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Old December 21st, 2006, 04:20 AM   #121
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New Orleans murders down in 3Q
19 December 2006

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - The latest crime statistics show that murder was down in New Orleans, police superintendent Warren Riley said Tuesday.

Third quarter statistics show there were 53 murders in the city for the third quarter of the year, compared to 68 murders for that same time period last year, a 22.6 drop.

New Orleans, however, was virtually deserted in September 2005 -- the last month of the quarter -- as a result of Hurricane Katrina, which struck Aug. 29, 2005. The city's population has dropped from about 455,000 before Katrina to an estimated 200,000 this year.

There were 56 murders in the first half of 2006, for a total of 109 over the three quarters. In 2005 there were 202 murders for the first three quarters. After Katrina, there were no murders reported in the final quarter of the year.

The latest NOPD statistics show there were 635 violent crimes in the city during the third quarter, 1,590 for the first three quarters, including 354 armed robberies.

Both violent and nonviolent crime were down for the first half of 2006 compared to 2005, police say. Violent crime dropped 53.3 percent and nonviolent crime was down 46 percent.

Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) statistics for the third quarter of 2006 compared to the same time in 2005 are unavailable, due to flooding in various district offices where reports were stored prior to Hurricane Katrina.
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Old December 21st, 2006, 04:21 AM   #122
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New Orleans officials complain Louisiana is slow to distribute federal hurricane aid
19 December 2006

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Louisiana has distributed less than $2 billion (euro1.5 billion) in federal aid to communities hit by Hurricane Katrina, drawing complaints from some New Orleans officials that the state is slowing their recovery.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has paid Louisiana roughly $5.1 billion (euro3.88 billion) to reimburse communities for construction projects. But only 38 percent of that money has reached communities nearly 16 months after the storm, agency spokesman Aaron Walker said Tuesday.

By contrast, Mississippi has distributed nearly half of the $2.2 billion (euro1.67 billion) it received from FEMA.

St. Bernard Parish President Henry "Junior" Rodriguez complained last week that state officials were unnecessarily holding up money.

"It gets obligated in Washington, it gets back to the state and then it gets held up," he said Thursday at a meeting of the Louisiana Recovery Authority. "It's a state problem."

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin stopped short of blaming the state but said the city cannot afford to start many projects without advance payments.

"We're out of money right now," Nagin said at the same meeting.

Mark Smith, a spokesman for the Louisiana governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, said the state shares FEMA's responsibility to ensure federal funds are properly spent. He dismissed comparisons to Mississippi since the states have faced different issues in rebuilding.

"We cannot, dealing with this kind of money, simply take people at their word," he said. "We need documentation to back it up."

Mike Womack, executive director of the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, said much of the FEMA money is for projects that have not started.

"You've got to remember that very little permanent reconstruction work has started on the coast," he said. "You don't start awarding the money until the bids are done and the work begins."

Billy Skellie, mayor of Long Beach, Mississippi, said he is pleased with how quickly the state and federal governments are reimbursing his city for Katrina-related work, including a $13 million (euro9.88 million) water-and-sewer project.

"We're not really waiting on anything that's got us in a crunch," he said.

FEMA's public assistance funding is awarded separately from a multibillion federal grant program that provides Louisiana and Mississippi homeowners with up to $150,000 (euro114,000) to rebuild, repair or relocate their homes. Homeowners in both states have complained about delays in getting grants from that program as well.
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Old December 21st, 2006, 04:21 AM   #123
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A bit of New Orleans' iconic streetcar line back in service for first time since Katrina
19 December 2006

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - The city's iconic St. Charles Avenue streetcar line returned to partial service Tuesday for the first time since Hurricane Katrina, but it has a long way to go before serving the full length of its old route.

The Regional Transit Authority put two cars back on track between Canal Street and Lee Circle. Before Katrina, 17 cars were in service on that line.

"This is great day for the city of New Orleans. It just gives our citizens more comfort that the city is coming back bigger and better than ever," Mayor Ray Nagin said at a ceremony.

The RTA had planned to begin a gradual replacement of the line's electrical system in September 2005, but Katrina derailed that plan when it struck Aug. 29, 2005, ripping down power lines and destroying the substation that supplied them.

The RTA hopes to reopen the route between Lee Circle and Napoleon Avenue by next summer, with service from Napoleon to the end of the line at Carrollton Avenue to reopen in spring or early summer of 2008, officials said.

Buses have been operating on St. Charles Avenue in place of the streetcars. Service on part of the Canal Street line resumed about a year ago, and last spring the RTA added the Riverfront line and the rest of the Canal Street line.

Newer cars used on the Riverfront and Canal lines were destroyed by Katrina's flooding, so those lines have been using the 35 venerable Perley Thomas Car Co. streetcars familiar to tourists that were used on St. Charles Avenue, since they had been stored above the high water.
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Old December 23rd, 2006, 08:38 AM   #124
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FEATURE-Fabled Friday lunch thrives in hard-hit New Orleans
By Mary Milliken

NEW ORLEANS, Dec 20 (Reuters) - No, absolutely not. The New Orleans blue bloods, society ladies and landed gentry who frequent Friday lunch at Galatoire's do not throw food or get out of control.

But then, muses Melvin Rodrigue, the restaurant's general manager, "I guess that depends on how you define 'out of control'."

Alas, the Friday patrons of 101-year-old Galatoire's are like one big family, one that not only survived but also thrives probably better than any other institution in the Big Easy 15 months after Hurricane Katrina hit.

So popular is Friday lunch that all 24 tables are taken by 11 a.m. by people who lined up early in the day. One woman said she paid $200 and used top contacts to secure a big table for her birthday. No reservations are accepted.

