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New Mexico delegation: US labs can help rebuild Puerto Rico

The Associated Press

October 19, 2017 2:24 AM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. Members of the state's congressional delegation are urging the Trump administration to tap the expertise of national laboratories in New Mexico to help with rebuilding efforts in Puerto Rico.
They sent a letter Wednesday to Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Elaine Duke, acting secretary of the Homeland Security Department.
The letter says the expertise and resources at Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories can be leveraged to ensure the U.S. territory is better positioned to prepare for and recover from future natural disasters. They pointed to programs that could evaluate Puerto Rico's electrical grid needs and other critical infrastructure.
The territory was hit by back-to-back hurricanes. Much of the island remains without power, hundreds of thousands of people are without running water and nearly half of the island's 51 sewage treatment plants are still out of service.




 

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Encaminada ayuda del gobernador de la Florida para la restauración del sistema eléctrico

November 3, 2017 El gobernador de Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rosselló Nevares, recibió al gobernador de Florida, Rick Scott, en su segunda visita a la Isla tras el paso del huracán María, la cual se enfocó en la ayuda que este estado ofrecerá para restaurar del sistema eléctrico de la Isla.
El primer ejecutivo de Florida llegó a la Isla con representantes de seis compañías eléctricas para comenzar conversaciones con la Autoridad de Energía Eléctrica (AEE) y el Cuerpo de Ingenieros del Ejército de los Estados Unidos (USACE, por sus siglas en inglés) para agilizar el proceso de la recuperación del sistema eléctrico de Puerto Rico.
Se trata de las compañías Florida Power and Light, Duke Energy, Gulf Energy, Jacksonville Electric Authority, Next Era Energy y Talquin Electric Cooperative.
“A nombre de Puerto Rico agradezco el liderato y compromiso del gobernador Rick Scott. El gobernador Scott me llamó antes y después del evento atmosférico y siempre ha estado dispuesto a ayudar a la Isla”, aseguró Rosselló Nevares.
El gobernador de Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rosselló Nevares, recibió al gobernador de Florida, Rick Scott, en su segunda visita a la Isla tras el paso del huracán María, la cual se enfocó en la ayuda que este estado ofrecerá para restaurar del sistema eléctrico de la Isla.

El gobernador de Puerto Rico también destacó que el estado de Florida ha tenido experiencia en un proceso similar al que está pasando la Isla.
Luego del embate del huracán Irma, la península pasó por el proceso de reconstrucción del sistema eléctrico más grande en la historia de los Estados Unidos hasta ese momento.
Florida también estableció acuerdos de ayuda mutua (mutual aid agreements) con otras jurisdicciones para trabajar en la recuperación de su sistema energético.
El gobernador Scott agradeció la invitación del gobernador Rosselló Nevares y aseguró que su “prioridad es seguir ayudando a Puerto Rico después del huracán María. Estamos trabajando duro para ayudar con la electricidad y a todos los impactados por este huracán. Vamos a seguir trabajando juntos para que Puerto Rico pueda tener todo lo necesario para seguir adelante. Mi corazón está con todos los impactados por el huracán María”.
El primer ejecutivo de Florida afirmó que visita diferentes ciudades del estado todos los días y aseguró que los ciudadanos quieren ayudar a Puerto Rico.
Además del estado de Florida, Nueva York y Puerto Rico suscribieron un mutual aid agreement y desde mañana comenzarán a llegar 350 personas y se enviarán 220 camiones canasto —además de otro equipo especial— para reparar el sistema eléctrico.
 

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Shiner Beers contributes $100K to PR hurricane relief

Written by Contributor // November 3, 2017 //


Shiner Beers teams with Puerto Rico distributor V. Suárez & Co. to donate $100k for hurricane relief.

The Spoetzl Brewery in Shiner, Texas, craft brewer of Shiner Bock, announced contributions totaling $100,000 to several nonprofit organizations to support relief efforts in Puerto Rico following Hurricane María, which caused unprecedented devastation, including dozens of fatalities and lingering effects on the power grid, fresh water supplies and communication links.
The contributions were made in connection with the local distributor of Shiner Beers in Puerto Rico, V. Suárez & Co., Inc., which helped select the organizations to receive the contributions:

  • PR Funders Network
  • Puerto Rico Recovery Fund
  • Puerto Rico Food Bank
  • Puerto Rico Foundation
  • United Way of Puerto Rico
  • United for Puerto Rico
As a family-owned company with deep roots in Puerto Rico and the community, familiar with the local heritage and traditions and with employees spread throughout the island, V. Suarez & Co. was the perfect partner to help Spoetzl Brewery identify the most appropriate recipients for these donations. We are grateful for their assistance, the brewer said.
“Our hearts go out to those affected by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. We are proud of V. Suarez & Co., our local distributor in Puerto Rico, and their efforts to respond to the challenges,” said Jimmy Mauric, Shiner’s Brewmaster.
“We are deeply committed to supporting them and the people of Puerto Rico in their recovery,” he said.
 

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Magnus Textile donates nearly 4K towels to PR

Written by Contributor // November 2, 2017


Massachusetts-based Magnus Textile has joined the relief efforts in Puerto Rico.

Magnus Textile recently announced it has donated nearly 4,000 towels to the Red Cross in Puerto Rico to aid in the hurricane relief effort following the devastation of Hurricane María.
Magnus worked in conjunction with Crown Linen, as well as JSA Trucking in the delivery of the towels to the Red Cross.
Ryan Zaucha, Southeast Sales Manager for Magnus Textile, responded to a request sent out to the Florida Hospitality community by Mary Esposito, a member of the Disaster Action Team.
“I want to thank Ryan Zaucha of Magnus Textile for answering the call I put out to the Hospitality Industry,” said Esposito.
The towels were initially intended for Red Cross shelters in Florida, but after Hurricane María hit Puerto Rico the towels were instead shipped on a Red Cross ship to Puerto Rico.
“An amazing true story that has a happy ending due to a great company like Magnus Textile,” said Esposito.
Hurricane María is the worst natural disaster the island has seen in nearly a century. Organizations on the ground have called it a humanitarian crisis with the majority of Puerto Ricans stuck lacking running water and electricity.
An estimated 30,000 to 90,000 homes were destroyed in the storm.
The Red Cross is on the ground in Puerto Rico and will continue to be on the ground working with dozens of disaster partners like the Salvation Army and Save the Children to support feeding, child care, disaster assessment and other services to help affected communities.
“The Magnus Textile team was grateful for the opportunity to support the Red Cross’ efforts in Puerto Rico,” said Zaucha. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to those in Puerto Rico still suffering from the devastation of this terrible event.”
 

