11 September 2005

"Brownie" Benched...

This is so embarassing, having the rest of the World see us as we really are beneath the mask...


Man Who Left Poor Blacks To Their Fate

Sat 10 Sep 2005

Michael Brown has been ordered back to Washington.


THE man criticised for delays in the United States government's response to Hurricane Katrina last night paid the price for those failures, when he was removed from his role overseeing operations and sent back to Washington.

His departure came hours after former US Secretary of State Colin Powell was strongly critical of the relief operation, and said that it was the poor black population that had suffered disproportionately.

Michael Brown, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), had initially been backed by President George Bush, who told him: "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job."

But with Mr Bush's own poll ratings in freefall over the handling of the crisis, that support appeared to have evaporated yesterday.

And hours after doubts were raised about Mr Brown's qualifications for the job, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff was reported to have taken the decision to replace him in charge of operations on the ground with Vice Admiral Thad Allen, chief of staff of the US Coast Guard.

Officials said Mr Brown had not been fired as FEMA director but had been told to return to Washington from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where he was the primary official overseeing the federal response to the disaster. Ironically, his departure came as an initial sweep of New Orleans suggested that far fewer people than at first thought had perished as a result of Hurricane Katrina.

Pressure had been mounting on Mr Brown for days, and hours earlier Mr Powell had added his voice to those criticising the federal government's response to the disaster

Mr Powell said he believed it should have been obvious to everyone that many people would be unable to respond to the order to evacuate New Orleans. "There have been a lot of failures at a lot of levels - local, state and federal. There was more than enough warning over time about the dangers to New Orleans. Not enough was done," he said. "I don't think advantage was taken of the time that was available to us, and I just don't know why."

He said the main reason that those left behind were unable to leave was because they were poor and could not do it alone. Many did not have credit cards and only one family in ten had a car, he added.

"When you look at those who weren't able to get out, it should have been a blinding flash of the obvious to everybody that when you order a mandatory evacuation, you can't expect everybody to evacuate on their own," he said.

Mr Powell said he did not think that race was a factor in the slow response, but that many of those unable to leave New Orleans in time were trapped by poverty.

"I don't think it's racism, I think it's economic," said Mr Powell. "But poverty disproportionately affects African-Americans. And it happened because they were poor."

The pressure on Mr Brown was ratcheted up further when it emerged that five of the eight officials in charge of FEMA were political appointees who had little experience in handling disasters.

It was reported in the US that as political operatives took the top jobs in the agency, professionals and experts in hurricanes and disasters left.

There also were claims that Mr Brown's official biography released by the White House at the time of his nomination exaggerated his experience in disaster relief.

The 2001 release on the White House website said that Mr Brown worked for the city of Edmond, Oklahoma, from 1975 to 1978 "overseeing the emergency services division".

But Claudia Deakins, head of public relations for the city of Edmond, was reported to have questioned that description, suggesting that he was merely "an assistant to the city manager" from 1977 to 1980, not a manager himself.

Mr Brown was a friend of former Bush campaign director Joe Allbaugh, the previous FEMA head.

"FEMA is fully capable of handling multi-storm operations," Mr Brown said in a statement. "I am returning to Washington, DC, to resume oversight over operations for the arrival of Hurricane Ophelia and the immediate response efforts."

Public sympathy for the Bush administration over its handling of the crisis is dwindling, with one poll finding that 67 per cent of Americans thought the president could have done more to speed up relief efforts.

However, last night it appeared that initial estimates of the death toll had been grossly exaggerated.

The city major, Ray Nagin, had warned that up to 10,000 people may have died in New Orleans alone. But Terry Ebbert, New Orleans' homeland security chief, said it appeared now that the death toll may have to be revised sharply downwards.

"Numbers so far are relatively minor as compared to the projections of 10,000," he said.

Decaying corpses in the floodwaters could pose problems for engineers who are trying to pump the city dry. While 37 of the 174 pumps in the New Orleans area were working and 17 portable pumps were in place, officials said the mammoth undertaking could be complicated by corpses getting clogged in the pumps.

Some 400,000 homes in the city were also still without power, with no immediate prospect of getting it back. And fires continued to be a problem.


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