Katrina: Politics, Race, Money & Pollution

Dangerous wildlife, such as alligators and snakes are a serious danger in post Katrina New Orleans. The water is laced with E. coli bacteria, lead, every chemical known to man, natural gas leaks, petroleum and petroleum byproducts and other biological hazards. Rotting human, pig, chicken and other animal remains are adding to the toxic soup in the flooded portions of New Orleans. There are also the dangers of mold, falls and electrical execution risks. The hazards are also flammable, carcinogenic and biohazards. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will have its hands full trying to monitor and protect rescue and recovery workers. For instance, hundreds of first responders at the Twin Towers are now suffering from respiratory illnesses. People simply do not wear the respirators they should wear because they are uncomfortable, make it hard to breathe and the hot temperatures make it worse. But to not wear the respirators is to invite respiratory problems. The white dusk masks do not provide sufficient protection from the the multiple pollutant exposures in the floor zone.The Centers for Disease ControlLists the Following ThreatsDiseaseInjuriesElectrocutionWater IllnessSnake and Insect BitesHeatPsychologicalHazardous MaterialThe floodwaters in New Orleans, Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi River, at a minimum, are polluted by pesticides, herbicides, household chemicals, gasoline from cars and at least two large oil spills, asbestos from building materials, heavy metals from batteries and other sources, toxic soup from local toxic waste dumps (particularly the Agriculture Street Landfilll) and Superfund sites, bacteria from corpses and animal carcasses and dirt containing high levels of lead. Two of the landfills in the suburbs were also flooded: the Bayou Bonfouca site in Slidell, La., and the Madisonville Creosote Works site.Source: Army Corps of EngineersThe MilitaryThe Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps are not designated as “first responders.” The military is the ‘heavy lifter of last resort.’ The military is backup for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) if the city and/or state are incapable of handling the situation. Moreover, the Posse Comitatus Act prohibits active-duty military personnel from participating in law enforcement activities. Thus, active-duty military personnel could not have been dispatched to deal with the chaos and looting going on at the Superdome and the Convention Center. President Bush would hav to invoke the Insurrection Act to bypass Posse Comitatus restrictions. The president could also federalize the national guard, but he needs permission from the governor of the state for such an action. The president did not have to invoke the Insurrection Act to to use the military for relief operations. Of course, the politics of a Republican president usurping authority from a woman Democratic governor for law enforcement and relief operations would be quite a provocative act that would challenge Constitutional limitations.Nagin, Blanco & BushAlthough President Bush has shouldered responsibility for federal problems in the initial response to the unprecedented hurricane and flood, Mayor Ray Nagin and Governor Kathleen Blanco displayed attitudes of powerlessness and hopelessness that contributed to the lawlessness, chaos and disorder. Instead of following their emergency plans they acted helpless and gave angry interviews to the press. They screamed about the federal government and fought with each other. Evidently, Nagin and Blanco do not like each other because Nagin supported her Republican challenger in her 2003 gubernatorial bid. Of course, by blaming the federal government for the failure to provide food, water and evacuation services for the poor blacks at the Superdome and Convention Center, they might dodge the political consequences of failing to follow their hurricane emergency action plans. Regardless, Mayor Nagin should have ordered an evacuation on the Saturday, not the Sunday, before the hurricane, which, as predicted, came on Monday. Mayor Nagin made an even greater mistake by not following the city’s emergency plan and using the 200 or more school buses to evacuate the elderly, infirm and infants who had no other way of getting out of the city. Governor Blanco’s state Department of Homeland Security should not have blocked the Red Cross from bringing water, food and sanitary facilities to the people in the Superdome. President Bush made a mistake appointing Michael Brown, a man with little previous experience in emergency management, as head of FEMA. The U.S. Senate is also culpable because they approved Mike Brown’s nomination. On the plus side for President Bush, under his administration, Louisiana has received far more money for Corps civil works projects than any other state, about $1.9 billion; California was a distant second with less than $1.4 billion, even though its population is more than 7 times as large.The HospitalsThe hospitals in New Orleans have been devastated and many may never reopen. Of the 16 hospitals in the immediate area of New Orleans, at least 13 wre closed because of the storm, flooding and fear of violence and looting. The three hospitals that remain open are 1) Oschner Clinic Foundation, 2) West Jefferson General and 3) East Jefferson General.Hospitals In New OrleansNew Orleans HospitalsMethodist HospitalPendleton Memorial Methodist HospitalLindy Boggs Medical CenterOschner Clinic FoundationCharity HospitalMedical Center of LouisianaEast Jefferson General HospitalChalmette Medical CenterTulane University HospitalMemorial Medical CenterSt. Charles General HospitalTouro InfirmaryChildren’s HospitalKindred HospitalWest Jefferson Medical CenterMeadowcrest HospitalOpenTwenty -two other hospitals are operating further from New Orleans. Unfortunately, the 1,000 community health centers nationwide that provide primary care services are being prevented from assistned in the Gulf Coast region because federal red tape prohibits their participation because their government-provided malpractice insurance would not cover staff outside of their states.