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Headlines and Commentary for 08.31.05

Mayor: Katrina May Have Killed Thousands – Hurricane Katrina probably killed thousands of people in New Orleans, the mayor said Wednesday — an estimate that, if accurate, would make the storm the nation’s deadliest natural disaster since at least the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. “We know there is a significant number of dead bodies in the water,” and other people dead in attics, Mayor Ray Nagin said. Asked how many, he said: “Minimum, hundreds. Most likely, thousands.”

What more can be said about this tragedy? The survival stories, the rescue attempts, the struggles. Mindbloggling.

Bush Views Katrina Devastation From Plane – President Bush flew over areas of the Gulf Coast devastated by Hurricane Katrina after holding a video conference Wednesday with top aides to discuss federal relief efforts. “It’s totally wiped out,” he told aides at one point during the hastily-arranged inspection flight. As he flew home to Washington, Bush prepared to meet with a White House task force on recovery efforts and make remarks later in the Rose Garden.

Bush’s statement is due at 5PM EDT. I expect we’ll see him on the ground in the affected areas soon.

Katrina Refugees Will Go to Astrodome – At least 25,000 of Hurricane Katrina’s refugees, a majority of them at the New Orleans Superdome, will travel in a bus convoy to Houston and will be sheltered at the Astrodome, which hasn’t been used for professional sporting events in years. Evacuees with special problems already have been evacuated to hospitals in other Louisiana cities, but the 23,000 people now confined to the stuffy, smelly Superdome, as well as some other refugees will go to Houston, about 350 miles away. The marathon bus convoy should take two days, officials said.

I can’t even imagine the logistical issues involved in evacuating and transporting 25,000 people.

Officials Helpless Against Looters – With law officers and National Guardsmen focused on saving lives, looters around the city spent another day brazenly ransacking stores for food, clothing, appliances — and guns. Thieves commandeered a forklift and used it to push up the storm shutters and break the glass of a pharmacy. The crowd stormed the store, carrying out so much ice, water and food that it dropped from their arms as they ran. The street was littered with packages of ramen noodles and other items. Officials tried to balance security needs with saving lives. “We’re multitasking right now,” said New Orleans Police Capt. Marlon Defillo. “Rescue, recovery, stabilization of looting, we’re trying to feed the hungry.”

If you’re a law enforcement officer in New Orleans today, you have the toughest job in the world. These men and women will suffer for the rest of their lives from the psychological effects of what they’ve seen and experienced over the past few days.

Bush Releases Oil From Petroleum Reserve – The Bush administration agreed Wednesday to release oil from emergency stockpiles to help Gulf Coast refiners hobbled by a loss of shipments due to Hurricane Katrina. The administration also moved to temporarily ease some pollution standards on gasoline and diesel fuel to avert shortages.

A good move. This will keep refineries in operation which is extremely important. Don’t expect a savings at the pump though.

769 Dead, 307 Hurt in Iraq Bridge Stampede – Trampled, crushed against barricades or plunging into the Tigris River, more than 700 Shiite pilgrims died Wednesday when a procession across a Baghdad bridge was engulfed in panic over rumors that a suicide bomber was at large. Most of the dead were women and children, Interior Ministry spokesman Lt. Col. Adnan Abdul-Rahman said. It was the single biggest confirmed loss of life in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion. Dr. Swadi Karim of the Health Ministry operations section said 769 were killed and 307 injured.

An act of terrorism without bombs, planes, guns or WMD. An amazing loss of life that’s hard to comprehend.

And finally…

Spanish paint town red in tomato fight – Tens of thousands of people armed with 100 tonnes of plum tomatoes took part in the “Tomatina” on Wednesday, joyously splattering each other in the Spanish town of Bunol. The town hall, which lies just inland from Valencia on Spain’s Mediterranean coast, spent 24,960 euros on the fruit and dumped it the streets for the chanting masses.

Look for a demonstration soon by the ‘People for the Ethical Treatment of Tomatoes’.

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