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Tuesday, September 20, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Donations for relief near $1 billion

NEW YORK — Donations for the Hurricane Katrina relief effort are flowing into charities at an unprecedented rate.

As of Friday, Americans had contributed about $923 million to charities, according to the agencies. Two weeks after the hurricane, the response had reached $867.3 million, dwarfing the outpouring for past disasters: In the two weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks, donations totaled $558 million, while Americans donated $406 million for victims of last year's Asian tsunami over the same period of time, according to a tally by the Chronicle of Philanthropy, a publication in Washington, D.C., that covers charities.

Far ahead of the pack in the Katrina disaster is the American Red Cross, which has raised more than $670 million, including $12 million collected by its Greater New York chapter. The Salvation Army has raised $94.4 million, while the Humane Society of the United States has taken in $16 million to rescue animals.

Many charities have held telethons, including the "Shelter From the Storm" benefit concert Sept. 9, and sent mass e-mails to regular donors. The Red Cross disaster-fund phone number has been plastered on television screens during baseball games. Celebrities have contributed millions toward relief efforts. Large corporations have donated items including diapers and bottled water.

The Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund, headed by former Presidents Bush and Clinton, has collected about $100 million, including $23 million from Wal-Mart, according to Clinton aide Will Edgar.

Charities that respond to disasters immediately, such as the Red Cross and Salvation Army, have set up hundreds of shelters and dished out millions of meals.

But Habitat for Humanity International, which in the United States has raised more than $10 million for Katrina victims, plans to start building houses only when areas are determined to be safe and secure.

The United Way of America, where officials say they haven't had time to tally donations, is focused on helping people who have lost everything start over. "Many people are out of work and need to be completely retrained to do something else," spokeswoman Sheila Consaul said.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, based in Baltimore, has raised nearly $1 million and has dispatched staff members and volunteers to help victims find jobs, homes, food and medical care.

"There are a lot of African Americans in that region of the country," said John White, the NAACP's director of communications. "We pay particular attention to these communities because historically aid doesn't get into those communities right away."

PUBLIC OPINION

Bush approval rating

slips in Gallup poll

WASHINGTON — President Bush's national address on the recovery from Hurricane Katrina failed to halt a slide in his approval ratings, a USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll found.

Forty percent of U.S. adults said they approve of the way Bush is handling his job as president and 58 percent disapprove in the poll taken Sept. 16-18, the three days after Bush's speech from downtown New Orleans. That compares with 45 percent who said they approve in a survey taken over the three days before the address, according to data released by the three organizations.

The poll also indicates increased cynicism about the recovery effort, with 56 percent saying Bush is taking steps to help hurricane victims for political reasons rather than because he "sincerely cares" about those affected.

In a sign of trouble for Bush's agenda, 54 percent said the recovery, estimated to cost $200 billion, should be paid for by cutting spending on the Iraq war. Fifteen percent of Americans say the government should increase the budget deficit to pay the cost and 17 percent called for raising taxes. Six percent say the administration should cut spending for domestic programs, as Bush's advisers and some Republican lawmakers say must be done.

The latest poll was based on telephone interviews with 818 adults. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

DAMAGE

Superdome might be

saved after all

NEW ORLEANS — Cancel the wrecking ball. The Superdome might be salvageable after all.

A second inspection over the weekend revealed that damage to the 30-year-old stadium wasn't as bad as first thought, said Doug Thornton, regional vice president of SMG, the company that manages the Superdome.

Thornton initially feared the landmark facility might need to be gutted completely because of damage from Hurricane Katrina and thousands of storm victims who sought shelter there after the storm passed.

"I'm a little more encouraged after walking through it a second time," Thornton said.

The bad news is the adjacent New Orleans Arena, also managed by SMG, appears to be in worse shape than originally believed. Thornton said the building suffered extensive water damage on its south side, and Harrah's Courtside Club and the hardwood basketball court were destroyed.

DEATH TOLL

Hurricane Katrina death tolls reported by state and local officials as of yesterday:

Alabama

2

Florida

14
Georgia
2
Louisiana
736
Mississippi
219
Total
973

ALSO

Telephone threats: A Biloxi, Miss., man frustrated by the recovery effort was arrested early Sunday on federal charges of threatening to bomb disaster-relief agencies. Billy Wayne Livingston, aka Billy Wayne Demochett, 39, is accused of making interstate telephone threats to the American Red Cross, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Keesler Air Force Base.

Jobs for evacuees: Louisiana yesterday launched a federally funded program to temporarily hire up to 10,000 evacuees to work on the recovery effort.

Compiled from Newday,

Newhouse News Service, Bloomberg News

and Knight Ridder Newspapers

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company

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