.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

 

AFP: Mud covers New Orleans houses

Mud-covered houses in New OrleansA layer of mud
covers streets
and homes after
floodwaters from
Hurricane Katrina
receeded in New
Orleans.

The putrid waters
covering up to 60
percent of hurricane
-wrecked New Orleans
would be pumped
out by next month,
nearly two months
earlier than expected,
US Army engineers said.

(AFP/POOL/David J. Phillip)

 

AFP: National Guard searches for bodies

Sergeant wading through flood for bodiesNational Guard Staff Sergeant Paul Miera checks for bodies in homes destroyed during Hurricane Katrina in Port Sulphur, Louisiana.
 
The failure of the US emergency services to handle the onslaught of Hurricane Katrina is due to resources being diverted to the 'war on terror,' experts say.
 
(AFP/Getty Images/Joe Raedle)
 

 

AP: Gore Helps Airlift New Orleans Victims

Al Gore

By DUNCAN MANSFIELD, Associated Press Writer Fri Sep 9,10:27 PM ET

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Al Gore (left) helped airlift some 270 Katrina evacuees on two private charters from New Orleans, acting at the urging of a doctor who saved the life of the former vice president's son.

Gore criticized the Bush administration's slow response to Katrina in a speech Friday in San Francisco, but refused to be interviewed about the mercy missions he financed and flew last Saturday and Sunday.

However, Dr. Anderson Spickard, who is Gore's personal physician and accompanied him on the flights, said: "Gore told me he wanted to do this because like all of us he wanted to seize the opportunity to do what one guy can do, given the assets that he has."

In the speech, Gore urged that the Bush administration be held accountable for the government's inadequate relief response, particularly "when the corpses of American citizens are floating in toxic floodwaters five days after a hurricane struck."

Bush administration officials have said Katrina's damage could not have been anticipated, but Gore rejected that.

"What happened was not only knowable, it was known in advance, in great and painstaking detail," Gore told the Sierra Club's national convention. "They did tabletop planning exercises. They identified exactly what the scientific evidence showed would take place."

An account of the flights was posted this week on a Democratic Party Web page. It was written by Greg Simon, president of the Washington-based activist group FasterCures. Simon, who helped put together the mission, also declined an interview.

On Sept. 1, three days after Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast, Simon learned that Dr. David Kline, a neurosurgeon who operated on Gore's son, Albert, after a life-threatening auto accident in 1989, was trying to get in touch with Gore. Kline was stranded with patients at Charity Hospital in New Orleans.

"The situation was dire and becoming worse by the minute — food and water running out, no power, 4 feet of water surrounding the hospital and ... corpses outside," Simon wrote.

Gore responded immediately, telephoning Kline and agreeing to underwrite the $50,000 each for the two flights, although Larry Flax, founder of California Pizza Kitchens, later pledged to pay for one of them.

"None of the airlines involved required a contract or any written guarantee of payment before sending their planes and volunteer crews," Simon wrote of the American Airlines flights. "One official said if Gore promised to pay, that was good enough for them."

He also recruited two doctors, Spickard and Gore's cousin, retired Col. Dar LaFon, an emergency physician who once ran the military hospital at Tallil Air Base in Iraq.

Most critically, Gore worked to cut through government red tape, personally calling Gov. Phil Bredesen to get Tennessee's support and U.S. Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta to secure landing rights in New Orleans.

About 140 people, many of them sick, landed in Knoxville on Saturday. The second flight, with 130 evacuees, landed the next day in Chattanooga.

Source: AP-Yahoo News.


 

AFP: Work on New Orleans levee - Sept. 10

17th Street LeveeRepair work on
the 17th Street
levee continues
in in New Orleans,
Louisiana.
 
Recovery of the
bodies of those
killed in Hurricane
Katrina began in
earnest amid hopes
that the final death
toll may be far lower
than initially feared.
 
(AFP/POOL/David J. Phillip)

 

Barhorst: On the "Bus" talking point being used by Republicans.

If New Orleans had been able to find qualified drivers for 300 metropolitan and 300 school buses and using Austin buses as a model they could have had 24,000 seats available for evacuating before the Katrina hit. There were more then triple that number who needed to be evacuated.

However, there is another problem, how do you choose the 24,000 that get the seats out of the many more thousands that might show up?

Also, how do you get 24,000 people onto the buses to fill the seats? I guess you would have to use police to control the situation.

So we add 200 police to 300 bus drivers.

But wait! What about the lame, the sick, and the elderly. Out of 24,000 there would have to be at least a 1000.

That's about 25 or 26 busses.

So now we add 25 medics to 200 police and 300 bus drivers.

(Hmmm, I guess we should subtract the police and medics from the seat total, but we could make them stand.)

Oops! How do we find the lame, the sick, and the elderly if someone hasn't brought them to the area or areas where the busses will be loaded? I guess we'd have to take at least 10 buses and go looking for them with bullhorns--though that might take a day or two.

And it's getting awful dark and windy.

What do you mean there's no seats left, four busses broke down next to the levees, five broke down and another skidded sidewise on the Lake Ponchitrane bridge and is blocking evacuation traffic, and there's a riot going on because there aren't enough busses and no water or food on the ones that are already loaded?

I think I'll go find a roof to sit on.


Terry D. Barhorst Sr.
Moderator Lone_Star_Democrats


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Abilene Democrats host "No Nonsense" organizer

Abilene, Sept. 10 - Taylor County Democratic Headquarters was the venue last night for an organizing meeting of the No Nonsense in November PAC, with Matt Glazerfield associate Matt Glazer, left, of San Antonio as the speaker. Royse Kerr, past president of the Democratic Club, introduced the speaker. Democratic County Chair Dave Haigler welcomed all guests, including some independents and Libertarians, such as Libertarian County Chair Steve Kirby, below right, and his wife.Steve Kirby

Glazer said this campaign is not about gay rights, it's about keeping discrimination out of the constitution. "The so-called 'marriage-protection act' is already the law in Texas," Glazer said, and so the proposed amendment would have no effect other than to place discriminatory terms in the Texas Constitution.

