Archive for August, 2007

Why are they still missing after Hurricane Katrina?

August 18, 2007

I’ve said it before…Katrina didn’t discriminate.  The following report indicates that the poor and the elderly were primarily impacted.  No Kidding.  It took a team of  Doctors and their data to prove that?  All of the hubbub about race playing a role in the aftermath of the disaster infuriates me.   Katrina didn’t discriminate. FEMA wasn’t discriminatory.  It was the leadership at the parish and state level that failed – not just at the time, but has been failing for years.

The news lately about the Recovery School District in New Orleans is a typical example of failure.  Over 17,000 dollars are being given to teachers who decide to come to this district.  Yes, the teachers are needed. No, I don’t think they understand the problems with the New Orleans School Systems existed prior to Katrina.  22 million dollars, for example, went missing….Teachers who didn’t work in the district any longer were being paid!  The measley 17,000 dollars they are being offered is a nice incentive.  I’m just skeptical of the offer. They might be paying for it in the end.

Read further for the complete excerpt of the Katrina related deaths and how the statistics tell the true story of the poor and elderly in Louisiana.  What’s been said about the ICMP and identification of remains and review previous posts on the issue.

Findings On Katrina-Related New Orleans Mortality Data

“Dana Troxclair, MD, Instructor of Pathology at LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans, will present mortality data on Louisiana storm victims at a poster presentation at the 2007 Gulf Coast Post-Katrina Forum of the Gulf States Alliance on August 20, 2007 from 9:45 – 10:15 a.m., 2:45 – 3:15 p.m. and 4:30- 6:00 p.m. at the Beau Rivage Hotel in Biloxi, MS. The research team also included Drs. Robin McGoey, Gary Lipscomb, Richard Tracy, and William Newman, all of the Department of Pathology at LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans (LSUHSCNO). Drs. Troxclair, Tracy and Newman were among the LSUHSCNO forensic pathologists who performed autopsies on bodies found during rescue and recovery missions following Katrina.

LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans pathologists were responsible for performing more than 820 autopsies on recovered Louisiana victims and report that autopsy findings comprised the single most successful identification technique.

According to the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, 1,464 Louisiana residents perished as a result of Hurricane Katrina and the flooding resulting from failed levees. Of those, 910 victims were examined and identified at two Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team (DMORT) locations.

The LSUHSCNO pathologists were tasked with conducting post-mortem examinations for the primary purpose of identification of the dead. Examinations included field case notes, personal effects, fingerprints, dental, x-ray and autopsy findings, DNA, and anthropology. Nine hundred ten post-mortem files including more than 1,000 dental charts and 30,000+ images have been compiled and stored digitally. Pre-Katrina US Census data on Orleans Parish were analyzed for comparison.

Ninety-six percent of deaths were storm-related and 97% of individuals were positively identified. Twenty-eight percent were identified using autopsy findings-the technique that yielded the highest number of positive ids.

The latest mortality data found that 75% of victims were residents of Orleans parish with 64% older than 65 years of age. The racial distribution was: 56% African-American, 40% Caucasian, 4% Asian, 4% Native American, and 2% Hispanic. For comparison, the pre-storm published Census data concluded that only 12% of the Orleans parish population was older than 65 years of age with a racial distribution as follows: 68% African-American, 29% Caucasian, 3% Hispanic, 2% Asian, and 0.2% Native American. Twenty-six percent of families were below the national poverty line.

The researchers conclude that when final hurricane mortality data is compared to pre-storm Census data, the belief that the hurricane disproportionately destroyed any one race is not substantiated. In fact, deaths among Caucasian, Asian and Native Americans were all overrepresented; while the African-American and Hispanic populations were less impacted. Under appreciated is the fact that our elderly and poor populations, regardless of race, were the most devastated.

“We present that a lesson learned is about those left behind due to lack of physical or financial means,” notes Dr. Troxclair. “Furthermore, based on the remarkable success of the autopsy as a means of human identification, we emphasize its paramount importance as a component of a nation’s response to mass disasters. However, with 135 Louisiana residents still categorized as missing, and 23 human remains yet to be identified, the final impact of the storm remains uncertain.”

There is nothing in this story about the ICMP and the Louisiana Department of Health contracting with them to identify remains. There has been no email to date since the ICMP was questioned if they are still working on identification. Search ICMP on Louisiana Questions for more posts of this story.

From previous post…

Louisiana Questions if the ICMP is still in charge of making those identifications as declared by their 29 December 2005 news release. The news release can be found at the ICMP website. See: Beyond Katrina, ICMP , CNN , Associated Press,

Let nothing be forgotten in this place

Katrina victim’s memorial taken down.

RIP VERA

On Dean

“…Times like this, I can see that the post-traumatic stress disorder is far from post and more a way of life than a disorder.” — G – Bitch comments on Gentilly Girl

Ain’t DIS Fun? – posted by Craig Giesecke at 6:11 PM on August 17, 2007

“…That time of year again, when we pay more attention to what’s going on tropicalwise and try to prognoticate what the hell is going to happen. As a Gulf Coast resident for 25 years (and a Gulf State resident for nearly 50) it’s just part of What We Do.”

“…That said, it’s all just educated speculation for now. Do they take bets on this kinda thing over at Harrah’s?

