Friday, October 28, 2005

Investigators Link Levee Failures to Design Flaws

Three Teams of Engineers Find Weakened Soil, Navigation Canal Contributed to La. Collapses
By Joby Warrick and Michael Grunwald
Washington Post Staff Writers
October 26, 2005

NEW ORLEANS -- Within a space of 15 hours on Aug. 29, three massive, concrete floodwalls in separate parts of the city suddenly fractured and burst under the weight of surging waters from Hurricane Katrina. The breaches unleashed a wall of water that swept entire buildings from their foundations and transformed what might have been a routine hurricane into the costliest storm in U.S. history.

Today, exactly eight weeks after the storm, all three breaches are looking less like acts of God and more like failures of engineering that could have been anticipated and very likely prevented.

Investigators in recent days have assembled evidence implicating design flaws in the failures of two floodwalls near Lake Pontchartrain that collapsed when weakened soils beneath them became saturated and began to slide. They also have confirmed that a little-used navigation canal helped amplify and intensify Katrina's initial surge, contributing to a third floodwall collapse on the east side of town. The walls and navigation canal were built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the agency responsible for defending the city against hurricane-related flooding.

The preliminary findings -- based on physical evidence, Corps documents and hydrodynamic models run through a Louisiana State University supercomputer -- are the work of three teams of engineers and forensic experts conducting separate probes. The investigations are shedding light not only on the cause of the failures but also the scale of the rebuilding effort: The discovery of major flaws in the design of the city's levees and floodwalls could add billions of dollars to the cost of New Orleans' recovery.

Investigators already have rejected the initial explanation offered by Corps officials in the hurricane's aftermath that massive storm surges had overtopped and overwhelmed floodwalls on the 17th Street and London Avenue canals on the north side of town. The new findings for the first time point to a human role in all three of the major floodwall failures that left about 100,000 homes underwater and caused most of Louisiana's approximately 1,000 hurricane deaths.

Experts now believe that Katrina was no stronger than a Category 3 storm when it roared into New Orleans, and Congress had directed the Corps to protect the city from just such a hurricane.

"This was not the Big One -- not even close," said Hassan Mashriqui, a storm surge expert at LSU's Hurricane Center. He said that Katrina would have caused some modest flooding and wind damage regardless, but that human errors turned "a problem into a catastrophe."
The National Science Foundation, the American Society of Civil Engineers, and the state of Louisiana are all conducting investigations of the three major floodwall breaches and dozens of smaller ones. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld announced last week that the National Academies of science and engineering will lead a separate probe. The Corps has offered data and other assistance to the independent inquiries, but the agency has declined to speculate on the causes of the tragedy.

John Paul Woodley Jr., the assistant Army secretary overseeing the Corps, said it is still too early to cast blame for the drowning of New Orleans. But he said the Corps intends to learn from the Katrina investigations, and use the lessons to build stronger protections for the city.
"I'm not afraid of finding out the truth," Woodley said.

The independent investigations have pointed to two failures in the infrastructure maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers that were critical factors in the destruction Katrina wrought in New Orleans.

In 1965, the Corps completed the 76-mile-long, 36-foot-deep Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, a larger dirt-moving project than the Panama Canal. The outlet -- known locally as MRGO, or "Mr. Go" -- created a navigation shortcut to the Port of New Orleans, although a little-used one that averages fewer than one ship a day. But the outlet also amounted to a funnel that would accelerate and enlarge any storm surges headed for the city's levees.

Three months before Katrina, Mashriqui told a room full of emergency managers that the outlet was a "critical and fundamental flaw" in the Corps' hurricane defenses, a "Trojan Horse" that could amplify storm surges 20 to 40 percent.

With the help of a supercomputer, Mashriqui has now concluded that the effect was even worse than he predicted.

The analysis shows that the outlet's "funnel" intensified the initial surge by 20 percent, raising the wall of water about three feet. But it also increased the velocity of the surge, which Mashriqui believes contributed to the scouring that undermined the levees and floodwalls along the outlet and Industrial Canal. He found that Katrina's surge moved through nearby Lake Borgne at less than 3 feet per second. But the rate was about 6 feet per second at the mouth of the funnel, and as much as 8 feet per second in the funnel.

Mashriqui also found that in the areas where the outlet had wiped out marshes and other wetlands, levees and floodwalls were much more likely to fail. In areas where the natural buffers remained, the manmade defenses held, even when they were overtopped.

"Without MRGO, the flooding would have been much less," he said. "The levees might have overtopped, but they wouldn't have been washed away."

Corps officials declined comment on the results of the modeling. But Corps spokesman Jason Fanselau said the agency's own data still point to a massive surge that exceeded the height of the Industrial Canal floodwall by more than a few feet.

"Katrina flat-out overwhelmed the system," he said. "There was a huge wall of surge that obliterated entire sections of the floodwall."

In the case of the 17th Street and London Avenue canals, the independent investigators believe the floodwalls themselves were the problem. The reason was the naturally soft soil made up of river silts and swampy peat that has been the bane of builders here for two centuries.

Investigators now believe the walls collapsed when the soils beneath them became saturated and began to shift under the weight of relatively modest surges from the lake. And newly released documents show that the Corps was aware years ago that a particularly unstable layer of soil lay beneath both floodwalls.

"These levees did not overtop, yet they failed anyway," said Peter Nicholson, an engineering professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and leader of the ASCE investigating team. "It's important that we find out now exactly what went wrong, because the Corps is already starting to rebuild."

Documents given to investigators by former Corps contractors have shed some light on what government engineers knew about the weak soils and how this knowledge affected their decisions.

In the 1980s, the Corps began constructing concrete floodwalls on top of older earthen levees to give the city's northern neighborhoods better protection from storm surges from Lake Pontchartrain. Soil tests in the 1980s detected trouble 20 feet below the surface: a thick layer of spongy, organic soil called peat. Soft and highly compressible when dry, peat becomes even weaker when saturated with water.

A 1988 document reveals that Corps officials took careful measurements of the peat layer and tested the soil in a laboratory to calculate its relative strength, according to Robert Bea, a professor of engineering at the University of California at Berkeley and a member of the NSF investigating team. Based on those calculations, the Corps designed a concrete-and-steel floodwall anchored to the earth by steel pilings driven to a depth of 20 feet.

"The depth of the pilings becomes important," said Bea, because the "tips of the sheet piles may not have penetrated the peat." Meanwhile, because the canal was dredged to an even greater depth, water was able to penetrate the peat layer from the inside, investigators said.

"There was a gap where water could get through," said Ivor Van Heerden, the deputy director of the LSU Hurricane Center and the leader of the Louisiana forensic investigation. "Water was able to get around or through those pilings to the other side and start weakening the structure."
Reports of problems with the soft underlayer began to surface even before the floodwalls were finished. In 1994, the now-defunct Pittman Construction Co., a New Orleans firm involved in levee construction, claimed in court documents that floodwall sections were failing to line up properly because of unstable soils. An administrative law judge dismissed the complaint on technical grounds in 1998, without specifically addressing the allegations about weak soils.
Katrina's storm surge put the floodwalls to the ultimate test.

Hours after the storm hit, water poured into the canals from Lake Pontchartrain and added enormous strain to the walls and levees. According to a scenario developed by Bea and other investigators, the already-saturated peat was the path of least resistance, allowing the water to burst through the wall from underneath. At the 17th Street Canal, truck-size chunks of the old earthen levee were heaved 35 feet on a carpet of sliding soil.

Corps officials are not yet convinced. "It is important not to jump to conclusions," said John Grieshaber, chief of the engineering division in the Corps' New Orleans district office. "It's hard to look at the aftereffects and say with a high level of certainty, 'This is what happened.' "
The Corps' actions since the storm, however, suggest that at least some officials are worried about weaknesses in the floodwalls' design. A proposal for rebuilding the floodwalls has set far tougher standards than existed 15 years ago. And the steel pilings, which formerly reached a depth of 20 feet, must now be driven through the peat layer to 40 feet, twice as deep as before.
If design flaws are confirmed, the task of preparing the 200-mile levee system for the next hurricane may be far more complex -- and more expensive -- than first believed, said Gordon Boutwell, president of Soil Testing Engineers Inc. and a member of the ASCE investigative team.

"Nothing beats a full-scale field test, and this was a full-scale field test," Boutwell said. "Some structures did the job they were supposed to, but some were total failures -- and those you can't just leave alone. And you can't expect to just stack them higher and walk away."

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Some Newlings

Head of New Orleans' Levee Board Quits

Floridians Again Find Gas in Short Supply

Protesters mark 2,000th U.S. fatality in Iraq

Like lines for Wilma aid, anger grows

And some news from NOLA C3, a anti-war, activist group fighting against evictions in post Hurricane Katrina New Orleans.

Press conference to be held 9am Thursday:

Stop The Evictions of the Residents of the Lewisburg Apartments!

The residents of Lewisburg Apartments in the Terrytown section of Gretna are fighting an attempt the by the owner of the complex to evict them from their homes. The management of Lewisburg Apartments has refused tenants offers to pay rents. Now the same management has secured eviction orders against the complex's tenants for non-payment of rent! The tenants of Lewisburg Apartments is determined to fight this eviction.

