Showing posts with label equitable. Show all posts
Showing posts with label equitable. Show all posts

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Vladimir and Francis

"Two Romes have fallen. 

The third stands. 

And there will be no fourth. 

No one shall replace your Christian Tsardom!""

Philotheus of Pskov



To His Excellency
Mr Vladimir Putin
President of the Russian Federation

In the course of this year, you have the honour and the responsibility of presiding over the Group of the twenty largest economies in the world. I am aware that the Russian Federation has participated in this group from the moment of its inception and has always had a positive role to play in the promotion of good governance of the world’s finances, which have been deeply affected by the crisis of 2008.

In today’s highly interdependent context, a global financial framework with its own just and clear rules is required in order to achieve a more equitable and fraternal world, in which it is possible to overcome hunger, ensure decent employment and housing for all, as well as essential healthcare. Your presidency of the G20 this year has committed itself to consolidating the reform of the international financial organizations and to achieving a consensus on financial standards suited to today’s circumstances. However, the world economy will only develop if it allows a dignified way of life for all human beings, from the eldest to the unborn child, not just for citizens of the G20 member states but for every inhabitant of the earth, even those in extreme social situations or in the remotest places.

From this standpoint, it is clear that, for the world’s peoples, armed conflicts are always a deliberate negation of international harmony, and create profound divisions and deep wounds which require many years to heal. Wars are a concrete refusal to pursue the great economic and social goals that the international community has set itself, as seen, for example, in the Millennium Development Goals. Unfortunately, the many armed conflicts which continue to afflict the world today present us daily with dramatic images of misery, hunger, illness and death. Without peace, there can be no form of economic development. Violence never begets peace, the necessary condition for development.

The meeting of the Heads of State and Government of the twenty most powerful economies, with two-thirds of the world’s population and ninety per cent of global GDP, does not have international security as its principal purpose. Nevertheless, the meeting will surely not forget the situation in the Middle East and particularly in Syria. It is regrettable that, from the very beginning of the conflict in Syria, one-sided interests have prevailed and in fact hindered the search for a solution that would have avoided the senseless massacre now unfolding. The leaders of the G20 cannot remain indifferent to the dramatic situation of the beloved Syrian people which has lasted far too long, and even risks bringing greater suffering to a region bitterly tested by strife and needful of peace. To the leaders present, to each and every one, I make a heartfelt appeal for them to help find ways to overcome the conflicting positions and to lay aside the futile pursuit of a military solution. Rather, let there be a renewed commitment to seek, with courage and determination, a peaceful solution through dialogue and negotiation of the parties, unanimously supported by the international community. Moreover, all governments have the moral duty to do everything possible to ensure humanitarian assistance to those suffering because of the conflict, both within and beyond the country’s borders.

Mr President, in the hope that these thoughts may be a valid spiritual contribution to your meeting, I pray for the successful outcome of the G20’s work on this occasion. I invoke an abundance of blessings upon the Summit in Saint Petersburg, upon the participants and the citizens of the member states, and upon the work and efforts of the 2013 Russian Presidency of the G20.

While requesting your prayers, I take this opportunity to assure you, Mr President, of my highest consideration.

From the Vatican, 4 September 2013


What Putin Has to Say to Americans About Syria

MOSCOW — RECENT events surrounding Syria have prompted me to speak directly to the American people and their political leaders. It is important to do so at a time of insufficient communication between our societies.

Relations between us have passed through different stages. We stood against each other during the cold war. But we were also allies once, and defeated the Nazis together. The universal international organization — the United Nations — was then established to prevent such devastation from ever happening again.

The United Nations’ founders understood that decisions affecting war and peace should happen only by consensus, and with America’s consent the veto by Security Council permanent members was enshrined in the United Nations Charter. The profound wisdom of this has underpinned the stability of international relations for decades.

No one wants the United Nations to suffer the fate of the League of Nations, which collapsed because it lacked real leverage. This is possible if influential countries bypass the United Nations and take military action without Security Council authorization.

