[LINK] Google messes with history
jwhit at janwhitaker.com
Fri Mar 30 18:47:56 EST 2007
Google Goes Back to Pre-Katrina Maps
CAIN BURDEAU | AP | March 29, 2007 10:05 PM EST
NEW ORLEANS Google's popular map portal has
replaced post-Hurricane Katrina satellite imagery
with pictures taken before the storm, leaving
locals feeling like they're in a time loop and
even fueling suspicions of a conspiracy.
Scroll across the city and the Mississippi Gulf
Coast, and everything is back to normal: Marinas
are filled with boats, bridges are intact and
parks are filled with healthy, full-bodied trees.
"Come on," said an incredulous Ruston Henry,
president of the economic development association
in New Orleans' devastated Lower 9th Ward. "Just
put in big bold this: 'Google, don't pull the
wool over the world's eyes. Let the truth shine.'"
Chikai Ohazama, a Google Inc. product manager for
satellite imagery, said the maps now available
are the best the company can offer. Numerous
factors decide what goes into the databases,
"everything from resolution, to quality, to when
the actual imagery was acquired."
He said he was not sure when the current images
replaced views of the city taken after Katrina
struck Aug. 29, 2005, flooding an estimated 80 percent of New Orleans.
In the images available Thursday, the cranes
working to fix the breach of the 17th Street
Canal are gone. Blue tarps that covered roofless
homes are replaced by shingles. Homes wiped off
their foundations are miraculously back in place
in the Lower 9th. So, too, is the historic lighthouse on Lake Pontchartrain.
But in the Lower 9th Ward, the truth isn't as pretty, 19 months after Katrina.
"Everything is missing. The people are missing. Nobody is there," Henry said.
After Katrina, Google's satellite images were in
high demand among exiles and hurricane victims
anxious to see whether their homes were damaged.
The new, virtual Potemkin village is fueling the
imagination of locals frustrated with the slow
pace of recovery and what they see as attempts by
political leaders to paint a rosier picture.
Pete Gerica, a fisherman who lives in eastern New
Orleans, said he printed pictures of his
waterside homestead from Google to use in his
arguments with insurance adjusters.
"I think a lot of stuff they're doing right now
is smoke and mirrors because tourism is so off,"
Gerica said. "It might be somebody's weird spin on things looking better."
Henry also wondered whether Google's motives might be less than pure.
"Is Google part of the conspiracy?" he said. "Why
these images of pre-Katrina? Seems mighty curious."
Ceeon Quiett, spokeswoman for Mayor Ray Nagin,
said that as far as she knew, the city did not request the map change.
"My first reaction was, that's a bit problematic," she said.
Ohazama, the Google product manager, said he
"personally" was not asked by city or state
officials to change the imagery, but he added
that Google gets many requests from users and
governments to update and change its imagery.
Google has become a go-to service for people
looking for up-close satellite imagery.
"I use it on a regular basis in my class," said
Craig Colten, a geographer at Louisiana State
University who has written extensively on New
Orleans. He called Google's switch "unbelievable."
"I'm sure the mayor is thrilled," he quipped.
JLWhitaker Associates, Melbourne Victoria
jwhit at janwhitaker.com
'Seed planting is often the most important step.
Without the seed, there is no plant.' - JW, April 2005
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