Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christopher Hitchens Thinks Glenn Beck Is Inciting Racism

Christopher Hitchens has devoted his column in this month's Vanity Fair to Glenn Beck and the result has been making the gleeful rounds on Twitter all week.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Hitchens had some fearsome things to say about the Fox News host and the masses he has managed to rally.

Glenn Beck has not even been encouraging his audiences to reread Robert Welch. No, he has been inciting them to read the work of W. Cleon Skousen, a man more insane and nasty than Welch and a figure so extreme that ultimately even the Birch-supporting leadership of the Mormon Church had to distance itself from him...

So, Beck’s “9/12 Project” is canalizing old racist and clerical toxic-waste material that a healthy society had mostly flushed out of its system more than a generation ago, and injecting it right back in again. Things that had hidden under stones are being dug up and re-released. And why? So as to teach us anew about the dangers of “spending and deficits”? It’s enough to make a cat laugh. No, a whole new audience has been created, including many impressionable young people, for ideas that are viciously anti-democratic and ahistorical. The full effect of this will be felt farther down the road, where we will need it even less.

Unfortunately, Hitchens doesn't explore why this so-called healthy society was so willing to have this "waste" injected back into it again, something I'd be eager to see him do. He does however castigate elements of the GOP for giving it a pass.

Meanwhile, Beck's devotion to Skousen is not actually news. Salon did an extensive piece on Skousen last year which revealed the author's dubious history of writings. Whether or not Beck's fans, or Beck himself for that matter, have expanded their Skousen oeuvre past the 5000 Year Leap remains to be seen. I watch Beck's show fairly consistently and would be hard-pressed to ever describe him as a racist (despite the fact there really were very few African American's at his 8/28 rally). Regardless, even a quick glance a the Skousen's list of writings obviously raises serious questions about Beck's choice of reading material.

That said, I think Hitchens (who has been on a self-admitted roll these last weeks) misses two fundamental points here.

One is that Beck is a spectacular entertainer. People who only watch him in clips tend to miss this and it goes a long way to explaining his reach: his is easily the most entertaining (and unusual) hour on television. More important however is something Hitchens touches on here:

At the first Tea Party rally I attended, at the Washington Monument earlier this year, the crowd—bristling with placards about the Second Amendment’s being the correction—was treated to an arm-waving speech by a caricature English peer named Lord Monckton, who led them in the edifying call-and-response: “All together. Global warming is?” “Bullshit.” “Obama cannot hear you. Global warming is?” “bullshit.” “That’s bettah.” I don’t remember ever seeing grown-ups behave less seriously, at least in an election season.

Emphasis mine. Because who exactly out there in the mainstream is behaving seriously these days?

One suspects the ever-shrinking platform for serious thought in the media sphere has almost as much to do with Glenn Beck's success as anything else. It's a core problem that tends to get glossed over in all the (SEO-friendly) hysteria over the inflammatory things Beck says.

In a media and political world that has been reduced to Twitter and scripted reality shows (and there is a whole world of trouble to be found in that oxymoron) featuring potential presidential candidates it perhaps should not be surprising that there is a viewership craving something...more. And like it or not what Beck provides is a (admittedly bizarre, frequently incorrect) history lesson of sorts with a lot of bells and whistles and long-forgotten sources, which attempt to explain, with (albeit Beckian) context, why the country is where it is. The fact the country is where it is is what is terrifying people.

Judging by Beck's ratings, and his ability to push any book to the top of Amazon -- an ability shared only by Oprah -- chunks of the population are hungry for an education and aren't finding it elsewhere. That is arguably this biggest problem.

Combine all this with a media industry that is thrashing to stay afloat, and whose only metric of success at the moment is traffic -- a metric that generally feeds on the controversial and flashy (be it of the nipple or rhetorical variety) and is Beck's resulting success really all that surprising? Certainly not more so than it was when the John Birch society wielded, as Hitchens points out, a "potent influence over whole sections of the Republican Party." Is it dangerous? Probably not more so than the media turning politics into a national sport so that no success or failure lasts longer than a few days, and the need for dueling headlines leaves very little room for compromise (suddenly a bad word).

