Thursday, October 19, 2017

Last Call For Crossfire Hurricane

One month after Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, millions of Americans remain in a dire humanitarian crisis, with hundreds of thousands lacking food, water, shelter, electricity, and access to basic services.  Maria by the numbers:

Here is a by-the-numbers account of how things on the island currently stand. 
  • More than a third of Puerto Rican households, or about 1 million people, still lack running water according to CNN.
  • FEMA says it has distributed 23.6 million liters (6.2 million gallons) of bottled and bulk water in Puerto Rico. That figure includes water for hospitals and dialysis centers
  • These deliveries equate to only 9% of the island's drinking water requirement, going by the World Health Organization's (WHO) assessment that each person needs at least 2.5 liters (2/3 of a gallon) per day. Some residents are so desperate for drinking water they have broken into polluted wells at industrial waste sites.
  • The shortfall is far greater when you consider the WHO also recommends 15 liters per person per day for basic cooking and hygiene needs. Dirty water ups the risk of diseases like cholera and at least one person has died as a result of being unable to get to dialysis treatment on time, CNN reports.
  • Some 86% of grocery stores have re-opened. But they are not necessarily stocked.
  • FEMA says 60,000 homes need roofing help. It has delivered 38,000 tarps.
Power and Personnel 
  • Less than 20% of Puerto Rico's power grid has been restored and around 3 million people are still without power, says CNN
  • The news broadcaster adds that 75% of antennas are down so even those able to charge phones are unlikely to have cellular service.
  • All of the island's hospitals are now up and running, with most using back-up systems, but only a quarter are being supplied with power from the grid, says Axios
  • According to CNN, FEMA has deployed 1,700 personnel in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, which were also ravaged by Hurricane Maria. That's 900 less that the 2,600 FEMA personnel reportedly still in Texas and Florida, but the agency told CNN that around 20,000 other federal staff and military have been deployed in response to Maria.
  • Thousands of people have donated money or volunteered to help Puerto Rico. Among them, celebrity chef José Andrés says he's serving 100,000 meals a day on the island.

Puerto Rico is a disaster area and remain so for months if not longer.  Look at Haiti in the wake of that devastating earthquake almost six years ago, and how the country is still struggling for even day-to-day functions.  There's good news, but at this rate Puerto Rico will get statehood before it gets power.

The disaster continues, and it remains Trump's fault.

Black Lives Still Matter, Con't

I've talked before about the multiple mistrials in the case of Shannon Kepler, a white former Tulsa cop who shot his daughter's 19-year-old black boyfriend, Jeremey Lake, in cold blood and claimed self-defense.  Lake didn't actually have a weapon on him as Kepler claimed, but juries deadlocked three times when it came to murder charges.

Oklahoma state prosecutors settled for manslaughter charges instead on the fourth trial, and this week a jury found Kepler guilty and recommended a sentence of 15 years.

Jurors deliberated about six hours before finding ex-Tulsa officer Shannon Kepler, 57, guilty of the lesser charge in the August 2014 killing of 19-year-old Jeremey Lake, who had just started dating Kepler's then-18-year-old daughter, Lisa. 
The jury recommended a sentence of 15 years in prison. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for November 20. 
Lake's death occurred four days before a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson on Aug. 9, 2014. Michael Brown's killing touched off months of protests and became a catalyst for the Black Lives Matter movement, which decries police violence against minorities and calls for greater transparency from law enforcement officials, especially in cases of officer-involved shootings. 
The issue of race had also become an undercurrent in each of Kepler's previous three trials, with only one African-American being selected for each jury and accusations by civil rights activists that Kepler's attorneys were purposely trying to exclude potential black candidates. 
Another racial element had been recently added to the case when Kepler argued that he couldn't be tried by state prosecutors because he's a member of an American Indian tribe. A judge determined the fourth trial in less than a year could move forward in state court. Kepler says he's 1/128th Muscogee (Creek). 
Kepler's attorneys said the 24-year-police veteran was trying to protect Lisa Kepler because she had run away from home and was living in a crime-ridden neighborhood. Defense attorney Richard O'Carroll said Lisa had been in and out of a homeless shelter after her father forbade her from bringing men home into the house.