For the fabled Friday lunches before Christmas and Mardi Gras, the ones where food reportedly flies, regulars would pay students, their gardeners or homeless people to line up for them starting on Tuesday.

Rodrigue saw opportunity and decided to auction off the 24 tables for pre-Christmas lunch, earning $60,000 for charity and cleaning up the sidewalk in the process.

Although the regulars love Galatoire's on Friday because it is like a private club where they select their favorite waiter week after week, anyone can frequent Friday lunch.

All one needs is six free hours, an understanding boss, a forgiving spouse and stealth tactics to get a table. The regulars definitely have the inside track.

DRINK WITH ABANDON

Take Louisiana sugar cane plantation owner Martha Anne Foster, who came to Galatoire's to learn her manners when she was 14 and now comes on Fridays "just to have fun" 40 years later.

"How has it changed? Not a whole heck of a lot," said Foster, who has been served by her waiter, Richard, since 1985, a man who knows a Bourbon Old Fashioned cocktail will not sit well with his patroness late in the lunch.

"Your waiters help you pace yourself," said Foster. "If you don't do it, they do."

Pacing is crucial because many patrons of Galatoire's drink with abandon. By around 1:30 p.m., two hours into the lunch, voices rise, laughter bellows, tables of two turn into tables of six, aisles disappear and off-key renditions of "Happy Birthday" ring out every 10 minutes.

Somehow, it all ebbs and flows like the Mississippi River winding its way around the Crescent City.

"Everyone is polite, even when they fall down," said waiter F.X. Bege. "I have never seen an altercation. Although some sexual things have happened."

In a room with powerful men and beautiful Southern women, flirtation abounds and is usually preceded by a complimentary bottle of wine or round of drinks.

The waiters play willing cupids. Midway through the lunch, an older gentlemen asks Bege to put the bill of two young women seated at another table on his tab, "and add 20 percent."

Another table of three 40-something married women complains about their bad day at Galatoire's: "We've never had to pay for our alcohol before," scoffed one.

Oh, and then there's the food. The French fare with a Louisiana twist seems to be more of an excuse to keep drinking through the afternoon than a reason to come to Galatoire's.

Regulars often eat the same thing week after week, like the medley of crab and shrimp appetizers, fried eggplant, the souffle potatoes with bearnaise sauce and trout amandine. Menus are taboo.

"The second or third time I came here, Richard told me, 'You don't get a menu,'" said Foster's fiance, Boston architect Andrew Sammataro. "That's when you know you've arrived."

'LITTLE ISLAND' AFTER STORM

Has the mood dimmed at all at Galatoire's as New Orleans struggles to clean up, rebuild and bring back half its evacuated population 15 months after Katrina?

Not really, said Bege, who lives in a Federal Emergency Management Agency trailer on a fellow waiter's front lawn while his condo undergoes repair.

"This is like a little island where people come to just forget about everything," said Bege. "That is what amusement is all about."

Galatoire's was closed four months after Katrina and reopened with 70 percent of its staff. Now staff is nearly 100 percent and business 95 percent, unlike many French Quarter restaurants struggling to find waiters, cooks and customers.

Meanwhile, Galatoire's gears up for its pre-Christmas Friday lunch on Dec. 22, its first since Hurricane Katrina.

"It's an all-day event. They do throw bread, they do sing Happy Birthday six hundred times," said auctioneer Ruthie Winston, contradicting Rodrigue's denial of flying food.

She recalls the pre-Christmas lunch during the snowstorm of 1989.

"I ended up at a 12-top (table) all day long. I ice skated home off Canal St. And the rest I don't remember. Except that two weeks later I did emerge from my sick bed."
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Old January 1st, 2007, 06:15 PM   #125
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New Orleans begins 2007 still in Katrina recovery
By Jeff Franks
Sun Dec 31, 4:16 PM ET
Reuters

In New Orleans, 2007 begins much the same way 2006 did, with large swaths of the city still wrecked and abandoned after Hurricane Katrina, and local officials promising that better days lie just ahead.

The news is not all bad -- streets once lined with mountains of debris are mostly clean now and life in the least affected parts has returned almost to normal, but the overall pace of recovery is so slow that many wonder if the Big Easy will ever fully rebound from the deadly August 29, 2005, storm.

Sixteen months after Katrina flooded 80 percent of the city and killed more than 1,300 people, less than half of the pre-storm population of nearly half a million has returned.

About 80,000 homes in Orleans Parish were damaged, and most remain that way, creating a panorama of blight in the hardest-hit areas, which were largely poor and working-class neighborhoods.

Many businesses remain closed or struggle to survive. The landmark French Quarter restaurant Antoine's, run by the same family since 1840, said last week its business was down 60 percent from pre-Katrina and its future in doubt.

"My only salvation, my only hope, is that New Orleans recovers," said chief executive Rick Blount, as quoted in the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

Tourism, the lifeblood of the economy, is down -- only an estimated 197,000 people attended conventions at the city convention center this year, compared to 532,700 in 2004 -- and the nature of it has changed.

Visitors used to breeze into New Orleans for a few days of drunken fun in the French Quarter, but now most include a sobering tour of the storm-stricken areas in their stay.

Their reaction is almost always the same: Why hasn't more been done? How can this happen in America?

"We put our faith in the government and this time it looks like they let us down. We want competence and compassion from them -- we didn't get it here," said Ed Stevens, who came to New Orleans from Philadelphia for a family vacation.

The government -- local, state and federal -- gets most of the blame for New Orleans' plight.

Just as in the chaotic aftermath of Katrina officials were slow to help the thousands of people stranded in the flooded city, now they have not provided money or leadership to rebuild the city, residents complain.

