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SAN JUAN, P.R. — The government of Puerto Rico has quietly acknowledged in a report posted online that in all likelihood more than 1,400 people died in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria — a figure that is more than 20 times the official death toll.
Hurricane Maria cut through the island on Sept. 20, knocking out power and initially killing about a dozen people. The government’s official count eventually swelled to 64, as more people died from suicide, lack of access to health care and other factors. The number has not changed despite several academic assessments that official death certificates did not come close to tallying the storm’s fatal toll.
But in a draft of a report to Congress requesting $139 billion in recovery funds, scheduled for official release on Thursday, the Puerto Rican government admits that 1,427 more people died in the last four months of 2017 compared with the same time frame in the previous year. The figures came from death registry statistics that were released in June, but which were never publicly acknowledged by officials on the island.
“Although the official death count from the Puerto Rico Department of Public Safety was initially 64, the toll appears to be much higher,” said the report, titled “Transformation and Innovation in the Wake of Devastation.” - nytimes.com
'SAN JUAN – Gov. Ricardo Rosselló left Sunday evening for Bogotá, Colombia, to participate in the inauguration of President Iván Duque.
Rosselló’s office said he will also participate in a multisector trade mission with several Puerto Rican companies.
The topics to be discussed will focus on trade, housing, agriculture, and exports. In addition, Rivera Marín will meet with the president of the National Business Association of Colombia, (ANDI by its Spanish acronym), Bruce Mac Master, and with the chairman and majority shareholder of Avianca, Germán Efromovich. The airline operates a daily flight between Bogotá and San Juan. Also, Rivera Marín indicated that he may meet with Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela, according to a separate release issued by Secretary of State Luis Rivera Marín.
“We are going to express to the president-elect the solidarity of the government of Ricardo Rosselló with the new government he is going to establish in Colombia, with the certainty that it will be one that will fully respond to the best interests of his people and will identify with international politics regarding human rights and the freedoms of its inhabitants. In Puerto Rico, we have a community of about 7,000
Colombians who contribute to our economy, and as part of the Governor’s public policy, we want to strengthen these relationships, including export possibilities through the Department of Economic Development (DDEC) and the Company of Trade and Export,” Rivera Marín said.' - caribbeanbusiness.com
About 100 customers still need their service restored.
'After plummeting from 13.8 million megawatt-hours in 2017 to 0.3 million megawatt-hours the month after Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico’s electricity sales are now approaching typical levels.
Energy Information Administration (EIA) data shows that industrial and commercial electricity sales are back to pre-Maria norms, while residential rates are still somewhat lagging.
On Friday, the island’s electric authority reported that 104 customers remain without service. The outages caused by Hurricanes Maria and Irma have now continued for over 10 months, constituting the longest blackout in U.S. history.
According to the EIA, in October 2017 residential electricity sales dropped to 3 percent of the previous October’s total. Industrial sales were only slightly higher at 6 percent, and commercial sales continued at about a third of last year’s levels. EIA attributes that balance to the prioritization of critical load centers like hospitals and community centers.
The research organization began reporting data on Puerto Rico’s power plants in July.' - greentechmedia.com
'The remnants of the storm Beryl brought heavy rain and wind to Puerto Rico, creating flash-flood conditions on the island and exacerbating power outage issues that have remained since last year's devastating hurricane season.
Lawmakers on Wednesday introduced new bipartisan legislation to make Puerto Rico the nation's 51st state by 2021.
The bill, known as the Puerto Rico Admission Act of 2018 was presented by Puerto Rico’s resident commissioner, Jenniffer González-Colón, a Republican who authored the bill and is a nonvoting member of Congress.
“This is the first step to open a serious discussion to determine the ultimate political status of Puerto Rico,” González said. “To sum everything up, this is about equality."
The bipartisan effort is co-sponsored by 36 members of Congress, 22 Republicans and 14 Democrats.
“I’m pleased to be one of the sponsors,” said Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources. “I look forward to the day 51 is a reality.” - nbcnews.com
'CAGUAS, PUERTO RICO — Miliana Montanez cradled her mother’s head as she lay dying on the floor of her bedroom here, gasping for air and pleading for help.
