Contact Me By Email

Atlanta, GA Weather from Weather Underground

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Chertoff Draws Fire on Briefing - New York Times

Chertoff Draws Fire on Briefing - New York TimesSeptember 8, 2005
Chertoff Draws Fire on Briefing
By ERIC LICHTBLAU

WASHINGTON, Sept. 7 - Michael Chertoff, the homeland security secretary who has been the Bush administration's point man in fielding criticism of the hurricane relief effort, came under fire Wednesday from some Congressional Democrats for private remarks about the conditions faced by storm survivors that struck the lawmakers as insensitive.

The new criticism was set off by a private and sometimes contentious briefing that Mr. Chertoff and other senior administration officials gave to House members on Tuesday night on the status of relief efforts.

Exactly what was said at the closed-door briefing remained in some dispute Wednesday.

Administration officials and Democrats at the briefing agreed that Mr. Chertoff and other speakers emphasized that news images showing horrendous conditions for evacuees in shelters did not reflect the totality of the federal government's response.

But administration officials said several remarks that House members attributed to Mr. Chertoff were in fact made by other officials.

For instance, one administration official who was at the briefing said it was Lt. Gen. H. Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau at the Pentagon, not Mr. Chertoff, who told House members that television images of sparse relief efforts for evacuees sheltered at the Superdome offered "a small soda-straw view of what was going on."

Still, much of the Democrats' criticism was directed at Mr. Chertoff himself.

Representative Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, the ranking Democrat on the Homeland Security Committee, said the message he took from Mr. Chertoff's comments regarding the relief effort was that "what you see is not really what is."

"People just looked at him," Mr. Thompson said. "He was the first speaker, and it sort of went downhill after that. People felt we are not going to get the truth here."

A few Democrats were so upset by the tone of Mr. Chertoff's remarks that they walked out of the briefing, said Representative Elijah Cummings, Democrat of Maryland, who said he stayed for all of the remarks but became increasingly frustrated by what he heard.

"The picture was being painted that things were not as bad as they appeared to be" in news reports, Mr. Cummings said in an interview. "It reached the point where the answers didn't add up."

Russ Knocke, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, said Mr. Chertoff said nothing at the House briefing to minimize the suffering of evacuees at the Superdome and "was appalled by the situation" when he toured the site, where evacuees complained that food, water and medical supplies were in short supply.

At the same time, however, Mr. Chertoff believes that rescue crews had to make it their top priority to try to save people outside the stadium, Mr. Knocke said in an interview.

"While the situation in the Superdome was nightmarish and not satisfactory to anyone involved," Mr. Knocke said, "it was not a life-and-death situation, and we had to focus our priorities where we could."

Even so, he said relief crews delivered seven trailers filled with water and ready-to-eat meals to the Superdome before the storm hit on Aug. 29, along with another seven trailers on Aug. 30.

Homeland Security Department officials said Mr. Chertoff, in his assessment of relief priorities in New Orleans, as well as in his comments in July about the threat posed by a terrorist attack in a subway system, was giving a blunt assessment of the difficult choices that federal officials faced in disasters.

Since taking over as homeland secretary this year after serving as a judge and a top Justice Department official, Mr. Chertoff has pushed for setting clearer priorities for assessing financing and resources for domestic security.

A former organized-crime prosecutor, Mr. Chertoff has always had a reputation for a blunt-spoken manner.

In July, after the London subway bombings, he caused a minor flap by suggesting that the federal government did not consider the threat of a subway bomb, which he said "may kill 30 people," to represent as high a priority as the "catastrophic" prospect of another airplane strike that could kill thousands.

"Secretary Chertoff is candid, he's open, he's direct, and I think a lot of people find that a refreshing attitude," Mr. Knocke said. "He doesn't mince words, and the fact that he's willing to talk frankly about complex issue speaks to his characteristics as a leader and his no-nonsense approach to an extraordinarily tough job."

Carl Hulse contributed reporting from Washington for this article.

Senate Democrats Pushing for Roberts's Legal Memos - New York Times

Senate Democrats Pushing for Roberts's Legal Memos - New York TimesSeptember 8, 2005
Senate Democrats Pushing for Roberts's Legal Memos
By SHERYL GAY STOLBERG and RICHARD W. STEVENSON

WASHINGTON, Sept. 7 - Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee renewed their push on Wednesday for access to legal memorandums written by Judge John G. Roberts Jr., sending a pointed letter of complaint to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, who controls the records and who is himself a potential Supreme Court candidate.

The letter on Judge Roberts, who has been nominated to be chief justice, came as conservatives stepped up their campaign against a possible Gonzales nomination to fill the seat being vacated by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

Signed by Senator Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the senior Democrat on the judiciary panel, and the seven other committee Democrats, the letter said, "We are increasingly concerned about the inference raised by your continued refusal even to speak with us about accommodating our reasonable request for documents which are entirely within your control."

The Democrats said the documents were "all the more important to our performing a fair and complete evaluation of Judge Roberts" now that President Bush has nominated him to be the next chief justice after the death of William H. Rehnquist on Saturday.

The letter came as President Bush is contemplating how to fill the O'Connor vacancy. He had originally nominated Judge Roberts to succeed Justice O'Connor, but announced on Monday that he had selected Judge Roberts to succeed the late chief justice.

On Tuesday, Mr. Bush said the field to replace Justice O'Connor was "wide open," but also made a pointed reference to Mr. Gonzales, his old friend from Texas, as a possible contender for the O'Connor seat. The remark has created a political tizzy among conservatives, who are not convinced that Mr. Gonzales is sufficiently opposed to abortion.

On Wednesday, Paul Weyrich, founder of the Free Congress Foundation, said that at his weekly lunch meeting of conservative organizers he told a visiting Bush administration official that he strongly urged against a Gonzales nomination.

"Please don't do this for your sake - not for mine - because it will destroy your coalition," Mr. Weyrich recounted in an interview. "It will absolutely destroy your base."

At the same time, conservatives are trying to use the Roberts nomination to put Democrats in a difficult spot. The Religious Freedom Action Coalition, a conservative organization, announced that a group of religious leaders, along with a Democratic New York State senator, Ruben Diaz, would publicly endorse Judge Roberts on Thursday outside the office of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democrat of New York, and would urge Mrs. Clinton to vote to confirm him.

The death of the chief justice forced a delay in the confirmation hearings for Judge Roberts, a former Rehnquist clerk. With the hearings now set to begin on Monday, Judge Roberts is scheduled to undergo a final round of preparation on Thursday, after having been through 10 or so similar sessions last month.

The mock hearing, in which he will be questioned by administration officials and other people playing the roles of the senators on the Judiciary Committee, is expected to be his last and is intended in part to deal with questions he might get about the role of the chief justice, including inquiries about his administrative ability.

At a news conference Tuesday, the Judiciary Committee chairman, Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, said he intended to press Judge Roberts on his ability to generate consensus on the oft-divided court, which has issued a series of 5-to-4 opinions that Mr. Specter called "really inexplicable." Mr. Specter also said he would ask Judge Roberts about his views on televising the court proceedings, which the senator has long advocated.

But Mr. Specter, who has tried to play the role of neutral arbiter of the hearings, said he would not support the Democrats' request for legal memorandums relating to Judge Roberts's work on 16 cases in the four years he spent as principal deputy solicitor general under the first President Bush. The cases address what liberal advocacy groups say are some of the country's most significant legal issues, including civil rights, the right to privacy, the right to abortion and freedom of religion.

In one case, for instance, Judge Roberts signed a brief arguing that a Civil War-era law intended to block the activities of the Ku Klux Klan could not be used to bar protesters from abortion clinics. In another, he signed a brief saying that a girl who had been sexually abused by her teacher was not entitled to sue for monetary damages under Title IX, the 1972 sex discrimination law.

Democrats are hoping the documents include memorandums that could shed light on Judge Roberts's personal views on such topics. In their letter to Mr. Gonzales, they argued that Judge Roberts was serving not as a Civil Service lawyer, but as a "political appointee in a leadership position within the government."

And they say there is precedent for making such records public; when Justice Rehnquist was nominated as chief, for instance, similar records were released dating from his days as a Nixon administration lawyer.

The Bush White House has held firm to the argument that it can withhold the documents on the grounds that to release them would create a chilling effect on other lawyers in the Justice Department.

David D. Kirkpatrick contributed reporting for this article.

BBC NEWS | Americas | New Orleans starts to remove dead

BBC NEWS | Americas | New Orleans starts to remove dead New Orleans starts to remove dead
Some 25,000 body bags have been sent to the New Orleans area, as authorities begin to recover the dead in the city.

The official death toll stands at 83 in the city, including 30 elderly people found in a flooded nursing home. But thousands are feared to have died.

Bodies remain in the stagnant flood waters as health fears grow for up to 10,000 people still in the city.

Three people are also known to have died from contaminated flood water, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

They are believed to have contracted infections after coming into contact with cholera-related bacteria.

New Orleans' mayor has ordered the forced evacuation of the city, which used to have a population of 450,000.

A temporary morgue in a town about 70 miles (113km) away is preparing to handle 5,000 corpses.

A state health official told the Associated Press he did not know how many bodies to expect.

