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Old 12-19-2005, 07:52 AM
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Katrina: Equal opportunity hurricane

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-bodies18dec18,0,7754290.story?coll=la-home-headlinesTHE NATION
Katrina Killed Across Class Lines
The well-to-do died along with the poor, an analysis of data shows. The findings counter common beliefs that disadvantaged blacks bore the brunt.
By Nicholas Riccardi, Doug Smith and David Zucchino
Times Staff Writers

December 18, 2005

The bodies of New Orleans residents killed by Hurricane Katrina were almost as likely to be recovered from middle-class neighborhoods as from the city's poorer districts, such as the Lower 9th Ward, according to a Times analysis of data released by the state of Louisiana.

The analysis contradicts what swiftly became conventional wisdom in the days after the storm hit — that it was the city's poorest African American residents who bore the brunt of the hurricane. Slightly more than half of the bodies were found in the city's poorer neighborhoods, with the remainder scattered throughout middle-class and even some richer districts.

"The fascinating thing is that it's so spread out," said Joachim Singelmann, director of the Louisiana Population Data Center at Louisiana State University. "It's not just the Lower 9th Ward or New Orleans East, which everybody has heard about. It's across the board, including some well-to-do neighborhoods."

Because New Orleans was one of the nation's poorest cities, where more than one in four residents lives below the poverty level, many of the victims were still found in neighborhoods that were impoverished by national standards. But by the standards of New Orleans, those neighborhoods were economically stable, and deaths citywide were distributed with only a slight bias for economic status.

Of the 828 bodies found in New Orleans after the storm, 300 were either recovered from medical facilities or shelters that offer no data on the victim's socioeconomic status, or from locations that the state cannot fully identify. Of the 528 bodies recovered from identifiable addresses in city neighborhoods, 230 came from areas that had household incomes above the citywide median of $27,133. The poorer areas accounted for 298 bodies.

The state official in charge of identifying Katrina's victims, Dr. Louis Cataldie, said he was not surprised by the findings. "We went into $1-million and $2-million homes trying to retrieve people," he said.

The information used in The Times analysis was incomplete, due to difficulties in gathering data in the days after Katrina struck and to bureaucratic problems that followed.

The private company that was contracted to collect bodies was supposed to mark the GPS coordinates of each recovery, but state officials said they soon determined that data was "worthless." They had to reconstruct the locations where bodies were found but in some cases could provide information no more specific than "Canal Street." Although it is the most comprehensive data they have released on storm fatalities, state officials acknowledge that the information is still riddled with errors and probably will be corrected constantly in coming months.

The state data also include locations such as the interchange of I-10 and I-610 where rescuers in motorboats were directed to deposit bodies they found floating in the floodwaters. There is no way to determine where some of those 19 bodies came from, and all have been excluded from The Times analysis.

"The data you have leaves a lot to be desired," Cataldie said in an interview Friday. "I don't know if it'll ever be 100%."

Of the 1,095 people killed by Katrina in Louisiana, the state has formally identified and released demographic data on 535. Many other victims are tentatively identified, though 93 remain unidentifiable. A couple of bodies are recovered every week, and officials say other victims may have been swept into the Gulf of Mexico, never to be found.

Medical and dental records were destroyed by the storm, and many corpses are so severely decomposed that traditional identification methods such as fingerprints are useless.

Even with the majority of the bodies identified, the state is unable to determine when most died, or how. Many death certificates bear the date of Katrina's landfall — Aug. 29 — even though the victim could have died days later. Given the severity of damage suffered by bodies in the floodwaters, cause of death is also extremely difficult to determine and will never be known for many victims, Cataldie said.

New Orleans was the site of most of Katrina's fatalities; the state reported that 76% of storm deaths statewide occurred in the city. Of the 380 bodies from New Orleans that have been formally identified, a moderately disproportionate number are white. New Orleans' population was 28% white, yet 33% of the identified victims in the city are white and 67% black.

"The affected population is more multiracial, multiethnic and multicultural than one might discern from national media reports," said Richard Campanella, a Tulane University geographer who has studied which parts of the city were hit the worst by flooding. His research showed that predominantly white districts in the city were almost as likely to flood as predominantly black ones.