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Puerto Rico's PREPA Utility Creditors Say Power Grid Damage Is Overblown

Nov. 3, 2017, at 6:46 p.m.

By Nick Brown

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Bondholders of Puerto Rico's bankrupt power utility, PREPA, said on Friday that the damage to the local electric grid by Hurricane Maria is not as bad as the island's government says, and could be fixed quickly with an outside energy expert in charge.

The PREPA bondholders made the argument in a written filing in federal court in San Juan. The utility filed for a form of bankruptcy in June to shed $9 billion of debt, while Puerto Rico's government filed for bankruptcy in May. It has $72 billion of total debt.

The bondholders want to persuade the judge overseeing the island's bankruptcy to pick an energy industry expert to run PREPA, from a list of names on which creditors may or may not have input.

Citing their own assessment of grid damage, led by energy consultant Derek HasBrouck, the bondholders said some 95 percent of transmission assets are fully functional, and observed only "a few broken poles" among 75 distribution substations that were visually inspected.

Those numbers contrast starkly with the Puerto Rican government's assessment that 80 percent of the electric grid was destroyed when Maria made landfall on September 20, the most powerful storm to hit Puerto Rico in decades.

Maria knocked out power to the entire island, and six weeks later only about 30 percent of electricity has been restored.

The PREPA bondholders, who include mutual funds like Oppenheimer and Franklin Advisers, say HasBrouck's findings prove Governor Ricardo Rossello's administration has botched the response to Maria and that PREPA needs an outside manager.

"It is imperative to retain an experienced, seasoned electric utility executive to run PREPA," the bondholders said.


In an interview with Reuters on Thursday, though, Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello dismissed the idea that damage has been overstated.

"To be clear and blunt, the devastation was severe," Rossello said. "There is no way to minimize how significant that devastation was."

'NOT ZAMOT'

Whoever Puerto Rico's bankruptcy judge appoints to step in at PREPA, the bondholders argued, it should not be Noel Zamot.

The retired U.S. Air Force colonel was tapped for the role by a federal board that has a mandate to manage Puerto Rico's finances. Zamot has worked with the board already on separate issues.

His appointment must be confirmed by the judge. But Zamot, the bondholders argued, has no experience running a power utility.

Their opposition hints at a broader power struggle over control of Puerto Rico's financial turnaround between the board and investors bracing for big debt cuts.

The squabble marks a return to a focus on Puerto Rico's debt, after creditors stayed largely quiet for weeks following Maria, which killed at least 50 people on the island.
 

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Puerto Rico gov presents energy plan to visiting congressional delegation

By Eva Lloréns Vélez on November 6, 2017

SAN JUAN – Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said Tuesday that with the transformation of the island’s electric power system after Hurricane María, what’s expected is a leap toward having 25% of the island’s energy produced by renewables, a system strengthened by microgrids, smartly distributed energy and increased energy production in the north.
This was the vision for the energy system Rosselló emphasized to a congressional delegation that visited the island Tuesday to see the damage left by the historic hurricane, particularly to the power grid.
“I believe all of them approved of it,” the governor said.
The objective first includes a significant switch to renewables, which includes projects to produce solar and wind energy. “We want to make a quantum leap from 20% to 25% of the generation to come from renewables,” he said.
Secondly, Rosselló told the visiting members of Congrees that he hoped to decentralize the island’s power infrastructure with the use of microgrids, so if one network is compromised, others continue unaffected. With regard to smart energy distribution, the governor said the plan included components of the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department’s STEP program on the island.
This program helps rebuild homes, and solar panels that feed power to batteries can be included in their restoration. The governor said he believes 20,000 to 70,000 homes could opt for that alternative. “As we reach a critical mass, one can redirect where the energy is going,” he said.
Before the governor made his comments, the delegation, headed by Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski expressed support not only for the prompt restoration of electricity on the island, but also for a transformation into a “more resilient” grid. The U.S. lawmakers saw the solar energy system recently installed by Tesla at the Children’s Hospital, visited the Palo Seco power plant in Toa Baja and visited the town of Barranquitas by helicopter, where there are numerous bridges, roads and houses destroyed, said Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González said.
Murkowski said her emphasis will not only be on promptly rebuilding the grid after its collapse on Sept. 20, but also on making the system more resistant to hurricanes, although she acknowledged it will be a challenge.
“I saw solar panels that looked like someone kicked them, and [wind turbine] blades that came loose. Is it possible to make it completely safe for hurricanes, to have real resilience?” wondered Murkowski, who is chairwoman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee and member of the Subcommittee on Department of Defense. “We have a big job to do,” she said.


(Juan José Rodríguez/CB)

The chairman of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, Rep. Bill Shuster, a Republican from Pennsylvania, as well as the other members of the delegation, supported the approval of amendments submitted by González and Rep. José Serrano (D-NY) to amend the Stafford Act so the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) can transform the power system. Currently, funds can only be used to restore the system to its original state and not to transform it.
Both Democratic Sen. Tom Carper, member of Environment and Public Works Committee, and Democratic Rep. Peter DeFazio, member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, expressed the need to turn Puerto Rico into a model of what reconstruction should be.
All assured they will help Puerto Rico rebuild its infrastructure “until the end.”
The other members of the visiting delegation were Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), member of the Energy and Natural Resources, Finance, and Veterans Affairs committees; Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), member of the Judiciary, and Energy and Natural Resources committees; Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), member of the Environment and Public Works, and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committees; and Rep. Garrett Graves (R-LA), member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
The visit also served for the delegation to learn what infrastructure needs the island has. It is not the same to see it on TV than to be there, they said.
 

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FCC chair in PR to evaluate telecom needs, recovery

Written by Michelle Kantrow // November 6, 2017 //


FCC Chairman Ajit Pai (Credit: FCC)

Federal Communications Commission Chair Ajit Pai will be in Puerto Rico this week to “evaluate and analyze” how the regulatory agency can continue collaborating in the recovery work related to the island’s telecommunications services, Telecommunications Regulatory Board President Sandra Torres confirmed.
“With 70.5 percent of cellular telephony activated and almost 50 percent of functional antennas across the island, the TRB welcomes this visit as a sign of the commitment of the FCC and Commissioner Pai to serve as facilitator in the total recovery of telecom on the island,” she said.
The FCC has been keeping close tabs on Puerto Rico since Hurricane María made landfall on Sept. 20, responding to the destruction of communications networks on the island. On Oct. 5, the agency approved advancing up to $76.9 million to help local telecom companies restore service, as this media outlet reported.
Today, she will meet with Pai and telecom company representatives to provide a detailed update on the state of the infrastructure after Hurricane María struck, and the collaborative efforts that have enabled rebuilding the network, despite the lack of power in some parts of the island.
“We will continue to serve as a liaison between telecom companies and state and federal government agencies in our efforts to achieve the connectivity that more than 3 million Puerto Ricans deserve and are accustomed to having,” said Torres.
 

