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Profile: Lou Michel
Lou Michel was a participant or observer in the following events:
Law professor Douglas O. Linder will later use a book by two death-row inmates, Secrets Worth Dying For by David Hammer and Jeffrey Paul, to claim that a number of white supremacists from the Aryan Republican Army (ARA—see 1992 - 1995, October 12, 1993 - January 1994, and November 1994) and Elohim City (see November 1994 and April 5, 1995) may help Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see September 13, 1994, October 20, 1994, and 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) construct his bomb at this time. Hammer and Paul will write their book after spending time in the Florence, Colorado, “Supermax” prison with McVeigh (see June 2, 1997). Linder himself will say that the claims lend themselves to dispute, as the trial record does no more than “hint at th[e] possibility” of someone besides McVeigh and his co-conspirator Terry Nichols (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990, December 22 or 23, 1988, October 12, 1993 - January 1994, and February - July 1994) being involved in the bomb construction, and “[a]ny book written by convicted death row inmates raises credibility concerns.” However, Linder says other evidence gives the Hammer and Paul claims at least some credibility.
McVeigh Receives Help in Building Bomb? - According to the authors and Linder, ARA members, possibly including a bomb expert McVeigh will later call “Poindexter” (see March 1995), join McVeigh in early April to work on the bomb. The men probably camp at Geary Lake, where on April 14 McVeigh meets with Nichols to receive some cash (see April 13, 1995). This same evening, a Junction City pizza delivery man brings a pizza to Room 25 of the Dreamland Motel, where he gives it to a man identifying himself as “Bob Kling,” an alias used by McVeigh (see Mid-March, 1995) to rent the Ryder truck used to deliver the bomb (see April 15, 1995). The delivery man later tells an FBI interviewer that “Kling” is not McVeigh. Linder, via Hammer and Paul, will say that the man who takes the pizza “was, most likely, ARA member Scott Stedeford.” Linder, drawing on Hammer and Paul’s material as well as his own research, believes that McVeigh, Nichols, and, “probably,” the never-identified “John Doe No.2” (see April 15, 1995 and and April 20, 1995) drive to Oklahoma City (see April 16-17, 1995), with McVeigh and “Doe” in McVeigh’s Mercury Marquis (see April 13, 1995) and Nichols in his pickup truck. McVeigh parks the Marquis in a parking lot near the Murrah Building, and all three ride back to the Dreamland Motel in Nichols’s truck. McVeigh leaves Elliott’s Body Shop in Junction City with a Ryder truck on April 17 (see 3:00 - 5:00 p.m. April 17, 1995), after renting it under the name “Robert Kling” and telling the employees he plans on using it for a four-day trip to Omaha.
Conflicting Stories - At this point, Linder will write, the accounts of what happens become quite divergent. McVeigh leaves for his storage locker in Herington, Kansas, either alone or in the company of Elohim City resident Michael Brescia (see April 8, 1995). At the Herington storage facility, McVeigh, perhaps in the company of Brescia, meets either Nichols or “Poindexter.” (In their book, Hammer and Paul will quote McVeigh as saying Nichols is “a no-show” at the locker, and complaining, “He and Mike [Fortier] were men who liked to talk tough, but in the end their b_tches and kids ruled.”) McVeigh and his partners load bags of fuses and drums of nitromethane into the Ryder truck. In his authorized biography American Terrorist by Lou Michel and Dan Herbeck, McVeigh will claim that he and Nichols also load bags of fertilizer into the truck, and he and Nichols finish constructing the bomb at Geary Park on the morning of April 18 (see 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995 and 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995). McVeigh, according to Michel and Herbeck, drives by himself towards Oklahoma City in the Ryder truck, parking for the night near Ponca City and sleeping in the cab. Hammer and Paul will tell a different story. They will claim that the fertilizer is loaded into a “decoy” truck and then two trucks, not one, drive to Oklahoma City. In their version of events, the bomb is finished on the night of April 18 in a warehouse in Oklahoma City by McVeigh, Poindexter, and ARA member Richard Guthrie. After the bomb is completed, according