Saturday, September 10, 2005

Please Help!!!!!

I have been trying since last Tuesday(right after the storm ) to get someone to help me. The Coast Guard, Local Police in New Orleans, missing person reports etc, missing animal reports etc.

My cousin is in a Veterans Hospital , Shreveport, LA, Overtonbrook Veterans Hospital,since two days before Katrina, her name is Lorraine Sherman, age 83. 1-800-863-7441 Hospital # or cell number 504-301-6367 to talk with her.

Her son Scott Sherman age 54, 5ft 10in, brown hair and eyes, no one has heard from him since before the storm on Saturday, he was at her house with his dogs and her dogs and cats, they both have rescued these dogs from streets and such in the past' She is laying in this hospital with no help to find her son and missing beloved pets..

Her address is 4849 Piety Dr, New Orleans, LA, ,,,3rd house on the left from the corner of Mirabeau Ave, in the Gentilly Woods District.
It is a one story house with an flat top art studio on the side, has a brick fence and some wrought Iron gates. She is afraid the animals could not get free from the iron gate.

There are three or four cats, this is all second hand information ,All dogs should have collars on.

Dog one resembles a Cockapoo, color BLACK, Female, name is DAYS-ZA-VOO, small size

Dog two, resembles a Rotwiller ( not sure of spelling ) male, name is HIWAY as he was found on the highway.

Dog three chow and lab mix gold color, female, name is I-TEN ( found there)

Dog 4 and 5 are ZIGGY and ZOO Tan and brown Mutts, not sure of sex.

Dog 6, has bow leg, female , black, name is HOMELESS

Dog 7, Black Lab, male, docked tail, 115 lbs, name is ZORO,

Dog 8 is a female Pekinese, named BABETTE

there is more dogs, not sure, feel free to call Lorraine

Please Please help as no one else has, she said she would pay anyone and pay for their keep.

Juliane Burbach
411 South 54th St
Tacoma, WA 98408

After The Storm (

Sometime this weekend, you may be able to hear one of the best expressions of New Orleans' role in music and culture available in any mass media. It's American Routes, a weekly show carried on many US public radio affiliates. Programmed and hosted by folklorist and UNO professor of folklore and culture Nick Spitzer, the show normally broadcasts from a studio in the heart of the French Quarter, but has found a temporary home on a Creole/Cajun French/English public radio station in Lafayette. Spitzer told the NYT that he began planning the music for this week's show as he was fleeing the flooding city in his car, playing Fats Domino's "Walking to New Orleans." This week's show highlights New Orleans' recovery from disasters past, emphasizing the city's role as the greatest single wellspring of American music. The Crescent City, after all, has either birthed or nurtured everything from jazz, R & B, cajun and the related black-influenced zydeco, soul, blues, gospel, and rock and roll.) With an encyclopedic knowledge of American vernacular music, an utterly democratic spirit, and an unmistakeable respect and love for American musical forms and the people who create them, Spitzer has stepped forward several times this week to serve as a compassionate and optimistic spokesman for the irrepressible creative spirit of a suffering city and a culture in diaspora.

[via Metafilter]

Grace E. Lee

Journalists & Trauma: Help from Poynter Online

Journalists involved in the coverage of Hurricane Katrina's devastation of the Gulf Coast region confront firsthand the traumatic scenes and images that they report to the rest of the world. Poynter Online has compiled a resource to help those journalists deal with the effects of what they've encountered on the job.

Al's Morning Meeting: Covering Trauma Victims

Help for Journalists Under Stress (article, with resources)

Journalists Suffering Trauma: Advice from a Professional (article)

Covering Trauma & Tragedy: What It Takes (article)

Trauma Takes Toll on Journalists Covering Disasters (article)

Tips for Covering Tragedy

Journalists and Trauma: Secondary Victims (article)

Preparing for the Worst: Are You Ready? (article)

Covering Crisis (resource page)

Journalism and Tragedy (article)

Connecting With Your Staff (memos from other newsrooms dealing with trauma)

Journalists & Tragedy: A Passion for Excellence and a Compassion for People  (article)
Centers for Disease Control & Prevention: Disaster Mental Health
Grace E. Lee

A small ray of hope: Death toll not so dire (

Saturday, September 10, 2005

A small ray of hope: Death toll not so dire
Scorned FEMA chief is sent back to Washington

By Bruce Nolan
Staff writer

Eleven days after Hurricane Katrina plunged New Orleans into agonies of flood, panic and chaotic evacuation, authorities finally began searching house-to-house in once-flooded neighborhoods Friday for those who did not escape.

Early results retrieved far fewer bodies than officials expected.

That led one key official to hope the death toll might be much less than 10,000, Mayor Ray Nagin's early estimate that quickly became an unchallenged benchmark.

That figure was based on the speed with which Hurricane Katrina flooded the Lower 9th Ward and other poor, densely populated neighborhoods as the storm roared past on Aug. 29 with winds of at least 105 mph.

The estimate became more credible as thousands of traumatized refugees slogged into the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center during the next two days, bearing nightmarish tales of pushing bloated bodies out of the way or passing them sprawled on rooftops.
But in the first day of organized searching, there seemed some reason for hope.

"I think there's some encouragement in what we found in the initial sweeps that some of the catastrophic death that some people predicted may not, in fact, have occurred," said Terry Ebbert, chief of homeland security for the city. (more...)

Grace E. Lee

The River Center

Dear friends and family,

Today, one of our hosts, Maryann, went down to the River Center. It’s
the largest refugee shelter in Baton Rouge. It started taking evacuees
early on and the numbers seem to keep on increasing. There are around
5000 people there now, making it very crowded.

Maryann had gone there a couple of days ago to offer to bring some
people back here to use our showers and have the chance to relax for a
little while and get cleaned up. She connected with a woman and her four
grandchildren and although they couldn’t do it that day, Maryann
arranged to pick them up today. So off she went in the morning. She was
going to take them to a McDonald’s for some lunch, then bring them here,
but after a few hours she still hadn’t returned. We finally got a call
from her (on the perpetually degrading phone system) saying she was
standing in a line outside the River Center still waiting to get inside.

Evidently the security has been ratcheted up quite considerably in the
past few days. When Maryann was there on Wednesday there were fewer
people being housed there and she had just been able to walk in the door
and talk with people. Today, there was a highly visible military
presence. She said where she was standing there were a couple of guards,
one with his rifle slung over his shoulder, the other with it ready in
his hands.

The overcrowding, the tension, the lack of privacy, the lack of security
for the few belongings people still possess, the unsettling rumour mill,
the fears of unrest after FEMA’s debit card fiasco (did you hear about
that one? the emergency agency gave away $2000 debit cards on a “trial
basis” to refugees at the Astrodome while those in other shelters
waited; then the program was scrapped after the first ones were given
out). All these things have led to increased security.

When people leave the River Center to get a breath of fresh air or,
conversely, to have a smoke, they have to sign out with those in charge.
Then, to get back in again, they have to queue up, in the same line
Maryann found herself in. That means just to go out and have a stretch
may take several hours. And the queueing up is all done in the 94F
degree heat, with the smokers smoking as much as they can in the line
before they get back inside to the no-smoking zone. Meanwhile, you have
to make sure you leave someone looking after your stuff inside or it may
disappear. So, you leave someone waiting rooted to your little bit of
space inside while you take hours to get back in.

Maryann talked to quite a few people there. One older woman was sitting
in the shade. She told Maryann she really wanted to get back inside, but
she had bad knees and so she was trying to rest up before she got on
that long line, hoping it might grow a bit shorter in the meantime.
Maryann said she’d get in line on the woman’s behalf and then get her in
when she reached the head of the queue. And that’s what she did.

In the queue, one of the women behind her, when she realised Maryann
lived in town, started begging her for any accommodation at all that she
knew of. She was saying “I just need a small place to be by myself. I’ll
clean house. I’m a good worker, I’m honest, I have references. I just
need a little space.” Maryann pointed out a woman standing away from the
queue, who had told her earlier she had a boarding house and was taking
names of people for the rooms, and that she might be able to help. But
the woman was too scared to give up her place in the queue to go over to
the boarding house woman. She’d already waited for hours, and the woman
was already taking other people’s names, so even if she left the queue
she might not get a room. It was heartbreaking.

When Maryann finally got inside, although she’d had the woman she was to
meet paged, she couldn’t find her anyway. After hours, she gave up and
came home.

And that’s what it’s like in the River Center. Many of the people there
spent days in intolerable conditions in New Orleans after Katrina hit,
so you could say it’s an improvement.