The potential strike by the United States against Syria, despite strong opposition from many countries and major political and religious leaders, including the pope, will result in more innocent victims and escalation, potentially spreading the conflict far beyond Syria’s borders. A strike would increase violence and unleash a new wave of terrorism. It could undermine multilateral efforts to resolve the Iranian nuclear problem and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and further destabilize the Middle East and North Africa. It could throw the entire system of international law and order out of balance.

Syria is not witnessing a battle for democracy, but an armed conflict between government and opposition in a multireligious country. There are few champions of democracy in Syria. But there are more than enough Qaeda fighters and extremists of all stripes battling the government. The United States State Department has designated Al Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, fighting with the opposition, as terrorist organizations. This internal conflict, fueled by foreign weapons supplied to the opposition, is one of the bloodiest in the world.

Mercenaries from Arab countries fighting there, and hundreds of militants from Western countries and even Russia, are an issue of our deep concern. Might they not return to our countries with experience acquired in Syria? After all, after fighting in Libya, extremists moved on to Mali. This threatens us all.

From the outset, Russia has advocated peaceful dialogue enabling Syrians to develop a compromise plan for their own future. We are not protecting the Syrian government, but international law. We need to use the United Nations Security Council and believe that preserving law and order in today’s complex and turbulent world is one of the few ways to keep international relations from sliding into chaos. The law is still the law, and we must follow it whether we like it or not. Under current international law, force is permitted only in self-defense or by the decision of the Security Council. Anything else is unacceptable under the United Nations Charter and would constitute an act of aggression.

No one doubts that poison gas was used in Syria. But there is every reason to believe it was used not by the Syrian Army, but by opposition forces, to provoke intervention by their powerful foreign patrons, who would be siding with the fundamentalists. Reports that militants are preparing another attack — this time against Israel — cannot be ignored.

It is alarming that military intervention in internal conflicts in foreign countries has become commonplace for the United States. Is it in America’s long-term interest? I doubt it. Millions around the world increasingly see America not as a model of democracy but as relying solely on brute force, cobbling coalitions together under the slogan “you’re either with us or against us.”

But force has proved ineffective and pointless. Afghanistan is reeling, and no one can say what will happen after international forces withdraw. Libya is divided into tribes and clans. In Iraq the civil war continues, with dozens killed each day. In the United States, many draw an analogy between Iraq and Syria, and ask why their government would want to repeat recent mistakes.

No matter how targeted the strikes or how sophisticated the weapons, civilian casualties are inevitable, including the elderly and children, whom the strikes are meant to protect.

The world reacts by asking: if you cannot count on international law, then you must find other ways to ensure your security. Thus a growing number of countries seek to acquire weapons of mass destruction. This is logical: if you have the bomb, no one will touch you. We are left with talk of the need to strengthen nonproliferation, when in reality this is being eroded.
We must stop using the language of force and return to the path of civilized diplomatic and political settlement.

A new opportunity to avoid military action has emerged in the past few days. The United States, Russia and all members of the international community must take advantage of the Syrian government’s willingness to place its chemical arsenal under international control for subsequent destruction. Judging by the statements of President Obama, the United States sees this as an alternative to military action.

I welcome the president’s interest in continuing the dialogue with Russia on Syria. We must work together to keep this hope alive, as we agreed to at the Group of 8 meeting in Lough Erne in Northern Ireland in June, and steer the discussion back toward negotiations.

If we can avoid force against Syria, this will improve the atmosphere in international affairs and strengthen mutual trust. It will be our shared success and open the door to cooperation on other critical issues.

My working and personal relationship with President Obama is marked by growing trust. I appreciate this. I carefully studied his address to the nation on Tuesday. And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is “what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.” It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.

