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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Iraq: Exit Strategy or No Way Out?; New Orleans: The Wrong Way Home; In a Hole; Still Waiting; Money Trail; Embassy Explosion; Mayor Under Fire

Aired January 11, 2007 - 23:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: ... untouched since the hurricane swept through here. All of this stuff just molding. The smell is all around, and you can still find people's possessions. Here are some Mardi Gras beads, a man's boot, all of it just left behind.
There has been some progress here, and we'll talk about that tonight.

There's also growing concern about a crime rate here. Nine people dead, nine people murdered in the last 10 days alone. And today we saw a major demonstration. Thousands of residents here, taking to the streets, demanding some sort of change. Their slogan -- enough is enough. We'll talk to some of them ahead.

But first, the news from Washington. President Bush, attempting to head off complete disaster in Iraq. He and his national security team spent the day selling the plan that he laid out for the country last night. The team was on Capitol Hill. The president, before a receptive crowd at Fort Benning, Georgia.

We get more now from CNN's Suzanne Malveaux.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): It was classic White House stage craft, the president surrounding himself with U.S. troops to deliver the opening line of his sales pitch.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That is why we must and we will succeed in Iraq.

MALVEAUX: Earlier at the White House he presented a medal of honor to a fallen Marine.

While some of the men and women here from Fort Benning, Georgia, will soon be deployed to Baghdad as part of Mr. Bush's troop increase, it will be the Iraqis who will be taking the lead on the battlefield, at least that's what Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has promised Mr. Bush.

ANDREW CARD, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Maliki must have passed the test.

MALVEAUX: Former Chief of Staff Andy Card has seen this president size up world leaders.

CARD: He's very comfortable in conversation with these people. It's not scripted. He doesn't read from cards. He also speaks very candidly with them, sometimes not using the words of diplomacy.

MALVEAUX (on camera): Many see the president's investment in Maliki as a leap of faith. The Iraqi leader has promised, but failed to deliver on numerous pledges, including providing more Iraqi troops.

(Voice-over): But White House insiders say Mr. Bush regained confidence in Maliki after the Iraqi leader personally assured him during a private call last week that he'd follow through.

CARD: He's presented him with a real challenge, and I don't think that Maliki appreciated the challenge until the president really kind of laid it on him.

MALVEAUX: Mr. Bush calls himself a gut player, confident in his intuition, which has had mixed results. For British Prime Minister Tony Blair there was an immediate bond when they discovered they shared the same toothpaste.

BUSH: Well, we both use Colgate toothpaste.

(LAUGHTER)

MALVEAUX: With Russia's Vladimir Putin, it was the eyes.

BUSH: When I looked the man in the eye, I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy. We had a very good dialogue. I was able to get a sense of his soul.

MALVEAUX: For Maliki there was an exchange during their first meeting in Baghdad that established the trust.

BUSH: I've come to not only look you in the eye, I've also come to tell you that when America gives its word, it will keep its word.

CARD: He really looks into them to find out whether or not they have the resolve to be a strong leader and the courage to be lonely as a leader.

MALVEAUX: But just three months later there was serious doubt whether Maliki had that courage. In November when President Bush traveled to Jordan to meet with Maliki, he was initially stood up after a memo from his national security advisor was leaked questioning Maliki's competence.

Fast forward to Wednesday night.

BUSH: Now is the time to act. The prime minister understands this.

CARD: This is the card that was dealt the president.

MALVEAUX: The president, said to be the most powerful man in the world, tying his legacy and thousands of American lives to a man he's met face-to-face three times.

Suzanne Malveaux, CNN, the White House.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Here's another risky part of the plan. Sending another 20,000 troops or so to Iraq leaves virtually no American combat-ready units anywhere else on the planet. Today Defense Secretary Gates offered a solution.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY: The president announced last night that he would strengthen our military for the long war against terrorism by authorizing an increase in the overall strength of the Army and the Marine Corps. I am recommending to him a total increase in the two services of 92,000 soldiers and Marines over the next five years -- 65,000 soldiers and 27,000 Marines. The emphasis will be on increasing combat capability.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, the question is, you might ask, where would those men and women come from? How would they be recruited? Would they be volunteers or as one top Democrat like it, should they be draftees?

I asked Congressman Charlie Rangel, who now chairs the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. We spoke earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REP. CHARLES RANGEL (D), NEW YORK: Well, first of all, I'm against the volunteer Army being used in time of war at the exclusion of other people that I think should be just as patriotic if indeed they believe that our nation is in danger.

Another reason why I think the draft should be enacted is that it holds the executive branch accountable. The president recently has said that he's going to extend the war, escalate the war by some 21,000 people, volunteers. Where's he going to get them from? Do you really think that he's going to recruit 21,000 volunteers? No. You've never heard the president of the United States make an appeal for all able-bodied people to come to the assistance of their country during a time of war. He likes the volunteer Army, and I think it's easy to fight a war with other people's children.

COOPER: Well, the military say that they like the volunteer Army as well because they get a high level of recruits, and you have a motivated fighting force. Do you think -- I mean, is part of what you're arguing a plan to sort of embarrass the administration or put them on notice?

