Sunday, February 26, 2006

Tell It Like It Is

There is a great, legenary song, played often in New Orleans---"Tell It Like It Is"--and this Associated Press Reporter has done exactly that.

Date: Sun, 26 Feb 2006 01:17:32 -0000
Subject: [rebuild_lakeview] ARTICLE: 1/2 Year later, N.O. is far from whole.....
Half a year later, New Orleans is far from whole

03:39 PM CST on Saturday, February 25, 2006
Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS — They're throwing Mardi Gras beads again - so many
strands, they're landing in tree branches and getting snagged on the
trellised balconies of the French Quarter.

You'll find them adorning the arms of Spanish statues. Tourists are
wearing them, but these days so are contractors and the National
Guard. It's hard to walk on Bourbon Street without stepping on them.
You're likely to crunch them underfoot, long necklaces of plastic
pearls brightening the asphalt.

At the corner of Bourbon and St. Peter, Pat O'Brien's is once again
serving its syrupy, yet potent Hurricane cocktail. At Tropical Isle,
you can get an equally potent Hand Grenade in a tall, plastic go-cup.

But walk to the end of Bourbon Street, take a left on Esplanade
Avenue, a right on Rampart Street and head east. At first, the debris
comes in bits: A small pile of siding. A rusted box spring. One taped-
up refrigerator. At first, you find them in neat piles, in the front
yard or outside on the curb.

There's still a semblance of order. But keep going. It gets worse.

You pass an elegant sofa, the kind you might imagine a grand dame
reclining in, sipping her mint julep. It is lodged in the middle of
an intersection. A few miles farther, the innards of rotting houses
spill out on both sides of the road.

Six months have passed since Katrina ravaged this city. For a half a
year, its people have counted the dead (officially, 1,080 in
Louisiana and 231 in Mississippi) and struggled mightily to keep
their city among the living.

A slimmed-down Mardi Gras is testament to their success; a tour of
the devastation that remains is testament to how far they have to go.

Hurricane Katrina created an estimated 60.3 million cubic yards of
debris in Louisiana, 25 times as much as the ruins of the World Trade
Center and enough to fill the Superdome more than 13 times. Of that,
only 32 million cubic yards - a bit more than half - has been

Meanwhile, there are just under 2,000 people listed as missing. Some
are not missing at all - they turned up, but their families never
notified authorities. Hundreds of others, though, were very likely
washed into the Gulf of Mexico or swept into Lake Pontchartrain or
alligator-infested swamps, according to Dr. Louis Cataldie,
Louisiana's medical examiner. Still more may be buried in the rubble.

At a hurricane morgue near Baton Rouge, 86 bodies remain
unidentified. State officials are trying to reach relatives for
another 74 who've been identified but have no place to go.

Mayor Ray Nagin says a comparison to New York City should be a
favorable one. "Let me remind you that after 9/11 in New York, it
took them six to eight months to get out of the fog of what happened
to them. And to date, there's still a big hole in the ground. So when
I look at everything that's going on, I think we're right on
schedule," he said.

Indeed, in the French Quarter and on St. Charles Avenue, on Magazine
Street and in the plantation-style mansions of Uptown, life has moved
on, though protective blue tarps that serve as roofs for many are a
constant reminder of the work left to be done.

In the Quarter, uber chef Paul Prudhomme is blackening his signature
redfish again. Bourbon House is shucking oysters, and Antoine's, the
166-year-old dining icon, is dishing up plates of Pompano
Pontchartrain with slices of tart lemon.

Yet even here, Katrina has left her mark. All three restaurants are
short-handed. Antoine's, which lost its $200,000 wine collection in
the storm, is shifting its wine list away from French staples,
embracing New World wines instead.

And look closely at the brass band playing outside Prudhomme's K-
Paul's Louisiana Kitchen: The golden sheen on the tuba is gone, lost
in the deluge at the musician's house.

But in the flood zone, the destruction is not so subtle. Leave the
French Quarter on Rampart and head east, toward the devastated Ninth
and Lower Ninth wards and East New Orleans.

All around are the carcasses of flooded houses. Katrina laid waste to
more than 215,000 homes. Many are abandoned, their doors wide open.

Only an estimated 189,000 of the city's roughly 500,000 pre-Katrina
residents have returned. For now, the city is overwhelmingly whiter
and more affluent than it was before.

Affordable housing is scarce, and FEMA has only filled 48,158 of the
90,000 trailer requests it's received from displaced families in
Louisiana, leaving many to wait out their existence in places like
Atlanta, Houston and Little Rock. With only 20 of 128 public schools
now open, parents who can't afford to send their children to private
schools have no choice but to live elsewhere.

Children who have returned must wade through wreckage to get to
school. "You never really get used to it," said 18-year-old Mark
Buchert, a senior at Brother Martin, an all-boys Catholic high school
in the devastated Gentilly neighborhood.

