COMMENT: Nature's payback for US environmental pollution and wars of terror? FEMA and Homeland security inept and useless. An ominous warning for Americans regarding Bush and the neo-cons.

Katrina may be strongest hurricane ever seen in Gulf
NZ Herald  28.08.05 1.00pm
Hurricane Katrina gathered force in the warm turbulence of the Gulf of Mexico yesterday after wreaking devastation across southern Florida, and was expected to rebound on the battered state possibly as soon as tomorrow... Alarmed residents who have had barely time to clear up damage inflicted by Hurricane Dennis last month, or Hurricane Ivan last September, were braced this weekend for further destructive tornados, deluges and fierce winds...
Ending a week of extreme weather worldwide, the storm was expected to swing northwards on a course heading somewhere between the southern Florida panhandle and the Louisiana coast. In the line of attack are the city of New Orleans, and oil and gas installations. Some oil drilling platforms in the Gulf of Mexico have already been evacuated.
Florida has been pummelled by six powerful hurricanes since last August, in what forecasters describe as an "unusually active season". Environmental campaigners say the turbulence is a product of global warming disrupting world weather patterns. Katrina is the 11th storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, which began on 1 June. That is seven more than are usually whipped up by this stage of the season in the Atlantic, Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, the US's National Hurricane Centre said. The season ends on 30 November. [...]
Hundreds feared dead after Hurricane Katrina
NZ Herald 31.08.05 7.10pm
NEW ORLEANS - Army engineers raced to staunch rising floodwaters submerging historic New Orleans as helicopters plucked frantic survivors from rooftops and hundreds were feared dead after Hurricane Katrina tore across the US Gulf Coast... Rescuers struggled through high water and mountains of debris to reach areas crushed by Katrina when it struck the Gulf Coast on Monday. The storm inflicted catastrophic damage as it slammed into Louisiana with 224 km/h winds, then raged into Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee... Most of the deaths appear to have been caused by the storm surge, which swept as far as a mile inland in parts of Mississippi...
Before striking the Gulf Coast, Katrina last week hit southern Florida and killed seven people. It knocked out electricity to about 2.3 million customers, or nearly 5 million people, in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, utility companies said. Restoring power could take weeks, they warned. The storm swept through oil and gas fields in the Gulf of Mexico, source of 20 per cent to 25 per cent of US production of the commodities. US oil prices on Tuesday jumped US$3.65 a barrel to peak at US$70.85 as oil firms assessed damage...

New Orleans chaotic, residents sent to Texas
NZ Herald 01.09.05
NEW ORLEANS - About 23,000 refugees stuck at the New Orleans Superdome arena after Hurricane Katrina flooded the city will be evacuated to Houston under plans announced on Wednesday, as looters and high water sowed chaos. A fleet of buses was to begin ferrying some 23,000 refugees from the storm-battered Superdome to shelter in the Houston Astrodome 550km away.
In New Orleans, engineers tried to plug a leaking levee that allowed lake water to flood into the city after Katrina struck the US Gulf Coast. Stranded people were running out of food and water and growing desperate as authorities sought ways to get them out... President George W. Bush cut short his vacation in Crawford, Texas, to return to Washington, where the administration was putting together an aid package for recovery and cleanup. Air Force One dipped low enough for the president to view the destruction as the plane flew over stricken areas. The Bush administration said it would release oil from a strategic reserve to offset losses in the Gulf of Mexico, where the storm had shut down production, and it relaxed anti-pollution fuel standards with an aim towards making more petrol and diesel available. US crude-oil prices eased below $70 per barrel, but analysts said they expected retail petrol prices to vault well over $3 a gallon in most parts of the country as early as this weekend. [...]

