Monday, December 19, 2005


Body Found, Bringing Katrina Toll to 1,321

New Orleans' Historic Streetcars Return

GOP Approves $29B More in Katrina Aid

Where's Bush? Not in New Orleans. By Eugene Robinson

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Some Newlings

American Red Cross President Resigns

Next stop in New Orleans: Disaster trip for tourists

New Orleans Company to Offer Disaster Tours

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Jordan's Log 12-15-05

Death, Abundance and New Orleans
By Jordan Flaherty

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

On Sunday, I drove past streets named Abundance, Pleasure and Humanity
to a memorial for Meg Perry, a 26 year old Common Ground Collective
volunteer from Maine. Meg died on Saturday when the bus she was in
crashed near downtown New Orleans. She had come to New Orleans in September,
then left and returned with more volunteers. The memorial was in a
community garden she had been working on in the Gentilly neighborhood.
All around were empty houses. It was a small moment of mourning, in a
city of mourning. Mourning that feels like it won’t end, because the
disaster hasn’t ended.

Walking the streets of New Orleans, it’s hard to escape the feeling of
death and loss. The city is heavy with the weight of those not
present. Many neighborhoods are still dark, not even streetlights or stop
lights, with long stretches of houses that have been abandoned for months.
Even Central City, a mostly Black neighborhood that saw little
flooding, is mostly dark and empty, although nearby (whiter) neighborhoods like
the Lower Garden District are more populated.

You almost never see children in the new New Orleans. And there is
still a 2 am curfew. I’ve heard several reports of people being arrested
for sitting on their porch at 2. As temperatures drop, much of the
city doesn’t have gas service. Every door has a spray painted symbol from
the National Guard, marking that they entered the house to look for

Compared to much of the city, my neighborhood was not hit hard by the
storm, but months later there are still mountains of debris on the
street and no regular trash pick up. I haven’t received mail from August,
much less September through December. FEMA left a note on my door saying
that because they couldn’t see our roof from the street, they reserve
the right to break into our home anytime in the next six months to
inspect it.

The longer homes stay empty, the worse things get. Houses that were
left empty have been infested with insects and refrigerators left with
food are filled with maggots. New Orleans already had a massive termite
infestation – I can only assume that while the city was empty it got
worse. I’ve heard the rat population has multiplied. In garbage hauling
alone, the city needs to dispose of at least 22 million tons, 15 times
the debris removed after the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center.
Disaster response has political repercussions. Corruption and stealing
of post-earthquake disaster aid in 1972 contributed to the fall of the
Somoza dictatorship in Nicaragua. The faulty federal response to the
1985 earthquake that hit Mexico City ignited a grassroots movement in
Mexico that helped to end the PRI government’s decades of one party rule.
And, of course, the 1927 flooding of the Mississippi River helped to
elect Huey P Long governor of Louisiana.

Within two weeks post-Katrina, Michael Brown of FEMA resigned. New
Orleans police Superintendent Eddie Compass followed soon after. Now,
Marsha Evans, president of Red Cross, has also been forced out. As soon as
we are able to have an election in our city, Mayor Nagin will be gone.
And Bush administration poll numbers have been in free fall. The stakes
are high, and the possibilities for change are real.

When I saw the floodwaters rising in New Orleans, I expected poor
people would be cut out of the reconstruction money. What has surprised me
is the extent to which the entire city has been left out. While some
local elites have profited, much of the money has gone to disaster
profiteers from Halliburton and Blackwater and bureaucrats from major relief
organizations. And, on a deeper level, the money necessary to rebuild
New Orleans simply hasn’t come. We still don’t even know if the levees
will be rebuilt, or to what level. As the New York Times pointed out
in a powerful editorial this week, we are facing the death of a city,
and we feel the rest of the country has forgotten us.

Money for rebuilding and relief has arrived from across the US.
However, only pennies compared to the 1.5 billion dollars Red Cross has
collected so far. And many organizations are providing only a dubious
service. “Can anyone tell me why the SPCA is still breaking into homes to
look for animals?” a friend asked. “It’s been almost four months.
Peoples pets have either survived or they haven’t.”

Another friend who is working for a big relief organization expressed
her concerns to me “We’re getting $35 a day for food, on top of our
salaries,” she said. “Things take forever to be approved - sometimes so
long that by the time we have the support we need, the effort has passed.
There’s so much money behind us—we can do pretty much whatever we want
and don’t have to worry about funding, but it feeds lifestyles that are
much more demanding than I’d hope relief workers would be.”

