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Special Report

Tear-Jerking Tale Untrue

Now some fresh pickings from the Political Grapevine:

The week after Hurricane Katrina hit, the president of Jefferson Parish outside New Orleans, Aaron Broussard, complained on national TV that the federal response was taking too long. He broke down in tears as he said, "[A colleague's] mother was trapped in St. Bernard nursing home and every day [after the storm] she called him and said, 'Are you coming, son?'" Broussard said that each day, the son promised his mother, "Somebody's coming to get you." Then, Broussard said, "She drowned Friday night," four days after the hurricane hit.

But it now turns out that, according to new reports, the mother never called her son for help, and, what's more, she died the day the hurricane hit.

Storm Surges' Fault

A dispute has broken out about what really happened to those levees that gave way in New Orleans. The Army Corps of Engineers, which designed the levee system, says massive Category 4 storm surges overwhelmed and breached the levees. But scientists at Louisiana State University's Hurricane Center, quoted by The Washington Post, say that even though the storm was a Category 4, it didn't produce surges big enough to break down the levees. They say bad design or inadequate construction likely caused floodwalls to break.

The scientists used physical evidence and a computer model with data from the hurricane to conclude that most of the surges near 17th Street and London Avenue were less than 11 feet above sea level, three feet below what the levee system was designed to handle.

Didn't Mother Tell You Steele-ing Isn't Right?

Two senior staffers from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee have resigned after the organization launched an internal investigation into how they obtained the personal credit report of Maryland lieutenant governor, and potential Republican Senate candidate, Michael Steele.

The DSCC, quoted by The Washington Times, says it didn't authorize the two to access the report, and insists the report was never used or disseminated. The DSCC has since apologized.

Steele's chief of staff, meanwhile, calls it all a "serious legal issue."

Trove of Transportation Projects

Congressional budget hawks are eyeing the recently signed-into-law highway bill for savings to offset costs of Hurricane Katrina recovery. They'll find that Alaska, whose senior senator, Republican Ted Stevens, is chair of the Senate transportation committee, and whose only congressman, Republican Don Young, is chair of the House transportation committee is well represented in the bill. Specifically, the highway bill gave more than $1 billion to Alaska for special projects.

One of the more expensive earmarks was for a $223 million bridge that will connect a small city with an island, population: 50. And then there's the $231 million bridge to be built in Anchorage. What's the name of it? Don Young's Way.