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Mobilians help restore power to Puerto Rico


by Andrea Ramey

MOBILE, Ala. (WPMI) — Dozens of people from the Mobile area are in Puerto Rico helping restore power. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Mobile District has 40 people on the island tonight. NBC 15 News spoke to the Mobile District commander Col. James DeLapp via FaceTime. DeLapp is from Spanish Fort and has been deployed to Puerto Rico since late September, days after Hurricane Maria devastated the island.
"We're still doing the emergency response at this point," said DeLapp.
More than 50 days after the storm, 70% of people still don't have power.
"There's still a long way to go just in getting power restored to the island, which is what would really make other daily life activities much easier," said DeLapp.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is setting up generators to supply temporary power to critical facilities like hospitals and shelters. They're also helping people put temporary roofs on homes and removing debris so roads can be accessible again. But there are many challenges in accomplishing what needs to get done.
"Unlike if we were responding to a disaster there, on the Gulf coast, we could bring in resources from adjacent states, and they could be here within a day or two," said DeLapp. "It's typically a week or more before we can get those resources."
DeLapp says 40 people from Mobile and 600 people nationwide from the Corps are on the island to complete the vital mission of returning some sense of normalcy there.
"We're honored to do this mission," said DeLapp.
DeLapp says people are volunteering to come and serve 30-60 day rotations. DeLapp hopes he can be home in time for Christmas, but says the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will be there likely until next summer.
 

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Fragmento de noticia...

Gobierno anuncia comienzo de solicitudes de propuesta para el programa federal STEP

November 7, 2017

El secretario de Asuntos Públicos y Política Pública, Ramón Rosario Cortés, informó que ya comenzó el proceso competitivo de solicitud de propuesta (RFP, por sus siglas en inglés) con el Departamento de la Vivienda para los contratistas que interesan licitar en el programa federal STEP. El programa STEP permite al Departamento de la Vivienda hacer reparaciones en las casas que sufrieron daños durante el paso del huracán María. Hasta 75,000 viviendas se podrán beneficiar de esta ayuda.
...
 

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Grass-Roots Network Of Doctors Delivers Supplies To Puerto Rico

By Amy Martyn November 9, 2017


After Hurricane Harvey flooded her city of Houston in August, Dr. Jennifer McQuade planned to donate socks to those affected. Instead, surprised by the lack of medical care at a nearby shelter, McQuade, an oncologist, became the unofficial leader of a group of physicians and mothers providing emergency aid at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston. She triaged patients, solicited donations and recruited more doctors to join.
Their efforts were so successful that McQuade and the other volunteers still had 2,500 pounds of medical supplies when federal authorities took over the Houston shelter after about a week. So, when Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, leaving hospitals without power and short of supplies and drugs, the challenge was finding a plane to deliver the precious cargo to the island.
“Asking for planes, it’s a crazy ask,” said Dr. Ashley Saucier, a pediatric emergency physician in Baton Rouge, La., who was working with McQuade on the effort in Houston. But that didn’t stop her.

Across the United States mainland, an agile, jury-rigged network of doctors has scrambled to deliver aid to their counterparts in Puerto Rico, often reaching clinics before federal assistance arrived. They draw on a sense of solidarity in the medical community, connections formed through the hurricanes in Houston and Florida — and the use of private jets belonging to corporations, sports teams and individual donors.
By mid-October, doctors in the states estimate, they delivered 40 tons of supplies.
Saucier, working through a Facebook introduction, got in touch with the Cajun Airlift, a loosely organized group of Louisiana pilots who had volunteered their planes for Texas flood victims. They moved some of the supplies.
Rick Shadyac, the CEO of St. Jude’s Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., put Saucier in touch with FedEx, which is also headquartered in Memphis, to pick up more surplus supplies from McQuade in Houston and then fly them to Puerto Rico.
And through another doctor, McQuade was introduced to Hilda and Greg Curran, a couple who have family in Puerto Rico and a jet they planned to use.
Five days after Maria made landfall, the Currans delivered 1,000 pounds of medical supplies — additional donations supplied by the Texas Children’s Hospital or purchased through funds raised by Saucier — to the University of Puerto Rico Comprehensive Cancer Center in San Juan.
Hospitals on Puerto Rico remain without electricity, forced to rely on generators. Clinics were left in shambles in many parts of the island, desperate for supplies and drugs, including tetanus and influenza vaccines, antibiotics, insulin and anti-inflammatory drugs.
Many of the physicians organizing the donation drive have family in Puerto Rico, while others — including Saucier and McQuade — had no previous connections to the U.S. territory.
Saucier’s experience with front-line disaster relief dates to August 2016, when southern Louisiana was hit with deadly floods. Shortly after, she formed a small nonprofit called Baton Rouge Emergency Aid Coalition, which raised funds and organized physicians who were ready to spring into action. When Puerto Rico was devastated by Hurricane Maria, that small network joined something much bigger, which grew organically and by word-of-mouth as the scope of the medical disaster on the island unfolded.
The grass-roots network tends to skew younger and female. “It’s 90 to 95 percent women I’m working with, both here and in Puerto Rico,” said Rafael Enrique Guerrero-Preston, a cancer researcher and geneticist in Baltimore, who was born in Puerto Rico. He “met” McQuade and Saucier online on the recommendation of another physician.
“We don’t know each other personally,” he said.
Dr. Dalian Caraballo, a family physician in Miami, was organizing a separate donation campaign and Facebook page for Puerto Rican doctors when one contact introduced her to the volunteers in Texas and Louisiana. Because she lives in a city that is a convenient pit stop for pilots to fuel up, Caraballo has taken charge of collecting supplies and loading them onto jets before they travel to Puerto Rico.
The planes typically fit 1,000 pounds at most, so only supplies that a doctor in Puerto Rico specifically requests will go onboard. Every box is weighed, labeled and accompanied by a “manifesto,” or instructions of who it goes to next. “Even if [the shipment] is small, you know it’s getting to the right doctors,” Caraballo said.
Doctors help for personal reasons and in ways that tie in to their specialties. Dr. Amarilis Sanchez-Valle, a physician in Tampa, studies metabolic genetic conditions that require a specialized formula for infants to avoid brain damage and other health effects.
Initially, her concern was for her family. “I have a sister in Puerto Rico with multiple sclerosis [who] has only two doses left of her medicine,” she wrote in emails to the American Red Cross and the National MS Society on Sept. 25, five days after Maria made landfall. “Is there a way to get medicine to Puerto Rico in the next few days?”
Representatives from both groups apologized, saying they couldn’t help because all the official channels for delivery had been disrupted.
Sanchez-Valle contacted neurologists in Tampa to get a few samples of the medicine. “The problem was, how to get it there? The airport was closed. FedEx was closed.”
A friend put her in touch with a person who works for American Airlines. The airline employee agreed to put the medication in the cargo hold of a relief flight. Sanchez-Valle said her sister is “lucky she’s got me. But what about all the other patients out there? What about my [infant] patient population?” she asked.
Sanchez-Valle contacted former colleagues in Puerto Rico and the formula suppliers she works with. Several companies agreed to donate a few hundred pounds of formula.
The formula reached the island thanks to Dr. Elimarys Perez-Colon and her colleague Dr. Asa Oxner, two internal medicine specialists in Tampa. The women took a commercial flight to San Juan in the beginning of October, each carrying five suitcases with 800 pounds of supplies, everything from syringes to water filters to donations they received from manufacturers and doctors like Sanchez-Valle. When they arrived in San Juan, the airport appeared to be almost fully functional. And the capital and other coastal towns seemed to be receiving adequate help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the military, the women say.