The mayor of New Orleans, Ray Nagin, has said the death toll could reach 10,000.

Fuel and sewage

Police and soldiers have been going from house to house to encourage those still in the stricken city to leave.


DRAINING THE WATER

Many householders are fearful of losing their possessions if they go, after reports of widespread looting.

"I haven't left my house in my life," 86-year-old Anthony Charbonnet told AP.

"I don't want to leave."

The BBC's Daniela Relph in New Orleans says police do not want to drag people out - but warn that they are prepared to do so in the face of a growing public health risk.

As water is pumped out of New Orleans, the diminishing flood reveals dead bodies, raw sewage, fuel and rusting vehicles.

The US Environmental Protection Agency says the floodwaters contain unsafe levels of E.coli and other bacteria as well as high levels of lead.

The city's authorities have urged anyone left in the city to avoid all contact with water.

"This water is not going away any time soon," disease control official Julie Gerberding told reporters.

Aid package

US Vice-President Dick Cheney is due to visit the region hit by last week's hurricane.

I remember reading that civilisation is only ever three missed meals away from anarchy
James MacMillan, Glasgow, UK

More than 110 people are known to have died in the state of Mississippi. Hundreds of thousands from the devastated areas are living in temporary shelters in Texas and other states.

President George W Bush is to ask Congress for an extra $51.8bn to fund relief efforts.

The money - on top of $10bn that has already been granted - is destined for rescue efforts, clean drinking water, and public health needs.

Presidential and Congressional plans for inquiries into how the disaster was handled have been questioned by the opposition Democrats, who have raised the idea of an independent commission.

President Bush said on Tuesday he would lead an investigation himself as two Senate committees began separate inquiries.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that some 400,000 jobs could be lost this year because of the hurricane.

The Congressional Budget Office estimate comes as the economic impact of Katrina is put at more than $100bn (£55bn).

Story from BBC NEWS:

Forbes.com - Magazine Article

Forbes.com - Magazine Article: "Hurricanes Become More Frequent?
Oxford Analytica, 09.08.05, 6:00 AM ET

The frequency of hurricanes and other storm events in the southern Atlantic is higher than in previous years. This increase may be part of a longer-term cycle, and storm events could occur more often for a decade or more.

Governments need to invest in the infrastructure necessary to mitigate storm events and their immediate aftermath if impacts are to be reduced.

While it remains difficult to predict the specific timing and location of catastrophic weather events like the U.S. Gulf Coast hurricane last week, scientists can predict whether a particular hurricane season is likely to be more or less intense.

Researchers at Colorado State University have forecasted hurricanes for the last 22 years, using a long-range model that draws on 52 years of data. In April, they predicted that the 2005 storm season would be active, with the likelihood of hurricanes making landfall on the continental United States 40% higher than the long-term average. The Colorado modelers predicted that this season would see three Category 3-5 storms. The meteorology of storm prediction is extremely complex and involves the interaction of multiple variables on a global scale. The Colorado team uses six predictors in its model.

On a longer timescale, it appears that the U.S. Gulf Coast region is in a period where storm frequency and intensity is increasing in general. The implication is that there is cycle of increased storm activity that can last a decade and could bring another five years of destructive storms. Research on the impact of climate change on storm intensity suggests that there has been an increase in the destructiveness of cyclones in the last 30 years. Future climate change, which generally puts more heat energy into the meteorological system, is likely to generate increased storm activity.

Part of the inherent vulnerability of a city like New Orleans is that in some parts it is 3 meters below sea level. For many years, disaster management experts have argued that after an earthquake in San Francisco, a Category 5 storm in New Orleans was the most significant natural hazard in the United States.

While the conditions that lead to storm formation are largely outside human control, the scale of their impacts is manageable. However, a general trend of population migration to southern U.S. states has increased the challenge in the United States.

It is difficult to predict where and when hurricanes will occur, but it is possible to identify whether a season is more likely to produce hurricanes. There is evidence that a continued period of increased hurricane frequency and intensity could extend for another five years. Interventions to reduce the vulnerability of cities to hurricanes can be taken in advance and require funding on a continuing basis.

To read an extended version of this article log on to Oxford Analytica's Web site.

Oxford Analytica is an independent strategic consulting firm drawing on a network of more than 1,000 scholar experts at Oxford and other leading universities and research institutions around the world. For more information please visit www.oxan.com, and to find out how to subscribe to the firm's Daily Brief Service, click here.

"

Forced Evacuation of a Battered New Orleans Begins - New York Times

Forced Evacuation of a Battered New Orleans Begins - New York TimesForced Evacuation of a Battered New Orleans Begins
By ALEX BERENSON and SEWELL CHAN

NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 7 - With the waters inside this city growing increasingly fetid and thousands of people still holding out, New Orleans police officers began on Wednesday evening to force residents to leave, including those living in dry and undamaged homes.

It was not clear how widespread the forced evacuations were. But earlier in the day the city's police superintendent said that while his department would concentrate first on removing those who wanted to leave, the hazards posed by fires, waterborne diseases and natural-gas leaks had left the city with no choice but to use force on those who resisted.

In at least one neighborhood, Bywater, a working-class area east of the French Quarter, police officers and federal agents on Wednesday night began to press hard for residents to evacuate. At two homes, police officers and emergency service workers refused to leave until the two men living there agreed to go with them, even though both men appeared healthy and said they had adequate supplies.

Until now, city and state officials have implored residents to leave, but no one has been forcibly removed. The announced change in policy - after an evacuation order by Mayor C. Ray Nagin on Tuesday - came even as the floodwater receded slightly and residents in some sections took small steps toward recovery, cleaning debris from their streets and boarding up abandoned houses.

Some said they would fight the evacuations, potentially producing ugly confrontations.

An estimated 5,000 to 10,000 people remained inside New Orleans more than a week after Hurricane Katrina hit, many in neighborhoods that are on high ground near the Mississippi River.

But the number of dead still remained a looming and disturbing question.

In the first indication of how many deaths Louisiana alone might expect, Robert Johannessen, a spokesman for the State Department of Health and Hospitals, said on Wednesday that the Federal Emergency Management Agency had ordered 25,000 body bags. The official death toll remained at under 100.

In Washington, the House and Senate announced a joint investigation into the government's response to the crisis. "Americans deserve answers," said a statement by the two top-ranking Republicans, Speaker J. Dennis Hastert and Senator Bill Frist, the majority leader. "We must do all we can to learn from this tragedy, improve the system and protect all of our citizens."

President Bush made plans to send Congress a request for $51.8 billion for relief efforts, the second such request since the storm devastated the Gulf Coast. The White House spokesman, Scott McClellan, said the money would include $50 billion for FEMA, $1.4 billion for the Department of Defense and $400 million for the Army Corps of Engineers. The request follows a $10.5 billion package that Mr. Bush signed on Friday and is intended to address the immediate needs of survivors.

The government continued its efforts to help evacuees. At the Astrodome in Houston, where an estimated 15,000 New Orleans evacuees found shelter over the weekend, the number had dwindled to only about 3,000 on Wednesday as people were rapidly placed in apartments, volunteers' homes and hotels that had been promised reimbursement by FEMA.

Michael D. Brown, the FEMA director, said his agency would begin issuing debit cards, worth at least $2,000 each, to allow hurricane victims to buy supplies for immediate needs. More than 319,000 people have already applied for federal disaster relief.

"The concept is to get them some cash in hand," Mr. Brown said, "which allows them, empowers them, to make their own decisions about what they need to have to restart their lives."

As New Orleans officials grappled with how to make residents leave, new government tests showed the danger of remaining.

In the first official confirmation of contaminants in the water covering the city, federal officials said on Wednesday that they had found levels of E. coli bacteria and lead 10 times higher than is considered safe. Those were the only substances identified as potential health threats in tests of water conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency at laboratories in Houston and Lafayette, La.

Officials emphasized that as testing continued more substances were likely to be found at harmful levels, especially from water taken near industrial sites.

"Human contact with the floodwater should be avoided as much as possible," the environmental agency's administrator, Stephen L. Johnson, said.

A spokesman for the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said state and local officials had reported three deaths in Mississippi and one in Texas from exposure to Vibrio vulnificus, a choleralike bacterium found in salt water, which poses special risks for people with chronic liver problems.

With the overall death toll uncertain, Mr. Brown, the FEMA director, said in Baton Rouge that the formal house-to-house search for bodies had begun at midmorning. He said the temporary mortuary set up in St. Gabriel, La., was prepared to receive 500 to 1,000 bodies a day, with refrigeration trucks on site to hold the corpses.

"They will be processed as rapidly as possible," Mr. Brown said.

As it worked to remove the water inundating the city, the Corps of Engineers said that one additional pumping station, No. 6, at the head of the 17th Street Canal, had started up, and that about 10 percent of the city's total pumping capacity was in operation. But the corps added that it was dealing with a new problem: how to prevent corpses from being sucked to the grates at the pump inlets.

"We're expending every effort to try to ensure that we protect the integrity of remains as we get this water out of the city," said John S. Rickey, chief of public affairs for the corps. "We're taking this very personally. This is a very deep emotional aspect of our work down there."