The residents of Lewisburg Apartments know full well that eviction in the midst of the dire shortage of affordable housing in post-Katrina New Orleans could well be a guarantee of homelessness. They know full well that the owners of Lewisburg are using "non-payment" of rent as a pretext to open up the complex to those who can afford to pay double or perhaps triple the current rate. The residents of Lewisburg Apartments also know full well that a respect for basic human need and justice requires that they resist this immoral and heartless attempted eviction.

Press Conference Lewisburg Apartments Tenants Association.
9am, Thursday.
October 27, 2005.1968
Forest Lawn Drive.
Lewisburg Apartments.
Gretna, Louisiana.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Taking Action

Dear friends and allies,

The last couple of weeks have seen a continued outpouring of initiatives, support, contributions and volunteers from across the US and around the world. Journalists and human rights workers have exposed many of the abuses of city, state and federal officials, as well as those of police, miltary, and disaster profiteers.

Organizing continues on the ground from many different individuals, organizations and coalitions. There have also, unfortunately, been some very public attacks and infighting. Below are some upcoming initiatives. The first is a rally called by a New Orleans/Baton Rouge based coalition called the New Opportunity for Action and Hope Coalition, and below that is a National Assembly and March for Human Rights called by the Peoples Hurricane Relief Fund. Also, here are some resources for information and action:

The New Opportunity for Action and Hope Coalition presents


Featuring Jesse Jackson, Governor Blanco, Congressmen Jefferson and Melancon, New Orleans City Council President Oliver Thomas and other faith, labor, and community leaders.

Saturday, October 29, 2005 - 10:00am-1:00pm
Louisiana State Capitol - Baton Rouge

See for more info.

The New Opportunity for Action and Hope Coalition was formed by Louisiana-based labor, community and civil rights organizations seeking to ensure that the reconstruction of the Gulf Coast region is completed in a way that maximizes its benefits and opportunities to working families displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

The mission of the NOAH Coalition is three-fold:
• Priority Job Placement and Training for displaced workers in rebuilding their communities.
• Living Wages for Workers to enable them to support themselves and their families.
• Access to Immediate Housing in their communities and a plan for transitioning to long term, affordable housing in that community.

The People’s Hurricane Fund Presents


The People must decide

Jackson, MS December 9th Gulf Coast National Assembly
New Orleans, LA December 10th Day of Return

March for Human Rights Join survivors and others of goodwill to take back New Orleans from the real looters

• Support family reunification now. The government must provide funds for all families to be reunited. The databases of FEMA and the Red Cross must be made public.
• Demand a Victims Compensation Fund as was done after 9/11 for the people in the World Trade Center in New York City. The $50 billion belongs to the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
• Demand representation on all boards that are making decisions on spending public dollars for relief and reconstruction. We also demand that those most affected by Hurricane Katrina be part of the planning process.
• Demand public work jobs for displaced workers and residents of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. We must take the lead in rebuilding our communities. The jobs must be at union wages so that our communities are no longer characterized by extreme poverty.
• Demand transparency in the entire reconstruction process. Citizens must know where all the monies are being spent and with whom they are being spent. Support grassroots leadership. Be a part of the solution.

The People’s Hurricane Relief Fund - 3565 Wheatley Street Jackson, Mississippi 39212

For more information: Please call (601) 346-5995 or visit us on the web

Even These Folks Helped Katrina Victims

Young Singers Spread Racist Hate

Duo Considered the Olsen Twins of the White Nationalist Movement

Oct. 20, 2005 — - Thirteen-year-old twins Lamb andLynx Gaede have one album out, another on the way, amusic video, and lots of fans.They may remind you another famous pair of singers,the Olsen Twins, and the girls say they like that. But unlike the Olsens, who built a media empire on their fun-loving, squeaky-clean image, Lamb and Lynx are cultivating a much darker personna. They are white nationalists and use their talents to preach a message of hate.

Known as "Prussian Blue" -- a nod to their German heritage and bright blue eyes -- the girls from Bakersfield, Calif., have been performing songs about white nationalism before all-white crowds since they were nine."We're proud of being white, we want to keep being white," said Lynx. "We want our people to stay white... we don't want to just be, you know, a big muddle. We just want to preserve our race."

Lynx and Lamb have been nurtured on racist beliefs since birth by their mother April. "They need to have the background to understand why certain things are happening," said April, a stay-at-home mom who no longer lives with the twins' father. "I'm going to give them, give them my opinion just like any, any parent would."April home-schools the girls, teaching them her own unique perspective on everything from current to historical events. In addition, April's father surrounds the family with symbols of his beliefs --specifically the Nazi swastika. It appears on his beltbuckle, on the side of his pick-up truck and he's even registered it as his cattle brand with the Bureau ofLivestock Identification.[MORE]

Looting in Mexico

Authorites try to control Cancun looting

Mexico worried about tourism after Wilma

Hip Hop Caucus on Gretna! Holla!

Come March with Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr. (Hip Hop Caucus), Kim Gandy (NOW), Van Jones (Ella Baker Center for Human Rights), Ron Daniels (Center for Constitutional Rights/Institute for the Black 21st Century), Curtis Muhammad (Community Labor United), Rev. Tony Lee (Ebenezer AME Church), Cousin Jeff Johnson (BET/People for the American Way), College Students, Community Activists, led by People of New Orleans displaced by Hurricane Katrina; join the People’s Committee for Relief & Oversight, NOW, UP for Democracy, & the Hip Hop Caucus, as we March on Gretna!!!!!!

Date: Monday, November 7, 2005

Time: Rally starts at 10:00 a.m.

Location: Convention Center, 900 Convention Boulevard, New Orleans March over Crescent City Connection Bridge to Gretna's Oakridge Mall

PRESS CONFERENCE for this event will be held in Washington, D.C. on November 2 with representatives of sponsoring organizations (details forthcoming)We will march over the Crescent City Connection Bridge to Gretna's Oakridge Mall where buses were to transport evacuees to safety - a destination people from New Orleans never reached.In the aftermath of Katrina, New Orleans authorities directed people to evacuate the city by crossing the Crescent City Connection Bridge which spans the Mississippi River linking New Orleans to the west bank city of Gretna.

However, if you were black or in the company of blacks, you were blocked from evacuating New Orleans by armed Gretna police with guard dogs. Under orders from Gretna Police Chief Arthur S. Lawson to seal off the bridge and deny safe passage to evacuees, Gretna police officers fired shots in the direction of the crowds and held others at gunpoint. It should be noted that the people of Gretna had been evacuated, the Gretna officials were concerned about the protecting the property of their suburban community.

On Monday, November 7, 2005, the Hip Hop and progressive community will cross that bridge!We march with our fellow citizens displaced by Katrina to reclaim the right to cross that bridge to Gretna, and in crossing that bridge in the name of the rights to safety and self-determination, to racial and economic justice – we March in support of the People's control of the reconstruction process in the Gulf Coast. And we will keep marching until we reclaim this democracy nationwide in the elections on November 7, 2006!


The Hip Hop Caucus and UP for Democracy will also be organizing a work brigade on Sunday, November 6, 205 to assist New Orleans families in the "recovering and retrieving" - assisting in the clean-up efforts now underway.This march is endorsed by Black Leadership Forum, Center for Social Justice, Cities for Progress/Institute for Policy Studies, Clergy & Laity Concerned About Iraq, Code Pink,, Common Ground, Community Labor United, Ella Baker Center for Civil Rights, Global Crisis Coalition, Global Exchange, Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, Healthcare NOW!, Hip Hop Caucus, Independent Progressive Politics Network, League of Pissed Off Voters, National Coalition for Black Civic Participation, National Network for Immigrant & Refugee Rights, New Orleans Network, National Organization for Women, People’s Alliance for Community Empowerment, People’s Hurricane Relief & Reconstruction Oversight Committee People’s Institute for Survival & Beyond, Progressive Democrats of America, Project South, Rainbow Push, National Progressive Youth & Student Organization, Quality Education as a Human Right, Rebuild Green, Rebuilding Louisiana Coalition (NOLA), Rebuild Hope NOW, Saving Our Neighborhoods, Southwest Workers’ Union, TransAfrica Forum, United for Peace & Justice, United Houma Nation of Louisiana, Urban Heart.

For more information: or call Charles Young at (202) 545-0113 or Diane Shamis (845) 661-3754.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Some Updates on New Orleans and Hurricane Wilma

May we keep the people of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Wilma in our prayers

Shrinking City
How can we rebuild a city which has been losing its population for over four decades?

Where y'at?
Many people decided to evacuate to the Northshore of Lake Ponchatrian.

Nagin on New Orleans Reconstruction
He also rips on Saints' owner Tom Benson.

An Agenda for Rebuilding

Wilma Threatens Fla. With 110-Mph Winds

Thursday, October 20, 2005

From A Relief Worker in Pakistan

This is forwarded from a relief worker on the ground in Pakistan.

Salaam O Alykum Dear Brs. & Srs.

I pray all is well Insha'Allah.

I got back from Muzafarabad last night. I am currently in Islamabad. My journey to Muzafarabad was long as blocks of road slid off the mountains due tothe earthquake. Rain and hail storm the nightbefore did not help either. Trucks, busses and carswere seen every so many miles stuck in the hilly roadsor sliding off as the muddy roads gave in. As we entered the city of Muzafarabad we were welcomedby a strong stinch of decaying bodies, buried aliveunder the flattened buildings. The atmosphere wasfull of chaotic sounds such as cries of families, yelling for aid by helpless men, women and children. The moment I entered the city we came across abuilding and the army had found yet another body fromthe rubble badly crushed as the concrete fell on this man. Not a soul was in the city without face masks as one would throw up due to the stinch of decaying bodies. Any human being would be teary eyes after seing the situation of the people of that city.

