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(Palm Beach Post Editorial, September 30, 2005)
Hurricane victims keeled over in the Houston heat Wednesday while FEMA, once again caught off-guard, kept them waiting in line. It's so much cooler to be a Bush administration insider who can shove to the front of the line for the $200 billion Congress may provide in disaster aid. . . . As in Iraq, Halliburton -- which Vice President Cheney once ran -- is one of the most aggressive. The Washington Post reports that Halliburton, which already is benefiting from a $500 million contract to remove debris, sponsored a Katrina Reconstruction Summit hosted by Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., to explore "opportunities for private-sector involvement." . . . Iraq is a model -- but of what not to do. There, Halliburton is accused of rampant overbilling and of poor work on such crucial projects as restoring Iraq's oil industry, for which the company has received more than $10 billion as part of a five-year, no-bid contract. Oversight of U.S. spending in Iraq has been dismal to nonexistent. Billions of dollars are unaccounted for. . . . The Bush administration might be incapable of doing things any other way. The New York Times reported that 80 percent of the first $1.5 billion in aid after Hurricane Katrina was awarded with little or no competition. AshBritt, a Pompano Beach company, got a $568 million debris removal contract. AshBritt is a client of the lobbying firm for which Haley Barbour, Mississippi's governor and a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, used to work [and is owned by a relative]. . . . The Bush administration swears that it will carefully audit spending. But it's as well prepared to do that as FEMA was to provide timely hurricane relief. In the emergency bill to provide the first $60 billion in hurricane aid, Congress expanded the administration's ability to award no-bid contracts. That came at the request of the administration's chief procurement official, David Safavian. Mr. Safavian since has resigned after being indicted [and arrested!] for lying to investigators about his ties to also-indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, a great friend of also-indicted Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas. . . . Mr. Safavian got his job overseeing $300 billion in annual government spending because of his ties to Mr. Abramoff and anti-tax Bush ally Grover Norquist. According to Time magazine, experts consider Mr. Safavian one of the least qualified procurement officials ever appointed. That makes him at least as qualified as former FEMA Director Michael Brown. . . . While profit motivates many pursuing easy Katrina and Rita money, ideology motivates others. As The Post reported Wednesday, the administration is pushing a plan to spend $488 million for private-school vouchers. The plan should alarm anyone familiar with Florida's voucher programs, which dole out $140 million a year with little academic or financial accountability. . . . After 9/11, the Bush administration and Homeland Security Department rushed to spend money on equipment and programs that boosted contractors' bottom lines more than they boosted national security. Those profiting in Iraq have faced even less scrutiny. Until Congress starts watching the money, hurricane victims will keep feeling the heat while well-connected profiteers have it made in the shade.
. . . Read more!
posted by Lorenzo 1:34 PM
Bush calls Homeland Security a "Titanic struggle"
[PLEASE NOTE: This story is from June 7, 2002.]
(Nicholas M. Horrock, UPI, 6/7/2002)
President George W. Bush chose an unfortunate word in announcing his new Homeland Security Department Thursday, noting that the U.S. is leading the world in a "titanic" struggle against terror, which caused the cynics among us who wondered whether Bush's massive government reorganization was more akin to a re-arrangement of the chairs on the deck of that doomed vessel. . . . Too cynical? Perhaps. But in the concept for the behemoth of a government agency that Bush has designed, and in the almost frantic way it was planned and announced, one gets a sense of an incredibly large and unwieldy ship on an ill-fated voyage. . . . Bush ordered Ridge, Chief of Staff Andrew Card, Mitch Daniels, head of the Office of Management and Budget, and White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales to come up with a plan for a new agency. . . . The drafting was to be top secret with only a handful of aides involved and meetings in the White House basement. It is interesting to note that none of these men has ever headed a large business or government agency. Bush's biggest business experience was with the Texas Rangers, and he had partners with lots experience in management. . . . With this enormous absence of experience in managing or devising a major operation, civilian or otherwise, the team came up with the 170,000 person Department of Homeland Security, a mammoth proposal that seems to go against every trend for streamlined and effective government from the Grace Commission on. . . . Perhaps the most troubling aspect of Bush's plan is that it does not really deal with what we now know is the greatest breakdown in security in the months before Sept. 11. The U.S. security apparatus failed to cooperate and coordinate its terrorism leads so that the president and the policy makers could take preventative action.
[COMMENT by Lorenzo: Of course, we now know that another "troubling aspect" of Bush's collossal bureucratic bungle was that it brought about the impotentence of FEMA and cost thousands of U.S. citizens their lives. Has there ever been a worse example of government or greater failure of leadership and immagination in human history than the Bush Crime Family has brought about? I doubt that there has.
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posted by Lorenzo 1:07 PM
Tons of British aid donated to help Hurricane Katrina victims to be BURNED by Americans
(Ryan Parry, Mirror.co.uk, 20 September 2005)
HUNDREDS of tons of British food aid shipped to America for starving Hurricane Katrina survivors is to be burned. . . . US red tape is stopping it from reaching hungry evacuees. . . . Instead tons of the badly needed Nato ration packs, the same as those eaten by British troops in Iraq, has been condemned as unfit for human consumption. . . . One British aid worker last night called the move "sickening senselessness" and said furious colleagues were "spitting blood". . . . The food, which cost British taxpayers millions, is sitting idle in a huge warehouse after the Food and Drug Agency recalled it when it had already left to be distributed. . . . Scores of lorries headed back to a warehouse in Little Rock, Arkansas, to dump it at an FDA incineration plant. . . . The Ministry of Defence in London said last night that 400,000 operational ration packs had been shipped to the US. . . . But officials blamed the US Department of Agriculture, which impounded the shipment under regulations relating to the import and export of meat. . . . The aid worker, who would not be named, said: "This is the most appalling act of sickening senselessness while people starve. . . . "The FDA has recalled aid from Britain because it has been condemned as unfit for human consumption, despite the fact that these are Nato approved rations of exactly the same type fed to British soldiers in Iraq. . . . "Under Nato, American soldiers are also entitled to eat such rations, yet the starving of the American South will see them go up in smoke because of FDA red tape madness." . . . The worker added: "There will be a cloud of smoke above Little Rock soon - of burned food, of anger and of shame that the world's richest nation couldn't organise a piss-up in a brewery and lets Americans starve while they arrogantly observe petty regulations. . . . "Everyone is revolted by the chaotic shambles the US is making of this crisis. Guys from Unicef are walking around spitting blood. . . . "This is utter madness. People have worked their socks off to get food into the region. . . . "It is perfectly good Nato approved food of the type British servicemen have. Yet the FDA are saying that because there is a meat content and it has come from Britain it must be destroyed. . . . "If they are trying to argue there is a BSE reason then that is ludicrously out of date. There is more BSE in the States than there ever was in Britain and UK meat has been safe for years. . . . Food from Spain and Italy is also being held because it fails to meet US standards and has been judged unfit for human consumption. . . . And Israeli relief agencies are furious that thousands of gallons of pear juice are to be destroyed because it has been judged unfit.
. . . Read more!
posted by Lorenzo 3:45 PM
FEMA is storing Gulf Coast ice in MAINE!
(WGME Channel 13 Report, September 20, 2005)
Portland [Maine] is still floating in ice. As we first reported Monday night, millions of pounds of ice is being diverted from the hurricane-devastated south to storage in Portland, with up to 200 trucks arriving. FEMA now says the ice ultimately may go back south for another disaster, but the truckers seem genuinely confused about what's going on. The truckers have been coming from all over the country, up to 200 of them in all, who say they tried to take ice to Alabama or Mississippi, only to be sent here. It's been a non-stop operation at the Americold Logistics warehouse in Portland, one of several locations the Atlanta-based company is using for emergency ice storage around the country, on orders from FEMA. FEMA admits it simply ordered more ice than it can use or store down south for Hurricane Katrina relief and at least some of those trucks have been sitting with the same loads of ice for more than a week. Add it all up, and the price tag for taxpayers could go into the millions. Many of the truckers declined to speak, saying they've been asked not to. But, those who did seem confused. One even believes he's here to help us after we got hit by our own hurricane! Of course, we did not have a hurricane here. Instead, the feds say its for a future emergency. And, with Hurricane Rita threatening Florida and the Gulf Coast, that ice could be needed very soon. Meanwhile, Portland is also getting another 100 truckloads of bottled water as well, which will likely end up stored at the Jetport or on the waterfront, with no clear picture about where that ultimately will end up either.
[COMMENT by Lorenzo: Gee, do you think those brilliant planners at FEMA could have stored that ice any farther away from where it is needed?]