Dean Expected To Reach The Gulf Wednesday As Category 4 Hurricane
Moreover Technologies – Louisiana news Aug 17 12:06
FortBendNow Aug 17 2007 2:41PM GMT

NOAA Dean

Is Louisiana Prepared if a Storm Comes Our Way?

More News from Humid City
Rising Tide II: Guest Post by Dangerblonde

Who cares for the welfare of the elderly of Louisiana?

August 11, 2007

Cheryl Martin, God Bless You!

Article(s) to read first:  Levees-Lawsuits and especially one from Victor Hull at St. Pete Beach, “Care facilities lack buses for evacuation”

“… Representatives from Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia and other states agreed. They also cited communicating after a disaster, when cell phones and land lines typically fail, and deciding when to call for evacuations as other major hurricane challenges facing nursing homes..”

Find Law for Corporate Counsel reported on Friday, August 10, 2007 concerning Lafon Nursing Home. It was the first article I’ve found on Lafon.

Katrina Suit Defendant Must Disclose Nursing Home Residents’ Info

By KEVIN MCVEIGH, ESQ., Andrews Publications Staff Writer
The owner of a New Orleans nursing home sued over the deaths of 22 residents during Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath must disclose the names and home addresses of all people who were living there when the storm hit, a federal judge has ruled.

U.S. District Judge Lance M. Africk ruled that disclosure of the residents’ identities does not violate Louisiana’s health care provider-patient privilege, because the information is necessary to determine whether the federal courts may continue to exercise jurisdiction over the class-action lawsuit against the Lafon Nursing Home of the Holy Family. Cheryl Martin, who filed the suit, said she will use the information to show that more than two-thirds of the surviving residents and victims’ families are Louisiana citizens, thus making the case a “local controversy” over which Judge Africk may decline jurisdiction under the federal Class Action Fairness Act.

Martin’s mother, Ida Antoine, was one of 22 residents who died at Lafon in the days following Katrina.

Lafon, a Roman Catholic facility run by the Sisters of the Holy Family in eastern New Orleans, housed 130 elderly residents in 81 rooms at the time of the hurricane, according to the Washington Post.

Martin filed suit July 20, 2006, in the Orleans Parish Civil District Court, seeking to represent a class consisting of all facility residents and visitors who suffered injury or died as a result of conditions at the home during and after Katrina.

She alleges that Lafon failed to evacuate the residents before the storm hit and disregarding warnings and the mandatory evacuation order New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin issued Aug. 27, 2005.

The storm hit two days later and cut the facility’s electrical power, which combined with the extreme heat to cause “unreasonably dangerous conditions” at the home, the suit says.

Lafon removed the case to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana in August 2006 based on the Class Action Fairness Act.

The 2005 law provides federal courts with original jurisdiction over all class actions in which the amount in controversy exceeds $5 million and at least one class member lives in a different state from the defendant.

Martin asked the court to return the case to the Louisiana state court, citing the law’s “local controversy” exception.

In January Judge Africk refused to remand the case, ruling that Martin had failed to provide any evidence that two-thirds of the proposed class members are Louisiana citizens, as required by the exception.

However, he said Martin could refile her motion once she conducted discovery of the class members’ domicile.

Martin served Lafon with discovery requests seeking the identities and addresses of all potential class members. Lafon responded that the information was privileged.

In May Magistrate Judge Karen Wells Roby ordered an alternative to discovery under which Lafon will submit names, addresses and next-of-kin information to the court, and the court will send questionnaires to potential class members.

The court will then review the results to determine the class members’ domicile.

Lafon filed a motion to set aside the order, arguing that Judge Roby refused to apply Louisiana’s health care provider-patient privilege, which expressly prohibits the disclosure of the private information of patients not involved in the litigation.

Lafon argued that the state privilege is applicable since the case involves only state law negligence claims.

Judge Africk agreed that the magistrate erred by not applying the state health care provider-patient privilege. However, he said the state privilege does not bar discovery of medical records in cases where courts determine that the interests of justice are served by the records’ release.

Any exception to the privilege should be narrowly tailored and should extend only to necessary and relevant information, the judge said.

He found that disclosure of residents’ identifying information is necessary to determine the jurisdiction issue and for Martin to fulfill her duties as lead plaintiff by notifying all potential class members.

“Releasing this information presents a de minimis intrusion into the patients’ privacy, which is offset by the potential benefit that plaintiff’s lawsuit may provide,” Judge Africk wrote.

To comment, ask questions or contribute articles, contact West.Andrews.Editor@Thomson.com.


Martin et al. v. Lafon Nursing Facility of the Holy Family Inc., No. 06-5108, 2007 WL 2228633 (E.D. La. July 31, 2007).
Nursing Home Litigation Reporter
Volume 10, Issue 04
08/10/2007
Copyright 2007
West, a Thomson business. All Rights Reserved.

See Also: Martin et al. v. Lafon Nursing Facility of the Holy Family Inc., No. 06-5108, 2007 WL 2228633 (E.D. La. July 31, 2007).
Nursing Home Litigation Reporter
Volume 10, Issue 04
08/10/2007
http://west.thomson.com/product/40211158/product.asp

The Fight Moves Forward!

And from Atlanta Daily Report there is news about St. Rita’s.

