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Michael Bloomberg’s presidential run could be part of a strategy to pay the cheapest rates possible to air anti-Trump ads

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. 
Associated Press

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  • After weeks of speculation, the billionaire philanthropist and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg officially announced he was jumping into the crowded 2020 Democratic presidential-primary field.
  • Bloomberg is capitalizing on his estimated $52 billion net worth to run a highly unusual campaign, planning to entirely self-fund his campaign and not raise any money through grassroots donations.
  • On Saturday, Bloomberg also announced he was placing an enormous ad buy, spending a record-breaking $31 million on TV ads in 25 media markets over the course of just one week.
  • While Bloomberg’s unusual campaign gives him virtually no chance of winning the nomination, he can pay for TV ads at much lower rates as a presidential candidate than he could through a PAC, for example.
  • If Bloomberg’s top priority in the 2020 cycle is to help beat Trump, using his position as a candidate to air as many TV ads as possible for the best price could achieve a lot toward that end.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

After weeks of speculation, the billionaire philanthropist and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg officially announced he was jumping into the crowded 2020 Democratic presidential-primary field.

Compared with the rest of the field, Bloomberg is capitalizing on his wealth to run a highly unusual campaign. He’s planning to entirely self-fund his campaign and not raise any money through grassroots donations, meaning he won’t be able to qualify for any of the Democratic primary debates.

Even more unusually, Bloomberg isn’t filing to appear on the ballot at all in the first four key primary states — Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina — and he’s focusing entirely on winning delegate-rich Super Tuesday states, including Texas and California.

This strategy gives Bloomberg virtually no chance of winning the nomination. He would be not only forfeiting the ability to earn any delegates at all during the first four contests, but he also would be giving up the chance to prove to Super Tuesday voters that he is a viable candidate who can actually win elections.

Bloomberg and his advisers are arguing that defeating President Donald Trump should be Democrats’ first priority going into 2020, and they’re not confident the Democratic field is best-poised to do it.

But Bloomberg’s unique strategy might shed light on what his campaign is actually trying to achieve. As opposed to running a campaign based on the traditional methods of retail politics and heavily campaigning in those crucial early states to win the nomination, Bloomberg is using the most important tool at his disposal to shape the race: money.

It’s all about the ads

Bloomberg made an eye-popping debut into the 2020 fray by immediately announcing that he would spend $31 million on television ads for himself to air between November 25 and December 3 in 25 media markets in key primary and swing states, including Florida, California, Texas, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, CNBC reported.

According to Advertising Analytics, the $31 million purchase breaks a record for the most money spent by a presidential campaign on television ads in a week, a distinction previously held by former President Barack Obama, who spent $24.8 million in one week at the end of his 2012 reelection campaign.

For comparison, the amount of money Bloomberg is spending on TV ads in just one week is almost as much as the $33 million Sen. Bernie Sanders reported having in cash on hand in his third-quarter campaign-finance filing — far more cash than any other Democratic candidates reported.

But for Bloomberg, whose estimated net worth comes in at $52.4 billion, the purchase is just a small drop in the bucket.

And despite being the eighth-wealthiest person in the US, Bloomberg — who built a business empire on data analysis — presumably wants to shape the 2020 race in the most cost-effective way possible.

FILE PHOTO: Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire media mogul and former New York City mayor, eats lunch with Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott, Jr. after adding his name to the Democratic primary ballot in Little Rock, Arkansas, U.S., November 12, 2019.  REUTERS/Chris Aluka Berry - RC2V9D9BBJSS/File Photo
Bloomberg. 
Reuters

It actually makes more sense for Bloomberg to buy ads as a candidate instead of through a political action committee

On the surface, it might seem like it would make sense for Bloomberg to just start a PAC to buy ads instead of going through the trouble of running for president.

But for a billionaire who plans to spend exorbitant amounts of money shaping the 2020 race, filing to run as a candidate and pay for ads through a campaign instead of simply starting a political action committee carries some significant financial advantages.

Federal Communication Commission regulations require TV stations and networks to offer a price referred to as the “lowest unit rate” possible to presidential candidates based on the timing of their ad spot and how likely it is to be “pre-empted” or bumped by a higher-paying advertiser during “political protection” periods, which take place 45 days before a primary and 60 days before a general election, according to the veteran TV sales rep Mike Fuhram.

But none of those considerations apply to PACs’ and super PACs’ ad purchases, meaning stations can charge virtually as much as they want to PACs and aren’t required to offer them the lowest price possible in the weeks leading up to an election.

For someone, like Bloomberg, who plans to purchase a lot of anti-Trump ads, this means he could save a lot of money by buying ads as a presidential candidate instead of through a PAC.

If Bloomberg’s top priority in the 2020 cycle is to help beat Trump, using his position as a candidate to air as many TV ads as possible for the best price could achieve a lot toward that end.

Despite the rise and increasing relevance of digital advertising, the Sunlight Foundation said that “television, especially the local newscast, still reaches a particular audience that campaigns want: older Americans who will vote.”

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Even If Netanyahu Is Done, His Damage to Israel Will Linger for Years

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairing the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem on Nov. 3, 2019.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairing the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s office in Jerusalem on Nov. 3, 2019.
Gundar-Goshen is the winner of the JQ-Wingate Prize for Waking Lions. She is a clinical psychologist, has worked for the Israeli civil rights movement, and is an award-winning screenwriter. Her new novel is The Liar.

For years, Benjamin Netanyahu’s followers used to sing in political gatherings “Bibi King of Israel.” Now, it seems like the king might lose his crown. Israel’s longest-serving leader is indicted for bribery, fraud and breach of trust. Netanyahu becomes first sitting prime minister in Israel’s history to be charged with bribery. While Bibi called the decision “an attempted coup,” his political rivals are celebrating.

However, the Israeli people have no reason to celebrate. Even if Netanyahu goes, the environmental damage he caused is here to stay. During a twenty-year political career, oil tanker “Netanyahu” has docked in the center of the Israeli mainstream, pouring gallons of hate into our water.

Netanyahu’s reaction to the indictment decision was a wild attack against the Israeli law system. While a “witch hunt” is a common, legitimate, metaphor often used by politicians in his situation, Netanyahu didn’t stop with this expression. His accusation of an “attempt coup” could become a real threat to our democracy, when expressed by a sitting prime minister towards the law system. Not many were surprised by this choice of words. The PM’s reaction yesterday fit his entire career. As we look at the rise and fall of leaders, we usually assume that the fall of a leader symbolizes the end of his era. But that’s not necessarily true. A leader can leave the public sphere the way a child leaves the pool after pissing in it.

A few days after the 2015 elections, a White House warning on anti-Arab rhetoric in Israeli elections was published. After all, it’s not every day that a prime minister tries to cast doubt on the right to vote of 20% of his country’s population. After the U.S. denounced his video, the Israeli PM apologized, saying he had been misunderstood.

The delegitimizations of the Arab citizens was followed by attempts to create fake history. During his speech to the Zionist Congress in 2015, Netanyahu claimed that Hitler’s genocide was inspired by the Palestinian leader of Jerusalem at the time, Haj Amin Al-Husseini. His remarks were criticized by prominent Holocaust scholars, and he later corrected himself.

Where there is hate speech by political leaders, sooner or later there will be a hate crime by “extremists” or “loners.” On Netanyahu’s shift, there were quit a few. One of the most shocking was the murder of a 16-year-old boy, Abu Khdeir, as revenge for the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens. Netanyahu was one of the first to denounce the murder of the Palestinian boy – yet he also denounced the writers who dared to write a TV series about the case. Netanyahu recently called on Israelis to boycott the Keshet and HBO-produced TV drama Our Boys, calling it anti-Semitic. Death threats to the creators were soon to follow the PM’s statement.

But the peak of Netanyahu’s latest hate campaign was his call to put cameras in polling stations, doubting the integrity of Arab voters. Ironically, it was Netanyahu’s insult that got more Arab citizens to vote.

Even if he loses the trial over bribery, Netanyahu has already won: delegitimization of the Arab minority is no longer limited to the extreme right wing. Netanyahu’s rival, Avigdor Lieberman, now considered “central right,” has refused to even sit in a chair randomly allocated to him in the Parliament, as it was next to the head of the Arab party.

A big part of the election impasse paralyzing the country today is another product of minority hate: Netanyahu sticked with the extreme right-wing parties, and preferred these allies over Gantz’s offer to form a more central coalition. He also rejected the idea of a rotation government in which he will be the second to serve.

Quite a few cheers were heard last evening in Tel Aviv, when the indictment decision was first published. However, If we ever want to recover from twenty years of anti-democratic pollution, we have to first acknowledge the fact that our environment is polluted with hate. We have to purify our society from anti-democratic tendencies. It will take a long time, so the sooner we begin, the better.

 

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Trump accuses Democrats of seeking to obliterate Medicare

 
‘Great healthcare for you’ reads the backdrop as President Trump delivers remarks on Medicare at a performing-arts center in The Villages, Fla.

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump on Thursday accused Democrats of an all-out attempt to “totally obliterate Medicare” and portrayed himself as the program’s defender as he took steps to expand Medicare’s private insurance option.

But no Democrat is proposing to take coverage or benefits away, a fact that undercuts Trump’s rhetoric, and Trump did not dwell on his own budget proposals for cuts in Medicare payments to hospitals and other providers.

Trump spoke at The Villages, a community for adults in Central Florida, as he defended himself against House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry. That part of the state overwhelmingly supported Trump in 2016.

Health care has emerged as a central issue for Democrats competing for their party’s 2020 presidential nomination. Much of the debate has centered on Sen. Bernie Sanders’s “Medicare for All” plan, which would cover everyone under a government-run plan and eliminate most private insurance.

“Medicare is under threat like never before,” Trump said. “Almost every major Democrat in Washington has backed a massive government health care takeover that would totally obliterate Medicare.”

Don’t miss: Sanders will participate in Democratic debate Oct. 15, says campaign representative; he’s ‘up and about,’ says wife

Trump signed an executive order directing his administration to pursue changes to Medicare, which covers about 60 million seniors and disabled people. Much of what he has said he wants to do is geared toward enhancing Medicare Advantage, the private insurance option picked by about one-third of seniors.

Medicare Advantage plans offer savings on premiums and an annual limit on out-of-pocket costs. These plans provide one-stop shopping, eliminating the need for separate supplemental insurance. Offered by major insurers, the plans also cover prescription drugs in most cases.

But there are trade-offs. People joining a Medicare Advantage plan generally must accept limits on their choice of hospitals and doctors as well as prior insurer approval for certain procedures. If they change their minds and decide to return to traditional Medicare, they’re not always guaranteed supplemental “Medigap” coverage, which is also private.

The president’s order is basically a to-do list for the Department of Health and Human Services that will require months of follow-up. Among the other priorities are an expansion of telemedicine and changes to avoid overpaying for procedures just because they get done in a hospital instead of a doctor’s office.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Trump’s order directs his department to examine whether its current policies and practices put traditional Medicare ahead of the private Medicare Advantage option. Some advocates for older people say that it’s the other way around and that the administration is trying to put private plans ahead.

The executive order does not involve a major overhaul of Medicare, which would require congressional approval.

So far the debate about Medicare for All has mainly been about its projected costs to the government, estimated at $30 trillion to $40 trillion over 10 years.

The Sanders plan would eliminate most private health insurance, including the Medicare Advantage option. Sanders, who unexpectedly underwent a heart procedure this week, says Medicare for All would nonetheless offer seniors broader benefits and lower costs.

Sanders’ style of single-payer health care has long been popular among liberals. But recent polling has shown that a majority of Democrats and independents who lean Democratic prefer expanding coverage by building on the Affordable Care Act, or the Obama-era health law. Trump is asking federal courts to overturn that law as unconstitutional, after a Republican-controlled Congress failed to repeal it his first year in office.

As a presidential candidate, Trump promised not to cut Medicare. As president, he has avoided calling for privatization of the program, raising the eligibility age beyond 65 or rolling back benefits.

But Trump’s latest budget proposed steep cuts in Medicare payments to hospitals and other service providers, prompting protests from the industry and accusations by Democrats that he was going back on his promises to seniors. The Medicare cuts went nowhere in Congress.

Opinion: The faltering economy is at the mercy of an unpredictable and cornered president

 

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AMERIGEDDON “It’s time we laugh about this s#!t”

What the hell is going on? Hawaii just got an incoming nuclear missile threat and because of our new leader, people believed it. We have lost our way as a country. The world thinks we’re a joke and there’s a joke in the most powerful position in the world. I would give my yakuza pinkie right now for Mitt Romney. All that being said the new show is a killer balance between right and left. Thoughtful conservatives and my Grandma are starting to realize that we made a mistake. AMERIGEDDON is bringing the country together one drunk audience at a time. It’s for all of us because it takes one side, The side of America. Don’t worry about anything people! It’ll be okay, we will survive, or live in a post apocalyptic gasoline fueled thrill ride where tribes fight each other over who should lead…just like now, except we’ll all have Mohawks.

Christopher Titus, January, 2018

 

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Fran Miron, shown Sept. 5 on his farm in Hugo, Minn., is among the many farmers who objected to a 2015 expansion of waterway regulation by the Obama administration. (Salwan Georges/The Washington Post)
Fran Miron, shown Sept. 5 on his farm in Hugo, Minn., is among the many farmers who objected to a 2015 expansion of waterway regulation by the Obama administration. (Salwan Georges/The Washington Post)
September 11, 2019 at 8:59 p.m. PDT

For years, the fight over how much power the federal government should have to regulate the wetlands and tributaries that feed into the nation’s largest rivers has played out across the country.

In the halls of Washington and on sprawling farms and ranches, in courtrooms and corporate boardrooms, a legal tug of war has unfolded over a 2015 rule that gave the Environmental Protection Agency much broader authority over the nation’s waterways. Critics say the Obama-era rule gave the federal government far too much power; supporters countered it would prevent the loss of vast swaths of wetlands. Court rulings have temporarily blocked the regulation in 28 states, while keeping it in effect in 22 others.

On Thursday, the Trump administration plans to scrap the Obama-era definition of what qualifies as “waters of the United States

” under the Clean Water Act, returning the country to standards put in place in 1986.

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“What we have today is a patchwork across the country,” EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said in an interview. “We need to have a uniform regulatory approach.”

Wheeler, who said the administration will finalize a new definition for which water bodies deserve federal protection within a matter of months, said the agency is seeking to end any lingering uncertainty and return more oversight to individual states.

“We want to make sure that we have a definition that once and for all will be the law of the land in all 50 states,” Wheeler said.

Critics say the rollback will speed the conversion of wetlands and headwaters, which provide critical habitat for wildlife and support the nation’s drinking-water supply. Americans drained about half of the 220 million acres of wetlands in the contiguous United States

between the 1780s and 1980s, most of it to expand farmland. That rate began to slow in the 1980s, and after George H.W. Bush took office he pledged to stem the tide of wetlands loss.

“The administration wants to go back to an era where we are destroying wetlands heedlessly,” Robert Irvin, president of the American Rivers organization, said of President Trump’s latest deregulatory effort.

The 2015 rule gave the federal government authority to oversee a wide array of lakes, streams, wetlands, storm-water controls and ditches feeding into larger waterways that are clearly protected under the 1972 Clean Water Act.

Swimmers, fishermen and picnickers at Sandy Point State Park in Annapolis in 2016. (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)
Swimmers, fishermen and picnickers at Sandy Point State Park in Annapolis in 2016. (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

Denise Stranko, federal legislative and policy manager for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, noted that all but one of the six states in the bay’s watershed, along with the District of Columbia, operate under the Obama-era standard. She added that once the administration finalizes its substitute proposal, tens of thousands of acres that connect underground or through ditches to nearby waterways will lose protection.

Targeting the Obama-era regulation ranked among Trump’s top priorities when he took office. In February 2017, he issued an executive order directing the EPA to review the regulation in an effort to pave the way for what Trump called “the elimination of this very destructive and horrible rule.”

The Clean Water Act makes it unlawful to pollute a “water of the United States” without a permit, but what constitutes such water has been the subject of lengthy litigation.

In a 2006 decision, Rapanos v. United States, the Supreme Court’s four most conservative justices at the time offered a constrained view that only “navigable waters” met this test. But Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who refused to join the conservatives or the liberals on the court, said that the government could intervene when there was a “significant nexus” between large water bodies and smaller ones.

Trump’s executive order said federal officials should rely on the opinion of the then-Justice Antonin Scalia, who argued that the law should apply to wetlands connected to “relatively permanent” bodies of water as well as navigable waters.

Wheeler is slated to announce the final repeal of the 2015 rule at the National Association of Manufacturers, whose members had pushed to scale it back. “America is now one step closer to smart and balanced regulation that protects our nation’s precious water resources,” the group’s president, Jay Timmons, said in a statement.

EPA reverses federal limits on methane, a potent greenhouse gas

Thursday’s move is part of a broader effort by the administration to roll back regulations affecting the private sector before the end of Trump’s first term. Among the dozens already reversed are rules on everything from curbing methane emissions from drilling operations to holding oil and gas companies responsible for killing birds that get ensnared in their rigs’ waste pits.

Several of the administration’s early wins came through the Congressional Review Act, which allows lawmakers to nullify any rule within 60 days of enactment. The Republican-controlled Congress in 2017 was able to overturn several of President Barack Obama’s last environmental acts that way, sending the bills to Trump for his signature.

Reversing older regulations, such as the Clean Water Rule, has proved more difficult. Wheeler said it was taking longer than first anticipated to finalize the administration’s new standards because staffers were conducting economic and scientific research to bolster the case for shrinking the federal government’s authority over wetlands and streams.

“I’m not in a rush to meet artificial deadlines,” he said. “I want to make sure that our regulations are grounded, that they have all the supporting information they need to be upheld by the courts.”

“Clearly the administration is intent on rolling back as many protections as it can before January of 2021,” he said. “Like any rushed efforts, they are likely to make mistakes that will be challenged and overturned in court.”

On a recent evening in Hugo, Minn., Fran Miron looked out over the 800-acre farm that his family has maintained for four generations and explained why he welcomes the Trump administration’s latest rollback. He said the Obama rule led to widespread confusion, as well as worries about increasing costs and red tape.

“In my opinion, and I think it’s shared by many, this was really just a power grab,” said Miron, 65, whose family milks 120 cows and grows corn, soybeans and alfalfa.

A former mayor of Hugo, Miron said he believes that the federal government doesn’t always know what’s best for a particular place.

“The best decisions are made locally because the local people understand the nature of the issues,” he said. “They understand the nuances of the land and our water.”

Miron, shown Sept. 5 on his farm, said he believes a 2015 rule that gave the EPA much broader authority over the nation’s waterways “was really just a power grab.” (Salwan Georges/The Washington Post)
Miron, shown Sept. 5 on his farm, said he believes a 2015 rule that gave the EPA much broader authority over the nation’s waterways “was really just a power grab.” (Salwan Georges/The Washington Post)
 

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The mayor of tiny Vero Beach, Florida wrote a letter, on official letterhead, lambasting San Francisco and the Board of Supervisors.

Since Mayor Val Zudans is a “lifetime NRA member” he took particular umbrage to the supervisors designating it a “domestic terrorist organization.” (Courtesy photo)

A letter to the Florida mayor who trashed our fine city of San Francisco

The mayor of tiny Vero Beach, Florida wrote a letter, on official letterhead, lambasting San Francisco and the Board of Supervisors.

I’m in a Facebook group called San Francisco Current Events. It’s exactly what it sounds like; people share all kinds of newsworthy things going on in SF and the Bay Area. The other day I checked it out and found something extra special: the mayor of tiny Vero Beach, Florida wrote a letter, on official letterhead, lambasting San Francisco and the Board of Supervisors.

Since Mayor Val Zudans is a “lifetime NRA member, concealed carry permit holder” he took particular umbrage to the supervisors designating the NRA a “domestic terrorist organization” — and taking inspiration right out Trump’s playbook — used his official position to call San Francisco a “sanctuary for criminals, addicts, and homeless encampments” and that “Your most recent action stinks like the steaming excrement on your streets.”*

I’d like to take a moment to respond to Mayor Zudans’ letter:

Dear Mayor Zudans –

Your concern for the well being of San Francisco has been duly noted. After consulting with the citizenry of our fair city, it’s been universally agreed upon that nobody asked for your damn opinion. While I’m sure that being mayor of a town of 17,000 people has its challenges, San Francisco is a city of nearly a million people and has a $12 billion budget. Heeding your advice on how a city should be run would be like the San Francisco Giants taking advice from a t-ball coach.

Maybe I should use a more familiar analogy for you since Vero Beach doesn’t have a professional sports team…or even a real airport for that matter. You’re an ophthalmologist right? Your attempt to tell San Francisco how to run itself is like a drunken teenager watching a YouTube video on eye examinations trying to advise you on your practice. What I’m getting at here is: stay in your lane, Val. Stick to performing Lasik surgery and trying to upsell transition lenses.

In your absurd, misguided, and frankly uninspiring letter, you mention that owning a gun is one of our “God-given Constitutional liberties” and to be honest Val, that just made me smile. I’m not exactly a Biblical scholar, but I’m 100 percent certain there is no mention of guns anywhere in the New or Old Testament. Besides the fact that guns weren’t invented when any part of the Bible was written, could you imagine hippy-ass Jesus saying “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me…and obviously trust in my Beretta”?

On top of that, God didn’t give us this land, we disgustingly took it from Native Americans by force and through genocide…which is something I figured you might know about considering your city is in Indian River County. And God didn’t give us those Constitutional liberties, they were written by a bunch of men who owned slaves and treated women like second class citizens.

Which brings me to my next point, you seem to be obsessed with the idea that, if something is a law, then it must be just. Remember how two sentences ago I mentioned owning slaves and treating women as second class citizens? Well, that used to be legal. Do you think prohibition was just and fair? That was, stupidly, a constitutional amendment. And didn’t Jesus get killed for breaking the law? Your argument is weaker than a Mai Tais at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort.

Most importantly though, the NRA is a domestic terrorist organization. In your insipid letter you quoted Webster’s Dictionary’s definition of the word terrorism as “the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion,” which I thank you for. There is no better way to describe what the NRA does in our country. Through lies and propaganda is convinces gullible marks like you that owning a firearm will protect you from our “tyrannical government” and save you from bad guys who want to shoot you first.

I covered this in my column a few weeks ago Val, but since you’re just now becoming an avid reader of my column, I’ll break it down for you real quick. If the government wants you, your guns won’t protect you. They have bigger guns, and drones, and tanks, and hell, they even bombed an entire neighborhood in Philly in 1985 to kill armed American citizens. As for the idiotic pissing contest that is the idea that “the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun”: that lie has been disproven through 40- plus years of data and reported by Stanford University and the FBI.

In closing, I’d like to thank you for being the most absurd Florida Man yet. It’s only through the hard work of enterprising nitwits like you that Florida can continue not just looking like America’s Limp Weenie, but acting like it to.

Sincerely,

Stuart Schuffman

*The difference here between the supervisors passing a unanimous resolution and an individual using his office as a pulpit shouldn’t need to be explained.

Stuart Schuffman, aka Broke-Ass Stuart, is a travel writer, TV host and poet. Follow him at BrokeAssStuart.com and join his mailing list at http://bit.ly/BrokeAssList. He is a guest columnist and his point of view is not necessarily that of The Examiner.

 

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As evacuations continue, hundreds of Bahamians were told to get off a ferry headed to the US

Hurricane Dorian may have long since left the Bahamas, but the islands have only begun to grapple with the grim aftermath.

Less than a week since the Category 5 storm hit, 45 people have been confirmed dead — and that number is expected to rise drastically, officials say. Hundreds are still missing, nearly 70,000 have been left homeless by the disaster and hundreds more are desperately looking for a way out.

a group of people standing in front of a large crowd of people: People wait in Marsh Harbour Port to be evacuated to Nassau, in Abaco, Bahamas, Friday, Sept. 6, 2019. The evacuation is slow and there is frustration for some who said they had nowhere to go after the Hurricane Dorian splintered whole neighborhoods. (AP Photo/Gonzalo Gaudenzi)

© Gonzalo Gaudenzi/AP People wait in Marsh Harbour Port to be evacuated to Nassau, in Abaco, Bahamas, Friday, Sept. 6, 2019. The evacuation is slow and there is frustration for some who said they had nowhere to go after the Hurricane Dorian splintered whole neighborhoods. (AP Photo/Gonzalo Gaudenzi)
Over the weekend, nearly 1,500 evacuees arrived in Palm Beach, Florida, on board the Grand Celebration humanitarian cruise ship. All of them were properly documented to enter the country, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said.

But on Sunday, a different story.

In a social media video taken aboard a ferry boat leaving the Bahamas, posted on Twitter by CNN affiliate WSVN reporter Brian Entin, an unidentified person announces via a loudspeaker that anyone traveling to the Unites States without a visa must disembark.

Entin told CNN he was on a Balearia ferry from Freeport to Fort Lauderdale when the announcement was made Sunday. His video shows families with children disembarking the vessel. One woman told Entin that as many as 130 people left the ferry after the announcement.

“CBP was notified of a vessel preparing to embark an unknown number of passengers in Freeport and requested that the operator of the vessel coordinate with U.S. and Bahamian government officials in Nassau before departing The Bahamas,” CBP said in a statement Sunday.

“Everyone who arrives to the United States from another country must present themselves to a CBP officer for inspection at an official CBP Port of Entry. All person must possess valid identity and travel documents,” the agency said. “CBP has a Preclearance operation in Nassau. CBP is committed to carrying out our duties with professionalism and efficiency — facilitating lawful international travel and trade.”

On its website, CBP says visas are not required for Bahamian residents flying into the US from the Bahamas if they also meet other criteria, including possessing a valid passport or travel documents, having no criminal record and carrying a police certificate issued within the past six months.

“CBP relies on the transportation companies in both the air and sea environments to be engaged in ensuring the safety and well-being of any individuals that have been devastated by this tragedy and that requires transparent communication and planning for adequate resources to receive any arrivals,” CBP said in its Sunday statement.

It was not immediately clear what the required documents are for Bahamians traveling by boat.

“This is the height of cruelty — denying help to those who need it most,” Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke said on Twitter Sunday night. “This administration has said the words on the Statue of Liberty should be rewritten, and in their actions, they are already changing who we are as a country.”

Bahamas destruction like ‘nuclear bombs were dropped,’ USAID says

By Friday, the Coast Guard had rescued more than 230 people off the islands.

Those who lived through the storm bring with them horrific tales of survival: breaking through rooftops or swimming onto boats to try and ride out the violent waters. Some reported they had family members still missing and others recalled watching friends and neighbors drown in the storm surge.

USAID Administrator Mark Green told reporters on Sunday his agency is leading humanitarian relief efforts of the US government in the Bahamas by providing “lifesaving and life-sustaining assistance: food, water, sanitation, emergency shelter, and medical care needed to facilitate the Bahamian government’s response.”

On Saturday, USAID announced $1 million in additional humanitarian assistance to help people affected in the Bahamas. That brings the agency’s total funding to more than $2.8 million.

Green said he toured Abaco and other parts of the Bahamas after the hurricane and said some areas looked “almost as though nuclear bombs were dropped on them.”

Search and rescue operations continue

Local authorities believe there are people buried under the rubble, but they have no way of knowing how many or when they will be able to get to them.

Search and rescue personnel who arrived with cadaver dogs on the Abaco Islands brought body bags and coolers to store human remains, said Joy Jibrilu, director general of the country’s tourism and aviation ministry.

Marsh Harbour, the biggest town in the Abacos, was one of the hardest hit. A truck delivered at least two bodies to a makeshift mortuary Saturday. The morticians told CNN the difficulty in reaching the dead was slowing their work. Dive teams were needed to recover many submerged bodies, they said.

Authorities have said the current death toll may rise as search and rescue operations begin and they start sifting through the wreckage. In the hardest hit areas of Grand Bahama and the Abaco Islands, entire neighborhoods had been cleared out, trees and poles were down and boats were scattered.

The public should prepare for “unimaginable information about the death toll and the human suffering,” Health Minister Duane Sands told Guardian Radio 96.9 FM.

 

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