I moved on to IR office. There I met an employee whohad lost 23 family members in the mountains of Kashmir. Yet, he has been there from the 2nd day helping others. Such is the morale of people of that region currently. Almost all local employees of IR have had a loss in this disastor. I was told that thefirst two days after the quake were depicting the endof time as no one soul had time to look at another as they all were trying to save their own lives. The city was constatly rocked with over 400 after shocks. As you see the pictures that I am sending as part ofanother email, you will see structure after structureflattend to the ground. Each building has its own story, each building has a body trapped, unaccessableto this date.

A doctor told me that his team of 20 doctors were thefirst ones in Muzafarabad after the quake. When hereached the cricket ground he saw over 2,500 peoplelying on the ground waiting for medical help. In thecourse of next 3 days this team amputated over a 1,000individuals to save their lives without all the properanesthesia and medications.One of the picutres has a kid holding the photographof his older brother and cousin crushed while theywere in school.Girls in a local school got trapped in the schoolbuilding, I was told a figure of over 50+ girls. Their cries faded away by Wednesday. IR staffmentioned that the sounds of the girls cries willhaunt them for the rest of their life.

I went to the camp site, each tent had their ownstories and each family had their own share of losses. Not one family left without a loss. I met a man whoworked in another city, said all of his brothers passed away so now he has to support 4 families (avg. family size 7-8). A man walked into the city of Muzafarabad after a hike of full day carrying his mother on his back with broken limbs. He had to return back to his village as there were more family members he had left behind. There is a picture of a woman in black chadar. She lost two of her sons. Another husband and wife sitting cooking together lost all their kids. A kidstanding in front of the IR truck lost his parents and was being taken care off by a neighbor. You will see a picture of a green mountain with houses all over it. Next picture is of a white mountain. Half of the green mountain flattened out wiping out all of the houses on it and burrying an entire village in the valley below. There are many mountains where half of it caved in, these are not small mud slides these are mountains that partially flattend and became dirt.

I could go on and on but I thought I would share a little bit of my expierience during my stay in Muzafarabad. Baagh, Balakot, Manshera and hundreds ofother smaller villages throughout the mountanous area are unaccounted for and no relief has arrived there. IR has a staff of 32 medical team that had gone on a project to Neelum Valley and are currently stuck there as the only bridge that leads into the village collapsed. I am sure all of you guys are but another reminder please keep all the people affected in your du'a. MayAllah not have anyone go through such a catastrophe. Please forgive me if I said something wrong. Please keep me in your du'a.


Nauman Khan

Evacuating Again from Hurricane Wilma

Email comment from friend...

I know some people are eager to go is all they know or knew..but people need a reality check--either that or give everyone a Winnebago so they can drive out with their "homes"...the area is NOT ready for people to live there on a fulltime basis.

New Orleans Mayor: New Evacuation Possible

By MATT SEDENSKY, Associated Press Writer 1 hour, 20 minutes ago

NEW ORLEANS - Mayor Ray Nagin warned residents Monday to prepare for another evacuation if Tropical Storm Wilma strengthened and moved toward the hurricane-weary city. The storm's outer edge was near the Cayman Islands, but forecasts said it could pose a threat to the U.S. Gulf Coast this weekend.

"The people that are moving back to New Orleans should be very mobile. That's why we have not encouraged the repopulation of children nor senior citizens that are not very active," he said. "We're going to continue to monitor the storm and at a moment's notice people should be ready to evacuate."

After Hurricane Katrina devastated the city Aug. 29 and Hurricane Rita reflooded it weeks later, Nagin said levees had been rebuilt to at least a 10-foot barrier level. He said that could only provide protection from a hurricane with sustained winds up to 110 mph.

Nagin said about 150,000 to 200,000 people have been in New Orleans during the day, while only 60,000 to 75,000 people were believed to remain overnight.

The city had nearly half a million residents before Katrina left tens of thousands of homes uninhabitable and ruined much of the community's infrastructure.
Nagin said buses were prepared to evacuate residents if necessary.

Meanwhile, the mayor said the Army Corps of Engineers had begun assisting with garbage removal and officials were working toward weekly pickups.

Nagin also said the city had identified spaces for 3,500 trailers to house city employees, hospital workers and other employees of critical businesses. He said he was looking for places for up to 20,000 trailers.

Appeal from Hidaya Foundation

As Salaamu Alaikum,

As you are aware the climate in the earthquake affected areas of Pakistan has already fallen to freezing temperatures. Thousands of men, women, children, and elderly are still out in the cold. Our major challenge is (and will continue to be for the next few months), to acquire tents, blankets, sleeping bags, tarps, jackets, pullovers, shawls, ski caps, wheel chairs, crutches, shoes & first aid kits. In response to meet the challenge, Hidaya Foundation has taken a two-prong approach which includes acquiring winterized tents from China and collecting winter clothing USA-wide for shipment to Pakistan.

1. 1,100 tents have already been purchased in addition to a couple of hundred purchased in Pakistan earlier. Our team member will be arriving in China this week for long term procurement of tents, blankets, sleeping bags, tarps and ski caps. Winterized, water-proof tents will cost us approx. $100 each (which comfortably houses 6 to 8 people) delivered in Islamabad, which would cost approx. $400 if bought in the United States. We highly urge all individuals to take a responsibility to sign up for a minimum of one tent or more. Hidaya will be glad to procure tents for other organizations if requested.

You may mail your
checks payable to
Hidaya Foundation
atHidaya Foundation
P.O. Box 5481
Santa Clara, CA 95056

Secondly, Hidaya Foundation is collecting winter clothing in a number of
communities throughout USA. Should your community be
interested in collecting blankets, sleeping bags, tarps, jackets, pullovers,
shawls / scarves, ski caps, pots & pans, wheel chairs, crutches, shoes,
children toys & books please contact our office. Each
community is expected to collect the shipment cost.
Logistics and distribution will be handled by Hidaya Foundation.

Please Click Here to Donate Now during this blessed month to help these people.


Waseem Baloch
Hidaya Foundation
Off: (866) 244-3292
Fax: (866) 344-3292
Hidaya Foundation

Monday, October 17, 2005

Devout See Quake as Test of Faith

By TINI TRAN, Associated Press Writer 2 hours, 43 minutes ago

BALAKOT, Pakistan - On prayer mats set atop the roof of one flattened mosque, the men bowed their heads in silence, seeking solace amid the rubble. For devout Muslims in this quake-ruined town, it was the first time Friday prayers were held since last weekend's devastating quake. They came by the hundreds — some carrying shovels, some wearing face masks — all looking for spiritual comfort.

"God is angry with me, but I cannot be angry with him," said Fazlur Rahman, 67, who lost his daughter in the disaster. "This is a test of my faith. I have nothing else."

His weather-beaten face crumpled with pain as he talked about his 25-year-old daughter, Shaziya, who was buried under the debris when their home buckled under the 7.6-magnitude quake, which killed at least 35,000 people.

"She had asked me to bring her something to eat. I walked away only a moment when everything collapsed. She didn't even have time to cry out. I rushed back to her and shouted her name, but there was no reply," he said, thrusting his scarf into his mouth to muffle his sobs.
He came alone to the Syed Ahmed Shaheed Mosque, now a pile of twisted pylons and smashed concrete on the banks of the Kunhar River.

"The prayers satisfy me," he said. "They lessen my pain."

In Balakot, a town of about 60,000 largely leveled by the quake, survivors have little else to cling to but their faith. Once a picturesque spot at the foot of the mountains that drew local tourists, the town has few buildings standing whole and none of its mosques left.

Despite the devastation, the devout arrived in the hundreds for Friday prayers.

Just on the other side of the river bank, several hundred men gathered at a girls' religious school which had been transformed into a temporary mosque to hear the black-turbaned Imam Qazi Khalil, 60, give the noon sermon.

Relief workers, some still in uniforms, joined with residents and refugees from other areas in the region in bowing to the ground in prayer during the hour-long services, interrupted by the sound of relief helicopters shuttling through the air.

Afterward Khalil explained that the earthquake was meant as a punishment from God because of people's failure to follow a spiritual life.

"It was an _expression of God's wrath. We have to mend our affairs, particularly our character," he said. "All the happenings around us — the tsunami, Hurricane Katrina — all are part of God's wrath."

Khalil said troubled times are meant as a test for the devout. But he urged survivors to take comfort in their faith.

"We should study the Prophet's life to guide us. Patience and tolerance are critical so that people can pass this crisis time in a better way. I lost my own son, my daughter-in-law and my grandson. (But) I have accepted the tragedy. It's a test from God," he said.

His listeners appeared to have taken his words to heart, some coming up to hug him and offer condolences for his personal loss.

With his nose and forehead still smudged from the dust, Ghulam Gilani said he still believes in God, despite the deaths of his brother and neighbors. His own family escaped unscathed though they lost their home.

"We are living under the naked sky for now, but at least we are alive," the 65-year-old farmer said.

