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Australia just offered to help the U.S. with our gun problems. We should listen.

Editors note:  I personally own guns, and am afraid that if we don’t come up with something reasonable, and damn soon, the pendulum is going to swing WAY to the left and something like this could happen.   Lets work together.  Do we really need silencers and 17 round clips in the ‘burbs?   – Stephen Ulrich

Australia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop has a message to America in the wake of the mass shooting in Las Vegas: We can help.

Julie Bishop Photo by Putu Sayoga/Getty Images.

A gunman reportedly opened fired from his Las Vegas hotel room window on Sunday night, killing at least 58 people and injuring hundreds more. It’s the type of inexplicable violence many Australians can recall from decades past.

“What Australia can do is share our experience after the mass killing in Port Arthur back in the late 1990s, when 35 people were killed by a lone gunman,” Bishop said, according to The Washington Post. “We have had this experience. We acted with a legislative response.”

Should Americans take her up on her offer? What’s happened in Australia since 1996 certainly suggests we should.

Less than two weeks after that horrific shooting in Port Arthur stunned the world, the Australian government leapt into action. New gun laws were rolled out under the National Firearms Agreement (NFA), banning private gun sales and establishing a national firearms registry. Australians were also expected to present a “genuine reason” for the need to purchase a gun; self-defense simply did not suffice.

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Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Port Arthur massacre on April 28, 2016. Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images.

A major component of Australia’s gun reform legislation was a bold buyback program. After certain guns were banned outright — such as semi-automatic rifles — the government bought back hundreds of thousands of those weapons from gun owners. It also allowed for illegal guns to be surrendered to officials without fear of penalty.

Two months after the Port Arthur massacre, then-Prime Minister John Howard, a conservative, addressed a crowd in Victoria — a crowd of Australian gun owners.

In his speech — in which he stressed law-abiding gun owners “were not criminals” — the prime minister candidly noted that, yes, the new polices might be an inconvenience to many people sitting in the crowd.

But, he argued, saving Australian lives was worth it.

“Now I don’t pretend for a moment, ladies and gentlemen, that the decision that we have taken is going to guarantee that in the future there won’t be other mass murders; I don’t pretend that for a moment,” Howard said. “What I do argue to you, my friends, is that it will significantly reduce the likelihood of those occurring in the future.”

In the two decades since that speech, he’s been proven largely right. Australia hasn’t had a mass shooting.

Implementing gun reform laws worked very, very well. Homicides involving guns dropped nearly 60% throughout the following decade. Death by suicide using a firearm plummeted 65%.

While gun proponents have pushed back on the new laws’ successes in Australia, they’ve been fighting an uphill battle. Most of the evidence they tend to point to is cherry-picked and irrelevant in the big picture. A 2006 study they’ve touted, suggesting the drop in Australia’s gun violence had to do with broader trends (not gun control laws), has been discredited; unsurprisingly, it was funded by pro-gun groups.

Will we ever see similar success on gun control in the U.S.?

We have reason to hope, but it won’t be easy.

Gun rights activist rally in Virgina in July 2017. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

While Australia’s 1996 mandates were bold, they were also extremely popular: 9 out of 10 Australians approved of the provisions at the time. Basic gun control measures share similarly overwhelming approval in the U.S. too — yet America has failed to pass meaningful gun reform legislation. The jaw-dropping power of the gun lobby may have something to do with that.

But as Bishop noted after offering her country’s expertise in the wake of the shooting in Vegas, where there’s a will, there’s a way: “It’ll be up to U.S. lawmakers and legislators to deal with this issue,” she said.

She’s right. And it’s on us to force them to deal with it.

Here’s how you can contact your representatives to pressure them to act on gun control.

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tRUMP “Your little mishap was not a real disaster like Katrina.” What every American needs to know about Puerto Rico’s hurricane disaster.

9 essential things to know about Puerto Rico’s humanitarian crisis.

Oct 3, 2017, 12:55pm EDT
Irma Maldanado stands with Sussury, her parrot, and her dog in what is left of her home in Corozal, Puerto Rico on September 27.
 Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Early on Wednesday, September 20, Hurricane Maria, a powerful Category 4 hurricane with 150 mph winds, made direct landfall on Puerto Rico, bisecting the entire island and drenching it with feet of rain. What’s happened since has been truly catastrophic for Puerto Rico.

