Sunday, August 26, 2007

CNBC: Against the Tide: The Battle for New Orleans (also 60 Min)

Tonight (Sunday Aug. 26) CNBC featured a program “Against the Tide: The Battle for New Orleans” that would cover the controversies over the slow recovery in New Orleans. The overriding concept is that the administration really does not believe that below-sea-level areas (sinking more) should be resettled. Otherwise, the report says, President Bush could have jawboned Fortune 500 business executives into setting up an enormous reconstruction fund. Without that kind of commitment, companies and insurers will not be comfortable taking the initiative to rebuild. Two thirds of former residents have returned. But only 7% of the lower Ninth Ward residents have returned.

The enormous problems in rebuilding the levees to where they could take a Category 4 or 5 were covered. The “weakest link” problem was demonstrated by a professor. It was not the hurricane itself that destroyed New Orleans, but the levee failures in the hours right after the hurricane left.

A project called The Road Home was supposed to help 120000 homeowners, but the need is for 180000 homeowners. In the Ninth Ward and other lowest elevations, rebuilding has been spotty. Sometimes rebuilding money has been available, but not the ability to build on stilts.

Habitat for Humanity did help rebuild a Musicians Village. But without more commitment, volunteers are wondering if it is worth it to go down and work, when they are not even allowed to enter some homes because of mold.

Only Shell Oil (of all major companies) seems to be committed to New Orleans, and Shell’s helpfulness to its employees was covered. The rebuilding of the Superdome, as well as the fate of the Saints football team, was discussed.

The willingness to commit to rebuilding is a balance of emotional and rational factors. Couldn’t it be cheaper to provide premanufactured housing on higher ground? But the unwillingness to insure in hurricane-prone areas (especially when overbuilt or sinking) parallels other risks that may occur in a post 9/11 world with other issues, but that may not have occurred yet in practice. (Brush fires and earthquakes in other parts of the country (even the lower Midwest for earthquakes) are obvious issues; even cyberspace has the potential to pose tremendous issues). Other remote possibilities include tsunamis (one scenario warns that one could spread from the Azores to the East Coast were there to be a landslide).

Check the story (Outlook, The Washington Post, Aug. 26, 2007, p B1) by Rice University professor Douglas Brinkley, “Reckless Abandonment: It’s Been Two Years: Is Washington Letting New Orleans Die on the Vine? Link:

Also, tonight, 60 Minutes had a harrowing story of a New Orleans physician wrongfully accused of euthanasia in the wake of the Hurricane at the ruined hospital; it followed with a story about Iraqis who quit working for American military intelligence because their families are threatened, in a world where blood loyalty is mandatory. Negroponte’s
one laptop per child, covered on this blog May 21, was updated. Link.

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