Tag Archives: FEMA

Trump Reportedly Wants to Cut Off Federal Relief Funds to Puerto Rico Despite Post-Maria Devastation

The president claims, with no evidence, that local officials want to use recovery money to pay down the U.S. territory’s sizeable debt

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 11-12-2018

President Donald Trump reportedly wants to cut off federal relief funding to Puerto Rico even though much of the island is still devastated by Hurricane Maria, which hit the isalnd in September of 2017. (Chris Grogan/Air Force Magazine/Flickr)

Although it has been more than a year since Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico, in parts of the U.S. territory, “it’s like the hurricane hit yesterday“—yet President Donald Trump wants to cut off recovery money, according to Axios, “because he claims, without evidence, that the island’s government is using federal disaster relief money to pay off debt.”

The unfounded claims about federal funds being misappropriated come from Trump’s misreading of an October Wall Street Journal article, multiple unnamed sources told Axios‘ Jonathan Swan. Continue reading

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Minnesota Police Train at Military Base as Line 3 Pipeline Protests Escalate

Pipeline protests in Standing Rock pitted police against Native Americans and their supporters.

By Andrew Neef. Published 10-25-2018 by Unicorn Riot

Unicorn Riot has uncovered documents showing coordination between state-wide authorities to prepare for anti-pipeline protests. Emails obtained from Minnesota State Patrol under the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act show close cooperation between state and local law enforcement, the Minnesota Department of Public Safet, pipeline company security staff and a private police foundation.

One such email, dated June 18, 2018, shows discussion about a “table top” exercise located at Camp Ripley, a military base operated by the Minnesota National Guard which also hosts trainings for the Minnesota State Patrol. The email states the exercise “relates to MFF [Mobile Field Force] and the Line 3.”  Line 3 is a controversial pipeline project proposed by Canadian oil giant Enbridge, and has been the focus of years of protests by indigenous tribes and environmental activists. Continue reading

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Nuclear Plants, Toxic Waste Sites Under Threat as Florence Readies ‘Mike Tyson Punch to Carolina Coast’

As new pathway of storm predicted, National Hurricane Center calls looming storm “very large and incredibly dangerous”

By Jon Queally, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 9-12-2018

Satellite image of Hurricane Florence swirling in the Atlantic Ocean as it approaches the U.S. coastline in the early hours of Wednesday morning. (Photo: CIRA/RAAMB)

With reports of skyscraper-likes waves out at sea, the potential for historic coastal surges and rainfall, and severe threats to vulnerable nuclear plants and other industrial waste sites—a behemoth Hurricane Florence is fast-approaching the southeastern U.S. coast on Wednesday as weather experts and emergency management officials intensify their warnings about the dangers the “once-in-a-lifetime” storm poses.

With state governments in South Carolina and North Carolina issuing evacuations along the coast and other potential flood zones, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has said that it is mobilizing for a storm that could knock out power for weeks and lead to the displacement of tens if not hundreds of thousands of residents across multiple states. Continue reading

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Instability Mounts in Puerto Rico Amid Privatization Efforts and Power Authority’s Cash Shortfall

“If this is not disaster economics and this is not setting the stage for commercialization of services that are there to promote equality, I don’t know what is.”

By Julia Conley, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 2-19-2018

Many rural areas in Puerto Rico remain without power, and San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz said Monday that privatization has directly resulted in delays to restoration. (Photo: Western Area Power/Flickr/cc)

As nearly 250,000 Puerto Ricans remain without power five months after Hurricane Maria struck the island territory—the longest blackout in U.S. history—the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) said Sunday it will reduce its operating reserve to save money, as the island’s government moves toward privatizing the authority.

A federal judge denied PREPA a $1 billion loan over the weekend, saying the authority could not prove it needed the additional cash injection. The company will now reduce its reserve by 450 megawatts, saving $9 million per month but likely resulting in more power outages. Continue reading

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Ignoring Threat of Rising Seas, Trump Eliminates Flood Risk Standards

“Silly Trump wants to use tax dollars to build on floodplains as sea level rises. Damp!”

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 8-15-2017

President Donald Trump signed an executive order Tuesday that reportedly revoked Obama-era provisions requiring strict standards to reduce flood risks for federally-funded infrastructure projects. (Photo: maxstrz/flickr/cc)

On Tuesday, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that reportedly eliminates flood-risk standards for federally funded public infrastructure projects—in a purported effort to expedite the approval process for projects such as highways and bridges, as part of his $1 trillion infrastructure plan that’s been criticized for its reliance on private developers.

Although details of Trump’s order were not immediately made public, at a press conference this afternoon, the president called U.S. infrastructure a “massive self-inflicted wound on our country,” and said there would no longer be “one job-killing delay after another.” Continue reading

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FEMA Contractor: Unrest After 395% Food Price Spike Coming Soon

By Claire Bernish. Published 6-27-2016 by The Anti-Media

Photo: Bill Koplitz (Public Domain) via Wikimedia Commons.

Photo: Bill Koplitz (Public Domain) via Wikimedia Commons.