As the forcible removal of New Orleans residents also threatened to become an emotional issue, the city's superintendent of police, P. Edwin Compass III, said at a news conference on Wednesday morning that such evacuations would not begin until the police had helped the thousands of people who wanted leave.

"Once all the voluntary evacuations have taken place," Mr. Compass said, "then we'll concentrate our efforts and our forces to mandatorily evacuating individuals."

But on Wednesday night, a city police officer and a dozen heavily armed immigration agents broke into a house in Bywater without knocking or announcing their presence, saying they were looking for a looter. The house was clean and neat and the only person inside, Anthony Paul, lived there, according to his state-issued identification.

Although Mr. Paul appeared to be in good health and had plenty of food and water, a psychologist with an emergency services team that was called to the house said she would not leave until Mr. Paul agreed to evacuate. The psychologist said that Mr. Paul was mentally stable, but that she wanted him to leave for his own safety. "If I'm leaving, you guys are leaving," said the psychologist, who identified herself only as Rain.

At one point Mr. Paul said, "You're going to have to kill me to get me out of this house." But after nearly an hour, he agreed to leave and packed a single backpack.

"I didn't want to leave right now," he said as he prepared to board an ambulance. "If I had a choice, yeah, I would have rode it out."

The psychologist said that she viewed the evacuation as voluntary and that Mr. Paul would eventually appreciate that he had made the right choice. "This is why I wake up in the morning," she said.

Among the authorities, though, some confusion lingered on Wednesday about how a widespread evacuation by force would work, and how much support it would get at the federal and state level. Mayor Nagin told the police and the military on Tuesday to remove all residents for their own safety, and on Wednesday, Mr. Compass said state laws gave the mayor the authority to declare martial law and order the evacuations.

"There's a martial law declaration in place that gives us legal authority for mandatory evacuations," Mr. Compass said. "We'll use the minimum amount of force necessary."

But because the New Orleans Police Department has only about 1,000 working officers, the city is largely in the hands of National Guard troops and active-duty soldiers.

State officials said Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco could tell the Guard to carry out the forced removals, but they stopped short of a commitment to do so. In Washington, Lt. Gen. Joseph R. Inge, deputy commander of the United States Northern Command, said regular troops "would not be used" in any forced evacuation.

The state disaster law does not supersede either the state or federal Constitutions, said Kenneth M. Murchison, a law professor at Louisiana State University. But even so, Mr. Nagin's decision could be a smart strategy that does not violate fundamental rights, Professor Murchison said.

"What I suspect is that if they do forcible evacuations, the authorities will tell the residents that they must leave and that they will arrest them if they don't," Professor Murchison said. "I would suspect that once they are moved to a location outside of New Orleans, the authorities will release them. It would then be up to the district attorney someday to decide whether to prosecute them or not. But in the meantime, the authorities sure aren't going to let anyone back in."

Professor Murchison said that anyone even seeking to challenge the forcible evacuations on constitutional grounds would have to travel to Baton Rouge, where the federal judges from the Eastern District of Louisiana, based in New Orleans, have relocated.

While many New Orleans residents said they would not go gently, others appeared disheveled, weak and ready to evacuate.

Sitting under an umbrella in a filthy parking lot at the eastern edge of Bywater, Anthony Washington said on Wednesday morning that he worried he would not be able to reach his family if he left the city. But after a reporter offered him the chance to call his sister and explain where he was, he said he would leave. By midafternoon Mr. Washington had boarded a bus for the city's convention center, where evacuees were being taken.

"I don't have nothing here," he said.

Alex Berenson reported from New Orleans for this article, Sewell Chan from Baton Rouge, La., and Matthew L. Wald from Vicksburg, Miss.

Democrats Step Up Criticism of White House Response - New York Times

Democrats Step Up Criticism of White House Response - New York TimesSeptember 8, 2005
Democrats Step Up Criticism of White House Response
By ADAM NAGOURNEY and CARL HULSE

WASHINGTON, Sept. 7 - After 10 days of often uncertain responses to the Bush administration's management of Hurricane Katrina, Democratic leaders unleashed a burst of attacks on the White House on Wednesday, saying the wreckage in New Orleans raised doubts about the country's readiness to endure a terrorist attack and exposed ominous economic rifts that they said had worsened under five years of Republican rule.

From Democratic leaders on the floor of Congress, to a speech by the Democratic National Committee chairman at a meeting of the National Baptist Convention in Miami, to four morning television interviews by Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democrats offered what was shaping up as the most concerted attack that they had mounted on the White House in the five years of the Bush presidency.

"Oblivious. In denial. Dangerous," Representative Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California and the House minority leader, said of President Bush as she stood in front of a battery of uniformed police officers and firefighters in a Capitol Hill ceremony that had originally been scheduled to commemorate the fourth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

"Americans should now harbor no illusions about the government's ability to respond effectively to disasters," she said. "Our vulnerabilities were laid bare."

Former Senator John Edwards, a likely candidate for president in 2008 and the Democratic Party's vice-presidential nominee in 2004, argued that the breakdown in New Orleans illustrated the central theme of his national campaigns: the nation has been severed into two Americas.

"The truth is the people who suffer the most from Katrina are the very people who suffer the most every day," Mr. Edwards said in a speech in North Carolina on Wednesday, according to a transcript provided by his office.

And Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, the Democratic presidential nominee in 2004, said in an interview: "It's a summary of all that this administration is not in touch with and has faked and ducked and bobbed over the past four years. What you see here is a harvest of four years of complete avoidance of real problem solving and real governance in favor of spin and ideology."

The display of unity was striking for a party that has been adrift since Mr. Kerry's defeat, struggling to reach consensus on issues like the war in Iraq and the Supreme Court nomination of Judge John G. Roberts Jr. The aggressiveness was evidence of what Republicans and Democrats said was the critical difference between the hurricane and the Sept. 11 attacks: Democrats appear able to question the administration's competence without opening themselves to attacks on their patriotism.

Not insignificantly, they have been emboldened by the fact that Republicans have also been critical of the White House over the past week, and by the perception that this normally politically astute and lethal administration has been weakened and seems at a loss as it struggles to manage two crises: the aftermath of the hurricane on the Gulf Coast and the political difficulties that it has created for Mr. Bush in Washington.

Their response may have allowed the Democrats to seize the issue that Republicans had hammered them with in the past two elections: national security. "Our government failed at one of the most basic functions it has - providing for the physical safety of our citizens," Senator Evan Bayh, an Indiana Democrat who is considering a run for president in 2008, declared in a speech on the Senate floor.

The Democrats' aggressiveness is not without its risks. The White House has been seeking to minimize the criticisms of Mr. Bush by portraying them as partisan, and some prominent Democrats had earlier avoided going after Mr. Bush on this issue, aware of what the Republicans were trying to accomplish.

At a contentious press briefing on Wednesday, the White House spokesman, Scott McClellan, used the phrase "blame game" eight separate times as he tried to push back on criticism of the White House effort.

Representative J. Dennis Hastert, the House speaker, struck a similar theme, saying: "Some people are really very anxious to start pointing fingers and playing the blame game. I think we need to get our work done."

Mr. McClellan did not respond to e-mails seeking a response to the Democratic criticisms. But in a sign of the White House effort to move the dispute out of the Oval Office and try to cast the argument in partisan terms, the Republican National Committee chairman, Ken Mehlman, issued a statement assailing Democrats like Ms. Pelosi for "pointing fingers in a shameless effort to tear us apart."

Mrs. Clinton, in back-to-back television interviews Wednesday morning, angrily dismissed those kinds of attacks as a diversion from legitimate attempts by critics to point up shortcomings.

"That's what they always do; I've been living with that kind of rhetoric for the last four and a half years," Mrs. Clinton, Democrat of New York, said on the "Today" show. "It's time to end it. It's time to actually show this government can be competent."

The Democratic reaction took many forms, from urging campaign contributors to give money to hurricane victims, to proposing legislation to provide aid to stricken areas, as Mr. Kerry did, to criticizing the Bush administration for cuts it had made to the budget of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, as Mrs. Clinton did. In one less-noted gesture, Al Gore, the former vice president, chartered a private jet and flew doctors to storm-stricken areas.

The Democratic National Committee chairman, Howard Dean, said this could be a transitional moment for his party. "The Democratic Party needs a new direction," he said. "And I think it's become clear what the direction is: restore a moral purpose to America. Rebuild America's psyche."

"This is deeply disturbing to a lot of Americans, because it's more than thousands of people who get killed; it's about the destruction of the American community," Mr. Dean said. "The idea that somehow government didn't care until it had to for political reasons. It's appalling."

Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, said: "The powerful winds of this storm have torn away that mask that has hidden from our debates the many Americans who are left out and left behind."

For all the turmoil, Republican House leaders said Wednesday that they were confident it would not translate into a shift in power - if only, they argued, because there are not enough truly competitive seats next year to provide an opportunity for Democrats.

"Democrats throw stuff at the wall almost every week looking for something to stick," said Representative Thomas M. Reynolds of New York, head of the National Republican Congressional Committee. "This is something they have now chosen to politicize during a national disaster, versus let's get people taken care of and then move on to what we have learned from it."