Moscow as the Third Rome

Moscow as the Third Rome

16th-century Russian political theory that asserted the global historical significance of Moscow, thecapital of the Russian state, as a political and religious center.
Expounded in a religious form characteristic of medieval thought, the theory of Moscow as the thirdRome maintained that Muscovite Rus’ was the historical successor of the Roman and Byzantineempires, which in the opinion of the founders of the theory had fallen because of their deviations fromthe “true faith.” Thus it could be stated that “two Romes have fallen, a third stands, and a fourth thereshall not be.” The theory of Moscow as the third Rome emerged in the mid-15th century and was fullyelaborated early in the 16th century in the epistles of the Pskov monk Filofei to the grand prince ofMoscow, Vasilii III Ivanovich.
The theory of Moscow as the third Rome evolved as a result of the prior development of politicalthought in Russia, the growth of national consciousness during the years of reunification of the Russianlands, final liberation from the Tatar yoke, and the consolidation of the independence of the Russianstate. It played a significant role in forming the official ideology of the centralized Russian state andaided the struggle against the Vatican’s attempts to extend its influence to Russian territory. The theoryof Moscow as the third Rome served as the basis for the idea of unity among the Slavic countries of theBalkan peninsula during the 16th and 17th centuries and had great significance for the struggle of thesouthern Slavs against the Turkish yoke. At the same time, the theory also contained such reactionaryfeatures as national exclusivity and “divine favoritism.”

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

FEMA and The Rodney King Riots

On the third day of riots, suspected looters are detained at Main Street and Washington Boulevard.

"...the Pan Am plane landed in Guyana. And I talked to the air traffic controller there, who was present at the time, and he told me every Black that came off the plane was bound and gagged. "

John Judge

"...the Pan Am plane landed in Guyana. And I talked to the air traffic controller there, who was present at the time, and he told me every Black that came off the plane was bound and gagged. 

He told me that people who lived as close as 5 miles away, and I've gotten this from other sources, in the bush, did not know that there was a single Black living at Matthew's Ridge in Guyana. All they had ever seen were the Whites. 

Because the Whites were the only ones allowed in and out of the camp, allowed to have money; allowed to carry a gun; allowed to go into the city. 

In the city they were paying off Black and Indian women to sell their babies. Which they were taking back to the camp. 

And all of these people were being experimented on by Dr. Lawrence Schacht, the camp doctor, and a crew of about 40 nurses. For a population of about 1200 people, 40 nurses. 

And he was infamous for participating in the torture, for doing suturing without anesthetic. I believe that he is none other than the grandson of Hjalmar Schacht, the Reichminister of Economics, who moved to Houston Texas where Larry Schacht's family is from, at the end of the war. 

And it was Hjalmar Schacht who invented the slogan, over the gate at Auschwitz:

 Arbeit Macht Frei

"Work Makes You Free."

