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SIYEED

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  1. By JANET McCONNAUGHEY, Associated Press Writer Wed Jul 16, 7:39 PM ET NEW ORLEANS - The first archaeological dig at one of the nation's oldest cathedrals has turned up a mix of new finds in the heart of the French Quarter. Discoveries behind St. Louis Cathedral include a small silver crucifix from the 1770s or 1780s and traces of previously unknown buildings dating back to around the city's founding in 1718. The crucifix might have belonged to Pere Antoine, a Capuchin monk who was rector of the cathedral which dominates Jackson Square, lead archaeologist Shannon Lee Dawdy told The Associated Press on Tuesday. Pere Antoine came to New Orleans under the Spanish Inquisition as the Rev. Antonio de Sedella and lived in a hut behind the cathedral, where he was rector from the late 1700s until his death in 1829. The crucifix "was found in a corner of the garden, near where Pere Antoine's hut was said to have been and dates to the period near the beginning of his time in New Orleans (1770s-1780s)," Dawdy wrote in an e-mail. The artifact will be sent to experts for evaluation. Dawdy, an assistant professor at the University of Chicago, and eight students spent a month excavating St. Anthony's Garden, a fenced area behind the cathedral. They concluded their work earlier this week. The cathedral was completed in 1851 to replace one that burned down, along with most of the city, in 1788. Until now there has never been an archaeological excavation anywhere on its property, said cathedral spokeswoman Nancy Averett. After Hurricane Katrina toppled the garden's live oaks and sycamores in August 2005, the cathedral secured a Getty Foundation grant to restore the garden and dig into its history. Finds have included clay pipes, children's marbles, remains of china dolls and bits of what may be some of the first Indian trade goods in Louisiana. The crucifix is about 1 3/4 inches high; the face of Christ might fit on half of a grain of rice. The right arm of the cross and the right side and chest of the figure of Christ are badly corroded. The figure's right arm and much of the minuscule face are gone. Dawdy said the most significant find is probably the foundation of a hut where archaeologists uncovered a mixture of French artifacts from the early 1700s and fragments of Native American pottery, some painted red and others tempered with crushed shells. A thin L of dark soil in a layer several feet below the surface showed where wood walls had rotted — probably from a temporary hut where settlers may have lived while clearing trees for the first settlement, Dawdy said. In the corner of the L was a square post-hole — a sign of French axes. The walls don't line up with the street grid set in 1724, so the hut probably was built before that and may be from the settlement's very start, Dawdy said in an interview. In another pit, Dawdy and her crew found sloping bricks from a colonial sidewalk and — below that — cypress timbers from another building not on any city map. Unlike the hut, those timbers align with the 1724 street grid, Dawdy said Tuesday. She said the building probably dates from the 1720s or '30s. "There are at least six timbers in place — three upright and three running lengthwise," she said. "We just caught a piece of it." She hopes to return for further excavation. "This site is by far the richest and most interesting one I have worked on yet in New Orleans and the excellent preservation of the frontier phase of the city's founding makes it the `Jamestown' of the Lower Mississippi Valley," she wrote in her e-mail. Pics http://news.yahoo.com/nphotos/Shannon-Lee-...592c1473ea5dfe9
  2. Last-minute deal lets Sonics move to Oklahoma City By TIM BOOTH, AP Sports Writer 1 hour, 52 minutes ago (AP)—Clay Bennett finally found a dollar amount that would sever his contentious relationship with the city of Seattle—$75 million. As a result, the SuperSonics are headed to Oklahoma City with Bennett leading the way, leaving behind the team name, colors and 41 years of history. Oklahoma City will have an NBA franchise for the 2008-09 season after a settlement announced Wednesday between the team and the city of Seattle, ending the clashing bond with the city that culminated in a six-day federal trial over terms of the team’s KeyArena lease. The judge was scheduled to rule Wednesday afternoon. “We made it,” Bennett said after stepping to an Oklahoma City podium featuring the NBA logo and the letters OKC. “The NBA will be in Oklahoma City next season.” The settlement calls for Bennett and his Professional Basketball Club LLC to pay as much as $75 million to the city in exchange for the immediate termination of the lease. The team’s name and colors will be staying in Seattle. Bennett said the move would start Thursday and the first focus would be on the SuperSonics’ players. “In a perfect world I would have liked to see Clay Bennett leave, without the team at all,” said Steven Pyeatt, the co-founder of Save Our Sonics. It’s a victory for Bennett, who purchased the Sonics in 2006 from Starbucks Corp. chairman Howard Schultz for $350 million, and will take the franchise to his hometown. Bennett faced harsh criticism in Seattle for his efforts in trying to build a new arena as a replacement for KeyArena, and the presumption he wanted to move the franchise all along. “It was a tough experience for all of us that were involved in it. There was just so much that happened on both sides, so much misinterpreted, miscommunicated and misunderstood that it was difficult,” Bennett said. Bennett announced that the settlement calls for a payment of $45 million immediately, and would include another $30 million paid to Seattle in 2013 if the state Legislature in Washington authorizes at least $75 million in public funding to renovate KeyArena by the end of 2009 and Seattle doesn’t obtain an NBA franchise of its own within the next five years. The settlement could become a victory for Seattle as well. In a statement, NBA commissioner David Stern reversed his previous stance and said that a renovated KeyArena could be a suitable venue for an NBA franchise in Seattle. But the time is short. “We understand that city, county, and state officials are currently discussing a plan to substantially rebuild KeyArena for the sum of $300 million,” Stern said in a statement. “If this funding were authorized, we believe KeyArena could properly be renovated into a facility that meets NBA standards relating to revenue generation, fan amenities, team facilities, and the like.” However, Stern added, “given the lead times associated with any