Rev. Thomas SquiersRev. Thomas Squiers of Church of All Saints, left, said people should be allowed to marry whomever they want.

About 15 people attended this organizing meeting at the Democratic Party Headquarters at 453 Pine Street in Abilene.

Veteran for Peace HaiglerDave Haigler, right, a lawyer, said, "I don't like resting our argument against this solely on constitutional terms. I don't have to approve of alternate lifestyles to favor equal rights for all. This is not about whether we favor gay marriage or not. This is about whether people in unusual living arrangements, like two elderly spinsters, will be able to hold and dispose of property and make decisions about their medical care just like any other free American."

"We are not wasting time trying to persuade people who feel gay marriage threatens heterosexual marriage," Glazer said.

Haigler agreed, saying, "Heterosexuals are placing their own marriages in jeopardy in large numbers without any help from the few gays who might want to get married."


-Submitted by: Dave Haigler
Dave@Haigler.Clearwire.net
or D@Haigler.Info
lawfirm webpage: www.haigler.info
political blog: http://demlog.blogspot.com

 

Slate-Papers: You're Out, Michael Brown - Sept. 10

By Telis Demos - Posted Saturday at 5:51 AM CT

Michael Brown is done, at least on the Gulf Coast. President Bush recalled the much-maligned FEMA director from the disaster site and sent him back to Washington. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff portrayed the decision as a shift of phase in the relief effort, from emergency response to longer-term crisis management, according to the New York Times, and Brown will stay at his post. Bush, below left, is seen with Brown, center, & Chertoff.  But the Washington Bush, left, with Brown, center, & ChertoffPost says Bush was likely bowing to internal critics, perhaps Chertoff himself, and Democrats still think Brown should be fired outright. Despite a banner headline, the Los Angeles Times just summarizes the recall then highlights news from New Orleans: fewer deaths than predicted so far, and the press may be barred from the city.

Brown's replacement is Vice Admiral Thad W. Allen of the Coast Guard, a well-respected veteran of September 11; the NYT profiles him inside. Evidence of résumé padding didn't help Brown, either: an investigative report by Time found that Brown wasn't "assistant mayor" back in Edmond, Okla., but in fact "assistant to the mayor." Brown told the AP that the return to Washington wasn't his decision, but that he was glad to be heading home for "a good Mexican meal and a stiff margarita."

Disaster news takes a slight turn for the better. The LAT cites New Orleans's director of homeland security saying that deaths won't reach the 10,000 mark previously predicted by Mayor Ray Nagin, below right, surrounded by bodyguards. Mayor Nagin, center, with bodyguardsAlso, despite threats of forced evacuation, no one has been arrested yet, although the papers don't say whether that's because folks are leaving or because police are going easy on stay-behinds. Houston doctors have contained a viral outbreak at the Superdome. Around the region power is slowly being restored, but 50,000 National Guard troops will remain through the year. The WP and LAT front looks at Web sites helping families reunite.

There's also bad news. Press access to the city is being restricted as the dead are collected and identified. "You wouldn't want to have pictures of people who are deceased shown on any media," says a National Guard general. But CNN got a restraining order claiming the restriction violated free speech, scoops the LAT. The papers also report that FEMA cancelled a program to hand out $2,000 debit cards to storm victims when too many people showed up at the Astrodome for the cards; the money will be sent by check or direct deposit. The NYT says private profiteers including, yes, Senator Rick SantorumHalliburton, are rushing to cash in on big rebuilding contracts. Senator Rick Santorum, left, thinks the National Weather Service should be privatized, too, reports the WP. The NYT says thousands of kids are separated from their parents.

The LAT fronts a must-read on Katrina's political fallout. With Bush now backing New Deal-era programs like welfare with billion-dollar infusions, the GOP feels lost. The massive federal relief effort is alienating small-government conservatives and emboldening Democrats, potentially derailing estate tax and Social Security reform.

Below the fold, the WP and LAT report that an appeals court upheld the detention of alleged dirty-bomber Jose Padilla. He's the second U.S. citizen to be detained in the war on terror, but unlike Yasser Hamdi, Padilla was nabbed in United States; Hamdi was arrested in Afghanistan. The Supreme Court said Hamdi could be detained but had a right to challenge. Padilla's case is likely to reach the top court. Also, a district court found that the federal government can't request Patriot Act searches in secret, report the LAT and WP inside.

The WP fronts a look at American security contractors in Iraq, citing investigations into allegations of "indiscriminate shootings." An American general says some insurgents have stepped up their attacks to avenge contractor violence. Private security guards are immune from lawsuits under an interim Iraqi law.

Egypt's Hosni MubarakAs predicted, Hosni Mubarak, right, was reelected as Egyptian president in the country's first contested elections. Inside, the NYT focuses on the positive, noting that secular reformer Ayman Nour surprisingly beat out well-known Islamic parties for second place. The LAT highlights low turnout and cites experts saying reform is unlikely.

Too soon? Not really, reports the LAT. Katrina-related humor aimed at the Bush administration's lousy relief efforts has been bouncing around the Web. For example: doctored photos of the president bass fishing in flood waters and FEMA-sponsored Bourbon Street parades.

Here's another one: "We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn't do it, but God did." Oh wait, Republican Representative Richard H. Baker of Baton Rouge really said that. Definitely not funny.

Telis Demos is a writer in New York.  Source:  Slate Magazine.


 

NYT: Casualty of Firestorm: Outrage, Bush and FEMA Chief

By ELISABETH BUMILLER - Published: September 10, 2005

WASHINGTON - To Democrats, Republicans, local officials and Hurricane Katrina's victims, the question was not why, but what took so long?

FEMA Chief Michael BrownRepublicans had been pressing the White House for days to fire "Brownie," Michael D. Brown, left, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, who had stunned many television viewers in admitting that he did not know until 24 hours after the first news reports that there was a swelling crowd of 25,000 people desperate for food and water at the New Orleans convention center.

