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Week of 7.7.06

Still in Harm's Way & Man of Peace?

The nation is spending billions of dollars rebuilding and reconstructing infrastructure, homes, and businesses on the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina.

But is some of that money actually encouraging people to rebuild in dangerous places? NOW returns this week to Dauphin Island, Alabama, a tiny barrier island that U.S. taxpayers have already rebuilt several times before.

In the wake of Katrina, taxpayers are once more spending tens of millions of dollars putting the tiny island back together again. At what point does the spiraling cost of helping people rebuild outweigh their determination to stay put?

"It's important to keep in mind that more often than not, hurricanes like Katrina are not natural disasters. They're human disasters. Most of the damage comes because we've built in a place where we shouldn't be building," says Rob Young, a scientist who studies coastal development.

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The program examines how this isn't just an issue for one small island. Nationwide, Americans are flocking to the water in record numbers. An estimated 3,600 people move to coastal communities every single day. Combine that with what meteorologists predict is going to be a growing number of hurricanes over the next few seasons, and many see trouble brewing.

"We're actually making decisions in this country that are the cause of our national disasters becoming larger and larger and larger. Not the natural event itself, but the impact of those natural events," says Dennis S. Mileti, one of the nation's leading disaster prevention experts.

Critics contend that every time the government rebuilds fragile coastal communities, or offers discounted Federal flood insurance, or fortifies another beachfront, it's shielding people from the real risks of living in precarious spots. While no one argues that Americans should be abandoned after a natural disaster, does it make sense for taxpayers to keep rebuilding in harm's way? Next time on NOW.

Man of Peace?

Also this week, an imam who once presided over the spiritual needs of thousands of Muslims in Ohio is being held in prison with his U.S. citizenship revoked as he awaits deportation.

The government considers Imam Fawaz Damra, who has been investigated for supporting terrorism, a danger to society. Damra's advocates call him a man of peace and a "pioneer" who has built "interfaith bridges" between Muslims, Christians and Jews.

"We all make mistakes, sometimes very stupid mistakes. I know what he has done ... obviously there has been some type of transformation that has taken place within his life," Werner Lange, a minister who has worked with Damra said.

That mistake occurred a decade before September 11th when Damra, who was born in the West Bank, delivered a message of hate and violence toward Jews at a recorded event in Cleveland.

After a videotape of the event emerged in 2001, Damra recanted his statements and apologized. "Was I right when I made those statements? Absolutely not," he told NOW.

Damra's troubles have continued. A judge revoked his citizenship and he awaits deportation in a prison near Detroit, where he has been held since last November. Damra maintains his innocence and says he opposes terrorism of any kind. His wife, a naturalized citizen, and three American born daughters have said they will follow him wherever he is sent.

What kind of terror suspects is the U.S. chasing down in its pursuit of the war on terror?