97 GRANTS SO FAR

The Road Home, a program to distribute $7.5 billion in federal money to people whose homes were damaged or destroyed by Katrina, said this week that so far it had given money to just 97 homeowners out of 90,000 who have applied for aid.

Residents say the Road Home has moved so slowly because of a burdensome bureaucracy, but Louisiana officials say they have only really just begun the program because the U.S. Congress took too long to approve the money.

"I don't think Congress felt the same sense of urgency (we have), when it took them 10 months to appropriate the funds that Louisiana requested," said Andy Kopplin, executive director of the Louisiana Recovery Authority, the agency set up to oversee the rebuilding effort.

Kopplin expects the Road Home money will be handed out at a much faster pace in the next few months because benefits have now been calculated for 22,588 families in one of the final steps of the process.

Many homeowners still scattered around the country have been waiting for signals from the city on such things as the fate of their destroyed neighborhoods and reconstruction of the levees that failed during Katrina before deciding whether to return.

This month Mayor Ray Nagin finally appointed a czar to oversee the city's recovery effort and early in January the city is expected to release a long-awaited plan for neighborhood recovery. Nagin on Friday predicted a "greatly accelerated" recovery in 2007.

Johnette Jackson, who along with husband Roosevelt is rebuilding their Ninth Ward house without any government help, said many of her neighbors would probably never return.

"I think New Orleans will come back, but not the way it was," Jackson said, gesturing toward empty, damaged homes. "Once you lose this much, you can never get back what you had."
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Old January 2nd, 2007, 06:47 PM   #126
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7 indicted New Orleans cops to surrender
By MICHAEL KUNZELMAN, Associated Press Writer
2 January 2007

NEW ORLEANS - More than 200 supporters applauded as seven indicted policemen arrived at a jail Tuesday to face charges in a deadly bridge shooting amid the chaos that followed Hurricane Katrina.

Each of the indicted men faces at least one charge of murder or attempted murder in the shootings of six people on the Danziger Bridge on Sept. 4, 2005, less than a week after the hurricane hit.

One protester shouted "Police killings must stop" and "Racism must go" as the men arrived, but the protester was shouted down by the crowd yelling: "Heroes, Heroes."

Uniformed police officers from nearby districts joined other supporters embracing the seven policemen and shaking their hands. The Fraternal Order of Police had encouraged rank-and-file officers to gather outside the jail to show their support. One sign in the crowd read, "Support the Danziger 7." Another read: "Thanks for protecting our city."

"These men stayed here to protect our city and protect us and this is the thanks that is given to them," said Ryan Maher, 34, of New Orleans, who described himself as a civilian with friends in the police department.

"It's a serious injustice," said Sgt. Henry Kuhn of the Harahan Police Department, one of several uniformed officers from the New Orleans suburbs who joined the crowd.

The first person to show up outside the jail was Darren Hills, whose brother Ignatius Hills was indicted on one count of attempted second-degree murder.

"It took everybody by surprise. Totally blindsided by the decision," Darren Hills said of the charges. He said the family would post bail for his brother as soon as possible.

Two men died and four people were wounded in the gunfire on the bridge that spans the Industrial Canal.

Sgts. Kenneth Bowen and Robert Gisevius, officer Anthony Villavaso and former officer Robert Faulcon, were charged with first-degree murder. Officers Robert Barrios and Mike Hunter were charged with attempted first-degree murder, and Ignatius Hills was charged with attempted second-degree murder.

A judge said there would be no bond for the four accused of first-degree murder. Bond will be $100,000 per count for the other three officers.

The officers are scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday. At that hearing, lawyers for the four officers charged with first-degree murder plan to seek bond for their clients, said Frank DeSalvo, Bowen's attorney.

A first-degree murder conviction carries a possible death sentence. A spokesman for District Attorney Eddie Jordan said Monday that prosecutors haven't decided yet whether to seek the death penalty in the case.

The facts of what happened on the Bridge, which connects the Gentilly neighborhood with eastern New Orleans, remain murky. Police say the officers were responding to a report of other officers down, and that they thought one of the men, Ronald Madison, had been reaching for a gun.

Madison, a 40-year-old mentally retarded man, and James Brissette, 19, were shot and killed on the bridge. The coroner said Madison was shot seven times, with five wounds in the back.

Madison's brother, Lance, who was cleared by the grand jury of attempted murder charges, denies he or his brother were armed.

Lance Madison said he and his brother were running from a group of teens who had opened fire on the bridge when seven men jumped out of a rental truck and also began firing at them without warning. The men didn't identify themselves as police officers, Madison said.

On Friday, the department suspended the officers without pay pending the outcome of the case and a review by Police Superintendent Warren Riley.
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Old January 3rd, 2007, 04:02 AM   #127
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Backstory: No Waterloo for Napoleon House
A landmark restaurant in the French Quarter shows the spirit and struggles facing New Orleans after Katrina.

Carmen K. Sisson
Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
3 January 2007

Conversation dips and swells to the soaring lilt of the "1812 Overture," as restaurant patrons chat amiably while waiting to be seated. French phrases swirl through clipped New York consonants and Louisiana drawls as flannel-shirted men and Chanel-suited women hunch over steaming bowls of gumbo.

This could be 1940s Paris or modern-day Manhattan. These could be paupers or princes. Time and truth have a way of getting lost here, weaving an ambiance that still enchants, even in a post-Katrina world.

Maria Impastato, who co-owns Napoleon House with her siblings, is steeped in reality. As owners of one of only 722 restaurants back up and running in New Orleans, they're struggling to deal with a crushing loss: Only two of the 32-member staff returned after the storm. The others have become part of Katrina's diaspora.