franchise acquisition or relocation and with a construction project as complex as a KeyArena renovation, authorization of the public funding needs to occur by the end of 2009 in order for there to be any chance for the NBA to return to Seattle within the next five years.” Bennett said he and Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels signed a binding agreement Wednesday, which would be formalized later, that keeps the SuperSonics’ name, logo and colors available if Seattle gets a replacement franchise. Bennett said his franchise would create duplicate championship banners and trophies, leaving one set in Seattle and using the second set for undetermined purposes in Oklahoma City. “We have 30 million reasons why we have support for a future NBA team,” Seattle city attorney Tom Carr said. In April, the NBA Board of Governors approved Bennett’s application to move the team to Oklahoma City, pending the outcome of the trial between the team and the city. The settlement came six days after the trial concluded. “A really exciting day. We had been gearing up for the 2010 season, and to find out the team’s coming two years early is a bonus,” Oklahoma City mayor Mick Cornett said. The settlement doesn’t cover a pending lawsuit filed by Schultz, who is seeking to regain control of the team. Schultz claims that Bennett didn’t follow through on an agreement to negotiate in good faith for a new arena in Seattle for one full year before seeking relocation options. “We believe it’s baseless, has no merit. We will fight it vigorously,” Bennett said of that lawsuit. Schultz’s attorney, Richard Yarmuth said his client’s lawsuit will move forward. As part of the settlement, if the PBC is prevented from playing in Oklahoma City during the next two seasons because of Schultz’s lawsuit, the city will be required to repay Bennett’s group $22.5 million for each season. If the team is required to play in KeyArena for those two seasons, Bennett’s group is released from the additional $30 million it would owe the city. The trial between the team and city was centered on the lease agreement that called for the Sonics to play at KeyArena through the 2009-10 season. Sonics lead attorney Brad Keller contended that Bennett should simply be able to write a check to satisfy the final two years of the lease. Keller argued that the “specific performance” clause the city rested its case on should not apply in a garden-variety dispute between tenant and landlord. Bennett and his ownership group previously offered to pay the city $26.5 million in February to buy out the final two years of the lease. They were rebuffed. Nickels noted that Wednesday’s settlement would cover lost rent, tax revenue and pay off the remaining debt on KeyArena. “I believed all along enforcing our lease would allow us time to come to a better arrangement,” Nickels said. “We now have that deal.” AP Sports Writer Jeff Latzke in Oklahoma City contributed to this report.
  3. NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (AP) -- A man fatally shot by police after a 10-hour standoff Wednesday had suffered with mental illness for much of his life, and it worsened in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, a family member said. Eric Minshew, 49, ordered Federal Emergency Management Agency workers to leave his trailer when they arrived for an inspection Tuesday afternoon, according to accounts from police. Later, police said he fired at them several times and was fatally shot after pointing a handgun at officers who tried to arrest him. No officers were injured. Rosemarie Brocato, who lives about a block away from the house, said she had told police, "He's sick. Please don't shoot him. He needs help." The man had moved into the family home about eight years ago, with no money and no job, his brother, Homer M. Minshew III, said Wednesday. He survived the hurricane, but the family was awaiting government aid so they could either pay the house off or fix it up and sell it. He suffered for years with mental problems that "got a lot worse after the storm," his brother said. He felt his hopes of inheriting his parents' home -- a place he'd felt a strong connection to -- diminish, he said. He owned a gun because he had gotten a job as a security guard, according to his brother. "He had a lot of serious mental issues and would all of a sudden go off on a rant about the government, the local, state government, the feds and everything else," he said. "He has some issues. He just snapped. Thank God nobody else got hurt." James Arey, commander of the police department's crisis intervention team, said the man had not been treated and that the case "doesn't have anything to do with Katrina." Police did not officially release Minshew's identity. The trailer was near the family home on a block that appeared abandoned. Many houses have gone unrepaired since the storm, and have broken windows. Taped to Minshew's front window were a USA Today front-page article headlined "Do you have a legal right to own a gun?" and a no trespassing sign. The porch held a wreath, a cross and a plywood sign with "Jesus is my Messiah" in green paint. A car in the driveway had two flat tires. Brocato said Minshew lived alone after the storm and that his short temper seemed to get worse. He seemed very lonely, she said, often stopping her to talk for a half-hour at a time when she passed his house. "He just needed someone to talk to, I guess. I felt sorry for him," she said. The FEMA inspection was a first step toward reclaiming the trailer. The federal agency has been pushing to get residents out of trailers across the Gulf Coast, in part because possibly dangerous levels of the chemical formaldehyde have been found in many of them. FEMA spokesman James McIntyre said the agency cannot release any specifics about the case, such as when the man got the trailer or whether anyone else lived there with him. The officers involved in the shooting have been reassigned to administrative duties during the investigation, said Officer Garry Flot, a police spokesman. "This is a very unfortunate situation and our prayers go out to the family of the deceased," he said. Lakeview, one of the city's more affluent neighborhoods, was under as much as 11 feet of water after the levee on the nearby 17th Street Canal broke during Katrina on August 29, 2005. While it has been one of the fastest to recover, it is not without scars from the flood. Some trailers were still parked outside homes under renovation, schools and firehouses have been slow to reopen and there are many vacant lots where homes were demolished because of damage suffered during the storm. E-mail to a friend
  4. SIYEED