Hitchens says that "an honest and open discussion about all this is not just a high priority. It’s more like a matter of social and political survival." Unfortunately he doesn't note where that discussion might successfully take place.

My War With Rush Limbaugh John Avlon

According to Rush Limbaugh, I’m a hard-core liberal, no different than Michael Moore who paid the bail for “the serial rapist Julian Assange.” Also, I’m not willing to admit who the terrorists are, and I’m helping to kill Christmas.

It’s all because I co-founded a new group that launched this week called No Labels. We’re Republicans, Democrats and Independents—dedicated to confronting the culture of hyper-partisanship that is distorting our debates and stopping our nation from solving the serious challenges we face.

This idea is threatening to professional polarizers like El Rushbo—which is why he devoted an hour of his show this week to attacking us. In particular, he took personal aim at co-founders Mark McKinnon (a Republican Bush/McCain adviser and fellow Daily Beast columnist), Kiki McLean (a Texas Democrat and Clinton administration alum) and myself. In the process, he again proved the need for No Labels.

Rush’s core concern seems to be that there is no such thing as the center or independent voters. He believes that America is divided between the far-right and the far-left, and he likes to offer only that false choice because he believes it’s a fight he can win. But an emphasis on swing voters or independents—the largest and fastest-growing segment of the electorate—makes the math more complicated. It screws an inflexible ideologue up.

For someone who talks about freedom a lot, Limbaugh doesn’t have much faith in free will or free-thinking.

“If we do this right, we can discredit this whole mind-set of the ‘moderate center’ being the defining group in American politics,” said Rush. “Because this No Labels group is going to end up illustrating what a fraudulent idea that whole concept of, ‘There are people who decide issue by issue. On the left they like certain things, on the right they like certain things.’”

So Rush believes that there are no principled Americans who decide what they believe on different policies issue-by-issue. For someone who talks about freedom a lot, he doesn’t have much faith in free will or free-thinking. He doesn’t believe that Americans—especially independent voters—can consider themselves fiscally conservative but socially liberal. You either walk in lockstep as a social conservative and fiscal conservative or you are a ‘hard-core liberal’—libertarians, apparently, need not apply.

It is an illustration of one of the lies of modern American politics—that people who surrender their individuality to an ideology and vote the party line are somehow "courageous." That’s not courage, it's conformity.

But this all-or-nothing mindset is what allows Rush to look at the range of people who spoke at the No Labels launch and dismiss them all. New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg is "an ├╝berliberal" as presumably is the self-described libertarian-conservative congressman turned cable host Joe Scarborough, Bush-era Comptroller General David Walker, Reagan administration alumni David Gergen, Congressman Mike Castle and keynote speaker David Brooks who cut his teeth at William F. Buckley’s National Review before joining The New York Times. Rush also took time to dismiss other bipartisan initiatives to achieve fiscal responsibility like the Concord Coalition (co-founded by Granite State Republican Warren Rudman) and Nixon Commerce Secretary Pete Peterson’s legion efforts to education Americans about the crippling impact of the deficit and the debt.

Says Mark McKinnon: “Rush thrives on hyper-partisanship. He's against everything we stand for. He doesn't want us to get along. He doesn't want Republicans talking to Democrats. It's a zero sum game for Rush. It's all about winning for Republicans and losing for Democrats. Rush said he wants the President of United States to fail. Forget about the good of the country, it would be good for Republicans. No Labels could not disagree more. We hope that any president succeeds, Republican or Democrat. Because progress for the country is more important that points for a political party."

Criticizing Limbaugh is not the same thing as demonizing him. We can recognize that he is a talented broadcaster, a popular political entertainer for folks on the far-right. He also helped create a big part of the problem in our politics today.

He uses conflict, tension, fear and resentment to drum up his ratings, appealing to a narrow but intense (and aging) niche audience by using the old trick of dividing Americans into "us" vs. "them," perpetuating the polarization he profits from. That’s why it’s a little absurd to hear Limbaugh point out disapprovingly that my book Wingnuts itself uses a label to describe the use of fear and hate by hyper-partisans.

Its funny how quickly people who throw around labels for a living ("feminazi," for example) cry foul when a term like Wingnut is directed at them. But bullies are always shocked when you punch back.

