Monthly Archives: August 2008




AP – 14 hours, 40 minutes ago
August 31, 2008
Residents were ordered to flee an only partially rebuilt New Orleans Sunday as another monster storm bore down on Louisiana nearly three years to the day after Hurricane Katrina wiped out entire swaths of the city.
Hurricane Gustav, which already killed more than 80 people in the Caribbean, strengthened quickly into a Category 4 and was poised to become a Category 5 storm, packing winds in excess of 156 mph. It slammed Cuba’s tobacco-growing western tip before moving away from the island country into the Gulf of Mexico.
New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin used stark language to urge residents to get out of the city, calling Gustav the “storm of the century.”
“This is the real deal, not a test,” Nagin said as he issued the evacuation order Saturday night. “For everyone thinking they can ride this storm out, I have news for you: that will be one of the biggest mistakes you can make in your life.”
Forecasters were slightly less dire in their predictions, saying the storm should make landfall Monday afternoon somewhere between western Mississippi and East Texas, where evacuations were also under way. It’s too early to know whether New Orleans will take another direct hit, they said, but city officials weren’t taking any chances.
Gustav’s center was about 485 miles southeast of the Mississippi River‘s mouth at 2 a.m. EDT, with top winds of near 135 mph expected to strengthen as it crosses the central Gulf.
It was moving northwest near 15 mph.
The mandatory evacuation of the city’s west bank, where levee improvements remain incomplete, was to begin at 8 a.m., with the east bank to follow at noon. It’s the first test of a revamped evacuation plan designed to eliminate the chaos, looting and death that followed Katrina.
The city will not offer emergency services to those who choose stay behind, Nagin said, and there will be no “last resort” shelter as there was during Katrina, when thousands suffered inside a squalid Superdome. The city said in a news release that those not on their property after the mandatory evacuation started would be subject to arrest.
Many residents didn’t need to be ordered, with an estimated 1 million people fleeing the Gulf Coast on Saturday by bus, train, plane and car. They clogged roadways, emptied gas stations of fuel and jammed phone circuits.
At the city’s main transit terminal, a line snaked through the parking lot for more than a mile as residents with no other means of getting out waited to board buses bound for shelters in north Louisiana and beyond.
“I’m not staying for ’em any more,” said Lester Harris, a 53-year-old electrician waiting at a bus pickup point in the Lower 9th Ward. He was rescued from his house by boat after Katrina. “I got caught in the water and spent two days on my roof. No food, no water. It was pretty bad.”
Mike Mayer, owner of Jefferson Indoor Range and Gun Outlet in suburban Metairie, said sales of guns and ammunition were up.
“My business doubled,” he said. “People are afraid of coming back after the storm. … They want some protection when they walk back in.”
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff planned to travel to Louisiana on Sunday to observe preparations. And likely GOP presidential nominee John McCain and his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, were traveling to Mississippi.
Despite the stern warnings from Nagin and others, the expected arrival of 2,000 National Guard troops suggested officials were expecting stragglers.
Stephen Sonnier left for Katrina, but not this time.
“I’ll never leave again. Just being away, worrying about it last time? I’d have rather been here,” Sonnier said as he helped his friend Bill Espy use an electric drill to fasten metal hurricane panels over the window of his reconstructed flower shop.
Sonnier had just marked the third anniversary of Katrina on Friday by placing flowers on a makeshift memorial to a woman named Vera who was struck by a car after the storm. Her body lay unattended for days before neighbors built a makeshift brick tomb around her.
Pictures of that grave with its spray-painted epitaph: “Here lies Vera, God Help Us!” became one of the symbols of the post-Katrina mayhem.
Many residents said the early stage of the evacuation was more orderly than Katrina, although a plan to electronically log and track evacuees with a bar code system failed and was aborted to keep the buses moving. Officials said information on evacuees would be taken when they reached their destinations.
Some began arriving Saturday in Arkansas, where the National Guard prepared to shelter thousands for weeks. At least 15,000 people sought refuge in the inland state in 2005, following Katrina and Rita.
Meanwhile, as many as 500 critical-care patients were being airlifted from hospitals along the Gulf Coast to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, a spokesman said. The patients were being taken to about 20 hospitals around North Texas.
Traffic late Saturday night was stop and go on Interstate 10, heading west into Houston from the Louisiana border, as Texas prepared to house up to 45,000 evacuees, even though that state’s eastern stretches were within the range of where Gustav could make landfall.
In Beaumont, not far from where Hurricane Rita roared ashore as a Category 3 in 2005, residents were boarding up homes and leaving. In neighboring Orange County, officials were inundated “by thousands” of people calling to register for evacuation assistance, a county spokeswoman said.
To the east, Louisiana residents were checking into hotels along Alabama’s coast. Mitch and Laura Tucker of Mandeville brought along their dog, Roux, whom they saved during Katrina.
“We don’t know what we’ll be going back to,” he said.
Associated Press writers Peter Prengaman, Janet McConnaughey, Alan Sayre, Allen G. Breed, Mary Foster and Stacey Plaisance contributed to this report from New Orleans. Doug Simpson in Baton Rouge, La., Michael Kunzelman in Gulfport, Miss., and Peggy Harris in Little Rock also contributed.

