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Watch Samantha Bee’s haunted house of climate hell.

A new Chicago Tribune investigation found that residents in black and Latino communities are charged water rates up to 20-percent higher than those in predominantly white neighborhoods.

The Tribune examined 162 Chicagoland communities with publicly managed systems using water from Lake Michigan. While only 13 percent of the cohorts surveyed are majority-black, those groups included five of the 10 areas with the highest water rates.

Water bills are soaring across the country. A recent USA Today report of 100 municipalities found that over the past 12 years, the monthly cost of water doubled in nearly a third of cities. In Atlanta, San Francisco, and Wilmington, Delaware, the price of water tripled or more.

Low-income residents and communities of color are bearing the brunt of surging water rates, which have buried families in debt, causing some to lose their homes. In Flint, Michigan, more than 8,000 residents faced foreclosure because of unpaid water and sewage bills.

This year, Philadelphia launched an income-based, tiered assistance program to aid low-income residents. City Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez spearheaded the bill because residents in her district — which includes some of Philly’s largest Puerto Rican communities — bore 20 percent of the city’s unpaid water debt despite only being a tenth of its population.

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Watch Samantha Bee’s haunted house of climate hell.

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Tesla and solar groups put Puerto Rico back on the grid

It was a transaction concocted on Twitter — and in a few short weeks, declared official: Tesla is helping to bring power back to Puerto Rico.

Early this month, Elon Musk touted his company’s work building solar-plus-battery systems for small islands like Kauai in Hawaii and Ta’u in American Samoa. He suggested a similar setup could work for Puerto Rico. The U.S. territory’s governor, Ricardo Rosselló, tweeted that he was game. Musk replied quickly: “Hopefully, Tesla can be helpful.”

After earlier reports of the company’s batteries arriving at San Juan’s port, Tesla announced today that it has started constructing its first microgrid installation, laying out a solar field and setting up its refrigerator-sized Powerpack batteries to supply electricity to a children’s hospital in the Puerto Rican capital.

More than a month after Hurricane Maria destroyed swaths of the island’s electrical grid, 85 percent of Puerto Rico is still without power. Total grid repair costs are estimated at $5 billion — an especially steep price for a public utility already $9 billion in debt. The lack of power is especially dire for hospitals, where unreliable electricity may spoil medicines that require refrigeration and complicate crucial medical procedures. The results could be deadlier than the storm itself, but solar power could help head off further disaster.

The idea that solar could serve as a viable source of emergency relief is new. Sure, renewable technologies have proliferated and become more affordable, but there’s a tried-and-true response to natural disasters: Fall back on diesel generators and fuel until utilities have a chance to restore grid power.

This has largely been the pattern in post-Maria Puerto Rico. One hardware store told the New York Times it was selling up to 300 generators a day. FEMA claims it has installed more generators in Puerto Rico than in hurricane-ravaged parts of Texas and Florida combined. But generators are expensive, inefficient, and prone to failure. And burning diesel in homes comes with health risks like carbon monoxide poisoning.

By contrast, a microgrid setup — that is, a combination of solar panels, battery storage, and electrical inverters that doesn’t require input from the main power grid — can potentially take immediate effect, providing reliable electricity with no pollution. And, once installed, these self-contained systems could help eliminate the rolling blackouts that were a problem for Puerto Rico’s major utility even before Maria.

Tesla is only the most prominent company to bypass the conventional avenues of rebuilding to install renewable power and batteries. Other companies and nonprofits have been marshalling resources to fill the void left by federal relief efforts. German renewable energy outfit Sonnen has pledged to build microgrids in priority areas, working with local partner Pura Energia to install donated batteries to power first aid and community centers. Another group, Resilient Power Puerto Rico, is distributing solar generators to remote communities, where they can serve as hubs for immediate necessities like charging phones and filtering water.

Marco Krapels, founder of the nonprofit Empowered by Light, traveled with a solar installation team to Puerto Rico in early October to deploy solar-plus-battery microgrid systems on fire stations. The nonprofit partnered with local firefighters to quickly cut through red tape paralyzing much of the disaster response.

“It takes only 48 hours to deploy once it arrives in the San Juan airport,” Krapels says of the standalone systems. “The firefighters, who have 18 flat-bed trucks, pulled up to our cargo plane; three hours later we were installing the system; and 48 hours later we’re done.”

The microgrid systems provide electricity and communications to the fire stations, as well as water purification technology that can provide up to 250 gallons of drinkable water a day — crucial on an island where 1 in 3 residents currently lack access to clean water.

