Friday, March 30, 2007

U.S. Representative Questions Google about Using Pre-Katrina Images

Seriously:

Rep. Brad Miller, Chairman of the Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee of the House Science & Technology Committee, today asked Google Chairman Eric Schmidt to explain why Google had changed its satellite maps of the New Orleans region to pre-Hurricane Katrina images.

“If current Google Maps satellite imagery is to be believed, Hurricane Katrina never struck New Orleans, there was never any flooding and thousands of people do not need to be living in trailers because their homes are still habitable,” Miller wrote.
Rep. Miller asked the Google chairman about the Google Conspiracy in a letter, which included these questions [pdf]:
1. What criteria were used by Google to determine that pre-Katrina satellite images would replace post Katrina images on the Google website? Who made that decision?

2. Was there any communication between Google employees and/or officials of the city of New Orleans or any other representative of the city before making this change?

***

5. In the article, Mr. Ohazama stated that he personally received no request for a change in the imagery, but “he added that Google gets many requests from users and governments to update and change its imagery.” How does Google deal with such requests, and how do such requests affect Google’s decision to update imagery?

6. Was Google contacted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the United States Geological Survey or any other entity of the federal government concerning any changes or revisions of the satellite imagers [sic] for the New Orleans region? If so, when were those requests received, and from whom?
Okay, the fact that a Congressional committee (albeit a House subcommittee) is investigating the Google Conspiracy is weird – and I love weird. But if the answer to questions #2 and #6 turns out to be yes, then things get even weirder – and I love weirder even more.

Question #5, for what it’s worth, was first considered by Jeffrey at Library Chronicles, who also finds all this – in a word – weird.

On the local level, I can’t see Ray “My Google hits probably went up a million that week” Nagin asking Google to change the images. Ed Blakely, maybe. Anyone from the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau, possibly.

But probably not. As I have said before, I don’t think there is a conspiracy here. There is only inaccuracy here. Pre-Katrina satellite images of the flooded areas of the city present an inaccurate map of New Orleans. You use the Satellite or Hybrid function to enhance your comprehension of the Google map you are viewing. Pre-Katrina satellite images distort the viewer’s comprehension by providing inaccurate information, such as multiple houses where there are no houses anymore.

However, to go back to the immediate post-Katrina satellite images would be equally as inaccurate. If I remember correctly, parts of the Lower 9th were flooded in those pics. New Orleans is no longer flooded. And the landscape of the Lower 9th, Lakeview, and Gentilly by the breaches has changed quite a bit.

If there is a conspiracy, though, I can’t wait to find out.

As an example of how inaccurate (and weird) it is to see pre-Katrina satellite pics, look at this July 2006 Metroblogging New Orleans post. The descriptions of what you should see are eerie compared to what you do see.

The Google Conspiracy

This was bothering me the other day:

Only a few mouse clicks away, a total revision of the recent history of the Big Easy is on offer from Google Inc's popular map portal.

The company has replaced post-Hurricane Katrina satellite imagery of New Orleans with pictures taken before the storm, leaving locals feeling they are in a time loop.
Some people interviewed in the article suggest this is a conspiracy:
The virtual Potemkin village is fuelling the imagination of frustrated locals.

"I think a lot of stuff they're doing right now is smoke and mirrors because tourism is so off," Gerica said. "It might be somebody's weird spin on things looking better."

"Is Google part of the conspiracy?" Henry asked, alluding to widespread feelings among many New Orleans blacks that they are being neglected in the rebuilding.

"Why these images of pre-Katrina? Seems mighty curious."
I don’t know about a conspiracy, but it is inaccurate to have old satellite images of New Orleans. The Lower 9th north of Claiborne doesn’t look like this anymore:

[UPDATE]


Or Lakeview. Or Mid-City. Gentilly. Etc.

If Google were to update its satellite pics of New Orleans and the area, it would be a useful tool for residents here and everywhere to follow the rebuilding process. The nation could see how all their billions upon billions upon billions in tax dollars is being spent in this part of the world. Or not spent.

Of course, Google can do whatever they want with their websites. My big issue is the inaccuracy of the images. They might as well put up an artist’s rendering of the way places like Lakeview and the Lower 9th used to look near the breaches.

Then again, rather than a virtual tour, you could always come and see the real thing.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

No War, No Money

President Bush:

Yesterday I gave a speech, making it clear that I'll veto a bill that restricts our commanders on the ground in Iraq, a bill that doesn't fund our troops, a bill that's got too much spending on it. I made that clear to the members.

We stand united in saying loud and clear that when we've got a troop in harm's way, we expect that troop to be fully funded; and we've got commanders making tough decisions on the ground, we expect there to be no strings on our commanders; and that we expect the Congress to be wise about how they spend the people's money.
Emphasis mine.

How Congress would like to spend the people’s money:
The war spending bill that the U.S. House has passed - which calls for a pullout of troops from Iraq by March of 2008 - could mean some $7.7 billion for areas hit by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, House Democrats said Thursday.

***

The House version of the bill could bring $6.4 billion in cash and almost $1.3 billion more in forgiven loans to the region.

A Senate version passed Thursday included more than $3 billion for hurricane recovery and other projects in Louisiana, Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., said in a news release.

But both bills include target deadlines for pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq, and Bush has said he will veto any bill with such a requirement. He also has criticized both bills for including domestic projects.
White House spokesperson Dana Perino elaborates on the President's position:
Our troops are in harm's way and engaged with the enemy, and they need the funds. Just this morning the Department of Defense notified Congress that in order to meet the force protection needs of the Marine Corps and the Army we are borrowing funds from other important Marine and Army procurement programs. That is taking funding intended for medium tactical vehicle replacement, Humvees and Humvee equipment, the tactical communications modernization program, and upgrades to other vehicles.

***

This reprogramming of funds is only necessary because Congress has failed to act in a timely manner on the President's emergency funding request. And so this, again, underscores the need to get this show on the road, get the bill to the President, he will veto it, and then we'll take it from there.
Reprogramming funds… you mean like what the Army Corps of Engineers wants to do with the West Bank levees?
The Army Corps of Engineers is proposing to divert up to $1.3 billion for levee repairs from the Mississippi River's East Bank, which was ravaged by Hurricane Katrina, to the West Bank, where tens of thousands of people have resettled.

***

If approved, the plan has the potential to slow new levee work on the East Bank, where most of New Orleans is situated, and pit the city's residents against those on the West Bank.
Why doesn’t Congress act in a timely manner and pass a bill funding both projects so one doesn’t have to steal money from the other?

Oh, wait. That’s what they are trying to do in the bill Bush says he will veto:
Both bills [House and Senate version] include $1.3 billion for levee work.

Early in March, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said it wanted to move that amount from work on east bank levees to shore up dangerously low levees on the west bank, which remained largely free of floods after Hurricane Katrina.
Let’s get this show on the road!

Fun with Road Home Stats

All together, 4,591 closings. But that is less than hoped:

Louisiana's Road Home program won't hit its March goal for doling out 6,200 grants, partially because hundreds of homeowners are canceling appointments amid confusion about federally backed changes to the hurricane housing grant program.
The Road Home website has a download with all closings by parish, as well as total number of applications per parish.