"They'd like to be here, and we'd like to have them back," Ms. Impastato says. "There's nowhere for them to live."

The Napoleon House provides a window into where New Orleans stands 16 months after hurricane Katrina. The restaurant industry, long central to the city's epicurean identity, is making strides in reopening its bouillabaisse of coffeehouses and cafes. But the city is far from the food capital it once was. Industry officials say barely a third of the area's 1,880 pre-Katrina restaurants have reopened. Sales are expected to be down at least $300 million this year.

The hardship has been particularly acute in the French Quarter, due to its proximity to the water. Many restaurants suffered heavy damage and lost a disproportionate number of employees. Affordable housing near the Quarter has been slow to return. Tom Weatherly, a vice president of the Louisiana Restaurant Association, estimates that 54,000 workers were directly involved in the Greater New Orleans restaurant industry before Katrina. Only 39,000 of those people have come back.

Chains like Burger King offered a $6,000 signing bonus after the storm. Others raised wages. Still, "help wanted" signs abound in a city in which an estimated 50,000 homes were lost, and nearly half the residents have yet to return.

For well-known restaurants like Napoleon House, the problem isn't customers as much as staffing. To cope, the restaurant has limited its menu and scaled back its hours, reducing revenue by 50 percent.

Impastato and her brother, Sal, pull double shifts Fridays through Wednesdays, arriving at 9 a.m. and often not leaving until 2 a.m. the next day. They share duties with Sal's wife, Vivian; their sister, Janie Lala; and her husband, Leonard. Four others round out the crew.

The strain is evident. It's lunchtime here, and Impastato is a one-woman dynamo, pushing through the dense crowd, arms laden with the same thick, crusty muffulettas her Uncle Joe made famous in 1920. She stops to tally a check, then hurries back to the kitchen to take another set of plates from Sal. Across the room, a young waiter narrowly avoids a collision with bartender Greg Cowman, who's squatting in a walkway, taking an order. This is a well- choreographed dance, just another day in the harsh reality of the new Big Easy.

***

Erected in 1814 by Mayor Nicolas Girod, this French Quarter landmark has seduced locals and tourists for almost two centuries with a blend of romance and intrigue. According to local legend, the ornate edifice, outfitted with Carerra marble and mahogany, was intended to serve as a refuge for exiled emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, who was to be spirited away by a band of sympathizers. There's only one problem: Napoleon died in 1821 before he could ever step foot in the three-story structure.

In 1920, a brash young Italian named Joe Impastato bought the property and began a legacy. What started out as a grocery store quickly became known as the place for good food and good times. The atmosphere was cemented when he began playing classical music and operas on his Victrola.

Impastato says her father, Peter, was determined to continue in that vein when he took over after World War II. Let Bourbon Street have its burlesque montage. There would be none of that at Napoleon House. "It wasn't a rowdy place," she says. "Daddy would have turntables playing and Christian pamphlets like you'd see in church. He was like a missionary."

Deeply religious, Mr. Impastato became known for his generosity. He brought beggars in for hot bowls of jambalaya. He offered the upper chambers, once reserved for royalty, to homeless people. Everyone was equal in Peter Impastato's world.

Still, it was a bar, and he kept his five children shielded. It wasn't until after he died in 1971 and they took over the business that they fully understood the life of the man they called "Daddy" and his legend.

"He lived his faith, and we were very aware of that," Impastato says. "But as young children, we were never down there. We didn't realize what Daddy went through."

It hasn't been easy keeping Napoleon House running. In the dark days following the storm, amid the stench of rotten food and sounds of blowflies, Impastato says they worked night and day, holding the memories close to their hearts. There was never any doubt they would reopen. The bigger question was - and is - how long will it take for things to return to normal.

***

Sherry Lopez, a longtime customer, sees reasons for optimism. Though she misses the full menu, she says it's a relief to see her favorite landmark open again. As a young couple, she and her husband celebrated many happy occasions here. When they parted amicably 20 years later, they sat at their favorite table in the back corner one more time and planned their divorce.

"People from all walks of life come through here," Ms. Lopez says as a horse-drawn carriage passes outside. "People sit at the table and play chess and get into intellectual arguments."

For many, the appeal of Napoleon House lies in its unflappable sameness. Ric Rolston says it's always his first stop when friends from out of town visit, partly for the food, but mostly for the atmosphere. "It's an institution," he says, gazing at the peeling plaster walls and eclectic mixture of Napoleon-themed paintings and busts. "There's nothing more 'French Quarter' than Napoleon House. It's elegant decay."

Waiter Denny Moore agrees. An avid customer before Katrina, he was thrilled to join the staff - a coveted position that used to have a waiting list. Mr. Moore began as a busboy last year and was recently promoted. He admits the long hours and lack of staff can get stressful, but he feels privileged to work here. "It's a special place, owned by very special people," he says, sipping a frothy mug of hot chocolate in the shade of a back patio. "They've embraced me like family. I looked for that all my life and never seemed to find it until I came here."

For the Impastatos, this is home. As Maria Impastato walks through the rooms where her father once walked, she's besieged by memories. She and her siblings spent long summer afternoons chasing one another up and down the spiral staircase. On pretty days, they'd take picnic baskets piled high with sandwiches to Jackson Square for al fresco feasts and skip up the steps of St. Louis Cathedral.

Even then, there was nowhere else they'd rather be. "We're here and we're doing our best," she says. "We'd like to come back to what we had before, but for now we just keep going."(c) Copyright 2007. The Christian Science Monitor
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Old January 4th, 2007, 04:06 AM   #128
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Sugar Bowl returns as New Orleans is slowly getting back on its feet
2 January 2007

NEW ORLEANS (AP) _ The day before the Sugar Bowl, it seemed like old times in the heart of the French Quarter.