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posted by Lorenzo 3:26 PM
U.S. pays $2,000 to Americans and $200,000 to Israeli settlers
(William A. Cook, Counterpunch, September 9/11, 2005)
For the past six weeks the American public has been treated to news reporting of two totally different kinds: five weeks of calculated, controlled lies wrapped in sympathy for modern day saintly "Settlers" being evicted from their homes in their land of Judea, and an open, honest, gut reactive reporting resulting from the uncontrolled mayhem wrought by Katrina. What's to be learned from these events? . . . Consider the media's presentation of the pullout from Gaza . . . Consultants were brought in to ensure gingerly treatment of the Settlers by the soldiers, treatment that recognized the "plight" of those being evicted from their homes even as their brothers and sisters in the military shared their grief. Old women and babies streamed before the cameras as busses hauled away the pioneers who were being taken from their homes. . . . But who are these "Settlers"? Why expend such media time on 8000 people being evicted from their homes? They are in truth "Squatters," people who knowingly and willingly accept government financial support to move onto land illegally confiscated by the Sharon government under the pretext that it is "annexed" or "appropriated" land available because Israeli law has legalized its theft contrary to international law or the conventions of the United Nations. These people know that they live on Palestinian land the ownership of which can be traced back through centuries. They accept suburban town home housing provided by the Sharon government and military protection provided by the Sharon government and they, in turn, harass their Palestinian neighbors with impunity. None of this reality is presented to the American people. They are presented as citizens of America's only friend in the mid-east, Israel, having to pullback from their rightful positions in order to accommodate the political process. . . . By contrast with the thousands left behind as Katrina . . . thousands left behind because they had no means of evacuation no cars, no buses, no trains, no military transport, no helicopters the Israeli squatters were provided free transportation, new housing within the state of Israel, grants of $30,000.00 each and, additionally for seniority, NIS 4,800 for each year they lived in Gaza for each family member, in addition to reimbursement of moving expenses to the tune of NIS 14,000-21,000.00 to the Negev, Galilee and Nitzanin. In short, Sharon made sure the settlers he had encouraged to settle on his illegally obtained land were well compensated for as he demanded that they leave. . . . Why mention these matters in conjunction with the events that have ravaged the Gulf Coast these past two weeks? Because the American taxpayer paid for the settlers to be moved and to cover the "disengagement plan" proposed by Sharon: U.S. aid for the pullout "was slated to offset the cost of implementing the disengagement plan." . . . It is estimated that the 1,500 Israeli settler families in Gaza would receive between $200,000 and $750,000 each to move into Israel. The compensation would be for their homes and businesses, but also include additional funds for new housing allowances, business and household relocation, or other expenses." The total cost of the disengagement is estimated "at about 8 billion schekels ($1.74 billion)." . . . Quite a contrast: U.S. administration support of significant magnitude to citizens of a foreign country, citizens who illegally occupied another people's land, while American citizens languished on rooftops or sweltered in makeshift shelters for days on end with no understanding of where they will go or how they will replace their lost homes. Can anyone doubt that this administration's priorities favor those able to offer it political advantage at the expense of the average citizen stranded at the mercy of Nature's might? How about a "disengagement plan" for New Orleans' residents and those made homeless by Katrina? How about diverting the American/Israeli compensation package to Americans? After all, isn't it questionable at best that our tax dollars support "Squatters"?
. . . Read more!
posted by Lorenzo 1:01 PM
The Great New Orleans Land Grab
There were numerous incidents that occurred during and immediately after Katrina struck that point to the "unthinkable". It now appears that a sophisticated plan was implemented that utilized the "cover of a hurricane" to first destroy and than take over the City of New Orleans. As the world watched the events unfolding, one could not help think that something was terribly afoot concerning the rescue by FEMA of the city's poor and predominate Black population. . . . Among the most telling anomalies pointing to something terribly afoot is the gun battle, killing 5, that occurred at the breached levee between the New Orleans Police Department and, what have now been identified as US military agents. . . . A spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers said later that those killed were "federal contractors" on their way to "repair" a canal. The "contractors" were on their way to launch barges into Lake Pontchartrain, in an operation to "fix" the 17th Street Canal, according to the Army Corps of Engineers spokesman. Deputy Police Chief W.J. Riley of New Orleans later reported that his policemen had shot at eight suspicious people near the breached levee, killing five or six. . . . Who were these "military agents" that were killed by the police near the 17th Street Canal breached levee and what were they doing there? Why did the New Orleans police find it necessary to shoot and kill 5 or 6 of them? No one is saying anything and it appears that the news story has now been swept under the rug. . . . Another telling incident that points to a "nefarious plan" is what New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin said at the height of the crisis. He said publicly, "I fear the CIA may take me out!" Mayor Nagin, a Black, said this twice. He told a reporter for the Associated Press: "If the CIA slips me something and next week you don't see me, you'll all know what happened." Later he told interviewers for CNN on a live broadcast that he feared the "CIA might take me out." What does Mayor Ray Nagin know and why does he fear the CIA? . . . In an interview by WWL TV, Mayor Nagin complained vociferously that Louisiana National Guard Blackhawk helicopters were being stopped from dropping sandbags to plug the levee soon after it breached. There is evidence that no repairs were allowed on the levee until after New Orleans was totally flooded! . . . Many civilian groups who were attempting to aid people trapped in their attics, on their roofs and at the Superdome are reporting that FEMA, other federal agents and the US military essentially "stopped" them from doing so. Convoys that were organized by truckers and carrying "food and water" were blocked by agents of the federal government on the highways and roads leading to New Orleans. The American Red Cross, in addition, encountered numerous incidents and has made formal complaints. . . . A private ham radio network that deployed throughout the hurricane ravished region reported that the airwaves were being "jammed" making it impossible to communicate emergency information. Churches, hospitals and other essential community groups reported that the first thing that the US military did, when they arrived, was to cut their telephone lines and confiscate communications devices. . . . Today, it is very revealing how the federal government is handling the disaster. They want every Black out of New Orleans and those who insist on staying in their homes will be removed by force. The government, through some media, is utilizing scare tactics to cleanse New Orleans of all Blacks. They want no witnesses and this will make the "land grab" a lot easier to undertake. One scare tactic is calling the flood water "a horrid toxic soup of feces a rotting flesh of corpses". The military thugs are now getting tough with Black families that have owned their old but beloved homes for many generations. Mr. Rufus Johnson, a family patriarch who lives in the French Quarter, said in an interview, "The army has given me an ultimatum to leave or suffer the consequences of a forced eviction. I do not understand . My entire family and I survived Katrina and now they want to throw me out of the home we have had for generations". Mr. Johnson lives in a neighborhood where the flood has subsided and his home is not heavily damaged yet FEMA wants him out! . . . The fact that Vice President Dick Cheney is heavily involved in the FEMA operations from behind the scenes is very troublesome. Cheney and his cronies at Halliburton are in line for the lucrative contracts to "reconstruct a New Orleans". Deals are already being made with a Las Vegas business group to construct multi-million dollar casinos in the Big Easy on prime real estate that was owned by Black families.
. . . Read more!
posted by Lorenzo 2:09 PM
Locals believe Levees were Intentionally blown
Could the levees in New Orleans have been INTENTIONALLY blown out in order to provide the justification for total FEMA federal takeover? . . . The locals certainly seem to think so, yet, as usual, the mainstream media is barely picking up on this wave of opinion . . . Many locals have come forward to suggest that the levees were breached on purpose by the authorities. Resident Andrea Garland, now re-located to Texas, wrote in her blog: "Also heard that part of the reason our house flooded is they dynamited part of the levee after the first section broke - they did this to prevent Uptown (the rich part of town) from being flooded. Apparently they used too much dynamite, thus flooding part of the Bywater. So now I know who is responsible for flooding my house - not Katrina, but our government." . . . This scenario is not so crazy as it sounds, in fact this exact thing has happened before in the same city. In 1927, the Mississippi River broke its banks in 145 places, depositing water at depths of up to 30ft over 27,000 square miles of land. . . . The disaster changed American society, shifting hundreds of thousands of delta-dwelling blacks into northern cities and cementing the divisions and suspicions that benign neglect has ensured remain today. New Orleans’ (mainly white) business class pressurized the state to dynamite a levee upstream, releasing water into (mainly black) areas of the delta. Black workers were forced to work on flood relief at gunpoint, like slaves. . . . Two parishes, St. Bernard and Plaquemines, which had a combined population of 10,000, were destroyed. Just before Katrina, these parishes had about 10 times the 1927 population. Both parishes are now under many feet of water. This information is covered in depth in a book by John M. Barry entitled Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America . . . Furthermore, levees were also intentionally broke after Hurricane Betsy struck New Orleans in 1965, admittedly with less of an impact. The tactic of breaking the dikes is not uncommon, as this CNN report on China's flood plains highlights. . . . Engineers have now punched holes in several levees in parts of New Orleans where flood levels were higher than the water in drainage canals leading to Pontchartrain, in order to let water flow out. . . . There were reports of many explosions heard in New Orleans, officials say they were transformers blowing up. Total Information Analysis has reported a claim by intelligence expert Tom Heneghen that 25 earwitnesses cited explosions immediately before the levee breach. . . . Similar reports are now appearing in many web blogs: "He also mentioned that right before the mass flood there was a loud sound like an explosion." - News from St. Bernard . . . "I'll tell you the worst thing I've heard and I heard it from my mother. She said she heard several blasts - big booms - right before the levees broke. Several blasts and then all the water came pouring in." - aangirfan . . . Although these are obviously not authoritative sources of information, it is interesting to note how many local people are reporting this. So interesting in fact that the mainstream has picked up on it in places. . . . The Washington Post reported on the comments of a retired school teacher: "Mullen has a schoolteacher's kindly demeanor, so it was jarring to hear him say he suspected that the levee breaks had somehow been engineered to keep the wealthy French Quarter and Garden District dry at the expense of poor black neighborhoods like the Lower Ninth Ward -- a suspicion I heard from many other black survivors." . . . The Globe and Mail is also carrying a similar story.
