Desperate Puerto Ricans are drinking water from a hazardous-waste site

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Desperate Puerto Ricans are drinking water from a hazardous-waste site

Story highlights

  • More than 35% of Puerto Ricans are still without safe drinking water
  • The island’s water utility is distributing water from a Superfund site

Dorado, Puerto Rico (CNN)Jose Luis Rodriguez waited in line Friday to fill plastic jugs in the back of his pickup truck with water for drinking, doing the dishes and bathing.

But there is something about this water Rodriguez didn’t know: It was being pumped to him by water authorities from a federally designated hazardous-waste site, CNN learned after reviewing Superfund documents and interviewing federal and local officials.
Rodriguez, 66, is so desperate for water that this news didn’t startle him.
“I don’t have a choice,” he said. “This is the only option I have.”
More than three weeks after Hurricane Maria ravaged this island, more than 35% of the island’s residents — American citizens — remain without safe drinking water.
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It’s clear some residents are turning to potentially risky sources to get by.

Jose Luis Rodriguez

Friday afternoon, CNN watched workers from the Puerto Rican water utility, Autoridad de Acueductos y Alcantarillados, or AAA, distribute water from a well at the Dorado Groundwater Contamination Site, which was listed in 2016 as part of the federal Superfund program for hazardous waste cleanup.
Residents like Rodriguez filled small bottles from a hose and piled them in their vehicles. Large trucks with cylindrical tanks on their backs carried the water to people elsewhere. Some of the trucks carried the name of the municipality of Dorado. Others simply were labeled with the words “Agua Potable,” Spanish for potable water.
In announcing the addition of the Dorado site to the Superfund program, the US Environmental Protection Agency says the area was polluted with industrial chemicals, including tetrachloroethylene and trichloroethylene, which “can have serious health impacts including damage to the liver and increasing the risk of cancer,” according to the EPA.

EPA ‘gathering more information’

It’s unclear whether there are public health risks from this particular well, however.
The EPA said it plans to do testing in the area over the weekend.
“The EPA is gathering more information about the quality of water from the wells associated with our Dorado groundwater contamination site, as well as other Superfund sites in Puerto Rico,” the agency said in a statement issued to CNN on Friday. “While some of these wells are sometimes used to provide drinking water, the EPA is concerned that people could be drinking water that may be contaminated, depending on the well. We are mindful of the paramount job of protecting people’s health, balanced with people’s basic need for water.”
Regional EPA spokesman Elias Rodriguez confirmed the location is part of a Superfund site.
Autoridad de Acueductos y Alcantarillados, the water authority, was unaware that this well site was part of the Superfund program until CNN provided maps showing that this was the case, according to Luis Melendez, sub-director for environmental compliance at the utility.
Melendez maintained the water is fit for public consumption. The well was opened on an emergency basis and is not part of the regular drinking water supply, he said.
In 2015, this well in Dorado, which is located near a shopping center, was found by the EPA to be safely within federal standards for PCE and chloroform, two industrial chemicals.

‘I’ve never seen this before’

Martyn Smith, a professor of toxicology at the University of California, Berkeley, told CNN the levels of PCE and chloroform would be essentially safe for human consumption. “I wouldn’t have any problem in drinking this water if these were the only chemicals in it,” he said. The problem with Superfund sites, he said, is that you don’t know what else is present.
“I’ve never seen this before,” he said, referring to the idea a Superfund site would be used as a source of public drinking water. Boiling the water, he said, would reduce possible contamination. And it’s somewhat understandable, Smith added, that people in Puerto Rico would turn to possibly questionable drinking water sources given the scope of the crisis.
Still, a Superfund site — a location with known health risks — is just about the last place a person would want to turn to find drinking water, even in a crisis, said Erik Olson, head of the health program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental advocacy group.
“There are thousands of chemicals out there that could be in a Superfund site and only a relative handful are covered by standards,” he said. “What I would be worried about is stuff that isn’t showing up on EPA’s drinking water standards. It just sounds really risky to me to be serving water out of a Superfund well.”
People waiting in line for water on Friday were largely unaware of these concerns. Some of them had heard the EPA announced this week that it had received reports that Puerto Ricans were getting water from Superfund sites. But those interviewed assumed that wasn’t this well.
Mayra Perez, a 59-year-old retiree, expressed pride in the quality of the water.
“I’m sure there are no chemicals in this water,” she said.
Aixa Chevere, a mother of two, said she would find a new source of water if this site was shown to be contaminated. Already, the family spends three to four hours per day waiting in lines for basic services and goods, including water. “We would boil the water or search for bottled water” if it were dangerous, she said. “We would find some other alternative.”
That day, however, she loaded the water into her trunk of her car.

Puerto Rico Here Are The Reasons You Don’t Matter

Puerto Rico Here Are The Reasons You Don’t Matter

 

Folks these are just my thoughts on the reality of what is, showing them does not mean that I agree with the Theology. Our Media here in the U.S. has been neatly formed into creating an atmosphere of all things being seen in only Black and White. We know that Hollywood shows say the world is ‘gray’, not black and white, how often do we hear of anyone else though? I am just going to give you my thoughts on why things on the ground in Puerto Rico are the way they are. Give it a read, see if we agree any at all on these issues.