Mr. Brown, who was removed from his Gulf Coast duties on Friday, though not from his post as FEMA's chief, is the first casualty of the political furor generated by the government's faltering response to the hurricane. With Democrats and Republicans caustically criticizing the performance of his agency, and with the White House under increasing attack for populating FEMA's top ranks with politically connected officials who lack disaster relief experience, Mr. Brown had become a symbol of President Bush's own hesitant response.

The president, long reluctant to fire subordinates, came to a belated recognition that his administration was in trouble for the way it had dealt with the disaster, many of his supporters say. One moment of realization occurred on Thursday of last week when an aide carried a news agency report from New Orleans into the Oval Office for him to see.

The report was about the evacuees at the convention center, some dying and some already dead. Mr. Bush had been briefed that morning by his homeland security secretary, Michael Chertoff, who was getting much of his information from Mr. Brown and was not aware of what was occurring there. The news account was the first that the president and his top advisers had heard not only of the conditions at the convention center but even that there were people there at all.

"He's not a screamer," a senior aide said of the president. But Mr. Bush, angry, directed the White House chief of staff, Andrew H. Card Jr., to find out what was going on.

"The frustration throughout the week was getting good, reliable information," said the aide, who demanded anonymity so as not to be identified in disclosing inner workings of the White House. "Getting truth on the ground in New Orleans was very difficult."

If Mr. Bush was upset with Mr. Brown at that point, he did not show it. When he traveled to the Gulf Coast the next day, he stood with him and, before the cameras, cheerfully said, "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job."

But the political pressures on Mr. Bush, and the anxiety at the White House, were only growing. Behind the president's public embrace of Mr. Brown was the realization within the administration that the director's ignorance about the evacuees had further inflamed the rage of the storm's poor, black victims and created an impression of a White House that did not care about their lives.

One prominent African-American supporter of Mr. Bush who is close to Karl Rove, the White House political chief, said the president did not go into the heart of New Orleans and meet with black victims on his first trip there, last Friday, because he knew that White House officials were "scared to death" of the reaction.

"If I'm Karl, do I want the visual of black people hollering at the president as if we're living in Rwanda?" said the supporter, who spoke only anonymously because he did not want to antagonize Mr. Rove.

At the same time, news reports quickly appeared about Mr. Brown's qualifications for the job: he was a former commissioner of the International Arabian Horse Association and for 30 years a friend of Joe M. Allbaugh, who managed Mr. Bush's 2000 presidential campaign and was the administration's first FEMA director. Mr. Brown's credentials came to roost at the White House, where Mr. Bush faced angry accusations that the director's hiring had amounted to nothing more than cronyism.

Members of Congress quickly weighed in. Senator Mary L. Landrieu, a Louisiana Democrat who was in New Orleans or Baton Rouge for more than a week after the hurricane swept ashore, said of Mr. Brown last Friday that "I have been telling him from the moment he arrived about the urgency of the situation" and "I just have to tell you that he had a difficult time understanding the enormity of the task before us."

Members of Mr. Bush's party also were angry. Last week House Republicans pressed the White House to fire Mr. Brown. Senator Trent Lott, below right, of Trent LottMississippi pulled the president aside for a private meeting on Monday in Poplarville, Miss., to ask him to intervene personally to untangle FEMA red tape. Mr. Lott, exasperated, told Mr. Bush that he needed to press the agency to send the state 46,000 trailers, promised for days as temporary housing for hurricane victims.

For a time, Mr. Lott did not directly criticize Mr. Brown or the federal response in public. "My mama didn't raise no idiot," he joked on Capitol Hill last week. "I ain't going to bite the hand that's trying to save me."

But on Friday, with Mr. Brown's tenure in the relief role at an end, the senator issued a statement that made clear his views, and those of many others.

"Something needed to happen," Mr. Lott's statement said. "Michael Brown has been acting like a private instead of a general. When you're in the middle of a disaster, you can't stop to check the legal niceties or to review FEMA regulations before deciding to help Mississippians knocked flat on their backs."

Mr. Bush, characteristically, did not officially dismiss Mr. Brown, instead calling him back to Washington to run FEMA while a crisis-tested Coast Guard Thad W. Allen, right, with Lt. Gen. Honorecommander, Vice Adm. Thad W. Allen (left, briefing the media in Baton Rouge, La., Friday, Sept. 9, 2005, as Lt. Gen. Russel Honore watches) was given oversight of the relief effort. The take-charge Admiral Allen, who commanded the Coast Guard's response up and down the Atlantic Seaboard after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, immediately appeared on television as the public face of the administration's response.

In Baton Rouge, Mr. Brown appeared briefly at Mr. Chertoff's side before heading back to the capital, where, the secretary said, the director was needed for potential disasters.

"We've got tropical storms and hurricanes brewing in the ocean," Mr. Chertoff said.

Source: NY Times.


Friday, September 09, 2005

 

Barhorst: It's not allowed to impinge on George Bush's feel good cosmos

.
George Bush said today that the United States was ready to "overcome any challenge," and "America is a strong and resilient nation."

The problem is the misery and death factor that Bush ignores totally. Help is not just declarations and money. Overcoming isn't reactive, it is proactive. Challenges are to be met at the time of the challenge, not when it is convenient politically or a vacation is over. The young and the mature are "strong and resilient," not the very old and very young. You can rebuild anything if you throw enough money at it, but you cannot bring a single soul back from a ravaged body floating down a street.

One thing that Bush did not mention is that he and his cronies have turned this country into a money-divided nation and all for the “bottom line” dollar. If he had bothered to take interest in the Gulf Coast before Katrina struck, he may have noticed the snail-paced, bumper to bumper traffic leaving the coast using gasoline that was already over $2.00 a gallon -- in cars that have an average monthly cost of four hundred dollars.

Though I doubt it, Bush might have realized that there were a great many families on the Gulf Coast who lived from month to month on less than six hundred dollars. Bush might have realized that there were very few busses in the long traffic jam. Bush might have realized that there were people walking the shoulders of the highways, and the city and state needed help.

It's a shame the realities of the United States being struck by a hurricane had to impinge on his hard-won, 5-week vacation


-Terry D. Barhorst Sr.