Campanella said he was not surprised at the even distribution of bodies between the city's poorer and more affluent neighborhoods. He noted that 70% of the identified Katrina victims in New Orleans were older than 60, frequently lifelong residents who had ridden out other hurricanes and refused to evacuate. Elderly people are more likely to be wealthier and to live in wealthier neighborhoods.

Many of the city's wealthier neighborhoods sit on Lake Pontchartrain in the lowest-lying sector of town, Campanella said. For example, Lakeview, a predominately white neighborhood that contains mansions valued at more than $1 million in addition to crowded streets studded with modest bungalows, fronts the lake and is adjacent to the 17th Street Canal. When the levee collapsed, the neighborhood was destroyed. The only neighborhood with comparable destruction, the Lower 9th Ward, sits on higher ground but was unluckily flanked by two broken levees.

Katrina "really knew no bounds," said Ashley Casey, an aide to Lakeview Councilman John Batt. "I don't think it's over yet in any neighborhood."

Singelmann, of the Louisiana Population Data Center, said New Orleans was unique among American cities because, despite pockets of poverty in places such as the Lower 9th Ward, the city was remarkable for its integration of blacks and whites of different incomes living in close proximity.

He cited Read Boulevard East, a neighborhood of expensive new homes clustered around a 36-acre lake, as well as streets of more modest homes owned by middle-class whites and blacks. The data indicate a high concentration of recovered bodies from the neighborhood.

On the other hand, Singelmann said, poor African American neighborhoods that straddle the prosperous Garden District show a much higher concentration of recovered bodies than the Garden District itself. One reason, he said, may be that low-income residents lacked cars to flee in or the resources to pay for a safe refuge outside the city. And the Garden District sits on some of the city's highest land.

Not all white residents who died in the storm were well-to-do; not all African American victims were poor.

William S. Porter Jr., a 75-year-old African American, for instance, worked as an embalmer and funeral director for a New Orleans funeral home.

He died at a home in the rapidly gentrifying Gentilly neighborhood during the storm — not because he lacked the means to flee but because he refused to leave, his son said.

Porter, who called himself "the Bishop," owned a home in the Lower 9th Ward but was moving into a second home in Gentilly.

Porter earned about $40,000 a year, said his boss, Cal Johnson of Littlejohn's Funeral Home. He also earned rental income from two homes he owned in the Lower 9th Ward, his son said.

"He was not a pauper by any means," Johnson said of Porter. "He lived quite well."
  #2  
Old 12-19-2005, 08:52 AM
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Plus you have to remember Missisippi was hard hit too, along with other areas OUTSIDE of New Orleans....but certain groups want people to think ONLY NOLA , or it was only blacks that were effected. As evidenced by the near total lack of coverage by the mainstream news of any of the surrounding areas. And I AM very curious about how Missisippi is fairing after all of this.
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  #3  
Old 12-19-2005, 10:48 AM
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President Bush Sells Louisiana Back to the French
President Bush and a giddy Jacques Chirac shake hands on the deal.

BATON ROUGE, LA. - The White House announced today that President Bush has successfully sold the state of Louisiana back to the French at more than double its original selling price of $11,250,000.

"This is a bold step forward for America," said Bush. "And America will be stronger and better as a result. I stand here today in unity with French Prime Minister Jack Shalac, who was so kind to accept my offer of Louisiana in exchange for 25 million dollars cash."

The state, ravaged by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, will cost hundreds of billions of dollars to rebuild. "Jack understands full well that this one's a 'fixer upper," said Bush. "He and the French people are quite prepared to pump out all that water, and make Louisiana a decent place to live again. And they've got a lot of work to do. But Jack's assured me, if it's not right, they're going to fix it."

The move has been met with incredulity from the beleaguered residents of Louisiana. However, President Bush's decision has been widely lauded by Republicans. "This is an unexpected but brilliant move by the President," said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. "Instead of spending billions and billions, and billions of dollars rebuilding the state of Louisiana, we've just made 25 million dollars in pure profit."
"This is indeed a smart move," commented Fox News analyst Brit Hume. "Not only have we stopped the flooding in our own budget, we've made money on the deal. Plus, when the French are done fixing it up, we can easily invade and take it back again."

