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13 hours ago · by · 0 comments

New Trade Tariffs Signed



New tariffs on imported steel and aluminum were signed amid claims that the tariffs will hurt the manufacturing industry and U.S. competitiveness. The tariffs, which have sparked tensions with U.S. allies, will temporarily exclude Mexico and Canada. White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said the administration will initially exclude Mexico and Canada as long as the two countries sign a new version of NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement. Officials from Canada and Mexico have said they will not be bullied into accepting a NAFTA deal that could disadvantage their countries.

The administration has stood by the controversial tariffs amid claims from other countries vowing to respond with levies of their own. The United States issued the tariffs under a little-used provision of trade law, which allows the president to take broad action to defend American national security. The Commerce Department previously determined that imports of metals posed a threat to national security. The US is the largest steel importer in the world, buying about 35 million tons in 2017.

The order could hit South Korea, China, Japan, Germany, Turkey and Brazil the hardest. The tariff orders were tailored to give the administration the authority to raise or lower levies on a country-by-country basis and add or take countries off the list as deemed appropriate. The White House has said any nation with a security relationship with the United States was welcome to discuss “alternative ways to address the threatened impairment of the national security caused by imports from that country.” Those talks could result in the tariff being lifted, the order said.

Trade experts say the new tariffs buck years of America’s embrace of free and open trade and believe the approach would ultimately compromise the United States’ ability to temper China’s unfair trading practices. “The tariff action coupled with the mishandled renegotiations of existing trade deals have alienated the very countries we need as allies to help confront the challenges posed by China,” said Daniel M. Price, a White House adviser.

Trade experts are worried about the consequences of the new tariffs. If the World Trade Organization rules against the United States, the administration will have to decide whether to reverse its decision or go up against the organization. If the United States ignores or withdraws from the group, it could precipitate a breakdown in global trading rules and a new era of global protectionism.

In 2002, President George W. Bush imposed steel tariffs of up to 30 percent. But facing an adverse ruling by the World Trade Organization and retaliation by trading partners, the tariffs were lifted 15 months before the end of the planned three-year duration. Studies found that more jobs were lost than saved and Congressional leaders vowed not to repeat the experiment.

Many fear that if customers refuse the price hikes as a result of the tariffs, major job losses in the US will follow. Many large steel customers ranging from automakers General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co., Campbell Soup Co. and brewer Molson Coors Brewing Co. are expected to lose, as tariffs will allow domestic steel producers to raise prices.
The U.S. steel industry employed about 147,000 people in 2015, according to the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic analysis. Manufacturers that need steel employ about 6.5 million people each year and the construction industry employs about 6.3 million people.

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1 week ago · by · 0 comments

Florida Students Hope Activism Sparks Change After School Shooting




Student protests for changes in gun control laws occurred around the country in the days following the Florida school shooting. Many of the protests were ignited by the impassioned pleas of young Parkland survivors in the hours and days after the shooting. Facebook and Twitter have amplified attendance; Snapchat and Instagram have documented the marches, signs and chants.

Under the rallying cry #NeverAgain, students and staff who survived the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have been on a quest for new gun control measures. After attending funerals of the victims, they set aside their grief and boarded three buses to demand better gun control measures and school safety from state lawmakers more than 400 miles away. While they traveled on the buses, Florida lawmakers voted down a motion to even consider a ban during a session that opened with a prayer for the 17 people killed in the shooting. The vote was 36-71.

Disappointed but undeterred, many have given countless interviews pleading with lawmakers on both sides to meet in the middle so that the school shootings stop. Relatives of the Stoneman Douglas victims kept up the pressure in Florida’s capital with emotional testimony during a legislative hearing to discuss passing a bill that would, among other things, raise the age limit to buy long guns from 18 to 21. The bill also would create a program that allows teachers who receive law-enforcement training and are deputized by the local sheriff’s office to carry concealed weapons in the classroom, if also approved by the school district. The school’s superintendent has spoken out firmly against that measure. The House Appropriations Committee’s 23-6 vote in favor of the bill followed more than four hours of emotional discussion with the parents of some of the 17 killed, and nearly two weeks of activism by students on social media and in televised debates.

