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FYI...articles that I had clipped during my readings......

New Orleans Mayor Backs Off Criticism
Nagin's candor reached a new level when he denounced the state and federal response. But he eases up after President Bush reassures him.
By David Zucchino
Times Staff Writer

September 3, 2005

NEW ORLEANS "” The public speaking style of New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin could be charitably described as informal, if not freewheeling. He is also known as a man who, for a politician, can be surprisingly candid and emotional.

On Thursday night, with his city underwater, with thousands of his citizens feared dead, with looters besieging hospitals, with snipers on rooftops, with bodies floating in floodwaters, with people still marooned on rooftops, with tens of thousands of refugees threatening to riot "” on this night, under these pressures, the mayor exploded.

In an interview with a local radio station, Nagin accused the federal government, including President Bush, of failing to respond quickly enough to the catastrophe inflicted upon his city by Hurricane Katrina.

In remarks later rebroadcast nationwide, he criticized Bush directly, saying "his flying over in Air Force One does not do ... justice" to the crisis.

Less than 24 hours later, the mayor found himself aboard Air Force One, face to face with the president at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport.

He repeated his criticisms, he said in an interview last night, and got a positive response from the president.

"He said he was fully committed to getting us the resources we need," Nagin said in the stifling heat of the tattered Hyatt Regency hotel next door to the Louisiana Superdome. "I told him I knew we could work together, and he said he understood."

In their two hours together, first aboard Air Force One and then during a flyover of the city in the president's Marine One helicopter, Nagin said Bush did not mention the radio tirade until the mayor himself brought it up.

"I told him: 'I said some things yesterday that may have offended you, and if they did, I apologize. But if you were in my shoes, what would you do?' " Nagin said. "He said he had heard I had said some things, but that he really didn't understand all of it. And then he said: 'You and I are OK.' "

Nagin grinned and added: "The president loves frankness."

Dressed in a white T-shirt and slacks, his bald head beaded with sweat, Nagin told reporters at the hotel that Bush was "very attentive, very serious, very determined to make sure this city gets what it needs."

He said Bush acknowledged that he too was dissatisfied with the progress of assistance to the beleaguered city.

He said he told Bush that if he and Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco did not "get on the same page as far as chain of command is concerned," New Orleans would continue to slide into anarchy.

The mayor said no one at the federal or state level had set clear lines of command responsibility. There was little coordination or communication among the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Homeland Security at the federal level and the governor's office and Louisiana National Guard at the state level, he said.

Nagin said Bush asked to speak to Blanco alone, then later told the mayor that officials "would have a chain of command firmly established."

The mayor said he also told the governor that he was sorry if his comments had offended her. She responded that everyone lost their temper at times, and that there were "no hard feelings," he said.

Asked if his radio interview, in which he unleashed profanities and vulgarities, had produced the reaction he was seeking, Nagin replied, "I guess it had some effect and got things to a turning point."

The mayor had told WWL-AM host Garland Robinette that federal officials were "feeding the public a line of bull, and they're spinning."

He said of Bush and Blanco: "Somebody needs to get their ass on a plane and sit down, the two of them, and figure this out."

At one point, he seemed to suggest that federal officials faced eternal damnation, saying, "You know, God is looking down on all this, and if they are not doing everything in their power to save people, they are going to pay the price."

In the interview Thursday night, Nagin said his frustrations had boiled over before the radio interview, when he spoke with a refugee who was so disillusioned that she wanted to give up her baby.

"I had just had it," with delays in federal and state assistance, he said. "I always feel that in politics, you have a bridle on. Well, I took the bridle off. And I tell you, it felt pretty good."

Nagin himself has been criticized as having been slow to declare a mandatory evacuation, and as having dithered while deciding whether to set up the Superdome as a refugee center "” while telling refugees to go there only as a last resort.

Nagin, 49, is a lanky, amiable former communications company executive who has held elective office for three years. He took a considerable pay cut after his surprise election victory in 2002 on a campaign to clean up New Orleans' notoriously corrupt and insular political structure.

The son of a mother who worked at a lunch counter and a father who was a clothing factory worker and a night janitor at City Hall, Nagin was born in the city's Charity Hospital, one of several medical facilities that have run low on power and medical supplies.

The vast majority of people trapped in New Orleans are poor and black, and Nagin is African American. But he has had a testy relationship with the black community.

He has weathered complaints, for instance, that he has targeted poor blacks during his anti-corruption crusade to please supporters in the white business community here. A Democrat, he was roundly criticized for endorsing Bush.

He has made his mark by portraying himself as an anti-politician, a genuine human being who speaks his mind and doesn't mind showing his emotions.

His radio remarks seemed to buoy many refugees who stood in the hot sun at the Superdome on Thursday afternoon, waiting in seemingly endless lines to board buses bound for Houston.

"The mayor told it straight "” it's about time somebody told the truth," said Louise Marvel, 46, who said she listened to the interview on a portable radio she grabbed from her apartment in the city's lower 9th Ward just before floodwaters rushed in.

