January 27, 2006
Study Says 80% of New Orleans Blacks May Not Return
By JAMES DAO
WASHINGTON, Jan. 26 — New Orleans could lose as much as 80 percent of its black
population if its most damaged neighborhoods are not rebuilt and if there is
not significant government assistance to help poor people return, a detailed
analysis by Brown University has concluded.
Combining data from the 2000 census with federal damage assessment maps, the
study provides a new level of specificity about Hurricane Katrina's effect on
the city's worst-flooded areas, which were heavily populated by low-income
Of the 354,000 people who lived in New Orleans neighborhoods where the
subsequent damage was moderate to severe, 75 percent were black, 29 percent
lived below the poverty line, more than 10 percent were unemployed, and more
than half were renters, the study found.
The report's author, John R. Logan, concluded that as much as 80 percent of the
city's black population might not return for several reasons: their
neighborhoods would not be rebuilt, they would be unable to afford the
relocation costs, or they would put down roots in other cities.
For similar reasons, as much as half of the city's white population might not
return, Dr. Logan concluded.
"The continuing question about the hurricane is this: Whose city will be
rebuilt?" Dr. Logan, a professor of sociology, writes in the report.
If the projections are realized, the New Orleans population will shrink to
about 140,000 from its prehurricane level of 484,000, and the city, nearly 70
percent black before the storm, will become majority white.
The study, financed by a grant from the National Science Foundation, was
released Thursday, 10 days after the mayor of New Orleans, C. Ray Nagin, who is
black, told an audience that "this city will be a majority African-American
city; it's the way God wants it to be."
Mr. Nagin's remark was widely viewed as an effort to address criticism of a
proposal by his own rebuilding panel, the Bring New Orleans Back Commission,
that calls for a four-month building moratorium in heavily damaged areas. He
said later that he had not meant to suggest that white people would not be
encouraged to return.
"Certainly Mayor Nagin's comments reflected a concern on the ground about the
future of the city," Dr. Logan said. "My report shows that there is a basis for
The study coincides with growing uncertainty about what government assistance
will be available for property owners and renters. Louisiana will receive $6.2
billion in federal block grants under an aid package approved by Congress in
December, part of which will be used to help homeowners. But that will not be
enough money to help all property owners in storm-damaged areas, Louisiana
Those officials have urged Congress to enact legislation proposed by
Representative Richard H. Baker, Republican of Louisiana, creating a
corporation that would use bond proceeds to reimburse property owners for part
of their mortgages, then redevelop the property. But the Bush administration
has said it opposes the bill, out of concerns that it would be too expensive
and would create a new government bureaucracy.
Asked Thursday about his opposition to the measure, President Bush told
reporters that the $85 billion already allocated for Gulf Coast restoration was
"a good start." He added that he was concerned that Louisiana did not have a
clear recovery plan in place.
But Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco of Louisiana, a Democrat who has clashed
frequently with the White House, said Mr. Baker's bill provided a clear plan.
"Administration officials do not understand the suffering of the people of
Louisiana," Ms. Blanco said in a statement.
Demographers are divided over the likelihood of a drastic shift in New
Orleans's population. William H. Frey, a demographer at the Brookings
Institution who has studied the hurricane's impact on the city, called Dr.
Logan's projections "a worst-case scenario that will come about only if these
evacuees see that they have no voice in what is going on."
But Dr. Frey also said low-income evacuees might indeed begin to put down roots
in cities like Houston or Dallas if they did not see movement toward
reconstruction in the next six months.
Elliott B. Stonecipher, a political consultant and demographer from Shreveport,
La., said that unless New Orleans built housing in flood-protected areas for
low-income residents, and also provided support for poor people to relocate,
chances were good that many low-income blacks would not return.
"If they didn't have enough resources to get out before the storm," Mr.
Stonecipher said, "how can we expect them to have the wherewithal to return?"
* Copyright 2006The New York Times Company
4 MONTHS TO DECIDE; hardest hit areas must prove
Nagin panel says hardest hit areas must prove viability city's footprint may shrink; full buyouts proposed for those forced to move. New housing to be developed in vast swaths of New Orleans' higher ground
Wednesday, January 11, 2006, By Frank Donze and Gordon Russell
Residents of New Orleans areas hardest-hit by Hurricane Katrina's
floodwaters would have four months to prove they can bring their
neighborhoods back to life or face the prospect of having to sell out to
a new and powerful redevelopment authority under a plan to be
released today by a key panel of Mayor Ray Nagin's rebuilding
In perhaps its boldest recommendation, the panel says Nagin should
impose a moratorium on building permits in shattered areas covering
most of the city, while residents there meet to craft plans to revive
their neighborhoods. The proposals are spelled out in the final report
of the land-use committee of Nagin's Bring New Orleans Back
commission, which was obtained by The Times-Picayune.
Addressing the debate about whether planners and politicians should
declare areas off limits or allow market forces to determine the city's
future, Nagin's panel clearly sought a compromise by instead
proposing a process to gauge residents' intentions to return to their
neighborhoods. But ultimately, commissioners say, not every
neighborhood will be sustainable and there will be a need to use
eminent domain to seize some property. The panel proposes the
creation of a new public agency, tentatively called the Crescent City
Redevelopment Corp., to use that power, but only as a "last resort."
While debate has focused heavily on the hot-button footprint issue,
the report also proposes a number of lofty ideas that could change
the cityscape, including a light-rail system, large mixed-income
neighborhoods and new parks that double as additional flood
The panel's recommendations -- along with those of six other
subcommittees advising the mayor on various subjects ranging from
education to culture to infrastructure -- are not binding; it will be up to
Nagin to endorse them, modify them or ignore them. Nagin has been
receiving regular briefings from the group and commissioners say he
is on board with most of the major concepts in its report.
Ultimately, the rebuild blueprint, the product of three months of work
by hundreds of participants, also must pass muster with the White
House and the Louisiana Recovery Authority, the state agency
empowered with disbursing billions of dollars in federal aid.
Practically since the day the storm passed through New Orleans, the
question of whether all of the city's neighborhoods can or should be
resettled has been the most contentious issue in play. The idea of
"shrinking the footprint" has been particularly unpopular among
African-American leaders and residents, who made up nearly 70
percent of the city's pre-Katrina population and who were much more
likely than white residents to live in areas devastated by flooding.
Commissioners on Nagin's panel expect that the mere mention of
expropriating the homes of people who want to rebuild will ignite a
firestorm of protest. In hopes of lowering the temperature of the
debate, their report calls for a much more generous buyout option
than the most visible program to gain traction thus far, the bill
proposed by U.S. Rep. Richard Baker, R-Baton Rouge. The Baker
bill, which stalled in Congress' last session but is expected to be
heard again in the upcoming weeks, would pay homeowners no less
than 60 percent of the equity they have in their homes, while the
banks holding those mortgages also would settle for no more than 60
percent of the balance.
The Nagin panel, acting on the assumption that something akin to
the Baker legislation will pass, is proposing to make homeowners in
buyout areas whole by tapping federal Community Development
Block Grants to cover the remaining 40 percent, so that those forced
to sell would wind up getting all of their equity back. Buyout prices
should be figured on a home's pre-Katrina market value, minus
insurance settlements, the report says.
Homeowners in areas that are not slated for buyouts would have the
option of voluntarily selling to the newly chartered redevelopment
authority. However, they would receive 100 percent of their equity
only if they purchased another home in the city, according to a
commission member familiar with the plan. Otherwise, they would
receive only the 60 percent provided in the Baker plan.
The report estimates the rebuilding effort will cost more than $17
billion, with the largest portion -- $12 billion -- devoted to buyouts. The
second most expensive line item is for new light-rail lines that would
crisscross the city, at a cost of $3.3 billion.
While the price tag is certainly eye-popping, members of the
commission don't believe their wish list is unrealistic. They have been
in constant contact with Donald Powell, the federal czar named by
President Bush to oversee Gulf Coast rebuilding efforts. Moreover,
Joe Canizaro, the banker and developer who chairs the land-use
panel, is a leading Bush fund-raiser with enviable access to the
Bush is scheduled to visit New Orleans on Thursday, where he is
expected to meet privately with Nagin and Mel Lagarde, the health
care executive who co- chairs the commission.
National Leaders to Support “Right of Return” to New
Orleans during MLK activities
Institute of the Black World 21st Century
joins AALP for for the Martin Luther King
New Orleans, La. -- Deeply concerned that
the plight of hundreds of thousands of
residents, evacuees and displaced persons
who were victims of hurricane Katrina is no
longer in the national spotlight, a number of African
American leaders will travel to New Orleans January 12-14
for the Martin Luther King Weekend Initiative to lend their
support to the demand for the “Right to Return” and the
call for massive federal assistance to rebuild the city.
According to Dr. Ron Daniels, President of the Institute of
the Black World 21st Century and former Executive Director
of the Center for Constitutional Rights, who has been
coordinating the effort nationally, the purpose of the
Initiative is to “vigorously support the demand of our
brothers and sisters for the ‘Right to Return’ to their homes
and city with justice, equity and dignity. In order to
achieve this goal, massive assistance from the federal
government will be required to rebuild and redevelop New
Orleans, something akin to a domestic Marshall plan.”
Thursday, January 12 , the activities for the Initiative get underway
with a daylong Rebuilding and Redevelopment Conference convened
by the African American Leadership Project at the Ashe Cultural Arts
Center, 1712 Oretha Haley Blvd. The Conference will focus on
rebuilding and development issues and strategies from African
American and Community Development perspectives. Mtangulizi
Sanyika, Project Manager, stated that the Conference will be the first
opportunity for a serious analysis and critique of proposals devised
by the Commissions convened by the Mayor, Governor and other
bodies. In recent weeks Mr. Sanyika has said, “ We simply will not
accept schemes to ‘shrink the footprint’ of New Orleans which in
effect would constitute ‘ethnic cleansing,’ ridding the city of large
numbers of Blacks and poor people to make the city flood safe, or to
control who can return.
Friday, January 13, the Rebuilding and Redevelopment Conference
will conclude, and leaders from around the country will attend an
official hearing of the Sub-Committee on Housing of the House of
Representatives of the Congress of the United States from 2:00 -
4:00 P.M. at the Port of New Orleans. The Committee will hear
testimony from government officals, community advocates and
representatives of community based agencies about the critical
housing needs in New Orleans. Congressman William Jefferson was
instrumental in persuading the Sub-Committee to come to the city to
get a first hand look at the devastation and to hear perspectives of
local and state officials, planners and residents.
At 7:00 P.M., the Progressive National Baptist Convention will hold a
Martin Luther King Ecumenical Right of Return Service at the
Christian Unity Baptist Church, 1700 Conti Street at the corner of
Claiborne, hosted by Christian Unity Baptist Church (Rev. Dwight
Webster, Pastor). In the spirit of Dr. King, this service will feature
calls by faith leaders and community advocates for the federal
government and the nation as a whole to deliver on the “promissory
note” to enable displaced New Orleaneans to reclaim, rebuild and
redevelop their homes, neighborhoods, and culture.
Saturday, January 14, after a tour of New Orleans East and the
Lower Ninth Ward, a Town Hall Meeting will be convened ,from 11:00
A.M. - 3:00 P.M. at the Christian Unity Baptist Church, where
Congressman William Jefferson and representatives of national civil
rights, religious, labor and professional organizations will constitute a
Listening Panel to hear testimony from community advocates, city
residents and evacuees/displaced persons on the status of the
rebuilding/redevelopment process in critical areas, i.e., delivering
electricity to all sectors of the city; the condition and plans for the
levees; status of environmental clean-up, plans for housing
rehabilitation and construction; and, re-opening of the public schools.
Other members of the Congressional Black Caucus and the
Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, National Convener of the
Millions More Movement have been invited to attend and participate
as members of the Listening Panel. Minister Farrakhan has
confirmed that he will attend/participate. Congressman Jefferson is
expected to provide an update on the status of the Congressional
Black Caucus omnibus bill, the Baker Bill and other legislative
initiatives to support rebuilding and redevelopment of New Orleans.