May 10, 1992

Los Angeles Police Differ Sharply With Prosecutors on Arrest Totals

LOS ANGELES, May 9— Reflecting the confusion that has characterized this city's response to the violence that broke out 10 days ago, prosecutors and the police are giving widely different estimates of the number of riot-related arrests. 
Police officials said today that they had arrested 18,000 people from Wednesday night, April 29, the day the riots began, through this morning. But prosecutors said they could not account for as many as 10,000 of those people. 
"We don't know where these people are," said James K. Hahn, the Los Angeles City Attorney. "It is a mystery to a lot of people in the system right now." 
Difficult Job Ahead 
Prosecutors said they had finished the initial processing of all those arrested during the riots, and only about 8,000 defendants had come through the courts. The police said they could not explain the discrepancy, but they stood by their number. 
Whatever the case, prosecutors anticipate unusual difficulties in proving the charges against the thousands of defendants arrested by harried police officers amid the chaos of the riots, in which more than 50 people were killed and hundreds of businesses were looted and burned. 
Following a week of calm, Federal troops, held in staging areas in Southern California, were awaiting orders today to return home. Deputy Hal Grant of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said the previous night had been quiet, with only routine police calls. 
Deputy Grant said the total of riot-related arrests reached 18,213 as police continued to search for and arrest people found in possession of property stolen during the rioting. He said the arrest figure was compiled from a number of sources, including the Los Angeles Police Department and from smaller cities in Los Angeles County. 
But the number of arrests in recent days has been small compared with the thousands of people rounded up by police during the height of the violence last week. 
Like Traffic Tickets 
Ira Reiner, the Los Angeles County District Attorney, said Friday that there had been only about 7,000 riot-related arrests, including 3,000 for felonies and 2,100 for misdemeanors. Mr. Reiner said that at least 2,000 people included in the police arrest total were apparently only cited by police officers and let go at the scene. 
"It's like getting a traffic ticket," said Mr. Hahn, the city attorney, whose office prosecutes misdemeanors. Mr. Hahn said he had received no paperwork on those cases from the police, who would assign the defendants court dates on the spot before releasing them on their own recognizance. 
"If there's suddenly going to be a thousand people coming into court on the same day, we need to know," Mr. Hahn said. 
A spokesman for the Los Angeles Police Department said Friday that the department was still trying to catch up on its paperwork and it was not clear how many, if any, of those arrested during the violence were let go after being stopped and cited by the police. 
That procedure been criticized by some local officials who fear that those involved in the violence might get off too lightly. Call for Tough Prosecution 
"If it was any more than violating curfew early in the evening, they should have been arrested," said Joan Milke Flores, a member of the Los Angeles City Council, who has proposed legislation to stiffen penalties for crimes committed during rioting. Mrs. Flores criticized what she viewed as overly lenient sentences handed out by judges over the last week as hundreds of those arrested pleaded guilty to riot-related charges and were sentenced to the time they had already served in jail, usually two to four days. 
"It bothers me that these looters and burglars are going to be right back out on the streets when the National Guard leaves," Mrs. Flores said. 
Mr. Hahn said he, too, was unhappy with some of the sentences handed out. A partial review of the cases, he said, indicated that 15 to 18 percent of those arrested were convicted felons on parole or probation. Mr. Hahn said judges consistently ignored his office's requests for minimum 90-day sentences for looters, often ordering the defendants to 30 days in jail or less. 
In one case, a person caught carrying a can of kerosene during the riots was charged with violating the curfew, the only charge available, and was released almost immediately after pleading guilty, Mr. Hahn said. "That was all we could really prove," he said. 
Mr. Hahn predicted significant difficulty in proving cases against the hundreds of defendants who pleaded not guilty and requested trials.

