Hurricane Katrina News ArticlesExcerpts of key news articles on Hurricane Katrina
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.
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.
When the Federal Emergency Management Agency's paperwork slowed the evacuation of patients from the airport, Acadian's frustrated medics waited with empty helicopters. "At one point I had 10 helicopters on the ground waiting to go," said Marc Creswell, an Acadian medic, "but FEMA kept stonewalling us with paperwork. Meanwhile, every 30 or 40 minutes someone was dying." The company sent in outside doctors and nurses. FEMA rejected the help because the doctors and nurses weren't certified members of a National Disaster Medical Team. "When the doctors asked why they couldn't help these critically ill people lying there unattended," Mr. Creswell recalled, "the FEMA people kept saying, 'You're not federalized.' "
The boom of thunder and crackle of lightning generally mean one thing: a storm is coming. Curiously, though, the biggest storms of all, hurricanes, are notoriously lacking in lightning. Hurricanes blow, they rain, they flood, but seldom do they crackle. During the record-setting hurricane season of 2005, three of the most powerful storms--Rita, Katrina, and Emily--did have lightning, lots of it. And researchers would like to know why. Richard Blakeslee of the Global Hydrology and Climate Center (GHCC) in Huntsville, Alabama, was one of a team of scientists who explored Hurricane Emily. "Hurricanes are most likely to produce lightning when they're making landfall," says Blakeslee. But there were no mountains beneath the "electric hurricanes" of 2005 -- only flat water. It's tempting to think that, because Emily, Rita and Katrina were all exceptionally powerful, their sheer violence somehow explains their lightning. But Blakeslee says that this explanation is too simple. "Other storms have been equally intense and did not produce much lightning," he says. "There must be something else at work."
Note: A number of researchers suspect there may have been clandestine involvement in Katrina and other recent hurricanes, possibly using HAARP technologies, which have been well documented. For an excellent summary of this, click here. For more on HAARP, click here.
Eight years ago Congress...set aside $500,000 for FEMA to create "a comprehensive analysis and plan of all evacuation alternatives for the New Orleans metropolitan area." Frustrated two years later that no study had materialized, Congress strengthened its directive. This time it ordered "an evacuation plan for a Category 3 or greater storm, a levee break, flood or other natural disaster for the New Orleans area." The $500,000 that Congress appropriated for the evacuation plan went to a commission that studied future options for the 24-mile bridge over Lake Pontchartrain.
hundreds of personnel, dozens of vehicles - Chicago Tribune, 9/2/05
FEMA won't let
Red Cross deliver food - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/3/05
FEMA fails to
utilize Navy ship with 600-bed hospital on board - Chicago Tribune, 9/4/05
FEMA turns away
state-of-the-art mobile hospital from Univ. of North Carolina - CNN, 9/5/05
FEMA won't accept
Amtrak's help in evacuations - Financial Times, 9/5/05
FEMA turns back
Wal-Mart supply trucks - New York Times, 9/6/05
Coast Guard from delivering diesel fuel - New York Times, 9/6/05
FEMA blocks 500-boat
citizen flotilla from delivering aid - News Sentinel, 9/8/05
FEMA asks media not to take pictures of dead - Washington Post, 9/8/05
back German government plane loaded with 15 tons of food - Spiegel,
Responders Urged Not To Respond" Unless Dispatched - FEMA's own website
For those who are ready to go even deeper, read about FEMA's shady beginnings by clicking here. Then, to see Online Journal's revealing analysis article "New Orleans: Dress rehearsal for lockdown of America," click here.
Some countries have been trying to construct something like an Ebola Virus, and that would be a very dangerous phenomenon, to say the least. Alvin Toeffler has written about this in terms of some scientists in their laboratories trying to devise certain types of pathogens that would be ethnic specific so that they could just eliminate certain ethnic groups and races; and others are designing some sort of engineering, some sort of insects that can destroy specific crops. Others are engaging even in an eco- type of terrorism whereby they can alter the climate, set off earthquakes, volcanoes remotely through the use of electromagnetic waves. So there are plenty of ingenious minds out there that are at work finding ways in which they can wreak terror upon other nations. It's real, and that's the reason why we have to intensify our efforts.