From 3:30 - 5:00 PM, there will be a Martin Luther King March and
Rally . Participants in the Town Hall Meeting will march from
Christian Unity Baptist Church to the Lafitte and Iberville public
housing developments to refocus national/international attention on
the plight of the city and its majority residents, to re-enforce the
demands of community based organizations and advocates for
justice and dignity, including the need to open and preserve public
From 6:00 - 9:00 PM., the Millions More Movement Black Family
Summit, which initially met October 14 in Washington, D.C., will
reconvene to continue discussions on how best to provide wrap
around services for residents and evacuees/displaced persons
affected by the Katrina disaster. Representatives of various African
American Relief Funds will be invited to participate in the Summit to
discuss ways and means of cooperating/collaborating to maximize
the effectiveness of their collective efforts. Summit participants will
also discuss launching a national mobilization to support a public
policy action agenda to Rebuild and Redevelop New Orleans with
interests and aspirations of the majority population at the center of
the design and outcome. The Summit will meet in the Board Room of
the Whitney Wyndham Historic Hotel, 610 Poydras Street.
In addition to the Institute of the Black World 21st Century, the 2.5
million member Progressive National Baptist Convention, Rev. Dr.
Major Jemison, President; the Hip Hop Caucus, Rev. Lennox
Yearwood, President; National Black Environmental Justice Network,
Damu Smith, Executive Director ; and, the Black Family Summit of
the Millions More Movement convened by the Honorable Minister
Louis Farrakhan and Leonard Dunston, President Emeritus, National
Association of Black Social Workers, have joined with New Orleans
based organizations, including the African American Leadership
Project, Mtangulizi Sanyika Project Manager; the People’s Institute
for Survival and Beyond, Ron Chisolm, Executive Director; and
Minister Harold Muhammad, President of the New Orleans Local
Organizing Committee of the Millions More Movement, to sponsor the
Martin Luther King Weekend Initiative. The People’s Hurricane Relief
Fund is also supporting the Initiative.
For further information contact Dr. Ron Daniels, at 718-533-1624/
917-690-7525 or Mtangulizi Sanyika at 504-242-8353/713-376-3364.
Say Eyewitnesses -
Media Ignores Them
Eye Witnesses Living Near 17th St. Levee
Say Loud Explosion Heard Just Prior
To Raging Waters Flooding The 9th Ward
By Greg Szymanski
Eye witnesses are starting to come forward, some only a block away from
the 17th St Canal levee break, saying they heard a loud, powerful explosion
right before water starting gushing in, as they ended up in a matter of
minutes floating downstream on their rooftops.
Terry Adams, who lives one block away from the 17th St. break,
remembers hearing what sounded "like a bomb going off" from where the
levee gave-way before rushing water forced him to his rooftop.
"Everything was calm, it was late at night and the storm had passed. I
thought we had dodged a bullet and there was no water in my house and I
was only a block away from the 17 th St. break," said Adams, a lower 9th
Ward resident, in an extended conversation this week from New Orleans.
"Then I heard what sounded like a bomb go off from the direction of where
the levee gave-way and within a matter of minutes I was forced up on my
roof where I floated for about a mile into town before somehow getting to
Asked if he was sure he heard an explosion, he added: "Water breaking a
levee isn't going to make the noise I heard and besides, the levee should
have broke before or during the storm, not afterward.
"I heard an explosion and so did a lot of other people. It came right from
where the levee broke. What else could it have been but somebody blowing
up the levee?"
The question of how the levee burst in one gigantic place at the 17th St. and
London Ave. drainage canals, estimated by some to be a gaping hole three
football fields long, as well as a number of other locations, has been on the
minds of other local residents from the lower 9 th Ward besides Adams,
many hearing the same explosions but being ignored by the mainstream
media, putting their accounts in the realm of conspiracy theorists.
For example, whenever the subject of the levees being intentionally
detonated comes up, most mainstream commentators like ABC's Michel
Martin, dismiss even the slightest possibility of foul play, appeasing Black
listeners with comments such as this:
"Anybody with any knowledge of history can understand why a lot of
people can feel this way, but any real possibility that the levies were
intentionally exploded must be dismissed."
However, according to Ryan Washington, a long time New Orleans bus
driver and former resident of the lower 9th Ward who grew up playing
football on top the levee, said the possibility of government dirty work and
foul play isn't so far fetched.
Now living in nearby Slidell, also hard hit by the hurricane, he has talked to
numerous eye witnesses who say the exact same thing as Adams, insisting
the levee was blown up and didn't give-way by natural means.
Washington also said the media should not concentrate on testimony from
experts, new commentators and government officials, who have biased
opinions, buy emphasis should be placed on interviewed the hundreds if not
thousands of people who heard or saw something the night the levees blew.
"Why don't they talk to the people who were there? Why are they relying
on government experts who have a reason to hide the truth? I personally am
gathering a list of people, a long list, who saw and heard what really
happened that night," said Washington, in a telephone conversation this
week from New Orleans.
He added that government officials have been wanted to get hold of the
valuable lower 9th Ward property ever since 1965 when Hurricane Betsy
flooded the area and the same suspicions of foul play circulated through his
"I even have talked to many reporters on the scene and tell them to get the
story from the horse's mouth and talk to the people," said Washington,
adding it's easier to hear and learn the real truth on a city bus than behind
the veil of city hall and the corrupted television cameras.
"The stories about people hearing and seeing explosions, as well as stories
about bomb residue being found at the scene, never see the light of day or
get in the papers or on television.
"And if they do, these stories are always dismissed as being crazy or
discredited by experts or government officials, who I personally don't
believe one bit."
According to Washington, several important factors convince him beyond a
reasonable doubt that the levees were blown intentionally to racially cleanse
the city, as well as the first step in a redevelopment plan to put up high rise
casinos and hotels in the lower 9 th Ward.
"First, they always say that explosion was a power generator. But the power
was off when the levees blew and the power station they were talking about
was not in the vicinity of where the explosions were heard," said
Washington. "Next, they say the barge in the canal broke the levees. I never
once saw a barge in the canal in all the years I lived there.
"Also, if it did plow through the levee, it never would have made such a
noise or cause an immediate break three football fields long. Further, why
were immediately on the scene to fence of the levees so no one could see
what happened when it too them more than 10 days in some cases to rescue
people. What are they hiding?
"Please someone from the media come down here and get the real story as I
have talked to so many people who feel the same way I do. The
government has been trying to get our land since 1965 and they are still
Besides numerous residents suspecting foul play, New York filmmaker
Spike Lee in October Lee said on Friday night's Real Time with Bill Maher
on HBO, that he believes Louis Farakhan's allegation that a levee was blown
up to flood the nearly all-Black 9th Ward.
Lee added that "a choice had to be made, one neighborhood got to save
another neighborhood and flood another 'hood, flood another
neighborhood." He then engaged in a heated battle of words with neo con
shill and MSNBC reporter, bow tied Tucker Carlson, who dismissed Lee as
conspiracy theorist spreading paranoia and fear.
At this point the short exchange between the two shows Carlson's true
colors as a government propagandist and as far from being a journalist as
George W. Bush himself:
Lee: "Presidents have been assassinated. So why is that so far-fetched? Do
you think that election in 2000 was fair? You don't think that was rigged If
they can rig an election, they can do anything!"
Carlson: "I was in New Orleans right after the hurricane in the ninth ward.
And while I didn't hear anybody say the levee was blown up by the federal
government, I did interview a bunch of people who were stuck there who
said they believed this was part of the conspiracy to rid New Orleans of
black people. They honestly believed that. I didn't argue with them, I just
listened to what they said and I felt bad for them. So as you sit here -- who
is someone who is rich and has option -- and are watched by people who
are poor and have no options, it seems to me it's your responsibility, your
obligation to tell them the truth and you know the truth, which is the federal
government did not blow up the levees so don't feed the paranoia and the
Lee: "First of all, how's that feeding the paranoia?"
Carlson: "Because you're saying it's entirely possible when you know
perfectly well it's not possible."
Lee: "How's it not possible?"
Although numerous questions remain unanswered about the reason behind
the levee controversy, one question never posed was how could a man like
Carlson ever call himself a fair-minded journalist after comments made on
"I know why," said Washington. "These journalists are as corrupt as the
government folks they write about. I'm only a bus driver but I know the
difference between right and wrong and the media is dead wrong by not
covering this story fairly.
One of the biggest controversies still brewing is the preliminary results of the
three main investigatory groups looking at why the levees erupted. The
groups, all tied to government interests, include the National Science
Foundation in conjunction with the American Society of Civil Engineers; the
United States Army Corps of Engineers; and the third group being funded
by the State of Louisiana, led by scientists at the Louisiana State University
Although each investigation is independent of the other, scientists claim to
be sharing data, coming to some surprising preliminary conclusions, one of
which could have enormous consequences.
In a recent article by John M. Barry analyzing the data from the three
groups, he looks at some of the suspicious preliminary questions, raising
even more questions of how could the 17th St. levee break with such a
small storm surge emanating from Lake Pontchartrain not the Gulf of
"We know that Hurricane Katrina made landfall with enormous power,
devastating the Gulf Coast, and that the levee on the Industrial Canal in
New Orleans was overtopped by a storm surge coming directly from the
Gulf of Mexico. When a levee is overtopped, there is basically nothing that
can be done. Water pouring over a levee long enough will, in effect, wash
part of the levee away. That's what happened on the Industrial Canal,
resulting in the flooding of part of the Ninth Ward, along with much of St.
Bernard and Plaquemines Parishes.
"But most of New Orleans was not flooded by water coming directly from
the Gulf. It was flooded from the north and rear by Lake Pontchartrain ,
when levees failed along the 17th Street and London Avenue drainage
canals. Initially, the Corps of Engineers said that the storm was so great that
it overtopped these levees also.
"But after inspecting the levees and reviewing storm data, all three
investigating teams agree: Hurricane Katrina hit Lake Pontchartrain with far
less strength than it did the Gulf Coast, and the storm surge fell well short of
the tops of the levees. In fact, a design or construction flaw caused them to
collapse in the face of a force they were designed to hold. In other words, if
the levies had performed as they were supposed to, the deaths in New
Orleans proper, the scenes in the Superdome and the city's devastation
would never have taken place."
For more informative articles, go to www.arcticbeacon.com.
In Newly Released Documents, a View of the Storm After Katrina
Volume 8, Number 14 September 18, 2005
Hurricane Katrina and the levee
by Dr. Ridgely Abdul Mu’min Muhammad
If it is true that when a piece of false information is spread through the media and people form opinions based on that information, and after three days those opinions do not change even though they subsequently find out that the first piece of information was untrue, then what would be the effect of four straight days of truth? I, like many others, watched CNN, the Weather Channel and other channels waiting to see if our people stranded in New Orleans by Katrina and the ensuing flood would get rescued or at least get some clean water and food.
Katrina hit New Orleans on Monday, but the flooding did not begin until Tuesday. I heard Mayor Ray Nagin say in a press conference that the 17th Street levee had broken, but that the Core of Engineers were going to immediately start dropping sand bags into the breach. However, all day Tuesday, the water continued to rise. We looked at the news expecting the "cavalry": ships, boats and hundreds of helicopters dotting the skies, picking up survivors and dropping food and water. Wednesday passed and no "cavalry". Then finally, Thursday, Mayor Ray Nagin got fed up and told everybody to stop giving press conferences, because he felt that these press conferences were being used to give false hope to his people, leaving them helplessly waiting in bad situations. He finally ordered them to "march towards relief." In other words they were told to take care of themselves because the government was not helping them.
Finally on Thursday afternoon a few National Guardsmen showed up and packages of food and water were dispensed to those waiting in the hot sun at the Convention Center. By Friday, the "cavalry" was in full force and a modicum of order and hope was restored.
While many people were riveted to their TV screens waiting on the "cavalry", I was praying that my people stayed calm under these inhuman conditions and not panic or riot. I felt that when the "cavalry" did finally show up, they would come in with their guns blazing restoring "order" and shooting them down as the "savages" that the media was trying to portray. God blessed His people to stay calm and suffer, and die like the Jesus in the Bible on Mt. Calvary. If indeed there is a Chosen People, those Black people in New Orleans acted as such, waiting faithfully on first, the US government, but then lastly on God.
After the government finally showed up, it used the media to try to develop a different spin on what everyone had witnessed with their own eyes, as the events unfolded. But no amount of spin can now erase those four days where America showed Black people that they did not matter. No spin will ever be able to dismiss the "rape" of the dignity of those people in the Super Dome, the Convention Center and those left to die on the bridges of New Orleans. This event will become a watershed in the racial atmosphere of America.
Like the O.J. Simpson trial, Hurricane Katrina has exposed the racial divide in America. Poles have shown that 71% of Blacks do not believe that Bush cares about Blacks, while 67% of whites believe that he does. All of this while looking at the same pictures and stories on the T.V.
