Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Asshole Nomination

Since the settings at my office don’t allow me to make comments, only submissions, I will nominate all the assholes who are bashing New Orleans and hurricane victims.

I heard and read so many blowhards this week either moaning about the Katrina victims and their stories or bashing people who are rebuilding.  While many people may disagree that rebuilding may not be the best choice in a dangerous zone, I think they are missing the point.  When you have lost your home, your job and everything you own (basically your life), it is so emotionally and mentally difficult.  Of course people want to rebuild.  They are trying to recover all they have lost and known.  Imagine yourself in that situation.  There is naturally a pyschic need to restore order in one’s life.  So those unfeeling and uncaring people get my nomination.

Posted by Nuttshell on 08/30 at 10:05 AM
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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Black women catch start-up fever

In the African-American community, women-owned businesses now outnumber men’s.
by Tracy Clark-Flory in Salon Magazine

Aug. 24, 2006 | A report published last week by the Small Business Administration suggests that women are driving the growth in black entrepreneurship, according to USA Today. The number of businesses owned by black women has grown exponentially in the last decade and studies suggest that black women now own more businesses than black men.

As Angela Burt-Murray, editor in chief of Essence, tells USA Today, it just may be “a huge opportunity,” if only as a way to avoid the unpleasantries that women often face in big business. Camille Young, who started her own chain of juice bars in New Jersey, spent years in big business but always felt added pressure as a black woman to perform: “You must work harder just to be viewed as average,” she said.

But while black women may now own more companies than black men, the USA Today piece rashly calls it “a trend that’s tipping the balance of economic power in the black community.” What about the less-cheery finding that black women’s business ventures actually pull in much less revenue on average than do black men’s ($39,000 compared to $114,000)?

Ultimately it boils down to this no-brainer: black women are attracted to self-employment for the same reasons women in general are. That often-present corporate glass ceiling is only tolerable for so long, and self-employment allows flexibility for women who need to care for ailing elder parents and for mothers who are juggling work and childcare. So, sure, let’s celebrate! Successes are always relative, aren’t they? 

Posted by Nuttshell on 08/29 at 04:19 PM
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Symbol of a Storm

I watched a program hosted by Brian Williams last night on NBC and I found myself angry and sad all over again.
Taphina Jefferson never thought she would end up on the cover of a magazine, but Hurricane Katrina put her there. This is her story.
By Arian Campo-Flores
Special to Newsweek

Aug. 26, 2006 - It was one snapshot of despair amid the detritus of Hurricane Katrina. The week after the storm struck New Orleans, NEWSWEEK ran a photo on its cover of a woman clutching two kids outside the Superdome. Her expression was ravaged and distressed. Her brow was furrowed and her nostrils flared. In the background, fetid floodwaters sloshed around. Though her image quickly circulated the globe, she remained anonymous—just one more portrait of misery among countless others.

But in June, NEWSWEEK tracked her down in New Orleans. Her name is Taphina Jefferson, 28, single mother of seven children, including the two in the picture: Mariah, 2, and Terrence, 1. Jefferson had returned only days earlier from Houston, where she’d spent nine months as an evacuee. In several interviews over the next two months, she shared the story of her year since Katrina. It’s a tale of heartache and hardship, but also of unbowed determination. Like many poor New Orleanians, she was battling misfortune long before the hurricane. But when the storm roared ashore, it plunged her already unstable life into turmoil. Like the city as a whole, she has struggled mightily to build herself back up—yet at a pace far slower than what she’d hoped for.

Just prior to Katrina, Jefferson says she was poised to start a new chapter in her life. She had recently given birth to Terrence, who was only one month old. She had managed to move out of a women’s shelter, where she’d sought refuge from an abusive relationship. She had found a little one-bedroom home in the Carrolton neighborhood for her and the two little ones (her 13-year-old, Zabian, was in juvenile detention and her four other kids lived with their grandmother in Mississippi). And she had decided to enroll in a six-month certified nursing assistant program to try to develop a more stable career. It was enough to make her finally feel hopeful about her future. “I felt like I was accomplishing something with my life,” Jefferson says. As luck would have it, though, the start date for the program was Monday, Aug. 29. The weekend before, Jefferson says she was so busy preparing for class—gathering supplies, finding a nursery for the kids—that she didn’t notice the news about the impending monster storm. In that way, she was like many poor New Orleanians who seemed unaware of the warnings.