Hurricane to whip up cost of insurance
NZ Herald  01.09.05
Local businesses and homeowners are facing the prospect of insurance premium increases to help cover the enormous clean-up bill for Hurricane Katrina which has ravaged the United States gulf states. It is estimated the insurance losses from Katrina, whose casualties could be in the hundreds and which drove tens of thousands of people from their homes as it swept across Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, will be as high as US$26 billion ($37.7 billion)... Insurance companies will pass much of the cost of their payouts to the large global reinsurance businesses which also back policies written elsewhere, including New Zealand. Reinsurers raised their charges to New Zealand insurers by large amounts in the months after the September 11 attacks as they sought to cover their share of the US$70 billion insurance bill...  Meanwhile, the economic consequences of Katrina will likely be felt in even higher petrol prices as oil scrambled back towards fresh highs above US$70 yesterday. Dealers feared a sharp squeeze on fuel supplies after the storm shut down more than a tenth of the US's refining capacity and a quarter of its oil production. Analysts fear more storms could herald a surge in crude prices towards US$80 a barrel.[...]

Another Terrible Casualty of the Iraq War - How New Orleans was Lost
  September 1, 2005
Chalk up the city of New Orleans as a cost of Bush's Iraq war. There were not enough helicopters to repair the breeched levees and rescue people trapped by rising water. Nor are there enough Louisiana National Guards available to help with rescue efforts and to patrol against looting. The situation is the same in Mississippi. The National Guard and helicopters are off on a fools mission in Iraq. The National Guard is in Iraq because fanatical neoconsevatives in the Bush administration were determined to invade the Middle East and because the incompetent Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld refused to listen to the generals, who told him there were not enough regular troops available to do the job. After the invasion, the arrogant Rumsfeld found out that the generals were right... Distracted by its phony war on terrorism, the US government had made no preparations in the event Hurricane Katarina brought catastrophe to New Orleans. No contingency plan existed...  Even worse, articles in the New Orleans Times-Picayune and public statements by emergency management chiefs in New Orleans make it clear that the Bush administration slashed the funding for the Corp of Engineers' projects to strengthen and raise the New Orleans levees and diverted the money to the Iraq war... How can the Bush administration be so incompetent as to expose Americans at home to dire risks by exhausting American resources in foolish foreign adventures? What kind of "homeland security" is this? All Bush has achieved by invading Iraq is to kill and wound thousands of people while destroying America's reputation. The only beneficiaries are oil companies [...]
Paul Craig Roberts has held a number of academic appointments and has contributed to numerous scholarly publications. He served as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. His graduate economics education was at the University of Virginia, the University of California at Berkeley, and Oxford University. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions. He can be reached at:
Storm brews around Bush leadership
NZ Herald  03.09.05
President George W. Bush is facing not only the fallout of Hurricane Katrina but also an intense political storm as relief experts, government officials and newspaper editorials criticise everything from disaster preparedness policies to his public entry into the growing crisis on the Gulf Coast...
Bush was on holiday at his Texas ranch when the Asian tsunami struck last year and was soon in the firing line for reacting slowly. This week he faced the same criticism - he spent Monday on a fund-raising tour of the American west, and was accused of failing to provide adequate leadership... The widespread destruction on the Gulf Coast and the havoc visited on petrol prices are bringing new questions about Bush's leadership and priorities, particularly his decisions to push for big tax cuts and pour billions of dollars into an increasingly unpopular war in Iraq...
The New York Times, in its editorial on Thursday, called Bush's statement after the hurricane "one of the worst speeches of his life"... Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, noting petrol prices were rocketing, said everyday Americans had made sacrifices while Bush's "pals in big oil" reaped record profits... Bush brushed off the charges and said this was no time for politics. [...]