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Brian Sokol/Rapport, for The New York Times
An untouchable, or Dalit, woman in Azamgarh District in Uttar Pradesh, India. The country has 200 million Dalits, many of whom remain uneducated and poor.  More Photos >
Published: August 29, 2008
AZAMGARH DISTRICT, India — When Chandra Bhan Prasad visits his ancestral village in these feudal badlands of northern India, he dispenses the following advice to his fellow untouchables: Get rid of your cattle, because the care of animals demands children’s labor.
Invest in your children’s education instead of in jewelry or land. Cities are good for Dalit outcastes like us, and so is India’s new capitalism.
August 30, 2008    

Brian Sokol/Rapport, for The New York Times

Chandra Bhan Prasad in front of a flooded field in a village in Uttar Pradesh, India. More Photos »

Mr. Prasad was born into the Pasi community, once considered untouchable on the ancient Hindu caste order. Today, a chain-smoking, irrepressible didact, he is the rare outcaste columnist in the English language press and a professional provocateur. His latest crusade is to argue that India’s economic liberalization is about to do the unthinkable: destroy the caste system. The last 17 years of new capitalism have already allowed his people, or Dalits, as they call themselves, to “escape hunger and humiliation,” he says, if not residual prejudice.
At a time of tremendous upheaval in India, Mr. Prasad is a lightning rod for one of the country’s most wrenching debates: Has India’s embrace of economic reforms really uplifted those who were consigned for centuries to the bottom of the social ladder? Mr. Prasad, who guesses himself to be in his late 40s because his birthday was never recorded, is an anomaly, often the lone Dalit in Delhi gatherings of high-born intelligentsia.
He has the zeal of an ideological convert: he used to be a Maoist revolutionary who, by his own admission, dressed badly, carried a pistol and recruited his people to kill their upper-caste landlords. He claims to have failed in that mission.
Mr. Prasad is a contrarian. He calls government welfare programs patronizing. He dismisses the countryside as a cesspool. Affirmative action is fine, in his view, but only to advance a small slice into the middle class, who can then act as role models. He calls English “the Dalit goddess,” able to liberate Dalits.
Along with India’s economic policies, once grounded in socialist ideals, Mr. Prasad has moved to the right. He is openly and mischievously contemptuous of leftists. “They have a hatred for those who are happy,” he said.
There are about 200 million Dalits, or members of the Scheduled Castes, as they are known officially, in India. They remain socially scorned in city and country, and they are over-represented among India’s uneducated, malnourished and poor.
The debate over caste in the New India is more than academic. India’s leaders are under growing pressure to alleviate poverty and inequality. Now, all kinds of groups are clamoring for what Dalits have had for 50 years — quotas in university seats, government jobs and elected office — making caste one of the country’s most divisive political issues. Moreover, there are growing demands for caste quotas in the private sector.
Mr. Prasad’s latest mission is sure to stir the debate. He is conducting a qualitative survey of nearly 20,000 households here in northern state of Uttar Pradesh to measure how everyday life has changed for Dalits since economic liberalization began in 1991. The preliminary findings, though far from generalizable, reveal subtle shifts.
The survey, financed by the Center for the Advanced Study of India at the University of Pennsylvania, finds that Dalits are far less likely to be engaged in their traditional caste occupations — for instance, the skinning of animals, considered ritually unclean — than they used to be and more likely to enjoy social perks once denied them. In rural Azamgarh District, for instance, nearly all Dalit households said their bridegrooms now rode in cars to their weddings, compared with 27 percent in 1990. In the past, Dalits would not have been allowed to ride even horses to meet their brides; that was considered an upper-caste privilege.
Mr. Prasad credits the changes to a booming economy. “It has pulled them out of the acute poverty they were in and the day-to-day humiliation of working for a landlord,” he said.
To prove his point, Mr. Prasad recently brought journalists here to his home district. In one village, Gaddopur, his theory was borne out in the tale of a gaunt, reticent man named Mahesh Kumar, who went to work in a factory 300 miles away so his family would no longer have to live as serfs, tending the animals of the upper caste.
August 29, 2008    