There was nothing her family could do. It took 20 minutes to find cellular reception to make a 911 call. Inoperative traffic signals slowed down the ambulance struggling to reach their neighborhood through crippling congestion.
Ivette Leon’s eyes bulged in terror as she described to her daughter the tiny points of light that appeared before her. She took one last desperate gulp of air just as paramedics arrived. Far too late.
More than eight months after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, the island’s slow recovery has been marked by a persistent lack of water, a faltering power grid and a lack of essential services — all imperiling the lives of many residents, especially the infirm and those in remote areas hardest hit in September.
A new Harvard study published Tuesday in the New England Journal of Medicine estimates that at least 4,645 deaths can be linked to the hurricane and its immediate aftermath, making the storm far deadlier than previously thought. Official estimates have placed the number of dead at 64, a count that has drawn sharp criticism from experts and local residents and spurred the government to order an independent review that has yet to be completed.' - washingtonpost.com
Jersey City– El Gobernador Phil Murphy firmó hoy una orden ejecutiva estableciendo una comisión para ayudar a Puerto Rico. La comisión, compuesta por 18 miembros, colaborará con agencias federales y estatales para acelerar el proceso que beneficiará a puertorriqueños desplazados en el estado de New Jersey, también examinará otras maneras en que el estado podría ayudar a la isla.
“Es inaceptable que cinco meses después de que el huracán María tocó tierra en Puerto Rico, tantos de nuestros compatriotas americanos todavía están sintiendo el impacto de la tormenta,” dijo el Gobernador Murphy. “Esta agencia compuesta de agencias federales y estatales proveerán ayuda a aproximadamente 30,000 puertorriqueños refugiados en New Jersey, dirigiendo así a nuestras agencias a ayudar rápidamente a aquellos que han sido desplazados. Debemos buscar otras maneras de ayudar a la isla y devolver la normalidad a los puertorriqueños. La respuesta federal no ha sido suficiente y debemos aumentar nuestros esfuerzos como estado para ayudar a nuestros hermanos en la isla.”
“Quiero agradecer el Gobernador Phil Murphy de New Jersey por crear la Comisión de Puerto Rico,” dijo el Gobernador Ricardo Roselló de Puerto Rico. “El Gobernador Murphy y el estado de New Jersey han sido grandes aliados en la recuperación de Puerto Rico después del huracán María. Trabajaremos juntos para asegurar que la comisión sea exitosa en su objetivo.” - ahoranews.net
'SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Puerto Rico government officials on Tuesday pushed back against a federal control board’s suggestion that they cut benefits for the U.S. territory’s employees to cope with an 11-year financial crisis.
Secretary of Public Affairs Ramon Rosario said the government won’t implement any measures that financially affect government workers.
The control board that oversees Puerto Rico’s finances is demanding changes in the territory’s fiscal plan, and more details about it. The board suggested late Monday that the government could cut costs by making severance pay and Christmas bonuses optional or by reducing requirements for vacation and sick leave to U.S. mainland levels. The board said no state requires that employers provide vacation pay, and that only nine of 50 U.S. states require any paid sick leave.
“It is imperative that Puerto Rico seize this moment to fundamentally reform an economy that has been in a long-term recession, even before Hurricanes Irma and Maria,” wrote board chairman Jose Carrion.' - seattletimes.com
In Puerto Rico, dozens of entrepreneurs are making a cryptocurrency utopia
'SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — They call what they are building Puertopia. But then someone told them, apparently in all seriousness, that it translates to “eternal boy playground” in Latin. So they are changing the name: They will call it Sol.
Dozens of entrepreneurs, made newly wealthy by blockchain and cryptocurrencies, are heading en masse to Puerto Rico this winter. They are selling their homes and cars in California and establishing residency on the Caribbean island in hopes of avoiding what they see as onerous state and federal taxes on their growing fortunes, some of which now reach into the billions of dollars.
And these men — because they are almost exclusively men — have a plan for what to do with the wealth: They want to build a crypto utopia, a new city where the money is virtual and the contracts are all public, to show the rest of the world what a crypto future could look like. Blockchain, a digital ledger that forms the basis of virtual currencies, has the potential to reinvent society — and the Puertopians want to prove it.