June 1, 1992

Riots' Victims Begin Getting $638 Million in Aid

LOS ANGELES, May 31— A month after rioting swept the nation's second-largest city, financial aid promised by the Government is beginning to reach those who lost jobs, homes and businesses. 
Recipients say they are surprised and delighted to get the money this quickly. But some community leaders and local officials say thousands of people are still going hungry or homeless because of the riots, and they have called on Federal agencies to do more to make people aware of the programs and help them apply. 
When they picked up their $7,000 low-interest loan from the Small Business Administration on Thursday to rebuild a wheelchair-repair business devastated by looters, Sheila and Ernie Tousant said that before the riots they had consistently been turned down for bank loans. But the Government, Mrs. Tousant said, "removed all the red tape and actually gave us a chance." 
"I'm shocked," she said, "because I was here in the Watts riots, and I saw the money go to everyone except the people who needed it." 'Long Way to Go' 
Visiting Los Angeles on Friday, President Bush said of the rebuilding, "We have a long way to go," but he praised the Federal relief effort as "massive" and "quick." 
The Government is financing some efforts to address deep-rooted urban problems. The Justice Department, for example, is providing $19 million for anti-crime and anti-poverty programs. But the emphasis is on patching up the damage from the riots, and some residents said they were angry that money was being spent to aid business owners while little was being provided to help those who had been homeless and hungry long before the riots. 
A pastor at the First African Methodist Episcopal Church at the edge of South-Central Los Angeles said that as late as last week up to 1,500 people a day had still been arriving to pick up donated food. 
"There's a problem that's not being addressed," said the pastor, the Rev. Leonard B. Jackson. "It seems to me that if people can find the church to get food, then the Government agencies that are coming in can find us and do more to help these people." 
Evelyn White, a volunteer at an encampment for homeless people set up in South-Central Los Angeles by the Brotherhood Crusade, a black community organization, said: "Every person you see here needs aid, but they needed it before all of this started. That's why all this happened." 
Through Wednesday, nearly 15,000 people had visited one of the nine disaster application centers run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is overseeing the process of taking requests for help from victims of the riots and routing them to the appropriate Government agencies. Relatively Few Applications 
The centers offer "one-stop shopping" for people needing almost any kind of assistance, from money for food and clothing to low-interest loans for businesses. But the number of people who have actually completed applications for aid under the programs remains relatively small. 
The Small Business Administration, for example, said that although it had passed out 11,000 applications, as of Thursday it had received 528 completed requests for assistance. 
As of May 23, 4,876 people had filed claims with the state for unemployment insurance after losing jobs because of the riots. By some estimates, tens of thousands of people lost jobs, at least temporarily, because of the damage to businesses. 
"I appreciate how fast the Federal Government has moved, but we need to work harder," said Deputy Mayor Linda Griego. "And they need to work harder to do the outreach and the follow-up to make sure people are getting what they need. More Applications Expected 
Federal officials said they expected the numbers of applications to some programs, especially those for small businesses, to increase sharply in coming weeks. They said that Federal agencies had been working hard to inform the community about the programs by meeting with local groups, answering questions and providing assistance with filling out forms at the application centers. 
The city, too, has stepped up its efforts to encourage people to seek help, Ms. Griego said. Concerned that undocumented workers are not applying for aid out of fear that they might be reported to the immigration authorities or the Internal Revenue Service, the city has set up programs with churches and other groups to reassure people that none of the information from relief applications will be used against them. 
Federal officials said they were trying to shore up weaknesses in their response. Eleven days ago, after complaints that the Government was not providing food fast enough, the Agriculture Department authorized the purchase of $2 million worth of food to be distributed through food banks to riot victims. The first shipments will reach the food banks this week. 
The Agriculture Department also loosened restrictions on providing food stamps, dropping, for example, a rule disqualifying people who own cars. More Money Pledged 
President Bush pledged in the week following the riot that the Federal Government would make available almost $638 million in financial assistance through a variety of existing programs, and perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars more, depending on spending decisions made by Congress. On Friday, he said he had authorized an additional $12 million for job training and public-service jobs. 
The amount of Federal money actually disbursed since the riots is relatively small, totaling about $3.2 million as of Thursday. The largest chunk of that, $2.8 million, came from the Small Business Administration for 42 low-interest loans totaling $2.8 million, mostly to owners of small businesses that were looted or burned. 
The Federal Emergency Management Agency, which had received 4,694 applications for emergency housing assistance so far, had processed 299 grants totaling $372,000. Under another program to replace personal possessions, like clothing, appliances and cars, the agency had paid out $43,000 to eight applicants as of Wednesday. 'A Great Relief Effort' 
At the Disaster Application Center at the old Ambassador Hotel on the edge of Koreatown, James Baker, his wife, Carolyn, and their 2-month-old son, James Jr., were among the more than 200 people a day who had continued to stream in during the previous week seeking aid. 
Mr. Baker said he had not found work since he lost his job as a stock person at a Newberry's discount store when it was burned in the rioting. After spending 45 minutes filling out forms and talking to officials from several government agencies and the Red Cross, he said the process of applying for help had gone very smoothly and that he had been assured he would qualify for food stamps, unemployment insurance and grants to help pay the family's rent temporarily. 
"This is a great relief effort," he said. "They have all the agencies you need here to take care of each aspect of your life." 
Photo: Aid promised by the Government is just beginning to reach those who lost jobs, homes and businesses in the Los Angeles riots. James Baker and his wife, Carolyn, with their 2-month-old son, James Jr., applied for aid at the Disaster Application Center at the old Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. (Bart Bartholomew for The New York Times) Chart: "Federal Aid to the Riot Areas" FEDERAL EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY Disaster Housing Assistance and Individual and Family Grants: $100 million Mortgage, rent assistance: 4,964 applications received, 299 approved, $372,000 disbursed. Personal property replacement: 1,425 applications, 8 approved, $42,987 disbursed. Public Assistance to Local Governments: $200 million Applications being prepared by local governments for grants to repair or replace public buildings destroyed in the riots. Other programs: $2.7 million Crisis counseling for people suffering psychological problems from the unrest ($2.3 million). Emergency food and shelter vouchers ($378,750). SMALL BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION Disaster Loans: $300 million Could go as high as $500 million, 11,000 applications distributed, 528 received, 42 approved, $2.8 million disbursed. LABOR DEPARTMENT Job Training Partnership: $14 million Grant to augment $20 million in state money being used for job training and employment in areas affected by the riots. AGRICULTURE DEPARTMENT Food Bank purchases: $2 million Food to arrive at area food banks for distribution this week. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT Weed and Seed Grants: $19 million Local officials developing proposals to aid existing anti-crime, anti-poverty programs. TOTAL AID: $637.7 million (Sources: Federal Emergency Management Agency; State of California; City of Los Angeles.)

