Islanders who insisted on staying died in Ike

The final hours brought the awful realization to victims of Hurricane Ike that they had waited too long. This storm wasn’t like the others, the ones that left nothing worse than a harrowing tale to tell.

George Helmond, a hardy Galveston salt, watched the water rise and told a buddy: I was born on this island and I’ll die on this island.

Gail Ettenger, a free spirit who adopted the Bolivar Peninsula as her home 15 years ago, told a friend in a last phone call: I really messed up this time.

Within hours, the old salt and the free spirit were gone as the powerful Category 2 hurricane wracked the Texas Gulf Coast on Sept. 13, flattening houses, obliterating entire towns and claiming at least 33 lives.

The dead — as young as 4, as old as 79 — included lifelong Galvestonians firmly rooted on the island and transplants drawn by the quiet of coastal living.

Seven people drowned in a storm surge that moved in earlier and with more ferocity than expected. Nine others died in the grimy, sweaty aftermath, when lack of power and medicine exacted its toll. Eleven people were poisoned by carbon monoxide or killed in fires from the generators they used in their own attempts to survive.

Hundreds of people remain missing three weeks after Ike’s assault on Texas. Local and city officials are no longer keeping their own count of missing residents, and the estimate varies wildly from one agency to another.

According to the nonprofit Laura Recovery Center, about 300 people are missing. Of those, about 200 from Galveston. However, the number “goes up and down by the minute” as people call in to remove or add names, cautioned executive director Bob Walcutt.

Some vanished during the evacuation of towns in the storm’s path. Many were last heard in desperate, last-ditch calls for help.

Immediately after the hurricane, Galveston officials conducted door-to-door searches for survivors and possible victims. But the city is no longer taking an active role in the search, city spokeswoman Alicia Cahill said.

Instead, search teams of sheriff’s deputies, volunteer firefighters and special K-9 search and recovery units have been using airboats and all-terrain vehicles to sift through debris fields, tangled and fetid marshlands, and the rubble left behind by Ike.

Bodies could have been tossed anywhere in the marshes, where thickets of trees are littered with the contents of houses. Refrigerators, office chairs, and television sets are scattered everywhere __ in the mud, in bushes, on treetops.

“We are definitely looking and are going to do anything we can to find them, but there may not be any answers to be given,” said Galveston County emergency management spokesman Colin Rizzo. “There are definitely going to be people from Hurricane Ike that are never found.”

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Gail Ettenger stumbled upon her house in Gilchrist by accident. But once she saw the site on the bay side of Bolivar Peninsula, she knew she would never leave.

Ettenger, a native of New Jersey, instilled the house with her own energy and style. The 58-year-old’s garden bloomed with vibrant birds-of-paradise.

And Reba, an 11-year-old Great Dane hobbled by arthritis, was her baby. Ettenger loved to treat the dog to dinners of chicken and roast beef, recalled JoAnne Burks, Ettenger’s neighbor and close friend.

Ettenger, a chemist at ExxonMobil, didn’t evacuate, reasoning that her house had weathered Hurricane Rita in 2005 without a problem. She also did not want to leave Reba, who could no longer climb into Ettenger’s Jeep.

Burks and her husband pleaded with Ettenger to change her mind. But she insisted.

Hours before Ike made landfall, Ettenger knew she had made the wrong choice. She called Burks and described the water pushing up under her feet, the propane tanks and other household items drifting by her windows, and wondered which would float better: her Jeep or her house.

Her voice was shaky with fear, Burks said.

Burks spent the next 10 days searching for her friend, calling local, county and state officials without success. She tried the American Red Cross, FEMA, even private investigators.

“I didn’t want her to wind up like the victims of Katrina, who were never found or identified,” Burks said.

Ettenger’s body was found Sept. 23, tossed on a debris field in a Chambers County marsh about 10 miles from her house.

Amid the muck and remnants of homes, Burks found a pink leather collar. The name Reba was spelled out in rhinestones.

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At 72, George Helmond had ridden out many storms and thought he could take on Ike, too, neighbor Don Hanson said. “A lot of old Galvestonians are like that.”

Helmond had been one of the first residents of Sydnor Lane, which overlooks a bayou on one side and a golf course on the other. A retired electrician, Helmond was a die-hard fisherman, a dove hunter and straight-shooter intensely proud of his Galveston roots.

Around 10 a.m., Helmond called Hanson, who had already left, to say the water had already slipped over the road and toward his house. The street — the only way out of the neighborhood — was already impassable.

