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American Morning

Katrina: One Year Later; Karr Cleared; Is FEMA Ready?

Aired August 29, 2006 - 06:00   ET


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you, Tuesday, August 29. Welcome to a special split edition of AMERICAN MORNING. I'm Miles O'Brien in New York.

And on this anniversary, one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, we're coming to you live from New Orleans today. In fact, Miles, we're in the Gentilly neighborhood. I know that you've spent a lot of time here. This is, in a lot of ways, a very representative neighborhood for New Orleans.

It's a middle class neighborhood, mixed race, and here is a place where you really see this tale of two cities, if you will. On one hand, you see some progress, you see some hope. On the other hand, you see a lot of things that haven't been fixed, haven't been changed. And it's easy to go from feeling hopeful to feeling really dismayed all in the same block.

This is the theme behind us. You can see this house where clearly they're putting a lot of work in. We're going to get inside a little bit later this morning and take a walk and talk around. But look, this is good news. It may not seem like it, but this is actually good news. This means there is a homeowner who has had this thing stripped and gutted and cleaned up. And that means probably that that person is committed to staying here, sending a signal, really, to a lot of the other neighbors that he's back, maybe other people should come back.

Other houses on this street, though, got to tell you, nothing's been done. And you see that repeated over and over and over again.

Let's take you to the Lower Ninth Ward now where really the devastation in some ways looks like it is exactly what was there right after the hurricane struck. Lower Ninth Ward is primarily black. It's poor, in some places there. And what you have is some people say a reluctance to immediately get in there and fix up their homes, primarily because there's no real plan at this point. It's unclear what's going to happen with the infrastructure, it's unclear what's going to happen with the houses there and the property so nobody really wants to necessarily run back.

We talked to a homeowner who was sort of surveying what was -- I shouldn't say homeowner, he's no longer a homeowner. His home has been taken away, collapsed. And he said, well, the good news, the city cleaned up. The city paid for the cleaning up and the removal of the debris. And I said well what are you going to do with this slab? And he said, well, I guess I'll leave it for my heirs to deal with. This is a young guy. This is not an old guy.

And that's kind of the question before all the folks, not just in the Lower Ninth where the devastation truly is still pretty horrible, but for everybody. Some people, and I guess you could say where there's progress is really attributable to the spirit and the strength and the resilience of the people here. Some people say even if I didn't get my insurance money, even if I'm not getting a lot of help, I'm going to come back.

And we've met people who are working on their homes, cleaning up their homes, moving back into their homes, very few moving back into their homes and have done it all by themselves. And you get the sense, if there's good news in that, because the people are so resilient, the city will come back, not necessarily with a lot of help, but because the people are going to stick it out -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: All right, Soledad, back with you in just a little bit.

Happening elsewhere this morning, more violence in Afghanistan. In Kandahar, a suicide car bomber takes aim at a military convoy. No soldiers hurt, but one bystander dead. This one day after another suicide bomber killed 17, injured dozens in a bazaar.

With a deadline looming, Iran's President Ahmadinejad to hold a news conference today on his country's nuclear program. The United Nations has told Tehran to shut down its nuclear fuel-making effort by Thursday or face sanctions.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan meeting today with U.N. peacekeepers charged with keeping a lid on the violence in southern Lebanon. It's part of Annan's 11-day Mideast tour. Later, he'll visit Israel, Syria and Iran.

John Mark Karr no longer a suspect in the JonBenet Ramsey murder case but not out of trouble. He faces an extradition hearing today on child pornography charges in California. Authorities say there was no DNA match linking him to the killing of 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey 10 years ago.

In Lexington, Kentucky, investigators say the pilots in Sunday's deadly Comair crash noticed they were on a runway that was unlighted but didn't try to stop the plane. The runway they chose was too short for the commuter jet. Forty-nine of 50 on board were killed.

The head of the Homeland Security Agency, Michael Chertoff, wants more data on airline passengers. In today's "Washington Post," he suggests itineraries and payment details could help identify potential hijackers.

On this anniversary of Katrina, another storm may be about to make its mark. Ernesto is a tropical storm this hour, after losing some of its muscle over Cuba, but a hurricane watch is still in effect for parts of south Florida.

Our severe weather expert is Chad Myers at the CNN Center. Chad, good morning to you.


A hurricane watch because we still could have hurricane conditions all the way up and down the east coast of Florida and even parts of the west coast of Florida. Here is the very latest. Here is the 5:00 a.m. advisory. The winds are only 45 miles per hour.