There are 95 fire stations in Puerto Rico, Krapels says, and he estimates it will take just under $5 million for Empowered by Light to outfit them all. So far, the nonprofit has transformed two stations, one in the low-income Obrero neighborhood of San Juan and one in the town of Utuado, in the remote center of the island. After both installations, Krapels says, the local fire station was the only building with the lights on after dark — outlying and underserved communities are always among the last to receive emergency relief.

“There are parts of the island that are so destroyed that there is no grid,” Krapels says. “There is nothing to fix: The transformers are all burnt, the poles are gone, the wires are laying on the street.”

As much as 80 percent of the island’s high-power transmission lines were destroyed, Bloomberg reported, and even optimistic estimates of repair work have a majority of the island off the grid until late this year.

In the coming months, as communities and companies work to rebuild that infrastructure, there will be an opportunity to make the island more resilient. Companies like Tesla offer one path to less vulnerable electricity infrastructure. Meanwhile, organizations like Resilient Power Puerto Rico emphasize the importance of economic resilience, too. The New York-based founders want to put power in the hands of the island’s residents, modeled after similar efforts in the Rockaways post-Sandy. The nonprofit has ambitions to establish 100 solar towns, a robust green economy, and more electrical independence for all.

“If we’re going to rethink energy in Puerto Rico, let’s really empower people to deploy their own distributed renewable generation and storage,” Krapels says. “The sun is there every day, and it’s going to shine for the next 5 billion years.”

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Tesla and solar groups put Puerto Rico back on the grid

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Federal officials accidentally emailed a reporter their plans to spin Puerto Rico.

In a memo leaked last week, Department of Homeland Security adviser Tom Bossert recommended White House staff pivot to a “theme of stabilizing” with regard to messaging around the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico.

President Trump, however, appears to have missed that particular update. On Thursday morning, he threatened to pull federal relief workers from the devastated island just three weeks after Maria made landfall.

Meanwhile, most of Puerto Rico is still without power, hospitals are running out of medical supplies, and clean water remains scarce.

Trump isn’t the only prominent Republican refusing to recognize the severity of the crisis. In an interview with CNN on Thursday morning, Representative Scott Perry, a Pennsylvania Republican, accused host Chris Cuomo of fabricating reports of the severity of the disaster.

“Mr. Cuomo, you’re simply just making this stuff up,” Perry said. “If half the country didn’t have food or water, those people would be dying, and they’re not.”

45 Puerto Rican deaths have been officially confirmed so far, and reports from the ground indicate the unofficial number of deaths due to the storm is higher.

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Federal officials accidentally emailed a reporter their plans to spin Puerto Rico.

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The first ‘negative emissions’ carbon-capture plant is up and running.

In a memo leaked last week, Department of Homeland Security adviser Tom Bossert recommended White House staff pivot to a “theme of stabilizing” with regard to messaging around the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico.

President Trump, however, appears to have missed that particular update. On Thursday morning, he threatened to pull federal relief workers from the devastated island just three weeks after Maria made landfall.

Meanwhile, most of Puerto Rico is still without power, hospitals are running out of medical supplies, and clean water remains scarce.

Trump isn’t the only prominent Republican refusing to recognize the severity of the crisis. In an interview with CNN on Thursday morning, Representative Scott Perry, a Pennsylvania Republican, accused host Chris Cuomo of fabricating reports of the severity of the disaster.

“Mr. Cuomo, you’re simply just making this stuff up,” Perry said. “If half the country didn’t have food or water, those people would be dying, and they’re not.”

45 Puerto Rican deaths have been officially confirmed so far, and reports from the ground indicate the unofficial number of deaths due to the storm is higher.

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The first ‘negative emissions’ carbon-capture plant is up and running.

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Donald Trump is threatening to end federal relief to Puerto Rico — on Twitter, of course.

In a memo leaked last week, Department of Homeland Security adviser Tom Bossert recommended White House staff pivot to a “theme of stabilizing” with regard to messaging around the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico.

President Trump, however, appears to have missed that particular update. On Thursday morning, he threatened to pull federal relief workers from the devastated island just three weeks after Maria made landfall.

Meanwhile, most of Puerto Rico is still without power, hospitals are running out of medical supplies, and clean water remains scarce.

Trump isn’t the only prominent Republican refusing to recognize the severity of the crisis. In an interview with CNN on Thursday morning, Representative Scott Perry, a Pennsylvania Republican, accused host Chris Cuomo of fabricating reports of the severity of the disaster.

“Mr. Cuomo, you’re simply just making this stuff up,” Perry said. “If half the country didn’t have food or water, those people would be dying, and they’re not.”