to Hammer and Paul, Guthrie or another ARA member kills Poindexter by cutting his throat; the explanation to McVeigh is, “Soldier, he was only hired help, not one of us.” (Linder will admit that Hammer and Paul’s version of events is “sensational” and may not be entirely reliable.) FBI interviews will later include a couple who own a diner in Herington recalling McVeigh, Nichols, and a third, unidentified man having breakfast in their restaurant on the morning of April 18 (see 8:00 a.m. April 18, 1995). Witnesses will recall seeing a Ryder truck and a pickup truck at Geary Lake later this morning. This afternoon, a hair salon owner sees McVeigh and an unidentified companion enter their business and attempt to get haircuts (see April 18, 1995). Owners of a steakhouse in Perry, Oklahoma, will tell FBI investigators that they see McVeigh and “a stocky companion” eat dinner in their restaurant around 7 p.m. this evening. Linder will conclude, “We might never know exactly who assisted McVeigh in the 24 hours leading up to the dreadful events of April 19, but the McVeigh-and-McVeigh-alone theory, and the McVeigh-and-just-Nichols theory, both seem to stretch credulity.” [Douglas O. Linder, 2006]
Entity Tags: Elliott’s Body Shop (Junction City, Kansas), Douglas O. Linder, Dan Herbeck, Aryan Republican Army, “Poindexter”, Terry Lynn Nichols, Scott Stedeford, Timothy James McVeigh, Michael Joseph Fortier, David Hammer, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Elohim City, Jeffrey Paul, Geary State Fishing Lake And Wildlife Area, Lou Michel, Michael William Brescia
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) wakes up near Ponca City, Oklahoma (see Noon and After, April 18, 1995), and at about 7:00 a.m. begins driving toward Oklahoma City in a rented Ryder truck (see April 15, 1995) containing a massive fertilizer bomb (see 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995). McVeigh will later tell authors Lou Michel and Dan Herbeck, who will write his authorized biography American Terrorist, that he has cold spaghetti for breakfast. “Meals ready to eat… are meant for high intensity. I knew I was going through a firestorm and I would need the energy,” he will say. He will tell the authors that he made an “executive decision” to move up the timing of the blast several hours; he will also tell them that he drives to Oklahoma City alone. He wears a T-shirt with a drawing of Abraham Lincoln in a “Wanted” poster and the words (shouted by John Wilkes Booth, Lincoln’s assassin) “SIC SEMPER TYRANNIS” (“thus ever to tyrants”); the shirt also features the Thomas Jefferson quote, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants,” and a picture of a tree dripping with blood. McVeigh takes Interstate 35 to Interstate 40 to Interstate 235, and takes the Harrison/Fourth Street exit. According to Mike Moroz, a service manager at Jerry’s Tire in downtown Oklahoma City, two men in a large Ryder truck stop between 8:25 a.m. and 8:35 a.m. to ask directions to Fifth and Harvey Streets, the location of the Murrah Building. Moroz will later identify the two men as McVeigh and an as-yet unidentified man, shorter, darker-skinned, and wearing a baseball cap; he later tells a USA Today reporter that McVeigh gets out of the driver’s side of the cab and walks over to speak with him, while the other man remains in the cab. Moroz’s version of events will remain unverified. [PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996; Denver Post, 6/3/1997; New York Times, 6/3/1997; Douglas O. Linder, 2001; Douglas O. Linder, 2006] Three witnesses later say they see McVeigh near the Murrah Building around 8:40 a.m. [PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996]
Alternate Versions of Events - An alternate version of events has McVeigh traveling to Oklahoma City with white supremacist Michael Brescia (see (April 1) - April 18, 1995 and April 8, 1995) in the passenger seat, which would explain why Moroz sees McVeigh and another man with him. And another version of events is later given by Ed Kirkpatrick, a local structural engineer, who will claim to see McVeigh and “a white guy” in his thirties or forties meeting a Middle Eastern man at a downtown McDonald’s around 8:30 a.m. According to Kirkpatrick, McVeigh sends the white man for coffee while he talks to the Middle Eastern man sitting in a Dodge Dynasty with a blue tag. The white man becomes upset, Kirkpatrick will say, and McVeigh leaves him at the McDonald’s. Kirkpatrick says he witnesses the