Enter your best caption of this Reuters pic of the Louisiana governor below.
There's a danger the federal court will take over New Orleans elections if legislators don't change a law so more people can absentee vote, Secretary of State Al Ater said Thursday.
A federal takeover would be another black eye on the state in the wake of devastating hurricanes, Ater said.
"I could see the headlines across America right now," Ater said. "They'll say it's another thing that Louisiana can't handle on its own."
Under current law, people who register to vote by mail must vote in person at least once before they can cast an absentee ballot.
Ater wants lawmakers to temporarily lift that in-person voting provision, saying to do otherwise would disenfranchise voters who are dislocated through no fault of their own.
Legislators nixed the idea in the first hurricane-special session amid fears of potential voter fraud. Opponents pointed to the thousands of mail registrants who have never voted...
A termite expert is questioning whether tiny, voracious Formosan termites played a role in the failure of levee walls in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina.
Louisiana State University entomologist Gregg Henderson said there are clear signs that the destructive insects were present, and he wants the opportunity to dig into the levees beneath the walls to find out if termite nests contributed to their weakening.
Army Corps of Engineers officials, however, say no evidence has been found to indicate that termites undermined the integrity of the levees.
Henderson, a world-renowned expert on termites, found evidence of insects -- both Formosan termites and fire ants -- in the joints between wall panels on both the London Avenue and 17th Street canals. Fire ants, an enemy of termites, tend to invade the channels created by the wood-destroying insects...
At the London Avenue Canal, where several engineering teams believe the pressure of water in the canal undermined a weak layer of sand beneath levee walls and caused them to slide and fail, Henderson found insects in 73 percent of the joints, he said...
...Jerry Colletti, corps manager for completed public works, said engineers determined that the pinholes created by termites in the plastic joint spacers and in some cases in concrete were not dangerous...
..."The corps did an evaluation to determine how much water would come through those little pinholes," he said. "The decision was made not to take any action on the joints. We looked into sealing the joints, and it was going to be expensive and we didn't see a purpose to it; the pinholes didn't cause a structural integrity problem."
"We don't have anybody at the corps who's a termite expert," he said...
A difference in soil boring data transferred from one chart to another may have played a key role in engineering decisions that led to the breach on the 17th Street Canal floodwall that flooded much of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, National Science Foundation investigators say.
A cross-section drawing in the project design documents shows a weak layer of peaty soils running between 11 feet and 16 feet below sea level in the area that failed during the storm. But information in the individual soil borings that were used to draw the cross section show the peaty layer extending as deep as 30 feet below sea level.
Investigators said their own borings taken at the site this week confirm the 30-foot depth, leading them to believe that designers used the flawed cross section drawing to set the sheet pilings beneath the floodwalls at 17.5 feet below sea level - a choice that allowed water to migrate to the land side of the wall, causing the breach.
"It's pretty obvious the depth of the organic deposit shown on that cross section is what determined the sheet piling depth ... for the whole canal," said J. David Rogers, a member of the National Science Foundation team, and a leading authority on levee and dam failures. "They saw this marshy deposition, they recognized it as potentially dangerous, so they specified sheet piles that went just beyond the bottom of that line.
Freelance writer Chuck Hustmyre tried to visit a FEMA trailer park in Baton Rouge and got the run-around. None of the FEMA employees would allow him to interview residents. While a certain part of that is no doubt due to a concern for their privacy, there might also be something else involved.
Named "Renaissance Village", it appears to have a flourishing drug trade and various other forms of crime. And, it's alleged that employees of the park have made off with donated items like turkeys.
Long recount here (also here).
Kathleen Blanco is taking some heat for allegedly using various politicians as a backdrop for the start of her special session. Be that as it may:
...Blanco has included two housing issues on the agenda, as well as consolidation of governmental and court agencies in Orleans Parish; consolidating levee boards in South Louisiana; and setting in law the state agency she created to oversee Louisiana's hurricane recovery.
State officials said the events Monday will include a lobbyist-sponsored lunch before the buses leave from the Capitol and a reception at the Convention Center after Blanco's speech. Dozens of legislators have toured the area, some as individuals, others as members of committees, but an exact count of the lawmakers who have viewed the destruction was not available, legislative and administration officials said.
"I know many legislators have toured Louisiana's devastated coast to see firsthand the massive recovery efforts that are under way," Blanco said in a letter to lawmakers released Wednesday. "If we are called to encourage economic progress, educational vitality and quality health care, then our leadership must be united and personally involved in the struggle to lead this state toward healing and prosperity..."