Preparations by various cogs of the national security complex, including FEMA, indicate a coming worldwide food shortage — and a resulting crisis marked by extreme civil unrest around the globe.

As Motherboard noted of two reports published previously by CNA Corporation, but which largely escaped attention, the world’s food supply could be insufficient to maintain even current populations much further into the future. And the crisis — which several factors indicate may already be underway — may begin to worsen considerably as early as 2020. Continue reading

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Trying (and Trying) to Get Records From the ‘Most Transparent Administration’ Ever

I experienced firsthand the incompetence and neglect behind Obama’s failure to make good on his FOIA promises.

by Justin Elliott ProPublica.  March 11, 2016, 7 a.m.

Photo: Tony Webster from Portland, Oregon (FBI FOIA) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commonshoto

Photo: Tony Webster from Portland, Oregon (FBI FOIA) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commonshoto

Two years ago last month, I filed a public-records request to the Federal Emergency Management Agency as part of my reporting into the flawed response to Hurricane Sandy. Then, I waited.

The Freedom of Information Act requires a response within 20 business days, but agencies routinely blow that deadline. Eight months later, ProPublica and NPR published our investigation into the Sandy response, but it did not include any documents from FEMA. The agency had simply never gotten back to me.

Finally, this Feb. 10 2014 492 business days past the law’s 20-day deadline 2014 I got a curious phone call from FEMA. The agency was starting a “clean search” for the documents I asked for, because the original search “was not done properly.”

Why?

“I wish I had the answer,” the staffer told me. “There are quite a few cases that this happened to.”

Documents are the lifeblood of investigative journalism, but these problems aren’t of interest only to reporters. The Freedom of Information Act is supposed to deliver on the idea of a government “for and by the people,” whose documents are our documents. The ability to get information from the government is essential to holding the people in power accountable. This summer will mark the 50th anniversary of the law, which has been essential in disclosing the torture of detainees after 9/11, decades of misdeeds by the CIA, FBI informants who were allowed to break the law and hundreds of other stories.

President Obama himself waxed poetic about FOIA on his first full day in office in 2009, issuing a statement calling it “the most prominent expression of a profound national commitment to ensuring an open Government.” He promised that his would be “the most transparent administration in history.”

But Obama hasn’t delivered. In fact, FOIA has been a disaster under his watch.

Newly uncovered documents (made public only through a FOIA lawsuit) show the Obama administration aggressively lobbying against reforms proposed in Congress. The Associated Press found last year that the administration had set a record for censoring or denying access to information requested under FOIA, and that the backlog of unanswered requests across the government had risen by 55 percent, to more than 200,000.

The Republican-led House Oversight and Government Reform Committee looked into the state of the public-records law and in January issued a report with a simple, devastating title: “FOIA Is Broken.”

Incredibly, it took my ProPublica colleague Michael Grabell more than seven years to get records about air marshal misconduct from the Transportation Security Administration. As he pointed out, his latest contact in the FOIA office was still in high school when Grabell filed his initial request.

After a reporter at NBC4 in Washington sought files related to the 2013 Navy Yard shooting, Navy officials actively strategized about how to thwart the request. The Navy only apologized after it mistakenly forwarded its internal email traffic to the reporter.

When a Mexican journalist asked the Drug Enforcement Administration in 2014 for files related to its role in the capture of drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, the agency sent a letter back demanding $1.4 million in fees to search its records.

“There’s a leadership void that has gotten worse,” veteran FOIA lawyer Scott Hodes told me. “It’s not treated as an important thing within the administration.”

Why is the law failing so badly after all the promises about transparency? My experience and the experience of other journalists suggests the reason is twofold: incompetence and neglect.

When I probed a bit more into what had gone wrong at FEMA, the agency’s entire FOIA apparatus started to look like a Potemkin village of open government. The FOIA staff was never trained properly, a FEMA spokesman told me. Of 16 positions in the office, eight have long been vacant for reasons that are not entirely clear. The backlog of requests at FEMA has ballooned to 1,500. That’s more than double what it was less than two years ago.

Spokesman Rafael Lemaitre promised that the backlog was “frankly unacceptable to senior leadership here at FEMA, who have been aware of the problems and are taking actions to correct it.”

“Obviously the Freedom of Information Act is a very vital resource for taxpayers,” Lemaitre said. “Frankly, we haven’t done a very good job of fulfilling that promise.”

Over the past two years, whenever I periodically called or emailed for updates, agency staffers either ignored me, said their systems weren’t working or told me they didn’t have any new information.

My request outlasted the tenure of my original contact in the FOIA office. When I called 14 months into the process, I was told she had left the agency 2014 fair enough, as people change jobs all the time. But my request had apparently not been handed off to anyone else. No one seemed to know what was going on.

Last year, the federal FOIA ombudsman found that FEMA took an average of 214 days to process complex FOIA requests, the third-worst in the Department of Homeland Security. (That compares to an average processing time for complex requests of 119 days across the rest of the government.) “A lack of responsiveness prompted lawsuits that cost the agency a bunch of money,” said James Holzer, the head of the ombudsman’s office, who praised FEMA officials for at least recognizing the problem.

