Hurricane Katrina News ArticlesExcerpts of key news articles on Hurricane Katrina
Across the hurricane ravaged Gulf Coast, thousands upon thousands of blue tarps are being nailed to wind-damaged roofs, a visible sign of government assistance. The blue sheeting...isn't coming cheap. Knight Ridder has found that a lack of oversight, generous contracting deals and poor planning mean that government agencies are shelling out as much as 10 times what the temporary fix would normally cost. The government is paying contractors an average of $2,480 for less than two hours of work to cover each damaged roof - even though it's also giving them endless supplies of blue sheeting for free. Steve Manser, the president of Simon Roofing and Sheet Metal of Youngstown, Ohio, which was awarded an initial $10 million contract to begin "Operation Blue Roof" in New Orleans, acknowledged that the price his company is charging to install blue tarps could pay for shingling an entire roof.
Note: Google news shows that though many small papers reported this story, no major media did.
Topping the federal government's list of costs related to Hurricane Katrina is the $568 million in contracts for debris removal landed by a Florida company with ties to Mississippi's Republican governor. More than 80 percent of the $1.5 billion in contracts signed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency alone were awarded without bidding or with limited competition, government records show, provoking concerns among auditors and government officials about the potential for favoritism or abuse. Already, questions have been raised about the political connections of two major contractors - the Shaw Group and Kellogg, Brown & Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton - that have been represented by the lobbyist Joe M. Allbaugh, President Bush's former campaign manager and a former leader of FEMA. Bills have come in for deals that apparently were clinched with a handshake, with no documentation. Kellogg, Brown & Root, which was given $60 million in contracts, was rebuked by federal auditors for unsubstantiated billing from the Iraq reconstruction and criticized for bills like $100-per-bag laundry service.
Louisiana's top hurricane experts have rejected the official explanations for the floodwall collapses that inundated much of New Orleans, concluding that Hurricane Katrina's storm surges were much smaller than authorities have suggested and that the city's flood-protection system should have kept most of the city dry. With the help of complex computer models and stark visual evidence, scientists and engineers at Louisiana State University's Hurricane Center have concluded that Katrina's surges did not come close to overtopping those barriers. That would make faulty design, inadequate construction or some combination of the two the likely cause of the breaching of the floodwalls. Ivor van Heerden, the Hurricane Center's deputy director, said the real scandal of Katrina is the "catastrophic structural failure" of barriers that should have handled the hurricane with relative ease. "We are absolutely convinced that those floodwalls were never overtopped," said van Heerden. On a tour Tuesday, researchers...showed a "debris line" that indicates the top height of Katrina's waves was at least four feet below the crest of Lake Pontchartrain's levees. They contended that the pattern of destruction behind the breaches was consistent with a localized "pressure burst," rather than widespread overtopping. Former representative Bob Livingston, (R-La.)...noted that the earthen levees along Lake Pontchartrain had all held, while concrete floodwalls had failed. He was especially concerned about the 17th Street barrier, saying it "shouldn't have broken." If Katrina did not exceed the design capacity of the New Orleans levees, the federal government may bear ultimate responsibility for this disaster.
Not long after some 1,000 firefighters sat down for eight hours of training, the whispering began: "What are we doing here?" As New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin pleaded on national television for firefighters...a battalion of highly trained men and women sat idle Sunday [less than a week after landfall] in a muggy Sheraton Hotel conference room in Atlanta. Many of the firefighters, assembled from Utah and throughout the United States by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, thought they were going to be deployed as emergency workers. Instead, they have learned they are going...to disseminate fliers and a phone number: 1-800-621-FEMA. On Monday, some firefighters stuck in the staging area at the Sheraton peeled off their FEMA-issued shirts and stuffed them in backpacks, saying they refuse to represent the federal agency.
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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.
The most toxic debris in New Orleans isn't the sinister gray sludge that coats the streets..., but all the unanswered questions that have accumulated in the wake of so much official betrayal and hypocrisy. Where outsiders see simple "incompetence" or "failure of leadership," locals are more inclined to discern deliberate design and planned neglect -- the murder, not the accidental death, of a great city. Here are 25 of the urgent questions that deeply trouble the local people we spoke with on a trip to New Orleans and South Louisiana. Until a grand jury or congressional committee begins to uncover the answers, the moral (as opposed to simply physical) reconstruction of the New Orleans region will remain impossible. 20. Who is responsible for the suspicious fires that have swept the city? Why have so many fires occurred in blue-collar areas that have long been targets of proposed gentrification? 23. Why isn't FEMA scrambling to create a central registry of everyone evacuated from the greater New Orleans region? Will evacuees receive absentee ballots and be allowed to vote in the crucial February municipal elections that will partly decide the fate of the city?