While Limbaugh was busy arguing that No Labels is just a shadow organization for progressives, on the left, the netroots were describing us as just the opposite—a shadow organization of Republicans.
Huffington Post contributor Robert David Steele went the DINO-hunting "corporatist" route sometimes directed at No Labels allies, like centrist Democratic Senators Joe Lieberman, Evan Bayh and Joe Manchin, describing how “No Labels ‘Non-Party’ Equals ‘Four More Years’ for Wall Street, Goldman Sachs, Grand Theft USA”. Daily Kos offered a series of similar takes.

Keith Olbermann named No Labels one of the "worst persons in the world" last night (a badge of honor he gave to me earlier this year). He called us “wolves in sheep’s clothing,” and “a bunch of fraudulent conservative Democrats pretending to be moderates and a bunch of fraudulent Republicans pretending to be independents.” Again, there’s the impulse to divide and deny the legitimacy of anyone who doesn’t conform to a hyper-partisan view of politics.

Likewise, Ed Schultz did a segment attacking No Labels as "fence riders.” When he brought Kiki McLean on, she explained No Labels’ belief that “if we start the day by calling each other liars, if we start the day by calling each other baby killers, murderers, racists, we don't get to the topic of substance.” Schultz called on liberal commentator Lionel Media to rebut, saying, “Right now this a rancorous [time], this is an uncivil world that we live in…if I went to John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi and said, now, listen, I want you two to find one we agree on that we can start. They'd say, ‘Nothing.’ OK. There we go.”

Or there we don’t go, as the case might be—demonization leads to distrust and gridlock. It’s a vision of democracy as an all-or-nothing ideological blood-sport between enemies instead of a constructive conversation between fellow citizens who recognize, as Thomas Jefferson once said, that “every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle.” We can solve problems without surrendering our principles by identifying the common ground that exists and then building on it.

There is no partisan template to understand a movement that attracts both the bassist of Nirvana and the editor of the conservative Dartmouth Review. Liberals try to call us conservative and conservatives try to call us liberal, but the labels don’t fit. And that’s the point.

But in the all-or-nothing world of hyper-partisans even trying to transcend political labels is a traitorous act. That’s why Limbaugh tried to lump No Labels in with Michael Moore and Julian Assange in his opening monologue this Wednesday. Wearing his polarizing political entertainer hat, he questioned whether we were part of the PC police who want to remove mention of the word "Christmas" from the public square. Most offensive to me, he said, “The No Labels mind-set leads to not being willing to admit who the terrorists are.”

For what it's worth, Mr. Limbaugh, I witnessed the attacks of 9/11 from three blocks away and as a speechwriter for Rudy Giuliani I spent months writing eulogies for the firefighters and police officers who were murdered by the radical Islamist terrorists who took down the Towers. More recently, you quoted my story about the Park 51 Islamic Center Developers applying for $5 million in dedicated 9/11 funds for cultural redevelopment. Suggesting that a call for common ground between fellow American citizens is somehow equivalent to appeasement or amnesia when it comes to terrorists is unforgiveable.

One of the core purposes of No Labels is to remind Americans that our domestic political opponents are not our sworn enemies. Neither President Bush nor President Obama ever deserves to be compared to tyrants or terrorists—and if you only object to the president of your party being compared to Hitler, you’re part of the problem. I hope that No Labels can help rekindle some of the spirit of national unity we found and then quickly squandered after 9/11 —because we can’t wait for a terrorist attack or natural disaster to remember that there is more that unites us than divides us as Americans.

The bottom line is that less than one week since its launch, No Labels has spurred the start of a national conversation. And if both Rush Limbaugh and Keith Olbermann have taken time to attack us, it's a sign that we're doing something right and fighting the good fight.

John Avlon's new book Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe Is Hijacking America is available now by Beast Books both on the Web and in paperback.

FBI joins hunt for suspected New York serial killer (EAST COAST & WEST COAST KILLERS)

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The FBI on Wednesday joined the hunt for a possible serial killer suspected of finding prostitutes on Craigslist, after four bodies were discovered strewn along a New York beach, authorities said.

One of the bodies is believed to be Megan Waterman, 22, who was using the online classified ad site to solicit sex, said police in Suffolk County, N.Y., where the corpses were found.