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Abilene Democrats set up fair booth

Veteran for Peace Haigler.
By Dave Haigler, county chair, right

Abilene, Sept. 9 - Taylor County Democrats set up their county-fair booth yesterday for the fair beginning today and running through next weekend. Anna Vedro (shown at left, Anna-Dora-Jewelwith her mother, Dora Martinez, and Jewel Halford) chaired the booth set-up committee.

Allen-Where's the damn plug?Allen Glenn (shown at right, plugging in the extension cord) chaired the volunteer-recruitment committee. Allen reports he has volunteers recruited to man (woman) the booth through Sunday night, but needs help for the rest of the week. Please call Allen or Esme Glenn at 673-7337 to volunteer.

Jim Halford supervising RogerClub President Roger Spier, M.D., left, with supervision of Jim Halford, was in charge of getting the signs level.

Roger is behind JewelPresident Roger was totally supportive and behind us all, in this effort. Here, right, he is shown behind Jewel Halford.

If the truth be known, Roger works his Roger working butt offbutt off
serving this club, and here's proof of that, left. He has long said he has no butt, but I didn't know what he meant, and if the truth be known, I didn't want to know, but now I do. Sorry, Alice; the devil made me do it. But, unlike Pat Robertson, I'm not Dora always helpsrecommending anybody for un-assination.

Dora Martinez, right, mother to Anna & Erasmo, always helps her Democratic friends.

Where'd I put the damn...Although we kept losing things, left, because somebody else kept moving them, we finally found everything and got the booth set up.

Roger-Look, Ma, it's levelAnd, in the end, Roger said, "Look, Bubba, it's finally level," right, with Legs Halford still supervising. (He and I call each other "Bubba," just to show we don't discriminate between Jewish and non-Jewish bubbas.)

-Submitted by Dave Haigler, Abilene
http://demlog.blogspot.com
Dave@Haigler.info

 

Slate-Papers: Fudge "Brownie" - Sept. 9

.
By Eric Umansky - Posted Friday, at 5:10 AM CT

The Wall Street Journal's world-wide newsbox and Washington Post lead with Congress approving President Bush's request for $51.8 billion in hurricane aid, which the White House said Wednesday should last "a few weeks." The New York Times' lead focuses on the spiraling costs—federal Katrina spending is expected to be about $500 million a day for a good while—and fiscally conservative Republicans are beginning to fret. The Los Angeles Times' catch-all emphasizes the president's promise to those displaced by Katrina that the government will "be there with you for the long haul." USA Today's lead says that while officials are talking a lot about forced evacuations, they're still holding off on going ahead with it. As the NYT puts it, there was "no official word" on when (if?) evictions will begin. That might be news to anybody who read yesterday's near-banner Times headline: "FORCED EVACUATION OF A BATTERED NEW ORLEANS BEGINS."

Jeff Sessions"We have all the earmarks of a rush to spend money that is very dangerous," said Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions, left (R-AL). The only no votes on the aid package came from a handful of House Republicans. Some legislators in both parties said they're bothered by the lack of oversight on the spending. The money will be administered by, yes, FEMA. The Journal and NYT both note that corporate lobbying to slice up the package has begun big-time. (Before you get too huffy, the examples cited by the more detailed Journal story seem to be nearly all from industries genuinely hobbled by the storm.)  

In its piece headlined "BUSH PLEDGES AID FOR THE 'LONG HAUL,' " the LAT mentions way down that the aid bill allows federal contractors in the gulf to skip a law requiring them to pay workers at least the prevailing wage. In New Orleans, the prevailing wage is reportedly $9 an hour.

Just about everybody mentions that Democrats rejected the Republicans proposed "bipartisan" but GOP-controlled congressional investigation of the Katrina response. And just about everybody boots the coverage. "PARTISAN RANCOR ACCOMPANIES PASSAGE OF DISASTER AID BILL," announces the Post. The Journal's particularly vapid effort details "jockeying," "finger-pointing," and "assigning blame." It's like the Odd Couple, where conflict itself takes center-stage and the little issues behind it come a distant second. (In this case the little issue is whether there will be a rigorous independent investigation like the 9/11 panel, which Democrats want and Republicans don't.)

The NYT gets a cookie for acknowledging in a correction that it flubbed yesterday's headline celebrating the "bipartisan" investigation.

After percolating for days on blogs, TP, and some regional papers, the WP (off-lead) and LAT (inside) finally focus on the fact that most top FEMA officials had no real emergency-management experience; the top three were connected to the president's 2000 campaign. Meanwhile, managers with experience have been jumping ship. Nine of FEMA's 10 regional directors are currently working in acting capacities.

BrownA Time magazine piece posted last night finds evidence that FEMA chief (as of 5 a.m.) Mike Brown, rightserially fibbed on his résumé (or, perhaps, had it massaged by others). There is, for instance, a reference to a college professorship of which there's no record. And then there was the time he was an "an assistant city manager with emergency services oversight."  One city official clarified that the job Brown had was not as a manager but "more like an intern." The New Republic adds that Brown got his law degree from an unaccredited university.

For the record, Brown's confirmation hearing was apparently a grueling 42 minutes long.

Slate's John Dickerson reminds that Brown didn't have power to be primarily responsible for the government's lax response. Brown hasn't been canned yet because he's playing a vital role, that of "chief punching bag." Meanwhile, the NYT can't be thrilled with the thin profile it had on Brown Wednesday.

The NYT goes above-the-fold with a curious piece saying White House "senior advisors" tossed around the idea of federalizing the rescue effort last week—and sending in 40,000 active duty troops—but decided against it because they didn't want to be heavy-handed and figured Louisiana's governor would oppose it. The Times, of course, doesn't name the sources who offered that narrative, instead citing "administration, Pentagon and Justice Department officials." One "senior administration official" said, "Can you imagine how it would have been perceived if a president of the United States of one party had preemptively taken from the female governor of another party the command and control of her forces?" Now, why would that official not want to be named? (In fairness, just because the explanation is self-serving doesn't mean it's Bush & Gov. Blanco with Brown & Vitteruntrue.)  Bush & Blanco are seen hugging in this photo, left, last Friday at an airport news conference, with FEMA director Mike Brown, left, and Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), right.