During a listening session held by President Trump a week after the shooting, Andrew Pollack, a parent whose daughter Meadow was killed in the shooting, brought up a valid point as he was also overwhelmed with emotion and anger as he stood next to his sons to address the president. “We need to come together as a country and work on what’s important, and that’s protecting our children in the schools. That’s the only thing that matters right now,” he said. “We protect airports, we protect concerts, stadiums, embassies, the Department of Education that I walked in today, that has a security guard in the elevator. How do you think that makes me feel?” “I’m very angry that this happened because it keeps happening. 9/11 happened once and they fixed everything. How many schools, how many children have to get shot? It stops here with this administration and me. I’m not going to sleep until it’s fixed. And Mr. President, we’re going to fix it.” “It’s enough! Let’s get together, work with the president and fix the schools. That’s it. No other discussions. Security, whatever we have to do.”

From South Florida to Bellingham, Wash., local walkouts were proliferating. A national event has been planned for March 14, the one-month anniversary of the Parkland shooting, when students and teachers plan to leave class for 17 minutes, one minute for each victim. On March 24, students will protest in Washington at an event organized by March for Our Lives, the group formed by Parkland survivors, which has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations from celebrities. Another mass walkout is scheduled for April 20, when students will commemorate the 19th year since the Columbine High School shooting in 1999.

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2 weeks ago · by · 0 comments

Former Commander, Two Staffers Charged In Milwaukee Inmate’s Death






The former commander of the Milwaukee County Jail along with two jail staffers were charged in connection with the April 2016 dehydration death of Terrill Thomas. Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Maj. Nancy Evans, 48, is charged with felony misconduct in office and obstructing an officer. Jail Lt. Kashka Meadors, 40, and correctional officer James Ramsey-Guy, 38, are each charged with neglecting an inmate, a felony offense.

Thomas, a 38-year-old prisoner with bipolar disorder, died of extreme dehydration after he spent a week without access to water in a solitary confinement jail cell. The medical examiner declared his death a homicide. He lost 34 pounds during his eight days in jail and was abandoned by the guards to die, according to the complaint. The complaint details that Meadors gave the order to shut off the water, Ramsey-Guy physically cut all water to Thomas’ cell and Evans lied about the subsequent investigation.

The practice of cutting off water to an inmate is against the jail’s written regulations but according to Ramsey-Guy, it was common practice. Within weeks of Thomas’ death, water was cut off to two other inmates’ cells. The complaint states that the incidents demonstrate an institutional practice of punitively shutting off water to unruly inmates.

Evan’s is accused of misleading investigators during the initial inquest into the death, repeatedly lying to her supervisors, withholding information from her superiors, repeatedly lying to investigators and failing to preserve key evidence. The complaint alleges that within 48 hours of the death, Evans directed her subordinate, Capt. George Gold to watch video footage of Thomas’ cell area. Gold told Evans that the video showed a corrections officer turning the water off and never turned back on. Prosecutors say Evans took no steps in preserving the video evidence and it was overwritten and permanently lost.

During the inquest, Meadors testified that she ordered Ramsey-Guy to cut off the water only to Thomas’ toilet after he flooded a previous cell. She said she meant for the shutoff order to stay in effect until Thomas settled down. Ramsey-Guy testified that he only shut off the cold water and left the hot water on but investigators found the entire water system off immediately after the death.

Thomas was arrested after he ran into the Potawatomi casino yelling at patrons to “get out.” He fired two rounds and stuffed poker chips into his pockets. When confronted by police, he dropped the Glock 9mm handgun into a trash can and was arrested. His family believes he was having a psychotic episode.

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3 weeks ago · by · 1 comment

17 Dead In Florida School Shooting




In just under seven minutes, 17 people were killed and 15 others wounded in Parkland, Florida in one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history. The massacre at the Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County started as students anxiously waited for the end of the school day. The shooter, 19 year old Nicholas Cruz, was a former student at the school who had been kicked out of school several times for bringing weapons to school and finally expelled last year for fighting.

Cruz entered the school armed with an AR15 rifle and pulled the fire alarm at 2:21pm, confusing many students and faculty because they had already had a fire drill earlier that morning. Police said the 19-year-old also had multiple magazines, smoke grenades and a gas mask. As students began to leave the building because of the fire alarm, Cruz begins shooting into rooms 1215, 1216 and 1214. Hearing the gunshots, students and teachers run back into the classrooms. Some of them had enough time to lock the doors and hide in closets while others were not as lucky.

