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Puerto Rico Is Rapidly Becoming a Humanitarian Disaster – and They’re Not Getting Enough Help From the Federal Government

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Power Could Be Out for Months

The governor of the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rosselló, told reporters Monday that the aftermath of back-to-back hurricanes Irma and Maria, with a direct hit on the island Commonwealth by Maria, has created a dire situation. “This is an unprecedented disaster here in Puerto Rico… The devastation is vast,” Rossello said. “One of our priorities is to reestablish power and supplies to hospitals. We are already working to that end,” he added.

Rosselló also cautioned that his administration needs much broader assistance from the federal government, calling on the Defense Department to provide more aid for law enforcement and transportation. Rosselló, who has a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering, told reporters that he’s also worried that Congress will shortchange his island once the initial wave of emergency relief is gone.

“We still need some more help. This is clearly a critical disaster in Puerto Rico,” he said Sunday night. “It can’t be minimized and we can’t start overlooking us now that the storm passed, because the danger lurks.”

The entire electrical power grid and infrastructure was destroyed with officials telling NCRM that it may be up to six months before repairs are completed and power is completely restored. To add to the chaos and misery, the island is also suffering under a sweltering heat wave which increases the likelihood of deaths of elderly and infirm Puerto Rican residents by heatstroke or heat aggravated medical conditions.

Power is not the only complication, as noted by The Washington Post.

“Four days after a major hurricane battered Puerto Rico, leaving the entire island in a communications and power blackout, regions outside San Juan remained disconnected from the rest of the island,” and the world. Juncos, in a mountainous region southeast of the capital that was slammed with Maria’s most powerful winds, remains isolated, alone, afraid.

“Communications has greatly hindered the relief effort according to the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration, a fact borne out by the staff of the Commonwealth’s lone at-large congressional representative, GOP Congresswoman Jenniffer González. Her Washington, D.C. office said that it is maintaining “sporadic” communications.

Officials for various federal agencies told NCRM Monday that recovery efforts are underway with search and rescue operations being a priority in the more remote areas of the island. But as noted by the Post, for federal agencies trying to respond to Maria, the situation in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands is inescapably more challenging than the situations in Texas and Florida after hurricanes Harvey and Irma. It’s difficult to get onto the islands.

The airports and harbors here were severely damaged. That means the islands are more isolated than ever, even as the humanitarian crisis has worsened by the day.

A spokesperson for the U. S. Coast Guard’s 7th District Office in Miami, PA3 Eric Woodall said that Coast Guard assets were unaffected by the hurricane as ships were ordered to sea and aircraft were dispatched to CG air stations in Florida. However, he noted, physical damages did occur to outbuildings at USCG Air Station Borinquen, PR, but Woodall said that the runway was rapidly reopened and air operations resumed. There was also some damage to USCG Sector San Juan he said but not enough to hinder CG missions.Â

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has also been fully engaged in the ongoing search and rescue efforts, according to a spokesperson, flying numerous search and rescue sorties and coordinating its efforts with the Coast Guard.

Food delivery has also become an issue as many of the major highways on the island remain blocked or heavily damage by the storm.Â

The Post noted that although massive amounts of food, water, fuel and other supplies have been dispatched by federal agencies and private organizations, with more resources on the way, this has been an obstacle-filled process.

Federal agencies have succeeded in clearing the use of the Port of San Juan for daytime operations, but other ports remain closed pending inspections. Many roads are blocked, inhibiting relief convoys. The Transportation Department has opened five airports in Puerto Rico and two in the U.S. Virgin Islands, but only for military and relief efforts.

Abner Gomez, the executive director of Puerto Rico’s emergency management agency, (PREMA) told reporters Friday in a press gaggle and again this morning that a ruptured dam that has been barely holding back the waters of Lake Guajataca is in imminent danger of collapse, which would cause massive amounts of water to flow unabated through coastal communities causing even more destruction.

As the scramble continues to provide relief, the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration is asking that concerned citizens and others who would like to assist in the efforts pleae call (202) 800-3133 or email [email protected]Â

The Senate has not scheduled an aide package for Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. You can call your Senator to demand action: (202) 224- 3121.

Those who wish to donate through a charity or non-profit can take a look at these organizations.

UPDATE:

Reporting by Brody Levesque for NCRM, the Washington Post, & Agency France Presse 

Brody Levesque is the Chief Political Correspondent for The New Civil Rights Movement.
You may contact Brody at [email protected]

Image by U.S. Customs and Border Protection via Flickr and a CC licenseÂ

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‘Shaping Policies’: Trump Official in Charge of Personnel at HHS Has Been a College Senior – Report

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The Trump administration put a college senior in charge of personnel at the Dept. of Health and Human Services, Catherine Granito. She appears to have graduated this spring.

A Politico report Monday afternoon, “Trump administration shakes up HHS personnel office after tumultuous hires,” revealed the stunning placement – including that she has been “playing a role in shaping policies in the middle of a pandemic.”

HHS has an annual budget of $1.286 trillion. As of 2015 it had 79,540 employees.

“White House Liaison Emily Newman and her deputy Catherine Granito will be shifting full-time to the Voice of America’s parent organization, the United States Agency for Global Media, HHS chief of staff Brian Harrison told senior staff on Monday,” the Politico article states.

It adds that “Granito — an undergraduate at the University of Michigan as recently as this spring — had been in charge of the health department’s personnel while playing a role in shaping policies in the middle of a pandemic.”

Granito’s LinkedIn page says she attended the University of Michigan until May as a student athlete playing lacrosse and notes she majored in English language and literature. A Google search shows that page listed her as an “advisor” at HHS.

Her Facebook page says she “Works at U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.”

The recent Michael Caputo scandal appears to have involved Granito.

“Granito, who was in the class of 2020 at the University of Michigan, was involved in political appointees’ recent scrutiny of CDC Deputy Director Anne Schuchat, a career civil servant. Caputo and his team raised concerns about Schuchat this spring after she publicly acknowledged missed opportunities in the nation’s response to the coronavirus.”

 

Image: Official White House Photo of HHS Sec. Alex Azar and President Donald Trump by Tia Dufour via Flickr

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Kayleigh McEnany Says Trump ‘Very Likely’ Will Nominate New Supreme Court Justice Before Ruth Bader Ginsburg is Buried

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White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany says President Donald Trump will announce his nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, mostly likely by Tuesday. The late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will lie in repose at the Supreme Court. The date of her funeral, which will be a private ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, has not even been announced yet.

Asked if the nomination would be announced “before Wednesday,” she replied, “I think that’s very likely.”

MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell Monday morning also hinted the announcement would come Tuesday.

 

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Trump Says He Will Make SCOTUS Nomination Next Week – Appears He Will Use Seat to Strengthen Where He Is Weak in Polls

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President Donald Trump says he will announce his nominee to replace Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg “next week.”

He made clear his primary deciding factors will be to help him in the polls.

Trump told reporters Saturday afternoon “most likely” he will choose a woman.

CNN reports he is leaning towards choosing a woman mostly because he is doing poorly in the polls with women.

Trump spoke about two women judges. He talked about Barbara Lagoa, noting she is Hispanic and from Florida. He is struggling in the polls with Hispanics and in Florida.

Reporters also asked about Amy Coney Barrett, a far right wing anti-choice, anti-LGBTQ extremist. Trump spoke positively about her as well. Reports say she is the current frontrunner.

This is a breaking news and developing story. Details may change. This story will be updated, and NCRM will likely publish follow-up stories on this news. Stay tuned and refresh for updates.

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