The destruction gets worse. Keep driving as Rampart turns into St.
Claude Avenue and you'll go six miles before you pass a working
traffic light. Broken signals swing from their poles like men hanging
from gallows. Others blink red. Elsewhere, they lie on their side in
intersections, blinking yellow.

Even with a diminished population, traffic at rush-hour is heavy.
Many people living elsewhere temporarily return to the city each day
to work at their jobs or to work on their homes, so the main arteries
in and out of town are clogged. Add to the mix the large trucks used
for the cleanup, and a commute from suburban New Orleans to the
central business district that took 10 minutes before the storm can
take 45 minutes now.

At night, the darkness is pervasive. Six months after the storm made
landfall Aug. 29, a little over a third of the structures in the city
have electricity. Even fewer have hot water or cooking gas.

Past the Industrial Canal, even farther east, is the cement slab upon
which Carolyn Berryhill's house used to sit. In the field of
rubble,all that remains of her neighborhood in the Lower Ninth Ward,
the 60-year-old "Miss Carolyn" recognizes the pieces of her house by
their signature green color.

One piece of her home landed at the base of a nearby pecan tree, the
same tree whose branches cradled Berryhill for 12 hours after a gush
of water - the result of a broken levee - rushed into her parlor and
blew apart her home like a bomb. She somehow floated to the tree and
waved madly at rescuers in helicopters until they finally saw her and
plucked her to safety.

In what used to be Berryhill's backyard, an unchipped porcelain plate
is half-filled with a meal of mud. The earth is still spongy, as if
it hasn't fully swallowed the storm's waters. In it, a golden
doorknob is embedded as if it's about to open a door to the
underworld. "A lot of people, they talk about coming back and
rebuild," she said. "Rebuild what? What can you rebuild out of this?
What can you salvage out of this?"

A half block away, she finds what she thinks might be her stove.

On a parallel street, 71-year-old Gloria Jordan warns that if you
walk much farther, "you'll see things I pray to God you never see

It's a street where three people drowned in their attics, including a
12-year-old girl. Their bodies were found months later. "I have no
appetite. It's hard to eat these days," says Jordan, frail like a

She joins her husband, Clarence, on what used to be their porch, now
nothing but a concrete foundation. Jordan's eyes gladden as she
remembers how each morning she used to sip her coffee in a rocking
chair and look out across her small garden of flowers. She wishes she
could remember their names.

For now, she and Clarence are living with their daughter in White
Castle, 73 miles west of New Orleans.

"Baby, I had a beautiful home," said Jordan, who owned her house for
49 years. "It's hard when you lived on your own for so many years and
just like you pop your finger, or in the twinkling of an eye, you're

Her property is exactly the way the hurricane left it: Her husband's
suits were blown into a neighbor's yard, still on hangers. His truck
is on its side. Still waiting for her insurance check, she hasn't
even started clearing the debris.

Those who are rebuilding are largely the ones who can front the costs
of repairs.

Contractor Darren Schmolke returned alone to his destroyed home after
losing his wife in a car wreck during their evacuation to Florida.
National Guard troops had roped off the posh Lakeview neighborhood
where he raised his family.

Each time they chased him away, he would pretend to leave, walking
instead around the block and returning through the back door. He
worked nonstop to reassemble his house, a two-story colossus in
granite, marble and brick. His neighborhood, where homes had water up
to their roofs, is one of many that are now in limbo, waiting for
government officials to determine whether residents can
rebuild. "After I lost my wife, I couldn't sit around and wait,"
Schmolke said. "I had to do something to get some control back over
my life."

Businesses that are rebuilding are running into another problem - a
shortage of workers.

"Help Wanted" and "Now Hiring" signs are everywhere. They're in the
windows of unpretentious delis as well as cultural landmarks like
Cafe du Monde, the 144-year-old institution that for generations has
served New Orleanians its iconic beignets.

Call any New Orleans Domino's and before you can order a pizza,
you'll first be asked to listen to a 20-second message recruiting new

"The problem is more basic than `where are the people?' The problem
is the people don't have anywhere to live," said Loren Scott, a
professor emeritus of economics at Louisiana State University.

Corporations are housing workers in barge dorms, cruise ships,
warehouses and converted train cars. Those that can afford to do so
are buying trailers for their employees, as Paul Prudhomme did for
everyone from his chief operating officer to his line cooks.

Susan Rudolph, a waitress at Cafe du Monde, slept in her truck when
she first returned to the city - her husband in the driver's seat,
she in the passenger seat, and all they own packed tightly behind

Now, she begins her day at dawn inside her FEMA-funded motel room,
scouring the classifieds for an affordable apartment. With one-
bedrooms going for $1,500 and with landlords asking for first and
last month's rent plus a security deposit, getting into an apartment
is a $4,500 investment - a tall order for someone waiting tables.