Notice what happened. Yesterday at this time, this storm was coming onshore here near Guantanamo Bay, which is that little bay right there. It came up and made a little left-hand turn and it stayed on shore on Cuba's north shore for a very long time. That helped the storm disintegrate. If it would have been 30 or 40 miles into the water, it would have been much stronger this morning. So that is some good news for Cuba and also some good news for Florida.

I'm going to put my finger right on the storm, because you know what, it's very hard to find the center of the storm on the satellite. You're thinking it's much closer to Florida than it really is. See how much of the convection is on the north side of the center? It's not an eye, because it isn't a hurricane yet. You can't see the eye, but the storm has really blown up in the over-the-water part. And we expect that to continue.

We expect the storm to continue to strengthen, possibly to a Category 1 by late tonight, making landfall along the Florida Keys, probably very close to Islamorada, making the storm surge on the east side. We're talking Key Largo, and then on up into Biscayne Bay, a couple feet, maybe even four feet of water in Biscayne Bay as that air just pours in. You're going to get that east wind in Miami. And then the storm continues up over Florida and back into the Atlantic Ocean.

And here's where it gets tricky. If this storm stays in the Atlantic for any length of time and is a little bit farther to the east than many of the computer models, it's going to stop up here to the east of Virginia Beach. And then it's going to turn left because there's a big high pressure up here, it won't let it go anywhere. This is going to turn left, then possibly on up the Potomac, on up the Hudson or maybe even into Richmond, Virginia with a stalling hurricane or a stalling tropical storm.

And maybe many of you are not old enough, but I am, 1972, a stalled Hurricane Agnes sat right there and flooded Corning, flooded the Susquehanna River, flooded all the way down even into Philadelphia, Delaware and down through most of New York State. So we have that potential. That's still four to five days away. We'll worry about today first. We'll get through today, then we'll get through tomorrow and we'll go on so on and so on and so on.

It will be a wet day across the northeast. We have some heavier rain showers even into New York City this morning. Seventy-three will be the high in New York City. And even through the rest of the period, New York City, you're back to I guess cooler than normal for the rest of the week. Now all bets are off somewhere in here if that storm gets closer to New York City -- Miles. M. O'BRIEN: All right, but for now, one day at a time?

MYERS: One day at a time. This is going to be a long storm. We're going to probably have 24 hours over Florida. Some spots across the Carolinas could pick up 10 inches of rain. That will cause more flooding. There's a lot of elements to this and we'll get to them as the day goes by.

M. O'BRIEN: All right, you're going to busy, Chad, thank you.

MYERS: You're welcome.

M. O'BRIEN: The odd story of John Mark Karr takes another strange turn this morning. He's now awaiting a court appearance later today, but not for charges that he killed JonBenet Ramsey. Prosecutors say they do not have a case against him after DNA samples did not match.

CNN's Christopher King from Boulder, Colorado.


CHRISTOPHER KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): It's been a long and bizarre journey for John Mark Karr. He's gone from Thailand, to California, here to Boulder, Colorado and back to California. That's where he faces charges on child pornography, five counts in all. An extradition hearing will happen later today in Boulder at the justice center.

Karr had said initially that he was involved in the JonBenet Ramsey killing, but Boulder County District Attorney Mary Lacy says DNA evidence from the scene does not match that of John Mark Karr, hence, no charges will be filed against him in the JonBenet Ramsey killing.

However, Karr was scheduled for a trial back in 2002 in California on those child pornography charges. He fled the country to evade those charges.

In Boulder, Colorado, I'm Christopher King.


M. O'BRIEN: At least five people are dead after a Greyhound bus overturned in upstate New York. The bus left New York City yesterday. It was headed for Montreal when it crashed through a guardrail. Several of the passengers were hurt.

That college student authorities say packed a stick of dynamite in his luggage granted bond. He said it was just a souvenir. The 21- year-old is accused of carrying an explosive aboard an aircraft. Screeners say they found the dynamite Friday. He was flying from Argentina to Houston.

Detroit teachers holding firm in their demand for a better contract. A judge has ordered the union and the city into around-the- clock negotiations through Thursday. Teachers rejected an offer that called for a 5 percent pay cut. Classes for Detroit's 130,000 students scheduled to resume September 5.

A large wildfire threatening homes near Granite Falls, Washington. It's been burning now for more than a week. Firefighters from 10 states and Canada battling the blaze which has already consumed about 100 square miles.

A bridge demolished last night in Virginia. The blast triggered by a commuter who won the right to blow up the six-lane draw bridge. There you see it go in rapid succession, synchronized. The span along a major choke point along the Interstate 95 corridor will be replaced by two bridges, a total of 12 lanes there.

And the U.S. Open introduced videotaped replays last night. Players can now appeal umpires' calls. Andre Agassi successfully challenged an ump who ruled his serve was bad. Fan reaction? Mixed. One man, perhaps a bit nostalgic for the old John McEnroe era, said bad calls are part of the game. Maybe bad behavior, too.

Still to come, a lesson for the future, FEMA says it has an unprecedented amount of supplies ready for the next disaster, but there are still some shortcomings. We'll tell you about them.

And also with the Security Council deadline looming, Iranian President Ahmadinejad is scheduled to give an important address in just about an hour. Will the Iranians change course? We're live in Tehran. Stay with us.


M. O'BRIEN: Happening this morning.

It is the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina hitting the Gulf Coast. Memorials are planned all across the region. They include a bell ringing in New Orleans to mark the moment that one of the city's key levees breached.

The anniversary comes as Tropical Storm Ernesto bears down on Florida. Right now it's hovering about 230 miles southeast of Key West. It is expected to get stronger as it moves over warm water to the north. It could hit Florida by tonight. And we'll check in with Chad Myers for the forecast a little bit later in the program on that, get you the latest.

One year later, have we all learned the hard lessons of Katrina? A new CNN poll shows 51 percent of us think we did, 48 percent did not. That said, many we spoke with in the hurricane zone say they are prepared for the next storm. Eighty-one percent say they have a three-day supply of food and water on hand. That's compared to 75 percent for the rest of the country.

Two-thirds of those we spoke with in the hurricane zone have put together emergency kits. And those kits, in case you don't know by now, should include a lot of batteries and first aid supplies, in addition to that food and water supply. This poll was conducted for CNN by the Opinion Research Corporation.

Back to Soledad in Gentilly in New Orleans -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: All right, Miles, thanks.

Let me show you some -- a scene that's right behind us this morning. There's a boat right behind me, right on the sidewalk, kind of unusual of course, would be if we weren't talking about New Orleans. But that boat is kind of a typical scene everywhere you go. This clearly left behind since just after the storm, probably was used in a bunch of rescues in this neighborhood.

And people see that here and they think, well, shouldn't someone have picked this up? Not a lot of progress on that front necessarily. And then right behind it, as we showed you before, the house that we're out in front of this morning where someone stripped it down to the studs. Looks like they're actually making some progress.

You pan a little bit left, Walter (ph), to that, and you can see where people have started putting up trailers. There were something like well over 11,000 homes that were destroyed, another 2,000 that were severely damaged. And so on this street, Cameron Street, you actually see some trailers dotting the street. But, and this is a fairly big but, not necessarily an indication of progress, because some folks say, well, I finally got my trailer, they put it in my front yard, but it was too late, I already had rented an apartment somewhere else.

And that is the scene here, some good news, followed by some bad news, some progress, followed by a big sign of lack of progress here. And that's really the scene everywhere around this city. The big question, of course, as we've been following Tropical Storm Ernesto, was the fears that Tropical Storm Ernesto would become Hurricane Ernesto and then slam into New Orleans.

Over the last couple of days, people, that was all they were talking about, very, very concerned about that. And the question out of that was, well, is FEMA ready this time around? The agency says, yes, we're absolutely ready. We're prepared. Some people say not so fast.

Jeanne Meserve has our report this morning.


JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Katrina destroyed lives, property and the reputation of FEMA. A year after the storm, the agency is still a punch line.

JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW": Don (ph), the bombing campaign has not only seemingly failed to weaken Hezbollah, you're actually saying it's made them stronger.

DON, ACTOR: That's right, Jon. From what I hear, they're very keen to take on their next project, the reconstruction of New Orleans. Hezbollah may be a rag-tag group of undereducated Islamic extremist militiamen, but at least they're not FEMA.

MESERVE: FEMA's director says Katrina's lessons have been learned.

DAVID PAULISON, FEMA DIRECTOR: What we don't want to do is let all of that suffering, those fatalities, all of that damage go in vain. Shame on us if we do that.

MESERVE: Critical shortages of food and water are hopefully a thing of the past. FEMA says it has stockpiles to feed a million people for a week. And unlike last year, contracts for other critical items have been negotiated ahead of time. No more idling of supply trucks hundreds of miles from where they are needed, officials say, though a logistic system to track them is still a work in progress.

MICHAEL CHERTOFF, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Eventually we'd like to have a system that could literally track packages the way FedEx and UPS does. We weren't able to get there in one year, but where we've gotten takes us very, very far ahead of where we were previously.

MESERVE: But a new report from the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general says many of FEMA's urban search and rescue teams are ill-prepared because of funding and personnel shortages. And some feel the agency as a whole is not ready for the next big storm.

LEO BOSNER, FEMA EMPLOYEE: I feel our preparedness has gone down.

MESERVE: Bosner, a long time FEMA employee and union representative, says government planning documents make bad assumptions and are too complex.

BOSNER: The plan to this day is incomprehensible. Nobody understood it under Katrina and nobody understands it today.

MESERVE: Former FEMA officials say sapped morale has led to a wave of retirements. And despite a recent hiring push, 15 percent of FEMA jobs are unfilled. Some state emergency managers worry about the agency's lack of bench strength.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But they really lack the depth of core people that are highly experienced in program management at this point.

MESERVE (on camera): No one believes FEMA is completely fixed. Many experts predict the agency will overcompensate for its past failures and try to use the next storm to repair what was damaged in the last one, its image.

Jeanne Meserve, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE) S. O'BRIEN: There are some discouraging statistics from the Department of Homeland Security. They say 10 percent of cities that have been evaluated are rated as, and only 10 percent, are rated as adequately prepared to cope with a catastrophic event, only 10 percent. So that again the good news/bad news story here.

Later this morning, going to be talking to Mike Brown. He is, of course, the man in many ways representative of FEMA in the middle of the disaster. The man many people said was utterly incompetent in handling what happened here on the ground. We'll talk to him ahead this morning on AMERICAN MORNING.


M. O'BRIEN: Some of those popular stories on

Investigators still trying to figure out what caused a Greyhound bus to overturn in upstate New York. At least five died in the crash. The bus headed from New York City to Montreal.

No charges for John Mark Karr in the JonBenet Ramsey killing. The Boulder, Colorado district attorney says DNA evidence did not link him to the murder of the 6-year-old girl 10 years ago. An extradition is scheduled today to send Karr back to California where he will face child pornography charges.

Rapper Foxy Brown had a hard time making up her mind in court Monday. Just hours after entering a guilty plea in an assault case, she came back to court and changed the plea, not guilty. She's accused of assaulting a pair of nail salon stylists more than two years ago.

Oil giant BP in hot water yet again.

Andy Serwer, I think they need some public relations help there at BP.

ANDY SERWER, "FORTUNE" MAGAZINE: That and some lawyers, Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes.

SERWER: Here's what's going on, trouble is mounting for oil giant BP. "The Wall Street Journal" is reporting this morning that federal investigators are examining whether or not BP manipulated the oil and gas markets in the United States and globally between the years of 2002 and 2004.

Now, you add to these other problems that the company's had over the past two years, the fatal explosion in Texas, the famous pipeline problems in Alaska and remember the investigation over whether or not the company was fixing propane prices in the United States. The company says it is cooperating with investigators.

Other news, consumer electronics company Best Buy is going to be opening a store in China by year-end, it says. This is a very competitive market for the nation's largest electronics store. Wal- Mart is already there. And there are local retailers there as well.

And finally, Miles, the stock markets yesterday got a boost from lower oil prices as advertised yesterday. I said oil prices were falling and that means stocks are going to be rising.

M. O'BRIEN: You moved the markets once again.

SERWER: Boy, I sure did.

M. O'BRIEN: You speak, markets move.

SERWER: Price of crude was down almost $2 to $70 and change. And you can see there green arrows across the board. And later on, we're going to be talking, Miles, about small businesses in New Orleans, as we continue our coverage of Hurricane Katrina one year after.

M. O'BRIEN: All right, I still can't figure out why Best Buy would want to get in that crowded market. That's a difficult market to dive into.

SERWER: Yes, maybe they're going to be expanding in some other countries besides China and Asia. That could be a possibility.

M. O'BRIEN: Get a foothold.

All right, see you in a bit. Thank you.

SERWER: Thank you.

M. O'BRIEN: Morning's top stories are straight ahead, including Florida under a hurricane watch. Ernesto is taking aim on the Keys as we speak. The question is when will it hit?

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm John Zarrella in Miami. If you're one of those who waited until the last minute to buy hurricane supplies, you're not alone. I'll have that story coming up -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Thank you, John.

John Mark Karr cleared in the JonBenet Ramsey killing but no get out of jail card yet. We'll tell you about that.

And a California mother, cans of spray paint and a jail cell. How do these all connect? We'll explain. Stay with us.


S. O'BRIEN: If there's one place where there seems to be little change it's the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans. We're going to take you on a tour this morning there, show you some of the debris that remains and talk to some of the homeowners, too, who really don't know what to expect, an uncertain future for them and the entire city all ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


M. O'BRIEN: Happening this morning.

Forecasters keeping a close eye on Tropical Storm Ernesto, right now about 230 miles southeast of Key West, could hit Florida as early as tonight. Ernesto is expected to pick up steam as it moves over warm water in that direction.

And today marks the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina slamming into the Gulf Coast. Memorials planned throughout the day, including a traditional jazz funeral in downtown New Orleans.

Good morning to you. Welcome to a special split edition of AMERICAN MORNING. I'm Miles O'Brien in New York.

S. O'BRIEN: And I'm Soledad O'Brien reporting live from the Gentilly neighborhood in New Orleans today.

Miles, in just a moment, we're going to take you inside one of these homes that's being repaired, gutted, cleaned up and show you about some folks' hopes for the future here. That's ahead in just a moment.

M. O'BRIEN: All right, we'll see you shortly, Soledad, thank you.


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Ernesto back over open water this morning, still a tropical storm, gaining strength as it moves over that warm water.

In Florida, they know enough about the way these storms wax and wane to get ready regardless.

CNN's John Zarrella joining us from a Home Depot in Miami, where people are getting ready.

Good morning, John.


Yes, they know how to get ready. Usually it's at the last minute.

We are at the Home Depot in north Miami. It opened about 30 minutes ago. Already packed here with shoppers coming out to buy lots of different items, hurricane supplies.

The same can be said at grocery stores and gas stations. Everybody just packed here in south Florida, as people are scrambling to get those last-minute items.

Now, whether you live in Florida or the Carolinas, if you're sitting home and you're not sure what you need to buy, we did a little shopping and we put together a list of some things you must have. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZARRELLA: You did what you were told not to do, you waited until the last minute. Now the storm's approaching and you're scrambling.

Well, make sure you have plenty of water, plenty of ice, a medical kit, food for you and your family for five to seven days. Make sure you have a can opener, because remember, electricity is going to be out.

You're going to have to have batteries, of course, for your flashlights and, you know, perhaps for your transistor. Get your flashlight. A lantern is always good to have on hand.

Lots of other items that you're going to have to need to have. Here is kind of a checklist you can go through.

Make sure you pick up a heavy-duty extension cord, particularly if you're using it with a generator. This is 12 gauge. It's expensive, but it's well worth having.

(voice over): Keep trash bags on hand, detergent, bleach. Use glow sticks, not candles. Insect repellent.

(on camera): Rope, have that handy. A friend of mine after Hurricane Wilma last year found his gas grill in the pool because he didn't have it tied down.

One of the things you've got to have, a tarp. After the storm, keeping things dry, you know there's going to be leaks in your house. Make sure you have some tarps on hand.

One thing you can pick up to make your life a little less uncomfortable in the aftermath of a hurricane is one of these, a portable room air-conditioner. Now, this one is 6,500 BTUs, so you shouldn't have any problem running that off of your generator if your generator is about 5,000 watts.

The one problem you might have is you've got to have a window to put that in. Now, if you don't have a window to put that in, you can pick up one of these. This is also a portable room air-conditioner, but the difference is this one's freestanding. You can move it to any room and it's about 10,000 BTUs, so you shouldn't have any problem running this either off of your generator.

(voice over): Emergency managers are saying the bottom line is this: you have to be self-sufficient for up to 72 hours. That's how long it may take before relief supplies get to your area.


ZARRELLA: Now, we certainly expect, Miles, that there will be crowds everywhere again today. Whether this thing intensifies or not, people getting prepared probably a good idea, since there's still about six or seven weeks of the height of hurricane season to go.

And Miles, oil. If you've got a generator, don't forget, it's going to use plenty of oil. Make sure you have that on hand -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: That is a good tip. And I guess it's worth reminding people, because it happens every time, the generator stays outside the house, right?

ZARRELLA: Absolutely. Away from windows, doors, any openings. That exhaust, that carbon monoxide is always inevitably, every hurricane, a killer, unfortunately -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: I hope folks were paying attention. Good job.

John Zarrella in north Miami.

The deadline is quickly approaching for Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment program. The country's president is slated to appear before the cameras later today. What will he say this time?

CNN's Aneesh Raman is the only network reporter in Iran right now. He joins us on the line from Tehran -- Aneesh.


We are just under an hour away from what will only be the third press conference given by the Iranian president since taking office. He will deal with domestic issues, but certainly the world watching to see what he says about the nuclear dispute.

If the past few days are any indication, Iran will stand firm in its defiance of a U.N. deadline that comes on Thursday to suspend its nuclear program. But as well, if the past few days are any indication, then the president will speak of peace, saying Iran will be no threat to any nation.

In the past few days he has made very symbolic gestures, opening up a new heavy-water production facility on Saturday at one of the country's most critical nuclear facilities. An expansion that doesn't mean much. They can't use that until they have a reactor, which is still some years away. But the next day he gave awards and applauded Iran's nuclear scientists, showing the image that Iran has no intention of stopping its program and every intention of expanding it. But at the same time, he said for the first time in a long time the word "Israel," saying that Iran is no threat, at first, to the Zionist regime, but went on to say the problem of Israel should be solved by elections.

So we will likely here more of the same today. And Thursday will be the key day when the U.N. has to decide if it wants more talks or if it wants to take action -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: So, Aneesh, is there any sense -- you'll be watching this, obviously, very closely. But it seems highly unlikely that Iran will announce any sort of change of course in their policy on nuclear armaments.

RAMAN: They are not, and they are very strategic and smart in terms of diplomacy. What they've done in their response that came last week is defy the U.N. but set the scene for defense at the U.N. Security Council. They've called for new talks, for a new round of dialogue.

Who has that been welcomed by? Russia and China, two countries that have the power to stop sanctions, if not veto them outright when the U.N. tries to take action. That is why the U.S. has had to respond, according to reports, by planning its own unilateral sanctions if the U.N. does not take action.

So, Iran is playing this for the long term, but you get the sense on the ground from talking to the people that this has been a year's long process of sort of stalling the world and pursuing this program, that time is running out, and sooner rather than later this will come to a head -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Aneesh Raman in Tehran, Iran, the only network correspondent who is there.

This just in to CNN -- CNN's Kelli Arena, who covers the Justice Department for us, says the attorney general of the United State, Alberto Gonzales, is in Baghdad. And as we speak he is there primarily to thank Department of Justice employees and contractors. There are about 200 of them there involved in the reconstruction of Iraq, as well as to meet with senior Iraqi leaders.

Once again, Alberto Gonzales currently in Baghdad. We'll get you more information on that as it comes in.

Happening "In America" today, in Colorado John Mark Karr faces his second extradition hearing in as many weeks. A Colorado district attorney has dropped all charges against Karr. The decision was made after DNA failed to link him to the JonBenet Ramsey killing 10 years ago.

Karr will now most likely be sent back to California, where he would face misdemeanor child pornography charges.

In upstate New York this morning, investigators are trying to figure out what caused a deadly bus crash. A Greyhound bus overturned yesterday, killing at least five -- killing at least five and injuring several others. The tour bus was headed to Montreal.

Investigators in Drexel, Missouri, have ended their search for evidence in the case of a man who said he killed seven drug dealers and scattered their remains in his yard. Investigators say the bone fragments found could be hard to identify.

In Nevada, several people are lucky to be alive this morning after a glider collided with an executive jet at about 16,000 feet. The jet landed without its landing gear at the Carson City Airport. The pilot with minor injuries, four others on board that plane are fine. They're still looking for that glider.

And get this. A Los Angeles mother is under arrest for allegedly driving her two sons and their three friends around during a graffiti spree. The woman and five teens were booked on suspicion of vandalism after their arrest last Tuesday. The mother is being held without bail until her arraignment, which is scheduled for tomorrow.

Let's get -- it's the year anniversary of Katrina. Where were you a year ago?

I was down there, and you were up here, Soledad. Ever since, we spent an awful lot of time in New Orleans. Each time I go back I notice some changes, but mostly what I notice is not a lot of change, unfortunately.

You are in the Gentilly neighborhood, where there's a lot of that, isn't there?

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. And, you know, kind of a mixed bag, as you say. Some change. It sometimes feels like not a lot of change.

At this hour a year ago the people knew that Hurricane Katrina was bearing down fast and hard upon them. In fact, in about 30 minutes or so, a year ago, 317,000 people in the region would be without power. And at this moment a year ago, people were worried, terrified, scared, waiting to see what was going to happen as Hurricane Katrina bore down.

So, depending on how you look at something like this, it's going to set your perspective. Does this look like progress to you or not?

If you take a look over here, you can see what they've done is soda-blasted the beams here. That means the professionals come in. And they're really starting the work of rebuilding. And some people would say that's terrific news. This guy has clearly said we're rebuilding.

On the other hand, some people would say, well, it's been a year. It's been a year, and this really is as far as we've gotten? And that, I think, some people find very, very upsetting.

If you walk through a home like this, it does feel like the home owner clearly is ready to move back in and to make a big difference. But he's one of the few in his neighborhood.

Let's move into some lights so you guys can see me here.

This is a sign of progress in this neighborhood, but next door nothing's been done. There are folks living in a FEMA trailer. There's a boat right out -- pretty much in the front yard here. And you can understand why people feel not so hopeful about what's happened here.

One of the saddest things, Miles, I have to tell you -- and you've heard these reports. Reports of people who steal the equipment of homeowners like the guy who is here working on his home. They steal their equipment.

People who have had absolutely everything taken from them, people come in and steal sometimes big, heavy equipment, rip them off. It is so devastating psychologically, and, of course, literally, because it's hard to continue the work when you don't have some of the tools to deal with.

We've heard that story in virtually every single pashish that we have visited. Really, really upsetting when you hear that.

You know, President Bush is in town. He came in. He actually was for a long time at a location right across from our hotel, and some of the folks were lined up on the street trying to watch him, see if he was going to come out.

The president still feeling a lot of the -- the -- I guess what's the best way to put it? He's reeling, frankly, from the inaction that took place a year ago. The response to the storm is something that brought down his poll numbers, and it's been hard for him to weather.

As he comes back to town, he talks a lot about having faith in the people here. The people here, though, very upset by what help they've gotten. And, in fact, often, when you see progress like this, it's because the homeowner is sometimes without help, sometimes without insurance money, sometimes without any aid whatsoever, has decided, what the heck, he's going to come back because this is home.

You don't get that sense everywhere, though. Certainly not in the Lower Ninth Ward, Miles, where we're going to take you in just a little bit.

The Lower Ninth Ward is a mess. People there, primarily poor, primarily black, and they say that's not bringing the aid in. They don't have the political clout. They don't have the financial clout to demand change and aid. Some of the church groups say they're working to change that.

We'll talk about all that just ahead this morning on AMERICAN MORNING.

Miles, we're back in a moment.


S. O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody.

We're in the Gentilly section of New Orleans. And as you can see here, the guy who owns this house, well, he's got a long way to go. He feels confident, though. He's got a big sign on his yard, frankly, that says, "We are rebuilding."

It is a completely different story in the Lower Ninth Ward. We spent some time there, and walked around and talked to some of the homeowners, too, who say they are at a loss to know what to do next.


S. O'BRIEN: One of the things you see a lot here in the Lower Ninth Ward is this: these sort of stairs that kind of lead to nowhere. In this particular case, they lead to a house that's collapsed and probably eventually will be hauled off. But staircases like this are over there and over there and over there, and continue down this road. In the Lower Ninth Ward, you don't get that feeling, that buzz, the energy of people who decided to commit and come back. I mean, look at this. This does not give the feeling of progress.

Look how close we are to the levee, the levee that failed. That's a brand-new levee there. That is going to be critical to the decisions that people live here have to make.

Do they rebuild? Can they be insured? Will they survive another storm that comes through? And what will be the financial responsibility of the government to help the people here, if any?

What does someone like this get to fix up their home? More stairs to nowhere.

You don't get the feel of progress here, even though you really do in lots of other parishes and lots of other parts of New Orleans.


S. O'BRIEN: Other parts of New Orleans, like Gentilly, where we are this morning, on Cameron Street.

Church leaders say, listen, do not say that the story of the Lower Ninth Ward is no progress. That is not accurate. They want people to come back so they can have a voice, they can start organizing them.

They're fearful if people don't come back, then they really have no political clout. Then, really, the Lower Ninth Ward will not have any progress whatsoever, and eventually might even disappear as a neighborhood -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Well, there are some who would suggest, Soledad, that it's unsafe to rebuild there, frankly, and that maybe it needs to -- they need to raze the ground, put in some landfill or something, which would put the whole thing in question, I guess.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes, and all that costs money. And as you know, money here slow to come, certainly for people who are trying to rebuild.

So, in the middle of all those questions, they just kind of sit and wait.

I talked to a homeowner yesterday in the Lower Ninth Ward who said, "What have you heard? What have you heard about the plan?"

What have I heard about the plan. You know, he was one of many, many people who said the same thing, "We don't know what to do."

M. O'BRIEN: It's happening now without a plan, in spite of a plan, I guess.

All right. Thank you, Soledad. Back with you in just a little bit. Still to come on AMERICAN MORNING, Katrina's wide reach. We'll show you how the hurricane spread damage far and wide all throughout southern states from Georgia to Texas. The impact of Katrina one year later.

Stay with us for more AMERICAN MORNING.


M. O'BRIEN: Katrina's physical path of destruction may have focused mainly on Louisiana and Mississippi, but the storm sent ripples far beyond. Here is where things stand in some other states this morning.

In Alabama, 21,000 Katrina evacuees still there. The government gave $970 million to the state right after the storm. About 10 percent of that went to the evacuees. Right now, about 4,000 people living in temporary housing there.

Mississippi, the state beginning to send out property grant checks to people who lost their homes. The program provides about $150,000 per homeowner maximum.

Also this morning, the search continuing for 16 people still listed missing as a result of Katrina.

Some good news here. The Air Force's second largest medical center at the Keesler Air Force Base opens this month.

Farther to the west, Texas, 100,000 people, evacuees primarily from New Orleans, call Houston home this morning. The city also saw a spike in violent crime, although we're going to talk to the mayor later. There's some debate about that. Evacuees either being the suspect or the victim in several crimes this year, allegedly.

And right now there are about 35,000 tenant families still receiving support from FEMA for housing in that city.

For complete coverage of the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, head to our Web site at

Still to come on our program, Mayor Ray Nagin, the face of New Orleans, for good or bad he has kept the city in the spotlight. He sure has been in the spotlight, but has he done enough?

We'll talk with Mayor Nagin in just a little bit on AMERICAN MORNING.


M. O'BRIEN: One year after Katrina, a lot of big companies certainly have the wherewithal to withstand a significant blow like that. But if you're a small business owner, you've had a -- well, to say a tough year, that would be glossing it over.

Andy Serwer is here with a look at how businesses have tried to rebound.


You know, we focused a lot on individuals, stories of homeowners trying to rebuild and recover, problems with insurance companies and such. But small businesses are having major problems, too, and they're really the lifeblood of any city.

They, too, are having difficulties with SBA loans, with insurance companies, trying to recover. Ten billion dollars pledged to New Orleans from the federal government, only $38 million has gone to small businesses. So, obviously, that's just a drop in the bucket there.

Then when you look at the city of New Orleans, 95 percent of the 22,000 businesses employ fewer than 100 workers. So you can see just how important those small businesses are.

Only 60 percent of those -- or 40 percent of those have reopened. So 60 percent not reopened yet.

And the city has lost 184,000 jobs over the past year. That's 30 percent of the total employment picture. Unemployment rate at 7.2 percent, the highest of any big city. That compares with about 4.8 percent nationally.

And when you start to look around and check on businesses, many people are simply going to be packing up. "The New York Times" talks about Bommer Foods (ph) which makes Crystal (ph) brand hot sauce. That's a national brand that competes with Tabasco. They are moving out. They have moved out of the city to Laplace, Louisiana, which is 25 miles west of the city.

And other businesses, Miles, complain about, you know, not being able to get enough money, not being able to reopen, and then not enough customers. So you put all that together and it's a very, very difficult environment.

M. O'BRIEN: The red tape does continue, doesn't it?

SERWER: It certainly does. And the SBA has not apparently distinguished itself here.

M. O'BRIEN: All right. Andy Serwer, we'll see you in a little bit. Thank you very much.

SERWER: Thank you.

M. O'BRIEN: The next hour of AMERICAN MORNING starts right now.


S. O'BRIEN (voice over): This was the scene a year ago, August 29, 2005.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was like a horror film. A New Orleans horror film.

S. O'BRIEN: One year later, the Gulf Coast is still struggling to recover. What's been restored? What work remains undone?

Hurricane Katrina: One Year Later, on this AMERICAN MORNING.


S. O'BRIEN: Good morning. Welcome back, everybody.

You're watching a special edition of AMERICAN MORNING.

I'm Soledad O'Brien, coming to you live from New Orleans this morning.

Hey, Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Good morning, Soledad.

Miles O'Brien in New York.

Back to you, Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Thank you.

Let's start with where we are, on Cameron Street, in the Gentilly neighborhood in Orleans Parish. It's a mixed-race neighborhood, middle class. And what you see here is really trailer, trailer, house that no one's working on, house that's been gutted.