Many students and faculty were still in the hallways, confused as to where the shooter was while many brave staff ushered stragglers into classrooms or away from the shooter. Cruz returned to rooms 1216, 1215 and 1213, firing into them again. He then took the west stairwell to the second floor and shot a person in room 1234. Three minutes into the shooting, Cruz headed to the third floor of Building 12 and tried to bust out a window on the third floor to shoot at students as they fled the building. The windows in that part of the building are shatterproof so he was unsuccessful. A little after 2:27pm, Cruz discarded his rifle and ammunition and fled the school blending in with students fleeing the building. He was apprehended at 3:41pm after an officer spotted him walking down a street.
In those terrifying minutes, many lives were lost, families shattered and an entire school was traumatized. The victims killed in the horrific shooting have been identified as Scott Beigel 35; Peter Wang, 15; Carmen Schentrup, 16; Alex Schachter, 14; Helena Ramsay, 17; Meadow Pollack, 18; Alaina Petty, 14; Joaquin Oliver, 17; Gina Montalto, 14; Cara Loughran, 14; Luke Hoyer, 15; Christopher Hixon, 49; Jaime Guttenberg, 14; Aaron Feis, 37; Nicholas Dworet, 17; Martin Duque Anguiano, 14 and Alyssa Alhadeff, 14.

There were many heroes during those terrifying minutes that saved countless lives by helping get others out of the line of fire. Peter Wang, a student and active member of the ROTC program, was last seen alive holding the door open for students who were fleeing the shooter. Colton Haab, another ROTC member, ushered over 60 people into a room. He grabbed Kevlar sheets he and others used for the marksmanship program to shield the students from gunfire. Fifteen year old Anthony Borges helped 20 of his classmates scramble into a classroom as the shooter headed their way and was shot five times as he was locking the door. Borges, is currently in stable condition after hours of surgery with more surgeries to come and a long road to recovery.

Scott Beigel was a geography teacher who unlocked his classroom door to usher a group of students to safety only to be shot and killed while trying to relock the door. Aaron Feis, a popular football coach and school security guard was killed while shielding several students from the shooter’s gunfire.
An unidentified janitor redirected a mass of students who were unknowingly running toward the shooter to another hallway and into the culinary room. Ashley Kurth, a 34-year-old culinary teacher, spotted the mass of terrified children running as she went to lock her door. She ushered the students and two faculty members (including the janitor) into her classroom and locked the door, saving 65 people. Teacher Melissa Falkowski locked her door and hid 19 students in the classroom closet. Countless other faculty and students, remembering their training from drills for active shooter situations, bravely helped save lives yet they are devastated to have lost so many lives.

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3 months ago · by · 104 comments

Nearly 1,000 People Died In Puerto Rico After Maria Hit






An investigation by the Center for Investigative Journalism in Puerto Rico has revealed that nearly 1,000 more people died in the 40-day period after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico compared to that same time period last year. These findings sharply contradict the storm’s “official” death toll of 62.   The government allowed 911 bodies to be cremated without being physically examined by a government medical officer to determine if they should be included in the official death toll from the storm.  Each cause of death was listed as being of “natural causes.”

The revelation of the new data also coincides with accounts from relatives’ reports of victims that point to problems with essential health services such as dialysis, ventilators, oxygen, and other critical circumstances caused by the lack of electricity in homes and hospitals throughout Puerto Rico.

The majority of the deaths were men and women over 50 who died in hospitals and nursing homes from conditions such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s, kidney disease, hypertension, pneumonia and other respiratory diseases. When compared to the same time period from 2016, there was a significant increase in deaths, especially in hospitals and nursing homes.

Some have said they considered heart attacks and people who died of lack of oxygen because of lack of power as hurricane-related deaths, while others said they considered those “natural causes.”  Accurate information about the death toll is important because it allows victims’ families to claim federal relief aid.  It has also been used as a measure of how effective relief efforts have been.  The official death toll likely fails to take account of all those who died as a result of the deadly hurricane.

Demographer José A. López, the only person at the registry in charge of analyzing this data, has said that the increase in deaths in the first two post-Maria months is significant and the government’s inability to link more deaths to the hurricane shows that the current process of documenting causes of death in a disaster is not working and must be reformed.  López and the Department of Health appeared before Puerto Rico’s Senate to request that a dialogue begin about the issue and that they lead to changing the system.

