Archive for the ‘New Orleans’ Category

Next President faces many Challenges

October 20, 2008

By Susan Page
Hattiesburg American
Why exactly would anybody want this job? The candidate who wins the White House on Nov. 4 will face the most calamitous economy for any new president since Franklin Roosevelt took over amid the Depression in 1933. He’ll assume command of the biggest wartime deployment of U.S. troops since Richard Nixon was sworn in during the Vietnam War in 1969.

Their campaign promises – Republican John McCain’s crusade against budget earmarks, for instance, and Democrat Barack Obama’s commitment to expand health care coverage – almost certainly will take a back seat at the start. They’ll be forced to turn to negotiating a new regulatory structure for financial institutions, rebuilding stock and housing markets, dealing with the partial nationalization of banks unveiled Tuesday and preventing an economic downturn from sliding into something worse.

Also on the immediate agenda: managing the reduction of U.S. troops in Iraq without sacrificing hard-won security gains, and stemming a resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan.

“Walking into the Oval Office is tough enough when you’re facing kind of the ordinary challenges that face any president,” says Leon Panetta, a former California congressman and White House chief of staff for President Clinton. “But whoever is elected president this time is going to face a set of crises that no president has had to face in modern times.”

The public agrees: 44 percent in a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll taken Friday through Sunday say the new president will face the most serious challenges of anyone in his position over the last 50 years. Just 14 percent call the problems no worse than usual.

Representatives of both candidates are scheduled to sit down today for the first time with the Bush administration’s “transition council” to begin planning the takeover of the government by one or the other. The FBI already has launched background investigations of dozens of aides to McCain and Obama so that some members of the president-elect’s team will have security clearances in place the morning after the Nov. 4 election.

Whatever work is being done behind the scenes, though, neither candidate has done much to prepare the public for the tough choices and long haul ahead.

Most of those surveyed predict that the candidate they support would be able to make the economy grow within two years of taking office.

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Next President’s Infrastructure Challenge

By David Goldstein, McClatcht Newspapers

As if the next president won’t have enough on his plate – with the implosion of the financial markets, two foreign wars, persistent security threats and a host of other concerns – America’s infrastructure is collapsing.

Whether major highways or inland waterways or the electrical grid or a quarter of all bridges, the nation’s physical plant needs billions of dollars in repairs.

“We’ve been relying on a patch-and-pray approach, not a strategic, more thoughtful approach,” said Casey Dinges, senior managing director of the American Society of Civil Engineers.

John McCain and Barack Obama occasionally talk about infrastructure. But whatever the next president does on a range of issues, such as the economy, the environment or homeland security, he’ll have to take it into account.

“There are new realities,” said Robert Puentes, a fellow with the Metropolitan Policy Program at The Brookings Institution, a nonpartisan research group in Washington. “Energy realities. Climate realities. We need an updated infrastructure plan for this nation that meets the realities of today. We simply don’t have one.”

Other nations, meanwhile, are aggressively pushing new projects, mindful of the economic benefits of improved transit and green energy.

“They target their investments to meet those goals,” said Polly Trottenberg, the executive director of Building America’s Future, a bipartisan coalition of elected officials concerned about infrastructure. “We don’t. We divvy up the pot.”

Public officials, engineers and policy experts have been warning for years that crumbling infrastructure is a ticking time bomb.

Their fears came true when New Orleans’ levees failed in 2005 during Hurricane Katrina, which killed more than 1,000, and again last year when the Interstate 35W bridge in Minneapolis collapsed during rush hour, killing 13.

The neglect, usually because of deferred maintenance, has been widespread.

A third of the nation’s major highways are in poor shape, according to the Department of Transportation. The list of unsafe dams is growing. Mass-transit systems, water treatment plants, hazardous-waste sites and more are falling apart.

The civil engineers association….

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Mainstream News Media Under Seige In a More Complex Word

September 18, 2007

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 17, 2007; Page C01

Capturing reality is harder than it seems.

As Gen. David Petraeus‘s long-awaited testimony last week failed to sway the debate over the war, partisans on both sides castigated the media for what remains a blurry picture of Iraq. Why, they ask, can’t journalists cut through the fog and deliver an accurate portrait of how the unpopular conflict is going?