I spent the day researching an article for the Herald on using the
Internet for disaster relief. I find it really hard to concentrate on my
usual writing about computers, so one of my editors has come up with
this story, which is central to my thinking.

Lillie had a really tough day. Now that we are sure we’re moving to
Houston, and moving soon, she’s faced with separation from the rest of
her family. She had hoped to see her dad before we leave Baton Rouge,
but he’s currently on the road to Atlanta with Lillie’s sister Laurie,
going there to pick up his wife, so the chances of seeing him any time
soon are slim. Jane’s in northern Louisiana, staying at a camp (local
word for a cabin in the woods or on a bayou) near Tallulah. Lillie will
make the trip up there tomorrow to see her. I can’t take the time to go
with her, as I have to try to earn some money and need to help out at
the newly reestablished Death Penalty Discourse Center here, before I
abandon them for Texas (I’ll still do the online management for the
Center from Texas, but I won’t be on hand to do computer training and
troubleshooting). Ann and Glenn are still camped with their son,
Stephen, here in Baton Rouge. It’s quite a sight, seeing Ann, Glenn and
Lisa all piled into a household with Stephen and his two flatmates and
assorted girlfriends. We’re hoping to have time with them on Monday
before we leave.

It’s going to be such an enormous wrench for Lillie. Right at the time
she needs to be near them most, she’s going to have to leave her family.
We’re already really missing our friends, so this is going to be
extraordinarily hard.

One thing people who haven’t spent time in the South might not realise
is how important family is. I think this may be even more the case in
New Orleans than for other places in the South. Families stick together.
Lillie’s family all live within a few miles of one another and she and
her three sisters have always talked on the phone almost every day. They
all adore their dad. And the connection is not just immediate family:
they have really strong ties to a very extended network of aunts, uncles
and cousins.

This is the usual way of things in New Orleans. We were talking to a
couple at the refugee gathering last week, and they have family dinner
every single Sunday with 60 people in their home. There families have
lived in Louisiana since the 1700s (they’re African American), and being
separated is beyond comprehension.

That’s one of the great tragedies of this disaster which may not be
visible to those from outside this culture. It has wrenched these
closely-knit families apart, flinging them off in all directions.

With hundreds of thousands of people being forced to do what they don’t
want to do – leave their families and friends, accept unpalatable work,
live in places not of their choosing – I think the depression factor
down the road is going to be enormous. Lillie was certainly feeling it



CNN wins ruling on news coverage (

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 09/10/05

CNN obtained a temporary restraining order late Friday to prevent government agencies from restricting news coverage as victims are recovered in New Orleans and other areas hit by Hurricane Katrina.

A suit that led to the order, filed in Houston, was not immediately available. But CNN said U.S. District Judge Keith Ellison granted the network's request Friday evening.

A hearing has been scheduled for today to determine if the order should be made permanent, CNN said. (more...)

Grace E. Lee

Friday, September 09, 2005

The 2006 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival will go on

“There will be a Jazzfest. We are committed to putting on the 2006 Jazz and Heritage Festival, whatever that may take,” said Quint Davis, producer/director of the springtime musical extravaganza and president of Festival Productions Inc.-New Orleans, which produces the festival with AEG Live, the nation’s second highest-grossing concert promoter.

Details are sketchy at this point.

“We don’t know when, we don’t know where, we don’t know what format,” Davis said. “There will be a Jazzfest in 2006. It will be in Louisiana. It will be as close to New Orleans as we can get it.”

The producers would like to hold the event at its customary site at the Fair Grounds Race Course, but if that’s not possible they are committed to holding it in Louisiana. “We’ll be starting from the Fair Grounds and working our way out” in determining a location, Davis said. More from the Times-Picayune...

Projecting Katrina's Damage on the Midwest and Northeast

The flood maps on did a good job at showing what the New Orleans flooding would look like in other cities. But what if Katrina's damage zone had happened in the midwest or northeast? I decided to find out.

There are various estimates as to how many square miles have been devastated by Katrina; I've seen 90,000 square miles quoted in various wire reports, so I decided to start with that. Of course, 90,000 square miles equals 300 miles square. So I downloaded a couple of online maps along with their map legend, which happened to be based on a range of 150 miles. That made it easy for me to go into Photoshop and draw a square, 300 miles on each side. It's a rough approximation, but it'll give you an idea of what it would look like if Katrina-sized devastation took place in the midwest and northeast.

First, the midwest:

midwest flood projection

Essentially, a Katrina-sized swath of damage would stretch from Chicago to Detroit. It would cover Toledo, Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati, as well as Lexington and Louisville. Nearly all of Indiana would be in the disaster zone.

Now, let's compare it to the northeast corridor. It's not a pretty picture.

northeast flood projection

Here, we find cities like Boston, New York, Newark and Philadelphia in the disaster zone. Damage would stretch all the way to the Canadian border, cover half of Vermont and New Hampshire, and affect all of Massachusetts (except some lucky folks in Cape Cod), Connecticut and Rhode Island.

If you've never been there, the Gulf Coast may be hard to picture in terms of sheer size. But plotting the swath of destruction on other parts of the US makes it clear how horrific the situation is. -andy

If the Hurricane Had Flooded Your City...

CondoBuzz has a chilling collection of maps that spell out how much of New Orleans was flooded by Hurricane Katrina. Each map overlays the New Orleans Flood radius on top of various major city maps. They demonstrate how widespread the New Orleans flooding was, but what I'd really love to see is the square mile equivalent of all flooded areas in the Gulf Coast mapped on bigger maps - say, California or New York.

Anyway, until that can be taken care of, here are some sample maps based on three cities I've called home: Chicago, Washington DC and Boston. Many other cities can be found on the CondoBuzz site. Click on each image for the full-size version.


Chicago flood map

Washington DC:

DC flood map


boston flood map

FEMA Head Sent Back to Washington

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Coast Guard Vice Adm. Thad Allen will replace Michael Brown, the embattled FEMA director, as the on-site head of hurricane relief operations in the Gulf Coast, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff announced at a news conference in Baton Rouge Friday afternoon. More...
Visit the Hurricane Katrina Live Coverage Aggregator

Hard Knock Radio and Third WorldMajority’s Media,Justice fact finding and relief delegation

*Please forward widely*

Support Hard Knock Radio and Third World Majority’s Media
Justice fact finding and relief delegation of Journalists of
Color to the Gulf States impacted by Hurricane Katrina. The
cities covered include Houston, TX, New Orleans, LA, Biloxi, MS,
Jackson, MS, and Selma, AL from September 11-21, 2005. This
delegation will be traveling to cover the personal stories of
Black, Latino, and Asian families neglected by mainstream media
and criminalized by local and national government. The
delegation will provide much needed office infrastructure to the
community institutions on the frontlines courageously struggling
to help their people survive. Organizers from these areas have
requested their stories of survival and resistance in this
intense conditions be told because it could make the difference
between organizations receiving aid, rescue, and rebuilding
funds. The collection of these stories document the lack of
response from local, state, and federal government agencies who
have been unaccountable to poor communities of color. These
collected stories will ensure future accountability of the
local, states, and federal government.

To maximize the impact of these stories, Jeff Chang, a national
award-winning author, will submit write ups of the collected
stories to print and internet outlets. In addition, radio
interview stories will be broadcasted on the Pacifica network
and available via podcast, while video documentary will be
available via progressive television and news outlets.

Stories we are confirmed to cover:

* Ongoing harrowing stories of survival by people of the Gulf
States. This includes stories of separation, cooperation,
kindness, and despair as people were abandoned by their local,
state, and federal government who were responsible to protect

* Abuse of citizens trying to flee or survive by the militarized
force of local police, national guard, and army. Many
are reporting the racist impacts of this martial law and have
heartbreaking stories, many of them involve people whose attempt
to leave resulted in them being forced to stay at gunpoint to
“prevent looting”. These situations will only worsen as the
government infrastructure and military jurisdiction in the area
increases over time.

*The courage of community organizations supporting their
communities despite their exclusion from relief funds by the Red
Cross and FEMA. From churches, labor unions, youth, and other
social justice groups, members of these organizations have
bravely supported their memberships. At the same time staff and
members, have also personally lost their homes, livelihoods, and
family members.

*The independent monitoring of the body count in New Orleans by
parallel media journalists to guarantee accuracy and
accountability of the government.

*The abandonment of youth and adult inmates in prison in the
Gulf States area. In addition the ongoing criminialization of
survivors “stealing food and water”, branding them as looters in
temporary jails.