. . . Read more!
posted by Lorenzo 11:36 AM
Neck Deep in Toxic Gumbo
(Nicole Makris, AlterNet, September 16, 2005)
As the government drags its feet, the unknown number of human bodies decomposing in the New Orleans floodwaters are becoming hosts for a horde of diseases. The bodies continue to fester and rot, potentially contaminating the city they used to call home. . . . Mike Leavitt has declared a public health emergency for the entire Gulf region, where bacteria and viruses are the most immediate threat to rescue personnel and residents, caused in no small part by all the hurricane's decomposing victims. . . . The Centers for Disease Control has reported four fatal instances of vibrio vulnificus, a cousin of cholera. Red Cross and other relief workers are struggling to prevent outbreaks related to salmonella, e. coli and other bacteria that cause nausea, diarrhea, and can lead to severe dehydration. There is also cause to fear the spread of hepatitis A, a virus that causes liver disease. But a real plan to assess the health problems that could plague the Gulf Coast for decades is noticeably absent. . . . "Virtually anything could be in the water," said Jim Elder, the EPA's former National Director of Drinking Water and Groundwater. "I'm not sure that anywhere has ever seen all these chemicals put together in the same place. That's why people are referring to this as a toxic soup. I think that's a simple but apt description." . . . Elder says the many heavy industries based in Louisiana have been leaching chemicals into the soil and groundwater for decades. But Katrina stirred up an even deadlier mix of waste: submerged automobiles are leaking oil, gasoline and other chemicals into the floodwater; asbestos that may have been contained in old buildings has been released by the flooding and the collapse of buildings; raw sewage, decaying body parts, offshore oil rigs and possibly ruptured pipelines all pave the way for a myriad of serious and potentially fatal medical conditions. . . . Given the government's already shoddy response to the disaster in Louisiana and Mississippi, Kaufman's concerns should raise many alarms. Where the World Trade Center became a deathtrap of poisonous chemicals, at least the site was relatively safe before the towers came down. Louisiana, however, has long been one of the country's most polluted areas. . . . The ongoing pollution of Louisiana's air, water and soil by oil refineries, hazardous waste, and whatever else has been dumped into the Mississippi River over the years have given the 85-mile stretch between Baton Rouge and New Orleans the nickname "Cancer Alley." . . . According to the U.S. Census, about 1 in 10 Americans live below the poverty line. In New Orleans, that number is closer to 1 in 4. According to Beverly Wright, director of the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice at Xavier University, Louisiana has the largest share of the nation's impoverished children, and about half of the children in New Orleans live at or below the poverty line. . . . Robert Bullard, a pioneering activist in the environmental justice movement, said it's no coincidence that Cancer Alley happens to belch its chemicals into black neighborhoods. . . . The CDC reports that the national average of cancer deaths per 10,000 people is 199.8. In Louisiana, the number is 230.4. The state's cancer mortality rate ranked second highest in the nation in 2003. And African Americans are more likely than whites to have and die from lung, colorectal, breast and prostate cancers -- all which have been linked to prolonged chemical exposure. . . . "People will more readily come back, and will try to clean their homes or porches. And they'll have toxic dust they'll be sweeping around. An they'll inhale it and ingest it. ... If there's no clean-up you have basically people living and trying to clean in the middle of the country's largest Superfund site." . . . "Depending on the type of contamination, we could see every medical illness you can think of," Elder said. "Cancer of any type -- bladder, kidney, intestinal, lung, brain, skin cancer. ... The EPA has a list of regulated drinking water contaminants and what the health effects are of exceeding the standards. You can pick any one of those chemicals, and each of them could be present in the Gulf Coast area right now." . . . Even worse, the combined effects of all these chemicals is completely unknown. "You're gonna have so many of these chemicals interacting, and most of these chemicals have only been tested one at a time," Elder said. "They have never looked at the synergistic effect of all these chemicals on human health." . . . Kaufman believes it's just not a safe place to go home to yet. "Little kids walk around and get dirt in their mouths from their hands," he continued. "And it's not just New Orleans. It's all the areas where there were releases of hazardous material and sewage. The water being pumped out of New Orleans is now spreading that to Lake Ponchartrain, the Mississippi, and ultimately the Gulf of Mexico. It's expanding the area of contamination." . . . Elder and Kaufman maintain that it could, and should, take years to make the area inhabitable again. Some areas could be inhabitable sooner, but what is important, they say, is to make sure that every effected area is tested for contamination. "Based on Love Canal, it will take a minimum of 10 years to do the monitoring and cleanup," Kaufman said. . . . "There needs to be a well-coordinated, well-thought-out strategy as to how this is going to be tracked, assessed, evaluated and proper decisions made," Elder said. . . . With the tragedy of Katrina behind them, the most responsible thing to do for the people of the Gulf Coast is to ensure that the many potential health hazards are avoided. The city of New Orleans, and the Gulf Coast region, must demand a full-fledged clean up, stress Bullard and Dr. Wright. . . . "History has shown us that oftentimes if a community is poor and happens to be a community of color, it has to fight for things that most white people take for granted," said Bullard. "We're gonna have to make sure ... that we address environmental conditions within that particular community, and treat it as if the president of the United States lived next door."
. . . Read more!
posted by Lorenzo 10:32 AM
Dead bodies everywhere, what the media isn't telling you
(Michael Moore, September 14, 2005)
My staff and the vets spend their 18-hour days delivering food and water throughout the city of New Orleans and the surrounding areas. What they have seen is appalling. I have asked them to post their daily diaries on my website (www.michaelmoore.com) along with accompanying photos and video so you can learn what is really going on. What the media is showing you is NOT the whole story. It is much, much worse and there is still little being done to bring help to those who need it. . . . Our group has visited many outlying towns and villages in Mississippi and Louisiana, places the Red Cross and FEMA haven't visited in over a week. Often our volunteers are the first relief any of these people have seen. They have no food, water or electricity. People die every day. There are no TV cameras recording this. . . . The truth is that there are dead bodies everywhere and no one is picking them up. My crew reports that in most areas there is no FEMA presence, and very little Red Cross. It's been over two weeks since the hurricane and there is simply not much being done. At this point, would you call this situation incompetence or a purposeful refusal to get real help down there?
That's why we decided not to wait. And we are so grateful to all of you who have joined us. The Veterans for Peace and my staff aren't leaving (and that's why we are hoping those of you who can't get to Covington will make it to the Veterans for Peace co-sponsored anti-war demonstration in DC on September 24: www.unitedforpeace.org.)
If you want to help, here's what we need in Covington right now:
Cleaning Supplies (glass cleaner, bleach, disinfectant, etc.)
Aspirin and other basic over the counter drugs.
Baby Supplies - Baby Food Formula, diapers #4, #5, Wipes, Pedialyte
Batteries - All kinds, from AA to watch and hearing aid batteries.
Volunteers with trucks and cars
Self contained kitchens with generators, utensils, workers
Consider sending supplies in reusable containers. List the contents on the outside of the package so the folks in the warehouse can easily sort the items.
Clothes are not needed. If you go, keep in mind that you MUST be self-sufficient. Bring a tent and a sleeping bag. People are driving to Covington from across the country and often have extra room in their cars for you or for an extra box of supplies. For more information, go to the Veterans for Peace message board.
