scenes of car bombings and killings in order to extract ransoms from grieving relatives.

In a macabre offshoot of the capital's kidnapping epidemic, the gangs pose as medics collecting bodies to be taken back to the city's overflowing morgues.

Instead, they take the corpses to secret places and demand payments of up to $5,000 to release each body to relatives for burial. Because Muslim custom dictates that a body must be buried as soon as possible after death, many families simply pay up, rather than involve the police.



Who knows. perhaps the American drive to be a military behemoth will lead to a concerted effort to develop alternative energy sources:
A new study ordered by the Pentagon warns that the rising cost and dwindling supply of oil -- the lifeblood of fighter jets, warships, and tanks -- will make the US military's ability to respond to hot spots around the world "unsustainable in the long term."


McCain Is Still a Moron

Not really news, I suppose:
United States Senator John McCain (R-AZ), a candidate for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, has reiterated his support for the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" ban on lesbian, gay and bisexual service members. In an April 16 letter to Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), McCain says the law, passed in 1993, "unambiguously maintains that open homosexuality within the military services presents an intolerable risk to morale, cohesion and discipline." Senator McCain goes on to incorrectly assert that the U.S. Supreme Court "has ruled that the military may constitutionally discharge a service member for overt homosexual behavior."
It is really rather astonishing that the best the GOP can come up with are this guy and Giuliani.


An Interesting Question

Will the Commander Guy wield the veto pen against this bill?
Socially conservative groups appear resigned to the likelihood the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act will be passed by Congress and are now turning their opposition to calling for President Bush to veto it.

The House is expected to vote on the bill on Thursday. The legislation would add crimes based on sexuality to the federal hate crime law.


Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Cranky Ratzi

Once again, the Church is abusing the term "terrorism":
The Vatican's official newspaper accused an Italian comedian on Wednesday of "terrorism" for criticizing the Pope and warned his rhetoric could fuel a return to 1970s-style political violence.

In an unusually strongly worded editorial, L'Osservatore Romano said a presenter of a televised May Day rock concert, which is sponsored by Italy's labor unions, had launched "vile attacks" on Pope Benedict in front of an "excitable crowd".

"This, too, is terrorism. It's terrorism to launch attacks on the Church," it said. "It's terrorism to stoke blind and irrational rage against someone who always speaks in the name of love, love for life and love for man."


Painfully Stupid

He just won't stop

President Bush gave himself a new nickname today: The "commander guy."

At a speech to the Associated General Contractors of America, Bush, who last year described himself as "the decider," coined a new nickname.

"The question is, 'Who ought to make that decision, the Congress or the commanders?,'" Bush told the crowd. "As you know, my position is clear – I'm the commander guy."


Give It Up, Gonzales

I almost, but not quite, feel sorry for the guy:
Senators subpoenaed Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on Wednesday, ordering him to provide all e-mails related to presidential adviser Karl Rove and the firings of eight federal prosecutors.

"It is troubling that significant documents highly relevant to the committee's inquiry have not been produced," Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (news, bio, voting record), D-Vt., wrote in a letter to Gonzales. The subpoena gives Gonzales until May 15 to turn over the information.

Not accepting the White House's explanation that some Rove-related e-mails may have been lost, Leahy subpoenaed any in the custody of the Justice Department.


Watching the Watchman

Somehow, unsurprising:
A senior government official is under investigation by a congressional committee for allegations he engaged in "widespread fraud, waste, and abuse" -– the same misbehavior he is supposed to ferret out.

Johnnie Frazier, the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Commerce, is said to have rigged contract bids for cronies, fraudulently charged the government for improper travel, wasted tens of thousands of dollars on an erstwhile office remodeling and may have destroyed files that were proof of his wrongdoing, according to accounts given to lawmakers by current and former employees.

As his department's senior investigator, Frazier is supposed to "detect and prevent waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement" at Commerce, according to his office's Web site.


Mission Accomplished

Chavez has taken back all the oilfields:

President Hugo Chavez's government took over Venezuela's last privately run oil fields Tuesday, intensifying a power struggle with international companies over the world's largest known single petroleum deposit.