The money gained from "The Louisiana Refund" is expected to be immediately pumped into the rebuilding of Iraq. The remainder of the original Louisiana Purchase will remain with the United States, although Arkansas was offered for an additional $1 million. The French declined saying that they were not interested in another third world project.
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  #4  
Old 12-19-2005, 11:44 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by boneheaddoctor
Plus you have to remember Missisippi was hard hit too, along with other areas OUTSIDE of New Orleans....but certain groups want people to think ONLY NOLA , or it was only blacks that were effected. As evidenced by the near total lack of coverage by the mainstream news of any of the surrounding areas. And I AM very curious about how Missisippi is fairing after all of this.
Thanks for asking! Things are getting back to normal, slow but sure. Mississippi didn’t wait around and had quite a bit in place before Katrina. State officials did comment that the one thing that knocked them down was how far north the hurricanes effects were felt. They set up command in Jackson, which was hit at CAT 2 strength, leaving much of this area without power for much of a week. No nonsense looting laws and curfews were in place from day one. I took some 600+ digital photos that still shock me, as towns like Waveland are all but gone. If there was a anecdotal part of the whole mess it was when the Governor was asked by media why there were so few National Guard Troops assisting replied. “Ninety Percent of Mississippi’s National Guard is in God Dam Iraq”.
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  #5  
Old 12-19-2005, 11:56 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TX76513
Thanks for asking! Things are getting back to normal, slow but sure. Mississippi didn’t wait around and had quite a bit in place before Katrina. State officials did comment that the one thing that knocked them down was how far north the hurricanes effects were felt. They set up command in Jackson, which was hit at CAT 2 strength, leaving much of this area without power for much of a week. No nonsense looting laws and curfews were in place from day one. I took some 600+ digital photos that still shock me, as towns like Waveland are all but gone. If there was a anecdotal part of the whole mess it was when the Governor was asked by media why there were so few National Guard Troops assisting replied. “Ninety Percent of Mississippi’s National Guard is in God Dam Iraq”.
And yet Missisippi doesn't suffer from the entitlement mentality that pervades New Orleans......where they believe everyone else is supposed to do it for them.

Glad to hear the good people of Missisippi have the fortitude to pull themselves up and do what it takes without whining about everything like the people in NOLA do. Gives you faith to see that strength of character in people.
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  #6  
Old 12-26-2005, 10:51 AM
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A Tale of Two Cities

On Gulf Coast, Cleanup Differs Town to Town

By ERIC LIPTON
Published: December 25, 2005
PASCAGOULA, Miss. - There is an eerie stillness here on Edgewood Avenue. Toys, broken glass and random pieces of furniture are strewn across yards. Not a single person is in sight. The only movement, nearly four months after the passing of Hurricane Katrina, comes from the stray cats that jump in and out of the ripped-open homes.

Just west down the Gulf Coast, on Oak Street in Biloxi, the ground vibrates and the air is filled with the smell of diesel exhaust as laborers, on excavators, clean up after the storm, leaving behind empty lots, ripe for redevelopment.

There are many reasons for the difference between the lack of progress in Pascagoula and the quick cleanup in the Biloxi area. But officials here point fingers at what they consider the No. 1 culprit: the federal government and, in particular, the Army Corps of Engineers.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Harrison County, the home of Biloxi, and Jackson County, where Pascagoula is located, each had about 10 million cubic yards of debris to clean up. Both counties took up the federal government on its offer to foot the bill.

But while Harrison County and all but one of its cities hired contractors on their own, Jackson County and its cities, at the urging of the federal government, asked the Army Corps to take on the task. Officials in Jackson County said it was a choice they had regretted ever since.

The cleanup in Jackson County and its municipalities has not only cost millions of dollars more than in neighboring counties, but it is also taking longer. The latest available figures show that 39 percent of the work was complete in Jackson County, while 57 percent was done in Harrison County and its cities that are managing the job on their own, according to federal records.

"Something is very wrong here," said Frank Leach, a Jackson County supervisor. "Our federal government is paying an extraordinary amount of money for services that are not being performed adequately."

The same appeared to hold true in Louisiana: The cleanup from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita was 45 percent finished in jurisdictions that called in the corps, and nearly 70 percent complete in communities that employed private contractors, state records showed. The imbalance remained even when New Orleans, where the cleanup has been particularly complex and slow, was removed from the tally. Across the Gulf Coast, the cleanup was, on average, about 60 percent done, records showed.

