President Bush today visited those parts of New Orleans that had not been affected by Hurricane Katrina and touted the remarkable progress that was being made in their rebuilding. The President, who met with New Orleans small business owners and local government officials in the Lower Garden District neighbourhood of New Orleans, which was one of the few that was not flooded during the hurricane aftermath, expressed his happiness at what he was seeing there.
"I will tell you, the contrast between when I was last here and today is pretty dramatic," Bush said to reporters. "Then, the city was full of water, black people and broken homes. Things look much better today", he said, referring to the excellent condition of homes in New Orleans that hadn't suffered any damage in the first place.
New Orleans residents from the Seventh and Ninth wards which Bush did not visit this time, most of whose homes were destroyed during the hurricane and are still living without electric power and with the danger of crime, agreed with the president's assessment. "My neighbourhood used to be a haven for crime and drug peddling", said Mark Andrews, 42, an electrical contractor living in the Seventh Ward. "But now, with the President's wise decision not to rebuild it, it's real quiet and peaceful."
Bush praised the city's success in bringing much of its infrastructure back. "Water supply has been restored. We have lots of water", he said. Bush also rapped Congress for diverting $1.4 billion of the levee rebuilding money to non-New Orleans-related projects. "Congress needs to restore that $1.4 billion," he said. "And I would pursue it more aggressively if it were not for the fact that I myself diverted a lot of those levee-building funds to the Iraq war."
Bush also touted New Orleans' tourism appeal and invited Americans to visit the city. "It's a heck of a place to bring your family," he said. "Especially if you've always wondered how your daughter would look topless."
In other news, it was yet another relatively mundane day at the Hajj pilgrimage, where a mere 345 pilgrims were killed in a stampede while stoning a symbolic devil who turned out not to be symbolic after all.