    Sooo Ummm...

    you are everywhere u should change ur name to visa....
  5. SIYEED

    Big Easy struggles 2 years after Katrina

    I really don't see how Ray Nagin thinks he's going to run and win at being Governor of NO.
  6. SIYEED

    Big Easy struggles 2 years after Katrina

    Yeah, time has gone by fast. It's a damned shame that they now have over 12,000 homeless people in NO - twice of what they had before, and rental rates have gone up 30% since Katrina.
  7. By ALLEN G. BREED and CAIN BURDEAU, Associated Press Writers Sat Aug 25, 2:48 PM ET NEW ORLEANS - Two years after Hurricane Katrina, much of the "city that care forgot" still lies in ruins. But Otis Biggs' task as he shuffles his Tarot deck this moist August day is to peer into the future to 2015, the storm's 10th anniversary. Rings of silver and turquoise flash as one card, then another flops onto a zodiac-patterned table in the incense-perfumed Bottom of the Cup Tea Room in the French Quarter, where the diminutive Biggs has been telling fortunes for 32 years. An upside down tower — violent storms will hold off until levees are repaired. The ace of cauldrons — money will flow. The empress — stability, fruitful things. Downtown, near the riverfront, Biggs sees a gleaming glass and steel tower rising, the tallest in the state. Elections will bring new blood and vision. Companies will feel safe to invest in the city, and most of those who fled will return. "There's hope," Biggs says, his hazel eyes twinkling in light reflected through a crystal ball. There may be hope, but there are few assurances for the recovering Big Easy. "For every positive that's going on in New Orleans right now, there's a negative, there's a concern," says Reed Kroloff, who until recently was dean of the school of architecture at Tulane University. The failure of federally funded, state-administered recovery programs to quickly take hold, and the city's struggle to define and fund plans for neighborhood redevelopment, have shaken confidence about New Orleans' short-term future. Mayor Ray Nagin favors a "market-driven" recovery of the city. Critics say he has not made the tough decisions necessary to get planning for the city's future moving into high gear. New Orleans still struggles with corruption. A congressman is under indictment, a senator has been implicated in a sex scandal and a city councilman thought to be a favorite as New Orleans' next mayor pleaded guilty in August to federal bribery charges and resigned. There are geophysical challenges ahead, too. By 2015, parts of New Orleans will have subsided nearly an additional 8 inches. The city filled up like a bowl when Katrina broke levees on Aug. 29, 2005. Roughly 240 more square miles of the eroding wetlands that protect the city from storm surge will be gone by 2015. If the Army Corps of Engineers has its way, and billions in federal funds don't get siphoned off by war or another natural disaster, those who remain should be better protected from flooding by 2015. To the east, a massive levee-and-floodgate structure rising out of the brackish marsh should block the surge from the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway and the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet, or MR-GO. To the north, new flood gates and pumping stations would prevent a surge from Lake Pontchartrain and prevent a repeat of the failures along the city's drainage canals. The city's population will be smaller a decade after the storm. A recent estimate pegs the current population at around 270,000 — about 60 percent of the pre-Katrina total. Rich Campanella, an urban geographer at Tulane, predicts that by 2015, the city's population will be somewhere around 350,000. Blacks will still outnumber whites, but the margin will be significantly less. He and others agree the city's residents will be somewhat more affluent, the poor possibly being squeezed out by the increased expense of living in a hurricane zone. And New Orleans could be a city with a younger population. "Not because there are more children," says Campanella, associate director of the Center for Bioenvironmental Research at Tulane and Xavier universities. "Being elderly and in need of health care in this city might inspire many older people to relocate." Health care challenges and the dearth of affordable housing will continue to influence the pace of recovery. Nearly half of the hospitals open in the parish before Katrina remain closed, and one is a shell of its former self. The remaining hospitals serving the city lost a combined $56 million in the first five months of 2007, and the projected operating loss for the year is $135 million, says Leslie Hirsch, who took over Touro Infirmary a week before Katrina. If major changes aren't made, such as drastic increases in Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement, the city's hospitals will continue to hemorrhage money, says Hirsch, who worries there will be even fewer choices for care. Before Katrina, many locals rented homes — garrets in the French Quarter, wings of faded mansions Uptown, shotgun homes in Bywater. For the impoverished, sprawling public housing projects offered shelter to more than 5,000 families. But Katrina closed four-fifths of that subsidized housing. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development wants to demolish four of the biggest housing projects and turn them into Norman Rockwellian mixed-income neighborhoods. That plan has met with fierce opposition from housing advocates who fear the poor would lose their foothold. And there's little prospect New Orleans will become the renter's paradise it once was. The back wall of the city council chamber is lined with architectural renderings of mixed-income, multi-family developments. That is the future planned for the eight-story brick Falstaff brewery, where pigeons now roost and graffiti artists leave their marks. But so far, those plans are little more than wrinkled drawings. The city's neighborhoods are repopulating, with and without government aid. But it is a patchwork redevelopment that favors those of means. In the predominantly black Lower 9th Ward, the city's poorest neighborhood, streetlights are back on and water is flowing. But while there are houses being repaired here and there, and even some innovative solar power projects being instituted, there are vast stretches of empty, weed-choked lots and rooftops still covered in storm debris. In mostly white Lakeview, where water levels topped 10 feet in some areas, things are booming. Harrison Avenue, the main business strip, is fairly buzzing with banks, restaurants, even a Starbucks. Medians once strewn with debris and rotting garbage are now blooming again with crepe myrtles. Surveys show 47 percent of Lakeview residents have returned, and another 23 percent are working on their homes. Freddy Yoder, a recovery contractor, has not only refurbished his 11-year-old brick Queen Anne Victorian-style home, but he's purchased several other lots in the neighborhood. "I work with the Corps of Engineers. I go to their projects and I see what actions are being taken," he says. "And I am thoroughly convinced that if we're not there yet we're very close to being in a very safe environment and a very safe place to live." Campanella, the Tulane geographer, thinks time, weather patterns and the insurance market will prove the folly of allowing people to reoccupy the city's old footprint. He sees the future in New Orleans' past. Campanella says more than half of New Orleans is at or above sea level. But while nearly all New Orleanians occupied high ground a century ago, only 38 percent lived at or above sea level when Katrina hit. Using satellite imagery, he has mapped about 2,000 empty or underutilized above-sea-level parcels covering an area about three times the size of the French Quarter. "All I'm saying is we have this valuable natural resource that's being underutilized," he says, sitting in a grassy lot between two coffee warehouses in Faubourg Marigny. And what happens with the public school system, long blamed as the root cause of New Orleans' entrenched poverty, will also shape the city's future. Katrina accelerated a process of replacing the corrupt, underperforming system with reformed traditional schools and charter schools. Recently released test results show higher scores among the charter students. But the system is having trouble attracting teachers. The clean slate attracted John Alford, a Harvard Business School graduate who moved from Baltimore to run the Langston Hughes Academy Charter School. By the storm's tenth anniversary, he expects 90 percent of the city's schools to be independently run charters. "If we do what we're supposed to do," he says, "it can be a glorious city." Crime remains rampant. Meanwhile, the New Orleans Police Department is still operating out of trailers, and the force continues to lose more officers to retirement and resignations than it can graduate from its academy. Changes in organization and funding of the criminal courts and public defenders' offices promise to shore up a foundering judicial system. But with a nation-leading per-capita murder rate, the city has an uphill struggle to present an image of being safe. Katrina continues to bring pain. On a recent day, Stanley Joyce, 68, stood in line at City Hall with hundreds of others seeking to challenge their new property assessments. The valuation on his house just outside the French Quarter more than doubled. He knows the city needs the tax revenue. But that's a lot to swallow all at once, especially in a city whose waterlines are crumbling and streets are riddled with tire-swallowing potholes. "If they want to go ahead and buy my house for the price that they assessed it for, I'd sell it to them tomorrow," said Joyce, waving a manila folder with his property records. Tourism is a bittersweet bright spot. The French Quarter survived Katrina, and the music and restaurant scenes continue to rebound. Some musicians are still missing in action. But Jazz trumpeter Kermit Ruffins, a co-founder of the renowned Rebirth Brass Band, says he and friends are busy as ever. "It's just so wonderful to be alive and swinging in