Newly bought Russian-made fighter jets streaked through the sky as Chavez shouted "Down with the U.S. empire!" to thousands of red-clad oil workers, calling the state takeover a historic victory for Venezuela after years of U.S.-backed corporate exploitation.

"The nationalization of Venezuela's oil is now for real," said Chavez, who declared that for Venezuela to be a socialist state it must have control over its natural resources.

Chavez accused foreign oil companies of bad drilling practices due to their hunger for quick profits, and said Venezuela could sue them for causing lasting damage to oil fields.


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

A Sorry Waste

The money being spent to kill people (and create people who want to kill us) could do so much good; it makes you want to cry:

The combined spending requests would push the total for Iraq to $564 billion, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service.

What could that kind of money buy?

A college education - tuition, fees, room and board at a public university - for about half of the nation's 17 million high-school-age teenagers.

Pre-school for every 3- and 4-year-old in the country for the next eight years.

A year's stay in an assisted-living facility for about half of the 35 million Americans age 65 or older.


The Scientific Method

Now, if only her boss would resign in shame as well:

An Interior Department official accused of pressuring government scientists to make their research fit her policy goals has resigned.

Julie MacDonald, deputy assistant secretary for fish, wildlife and parks, submitted her resignation letter to Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, a department spokesman said Tuesday.

MacDonald resigned a week before a House congressional oversight committee was to hold a hearing on accusations that she violated the Endangered Species Act, censored science and mistreated staff of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

MacDonald was recently rebuked by the department's inspector general, who told Congress in a report last month that she broke federal rules and should face punishment for leaking information about endangered species to private groups.

Interior Department spokesman Hugh Vickery confirmed MacDonald's resignation but declined to comment further.


More Good News

We're doing a bang-up job melting that ice. Way ahead of schedule on this project:
The Arctic ice cap is melting much faster than expected and is now about 30 years ahead of predictions made by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a U.S. ice expert said on Tuesday.


I Agree with Rudy!

However, I do believe we likely draw very different conclusions:
Presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani, whose law firm represents an American subsidiary of a Hugo Chavez-controlled oil company, said Tuesday that the socialist Venezuelan president is dangerous to U.S. interests.
Also, I find the idea of the pathetic little bush-league Giuliani trying to take on Chavez simply hilarious.


The New Space Race

Perhaps we need to have a couple of scientists play the "truth" game out at the Very Big Array (points for anyone who gets the reference):

Mankind's second race for the moon took on a distinctly Cold War feel yesterday when the Russian space agency accused its old rival Nasa of rejecting a proposal for joint lunar exploration.

The claim comes amid suspicion in Moscow that the United States is seeking to deny Russia access to an isotope in abundance under the moon's surface that many believe could replace fossil fuels and even end the threat of global warming.


Yesterday Anatoly Perminov, the head of Russia's Federal Space Agency Roscosmos, said: "We are ready to co-operate but for some reason the United States has announced that it will carry out the programme itself. Strange as it is, the United States is short of experts to implement the programme."

Nasa announced in December that it was planning to build an international base camp on one of the Moon's poles, permanently staffing it by 2024. Russia's space rocket manufacturer Energia revealed an even more ambitious programme last August, saying it would build a permanent Moon base by 2015.


A non-radioactive isotope of helium, helium-3 is a proven and potent fuel for nuclear fusion - so potent that just six metric tons would supply Britain with enough energy for a year.

As helium-3 is non-polluting and is so effective in such tiny quantities, many countries are taking it very seriously. Germany, India and China, which will launch a lunar probe to research extraction techniques in September, are all studying ways to mine the isotope.

"Whoever conquers the moon first will be the first to benefit," said Ouyang Ziyuan, the chief scientist of China's lunar programme.



Immigration rights are workers' rights:
Angry over recent raids and frustrated with Congress, thousands of people protested across the country Tuesday to demand a path to citizenship for an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants.


Defending the Beautiful Placidity of Iraq

Yeah, the Dems are trying to bring chaos to Iraq.