There’s still little power on the island. In many places there’s still no water to drink or bathe in or to flush toilets. There’s limited food and cell service, and dozens of remote villages have been completely cut off from everything for weeks.

“Make no mistake — this is a humanitarian disaster involving 3.4 million US citizens,” Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said the Monday after Maria hit.

The initial recovery response from the US federal government has been lackluster, and President Trump’s comments have not inspired confidence. After dwelling early in the week on the facts that 1) Puerto Rico is an island, and 2) Puerto Rico is in massive debt, the president and his senior officials then went on the defensive, describing the administration’s response so far as a “good news story.”

“People are dying in this country,” Carmen Yulín Cruz Soto, the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, said at a news conference September 30. “I am begging, begging anyone that can hear us, to save us from dying. If anybody out there is listening to us, we are dying, and you are killing us with the inefficiency and the bureaucracy.”

This is still a terrible disaster that deserves more coverage and a better coordinated response — and both appear to have been impeded by widespread confusion about Puerto Rico’s relationship to the United States and the severity of its current situation. Here’s what every American needs to know.

1) 3.4 million US citizens live in Puerto Rico, and they are entitled to the same government response as any state. But half of Americans don’t even know that.

Wikimedia Commons

According to a new Morning Consult poll published in the New York Times, only 54 percent of Americans know that Puerto Ricans are US citizens. The poll found 81 percent of those who knew Puerto Ricans were citizens supported sending to aid to the island. Just 44 percent of those who didn’t know said the same.

Puerto Ricans have been citizens of the United States since 1917, when President Woodrow Wilson signed the Jones-Shafroth Act. Citizens mean citizens. Puerto Ricans can travel freely to and from the continental United States without a passport. They’re protected by the same Bill of Rights as anyone else born in the United States. They vote in presidential primaries.

The island does not get electoral votes in general presidential elections. It also does not have voting representatives in Congress. Jenniffer González-Colón serves as resident commissioner of Puerto Rico, a nonvoting member of the US House of Representatives.

If Puerto Rico were a state, it would be the 30th most populated — with more people than Wyoming, Vermont, and Alaska combined.

“[Puerto Ricans] are entitled to the same response from the federal government as the citizens of New York or Kansas would be if they were visited by a natural disaster on the scale of Hurricane Maria,” the editors of America magazine, a Catholic publication, wrote on September 25. “Although the United States has long benefited from the geographical reach they provide … [island territories] have been taken for granted and denied full political representation. Hurricane Maria is a reminder that this two-tiered system of American citizenship is neither democratic nor tenable.”

2) Hurricane Maria was like a 50-mile-wide tornado that made a direct hit on the island

NASA Earth Observatory images by Joshua Stevens

This hurricane season has been punishing for Puerto Rico. First, it got clipped by Hurricane Irma, a huge Category 5 storm whose eye passed just north of the island. That storm — which had ravaged several Caribbean islands — left 1 million people without power on Puerto Rico. By the time Maria hit, 60,000 people were still without electricity. That means there are many people on the island who haven’t had power for 20 days. (Irma passed by on September 7.)

Maria was a slightly smaller storm, but it was far, far more devastating. That’s because it charted a course directly over Puerto Rico, hit near its peak intensity, and passed around 25 miles away from San Juan, the capital, which is home to about 400,000 people. No nation or territory could suffer such a direct hit without some damage.

“It was as if a 50- to 60-mile-wide tornado raged across Puerto Rico, like a buzz saw,” Jeff Weber, a meteorologist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research, says. “It’s almost as strong as a hurricane can get in a direct hit.”

The path Maria followed through Puerto Rico.

By the record books, it was the fifth-strongest storm ever to hit the US, and the strongest storm to hit the island in 80 years. “The devastation is vast,” Gov. Rosselló said in a statement. “Our infrastructure and energy distribution systems suffered great damages.”

3) Water, food, and fuel are scarce on the island. The airports are a mess. Power will be out for months in some places.

FEMA

Exact figures on the extent of the damage and the costs of repairs on the island are not yet known. This is partly due to the fact that communications on the island are strained. But it’s also because many roads are damaged and it’s hard to get around. Moody’s Analytics, a financial services firms, estimates the storm could cost Puerto Rico $45 billion to $90 billion.

Photos show whole communities with roofs torn off, second floors of houses ripped apart, water flooding the streets, and people resorting to waiting in long lines for clean water and fuel. In reports, the word “apocalyptic” is used often.