Send supplies via UPS & FEDEX (U.S. Postal Service Not Yet Deliverable):
Veterans For Peace Chapter 116 C/O
645 Kimbro Drive
Baton Rouge, LA 70808
Omni Mini Storage
74145 Hwy. 25
Thanks again for funding and supporting our relief efforts. It has been a bright spot in this otherwise shameful month.
. . . Read more!
posted by Lorenzo 10:14 AM
Chertoff memo shows something nefarious about Bush's response to Katrina
(Jonathan S. Landay, Alison Young and Shannon McCaffrey, Knight Ridder Newspapers, Sept. 13, 2005)
The federal official with the power to mobilize a massive federal response to Hurricane Katrina was Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, not the former FEMA chief who was relieved of his duties and resigned earlier this week, federal documents reviewed by Knight Ridder show. . . . Even before the storm struck the Gulf Coast, Chertoff could have ordered federal agencies into action without any request from state or local officials. Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Michael Brown had only limited authority to do so until about 36 hours after the storm hit, when Chertoff designated him as the "principal federal official" in charge of the storm. . . . As thousands of hurricane victims went without food, water and shelter in the days after Katrina's early morning Aug. 29 landfall, critics assailed Brown for being responsible for delays that might have cost hundreds of lives. . . . But Chertoff - not Brown - was in charge of managing the national response to a catastrophic disaster, according to the National Response Plan, the federal government's blueprint for how agencies will handle major natural disasters or terrorist incidents. An order issued by President Bush in 2003 also assigned that responsibility to the homeland security director. . . . But according to a memo obtained by Knight Ridder, Chertoff didn't shift that power to Brown until late afternoon or evening on Aug. 30, about 36 hours after Katrina hit Louisiana and Mississippi. That same memo suggests that Chertoff may have been confused about his lead role in disaster response and that of his department. . . . "As you know, the President has established the `White House Task Force on Hurricane Katrina Response.' He will meet with us tomorrow to launch this effort. The Department of Homeland Security, along with other Departments, will be part of the task force and will assist the Administration with its response to Hurricane Katrina," Chertoff said in the memo to the secretaries of defense, health and human services and other key federal agencies. . . . On the day that Chertoff wrote the memo, Bush was in San Diego presiding over a ceremony marking the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II. . . . Chertoff's Aug. 30 memo for the first time declared Katrina an "Incident of National Significance," a key designation that triggers swift federal coordination. The following afternoon, Bush met with his Cabinet, then appeared before TV cameras in the White House Rose Garden to announce the government's planned action. . . . That same day, Aug. 31, the Department of Defense, whose troops and equipment are crucial in such large disasters, activated its Task Force Katrina. But active-duty troops didn't begin to arrive in large numbers along the Gulf Coast until Saturday. . . . White House and homeland security officials wouldn't explain why Chertoff waited some 36 hours to declare Katrina an incident of national significance and why he didn't immediately begin to direct the federal response from the moment on Aug. 27 when the National Hurricane Center predicted that Katrina would strike the Gulf Coast with catastrophic force in 48 hours. Nor would they explain why Bush felt the need to appoint a separate task force. . . . Chertoff's hesitation and Bush's creation of a task force both appear to contradict the National Response Plan and previous presidential directives that specify what the secretary of homeland security is assigned to do without further presidential orders. The goal of the National Response Plan is to provide a streamlined framework for swiftly delivering federal assistance when a disaster - caused by terrorists or Mother Nature - is too big for local officials to handle. . . . [Also See: Is Cheney Planning Another 9/11?] . . . The Chertoff memo indicates that the response to Katrina wasn't left to disaster professionals, but was run out of the White House, said George Haddow, a former deputy chief of staff at FEMA during the Clinton administration and the co-author of an emergency management textbook. . . . "It shows that the president is running the disaster, the White House is running it as opposed to Brown or Chertoff," Haddow said. Brown "is a convenient fall guy. He's not the problem really. The problem is a system that was marginalized." . . . A former FEMA director under President Reagan expressed shock by the inaction that Chertoff's memo suggested. It showed that Chertoff "does not have a full appreciation for what the country is faced with - nor does anyone who waits that long," said Gen. Julius Becton Jr., who was FEMA director from 1985-1989. . . . "Anytime you have a delay in taking action, there's a potential for losing lives," Becton told Knight Ridder. "I have no idea how many lives we're talking about. ... I don't understand why, except that they were inefficient." . . . Chertoff's Aug. 30 memo came on the heels of a memo from Brown, written several hours after Katrina made landfall, showing that the FEMA director was waiting for Chertoff's permission to get help from others within the massive department. In that memo, first obtained by the Associated Press last week, Brown requested Chertoff's "assistance to make available DHS employees willing to deploy as soon as possible." It asked for another 1,000 homeland security workers within two days and 2,000 within a week. . . . Mike Byrne, a former senior homeland security official under Ridge who worked on the plan, said he doesn't think the new National Response Plan caused the confusion that plagued the early response to Katrina. . . . Something else went wrong, he suspects. The new National Response Plan isn't all that different from the previous plan, called the Federal Response Plan. . . . "Our history of responding to major disasters has been one where we've done it well," Byrne said. "We need to figure out why this one didn't go as well as the others did. It's shocking to me." . . . [Dick Cheney saw it this way: "I think we are in fact on our way to getting on top of the whole Katrina exercise.]
. . . Read more!
posted by Lorenzo 3:56 PM
25 Mind-Numbingly Stupid Quotes About Hurricane Katrina
(Combiled by about.com)
"I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees." . . . George W. Bush
"What I'm hearing which is sort of scary is that they all want to stay in Texas. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway so this is (chuckle)--this is working very well for them." George Bush's Evil Mother, Barbara Bush
"It makes no sense to spend billions of dollars to rebuild a city that's 7 feet under sea level...it looks like a lot of that place could be bulldozed." House Speaker Dennis Hastert
"Considering the dire circumstances that we have in New Orleans, virtually a city that has been destroyed, things are going relatively well." (former) FEMA Director Michael Brown
"Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job." George W. Bush, to FEMA director Michael Brown
"I have not heard a report of thousands of people in the convention center who don't have food and water." Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, on NPR's "All Things Considered," Sept. 1, 2005.
"What didn't go right?" George The Idiot Bush, as quoted by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), after she urged him to fire FEMA Director Michael Brown
"I also want to encourage anybody who was affected by Hurricane Corina to make sure their children are in school." First Lady Laura Bush, twice referring to a "Hurricane Corina"
"We just learned of the convention center--we being the federal government--today." FEMA Director Michael Brown, to ABC's Ted Koppel, Sept. 1, 2005, to which Koppel responded, "Don't you guys watch television? Don't you guys listen to the radio? Our reporters have been reporting on it for more than just today."
. . . Read more!
posted by Lorenzo 3:33 PM
Government Coverup of Dangerous Toxins in New Orleans
(Marc Maron and Mark Riley, Morning Sedition, Air America Radio, September 13, 2005)
Hugh Kauffman, a Senior Policy Analyst at the Environmental Protection Agency who specializes in emergency response, told Morning Sedition hosts Marc Maron and Mark Riley that a government cover-up is taking place right now, as we speak, to hide information about the dangerous toxins in the flood waters of the Gulf Coast region. Kauffman, a 35-year EPA veteran who has served in Republican and Democratic administrations, says that the Bush administration is preventing the EPA from releasing information that oil and chemical companies are mandated by law to provide. Kauffman says the Bush administration's cover-up is endangering residents and relief workers throughout the Gulf Coast region, who are being exposed to dangerous levels of toxins, some of which have been proven to cause cancer and birth defects. . . . MARC: Is the government being honest with the people about the safety of the air and water in New Orleans right now? . . . HUGH: No, they're not. All of the oil and chemical companies that own storage tanks, facilities in that area that were flooded or impacted are required to publish with our regional office in Dallas instantly--whenever there's a release; whenever there's a breakage from pipelines, from storage tanks, refineries. The regional office, under orders, is not releasing that information to the public, and the Society of Environmental Journalists has sued EPA and the Federal Government to try and get that information released, so the public will see the full magnitude of how much toxic material they are being exposed to in that region of the country. . . . MARC: So, Hugh Kauffman, Senior Policy Analyst from the EPA, you're telling me they have that information. The EPA office in Louisiana has that information, and you are absolutely sure that that information is horrendous, but they are keeping it under lock and key, because they don’t want the people to know the truth of what's really going on down there on a toxic level? . . . HUGH: That's correct. And that's why the Society of Environmental Journalists are suing under the Freedom of Information act to try and get that information. . . . MARC: So the government is actively lying to the people about what's going on there, and that is their policy now. . . . HUGH: That's the policy as of last night at eleven o'clock when I went to sleep. . . . MARC: And that is the policy that happened in Nine Eleven as well, isn't it, Hugh Kauffman? . . . HUGH: Same policy in Nine Eleven. That's correct. The heroes went in to try to help--were working for months in there--no respirators, no protective clothing, and now, four years later, over 75% of those responding heroes are sick as dogs and they're starting to die off, and I'm worried that that's going to happen down the line down there. That's why there are billions of dollars of law suites as a result of Nine Eleven, because of the government cover-up.