The Journal has a similar story. But it's better on the timeline, saying the governor was offered and rejected a possible takeover by the feds Friday night, after aid started rolling in.

A fascinating WSJ piece looks at how New Orleans city government was knocked out of contact for days after the storm. They only had a few old satellite telephones, which quickly ran out of power. So, they "looted" an Office Depot and figured out a way to set up, yes, Internet phones. (Vonage, if you must know.)

A piece inside the LAT mentions that in the 1970s the feds began work on a massive hurricane flood wall to protect New Orleans but dropped it after a judge ruled that the government hadn't done a proper environmental assessment.

She's got a bead on them ... From the NYT: "In the French Quarter, Addie Hall and Zackery Bowen found an unusual way to make sure that police officers regularly patrolled their house. Ms. Hall, 28, a bartender, flashed her breasts at the police vehicles that passed by, ensuring a regular flow of traffic."

Eric Umansky (www.ericumansky.com) writes "Today's Papers" for Slate. He can be reached at todayspapers@slate.com .  Source: Slate Magazine.


 

Barhorst: Clarifying "FEMA and Misrepresentation"

.
Just to make sure I'm making myself plain: The family that was going to come home with my wife was led to believe by the FEMA representative that they had to reside in the shelter to receive the $2000. They have a bank account that is nearly empty.

The official release from FEMA states that they could have registered via the internet and the money would be placed in their bank account.

They do not have to be in the shelter!

Also, they get an amount of money from FEMA, once they register no matter what. The $2000 is deducted from that final amount.

So, a family of four spends another day on four cots with a few thousand other people around them when they could have had some privacy, decent beds, and internet access.


--- In Lone_Star_Democrats@yahoogroups.com, "Terry D. Barhorst sr." wrote:
> Take a look at the news quote below. It could be a month before the
> family that we are going to take in gets the actual debit card. Also,
> there are few phones and no internet access except for a jobs web site.
>
> It's another "were taking care of it" that will keep them out of the
> general population.
> ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
> http://news.yahoo.com/s/kprc/20050908/lo_kprc/2926284
>
> For those who have nothing and lost everything they own in a
> hurricane, a $2,000 debit card can be a lifesaver. But for many
> evacuees, a promised form of relief has turned into a frustrating
> lesson in red tape, Local 2 reported Thursday.
>
> The Federal Emergency Management Agency said it will be distributing
> $2,000 debit cards so that evacuees can buy food, clothing and
> personal items. However, officials are still trying to determine how
> best to distribute the cards because it is the first time they have
> used them.
>
> Many evacuees believe that all they need to do is register with the
> American Red Cross, but Local 2 found out that they also need to
> register with FEMA to receive the cards.
>
> It can be done online at www.fema.gov or over the phone at (800)
> 621-FEMA (3362). The hearing or speech impaired can call (800) 462-7585.
>
> However, Local 2 tried to call the hot line eight times -- receiving a
> busy signal each time. The agency said it's best to call in the middle
> of the night at 2 a.m. Most evacuees don't have Internet access.
>
> Evacuees can also register in person, but the lines can be long.
>
> On Thursday, Local 2 found the shortest wait at the office at 2575
> West Bellfort.
>
> Once an evacuee is face-to-face with a FEMA representative, the
> registration process takes about 25 minutes.
>
> FEMA said it would take between seven and 10 days to receive the debit
> card after a person has registered.
> +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
>
> Also, of the 2000 that lined up, only 300 were processed before the
> registration was closed for the day.
>
Terry D. Barhorst



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Thursday, September 08, 2005

 

Barhorst: FEMA and misrepresentations.

.
My wife found her way into the Austin Convention center today to look for a family we could take into our home. She did, but while she was there a representative of FEMA arrived and made an announcement. He stated that if the evacuees were not in residence at the shelter they would not receive the $2000 debit card and if they had a place to live outside the shelter they didn't need it as a "start."

Sylvia quizzed him after to make sure this was FEMA’s stance. She then convinced the family to stay in the shelter at least long enough to get this money so they could get their kids some clothes for school, things for personal needs, and staart a bank avccount until their bank got back on line. Then call us and they would be welcome in our home.

Then, she came home.

I went to FEMA’s web site (Fema News Release), which says nothing about having to remain in a shelter to get the $2,000 debit card, and I’m mad as hell.


-Terry D. Barhorst


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AAS: DeLay & Craddick met with Texas prosecutor

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Photo: Tom CraddickU.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick, right, met separately with Travis County prosecutors last week to discuss the investigation into DeLay's political committee, Texans for a Republican Majority, and Craddick's race for speaker.

On Thursday, a Travis County grand jury indicted the Republican political committee on charges of accepting illegal corporate money for 2002 campaign activities, but took no action against DeLay or Craddick. The investigation, however, is continuing. A year ago, another grand jury indicted three DeLay associates who consulted for Texans for a Republican Majority.

DeLay and his legal team met with prosecutors for 90 minutes on Aug. 31 in Austin. They brought large amounts of material, including the Republican leader's personal schedule, to show that he spent little time working on the committee's activities.

From his Washington office today, DeLay released a statement confirming the meeting.

"Today's announcement (about the indictment) is limited to a political organization and does not affect Mr. DeLay," DeLay spokesman Kevin Madden wrote.

"Mr. DeLay explained to officials what he has always said publicly: His role with respect to TRMPAC was limited to serving on the political action committee's advisory board along with other elected Texas officials and to appearing at fundraising events," Madden continued. "Mr. DeLay assured the district attorney's office that he was not involved in the day to day operations of TRMPAC and to his knowledge all activities were properly reviewed and approved by lawyers for the PAC."

Madden said DeLay appeared voluntarily.

However, a source familiar with the meeting said prosecutors had prepared a subpoena for DeLay. It was never issued, however, after DeLay agreed to the meeting.

In the past, the relationship between DeLay, a Republican, and Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle, a Democrat, has been tense. DeLay has called the investigation by Earle a political witch hunt. Earle had responded that being called partisan by DeLay was like "being called ugly by a frog."