"It took the mayor to get on the president's back and force him to come down here and explain himself," said Eldridge White, 39, a truck driver who said he had been marooned at the Superdome since Sunday.

John Joslini, 51, a Reno resident who said he was vacationing at a downtown hotel when the hurricane hit, said he would vote for Nagin if he could.

Warren Cosey, 41, was less charitable. "Oh, man, he was crying like a baby," he said.

Next to Cosey in line was Verdell Berry, who complained that he and the other refugees had not seen the mayor all week.

"He never came in and addressed the crowd or nothing."

Cosey shook his head. "If he would have come in here, they would have killed him," he said.

Times staff writers Scott Gold and Richard Fausset in New Orleans contributed to this report
I thought Ward Connerly swore blind he was not really Black. I read something he said claiming to be Irish, Choctaw, French and something else with someone way back being "of African descent." Heh. So we basically have a white man telling Black people what we should be seeing and how we should be reacting. Nothing new there. People who "don't see race" are always the first to comment on anything with racial implications.

He has weathered complaints, for instance, that he has targeted poor blacks during his anti-corruption crusade to please supporters in the white business community here. A Democrat, he was roundly criticized for endorsing Bush.

Oh, Ray. You had me right up until now. The love is gone.
Bush's Hurricane Response a Disaster
Michael Hiltzik
Golden State

September 5, 2005

Nearly five years ago, the Bush administration rode into office bearing its cynicism about government high, like a banner.

It promoted a massive tax cut as a way of "starving the beast" of federal government. President Bush traveled the country telling us that we were overdependent on the government for help with healthcare and retirement. To those wondering what resources might see them into old age, he advised: "a conservative mix of stocks and bonds."

New Orleans is, or should be, the graveyard of the conservative ideology that government is useless. An American city is reduced to Third World desperation as people who own nothing scrounge for necessities in a sea of waste and federal officials offer lame excuses about how their disaster plans would have worked fine had there not been, you know, a disaster. The president, at the head of a global power that can't get its own troops or supplies off their bases to reach the needful, whines, "The private sector needs to do its part."

This deplorable performance has deep roots. Joe M. Allbaugh, a Bush campaign hack without any crisis management experience who was named director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, disparaged federal disaster assistance as "an oversized entitlement program" before Congress in 2001. The public's expectations of government in a disaster situation, he said, "may have ballooned beyond what is an appropriate level." He advised stricken communities to rely for help on "faith-based organizations ... like the Salvation Army and the Mennonite Disaster Service."

If Allbaugh were not an amateur, he would have known that communities, "faith-based organizations" and the private sector become overwhelmed by disasters more modest than this one. In a crisis the federal government should be the first responder, not the last, to take charge, not wait to be asked.

Cynicism on such a scale is self-perpetuating. Determined to portray government as little but an intrusion into people's lives, this gang made it irrelevant to hundreds of thousands of victims of Hurricane Katrina "” thus giving them, and us, good reason to be cynical after all.

The federal officials assigned to New Orleans have displayed an appalling combination of arrogance and ignorance. Thursday evening on NPR, I heard Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who oversees FEMA, dismiss reports of thousands of refugees trapped at the New Orleans convention center for days without sustenance. He called the reports, in so many words, "rumors and anecdotes."

Informed that an NPR reporter had been on the scene, he sniffed, "I can't argue with you about what your reporter tells you." Later, his staff called back to say that he had "received a report confirming the situation" and that he was now "working tirelessly" to get food to the location.

At a news conference that day, FEMA Director Michael Brown, Allbaugh's successor and college chum, attributed the death toll in New Orleans "to people who did not heed evacuation warnings." Insensitive to the truth that many of the stranded had no way of responding to the warnings "” no money, no transport out of the city and nowhere to go "” he blamed them for having failed to prepare any better than, well, the federal government.

He also described security in the city, where snipers were firing on rescue boats and a mob beat back police trying to impose order at the convention center, as "pretty darn good." The image of lawlessness, he said, was fomented by those willing to "stick a camera" in front of "bad people."

The Bush administration is not alone in having ignored pleas to improve the hurricane and flood defenses of New Orleans. But it bears sole responsibility for a crisis response that has been fairly labeled a national disgrace. FEMA drafted an action plan for a New Orleans flood: pre-position food, supplies and hospital ships for immediate deployment in the aftermath. Brown and Chertoff failed to implement it adequately, pleading that no one could have anticipated a disaster that had in fact been anticipated by engineers, geographers and political leaders for decades. As I write, the Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort remains moored in Baltimore, not to arrive off New Orleans until the end of this week.

President Bush will surely feel the consequences of his dereliction. Every policy of his administration will be viewed through the prism of the debacle of New Orleans. The pursuit of a personal vendetta against Saddam Hussein, supported by manipulated intelligence, has sucked billions out of the treasury and removed more than 30% of Louisiana and Mississippi National Guard members from their homes, so they must watch the disaster unfold from half a world away instead of assisting their own communities. Tax cuts for the wealthy have been financed by budget cuts

for disaster preparedness and other crucial programs. Four years of anti-terrorism planning have failed to produce a competent system for mitigating a metropolitan cataclysm "” one that, on the ground, is indistinguishable from the effects of the terrorist attack we've supposedly been girding for since 9/11.