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posted by Lorenzo 10:46 AM
How Bush Blew It
(Evan Thomas, Newsweek, September 19, 2005 issue)
It's a standing joke among the president's top aides: who gets to deliver the bad news? Warm and hearty in public, Bush can be cold and snappish in private, and aides sometimes cringe before the displeasure of the president of the United States . . . The bad news on this early morning, Tuesday, Aug. 30, some 24 hours after Hurricane Katrina had ripped through New Orleans, was that the president would have to cut short his five-week vacation by a couple of days and return to Washington. The president's chief of staff, Andrew Card; his deputy chief of staff, Joe Hagin; his counselor, Dan Bartlett, and his spokesman, Scott McClellan, held a conference call to discuss the question of the president's early return and the delicate task of telling him. . . . The reality, say several aides who did not wish to be quoted because it might displease the president, did not really sink in until Thursday night. Some White House staffers were watching the evening news and thought the president needed to see the horrific reports coming out of New Orleans. Counselor Bartlett made up a DVD of the newscasts so Bush could see them in their entirety as he flew down to the Gulf Coast the next morning [the FRIDAY after the storm!] on Air Force One. . . . How this could be--how the president of the United States could have even less "situational awareness," as they say in the military, than the average American about the worst natural disaster in a century--is one of the more perplexing and troubling chapters in a story that, despite moments of heroism and acts of great generosity, ranks as a national disgrace. . . . But it is not clear what President Bush does read or watch, aside from the occasional biography and an hour or two of ESPN here and there. Bush can be petulant about dissent; he equates disagreement with disloyalty. After five years in office, he is surrounded largely by people who agree with him. Bush can ask tough questions, but it's mostly a one-way street. . . . When Hurricane Katrina struck, it appears there was no one to tell President Bush the plain truth: that the state and local governments had been overwhelmed, that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was not up to the job and that the military, the only institution with the resources to cope, couldn't act without a declaration from the president overriding all other authority. . . . The war in Iraq was a failure of intelligence. The government's response to Katrina--like the failure to anticipate that terrorists would fly into buildings on 9/11--was a failure of imagination. On Tuesday, within 24 hours of the storm's arrival, Bush needed to be able to imagine the scenes of disorder and misery that would, two days later, shock him when he watched the evening news. He needed to be able to see that New Orleans would spin into violence and chaos very quickly if the U.S. government did not take charge . . . [Rumsfeld] opposed sending in active-duty troops as cops. Dick Cheney, who was vacationing in Wyoming when the storm hit, characteristically kept his counsel on videoconferences; his private advice is not known. . . . The failure of the government's response to Hurricane Katrina worked like a power blackout. Problems cascaded and compounded; each mistake made the next mistake worse. The foe in this battle was a monster; Katrina flattened the Gulf Coast with the strength of a vengeful god. But human beings, beginning with the elected officials of the City of New Orleans, failed to anticipate and react in time. . . . Ray Nagin, the mayor of New Orleans, didn't want to evacuate. . . . Nagin's eye had long been on commerce, not catastrophe. A former executive at Cox Communications, he had come to office in 2002 to clear out the allegedly corrupt old guard and bring new business to the city, which has not prospered with New South metropolises like Atlanta. During Nagin's mayoral campaign, the promises were about jobs, not stronger floodwalls and levees. . . . At dusk [on Monday after the storm passed], on the ninth floor of city hall, the mayor and the city council had their first encounter with the federal government. A man in a blue FEMA windbreaker arrived to brief them on his helicopter flyover of the city. He seemed unfamiliar with the city's geography, but he did have a sense of urgency. "Water as far as the eye can see," he said. It was worse than Hurricanes Andrew in 1992 and Camille in 1969. "I need to call Washington," he said. "Do you have a conference-call line?" According to an aide to the mayor, he seemed a little taken aback when the answer was no. Long neglected in the city budget, communications within the New Orleans city government were poor, and eventually almost nonexistent when the batteries on the few old satellite phones died. The FEMA man found a phone, but he had trouble reaching senior officials in Washington. When he finally got someone on the line, the city officials kept hearing him say, "You don't understand, you don't understand." . . . Around New Orleans, three levees had overtopped or were broken. The city was doomed. There was no way the water could be stopped. But, incredibly, the seriousness of the situation did not really register, not only in Washington, but at the state emergency command post upriver in Baton Rouge. In a squat, drab cinder-block building in the state capital, full of TV monitors and maps, various state and federal officials tried to make sense of what had happened. "Nobody was saying it wasn't a catastrophe," Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu told NEWSWEEK. "We were saying, 'Thank you, God,' because the experts were telling the governor it could have been even worse." . . . Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, a motherly but steely figure known by the nickname Queen Bee, knew that she needed help. But she wasn't quite sure what. At about 8 p.m., she spoke to Bush. "Mr. President," she said, "we need your help. We need everything you've got." . . . Blanco did not specifically ask for a massive intervention by the active-duty military. "She wouldn't know the 82nd Airborne from the Harlem Boys' Choir," said an official in the governor's office, who did not wish to be identified talking about his boss's conversations with the president. There are a number of steps Bush could have taken, short of a full-scale federal takeover, like ordering the military to take over the pitiful and (by now) largely broken emergency communications system throughout the region. But the president, who was in San Diego preparing to give a speech the next day on the war in Iraq, went to bed. . . . Bush was told at 5 a.m. Pacific Coast time and immediately decided to cut his vacation short. To his senior advisers, living in the insular presidential bubble, the mere act of lopping off a couple of presidential vacation days counts as a major event. . . . Bush blithely proceeded with the rest of his schedule for the day, accepting a gift guitar at one event and pretending to riff like Tom Cruise in "Risky Business."
. . . Read more!
posted by Lorenzo 11:58 AM
Macabre Reminder: The Corpse on Union Street
(Dan Barry, New York Times, September 8, 2005)
In the downtown business district here, on a dry stretch of Union Street, past the Omni Bank automated teller machine, across from a parking garage offering "early bird" rates: a corpse. Its feet jut from a damp blue tarp. Its knees rise in rigor mortis. . . . Six National Guardsmen walked up to it on Tuesday afternoon and two blessed themselves with the sign of the cross. One soldier took a parting snapshot like some visiting conventioneer, and they walked away. New Orleans, September 2005. . . . Hours passed, the dusk of curfew crept, the body remained. A Louisiana state trooper around the corner knew all about it: murder victim, bludgeoned, one of several in that area. The police marked it with traffic cones maybe four days ago, he said, and then he joked that if you wanted to kill someone here, this was a good time. . . . Night came, then this morning, then noon, and another sun beat down on a dead son of the Crescent City. . . . That a corpse lies on Union Street may not shock; in the wake of last week's hurricane, there are surely hundreds, probably thousands. What is remarkable is that on a downtown street in a major American city, a corpse can decompose for days, like carrion, and that is acceptable. . . . Welcome to New Orleans in the post-apocalypse, half baked and half deluged: pestilent, eerie, unnaturally quiet. . . . Scraggly residents emerge from waterlogged wood to say strange things, and then return into the rot. Cars drive the wrong way on the Interstate and no one cares. Fires burn, dogs scavenge, and old signs from les bons temps have been replaced with hand-scrawled threats that looters will be shot dead. . . . The incomprehensible has become so routine here that it tends to lull you into acceptance. . . . Rush hour in downtown now means pickups carrying gun-carrying men in sunglasses, S.U.V.'s loaded with out-of-town reporters hungry for action, and the occasional tank.