Monday, August 13, 2007
Couple faces trial in wake of Katrina
Nursing home owners accused of negligent homicide, cruelty to elderly after flooding leaves residents dead

TWO YEARS AFTER Hurricane Katrina killed more than 1,400 people, the only individuals charged with any of those deaths will go on trial Monday.

Salvador and Mabel Mangano, owners of St. Rita’s Nursing Home in St. Bernard Parish, where flood waters left the dead amid mud and wheelchairs, are accused of 35 counts of negligent homicide and 24 counts of cruelty to the elderly or infirm.

The combined maximum sentence for each defendant would be 415 years in prison. The trial is expected to last at least three weeks.

The trial was moved to St. Francisville, about 100 miles northwest of New Orleans. Prosecutors, defense lawyers and state District Judge Jerome Winsberg agreed that assembling a jury would be difficult in St. Bernard. The New Orleans suburb was devastated when Katrina struck Aug. 29, 2005 and its population has been slow to return. Only six jurors are required but their verdict must be unanimous.

Prosecutors charge the Manganos’ refusal to evacuate St. Rita’s residents before the storm was a criminal act.

A mandatory evacuation order was issued the day before Katrina hit. Forecasters had predicted a 21-foot storm surge would hit St. Bernard. Of five nursing homes in the parish, only St. Rita’s was not evacuated.

St. Rita’s has been closed since Katrina and the Manganos say they have no plan to reopen the nursing home.

Speaking before Winsberg imposed a gag order, Jim Cobb, lawyer for the Manganos, said state law did not require nursing homes to comply with mandatory evacuation orders. A report compiled by the Louisiana Nursing Home Association, a trade group, showed 36 of 57 nursing homes in the New Orleans area were not evacuated as Katrina approached.

St. Rita’s was built 20 years ago, and the location had not flooded since. However, during that period no hurricane even close to Katrina’s strength had made landfall in the parish, which is ringed by waterways connected to the Gulf of Mexico.

The Manganos say the area didn’t even flood when Hurricane Betsy struck in 1965.

That history, they say, was the basis for their decision to ride out Katrina in the one-story building rather than evacuate, Cobb said.

“We’re talking frail people, people with special needs, people who would be at risk during an evacuation,” Cobb said. “The Manganos thought they were saving lives by sheltering in place.”

The couple, in their 60s, was so certain St. Rita’s was safe that they invited relatives, staffers and others to shelter there. About 30 people, including the Mangano’s children, accepted the offer, the Manganos say.

As the storm subsided, it appeared St. Rita’s was safe—the roof was tight, the parking lot was dry. But broken levees soon brought a torrent of water that over a 20-minute period flooded the building almost to the ceiling.

The Manganos and staff managed to rescue about 28 patients, floating some out windows to save them. Other rescuers arrived later that day but the bodies remained in the building for up to 10 days. No one other than patients died at St. Rita’s.

The defense contends that because of government negligence, including faulty levees that broke during Katrina, the Manganos could not have known about the potential for flooding in advance.

Among the witnesses defense attorneys have subpoenaed are Gov. Kathleen Blanco and Lt. Gen. Carl Strock, head of the Army Corps of Engineers, which was responsible for the levees. Strock has since retired.

The defense wants Strock to repeat his statement at a news conference in June 2006 that defective levee design was the corps’ fault and caused most of the flooding. The federal government is fighting his subpoena.

Blanco and other public officials failed to organize an effective evacuation and help transport “at risk” people to high ground as required by state law, according to the defense.

In court filings, defense lawyers say responsibility for the tragedy can’t be determined “without evidence that the state and local authorities failed their duties.”

The Manganos sued the government this summer, saying federal, state and local officials failed to keep residents safe and evacuate vulnerable citizens as the storm approached. If the levees had not failed, they claim, the St. Rita’s residents would have been safe.

More than 30 lawsuits have been filed against the couple by patients injured at the nursing home and the families of people who died there.

The only other criminal charges connected to Katrina deaths are against six former or current New Orleans police officers who face murder or attempted murder charges from a shooting after the storm. But the is not tied to flooding or direct impact of Katrina.

At least 34 people died at Memorial Medical Center in Uptown New Orleans after the hurricane, but three women arrested by the attorney general’s office will not stand trial. A grand jury refused to indict Dr. Anna Pou. Charges against nurses Lori Budo and Cheri Landry were dropped.

Twenty-two people died at Lafon Nursing Home, a facility run by nuns of the Holy Family order in eastern New Orleans. Residents were moved to the second floor as flooding began, but the home lost electricity. Rescuers did not arrive at Lafon until Sept. 1 amid a heat wave that had gripped the city.

Attorney General Charles Foti investigated the deaths at Memorial Medical Center, St. Rita’s and LaFon. The results of the LaFon investigation were turned over to the New Orleans district attorney a year ago but no action has been taken. A spokesman for District Attorney Eddie Jordan said the case remains under investigation.

Why would I buy all that if I wasn’t fixing it?

August 9, 2007

I understood that New Orleans and Louisiana, in general, had affordable housing issues prior to Katrina. Unsightly housing, or blighted housing has affected many in Louisiana. I’ve seen the old barge board, shot gun homes that people are actually living in today. I’ve walked through them before they were scheduled to be demolished. I’ve seen these places all over Louisiana. People need a place to call home, a place to live, and work, and rear their children. Regardless, of the substandard housing…they pay their rent and work and play like everyone else. Sure they complain to the landlords about the structural problems of their home. All of these landlords have one excuse or another as to why they never fixed the leaky roof, the plumbing, or the stove. The rent was cheap and so possibly some tenants did not complain. They were thankful for a place to live. The issues in New Orleans post Katrina are not new, unfortunately. It appears, as far as affordable housing is concerned, that they were only, and I use that term loosely and with sarcastic undertones, exacerbated after the disaster.

