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Sunday Morning: Irene Downgraded to Tropical Storm

Via TwitPic

Hurricane Irene has been downgraded to a tropical storm. It doesn't look bad in New York City, but police are still advising people to stay indoors. Flooding is still a danger.

Anderson Cooper is reporting from Battery Park. It wouldn't be a hurricane without him.

There was a segment with a group of very feisty women in a senior's home in Atlantic City saying they weren't going anywhere. Gov. Christie said they could only get 100 to leave, 500 simply refused. So far they are okay.

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A Place Worth Defending

What it means to live in New Orleans: in the past 48 hours alone, I marched alongside a riotous Sunday afternoon second line held by The Revolution Social Aid and Pleasure Club and caught a Monday night performance from the great trombonist Glen David Andrews that was so ecstatic that he ended up crowd-surfing atop the adoring revelers.

Since I moved to New Orleans about two years ago, I'm constantly reminded of the social critic James Howard Kunstler's notion that our country is "a land full of places that are not worth caring about [and] will soon be a nation and a way of life that is not worth defending.

Despite its multitude of problems, New Orleans proves itself worth defending nearly every day, no small feat for an American city these days. And I very am proud to live here.

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Karl vs. Karl

September 15, 2005

"Republicans said Karl Rove, the White House deputy chief of staff and Mr. Bush's chief political adviser, was in charge of the reconstruction effort..."

--Elisabeth Bumiller and Richard W. Stevenson, "Bush to Focus on Vision for Reconstruction in Speech," The New York Times.

March 1, 2009:

Is it any surprise that the collapsed house of cards that is our nation after the Bush years was built by this "architect"? "The government official who is responsible for managing Katrina...is the governor of Louisiana."
--Karl Rove, "Rove Blames Louisiana for Katrina Response," "ABC News: This Week with George Stephanopoulos."

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Hurricane Gustav

From Michael Chertoff's press conference today:

CHERTOFF: As you know if you followed the latest weather report, Hurricane Gustav is headed, I’d say at this point likely landfall somewhere between Vermilion Bay and New Orleans in Louisiana. Again, it’s possible this will change, but this is where most of the prediction seems to be centered. The storm is moving a little more quickly than we were seeing late yesterday, which means it will arrive within certainly 24 hours in terms of tropical storm winds. At the same time, that may benefit us a little bit by minimizing the strengthening.

We’re still looking, however, at what may be a low Category 4 or a high Category 3 storm.

This is a thread for hurricane related news and updates.

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Katrina, two years later

Two years ago, we burned up this website with postings about Katrina and the debacle of the government's response. How far have they (we) come?

CNN, MSNBC, and Fox had the best live coverage, and the public knew more than the government. The best coverage anywhere: The New Orleans Times-Picayue. Even when they couldn't a publish a print edition because their printing press was flooded, they published a massive number of stories online, and they had a depth of coverage and understanding that only a local could have.


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Grand Jury Refuses to Indict Dr. Pou

As TalkLeft noted here, Dr. Anna Pou is a skilled physician who performed heroically during Hurricane Katrina, risking her own life to assist patients who were stranded at New Orleans' Memorial Medical Center. She was rewarded with an arrest and a murder investigation as prosecutors claimed she had deliberately ended the lives of patients "who could not easily be evacuated from the hospital."

Dr. Pou has always denied the accusation. She had the support of the Louisiana State Medical Society, and apparently of a judge who tired of the seemingly endless investigation. Fortunately for Dr. Pou, the ordeal is over. A grand jury refused to indict her.

The AMA, expressing its pleasure with that decision, said:

"The AMA continues to be very concerned about criminalizing decisions about patient care, especially those made during the chaotic aftermath of a disaster, when medical personnel and supplies are severely compromised."

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Audit Criticizes FEMA Waste

In the days and weeks following Hurricane Katrina’s devastation of New Orleans, it’s understandable that FEMA would give a higher priority to helping the needy than to assuring that they really were needy. It’s more difficult to excuse wasteful payment of fraudulent claims that came months after the hurricane dissipated.

A GAO audit shows that FEMA has an ineffective oversight process and therefore continues to pay fraudulent claims. FEMA has wasted or been cheated out of at least $1 billion. At the same time, it hasn’t always put the money where it’s really needed, resulting in a recent court order “to resume housing payments for thousands of people displaced by Katrina.”

Not all of the loss resulted from fraudulent claims. FEMA can’t seem to keep track of the equipment that its employees purchased:

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Judge Criticizes Pou Investigation

Criminal cases in New Orleans remain backlogged, yet the District Attorney’s office insists on pursuing possible charges against Dr. Anna Pou and two nurses who are suspected of engaging in mercy killings at Memorial Medical Center during the flooding that followed Hurricane Katrina. Dr. Pou denies the accusation. The evidence against her is flimsy, and the judge assigned to the case thinks it’s time to file charges or move along to other cases.