Then there's Bush's sustained assault on social insurance programs such as Social Security, safety nets that are to be replaced by the slogan "You're on your own."

New Orleans is not a local calamity; it belongs to us all, not least because it signals what to expect from this administration. If a major earthquake strikes Los Angeles or San Francisco, will President Bush wait to respond until he can conclude his vacation, as he did last week? Will his appointees express surprise at an eventuality that "no one could have predicted"?

Probably. George W. Bush is known for never admitting his mistakes. Consequently, he never learns from his mistakes. The chances are dismal that he will learn from this one. We're on our own.
DiversityInc Editorial:
'Negro Removal' or 'Urban Renewal': New Orleans at a Crossroads
DiversityInc Editorial


© 2005

September 07, 2005

Anyone who has visited New Orleans in happier days knows that the area surrounding the French Quarter was poor and you had to hike through dicey neighborhoods to get to the casinos. Across the river, there were neighborhoods with levels of poverty most Americans never have seen.

Now there are large swaths of land open for redevelopment. With a clean slate, the old economy that existed to serve residents dependent on federal, state and local aid now pales in comparison with what can be rebuilt adjacent to the relatively untouched French Quarter.

There is no talk about returning those residents to rebuilt housing and schools. Unfortunately, their interests are represented by the same incompetent local and state officials who could not manage any part of this disaster without further incompetent help from hapless federal officials.

The next step in this unfolding tragedy is going to be announcements from agencies such as Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that assistance is available. We see the reality of Jim Crow–like barriers to getting that aid.

How does a dispersed family access the Internet? Receive mail or a phone call? Why should people trust the government at this point when it is unable to admit mistakes and beg forgiveness in a way that the affected can see and hear?

FEMA, under Secretary Michael Brown, is the most egregious example of white affirmative action seen in many years. His experience in running the International Arabian Horse Association has not served him well in organizing competent relief; it is not realistic to think that things will change and that we will see aid empathetic aid to people who were not in the horsy set.

The citizens of New Orleans deserve to be returned to their homeland. They deserve some consideration for being abandoned and having their lives destroyed. And they should be treated with respect and in a way that is competent and adapted to their reality of a history of being ill-served by local and state government. This is a chance to not have "urban renewal" mean "Negro removal."

A departure from the pattern we've seen is going to require decisive leadership and vision. Unfortunately, there is no evidence to expect anything but the worst.
now this comes as a be honest I have never heard any white person besides Tim Wise admit to racism on behalf of whites....period.....even the klan claims they are not racist.....

DEFENDS ITS 'LOOTING' CAPTION: News org. responds to photo description pointed out by Yahoo News & West.
September 6, 2005

*The pictures (see below) started hitting e-mail in-boxes late last week; two photos of displaced Hurricane Katrina victims wading through water carrying items from a grocery store.

One of the photos, taken by a photographer from the Associated Press, features a black man in chest-deep waters toting a grocery bag full of items. The other, from Agence France Presse/Getty Images (AFP), depicts what appears to be two white people wading through equally high waters, carrying bread and soda. (Yahoo has described the people as "light-skinned.") The first caption described the man as having "looted" his load. The pair in the second image is described as "finding" the items.

The racist undertone of the captions was pointed out by Kanye West during his unscripted criticism of the media on Friday's "A Concert for Hurricane Relief" telethon on NBC. While the photos were taken by two different photographers working for two different news agencies, they ran side by side on Yahoo News, and generated a deluge of angry e-mails and calls contending the captions were unfair to blacks.

"The pictures appear to be identical but one individual is 'looting' and the other is 'finding' needed items!" one person wrote the AP. "This is irresponsible journalism and fuels the attitude that 'all' African-Americans are looters."

On Thursday, Yahoo pulled its picture of the "light-skinned" duo at the request of AFP which distributes Getty's U.S-produced photos internationally and ran the photo with the black man. In a note, Yahoo wrote it "regrets that these photos and captions, viewed together, may have suggested a racial bias on our part."

The Associated Press' director of photography, Santiago Lyon, defended the "looting" caption, stating the photographer who took Tuesday's photo, Dave Martin, had seen the man go into the store and take out the items.

"When we see people go into businesses and come out with goods, we call it looting," said Lyon. "When we just see them carrying things down the road, we call it carrying items."

Getty's photographer Chris Graythen, who maintained that the subjects of his photo were simply picking up items floating by in the waters, vented his frustration on the photojournalism web site,

"These people were not ducking into a store and busting down windows to get electronics," he wrote. "They picked up bread and cokes that were floating in the water. They would have floated away anyhow."

AFP said it withdrew the photo because it had been bombarded with phone calls and emails, while already stretched covering the enormous tragedy.

"It's safe to say that it was just causing us a lot of problems," said Bob Pearson, AFP's director of photography in the United States.