Brian Sokol/Rapport, for The New York Times

Dalit women planted rice in a field flooded by monsoon. More Photos >
The New York Times
In Azamgarh District, Dalits are gaining some privileges. More Photos >

When he was a child, Dalits like him had to address their upper-caste landlords as “babu-saab,” close to “master.” Now it is acceptable to call them “uncle” or “brother,” just as people would members of their own castes.
Today, Mr. Kumar, 61 and uneducated, owns an airless one-room factory on the outskirts of Delhi, with a basic gas-fired machine to press bolts of fabric for garment manufacturers.
With money earned there, he and his sons have built a proper brick and cement house in their village.
Similar tales are echoed in many other villages across India. But here is the problem with Mr. Prasad’s survey. Even if it chronicles progress, the survey cannot tie it to any one cause, least of all economic changes. In fact, other empirical studies in this budding area of inquiry show that in parts of India where economic liberalization has had the greatest impact, neither rural poverty nor the plight of Dalits has consistently improved.
Abhijit Banerjee, an economist at M.I.T. who studies poverty in India, says that the reform years coincide with the rise of Dalit politicians, and that both factors may have contributed to a rise in confidence among Dalits.
Moreover, Old India’s caste prohibitions have made sure that some can prosper more easily than others. India’s new knowledge-based economy rewards the well-educated and highly skilled, and education for centuries was the preserve of the upper castes.
Today, discrimination continues, with some studies suggesting that those with familiar lower-caste names fare worse in job interviews, even with similar qualifications. The Indian elite, whether corporate heads, filmmakers, even journalists, is still dominated by the upper castes.
From across India still come reports of brutality against untouchables trying to transcend their destiny.
It is a measure of the hardships of rural India that so many Dalits in recent years are migrating to cities for back-breaking, often unregulated jobs, and that those who remain in their villages consider sharecropping a step up from day labor.
On a journey across these villages with Mr. Prasad, it is difficult to square the utter destitution of his people with Dalit empowerment. In one village, the government health center has collapsed into a pile of bricks. Few homes have toilets. Children run barefoot. In Gaddopur, the Dalit neighborhood still sits on the edge of the village — so as not to pollute the others, the thinking goes — and in the monsoon, when the fields are flooded, the only way to reach the Dalits’ homes is to tramp ankle deep in mud. The land that leads to the Dalit enclave is owned by intermediate castes, and they have not allowed for it to be used to build a proper brick lane.
Indu Jaiswal, 21, intends to be the first Dalit woman of Gaddopur to get a salaried job. She has persuaded her family to let her defer her marriage by a few years, an audacious demand here, so she could finish college and get a stable government job. “With education comes change,” Ms. Jaiswal said. “You learn how to talk. You learn how to work. And you get more respect.”
Without education, the migrants from Gaddopur also know, they can go only so far in the big cities that Mr. Prasad so ardently praises. Their fabric-pressing factories in and around Delhi have been losing business lately, as the big textile factories acquire computerized machines far more efficient than their own crude contraptions. One man with knowledge of computers can do the work of 10 of their men, they say. Neither Mr. Kumar, nor the two sons who work with him, can afford to buy these new machines. Even if they could, they know nothing about computers.
The village Dalits do not challenge Mr. Prasad with such contradictions as he travels among them preaching the virtues of economic liberalization. He is a big man, a success story that makes them proud.
Among the broad generalizations he favors, he says that Dalits aspire to marry upper-caste Brahmins to step up the ladder. He married a woman from his own caste, who, he proudly points out, is light-skinned. Across the caste ladder, fair complexion is still preferred over dark.
Economic expansion is going to neutralize caste in 50 years,” he predicted. “It will not end caste.”
SOURCE:  The New York Times:


As for affirmative action and quotas, I do not see where those would help the majority of the Dalits. A few maybe, but large numbers of them, no. Affirmative action in place to remedy racism is fine, but, most Dalits, like most Black Americans, will in the end have to make it on their own. As for quotas, which the Dalits have had for over 50 years in university seats, government jobs, and elected office—these can afford some elevation for them, but, that goes mainly for government entities. How will they fare with the private sector concerning quotas?