Some parishes, cities, or towns, have housing inspectors and some do not. Not everyone affected by Katrina lived in either Baton Rouge or New Orleans. It is an overlooked and under-exploited fact. Most of the inspection issues are applied both at the town, city, or parish level and require little else but an ordinance and the staff to conduct the inspections. Of course, the fees for the inspections are likely the responsibility of landowners. Inspections are just another financial issue for the homeowner/ landlord to deal with that they may not be able to afford.

The post office in the year since Katrina (now two years) had issues in delivering mail to the appropriate person(s) due to the mail forwarding time limits, names, families, etc. For those of you familiar with the postal services’ rules and regulations with regards to forwarding – you understand. I’ve sent letters off in the mail to Katrina damaged neighborhoods only to find the letter back inside my mailbox several weeks to a month later. I’ve had to call local Post Masters in order to verify addresses and tell them how silly they are being, all the while knowing that these people still live at the address I’ve listed, but I have received the letter stamped, “forward expired”.

The WAFB article dated June 2007 states that the city of Baton Rouge gave her six months in order to respond. The article was written in June, and said that the woman was given notice in August of 2006. The home was not damaged by Katrina according to the article, but was damaged by a fire after Katrina in the summer of 2006. The journalist was quick to point out that the original owner of the home, was dead, but did not go into detail. Assuming that the daughter kept her maiden name, which is a large assumption, there are a number of “Davis'” on the Katrina Victim list.

Did the journalist provide pertinent and adequate detail? “Woman Upset the City of Baton Rouge Bulldozed Her Home”.

Bill Crider’s Pop Culture Magazine points out, “We’re here from the government, we’re here to help you.” August 6, 2007 A story from the Ninth Ward’s Jason Banks on KSAT San Antonio, Texas news online.

No One Knows Why Family’s Home Torn Down – Local News Story – KSAT San Antonio: “NEW ORLEANS — Jason Banks got his trash hauled away, obtained a building permit, gutted his Ninth Ward home and was ready to renovate.

But then, the brick house vanished, reduced to a slab in an unwanted demolition.

‘I was heartbroken. I was in tears. I was furious,’ he said.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said orders to tear down the house came from City Hall — but no one in City Hall is answering questions about Banks’ home.

‘They don’t know why. It happened it wasn’t on the blighted list. The last call I made yesterday, they told me FEMA did it. Then, a guy called me back from FEMA and said they’re not in the business if tearing down homes,’ Banks said.

Jason Banks said he kept his grass cut, paid his taxes and had the home appraised at $147,000. He was just waiting on money from Louisiana Road Home rebuilding program to make repairs to his house.”

And still more housing demolition articles gathered from The Truth Laid Bear.

Map with housing scheduled to be demolished in and around New Orleans. Disregard some misinformed, un-educated commentors who believe the map is a “propaganda” tool. The housing crisis before Katrina was too obvious to those who attempted to solve the problem. . . I wish it were all just propaganda! Internet maps are kewl and their display (ie linked icons – pins, circles, etc. ) oftentimes must be sized largely to create the internet link. Some of the comments here reflect extreme ignorance to both internet map making, and housing issues. Karen, listed below, also has a map of her photographed homes on the chopping block.

Still there are people who believe the housing crisis and issues in New Orleans are exclusive to the “African American” community. I have to give them credit for their media coverage, but I also have to interject that the short sighted focus on larger cities, and racial prejudice is getting into muddy water. Everyone deserves a place to call home – is my point exclusively. Others choose to make housing in New Orleans a racial issue. They can. It is their right. However wrong I feel about making this a racial issue, – the majority rules… and they are not home, yet.

Update: 11:25AM See also : Library Chronicles “It’s about G8d d*mmed time”

Wall Street Journal

Wall Street Journal – It’s on today’s front page – link views actual paper.

Various Flickr Groups Photos
New Orleans
BloggingNewOrleans
louisiana
New Orleans Recovery
Hurricane Katrina
Defend New Orleans
Hurricane Katrina Photos – Pool
Humid City

What’s in the news for da parishes 8/01/07?

August 1, 2007

The Daily Advertiser
Jul 31, 3:35 PM EDT

AG to judge: make lawyers for nursing home owners apologise

By MARY FOSTER
Associated Press Writer

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The Louisiana Attorney General wants a court-ordered apology from lawyers for the couple charged in the deaths of 35 nursing home residents after Hurricane Katrina. The lawyers want Foti ordered out of the case.

The judge should not just deny the motions filed for Salvador and Mabel Mangano, who own St. Rita’s nursing home, but make their lawyers apologize publicly, Foti’s office said in court motions. District Judge Jerome Winsberg was scheduled to rule on the motions Wednesday.

One of the Manganos’ motions asks that the attorney general’s $200 billion federal court claim against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers be made part of the court record in their case.

