Hurricane Katrina Media ArticlesExcerpts of Key Hurricane Katrina Media Articles in Major Media
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Within hours of Superstorm Sandy slamming the East Coast two years ago, Americans opened their wallets to help — donating millions to the first charity that came to mind: the American Red Cross. In the months after the disaster, the Red Cross touted its success in delivering food, clothes and shelter to tens of thousands of people left homeless by the storm. The venerable charity's track record in dealing with the megastorm is now being challenged. Multiple internal documents obtained by NPR and ProPublica along with interviews with top Red Cross officials ... depict an organization so consumed with public relations that it hindered the charity's ability to provide disaster services. Among NPR and ProPublica's findings: The Red Cross national headquarters in Washington "diverted assets for public relations purposes." A former Red Cross official managing the Sandy effort says 40 percent of available trucks were assigned to serve as backdrops for news conferences. Distribution of relief was "politically driven instead of [Red Cross] planned." Relief organizers were ordered to produce 200,000 additional meals one day — to drive up numbers. They did it at extraordinary cost, even though there was no one to deliver them to and most went to waste. It wasn't just Sandy. When Isaac hit Mississippi and Louisiana earlier in 2012 ... one Red Cross official had 80 trucks drive around empty or largely empty "just to be seen," as one of the drivers recalls.
Note: The above story follows up on this Salon/ProPublica article, where the Red Cross called its spending habits a "trade secret". For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing stories about corporate corruption from reliable sources.
Four police officers, charged with shooting and killing two unarmed civilians on a bridge in the days after Hurricane Katrina, could face the death penalty. Those four officers and two others are accused of gunning down citizens and trying to cover it up. Five other former police officers have already pleaded guilty to helping cover up the killings, bringing the total to 11 charged so far. The entire New Orleans police department is under investigation, stemming from allegations of misconduct. Initially, police said they fired in self-defense. [On July 13] the Justice Department said that statement was based on a lie, and that the officers shot civilians without cause and planted a gun at the scene as part of an elaborate cover-up, which included creating fictional witnesses and falsifying police reports. Tuesday's charges come one month after five current or former New Orleans police officers were accused of fatally shooting 31-year-old resident Henry Glover, and then burning his body in a car to cover up the crime.
Note: For key reports on Hurricane Katrina and its amazing aftermath, click here.
Though more than 4,000 Louisiana homeowners have received rebuilding money only in the last six months, or are struggling with inadequate grants or no money at all, FEMA is intent on taking away their trailers by the end of May. The deadline, which ends temporary housing before permanent housing has replaced it, has become a stark example of recovery programs that seem almost to be working against one another. Thousands of rental units have yet to be restored, and not a single one of 500 planned “Katrina cottages” has been completed and occupied. The Road Home program for single-family homeowners, which has cost federal taxpayers $7.9 billion, has a new contractor who is struggling to review a host of appeals, and workers who assist the homeless are finding more elderly people squatting in abandoned buildings. Nonetheless, FEMA wants its trailers back, even though it plans to scrap or sell them for a fraction of what it paid for them. As of last week, there were two groups still in the agency’s temporary housing program: more than 3,000 in trailers and nearly 80 who have been in hotels paid for by FEMA since last May, when it shut down group trailer sites. Most are elderly, disabled or both, including double amputees, diabetes patients, the mentally ill, people prone to seizures and others dependent on oxygen tanks. Of those in trailers, more than 2,000 are homeowners who fear that the progress they are making in rebuilding will come to a halt if their trailers are taken. Progress on renovations has been slow for many reasons: contractors who did shoddy work or simply absconded with money, baffling red tape and rule changes, and inadequate grants.
Note: For further reports on the amazingly unhelpful government response to hurricanes Katrina and Rita, click here.
