Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The Chronicle Online - Journey to the Bayou (Fake Citizen Journalists Deliver The Goods)

The Chronicle Online - Journey to the Bayou: "Duke sophomore Sonny Byrd is used to driving his friends around in his car. But last Thursday, Byrd said his roommate Hans Buder, also a sophomore, needed no ordinary lift.

Buder wanted a ride to New Orleans - a ride that would total 3,200 miles over four days and take the boys through parts of the United States devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

It was a trip the roommates, along with friend David Hankla, also a sophomore, said took more than time. It took extreme measures - they said they posed as journalists - to get them to their goal: New Orleans and the hurricane victims stranded in the city.

Remembering the victims they had seen on TV, the boys said they decided to drive to New Orleans.

“We wanted to do something tangible. There were still people trapped, and we knew that we [could] take people to safety,” Buder said.

But the trio said a military blockade was preventing people from driving into the city. Knowing that press officials were allowed to pass, however, Byrd said he came up with the idea of pretending to be members of a media organization to gain access. “I walked back into the news station and found a press pass, so I just yanked it off the desk,” Byrd said.

He added that he swiped an official news station shirt as well.

“For $11.68 at Kinko’s, we made press passes and business cards,” Hankla said.

After making the drive to New Orleans, Hankla explained that the National Guard was turning away car after car in front of them at the military checkpoint at the entrance to I-10—the freeway that leads into the city.

When it was their turn to show identification, the boys said they held up their Kinko’s press passes to the guard and waited.

To their surprise, the trio said, the guard waved them past. “‘Can you believe that?’” Buder recalled them asking each other." (More)

Sunday, September 04, 2005

US braces for the final horror | Top stories

US braces for the final horror: "US troops have begun the final search for hurricane survivors in New Orleans, steeling themselves for the task of harvesting the dead from the city's streets.

Days after Hurricane Katrina triggered the worst natural calamity in US history, officials prepared the country for a heavy death toll that is expected to number in the thousands across the devastated US Gulf coast.

'It is going to be about as ugly a scene as we've witnessed in this country, with the possible exception of 9/11,' said Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertof, referring to the 2001 terror attacks that killed nearly 3000.
'I think we need to prepare the country for what's coming.'

He spoke on Fox News Sunday from a suburb of flooded New Orleans.
'I really want to tell people that we have got some tough days ahead of us.'

Senior medical officials said 59 bodies had been collected in New Orleans so far, but cautioned that was just a fraction of those killed.

In a freak event overnight, it has been reported that up to six contractors were shot dead by troops in New Orleans after they were mistaken for an armed gang."

Washington Post: Storm Exposed Disarray at the Top

Storm Exposed Disarray at the Top

By Susan B. Glasser and Josh White
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, September 4, 2005; Page A01

The killer hurricane and flood that devastated the Gulf Coast last week exposed fatal weaknesses in a federal disaster response system retooled after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to handle just such a cataclysmic event.

Despite four years and tens of billions of dollars spent preparing for the worst, the federal government was not ready when it came at daybreak on Monday, according to interviews with more than a dozen current and former senior officials and outside experts.

Among the flaws they cited: Failure to take the storm seriously before it hit and trigger the government's highest level of response. Rebuffed offers of aid from the military, states and cities. An unfinished new plan meant to guide disaster response. And a slow bureaucracy that waited until late Tuesday to declare the catastrophe "an incident of national significance," the new federal term meant to set off the broadest possible relief effort.

Born out of the confused and uncertain response to 9/11, the massive new Department of Homeland Security was charged with being ready the next time, whether the disaster was wrought by nature or terrorists. The department commanded huge resources as it prepared for deadly scenarios from an airborne anthrax attack to a biological attack with plague to a chlorine-tank explosion.

But Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said yesterday that his department had failed to find an adequate model for addressing the "ultra-catastrophe" that resulted when Hurricane Katrina's floodwater breached New Orleans's levees and drowned the city, "as if an atomic bomb had been dropped."

If Hurricane Katrina represented a real-life rehearsal of sorts, the response suggested to many that the nation is not ready to handle a terrorist attack of similar dimensions. "This is what the department was supposed to be all about," said Clark Kent Ervin, DHS's former inspector general. "Instead, it obviously raises very serious, troubling questions about whether the government would be prepared if this were a terrorist attack. It's a devastating indictment of this department's performance four years after 9/11."

"We've had our first test, and we've failed miserably," said former representative Timothy J. Roemer (D-Ind.), a member of the commission that investigated the Sept. 11 attacks. "We have spent billions of dollars in revenues to try to make our country safe, and we have not made nearly enough progress." With Katrina, he noted that "we had some time to prepare. When it's a nuclear, chemical or biological attack," there will be no warning.

Scotland on Sunday - Bush panics and sends in the marines

Scotland on Sunday - Bush panics and sends in the marines: "A PANICKED George Bush yesterday ordered elite troops on to the streets of New Orleans in an unprecedented attempt to stop violence in the disaster-struck city spiralling out of control.

The deployment, nearly a week after Hurricane Katrina struck, will see 7,000 marines and airborne troops sent to the emergency zone, where they are expected to crack down on the gun-toting gangs terrorising survivors.

Despite a blitz of TV appearances, Bush faces mounting criticism for failing to act fast enough to avert the crisis affecting millions on the Gulf Coast.
Thousands of National Guardsmen have failed to regain control of New Orleans. Fires continue to belch smoke over the city and sporadic gunfire echoes through the flooded streets.

Military experts said last night that regular soldiers - let alone elite assault troops - had never before been used to quell disorder in the United States. "