As of March 22, 2007, in the five southeastern parishes with the most applications:
2.88 percent of Orleans applicants have closed (1360 out of 47,199)

5.65 percent of Jefferson applicants have closed (994 out of 17,577)

1.93 percent of St. Bernard applicants have closed (271 out of 14,034)

5.43 percent of St. Tammany applicants have closed (516 out of 9,488)

0.44 percent of Plaquemines applicants have closed (16 out of 3,600)
The site also has closings by zip code.

Overpricing?!? Overpricing?!?

What do you mean insurance companies are charging too much for homeowners insurance?

State Farm spokesman Dick Luedke said the insurer pays what it owes, whether the company makes billions of dollars, as it did this year, or losing billions, as it did in 2001.

“Overpricing? Our auto rates declined in 2006 by 2.2 percent,” Luedke said. “That was the third year in a row that our auto rates have gone down.”
I have been a fool all this time to criticize the insurance industry. Oh, benevolent industry experts, enlighten me:
Industry experts argue that the property-casualty insurers did amazingly well in handling Katrina — the most costly catastrophic event ever in the United States — and the other hurricanes in 2004 and 2005.

Robert Hartwig, president and chief economist with the New York-based Insurance Information Institute, points out that the industry has so far “paid $41 billion on 1.74 million claims for Katrina alone — and for the combined 2004-2005 hurricane season, we paid about $81 billion in insured hurricane-related losses.”

The industry’s profits rose in 2006 in part because there were far fewer storms, Hartwig said.

And, he added: “But the good results have more to do with the fact that insurers saw good results in auto insurance, workers comp and a variety of other areas and in states that don’t have a coastline.

[emphasis mine]
The logical conclusion for the insurance industry: Stop insuring homes in states with a coastline.

Stop writing policies. Refuse to renew existing policies less than three years old. Try to cancel as many policies as possible for other reasons.

Abandon the coast.

But, hey… I just saved a bunch of money on my car insurance!

RELATED: Eee vil and “meeting criticism with an arrogant self of entitlement.”

GAO Investigators “Meet” with USACE Officials

Because that’s what investigators do. They “meet” with you:

Government Accountability Office investigators are meeting with Army Corps of Engineers officials here and in Washington, D.C., to discuss drainage pumps that were installed before the start of last year's hurricane season even though they apparently were defective.

***

Anu Mittal, the GAO's director for water resources, said a large team of investigators has been assembled "to get it done expeditiously" to satisfy a request by U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu to have a report in hand by the middle of May.

In a March 15 letter, Landrieu, D-La., asked the GAO, Congress' investigative and auditing arm, to look into "disturbing suggestions of possible improper influence" in how the job was awarded and handled.
Middle of May. Mark your calendars.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

From "Texas’ Oldest Paper"

The associate editor of the Galveston County Daily News has an opinion:

Texas insurance companies have been in full pout recently about consumers and lawmakers questioning industry profits.

To hear the industry and its associations, you’d think they were being beaten every time they banked a nickel.

The anger and resentment among consumers, and the legislative attention they’ve inspired, are not about simple profit, however.

They are about massive, perhaps historical, profits booked at exactly the time insurers declared the world to be especially risky and began dropping coastal policyholders, seeking rate increases and demanding fundamental regulatory changes.
Sure, it’s been said before. But I like the way he worded that last paragraph. A brief and concise statement of the Gulf Coast consumer’s ire.

I like the way he worded this, too:
Insurers are in the habit of making threats when consumers, through their elected representatives, attempt to arrange the world a little more to their own benefit.

The threats sometimes are veiled and sometimes overt but they always warn: Push back too much and we’ll leave.

Everybody would suffer if major insurers left the Texas market, but everybody includes the companies, as well as the consumers.

Perhaps the next time a company threatens a partial withdrawal from Texas, we should invite it to make a complete exit.

If nothing else, it would be enlightening to see how much crafty marketing and old-fashioned hustle it takes to recoup Texas in the vast markets of Idaho and Wyoming.
I like the way Michael A. Smith thinks. The next time an insurance company threatens a partial withdrawal from an Atlantic coastal region, every state on the East Coast and the Gulf Coast should invite the insurance company to make a complete exit. That includes 20 states with coastal counties or parishes, which make up over a third (134 million) of the United States' population (300 million).

That’s a sizable market to lose.

Today’s insurance company frustration post was inspired by this letter I received from my agent, caps and italics in original letter:
AFTER MUCH DELIBERATION AND ALONG WITH MANY OTHER MAJOR INSURANCE COMPANIES, ******** ******** HAS FOUND IT NECESSARY TO EXERCISE A REGULATION THAT ALLOWS INSURANCE COMPANIES TO NON-RENEW ANY EXISTING HOMEOWNER POLICY THAT HAS BEEN IN FORCE THREE YEARS OR LESS.
When I received this letter, I had held the policy for two years and 10 months.

I do appreciate the candor expressed in the letter, however:
THE COMPANY FEELS THAT THIS WILL ALLOW THEM TO REDUCE THEIR PROPERTY EXPOSURE IN SOUTHERN LOUISIANA, WHICH THEY FEEL WILL ALLOW THEM TO CONTINUE TO OPERATE IN OUR STATE.
Cue Michael A. Smith’s idea.

I will be okay. I will go get homeowners insurance from someone else. But not everyone will do that:
Facing soaring premiums or feeling shortchanged by their insurers, a growing number of homeowners and businesses in Louisiana and Mississippi are "going bare," or dropping their coverage altogether, insurance agents and consumer advocates say. Many more are drastically reducing their coverage.

"I have every belief that it's going to be more and more common," said Amy Bach, executive director of the United Policyholders advocacy group. "If it's a choice between eating or paying their insurance bills, of course they're going to eat."
Of course.

Monday, March 19, 2007

If A. Baldwin Wood Were Still Around…

… would he have allowed a Florida company to give us pumps that one engineer described as defective? Pumps that still aren’t all installed nine months after the original deadline? Pumps that can’t pump water out of the canal as fast as the city’s pumps can pump water in?

I don’t think so. I think if A.B. Wood were still around, 18 months after Katrina, we would be well on our way to having pump stations at the canal closures capable of keeping New Orleans dry.

We’ve heard much about the memo by USACE mechanical Engineer Maria Garzino describing the performance of MWI’s pumps after being tested:

Put simply, if the intent of the contract requirements is to have pump equipment capable of being turned on and used for prolonged periods of time in the event of a hurricane, then I believe the pump equipment will not function as intended. In fact, without extensive follow on supplemental operation of the pumping equipment after installation, and subsequent likely follow on repair of failed pumping equipment components (hydraulic pumps, hydraulic pump motors, failed high pressure hydraulic lines, etc.), I believe significant failure of the pump equipment can be expected.
Here’s a memo by Professor W. H. Creighton (pdf), Dean of the Department of Technology at Tulane University, written in 1915 describing the performance of A.B. Wood’s pumps after being tested:
He summed up “that while the pump surpasses in efficiency, under normal conditions, those of previous installations, the superiority is much greater just when the greatest service is required. Emergency service is probably the weak point of the old pumps. It is the forte of the new. Results show that the pumps easily answer all requirements and that they are the largest and most efficient low-lift pumps in the world.

