Not A Success … A Damn Disaster!

On Tuesday, Donald Trump made the following statement:

“The job that FEMA and law enforcement and everybody did, working along with the Governor in Puerto Rico, I think was tremendous. I think that Puerto Rico was an incredible, unsung success. If you ask the governor, he’ll tell you what a great job.”

Not content with that, on Wednesday morning at 5:51 a.m., he tweeted …

“We got A Pluses for our recent hurricane work in Texas and Florida (and did an unappreciated great job in Puerto Rico, even though an inaccessible island with very poor electricity and a totally incompetent Mayor of San Juan). We are ready for the big one that is coming!”

Undoubtedly, some fell for his braggadocio, but for most of us, it was a jaw-dropping moment, knowing as we do that our response in Puerto Rico was anything but ‘great’.  A year later, Puerto Rico still struggles.  Remember Trump’s sole contribution?trump paper towelsPuerto Ricans are still struggling with basic necessities. Fully 83% reported either major damage to their homes, losing power for more than three months, employment setbacks or worsening health problems, among other effects of the storm. The power is spotty, and many are leery of drinking the water. Roads are damaged, dangerous, and difficult to navigate — like “the surface of the moon,” according to one resident — and in some places, the roadways remain impassible.

Eighty percent of Puerto Ricans rate Trump’s response to Maria negatively, an assessment that contradicts the president’s claim two weeks ago that “most of the people in Puerto Rico appreciate what we’ve done.”

Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló, who Trump had suggested the press ask about the great job we had done, responded:governor response

The most recent death toll from Hurricane Maria is 2,975.  Nearly three thousand people died, and Trump calls it an “unsung success”?  No, this was no success, it was a disaster … a damn disaster!

Earlier this month, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report assessing how recovery efforts had fared.  Among their findings …

  • Problems with debris removal and a shortage of proper equipment for the task. “Officials said there were resource constraints,” the report reads, “so they had to prioritize debris removal from state-managed roads, before clearing local roads.”
  • Insufficient bilingual employees to communicate with residents and translate documents.
  • Not enough generators were available to meet demand, and not enough recovery material was positioned on the island in advance of the storm. The day before Maria made landfall, four generators had been delivered to the island. Thirty-five were delivered to Texas ahead of Harvey.
  • About 1.6 million meals and 700,000 liters of water were delivered and eight shelters opened to hold 306 people. By contrast, before Irma made landfall in Florida, 4.8 million meals and 9.9 million liters of water were delivered and 249 shelters were opened to hold nearly 50,000 people. That Puerto Rico is harder to access than Florida is both accurate and noted in the report.
  • FEMA faced a staff shortage of 37 percent as of Sept. 1, 2017. Of “reservists” called up to aid the recovery efforts in all the disasters, 46 percent of those deployed last year were not rated as “qualified” for their job functions. At least 15 percent refused a deployment for medical or other reasons.
  • Many reservists on Puerto Rico “were not physically fit to handle conditions on the island,” according to one official, who suggested that “a fitness test should have been required before they were eligible to deploy.”
  • Volunteers similarly indicated that their skill sets weren’t matched to assigned tasks and that training was insufficient.

And that death toll.  Nearly 3,000 people – human beings, U.S. citizens.  😢  No, Donald Trump, we were not in the least bit successful, despite your throwing paper towels at people who had just lost everything.

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Good People Doing Good Things – The People of Puerto Rico!

Yesterday marked the six-month anniversary of the day Hurricane Maria tore through Puerto Rico, leaving behind devastation and death. Hurricane Maria made landfall at 6:15am on September 20 in Yabucoa, in southeastern Puerto Rico, as a Category 4 storm with winds of 155mph. The island suffered significant structural damage and widespread loss of power and communications. Power and communications are only beginning to be restored.

Though the residents of Puerto Rico are U.S. citizens, our government has provided only minimal assistance and the leader of the U.S. has bent over backward to be critical of the people and local governments of Puerto Rico.  But that is not my story today.  My story today is how the good people of Puerto Rico are pulling together and rebuilding their island and their lives, one day at a time.  Yesterday, I accidentally happened upon an OpEd by Mariangelie Ortiz Ortiz in the New York Times   I begin this post with Mariangelie’s story …

COMERIO, Puerto Rico — I live with my parents and older brother in this rural mountain town in the center of this island. Hurricane Maria made landfall here six months ago this week. The strong winds began to lash our area by 2 a.m. on Sept. 20. Our power and water had already been shut off for a day by then.

My family, along with about 200 other people, sought refuge at a high school in our town. Whenever the doors were opened to let others in, the wind would whip through the hallways. I was scared. A few of us gathered in a circle, joined hands and prayed, hoping it would bring us some sense of peace. Then chaos broke out.