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Michael DeWayne Brown: Facing Blame in a Disaster - New York Times

Michael DeWayne Brown: Facing Blame in a Disaster - New York TimesSeptember 7, 2005
Michael DeWayne Brown: Facing Blame in a Disaster
By SCOTT SHANE

WASHINGTON, Sept. 6 - Speaking at a Florida university last year, Michael D. Brown, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, recalled his small-town Oklahoma upbringing and offered advice he said few graduation speakers would offer.

"Everything in life is not perfect," Mr. Brown said. "Expect to make those mistakes. Expect to fall down every now and then. And expect to occasionally fail at something."

Mr. Brown may be calling on those maxims himself today, in his second week as on-the-ground manager of the largest disaster response in American history. He has faced two simultaneous challenges - coordinating 14 federal agencies with state and local counterparts under grueling conditions, and fending off criticism from those who say that FEMA has failed and put the blame squarely on him.

By all accounts, it was not experience in managing disasters that brought Mr. Brown, 50, a lawyer from Oklahoma, to FEMA in 2001 as general counsel. It was his 30-year friendship with Joe M. Allbaugh, who managed President Bush's 2000 presidential campaign and became his first director of the emergency agency..

But when pressed yet again to give his qualifications at a news conference on Monday, Mr. Brown gave a practiced answer, running through his learning curve as general counsel, then deputy director and finally, since 2003, director of FEMA.

He has overseen the response to 164 presidentially declared disasters, he said, including California wildfires, a rash of tornadoes in the Midwest several years ago and the four Florida hurricanes last year. "So, yes," he said, "I've been through a few disasters in my life."

Mr. Brown's spokeswoman, Natalie Rule, added on Tuesday that he oversaw an agency with a lot of experience in disaster management. "What you need is what he is - a leader who can manage budget, personnel and policy."

Nonetheless, Mr. Brown has been a hands-on manager, trudging through each new scene of devastation dispensing aid and encouragement. Since Hurricane Katrina, he has been a constant presence on television, rattling off statistics on people rescued and meals delivered.

But he stunned several national television interviewers last week with the admission that he did not know about the 20,000 evacuees at the convention center in New Orleans until Thursday, 24 hours after it was featured in news reports.

Senator Mary L. Landrieu offered a devastating critique on Friday in Baton Rouge. "I have been telling him from the moment he arrived about the urgency of the situation," she said. "I just have to tell you that he had a difficult time understanding the enormity of the task before us."

Since then, the news for Mr. Brown has not gotten better. The Times-Picayune, Louisiana's largest newspaper, asked Mr. Bush in an open letter to clean house at FEMA, calling "especially" for the ouster of Mr. Brown. On Monday, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff placed the Coast Guard's chief of staff, Vice Admiral Thad W. Allen, in charge of the New Orleans relief effort, clearly a move to beef up management where the problems have been most severe. And on Tuesday, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, in calling for FEMA to be made a separate cabinet-level agency, said its director should have emergency management experience.

Mr. Brown's friends say they have cringed watching the criticism of a man they describe as compassionate and dedicated to difficult work.

Mary Ann Karns, who worked as city attorney in Edmond, Okla., in the 1970's when Mr. Brown was her assistant, said, "He was interested in politics not for glory and not for power, but because he wanted to make things better for people."

Michael DeWayne Brown was born on Nov. 11, 1954 in Guymon, Okla. He and his wife, Tamara, have two grown children, Jared and Amy. His friends say he is an admirer of Theodore Roosevelt, an avid hiker and fly fisherman, and a collector of antique maps of the West.

In addition to his brief experience as a city official, Mr. Brown has practiced law, worked for the Oklahoma State Senate and served as counsel to an insurance company. He lost a race for Congress in 1988. But the job he did for a decade before joining FEMA is curiously omitted from his online agency résumé.

From 1991 to 2001, as commissioner of the International Arabian Horse Association, Mr. Brown enforced the rules administered by judges at the association's 300 annual horse shows. His decisions provoked a number of lawsuits, including one from David Boggs, a trainer whom Mr. Brown accused of having cosmetic surgery performed on horses.

Mr. Brown's critics in the horse world say he was forced to resign in January 2001 because association officers were upset that he had accepted donations to a personal legal defense fund. But Andy Lester, a friend of Mr. Brown's and his lawyer, said that his departure was "negotiated" and that there was no wrongdoing.

An ethics review panel upheld the charges against Mr. Boggs and suspended him for five years.

Mr. Lester said that Mr. Brown showed backbone in pursuing the charges despite the controversy that erupted in the horse industry.

"He did not fold under pressure," Mr. Lester said. By 2001, Mr. Brown was tired of the uproar and was ready to move on, said Tom Connelly, the president of the horse association at the time. He had often spoken of the possibility of a Washington job should Mr. Bush become president, Mr. Connelly recalled.

"What has surprised me is that he rose to the position he has now so quickly," Mr. Connelly said. "But when he started with the association, he didn't know horses. And he caught up in a hurry."

Putting Down New Roots on More Solid Ground - New York Times

Putting Down New Roots on More Solid Ground - New York TimesSeptember 7, 2005
Putting Down New Roots on More Solid Ground
By SUSAN SAULNY

HOUSTON, Sept. 6 - In her 19 years, all spent living in downtown New Orleans, Chavon Allen had never ventured farther than her bus fare would allow, and that was one trip last year to Baton Rouge. But now that she has seen Houston, she is planning to stay.

"This is a whole new beginning, a whole new start. I mean, why pass up a good opportunity, to go back to something that you know has problems?" asked Ms. Allen, who had been earning $5.15 an hour serving chicken in a Popeyes restaurant.

For Daphne Barconey, Hurricane Katrina disrupted plans for a grand house to be built on a $150,000 lot that she bought in eastern New Orleans just months ago.

Now, just eight days after the storm, she has a job in a hospital here, a year's lease on a four-bedroom apartment near the Galleria mall and no plan to return to New Orleans.

Jason Magee is a golf pro who says now is the time to move away from his native New Orleans. "I had been looking for an excuse to leave, and this is it," he said.

From across the economic spectrum, whether with heavy hearts or with optimism, the hundreds of thousands of people who fled the wrath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans are already putting down roots in new cities. If even a fraction of them decide not to return, the migration threatens a population crash that could be nearly as devastating to the New Orleans area as the storm itself.

And city officials know it. After days of asking, then demanding, now practically begging the residents of New Orleans to leave, they have mentally if not publicly changed gears and are devising strategy behind the scenes about how they will accomplish a titanic shift - in effect, a reverse evacuation.

Since its population peaked at almost 630,000 in 1960, New Orleans has been steadily losing its people. According to the last census, 445,000 people lived there. But a trickle of people over the decades is quite a different matter from what the city now faces, a sudden population bust that could subtract up to 250,000 people.

"I look at the situation, and it brings fear," said Rodney Braxton, the city's chief legislative lobbyist. "If there's one thing that gives me sorrow beyond the loss of life, it's that."

Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, head of the department of urban planning at the University of California, Los Angeles, underscored the size of the problem. "If a big chunk of the population doesn't come back, it's going to be horrific for the city," she said.

In Houston alone, close to 1,200 evacuees moved on Tuesday from the Astrodome into apartments with six-month leases.

"We know that with each passing day it's going to be harder to bring them back," Mr. Braxton said. "But we are going to fight for them."

So far, that fight is only in its infancy, but the first phase is already taking shape. Kenya Smith, the city's chief of intergovernmental relations, said city leaders intended to establish New Orleans-run centers in every area where large numbers of evacuees were known to be living.

The centers would be clearinghouses for information, providing neighborhood-by-neighborhood details about floodwaters and cleanup efforts, utilities and phone service.

The centers would also function as registration sites, to keep track of who is where.

The city intends to establish a toll-free number providing daily updates on information like the condition of the streets and giving residents opportunities to communicate with city officials.

Beyond that, Mr. Smith said, plans will have to be tailored to the different segments of society.

"Large pockets of our people will not have the means to travel great distances to get back, so we know we will have to help with that," Mr. Smith said.

Incentives are being discussed for evacuees who were better off.

"We intend to make it as easy as possible and to give them something to come home to," Mr. Braxton said, emphasizing the importance of improved infrastructure and storm protections. "There will have to be some creative legislation and ideas."

Mr. Magee, the golfer, says the storm will change the city's demographics.

"The middle class is dislodged now, and in six months, they're going to have to have a really compelling reason to move," he said.

Some people faithful to New Orleans will return no matter what. Glen Andrews, a jazz trombonist staying in the Astrodome, on Tuesday echoed the words of Fats Domino, a New Orleans native.

"I'm going home even if it comes down to walking to New Orleans," Mr. Andrews said. "It's my life, and I prefer to be in Louisiana, period. And it doesn't matter what's left there. I'm going to rebuild even if I have to hold a shovel and a horn at the same time."

But countless others were dissatisfied with their lives in New Orleans and were already thinking about leaving before the storm hit.

"Honestly, it was bad before," said Ms. Barconey, a 39-year-old nurse, citing the high poverty rate and poor public education. "It would have to be better than what it was."