Bush's derangement is still fully in evidence
Hours before vetoing a war spending bill, Bush said Tuesday that Democrats who made the legislation a showdown over withdrawing U.S. troops could turn Iraq into a terror-spreading "cauldron of chaos" with their approach.


Call Your Reps

The bill is headed to a vote:
The House of Representatives is scheduled to vote Thursday on legislation that would add crimes based on sexuality to the federal hate crime law.

The bill passed its final committee hurdle last week.

The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, also known as the Matthew Shepard Act, would allow the Department of Justice to assist local authorities in investigating and prosecuting cases in which violence occurs.

FBI statistics show that one in six hate crimes is motivated by the victim’s sexual orientation.


Graft = Death

Good for Vitter. Every cause of the Katrina disaster needs investigation, and the Bush connection here raises all manner of questions:
When the Army Corps of Engineers solicited bids for drainage pumps for New Orleans, it copied the specifications - typos and all - from the catalog of the manufacturer that ultimately won the $32 million contract, a review of documents by The Associated Press found.

The pumps, supplied by Moving Water Industries Corp. of Deerfield Beach, Fla., and installed at canals before the start of the 2006 hurricane season, proved to be defective, as the AP reported in March. The matter is under investigation by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress.

In a letter dated April 13, Sen. David Vitter, R-La., called on the Corps to look into how the politically connected company got the post-Hurricane Katrina contract. MWI employed former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, President Bush's brother, to market its pumps during the 1980s, and top MWI officials have been major contributors to the Republican Party.

While it may not be a violation of federal regulations to adopt a company's technical specifications, it is frowned on, especially for large jobs like the MWI contract, because it could give the impression the job was rigged for the benefit of a certain company, contractors familiar with Corps practices say.

Rigged? Never!


Monday, April 30, 2007

Innocence Doesn't Mean a Damn Thing

Because the United States illegally snatched these innocent people, they are stuck with nowhere to go.

This is the very definition of kidnapping and wrongful detention:
More than a fifth of the approximately 385 prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have been cleared for release but may have to wait months or years for their freedom because U.S. officials are finding it increasingly difficult to line up places to send them, according to Bush administration officials and defense lawyers.

Since February, the Pentagon has notified about 85 inmates or their attorneys that they are eligible to leave after being cleared by military review panels. But only a handful have gone home, including a Moroccan and an Afghan who were released Tuesday. Eighty-two remain at Guantanamo and face indefinite waits as U.S. officials struggle to figure out when and where to deport them, and under what conditions.

Kafkasque only begins to describe this situation.


Contractors Cheat Yet Again

How many different ways will the American people allow themselves to be ripped off?

A federal watchdog agency insists that its investigations clearly show the US government is facing serious long-term funding shortfalls, while federal contractors, doctors and medical suppliers, regularly receiving federal Medicare money, owe billions in unpaid taxes.

Earlier this month, Comptroller General David M. Walker of the US General Accountability Office opened one of his critical summary presentations to a Defense Department acquisition conference with: "The federal government is on a 'burning platform,' and the status quo way of doing business is unacceptable...."


Meanwhile, a recent GAO inquiry reveals that about 113,800 contractors working for a variety of federal agencies, including the Pentagon and the General Services Administration, have built up $7.7 billion in unpaid taxes. This matches untidily with a March GAO report saying that more than 21,000 doctors, health professionals or medical suppliers, collecting billions in federal Medicare dollars, simultaneously owed more than $1 billion in federal income taxes.


Remember "Homicide Bombers"?

That particular attempt at neologism always struck me as especially ham-handed, even among the neocon pantheon.

However, this story really makes me think that the word "suicide" is inappropriate and much less accurate than would be, say, "institutional homicide":
Lawyers envision more suicides and despair at Guantanamo Bay if the U.S. Justice Department succeeds in severely restricting access to detainees by defense attorneys, virtually the only contact inmates have with the outside world.