After a morning spent looking, she puts on a brave face and her white
Cafe du Monde cap and smiles sweetly as she serves the hot-and-sticky
beignets to chattering visitors.

"New Orleans has always been a tourist area, so we smile like
clowns," Rudolph said. "I hope one day there won't be one tear in our

A brief status report on some of New Orleans' well-known landmarks
and attractions as the city marks six months since Hurricane
Katrina's Aug. 29 landfall:

_Louisiana Superdome: Closed until September. NFL's Saints plan to
return to play the 2006 season in the city after playing home games
in San Antonio and Baton Rouge in 2005.

- Ernest N. Morial Convention Center: Repairs from hurricane and its
use as a refugee center expected to be finished in April. First post-
hurricane event _ a large jewelry and gift trade show held in New
Orleans for 54 years _ was staged at the center last week.

- Audubon Aquarium of the Americas: Remains closed, having lost most
of its fish when generators failed. The Gulf and Caribbean exhibits
are running again and have been restocked with fish, but the aquarium
is still working to replace the rest of its collection, and officials
say they hope to reopen this summer.

- Jackson Square: One of the first places to get a thorough scrubbing
and face-lift after Katrina, just before President Bush came in
September to tell the nation New Orleans would be rebuilt. The square
is nearly what it was before Katrina: famous Cafe Du Monde is open,
musicians ply the sidewalks, tarot card readers and tour guides try
to engage a shrunken pool of tourists.

- Port of New Orleans: Shipping activity has reached 100 percent of
pre-Katrina levels, but only the upriver portion _ about 70 percent
of the port's facilities _ is operational.

- Charity Hospital: The second-oldest continuously running public
hospital in the United States, founded in 1736, sustained $258
million in damage. There are no immediate plans to reopen it. Its
skeletal staff is working out of a field hospital in the convention
center, which is expected to move to another temporary location in

- Fair Grounds Race Course: Closed to racing after heavy damage to
grandstands and clubhouse, it's unknown when live racing will return.
Track generally runs a November-through-March meet. Shorter meet was
held this year at Louisiana Downs in Bossier City. Track grounds will
be used for this year's New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival in April
and May.

-New Orleans Museum of Art: Museum had little damage to its building
or its works of art, but damage to the overall city from hurricanes
Katrina and Rita caused it to shut its doors for six months. The
museum is scheduled to reopen March 3. The museum's outdoor sculpture
garden, with footpaths meandering among more than 50 sculptures,
reopened in December.

- Hotel industry: 25,000 of the area's 38,000 pre-Katrina hotel rooms
will be available for occupancy by this weekend's Mardi Gras

- Theaters: Repairs are under way at the historic Saenger Theater on
Canal Street. The theater flooded, had wind damage and is expected to
remain closed through 2006. Recovery at the 85-year-old Orpheum
Theater in the Central Business District has been all but stagnant.
Owners had no flood insurance and aren't sure how to pay for up to
$2.5 million in flood damage. Damage to the city's other major
theaters - the Municipal Auditorium and Mahalia Jackson theater -
wasn't as severe. Those facilities are expected to be operational
within the year.

- Restaurants: Before the storm, metropolitan New Orleans had 3,414
restaurants that generated $2.1 billion in annual sales, according to
the Louisiana Restaurant Association. They employed 53,500 directly
and an additional 23,000 in support industries. Since Katrina, 37
percent of those have reopened, and about 17,000 employees have

- Audubon Zoo: Sustained only minor damage during Katrina but lost
significant revenue with an ensuing absence of tourists. For now,
it's open on weekends only. Zoo officials say they're hoping to
return to normal hours sometime in March.

- Louis Armstrong International Airport: Number of daily flights has
dropped from 166 the week before Katrina to 71. Another 20 flights
are expected to begin by April 3.

A look at how Katrina affected Louisiana:

POPULATION: An estimated 189,000 New Orleans residents have returned,
compared with around 500,000 pre-Katrina.

DEATHS: 1,080 in Louisiana.

MISSING: Nearly 2,000 listed as missing by the Find Family National
Call Center.

DESTROYED HOUSES: More than 215,000. Total housing units lost,
including apartments, is 1,847,181.


DEBRIS: Katrina created 60.3 million cubic yards; 32.1 million cubic
yards had been removed as of February.

BUSINESSES: Of 81,000 impacted businesses, 42,000 have fully
reopened; 18,700 were destroyed.

TAX REVENUE: $549 million lost (including gambling, sales and income

SCHOOLS: More than 835 schools damaged statewide. Only 20 out of 128
public schools have reopened in New Orleans; 83,821 of 244,608
college students statewide were displaced. Of the displaced college
students, only 16,480 have re-enrolled in state.

