Higher jobless rates

Katrina victims who have yet to return home have a far higher unemployment rate than other workers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics found 1,512,000 people fled the hurricane. Of those victims, 931,000 have returned home and 581,000 have not. Of those who have returned, 600,000 are civilian workers. Their jobless rate in June was 5.9 percent. Of Katrina victims in shelters or living elsewhere, 359,000 are workers. Their jobless rate in June was 25.9 percent.

Sheriff’s statements ‘overtly racist’

The Covington, La., NAACP branch has called for a federal investigation into racial profiling allegations against St. Tammany Parish Sheriff Jack Strain. The branch said Strain’s statement after a recent quadruple murder that he intends to target people with two distinctive hairstyles commonly worn by African Americans is unconstitutional.

“His announced intention to stop anyone with dreadlocks or a ‘chee wee’ hairstyle is a clear-cut case of racial profiling,” branch President Annie Spell said.

Strain also seemed to equate people from New Orleans as “thugs and trash.”

The NAACP has sent letters to U.S. Attorney Jim Letten and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales asking them to investigate, said Spell, who called on Strain to retract his statements.

The Louisiana ACLU also blasted the statement, saying it is “overtly racist” and a civil rights violation. Strain has not backed down.

St. Tammany Parish made headlines several years ago when Former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke was elected chairman of its Republican Party — the largest Republican Party District in Louisiana.

To view Strain’s comments, go to www.wdsu.com/video/9449345/index.html?taf=no.

Entergy New Orleans seeks 25 percent rate boost

New Orleans residents could see their electric and gas bills rise about $45 a month under a plan Entergy New Orleans has filed with the New Orleans City Council.

Entergy New Orleans is proposing a 25 percent increase in monthly bills for a typical electric and gas customer, making electric costs the highest in the state.

Weeks after Hurricane Katrina, Entergy New Orleans filed bankruptcy, although it still is operating and its assets exceed its liabilities.

The company has also requested $718 million in federal aid.

Parent company Entergy delivers electricity to 2.7 million utility customers in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas and is the second-largest nuclear generator in the United States with annual revenues of more than $10 billion.

Flood or hurricane? Insurers seek to avoid payments

A Mississippi couple’s lawsuit against Ohio-based Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. July 10 became the first case to go to trial over insurers’ denials of Hurricane Katrina claims.

Police officer Paul Leonard and his wife argue the damage was covered by a homeowners’ policy because it resulted from storm surge caused by wind. Nationwide says the policy excludes all water damage.

The trial, starting in Gulfport, Miss., is one of about a dozen such cases in the same court.

The hurricane destroyed and damaged 126,000 area homes, and thousands of cases are waiting to be filed, the lawyers said.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill June 27 that would order an investigation into whether firms that act as claims adjusters for the National Flood Insurance Program misclassified Katrina damage as flooding rather than wind-caused because their own policies cover wind damage.

Other insurers that face suits include Allstate, Metropolitan Life and State Farm.

— Terrie Albano (talbano@pww.org)