New Orleans," he says. "We're going to be buried here, man. That's for sure. That's for DAMN sure." Most of the city's signature restaurants — Brennan's, Emeril's, Commander's Palace — have reopened. A 70-story Trump hotel and condominium tower is planned for the central business district. "There will be a Trump Tower," Cliff Mowe, one of The Donald's co-developers, said last week during a visit to the city for meetings with project attorneys and real estate people. The building is not scheduled for completion until 2010, but Mowe says developers have received several hundred reservations and deposits from prospective tenants — many for units costing nearly $2 million. But as millionaires stake out lofty digs, the city continues to bleed jobs. Tourism is notoriously poor-paying. There are huge questions about where thousands of good-paying jobs needed to sustain the city's rebound will come from. Since Katrina, the oil industry has continued a shrinking that began in the 1980s. In November, Murphy Oil Corp. closed its New Orleans production office and shifted 100 employees to Houston. Chevron Corp. is building a new office across Lake Pontchartrain in St. Tammany Parish and will move 500 workers from New Orleans later this year. Entergy Corp. was and likely will remain the city's only Fortune 500 company, says Robert Hartwig, chief economist at the Insurance Information Institute. "It's unlikely that it's going to emerge ... as a major business center," he says. That means the city's economy will muddle along, bouyed by short-term construction jobs and spending. For the economy to prosper long-term, the city must be seen as safe and well-run. And there, the jury is out. Local businessman Aidan Gill doesn't need Tarots or tea leaves to know what New Orleans will look like in 2015. All he has to do is read the local newspaper and history books: It'll be just as corrupt and seedy as before Katrina, he believes. "I am mystified at grown-up, mature, intelligent, educated people for talking about this `new New Orleans,'" says the Irish native, who dispenses $45 haircuts and $600 alligator belts from his men's haircuttery and haberdashery on Magazine Street. "A simple way of putting it for the simple natives: You cannot make a gumbo using the same ingredients every day, and then at the end of every day expect it to taste any different."
  8. Thursday, August 02, 2007 NEW ORLEANS — Hurricane Katrina victims whose homes and businesses were destroyed when floodwaters breached levees in the 2005 storm cannot recover money from their insurance companies for the damages, a federal appeals court ruled Thursday. The case could affect thousands of rebuilding residents and business owners in Louisiana. Robert Hartwig, chief economist at the industry-funded Insurance Information Institute in New York, said in June that a ruling against the industry could have cost insurers $1 billion. "This event was excluded from coverage under the plaintiffs' insurance policies, and under Louisiana law, we are bound to enforce the unambiguous terms of their insurance contracts as written," Judge Carolyn King wrote for a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. As a result, the panel found those who filed the suit "are not entitled to recover under their policies," she said. More than a dozen insurance companies, including Allstate and Travelers, were defendants. The decision overturns a ruling by U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval Jr., who in November sided with policyholders arguing that language excluding water damage from some of their insurance policies was ambiguous. Duval said the policies did not distinguish between floods caused by an act of God — such as excessive rainfall — and floods caused by an act of man, which would include the levee breaches following Katrina's landfall. But the appeals panel concluded that "even if the plaintiffs can prove that the levees were negligently designed, constructed, or maintained and that the breaches were due to this negligence, the flood exclusions in the plaintiffs' policies unambiguously preclude their recovery." "Regardless of what caused the failure of the flood-control structures that were put in place to prevent such a catastrophe, their failure resulted in a widespread flood that damaged the plaintiffs' property," and policies clearly excluded water damage caused by floods, King wrote. This was a consolidated case, including about 40 named plaintiffs, including Xavier University, and more than a dozen insurance companies. It is just one of the cases pending in federal court over Katrina damage. The Army Corps of Engineers faces thousands of claims for damage resulting after the levees breached; King noted in her opinion that dozens more cases, some consolidated and involving property owners suing insurers, are pending in federal court in New Orleans. Allstate spokesman Mike Siemienas said the Illinois-based company is pleased with the court's findings. Several other attorneys, on both sides of the case, did not immediately return telephone messages or declined comment.
  9. SIYEED

