Puerto Rico response under-appreciated?

Staff & Wire Reports

President Donald Trump talks about Hurricane Florence following a briefing in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

President Donald Trump talks about Hurricane Florence following a briefing in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

President Donald Trump talks about Hurricane Florence following a briefing in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

President Donald Trump, left, listens as FEMA Administrator Brock Long, center, talks about Hurricane Florence in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen listens at right. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Trump says response to Puerto Rico storm ‘underappreciated’


Associated Press

Wednesday, September 12

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump said Wednesday the government is ready for massive Hurricane Florence and insisted that his administration’s response to the devastation in Puerto Rico last year was an “underappreciated great job.”

In a series of morning tweets as Florence bore down on the Southeast U.S. coast, Trump bristled over criticism of the response to Hurricane Maria, in which 3,000 people died in Puerto Rico.

“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!” Trump tweeted.

His next dispatch warned people about Florence, predicted to dump massive amounts of rain on the already-soggy Southeast later this week.

“Hurricane Florence is looking even bigger than anticipated. It will be arriving soon. FEMA, First Responders and Law Enforcement are supplied and ready. Be safe!”

The administration’s efforts in Puerto Rico received widespread criticism, and he battled with Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz. But after visiting the island last September, Trump said that Puerto Ricans were fortunate that the storm did not yield a catastrophe akin to the havoc wreaked by Hurricane Katrina along the Gulf Coast.

All told, about 1,800 people died in that 2005 storm. Puerto Rico’s governor last month raised the U.S. territory’s official death toll from Hurricane Maria from 64 to 2,975. The storm is also estimated to have caused $100 billion in damage.

A day earlier, the president praised the response to the series of storms. “I think Puerto Rico was an incredible, unsung success.”

The governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rossello, seized on Trump’s use of the word “successful” and said in a statement issued later Tuesday: “No relationship between a colony and the federal government can ever be called ‘successful’ because Puerto Ricans lack certain inalienable rights enjoyed by our fellow Americans in the states.”

Rossello called Hurricane Maria “the worst natural disaster in our modern history” and said work still remained before they could move on to other stages of recovery. He also said he was still waiting for Trump to respond to a petition to help Puerto Rico complete work on emergency housing restoration programs and debris removal.

Trump, having long struggled to express empathy at times of national crises, sparked outrage when during his visit to the island he feuded with the mayor of San Juan and passed out paper towels to victims like he was shooting baskets.

While defending the handling of the previous storm, he urged caution in regards to the new one bearing down on North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.

“The safety of American people is my absolute highest priority,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office. “We are sparing no expense. We are totally prepared. We are ready. We are ready as anybody has ever been.”

The president, flanked by maps of the storm and the heads of the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said Florence was unlikely to change course before it is expected to make landfall with 130 mph winds and potentially ruinous rains in the coming days.

“They haven’t seen anything like what’s coming at us in 25, 30 years, maybe ever,” Trump said of the states in the storm’s path. “It’s tremendously big and tremendously wet. Tremendous amount of water.”

Florence was expected to blow ashore late Thursday or early Friday, then slow down and wring itself out for days, unloading 1 to 2½ feet (0.3 to 0.8 meters) of rain that could cause flooding well inland and wreak environmental havoc by washing over industrial waste sites and hog farms. North and South Carolina and Virginia ordered mass evacuations along the coast.

Associated Press writer Ken Thomas contributed to this report.

Follow Kellman and Lemire on Twitter at http://twitter.com/APLaurie Kellman and http://twitter.com/JonLemire

For the latest on Hurricane Florence, visit apnews.com/tag/Hurricanes

Opinion: Speak Softly and Don’t Mention Impeachment

By Elie Jacobs


With three congressional investigations into connections between Russia and the Trump orbit as well as Russian election interference, a special counsel investigation that has produced more than 100 criminal charges against 32 people (including six people pleading guilty) and three companies, and a lawsuit focused on Trump’s violation of the Constitution’s emoluments clause, there stands good reason to think that Donald Trump’s time in the White House is soon to end.

The reality is that it is not. The media feed off conflict, so it is in their best interest to present their reporting with an undertone of “it’s almost over” to keep the left interested, while also reiterating Trump’s claim of a witch hunt in order to appeal to his rock-solid base. Talk of impeachment could easily fall into this pattern — but not if Democrats refuse to engage. Right now, Republicans are talking about impeachment far more than Democrats, and Democrats should do everything they can to keep it that way.