***

His report showed the pumps to have such remarkable efficiency and revealed features so superior to previous pumps that a complete description was included for the information of other engineers who would have to deal with massive pumping problems.
World Class pumps for a World Class city. Is that too much to ask?

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Sniff… Sniff…

This smells funny:

Ceeon Quiett, who succeeded Forman as Nagin's communications director, would not answer direct questions about the nature of Goodson's duties. She stated flatly in an e-mail that "city officials do not have bodyguards or drivers."

Via e-mail, Quiett also declined to answer a number of specific questions, instead offering a response suggesting that asking questions about payments to city contractors slows the city's progress: "Issues relating to former employees and disgruntled vendors does nothing to advance our recovery mission," she wrote. "Further, having our one newspaper focus on rumors and innuendo also does not help citizens seeking critical information to rebuild their lives."
If the Mayor’s office feels the Times-Picayune is wasting its time investigating why a city official’s bodyguard/driver – a position which the Mayor’s spokesperson flat out stated “city officials do not have” – received more taxpayers’ money in salary than the city’s Police Superintendent, then it seems a straight answer would clear everything up. Refusing to answer “direct questions about the nature of Goodson's duties,” on the other hand, would force the paper to continue working to find answers rather than focusing on ways “to advance our recovery mission.”

Suggesting what stories the media should do is not the role of the Mayor’s communications director. It is also a fallacy to suggest that the Times-Picayune can not cover information critical for citizens to rebuild their lives *as well as* issues relating to former employees and disgruntled vendors.

I wonder how the Mayor’s office feels about the Times-Picayune’s continued practice of dedicating an entire section to sports. Basketball box scores aren’t necessarily critical for citizens to rebuild their lives.

They did, however, get rid of the weekly Food Section. Sorry, Jeffery.

This article and Gordon Russell’s other articles – the yacht story, the camera contract change, the state stopping all camera sales – seem to be leading somewhere. We even got a cliffhanger this time:
Early last year, Goodson also played a role in NetMethods' installation of 58 wireless surveillance cameras in Baton Rouge, St. Pierre said. As the Baton Rouge system was being deployed, around March 2006, Goodson was being paid for 40-hour work weeks by New Orleans taxpayers, city invoices show. In fact, the invoices show, Goodson billed for 40-hour weeks from January until his departure in September.

In response to an e-mail asking for an explanation of that discrepancy, St. Pierre replied: "Your information as to the timing of any potentially relevant work in connection with the BR camera network is inaccurate, as are the other implications in your e-mail."

He did not reply to a follow-up asking precisely when Goodson did the Baton Rouge work.
I can’t wait until the next episode. I’ll tune in to American Zombie for a preview.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Why is It Always Nigeria?

… a friend asked me after I explained the Jeb Bush/MWI/Nigeria connection. Good question.

The Jeb Bush/MWI/Nigeria connection:

Jeb Bush's former business partner, prominent Republican contributor J. David Eller, twice flew suitcases of cash to offshore tax havens to hide his assets, the U.S. Justice Department contends in a lawsuit.

The lawsuit also says Eller's MWI Corp., a Deerfield Beach water pump manufacturer, improperly used more than one-third of a $74.3-million U.S. loan to pay a Nigerian agent for the company. In turn, that agent and other company officials paid Nigerian government officials involved in buying MWI's pumps, the lawsuit says.

***

The governor has said he made $648,250 from Bush-El, the company he and Eller formed in 1988 to promote MWI products abroad. He has repeatedly said, however, that none of that came from the Nigerian sales. To avoid possible conflicts of interest since his father was in the White House, he has said, he accepted no commissions on deals financed through U.S. agencies. Nor did he contact any government officials about the loans.

Twice while his father was in the White House, however, Jeb Bush visited Nigeria on behalf of MWI. In 1989, he was treated to a parade of 1,300 horses and tens of thousands of people lined the road to welcome the American president's son.
Hmm… Nigeria… Where have we heard about Nigeria and alleged corruption before?

Oh, yeah. William Jefferson:
A congressman under investigation for bribery was caught on videotape accepting $100,000 in $100 bills from an FBI informant whose conversations with the lawmaker also were recorded, according to a court document released Sunday. Agents later found the cash hidden in his freezer.

***

The affidavit says Jefferson is caught on videotape at the Ritz-Carlton as he takes a reddish-brown briefcase from the trunk of the informant's car, slips it into a cloth bag, puts the bag into his 1990 Lincoln Town Car and drives away.

The $100 bills in the suitcase had the same serial numbers as those found in Jefferson's freezer.

While the name of the intended recipient of the $100,000 is blacked out, other details in the affidavit indicate he is Abubakar Atiku, Nigeria's vice president. He owns a home in Potomac, Md., that authorities have searched as part of the Jefferson investigation.
Hmm… Nigerian Vice President Abubakar Atiku… I saw his name while playing Spocko’s Brain’s game of "pay attention to the people":
Nigerian Vice President Atiku Abubakar has praised U.S. business for standing by his country during its darkest days of military dictatorship and economic mismanagement.

***

CCA President Steve Hayes introduced Abubakar at the reception, which included representatives from such firms as Africa One Ltd, ExxonMobil, Manchester Trade Ltd, and Conoco Inc. He said, "The large crowd we have here tonight to honor Vice President Abubakar reflects the U.S. business community’s strong interest in the Nigerian marketplace."

***

William Bucknam, Vice President and General Counsel of Moving Waters Industries (MWI) corporation, a CCA member firm headquartered in Florida, told a Washington File reporter that his company has been selling water pumps in Nigeria for years. As head of a foundation that pushed for passage of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) last year, Bucknam said, "We have good prospects and look forward to a lot of business" in Nigeria.
Yes, we’ve heard all about MWI selling pumps to Nigeria:
The U.S. Justice Department sued MWI in 2002, accusing it of fraudulently helping Nigeria obtain $74 million in taxpayer-backed loans for overpriced and unnecessary water-pump equipment. The case has yet to be resolved.

Although the Corps was aware of "an ongoing investigation" into MWI in relation to the suit, Bedey said federal contracting laws prohibits the Corps from excluding MWI from the bidding process so long as the company has a clean record.
So, the results of today’s round of Spocko’s Brain’s “paying attention to the people,” which I have modified to "pay attention to the players":
Jeb Bush to David Eller to MWI to Nigeria to William Jefferson to Nigerian Vice President Atiku Abubakar back to William Bucknam and MWI
Then there's this, with Vice President and General Counsel of Moving Waters Industries William (Bill) Bucknam:
BILL BUCKNAM is in the enviable position of having a job that allows him to help bring improved economic circumstances and better living to countless numbers of people in some of the world’s poorest countries as well as right here in the U.S.

His job title — vice president and general counsel — reveals nothing of his fortunate circumstances. But there’s a clue in his employer’s name: Moving Water Industries (MWI) Corporation…

***

One of MWI’s Ex-Im-supported sales in 1997 — the sale of their patented Hydraflo pumps to Zimbabwe using a $23 million Ex-Im direct loan — is notable for its origins. “I had the opportunity to spend a few minutes with Zimbabwe President Mugabe at a 1995 event in Washington,” Bucknam recounts. “I handed him our brochure called ‘War on Drought’ and began to explain it. He interrupted, saying, ‘We need you badly. We need this technology. When can you come to Africa?’

