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The Tally Ho

Monday, December 27, 2004

"The Media Just Doesn't Cover the Good in Iraq"

The above phrase has been repeated so often that I'm sure the right wing automatons have regurgitated that phrase and its many incarnations. However, when almost everyday an article such as the following appears - it is a tough sell even if we are living in 1984. Erik Eckholm writes in his article Blast Kills Up to 15 at Baghdad Political Office
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Dec. 27 - A suicide car bomber set off a huge explosion outside the Baghdad headquarters of the nation's largest Shiite political party today, killing 15 party workers and passersby, by some unofficial reports, and wounding dozens more.

The leader of the party, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, who has emerged as one of the country's most powerful political figures in the run-up to national elections next month, was inside the building but unhurt in the blast, which rattled buildings across central Baghdad this morning.

Still, the deadly blast underscored the fragility of the electoral process here and also evoked the lurking threat of sectarian strife or even civil war, Iraqi political experts said.

Mr. Hakim's son, in an interview after the explosion, said the attack was the work of die-hard Baathists and Sunni Islamic extremists, who he charged "are trying to undermine the election process."

In another setback for the elections for a Constitutional Assembly, which are scheduled for Jan. 30, the largest of the Sunni parties to have entered the ring with a slate of candidates announced today that it was withdrawing, saying security conditions will not permit fair elections in mainly Sunni regions.

The Sunni group, the Iraqi Islamic Party, said it was not calling for a boycott of the elections, as the more militant Muslim Clerics' Association has, but repeated earlier demands for a six-month delay in voting.

The bomb attack today on the offices of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, one of two huge Shiite parties with a strong religious leaning, follows a series of murders and bombings of Shiite officials.

That campaign, many Iraqis believe, is being waged by former Baathists tied to Saddam Hussein and Sunni Islamists who fear the ascendancy to national power of Shiites, a group that makes up 60 percent of the population but has long been dominated by Sunnis of central Iraq.

Bush's war hasn't went well. But not all tragedy is created by man. The tsunamis caused by a massive earthquake is responsible for over 19,000 deaths and counting.
"I just couldn't believe what was happening before my eyes," Boree Carlsson, 45, of Sweden, told Reuters from a hotel in the Thai resort of Phuket. "As I was standing there, a car actually floated into the lobby and overturned because the current was so strong."

A tsunami - the term is Japanese - is a series of waves generated by underwater seismic disturbances, in this case the interface of the India and Burma tectonic plates. Seismologists with the United States Geological Survey said the ocean west of Sumatra and the island chains to its north was a hot zone for earthquakes because of a nonstop collision occurring there between the India plate, beneath the Indian Ocean seabed, and the Burma plate under the islands and that part of the continent.

The India plate is moving at about two inches a year to the northeast, creating pressure that releases, sporadically, in seismic activity. But this was an especially devastating earthquake, the fourth most powerful in 100 years.

Television images showed bodies floating in muddied waters. Cars went out to sea; boats came onto land. Snorkelers were dragged onto the beach, and sunbathers out to sea, Simon Clark, a photographer who was vacationing on Ngai Island in Thailand, told The Associated Press.

Indonesia reported nearly 4,500 dead, most in the Banda Aceh area of Sumatra, a region that has been the site of a continuing civil war. In Sri Lanka, at least 6,000 were dead. In India, an estimated 2,300 died, with at least 1,700 confirmed dead in Tamil Nadu, the southern state that is home to this coastal city of Madras, officially known as Chennai.

UPDATE: Shankar Vedantam's latest article in The Washington Post titled Tsunamis' Toll Might Have Been Lessened, he writes
The real tragedy, many experts acknowledged yesterday, is that thousands of lives in countries such as Sri Lanka, India and Thailand could have been saved if an early warning system similar to one that exists for the Pacific Ocean had been in place. U.S. officials said that they wanted to warn the countries but that there was no mechanism to do so.

The tsunamis' impact in the hardest-hit countries occurred about two hours after the underwater earthquake: If authorities had had the opportunity to move people even a few hundred yards inland, many people would have been saved, Bernard said.

"The idea is to get yourself high enough or far enough inland that the water is not strong enough to take you back to sea. About waist-deep water is where you lose control," he said.

One reason experts had not pushed hard for a warning system is that the risk along the shores of the Indian Ocean had long been underestimated. Most of the devastating tsunamis in the last century or more have occurred elsewhere.

"We have believed as a community that the Indian Ocean is fairly immune to tsunamis of the kind that took place," said Costas Synolakis, a professor of civil engineering at the University of Southern California. "The last tsunami that affected the Indian Ocean was in 1883. . . . The hazard was underestimated by a factor of 10."

Synolakis said he had opened discussions two weeks ago with officials in Hawaii at the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center about expanding the warning system to the Indian Ocean.


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