From the assassination of John F Kennedy to the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. From Roswell, New Mexico, to Nasa's moon landings. From the bloodline of Christ to the death of Elvis Presley. From the Moscow appartment bombings to the Indian Ocean tsunami. From Pearl Harbour to Peak Oil, the Philadelphia experiment and Pan Am flight 103. Every major event of the last 2,000 years has prompted a conspiracy theory and here we examine those with the biggest followings and the most longevity. 1. September 11, 2001. Thanks to the power of the web and live broadcasts on television, the ... theories surrounding the events of 9/11 ... have surpassed those of Roswell and JFK in traction. The [alternative] theories continue to grow in strength. At the milder end of the spectrum are the theorists who believe that the US government had prior warning of the attacks but did not do enough to stop them. Others believe that the Bush administration deliberately turned a blind eye to those warnings because it wanted a pretext to launch wars in the Middle East to usher in another century of American hegemony. A large group of people - collectively called the 9/11 Truth Movement - cite evidence that an airliner did not hit the Pentagon and that the World Trade Centre could not have been brought down by airliner impacts and burning aviation fuel alone. Many witnesses - including firemen, policemen and people who were inside the towers at the time - claim to have heard explosions below the aircraft impacts (including in basement levels) and before both the collapses and the attacks themselves.
Note: For a concise two-page summary of many unanswered questions about what really happened on 9/11, click here.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention failed to act for at least a year on warnings that trailers housing refugees from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita contained dangerous levels of formaldehyde, according to a House subcommittee report released [on October 6]. Instead, the CDC's Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry demoted the scientist who questioned its initial assessment that the trailers were safe as long as residents opened a window or another vent, the report said. That appraisal was produced in February 2007 at the request of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which had received thousands of complaints about fumes since providing the trailers to families left homeless by the devastating 2005 hurricanes. Formaldehyde is known to cause cancer, chronic bronchitis, eye irritation and other ailments. It was used in glue for rugs, plywood, fiberboard and other materials. The subcommittee's report came three days after a federal judge in New Orleans ruled that FEMA can be sued by hurricane victims who claim they were exposed to toxic fumes. The subcommittee report noted that the agency took eight months to revise its initial finding and did so only after Christopher De Rosa, then director of the CDC agency's Division of Toxicology and Environmental Medicine, publicly flagged scientific errors. "We believe that Dr. De Rosa is a whistle-blower and was removed from his position, which he had held for 16 years, in retaliation for his persistent attempts to push the agency's leadership to take more substantive actions to protect the public's health," the report said.
Note: For more revealing reports on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, click here.
The government wasted millions of dollars on four no-bid contracts it handed out for Hurricane Katrina work, including paying $20 million for a camp for evacuees that was never inspected and proved to be unusable, investigators say. A report by the Homeland Security Department's office of inspector general, obtained ... by The Associated Press is the latest to detail mismanagement in the multibillion-dollar Katrina hurricane recovery effort, which investigators have said wasted at least $1 billion. The review examined temporary housing contracts awarded without competition to Shaw Group Inc., Bechtel Group Inc., CH2M Hill Companies Ltd. and Fluor Corp. in the days immediately before and after the August 2005 storm that smashed into the U.S. Gulf Coast. It found that FEMA wasted at least $45.9 million on the four contracts that together were initially worth $400 million. FEMA subsequently raised the total amounts for the four contracts twice, both times without competition, to $2 billion and then $3 billion. FEMA did not always properly review the invoices submitted by the four companies, exposing taxpayers to significant waste and fraud, investigators wrote. In many cases, the agency also issued open-ended contract instructions for months without clear guidelines on what work was needed to be done and the appropriate charges. "We question how FEMA determined that the amounts invoiced were allowable and reasonable," the IG report states, warning that its review was limited in scope so that additional waste and fraud might yet to be found.
Note: For many more reports of government corruption from major media sources, click here.