Progressive resources have been scarce. With the financial and
political support of the labor movement, progressive organizers in New Orleans
could create a union city deep in the traditionally non-union south.
The labor movement pledged hundreds of thousands of dollars towards
relief, and some union organizers and activists came down to struggle with
grassroots groups. But, so far, the vast resources potentially
available from labor have been absent.

Progressive and liberal foundations and nonprofits will spend millions
of dollars more, but its very likely most of that money will not go to
New Orleans-initiated projects. One funder I spoke to told me that
foundations have received very few funding requests from new Orleans-based
projects – no doubt because many excellent New Orleans based projects
are too overwhelmed to write grants right now. She told me that several
outside organizations have leaped into this vacuum to apply for this
money, while local projects will be left out.

New Orleans – and the south in general – has a long history of
outsiders spending large sums of money for organizing without community
leadership or involvement. Efforts like this always fail. The AFL-CIO spent
millions of dollars in the late 90s on an effort called HOT-ROC to
organize the hospitality industry in New Orleans. Several years and
hundreds of organizers later, the campaign quietly folded up shop, without
organizing a single worker. Meanwhile, vital local efforts go unfunded
and unsupported.

For example, NO HEAT – the New Orleans Housing Emergency Action Team, a
local organization with no paid staff or grants – has set up a phone
tree, currently with at least 50 people, to respond immediately to any
evictions. They’ve had demonstrations, press conferences and community
meetings, and work closely with the People’s Hurricane Fund legal

The Latino Health Outreach Project is another small local effort that
has been doing vital work with virtually no funding or attention from
outside New Orleans. They have been setting up clinics for Latino day
laborers wherever they can find them – from the hotels and campsites
they’re staying in to a restaurant on Canal Street many hang out at on
Friday nights.

Catherine Jones, who helped initiate the project, writes,
“The stories we are hearing from workers are so monumental we don’t
know what to do with them. Some people are working in mold-infested houses
with no masks or protective gear; some contract laborers are being
imprisoned in hotels by their bosses, who won’t let them leave the premises
once they return from the day’s work. People are working six and seven
days a week, often for ten or more hours a day. We have talked to many
day laborers who don’t get paid after working for a day or even an
entire week. These cold nights, many people are sleeping in tents while
their bosses stay next door in heated trailers. Some people sleep under
cars or bridges. Everyone is worried about flu, what it will mean to get
sick in this climate where no job is guaranteed and a day’s wage helps
support as many as ten people back home.

“A friend who used to live near the clinic told us how one day, when he
and some other people were going to work in Chalmette, they got stopped
by the police at the checkpoint and the police asked them for their
green cards. Our friend showed his Texas drivers’ license and explained
that he didn’t have a green card since he’s a US citizen. ‘You need a
green card,’ they said. They turned back the entire truck and told
everyone they couldn’t go to work that day.”

I’m no voice for New Orleans. I’m white, I’ve only lived here a few
years, and my house didn’t flood. There are many people who can speak
more effectively about what is happening in New Orleans – and some have.
At the same time, there are still so many stories that aren’t getting
out. And many of the people who would be the best ones to tell them are
too overwhelmed with the losses we’ve all faced.

So, on behalf of everyone in New Orleans too overwhelmed to write right
now, please, don’t forget us. We’re still drowning.
Jordan Flaherty is a union organizer and an editor of Left Turn
Magazine. This is his thirteenth article from New Orleans. Jordan’s
previous articles from New Orleans are at
Based on conversations with organizers and community members, Left Turn
Magazine has compiled a list of grassroots New Orleans organizations
focused on relief, recovery, social justice and cultural preservation
that need your support. The list is online at
If you want to know what’s up in New Orleans, and read more about the
Latino Health Outreach Project, racial profiling in the city and more,
see these writings by Catherine Jones:
You can also listen to Catherine interviewed at
Comprehensive website for information and action related to prisoners
in New Orleans:
More info on Meg Perry:
Other Resources for information and action:
Reconstruction Watch -
Common Ground -
Peoples Hurricane Fund -
Resource for Journalists -
Justice for New Orleans -
New Orleans Housing Emergency Action Team -

Monday, December 12, 2005

Some Yahoo News

Katrina Deaths Lead to Real-Life 'CSI'

Katrina victims blame racism for slow aid

Emotions flare as black survivors testify before special House panel

NBC News and news services

Updated: 7:31 p.m. ET Dec. 6, 2005

WASHINGTON - Black survivors of Hurricane Katrina said Tuesday that racism contributed to the slow disaster response, at times likening themselves in emotional congressional testimony to victims of genocide and the Holocaust.