If terrorist organizations have the capability to set off earthquakes and other major natural disasters, do you think huge military research laboratories with vast budgets might have some of the same capabilities? For more, click here and here.
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.
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.
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.
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.
For 16 critical hours, Federal Emergency Management Agency officials, including former director Michael D. Brown, dismissed urgent eyewitness accounts by FEMA's only staffer in New Orleans that Hurricane Katrina had broken the city's levee system the morning of Aug. 29 and was causing catastrophic flooding. Marty Bahamonde, sent to New Orleans by Brown, said he alerted Brown's assistant shortly after 11 a.m. that Monday with the "worst possible news" for the city: The Category 4 hurricane had carved a 20-foot breach in the 17th Avenue Canal levee. Bahamonde said he called Brown personally after 7 p.m. to warn that 80 percent of New Orleans was underwater and that he had photographed a 200-foot-wide breach. Testifying to a bipartisan Senate panel investigating the response to the hurricane, Bahamonde said his accounts were discarded by officials in Baton Rouge and Washington. President Bush, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Richard B. Myers, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have all said they were told that the city's flood walls did not fail until Aug. 30. Bahamonde said he found it "amazing" that New Orleans officials continued to let thousands gather at the Superdome, even though they knew that the area around it was going to flood. Ten people later died at the Superdome.
When U.S. officials asked the news media not to take pictures of those killed by Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, they were censoring a key part of the disaster story, free-speech watchdogs said yesterday. The move by the Federal Emergency Management Agency is in line with the Bush administration's ban on images of flag-draped U.S. military coffins returning from the Iraq war, media monitors charged in separate telephone interviews. On Tuesday, FEMA refused to take reporters and photographers along on boats seeking victims in flooded areas, saying they would take up valuable space needed in the recovery effort and asked them not to take pictures of the dead. A FEMA spokeswoman wrote: "The recovery of victims is being treated with dignity and the utmost respect and we have requested that no photographs of the deceased be made by the media." FEMA's policy of excluding media from recovery expeditions in New Orleans is "an invitation to chaos," said Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, a part of Columbia University's journalism school.
Note: Death tolls were reported prominently on a daily basis after the Asian tsunami, so why are the media and government so reluctant to give figures on the number dead in this catastrophe?
E-mailers sent me copies of two news photos that revealed an apparent double standard regarding black and white flood victims in New Orleans. One of the images, shot by photographer Dave Martin for The Associated Press, shows a young black man wading through chest-deep waters after "looting" a grocery store, according to the caption. In the other, taken by photographer Chris Graythen for AFP/Getty Images, a white man and a similarly light-skinned woman also waded through chest-deep water after "finding" goods that included bread and soda in a local grocery store, according to the caption. Apparently, quipped a cynical blogger at Daily Kos, "It's not looting if you're white."
Note: For both photos and more on this disturbing story, 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 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.
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.
Companies with ties to the Bush White House and the former head of FEMA are clinching some of the administration's first disaster relief and reconstruction contracts in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. At least two major corporate clients of lobbyist Joe Allbaugh, President Bush's former campaign manager and a former head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, have already been tapped to start recovery work along the battered Gulf Coast. One is...Halliburton Co. (Research) subsidiary Kellogg Brown and Root. Vice President Dick Cheney is a former head of Halliburton. Allbaugh formally registered as a lobbyist for Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown and Root in February. Allbaugh is also a friend of Michael Brown, director of FEMA who was removed as head of Katrina disaster relief and sent back to Washington amid allegations he had padded his resume. Halliburton continues to be a source of income for Cheney, who served as its chief executive officer from 1995 until 2000. According to tax filings released in April, Cheney's income included $194,852 in deferred pay from the company.
No one expected that weak spot to be on a canal that...had received more attention and shoring up than many other spots in the region. It did not have broad berms, but it did have strong concrete walls. Shea Penland, director of the Pontchartrain Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of New Orleans, said that was particularly surprising because the break was "along a section that was just upgraded. It did not have an earthen levee," Dr. Penland said. "It had a vertical concrete wall several feel thick."
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.
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