As for the light-skin/dark-skin issue, especially where Mr. Prasad “proudly points out” in reference to his light-skinned wife, there is still a long road to travel where light vs. dark is concerned among the dark people of India, a hold over from the days of colonialism.

I do agree with him on education. Though the caste system has been a system in place for generations, education will open many doors for the Dalits, especially for their children.

Educating their children will give the Dalits a leg up in improving their present status. Yes, it will take a while to raise themselves to a better station in life, since their children will need elementary/secondary education, as well as college/university-type education.

The more the children learn that will help them to take care of themselves, the more they will be able to help and care for their parents.

Cattle may be taken from the family by drought, floods, or disease, jewelry may be lost or stolen—but, an education is something that will last a lifetime.

Education is a precious gem, and once obtained, no one can take it from you.

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Lalo de Almeida for The New York Times
Joaquina Karitiana, with her son Rogerio, says researchers promised her tribe medicine that never arrived. More Photos >
Published: June 20, 2007
KYOWÃ, Brazil — As the Karitiana Indians remember it, the first researchers to draw their blood came here in the late 1970s, shortly after the Amazon tribe began sustained contact with the outside world. In 1996, another team visited, promising medicine if the Karitiana would just give more blood, so they dutifully lined up again.
But that promise was never fulfilled, and since then the world has expanded again for the Karitiana through the arrival of the Internet. Now they have been enraged by a simple discovery: their blood and DNA collected during that first visit are being sold by an American concern to scientists around the world for $85 a sample.
They want the practice stopped, and are demanding compensation for what they describe as the violation of their personal integrity.
“We were duped, lied to and exploited,” Renato Karitiana, the leader of the tribal association, said in an interview here on the tribe’s reservation in the western Amazon, where 313 Karitiana eke out a living by farming, fishing and hunting. “Those contacts have been very injurious to us, and have spoiled our attitude toward medicine and science.”
Two other Brazilian tribal peoples complain of similar experiences and say they are also seeking to stop the distribution of their blood and DNA by Coriell Cell Repositories, a nonprofit group based in Camden, N. J. They are the Suruí people, whose homeland is just south of here, and the Yanomami, who live on the Brazil-Venezuela border.
Coriell stores human genetic material and makes it available for research. It says the samples were obtained legally through a researcher and approved by the National Institutes of Health.
“We are not trying to profit from or steal from Brazilians,” Joseph Mintzer, executive vice president of the center, said in a telephone interview. “We have an obligation to respect their civilization, culture and people, which is why we carefully control the distribution of these cell lines.”
Like a similar center in France that has also obtained blood and DNA samples of the Karitiana and other Amazon tribes, Coriell says it provides specimens only to scientists who agree not to commercialize the results of their research or to transfer the material to third parties.
The indigenous peoples of the Amazon are ideal for certain types of genetic research because they are isolated and extremely close-knit populations, allowing geneticists to construct a more thorough pedigree and to track the transmission of illnesses down generations.
The practice of collecting blood samples from Amazon Indians, though, has aroused widespread suspicions among Brazilians, who have been zealous about what they call “bio-piracy” ever since rubber seedlings were exported from the Amazon nearly a century ago.
The rise of genome mapping in recent years has only exacerbated such fears.
Debora Diniz, a Brazilian anthropologist, argues that the experience of the Karitiana and other tribes shows “how scientists still are ill prepared for intercultural dialogue and how science behaves in an authoritarian fashion with vulnerable populations.”
The core of the international debate that has emerged here, though, has to do with the concept of “informed consent.” Scientists argue that all the appropriate protocols were followed, but the Indians say they were deceived into allowing their blood to be drawn.
“This is sort of a balancing act,” said Judith Greenberg, director of genetics and developmental biology at the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, part of the National Institutes of Health. “We don’t want to do something that makes a whole tribe or people unhappy or angry. On the other hand, the scientific community is using these samples, which were accepted and maintained under perfectly legitimate procedures, for the benefit of mankind,” she said.
The Indians themselves, however, respond that at the time the first blood samples were drawn, they had little or no understanding of the outside world, let alone the workings of Western medicine and modern capitalist economics.
Francis Black, the first researcher to take blood samples here, died recently, so it is impossible to obtain his account. But officials of the National Indian Foundation, or Funai, the Brazilian government agency that supervises tribal groups, said that his presence on the reservation here violated procedures specifically aimed at protecting Indians from outsiders.
“We would never have authorized such a thing,” Osmar Ribeiro Brasil, who has worked at the agency’s regional headquarters in Porto Velho since the 1970s, said of the blood collection. “There is no record of any research permission request either here or at our headquarters in Brasília.”