"With all due respect, I'm tired of this case," District Judge Calvin Johnson said during a hearing on whether documents in the matter should be made public. "This case needs to either go forward or end." He said he was frustrated by the length of time he has spent dealing with the case, since neither Dr. Anna Pou nor nurses Cheri Landry and Lori Budo have been indicted. ...

Johnson's frustration comes at a time when criminal cases in New Orleans remain backlogged because of a shortage of public defenders and other problems created when Katrina's floodwaters destroyed evidence and shutdown the court system.

Prosecutors say they might convene a grand jury next year. Or not.

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Medical Society Supports Dr. Pou

by TChris

The Louisiana State Medical Society has come out in support of Dr. Anna Pou, accused of ending the lives of four bedridden patients during the aftermath of Katrina. Meanwhile, Dr. Pou protested her innocence in a 60 Minutes appearance:

"No, I did not murder those patients," said Pou, who's been practicing medicine for more than 15 years. "I've spent my entire life taking care of patients. I have no history of doing anything other than good for my patients."

Here's the TalkLeft background on this ill-advised prosecution.

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Remembering Katrina

by TChris

Ethel Freeman is more than a symbol of the Bush administration's incompetence.

[Ethel Freeman's son] began pushing her toward the Superdome. A passing police officer told them to head instead to the riverfront convention center, where buses were expected to arrive. There were medical supplies, food and water at the Superdome, but people who took refuge at the convention center had none.

"He told me, 'The buses are coming. Wait here so you can get your mom on first,'" Freeman said Friday outside the building where his mother died.

Her last words were a supplication: "She asked me if the buses were coming," Freeman said. "I said 'Yeah, they're coming. And then I said, 'Ma, I'm going to pray to God to help me. And you pray to God to help you," he said.

A few minutes later, he realized she had stopped talking.

At a memorial today, Ethel Freeman's son recalled her death.

A fleet of buses arrived four days after she died - and when they did, Freeman was not allowed to take his mother's body, forced to board the bus at gunpoint. "It was like cutting me open and adding salt in the wound," he said.

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Brownie, We Hardly Know Ye

by TChris

What to think of Michael Brown? His job with the Arabian Horse Association didn't work out, and only cronyism can explain his appointment to manage FEMA. Brown seemed less informed about conditions in New Orleans than CNN viewers, and more interested in fine dining than in the grueling work of disaster relief.

After being thrown overboard by the president who assured him he was doing a heck of a job, Brown worked hard to rehabilitate his image, with some success. Many of his criticisms of the Bush administration are justified, and the monumental failure of the federal response to Katrina cannot rest on Brown's shoulders alone. Still, there's little doubt that "Michael Brown was completely in over his head in running a federal agency and dealing with an actual disaster," and it's fair to argue that he "can't bring himself to actually take responsibility for his own failures."

A new series, "AIR: America's Investigative Reports," takes another look at Michael Brown, exposing "a pattern of Brownie's incompetence that merely foreshadowed the breathtaking malfeasance to come."

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Late Night Music: New Orleans (Johnny Cash and Arlo Guthrie)

What else on the anniversary of Katrina? Two very different versions: Johnny Cash and Arlo Guthrie singing the City of New Orleans.

Johnny Cash

Arlo Guthrie

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Katrina Anniversary: Open Thread

I haven't yet had an opportunity to watch the Katrina and New Orleans coverage but I'm sure you have. Here's an open thread on all things related to Katrina -- the devastation and the Adminstration's woefully inadequate response. Will this tar Bush's legacy for good?

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Race, Katrina, and Republicans

by TChris

Racism -- or more broadly, intolerance based on characteristics of race, national origin, religion, and sexuality -- remains one of the most compelling challenges confronting the United States. The anniversary of Katrina drives the point home.

To live in the real world is to not be shocked when learning about how relief trucks passed by East Biloxi, a predominantly black community, to get to D'Iberville, a predominantly white middle-class community.

To live in the real world is to understand why the Red Cross station in East Biloxi barely served food, had no mobile health-care unit and was located in a depressing run-down building, while the Red Cross station in D'Iberville was pristine, well-stocked with food and supplies, and a full-service mobile health-care unit.

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Backlogs in New Orleans' Criminal Courts

by TChris

The White House wants voters to believe that the president has played a significant role over the past year to help New Orleans rebuild. Despite all the president's speeches, disapproval of his response to Katrina remains high. As it should.

A year after Katrina, "only half of the New Orleans courthouse's 12 courtrooms have come back into service since judges returned to the flood-damaged building in June." Jail inmates are waiting for trials; many are waiting to meet their public defenders. And they've been waiting for a year. Judge Arthur Hunter is right to think that they shouldn't be kept waiting any longer.

Hunter says that especially given a shortage of public defenders, many indigent prisoners locked up even before the hurricane haven't talked to lawyers or been charged with crimes; he believes their rights have been being violated for too long and that therefore their releases warrant consideration on a case-by-case basis.

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