. . . Read more!
posted by Lorenzo 10:12 AM
Blackwater Mercenaries Deploy in New Orleans
(Jeremy Scahill and Daniela Crespo, t r u t h o u t, 10 September 2005)
Heavily armed paramilitary mercenaries from the Blackwater private security firm, infamous for their work in Iraq, are openly patrolling the streets of New Orleans. Some of the mercenaries say they have been "deputized" by the Louisiana governor; indeed some are wearing gold Louisiana state law enforcement badges on their chests and Blackwater photo identification cards on their arms. They say they are on contract with the Department of Homeland Security and have been given the authority to use lethal force. Several mercenaries we spoke with said they had served in Iraq on the personal security details of the former head of the US occupation, L. Paul Bremer and the former US ambassador to Iraq, John Negroponte. . . . "This is a totally new thing to have guys like us working CONUS (Continental United States)," a heavily armed Blackwater mercenary told us as we stood on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter. "We're much better equipped to deal with the situation in Iraq." . . . Blackwater mercenaries are some of the most feared professional killers in the world and they are accustomed to operating without worry of legal consequences. Their presence on the streets of New Orleans should be a cause for serious concern for the remaining residents of the city and raises alarming questions about why the government would allow men trained to kill with impunity in places like Iraq and Afghanistan to operate here. Some of the men now patrolling the streets of New Orleans returned from Iraq as recently as 2 weeks ago. . . . What is most disturbing is the claim of several Blackwater mercenaries we spoke with that they are here under contract from the federal and Louisiana state governments. . . . Blackwater is one of the leading private "security" firms servicing the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. It has several US government contracts and has provided security for many senior US diplomats, foreign dignitaries and corporations. The company rose to international prominence after 4 of its men were killed in Fallujah and two of their charred bodies were hung from a bridge in March 2004. Those killings sparked the massive US retaliation against the civilian population of Fallujah that resulted in scores of deaths and tens of thousands of refugees. . . . As the threat of forced evictions now looms in New Orleans and the city confiscates even legally registered weapons from civilians, the private mercenaries of Blackwater patrol the streets openly wielding M-16s and other assault weapons. This despite Police Commissioner Eddie Compass' claim that "Only law enforcement are allowed to have weapons." . . . But what has not been publicly acknowledged is the claim, made to us by 2 Blackwater mercenaries, that they are actually engaged in general law enforcement activities including "securing neighborhoods" and "confronting criminals." . . . That raises a key question: under what authority are Blackwater's men operating? . . . The men we spoke with said they are indeed on contract with the Department of Homeland Security and the Louisiana governor's office and that some of them are sleeping in camps organized by Homeland Security in New Orleans and Baton Rouge. One of them wore a gold Louisiana state law enforcement badge and said he had been "deputized" by the governor. They told us they not only had authority to make arrests but also to use lethal force. We encountered the Blackwater forces as we walked through the streets of the largely deserted French Quarter. We were talking with 2 New York Police officers when an unmarked car without license plates sped up next to us and stopped. Inside were 3 men, dressed in khaki uniforms, flak jackets and wielding automatic weapons. "Y'all know where the Blackwater guys are?" they asked. One of the police officers responded, "There are a bunch of them around here," and pointed down the road. . . . "Blackwater?" we asked. "The guys who are in Iraq?" . . . "Yeah," said the officer. "They're all over the place." . . . A short while later, as we continued down Bourbon Street, we ran into the men from the car. They wore Blackwater ID badges on their arms. . . . "When they told me New Orleans, I said, 'What country is that in?,'" said one of the Blackwater men. He was wearing his company ID around his neck in a carrying case with the phrase "Operation Iraqi Freedom" printed on it. After bragging about how he drives around Iraq in a "State Department issued level 5, explosion proof BMW," he said he was "just trying to get back to Kirkuk (in the north of Iraq) where the real action is." Later we overheard him on his cell phone complaining that Blackwater was only paying $350 a day plus per diem. That is much less than the men make serving in more dangerous conditions in Iraq. Two men we spoke with said they plan on returning to Iraq in October. But, as one mercenary said, they've been told they could be in New Orleans for up to 6 months. "This is a trend," he told us. "You're going to see a lot more guys like us in these situations." . . . If Blackwater's reputation and record in Iraq are any indication of the kind of "services" the company offers, the people of New Orleans have much to fear.
. . . Read more!
posted by Lorenzo 3:43 PM
Police fired on people trying to leave N.O. by foot
(Kevin Drum, Washington Monthly, September 9, 2005)
For the past couple of days I've vaguely noticed some stories circulating about police preventing people from leaving New Orleans after Katrina hit, but there have been so many urban legendish anecdotes like this making the rounds that I didn't pay much attention to it. . . . Big mistake. Not only is the story true, it's worse than you can imagine. It wasn't New Orleans cops keeping people in, it was cops from other cities keeping people out: "We shut down the bridge," Arthur Lawson, chief of the City of Gretna Police Department, confirmed to United Press International. . . . The bridge in question - the Crescent City Connection - is the major artery heading west out of New Orleans across the Mississippi River. . . . Lawson said that once the storm itself had passed Monday, police from Gretna City, Jefferson Parrish and the Louisiana State Crescent City Connection Police Department closed to foot traffic the three access points to the bridge closest to the West Bank of the river. . . . "If we had opened the bridge, our city would have looked like New Orleans does now: looted, burned and pillaged." . . . [According to an eyewitness account from a pair of San Francisco paramedics who tried to leave the city], As they made their way to the bridge in order to leave the city "armed Gretna sheriffs (sic) formed a line across the foot of the bridge. Before we were close enough to speak, they began firing their weapons over our heads." . . . Members of the group nonetheless approached the police lines, and "questioned why we couldn't cross the bridge . . . They responded that the West Bank was not going to become New Orleans and there would be no Superdomes in their City. . . . "These were code words," the paramedics wrote, "for if you are poor and black, you are not crossing the Mississippi River and you were not getting out of New Orleans." . . . This story exposes a calculated savagery far worse than anything that happened in New Orleans.
(Also see: "Cops trapped survivors in New Orleans")
. . . Read more!
posted by Lorenzo 2:02 PM
Divers Find Explosive Residue On New Orleans Ruptured Levy
(Hal Turner, September 9, 2005)
[NOTE: On the day Katrina came ashore, I heard an news reporter say (late that Monday night) that she had just seen some FBI sharpshooters or swat team-looking people "coming ashore" in New Orleans from Lake Ponchetrain. Then about a week after the storm hit, I heard Peyton Manning, Jr. (who had been called up by his National Guard unit and was helping with the rescue) say that he spoke with a survivor who "heard the levee break." Manning reported that this man said, "It sounded like a huge explosion." Had I not had these two bits of information, I would have not paid attention to the following story, patricularly since it is coming from an man who claims to be "an ardent Pro-Life, conservative Republican." However, there is something that really stinks about the federal response to this tragedy. IMHO, the Cheney-Bush junta was responsible for 9-11, and I wouldn't put it beyond them to have blown the levees. You can speculate on their motives yourselves, but I think it wise to keep an open mind here and investigate these facts, no matter how horrible and improbably they may seem. . . . Also, it is interesting to note that the Army General in charge on the ground in New Orleans recently said on MSNBC, "If someone had planned to destroy this city, they couldn't have done it any better." . . . Lorenzo.]
Divers inspecting the ruptured levee walls surrounding New Orleans found something that piqued their interest: Burn marks on underwater debris chunks from the broken levee wall! . . . One diver, a member of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, saw the burn marks and knew immediately what caused them. He secreted a small chunk of the cement inside his diving suit and later arranged for it to be sent to trusted military friends at a The U.S. Army Forensic Laboratory at Fort Gillem, Georgia for testing. . . . According to well placed sources, a military forensic specialist determined the burn marks on the cement chunks did, in fact, come from high explosives. The source, speaking on condition of anonymity said "We found traces of boron-enhanced fluoronitramino explosives as well as PBXN-111. This would indicate at least two separate types of explosive devices." . . . The levee ruptures in New Orleans did not take place during Hurricane Katrina, but rather a day after the hurricane struck. Several residents of New Orleans and many Emergency Workers reported hearing what sounded like large, muffled explosions from the area of the levee, but those were initially discounted as gas explosions from homes with leaking gas lines. . . . If these allegations prove true, the ruptured levee which flooded New Orleans was a deliberate act of mass destruction perpetrated by someone with access to military-grade UNDERWATER high explosives. . . . More details as they become available.
. . . Read more!
posted by Lorenzo 1:50 PM
National Guard Deployment in Iraq Hurt Katrina Response
(Robert Burns, Associated Press, 09 September 2005)
he deployment of thousands of National Guard troops from Mississippi and Louisiana in Iraq when Hurricane Katrina struck hindered those states' initial storm response, military and civilian officials said Friday. . . . Lt. Gen. Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau, said that "arguably" a day or so of response time was lost due to the absence of the Mississippi National Guard's 155th Brigade Combat Team and Louisiana's 256th Infantry Brigade, each with thousands of troops in Iraq. . . . "Had that brigade been at home and not in Iraq, their expertise and capabilities could have been brought to bear," said Blum. . . . Blum said that to replace those units' command and control equipment, he dispatched personnel from Guard division headquarters from Kansas and Minnesota shortly after the storm struck. . . . Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Miss., whose waterfront home here was washed away in the storm, told reporters that the absence of the deployed Mississippi Guard units made it harder for local officials to coordinate their initial response. . . . "What you lost was a lot of local knowledge," Taylor said, as well as equipment that could have been used in recovery operations. . . . "The best equipment went with them, for obvious reasons," especially communications equipment, he added.