Police believe one person killed the victims and dumped them along a quarter-mile stretch of beach on Long Island about 40 miles east of New York City.

Authorities suspect the culprit is a serial killer who may have murdered women in other states, Suffolk County Police Commissioner Richard Dormer said.

The FBI met with local police on Wednesday to gather information and offer assistance, FBI special agent Richard Kolko said.

Authorities were investigating whether the slayings are connected to similar unsolved cases in other states.

Four prostitutes were found dead in Atlantic City, N.J., in 2006, and prosecutors there confirmed they are working with Long Island authorities to see if the cases are related.

Waterman, a known prostitute from Maine, disappeared in June after using Craigslist to meet up with a client on Long Island, police said.

Waterman's mother Lorraine Ela said from her home in South Portland, Maine that this was the first major breakthrough in locating her daughter.

"This is absolutely the hardest time for me and my family," Ela said. "I think deep down inside we were prepared to hear something like this, but we weren't trying to think like that.

"We've been more or less trying to think positive that she's alive and still out there," she said.

Authorities were awaiting results of DNA testing to determine if one of the bodies in Waterman, she said.

All four bodies were believed to be female, although they were decomposed and difficult to identify, police said.

Police made the grisly discovery while searching for another known prostitute, Shannon Gilbert, 24, of New Jersey, who disappeared in May, also after using Craigslist to meet a client on Long Island.

None of the bodies were believed to be that of Gilbert, however.

Skeletal remains of the first body were found on Saturday by a police officer. The other bodies were found on Monday, also on Oak Beach, along an inlet of the Atlantic Ocean.

Goldman Officers to Reap $111 Million Payout From 2007, 2009 (Sure great news for the USA JBLESS MILLIONS!)

Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s top executives will get about $111.3 million in stock next month in a delayed payout from last year and their record-setting 2007 awards, even as Wall Street prepares for lower bonuses.

Chief Executive Officer Lloyd C. Blankfein, 56, is poised to receive about $24.3 million in January, based on the closing share price on Dec. 14, while President Gary D. Cohn, 50, will get about $24 million, company filings show. The payouts, just a portion of the $67.9 million bonus awarded to Blankfein for 2007 and the $66.9 million paid to Cohn, reflect a 24 percent decline in the stock’s value since it was granted at $218.86.

Within a year after the bonuses were approved, Goldman Sachs took $10 billion of U.S. bailout funds, converted to a bank and was borrowing as much as $35.4 billion a day from Federal Reserve emergency programs. This year the New York-based firm paid $550 million to settle U.S. regulators’ fraud charges related to a mortgage security the company sold in 2007.

“Clearly we now look back and say, ‘Were things fine? Should they have paid? Maybe not,’” said Jeanne Branthover, a managing director at recruitment firm Boyden Global Executive Search in New York. “There’s nothing you can do about it. The payouts were in stone. But hopefully, in the future, they won’t be.”

Deferred Stock

Since the 2008 credit crisis wiped out competitors such as Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and led to unprecedented government assistance to financial institutions, regulators have encouraged banks to pay senior employees with deferred stock and recoup payouts if trading strategies backfire. Blankfein and Cohn, who received cash awards of $27 million and $26.6 million respectively for 2007, didn’t get any bonuses for 2008 and received only restricted stock for 2009.

Goldman Sachs announced on Dec. 10, 2009, that all 30 members of its management committee would receive only restricted stock for their year-end bonuses. The company hasn’t made a similar announcement this year. Through the first nine months of 2010, Goldman Sachs set aside $13.1 billion to cover compensation and benefits expenses, or enough to pay each of its 35,400 employees $370,706 apiece. A year earlier, the average was $527,192 per employee.

The payments come as bonuses across Wall Street are expected to decline. Compensation for trading and investment- banking employees is likely to be down 22 percent to 28 percent from last year, according to Options Group, an executive search and compensation consultant firm in New York. Morgan Stanley has told some employees to expect investment-banking bonuses to decline 10 percent to 30 percent, two people briefed on the matter said earlier this month.