The Plata River, which cuts through Comerio, had swelled by more than 60 feet and was creeping ever closer to the school’s front door. Fearing the worst, those of us sheltered on the first floor quickly scrambled up the stairs to the second floor, carrying the bedridden elderly with us.

In the end we were spared. Once the eye of the storm settled over us, things calmed down. Soon from the second floor we saw whole families walking toward the school. In all, about 100 more people arrived; wet, muddy, hugging one another and crying. A mother whose house had flooded told us how she and her kids narrowly avoided drowning. She had lifted her three children — all under the age of 5 — on to her shoulders and waded through the water until she reached higher ground. A woman fainted when she recounted how floodwaters had swept her house away.

On the second night we were finally able to go home. It was pitch black and raining. Our terrace roof was gone; a tree that had fallen on the back of the house caused some structural damage, and water had come in through the windows. But our home, built of concrete, still stood.

We were among the lucky ones.

Three days after Maria hit, the streets were still largely impassable. We set out on foot to the very river that was our source of terror during the storm, checking in on neighbors along the way. There was no electricity and no running water, so the river was now our sole source of water. We bathed in it, washed our clothes and dishes on its banks and carried back home as much of it as we could manage to boil for drinking and cooking.

It would be two weeks before the town supermarket reopened, and two more months before we could use our credit cards to shop there. We ran out of cash. The local bank remained closed until the end of November. Gas was scarce. Before the hurricane, I was working toward a master’s degree in management and leadership at the University of Turabo. My studies were put on hold. When the university reopened in October, I had to go to neighboring towns that had power to contact my professors and my classmates, or to work on my assignments. Everything became complicated.

For about two weeks we didn’t know if my older sister, Maran — who lives in Fajardo, a city in the eastern region of the island — had survived. She finally heard that the street to Comerio was clear and made her way to us. My dad screamed when he saw her. We all gathered around her, crying and hugging.

Since then, little has improved much. There’s so much left to do. We’re still fighting to get our lights back on. The local government hasn’t come to meet with our neighborhood or give us updates. We’re getting by with a generator my uncle on the mainland sent us. Other family members and friends have brought us much-needed water filters, batteries, food and tarps.

In total, some 1,500 homes in Comerio were destroyed and 2,400 others sustained significant damage. I began to volunteer with the recovery effort. We’re in this together and we’re all pitching in to help one another rebuild.

With $10,000 raised through crowdfunding and $5,000 from the Defend Puerto Rico Hurricane Relief Fund, we rebuilt one house and repaired two others with damaged roofs. With the help of Coco de Oro and La Maraña, the organizations I volunteer with, we have raised money to begin work on the next eight houses. But there are 25 more houses in my neighborhood alone needing work and thousands more in all of Puerto Rico.

We’re working collectively to lift ourselves out of this nightmare, but we can’t do it on our own. I struggle to understand why the United States government continues to withhold the aid we were promised. We’re tired of being treated like second-class citizens. The Trump administration must honor its commitment to Puerto Rico. Our hurricane-ravaged island may no longer be in the headlines, but we’re still suffering, and we need help.

Mariangelie’s is not the only such story, and she is far from the only one volunteering, helping get the island and its people back to normal.

  • Father and son, Billy Joe Perez and Juan Perez Ramos painted a beautiful mural at the entrance of their neighborhood depicting the community the way it was before Maria, and inscribed it “Salimos de Aquí” (We Came from Here). The mural has not only brought beauty, but also inspired others …

  • When Aguadilla artisan and painter Jenny Cruz heard of the efforts to bring art to the neighborhood, she pledged to help provide paint for the murals. Cruz, 46, was also busy trying to find a home for a friend who she learned was sleeping under the bleachers of a basketball court in the nearby town of Rincon.
  • Orlando “San” Gonzalez, a boxing coach with a reputation for taking in the toughest kids in the Cerro Calero neighborhood, decided to form a fighters brigade to help the elderly clean and rebuild their homes. Gonzalez, 48, and his friend, businessman Gabo Sola, 31, and other professionals and volunteers help people in need, especially those who are most frail, through a nonprofit group called “We Are One.” Gonzalez’ 22-year-old son, boxer Orlando “Capu” Gonzalez, recently returned from a fight in Kissimmee, Fla., with supplies of water and food, which were distributed in the community with help from other boxers.
  • When the boxers heard that Aguadilla resident Irene Mendez had lost her husband, Leonardo Enchautegui Flores, in an accident days after the hurricane, they vowed to help clean debris off her yard and home. Mendez said Flores, 75, died after falling from the roof of their house while trying to fix damage by the hurricane.
  • Medina Carrero, 59, called in to radio newscaster Victor Vazquez and told the broadcaster he and his parents were hungry. He said the roof on his parents’ home had blown off during the hurricane. He said he helps take care of his father, Maximino Medina, who is 84, and his mother, Iris Carrero, who is 79. Vazquez, 42, contacted Sola and Cruz and together they secured a week’s supply of food for the family. Vazquez also called a friend who volunteered to fix the roof and someone from the neighborhood anonymously fixed the family’s 1991 Oldsmobile, which needed a new radiator hose. The Medinas never found out who fixed the car, but it was a gesture of solidarity that brought Medina Carrero to tears.