On Sunday, Aug. 28, she realized how serious the storm was. Panicked, she set off with her two kids to a friend’s third-floor apartment in the Seventh Ward. She rode out the storm there, packed in tightly with little to eat or drink. In the aftermath, amid the flooding and growing havoc, she and the kids were eventually rescued by a boat that delivered them to a nearby bridge. From there, a truck took them to the Superdome, where she says she witnessed deaths, beatings and countless other horrors. After three days, “I started to think I was going out of my mind,” says Jefferson. “I couldn’t take it anymore … I needed to get out of there.”

Her chance came on Thursday morning, Sept. 2, when buses began rolling up to the Superdome. Given the crush of people desperate to board them, the wait was interminable. Overheated and dehydrated, little Terrence’s lips began to turn purple. Then, miraculously, a woman in charge plucked Jefferson and her kids out of line and directed her to a bus. As Jefferson rushed toward it, photographer Richard Alan Hannon snapped the shot that ended up on NEWSWEEK’s cover. She recalls the moment vividly. “Please, God, let me get on that bus,” she was thinking. “I was just focused on that bus … My baby just needed to get on.”

Jefferson wound up at the Reliant Center in Houston. She ended up staying three weeks before striking out to create a new life in a foreign city. Armed with a $2,000 FEMA check and additional money from the Red Cross, she bought a car. Then she nabbed the first apartment she laid eyes on. It was in a shady part of town, but at least a FEMA voucher would cover it. Landing a job wasn’t nearly as easy, though. Jefferson says she applied for numerous positions, including some at fast-food restaurants—which she’d worked in before—but had no luck. “They weren’t hiring people from New Orleans,” says Jefferson, in a familiar refrain heard among evacuees. Her job search became even harder when she lost her car to an engine fire that totaled it.

Before long, Jefferson sank into a depression. She had no job, little money and a head full of painful memories. Her friends and family had dispersed around the country. And though she’d finally managed to be reunited with her son Zabian, who’d been released from juvenile detention, she felt she wasn’t providing enough for her kids. When Christmas arrived, she couldn’t afford to buy them presents. “I was just miserable,” she says. She tried to escape by way of the bottle, downing a half-dozen Mad Dogs—sweet alcoholic drinks—a day. But “I wasn’t feeling anything from it,” she says. “I still had this pain.”

After the New Year, Jefferson’s situation improved a bit. She received additional FEMA money to compensate for personal property damage and for her burned-out car. With the cash, she bought a new pickup truck and a trailer that could sleep four. Then she enrolled in a free six-week commercial truck-driving course to try to develop a new job skill. But after completing the class, she says no employer would hire someone without prior experience on the road. By now, Jefferson was giving up on Houston—a place that, in her mind, lacked not only opportunity but warmth. “Houston was nice to us,” she says, “but over a period of months, people get tired of you being there.”

In June, Jefferson decided to return with her kids to New Orleans. She craved the company of her loved ones. And on previous trips to the city, she had witnessed some signs of vitality that gave her a glimmer of hope. When she arrived, she installed herself and the kids at a friend’s place in Mid-City. During the day, she sought refuge from the sweltering weather in her friend’s air-conditioned home; but at night, the family had to resort to the stifling turquoise trailer Jefferson had brought from Houston. Almost immediately, she found work at Burger King. But more than two months later, she has yet to find an apartment she can afford, given the city’s skyrocketing rents.

These days, Jefferson is struggling to regain her footing. The city abounds with a feeling of loss. Her stepmother, whom she loved dearly, is presumed dead. And the Carrollton neighborhood where she used to live seems devoid of its soul. Before, “something was always happening, your friends were around, it was lively,” she says. “Now it’s dead.” Perhaps with time, Jefferson says, some of the old New Orleans magic will return. But until then, she has a hard time feeling like she’s home. “I really don’t know where to be,” she says. “It’s like I have to find myself all over again.”

© 2006 Newsweek, Inc.

Posted by Nuttshell on 08/29 at 02:54 PM
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Monday, August 28, 2006

A Girl Like Me

Very interesting and impressive piece by a 16 yr. old.

Kiri Davis, 16, Urban Academy I wanted to make a film that explored the standards of beauty imposed on today’s black girls. How do these standards affect her self-esteem or self-image. Through making this film I learned a lot about where some of these standards might stem from. Running time: 7:00. Mentor: Shola Lynch.

Posted by Nuttshell on 08/28 at 01:02 PM
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Saturday, August 26, 2006

Front of ‘my’ house in Rufisque,Senegal 1997

See how short my hair was?  In the picture with my is Mohamet and Mamadou. We are sitting fromof Massuer’s old Mercedes diesel.  He has since bought a different car. I’m not sure who took this picture.  I’m tempted to say it is a self portrait, but that doesn’t seem likely.  This picture would have been taken in the afternoon because the sun is behind our backs.

