Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Privatization at work (or not)

Janeboatler, in a comment below, points me to these two stories about the dead in New Orleans. Both the story from the Times-Picayune and from the Houston Chronicle note that body-retrieval has been "privatized," and turned over to Kenyon International Emergency Services, a subsidiary of Service Corporation International. The founder of SCI was a major backer of George W. Bush when he was governor of Texas, and involved in a minor scandal when it appeared that SCI was able to get a state investigator removed from enforcing state funeral regulations against SCI.

So the "business as usual" cronyism appears to be the reason why Amy Goodman could spend so much time trying to get someone to pick up a corpse in New Orleans. Holden has the transcript at First Draft. Click through; the audio is worth listening to.

And now corpses on the street are becoming "landmarks" in the Crescent City. As the New York Times notes, these corpses have been the subject of reports by the Times-Picayune, New York Daily News, U.S. News and World Report. They've been reported in magazines, newspapers, TV, on the Internet. Apparently FEMA is still worried about having a "CNN moment," however.

Wonder which local official will be held to blame for this?

Holden, again, has this, and a bit more.

UPDATE: this story, if that is possible, gets worse. Maybe Kenyon is involved, maybe not:

The dead "deserve more respect than they have received," Gov. Kathleen Blanco said at state police headquarters in Baton Rouge.

She said the Federal Emergency Management Agency has slowed down the process by failing to sign a contract with the company hired to handle the removal of the bodies, Houston-based Kenyon International Emergency Services.

Kenyon is working without a contract but threatened to pull its workers out of Louisiana unless either the state or the federal government offered it a signed agreement, the governor said.

"No one, even those at the highest level, seems to be able to break through the bureaucracy to get this important mission done," Blanco said. "The failure to execute a contract for the recovery of our citizens has hurt the speed of recovery efforts. I am angry and outraged."

FINAL UPDATE (I mean it this time!) Apparently Gov. Blanco has now signed a K with Kenyon to pick up the bodies.

I guess somebody had to do it.

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