Late last year came the news that Kathleen Blanco had ordered precisely $564,838 worth of remodeling done on her offices... after Katrina.
The article said the single costliest portion of the final bill was $44,000 for walnut trim and granite countertops.
Jerry Jones, director of the state Office of Facility Planning and Control, said the sixth floor was unsafe. File cabinets were in hallways and the carpet was frayed, he said.
"The space needed to be reconfigured," Jones said Tuesday. "We don't want the governor's suite to look like early manufactured homes."
I'd bet the folks who can't even get a FEMA trailer wouldn't mind having an "early manufactured" home!
Robert D. Bullard, the director of the Environmental Justice Resource Center at Clark Atlanta University, offers the plan that apparently president Bush has been following. While some of the points are interesting, the article is spoiled a bit with it's less-than-helpful viewpoint.
It's printed in the Pacific News Service, which has a habit of publishing racist articles.
Here's just one of the points of the plan:
First, there is nothing inherently inferior about an "all-Black" neighborhood - or an all-Black anything for that matter. Black New Orleanians who chose to live in neighborhoods that happened to be all-Black - whites have always had the right to move in or move out of these neighborhoods - should not be forced to have their neighborhoods rebuilt as "integrated" or "multicultural" neighborhoods.
Here, let me save you a step:
First, there is nothing inherently inferior about an "all-White" neighborhood - or an all-White anything for that matter. White New Orleanians who chose to live in neighborhoods that happened to be all-White - blacks have always had the right to move in or move out of these neighborhoods - should not be forced to have their neighborhoods rebuilt as "integrated" or "multicultural" neighborhoods.
Sharply accessoried with bright blue umbrellas - the same color as the tarps that were installed by a partially-illegal workforce indirectly receiving federal money - 140 New Orleans women calling themselves the "Women of the Storm" visited Capitol Hill on Monday. They were inviting Congress members to visit their city and requesting more money for rebuilding.
They'd pick up the costs for the visit and:
Among those who made the trip on the group's chartered flight were Olivia Manning, the mother of football stars Peyton and Eli and wife of former New Orleans Saints quarterback Archie Manning; Verna Landrieu, mother of Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu and Louisiana Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu; and Carol Bebelle, head of the AshÃƒÂ© Cultural Arts Center...
The group said 55 representatives and 30 senators have visited New Orleans in the five months since Katrina...
The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee has released FEMA documents showing yet another series of lapses in their response. "Hundreds of available trucks, boats, planes and federal officers were unused in search and rescue efforts immediately after Hurricane Katrina hit because FEMA failed to give them missions".
The ever-dependable DHS spokesman Russ Knocke says:
Katrina "pushed our capabilities and resources to the limit - and then some."
FEMA also called off their search and rescue operations three days after the storm hit, apparently because they were concerned for the safety of the rescuers. However, that might have just been a temporary suspension and Knocke says which it was will be determined later. From the email sent before the suspension:
"All assets have ceased operation until National Guard can assist TFs (task forces) with security."
Responding to a questionnaire posed by investigators, Interior Department Assistant Secretary P. Lynn Scarlett said her agency offered to supply FEMA with 300 dump trucks and other vehicles, 300 boats, 11 aircraft and 400 law enforcement officers to help search and rescue efforts.
"Although the department possesses significant resources that could have improved initial and ongoing response, many of these resources were not effectively incorporated into the federal response to Hurricane Katrina," Scarlett wrote in the response, dated Nov. 7.
Scarlett added: "Although we attempted to provide these assets through the process established by the [National Response Plan], we were unable to efficiently integrate and deploy those resources."
At one point, Scarlett's letter said, FEMA asked U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services to help with search and rescue in New Orleans, St. Bernard Parish and St. Tammany Parish but that the rescuers "never received task assignments." The agency, a branch of the Interior Department, apparently went ahead anyway, according to the letter, which said that Fish and Wildlife helped rescue 4,500 people in the first week after Katrina.
Other Interior Department resources that were offered, but unused, included flat-bottom boats for shallow-water rescues. "Clearly these assets and skills were precisely relevant in the post-Katrina environment," Scarlett wrote.
Knocke, the Homeland Security spokesman, said up to 60,000 federal employees were sent to the Gulf Coast to response to Katrina. However, "experience has shown that FEMA was not equipped with 21st century capabilities, and that is what (Homeland Security Secretary
Michael Chertoff) has committed as one of our top priorities going forward," he said.
They're always looking forward, and getting control over things, aren't they? Of course, competent administrations would actually try to get things right the first time.