    House panel: Why did Google 'airbrush history?'

    sorry, but the location of your parents home does not compare to a devastated city. no offense, in regards to scale and umm...importance, there's no comparison. Let me break this down for you dummy, Google Maps are outdated, there not current. I hope you dont think its Real Time, Your not going to be able to stand outside, then see your ass in your front yard. The Satellite images are atleast 3 years old for my area, as i was trying to point out to you. Hence, New Orleans being pre Katrina, quite frankly who cares? havent we seen enough on television already? Actually, Google updated their maps of New Orleans immediately after Katrina and it showed the flooded houses, etc. The issue is, instead of updating it again or leaving it like it was, they reverted back to Pre-Katrina for no explained reason.
  10. SIYEED

    Sooo Ummm...

    I couldn't find one that did fit
  11. SIYEED

    House panel: Why did Google 'airbrush history?'

    yeah, this is bullshit. Thanks for posting.
  12. By CAIN BURDEAU, Associated Press Writer 12 minutes ago NEW ORLEANS - The Army Corps of Engineers, rushing to meet President Bush's promise to protect New Orleans by the start of the 2006 hurricane season, installed defective flood-control pumps last year despite warnings from its own expert that the equipment would fail during a storm, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press. The 2006 hurricane season turned out to be mild, and the new pumps were never pressed into action. But the Corps and the politically connected manufacturer of the equipment are still struggling to get the 34 heavy-duty pumps working properly. The pumps are now being pulled out and overhauled because of excessive vibration, Corps officials said. Other problems have included overheated engines, broken hoses and blown gaskets, according to the documents obtained by the AP. Col. Jeffrey Bedey, who is overseeing levee reconstruction, insisted the pumps would have worked last year and the city was never in danger. Bedey gave assurances that the pumps should be ready for the coming hurricane season, which begins June 1. The Corps said it decided to press ahead with installation, and then fix the machinery while it was in place, on the theory that some pumping capacity was better than none. And it defended the manufacturer, which was under time pressure. "Let me give you the scenario: You have four months to build something that nobody has ever built before, and if you don't, the city floods and the Corps, which already has a black eye, could basically be dissolved. How many people would put up with a second flooding?" said Randy Persica, the Corps' resident engineer for New Orleans' three major drainage canals. The 34 pumps — installed in the drainage canals that take water from this bowl-shaped, below-sea-level city and deposit it in Lake Pontchartrain — represented a new ring of protection that was added to New Orleans' flood defenses after Katrina. The city also relies on miles of levees and hundreds of other pumps in various locations. The drainage-canal pumps were custom-designed and built under a $26.6 million contract awarded after competitive bidding to Moving Water Industries Corp. of Deerfield Beach, Fla. It was founded in 1926 and supplies flood-control and irrigation pumps all over the world. MWI is owned by J. David Eller and his sons. Eller was once a business partner of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in a venture called Bush-El that marketed MWI pumps. And Eller has donated about $128,000 to politicians, the vast majority of it to the Republican Party, since 1996, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. MWI has run into trouble before. The U.S. Justice Department sued the company in 2002, accusing it of fraudulently helping Nigeria obtain $74 million in taxpayer-backed loans for overpriced and unnecessary water-pump equipment. The case has yet to be resolved. Because of the trouble with the New Orleans pumps, the Corps has withheld 20 percent of the MWI contract, including an incentive of up to $4 million that the company could have collected if it delivered the equipment in time for the 2006 hurricane season. Misgivings about the pumps were chronicled in a May 2006 memo provided to the AP by Matt McBride, a mechanical engineer and flooded-out