The other contends that because the suit against the Corps blames its faulty levees for the floods that inundated St. Rita’s, the rest of St. Bernard Parish and 80 percent of New Orleans, the charges against the Manganos are conflict of interest.

Foti contends those motions “are part of an ill-conceived and desperate attempt to thwart the jury process,” said a motion filed Monday in the 20th Judicial District Court in St. Francisville.

The attempt to make Foti step aside is pure public relations – an attempt to get their side of the story in the press, Assistant Attorney General Burton Guidry said.

He said the defense is also trying to create a red herring by accusing the attorney general personally and professionally of a conflict of interest, bringing politics into the case.

That “indicates the most frightening realization of how deep and broad the venom of public innuendo and baseless argument can be brought in a court proceeding,” he wrote.

If the court doesn’t make the Manganos’ lawyers apologize, it should penalize them in some way, he wrote.

The attorney general also filed motions to quash a subpoena for Gov. Kathleen Blanco and other state officials, including Foti.

Defense attorneys could not respond to the motion because of a gag order preventing any discussion of the case. They did, however, file motions in opposition to the attorney general’s Tuesday afternoon.

The Advocate
State: Nursing home case targeting Foti

By JAMES MINTON
Advocate Baker – Zachary bureau
Published: Aug 1, 2007 – Page: 1B

ST. FRANCISVILLE — Attempts to bar state Attorney General Charles C. Foti Jr. from prosecuting two St. Bernard Parish nursing home owners are but one more “chapter in the book of character assassination” against Foti, a state response to a defense motion says.

Retired Judge Jerome Winsberg is scheduled to hear arguments today on a request by attorneys for Salvador and Mabel Mangano to bar Foti and his office from prosecuting the case.

The judge should require the defense attorneys to “publicly apologize” for what the state prosecutors call baseless arguments for Foti’s removal, the memorandum signed by Assistant Attorney General Burton P. Guidry says.

The prosecutors also filed motions Monday to halt the defense’s move to have Gov. Kathleen Blanco, Foti and members of Blanco’s cabinet testify in the case.

The Manganos, owners of St. Rita’s nursing home, face 35 counts of negligent homicide in the deaths of residents trapped by flood waters that inundated the facility in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

The couple also faces 24 counts of cruelty to the infirm.

Their trial, moved to West Feliciana Parish, is scheduled for Aug. 13.

Winsberg has issued a gag order barring attorneys from commenting publicly about the case.

The couple’s attorneys contend Foti has a conflict of interest in prosecuting the case because he also is claiming in a federal lawsuit that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for the devastation that followed the Aug. 29, 2005, hurricane.

Foti’s reply calls the defense argument a “red herring” and says no conflict of interest exists in his office prosecuting criminal offenses while also representing the legal interests of various state agencies.

“Our courts have been clear in delineating that the normal rules of conflict for private counsel do not apply in the same manner when the Office of Attorney General is concerned,” the state’s filing says.

The state’s reply concludes the defense arguments are intended to obfuscate the legal issues and are “part and parcel of an orchestrated public relations campaign to transfer blame to anyone but the Manganos.”

In a separate motion to quash the subpoena for Blanco’s testimony, the Attorney General’s Office said issuing a subpoena for the governor violates state law because no hearing was held to determine the privileged nature of the testimony and the applicability of constitutional immunity provisions.

Blanco and other cabinet officials subpoenaed are not witnesses to the alleged crime and have no knowledge of the case, other than through media coverage, the motion says.
Hammond Daily Star Online – By Don Ellzey
Thursday, July 26, 2007 10:01 AM CDT
Ponchatoula’s 1st Habitat house

PONCHATOULA – The city’s first Habitat for Humanity house was dedicated Wednesday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony that included a large turnout by local and parish officials, Ginger Ford Habitat for Humanity representatives and the general public.

Under a broiling sun that had almost everyone sweating during the mid-morning ceremony, Rosie August was presented the key to her new home at 333 Cedar Lane.

Blair Edwards, executive director for the Hammond-based Ginger Ford Habitat for Humanity, said the mission of providing homes for people in need is a Christian ministry to change lives.

“It’s amazing how something as simple as picking up a hammer can change people’s lives,” Edwards said.

The family of Mayor Bob Zabbia donated the lot. Waste Management and Charter Communications were the project’s corporate sponsors.

August accumulated more than 1,000 hours of “sweat equity” working on this home and the homes of others. She will move into the gray frame house with her four children, Brittany, Alicia, Quinten and Terry. The house will allow them to leave behind a lifestyle of living with friends and family.

Among those recognized during the ceremony was the Ponchatoula High School Future Farmers of America Chapter. Edwards said chapter members helped build the house and will work with Master Gardeners of Tangipahoa Parish this year to landscape the lot.

The Junior Auxiliary of Hammond provided some clothing and furnishings.

Community support was a key to the success of the project, Edwards said.

Cars for Homes also helped, she said.

Marcia Rundle of Seattle, director of Habitat’s Cars for Homes program, said the organization gets donations of cars and other vehicles to raise money for the Habitat program. Rundle said a resident of a Northeastern state donated a power boat, the sale of which started the Ponchatoula house.

Hurricane Katrina was a “perfect storm” that caused much devastation and hardship, she said. After Katrina, the Habitat for Humanity program was a “perfect storm” of love that has resulted in such projects as the one in Ponchatoula.