white man throw a .45 handgun into a nearby dumpster. Yet another version of events will be provided by an unnamed mortgage company employee, who says he sees the Ryder truck being followed by a yellow Mercury at Main and Broadway; the employee will claim he sees McVeigh driving the Mercury. This version of events is echoed by a statement given by lawyer James R. Linehan, who will say that he sees McVeigh driving erratically in a battered yellow 1977 Mercury that matches the description of McVeigh’s getaway car (see April 13, 1995), first spotting the Mercury stopped beside him at a red light on the south side of the Murrah Building. He will describe the driver as hunched over the wheel and with his face obscured, either by a hood or by hair (McVeigh’s hair is close-cropped and McVeigh is not wearing a hooded pullover). No one is in the car with him, Linehan will say. The Mercury suddenly “peels out” and runs the red light, Linehan will say, then circles the building, drives around the Murrah Building, and then drives into its underground building. Linehan will remember the car as having no rear license plate. Before the car disappears into the underground parking garage, Linehan gets a better look at the driver, and Linehan will say he has a sharp nose, no facial hair, a sharp chin, and smooth features. Linehan will say that when he sees news footage of McVeigh’s yellow Mercury on television, he leaps to his feet, points at the TV screen, and yells: “That’s the car! That’s the car!” [Stickney, 1996, pp. 251; PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996; Douglas O. Linder, 2006] Linehan’s version of events will be reported by Los Angeles Times reporter Richard A. Serrano in an August 1995 story. Linehan will be interviewed by the FBI, but will not testify before the grand jury investigating the bombing. He will also be interviewed by lawyers representing McVeigh. [Stickney, 1996, pp. 251-252]
Entity Tags: James R. Linehan, Jon Hansen, Ed Kirkpatrick, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Jerry’s Tire (Oklahoma City), Timothy James McVeigh, Murrah Federal Building, Richard A. Serrano, Lou Michel, Mike Moroz, Michael William Brescia
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
Convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997), facing execution for his crimes (see June 11-13, 1997), is officially sentenced to death by Judge Richard P. Matsch. The hearing is a formality, as a jury sentenced McVeigh to death the day before; the entire proceeding takes nine minutes. Before Matsch pronounces sentence, he allows McVeigh to speak on his own behalf. McVeigh does so—briefly and cryptically. McVeigh says: “If the court please, I wish to use the words of Justice Brandeis dissenting in Olmstead to speak for me. He wrote: ‘Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or for ill, it teaches the whole people by its example.’ That’s all I have.” McVeigh is referring to a dissent written by Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis in a 1928 decision, Olmstead v. United States, which upheld the use of wiretap evidence. Brandeis’s dissent said that the government may not commit crimes to enforce the law, and warned of “terrible retribution” if it did. Stephen Jones, McVeigh’s lead lawyer, refuses to speculate as to why McVeigh chose to use that quote, though Jones says it is a favorite of his client. McVeigh believes the government broke the law in the Branch Davidian siege (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After). Jones’s defense partner, Christopher Tritico, tells reporters he is unfamiliar with the quote and will have to look it up. US Attorney Patrick M. Ryan, part of the prosecution team, later says that McVeigh’s remarks were so fleeting that “I didn’t catch it all.” Many families of the bombing victims find McVeigh’s quote cryptic and unclear. Roy Sells, who lost his wife in the bombing, says: “I don’t know if he was referring to the Waco deal or what. I wish he would’ve quoted something from his own heart instead of out of somebody else’s book. I wanted to hear what he had to say about it.” A survivor of the bombing, Paul Heath, says McVeigh’s statement makes it clear he remains unrepentant and still considers himself a revolutionary. During the proceeding, Matsch asks McVeigh for permission to release a letter McVeigh wrote to him on June 22, which asked that Jones be replaced by other lawyers from the defense team for his appeals: Richard Burr, Robert Nigh Jr., and Randall