Stories we are researching to cover (we are still identifying
individuals and community organizations as sources)

*The independent monitoring of the toxic clean-up by
environmental justice organizers.

*The connection to this “natural disaster” with global warming
and environmental racism

*The rebuilding of New Orleans by corporate profiteers from
oil, gambling, and real estate industries, and the community
struggle of the People’s Committee for New Orleans to fight for
oversight and community accountability in this struggle.

*The experience of Native Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans
and other communities living in the Gulf States. Their stories
of resistance have been marginalized in the coverage of Katrina
as the racial divide in the region and the country has been
framed again and again solely as black and white, effectively
making these communities’ plight invisible. Of note is what has
happened to the undocumented workers in this area.

Some of the Organizations we hope to connect and help (not a
full list and we are still attempting to contact folks):

The People's Hurricane Fund & Community Oversight Committee
Incite Gulf States Chapter
FFLIC (Families and Friends of Louisiana's Incarcerated
Louisiana Welfare Rights Organization
Louisiana Bucket Brigade
Southern Echo
21st Century Youth Leadership Movement
Malcom X Grassroots Movement Gulf States Chapters
NAACP/MER-C in Missisippi
Southern Relief Fund c/o Mississippi Workers' Center for Human

Ways that you can help.

* Please send us information about progressive organizations in
the region that are your allies that require new and/or
additional equipment. Much of this info is coming out via our
political networks but in isolated pockets. If you can send us
that info ASAP we can make sure they get office equipment now or
in the future. You can send that info to or

*Please send stories that are breaking within your community,
family, and organizing networks. Many of the stories are only
coming out because of these relationships. Please send this info
to both and

* Please donate office equipment and supplies to Third World
Majority’s office at 369 15th St, Oakland, Ca 94612 before
September 10. 2005. Office equipment received will go to
progressive organizations who had their infrastructure destroyed
and require these equipment to continue to support their
membership in this time of crisis. Office equipment that is
needed includes laptops, fax machines, printers, scanners,
office supplies, etc. This delegation will leave September
11-21st, 2005. Any equipment received after this time will still
be shipped to the organizations shortly after donation. If you
are willing to donate equipment and are not based in the Bay
Area please contact the TWM office and we will connect you to
the appropriate regional drop off point or organization for your

* Please donate funds to cover future shipping costs of
equipment. Shipping to this area is extremely expensive given
the breakdown of infrastructure in this region.

* Please continue to donate to grassroots sources of funding in
the region. A quick link to these funds is below. * Please send
stories that are breaking within you community, family, and
organzing networks. Many of the stories are only coming out
because of these relationships. Please send this info to both and

* Please donate funds to support this delegation. We are
bringing radio and video producers from Hard Knock and Third
World Majority as well as journalists/organizers of color from
the Southeast. We want to support these journalists who are in
these areas to get their stories out. The more funding we
receive for this delegation the more we can support their

For any other questions please contact Hard Knock Radio and
Third World Majority below:

Hard Knock Radio
1929 M L King Jr Way
Berkeley, CA 94704 USA

Third World Majority
369 15th St
Oakland, CA 94612

Dalida Maria Benfield
Media Artist, Activist & Educator

Video Machete

Ethnic Studies Department
University of California-Berkeley

Riding out the storm (

Rami Chami, a graduate student entering Tulane University, was among those who sought refuge in the Superdome. Chami was formerly an editor at the Indiana Daily Student, and has written a three-part series for the paper about the experience.

"The field before us, which would have been ideal to lay down on was empty, but off bounds. The field was manned by National Guardsmen who would not allow people on it. I was told by those around me that it was a multi-million dollar field which the stadium management did not want ruined."
"Our first choices for a bed that evening were: a wet floor, damp chair or in the reeking but dry hallway."
"The atmosphere in the dome had gotten incredibly tense and the soldiers were walking around with shotguns, which I assumed was an ideal weapon for close quarter combat."

[via Metafilter]

Grace E. Lee

Support Systems for People Hosting Families

As someone offering to house an evacuee family, I find myself
considering the long-term impact of doing so. I don’t think that people
will be able to return to New Orleans for a long time because it is now
a Superfund site. I am concerned that people are being asked to help for
up to six months when the evacuees won’t have anywhere to go in six
months. Why aren’t we asking for longer-term solutions? I am assuming
that this could be longer term, so that I won’t harbor resentment when
it is. Or feel guilty that I want people to leave who can’t leave.

We need to build support systems for longer-term arrangements. I will
have to spend a few thousand dollars to get my house into a comfortable
state if we are to have an extra family in the space. I have a rich
life, but I am poor. I have a start-up small business, a young child, an
unemployed ex-husband. We want to offer what we have - lots of space,
right here in Boston. I’ve made arrangements for a child/children to
attend the same private school my daughter attends. But we don’t really
have money. We’ll figure it out. But is this kind of monetary need
stopping others from offering? Can we find grant money for them?

Then there are long-term considerations of helping people who have just
been through quite trauma. How will they cope? Will they want to go
back? Will they want to stay in their host communities? How do they
build community? And how do they heal? Who provides for all the care
that will be required to get people back on their feet? Where do we turn
when the host families are impacted by the trauma?

The questions go on. So many of us have an instinctual response to offer
what we can. Yet, we don’t really know what the long-term impact of that
offer will be. Can we start talking about this as a long-term issue and
not a short-term one? I believe that if we did, people would more
seriously consider what they can offer. If we talk about and begin to
create financial and community support systems, many people may be more
willing to help.

NEWS: Michael Brown of FEMA Relieved of Duty

From the Boston Globe homepage:

Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Michael Brown is being
removed from his role managing Hurricane Katrina relief efforts. (AP)

Thoughts on Schools, and the "Refugee" Debate

Dear family and friends,

Two Houston schools which closed last year because they didn't have
enough students have opened again, exclusively for young refugees from
Katrina. What a strange set up that will be.

Here in Baton Rouge, the schools are all taking on large numbers of New
Orleans students. I’m currently staying in a house just near St Thomas
Moore, one of the Catholic schools (known locally as ‘parochial’
schools). It’s enrolling 200 refugee students and the influx will change
the racial mix of the school markedly, as many of those from New Orleans
are African American. That’s where Lillie’s niece, Lisa, is going.

Schooling has been a huge stress for families who’ve fled New Orleans.
For most students, the school year had just begun when Katrina hit. In
the US, young people have to go to school a set number of days a year.
If, due to blizzard or a fire burning down the school or a hurricane
wiping out the local school system, they miss some school days, they
must make up those days during the holidays or on weekends or with
longer days. Hence the big focus on getting them back into school as
soon as possible.

One of the many ironies of Katrina is that, after agonising over which
school Lisa should go to for much of the past year (she’s moving into a
secondary school) and taking everything into careful consideration,
suddenly that school is out of operation, and Glenn and Ann and Lisa
have had to decide on a new school in a matter of days. So did tens of
thousands of other families.

Luckily, with some help from Sister Helen Prejean with whom I’m staying,
Ann and Glenn managed to get Lisa and one of her closest friends into St
Thomas Moore, squeaking in at the last minute. The school has been
great, providing uniforms and other equipment, as have many of the
schools around here.

Now comes the tougher job of helping thousands of recently traumatised
young people settle in. I know how difficult it has been for me to focus
on anything other than Katrina-related stuff for the last week and a
half; I don’t think it’s going to be any easier for all those students,
especially the ones who have really suffered, to get into the swing of

On, Tom Munnecke said he’d been talking to Heather Wood Ion
(co-author of Against Terrible Odds: Lessons in Resilience from our
Children) who said to “expect the recovery from the effects of this on
victims and their families to take two generations.”

Although staggering, I found that statement comforting. That’s because
here’s someone who clearly takes what has happened seriously. Really

I know many people are shocked and horrified by Katrina and its
aftermath, but I’m not sure how many people actually “get it”. How many
people understand that it’s not merely an event that has happened, but
an ongoing series of events which will unfold in people’s lives for a
long, long time to come.

One small sign of this is the unwillingness to use the term “refugee”.
We’re told we’re not “refugees”, we’re “evacuees”. Or, preferably, we’re
“Americans” (even though not all of us are Americans). It’s been
suggested that the use of the term refugee is racist.