Army Corps officials said they were moving as quickly and responsibly as they could.

"The scope of this disaster is just extraordinary," said Frank Worley, a spokesman. "There's really no comparison to it."

But that answer, to local officials, was not sufficient. Jackson County board members voted earlier this month to terminate their deal with the Army Corps, deciding that even at this late date, they would be better off with their own contractors.

Pascagoula and other Jackson County cities are sticking with the corps. But City Manager Kay Kell of Pascagoula said she was disappointed. Her city had a private contract to clean debris for $7.80 a cubic yard, but now relies on the corps, which is paying its contractor $17 to $19 a cubic yard for the same work.

"It's very depressing," Ms. Kell said. "As long as those homes are sitting there, somebody's life is at a standstill. It is dead stopped."

With a nudge from an excavator's giant steel claws, what remains of one homeowner's garage in the Point Cadet section of Biloxi shakes, then collapses in a pile of dust. The process of taking down what is left of this house is nothing special. But how the work has proceeded here in Biloxi has allowed this city and other parts of Harrison County to move far ahead of their neighbors in the race to clean up.

Instead of trying to clear one house at a time, Biloxi officials condemned entire neighborhoods. The Sun Herald newspaper recently published an eight-page list of properties, in fine print, notifying thousands of Biloxi property owners that "to preserve the public health, safety and welfare" of their neighborhoods, the bulldozers were coming soon.

"The quicker we get all of this stuff away, the faster we can start getting back to normal," Mayor A. J. Holloway said.

Not all of the homes in the condemned neighborhoods will be demolished. But unless a property owner objects, crews will remove remains of any houses or other large chunks of debris. Already, more than 740 homes in three neighborhoods have been demolished or debris on properties simply cleared away.

Some residents have complained that the cleanup is barreling ahead too quickly. "They're bullying people," said John Grower of Gulfport, whose property was cleared while he was waiting for insurance investigators to finish evaluating it. "It's martial law."

But officials said the faster pace meant that property owners could start planning for reconstruction, or at least move government-provided trailers, as temporary housing, onto their land.

"I am touched," said Nhin Tran, 58, as a trailer was set up earlier this month on her property in Point Cadet after it was cleared, allowing her to move out of a tent. "I now know what the next day will bring."

In Biloxi, whole neighborhoods are now primed for new development. But in Pascagoula, 25 miles east, only about 25 residential lots have been cleared.

Officials in Jackson County and Pascagoula cite numerous reasons for the delays.

One is the complexity of the contract the Corps of Engineers has with Ashbritt, a Pompano Beach, Fla., company that is overseeing the debris collection in Mississippi and parts of Louisiana. Its 192 pages include sections on the type of office paper the company uses and a ban on releasing information to the news media without the written permission of the Army Corps. (Ashbritt officials declined to comment for this article.)


(more)
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Old 12-26-2005, 10:52 AM
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(cont)


Simply getting an agreement from the Army Corps on the exact wording for the legal release document that residents must sign to authorize contractors to clear their homes took several weeks, officials said.

Then the Army Corps and its federal partners repeatedly gave new demands, such as satellite-based measurements on the location of each house, before large-scale clearing could start, county officials said.

[Michael H. Logue, an Army Corps spokesman, said last week that the desire to hire local subcontractors had often meant working with smaller, Mississippi-based companies without a large supply of heavy-duty equipment, slowing progress at times. The possibility that human remains may be mixed in with debris has also slowed the cleanup. "If you are going to do it right and you are going to do it safe and in way that helps the victims and makes it obvious that you care about them, you can't just go in there with a heavy hand and lots of steam," he said.]

As the demands grew, the amount of debris being cleared each day in Jackson County dropped to about 12,000 cubic yards a day from 75,000 cubic yards a day, according to local officials.

"There was just so much bureaucracy, so many levels of approvals, that nobody seemed to be able to make a decision and get things done," said Manly Barton, president of the Jackson County Board of Supervisors.

Benny Rousselle, president of Plaquemines Parish in Louisiana, said he had encountered the same problems. Even though a house may be about to collapse and its owner has approved its demolition, the federal government requires rigorous structural, historical and environmental evaluations of each property before the Army Corps will take it down, Mr. Rousselle said.

