As New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin pleaded on national television for firefighters - his own are exhausted after working around the clock for a week - a battalion of highly trained men and women sat idle Sunday in a muggy Sheraton Hotel conference room in Atlanta.
Many of the firefighters, assembled from Utah and throughout the United States by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, thought they were going to be deployed as emergency workers. Instead, they have learned they are going to be community-relations officers for FEMA, shuffled throughout the Gulf Coast region to disseminate fliers and a phone number: 1-800-621-FEMA.
"They've got people here who are search-and-rescue certified, paramedics, haz-mat certified," said a Texas firefighter. "We're sitting in here having a sexual-harassment class while there are still [victims] in Louisiana who haven't been contacted yet."
As specific orders began arriving to the firefighters in Atlanta, a team of 50 Monday morning quickly was ushered onto a flight headed for Louisiana. The crew's first assignment: to stand beside President Bush as he tours devastated areas.
The U.S. government agency leading the rescue efforts after Hurricane Katrina said on Tuesday it does not want the news media to take photographs of the dead as they are recovered from the flooded New Orleans area.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency, heavily criticized for its slow response to the devastation caused by the hurricane, rejected requests from journalists to accompany rescue boats as they went out to search for storm victims.
An agency spokeswoman said space was needed on the rescue boats and that "the recovery of the victims is being treated with dignity and the utmost respect."
"We have requested that no photographs of the deceased be made by the media," the spokeswoman said in an e-mailed response to a Reuters inquiry.
At a news conference, Pelosi, D-Calif., said Bush's choice for head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency had "absolutely no credentials." She related that she had urged Bush at the White House on Tuesday to fire Michael Brown.
"He said 'Why would I do that?'" Pelosi said.
"'I said because of all that went wrong, of all that didn't go right last week.' And he said 'What didn't go right?'"
Two Navy helicopter pilots were reminded of the importance of supply missions after delivering their cargo and then rescuing 110 hurricane victims in New Orleans instead of immediately returning to base, the military said Wednesday.
One of the pilots was temporarily assigned to a kennel but that was not punishment, said Patrick Nichols, a civilian public affairs officer at Pensacola Naval Air Station.
"They were not reprimanded," Nichols said. "They were counseled."
The two air crews picked up a Coast Guard radio call that helicopters were needed for rescues in New Orleans, said Lt. Jim Hoeft, another Navy spokesman. They were out of radio range to Pensacola, so they decided to fly their helicopters to New Orleans and join the rescue effort without permission.
It took only minutes for the H-3 helicopters to fly to New Orleans, where Udkow's crew plucked people off rooftops. Shand landed his helicopter on the roof of an apartment building where more than a dozen people had been stranded. When he returned to get more, two crew members entered the building and found two blind residents and led them to the helicopter.
Jake ioerror (ioerror_rss) and Joel Johnson are in the Astrodome now (that's the hellhole in Houston, not the hellhole in New Orleans, which was the Superdome) with a group of people who are trying to set up a low-power radio station for the refugees. They also have 10,000 radios to distribute. They have FCC permission, but the Astrodome bureaucrats are denying them permission for no clear reason.
Here's a nice rumor that a few of the refugees told Jake:
"The 17th street levee was bombed by the Army Corps of Engineers to save the more valuable real estate in the city... to keep the French Quarter protected, the ninth ward was sacrificed... people are afraid to speak out... everyone who was near there heard the bombings... they bombed seven times. They let the parishes go, not the city center. Tourist trap was saved over human life. "
That sounds like tinfoil-hat material, right? Except that as it turns out, that's pretty much what they did during the 1927 flood:
Commerce Secretary Herbert Hoover and the Corps' Chief Engineer Edgar Jadwin, authorized a plan to turn the flood into the St. Bernard and Plaquemine Parish marshlands, a desperate attempt to save New Orleans, La.
Those parishes are described as "marshlands", but my understanding is that they were also "where all the really poor people lived", and the backlash after their flooding was a big part of what got Huey Long elected.
And The Onion is all kinds of awesome today.