Rufisque Senegal

Posted by SPN on 08/26 at 08:49 AM
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Friday, August 25, 2006

Experts: New Orleans Race Relations Crumble Under Post-Katrina Stresses

By Richard A. Webster
New Orleans City
Business (New Orleans, LA)
August 14, 2006

Shortly after Hurricane Katrina, a new breed of graffiti replaced the storm-related markings of search-and-rescue Xs and pleas for help that became a part of life after the hurricane. Crude drawings of African-Americans drowning in the Ninth Ward blanketed the bathroom walls of the Avenue Pub on St. Charles Avenue. Management painted over the racist hieroglyphics only to see them return weeks later. 

A few blocks away, at the intersection of Prytania and Camp streets, a bumper sticker plastered on a stop sign warned an unnamed but understood group of people to “Go back to Houston. “ From Mayor C. Ray Nagin declaring his desire for a “chocolate city” to St. Tammany Parish Sheriff Jack Strain warning people with dreadlocks and “chee wee” hairstyles that they will be targeted if found wandering the streets of the North Shore, race relations in the greater New Orleans area have hit rock bottom, local experts say. “There has been so much loss and grief in this area that tempers are short, trust is down and suspicion is up,” said Mike Cowan, chairman of the New Orleans Human Relations Commission. “In any relationship when you get those conditions it’s a dangerous time. “ The anonymous scrawl on light posts and bathroom walls reflects the rising tide of racial bitterness and anger, said Lance Hill, executive director of the Southern Institute for Education and Research at Tulane University. “In the first few days after Katrina I met many white people who felt Katrina was the best thing that ever happened to New Orleans,” said Hill. “It destroyed the black community and in one fell swoop had eliminated crime, poverty, problems with the schools and the burden on social services. “We’ve gone through a period of racial polarization and now there are a lot of people coming back to the city who are angry and feel like they were kept out because of the color of their skin or because they are poor. We know from history that when we ignore these ethnic conflicts they erupt into an even worse form. “ Former New Orleans City Councilwoman Jacquelyn Brechtel Clarkson, whose district included the million-dollar homes of the French Quarter and the public housing projects in Algiers, said she has been forced to field accusations against the wealthy white population. “It’s absurd because the displaced people were not all black,” Clarkson said. “My children and grandchildren were displaced and they’re middle-class white. One of my two brothers and two of my nieces lost everything. I would say to both sides it’s not all black and white. My greatest fear is we’re going to lose our middle class, both black and white. “ Despite overseeing a racially-mixed district, Clarkson said she fell victim to the anti-white backlash in her unsuccessful bid to win a council-at-large seat.

Election effect

According to a Louisiana Recovery Authority poll that asked respondents the importance of returning the city to its pre-Katrina racial demographics, 63 percent of African-Americans said it was extremely important compared to only 25 percent of whites. Tanya Harris, a Ninth Ward community organizer, said during the recent city elections a group of white politicians visited the Lower Ninth Ward and suggested relocating the entire community. “Why as a white man can you say these people need to be moved somewhere else as if we’re cattle?” Harris said. “The first thing Katrina did, if there is any good aspect about the storm, is it exposed a lot of things, things we’ve been knowing for a long time which have finally come to light. “ There have been two stages of life in post-Katrina New Orleans - before Nagin’s re-election and after, said Hill. “Before the election, wealthy white people were ascendant in the recovery process and there was no question in my mind that in the 27 years I’ve been in New Orleans that the power configuration had reverted back to pre-Marc Morial days. The Uptown white elite were running the city and pretty arrogant about that, and they realized they couldn’t implement their plans if the city government was controlled by African-Americans. “ Nagin’s re-election changed everything, Hill said. “What happened since Nagin got elected, the mentality I’ve seen emerge is really pretty appalling. ... Typically these people are bitter and feel dispossessed. They feel they had won the city back from African-Americans after Katrina and then they lost it. Now they present themselves as victims and wallow in self-pity, some almost professionally. “ Pastor Emmanuel Smith of the Israelite Baptist Church in Central City said much of the blame for the deterioration in race relations falls on the shoulders of the criminal element of the African-American population that is responsible for the recent surge in gangland slayings. “It has separated people because most of the crime is being perpetrated by young black men and that alienates the people of a white nature,” Smith said. “It’s a fear factor and results in, ‘You stay on your side of town and I’ll stay on my side of town. ‘“ Hill said when people feel like their ethnicity is the source of a trauma, they emotionally numb themselves to the people who they feel are responsible. “The way people cope with being driven out of their homes or with crime is to make themselves insensitive to their own feelings and in turn insensitive to the feelings of other people to the point where they feel they have a right to victimize that other group. “
Healing dialogue