Record Profit

Goldman Sachs’s 23 percent share-price decline from the last day of 2007 compares with a 16 percent drop in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index over the same period and a 47 percent plunge in the S&P 500 Financials Index. While the firm’s profit tumbled 80 percent in 2008 from the $11.6 billion earned in 2007, last year the company recovered to post a $13.4 billion record profit. So far this year earnings have been lower.

Among the scheduled January payouts are $21.3 million to Chief Financial Officer David Viniar; $20.8 million to former co-president Jon Winkelried, who left the firm in March 2009; and $14.3 million to Edward C. Forst, co-head of investment management, who left in 2008 and returned to Goldman Sachs a year later.

The amounts are based on the Dec. 14 closing share price of $167.33, which is likely to change by the time the stock is delivered next month.

David Wells, a spokesman for Goldman Sachs in New York, declined to comment.

Dimon, Mack

JPMorgan Chase & Co. CEO Jamie Dimon, 54, is set to receive $6.8 million worth of shares next month that were awarded for 2007. John Mack, 66, who served as CEO of New York-based Morgan Stanley until this year, didn’t take a bonus in 2007, 2008 or 2009. He will receive about $5.4 million of previously vested shares in January that Morgan Stanley awarded him for 2005.

Of the $111.3 million in restricted stock awards due to be doled out in January, $94.9 million was from 2007 grants, the filings show. While Vice Chairmen John S. Weinberg and J. Michael Evans will each receive $3.3 million from their 2009 bonus grants, their 2007 awards weren’t published in the proxy.

Buffett Agreement

The executives will be restrained from cashing in the stock they receive. Blankfein, Cohn, Winkelried and Viniar were all required to keep 90 percent of their shares under an agreement reached with Berkshire Hathaway Inc., the company controlled by billionaire Warren Buffett, when it bought $5 billion of the firm’s preferred stock in 2008. That limit expires when Buffett’s investment is repaid or on Oct. 1, 2011, whichever comes soonest.

Even before the Buffett restrictions were imposed, Goldman Sachs’s CEO, CFO, presidents and vice chairmen were required to keep at least 75 percent of the shares they had received since becoming senior executive officers, with the exception of shares received in Goldman Sachs’s 1999 initial public offering or through any acquisition by Goldman Sachs. Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan also require top executives to retain 75 percent of the shares they are awarded.

About 88 percent of the 2007 awards were restricted stock units the firm granted for performance, which were vested at that time. The executives receive the shares underlying those units in January 2011. The remaining 12 percent are shares the executives purchased at a 25 percent discount using their 2007 cash bonuses. Those shares are either delivered or have restrictions lifted next month.

Stock Options

The executives also received stock options in 2007 that become exercisable in January. The options, which expire on Nov. 24, 2017, are unlikely to be exercised immediately because the shares are below the strike price of $204.16.

The January bonus awards will probably trigger varying reactions among different groups of people, Branthover said.

“The public will be outraged,” she said. “Wall Streeters will be excited that there’s still money being made on Wall Street, and there’s still a reason to be working so hard.”

U.S. Rethinks Strategy for the Unthinkable

Suppose the unthinkable happened, and terrorists struck New York or another big city with an atom bomb. What should people there do? The government has a surprising new message: Do not flee. Get inside any stable building and don’t come out till officials say it’s safe.

The advice is based on recent scientific analyses showing that a nuclear attack is much more survivable if you immediately shield yourself from the lethal radiation that follows a blast, a simple tactic seen as saving hundreds of thousands of lives. Even staying in a car, the studies show, would reduce casualties by more than 50 percent; hunkering down in a basement would be better by far.

But a problem for the Obama administration is how to spread the word without seeming alarmist about a subject that few politicians care to consider, let alone discuss. So officials are proceeding gingerly in a campaign to educate the public.

“We have to get past the mental block that says it’s too terrible to think about,” W. Craig Fugate, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said in an interview. “We have to be ready to deal with it” and help people learn how to “best protect themselves.”

Officials say they are moving aggressively to conduct drills, prepare communication guides and raise awareness among emergency planners of how to educate the public.

Over the years, Washington has sought to prevent nuclear terrorism and limit its harm, mainly by governmental means. It has spent tens of billions of dollars on everything from intelligence and securing nuclear materials to equipping local authorities with radiation detectors.

The new wave is citizen preparedness. For people who survive the initial blast, the main advice is to fight the impulse to run and instead seek shelter from lethal radioactivity. Even a few hours of protection, officials say, can greatly increase survival rates.

Administration officials argue that the cold war created an unrealistic sense of fatalism about a terrorist nuclear attack. “It’s more survivable than most people think,” said an official deeply involved in the planning, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “The key is avoiding nuclear fallout.”

The administration is making that argument with state and local authorities and has started to do so with the general public as well. Its Citizen Corps Web site says a nuclear detonation is “potentially survivable for thousands, especially with adequate shelter and education.” A color illustration shows which kinds of buildings and rooms offer the best protection from radiation.

In June, the administration released to emergency officials around the nation an unclassified planning guide 130 pages long on how to respond to a nuclear attack. It stressed citizen education, before any attack.

Without that knowledge, the guide added, “people will be more likely to follow the natural instinct to run from danger, potentially exposing themselves to fatal doses of radiation.”

Specialists outside of Washington are divided on the initiative. One group says the administration is overreacting to an atomic threat that is all but nonexistent.

Peter Bergen, a fellow at the New America Foundation and New York University’s Center on Law and Security, recently argued that the odds of any terrorist group obtaining a nuclear weapon are “near zero for the foreseeable future.”

But another school says that the potential consequences are so high that the administration is, if anything, being too timid.

“There’s no penetration of the message coming out of the federal government,” said Irwin Redlener, a doctor and director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University. “It’s deeply frustrating that we seem unable to bridge the gap between the new insights and using them to inform public policy.”

White House officials say they are aware of the issue’s political delicacy but are nonetheless moving ahead briskly.

The administration has sought “to enhance national resilience — to withstand disruption, adapt to change and rapidly recover,” said Brian Kamoie, senior director for preparedness policy at the National Security Council. He added, “We’re working hard to involve individuals in the effort so they become part of the team in terms of emergency management.”

A nuclear blast produces a blinding flash, burning heat and crushing wind. The fireball and mushroom cloud carry radioactive particles upward, and the wind sends them near and far.

The government initially knew little about radioactive fallout. But in the 1950s, as the cold war intensified, scientists monitoring test explosions learned that the tiny particles throbbed with fission products — fragments of split atoms, many highly radioactive and potentially lethal.

But after a burst of interest in fallout shelters, the public and even the government grew increasingly skeptical about civil defense as nuclear arsenals grew to hold thousands of warheads.

In late 2001, a month after the Sept. 11 attacks, the director of central intelligence told President George W. Bush of a secret warning that Al Qaeda had hidden an atom bomb in New York City. The report turned out to be false. But atomic jitters soared.

“History will judge harshly those who saw this coming danger but failed to act,” Mr. Bush said in late 2002.

In dozens of programs, his administration focused on prevention but also dealt with disaster response and the acquisition of items like radiation detectors.

“Public education is key,” Daniel J. Kaniewski, a security expert at George Washington University, said in an interview. “But it’s easier for communities to buy equipment — and look for tech solutions — because there’s Homeland Security money and no shortage of contractors to supply the silver bullet.”

After Hurricane Katrina in 2005 revealed the poor state of disaster planning, public and private officials began to question national preparedness for atomic strikes. Some noted conflicting federal advice on whether survivors should seek shelter or try to evacuate.

In 2007, Congress appropriated $5.5 million for studies on atomic disaster planning, noting that “cities have little guidance available to them.”

The Department of Homeland Security financed a multiagency modeling effort led by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. The scientists looked at Washington, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and other big cities, using computers to simulate details of the urban landscape and terrorist bombs.

The results were revealing. For instance, the scientists found that a bomb’s flash would blind many drivers, causing accidents and complicating evacuation.

The big surprise was how taking shelter for as little as several hours made a huge difference in survival rates.

“This has been a game changer,” Brooke Buddemeier, a Livermore health physicist, told a Los Angeles conference. He showed a slide labeled “How Many Lives Can Sheltering Save?”

If people in Los Angeles a mile or more from ground zero of an attack took no shelter, Mr. Buddemeier said, there would be 285,000 casualties from fallout in that region.

