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The latest on Katrina's aftermath

Flooded vehicles are seen as waters recede in the city. The floodwaters are dangerously polluted.



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Check here for the latest information from the hurricane-stricken Gulf Coast region and other affected areas. Items are time-stamped when entered.

Death toll continues to rise

(CNN) -- The official death toll from Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath now stands at 656.

The breakdown of the deaths are as follows:

-- Louisiana 423

-- Mississippi 218

-- Florida 11

-- Alabama 2

-- Georgia 2

(Posted 10:12 p.m.)

Blanco now confident of FEMA's role in recovery of bodies

BATON ROUGE, La. (CNN) -- Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco late Tuesday said she now feels reassured that the federal government is doing everything it can to recover bodies of those killed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Blanco had earlier blasted the Federal Emergency Management Agency for what she said was a "lack of urgency and lack of respect" involving the recovery of bodies.

In her statement late Tuesday, Blanco said she received a phone call from Vice Adm. Thad Allen, the head of FEMA's efforts in the region, and he "expressed his confidence that our federal partners are working hard to quickly recover all bodies."

"I deeply appreciate Admiral Allen's sensitivity and understanding and his call to me this afternoon. I am reassured by his call as I continue to have great confidence in the Admiral's leadership."

After Blanco's initial comments Tuesday, Allen defended the agency, saying the federal government has been working closely with the state "to help them implement their plan on retrieving the remains of those who perished." (Posted 9:50 p.m.)

Attorney for nursing home owners says charges are false

BATON ROUGE, La. (CNN) -- The attorney for the owners of a New Orleans-area nursing home charged with negligent homicide for the deaths of 34 people in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina on Tuesday called the allegations "categorically false."

Mable and Salvador Mangano Sr., the owners of St. Rita's Nursing Home in St. Bernard Parish, surrendered to authorities Tuesday shortly after being charged.

Jim Cobb, who represents the Manganos, told CNN his clients and their relatives joined the patients inside the home as Katrina bore down.

"They abandoned no one. They saved over 52 lives after the waters rose precipitously," he said.

For the attorney general to charge them, he said, "is in my view out of bounds and a prosecutorial abuse of discretion."

In announcing the charges, Louisiana Attorney General Charles Foti Jr. said, "Thirty-four people drowned in a nursing home where they should have been evacuated." (Posted 9:42 p.m.)

Blanco to address state legislature Wednesday

BATON ROUGE, La. (CNN) -- Gov. Kathleen Blanco will address a joint session of the Louisiana Legislature Wednesday evening.

"I have called for this special meeting to begin immediately the work of rebuilding our state and restoring our people," Blanco said in a statement Tuesday.

"We are one people, united in our resolve to rebuild, restore and recover from this tragedy. At this time of great uncertainty and despair, our people must know that all our leaders are united and dedicated to this important work."

She will deliver her remarks at 6:30 p.m. (7:30 p.m. ET) Wednesday in the state's House chamber. (Posted 7:22 p.m.)

Military assets may soon be moved from hurricane-devastated region

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. military assets may soon be moving out of the hurricane-ravaged area of Louisiana and Mississippi as other needed equipment and teams begin to move in, Pentagon officials said Tuesday.

Navy ships such as the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman and the USS Whidbey Island, a dock landing ship, may move out within days.

Additionally, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, traveling to a NATO conference in Germany, said some helicopters could be moved out of the region as search and rescue operations draw back.

Rumsfeld stressed that no equipment or manpower would be moved from the region without the authorization of the governors of Mississippi and Louisiana. (Posted 7:09 p.m.)

Nursing home owners charged with negligent homicide

BATON ROUGE, La. (CNN) -- The owners of a nursing home in St. Bernard Parish are charged with negligent homicide for the deaths of 34 people in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Louisiana's attorney general told reporters Tuesday.

"They did not die of natural causes; they drowned," Charles Foti Jr. told reporters about the bodies found inside St. Rita's Nursing Home. "Thirty-four people drowned in a nursing home where they should have been evacuated."

The attorney general said the home's owners -- Mable and Salvador Mangano Sr. -- surrendered Tuesday to Medicaid Fraud Control Unit investigators in Baton Rouge, where they were jailed prior to posting bond.

The hurricane's approach had given "adequate notice to all the residents in the affected area that the worst nightmare for the state of Louisiana was going to occur," Foti said.

He said the owners had plenty of opportunity to move their charges out of the facility. The Manganos were asked if they wanted to evacuate the building and were offered buses; in addition, they had signed last April a contract with Acadian Ambulance to provide transportation in the event an evacuation was needed, Foti said, but "they were never called." (Posted 5:40 p.m. updated 6:23 p.m.)

Suspicious charity Web sites increasing; FBI, Justice vow prosecutions

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The FBI has now identified at least 4,000 Internet Web sites -- many of them suspicious -- that claim to be seeking money to assist victims of Hurricane Katrina. That's nearly twice the 2,300 that had been found through last Thursday by FBI cybercrime investigators working closely with the Red Cross.

At a briefing on the status of federal efforts to combat rampant fraud in the aftermath of the Gulf Coast disaster, FBI Assistant Director Chris Swecker said investigators have now reviewed 2,100 sites. About 60 percent of them are believed to originate overseas.

"That's not a reason unto itself to conclude that that's a scam Web site, but it is a reason to be cautious," Swecker said.

While some of the suspect sites are sophisticated endeavors that are created to look like authentic Red Cross sites, others are variations of the age-old "Nigerian scam letter," which dangles the lure of a pile of money before Internet users, but says it will be forthcoming only after the user's money is first sent to the rip-off artist.

Swecker said no arrests have been made, but the number of criminal cyber investigations formally opened has increased substantially since last Thursday when the FBI acknowledged it had begun eight probes of potential Internet fraud. (Posted: 5:21 p.m.)

Poll: 80 percent expect Katrina to hurt them financially

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) -- Four out of five Americans believe Hurricane Katrina will hurt their family's financial situation, according to a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll.

In the nationwide survey of 1,005 adults, conducted Thursday through Sunday, 43 percent of respondents said Katrina would hurt their finances "a lot" over the next year; 37 percent said their finances would get hurt "a little." Nineteen percent of respondents said the hurricane would not hurt their family's finances. The remainder had no opinion.

When asked to rate the performance of federal government in responding to the hurricane, 36 percent said "good" or "very good" while 63 percent said "poor" or "very poor." (Posted 4:45 p.m.)

Louisiana death count rises

BATON ROUGE, La. (CNN) -- The death toll from Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana has been raised to 423, state officials announced Tuesday.

On Monday, the official toll in the state was 279. (Posted: 4:39 p.m.)

Nagin to reopen parts of New Orleans if EPA report good

From CNN Correspondent Gary Tuchman
NEW ORLEANS (CNN) -- New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin said Tuesday if an EPA water quality report comes back with the expected good results, he will reopen parts of New Orleans for business next week.

The EPA report is due next Monday. Nagin said the portions of the city he expects to reopen would include the French Quarter, which was spared most of the flooding that damaged other parts of New Orleans. (Posted 1:58 p.m.)

Governor has harsh words for FEMA over contract to gather bodies

From CNN Producer Mike M. Ahlers
BATON ROUGE, LA. (CNN) -- Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco lashed out at the Federal Emergency Management Agency on Tuesday for what she said was a "lack of urgency and lack of respect" involving the recovery of bodies of Hurricane Katrina victims.

Blanco said she ordered the state to sign a contract with Kenyon International Monday, after Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff failed to live up to a promise to sign a contract with the organization.

The organization has been recovering bodies in recent days in New Orleans.

Kenyon had told the state that if they didn't get a contract soon, they would be forced to leave as soon as they professionally could.

"In death, as in life, our people deserve more respect than they have received," she said.

Her comments were made at what was billed as a news conference where reporters were prohibited from asking questions.

Kenyon International spokesman Bill Berry tells CNN they had a short-term working agreement with FEMA that expires at midnight Tuesday.

Berry said the company had been in negotiations with FEMA, but on Sunday told FEMA that they would decline to accept any new contract with FEMA. He declined to say why. He added that in the past two days the state has become more involved in the process. (Posted 1:53 p.m.)

Mineta estimates road, bridge repair costs will top $3 billion

GULFPORT, Miss. (CNN) -- Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, traveling Tuesday in Gulfport, Miss. -- a town now almost unrecognizable after Katrina's heavy blow -- said expected costs for road and bridge repair in the affect areas would likely top $3 billion.

He is expected to announce the expected federal contribution toward that repair later Tuesday in Jackson, Miss. (Posted 1:26 p.m.)

Evacuees say Gretna police blocked access to river's west bank at gunpoint

NEW ORLEANS (CNN) -- With New Orleans mostly under water last week and two rapidly deteriorating "shelters of last resort" already holding thousands, Mayor Ray Nagin issued a "desperate SOS" and urged people still in the city to flee over a Mississippi River bridge.

But some evacuees who tried that route told CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360" that they were met by police with shotguns who refused to allow them into Gretna, the town on the other side.

The evacuees say it was racism, plain and simple. Gretna's police chief, however, said the town simply was in lockdown and no better equipped to handle evacuees than New Orleans.

On Thursday, three days after Hurricane Katrina crashed into the central Gulf coast, New Orleans police directed a group seeking safety to go across the bridge toward the Mississippi's west bank -- and Gretna, said Larry Bradshaw, one of the evacuees.

"We were told by the commander at the police command post ... that we should cross that bridge, and there would be buses waiting to take us out," he said on CNN. "We had people in wheelchairs, we had people in strollers, people on crutches, so we were a slow-moving group. And we didn't think anything when we saw the deputies there. Then all of a sudden we heard shooting."

Gretna Police Chief Arthur Lawson said that to his knowledge, no officers fired shots near the crowd."We certainly will look into it," he said. (Posted 1:12 p.m.)

Bush: 'I take responsibility' for federal government's failure to respond to Katrina

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush on Tuesday acknowledged "serious problems" in the government's response to emergencies, and said he takes responsibility for the federal government's failures in responding to Hurricane Katrina.

"Katrina exposed serious problems in our response capability at all levels of government and to the extent the federal government didn't fully do its job right, I take responsibility," Bush said during a joint news conference with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.

Bush was responding to a reporter's question about whether Americans should be concerned that the government is not prepared to respond to another disaster or terrorist attack after it took several days for aid and troops to arrive in New Orleans and other areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

He said it is "in our national interest" to find out what went wrong on every level of government.

A bipartisan joint congressional committee is to review the response at all levels of government to the hurricane and report its findings to Congress no later than Feb. 15. (Posted 12:05 p.m. Updated 12:24 p.m.)

Acting FEMA chief: Look forward now, back later

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff on Tuesday introduced President Bush's pick for acting head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Miami Fire Chief David Paulison. Paulison has been head of the U.S. Fire Administration in the Bush administration. USFA is a part of FEMA, just as FEMA is a part of DHS.

Paulison followed the lead of other Bush administration officials, refusing to talk about the sluggish response to Katrina that many believe cost lives. "We're going to focus on the victims out there in this hurricane from this point forward, and there'll be a time and place to sit down and look at the lessons learned, " he said.

Chertoff said former FEMA chief Michael Brown, who resigned Wednesday under scathing criticism of his leadership in the Katrina disaster, "did everything that was within his capability to manage this crisis effectively." (Posted 11:17 a.m.)

Tens of thousands of homes may be uninhabitable; levee near mouth of the Mississippi destroyed

NEW ORLEANS (CNN) -- Hurricane Katrina may have caused more severe damage to levees outside New Orleans than previously expected, the New Orleans district commander of the Army Corps of Engineers told CNN Tuesday.

And inside the city, as many as 160,000 homes may be unsalvageable, Col. Richard Wagenaar said. "That's going be one of the big challenges coming up for local government -- they're going to control and let people come and look at their homes," he told "American Morning."

Flood waters came from Lake Pontchartrain, water flowing throughout five breaches in three city levees. Late Monday, high water caused a leak at a breach location on the London Avenue Canal, with water overtopping the repaired levee.

Engineers reduced the water pressure to stop the overflow, and the levee was to be shored up with more 7,000-pound sandbags.

Meanwhile, pumping the water out of New Orleans continued. Wagenaar said the process should be completed by the end of October.

"It's set up by neighborhoods," Wagenaar said. "Some of them will be done by early October, other ones by mid-, late October -- if everything goes right, Mother Nature doesn't give us any rain and our pumps continue working."

Outside the city, the damage could be far more devastating. "The levee at the Mississippi River and Gulf outlet is virtually gone," Wagenaar said on "American Morning." In the event of another hurricane or strong tropical storm, "they'd have zero protection on one side of their parish at this time." (Posted:8:50 a.m.)

No new levee leak in New Orleans canal

NEW ORLEANS (CNN) -- Water overtopped a repaired levee along the London Avenue canal in New Orleans Monday evening, but the problem was caused by the repair operation and was not the result of a new levee breach, a state official said.

Gordon Nelson, assistant secretary of operations for the state Department of Transportation and Development, said water was being pumped out at the canal when high water pressure made the water start overtopping the repaired levee. Crews reduced the water pressure to correct the problem, he said.

The incident prompted city officials to reports that a new leak had opened in the canal, which turned out to be unfounded.

The London Avenue canal runs through the Gentilly neighborhood in the northern part of the city, from near Interstate 610 to Lake Pontchartrain. The area, which includes Dillard University, was badly flooded by a breach in the canal after Hurricane Katrina hit Aug. 31. (Posted 9:24 p.m.)

Authorities mull criminal probe of New Orleans-area nursing home

BATON ROUGE, La. (CNN) -- The failure to properly evacuate a New Orleans-area nursing home where 34 residents died when floodwaters from Hurricane Katrina surged into the building may become the subject of a criminal investigation, authorities said Monday.

"We are moving forward very fast now and within the next 24 to 48 hours should determine if charges will be filed," Louisiana Attorney General Charles Foti said.

At the center of the probe is St. Rita's Nursing Home in St. Bernard Parish and why its owners didn't evacuate the facility ahead of Katrina.

Bob Johannessen, a spokesman for Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, called the actions by St. Rita's administrators "shocking" and the "worst example of negligence." (Posted 9:07 p.m.)

30-year veteran of rescue work to be acting FEMA director in place of Brown

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- David Paulison, a 30-year veteran of fire rescue work and the man who recommended Americans stock up on plastic sheeting and duct tape in the event of a terrorist attack, will serve as acting director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, whose embattled director, Michael Brown, resigned earlier in the day.

"Chief Paulison has over 30 years of experience in emergency management, working his way up the ranks from firefighter to chief of the Miami-Dade County fire and rescue department," Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said in a written statement.

Chertoff said he expects to make other appointments to FEMA in coming days, "including a permanent deputy director to augment the resources available to assist with FEMA's vital mission."

In 2003, Paulison was appointed director of the Preparedness Division of the Emergency Preparedness & Response Directorate/FEMA, in the newly created Department of Homeland Security, according to his biography posted on the agency's Web site.

It was in that role that Paulison recommended Americans stock up on plastic sheeting and duct tape to seal windows and doors in case of a biological, chemical or radiological attack. (Posted 6:57 p.m.)

FEMA head says resignation needed 'to avoid further distraction'

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Michael D. Brown, who faced a torrent of criticism for his leadership of the federal government's response to Hurricane Katrina, resigned Monday.

"Today I resigned as director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency," he said in a written statement. "As I told the president, it is important that I leave now to avoid further distraction from the ongoing mission of FEMA."

The announcement came three days after the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency was ordered to return to Washington, hours after Vice President Cheney -- in a tour of the devastated region -- heard criticisms of Brown's performance and after accusations surfaced that Brown had padded his resume.

At that time Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said it was important that Brown return to Washington to oversee other FEMA responsibilities.

Brown's fall from grace came quickly. On Sept. 2, his first trip to the region, Bush said to his FEMA chief, "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job."

Asked Monday about the resignation, Bush -- in Gulfport, Miss., -- said he had not talked with Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff -- who was Brown's boss -- and therefore could not comment on it. "I've been working," Bush said after touring a school that was being cleaned. (Posted 4 p.m.)

Louisiana Death Toll Jumps to 279

BATON ROUGE (CNN) -- The State of Louisiana has raised the death toll from Hurricane Katrina to 279. The number represents deaths reported by local coroners to the state. The state said 242 bodies are at the morgue in St. Gabriel. The rest were reported by parish coroners as follows: St. Charles, three, Jefferson Parish - 25, St. Tammany Parish - six, Iberia Parish - three.

State officials said that any deaths determined to have been caused as a result of Hurricane Katrina are being added to the totals. (Posted: 3:35 p.m.)

Bush says he didn't mean no one anticipated levees breaching

NEW ORLEANS (CNN) -- President Bush said Monday that when he told the country, two days after Hurricane Katrina crashed ashore, that no one had anticipated the breach of levees in New Orleans, that wasn't what he meant.

Bush said he wanted to "clarify" the remark he made in an interview with ABC -- an inaccurate statement that added to blistering criticism against the president.

"When that storm came by, a lot of people said we dodged a bullet. When that storm came through at first, people said, 'Whew.' There was a sense of relaxation. And that's what I was referring to," Bush told reporters in New Orleans Monday. "Of course, there were plans in case the levee had been breached. There was a sense of relaxation at a critical moment."

That was not what Bush told ABC on August 31. "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees. They did anticipate a serious storm. But these levees got breached. And as a result, much of New Orleans is flooded. And now we are having to deal with it and will," he said.

In fact, local, state, and federal officials had predicted for years that a Category 4 hurricane could breach the levees and flood New Orleans. And forecasters said for days before Katrina made landfall that it could be a Category 4 hurricane.

Some lawmakers pointed to Bush's remark as one of many signs that Bush and his top advisers were unaware of the realities on the ground. (Posted:2:51 p.m.)

Power steadily coming back online; Mississippi in much better shape than Louisiana

(CNN) -- Mississippi Power says electricity has been restored to nearly 169,000 of their 195,000 customers in the coastal part of the state, the most it can reconnect to at this time. All other affected customers will need to either rebuild or repair their structures before the electricity can be reconnected, the company reported Sunday.

The lights are almost all back on in Alabama's Mobile Bay area, according to Alabama Power, which said 197,975 of their customers were without electricity after the hurricane hit.

Entergy Corp., which has 2.7 million utility customers in Arkansas, Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana, reports that power has been restored to all of its Mississippi customers. However, more than 278,000 of its customers in Louisiana were still in the dark as of early Monday.

The New Orleans metro area -- especially Uptown, New Orleans East and Chalmette -- has the bulk of those outages because much of it remains inaccessible to work crews. Entergy reports that 167,000 customers are without power in those areas, but most of those homes and businesses are empty in the wake of a mandatory evacuation order. (Posted 1:42 p.m.)

EPA: Tests confirm New Orleans flood waters contain lead

BATON ROUGE, La. (CNN) -- The floodwater in New Orleans contains high levels of lead in addition to E. coli bacteria, the Environmental Protection Agency says.

EPA press secretary Eryn Witcher said the agency issued an advisory about the water Wednesday after getting initial results, but final results waited for further review. The samples were taken Sept. 3, four days after Hurricane Katrina hit, from six locations in the city.

The advisory, warning against direct contact or ingesting the water, was repeated Sunday. "Also, people can become ill if they have an open cut, wound, or abrasion that comes into contact with water contaminated with certain organisms," the agency said. "One may experience fever, redness, and swelling at the site of the infection and should see a doctor right away if possible."

Witcher said the level of lead in the water would cause "concern if a child ingests large amounts of the flood water." (Posted: 12:27 p.m.)

Bush says much work remains, deflects questions on disaster response

NEW ORLEANS (CNN) -- After touring parts of severely damaged New Orleans on Monday, President Bush noted there is "progress being made," but added "there's a lot of serious and hard work yet to be done."

Asked by reporters whether the federal government should have gotten to the disaster scene sooner, Bush said, "I think that's one of the interesting issues that Congress needs to take a look at," and come up with recommendations. "My attitude is that we need to learn everything we possibly can."

But asked whether he could name anything that went wrong, he repeatedly argued that such questions are part of a "blame game," and that there will be "plenty of time" to determine where the fault lay.

"All of us want to learn lessons," he said, noting that the country needs to be prepared "if there were to be a biological attack of some kind." He rejected suggestions that the war in Iraq contributed to the United States being unprepared to respond to the catastrophe at home. "It is preposterous to claim that the engagement in Iraq meant there wasn't enough troops here -- it's pure and simple," he said. (Posted 12:03 p.m.)

For first time, Bush sees New Orleans devastation up close

NEW ORLEANS (CNN) -- President Bush toured destroyed areas of New Orleans in a convoy Monday, for the first time witnessing up close the major city largely washed out by Hurricane Katrina.

On his third trip to the region since the storm made landfall two weeks ago -- and his first overnight trip -- Bush heard updates from those in charge of the recovery efforts on the ground.

In a Monday morning briefing, Bush sat between two of the most prominent elected officials who have criticized the federal government's response to the hurricane -- New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco. Both Nagin and Blanco have publicly praised Bush for promising action to help the stricken region, even amid their criticism of the administration.

Vice Adm. Thad Allen gave a presentation Monday on the status of the recovery effort. Allen became the federal government's top official overseeing relief efforts after embattled FEMA Director Michael Brown was brought back to Washington on Friday. (Posted 10:40 a.m.)

Neighborhoods still under water

NEW ORLEANS (CNN) -- Large parts of New Orleans remained under water Monday, and most of the deluged areas were neighborhoods. Much of the city's popular tourist sites were dry, and many were on high enough ground to avoid the worst flooding altogether, although wind damage was widespread.

Doctors and health organizations were also keeping their eyes on evacuees in shelters spread over the country and on those still in New Orleans, watching for signs of infectious disease. (Posted 8:04 a.m.)

Bush visits hurricane region for 3rd time; to make first tour of New Orleans

NEW ORLEANS (CNN) -- President Bush arrived in Louisiana Sunday for his third trip to the hurricane devastated region, two weeks after Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, in an effort to stem criticism that the federal government acted too slow in sending relief.

For the first time, Bush will get a first hand look at the streets of New Orleans, which were flooded after the hurricane damaged the levees protecting the city which lies below sea level. (Posted 10:40 p.m.)

Al Qaeda leader: Hurricane Katrina answers the prayers of Iraqis, Afghans

(CNN) -- On the fourth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, an Islamist Web site posted a recording from al Qaeda's leader in Iraq Abu Musab al-Zarqawi saying Hurricane Katrina was an answer to the prayers of Iraqis and Afghans who have suffered under U.S. occupation.

The voice on the recording was verified to be al-Zarqawi by CNN Arabic speaker, familiar with many of his previous statements.

In the recording, al-Zarqawi said, "I believe the devastating hurricane that hit the United States occurred because people in Iraq or Afghanistan -- maybe a mother who had lost her son or a son whose parents were killed or a woman who was raped -- were praying for God and God accepted their prayers." (Posted 8 p.m.)

Military aircraft to spray New Orleans area with pesticide

BATON ROUGE, La. (CNN) -- The Air National Guard will begin spraying pesticide over the New Orleans area Monday evening in an effort to ward off the threat of mosquito-borne disease, a public health official said Sunday.

"With all the standing water, we're gonna have problems with flying bearers of disease," U.S. Public Health Service Director Adm. Craig Vanderwagen told reporters.

The program will use C-130s, from the 910th Airlift Wing in Youngstown, Ohio, which are designed for aerial pesticide spray missions.

The aircraft will mist the area with naled, a pesticide approved by the Environmental Protection Agency and commonly used in southern Louisiana, Vanderwagen said. (Posted: 6 p.m.)

FEMA: temporary housing program 'progressing quite well'

BATON ROUGE, La. (CNN) -- Federal Emergency Management Agency spokesman David Passey defended his agency's efforts to provide temporary housing for Hurricane Katrina evacuees across Louisiana.

Asked Sunday about a statement made earlier in the day by Col. Jeff Smith of Louisiana's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness that FEMA was moving too slowly in providing trailers for evacuees currently being housed in shelters, Passey said, "We believe that the effort is progressing quite well."

The spokesman said Sunday that 10 families from Louisiana shelters had already moved into trailers in Patterson, west of New Orleans. He said 5,900 housing units -- most of them aboard two cruise ships -- would be reserved for first responders and essential public employees.

(Posted: 5:21 p.m.)

Police: There will be no forced evacuations from New Orleans

NEW ORLEANS (CNN) -- Authorities will not force hold-outs in New Orleans to leave their homes, a spokesman for the New Orleans Police Department said Sunday. Capt. Marlin Defillo said authorities will continue to go house-to-house informing residents that they are in violation of mandatory evacuation orders, "but we will not physically force them out of their homes." (Posted: 4:54 p.m.)

Baton Rouge home prices through the roof

BATON ROUGE, La. (CNN) -- New Orleans families uprooted by Hurricane Katrina have triggered a rush on real estate in nearby Baton Rouge, causing a sudden surge in home prices as people realize they will not be quickly returning home, according to an informal sampling of real estate experts and the city's mayor.

"This caught us all by surprise," said Judy Burkett, president of the Greater Baton Rouge Association of Realtors. Baton Rouge Mayor Kip Holden told CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer" that he has been "hearing stories of people bringing cash in and saying 'I don't care what it cost, let me have the house.'"

"Buyers started the bidding war," Burkett said, with prices rising between 20 and 30 percent in the last week. (Posted: 3:54 p.m.)

Gas prices spike to record high

(CNN) -- Retail gasoline prices broke their all-time high, surging more than 38 cents in the wake of Hurricane Katrina to an average of $3.01 per gallon, a national survey said Sunday.

"That price surge is due to the supply shrinkage caused by Hurricane Katrina," said Trilby Lundberg, publisher of the Lundberg Survey.

Lundberg predicted that retail gasoline prices will drop in coming days.

Wholesale prices have been dropping because demand has fallen -- as it always does in September -- and many of the refineries and pipelines affected by the hurricane have returned to operation, she said. (posted 3:40p.m.)

Former VP candidate suggests closer look at poverty in wake of disaster

Former senator and vice presidential candidate John Edwards Sunday suggested a New Deal-type program to rebuild the devastated city of New Orleans.

Speaking on CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer," the North Carolina Democrat said he hoped the catastrophe would "shine a bright light on poverty in America" and that the American people would "do something about it nationally." (posted 2:38 p.m.)

"Take these displaced folks, put them to work in New Orleans," he said. "Pay them a good wage. Pay them decent benefits so that they can not only reconstruct their city, they can reconstruct their lives and have the dignity that comes from having a good job and being able to support your family."

4 years later, leaders of 9/11 Commission say little has been learned

The co-chairmen of the 9/11 Commission said Sunday the government's response to Hurricane Katrina shows little was learned from the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 about how to handle disasters.

"It's the same thing over again," said Thomas Kean, former governor of New Jersey. "How many people have to lose their lives?" he asked, and then ticked off a list of what he said were failures: "It's a lack of communication, first responders not being able to talk to each other, it's no command-and-control, nobody in charge, it's delayed responses, it's basically many of the things that, frankly, if some of our recommendations had been passed by the U.S. Congress, that could have been avoided."

Former Rep. Lee Hamilton of Indiana, also a co-chairman of the commission, said he was not surprised by the federal government's lack of alacrity in responding to the hurricane. "I've had an uneasy feeling for a long time that the government simply was not acting with a sense of crisis, with a sense of urgency," he told CNN. (posted: 2:36 p.m.)

Obama: Bush should move past spin, show 'what he saw woke him up'

Sen. Barack Obama, the only African-American in the U.S. Senate, criticized President Bush on Sunday for responding to the Hurricane Katrina crisis with a "spin operation" but no apparent sense that the government had failed its people.

The administration has "excellent responses when it comes to P.R., more detachment and less effectiveness when it comes to governing. I think that's been true in Iraq. It's been true across the board," he told ABC's "This Week."

The Illinois Democrat said the thousands of poor blacks left stranded and struggling showed that "whoever was in charge of planning was so detached from the realities of inner city life inner in a place like New Orleans that they couldn't conceive of the notion that somebody couldn't load up their SUV, put $100 worth of gas in there, put some sparkling water and drive off to a hotel and check in with a credit card." (posted 12:19 p.m.)

General expects New Orleans death toll 'much lower' than 10,000

The general running the U.S. military's response efforts to Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans told CNN Sunday he expects the death toll in the city will be far less than some officials had feared.

"I think it's going to be a lower number, much lower than the 10,000," said Lt. Gen Russel Honore. "A heck of a lot lower than that."

But he emphasized that officials still do not know how many people in the city died in the storm and flooding that ravaged New Orleans. Troops are going house-to-house through parishes in search of survivors and in a recovery mission for bodies. (Posted 11:29 a.m.)

Papal envoy to celebrate Mass

A papal envoy visiting hurricane-ravaged Louisiana is expected to celebrate Mass in Baton Rouge on Sunday and send along "a message of condolence" from Pope Benedict XVI to the hurricane victims.

Archbishop Paul Josef Cordes is to celebrate Mass at St. Joseph's Cathedral in Baton Rouge at 10 a.m.

Cordes is the head of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum (United Heart).

After the Mass, Archbishop Cordes, New Orleans Archbishop Alfred Hughes and Baton Rouge Bishop Robert Muench "will make pastoral visits to three shelters in the Baton Rouge area." (Posted 5:35 a.m.)

Mayors criticize FEMA response

The mayors of storm-battered Slidell, La. and Pascagoula, Miss. on Saturday said Federal Emergency Management Agency's response to the Hurricane Katrina has been slow.

"Clearly the FEMA response has been slow," Pascagoula Mayor Matthew Avara said. "We got a lot of good people on the ground here that are with FEMA and with the state agencies. They wear their badges and they look good. But unfortunately, we just not have seen all the assets and all the resources that we need in our city."

Slidell Mayor Ben Morris called FEMA's response "quite slow" and said it was "basically non-existent" at the beginning of the catastrophe.

"We do have some of their folks on the ground. They are working real hard."

He said "hopefully they'll get up to speed sometime soon." (Posted 2:35 a.m.)

Red Cross launches unprecedented appeal for 40,000 volunteers

BATON ROUGE, La. (CNN) -- The American Red Cross is making an unprecedented appeal for 40,000 volunteers to help its Hurricane Katrina relief effort, spokesman John Degnan announced Saturday.

They would replace 36,000 volunteers currently serving a three-week rotation, which is about to expire. (Posted 5:40 p.m.)

FEMA debit cards available only to evacuees in major Texas shelters

HOUSTON (CNN) -- Confusion erupted outside Houston's Reliant Park complex Saturday when evacuees who fled Hurricane Katrina showed up expecting to get $2,000 debit cards from the government -- only to be told the cards were not available.

Families were told they are eligible to get $2,000 in the form of a direct deposit to a bank account or a check mailed to an address they provide.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has been distributing $2,000 debit cards to some evacuees as part of a pilot program.

FEMA had said the cards would be available to evacuees in the Houston area outside the Reliant Park complex -- which is serving as a temporary home to thousands of evacuees -- on Saturday afternoon. But Friday night, FEMA scrapped that part of the plan.

Meanwhile, the Red Cross began distributing its debit cards Saturday morning at St. Agnes Church in Houston, according to spokesman Gregory Smith. The cards are worth between $350 and 2,000. (Posted 4 p.m.)

Cheney: No complaints from evacuees he met Saturday

AUSTIN, Texas (CNN) -- Vice President Dick Cheney said Katrina evacuees he visited at the Austin convention center Saturday were "uniformly positive," and no one complained about the federal response to the disaster.

Cheney also met with with Texas emergency officials.

"Texas has had an enormous success story," Cheney said. The state has taken in more evacuees than all other states combined, he said. "They are all very thankful for where they find themselves now."

Cheney refused to discuss any involvement in the removal of FEMA chief Michael Brown from the relief effort. "It was not my call to make," Cheney said. (Posted 3:55 p.m.)

Insurance woes loom as residents return to battered neighborhoods

BILOXI, Miss. (CNN) -- As people return to Biloxi, Miss., to assess the damage left behind by Hurricane Katrina, many said they are afraid that the thousands of dollars they have paid to insure their homes will cover only a small fraction of the cost to rebuild.

Katrina's storm surge reached more than 20 feet in some parts of the Mississippi coast, and the hurricane flattened homes and ruined businesses along the Gulf Coast.

All that remains of Bobby Migues' Biloxi home is a pile of bricks and exposed pipes. Migues has flood insurance, but his insurance company said only that insurance will apply -- not nearly enough to rebuild his home.

Biloxi Mayor A.J. Holloway said he hopes insurance companies will be more understanding. "This was not a flood, this was a hurricane," Holloway said. (Posted 3:35 p.m.)

Draining New Orleans going faster than expected

NEW ORLEANS (CNN) -- Draining the flood waters from New Orleans should be completed in October, far ahead of the 80 days previously estimated, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Dryer weather, favorable winds, increased pumping capacity and use of "un-watering breaches" to allow draining are credited with speeding up the progress, a statement from the Army Corps of Engineers said.

The new estimated dates to the complete the draining are as follows: New Orleans: October 2; New Orleans East: October 8; Chalmette: October 8; Plaquemines East: October 18; Plaquemines West: October 18 (posted 11:53a.m.)

Federal government gives up effort to block coverage of recovery of bodies

HOUSTON (CNN) -- The federal government abandoned its effort Saturday to prevent the media from covering the recovery of bodies in areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina, following legal action by CNN.

Joint Task Force-Katrina "has no plans to bar, impede, or prevent news media from their newsgathering and reporting activities in connection with the deceased Hurricane Katrina victim recovery efforts including access to the sites, photographing, or reporting," wrote Col. Christian E. deGraff in a memorandum submitted in court.

"We are pleased by the decision," said CNN News Group President Jim Walton. "The free flow of information is vital for a free society."

On Friday, a U.S. district judge in Houston granted a temporary restraining order to CNN against a "zero access" policy announced earlier Friday by Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honore, who is overseeing the federal relief effort in the city, and Terry Ebbert, the city's homeland security director. (posted 10:30a.m.)

9-11 commissioner: U.S. unprepared for disaster or terrorist attack

NEW YORK (CNN) -- The government's response to deadly Hurricane Katrina shows the United States is unprepared for a disaster or terrorist attack, a member of the commission that investigated the Sept. 11 attacks told CNN Saturday.

Speaking on the eve of the 4-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks, former congressman Tim Roemer said, "We have had our first post-9/11 test and we have miserably failed. We're not prepared for a disaster. We're not prepared for a large-scale terrorist attack.

"Our government couldn't drop water to our most needy citizens. We couldn't get generators to people in hospitals. We didn't go by an evacuation plan."

Despite billions of dollars spent on security and governmental restructuring, "We're not safer yet," the Democrat from Indiana said. (posted 9:24a.m.)

Louisiana trying to bring displaced teachers back to classroom

BATON ROUGE, La. (CNN) -- The Louisiana Education Department said Friday it has placed a full-page ad in state newspapers providing teachers "the information they need to apply for jobs and get back in the classroom."

The department said Katrina has displaced 25 percent of the state's teachers, or more than 12,000. Of that number, 4,415 of them work in Orleans and St. Bernard parishes.

The department urges teachers to "contact the school district where you have sought shelter or contact the Louisiana Department of Education through our toll free hot line at: 1-877-453-2721 or on the Web site (Posted 1:55 a.m.)

New Orleans-area schools start assessing structural damage

BATON ROUGE, La. (CNN) -- Louisiana's Department of Education on Friday said superintendents of New Orleans-area school systems inspecting buildings inundated and whiplashed by Hurricane Katrina have seen serious losses, damaged but salvageable buildings, and even relatively unscathed structures.

But State Superintendent of Education Cecil J. Picard, in a statement on the department's Web site, said "it's clear from these damage reports that several of our districts will have to completely rebuild the majority of their schools and I will help them in any way I can."

"I am thankful that so many school districts hope to be back in the business of educating our children in the next two months, but I urge parents whose children attend schools in Orleans, Plaquemines and St. Bernard Parishes to enroll their children in the schools where they are taking shelter." (Posted 1:55 a.m.)

Nurse questions why nursing home residents weren't evacuated

NEW ORLEANS (CNN) -- A nurse at a New Orleans-area nursing home where more than 30 residents died when water from Hurricane Katrina surged into the facility said Friday she doesn't understand why no rescuers went to the home to evacuate it.

"I cannot understand if there was a mandatory evacuation scheduled for Sunday afternoon why they didn't get these people out," Tammy Daigle told CNN.

Daigle said she was told by other staff at St. Rita's Nursing Home that administrators had no plans to evacuate the facility's 60 residents, even though concerned relatives were calling the home.

The Louisiana Attorney General's Office said it plans to investigate why the nursing home residents weren't taken away. (Posted 11:40 p.m.)

New Orleans officials urge people to stay away for their own safety

NEW ORLEANS (CNN) -- As police officers and armed troops tried to "persuasively negotiate" Friday with residents still stubbornly refusing to leave flood-ravaged New Orleans, city officials again urged people to stay away because of health concerns.

"The water is not drinkable, and there are significant risks associated with the floodwaters that remain in the city," said Dr. Kevin Stephens, director of the New Orleans Health Department, in a statement released by the office of Mayor Ray Nagin.

The city also recommended that anyone who has been in the city since Hurricane Katrina hit last week should be inoculated for tetanus, diphtheria, influenza and hepatitis A, noting that many shelters housing evacuees are equipped to provide the inoculations. (Posted 10:45 p.m.)

Judge blocks ban on media access to recovery of bodies in New Orleans

HOUSTON (CNN) -- At the request of CNN, a federal judge in Texas Friday night blocked emergency officials in New Orleans from preventing the media from covering the recovery of bodies from Hurricane Katrina.

Attorneys for the network argued that the ban was an unconstitutional prior restraint on news gathering.

U.S. District Judge Keith Ellison issued a temporary restraining order against a "zero access" policy announced earlier Friday by Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honore, who is overseeing the federal relief effort in the city, and Terry Ebbert, the city's homeland security director.

A hearing was scheduled for Saturday morning to determine if the order should be made permanent.

In explaining the ban, Ebbert said, "we don't think that's proper" to let media view the bodies.

CNN News Group President Jim Walton said the network "has shown that it is capable of balancing vigorous reporting with respect for private concerns." (Posted 9 p.m.)

Friday, September 9

Bush signs law allowing federal courts to operate outside districts

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush on Friday signed into law a bill that allows federal courts to operate outside of their territorial jurisdictions in the event of an emergency.

The law allows a federal appeals court to hold sessions "at any place outside the circuit" if the chief judge or the next highest ranking person determines the court cannot operate in its jurisdiction due to "emergency circumstances."

The law also applies to U.S. district courts and bankruptcy courts. With New Orleans devastated by Hurricane Katrina, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has moved temporarily to Houston. Other federal courts in states hit by Katrina also are finding temporary homes.

The bill was first proposed in June, but Katrina spurred its passage. (Posted 8:35 p.m.)

Bush green-lighted removal of FEMA director from Katrina recovery

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told President Bush, in a private discussion at the White House Wednesday morning, he was considering removing Michael Brown as leader of FEMA's recovery efforts on Katrina. Bush gave him the green light.

"You need to make the decision you need to make as head of the organization. I trust you as head of homeland security and I support the decisions that you make," the president told Chertoff, according to a senior administration official.

Chertoff then returned to the hurricane-stricken region for a series of meetings, including one Thursday with Vice President Cheney, who was in the area for a first-hand look at relief efforts. A senior administration official the vice president told Chertoff do what what he needed to do, without wasting time.

Thursday night, Chertoff called White House Chief of Staff Andy Card to tell him he had decided to send Brown to back to Washington and put Coast Guard Vice Adm. Thad Allen in charge of the effort, and Card in turn informed the president. (Posted: 6:15 p.m.)

Social Security giving on-the-spot payments to Katrina-hit beneficiaries

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Social Security beneficiaries who are victims of Hurricane Katrina can go to any office of the federal agency or any temporary location and receive an on-the-spot payment, Social Security Administrator Jo Anne Barnhart said Friday.

"To ensure that beneficiaries will continue to receive their monthly Social Security and Supplemental Security Income payments, I have invoked immediate payment procedures," Barnhart said in a written statement.

She said 25,000 such checks have been issued so far. Social Security employees are on hand at the Houston Astrodome, FEMA centers and shelters. The agency also has set up expedited procedures to help families now eligible for the federal benefits. (Posted: 4:54 p.m.)

Louisiana National Guard members return from Iraq

ALEXANDRIA, La. (CNN) -- To loud cheers from friends and family members, the first 100 Louisiana National Guards members arrived back home from Iraq Friday to help in the relief efforts and to help their families cope with the disaster wrought by Hurricane Katrina. Children waved American flags, and a giant banner read, "Welcome Home American Heroes." One child clutched a sign, "I love you daddy." "We're back home now. It's time to take care of business," one soldier said, holding his wife's hand and surrounded by his three children. (posted 4:19 p.m.)

Two military officers heading Task Force Katrina promise 'unified effort'

BATON ROUGE, La. (CNN) -- Vice Adm. Thad Allen, who replaced the embattled Federal Emergency Management Agency director as on-site leader of hurricane relief operations, promised a unified effort with the U.S. military just hours after he was appointed to the position.

"There is no gap between us," Allen said, as he stood beside Lt. Gen. Russel Honore, commander of Task Force Katrina. "We are a unified effort."

Allen, the chief of staff of the U.S. Coast Guard, takes over from FEMA director Michael Brown as the top FEMA official in the hurricane-battered regions of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Brown returns to Washington, D.C., to focus on other emergency issues, including Tropical Storm Ophelia.

During the news conference, Honore said soldiers will start evacuating some of the pets left behind in New Orleans, as well as those belonging to the holdouts who refuse to leave the city because they don't want to leave their animals behind. The soldiers will take the animals to a collection point. (Posted: 4:03 p.m.)

Mayors of Dallas, New Orleans rip FEMA

DALLAS (CNN) -- The mayor of Dallas lambasted the Federal Emergency Management Agency on Friday, saying her city -- new home to thousands of Hurricane Katrina evacuees -- has received no resources from the federal government to help deal with the influx. She also criticized the state government for failing to provide assistance.

"Where is FEMA -- national -- and where is the state of Texas? We keep being told the help is coming, and so far we haven't gotten the help," Mayor Laura Miller said at a news conference.

She stood alongside New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, who has previously excoriated federal officials for their response to the catastrophe.

"I would like to say, write e-mails, send faxes, send letters to your congressmen, to your senators, and tell them 'Let's not delay help anymore,'" Nagin said. "Let's do what it takes to bust through the bureaucracy of the federal government and the state government.

About 17,000 evacuees had been staying in the Dallas Convention Center and Reunion Arena. Miller said most have been moved into apartments or other stable living conditions, but about 1,500 remain at the two sites. (Posted 3:25 p.m.)

Brown issues statement on FEMA changes

(CNN) -- FEMA director Michael Brown issued a statement Friday after Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff announced he would return to Washington, leaving his assistant in charge of on-site Katrina relief operations.

He said he is needed in Washington to monitor Tropical Storm Ophelia, which forecasters say could strike Georgia or the Carolinas as a hurricane next week.

"FEMA is fully capable of handling multi-storm operations." his statement said. "We have pushed operational control of Hurricane Katrina out of our D.C. headquarters into our field structure now assembled and operational.

"We are monitoring Tropical Storm Ophelia's approach and are in close contact with the National Hurricane Center and the states that could be impacted." (Posted 3:20 p.m.)

FEMA director replaced as on-site head of Katrina relief operations

(CNN) -- Amid mounting criticism, FEMA director Michael Brown will be replaced as the on-site head of relief operations in the Gulf Coast region devastated by Hurricane Katrina, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff announced Friday.

He will be replaced by Vice Adm. Thad Allen, the chief of staff of the U.S. Coast Guard, who has been acting as Brown's assistant in the Gulf region.

Chertoff said the change comes as authorities move from immediate response to the next phase of operations. He said it is important that Brown return to Washington, D.C., to oversee FEMA national headquarters. "FEMA has responsibility not only to participate in this recovery, it's got a lot of other responsibilities," Chertoff said. "We cannot afford to let our guard down."

Brown has been roundly criticized for not responding fast enough to ensure aid got to the region after Hurricane Katrina hit on Aug. 29.(Posted 2:16 p.m.)

New Orleans seeks to consolidate agencies working on Katrina aftermath

NEW ORLEANS (CNN) -- City officials were attempting Friday to put all the law enforcement agencies working on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina under the control of the New Orleans Police Department, the city's homeland security chief said.

"Today we are attempting with the federal government's assistance to gain control of all law enforcement agencies that have been provided," Terry Ebbert said at a news conference.

"We are working to, one, categorize, identify, the number of people, the organizations, and assign them directly to the New Orleans Police Department for law enforcement actions, and thereby not allowing individual departments to act on their own." (Posted 1:45 p.m.)

Current Death Toll

Total Confirmed fatalities -- 337

-- Mississippi - 204

-- Louisiana - 118

-- Florida - 11

-- Alabama - 2

-- Georgia - 2

Note: In anticipation of a staggering death toll, FEMA has brought in 25,000 body bags for the New Orleans area, and FEMA's warehouse morgue for the area is set up to handle 5,000 bodies. (Posted: 1:33 p.m.)

New Orleans pleads with final holdouts to leave; no forced evacuations yet

NEW ORLEANS (CNN) -- Armed troops and city officials tried to "persuasively negotiate" with the last holdouts in New Orleans to get them to leave the ruined city voluntarily Friday, and threatened forced evacuations could follow, the city attorney said.

"At this time, force is not being used to evacuate those persons who are already in the city," said Sherry Landry at a news conference outside City Hall. Forces and troops were working to "strongly encourage" people to leave for their own safety -- and the safety of everyone involved, she said. (Posted: 1:30 p.m.)

Initial sweeps offer hope for death toll below 'dire predictions'

NEW ORLEANS (CNN) -- Although the search for bodies amid the Hurricane Katrina wreckage is only at an initial stage, a top official overseeing the efforts said Friday the results offer hope for a death toll lower than some of the most dire suggestions.

"I think there's some encouragement in what we found in the initial sweeps that some of the catastrophic death that some people predicted may not in fact have occurred," said Terry Ebbert, New Orleans' homeland security chief, at a news conference. "The numbers so far are relatively minor as compared to the dire predictions of 10,000," he said. (Posted 1:10 p.m.)

Police reject 'vicious rumors' of dead children; no confirmed sexual assaults

NEW ORLEANS (CNN) -- New Orleans Police Superintendent Eddie Compass rejected what he called "vicious rumors" Friday that bodies of dead children had been found inside the convention center, where Hurricane Katrina evacuees stayed for days.

"We have swept the entire convention center," he said, and no children were found dead. Also, he said, there were "no confirmed reports of any type of sexual assault."

For days, the convention center and the Superdome were scenes of chaos, as lawlessness gripped much of the city. Evacuees described instances of violence including sexual assault. (Posted 1:02 p.m.)

The Air Force to launch aerial spray missions to attack disease spreading insects.

(CNN) -- The Air Force will conduct aerial spray missions targeting disease-spreading insects in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama this weekend. Two Air Force Reserve C-130s from the 910th Airlift Wing in Youngstown, Ohio and nearly 50 Air Force Reservists are scheduled to takeoff Friday at 2:30 p.m.. Each C-130H is capable of spraying about 60,000 acres a day.

The mission will be a joint effort of the Air Force, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The crews are planning to spray the New Orleans area first, then work other affected areas as required. Mosquitos capable of transmitting such diseases as Malaria, West Nile Virus and Encephalitis, will be the primary target.Aquarium survivors to be airlifted out of New Orleans. (Posted 12:15 p.m.)

Aquarium survivors to be airlifted out of New Orleans

NEW ORLEANS (CNN) -- Penguins, sea otters, rare Australian sea dragons and a 250-pound sea turtle named Midas will be airlifted out of the New Orleans Aquarium of the Americas Friday after surviving Hurricane Katrina.

The animals will be taken to habitats in Monterey, Calif., and Dallas, Texas, aquarium spokeswoman Melissa Lee told CNN.

Most of the aquarium's 10,000 fish did not survive after the storm knocked out power essential for making the water habitable, and the facility's emergency generator later failed.

Electricity has since been restored at the Aquarium of the Americas, located at the foot of Canal Street along the Mississippi River.

The aquarium's entire colony of 19 penguins and a couple of California sea otters will be taken to Monterey Bay Aquarium, where they originally came from, Lee said. (Posted: 11:32 a.m.)

Bush to return to Miss., La. on Sunday

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush will return to Mississippi and Louisiana on Sunday, the White House said Friday. Bush will stay overnight in Louisiana before returning to Washington on Monday, said White House spokesman Scott McClellan. The president is facing blistering criticism for his administration's handling of the deadly disaster. Bush first traveled to the region last Friday, four days after Hurricane Katrina made landfall and spread destruction along a huge swath of the Gulf Coast. He returned to the region on Monday for another one-day trip. (Posted: 10:22 a.m.)

Red Cross twice rebuffed in sending relief into New Orleans

BATON ROUGE, La. (CNN) -- American Red Cross officials twice asked to be allowed to enter New Orleans with relief supplies late last week after the city was savaged by Hurricane Katrina, but they were asked not to do so by state officials concerned about the logistical difficulties of such an operation, Red Cross and state officials said Thursday.

Vic Howell, chief executive officer of the Red Cross' Louisiana Capital Area Chapter, said the request was first made on Thursday during a visit to the state by the national president of the American Red Cross, Marsha Evans.

He said he then renewed that request on Friday to Col. Jay Mayeaux, the deputy director of the Louisiana Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.

"We made the offer as a humanitarian organization to go in and provide support to the people that were in need," Howell said at a news conference in Baton Rouge. "We had adequate supplies, the people and the vehicles ... to do that. It was the middle of a military rescue operation trying to save lives. We were asked not to go in, and we abided by that recommendation."

Mayeaux, who appeared at the news conference with Howell, said during their conversation on Friday, he asked the Red Cross to wait 24 hours so that conditions could be "set" for the operation.

"To set up a feeding station to feed a large number of people, you need space, you need to escort the personnel into position, set up the appropriate matter in which you want to feed those personnel. And we asked Mr. Howell, and he concurred, to wait 24 hours to go to set that in," Mayeaux said.

By Saturday, however, with large-scale evacuations of the city well under way, the point was moot, and the Red Cross never launched its relief effort in the city, according to both Howell and Mayeaux. (Posted: 1:00 a.m.)

First lady: Accusations that Katrina aid slowed by racism are 'disgusting'

(CNN) -- First lady Laura Bush on Thursday denounced critics who say race played a role in the federal government's slow response to victims of Hurricane Katrina.

"I think all of those remarks were disgusting to be perfectly frank," the first lady told the American Urban Radio Networks.

However, she noted that poor people were most vulnerable to the devastation, and said that is a "wake-up call" for the nation to address the issue.

On Wednesday, Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean said Americans have to face the "ugly truth" that race and class played a significant role in who lived and who died when Katrina swept across the Gulf Coast.

Several black leaders and groups have expressed outrage over rescue efforts, including the Rev. Al Sharpton, who said Saturday that race played a role, and called Bush's response to the crisis "inexcusable." (Posted 10:10 p.m.)

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