Last year, 2004, on www.MuhammadFarms.com we wrote an article called "The Hand of God: Hurricanes and Mighty Snow" where we documented how the tracts of the five hurricanes that hit America made a very distinct pattern. So this year, I refrained from trying to find "patterns". However, when I looked at the track of Katrina, I could not help but see that she formed the shape of a "sickle". Now a sickle is used by farmers to separate the wheat from the tare at harvest time.
Katrina is separating people based on their racial predispositions. In her wake will flow a new alignment. On one side are the majority of Blacks and a minority of whites who know that Blacks still suffer because of discrimination and white supremacy. On the other side are the majority of whites and a minority of Negroes who do not want to accept that whites hate Blacks in America.
Minister Louis Farrakhan went to Texas and Louisiana on Sunday, September 11th, to see if what he had heard about the devastation was all together true. On Monday, September 12th he gave his report in Charlotte, NC at Little Rock AME Church. He said that not only was the devastation, pain and suffering from Katrina bad, it was worse than what we were told or shown. Furthermore he said that Mayor Ray Nagin told him that there was a 25 foot crater beneath the broken 17th Street levee which suggests that it was deliberately blown open.
The next day, Tuesday, the media described the Minister’s statements as crazy and irresponsible. The media tried to make it seem that Minister Farrakhan was presenting "conspiracy theories" to stir up racial animosities, as though what the people had been viewing for the last two weeks was not enough. Since Minister Farrakhan spoke a number of articles have popped up on the internet talking about eye witness accounts of the residents who say they saw a barge ram the 17th Street levee. Many others say they heard numerous explosions which officials shrugged off as transformers exploding and not dynamite.
However, on Sunday, September 11th I viewed on C-Span an interview with John M. Barry talking about his book "Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and how it changed America" written in 1997. In this interview he said that levees along the Mississippi River and in particular in the New Orleans area had been intentionally blown open in the past. He described how the levees were blown open in 1922 and 1927.
The 1927 destruction of sections of the levee was done on the orders of Governor O. H. Simpson. The governor was pressured to sign the order by the banking interests in New Orleans who wanted to insure the banking industry and investors that New Orleans was safe. To do this they picked an area where the people were poor and politically weak. The residents were informed but first protested the dynamiting of the levee. However, over time they backed down and accepted the promise of reparations for their properties that would be flooded. They were orderly evacuated which meant that no one died when the levee was dynamited and their homes flooded.
One bomb was not enough. So, for 10 straight days in the spring of 1927 they used multiple explosions and thousands of pounds of dynamite to make a hole sufficient to divert the flood waters from the rich white neighborhoods. And that was not the last time that the levees were intentionally destroyed. It was done again in 1965 to protect New Orleans from the effects of Hurricane Betsy.
So history presents a precedent for this type of shifting the effects of natural disasters to the poor. A good opinion poll question would be: "Would they do it again?
Thousands of Hurricane Survivors Still Face Immediate Needs
While rescue and relief operations in the immediate aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita have been completed, thousands of hurricane survivors remain in dire need of assistance. Unfortunately, two months after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast region, the federal government's response has failed to get many of these survivors the help they need:
- Health care is in doubt for thousands of hurricane survivors. Thousands of survivors currently do not have access to health care coverage, and thousands of others are at risk of losing their coverage. Louisiana is currently prevented from providing Medicaid health coverage to thousands of hurricane survivors "because of strict program rules and because the state doesn't have enough cash" (Chicago Tribune, 10/21/05) According to Senator Baucus, over 60,000 additional individuals have entered Louisiana's Medicaid program since Hurricane Katrina struck, but over half of all applicants have been turned away. Moreover, according to the Chicago Tribune, "more than 100,000 Louisiana Medicaid members could lose prescription drug coverage, and about 108,000 low-income children and 2,500 low-income pregnant women could be tossed out of the program altogether, Louisiana Medicaid Director Ruth Kennedy said... Louisiana officials have not made any final decisions, Kennedy stressed, but these services likely will be eliminated if federal aid for health-care needs isn't forthcoming... And the Bush Administration has strongly signaled its reluctance to assume new financial responsibilities for Medicaid as Congress debates slashing as much as $10 billion from the program." [Chicago Tribune, 10/21/05]
- Over 200,000 people remain in temporary housing. The New York Times reports that more than 200,000 people displaced by the hurricane remain lodged in hotel rooms two months after Hurricane Katrina struck. (10/19/05) The Red Cross estimates an even higher number, over 235,000, in hotel rooms. (KATC News, 10/24/05) In addition, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) reports that over 14,000 people continue to be housed in shelters and aboard ships. (report to Congress on Disaster Relief Fund, 10/19/05) And in Mississippi, the Los Angeles Times reports that "nearly two months after Hurricane Katrina passed over the Gulf Coast, stretches of east Biloxi resemble shantytowns," with over 1,000 people believed to be living in tents. (10/27/05) These reports do not attempt to estimate the number of families that have sought temporary shelter with family members outside of the affected region.
- Hurricane survivors are experiencing tremendous financial strain. One of the most prominent needs among hurricane survivors is financial assistance to help defray the costs of temporary living arrangements, to help families survive job losses, and to pay credit card bills, mortgages, and other financial obligations while balancing recovery costs. Unfortunately, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) decided to cancel a program to provide hurricane survivors with assistance for transitional costs on October 1, leaving tens of thousands of families to meet significant financial burdens alone. (New York Times, 10/1/05) In addition, ACORN, a national community advocacy group, recently reported that "tens of thousands of homeowners who were displaced by Hurricane Katrina are not being offered the mortgage relief that has been highly publicized in recent weeks, and as a result could face foreclosure by the end of the year." (Press Release, 9/22/05) Specifically, the subprime mortgage industry was granting relief only through the end of September, leaving thousands of Hurricane survivors at risk. The group reported that African-Americans are most likely to be affected by the subprime mortgage industry's decision. And immediate financial shortages in the wake of the storm place families at risk of spiraling debt and other financial problems: "Mounting unpaid bills will lead to a surge of black marks on victims' credit reports, say consumer advocates, sinking their credit scores... Consumers who can't make their house payments any more -- even if that house has been completely swept away by the storm -- may face the ultimate penalty in America's credit-driven society: A credit score so low they won't qualify for the loans they need to start rebuilding." (MSNBC, 10/7/05)
- Workers and businesses in the affected region are reeling. Roughly 502,000 Americans have lost their jobs as a result of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and the losses continue to mount. Last week, another 24,000 individuals filed for unemployment as a result of the hurricanes. (Associated Press, 10/27/05) The economy of Louisiana has been particularly devastated, with nearly one-tenth of the state's work force -- 234,000 people -- having lost their jobs as a result of the hurricanes. (Associated Press, 10/25/05; Bureau of Labor Statistics) Louisiana businesses are under tremendous strain as well. According to Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco, "Katrina and Rita have shuttered or displaced almost 81,000 firms -- that is 41 percent of Louisiana businesses. Most of them are small businesses." (Office of the Governor, 10/6/05) New Orleans City Business reports that as few as 25 percent of the city's downtown workers have returned. (10/22/05) Mississippi has been devastated as well, with 70,000 businesses damaged or totally destroyed. (Entrepreneur, 9/22/05)
- Thousands of children remain displaced from local schools. The initial toll of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita upon local school systems was tremendous. The storms displaced roughly 247,000 students from Louisiana schools, 125,000 from schools in Mississippi, and approximately 3,000 students from Alabama schools. (National School Boards Association, 9/27/05) An additional 86,000 school students in Texas were displaced by Hurricane Rita. (USA Today, 9/26/05) While the Department of Education does not keep statistics on the exact number of students who remain displaced, it is clear that there are thousands of students unable to return to their schools. Many schools in the worst-damaged areas in and around New Orleans will remain closed at least until November (New Orleans Times-Picayune, 10/19/05) and, in areas where schools have reopened, many students have not returned. For example, only 74 percent of enrolled students have returned to Jefferson Parrish, while St. Tammany schools have regained 90 percent of their former enrollment. (New Orleans Times-Picayune, 10/23/05) In Mississippi, 16 schools were totally destroyed, 24 were severely damaged, and another 263 schools suffered some type of damage from the hurricanes. (Mississippi Department of Education) School systems around the country continue to host thousands of displaced students, including 21,000 in Houston, Texas (Houston Chronicle, 10/18/05); 5,455 in Alabama (Alabama Department of Education, 10/14/05); 7,000 in Mississippi (Mississippi Department of Education); and 5,687 in Florida (St. Petersburg Times, 10/15/05)
- Sanitation challenges put public health at risk. A tremendous amount of waste and debris, much of it organic, remains in the affected region, placing public health at risk. One newspaper reports that, "in the poorest neighborhoods of Biloxi, Mississippi, many people made homeless by Katrina...live among rotting garbage, molding refuse, starving animals and human waste." (Charlottesville Daily Progress, 10/23/05) In New Orleans, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers "estimates the total [amount of debris requiring removal] will exceed 17 million cubic yards -- a calculation that doesn't include abandoned cars, boats or homes awaiting demolition." (Associated Press, 10/20/05) There are more than 200,000 waterlogged and abandoned cars in the city. As of October 9, the Los Angeles Times reported that "the city has towed about 1,600 of them. At that rate, it would take about a decade to finish the job." (10/9/05) Moreover, approximately 30,000 to 50,000 homes are expected to require demolition as a result of hurricane damage. (New York Times, 10/23/05)
The immense amount of waste, debris, and flood-damaged infrastructure poses a serious and immediate public health challenge to the region. In addition to the microbial and viral risks associated with exposed, rotting organic matter, one of the most significant public heath risks is the widespread presence of mold growing in the flooded areas. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report, "because of the large number of flooded and mold-contaminated buildings in New Orleans and the repopulation of those once-flooded areas, a large number of people are likely to be exposed to mold and other microbial agents." Further, "sufficient evidence exists of an association between several adverse health outcomes and exposure to damp indoor environments or to materials contaminated with fungal growth." (CDC Mold Work Group report, October 2005) In short, affected areas are faced with a series of public health concerns associated with ongoing waste, debris, and sanitation issues.
- Affected cities lack the resources to ensure safety and provide essential services. As a result of the devastation on the infrastructure and economy of the region affected by the hurricanes, "cities, parishes, school districts and sheriffs offices along Louisiana's Gulf Coast are out of money to pay for basic services -- water, sewer, fire, security -- that are necessary before rebuilding can begin. Officials say their pleas are falling on deaf ears in Washington." (Knight Ridder, 10/20/05) Moreover, "the jurisdictions directly hit by the storm are not the only ones suffering. Those trying to provide services for Katrina's evacuees are also finding their budgets strained." (Knight Ridder, 10/20/05)
As the New York Times notes, "without money, governments cannot run buses so that residents without cars can search for jobs and go to work. They cannot educate the children of families that might try to return. They cannot provide health care, pick up garbage or begin the detailed planning and engineering necessary to bring a city back to life." (10/22/05) Unfortunately, cities are faced with exactly this reality. The Lousiana House of Representatives fiscal division estimates that Hurricanes Rita and Katrina have cost municipal governments over $3.3 billion in lost taxes and fees, and have cost the state government $1.5 billion. (New York Times, 10/22/05) As a result, the governments are struggling to provide basic services: "before Hurricane Katrina washed away its tax base, the St. Bernard School District employed 1,200 people. Now, with no money to make its payroll, the district employs fewer than 12 employees, and this weekend, the parish government expects to lay off a large share of its firefighters and emergency personnel. Next door in New Orleans, the school district has laid off virtually every employee, more than 7,000 people. The city has laid off half its workforce, and the state university system is preparing for thousands of layoffs and serious cutbacks in services." (New York Times, 10/22/05)
- Hurricane survivors face mental health challenges. Mental health experts are predicting that Hurricane Katrina and the devastation caused by its aftermath are likely to leave thousands of survivors with mental health issues: "Victims who are rescued from the horrors of the flood-ravaged city of New Orleans may have frequent and intense psychological problems similar to those that plague troops returning from Iraq, Afghanistan or Vietnam--problems that could spread to the rescuers as well. Up to a third of the victims of the Gulf Coast catastrophe might be affected." (Forbes, 9/6/05) In light of the fragile mental state of many survivors, it is particularly disturbing that "there are still more than 1,500 cases of 'fractured families' that have not been reunited." (Washington Post, 10/27/05)
Bush Administration's poor management keeps thousands of displaced Gulf Coast residents without housing. Roughly 200,000 Gulf Coast residents remain in hotel rooms, and an additional 14,000 displaced residents remained in shelters or in temporary housing on board ships. (New York Times, 10/19/05; Department of Homeland Security [DHS] report to Congress on disaster relief fund, 10/19/05) According to housing advocates, the government has been forced to place displaced residents in hotel rooms "because the Federal Emergency Management Agency [FEMA] has had problems installing mobile homes and travel trailers for evacuees and has been slow to place victims in apartments that real estate executives say are readily available throughout the southeast." (New York Times, 10/13/05) In response to the housing problems, Mayor Shirley Franklin of Atlanta, a city where thousands of Gulf Coast residents have fled, called FEMA's efforts "Deplorable. Disappointing. Outrageous... The federal response has just been unacceptable. It is like talking to a brick wall." (New York Times, 10/13/05) FEMA's management of temporary housing efforts has been so poor that, as of October 19, the agency was unable to even provide an estimate of how many housing units it needs to provide. (New York Times, 10/19/05)
One of the most significant problems in the federal government's temporary housing efforts is its failure to spend the money Congress appropriated to provide temporary housing assistance. Despite the fact that over 200,000 people remain temporarily lodged in hotel rooms (New York Times, 10/19/05), the Administration has provided only 11,961 manufactured housing units for transitional occupancy. (DHS report, 10/19/05) The lack of urgency is not limited to FEMA's efforts; it is spread throughout the Administration. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), for example, was obligated $80.7 million for temporary housing programs but has not reported spending a single dollar so far. (DHS report, 10/19/05) Moreover, contractors charged with providing manufactured housing have been slow to spend money. Clearbrook LLC has spent only $23.1 million of the $145.2 million obligated to it; Champion Home Builders Co has spent none of the $80.8 million obligated to it, and CMH Manufacturing, Inc. has spent none of the $69.8 million obligated to it.