“I wish you luck in moving forward with this ministry and the building of more homes,” Rundle said.

Zabbia said it was great to see the culmination of the project. Much effort from many people went into the construction.

He thanked his family for agreeing to the donation, and said he was looking forward to more such projects in the city.

Jim Laurent, director of government relations for Charter Communications, commended Edwards for her role in coordinating the project.

In closing the ceremony, Edwards commented on the “theology of the hammer.” When someone picks up a hammer, regardless of their religious affiliation, they manifest love by building a house. That love passes through the hammer to others.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, a Bible with a hammer on top was passed along the line to each participant.
The Daily Iberian
Tuesday, July 31, 2007 12:36 PM CDT
BY JEFF MOORE, THE DAILY IBERIAN
Comeaux takes parish president’s post
To fill the void created by the resignation of Iberia Parish President Will Langlinais, the Parish Council turned to its elder statesman Monday.

Committee to discuss pay hike for top official
Tuesday, July 31, 2007 12:36 PM CDT
BY JEFF MOORE, THE DAILY IBERIAN

“…A measure that would boost the salary of the parish president by nearly $24,000 will go before the Finance Committee of the Iberia Parish Council on Wednesday.

The committee will discuss increasing the salary of the parish’s top elected official from $103,060 to $126,963…”

Cajun Jokes – Cajun telecommunications
Friday, March 9, 2007 11:34 AM CST

Cast your Vote for LSU Tigers to win the SEC Conference at The Daily Iberian.

Hurricane victims get additional year to sell vacant land The Courier
Houma Today.com August 01. 2007 7:58AM

July 31. 2007 10:51AM
Disagreement over Lafourche levee bill remains at stalemate
BEN LUNDIN- Staff Writer Houma Today.com

July 30. 2007 12:01PM
Locals say illnesses may be linked to FEMA trailers
NAOMI KING- Staff Writer Houma Today.com

Wallace Trosclair (right) stands outside his FEMA trailer home, which he says may be to blame for his recent health problems. In the background (from left to right) are Trosclair’s daughter Amanda Trosclair, 20, Amanda’s daughter, Ansleigh Lovell, and friend Ashely Luke, 17.
Purchase this photo Zoom
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DULAC — At first he didn’t notice the labored breathing, but, Wallace Trosclair said, once he compared his health before and after living in a FEMA trailer, he saw a difference.

The 40-year-old commercial fisherman said he and his 39-year-old wife, Melissa Marie Trosclair, have experienced health problems since they started living in a FEMA trailer. Hurricane Rita flooded the couple’s house in 2005.

“She got diagnosed with asthma. Right before that, I got diagnosed with it,” he said Sunday afternoon, while working to remove the pillars that once supported his now-demolished Shrimpers Row home.

As of Friday, about a dozen Terrebonne and Lafourche people living in FEMA trailers have reported health issues or concerns they say are related to a chemical called formaldehyde.

Formaldehyde is used in a variety of products, including composite wood and plywood panels used in the trailers that house hurricane victims throughout the Gulf Coast.

In light of recent reports that formaldehyde vapors from FEMA trailers led to health problems for its occupants, federal government workers distributed fliers warning of the danger to the more than 45,000 travel-trailer residents in Louisiana and set up a hotline for people who have concerns. And FEMA officials started working with scientists last week to set up a way to test the trailers for the chemical.

Trosclair said he received one of the health-warning fliers and, though he hasn’t reported his health problems to the agency, he suspects that he’s having difficulty breathing at night because of time spent in the trailer.

Trosclair said he hasn’t talked to a doctor about his labored breathing, which is more pronounced while he’s sleeping, because he wants to test his theory that the trailer is to blame by sleeping elsewhere for several nights in a row. He plans to sleep on his boat, he said, and see how he fares.

“I’d have to stay somewhere else to see if I get a different reaction,” he said. “Because then it would be fresh air.”

Farther down Shrimpers Row, Patricia and Joseph Verdin say they and their three kids haven’t had any health problems because of their FEMA trailer.

“No health problems. I just smoke too much,” said 41-year-old Patricia, who spends most of her day inside the trailer, time typically spent cooking, cleaning and browsing the Internet.

If she did notice anything, Patricia said, she would definitely consult a doctor.

“If any of us get cancer, I’ll question it,” she said, adding that the possibility concerns her.

The Verdins said they’re not sure if they can trust FEMA, which handed out fliers without discussion.

“No one was around to speak to you. They just duct-taped them to the FEMA trailers,” Patricia said.

As for official complaints of health problems, FEMA hotlines registered nine calls from Terrebonne, FEMA officials said.

Four of those calls were health questions that FEMA officials referred to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The other five callers asked to review other living options paid for by FEMA.

Five people from Lafourche called FEMA with concerns. Four of those had health-related questions, and the other was interested in finding an alternative place to live, officials said.

Bob Josephson, external-affairs director for Louisiana’s FEMA office, declined to provide specifics on who made the calls or the extent of reported health problems.

“We’re trying to be as transparent as possible. But we can’t cross the line of people’s privacy,” he said.

The CDC is encouraging anyone who may have health problems to see a doctor. It’s important to tell the doctor that the affected person lives in a FEMA trailer.