See how one thing leads to another, which leads to another?  This, my friends, is how it should always work.Jorge Sanders, 32, a communications consultant and several of his compadres have banded together to provide relief to as many friends, neighbors and strangers in need as they can.  They call their initiative Jóvenes x Puerto Rico (Young People for Puerto Rico) and they have mobilized restaurants to come together to deliver food to those in need, rented trucks filled with water and ice from distribution centers in San Juan and delivered them to other municipalities.  Sanders says, “There is no doubt that the reason the crisis hasn’t been worse is because Puerto Ricans have been helping out their brothers and sisters and not waiting for aid that has never come.”There are many individuals, businesses and non-profits doing what they can to help their communities get back on their feet again – far too many for me to list here.  The people of Puerto Rico are good, kind people who care about their neighbors, and with or without the help of their government, they will rebuild their homes, their businesses, their towns and their island to be even stronger than before.

My hat is off to the good people of Puerto Rico for your perseverance and your love of neighbors and homeland!

Note to readers:  If anybody would like to donate to the efforts of our fellow-Americans, I strongly recommend you contact our good friend Dr. Horty Rex (@hrexach on Twitter), for she is far more knowledgeable in this area than I.

A Must Read, Washington Post’s 12/14/17 Update On Puerto Rico

We must not forget the people of Puerto Rico and the terrible conditions that remain, even some four months after the devastation of Hurricane Maria. Please take a moment to read this important update by our friend Gronda. Thank you, Gronda, for this sad, but important post.

Gronda Morin

“The negligence of the US government towards helping American citizens living in Puerto Rico in their hour of need after the island had been left in ruins after 2 major hurricane storms in 2017, will be remembered as the republican lawmakers who handed the super rich a gift of trillions of dollars in tax cuts while there are American citizens left to suffer because of lack of funds and adequate support. ”

“Most of the White Evangelicals who have supported this president and his republican sycophants in the White House and the US Congress and who bear witness to this travesty, do not demonstrate the good fruits of Christian compassion and action.”

“This story should give all of us the impetus to fight back for the soul of our US democracy by ousting these folks from elected offices who would allow for this shameful negligence.”

The hurricane’s rains triggered bridge…

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Good People Doing Good Things … Three Amazing Kids

Have you ever noticed that for some reason, people seem kinder around this time of year?  People just seem more willing to open both their wallets and their hearts during the Christmas season, and I don’t see it as a religious thing, for many of the most generous people are not Christians.  There is just a certain magic that comes from the lights, the scents, the sounds, that makes people feel better.  This week’s ‘good people’ post begins with a young man who shows us his “Christmas Spirit”.


Jayden Perez – age 8

His name is Jayden Perez and he is 8 years old, living in Woodland Park, New Jersey.  Not long ago, Jayden told his mom that he wanted to donate all his Christmas gifts this year to the children in Puerto Rico who lost everything to Hurricane Maria in September.  But his mom, Ana Rosado, gave him the idea of taking it a step further and starting a toy drive to collect toys for the children of Puerto Rico, and that is what Jayden, with a little bit of help, did!  His mom helped to get the word out by posting about the toy drive on her Facebook account, and the response has been overwhelming!

  • A man in Pennsylvania donated a trailer-load of toys
  • NBA manager Brandon Eddy sent 11 large boxes full of toys
  • And of course people from the neighborhood did their share, too

Jayden was even featured on ABC News’ Good Morning America.  Jayden and his mom will be flying to Puerto Rico to distribute the toys to several small cities that were hit hard by Maria, and also to an orphanage that needs help.

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There are many good people in this story, but it all started with a little boy who wanted to give away his own Christmas presents to help others in need.  Thumbs up, young Jayden … keep up the good work!


Jameshia Attaway – age 14

Jameshia Attaway of Indianola, Mississippi turned 14 years old this month.  Since her birthday is so close to Christmas, she has a unique way of celebrating … she gives all her gifts away — and then some!  It all started six years ago when Jameshia was eight years old and in third grade.  She noticed that a girl in her school wore shoes with holes in them. “Children made fun of her,” said Jameshia. “I told my mother that I wanted to buy her a pair of new shoes.” She then realized that many other kids were in need of help, too, while every year she was “overwhelmed” with birthday gifts. So she decided that she could “put on a smile on my face and theirs” by giving her gifts away.