Currently, linking a death to a disaster depends almost exclusively on a physician making an annotation related to the hurricane in the death certificate and listing the clinical cause of death, but both doctors and hospitals maintain that their responsibility and knowledge are strictly tied to the clinical cause of death.  In most cases, the doctor who certifies the death may not be the same doctor who was in charge of the patient.   Because of this, most death certificates do not include additional information about the other circumstances that could lead to death — such as the stress caused by an emergency; lack of power, transportation services or medications; lack of access to health services; changes in diet; and increases in ambient temperatures, among others.

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3 months ago · by · 1,043 comments

North Korea Fires Missile Capable of Hitting Anywhere In US



North Korea fired an intercontinental ballistic missile, its first missile launch in two months.    North Korea media claims the successfully tested missile topped with a “super-large heavy warhead,” is capable of striking the US mainland.  The country’s state media made the announcement hours after leader Kim Jong Un ordered the 3 a.m. launch of the Hwasong-15 missile, which reached the highest altitude ever recorded by a North Korean missile.

North Korea news agencies called its new missile “the most powerful ICBM” and said it “meets the goal of the completion of the rocket weaponry system development.  After the launch, Kim said North Korea had “finally realized the great historic cause of completing the state nuclear force.” North Korea has been working on its’ missile “re-entry” technology to one day have a warhead able to survive re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere.  This ICBM would be able to hit any city within the U.S. if a warhead is able to survive re-entry.

The missile reached an altitude of 2,800 miles, before landing in the Sea of Japan.  U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said it was the furthest missile launch by North Korea to date and demonstrates that North Korea has the ability to hit “everywhere in the world.”  Defense Secretary Mattis added “North Korea is continuing to build missiles that can threaten everywhere in the world as it continues to endanger world peace, regional peace and certainly the United States.”

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry said “With each launch, North Korean officials are advancing their capability and they are making it clear that they can hold the entire U.S. at risk.  They are steadily moving on and we’re not responding in kind.”   He added, “It is incredibly serious partly because Kim Jong Un is very serious about what he says and what he says is that he wants to hold the entire United States at risk with his missiles, with nuclear weapons, and we have seen him actually deliver on what he says he wants to do.”

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, and ambassadors from Japan and South Korea, requested an emergency meeting of the U.N. security council following the launch.  Haley said if war comes as a result of further acts of “aggression” like the latest launch “make no mistake the North Korean regime will be utterly destroyed”.  Haley says the Trump administration warned North Korea that its future is in the hands of its leaders and the choice was theirs. With Tuesday’s launch, she said, Kim’s regime made a choice “and with this choice comes a critical choice for the rest of the world”.  She called on all countries to cut all ties to North Korea.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said that US President Trump was briefed on the launch while it was still in the air.  President Trump told reporters that the missile launch “is a situation that we will handle,” and added the U.S. will “take care of it.” Trump later said in a tweet that he had spoken with the Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, about “the provocative actions of North Korea”, and promised: “Additional major sanctions will be imposed on North Korea today. This situation will be handled!”

As nuclear tensions between the U.S. and North Korea continue to escalate, Hawaii is preparing to test its early warning system aimed at warning residents about a nuclear attack. The test, slated for Friday, will be the first time Hawaii has deployed the warning system since the 1990s, after the Cold War ended.

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4 months ago · by · 212 comments

White House Asks Congress To Approve $44 Billion In Disaster Relief



The White House requested Congress approve $44 billion in disaster relief in what would be the largest single round of disaster aid to address the widespread damage inflicted by hurricanes and wildfires over the last three months.  It is the third request since hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria slammed the Gulf Coast and Caribbean.  The new request would add another $24 billion to the disaster relief this fall and bring the total close to $100 billion.  It would also establish a new $12 billion grant program for flood risk mitigation projects. Smaller amounts would go to small business loans and to aid farmers suffering crop losses.

The White House is proposing the increased funding be offset by cuts to federal programs in hopes to deter members from Congress who might not vote for a disaster assistance package that adds to the deficit.  Two previous disaster relief bills totaling nearly $51.8 billion that Congress approved earlier this year had no such offsets.

And that’s before most of the money to rebuild Puerto Rico’s devastated housing stock and electric grid is added in.  Puerto Rican Gov. Ricardo Rosselló has asked the federal government for $94.3 billion in disaster relief funds to help repair critical infrastructure and rebuild housing following Hurricane Maria.  He said the sum will help the U.S. territory adequately recover from Hurricane Maria.  Over half of Puerto Rico is still without power almost two months after Hurricane Maria made landfall.  More than 10 percent of the island is still without running water.

