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Katrina Disaster Blog: Sept. 8

This is a running list compiled by staffers of the latest developments in the Hurricane Katrina disaster.

Sept. 8, 2005

10:33 p.m.
LOS ANGELES (AP) The producer of a telethon to raise money for Hurricane Katrina victims is expecting it to be free of political comments. Joel Gallen is the executive producer of "Shelter From the Storm: A Concert For The Gulf Coast." It will run on the six major broadcast networks and several cable channels Friday night.

Gallen says he has spoken with most of the artists on the bill, including musician Kanye West, who criticized the government relief efforts during an NBC telethon last Friday. One of his comments was, "George Bush doesn't care about black people."

Gallen says the artists agree the telethon should be about raising funds, not political comments. The artists involved include Garth Brooks, Sheryl Crow, the Dixie Chicks, Alicia Keys, U2, Neil Young, and Paul Simon, among others.

9:50 p.m.
FAIRLAWN, Ohio (AP) NBA star LeBron James is standing tall for victims of Hurricane Katrina. He spent about $120,000 in two hours at a Sam's Club warehouse store near his hometown of Akron, Ohio, buying goods for hurricane victims. Four tractor-trailers have been loaded with food, diapers, school supplies and other items for folks in Louisiana, Mississippi and Houston. James, who is 20, plays for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

9:15 p.m.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Regulators say most of the 280 banks and savings and loans in hurricane-stricken areas are operating normally again and officials of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation say the institutions aren't expected to have financial problems in the long term.

9:09 p.m.
Watch complete coverage of Hurricane Katrina from the CBS Evening News:

7:41 p.m.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Acting with extraordinary speed, Congress approved an additional $51.8 billion for relief and recovery from Hurricane Katrina on Thursday. President Bush pledged to make it "easy and simple as possible" for uncounted, uprooted storm victims to collect food stamps and other government benefits.

"We're not asking for a handout, but we do need help," said Sen. Trent Lott whose home state of Mississippi suffered grievously from the storm as lawmakers cleared the bill for Bush's signature less than 24 hours after he requested it. The measure includes $2,000 debit cards for families to use on immediate needs.

6:16 p.m.
(AP) — Details about the debit cards that the government is giving hurricane victims evacuated to the Astrodome in Houston:

  • $2,000 per household
  • Recipients get a card and a PIN number. Funds will be loaded onto the card within 24 hours.
  • Cards can be used at any automated cash machine or any location that accepts bank cards with the MasterCard logo.
  • Debit cards also may be offered in other large shelters, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

    3:51 p.m.
    WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. House of Representatives has approved another $51.8 billion in emergency relief and recovery aid for victims of Hurricane Katrina.

    A Senate vote is expected later today. The package comes on top of the $10.5 billion dollars in aid approved earlier.

    3:23 p.m.
    WASHINGTON (AP) — The Internal Revenue Service announced a new program Thursday to encourage workers to give up unused vacation time and sick days and turn them into charitable contributions to aid Hurricane Katrina victims.

    Employers would convert the donated time into cash contributions to charities while workers would reduce their taxable income by the number of days donated.

    A similar program was put into effect after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, but it received only a limited response. Treasury Secretary John Snow and IRS Commissioner Mark Everson told reporters at a news conference that the government plans a much greater effort to publicize the new program and expects a greater response.

    3:06 p.m.
    WASHINGTON, D.C. (CBS) — Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales travels to Mississippi and Louisiana today with Vice President Dick Cheney to tour areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina and outline priorities for the newly established Hurricane Katrina Fraud Task Force, designed to deter, investigate and prosecute disaster-related federal crimes such as charity fraud and insurance fraud.

    2:38 p.m.
    WASHINGTON (AP) — President Bush on Thursday pledged the government would cut through red tape to provide an immediate $2,000 in disaster assistance to families displaced by Hurricane Katrina and make sure they continue receiving Medicaid, food stamps, jobless compensation and other federal benefits.

    He designated Friday as a national day of prayer and remembrance for victims across the Gulf Coast.

    2:13 p.m.

    CBS News RAW: During a visit to Gulfport, Miss., Vice President Cheney was briefly interrupted by one dissatisfied man's verbal attack.

    1:56 p.m.
    WASHINGTON (AP) — As Congress hurried toward approval of a $51.8 billion emergency hurricane aid package, President George W. Bush on Thursday mapped a plan to get a wide range of government benefits — from medical care to job training — to storm victims who have scattered around the country.

    Bush, under fire for the government's response to the devastation so far, was to announce initiatives aimed at helping people "get back on their feet" in an address from the White House, spokesman Scott McClellan said.

    The plan was to cover not only the immediate distribution of debit cards of $2,000 per household to families evacuated from homes in Louisiana and Mississippi, but also other federal government benefits such as child care, food stamps, housing, and unemployment insurance, McClellan said.