To quote a well-known Democratic pollster: “Democrats have a knack for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.” With polling and the overall political climate suggesting we could be in for a significant “Blue Wave” in this fall’s midterm elections, smart people should be asking, “How can Dems blow it?”

The answer: running on impeachment or anything that sounds like it. While it may be true that Democrats are putting things in motion to start numerous congressional investigations into all aspects of the Trump regime, that doesn’t mean impeachment should be the declared focus; rather, this is just about accountability.

Herewith, a few simple talking points Democrats should have tattooed to the inside of their eyelids:

The congressional investigations into Russia and the Trump orbit are the very least that the GOP Congress should have been doing over the last 18 months. For a party that was champing-at-the-bit to investigate the Obama administration over anything, the Trump GOP congressional majority has been surprisingly delinquent in exercising its constitutional power to hold the executive to account. When Democrats reclaim the majority, we aim to do exactly what our sworn duty is: hold the executive accountable. Voters should expect nothing less.

Tom Steyer and his impeach Trump campaign should be ignored as much as the guy still begging you to vote for Lyndon LaRouche. Impeachment, while popular among Democrats, remains unpopular nationally.

Democrats would also be better off focusing on concrete ways in which they will improve the lives of American people; hence, talking point number two:

I’m focused on making the economy work for everyone, not just Trump and his cronies. I want people to afford health care without having an appendectomy lead to bankruptcy. While the media, the president, and Republicans in Congress can’t go three sentences without crying out against Democrats’ call for impeachment, I’m focused on the well-being of everyone in the country, not just the wealthy few.

Currently, there is little incentive for Republican voters to turn out in droves this November; after all, a party built on fiscal responsibility, free trade and morality elected a man fundamentally opposed to all three. Party identification overall is down nearly 10 percent since Trump was elected. Those who would follow Trump to the ends of the Earth to “own the libs” — in other words, the ones who will show up in November — make up fewer than 20 percent of the party.

Essentially, there is a chance for the Blue Wave this fall, but to crest, it means Republicans need to do the opposite of what they usually do midterms: stay home. Giving them a reason to vote is the worst thing a Democrat could do — and pushing impeachment will do just that.

And finally, the last talking point:

Republicans have had total control of the government for nearly 1,000 days — and what have they done to improve your life? Their corporate sponsors and corrupt cronies have made out like bandits while the rest of us are still struggling to make it. Put Democrats in charge, and give us the chance to make your lives and the lives of your children better.

A betting man could possibly do well thinking Trump will be impeached, just so long as they don’t understand how to count to 34. But while we continue to have no idea what special counsel Mueller’s team has or will find, any Democrat running for office is much better off staying far away from the “I-word.”


Elie Jacobs is a political partner with the Truman National Security Project and a co-host of the podcast “Taking Ship.” He wrote this for InsideSources.com.

Opinion: Medicare for All/Single-Payer FAQs

By Robert Graboyes


Normally, my writing focuses on technological and structural innovation in health care — factors that can bring better health to more people at lower cost. But with the 2018 and 2020 elections approaching, single-payer health insurance is back on America’s front burner — especially the “Medicare for All” (M4A) bill proposed by Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

M4A would make the federal government the sole health care payer in America. Private insurance would vanish. Enrollees in other programs (including Medicaid and present-day Medicare) would be folded into a brand-new insurance plan. M4A would eliminate virtually all deductibles and co-pays and add dental, hearing and vision care to the mix.

Here are some questions I’m often asked. My answers are accompanied by titles of related articles I’ve written. For more details, Google those titles and read the articles.

Question: Isn’t health care “different” enough from other industries to warrant a single-payer system?

Answer: An attorney/friend, arguing for single-payer, summarized that logic: Health care can be life-and-death. Decisions are stressful. Options are beyond laypeople’s comprehension. Fairness demands rich and poor alike have equivalent access to assistance. Therefore, governments should set prices, define “fair” distribution, and relieve patients of complex decision-making. In “If Single-Payer Makes Sense for Doctors, It Makes Sense for Lawyers,” I argued that the same logic could apply to legal services. Yet to my knowledge, no one demands a single-payer legal system.

Q: America spends more on care than any other country. Isn’t that because we’re the only country lacking a single-payer system?

A: We do spend more, but largely for reasons having little to do with health insurance. My “Medicare for All—A Non-Solution to a Non-Problem” and “Maybe We’re Not in a Health Care Crisis?” attribute our high spending to two factors. First, Americans have a low saving rate and consume heavily. Second, Americans have far more accumulated wealth than Europeans or Canadians, and we buy things with that wealth. Thus, we spend more on practically everything — not just health care. This may be a problem, but not one that health insurance reform will fix.

