News Media
What the media is not reporting and what Congress and the Bush administration are ignoring
By Wayne Madsen
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Jan 13, 2006, 01:01

NEW ORLEANS -- Monday, 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.

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 in Katrina.

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.

People in Louisiana who are trying to pay mortgages on destroyed property are going bankrupt and have little protection in 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 New Orleans.

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 redevelopment 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 redevelopment 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 compassion.

� 2006 All Rights Reserved.

Wayne Madsen is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist and nationally-distributed columnist. He is author of the forthcoming book, �Jaded Tasks: Big Oil, Black Ops & Brass Plates.� He is the editor and publisher of the Wayne Madsen Report.

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