- New Orleans: What the media is not reporting and what
Congress and the Bush administration are ignoring. Yesterday, two New Orleans
journalists, Jason Berry, who writes for New Orleans magazine, and Lolis
Eric Elie, columnist for the New Orleans Times-Picayune, spoke at the National
Press Club in Washington about the real nature of the situation in New
Orleans and surrounding parishes.
- The picture they painted of the city is sobering. Only
some 100,000 people, out of a total population of 467,000, have returned
to New Orleans, just a month and a half before the famous Mardi Gras celebrations.
However, the national media and their corporate friends in the urban development
business, will paint New Orleans during the next Mardi Gras celebration
on February 28 as a city coming back from disaster. Nothing could be further
from the truth.
- On November 24, 2005, WMR reported, "Florida mental
health professionals report that hundreds of evacuees scattered along the
Florida Panhandle are ticking time bombs due to the effects of post traumatic
stress syndrome from both Hurricanes Katrina and Rita." In addition,
WMR reported, "These people are from all walks of life, professionals
like doctors and lawyers and those who were from the lower end of the economic
scale," related one source close to the scene in Florida. He added,
"what they have in common is that they've lost everything, including
the will to live." Mental health workers say that some of the evacuees
are showing signs that may result in suicides and murder-suicides."
- Without regular telephones and dealing with unresponsive
insurance companies, New Orleaneans and their neighbors in adjoining parishes
are living in a "cell phone hell" and experiencing an insurance
mudslide, according to Berry.
- According to the two New Orleans journalists, post traumatic
stress syndrome is taking its toll on people from all walks of life in
the storm-ravaged area of the Gulf Coast. Filmmaker Stevenson Palfi, whose
credits include, "Piano Players Rarely Play Together," committed
suicide on Dec. 14, after having lost most of his property and possessions
- Dr. James Kent Treadway, a well-known pediatrician in
the Uptown district, also committed suicide in his damaged house on November
16. An increase in suicides is being reported from St. Tammany Parish and
incidents of murder-suicides are also increasing among evacuees in Louisiana
and Texas. In fact, today, psychoanalysis is one of the few booming
businesses in New Orleans.
- The final death count from Katrina may never be known.
Many people were washed out to open waters. There is no one to claim the
bodies of the elderly and indigent.
- There is a profound sense of abandonment in New Orleans.
FEMA has still not started moving transitional housing trailers into the
city, preferring to leave residents scattered across the country in evacuation
locations. Republican Mississippi received five times as much in Federal
aid per household than Louisiana.
- The two journalists reported that Louisiana Governor
Kathleen Blanco and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin muzzled themselves after
at first criticizing Bush because the president threatened them with abandonment
unless they stopped their criticism of the Federal response. They are apparently
petrified of Bush after he threatened them with no assistance.
- Berry pointed out that when Hurricane Betsy struck Louisiana
in 1965, Democratic Senator Russell Long called President Lyndon Johnson
and said, "My people are suffering." Johnson quickly summoned
Long to board Air Force One and they flew from Washington to New Orleans
where Johnson personally met with the affected people, black and white,
rich and poor. On the other hand, Bush's trip to New Orleans was a publicity
stunt punctuated with photo ops with carefully screened evacuees.
- Bush to New Orleans: "Drop Dead!" And they
- People in Louisiana who are trying to pay mortgages on
destroyed property are going bankrupt and have little protection for the
new bankruptcy law passed by the Congress and pushed by George W. Bush.
FEMA assistance is handed out randomly, according to a FEMA official in
- The Archdiocese of New Orleans is talking about closing
half its churches in New Orleans, including some historical churches like
St. Augustine, home to the Tomb of the Unknown Slave and the second oldest
African-American Catholic church in the United States.
- The Army Corps of Engineers is still not doing anything
on stopping the loss of the coastal littoral. Before Katrina, Louisiana
lost some 40 miles of coastline over the last three decades. Congress has
only appropriated $200 million for a coastal restoration study when $14
billion is required for coastal restoration and another $25 billion is
needed for Category 5 hurricane levee preparation.
- In what may be a deal with the devil, Republican Rep.
Richard Baker's Recovery Corporation Bill would buy out destroyed properties
from their owners and resell them to exploitative developers. The situation
on land re-development is all the more ominous considering that some 300,000
indebted residents are no longer in New Orleans. And in a sign of the times,
Nagin and Blanco are not the most important people involved in New Orleans'
future. That honorific goes to Joe Canizaro, the head of First Bank &
Trust and New Orleans most important real estate developers. New Orleans
is now suffering under the dictatorship of competing re-development committees.
- Bush's rhetoric about the improving national economy
rings hollow in New Orleans. New Orleans and the Gulf remain indelible
and shameful stains on Bush's otherwise dismal record of leadership and