Worldwatch  September 02, 2005
Worldwatch Projects Catastrophe Will Be Most Costly Weather-Related Disaster in History
Washington, D.C. –  The overwhelming human and financial impacts of Hurricane Katrina are powerful evidence that political and economic decisions made in the United States and other countries have failed to account for our dependence on a healthy resource base, according to an assessment released today by the Worldwatch Institute. Alteration of the Mississippi River and the destruction of wetlands at its mouth have left the area around New Orleans abnormally vulnerable to the forces of nature. According to many scientists, the early results of global warming—90 degree Fahrenheit water temperatures in the Gulf and rising sea levels—may have exacerbated the destructive power of Katrina.
The catastrophe now unfolding along the U.S. Gulf Coast is a wake-up call for decision makers around the globe,” says Worldwatch President Christopher Flavin. “If the world continues on its current course—massively altering the natural world and further increasing fossil fuel consumption—future generations may face a chain of disasters that make Katrina-scale catastrophes a common feature of life in the 21st century.”
“The appalling images from New Orleans demonstrate that the world’s richest country is not immune from the need to respect natural systems and to invest in their protection,” continued Flavin. [...]

Newspapers critical of Bush administration
NZ Herald 05.09.05
European and US newspapers have stepped up criticism of the Bush Administration for its slow response to the disaster.If the President and Congress pass "a few emergency measures and then fall back on their plans to enact more tax cuts, America will have to confront the fact that it is stuck with leaders who neither know, nor care, how to lead", said the New York Times.The Boston Globe said it was time for the US to renew the "war on poverty", noting that images of the disaster showed that the poor in New Orleans "were long overlooked". Liberation in Paris said Bush was presiding over an Administration in which both poverty and the anger of the dispossessed were increasing. The Daily Telegraph in London described New Orleans as "an American Pompeii caused by idiocy".

Anxious watch for new storms
The Australian 05sep05
KATRINA may seem like the last word in hurricanes, but there is a real possibility another major storm may hit New Orleans or other parts of the devastated 320km southern US coastline in the weeks to come...  "We're not even in the height of the hurricane season," said Susan Cutter, director of the University of South Carolina Hazards Research Laboratory. A forecast released on Saturday by meteorologists at Colorado State University predicts six more hurricanes by the time the season ends on November 30, three of them category-three or above. On average, about one major hurricane in three makes landfall in the US. The estimate for the height of the hurricane season is September 11-13...
There have been four hurricanes so far this year - Katrina, Irene, Emily and Dennis, a category-three storm that caused more than $US1 billion ($1.3 billion) in damage to the Florida panhandle in July. There have been nine tropical storms.
That puts this season's tropical cyclone activity to date above the average for an entire year, the Colorado State forecast noted. In a more normal year, there have been about a third of the annual allotment of hurricanes and tropical storms by this point in the season. [...]
Floods reaffirm ugly truth of racial divide
Sydney Morning Herald  September 6, 2005
THE waters flow in and the waters flow out, washing away all that once lay on the surface - and revealing what lies beneath. So it is with all floods in all places, but now it is the United States which stands exposed. And neither the US nor the world much likes what it sees. The first revelation was not spoken in words, but written in the faces of those left behind. TV viewers could not help but notice it, and Americans could not deny it. The women pleading for their lives in handwritten signs, the children clinging to tree branches, the prisoners herded onto a jail roof - they were overwhelmingly black. This will not be news to most Americans. They know that a racial divide still haunts their country, as it has from its founding. Race is America's fatal flaw, the weakness which so often brings it low...
Katrina has rammed home that message once more, with lacerating force. White Americans, who regarded New Orleans as a kind of playground, a place to enjoy the carnal pleasures, have learnt things about that city that they would probably have preferred not to know. They have discovered that it was mainly white folks who lived on the higher, safer ground, while poorer, black families had to huddle in the cheaper, low-lying housing - that race, in other words, determined who got hit. They have also learnt that 28 per cent of the people of New Orleans live in poverty and that 84 per cent of those are black. Or that some people in that city were so poor, they did not have the money to catch a bus out of town - that race, in other words, determined who got left behind. Most Americans want to believe that kind of inequality belongs in the past. But Katrina has shaken them from that delusion. [...]