 

I am a white guy who has traveled all over the lower 48 and several thousands of miles in Canada. Though I have been all over the Border with Mexico, I have never been over into Mexico. I am not a racist person at all, I know that there are good intention-ed and bad intention-ed people in every race and skin color. My faith system is what I would call Fundamental Christian, I do know that there are some who will disagree. I have never felt that any one skin color was more beautiful than another but if I had to guess it, it has to be brown. The real world isn’t just Black and White, its Brown. White folks, especially during the summer try their best to get a good golden brown tan for the winter. Come to think of it these days, aren’t most ‘Black’ folks really, Brown?

 

By paragraph number one you can see that I am saying that it is my opinion that race is an issue here to varying levels. The second issue I am trying to highlight is that one of the reasons that Puerto Rico is still in the horrible condition it is in is because they were and are, a very poor group of people, and they are not Black or White. The third issue is that there are some folks in the U.S. who feel that being you are not even a State, we don’t really have to help you at all. There are many people here in the U.S. whom would like to see Puerto Rico to become our 51st State, I am one of those people. I say this because once again the people of Puerto Rico recently voted to become one of our legal States, let’s let them folks. They are already Americans, without a State-Hood.

 

Is it not a bit odd that we have a President who is all about making himself more money, and a huge amount of his wealth comes from real estate, yet there has been no overt talk of ‘re-building’? This is the perfect opportunity to completely, re-build Puerto Rico from the ground up? This is the perfect chance to remake this island. Re-build the infrastructure, rebuilding new homes and businesses, huge investments, in the people of Puerto Rico. This is when we American folks need to stand up and do the things we say we are made out of. This huge investment now is very pale when you compare it to the cost of sitting on trillions in cash, letting people die, and doing nothing. This is a case of ‘the haves’ in D.C. telling the ‘have not’s’ in Puerto Rico no, no because you are neither Black of White so the ‘Race Card’ isn’t being played. No because you are poor, we are not going to spend our money on the likes of you. Then number three, you’re not really ‘real’ Americans after all. America and our Government need to show the people of Puerto Rico and the whole world exactly how much they really care about you. By doing or by not doing, the story is shown.

Puerto Ricans scramble for food and water 3 weeks after Maria !!!

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Puerto Ricans scramble for food and water 3 weeks after Maria

Weeks after Maria, survivors scramble for food and water

Story highlights

  •  Ninety-one percent are without power on US commonwealth
  • More than 36,000 Puerto Ricans have gone to Florida since October 3

(CNN)Thousands have fled Puerto Rico in the three weeks since Hurricane Maria hit, but for the millions remaining the struggle for life’s basic necessities seems to be never-ending.

Many travel hours in search of food and bottled water, only to find empty shelves at most grocery stores.
“I’ve never seen this in my life, never in my life,” Emma Ramirez told CNN affiliate WAPA.
Fuel shortages made it difficult to deliver food in the first days after the hurricane, forcing many stores to close. They have since reopened, but supplies of food remain low.
The food supply chain has emptied, and “resupplying it (will) take some time,” Manuel Reyes, vice president of the Puerto Rico Chamber of Marketing, Industry and Distribution of Food, told the TV station.
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Still no power, no water

Food shortages are among the myriad challenges facing Puerto Rico’s 3.4 million residents in Maria’s aftermath.
Power outages and a shortage of drinking water have plagued the US commonwealth as well. Many communities remain cut off from the world, with no phone service and roads blocked.
Ninety-one percent of Puerto Ricans were without power Friday, rising from 83% the previous day. The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, or PREPA, attributed the drop of those with power to a failure in the central system. There is no Internet, no way to get cell phones working, and limited ways to communicate or get information.
More than 1.2 million people are without potable water. Some people line up daily to fill up buckets with water from tank trucks, while others collect water from mountain streams.

Dead animals in Puerto Rico water, mayor says

Dead animals in Puerto Rico water, mayor says 01:27
The US Environmental Protection Agency recently revealed that some desperate Puerto Ricans are trying to break into wells at hazardous waste sites just to get water, even though it’s unsafe to drink.
Two people have died of leptospirosis, a disease that spreads when the urine of infected animals gets into drinking water. This public health threat won’t be fully mitigated, the EPA said, until waterways and infrastructure are repaired and power is restored.

What is the government doing?

The US House of Representatives approved a $36.5 billion disaster aid package Thursday for victims in Puerto Rico as well as resources for those in Texas, Florida and the US Virgin Islands still recovering from Hurricanes Maria, Irma and Harvey.
On Friday, House Speaker Paul Ryan will lead a bipartisan delegation visiting Puerto Rico, according to the speaker’s office.
Some 19,000 civilian and military personnel are supporting the federal relief mission, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The Army Corps of Engineers is installing power generators and temporary roofs to damaged structures.
This week, FEMA also approved a $70 million assistance package for the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority for emergency repairs.
San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, the target of President Donald Trump’s ire after she complained about the federal response, told CNN on Thursday she doesn’t still have all the help she needs but that recovery has improved.
“Ever since last week when a new chain of communication was given to us by Homeland Security, accountability has improved and things are starting to improve,” Cruz said. “I can now see the light. Imagine the light at the end of the tunnel. I can’t see it yet, but I can imagine it.”