The Justice Department has asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to limit the number of lawyer visits allowed to three after an initial face-to-face meeting, to tighten censorship of mail from attorneys and to give the military more control over what they can discuss with detainees.

Lawyers for detainees believe that if their visits are limited, detainee desperation will deepen and more will try to kill themselves. On June 10, 2006, two Saudi detainees and one Yemeni hanged themselves with sheets, the first and only suicides since the 2002 opening of the detention center that now holds about 380 inmates.

"Visits by lawyers are one of the few bright spot these men have," attorney Zachary Katznelson told The Associated Press from Guantanamo, where he is spending two weeks to meet with 18 client detainees.


Already with the Lies

It is going to be highly amusing to watch Giuliani's slow self-destruction:
Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani released his latest slate of New Hampshire supporters last week. One problem: Not all of them back the former New York City mayor.

Alongside a former state GOP chairman, a congressman and an executive councilor who do support Giuliani, a handful of people made the list of 125 supporters despite their objections.

Some are openly criticizing their mistaken inclusion. Others, who did not want to be quoted or to embarrass the Giuliani campaign, have since decided to join it.


How to Deal with Terrorists

A working system of intelligence. Actual, credible trials. Lengthy jail terms.

Not a Middle East conflagration. Not demonstrating to the world that we may be just as psychotic and murderous as they:
A judge jailed five "cruel and ruthless" Britons for life on Monday for plotting al Qaeda-inspired bomb attacks on targets across Britain ranging from nightclubs to trains and a shopping center.

The trial revealed that police tracking the gang had established links between them and British Islamists who killed 52 people in suicide bombings in London on July 7, 2005.

"The sentences are for life. Release is not a foregone conclusion. Some or all of you may never be released," judge Michael Astill said at London's Old Bailey court.

"You have received and taken advantage of the benefits that this society offered you, yet you sought to destroy it," he said after one of the longest jury deliberations in British history.

The gang planned to use 600 kg (1,300 lb) of ammonium nitrate fertilizer to make bombs in revenge for Britain's support for the United States after the September 11, 2001 attacks, prosecutors said.

And speaking of Middle East conflagrations:
Five U.S. troops were killed over the weekend in Iraq, the military said Monday, pushing the death toll for April past 100 in the deadliest month for American forces this year.

A suicide bomber, meanwhile, blew himself up during a Shiite funeral in a volatile area north of Baghdad, the deadliest in a series of attacks that killed at least 51 people nationwide.


Rice Needs Remedial English

No, Condi, that is not what "imminent" means:
In this video from ABC's morning program This Week, host George Stephanopoulos asks Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice if Iraq ever posed an "imminent threat" to the United States.

"I think that -- an imminent threat. Certainly Iraq posed a threat," Rice responds. "The question was, was it going to get worse over time or was it going to get better."

Rice goes on to say that the Bush administration assessment was that the threat from Iraq was "getting worse" and had to be dealt with.

"But [Iraq was] not an imminent threat," presses Stephanopoulous.

"George, the question of imminence isn't whether or not someone will strike tomorrow, it's whether you believe you're in a stronger position today to deal with the threat or whether you're going to be in a stronger position tomorrow," replies Rice. "It was the president's assessment that the situation in Iraq was getting worse from our point of view."

In truth, what she really needs is Basic Ethics.



The Republicans are disintegrating before our very eyes. No ideas, no money, no candidates:
President Bush's unpopularity and a string of political setbacks have created a toxic climate for the Republican Party, making it harder to raise money and recruit candidates for its drive to retake control of Congress.

Some of the GOP's top choices to run for the House next year have declined, citing what Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.) called a "poisonous" environment. And Republicans' fundraising edge, an important advantage over the last five years, has dwindled.

With GOP clout diminished after November's election losses, the Republicans' national committee and their House and Senate campaign committees together raised the same amount as the Democrats in the first quarter of the year — and Democrats ended the period with more cash in the bank. At this point four years ago, Republicans had more than twice the money Democrats did.