FEMA gave away about $85 million in household goods meant for Hurricane Katrina victims, a CNN investigation has found. These items, stored by FEMA, were meant for Katrina victims but were given to state and federal agencies. The material, from basic kitchen goods to sleeping necessities, sat in warehouses for two years before the Federal Emergency Management Agency's giveaway to federal and state agencies this year. James McIntyre, FEMA's acting press secretary, said that FEMA was spending more than $1 million a year to store the material and that another agency wanted the warehouses torn down, so "we needed to vacate them." Photos from one of the facilities in Fort Worth, Texas, show pallet after pallet of cots, cleansers, first-aid kits, coffee makers, camp stoves and other items stacked to the ceiling. And even though the stocks were offered to state agencies after FEMA decided to get rid of them, one of the states that passed was Louisiana. Martha Kegel, the head of a New Orleans nonprofit agency that helps find homes for those still displaced by the storm, said she was shocked to learn about the existence of the goods and the government giveaway. "These are exactly the items that we are desperately seeking donations of right now: basic kitchen household supplies," said Kegel, executive director of Unity of Greater New Orleans. "FEMA, in fact, refers homeless clients to us to house them. How can we house them if we don't have basic supplies?"
Note: For revealing reports on government corruption from reliable sources, click here.
Two and a half years after Hurricane Katrina, tens of thousands of homeowners are still waiting for their government rebuilding checks, and many complain they can't even get their calls returned. But the company that holds the contract to distribute the aid is doing quite well. ICF International of Fairfax, Va., has posted strong profits, gone public, landed additional multimillion-dollar government contracts -- and recently secured a potentially big raise from the state of Louisiana. In the waning days of Democratic Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco's administration, state officials increased the management contract ceiling from $756 million to $912 million -- this, after the Legislature wanted to fire ICF over its handling of the homeowner recovery program, called Road Home. "It is outrageous that ICF couldn't do the job for more than $750 million and that they were given a pay raise after their history of disappointing service," Blanco's successor, Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal, said in an e-mail Thursday. Displaced residents expressed anger. Road Home was created in June 2006 as a state-run, federally funded plan to compensate homeowners for the breach of New Orleans' government-run levees. Homeowners can apply for grants to repair their homes or to obtain buyouts if they don't want to fix things up. As of last month, 56,000 applicants -- nearly 40% of the qualified total -- had yet to receive a cent. Plagued by cost overruns and delays, Road Home is expected to cost federal taxpayers $10 billion and has become a glaring symbol of frustration in post-Katrina New Orleans.
Note: For many more revealing reports on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, click here.
Nowhere has the rebound from Hurricane Katrina been gaudier than along Mississippi's casino-studded coast. Even as the storm's debris was being cleared, Biloxi's night skies were illuminated with the high-wattage brilliance of the Imperial Palace, then the Isle of Capri, then the Grand Casino. More followed, and so did vacation-condo developers. Yet in the wrecked and darkened working-class neighborhoods just blocks from the waterfront glitter, those lights cast their colorful glare over an apocalyptic vision of empty lots and scattered trailers that is as forlorn as anywhere in Katrina's strike zone. "At night, you can see the casino lights up in the sky," Shirley Salik, 72, a former housekeeper at one of the casinos, said while standing outside her FEMA camper with her two dogs. "But that's another world." More than two years after the storm, the highly touted recovery of the Mississippi coast remains a starkly divided phenomenon. Gov. Haley Barbour, a Republican, has hailed the casino openings as a harbinger of Mississippi's resurgence, and developers have proposed more than $1 billion in beachfront condos and hotels for tourists. But fewer than 1 in 10 of the thousands of single-family houses destroyed in Biloxi are being rebuilt. More than 10,000 displaced families still live in trailers provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Now, long-standing resentment over the way the state has treated displaced residents has deepened over a proposal by the Barbour administration to divert $600 million in federal housing aid to fund an expansion plan at the Port of Gulfport. The port's recently approved master plan calls for ... creating an "upscale tourist village" with hotel rooms, condos, restaurants and gambling. "We fear that this recent decision ... is part of a disturbing trend by the governor's office to overlook the needs of lower and moderate income people in favor of economic development," 24 ministers on the Mississippi coast wrote in September in a letter to state leaders. State leaders rejected the complaints.
