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The Katrina Disaster: Two Years Later--and Counting

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· “Americans want the Gulf Coast not just to survive, but to thrive; not just to cope, but to overcome. We want evacuees to come home, for the best of reasons -- because they have a real chance at a better life in a place they love.”--George W. Bush, 9/15/05

Noble words, indeed--too bad he didn’t mean it. To Bush & Company, the Katrina disaster was not a matter of human suffering and loss; it was just another opportunity for the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer.


· “The city, developers and the feds are planning the largest urban renewal and black removal in U.S. history. While it’s clear that blacks were hit hardest by Hurricane Katrina, there is no aggressive plan to bring them home.”--The Washington Post, 5/17/07


· “Public housing officials decided Thursday to proceed with the demolition of more than 4,500 government apartments here, brushing aside an outcry from residents displaced by Hurricane Katrina who said the move was intended to reduce the ability of poor black people to repopulate the city.”-- The Washington Post, 12/8/06


· “This is a government-sanctioned diaspora of New Orleans’s poorest African American citizens. They are destroying perfectly habitable apartments when they are more rare than any time since the Civil War.”--Attorney Bill Quigley of Loyola University’s law school in The Washington Post, 12/8/06


Prior to Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans was two-thirds African American. The “new and improved New Orleans” is expected to be less than half African American.


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The Road Home program, which provides assistance to people displaced by Hurricanes, will stop accepting applications July 31, 2007--largely because of an estimated $5 billion shortfall in the program. So much for Bush’s promise, “[W]e will do what it takes. We will stay as long as it takes to help citizens rebuild their communities and their lives (9/15/05). Five billion dollars equals about two week’s expenditures for Mr. Bush’s war on Iraq.


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· “… [G]overnment neglect has plagued the rebuilding of smaller towns like Biloxi Mississippi, and rural parishes of Louisiana, leaving the entire region in distress. In Biloxi, the first to be aided after the hurricane were the casinos, which forced low-income people out of their homes and neighborhoods.”--The Black Agenda Report, 8/9/07


Eleven of the thirteen Biloxi-area casinos that were damaged or destroyed by Katrina are already back in business, and the number of casinos in Biloxi is expected to double in the next 10 years because a post-Katrina rule allows casinos to be built 800 feet ashore instead of on floating barges (UPI, 8/2/07)


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· “With large swaths of the Gulf Coast still in ruins from Hurricane Katrina, rich federal tax breaks designed to spur rebuilding are flowing hundreds of miles inland to investors who are buying up luxury condos near the University of Alabama’s football stadium”-- Jay Reeves, AP, 8/13/07


These investors are taking advantage of tax breaks created by the Gulf Opportunity Zone Act of 2005 (GO Zone), which included the Tuscaloosa area even though it is not near the coast and received little damage from Katrina. Investors there can write off more than half the cost of a $300,000 condo in the first year--instead of the regular depreciation benefit of about $11,000. Of course, ordinary people who buy a home don’t get this break.


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A Congressional investigation has found that, even though FEMA officials received numerous warnings about dangerous levels of formaldehyde fumes in the trailers provided to Katrina evacuees, they refused to allow testing of the trailers because they would no longer be able to claim that they didn’t know there was a problem. This cannot be excused as incompetence or an honest mistake. It is what Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) described as “premeditated ignorance”. Waxman said:

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Mick Youther is an American citizen, an independent voter, a veteran, a parent, a Christian, a scientist, a writer, and all-around nice guy who has been aroused from a comfortable apathy by the high crimes and misdemeanors of the Bush Administration.

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