Category Archives: Government

Puerto Rico Has Full Power Restored

Compliments of NBC

Power has been restored to all of Puerto Rico for the first time since Hurricane Maria struck nearly 11 months ago, officials said Tuesday.

The island’s electric utility announced that crews working in the southern city of Ponce reconnected the last neighborhood that had been offline since the Sept. 20 storm knocked out the U.S. territory’s power grid.

Ponce resident Charlie Colon Nazario told El Nuevo Dia that he was looking forward to no longer having to use a generator to light his house.

“No more lamps, no more candles, no more extension cords,” he said as about two dozen power workers completed the connection to his home.

The Ponce neighborhood was the last to be reconnected to the grid because landslides and rough terrain made it difficult for crews from the electrical authority or contractors to reach the area to make repairs, said Carlos Alvarado, chief of technical operations for the power authority.

Utility crews used a helicopter to replace wooden power poles knocked down in the storm with steel ones that officials hope will do a better job staying up during future storms.

“They will have a more robust system,” Alvardo said.

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Accurate Results For Death Toll Released From Puerto Rico Hurricane Maria

By : Frances Roble

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.”

In another section, it said: “According to initial reports, 64 lives were lost. That

estimate was later revised to 1,427.”

The government was widely criticized for undercounting the number of people who died on the island as the power outage stretched for months, causing deaths from diabetes and sepsis to soar. Many people died from lack of access to hospitals, or because there was no power to run the machines they used to breathe.

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Saudi Arabia Revokes International Scholarships

By: Jason Lemon of Newsweek

Saudi Arabia has canceled the scholarships of 16,000 of its students studying in Canada, also ordering them to leave the country and find academic programs elsewhere.

The move comes amid a growing diplomatic row between the kingdom and the North American country, following comments by Canada’s foreign ministry that criticized Saudi Arabia’s human rights record and called on Riyadh to release detained activists. Responding to the criticism, Saudi Arabia also cut diplomatic ties with Canada, frozen all new trade and investment and canceled flights via its national carrier to Toronto.

Now, thousands of Saudi students who were studying in Canada through scholarship, training, and fellowship programs have seen their funding canceled, Saudi Gazette reported. While the kingdom will continue to pay for these students’ academic programs, they will be forced to find new opportunities in other countries. Government sources told the Saudi newspaper this would most likely be in the U.S.

Omar Abdulaziz, a Saudi national who has been a political refugee in Canada since 2014, told Newsweek he was contacted by Saudi authorities, who threatened to arrest his brothers and friends back in the kingdom if he continued to comment on the diplomatic row.

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Uk And EU Join In Agreement To Block Trump’s Iran Sanction

By: Benjamin Kentish of Independent

The UK has agreed to work with the EU to try to block the impact of Donald Trump‘s new sanctions against Iran.

Jeremy Hunt, the foreign secretary, signed a joint statement with other EU foreign ministers to ensure European companies doing business with Iran will be protected.

The ministers promised to introduce a “blocking statute” to ban European firms from abiding by the US sanctions, which were reimposed by Mr Trump on Monday.

The US president decided to reintroduce the penalties after withdrawing from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal negotiated by his predecessor, Barack Obama.

The European foreign ministers said the lifting of Western sanctions was “essential” to the deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which involved Iran agreeing not to pursue development of nuclear weapons.

Mr Hunt signed the statement along with EU High Representative Federica Mogherini and foreign ministers Jean-Yves Le Drian of France and Heiko Maas of Germany.

They said they “deeply regret” Mr Trump’s decision to reimpose sanctions and argued that 11 consecutive reports bythe International Atomic Energy Agency confirm the Iran deal “is working”.

The statement said: “It is a key element of the global nuclear non-proliferation architecture, crucial for the security of Europe, the region, and the entire world. We expect Iran to continue to fully implement all its nuclear commitments under the JCPOA.

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Texas High Schools Violate Law By Not Allowing Seniors To Register To Vote

By: Ruben Paquian of Texas Observer

About two-thirds of Texas high schools are not following a state law that mandates giving all eligible students the opportunity to register to vote, according to a new report. That means hundreds of thousands of potential voters have been left off the rolls.