Thousands flee to Florida

More than 36,000 Puerto Ricans have arrived in Florida since October 3, the state’s Division of Emergency Management said.
Representatives of FEMA and local charities as well as loved ones are welcoming evacuees at airports.
The state has set up disaster relief centers to help evacuees get medical attention, shelter, clothing and food.
Authorities have estimated that 100,000 Puerto Ricans will arrive in Florida in the storm’s aftermath, Ana Cruz, a coordinator with the Orlando’s Hispanic Office of Local Assistance, told CNN affiliate WKMG.
“I know what they’re going through. That’s why we’re here — to help, to assist and to guide,” Cruz said.
High unemployment, along with better job opportunities on the US mainland, already had pushed Puerto Ricans to pick up their bags and move, mainly to Florida and Texas, according to the Pew Research Center.
The island’s population declined to 3.4 million last year from 3.8 million in 2004.
Florida schools are already seeing an influx of students.
At least 90 students have enrolled in Miami schools, while about 128 students have done so in the Fort Lauderdale area, CNN affiliate WPLG reported.
“They’ve been quickly adapting to our schools,” Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho told WPLG. “We are working to transition the kids into the South Florida community.”

How the Vietnam War prepared Puerto Ricans to confront crisis

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘WAGINGNONVIOLENCE.ORG)

 

How the Vietnam War prepared Puerto Ricans to confront crisis

Members of Movimiento Pro-Independencia de Puerto Rico picket the White House in March of 1965. (Claridad / Biblioteca Digital UPR Río Piedras)

This week, as Puerto Ricans feel once again like a White House afterthought, it is hard not to conclude that Puerto Rico matters to Washington only when mainland political and business leaders need to conscript the island itself for some larger financial or military purpose.

Consider the impact of Vietnam War policy on Puerto Rico. Thanks to a new Ken Burns documentary and Hurricane Maria, the headlines have us talking simultaneously about Vietnam and Puerto Rico for the first time in 50 years. Today, few Americans remember the impact of the Vietnam War on Puerto Rico. Yet the war struck the island with the force of a political hurricane, tearing at Puerto Rico’s social fabric, raising the same questions of colonialism that are again in the news in the wake of Maria, and fueling its independence movement.

Not unlike Puerto Rico’s recent fiscal crisis, the Vietnam War brought into sharp relief the island’s unequal status as a territory of the United States, particularly after President Lyndon Johnson escalated the war in 1965. Draft-age men in Puerto Rico were subject to the Selective Service Act and called for induction into the U.S. military — even though they had no representative in the Congress that passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, and even though many did not speak English.

A political cartoon published by Claridad in August of 1968.

As a result, Puerto Rico’s independence movement quickly condemned the war and called for widespread draft resistance. In July 1965, Claridad, the newspaper of the Movimiento Pro-Independencia de Puerto Rico, or MPI, published its first antiwar and anti-draft column, stating: “Because Puerto Rico is an American colony, Puerto Ricans are obligated to serve in that country’s army, are used like cannon fodder in imperialist wars carried out against defenseless peoples, wars in which Puerto Rico has no interest.”

One week later the MPI called on Puerto Ricans to resist the draft and condemned American aggression in Vietnam as a guerra sucia — a “dirty war” — against “the heroic people of Vietnam.” In response, students for the first time protested outside the Selective Service’s offices in San Juan.

Soon, the MPI likened its own quest for independence with that of the United States’ enemy in Vietnam. As reported in Claridad, the MPI “expressed its full solidarity with the National Liberation Front in its just fight for independence from North American imperialist dominance” and called on the United States to honor the 1954 Geneva Accords, to withdraw from Vietnam, and “guarantee the independence and neutrality of all of Indochina.”

For the MPI, the draft represented a “blood tax,” a “taxation without representation” that Americans aware of their own revolutionary heritage should have understood. Independentistas pointed to the composition of local draft boards (which were called “juntas” in Spanish) as proof. According to Selective Service Director Lewis Hershey, draft boards were “little groups of neighbors,” best suited to look out for America’s sons. But the MPI complained that the local boards were made up of “members of the richest families, statehood proponents … members of the Lions Club, Rotary, Exchange, Citizens for State 51 and other fiends” who “funneled” the poor into the military. These draft board members were Puerto Rican mandarins, agents of the colonizers.

An image published in the Fall of 1970 by the U.S. Committee for Justice to Latin American Political Prisoners.

In 1965 and 1966, long before a coordinated draft resistance movement took shape stateside, 33 members of MPI and two others refused to be inducted. Prosecutors indicted them promptly. When they went to trial in federal court, the proceedings were conducted in English — which often meant that some of the best Puerto Rican lawyers were unavailable — and if one wanted to appeal a conviction, the appeal was heard 2,700 miles away, in Boston, also in English.

