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New Orleans Saints to return for 2006

According to ESPN, an agreement in principle has been reached between the NFL and New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson that will have the team returning for practices for 2006. That will likely lead to them playing the whole season in NO.

...Under the accord, which is expected to be finalized soon, the Saints will return to their permanent practice facility in Metairie, La., just outside of New Orleans. The state-owned training complex was commandeered by FEMA in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and used as a staging area. Saints officials had previously contended that the facility was in disrepair, but the damage was not nearly as severe as originally indicated.
"[The talks] haven't always been amicable, and [Benson] still has some doubts about all of this, but it looks like they're going back [to Louisiana]," one owner advising the Saints said.
It is believed that, with the Saints in Metairie, the team will split its 2006 schedule between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. The Superdome in New Orleans has been projected to be ready for play in November, but officials hope repairs can be accelerated in coming months...


National Guard colonel: no murders in Superdome

Shades of Major Ed Bush! Another NG official has stepped forward to reassure us that the reports of widespread murder, rape, and other violence at the Superdome were just plain wrong:

...The colonel in charge of the National Guard at the Louisiana Superdome in the days after Katrina said the shelter of last resort was a miserable place to be but that the behavior of the residents was misrepresented.
Colonel Thomas Beron said there were no murders and that the people were receiving food and water.
"There were no homicides," he stressed. "There were six fatalities. I'll tell you, I helped load every single body onto the FEMA trucks after the superdome was cleared."
Beron told members of the New Orleans City Council that he wants to set the record straight. He says there were some deaths in the dome, but they resulted from natural causes, an apparent suicide and a drug overdose.
Beron also said that most of the 35,000 evacuees were orderly, and though it wasn't gourmet, they weren't starving.
"The facts were we were fed twice a day, an MRE and a bottle of water, and after Wednesday, when we got more water, an MRE and two bottles of water in the morning and in the evening..."

As for me, I'm still quite a bit skeptical. Feeding that skepticism is the fact that everyone involved would like things to be as he describes, yet there were many early reports from different people appearing in different sources, and it doesn't seem possible that all of those could be so wrong...

"Who's Killing New Orleans?"

NOLA: "Nagin gets mixed reviews"

Could someone look through the long article Nagin gets mixed reviews: Evacuation plans, Superdome use criticized and put the salient points in comments, squaring what's in there with what's been previously posted?

Interview: Maj. Ed Bush on Superdome violence

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

Louisiana wants FEMA to upgrade Superdome

Apparently they forgot to add something to their $250 billion aid package. Tim Coulon, chairman of the Louisiana Stadium and Expedition District, wants FEMA to pay to upgrade the Superdome so it can be used as a shelter in the future. If FEMA won't pay, he says it shouldn't be used. They want upgraded bathrooms, an enlarged concourse (could double as the latter in a pinch), and the like. They also want insurance companies to pay part of this.

Reuters enters history re-writing fray

Getting a late start, Reuters downplays the reports of violence in "Accounts of N.Orleans violence questioned". It's a very standard article in the genre, concentrating on Maj. Ed Bush of the Louisiana National Guard and including:

Bush, who spent eight days in the Superdome, said New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and former Police Chief Eddie Compass had not helped matters by repeating reports of killings and rape to national media.
"There were people who made statements to the press representing New Orleans and Louisiana who really didn't know what the facts were. I think they were trying to paint a very very grim picture to get help here," said Bush.

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.

"Student shares Superdome horror story"

Hidden among the tales of human waste, gunshots, sickness, and death, comes the charming news that said student - who spent one day at the Superdome - has a message for America:

...The people she is worried about are the thousands left behind who aren't getting much help from the government.
"We didn't have proper assistance, and we still need it," she said, criticizing the government for taking so long to send help.
"I think it's horrible the way they treated the population. I think it was a racial issue, and I'm not even black."
Stephenson wants people to be held accountable for the slow reaction to the devastation.
"I hope the country learns that the current administration needs to be put under the spotlight as much as the previous administration was for personal affairs," she said...

Now, given her not-so-hidden agenda, how much should we trust her account?



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