Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

The latest on the week's biggest stories

Issue: "New Orleans: Starting over," Sept. 24, 2005

HURRICANE KATRINA President Bush returned to Louisiana to assess Hurricane Katrina cleanup efforts and plotted a multi-billion-dollar recovery plan in a nationally televised address on Sept. 15. Earlier in the week Mr. Bush said, "I take responsibility" for failures to respond more quickly to the natural disaster. "Katrina exposed serious problems in our response capability at all levels of government," he said. His statements capped a week where Federal Emergency Management Agency director Michael Brown quit under fire and new acting director R. David Paulison pledged to intensify efforts to find more permanent housing for the tens of thousands of survivors now in shelters. The Red Cross turned to churches in Mississippi to provide temporary housing and medical care, while many survivors began steps to relocate permanently to cities eager to accommodate them, like Austin, Texas (see "You can't go home again").

Search-and-rescue teams from all over the country carried on a grim door-to-door task of accounting for the dead and missing. Three weeks after Katrina hit, state and local officials could confirm over 650 dead: 423 in Louisiana; 218 in Mississippi; 14 in Florida, and 2 each in Georgia and Alabama. But counties reported hundreds still unaccounted for: Mississippi's Harrison County alone reported 500 missing.

With rescue and relief efforts costing U.S. taxpayers $2 billion a day, probing the consequences of building in a below-sea-level floodplain may be more important than throwing federal dollars at bloated rebuilding contracts. "We have an obligation to people, not to places," Harvard economist Edward Glaeser told The Wall Street Journal. "Given just how much, on a per capita basis, it would take to rebuild New Orleans to its former glory, lots of residents would be much [better off] with $10,000 and a bus ticket to Houston" (see "Money: The big difficult").

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Spurred by post-Katrina fuel spikes, Delta and Northwest Airlines filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Sept. 14.

CAPITOL HILL Confirmation hearings for Judge John Roberts left little doubt that the Senate Judiciary Committee will approve his nomination for chief justice of the Supreme Court. On Sept. 13 Mr. Roberts walked a line on Roe v. Wade so careful it left both liberals and conservatives hopeful he might rule their way on abortion (see "Supreme shoo-in"). On Sept. 14 the judge seemed to lean away from the most conservative positions on affirmative action, expressing support for parts of a 2003 high-court opinion that upheld the right of state universities to consider race in admissions.

"Yes, I was in an administration that was opposed to quotas," Mr. Roberts told Sen. Edward Kennedy, referring to his time in the Reagan justice department. "Opposition to quotas is not the same thing as opposition to affirmative action." The Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote on his nomination on Sept. 20.

JUDICIARY An impaneled Justice Roberts may face, along with other Supreme Court members, another challenge to Pledge of Allegiance recitations after a U.S. district court in California ruled Sept. 14 that reciting "under God" in the pledge is unconstitutional. The reference violates schoolchildren's right to be "free from a coercive requirement to affirm God," the ruling said. The decision is scheduled for appeal in the U.S. 9th Circuit Court.

IRAQ Al-Qaeda's leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, declared "all-out war" on Shiites, Iraqi troops, and the government in an audiotape posted Sept. 14 on a website. "Beware, there will be no mercy," he said. That same day, suicide bombings in Baghdad and central Iraq killed 160 and wounded 570, as terrorists targeted police stations and employment centers.

The violence is not deterring Iraqis. A poll conducted by the Iraqi Center for Development and International Dialogue showed that 88 percent of Iraqis intend to participate in the Oct. 15 referendum on the proposed permanent constitution. Iraq's national assembly adopted the constitution Aug. 28, but lingering negotiations are delaying a UN plan to print 5 million copies of the document ahead of the vote.

U.S. ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad endorsed the constitution in its draft form, saying it "enshrines values and structures that should aid Iraq's democratization." A central achievement of the process, according to Mr. Khalilzad, "is that the draft came about through negotiation, not the exercise of violence. In essence, we can say that politics has broken out in Iraq."

GAZA Palestinian gunrunners smuggled hundreds of assault weapons across a newly opened border with Egypt as Israeli troops completed withdrawal from Gaza. Palestinians looted dozens of greenhouses in Gaza's former Israeli settlements, which American Jewish donors bought for $14 million and aimed to use to provide jobs for Palestinians.

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