In August 1966, the first Puerto Rican draft resistance case, that of Sixto Alvelo Rodriguez, came to trial. Alvelo won support not only from the MPI — which enlisted the radical New York law firm Rabinowitz, Boudin, and Standard for his defense — but also from mainstream supporters who formed Comite de Defense Sixto Alvelo. More than 200 students signed a statement in support of Alvelo, pledging that they, too, would refuse induction. In September, the court asked Alvelo’s draft board to re-induct him (it never did) and dismissed his case and all other MPI draft resistance cases.

The independence movement interpreted the court’s ruling as a major political victory. The MPI speculated that Alvelo’s case revealed “one of the most tyrannical manifestations of our colonial subjugation” and that Washington had backed down in the face of the threat of thousands of induction refusals in Puerto Rico.

Puerto Ricans attending the Fifth Annual Youth Conference of the Pro Independence Movement in Santurce on January 21, 1967. (Claridad / El Mundo, Biblioteca Digital UPR Río Piedras)

At the same time, however, the Selective Service continued to call Puerto Rican men for induction, and support for the draft resistance movement continued to go mainstream. On Mother’s Day in 1967, Puerto Rican mothers organized a protest against the draft in San Juan. The Puerto Rican Bar Association passed a resolution in 1968 calling for the exemption of Puerto Ricans from compulsory U.S. military service, and one year later, the Puerto Rican Episcopal Church passed a resolution at its Diocesan Convention condemning both the war and the conscription of Puerto Ricans.

Federal prosecutors ultimately indicted more than 100 Puerto Rican men, most of whom were convicted. On the day that Edwin Feliciano Grafals — a 26-year-old MPI member who described himself as a “nonreligious conscientious objector” — became the first Puerto Rican draft resister convicted since World War II, students at the University of Puerto Rico in Rio Piedras burned down the campus ROTC building. Six weeks later, 10,000 Puerto Ricans marched through San Juan protesting against the draft. “This is the time to decide; you’re either a Yanqui or you’re a Puerto Rican,” MPI leader Juan Mari Bras told the crowd. “Not one more Puerto Rican should convert himself into a criminal by fighting against the Vietnamese people.”

In the end, Puerto Rico’s draft resistance did not end the Vietnam War nor did it win independence. But it did help to prevent further escalation of the war in 1968, and it brought many Puerto Ricans both to the antiwar movement and to the cause of independence. Moreover, draft resistance in Puerto Rico combined with draft resistance throughout the United States to compel the Nixon administration to introduce a draft lottery and, ultimately, end conscription altogether.

Protest against the draft in Puerto Rico and throughout the United States worked because it targeted an institution that few could defend as fair. Today, with the federal government seemingly unable to deliver post-hurricane relief to Puerto Rico in a manner equal to its assistance in Texas and Florida, we have yet one more example of discrimination against a people who right now need only compassion, sympathy and generous aid.

The devastation of Puerto Rico’s recent fiscal crisis (a crisis rooted in mainland lending policies) has now been compounded by natural disaster. It is in moments like these when, as during the Vietnam War, the second-class treatment of Puerto Rico by Washington is most obvious. The island itself has been treated as a conscript by successive U.S. governments for more than a century, for far too long.

The question is how islanders will respond to Washington this time. Will they protest? If so, what form will the protest take? Now may be a good time, in fact, for Puerto Ricans (and for the rest of us) to look to the island’s resistance to the Vietnam War as a model worth following. Fifty years later, it is worth remembering the place of Puerto Rican draft resisters in the American tradition of dissent. And it is worth remembering its place in a tradition of resistance to American colonialism. By escalating protest against the war and by risking their own freedom, Puerto Rican draft resisters kept alive the notion that resistance is a valid mode of citizenship.

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Puerto Ricans Bash President Trump Over Hurricane Maria Comments: ‘He’s a Piece of Trash’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME.COM)

 

Puerto Ricans Bash President Trump Over Hurricane Maria Comments: ‘He’s a Piece of Trash’

Updated: Oct 02, 2017 12:23 AM ET | Originally published: Oct 02, 2017

(SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico) — Outside of official events, many Puerto Ricans say they won’t be welcoming President Donald Trump with open arms during his visit to the storm-wracked island on Tuesday.

People in the U.S. territory were angry or dismissive Monday when asked about Trump’s description of some Puerto Ricans who have criticized the U.S. government’s aid after Hurricane Maria as “ingrates” and about his assurances that the relief effort is going well.

“He’s a piece of trash,” Rachel Cruz, a linguist, said as she head home after buying groceries in the capital, San Juan. “He makes a fool out of himself and a fool out of his country.”

Cruz said Puerto Ricans are furious with power still cut off on most of the island, schools and many businesses closed, and much of the countryside struggling to find fresh water and food, but she said even the angriest were unlikely to openly insult the man ultimately responsible for helping them.

“The majority of people here feel that way, but we have to be more balanced because we need help,” she said.

Even those happy with the federal aid effort for the U.S. territory’s 3.4 million people said they resented Trump’s tweets about some Puerto Ricans being lazy and ungrateful.

“We appreciate all the help that we’ve received, but his comments are not true,” said Nancy Rivera, a private school principal who was out buying bread. “We don’t deserve that.”

