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Quick Guide & Transcript: FEMA director resigns, Hurricane Katrina


• Rebuilding: Vital signs
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(CNN Student News) -- September 13, 2005

Quick Guide

FEMA director resigns - Find out what story was developing in Washington, D.C. as the president toured the Gulf Coast.

Katrina response - Join reporter Tom Foreman in the search for answers following the Katrina disaster.

Roberts hearings - Head to the Capitol to hear what kinds of questions lawmakers may have for a chief justice nominee.



PHYLLIS JACKSON, CNN STUDENT NEWS ANCHOR: Under criticism for the way he handled the response to Hurricane Katrina, FEMA's director steps down from his job.

Under fire for a city under water, officials and critics square off over who's to blame for the disaster following Hurricane Katrina.

And under consideration for the country's judicial top-spot, Judge John Roberts prepares to answer some tough questions.

First Up: FEMA director resigns

JACKSON: Many of the parts of New Orleans that have been drained of water, are still covered in a thick, stinking sludge. And that's what President Bush got a first-hand view of yesterday, when he rode through the by water district of the city. As he traveled from New Orleans to Gulfport, Mississippi... Chris Wolfe tells us what was developing back in Washington.


CHRIS WOLFE, CNN REPORTER: The outgoing head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA , says he's stepping down now to avoid further distraction from FEMA's ongoing mission.

Michael Brown's resignation follows a barrage of criticism over his agency's response to Hurricane Katrina.

As the changing of the guard unfolded in Washington, President Bush was on his third visit to, but first ground tour of, the hurricane-afflicted areas.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Here in Mississippi and Louisiana, people want to move forward. We understand there's a time to try and blame somebody. But they want to get their lives back together.

WOLFE: Two weeks after Katrina slammed into the central Gulf coast and broke through levees supposed to protect New Orleans from flooding, 40 percent of the city is still under water. And that water is foul. The Environmental Protection Agency says the overflow has high levels of lead and E. coli bacteria. And scientists are repeating their warnings against direct contact or ingesting the water. There is more encouraging news in Mississippi. The devastated city of Gulfport reopened its first school since Katrina hit the community. Students returned to Saint James Elementary Monday and the mayor says most of the city's schools should be open soon.

Miami native David Pauleson a 30 year veteran of fire and rescue work, also a 3 year employee of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is now the acting director of that agency. In New Orleans, for CNN Student News, I'm Chris Wolfe.



CARL AZUZ, CNN STUDENT NEWS REPORTER: Time for the Shoutout! Under what Cabinet department does FEMA fall? If you think you know it, shout it out! Is it: A) Department of Agriculture, B) Department of Health and Human Services, C) Department of Defense or D) Department of Homeland Security? You've got three seconds -- It was on March 1, 2003 that FEMA became part of the Department of Homeland Security. That's your answer and that's your Shoutout!

Katrina response

JACKSON: Many agree that no one is to blame for Hurricane Katrina hitting the Gulf Coast. But what's a topic of major disagreement, is whether more lives, homes, and businesses could have been saved. How much was known about the potential for disaster, and what could have been done differently? Tom Foreman searches for answers.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN REPORTER: When Katrina slammed into the Gulf coast, federal, state and local government officials, despite claims to the contrary, knew everything that was coming: The` massive storm surge, the failing levees, the stranded survivors, the collapse of roads, bridges, electricity and phones. They had planned for and trained for all of it. And now, with FEMA Director Michael Brown bowing out, accusations against others at all levels are rising like floodwaters.

SEN. BILL FRIST, (R) TENNESSEE: One of the problems that we're facing at the state level, the local level and federal level, is a system wide failure, because people at all those levels hesitated.

FOREMAN: The head of homeland security, which oversees FEMA, Michael Chertoff, has insisted for two weeks he had no warning of how bad Katrina could be.

MICHAEL CHERTOFF, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Even as everyone thought we had dodged a bullet, the levee was not only flooded, but it actually broke. So I think that did catch people by surprise.

FOREMAN: But turns out, the National Weather Service issued a detailed message a day before the strike, saying buildings would be leveled, high rises crippled, and "most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks, perhaps longer."

FOREMAN: In addition, and again contrary to Chertoff's claims, FEMA was most certainly warned that the levees could collapse. Although, even well after the levees failed, FEMA officials continued to downplay how bad the flooding might be.