FEMA has truly learned the lessons of Katrina. Even its handling of the media has improved dramatically. For example, as the California wildfires raged Tuesday, Vice Adm. Harvey E. Johnson, the deputy administrator, had a 1 p.m. news briefing. Reporters were given only 15 minutes' notice of the briefing, making it unlikely many could show up at FEMA's Southwest D.C. offices. They were given an 800 number to call in, though it was a "listen only" line, the notice said -- no questions. Parts of the briefing were carried live on Fox News. Johnson ... was apparently quite familiar with the reporters -- in one case, he appears to say "Mike" and points to a reporter. FEMA press secretary Aaron Walker interrupted at one point to caution he'd allow just "two more questions." Later, he called for a "last question." "Are you happy with FEMA's response so far?" a reporter asked. Another asked about "lessons learned from Katrina." "I'm very happy with FEMA's response so far," Johnson said, hailing "a very smoothly, very efficiently performing team. And so I think what you're really seeing here is the benefit of experience, the benefit of good leadership and the benefit of good partnership, none of which were present in Katrina." Very smooth, very professional. But something didn't seem right. The reporters were lobbing too many softballs. And the media seemed to be giving Johnson all day to wax on and on about FEMA's greatness. Of course, that could be because the questions were asked by FEMA staffers playing reporters. The staff played reporters for what on TV looked just like the real thing. "If the worst thing that happens to me in this disaster is that we had staff in the chairs to ask questions that reporters had been asking all day, Widomski said, "trust me, I'll be happy." Heck of a job, Harvey.
Note: To watch this amusing "news briefing", click here.
At the big Red Cross shelter in Baton Rouge, Louisiana ... the news ... was that the Republican Congressman Richard Baker had told a group of lobbyists, "We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn't do it, but God did." Joseph Canizaro, one of New Orleans' wealthiest developers, had just expressed a similar sentiment: "I think we have a clean sheet to start again. And with that clean sheet we have some very big opportunities." All that week Baton Rouge had been crawling with corporate lobbyists helping to lock in those big opportunities: lower taxes, fewer regulations, cheaper workers and a "smaller, safer city" - which in practice meant plans to level the public housing projects. One of those who saw opportunity in the floodwaters of New Orleans was the late Milton Friedman, grand guru of unfettered capitalism and credited with writing the rulebook for the contemporary, hyper-mobile global economy. "Most New Orleans schools are in ruins," Friedman observed, "as are the homes of the children who have attended them. The children are now scattered all over the country. This is a tragedy. It is also an opportunity." Friedman's radical idea was that instead of spending a portion of the billions of dollars in reconstruction money on rebuilding and improving New Orleans' existing public school system, the government should provide families with vouchers, which they could spend at private institutions. In sharp contrast to the glacial pace with which the levees were repaired and the electricity grid brought back online, the auctioning-off of New Orleans' school system took place with military speed and precision. Within 19 months, with most of the city's poor residents still in exile, New Orleans' public school system had been almost completely replaced by privately run charter schools.
As the winds and water of Hurricane Katrina were receding, presidential confidante Karen Hughes sent a cable from her State Department office to U.S. ambassadors worldwide. Titled "Echo-Chamber Message" -- a public relations term for talking points designed to be repeated again and again -- the Sept. 7, 2005, directive was unmistakable: Assure the scores of countries that had pledged or donated aid at the height of the disaster that their largesse had provided Americans "practical help and moral support" and "highlight the concrete benefits hurricane victims are receiving." Eventually the United States ... would fail to collect most of the unprecedented outpouring of international cash assistance for Katrina's victims. Allies offered $854 million in cash and in oil that was to be sold for cash. But only $40 million has been used so far for disaster victims or reconstruction, according to U.S. officials and contractors. Most of the aid went uncollected, including $400 million worth of oil. Overall, the United States declined 54 of 77 recorded aid offers from three of its staunchest allies: Canada, Britain and Israel.
