Thursday, October 12, 2017

While Puerto Ricans die from water born disease, Trump frets about a “financial crisis ... largely of their own making”

When Trump visited Puerto Rico and hoop-shot paper towels at Puerto Ricans, he congratulated our island territory for only 16 deaths from Hurricane Maria. The death rate is now over triple that number and increasingly it looks like many deaths will result not from the hurricane but from what happens afterwards.

Rachel Maddow reports on FEMA’s response to food and water shortages in Puerto Rico. Their response is shocking: Not our job to distribute food and water in Puerto Rico.
Rachel Maddow reports on the situation in Aibonito, Puerto Rico, which has not received any FEMA aid despite multiple visits from FEMA representatives who helped victims with paperwork. FEMA says its the mayor’s job to distribute food and water. Duration: 2:42

Here’s the NY Times’ summary of what else is happening (or not) as of Oct. 10: 84 Percent of Puerto Rico Still Doesn’t Have Power.

Restoring electricity has been one of the island’s biggest priorities — and its biggest challenge. So far, 84 percent of the territory continues to go without power. Generators that run on gas or diesel have been powering hospitals, apartment buildings, restaurants and other structures.

At a news conference on Friday, Gov. Ricardo A. Rosselló said the goal is to have 25 percent of the electrical system restored “within the next month.”

About 67 percent of cell towers remain down and more than 80 percent of cellphone antennas aren’t working, making communication difficult.

Puerto Rico is currently operating 112 shelters housing 6,067 people. Those with the means to leave have been abandoning their destroyed homes and flying to the United States. Some plan to return, others say they’re never coming back. Officials say more than 100,000 people could end up in the Orlando area in the coming months.

All of the island’s airports and 78 percent of the gas stations are operational, but only 392 miles of the 5,073 miles of roads are open.

About 37 percent of the island remains without running water. Residents have been receiving bottled water, but as of last week distribution remained a challenge. Approximately 86 percent of the island’s supermarkets are open.

Most of Puerto Rico’s hospitals and dialysis centers are open, but the shortage of fuel, which is used by the generators powering these facilities, continues to create problems.

The Department of Defense sent the U.S.N.S. Comfort, a medical ship with 250 hospital beds, to Puerto Rico on Oct. 3.

That was a bit late and is turning out to be rather little. Rachel Maddow explains.

Bad leadership turned Puerto Rico crisis into catastrophe
Rachel Maddow describes reporting on the chaos in the Donald Trump White House and notes that the continued problems in the disaster response in Puerto Rico that is costing American lives is attributable to bad leadership at the top. Duration: 19:01

Her segment on water-born illness and deaths in Puerto Rico starts at the 7:30 mark and her comments on the hospital ship start around 13:00.

Against this backdrop of dire need and bureaucratic bungling, our president expresses his solidarity (Scriber snickers) with Puerto Ricans. Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) reports that Trump’s posture towards Puerto Rico takes a more callous turn.

Over the last year, Donald Trump’s willingness to publicly contradict Mike Pence has led to some cringe-worthy moments, but developments over the last 24 hours offer an especially awkward example.

The vice president spoke at a National Hispanic Heritage Month reception yesterday, and offered strong assurances to the people of Puerto Rico: “We’re with you; we stand with you; and we will be with you every single day until Puerto Rico is restored bigger and better than ever before.”

In a trio of tweets this morning, Pence’s boss said pretty much the opposite.

“ ‘Puerto Rico survived the Hurricanes, now a financial crisis looms largely of their own making.’ says Sharyl Attkisson. A total lack of accountability say the Governor. Electric and all infrastructure was disaster before hurricanes. Congress to decide how much to spend. We cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders, who have been amazing (under the most difficult circumstances) in P.R. forever!”

Let’s note for context that as of yesterday, more than 80% of Puerto Rico is still without power, three weeks after Hurricane Maria hit. What’s more, roughly a third of the island’s American residents do not yet have access to clean water.

It’s against this backdrop that the president thought it’d be a good idea to blame Puerto Ricans and starting laying the groundwork for a weaker response to the island’s disaster.

“We will be with you every single day,” at least until Donald Trump feels like he’s seen enough.

The morning of his visit to the island … culminated in the president admonishing the “politically motivated ingrates” on the island.

As best as I can tell, he’s made no similar comments about any other Americans who’ve suffered from natural disasters this year.

Go ahead, Mike Pence, tell us another one about how the Trump administration “stands with” the people of Puerto Rico.

All that is solidarity Trump style.

Even while the US seems paralyzed and ineffective in helping its own, another country promises aid. Puerto Rico to Get Power Relief From German Microgrid Supplier reports Bloomberg.

Sonnen GmbH, a German provider of energy-storage systems, is planning to install microgrids to provide electricity for at least 15 emergency relief centers in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico.

Sonnen began delivering its storage systems to Puerto Rico last week and expects to deliver at least one shipment each week as the island’s ports reopen, the Wildpoldsried, Germany-based company said in an emailed statement Monday. It’s working with local partner Pura Energia, which installs solar panels with Sonnen batteries.

Puerto Rico’s electricity grid was completely knocked out when Hurricane Maria slammed into the island Sept. 20, and repairs are expected to take months. That’s generating interest in microgrids, small-scale systems that combine solar panels and batteries that can be installed quickly to restore power to a few buildings at a time. Tesla Inc. is sending hundreds of its Powerwall battery systems to the island, and Sunnova Inc., Puerto Rico’s largest rooftop solar provider, plans to install batteries to complement its systems.

Sonnen is donating equipment for the 15 relief centers. It also expects increased demand for its systems with Puerto Rico consumers and will donate profit from local sales to build as many as 35 additional microgrids on the island.

”It is our duty to stand firmly with the people of Puerto Rico and do everything possible to help start the rebuilding process,” Chief Executive Officer Christoph Ostermann said in the statement. “There is a clear connection between our mission to support humanity during a climate disaster and our mission to fight climate change.”

Meanwhile, back on our mainland homeland, Trump, backed by climate change deniers, is pulling us out of the Paris accord on climate change.

A while back I blogged about how China was investing heavily in African infrastructure - building airports for example. The United States? Not so much - or not at all. I did not anticipate that the US would be on the receiving end of charity from another country. Perhaps our leaders have yet to understand that humanitarian investment is good for business.

A final thought: in response to the bungled response to Hurricane Katrina, the well-known buck stopped with then President Bush. Trump is doing his damndest to make sure that the buck stops with the Puerto Ricans. Trump likes big, beautiful things. The biggest, most beautiful cluster-fuck [1] is in the making and our indifferent, indolent President Donald Trump cannot dodge it.

[1]: From Wiktionary: A chaotic situation where everything seems to go wrong. It is often caused by incompetence, communication failure, or a complex environment. (Scriber: In this case, all three.)

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