More concretely, we do know that Puerto Rico’s infrastructure is severely crippled. These are major problems that will make living even in an intact house more difficult in the coming weeks and months.

Power is out across the island — and Puerto Rico’s energy system was troubled to begin with

The storm knocked out 80 percent of the island’s power transmission lines, the Associated Press reports. And as of October 3, nearly all of the island’s 1.57 million electricity customers were still without power. Many people have generators, and new ones are being distributed, but many homes and businesses are dark because of the ongoing troubles distributing fuel to run the generators. Two weeks after the storm hit, it’s still very difficult to find fuel, Reuters reports.

In the photos below, NOAA compares what the lights of Puerto Rico looked like from space on a calm night in July, and then compare it to what the island looked like post–Hurricane Maria. The faint lights that remain are powered by gas generators.

It could be four to six months before power is fully restored on the island. That’s half a year with Puerto Rico’s 3.4 million residents relying on generators, half a year without air conditioning in the tropical climate, half a year that electric pumps can’t bring running water into homes, half a year when even the most basic tasks of modern life are made difficult.

PREPA, the electric company on the island, has a massive $9 billion debt, as Vox’s Alexia Fernández Campbell has explained, and in July it defaulted on an interest payment. For years, it hasn’t had the money to invest in modernizing Puerto Rico’s electrical systems. Even without hurricanes, power outages are frequent on the island. Making things worse: There aren’t enough workers to fix the infrastructure. Young people have been leaving the island in droves as the economy has tightened, and older workers have been retiring en masse, securing their pensions.

Rebuilding the system on the island will be a long and difficult process. Getting the power back on in Puerto Rico “will be daunting and expensive,” the New York Times explains. “Transformers, poles and power lines snake from coastal areas across hard-to-access mountains. In some cases, the poles have to be maneuvered in place with helicopters.”

Fresh water is scarce

A woman collects water from an open road drainage of a natural spring created by the landslides in a mountain next to a road in Corozal, southwest of San Juan. 
Ricardo Arduengo/AFP/Getty Images

No electricity means no power to pump water into homes, no water to bathe or flush toilets. On September 30, FEMA reported that only 45 percent of people on the island have access to clean, potable water in their homes. In the first few days after the storm, USA Today reported that Arecibo, a town on the northern shore of the island, had only one source of fresh water: a single fire hydrant. Rescue workers have been distributing bottled water, but it’s safe to assume many people haven’t received any yet.

Cellphone towers are knocked out

The storm knocked out 1,360 out of 1,600 cellphone towers on the island. Many communities have been isolated from the outside world for days, relying only on radios for news. National Guard members told the Daily Beast they were struggling to communicate on the ground, making their ability to respond to the disaster exceptionally hard. “There’s no communication, that’s the problem,” said Capt. Jeff Rutkowski.

The latest report from the Federal Communications Commission finds 88.8 percent of cell tower sites are still out of service.

Javier Zarracina / Vox

The cellular outage also means that family on the mainland, or abroad, can’t get in touch with those on the island to find out if they’re safe.

Most hospitals are running on generators with limited fuel

In its latest report, FEMA says 59 out of 69 hospitals have had power restored. “These hospitals are operationally able to care for the patients they have or are receiving new patients,” FEMA states.

The others are running on generators, and there are serious issues with distributing fuel. So there’s still limited access to X-ray machines and other diagnostic and life-saving equipment.

Initially, power was knocked out at almost all the island’s hospitals, leading to life-threatening emergencies. “Two people died yesterday because there was no diesel in the place where they were … In San Juan, a hospital,” Mayor Yulín Cruz told CBS News in an emotional interview September 26. “We need to get our shit together.”

And the health crisis on the island could grow if power is not soon restored, as Vox’s Julia Belluz reports.

“Just about every interaction with the health system now involves electricity, from calling a hospital for help to accessing electronic medical records and powering lifesaving equipment like hemodialysis machines or ventilators,” Belluz writes.

Farms are decimated

Agriculture is a small part of the Puerto Rican economy, contributing just 0.8 percent to its GDP and employing 1.6 percent of its labor force. But it was decimated — in a nearly literal sense of the word — by Hurricane Maria.

“In a matter of hours, Hurricane Maria wiped out about 80 percent of the crop value in Puerto Rico,” the New York Times reports. That amounts to a $780 million loss. The island imports 85 percent of its food, but the destruction of its agricultural sector is likely to increase prices and exacerbate the scary prospect of continued food shortages on the island.