I think what’s racist is to say “refugee” is a term you apply to those
poor people in Africa, fleeing the genocide in Darfur, but not to US

The UN definition may say a “refugee” is someone displaced from their
own country, while a “displaced person” is someone displaced within
their own country, but as far as I’m concerned, a refugee is someone who
has no home and who seeks refuge. All the New Orleanians I’ve talked to,
white and black, have used the term about themselves because it’s
accurate. Unfortunately, it’s also distasteful to those who don’t want
to think of the enormity of what has happened. “Evacuees” has such a
pleasant temporary feel in comparison.

When you come to think of it, given the UN definition, “refugee” might
be the perfect term for poor black residents of New Orleans. I remember
Helen Prejean saying that when she lived in the housing projects in New
Orleans it was like living in an entirely different country. That there
are two Americas: the mostly comfortable, mostly white one so many of us
live in; and the grinding poverty of that other America, where so many
black people live.

Watching poor black people left behind in overwhelmingly
disproportionate numbers after Katrina, it was starkly clear that there
are two New Orleans. And it’s not just two New Orleans. It’s two
Americas. And so the term refugee seems particularly apt for those who
have been swept out of ‘their part of town’ and herded off to seek
refuge in a different America.

Whatever I am, I’m incredibly busy. The phones here have become worse,
which is hard to believe. Yesterday, neither Lillie nor I received a
single call on our cell phones, despite almost a dozen people letting us
know by other means that they’d tried. And so trying to accomplish a
simple task, such as having the power put on at our new apartment in
Houston, becomes an hours-long nightmare. If we finally manage to get
through, often our calls are dropped after 15 minutes of talking to
people on the phone. Then it’s back to square one. This happened three
times to Lillie with one company. It’s not uncommon to hear cries of
frustration around the house as people lose hard-won connections.

Now that Lillie’s firm has made the commitment to setting up in Houston,
they want her there as soon as possible. That means we’ll have to pack
up house (an absurdly trivial chore these days) and get ourselves there
by mid-week. Lillie’s still hoping to see her dad before then, as she
hasn’t seen him since the hurricane, but that may not be possible. I'm
trying to help the new Death Penalty Discourse Center get established
and online once more before I leave. Once in Texas, I'll be focussing on
managing the Center's Web sites and handling Helen Prejean's blog and
audio blog.


Rose Vines

How to Make a Backpack Wifi Hotspot

backpack diagramA month or so ago, Popular Science had an article on how to make a mobile wifi hotspot in a backpack. At the time it was published as just an uber-cool way for geeks with a little extra cash to show off their tech props. Given all that's been going on with Katrina, though, I wanted to relay the basics of the instructions here so that people on the ground would be able to implement their own mobile hotspots as wireless broadband goes back online along the Gulf Coast. The whole thing can be set up for around $1,100, but I imagine it'd be worth it for orgs working on the ground trying to maintain communications from the field. For the full details, please see the original article.


• Junxion Box wireless gateway $700;
• Verizon Wireless EV-DO PCMCIA card $100;
• Voltaic Systems solar-charging backpack $230;
• 12-volt battery with spade terminals, 1.2 or higher amp-hour $15
• Male DC power plug, size M $5
• 18-gauge wire, black and red $5
• Female insulated quick-disconnect connectors, crimp-type, sized for battery spade terminals $3
• In-line fuse holder $7
• 20-amp fuse 50 cents


1) Plug in your EV-DO card and set up the Junxion Box to automatically assign TCP/IP addresses using DHCP, and disable the authentication splash page.

2) To build the power-adapter cable, cut a length of red wire and a length of black. Strip one end of each wire and crimp a spade terminal connector onto each.

Strip the other end of the red wire, and solder it to one end of the fuse holder. Wrap the connection in electrical tape. Take apart the male DC power plug. Solder the end of the black wire to the negative terminal of the plug and the red wire to the positive. Wrap the exposed positive connection in electrical tape, and reassemble the power plug. Install a 20-amp fuse.

3) Connect the Junxion Box cigarette-lighter adapter to the backpack “power out” plug.

4) Connect the battery cable to the “battery” plug on the backpack’s charge controller.

5) Take a hike - you're ready to go.

Anti-Rumor Hotline

South Mississippi now has a ‘Hotline’ to quell rampant rumor mill!

If you are hearing gossip, "they're going to bulldoze most of South Mississippi." And are upset – "have no worries" Mississippi officials have once again proved how much they care.

By creating a 24-hour hotline. That is manned with operator’s who will work round the clock, in three shifts, answering phones, while others man a rumor radio station from the county Emergency Operations Center in Gulfport.


Residents should and are encouraged to call the hotline or listen to the radio before spreading the exciting, and often farfetched, rumors.

Rumor hotline: 228-865-4070

Rumor radio: 1390 AM

God Bless America

Elizabeth Grilley

Colin Powell Discusses Governmental Failures

Some quotes from an interview between General Colin Powell and Barbara Walters, airing on ABC tonight:

"I think there have been a lot of failures at a lot of levels -- local, state and federal. There was more than enough warning over time about the dangers to New Orleans. Not enough was done," Powell said.

"I don't think advantage was taken of the time that was available to us, and I just don't know why," said Powell, who recently visited storm survivors at Reunion Arena in Dallas.

"I don't think it's racism, I think it's economic," he told Walters.

"When you look at those who weren't able to get out, it should have been a blinding flash of the obvious to everybody that when you order a mandatory evacuation, you can't expect everybody to evacuate on their own.

"These are people who don't have credit cards; only one in 10 families at that economic level in New Orleans have a car. So it wasn't a racial thing -- but poverty disproportionately affects African-Americans in this country. And it happened because they were poor," he said.

LexisNexis Opens Access to Katrina News

Research Buzz reports that Lexis-Nexis, the print archive giant, now allows free article retrieval of the Hurricane Katrina disaster. Also included are wire reports, TV transcripts. Check out

For news and articles publicly available via RSS visit the Hurricane Katrina Live Coverage Aggregator.


Pew Internet Life: Hurricane Katrina

Hurricane Katrina: In the face of disaster and chaos, people use the internet to coordinate relief
In the days after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast region and knocked out cell phone towers and landline telephone service, citizens, local community organizations, government agencies and news outlets turned to the internet as a communication lifeline during the crisis.

The Pew Internet Project director, Lee Rainie, shared his thoughts on the internet's role in facilitating disaster relief in a recent Baltimore Sun article: "I think people have a sense that the Internet is a tremendously powerful and useful tool for them to provide human aid and comfort. You can do it from anywhere on the planet where there's a modem. You don't have to be living in the vicinity in order to make a difference or show your concern." (more...)
Grace E. Lee


VolunteerMatch is a leader in the nonprofit world dedicated to helping everyone find a great place to volunteer. The organization offers a variety of online services to support a community of nonprofit, volunteer and business leader s committed to civic engagement. Their  service welcomes millions of visitors a year and has become the preferred internet recruiting tool for more than 30,000 nonprofit organizations.

You can post your volunteer needs, find a place to volunteer in many different interest areas, including hurricane relief, arts, animal rescue, etc.. There are also virtual volunteering opportunities, which let you volunteer without being physically present.

Rep: FEMA wanted Katrina Victims to Get Aid Online, Not In Person

US Rep. Bobby Jindal, in an interview this morning, complained that he
and others had to fight FEMA's original plan to make $2000 debit cards
available to Katrina survivors only via the Internet and over the phone.
He said they were acting as if the hurricane victims would all somehow
have Internet access or working mobile phones, as if this were just a
routine government transaction. Eventually, FEMA changed their plans and
began to deploy people who would disseminate the cards in person.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Houston law profs blog treatment of Katrina's black victims

Two South Texas College of Law professors are providing first-hand accounts of the treatment of black victims of Hurricane Katrina through their blog, White Washing the Black Storm: We Are Watching. The two, Tracy McGaugh and Kathleen Bergin focus on conditions in the Houston Astrodome, where they visit daily and post first-hand accounts and photos. Their posts are compelling and disturbing. Here is a sample:
"Meanwhile, over at the Dome, it smells like human waste. Food and urine are all over the floors, and children are still eating and sleeping on dirty, cold unsanitary concrete. Doors leading to long, darkened hallways remain unlocked and unsupervised. We found an entire labyrinth of secluded rooms where anything can happen, or perhaps more accurately, already has."
from Robert Ambrogi's Law Sites

Grace E. Lee

Bodies Mutilated at the Convention Center

CNN just aired several photos taken last week at the New Orleans
Convention Center. They featured bodies that had been brutally
mutilated. It was not clear if these mutilations occured pre- or

I'd like to volunteer my time and effort to help


I have been trying to spread the word about a website created to help victims of
hurricane katrina share specific and valuable information over the web by
submitting news, uploading pictures of their relatives and etc...
The site is
However, it's been very difficult because of the amount of scams and false
charity solicitations already present on the net. This website is completely free
and peer to peer. No one (me included) is trying or making any money, I simply
want to help. As a result of the evacuation, many families and relatives are
scattered throughout the country with little or no information. So, this will
allow them to communicate with each other easily, freely and efficiently. So
please let people know about it on your blog or whenever you get the chance.

