Katrina Disaster Blog: Sept. 8

Gulfport Mayor Brent Warr, right, chats with Vice-President Dick Cheney as they walk down a street in Gulfport, Miss., touring areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2005. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)
This is a running list compiled by CBSNews.com 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.