RANGEL: Not to put them on notice, but I truly believe if we did not have war that there should be a mandatory national service for our young people to have some sense of patriotism during this time of fear of terrorism to work in the hospitals, our schools, our... (CROSSTALK)

COOPER: So it's not just military service necessarily?

RANGEL: Not necessarily. But during a time of war, I don't think we'd be at war in Iraq if we had a draft.

COOPER: Now, the "Wall Street Journal" says that basically your idea of a draft is sort of based on antiquated notions of who is serving the military. They cite that conservative group, the Heritage Foundation, a report by them which says essentially that the modern day military, the volunteer force, is a fair representation in terms of the race of the general population is pretty much represented, and that the only socioeconomic level that's really underrepresented in fact these days in the military, according to this report, are poor Americans. Do you buy that?

RANGEL: No. They may be true when it comes to poor, uneducated Americans, those who have not completed high school and since most of the poor people are unemployed or unemployable and over half of them are women, there may be something true with that. But two-thirds of the volunteers come from low and moderate middle-income people. And there's hardly any representatives in the military from the affluent group. And so the group that hangs out with Congress people and Pentagon people and White House people and CEOs, they're not there at all.

COOPER: At this point, though, your proposal is not getting any support from Democrats who have spoken out about this -- Nancy Pelosi, Senator Kennedy. What are you going to do with it from here on?

RANGEL: I don't see how -- I've just introduced a bill today. They didn't see the bill, and so I don't see how they can have taken a position one way or the other.

I think what they are talking about is the concept of a draft. The military keeps saying that they can't find the troops. The family and the communities where the troops are coming from are saying it's so unfair. The governors are saying that they miss their National Guard. And so the question that's really being asked, where are you going to get the 20,000 troops? Where are you going to -- how thin are you going to stretch our Armed Forces? And what happens when not even $40,000 a recruitment is getting people in order to enlist? And so they are the ones who say, did you ever think about a draft, and I'm saying you cannot afford not to think about a draft.

COOPER: Congressman Rangel, we appreciate your perspective. Thank you.

RANGEL: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, the president wants five more brigades in Baghdad. So how does that break down into numbers? Well, here's the raw data. There are seven basic units in the Army. A squad has nine to 10 soldiers; a platoon, between 16 and 44. Companies have 62 to 190 troops. Brigade is composed of 3,000 to 5,000; 10,000 to 15,000 make up a division; and a Corps is made up of 20,000 to 45,000 service men and women.

Well, back here in New Orleans, one of the shocking things to see are the tens of thousands of damaged homes. Many of them still left untouched.

The state and federal government came up with a plan to help people make repairs and move back. That was the idea.

CNN's Susan Roesgen discovered that a lot of people, though, are still in limbo.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALAN RUBIN, NEW ORLEANS RESIDENT: I came back two weeks after the flood and then I -- I evacuated and I was still gone for three months.

SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN GULF COAST CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What you're about to see inside this home is just what Alan Rubin saw a year-and-a-half ago -- the unbelievable damage from water that rose all the way to the rafters. Nothing has been done to this house because the family is still waiting for help promised by what's called The Road Home program.

The program has $7.5 billion in federal money to fix up houses like this, or help homeowners start over. But how much did the programs say it would take the Rubins to fix up their home? Just $550.

RUBIN: First, I was astounded by the absurdity of the number. And then, the more I thought about it the angrier I got.

ROESGEN: And in Louisiana, a lot of people are angry. Nearly 100,000 homeowners have applied to The Road Home program, and fewer than 200 have actually received any money. That's less than 1 percent.

One reason is The Road Home program didn't really get started until six months ago because it took the federal government nearly a year to agree to fork over the money. And Road Home managers say fixing housing is a huge job.

FRED TOMBAR, ROAD HOME PROGRAM: This is a program of unprecedented scope and scale. Those billions of dollars that came, they came with strings attached. There are federal and state requirements that govern that money, and therefore, we need to make sure that we meet each of those federal and state requirements.

ROESGEN: And the program is fixing some early mistakes. After the first damage assessment of just $550, the program is now offering $150,000 to repair the Rubin home.

Program managers say it was just a goof. But other families have also complained about what they have been offered. And others are still waiting for any response at all.

ANTOINETTE PAGE, NEW ORLEANS RESIDENT: You walk further up, that was my living room.

ROESGEN: Antoinette Page's home was so damaged, the city tore it down. But she still has to pay mortgage on it, plus rent to live some place else.

PAGE: This hurts.

ROESGEN: After waiting five months for help from The Road Home program, she's just about given up hope.

PAGE: I'm not saying The Road Home won't help me, but so far they haven't. My husband and I -- we've just been (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to each other, working hard, long hours and helping ourselves.

ROESGEN: The question for Antoinette and thousands of others is, will Louisiana's Road Home program get people back into a home, or will it remain a road to nowhere?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: You know, looking at those pictures, you got to remind yourself, we are 500 days out from the storm. How is it possible that it takes so long for the federal government to dole out the money?

ROESGEN (on camera): Well, you know, when the federal government finally approved it, this plan was supposed to get money to people fairly quickly. But as the company says, that got the contract to dole out the money, hey, it's a complex process. It takes a long time.

And yet I've got to tell you, Anderson, that not only are homeowners angry in this state, the state legislature and the governor are both demanding that this company pick up the pace.

COOPER: Well, increasingly too, you got the state pointing fingers at local governments, local governments pointing fingers at the state. How long, though, can people wait? I mean, that woman, Antoinette, you know...

ROESGEN: Yes. Paying both mortgage on a house that no longer exists and rent. Anderson, a lot of people are in that situation. And I think with only about half of New Orleans population back, you have to wonder 17 months after the hurricane, how many people can afford to come back? How many people will simply give up? And that Road Home Program won't get anybody home.

COOPER: And of course, now the surging crime rate is not helping matters. A lot of people are having second thoughts about -- those who have come home, having second thoughts about being here.

Susan, thanks very much. We're going to talk about that.

We're tracking other costs here in New Orleans, as well. It seems everything is more expensive after Katrina -- $300 a month for electricity, accusations of price gouging. We'll run the numbers.

Plus, the city's new flood troubles -- 35,000 water leaks, 50 million gallons of water wasted a day.

Also, busted by Katrina -- natural gas lines, leaving residents in the cold.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

THAIS NORIEA, NEW ORLEANS RESIDENT: No heat.

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: To really understand what Mrs. Noriea's problem is, you have to get way down here and look underneath her house. It's a small crawl space.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: New Orleans underground and under fire. Why is it taking so long to fix all of this? We're keeping them honest, when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Welcome back. Coming to you from the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans.

You know, one of the biggest challenges facing this city is the breakdown of infrastructure. Residents are still coping with not being able to get the basic services much of us take for granted. We're talking about heat, hot water, things like that.

CNN's Rick Sanchez joins me now for more -- Rick.

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, think about the water pressure. We take for granted that when we're going to turn on the faucet, the water's going to be coming out really fast. There's a problem with that here. And the reason for it is that they're losing every single day about 50 million gallons of water a day.

COOPER: A day?

SANCHEZ: A day. Fifty million gallons of water. This is water that they're paying for to either drink or bathe in. Instead, it's going out in different places.

And then there's another problem. The problem they are having has to do with natural gas. The natural gas that people, again, take for granted that they get to heat their home in the middle of the night.

What happens is in the city -- and I made this tool. I went to a hardware store just to be able to illustrate it. This is just a pipe, essentially, but it's got this bend in it. And what happens, Anderson, is the water after the flooding here because of Katrina, was forced into all these pipes. Well, they drained most of it, but there's still little remnants of it stuck in low places like this bend. It blocks the natural gas from getting through. When it blocks it, then people can't heat their homes, can't work their stoves. You know, it's a major problem.

Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ (voice-over): Here's one of 35,000 water leaks in and around New Orleans -- 35,000. This is a big one, a main break.

Still, listen to a frustrated resident explain why it's taken six weeks to get it fixed.

SANDRA MANN, HOMEOWNER: As it's explained to me, is another call comes up that's more of an urgent manner than this and they just take off.

SANCHEZ: Trying to find and plug up the leaks that are wasting $50 million gallons of water a day is a relentless undertaking.

(On camera): You must be like really busy?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're really busy.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): Here's how it happened. The toppled trees and homes lifted from foundations by Katrina shattered pipes. Then there's the saltwater that poured into the city. Salt is corrosive. Now consider the shortage of both workers and equipment to fix them.

MARCIA ST. MARTIN, EXEC. DIR., SEWAGE & WATER BOARD: Prior to the hurricane, we had a team of about 1,200 employees. Today, our team is about 825. Prior to the hurricane, we had a fleet in excess of 700 vehicles. Our entire fleet was lost.

SANCHEZ: Ham strung as they are, water and sewer officials have managed to plug 35,000 leaks. The problem is they still have another 35,000 to go.

You're putting in long days.

ST. MARTIN: We're putting in long days.

SANCHEZ: How long?

ST. MARTIN: In my case, I'm probably working six days a week, between 12 and 14 hours a day.

SANCHEZ: The other problem, natural gas used to fuel 65,000 homes. When gas pipes broke and were exposed to flooding, four million gallons of water poured into them. Most was pumped out, but some remains trapped in lines all over the city. And all it takes is a teaspoon to block the gas.

Just ask 90-year-old Thais Noriea. She's one of about 1,300 returning residents who are repeatedly running out of both fuel and patience. She's lived here 68 years, gets around in a walker. But when her gas goes out, she's left with no hot water, no way to cook, and worst of all...

THAIS NORIEA, NEW ORLEANS RESIDENT: No heat.

SANCHEZ (on camera): And no heat?

NORIEA: It wouldn't be so bad this summer because you don't need the heat.

SANCHEZ: Yes.

NORIEA: But worth of all no heat. It wouldn't be bad in the summer because you don't need the heat but in the winter you really need it.

SANCHEZ: To really understand what Ms. Noriea's problem is, you have to get way down here and look underneath her house. It's a small crawl space. But you can see right there where her gas line is. And it's a pipe, essentially, but it's got quite a sag in it, like a bend. At the bottom where it bends, that's where the water accumulates. And that water prevents the gas from being able to go into her house. It's a major problem.

CHRIS BALDWIN, BIG EASY SERVICES, LLC: We'll blow the line clear, and then hook it back together until it happens again.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): And plumbers we talked to say, because there's still plenty of water in the gas lines, it will happen again.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ (on camera): Happen again.

COOPER: And it will happen again and again. I mean, 35,000 leaks that are still taking place. How long is this going to take?

SANCHEZ: Yes, think about it. They've gotten to 35,000 and they got another 35,000 more to go. They wouldn't give us a specific date when we talked to folks over at the water board. Although, they say, in their defense, that they really are short workers at this point. They are trying to do what they can with money that they are getting from the feds. And they just don't have the equipment.

Remember, every piece of equipment that they had here is either rusted out or destroyed. So they've had to lease equipment to bring it in.

That project that you saw during that report that we did, it was a backhoe that they had on lease.

COOPER: And it certainly seems like they are working hard enough. It's not a question of that, it's just a lot of work to do.

SANCHEZ: They can't go from one call to the next and get it all done.

COOPER: Rick, thanks very much. Appreciate it.

Still ahead on 360, we'll talk to a man who spent his life right here in the Lower Ninth Ward. And now at 83 years old, is determined to rebuild, and in fact is here rebuilding, on his own.

Plus, skyrocketing rents, out-of-control utility bills. Not in New York City, we're talking about here in New Orleans. Why does it cost so much to live somewhere that right now seems to have so little.

Some answers and the demonstration. People angry here about violent crime. The reaction from city officials, when this special edition of 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: And welcome back. Images here from the Lower Ninth Ward. It looks an awful like -- like it did, well, 500 days ago when Katrina first struck.

We are in New Orleans tonight. Before Katrina, some 400,000 people lived in this great city. That number has basically been cut in half.

As we told you earlier, a lot of the residents are still waiting for financial assistance from the government at pretty much every level, local, state, federal. And as they wait, they're being squeezed out of really every nickel and dime they have. It is the cost of living in New Orleans. And for many, it is staggering.

CNN's Gary Tuchman reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Real Estate Agent Eunice Ben is taking house shopping in the New Orleans East neighborhood.

EUNICE BEN, REALTOR: This is the den/living room.

TUCHMAN: Before Hurricane Katrina, this home, which is now owned by her agency, rented for about $450 a month. Now though...

BEN: The absolute least that I will rent this for is $650.

TUCHMAN: A lack of livable housing and higher repair costs have driven up rental prices since Katrina by about 40 percent. Eunice says she could get at least an additional $250 for this unit, but wants to give returning New Orleanians a break.

TUCHMAN (on camera): What are you hearing from people, though, when they hear about the prices of the rentals to come back?

BEN: They are ready to rethink their desire to come home.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): A dramatically increased cost of living is not helping the recovery here.

Rinada Boyd's (ph) rent was $400 before Katrina. After her flooded apartment was cleaned up, she was told the rent would be $650. But Rinada (ph) pleaded that she couldn't pay that much. So her landlord's letting her pay $500.

RINADA BOYD (ph), NEW ORLEANS RESIDENT: All I got to do is live day by day to try, you know, my best to try to make it through for me and my kids.

TUCHMAN: But not all landlords are doing favors. And the price hikes go beyond housing.

Jacki Adams (ph) lives with her dog in a very dark block because only three families on the street have come back since Katrina. She's wary about leaving her lights on too long because of energy price increases that have been passed on by the local utility company, which says it's just covering its costs, including repairs after Katrina.

JACKI ADAMS (ph), NEW ORLEANS RESIDENT: Just to live here just costs so much more.

TUCHMAN: Her average $300 bill for electricity and gas has increased by a few percentage points. But she's contesting her most recent monthly bill which shows she used so much power that she owes $925.

(On camera): Do you have a nuclear device in here?

ADAMS: No. No. Someone asked me if I was actually supplying energy to the rest of the block.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): And then there's food.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

TUCHMAN: At King's Meat Market and Grocery, the effort is being made not to raise prices. The gumbo special is $19.99, the same price before Katrina. But many other items are considerably pricier because of higher costs.

Those pickled pork tips were 99 cents a pound before Katrina.

And how much is it now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: $1.20.

TUCHMAN: The city is imploring business people not to price gouge, which is happening in some cases. And it's hoping public private partnerships will lead to an increase in the number of available homes.

OLIVER THOMAS, PRESIDENT, NEW ORLEANS CITY COUNCIL: As difficult as the hurricane was, recovery seems to be definitely category six or category seven.

TUCHMAN: New Orleans is getting increasingly unaffordable for many. So 500 days after Katrina, the feeling here...

ADAMS: This is not the way I imagined my life being.

TUCHMAN: ... is frustration.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: And Gary joins us now.

How extensive is this price gouging?

TUCHMAN (on camera): It's a big problem. I mean, it amazes me, after all the disasters we cover, that we still see people with no consciences.

Went into a convenient store today and I saw a half gallon of milk for $4.90. But the fact is...

COOPER: $4.90?

TUCHMAN: $4.90. I mean, that's more than double what most people pay for milk. But that isn't the main reason people are paying more money. The main reason is business people are passing on their costs.

COOPER: Right. And the costs are high all around.

Gary, appreciate the report. Thanks very much.

As we were telling you, there was a big demonstration here in the city of New Orleans. Thousands of people, residents, taking to the streets, African American residents, white residents, demanding enough is enough.

The crime here, nine people have been killed in the last 10 days. One of the men at the rally today, Council President Oliver Thomas, you saw him in Gary's piece. He joins us now.

Good to see you again, the council president.

THOMAS: Good to see you, Anderson.

COOPER: The message today -- there was a lot of anger out on the streets today. A lot of it was directed against officials, like the mayor, the chief of police, people saying enough is enough. Do you think that message got heard?

THOMAS: Well, I can say yes. As of yesterday, this is the greatest priority we have is to make our citizens safe. You know, right now we can't rebuild this community if people don't feel safe enough to bring their families back, their businesses back, you know, rebuild their homes. It has to be our number one priority. If we can't be safe, we can't be anything.

COOPER: Critics will say, you know, why hasn't it been a number one priority six months ago? Back in June, I guess it was the mayor who said, literally, enough is enough. He called in the National Guard. Then on Tuesday, he held another press conference. He said again, enough is enough.

A lot of people here feel like they are hearing those words, but they're not seeing action. What can be done?

THOMAS: Well, it's really the same old story in New Orleans. We went through this in the middle '80s and the middle '90s. e need to talk about how we sustain it, how we...

COOPER: So it's not just Katrina related?

THOMAS: No, it's really not Katrina related. New Orleans has been too violent for too long. Too many criminals going in and out of jail for too long. We need to figure out how we sustain this. It's about time that we make our schools better, our criminal justice system work, and our streets safe.

And you know, we talked about Katrina being a cleansing. Let it cleanse all of those social ills that were wrong about this city. It's time to make it right.

COOPER: And why do you think it -- why has there been this uptick? Is it the wrong people coming back? Is it people coming back and not having their folks around, or not having their -- I mean, their communities around?

THOMAS: One of the problems are the resources. And I've said this and you've said this. We really don't have any problem in this region that money can't fix. But of all the billions of dollars that have been appropriated, very few have gotten into the hands of men and women and families who really want to rebuild this community, who really want to make it better.

At some point, at some point, the money will get into the hands of the people who are trying to rebuild this city and make it a better place. And that's not happening right now.

Criminals, people who want to do the wrong thing, they find their ways back into your community. And, unfortunately, a lot of people can maintain a lifestyle here because of the criminal justice system, because of the easy way of life that they couldn't do other places.

COOPER: Well, you know, I don't think a lot of people get that if you get arrested in New Orleans, there's only a 7 percent conviction rate.

THOMAS: On violent crime.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: I found 7 percent of the people arrested actually end up in prison. That's staggering. I think nationwide, it's at least over 50 percent.

THOMAS: It has been a history that has been wrong about Louisiana...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Is it judges who are too lenient? Is it prosecutors who aren't aggressive enough?

THOMAS: Well, we need to take a look at the state laws. We need to take a look at the speedy trials of violent offenders. If you use a weapon, the laws ought to be stricter, stronger enforcement. We need to take a look at all of it because it seems like the guns and the drugs right now are having a greater effect on this community than Katrina did.

When groups like the neighborhoods (UNINTELLIGIBLE) apartment association, which is open in this area, now are fighting to say, look, you can come back to areas like the Lower Ninth Ward. When their residents hear about crimes, they say, well, why should I? That shouldn't be the case right now. There's too much money in this state not to be able to deal with crime, rebuilding, price gouging, affordable housing. Those shouldn't be our issues right now.

COOPER: Six months from now, do you think we'll be able to stand in front of a house like this here in the Lower Ninth Ward -- or do you feel progress is around the corner?

THOMAS: Well, I'm going to say this. Given what we've been through, if six months from now we don't see some progress in this community, everyone who has anything to do with it ought not be around. They really shouldn't.

COOPER: Does that include yourself?

THOMAS: That includes myself, because we owe the people in this community much more than they are getting. You know, and I'm a citizen. I just moved three of my family members back, my sister-in- law, my late brother's wife moved back into her house, my mother and father. My father is so happy. He's in a king-sized bed in his house. My brother and sister -- I'm almost back in my house.

We owe it to them and other families to make sure they are safe, that their streets are clean and that their tax dollars mean something.

Right now they don't feel like their blood, sweat or their tax dollars mean anything.

COOPER: Council President Thomas, appreciate your voice as well. Thank you very much, as always.

THOMAS: Thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: Good to talk to you.

So many homes still left in ruins. Tonight, you're going to hear a remarkable man, 83 years old, he's lived here since the 1950s. He is what made the Lower Ninth Ward, the Lower Ninth Ward for so many here. A craftsman by trade. He is rebuilding his own house at his age.

Plus, community outrage hits the boiling point. Take a look.

Enough is enough. New Orleans residents fed up and demanding answers. Why are parts of the city still in ruins? Why have there been so many murders?

Listen to what the mayor has to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR RAY NAGIN, NEW ORLEANS: I was feeling pretty good, but this crime ratio has definitely set us back.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: So what's he going to do about it? We're keeping them honest, when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Some of the images we took earlier today from the Lower Ninth Ward, still left in ruins 500 days after Katrina. We've met a lot of remarkable people during our many visits to New Orleans, people from all walks of life struggling to literally put the pieces of their lives back together, trying to resurrect the city that they love so much.

Among them is a remarkable man you're about to meet. Herbert Gettridge, at 83. He is a lifelong resident of the Lower Ninth Ward. After the storm, he returned here to rebuild the home he built himself 50 years ago. He joins me now.

Thanks very much for being with us.

HERBERT GETTRIDGE, REBUILDING HIS HOME: You're welcome.

COOPER: How is the rebuilding going?

GETTRIDGE: It's going pretty good. Not as fast as I expected it to go, but we're making progress.

COOPER: And people might think, you know, that you got some big company working with you rebuilding. You are in your house every day, every night, rebuilding it on your own?

GETTRIDGE: Well, I had quite a few people. I had a bunch of people from Kansas City, Kansas...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: A church group?

GETTRIDGE: The National Baptist Laymen, they call themselves. I've had common -- well, common relief, Billy Crystal. I had quite a few people. I can't think of all of them -- Salvation Army. I had quite a few people come down here and give me a pretty good help out.

COOPER: Have the insurance companies helped you?

GETTRIDGE: The insurance company, they paid what -- some of what they were supposed to pay.

COOPER: Some of it?

GETTRIDGE: They didn't pay all.

COOPER: And you've been paying premiums how long now?

GETTRIDGE: I've been paying insurance on that particular house since I built it. I built it in -- I started building it in 1950. I moved in it in '52 and then '52 -- from '52 on, I've been paying insurance.

COOPER: There's a lot of people who would like to move back, who would like to be doing what you're doing, but they seem unable to. Are you...

(CROSSTALK)

GETTRIDGE: I'll tell you the way I feel about that is there is a lot of people that want to come back home, but they have nothing to come back to.

COOPER: Hmm.

GETTRIDGE: Those that were renting houses, the houses are blown down, the landlord is not interested or he's not able to fix them back right away, so where can the people go.

COOPER: Why do you think more hasn't been done around here?

GETTRIDGE: I don't know. That's the shots, the big shots, the governor has a part of it. The mayor has a part of it. The state itself has a part of it, and the federal government. I think we could have had a little bit more help than what we're getting.

COOPER: Sounds like a lot more help.

GETTRIDGE: You better believe it, yes.

COOPER: When do you think you'll be able to finish your house?

GETTRIDGE: Well, I'm expecting to get my wife back home in the next month or so.

COOPER: Where is she now?

GETTRIDGE: I got -- she's in Madison, Wisconsin. She's been there since last October.

COOPER: You haven't seen her since then? GETTRIDGE: Yes. I had her down home one time in September, I think, she was here in September. But we couldn't keep her here. I had no place to keep her. I can't afford to pay hotel fees for her.

COOPER: So you're sleeping -- you've been sleeping on a cot in your home that you're fixing up?

GETTRIDGE: I moved back in that house in March. I left Madison in October of last year and I moved to Baton Rouge with a daughter, and I couldn't stay there, for thinking about my house back here in New Orleans. But the trouble was, we couldn't get in here right away. They kept us out a long time. I think I got in there in December.

COOPER: Is it scary? I mean, you're virtually the only one in this neighbor. At night, you know, there's no electricity around here.

GETTRIDGE: Man, I ain't scared of nothing, man. I've been all overseas. World War II carried me all over the world. I made it through the Japanese and the Germans. I made it and I came back. I can come through Katrina. It's not a big deal.

COOPER: You're not scared?

GETTRIDGE: No, I'm not afraid of anything. I ain't got no money for nobody to want and I don't do nobody nothing, so I'm not worried about anybody doing me anything.

COOPER: Well, I hope when we come back, you know, a couple weeks -- well, I guess a couple months from now, we'll give you a little bit more time. We hope to be able to come back and visit your home finished and see your wife.

(CROSSTALK)

GETTRIDGE: Yes, well, my home is in pretty good shape now. I'm looking for some cabinets for the kitchen, for the kitchen sink. I need electric heater for gas because we don't -- for hot water, rather, because we don't have gas back here right now.

COOPER: Yes. Well, Herbert, I appreciate you talking with us tonight.

GETTRIDGE: Tough enough.

COOPER: All right. You take care.

GETTRIDGE: Be good and be careful, man.

COOPER: All right, I will. You too.

GETTRIDGE: Have fun on your way back. You all be good.

COOPER: Sir, you can stay here for a second. Stay right there. We'll help you unplug there...

GETTRIDGE: Uh oh. I knew I was hooked up.

COOPER: Here's another piece of the puzzle.

We don't want to cause you any injury now.

GETTRIDGE: No. You all got me hooked up like this...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Let me take the mike off you here.

We'll be right back. We'll have more ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Welcome back to the Lower Ninth Ward.

In the aftermath of Katrina we witnessed incredible devastation and unprecedented generosity. More than $2 billion poured into New Orleans from major charities in the U.S. At least $1 billion from other countries and more than $10 billion in promised federal aid.

The question is, where did it all go? What did it pay for? One thing we know for sure is that 500 days after Katrina hit, most of the money is not in the hands of those who need it.

CNN's Randi Kaye, tonight, followed the money trail.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With promises of astronomical sums of money to help rebuild New Orleans in Louisiana, Michael Reed, like a lot of people here, wonders why he hasn't seen a single penny.

MICHAEL REED, HOMEOWNER: We want you to show us the money so that we can get our houses fixed. Stop telling us about how much you have. If they would give me enough to fix my house, or for my mother to fix her house, then we would be happy with that so that we can go on with our lives.

KAYE: It is in fact more than $10 billion still in the hands of the federal government. There's also $2.5 billion from major charities, and at least $1 billion from foreign countries. And yet, New Orleans is still broke. 100,000 people here still in trailers, miles of sewers still broken and entire neighborhoods still without electricity.

Governor Kathleen Blanco.

(On camera): Why is there such a holdup in getting the dollars from point A to point B? And where is that bottleneck?

KATHLEEN BLANCO, GOVERNOR, NEW ORLEANS: There's an extra level of scrutiny that goes on. KAYE: The federal government has allocated about $12 billion to the state of Louisiana to help rebuild and relocate. The governor tells me the state has paid out about $2 billion of that money. The question is where's the rest?

BLANCO: If you want to know where the trouble is, it's just simply a paperwork nightmare.

KAYE (voice-over): The federal government does not simply provide the money to fix New Orleans. Instead, the city or business or homeowner must first start rebuilding, then get reimbursed.

ROB KUWIG (ph), RAN FOR MAYOR: So you get caught in a vicious catch-22.

KAYE: Because if you're wiped out, of course, you don't have the money to start rebuilding.

KUWIG (ph): We can't do these things that are vital because we don't have the money. And we can't get the money without doing the work.

KAYE (on camera): Rob Kuwig (ph), who once ran for mayor here, charges the city has received only $100 million of the $900 million it was promised.

(Voice-over): The money trail is supposed to go from the feds to the state to the city.

KUWIG (ph): If I was the governor, I'd be down here signing checks to people.

KAYE: Perhaps the biggest post-disaster disaster is the so- called Road Home program.

(On camera): Of the $7.5 billion that's been allocated to helping people rebuild, why is it that only about 100 people out of 100,000 who have applied have actually gotten the benefits?

BLANCO: Well, that is the perfect question that we have all been trying to answer.

KAYE (voice-over): As for Michael Reed and so many others who are desperate for someone, anyone, to make good on promises to help them rebuild...

REED: A lot of people are going to decide to fold their tents and move to other locations.

KAYE: And that would mean a natural disaster, followed by a disaster of mismanagement, followed by an exodus, yet another disaster.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: And Randi joins us now. You asked the perfect question to the governor. Why are only 100 people gotten the money so far out of 100,000 people who are supposed to get this money; and yet it doesn't seem like she had any answer? It doesn't seem like anybody has an answer.

KAYE: No. But she is trying. I mean, I will say that she does appear -- at least she tells us that she's trying. The says that the state has set up about $500 million in a special account where the city can use it to try and get a head start on some of these contracts before they get reimbursed so they can use it to make some down payments and get some of these projects underway.

I also asked her point blank, what have you done personally to try and get this money moving faster, and she said that because they're working with two different bodies of government, they have FEMA and they have HUD, and they both have their own rules and regulations and lots of paperwork. She says that she has gone to Congress and lobbied Congress personally to try and get them to get rid of some of these rules and regulations so the money can start moving, but Congress hasn't changed that yet.

COOPER: State officials often point at local officials, local officials point at state and federal officials.

KAYE: Exactly.

COOPER: And it seems like they're not communicating with each other.

KAYE: Sure.

COOPER: That's at least what the "TIMES-PICAYUNE" says.

KAYE: And there's a lot of fuzzy math too. Everybody has their own numbers. Their numbers don't measure. They don't match up.

COOPER: Bottom line is only 100 people have gotten the money so far.

KAYE: That is the bottom line.

COOPER: Randi, thanks.

On the radar tonight, New Orleans. We're getting literally hundreds of e-mails on the blog in just the last few hours alone.

Claire in White Rock, British Columbia, writes, "This feels like being stuck in one of those Head On commercials that run during 360: Same thing over and over. But nothing gets done."

I know how you feel.

Cheryl in Houston blames some in on low expectations. "Those morons reelected Mayor Nagin," she tells us. "I think they got what they paid for." But Robbi, here in New Orleans, has a more hopeful take, "Residents of New Orleans," he writes, "have put with, and enabled, third-rate politicians, police and schools for too long. Finally, people are starting to rise up and refuse to put up with it anymore. We can let the good times roll AND have a functional city."

And if we have anything to say about it, you will.

We welcome Robbi's comments and yours. Just head to our Web site, cnn.com/360blog, and you can weigh in. You can also check out a pod cast I filed earlier today on the way here.

Up next, the man who looked at the crime rate in New Orleans and said enough is enough. That was more than six months ago. What's he saying now?

Thousands of people took to the streets today who said enough is enough, but they wanted to know what this guy is doing about it. We'll talk to him. Decide for yourself, next on this special edition of 360, "Wrong Way Home."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN BREAKING NEWS)

COOPER: And we have some breaking news to tell you about. CNN sources have confirmed that there has been an explosion inside the compound of the American embassy in Athens, Greece. We have some pictures that we are just getting in. We're going to show those to you.

The first bulletin came in just moments ago on the "REUTES" news wires. I'm told that we don't have those pictures now. "ASSOCIATED PRESS" followed, reporting that the embassy has been cordoned off.

As of yet, we have no further details about any injuries or any possible damage. We're monitoring many different transmissions and we're trying to get some people on the ground to get more information.

We'll keep you posted on any new developments as we learn more and as this program continues tonight.

(END BREAKING NEWS)

COOPER: Here in New Orleans people hit the streets today, protesting the city's soaring murder rate, growing lawlessness. Nine people murdered in the last 10 days alone.

Mayor Ray Nagin tried to address the crowd. The crowd was having none of it. They didn't want to hear from the mayor. They said they've already heard plenty from him and not much is getting done.

I talked to the mayor shortly after the demonstration.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: When I asked people today what I should ask you today, a lot of them said, where is the mayor? What's he been doing? They don't see you. Some of the people call you Punxsutawney Phil. Others say, you know, Mayor Ray Nay-gone.

MAYOR RAY NAGIN, NEW ORLEANS: That's something the media has been kind of pushing.

You know, as I was going around the country talking about recovery and lobbying for dollars, they say I should have been here. So when I come back and I'm working on recovery issues, quality of life, crime, then some say I was not as visible as I was prior to Katrina. It's a very difficult job. There's lots of different challenges. And I can't possibly meet everyone's expectations.

COOPER: "TIMES-PICAYUNE" says the federal, state and local officials don't seem to be communicating with one another. There still seems to be a disconnect more than a year on.

NAGIN: We communicate. That's not the issue. The issue is how do we move things through the bureaucracies efficiently and how does the money and the resources actually get down to the areas where we need it the most?

COOPER: All the federal money that's been allocated, where -- where -- you know, there are a lot of people that say, where is the money?

NAGIN: It's all over. It's in cyberspace somewhere, I guess.

COOPER: You're not seeing it?

NAGIN: It's allocated. We're not seeing it. You know, the most -- the biggest thing we've seen so far is about $250 million in loans from the community disaster loans, but everything else you hear about and talk about, we don't have it.

COOPER: People don't seem to believe that you have a plan. I mean, residents here who follow this on a daily basis, still say to me where is the plan? What is the plan?

NAGIN: They have been pounding that for a long time. Most people understand the BNOB, the Bring Back New Orleans commission plan. And it was the right one because every planning process that has come since then has built upon that foundation.

COOPER: But are you proud of where the city is now? I mean, are you satisfied with where it is?

NAGIN: You know, I felt pretty good about it up until recently because we had worked through a lot of issues, stretched dollars and had the fundamentals for recovery set up properly, but this crime issue has definitely set us back.

COOPER: A lot of people say, well look, it's not just about numbers of police because you also have now National Guard. You've got sheriff's deputies, you've got state police here. Is something wrong with the police force?

NAGIN: I think the police force can get better. 'm not going to make any excuses, but Anderson, if you go back to that "TIMES- PICAYUNE" article on the front page that said the city's to its bloody knees, which kind of really moved us to a different level. Fourteen murders were highlighted, 13 of those -- every one of them had prior convictions or prior charges, some three or four times for attempted murder. So in this broken criminal justice system we have, the criminals can commit their crimes, they can get out, commit more crimes, so, therefore, street justice takes over.

COOPER: What do you want people who are considering moving back here to know? Because, I mean, people see these crimes. They see nine people dead this year alone. They see the murder rate from last year, which makes New Orleans not the most dangerous city in terms of murders, one of the most dangerous in the country?

NAGIN: What I tell people is we're still in recovery and we have lots of challenges. And we will fix these broken systems. I mean, the criminal justice system is our number one priority. And it's now to the point where everybody is focused on it, so we're going to fix it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: And that was Mayor Ray Nagin of New Orleans.

We are continuing to follow a breaking news story out of Athens, Greece. We learned just moments ago there has been an explosion. CNN has confirmed an explosion inside the compound of the U.S. embassy.

You're looking at a live picture nearby. It doesn't really, frankly, show much other than traffic has been blocked along one side of the street near the U.S. embassy compound.

We've talked to some people inside the compound who describe the scene as chaos. We're trying to find out details. We'll take a short break. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: And Tom Foreman joins us right now with a 360 bulletin -- Tom.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Anderson.

We have now more on that breaking news out of Athens. Greek police have sealed off one of the city's busiest avenues after an explosion was heard inside the U.S. embassy building. It's just a little before 7:00 in the morning there. It is not clear what caused the blast and we do not know right now if anyone was hurt. We continue to follow the situation and we will bring you an update when we have more details out of Greece.

An Afghan insurgent leader claims that his fighters helped Osama bin Laden escape an intense U.S. air attack in the Tora Bora mountains five years ago. He told Pakistani TV that when the U.S. began its assault, some of his fighters moved bin Laden and some of his associates to a safe place where he met them later.

Fourteen members of an advisory board to Jimmy Carter's human rights organization resigned today to protest his new book. The book, "Palestine: Peace not Apartheid," has also drawn fire from Jewish groups and fellow democrats, who say it's unfairly critical of Israel.

Soccer Star David Beckham, international sex symbol, is going to bend it to the left coast. Today, Beckham signed a five-year contract with the L.A. Galaxy. He'll join the major league soccer team this summer after wrapping up his season with Real Madrid.

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