Taking shelter in a place with minimal protection, like a car, would cut that figure to 125,000 deaths or injuries, he said. A shallow basement would further reduce it to 45,000 casualties. And the core of a big office building or an underground garage would provide the best shelter of all.

“We’d have no significant exposures,” Mr. Buddemeier told the conference, and thus virtually no casualties from fallout.

On Jan. 16, 2009 — four days before Mr. Bush left office — the White House issued a 92-page handbook lauding “pre-event preparedness.” But it was silent on the delicate issue of how to inform the public.

Soon after Mr. Obama arrived at the White House, he embarked a global campaign to fight atomic terrorism and sped up domestic planning for disaster response. A senior official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the new administration began a revision of the Bush administration’s handbook to address the issue of public communication.

“We started working on it immediately,” the official said. “It was recognized as a key part of our response.”

The agenda hit a speed bump. Las Vegas was to star in the nation’s first live exercise meant to simulate a terrorist attack with an atom bomb, the test involving about 10,000 emergency responders. But casinos and businesses protested, as did Senator Harry Reid of Nevada. He told the federal authorities that it would scare away tourists.

Late last year, the administration backed down.

“Politics overtook preparedness,” said Mr. Kaniewski of George Washington University.

When the administration came out with its revised planning guide in June, it noted that “no significant federal response” after an attack would be likely for one to three days.

The document said that planners had an obligation to help the public “make effective decisions” and that messages for predisaster campaigns might be tailored for schools, businesses and even water bills.

“The most lives,” the handbook said, “will be saved in the first 60 minutes through sheltering in place.”

LA Police release 180-photo trove from 'Grim Sleeper' suspect

In a bold effort to determine whether there are additional "Grim Sleeper" victims, the Los Angeles Police Department is releasing photos of scores of women found in the possession of a man charged in 10 South Los Angeles killings.
Police hope the photo display will generate new tips from the public. Since the July arrest of Lonnie David Franklin Jr., the LAPD has received 75 calls from the family and friends of missing women wanting to know the fate of their loved ones.

After comparing information in those calls with evidence gathered in the Franklin investigation, detectives were soon able to discount most of the cases, said veteran homicide Det. Dennis Kilcoyne, head of the task force that tracked down the former city sanitation worker and police garage attendant. But Kilcoyne said investigators were taking a hard look at information generated by a handful of those contacts.

This is not the first time Southern California law enforcement has employed the tactic to help deal with serial killings. Last year, the Huntington Beach Police Department made public photos of women taken by accused serial killer Rodney Alcala. In 2006, the L.A. Sheriff's Department released the photos of 50 women taken by another accused killer, Bill Bradford.

In the Grim Sleeper case, any public tips will come on top of 30 cases that police investigators already are reviewing because they share similarities to the slayings in which Franklin is accused. Franklin has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him.

There is no DNA evidence in any of the 30 cases, which is significant because authorities said they tied Franklin to some of the 10 killings based on a combination of DNA and ballistics evidence. Many of the cases are three decades old and occurred during a period when several serial killers were allegedly operating in South Los Angeles.

Franklin allegedly killed seven women between 1985 and 1988, then his alleged crimes seemed to come to an abrupt stop, authorities said. The slayings resumed in 2002, with a killing that year, another in 2003 and a third in 2007, police said.

The L.A. Weekly dubbed the killer the Grim Sleeper because of the lengthy, unaccounted-for gap in the slayings. But officials have said repeatedly that they suspect Franklin may be responsible for more homicides, including during the apparent lull.

During the search of Franklin's South Los Angeles home, detectives collected photo albums, documents, business cards and other records that they hoped could give them a better picture of the suspect and perhaps provide links to other victims.

One of the more troubling discoveries was nearly 1,000 still photographs and hundreds of hours of home video showing women, almost all of them partly or completely nude and striking sexually graphic poses.

LAPD officials said that after months of trying to identify the women, they decided to go public with the images of about 180 in the hope that they, family or acquaintances will recognize the pictures and contact investigators.

"There's going to be a lot of speculation about the condition of some of the women in these photographs,' Kilcoyne told the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday. “Right now, I don't know the answer."