Street dancers performed for a large gathering in Jackson Square, getting big cheers when they pulled a young LSU fan into their act. Aspiring artists stood ready to churn out a caricature for anyone passing by. Ominous-looking psychics hovered over candles and Ouija boards, prepared to deliver some eery premonition. And, of course, the bartenders gave out plenty of Abitas (that's a local beer), Hurricanes and Bloody Marys.

With thousands of people milling about the narrow streets, celebrating the return of the Sugar Bowl to its native city, the Big Easy is back in business, right?

Not so fast.

Just a few kilometres away from the party, there was another set of rituals Tuesday that have become all too familiar for those who live in this still-devastated city. Construction workers hammered away at flooded-out homes. People tossed out the water-logged remnants of their shattered lives for garbage trucks to haul away. Thousands prepared to spend another night living in trailers, wondering when they might actually have a place to call home that doesn't have wheels.

"If you live in Idaho or Montana or Wyoming," Curtis Click said, "you just can't understand the extent of the damage."

Click and his family are fully aware that New Orleans is still struggling to get back on its feet, a striking contrast to the revelry on Bourbon Street. Sixteen months after hurricane Katrina sent nearly a metre of water pouring into the Lake Terrace neighbourhood, their home remains nothing more than a shell _ wood framing where walls should be, wires and ductwork dangling from the exposed ceiling. One of those omnipresent FEMA trailers is camped out on the front lawn, a temporary home with an increasingly permanent feel; they've been using it since the first of July, after returning from the sanctuary of San Antonio.

Click and his 20-year-old son will be in that trailer Wednesday night, watching No. 4 LSU take on 11th-ranked Notre Dame in what figures to be the most poignant of Sugar Bowls. Last year, the game shifted to Atlanta because the Superdome was in no shape to host a football game. This year, it's back home, another cornerstone in the tedious rebuilding of an irreplaceable American city.

"I've got a front-row seat," Click said with a giddy fist pump, unconcerned that he'll have to watch the game on a tiny television in a cramped seat with barely enough room to turn around.

Click and his wife, Nancy, are thrilled to have the Sugar Bowl back where it belongs _ if for no other reason than to let people know there's so much work left to be done.

"People think we're finished, but it's going to take years to rebuild," she said. "If more people come to town, maybe it will get the word out that we're still struggling big time."

Amid all the political infighting, government inefficiency and red tape that have slowed parts of the recovery to a glacier-like pace, a silly sport _ football _ has helped lift the spirits of New Orleans in particular and Louisiana as a whole, giving its beaten-down populace a sense that everything will turn out fine.

After going 3-13 last season, the Saints won their division and earned a bye into the second round of the NFL playoffs. LSU (10-2) closed the regular season with a six-game winning streak to claim a spot in the Bowl Championship Series.

That the Tigers were invited to the Sugar Bowl after a wild final weekend only adds to the sense that some sort of destiny is at work.

"As we've been going around the city, all the people have been coming up and telling us their Katrina stories," LSU coach Les Miles said. "There could be no other bowl game for this year's LSU team than the Sugar Bowl.

"It's perfect."

Of course, the city is far from perfect. Heading north or east from the French Quarter, it doesn't take long to come face-to-face with Katrina's devastating impact. The Clicks actually got off a bit lucky _ their home could be repaired, as opposed to plenty all around them that were simply levelled. But they scuttled most of their household furnishings, not to mention such heart-wrenching items as videos of Nancy as a young girl.

"That's all gone," she said. "I lost my childhood."

Nancy pulls out a picture album that she's compiled, documenting their inviting, two-story home before the storm and what was left after the water receded.

"My wedding ring is somewhere in that pile," she said, pointing to a picture that shows a pile of garbage stacked on the front lawn, about all that was left from the bottom floor. "There's a US$5,000 sofa right there."

The players have certainly grasped that they're part of something bigger than just a football game. A few days ago, Notre Dame (10-2) sent its players to help remove debris from a flooded-out school.

"That was pretty eye-opening," quarterback Brady Quinn said. "You hear about hurricane Katrina, but you don't understand what it's truly like until you see it.

"The walls were caved in. We saw a chalkboard with the date `August 25, 2005' written on it. You could tell that no one had been in there since then."

One of his teammates, defensive tackle Derek Landri, was taken aback at the slowness of the recovery. Maybe that's only natural. The rest of the U.S. seems to have moved on, burned out by all the Katrina coverage or simply distracted by other news.

"We still saw homes with their doors wide open," Landri said. "We still saw water lines in the homes.

"A year and a half later, that's kind of surprising."

Even in the French Quarter and other areas that weren't hit as hard, this isn't the same city. While tens of thousands gathered on the banks of the Mississippi River to ring in the new year and the city is now bustling with LSU and Notre Dame fans, there are times when the streets are barren of tourists. Those who do visit find businesses with reduced hours and restaurants that shut down a couple of days each week, simply because there aren't enough workers.

But the cruise ships have returned, some major conventions are booked and Mardi Gras is right around the corner. Next football season, New Orleans will get a nice one-two punch by hosting the Sugar Bowl and the BCS championship game a week apart.