New Orleans is a predominantly black city. And upwards of 80 percent of the city's black population is poor, with no automobiles, no relatives outside the city, and no money to buy transportation required to retreat from the devastation in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Therefore, Hurricane Katrina has been disproportionately catastrophic for blacks.

As is the case with most natural disasters in urban areas, the sharp divide between blacks and whites becomes painfully clear.

So too is the terrible impact on African-American college students in New Orleans. Today and for the foreseeable future, there is no higher education in New Orleans, even on high ground, because there is no electricity in the city. Louisiana officials say that 135,000 college students in the state now have no school to attend.

According to JBHE's count, there are at least 20,000 black students enrolled in college in New Orleans who have been displaced and will not be attending classes this semester.

Colleges around the country, in many cases, have tried to find room for displaced students from New Orleans. But in most cases they are skimming off the academically talented white students from Tulane and other predominantly white institutions whose families are prepared to pay or have paid full tuition. Most African-American college students in New Orleans go to community colleges. Tens of thousands of them will have no place to go.

So far, JBHE has no data on the total number of displaced black students who have been admitted to other colleges. Hampton University, the historically black institution in Virginia, reports that about 25 black students who were enrolled at colleges in New Orleans are planning to transfer and enroll at Hampton.

Most of the students who lived on campus at historically black Dillard University were evacuated to predominantly white Centenary College in Shreveport before the hurricane struck. Both colleges are affiliated with the United Methodist Church. The Dillard campus was subsequently flooded with up to eight feet of water. Dillard president Marvalene Hughes has set up office in Atlanta. President Hughes is concerned that Dillard will permanently lose many students who enroll at other institutions this semester.

About three quarters of the 1,600 students at Xavier University, the historically black Catholic university in New Orleans, left campus before Hurricane Katrina hit the city. About 400 students remained on campus. They were housed in two high-rise dormitories. By this past Thursday they had run out of food and water. National Guard troops reached the dormitories by amphibious vehicles and transported the students to a nearby elevated highway. The students were then taken to Southern University in Baton Rouge. University officials said it would be at least late January before the university reopens.

The United Negro College Fund has set up a relief effort for Xavier and Dillard universities and also for Tougaloo College in Mississippi, which was also hit hard by the hurricane. Donations can be made online at:
For Immediate Release, Office of the Press Secretary, September 8, 2005

Fact Sheet: President Bush Announces New Initiatives to Provide Relief

Today's Presidential Action:

Today, President Bush Announced Two New Initiatives Providing Immediate Assistance To Hurricane Katrina Evacuees. The President has directed the Federal government to provide immediate financial assistance and streamline Federal benefits for evacuees. These steps will ensure that help is delivered into the hands of those who need it as quickly and easily as possible.

Immediate Financial Assistance:

The Federal Government Will Provide Evacuees $2,000 In Needed Financial Assistance. The Federal government is working to provide $2,000 in immediate emergency disaster relief to every household affected by Hurricane Katrina. To expedite the process, the President has directed the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to work with the Red Cross and large shelters like the Houston Astrodome to get the funds into citizens' hands as soon as possible. Those victims who are currently staying with families, friends, in hotels, or at smaller shelters provided by churches, synagogues, and other community organizations, can register for help benefits by calling 1-800-621-FEMA or if they have internet access, by visiting . This immediate financial assistance will be available to help evacuees with transportation, clothing, housing, and food costs and is just the first step on the road to full recovery.

The Federal Government Is Working To Expedite The Aid Process. FEMA is reaching out to evacuees and assisting them in applying for Federal aid. More than 400,000 evacuees have already been registered. Registration is the first step in receiving assistance and the process is being expedited to quickly and efficiently provide help to those in need. FEMA workers are working in shelters and recovery centers to ensure that those displaced by Hurricane Katrina receive the food, shelter, clothing, and financial assistance they need. And FEMA has 3,000 people working around the clock taking calls at 1-800-621-FEMA to help victims get the assistance they need.
Working To Ensure Continuity Of Benefits

The Federal Government Will Streamline Benefits To Evacuees. While the Nation is focused on providing evacuees with immediate needs such as food, water, and shelter, many need to begin the process of rebuilding their lives. Many victims need access to the benefits they received before Hurricane Katrina struck - programs like Medicaid, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Head Start, and Food Stamps. Recognizing that most evacuees have lost records and legal documents, the Federal government will grant special "evacuee" status to streamline and simplify the enrollment process, and provide financial assistance to states for the cost of care. This will make it easier for evacuees to register and collect benefits in whatever state they now reside.

Evacuees Will Have Access To The Full Range Of Services. States housing evacuees already have in place the systems and expertise to enroll displaced people into benefit programs. State enrollment teams are currently operating in shelters and many have 1-800 information numbers. Any evacuee can go to the nearest state or local benefits office to get information and enroll. For those with access to the internet, they can get information at Evacuees can apply for the full range of Federal benefits administered by the states - such as Medicaid, child care, mental health services, Food Stamps, housing, and job training. By streamlining the process, the Federal government is ensuring that evacuees can receive needed Federal benefits.