Coyne. The letter was not specific about McVeigh’s reason for requesting Jones’s removal, but cited “problems and difficulties I have had with my appointed counsel in the past.” McVeigh will publicly blame Jones for “screwing up” his trial, and has reportedly told a Buffalo News reporter that he believes Jones repeatedly lied to him about unnamed aspects of the trial (see August 14-27, 1997). Jones merely reminds reporters: “I did not seek this appointment. I am, as I said, a draftee” (see May 8, 1995). [New York Times, 8/14/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 320; University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, 2006; University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, 2006] McVeigh will later explain his choice of quote to Buffalo News reporter Lou Michel. “I want people to think about the statement,” McVeigh will say. “What [lead prosecutor Joseph] Hartzler is trying to do is not have people learn. He wants to have them put their heads in the sand.” The Brandeis quote, McVeigh will say, reflects on the death penalty: the government says it is wrong for McVeigh to have killed, and yet “now they’re going to kill me. They’re saying that’s an appropriate way to right a wrong?” [Serrano, 1998, pp. 321]
Entity Tags: Paul Heath, Lou Michel, Joseph H. Hartzler, Christopher L. Tritico, Patrick M. Ryan, Timothy James McVeigh, Roy Sells, Richard Burr, Richard P. Matsch, Stephen Jones, Robert Nigh, Jr, Randall Coyne, Louis Brandeis
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
The people who died in the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), even the children and babies, were merely “collateral damage,” according to Timothy McVeigh, who is awaiting execution for his role in the bombing (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997). McVeigh admitted to his participation in the bombing to two Buffalo News reporters, Lou Michel and Dan Herbeck, who wrote the book American Terrorist: Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City Bombing. The book is due to be published within days. “I understand what they felt in Oklahoma City,” McVeigh told the authors. “I have no sympathy for them.” The authors quote McVeigh as saying: “I recognized beforehand that someone might be bringing their kid to work. However, if I had known there was an entire day care center, it might have given me pause to switch targets. That’s a large amount of collateral damage.” CNN reported that according to Danny Defenbaugh, the FBI’s lead investigator in the case, there was no doubt that McVeigh knew there would be children among his victims (see March 28, 2001). In an ABC News interview, the authors say that McVeigh “never expressed one ounce of remorse” for his victims in their interviews with him, though they witnessed him become emotional over his remembrance of killing a gopher. According to the authors, McVeigh regrets only that the deaths of the children detracted from his message about the Ruby Ridge (see August 31, 1992 and August 21-31, 1992) and Waco (see August 31, 1992 and August 21-31, 1992) debacles. McVeigh told the authors, using a reference to the song “Dirty for Dirty” by Bad Company: “What the US government did at Waco and Ruby Ridge was dirty. I gave dirty back to them at Oklahoma City.” The authors note that McVeigh said the triggering event for him was the government’s ban on some types of assault weapons (see September 13, 1994): when that happened, McVeigh told them, “I snapped.” Dr. John Smith, a psychiatrist who evaluated McVeigh, asked McVeigh why he continued with the bombing even though he knew children were in the building. “[H]e said, ‘One, the date was too important to put off,’” Smith says, noting that the date of the bombing, April 19, was the two-year anniversary of the Branch Davidian debacle, “and he went into a tirade about all the children killed at Waco.” According to Michel and Herbeck, McVeigh told them he alone planned the bombing, and when his accomplice Terry Nichols (see December 23, 1997 and June 4, 1998) began to show reluctance in continuing (see March 1995 and March 31 - April 12, 1995), he forced him to keep working with him by threatening his family (legal sources dispute that claim, noting that Nichols never raised the idea of coercion in his defense). McVeigh denied that anyone else took part in the bombing, quoting a line from the movie A Few Good Men: “You can’t handle the truth.” McVeigh continued, “Because the truth is, I blew up the Murrah Building, and isn’t it kind of scary that one man could wreak this kind of hell?” He also told the authors that he was disappointed the building did not come down entirely, saying: “Damn, I didn’t knock the building down. I didn’t take it down.” McVeigh told the authors he knew he would get caught and even anticipated execution as a form of “state-assisted suicide.” Yet he worried initially about snipers as he was being charged. “He was ready to die but not at that moment—he wanted to make sure that his full message got out first,” Herbeck says. [New York Times, 3/29/2001; Associated Press, 3/29/2001; Oklahoma City Journal Record, 3/29/2001; Washington Post, 3/30/2001]