In the six years since that first philanthropic deed, Jameshia’s project has expanded and she now begins preparing in November for the huge birthday bash she throws for local children in need. She writes letters to local businesses and civic groups to garner donations of toys and food, and contacts agencies that provide services for people in need. She also asks family and friends to make gift boxes, teachers to read to children who attend the party, and her mother’s friend to dress up as a princess.

JameshiaThe hardest part, Jameshia said, used to be finding a place large enough to hold the party, but the mayor of her town now allows her to host the event in a city-owned building. She estimates that about 40 local families benefit from her project every year. In addition to her annual party, Jameshia participates in a wide variety of community service projects with her school’s PTA, the Indianola Youth Council and a mayor’s diversity council.

Two years ago, Jameshia was awarded the Prudential ‘Spirit of Community Award’,  at a national award ceremony in Washington, D.C.

Remember, if you will, that this young woman is only 14 years old!  She has already accomplished, in the past six years, barely half of her young life, more than many of us accomplish in an entire lifetime! I don’t know about you guys, but I am humbled.


When I began this post this evening, I had a direction in mind … people giving because of the holiday spirit.  But, as sometimes happens, the stories had a mind of their own and took me down a different path than I first saw, and I stumbled across so many young people doing good for their communities, that the piece changed focus without my realizing it.  So often we despair about the youth of today, wonder what the world will look like when this next generation with their droopy drawers and ‘all about me’ attitude is in charge.  But if these young people are any indication, I think we will be just fine.  Read on …


Deoshanic Petaway – age 15

Homicides hit a ten-year high in the small town of Lima, Ohio last December, much due to an increase in gun violence.  Enter Deoshanic Petaway, age 15, who wasn’t about to sit idle while young people were being killed in her community.

deoshanicDeoshanic started working with an organization called CeaseFire Lima, hoping to help find a solution to the violence at its root cause, so that violence and conflict could be resolved before becoming a life or death situation. What Deoshanic and the group discovered was the story that we are hearing across much of the U.S. today … many community members felt that individuals were arrested or hassled by police without cause.

To help create communication between the police and community members, Deoshanic created a community dialogue space for youth and police to discuss their perspectives and build understanding of one another.  Imagine that, folks … a 15-year-old girl advocates for communication as a solution … darn, why didn’t we adults think of that???  Working together with the Chief of Police, City Council members, and her peers, Deoshanic began raising money for body cams for the police officers and for awareness of the safety issues within the community for both police and community members.

To create safe spaces for youth, Deoshanic hosts events, including a Halloween event. For the holiday season, Deoshanic planned a Christmas party in partnership with the Walmart Foundation, United Healthcare, the Lima Police Department, the Lima Public library, a local church, and other youth groups that provide food and toys to children in need. Under the guidance of the West Ohio Foodbank, Deoshanic and Ceasefire Lima’s youth group created Lima’s first youth-led food pantry, the only pantry that has weekend access.

Deoshanic additionally helped establish the Lima Junior City Council so that youth can have a voice in policies that affect their community. By collaborating with other community groups, Deoshanic has demonstrated that change has a greater impact when everyone comes together.


All three of these young people deserve our respect and a round of applause.  They obviously come from families with true values, not the faux values of those whose words do not match their actions.  And all three of these kids are going to make this world a better place, mark my words.

I began with a story about a young man who wanted to help the displaced youth in Puerto Rico, and I would like to end with a reminder, and perhaps even a plea.  In September, Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico with a vengeance, doing far greater damage than any of the other devastating hurricanes this year.  More than 60% of Puerto Ricans remain without electricity or running water.  This will be a bleak Christmas for the residents of Puerto Rico, and especially for the children.  I ask that you remember them, for they have been largely forgotten by their own government.  And if you can find it in your heart, if you can find a few spare dollars in your wallet, please do what you can to help make Christmas just a little bit brighter for these children.

Thank you all, and remember, my friends, the majority of people on this planet truly are “Good People” … they just get overshadowed by the other variety. Hugs and Love from my home to yours.

Puerto Rico – Two Months Later …

I have not written much, to date, about Puerto Rico since Hurricane Maria plowed through the island in late September.  The U.S. response in the immediate aftermath was delayed, pitifully inadequate, and controversial.  So where does Puerto Rico stand today, just over two months after the worst natural disaster on record in the area?

More than half of the island is still without power, and hundreds of thousands of residents are fleeing to the American mainland in an extraordinary exodus.

It has been weeks since President Trump visited to jovially toss rolls of paper towels to needy fellow Americans and brag about how successful the recovery effort was. But true evidence of progress has been hard to come by. Even the simplest symbols of government, like traffic lights, remain useless. Most of the Pentagon’s emergency troops have begun pulling out, except for those working on the island’s shattered power grid.