For the reporting of this article, all the required procedures were followed. Funai authorized the visit here and sent an official to accompany a reporter and a photographer. But that official did not sit in on the interviews here or coach the Indians in their responses.
In the case of the 1996 expedition, permission to enter the reservation was obtained, but only to film a nature documentary, Funai officials said. Once on the reservation, however, a Brazilian doctor accompanying the film crew, Hilton Pereira da Silva, and his wife began conducting unauthorized medical research, Funai officials and residents of the reservation said.
“If anyone is ill, we will send medicine, lots of medicine,” is what Joaquina Karitiana, 56, remembers being told, which soothed her worries. “They drew blood from almost everyone, including the children. But once they had what they wanted, we never received any medicine at all.”
Dr. Pereira da Silva was not available for comment. But in a statement that he issued in response to complaints about his work, he said he had explained the purposes of his research “in accessible language” and had promised that “any possible benefit of any type that results from research with this material will revert in its entirety to those who donated.”
As a result of the legal pressures that the tribe and Funai have brought, Brazilian institutions that had collected blood samples have returned them to the tribes. But entities abroad have resisted, saying both that they acted properly and that there are no profits to be shared with the Indians.
“They want money, and we have not made any money,” Mr. Mintzer of Coriell said. “I don’t know of anyone who has made any money from this.”
The Karitiana say that includes them. Antonio Karitiana, the village chief, said that health care, sanitation and housing were precarious, and that transportation was deficient. Any money obtained from Coriell or a lawsuit would be invested “for the benefit of the entire community,” he said.
“We don’t want that blood back, because it is contaminated now,” said Orlando Karitiana, 34, a tribal leader. “But these blood samples are valuable in your technology, and we think that every family that was tricked into giving blood should benefit.”
The religions of some other tribal groups, however, regard human tissue as important or nearly sacred. The Yanomami, for example, say they want the blood samples returned to them intact.
“A soul can only be at rest after the entire body is cremated,” said Davi Yanomami, a leader of the group. “To have the blood of a dead person preserved and separated from the remainder of the body is simply unacceptable to us.”
But Francisco M. Salzano, one of Brazil’s leading geneticists, with more than 40 years of experience in the Amazon and dealing with indigenous peoples, argues that it is acceptable to brush aside such concerns.
“If it depended on religion and belief, we would still be in the Stone Age,” he said in a telephone interview from his office at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul.
“None of these samples have been used in an unethical manner,” Dr. Salzano added. As for the question of informed consent, he added, “That is always relative.”


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Kevin Moloney for The New York Times
Ariel Farmer, 14, left, Kyla Sharp Butte, 14, and Will Sharp Butte, 15, hang out at the Gus Stop on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation in South Dakota.
Published: June 9, 2007
ROSEBUD, S.D. — The two suicides struck the Rosebud Sioux Reservation like a random virus. No one saw them coming.
June 9, 2007    

Kevin Moloney for The New York Times

At the reservation, Luke and Gaylord Black Spotted Horse. Suicide has become the second-leading cause of death for Indian youths.