JOBS: More than 220,000 jobs lost.

WETLANDS: More than 100 square miles of wetland destroyed by storm

HOSPITALS: Katrina closed eight of 16 hospitals in the New Orleans'
area, reducing the number of hospital beds from 4,083 to 1,760.

ELECTRICITY: A total of 189,000 households and businesses received
electricity from Entergy New Orleans pre-Katrina, compared with
between 65,000 to 70,000 today.

GAS: A total of 145,000 customers in New Orleans received natural gas
service from Entergy New Orleans before Katrina. Between 40,000 to
45,000 are using the service today.

infrastructure repairs in New Orleans.


Thursday, February 23, 2006

Get Ready--March is Anti War Month

NOW I am in Rochester NY and involved in RAW--Rochester
Here are our events and also some good websites to help you continue this important battle against this illegal and immoral war.


Saturday, March 18th Rochester protest against the "Costs of Bush's War." March 18 -- March 24: Weeklong Rochester Against the War events and last in series of Reality of War Series (RAW at RIT) Starting Sat March 18th March centering in Rochester City (F. Douglass home).

The Military Families Speak Out and many other Rochester Organizations (, Raging Grannies, CodePink, The Green Party, ISO, campus Antiwar War network chapter, MetroJustice, Peace and Action and other activist individuals and groups are coming together to speak up for the greater Rochester area--to bring the troops home and to end this war.)

March 1st SUNY Brockport 5:30-6:30--CodePink tabling

March 8th International Women's Day March on DC Women Call for Peace (intl petition)

March 14-March 19th --

Veterans' and Survivors' March for Peace and Justice
Mobile to New Orleans
March 14-19, 2006

March 19, 2006 is the 3rd anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Veterans for Peace, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Military Families Speak Out, Gold Star Families for Peace, and hurricane survivors' organizations (Save Ourselves, the People's Hurricane Relief Fund, Common Ground Collective, Bayou Liberty Relief, the Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance, C3, and others) are organizing a five-day march and caravan along Gulf Coast Highway 90 to demand:

(1) the immediate return of our troops from Iraq, and to call for U.S. tax dollars to be spent on human priorities and

(2) rebuilding of the devastated Gulf Coast, under the democratic direction of the residents of the Gulf Coast, instead of further spending for the illegal occupation of Iraq.

Vets and Katrina surviors will begin in Mobile, Alabama on March 14th and end in New Orleans on March 19th, the war's anniversary.

June 14-16: Peace Has No Borders: Western NY and Canada: Festival and Walk across Peace Bridge to support Resisters

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Women Say No to War --March 8

Sat. March 8 --International Women's Day -- Women Say No to War (Codepink) in DC and in events worldwide : Go the the CodePink website ( and sign this Declaration:

Women's Call for Peace: An Urgent Appeal

We, the women of the United States, Iraq and women worldwide, have had enough of the senseless war in Iraq and the cruel attacks on civilians around the world. We've buried too many of our loved ones. We've seen too many lives crippled forever by physical and mental wounds. We've watched in horror as our precious resources are poured into war while our families' basic needs of food, shelter, education and healthcare go unmet. We've had enough of living in constant fear of violence and seeing the growing cancer of hatred and intolerance seep into our homes and communities.

This is not the world we want for ourselves or our children. With fire in our bellies and love in our hearts, we women are rising up - across borders - to unite and demand an end to the bloodshed and the destruction.

We have seen how the foreign occupation of Iraq has fueled an armed movement against it, perpetuating an endless cycle of violence. We are convinced that it is time to shift from a military model to a conflict-resolution model that includes the following elements:

- The withdrawal of all foreign troops and foreign fighters from Iraq;
- Negotiations to reincorporate disenfranchised Iraqis into all aspects of Iraqi society;
- The full representation of women in the peacemaking process and a commitment to women's full equality in the post-war Iraq;
- A commitment to discard plans for any foreign bases in Iraq;
- Iraqi control of its oil and other resources;
- The nullification of privatization and deregulation laws imposed under occupation, allowing Iraqis to shape the trajectory of the post-war economy;
- A massive reconstruction effort that prioritizes Iraqi contractors, and draws upon financial resources of the countries responsible for the invasion and occupation of Iraq;
- Consideration of a temporary international peacekeeping force that is truly multilateral and is not composed of any troops from countries that participated in the occupation.

To move this peace process forward, we are creating a massive movement of women - crossing generations, races, ethnicities, religions, borders and political persuasions. Together, we will pressure our governments, the United Nations, the Arab League, Nobel Peace Prize winners, religious leaders and others in the international community to step forward to help negotiate a political settlement. And in this era of divisive fundamentalisms, we call upon world leaders to join us in spreading the fundamental values of love for the human family and for our precious planet.

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