Q: Don’t single-payer countries provide better care than America?

A: As I note in “Single-Payer — Dream, Nightmare or Status Quo?,” that canard largely derives from the discredited 2000 country rankings from the World Health Organization. Its comparisons relied on shoddy data, apples-to-oranges comparisons, and ideologically stilted metrics. American health care has loads of problems, but the WHO rankings are nonsense.

Q: Didn’t your colleague Charles Blahous recently say (in “The Costs of a National Single-payer Healthcare System)” that M4A would lower health care spending by $2.1 trillion over 10 years?

A: Absolutely not. In “No, Medicare for All Won’t Lower Health-Care Costs,” I explain that the $2.1 trillion figure is merely Blahous’ estimate of how spending would drop if — and only if — all of Bernie Sanders’ predictions about M4A came true. Then, Blahous repeatedly explains why that’s highly unlikely. In “Biking with Bernie: The Illusory Savings of ‘Medicare for All’,” I add that those interpreting Blahous’ number as a “prediction” lack not only an understanding of economics but also of English grammar.

Q: Blahous said M4A would increase federal spending by at least $32.6 trillion over 10 years. Isn’t that a high estimate?

A: In “Medicare for All: Explaining the Math,” I note that this figure is consistent with other estimates — including an exhaustive 2016 paper by the left-of-center Urban Institute and the budget analysts who persuaded Vermont and California to abandon their plans for state-level single-payer. I provide simple math to show why it’s virtually impossible to arrive at a much lower figure and why M4A would demand unprecedented tax increases.

Q: But would those tax increases really matter, given that individuals and businesses would no longer pay insurance premiums or out-of-pocket medical expenses?

A: The tax increases would matter enormously. In “Medicare for All: Taxes and Tradeoffs,” I expand on an argument made by budget expert Marc Goldwein. As he noted, the structure of such taxes would almost certainly differ radically from the structure of today’s insurance premiums and out-of-pocket costs. Assuming so, the tax structure would depress economic output and growth — more than enough to drown any savings on health care costs.


Robert Graboyes is a senior research fellow with the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, where he focuses on technological innovation in health care. He is the author of “Fortress and Frontier in American Health Care” and has taught health economics at five universities. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.

Kids Need Age-Appropriate Sex Ed Across Orientations

Just like straight children need to understand how to safely navigate coming of age and sexuality, so do LGBTQ children.

By Jill Richardson |September 12, 2018

In sixth grade, I liked a girl in my gym class. We weren’t friends, but sometimes I worked up the courage to shyly say hello to her. I thought she was pretty, but that wasn’t exactly it. It was something else.

I had no words for my feelings so I ignored them, and then forgot about them.

If she’d been a boy, I would’ve known immediately: I had a crush. Girls liked boys, as far as I knew. The definition of a crush was that it was on a boy. That’s what my parents told me, what books told me, and what I observed my peers doing at school.

I also knew it from G-rated children’s movies. One study found that children’s movies portray love between men and women as magical, natural, and transformative.

Sixth-grade me felt nothing at all for boys. And sixth-grade me was trying very, very hard to like them because she wanted to fit in.

I’m a late bloomer, I told myself. Everyone else in my grade has hormones surging through their bodies making them interested in the opposite sex, whereas I don’t.

I felt left behind in childhood while my peers had graduated to become preteens.

As a sixth grader, I knew that same-sex attraction existed, but it seemed to me kind of like cancer: You know it happens to some people but you never think it could happen to you.

At some point, I saw an article about homosexuality in a teen magazine, and I realized it could happen to me. I adopted a wait and see approach.

I didn’t know about bisexuality, so I had no idea I could like both. I didn’t know that sexual orientation is a spectrum, so even if I was attracted to men a little (and I am), I might still like women more. The moment I first felt anything for a boy, I claimed my identity as a straight woman and didn’t look back for over two decades.

I was 36 years old before I figured out that my feelings for the girl in my gym class were a crush.

I’m not alone here. I’ve met other gay and bisexual women who told themselves that the feelings they had for girls were jealousy — they wanted to look like those girls, not be with them — or came up with other justifications to explain the gay away. Some married men and had children before realizing they were attracted to women.

If you’re straight, giving children age appropriate information about same-sex relationships, or the gender spectrum, may sound unnecessary. But when we educate kids, we must remember that some of them will grow up to be gay, bisexual, or transgender.