An Idaho weatherman says Japan's Yakuza mafia used a Russian-made electromagnetic generator to cause Hurricane Katrina in a bid to avenge itself for the Hiroshima atom bomb attack. Meteorologist Scott Stevens, a nine-year veteran of KPVI-TV in Pocatello, said he was struggling to forecast weather patterns starting in 1998 when he discovered the theory on the Internet. It's now detailed on Stevens' website, www.weatherwars.info. Stevens...says a little-known oversight in physical laws makes it possible to create and control storms -- especially if you're armed with the Cold War-era weapon said to have been made by the Russians in 1976. Stevens' bosses at KPVI-TV say their employee can think and say what he wants as long as he keeps the station out of the debate and acknowledges that his views are his own opinion. Bill Fouch, KPVI's general manager, said. "He's very knowledgeable about weather, and he's very popular."
Note: Former U.S. Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen in a 1997 news briefing stated: "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." To verify this quote on the U.S. Department of Defense website, click here. If terrorist organizations have the capability to set off earthquakes and other major natural disasters, do you think huge military research laboratories might have some of the same capabilities? For more, click here and here.
The U.S. government agency leading the rescue efforts after Hurricane Katrina said on Tuesday it does not want the news media to take photographs of the dead as they are recovered from the flooded New Orleans area. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, heavily criticized for its slow response to the devastation caused by the hurricane, rejected requests from journalists to accompany rescue boats as they went out to search for storm victims. "We have requested that no photographs of the deceased be made by the media," the spokeswoman said in an e-mailed response to a Reuters inquiry.
Note: Though a Washington Post article mentioned this news a couple days later, no major media picked up this important Reuters story.
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.
The men from Blackwater USA arrived in New Orleans right after Katrina hit. The company known for its private security work guarding senior U.S. diplomats in Iraq beat the federal government and most aid organizations to the scene. About 150 heavily armed Blackwater troops dressed in full battle gear spread out into the chaos of New Orleans. When asked what authority they were operating under, one guy said, "We're on contract with the Department of Homeland Security." Then, pointing to one of his comrades, he said, "He was even deputized by the governor of the state of Louisiana. We can make arrests and use lethal force if we deem it necessary." Says Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, "These private security forces have behaved brutally, with impunity, in Iraq. To have them now on the streets of New Orleans is frightening and possibly illegal." Blackwater is operating under a federal contract...[that] was announced just days after Homeland Security Department spokesperson Russ Knocke told the Washington Post he knew of no federal plans to hire Blackwater. With President Bush using the Katrina disaster to try to repeal Posse Comitatus (the ban on using U.S. troops in domestic law enforcement)...the war is coming home in yet another ominous way. As one Blackwater mercenary said, "This is a trend. You're going to see a lot more guys like us in these situations."
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.
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.
Exxon Mobil Corp. had a quarter for the record books. The world's largest publicly traded oil company said Thursday high oil and natural-gas prices helped its third-quarter profit surge almost 75 percent to $9.92 billion, the largest quarterly profit for a U.S. company ever, and it was the first to ring up more than $100 billion in quarterly sales. The hurricanes slashed Exxon Mobil's U.S. production volumes by 50,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day, down nearly 5 percent year-over-year, costing the company $45 million before taxes. The company said total daily production slipped to 2.45 million barrels of oil equivalent from 2.51 million barrels.
Note: Isn't it amazing that though oil production fell, and though we all are paying much higher gas prices, Exxon Mobil earned the largest profits ever in the same quarter as Hurricane Katrina? Wouldn't it be nice if during a national catastrophe the oil companies were willing to drop their prices and suffer a little with the rest of us?
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.
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.
The federal government has moved hundreds of thousands of evacuees from Hurricane Katrina into hotel rooms at a cost of about $11 million a night, a strategy local officials and some members of Congress criticize as incoherent and wasteful. The number of people in hotels has grown by 60 percent in the past two weeks as some shelters closed, reaching nearly 600,000 as of Tuesday. The reliance on hotels has been necessary, housing advocates say, because [FEMA] has had problems installing mobile homes and travel trailers for evacuees and has been slow to place victims in apartments that real estate executives say are available throughout the southeast. Critics point out that hotel rooms, at an average cost of $59 a night, are significantly more expensive than apartments and are not suitable for months-long stays. Even conservative housing experts have criticized the Bush administration's handling of the temporary housing response. "I am baffled," said Ronald D. Utt, a former...Reagan administration aide who is now a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation. "This is not incompetence. This is willful."
