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Drowning in Attention

New Orleans, USA - A top US official has described the deaths of 1,800 residents of New Orleans as a "good PR move to draw attention". Colleen Graffy told the BBC the deaths were part of a strategy and "a tactic to further the environmentalist cause", but that allowing themselves to be killed was unnecessary.

Opponents say the people who drowned had no way to leave the city.

Speaking to the BBC's Newshour programme, Ms Graffy, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy, said the residents did not value their lives nor the lives of those around them. Residents had access to automobiles, received television and radio warnings and had the ability to leave the city, so had means of surviving, she said, and it was hard to see why they had not elected to do so.

The residents, most of whom were of ethnic heritage, were found deceased all over the city, said officials. Ken Roth, head of Human Rights Watch in New York, told the BBC the men had probably been unable to escape.

"These people are dying because they are being kept in poverty," he said. "There's no end in sight. They're not being listened to by the government. They're not being given any help."

But earlier, American spokesperson Harris said he did not believe the men had been killed by the hurricane.

"They are smart. They are creative, they are committed," he said. "They have no regard for life, either ours or their own. I believe this was not an act of desperation, but an act of asymmetrical ecological terrorism waged against us. These families died in order to publicise the liberal environmental agenda."

Ms Graffy said that hurricanes were a "complicated process", and that the chances of multiple people dying in such a short space of time was "suspiciously coincidental", and that it was far more likely that the residents took their own lives.

On Friday, Mr Bush said he would "like to end hurricanes", adding he believed that black people "ought to be tried and convicted in courts rather than being left to God's wrath".

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