Just like straight children need to understand how their bodies are changing, or what their feelings mean, and how to safely navigate coming of age and sexuality, so do LGBTQ children.

And they deserve to see their own possibilities as magical, natural, and transformative, too.

OtherWords columnist Jill Richardson is pursuing a PhD in sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She lives in San Diego. Distributed by OtherWords.org.

Prison Labor Is Slave Labor, and We Should Get Rid of It

Incarcerated workers — who often make less than $1 an hour producing profits for big companies — are on strike across the country.

By Fizz Perkal |September 5, 2018

As wildfires rage across California, some of the people risking their lives to fight them are paid only a few dollars a day. They’re part of a 2.3 million-strong underclass of American employees making sweatshop wages: incarcerated workers.

Slave wages are just one of the many reasons why incarcerated people around the U.S. on strike. The strike was organized in response to deadly violence at Lee Correctional Institution in South Carolina earlier this year, a result of the prison’s abysmal living conditions.

Organizers have a list of 10 demands, which include the need for prompt improvement of prison conditions and policies.

They also call for the “immediate end to prison slavery,” which is legal thanks to a constitutional loophole. The 13th Amendment famously outlaws slavery — except, less famously, “as a punishment for a crime.”

That’s how the Prison Industry Enhancement Certification Program was created in 1970. In theory, the program was meant to establish work opportunities for incarcerated people so that they could both earn money and develop skills, increasing their chances of getting a good job upon release.

However, this is hardly the case. These work programs teach few relevant skills and pay less than $1 an hour on average, if they pay at all.

Earned income is essential for folks on the inside because it allows them to buy necessities not provided by the prison, like soap, calling cards, and tampons. Fair wages during incarceration are doubly important due to the stark barriers to employment upon release.

There’s an economic argument in addition to the moral one. In 2000, five economists conducted a study on the impact of prison labor and found that it benefits the overall economy — if incarcerated workers are paid more, given the opportunity to unionize, and have access to workers’ compensation.

While workers lose out, companies are turning a profit off the work of incarcerated people.

For-profit corporations like Geo Group and Core Civic — formerly the Corrections Corporation of America — benefit from incarceration in general and prison slavery specifically. Over the years, many corporations — including Victoria’s Secret, Starbucks, Microsoft, Dell, Boeing, and Whole Foods — have also profited by paying incarcerated people substandard wages to do everything from sewing garments to producing plane parts.

Going on strike is the best way for incarcerated folks to contest the inequality they face and leverage what little political power they have.

“Frankly, it’s the only way to challenge their slave status,” Paul Wright, editor of Prison News, told me. Since there’s no legal or judicial way to challenge their institutionalized slavery through the courts, the only option available for incarcerated workers is to withhold their labor.

National strikes also draw attention to an issue where media is generally silent.

“Even in cases like the massacre that occurred in Lee County earlier this year, prisoners were not given space to respond or share their experiences with the press,” Amani Sawari, an outside organizer for Jailhouse Lawyers Speak, explained to me. “It wasn’t until the call for the strike that prisoners were beginning to receive media attention directly.”

While this strike is powerful for all incarcerated folks, it’s an especially important for those who identify as LGBTQ. They experience higher rates of incarceration than the general population and are more likely to experience violence there — or be put into solitary confinement (often as the only way to “protect” them).

Organizers are asking people to support the strike by educating themselves on the conditions in prisons and the demands put forth by incarcerated people. People can spread the word by posting stickers and flyers, using the hashtag #PrisonStrike on social media, or organizing call-in campaigns and solidarity demonstrations.

Fizz Perkal is a Next Leader at the Institute for Policy Studies. An earlier version of this piece appeared at Inequality.org. Distributed by OtherWords.org.

President Donald Trump talks about Hurricane Florence following a briefing in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2018/09/web1_121342771-e9c6673da0284c0789d565c0e339bff0.jpgPresident Donald Trump talks about Hurricane Florence following a briefing in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

President Donald Trump talks about Hurricane Florence following a briefing in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2018/09/web1_121342771-ca7d7b15e2a941c4a01c5fcdb747b6bc.jpgPresident Donald Trump talks about Hurricane Florence following a briefing in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

President Donald Trump, left, listens as FEMA Administrator Brock Long, center, talks about Hurricane Florence in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen listens at right. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2018/09/web1_121342771-85627e9517f34ebb87d0c1bb2d685b31.jpgPresident Donald Trump, left, listens as FEMA Administrator Brock Long, center, talks about Hurricane Florence in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen listens at right. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Staff & Wire Reports