. . . Read more!
posted by Lorenzo 1:04 PM
Was the Katrina disaster intentionally amplified?
(Paul Krugman, New York Times, September 2, 2005)
Before 9/11 the Federal Emergency Management Agency listed the three most likely catastrophic disasters facing America: a terrorist attack on New York, a major earthquake in San Francisco and a hurricane strike on New Orleans. "The New Orleans hurricane scenario," The Houston Chronicle wrote in December 2001, "may be the deadliest of all." It described a potential catastrophe very much like the one now happening. . . . So why were New Orleans and the nation so unprepared? . . . First question: Why have aid and security taken so long to arrive? Katrina hit five days ago - and it was already clear by last Friday that Katrina could do immense damage along the Gulf Coast. Yet the response you'd expect from an advanced country never happened. Thousands of Americans are dead or dying, not because they refused to evacuate, but because they were too poor or too sick to get out without help - and help wasn't provided. Many have yet to receive any help at all. . . . Even military resources in the right place weren't ordered into action. . . . Maybe administration officials believed that the local National Guard could keep order and deliver relief. But many members of the National Guard and much of its equipment - including high-water vehicles - are in Iraq. "The National Guard needs that equipment back home to support the homeland security mission," a Louisiana Guard officer told reporters several weeks ago. . . . Second question: Why wasn't more preventive action taken? After 2003 the Army Corps of Engineers sharply slowed its flood-control work, including work on sinking levees. "The corps," an Editor and Publisher article says, citing a series of articles in The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, "never tried to hide the fact that the spending pressures of the war in Iraq, as well as homeland security - coming at the same time as federal tax cuts - was the reason for the strain." . . . In 2002 the corps' chief resigned, reportedly under threat of being fired, after he criticized the administration's proposed cuts in the corps' budget, including flood-control spending. . . . I don't think this is a simple tale of incompetence. The reason the military wasn't rushed in to help along the Gulf Coast is, I believe, the same reason nothing was done to stop looting after the fall of Baghdad. Flood control was neglected for the same reason our troops in Iraq didn't get adequate armor. . . . At a fundamental level, I'd argue, our current leaders just aren't serious about some of the essential functions of government. They like waging war, but they don't like providing security, rescuing those in need or spending on preventive measures. And they never, ever ask for shared sacrifice. . . . Yesterday Mr. Bush made an utterly fantastic claim: that nobody expected the breach of the levees. In fact, there had been repeated warnings about exactly that risk. . . . So America, once famous for its can-do attitude, now has a can't-do government that makes excuses instead of doing its job. And while it makes those excuses, Americans are dying.
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posted by Lorenzo 6:13 PM
Church camp turned into FEMA concentration camp for survivors
[NOTE: This story has photos associated with it. Click the link above to see them and read this entire story. Post Number: 1664014]
I'm extremely depressed to report that things seem to only be getting sadder concerning the people so devastatingly affected by Katrina last week. Two car loads of us headed over to Falls Creek, a youth camp for Southern Baptist churches in Oklahoma that agreed to have its facilities used to house Louisiana refugees. I'm afraid the camp is not going to be used as the kind people of the churches who own the cabins believe it was going to be used. . . . Falls Creek is very secluded and absolutely no where near a population center. . . . We arrived at our cabin and started toting the clothes in. We finally found a group of men upstairs in the dorms trying to do something alien to them - make beds. They had almost completed the room of bunk beds and told us we could go over to the ladies' dorm room and start on it. We lugged our sacks of clothes back down the stairs. Then we got the first negative message. "You can't bring any clothes in. FEMA has stated they will accept no more clothes. They've had 30 people sorting clothes for days. They don't want anymore." My mind couldn't help but go back over the news articles that have accused FEMA of refusing water in to Jefferson Parrish, or turning fuel away. . . . We lugged the bags of clothes back to the car. We then turned to bringing in our personal hygiene products. That's when we learned our cabin had been designated a "male only" cabin. Approximately 40 men, ranging from age 13 on up would be housed there. We started resacking the female products and sorted out everything that would be useful for men. . . . We lugged the bags of female products back to the car. We asked if they knew of a cabin that had been designated for women. The "host" (the hosts are Oklahoma civilians who have been employeed??? by FEMA to reside at each cabin and have already gone through at least one "orientation" meeting conducted by FEMA at "BASE" which is some unknown but repetitively referred location within the camp) told us he believed McAlester cabin was dedicated to females. He then explained there were male, female and family cabins designated. . . . We then started lugging in our food products. The foods I had purchased were mainly snacks, but my mother - God bless her soul - had gone all out with fresh vegetables, fruits, canned goods, breakfast cereals, rice, and pancake fixings. That's when we got the next message: They will not be able to use the kitchen. . . . Excuse me? I asked incredulously. . . . FEMA will not allow any of the kitchen facilities in any of the cabins to be used by the occupants due to fire hazards. FEMA will deliver meals to the cabins. The refugees will be given two meals per day by FEMA. They will not be able to cook. In fact, the "host" goes on to explain, some churches had already enquired about whether they could come in on weekends and fix meals for the people staying in their cabin. FEMA won't allow it because there could be a situation where one cabin gets steaks and another gets hot dogs - and...it could cause a riot. . . . It gets worse. . . . He then precedes to tell us that some churches had already enquired into whether they could send a van or bus on Sundays to pick up any occupants of their cabins who might be interested in attending church. FEMA will not allow this. The occupants of the camp cannot leave the camp for any reason. If they leave the camp they may never return. They will be issued FEMA identification cards and "a sum of money" and they will remain within the camp for the next 5 months. . . . My mother then asked if the churches would be allowed to come to their cabin and conduct services if the occupants wanted to attend. The response was "No ma'am. You don't understand. Your church no longer owns this building. This building is now owned by FEMA and the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. . . . he tells my mother she must take all the breakfast cereal back. My mother protests that cereal requires no cooking. "There will be no milk, ma'am." My mother points to the huge industrial double-wide refrigerator the church had just purchased in the past year. "Ma'am, you don't understand...It could cause a riot." . . . He then points to the vegetables and fruit. "You'll have to take that back as well. It looks like you've got about 10 apples there. I'm about to bring in 40 men. What would we do then?" My mother, in her sweet, soft voice says, "Quarter them?" . . . "No ma'am. FEMA said no. . . . It could cause a riot. You don't understand the type of people that are about to come here...." . . . I turn and walk out of the room...lugging all the healthy stuff back to the car. My son later tells me the man went on to say "We've already been told of teenage girls delivering fetuses on buses." My son steps toward him and says "That's because they've almost been starved to death, haven't had a decent place to get a good night's sleep, and their bodies can't keep a baby alive. I'm not sure that's any evidence some one should be using to show these are 'bad people'." . . . We then went to the second dorm room and made up beds. When we got through and were headed outside the host says to me and my daughter, "How did you get in here?" I told him we came in through the back gate. He replies, "No, HOW did you get in here? No one who doesn't have credentials showing is supposed to be in here." (I had noticed all the "hosts" had two or three badges hanging around their necks.) I told him it might have had something to do with the fact my daughter was snapping pictures of the OHP presence at the gate. He then tells us, "Well, starting in the morning NO ONE comes in. So if you have further goods you want to donate you will have to take them to your local church. They will collect them until they have a full load and then bring them to the front gate."
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posted by Lorenzo 12:32 PM
Bush's mother wants survivors to get out of Texas
President George W. Bush returned to the site of the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina in a bid to quell criticism of his Government's response to the disaster. . . . But his mother, Barbara Bush, appeared to make his troubles even worse by suggesting some of the homeless might be better off. . . . Mrs Bush further inflamed simmering racial tensions when she referred to the 18,000 people now in Houston who had lost everything saying: "This is working very well for them." . . . Mrs Bush, who hails from Texas, also appeared to express concerns that many of the victims might remain in the state's largest city. . . . "Almost everyone I've talked to says 'We're going to move to Houston'," she said. "What I'm hearing, which is sort of scary, is they all want to stay in Texas. Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. . . . "And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this, this is working very well for them."
[COMMENT by Lorenzo: This makes it easy to see why Bush is such a mean-spirited man . . . just look at what a wicked mother he has.]