This frustration with journalism extends to a slew of other controversies. Is Sen. David Vitter being truthful in denying involvement with a New Orleans prostitute who was paid by Hustler magazine? Is Sen. Larry Craig dissembling when he denies soliciting sex in a men’s room? Did Alberto Gonzales give faulty testimony and merely make misstatements about various Justice Department controversies, or is he a liar?

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Katrina and New Orleans Demographics

September 3, 2007

By John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom
September 3, 2007

This is a story about people facing challenges and those ready, willing and able to turn a disaster into just one more hurdle in life.

Two years after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina we have an opportunity to look at how the victims and displaced responded in a crisis.

A Vietnamese-American friend who lives in New Orleans said to me:  “Mother fled North Vietnam when the communists pushed out the French in 1954.  She walked to South Vietnam and lived for a year in a refugee camp.  In 1975 she was living in Saigon when the communists captured that city.  The economy failed and she and almost all of the people of Saigon were sent into the rice fields to grow food. She called this ‘the second leaving.'”

“My grandfather knew near starvation under the rule of the Japanese invaders during World war II,” she said.  “So our family and many Vietnamese know hardship face to face.”

“After Mother fled the communists in 1975 and worked the fields, she had to smuggle cocaine to feed the family.  She made a plan to flee the communists a third time.  On August 12, 1982, she made it to the U.S.A.  after an arduous journey.”

“When hurricane Katrina destroyed my home and seafood processing business, I had no second thoughts about rebuilding.  This is the home of my Mother’s grand children.”

My friend is named Nga and she represents the faith and determination many in New Orleans and the surrounding Hurricane Katrina ravaged Gulf Coast.

My Vietnamese-born wife, herself a former refugee, calls those Vietnamese who lived through the Japanese occupation, the flight from the communists in the North in 1954, the flight from Saigon in 1975 and the ultimate fleeing from their home country “survivors.”

Nga finished with: “My Mom and all our ancestors went through more than we can ever know.  After Katrina was no time for my family to surrender to a storm.”

But many did “surrender to a storm” as my Vietnamese-American friend said.  This happens in any crisis.

Tulane University professor Richard Campanella has been watching New Orleans and its population’s make up for years.  What he says about the population of Katrina reinforces what Nga told me.

Asians are staying.  Many have already rebuilt their homes and businesses.  Help came from Vietnamese-American communities across America.  And many “Viet Kiew,” those Vietnamese spread across the globe after the communists captured Saigon in 1975, sent money to their countrymen from Norway, Australia, Canada and elsewhere.

Professor Campanella says scores of Hispanics have copme to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast to help rebuild.  They came seeking high paying jobs that were tough: many worked on construction sites.

Many Hispanics say they will stay in New Orleans and several have opened businesses.  The entreprenurial spirit lives.

The White population largely stayed in New Orleans too; and most rebuilt or are doing so now.

Before Katrina the population mix of New Orleans, according to professor Campanella, was 70 percent Black, some 28 percent  White, and the rest were Asian or Spanish speaking people from Mexico and Central and South America.

Today, the Black population of New Orleans is down below 50 percent, Whites are just above 40 percent, the Asian community stayed in New Orleans and the surrounding area and the Hispanic population has surged to an all time high.

Jobs are still available in New Orleans but job growth is slowing.

“The suggestion in the data is clear,” said demographer Elliott Stonecipher. “We apparently are at a place where the post-storm employment recovery is peaking. It may have peaked.”

Where did the Black poluation go and why did they leave? 

People who fled to Texas who agreed to be interviewed said the schools in Texas are better than those in New Orleans and New Orleans still has a troubled healthcare system.

Several hospitals in New Orleans have not reopened and those that have again resumed care face tough staffing shortages. 

The Black population is up in Texas, Washington D.C. and other centers where Katrina victims congregated.  Whether they return to New Orleans or not remains to be seen.

According to Professor Campanella, “Whether one sees these shifts as good or bad, they are complex and fascinating phenomena and we are in a really amazing place to be right now.”

The Unspeakable Truth: Katrina, New Orleans and Race

Two Years After Katrina, New Orleans Slowly Recovering

September 2, 2007

By Greg Flakus
Voice of America
29 August 2007

Two years ago Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf coast of the United States, devastating a wide area from Louisiana to Alabama, with an especially tragic outcome in the city of New Orleans, where a surge of water caused by the storm toppled levees and flooded much of the city.

Today, New Orleans continues its slow pace of recovery and urban experts envision a somewhat smaller and somewhat different city. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Houston.