“I went to Zimbabwe soon after, with a $50 mil-lion expression-of-interest letter from Ex-Im that — to everyone’s good fortune — they were able to generate almost overnight. Things proceeded from there to finalizing the deal and getting our people and some of those hundreds of our suppliers to work on it in 1997.”
Hmm… Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe…
Under the Authority of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and the National Emergencies Act, the President has issued an Executive Order targeting the assets of Robert Mugabe and 76 Zimbabwean Government officials who have formulated, implemented, or supported policies that have undermined Zimbabwe's democratic institutions.

The order blocks all property and economic assets of the targeted individuals. It also prohibits United States citizens or residents from engaging in any transaction or dealing with the targeted individuals.
That’s from a 2003 White House press release. I think the sanctions against U.S. citizens doing business with Mugabe are still in effect, judging by recent events.

The sanctions were not in effect in 1995 when the Bucknam-Mugabe meeting took place. I am not alleging anything illegal happened. I am just paying attention to the players, and the players here were MWI, an African country, and Ex-Im loans.

Sound familiar?
Nigeria has been MWI's key customer since the 1980s, thanks in large part to the Ex-Im bank. Before Bush joined Eller's team in 1989, MWI received nearly $90-million in Ex-Im backing for pump sales to Nigeria.

The country's problems paying back those loans prompted Ex-Im to tighten its loan policies for Nigeria. But by 1990, MWI was working on persuading Ex-Im officials to back more pumps sales to Nigeria. They approved eight separate loans to Nigeria totaling $74.3-million.
Those Ex-Im loans to Nigeria were the reason for the 2002 U.S. Justice Department lawsuit.

Is it always *only* Nigeria? I'm just asking the question.

By the way, props to the St. Petersburg Times.

[ADDED] I forgot about the BFF.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Saved by the Weather

The 17th Street Canal didn’t have the pumping capacity we wanted and were expecting for last hurricane season. That’s all we really need to know.

The US Army Corps of Engineers wasn’t happy with the pumps. That’s why they kept testing them.

A memo written before the pumps were installed concluded they would not work as intended.

The company that made them, MWI, says “Our pumps did, do and will work.” Of course, we don’t know if they would have worked in the tropical storm conditions we need them to work in. We had no such weather in 2006 and the pumps didn’t have to work. Lucky for MWI.

Lucky for us.

This reminds of that time, in South Florida, when weather conditions were bad, and they really needed some pumps, and they needed them to work for a certain time, but…

By September 2000, the drought was especially severe in South Florida. Lake Okeechobee, the hub of most of South Florida's water supply, had dropped to 11 feet, 3 feet below normal. If it fell much more, the lake would be too low to flow into the canals that feed the area's insatiable thirst.

To avert a potential crisis, the water management district's top executives decided to do something that had never been attempted before. They decided to install big electric pumps that could be hooked up underwater to make sure the lake would keep flowing into the canals.

***

Frank Finch, then-executive director of the water agency, recommended that the district's governing board waive its competitive bidding rules so the pumps could be in place by Dec. 31, before the lake level fell too low.

***

Although the main reason for waiving the bid requirements was to get the pumps in place by the end of December, MWI's contract required the company to deliver only half the shipment by Dec. 15, and the other half by the end of February.

MWI missed both deadlines. The first set of pumps arrived in mid-January, the rest in March.
But it’s okay. There is a happy ending:
MWI suffered no penalty, Taylor said, because enough rain fell to soften the drought's impact, buying the water district some time.

"We were in the mode of having the pumps when we needed them," he said. "That was our primary concern." Strict adherence to contract deadlines "was secondary."
Saved by the rain.

I don’t know if the federal government used MWI for political reasons for the 17th Street Canal closure pumps. But, read the entire St. Petersburg Times article where the above story came from. The process looked set up to give MWI the Lake Okeechobee contract.

[ADDED] The South Florida Water Management District, which was in charge of the Lake Okeechobee contract, is a state agency.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Defective Pumps

And the engineers that love them:

The Army Corps of Engineers, rushing to meet President Bush's promise to protect New Orleans by the start of the 2006 hurricane season, installed defective flood-control pumps last year despite warnings from its own expert that the equipment would fail during a storm, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.

***

Misgivings about the pumps were chronicled in a May 2006 memo provided to the AP by Matt McBride, a mechanical engineer and flooded-out Katrina victim who, like many in New Orleans, has been closely watching the rebuilding of the city's flood defenses.
Matt McBride got this story going and has posted some of the documents on his blog, Fix the Pumps, along with some background information.

[UPDATE] He has the complete memo now.

The title of one memorandum: “DEFECTIVE PUMPING EQUIPMENT.”

I particularly like this part:
Put simply, if the intent of the contract requirements is to have pump equipment capable of being turned on and used for prolonged periods of time in the event of a hurricane, then I believe the pump equipment will not function as intended.
At least four of those pumps do work today. They passed a test on Saturday:
Four pumps ran without vibration or pulsation during tests Saturday at the 17th Street Canal, leading an Army Corps of Engineers official to declare enough pumps will be functioning on all three New Orleans outfall canals when the 2007 hurricane season begins June 1.

These were the first pumps to be tested since the devices were pulled from the canals at the end of hurricane season last fall to try to fix a serious vibration problem.
They didn’t work almost a year ago. They do work today. So, what’s the problem?

The problem is we never knew there was a problem.

The pumps were promised to work by June 1, 2006, along with the entire levee system being up to pre-Katrina level or better. They didn’t work in June. They didn’t work in July. By September 2006, they still weren’t working to acceptable levels.

But that’s not really the issue. The US Army Corps of Engineers has been honest about *when* the pumps would be working going back to June 2006:
It won't be possible to provide the maximum promised pumping capacity at the new floodgates on the 17th Street and London Avenue canals during what are usually the most active months of hurricane season this year, and perhaps not until the start of the 2007 season, Army Corps of Engineers officials confirmed Wednesday.

***

Under normal circumstances, Young and St. Germain said, computers are used to design large pumping facilities and solve potential problems before construction begins. But because this was an emergency situation triggered by the failure of canal floodwalls during Katrina, there was no time to model the system beforehand.

Instead, the problems were discovered as the first pumps -- the ones that will provide 2,400 to 2,800 cfs -- were installed and tested in the past few weeks.
Emphasis mine.

We get it. It’s hard work building these pumps, made even harder by the time pressures. We can deal with delays in order to get the job done right.

But make sure you are doing the job right. That last statement – “the problems were discovered as the first pumps… were installed and tested in the past few weeks” – seems to be at odds with the documents, dated May 3 and 4, that Matt McBride has:
It is the opinion of the undersigned that pump equipment supplied by the above cited contract, specifically the pump assemblies and drive units, that are arriving in the field and being installed daily, are not capable of fulfilling their function as intended by the original contract requirements - are defective - and will experience failure should they be tasked to run, under normal use, as would be required in the event of a hurricane.

***

This opinion is derived from events transpiring during continuous and diligent observance by the undersigned of full sized testing of these pump assemblies and drive units at the manufacturer's Deerfield Beach, Florida facility from the period April 7, 2006 thru May 01, 2006.
Emphasis mine.