Rivera and her husband live in the north coastal town of Toa Baja, which was one of the hardest hit by Maria and where dozens of people had to be rescued from rooftops amid widespread flooding. The couple has moved temporarily to their son’s apartment in San Juan.

Gov. Ricardo Rossello, however, praised federal and state officials for the resources and help they have provided, but he also noted that Puerto Rico has long been struggling because of its territorial status.

“I invite all of you to consider, to think of Puerto Ricans as your constituents,” said Rossello, who supports statehood for the island. “Think about it as a moral imperative because we are U.S. citizens but more importantly, we’re all equal as human beings.”

The governor said water service has been restored to about 50 percent of customers across Puerto Rico. Rossello said he hopes 25 percent of electricity customers will have power by the end of October. Officials have said power would be restored to the entire island before March.

Rossello also announced that the wait time to buy gasoline had diminished from seven hours to one hour around San Juan in recent days and that nearly 40 percent of cellphone clients have service.

Many Puerto Ricans, including Noelys Martinez, a call center worker, expressed doubt that Trump’s visit would change anything.

“The lights are not going to come back on because of him,” she said as she strolled near a park eating ice cream.

Angel Tomas Crispin, manager of a convenience store that was doing brisk business as people sought to restock basic supplies, didn’t have kind words for the president. “Donald Trump is not the solution for Puerto Rico,” he said.

Crispin said he was angered by Trump’s comments about the island. “All this money he has, and all the education he has, and he’s ignorant.”

Luis Torres, a retiree taking an evening walk with his wife, Marina, said Trump isn’t welcome.

“As far as I’m concerned, he shouldn’t come,” Torres said.

His wife nodded aggressively.

“He has expressed himself in such a disrespectful way. Extremely unnecessary and extremely insensitive,” she said. “It’s very sad.”

Opinion: Trump’s Tweets on Puerto Rico Are a National Disgrace

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NBC)

 

Opinion: Trump’s Tweets on Puerto Rico Are a National Disgrace

Nothing shows leadership like attacking the victims of a deadly hurricane.

That’s what Americans learned on Saturday morning, waking up to the news that the president – already under fire for his administration’s inadequate response to Hurricane Maria’s devastation – is now lashing out at the mayor of San Juan.

From the safety and comfort of his New Jersey golf resort, Trump attacked Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz on Twitter. “The Mayor of San Juan, who was very complimentary only a few days ago, has now been told by Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump,” he rage-tweeted at 7:19 AM. With this sentence alone, the president politicized the unfolding tragedy in Puerto Rico, based on nothing but his bruised ego and bad headlines.

Play

 Trump Lashes Out at San Juan Mayor Who Pleaded ‘We Are Dying’ 2:34

It seems almost grotesque that Trump views Cruz’s begging for help in saving lives as an attempt to make him look bad.

Cruz has emerged as a powerful voice for her city, and for the island by extension, as she has pleaded publicly for more relief efforts. She has not, in fact, been “nasty” to Trump or FEMA workers. On Friday on MSNBC, she made an emotional plea for help saying, “If anybody out there is listening to us, we are dying. And you are killing us with the inefficiency and the bureaucracy.” She wondered why the U.S., with all its military might and power, could not figure out the logistics for an island that is 100 miles long and 35 miles wide.

There have been at least 16 confirmed deaths in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, although that number is expected to rise. Most Puerto Ricans on the island are still without power, gas, food, or running water. Numerous media outlets have reported on the slow pace of relief efforts, which have already drawn comparisons to the Bush administration’s botched response to Katrina.. A report in the Washington Post, for example, explained how the president’s weekend at his golf club slowed his administration’s initial response to the disaster.

In the face of such a crisis, on social media our president chose to focus on what he called “such poor leadership” by Cruz. Never mind that the mayor has been seen wading through waist-high water trying to rescue stranded residents, and has gone on little sleep for over a week. Or that the three-star general in charge of leading the relief effort has stated that there are “not enough” troops and supplies on hand for the recovery. Even the acting head of Homeland Security, who had earlier claimed that Puerto Rico was a “good news story” has admitted that the relief effort is “not satisfactory.”

Yet the person the president chose to go after was a Latina, a woman of color who dared to call his administration out.

Still, Trump wasn’t finished. Not content to merely politicize a humanitarian crisis, he injected it with a note of thinly-disguised racism. Referring to the people of Puerto Rico, he tweeted that “They want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort.”

These words are shameful. If the president hadn’t been so busy last weekend tweeting about flags and football players, he would understand that what is happening in Puerto Rico is by default a community effort. The residents of Puerto Rico – about 3.5 million American citizens – went through the hurricane on their own. They have indeed been helping each other, searching for food and fuel, and looking for their loved ones in the absence of a more robust government response.

Image: Destroyed electrical posts by Hurricane Maria is seen in Vega Alta, Puerto Rico
Destroyed electrical posts by Hurricane Maria is seen in Vega Alta, Puerto Rico, on Sept. 30, 2017. Hector Retamal / AFP – Getty Images

Leave it to our Race-baiter-in-Chief to resort to the tired tropes that minorities want everything done for them, that they’re lazy, and that they are dependent on the government. These sentiments are offensive in the best of times. In the wake of a catastrophic weather event, they are despicable. Coming from this president, they are yet another sign of his lack of empathy, his lack of respect for women, and his indifference to the concerns of Latinos.