Last week's meeting, however, was cordial, according to the source, who did not want to be identified because of the sensitive nature of the ongoing investigation.

Craddick's lawyer, Roy Minton of Austin, said he and his client met with Earle and prosecutors for more than an hour, also on Aug. 31.

Minton said prosecutors asked how Craddick ran his race for speaker and about his role with Texans for a Republican Majority.

Craddick had no official position with the political committee, but he picked up a $100,000 corporate donation for the committee, and his staff distributed campaign money to Republican House candidates who later voted for him to be speaker. State law prohibits any candidate for speaker from receiving outside help.

"It was all a very pleasant conversation," Minton said.

DeLay created Texans for a Republican Majority to help elect Republicans to the Texas Legislature, which, in turn, drew new congressional districts favoring DeLay's allies.

The committee raised about $600,000 in corporate money, mostly from D.C. lobbyists, and spent it on consultants, phone banks, pollsters and other committee activities.

State law bans corporate money being spent on campaign activities, but lawyers for Texans for a Republican Majority argued that the law is confusing and unconstitutional.

In ruling on a civil lawsuit, Travis County District Judge Joe Hart didn't buy that. He ruled earlier this year that the political committee's treasurer, Bill Ceverha of Dallas, violated the state law.

Last year a Travis County grand jury indicted DeLay's chief fundraiser, Jim Ellis of Washington; John Colyandro, the committee's executive director from Austin; and corporate fundraiser Warren Robold of Maryland. Those criminal cases are pending. Ellis and Colyandro are accused of laundering corporate money into campaign donations. Colyandro and Robold are accused of accepting or making illegal corporate donations.

Thursday's new indictment against the organization accuses the committee of illegally accepting corporate donations.

lcopelin@statesman.com; 445-3617.  Source:  Austin American Statesman.


 

CNN-AP: DeLay committee indicted in Austin

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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) -- A grand jury has indicted a political action committee formed by U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, below left, and a Texas business group in connection with 2002 legislative campaign contributions.

DeLayThe five felony indictments against the two groups were made public Thursday. Neither DeLay nor any individuals with the business group has been charged with any wrongdoing.

The charge against Texans for a Republican Majority alleged the committee illegally accepted a political contribution of $100,000 from the Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care.

Four indictments against the Texas Association of Business include charges of unlawful political advertising, unlawful contributions to a political committee and unlawful expenditures such as those to a graphics company and political candidates.

Attorney Roy Minton, who represents the Texas Association of Business, said Thursday its president has met with prosecutors, explaining how the group spent about $1.7 million in corporate money for mailings to educate voters on issues.

The group has said its mailers did not advocate the election or defeat of any candidates, but were permissible issue ads.

Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle is investigating whether the contributions violate state bans against corporate money being spent directly on campaign activities.

The contributions to the 21 Texas House candidates helped Republicans gain a majority in the chamber in the 2002 election.

Source:  CNN-AP.


 

Meyerson: The 'Stuff Happens' Presidency

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Myerson
By Harold Meyerson, right
We're not number one. We're not even close.

By which measures, precisely, do we lead the world? Caring for our countrymen? You jest. A first-class physical infrastructure? Tell that to New Orleans. Throwing so much money at the rich that we've got nothing left over to promote the general welfare? Now you're talking.

The problem goes beyond the fact that we can't count on our government to be there for us in catastrophes. It's that a can't-do spirit, a shouldn't-do spirit, guides the men who run the nation. Consider the congressional testimony of Joe Allbaugh, George W. Bush's 2000 campaign manager, who assumed the top position at FEMA in 2001. He characterized the organization as "an oversized entitlement program," and counseled states and cities to rely instead on "faith-based organizations . . . like the Salvation Army and the Mennonite Disaster Service."

Is it any surprise, then, that the administration's response to the devastation in New Orleans is of a piece with its response to the sacking of Baghdad once our troops arrived? "Stuff happens" was the way Don Rumsfeld described the destruction of Baghdad's hospitals, universities and museums while American soldiers stood around. Now stuff has happened in New Orleans, too, even as FEMA was turning away offers of assistance. This is the stuff-happens administration. And it's willing, apparently, to sacrifice any claim America may have to national greatness rather than inconvenience the rich by taxing them to build a more secure nation.

As a matter of social policy, the catastrophic lack of response in New Orleans is exceptional only in its scale and immediacy. When it comes to caring for our fellow countrymen, we all know that America has never ranked very high. We are, of course, the only democracy in the developed world that doesn't offer health care to its citizens as a matter of right. We rank 34th among nations in infant mortality rates, behind such rival superpowers as Cyprus, Andorra and Brunei.

But these are chronic conditions, and even many of us who argue for universal health coverage have grown inured to that distinctly American indifference to the common good, to our radical lack of solidarity with our fellow citizens. Besides, the poor generally have the decency to die discreetly, and discretely -- not conspicuously, not in droves. Come rain or come shine, we leave millions of beleaguered Americans to fend for themselves on a daily basis. It's just a lot more noticeable in a horrific rain, and when the ordinary lack of access to medical care is augmented by an extraordinary lack of access to emergency services.

Even if we'll never win the national-greatness sweepstakes for solidarity, though, we've long been the model of the world in matters infrastructural, in roads, bridges and dams and the like. But the America in which Eisenhower the Good decreed the construction of the interstate highway system now seems a far-off land in which even conservatives believed in public expenditures for the public good. The radical-capitalist conservatives of the past quarter-century not only haven't supported the public expenditures, they don't even believe there is such a thing as the public good. Let the Dutch build their dikes through some socialistic scheme of taxing and spending; that isn't the American way. Here, the business of government is to let the private sector create wealth -- even if that wealth doesn't circulate where it's most needed. So George W. Bush threw trillions of dollars in tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans, and what did they do with it? Did the Walton family up in Bentonville raise the levees in New Orleans? Did the Bass family over in Texas write a tax-deductible check to the Mennonites for the billions of dollars they would need to rescue the elderly from inundated nursing homes?