The storm’s official death count of about 55 may eventually be hundreds higher, according to forensic researchers measuring the cumulative effect on the island’s 3.4 million residents. Tens of thousands of jobs have been washed away. Thousands of small businesses remain closed, and even some hospitals remain on emergency generators. Federal Emergency Management Agency officials say that unusually tough conditions are forcing them to continue to focus on the emergency response phase across the battered island — potable water, roof tarps and other bare necessities.New York Times Editorial Board, 25 November 2017

While Donald Trump did little more than criticize and throw paper towels at Puerto Ricans, there are others stepping up to the plate to help, and those are the ones who should be duly noted.

Take, for example, the Houston Astros: Star shortstop Carlos Correa, who is originally from Santa Isabel, Puerto Rico, sent a planeload of supplies to the devastated island on the first weekend of October. Astros owner Jim Crane, after donating $4 million, sent two planeloads of supplies and brought one plane filled with people – families of Astros players and people with serious medical conditions requiring immediate treatment — back to the states. He also assisted Correa in his efforts, as did grocery store chain H-E-B, and Texas-based sporting goods store Academy Sports.

Carlos Correa and Jim Crane of the Houston Astros

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San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz & Ricky Martin

Singer, actor and author Ricky Martin, born in San Juan Puerto Rico in 1971, has used his foundation to raise funds and provide support to Puerto Rico.  The foundation was initially established in 2002 as an awareness campaign to denounce and expose global human trafficking. In addition to Martin’s own donation of $150,000, he has sent at least 4 planeloads filled with supplies. Martin, along with Gloria Estefan, Luis Fonsi and many other Latino artists, traveled to Puerto Rico last month to help sort through donations and connect with people who have lost their homes and belongings.

Kevin Genao, a teenager living in Nashua, New Hampshire is raising money and donations for the people of Puerto Rico. He created a community donation drive called “New Hampshire United for Puerto Rico.” The group was at the YMCA in Nashua accepting donations where they raised thousands of dollars and collected lots of supplies. “Right now in Puerto Rico, it’s a tough situation,” Genao said. “They don’t even have the normal resources that everyday people have and it’s really difficult to grasp that especially knowing that my family’s been so deeply impacted.”

Many others, far too numerous to name here, are helping by giving either of their time, money, or other resources.

  • A team from Massachusetts General Hospital has gone to assist with medical care.
  • Feeding Children Everywhere partnered with five Loews hotels to assemble 375,000 meals for people in Puerto Rico.
  • While still repairing damage to Volusia County schools and homes in the wake of Hurricane Irma, families and staff of the school district in Florida turned their focus to help Puerto Rico, raising $28,276 to support the island in its own hurricane recovery efforts.

And the list goes on.  Meanwhile, the picture is still glum in Puerto Rico. Governor Ricardo Rosselló asked Congress this month for $94.4 billion in aid to help the island recover, while thus far Congress has approved only $5 billion.  There are yet many needs to be met to restore the island to some semblance of a livable community for the 3.4 million U.S. citizens that call Puerto Rico home, yet to say that the man in the White House has let these people down would be an understatement extraordinaire. Trump has not donated a single dime of his own money … trust me, we would have heard about it ad nauseam if he had.  He criticized San Juan mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, saying she wanted everything done for her, and tweeted criticism heaped on criticism …

trump-towels“Puerto Rico survived the Hurricanes, now a financial crisis looms largely of their own making. A total lack of accountability. 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!”

I am encouraged that so many are responding to the need of Puerto Rico and its people, disappointed in our own government, and saddened for the people who are still without adequate food, water, medicine, and may still be without electricity and telephone service.  The infrastructure will be rebuilt, just as will the homes and businesses, but it will be neither quick nor easy, and meanwhile how many people will suffer.  My heart goes out to the good people of Puerto Rico … let us make sure that we do not forget them.

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Any more questions?

Last week was a busy one for Donald Trump. It was as if he was on a mission to cause as much damage both domestically and to our reputation abroad as he possibly could in as short a time frame as possible. Friend and fellow-blogger Keith has written a nice summary of some of the areas in which Trump has focused his destructive talents, and since I could not have said it better, I am sharing his words with you. Please take a minute to read this excellent post … and be sure to check out the comments, for there are some good thoughts there as well. Thank you, Keith!

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For over two years, I have been amazed at how a man, who is so consumed with himself and has given so little regard to the plight of others, can become the President of the United States. He convinced far too many people, whose voice has not been heard, that he was on their side. Unfortunately, they did not pay attention to his history which reveals he has only one cause – himself.

Yesterday, this man decided to kick poor people one more time, stripping subsidies under the ACA for deductibles, co-pays and coinsurance for those who qualify because of low wages. This man owns the imperfect, but working ACA. He has sabotaged it from the get go picking up the baton the GOP Congress gave him, so if the ACA fails as a result, it is on his and GOP leadership’s shoulders.

A few weeks ago, he rolled out…

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All Before Noon!!!