"I hate to say it, but we need the tourists," said Nancy Click, fighting off the pre-Katrina inclination of those who call this place home. "We really need them to come back.
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Old January 6th, 2007, 09:54 AM   #129
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To be honest, I don't think New Orleans should be rebuilt. The entire basin is sliding into the Gulf of Mexico, and the levee system will be too expensive to build to withstand a truly strong hurricane. Remember, Katrina hit New Orleans with Category 2/3 winds - not Category 5.
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Old January 6th, 2007, 08:04 PM   #130
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To be honest, I don't think New Orleans should be rebuilt. The entire basin is sliding into the Gulf of Mexico, and the levee system will be too expensive to build to withstand a truly strong hurricane. Remember, Katrina hit New Orleans with Category 2/3 winds - not Category 5.
I Agree with this person, I Don't think The N.O. will ever be the same again.
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Old January 7th, 2007, 01:38 AM   #131
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To be honest, I don't think New Orleans should be rebuilt. The entire basin is sliding into the Gulf of Mexico, and the levee system will be too expensive to build to withstand a truly strong hurricane. Remember, Katrina hit New Orleans with Category 2/3 winds - not Category 5.
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I Agree with this person, I Don't think The N.O. will ever be the same again.
yes it may not be the same as it once was but you cannot simply abandon and give up on a historical and culturaly important city!
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Old January 8th, 2007, 04:51 AM   #132
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you cannot simply abandon and give up on a historical and culturaly important city!
I'm sure there will still be a tourist presence/shipping industry in New Orleans. But we don't need 450,000 people in the city to run those industries. Maybe a more realistic number is 75,000 in the basin. Salvage the areas above sea-level, and gradually turn the rest into swamps/greenbelts. New Orleans is a losing proposition in the long-term.
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Old January 9th, 2007, 05:12 AM   #133
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I'm sure there will still be a tourist presence/shipping industry in New Orleans. But we don't need 450,000 people in the city to run those industries. Maybe a more realistic number is 75,000 in the basin. Salvage the areas above sea-level, and gradually turn the rest into swamps/greenbelts. New Orleans is a losing proposition in the long-term.
OMG...you are entitled to your opinion, but, if you only knew how unintelligent it comes across...you are discussing a metro area that has over 1.35 million people living in it, right now, has two professional sports teams, is a leading business center in the Gulf South, and encompasses the country's most unique and beautiful neighborhoods and trees...Jesus Christ, sometimes you have to wonder what goes through people's heads??? You are discussing a 300 year old city that has been through many events in its' time...a number of them worse than Katrina (including hurricanes). Here is a link to a photo thread of a city that you are proposing has 75,000 people?!?!?...really, come one..almost 300,000 live in the city today (and it's adding thousands a month to the figure).... http://www.skyscrapercity.com/showthread.php?t=427989
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Old January 9th, 2007, 05:20 AM   #134
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I Agree with this person, I Don't think The N.O. will ever be the same again.
I bet $1 million you haven't been here since the storm hit the city 18 months ago. Am I right? I respect your beliefs, because they are based on media and ignorance, but, you are more wrong than you know...nothing could be further from the truth.
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Old January 9th, 2007, 06:57 AM   #135
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New Orleans already has nine murders in 2007, for a city of 200,000. I think we have to be realistic about the use of tools like federal aid, which come from federal tax dollars and debt. New Orleans was a nice idea for a while, but in the long-term, it needs to be scaled back. I don't think that federal money should be used to rebuild New Orleans. I just don't think the price is worth it, given what will happen in the future.
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Old January 9th, 2007, 07:24 AM   #136
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New Orleans already has nine murders in 2007, for a city of 200,000. I think we have to be realistic about the use of tools like federal aid, which come from federal tax dollars and debt. New Orleans was a nice idea for a while, but in the long-term, it needs to be scaled back. I don't think that federal money should be used to rebuild New Orleans. I just don't think the price is worth it, given what will happen in the future.
That's cool...but, it's already been deposited into a bank account. $9 Billion was deposited about 6 weeks after Katrina aid was passed, for the City of New Orleans...I believe it was around last May. Unfortunately, there has not been one withdrawal from the account, to date. The City and State are still completing the planning phases of the reconstruction and we won't see much fruition until Summer, 2007.
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Old January 15th, 2007, 06:44 PM   #137
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FEATURE-New Orleans struggles to keep its black character
By Mary Milliken

NEW ORLEANS, Jan 14 (Reuters) - On Martin Luther King Day last year, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin famously said his city would "be chocolate at the end of the day," a remark meant to encourage African Americans to return after Hurricane Katrina.

At the time, it drew accusations of racial divisiveness and a barrage of jokes. T-shirts went on sale in the French Quarter portraying Nagin as Willie Wonka and maps of the city were redrawn with neighborhoods named Godiva, Hershey and M&Ms.

But a year later, it is no laughing matter. New Orleans, one of the most culturally distinct African American cities, is struggling to regain its black character.

"We need the chocolate back in the vanilla!" housing activist Endesha Juakali shouted to a crowd last month to protest the demolition of public housing damaged by Katrina.

But there were only about 20 black people listening, just a fraction of the whites who came to support the cause.

New Orleans was 67 percent African American before Katrina and 28 percent white. Now, in a city with less than half the previous population, blacks account for 47 percent and whites 43 percent.

"It will never be the same in my lifetime, we already know that," said Juakali. "The forces that control the redevelopment are going to string this thing out for at least five years. And people can't wait that long."

NO PLACE TO GO

Signs of a sluggish recovery are everywhere, 16 months after Katrina slammed the Gulf Coast, burst its protective levees and flooded 80 percent of the city.

Nowhere is it slower than in predominantly black neighborhoods like the Lower Ninth Ward, where workers are still tearing down homes destroyed by a wave of water. Gentilly, a middle class black area, is also barren.

Meanwhile, life in the mostly white Uptown district has returned to normal and shows few signs of storm destruction.

But no one is ready to decree the demise of black New Orleans.

"It is way too early and no one can predict accurately," said pollster Silas Lee.