The USACE *knew* they were installing pumps that were defective. They didn’t find it out *after* they installed them. They already knew.

The USACE’s Col. Jeffrey Bedey explains why the corps installed pumps they knew were defective:
Although the corps engineering team knew there were vibration problems before the pumps were delivered last year, Bedey said it was better to have the pumps in place in the event of a hurricane than to have no pumps. And despite the vibrations, he said, he would have run the pumps last hurricane season had it been necessary to close the floodgates. Engineers said the pumps probably would have performed below capacity due to the vibration problem.

"There was a certain amount of risk in that, but we figured we were better off putting them in the water and trying to work out the kinks here than not having had them if they were needed," he said.
Defective pumps are better than no pumps. True. But, does anyone remember the corps saying last year that they "knew there were vibration problems before the pumps were delivered"? I don't remember hearing that. That seems like important information.

But, as far as I know, last Saturday was the first time the pumps worked at acceptable levels. Also, I haven’t seen any evidence that they have been tested in the tropical storm conditions they are expected to work under or tested for prolonged use. Maybe that happened in a testing facility somewhere. But I haven’t heard anything.

That’s the problem. I haven’t heard anything. I didn’t hear about the defective pumps last June. I probably would have never heard about them if Matt McBride hadn’t provided the AP with those documents, or put it on his blog. Absent these tests, why should I believe that the USACE has been able to “work out the kinks” in all the pumps?

The funny thing is, I don’t blame the USACE for this. They were given defective pumps by the company that made them. The USACE chose to install them anyway so that the city would have some, if not optimal, pumping capacity if a storm hit. If they installed them or not, we still would have had diminished pump capacity at the 17th Street Canal closure.

We all want an improved levee system fast. But we want the system to work as a system and up to specifications. The 17th Street Canal closure and these pumps are an important part of that system.

Just tell us next time something is defective. We can take it. After all, it’s not the first time a USACE project didn’t work.

Monday, March 12, 2007

More On the Murder Rate

Somebody who actually knows what they are talking about weighs in:

A new study by a Tulane University professor puts New Orleans' murder rate as the highest in the country.

The study estimates the city's 2006 murder rate at 96 per every 100,000 people.

***

The new study, by demographer Mark VanLandingham, aims to fix the main flaw in previous per capita murder estimates for 2006: It takes into account the large change in New Orleans' population during the year, with far fewer people in the city at the beginning of 2006 than at the end. That change raises the murder rate substantially.

For instance, using the highest static population estimate VanLandingham found in his research, 201,000, would produce a murder rate of about 80 per 100,000 people, still significantly lower than the new study's conclusion.
Apparently, I was being optimistic when I used a population of 200,000 New Orleans residents.

VanLandingham’s and my conclusions are about the same. The New Orleans murder rate is really high.

I don’t think it is fair to count the first quarter of 2006 because the city’s population was changing so much. That’s why I think it gives us a better view of how bad the problem is and how it continues to be a problem by counting from the second quarter of 2006 to today. In that (almost) 12-month period, I calculated a murder rate of 91 per 100,000 residents (based on a New Orleans population of 200,000, which VanLandingham views as on the high end of the estimates). Of course, my number also assumes that no more murders will happen in March.

I was surprised when I read the T-P article and found that my assumption of a New Orleans population of 200,000 was optimistic:
The New Orleans Emergency Operations Center conducted three separate estimates, with the most recent theorizing that about 181,000 people resided in New Orleans at the end of January 2006, Stone said.

Other estimates have varied greatly. The U.S. Census Bureau's population estimate for Jan. 1, 2006, was 158,000. The Louisiana Public Health Institute estimated that the city boasted a population of about 201,000 between June and October.

Several demographers interviewed said the number is likely lower. Conservative estimates put the population under 200,000.
If New Orleans population today is 180,000, then our murder rate so far in 2007 (37 murders in 71 days) is 105 per 100,000 residents. Wow.

As I said in my last post on the murder rate, we are trending high. That is what worries me. It is possible to have a spate of violent incidents that could be considered an aberration, which would skew the numbers higher making the city seem more violent than it is.

Looking over the past four quarters of violent crime statistics, the number of murders per population is consistently high. There are no aberrations. For her population, New Orleans is a very violent city.

That, and about a hundred other things, is what worries me.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Time Machine

While researching the previous post, I came across this webpage with a January 1, 2000, article written in press-release style entitled New Orleans Murder Count Hits 14 Year Low - Chief Pennington's Promise Becomes Reality:

Superintendent Richard J. Pennington announced that New Orleans recorded 162 murders during the year 1999, the first time since 1985 that the murder count has dropped below 200, and the lowest murder count since 1985's murder count of 152. The 162 murders were a drop of 30% from the previous year and marked the fifth consecutive year that murder has declined in the city.

***

New Orleans murder rate, the number of people murdered per 100,000 residents, stands at 33 for 1999, compared with almost 87 in 1994, the year Pennington was appointed Superintendent of Police. Nationally, the murder rate is between 6.0 and 7.0 murders per 100,000 people, meaning that New Orleans still has many more murders than the national average.
Notice that a couple of past numbers converge with present numbers. We had 162 murders last year, but in 1999 that number was a success story. And we are back to the murder rate of 87 per 100,000 people for the first 70 days of 2007, the same number that Pennington started with and lowered to 33.

What could have been…

One Day, Three Murders

And three other people shot.

The latest murder occurred in Mid-City, near the intersection of Esplanade Avenue and Columbus Street, shortly after 2 p.m., according to Joe Narcisse, an NOPD spokesman.

***

A short time after that shooting, police were on the scene of another shooting near the intersection of Foucher and S. Saratoga streets, Narcisse said.

Around 11 a.m., police received word of a shooting in the 7800 block of Venice Blvd, Narcisse said. Seventh District Officers found the victim lying in the street with gunshot wounds to his head and arm. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

***

The first shootings of the day took place around 5 a.m. as a 22-year-old woman and her male companion were shot while walking in a Treme neighborhood, Narcisse said. The woman was shot twice in the chest and died later at a hospital.

***

Detectives were called out to a sixth shooting in Hollygrove just before 6 p.m.
There are violent days like Saturday. But then there are days when nothing violent happens. One violent day does not mean the sky is falling.

However, on those days when there is an unacceptable level of violence in a city of 200,000 people, this troubles me:
A spokesman for Mayor Ray Nagin did not immediately comment.
Three murders. Three other people shot in the city. In one day. On a weekend, when residents are out and about. A woman and man are walking in Treme, both are shot, one fatally. A man is shot multiple times in his car in Mid-City. On the street. In the afternoon. A man is killed in New Orleans East marking the third murder in that neighborhood in less than three weeks (first, second).

Where’s Ray? Still in D.C.?

He came out to a murder scene right before Mardi Gras. I wonder what was special about that day. But on a day like yesterday, not even his spokesperson has a comment.

I know it was a Saturday, and we here in the alternative European civilization don’t work hard and all – especially on the weekends. But, the Mayor can’t show up on the news saying something? Anything? At least on the phone? Or an email statement?

He says nothing about a violent day that the NOPD describes thusly:
"The only thing unique about today is the overwhelming violence," said Sgt. Joe Narcisse, a police spokesman.
Overwhelming violence doesn’t deserve immediate mayoral comment?