The largest chunk of Rosselló’s request, $31 billion, goes to housing assistance with $17.7 billion to rebuild the island’s power grid and $14.9 billion for health care.  “This is a critical step forward in the rebuilding of Puerto Rico where we’re not only looking to rebuild as was before but we want to make it much stronger and much more resilient and make Puerto Rico a model for the rest of the Caribbean,” Rosselló said.  Ricardo Rosello also urged Congress to adopt a tax overhaul plan that addresses the territory’s specific needs to avoid an exodus of the companies that currently generate 42% of the island’s gross domestic product.

The relief request is over $30 billion more than a $61 billion relief request from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott after Hurricane Harvey flooded parts of metro Houston and East Texas.  The Florida congressional delegation has asked for $27 billion.  It is likely that Congress will pare down the amount as they did after Hurricane Sandy in 2012.


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5 months ago · by · 368 comments

Harvey Weinstein Scandal





An investigation by The New York Times exposed allegations of sexual harassment and unwanted physical contact by Harvey Weinstein that stretched nearly three decades.  The scandal was uncovered through interviews with current or former employees and film industry workers as well as legal records, emails and internal documents from the businesses he has run, Miramax and the Weinstein Company.  Among other victims, the Times piece revealed that Rose McGowan had reached a $100,000 settlement with Weinstein after an encounter in a hotel room during Sundance Film Festival in 1997.  Later, the actress revealed Weinstein had raped her.

Shortly after, The New Yorker published another expose that alleges the producer raped three women.  The New Yorker article contains on-the-record accounts from 13 actresses who reported Weinstein forcibly received or performed sexual acts on the women.  A slew of women have sine come forward to accuse Weinstein of sexual harassment, assault and rape.  Among his accusers are some of Hollywood’s most well-known actresses including Ashley Judd, Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, Rosanna Arquette, Kate Beckinsale and Heather Graham.

Many of the instances occurred during meetings that agents, studios and assistants set up for Weinstein under the guise of a potential movie role.  The common theme in the accusations is that the harassment took place early in their careers and they kept quiet out of fear that they would destroy their budding careers.  Other lesser known actresses and models have come forward as well.  Weinstein’s lewd behavior seemed to be an open secret in Hollywood for decades.  Fear of Harvey Weinstein’s influence helped keep his treatment of women shrouded for years with a network of aggressive publicists and lawyers helping.

New revelations have surfaced showing his studio, Weinstein Company, knew for at least two years that he had been paying off women who accused him of sexual harassment and assault. Weinstein was fired from the company shortly after the New York Times article was published.   Police in the US and outside the country are investigating allegations of sexual assault involving Harvey Weinstein as the scandal surrounding the disgraced Hollywood movie mogul mounts.

A spokeswoman for Weinstein denied the rape allegations in a statement.  “Any allegations of non-consensual sex are unequivocally denied by Mr. Weinstein,” the statement read. “Mr. Weinstein has further confirmed that there were never any acts of retaliation against any women for refusing his advances.”  Weinstein sent an official statement to The New York Time in response to the accusations saying “I appreciate the way I’ve behaved with colleagues in the past has caused a lot of pain, and I sincerely apologize for it.  Though I’m trying to do better, I know I have a long way to go. That is my commitment.”

Shortly after The New Yorker piece came out, Harvey Weinstein’s wife of a decade, Georgina Chapman, announced she was She said in a statement, “My heart breaks for all the women who have suffered tremendous pain because of these unforgivable actions,” the statement read. “I have chosen to leave my husband. Caring for my young children is my first priority and I ask the media for privacy at this time.”


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5 months ago · by · 943 comments

Thousands Evacuated As Bali Threatened By Volcano Eruption



Thousands of people have been evacuated on the Indonesian island of Bali and on Ambae island in Vanuatu as two volcanoes threaten to erupt.  The entire population of Ambae, around 11,000 people, is being moved from the path of the “increasingly active” Manaro volcano while more than 144,000 people from Bali have been taken to shelters as authorities warn that Mount Agung could erupt at any time.  The National Disaster Management Agency has said that 447 temporary shelters have been set up outside the exclusion zone around the volcano.  Thousands of evacuees sleep on floors and wait for something to happen.