Mohammed Amir, a 34-year-old refugee who arrived in Balakot after a two-day hike from the northern town of Mansehra, listened intently to the sermon. Standing up afterward, he recounted how he lost his brother and his sister-in-law as the earth heaved last Saturday.
"I am deeply grieved over this. Ordinary people must grieve but they have to obey Allah's decisions. Such calamities bring Muslims closer to God and increase our faith," he said.

Friday, October 14, 2005

If Your Black, Don't Come Back

Just Democracy Blog Article

It’s the war between the Jacksons, and we know which side we’re on! In a meeting with the editorial board of the Houston Chronicle, HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson castigated the Rev. Jesse Jackson for elevating the issue of race in the Katrina disaster. He also suggested that the reconstructed New Orleans would be smaller and whiter than before, questioning whether the mostly black Ninth Ward should be rebuilt at all.

“I wish that the so-called black leadership would stop running around this country, like Jesse and the rest of them, making this a racial issue,” Alphonso Jackson whined to the board. But AJ’s remarks about rebuilding only reinforced the sense that the victimization of the city’s black citizens at the hands of the federal government is far from over.

As reported in the Houston Chronicle on September 28th by Lori Rodriguez and Zeke Minaya, AJ predicted that only 35-40 percent of the returnees would be black, as compared to 67 percent prior to Katrina. “I’m telling you, as HUD secretary and having been a developer and a planner, that’s how it’s going to be,” he said.

At the very best, the policies suggested by AJ and the administration are a form of hyper-gentrification – using the forced exodus as an excuse to permanently displace the poor. But we can’t help thinking of strongman Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe, cleansing his cities of the poorer shantytowns and forcing the citizens to disperse throughout the country – all because the people who lived there were more likely to be in the opposition.

This is the real battle of New Orleans – the one for which we all need to enlist. There are a number of initiatives underway to counterbalance the government’s malevolent attempt at social engineering. Both of the country’s major labor federations – the AFL-CIO and the newly-formed Change to Win – have undertaken efforts to ensure that displaced residents of New Orleans have a role in defining and rebuilding the city. Change to Win has joined with Jesse Jackson’s Operation PUSH to implement a major training program to ready evacuees for reconstruction jobs.

Meanwhile, ACORN and other community groups are organizing to challenge the wealthy, white vision that prevails in government circles. ACORN’s statement asserts that: “Low- and moderate-income people and people of color – who make up the majority of New Orleans' population – must have a say in all major decisions about the city's reconstruction, as well as in decisions about the fate of their own homes. ACORN members are deeply worried that without strong standards with regard to fair housing, and a "right of return" for those who want it, the city's housing stock will be rebuilt at prices low- and moderate-income people can never afford.

“Rebuilding plans for New Orleans must include: decent, affordable housing for all low- and moderate income residents and ‘first source’ hiring agreements and living wage requirements for all reconstruction projects so that area residents get first priority for employment. These jobs should include health insurance, adequate health and safety standards, and guaranteed union organizing rights at all agencies and contractors.”
To which we say amen.

Baton Rouge Muslims, holla!

TOP CHUCK HUSTMYRE, Advocate, 10/8/05

After riding out the brutal winds of Hurricane Katrina at her home in New Orleans, Rita Jenkins thought she and her family had weathered the worst the storm had to offer.Then came the flood."That water just shot in and filled the streets," Jenkins recalled. "It was time for us to go."Jenkins and 17 members of her family piled into three cars and headed for higher ground. They intended to go to a little town -- Jenkins said she can't remember which one -- just past Lafayette, but they took the wrong exit off the interstate and ended up in Baton Rouge at the Islamic Complex on East Washington Street. There they sought directions, but found refuge instead.Like their Christian and Jewish counterparts throughout Baton Rouge and the surrounding area, the Islamic Complex and the nearby Islamic Center of Baton Rouge mobilized to help those forced to flee the New Orleans area. Soon the effort drew outside support, becoming an example of interfaith cooperation. Jenkins and her family were among nearly 100 New Orleans evacuees the Islamic Complex took in after Hurricane Katrina.

According to Mahmoud Jehad, an imam at the Islamic Center of Baton Rouge on West Chimes Street, the first night after the hurricane struck, 150 evacuees crowded into the center seeking shelter. Within a few days, that number had risen to more than 500, he said.Many of those who found help at the Islamic Center and at the Islamic Complex were not Muslim.Jehad said the faith of the evacuees was not important, only that they were in need. "It's a major tenet of Islam, kindness to fellow humans," he said. "We seek to help everybody."Imam Fahmee Sabree, of the Islamic Complex on East Washington Street, said the vast majority of people who sought refuge at the complex were Christian. (MORE)

Salaam alaikum and Ramadan Mubarak

This blog was started as a means to keep up on the daily news and controversial happenings of the Katrina ravaged city of New Orleans. In light of the recent earthquake in South Asia, I will be adding links to earthquake relief organizations and news on Muslim efforts to help the earthquake victims. Here are a few links to start with...

Edhi Foundation

South Asia Quake Help

Pictures of the Quake by M. Bukhari


Jazak Allah Khairn to Sunni Sister for pulling these links together.

Turned over furniture and molded ceiling
Izzy Mo


WASHINGTON, D.C., 10/12/05) - A prominent national Islamic civil rights and advocacy group today condemned the beating of a 64-year-old retired school teacher who was repeatedly punched by New Orleans police on Saturday.In a statement, the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said:"The brutality exhibited by police officers in their mistreatment of Robert Davis cannot be justified and should be condemned by all those who seek justice in our society."Davis, who is African-American, said he was out to buy cigarettes in the French Quarter when he was beaten by three white officers and then arrested. Police alleged that Davis was intoxicated, a charge he denied. The incident was caught on videotape and has sparked a nationwide outcry.CAIR, America's largest Muslim civil liberties group, has 31 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.


KENNER, La. (BP)--Charmaine Fenstermacher had just three Gospel tracts left to share with families lined up to receive food from Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers in Kenner, La."As a car pulled up, we'd say, 'Hi, how are you? Do you want some lunch?'" Fenstermacher, of Southlake, Texas, recounted. When asked, "How are you doing?" some of the displaced Louisianans told how Hurricane Katrina had left them destitute and hungry."I had three tracts left and I was using them sparingly," Fenstermacher said, as many of the evacuees had already heard the Gospel at some point in the post-Katrina disaster relief efforts. "Some of them wanted to talk and it was so nice to hear what they had to say," though many of their stories began running together as they told of coping with the disaster.

When a black sedan rolled to the front of the line, Fenstermacher recognized the family to be of Middle Eastern descent. "The mother was wearing a beautiful, silk gown with gold threads. It was covering her arms as she reached out for food. She told me they had lost everything in the hurricane."Fenstermacher, a 53-year-old homemaker, is still amazed at the encounter God gave to her."I reached in and handed them lunch and we talked a little since there was a long line ahead of me. It surprised me the things I asked because I'm not normally so bold. 'Do you know Jesus?'" she asked the man, his wife and their teenage son, uncertain of the response she would get. (MORE)


HAMILTON - The death toll from Pakistan's worst earthquake is stirring the hearts and purse strings of people worldwide. Locally, the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati in West Chester Township has established an earthquake relief fund.

Contributions will be funneled to the Association of Pakistani Physicians of North America, based in Chicago. Dr. Rashid M. Khan, a member of the local mosque and the APPNA, said the agency will effectively distribute donations. "They have a very long record in charitable work," said Khan. "They have people working on the ground there. By not going through the government there is no red tape. Our goal is to reach real people, reduce the overhead, get the money and food directly to the people.

"This will get the money to the people as fast as possible, at least 90 cents on the dollar," he said.Khan - who lost 19 extended family members, as well as former medical school classmates, in the disaster - is hoping the community will be generous. The APPNA plans to send financing to the area Friday.Donations will continue to be collected through the Muslim holy period of Ramadan, said Shikila Ahmad of the Islamic center, located at 8092 Plantation Drive. No collection goal has been set. . .Donations are tax deductible. They will be collected at Friday Prayers and throughout the month of Ramadan at various mosque functions. Donations may also be given to the "Islamic Center Pakistan Earthquake Fund" at any Fifth Third Bank location.


A pair of trucks rumbled along the broken roads of Kashmir on Tuesday, carrying yet another load of food, clothes and makeshift tents into the earthquake zone. But unlike so many of the anonymous donors thousands of miles away, the source of this aid, a mosque, was boldly advertised on the trucks' red-lettered banners: "Masjid Al-Noor, Staten Island, New York.""We had great difficulty spelling Staten Island on the phone," said Suhail Muzaffar, 53, a stately former professor and Pakistani immigrant who is chairman of the mosque's board of trustees, and runs a thriving export company on Staten Island.

Mr. Muzaffar's point was not pride but control. He wrote up a shopping list based on cellphone calls from victims trapped in the mountains to relatives who worship at his mosque. He rented the trucks and ordered the banners himself, through connections in his family's Pakistani hometown, Rawalpindi. And he enlisted a Pakistani charity he knew to carry the order through.