Sgt. Narcisse also had this to say:
Narcisse said people shouldn't read the latest killings as a sign the initiatives are not working. Much of the crime in the city is fueled by the drug trade and "social issues" the [sic] are out of the police department's hands, he said.
True, a single violent incident can’t determine that "initiatives" aren’t working. Even six violent incidents in one day are still six single incidents.

However, the trends over time are not looking great. 37 murders in 70 days so far in 2007 translate into a murder rate of 96 per 100,000 residents, if you assume the population of New Orleans is 200,000 (my preferred choice), or 87 per 100,000 residents, assuming the population of New Orleans is 220,000. Both rates are really high.

At the end of March, we finish the first quarter of the year. Let’s assume (and hope) that there are no more murders for the rest of the month. That would give us a murder count in the first quarter of 2007 of 37.

Looking at the NOPD’s 2006 statistics and using a population of 200,000 in New Orleans (because that’s the one I like and if there are more than 200,000 now, there was certainly less a year ago, so it’s like an average over the past year), from the end of March 2006 to my optimistic hypothetical end of March 2007, there would be 182 murders. That’s a murder rate of 91 per 100,000 residents over the last 12 months. That’s really high.

Here’s the last four quarters individually, assuming a population of 200,000:
2006 second quarter: 39 murders; murder rate = 78 per 100,000 people
2006 third quarter: 53 murders; 105 per 100,000
2006 fourth quarter: 53 murders; 105 per 100,000
2007 first quarter: 37 murders in 70 days; 96 per 100,000
The NOPD stats don’t give 2006 fourth quarter numbers. But, I know 162 murders occurred in 2006. That number minus the total murders in the first three quarters gives me 53. Also, I used a population of 200,000 when calculating the 2006 second quarter murder rate. I think the population of the city was actually less than that at the time, which would bump up the murder rate. For example, if I figure in 180,000 as the population, it changes the murder rate to 88 per 100,000 residents.

Conversely, there are probably (hopefully?) more than 200,000 people in New Orleans for the first quarter of 2007, which would lower the murder rate. For example, with 220,000 residents, the rate 70 days into the first quarter would be 87 per 100,000 residents, not 96. But that’s still too high.

And that’s what the trends are saying. The murder rate is still too high. I don’t know if the “initiatives” are working or not. But I know a murder rate of 87 to 96 is scary. While I do not feel scared for my life, I know I’m scared by what those numbers say about the future of the city.

Maybe that’s why the Mayor gave no comment. Maybe he’s scared, too.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Still Being Stored

For lack of a better, and more respectful, word:

Orleans Parish Coroner Dr. Frank Minyard is seeking a final resting place for unidentified or unclaimed victims of Hurricane Katrina. He said about 100 bodies are still being stored from the approximately 1,500 left in his care after the Aug. 29, 2005, hurricane.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Laws

What are they good for?

Zoning laws:

In a hurricane-ravaged city desperately lacking health services for the poor, the primary-care clinics that arrived in New Orleans last summer looked to be just what the doctor ordered.

The six double-wide trailers from FEMA, each equipped with eight exam rooms, were supposed to be strategically deployed around the city and provide checkups and other nonemergency health services for the city's poor and uninsured.

But nearly nine months after they were first delivered, the trailers are still in the parking lot of University Hospital waiting to be deployed, and Louisiana State University officials are angrily asking how the seemingly simple process of bringing them into service got delayed by red tape and political foot-dragging.

***

Councilman James Carter, whose district would house five of the clinics, attributed the delay to "a lot of research in dealing with the zoning laws that we have." Since current law does not allow for health clinics to be located on school property, which is zoned residential, Carter at first thought the city might have to change its zoning law, a process that can take up to a year.
The Stafford Act:
Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, the state’s senior senator, recently fired off a letter asking President Bush to waive the 10 percent local government match on federal disaster money. The match, which in this case could cost the state up to $1 billion, is required under federal Stafford Act rules.

Such waivers have been granted in 32 disasters since 1985, including the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Andrew and the San Francisco earthquakes.

Powell said the Bush administration fronted Louisiana the money — about $775 million — for the payments as part of the $10.4 billion in federal Community Development Block Grant funds earmarked last year for rebuilding flood-damaged houses.
This law, whatever it’s called (from previous article):
In a separate matter, Landrieu wants to get an increase for the state in CDGB funding. Congress put a 54 percent cap on available CDBG funding going to any one state in the last supplemental bill, a restraint not put on Mississippi. Landrieu contends Louisiana should get $8 billion to $32 billion more.

That is law,’’ Powell said of the cap.
And this interpretation of age discrimination, also tied to the Stafford Act (also from previous article):
On yet another funding issue, the Louisiana Recovery Authority wants to use nearly $1.2 billion in Hazard Mitigation Grant Program money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for the “Road Home’’ program. The $7.5 billion program includes $6.3 billion in CDBG funds and the nearly $1.2 billion in hazard-mitigation funds. The latter funds would be used to elevate flood-prone homes or buy them out.

FEMA is refusing to approve the move, saying Louisiana discriminates against younger people.

That allegation is based on the fact that the LRA waived the 40 percent buyout penalty for seniors aged 65 and older. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has told Congress that it has no problem with what the state proposes to do with the $1.1 billion. So the LRA is urging Congress to move the funds to HUD for implementation.

Again, Powell said the issue is one of law.
Emphasises mine.

I have what I think is an uncommon opinion about the worthiness of laws: Any law that needs to be enforced is not a good law.

I prefer universal laws, like gravity. When was the last time someone broke the law of gravity? And we don’t need Gravity Police to enforce the law. That’s a good law.

Laws that make it harder for the Gulf Coast to recover are not good laws.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Franco America

A follow-up to the Current Events Quiz.

President Bush on current trip to Latin America:

But this is a long trip, and the reason why is I want to remind people throughout our neighborhood that America cares about them.
President Bush during his recent trip to New Orleans:
And so I've come back to New Orleans, Louisiana, to remind people that the federal government still knows you exist, still knows you have issues, and wants to work with your leadership to address those issues.
Bush on aid to Latin America:
I don't know if you know this or not, but since I've been the President, our bilateral aid to Latin America has increased from $800 million to $1.6 billion. And the reason I say that is the American taxpayer has been very generous about providing aid in our neighborhood, and most of that aid is social justice money -- in other words, it's money for education and health.

And yet, we don't get much credit for it.
This next quote is not so current, but I remember hearing the talking point about the generous taxpayer before:
White House aides suggest that this criticism is unfair, noting that millions of dollars have been spent on school vouchers and on helping homeowners rebuild their property.

“The city of New Orleans will see their schools come back stronger, and in fact there will be an explosion of charter schools that can help the region come back quickly,” said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino. “Of course, we would have liked to do more in many areas, but the president believes the American taxpayer has been generous.
Emphasises mine.

Hurricane aid is not the same as foreign aid. And, despite my rants, the Gulf Coast is still part of America.

While the American public has been generous with its own money in charitable donations, we on the Gulf Coast are taxpayers too. We have paid into the account that we are now attempting to withdraw from. We are not asking for charity from the federal government. We are asking for what we are due as Americans.