Seismic activity continues in the volcano and the alert level for an eruption is at the highest on the scale.  A statement from Vanuatu Meteorology and Geohazards Department said “Ambae volcano is in an ongoing moderate eruption state, people in local villages could experience the danger of flying rocks, volcanic gases and acid rain.”

Experts explain that there are very good indications that an eruption is imminent.  Seismic tremors beneath the volcano are increasing in number, intensity, and the reduction in their depth in the last week is a very good indication that magma is moving up to the surface.  Another signs of an eminent eruption include gas emissions from the summit as a sign that pressure underground has become to great and bulging on the volcano’s surface.

On September 25, the area experienced 844 volcanic earthquakes and by mid-afternoon on September 26, had experienced another 300-400 earthquakes.  Seismologists say the force and frequency are alarming and it has taken much less for similar volcanoes to erupt.

Mount Agung last erupted in 1963 when more than 1,700 people were killed and hundreds more were injured.  Lava flowed for 4.7 miles from the crater for over 20 days ash reached the capital, Jakarta, about 620 miles away.  The most devastating effect of an eruption is the pyroclastic flows which are waves of superheated gas, ash and rock that can travel hundreds of miles an hour.

In the 1963 eruption, these flows devastated numerous villages, killing an estimated 1,300 people. Cold lahars caused by heavy rainfall after the eruption killed an additional 200.  A second eruption months later, led to pyroclastic flows that killed another 200 people. Minor eruptions and flows followed for almost a year.  During the 1963 eruption, there was no evacuation plan and people had seconds to minutes to escape the pyroclastic flows which led to a devastating death toll.

The National Disaster Mitigation Agency said no one should be within 6 miles of the crater and within 7.5 miles to the north, northeast, southeast and south-southwest where lava flows, lahars (a type of mudflow) or rapidly-moving white-hot ash clouds from where an eruption could reach.

Indonesia, the country of thousands of islands is prone to seismic upheaval because of its location on the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanoes and fault lines encircling the Pacific Basin.  Mount Agung is 1 of more than 120 active volcanoes in Indonesia.

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6 months ago · by · 327 comments

Hurricane Maria Leaves Puerto Rico Devastated



Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico as a Category 4 hurricane, one of the most powerful hurricane to strike the island in nearly a century. It destroyed the island’s entire electrical grid and caused severe flooding and widespread damage to homes and infrastructure.  Still recovering from Hurricane Irma two weeks prior, approximately 80,000 remained without power as Maria approached.

Immediately after Maria passed, the entire island was without power and 70,000 people were ordered to evacuate the areas around the Guajataca Dam after storm damage put it at risk of collapsing.  More than 3.4 million U.S. citizens in the territory remain without adequate food, water and fuel.  Flights in and out of Puerto Rico are still severely restricted.  Hospitals struggling to provide care are running on generators with limited access to electricity, no running water and dwindling supplies.  At least 24 people have been confirmed dead.

Six days after Hurricane Maria devastated the island, Governor Ricardo Roselló pleaded for more government aid in order to avert a total humanitarian catastrophe.  Officials said 1,360 of the island’s 1,600 cellphone towers were down, and 85% of above-ground and underground phone and internet cables were knocked out.

Thousands of tourists and residents who have been stranded in Puerto Rico since Hurricane Maria devastated the island nation were evacuated on cruise ships headed towards Fort Lauderdale.  Royal Caribbean cancelled voyages on its Adventure of the Seas ship to free it up for rescue missions.  Around 1,700 evacuees were picked up from San Juan before it headed to St Croix and St Thomas to pick up another 2,000 before making its way to Florida.  Norwegian Cruises has done the same as well as transporting supplies to affected islands.

Large amounts of federal aid began moving into Puerto Rico but distribution has stalled efforts.  Many of the island’s roads remain impassable because of debri.  There is also a shortage of drivers to help distribute food and supplies to some of the hardest-hit remote regions.  Port of San Juan held 9,500 shipping containers filled with supplies but with only 20% of the island’s truckers reporting back to work since Maria hit and a diesel fuel shortage- distribution has left many without any relief since the storm hit.

The Pentagon, which has troops working on disaster relief in Texas and Florida, promised to boost the number of troops in Puerto Rico from the current 2,500 to as many as 5,000 in the next several days. The United States currently has 16 Navy and Coast Guard ships operating near Puerto Rico and 10 more are on the way, said Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Brock Long. One of those vessels is USS Comfort, a Navy hospital ship.


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