Little Donnie Dark apparently got up on the very wrong side of the bed this morning, for already as of this writing (it is now noon where I live) he has made three horrendous decisions.  Would somebody please tie this ‘man’s hands?

U.S. Withdraws From UNESCO, The U.N.’s Cultural Organization, Citing Anti-Israel Bias

The United States plans to withdraw from UNESCO, citing financial reasons, as well as what it said was an anti-Israel bias at the U.N.’s educational, cultural and science organization. –  October 12 at 10:40 AM

UNESCO was established after World War II to help promote global cooperation around the flow of ideas, culture and information. UNESCO’s mission includes programs to improve access to education, preserve cultural heritage, improve gender equality and promote scientific advances and freedom of expression.

This would not be the first time the U.S. withdrew from UNESCO.  We did so in 1984, under President Reagan when he felt there was pro-Soviet sentiment in the organization. Though most people will shrug their shoulders about this move, it is yet another sign that Trump places no value on international cooperation, human rights and global cohesion.  It is another step toward U.S. isolationism.


Trump Threatens To Abandon Puerto Rico Recovery Effort

Trump served notice Thursday that he may pull back federal relief workers from Puerto Rico, effectively threatening to abandon the U.S. territory amid a staggering humanitarian crisis in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

Trump on Thursday sought to shame the territory for its own plight. He tweeted, “Electric and all infrastructure was disaster before hurricanes.” And he quoted Sharyl Attkisson, a television journalist, as saying, “Puerto Rico survived the Hurricanes, now a financial crisis looms largely of their own making.”

He also wrote: “We cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders, who have been amazing (under the most difficult circumstances) in P.R. forever!” –  October 12 at 11:00 AM

Just last week, Pence visited Puerto Rico and promised that the U.S. would be with them “every step of the way”.  The people who live on the island of Puerto Rico are U.S. citizens.  How on earth can anybody with a conscience simply abandon them?  The House of Representatives is scheduled to vote later today on a $36.5 billion disaster aid package that includes provisions to avert a potential cash crisis in Puerto Rico prompted by Hurricane Maria. If it passes, will Trump even sign it? Would Trump similarly abandon the people of Texas and Florida who are also struggling to recover from hurricanes Harvey and Irma?


Foiled in Congress, Trump Signs Order to Undermine Obamacare

President Trump signed an executive order on Thursday that clears the way for potentially sweeping changes in health insurance, including sales of cheaper policies with fewer benefits and fewer protections for consumers than those mandated under the Affordable Care Act.

“With these actions,” Mr. Trump said Thursday, “we are moving toward lower costs and more options in the health care market, and taking crucial steps toward saving the American people from the nightmare of Obamacare.”

“This is going to be something that millions and millions of people will be signing up for,” the president predicted, “and they’re going to be very happy. This will be great health care.”

But most of the changes will not come until federal agencies adopt regulations, after an opportunity for public comments — a process that could take months. – 

Apparently Trump thinks that if Congress won’t legislate his agenda, he can simply bypass them and write his own law.  Trump has decided that he will repeal ACA all by himself.  Fortunately, as stated in the last paragraph of the above excerpt, it is not that simple.

executive orderLook at the above picture … every single one of those people applauding Trump’s signing of the executive order to undermine the health of the citizens of our nation … every single one of them has excellent health insurance, a portion of which We The People pay for.  Think on that one for a minute.


These three decisions before noon today make me wonder what else he plans to destroy by the end of the day.  With the exception of his threats to Puerto Rico, the actions have been in the works for some time, and I realize that he did not just hop out of bed this morning and write executive orders.  But it sure seems like he is on a mission to first isolate our nation, and then destroy it from within.  If he cannot achieve ‘legislative wins’, then he will take matters into his own hands.  Excuse me, but this is not how a democracy works!

Good People Doing Good Things — Team Rubicon

His name is Jake Wood and his story started with a simple Facebook post: “I’m going to Haiti. Who’s in?” It was January 2010, and the island of Haiti had just suffered a devastating earthquake with a still-disputed death toll of between 100,000 and 315,000.

Jake had only been out of the U.S. Marine Corps for a few months, and was planning to enroll in business school when he began seeing the pictures of the devastation in Haiti and thinking how much it reminded him of similar scenes from Iraq and Afghanistan, where he had served two tours of duty.  He realized that the skills he had acquired in the service, including the ability to adapt to difficult conditions, work with limited resources and maintain security in a dangerous environment, were sorely needed. And that was when he put out the Facebook message.  Wood persuaded his college roommate, a firefighter, to join him. Within minutes of seeing Wood’s Facebook post, another friend and former Marine, William McNulty, signed on. Interest quickly snowballed, and three days later, he and seven others were in the Dominican Republic, heading into neighboring Haiti with medicine and equipment.