Note: Do you ever wonder if the current administration might be trying to bankrupt our country? For more excellent information on the hurricanes: http://www.WantToKnow.info/050927hurricanecoverupcorruption
In another gesture symbolizing the continued confusion of the federal response, the man President Bush immediately named to succeed “Brownie,” proves to have been the same FEMA official who, two-and-a-half years ago, suggested that Americans stock up on duct tape to protect against a biological or chemical terrorist attack. David Paulison, then the government's Fire Administrator, joined with the then-head of Homeland Security Tom Ridge, on February 10th, 2003, to say that duct tape and plastic sheeting should be part of any home's "survival kit" in preparation for a terrorist attack. That set off a run on duct tape at stores, and widespread criticism of the administration. It might have been the first time after 9/11 that a large number of Americans wondered if the government really knew what it was talking about when it came to disaster preparedness. And the man behind that politically explosive proposal, has just been named to succeed the man who had been the face of the politically explosive response to Hurricane Katrina.
DAVID MUIR, ABC NEWS: This is the actual levee that runs along the canal on the eastern side of the city. You can see the massive breach here and...what the water did to the Lower Ninth Ward. It completely destroyed neighborhoods. JOE EDWARDS, JR., 9TH WARD RESIDENT: I heard something go "boom"!!! MUIR: Joe Edwards rushed to get himself and as many neighbors as possible into his truck. They drove to this bridge, where they've been living ever since. Was it solely the water that broke the levee, or was it the force of this barge? Joe Edwards says neither. People...in this neighborhood...actually think the city did it, blowing up the levee to save richer neighborhoods like the French Quarter. MUIR: So you're convinced... EDWARDS: I know this happened! MUIR: They broke the levee on purpose? EDWARDS: They blew it.
Two Navy helicopter pilots and their crews returned from New Orleans on Aug. 30 expecting to be greeted as lifesavers after ferrying more than 100 hurricane victims to safety. Instead, their superiors chided the pilots...at a meeting the next morning for rescuing civilians when their assignment that day had been to deliver food and water to military installations along the Gulf Coast. While refueling at a Coast Guard landing pad in early evening, Lieutenant Udkow said, he called Pensacola and received permission to continue rescues that evening. According to the pilots and other military officials, they rescued 110 people. The next morning, though, the two crews were called to a meeting with Commander Holdener, who said he told them that while helping civilians was laudable, the lengthy rescue effort was an unacceptable diversion from their main mission of delivering supplies.
On Day 2, there were approximately 500 of us left in the hotels in the French Quarter. We were a mix of foreign tourists, conference attendees like ourselves, and locals. We were repeatedly told that all sorts of resources...and scores of buses were pouring in to the City. The buses and the other resources must have been invisible... Babies in strollers now joined us, people using crutches, elderly clasping walkers and others people in wheelchairs. We marched the 2-3 miles to the freeway. As we approached the bridge, armed Gretna sheriffs formed a line across the foot of the bridge. Before we were close enough to speak, they began firing their weapons over our heads. This sent the crowd fleeing in various directions. A few of us...managed to engage some of the sheriffs in conversation. We told them of our conversation with the police commander and of the commander's assurances. The sheriffs informed us there were no buses waiting. The commander had lied to us to get us to move. We questioned why we couldn't cross the bridge anyway. They responded that the West Bank was not going to become New Orleans. These were code words for if you are poor and black, you are not crossing the Mississippi River... Just as dusk set in, a Gretna Sheriff showed up...aimed his gun at our faces, screaming, "Get off the f... freeway". A helicopter arrived and used the wind from its blades to blow away our flimsy structures. As we retreated, the sheriff loaded up his truck with our food and water. The next days, our group of 8 walked most of the day, made contact with New Orleans Fire Department and were eventually airlifted out by an urban search and rescue team. This official treatment was in sharp contrast to the warm, heart-felt reception given to us by the ordinary Texans.
Note: Though this and other stunning accounts spread widely over the Internet and alternative news services, no major media would report this highly newsworthy account by to emergency medics caught in the disaster.
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