Weather radar is down, making it harder to forecast new storms

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter

On September 24, the National Weather Service reported that its Doppler radar station on the island had been destroyed. That’s the radar that helps meteorologists see where thunderstorms and other weather systems are moving in real time. “Not having radar does make future storms more hazardous,” says Weber.

Airports are a hot, sticky mess

Residents of Puerto Rico have had a difficult time evacuating the island. Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport — the island’s main airport in San Juan — reopened to commercial flights September 24. But residents can expect to wait a long time in uncomfortable conditions if they want a flight. Some airlines reportedly have waiting lists of 20,000 people.

There’s no air conditioning in the airport, the Miami Herald reports, ticketing computers are out, and passengers have to be checked in to flights via telephone. And due to damage to FAA radar and fuel shortages, only a limited number of planes can take off and land in San Juan each day.

Fuel is hard to find

People wait in line to purchase petrol in Arecibo, northwestern Puerto Rico, on September 22, 2017. 
Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images

Without a working electrical grid, Puerto Ricans have had to turn to gas-powered electric generators for energy. But it’s very, very difficult to get fuel on the island. NPR reports on people waiting for six-plus hours in lines for gas. Other stations are completely out of fuel and have been for days.

“Authorities in Puerto Rico say there isn’t a gas shortage,” NPR reports. “Instead, they say that distribution has been disrupted by the storm.”

When fuel runs low, lives are put in danger.

The Washington Post reported from Juncos, a municipality in the Central Eastern region of the island. There, they found a diabetic woman afraid that the refrigeration that keeps her insulin preserved will soon run out, and that there won’t be fuel to restart the generator.

4) Puerto Rico’s economy is in shambles, and the storm will make it worse

Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images

As Vox’s Fernández Campbell explains, Puerto Rico’s government is broke. Its infrastructure is aging and in disrepair on a good day. And it can’t borrow money to fix it. In May, Puerto Rico — which has a $103 billion economy — declared bankruptcy, and it has since then been trying to restructure more than $70 billion in debt. The island’s finances are currently controlled by a federal board, which made just $1 billion available for relief, the AP reports.

Certain US policies have contributed to Puerto Rico’s economic deterioration. One of them is the Jones Act (different from the Jones-Shafroth Act mentioned above), an antiquated law that forces Puerto Ricans to pay nearly double for US goods through various tariffs, fees, and taxes. The act stipulates that any goods shipped from one American port to another must be on American-made-and-operated ships. As Vox’s Matthew Yglesias explains, it means shipping to Puerto Rico is more costly because there’s little competition among freighters.

It’s “a shakedown, a mob protection racket, with Puerto Rico a captive market,” as Nelson A. Denis, a former New York State Assembly member and author of War Against All Puerto Ricans: Revolution and Terror in America’s Colonywrote in the New York Times.

On Thursday morning, the Trump administration finally granted the island a temporary waiver from the law’s requirements, which should help somewhat with the immediate disaster relief.

Meanwhile, economic woes have contributed to severe brain drain over the years: The population has dropped by more than 8 percent since 2010. According to the Times: “the cost of living in Puerto Rico is 13 percent higher than in 325 urban areas elsewhere in the United States, even though per capita income in Puerto Rico is about $18,000, close to half that of Mississippi, the poorest of all 50 states.”

The population drain in turn makes it harder and harder for Puerto Rico’s economy to recover. People will likely migrate on account of the storm, which will make recovery more difficult. It’s a classic vicious cycle.

5) Experts believe the death toll could reach into the hundreds

Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

With each passing day, we’re learning more about the frightening conditions on the ground, from the sick being turned away from barely functioning hospitals to mothers desperate for water for their babies. But one figure is disquietingly absent: an accurate death toll.

The official death count has not budged since Wednesday, when the Puerto Rican government said that just 16 people had been killed as a result of the storm. On Tuesday, while in Puerto Rico, Trump said officials should be “very proud” of that number, as it doesn’t compare to the “real catastrophe like Katrina.”

But there is good reason to believe the actual figure is much higher than 16, and will continue to climb.

Omaya Sosa Pascual is a reporter with the Center for Investigative Journalism in San Juan. She was skeptical of the government’s figure of 16 and began to call the 69 hospitals around the country, asking them about deaths related to the hurricane.

