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"The lessons of Katrina are important," Bush said. "We've learned a lot here at the federal level. We're much more ready this time than we were the last time."

"Let's, first of all, pray there's no hurricanes," Bush said. "That would be, like, step one."

I'm sure there's an element of selective quoting there. But reading the rest of the Wired article leaves me with the distinct impression that aside from Bush's much-vaunted relationship with the Almighty, there's not much reason why last year's disasters couldn't happen again this year.

(Although from what I hear, New Orleans is still in a bad enough way that there just isn't as much left to break this time around.)

Exercise: 11km last night (in about the first three-quarters of House, so better time than last week). Total: 222km/133mi: on Great East Road, just short of Bree.
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"I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees" - George W. Bush, four days after the flooding of New Orleans.

The footage does the president no favours, the BBC's Justin Webb reports from Washington. It shows plainly worried officials telling Mr Bush very clearly before the storm hit that it could breach New Orleans flood barriers. - BBC story, via [livejournal.com profile] ambitious_wench.

Am in a bad mood due to other developments today, so I'll refrain from commenting here; anyway, the story speaks for itself.
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Lawrence Journal-World article:

What was envisioned as a mission of mercy to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina ended in anger and disillusionment for two Lawrence residents.

Instead of handing out food and water to victims in New Orleans, they found themselves under the supervision of no-nonsense, “kind of scary” foremen who had them cleaning up a hurricane-ravaged casino in Biloxi, Miss...

When Dalton and Tucker of Lawrence and others from the Kansas City area said they wanted to leave Biloxi, they were told there was no transportation for them and if they tried to walk away they risked being shot by National Guardsmen enforcing martial law.

From the article, it's not clear that BMS intentionally misled anybody as to the commercial nature of the work; I could see disorganisation plus ambiguous wording leading to crossed wires. But at just $7.50 an hour, it's easy to see how it could've been mistaken for charitable volunteer work... and leaving Dalton and Tucker out of it, we're left with a company that grossly misleads recruits as to their working conditions (sorry, but "forty-plus hours a week" does not adequately convey "16-hour days plus four hours on the bus") and gives them no way to leave once they discover the real picture. Gah.
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The Daily Telegraph is running a story that claims "senior doctors took the harrowing decision to give massive overdoses of morphine to those they believed could not make it out alive".

However, I can't find this story anywhere else, and the 'Terror' doesn't usually get scoops on non-Australian stories; foreign reporting isn't their strength. AFAICT, most New Ltd. papers here just reheat material cribbed from their US counterparts. When one of them *does* get a 'world exclusive', it's often something like this story, which the Herald Sun swallowed hook, line, and sinker on the basis of its appearance on a website somewhere; having been published in something approximating a newspaper, it then became Unquestioned Truth to all who wanted to believe.

So, if this one begins to circulate in the US, check whether it's been confirmed by sources more reputable than the Tele. (BTW, their only named source does seem to be a real person, but whether he said the things attributed to him and whether they're true is another question. It also seems kinda odd to me that if the British media were *already* looking for him, they wouldn't have picked up on his story once he showed up.)
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Michael Brown's resume states that "his background in state and local government also includes serving as an assistant city manager with emergency services oversight and as a city councilman." A White House press release on the occasion of Brown's appointment as FEMA deputy in 2001 declares that "from 1975 to 1978, Brown worked for the City of Edmond, Oklahoma, overseeing the emergency services divisions." Three years of experience in emergency work, more than twenty years before his appointment, might not sound like enough to qualify for deputy director of the national agency, but at least it's something.

Or at least, it would be if it were true. )

While I'm here, a handy timeline of who did what and when.
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Everybody in Washington seems to have decided (about a week late) that the only priority now is to help Katrina's victims. Shouldn't we set politics aside and let questions of responsibility can wait until afterwards (i.e. when interest has died down)?

Well, no. Helping the victims is the most important thing right now, sure. But that process is going to take months, probably years, and we need to make sure that the same factors and people that screwed up the initial response so royally aren't going to screw up the rest of the process too.

Via [livejournal.com profile] remus_shepherd, this Washington Post article discusses one of the reasons why the Federal response was held up: They didn't just want to *assist*. )

Edit: The Washington Post article reports a 'senior Bush official' as claiming that "as of Saturday [Sept 3rd], Blanco still had not declared a state of emergency". In fact, as noted in a correction on that article, the declaration was issued on Friday August 26th (see press release here).
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Story: counterfeit goods seized by US Customs, that would otherwise have been destroyed, are being shipped to Texas for refugees from Hurricane Katrina.

Obviously there are some safety issues here; counterfeit toys and dogfood may have more things wrong with them than just a brand name they're not entitled to. But overall, it's a good idea and it's nice to see somebody at Homeland Security is using their head.
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And via
[livejournal.com profile] silmaril, Viggo Mortensen's comments. Viggo may not be a real world leader either, but at least he plays one on screen.
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Woo, I got metaquoted :-)

Since the blame-the-victim mentality has already reared its ugly head, I'll repost something I said in a comment:

If you don't think it's viable to go on protecting New Orleans, fine, *make* that decision. Declare that federal funding for protection etc will cease. Make arrangements well in advance so the nation's economy isn't severely damaged by sudden loss of one of its biggest ports. Organise a relocation program for those who can't go elsewhere on their own resources, so you don't get the massive social disruption and death toll that inevitably occurs when thousands of refugees show up in the nearest town above water.

But don't treat it as a gamble where you can cut the programs below safe levels, do a half-arsed job, and hope that the next big one won't hit for a few year, when some other President will have to carry the can.