"There are so many monitors, so much overhead, it is really slowing this down," he said.

Impatient Plaquemines officials have hired their own contractors to start doing the work, Mr. Rousselle said. They have cleaned up about 600 of the approximate 6,000 damaged or destroyed properties. The corps had not cleared a single house, he said.

By any measurement, the cleanup work caused by Hurricane Katrina is the most complex and far-reaching disaster recovery in United States history.

In the aftermath of the storm, 88 million cubic yards of debris - including tree limbs, furniture, refrigerators and shredded pieces of whole houses - were strewn across Mississippi and Louisiana, enough to fill nearly nine million dump trucks. Hurricane Andrew in Florida in 1992, then the most destructive on record, generated 14 million cubic yards of debris.

Federal officials declined to release any data that would allow a direct comparison of the cost of the Army Corps cleanup versus work done directly for local governments, saying it was proprietary. All that they would release is a $2.2 billion estimate for the Army Corps' share of the work, which covers about half of the debris in Mississippi and two-thirds in Louisiana.

But a survey by The New York Times of the governments on the Mississippi coast that have hired their own contractors found an average price of $14 a cubic yard. All but one community had secured a lower price than the $17 to $19 per cubic yard that the corps charges, which does not include disposal or other overhead. The Army Corps has also nearly 800 employees supervising cleanup and has paid as many as 300 inspectors a rate of $55.79 an hour to monitor the work by the private contractors.

The Army Corps work has won some praise. Homes are often cleared one at a time, instead of entire streets at once, so property owners, like Yvette Gonzales, 76, of Bay St. Louis, can be there to watch. Mrs. Gonzales even requested that the crew search for a handmade quilt that had special meaning to her family. The quilt never turned up, but the crew found the tiny wedding cake statue that Mrs. Gonzales had saved since her marriage in 1949.

"It brings it all back," said Mrs. Gonzales, whose husband died nine years ago. "It makes you remember those good times."

In some cases, the corps takes extra steps that add to the cost of the work and the time it takes to complete it. For example, the Army Corps contractors who are working to remove the thousands of refrigerators and other appliances left in the wake of Hurricane Katrina operate much differently than private contractors.

In Hancock County, Miss., where the Army Corps is in charge, contractors in protective suits carefully open refrigerators and meticulously clean them out, sanitizing the interiors with a cleaning solution. Workers remove Freon gas. Quality-control supervisors watch every step. Army Corps officials would not say how much the operation costs, but in Louisiana they are paying more than $1.8 million to process and dispose of these so-called white goods.

In neighboring Harrison County, once the refrigerators are dropped off at a landfill, the government's financial obligation ends. A recycling contractor, eager to get the scrap metal, removes the Freon. In most cases, the spoiled food is removed by lifting the refrigerator atop a lined dumpster and shaking it. No biohazard suits are involved.

Some local officials said they were glad that the Army Corps was spending the extra time and money.

"Twenty years from now I don't want young mothers giving birth to kids with birth defects because we found out we did not do proper dumping," said Representative Gene Taylor, a Democrat from Bay St. Louis, Miss., where the Army Corps is in charge of cleaning up.

Mr. Worley, from the Army Corps, said that if the agency was handling the cleanup any differently, it would also get criticized.

"Over the years we have gotten hammered for the opposite," he said. "We are doing it the way we are supposed to do it and, yes, it takes time. And it costs money, absolutely."

But John Record, a manager from Custom Recycling of Cody, Wyo., a private contractor that is processing refrigerators in Harrison County, said he was convinced that his cheaper approach was environmentally friendly, with state and federal inspectors checking regularly to ensure that.

"It's like killing a fly with a sledgehammer," Mr. Record said of the Army Corps' approach. "They seem to have an unlimited budget, so I guess they can do it that way.
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  #8  
Old 12-26-2005, 11:18 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Botnst

"It's like killing a fly with a sledgehammer," Mr. Record said of the Army Corps' approach. "They seem to have an unlimited budget, so I guess they can do it that way.
And that says it all about the Feds. Anytime unlimited resources are available, you can bet that they will be squandered in a million wasteful ways.

Thanks for the post.
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