A white cop killed his daughter's black boyfriend because he knew he would never be convicted.  He was right on that as far of being convicted of premeditated murder, no Oklahoma jury would ever convict a white cop on murder one, a lifetime of police retaliation would be just the least of the jury's problems.

But manslaughter has a different burden of proof, and the jurors were willing to convict on that.  Whether or not Kepler ever serves a day in prison based on sentencing, bail and appeal, that's anyone's guess.

Cleaning House At The DNC

DNC Chairman Tom Perez is finally taking the axe to some long-time dead wood at the DNC, and of course nobody's happy about it.  But the reality is that DNC Deputy Chair Keith Ellison lost the fight to lead the DNC, and that means Perez gets to call the shots.  Now that Perez is finally doing that, people are pissed off.

A shake-up is underway at the Democratic National Committee as several key longtime officials have lost their posts, exposing a still-raw rift in the party and igniting anger among those in its progressive wing who see retaliation for their opposition to DNC Chairman Tom Perez.

The ousters come ahead of the DNC's first meeting, in Las Vegas, Nevada, since Perez took over as chairman with a pledge earlier this year that he would unite the party that had become badly divided during the brutal Bernie Sanders-Hillary Clinton 2016 primary.

Complaints began immediately after party officials saw a list of Perez' appointments to DNC committees and his roster of 75 "at-large" members, who are chosen by the chair.

The removal and demotion of a handful of veteran operatives stood out, as did what critics charge is the over-representation of Clinton-backed members on the Rules and Bylaws Committee, which helps set the terms for the party's presidential primary, though other Sanders and Ellison backers remain represented.

Those who have been pushed out include:
  • Ray Buckley, the New Hampshire Democratic chairman and longtime DNC official who ran against Perez for chair before backing Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., lost his spots on the Executive Committee and DNC Rules Committee;
  • James Zogby, the president of the Arab American Institute and prominent Sanders backer, is no longer co-chair of the Resolutions Committee and is off the Executive Committee, a spot he has held since 2001;
  • Alice Germond, the party’s longtime former secretary and a vocal Ellison backer, who was removed from her at-large appointment to the DNC; and
  • Barbra Casbar Siperstein, the first transgender member of the DNC who supported Ellison and Buckley, was tossed from the Executive Committee.

The moves exposed a rift in the partnership between Perez and his deputy chair, Ellison, who have publicly broadcast their "bromance" since Perez tapped the lawmaker for the post in a show of unity after their hard-fought race earlier this year for the party's chairmanship.

"I’m concerned about the optics, and I’m concerned about the impact," Zogby said of the changes. "I want to heal the wound of 2016."

"I understand the chair can do as he pleases, but still, it's all just very disappointing," Buckley said.

Germond has been on the DNC since the 1980s.

"It is quite unusual for a former party officer who has been serving on the DNC for like forever to just be left out in the cold without even a call from the chairman," said Germond, who was a vocal Ellison backer for DNC chairman. "So I assumed it had something to do with myself support for Keith."

"I understand that I fought very hard for Keith Ellison. And I understand that to the winners go the spoils," she added.

Zogby in particular has been a pain in Perez's ass for a year now, but his consolation prize is he remains co-chair of the party's Unity and Reform Commission, so his damage can be limited.  Backing a guy who's not even in the party means that maybe you shouldn't be in charge of said party's major committees, just saying.

Whether or not Perez can actually get anything done heading into 2018, we'll see.  I didn't have high hopes for Debbie Wasserman Schultz as the previous DNC chair and she failed to meet even that low bar. Hopefully he won't have his won organization strangling him from behind when Trump and the GOP are trying to destroy 80 years of classic liberalism in the United States.  I guess maybe that's too much to ask for.

Go figure.


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