Only in this way, he said, could he and other members of his mosque feel sure that their $12,000 in hard-earned donations would reach the people they were trying to help.Relief experts say the mosque's control of its beneficence illustrates a new trend in global charity: many donors are no longer content to write checks and hope for the best. Fears of inept government bureaucracies, official corruption, and charities that engage in fraud have led to an increasingly hands-on approach by donors, from the lone cabdriver to the boards of many foundations. (MORE)

Tattered clothes in a closet
Izzy Mo

Yep, that's there frigde, toppled over to the side and rusted away.
Izzy Mo

More damage
Izzy Mo

Crime and New Orleans--Jordan's Log

by Jordan Flaherty

People from New Orleans were not surprised to see video of police beating a 64 year old man in the French Quarter. The only surprise is the increased attention the incident received due to the continued media focus on New Orleans, although news reports I saw took pains to point out the “high levels of stress” New Orleans police are under. Despite the attempts to explain away the officer’s behavior, the incident fits into a well-defined pattern of police conduct in New Orleans. In the last year, seven young Black men have been killed by New Orleans police, and none of the officers involved have been punished.

This year has seen mounting evidence of a police department out of control. Less than a week before Hurricane Katrina, on Wednesday August 24, Keith Griffin, a New Orleans police officer, was booked with aggravated rape and kidnapping. According to a Times-Picayune report, “Griffin is accused of pulling over a bicyclist under the guise of a police stop in the early morning hours of July 11. The two-year veteran officer allegedly detained the woman, drove her to a remote spot along the Industrial Canal near Deslonde Street, then sexually assaulted her.” This is hardly an isolated incident. Another recent Times-Picayune article reported, “in April, seven-year veteran officer Corey Johnson was booked with aggravated rape for allegedly forcing a woman to perform oral sex, after he identified himself as an officer in order to enter the woman's Treme home.”

Another article states “Eight officers were arrested during a six-month stretch last year on charges that ranged from shoplifting to theft to conspiracy to rob a bank...In April 2004, 16-year veteran James Adams was booked with aggravated kidnapping, extortion and malfeasance after he was accused of threatening to arrest a woman unless she agreed to have sex with him. “Police misconduct in this notoriously corrupt city goes back decades, and occasionally it explodes in scandal. In a September 2000 report, the progressive policy institute reported “a 1994 crackdown on police corruption led to 200 dismissals and upwards of 60 criminal charges, including two murder convictions of police officers. Investigators at the time discovered that for six months in 1994, as many as 29 New Orleans police officers protected a cocaine supply warehouse containing 286 pounds of cocaine. The FBI indicted ten officers who had been paid nearly $100,000 by undercover agents. The investigation ended abruptly after one officer successfully orchestrated the execution of a witness.”

According to one community activist I recently spoke with who is familiar with the investigations, “That crackdown just scratched the surface. They didn’t even really begin to address the problems in the New Orleans police.”According to a 1998 report from human rights watch “Former Officer Len Davis, reportedly known in the Desire housing project as ‘Robocop,’ ordered the October 13, 1994 murder of Kim Groves, after he learned she had filed a brutality complaint against him. Federal agents had Davis under surveillance for alleged drug-dealing and recorded Davis ordering the killing, apparently without realizing what they had heard until it was too late. Davis mumbled to himself about the ‘30’ he would be taking care of (the police code for homicide) and, in communicating with the killer, described Groves's standing on the street and demanded he "get that whore!" Afterward, he confirmed the slaying by saying ‘N.A.T.’ police jargon for ‘necessary action taken.’ Community activists reported a chilling effect on potential witnesses or victims of brutality considering coming forward to complain following Groves's murder.”

The white-flight suburbs around New Orleans are in many ways worse. During the 1980s, Jefferson Parish sheriff Harry Lee famously ordered special scrutiny for any black people traveling in white sections of the parish. "It's obvious," Lee said, "that two young blacks driving a rinky-dink car in a predominantly white neighborhood? They'll be stopped." The New Orleans Gambit newspaper reported that 1994, “after two black men died in the Jefferson Parish Correctional Center within one week, Lee faced protests from the black community and responded by withdrawing his officers from a predominantly black neighborhood. ‘To hell with them,’ he'd said. ‘I haven't heard one word of support from one black person.’”The Gambit also reported in April of this year that in Jefferson Parish officers were found to be using as target practice what critics referred to as “a blatantly racist caricature” of a Black male. Sheriff Lee laughed when presented with the charges. "I'm looking at this thing that people say is offensive," he says. "I've looked at it, I don't find it offensive, and I have no interest in correcting it."

These accusations of “target practice” gained force a few weeks later with the May 31 killing of 16-year-old Antoine Colbert, who was behind the wheel of a stolen pickup truck with two other teens. 110 shots were fired into the truck, killing Colbert and injuring his passengers. In response to criticism from Black ministers over the incident, Lee responded “they can kiss my ass.”As has been widely reported, the town of Gretna, across the Mississippi from New Orleans and part of Jefferson Parish, stationed officers on the bridge leading out of New Orleans blocking the main escape route for the tens of thousands suffering in the Superdome, Convention Center, and throughout the city.As the LA Times reported on September 16, “little over a week after this mostly white suburb became a symbol of callousness for using armed officers to seal one of the last escape routes from New Orleans — trapping thousands of mostly black evacuees in the flooded city — the Gretna City Council passed a resolution supporting the police chief's move. ‘This wasn't just one man's decision,’ Mayor Ronnie C. Harris said Thursday. ‘The whole community backs it.’”

Arguably, the actions of the Gretna police were one of the biggest dangers to public safety to arise from this tragedy, perhaps second only to the criminally-neglected levees. Anyone that wants to focus on relief for the “victims” needs to focus on what exactly people from New Orleans are victims of: racism, corruption, deindustrialization, disinvestment, and neglect. That is why agencies and organizations such as Red Cross, FEMA, Scientologists, their hundreds of well-meaning volunteers are not really providing relief - they aren’t addressing the nature of the problem.

We call hurricanes and earthquakes “natural disasters,” but the contours of these disasters are manmade. As recent earthquake and hurricane-related mass deaths in South Asia and Central America demonstrate, who lives and who dies is intricately related to issues of poverty and access. Whether the homes are built in safe areas, the soundness of the structures, the length of time it takes for relief to arrive, all of these are intricately tied to poverty. And yet the media generally ignores these issues, and repeats the message that “nature doesn’t discriminate.” Because of this message, relief is misdirected, and when those receiving the relief aren’t sufficiently grateful, the givers become resentful.

An article in this Sunday’s New York Times reports on a community of displaced New Orleans residents in rural Oklahoma, where local residents are “glad to see them go.” “With each passing day,” the Times reported, they “could feel the sympathy draining away.” The problem is the perception that this is a problem that could be fixed by a place to stay in another state, some hand-me-down clothes, and a few meals. For many of us from New Orleans, what hurts the most is the loss of our community, and charity doesn’t help to heal those wounds at all. Mayaba Benu, a community activist currently in the city, told me “I miss everyone. There’s a lot of reporters here, a lot of contractors and FEMA folks, but not many people from New Orleans.”

While thousands of out-of-state contractors line-up for work, including hundreds of trash hauling trucks from around the US lined up near City Park, the people of New Orleans are still being excluded from opportunities to take part in the reconstruction of their city. In fact, it seems to many that out-of-state workers are more welcomed than the New Orleans diaspora.Jenka Soderberg, an indymedia reporter and volunteer at the Common Ground Collective reports from her experience at a New Orleans FEMA compound, “I went to the FEMA base camp for the city of new orleans. It made me feel sick to my stomach. We walked around this absolutely surreal scene of hundreds of enormous air-conditioned tents, each one with the potential of housing 250 people -- whole city blocks of trailers with hot showers, huge banks of laundry machines, portajohns lined up 50 at a time, a big recreation tent, air-conditioned, with a big-screen tv, all of it for contractors and FEMA workers, none of it for the people of new orleans.”Inside the FEMA camp, she was told by contractors, “the tents are pretty empty, not many people staying here.” However, “we don't combine with the evacuees -- we have our camp here, as workers, and they have their camps.”

Soderberg comments, “thousands of New Orleans citizens could live there while they rebuilt and cleaned their homes in the city. But instead, due to the arrogance of a government bureaucracy that insists they are separate from the 'evacuees', and cannot possibly see themselves mixing with them and working side by side on the cleanup, these people are left homeless, like the poor man I talked to earlier in the day, living under a tarp with his mother buried under the mud of their house. Why can't he live in their tents? It makes me so sad and mad to see so much desperate need, and then just blocks away to see this huge abundance of resources not being used. I have seen no FEMA center that is actually providing any aid for people -- I have been to this main FEMA base camp and three others in new orleans, and each of them have signs saying ‘No public services available at this site/Authorized personnel only’”

And with poor people out of the city, the developers and corporations are grabbing what they can - but there are no shoot-to-kill orders on these well-dressed looters. NPR and other media have portrayed developer Pres Kabacoff as a liberal visionary out to create a Paris on the Mississippi. The truth is that Kabacoff represents the worst of New Orleans’ local disaster profiteers. It is Kabacoff who, in 2001, famously demolished affordable housing in the St Thomas projects in New Orleans’ Lower Garden District and replaced it luxury condos and a Wal Mart. “New Orleans has never recovered from what Kabacoff did,” one housing activist told me. “It was a classic bait and switch. He told the city he was going to revitalize the area, and ended up changing the rules in the middle of the game and holding the city for ransom. He made a ton of money, the rich got more housing, and the poor got dispersed around the city.”This year, Kabacoff has had his eyes on razing the Iberville housing projects, a site of low-income housing near the French Quarter. While Iberville residents were in their homes, they were able to fight Kabacoff’s plans, and held numerous protests. Now that they are gone, their homes (which were not flooded) are in serious danger from Kabacoff and other developers seeking to take advantage of this tragedy to “remake the city.”

