OK, for a change, it's not me inventing a crazy oil-spill conspiracy. It's freakin' PBS, for God's sake. And they have stumbled upon a mystery and a government roadblock in oil-spill country that seems right out of the X-Files:
It has been virtually impossible to get any information about the federal mobile medical unit in the fishing town of Venice, La. The glorified double-wide trailer sits on a spit of newly graveled land known to some as the "BP compound." Ringed with barbed wire-topped chain link fencing, it's tightly restricted by police and private security guards.
The government, in a press release, claims that the facility maintains "a medical team from the HHS National Disaster Medical System...", and nothing untoward. So why not talk to the media - friendly media, no less?
For over two weeks, my NewsHour colleagues and I reached out to media contacts at HHS, the U.S. Coast Guard and everyone listed as a possible media contact for BP, in an attempt to visit the unit and get a general sense of how many people were being treated there , who they were and what illnesses they had. We got nowhere. It was either "access denied," or no response at all. It was something that none of us had ever encountered while covering a disaster...
Maybe because there is nothing ordinary about this disaster; or maybe it is, to use Janet Napolitano's term, a "man made disaster"?
More strange behavior by BP and your government:
...we heard from local fisherman Acy Cooper, vice president of the Louisiana Shrimp Association, and others in Venice that only those contracted by BP for cleanup operations are allowed to seek treatment at the mobile unit. Cooper also told us anyone seeking treatment was pre-screened by a private company hired by BP -- Acadian Ambulance Services.
Eventually PBS finally got some answers, for whatever they were worth:
...I finally got some answers from Ron Burger, the Medical Unit Operations Chief for HHS's National Disaster Medical System, who spoke with me by phone from Venice. He confirmed that only responders were being treated at the mobile unit. When I asked him why residents weren't being seen there he responded: "I can't answer that" ...
If this is just a first-aid station for first responders, why the need for the secrecy and the barb-wire compound? Why refuse to see locals? Are they afraid they might catch something that the HHS doesn't want us to know about, or see something the government doesn't want us to know about?
Odd, very odd indeed. And as I said yesterday, just as I was about to throw all my conspiracy theories out the window, a lot of interesting things blew inside instead....