For more than a year, the entrepreneurs had been searching for the best location. After Hurricane Maria decimated Puerto Rico’s infrastructure in September and the price of cryptocurrencies began to soar, they saw an opportunity and felt a sense of urgency.' - post-gazette.com
By: Nick Brown
CANOVANAS, Puerto Rico (Reuters) - Among the countless Puerto Rico neighborhoods battered by Hurricane Maria is one named after another storm: Villa Hugo. The illegal shantytown emerged on a public wetland after 1989’s Hurricane Hugo left thousands homeless.
About 6,000 squatters landed here, near the El Yunque National Forest, and built makeshift homes on 40 acres that span a low-lying valley and its adjacent mountainside. Wood and concrete dwellings, their facades scrawled with invented addresses, sit on cinder blocks. After Maria, many are missing roofs; some have collapsed altogether.
Amid the rubble, 59-year-old Joe Quirindongo sat in the sun one recent day on a wooden platform - the only remaining piece of his home. Soft-spoken with weathered skin and a buzzcut, Quirindongo pondered his limited options.
“I know this isn’t a good place for a house,” said Quirindongo, who survives on U.S. government assistance. “Sometimes I would like to go to another place, but I can’t afford anything.” -reuters.com
PREPA’s governing board is vetting several potential hires referred by a consultant tapped to help the utility find its new leader, board member Nisha Desai said, calling the decision critical to PREPA’s recovery from September’s Hurricane Maria.
“When it comes to transformation, to driving cultural change, people follow people,” Desai said. “They look for inspiration from leaders.”
'The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico entered the fourth quarter having suffered one of the most devastating natural disasters in the island's history. Hurricane Maria left billions of dollars in damage in its wake, including both infrastructure damage and economic losses. The human costs have been equally terrible, with millions of US citizens suffering.
Three months later and the lights are still out - only 70% of power has been restored. Many businesses remain closed due to the lack of electricity and the high costs of using diesel generators. An estimated 20-30% of the island's 65,000 businesses may close permanently. Residents have fled to the mainland in the wake of the hurricanes. According to a study by the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College in New York, the island's population is expected to decrease by 14% to 2.9 million people by 2019, as residents flee the devastation. Whether they return remains questionable. The deeper the roots they establish on the mainland, the less likely they are to return home. Hurricane Maria has magnified an already exceedingly complex situation. Rebuilding will take months, a full recovery, years.' - seekingalpha.com
"PONCE, P.R. — Almost two months after Hurricane Maria tore through Puerto Rico, there were more signs of how unsettled the situation remains here and how grievous the toll of the storm was.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency said that it was finalizing extraordinary plans to fly about 3,000 residents of Puerto Rico still living in shelters to New York and Florida.
“Transportation assistance is something that I don’t think we have done previously,” Will Booher, a FEMA spokesman, said. “But this is unique to what’s going on in Puerto Rico.” The agency said the relief effort was being undertaken at the request of Gov. Ricardo Rosselló.
FEMA regularly finds housing for hurricane victims, often at hotels or motels nearby. But because there is so little available lodging on the island, and no easy way to get people from shelters to safe housing, the agency is arranging charter flights for residents, beginning with those still in shelters.
On Wednesday, Puerto Rico officials, facing increasing questions about the accuracy of the official death toll from the storm, acknowledged for the first time that 472 more people died this September compared with the same month last year. The storm made landfall on Sept. 20. The government’s official death toll is 55."
"Financial donations are being accepted by United for Puerto Rico, the Salvation Army, the Red Cross and the Puerto Rican Congress of New Jersey and its New Jersey Puerto Rico Hurricane Relief to purchase products to quickly and efficiently meet the most urgent needs of disaster victims.
When possible, such purchases are made near the disaster site to stimulate the local economy and ensure quicker delivery. All financial donations will be dedicated entirely to Puerto Rico Hurricane Maria Relief efforts.
For more information, visit www.NJ4PR.org.
The donated items needed include: baby food, batteries, box fans, canned goods, cots, cleaning supplies, diapers, feminine hygiene products, flashlights, flood pumps, hand sanitizer, first aid items, leather work gloves, new underwear and socks, new bed pillows and blankets, toiletries, utility knives and high-capacity generators to restore power for hospitals, water service and flood pumps." - mycentraljersey.com
"CAMDEN -- A statewide-effort to raise money for hurricane relief for Puerto Rico was announced Thursday in front of Camden City Hall.