Over the next three weeks, more than 60 volunteers — mainly from medical or military backgrounds — followed Wood’s lead and made their way to the stricken country to join his group. They set up triage centers in camps, treating whoever they could, and helped ferry people to hospitals. Wood estimates they helped thousands of Haitians.

They called their group Team Rubicon, in reference to the phrase “crossing the Rubicon,” which means passing a point of no return. Little did they know how prophetic that name would prove to be.  All along, Wood thought of his sojourn to Haiti as a one-time event, still planning at that time to return home and start business school. But, as so often happens, life had other plans for Team Rubicon.

Rubicon-1

In the beginning …

Wood and McNulty did some thinking and talking …

“We realized we were more effective than many organizations that were down there with us. We also realized that most organizations weren’t engaging vets on their own. So we said, ‘Let’s try to improve this.'”

And that is just what they did! Team Rubicon became a nonprofit, and in the first two years the group built an army of more than 1,400 volunteers — 80% of them military veterans — who respond to disasters and help those in need. They ran 14 missions in those first two years, running triage clinics after the Chile earthquake and the flooding in Pakistan. They traveled to Sudan and Myanmar to help people caught in regional conflicts. And in 2011, they removed debris and assisted in search-and-rescue missions following tornadoes in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and Joplin, Missouri.

hunt-2In 2011, however, a personal tragedy caused the group to subtly change its focus.  One of the members of Team Rubicon and Wood’s best friend, Clay Hunt, committed suicide.  Hunt had suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and survivor’s guilt. It was a shock to Wood, as Hunt seemed to be adjusting well. He was literally a poster boy for returning veterans, appearing in a public-service announcement for a veteran’s advocacy group. And Wood felt guilty …

“It was tremendously difficult to feel like I had let him down, knowing that we had survived two wars together but that when things were easy and it had come to peace, that I wasn’t there enough for him. That has been a very tough battle for me, dealing with that.”

hunt-1

Clay Hunt

Hunt’s death made the group realize that while the job they were doing was important, so was the way in which doing the job was helping the veterans, giving them focus, making them feel useful.  So the group changed the way it viewed itself, refocusing its own mission: Instead of being a disaster relief organization that uses veterans, Team Rubicon became a veterans’ support organization that uses disasters as opportunities for continued service.

“We’re giving them a reason to come together … and that community lasts long after the mission,” Wood said. “Right now, Team Rubicon is focused on how we can … get them involved in as many ways as possible.”

There are many, many success stories within the group, but here is one of the first …

Nicole Green served in the Air Force for four years, working as an intelligence officer in Iraq from 2003 to 2004. For her, finding Team Rubicon has been life-changing.

“When I got out of the military, it was very stressful,” she said. “You feel alone. You meet people who don’t understand your background.”

Green volunteered for the group’s first domestic mission, in Tuscaloosa. She enjoyed it so much that she helped out in Joplin less than a month later.

“I felt that I was doing something meaningful with my life again … using a lot of the same skills, but in a way that [was] constructive instead of destructive,” Green said. “And I was with other people who understood me … focused on a common goal. That was really a great feeling.”

Since its inception, Team Rubicon has grown by leaps and bounds and has participated in over 175 missions.  The team now has about 33,000 members, and in 2016 Wood lamented that there just weren’t enough natural disasters to keep them all busy.  He may feel a bit differently this year!

Remember Hurricane Harvey that hit the Houston area in August?  Team Rubicon was there with floodwater rescue teams conducting door-to-door searches in and around Houston while reconnaissance teams conducted preliminary damage assessments. One team conducted an evacuation and cleared two full neighborhoods in neighboring Beaumont.  A second rescue team conducted five evacuations, including two elderly residents and their daughter, and yet another conducted 21 rescues and evacuated 27 canines at an animal shelter.

rubicon-HarveyAnd Hurricane Irma?  Team Rubicon was there, too, with operations in Clay, Brevard, and Collier Counties, Florida. So far they have been conducting damage assessments, debris removal, muck‐outs, sawyer operations, and spontaneous volunteer management services to affected communities. This response is only the start of what will be long-term operations.

Team Rubicon expects to remain in both Texas and Florida for some time, helping residents recover from Harvey and Irma.  And then came Maria …

It took them a few days to collect the needed equipment and supplies and get there, but Team Rubicon reached San Juan, Puerto Rico on September 25th, fully three days before the U.S. even lifted the Jones Act and committed to sending aid.  Team Rubicon  has been assessing hospitals for structural damage, assessing community needs, removing debris, and helping out wherever help was needed.

My time and space are limited, but if you are interested in learning more about Jake Wood and Team Rubicon, there is an excellent article/interview by author/editor Kyle Dickman.  It is a bit lengthy, but a fascinating read.

