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11 September 2005

Gore airlifts stranded patients, while elsewhere . . .

Here's a story that you may not have heard at the time. Ex-VP Al Gore paid to airlift the patients of a hospital in New Orleans to Tennessee when they were stranded in life-threatening circumstances. (Gore has apparently been a little shy about the story, no doubt due to his unfair and atrocious treatment by the press in the past.)
In an interesting if chilling parallel, I was watching the new Andrew Marr show Sunday AM this morning and in the ritual reading of the newspaper headlines, one of the national tabloids had a front page story alleging that hospital staff in New Orleans engaged in mercy killing of stranded and terminally ill patients. I could not find a link for this on the internet (I'm sure it must be out there*) but I did find a lot of other stuff, including this powerful accusation of ethnic cleansing in New Orleans. Here's a quote:

Buffalo-based columnist Michael I. Niman notes Sept. 8 how the feds effectively shut down citizen self-help rescue efforts such as [New Orleans resident Charmaine] Neville's:
The Â?too dangerous to rescueÂ? myth was also employed by FEMA as rationale for ordering rescue teams to stand down early in the crisis. Louisianans are a tough lot, and many private boat owners from areas surrounding New Orleans immediately entered the city as flooding began, creating an ad hoc rescue flotilla. Many survivors tell of strangers in small fishing boats plucking them out of second story windows or off of roofs, depositing them high and dry on highway overpasses. The Federal government put a stop to such heroism, while failing to replace the independent effort with one of their own. (Online at MediaStudy.com)
There appears to have been an overt policy of racial and class discrimination in the rescue effort. ThMilwaukeeee Journal-Sentinel Sept. 2 reports the ordeal of Kelli Nelson, an African-American Wisconsin native working as a nurse at Charity Hospital, New Orleans' largest public hospital and trauma center. She and other personnel and patients were finally airlifted out to San Antonio on the 2nd, after she stood on the roof with a big sign reading "Save the babies, please get us out of here." The city's big private hospitals like Tulane were evacuated days earlier. Trapped in the city, Kelli did manage to get out some chilling text messages to her friends and family.
"She says the situation has gotten worse," the friends relayed that Kelli had messaged them. "The evacuation was aborted... [T]hey had taken babies and mothers down to a boat to go to Tulane's helicopter pad and they were refused access to the pad... what a horror story.
"Does that mean indigent people have no rights...?
* Update: It was The Sunday Mail. I ended up buying the paper and reading it "offline". The pundits on the show pooh-poohed the possibility of accuracy of this story, but I have to say it had, for me, a ring of verisimilitude.

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