The people of New Orleans need a voice in this reconstruction. But what would community-controlled reconstruction look like? Organizers are starting to grapple with these issues.Dan Etheridge works with the Center for Bioenvironmental Research at Tulane and Xavier Universities. He is currently organizing to create collaborations and build partnerships between community organizations and planning professionals “not because its benevolent but because we will have a better city if the community has a say in its reconstruction.”He has organized an upcoming conference at Tulane University to bring together planners, architects, structural mitigation experts, geographers and other experts, along with grassroots community leaders from New Orleans, people such as “the social aid and pleasure clubs, Mardi Gras Indian representatives, ACORN, building unions, artists, teachers, public housing resident councils, Peoples Hurricane Fund representatives,” and other community voices.

He hopes this will be “the starting point for an ongoing program, a networking and organizing opportunity for autonomous public projects. we want our vision to be part of the master plan for rebuilding the city, but we want community groups to have access to the skills and funding they need for smaller projects towards reestablishing the complicated fabric of the city. Instead of falling through the cracks, we want projects to grow up through the cracks.”In a press conference today outside Orleans Parish Prison Critical Resistance New Orleans organizer Tamika Middleton said “Katrina’s aftermath reflects the way we as a nation increasingly deal with social ills: police and imprison primarily poor Black communities for ‘crimes’ that are reflections of poverty and desperation. Locking people up in this crisis is cruel mismanagement of city resources and counters the outpouring of the world’s support and concern for all survivors of Hurricane Katrina.”

Middleton is part of a coalition demanding an independent investigation into the evacuation of OPP and amnesty for those arrested for trying to feed and clothe themselves post-Katrina, while calling for real public safety in a rebuilt New Orleans. “Rising from the devastation of Katrina, we have an amazing opportunity to rebuild a truly new and genuine system of public safety for New Orleans,” said Xochitl Bervera, Co-Director of Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children.Discussing FEMA and other official “relief” agencies, Jenka Soderberg says, “its so different from how we are working at the common ground collective, or at Mama Dee's in the city, or the other community places that people are starting up -- where neighbors are helping neighbors, people just helping each other. It's so different when we are all human together, instead of a militarized, razor-wired, fenced-in compound like the FEMA camp that keeps out the people in need and keeps the contractors and workers inside.”

It looks like someone trashed the place but no, that's what a house looks like after its being stewing in polluted waters for four weeks.
Izzy Mo

Izzy Mo

Mirror showing flood water lines
Izzy Mo

The bathroom with mildew damage, amongst other things
Izzy Mo


Official reports indicate that at least 40,000 people have been killed in the devastating earthquake that shook Pakistan, Kashmir, India and Afghanistan. U.N. officials report that at least 3.5 million people are now homeless and vulnerable to infections and disease.

Member relief organizations include (in alphabetical order): Hidaya Foundation, Indian Muslim Relief Committee, Islamic Relief Worldwide, ICNA Relief, KindHearts, Life for Relief and Development, and the Zakat Foundation. Other professional foundations -- including the Association of Pakistani Physicians of North America (APPNA) and the Islamic Medical Association of North America (IMANA) -- are organizing American Muslim physicians to travel to the region and offer medical assistance."

A coordinated program between all Muslim organizations in North America will help improve the quality of service to provide immediate assistance to the affected people in the region," ISNA President Muhammad Nur Abdullah said. Other task force members include: Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), Muslim Alliance in North America (MANA), Muslim American Society (MAS), Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), and Muslim Ummah of North America (MUNA), Freedom and Justice Foundation, and National Council of Pakistani Americans (NCPA).

Additional groups who agree to the taskforces guidelines will be added as the relief efforts develop. The Taskforce guidelines for collection and distribution of funds will focus on financial transparency and accountability as set forth in relevant government regulations and standards.

CONTACT:Edina Lekovic, 213-383-3443 or 310-560-4898,
Mohamed Elsanousi, 317-839-1803,
Ibrahim Hooper, 202-488-8787 or 202-744-7726,
Arif Shaikh, 310-315-3931,

Damaged walls with mold lines
Izzy Mo

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Damage Pics
Izzy Mo

Damage pics from house in New Orleans
Izzy Mo

3,000 workers sacked in New Orleans

Mr Nagin said it was "with great sadness" that New Orleans was "unable to hold on to some of our dedicated city workers".

The city had "searched high and low" for the funds and had asked for help from the state and federal governments, he said.

"We've talked to local banks and other financial institutions, and we are just not able to put together the financing necessary to continue to maintain our city hall staffing at its current levels," he said.

The mayor described the dismissals as "pretty permanent".
Those workers not contacted to return to work should consider themselves part of the layoff, an official statement said.

Read more here.

Police Beating in the French Quarter

Posted by Picasa

Just try to ignore the fact that they are making excuses for this type of behavior.

NEW ORLEANS - Two New Orleans police officers repeatedly punched a 64-year-old man accused of public intoxication, and another city officer assaulted an Associated Press Television News producer as a cameraman taped the confrontations. There will be a criminal investigation, and the three officers were to be suspended, arrested and charged with simple battery Sunday, Capt. Marlon Defillo said.

"We have great concern with what we saw this morning," Defillo said after he and about a dozen other high-ranking police department officials watched the APTN footage Sunday. "It's a troubling tape, no doubt about it. ... This department will take immediate action."
The assaults come as the department, long plagued by allegations of brutality and corruption, struggles with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the resignation last month of Police Superintendent Eddie Compass.

The APTN tape shows an officer hitting the man at least four times in the head Saturday night as he stood outside a bar near Bourbon Street. The suspect, Robert Davis, appeared to resist, twisting and flailing as he was dragged to the ground by four officers. Another of the four officers then kneed Davis and punched him twice. Davis was face-down on the sidewalk with blood streaming down his arm and into the gutter.

Meanwhile, a fifth officer ordered APTN producer Rich Matthews and the cameraman to stop recording. When Matthews held up his credentials and explained he was working, the officer grabbed the producer, leaned him backward over a car, jabbed him in the stomach and unleashed a profanity-laced tirade.

"I've been here for six weeks trying to keep ... alive. ... Go home!" shouted the officer, who later identified himself as S.M. Smith. Police said Davis, 64, of New Orleans, was booked on public intoxication, resisting arrest, battery on a police officer and public intimidation. He was treated at a hospital and released into police custody.

A mug shot of Davis, provided by a jailer, showed him with his right eye swollen shut, an apparent abrasion on the left side of his neck and a cut on his right temple."The incidents taped by our cameraman are extremely troubling," said Mike Silverman, AP's managing editor. "We are heartened that the police department is taking them seriously and promising a thorough investigation."

Davis, who is black, was subdued at the intersection of Conti and Bourbon streets. Three of the officers appeared to be white, and the other is light skinned. The officer who hit Matthews is white. Defillo said race was not an issue.

Three of the five officers — including Smith — are New Orleans officers, and two others appeared to be federal officers. Numerous agencies have sent police to help with patrols in the aftermath of Katrina. Under normal circumstances, it takes unusually offensive behavior to trigger an arrest on Bourbon Street. But New Orleans police have been working under stressful conditions since the hurricane.

Officers slept in their cars and worked 24-hour shifts after the storm. Three-quarters lost their homes and their families are scattered across the country. "Our police officers are working under some very trying times," Defillo said. "So it's a difficult time, but it doesn't excuse what our jobs are supposed to be." Many officers deserted their posts in the days after Katrina, and some were accused of joining in the looting that broke out. At least two committed suicide.
Conditions have improved — officers now have beds on a cruise ship — but they don't have private rooms and are still working five, 12-hour days.

Compass, the police superintendent, resigned Sept. 27. Despite more than 10 years of reform efforts dating to before he took office, police were dogged by allegations of brutality and corruption. On Friday, state authorities said they were investigating allegations that New Orleans police broke into a dealership and made off with nearly 200 cars — including 41 new Cadillacs — as the storm closed in.

Monday, October 10, 2005

New Orleans: Leaving the Poor Behind Again!

By Bill Quigley

They are doing it again! My wife and I spent five days and four nights in a hospital in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. We saw people floating dead in the water. We watched people die waiting for evacuation to places with food, water, and electricity. We were rescued by boat and waited for an open pickup truck to take us and dozens of others on a rainy drive to the underpass where thousands of others waited for a bus ride to who knows where. You saw the people left behind. The poor, the sick, the disabled, the prisoners, the low-wage workers of New Orleans, were all left behind in the evacuation. Now that New Orleans is re-opening for some, the same people are being left behind again.

