Crayola already has the color, "Burnt Sierra" under its belt. I wouldn't be surprised to find a Burnt Ventura in the next Crayola crayon box I open. Burnt San Bernardino, Burnt Angeles, Burnt Big Bear: If the palette of blistered hills, smoke filled skies, and unearthly sunsets is what Crayola is trying to capture next, look no farther than California.

The L.A. Times reported the blaze in the San Bernardino Mountains alone was one of several that have burned close to 900 square miles of Southern California in the last week - an area larger than Orange County. State officials report 16 people dead and at least 2,000 homes completely destroyed, half of them in San Diego County.

No need to travel down Sunset Boulevard to see a breathtaking Hollywood sky. Smoke fills the sky throughout much of Southern California, turning it a spectrum of ethereal colors, from brilliant pinks to putrid orange-grays. The smoke alone could take your breath away.

Los Angeles and the surrounding counties have long struggledwith smog and air pollution- but nothing like this. The countless fires shut down schools and businesses, as health authorities warned of the extreme dangers of the poor-quality air. BBC news states the thousands are in temporary shelters.

How is California fanning the flames? President George W. Bush declared a state of emergency in four California counties. The Washington Post reports that the US Congress appears to be ready to set aside $500 million to fight the fires.

"This may be the worst disaster the state has ever faced, and is likely to be the costliest," said Governor Gray Davis, who will soon pass the torch to Mr. Schwarzenegger.

Airlines in the Southern California area have cancelled flights. The football game between the San Diego Chargers and the Miami Dolphins had to move to Arizona when the Dolphins' plane was unable to land.

Californians are accustomed to fire. They were burned with ridicule over the recall election. And in the heat of the California energy crisis, the state was scorched by a huge budget deficit, put at 8 billion this year even after imposing heaving spending cutbacks and new car taxes.

But the current fire is posing a threat to people's lives. Not just their crayons.

 

The connection between the current Bush administration and Halliburton Oil, their interests in the Middle East and particularly in the war and reconstruction efforts in Iraq are well documented. However, Vice President Cheney and his former boss, George H.W. Bush, have a stake in more than just oil in the Middle East, and a reason to keep the world's attention on the relationship between Dick Cheney and Halliburton's oil interests, rather than some of the company's other investments, like military bases in sub-Saharan African countries.

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Last week David Kay updated the American government on his search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. "We have not found at this point actual weapons," Kay told congressional committees. Kay's 1,200 member team has spent three hundred million dollars in the past six months searching Iraq for evidence of Saddam's alleged WMD program. So far, they've found one vial of botulinum, a poison that can be used as a weapon.

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On March 20, 2003 the United States invaded Iraq as part of the War on Terrorism. According to American officials, Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, which he could potentially sell to Al Qaeda. Saddam posed an imminent danger to the American people, and for this reason the United States began bombarding Baghdad last spring. Perhaps ironically, terrorism seems to have increased since Americans arrived in Iraq. Four American soldiers and close to forty Iraqi civilians died in FIVE suicide car bombings in Baghdad on Monday, October 27th.

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On September 15, The New York Times reported that the World Trade Organization talks…. collapsed. According to the Times, an agreement at the WTO talks would have jump-started the economy and "inject(ed) hundreds of billions of dollars into international commercial activity." Why did delegates from Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, and South America walk out on an opportunity to help our ailing world economy? The newspapers of several developing countries offer a different perspective than the mainstream American press.

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