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A new Convention Center report

The article "Winds of fortune help evacuee escape poverty of New Orleans" is mostly human-interest, but it has some salient bits about the CC. Disabled vet Winfred Compton spent four days there, and says:

"I'd seen people die right next to me and not be able to get no help for them... To see other people suffer and not be able to do anything about it, it breaks my heart."

He got to the CC after:

...he and about 230 other senior citizens and disabled people who lived in a 12-story, high-rise apartment building realized that the building's staff had left them during the storm, he said. Police rescued all of the residents and brought them to the convention center.
Compton hesitates to talk too much about what happened inside the convention center during the four days he was there. However, he said, he still has nightmares about the experience.
"Finally (the situation at the convention center) got enough media attention that the helicopters started landing to get people out of there," Compton said.

NBC on the many Blanco mistakes

On Saturday, Lisa Myers had a segment on NBC News discussing Kathleen Blanco's various mistakes. A transcript is here:

Myers: "Though experts had warned it would take 48 hours to evacuate New Orleans, Blanco did not order a mandatory evacuation that Saturday."
...Myers: "She and the mayor waited until Sunday [Aug. 28] , only 20 hours before Katrina came ashore, to order a mandatory evacuation, the first of what disaster experts and Louisiana insiders say were serious mistakes by the governor."
...Myers: "A key criticism, the governor's slowness in requesting federal troops. She told the President she needed help, but it wasn't until Wednesday [Aug. 31] that she specifically asked for 40,000 troops. That day, in a whispered conversation with her staff caught on camera, the governor appears to second-guess herself."
Blanco: "I really need to call for the military."
Unidentified female aide: "Yes, you do. Yes, you do."
Blanco: "And I should have started that in the first call."
Myers: "Another key mistake, experts say, Blanco's lateness in getting the Louisiana National Guard, which she commands, on the streets to try to establish security."
...Myers: "And remember the chaos at the Convention Center? We now know there were at least 250 Guardsmen deployed in another part of that building. But they were engineers, not police, so they were not directed to help restore order or even to share their food and water."
Colonel Doug Mouton, Louisiana National Guard: "I think we would've hurt a lot of people if we'd tried to take that on."
Myers: "The governor would not say whether she made the decision not to use these troops, and tells NBC News that her state's response to Katrina was, quote, 'very well-planned' and 'executed with great precision and effectiveness.'"
Roy Fletcher, Louisiana Political Consultant: "How could any governor argue that they have done what they can do when people were left on an interstate without food and water for a week?"
Myers: "The governor has said she takes responsibility for what went wrong, but insists her biggest mistake was believing FEMA officials who told her help was on the way."

Interview: Maj. Ed Bush on Superdome violence

This interview downplays the charges of violence at the Superdome.
[nofollow policy in effect]

Naive NYT on looting, crime, NOPD, shots at rescue workers

The NYT joins the re-writing fray with "Fear Exceeded Crime's Reality in New Orleans".
Before reading that article, you might want to take a look at "FBI investigating NOPD corruption, phantom cops; $5k bonus" and "Mortician contradicts reports downplaying crime, Part 2". Both of those, er, "amplify" the NYT's reporting:

...It is still impossible to say if the city experienced a wave of murder because autopsies have been performed on slightly more than 10 percent of the 885 dead.
[On Wednesday, however, Dr. Louis Cataldie, the state's medical incident commander for Hurricane Katrina victims, said that only six or seven deaths appear to have been the result of homicides. He also said that people returning to homes in the damaged region have begun finding the bodies of relatives.
[Superintendent Compass, one of the few seemingly authoritative sources during the days after the storm, resigned Tuesday for reasons that remain unclear. His departure came just as he was coming under criticism from The New Orleans Times-Picayune, which had questioned many of his public accounts of extreme violence.]
In an interview last week with The New York Times, Superintendent Compass said that some of his most shocking statements turned out to be untrue. Asked about reports of rapes and murders, he said: "We have no official reports to document any murder. Not one official report of rape or sexual assault."
On Sept. 4, however, he was quoted in The Times about conditions at the convention center, saying: "The tourists are walking around there, and as soon as these individuals see them, they're being preyed upon. They are beating, they are raping them in the streets.
"Those comments, Superintendent Compass now says, were based on secondhand reports. The tourists "were walking with their suitcases, and they would have their clothes and things taken," he said last week. "No rapes that we can quantify."
...During six days when the Superdome was used as a shelter, the head of the New Orleans Police Department's sex crimes unit, Lt. David Benelli, said he and his officers lived inside the dome and ran down every rumor of rape or atrocity. In the end, they made two arrests for attempted sexual assault, and concluded that the other attacks had not happened.
"I think it was urban myth," said Lieutenant Benelli, who also heads the police union. "Any time you put 25,000 people under one roof, with no running water, no electricity and no information, stories get told."
...The Sixth District - like most of New Orleans, a checkerboard of wealth and poverty - was the scene of heavy looting, with much of the stealing confined to the lower-income neighborhoods. A particular target was a Wal-Mart store on Tchoupitoulas Street, bordering the city's elegant Garden District and built on the site of a housing project that had been torn down.
The looters told a reporter from The Times that they followed police officers into the store after they broke it open, and police commanders said their officers had been given permission to take what they needed from the store to survive. A reporter from The Times-Picayune said he saw police officers grabbing DVD's...
...The convention center, without water, air-conditioning, light or any authority figures, was recalled by many as a place of great suffering. Many heard rumors of crime, and saw sinister behavior, but few had firsthand knowledge of violence, which they often said they believed had taken place in another part of the half-mile-long center.
"I saw Coke machines being torn up - each and every one of them was busted on the second floor," said Percy McCormick, a security guard who spent four nights in the convention center and was interviewed in Austin, Tex.
Capt. Jeffrey Winn, the commander of the SWAT team, said its members rushed into the convention center to chase muzzle flashes from weapons to root out groups of men who had taken over some of the halls. No guns were recovered.
State officials have said that 10 people died at the Superdome and 24 died around the convention center - 4 inside and 20 nearby. While autopsies have not been completed, so far only one person appears to have died from gunshot wounds at each facility.
In another incident, Captain Winn and Lt. Dwayne Scheuermann, the assistant SWAT commander, said they both shot and wounded a man brandishing a gun near people who had taken refuge on an Interstate highway. Captain Winn said the SWAT team also exchanged gunfire with looters on Tchoupitoulas Street...
... Cellphone repair workers had to abandon work after shots from the Fischer housing project in Algiers, Captain Winn said. His team swept the area three times. On one sweep, federal agents found an AK-47 semiautomatic rifle, Captain Winn said.
For military officials, who flew rescue missions around the city, the reports that people were shooting at helicopters turned out to be mistaken. "We investigated one incident and it turned out to have been shooting on the ground, not at the helicopter," said Maj. Mike Young of the Air Force...

More on the dispute death count at the Convention Center

A DUmmie has an interesting compendium of news reports here. Where all those reports wrong? Or, are we being sold a line with the current spate of articles downplaying violence?
Those who want the truth are facing two powerful forces: "liberals" who want to downplay the fact that there was rampant violence because most of the perps were black, and government officials who want to downplay it for reasons of both avoiding blame and attracting future tourists and business.
All those who advocated against allowing photographers and reporters into the disaster zone should be hung out to dry for their help in what might turn out to be a bi-partisan coverup.

Caviar at the Convention Center?

The 9/14 ABC report "Caviar and Camaraderie Found a Place Inside the New Orleans Convention Center" starts out like this:

The cultural spirit of New Orleans was experienced by some Hurricane Katrina survivors, who managed to dine on gourmet provisions and create a sense of community while waiting for help to reach the city's crowded convention center.

Where'd the caviar come from? Did people bound for the Convention Center take jars with them? Of course not: it and champagne were looted from hotels in the area.
The report goes on to detail the experiences of Brian Corey and his roommate Jeff Rusnack. They were going to ride out the storm at their apartment in the French Quarter but "given the dire security situation that surrounded them" they decided to get out of town. They found the bridges closed, then went to the CC. According to ABC they describe a more tranquil, cooperative scene than what you might have heard. They also say there was no media around to observe.
They describe how things were bartered for and how the gangs became the good guys (???) and passed out supplies to the needy. And:

But they didn't rest long. They're now in St. Louis preparing prints of their photos to be sold on eBay with proceeds going to hurricane relief, and are starting work on a book to detail their experiences and offer "a sense of what was lost."

Mike Brown: more military, Blanco/Nagin, Convention Center

Former FEMA head Mike Brown is scheduled to testify before Congress today about the response to Katrina, and he spoke to congressional aides about that yesterday.
The AP has miraculously obtained a copy of a memo written by a "Republican staffer" who attended that briefing: "Brown Still On FEMA Payroll". Let's be as cynical as possible, and look at this:

...Brown expressed regrets "that he did not start screaming for DoD (Department of Defense) involvement" sooner. The first substantial numbers of active-duty troops responding to the Gulf Coast were sent on Saturday, Sept. 3 - five days after the storm hit.

Do you think that might have something to do with "Military tells Bush they should take control after disaster"? Is this part of the widespread pitch to change Posse Comitatus?

...Brown took several shots at Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin. He said the two officials "sparred during the crisis and could not work together cooperatively."
He also described Blanco as "indecisive" and refusing to cede control of the Louisiana National Guard to federal authorities because "it would have undercut her image politically," according to the memo.
The document also criticized the conference calls with state and federal officials that Brown ran during the crisis, saying that no official notes were taken and that Brown "just assumed that agencies would follow up on taskings resulting from the calls."
Brown defended himself against charges that he learned from television that thousands of refugees gathered at the New Orleans convention center, where adequate food, water and other supplies were lacking and there was rampant violence.
He said that because the convention center was not a planned evacuation site, "there is no reason FEMA would have known about it beforehand," according to the memo.
Brown also admitted he did not ensure that Nagin had a secure communications system during the crisis.