Morgan Marquise
P.S.:if you have any questions, email me at

Hurricane Help for Schools

The U.S. Department of Education has set up a Web page "Hurricane Help for Schools" that will serve as a clearinghouse of resources for Americans who want to help the students displaced by the hurricane. This Web page is a forum where schools, companies and organizations across the country can come together and work to help students displaced by the hurricane. Companies and organizations can respond to the needs of students and send resources directly to them, and schools will be able to directly contact the companies and organizations offering help.

"Across the country, we are seeing families, communities and schools open their hearts and doors to children displaced by Hurricane Katrina," Education Secretary Margaret Spellings said. "We are committed to doing everything we can to help as local communities enroll these children in new schools."

Secretary Spellings added, "This Web page will bring together the best of the American spirit and create a network of compassion and charity."

For more information, please visit

Call for computer equipment from State Library of Louisiana

The State Library of Louisiana has sent out this call for computer equipment. If you are interested and able to send computers, here is the request from the Louisiana State Librarian, Rebecca Hamilton:

To all - we are in desperate need of computers/printers. We are being inundated with evacuees needing to file FEMA applications, unemployment, search for loved ones, etc. and are coming into our public libraries to use the computers. Our libraries have greatly extended their hours to accommodate the people but they need additional computers and printers. If you can please put the word out that if anyone wants to help immediately, this is our greatest need.

Equipment Specs:
Pentium 3
Windows 2000, prefer XP
Laser printers if you can still get toner for them

Send equipment to:
State Library of Louisiana
701 North 4th Street
Baton Rouge, La. 70802-5232

If you are able to assist them, please let Rebecca know via email at to help her know what to expect.

Grace E. Lee

Bodies Found at Flooded Hospital

CNN: Fourteen bodies found Thursday inside the flooded Memorial Hospital in New Orleans.

One Selfless Act of Support for Relief Efforts Inspires Others

Written by Kevin Titus , Special to

Thursday, September 08, 2005GULFPORT, Miss. – When Drake Cox’s two daughters saw the devastation from Hurricane Katrina on their television set in Springfield, Mo., they asked their father: "Who’s going to help them, daddy?"

Initially Cox told them he didn’t know. Then, his little girls, ages 5 and 9, asked: “Daddy, can’t you help them?” That is when he knew he had to do whatever he could.

His family had been saving money for years for a trip to Disney World. Like most families, it was going to be their dream vacation. But, like so many on the Gulf Coast affected by Hurricane Katrina, the Cox family's plan would be put on hold.

The young girls told their mother and father that they would rather donate that money to the American Red Cross to help those affected by Katrina than go on vacation – Mickey would just have to wait.

“They inspire me to do everything,” said Cox about his loving, concerned daughters.

Moved by his children's generosity, Cox knew that he too could make a sacrifice. So he sold his beloved 2002 Honda Shadow motorcycle – that he had pampered and treasured – on eBay and gave 100% of the money to the Red Cross in support of the relief efforts. Their act of selfless charity has spurred others to action; when friends, neighbors and even strangers heard about it, they made sacrifices of their own and donated to the relief effort.

Cox, with his employee Jeff Paul, then set off to deliver their donations in person to the Red Cross on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The last thing he did before he left for the coast was stop by his children’s school to say goodbye. His nine-year-old daughter gave him tearful hugs of pride, while his five-year-old girl gave him a high-five.

"Go get 'em dad!" she said.

Cox and Paul drove through the night and arrived at the Red Cross relief headquarters in Gulfport, Miss., with their donations, not seeking recognition but looking to provide relief to many who are suffering from losses caused by Katrina. Meanwhile, back in Missouri, his wife Pamela was coordinating available hotel rooms for evacuees who had come to the Springfield area seeking shelter far from the devastated coast.

The sacrifices of this little family in support Hurricane Katrina relief operations has attracted a lot of attention from the local media and even People Magazine – although Cox made it clear that this wasn’t about them. He indicated that his family didn’t want the attention; they only wanted to provide whatever help they could.

It is thanks to the generosity and compassion of families like this that the Red Cross is able to provide relief to the victims of disaster.

Kevin Titus has been deployed to the Red Cross relief efforts on the coast since before Katrina made landfall. Residing in Cincinnati, Ohio, he weathered the storm in a Red Cross shelter near Biloxi and is currently providing Public Affairs support in the area.

All American Red Cross disaster assistance is free, made possible by voluntary donations of time and money from the American people. You can help the victims of this disaster and thousands of other disasters across the country each year by making a financial gift to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund, which enables the Red Cross to provide shelter, food, counseling and other assistance to those in need. Call 1-800-HELP NOW or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Contributions to the Disaster Relief Fund may be sent to your local American Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P. O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013. Internet users can make a secure online contribution by visiting


Visit the Hurricane Katrina Live Coverage Aggregator


Report: Katrina Could Cost 400,000 Jobs

Hurricane Katrina could reduce employment by 400,000 jobs through the end of this year, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

In a letter to lawmakers, the CBO outlined the likely consequences of Hurricane Katrina for the national economy. The CBO said the economic effects of Hurricane Katrina will be greater than those of previous major hurricanes such as Andrew and Hugo.

"Employment for September will decline significantly--estimates of the impact range from 150,000 to half a million--as a direct consequence of the hurricane," the CBO said. "Employment will increase in subsequent months, as workers return home and businesses reopen and as reconstruction activity gathers steam." Via BLR


Visit the Hurricane Katrina Live Coverage Aggregator

Why New Orleans Cell Phones Aren't Working (Slate)

You might want to change your number.
By Daniel Engber
Posted Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2005, at 3:47 PM PT

Cellular service disruptions along the Gulf Coast have made communication even more difficult for the million people who lost their landlines to Hurricane Katrina. Mobiles are unusable in many of the flooded areas. And some New Orleans residents who got out of the city have reported problems using their cell phones, even in regions that Katrina left unscathed. Why have cell phones been so affected by the flood?

Because the water damaged both land-line and cellular equipment. If water has destroyed the electronics at the bases of the cell-phone towers nearest to where you are, you won't be able to use your phone at all. (Even the equipment that stays dry may face a loss of power—rooftop cell-phone stations tend not to have their own generators.) If you do make it out of the flooded areas, your cell phone may be hampered by its disaster-ridden area code. Calls to cell phones get routed through local land lines, so phones programmed with New Orleans area codes (504 and 985) will have problems receiving calls wherever they are. ( more...)

Grace E. Lee
URL: &

I just got off the phone with Chris of - they have setup two new moblogs everyone should know about: - If you're missing a friend or family member upload their picture to this site.  TextAmerica is working with local shelters to hopefully connect you with your loved ones. - Pictures of Katrina survivors that have yet to connect with their family members.  According to Chris over 400 images coming soon (without working cell phone service pictures have to be transported to areas with Internet connectivity).

Please take a few minutes and blog/link to these sites.


Grace E. Lee

They have Beads...We have a Cow Bell

Mardi Gras in New Orleans is a party all night atmosphere as floats wind their way through the French Quarter. People yell "beads, beads, throw me some beads." The crowd wants beads and the decorated floats with their Krewes are prepared to toss them.

For many years the Astrodome was the home of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, the largest Livestock Show and Rodeo in the world with over 1 million attendees each year. It is a huge cultural event for Houston. New Houstonians discover that though they may not own a ranch or have any cows, its a lot of fun with great entertainment. During February in Houston, it is not unusual to see more cowboy hats and boots than suits and ties.

We decided on Tuesday to introduce our new friends from New Orleans and other parts of Louisiana to a little Texas culture. Every time a member of the evacuee community found or reconnected with a loved one, we invited them to ring a Texas cow bell. There were several times during the day that it rang three or four times in less than five minutes. It was fun, and the evacuee community began to enjoy the celebration. There was clapping and "Yahoos" as people celebrated with those who were reconnected.