Before the hurricane, the city was making itself better for both the middle class and the working class.

Mayor C. Ray Nagin had started economic development and building programs valued at about $4 billion and had pressed for homeownership in the city's poorest areas.

In fact, many residents had begun to move back to the city's core around the French Quarter, into newly gentrified areas like the Warehouse District along the Mississippi River and the Faubourg Marigny.

City officials hope the rebuilding effort will bolster their economy.

"One thing New Orleans was lacking was jobs," said Cynthia Hedge Morrell, a member of the City Council. "Now the rebuilding is going to bring a lot of good old-fashioned jobs. Bricklayers, plumbers, woodworkers, contractors. So is it going to be difficult? Yeah, and they might put off moving back for a while. But I do believe people want to come back to their home."

Given how she feels now, Ms. Barconey says the makeover will have to be extreme. "They're going to have to, some kind of way, raise that city above sea level or I'm not going back. I'm serious. I'm not putting myself in that same predicament."

If city officials were to take the advice of urban planners, they would already be putting out strong messages that the destruction would not be repeated once new levees and drains were built.

"There need to be assurances that where people are rebuilding, no new flooding will happen," Dr. Loukaitou-Sideris said, adding that officials need to come together and publicize a master plan for the city.

"Cities that lose population eventually decline, but New Orleans is a city with such character, that would be hard to imagine unless people totally lose faith in their government," she said.

After the way she was treated during the evacuation, Ms. Allen says she has lost that faith. Being evacuated from the Superdome, she sobbed through a cascade of tears on a Greyhound bus: "Goodbye New Orleans. Bye-bye Louisiana."

Looking back at that moment from a grassy stretch outside the Astrodome on Tuesday, she said she knew even then that goodbye meant forever.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

The So Called Liberal Media, Race and Katrina


In light of yesterday's topic on Looting and Race | Hip MamaLooting" or "finding"?
Bloggers are outraged over the different captions on photos of blacks and whites in New Orleans.

By Aaron Kinney

Sept. 1, 2005 | Two photographs of New Orleans residents wading through chest-deep water unleashed a wave of chatter among bloggers Wednesday about whether black people are being treated unfairly in media coverage of post-hurricane looting.

One of the images, shot by photographer Dave Martin for the Associated Press, shows a young black man wading through chest-deep waters after "looting" a grocery store, according to the caption. The young man appears to have a case of Pepsi under one arm and a full garbage bag in tow. In the other, similar shot, taken by photographer Chris Graythen for AFP/Getty Images, a white man and a light-skinned woman are shown wading through chest-deep water after "finding" goods including bread and soda, according to the caption, in a local grocery store.
The images were both published on Tuesday by Yahoo News. "We don't edit photo captions," Yahoo P.R. manager Brian Nelson told Salon. "Sometimes we take a look at the photos and we'll choose to pull photos, but the captions run as is." A search of AP and Getty's image databases confirms that Yahoo News did not alter either of the photo captions before posting them

Looting has become a serious problem in the aftermath of Katrina, and conditions in the area continue to be extremely challenging for everyone, journalists included. Bloggers were quick to raise allegations of insensitivity and racism regarding the disparity in the two captions -- but did they pass judgment too quickly? Not only did the photos come from separate outlets, bloggers had no knowledge of the circumstances in which the shots were taken, beyond what appeared in the published captions.

On Wednesday, D.C. Web gossip Wonkette suggested the Associated Press should apologize, while a blogger at Daily Kos commented alongside the juxtaposed images, "And don't forget. It's not looting if you're white."

"I am curious how one photographer knew the food was looted by one but not the other," wrote Boston Globe correspondent Christina Pazzanese, in a letter posted on media commentator Jim Romenesko's blog. "Were interviews conducted as they swam by? Should editors, in a rush to publish poignant or startling images, relax their standards or allow personal or regional biases creep into captions and stories?"

The AP database includes two other images from the same scene by photographer Dave Martin that refer to looters in the captions, though neither actually shows an explicit act of looting. Jack Stokes, AP's director of media relations, confirmed today that Martin says he witnessed the people in his images looting a grocery store. "He saw the person go into the shop and take the goods," Stokes said, "and that's why he wrote 'looting' in the caption."

Santiago Lyon, AP's director of photography, told Salon that all captions are vetted by editors and are the result of a dialogue between editor and photographer. Lyon said AP's policy is that each photographer can describe only what he or she actually sees. He added, "When we see people go into businesses and come out with goods, we call it 'looting.'" On the other hand, he said, "When we just see them carrying things down the road, we call it 'carrying items.'"

Regarding the AFP/Getty "finding" photo by Graythen, Getty spokeswoman Bridget Russel said, "This is obviously a big tragedy down there, so we're being careful with how we credit these photos." Russel said that Graythen had discussed the image in question with his editor and that if Graythen didn't witness the two people in the image in the act of looting, then he couldn't say they were looting.

But if he didn't witness an act of looting, how did Graythen determine where the items came from, or if they were "found"? "I wish I could tell you," Russel said. "I haven't been able to talk to Chris."

"The only thing I can tell you is they don't assume one way or another," she added.

Yahoo News published another photo Tuesday of a looting scene that caught bloggers' attention. This one, by AP photographer Bill Feig, shows a white man walking away from a looted convenience store, looking in a grocery bag, while a black man jumps out of the store's broken front window. The caption reads, "As one person looks through their shopping bag, left, another jumps through a broken window, while leaving a convenience store ... in Metairie, La." According to the caption, Feig shot the image while on a helicopter tour of Louisiana with Gov. Kathleen Blanco.

"I think it's fair to say that he described what he saw ... which is somebody going through their bag," Stokes said, affirming that Feig must not have seen the man with the grocery bag actually leaving the looted store.

Both Stokes and Russel said their photographers would be unable to comment further on the images for now, because of the chaos and poor communications conditions prevailing in New Orleans and the surrounding region.

The stakes remain high in the aftermath of this disaster, says Pazzanese. "Seems to me the national 'crisis mode' coverage of Katrina in a predominantly black, poor part of the country presents a number of professional challenges for everyone in the media around the subject of racial and economic sensitivity," she wrote on Romenesko. "Perhaps these photos will stimulate a media 'gut check' as we race to tell the stories of the thousands who lost their lives and livelihoods."

Monday, September 05, 2005

New Orleans Begins a Search for Its Dead; Toll Remains Unclear - New York Times

New Orleans Begins a Search for Its Dead; Toll Remains Unclear - New York TimesSeptember 5, 2005
New Orleans Begins a Search for Its Dead; Toll Remains Unclear
By ROBERT D. McFADDEN

Troops patrolled the streets, rescuers hunted for stragglers and New Orleans looked like a wrecked ghost town yesterday as the evacuation of the city neared completion and the authorities turned to the grim task of collecting bodies in a ghastly landscape awash in numberless corpses.

In a city riven by violence for a week, there was yet another shootout yesterday. Contractors for the Army Corps of Engineers came under fire as they crossed a bridge to work on a levee, and police escorts shot back, killing three assailants outright and a fourth in a later gunfight, the police said, adding that a fifth suspect had been wounded and captured. There was no explanation for it, only the numbing facts.

The larger picture of death was just as murky. No one could say how many had died in the hurricane or were waiting to be rescued after the city's levees burst. One morgue at the St. Gabriel Prison near New Orleans was expecting 1,000 to 2,000 bodies. Hundreds were missing in nearby Chalmette. In Baton Rouge, state officials said the official Louisiana death toll stood at 59, but most said that thousands was a more realistic figure. More than 125 were known dead in Mississippi.

"I think it's evident it's in the thousands," Michael O. Leavitt, the secretary of health and human services, told CNN on Sunday.

Seven days after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, the New Orleans known as America's vibrant capital of jazz and gala Mardi Gras celebrations was gone. In its place was a partly submerged city of abandoned homes and ruined businesses, of bodies in attics or floating in deserted streets, of misery that had driven most of its nearly 500,000 residents into a diaspora of biblical proportions.

As the effects of the crisis spread across the nation, 20 states have opened their shelters, homes and schools to the refugees. But moving the population of New Orleans to other parts of the country has created overcrowding and strains. In Texas, where nearly half the refugees are jamming stadiums, civic centers and hotels, Gov. Rick Perry said the state's capacity was almost exhausted. Thousands of people were also arriving at Fort Chaffee in Arkansas.

In Baton Rouge, at two places, hundreds of people, many carrying umbrellas to protect them from the scorching heat, were lined up for hours waiting for emergency food stamps and other public assistance.

There were no quick solutions. Making New Orleans habitable again was expected to take many months, even a year.

Meanwhile, there were holdouts in the city, unknown numbers of people who refused to go. They were being urged to leave for their own safety. Officials warned of an impossible future in a destroyed city without food, water, power or other necessities, only the specter of cholera, typhoid or mosquitoes carrying malaria or the West Nile virus.

As helicopter and boat crews searched flooded neighborhoods for survivors yesterday and officials focused for the first time on finding, collecting and counting the dead, Michael Chertoff, the secretary of homeland security, warned that Americans must brace for some gruesome sights in the days ahead.