Symptoms associated with illnesses from inhaling formaldehyde include:

# Headaches, fatigue and irritation of nose, eyes, throat and skin.

# Symptoms can be worse for people with asthma and other chronic health conditions.

FEMA trailer residents can protect themselves from overexposure to formaldehyde by:

# Airing out the trailer by opening the windows and turning on fans.

# Not smoking inside the trailer.

# Keeping indoor temperatures moderate. The warmer the temperature and higher the humidity, the quicker the gas will be released.

At a news conference in New Orleans last week, FEMA officials declined to comment on recent allegations in Congress that FEMA lawyers ignored requests from workers to test trailers for formaldehyde.

“I’m not going to comment on what the lawyers may have said,” said Jim Stark, director of the Louisiana Transitional Recovery Office.

Tuesday, a crew of scientists, epidemiologists, hygienists and other medical experts canvassed New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Biloxi to look at trailers — their design, use and interior humidity.

The information will be used to establish guidelines for testing more trailers in the future.

Though the federal government regulates how much formaldehyde is allowed in homes and buildings, no rules have been made regarding travel trailers.

“At this time, frankly, there is no commonly accepted or federally regulated level for travel trailers,” Stark said.

The goal is to find what is a “reasonable level” of formaldehyde for travel trailers, Stark said.

The scientists also will look at all indoor-air-quality issues, including mold and other potentially harmful chemicals.

As of last week, 291 people from throughout the state had called FEMA’s toll-free number to report a health problem or ask questions about the chemical.

About 30 percent to 40 percent of the callers asked to move out of their trailers, FEMA officials said.

“We’re always trying to get people to transition to more suitable housing,” Stark said.

As of May, people in Terrebonne Parish had 520 trailer leases with FEMA; Lafourche had 215.

In the past few months, FEMA has also offered to sell trailers to those who live in them. So far, 284 people in Terrebonne and 131 in Lafourche have expressed interest.

But only six trailers have been sold so far, FEMA officials said. If people want to return the trailers they buy, FEMA will reimburse them.

Officials at the CDC said they couldn’t comment on the extent of problems being reported. Instead the center gives information about the possible heath risks and tells callers to consult local doctors, said spokeswoman Dagny Olivares.

Formaldehyde can be found in a range of everyday items, including cleaning solutions, shampoos, clothing, couch cushions, gas appliances, cigarettes and plywood. Long-term exposure has been linked to cancer, asthma, bronchitis and allergies.

It’s not clear, however, what constitutes long-term exposure, Olivares said.

“A lot of the work that’s been done has been worker related,” Olivares said of studies.

Workers tend to be at work eight hours a day, she said. So, someone living in a trailer could conceivably be exposed for longer periods of time. That factor will be taken into account when CDC scientists establish “reasonable” exposure levels, she said.

Staff Writer Naomi King can be reached at 857-2209 or naomi.king@houmatoday.com.

N.O. project to provide housing
By JOE GYAN JR.
Advocate New Orleans bureau
Published: Aug 1, 2007 – Page: 14A

The Advocate Baton Rouge, Louisiana
E-mails: FEMA knew about toxin
By GERARD SHIELDS
Advocate Washington bureau
Published: Jul 21, 2007 – Page: 1A

WASHINGTON – When FEMA tested unoccupied trailers in Baton Rouge for formaldehyde, the move confused staff attorney Jill F. Igert.

Igert raised red flags to FEMA administrators that the testing would not yield a realistic reading of how residents who were complaining of toxic fumes were living. FEMA had tested the trailers over a 14-day period in September 2006 with the windows open and the air conditioners running, according to documents released Thursday by a House oversight committee.

“I don’t understand why Sample B is focused on the utilization of the air conditioner and virtually nothing else since it is unrealistic that an applicant will use it 24 hours a day,” Igert wrote in a report.

But Federal Emergency Management Agency officials used that testing to conclude that the only step occupants of the trailers needed to take was “airing out” their campers.

The Igert report was part of the documents released Thursday by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Igert wasn’t alone in her concern. E-mails released by the committee show that FEMA field workers recognized a problem.

“We need to take a proactive approach,” staffer James Lowery wrote on March 17, 2006. “The implications are much too large not to take immediate steps to assure safety of our units.”

“This needs to be fixed today,” wrote James Russo, another FEMA staffer, also on March 17, 2006.

However, dozens of e-mails released by the committee and reviewed by The Advocate show that FEMA lawyers were more concerned about being sued than protecting residents.

“Do not initiate any testing until we give the OK,” FEMA attorney Patrick Pearson advised in an e-mail. “While I agree we should conduct testing, we should not do so until we are fully prepare (sic) to respond to the results. Once you get the results and should they indicate a problem, the clock is ticking on our duty to respond to them.”

Lawmakers rap FEMA
House members participating in the hearing on the matter Thursday accused FEMA of covering up the reports of formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, despite receiving 200 complaints.

U.S. Rep. Bobby Jindal, R-Kenner, requested the hearing. E-mails showed that FEMA was more concerned about negative publicity and being sued than it was over the potential health risks to travel trailer occupants, he said.

FEMA issued 120,000 travel trailers after hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit in 2005, FEMA said. About 62,000 trailers are still in use, including 44,000 in Louisiana, according to the agency.

“This is more than an isolated problem and they refused to treat it as systematic,” Jindal said. “What you never see in the e-mail chain is someone saying ‘What about the health of the children?’ ”

FEMA Administrator R. David Paulison told the House panel that he did not instruct agency attorneys to recommend holding off testing. Paulison said he lets the office of general counsel operate at its own discretion.