Pascual spoke to dozens of doctors, administrators, morgue directors, and funeral directors around the country, and wrote up her initial findings in a September 28 report in the Miami Herald. She then got Puerto Rico’s public safety secretary to confirm Monday that there have been dozens more deaths than the official statistic reflects. By her count, there are now an estimated 60 confirmed deaths linked to the hurricane and possibly hundreds more to come.

“Everything in the government has collapsed,” Pascual said by phone from the parking lot of a San Juan medical center, one of the few places in the city where she said she could get a reliable cellphone signal. “Some of the people who work in the government lost their homes themselves and aren’t at work. So they can’t do death certificates. The dead can’t be documented because of all the logistics and legal aspects of declaring someone dead.”

Still, she said, “not being able to document it doesn’t mean it’s not happening.”

In Puerto Rico, as in any disaster situation, health hinges on electric power: Dialysis, refrigeration for insulin and other medicine, and nebulizers for people with asthma all need electricity to be useful. But it goes deeper than that: Electricity provides for the sanitation that prevents many illnesses like typhoid from spreading in the first place.

“Across Puerto Rico, people need electricity to get clean water from the faucet and flush the toilet,” Vox’s Julia Belluz writes. “They also need it to keep their air conditioning systems running. Without it, there’s the looming risk of people getting sick from dirty water, waste that can’t be disposed, or heatstroke.”

In 2014, researchers combed through the medical literature and charted the worst impacts of electric grid failures. 
PLOS

And the storm will be a strain not just on physical health but mental health as well. “Expect a burden of mental health problems which will include depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and it’s particularly going to impact groups who don’t have access to rapid opportunities for recovery,” Sandro Galea, dean of the Boston University School of Public Health, told Vox after Hurricane Harvey hit Texas.

After a major disaster, studies find a 5 to 15 percent increase in the incidence of mental health problems among survivors.

“We all have a threshold that if we watch a loved one swept away in rushing water and drown, that can definitely create post-traumatic stress disorder,” Charles Benight, who studies trauma at the University of Colorado, said.

6) The US government is responding to the disaster, but it’s going slow

US Coast Guard personnel offload relief supplies at the San Juan International Airport on September 22, 2017.
 Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Puerto Rico is an island, which complicates recovery efforts. Supplies have to be flown in or arrive via ship. Residents can’t drive to a nearby state or city for shelter to wait out the worst of it.

But help is on the island, and more is on the way. Some 4,500 troops and National Guard members are on the ground in Puerto Rico. The Coast Guard and Army Corps of Engineers are working to reopen more ports on the islands. But on Friday, September 29, the three-star general heading up the military response, Army Lt. Gen. Jeff Buchanan, admitted it’s “not enough.”

FEMA has more than 800 people on the ground coordinating relief efforts. It reports that millions of meals and millions of liters of water have been distributed with more arriving each day. On September 26, the US Navy announced the USNS Comfort, a combat surgical hospital ship, was en route to Puerto Rico.

Still, the relief efforts will take time to make their way to communities across the island. “I know the FEMA people are working hard and they’re doing their best, so this is a message for President Trump, thank you for calling San Juan yesterday and listening for our mayday call,” San Juan Mayor Yulín Cruz told CNN on September 29. “But sir, there’s 77 other towns that are waiting. They’re waiting anxiously and will be very grateful to you and to the American people if you continue to step up to the moral imperative that you’ve taken on all over the world to help those in need. So help us.”

And many are arguing that help isn’t coming fast enough, or in high enough quantities.

“Given the size of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the scale of devastation, it may take a task force of 50,000 service members to fully meet the needs of Americans suffering after Maria’s passage,” Phillip Carter, a fellow at the Center for a New American Security, argues at Slate.

7) Trump could be doing much more to help

President Trump approved a disaster declaration for Puerto Rico the day after the storm hit, freeing up federal resources for the recovery. Then for several days through the weekend, he remained silent on the issue, focusing his Twitter feed on a mounting feud with professional athletes.

On September 25, he broke his silence with a series of tweets that focused not on the shocking situation on the ground and the need for aid, but on Puerto Rico’s troubled recent history.

Texas & Florida are doing great but Puerto Rico, which was already suffering from broken infrastructure & massive debt, is in deep trouble..

…It’s old electrical grid, which was in terrible shape, was devastated. Much of the Island was destroyed, with billions of dollars….