In 2013, Mr. Wood gave a Ted Talk …

According to Team Rubicon’s website, their mission statement is …

“Team Rubicon unites the skills and experiences of military veterans with first responders to rapidly deploy emergency response teams.”

Take a look at the website … I think you will be impressed. They are a class A organization, and their Board of Advisors include such notable retired Generals as Stanley McChrystal and David Petraeus.

William McNulty and Jake Wood

I have the utmost admiration and respect for Mr. Wood and co-founder William McNulty for the great things they are doing.  What started as a one-shot adventure has turned into a lifetime passion. We will never know just how many people suffering from natural disasters have been helped by the volunteers of Team Rubicon, nor the number of veterans whose lives were improved, perhaps even saved, by knowing that they still have value, that they are doing good things to help others.

Yet Again — Tears of Shame

Every time I think Trump must have done or said the worst thing he could possibly do or say, he proves me wrong.  I had hoped that he would not choose to visit Puerto Rico, was glad when he said he was cancelling his trip after the Las Vegas tragedy.  But then he changed his mind yet again and … he went to Puerto Rico and, just as we all knew he would, made an ass of himself.

For Trump, it seemed as if it were a game of one-upmanship …

“Every death is a horror, but if you look at a real catastrophe like Katrina, and you at the tremendous — hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people that died, and you look at what happened here, with really a storm that was just totally overpowering, nobody’s ever seen anything like this. What is your death count as of this moment? 17? 16 people certified, 16 people versus in the thousands.”

And then this …

“I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico, but you’ve thrown our budget a little out of whack.”

And then, Trump being Trump, he just had to use this as an opportunity to toot his own horn …

“I think it’s now acknowledged what a great job we’ve done, and people are looking at that. And in Texas and in Florida, we get an A-plus. And I’ll tell you what, I think we’ve done just as good in Puerto Rico, and it’s actually a much tougher situation. But now the roads are cleared, communications is starting to come back. We need their truck drivers to start driving trucks.”

He has even talked about how Puerto Rico might be made to repay the cost of its recovery. This, after his eight-day delay in sending aid to Puerto Rico, the woefully inadequate amount of aid sent, and his days of criticizing San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, calling her a poor leader in a series of … what else … tweets …

“The Mayor of San Juan, who was very complimentary only a few days ago, has now been told by the Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump.”

“Such poor leadership ability by the Mayor of San Juan, and others in Puerto Rico, who are not able to get their workers to help. They….”

“…want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort. 10,000 Federal workers now on Island doing a fantastic job.”

I ask you … who is the ‘poor leader’ here?

Once again, Donald Trump has shamed our nation.  His words and actions are not ones that I share, nor are they ones that represent the majority of people in this nation.  Apparently Trump believes that bullying, being nasty and browbeating people is the way that leaders act.  It is NOT.  The sad reality is that, though his actions are not representative of the majority of us, he does, in the grand scheme of things, represent us.  People in nations all over the globe look at what this ‘man’ says and this is the image they have of us, of We The People, of you and me.

Once upon a time, as recently as a year ago, the United States was respected by many nations around the globe.  We are no longer.  One person, in just a short eight months, has destroyed that image.  His overall mishandling of the disaster in Puerto Rico by itself would convince most responsible adults that he is highly unqualified for the position he holds.  Can any single person tell me that they are proud of the manner in which he has comported himself during the two weeks since Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico.  Once again, we hang our collective heads in shame.

Number Of US Military Soldiers Being Sent To Puerto Rico Is Woefully Inadequate

Finally, after 8 long days, the Trump administration has waived the Jones Act and is sending troops and aid to Puerto Rico, where people are still living without the essentials: food, water, shelter, medicine. But the aid we are sending is woefully inadequate … a case of too little, too late. Trump will no doubt be patting himself on the back, but he should receive no kudos, for he wasted more than a week waging a war with the NFL players and mocking John McCain, rather than helping the people of Puerto Rico. Blogger-friend Gronda’s post explains what the needs are, what we are doing, and what we SHOULD be doing. Please take a few minutes to read this very informative post. Thank you, Gronda, for keeping us informed and for allowing me to share!

Gronda Morin

CARTER

On September 27, 2017, NPR’s Robert Siegel posted the below report of an interview which included himself, another host Ailsa Chang and the guests Phillip Carter, director of the Military, Veterans and Society Program at the Center for a New American Security and Edwin Rivera who lives in Puerto Rico, about aid the U.S. military could provide to Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria.

Mr. Carter is stating that at least 50,000 military service members are required to adequately address the crisis in Puerto Rico after it was razed by Hurricane Maria around September 20, 2017. But according to a Stars & Stripes report, only 7,500 military personnel will be heading to Puerto Rico where the infrastructure has been decimated and where a humanitarian crisis exists.

With the recent rhetoric from the republican President Donald Trump’s administrating announcing the deployment of military troops to Puerto Rico and its…

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