A Lot of Discussion Dissolving

In his article at the official Google blogspot, John Hanke, the director of Google Maps, has this to say about the Google imagery of New Orleans:

“This weekend, there has been a lot of discussion about our imagery of New Orleans in Google Maps and Google Earth. I thought I'd give you some background that may clear things up, and also let you know about new imagery of the region now available.”

When you click on “a lot of discussion” link you’re directed here:


And at that site, you're told that “No related articles are found," The articles are in the ether, along with my mid-city neighborhood and the RNC email server. I'm not a conspiracy theorist and rarely wear tinfoil hats, but can't help wondering where 'a lot of discussion' went.

And yes, Google has achieved an admirable mea culpa with its Darfur map, but that does not do any more to bring displaced New Orleaneans back than Oprah’s admirable act of building a school in South Africa.

Created because of her promise to Nelson Mandella, Oprah Winfrey’s African school was promoted on a network special that aired twice in prime time. When asked why she went halfway around the world when the need is so great in cities like New Orleans, Oprah answered that her African students appreciate and value education.

That was before snacks and visitation. Some parents complained that they could only visit their children once a month and that junk food is banned from the school. ActionAid had a bigger concern stating, “Only 150 hand-picked girls from poor households will enroll in Oprah’s boarding school. This number may rise to 400 and there’s no doubt they will receive an excellent education and some will emerge as future leaders. But there are over 40 million girls who have never been inside a classroom.”

There also were more than 300 New Orleans children on a waiting list for public schools at the beginning of this semester. They just sat at home until schools found room for them. Not to make Google and Oprah feel even more like no good deed goes unpunished, but displaced survivors of a man-made disaster are still waiting in America. There should be enough compassion to embrace us all. Anderson Cooper is back in New Orleans, so this week we’re almost as popular as Anna Nicole’s orphan.

But local heartbreak can be too close for comfort. We founded the New Orleans Muscians Relief Fund after evacuating to a town that houses State Farm’s national headquarters. The neon State Farm sign glows above our television screen. So there is a segment of this town that increasingly winces at the words New Orleans, especially with this week’s engineering email disclosures.

Postcards from far away are always easier to live with than a town that could ring your doorbell and ask for a school. Or a map that reflects the hole in its levee.

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