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 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 on 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.
Google appears to have some explaining to do. In addition, if someone in the federal government put Google up to this, they've got some explaining to do, also.
From a practical standpoint, if this is an effort to hide the truth, it's dangerous. We're not going to get better as a society in adapting to hazards, or managing them, if we aren't provided with accurate information. Once you start subtly corrupting maps, where does it stop?
Maybe that's another use for blogs now - capturing the historical record of unpleasant truths, before they're erased by persons in authority (if anyone has post-Katrina satellite photos - post them!). Does Congress need to investigate (Lord knows, they already have a long list of shit to look into).
(Please feel free to cross-post this elsewhere - news of this needs widespread distribution.)