But Paulison acknowledged that the final responsibility rests with him. The agency replaced 58 trailers, including 18 in Louisiana, Paulison said.

“The department did not stop dealing with formaldehyde,” Paulison said. “We were not formaldehyde experts. In hindsight, we could’ve moved faster.”

U.S. Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., told Paulison that attorneys trying to protect the agency may have put it in more legal hot water.

“You should get new lawyers,” said Norton, an attorney. “You have increased your liability. Plaintiffs may be able to show you knew.”

Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., criticized Paulison for not being more hands on.

“That’s not hindsight,” Waxman said. “You didn’t have the foresight to listen to your own staff.”

First complaints
The first complaint about formaldehyde came in March 2006 when a Mississippi couple reported problems to a local television station. FEMA’s test of the trailer – the only occupied trailer the agency has tested – showed levels that were 75 percent higher than the maximum workplace exposure level recommended by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

Safe levels were recommended at below .01 parts per million, but parts of the trailer tested as high as 2.4 ppm. A room that contained bunk beds tested at 1.2 ppm.

“Who sleeps in bunk beds?” asked committee member U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn. “Our precious children.”

FEMA also was criticized for not providing residents with contact numbers to address their problems. James Harris, a 46-year-old minister from Gulf Port, Miss., testified that the contractors representing FEMA changed often.

Not being able to reach FEMA representatives to complain, the married father of one tried to make the best of the situation by buying a $470 air purifier. On Monday, Harris ended up in the emergency room with respiratory problems.

“When you’re helpless, that’s one thing, but when you’re hopeless that’s worse,” Harris said.

FEMA e-mails indicate that one agency representative advised another not to put a contact phone number on information handed out to residents.

“I don’t see a number on it,” staffer Sidney Melton wrote. “Are y’all going to put your MDC numbers on it? We here in (Mississippi) would put our call center number on it.”

Martin McNeese, a FEMA staffer in Louisiana, wrote back: “Hi Sid, we are trying to not generate a lot of calls, just get the facts out as we know them so we are not putting our number on it.”

Paulison denied committee claims that FEMA intentionally tried not to respond to complaints. Each trailer had a number posted on it so people with problems could call a FEMA maintenance center, he said.

But after the hearing, Paulison acknowledged that FEMA should have used the formaldehyde warning brochure they eventually put out to alert residents to call the maintenance centers.

“We should have done that and we didn’t do that,” Paulison said.

Media reports sickness
E-mails also show that FEMA workers initially were suspicious of people complaining about formaldehyde. That was especially true in Mississippi, where the first media report of sickness surfaced during a local television newscast.

Lindsay Huckabee, a mother of five from Kiln, Miss., testified that she never saw the TV report. Huckabee said her ear, nose and throat doctor warned her to get out of her trailer because he had seen other travel trailer patients with similar respiratory symptoms.

Over-exposure to formaldehyde, a solvent used in press wood and adhesives, can result in burning eyes, coughing, sore throats, chest pains and nose bleeds, scientists say. Huckabee’s daughter suffered chronic nosebleeds, she said.

“I was told by our ENT that we needed to get out of the trailer as soon as we could,” Huckabee said. “He had many repeat patients with the same symptoms all living in FEMA trailers.”

A class action suit was filed about six weeks ago against the travel trailer manufacturers. Daniel Becnel, an attorney in Reserve, is handling the case, representing “a couple of thousand” FEMA trailer occupants from Florida to Louisiana, he said. Becnel is seeking $2 billion in his lawsuit.

And formaldehyde exposure is the subject of a lawsuit in Baton Rouge federal court. Desiree Collins, 47, who moved to Renaissance Village after losing her home in New Orleans, sued River Forest Inc. and other makers of the FEMA trailers.

Collins died earlier this month of lung cancer; it isn’t clear yet whether formaldehyde played any role.

U.S. Rep. Mark Souder, R-Ind., represents a district where 60 percent of the nation’s travel trailers are made. Souder criticized the hearings Thursday, saying none of the testimony implicated trailer manufacturers.

“We don’t have any experts on this panel,” Souder said. “What we have here is terrible personal stories that the government should have responded to. You cannot say on the record that it was the way they were made.”

On Wednesday, the eve of the committee hearing, FEMA announced it had asked the national Centers for Disease Control to conduct short-term tests on the air quality in occupied trailers and long-term tests on the possible health ramifications of those who may have been exposed to the toxins, which were used in campers.

“This agency has made the best decisions it could with the information we had,” Paulison said. “Now we have to do something different than we’ve done in the past.”

Ex-Saint No. 1 on bad list
Former New Orleans Saints linebacker Rickey Jackson.
‘Most wanted’ poster lists delinquent parents
By EMILY KERN
Advocate staff writer
Published: Aug 1, 2007 – Page: 1A

“Former New Orleans Saints player Rickey Jackson, who earned millions of dollars on the gridiron, holds the top spot in Louisiana as the noncustodial parent who owes the most in back child support.

Jackson and 17 others are featured on this year’s “Most Wanted” poster by the state Department of Social Services Support Enforcement Services division. They owe more than $759,000 combined — Jackson owes $160,000 — in court-ordered child support…”
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