"It is going to be dependent upon resources available from the government, changes in the infrastructure, a lot of factors that are beyond the control of the individual," Lee said.

Government is woefully behind schedule, sparking accusations from some that it is deliberately stalling to keep certain problem neighborhoods from coming back.

Only 100 families out of 90,000 applicants have received federal aid to rebuild homes hit by Katrina in the whole of Louisiana. The city redevelopment plan, said to be in its final stages, has yet to be announced.

Poor blacks who did not own their homes have little affordable rental accommodation to choose from, keeping them at bay in cities like Houston. Meanwhile, local media report that middle class black evacuees are thriving in new cities like Atlanta, and are unlikely to return.

Sharon Jasper, 57, lived in public housing that is now closed, but finally made the decision to come back a few months ago.

"Our young people need to come home where they belong," said Jasper, a seemingly strong woman who breaks down when she talks about her children scattered in several cities.

She said depression and tension are rife in the city, with two or three families staying in a single home and kids attending disfunctional schools.

Indeed, shooting deaths are a near daily occurrence, a pattern Nagin called "black-on-black" crime.

UPBEAT LIKE A JAZZ FUNERAL

Black New Orleans certainly had many of these problems -- poverty, crime, poor schools -- before Katrina.

But it also had a cultural richness coveted by blacks and whites alike that made living in New Orleans unique.

Where else, for example, can one see a "second line" -- a black brass band procession with jubilant dancing and extravagant wardrobe?

But for all the efforts and experience of the second line organizers, many members of the "krewes," or clubs, have not returned and processions are few and far between.

On a sunny day in December, the Big Nine Pleasure Club held a rare second line in the Lower Ninth Ward. Amid the mold-infested homes and overgrown lawns, black people from the neighborhood joined the procession, smiling and dancing.

When they arrived at the monument honoring the victims of Katrina, the band switched to the slow, mournful hymn of the world-famous New Orleans jazz funeral, "Just a Closer Walk with Thee."

There to say a prayer was Henry Irvin, who is rebuilding his home in the Lower Ninth at the age of 70.

"We're coming back and I've already told the man who sits in the chair Uptown, the mayor, don't get in my way because we are tired of waiting for y'all," said Irvin.

As the brass band resumed its lively rhythm, like jazz that breaks out at New Orleans funeral after the deceased is buried, Irvin was upbeat about the survival of black culture in the city.

"Tradition ain't gonna die," he said.
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Old January 17th, 2007, 06:41 AM   #138
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Jolie, Pitt move to New Orleans: report
Reuters
Tue Jan 16, 6:33 PM ET

Globe-trotting Hollywood couple Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt have moved to New Orleans and plan to send their three children to school there, Us Weekly magazine reported on Tuesday.

"We love it there," Jolie was quoted as saying in confirming the move at the Golden Globe awards ceremony in Los Angeles on Monday night. "The kids are going to go to school there. We're really looking forward to it."

Representatives for Pitt, 43, and Jolie, 31, could not immediately be reached for comment.

But according to the story posted on the magazine's Web site, the couple's relocation to the flood-ravaged Louisiana city is at least partly in keeping with their off-screen devotion to various humanitarian causes around the world. They spent Christmas Day handing out presents to Colombian war refugees in Costa Rica.

According to Us Weekly, the movie star pair moved to the Big Easy on January 11 and have purchased a $3.5 million, six-bed mansion in the city's French Quarter -- the fourth house owned by the couple.

One diner at a Decatur Street restaurant told the magazine he saw Jolie quietly mixing with the locals the day after she and Pitt moved to town.

Us Weekly cites unnamed sources as saying Jolie plans on keeping a low profile in her newly adopted home town, where Pitt is currently on location shooting his latest film, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button."

"She's interested in befriending normal moms so she can do things with the kids," one source told the magazine, adding that the couple also hopes to raise awareness for the hurricane-devastated Gulf Coast region.

"They think it is important to be there right now" and are already looking to get more involved in local charity work, the source said. According to Us Weekly, construction is set to start this month on 20 environment-friendly homes Pitt has jointly commissioned with the group Global Green USA.

Pitt, currently starring in the globe-spanning drama "Babel," and Jolie, an Oscar winner for her role in "Girl, Interrupted," co-starred as married assassins hired to kill each other in the film "Mr. and Mrs. Smith." According to Jolie, they began a romantic relationship after Pitt's marriage to Jennifer Aniston broke up in early 2005.

Jolie has said they have no plans to marry but are committed to raising their three children together.

Jolie adopted 5-year-old son Maddox from Cambodia in 2002 and 2-year-old daughter, Zahara, from Ethiopia, in 2005. She gave birth last year in Namibia to her first biological child, a daughter fathered by Pitt they named Shiloh. Pitt has also become the adoptive father of Maddox and Zahara.
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Old January 17th, 2007, 09:43 AM   #139
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After marches and the speeches - what does New Orleans do now?
By MARY FOSTER
16 January 2007

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - They came by the thousands last week, carrying signs and pictures of the dead and demanding action.

A bloody murder spree that opened the year by littering the city with nine bodies in 10 days galvanized residents from across the city's neighborhoods and class lines.

The dramatic march against crime in New Orleans echoed the outcry that grew in the mid-1990s from the slayings in the French Quarter that became known as the Pizza Kitchen killings. People took to the streets then and public officials developed concrete plans to attack a murder problem that left more than 400 people a year dead.

But in the post-Katrina environment, the decision-makers have many issues to cope with, and a major difference is the lack of a solid plan by either Mayor Ray Nagin or the police department to stem the violence, said criminologist and University of New Orleans professor Peter Scharf.