To accomplish that end, the Southern Institute recruited Ervin Staub, a professor at the University of Massachusetts, is helping to develop a model of community healing, dialogue and reconciliation that can be implemented in the communities of New Orleans. “We have to accept the fact that we’ve experienced not just a natural disaster trauma but an ethnic trauma,” said Hill. “Whether you agree with people’s interpretation of events we have large numbers of people black and white who feel they have been victimized because of the color of their skin. “ No matter what the current situation, Harris said it is important that people are finally addressing the issue of race in New Orleans. “Katrina put New Orleans under the national microscope and now we have outsiders coming in questioning what actually went on in New Orleans before Katrina to foster this environment. It’s uncomfortable to talk about but you can’t heal a wound if you keep it covered all the time. “

Posted by Nuttshell on 08/25 at 02:27 PM
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Houston Grumbles as Evacuees Stay Put

By Miguel Bustillo
Los Angeles Times
August 21, 2006


Almost a year after Hurricane Katrina caused the country’s largest mass migration since the Dust Bowl, as many as 150,000 evacuees still live in this city, and increasingly many are indicating that they no longer plan to go home.

To many Houstonians, that’s overstaying the welcome.

Houston’s homicide rate has shot up 18% since the storm, and police statistics show that one in every five homicides in the city involves a Katrina evacuee as suspect, victim or both.

More than 30,000 evacuee families in Houston still live in government-subsidized housing, and a Zogby International survey sponsored by the city found that three-fourths of the adults receiving housing help were not working, raising questions about how they will survive when federal aid runs out.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Houston Mayor Bill White opened their doors to neighbors needing shelter in the nightmarish aftermath of the storm that devastated New Orleans and much of the Gulf Coast.

But privately, Texas leaders quickly began to fret that the bedraggled masses that accepted their invitation were overwhelming the state. In December, White declared that “Houston is full” after more than 250,000 evacuees, including hundreds of families rescued from the fetid Louisiana Superdome, filled the city’s housing to the brim.

White and other civic leaders remain committed to helping hurricane victims rebuild their lives, and become Texans if they choose. But in the crowded, apartment-lined neighborhoods here where most evacuees wound up, the famous Texas hospitality is wearing thin. Many residents are fed up with rising crime, and some are upset that evacuees could end up being a financial drain on the city.

“It’s time for them to go home,” said Victoria Palacios, the manager of an EZ Loan store in southwest Houston that has been held up four times in the last year, crimes she is convinced evacuees committed because of the distinct accents of the robbers. “Ever since they came here, we’ve been getting robbed.”
The challenges facing Houston as Katrina’s Aug. 29 anniversary draws near illustrate the lasting imprint that the storm left throughout the South. Estimates vary, but as many as half a million people remain scattered far from their former homes in Mississippi and Louisiana.

A Gallup Organization survey sponsored by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, due to be released soon, found that 251,000 evacuees still live in the state. Of adults, 59% were unemployed, and 54% were still receiving housing subsidies. Eighty-one percent were African American, and 61% of the households had earned less than $20,000 a year before Katrina.

Texas officials estimated that the state had housed as many as 400,000 evacuees from hurricanes Katrina and Rita, which lashed the Gulf Coast on Sept. 24.

The federal government is reimbursing much of the cost Texas is incurring, and last week, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced that it would provide an additional $429 million in emergency funding.

But Texas officials are concerned that the lingering presence of so many needy people will strain services such as mental health programs, which are in high demand among still-traumatized evacuees.

In Houston, two-thirds of evacuees receiving housing assistance planned to stay, the Zogby Poll found. City leaders are planning for a future that assumes many of them will.

“People were waiting and hoping the situation would change in New Orleans, but many are realizing they may be here for a while,” said Cindy Gabriel, a spokeswoman for Houston’s Joint Hurricane Housing Task Force. “We’re looking at them as Houstonians at this point.”
Houston is considering adding two seats to the City Council to better represent the augmented population, which has surpassed 2.1 million people, according to some estimates.

Houston Police Chief Harold L. Hurtt is pushing to hire 400 additional officers to deal with the city’s evacuee-fueled crime wave.
In the meantime, police officers are routinely working overtime shifts to increase patrols on the city’s most dangerous streets.
“We’ve had some out-and-out criminals coming over here” from New Orleans, said Capt. Dale Brown, who heads the Houston Police Department’s homicide division. “Most evacuees are clearly law abiding. But there is no getting around the fact that some of these people were committing violent crimes in Louisiana, and they are committing them here.”

