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Wednesday, November 2, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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FDIC head to oversee recovery

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. was assigned by the Bush administration on Tuesday to oversee the federal government's disaster-recovery efforts on the Gulf Coast.

Donald Powell, 64, a wealthy contributor to President Bush's presidential campaign, will be in charge of coordinating long-term plans to rebuild the states hit by hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The sluggish federal response to Katrina, the first and most damaging of the two, has been widely criticized.

Powell will be the administration's point man for dealing with Congress, state and local governments, and private businesses on relief efforts. He has worked on economic development and housing issues — two central matters in hurricane rebuilding efforts — as a bank executive, university administrator and chamber of commerce official, officials said.

"Don has the leadership, ideas and optimism that the residents of the Gulf Coast region deserve," said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.

The top federal official overseeing day-to-day Katrina recovery efforts, Coast Guard Vice Admiral Thad Allen, will leave that post by year's end.

President Bush also created a special White House council to develop and review administration plans to help rebuild the region. It will be headed by Al Hubbard, chairman of the National Economic Council, and will be made up of Cabinet secretaries and other administration officials.

Lawmakers from Gulf Coast states had pleaded for a federal official to oversee reconstruction projects, in part to safeguard against improprieties in awarding lucrative government contracts.

Congress has so far provided $62 billion for Gulf Coast hurricane-recovery efforts, of which about $40 billion has yet to be spent.

Decomposed bodies may yield no clues

NEW ORLEANS — The bodies recovered from a nursing home and hospital after Hurricane Katrina were so decomposed they may not yield any evidence for prosecuting crimes, the coroner overseeing the autopsies says.

Louisiana's attorney general charged the owners of a flooded-out nursing home in Chalmette with negligent homicide in mid-September after 34 bodies were discovered. He has also subpoenaed 73 people in an investigation into rumors that patients were euthanized at New Orleans' flooded-out Memorial Medical Center, where 40 people were found dead.

But Orleans Parish Coroner Frank Minyard, who is overseeing autopsies for the state, said this week that the bodies from the two institutions were so decomposed that he listed the cause of death merely as "Katrina-related."

He was still waiting for toxicology reports.

Lawmakers consider recovery measures

BATON ROUGE, La. — State lawmakers were called into special session to consider a wide range of recovery measures for hurricanes Katrina and Rita, including budget cuts and tax relief.

"This special session will move us toward bringing our families and our businesses home and bringing Louisiana back," Gov. Kathleen Blanco said Tuesday.

Blanco plans to slash state spending this week by $300 million, leaving the legislators to make up the rest of a deficit of nearly $1 billion. She told lawmakers she wants them to tap the state's "rainy day" fund, consider borrowing cash and create a system of early retirement incentives to help reduce the state payroll.

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company

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