Katrina rates as the costliest disaster
Sydney Morning Herald September 6, 2005
Total losses from Hurricane Katrina in the United States are likely to make it the costliest natural disaster ever, according to analysts. Consultancy firm Risk Management Solutions says the losses from flooding in New Orleans, wind damage, coastal surges, battered infrastructure and indirect economic effects could total more than $US100 billion ($131 billion).
Analysts also believe the crisis will prompt further increases in petrol prices. Oil refineries along the US's Gulf of Mexico coast and battered offshore oil and gas platforms were recovering slowly almost a week after Katrina devastated the largest energy hub in the world's top consumer of fuel... Chris Soffe, US president of Gleeds, a London chartered surveying firm, said it had been asked to assess damage on behalf of two major clients. "I suspect that $US100 billion is a bit light because the devastation down there and the amount of time it will take to get everything running is way more than the damage wreaked by the hurricanes in Florida last year, which are estimated to have cost $US27 billion to $US30 billion," he said. "The environmental effects are going to take a very long time to deal with. Everything will have to be decontaminated and the economic hit in terms of business interruption costs and loss of business is going to be enormous."
Bush feels anger over hurricane response
NZ Herald 08.09.05 
WASHINGTON - President George W. Bush's political agenda - indeed his very standing as his country's leader - is on the line as he launched an inquiry into the emergency operation and put himself in charge of it. Congress returned yesterday with anger and embarrassment at the botched response to Hurricane Katrina stretching across normal party divides on Capitol Hill...  Bush tried to distance himself from the blame game already in progress... Even so, the President faces an uphill climb at best... Even before the hurricane struck, his approval ratings had slumped to under 45 per cent, the lowest of his presidency. Polls show two-thirds of Americans believe the federal Government, which he heads, was at fault, both before and after Katrina... The debacle has made a mockery of claims that a new and efficient system had been put in place after the September 11 attacks to tackle national emergencies - of which a hurricane-provoked flood of New Orleans was near the top of every list... Republicans lined up to criticise the relief effort. "If our system did such a poor job when there was no enemy, how would the federal, state and local governments have coped with a terrorist attack that provided no advance warning and that was intent on causing as much death and destruction as possible?" said Senator Susan Collins, a Maine Republican who will lead an investigation by the Senate Homeland Security Committee. She called the Government's response to Hurricane Katrina "woefully inadequate". [...]
Bush administration 'negligent" over Katrina: Chinese press
AFP News Thu Sep 8, 3:07 AM ET
China's most important state-run newspaper has accused US President George W. Bush and his administration of "negligence of duty" in its response to the disaster wrought by Hurricane Katrina. People's Daily, the ruling Communist Party's mouthpiece, said there was no excuse for Bush's slow reaction to the unfolding tragedy. "For the Bush administration, 'unexpected' perhaps can be a lame excuse, but it can never explain away the government negligence of duty," it said in an opinion piece carried on its English language website Thursday. "As a matter of fact, ever since 'September 11', the Congress had cut anti-flood allocation to Louisiana, which later became a main reason for the slow rescue work this time,"... "In the face of the hurricane, Americans accepted the challenge but failed to beat it off. This is really a shame on the United States." [...]
Katrina bill to eclipse cost of 9/11 attacks
NZ Herald  09.09.05
Hurricane Katrina will be by far the costliest disaster in United States history, requiring US$150 billion to US$200 billion ($213 billion to $284 billion) in relief, clean-up and reconstruction spending by the federal Government, and causing the short-term loss of 400,000 jobs... In a first study, the authoritative Congressional Budget Office warned that the storm and its aftermath could lop up to 1 per cent off growth in the second half of 2005, which had been forecast at around 3.5 per cent. This implies lost output of around US$55 billion, based on a US gross domestic product of US$11 trillion - a "significant but not overwhelming impact", the report said. The office says the storm will cost 400,000 Americans their jobs but this could be offset when reconstruction work gets into full swing, boosting the southern economy in particular.
The financial ripples of Katrina will be massive... But now, with relief spending running at US$2 billion a day, those hopes will be dashed. Next year's deficit is likely to far exceed the US$341 billion predicted two months ago. The economic repercussions will spread even wider. Oil production in the Gulf, accounting for 25 per cent of US output, is now back up to 50 per cent of capacity, after being 98 per cent shut down by the storm, while politically sensitive petrol prices, after soaring to more than US$3 a gallon, will start to decline. In New Orleans alone, between 140,000 and 160,000 homes are uninhabitable and may have to be entirely rebuilt. The storm has created 90 million tonnes of solid waste and debris, some of it toxic. Other cities will require billions of reconstruction spending.