A hiring freeze at the agency after sequestration didn’t help matters. But officials told Holzer’s investigators last year that the eight long-vacant positions in the public records office would be filled as early as last fall. Today, those jobs remain empty. The FEMA spokesman didn’t have an explanation for what’s taking so long.

When I tried to find out whether anyone had been held responsible for the fiasco, I didn’t find much more transparency. “I cannot discuss any personnel issues, unfortunately,” the spokesman told me.

Has the agency at least set a specific goal for when it will get through its backlog? “Our target is to get these cleared as quickly as possible 2014 I don’t have a date for you.”

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Everything’s Bigger In Texas – Especially The Crazy

Starting today, approximately 1,200 U.S. troops, mostly Special Operations forces, will participate in a two-month military training exercise named Jade Helm 15, which takes place across seven states in the American Southwest, including Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico.

Jade Helm logo. Photo via YouTube

Jade Helm logo. Photo via YouTube

Normally, people would think “So what else is new?”, and continue on without a second thought. Military exercises aren’t anything new, after all. However, this isn’t the case with Jade Helm 15. A combination of the Internet, talk radio and toxic politics have made Jade Helm 15 a conspiracy theory fan’s delight. And, Ground Zero for all the insanity is the state of Texas, of course.

This shouldn’t really surprise anybody. After all, Texas is the home of some of the more “entertaining” characters in modern American politics, such as James Richard “Rick” Perry (the first person to run for a major party’s presidential nomination while facing a felony indictment), Louie “aspersions on my asparagus” Gohmert and, of course, Rafael Edward “Ted” Cruz, who actually was born in a foreign country, yet whose eligibility for the presidency isn’t questioned. Oh – and we can’t forget the father of the modern libertarian movement (which is more a repackaging of John Birch Society ideals than anything else); Ron Paul. Continue reading

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Living in FEARS

Photo By Marvin Nauman (This image is from the FEMA Photo Library.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo By Marvin Nauman (This image is from the FEMA Photo Library.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

In a coordination agency move, the Department of Homeland Security, together with the Department of Health and Human Services announced this morning a new open enrollment program for the first national FEMA Education And Recreational Supercamp (FEARS).

The camps are free to any that qualify. Anyone that receives public assistance, the homeless, families that have experienced foreclosure, anyone who has filed bankruptcy, those with credit scores below 750, anyone not earning a higher education degree, artists, teachers, union members, disabled, LGBT community members, political activists and members of any community organization are encouraged to take advantage of the early enrollment period.

Those that enroll early will be able to take advantage of several perks. There are only a limited number of permanent support structures resembling buildings, and only those who enroll early will be allowed to participate in a lottery for space in these structures. “As the camp grows in the coming future, these spaces will be the focal point and areas of envy for new arrivals,” explains Eva Braun, DHHS. Another advantage is preferred treatment once the program becomes mandatory. Those who liquidate any assets will receive lifetime membership once those assets are surrendered to FEARS in exchange for no more fear.

After the pilot programs were rated as overwhelming successes, the government was compelled to add fencing around the camp boundaries. Studies indicated that once the popularity of the camps are realized, people will try to sneak in, or surge the entrances in ways that would disrupt the order of those inside.

“We’ve thought of everything, and no expense has been spared. Our campers can relax, knowing they are secure with the drones patrolling the air above them. They can bask in the sense of well being as we take care of food, medicine and clothing for them. They are lifted from the burden of stress and struggle, knowing they will spend tomorrow in the sameness of today, thus all fear has been eliminated. They have no need for education, employment or self determination, as our decisions on their behalf are always what is best,” reads the FEARS posting.

Photo By Patsy Lynch (This image is from the FEMA Photo Library.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo By Patsy Lynch (This image is from the FEMA Photo Library.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Supercamps will feature all the expected camp schedules, including standing roll calls 3 times a day, flag ceremonies, nature awareness, survival training, campfires and sporting activities. Ilse Koch, Director of Crafts and Hobbies for the camps, plans to introduce “Theme Weeks,” where new projects focusing on a central theme will help campers learn new skills while enriching their lives.

The camps are located primarily in the western states in vast lands currently owned by the federal government. With miles of no-man lands established around the perimeter of these camps, the hope is to make those who have previously crossed borders illegally feel more at home, while preventing prying eyes from discovering the joys of FEARS living prior to their own enrollment.

Encouraging early enrollment, President Obama used his power of Executive Order to circumvent the opposition being waged for the program in Congress. He plans to acquire the needed funding by diverting funds from the Pentagon’s discarded plans to build a military base on the north pole to better monitor world security. Those plans sank with the increased global warming that depleted the ice cap before the base could be built and after it was determined there were too many leaks within the project’s administrative staff.

April Fools!  But what if…

Editor’s Note: Satire is fun, but here’s the reality check: It is my belief that the factual reason the federal government is increasing funding for FEMA camps is mostly due to the expected increase in natural disasters as climate change threatens our planet. Meanwhile, the House will attempt to pass a bill today pulling funding from research related to climate change, including NOAA. I really wish that was a joke.

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