President Bush's decision to waive worker protections prevents displaced Gulf Coast residents from finding work. Hurricane Katrina caused a tremendous disruption in the Gulf Coast economy, leaving thousands of businesses destroyed and workers unemployed. According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, "nearly 282,000 Louisiana residents, 14 percent of the state's workers, are unemployed because of Hurricane Katrina and Rita." (10/18/05) Unfortunately, the Bush Administration has done little to help displaced workers cope with unemployment or begin rebuilding their lives.
Instead, President Bush decided to waive worker protections under the Davis-Bacon Act requiring reconstruction project contractors to pay workers wages at prevailing rates. As a result, the Bush Administration has created a bonanza for contractors paying cut-rate wages and providing inadequate benefits. The results have been predictable: instead of providing jobs to displaced local workers, contractors have hired out-of-state migrant workers willing to accept minimal compensation. On October 26, the President was forced to reverse his decision and reinstate the protections.
Another problem has been that, instead of helping local businesses rebuild by giving them preference in awarding rebuilding contracts, FEMA has awarded most contracts to out-of-state businesses. Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco recently reported, "I found out yesterday that 44 percent of the federal contracts and subcontracts have gone to Louisiana companies. That amounts to 31 percent of the dollar value of those contracts." Under the Stafford Act, local workers are required to receive preferential treatment for reconstruction contracts when feasible.
FEMA fails to help local government agencies provide basic services. FEMA has refused to waive a rule restricting the use of federal funds to supplement overtime pay for public-safety employees, rather than allowing funds to be used to pay regular salaries for city workers. As a result of the rule, New Orleans has only been able to spend about $20 million of the $120 million provided to it by FEMA, even though the city government has been forced to lay off 3,000 city workers. (New Orleans Times-Picayune, 10/21/05) While the rule prevents use of direct appropriations for paying salaries that allow local workers to provide security, water, sewer, and fire services, in addition to carrying out other government activities, "a newly passed federal loan program was supposed to get some money flowing, but authorities here complain that bureaucratic hurdles and regulations are getting in the way. And, as predicted by Senate Democrats who tried to allow the federal government to provide the money without requiring these hurting communities to repay the loans, "some have balked at taking the loans, saying they can't afford to be on the hook for new debt." (Knight Ridder, 10/20/05)
Bush Administration's ineffective and uncoordinated leadership hinders quick use of reconstruction funds for vital needs. Congress has already appropriated more than $62 billion in emergency supplemental funding for relief and recovery efforts, with roughly $60 billion designated for FEMA; however, through October 19, FEMA had only placed $18.2 billion into the Hurricane Katrina disaster relief fund, roughly one quarter of the funding available, and had only reported spending around $4.1 billion of the funding. (DHS report to Congress on Disaster Relief Fund, 10/19/05) According to Republican Senator Grassley, "so far, all we've done is shovel money out the door to meet the humanitarian needs," without beginning the critical work of rebuilding. (Los Angeles Times, 10/17/05) In fact, of the $60 billion appropriated by Congress, $24 billion was intended for providing temporary financial assistance. (Congressional Research Service, RS22239) Nearly two months after the hurricane devastated the region, FEMA has provided only about one-tenth of this amount ($2.9 billion) to affected individuals and families affected by the tragedy. (Secretary Chertoff, House Select Committee on Hurricane Katrina, 10/19/05) Moreover, as Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff recently testified, the $2.9 billion in temporary financial assistance has been distributed to over 1.6 million households, providing each household with less than $2,000 for two months of emergency and recovery expenses, with households often including several individuals.
President Bush is failing to push forward even his own recovery plan. On September 15, President Bush addressed the nation and set forth a plan for recovery in the wake of Hurricane Katrina with "one of the largest reconstruction efforts the world has ever seen." The plan involved three major proposals: 1) the creation of accounts with up to $5,000 to help workers left unemployed by the hurricane; 2) the creation of a Gulf Opportunity Zone that would provide tax breaks and loans to small businesses reestablishing operations in the region; and 3) the passage of an Urban Homesteading Act giving low-income families surplus government property and favorable mortgage rates in exchange for promises to build homes. However, as the Los Angeles Times reports, "the administration has yet to introduce legislation for two of the three proposals" and "in the case of the third proposal, $5,000 accounts to help workers left unemployed by the hurricane, an administration-drafted House bill would provide aid for fewer than a quarter of the jobless." (10/17/05)
The Administration is failing to help families get back on their feet. The National Flood Insurance Program is intended to provide flood insurance to homeowners in flood-prone areas that adopt community floodplain management regulations. The program is critical because most homeowner insurance policies do not cover flood damage, so the insurance payments are essential to helping residents start over after catastrophic flooding. According to the Department of Homeland Security, nearly 200,000 flood insurance claims have already been filed with the program as a result of the hurricanes, and over two million homes without flood insurance were damaged by the hurricanes. But FEMA, which manages the program, has only paid 29,113 claims. (Report to Congress on Disaster Relief Fund, 10/19/05, 10/26/05) The program currently has far less funding than will be required to respond to the disaster: "The National Flood Insurance Program typically takes in enough money through policyholder premiums to pay claims of about $2 billion annually. It has limited authority to borrow more from the Treasury; just after Katrina, Congress increased the limit to $3.5 billion from $2 billion. Yet the program expects claims to reach at least $22 billion." (Wall Street Journal, 10/25/05) The Bush Administration has not proposed a plan for ensuring that this critical program can help affected families get back on their feet.
The Administration is politicizing survivors' needs with ideological plans that have no proven record of success. After over 350,000 students were believed to have been displaced by Hurricane Katrina, President Bush proposed funneling "millions of dollars of public money into private school vouchers." (National Education Association statement, 9/21/05) In response, the National Education Association stated "we are disappointed that the administration would use the catastrophe of this natural disaster as an opportunity to surface and advance a public education agenda that is both controversial and objectionable...it is unfortunate that the administration has chosen to open the divisive social policy debate around vouchers and advance a privatization agenda." (9/21/05) In addition to being ideological, the plan is insufficient: "the Administration's plan falls significantly short of what the states have requested. It does not do nearly enough to respond to the needs of those children whose lives have been ravaged by the hurricane, nor does it adequately address the needs of the schools that are receiving the thousands of displaced children." (National Education Association statement, 9/21/05)
Like the President's school vouchers proposal, his plan for a Gulf Opportunity Zone with tax breaks for businesses will not be adequate to address the devastation wrought on the local economy. Enterprise zones like the one proposed by the President have no proven record of success. As the Los Angeles Times has reported, "despite the creation of hundreds of local, state and federal enterprise zones that have bestowed billions of dollars in tax benefits on thousands of qualifying businesses over the last two decades, nobody has been able to demonstrate conclusively that the incentives actually work." (10/25/05) The non-partisan Congressional Research Service has also found that most studies on state-created enterprise zones "have not found evidence of effects on growth or employment" and that "specific evidence of the empirical effect of federal programs is virtually non-existent." (RL33088)
Within days after Hurricane Katrina hit, Senators Reid and Landrieu, along with more than 20 other Senate Democrats, introduced major legislation to address the most urgent needs of hurricane survivors. Their bill, the Katrina Emergency Relief Act, S.1637, proposed a wide variety of measures to provide victims with health care, housing, education, and financial relief. The bill was intended for immediate action, and Senate Democrats have since tried repeatedly to get the Senate to act on its provisions. Yet the Republican leadership has refused to take up the bill or related legislation to address most of these needs. After appropriating money to FEMA, Republicans have spent much of the past two months debating legislation that has little or nothing to do with disaster relief, leaving urgent needs unmet. Incredibly, while an entire region has been devastated and hundreds of thousands of desperate Americans have lost everything, the GOP Congress has been sitting on its hands.
Senate Republicans have blocked consideration of health care legislation to assist hurricane survivors in meeting medical needs. As Senator Baucus has noted, Louisiana's Medicaid program has enrolled over 60,000 new individuals since Hurricane Katrina struck, but over half of all applicants have been turned away. (Senate floor, 10/19/05) On September 15, Senators Baucus and Grassley introduced a bipartisan bill, S. 1716, to provide emergency health coverage to survivors of Hurricane Katrina. The legislation would temporarily relax eligibility requirements for Medicaid to allow survivors to get the health coverage they need on an emergency basis. The legislation has 13 additional co-sponsors, and enjoys support from a majority of the Senate. Unfortunately, a small minority of Republicans, led by Senators Sununu and Ensign, have blocked passage of the bill. (Los Angeles Times, 9/29/05) Senator Frist has refused to bring the bill to the Senate floor for a vote. In a recent statement, Senator Grassley complained that, "unfortunately, the White House is working against me behind the scenes." (Reuters, 10/6/05)
Senate Republicans have blocked several other key legislative initiatives to improve hurricane recovery efforts and expedite support for survivors. On September 14, Senator Sarbanes introduced an amendment to H.R. 2862 to provide hurricane survivors with immediate assistance for finding housing, including emergency housing vouchers. The Senate unanimously agreed to the amendment, and passed H.R. 2862 a day later. Senator Kerry also introduced an amendment to H.R. 2862 to provide assistance to small businesses affected by the hurricanes. Senator Kerry agreed to a compromise version of his amendment, introduced by Senator Snowe, which passed the Senate 96 to 0. The Senate also passed amendments to H.R. 2862 to provide legal services to survivors (introduced by Senator Harkin), to provide funding for economic adjustment and development in the affected areas (introduced by Senator Baucus), and to enhance the ability of health care professionals to provide health care to survivors (introduced by Senator Durbin). Despite the fact that the bill contains these critical and time-sensitive provisions, however, Republicans in the Senate and House have held up the conference report for H.R. 2862 for over a month, delaying final passage of the bill and implementation of assistance programs to help survivors find housing and help small businesses stay in business.
Senate Republicans have also blocked efforts to ensure transparency and prevent corruption during recovery and rebuilding efforts in the Gulf Coast. S. 1738, a bill introduced by Senators Collins and Lieberman to establish a special inspector general to oversee Gulf Coast reconstruction contracting, was reported out of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee over a month ago, but Senator Frist has refused to bring it to the Senate floor for consideration, despite the fact that it has bipartisan support. Likewise, Senator Frist has refused to allow consideration of S. 1700, a bill introduced by Senators Coburn, Obama, and 24 other bipartisan cosponsors that would create a Chief Financial Officer to conduct oversight over reconstruction spending. That bill has also been reported out of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and lies dormant awaiting Senator Frist's action.