Sunday, April 29, 2007

Energy Independence for (Latin) America

Whatever else one may think of Chavez, he clearly has a better plan for the future than George W. Bush has for the U.S.:
President Hugo Chavez said Sunday that Venezuela hopes to gradually sell off its refineries in the United States and build a new network of refineries in Latin America, part of a plan to offer his leftist allies in the region a stable oil supply.
Working with neighbors, striving for a stable energy supply...

So crazy it just might work.


Another Hypocrite Goes Down

If I believed in hell, I'd say there's a special place in hell for people such as this man:
Randall Tobias, the head of the US Agency for International Development and President Bush's former coordinator for global AIDS relief, has quit amid allegations he was a client of a high-priced DC call-girl ring.

In announcing his resignation the State Department said on that Tobias was resigning for personal reasons.

ABC News was given the names of clients of what has been described as an exclusive escort service in the capital by Deborah Jeane Palfrey, the owner of the service who has been charged with running a prostitution ring.

Palfrey, who is 65 and married, maintained in an interview with the Washington Post that her service provided university educated women to engage in legal game-playing of a sexual nature at 275 dollars an hour for a 90 minute session.

Tobias' name was among those clients. He submitted his resignation a day after being confronted by the network.


In 2003 Bush appointed Tobias as the first global AIDS coordinator. For three years he promoted abstinence over the use of condoms, and fidelity in traditional marriage, to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa and was blamed for tying abstinence programs to aid to foreign countries.

His agency also funneled money to faith-based groups that not only preached abstinence, faithfulness, and denounced sex between men or ignored male-on-male sex altogether in AIDS educational programs.


Ignoring the CDC; Killing Minorities

Once again, Bush ignores science in favor of his own deranged policies:
Funding for a federal grant program to help city and states fight rising HIV infection rates within minority communities has been suspended only days before the Center for Disease Control released a report calling for a “heightened response” to the “major health crisis” of HIV/AIDS in African American communities.

“This could be catastrophic for many organizations,” Damon Dozier, director of government relations and public policy for the National Minority AIDS Council, said of the funding gap in an interview with RAW STORY Tuesday. “This funding is critically important.”


Iraq: Where Successes Are Failures

1 out of 8 is just not all that impressive:
In a report that deeply contradicts repeated claims from officials that reconstruction in Iraq has seen remarkable progress, a federal oversight agency has found that among eight projects previously touted as successes in the rebuilding effort, a remarkable seven are no longer operating as intended, according to a New York Times report.


U.S. Rejected Most Katrina Aid

The incompetence just goes on and on:

As the winds and water of Hurricane Katrina were receding, presidential confidante Karen Hughes sent a cable from her State Department office to U.S. ambassadors worldwide.

Titled "Echo-Chamber Message" -- a public relations term for talking points designed to be repeated again and again -- the Sept. 7, 2005, directive was unmistakable: Assure the scores of countries that had pledged or donated aid at the height of the disaster that their largesse had provided Americans "practical help and moral support" and "highlight the concrete benefits hurricane victims are receiving."

Many of the U.S. diplomats who received the message, however, were beginning to witness a more embarrassing reality. They knew the U.S. government was turning down many allies' offers of manpower, supplies and expertise worth untold millions of dollars. Eventually the United States also would fail to collect most of the unprecedented outpouring of international cash assistance for Katrina's victims.

Allies offered $854 million in cash and in oil that was to be sold for cash. But only $40 million has been used so far for disaster victims or reconstruction, according to U.S. officials and contractors. Most of the aid went uncollected, including $400 million worth of oil. Some offers were withdrawn or redirected to private groups such as the Red Cross. The rest has been delayed by red tape and bureaucratic limits on how it can be spent.

In addition, valuable supplies and services -- such as cellphone systems, medicine and cruise ships -- were delayed or declined because the government could not handle them. In some cases, supplies were wasted.

The struggle to apply foreign aid in the aftermath of the hurricane, which has cost U.S. taxpayers more than $125 billion so far, is another reminder of the federal government's difficulty leading the recovery. Reports of government waste and delays or denials of assistance have surfaced repeatedly since hurricanes Katrina and Rita struck in 2005.