Homicides involving Katrina evacuees continue to be common. Earlier this month, for example, Rolando Rivas, 64, was plunking quarters into a self-service car wash early in the morning when four young men pulled a pistol on him and demanded his money. He resisted, and was fatally shot. Police later found the murder weapon on a 16-year-old near the same car wash. The gun had been stolen in New Orleans. Three teenage evacuees from New Orleans have been arrested.

This year through Aug. 14, there have been 252 homicides in Houston, including 56 that involved Katrina evacuees. At the same point last year, there had been 194 homicides.

Police officials said they have not seen increases in all crimes, but robberies, assaults, and other violent offenses have gone up since evacuees boosted the city’s population.

Many of the neighborhoods where evacuees wound up were already plagued by crime, police said, and the added presence of gangs from New Orleans housing projects, with long-standing beefs against one another, has only worsened tensions.
“It took them a couple of months to figure out the town,” Houston police spokesman John Cannon said of the Crescent City gangs. “But once they figured out where their enemies were hanging out, that’s when we saw the spikes.”

While Houston struggles to assimilate the thousands of evacuees, New Orleans is realizing that it must persuade its people to come back if it has any chance of rebuilding into a major American city.

Many evacuees say they would love to return to New Orleans, but cannot imagine taking their families back to a moldering city where crime is out of control and affordable housing is hard to find.

Trying to challenge that perception, New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin will visit Houston on Tuesday to make a pitch to evacuees that it is safe to come home. He is also visiting other cities around the country with large populations of New Orleans expatriates.
But for a growing number of evacuee families, such pleas come too late: New Orleans is already in their past.

“We were not planning to stay, but there were no facilities for us to go back to in New Orleans. It just wasn’t possible,” said Nathan Thomas, 59, a former New Orleans art teacher who recently moved into a new house with help from Habitat for Humanity and Oprah Winfrey, who has helped build and furnish 65 homes here. “We have gone back since, and the place is just uninhabitable.”

Thomas has not yet found a job, but his wife, Esther, a former 911 dispatcher, is training for a similar position with the Houston police, and he is optimistic that there are opportunities for him in the nation’s fourth-largest city. His three children and 10 grandchildren are all settled in Texas now, as are many of his friends and relatives from the New Orleans East neighborhood.

“Everyone is moving here,” said Thomas, who is taking care of his 3-year-old grandson, Jamal. “Even though you do have some housing in New Orleans, the cost has skyrocketed. An apartment that used to cost $520 a month now costs over $1,000.”

Louisiana is counting on The Road Home, a $7.5 billion housing aid program for victims of Katrina and Rita, to bring back evacuees. But nearly a year after the storms, not a single dollar has been sent to the more than 100,000 families that applied for the assistance.

The grants include up to $150,000 to help homeowners rebuild. It could be at least another year before the money, which was approved by the federal government only about a month ago, is all disbursed.

“We are going to work hard to give as many people as possible the option to go home,” said Michael Byrne, the program’s director. “We know we have a lot to overcome—this community was devastated—but we want to win people’s faith back.”

For some business leaders in Houston, particularly in the southwest neighborhoods where most evacuees live, compassion is giving way to concern that crime is only going to get worse when federal housing assistance ends.

Mandy Kao, who owns more than 1,000 apartment units with her husband, is spending an average of $1,000 to repair apartments after evacuees move out—money that is not refunded by federal subsidies. Their property firm has been sued by evacuee tenants who moved out of apartments without giving notice, then claimed they left Rolex watches and other expensive possessions behind.

But Kao, 37, has not been discouraged and has been credited by grass-roots groups with helping evacuees restart their lives. For example, she is considering starting a child care center in one of her apartment buildings so evacuees, many of them single mothers, could go to work. Unless others step up to help, she said, she worries that the future for southwest Houston will be dire.

