7:59 AM 2/6/2018 – US: Puerto Rico lacked leadership, communication post-storm

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Puerto Rico lacked leadership, communication post-storm :: WRAL.com

mikenova shared this story .

By DANICA COTO, Associated Press

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Federal officials on Thursday blamed a lack of leadership, money and communication in Puerto Rico for setting back hurricane recovery efforts in the U.S. territory.

FEMA Deputy Regional Administrator Ahsha Tribble said the island’s bureaucracy and the power company’s inability to pay for supplies it ordered after Hurricane Maria slowed efforts to restore electricity. Nearly half a million power customers remain in the dark more than four months after the Category 4 storm, which destroyed two-thirds of the power distribution system, killed dozens of people and caused up to an estimated $94 billion in damage.

Tribble said it was “extremely difficult” to work with Puerto Rico’s Electric Power Authority immediately after the storm to figure out what it needed to rebuild the system. She also said the company’s financial constraints led to a lack of trust among FEMA suppliers and that appointing an interim power company director in the middle of the disaster led to challenges with leadership. In addition, communication was strained, she said.

“In an emergency, when you have eight layers of approval to get something done, it’s not working for us,” she said. “You put all that together, and it’s a recipe for disaster.”

Tribble was among several officials who spoke before a federal control board that oversees Puerto Rico’s finances and is considering a plan to privatize the power company, which is $9 billion in debt. It would be the largest restructuring of a public entity in U.S. history.

Energy experts told the board that a lack of maintenance, heavily loaded lines and shoddy work done by Puerto Rico’s power company over the years contributed to the power grid’s extensive failure after the hurricane.

Sanjay Bose, an official with ConEdison who was helping after the hurricane, said his crews in Puerto Rico observed many problems, including poles that had been installed at a more shallow depth than industry standard.

“It’s not one single thing that I can point my finger at,” he said. “Maintenance would have prevented some of the damage.”

Power company spokesman Geraldo Quinones referred a request for comment to the island’s financial authority, whose spokesman did not respond.

Col. Donovan Ollar of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers told the board that only 61 percent of the power company’s transmission system is now complete. Part of the problem is that some of the equipment Puerto Rico uses is unique to the island and is no longer made by manufacturers in the U.S. mainland. In addition, Puerto Rico uses 200 to 300 types of transformers when the industry standard is three to four, he said.

Ollar also said that makeshift repairs done by the power company to keep the system running prior to the hurricane created more work for his crews.

“It makes it problematic to come back and do it properly,” he said, adding that he wants to rebuild the system to mirror those in the U.S. mainland so when companies fly in, they can use the same equipment.

Officials noted that Puerto Rico did not activate a mutual aid agreement with mainland power companies until Oct. 31, more than a month after Hurricane Maria hit. Meanwhile, shortly after the storm, the power company’s former director signed a $300 million contract with a small Montana company called Whitefish Holdings Inc. to help with restoration efforts. The director has since resigned and the contract was cancelled.

FEMA official Ahsha Tribble defended that contract, saying that U.S. power companies under the mutual aid agreement were not capable of repairing the transmission system given the extent of the damage.

“That’s why the Whitefishes and Cobras of the world are necessary,” she said, referring to another company hired to help restore power.

However, Tribble added that hurricane response efforts have to be improved.

“We’re still learning what needs to be done,” she said. “We need to do better.”

Dystopia – Google Search

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Making a crypto utopia in Puerto Rico

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Until the Puertopians find land, they have descended on the Monastery, a 20,000-square-foot hotel they rented as their base and that was largely unscathed by the hurricane.

Matt Clemenson and Stephen Morris were drinking beer on the Monastery’s roof one recent evening. Mr. Clemenson had an easygoing affect and wore two-tone aviators; Mr. Morris, a loquacious British man, was in cargo shorts and lace-up steel-toed combat boots, with a smartphone on a necklace. They wanted to make two things clear: They chose Puerto Rico because of the hurricane, and they come in peace.

“It’s only when everything’s been swept away that you can make a case for rebuilding from the ground up,” Mr. Morris, 53, said.

“We’re benevolent capitalists, building a benevolent economy,” said Mr. Clemenson, 34, a co-founder of <a href=”http://Lottery.com” rel=”nofollow”>Lottery.com</a>, which is using the blockchain in lotteries. “Puerto Rico has been this hidden gem, this enchanted island that’s been consistently overlooked and mistreated. Maybe 500 years later we can make it right.”

Other Puertopians arrived on the roof as a pack, just back from a full-day property-hunting bus tour. From the middle, Brock Pierce, 37, the leader of the Puertopia movement, emerged wearing drop crotch capri pants, a black vest that almost hit his knees and a large black felt hat. He and others had arrived on the island in early December.

“Compassion, respect, financial transparency,” Mr. Pierce said when asked what was guiding them here.

Mr. Pierce, the director of the Bitcoin Foundation, is a major figure in the crypto boom. He co-founded a blockchain-for-business start-up, Block.One, which has sold around $200 million of a custom virtual currency, EOS, in a so-called initial coin offering. The value of all the outstanding EOS tokens is around $6.5 billion.

A former child actor, Mr. Pierce got into digital money early as a professional gamer, mining and trading gold in the video game World of Warcraft, an effort funded partly by Stephen K. Bannon, the former Trump adviser. Mr. Pierce is a controversial figure — he has previously been sued for fraud, among other matters.

Downstairs, in the Monastery penthouse, a dozen or so other expats were hanging out. The water was out that night, so the toilets and faucets were dry. Mr. Minor lounged on an alcove chaise.

“The U.S. doesn’t want us. It’s trying to choke off this economy,” Mr. Minor said, referring to the difficulties that crypto investors have with American banks. “There needs to be a place where people are free to invent.”

Mr. Pierce paced the room with his hands in fists. A few times a day, he played a video for the group on his phone and a portable speaker: Charlie Chaplin’s 1940 “The Great Dictator,” in which Chaplin parodies Hitler rallying his forces. He finds inspiration in lines like “More than machinery, we need humanity.”

“I’m worried people are going to misinterpret our actions,” Mr. Pierce said. “That we’re just coming to Puerto Rico to dodge taxes.”

He said he was aiming to create a charitable token called ONE with $1 billion of his own money. “If you take the MY out of money, you’re left with ONE,” Mr. Pierce said.

“He’s tuned in to a higher calling,” said Kai Nygard, scion of the Canadian clothing company Nygard and a crypto investor. “He’s beyond money.”

The force of Mr. Pierce’s personality and his spiritual presence are important to the group, whose members are otherwise largely agnostic. Mr. Pierce regularly performs rituals. Earlier that day while scoping out property, they had stopped at a historic Ceiba tree, known as the Tree of Life.

“Brock nestled into the bosom of it and was there for 10 minutes,” Mr. Nygard said.

Mr. Pierce walked around the tree and said prayers for Puertopia, holding a rusted wrench he had picked up in the territory. He kissed an old man’s feet. He blessed a crystal in the water, as they all watched. He played the Chaplin speech to everyone and to the tree, Mr. Nygard said.

That wrench is now in the penthouse, heavy and greasy.

Later on, at a dinner in a nearby restaurant, the group ordered platters of octopus arms, fried cheese, ceviche and rum cocktails. They began debating whether to buy Puerto Rico’s Roosevelt Roads Naval Station, which measures 9,000 acres and has two deepwater ports and an adjacent airport. The only hitch: It’s a Superfund cleanup site.

Mr. Pierce had fallen asleep by then, his hat tilted down and arms crossed. He gets two hours of sleep many nights, often on a firm grounding mat to stay in contact with the earth’s electric energy. Josh Boles, a tall, athletic man who is another crypto expat, picked him up, and the group headed back to the Monastery.

They walked past a big pink building in an old town square, the start of their vision for Puertopia’s downtown. Once a children’s museum, they plan on making it a crypto clubhouse and outreach center that will have the mission “to bring together Puerto Ricans with Puertopians.”

amtrak crash – Google Search

mikenova shared this story from amtrak crash – Google News.

Story image for amtrak crash from New York Times

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Give us 5 minutes, and we’ll give you the world. Around the clock, Voice of America keeps you in touch with the latest news. We bring you reports from our correspondents and interviews with newsmakers from across the world.Download audio: https://av.voanews.com/clips/VEN/2018/02/06/20180206-100000-VEN119-program_hq.mp3

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