Trump’s response to the mayor of San Juan reveals how unfit he is for office. He apparently cannot handle pressure without resorting to personal attacks on others. He seems to lack any sense of personal accountability. He is easily angered. Even when lives are literally at stake, he is still in his element behaving like a bully. As of today, Trump has hit a new point for unacceptable behavior – and provided his fellow Republicans with more opportunities to distance themselves from him.

And the saddest thing of all here? Trump’s personal pathologies will provide another distraction to the media from the humanitarian crisis unfolding on U.S. territory.

Trump’s latest tweets on Puerto Rico constitute a national disgrace. At a time of major national emergency, he has – again – shown the world just how small he really is.

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President Trump Suspends ‘Jones Act’ In Effort To Get Help To Puerto Rico Quicker

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Washington (CNN)The White House has authorized a waiver to loosen shipping rules regarding Puerto Rico that island officials say would be a significant help for recovery efforts from Hurricane Maria.

“At @ricardorossello request, @POTUS has authorized the Jones Act be waived for Puerto Rico. It will go into effect immediately,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders tweeted Thursday morning.
Her tweet comes after Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said he asked the White House to loosen the regulations Wednesday night.
He joined the growing list of officials who argued that lifting the the Jones Act — a federal law designed to protect the financial interests of US shipbuilders by limiting shipping by foreign vessels — would help expedite supplies to the ravaged island. The act has had the unintended consequence of making it twice as expensive to ship things from the US mainland to Puerto Rico as it is to ship from any other foreign port in the world, according to Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain’s office.

Trump weighs lifting Jones Act for Puerto Rico

Trump weighs lifting Jones Act for Puerto Rico 01:01
The act was quickly lifted to help Texas and Florida in the wake of hurricanes Harvey and Irma. The Department of Homeland Security said it was able to lift the restrictions quickly because the Department of Defense requested a waiver for those states and the department hadn’t yet done so for Puerto Rico.
Trump told reporters on Wednesday that “we’re thinking” about lifting the law, but added that a “lot of shippers” didn’t want it lifted.
In the wake of the devastation in Puerto Rico caused by Hurricane Maria, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz — along with other US politicians, including McCain and Marco Rubio, R-Florida — had urged the suspension of the Jones Act in order to speed up supply deliveries.

Help for Puerto Rico Is Being Delayed—Because Of Politics—The Jones Act

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME.COM NEWS)

 

Help for Puerto Rico Is Being Delayed by the Jones Act. What’s That?

12:07 PM ET

While Puerto Rico begins the long recovery process after Hurricane Maria, experts say that waiving a law known as the Jones Act could help. But the Trump Administration on Tuesday declined to waive the statute, also known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920. Here’s what to know about the law.

What was the origin of the Jones Act?

The Jones Act was put in place after World War I, when the threat of German U-boats (which sunk almost 5,000 ships during the war) was still fresh. The statute required that any ship carrying goods from one U.S. port to another be made in America, staffed with Americans, and owned by an American. The idea was to support the American shipbuilding and marine shipping industries from competition, so that they would be sufficiently robust should another conflict begin.

What is its legacy?

As many have argued, the Jones Act has long outlived its usefulness. German U-boats no longer pose a threat to the U.S., and the act now mainly serves to bolster the American shipping industry, effectively giving it a monopoly on shipping to ports like those in Puerto Rico. The effect is to increase costs for consumers. If a foreign ship unloads in Puerto Rico, it must pay high tariffs, taxes and fees, costs which get passed along to consumers. If it first unloads in Florida and the products are shipped from there to Puerto Rico, the cost of rerouting will also be passed to the consumer, one Puerto Rico expert recently wrote in the New York Times. The result is that American goods cost twice as much in Puerto Rico as they do in other parts of the region, like the U.S. Virgin Islands, which are not covered by the Jones Act. Critics say it is a protectionist law, and multiple studies say it has cost the Puerto Rican economy billions of dollars.

Why did Trump decline to waive it?

Waiving the Jones Act would theoretically allow cheaper, more readily available vessels to supply Puerto Rico with its needs while it recovers from the hurricane, and the act was recently waived to aid recovery after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. But the Administration said waiving it for Puerto Rico would not help. Gregory Moore, a spokesman for Customs and Border Protection, told Reuters that there were plenty of American vessels available to ship goods to Puerto Rico, and that because ports had been damaged, “The limitation is going to be port capacity to offload and transit, not vessel availability.”

What happens to the Jones Act and Puerto Rico next?

Some members of Congress have taken issue with the decision, including Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, who would like to see the act not just waived but repealed. “I am very concerned by the Department’s decision not to waive the Jones Act for current relief efforts in Puerto Rico, which is facing a worsening humanitarian crisis following Hurricane Maria,” he wrote in a letter to the Department of Homeland Security this week. ” It is unacceptable to force the people of Puerto Rico to pay at least twice as much for food, clean drinking water, supplies and infrastructure due to Jones Act requirements as they work to recover from this disaster. Now, more than ever, it is time to realize the devastating effect of this policy and implement a full repeal of this archaic and burdensome Act.”

