<\body> Stories in America: The Latest in a Long String of Disasters

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The Latest in a Long String of Disasters

After almost a week of being completely disconnected from the news and technology, we were shocked to learn about the devastation in Louisiana and Mississippi. We've spent the past day watching TV and reading the news to catch up on the latest. As we were flipping channels at 1:00 in the morning, we stumbled upon a heart wrenching, raw report on Oprah. Not CNN. Not MSNBC. Not Fox News. But Oprah. As politicians and pundits continue the debate over what went wrong on the cable channels, Oprah reports on the unbelievable suffering and gives the microphone to those who are rarely heard or seen in the media. How pathetic is it that we have to rely on Oprah to get a sense of what is truly happening on the ground in Louisiana and Mississippi? Be sure to watch the video and check out today's show from Mississippi.

We are currently in Salt Lake City and are on our way to interview a number of evacuees who were recently flown here from New Orleans. According to the Utah's emergency division of emergency services, 583 evacuees were flown in, 15 left upon arrival, 325 have received treatment at a local clinic and 250 have expressed an interest in relocating to 27 states and Canada. We also plan to ask locals if they think the Bush administration's response was adequate and more generally, what role they think the government should play during a national crisis.

In the meantime, here are a few facts, quotes and articles:


*The population of New Orleans is 67 percent black and over 30 percent live below the poverty line, more than twice the national average, according to the US Census.

*New Orleans has one of the country's highest child-poverty rates.

*Two-thirds of the poor are female-headed households with children.

*More than 134,000 residents without cars could not evacuate in time, according to New Orleans officials.

*More than 500,000 evacuees are being relocated to states across the country.

*Hurricane Katrina could cost as many as 400,000 U.S. jobs and slash economic growth by up to 1 percentage point, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

*Damage to the Gulf area has "shut in" about 1.5 million barrels of daily oil production, 16 percent of domestic natural gas production and 10 percent of domestic refining capacity, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research

*Katrina Timeline - Think Progress


"So many of the people here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them."
-Barbara Bush in an interview with National Public Radio's Marketplace after a tour of the Houston Astrodome last week

"It doesn't need to be seen, it's a make-shift morgue in there. We're not letting anyone in there anymore. If you want to take pictures of dead bodies, go to Iraq."
-A National Guardsmen to a Reuters photographer trying to enter the Houston Astrodome

"I really don't know what to say about President Bush. He showed no lack of haste when he wanted to go to Iraq, but for his own people right here in Louisiana, we get only lip service."
-Richard Dunbar, 60, a Vietnam veteran, in an interview with Reuters on September 2, 2005

"The Administration yesterday said that no one anticipated the breach of the levees. Did the Administration not see or care about the 2001 FEMA warning about the risk of a devastating hurricane hitting the people of New Orleans? Did it not know or care that civil and army engineers were warning for years about the consequences of failure to strengthen the flood control system? Was it aware or did it care that the very same Administration which decries the plight of the people today, cut from the budget tens of millions needed for Gulf-area flood control projects?"
-Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) during a special session to provide relief money for the victims of Hurricane Katrina

"I mean, you have people who don't heed those warnings and then put people at risk as a result of not heeding those warnings. There may be a need to look at tougher penalties on those who decide to ride it out and understand that there are consequences to not leaving."
Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) in a weekend interview with Pittsburgh's WTAE-TV

Santorum's responds to criticism a few days later:

"Obviously, most of the people here in this case, an overwhelming majority of people, just literally couldn't have gotten out on their own. Many didn't have cars. ... And that really was a failure on the part of local officials in not making transportation available to get people out."

"I have not heard a report of thousands of people in the convention center who don't have food and water."
-Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff in an interview with NPR's All Things Considered on September 1, 2005

"Out of the rubbles of Trent Lott's house---he's lost his entire house---there's going to be a fantastic house. And I'm looking forward to sitting on the porch."
-George W. Bush on September 2, 2005

"I understand there are 10,000 people dead. It's terrible. It's tragic. But in a democracy of 300 million people, over years and years and years, these things happen."
-GOP strategist Jack Burkman defending Bush on MSNBC's Connected Coast to Coast on September 6, 2005

"This is plain, ugly, real racism. While some politicians and organizations might skirt around the issue of race, we in New Orleans are not afraid to call it what it is.  The moral values of our government is to 'shoot to kill' hungry, thirsty black hurricane survivors for trying to live through the aftermath.  This is not just immoral-this has turned a natural disaster into a man-made disaster, fueled by racism."
-Curtis Muhammad, Organizing Director of Community Labor United, a New Orleans coalition of labor and community activists - September 6, 2005

"Every official at the Federal Emergency Management Agency should be fired, Director Michael Brown especially."
-The Times-Picayune, the leading New Orleans newspaper, in an open letter to Mr. Bush published on Sunday.

"If he (Michael Brown) doesn't solve a couple of problems that we've got right now he ain't going to be able to hold the job, because what I'm going to do to him ain't going to be pretty."
-Senator Trent Lott (R-MI)

"Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job."
-President Bush on September 2, 2005


FEMA Chief Sent Help Only After Storm Hit
- AP
The top U.S. disaster official waited hours after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast before he proposed to his boss sending at least 1,000 Homeland Security workers into the region to support rescuers, internal documents show. Part of the mission, according to the documents obtained by The Associated Press, was to "convey a positive image" about the government's response for victims. Meanwhile, the airline industry said the government's request for help evacuating storm victims didn't come until late Thursday afternoon. The president of the Air Transport Association, James May, said the Homeland Security Department called then to ask whether the group could participate in an airlift for refugees.

Top FEMA leaders short on experience - Chicago Tribune
Top officials of the Federal Emergency Management Agency have strong political connections to President Bush, but they also share at least one other trait: They had little or no experience in disaster management before landing in top FEMA posts.

FEMA Wants No Photos of Dead - LA Times
The U.S. agency leading Hurricane Katrina rescue efforts said Tuesday that it does not want the news media to photograph the dead as they are recovered. "We have requested that no photographs of the deceased be made by the media," the spokeswoman said in an e-mail.

Navy Pilots Who Rescued Victims Are Reprimanded - New York Times
Two Navy helicopter pilots and their crews returned from New Orleans on Aug. 30 expecting to be greeted as lifesavers after ferrying more than 100 hurricane victims to safety. Instead, their superiors chided the pilots, Lt. David Shand and Lt. Matt Udkow, at a meeting the next morning for rescuing civilians when their assignment that day had been to deliver food and water to military installations along the Gulf Coast.

Bush launches inquiry and puts himself in charge of it - The Independent
President George Bush's political agenda - indeed his very standing as his country's leader - was on the line as Congress returned yesterday with anger and embarrassment at the botched response to Hurricane Katrina stretching across normal party divides on Capitol Hill.

Mortuary Director Tells Local Paper 40,000 Could Be Lost in Hurricane - Editor & Publisher
In a profoundly troubling article in the Shelbyville (Tenn.) Times-Gazette by Clint Confehr, a co-owner of a local mortuary revealed that he had been asked to join in recovering bodies lost in the Gulf Coast hurricane and had been told "to expect up to 40,000 bodies" in total. Dan Hicks is co-owner of Shelbyville-based Gowen-Smith Chapel and has been deployed to Gulfport, Miss., to help with recovery. His partner, Dan Buckner, told the paper, "DMort is telling us to expect up to 40,000 bodies," quoting officials with the Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team (DMORT), a volunteer arm of Homeland Security.

The Post-Katrina Era - AlterNet
Katrina's tragic consequences were not just due to incompetence, natural disaster, or Bush policies (though he is accountable). This is a failure of moral and political philosophy.

White House Press Briefing: Angry Reporters Hit McClellan Hard on Hurricane, Ask if Heads Will Roll - Editor & Publisher
White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan had not had a full-length press briefing in Washington, D.C. for weeks, and after today, may have wished he had postponed this one. With almost unprecedented vigor, the press corps attacked and probe the federal response to the hurricane disaster, the president's personal responsibility and failure to fire anyone who failed in his or her mission.

International Aid: Cash, Food, Baby Formula - CNN
Offers of aid and assistance from countries around the world in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina continued to pour in Tuesday to the U.S. State Department. So far, 94 countries and international organizations have offered aid, according to a State Department spokesman. Here is its partial list of nations from which the United States has received support.

Frustrated: Fire crews to hand out fliers for FEMA - The Salt Lake Tribune
Not long after some 1,000 firefighters sat down for eight hours of training, the whispering began: "What are we doing here?"
As New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin pleaded on national television for firefighters - his own are exhausted after working around the clock for a week - a battalion of highly trained men and women sat idle Sunday in a muggy Sheraton Hotel conference room in Atlanta. Firefighters say they want to brave the heat, the debris-littered roads, the poisonous cottonmouth snakes and fire ants and travel into pockets of Louisiana where many people have yet to receive emergency aid. But as specific orders began arriving to the firefighters in Atlanta, a team of 50 Monday morning quickly was ushered onto a flight headed for Louisiana. The crew's first assignment: to stand beside President Bush as he tours devastated areas.

3 Duke students tell of 'disgraceful' scene - Herald Sun
A trio of Duke University sophomores say they drove to New Orleans late last week, posed as journalists to slip inside the hurricane-soaked city twice, and evacuated seven people who weren't receiving help from authorities. The group, led by South Carolina native Sonny Byrd, say they also managed to drive all the way to the New Orleans Convention Center, where they encountered scenes early Saturday evening that they say were disgraceful. "We found it absolutely incredible that the authorities had no way to get there for four or five days, that they didn't go in and help these people, and we made it in a two-wheel-drive Hyundai," said Hans Buder, who made the trip with his roommate Byrd and another student, David Hankla.

Katina and the Coming World Oil Crunch - The Nation
More than any other domestic disaster, Hurricane Katrina has significant implications for America's foreign and military policies. There is, of course, the obvious connection to the war in Iraq: National Guard troops that were desperately needed to conduct rescue operations in New Orleans and southern Mississippi were instead fighting a pointless war in the Middle East, and a President whose attention should have been focused on hurricane relief was instead trying to put a positive spin on the Iraqi Constitution debacle. The international coverage of the human tragedy of New Orleans has also torpedoed the Administration's just-announced campaign to enhance America's image abroad. But far more important than any of these is the impact of Katrina on the global oil supply and the resulting increase in US dependence on foreign petroleum.


At 9/08/2005 6:20 PM, Blogger BaltimoreLenore said...

It has been heartbreaking and infuriating to watch the stories coming out of New Orleans this week.

Thank you for the interviews, they are wonderfull to read.


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