Even now, with bedraggled rescuers pulling decomposed bodies from the muck of New Orleans, Bill Frist, the moral cretin who runs the U.S. Senate, wanted its first order of business this week to be the permanent repeal of the estate tax, until the public outcry persuaded him to change course. The Republicans profess belief in trickle-down, but what they've given us is the Flood.

The world looks on in stunned amazement, unable to understand how a once great nation has grown so indifferent not just to its poor and its blacks but even to the most rudimentary self-preservation. Some of it is institutional racism, but the primary culprit is the economic libertarianism that the president still espouses whenever he sells his Social Security snake oil. It's that libertarianism, more than anything else, that has transformed a great city into an immense morgue.

But, hey -- stuff happens.

meyersonh@washpost.comHarold Meyerson is Editor-at-Large of The American Prospect. Meyerson is also political editor and columnist for the L.A. Weekly, the nation's largest metropolitan weekly, where he served as executive editor from 1989 through 2001. His articles on politics, labor, the economy, foreign policy and American culture have also appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New Republic, The Nation, The New Statesman; the op-ed, commentary, and book review sections of The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Los Angeles Times, and in numerous other publications.

Source:  Washington Post.


 

Lakoff: The Post-Katrina Era

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George LakoffBy George Lakoff, left
 
Katrina's tragic consequences were not just due to incompetence, natural disaster, or Bush policies (though he is accountable). This is a failure of moral and political philosophy.
 
It is impossible for me, as it is for most Americans, to watch the horror and suffering from Hurricane Katrina and not feel physically sore, pained, bereft, empty, heartbroken. And angry.

The Katrina tragedy should become a watershed in American politics. This was when the usually invisible people suddenly appeared in all the anguish of their lives -- the impoverished, the old, the infirm, the kids and the low-wage workers with no cars, TVs or credit cards. They showed up on America's doorsteps, entered the living rooms and stayed. Katrina will not go away soon, and she has the power to change America.

The moral of Katrina is mostly being missed. It is not just a failure of execution (William Kristol), or that bad things just happen (Laura Bush). It was not just indifference by the President, or a lack of accountability, or a failure of federal-state communication, or corrupt appointments in FEMA, or the cutting of budgets for fixing levees, or the inexcusable absence of the National Guard off in Iraq. It was all of these and more, but they are the effects, not the cause.

The cause was political through and through -- a matter of values and principles. The progressive-liberal values are America's values, and we need to go back to them. The heart of progressive-liberal values is simple: empathy (caring about and for people) and responsibility (acting responsibly on that empathy). These values translate into a simple principle: Use the common wealth for the common good to better all our lives. In short, promoting the common good is the central role of government.

The right-wing conservatives now in power have the opposite values and principles. Their main value is Rely on individual discipline and initiative. The central principle: Government has no useful role. The only common good is the sum of individual goods. It's the difference between We're all in this together and You're on your own, buddy. It's the difference between Every citizen is entitled to protection and You're only entitled to what you can afford. It's the difference between connection and separation. It is this difference in moral and political philosophy that lies behind the tragedy of Katrina.

A lack of empathy and responsibility accounts for Bush's indifference and the government's delay in response, as well as the failure to plan for the security of the most vulnerable: the poor, the infirm, the aged, the children.

Eliminating as much as possible of the role of government accounts for the demotion of FEMA from cabinet rank, for Michael Brown's view that FEMA was a federal entitlement program to be cut, for the budget cuts in levee repair, for placing more responsibility on state and local government than they could handle, for the failure to fully employ the military, and for the lax regulation of toxic waste dumps contributing to a "toxic stew."

This was not just incompetence (though there was plenty of it), not just a natural disaster (though nature played its part), not just Bush (though he is accountable). This is a failure of moral and political philosophy -- a deadly failure. That is the deep truth behind this human tragedy, humanly caused.

It is a truth that needs to be told, starting now -- over and over. There can be no delay. The Bush administration is busy framing it in its own way: bad things just happen, it's no one's fault; the federal government did the best it could -- the problem was at the state and local level; we'll rebuild and everything will be okay; the people being shipped out will have better lives elsewhere, and jobs in Wal-Mart!

Unless the real truth is told starting now, the American people will accept it for lack of an alternative. The Democratic response so far is playing right into Bush's framing. By delaying a response for fear it will be called "partisan," the Democratic leadership is allowing Bush to frame the tragedy. And once it is framed, it is hard to reframe! It is time to start now.

Hurricane Katrina should also form the context in which to judge whether John Roberts is fit to be chief justice of the United States Supreme Court. The reason is simple: The Katrina Tragedy raises the most central issues of moral and political principles that will govern the future of this country. Katrina stands to be even more traumatic to America than 9/11. The failure of conservative principles in the Katrina Tragedy should, in the post-Katrina era, invalidate those principles -- and it should invalidate the right of George Bush to foist them on the country for the next 30 years.

John Roberts, as chief justice of a conservative court, would have enormous powers to impose on the nation those invalid principles. Do not be fooled by the arguments of "strict construction," "narrow interpretation" and the avoidance of "judicial activism" that will be brought forth in the hearings. What Roberts is brilliant at is the use of "narrow interpretations" to have maximal causal effect. Narrow interpretation, in his hands, can serve the purpose of radical conservative judicial activism.

Consider a small example, the Case of the Hapless Toad. The Constitution empowers Congress to regulate "commerce ... among the several states." This clause has been interpreted by the Court to make it the constitutional basis for much of civil rights legislation and all major environmental laws.

Over the past decade, the Court has been diminishing the powers of the federal government over the environment by limiting the scope of that clause, even limiting the application of the Clean Water Act. A completely narrow interpretation could eliminate all environmental laws (e.g., clean water and air, habitat protection) and threaten our civil rights. Roberts has written in favor such a narrow interpretation.

The case concerned a developer who wanted to build a large housing tract in California that would destroy one of the last remaining breeding grounds of the arroyo southwestern toad, threatening its continued existence. The U.S. Courts of Appeals on Washington, D.C., upheld the right to life of the toad species under the Endangered Species Act. But Roberts, in a July 2003 opinion, wrote that the Interstate Commerce Clause, on which the Endangered Species act is based, should not apply to "a hapless toad that, for reasons of its own, lives its entire life in California."