45 Puerto Rican deaths have been officially confirmed so far, and reports from the ground indicate the unofficial number of deaths due to the storm is higher.

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Donald Trump is threatening to end federal relief to Puerto Rico — on Twitter, of course.

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Maria has plunged Puerto Rico into a humanitarian emergency

The rain and winds may be over, but Maria’s impact on Puerto Rico is only just beginning.

The storm’s rains fell at a rate exceeding that of Hurricane Harvey in Texas with wind speeds exceeding that of Hurricane Irma in Florida. In the span of 24 hours, Maria knocked out Puerto Rico’s entire power grid, 95 percent of cellphone towers, the bulk of the island’s water infrastructure, as well as roads, bridges, schools, hospitals, airports, and seaports.

Officials warn it may take up to six months to fully restore power. In some communities, 90 percent of homes and businesses have suffered “complete” damage. To make matters worse, more than 40 percent of Puerto Rico’s 3.5 million residents live below the poverty line, making the uphill climb to recovery even more steep.

All indications are that Hurricane Maria has inflicted one of the most extreme and catastrophic weather events in American history. If the aid response is not swift, the situation in Puerto Rico has all the makings of a major humanitarian crisis.

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“There’s a humanitarian emergency here in Puerto Rico,” Ricardo Rossello, the territory’s governor, said. “This is an event without precedent.”

For now, the grim reality is that many Puerto Ricans are on their own. Over the coming days and weeks, first responders will fan out across the island. But many residents will likely begin their recoveries on their own. And if they sustain seemingly minor injuries while doing so, those could go without proper treatment. The sweltering tropical weather could enhance heat-related illnesses. In addition to removing a lifeline for critical-care patients, like those on dialysis, the lack of electricity also means that banks and ATMs will remain closed until further notice — making it more difficult for people to get the resources they need. Supplies of fresh food may start to dwindle.

But perhaps the biggest impact on human health in Puerto Rico will be the lack of clean water. On Twitter, climate scientist Peter Gleick urged the U.S. government to dispatch an aircraft carrier to Puerto Rico. The primary purpose: Not as a landing strip for bringing in supplies, but for its ability to purify massive amounts of water.

After the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, the nuclear-powered USS Carl Vinson was able to produce 100,000 gallons of clean water per day near the capital Port-au-Prince. In addition to supplying fresh water by whatever means necessary, Gleick says a massive public education campaign should begin immediately focused on preserving human health, particularly on water and sanitation.

“Everything else is secondary,” Gleick told Grist in an interview.

U.N. peacekeepers who came to aid in Haiti’s recovery ended up jumpstarting a cholera epidemic that killed more than 10,000 people. Puerto Rico has had just a single case of cholera since the mid-1800s, but other water-related illnesses, like dysentery, could become a major problem.

Initial estimates of damage to the island exceed $30 billion. That’s roughly one-third of Puerto Rico’s annual economic output — making Maria the rough equivalent of a $500-billion disaster in New York City or a $700-billion disaster in California. With the Puerto Rican government already saddled with more than $70 billion in debt, help is going to have to come from outside the island.

Puerto Rico, partly because of its unique relationship as a United States territory, faces a long and complicated recovery. The United Nations, which does not typically support recovery efforts in developed countries, has not yet issued an appeal for aid. The U.S. federal government should pick up most of the tab through grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which Congress will have to approve. So far, Maria’s impact in Puerto Rico has received only a fraction of the news coverage as Harvey’s landfall in Texas and Irma’s in Florida. That could potentially weaken public support for a multibillion-dollar aid package.

A lingering crisis could motivate a mass exodus to the U.S. mainland. But relocation is expensive, and those without the means to move could risk being left behind to shoulder an even bigger burden by themselves.

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Maria has plunged Puerto Rico into a humanitarian emergency

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Puerto Rico Files for Bankruptcy the Day After Trump Admin Brags About Blocking Funds

Mother Jones

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After a day of sometimes violent demonstrations in San Juan protesting austerity measures and government handling of the debt crisis, Puerto Rico governor Ricardo Rosselló, announced Wednesday morning that he would move the island’s crushing debts into the bankruptcy-like process created under federal legislation to deal with the crisis. Unlike public entities and cities in the states, Puerto Rico, essentially a colony of the US, is prohibited from filing for bankruptcy under federal law. This legislation created a different option that allows a federal court to restructure more than $70 billion—the largest such restructuring in the history of the US municipal bond market.