More than a third of the city's 74,400 residents claim Puerto Rican heritage"
"Rodriguez said state Sen. Nilsa Cruz-Perez, D, Camden, launched the effort by reaching out to the Puerto Rican Congress of New Jersey. Together, they created the Boricuas from New Jersey para Puerto Rico Fund with the South Jersey Credit Union. Organizers plan a statewide campaign with events ending on October 8. The funds will then be distributed to the United for Puerto Rico Foundation and the Salvation Army." - nj.com
"One year after the Supreme Court’s decision in Commonwealth of Puerto Rico v. Sanchez Valle, the enactment of The Puerto Rico Oversight Management and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA), the creation of a Oversight and Management Board and the initiation of bankruptcy-like proceedings under its Title III provisions in the Federal District Court in San Juan put to bed the argument that claimed any kind of uniqueness to the political relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States.
By now, it is clear that Puerto Rico is a territory under the plenary powers of Congress as provided by Article IV, Section III of the Constitution, without limitation or reservation." - thehill.com
The practice would be good for both the island's economy and the U.S. federal budget.
"The federal budget faces a problem: the rising cost of Medicare benefits. At $10,000 per beneficiary per year, Medicare is one of the largest costs facing the U.S. taxpayer. And it's growing as baby boomers retire and health costs increase. At the same time, the U.S. island of Puerto Rico faces a problem. Its government is effectively bankrupt, and the economy is contracting. Tourism receipts are below potential levels. Perhaps worst, over one-third of the island's doctors have emigrated to the mainland in the past decade, increasingly leaving Puerto Ricans without care.
But there is a policy that could help both the federal budget and the Puerto Rican economy. Not medical tourism, but Medicare tourism." -usnews.com
"SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Puerto Rico's struggling financial crisis has set off an exodus of medical personnel, leaving physicians with unmanageable patient loads and triggering a cascade of problems for patients and hospitals. The government, some hospitals and non-profits are offering incentives to try to keep or attract doctors to Puerto Rico as the situation worsens.
In the eight years between 2005 and 2013, 1,200 physicians and surgeons left Puerto Rico to live on the U.S. mainland, according to the Puerto Rico Statistics Institute. That amounts to 12 percent of the more than 10,000 medics and surgeons who worked on the island during that time. The exodus is still continuing now, with doctors often leaving better salaries, working conditions and resources." - nbcnews.com
"SAN JUAN, P.R. — Two young graduates from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology did the unthinkable last summer: They quit enviable jobs in New York and moved back to beleaguered Puerto Rico, bringing their plan for a start-up with them.
“People were like: ‘Are you crazy? Why would you ever do that? Go back way later; you’re basically going into a hellhole right now,’” said one of the graduates, Eric Crespo, 25, who helped create Lunchera, a fast-growing online food delivery and logistics company in Puerto Rico.
As the tide of Puerto Ricans leaving the island continues unabated, Mr. Crespo and his partner and college friend, Bryan Collazo, are part of a small but critical wave of educated millennials who are doing the opposite; they are choosing to return home or stay put on the island.
They are opening restaurants and bars, fueling start-ups and small businesses or jump-starting moribund sectors, like agriculture. They are motivated both by an urge to help lift Puerto Rico out of its quagmire, but also by a profound attachment to the island — its beaches and countryside, its friendliness, its intimacy and the tug of family." - nytimes.com
"Thick tropical vegetation chokes the atrium and garden at the Lola Rodríguez de Tió High School in Carolina, Puerto Rico. Inside, the place is bereft of souls: The walls have holes where scavengers ripped out wiring and pipes, shafts of sunlight slice into the darkness inside classrooms where books, keyboards and pictures are strewn about haphazardly. This decay has been slowly erasing the physical space since the school closed in 2014, another casualty of Puerto Rico’s economic collapse.
This heartbreaking scene is enough to take a cue from Steely Dan and never go back to your old school.