"The difference between the march now and the one after Pizza Kitchen murders is that back then the police said, give us the money and we'll reduce the homicides by half," Scharf said. "The second is that they came up with a plan. They sought help from focus groups in the community and developed a very carefully thought out strategic plan."

Mayor Ray Nagin and police superintendent Warren Riley outlined a plan to stop the violence earlier in the week. It included shuffling police officers from administrative jobs and using deputies from the jail to beef up patrols, speeding up delivery of murder cases to the district attorney, stopping cars on the streets between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m., when most of the murders take place.

"I think the plan is thin to say the least," Scharf said. "The proposals are tactics, not strategies. They need long-term strategies."

The slaying of three employees at the French Quarter restaurant on Dec. 1, 1996, sparked a public outcry that led then-Mayor Marc Morial and the city council to reverse their positions on providing more money for police.

"I had been to the city council many times asking for more officers, more money to pay them so I could recruit good people, and nothing happened," Richard Pennington, now police chief in Atlanta, said on Thursday. "Then the killings happened in the French Quarter and people came out carrying signs saying `Give Chief Pennington What He Needs.' Right after that we got dramatic pay increases, more officers and money for equipment."

After the Pizza Kitchen killings, the city was able to get a number of grants from the Justice Department to institute community police programs that put cops in closer contact with citizens. That money is no longer available, Scharf said, drained to pay for the Iraq War.

"I think getting officers in with the people was the most important thing we did," Pennington said. "In 1994 there were 427 murders in New Orleans and 180 of those were in the housing projects, so that's where we put our officers."

Pennington set up mini police stations in the projects and the cops not only patrolled, they started youth programs and got to know residents.

"When I started in New Orleans it was the most violent city in America," said Pennington, who could boast not a single 2007 murder 11 days into the new year. "When I left it was down to 30th."

Pennington applauded the effort to start foot and bike patrols, saying that will help win the confidence of the public.

"And it's good that they know what's causing the majority of the murders -- drugs, guns and gangs," Pennington said. "That means they need good intelligence on them now, whose selling the drugs and where."

Last Thursday's march may also indicate that the public is much more willing to get involved now than they were in the mid-90s, said Rafael Goyeneche, executive director of the watchdog group, Metropolitan Crime Commission of Greater New Orleans.

"I think this was a defining moment in the history of this city," Goyeneche said. "Citizens stepped up from all over the city. As long as it doesn't stop when the crowd dissipated it will mean something. And I don't think it will stop. I got a sense of momentum and that people will not to accept the statis quo."

The personal stories of the marchers were frequently frightening and horrifying. One marcher survived a gunshot wound to his chest but moved to San Francisco after his attacker was released without charges. A man beaten by three attackers said he was still afraid to walk alone after dark. A woman who had five family members gunned down -- including her pregnant sister-in-law -- spoke of the pain the losses caused.

Rev. Emanuel Smith Jr., pastor of the Israelite Baptist Church stood at the rally holding a picture of three young black men in coffins in his church. They were three of the teenagers shot to death as they sat in a SUV in June. Smith conducted the funeral, one of more than 32 he said he's conducted for victims of violence since Katrina.

"We have to get mad, not scared," Smith said. "We have to help the police. We will identify the drug dealers on our blocks. We will tell the police who the pushers are. We will get back to our communities and get to work."
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Old January 17th, 2007, 03:18 PM   #140
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Embryo saved after Katrina is born
By JANET McCONNAUGHEY
Associated Press Writer
Tue Jan 16, 8:13 PM ET

Rescued from a great flood while he was just a frozen embryo in liquid nitrogen, a baby boy entered the world Tuesday and was named after the most famous flood survivor of them all, Noah.

Noah Benton Markham — 8 pounds, 6 1/2 ounces — was born to 32-year-old Rebekah Markham by Caesarean section after growing from an embryo that nearly defrosted in a sweltering hospital during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

"All babies are miracles. But we have some special miracles," said Wanda Stogner, a cousin of Markham's.

Relatives gathered around New Orleans police officer Glen Markham as the proud 42-year-old father carried the tiny blanket-wrapped bundle topped by a pink-and-blue cap out of the operating room at St. Tammany Parish Hospital. For a few seconds he tried to make them guess whether the baby was a boy or a girl.

Then he announced, "It's a boy!" to an eruption of cheers and applause.

Two weeks after Katrina hit, law officers used flat-bottom boats to rescue the Markhams' embryos and some 1,400 other ones stored in tanks of coolant at New Orleans' Lakeland Hospital.

The tanks had been topped off with liquid nitrogen and moved from the first floor to the third as the storm drew near, but the hurricane swamped the hospital with 8 feet of water and knocked out the electricity.

The Markhams had decided that if their baby was girl, she would be named Hannah Mae, Hannah meaning "God has favored us." A boy would be named after the biblical builder of the Ark — an idea that came from Rebekah Markham's sister-in-law.

"That is the best name!" said Ramon Pyrzak, lab director for the Fertility Institute of New Orleans, where the Markhams created embryos from their sperm and eggs after nearly a decade of inability to have a baby.

Noah's older brother, 2-year-old Glen Witter "Witt" Markham Jr., whose embryo was created at the same time as Noah's but implanted immediately in 2003, stood on his mother's hospital bed and leaned forward to give the baby a gentle kiss.

"So soft!" Witt said.

If the embryos had thawed, each woman who wanted another baby would have had to undergo another expensive round of fertility drugs, egg harvesting and in vitro fertilization. Rebekah Markham estimated her first pregnancy cost $12,000.

"It's amazing that he was frozen," Glen Markham said as he gazed through the nursery window at the squalling newborn. "I thought the only thing you could freeze was a crab. You freeze a crab and defrost it, and it'll come back to life."
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