The announcement comes after a flurry of lawsuits filed against the island’s government by creditors Tuesday morning, the first to land after local officials’ proposal for partial repayment of the debt was rejected by lenders last weekend. Under legislation passed last summer, known as the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA), the island had until May 1 to negotiate a plan to address the debts while also providing basic services for the island’s 3.5 million residents. The deal from the local government last Friday offered as much as 77 cents on the dollar to some lenders while offering 58 cents on the dollar to others, according to Bloomberg, but the lenders called the deal unworkable. Hedge funds such as Aurelius Capital Management and Monarch Alternative Captial, and Ambac Financial Group, Inc., an insurer that owned Puerto Rican bonds, had been prevented from filing suit until May 1 under PROMESA.

The suits came a day after thousands took the streets in a national strike throughout Puerto Rico protesting cuts proposed by the board that was created under PROMESA, which increased water rates, while cutting funds to schools, public-sector jobs and pensions, health care spending, and the island’s university system totaling roughly $450 million over three years. After a day of largely peaceful protests, police used tear gas and pepper spray to disperse some protesters, according to local reports, and at least 17 people were arrested. Students and other protesters have demanded an independent audit of the debt, among other things, as the island grapples with the issue.

“As time goes by and austerity measures start to strike on more and more people, people are going to stand up and respond to what is the government violence against the people who are left in very difficult conditions,” Mariana Nogales Molinelli, an attorney in Puerto Rico and former candidate for the island’s non-voting representative to the US Congress, tells Mother Jones.

Nogales Molinelli says that the cuts by both the government and the control board to public sector workers and collective bargaining rights have made a lot of people angry—and not just university students. On April 18, the Puerto Rican Senate approved a bill that eliminated the publicly-funded audit commission responsible for insuring the debts were issued lawfully and were not in violation of island’s constitution. Some of the protesters at the capital were retired police, according to Joel Cintrón Arbasetti, a journalist with the Center for Investigative Reporting in Puerto Rico. Nogales thinks more police will join the protests.

“My guess is that part of the police force will be joining the people because they are going to be affected also,” Nogales Molinelli says. “Their kids’ schools will be closed, and they will not have enough medical insurance. The situation could explode because of all the austerity measures and they are going to have to work under much more pressure and in conditions that are going to be very difficult for them.”

Nogales says there have also been reports of some violent responses by police towards protesters and those perceived to be organizing protests. During a protest at the capital, she saw a police officer take a protester’s sign and hit her over the head with it. The Puerto Rico Police Department is currently under a consent decree with the US Department of Justice in an effort to become more professional and accountable after years of documented corruption and violence against the population.

Back on the mainland, Puerto Rico has been a political football for Trump and Congress during negotiations for a federal spending bill, with the president implying that Puerto Ricans, who have been US citizens for 100 years, were not.

When the budget deal was announced Monday morning, Democrats managed to get “an emergency injection of $295 million” to help shore up the island’s Medicaid program through the end of the year, according to Reuters. On Tuesday, Office of Budget and Management Director Mick Mulvaney bragged during a White House Press briefing that Republicans and the president had actually prevented any money from going to Puerto Rico, and that the $295 million had come from funds not previously allocated.

“You had the Democrats crying out that they got $295 million for Puerto Rico,” Mulvaney told reporters, “Did not cost the taxpayer a penny. They wanted new money, they wanted a bailout. We wouldn’t give it to them.”

It’s unclear how the restructuring will proceed as the provision in PROMESA has never been used, but the New York Times reports that Chief Justice John Roberts of the US Supreme Court will now appoint a bankruptcy judge to handle the case.

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Puerto Rico Files for Bankruptcy the Day After Trump Admin Brags About Blocking Funds

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Puerto Rico Keeps Getting the Shaft from Congress

Mother Jones

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The House reached a deal on a $1.1 trillion spending bill on Tuesday night that avoided a government shutdown with agreements that included lifting the ban on crude oil exports, delaying the implementation of certain parts of the Affordable Care Act, and tightening visa requirements. Also included were nearly $680 billion in tax cuts.

But missing in the massive bill was any debt assistance for Puerto Rico, which is on the brink of insolvency due to more than $72 billion in debt. Despite some recent Republican proposals that would have provided short-term relief (along with strict financial oversight) for the largest US territory, in the end, lawmakers did not include any assistance that would permit the federal bankruptcy provisions that US cities and states are able to use.

“It is unconscionable that Congressional Republicans refused to include in the year-end spending bill meaningful provisions to allow Puerto Rico to restructure its debt,” Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-N.Y.) said in a statement released Wednesday morning. “This would not have cost the taxpayer a dime, but could have helped solve what is rapidly disintegrating into a humanitarian crisis.”