    The White House provided no immediate specifics about how the task of finding — and verifying — beneficiaries would be approached.

    1:03 p.m.
    GULFPORT, Miss. (AP) — Walking a hurricane-riddled street, Vice President Dick Cheney declared Thursday that much progress is being made in a disaster relief effort he termed "very impressive."

    Cheney's plane took him on a course over heavily damaged houses as he arrived to this Gulf Coast town destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. After meeting with state and local officials, Cheney and his wife, Lynne, toured a particularly damaged part of the town.

    The vice president told reporters he was struck by the "very positive, can-do" attitude of Mississippians toward the help they are getting. In general, Mississippi officials have been much more complimentary of the federal hurricane response than those from Louisiana and, particularly, New Orleans.

    12:36 p.m.
    BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) — The United States asked NATO on Thursday to take on a bigger role transporting European aid to areas hit by Hurricane Katrina and the alliance immediately ordered military experts to draw up plans to offer more assistance.

    The U.S. made the request at a special meeting of ambassadors from the 26 allies. After getting their orders, NATO military experts began discussing ideas, including the possible use of ships from the elite NATO Response Force, with the U.S. Northern Command.

    They could present plans for political approval as soon as Friday, officials said.

    12:27 p.m.
    WASHINGTON (CBS) — CBS News correspondent Bob Fuss reports that Republican leaders in congress have put together a joint committee they said would be bi-partisan to investigate the response to Hurricane Katrina.

    Fuss reports that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said they never talked to her and she won't cooperate because she fears a whitewash.

    12:14 p.m.
    WASHINGTON (CBS) — CBS News correspondent Mark Knoller reports that Republican leaders, led by House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., met with President Bush. The leaders urged the president to name a hurricane relief czar and they said Mr. Bush was "very receptive" to the idea.

    12:01 p.m.
    (CBS) — Because up to $200 billion in aid could pour into the New Orleans region in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, urban developers are dreaming of substantial renovations to the city, which would reinvigorate run-down segments of the city, the Wall Street Journal reports.

    One firm, Historic Restoration Inc., foresees an "Afro-Caribbean Paris" full of garden walks and a trolley system. Others envision a slate of new schools, a riverside park and a light-rail system.

    11:12 a.m.
    (CBS/AP) — Televised news reports say officials locked down the Houston Astrodome during registration for possible distribution of federal financial assistance to Hurricane Katrina evacuees. Those inside were locked inside, and those out of the stadium were left out.

    The Federal Emergency Management Agency was prepared to hand out $2,000 debit cards for each household affected by the storm. At the Astrodome, where many New Orleans evacuees are being housed, long lines formed to register.

  • 11:04 a.m.
    (CBS) — It's a game of cat and mouse between residents and police in New Orleans, CBS' Manuel Gallegus reports. Armed officers are everywhere, and residents aren't supposed to be there, but they just walk by each other — no one is being forced out.

    10:51 a.m.
    GULFPORT, Miss. (AP) — Vice President Dick Cheney and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales toured stricken Gulf Coast areas on Thursday, beginning with coastal Mississippi before heading later to Louisiana. Cheney's plane, Air Force Two, flew over heavily damaged houses as it landed at the Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport. Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff greeted Cheney and Gonzales and briefed them on relief operations.

    The vice president then went into a series of private sessions with state and local officials. He was to tour parts of the town later and hold a news conference.

    10:03 a.m.
    (CBS) — While saying important progress has been made in post-Katrina relief operations, a spokesman says President Bush continues to be unsatisfied with where things are right now, CBS News correspondent Mark Knoller reports. Scott McClellan says enormous challenges remain to be address and Mr. Bush won't be satisfied untill all the immediate needs of Katrina's victims are met.

    9:24 a.m.
    (CBS) — Americans are largely dissatisfied with the response to Hurricane Katrina, and blame all levels of government, according to the latest CBS News poll.

    In a dramatic change from the public's reaction immediately after Hurricane Katrina hit on Aug. 29, President Bush's overall response to the hurricane meets with disapproval today. Only 38 percent of Americans polled approve of Mr. Bush's efforts. Sixty-five percent of Americans say the president's response to the disaster was too slow.

    Critique fell not only on President Bush, but on FEMA and other government agencies. Eighty percent of those surveyed said the federal government as a whole did not respond as fast as it could.

    Click here to read more of the CBS News poll results.

    9:03 a.m.
    (CBS) — Brian Gallagher, president and CEO of the United Way of America, said of Hurricane Katrina's destruction: "This is a wake-up call for America. It would be a moral mistake to rebuild certain neighborhoods back the way they were, and economically it would be a mistake."

    8:50 a.m.
    WASHINGTON (AP) — The Labor Department estimates 10,000 workers who lost their jobs to Hurricane Katrina filed for unemployment benefits last week.

    7:50 a.m.
    NEW ORLEANS (CBS) — Emergency workers are being vaccinated against Tetanus and Hepatitis, because officials now say the floodwaters are toxic, CBS News correspondent Cami McCormick reports. Health officials have said it is dangerous to have contact with the sludge, but some people are still wading through it in places. And in some cases, people who have been stranded were reportedly drinking the water — because they had nothing else.

    7:43 a.m.
    DENVER (AP) — An Army veteran who allegedly slapped a flight attendant on a Katrina evacuation flight faces federal charges. Tuesday's incident occurred on a Frontier Airlines plane carrying evacuees from Houston to Denver.

    The altercation began when the man walked up the center aisle and said he had an announcement. The flight attendant tried to persuade him to return to his seat at which point the man announced he is "a man." He then allegedly pushed and slapped the flight attendant.

    7:21 a.m.
    OCEAN SPRINGS, Miss. (AP) — It used to be a K-mart and now it's a major relief site. FEMA has opened its first relief center in Mississippi in the town of Ocean Springs. Hundreds of people at a time piled into the old vacant store yesterday to talk with officials from FEMA and other federal and state agencies.

    7:09 a.m.
    NEW ORLEANS (CBS) — As city officials and police evacuate the remaining holdouts in the city, federal officials are preparing 25,000 body bags, CBS News correspondent Cami McCormick reports. The mayor of New Orleans has said he expects to find many corpses now that the floodwaters are receding. That could also be the scenario in hard hit places such as St. Bernard Parish — where entire neighborhoods were under water.

    6:14 a.m.
    BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) — The United States has asked NATO to take on a bigger role transporting European aid to areas hit by Hurricane Katrina. A special meeting of the allies ordered military experts Thursday to draw up plans for an expanded role, including the possible use of ships from the elite NATO Response Force. NATO planners are discussing the plans with the U.S. Northern Command.

    4:12 a.m.
    CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (CBS) — Katrina was no big deal for the Kennedy Space Center, but it did leave big footprints on NASA, according to a published report. USA Today says an internal memo written by the top boss of the space shuttle program says hurricane damage to Gulf Coast shuttle facilities, combined with other technical problems, may delay the next shuttle flight until late next year.

    The shuttle's fuel tanks are reportedly built at a plant in New Orleans, its engines are tested in coastal Mississippi, and many workers at both facilities are evacuees who are at least temporarily homeless.

    3 a.m.
    NEW ORLEANS (CBS) — Holdouts refusing evacuation from the French Quarter are a little more comfortable: running water has been restored to some buildings. CBS News correspondent Steve Futterman reports the water isn't safe to drink and shouldn't be allowed to touch any cuts or open wounds.

    Futterman also reports that although violence in New Orleans has been greatly reduced, there are still reports of random gunfire. The commander of the New Orleans police swat team says officers are being fired at almost on a daily basis. As for the forced evacuation of hurricane survivors - this is something police are trying to avoid as much as possible. Police hope instead to employ friendly persuasion and the sight of visible high-powered weapons.

    1 a.m.
    WASHINGTON (AP) — Louisiana Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu is not happy with a GOP congressman's comments on how to handle hurricane relief funds. Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo is urging his fellow lawmakers not to send money directly to Louisiana state officials or the city of New Orleans.

    Tancredo says the state and city governments have a history of incompetence and corruption and that the money should instead be funneled through a private organization or a House committee. Landrieu, for her part, says it's a shame that a U.S. congressman is wasting everyone's time with stereotypes and accusations rather than trying to help.

    ST. LOUIS (AP) — A self-proclaimed white separatist was sued Wednesday for allegedly setting up improper Web sites to collect donations for Hurricane Katrina victims with no evidence the funds will ever reach them.

    Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon is asking the court to shut down the Web site, which he said serves as a collection point for at least 10 sites operated by Frank Weltner with hurricane relief-related themes. He said Weltner also operates, from the same post office box, a web site Nixon's office said is widely regarded as an anti-Semitic hate speech site.

    12:01 a.m.
    CHICAGO (AP) — Animal lovers are coming to the rescue of zoo and aquarium wildlife stricken by Hurricane Katrina. Lincoln Park, Illinois, Zoo Director Kevin Bell is leading a fundraising campaign by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association to help the Audubon Nature Institute in New Orleans, which includes the zoo and the aquarium - which lost most of its fish collection.

    Three Chicago-area zoo and aquarium association members - Lincoln Park Zoo, Brookfield Zoo and Shedd Aquarium - have pledged $35,000 apiece for the Audubon Relief Effort. Other major offers include $35,000 from Disney's Animal Kingdom in Florida, $20,000 from Sedgwick County Zoo in Wichita, Kan., and $10,000 from the Minnesota Zoo in Apple Valley, Minn.

    Read previous Katrina Disaster Blogs: Sept. 7, Sept. 6, Sept. 5, Sept. 4, Sept. 3, Sept. 2, Sept. 1, Aug. 31

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