Federal Help To States. To help states with the costs of providing immediate care and immediate benefits for their fellow Americans, the President is working with Congress to reimburse the states that are taking in evacuees from the affected areas along the Gulf Coast. The Federal government is committed to helping the states provide the services that evacuees need, including education, health care, mental health, child welfare, child care, and family reunification.

Next Friday Is A National Day Of Prayer

The President Has Declared Friday, September 16, 2005, A National Day Of Prayer And Remembrance. Throughout our history, Americans have come together in prayer to heal and seek strength. To honor the victims and survivors of this devastating hurricane, the President has declared Friday, September 16, 2005, as a National Day of Prayer and Remembrance.


The Truth Wins hands down!

....Nothing like fact to refute inaccurate information, the inaccurate or misleading information based on:

A. Lipservice.

B. Inaccurate information used to cloud or distort the reality of it, that is typically attributed to the Democratic Party.

C. Personal biases, sarcism, etc., and not the facts. which the reality of it surely proves otherwise!


Michael Lofton
Yesterday I had the extreme joy of being a part of a reunion of two brothers who had been separated by Hurricane Katrina and didn't know where each other was!! Big Grin

They had separated when each went to go help elderly neighbors on their block when the waters started rising. One ended up at the SuperDome, the other at the Convention Center after saving an elderly couple and wading them through the high waters to safety. He ended up going without food and water for almost 4 days and he had been taken to a hospital in Tennessee!!

When the call came through, everybody in the near vicinity was crying at this man's joy!! He could barely speak to his brother and I imagine it was the same way on the other end of the line! He told us he had been saving the money he had received from the Red Cross in order to be able to sell the card for the money to go to his brother if he was ever found. Instead FEMA is going to pay for their reunion in Tennessee amd they will be set up with jobs and housing there. He was hoping to leave either today or tomorrow. tfro

The Astrodome is not "home" by any means, but compared to what it was like when these people first came here, it has been made into a livable place. And the people there, while still trying to put their lives back in order, are not sad, defeated people. They are strong and there are many rewards from being around them ... there are a lot of smiles, and they are now to the point of just being happy to be alive and safe and looking forward to moving on.

Many that are still there are mostly people who were either unemployed or lacked basic job skills and simply don't know how to go about starting over. The Houston Urban League and other organizations are offering job training programs. A lot of people don't have high school diplomas and GED education is being offered as well. Others are trying to wait until they can go back home, because that's what/all they know and don't really want a change!! They want to return to their comfort level, and can't really comprehend that it's not there anymore.

However, thousands of others have gone out and are making a new start. A lot of companies who have stores or offices both here and in N.O. are finding places for their N.O. employees to work. Many nurses and other medical staff are finding work at the Medical Center and the employment agencies are being kept very, very busy. Two schools that were previously shutdown have reopened to provide space for students and there are several teachers from N.O. who are back at work teaching them.

It's a whole different atmosphere from when our new neighbors first arrived. And the change has been for the better. Things will never be the same, here in Houston or back in New Orleans ... but hopefully in the end, the change will be for the better rather than the worse. I think it's all coming together.

And happy reunions like I saw yesterday seem to lift everybody's spirits up! I hope there are many, many more of those!
A Barrier That Could Have Been
Congress OKd a project to protect New Orleans 40 years ago, but an environmentalist suit halted it. Some say it could have worked.
By Ralph Vartabedian and Peter Pae
Times Staff Writer

September 9, 2005

In the wake of Hurricane Betsy 40 years ago, Congress approved a massive hurricane barrier to protect New Orleans from storm surges that could inundate the city.

But the project, signed into law by President Johnson, was derailed in 1977 by an environmental lawsuit. Now the question is: Could that barrier have protected New Orleans from the damage wrought by Hurricane Katrina?

"If we had built the barriers, New Orleans would not be flooded," said Joseph Towers, the retired chief counsel for the Army Corps of Engineers New Orleans district.

Tower's view is endorsed by a former key senator, along with academic experts, who say a hurricane barrier is the only way to control the powerful storm surges that enter Lake Pontchartrain and threaten the city. Other experts are less sure, saying the barrier would have been no match for Katrina.

The project was stopped in its tracks when an environmental lawsuit won a federal injunction on the grounds that the Army's environmental impact statement was flawed. By the mid-1980s, the Corps of Engineers abandoned the project.

The project faced formidable opposition not only from environmentalists but from regional government officials outside of New Orleans who argued that the barriers would choke commerce and harm marine life in ecologically sensitive Lake Pontchartrain.

The barrier would have protected New Orleans from storm surges barreling into the lake through two narrow passages "” the Rigolets and the Chef Menteur Pass.

During Hurricane Katrina, the lake "” swollen 12 feet "” was slammed by 135 mph winds against the city's storm walls and levees. The barriers failed in five places and the city was flooded. On the city's eastern flank, the surge approached the city through a network of canals from Lake Borgne, which was also swollen and raging.

After the damage caused by Betsy, a Category 2 hurricane when it hit the Louisiana coast in 1965, the Army Corps of Engineers designed and began clearing sites for the so-called Lake Pontchartrain Hurricane Barrier Project. It required miles of levees and two massive storm gates that could close off the Rigolets and Chef Menteur Pass if a hurricane was approaching.

Although the largely forgotten project has been moribund for more than two decades, it has attracted renewed interest and regained credibility since Katrina left about 80% of New Orleans underwater.

J. Bennett Johnston, a former powerful Democratic senator from Louisiana and now a lobbyist in Washington, is working on Capitol Hill to resurrect the barrier.

"It ought to be part of the deal," he said. "It would have prevented the huge storm tide that came into Lake Pontchartrain."

The barrier would have run from a point near the Mississippi state line, known as Apple Pie Ridge, southwest across the marshlands all the way to the main levees of the Mississippi River, roughly 25 miles. Most of the barrier would have consisted of levees, roughly 9 feet to 14 feet high. In addition, two massive control structures were to be placed on the inlets to Lake Pontchartrain.

The Rigolets, the larger of the two inlets, would have required an 800-foot-long structure with floodgates and a massive locks that could close if a hurricane or other storm surge were approaching the coast.

Similar floodgates protect the Netherlands from North Sea surges.

Towers, the corps' former chief counsel, said the project was estimated to cost $85 million in 1965, or just over $500 million, adjusted for inflation. Estimates of the costs of Katrina's damage and reconstruction exceed $100 billion.

The project was stopped on Dec. 30, 1977, by U.S. District Judge Charles Schwartz Jr., who said the corps' environmental impact statement had failed to satisfy federal environmental laws.

Schwartz ruled that the region "would be irreparably harmed" if the barrier project was allowed to continue. He chastised the Army for its inadequate environmental impact statement, which was based in part on a single biologist who never submitted a written report.

Towers conceded that the plan was inadequate by today's standards, but noted that the battle began not long after the National Environmental Policy Act was signed in 1970 and before much of the case law involving the act was set.

The project faced strong opposition from the environmental group Save Our Wetlands, fishermen and the St. Tammany Parish, just north of Lake Pontchartrain, which had hoped to see a large shipyard built on a bayou. The shipyard was never built; today the area is underwater.

The crux of the suit was that the control structures would sharply reduce the natural flow of ocean water into the lake, damaging shellfish and other aquatic life. Opponents were convinced that the barriers would cause an environmental disaster. They said it would drain the wetlands, leaving it "extremely susceptible to hurricane tidal surges."

"And once a hurricane hits and floods these low-lying areas, it's the taxpayers who have to pay for the disaster loans," Save the Wetlands said a few years ago.

The principal members of the environmental group, several of whom lived in the flooded areas of the city, could not be reached for comment.

The corps never appealed the injunction and it formally dropped the plan in 1986. But Towers, who is retired and lives in Long Beach, said in a recent interview that he still believed the plan was sound.

"My feeling was that saving human lives was more important than saving a percentage of shrimp and crab in Lake Pontchartrain," Towers said. "I told my staff at the time that this judge had condemned the city. Some people said I was being a little dramatic."

Since the 1960s, the corps has become more sensitive to the concerns of environmental objections to its projects.

In part, the changes have been forced by litigation the corps has faced.

The Save Our Wetlands website says that it "has been involved in countless lawsuits, many of them against the Army Corps of Engineers to block public works projects."

After the corps dropped its project, Congress opted to raise hundreds of miles of levees in New Orleans to withstand a storm surge entering Lake Pontchartrain. Johnston, as well as others, said the original barrier plan would have been more effective and cheaper than the subsequent plan.

The levee-raising plan cost more than $1 billion, though it was never designed to handle anything greater than a Category 3 hurricane. Katrina was a Category 4 when it slammed into Louisiana.

Stephen Baig, who heads the storm surge team at the National Hurricane Center, estimated that Katrina pushed a 27-foot surge at its eye near Bay St. Louis and raised Lake Pontchartrain by 12 to 13 feet.

It created a rotating seiche, a type of whirlpool, that took days to subside.

The barrier designed after Hurricane Betsy could have been topped by a storm surge, but it would have still lessened the impact of any surge into the lake and reduced the effects on the city's levee system.

But some experts say they are not sure it would have prevented the current disaster.

Al Naomi, a senior project manager for the corps, said the levees and control structures in the post-1965 plan were not big enough to control a surge and protect the city.

But the corps is preparing to resurrect the project with bigger levees and a more environmentally friendly control structure.

"We can design a barrier to both protect human life and protect the environment," Naomi said. "It is technically feasible. All we need is the authorization and the funding."

Before Katrina, however, the corps could not get $8 million to study the project. It will almost certainly receive the funding now.

Katrina did shed light on the vulnerability of New Orleans to the surges that can enter its complex network of canals and marshes from the Gulf of Mexico.

A computer simulation of the hurricane that will be unveiled today is expected to show that Katrina caused a surge of water of up to 15 feet on the city's eastern flank and up to 10 feet on Lake Pontchartrain's south shore with accompanying waves that raised the water level several more feet.

Johannes Westerink, a professor of civil engineering at the University of Notre Dame who co-developed the computer program, said that based on the latest simulation, the system proposed after Betsy would have been an "effective barrier" against the surge from Hurricane Katrina.

"It would have stopped that," he said.

In the aftermath of Betsy, federal officials promised better protection in the future.

"This nation grieves for its neighbors in Louisiana; but this state will build its way out of its sorrow," said President Johnson a few days after the storm.

"And the national government will be at Louisiana's side to help every step of the way."
The real affirmative action:

Top FEMA Jobs: No Experience Required
Director Brown wasn't the agency's only senior official appointed under Bush with little or no background in dealing with natural disasters.
By Ken Silverstein
Times Staff Writer

September 9, 2005

WASHINGTON "” In the days since Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, Federal Emergency Management Agency director Michael D. Brown has come under withering attack, with critics charging that his lack of prior experience in dealing with natural disasters contributed to his agency's poor performance.

But Brown is just one of at least five senior FEMA officials appointed under President Bush whose backgrounds showed few qualifications in disaster relief.

As the administration struggles to counter negative national perceptions about its response, Vice President Dick Cheney defended the administration's FEMA appointees in remarks to reporters Thursday.

"You've got to have people at the top who respond to and are selected by presidents, and you pick the best people you can to do the jobs that need to be done," Cheney said while touring the stricken Gulf Coast. "We've also got some great career professionals, an absolute and vital part of the operation "” couldn't do it without them."

But Democrats in Congress have attacked Brown and other top FEMA appointees.

"FEMA is an important agency and needs to be run by professionals, not political cronies," said Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Los Angeles), the ranking minority member of the Committee on Government Reform.

More than a year before the hurricane hit New Orleans, the head of a labor union representing FEMA workers sent a letter to members of Congress charging that "emergency managers at FEMA have been supplanted on the job by politically connected contractors and by novice employees with little background or knowledge" of disaster management.

"As ... professionalism diminishes, FEMA is gradually losing its ability to function and to help disaster victims," the letter said.

People appointed to run domestic government agencies frequently have political connections. But for many top positions, some relevant background is required as well.

Paul Light, a professor of organizational studies at New York University who has testified before Congress on FEMA's role in the Department of Homeland Security, said that for years, FEMA was a dumping ground for the politically connected.

But during the Clinton years, Light said, FEMA Director James Lee Witt "built a serious hierarchy around expertise. Somewhere along the line, FEMA has returned to being a destination of last resort for political appointees."

Brown, a career attorney who was active in Republican Party politics, was hired to be FEMA's general counsel by Joe Allbaugh, an old friend and the agency's first director under Bush. Before FEMA, Brown had worked for nearly a decade at the International Arabian Horse Assn. His responsibilities included supervising horse show judges.

Allbaugh "” a longtime aide to Bush who had managed his 2000 campaign "” resigned as FEMA director in 2003 and opened a consulting firm that helped companies win contracts in Iraq. Brown, who had risen to become Allbaugh's top deputy, took charge.

Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.), a strong critic of Brown's even before Katrina, wants him removed.

"When you're dealing with responding to a natural disaster, it's hard to do your job when you have no experience or background," said Lale Mamaux, Wexler's spokeswoman.

Brown is not the only official who came to the agency with scant disaster management background. His acting deputy director, Patrick James Rhode, began his professional career as an "anchor/reporter with network-affiliated television stations in Alabama and Arkansas," according to his resume on FEMA's website.

Rhode later did public relations work for several state agencies in Texas before becoming deputy director of national advance operations for Bush's 2000 presidential campaign. Before moving to FEMA in 2003, Rhode served as a special assistant to the president and White House liaison with the Commerce Department. He donated $2,000 to Bush's 2004 campaign.

Daniel Craig, director of FEMA's Recovery Division since October 2003, "is responsible for planning and executing the federal government's recovery efforts following major disasters," according to the FEMA website.

Before coming to FEMA "” he became a regional director based in Boston in 2001 "” he worked for the Eastern Regional Office of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, where he "was responsible for Chamber-related legislative, political, and media initiatives in New England and the Atlantic coast," the website says. Craig previously worked as a lobbyist for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Assn., and before that as a campaign advisor, political fundraiser and research analyst.

Both Allbaugh and Brown were Oklahoma natives involved in that state's Republican politics. FEMA's acting deputy chief of staff, Brooks Altshuler, also hails from Oklahoma. And like Rhode, Altshuler was an advance man for Bush.

Altshuler was a minor donor to the GOP in 2004, giving $250 to the Bush campaign and another $250 to the Republican National Committee. His father, Geoffrey, has donated $750 to Rep. Ernest J. Istook (R-Okla.) and in 2002 hosted a fundraiser for Oklahoma Republican Sen. James M. Inhofe at his home, according to campaign records and Inhofe's website.

Scott R. Morris, who held Altshuler's job until May and now is a FEMA official in Florida, had been a GOP activist as far back as the 1996 presidential campaign of former Sen. Bob Dole, when he handled grass-roots activities and media strategies.

He later served as "a media strategist for the George W. Bush for President primary campaign and the Bush-Cheney 2000 campaign," according to his resume. Morris donated $2,250 to Bush's 2004 reelection campaign.

Morris' private sector career includes a stint as "marketing director for the world's leading provider of e-business applications software in California," his resume states.

Natalie Rule, a FEMA spokeswoman, said Brown had received "on-the-job training" in dealing with more than 200 presidentially declared disasters since coming to the agency. Brown gained important background as assistant city manager for Edmond, Okla., and as chairman of the Oklahoma Municipal Power Authority, where he handled issues such as contingency planning and police negotiations, Rule said.

Rule said other top FEMA appointees whose qualifications have been challenged also brought skills to the table. For example, both Rhode and Altshuler had logistics backgrounds from their work on Bush's advance team.

In June 2004, Local 4060 of the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents FEMA workers, wrote to members of Congress to warn about alleged cronyism at the agency. The letter said the practice initially "took place mainly at the senior levels of FEMA, but it has now entered into the mid-level and working-level" of FEMA.

"The ability of FEMA to manage emergencies and disasters is being seriously eroded," the letter said.
yeah...race is not an issue...and they really find brothers in prison joining Al Qeda surprising?

Racism, resources blamed for bridge incident
Evacuees say they were turned back by police

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (CNN) -- As the heart of a hurricane-ravaged New Orleans filled with sewage-tainted floodwaters and corpses, Mayor Ray Nagin urged people to cross a bridge leading to the dry lands of the city's suburban west bank.

But some evacuees who tried that route told CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360" and "News Night with Aaron Brown" that they were met by police with shotguns who refused to allow them into Gretna, a nearby town on the other side.

The evacuees blamed the incident on racism, but Gretna's police chief said his town was in lockdown and was no better equipped to handle evacuees than New Orleans.

With food and water dwindling at the Louisiana Superdome and the city's convention center and the promise of buses unrealized, New Orleans police directed one group across the bridge toward the city's west bank -- and Gretna, said Larry Bradshaw, one of the evacuees.

"We were told by the commander at the police command post ... that we should cross that bridge, and there would be buses waiting to take us out," he said on CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360."

"We walked, probably 200 people, about a two-hour trek," Tim Sheer, another evacuee, told CNN's "News Night with Aaron Brown." "We got to the top of the bridge. They stopped us with shotguns.

"We had people in wheelchairs, we had people in strollers, people on crutches, so we were a slow-moving group," said Bradshaw. "And we didn't think anything when we saw the deputies there. Then all of a sudden we heard shooting."

Gretna Police Chief Arthur Lawson, who was interviewed on CNN before Bradshaw, Sheer and another evacuee, Lorrie Beth Slonsky, said that to his knowledge, no officers fired shots near the crowd.

"We certainly will look into it," he said, "once this is over with, and we get back to a level that we can investigate it."

But the evacuees said they were very disturbed by what the officers told them about why they wouldn't be allowed to cross the bridge.

"What we were told by the deputies is that they were not going to allow another New Orleans, and they weren't going to allow a Superdome to go into their side of the bridge, Gretna," said Slonsky.

"So to us, that reeks absolute racism, since our group that was trying to cross over was women, children, predominantly African-American," she said.

Lawson said his officers did stop the group from crossing but insisted racism had no part in the decision.

"We had no preparations," he said. "You know, we're a small city on the west bank of the river. We had people being told to come over here, that we were going to have buses, we were going to have food, we were going to have water, and we were going to have shelter. And we had none.

"Our people had left. Our city was locked down and secured, for the sake of the citizens that left their valuables here to be protected by us."

The chief said he had not spoken with any of the officers involved in the incident.

More than 56 percent of Gretna's population is white, according to the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau, and under 36 percent are black.

Some evacuees said police took food and water from a group that had camped out on the bridge.

Slonsky said the group that camped on the bridge had some food and water and felt relatively safe. But fellow evacuee Larry Bradshaw said, the police came back at dusk.

"Jumped out of his car with the gun aimed at us, screaming and cursing and yelling at us to get the blank-blank away," he said "And just, just so rabidly angry. And we tried to reason, we tried to talk. And he was just putting his gun in the face of young children and families. It said Gretna on the police car."

Asked why Gretna authorities did not allow the group into town and call for buses, Lawson said, "Who were we going to call?"

"We had no radios. We had no phones. We had no communications, as I just told you," he said. "We had not spoken to the city of New Orleans prior to or during this event. Who were we going to call? What were we going to do with thousands of people without enough water to sustain them, without enough food to sustain them, or without any shelter?"

Reports of a similar incident involving busloads of evacuees from Algiers, in Orleans Parish on the west bank, and Jefferson Parish deputies have not been confirmed by CNN.

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