“If we drop the ball, and fail to help these people get back on their feet again—I don’t even want to think about what might happen,” Kao said.
“Unfortunately, things are already deteriorating.”
Storm diaspora
Location and number of storm evacuees are ever-changing, and different government sources have different totals. Here, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, are the top 10 metropolitan areas for Katrina-Rita relief applicants as of Aug. 10:

Metro area Applicants
1. New Orleans-Metairie-Kenner, La. 394,359
2. Houston-Baytown-Sugar Land, Texas 314,045
3. Baton Rouge, La. 177,286
4. Beaumont-Port Arthur, Texas 132,741
5. Gulfport-Biloxi, Miss. 92,800
6. Mobile, Ala. 84,481
7. Jackson, Miss. 82,919
8. Lake Charles, La. 75,693
9. Houma-Bayou Cane-Thibodaux, La. 67,290
10. Pascagoula, Miss. 59,101
Source: FEMA. Graphics reporting by Tom Reinken

Posted by Nuttshell on 08/25 at 02:14 PM
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Poor Still Stunned by Katrina; As Affluent Areas Rapidly Rebuild, the Lower Ninth Ward Stagnates

by Anna Badkhen
The San Francisco Chronicle
August 20, 2006

New Orleans

In a couple of months, no trace will remain of the floodwater that filled their living room a year ago, and Tom and Darlene Schnatz will move back into their stucco two-story house on oak-lined Canal Boulevard, in New Orleans’ upscale Lakeview district.

Troy Wilson will return to his house in New Orleans East even sooner, as will most of the families on his street, where construction workers are putting the finishing touches on houses restored after Hurricane Katrina flooded them with 6 feet of water. Ingrid Toruno and most of her neighbors in St. Bernard Parish, which was under 12 feet of water, also have almost rebuilt their homes.

But less than a mile west of Toruno’s nearly finished house, in the city’s poorest Lower Ninth Ward, which bore the brunt of Katrina’s devastation, no one is rebuilding the gutted frame of Albert Bass’ wooden home, or any houses around it.

“To think that it’s a year later and it still looks the same, it’s a nightmare,” said Bass, 45, an unemployed dental technician who has been trying to find resources to rebuild his family home since December.

In fact, little has changed in this almost entirely African American neighborhood. Twelve months after Hurricane Katrina flooded 80 percent of New Orleans, putrid mounds of moldy Sheetrock line the streets of warped houses, and most of the neighborhood’s evacuated residents remain in exile.

A white wooden house that had floated over the sidewalk last August still sits in the middle of the street. Water still gushes out of a broken pipe that burst in the hurricane. Reeds grow in an empty two-story house that has somehow wrapped itself around a squashed Chevrolet sedan. A yellow ring of dried sludge 8 feet off the ground marks the level of Katrina’s floodwater on the white stucco wall of another house. Underneath the sludge, someone has spray-painted on the wall: “Baghdad.”

The disparities between New Orleans’ rich and poor, which became quickly apparent when Katrina struck last Aug. 29, now define the recovery efforts in the city. The excruciatingly slow recovery of the Lower Ninth Ward is representative of the hurdles the poor face throughout New Orleans, in such districts as Treme and Bywater, which Katrina also inundated, and where recovery is equally hard to discern.

“People who have resources, either insurance or personal wealth, they are rebuilding,” said Danae Columbus, a spokeswoman for the New Orleans City Council. “People who didn’t have good insurance and are poor—they’re in a box.”

Katrina destroyed or severely damaged approximately 125,000 properties in New Orleans. Since last September, the city has issued 70,000 building permits to residents seeking to rebuild. But the city’s reconstruction plan requires that neighborhoods manage their own rebuilding—an arrangement that local officials acknowledge is working better in some neighborhoods than others.

In the middle-class districts of Broadmoor, Lakeview and Eastover, the thumping of pneumatic nail guns and the buzzing of saws fill the air. Residents, who have been living in trailers set up by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, are rebuilding their homes, community groups are devising blueprints for neighborhood revival, and local leaders are lobbying for state and city resources such as garbage cleanup.

“I think most of New Orleans is gonna come out stronger, it’s gonna come out much better than before the storm,” said Toruno, a 54-year-old housewife. “Everybody’s coming back, everybody’s doing something.”

But the few residents of the Lower Ninth Ward who remained here or have returned don’t feel that way. There is nightmarish garbage, in which thousands of rats scurry after sundown. Of about 6,000 families who lived in the Lower Ninth Ward before the hurricane, fewer than 200 have returned. The occasional groan of a house demolition interrupts the pall of silence hanging over the once-bustling neighborhood.

“A lot of people haven’t even been back to see their homes,” said Matt Sabin, a volunteer from San Francisco who is working with the grassroots organization Common Ground to help Lower Ninth Ward residents return and rebuild their homes.

Returning is crucial to reconstruction. But most of the neighborhood’s residents who were evacuated to other towns and states in the wake of Katrina do not have the means to return, residents and experts say. According to the estimates published by the Washington-based Brookings Institution this month, only 181,000 people now live in the city, well below the pre-Katrina population of 463,000.