Faster U.S. Aid Sought for Victims of Riots, Hurricanes

A coalition of legal aid groups plans today to petition the beleaguered Federal Emergency Management Agency to speed up assistance to victims of the Los Angeles riots and this year's devastating hurricanes in Florida and Hawaii.
Leaders of Los Angeles-based Public Counsel said the petition will be filed with FEMA officials in Washington seeking greater relief for tens of thousands of people who suffered damage in those three disasters. The group is also seeking aid for victims of a series of forest fires in Northern California.
"People across the country . . . have been left homeless, unemployed and frustrated by a bureaucratic maze which fails to provide the basic relief it promises," according to a statement from Public Counsel, which is coordinating the campaign. It complains that six months after the Los Angeles riots, "FEMA has disbursed less than 12% of the $300 million in emergency funds allocated to help disaster victims."
A FEMA official said that the government agency will not comment in detail until it reviews the petition. But Lorri Jean, FEMA's San Francisco-based deputy regional director, said the charges are based on "totally inaccurate" data.
"All their stats are wrong," Jean said. She put the assistance to Los Angeles riot victims at more than $100 million.
The issue of disaster aid is likely to get close scrutiny this week--and not just because of the legal aid groups' complaints.
A federal task force led by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is completing an investigation into fraud in the filing of relief applications in Los Angeles, focusing largely on store owners suspected of burning their own businesses during the riots.
Two federal officials confirmed Monday that indictments of "multiple parties" are expected to be returned Wednesday.
Established in 1978 to coordinate federal civil defense and disaster programs, FEMA has faced unprecedented demands for its resources this year with the series of natural disasters and the riots.
Cynthia D. Robbins, a directing attorney for Public Counsel, an offshoot of the Los Angeles County and Beverly Hills Bar associations, said that similar legal aid groups in the other affected areas are joining in the challenge to FEMA practices. "There is a legal group in Florida, one in Hawaii and one in Northern California . . . but there will be one petition that will be jointly filed," Robbins said.
One of their complaints is that FEMA has made it particularly difficult for low-income people and non-English speakers to get help. Latino advocacy groups in Los Angeles said it was almost impossible to get aid applications in Spanish after the riots.
But the critics and FEMA offered widely varying statistics on how many people applied for and received assistance after the many disasters--and had varying interpretations of what the data meant.
Public Counsel said that eight weeks after Hurricane Andrew swept through Florida, "FEMA had provided assistance to less than half of the 154,000 victims . . . who had applied for disaster relief." But FEMA's Jean said that as of Oct. 22, only 79,000 applications had been received for temporary housing relief. In response, she said, the agency has issued 41,000 checks totaling $86 million.
Jean added: "In fact, most people have gotten help."
In Hawaii, Public Counsel complained, a flood of 19,488 applications for assistance yielded just 3,593 temporary housing assistance checks from FEMA after Hurricane Iniki prompted the declaration of a federal disaster Sept. 12.
FEMA said that 12,786 applications had been received and that 4,774 checks were issued, totaling about $15 million. About 6,000 of the applications were "withdrawn or denied as ineligible," Jean said, many because property owners had private insurance. "When they're covered by insurance, FEMA never pays," she said.
Times staff writer Jim Newton contributed to this story.

