It has been a relatively quiet hurricane season so far. But that could change in the next few days. Tropical storm Ernesto is threatening to become the season's first hurricane. As we approach the one-year anniversary of Katrina, Ernesto looks like it could be headed for the Gulf of Mexico. It is still several days away, and as we have learned, these storms can change course quickly. We have two reports tonight. We'll find out more about the forecast... and NBC's Ron Mott reports from New Orleans on preparations for a hurricane. Why tonight, they're warning the levee system there may still not be ready.
Also tonight, NBC's Martin Fletcher has the latest from the Middle East on the fragile truce between Hezbollah and Israel... and the 2 Fox News journalists being held hostage in Gaza.
NBC's Charles Sabine has the story from Austria of a girl held captive for eight years.
And NBC's Dawn Fratangelo tells us about the big business of back to school... what has become the second biggest shopping period after Christmas.
It's all coming up tonight. We hope you'll join us.
"You can't have a major urban center if you don't have schools that are working, if you don't have hospitals that can run, if you don't have electricity you can count on. Everybody's still in limbo and that's a pity a year after the storm."
New Orleans resident and author
I spoke with Doug Brinkley last week in the Ninth Ward. He is the author of the "Great Deluge," which chronicled Katrina and its aftermath. Although he notes the enormous amount of progress, Brinkley expresses concerned about the future of the Ninth Ward and the city itself. He believes New Orleans can maintain its status as a major American city, but only if more basic services are available to residents who wish to return.
Photo caption: Doug Brinkley talks to Steve in the Ninth Ward. Courtesy of NBC News.
Today's posting comes with apologies (some may consider this a blessing) for brevity. Owing in part to yet another unsettled news day, and in part to my schedule -- I've been in a continuous production meeting today regarding the hour-long Katrina special we are airing on the NBC Television Network Monday at 8 p.m. ET.
In the fleeting moments I've had to look away from my computer screen today, I've noticed the cable news networks have had their cameras trained on various aircraft-related emergencies -- part of the drama today, playing out in skyways, runways and taxiways in various parts of the nation and the world. A lot of this fits beneath a post-U.K.-terrorist-plot umbrella of what will become yet another "new normal" for all those of us who fly. Having flown both internationally and domestically since the new restrictions have been put in place, I can confirm: it's a new world out there -- in terms of delays, discarded personal items, bag checks and checked bags. As an aside: I take no joy in admitting that our traveling group found it quite easy to avoid the random-bag-check delays at the gate the other day -- we just found our way to the second of the two lines forming to scan boarding passes. By putting distance between ourselves and the inspectors, we were allowed to board without delay, and we all commented on how easy it was (having already cleared primary airport security, of course) to avoid a second check prior to boarding. By the way, while it goes without saying that none of us had anything to hide, I've yet to meet anyone who truly relishes delays at the airport... say nothing of the thought of someone wearing surgical gloves reaching into your carry-on and laying your possessions out on a table. Our return flight to New York had no such random bag search at the gate -- and all of this is probably in keeping with the definition of "random." We're also awaiting a ruling on an airline strike possibility, which of course will complicate matters in the skies and on the ground.
Suppose the police come to your office with a search warrant, suspecting you of having committed a crime. During their search, they find something that makes them want to search your home, too. You say no. But they go to your house anyway, where your spouse says yes. Is that a valid search?
No, it's not, according to a federal appeals court ruling today. In a 2-1 decision, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals held that once one occupant says no, the others cannot veto that refusal. It extends a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year, involving two occupants of a house who argued with police outside about whether they could come in to search. Under this ruling, an occupant can stop a search, no matter how far from the house.
Our camera caught up with Brian in his office today, where he frankly admits that the broadcast isn't sure what the lead story will be yet. Click the link to the right (below the advertisement) to watch.
The thousands of federal air marshals who patrol the skies on selected flights won a concession today from the Department of Homeland Security -- one they say will help them remain undercover. The issue was how they dress and where they stay, to avoid calling attention to themselves.
Poor Pluto. I remember Pluto so vividly from that fold-out Scholastic poster, "The Planets of the Solar System," that hung on the wall of every classroom I sat in through the 6th grade. Pluto wasn't exactly the Big Man On Campus in the Planet Community, but it did have a Disney character named after it, and it did have a certain smoky, distant, enigmatic image. All that's gone now. Fold up the posters. Now, astronomers tell us, Pluto's name must not be spoken when the subject turns to planets. We'll talk about Pluto on the broadcast tonight. It will give us an excuse to slip the surly bonds of this troubled world of ours for a 2-minute respite, at least.
Chief White House Correspondent David Gregory does the Early Nightly honors tonight while Brian returns from St. Louis. Our camera caught up with him after the "Today" show. Click the link to the right (below the advertisement) to watch.
"This was my apartment right here. Ain't too much to see (now) except an empty slab. That's the only thing I want to know: What are they going to do with this land? Are they going to rebuild it or just let it go?"
Steven Smith returned to New Orleans this week from Houston to look at what remained of his apartment complex. He's one of several former residents we've been talking to this week as we prepare stories for the upcoming anniversary of Katrina. As we walked the muddy field where it once stood, he talked about his desire to return permanently to his hometown. Smith lost nearly all his belongings in the flooding that followed Katrina. He's eager to come home to his old neighborhood because he says he's had a hard time finding an affordable apartment in other parts of the city.
Roy Page, left, and Toby Springate, right, visit with four dogs they rescued and brought to the Beirut animal shelter. Photo by Julian Prictoe, NBC News.
Such a clichéd title for the tale I’m about to tell. Almost a year ago I found myself in New Orleans, covering Hurricane Katrina. It was the most heart-wrenching and emotionally disturbing assignment I have ever had.
In the terrible aftermath and weeks that followed, no matter how tired or dispirited our team got, they would come home to our make-shift camp, and rejoice in the companionship of three rescued critters: Katrina the kitten, Freeway the overgrown puppy, who was such a ham, and Storm, the pit bull pup that stole our hearts. We had become, over the weeks, a way station for all sorts, human and animal.