The island is facing a $957 million interest payment on January 1, putting its government in the position of having to choose between paying government workers, public university workers, and other school teachers, or paying its creditors. Unlike cities and publicly owned entities in the states, Puerto Rico cannot restructure debt under federal bankruptcy laws. Pedro Pierluisi, the island’s nonvoting representative to Congress, introduced legislation in 2014 and 2015 that would offer Puerto Rico’s government that option, but neither bill received any Republican support. Last week, Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) introduced a bill that included a bankruptcy provision for Puerto Rico, but also included a financial oversight board that Pierluisi and others said was too heavy-handed. Duffy’s bill is in committee.

In her statement, Velázquez listed the many efforts the Puerto Rican government has made to bridge its funding gaps, which include spending less on students, closing a total of nearly 160 schools over the last two years, increasing the local sales tax to 11.5 percent, and laying off 21 percent of its government employees since 2008. “Yet hedge funds continue demanding further, unreasonable austerity measures, rather than accepting a lower rate of return on their investments,” she said.

Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), while calling for passage of debt restructuring for Puerto Rico Thursday, noted that 200,000 Puerto Ricans have served in the US military since 1917, and that at some point next year Congress will honor a mostly Puerto Rican infantry regiment with a Congressional Gold Medal for its service during the Korean War.

“It’s shameful to think that Congress can at once recognize the extraordinary contribution of Puerto Ricans who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country and then do nothing for Puerto Rico when they turn to us for help in a time of crisis,” he said on the Senate floor.

While discussing the budget bill with reporters on Wednesday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) also discussed Puerto Rico’s problems. “We’re concerned about ignoring the urgency of the situation in Puerto Rico, where American citizens are really in a situation that we must address,” she said, according to Politico. “It won’t cost the American people one thin dime to allow Puerto Rico to restructure their debt and their bankruptcy.”

Deepak Lamba-Nieves, an economic development researcher at the Center for the New Economy, an economic think tank in San Juan, Puerto Rico, told Mother Jones Wednesday that the lack of congressional action raises the likelihood that on January 1 Puerto Rico will find itself in the unprecedented position of defaulting on its general obligation debts because the government has to, by law, “address the creditors’ needs before the needs of its citizens.”

It could be a situation where you have a lot of strong lobbying happening from the hedge funds and the financial community,” he says. “This means that the federal government has basically turned its back on over 3 million of its citizens.”

Pierluisi acknowledged that there were two provisions in the spending bill for Puerto Rico’s hospitals. One will reimburse the local hospitals that treat Medicare patients at the same rate as hospitals in the states, giving Puerto Rico’s hospitals $618 million between 2016 and 2025. Another provision provides Puerto Rican hospitals with the same bonuses provided to other hospitals in the United States that implement broader use of electronic health care records under the HITECH Act. (Read about the problems with electronic medical records in this recent Mother Jones story.)

“In total, the omnibus provides nearly $900 million to benefit Puerto Rico hospitals and patients over the next decade,” Pierluisi said in a statement. “Puerto Rico still confronts major disparities under federal health care programs, including the upcoming Medicaid cliff, but it is gratifying to take these two disparities off the list.”

Pierluisi added that the help for hospitals “is largely eclipsed” by the lack of help for the debt crisis.

“Despite our best efforts, the omnibus does not include language empowering Puerto Rico to restructure any of its debt, as every US state is empowered to do,” he said. “Honesty requires me to note that the objections to this provision came exclusively from Republicans.”

Pierluisi closed his statement by saying that a major reason for the current problems facing Puerto Rico is its colonial relationship with the United States.

“Because Puerto Rico is a territory, Congress has nearly complete power over us. We rely on the goodwill of men and women representing the 50 stateshe said. “Often, such goodwill is not forthcoming. And sometimes, like today, our treatment can only be described as shameful.”

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Puerto Rico Keeps Getting the Shaft from Congress

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Rising Aggression Against Turtle Conservationists Preceded Costa Rica Slaying

Costa Rican news reports show a pattern of rising violence before the murder of a turtle guardian. Original post –  Rising Aggression Against Turtle Conservationists Preceded Costa Rica Slaying ; ;Related ArticlesA New Way to Harvest Wind Energy at SeaA Tornado Chaser Falls Doing Extreme ScienceCosta Rican Turtle Defender Found Slain on the Beach He Patrolled ;

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Rising Aggression Against Turtle Conservationists Preceded Costa Rica Slaying

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