Buck stops at Bush
The Australian
... In private, Gingrich has been scathing about the Bush administration's handling of the war in Iraq and the Republican Congress's fiscal profligacy and sleaze. But he does put his finger on what you might call the three Cs dogging this administration in the wake of Hurricane Katrina - competence, cronyism and conservatism. What happened after Katrina hit - the complete failure of local, state and federal authorities to seize control of the situation... The issue is not how big government is, but how effective it is... Government in the US is bloated and broken at the same time. A true conservative would be cutting and prioritising it. George W. Bush isn't that person... And ultimately, he's the one responsible. He campaigned fundamentally on his ability to run the country in wartime, on emergency management, on protecting Americans from physical harm. That was his promise. It was swept away as the waters flooded New Orleans. [...]
Terrified cities flee Hurricane Rita
The Australian  23sep05
NEVER in its recorded history has the US seen a one-two punch as powerful as this: two massive hurricanes in the space of three weeks. As Hurricane Rita strengthened into a category-five 480km-wide monster storm yesterday and headed towards the Texas coast, more than a million people were forced to flee Houston and southern Texas. Rita was last night shifting to the northeast and projected to strike the Houston area over the next 48 hours, the US National Hurricane Centre said... The storm has grown into the third-most intense Atlantic hurricane on record as measured by internal pressure, the hurricane centre said. It said Rita was "a potentially catastrophic" category-five hurricane with maximum sustained winds rising to 280km/h over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. That matched the peak strength over water of Hurricane Katrina, which hit land and devastated New Orleans as a category-four storm with winds exceeding 240km/h... Financial markets reacted to news that Rita had gained strength, with the prospect of more oil-supply interruptions affecting everything from stocks, the dollar and oil prices.
Hurricane Wilma could be the worst
The Australian  20oct05
MIAMI: Hurricane Wilma intensified into an "extremely dangerous category five" yesterday as it barrelled its way north towards Mexico's Yucatan peninsula and storm-weary Florida. The US National Hurricane Centre reported that the 21st storm of the Atlantic season was shaping up to be the most powerful of the year, with winds of up to 281km/h... Fuelled by the warm waters of the northwest Caribbean Sea, Wilma has already triggered mudslides in Haiti that killed up to 10 people, and has been blamed for one death in Jamaica through flooding. Last night, it was heading for the Gulf of Mexico on a path that was expected to lead it to southern Florida by Saturday...
Wilma is the 21st tropical cyclone of the Atlantic hurricane season, tying the record for the most storms in a year set in 1933. It is also the 12th full-blown hurricane of the Atlantic season, a series that has left thousands dead in Central America and on the US Gulf Coast...  But in Florida, which has already been battered by hurricanes Dennis, Rita and Katrina this year, state Governor Jeb Bush - brother of US President George W.Bush - was downcast at the thought of a new hit. [...]
Katrina report slams Government
NZ Herald 17.02.06
WASHINGTON - The Bush Administration has been slammed for its handling of Hurricane Katrina in a scathing report into its "dismal" response to it from a Republican panel. The 520-page report blasted officials at all levels of government, from President George W. Bush down to community leaders in New Orleans, for failing to react to the calamity that left 1300 people dead on the Gulf Coast. The report said Homeland Security had a "blinding lack of situational awareness and disjointed decision making" that "needlessly compounded and prolonged Katrina's horrors". [...]