Katrina victim who, like many in New Orleans, has been closely watching the rebuilding of the city's flood defenses. The memo was written by Maria Garzino, a Corps mechanical engineer overseeing quality assurance at an MWI test site in Florida. The Corps confirmed the authenticity of the 72-page memo, which details many of the mechanical problems and criticizes the testing procedures used. About a dozen of the 34 pumps on order were already in place in New Orleans when Garzino wrote her report, according to Bedey. In her memo, Garzino told corps officials that the equipment being installed was defective. She warned that the pumps would break down "should they be tasked to run, under normal use, as would be required in the event of a hurricane." The pumps, 60 inches in diameter and capable of moving 200 cubic feet of water per second, are run by pressurized hydraulic oil. The supercharged oil cranks up a hydraulic motor, which in turn spins water-moving propellers. The pumps failed less-strenuous testing than the original contract called for, according to the memo. Originally, each of the 34 pumps was to be "load tested" — made to pump water — but that requirement for all the pumps was dropped, the memo said. Of eight pumps that were load tested, one was turned on for a few minutes and another was run at one-third of operating pressure, the memo said. Three of the other load-tested pumps "experienced catastrophic failure," Garzino wrote. The memo does not spell out what would have happened if the pumps had failed in a storm. But the Corps has acknowledged that parts of New Orleans could be hit with serious flooding if the floodgate pumps could not keep up. Garzino, a Corps employee with the agency's Los Angeles district, was one of many personnel brought in after Katrina. Her memo was sent to Col. Lewis Setliff III, head of a task force assigned to rebuild the flood defenses. Setliff did not return a call for comment. Garzino declined to discuss the memo. MWI vice president Dana Eller said Garzino's conclusions about the pumps were premature. "She was there when we turned on the switch," he said. "If you put your garden hose on and it's leaking a bit, you'd tighten the garden hose. So that's what we did." Bedey said some of what Garzino wrote was alarming and "caused me to ask a series of questions" about the reliability of the pumps. But he said they would have pumped water if they had been needed last hurricane season. Just in case, the Corps brought in numerous portable pumps last year and plans to do the same thing this year, officials said. In the meantime, the Corps has paid MWI $4.5 million for six additional pumps and will use them to troubleshoot the defective ones, Bedey said. Four of those pumps were run on Saturday for more than an hour, and the corps said there were no problems with the test. They were turned on again Tuesday in a demonstration for reporters. "The design is no different. There is no reason to see any differences in performance than what we saw here today," Bedey said Tuesday of the original 34 pumps. The Corps said MWI has paid for all other expenses incurred in fixing the pumps — shipping them back and forth from a facility in Gray, La., and installing and reinstalling them. After Katrina, Congress gave the corps $5.7 billion to make New Orleans safe from hurricanes. The Corps rushed to fix broken levees and floodwalls and make good on Bush's promise that the city would be protected "better than pre-Katrina by June 1." Katrina's storm surge caused water on Lake Pontchartrain to back up into the city's drainage canals. The canal walls gave way, and about 80 percent of New Orleans flooded. Nearly 1,600 people in Louisiana died in the storm and its aftermath. After the storm, the Corps decided to install floodgates at the mouths of the major canals. While that would keep water from Lake Pontchartrain from backing up in the canals, it would also prevent water pumped out of the city from flowing into the lake. So the Corps installed pumps behind the floodgates to move water into the lake when the gates were closed. Each pump is designed to push about 200 cubic feet of water a second. "We didn't have the luxury to go through a two-, three-year design and planning phase," Bedey said. "We had to get closure structures in place."
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