PBS Frontline releases a chronology of events in the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). The original source of the chronology is a document given to freelance reporter Ben Fenwick by a disgruntled staff member on the defense team of convicted bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997) who was unhappy with the way lead attorney Stephen Jones was handling the case (see August 14-27, 1997). In late March or early April of 1997, shortly before McVeigh’s trial began (see April 24, 1997), Fenwick brings the document to ABC News. The document is titled “Factual Chronology,” and details McVeigh’s movements and activities in the years, days, and months leading up to the bombing. Fenwick reportedly had the document in his possession for several months before approaching ABC with it. PBS Frontline producer Martin Smith, at the time an ABC News employee, saw the document. ABC produces two reports on McVeigh; those reports, along with an article Fenwick wrote for Playboy magazine, were the first to use the chronology as source material. Smith and co-producer Mark Atkinson will later produce a dual biography of McVeigh and co-conspirator Terry Nichols (see December 23, 1997 and June 4, 1998) using the chronology. Of the document, Smith writes, “This 66-page chronology is extraordinary in that it correlates in great detail with everything I had learned about McVeigh and Nichols and provided a great deal of new detail on McVeigh’s movements and actions in the crucial days and hours leading up to the bombing.” Much of the material in the chronology came directly from McVeigh. Smith writes that the material comprises “a startling confession, outlining in considerable detail how McVeigh prepared and carried out the attack.” He notes that the chronology is “consistent with statements made by McVeigh during dozens of hours of interviews done with him by reporters Lou Michel and Dan Herbeck for their recent book, American Terrorist: Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City Bombing.” The document is labeled as being from Jones’s law firm Jones, Wyatt, & Roberts, and is stamped, “CONFIDENTIAL AND PRIVILEGED MEMORANDUM; ATTORNEY WORK PRODUCT and ATTORNEY/CLIENT COMMUNICATION.” It is labeled as being routed to Jones from Amber McLaughlin and Bob Wyatt, and dated January 22, 1996. [PBS Frontline, 3/2005]
Entity Tags: Lou Michel, Amber McLaughlin, ABC News, Ben Fenwick, Dan Herbeck, Martin Smith, Terry Lynn Nichols, Mark Atkinson, Bob Wyatt, PBS Frontline, Stephen Jones, Timothy James McVeigh
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
The documentary uses an actor and computer effects to simulate McVeigh’s actions during the interviews, which were recorded on audio tape, and of his carrying out the bombing. [Source: MSNBC]MSNBC airs a documentary about convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997), who before his execution (see 7:14 a.m. June 11, 2001) confessed to bombing the Murrah Federal Building (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) to Buffalo News reporters Lou Michel and Dan Herbeck. Michel and Herbeck went on to write a 2001 biography of McVeigh, American Terrorist: Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City Bombing, based on their interviews with McVeigh. The MSNBC documentary, The McVeigh Tapes: Confessions of an American Terrorist, features excerpts drawn from the 45 hours of audio recordings made by Michel. The documentary will be broadcast on April 19, the 15th anniversary of the bombing, and features film of the bombing and its aftermath; computer-generated recreations to augment the actual audio recordings (with an actor playing McVeigh); and interviews with survivors of the bombing and family members of the slain. McVeigh told of his childhood in upstate New York (see 1987-1988), his experiences in the 