Wednesday, October 12, 2005

FEMA STRIKES AGAIN

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By Elaine Meinel Supkis

They just can't stop. They have to do the exact wrong thing. Anyone who imagines that Brownie was the cause of our distress should put that aside. FEMA is run by insane people.

From the Washington Post:
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is restricting the release of information on Hurricane Katrina evacuees, complicating efforts by families to find loved ones and by law enforcement officials searching for parolees and convicted sex offenders.

Citing privacy concerns, FEMA has rejected a request by Texas officials for access to its database of the more than 100,000 evacuees who have registered for state aid, according to the governor's office. FEMA has also declined requests from five states to cross-check a database of convicted sex offenders and parolees against a list of evacuees requesting federal assistance, law enforcement officials said.

FEMA officials have started prohibiting workers at a large shelter here from sharing information about evacuees even with family members unless the evacuees had signed release forms. In many cases, relief workers said, such forms were lost or never presented in the chaos of the exodus. FEMA authorities made similar restrictions last week when they took over management of shelters in Beaumont, Tex.

"If we find someone, we've been instructed to tell family members, 'He or she is alive and well in San Antonio,' and that's it," said Rene Gauna, a San Antonio city employee working at a FEMA-managed shelter at the old Kelly Air Force Base. "We're no longer allowed to release new addresses or telephone numbers or tell people where their loved ones have moved."
Well, pray tell, how on earth can they contact each other? And privacy for sex offenders? Who may be in shelters?

Insane!

It would be funny if this weren't so tragic. Many bodies remain unnamed and unclaimed because scattered families can't finde each other and see who is where and who is alive. Employers can't find employees and vis versa. Friends can't find friends. Whole communities of friendship and neighborliness are broken and can't be reestablished. Lucky people like some of our family friends have family members outside of the destruction zone and so they could use the internet to gather in various forums or web sites and talk with each other but even with this, there were weeks of confusion and fear when no one could find each other.

FEMA has some mandates and the Republican fascination with privacy comes at the stupidest points. We have no privacy anymore, our government spies on us at every possible level so of course, they pretend that we need "privacy" at a pharmacy, something that is an illusion since the government can see every damn pill we buy via their data base!----And they spy on our emails and our telephone calls but after 9/11, they are not allowed to know where we get bombs or guns! Huh? What?
Federal privacy law is intended to protect people from identity theft and other violations of their personal information, but state aid officials say it should be balanced against the scope of Katrina's impact.
How does hiding people from each other protect from identity theft? If someone is in one city, the real person, with cousins, how can they find out there is an imposter in a shelter somewhere, collecting money in their name, unless they can check this out vis a vis an identity list with LOCATIONS?
Edwin Coleman's family has already run into obstacles. Coleman, 80, a retired inventory clerk, was rescued from his New Orleans home four days after Katrina flooded the city. His daughter, Edwina Coleman, had been looking for him ever since and heard from friends that he was in San Antonio. When she contacted the city's biggest shelter, officials refused to release any information on her father, saying they could not find proof that Coleman had signed a privacy waiver.

After questions from a Washington Post reporter on Monday, the shelter released information on Coleman and the two were reunited by telephone. "I'm glad I was found," chuckled Coleman, who said he signed a waiver but it apparently was lost. "People have been good to me, but things have been awfully confusing."

"We were doing these kind of ad hoc reunifications all the time before FEMA came in," said Gauna, the San Antonio official. "Now we've been told it's against the law."
Just a few months ago, the BBC ran this sad but happy story about two brothers seperated by WWII which broke up families near and far. They bumped into each other accidentally as old men. They recognized each other and were thus, reunited at last, crying.

That epic war was started by right wingers who wanted to break up families and kill people at will and the side destruction on families was immense. This hurricane is likewise, very destructive of community/family ties. The government should be striving as hard as possible to make information about these people known to all of us. Letting it all dribble away into the sea of humanity, 300 million of us, is very bad.

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