"We need to prepare the country for what's coming," Mr. Chertoff said on the "Fox News Sunday" television program. "We are going to uncover people who died hiding in the houses, maybe got caught in the floods. It is going to be as ugly a scene as you can imagine."

Stung by critics who say its sluggish response compounded the suffering and cost lives, the Bush administration rolled out a public relations offensive yesterday. Mr. Chertoff visited the Sunday television talk shows to give status reports and defend the government's response.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld went to the stricken states yesterday to assess the damage and pledge relief, and President Bush planned another visit to Louisiana and Mississippi today. He flew over the area on Wednesday as he returned to Washington from a vacation at his Texas ranch, and made an inspection tour on Friday.

The administration's problems in the crisis seemed to crystallize in a dramatic appearance on the NBC program "Meet the Press" by Aaron Broussard, president of Jefferson Parish near New Orleans. Sobbing, he told of an emergency management official receiving phone calls from his mother, who, trapped in a nursing home, pleaded day after day for rescue. Assured by federal officials, the man promised her repeatedly that help was on the way.

"Every day she called him and said, "Are you coming, son? Is somebody coming?' " Mr. Broussard said. "And he said, 'Yeah, Mama, somebody's coming to get you.' Somebody's coming to get you on Tuesday. Somebody's coming to get you on Wednesday. Somebody's coming to get you on Thursday. Somebody's coming to get you on Friday. And she drowned Friday night. She drowned Friday night."

Mr. Broussard angrily denounced the country's leadership. "We have been abandoned by our own country," he said. "It's not just Katrina that caused all these deaths in New Orleans here. Bureaucracy has committed murder here in the greater New Orleans area, and bureaucracy has to stand trial before Congress now."

Congress, returning from a summer recess, is widely expected to undertake investigations into the causes of and reaction to the crisis, and even some Republicans warned that the government's response, widely viewed as slow and ineffectual, could further undermine Mr. Bush's authority at a time when he is lagging in the polls, endangering his Congressional agenda.

In New Orleans, thousands of National Guard and active duty troops as well as federal marshals finally appeared to be in control of streets where looters and hooligans had run wild for days last week, unchecked by overwhelmed police officers who were focused on saving lives, not property, in the chaotic city. Fires had burned unchecked by overwhelmed firefighters.

The crisis put enormous pressure on many police officers and firefighters, pressure some could not withstand. P. Edwin Compass III, the New Orleans police superintendent, said on Saturday that 200 of the 1,500 members of his force had walked off the job and that two others had committed suicide. He said yesterday that the city had offered to send all members of the police and fire departments and their families on vacations to Las Vegas.

"When you go through something this devastating and traumatic, you've got to do something dramatic to jump-start the healing process," Mr. Compass said.

The notion of a vacation in the midst of disaster struck some as unusual. But officials likened it to an R&R break for combat troops. Military reinforcements, who arrived in the thousands over the weekend, will take over the search and rescue work temporarily, though New Orleans officials said they would remain in charge.

"We haven't turned over control of the city," said Col. Terry Ebbert, director of homeland security for New Orleans. "We're going to leave a skeleton force - about 20 percent of the department - for leadership and liaison with the troops while we get some rest."

During the buildup of troops in recent days, federal, state and local officials have given often wildly disparate figures for military personnel on the ground or on the way. Mr. Bush on Saturday said there were more than 21,000 National Guard troops in Louisiana and Mississippi and 4,000 active duty forces to assist them. He ordered 7,000 more troops into New Orleans.

Colonel Ebbert put the number in the city at 1,000. Yesterday, Brig. Gen. Michael P. Fleming of the National Guard in Baton Rouge said there were 16,000 guardsmen in Louisiana.

The deployment of the troops, whatever their numbers, the arrival of tons of food and other supplies, and progress in closing the breached levees added to a sense of momentum in the stricken city over the weekend. So did stepped-up evacuation efforts. The Louisiana Superdome and the New Orleans convention center, which had become fetid and dangerous refuges for as many as 50,000, were virtually emptied. Hotels, hospitals and other shelters were also evacuated.

Though the number of the dead was still unknown, a few details could be gleaned about the tragedy. Officials said nine bodies came from the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, where emergency workers had set up a triage unit. Of a group of 11 bodies from the Superdome, officials said, many were ailing patients on ventilators.

New Orleans remained a city in crisis. There was still no power except that provided by generators, almost nowhere to buy food or water, no reliable transportation or communications systems, no effective firefighting forces.

There were thousands of people awaiting flights out at the airport. Officials said 3,000 to 5,000 people had been treated at the unit, and that only 200 remained. The airport director, Roy Williams, said 30 people had died, some of them elderly.

Other problems developed. Even as the city population dwindled, hundreds of new arrivals were reported to be entering from outlying towns, stragglers who had been unable to escape from their hometowns in the past week and who believed their surest way out could be found with the buses, trains and planes evacuating New Orleans.

There was no way to tell how many New Orleans residents remained in the city. Many were believed hiding in homes or apartments. Rescue teams in helicopters searched flooded neighborhoods and went out in boats and on foot to press a house-to-house search for holdouts yesterday. One helicopter crashed, but no one was injured. Many residents were found and evacuated, but what Mr. Chertoff called a significant number refused to go.

"That is not a reasonable alternative," he said on "Fox News Sunday." "We are not going to be able to have people sitting in houses in the city of New Orleans for weeks and months while we de-water and clean the city."

People like Frank Asevado III, a 37-year-old mechanic, and Travis Latapie, 44, a shrimp fisherman, both from St. Bernard Parish, east of New Orleans, complained bitterly in interviews of being abandoned by the government after the waters engulfed their community. They told of using their boats for several days to save 300 friends and neighbors, plucking them from floodwaters and the roofs of homes and cars.

"We never see no Coast Guard, no nothing," Mr. Latapie said.

Mr. Asevado added, "The government didn't do jack."

Aid from around the country continued to move toward the stricken region. New York City, which dispatched 100 city buses and 172 police officers to New Orleans on Saturday, decided yesterday to send 150 more officers and 300 firefighters today. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg noted that Louisiana had been among the many states that helped New York after Sept. 11.

"We understand that we have an obligation, and we're happy to do it," the mayor said.

In the midst of misery in New Orleans, there were lingering signs of a fading vivacity. About two dozen people gathered in the French Quarter for an annual Labor Day gay celebration, the Decadence Parade. Matt Menold, 23, a street musician wearing a sombrero and a guitar, explained: "It's New Orleans, man. We're going to celebrate."

But the tragedy of New Orleans was more vividly represented in the Garden District, a business area dotted with antique shops. At the corner of Jackson Avenue and Magazine Street, a woman's body had been on the sidewalk since Wednesday. People had covered her with blankets and plastic, and by yesterday a small wall of bricks had been erected around the corpse to hold down a tarpaulin to cloak her.

On it, someone had spray-painted a cross and an epitaph: "Here lies Vera. God help us."

Reporting for this article was contributed by Jeremy Alford, Sewell Chan and Michael Luo from Baton Rouge, La., and John DeSantis, Christopher Drew and Joseph B. Treaster from New Orleans.

BBC NEWS | Americas | Violence mars US hurricane rescue

BBC NEWS | Americas | Violence mars US hurricane rescueiolence mars US hurricane rescue

US police in the hurricane-stricken city of New Orleans have shot eight people, reportedly killing five, as a massive rescue effort continues.

The incident occurred when contractors escorted by officers were fired at.

The authorities have vowed to restore security in the city following a breakdown of law and order.

Rescue teams are working around the clock to move stranded survivors to safety - although some residents appear determined to stay behind.

Sunday's shooting took place while 14 contractors were crossing the Danziger Bridge under police escort, New Orleans Deputy Police Chief WJ Riley said.

He said the contractors came under fire from gunmen and police officers shot back, killing at least five of them.

None of the contractors was killed.

In a separate incident, a helicopter with two civilians on board crashed in the city.

The two people on board, who are said not to have been involved in the rescue operation, got away with minor injuries.

Grim forecasts

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said troops had secured the city and full relief operations were underway.

Helicopters and boats are still looking for survivors in flooded neighbourhoods.

Even though only 59 bodies have been recovered so far in New Orleans, it is believed the death toll could run into the thousands.

"I can't tell you what the numbers are going to be, but I think we need to prepare the country for what's coming," Mr Chertoff said on Sunday.

"We are going to uncover people who died, maybe hiding in houses, got caught by the flood... It is going to be about as ugly of a scene as I think you can imagine."

The authorities has issued a mandatory evacuation order.

The Coast Guard made a media appeal for all those stranded to hang out bright or white clothes to draw attention.

But the BBC's Richard Greene says he met several people who were determined to stay behind.

The first few days were a natural disaster, the last four days were a man-made disaster
Phillip Holt, 51
New Orleans evacuee

Mr Chertoff has warned that staying is not a reasonable alternative.

"We are not going to be able to have people sitting in houses ... for weeks and months while we de-water and clean the city," he said.

"The flooded places, when they are de-watered, are not going to be sanitary."

EU help

Earlier, senior members of the administration visited the devastated Gulf Coast, amid accusations that the federal response to the crisis had been inadequate.

Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld - who was in New Orleans - said it would take "many months, and into years" for the city to recover.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, for her part, toured Mobile, Alabama.

She said it had been the sheer scale of the disaster that had made the government's response seem slow.

Meanwhile, the US has given the EU and Nato a list of specific emergency aid it needs for the relief operation.

American officials have asked for blankets, first aid kits, water trucks and food.

EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said the union was ready to offer whatever assistance it could, while Nato said it too was ready to help.

More than one million people are said to have had to leave their homes in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Most of them are in Texas, Tennessee, Indiana and Arkansas.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Japan Today - News - Guardsmen 'played cards' amid New Orleans chaos - Japan's Leading International News Network

Japan Today - News - Guardsmen 'played cards' amid New Orleans chaos - Japan's Leading International News NetworkGuardsmen 'played cards' amid New Orleans chaos

Send to a friendPrint

Sunday, September 4, 2005 at 07:32 JST
NEW ORLEANS — A top New Orleans police officer said Saturday that National Guard troops sat around playing cards while people died in the stricken city after Hurricane Katrina.

New Orleans deputy police commander W.S. Riley launched a bitter attack on the federal response to the disaster though he praised the way the evacuation was eventually handled.

Chief Justice Rehnquist Dies at 80 - New York Times

Chief Justice Rehnquist Dies at 80 - New York TimesSeptember 4, 2005
Chief Justice Rehnquist Dies at 80
By LINDA GREENHOUSE

WASHINGTON, Sunday, Sept. 4 - Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist died Saturday night of the thyroid cancer he had battled for nearly a year, opening a second Supreme Court vacancy just days before Senate confirmation hearings were to begin to fill the seat being vacated by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

Kathleen Arburg, the court's public information officer, said Chief Justice Rehnquist, 80, had died at his home in Arlington, Va., surrounded by his three children. She said he had been working at the court during the summer recess until his health declined a "precipitous decline" in the last few days. (Obituary)

Although the chief justice was known to be seriously ill with the thyroid cancer, which was diagnosed last October, his death at this moment came as a surprise. Six weeks ago, with rumors swirling that he would soon retire, he issued an unusual statement declaring that he would continue to serve as chief justice "as long as my health permits."

His death on the eve of the confirmation hearings for Judge John G. Roberts Jr., set to begin Tuesday, raised the prospect that President Bush might transfer Judge Roberts's nomination, making him a candidate for chief justice instead. Judge Roberts was a law clerk to Chief Justice Rehnquist, who was then an associate justice, during the court's 1980 term.

The White House press secretary, Scott McClellan, said President Bush had been informed of the chief justice's death shortly before 11 p.m.

"The President and Mrs. Bush are deeply saddened at the passing of Chief Justice Rehnquist. His family is in their thoughts and prayers," the White House said in a statement.

The chief justice's death also raised the question of whether Justice O'Connor, who announced July 1 that her retirement would be effective upon the confirmation of her successor, might agree to remain on the court in the interim. There is essentially no prospect that two Supreme Court vacancies can be filled before the new court term begins on Oct. 3.

The last time the Supreme Court had two vacancies at once was in 1971, when Justices Hugo Black and John Marshall Harlan retired in the face of terminal illnesses. President Richard M. Nixon then named William H. Rehnquist, who was an assistant attorney general, to one of the vacancies and Lewis F. Powell Jr. to the other. Justice Rehnquist took his seat on January 7, 1972. President Ronald Reagan named him in 1986 to be the 16th chief justice of the United States.

The chief justice is survived by his three children: Janet Rehnquist, James Rehnquist, and Nancy Spears; by his sister, Jean Laurin; and by nine grandchildren. His wife, Natalie Cornell Rehnquist, died in 1991.

Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said the chief justice "served his country with honor, dignity and distinction for over 30 years," adding that "he was grounded in his beliefs and was a staunch defender of an independent judiciary."

William H. Rehnquist began his long Supreme Court career on the far right of the court's ideological spectrum. But subsequent appointments by Republican presidents eventually gave him a working majority that permitted him to accomplish many of his goals, including a greater solicitude for states' rights and for the role of religion in public life. He also led the court in cutting back on some of the Warren court's liberal precedents that favored the rights of criminal defendants.

But when the court had an opportunity several years ago to overturn the famous Miranda ruling, which the chief justice had long criticized, he wrote the majority opinion reaffirming the precedent, saying that it had become incorporated into American life.

"The imprint of his gavel has been deep," Senator Bill Frist, the majority leader, said in a statement. "Its impact has been profound. Now it is cemented forever in our history. He leaves behind a legacy as one of the most influential chief justices in our nation's history."

While praising Justice Rehnquist for his contributions, Mr. Frist, a Tennessee Republican, said lawmakers would be consulting to gauge how to proceed given the looming start of Judge Roberts's hearings.

"As we take in this large loss, I will consult with Chairman Specter on how to move forward pending judiciary committee business," Mr. Frist said in a statement of Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania and chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

Chief Justice Rehnquist received chemotherapy last fall. But he did not disclose what kind or for how long. Twice this summer, he was taken to the hospital for treatment of fevers.

He died without ever disclosing the type of thyroid cancer that he first noticed when his voice became hoarse in the fall of 2004.

His need initially for a tracheotomy - cutting a hole in his windpipe to help him breathe - was extraordinary for the standard forms of thyroid cancer. Many experts on the disease who were not connected with his case said they strongly suspected that he had the most aggressive form, known as anaplastic thyroid cancer. It usually kills in less than a year, often in months.

Chief Justice Rehnquist seemed to be beating the predictions.

In April, he wrote a thank-you note to thyroid cancer researchers for their efforts, which he said allowed him to resume working in his chambers and at home.

Taipei Times - archives

Taipei Times - archivesBeijing warns US against missile help for Taiwan

AGENCIES , BEIJING
Friday, Sep 02, 2005,Page 3

China warned the US and other governments yesterday against using missile-defense systems to protect Taiwan or helping Taipei produce its own system.

"China opposes any country's inclusion of Taiwan in its missile defense system," said Zhang Yan (張炎), director-general of the Chinese Foreign Ministry's arms control department.

"It also opposes efforts or attempts to support or provide the Taiwan region with a missile defense system," he said.

Zhang didn't mention the US by name, but some US officials have suggested that a possible missile defense system might be extended to Taiwan.

Asked whether China would use nuclear weapons to threaten or attack Taiwan, Zhang repeated China's pledge not to be the first to use nuclear weapons in a conflict and not to use them against "non-nuclear-weapons states."

"That position has remained unchanged and will not change in the future," Zhang said.

`We will seek peaceful reunification with maximum efforts and sincerity, but we will never tolerate Taiwan independence,'' Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang (秦剛) said at a regular press briefing yesterday.

Both men's comments came after Beijing issued a white paper, China's Endeavors for Arms Control, Disarmament and Non-Proliferation, ahead of President Hu Jintao's (胡錦濤) visit to the US next week.

"China does not wish to see a missile defense system produce negative impact on global strategic stability, bring new unstable factors to international and regional peace and stability, erode trust among big powers or undermine legitimate security interests of other countries," the report said.

In the 17,000-word paper, China also reiterated its commitment to a policy of no-first-use of nuclear weapons and pledged not to engage in a nuclear arms race.

In Taipei, Mainland Affairs Council Vice Chairman You Ying-lung (游盈隆) yesterday declined to comment on the report, saying he had not seen a copy yet.

Additional reporting by Shih Hsiu-chuan

Bush Pledges More Troops as Evacuation Grows - New York Times

Bush Pledges More Troops as Evacuation Grows - New York TimesSeptember 4, 2005
Bush Pledges More Troops as Evacuation Grows
By ROBERT D. McFADDEN

The pace of evacuations in New Orleans picked up markedly yesterday, and President Bush said that he had ordered 7,000 additional troops to the city and the Gulf Coast states to crack down on lawlessness and to evacuate thousands of refugees.

Most of the hurricane survivors have been cleared from the New Orleans Superdome and the convention center, where they huddled in squalor and chaos for days. At least 19,000 have been reported evacuated from the area, with thousands bused to Texas.

Caravans of buses that for thousands meant deliverance from danger, hunger and misery were finally rolling in, and thousands more, including 100 New York City buses accompanied by New York police officers, were on the way.

But new problems are beginning to emerge. More than 220,000 hurricane refugees are already in Texas and thousands more are coming. Gov. Rick Perry of Texas said yesterday that local officials were reporting "they are quickly approaching capacity in the number of evacuees they believe they can assist."

With the stranded still being brought out of New Orleans on stretchers and by air, bus and train, the president acknowledged again yesterday that his administration had failed to help many of the hurricane's most desperate victims promptly and promised to resurrect New Orleans and devastated coastal areas of several states.

"I know that those of you who have been hit hard by Katrina are suffering," Mr. Bush declared hours after signing a $10.5 billion package of assistance for the stricken region, which he called a down payment on aid to come. "Many are angry and desperate for help. The tasks before us are enormous, but so is the heart of America. In America, we do not abandon our fellow citizens in our hour of need. And the federal government will do its part."