But for Jesus Emmanuel Rodriguez Pichardo, who graduated here before moving to New York, it triggered intense emotions that kept him coming back to the deserted campus. During an extended stay earlier this year, he made the empty rooms and overgrown yards into a backdrop for large-format portraits of the place and the people who worked and studied there. The images speak to the immediate, emotional bond they had for it. But the shuttered school is a symbol in the larger drama that has played out in recent years as people educated here — and other schools on the island — have fled to New York or Florida.
“Why are these schools abandoned?” said Mr. Rodriguez Pichardo, 35, who goes by Jesus Emmanuel professionally. “They protect us from hurricanes if you have to be evacuated from your home. They are polling places. They are big and they are abandoned. Why not convert them into something with the community? It’s a lack of respect when you leave it closed and abandoned.” - lens.blogs.nytimes.com
"Senator John McCain introduced a bill that would repeal the Jones Act, or the Merchant Marine Act of 1920. The Jones Act requires that all shipments between US ports be made on US controlled, made, and manned ships. McCain believes that the law hinders free trade and increases costs for US consumers.
Originally created as a protectionist policy following World War I, McCain calls the policy “an archaic and burdensome law that hinders free trade, stifles the economy, and ultimately harms consumers.” This is not the first time he has attempted to repeal the Jones Act as well. In 2010, he introduced legislation similar to the current one that was not passed. In 2015 and 2016, he attempted to add amendments to the ends of other bills that would loosen the requirements for some ships, attempting to wave the build requirements for oil and gas tankers. None of his previous attempts at a full or partial repeal have been successful." - pasquines.us
"A program that has attracted young entrepreneurs to Puerto Rico is seeing solid growth and is generating solid revenues and jobs.
Parallel 18, an accelerator program founded in 2015, offers $40,000 in funding, along with mentoring, consulting, and introduction to investors, to small companies who are looking to scale up and have not been in operation for more than three years. In exchange, the entrepreneurs live and work in Puerto Rico, and collaborate with local universities and mentor students. Parallel 18 takes its name from where the island is located on a map.
So far, the companies participating in the program have generated $14 million in sales, more than half of that on the island, and new jobs.
The island continues to grapple with a crushing debt of $70 billion and a decade of economic stagnation, but Parallel 18 executive director Sebastián Vidal says that entrepreneurship can be pivotal to Puerto Rico’s growth." - nbcnews.com
Puerto Rico filed a bill for statehood:
"SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Puerto Rico’s new representative to the U.S. Congress filed a bill Wednesday that would turn the island into the 51st U.S. state by 2025.
The bill is the first step in a renewed quest for statehood that is to include a referendum letting Puerto Rico voters choose between independence and statehood, Resident Commissioner Jenniffer Gonzalez told The Associated Press.
She filed the bill less than a day after she was sworn in as Puerto Rico’s first female congressional representative, saying she aims to secure equal treatment for the more than 3 million U.S. citizens living in the U.S. territory.
“We are treated as second-class American citizens,” said Gonzalez, a Republican who once served as speaker of the island’s House of Representatives.
The bill also aims to relieve a decade-long economic crisis that has sparked an exodus of more than 200,000 Puerto Ricans to the U.S. mainland in recent years. If Congress ultimately accepted Puerto Rico as a state, the island would receive roughly $10 billion in additional federal funds a year, Gonzalez said." - The Washington Post
Ramon Colón felt trapped in Puerto Rico.
He was making $7.55 an hour working in hospital maintenance. His wife had lost her job when her employer went out of business. Colón was forced to switch his teenage children to a public school because he could no longer afford private school tuition on the island.
"I tried to stay in Puerto Rico and contribute with my grain of sand to help the island, but like many others I was forced to abandon ship," said Colón.
So he moved in February - to Camden.
The city may be beset with problems, but that's not how Colón, 39, sees it: "Over there I was surviving, here I am living."
View the letter form Democrat candidate for President Bernard Sanders to Secretary of the Treasury Jacob Lew.
Pierluisi Seeks Federal Assistance for Puerto Rico Due to Drought
Urges Defense Department to explore options to deliver water to Puerto Rico; urges Governor to seek FEMA assistance.
Aug 12, 2015
San Juan, Puerto Rico-Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi wrote a letter: