There was much to read at the weekend from Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

Therefore, this is a continuation of yesterday’s post.

As I write on Tuesday afternoon (UK time), October 3, 2017, President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump are on their way to Puerto Rico. A meeting with San Juan’s mayor is on the agenda. The governor of the US Virgin Islands will be flying into Puerto Rico to meet with the president.

Media gaslighting

The American media will continue to gaslight:

Canadian media were at it, too:

But good things continue to happen

Puerto Rico’s governor, Ricardo Rosselló has had high praise for the Trump administration’s relief and rescue efforts.

On September 27, Breitbart posted a good article on the interviews he has given to American media.

This is worth noting (emphases mine):

the Associated Press reported on more praise and appreciation from Puerto Rico’s governor. What especially stands out is Rosselló’s praise for the administration’s pro-active pre-planning, and the island’s Resident Commission informing us that Puerto Rico has never received this kind of coordination before:

Rosselló and other officials praised the federal government for planning its response in detail before the storm hit, a contrast with what Puerto Rico has long seen as the neglect of 3.4 million Americans living in a territory without a vote in Congress or the electoral college.

“This is the first time we get this type of federal coordination,” said Resident Commission Jenniffer Gonzalez, Puerto Rico’s non-voting representative in Washington.

Pajamas Media has so much more, including a breakdown of the massive amount of supplies and resources already delivered.

Democrats are whistling in the wind

Yesterday’s post showed a letter from Democrat legislators requesting an investigation into the Trump administration’s handling of Maria in Puerto Rico.

Democrats are whistling in the wind with that one.

Because communications were down, photos from Puerto Rico started emerging only on Monday, September 25, five days after Maria struck. However, FEMA, the Coast Guard, the military were already there and/or in Washington, such as the Federal Communications Commission working with counterparts in Puerto Rico on communications issues:

Communications have been gradually coming back. With regard to mobile phones:

Florida takes in Puerto Ricans

On Wednesday, September 27, Puerto Rico’s El Nuevo Día reported that Florida has been taking in tens of thousands — possibly up to 100,000 — of the island’s residents:

“Everyone here in Florida has family in Puerto Rico, and every Puerto Rican has lost something on the Island, those Puerto Ricans are going to come and take refuge with their relatives. Personally, I have seven relatives who are coming to my house,” said Florida State Representative Bob Cortés, who estimated a potential influx of 100,000 Puerto Ricans.

Among the measures being taken, Cortés mentioned that students arriving from Puerto Rico will not have to submit documents such as birth certificates, vaccination or credit transcripts in the 67 Florida school districts that agreed to offer such exemption.

In addition, they are coordinating efforts for the Florida Department of Health state to offer services to those who arrive without health coverage. Likewise, agreements were reached with firms such as Disney and Walmart to provide jobs to those migrating.

No information was given on where the arrivals would live. The three comments in Spanish following the article — likely to be from people on the mainland — were far from positive about this development.

A local television station from Jacksonville had an article on the subject, which stated that Florida’s governor, Rick Scott:

has also called on Florida colleges and universities to offer in-state tuition for Puerto Rican students. Florida International University said Friday that it would do so for students from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

State Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam also announced that Puerto Rican students displaced by the hurricane can get free school meals through the National School Lunch Program.

“To any families fleeing Puerto Rico and coming to Florida, you will not have to worry about how you’re going to pay for your child’s school meals,” Putnam said in a prepared statement.

Some see a cynical political opportunity here:

Life-saving drug supply appears good

One of Puerto Rico’s main industries is pharmaceuticals, many of which are exported to the United States and other parts of the world. On Tuesday, September 26, Fortune reported:

The drug industry has a large presence in Puerto Rico with dozens of drug and device manufacturers operating on the island, including Abbott, Baxter, Merck, Novartis, and Pfizer thanks to a now expired federal tax incentive Section 936 that encouraged drug companies to move there.

The industry is critically important to Puerto Rico’s economic recovery; it’s responsible for nearly 90,000 jobs on the island. About a quarter of all pharmaceutical drugs exported from the U.S. are made in Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico’s drug manufacturing industry is also an essential supplier of pharmaceuticals and medical devices that thousands of U.S. hospitals and outpatient clinics use daily, including cancer drugs, immunosuppressants used by transplant patients, and devices needed for people with diabetes.

On Friday, September 29, Fox Business had this update:

While many residents of Puerto Rico continue to hang on without shelter, power, food and clean drinking water after being slammed by two massive hurricanes in less than a month, a lot of big pharmaceutical companies – who manufacture critical life-saving drugs on the island – are scrambling to ensure that drug shortages around the world don’t happen as a result.

Earlier this week, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb released a statement saying the agency is “very concerned” about the possibility of a drug shortage.

“Since Friday, we have undertaken swift and extensive efforts to prevent or limit the loss or shortage of multiple drugs critical to American patients due to the challenges related to refrigeration, storage and transportation. The agency has been working closely – throughout the weekend and into [Monday] – to relocate products in coordination with our federal and local government colleagues and pharmaceutical companies,” Gottlieb said.

Fortunately, the recovery time could be quicker than anticipated:

FOX Business reached out to some of the top drug makers who manufacture on the island to see if shortages are imminent and what drugs are at risk.