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posted by Lorenzo 11:25 AM
On Scene New Orleans Blog with Thousands of Pictures
The link above will take you to a blog from one of the people who work at DirectNIC, where I've hosted many URLs for several years. This blog provides a fantastic portrait of what it was like, and still IS like, on the ground in New Orleans. And they also have provided several thousand photos taken in New Orleans during the past 10 days.
These people are in a New Orleans high rise office building and have been throughout this entire emergency. Amazingly, their service never went off-line. A skeleton crew is still working there and has another three weeks of emergency power available. This company has really planned ahead and in the midst of total chaos has continued providing service to customers worldwide. I hope that if you are considering the purchase of URLs in the months and years ahead that you will think about giving some of your business to DirectNIC. BTW, I'm just one of their customers who thinks this is a terriffic company. I've been extremely pleased with their service for several years, but now I'm even more happy about using their service. These people are simply the best cyberjockies you can find. BRAVO! . . . Lorenzo Hagerty
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posted by Lorenzo 8:56 AM
Living Paycheck to Paycheck Made Leaving Impossible
(Wil Haygood, The Washington Post, 04 September 2005)
To those who wonder why so many stayed behind when push came to water's mighty shove here, those who were trapped have a simple explanation: Their nickels and dimes and dollar bills simply didn't add up to stage a quick evacuation mission. . . . "Me and my wife, we were living paycheck to paycheck, like most everybody else in New Orleans," Eric Dunbar, 54, said Saturday. . . . He was standing on wobbly, thin legs in the bowels of the semi-darkened Louis Armstrong Airport, where he had been delivered with many others after having been plucked by rescuers from a roadway. . . . He offered a mini-tutorial in the economic reality of his life. . . . "I don't own a car. Me and my wife, we travel by bus, public transportation. The most money I ever have on me is $400. And that goes to pay the rent. And that $400 is between me and my wife." Her name is Dorth Dunbar; she was trying to get some rest after days of peril. . . . Dunbar estimated his annual income to be about $20,000, which comes from doing graphic design work when he can get it. Before the storm, when he and his wife estimated how much money they needed to flee the city, he was saddened by the reality that he could not come up with anywhere near the several thousand dollars he might need for a rental car and airfare. . . . "If I took my wife out to dinner, it was once a month," he said, sounding as if even those modest good times had come to an abrupt end. "We'd go to Piccadilly's. Never any movies. Really, it's a simple life. I go to work, come home, talk to my wife, go to bed, then back to work again. A basic existence." . . . He was rolling two quarters around in his hand, short 50 cents to make a long-distance call to his son. As his eyes began to water, he repeated himself: "Just a basic existence."
[NOTE: Click the link above to read many more of these heart-breaking stories.]
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posted by Lorenzo 3:33 PM
Timeline: How the hurricane crisis unfolded
(BBC NEWS, 3 September 2005)
A day-by-day look at how the crisis has unfolded in New Orleans, after the city was battered by Hurricane Katrina.
SUNDAY 28 AUGUST: Hurricane Katrina gains strength over the Gulf of Mexico - having already battered the state of Florida. Fears grow for New Orleans, which sits some 6ft (2m) below sea level. . . . Mayor Ray Nagin orders the mandatory evacuation of the city after the storm becomes a maximum-strength Category Five hurricane. . . . Motorways are jammed as people obey the order to leave. . . . Some of those unable to leave spend the night in shelters - including the Superdome stadium.
MONDAY 29 AUGUST: Hurricane Katrina hits the Gulf coast, wreaking havoc in the states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. . . . Many areas of New Orleans are flooded and winds of more than 100mph (160km/h) tear off part of the roof of the Superdome stadium where some 9,000 people are taking refuge. . . . Power lines are cut, trees felled, shops wrecked and cars hurled across streets strewn with shattered glass. . . . There are reports that some of the city's flood defences have been breached.
TUESDAY 30 AUGUST: The scale of the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent flooding becomes clearer. . . . About 80% of the low-lying city is under water. Helicopters and boats are picking up survivors stranded on rooftops across the area - many are to spend several more days there. . . . Rescuers are said to be pushing aside the dead bodies floating in the water, as they try to reach survivors. . . . With some of the city's flood defences breached, the situation is getting more desperate as waters continue to rise. . . . Hundreds of people are feared dead along the Mississippi coast.
WEDNESDAY 31 AUGUST: Mayor Ray Nagin says the hurricane has killed hundreds, possibly thousands. He orders the full evacuation of the city - up to 100,000 residents are still said to be there. . . . Many try to battle their way through the water to the city's Superdome stadium in search of refuge. Tens of thousands of people end up there, but conditions inside the stadium are deteriorating fast. . . . Armed police try to impose a form of martial law to stem looting - while some looters are stealing non-essential goods, others are simply trying to find food and water. . . . Cutting short a holiday in Texas to take charge of the federal recovery effort, President Bush says the government is dealing with one of the worst natural disasters in US history. . . . The government declares a public health emergency along the whole of the Gulf coast, to speed up the delivery of food, water and fuel to the region. It is announced that extra troops are also being sent. Bush flys over the area in Air Force 1 and then plays a round of golf in Washtington.
THURSDAY 1 SEPTEMBER: New Orleans descends into anarchy, with reports of looting, shootings, carjackings and rapes. The local police force is ordered to focus its efforts on tackling lawlessness. . . . Buses and helicopters begin to take the most vulnerable out of the Superdome stadium . . . Shots reportedly fired at a helicopter airlifting people from the stadium slow down the evacuation process. . . . Anger mounts over the delay in getting aid to people in New Orleans and what is seen as an inadequate response from the federal government.
FRIDAY 2 SEPTEMBER: The relief effort in New Orleans is stepped up. Evacuations continue as military convoys arrive with supplies of food, medicine and water. . . . Extra National Guard units are brought into New Orleans to tackle the looting and general lawlessness which has spread across the city. . . . It is still not known how many people have died as a consequence of Katrina, but a Republican Senator in Louisiana, David Vitter, says the number could reach 10,000. . . . Tens of thousands of people are still stranded - some of them are still waiting to be rescued from rooftops of houses surrounded by water. . . . Meanwhile, President Bush promises long-term help for reconstruction during a visit to affected areas, having acknowledged that the initial response had not been acceptable. Congress approves a $10.5bn emergency spending package.
SATURDAY 3 SEPTEMBER: Amid mounting political pressure, President George Bush orders 7,000 more front-line troops into the areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina. . . . In a national televised address, he acknowledges that many "citizens simply are not getting the help they need, especially in New Orleans".
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posted by Lorenzo 12:42 PM
Special report: Hurricane Katrina
The link above will take you to an excellent Web site about Katrina. It is presented by the UK's Guardian Unlimited, one of the best newspapers in Europe. Many of the stories you will find here have not yet been made public by U.S. news organizations, which have been covering up some of the worst stories from New Orleans and other areas for fear of the reaction they might cause in the U.S.
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posted by Lorenzo 8:44 AM
Hurricane Katrina information about friends and family members
This is a forum on the Houston Chronicle's bulletin board where people can post information about friends and family members.
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posted by Lorenzo 1:08 PM
Dial 211 for shelter: The United Way of the Texas Gulf Coast has set up the help line for evacuees who need shelters information.
Houston Red Cross shelters: Find a shelter by calling 1-866-GETINFO (1-866-438-4636). . . . The Red Cross has opened 13 shelters in the Greater Houston area to help disaster victims forced from their homes by Hurricane Katrina. The shelters will remain open and additional shelters will be opened as necessary. . . . As of Thursday morning: Mont Belview Sr Center (112 capacity) 11607 Eagle Drive . . . Baytown Community Center (250 capacity) 2407 Market St Baytown, Tx . . . Memorial Baptist Church (capacity 135) 600 W. Sterling Baytown Texas 77520 . . . # St. Peter Claver (capacity 220) 6005 N. Wayside Drive Houston Tx . . . Moody Methodist Church (capacity 300) 2803 53rd Street Galveston, Texas . . . Spring Tabernacle (capacity 200) 3034 FM 2920 Spring, Tx 77338
FEMA aid: Disaster assistance process for individuals. Call to Apply for Assistance 1-800-621-FEMA (3362). The speech or hearing impaired may call (TTY) 1-800-462-7585.
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posted by Lorenzo 1:04 PM
The state of Texas has set up a special refugee phone line (dial 211) for those currently in motels or finding their way to Texas on their own. All the refugee centers and redcross locations and other headquarters set up to help them find help will be listed on a recording.
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posted by Lorenzo 10:43 AM