Disaster Agency Probe Hit for Ignoring Riots

The Federal Emergency Management Agency will come under unprecedented scrutiny in coming months as congressional investigators try to determine why the agency was unprepared for the onslaught of calamities that struck the nation in 1992.
But in a turn of events that some observers see as ironic and shortsighted, FEMA's response to Los Angeles' cataclysmic episode of 1992--the spring riots--is not scheduled to be the focus of any federal review. The investigations and hearings will target only FEMA's handling of natural disasters in Florida, Louisiana and Hawaii.
Many Los Angeles officials are particularly upset by the federal government's narrow focus because they believe that the city's civil disturbances, the first riots ever to be declared a federal disaster, can offer lessons about the needs of inner-city residents after such upheavals.
Much of the sharpest criticism of FEMA's relief programs has come from Los Angeles, where 50% to 60% of riot victims were denied disaster aid. Given the depth of social conflict in urban centers throughout the nation, experts say, FEMA could be called on to provide aid again to residents in many cities.
Incensed at what they believe is the snub being given the city, Los Angeles officials say they will push for federal hearings that deal exclusively with FEMA's handling of riot victims.
"I can assure you Los Angeles will see a very serious and profound hearing on FEMA's response or lack of response (to its crisis)," said Rep. Maxine Waters (D--Los Angeles).
Deputy Mayor Linda Griego said: "If Congress is going to be changing policy, then they do need input from us."
The federal investigations of FEMA include one by the General Accounting Office, which was commissioned by Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D--Md.) and several other members of Congress. In addition, about 10 congressional oversight committees have indicated a desire to hold hearings on the beleaguered agency's response to the year's most devastating natural disasters.
Although GAO officials said they could not discuss the investigation until it is completed, a preliminary report concludes that FEMA is not prepared for large-scale emergencies and suggests that the federal government develop contingency plans to suit specific kinds of disasters. FEMA officials also declined to discuss the inquiry, pending release of the GAO's final report.
Stan Czerwinski, who is heading the GAO investigation, said his agency confined the scope of its investigation to natural disasters at the request of Senate and House members. He confirmed that no investigators have been sent to Los Angeles, although state disaster officials were contacted.
Aides to Mikulski and other members of Congress said the investigation was sparked by FEMA's widely criticized response to Hurricane Andrew, which devastated South Florida, and to a lesser extent, Hawaii's Hurricane Iniki. Both storms caused extensive damage to residences, leaving thousands of victims homeless, whereas the violence in Los Angles was primarily upon businesses.
A press aide to Rep. Ron Packard (R-Oceanside), who, as chairman of the House Investigations and Oversight subcommittee, was the only Southern California representative to call for the FEMA review, said there was no intent to slight Los Angeles.
"Hurricane Andrew was handled in a manner that was not good for the victims and we didn't want that to repeat," said Melissa Dollaghan. "It's not an omission of L.A, it's just that the scope was limited to the natural disasters."
But local advocates see the federal government's exclusion of Los Angeles from the federal reviews of FEMA as part of a pattern of disregard and rejection of inner-city residents, one that has cast Los Angeles' riots victims in a highly political light.
They argue that the federal response is no surprise when, even at the state level, virtually every piece of legislation designed to speed the city's recovery has failed to pass.
The unpleasant truth of the matter, community leaders say, is that riot victims are viewed less sympathetically than the victims of natural disasters.
"The bottom line is that most of the victims are people of color," said Assemblyman Curtis Tucker (D-Los Angeles), chairman of a state committee that reviewed the causes of the Los Angeles riots. "Many of my colleagues in Sacramento asked why they should lift a finger to help when (the city's residents) brought it on themselves."