House Republicans have proposed deep cuts to programs providing assistance to hurricane survivors. In addition to up to $50 billion in cuts likely to be proposed in the House version of the Deficit Reduction Omnibus Reconciliation bill, a group of right-wing Republicans in the House of Representatives has proposed cutting an additional $102 billion from the 2006 budget, and nearly $1 trillion over ten years. (Republican Study Committee, "Operation Offset," 9/21/05) These huge cuts have been proposed in the name of offsetting costs of hurricane recovery efforts, despite the fact that Congress has only appropriated approximately $62 billion for hurricane recovery so far -- a miniscule fraction of the $1 trillion in cuts the Republicans have proposed. Moreover, the proposed cuts would strip funding away from programs that will provide essential assistance to hurricane survivors, including:
- More than $225 billion from Medicaid;
- Requirements for elderly and disabled beneficiaries to pay more than $200 billion in additional copayments;
- Elimination of the Legal Services Corporation, which provides legal services for those who cannot afford to pay lawyers' fees on their own; and
- Loosening of Davis-Bacon restrictions requiring contractors, like those involved in rebuilding the Gulf Coast, to pay fair wages.
Before Hurricane Katrina, Republicans acted as if deficits didn't matter, squandering a budget surplus and driving our nation into fiscal insolvency. The Bush Administration and Congressional Republicans have adopted a series of fiscally irresponsible policies that have turned the largest budget surplus in history into the largest federal deficit in history. Senate Republicans have initiated irresponsible tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, driven up federal spending, and provided over $200 billion in supplemental funding for the war in Iraq while rejecting proposals to offset the spending. As Keith Ashdown of Taxpayers for Common Sense recently put it, Republicans are "legislating as if deficits don't matter." (USA Today, 8/4/05)
Republican fiscal irresponsibility has caused:
- Record deficits. Republican proposals over the last five years have driven up the federal debt and deficit to historic levels. As Senator Conrad had explained, the Senate Republicans' current budget would lead to an increase in debt of more than $3 trillion over the next five years. (http://budget.senate.gov/democratic/charts/2005/packet_BudgetMarkupOpeningstmt102605.pdf)
- Reckless spending. With the rubber-stamp leadership of Congressional Republicans, President Bush "is tracking toward a 40 percent spending increase as he approaches five years in office - and that pace could quicken as new obligations come due. Spending growth under Bush is averaging 6.9 percent a year, almost double the 3.6 percent rate that occurred under his Democratic predecessor, Bill Clinton." (Sacramento Bee, 10/23/05)
After five years of reckless fiscal policy, Republicans now demand offsetting Katrina-related spending with cuts to programs that help those hurricane survivors most in need. While refusing to support proposals to offset $200 billion in spending in Iraq, Congressional Republicans now are demanding that Congress offset spending on Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts. Even more troubling is that Republicans are seeking to offset the costs of recovery on the Gulf Coast by cutting funding from programs that directly benefit the neediest hurricane survivors. Republicans are proceeding with a Deficit Reduction Omnibus Reconciliation bill that includes billions of dollars -- over $35 billion in the Senate version and up to $50 billion in the House version -- in cuts to key programs.
As the New York Times has editorialized, "Congressional Republicans are trying to invoke the cost of reconstruction from Hurricane Katrina to justify cutting even more deeply and cruelly into programs that help the poorest Americans. Prodded by self-proclaimed budget hawks, the House speaker, Dennis Hastert, suddenly wants to up the ante in Congress's budget plan - to $50 billion from $35 billion - for five years of cuts in basic programs. Billions for food stamps, Medicaid and welfare reform would be lopped off." (10/13/05) Food stamps, Medicaid, welfare, and similar programs are precisely the programs most likely to provide a safety net to the thousands of Gulf Coast residents who have lost their jobs, residences, or family members to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The National Council of Churches has called the cuts "inconceivable." (Christian Post, 10/21/05)
Statement on Hurricane Katrina
September 2, 2005
I thank the Mayor and my colleagues for convening this press conference
to express solidarity in our concern for the plight of Katrina?s
victims. The message today is that while we are watching this tragedy
unfold, we are not sitting idly by.
The Office of the Fourth Congressional District has adopted Baton Rouge
Mosque #65 which is housing 100 New Orleans residents. They need dry
goods, food, and hygiene kits. Anyone interested in helping us help
these 100 people, please bring donations to our Congressional office as
soon as possible.
As we open our hearts, pocketbooks, and homes to Katrina?s victims, it
is now imperative that the Government do its part.
To see it coming is not enough. The Administration appears flat-footed
as its actions have not been fast enough and remain slower than most
Americans can comprehend. A responsive government would:
1. Maximize the use of U.S. Customs air assets to drop badly needed
food and supplies to the people. Sadly, I have been told by an
investigative journalist that precious Customs air assets are
available, but are not being used to ferry badly-needed food, radios,
and supplies. We dropped food in Afghanistan, certainly we can drop
food in the United States.
2. Tell the people what they can expect from their leadership in
authority. Clear lines of authority should have been established and
the people informed of what the government was going to do to alleviate
their suffering. Much of the confusion and chaos we are witnessing is
due to ineffective communication of the plan of action to the people in
the affected areas.
3. Preposition necessities. It is clear that the Administration failed
to preposition hospital ships, pumps, and supplies, in the face of a
Category 5 hurricane barreling toward the Gulf States. The
Administration is just now mobilizing to satisfy the massive and
desperate need. And sadly, 40% of the Mississippi National Guard are
in Iraq; 35% of the Louisiana National Guard are in Iraq; for Florida,
the figure is 25%; Alabama has 23% of its Guard stationed in Iraq.
4. Be careful of the language used. What media bright light decided to
term the New Orleans residents as ?refugees?? It is insulting and
should be stopped immediately. And, how dare anyone talk down to a
devastated population while Bunnatine Greenhouse sits busted from her
job because she dared to pull the plug on Halliburton?s looting of the
US Treasury of billions of dollars. The President asks for patience
and lends Katrina?s victims his thoughts and prayers. That is not
enough given the magnitude of the problem. And FEMA should not now
tell victims to take responsibility, but must instead deal with its own
responsibility to care for a devastated population. And finally, talk
from Speaker Hastert and others questioning the value of rebuilding the
City of New Orleans should be arrested immediately.
5. Recalibrate its values and priorities. New Orleans is not just a
home for hundreds of thousands; its ports form the heart of America?s
domestic and international commerce, and our oil and gas nerve center.
Shame on this Administration for slashing money to protect New Orleans
and shifting it to Halliburton and Iraq. Shame on this Administration
for not curtailing our dependency on overconsumption of oil; and for
not recognizing global warming. Shame on this Administration for
failing to take care of the American people.
6. Offer maximum assistance to people in need. Houston?s Astrodome has
already reached its capacity. Atlanta has the capacity to give and a
desire to share.
Big oil's bigtime looting
By Derrick Z. Jackson
September 2, 2005
President Bush yesterday told ABC-TV, "there ought to be
zero tolerance of people breaking the law during an
emergency such as this, whether it be looting or price-
gouging at the gasoline pump or taking advantage of
charitable giving or insurance fraud."
Zero tolerance is meaningless when the White House lets
the biggest looters of Hurricane Katrina walk off with
billions of dollars.
We are not referring to the people you currently see in
endless footage, crashing through storefronts and wading
through chest-high water with clothes, food, and
pharmaceuticals. Some folks are disgusting in their
thuggishness, but a great many others are simply
desperate, having now gone three days without food or
water. The latter are living out one of the most famous
hypothetical problems in moral reasoning -- should a
husband steal a cancer drug he cannot afford for his
No such sympathy is to be extended to big oil. The
nation has on its hands a disaster so profound that we
have not even begun to seriously count the bodies in the
floodwaters. It brings us as close as we may get in our
lifetime to places like Bangladesh.
New Orleans is under martial law and will not return to
normal for years. Members of the Red Cross, the Coast
Guard, the National Guard, police agencies, and
firefighters are sacrificing time and risking lives to
save lives. Texas is opening up its school systems for
homeless Louisiana children. Generous food wholesalers
are giving away their stocks to passersby. The Astrodome
is taking in the refugees of the Superdome.
In the midst of this charity, big oil looted the nation.
The pumps instantly shot past $3 a gallon, with $4 a
gallon well in sight.
In a thinly disguised attempt to act as if it cared
about the people wading in the water, Chevron has
pledged $5 million to relief efforts. ExxonMobil and
Shell have pledged $2 million apiece. British Petroleum
and Citgo have pledged $1 million each.
This is nothing next to their wealth. Of the world's
seven most profitable corporations, four are ExxonMobil,
Royal Dutch Shell, BP, and Chevron. ExxonMobil is the
world's most profitable company, making $25.3 billion
last year. It and the other three corporations had
combined profits last year of $72.8 billion. ExxonMobil
is also the world's most valuable company, with a market
value, according to Forbes magazine, of $405 billion.
The combined market value of ExxonMobil, BP, Royal Dutch
Shell, and Chevron is nearly $1 trillion.
And that was last year. A month ago, ExxonMobil,
Chevron, and ConocoPhillips announced record second-
quarter profits of $7.6 billion, $3.7 billion, and $3.1
billion, respectively. Royal Dutch Shell's quarterly
profits of $5.2 billion were up by 34 percent over the
same period last year. Other well-known companies like
Sunoco also had record second-quarter earnings.
If ExxonMobil were to maintain its current pace of
profits, it would cross the $30 billion barrier for
2005. The company's chief financial officer, Henry
Hubble, bragged in classic corporatese, "Our disciplined
project management and operating practices deliver the
benefits of strong industry conditions to our
Those disciplined operating practices are hardly
confined to the oil fields. Everyone knows that Bush
does not really mean what he says about price-gouging at
the pump, since he just gave energy companies the bulk
of $14.5 billion in tax breaks in the new energy bill.
Surprise, surprise. In Bush's two elections, oil and gas
companies gave Republicans 79 percent of their $61.5
million in campaign contributions, according to the
Center for Responsive Politics.
If Bush really meant what he said, he would call for a
freeze or cap on gasoline prices, especially in the
regions affected most dramatically by Katrina. He would
challenge big oil to come up with a much more meaningful
contribution to relief efforts.
Insurance companies are expecting up to $25 billion in
claims from Katrina. For ExxonMobil, which is headed to
$30 billion in profits, to jack up prices at the pump
and then only throw $2 million at relief efforts is
Stay fixated, if you wish, on the thieves and desperate
families who are so much easier to catch on camera than
comptrollers electronically stealing your cash. It is
not pleasant to see anyone loot a store. But ExxonMobil
and big oil are looting the nation, and no one declaring
martial law on them.
Derrick Z. Jackson's e-mail address is
(c) Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company
By Matthew Rothschild
September 1, 2005
The scope of the disaster that goes by the name
Hurricane Katrina is difficult to fathom at a distance.
All the video on TV and all the photographs and words in
newspapers, magazines, and on-line cannot adequately
describe the loss. A million people homeless, a death
toll likely to rise over 1,000, a great city submerged,
a region devastated—the enormity was too great to take
Even in the first seventy-two hours after Katrina came
ashore near New Orleans, it became obvious that
government had failed, at every level.
If ever there was an occasion for government
intervention, this was it. People were drowning. People
were stranded. People were cooped up in the Superdome in
disgusting conditions. People were on the highway in the
baking sun with no food or water or facilities or
medicine. And none in sight--for themselves, or their
elderly parents, or their infants.
The state and local authorities were woefully
unprepared, and the Bush Administration responded with a
While Katrina was without question an extraordinarily
vicious storm, the vast majority of people who died did
so not because of Katrina but because of a laissez-faire
federal government with skewed priorities.
"A rightwing government that strangles public
expenditures for public works is largely responsible for
what happened in New Orleans," says Paul Soglin, former
mayor of Madison, Wisconsin, and past chair of the
committee on urban economics for the National Conference
It's not like there wasn't any warning. Like Condoleezza
Rice after 9/11, Bush told Diane Sawyer of Good Morning
America that no one could have anticipated this
disaster. Actually, a lot of people did. The New Orleans
project manager for the Army Corps of Engineers, Alfred
Naomi, had warned for years of the need to shore up the
levees, but the Bush Administration and the Republican
Congress kept cutting back on the funding.
The most recent cutback was a $71.2 million reduction
for the New Orleans district in fiscal year 2006. "I've
never seen this level of reduction," Naomi told the New
Orleans CityBusiness paper on June 6. His district had
"identified $35 million in projects to build and improve
levees, floodwalls, and pumping stations," the paper
said. But with the cuts, "Naomi said it's enough to pay
salaries but little else."
Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu blamed the Bush
Administration for not making the funding a priority.
"It's extremely shortsighted," she told the paper.
"These projects are literally life-and-death projects to
the people of south Louisiana and they are (of) vital
economic interest to the entire nation."
After Katrina hit, The New York Times interviewed Naomi.
