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9/12/2005

 
NEWSWEEK COVER: Poverty, Race & Katrina Lessons of a National Shame

For the Moment, Americans Ready to Fix Gaze on Problems of Poverty, Race and Class; Katrina May Offer Chance to 'Start a Skirmish' on Poverty

During Meeting With Bush, Rep. Bobby Jindal Tells Story of Sheriff, Whose District Was Underwater, Who Called FEMA For Help, Was Told to Send an E-Mail Request

Frist: Unsatisfied With Where Things Are Now Because 'I Cannot Be Assured Now That if a Similar Event Were to Happen Today That Anything Would Be Different'

NEW YORK, Sept. 11 /PRNewswire/ -- For the moment, at least, Americans are ready to fix their restless gaze on enduring problems of poverty, race and class that have escaped their attention, writes Senior Editor Jonathan Alter in the current issue of Newsweek. While it may not mean a new war on poverty, Alter writes that this disaster, Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, may offer a chance to start a skirmish, or at least make Washington think harder about why part of the richest country on earth looks like the Third World. "Americans tend to think of poor people as being responsible for their own economic woes," sociologist Andrew Cherlin of Johns Hopkins University tells Newsweek. "But this was a case where the poor were clearly not at fault. It was a reminder that we have a moral obligation to provide every American with a decent life."

(Photo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20050911/NYSU004 )

In the last four decades, part of that obligation has been met, thanks to Social Security and Medicare, food stamps and the Earned Income Tax Credit, which supplements the puny wages of the working poor, helping to lift millions into the lower middle class. But, Alter writes, after a decade of improvement in the 1990s, poverty in America is actually getting worse. A rising tide of economic growth is no longer lifting all boats. For the first time in half a century, the third year of a recovery (2004) also saw an increase in poverty. Alter examines America's poor, the role that poverty and race played in the Katrina disaster, what lessons can be learned from it and what realistic strategies might work to alleviate it in the September 19 Newsweek cover story, "Poverty, Race & Katrina: Lessons of A National Shame" (on newsstands Monday, September 12).

Also in the cover package, Assistant Managing Editor Evan Thomas and a team of Newsweek correspondents from Washington and others who were on location in the Gulf region, reconstruct the government's response to the storm, and examine why officials at every level were so ill prepared for the storm. They report that at the White House it's a standing joke among the president's top aides: who gets to deliver the bad news? The bad news on Tuesday, Aug. 30, some 24 hours after Hurricane Katrina had ripped through New Orleans, was that the president would have to cut short his five-week vacation by a couple of days and return to Washington. The president's chief of staff, Andrew Card; his deputy chief of staff, Joe Hagin; his counselor, Dan Bartlett, and his spokesman, Scott McClellan, held a conference call to discuss the question of the president's early return and the delicate task of telling him. Hagin, it was decided, as senior aide on the ground, would do the deed.

Newsweek also reports that as the week went on, denial and frustration finally collided aboard Air Force One on Friday. As the president's plane sat on the tarmac at New Orleans airport, a confrontation occurred that was described by one participant as "as blunt as you can get without the Secret Service getting involved." One by one, the lawmakers listed their grievances as Bush listened. Rep. Bobby Jindal, whose district encompasses New Orleans, told of a sheriff who had called FEMA for assistance. According to Jindal, the sheriff was told to email his request, "and the guy was sitting in a district underwater and with no electricity," Jindal said, incredulously. "How does that make any sense?" According to Sen. David Vitter, a Republican ally of Bush's, the meeting came to a head when Mayor Nagin blew up during a fraught discussion of "who's in charge?" Nagin slammed his hand down on the table and told Bush, "We just need to cut through this and do what it takes to have a more controlled command structure. If that means federalizing it, let's do it."

Late last week, Bush was, by some accounts, down and angry, Newsweek reports. But another Bush aide described the atmosphere inside the White House as "strangely surreal and almost detached." At one meeting described by this insider, officials were oddly self-congratulatory, perhaps in an effort to buck each other up. Also in the cover package:

* Senior Editor Barbara Kantrowitz and San Francisco Bureau Chief Karen
Breslau look at the littlest victims of Hurricane Katrina, exemplified
by the story of one family waiting in their attic who almost starved to
death-and then were ripped apart by the disaster, the children
temporarily parentless, forced to fend for themselves and miraculously
reunited one week later. New Orleans alone was previously home to over
130,000 children, the majority of which are now displaced or reported as
missing, their fate still unclear. Health experts predict the children
of the hurricane could suffer for years from physical and emotional
effects of their trauma. "Kids have lost their homes, their schools,
their neighborhoods, connections with friends," says David Fassler, a
psychiatrist at the University of Vermont who studies children and
disasters. "I would expect to see an increase in anxiety, sleep
difficulties, fears."

* Chief Political Correspondent Howard Fineman reports that Katrina's
winds have unspun the spin of the Bush machine, particularly the crucial
idea that he is a commanding commander in chief. In the latest Newsweek
Poll, for the first time, less than a majority -- 49 percent -- say he
has "strong leadership qualities," down from 63 percent last year. "I'm
unsatisfied with where we are right now," Republican Senate Leader Bill
Frist told Newsweek, "because I cannot be assured now that if a similar
event were to happen today, that anything would be different."

(Read entire cover story at www.Newsweek.com.)

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/9287641/

Photo: NewsCom: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20050911/NYSU004
AP Archive: http://photoarchive.ap.org/
AP PhotoExpress Network: PRN1
PRN Photo Desk, photodesk@prnewswire.com

Source: Newsweek

CONTACT: Natalia Labenskyj of Newsweek, +1-212-445-4078

Web site: http://www.newsweek.msnbc.com/




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