Dr. Asa Oxner, an internal medicine physician in Tampa, Fla., uses a headlamp to count pills while working in an area of Puerto Rico without power. (Courtesy of Dr. Asa Oxner)

But as they traveled to inland towns like Villalba, where they delivered supplies, they found incredible needs.
The hospitals and clinics they reached were running on diesel generators. Asthma medication was in short supply, Perez-Colon noted. People in small towns were drinking untreated water, a major risk for infection. “Clean water is one of the biggest issues,” she said.
For some residents who already had health problems, their conditions worsened in the heat, with no power and limited access to water. Some reported being visited by FEMA once; others, not at all.
“The help is not getting to the small towns. It’s not getting to the middle of the island,” Perez-Colon said.
 

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Puerto Rico Needs as Much as $21 Billion in Aid, Oversight Official Says

By Rebecca Spalding
and Michelle Kaske
November 7, 2017, 9:59 AM EST Updated on November 7, 2017, 11:20 AM EST



  • Financial oversight chief pushes for ‘unprecedented’ rescue
  • ‘Very difficult’ to say how debt plans affected, she says
Puerto Rico will need an unprecedented rescue from the U.S. government to recover from the hurricane that ravaged it in September, deepening a financial crisis that had already pushed it into a record-setting bankruptcy, the executive director of the island’s federal oversight board said.
The territory will need from $13 billion to $21 billion over the next two years to keep the government operating and cover the salaries of police officers, teachers and other employees, Natalie Jaresko said in testimony prepared for the House Natural Resources committee Tuesday.
"The hard truth is that the island now needs help -- emergency and restoration funds and assistance on an unprecedented scale," she said. “Before the hurricanes, the board was determined that Puerto Rico and its instrumentalities could achieve balanced budgets, work its way through its debt problems, and develop a sustainable economy without federal aid. That is simply no longer possible.”

The devastating blow dealt by Hurricane Maria has upended Puerto Rico’s initial plans for pulling itself out of a fiscal crisis that built over years as it remained mired in a recession and borrowed to keep the government afloat. The damage crippled the economy and left investors wagering that it will be able to repay even less of its $74 billion of debt, causing the price of its most frequently traded bonds to tumble to about 28 cents on the dollar, about half what they were worth before the storm.
Jaresko said it’s difficult to determine whether the island will need deeper debt forgiveness because of the damage, given that the recovery will depend heavily on the federal government’s response.
"It is very difficult for anyone in Puerto Rico to see the future at this stage. So much depends on you the Congress, the administration and how much funding that will be appropriated for Puerto Rico," she said. "In the short term, there’s no question that this will be very difficult for creditors. In terms of the future, much depends on your response."
The House panel’s hearing is the first to delve into Puerto Rico’s finances since Maria, which so badly damaged the government’s electricity system that half of the island is still without power. Given the urgency, Jaresko asked Congress to underscore the board’s role during the recovery to eliminate any uncertainty about the scope of its authority and head off legal fights.
Before the storm, the federal government limited its role in the territory’s crisis to giving it the power to file for bankruptcy and installing the federal board to help it find a way to balance the budget. Congress has since approved $4.9 billion in low interest loans for the island and the U.S. Virgin Islands as a part of the $36.5 billion storm aid package.

Puerto Rico board is currently revising its fiscal plans to account for the hurricane, which has dampened its tax collections and threatened to derail the island’s longer-term economic recovery. Puerto Rico’s economy has shrank in part because its population kept shrinking as residents left for work on the U.S. mainland, a trend that has at least temporarily been exaggerated by the storm.
Jaresko said an estimated 100,000 Puerto Ricans have left since the storm. She said her board has estimated that the territory’s population could drop by 170,000, or 5 percent, this year.
"We know that Puerto Rico is experiencing a massive population exodus, but the exact amount of that exodus is unknowable," she said in her prepared remarks.
 

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In Florida, all eyes on Puerto Rican voters after Maria

Originally published November 12, 2017 at 6:19 am Updated November 12, 2017 at 8:33 am

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In this photo taken Wednesday, Nov. 8 2017, Javier Gonzalez talks to a reporter in Hialeah, Fla. Gonzalez has joined the tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans moving to Florida after Hurricane Maria, grateful for a place to... (AP Photo/Alan Diaz) More

By ADRIANA GOMEZ LICON
The Associated Press

MIAMI (AP) — The arrival of more than than 130,000 Puerto Ricans in Florida since Hurricane Maria has some officials anticipating a political shakeup in a battleground state dominated by the Republican party.
Both parties are actively courting new arrivals to Florida, which President Donald Trump won last year by 112,000 votes out of 9.6 million cast.
Many Puerto Ricans have expressed outrage over Trump’s handling of the storm but have applauded efforts by Republican Gov. Rick Scott to welcome them.
As U.S. citizens, Puerto Ricans can vote in federal elections when they move to the mainland. Newcomers must register as voters by next July 30 to vote in primaries ahead of the 2018 general election of a new governor to replace term-limited Scott and choose Florida’s congressional delegation.