In the neighborhood President Bush visited right after Hurricane Katrina, the U.S. government gave $84.5 million to more than 10,000 households. But Census figures show fewer than 8,000 homes existed there at the time. Now the government wants back a lot of the money it disbursed. The Federal Emergency Management Administration has determined nearly 70,000 Louisiana households improperly received $309.1 million in grants, and officials acknowledge those numbers are likely to grow. An Associated Press analysis of government data obtained under the federal Freedom of Information Act suggests the government might not have been careful enough with its checkbook as it gave out nearly $5.3 billion in aid to storm victims. The analysis found the government regularly gave money to more homes in some neighborhoods than the number of homes that actually existed. The pattern was repeated in nearly 100 neighborhoods. At least 162,750 homes that didn't exist before the storms may have received a total of more than $1 billion in improper or illegal payments. In one neighborhood GAO scrutinized, at least one person gave an address as a cemetery. Records show FEMA gave 27,924 assistance grants worth $293 million in that neighborhood. Only 18,590 homes existed, meaning up to $98 million in aid could have been disbursed improperly or illegally. The AP's findings are similar to those of a February report by the Government Accountability Office, which found hurricane aid was used for to pay for guns, strippers and tattoos. The GAO concluded that between $600 million and $1.4 billion was improperly spent on Katrina relief alone.
A federal judge on Wednesday called the Bush administration’s handling of a Hurricane Katrina housing program “a legal disaster” and ordered officials to explain a computer system that cannot count evacuees with precision or explain why they were denied aid. The judge ... ruled last month that the Federal Emergency Management Agency had violated evacuees’ constitutional rights by eliminating their housing payments without notice. Judge Leon ruled that the agency last spring and summer had mishandled the transition from a short-term housing program to a longer-term program. Instead of explaining why financing was being cut, the agency provided only computer-generated and sometimes conflicting program codes, Judge Leon said. He ordered agency officials to explain those decisions so that thousands of evacuees could understand the reasoning and decide whether to appeal. “I’m not looking for a doctoral dissertation,” Judge Leon said. “I’m looking for a couple of paragraphs in plain English.” “This is a legal disaster,” Judge Leon said. “People’s rights are being denied. I don’t want us to get so mired in the minutiae and the law while, in the meantime, people who need help are not getting help.” The agency has appealed Judge Leon’s initial order and is hoping a higher court will block its enforcement.
The House Appropriations Committee has let go about 60 private contractors who made up most of an investigative unit that was auditing billions of dollars in government spending, including the $62 billion federal relief package for Hurricane Katrina. The investigators...were released during the past week. The shake-up — which leaves only 16 full-time employees in the investigative unit — comes about a year after the Appropriations Committee's chairman, Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Calif., launched the Katrina review by saying the unit would "conduct a wide-ranging assessment and analysis of disaster spending." At the time, Lewis said the unit had a tradition of "comprehensive" reporting. It's unclear how the departures will affect the work of the unit, whose contract staff is made up of former employees of the FBI, CIA and other government investigative services. Some of them had worked for the unit for several years. Scofield said he could not identify the specific work being done by investigators because much of the unit's inquiries involve classified information. Established in 1943, the investigative unit has focused mainly on defense and intelligence spending programs.
By all accounts, the group of nine was a religious powerhouse: Their ranks included rabbis, imams and ministers, including the man hailed by some as the next Billy Graham. But as of Thursday, seven of the nine religious leaders serving on a committee created by the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund to disburse money to churches destroyed by Hurricane Katrina had quit their posts, claiming their advice was ignored. Departing members of the interfaith advisory committee say the fund's Washington staff disregarded their advice, cutting checks for Gulf Coast churches without properly investigating the institutions. "I've been in ministry for 30 years and I don't think I've ever resigned from anything. I'm a loyalist to a fault. But what's happened is unacceptable," said [Bishop T.D.] Jakes who was named one of the 25 most influential evangelists by TIME Magazine. Another committee member who resigned, said the Washington staff wanted the religious leaders to "rubber stamp" their decisions. "They had their agenda and that's unacceptable," he said.