Please, Mr. President, stop talking about us like we are another country. Unless, of course, you are willing to grant us sovereignty and we can use our bountiful natural resources and our position at the mouth of the Mississippi River for our own people’s benefit and not to enrich a nation of 300,000,000 generous taxpayers.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Quiz on Current Events

Read the following text and answer the question:

Press Briefing on the President's Trip to _____ ______

MR. HADLEY: Good morning. In a few hours the President will deliver remarks in advance of his upcoming trip to _____ ______. In his speech today, the President will announce new initiatives to benefit the people of _____ ______. He will announce additional money to be committed for better health care in _____ ______, an innovative education initiative to benefit disadvantaged youth, and initiatives to make it easier to start and grow small businesses, and help lower-income citizens of _____ ______be able to purchase a home.

***

But the benefits of democracy, free markets and economic integration have been slow in reaching many in the region, especially the poor, the disadvantaged and the indigenous. Poverty, inequality and social exclusion in _____ ______ is unacceptably high.

***

Too many have inadequate access to education, health care, and housing and jobs. And the President is committed to further efforts to address these issues.
What part of the world will the President be visiting this week?

a) New Orleans

b) Latin America

c) all of the above

Correct answer: b) Latin America

How do you know it’s not New Orleans? This statement gives it away:
And the President is committed to further efforts to address these issues.
We all know there will be no “further efforts” down in this part of the world. That’s what the “$110 billion check” was for.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Time Passes

The T-P’s series on coastal wetland loss is knocking me down. Knocking. Me. Down.

Article One: Last Chance.

Article Two: Losing Ground.

[UPDATE] Article Three: Laying the Groundwork.

From the first article:

"Ten years is how much time we have left -- if that."
It’s one of those things that I knew already, but didn’t get. Knowledge and understanding don’t always go together.

I’ve seen dire – but supported by evidence – predictions about coastal wetland loss from various sources and various viewpoints. But I have never seen it in one place, on my table, reading it at breakfast in an article on the front page of my newspaper, complemented by graphics and moving internet timelines.

I remember at Jesuit in the early 90s learning and worrying about coastal wetland loss. But then, I didn't do anything. What could a high school student do? I was too young.

I remember at Loyola in the mid 90s worrying about coastal wetland loss. But I was too busy trying to get my degree to do anything. I didn't have time.

I remember worrying about it after I graduated. But I needed a job. How can I do anything without any money? Getting a job was more important.

Then I got married. Then a kid came. Then I moved out of the country. Then I moved back. Then I needed a job again. Family comes first.

Then I decided to try to save up enough money to by a house Uptown. I was almost there.

Then Katrina came. Then I was worrying about my family, my friends, and my city recovering and rebuilding – both short term and long term. It's been a long 18 months.

And now I see that I have ten years. If that.

I need to rethink things. I need to do something.

Meanwhile, time passes…

Thursday, March 01, 2007

A Matter of Policy

Two posts ago, regarding the $20.8 billion that the NFIP had to borrow to pay flood claims from 2005, I wrote:

The NFIP must borrow the money from the U.S. Treasury because it was poorly managed. This is the federal government bailing *itself* out, not the people of the Gulf Coast who paid for flood insurance.
Actually, maybe it was the federal government bailing the private insurance companies out:
"I have no knowledge of any claims paid by the program that should have been paid by wind policies, which is administered by the private sector," David Maurstad, of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, told a House panel.

Maurstad said under questioning that when both wind and water damage occurred, FEMA paid the damages as a matter of policy.
Note that last sentence: “when both wind and water damage occurred, FEMA paid the damages as a matter of policy.”

In that sentence are two examples of how the NFIP is poorly managed.

First, “when both wind and water damage occurred,” only FEMA paid claims. Flood insurance does not cover wind damage. If wind damage occurred, homeowners insurance should pay for that damage. The NFIP borrowed money from the U.S. Treasury (American citizens) to pay what should have been covered by private insurance companies.

Second, “as a matter of policy.” Not only did FEMA pay for wind damage it should not have paid for, it did it as a rule. That’s not good policy.

Actually, it might not be the right policy at all:
Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Miss., demanded that Maurstad provide the legal basis for the federal government paying claims of wind and water damage.

***

"You guys are literally the puppets of the insurance industry," Taylor said at the hearing of the House Financial Services Committee's Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee.

"What concerns me is the total lack of oversight of taxpayers' money."
Along the coast, you can not deny that there was wind damage as well as flood damage. The winds were too strong.

State Farm released a statement saying, “State Farm sent a memo to its claims adjusters, but it encouraged them to look for evidence of wind damage.” When nothing but a slab is left like on the Mississippi coast, it is hard to find evidence of anything. At that point, private and federal insurance should work together to pay for damage. It shouldn’t be one or the other. I am sure there is some equation that can be devised to estimate how much wind damage may have occurred versus flood damage. And, even if it is not a perfect estimate, insurance companies can not deny that some wind damage did happen.

Before 2005, the NFIP paid all its claims from what it got in premiums. When it borrowed money, it had to pay the U.S. Treasury back. It can not pay back $20.8 billion. And, guess what. There was no disaster reserve.

So, now the NFIP is stuck with a debt it will never pay back. Private insurance companies failing to pay for wind damage increased that debt.

If the NFIP can’t pay back the Treasury, then the debt must be forgiven. That means all taxpayers wind up paying.

Maybe the private insurance companies who failed to pay for wind damage when both wind and flood occurred can be held liable. Then, the federal government can make them pay off the NFIP’s debt as part of the punishment.

Every One Hurts

As of March 1, 2007, there have been 29 murders in New Orleans this year. With 59 days in the year completed, that comes to an average of about one murder every other day. If that average stays the same all year, we will end 2007 with 182 murders. In a city of 200,000 people, that comes to a murder rate of 91 murders per 100,000 residents.

Those are numbers. These are people.

January – 17 murders.

February – 12 murders. 13 murders. [See update]

02/03/07 – 2 murders (one a child)

18) Someone flagged down police Saturday morning and led them to a man who had been shot dead in his Central City home, making him at least the 18th murder victim of the year in Orleans Parish.

Police found the body of Daniel Allen, 28, on the floor of his home in the 1900 block of Jackson Avenue shortly after 9 a.m., said Garry Flot, a police spokesman.

Allen, who had a gunshot wound to the head, was pronounced dead at the scene, which is between Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard and Danneel Street. Flot said police consider the case a homicide.

19) New Orleans, LA - Today, the New Orleans Police Department announced the arrest of 21-year-old George Lewis, a local male, and booked him with 2nd degree murder of his girlfriend’s two year-old daughter. The offense occurred yesterday at approximately 4:00 p.m,. in the 1400 block of South Lawn Street.

According to investigators, Fourth District officers received a call of a child with trauma to the body that died at Oschner Hospital.

The Orleans Parish Coroners autopsy revealed the child suffered internal and external trauma to the body as the cause of death. Detective Raymond Ambose, conducted an investigation and arrested George Lewis and booked him with 2nd degree murder.
02/04/07 – 1 murder, 1 shot
20) Two New Orleans residents were shot, one fatally, in a sport utility vehicle parked beside a large oak tree in front of a 7th Ward home Sunday minutes before sunrise.

