August 27, 2010

Tonight on Larry King Live!

Posted: 07:00 PM ET

Harry Connick, Jr. joins Larry from New Orleans

for the 5th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

He’ll tell us how his hometown is

still coming back from catastrophe.

Do you think enough has been done
for Gulf Coast 5 years after Katrina?

Weigh in below!

TAKE OUR POLL: Have you been to NOLA since Katrina?

Filed under: Harry Connick Jr. • Hurricane Katrina • Larry King Live

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August 26, 2010

Harry Connick Jr. Preview

Posted: 10:25 PM ET

Harry Connick Jr. is Larry's guest Friday night for a special show
on the 5th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.  Here's a preview.

Filed under: Harry Connick Jr. • Hurricane Katrina • Larry King Live

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August 25, 2010

Wyclef Jean on Two Tragedies

Posted: 03:55 PM ET

By Wyclef Jean

This weekend is the fifth anniversary of the devastation that Katrina wrought in New Orleans. As a member of the Creole community, I feel a deep connection to New Orleans and the Gulf region, and want to send out my prayers to those who are still working to rebuild there. The destruction that Katrina caused really struck home for me–so many brothers and sisters lost, and so many lives shattered.

I see a corollary to the vast destruction of the earthquake that Port-au-Prince suffered just seven months ago: Like the people of the Gulf Coast, my countrymen in Haiti have been forced to witness more despair than anyone should have to bear. And in New Orleans, as it is in Haiti, so much of the loss was suffered by those who had little to begin with.

New Orleans is still in the process of reviving its communities, and this fifth anniversary has been planned to focus on people coming together to rebuild where it’s still needed. I’m so inspired by the scores of people–and companies–who have stepped in, and are still stepping in, to show their support for those who continue to struggle to get their lives back to “normal.”

I recently read of a Washington, D.C.-based publishing company, United Communications Group, that had led a relief effort five years ago for Katrina victims; at a cost of just $80,000, this corporation and its employees were able to assist hundreds of people. Many more companies are timing rebuilding campaigns to the anniversary this week: Among them, Marriott will work with Habitat for Humanity to build a home and a playground. Barnes & Noble’s founder, Leonard Riggio, funded a nonprofit, Project Home Again, that will be putting up houses in still damaged neighborhoods in New Orleans. And Sears has partnered with Rebuilding Together on its Fifty for Five event, which will aim to put 50 families back into homes in one week (an effort I had planned to join until it became clear that the current challenges of my campaign for Haiti’s president will not allow it.).

There is probably more rebuilding in this one week in New Orleans than there has been in Haiti in the seven months since the earthquake struck. The corporate sponsors helping to redevelop New Orleans reinforces my thought that Haiti must be re-opened for business–and soon.

God bless the New Orleans natives who are still fighting to rebuild their neighborhoods, and their lives, and I ask all of them to say a prayer, in turn, for the Haitians who are still fighting to survive in my homeland.

Filed under: Haiti Earthquake • Hurricane Katrina • Wyclef Jean

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August 16, 2010

Katrina's Forgotten Victims Rising From The Rubble

Posted: 03:37 PM ET

Kathleen Koch is a former CNN correspondent and author of this week's pick, "Rising From Katrina: How My Mississippi Hometown Lost It All And Found What Mattered," published by Blair.  Part of the proceeds will go to charities still helping Katrina victims on the Gulf Coast.  Many of you may recall Kathleen's excellent reporting from the Mississippi Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina.  Those of us who had the pleasure of working with her at CNN are thrilled to be able to share this LKL Web Exclusive from Kathleen.

Anniversaries are a time for remembering, taking account. But that doesn’t apply to the Mississippi Gulf Coast on the fifth anniversary of Katrina. Because there’s no remembering something most Americans never knew – that the brunt of the monster hurricane decimated the entire length of the eighty-mile-long Mississippi Gulf Coast.

The collapse of the levees to the west in New Orleans was a compelling, ongoing drama. It impacted more people since some 1.3 million lived in the Crescent City and the surrounding eight parishes compared to the 366,472 residents of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. And then Hurricane Rita blew in, inundating New Orleans again.

In Mississippi, the roaring 125-mph winds and crushing thirty-plus-foot storm surge shredded the beachfront home where I’d grown up, most of my hometown of Bay St. Louis, and reduced nearly every structure in the first half mile along the water to a slab. There are no levees on our Gulf Coast. In fact, at thirty feet in elevation downtown Bay St. Louis is the highest point in the United States on the Gulf of Mexico. But it offered no protection from Katrina. The winds and storm surge swept in and out in a day, leaving little behind untouched.

From day one when the nation’s attention focused on New Orleans, people climbing out of the rubble of the Mississippi Gulf Coast wondered why no one was paying attention, why no one seemed to care. To its credit, CNN had several reporters including me there, and Anderson Cooper anchored many of his shows that first week from Mississippi. In the year following the hurricane, I did two documentaries tracking my hometown’s recovery. I was back reporting on the second and third anniversaries.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Filed under: Hurricane Katrina • LKL Web Exclusive

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August 29, 2009

Rebuilding New Orleans: An Architects View

Posted: 01:34 AM ET

1834_Billes1Byron Mouton was born and raised in New Orleans, and is now a practicing architect in the city.  He is also a professor at Tulane University, and a contributing architect for the Make It Right Foundation.  Byron's commentary is an LKL Web Exclusive.

To watch video of the progress in the Lower 9th Ward, CLICK HERE.

The rebuilding of New Orleans is coming along, but it's progressing in a way unique to New Orleans.  The culture of this city depends on strong, independent communities, each with its own identity.  It’s at the grass roots level that New Orleans is being reborn.

Our city has a unique blend.  It's not at all uncommon to see an impoverished neighborhood on one side of the street, and a wealthy neighborhood on the other.  But we have learned to accept this discrepancy, and I believe it gives the city a strength and closeness that is hard to find elsewhere.

One of the most publicized rebuilding efforts, and one I'm proud to be a part of, is Brad Pitt's Make It Right Foundation.

I have to admit, I haven't worked very closely with Brad.  But he’s always present in meetings, asking questions.  When he comes into the room, he's very comfortable with the project leaders, the builders, and the Make It Right staff.

art.brad.pitt.lklHe's still very enthusiastic and involved with the project.  He clearly loves the Lower 9th, and the people who call it home.  The amazing thing to me about Brad is, despite his fame and status, there is no pretense.  He’s a very comfortable, laid-back person to be around.  Maybe that's why he's so comfortable in New Orleans.

Beyond Pitt's involvement, Make It Right is a unique experiment.  They invite numerous architects to work independently.  The approach yields some great results, and some not so great.

The fun thing about the Make It Right properties is everyone pushes the limits architecturally.  We're asked to build houses that achieve the highest environmental ratings.  There is a cost associated with this, yet Make It Right tells us to keep the costs down.  One one hand, we are asked to be creative and use cutting edge technologies, at the same time we’re asked to make houses affordable.

Fortunately, Make It Right has realized they can use public awareness and mass production to lower costs.  Prototypes are not always affordable, but they can be made affordable with mass production, and that's the direction Make It Right is headed.

One of the problems Make It Right is struggling with though is the lack of harmony among the houses.  Because all the architects are working independently, there’s not a lot of consistency in design.  They are trying to recreate a community, but it’s hard with so many different products side by side.

BillesArchitects1Make It Right realized the problem after phase 1.  Now a group is working on a macro scale to harmonize the community.  They are achieving this by uniform landscaping and other neighborhood touches, such as sidewalks.  Architectural critics have an easy target right now, but as the community settles down it will develop a more homogeneous, unified look.

The Make It Right Foundation is also thinking now about what will happen when community reaches the edges.  How does it encroach upon the surrounding environment?  The program could expand beyond its current neighborhood, but if it doesn't, how will it blend into the Lower 9th as a whole?  There will be some success stories and some problems, but the effort is worth it.

When I returned to New Orleans after Katrina, my first response was we should treat the below sea-level sectors as retention areas.  But my opinion has since changed.  Fact is, many parts of the city are further below sea-level than the Lower 9th.

shingerubanThere's also a great deal of poverty in New Orleans.  Impoverished neighborhoods are generally occupied by renters, but in the Lower 9th, about 80% of the land is owned by the occupants.  These people just want to go home.  In many cases, they have lived there for generations.  It's not uncommon for a family to live in a two or three block area for generations.  The architect in me says it makes more sense to build in other locations.  But if the people want to stay, we have to figure out a different way to build.  That’s what Make It Right is doing.

There are several other programs around the city doing good work like Make It Right.  I also work on a program run by Tulane University that focuses on rebuilding the areas that weren't as devastated, but in as much need of attention.  The program is called Urban Build, and the focus is to rebuild the and revitalize the city center of New Orleans.

In a way, Katrina was a blessing.  It has given us the chance to deal with many of our pre-Katrina problems, from poverty to urban infrastructure.  Four years after we were devastated, we're coming back.  However it's done, New Orleans is worth rebuilding.

To learn more about the Make It Right Foundation, go to

To learn more about Tulane's Urban Build program, go to


Filed under: Brad Pitt • Hurricane Katrina • LKL Web Exclusive • New Orleans

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