The comparison is inappropriate, according to Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla. “Not a single person was marched into a gas chamber and killed,” Miller told the survivors.

“They died from abject neglect,” retorted community activist Leah Hodges. “We left body bags behind... The people of New Orleans were stranded in a flood and were allowed to die.”

Angry evacuees described being trapped in temporary shelters where one New Orleans resident said she was “one sunrise from being consumed by maggots and flies.” Another woman said military troops focused machine gun laser targets on her granddaughter’s forehead. Others said their families were called racial epithets by police.

“No one is going to tell me it wasn’t a race issue,” said New Orleans evacuee Patricia Thompson, 53, who is now living in College Station, Texas. “Yes, it was an issue of race. Because of one thing: when the city had pretty much been evacuated, the people that were left there mostly was black.”

According to a recent Gallup poll, NBC News’ Kerry Sanders reported on Tuesday, six out of every 10 black New Orleans residents said if most of Katrina’s victims were white, relief would have arrived sooner.

Discussions about race began almost immediately after Katrina hit on Aug. 29. On Sept. 9, according to NBC News, President George W. Bush told the public, “The storm didn’t discriminate and neither will we in the recovery effort.”
But victims disagree.

“I blame local. I blame state. I blame federal,” Katrina victim Doreen Keller said at Tuesday’s hearings. “I think we got disappointed by every rank of government that exists.”
‘I just don't frankly believe it’Not all lawmakers seemed persuaded.

“I don’t want to be offensive when you’ve gone though such incredible challenges,” said Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn. But referring to some of the victims’ charges, like the gun pointed at the girl, Shays said: “I just don’t frankly believe it.”

“You believe what you want,” Thompson said.

Shays also questioned a claim that the federal government unleashed this tragedy on New Orleans’ black residents on purpose.

“I was on my front porch,” Diane Cole French said at the hearings. “I have witnesses that they bombed the walls of the levee.”

“I don’t know if that’s theater or the truth,” Shays responded.

‘We have to acknowledge it’The hearing was held by a special House committee, chaired by Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., investigating the government’s preparations and response to Katrina. It was requested by Rep. Cynthia McKinney, D-Ga., a member of the Congressional Black Caucus.

“Racism is something we don’t like to talk about, but we have to acknowledge it,” McKinney said. “And the world saw the effects of American-style racism in the drama as it was outplayed by the Katrina survivors.”

The five white and two black lawmakers who attended the hearing mostly sat quietly during two and a half hours of testimony. But tempers flared when evacuees were asked by Miller to not compare shelter conditions to a concentration camp.

“I’m going to call it what it is,” Hodges said. “That is the only thing I could compare what we went through to.”

Of five black evacuees who testified, only one said he believed the sluggish response was the product of bad government planning for poor residents — not racism.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

How the museums are faring in NOLA

Some news about the recovery efforts of New Orleans museums.

New Orleans Evacuees and Activists Testify

Here's an article from Democracy Now!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Gulf region's hospitals struggling after Katrina

Here is it.

New Orleans unhealthy, groups say

By Tom Kenworthy, USA TODAY

Federal and state environmental agencies are downplaying long-term health dangers posed by chemicals in sediment that covers much of the New Orleans area, several environmental groups charged Thursday.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), one of the nation's largest environmental groups, and several local Louisiana environmental groups said that heavy metals, petroleum components and pesticides in the dusty residue left behind by Hurricane Katrina's floodwaters pose such a risk that families with children shouldn't return until it is cleaned up.
"The cancer risk and the risk of other long-term health effects is quite significant according to (federal) standards," said Gina Solomon, a physician with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The groups, including the non-profit Advocates for Environmental Human Rights law firm in Louisiana, based their assessment on tests they conducted in September and October. The tests found:

• Average levels of arsenic that are 31 times higher than the level at which federal Environmental Protection Agency guidelines require that soil in residential areas be cleaned up. Exposure to arsenic can cause a variety of cancers.

• The presence of banned pesticides in soil samples taken near an abandoned industrial facility in New Orleans' Gert Town neighborhood west of the French Quarter. Levels of pesticides such as DDT and dieldrin exceeded EPA cleanup standards.

• High levels of cancer-causing hydrocarbons from petroleum products near a federal toxic waste site in New Orleans' Bywater neighborhood northeast of the French Quarter. Tests found levels as much as 20 times higher than EPA cleanup standards.

The groups' test results largely conform with what the EPA and the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality found in samples taken since September. But the groups and government agencies disagree on the implications.