Additionally, for those with comprehension difficulties: unless you know something I and the Guinness Book of Records don't, the Chicago Fire of 1871 and the destruction of Washington in 1812 do not count as "in living memory". I'm surprised nobody thought to bring up the San Francisco Earthquake & subsequent fires of 1906, though... all you'd have to do from there is show some culpability on Teddy Roosevelt's part :-)

While I'm here, ganked from [livejournal.com profile] mordwen, an interesting piece here on privatisation of New Orleans' hurricane response planning. (I tend to be sceptical about a site with a name like 'Leninology', but the key bits look to be confirmable elsewhere.)
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FEMA are offering a list of organisations accepting money for disaster relief. Second on that list, just under the Red Cross, is an outfit called 'Operation Blessing'.

Who are Operation Blessing? Well, there's an AP article about them here. Excerpt:

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (AP) -Airplanes sent to Zaire by evangelist Pat Robertson's tax- exempt humanitarian organization were used almost exclusively for his diamond mining business, say two pilots who flew them.

Three airplanes were flown to Zaire in September 1994 by Operation Blessing. However, chief pilot Robert Hinkle said only one or two of the roughly 40 flights during his six months in the country could be considered humanitarian. All the rest of the flights were mining-related, he told The (Norfolk) Virginia-Pilot.

Robertson's spokesman first denied the accounts by Hinkle and a co-pilot, Tahir Brohi of England. Later, Gene Kapp, vice president for public relations at Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network, said the planes turned out to be unsuitable for medical relief and that Robertson reimbursed Operation Blessing for their use.

"Without Mr. Robertson's generous overture, Operation Blessing would have incurred further expenses with its aircraft," he said.

Robertson refused to be interviewed directly, the newspaper said in Sunday's editions. Calls to his office on Sunday were not answered.

Hinkle, from Chandler, Ariz., said he had assumed the flights would be for humanitarian work.

"We hauled medical supplies one time," Hinkle said in a telephone interview. "It might have been about 500 pounds at the most. It was a very minimal amount." The planes were capable of carrying about 7,000 pounds, he said.

Notes that Hinkle kept during most of the flights contain entries for 36 flights, the newspaper said. Of the 17 that mention the purpose of the trip, 15 are related to diamond mining.

More on OBI here; it notes that of those "one or two" humanitarian flights, one was a medicine delivery and the other was retrieval of stranded missionaries.
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I've mentioned some of this stuff before, but now seems like as good a time as any to repeat myself. Before I do, I'll just pimp Shortie's Katrina resource site, which may be useful to those looking for information or ways to help.

Back in 1994, when I was 19, I went a-travelling on my own for the first time. I had a month to visit the USA - I hadn't been there since my family took me at age 8 or so - and aside from meeting a few online friends I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. The friendly guy at STA Travel told me "You have to see New Orleans". I was curious, I didn't know all that much about it other than that people kept mentioning it, so I let him book me in for three nights at the St. Charles Guest House, in the Garden District and close to the streetcar.

Visits #1, 2, and 3. )
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Fucking hell.

Rescue services yesterday began the huge task of evacuating the arena and the rest of the city, although the plan to remove thousands of survivors had to be suspended when shots were reportedly fired at helicopters.

Most of the people waiting to be saved told remarkable stories of fear and desperation but none more than those who had been in the Superdome.

"We pee on the floor. We are like animals," said Taffany Smith, as she cradled her three-week-old son, Terry. In her right hand she carried a half-full bottle of formula provided by rescuers. Baby supplies were running low; one mother said she was given two nappies and told to scrape them off when they got dirty and use them again.

At least two people, including a child, were reportedly raped in the night and at least three people died, including one man who jumped 15 metres to his death, saying he had nothing left to live for.

The hurricane left most of southern Louisiana without power, and the arena was not spared. An emergency generator kept some lights on but quickly failed. The sanitation gave out early as well, and the dome soon filled with the overpowering stench of human waste, made worse by the swampy heat.

"There is faeces on the walls," Bryan Hebert said. "There is faeces all over the place."

And here:

The evacuation of patients from Charity Hospital was halted after the facility came under sniper fire, while groups of armed men wandered the streets, buildings smoldered and people picked through stores for what they could find.

...A police officer working in downtown New Orleans said police were siphoning gas from abandoned vehicles in an effort to keep their squad cars running.

The officer said police are "on their own" for food and water, scrounging up what they can from anybody who is generous enough to give them some -- and that they have no communication whatsoever.

...President Bush, in an interview on ABC's "Good Morning America," said that their [sic] should be "zero tolerance of people breaking the law during an emergency such as this."

You *fuckwit*. By all means, if they're threatening others or ripping off TVs, jewellery and the like, the National Guard and the cops can shoot on sight as far as I'm concerned. But a lot of the people who've been looting have been doing it for food, water, medical supplies, diapers, because you gouged the levee programs so badly the city flooded, and you gouged National Guard and FEMA so badly that they can't even keep order in the designated emergency shelter or keep people fed. And this is with several days' *notice* of impending disaster. Earthquakes and terrorists don't give that kind of warning. No bloody wonder many of those who couldn't get out of the city preferred to take their chances in their own homes.

Congratulations, George W. You're the first president in living memory to lose a major US city.
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George W. Bush's latest reason for staying in Iraq: We need to control their oil.

I'm having more and more difficulty reading the news this week without lapsing into uncontrollable swearing or incoherent rage. (Not helping that one of my favourite workmates is seriously ill in hospital, although I've had word that he's now on the mend.)

Edit: And just imagine what a shot in the arm that admission will be for Al-Zarqawi and his ilk, too...
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Well, that's not good :-( I have fond memories of New Orleans, and I'd like it to still be there next week, please.


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