For three decades, public and private high school principals in Texas have been required to distribute voter registration applications to all students who will be 18 years old that school year. The law stipulates that students be offered the applications at least twice per year. But without an enforcement mechanism or sufficient outreach by the state, compliance has been “abysmal,” according to the Texas Civil Rights Project’s report.

Since the 2016 presidential election, only a third of public high schools with more than 20 seniors requested a single voter registration form from the secretary of state’s office, the report’s authors found. In other words, two-thirds of public high schools in Texas didn’t even take the first step in complying with the law, leaving out at least 183,000 students in the last two years alone.

A map included in the report shows that the problem is scattered across the state, from major metros to rural areas. Most students in the Rio Grande Valley, a majority-minority region, aren’t getting voter registration forms at school; neither are those in large swaths of the Panhandle and West Texas.

Beyond school principals, blame also lies with Texas Secretary of State Rolando Pablos, said James Slattery, one of the report’s authors. The law does not include a strict enforcement mechanism and leaves implementation largely up to the secretary of state’s office.

“Instead of working with civic engagement groups, parents and students, the secretary’s office has dragged its feet in implementing common-sense reforms to help high schools comply with the law,” said Slattery, a Texas Civil Rights Project attorney.

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Lab Grown Lungs Successfully Implanted In Pigs

By: Kristin Houser of Science Alert

In the US alone, more than 1,400 people are waiting for a lung transplant – there simply aren’t enough donor lungs available to meet the need. Soon, though, patients might have a new source for brand new lungs: the lab.

On Wednesday, researchers from University of Texas Medical Branch published a new paper in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

In it, they detail their latest milestone along the path to creating lab-grown lungs for humans: they can now successfully transplant these bioengineered lungs into pigs.

To grow the lungs, the researchers first created four lung scaffolds. To do this, they removed all of the cells and blood from pig lungs using a mix of sugar and detergent. This left them with just the proteins of each lung – essentially, its skeleton.

Next, they placed each scaffold in a tank containing a special mix of nutrients. They then added cells from recipient pigs’ own lungs to each of the scaffolds and let the lungs grow for 30 days. Finally, they transplanted the four lab-grown lungs into the four recipient pigs.

Within two weeks, the transplanted lungs had already begun to establish the robust networks of blood vessels they need to survive.

During two months of post-transplant observation, the researchers found no signs that the animals’ immune systems had rejected the new lungs. But they next want to study the long-term viability of the organs.

Bioengineered organs are something of a holy grail in transplantation research. Because they are grown from the recipient’s own cells, the body is less likely to reject the organ, and we could grow them in the lab as needed – no more organ shortages.

If all goes as hoped with the pig experiments, the researchers believe they could be just five to 10 years away from being able to create lab-grown lungs to transplant into people in compassionate use circumstances (people with life-threatening conditions and essentially no other treatment options).

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Trump Administration With Less Transparency

By: Jon Sopel of BBC

Every now and then a few disparate things collide, and suddenly you see a pattern. And I don’t want this blog to come across as faux naĂŻve. I’ve covered politics for long enough to know that politicians will try to shape and mould truth to best suit their purposes, to allow them to weaponise the facts that will give them greatest advantage.

And I know that politicians love transparency when it best suits them. But in the past two weeks, a line has been crossed.

Let me start with something seemingly minor. I was listening to the president and Theresa May at their news conference in the Chequers garden when Donald Trump, talking about Brexit, suddenly made the statement that he had predicted the result when he was at his golf course in Turnberry for the opening of his wonderful golf course the day before the EU referendum in June 2016.

Anyway back to my tweet saying the president was factually incorrect. Straight back shot Stephanie Grisham, who is the first lady’s director of communications, but more importantly at the time was Donald Trump’s press person for the trip to Turnberry.

She told me on Twitter the president was right to say what he had said – and she had the photos to prove it.

So we produced the tweet from the president on the 24th saying “Just arrived in Scotland…” and from her saying that she had just arrived in Scotland.

Someone else found the flight manifest, confirming that the Trump private jet had arrived on the 24th. I fully agree a storm in a teacup. This is not the sort of thing on which world peace hinges.

But I struggle to fathom Steph’s motives. Why did she go wading in to defend a lie? And why when the proof was provided that she was incorrect did she not just say “fair enough – my mistake”.