When those in power close the public schools, close public housing, fire people from their jobs, refuse to provide access to affordable public healthcare, and close off all avenues for justice, it is not necessary to erect a sign outside of New Orleans saying “Poor People Not Allowed To Return.” People cannot come back in these circumstances and that is exactly what is happening.There are 28,000 people still living in shelters in Louisiana. There are 38,000 public housing apartments in New Orleans, many in good physical condition. None have been reopened. The National Low Income Housing Coalition estimated that 112,000 low-income homes in New Orleans were damaged by the hurricane. Yet, local, state and federal authorities are not committed to re-opening public housing. Louisiana Congressman Richard Baker (R-LA) said, after the hurricane, “We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn’t do it, but God did.”New Orleans public schools enrolled about 60,000 children before the hurricane. The school board president now estimates that no schools on the city’s east bank, where the overwhelming majority of people live, will reopen this academic school year.

Every one of the 13 public schools on the mostly-dry west bank of New Orleans was changed into charter schools in an afternoon meeting a few days ago. A member of the Louisiana state board of education estimated that at most 10,000 students will attend public schools in New Orleans this academic year.The City of New Orleans laid off 3,000 workers. The public school system laid off thousands of itsworkers. The Archdiocese of New Orleans laid off 800 workers from its central staff and countless hundreds of others from its parish schools. The Housing Authority has laid off its workers. The St. Bernard Sheriff’s Office laid off half of its workers.Renters in New Orleans are returning to find their furniture on the street and strangers living in their apartments at higher rents – despite an order by the Governor that no one can be evicted before October 25. Rent in the dry areas have doubled and tripled.

Environmental chemist Wilma Subra cautions that earth and air in the New Orleans area appear to be heavily polluted with heavy metal and organic contaminants from more than 40 oil spills and extensive mold. The people, Subra stated, are subject to “double insult – the chemical insult from the sludge and biological insult from the mold.” Homes built on the Agriculture Street landfill – a federal toxic site – stewed for weeks in floodwaters. Yet, the future of Charity Hospital of New Orleans, the primary place for free comprehensive medical care in the state of Louisiana, is under furious debate and discussion and may never re-open again. Right now, free public healthcare is being provided by volunteers at grassroots free clinics like Common Ground – a wonderful and much needed effort but not a substitute for public healthcare.

The jails and prisons are full and staying full. Despite orders to release prisoners, state and local corrections officials are not releasing them unless someone can transport them out of town. Lawyers have to file lawsuits to force authorities to release people from prison who have already served all oftheir sentences! Judges are setting $100,000 bonds for people who steal beer out of a vacant house, while landlords break the law with impunity. People arrested before and after the hurricane have not even been formally charged by the prosecutor. Because the evidence room is under water, part of the police force is discredited, and witnesses are scattered around the country, everyone knows few will ever see a trial, yet timid judges are reluctant to follow the constitution and laws and release them on reasonable bond.

People are making serious money in this hurricane but not the working and poor people who built andmaintained New Orleans. President Bush lifted the requirement that jobs re-building the Gulf Coast pay a living wage. The Small Business Administration has received 1.6 million disaster loan applications and has approved 9 in Louisiana. A US Senator reported that maintenance workers at the Superdome are being replaced by out of town workers who will work for less money and no benefits. He also reported that seventy-five Louisiana electricians at the Naval Air Station are being replaced by workers from Kellogg Brown and Root – a subsidiary of HalliburtonTake it to the courts, you say?

The Louisiana Supreme Court has been closed since the hurricane and is not due to re-open until at least October 25, 2005. While Texas and Mississippi have enacted special rules to allow out of state lawyers to come and help people out, the Louisiana Supreme court has not. Nearly every person victimized by the hurricane has a price-gouging story. Yet, the Louisiana Attorney General has filed exactly one suit for price-gouging – against a campground. Likewise, the US attorney has prosecuted 3 people for wrongfully seeking $2000 FEMA checks. No schools. No low-income apartments. No jobs. No healthcare. No justice.

A final example? You can fly on a plane into New Orleans, but you cannot take a bus. Greyhound doesnot service New Orleans at this time.You saw the people who were left behind last time. The same people are being left behind all over again. You raised hell about the people left behind last time. Please do it again.

Bill Quigley is a professor of law at Loyola University New Orleans where he directs the Gillis Long Poverty Law Center and the Law Clinic and teaches Law and Poverty. Bill can be reached at

Friday, October 07, 2005

Some News from the Northshore

Alhumdulilah, I am on the North Shore. The North Shore has grown by 80,000. Stores are basically normal, just closing earlier. Wal-mart is, well, Wal-mart. But other stores are not really crowded. Gas is available, but sometimes stations run out and you need to drive 1/2 mile to find gas. So, never let the tank get to empty. I'm near Mandeville/ Covington ... things are about 85- 90% of normal. Hammond is 100% normal (i'm working in a hospital there).

Southshore ... Metairie .. main problem is lack of workers. McDonald's is drive-thru from 10-4 pm only. Sam's, Dorignac's, etc are open and not too crowded. They let people in in small groups. The biggest problem is garbage everywhere... they need about 1 month to clean that up. I suspect that people will return when that disappears. Then people will live in apartments or FEMA trailers as they transition to repairing their homes. Then businesses will grow again. Whole Foods is busing people from Baton Rouge to work. New Orleans is just scary .... nothing more to comment on that.

Race, Relief and Reconstruction--Jordan's Log

The national conversation about New Orleans has shifted from relief to reconstruction. While alliances form among local and national elites, the majority of the city’s population faces being shut out of the discussion entirely. New Orleans is less than 30% white, but the white power structure is poised to seize control of the debate over the city’s future, while New Orleans’ distinct legacies of colonialism, white supremacy and Jim Crow, along with the personal loss and devastation faced by most city residents, has created a cocktail of obstacles in the path of forming a strong and unified resistance.

New Orleans artist, writer and muslim community activist Kelly Crosby writes, “New Orleans was at one time the heart of Creole country - octoroons, quadroons and mulattos. It was very common for French and Spanish aristocrats to keep Creole mistresses... There was also the forced concubinage of Black slave women...throw in the mixing between Native Americans and African Americans and what you get is Creole. My great, great grandmother could have passed for white, or passe blanc, as they used to call it.”

The Creole population, historically based in the 7th Ward Neighborhood, is seen by many as a wealthier, more conservative voting block, more aligned with white interests. And the Creole community is disproportionately represented in New Orleans business and political elite. As one New Orleanian said to me recently, “New Orleans has never had a Black mayor, we’ve only had White and Creole mayors.” This white supremacist dynamic has also affected alliances between Black New Orleanians and other people of color, such as the city’s immigrant populations. As in many cities, tensions flare between immigrant business owners, who due to forces of economics generally have stores in poor Black communities, and community residents, who often see them as part the power structure.

Crosby quotes her father as saying, “There is no way for African-American Muslims and immigrant Muslims to come together on anything in this community until we all address the problem of Muslim-owned corner stores.” I saw this dynamic expressed recently by a Black Lower Ninth Ward resident speaking with two Palestinians and a Korean, “Y’all have been talking about white people this and white people that,” she said, “but as far as I can see, you’re white.” In turn some immigrants in New Orleans, Crosby says, “see Black people as being one of a particular type. The don’t see black people pursuing college degrees (or as) writers, artists and scientists.” Despite these divisions, Crosby also speaks of the power and unity in faith she has found among African-American and immigrant Muslims, and adds that she feels that the New Orleans Black community has moved beyond being “color-struck. And those that haven’t are stuck in the medieval, Creole, past.”

Yesterday, the first day of Ramadan, I spoke to Anwer Bashi of the New Orleans Shura Council, an umbrella organization of the mosques of the greater New Orleans area. “I think at least a third of the Muslims of New Orleans are not coming back. For the Muslim immigrant community, they don’t have multiple generations of their family to hold them to the city. Many Muslims with businesses saw their businesses flooded, others lost their jobs. And about a third of the Muslim community lived in an area like New Orleans East that was completely flooded.”

Its new pain and sorrow every day. Every photo, everything they’ve ever written, everything they’ve kept with them all their lives, is gone. Amane is a devout, dedicated and generous Muslim student activist originally from Qalqilya, on the Palestinian West Bank. Her family lived in East New Orleans, and I know they lost everything to the flooding, but I haven't been able to reach her. Ahmad is a Palestinian-American recently graduated from Xavier, an historically Black college in New Orleans. He is also known as a hiphop artist named Shaheed. Many Arab youths like Ahmad grew up working in corner stores in the projects, surrounded by hiphop culture and forming friendships with recording artists from local music labels such as No Limit. Ahmad’s family had spent all summer working to open a store in Chalmette, which is now destroyed by flooding. Ahmad feels fortunate that everyone in his family is ok, and tells me “New Orleans is in my thoughts and prayers every day.”

Sandra is a Palestinian-American woman originally from Al-Bireh on the occupied Palestinian West Bank. She was active in community organizing as a young woman in Palestine, and has been a strong voice for social justice in New Orleans as long as I’ve known her. She was elected unanimously president of the local chapter of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, and spoke out frequently for human rights, hosting progressive Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney when she spoke in New Orleans, and speaking at ACLU and community events. She works as a nurse, and has been saving and working for months to open a restaurant. Sandra’s home is in the Lakeview neighborhood of New Orleans. It was so destroyed by flooding that she couldn’t even get the doors to her house to open. Her business on Carrollton Avenue, which she and her husband Luis had been working for months to open, was destroyed, just days before it would have been ready to open. They had been working all day on the store the day before the hurricane, as they did many days. “We had just bought a new oven, new refrigerators, new kitchen equipment. Everything’s destroyed. Our home is destroyed, the business is destroyed. We lost everything. Everything.” Sandra and her husband are staying with her daughter, a college student in Baton Rouge. I ask Sandra what we can do to help her. “Don’t help me. I’ll be ok. There are so many others that have it even worse. We need to pull together as a community to help those who are the worst off. People who lost their homes and loved ones, people who are still living in shelters, people who didn’t have anything to begin with.”