Javier Gonzalez has joined a human tide of more than 130,000 U.S. citizens arriving in Florida since Hurricane Maria wrecked Puerto Rico, grateful for a place to start over but resenting how their island has been treated since the disaster.
More than a million Puerto Ricans — about 5 percent of Florida’s population — already call the state home, and given the outrage many feel over President Donald Trump’s handling of the storm, political observers say this voting bloc could loosen the Republican Party’s hold on this battleground state.
Gonzalez, 38, saw the storm destroy the restaurant he opened with his father five years ago. Without power or reliable water, he became violently ill from food poisoning for three weeks. Finally, he packed his bags, determined to make his future in Miami instead.
“There is resentment, and we feel abandoned compared to Texas and Florida,” Gonzalez said. “We were desperate for help.”
Like any Puerto Rican, Gonzalez can vote in all elections now that he’s moved to the mainland. He doesn’t plan to register for any party, but he follows the news and understands their platforms. He’s aware of Trump’s tweets.
“It’s not right that we’ve fought from World War I, to Vietnam and Afghanistan and that the first thing the president says is: ‘You have a large debt, big problems and have cost us millions,'” Gonzalez added.
Puerto Ricans are not the gift to the Republican Party that the anti-Castro Cuban diaspora has been historically. They’ve tended to favor Democrats, given their support for public education and social services. Around 70 percent of Florida’s non-Cuban Latinos voted for Hillary Clinton.
Both parties are courting the new arrivals to Florida, which Trump won last year by just 112,000 votes out of 9.6 million cast.
“There is an intent to grab those who are coming,” said Rep. Robert Asencio, a Democrat of Puerto Rican descent who represents Miami in the Florida House and leads the Miami-Dade Committee for Hurricane Maria Relief.
“A lot of my colleagues say they are not politicizing this, but there is an effort to bring people either to the Democratic or the Republican side,” Asencio said.
Newcomers must register by next July 30 to vote in 2018 for a new governor to replace term-limited Republican Gov. Rick Scott and choose Florida’s congressional delegation, now 11 Democrats and 16 Republicans. Democratic U.S. Senator Bill Nelson also defends his seat next year, and Scott, who has been applauded for helping evacuees, is expected to challenge him in what could be a close race.
Scott set up three disaster relief centers to help arrivals with driver’s licenses, job searches, and disaster aid applications. Scott also asked education officials to waive public school enrollment rules for evacuated islanders, and to give college-bound evacuees the same tuition breaks state residents get.
Asencio calls Scott’s actions “damage control,” given the multimillionaire governor’s close relationship with Trump, who offended Puerto Ricans by tweeting they wanted “everything to be done for them” rather than taking responsibility for their own recovery. They also resent Trump’s rating of his own disaster response as a “10 out of 10,” blaming his administration for delays that exposed their families to illness and misery.
The island still faces a lengthy and painful recovery after the storm took down the entire electrical grid, leaving hospitals in the dark and closing schools for several weeks. Initial projections that 95 percent of the people will have power restored by year’s end now look optimistic.
Maria’s evacuees are following waves of people frustrated by Puerto Rico’s unemployment and debt crisis who settled in Central Florida, shifting from New York, the favored destination of previous generations. Of the more than 140,000 islanders estimated to have left since the storm, more than 130,000 went to Florida, where Puerto Ricans may soon displace Cubans as the largest Latino group.
State Rep. Rene Plasencia, a Republican from Orlando, predicts that Scott’s warm welcome will leave a bigger impression on the newcomers than any Trump tweets.
“For whatever people think of the president, you have to take into consideration the actions of Governor Scott,” said Plasencia, whose mother and wife are from Puerto Rico. “People aren’t making decisions out of a sequence of tweets … It makes good news, but it doesn’t make political shifts.”
Billionaires Charles and David Koch also are involved, funding the Libre Initiative, which welcomed hundreds of evacuees on the first cruise ship to arrive from San Juan.
Cesar Grajales, who lobbies for Libre, says they’re helping evacuees learn English and connect with community and business leaders.
Democrats hope Colombian-American Annette Taddeo’s recent underdog state Senate victory against a well-funded Republican in South Florida shows her anti-Trump message will keep resonating.
“It is a strong indication that voters are paying attention, and they are angry,” said Cristobal Alex, president of the Latino Victory Project. “We wouldn’t have the devastation and abandonment of Puerto Rico without Donald Trump. People will look at that.”
On the island, Puerto Rico’s lack of statehood means they can’t vote in general presidential elections, and can only send a non-voting representative to Congress. On the mainland, they’ll have more power.
“I know for a fact that we are well educated and we are going to come here to work,” Gonzalez said. “And yes, we are going to make a voice. We are going to make a bigger voice than before.”
 

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Puerto Rican wave hits Florida, carrying big political implications

Out of 140,000 who have left island since Hurricane Maria, 130,000 landed in Florida.
By Alex Leary

Some 130,000 Puerto Ricans have arrived in Florida since Hurricane Maria, adding to an already steady wave and signaling a potential major development in I-4 corridor politics.

Experts at the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College in New York estimate that more than 300,000 Puerto Ricans could leave the island in the next two years, and Florida would likely attract many of those.
The political ramifications are big and at least on paper favors Democrats, as Puerto Ricans tend to vote for the party.
"Florida is a big swing state and Central Florida is the epicenter of that," Dennis Freytes, a political activist in the Orlando area, told the Tampa Bay Times in September, just after the storm. "This could be a very big deal. There are going to be voter registration drives and both parties are going to be after them. They already are."

More than 1 million Puerto Ricans already reside in Florida — some 1,000 families relocating each month — double the number in 2000 and now rivaling New York.
The growth, largely around Orlando but also in Tampa Bay, has outpaced the overall population increase in Florida as well as that of Hispanics overall.
 

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Trato igualitatrio? Eso se llama ESTADIDAD.

Piden trato igualitario para Puerto Rico

Mon, Nov 13, 2017

Foto suministrada

Por redacción de Sin Comillas

El gobernador Ricardo Rosselló Nevares urgió al Congreso a tomar en consideración a Puerto Rico en la reforma contributiva federal e incluir a la Isla en el paquete de ayuda que atenderá los diferentes desastres naturales registrados en la nación para así asegurar un trato igualitario para los ciudadanos americanos residentes en la Isla.
Rosselló advirtió que si el Congreso no considera a Puerto Rico como una jurisdicción de los Estados Unidos en materia contributiva provocará el éxodo de las compañías que generan el 42% del Producto Interno Bruto, la pérdida de empleos en la Isla y, por ende, la mudanza de más puertorriqueños a la nación que a la larga provocará un incremento en los gastos de los estados.
El mandatario recordó que los empleos creados en Puerto Rico son empleos americanos. Por lo tanto, para impulsar la creación de empleos y el desarrollo económico de la Isla se debe asegurar que la reforma contributiva federal establezca que:

  1. Los productos manufacturados en Puerto Rico, que sean importados a los Estados Unidos, son productos domésticos; por lo tanto, no les debe aplicar el arbitrio propuesto (excise tax) de 20% para mercancía manufacturada en el extranjero.
  2. Las empresas domésticas que emplean a ciudadanos americanos en Puerto Rico no les aplique el impuesto de repatriación por ganancias invertidas en la Isla, siempre y cuando estas tengan un compromiso de permanecer operando en Puerto Rico por un mínimo de 8 años y mantengan más del 50% de sus bienes, tangibles e intangibles, en la Isla.
  3. Que no apliquen a Puerto Rico impuestos que tienen como propósito evitar la erosión de la base contributiva de los Estados Unidos (contribución mínima anual), porque la Isla debe ser considerada como parte de la nación americana.
Se podrían perder 70,000 empleos
El presidente de la Asociación de Industriales (AIPR), Rodrigo Masses, advirtió que el proyecto de Reforma Contributiva Federal ante la consideración en estos momentos del Congreso de los EE.UU., según redactado, tiene la posibilidad de impactar catastróficamente la economía de la isla, provocando la pérdida de más de 70,000 empleos bien remunerados y más del 35% del presupuesto gubernamental.
El pasado 2 de noviembre de 2017 el Comité de Medios y Arbitrios de la Cámara de Representantes federal presentó el proyecto legislativo HR 1, conocido como el “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act”, que constituye una propuesta para la reforma del Código de Rentas Internas federal. El Proyecto busca, entre otras cosas, atraer actividades de manufactura hacia los EE.UU. y como consecuencia de dicha iniciativa recibirá los ingresos, la producción y la generación de trabajos de empresas norteamericanas que, por razones primordialmente contributivas han mantenido sus operaciones fuera del país, apuntó el titular de los Industriales.
Como alertó la AIPR entonces, las disposiciones que el Congreso utilizó para fomentar ese resultado fueron demasiado abarcadoras. “Al pretender desincentivar actividades de manufactura fuera de EE.UU. se ataca también a las actividades de manufactura llevadas a cabo dentro de Puerto Rico. Al no tomar en cuenta la realidad jurídica, social y económica de que Puerto Rico es una jurisdicción con una plena integración con EE.UU. y en la cual estas compañías son las responsables de la generación de unos 70,000 empleos americanos directos y sobre 200,000 indirectos y aproximadamente 35% de los recaudos contributivos de la Isla, el Proyecto presenta un gran peligro a nivel local”.
En particular, destacó Masses, las secciones 4301 y 4303 del “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” tienen el potencial de afectar a Puerto Rico. Por un lado, estas secciones requieren la tributación en EE.UU. de las ganancias generadas fuera de los EE.UU. y por otro, impondrían un arbitrio de 20% a las compras que una afiliada estadounidense haga a otra afiliada fuera de los EE.UU.
Desde mucho antes de la radicación del Proyecto, la AIPR ha trabajado para introducir texto que logre eximir las operaciones en suelo americano del efecto de cualquier disposición de una naturaleza proteccionista contra actividades foráneas. Sin embargo, el 9 de noviembre de 2017 el comité aprobó el proyecto sin proveer lenguaje que proveyera algún tipo de protección o alivio a las actividades llevadas a cabo en Puerto Rico.
Además de esto, el mismo 9 de noviembre el Comité de Finanzas del Senado federal presentó su propuesta para la reforma contributiva federal. En esta propuesta, aunque no utilizan el mismo arbitrio de 20% para reducir las ventajas de precio de manufacturar fuera de EE.UU., proponen insertar disposiciones para proteger las actividades dentro de los EE.UU. que afectarían directamente las operaciones llevadas a cabo dentro de Puerto Rico. “Más aún el lenguaje utilizado en algunas de estas propuestas, pareciera ser que tienen pleno conocimiento de la estructura de las empresas que operan en Puerto Rico y tampoco han introducido texto que exima las operaciones en suelo americano del efecto de las mismas. Aparenta ser que el asunto no es uno de falta de entendimiento de la realidad de la cual llevamos años educando al Congreso, sino que nos hace pensar que, simple y llanamente, con tal de aumentar sus recaudos y financiar su propuesta de reforma contributiva, al Congreso no ha considerado de forma activa el impacto que sus medidas puedan tener sobre el futuro de decenas de miles de trabajos americanos en Puerto Rico ni la salud socio económica de Puerto Rico”, dijo el presidente de los Industriales.
“Tenemos que proteger lo que ha sido la columna vertebral de la economía de Puerto Rico en los últimos años y el principal sector económico que nos queda luego del embate del huracán María: la base industrial puertorriqueña. Este no es el momento, ni la reforma contributiva el vehículo para cambios al modelo comercial de la última década. En lugar de estar hoy preocupados por la subsistencia económica de Puerto Rico, debemos estar enfocados en obtener las herramientas para el desarrollo y crecimiento económico que hace un año el Congreso nos prometió con la sección 701 de PROMESA. Cualquier solución duradera para la crisis fiscal y económica de Puerto Rico tiene que considerar el efecto local de cualquier iniciativa contra manufactura fuera de EE.UU., y además proveer en dicho proyecto una solución permanente y favorecedora al crecimiento local. Durante el remanente de la semana la Asociación de Industriales de Puerto Rico, junto a otras asociaciones miembros de la Coalición del Sector Privado, empresas y representantes del gobierno de Puerto Rico redoblaremos esfuerzos en Washington DC para asegurarnos que este mensaje sea escuchado, entendido y reflejado en la reforma contributiva federal”, añadió Masses.
 

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Llegarán mil postes a la isla

Desde Florida.