1991 Gulf War (see January - March 1991 and After), his relationship with convicted co-conspirator Terry Nichols (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990, December 23, 1997, and June 4, 1998), and of the meticulous planning and execution of the bombing. [MSNBC, 4/15/1995; MSNBC, 4/15/1995] One of the few moments when McVeigh’s voice became animated was when he described the moments before the bomb went off, saying, “I lit the two-minute fuse at the stoplight, and I swear to God that was the longest stoplight I’ve ever sat at in my life.” [New York Times, 4/18/1995] The documentary is narrated by MSNBC talk show host Rachel Maddow. Herbeck says he understands that the documentary will evoke strong feelings. “Some people will say they don’t want to hear anything about Timothy McVeigh and we respect their feelings on that,” he says. “But others are interested in hearing what made a terrorist tick.” Michel says, “[It’s an] oral blueprint of what turned one young man into one of the worst mass-murderers and terrorists in American history.” Herbeck says their book drew similar mixed reactions: “A few of the victims were outraged by our book, and they went public with their feelings. They felt it was wrong to tell the story of a terrorist.” Maddow says she is not worried that the documentary will somehow glamorize McVeigh or make him into a martyr figure: “McVeigh is profoundly unsympathetic—even repugnant—on his own terms, you don’t need to work to make him seem that way. There’s a huge distance between the hero he is in his own mind, and how basely unheroic he seems to anyone hearing the tapes now. I personally am not a supporter of the death penalty… but hearing him talk, it’s hard not to wish him gone.” In the documentary, Jannie Coverdale, who lost her two young grandchildren in the blast, says: “I was glad when he died. I will never forgive Timothy McVeigh.” Oklahoma City Police Department official Jennifer Rodgers, one of the first responders to the bombing (see 9:02 a.m. - 10:35 a.m. April 19, 1995), says her feelings are “still raw.… It just doesn’t seem like it was really that long ago.” Maddow says the story is important even 15 years later: “The Murrah Building bombing is the worst incident of domestic terrorism we’ve ever experienced as a nation. We owe pure remembrance of the date, and commemoration of the lives lost and changed. I think it’s also an appropriate occasion to talk about the threat of domestic terrorism. How strong is the threat now, 15 years after McVeigh? Are we heeding warning signs that may be out there now?” Former President Clinton, who oversaw the federal efforts to respond to the bombing, has recently warned that ugly and frightening parallels exist between the current political tensions and the anti-government rage that preceded McVeigh’s attack, saying: “We can disagree with them [elected officials], we can harshly criticize them. But when we turn them into an object of demonization, we increase the number of threats.” Michel says: “There’s no question that the militia movement is on the rise again. Some of the same factors that caused McVeigh to believe he had become disenfranchised from mainstream society are again in the mix: growing government regulations, lack of employment. Those are things McVeigh would cite if he were alive.” [MSNBC, 4/15/1995; MSNBC, 4/15/1995] In the documentary, Maddow says of the date of the airing: “On this date, which holds great meaning for the anti-government movement, the McVeigh tapes are a can’t-turn-away, riveting reminder.” Washington Post reviewer Hank Steuver calls the documentary “chilling” and McVeigh’s demeanor “arrogan[t]” and unrepentant. “Maddow and company wisely decline to draw too straight a line from 1995 to 2010, but, as she indicates, it might be helpful in crazy times to study this sort of crazy head-on,” he writes. “Watching this, it’s easy to feel like that fuse is still lit.” [Washington Post, 4/18/2010] New York Times reviewer Alessandra Stanley says the use of an actor and computer effects “blunts its impact by relying on stagy computer graphics.… Scenes of this domestic terrorist in shackles during a prison interview or lighting a fuse inside a rented Ryder truck look neither real nor completely fake, but certainly cheesy: a violent video game with McVeigh as a methodical, murderous avatar.” [New York Times, 4/18/1995] The documentary is later made available on YouTube. [911Blogger (.com), 4/20/2010]
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