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Greece Declares A State Of Emergency

By: Sean Morrison Business Insider

Huge forest fires raging across Greece have killed at least four people and injured dozens more, forcing authorities to seek international assistance as they battle the flames.

A state of emergency was declared in parts of Athens, the country’s capital, as coast guard boats headed out in an attempt to rescue dozens of people trapped on beaches by fire.

Hundreds of firefighters were battling a number of fires across the region and people have been told to leave their homes as authorities desperately try to bring the situation under control.

Gale force winds that frequently changed direction were hampering firefighting efforts on Monday.

Fire Service spokeswoman Stavroula Malliri said Greece had called on the European Union for assistance with aerial and ground support in helping battle the flames.

Health ministry and police authorities said at least nine people were hospitalised from injuries in the fires, with three reported in serious condition in intensive care.

At least for people were seen dead in the street of the village of Mati, east of Athens, that was ravaged by fire on Monday evening, Reuters reported.

Three major hospitals in the city were on standby in case of more fire victims.

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Controversy In The Putin Trump Meeting

By : Amanda Macias & Tucker Higgins of CNBC

President Donald Trump on Monday said at a joint briefing with Russian President Vladimir Putin that while he had “great confidence” in the U.S. intelligence community, Putin was “extremely strong and powerful in his denial” that Russia meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

The president blamed “both countries” for the strained relationship. When a reporter asked the president if he would denounce Russia’s efforts to interfere in the presidential election, Trump raised the issue of Hillary Clinton’s email server.

“I think it’s a disgrace we can’t get Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 e-mails. I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today,” Trump said.

“I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be” Russia that interfered with the 2016 election, Trump said.

Putin told Trump during the summit Monday that he never meddled in the election. At the briefing, Putin called the allegations “nonsense,” and offered to allow special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators into Russia.

“The Russian state has never interfered and is not going to interfere into internal American affairs including election process,” Putin said during the briefing alongside Trump.

The comments from the two leaders came during a free-wheeling press briefing at the tail end of Trump’s raucous European tour. While the two leaders discussed issues ranging from the Syrian Civil War to nuclear nonproliferation, critics are likely to seize on what was left unsaid: Three days after special counsel Robert Mueller indicted 12 Russian nationals for interfering in a U.S. election, Trump offered Putin nothing but praise.

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Black Farmers in Memphis Intentionally Sold Fake Seeds

By: WMCaction News

Mid-South farmers filed a lawsuit against a company that they said sold them fake soybean seeds at a convention.

A group of African-American farmers from Louisiana and the Mid-South, say that Stine Seed Company purposefully switched seeds in order to sell black farmers a subpar product at the Mid-South Farm & Gin Show in March 2017.

Despite above average rainfall, experienced black farmers saw limited soybean yield from the Stine seeds during the 2017 harvest.

“Mother nature doesn’t discriminate,” President of Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association Thomas Burrell said. “It doesn’t rain on white farms but not black farms. Insects don’t [only] attack black farmers’ land…why is it then that white farmers are buying Stine seed and their yield is 60, 70, 80, and 100 bushels of soybeans and black farmers who are using the exact same equipment with the exact same land, all of a sudden, your seeds are coming up 5, 6, and 7 bushels?”

After losing millions of dollars, the farmers took the seeds to experts at Mississippi State University to have them tested. They say the tests show the seeds sold to the black farmers were not certified Stine seeds.

The black farmers said the distributor working for Stine Seed Company used labeled certified seed backs–tampering with factory sewn seals, in order to remove the certified seeds. The distributor would then sell the fake certified seeds to black farmers at a high price.

The farmers bought more than $100,000 in soybean seeds from the distributor, plus an additional $100,000 purchase in chemicals.

As for a motive, Burrell said farming is a very competitive industry and unscrupulous people see black farmers as easy prey. He said by hurting those farmers’ bottom line, someone else would be able to swoop in and buy up the land that belongs to black farmers.

“All we have to do is look at here: 80 years ago you had a million black farmers, today you have less than 5,000. These individuals didn’t buy 16 million acres of land, just to let is lay idle. The sons and daughters, the heirs of black farmers want to farm, just like the sons and daughters of white farmers. So we have to acknowledge that racism is the motivation here.”

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