It was near the end of the day yesterday just a few minutes before eight when the ACT Center was to be closed that an elderly gentlemen made a phone call on the cell phone of a volunteer to the hotel phone # listed online where his daughter might be staying. He was retired and after retirement and the death of his wife he moved in with his daughter and son-in-law. Last night was the first time they had talked to each other in over a week. When he walked in he was slow and almost shuffled. When he walked out he was waving his arms in the air and almost dancing. He grabbed that cow bell and rang it for the longest time. There was cheering and hugs between the elderly gentlemen and the volunteer he had met for the first time only a thirty minutes before. They both cried together. The room was full of clapping and cheers as he almost ran out of the room to pack his plastic grocery bag with the few belongings he had aquired since being evacuated from the Superdome. His daughter picked him up last night and the volunteers who assisted him slept better, knowing that they had a small part in restoring hope to man who had almost lost all hope.

Prior to finding a room in the hotel, his daughter had been living as an evacuee in the Reliant Arena, a building adjacent to the Astrodome. So close, yet separated by miles of grief and anxiety for over a week. Today, with the help of additional volunteers, TFA will lead an initiative to reconnect family members at two other sites. Community Technology Centers with about fifty computers each will be set up in the Reliant Arena and the Reliant Center. Each of these locations have over 5,000 residents. Many are separated from their families and loved ones. The model and best practices for reconnecting families that was developed at the ACT Center will be replicated at the Reliant Center and Arena. This will require the volunteer staffing and training of over 170 volunteers during all hours each of the sites are open. With funds yet unknown, TFA will be seeking to employ Tech and Program Coordinators for each site as well as volunteers to work with the members of the evacuee community. "This is the most rewarding work I have ever done," said the volunteer who assisted the elderly gentlemen who was reconnected with his daughter and son-in-law. To find loved ones click on or use the web crawler search at the top of the listing of links at . CTCs and computer centers at relief sites across the country need to invite loved ones and survivors to go online, add information and reconnect. Share these links with relief center leaders and residents.

You too can assist mothers and fathers reconnect with their sons and daugthers. You too can do the detective work required to help brides and grooms of every age reconnect. Technology is only a tool. This work is about using the technology to rebuild lives and restore relationships, not just in a physical way, but also at a relational level. Many of the persons we have helped reconnect have learned to value their loved ones in ways never before experienced. Be a volunteer! Check in at the ACT Center on the bottom floor of the Astrodome at the South Entrance. We will train you and assign you to one of the sites. We especially need regular volunteers during the day and during the work week. The typical work shifts are 8 to 1, 12 to 5 and 4 to 9, but you can volunteer at any time during the day.

Today, I have a meeting with community technology leaders across the country to discuss the long and short term role of CTCs (community technology centers) in serving the evacuee community. Later today, I will be meeting with a TFA consultant who is assisting us in planning a training and education plan to assist the evacuee community that will be living in the Astrodome and the adjacent buildings. We believe that our responsibility to serve the evacuee community will continue on after all evacuees reconnect with or learn the fate of their loved ones.

Thanks for your support!

Will Reed

An Open Letter to the President

From the editors of

Dear Mr. President:

We heard you loud and clear Friday when you visited our devastated city and the Gulf Coast and said, "What is not working, we’re going to make it right."

Please forgive us if we wait to see proof of your promise before believing you. But we have good reason for our skepticism.

Bienville built New Orleans where he built it for one main reason: It’s accessible. The city between the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain was easy to reach in 1718.

How much easier it is to access in 2005 now that there are interstates and bridges, airports and helipads, cruise ships, barges, buses and diesel-powered trucks.

Despite the city’s multiple points of entry, our nation’s bureaucrats spent days after last week’s hurricane wringing their hands, lamenting the fact that they could neither rescue the city’s stranded victims nor bring them food, water and medical supplies.

Meanwhile there were journalists, including some who work for The Times-Picayune, going in and out of the city via the Crescent City Connection. On Thursday morning, that crew saw a caravan of 13 Wal-Mart tractor trailers headed into town to bring food, water and supplies to a dying city.

Television reporters were doing live reports from downtown New Orleans streets. Harry Connick Jr. brought in some aid Thursday, and his efforts were the focus of a "Today" show story Friday morning.

Yet, the people trained to protect our nation, the people whose job it is to quickly bring in aid were absent. Those who should have been deploying troops were singing a sad song about how our city was impossible to reach.

We’re angry, Mr. President, and we’ll be angry long after our beloved city and surrounding parishes have been pumped dry. Our people deserved rescuing. Many who could have been were not. That’s to the government’s shame.

Mayor Ray Nagin did the right thing Sunday when he allowed those with no other alternative to seek shelter from the storm inside the Louisiana Superdome. We still don’t know what the death toll is, but one thing is certain: Had the Superdome not been opened, the city’s death toll would have been higher. The toll may even have been exponentially higher.

It was clear to us by late morning Monday that many people inside the Superdome would not be returning home. It should have been clear to our government, Mr. President. So why weren’t they evacuated out of the city immediately? We learned seven years ago, when Hurricane Georges threatened, that the Dome isn’t suitable as a long-term shelter. So what did state and national officials think would happen to tens of thousands of people trapped inside with no air conditioning, overflowing toilets and dwindling amounts of food, water and other essentials?

State Rep. Karen Carter was right Friday when she said the city didn’t have but two urgent needs: "Buses! And gas!" Every official at the Federal Emergency Management Agency should be fired, Director Michael Brown especially.

In a nationally televised interview Thursday night, he said his agency hadn’t known until that day that thousands of storm victims were stranded at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. He gave another nationally televised interview the next morning and said, "We’ve provided food to the people at the Convention Center so that they’ve gotten at least one, if not two meals, every single day."

Lies don’t get more bald-faced than that, Mr. President.

Yet, when you met with Mr. Brown Friday morning, you told him, "You’re doing a heck of a job."

That’s unbelievable.

There were thousands of people at the Convention Center because the riverfront is high ground. The fact that so many people had reached there on foot is proof that rescue vehicles could have gotten there, too.

We, who are from New Orleans, are no less American than those who live on the Great Plains or along the Atlantic Seaboard. We’re no less important than those from the Pacific Northwest or Appalachia. Our people deserved to be rescued.

No expense should have been spared. No excuses should have been voiced. Especially not one as preposterous as the claim that New Orleans couldn’t be reached.

Mr. President, we sincerely hope you fulfill your promise to make our beloved communities work right once again.

When you do, we will be the first to applaud.

PayPal Freezes Out Katrina Aid

From Wired News.

On the morning of Sept. 3, Rich Kyanka set up a PayPal account to raise money for Hurricane Katrina victims, with the intention of donating the money to the American Red Cross.

Kyanka runs the popular Something Awful web community, which is based in New Orleans, and donations came in quickly. Within nine hours, Something Awful readers had donated $27,695.41. Kyanka donated an additional $3,000 from his own pocket

"While we are a very cynical and bitter and adult humorous site, when actual tragedies strike, we try to band together and try to help out," the 29-year-old said.

But just as Kyanka prepared to send the money to the Red Cross, the account was locked by PayPal, which launched an investigation into possible fraud.

Kyanka said he thinks PayPal became suspicious because too much money came in too quickly. PayPal spokeswoman Amanda Pires would not discuss details of the case, citing "privacy concerns."

This is not the only post-Katrina fund-raising account PayPal has locked. Members of the forums at dealmac also say a charity account was frozen.

"My account was red-flagged by PayPal for keywords in the hurricane disaster-relief fund," wrote fund-raiser Danny La on the dealmac forums. "On the phone they said that unless I was a nonprofit group then I could not collect (money for charity)."

In an attempt to unlock the Something Awful account, Kyanka faxed copies of bank statements, credit card statements and his driver's license. However, in an e-mail, PayPal told him he would have to wait "between three and five business days" while the investigation continued, Kyanka said.


Rapes, Murders, Beatings at Astrodome?

More from Xeni Jardin at BoingBoing. I'll be curious to hear from Astrodome volunteers to see if they can verify any of this.


Here's a rough partial transcript of an IM chat I maintained with Jacob Appelbaum throughout the day today. He's inside the Houston Astrodome, and has been talking to Katrina evacuees and tech aid volunteers who are there to set up computer banks and a low power FM station (see bottom of post for reports that FEMA's blocking that, despite FCC having granted the LPFM organizers a temporary license exemption).

I have no way of substantiating the statements of those Jacob spoke to, but I present them here as a snapshot of first-person accounts. While some misinformation may be circulating as rumor among evacuees, let's also remember that reports of deaths and violence inside the New Orleans Superdome and Convention Center were dismissed as "rumor" in early days by authorities before reporters proved them to be true.

