Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Katrina--What the MSM is NOT Reporting

A year has passed since Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast. Congress was quick to authorize $110 billion in federal funds to rebuild New Orleans--NOLA. One year later, the debris is still there and not one single home rebuilt. 73,000 NOLA residents live in FEMA trailers and another 200,000, more than half the city’s former residents, remain in temporary refuges.

Now a new report surfaces that the corporate welfare philosophy the Bush administration promotes and the Corporate Congress supports placed Americans living in New Orleans at high risk.

BBC investigative journalist Greg Pallast reveals that FEMA had no evacuation plan for New Orleans. An evacuation plan should have been in the hands of every FEMA first responder, in the firehouses, police stations, and hospitals of New Orleans.

Unfortunately, cronyism raised it’s ugly head again in our corporate controlled government. The evacuation plan for New Orleans was privatized and outsourced to IEM--“Innovative Emergency Management,” a Baton Rouge corporation.

The Bush Administration authorized $500,000 to IEM for a NOLA evacuation plan. Amazingly, no such plan is on file anywhere. FEMA has refused to comment on this.

Pallast reports:
“…IEM’s founder, Madhu Beriwal, had no known experience in hurricane evacuations. She did, however, have a lot of experience in donating to Republicans....An IEM press release in June 2004 boasted legendary expert James Lee Witt [the former FEMA Director] as a member of their team. That was impressive. It was also a lie. In fact, Witt had nothing to do with it. When I asked IEM point blank if Witt’s name was used as a fraudulent hook to get the contract, their spokeswoman said, weirdly, “We’ll get back to you on that.”

Pallast could not find any prior history of IEM’s work in evacuation planning services.

IEM has refused to comment. Since the corporate mainstream media is not picking this story up they probably figure it's best to lay low and let it be. With a little time they can proceed with business as usual. Isn't that how things work in Bush's America? No one has to be responsible or accountable if you are connected with money and Corporate America.

Thousands of Americans needlessly died due to no evacuation plan. An evacuation plan that should have been in effect long before Hurricane Katrina struck.

This report surfaced due to the integrity of Dr. Ivor van Heerden, the Deputy Director of the Louisiana State University Hurricane Center. He has been threatened with the loss of his job if he revealed what he knows.

Dr. van Heerden knows alot. Louisiana State University developed a disaster plan for NOLA which included the 127,000 people in the city who didn’t have cars. LSU knew where these no-car people were — they mapped it — and how to get them out. Pallast writes:
Dr. van Heerden offered this life-saving info to FEMA. They wouldn’t touch it. Then, a state official told him to shut up, back off or there would be consequences for van Heerden’s position. This official now works for IEM....
Van Heerden had other disturbing news. The Hurricane Center’s computer models showed the federal government had built the levees around the city a foot-and-a-half too short.
After Katrina, the Hurricane Center analyzed the flooding and found that, had the levees had just that extra 18 inches, they would have been “overtopped” for only an hour and a half, not four hours. In that case, the levees would have held, and the city would have been saved.
He had taken the warning about the levees all the way to George Bush’s doorstep. “I myself briefed senior officials including somebody from the White House.” The response: the university’s trustees threatened his job."

Meanwhile the Bush administration says that they have hired a consulting firm to fix the failed evacuation plan. Who did they hire? IEM, the same company who failed with the first contract and refused to comment on the Pallast story. Could the Bush administration be more corrupt, more incompetent? When is our Corporate Congress going to remember they are supposed to be the US Congress and hold this administration accountable for something? When will our Justice Department and our legal system do their job and go after corporations that are fraudelent?

We need to dump this crony filled Corporate Congress and elect a U.S. Congress that will act quickly to insure that "whistleblowers" are protected from the Bush Administration. The U.S. Congress should Authorize an independent investigation on the Katrina debacle so the appropriate folks are finally held accountable.

Democracy Now ran a two-part series with Greg Pallast on Aug 28 and 29.
Hurricane Expert Threatened for Pre-Katrina Warnings

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