"It's how they interpret it," said Dana Shepherd, a toxicologist with the Louisiana environmental department. Some toxic standards, she said, are based on "a child eating that dirt for 350 days a year for a lifetime."

The government agencies recommend that residents take simple precautions when exposed to sediment, such as wearing respirators and washing exposed skin. However, Shepherd said, the state sees "no immediate health issues" that should concern the public.

State and federal regulators aren't focusing enough on the threats from long-term exposure, the environmentalists said. "We feel that they are grossly misleading the public in the way they represent their own data," said Erik Olson, an NRDC attorney.

The NRDC's Solomon said that healthy adults who take precautions shouldn't fear short-term exposure to sediment. Children and adults with respiratory or heart problems should avoid it, she said. "People can return, but at the same time the cleanup needs to proceed," Solomon said.

Documents Show FEMA Knew Response Was Broken

By LARA JAKES JORDAN, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - FEMA realized its response to Hurricane Katrina was "broken" and braced for rioting over woefully low supplies in Mississippi in the days just after the storm, according to new documents released Monday. The correspondence among Federal Emergency Management Agency officials, provided by a special House committee investigating the government response to the storm, follows the release last week of more than 100,000 documents by Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco. Taken together, the details from both states provide evidence that FEMA was unable to provide fast help at disaster sites — even when the needs were obvious.

"This is unlike what we have seen before," William Carwile, FEMA's former top responder in Mississippi, said in a Sept. 1 e-mail to officials at the agency's headquarters. He was describing difficulties in getting body bags and refrigerated trucks to Hancock County, Miss., which was badly damaged by the Aug. 29 storm.

"I personally authorized Hancock County to buy refer (sic) trucks that had been carrying ice becasue (sic) the coroner was going to have to start putting bodies out in the parking lot as his cooler was getting full," wrote Carwile, who has since retired from FEMA. "Still lots and lots of bodies out there."

The next day, in another e-mail to headquarters about substandard levels of food, water and ice being distributed in Mississippi, Carwile reported: "System appears broken."

In a Sept. 1 exchange, FEMA regional response official Robert Fenton warned headquarters that the expected levels of water and ice being sent were far below what was needed.

"If we get the quantities in your report tomorrow we will have serious riots," Fenton wrote.
Responding, Carwile wrote: "Turns out this report is true. .... There seems to be no way we will get commodities in amounts beyond those indicated below. And it turns out these shortfalls were know much earlier in the day and we were not informed.

"Will need big time law enforcement reinforcements tomorrow," Carwile's e-mail continued. "All our good will here in MS will be very seriously impacted by noon tomorrow. Have been holding it together as it is."

The special House committee, chaired by Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., released eight pages of e-mails. While some Democrats are participating, their party leaders have asked lawmakers to boycott the inquiry that they believe should be done by an independent commission.

In all, the House committee is reviewing hundreds of thousands of documents from local, state and federal officials who were involved in the disaster relief effort.

The Louisiana documents released late Friday revealed delays and state claims that requests for federal help weren't received, and reflected partisan battling between the Republican Bush administration and Blanco, a Democrat.

The Mississippi documents, though only a handful were released, showed no political tensions between local officials and Washington. But FEMA officials in the state were among the first to admit that needs weren't being met.

"Gulfport Ms only has enough commodities for roughly 3 hours distribution tomorrow," FEMA deputy chief of staff Scott Morris wrote in an e-mail sent at 11:46 p.m. on Aug. 29 — just hours after the storm roared ashore. "Apparently, the local law enforcement officials have allowed evacuees back into city."

Replying to Carwile's e-mail about body bag shortages, Scott wrote: "Let me know how I can help. 24/7 whatever you need."

The House committee will hold a hearing Wednesday focusing on the response in Mississippi, at which Carwile and Republican Gov. Haley Barbour are scheduled to testify.

"These exchanges point once again to problems of coordination and communication — unfortunately, a recurring theme throughout our investigation," said committee spokesman Robert White.

FEMA spokeswoman Nicol Andrews said the agency is undergoing an internal review for changes as ordered by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.

"One of the things we have learned is that our logistic resources weren't up to the task, and the technology that we were using wasn't up to the task." Andrews said. Chertoff "has said that one of his priorities is retooling FEMA and, as part of that, making it a 21st century agency."

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Students Happy Elsewhere

Some New Orleans Students Happy Elsewhere


New Orleans Mayor Asks People to Come Home

E-Mails Show How Katrina Swamped La. Gov