The young man, 19 years old, played varsity football and basketball at Todd County High School. He was admired across the reservation, in that way small towns follow and celebrate their teenage athletes. The girl, weeks shy of her 14th birthday, made straight A’s at Todd County Middle School, played volleyball and basketball and led a traditional Lakota drum corps.
They hanged themselves. This happened at the end of a particularly brutal two and a half months, from Jan. 1 to March 13, when tribal authorities were called to three suicides and scores of attempts. The next day, with the reservation (population 13,000) reeling, tribal officials declared a state of emergency.
Since then, a woman in her early 20s killed herself with pills, and scores more young people have tried to kill themselves — a total of 144 so far this year, at doctors’ best count; the computer used for recordkeeping was down for six weeks. In May, seven youths who tried hanging, poisoning or slashing themselves to death were admitted to the reservation hospital in one 24-hour period.
What is happening at Rosebud is all too common throughout Indian Country. American Indian and Alaska Native youth 15 to 24 years old are committing suicide at a rate more than three times the national average for their age group of 13 per 100,000 people, according to the surgeon general. Often, one suicide leads to another. For these youths, suicide has become the second-leading cause of death (after accidents). In the Great Plains, the suicide rate among Indian youth is the worst: 10 times the national average.
Here at Rosebud, when six high school girls were approached at the Boys and Girls Club one recent afternoon for their reactions to the suicides, four said they had tried suicide. The four compared notes on their methods — two slashed their wrists, two overdosed on pills — and their motives. “There are a lot of reasons,” said Areina Young, a 16-year-old cheerleader at Todd County High who overdosed on sleeping pills and codeine in February. “We have a lot of issues.”
Plains reservations are among the poorest places in the country, with all of poverty’s consequences. But the why of the suicide phenomenon — why American Indian youth, why the Great Plains — is complicated, experts say. The traumas Plains tribes have experienced over the last 175 years — massacres like the one at Wounded Knee, the decimation of their land and culture — are part of it.
“Very generally, adolescence is a time of trouble for all youths,” said Philip May, a professor of sociology at the University of New Mexico who has been studying suicide among American Indians for more than 35 years. “But in many American Indian communities, it’s compounded by limited opportunities, historical trauma and contemporary discrimination. The way the Lakota people and other Plains tribes have experienced history in the last 100 years has reduced the mental health factors that are available to them to cope.”
Tribal leaders at Rosebud took a survey of Todd County students in March. The students’ biggest complaint was that they did not feel safe for fear of gangs. They said that they had no refuge, that their parents were not present, and that they saw too much tragedy, alcoholism and hopelessness.
In response, tribal and community leaders have redoubled their efforts to stem the reservation’s gang problem. They have organized after-school programs, sponsored talks by motivational speakers and made school counselors widely available.
At the same time, schools and the community at large are not commemorating those that kill themselves, said Victoria Sherman, the principal at Todd County High School. She refused, she said, to allow an elaborate memorial during this year’s graduation for a student who killed himself last year on graduation day. “We don’t want to encourage desperate acts,” Ms. Sherman said.
Federal lawmakers are also beginning to address the problem. Senator Byron L. Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota and chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, recently introduced a bill to combat child abuse and Indian youth suicide. The legislation would provide increased resources for suicide prevention training and treatment.
With few places for students on this sprawling reservation to congregate — some commute as far as 40 miles each way to school — the Boys and Girls Club, a former bowling alley, opened before it was ready so students could have a place to gather after school.
Rosebud and the neighboring Pine Ridge reservation, using a $400,000 federal grant, have started training community members and school employees in suicide prevention and intervention.
But tribal leaders say they need more concrete help to turn the situation around. The reservation has only four full-time mental health professionals, and two are leaving soon, said the Rosebud tribal president, Rodney Bordeaux.
“We did the emergency declaration because we needed to get attention,” Mr. Bordeaux said. “We’re saying, we need more funding, more help, now.”
Health services are seriously underfinanced on reservations nationwide. For over a decade, Congress has failed to reauthorize a law that would increase aid.
Officially, three youths at Rosebud committed suicide last year and 193 tried. But not all suicides or attempts involve calls to the police, officials here said.
The group of girls who had attempted suicide said they all knew others who had tried several times.
“A lot of people are just trying to get attention,” Areina Young said.
One girl in the group, a 15-year-old, had swallowed a bottle of Tylenol on April 14 and spent two weeks in the hospital.
“Me, I had a really good explanation,” she said. She started into a horrific story of being raped by her half-brother for years before he was arrested two years ago; of her and her siblings being routinely abandoned for months at a time by their mother, an alcoholic; of her grandmother beating her.
“But now I know that suicide is the permanent solution to temporary problems,” she said.
“Counseling really helped me a lot. Put down that we need more counseling. For me, right now, I need it every day.”
SOURCE:  The New York Times:

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Published: August 30, 2008
GILA RIVER INDIAN COMMUNITY, Ariz. — More than a hundred years ago, the Gila River, siphoned off by farmers upstream, all but dried up here in the parched flats south of Phoenix, plunging an Indian community that had depended on it for centuries of farming into starvation and poverty.
If that was not bad enough, food rations sent by the federal government — white flour, lard, canned meats and other sugary, processed foods — conspired with the genetic anomalies of the Indians to sow an obesity epidemic that has left the reservation with among the highest rates of diabetes in the world.
Now, after decades of litigation that produced the largest water-rights settlement ever in Indian country, the Indians here are getting some of their water back. And with it has come the question: Can a healthier lifestyle lost generations ago be restored?
Reviving the farming tradition will prove difficult, many tribal members say, because the tribes, who number 20,000, including about 12,000 on the reservation, have not farmed on a big scale for generations. Fast food is a powerful lure particularly for the young, and the trend of late has been to move off the reservation, to work or live.
“Nobody wants to get out and get dirt under their fingernails,” said Pancratious Harvey, one of a handful of tribal members who began a community garden a couple of years ago.
Still, the garden, which is filled with vegetables that were once staples in the tribe’s diet, is a sign of enthusiasm for farming that members believe could spread as the water arrives.
On the reservation, the sound of earthmovers fills the air as workers repair dilapidated and abandoned irrigation canals and ditches and dig new ones to distribute billions of gallons of water that the community will soon be receiving.
The water settlement, involving the two principal tribes on the Gila River reservation — the Pima, who call themselves Akimel O’otham, or “river people,” and the Maricopa — as well as a related band, the Tohono O’odham Nation on the Mexican border, took effect this year, after being approved by Congress in 2004.
It will take several more years to complete the irrigation and related projects here, at a cost to the federal government of about $680 million, but when done it will allow the community to double the amount of farming, both an economic and cultural boon.
For the time being, the community garden, with squash, beans and other vegetables is just over two acres. “We’re relearning how to grow them,” said Ed Mendoza, one of the founders of the garden, the Vah-Ki Cooperative Garden. “People get sick with diabetes, they’re obese, and there are heart attacks and stress because we eat an American diet now.
Beans regulate the highs and lows of sugar. Okra makes you healthy. You can eat this food and feel the spirit immediately.”
Elsewhere, several members are acquiring plots in hopes of growing traditional crops as well as more profitable ones like alfalfa. Gila River Farms, the largest tribal agriculture outfit, plans to double its farming, to some 35,000 acres, once the water begins flowing again.
Most of the water was diverted in the late 19th century, slowing the Gila River to a trickle. It was a startling turn of events for a tribe whose ancestors had thrived on the river for generations through an elaborate system of ditches and laterals, some of them still visible today.
The construction of the Coolidge Dam, completed in 1928, by the federal government was intended to restore some of the lost water, but the reservation never received enough to bring back farming in any big way. Later diversions also depleted the Salt River, which runs north of the reservation and helped support farming as well.
As the water disappeared and the Pima switched to government rations as their staple, obesity, alcoholism and diabetes exploded.
Where adult-onset diabetes was hardly present a century ago, it is now everywhere and has been the subject of decades of research by government scientists. More than half of the population over 25 has it, and a rising number of children are getting it.
Scientists have found the genetic makeup of the tribe leaves it predisposed to weight gain from sugary foods. That, coupled with the decline in activity from farming and the drop in the consumption of natural foods, probably explains the high rate of the disease, said Larry Sanders, a diabetes specialist on the reservation.
He said the Pima’s sister tribe in Mexico, which has kept up farming and eating off the land, has normal rates of the disease.
The Pima had long wanted the water back and by the late 1980s, buoyed by trends in water-rights laws and a new brand of reservation-born negotiators, serious talks began.
Water claims are usually complicated, hotly disputed affairs in the warm, dry West. Add in issues of Indian rights and sovereignty and it is perhaps not surprising that it took more than 30 years to reach the settlement.
It provides the reservation 653,500 acre-feet of water a year (an acre-foot is equivalent to about one family’s water use annually) coming from a mix of sources, with the Central Arizona Project tapping the Colorado River providing the biggest share. It also includes the $680 million to rebuild the irrigation system and to provide drainage, water monitoring and other benefits.
It may seem a staggering amount of water, but federal and state officials said the reservation might have gained much more had it prevailed in court. It had asked for two million acre-feet, for one thing, based in part on documented use of the river going back to the 16th century.
“It wasn’t a matter of if the tribes would win at trial,” said Gregg Houtz, the lead lawyer for the state’s Department of Water Resources in the settlement agreement. “It was a matter of how much.”
A big reason for settling, federal and state officials said, was to provide all sides certainty and clarity over how much water they will have now and in the coming decades. The reservation had already received or been promised about two-thirds of the water in the settlement, but, Mr. Houtz said, the additional water makes the Gila River Indians major water brokers as they lease some of it to cities and could vault the tribe to the top of farming in the state as well.
The reservation has discussed farming some 150,000 acres, 40 percent of its 372,000 acres, but it is planning to avoid large housing developments.
Said Rodney B. Lewis, the community’s former general counsel who helped negotiate the settlement, “we will be an island” amid suburban Phoenix’s sea of subdivisions.
The Gila River itself will remain largely dry; the water from the settlement will be delivered and distributed through a system of culverts and canals.
And it will take much effort to reverse the legacy of poor health, though programs abound, intended for the young and the old, to combat diabetes. Medical officials are particularly alarmed at a rise in the rate of the disease among the young.
Georgina Charles, 74, a diabetes sufferer, attends a regular exercise class for the elderly and says she watches what she eats, but acknowledges that she and others find it difficult to ignore detrimental food. One recent night she prepared traditional fry bread for a community event, substituting vegetable oil for the usual lard but laughing at the obvious.
“It’s not too good for us, but we eat it,” Ms. Charles said.
Just a few miles away, the community gardeners adjusted hoses as the weekly delivery of water arrived and took stock of their crops. The water they use comes from an underground aquifer, but they are contemplating how they might tap into the settlement water and promote natural foods.
Schoolchildren visit the garden and some of its produce ends up on tables at community functions but, members said, more needs to be done to take full advantage of the water.
“When we lost that water, we lost generations of farming,” said Janet Haskie, a community gardener. “Then people had the attitude like, ‘They owe us. I’m going to take these rations.’
So now we have to start over again, a little at a time.”
VIDEO:  “WATER RETURNS TO THE PIMA”:   After the largest tribal water settlement in U.S. history, some Pima are encouraging a return to traditional farming and foods for better health.