At 9:30 p.m., Helmond and Hanson talked for the last time. By then, the water had pummeled through Helmond’s garage, crushing the doors and submerging his Cadillac. Hanson begged his friend to grab a life vest at his house or to seek shelter there.

But at 2:30 a.m., for reasons no one knows, Helmond got in his pickup truck and drove off at the height of Ike’s fury.

Neighbors found Helmond’s body the next day inside the truck, which had slammed into the white golf course fence. The windshield was shattered.

Helmond’s home suffered little damage. The water had reached above the first-floor garage, but not inside the house.

“If he had stayed home and hadn’t gone out, he’d be OK, but he panicked,” said Hanson, 66. “Life goes on, but I will miss a good friend and I will think about him.”

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Even as Ike bore down on Texas, Jim Devine refused to leave his cream-colored house within sight of the bay in San Leon. Devine had moved to the fishing town after retiring and loved the tranquil way of life there, neighbors said.

The 76-year-old Devine drowned when Ike sent water barreling through his house, picking him off the second-story porch and dropping him a block away. Days later, Devine’s empty home still bore the scars of the storm — shattered windows, twisted wood, and his boat, the Seabar, jammed under the front steps.

His daughter left a warning and a memorial in orange spray paint: “Jim Devine. No Trespassing.”

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Port Bolivar held special meaning for 79-year-old Marian Violet Arrambide. She met her husband there during World War II. Many years later, he built the beach house where they could retire.

Arrambide, a retired nurse suffering the onset of dementia, lived with her daughter, Magdalena Strickland, and nephew, Shane Williams, in that beach house before Ike struck.

All three have been missing since the morning of Sept. 12, just as Ike began to come ashore.

“My sister said ‘I’m walking out the door in a hurry. Everything’s taken care of, I’ll see you in a few hours.’ That was it,” said son Raul Arrambide, describing a 6:15 a.m. phone call.

Since then, Arrambide has had little luck getting help or information. Instead, Arrambide said, he’s been passed from one agency to another.

“They send you back and forth until you’re worn out,” said Arrambide, his voice showing the strain of the last weeks.

After five days with no word and no answers, Arrambide borrowed a boat to search the area himself, but sheriff’s deputies turned people away. He finally found a local contractor who is helping search for missing residents. That man found his relatives’ vehicles, which had been washed off the road into a tree grove.

“I want to keep the hope that they are still alive, but by not hearing from any of them, that hope is getting smaller and smaller,” he said. “They helped people all their lives. They did not deserve to go this way.”

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081004/ap_on_re_us/ike_lives_lost

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Concern Raised Over Suspicious Deaths Of 24 Bio-Scientists

*VERY strange…does anyone think this is weird??*

OVER THE PAST SEVEN YEARS, more than two dozen of the world’s most esteemed microbiologists—all of whom were focused on combating bioterrorism—have died under questionable circumstances.

One was stabbed with a sword, another run over by a car, while a third was bashed over the head until dead. A scientist was found with repeated stab wounds to the chest; another was shoved under a chair (naked from the waist down); one perished in a nitrogen-filled airlock; another was carjacked, with his keys still in the ignition and a full tank of gas.

None of these men died of natural causes. Their murders were deliberate, and it’s sending a clear message to virus experts, immunologists, entomologists, and those researching bio-weaponry: your lives are in grave danger.

The latest casualty was bio-defense pioneer Bruce Ivins, who reportedly committed suicide on July 29 at Frederick Memorial Hospital from an overdose of Tylenol 3. (How he obtained enough pills to kill himself in a mental hospital is still open to question.) Ivins had direct links to the 2001 anthrax case; first via his potential development of a vaccine to combat the toxin, and secondly as a 2003 recipient of the Decoration for Exceptional Service—the most prestigious award a civilian scientist can receive. Ivins also assisted the government in its investigation of the anthrax scare.

Those closest to Ivins are publicly skeptical of the suicide story, pointing out that he was a Red Cross volunteer, played keyboards at his local church, enjoyed gardening and was married with two children. On the other hand, to paint the most horrific picture possible, an FBI-affiliated social worker named Jean Duley stated that Ivins was, in reality, a sociopathic, homicidal revenge killer who wanted to murder his coworkers
in a blaze of glory after discovering that he was the target of a Justice Department investigation into the anthrax case.

This testimony is questionable on a number of different levels. Samples of human hair from a mailbox in Princeton, N.J. where the anthrax was mailed do not match Ivins, sources involved said. For 18 years, Ivins held one of the highest security clearances possible in the Department of Defense. As journalist Scott Creighton asked, “How did all those educated and degreed psychologists and psychiatrists miss this criminal intent that a social worker (Jean Duley) picked up on in one group session?”