Tamara Gabriel, 27, of Algiers, died later Sunday. She and a 22-year-old man were shot multiple times in the 2700 block of George "Nick" Connor Drive, formerly Havana Street, police spokesman Garry Flot said. The man drove the Porsche Cayenne to a hospital and "collapsed at the entrance to the hospital's emergency room," Flot said.

The man was reported in stable condition. Gabriel died Sunday at 4 p.m. at Touro Infirmary, said chief coroner's investigator John Gagliano, who released the identity. He said she had a gunshot wound to the head.
02/06/07 – 1 murder
21) A fistfight between two 17-year-old boys led one of the teen to kill the other one with a gun his mother gave him, police said Tuesday.

According to Sgt. Joe Narcisse, an NOPD spokesman, the shooting took place shortly after 7 p.m. near the intersection of Clio and Simon Bolivar streets, in Central City. The victim, a 17-year-old New Orleans boy, got into a fistfight with Clarence Johnson earlier in the evening, with both individuals walking away after the conflict.

Narcisse said Johnson went home and gave details of the fight to his mom, 44-year-old Vanessa Johnson. She gave her son a handgun and told him to get revenge because he had apparently lost the fight.

Johnson took the handgun, located the victim a short time later and fired several shots, striking him once in the stomach, Narcisse said. The victim was rushed to Elmwood Medical Center, where he later died.
02/11/07 – 1 murder
22) Members of the New Orleans Police Department are investigating the shooting death of Michael Dunbar a 43-year-old local male. The incident occurred at 3420 Indiana Street in Algiers at approximately 8:43 p.m.

According to investigators, Fourth District officers responded to a call of a “male shot” inside of a home. When officers arrived, they found the victim suffering from a gunshot wound to the body. Emergency medical technicians arrived on the scene and pronounced him dead.
02/15/07 – 2 murders
23) and 24) Two men were shot to death and a third critically wounded shortly inside a park car in the 9th Ward shortly before 6:30 p.m. Thursday, police said.

The names of the two men killed were not known to police. Police were able to interview the wounded man but did not release his name.

Fifth District officers responded to reports of a shooting and found the three men inside a sedan with Texas license plates in the 1000 block of Kentucky Street, near the Industrial Canal in the 9th Ward.

The men in the front passenger seat and the rear seat were dead on the scene. The wounded man was behind the wheel. He was taken to a local hospital, said officer Sabrina Richardson, NOPD public information officer.
02/16/07 – 1 murder, victim died on 02/17/07
25) One of six people wounded in a shooting rampage in a Mid-City bar early Friday died Saturday, the Orleans Parish coroner's office said.

Alden Wright, 20, of New Orleans, died at 11:40 a.m. at the Charity Hospital trauma unit at Elmwood Medical Center, chief coroner's investigator John Gagliano said.
02/20/07 – 1 murder, 2 shot
26) Around 9 p.m. Tuesday, police responded to shots fired in the 900 block of North Claiborne Avenue, near Dumaine Street, police said. Officers found a man with mutliple gunshot wounds lying on a wooden platform underneath Interstate 10. Investigators also discovered two handguns in the unidentified man’s possession. The victim was transported to a local hospital in critical condition and later died, police said.
02/21/07 – 2 murders
27) A 40-year-old New Orleans man was fatally shot early Wednesday in the Gert Town neighborhood, in the third shooting in less than 12 hours.

Several unrelated violent incidents, including a stabbing, marked the end of what had been a relatively low-crime Mardi Gras. Two of the shootings and the stabbing happened late on Fat Tuesday. By Wednesday morning, three people were dead, and two others, were seriously injured, police said.

Most recently, police discovered the 40-year-old man lying on the ground in the 7900 block of Olive Street with multiple gunshot wounds, police said. The man was pronounced dead around 7 a.m., shortly after officers arrived.

28) In broad daylight Wednesday afternoon, a 33-year-old man was fatally shot in an eastern New Orleans street, behind a row of one-story brick houses. The man, whose identity has not been released, was shot at 1 p.m. in the 14000 block of Morrison Road, police said. Officers found the man in the street, shot several times.

The man fell in the middle of the two-lane street that runs along a canal, between a murky brown puddle and the yellow dotted line.
02/25/07 – 1 murder
29) New Orleans authorities have released the identity of a man who was shot to death Sunday night in eastern New Orleans.

Lionel Ware III, 23, of New Orleans, was shot about 8:25 p.m. in the 14700 block of Curran Road, near Bass Street. Ware died in the middle of the roadway several blocks southwest of Paris Road and Lake Pontchartrain, said Garry Flot, a police public information officer.

An autopsy showed Ware suffered multiple gunshot wounds, chief coroner's investigator John Gagliano said.


UPDATE: 02/27/07 – 1 murder, victim died on 03/25/07

30) February shooting victim dies; Sunday shooting near Fair Grounds
A New Orleans shooting victim died Sunday, nearly a month after he suffered mltiple wounds in the Hollygrove neighborhood, the Orleans Parish coroner’s office said.

Aaron Allen, 43, was shot on Feb. 27 about 7:30 a.m. at Hollygrove and Oleander streets, chief coroner’s investigator John Gagliano said. An autopsy will be performed today.

Mr. Bush, Is that $110 Billion in Your Pocket?

Or… not?

The President visits today. Get ready to hear a lot about the $110 billion.

Every article written will say something like this:

The government has dedicated about $110 billion to the Gulf Coast since the 2005 hurricanes, and Bush remains committed to the region, Donald Powell, the federal coordinator for Gulf Coast Rebuilding, said.
I am not writing the same post over and over again about the $110 billion number to say that we aren’t getting enough federal funding. I keep mentioning the $110 billion number because it is WRONG. $110 billion is NOT how much money that has been dedicated, appropriated, allocated, sent, or given to the Gulf Coast to rebuild.

Once again, I cite the GAO:
About $88 billion has been appropriated to 23 different federal agencies through four emergency supplemental appropriations acts.
As I have stated before, the President is adding $20.8 billion – the borrowing limit for the National Flood Insurance Program, which pays flood claims to those who have *paid for* flood insurance. And of that money, the whole $20.8 billion has not been paid out.

The NFIP must borrow the money from the U.S. Treasury because it was poorly managed. This is the federal government bailing *itself* out, not the people of the Gulf Coast who paid for flood insurance.

I can hear you saying, “Enough already, po’ boy. The number is not correct. We get it. What’s your point?”

My point is the White House is through with us. They want to wash their hands of this Katrina mess. And they are using their trumped up $110 billion number to do it:
Q Back to Katrina. The President took a lot of flak for not mentioning Katrina in the State of the Union speech. In hindsight, was that a mistake?

MR. SNOW: It's not -- you know what? "In hindsight," I'm just not going to play the "hindsight" game.

Q Well, but, plenty of people thought it meant he was downgrading the issue.

MR. SNOW: Yes, but he wasn't. It's hard to argue that somebody who has put on a push to spend $110 billion on a problem, as ever downgrading it; who gets very regular briefings on it as downgrading it; and somebody who has people report to him directly as downgrading it.

We understand that somebody can take a non-mention in a speech and try to use it for their own political purposes. But the fact is that the President is committed and he's done it. I mean, $110 billion, it speaks for itself.
And it is speaking irony.

[above emphasis mine]