Joel Johnson, who's traveling with Jacob, adds:

While much of the news sounds very dire -- and nobody will argue this is a bad situation for the evacuees, no matter how well it is run -- many of the people in the Astrodome complex were in very good spirits and were quick to offer praise of the people of Houston. There are plenty of issues that need to be discussed, but the evacuees are keeping the area very clean and equilaterally said they were happier to be in the Astrodome than stuck in the Superdome or elsewhere in New Orleans.
Chat transcript with Jacob follows. Times shown in Pacific. Image: a snapshot from Jacob's mobile phone.
10:23: Joel just got removed. Almost arrested. Fox News is down on the floor. I'm in dome, hiding in seats. They're allowing some media on the floor, not others.

10:31 Just met members of the Polish press, they are being stopped from entering floor. Says this is like the former USSR.

10:57 Raw transcript of comments by NOLA evacuee Clara Barthelemy: "The 17th street levee was bombed by the Army Corps of Engineers to save the more valuable real estate in the city… to keep the French Quarter protected, the ninth ward was sacrificed… people are afraid to speak out… everyone who was near there heard the bombings… they bombed seven times. That's why they didn't fix the levees… 20 feet of water. Gators. People dying in water. They let the parishes go, not the city center. Tourist trap was saved over human life. A six year old girl was raped in here.. 9 year old boy killed. A man in the shower beaten. No hot food. No help for elderly."

Another evacuee: "Over 20 rapes per night happening inside this place. They bring in national guard for media purposes. Bush wants us to stay here to raise his ratings. Some workers are stealing the good stuff, like shoes."

11:16: Rough transcript of comments by NOLA evacuee, male: "We are treated like prisoners here. Placed under mandatory curfew. We are citizens!"

11:22 Now I'm speaking to someone else, another woman, who says some people report having witnessed "bomb sounds," believe 17th street levee and others were blown up to manage water flow and protect more valuable portions of real estate.

Evacuee Dianne Stafford: "They blew the levee to save the city…" Saying a barge broke the levee. She is from St. Bernard Parish. "More expensive places were saved at the expense of the neighborhoods that aren't as valuable… Rebuilding Bourbon Street matters more to the government… that's what mattered to Governor Blanco…"

11:36 I'm speaking to a man who's been wearing the exact same pair of 2XL stretch pants since the storm hit. Some clothing is available for evacuees, but he is a large man and can't find anything available to fit his body. He's a diabetic but has good medical care. This so depressing. Its so hard to not cry when you hear this shit. The very large and very old have little help.

11:59 CNN have no problem getting in. Nobody's stopping them from accessing the floor, but other credentialed press who already have press badges are being stopped.

12:09 Evacuees I'm talking to are all telling me about rapes, murders, beatings which are taking place inside the Astrodome.

12:24 Man I'm speaking to, Danny Smith, says he cannot get housing because he has a felony. Aid workers found him a house but he is a felon, so they turned him away. FEMA has agreed to pay for his apartment, but he cannot get one. "Everyone has a felony here," he says. He thinks that people are going to riot

12:29 Evacuee Irvin Skinner: We have a curfew. We're being kept inside after 11pm. Forced to stay inside. They threw guns on everyone. Said 'come inside or your out of here'. Shoved guns, pointed them at adults. I'm a grown man, I have rights. This is an instituion to us, it's like a jail. I'm a middle class man with a home being trated like a criminal because I'm black. If we were white, we wouldn't have this problem."

"We are not here by choice."

13:03 Harris County will not allow any radio station inside without a FEMA form even if operator has FCC permission. Austin Airwaves says trying to get form now, been waiting 2.5 days. No radio station inside the dome until that form is filled out.

Reader comment: Bryan says,

Seeing the stories of the violence going on... and considering how the medical system has been pumping people full of anti-depresents... and personally seeing what happens when you try to take someone on heavy dosage to cold turkey, I wonder how many of the people acting out are acting out of shock combined with drug withdrawal. Nobody seems to be asking this question.

Low-Power FM station for Astrodome blocked


Following up on previous BB posts and a Wired News item about tech volunteers' attempts to set up a low power FM radio station up to provide information to evacuees at the Astrodome, Jacob Appelbaum blogs from Houston:
Rita Obey is the person that told Austin Airwaves they had to have 10,000 radios before they could broadcast. We purchased a number of radios and while we’ve had some issues with this, it was just a meaningless golden egg. We called her bluff by getting the radios lined up to be purchased and they threw something else out.

At 16:29 (CST) today, RW Royal Jr. Incident Commander of the JIC (Joint Information Commity) has denied Austin Airwaves the ability to run the emergency low power FM radio station inside of the dome. This is contrary to the FCC licenses that have been issued to Austin Airwaves. However RW Royal Jr is a member of the JIC. He has decided to deny the request. When they asked why they were being turned down, they were told that the Astrodome could not provide them with electricity. When the Austin Airwaves team offered to run on battery backup, they were still denied.

This is an OUTRAGE.

The people on the ground I spoke with personally asked me why I was there. I told them that I was with a group helping to bring emergency information to them over a radio inside the dome. Those people were overjoyed to hear that they would get a radio station with emergency information, with information on job interviews, with information on food, housing, clothing and other important information. It breaks my heart.

Why has this man denied this? Why is the government going out of its way to stop us from helping people?

Link to Jacob's account, and here's the LPFM station website:

New Orleans readies 25,000 body bags


Soldiers toting M-16s strengthened their grip on this swamped city as concerns grew about the risks posed by the toxic floodwaters and officials braced for what could be a staggering death toll by readying 25,000 body bags.

Officials readied for the potential of a horrendous death toll. Bob Johannessen, spokesman for the state Department of Health and Hospitals, said officials have 25,000 body bags on hand in Louisiana. Asked if authorities expected that many bodies, he said: "We don't know what to expect."

Mayor C. Ray Nagin had earlier said New Orleans' death toll could reach 10,000. Already, a temporary warehouse morgue in rural St. Gabriel that had been prepared to take 1,000 bodies was being readied to handle 5,000. The official death toll in Mississippi climbed to 201 Wednesday, but more than 1,000 are feared dead there, too.


Katrina through the Eyes of EMS First-Responders

From EMS Network:

Two days after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, the Walgreen's store at the corner of Royal and Iberville streets remained locked. The dairy display case was clearly visible through the widows. It was now 48 hours without electricity, running water, plumbing. The milk, yogurt, and cheeses were beginning to spoil in the 90-degree heat. The owners and managers had locked up the food, water, pampers, and prescriptions and fled the City. Outside Walgreen's windows, residents and tourists grew increasingly thirsty and hungry.

The much-promised federal, state and local aid never materialized and the windows at Walgreen's gave way to the looters. There was an alternative. The cops could have broken one small window and distributed the nuts, fruit juices, and bottle water in an organized and systematic manner. But they did not. Instead they spent hours playing cat and mouse, temporarily chasing away the looters.

We were finally airlifted out of New Orleans two days ago and arrived home yesterday (Saturday). We have yet to see any of the TV coverage or look at a newspaper. We are willing to guess that there were no video images or front-page pictures of European or affluent white tourists looting the Walgreen's in the French Quarter.

We also suspect the media will have been inundated with "hero" images of the National Guard, the troops and the police struggling to help the "victims" of the Hurricane. What you will not see, but what we witnessed,were the real heroes and sheroes of the hurricane relief effort: the working class of New
Orleans. The maintenance workers who used a fork lift to carry the sick and disabled. The engineers, who rigged, nurtured and kept the generators running. The electricians who improvised thick extension cords stretching over blocks to share the little electricity we had in order to free cars stuck on rooftop parking lots. Nurses who took over for mechanical ventilators and spent many hours on end manually forcing air into the lungs of unconscious patients to keep them alive. Doormen who rescued folks stuck in elevators. Refinery workers who broke into boat yards, "stealing" boats to rescue their neighbors clinging to their roofs in flood waters. Mechanics who helped hot-wire any car that could be found to ferry people out of the City. And the food service workers who scoured the commercial kitchens improvising communal meals for hundreds of those stranded.

Most of these workers had lost their homes, and had not heard from members of their families, yet they stayed and provided the only infrastructure for the 20% of New Orleans that was not under water.

On Day 2, there were approximately 500 of us left in the hotels in the French Quarter. We were a mix of foreign tourists, conference attendees like ourselves, and locals who had checked into hotels for safety and shelter from Katrina. Some of us had cell phone contact with family and friends outside of

New Orleans. We were repeatedly told that all sorts of resources including the National Guard and scores of buses were pouring in to the City. The buses and the other resources must have been invisible because none of us had seen them.