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Hurricane damage to mobile home in Davie Florida.jpg
Davie, Fla., August 27, 2005 — Winds from Hurricane Katrina knocked over this tree crushing this Mobile home. The residents had evacuated. Many Mobile homes were  damaged and residents are displaced. MARVIN NAUMAN/FEMA photo
 Pascagoula destroyed condos from Katrina.jpg
M. Kieper took this photograph of the Spinnaker Point condos in Pascagoula MS that were destroyed by surge. The partially-remaining damaged condo that remains was one of 40, with the remainder washed away, as seen on page 8 in the MS Press, in a photo taken the day after the hurricane made landfall:

Notice the two deck railing planters, with the plants still in them, remain on the deck of the 2nd floor (three stories above ground level).

Surge (storm tide, technically) here in eastern Pascagoula reached 16-18 feet, and there would have been waves on top of the surge at a location on the waterfront such as this one. The sheetrock has been pulled away from the studs about four feet up on the 1st floor; this likely tallies with the height of the surge.

Source:  M. Kieper
Hurricane katrina damage gulfport mississippi.jpg
Gulfport, Miss., September 6, 2005 — Destroyed houses in Gulfport, Miss. Hurricane Katrina caused extensive damage all along the Mississippi gulf coast. New Orleans is being evacuated as a result of flooding from hurricane Katrina and is still 60% under water. FEMA/Mark Wolfe
 Katrina Bayou La Batre 2005 boats ashore.jpg
Hurricane Katrina damage in Bayou La Batre, Alabama, showing the cargo ship M/V Caribbean Clipper and 4 fishing boats pushed ashore near the bayou.Excerpt from larger NOAA photo:
Chandeleur L5 Oct2004Sep2005.jpg

Two images of the Chandeleur Islands off the coast of Louisiana, USA. The left image is from 2004 and the right is from 2005, after Hurricane Katrina. October 15, 2004 and September 16, 2005. NASA Earth Observatory, Landsat Project Science Office.
Floodwaters from Hurricane Katrina reached the steps of the John A. Campbell U.S. Courthouse in Mobile, Alabama.
In the Southern District of Alabama, flood waters from Mobile Bay reached all the way to the front steps of the John A. Campbell U.S. Courthouse in Mobile, and GSA reported about two feet of seawater in the basement. Power was restored to both the district and bankruptcy courts within a few days. While the court was back in operation, DCN access from Sprint was down for a full three weeks, and it took a month to restore long distance service.
August 29, 2005
Structural Bridge Damage.jpg
Structural bridge damage caused by Hurricane Katrina can be seen from aboard Air Force One Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2005.
Source: White House photo by Paul Morse
New Orleans, Louisiana.
Gulfport and Long Beach, Mississippi.
Mobile, Alabama.
Cities that were devastated by Hurricane Katrina.
Cities that will not go quietly into the night.
Cities that still live.
Lest we forget.








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Some of All Parts

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