Superdome, Convention Center death toll exaggerated

Current thinking is that there were six bodies found in the Superdome:

Of those, four died of natural causes, one overdosed and another jumped to his death in an apparent suicide, said Beron, who personally oversaw the turning over of bodies from a Dome freezer, where they lay atop melting bags of ice. State health department officials in charge of body recovery put the official death count at the Dome at 10, but Beron said the other four bodies were found in the street near the Dome, not inside it. Both sources said no one had been killed inside.

At the Convention Center, it was four:

...despites reports of corpses piled inside the building. Only one of the dead appeared to have been slain, said health and law enforcement officials.


[Orleans Parish District Attorney Eddie Jordan says:] "It's unfortunate we saw these kinds of stories saying crime had taken place on a massive scale when that wasn't the case. And they (national media outlets) have done nothing to follow up on any of these cases, they just accepted what people (on the street) told them. ... It's not consistent with the highest standards of journalism."

Well, as detailed elsewhere in this article, and as described here, local officials did their part in confirming inflated figures:

In interviews with Oprah Winfrey, [NOPD Chief Eddie] Compass reported rapes of "babies," and Mayor Ray Nagin spoke of "hundreds of armed gang members" killing and raping people inside the Dome. Unidentified evacuees told of children stepping over so many bodies, "we couldn't count."
...Orleans Parish District Attorney Eddie Jordan said authorities had confirmed only four murders in New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina - making it a typical week in a city that anticipated more than 200 homicides this year. Jordan expressed outrage at reports from many national media outlets that suffering flood victims had turned into mobs of unchecked savages...

There's much more at the link.
For contrary information, see "Mortician contradicts reports downplaying crime".
And, note the following:

One widely circulated tale, told to The Times-Picayune by a slew of evacuees and two Arkansas National Guardsmen, held that "30 or 40 bodies" were stored in a Convention Center freezer. But a formal Arkansas Guard review of the matter later found that no soldier had actually seen the corpses, and that the information came from rumors in the food line for military, police and rescue workers in front of Harrah's New Orleans Casino, said [Lt. Col. John Edwards of the Arkansas National Guard], who conducted the review.

NYT: Megaviolence undetermined, mostly urban legends

The NYT tries to downplay the reports of murders, rapes, carjackings, and assorted violence in "More Horrible Than Truth: News Reports". Somehow I don't think the story is going to stand the test of time as various reports are confirmed.

...And many of the urban legends that sprang up - the systematic rape of children, the slitting of a 7-year-old's throat - so far seem to be just that. The fact that some of these rumors were repeated by overwhelmed local officials does not completely get the news media off the hook. A survey of news reports in the LexisNexis database shows that on Sept. 1, the news media's narrative of the hurricane shifted...

The NYT's David Carr finds that it shifted with - surprise - Fox News! Then, Tucker Carlson shifted it even more. Then:

Some journalists did find sources. About 10 p.m. that same evening, Greta Van Susteren of Fox interviewed Dr. Charles Burnell, an emergency room physician who was providing medical care in the Superdome.
"Well, we had several murders. We had three murders last night. We had a total of six rapes last night. We had the day before I think there were three or four murders. There were half a dozen rapes that night," he told Ms. Van Susteren. (Dr. Burnell did not return several calls asking for comment.) On the same day, The New York Times referred to two rapes at the Superdome, quoting a woman by name who said she was a witness.
It is a fact that many died at the convention center and Superdome (7 and 10 respectively, according to the most recent reports from the coroner), but according to a Sept. 15 report in The Chicago Tribune, it was mostly from neglect rather than overt violence. According to the Tribune article, which quoted Capt. Jeffery Winn, the head of the city's SWAT team, one person at the convention center died from multiple stab wounds and one National Guardsman was shot in the leg.

[...don't blame the reporters, since officials confirmed the tenor of the reports...] Appearing on "Oprah" on Sept. 6, Chief Eddie Compass said of the Superdome: "We had little babies in there, some of the little babies getting raped." Mayor C. Ray Nagin concurred: "They have people standing out there, have been in that frickin' Superdome for five days watching dead bodies, watching hooligans killing people, raping people."
But the night before, Chief Compass had told The Guardian, "We don't have any substantiated rapes. We will investigate if they come forward."
..."They're Going to Kill or Rape Us, Get Us Out" read the headline in The Daily Star, a British tabloid. "Tourist Tells of Murder and Rape," was one headline in The Australian. "Snipers Shoot at Hospitals. Evacuees Raped, Beaten," The Ottawa Citizen reported... [See similar foreign reports in "Tourists in the Superdome". Those reports sound accurate to me, although the tourists might have obtained their information from inaccurate sources.

Eddie Compass on Convention Center conditions

This says it appeared on Sep. 10, but it might have been written before then and updated:

Conditions at the Convention Center may not have been as bad as initially thought, said New Orleans Police Chief Eddie Compass.
He said no bodies of children have been found and there has also been no evidence of sexual assaults.


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