Federal and state programs to assist homeowners with rebuilding have been slow to launch and have yet to give out money. Most residents who are rebuilding are using the money they received from their insurance companies. Last week, the Louisiana Recovery Authority began interviewing some of the 100,000 New Orleans residents who had applied for grants to rebuild, Columbus said.

“None of the rebuilding activity is gonna be as a result of government intervention at this point,” said Judson Mitchell, an attorney at the Law Clinic at Loyola University School of Law, which helps the city’s poorest residents. “It’s all grassroots, all residents rebuilding themselves.”

But few in the Lower Ninth Ward, where the median household income before the hurricane was $19,000 a year, had flood insurance or savings they could use to rebuild.

“Lower Ninth Ward residents have less access to resources, and it’s harder for them to come back,” Mitchell said.

Wilson, of New Orleans East, was more fortunate. He returned from evacuation in Houston in March to assess the hurricane damage to his three-bedroom house. He filed an insurance claim, got the money soon after he returned, and used it to pay off the mortgage and rebuild.

“I was really lucky with flood insurance,” said Wilson, 46, who installs indoor sprinklers for a living.

The Schnatzes of Lakeview, who had been evacuated to Beaumont, Texas, also are using insurance money to pay for repairs. Toruno, who is still waiting for her insurance money, is using her savings to pay for the renovations.

Some in the Lower Ninth Ward, on the other hand, say it may be better to build a new life wherever they were evacuated than try to return to their dilapidated neighborhood.

“I don’t even know if I can commit to a job here,” said Ernest Dorsey, a heavy equipment operator who was evacuated from the Lower Ninth Ward to the suburbs of Gulfport, Miss. Dorsey, who was visiting relatives in New Orleans last week , said he is considering staying there. His relatives, Joe and Denise Bienemy, live in a FEMA trailer next to the remnants of their mold-ridden house, which Joe Bienemy is trying to rebuild by himself.

“If I get here, get a job and they tell me I have to bulldoze the house—that’s ridiculous,” Dorsey said.

Even in better-off neighborhoods not everything is going smoothly. Fewer than half of New Orleans public schools are expected to reopen by September. Only three of 11 hospitals are operating.  Water pressure is low, and the city’s damaged plumbing system hemorrhages 85 million gallons of water a day. Streetlights don’t work in some neighborhoods; it is hard to find a working gas station.

“There’s very little in way of services,” said Schnatz, 63, a retired engineer who spends most of his afternoons sitting on a plastic chair and sipping sodas with his wife, Darlene, on the tiled porch of their Canal Boulevard house. The Home Depot in St. Bernard Parish is not fully stocked, and Toruno has to travel across New Orleans to buy essentials for her house.

Such problems are magnified in the Lower Ninth Ward.

Charity Hospital, which served the district, is closed. No restaurants, banks, well-stocked supermarkets or doctors’ offices have reopened in the district since the hurricane. To get across town to shop, eat or get medical attention is made harder by the fact that few here own a working automobile and just half of the city’s 46 bus routes are operating.

Power has been restored in most of the city, but in the Lower Ninth entire blocks are still without gas or electricity.

Bass, who applied for a trailer from FEMA in January, is still waiting. He sleeps under a mosquito net in his house, on a mattress in what once was his kitchen. He lights candles, and inchlong cockroaches skitter away from the light, clicking on the wooden floors. During the day, he helps at the Common Ground center five blocks away, cooking and lending tools to the few residents who are rebuilding. He cherishes the only two possessions that survived the hurricane: his dentistry kit and a large, wooden carving that depicts Don Quixote on horseback.

“Do you know the story of Don Quixote?” Bass asked. “I dream of this neighborhood coming back. I wanna see crews getting in and rebuilding.”

Posted by Nuttshell on 08/25 at 12:35 PM
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Thursday, August 24, 2006

Businessman and Entrepreneur

Here are two of the brothers in front of the Building supplies store that one brother owns.  They have a good little racket going on.  One brother builds houses and the other brother sells materials for home construction.  This negative had lots of scratches on it so I caution you not to peer too deeply at the quality else you may find lots of post processing.

Cement Store

Posted by SPN on 08/24 at 01:43 PM
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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Mother Nuttall

My cousin’s mother sitting easy.

Mother Nuttall

Posted by SPN on 08/22 at 01:15 PM
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Sunday, August 20, 2006

Japanese Cemetary

During my 2002 trip to Japan, I took time out to visit some interesting places.  This photo taken in a cemetary shows how crowded the cemetaries are.  Since the country is so crowded, all space is at a premium.  Most of the small parks I visited had an area inside of it that was dedicated for burials and worship.