Such a narrowing would threaten the legal basis of the Endangered Species Act. Anti-discrimination legislation is also based on the Interstate Commerce Clause. What about discrimination wholly within one state? Were Roberts to apply a similar narrowing criterion, much of anti-discrimination law would go out the window.

The point is simple. Narrow interpretations can have massive causal effects and be a form of radical judicial activism in the conservative cause. After the Katrina Tragedy, we cannot afford a radically activist Chief Justice with the same philosophy that has failed America so badly. The ultimate moral and political issues apply in both cases. John Roberts as Chief Justice would be a danger to our democracy and possibly to our very lives.

George Lakoff is the author of Don't Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate' (Chelsea Green). He is Professor of Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley and a Senior Fellow of the Rockridge Institute.

Source: AlterNet.


 

Slate-Papers: Force Out - Sept. 8

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By Eric Umansky - Posted Thursday, Sept. 8, 2005, at 3:46 AM CT

The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and USA Today lead with authorities trying to get the few thousand residents still in New Orleans out. Federal health officials said three people have died from infections caused by the fetid water. The Wall Street Journal's world-wide President Bushnewsbox and Washington Post play up the formal request by President Bush, right, for another $51.8 billion in Katrina aid. The White House's budget chief said that should last a good "several weeks."

There's a lot of confusion about the forced evacuations, including whether they've begun. The NYT says yes, with a near-banner headline. A Times reporter watched an evacuation last night that involved a "dozen heavily armed immigration agents [who] broke into a house without knocking or announcing their presence." After being told they wouldn't leave without him, the owner eventually agreed to go.

The other papers see forced evacuations on the horizon but say no concerted effort has started. The city's police chief said he won't start forcing residents out until those who "want to voluntarily evacuate" are out.

Mayor NaginIt's Mayor Ray Nagin, left, who ordered the mandatory evacuation. But he has no authority over the now-main force in town, the National Guard. They're controlled by the governor, who was less intent on moving to that stage. In what may be its own overstatement, the Post says the mayor was actually "overruled by Louisiana officials."

Anyway, should the forced evacuations happen, the NYT notes that New Orleans hangers-on are of course free to challenge in court ... currently located in Baton Rouge.

Everybody notes that Republican House and Senate leaders announced a joint investigation into the government's response. It will be the first joint investigation since the Iran-Contra probe of the 1980s. The NYT headlines, "BIPARTISAN INQUIRY PROPOSED AS BUSH SEEKS $51.8 MORE FOR KATRINA." Which is technically correct and plenty misleading. As the paper mentions 15 paragraphs in, Democrats "were not involved in putting the joint inquiry together." Democrats called instead for an independent 9/11-type commission. In other words, headlines aside, what was proposed yesterday was a "bipartisan" panel largely opposed by one party.

The Post notices that while the White House did scrimp on levee work, Louisiana's congressional delegation didn't exactly have their eyes on the ball either. Louisiana actually got more money for Army Corps of Engineers projects than any other state; it's just that much of it was pork. For instance, one big project involved increasing the capacity of a canal that was, as it happens, falling into disuse. According to the WP, the corps' civil works budget "consists almost entirely of 'earmarks' inserted by individual legislators." The result of such a fine system, said one environmental lawyer, is that "saving New Orleans gets no more emphasis than draining wetlands to grow corn and soybeans."

AnnanThe Post fronts and others go inside with an independent panel's final report on the U.N. oil-for-food scandal; it hit
U.N. chief Kofi Annan (right) for inept management but didn't find evidence he was actively involved in shenanigans. In a point that gets little notice—unless the last paragraph of the Post's piece counts—the panel also concluded that U.S. officials approved "the single largest episode of oil smuggling" out of Iraq, which happened right before the war started. The Post notes that the U.S. declined the panel's "requests for interviews and documents" about that incident.

Everybody goes inside with two bombings in the usually quiet southern city of Basra that killed 16 Iraqis and four American contractors. The first attack hit a restaurant in a Shiite neighborhood; the NYT says the place was popular with Muqtada Sadr's men. A suicide bomber killed seven in the northern city of Tal Afar, where there seems to be a U.S. offensive unfolding. And another seven Iraqis were killed in assorted attacks in Baghdad. Finally, U.S. forces acting on a tip from a detainee, freed Roy Hallums, who had been held since November.

The WP notices what may be the biggest news out of Iraq yesterday: As registration ended for the coming elections, officials said Sunnis appear to have signed up in huge numbers. In the Anbar province, where turnout earlier this year was in the single digits, registration is reportedly at about 85 percent.

A stuffed LAT piece reminds that the U.S. has stopped work on many water- and power-reconstruction projects in Iraq. "We have scaled back our projects in many areas," one U.S. adviser said in congressional testimony. "We do not have the money." Much of the money has been rerouted for security. The LAT adds, without explanation, that "less than half of U.S. reconstruction money has been spent."

The NYT gets hold of Yasser Arafat's medical records, which show that he died of a stroke brought on by some kind of infection. Contrary to speculation, he does not appear to have been poisoned or to have had AIDS. (No, it's not definitive.)
Mubarak

Everybody mentions yesterday's first multi-candidate—but far less then free—elections in Egypt. President Hosni Mubarak, left, was running for his 5th 6-year term.  International election observers weren't allowed to observe. And the NYT says that at many polling stations, "Mubarak supporters literally stood over voters as they cast their ballots."

On the silver-linings side, Mubarak's critics were allowed to protest in downtown Cairo and complain about the rigging. "We are kind of shocked they didn't beat us," said one protester.

Eric Umansky (www.ericumansky.com) writes "Today's Papers" for Slate. He can be reached at todayspapers@slate.com .  Source:  Slate Magazine.


 

NYT: Forced Evacuation-New Orleans - Sept. 8

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

Betty Bates, right, & husband Clarence loading pickup

Betty Bates, right, carried some of her belongings, including a photograph of her daughter and grandson, to a pickup that her husband, Clarence Burton, was loading. The couple were told on Wednesday to evacuate their home in New Orleans.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Full NY Times article.


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