On Wednesday, Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello said he expected Congress to help. “We expect them to waive it,” he told CNN. “One of the considerations right now is the priority of getting fuel, diesel, gasoline, all across the island. Right now we have enough fuel. We’re limited by the transportation logistics, but at some point of course, getting fuel into the island is going to be critical so that we can have the major functions of telecoms, hospitals, water, to be running appropriately.”

Trump Says Hurricane-Stricken Puerto Rico Is In ‘Deep Trouble’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME.COM NEWS)

 

President Trump Says Hurricane-Stricken Puerto Rico Is In ‘Deep Trouble’

Sep 25, 2017

President Donald Trump posted a trio of tweets Monday night that appeared to center on Puerto Rico’s fiscal debt, as the devastated U.S. territory struggles to recover from powerful Hurricane Maria.

After commending the recovery of Texas and Florida — which were lashed by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, respectively — Trump tweeted Monday: “Puerto Rico, which was already suffering from broken infrastructure & massive debt, is in deep trouble.”

Trump continued, “It’s old electrical grid, which was in terrible shape, was devastated. Much of the Island was destroyed, with billions of dollars owed to Wall Street and the banks which, sadly, must be dealt with.”

“Food, water and medical are top priorities – and doing well,” Trump added.

Hurricane Maria, the strongest storm to hit Puerto Rico since 1928, killed 16 people and left millions without power or communications when it battered the island last week. Beset by food and water shortages, Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló issued a statement appealing for help for his “essentially devastated” island.

“My petition is that we were there once for our brothers and sisters, our other U.S. citizens, now it’s time that U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico are taken care of adequately, properly,” Rosselló wrote Sunday. On Monday, he called for greater federal aid and appealed to Congress to pass a relief package and treat Puerto Rico like any other U.S. state, Politico reports.

According to the Associated Press, 3.4 million U.S. citizens in the territory are without adequate food, water and fuel. Communications are still lacking and electrical power may not be fully restored for a month.

Trump’s response, which appeared to put the issue of the island’s bank loans before emergency supplies, provoked consternation among some diplomats. “Is the President of the United States saying that the mammoth hurricane damage is Puerto Rico’s fault?” posed Samantha Power, the former U.S. ambassador to the U.N.

Before the Category 4 storm struck, Puerto Rico was suffering from a $73 million debt crisis, that had left agencies like the state power company broke.

The U.S. Federal Emergency Management said aid was getting to the island, and that the agency had more than 700 staff on the ground in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, delivering diesel, food and water to communities, reports AP.

Puerto Rico, Trapped Between Colonialism and Hurricanes

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF GLOBAL VOICES)

 

Puerto Rico, Trapped Between Colonialism and Hurricanes

Puerto Rican Graffiti. Photo by Flickr user Juan Cristóbal Zulueta. Used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license.

Puerto Rican Graffiti. Photo by Flickr user Juan Cristóbal Zulueta. Used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license.

You came to Puerto Rico for the golden sand and sun—gold, you will recall, was also the basis of our first colonizers’ initial attraction. For the endless piña coladas and rum-spiked mysteries. For the colonial charm and quaint, humble lifestyle. Poverty looks so alluring in the Caribbean, what with the bright colors, crystal-clear waters and the backdrop of lush greens—besides, it’s only for a week. Your friends say it’s the hottest Spring Break spot; the newspapers say it’s a debt-ridden disaster; your parents say it’s dangerous and that the water is undrinkable; and the brochures say it’s a (tax) haven, an absolute paradise. So here you are, in your bathing suit and sarong, mojito in hand, ready to focus on your one task for the week: getting a tan.

But it turns out that the sun isn’t nailed onto the sky, and it doesn’t run on one-million 100-watt light bulbs that never fail. The tides rise and the swells are ferocious. Coconuts, palm trees and branches are potential projectiles. And a hurricane is heading straight for your worry-free fantasy.

So you try to catch a flight out of this paradise-turned-inferno, because a hurricane was not on your must-see itinerary. Instead, JetBlue takes you to a hurricane shelter in San Juan, a hot and humid coliseum, where your beach chair is replaced by a cot; your piña colada by a Walgreens water bottle; your dream, by our reality.

The power was out in my house as I imagined the scenario above, which had taken place the day before, right before Irma’s arrival. After Irma’s passing the next morning there were more than a million households without power. The Electric Power Authority (AEE) was predicting the outages would last two to four months, and almost 80,000 households had lost water service as well. Over 6,200 people were in shelters on the northeastern side of the island, and Puerto Rico’s agricultural industry had suffered $30.4 million in losses. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Governor Ricardo Rosselló were still evaluating infrastructural and residential damages. And now a powerful new storm was heading our way: María.

Puerto Rico is no stranger to crisis. Before Irma’s rampage through the archipelago, Puerto Rico was already in the midst of one of the most devastating financial and socio-political crises in its recent history, with an unaudited $74 billion debt under its belt, $49 billion in pension obligations, and several decades’ worth of illegal bond issuances and trading related to its status as an overly-advertised tax haven. Neoliberal policies such as draconian budget cuts and extreme austerity measures had already rendered life in Puerto Rico quite precarious. And the whole thing was being overseen and managed simultaneously by Governor Rosselló, an unelected and antidemocratic Fiscal Control Board, and judge Laura Taylor Swain, all of whom were going back and forth on the country’s fiscal management and debt restructuring processes.

