Katrina: roundup

* Last year, photographer Siege spent his life's savings on a trailer for his mom (above) and 13-year-old brother in Louisiana. Katrina destroyed their trailer home, and ate their belongings. Siege returned to Louisiana with his girlfriend to help them recover. He took this snapshot of his mom on Monday, September 12, and writes:

My mom was feeling very hopeful through all this. Then we met with FEMA this morning. After two hours waiting in line for it's cold bureaucratic embrace, her hope started to flicker.

This is what it looks like when poor people have lost it all, and are told to get in line. Which line? Did you fill out that form? I hear they suspended the vouchers. Who do I call for shelter? Call this 800 number to get your number. But sir, I don't have a phone. Go to this website to get a number. But sir, I don't have a computer, or a home to put it in, or a phone to connect it to.

Link to the blog where Siege is documenting the trip, and efforts to raise funds to buy his mom and brother a new home (he's auctioning off prints of his erotic, fashion, and portrait work for that purpose).

Link to another snapshot of Siege's mom with a shotgun; she sustained injuries on her face and legs while attempting to make her way through hazardous hurricane debris.

* Snip from a Human Rights Watch statement alleging that authorities abandoned up to 600 prisoners in New Orleans to drown in their cells during Hurricane Katrina.

[T]hey had no food or water from the inmates' last meal over the weekend of August 27-28 until they were evacuated on Thursday, September 1. By Monday, August 29, the generators had died, leaving them without lights and sealed in without air circulation. The toilets backed up, creating an unbearable stench. "They left us to die there," Dan Bright, an Orleans Parish Prison inmate told Human Rights Watch at Rapides Parish Prison, where he was sent after the evacuation.

As the water began rising on the first floor, prisoners became anxious and then desperate. Some of the inmates were able to force open their cell doors, helped by inmates held in the common area. All of them, however, remained trapped in the locked facility.

"The water started rising, it was getting to here," said Earrand Kelly, an inmate from Templeman III, as he pointed at his neck. "We was calling down to the guys in the cells under us, talking to them every couple of minutes. They were crying, they were scared. The one that I was cool with, he was saying 'I'm scared. I feel like I'm about to drown.' He was crying." Some inmates from Templeman III have said they saw bodies floating in the floodwaters as they were evacuated from the prison. A number of inmates told Human Rights Watch that they were not able to get everyone out from their cells.

(…) Many of the men held at jail had been arrested for offenses like criminal trespass, public drunkenness or disorderly conduct. Many had not even been brought before a judge and charged, much less been convicted.


* "Experts Say Faulty Levees Caused Much of Flooding: Louisiana's top hurricane experts have rejected the official explanations for the floodwall collapses that inundated much of New Orleans, concluding that Hurricane Katrina's storm surges were much smaller than authorities have suggested and that the city's flood- protection system should have kept most of the city dry." Link to WaPo story.

* Snip from a Jeremy Scahill article in The Nation — "Blackwater Down":

The men from Blackwater USA arrived in New Orleans right after Katrina hit. The company known for its private security work guarding senior US diplomats in Iraq beat the federal government and most aid organizations to the scene in another devastated Gulf. About 150 heavily armed Blackwater troops dressed in full battle gear spread out into the chaos of New Orleans.

Officially, the company boasted of its forces "join[ing] the hurricane relief effort." But its men on the ground told a different story.


* Snip from a Naomi Klein article in The Nation, "Purging the Poor" —

Outside the 2,000-bed temporary shelter in Baton Rouge's River Center, a Church of Scientology band is performing a version of Bill Withers's classic "Use Me"–a refreshingly honest choice. "If it feels this good getting used," the Scientology singer belts out, "just keep on using me until you use me up."

Ten-year-old Nyler, lying face down on a massage table, has pretty much the same attitude. She is not quite sure why the nice lady in the yellow SCIENTOLOGY VOLUNTEER MINISTER T-shirt wants to rub her back, but "it feels so good," she tells me, so who really cares? I ask Nyler if this is her first massage. "Assist!" hisses the volunteer minister, correcting my Scientology lingo. Nyler shakes her head no; since fleeing New Orleans after a tree fell on her house, she has visited this tent many times, becoming something of an assist-aholic. "I have nerves," she explains in a blissed-out massage voice. "I have what you call nervousness."

Wearing a donated pink T-shirt with an age-inappropriate slogan ("It's the hidden little Tiki spot where the island boys are hot, hot, hot"), Nyler tells me what she is nervous about. "I think New Orleans might not ever get fixed back." "Why not?" I ask, a little surprised to be discussing reconstruction politics with a preteen in pigtails. "Because the people who know how to fix broken houses are all gone."


* "Louisiana's wetland and land losses (which also include barrier island erosion) can be principally contributed to human settlement in Louisiana's low-lying and active floodplains and deltas, and the subsequent need to build levees to protect these settlements from river, rainfall and coastal flooding." Link

* Snip from LA Weekly about an event in Los Angeles this weekend about the photo book Sacred — New Orleans Funerary Grounds:

The photos in Sacred: New Orleans Funerary Grounds are the last images taken of the city's cemeteries before Hurricane Katrina swept in.

Photographer Elizabeth Huston — who was married in one of the graveyards — happened to be in New Orleans, finalizing the shots for her book, just one week before disaster struck. Once the pinnacle of creepy-beautiful Southern Gothic, the moss-covered tombstones will never again be seen in their original pre-deluge incarnation. We mourn the loss of the living. Now we mourn the loss of the dead. Sacred is a memento mori twice over.

Huston presents Sacred: New Orleans Funerary Grounds at Dark Delicacies, 4213 W. Burbank Blvd., Burbank; Sat., Sept. 24, 7 p.m. (818) 556-6660. Due to the tragedy of Hurrican Katrina, all proceeds from this book will be donated to the American Red Cross, for recovery efforts. In the coming moths, as the city begins to heal, all proceeds will be also donated to Habitat For Humanity as well as the New Orleans based Charity, Save Our Cemeteries.

* Scientific American: " According to the analysis, the number of Category 4 and Category 5 hurricanes has almost doubled in the past 35 years." Link

* For those who are attending the Webzine conference in San Franciso this weekend, Jacob Appelbaum will be speaking today: Link. Boing Boing has featured Jacob's blogging and photos from NOLA in recent weeks. Update: Jacob says,

Thanks to the Internet Archive I've now found a permenent home for the photos and videos I've planned to release for some time. I've gone ahead and uploaded both JPEG images and Canon cr2 RAW files. (…) I'd like people to put them to use in the wikipedia, into books, into their art projects, public benefits or anything that suits your fancy. You don't have to contact me for use even if it's commercial. I don't want your money, give it to the The Internet Archive or the EFF.

(thanks, Elegant Variation, Ned Sublette, Iam Serious)