The national Muslim community has dedicated significant resources towards relief efforts. Several of the largest Muslim charities, including Council on American-Islamic Relations, Islamic Society of North America, Kind Hearts and Muslim American Society, have formed a coalition called the Muslim Hurricane Relief Task Force to participate in direct relief. They have provided vital aid to many, and spent millions of dollars on relief, an especially difficult task given the recent government crackdowns on Muslim charities and the fear this has generated within the US Muslim communities. “Many immigrants didn’t know how to get federal aid,” Bashi tells me. “Those that weren’t citizens were told that they couldn’t get aid, in fact they were told they’d be deported if they even applied.”

Fortunately, according to Bashi, Islamic charities filled some of these gaps, as well as providing aid to non-muslims, including at least 2,600 volunteers just in the Houston shelters. However, as with other organizations on the front lines of relief, there are still questions about the distribution of relief, and if those with the most need are being served equitably. I spoke recently with Nurah Jeter Ammat'ullah, founder/director of the Muslim Women's Institute for Research and Development. She has been working with Islamic aid groups in the Houston area. She told me, “this is what I understand to be the tenets of Islam, working in service of humanity.”However, she voiced concerns over the way aid is being distributed. “I’m concerned that aid is not reaching the African-American Muslim community in relation to their needs. I’m concerned that aid is not reaching the African-American communities of the Gulf region, overall, in relation to their needs. Aside from hurricane relief, there are systematic issues that have plagued African-American communities in this region for a long time. People are making donations, and its vital that we make sure we have transparency, and some apparatus that allows community oversight....on one hand we’re a unified faith community, on the other hand you have ethnic lines superimposed on class lines that don't paint a very good picture.”

This is a problem not at all unique to the Muslim aid community. In fact, any relief effort that is not also aimed at attacking the fundamental structures of racism and corruption that led to this disaster will in some way reinforce the problem. People like myself, who were better off to begin with, have been most able to receive relief aid. On a deeper level, the very idea of “Hurricane Katrina Relief” encourages the idea that the problem is just the damage from the hurricane, and that if we can get people back to where they were pre-hurricane, everything will be ok. The status quo pre-hurricane was, and is, the problem. The inequalities and negligence and disinvestment that were a part of that status quo caused this tragedy. Now as the picture shifts from relief to reconstruction, the inequalities become even more serious. I asked Bashi about his community’s role in reconstruction. “Muslims, and especially immigrant Muslims, are political pariahs in this country right now,” he said. “I can’t see any government board wanting to have muslim representation. Most Brown folks who have been elected are exceedingly xenophobic or else they wouldn’t have gotten there. Look at Bobby Jindal, who represented the far right positions, but still lost the Governors race because of his skin color. Ultimately, we’re just a small minority of the city’s population, and we’re not expecting any representation in decision making. The only place we can be involved is on a grassroots level.”

The poor Black majority of the city has also been shut out of these decisions. The Mayor and Governor have both appointed advisory boards that are significant in who they leave out. Although Mayor Nagin did choose Barbara Major, a dedicated and brilliant community leader, to sit on his board, the other 16 board members he chose are all corporate leaders with no constituency in the Black community, a description that arguably also applies to Nagin, a corporate businessman who was elected with the support of 70% of the white vote of New Orleans. According to Curtis Muhammad of the People’s Hurricane Relief Fund, even among natural allies there has been a hesitation to support Black-led efforts.“We’re seeing a fear on the part of people even in the progressive community to take leadership on this from poor Black folks, and we want to confront this and find out why,” Muhammad recently told me. Many community members I’ve spoken with recently have expressed urgency, concern, and fear for the future. So many resources are flowing to organizations such as Red Cross who are more a part of the problem than solution.

If the people of New Orleans are going to have a real say in the decisions that will effect them, its vital to build a broad alliance and find a way to harness the support from across the US and around the world. I asked Ammat'ullah what charity she would recommend Muslims donate to if they want to help the people of New Orleans, and she replied, “so far, from what I’ve seen and heard, I would recommend they donate to the People’s Hurricane Relief Fund.”

Current Condition in New Orleans

This is an e-mail from a friend of mine living in Metairie, a suburb outside of New Orleans.

Just thought I would share some news of NOLA. I spoke to the former Loan Officer at my credit union located in Harahan today. She informed me that area is still very bad. No major stores such as Wal-mart and Home Depot are staying open past 6 pm as there are no workers, therefore one cannot buy what little there is--the stores are open one minute and close the next. She stated that she went to the store about 7 AM to shop and she stood in line for almost three hours just waiting to pay--you have no choice if you need the items as there is NOTHING else open. Traffic is backed up from Baton Rouge to NOLA on I-10.

In NOLA it took her three hours to get to her work this morning for what would normally be a 20 minute drive. Curfews are in effect everywhere--people have to be in their homes by 6-7 PM and this is being enforced by the military who are heavily armed. There is still much widespread looting and stealing. The schools for the children are in a terrible state of disorganization (remember they weren't much better prior to the hurricane--imagine now)--children are being made to attend in staggered schedules and there is shortage of regular teachers so the children are not adequately learning--there are no daycares open for smaller children.

Most are saying that if you must come to see your home be prepared for it to take you several hours to even get into the outskirts of New Orleans. There is still a widespread gas shortage and in general people are being more hostile and violent. There is garbage and debris everywhere and infestations of insects and rodents in some of the harder hit areas.

Interesting that we are not seeing these images on television--the media keeps showing us the French Quarter and Canal St. I think that Mayor Nagin needs to "get real" and stop trying to make it seem like the city is "coming alive" again. We all feel bad for the situation, but the reality of the place being inhabitable again on a healthy basis (psychologically, physically and emotionally) is an extremely long way off. Let's face it, Nagin's family is in Dallas--that fact should be strong enough to illustrate the depravity in the real living situation that NOLA now is.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Prisoner Abuse Scandal Unfolds: Jordan's Log

Friends and Allies,

By now many of you have probably seen the reporting in the New York Times, LA Times, and elsewhere, on the continuing revelations about prisoner abuse and torture in the aftermath of Katrina. Here are a couple quotes from yesterday's NY Times article, which, according to a friend who has been working tirelessly on this issue, understates the case:

"(Inmate's lawyers) estimate that as many as 2,000 people arrested for minor crimes just before the hurricane are still in prison five weeks later. They said that under normal circumstances, such low-level offenders would have seen a judge and been released within days." "Lawyers said that interviews with the 450 prisoners in Jena (a rural louisiana prison) produced complaints that guards had been beating them, stripping them naked and hitting them with belts, shaving their heads, threatening them with dogs, shocking them with stun guns and assaulting them after they attempted to report the abuse. The inmates said prison guards from Louisiana, as well as New York City corrections officers sent to the area after the hurricane, had participated in the abuse.'I'm afraid for my safety,' read one handwritten note that lawyers say was smuggled to them last week by a Jena prisoner. 'It's going to be worse when y'all leave. I was beaten 9-28-05.'"

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“I’m very much afraid of this ‘Foundation Complex.’ We’re getting praise from places that worry me.” — Ella Baker, June 1963

In May of 2004 the radical feminist organization INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence, organized an historic conference titled The Revolution Will Not Be Funded: Beyond The Non-Profit Industrial Complex. The conference addressed issues related to funding within the radical movement, specifically the role that large foundations were playing in restructuring grassroots organizations to fit within a corporate model. While attending the most recent INCITE! conference, in New Orleans in March of 2005, we decided to dedicate an upcoming issue to this theme.

MORE ABOUT LEFT TURN: Left Turn features first-hand reports from organizers on the front lines of movements for justice. We exist to build links between movements and create resources and networks for activists and organizers. The new issue features reports from Sista2Sista in New York City, California's Action In Defense of Education, Organizing Against the Minutemen in Arizona, the national Counter-Recruitment Movement, Domestic Workers United, Deporten A La Migra, and much more, including first-hand international reporting from Mexico, Western Sahara and Gaza.

We have a beautiful cover by Cristy Road, a powerful poem about New Orleans by Suheir Hammad, the first statement from The People's Hurricane Relief Fund and Oversight Coalition, plus writings by Grace Chang, Subhash Kateel, Eric Tang, Uda Walker, Hadeel Assali, Jamal Ju'maa, Kazembe Balagun, Marina Sitrin, Maria Poblet, and Mazin Qumsiyeh. Left Turn has received seven awards in three years from Project Censored for our reporting on issues ignored by the mainstream media. We received nominations for General Excellence in Magazines and International Coverage from the 2004 Utne Independent Press Awards, The New York Review of Magazines called us "a trade publication for a new generation of activist," and this year Clamor Magazine called us the Best Political Magazine in the US. As an anticapitalist publication with a all-volunteer staff living outside of the Non Profit Industrial Complex, we depend on grassroots activists around the country for financial support. Please take out a subscription if you can. More information is on our website at

In Solidarity,