But even as Hurricane Irma headed straight towards it, for many outside of the country, Puerto Rico is a mere blip on CNN’s news ticker, an enchanting US-owned island on a tourist brochure, that exotic place where the music video for “Despacito” was filmed (and made all the better by Justin Bieber), a pebble sinking between an ocean and a sea that have seen too much.

But Irma’s passing and aftermath have once again brought to light Puerto Rico’s primordial conundrum: colonialism.

Puerto Rico has been a US colony (the US prefers the euphemistic designations of “commonwealth”, “unincorporated territory” and “free associated state”) for 199 years, a relationship that has led to the country’s being trapped in a steep downward spiral. The current fiscal and socio-political crisis is only one of the side effects of this relationship.

Hurricane Irma’s passing underscored the damage done by the neoliberal austerity measures imposed by the Fiscal Control Board and the crimes committed by corporations taking advantage of Puerto Rico’s colonial status. For starters, as a result of the massive closure of public schools, only 329 schools across the island were available as hurricane shelters compared with the 372 available during Hurricane Bertha’s passing in 2014.

Puerto Rico’s infrastructure also finds itself in an advanced state of deterioration, including roads, bridges, the University of Puerto Rico and public service buildings all of whom were critically endangered during Irma’s passing. A good part of the country’s “essential infrastructure” is on the coast, making it vulnerable to flooding, high tides and storm surges, especially during hurricanes of Irma’s or Maria’s intensity.

It is notable that much of that infrastructure was built to benefit the tourist industry and mercantile trade with the US, and the US alone. Money invested in infrastructure tends to go towards revitalizing these “essentials”, not to repairing the potholed roads in our communities, remediating asbestos-filled buildings or replacing crumbling light poles at the mercy of hurricane winds. All of this is further proof of our colonial market dependency and the essentially colonial nature of the tourist industry, which caters particularly to PR’s relationship with the US.

Even the disaster declaration signed by the US President authorizing FEMA assistance for Puerto Rico second-rate, allowing only for search and rescue, public health and safety, and debris removal. It didn’t include rebuilding or even restoration of power, and with the current fiscal crisis and the Fiscal Control Board’s silence since Irma’s passing, rebuilding and restructuring will be a tough feat for Puerto Rico given the lack of available resources.

Center for Investigative Journalism in Puerto Rico’s Carla Minet said:

The budget cuts, in an already weak economy, will probably make the storm’s social impact worse.

Minet added that a pre-Irma forecast by the Center for a New Economy’s policy director, Sergio M. Marxuach, predicts that the recently approved the Fiscal Plan would result in another lost decade, continued population loss due to migration and lower birth rates, lower employment, less access to public education, pension cuts, worsening health outcomes, higher mortality and lower life expectancy, and, ultimately, higher rates of poverty and inequality. “Now add in the cataclysm of a monster hurricane that the plan never accounted for,” said Minet.

The Fiscal Control Board is likely to use Irma as an excuse to aggressively push the many policies it has in line, such as the privatization of PR’s Electric Power Authority (AEE). Nor would it be surprising if Gov. Rosselló and the Fiscal Control Board used the occasion to dismantle and privatize the University of Puerto Rico, the only public higher education institution in the country, as well as a number of other public institutions that are defenseless against the colonial rule of the Fiscal Control Board and its blatant neoliberal attacks.

Now, barely two weeks after Irma’s passing, we’ve just been hit by another category 5 hurricane, María. This just as some household have just got back their electricity supply, and while others are still living in the dark; while the ground is still strewn with fallen trees and light posts waiting to take on second lives as projectiles; while many, both locals and refugees from neighboring Caribbean islands, are still recovering from the loss of their homes, their entire reality; and while crisis and colonialism continue to hold hands, as they do every day.

And so, you’re sitting in your cot with your straw hat on, hundreds of locals scrambling around you with what’s left of their lives stuffed into a bag or a suitcase, wondering why JetBlue dropped you off here and high-tailed it; why the shelter is so understaffed; why the power went even though it hasn’t yet started raining and not a gusts of wind has blown; why CNN wasn’t covering Irma’s passing over Puerto Rico. “I’m here, send over an Embassy representative for me!” you yell in your mind as you stare at the screen of your almost-dead smartphone. Why, you wonder, has life had been so unfair to you, ruining your longed-for vacation in the Island of enchantment.

Then your thoughts are interrupted as you spot a window and you walk gloomily towards it and look through pigeon-christened glass, and watch as the storm clouds gather and gusts of wind batter a US flag—oh, and a Puerto Rican one too.

This blog, trouthtroubles.com is owned, written, and operated by oldpoet56. All articles, posts, and materials found here, except for those that I have pressed here from someone else’s blog for the purpose of showing off their work, are under copyright and this website must be credited if my articles are re-blogged, pressed, or shared.

—Thank You, oldpoet56, T.R.S.

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