If Ivins exhibited such homicidal tendencies, wouldn’t it be identified at least once in nearly two decades, especially since he worked at Fort Detrick, home of the U.S. Army’s Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases at one of the most guarded facilities in the country?

Ivins is the second victim of a government witch hunt that began with the concerted harassment of Dr. Steven Hatfill, whose career and reputation were irreparably destroyed before receiving a $5.8 million settlement from the feds. Conveniently enough, less than a month after the government awarded Hatfill his judgment—with their anthrax case seemingly stalled and going nowhere because they pursued the wrong man for years—all of a sudden Bruce Ivins overdoses and the entire matter is suddenly solved.

Nobody has to ever again worry about anthrax-laced letters like the ones Tom Brokaw and former Sen. Tom Daschle received. But has the real culprit actually been identified, or is there someone else being shielded from prosecution?

The answer may lie with Dr. Philip M. Zack, a microbiologist who had already attempted to frame an Arab colleague, Dr. Ayaad Asaad, for the anthrax scare.

Zack, it turns out, is Jewish, and was fired from his post at Fort Detrick for continually harassing Dr. Asaad in an extremely discriminatory fashion because he was Arab.

Continued visits to the top-secret lab after his dismissal were recorded by security cameras. He was filmed entering Fort Detrick on numerous occasions. The individual who illegally let him in was Dr. Marian K. Rippy, also Jewish. In addition, Zack was well acquainted with military-grade anthrax, the same type that was used to lace postal packages in 2001.

Further evidence implicating the government were DNA tests linking the original source spores (which are very rare) to Fort Detrick. Zack again becomes a prime suspect because the anthrax scare occurred shortly after 9-11, at a time when the neo-cons and Israel were primed to begin their “war on terror.” Zack was known as a rabid “Arab-hating-Jew,” and the letters attached to each anthrax sample teemed with anti-Semitic rhetoric meant to implicate Arabs (“Death to Israel, Allah is Great”).

Was the entire anthrax hysteria motivated to cast further suspicion on Muslims to justify the neo-cons’ desire for a Mideast war? Was the anthrax scare akin to Saddam Hussein’s purported WMDs, another tactic to push us toward an Iraqi invasion? Were Steven Hatfill and Bruce Ivins scapegoats used by the government to divert attention from Dr. Zack’s involvement?

Finally, are many of the world’s top microbiologists being murdered to minimize efforts to counter the effects of a future bio-terrorist attack? Who would have ever thought that brainy, isolated lab workers were in the world’s most deadly white-collar profession?

Dr. Bruce Ivins was a shy, dedicated scientist. Following his death, he’s been characterized as a madman wearing a bullet-proof vest who poisoned his victims via the nation’s most deadly act of biological terrorism.

But, if the anthrax scare was simply another neo-con/Mossad psy-op, the implications for a coverup are enormous. Many of Dr. Ivins’ colleagues and friends don’t believe claims that he was a killer, and feel his “suicide” was the result of non-stop, heavy-handed harassment by government officials. Disease specialist W. Russell Byrne characterized him as “looking
like a guy who was being led to his execution.”

Has another number just been added to the mysterious microbiologist body count?

http://www.americanfreepress.net/html/suspicious_deaths_scientists_1.html

S.Ossetia says over 1,000 dead after Georgian attack

MOSCOW, August 8 (RIA Novosti) – Over 1,000 civilians have been killed as the result of an attack by Georgia on the capital of its breakaway republic of South Ossetia, the North Ossetian nationalities minister said Friday.

“According to the South Ossetian information and press committee, the number of fatalities is estimated, according to preliminary information, at over 1,000,” Teimuraz Kasayev said.

North Ossetia is part of Russia.

Georgia launched a major offensive early Friday morning using tanks, combat aircraft, heavy artillery and infantry.

Earlier Colonel Igor Konashenkov, an aide to the commander of the Russian Ground Forces, said about 10 Russian peacekeepers were killed and 30 wounded in the conflict zone.

The Russian Transportation Ministry’s press service said Friday that Moscow would cut air links with Tbilisi.

Georgian military forces have begun retreating from the capital, Tskhinvali, the South Ossetian information and press committee said.

“Using grenade launchers [South] Ossetian local defense forces are destroying Georgian tanks. According to eyewitnesses they [the tanks] are on fire throughout the city,” the committee said in a statement.

The statement also said that most of the city had been devastated by the Georgian military attack, which left the hospital destroyed and the republic’s university on fire.

http://en.rian.ru/world/20080808/115908220.html