Pfizer Inc. (PFE), one of the world’s largest drug makers in oncology and cardiology, told FOX Business it has completed a preliminary assessment of its properties and only one of its three sites experienced minimal to moderate damage …

Eli Lilly and Co. (LLY), whose top drugs treat oncology, cardiovascular and diabetes, told FOX Business that its two manufacturing sites in Puerto Rico also suffered minimal damage, but it’s not expected to hinder operations as infrastructure begins to recover.

“Our inventory strategy for products is designed to protect against this type of event and we see no product supply risk to global markets at this time,” Tammy Hull, a spokesperson for Eli Lilly and Co., said.

Instead, the company said it’s using its facilities as temporary shelter for some of its more than 1,100 employees on the island …

Novartis (NVS) said while it does not have manufacturing facilities in Puerto Rico, it is working closely with its partners, distributors and the government to maintain business and supply continuity.

Baxter (BAX), who markets and distributes more than 84 drugs in the U.S., said it’s still in the process of trying to connect with its employees in Puerto Rico who work at the company’s facility. But as it relates to product supply, the company made preparations in advance to ensure products wouldn’t be affected …

That is good news, indeed.

Arecibo Observatory damage not as bad as thought

Hurricane Maria severely damaged the world’s second-largest radio telescope, located at Arecibo Observatory:

On September 22, Space.com reported:

While the overall structure of the telescope is still standing, it sustained some pretty serious damage from Hurricane Maria, according to an update from the Universities Space Research Organization (USRA), which helps to operate the Arecibo Observatory.

One telescope operator at Arecibo managed to contact USRA officials Thursday (Sept. 21) via a short-wave radio transmission. National Geographic’s Nadia Drake reports that Pennsylvania State University professor Jim Breakall spoke with the telescope operator, who was identified as Ángel Vazquez, and said staff members and their families were safe after sheltering at the facility. Vazquez also detailed some of the damage done to the iconic telescope. 

The article has technical details of the radio telescope.

On September 26, National Geographic reported that, while the telescope is inoperative, Arecibo Observatory is routinely stocked with food and running water, making it useful for local relief efforts:

More importantly, the observatory’s staff sheltering on-site are safe, and the facility is in good enough condition to potentially serve as a local center for the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, reports Arecibo deputy director Joan Schmelz.

Because of its deep water well and generator, the observatory has been a place for those in nearby towns to gather, shower, and cook after past hurricanes. It also has an on-site helicopter landing pad, so making sure the facility is safe in general is not just of scientific importance, but is also relevant for local relief efforts.

Better news emerged on September 29, when Science News reported that the iconic observatory might not be as badly damaged as first thought:

The observatory is conserving fuel, but plans to resume limited astronomy observations September 29, deputy director Joan Schmelz tweeted earlier that day. “#AreciboScience is coming back after #MariaPR.”

But the direct whack still raises the issue of when – and even whether – to repair the observatory: Funding for it has repeatedly been on the chopping block despite its historic contributions to astronomy.

Let’s hope it can be fully restored. The observatory has played a big role in research on gravitational waves and fast radio bursts of energy. More notably, in 1992, Arecibo identified the first planets outside the solar system.

Trump ‘didn’t botch’ Maria response

Former US Navy Captain Jerry Hendrix gave an interview to Bloomberg on September 30.

Captain Hendrix said that Trump’s White House and the Pentagon made ‘smart preparations’.

Excerpts follow:

Now a senior fellow with the Center for a New American Security, Hendrix served for decades both on the high seas and in high-level staff jobs, including with the Chief of Naval Operations’ Executive Panel and the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy’s Irregular Warfare Quadrennial Defense Review. Few people know more about military history than Hendrix, who has degrees from Purdue, Harvard, the Naval Postgraduate School and a Ph.D. from Kings College in London. Little wonder that in 2012 was named the service’s director of naval history.

Here is a lightly edited transcript of our discussion: 

TH: So, it seems like everybody has blasted Trump administration’s response to the Puerto Rico crisis. Has that criticism been fair?

JH: No, I don’t think so. First of all, there was a fair amount of anticipatory action that is not being recognized. Amphibious ships including the light amphibious carriers Kearsarge and Wasp and the amphibious landing ship dock Oak Hill were at sea and dispatched to Puerto Rico ahead of the hurricane’s impact.

These are large ships that have large flight decks to land and dispatch heavy-lift CH-53 helicopters to and from disaster sites. They also have big well-decks — exposed surfaces that are lower than the fore and aft of the ship — from which large landing craft can be dispatched to shore carrying over 150 tons of water, food and other supplies on each trip. These are actually the ideal platforms for relief operations owing to their range of assets. The ships, due to their designs to support Marine amphibious landings in war zones, also have hospitals onboard to provide medical treatment on a large scale. That these ships were in the area should be viewed as a huge positive for the administration and the Department of Defense

TH: Many critics feel that Florida and Houston had much better preparation before their storms hit this month. What could have been done better in advance in Puerto Rico, and what can be done in the rebuilding process to help minimize damage next time around?

JH: Puerto Rico is an island that suffers from its position in the middle of the Caribbean and its physical separation from the U.S. Its roads were in disrepair and its electrical grid was antiquated prior to the hurricane. The island has also suffered for years from ineffective local government and rising local territorial debt …

I will have a post on Trump’s trip to Puerto Rico soon.

In the meantime, English speakers can follow local Puerto Rican news at the English version of El Nuevo Día.