Posted: Nov 14, 2017 07:45 AM AST
Updated: Nov 14, 2017 07:45 AM AST

Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) anunció que movilizó y transportó 1,000 postes del tendido eléctrico, previamente ubicados en el norte de la Florida, a Puerto Cañaveral y luego a Puerto Rico para ayudar con la reconstrucción de la red eléctrica que fue devastada por el huracán María.
“A medida que la fuerza destructiva del huracán María se hizo evidente e incluso antes de completar nuestra propia restauración relacionada con el huracán Irma, FPL reunió un equipo de profesionales de restauración y dio a conocer que estábamos listos para ofrecer nuestro apoyo para ayudar a reconstruir la infraestructura eléctrica de Puerto Rico”, dijo Eric Silagy, presidente y director ejecutivo de FPL en un parte de prensa.
Indicó que los 1,000 postes de la línea de energía formaban parte del inventario de tormentas de la compañía que se almacena cerca de una de las subestaciones de FPL en el condado de Flagler. Treinta y tres camiones entregaron los postes a Puerto Cañaveral, donde serán cargados en un buque de carga con destino a Puerto Rico esta semana.
FPL continúa lista para proporcionar cualquier asistencia que sea necesaria si la compañía recibe la solicitud.
Además, sostuvo que el personal directivo que representa a FPL acompañó a la delegación de las compañías de energía del gobernador de la Florida Rick Scott al territorio estadounidense el 3 de noviembre. Desde entonces, el personal directivo de FPL se ha mantenido en Puerto Rico, donde ha proporcionado experiencia técnica y orientación para el esfuerzo de restauración.
“Mientras buscábamos asistencia de otras compañías de electricidad después del huracán Irma, brindamos un apoyo similar a aquellos cuya red eléctrica ha sido dañada por desastres naturales y ayudamos a que la vida regrese a la normalidad para nuestros hermanos estadounidenses. De hecho, 300 de nuestros empleados y contratistas regresaron a la Florida la semana pasada después de ayudar a restablecer la electricidad en Maine tras haber sido impactada por un Nor'easter el mes pasado”, señaló.
Entretanto, dijo que aprovechando décadas de experiencia en restauración, el liderazgo de FPL que representa operaciones de preparación para emergencias, construcción y suministro de electricidad, incluyendo a Manny Miranda, vicepresidente senior de suministro de electricidad, están trabajando con sus contrapartes de la industria en Puerto Rico para ayudar a guiar la reconstrucción de la red eléctrica de la isla.
 

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Castañer hospital gets 500th FEMA generator installed by USACE

Written by Contributor // November 13, 2017 // Hurricane María // No comments


Col. James DeLapp talks to Castañer General Hospital COO Adrian González about the USACE’s and FEMA’s temporary emergency generator mission. (U.S. Army photo by Edward Rivera)

The Castañer Medical Hospital received the 500th generator the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has installed in Puerto Rico for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, it was announced.
Castañer General Hospital is the lifeline to more than 6,000 residents in the mountainous region. Additionally the hospital is the town’s main source of employment and water, the USACE said.
After Hurricane Irma hit Puerto Rico Sept. 5, the hospital lost one of two back-up generators, so they moved to install and connect their second generator prior to Hurricane Maria’s landfall on Sept. 20.
That generator has been powering the hospital ever since. Industry recommends complete maintenance every 240 hours and the generator at the hospital was overdue and showed signs of weakening, the USACE further noted.
On Nov. 10, a FEMA temporary generator arrived at the remote facility. The 250 kilowatt generator is the 500th generator installed by the USACE Emergency Temporary Power Planning and Response Teams from Albuquerque and Pittsburgh Districts.
“The generator arrived just in time,” said Adrian González, Castañer General Hospital chief operating officer. “Our current generator had been working non-stop for 1,300 hours and was showing signs of failure.”
For more than 60 years the hospital has served the cities of Lares, Adjuntas, Yauco and Las Marías. González said the generator not only allows them to provide emergency medical support and clinics to its patients but it also runs a water pump that has been providing water from the facilities well to residents.
“Without that generator, we could not provide emergency medical services, we would lose medicines that require refrigeration and the local residents would have no clean water,” said Gonzalez.
As the contracted team of technicians worked to install the new generator, another USACE team arrived to assess the soon to be off-line generator. Castañer General Hospital was also approved by FEMA as a Non-Fed generator to be maintained, repaired and fueled by USACE until commercial power is restored.
“This generator will allow for the hospital to perform complete maintenance on their generator, and then both generators can be used alternately to power the hospital,” said Puerto Rico Recovery Field Office Commander Col. James DeLapp.
On Oct. 28th the Albuquerque District Emergency Temporary Power PRT installed its 311th temporary generator in support of Hurricane Maria response and recovery efforts, surpassing the record set during Hurricane Katrina. As the temporary power mission continues the Pittsburgh District has taken the baton and continues the task of providing FEMA generators to communities like Castañer.
A total of 531 generators have been installed throughout Puerto Rico providing more than 162 megawatts of power to more than 49 hospitals, 44 wastewater facilities, 242 water pumps, 30 emergency services facilities, 10 airports and many other critical facilities, DeLapp said.
“With the Puerto Rico’s power grid operating at approximately 43 percent of pre-storm capacity, the ability to provide generators for critical facilities continues to be a high priority for FEMA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,” said DeLapp.
 

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Powerful Interests Seek to Make Puerto Rico the Hong Kong of the US

By Cyndi Suarez | November 13, 2017


November 9th, 2017; The Intercept
As Puerto Ricans continue to power themselves with gas generators and homegrown grit, and clean energy companies and organizations fill in the energy emergency gap, the House Committee on Natural Resources met this week to plan the island’s energy future. According to The Intercept’s Kate Aronoff, “Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, made a statement that would be easy to miss if you weren’t listening closely: ‘Puerto Rico has the potential of being the Hong Kong of the United States, where businesses would flood in there.’”
Aronoff explains that Hong Kong is code for “an economy structured mainly around pleasing the private sector.” But what would be different about that? That’s what got Puerto Rico into this mess to begin with.
Nevertheless, with the arrogance of the dominant and no wisdom, that’s exactly what the US-assigned fiscal oversight board for Puerto Rico seems to be up to, “with a special eye towards fossil fuel development.”
Gohmert is on the fiscal oversight board, which has significant decision-making control over Puerto Rico’s future economy. If there is any doubt that the best interest of the Puerto Rican people is not of concern, in April 2016 Gohmert said,
Puerto Rico ought to be a model for how free markets work. It could be the United States’s Hong Kong, because there is no federal income tax…If it were not for all the government workers, there would be no need to have a…higher corporate tax than the United States itself has…I would think that if you could get it down to around 12 percent, business would be flocking.
Never mind Puerto Rico’s status as a corporate tax haven is what got them into debt, or that the government has historically been the largest employer on the island, so gutting the taxes that fund it would further impoverish Puerto Ricans. (More than half the population on the island was poor before Hurricane Maria.)
Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-PA), co-chair of the House Natural Gas Caucus, and someone who “has taken more donations from oil and gas companies than from any other industry over the course of his career,” says, “Maria gives us the opportunity to bring Puerto Rico’s infrastructure into the 21st century. How can innovative energy technology, such as fuel cells that utilize our nation’s resource of clean-burning natural gas, be used to revitalize the Puerto Rico energy?”
Noel Zamot, who was tapped by the fiscal board to lead PREPA, the Puerto Rico Electrical Power Authority, the island’s largest company, which is also public, “with all the powers of a CEO,” responded affirmatively to Gohmert’s proposal. Other committee members were excited about Gohmert’s idea, too. Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) says, “Renewables are great, but to provide that much electricity in that short a time is unrealistic.” So renewables are unrealistic, but fossil fuels are not?
PROMESA has already laid the groundwork for exception from Environmental Protection Agency regulations on the island, part of the suspend-democracy-in-crisis-mentality. But these crises are brought on by the lack of democracy and self-determination on the island, not because of them.
Nevertheless, libertarians are weighing in too. Benjamin Dierker, of the libertarian Foundation for Economic Education, wrote a blog in October calling for Puerto Rico to become an “economic freedom zone.” But, of course, he doesn’t mean economic freedom for Puerto Ricans, but for corporations, which apparently are oppressed. The reversals are mind boggling! He goes on, “The zone would flatten or suspend numerous taxes and regulations, prompting an immediate increase in productivity.” He specifically calls for the suspension of environmental regulations and federal minimum wage, in order to “capture business that would be regulated away in the States.” (Code for, “We can do [email protected]#t here we can’t do in the US.” Yet.)
Desmond Lachman, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, agrees with Dierker. He advocates for “swapping large-scale debt forgiveness for corporate-friendly economic reforms.”
The other entity that will eventually weigh in to this catastrophe is Judge Laura Taylor Swain in New York, who is in charge of Puerto Rico’s bankruptcy case. Those of us out here rooting for Puerto Rico—the pressure is on and the pressure points are is becoming clearer day by day. We have work to do to prevent an evolution of the Shock Doctrine, if not to help Puerto Ricans, then to help yourselves. For these marginalized sites are labs for models that may one day soon come to a city, or town, near you.—Cyndi Suarez
 

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Puerto Rico's 'Gentle Killer Bees' Could Prevent the Bee Apocalypse

This new breed of bees is exactly what farmers need.

By Sarah Sloat on November 16, 2017

Through a series of events that seem more like the plot of a Marvel movie than real life, the world’s only colony of gentle killer honey bees, a hybrid of African and European strains, turned the island of Puerto Rico into their home. It all started in 1958, when a group of ragtag African killer bees escaped from an experimental breeding program in Brazil, traveled by ship, and eventually made it to the Caribbean territory in 1994. These very aggressive bees displaced most of the gentle European bees already living there, but eventually the population evened out into colonies of docile but hardy bees.
On Wednesday, the scientists behind a new article in Nature Communications explained how this mixed-trait bee population came to exist, noting that their findings offer hope to the global beekeeping community, which has witnessed the disquieting decimation of European honey bees around the world.
In their study of the bees’ genomes, the team of international scientists found that the “Africanized” bees of Puerto Rico are a result of rapid evolution. Within 30 years of the African bees coming to Puerto Rico, a new population emerged — one that retained genetic traits of the African bees but shared the DNA of European bees. These bees, which dominate the island today, are believed to primarily be a product of “positive selection.”
The most likely scenario, they write, was that when the African killer bees arrived on the densely populated island, humans, refusing to live with such scary bees, eradicated the most aggressive individuals in the population. The African bees that survived the cull were the most docile of the group, and as these gentler individuals bred with the European bees, a genetically different new colony emerged.
To come to this conclusion, the scientists sequenced the genomes of 30 “killer” Africanized bees, 30 “gentle” European honey bees (captured in Illinois), and 30 mixed-trait Puerto Rican bees. Comparing the genomes of these populations, they discovered that the Puerto Rican bees most resembled the African ones, but specific regions of the Puerto Rican bee genome resembled that of the European bees.
“Evolution involves changes in the frequency of gene variants across a population, and that’s what we’re seeing in Puerto Rico,” co-author Gene Robinson, Ph.D., explained in a statement.
“Now we know that these gentle Africanized bees can be genetically distinguished from both other Africanized honey bees and from European honey bees.”
These gentle Puerto Rican bees, which were first identified in 2012, may play an important role in the ongoing bee crisis because they are genetically distinct from known populations. As such, they’re less susceptible to the parasites and pathogens that have decimated European honey bees, which have low genetic diversity, and can continue the crucial agricultural process of pollination as those populations continue to decline.
In general, populations that lack genetic diversity are more vulnerable to threats — without a variety of genes to offer protection, the whole population becomes susceptible to the same pathogens. Traditional bee populations, in particular, are threatened by specific parasites and pathogens.
African bees, however, have managed to maintain their numbers because they share a gene that makes them highly resistant to varroa mite — a parasite that undermines the health of bees and spreads diseases.
While pesticides are believed to be a major reason honey bees have died around the world, varroa mites are thought to be a contributing factor as well. Because Puerto Rican bees are genetically different than European bees but still have their gentle demeanor, they could serve as a useful alternative for humans whose crops rely on varroa-resistant bees.
“Genetically diverse gentle honeybees could help secure agricultural production by providing pollinators more resistant to threats such as parasites and diseases,” the scientists write.
The need for strong pollinators is a huge one: Animal pollination drives five to eight percent of global agricultural production, and with bees in massive decline, much of the world’s crops are at risk.
 

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National historic site in Puerto Rico reopens after hurricane

By Miranda Green, CNN
Updated 6:14 PM ET, Tue November 21, 2017



The Castillo San Felipe del Morro in San Juan, on August 1, 2010.The San Felipe del Morro Fort is a fortification built in XVI century the north end of San Juan, Puerto Rico. (Luis Acosta/AFP/Getty Images)

Washington (CNN)By next week, two important areas of a national historic site in San Juan, Puerto Rico, damaged by Hurricane Maria will be open to visitors and back to normal operations.

Public tours resumed Tuesday at the Castillo San Cristóbal area of San Juan National Historic Site, and officials expect Castillo San Felipe del Morro to reopen as early as next week, the National Park Service announced Tuesday.
San Juan National Historic Site is composed of Castillo San Felipe del Morro, Castillo San Cristóbal, Fort San Juan de La Cruz, La Puerta de San Juan and parts of the city wall, according to NPS.
In September, Hurricane Maria caused major damage to the historic defensive walls inside San Juan National Historic Site, causing it to be closed to public use.
"For over 400 years, Castillo San Felipe del Morro has stood as guardian and symbol of Puerto Rico's heritage, and it's also a major tourism attraction for visitors from all over the world," Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke said. "I'm incredibly proud of the National Park Service and entire Interior family, who have been working nonstop to reopen this important cultural and tourism attraction. Part of rebuilding communities means rebuilding revenue streams so folks can get back to work, earn a living and care for their families. The National Park Service will continue to work closely with the people of Puerto Rico to restore life into this vibrant community."

More than 1.4 million people visited NPS sites in Puerto Rico in 2016, creating $85 million in revenue, according to data provided by the Interior Department.
There will be a public community reopening event at the park on December 2.
 
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