Posted by SPN on 08/20 at 12:46 PM
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Friday, August 18, 2006

We were nearly attacked on our way to Nazca Peru.

On our way towards Nazca, Peru, there were demonstrations by one of the major labor organizations.  These demonstrations forced our bus and the busses of other major carriers to pull off of the road and await the dispersion of the massed crowds.  While we waited we enjoyed some local music and the delicious “Trucha con Arroz”.

Journal entries from Peru

Riot Police

Posted by SPN on 08/18 at 09:45 AM
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Thursday, August 17, 2006

Happy Reefer Day

One hour after sunset TODAY in the Caribbean, there will be mass coral spawning.

Participating in a night dive over a coral reef during the height of the summer is an ideal way to spend an evening during one of the hottest months of the year. But once a year, for a very brief period of time, the coral reefs of the Caribbean become truly magical. On the eighth day following August’s full moon, many species of coral will spawn. Very few people have witnessed this phenomenon, which was only discovered in 1982 on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Paul Humaan, a renowned underwater photographer, describes a spawning experience off Key Largo as “ upside-down snow storm of iridescent orange, white and red egg sacs and sperm floating towards the surface for a chance rendezvous.”

Since this discovery, coral researchers have been able to document that most of the large, reef-building, boulder corals use this strategy of precise, simultaneous release of sperm and eggs. Although corals reproduce by many other means, mass spawnings are probably the most unusual and certainly the most exciting method to observe. Biologists believe that corals have developed this cooperative approach for a number of reasons. A mass-spawning event allows all of the colonies of one species to mix genetically, maximizing the chances for fertilization. Although many fish take advantage of the spawning event to feed unmercifully on the released sperm and eggs, there is such an immense amount of food available during a spawning event that it is believed the predators become overwhelmed with more food than they could ever consume.

No one really understands what factors contribute to triggering a spawning event or how corals synchronize to spawn all at the same time. Moon phase is undoubtedly an important influence because spawning events can be effectively predicted from closely observing the various phases of the moon. Scientists also believe that water temperature, tidal fluctuations, and length of the daylight period may contribute to corals spawning on cue.

Most of the corals that reproduce by mass spawning are hermaphrodites, meaning they have sperm and egg in each individual polyp. When a hermaphroditic coral begins to spawn, each polyp will release both sperm and egg in a bundle that resembles a BB or a small seed. Once this fragile bundle is released, it floats free, slowly traveling towards the surface. Upon reaching the surface, it easily ruptures and breaks apart, hopefully joining a genetic mix with adjacent corals. Although hermaphroditic corals are the most numerically abundant among mass-spawning corals, there are some mass spawners that are gonochoric. Unlike their hermaphroditic cousins, gonochoric corals will release either sperm or eggs, but not both. Gonochoric corals must depend on a neighboring colony of the opposite sex to complete the fertilization process.

Coral colonies sustain some losses every year, either from natural causes or the activities of humans or both. Natural causes can be hurricanes; periods of extreme water temperatures, either unusually warm or unusually cold; algal blooms; and the feeding activities of other reef-dwelling animals. There are many human activities that influence the health of coral reefs, including coastal runoff that affects water quality, damage from anchors, and vessel groundings. Spawning, fertilization, and settlement of the coral polyps must all be successful to offset the losses and maintain the reefs.

Although a spawning period may last for only a few hours each year, the event is critically important to the viability of coral reefs around the world. Future generations of corals are dependent on the success of these spawning events. Tens, or, perhaps, hundreds of years ago, the large parent corals also began life somewhere in warm ocean waters under the light of a setting August moon. Their legacy will be found gently floating to the surface each summer, in a cloud of eggs and sperm, with the potential to become the reefs of tomorrow.

By David Eaken at the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute.

Posted by Nuttshell on 08/17 at 03:36 PM
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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Mamadou loves his football at the arena in Rufisque, Senegal 1997.

Mamadou watches the football action in this photo from 1997.  You may be able to see my trusty leather backpack hanging from the fence.  I believe that my mother has since claimed that bag as her own.

Senegalese Football in Rufisque Senegal

Posted by SPN on 08/16 at 10:12 AM
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Monday, August 14, 2006

The children, they love me!

For whatever reason, the kids seemed to really enjoy my presence.  Marietou even starte to tolerate my odd appearance after 12 days in her house.  One can see that she allowed herself to be held by me in this photo.

Senegalese kids and me

Posted by SPN on 08/14 at 10:08 AM
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