The government doled out as much as $1.4 billion in bogus assistance to victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, getting hoodwinked to pay for season football tickets, a tropical vacation and even a divorce lawyer, congressional investigators have found. The GAO concluded that as much as 16 percent of the billions of dollars in FEMA help to individuals after the two hurricanes was unwarranted. GAO provided lawmakers with a copy of a $2,358 U.S. Treasury check for rental assistance that an undercover agent got using a bogus address. The money was paid even after FEMA learned from its inspector that the undercover applicant did not live at the address. FEMA paid an individual $2,358 in rental assistance, while at the same time paying about $8,000 for the same person to stay 70 nights at more than $100 per night in a Hawaii hotel. FEMA also could not establish that 750 debit cards worth $1.5 million even went to Katrina victims. Among the items purchased with the cards: an all-inclusive, one-week Caribbean vacation; five season tickets to New Orleans Saints professional football games; and adult erotica products in Houston. FEMA paid millions of dollars to more than 1,000 registrants who used names and Social Security numbers belonging to state and federal prisoners for expedited housing assistance.
Exxon Mobil, the nation's largest energy company, today reported a 27 percent surge in profits for the fourth quarter as elevated fuel prices gave rise to the most lucrative year ever for an American company. Exxon's profits are expected to generate new scrutiny of the company's operations in Washington, where legislators have recently expressed concern over Big Oil's good fortune as soaring oil and natural gas prices pressure consumers. Exxon said its profits climbed more than 40 percent last year, while its tax bill rose only 14 percent. Exxon's revenue last year allowed it to surpass Wal-Mart as the largest company in the United States. [The company's] revenue of $371 billion surpassed the gross domestic product of $245 billion for Indonesia, an OPEC member and the world's fourth most populous country with 242 million people.
Note: This article fails to mention the huge profits reaped by oil companies as a result of gas price gouging immediately after Katrina.
Hundreds of federal search-and-rescue workers and large numbers of boats, aircraft and bulldozers were offered to FEMA in the hours immediately after Hurricane Katrina hit, but the aid proposals were either ignored or not effectively used, newly released documents show. The Interior Department, which made the offers, also proposed dispatching as many as 400 of its law enforcement officers to provide security in Gulf Coast cities ravaged by flooding and looting. But nearly a month would pass before FEMA put the officers to work. Acting in the "immediate aftermath" of the hurricane, Interior officials provided FEMA with a comprehensive list of assets that were "immediately available for humanitarian and emergency assistance," according to the memo, dated Nov. 7, 2005. Those assets included more than 300 boats, 11 aircraft, 119 pieces of heavy equipment, 300 dump trucks and other vehicles. Also offered were rescue crews from the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service--teams that were trained for urban search-and-rescue missions using flat-bottom boats...but they were "never formally tasked" for that assignment by FEMA. The Interior Department wasn't the only government agency to offer assistance to FEMA that was not used effectively. Amtrak reportedly offered, before the storm, to carry residents out, but its train left nearly empty. New Mexico offered National Guard troops, but for days officials waited for formal approval to use them.
The White House is crippling a Senate inquiry into the government's sluggish response to Hurricane Katrina by barring administration officials from answering questions and failing to hand over documents, senators leading the investigation said Tuesday. In some cases, staff at the White House and other federal agencies have refused to be interviewed by congressional investigators, said the top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. In addition, agency officials won't answer seemingly innocuous questions about times and dates of meetings and telephone calls with the White House, the senators said. A White House spokesman said the administration is committed to working with separate Senate and House investigations of the Katrina response but wants to protect the confidentiality of presidential advisers. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, the committee's Republican chair, said "We are entitled to know if someone from the Department of Homeland Security calls someone at the White House during this whole crisis period." She added, "It is completely inappropriate" for the White House to bar agency officials from talking to the Senate committee.
Important Note: Explore our full index to revealing excerpts of key major media news articles on several dozen engaging topics. And don't miss amazing excerpts from 20 of the most revealing news articles ever published.