We decided we had to save ourselves. So we pooled our money and came up with $25,000 to have ten buses come and take us out of the City. Those who did not have the requisite $45.00 for a ticket were subsidized by those who did have extra money. We waited for 48 hours for the buses, spending the last 12 hours standing outside, sharing the limited water, food, and clothes we had. We created a priority boarding area for the sick, elderly and new born babies. We waited late into the night for the "imminent" arrival of the buses. The buses never arrived. We later learned that the minute the arrived to the City limits, they were commandeered by the military.

By day 4 our hotels had run out of fuel and water. Sanitation was dangerously abysmal. As the desperation and despair increased, street crime as well as water levels began to rise. The hotels turned us out and locked their doors, telling us that the "officials" told us to report to the convention center to wait for more buses. As we entered the center of the City, we finally encountered the National Guard. The Guards told us we would not be allowed into the Superdome as the City's primary shelter had descended into a humanitarian and health hellhole. The guards further told us that the City's only other shelter, the Convention Center, was also descending into chaos and squalor and that the police were not allowing anyone else in. Quite naturally, we asked, "If we can't go to the only 2 shelters in the City, what was our alternative?" The guards told us that that was our problem, and no they did not have extra water to give to us. This would be the start of our numerous encounters with callous and hostile "law enforcement".

We walked to the police command center at Harrah's on Canal Street and were told the same thing, that we were on our own, and no they did not have water to give us. We now numbered several hundred. We held a mass meeting to decide a course of action. We agreed to camp outside the police command post. We would be plainly visible to the media and would constitute a highly visible embarrassment to the City officials. The police told us that we could not stay. Regardless, we began to settle in and set up camp. In short order, the police commander came across the street to address our group. He told us he had a solution: we should walk to the Pontchartrain Expressway and cross the greater New Orleans Bridge where the police had buses lined up to take us out of the City. The crowed cheered and began to move. We called everyone back and explained to the commander that there had been lots of misinformation and wrong information and was he sure that there were buses waiting for us. The commander turned to the crowd and stated emphatically, "I swear to you that the buses are there."

We organized ourselves and the 200 of us set off for the bridge with great excitement and hope. As we marched pasted the convention center, many locals saw our determined and optimistic group and asked where we were headed. We told them about the great news. Families immediately grabbed their few belongings and quickly our numbers doubled and then doubled again. Babies in strollers now joined us, people using crutches, elderly clasping walkers and others people in wheelchairs. We marched the 2-3 miles to the freeway and up the steep incline to the Bridge. It now began to pour down rain, but it did not dampen our enthusiasm.

As we approached the bridge, armed Gretna sheriffs formed a line across the foot of the bridge. Before we were close enough to speak, they began firing their weapons over our heads. This sent the crowd fleeing in various directions. As the crowd scattered and dissipated, a few of us inched forward and managed to engage some of the sheriffs in conversation. We told them of our conversation with the police commander and of the commander's assurances. The sheriffs informed us there were no buses waiting. The commander had lied to us to get us to move.

We questioned why we couldn't cross the bridge anyway, especially as there was little traffic on the 6-lane highway. 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 for if you are poor and black, you are not crossing the Mississippi River and you were not getting out of New Orleans.

Our small group retreated back down Highway 90 to seek shelter from the rain under an overpass. We debated our options and in the end decided to build an encampment in the middle of the Ponchartrain Expressway on the center divide, between the O'Keefe and Tchoupitoulas exits. We reasoned we would be visible to everyone, we would have some security being on an elevated freeway and we could wait and watch for the arrival of the yet to be seen buses.

All day long, we saw other families, individuals and groups make the same trip up the incline in an attempt to cross the bridge, only to be turned away. Some chased away with gunfire, others simply told no, others to be verbally berated and humiliated. Thousands of New Orleaners were prevented and prohibited from self-evacuating the City on foot. Meanwhile, the only two City shelters sank further into squalor and disrepair. The only way across the bridge was by vehicle. We saw workers stealing trucks, buses, moving vans, semi-trucks and any car that could be hotwired. All were packed with people trying to escape the misery New Orleans had become.

Our little encampment began to blossom. Someone stole a water delivery truck and brought it up to us. Let's hear it for looting! A mile or so down the freeway, an army truck lost a couple of pallets of C-rations on a tight turn. We ferried the food back to our camp in shopping carts. Now secure with the two necessities, food and water; cooperation, community, and creativity flowered. We organized a clean up and hung garbage bags from the rebar poles. We made beds from wood pallets and cardboard. We designated a storm drain as the bathroom and the kids built an elaborate enclosure for privacy out of plastic, broken umbrellas, and other scraps. We even organized a food recycling system where individuals could swap out parts of C-rations (applesauce for babies and candies for kids!).

This was a process we saw repeatedly in the aftermath of Katrina.  When individuals had to fight to find food or water, it meant looking out for yourself only. You had to do whatever it took to find water for your kids or food for your parents. When these basic needs were met, people began to look out for each other, working together and constructing a community.

If the relief organizations had saturated the City with food and water in the first 2 or 3 days, the desperation, the frustration and the ugliness would not have set in.

Flush with the necessities, we offered food and water to passing families and individuals. Many decided to stay and join us. Our encampment grew to 80 or 90 people.

From a woman with a battery powered radio we learned that the media was talking about us. Up in full view on the freeway, every relief and news organizations saw us on their way into the City. Officials were being asked what they were going to do about all those families living up on the freeway? The officials responded they were going to take care of us. Some of us got a sinking feeling. "Taking care of us" had an ominous tone to it.

Unfortunately, our sinking feeling (along with the sinking City) was correct. Just as dusk set in, a Gretna Sheriff showed up, jumped out of his patrol vehicle, aimed his gun at our faces, screaming, "Get off the fucking freeway". A helicopter arrived and used the wind from its blades to blow away our flimsy structures. As we retreated, the sheriff loaded up his truck with our food and water.

Once again, at gunpoint, we were forced off the freeway. All the law enforcement agencies appeared threatened when we congregated or congealed into groups of 20 or more. In every congregation of "victims" they saw "mob" or "riot". We felt safety in numbers. Our "we must stay together" was impossible because the agencies would force us into small atomized groups.

In the pandemonium of having our camp raided and destroyed, we scattered once again. Reduced to a small group of 8 people, in the dark, we sought refuge in an abandoned school bus, under the freeway on Cilo Street. We were hiding from possible criminal elements but equally and definitely, we were hiding from the police and sheriffs with their martial law, curfew and shoot-to-kill policies.

The next days, our group of 8 walked most of the day, made contact with New Orleans Fire Department and were eventually airlifted out by an urban search and rescue team. We were dropped off near the airport and managed to catch a ride with the National Guard. The two young guardsmen apologized for the limited response of the Louisiana guards. They explained that a large section of their unit was in Iraq and that meant they were shorthanded and were unable to complete all the tasks they were assigned.

We arrived at the airport on the day a massive airlift had begun. The airport had become another Superdome. We 8 were caught in a press of humanity as flights were delayed for several hours while George Bush landed briefly at the airport for a photo op. After being evacuated on a coast guard cargo plane, we arrived in San Antonio, Texas.

There the humiliation and dehumanization of the official relief effort continued. We were placed on buses and driven to a large field where we were forced to sit for hours and hours. Some of the buses did not have air-conditioners. In the dark, hundreds if us were forced to share two filthy overflowing porta-potties. Those who managed to make it out with any possessions (often a few belongings in tattered plastic bags) we were subjected to two different dog-sniffing searches.

Most of us had not eaten all day because our C-rations had been confiscated at the airport because the rations set off the metal detectors. Yet, no food had been provided to the men, women, children, elderly, disabled as they sat for hours waiting to be "medically screened" to make sure we were not carrying any communicable diseases.

This official treatment was in sharp contrast to the warm, heart-felt reception given to us by the ordinary Texans. We saw one airline worker give her shoes to someone who was barefoot. Strangers on the street offered us money and toiletries with words of welcome. Throughout, the official relief effort was callous, inept, and racist.

There was more suffering than need be.

Lives were lost that did not need to be lost.

By Parmedics Larry Bradshaw and Lorrie Beth Slonsky

Bradshaw and Slonsky are paramedics frorm California that were attending the EMS conference in New Orleans. Larry Bradsahw is the chief shop steward, Paramedic Chapter, SEIU Local 790; and Lorrie Beth Slonsky  is steward, Paramedic Chapter, SEIU Local 790.[California]