Waters said she has encountered the same view in Washington.
"As a representative of this area, I have to explain not only the root causes of the riot but that a lot of people are innocent victims who should not be penalized," she said.
Griego said much of the focus on hurricanes Andrew and Iniki may have to do with the perceptions formed by televised images of wrecked homesteads and scattered personal belongings. She disputed assertions that more attention might have been paid to Los Angeles had city officials been more vocal in their criticism of FEMA.
"I suppose we could have taken the position of bashing FEMA but I don't know that that gets the check here sooner," she said. Instead, city leaders tried to exert pressure behind the scenes but consistently ran into resistance from federal officials.
"The attitude was that this wasn't really a disaster and that FEMA really shouldn't be here," Griego said.
President Bush declared Los Angeles a disaster site after a highly publicized visit to the city a week after the violence had ended.
But state emergency officials say that federal authorities had to be persuaded that the Stafford Act, which controls declarations of a natural disaster, applied to Los Angeles.
Under amendments made in 1988, the act could be applied to a situation where fire, regardless of its origin, caused widespread destruction. This clause was used to make the case for Los Angeles.
Still, at the onset of FEMA's response to the Los Angeles riots, federal officials wanted to restrict its relief programs to those who suffered fire damage, insisting that the agency would not extend aid to victims whose homes or businesses were looted, said Richard Andrews, director of the state Office of Emergency Services.
"It is just one example of the extreme legalistic view they wanted to take," he said. "We told them it made no sense at all."
Andrews said the federal agency has also balked at reimbursing the state for more than $1 million in costs incurred staffing 10 disaster application centers and fencing about 60 demolition sites.
"FEMA has tended to view the application for assistance with a great deal of suspicion whether it is individuals or local governments, and has tended to act as if their sole responsibility is to protect the federal treasury," said the state's disaster chief.
Andrews said he has been asked to testify before a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing about FEMA's handling of the Loma Prieta earthquake, but will bring up the Los Angeles crisis on his own if no one asks about it.
Frank Kishton, deputy director of disaster programs in FEMA's San Francisco office, said the agency is attempting to settle a number of outstanding eligibility issues with the state. He declined to comment on other criticisms directed at the agency. Almost from the outset, those who lost homes, livelihoods or loved ones during the riots criticized the relief effort's limited outreach to victims, the lack of bilingual staff and inability to overcome bureaucratic red tape.
Those problems prompted Los Angeles legal aid groups to file a petition against FEMA on behalf of disaster victims nationwide, calling on the agency to speed its relief efforts and provide more equitable treatment.
Disaster officials respond that statutory limitations prevented them from changing requirements that would have opened up more aid to victims.
Riot victims complain that now, when those statutes are undergoing review, they will be ignored during the process.
"I'm shocked and disappointed," said Bong Hwan Kim, a community leader who has negotiated with FEMA on behalf of Korean-American riot victims. "The federal response . . . has been far from adequate. We have data to show that too many people have fallen through the cracks. For any investigation of FEMA to ignore (Los Angeles) is something we will strongly protest to our elected representatives."
It is the consensus of people who have dealt with FEMA that the agency must be revamped or its procedures improved.
Los Angeles' riot victims and their advocates say they want to ensure that this city's painful experience informs any recommendations or proposed reforms.
"I think the majority of white voters in the state and the country . . . have to recognize they had a role in the creation of this disturbance and are going to have a stake in its outcome," Kim said.