"A breach under these conditions was ultimately not
surprising," said Naomi, who had drawn up plans for
protecting New Orleans from a Category 5 storm. "It
would take $2.5 billion to build a Category 5 protection
system, and [now] we're talking about tens of billions
in losses, all that lost productivity, and so many lost
lives and injuries and personal trauma you'll never get
Naomi wasn't the only one who warned of this disaster.
In 2001, prior to the terrorist attacks, the Federal
Emergency Management Agency "ranked the potential damage
to New Orleans as among the three likeliest, most
catastrophic disasters facing the country," wrote Eric
Berger in a prescient article in the Houston Chronicle
on December 1, 2001, entitled "Keeping Its Head Above
Water: New Orleans Faces Doomsday Scenario." In that
piece, Berger warned: "The city's less-than-adequate
evacuation routes would strand 250,000 people or more,
and probably kill one of ten left behind as the city
drowned under twenty feet of water. Thousands of
refugees could land in Houston."
In June 2003, Civil Engineering Magazine ran a long
story by Greg Brouwer entitled "The Creeping Storm." It
noted that the levees "were designed to withstand only
forces associated with a fast-moving" Category 3
hurricane. "If a lingering Category 3 storm—or a
stronger storm, say, Category 4 or 5—were to hit the
city, much of New Orleans could find itself under more
than twenty feet of water." One oceanographer at
Louisiana State University, Joseph Suhayda, modeled such
storms and shared his findings with "emergency
preparedness officials throughout Louisiana," the
article noted. "The American Red Cross estimates that
between 25,000 and 100,000 people would die" if the
hurricane floods breached the levees and overwhelmed the
city's power plants and took out its drainage system.
On October 11, 2004, The Philadelphia Inquirer ran a
story by Paul Nussbaum entitled "Direct Hurricane Hit
Could Drown City of New Orleans, Experts Say." It too
said that "more than 25,000 people could die, emergency
officials predict. That would make it the deadliest
disaster in U.S. history." The story quoted Terry C.
Tuller, city director of emergency preparedness: "It's
only a matter of time. The thing that keeps me awake at
night is the 100,000 people who couldn't leave."
But Republicans in Congress and the Bush Administration
could not be bothered. They were more concerned with
diverting money to cover Bush's Iraq War. "It appears
that the money has been moved in the President's budget
to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq," Walter
Maestri, director of emergency management for Jefferson
Parish, told the New Orleans Times-Picayune on June 8.
"I suppose that's the price we pay. Nobody locally is
happy that the levees can't be finished."
Money was not the only valuable resource diverted to
Iraq. So was much of the Louisiana National Guard. One
reason that thousands of people were stranded without
food or water in New Orleans for days is that 35 percent
of the Louisiana National Guard was 7,000 miles away.
"Some 6,000 National Guard personnel in Louisiana and
Mississippi who would be available to help deal with the
aftermath of Hurricane Katrina are in Iraq," Pete Yost
of AP reported on August 29. "The war has forced the
Guard into becoming an operational force, far from its
historic role as a strategic reserve primarily available
to governors for disasters and other duties in their
It's not just having the uniformed personnel in place
but the equipment, as well.
"Earlier [in August] the Louisiana National Guard
publicly complained that too much of its equipment was
in Iraq," reported Democracy Now! "The local ABC news
affiliate reported dozens of high water vehicles,
Humvees, refuelers, and generators are now abroad."
Once again, George Bush fell to the occasion. He waited
out the storm in Crawford, held his breath for a day,
and then jetted off to San Diego to seize a propaganda
moment for his war. His speechwriter did patch in two
paragraphs on Katrina, and then made a clumsy transition
to Iraq: "As we deliver relief to our citizens to the
south [south of San Diego?], our troops are defending
all our citizens from threats abroad. . . ."
When he finally, the following day, cut short his
precious vacation and flew over the devastation on his
return to Washington, he gave one of the most lackluster
speeches of his colorless career. He bragged about all
the supplies the federal government had delivered, but
it was clear from the media that those supplies had not
reached many of the people who needed them the most. He
appointed the Homeland Security chief to head a cabinet-
level task force, but why wasn't such a task force in
place when there was ample warning that a monster
hurricane was going to strike?
Beaming with local pride that was painfully out of
place, he went out of his way to "thank the state of
Texas" for providing relief for some of the refugees.
He urged people to donate to the Red Cross—nothing wrong
with that. But at a time like this, the government,
which is supposed to represent us as a national
community, should be providing the emergency relief.
Bush lauded "the armies of compassion"—the Red Cross,
the Salvation Army, the Catholic Charities. They are to
be praised—but relief should not be privatized at a time
like this. With a disaster of this magnitude, only the
federal government has the resources to provide the
crucial relief expeditiously.
Bush acknowledged, belatedly, that "repairing the
infrastructure, of course, is going to be a key
priority." It would have been a whole lot easier to
repair it beforehand.
And then he took the occasion to push through a long-
awaited wish of the oil industry by granting a
"nationwide waiver for fuel blends" on gasoline. He
didn't say one word on the price gouging that the oil
companies and retailers were engaging in.
"To announce this repeal as the major initiative to
control prices is nonsensical," says Tyson Slocum of
Public Citizen's Critical Mass Energy and Environment
Program. "It does not address the fundamentals. The
fundamentals are you have speculators on Wall Street who
are driving up the price of crude. For American cities
that are suffering from very poor air quality from
asthma and other respiratory diseases, this is going to
make things worse."
Then there's Bush's head-in-the-melting-iceberg approach
to global warming, which may have contributed to the
force of Katrina and may make similar hurricanes more
"The hurricane that struck Louisiana . . . was nicknamed
Katrina," wrote Ross Gelbspan in The Boston Globe. "Its
real name is global warming."
Gelbspan, one of the leading environmental journalists
in the country, is the author of two books on global
warming, The Heat Is On and Boiling Point. His assertion
that global warming was the cause for the intensity of
Katrina raised some hackles in the scientific community,
with some scholars saying that any particular event
cannot be pinpointed to changes in the Earth's
But study after study on global warming has warned that
as the water temperature of the world's oceans goes up,
the likelihood of more vicious hurricanes also
increases. The most recent MIT study, released in the
June 25 issue of New Scientist, showed that hurricanes
were increasing in duration and intensity by 50 percent
over the past thirty years as water temperatures
Bush, for his part, won't even admit that there is such
a thing as global warming. He pulled the United States
out of the Kyoto Accords, blocked efforts of other
countries to move aggressively to curb greenhouse
gasses, consistently downplayed scientific studies of
the phenomenon, and had his political appointees even
edit out some of the conclusions of the government's own
Some disasters can't be avoided. But they can be
contained. Katrina was not. It was not contained because
of a laissez-faire government that failed to bother to
take warnings seriously, because of a Republican
Congress and Administration that is stingy when it comes
to spending on public goods but lavish on armaments and
war, because Bush diverted much of the National Guard to
Iraq rather than to keep them here to do the jobs they
are meant to do, and because of an Administration that
is pathologically hostile to science.
Katrina was a natural disaster. But it was compounded by
a scandalous political disaster that took an even
Explosion Rocks New Orleans, Mayor Nagin Fuming
Friday, Sept. 2, 2005
NEW ORLEANS -- An explosion jolted residents awake early Friday,
illuminating the pre-dawn sky with red and orange flames over a city
where corpses rotted along flooded sidewalks and bands of armed thugs
thwarted fitful rescue efforts.
Congress was rushing through a $10.5 billion aid package, the Pentagon
promised 1,400 National Guardsmen a day to stop the looting and
President Bush planned to visit the region Friday. But city officials were
seething with anger about what they called a slow federal response
following Hurricane Katrina.
"They don't have a clue what's going on down there," Mayor Ray Nagin
told WWL-AM Thursday night.
"They flew down here one time two days after the doggone event was over
with TV cameras, AP reporters, all kind of goddamn - excuse my French
everybody in America, but I am pissed."
At 4:35 a.m. Friday, an explosion rocked a chemical storage facility near
the Mississippi River east of the French Quarter, said Lt. Michael Francis
of the Harbor Police. A series of smaller blasts followed and then acrid,
black smoke that could be seen even in the dark. The vibrations were felt
all the way downtown.
Francis did not have any other information about the explosions and did
not know if there were any casualties. At least two police boats could be
seen at the scene and a hazardous material team was on route.
It was the opening strike in yet another day of sadly deteriorating
conditions since Katrina slammed ashore Monday morning.
Thursday saw thousands being evacuated by bus to Houston from the hot
and stinking Superdome. Fistfights and fires erupted amid a seething sea
of tense, suffering people who waited in a lines that stretched a half-mile
to board yellow school buses. The looting continued.
Gov. Kathleen Blanco called the looters "hoodlums" and issued a warning
to lawbreakers: Hundreds of National Guard troops hardened on the
battlefield in Iraq have landed in New Orleans.
"They have M-16s and they're locked and loaded," she said. "These troops
know how to shoot and kill, and they are more than willing to do so, and I
expect they will."
At the Superdome, group of refugees broke through a line of heavily armed
National Guardsmen in a scramble to get on to the buses.
Nearby, about 15,000 to 20,000 people who had taken shelter at New
Orleans Convention Center grew ever more hostile after waiting for buses
for days amid the filth and the dead.
Police Chief Eddie Compass said there was such a crush around a squad
of 88 officers that they retreated when they went in to check out reports of
"We have individuals who are getting raped, we have individuals who are
getting beaten," Compass said. "Tourists are walking in that direction and
they are getting preyed upon."
By Thursday evening, 11 hours after the military began evacuating the
Superdome, the arena held 10,000 more people than it did at dawn.
Evacuees from across the city swelled the crowd to about 30,000
because they believed the arena was the best place to get a ride out of
Some of those among the mostly poor crowd had been in the dome for
four days without air conditioning, working toilets or a place to bathe. One
military policeman was shot in the leg as he and a man scuffled for the
MP's rifle. The man was arrested.
By late Thursday, the flow of refugees to the Houston Astrodome was
temporarily halted with a population of 11,325, less than half the estimated
23,000 people expected.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry announced that Dallas would host 25,000 more
refugees at Reunion Arena and 25,000 others would relocate to a San
Antonio warehouse at KellyUSA, a city-owned complex that once was
home to an Air Force base. Houston estimated as many as 55,000 people
who fled the hurricane were staying in area hotels.
While floodwaters in New Orleans appeared to stabilize, efforts continued
to plug three breaches that had opened up in the levee system that was
designed to protect this below-sea-level city.
Helicopters dropped sandbags into the breach and pilings were being
pounded into the mouth of the canal Thursday to close its connection to
At least seven bodies were scattered outside the convention center, a
makeshift staging area for those rescued from rooftops, attics and
highways. The sidewalks were packed with people without food, water or
medical care, and with no sign of law enforcement.
A military helicopter tried to land at the convention center several times to
drop off food and water. But the rushing crowd forced the choppers to
back off. Troopers then tossed the supplies to the crowd from 10 feet off
the ground and flew away.
"There's a lot of very sick people _ elderly ones, infirm ones _ who can't
stand this heat, and there's a lot of children who don't have water and
basic necessities to survive on," said Daniel Edwards, 47, outside the
center. "We need to eat, or drink water at the very least."
An old man in a chaise lounge lay dead in a grassy median as hungry
babies wailed around him. Around the corner, an elderly woman lay dead
in her wheelchair, covered up by a blanket, and another body lay beside
her wrapped in a sheet.
"I don't treat my dog like that," Edwards said as he pointed at the woman
in the wheelchair. "You can do everything for other countries, but you can't
do nothing for your own people."
FEMA director Michael Brown said the agency just learned about the
situation at the convention center Thursday and quickly scrambled to
provide food, water and medical care and remove the corpses.
The slow response frustrated Nagin: "I have no idea what they're doing but
I will tell you this: God is looking down on all this and if they're not doing
everything in their power to save people, they are going to pay the price
because every day that we delay, people are dying and they're dying by
In hopes of defusing the situation at the convention center, Nagin gave the
evacuees permission to march across a bridge to the city's unflooded
west bank for whatever relief they could find.
A day after Nagin took 1,500 police officers off search-and-rescue duty to
try to restore order in the streets, there were continued reports of looting,
shootings, gunfire and carjackings.
Tourist Debbie Durso of Washington, Mich., said she asked a police
officer for assistance and his response was, "'Go to hell - it's every man
FEMA officials said some operations had to be suspended in areas where
gunfire has broken out, but they are working overtime to feed people and
Outside a looted Rite-Aid drugstore, some people were anxious to show
they needed what they were taking. A gray-haired man who would not give
his name pulled up his T-shirt to show a surgery scar and explained that
he needs pads for incontinence.