While the number of dead is unknown, expanded search and rescue effort brought new glimpses of the likely death toll, with bodies set out in makeshift morgues, abandoned on roads or floating in canals. Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco of Louisiana said she expected the death toll to reach thousands. Rear Adm. W. Craig Vanderwagen of the federal Public Health Service said just one morgue, at a St. Gabriel prison, was expecting as many as to 2,000 bodies.

The authorities told of a huge toll in Chalmette, a small community east of New Orleans, where 31 bodies were found in a nursing home and hundreds more residents were missing.

The refugee emergency is beginning to affect neighboring states, Texas most of all. About 18,500 refugees were in the Houston Astrodome and an adjacent building, amid reports that it was at capacity. More than 120,000 refugees were in 97 shelters in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and other cities, according to Governor Perry's office, with an additional 100,000 in hotels and motels.

The American Red Cross reported Saturday night that it was housing more than 96,000 refugees in nine states. Louisiana had more than 51,000 refugees in 127 Red Cross shelters; Mississippi had more than 13,000 in 102 shelters; and Alabama had nearly 4,000 in 47 shelters.

Hundreds of newly arrived National Guard troops patrolled the lawless streets of New Orleans yesterday, beginning the task of wresting control from thugs and looters and restoring order in a city that had all but surrendered to death and disorder after Hurricane Katrina. Their numbers were unknown, but the head of the city's emergency services said there were only about a thousand, far fewer than needed.

The deployment of the troops, the arrival of major convoys of desperately needed supplies, the speeded evacuation of tens of thousands of people from refugee centers and hospitals, and progress in closing some of the breached levees brought glimmers of hope for the flooded and ravaged city.

The Army Corps of Engineers said crews had closed a 300-foot gap in the 17th Street Canal levee, where the heaviest floodwaters had entered the city, and said they expected to close a second gap in another canal over the weekend. But Brig. Gen. Robert Crear said it might take months to remove all the floodwaters from the swamped city. "We're looking at anywhere from 36 to 80 days to being done," he said.

Some federal officials, including Michael Chertoff, the secretary of homeland security, planned an immediate trip to the region and President Bush scheduled another trip to Louisiana for Monday.

Officials continued to explain their initial slow response. At a news conference, Mr. Chertoff called the hurricane and subsequent flooding, an "ultra-catastrophe" that exceeded the foresight of planners. Asked what the government's response signified about the nation's preparedness for a potential terrorist attack, Mr. Chertoff said, "If an ultra-catastrophe occurs, there's going to be some harmful fallout."

Mr. Chertoff said the war in Iraq was not hurting the Guard's ability to respond to domestic catastrophe. He said the issue was not numbers, but logistics. "These are citizen soldiers, we have to get them mobilized and deployed," he said.

While thousands of refugees were evacuated from the New Orleans convention center, chaos continued at the airport, thousands were still trapped in homes and hotels, fires raged virtually unchecked in parts of the city, the power was out, and vast sections were still under water.

Those who were newly rescued came with tales of endurance and loss. Waiting for evacuation at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, Kevin Davis, 34, said he had been stranded on a bridge since Tuesday with 30 others. When a helicopter sought Friday to extricate his wife, Donies, she slipped out of the harness and fell back to the bridge where she was unconscious and bleeding, he said. Another helicopter took her away a half hour later but left Mr. Davis behind.

"Nobody can tell me anything about my wife," he said, as he waited to be flown out of New Orleans.

On streets where gun battles, fistfights, holdups, carjackings and marauding mobs of looters had held sway through the week, the mere sight of troops in camouflage battle gear and with assault rifles gave a sense of relief to many of the thousands of stranded survivors who had endured days of appalling terror and suffering.

"They brought a sense of order and peace, and it was a beautiful sight to see that we're ramping up," Governor Blanco said. "We are seeing a show of force. It's putting confidence back in our hearts and in the minds of our people. We're going to make it through."

Still officials cautioned that New Orleans faced a long, difficult climb out of the crisis. Six days after the hurricane decimated the Gulf Coast in a fantasia of howling winds and towering seas that weakened and then breached the city's protective levees, New Orleans was still a nightmarish town that had endured the unthinkable: 80 percent of its ground flooded, perhaps thousands of its citizens killed and numberless homes and businesses destroyed by water, fires, looters and scavengers.

The shocking discovery of a large number of victims in Chalmette added a chilling new dimension to the scope of the disaster. While national attention has focused primarily on the tragedy of New Orleans, officials said almost no notice had been given to scores of outlying communities that were even more exposed to the storm's wrath - towns isolated on the peninsulas of the bird's foot delta reaching into the Gulf of Mexico.

At dawn yesterday, as a brilliant orange sun rose over the Mississippi, two huge columns of smoke climbed over the city as major fires burned unchecked, one apparently at the scene of an explosion that ripped through a propane gas storage warehouse on Friday, and another at a Saks Fifth Avenue store. Firefighters were handicapped by low water pressure and the difficulty of getting around the flooded city.

There was no electricity in the city, and almost every office and store was closed. Bodies still floated in the floodwaters, and everywhere were signs of recent disorder: shattered storefronts, the detritus of looting that showed help had come too late. There was no water or food for sale, and no one had any idea how many people were still in New Orleans. A police officer making rescues in a boat said several people in homes five feet deep in water had turned him away, saying they had plenty of food, water and beer.

The streets downtown were nearly deserted yesterday morning. Here and there, people pushed shopping carts, carried bags or dragged suitcases filled with their remaining possessions. Troops were on patrol outside City Hall, at the federal buildings, at refugee centers and at major intersections, and there were only glimpses of the hoodlums who had ruled unchecked for days.

Superintendent P. Edward Compass III of the Police Department said 200 of the 1,500 officers on his force had walked off the job, citing the perils of fighting armed and menacing refugees, and he reported that two officers had committed suicide.

While the sound of gunfire had been common in the streets of New Orleans for much of the week, it seemed to taper off. Michael D. Brown, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said much of the earlier violence had been by youths with guns.

"Some of these kids think this is a game," he said. "They somehow got their hands on a weapon. They think they are playing Pac-Man or something and shooting at people. Those kinds of hot spots will continue, but I can tell you they will learn very quickly the 82nd Airborne does not like to be shot at. This is not a game."

The absence of any widespread disorder was only one of the positive signs. In addition to the arrival of hundreds of National Guard troops to the region, which coincided with President Bush's visit on Friday, there were other signs of hope.

The evacuations of Tulane University and Charity Hospitals were completed, officials said, but three other hospitals remained open. The evacuation of the Louisiana Superdome, which had become a fetid shelter of last resort for 25,000 people, was all but completed, with many of its refugees taken to the Astrodome in Houston, 350 miles away.

Progress was made in repairing breached levees that had allowed the waters of Lake Pontchartrain to flood the below-sea-level city. Three breaks occurred in canals that jut into New Orleans from the lakefront. The mouths of each of the canals have been closed, and engineers and contractors have begun to drain the canals to get at powerful pumps that will be used to clear water from the city. They also have begun to reconstruct the levee itself, driving piles into the 300-foot gap.

Amtrak made its first run out of New Orleans since the hurricane, carrying 650 people to Dallas.

Convoys of trucks carrying food, water and other relief supplies rolled into the city and were greeted by cheers and sobs of relief by some of the exhausted, traumatized refugees. Others, like 46-year-old Michael Levy, one of the refugees at the convention center, were bitter. "They should have been here days ago," he said as others yelled in agreement.

Elisabeth Bumiller and Eric Lipton contributed reporting from Washington for this article, Joseph B. Treaster from New Orleans and Campbell Robertson from Gulfport, Miss.

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Dozens die as typhoon hits China

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Dozens die as typhoon hits China Dozens die as typhoon hits China
At least 54 people have died in China because of flooding and landslides triggered by Typhoon Talim.

About 40 died in the province of Anhui when Talim made landfall on Thursday, and 14 died in the city of Wenzhou, China's Xinhua news agency reported.

Some 400,000 people were affected by the storm, which caused an estimated $877m (£476m) worth of damage.

The weakening storm hit China on Thursday after killing two people and injuring dozens in Taiwan.

By Saturday Talim had weakened to a tropical storm as it moved further inland.

Homes damaged

More than 100,000 people had been evacuated from their homes in Anhui, with 400,000 people in the province affected by the storm.

Up to a million people were moved from low-lying coastal flood plains in Zhejiang and Fujian provinces, Xinhua said.


At least 23 people were listed as missing after heavy wind and rain flooded roads, knocked down power lines and set off landslides.

In one mountainous rural area, mudslides buried two buildings with 11 people still inside.

One died before rescue teams arrived, while five others were hurt.

Almost 12,000 homes were damaged in the south-eastern coastal city of Wenzhou, in Zhejiang province, Xinhua said.

Serious flooding throughout southern and eastern China this summer has killed more than 1,000 people and left hundreds missing, presumed dead.

Strong typhoons regularly hit Asian nations along the western edge of the Pacific Ocean throughout the summer months.

Typhoon Nabi, a separate storm heading towards Japan, weakened on Sunday to a category three typhoon. It was expected to weaken further before hitting the southern island of Kyushu.
Story from BBC NEWS: