Thursday, June 21, 2007

World Cultural Economic Forum in New Orleans

Culture forum planned for La.
State's arts, history will be showcased
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
By Jaquetta White

Hoping to bring international attention to what has been termed the state's cultural economy, Louisiana will host the World Cultural Economic Forum in August, Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu said Tuesday.

The event, a demonstration modeled after the World Economic Forum based in Switzerland, will include a series of meetings and workshops on culture featuring ambassadors and cultural attachés from several countries.

"The topic would be culture in its most general sense," Landrieu said.

While the meetings will discuss culture worldwide, programs, performances and events held throughout the state during the forum will showcase Louisiana's literary arts, visual arts, culinary arts, performing arts and history. The hope is that after the visit, the ambassadors will spread word of the state's recovery in their countries.

Landrieu said the idea for the forum arose from the outpouring of support Louisiana received from foreign nations following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. During February's Louisiana Cultural Economy Summit III, several international leaders expressed interest in helping Louisiana capitalize on its culture. It was a show of that support that led French government officials in March to lend works from French museums to the New Orleans Museum of Art for the "Femme, Femme, Femme," exhibit, which ended earlier this month.

"This is to kind of take it up a notch in response to their support," Landrieu said. "We also want to learn from what other countries have to present to us."

Landrieu's office has been behind a push to use Louisiana's culture to encourage economic development. The culture sector of the state's economy includes entertainment jobs, such as those in broadcasting, film, music and live entertainment, as well as some parts of culinary arts, literary arts and humanities, preservation and visual arts and crafts. A state-commissioned study released this year reported that about 144,000 jobs, or 7 percent of the state's employment, is generated through the sector.

The forum will take place Aug. 16-26 in New Orleans. The dates were selected to coincide as closely as possible with the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. The hope is that a successful event will allay fears about hosting major affairs in New Orleans during hurricane season, said Jeanne Nathan, a spokeswoman for the forum.

The forum also is timed to coincide with several other events statewide, including Carnaval Latino, a festival celebrating Hispanic heritage and culture, in New Orleans and the Floodwall Exhibit, an art installation memorializing victims of Hurricane Katrina, in Baton Rouge.

Jun 8, 11:11 AM EDT
appeared in The News-Star Monroe, La.
Judge: Fed prosecutors should get involved in whistle-blower case

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- The judge who unsealed a federal whistle-blower case accusing insurance companies of overbilling the National Flood Insurance Program says the U.S. Department of Justice should get involved or explain why not.

The case was brought by former insurance adjusters who say they have evidence that insurance companies overbilled the federal flood program while underpaying claims for Hurricane Katrina wind damage.

U.S. District Judge Peter Beer filed a one-sentence motion this week: "The Court, on its own motion, respectfully requests the United States Department of Justice enter this case by July 9, 2007, or show cause on July 11, 2007, at 9:30 a.m., why they are not intervening in this civil action."

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Baton Rouge, which fielded the complaint with the Department of Justice in Washington even though it was filed in New Orleans, referred a call Friday for comment to Washington. The department has no comment, spokesman Charles Miller said.

Beer said he was surprised to learn that the U.S. attorney's office in Baton Rouge planned only to monitor the case, which now is being prosecuted for the U.S. government by a private attorney who represents the whistle-blowers.

"What about the good old general public? Who better to look after the interests of the public than the U.S. attorneys?" Beer said. "This is a case the government should be involved with. The United States should be right in there, and not just monitoring it, given as far-reaching and serious as this case is."

The whistle-blowers say that they've analyzed insurance appraisals of damage and readjusted claims at 150 properties in the New Orleans area. They say all of the flood claims were overpaid - by an average of 66 percent - while the wind claims were underpaid.

The average means the overcharges could total billions out of the $14 billion paid after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in Louisiana.

Because private insurance carriers administer federal flood insurance policies and adjust both flood and wind claims, the theory is that companies may be dumping the bills for wind damage onto the taxpayer-financed flood program to save themselves money.

Insurance companies have said they stand by their claims-handling practices.

Beer's motion was copied to U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales or his deputy; Jim Letten, the U.S. attorney in New Orleans; and David Dugas, the U.S. attorney in Baton Rouge.

Delegates to Washington to discuss needs in N.O.
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
By Brendan McCarthy
New Orleans Times-Picayune

Top New Orleans legal and law enforcement officials are scheduled to testify before Congress today in an effort to seek additional federal money to fight crime.

"Basically, we are going to talk about how the infrastructure of the criminal justice system here is wholly inadequate," said Robert Stellingworth, the president of the New Orleans Police and Justice Foundation, who is slated to testify. "We are still operating in a crisis mode, which makes it difficult."

Sen. David Vitter, R-La., and Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., are scheduled to brief members of the Senate Judiciary Committee in a hearing titled "Rising Violent Crime in the Aftermath of Hurricane Katrina."

U.S. Attorney Jim Letten, New Orleans Police Deputy Chief Anthony Cannatella and Orleans Parish Juvenile Court Chief Judge David Bell will also testify.

Cannatella said Tuesday that the hearing is part of the process of strengthening law enforcement.

"Senators Landrieu and Vitter are attempting to help the city and get what it needs to get the criminal justice system back up on its feet," Cannatella said.

The congressional committee will hear stories of a fractured criminal justice system, one with systemic problems that were laid bare and heightened following Hurricane Katrina.

In recent months, law enforcement agencies have heralded several moves back to normalcy. The NOPD crime lab is up and running, albeit not yet at full capacity. Some of the police district stations have been repaired, though many units, including top administration officials, still work out of trailers.

In addition, NOPD Superintendent Warren Riley and Orleans Parish District Attorney Eddie Jordan have agreed to certain steps to make prosecutions more efficient and effective.

Despite the marked improvements since the storm, violent crime has remained steady.

The city's 2006 per-capita homicide rate ranks highest in the country. With at least 91 slayings this year, the city is well on pace to surpass last year's homicide total of 162.

State Police troopers and National Guard troops, deployed here since last summer, are scheduled to remain at least through Sept. 1.

In addition, officers from federal law enforcement agencies are working in the city alongside local police officers.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Full-scale mobilisation as Gonu strikes:-To reach Muscat by 4 pm today

As Sultanate joins the world to mark World Environment Day
Oman to be Hit: Citizens Depart
Gonu brings rain relief, fear to India
5 Jun, 2007 l 0236 hrs ISTlTIMES NEWS NETWORK

BHUJ/GANDHINAGAR: The heat seems to have gone, thanks to Gonu. Heavy rainfall hit Bhuj and surrounding areas with 25 mm being recorded in just half-an-hour on Monday evening. Rainfall was also reported from Rajkot, parts of Banaskantha, Patan, Mehsana and Sabarkantha in the evening.

District authorities said that the rainfall in Kutch and north Gujarat was due to the impact of the cyclonic storm, Gonu, which was earlier heading towards the state coast. The cyclone is now moving westwards to Oman. The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has informed Gujarat government that the cyclonic formation in the Arabian sea is now moving away from the coast, but the state officialdom is taking no chances.

Officials monitoring the weather in the Arabian sea say, the movement of the cyclonic formation, Gonu, is still 'unpredictable'.

"Instructions were given to district collectors of all the coastal districts on Sunday evening to be on the alert. These instructions stand. Fishermen have been asked not to move into the sea for another 24 hours because of the possibility of rough weather.

However, no extra measures are being taken, as the cyclonic formation is still 600 kilometres away from the Gujarat coast," a senior official of the state relief commissionerate said. Mamlatdars of coastal talukas including Abdassa, Mundra, Mandvi and Gandhidham have been asked to stay at their respective headquarters.