"I'm a Christian," he said. "I feel bad going in there."
Hospitals struggled to evacuate critically ill patients who were dying for
lack of oxygen, insulin or intravenous fluids. But when some hospitals try
to airlift patients, Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Cheri Ben-Iesan said, "there are
people just taking potshots at police and at helicopters, telling them, `You
better come get my family."'
To make matters worse, the chief of the Louisiana State Police said he
heard of numerous instances of New Orleans police officers - many of
whom from flooded areas - turning in their badges.
"They indicated that they had lost everything and didn't feel that it was
worth them going back to take fire from looters and losing their lives," Col.
Henry Whitehorn said.
Mississippi's confirmed death toll from Katrina rose to 126 on Thursday as
more rescue teams spread out into a sea of rubble to search for the living,
their efforts complicated at one point by the threat of a thunderstorm.
All along the 90-mile coast, other emergency workers performed the grisly
task of retrieving corpses, some of them lying on streets and amid the
ruins of obliterated homes that stretch back blocks from the beach.
Gov. Haley Barbour said he knows people are tired, hungry, dirty and
scared _ particularly in areas hardest hit by Katrina. He said the state
faces a long and expensive recovery process.
"I will say, sometimes I'm scared, too," Barbour said during a briefing in
Jackson, Miss. "But we are going to hitch up our britches. We're going to
get this done."
© 2005 The Associated Press
Anti-War Activists Plan Massive DC Rally
By Elizabeth White
The Associated Press
Thursday 01 September 2005
Washington - Organizers are planning what they say will be the largest anti-war demonstration in
the nation's capital since the Iraq war began in March 2003.
The ANSWER Coalition and United for Peace and Justice detailed their plans Thursday for the Sept.
24 protest. They plan to bus in people from across the country for a march past the White House.
Other major protests are planned that day in San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Cindy Sheehan, whose 24-year-old son, Army Spc. Casey Sheehan, was killed last year in Iraq, is
on a 25-state bus tour that will end at the protest in Washington. The anti-war groups will coordinate
with planned protests against the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, which are holding their
annual meetings the same weekend.
Organizers believe the presence of Sheehan - whose one-woman protest outside President Bush's
ranch in Crawford, Texas, has energized the anti-war movement - and growing public sentiment against
the war will produce a turnout of 100,000 or more.
On the Web:
United for Peace and Justice: www.unitedforpeace.org/.
September 26, 2005
Wake of the Hurricane: Etan Thomas Rises to the Moment
By Dave Zirin
Sports stars are generally known more for their
narcissism than their compassion, but in the wake of
Hurricane Katrina, athletes have expressed a tremendous
amount of altruism and anguish over the amount of human
suffering the storm has caused. That's not surprising,
when you consider that more than 100 professional
athletes come from the Gulf Coast, an area whose deep
poverty, institutionalized racism and year-round
sunshine combine to offer the requisite conditions for
But these times cry out for something more than just
sympathy and charity from the athletic-industrial
complex: They cry for outrage. Athletes can use their
hyper-exalted, swoosh-adorned platform to call out the
murderous negligence of the Bush Administration and the
country's deep racial divide. Muhammad Ali rose to such
an occasion when he opposed the draft in Vietnam;
Billie Jean King did the same when she spoke out for
abortion rights in the early 1970s. The National
Basketball Association's Etan Thomas is attempting to
join their ranks, and he deserves both respect and
Thomas is raising both cash and supplies to help
victims of the hurricane. But the Washington Wizards
power forward is also putting his mouth where his money
is. When we spoke last week, Thomas began by defending
rapper Kanye West's unscripted comment on an NBC
benefit concert that "George W. Bush doesn't care about
black people" (West had just been called "disgusting"
by that arbiter of racial sensitivity, Laura Bush).
"I definitely agree with Kanye West," he said. "Had
this been a rich, lily-white suburban area that got
hit, you think they would have had to wait five days to
get food or water? When the hurricane hit in Florida,
Bush made sure those people got help the next day. But
now, when you are dealing with a majority poorer class
of black people, it takes five days? Then you still
don't send help but instead send the National Guard to
'maintain order'? Are you kidding me?"
Thomas also defended the rights of the people of New
Orleans to survive by any means necessary. "If I was
down there, and starving for five days, after suffering
that type of devastation, and I saw some armed troops
coming down not with food or water or supplies but with
guns drawn trying to enforce a curfew or whatever they
were doing, I would have reacted the same way many of
them reacted, with hostility. I am not saying that I
condone shooting at the police or firemen; I'm just
saying that I understand their frustration. This is
unfortunately a direct reflection of the entire
Republican platform. The rich are awarded all of the
rights, privileges, respect, et cetera in this country,
and the poor are pushed to the side. You see that with
education, healthcare, court justice and every other
aspect of society. If this had hit a higher economic
area, Bush would have reacted much quicker and more
effectively. It's a sad reminder of the reality that is
As political leaders are failing to state the obvious--
that years of racist, callous policies enacted by
racist, callous politicians have delivered us to this
moment--we need to be willing to embrace nontraditional
voices. That's what makes Thomas so welcome. The
willingness to take a stand comes as naturally to
Thomas as his trademark jump hook.
Moore Black Press recently published Thomas's More Than
an Athlete, a blistering collection of poems that takes
on topics like racism, the death penalty and a consumer
culture that treasures objects over people. His voice
is exactly the kind that people fighting for social
justice need to embrace. Fortunately, thousands of
folks who may not know Shaquille O'Neal from Tatum
O'Neal will hear Thomas in the weeks to come. Thomas
will be lending his poetry and his politics to the
Operation Ceasefire concert following the September 24
antiwar protests in Washington, DC, and he seems
determined to continue to use his platform as an NBA
player to raise issues of class and race that are
rarely presented to young sports fans.
Thomas knows he is joining a tradition of pro athletes
willing to step up for social justice, and he wouldn't
have it any other way. "I admire athletes of the past,
like Bill Russell, Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, John Carlos
and Tommie Smith, Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar]--athletes who
used their position as a platform to speak out on
social issues and stand up for a cause. Basketball is
not my life. A quote I live by is: 'I speak my mind
because biting my tongue would make my pride bleed.' "
Dave Zirin is the author of What's My Name Fool? Sports
and Resistance in the United States. Contact the author
at firstname.lastname@example.org. This piece ran first at
Farrakhan visits Charlotte, criticizes federal response
07:13 PM EDT on Monday, September 12, 2005
By ANNA CROWLEY / 6NEWS
Minister Louis Farrakhan was very critical of the Red Cross and FEMA response
to hurricane Katrina.
Minister Louis Farrakhan was in Charlotte Monday to rally support for his
Millions More March. However, he did have some choice words about the
response to Hurricane Katrina victims, some of whom are staying at the
Farrakhan's been traveling across the country to visit shelters like the one
that is set up at the coliseum. He said he's not happy with the job the
American Red Cross is doing.
He had harsh words for FEMA too. But that was just the warm up. Farrakhan also
shared his thoughts on how the levee breached in the first place.
"I heard from a very reliable source who saw a 25 foot deep crater under the
levee breach. It may have been blown up to destroy the black part of town and
keep the white part dry," Farrakhan said.
Gilton Balanos lived in the very neighborhood Farrakhan was talking about.
"I think that's ludicrous," Balanos said. "When this happened we were caught
by surprise. Individuals, the government and everybody were caught by
Farrakhan also said that the Red Cross? response to the disaster was
inadequate. Red Cross Spokesperson Pam Daigle said "there was no basis for
As for the issue of how the Red Cross spends money and on whom, Daigle said
"the Red Cross? books are open for anyone who wants to see the audits, who
wants to see how we spend money."
"I'm sure some good is being done, but not enough to answer the cry."
Some evacuees who spoke to 6NEWS said they support Farrakhan and his look into
what happened in New Orleans and other affected areas.
President Bush said Monday that Hurricane Katrina did not discriminate and
neither will recovery efforts.
Louis Farrakhan: Levees Were 'Blown Up'
With Carl Limbacher and NewsMax.com Staff
For the story behind the story...
Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2005 8:06 p.m. EDT
Louis Farrakhan: Levees Were 'Blown Up'
Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan is telling his followers that the
levees in New Orleans may have been deliberately "blown up" to kill the
city's black population.
The influential preacher was in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Monday, where he
detailed his Hurricane Katrina conspiracy theory.
"I heard from a very reliable source who saw a 25 foot deep crater under the
levee breach," Farrakhan explained. "It may have been blown up to destroy the
black part of town and keep the white part dry."
Farrakhan didn't say who he thought was behind the plot to blow up New
The Muslim minister also blasted both FEMA and the Red Cross, saying their
response to Katrina victims after the levees were blown up was inadequate.
Webcast of Minister Farrakhan's full speech available on-line here:
This is a MUST SEE webcast!
Atlanta Millions More Movement Rally
Keynote Address by Minister Louis Farrakhan
On Wednesday, September 14, 2005, the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan
delivered the keynote address in Atlanta, Georgia as part of the national
Millions More Movement tour.
Volume 8, Number 13 September 4, 2005
"March towards relief"
by Dr. Ridgely Abdul Mu’min Muhammad
On May 3rd of 2004 the Honorable Louis Farrakhan warned President Bush that he needed to pull the troops out of Iraq or the US would be hit with destructive weather. The hurricane season of 2004 was unusually active and destructive for the US as documented in the "K.R.I.S.T. Newsletter" article of November 8, 2004 entitled "The Hand of God: Hurricanes and Mighty Snow" at www.MuhammadFarms.com. If we could read a message in the track of those 2004 storms, what message can we learn from Hurricane Katrina?
According to the news commentators Katrina could be the most destructive, expensive and deadliest storm ever to hit America. Katrina hit densely populated areas where the majority of the people who were left behind were Black. Yet the story about Katrina really began after she had passed over. The real story is how the people and in particular the US government responded to the calls for help from her citizens.
I, like many others sat and watched this tragedy unfold as the mayor of New Orleans begged for help from the federal government. The news commentators and other government officials first began by blaming those who did not leave for their own suffering. The hurricane hit New Orleans on Monday but the National Guard troops bringing food and water did not arrive until Thursday afternoon. By that time people were dying from the heat, lack of medical care for the old and infirmed, sanitation conditions were unhealthy and the people’s faith in their government had been broken.
The ironic part of this tragedy is that it was both predictable and how to handle such a situation had been rehearsed at least twice by federal disaster agencies right in New Orleans. So that bad response is either because the government was surprised and could not respond or the government responded according to plan. If the government responded according to plan, then what was that plan?
CNN interviewed a former city planner for New Orleans and she said that the flooding and destruction of New Orleans could have a silver lining. She said that many of the houses in New Orleans that were in the flood prone areas were paid for, yet uninsured. There were plans out there to remove old houses, bring in more dirt to raise portions of New Orleans, then rebuild on higher ground. This could not be done before because they could not get those people living there to leave. Now of course many of those homes will be condemned and demolished by the city, so that they can get on with their "urban removal" and gentrification plans for the over 70% Black city.
The US Supreme Court has made a ruling which allows city governments to seize property under eminent domain, then resale it to private investors for economic development projects. In other words private property is no longer private, just leased like in some communist countries. Now this new ruling can be put into full effect and utilized in one of America’s largest cities.
The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan has warned our Black elected officials, especially our mayors, that they have been put over "declining affairs." By the time a Black man or woman gets into the mayor’s seat there is no more money in the coffers and the infrastructure and economic base of that community has already deteriorated to an almost unrecoverable point. This is what Mayor Ray Nagin has faced since he has been in office and made most pungent in this crisis. Over and again we heard him cry out for help. We heard conflicting stories about when the repair began of those two levees that caused the flood of his city.
Mayor Nagin told many of the stranded citizens on Tuesday to go to the Convention Center to receive help. Yet FEMA claimed that they did not know any one was down there until Wednesday. No food or water reached those people until the mayor blew up and told the people to "march towards relief" to the unflooded west bank. The mayor became the mouth for Katrina and gave the Black people of New Orleans and America their marching orders, "march towards relief." Don’t wait on the US government to help you. Help yourself or as we say, "do for self or die a slave."
From our vantage point at Muhammad Farms, we know that the Nation of Islam in Georgia had taken in some 40 families and the Baton Rouge, LA mosque is caring for more than 100 refugees. To offer help, you can contact the Southern Region office of the Nation of Islam at 404-344-9399.