Two years after Katrina, a large number of people who refer to themselves as being from New Orleans still live in Houston and in other cities around the country. Some say they want to return; some are resigned to stay where they are.

Blacks once represented 70 percent of the population, with whites at 28 percent and Hispanics and Asians dividing up the remaining two percent.

Now, he says, the Hispanic population has surged, Blacks are down below 50 percent and whites are just above 40 percent. Another change he sees is fewer children in many neighborhoods and fewer elderly as well. These trends result from poor schools and a weak healthcare system.

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The Unspeakable Truth: Katrina, New Orleans and Culture

September 1, 2007

By John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom
August 30, 2007

After traveling by car from Washington DC to California and back, my Vietnamese-born wife made an unexpected reflection about a segment of America’s population and culture. She talked not about the diversity of El Paso and its neighbor in Mexico, Juarez. She had nothing to say about the green wonders of the San Joaquin Valley, the majesty of the Rocky Mountains or the magnificence of the Mississippi River.

She wanted to talk about the politically taboo subject of Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, other parts of Louisiana and Mississippi and race.

When President Bush visited the victims of Hurricane Katrina on August 29 to assess the region, the progress and what needed still to be done, he participated in a moment of silence for the more than 1,600 souls lost during the hurricane and its aftermath. My Vietnamese-American friends observed that Mayor Ray Nagin of New Orleans – at the exact moment of the president’s participation in the “moment of silence” – chose to participate in what they called a “moment of noise.”

The mayor went to a “bell ringing” in honor of the souls lost, I explained, an event just as somber and significant as the president’s event.

My immigrant friends didn’t all see it that way.

The diverse city of New Orleans and the surrounding hurricane ravaged area is partially rebuilt. This makes for both “good news” and “bad news” stories on the two year anniversary of the catastrophe.

Cokie Robersts, herself a native of the Gulf Coast, observed on National Public Radio that a Vietnamese-American community she visited had been completely rebuilt. She marveled at the fact that the houses, the church, and practically all the businesses of this community were rebuilt and in service. Then she said, the adjacent “other community” remained destroyed. In fact, she said, this neighborhood’s ruined homes had been removed and sea grass had taken root and overwhelmed the area. Only one or two houses had been rebuilt.

The marsh grass, Ms. Roberts explained, was the only thing thriving in the neighborhood next to the rebuilt Vietnamese-American area.

Ms. Roberts, and other nationally recognized news experts, also observed that much of the tenor of the two year anniversary of Katrina was one of rancor and blame. Many agreed that everyone knew President Bush and his administration were unprepared for the mega-storm and have failed miserably since. Democrats and the Congress deserved criticism too, for not allocating sufficient funds to rebuild faster or more completely. To many people, there was blame enough for just about everyone – everyone that is, in the government.

My friend, Chi Nguyen, who like many Vietnamese-Americans came here to America to escape communism after 1975 when Saigon fell, said this to me: “My mother walked from North Vietnam to South Vietnam pregnant with my sister in 1954 when the communists forced the French out of the north. She fled communism to get to freedom and freedom of religion. My parents fled South Vietnam in 1976 to get to America, the land of freedom, freedom of choice, and freedom of religion. My parents are gone now but after Hurricane Katrina we had but one option: to rebuild without complaint. The government would never have saved us as well as we could save ourselves.”

Cokie Roberts – along with just about every other nationally recognized newsperson or commentator – didn’t mention this story or anything like it for fear of being called tone deaf, politically incorrect, a moron or worse: a racist. The story to be told is that some of New Orleans has been rebuilt by noiseless, determined people of many cultures and backgrounds. Other parts of New Orleans and the surrounding area remain in ruins or even overgrown.

To the immigrant Vietnamese-Americans, refugees from the land of their birth and proud to be free in America, the choice after Katrina was an easy one. Many missed both the president’s moment of silence and the mayor’s bell ringing because they have moved on, rebuilt and were at work on August 29 this year.

The noisemakers awaiting redemption by the government, my immigrant friends told me, may face many years of suffering and waiting no matter who they blame and who runs the government.

It seemed to me that the quiet army of immigrant and other American ants we observed who had already rebuilt with their own sweat and the help of others would probably be better off.

John E. Carey is the former president of International Defense Consultants, Inc. and a frequent contributor to the Washington Times.


Katrina and New Orleans Demographics

Two Years After Katrina, New Orleans Slowly Recovering