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CNN Newsnight Aaron Brown

Katrina Day Five; President Bush Visits Disaster Sites; Mayor of New Orleans Criticizes Relief Effort

Aired September 02, 2005 - 22:00   ET


AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening again, everyone.
The mayor of New Orleans, who, yesterday, issued a desperate SOS, today said his city is holding on by a thread, that time has run out. Can we survive another night?" he asked, and, "Who can we depend on? God only knows." That was earlier today, as help was finally beginning to arrive in a city underwater, before the president's plane had touched down.

It's impossible to say what night will bring to New Orleans. Today brought some progress and also new problems. This was the city before Katrina hit. And here's how it looks now. All the smoke you see comes from fires that broke out just today. There was a huge explosion at a factory as well. Fighting fires in a flooded city is not easy, to say the least. Some of these fires are impossible to reach. And it's not just in New Orleans. It's in the neighboring parishes as well.

And then there is this: Police officers are walking off the job by the dozens. Those who haven't walked off say they can't do their job, they're outnumbered, and they can't help people who are shooting at them. There are still patients trapped in hospitals. And, at the Convention Center, it is still a mess there. What tonight will bring is anyone's guess. This is the day in broad strokes.


BROWN (voice-over): Today, five days after the storm, four days after it was clear the situation was truly desperate, help finally did arrive in New Orleans.

LT. GEN. RUSSEL HONORE, COMMANDER, FIRST U.S. ARMY: So, shortly, we will start issuing water and food and then we will bring the helicopters in and start the medical evacuation of those that are -- need to be taken to the hospitals immediately.

BROWN: Fifty trucks, food, medicine, water, security, hope, but for many, still, too little, too late. They have seen too much, been overwhelmed for too long, heard far too many promises.

RAY NAGIN, MAYOR OF NEW ORLEANS: I don't want to see anybody do any more goddamn press conferences. Put a moratorium on press conferences. Don't do another press conference until the resources are in this city. And then come down to the city and stand with us when there are military trucks and troops that we can't even count. Don't tell me 40,000 people are coming here. They're not here. BROWN: The president, whose administration is receiving withering criticism for its response so far, called the results today inadequate. He has been personally criticized as well for showing too little leadership. But today he was on the ground, on the ground in Alabama and Mississippi. He was on to New Orleans, doing the things that presidents do in times like this. But he also did not see the full scope of the anarchy that has captured the city.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm not going to forget what I have seen. I understand that the devastation requires more than one day's attention. It's going to require the attention of this country for a long period of time.

BROWN: The mayor said today that 90 percent of this city is now out of commission; 10,000 people were evacuated yesterday, he said. But 50,000 people still remain. Perhaps no place is worse than the city's Convention Center, neglected by almost every agency local, state, federal, public, private, for a week, unsafe for the people there, unsafe even for the police trying to take it back.

ALAN GOULD, INSIDE CONVENTION CENTER: They have like what I would call modern-day genocide going on. They have more or less corralled us in two places, the Convention Center the Superdome, with no food, no water, (INAUDIBLE) almost 90-degree heat inside. There are small children and sick and elderly people dying every day, small children being raped and killed, people running around with guns. I'm scared for my life, my wife and my 5-year-old daughter's life.

BROWN: So, when the convoy of supplies and soldiers arrived today, the good people inside the Convention Center, if not the thugs, cheered.

TISHIA WALTERS, INSIDE CONVENTION CENTER: The crowd erupted, I mean, clapping, crying, people shouting hooray. They -- they're ecstatic. It's like 7,000 out here in dire conditions.


WALTERS: I'm actually sitting outside; I'm watching all the National Guard and all the police presence that we haven't had in five days out here. I mean, it's amazing. They've come in full force. They're bringing food. They're bringing water and they're bringing a lot of hope.

BROWN: The Superdome is only better by degree, buses moving people out to shelters in Texas.

But in the perfect metaphor for the failures of the relief effort so far, buses last night were turned away from the Astrodome in Houston. It was already too crowded. The evacuation remains painfully slow, the sick and the injured being moved out first, 800 people an hour, treated in field hospitals set up at the airport, many flown on to San Antonio. More choppers made it possible for the Coast Guard to increase air and water rescues. And, by late today, over 7,000 people had been lifted one way or another to safety. So, a week after this awful storm and the floods that followed, there is at least the hint that a corner has been turned. But, at what cost, after a week where the country has seen images like this, where people have experienced life like this?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You just had to fight for your life, people looting, stealing things, shooting in the air, everything. You had to fight for your life. You couldn't do nothing.

BROWN: All you can say today -- and it is something -- is that things are better.


BROWN: The broad strokes of the day.

We will start our -- we will start focusing in a bit now on the Convention Center first. The Convention Center story, in some respects, did seem to creep up on people. Clearly, it had been go on since Monday, but it didn't really come to attention until Wednesday. And, yesterday, just yesterday, the FEMA director, Mike Brown, said he had first heard of it.

Jeff Koinange is there for us tonight.

Jeff, is there evidence that the supplies that came in today had gotten to the people who need them, that the place is calmer now than it was 24 hours ago?

JEFF KOINANGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know what, Aaron? It depends on who you ask. If you ask the people at the Convention Center, they'll tell you, it's too little, too late, because what saw, Aaron, it's like walking into a refugee camp in a Third World country, the stench, the smells, the sights, the sounds, the numbers, even the soldiers on the ground, Aaron.

The only thing that was missing was the aid workers. The people are frustrated, as you can imagine, after five days. And they're blaming everyone, from the government to the president, for letting this situation become so catastrophic -- Aaron.

BROWN: OK. I understand that. And I think we all appreciate that.

I think what we're trying to sort out tonight, Jeff, is whether or not progress has been made, which is to say -- look, they're -- they're -- you can't give them back these last four days of hell that they have lived through. What I want to know is, is there water? Is there food? And are they getting them out?

KOINANGE: Well, what we saw was the soldiers, the National Guard, distributing MREs, meals ready to eat, and a bottle of water for every person.

When we asked the people -- we overheard some of the people, refugees, asking soldiers, how often is this going to happen? He got a blank stare in return. We don't know whether this will continue into a second day. What has changed, though, Aaron, is that the situation is a lot calmer there.

You could not be here, where we're standing, 24 hours ago.


KOINANGE: You couldn't walk into the Convention Center at the same time today. So, again, it is improving. And some people are doing some great work out there, Aaron.

BROWN: All right, Jeff, thank you very much -- Jeff Koinange, who is at the Convention Center.

Again, at various points, there were probably 20,000 people, 15,000 people at the Convention Center. And, in some respects, it was the, at least in terms of where a mass of people had congregated, the most out-of-control, the most violent, the most hopeless, in many respects, because it got the least attention.

Even the police, who were brought in at one point, 88 of them yesterday, to try and restore order, were pushed back. And so this mess went on all day yesterday and all night as well, five days of combat, essentially, it seemed like, at the Convention Center.

CNN's Chris Lawrence spent last night with the police in New Orleans downtown and filed this report.


CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Police officers under siege in New Orleans prepare to defend their station.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know too much about the rest of the districts. I only know what goes on here, and it's been hell.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Officers being shot at continuously. Same thing every day. People want help. We try to help them. We don't get there fast enough, so they shoot.

LAWRENCE: With the city in chaos, an officer delivers this message home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just want to tell my wife, I love her. Her name is Rachel Weatherly (ph). Rachel Weatherly (ph). I love her. I love you.

LAWRENCE: The police are undermanned and often overwhelmed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to have something to say, and if you all could get it out, I want you to get it out the them. All the cowards that are here on the New Orleans Police Department that fled the city in the time of need -- when you raised your right hand, you were sworn to protect these citizens.

LAWRENCE: Police say a third of the force deserted after the hurricane.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For all you cowards that are supposed to wear the badge, are you truly, are you truly -- can you truly wear the badge like our motto say? Evidently you can't.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anybody up on the roof, on me.

LAWRENCE: It's pitch black when they take the posts.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's guys out here, you know, shooting at the police. Like I said, raping kids and women.

LAWRENCE: One officer compares the catastrophe to September 11.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think just the number of people dead is going to be worse. And we're not going to...

LAWRENCE (on camera): We just heard a gunshot. We were just talking to one of the officers, and just like that, you heard a gunshot just go off, aimed somewhere near us. It's hard to even tell where he was aiming.

(voice-over): That was early on. This came later.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We had three people shooting at us from the project. I picked up the flash on the last shot, and I put about five shots over there, and quieted down.

LAWRENCE: Just as the night winds down, a chemical fire explodes off in the distance.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm getting everybody off the roof, getting them downstairs. And that's about all we can do right now until we get further orders.

LAWRENCE: Finally, the sun rises through the smoke, and police offer some perspective on Hurricane Katrina.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think the real story is finished yet. This is only part one. Part two is where we are right now, dealing with all of this. The aftermath and the city, with the flooding, with the looting, with the killing, with the raping. Part three, that's the story that isn't finished yet. What's going to happen to this city? We're going to rebuild.

LAWRENCE: Questions right now with no answers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We will survive. I know that, but we need to do more than that. We need to go back to living with faith, and with hope, even with compassion for some of the people who didn't have any for us.

Chris Lawrence, CNN, New Orleans.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BROWN: That was last night being a New Orleans police officer. A friend, someone I know quite well -- friend isn't quite the right word, but someone I know really well -- told me today that she didn't sleep all last night, that this scene of New Orleans kept playing back on her. And I suspect a lot of people around the country felt that way.

The president -- the president got to the region. He was in Alabama, Mississippi and New Orleans today. It's important. These are important moments for presidents. They're important things to do. At the same time, no president could ever be exposed to, for security reasons, if no other, exposed to the kinds of things that Chris Lawrence was just reporting on.

How do you expose a president of the United States to anarchy? You can show him houses that have been blown over. And they did today. And they -- and promises can be made and should be made. But the real depths of what has gone on and the horror of what has gone on in New Orleans, you can't -- you literally show. It doesn't mean he doesn't know or can't be briefed or can't watch TV and get it, but you can't show it to him, not -- not in the flesh.

Anyway, he was in Biloxi, Mississippi, among other places today. And among the people he met were the Bassiers, Kim Bassier and Bronwynne Bassier. And they join us now.

It must have been -- I mean, I don't make this a small deal. You met the president of the United States today. What did you say to him, Kim?

KIM BASSIER, SURVIVOR: He was just extremely calm. He was -- he just reassured us. He was -- in his eyes, you could see that this was coming from his heart, you know?

He just reassured us that help is on the way. He gave us some advice as to where -- for the distribution sites and where we possibly can get some food and clothes. And he was relaxed the whole time. And he just focused and reassured us that the people would come together and help, you know?

BROWN: Let me ask your mom a question here.

Before you met with the president today -- and our viewers are seeing that now -- before that, were you a little angry with the government and how the government had responded?

BRONWYNNE BASSIER, SURVIVOR: Now, let me just correct you. This is my sister.

BROWN: I'm sorry.

B. BASSIER: And I'm -- that's OK.

But, no, I wasn't angry at the situation, because I knew eventually they will eventually help us in some sort of way. And, like my sister said, he did reassure us that things were going to happen. And I can see that they are happening, because I am in Gautier. And every day, there's people giving us water and giving us ice and telling us that everything is going to be OK.


B. BASSIER: Like today, Pascagoula and Ocean Springs got electricity. And they said it's just a matter of hours before Gautier gets electricity, too.

BROWN: But -- so, the situation for you in Biloxi isn't comparable, is it, to the situation for the people in New Orleans.

Have you been able to follow that part of the story at all? Are you aware of what it's been like there?

B. BASSIER: Well, today, the actually -- the only reason why I came to Biloxi was because I need to get some clothes for my son and clothes for myself, because I don't have any clothes. And, you know, I just needed to see if I can salvage something down there.

But, walking around, people don't have no water. They still don't have no lights in electr -- in Biloxi. So, it's just complete darkness, you know? No one has anything.


BROWN: Well, hopefully, the -- to both of you, hopefully, and everyone else, that the president's visit today will help speed up the recovery.

Thanks for your time tonight. Thank you.

B. BASSIER: Thank you.

K. BASSIER: Thank you so much. It's a pleasure.

BROWN: Thank you.

Coming up on the program, the frantic fight to save the sick at Charity Hospital, which is -- this has gone on really since Tuesday, trying to get people out of that hospital.

First, at just a little past a quarter past the hour, Erica Hill joins us in Atlanta with some of the other stories that made news today -- Ms. Hill.

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Mr. Brown, nice to see you.

We start off in Iraq, where the government says former leader Saddam Hussein will stand trial on October 19. That's actually just a few days after the referendum on the country's new constitution. Hussein and several of his top aides are charged with crimes against humanity for the deaths of dozens of Shiite villagers in 1982. The U.S. military disputing allegations that more than half of the 500 detainees at Guantanamo Bay are on a hunger strike. It says 76 inmates are refusing food. A spokesman for the military has also denied that prisoners have been abused.

A 21-year-old man has been found guilty of setting fires at a Maryland subdivision last December. It caused $10 million in damage, all those fires. Patrick Walsh was convicted of 34 charges of arson. Each count could earn him a prison term of 20 years, as well as a quarter-million-dollar fine.

A strike at the Boeing factory has stopped commercial production of commercial airliners. The company's machinists went on strike after failing to reach an agreement with management on a new contract -- Aaron.

BROWN: Well, I know something about those Boeing machinists out in Seattle. When they go on strike, that can affect the economy of an entire city. So, we will keep an eye on that. Erica, thank you very much -- Erica Hill in Atlanta. She will join us again in about a half-hour.

Much more ahead in this special two-hour edition of NEWSNIGHT, starting with desperate measures at a hospital still waiting to be evacuated.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are at the point where it's developing- nation medicine.

BROWN (voice-over): They're out of food and water. And they are working in darkness to keep 200 patients a live. Some are dying. Why has not help come sooner?

President Bush came to their neighborhood today, a neighborhood now reduced to rubble, Biloxi after the storm.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm trying to find my house.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is real human need. And I'm outraged by the lack of response from our federal government.

BROWN: The hurricane victims, most of them poor and black. Many say help would have come faster if they weren't poor or black.

From New York, this is NEWSNIGHT.



BROWN: I don't know why I just thought of it. In one of the earlier pieces, we showed a helicopter rescue, the Coast Guard going in and rescuing someone from the attic of his house. Imagine living like that for five days. Evacuations have begun again at Charity Hospital, after yesterday's sniper attacks. But, for those still left there, the situation is dire, bodies stacked in the stairwells, staff often working by flashlight.

One of our correspondents spent the night last -- there last night, Sanjay Gupta, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.



DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Any hospital would have a difficult time in a disaster like this one. Even one with the name Charity. At New Orleans' largest public hospital, the goal of the staff today: that nobody dies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are their only hope. And we are trying as hard as we can to get them some help.

GUPTA: What's going to happen to these patients if you don't get out them out of here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE; Two of them have already died here on this ramp waiting to get out. In this very spot.

GUPTA (voice-over): There's no electricity, no water, no food, but more than 200 patients. And it's been this way for days.

(on camera): So this is what a Charity Hospital looks like in the middle of a natural disaster. We are in downtown New Orleans, this is actually an auditorium that we're standing in now. At one time held up to 40 patients all around this place. Several patients still remain here, as well.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are at the point developing medication probably without the power, without light.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's like a Third World country. We know the risks and doing the best we can.

GUPTA: But this is the United States. Tuesday, the governor said this place would be evacuated. Three days later, we watch as medical personnel of Tulane right across the street were picked up by helicopters while Charity's patients, some on ventilators being worked by hand pumps waited in this parking garage.

(on camera): Last night, this hospital had a good night because nobody died.

(voice-over): Fortunate because the morgue in the basement is flooded. The dead have to wait in the stairwell.

At the hospital named Charity, it takes good doctors, quick thinking and a lot of faith.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because victory today is mine.


GUPTA: And I will tell you, Aaron, over 200 patients still in the hospital this morning as well.

Now, to be fair, it's difficult to get these patients out. The hospital is surrounded by water. The landing zone for helicopters is gone, also flooded. So, they actually have had to modify a landing zone on top of a parking deck. But, still, Aaron, this has just taken far too long.

BROWN: Well, just a couple questions. We have -- you know, it -- we have talked about Charity Hospital since the beginning. I think the first time we talked about it, Monday night. Maybe it was Tuesday. Is it, as the name implies, a hospital where the poorest of the community end up?

GUPTA: Yes, absolutely.

This is the only level one trauma center, which means it takes care of the worst trauma in the city. But it's also been known as a hospital for indigent population, for people who don't have health care insurance, for people who are unable to care for themselves as well. And that's been its reputation for some time. It's one of the oldest hospitals around.

And a lot of the patients that are in the hospital, that are still in the hospital, were there before the hurricane. Most of them are chronically ill and that's why they were there, Aaron.

BROWN: Is it -- is it the principal public hospital or is it a private hospital?

GUPTA: This is the principal public hospital. And you're making a good point here. And I alluded to this in the piece.

We watched as nonessential personnel from Tulane, the private hospital, part of Tulane, actually were evacuated, while patients from Charity Hospital were still standing by, patients who are requiring mechanical ventilation, with a bag actually forcing air into their lungs.

They were standing by while some of the other personnel was being evacuated. And that was certainly surprising to us. I'm not sure exactly what the reason is. Maybe there is one. But, yes, that was happening today, Aaron.

BROWN: All right. I just -- I'm -- I'm just working through some of this stuff. You know, we assume sometimes -- I do -- that people -- that people are with us the whole time and understand all this stuff.

You've got a large public hospital, the largest public hospital, public hospital, in the area. You have 200 patients in there tonight. And next door, the private hospital at Tulane University, they were evacuating the nonessential doctors and nurses. But your patients were not moved? The patients in the hospital you're at were not moved, correct?

GUPTA: That's correct.

I can tell you, as of -- in fact, as of late yesterday, Tulane was essentially completely evacuated. And there are still over 200 patients at Charity Hospital this morning, late this morning, early afternoon, when I left. So, yes, I mean, that's what happened, Aaron.

BROWN: Well, you know, time after time, there are moments in this story -- Sanjay, thank you -- that take your breath away and you try and make sense of them. And I'm sure there's an explanation to all of this, but I can't imagine what it is.

The mayor of New Orleans can't imagine much good these days either. We will hear from him in a moment.


BROWN: A quick reset for those of you who have joint joined us. Part of a challenge in reporting a story this immense is capturing the scope of it as well as the depth. One of our producers put it the other day, "it feels like we're looking at this story through straws."

Perhaps numbers can help a bit. Five days out from Katrina, here's how the big picture looks. Tonight, there are more than 94,000 storm survivors, 94,000, staying at 284 Red Cross shelters in nine states. Those shelters do not include the Astrodome in Houston, or the Superdome in New Orleans.

The Coast Guard has rescued more than 7,000 people. More than 5,500 of them by helicopter, the rest by boat.

The mayor of New Orleans estimates that 50,000 survivors remain on rooftops or in shelters, awaiting rescue and evacuation. More in shelters, certainly, than rooftops.

And at the airport in New Orleans, Louis Armstrong Airport, 40,000 people have been processed so far. Eight hundred people are being treated each hour. It's not always clear what they're being treated for.

Those are some measures of where we stand tonight. It's clearly not the whole story. It just deals with, in fact, the Louisiana part of the story. It's interesting to note: One thing we have not talked about, how many people perished in this. The number was 168, I think, certainly in the state of Mississippi, but they haven't even begun to put this all together for Louisiana. And I think it will be a number that will be hard to bear when all is said and done.

Numbers are part of the story. They are not the story. Two- thirds of the population of New Orleans is African-American, 30 percent of the city's residents -- 30 percent -- live below the poverty line. It's a difficult question to ask. Race is always a difficult thing to talk about in the country. But it certainly has become a part of the story.

Representative Stephanie Tubbs Jones joins us from Washington tonight to talk a little bit about it.

I don't know if it's race or class, to be honest. But I was just thinking about that hospital evacuation you were talking about earlier. You do get the feeling that poor people in the country get shafted.

REP. STEPHANIE TUBBS JONES (D), OHIO: It's no question that poor people in this country get shafted. And I listened as you talked about, how could you see the public hospital and the private hospital? It happens in terms of the delivery of health care, when we're not even in a situation like we're in now. And it's a hushed conversation. A lot of people don't want to talk about class. But the reality is that the people who had money and could get out of New Orleans and Baton Rouge and Alabama and Texas and Florida got out of there.

BROWN: Well, in truth, I mean, I think it's fair to say, you didn't even need -- it's almost the reverse in a way. It's that the people who had no money couldn't get out in many respects, because it didn't take -- I mean, you could be utterly middle class, you know, have an old Chevy and a little bit of change in your pocket and get out town. It's in many cases people who had -- not in all cases, some people were fools, OK?

JONES: Absolutely. Absolutely.

BROWN: Some people were fools.

JONES: We don't count those.

BROWN: Right, but some people simply could not afford to go. They had no means. They had no...

JONES: They had no means. They had nowhere to go. And what I'm talking about the hospital situation and the class situation is, if you look at the people that we've seen out of -- out of the Astrodome or the Convention Center, they were in wheelchairs. They were infirmed. They were elderly. And nobody -- they didn't have an ambulance. They didn't have any way of getting around. They couldn't even get out of their houses, many of them.

BROWN: Let me -- I want to talk about -- I want to go right at the heart of this in some ways. How do you think white America will react -- has -- is reacting, to all of these images? These images of black people living in these giant shelters, and all of the problems that are being reported out of them, the stories and the pictures of looting? How do you think white America will process that?

JONES: Well, you know what? I have been in public office for 24 years, and the only African-American elected official in almost every office that I've held. And there are people of good will in America, regardless of their color. But there are going to be some who will say, yeah, those black folks, they were looting over there in New Orleans, or those black folks just didn't know how to live, and they're living in squalor anyway, so it's not any different.

But I believe that Americans across this country are people of good will, and that they will see this -- and it may be a reality shock for them, a check for them, because a lot of people believe that most Americans are doing very well, that if you're black, all you have to do is get pulled up by your bootstraps, and you can get a job and you can come out of the situation that you're in. And I'm hoping that most of America, either white, black, brown, will say, this is a shame that we're allowing this to happen in the land of the free, the home of the brave, the greatest democracy in the world, that we will allow this to happen, and allow it to happen based on race.

BROWN: That's how you hope white people look at it. Now, tell me how you think black people in the country, outside of New Orleans, are seeing this story? Then maybe -- through a different set of eyes, a different set of life experiences?

JONES: Black people across America have all types of life experiences. But I guarantee each and every one of them, their hearts are going out, because you have to keep in mind that the people, African-American people of America, migrated from Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Texas and Florida. And all of those that are in Detroit, New York, these are their relatives that they're seeing on that picture. Though they may not be blood.

BROWN: Congresswoman, of course their hearts go out to them. In many respects, all of our hearts go out to them. But...

JONES: Oh, they're affected.

BROWN: But I think the question -- I think what I'm wondering is, do you think black America's sitting there thinking, if these were middle class white people, there would be cruise ships in New Orleans, not the Superdome?

JONES: Let me say it to you like this, Aaron. We are offended. We are outraged that America, the democracy, is not living up to its calling. We are offended that so many African-American folk -- I'm offended that there are black, brown, whatever color they are, they are sitting in the Astrodome somewhere, not being taken care of. I'm offended that the government has not allocated the resources. It wasn't yesterday that they knew this was going to happen. It was six days ago.

And keep in mind, if you look at the other disasters that have occurred across this country, it didn't take six days to take care of them.

And my statement is, if you want to get them out, put the cruise ships in there, give them a bedroom, give them a bathroom, give them a shower, give them some place to eat. We can take care of it.

Let me show -- give you one more example. I've been to military alliances across this world, and the Red Horse -- and I strongly talk about Red Horse, which are National Guard. They go in and build a hospital in two days. They go in and put cement roads in two to three days. They go in and put housing in. Where is Red Horse? Why aren't the Red Horse down in Mississippi, Alabama and New Orleans?

BROWN: Now, look, here's the question, OK? And then we'll end this. Do you think the reason that they're not there or the food is not there or the cruise ships aren't there or all this stuff that you believe should be there, isn't there is a matter of race and/or class?

JONES: I think it's mostly a matter of class, but clearly, race is a factor in the areas in which we're operating in southern America. And that were it different, were I the president, it wouldn't be happening.

BROWN: Congresswoman, it's good to talk to you.

JONES: Nice to talk with you also.

BROWN: Thank you. Have a good holiday weekend.

JONES: You do the same.

BROWN: Thank you very much.

JONES: Keep bringing it up.

BROWN: Thank you. We'll keep talking about this and much more. We'll take a break first. This is NEWSNIGHT.


BROWN: So much of the focus for all of understandable reasons has been on New Orleans, Saint Bernard Parish to the east of New Orleans saw flooding as heavy as any on the map. Many perished in the rising waters. Survival has been difficult. The area is rich with heartbreak. Here's David Mattingly.


DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The first thing you notice is their eyes. Back in the flood-ravaged St. Bernard Parish east of New Orleans, they saw the horror of flood-covered communities and floating bodies.


MATTINGLY: Some of them now barefoot, they come off a Coast Guard ferry clinging to each other or a pet or what little they can carry with them.

JUDY ROME, SURVIVOR: Believe me, this is the most wonderful moment.

RONALD ROME, SURVIVOR: It's a permanent exit of New Orleans. We are not coming back.

J. ROME: We won't be back.

R. ROME: I've been here 55 years, and I'm not coming back. MATTINGLY: Ronald and Judy Rome and their family, all nine of them, survived for three days stranded on the top floor of their flood home. It wasn't until floodwaters to started to recede, and an empty boat came into view that they all made their escape.

J. ROME: We all loaded in the boat yesterday morning and paddled. We had no way to start the boat, so we paddled the boat as far as we could. And then we got out and we walked the rest of way up to the Mississippi levee.

MATTINGLY: The Rome's refused rescue two days earlier because the boat was too small to take them all. They believe so deeply that they needed to stay together that they were willing to take the risk. But the commitment they made to each other would prove hard to keep.

When they finally reached a shelter, Ronald Rome was the only registered nurse among thousands of refugees. It was more than he could take.

R. ROME: I -- they told me I had no choice, but to work in the medical center that was set up. I worked 22 hours straight with no sleep.

J. ROME: It's all right. It's been hell.

MATTINGLY: The children were affected as well. The oldest two will hardly talk or eat. The youngest has measles.

LINDSEY BOHNE, MOTHER: This is -- my child has -- this is what he owns, a pair of shoes he's got on. That's it. He owns not a single piece of clothing. I don't know whose clothes he even has on.

MATTINGLY: With all of them nearing the breaking point and just minutes away from a bus ride to Texas, the family that had been through so much decided they can't stay together any longer. A daughter and son-in-law were left at the buses while the children were evacuated in a medical helicopter.

This was as far as we could go. The Romes say they will reunite, not knowing when or where. And all vow to never return to the place that brought them so low.


MATTINGLY: At least two members of the family are on their way to San Antonio tonight about just another example of how this entire process is making it difficult for anyone, Aaron, to stick together.

BROWN: Do they -- do they welcome, in a sense, being plopped down in some shelter in San Antonio. Do they believe that their lives will be a little easier, better?

MATTINGLY: You could hear how anxious they were to leave here and to never come back. So in that respect, yes, there is some relief where they're going to be going to some place that's going to be dry, they will possibly sleeping on a bed, possibly be sleeping in air- conditioning and getting regular food again.

That is very encouraging to them. They're already thinking about that next step and that's what's so discouraging at this point is that how do they get back together? And what life do they start together again?

BROWN: I mean it's unimaginable. David, thank you. Nicely done, as you have all week. You've been terrific. Thank you, David Mattingly tonight.

Erica Hill joins us from Atlanta with some of the other news of the day. I worry, I'll be honest, that there's something like disaster fatigue that's -- sets in on all -- on viewers, on the country that you watch this all of this unfold over the week and your heartbreaks again and again. And at some point it's -- it's almost too much, and too sad. And I worry we're reaching that point.

HILL: Well, hopefully -- I don't think you're far off, Aaron. Hopefully there -- the good news is that there also -- as depressing as so much of the news can be, there are those small, little glimmers of hope and some of the stories that our colleagues, and our correspondents have been bringing us have just been these little glimmers of hope to restore your faith in humanity. And so hopefully those will keep everyone interested.

BROWN: We'll latch on to them. You give us the other news. Thank you.

HILL: All right. I'll do that.

A deadly gas leak aboard a cruise ship we've learned has killed three crew members. Passengers in Los Angeles were already leaving the Monarch of the Seas when the accident occurred. Those victims were overcome by sewer gas while attempting repairs on the ship's waste pipe. No passengers were injured in that.

California's cracking down, meantime, on aggressive dogs. The Senate passing a bill that would allow cities to demand mandatory castration of pit bulls and other breeds determined to be a danger. The pit bull now awaits the -- the bill, rather, now awaits the approval of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

And Schwarzenegger still in the dog house himself. According to the latest poll, only 36 percent of registered voters prove of the governor's performance. Over half said his proposal to hold a special election, one that could more than $50 million was a bad idea.

And former Connecticut Governor John Rowlands will not face charges over a controversial consulting deal. A state judge overruled investigators who claimed that Rowlands had illegally lobbied the University of Connecticut on behalf of a client. Rowlands is already serving a year-long prison sentence for corruption and will be released in February, Aaron.

BROWN: Our public officials, or your public official.

HILL: From my home state, yes.

BROWN: Let you have him. Thank you. Have a good weekend, will you?

HILL: You too, Aaron.

BROWN: Thank you. Erica Hill.

Well, we'll take a break. Here are some numbers to take you through the break. If you want to help, I know many do, I've gotten -- I've received hundreds and hundreds of e-mails, people wanting to know how they can help. And here's one where you can.

A reminder, tomorrow, a special three-hour Larry King starting at 8:00 Eastern time devoted to ways you can help. Money is one way, certainly. I hope they come up with some other ways, too. Money isn't the only way. That's a special three-hour edition of LARRY KING LIVE tomorrow here on CNN.


BROWN: Tomorrow the newspaper in New Orleans -- I'm not sure exactly who is going to get it -- we'll find out in a second -- "The Times-Picayune" will publish. Here's the headline that people will see tomorrow -- "First water, now fire." "Blazes turn parts of besieged city into the inferno."

Jim Amos is the editor, and he's on the phone with us. But before I get to him, here's the lead that the paper will carry tomorrow. "New Orleans, or what's left of it, awoke Friday to discover that fire has been added to the array of pestilences -- floodwater, hunger, looting and mass death."

Jim Amos, the editor of the paper. Have you been publishing online up to this point?

JIM AMOS, EDITOR, "THE TIMES-PICAYUNE": We have since -- since Tuesday's edition of the paper, which was the first online edition. Last night was our first print publication.

BROWN: Is it a huge marker in some sense for the paper to get? Does it tell us anything about the situation on the ground, honestly, that the paper's publishing?

AMOS: Well, the fact that the paper's publishing I think is a testament to the hunger of its readers. And we experienced it firsthand when we distributed the first print product post-hurricane this morning to people in shelters. And as our circulation director said, they accepted it, they grabbed for it almost as if it were food.

BROWN: They have been without in many cases, without any good information about anything beyond their immediate surroundings, haven't they?

AMOS: They have, indeed. And -- but there is good information emanating from New Orleans, in the sense that some of the acts of incredible humanity that are manifested by the people, and that we've written about. And I think our readers need to know about them and who provided them.

BROWN: I agree. I worry sometimes that we all lose the balance a little bit on that.

Just one other question before we let you go. Was there at some level a temptation to headline, "we tried to warn you?" Because the paper in fact, three years ago, laid this all out?

AMOS: It did, indeed. In a series about the erosion of the coastline and the barrier islands and the increased vulnerability of the city. But people don't want to hear those messages necessarily, and bureaucracies are not built to respond to them very nimbly. And the political will just isn't there. So I think the series -- it had some results, but not the kind of results that could have lessened this disaster.

BROWN: Your family OK?

AMOS: Thank you for asking. Yes, indeed. My entire extended family is OK. And that's the main thing.

BROWN: That is the main thing. We appreciate your time and the work the paper has done and continues to do. We'll check some other papers in a moment.


BROWN: One more newspaper as we approach the top of the hour. This is "The New York Daily News," OK? One of the two tabloids in town -- I guess there are three. "Shame on U.S." "The News" says it's absolutely outrageous that the United States of America could not bring comfort to tens of thousands of forlorned, frightened, sick and hungry souls earlier than it did. Who is at fault for what is nothing less than a national scandal.

I wonder if it will become a national scandal, or if we'll kind of blithely move on and say, well, they're getting help now, everybody tried their hardest, whatever? "Shame on U.S.," the headline in "The Daily News."

We'll recap the day at the top of the hour. We've got another full hour to go. This is a special edition of NEWSNIGHT.