BILL LOKEY, FEMA: I don't want to alarm everybody that, you know, New Orleans is filling up like a soup bowl. That's just not happening."

FOREMAN: In fact, it was happening.

GOV. KATHLEEN BLANCO, (D) LOUISIANA: What we need to do is not distract, not play the blame game because everybody is at risk here.

FOREMAN: Governor Kathleen Blanco continues to be in the middle of a storm over when, where and how she requested military help. The White House has suggested the governor failed to call early enough for the assets she needed. The governor's office says before, during and after the storm hit, Blanco's message to the president was consistent.

DENISE BOTTCHER, GOVERNOR'S PRESS SECRETARY: she said, 'we need your help. We need everything you've got.' the governor generally felt at that time she had asked for help.

MAYOR RAY NAGIN, NEW ORLEANS: What the state was doing, I don't freaking know, but I tell you."

FOREMAN: Even New Orlean's Mayor, Ray Nagin, a folk hero to some...Is under intensifying fire. His city's own plan called for mobilizing buses and evacuating the poor and he did not get it done. He says he could not find drivers, but Amtrak now says it offered help, and was turned down. So a train with nine-hundred seats rolled away empty a day and a half before the storm hit. All of these accusations, and the public outrage they carry, clearly make federal, state and local leaders nervous. There are no indications any more heads are going to roll right now...but they all know that's right now.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: You're doing a heck of a job, Brownie.

FOREMAN: A few days ago, Michael Brown's job, publicly appeared to be safe. But with hundreds of thousands of Americans still out of their homes and jobs, there may be room yet for a few more in the unemployment line. Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.


Los Angeles Blackout

JACKSON: In other news, the lights went out over Hollywood yesterday, as well as in much of the rest of Los Angeles. The blackout, which occurred when a worker cut a wrong line by mistake, affected traffic lights, elevators, and about 700-thousand of the city's electric customers. Power was restored in most places within a few hours.

Word to the Wise

AZUZ: A Word to the Wise...

confirmation: (noun) the act or process of giving approval to


Roberts hearings

JACKSON: The Senate's confirmation of a federal judicial nominee is part of the government's system of checks and balances. The president can't simply appoint someone to the Supreme Court, for example; he must first seek the advice and consent of the senate on the matter. Kareen Wynter tells us about the historic hearings concerning a nominee named John Roberts.


KAREEN WYNTER, CNN REPORTER: It's a lifetime appointment that would propel this federal judge to the courts highest seat. Chief Justice nominee John Roberts. The Senate Judiciary Committee chairman urged the panel not to press Roberts on how he would vote on a specific case. But Roberts could face questions on broad issues --- including the constitutional right to privacy.

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER CHAIRMAN, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE (R) PENNSYLVANIA: There ought not to be a political tilt. All have a responsibility to ask probing questions.

WYNTER: Some Democrats are expected to grill Roberts on his position concerning abortion and the equal rights amendment as an attorney in the Reagan administration. Senator Edward Kennedy said --- in his words "there are real and serious reasons to be deeply concerned about Judge Roberts' record."

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY, (D) MASSACHUSETTS: Many of his past statements and writings raise questions about his commitment to equal opportunity and the bi-partisan remedies we have adopted in the past.

WYNTER: Barring any political bombshells, some analysts expect Roberts to be confirmed.

STEVEN HESS, ROBERTS/BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: There will be a lot of people who will feel very strongly because he is a conservative and they are not. But in fact most people in Washington feel comfortable he has the votes to get nominated.

WYNTER: The full Senate would then vote on the committee's recommendation. The Senate judiciary chairman says the hearings could wrap up this week. President Bush still has to announce a nominee to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. In Washington, for CNN Student News, I'm Kareen Wynter.



JACKSON: So what are the responsibilities of the chief justice of the Untied States? Explore the duties of the nation's top judicial post, in today's new Extra! At

Before We Go

JACKSON: Before we go... There's something for everyone in a contest whose motto is, "chipping, sweating, sawing." Here's what we mean. Whether they consider themselves tree trunk chopping champions, or chain-saw wielding warriors... 40 athletes from 11 European countries had the chance to prove it at this competition in Germany. They sweated and sawed their way to lumberjack glory. Sports incorporating men, noise, and power tools are making quite a buzz in Europe.


JACKSON: And with that, we'll cut out for the day! I'm Phyllis Jackson. More Headline News, is straight ahead.

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