Mayor Nagin could be the grand martial for the 10th Anniversary of the Million Man March to be held in Washington, DC on October 15th of this year as he leads those stranded poor people from the beginning of their march out of New Orleans and the poverty stricken cities of America towards relief.
A hurricane disaster has morphed into a racial wake up call where the difference in how Americans are portrayed in the media and how the government responds in a crisis can not be denied. Kanye West spoke of this difference when he pointed out that when whites are shown carrying supplies they are finding supplies while Blacks are "looting".
Thank God that Mayor Nagin ordered the mandatory evacuation of New Orleans before the hurricane struck, while President Bush was on vacation. However, so far Mayor Nagin is not being portrayed as a national hero, instead the news commentators labeled Mayor Nagin as "out of control" when he used profanity to cry out for help and get things moving. President Bush when he finally arrived did not proclaim Mayor Nagin a national hero as he did with Mayor Gulianni.
Now it will be interesting to see if the Bush administration allows two of its sworn enemies, Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez, to help the flood victims or will the government stop them the way she stopped Momar Quadaffy when he offered to financially help Black America. It now seems that it takes an act of God to bring out what is real in the hearts and minds of the people, so that people can make decisions and plan for their future based on truth instead of speeches.
Katrina answers the question of whether Black people need a "movement". We need a movement towards a plan for the total freedom and liberation of our people as Minister Farrakhan has proposed in the form of the Millions More Movement. Go to www.MillionsMoreMovement and register. "March towards relief."
|Terry Jones: Who is Driving This Train?|
December 17, 2005
Terry B. Jones, NEW ORLEANS DATA NEWS WEEKLY
NEW ORLEANS, LA -- As New Orleanians are making decisions about the rest of our lives, whether to go back to the city we all love or make our future in another city in America, what is the real reality, meaning will the town we loved ever be the same? And what are the real chances of going back, especially for the lower and middle income citizens?
If you’ve gone to New Orleans recently, it is obvious that there is new money alive and well in the city. New restaurants on Magazine Street, contractors in the Uptown area, builders, investors, and many Mexican workers now populate the city. While lower and middle class neighborhoods are still in shambles. What does this mean?
After attending a few of the town hall meetings, it is clear, at least to me, that the Mayor, City Council and even the Governor are fighting to keep some sort of control and regretfully not doing very well with it. So who is driving the train? Maybe the federal government [President Bush], or maybe private investors who cannot be seen in the forefront. (You know those folks never show their faces!) Whoever is driving, we know for sure middle and lower income New Orleanians, are not their primary concern.
But don’t think for a minute, there isn’t a plan. There is. The lack of initiatives to attract folks back and the influx of monies from around the world, signal that there’s clearly a plan. You’re just not in it. So what do we do?
Well, we can continue to beat up on our local elected officials, which seems to me to be a diversion plan. You see in any good strategic battle, you divert the attention one way so that what is really going on is out of sight. You only see and do what they want you to see and do. The question is, will we go for the okeydoke, or like Malcolm X, said, be “bamboozled or hoodwinked.” Or do we go directly to the source.
The best way to win any battle is to know your strengths. Understanding of the 300,000 people who left New Orleans, 85 to 90 percent of them are lower or middle class. Each one of their families, had to have had at least 50 relatives who did not live in the city. And as they matriculated throughout the country, they impacted over 200 people per family. Now, the effect, if those relationships could be unified, understanding the impact socially and economically of people who understand the importance of New Orleans to come back, and the need for the government to put New Orleans back in place, could be overwhelming to both the government and private sector.
To simplify it, I mean We the People. And isn’t that what America is supposed to be about? Which it makes it very interesting that FEMA will not release the names and addresses of the displaced residents of New Orleans. But it makes sense, doesn’t it? How can you ask the opposing team to help you win?
This is a clarion call to all residents of New Orleans and friends and families. It is time to galvanize all of the compassion and turn it into action. It’s time to act now! In the next issue, we will post all of the names of the members of Congress along with their contact information. We will also include a form letter for you to sign, cut out and mail to the members of Congress, letting them know that you intend for them to do everything necessary to make it possible for us to return home. We will not accept no for an answer. We are Americans. It isn’t about New Orleans People, it’s about American People! And out right to be safe, and secure in America. But that can only happen when the true American dream is realized. Basically I am saying that we can’t sit here and wait for things to happen, we have to stand up, Americas and make it happen for us all!
When I asked “Who is driving the train in New Orleans, the real question is “Who should be driving?” The answer is of course, We The People!
Only together can we make a difference.
Terry B. Jones, Publisher, NEW ORLEANS DATA NEWS WEEKLY
December 17, 2005
|KATRINA CLASS ACTION SUIT FILED AGAINST INSURANCE GIANT AIG|
Claims Insurer Has Neglected Desperate Policyholders after Hurricane
CONTACT: Laurie Beacham (212) 267-2801
Toni Swain Orrill, a New Orleans resident whose house was severely damaged in Hurricane Katrina, filed a class action suit Thursday against American NEW ORLEANS, LA --International Group (AIG) and its subsidiary, Audubon. The suit charges that the company has failed to help its policyholders who are in desperate need of assistance after the hurricane.
AIG and Audobon were the underwriters and service providers of Louisiana Citizens Fair Plan (FAIR), which provides homeowners’ policies of last resort to those who cannot get insurance elsewhere, including many poor people in New Orleans and the surrounding area. The class action suit is on behalf of Louisiana’s FAIR plan policyholders -- about 400,000 people. The suit alleges that AIG has completely failed to provide any way for its policyholders whose homes have been damaged to initiate a claim or even reach its offices to find out how to do that, or to provide temporary disaster relief provided under their policies.
Orrill’s husband, Ray, an attorney who represents his wife in the suit, said, “My wife has called and emailed the insurance company over 60 times, and could never get through. It is outrageous that she, and so many others whose homes were severely damaged in the storm, cannot even get through to their insurers, much less get relief from them. Someone had to take a stand.” Ray Orrill said that another insurer, Allstate, provided his wife with a FAIR claim form as a courtesy, after failing to get any response from AIG. She submitted it to AIG almost thirty days ago and has not received a response.
Americans for Insurance Reform (AIR) learned of Toni Swain Orrill’s situation when she called the hotline it set up to assist Katrina victims when they encountered obstacles to receiving assistance from their insurers. According to AIR co-founder and spokesperson Joanne Doroshow, “This is the worst case that we have seen of a complete failure of an insurance company to respond to the immediate and dire situation of its Katrina policyholders. Many FAIR policyholders were struggling economically before the storm hit, and some are now reaching the point of severe impoverishment due to AIG’s failure to help them. Many have still not received the temporary living expenses they are entitled to under their policies.”
Over a month after Katrina, AIR’s hotline is still receiving calls from people who cannot reach AIG insurance adjusters. One woman whose home was devastated reports she’s been completely unable to reach any AIG representative to request temporary funds or a visit from an adjuster. Another caller said she’s been passed around from number to number and AIG has been largely unresponsive to her.
AIR’s Hotline number is 888-450-5545. For further information, see http://insurance-reform.org.
Tuesday, September 06, 2005
Corps trying to find reasons for collapse
Barge may have caused breach in floodwall
By John McQuaid
WASHINGTON - A loose barge may have caused a large breach in the east side of the Industrial
Canal floodwall that accelerated Hurricane Katrina's rising floodwaters in the Lower Ninth Ward and
St. Bernard Parish, Army Corps of Engineers project manager Al Naomi said Monday.
Naomi said the barge was found on the land side of the floodwall, leading corps officials to believe it
could have crashed through the wall and sent a huge amount of water - which was already pouring
over the top of the wall - into the neighborhoods immediately downriver.
"We have some pictures that show this very large barge inside the protected area. It had to go
through the breach," Naomi said. "The opening is a little bit wider than the barge itself. One would
think it's the barge that did it."
If it did strike the floodwall, Naomi said, the barge would have "precipitated a tremendous collapse"
that would have quickly flooded the Lower Ninth Ward and then St. Bernard Parish. The breach is
"ultimately in my opinion what got (St. Bernard) Parish flooded," Naomi said.
There are two large breaks in the floodwall, said Ivor Van Heerden, deputy director of the Louisiana
State University Hurricane Center, who did an aerial survey of flood damage Sunday. The larger of
the two, possibly caused by the barge, is about 800 feet long. The second is 500 feet.
The areas adjacent to the Industrial Canal were among the first to flood Monday morning. Katrina's
storm surge pumped water from the east into a V-shaped area between St. Bernard and eastern
New Orleans hurricane protection levees, then funneled it up the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway into the
There the water spilled over the levee, flooding eastern New Orleans, and overtopping the Industrial
Canal walls before the floodwall was breached, Naomi said. The Corps got a report from the
Industrial Canal's lock master before dawn that water was pouring over both sides of the waterway.
Reports from people in the area at the time indicate that the flood waters rose very quickly starting
around 8 a.m.
Naomi also said it's too soon to tell how the 17th Street Canal and London Avenue Canal levees
were breached, causing the catastrophic flooding in New Orleans.
Corps officials have said the levees - concrete walls rising out of a low concrete and earthen base -
probably collapsed after water flowed over them and scoured the interior side, weakening the
But some data indicate Katrina's storm surge may have been too low in that part of Lake
Pontchartrain to overtop the levees, researchers say.
Van Heerden said that preliminary data indicated the storm surge along the west side of Lake
Pontchartrain and along the causeway reached about 8.5 feet. The levee heights in the canals are
about 14 feet.
Joannes Westerink, a hydrologic engineer at the University of Notre Dame who is working on a
computer model of Katrina's flooding of New Orleans, agreed the storm surge in the lake was weaker
than expected and may not have been high enough to top the levees.
"I would doubt it too," Westerink said of the overtopping scenario. He said that typically a storm
surge has wave action on top of it that accounts for 2 feet, then wave crests can reach higher,
although waves tend to be small in a canal.
"A very wild guess, I'd say you've got a couple of feet over the surge, so that's 11 feet. That would
not be enough to top it," he said.
Westerink cautioned that he didn't know enough about the specifics of the storm surge in that area,
wind velocities or other factors to be definitive.
Naomi said Corps officials believe Katrina's winds, coming from the north as the eye moved east of
New Orleans, probably caused a buildup of surge along the lakefront and in the canals not recorded
at gauges in the center or west of the lake. Then as the hurricane moved north and the winds shifted
to the west, they put pressure on the levee walls and led to the collapse. The breaches occurred on
the eastern sides of both the 17th Street and London Avenue canals.
There was some evidence of scouring on the eastern side of the 17th Street canal breach, he said,
one factor in the Corps theory that the levees were topped.
But Naomi said no one knows what caused the levees to fail and that it might have been a structural
"I don't think it is necessarily a design issue. There's miles and miles of other floodwall that did not
collapse," he said. "There may be some localized issue maybe in a foundation that caused the
problem, (something) that we were not aware of. There will be an autopsy. We may find one reason
for one canal, another reason for another canal. Just because they both broke doesn't mean it was
the same reason. It could be three or four different reasons that all produced the same result."
Naomi said that there were small pontoon barges in the 17th Street canal to the north of the
Hammond Highway Bridge. They are still unaccounted for. There were no barges in the London
Avenue canal. He discounted the possibility that one or more of them could have caused the 17th
Street canal breach.
"The barges were used mainly as a platform for workers to stand on," he said. "Some of them are
not much bigger than a couple of desks put together. It would depend on the velocity . . . But it
would be very difficult for those barges to get to that location. It's possible, but I don't think so."
Leonardo Ramirez, a construction worker and Metairie resident who lives on the Jefferson Parish
side of the levee near the breached area, said that he thought he heard a barge hitting the levee early
Monday, although he did not see it happen. "At quarter to six in the morning, we heard a huge bang,
and then we heard another," he said. "It was so loud. It scared us."
Katrina Not As Strong As
POSTED: 10:53 pm CST December 20, 2005
UPDATED: 10:23 am CST December 21, 2005
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MIAMI -- Katrina wasn't as strong as previously believed.
It turns out the storm hit the Gulf Coast as a Category 3 hurricane,
not a Category 4 as first thought.
The National Hurricane Center said Katrina's top sustained winds
blew at 125 mph, 15 mph less than calculated at the time.
The hurricane center also said New Orleans and Lake Pontchartrain
were likely spared from the storm's strongest winds.
A NASA facility in eastern New Orleans measured a sustained wind of only about 95 mph.
Officials had said New Orleans' levees would protect against even a fast-moving Category 3 storm.
Authorities are investigating why the system failed.
Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu said the news "highlights the need for a full federal commitment to build the
highest level of protection through levees and coastal restoration."