Hurricane Katrina News StoriesExcerpts of Key Hurricane Katrina News Stories in Major Media
Note: This comprehensive list of Hurricane Katrina news stories is usually updated once a week. Explore our full index to revealing excerpts of key major media news stories on several dozen engaging topics. And don't miss amazing excerpts from 20 of the most revealing news articles ever published.
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.
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.
Though more than 4,000 Louisiana homeowners have received rebuilding money only in the last six months, or are struggling with inadequate grants or no money at all, FEMA is intent on taking away their trailers by the end of May. The deadline, which ends temporary housing before permanent housing has replaced it, has become a stark example of recovery programs that seem almost to be working against one another. Thousands of rental units have yet to be restored, and not a single one of 500 planned “Katrina cottages” has been completed and occupied. The Road Home program for single-family homeowners, which has cost federal taxpayers $7.9 billion, has a new contractor who is struggling to review a host of appeals, and workers who assist the homeless are finding more elderly people squatting in abandoned buildings. Nonetheless, FEMA wants its trailers back, even though it plans to scrap or sell them for a fraction of what it paid for them. As of last week, there were two groups still in the agency’s temporary housing program: more than 3,000 in trailers and nearly 80 who have been in hotels paid for by FEMA since last May, when it shut down group trailer sites. Most are elderly, disabled or both, including double amputees, diabetes patients, the mentally ill, people prone to seizures and others dependent on oxygen tanks. Of those in trailers, more than 2,000 are homeowners who fear that the progress they are making in rebuilding will come to a halt if their trailers are taken. Progress on renovations has been slow for many reasons: contractors who did shoddy work or simply absconded with money, baffling red tape and rule changes, and inadequate grants.
Note: For further reports on the amazingly unhelpful government response to hurricanes Katrina and Rita, click here.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
An Arlington-based Halliburton Co. subsidiary that has been criticized for its reconstruction work in Iraq has begun tapping a $500 million Navy contract to do emergency repairs at Gulf Coast naval and Marine facilities damaged by Hurricane Katrina. The subsidiary, Kellogg, Brown & Root Services Inc., won the competitive bid contract last July to provide debris removal and other emergency work associated with natural disasters. KBR has been at the center of scrutiny for receiving a five-year, no-bid contract to restore Iraqi oil fields shortly before the war began in 2003. Halliburton has reported being paid $10.7 billion for Iraq-related government work during 2003 and 2004. The company reported its pretax profits from that work as $163 million. Pentagon auditors have questioned tens of millions of dollars of Halliburton charges for its operations there. Last month three congressional Democrats asked Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to investigate the demotion of a senior civilian Army official, Bunnatine H. Greenhouse, who publicly criticized the awarding of that contract. Vice President Cheney headed Halliburton from 1995 to 2000.
NBC's levee broke and Kanye West flooded through with a tear about the federal response in New Orleans during the network's live concert fundraiser for victims of Hurricane Katrina. The rapper was among the celebs and singers participating in the one-hour special, produced by NBC News. West was not scheduled to perform; he was one of the blah, blah, blahers, who would read from scripts prepared by the network. West: I hate the way they portray us in the media. You see a black family, it says, "They're looting." You see a white family, it says, "They're looking for food." And, you know, it's been five days [waiting for federal help] because most of the people are black. And even for me to complain about it, I would be a hypocrite because I've tried to turn away from the TV because it's too hard to watch. I've even been shopping before even giving a donation, so now I'm calling my business manager right now to see what is the biggest amount I can give, and just to imagine if I was down there, and those are my people down there. Parent company NBC Universal said in a statement, "Kanye West departed from the scripted comments that were prepared for him, and his opinions in no way represent the views of the networks." West's comments would be cut from the West Coast feed, an NBC spokeswoman told The TV Column.
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.
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.
The dire conditions created by Hurricane Katrina may be confined to the Gulf Coast, but on paper the emergency is all over the country. President Bush has declared that Katrina-related emergencies exist in 40 states and the District of Columbia. Some, such as California, Massachusetts and North Dakota, are far removed from Katrina's wrath. Apparently it does not take much to qualify as an emergency.
Note: These "emergencies" also give the president extraordinary powers to curtail civil liberties.
Important Note: Explore our full index to revealing excerpts of key major media news stories on several dozen engaging topics. And don't miss amazing excerpts from 20 of the most revealing news articles ever published.