…owed to Wall Street and the banks which, sadly, must be dealt with. Food, water and medical are top priorities – and doing well. 

Trump traveled to Puerto Rico on October 3. “It’s the earliest I can go because of the first responders, and we don’t want to disrupt the relief efforts,” he said the previous week. He also said the disaster response on Puerto Rico will be tougher than the one in Texas for Hurricane Harvey or in Florida for Irma “because it’s an island.”

Trump also amended the disaster declaration Tuesday, increasing the amount of funds available for recovery in Puerto Rico. And he authorized the waiver of the Jones Act.

But as first responders on the ground in Puerto Rico told Fernández Campbell, this isn’t enough. Trump should also ask Congress to pass a relief package for Puerto Rico to give FEMA and the island more money to rebuild. He could deploy more military resources to help with search and rescue operations. The number of troops on the ground should be doubled, as Lt. Gen. Russel Honore, who led the military’s disaster efforts during Hurricane Katrina, argued Thursday on NPR.

“We can’t do this whole thing by ourselves,” Ken Buell, director of emergency response for the US Department of Energy, told her.

8) Other Caribbean islands are hurting too

U.S. Virgin Islands Continues Major Recovery Efforts After Hurricane Irma Devastated The Islands
St. Thomas.
 Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

As Vox’s Julia Belluz summarizes here, many Caribbean islands are going through similar crises after being hit by Hurricanes Maria and Irma. The island of Barbuda has been completely abandoned, and residents still can’t return home. Twenty-seven people died in Dominica. And 48,000 people are still without power in the US Virgin Islands.

Throughout these islands, homes are destroyed and people are displaced. And lives will have to start over.

9) You can help

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and numb in the face of such destruction. In fact, it’s a frustrating psychological tendency inside all of us: When the number of victims in a disaster rises, our compassion doesn’t always rise with it. But remember, “even partial solutions can save whole lives,” as psychologist Paul Slovic has said.

Here’s how you can help, at least in part. My colleagues Dylan Scott and Ella Nilsen have complied this list of charities accepting donations to help Puerto Rico.

United for Puerto Rico: A charity organization chaired by Beatriz Rosselló, the wife of the governor, to provide aid and support to victims of Hurricane Maria. You can give here.

ConPRmetidos: The Puerto Rican organization focused on public-private partnership is aiming to raise $10 million for relief and recovery. You can give here.

American Red Cross: Usually the first group people think of when giving after a disaster. It says it has a multi-island relief effort underway to help people impacted by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, with thousands of volunteers on the ground. You can give here. (3/4 stars from Charity Navigator.)

Global Giving: A charity crowdfunding site that is attempting to raise $5 million to be used exclusively for local relief and recovery efforts. You can give here. (4/4 stars from Charity Navigator.)

Salvation Army: The Christian charity is emphasizing its intentions to help with long-term recovery. You can give here.

Americares: The nonprofit focused on medicine and health is seeking to provide emergency medical supplies and other basic resources to first responders and others. You can give here. (4/4 stars from Charity Navigator.)

It’s also a good idea to do some research before giving to a charity. Not all of them have a great track record of making sure your money directly goes to helping others. Vox’s Dylan Matthews has a great list of advice here.

 

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JETHRO DOWN THE STREET IS MORE DANGEROUS WITH HIS 17 ROUND CLIPS (AND BOTTLE OF JACK DANIELS) THAN HE IS WITHOUT THEM AND WE ALL KNOW IT.

My dad grew up on a ranch. We keep an old .22 around for varments, and many of my friends up here in WA state are deer, elk, basically food hunters. Most of the good ones have taken to bow hunting, just to make it sporting. With a good rifle a deer is no challenge at 400 yards.
I have his old Winchester .465 from the late 1800’s and that is history. We also have an old percussion cap revolver picked up on the battlefield of shiloh in the Civil War.
I am not anti-gun.
I still have not seen a deer that required a 17 round clip from an AR or M16.
The thought that a bunch of red-necks is going to be involved in the defense of out country as an armed militia is ludicrous. If you want to be “prepped” grab a gas mask. that will far more likely save you and your family from anything we are likely to be attacked with.
The argument that only good guys with guns kill bad guys with guns is bullshit and we all know it.

ONLY LAW INFORCEMENT AND MILITARY PERSONEL WITH APPROPRIATELY LISCENCED ARMS AND TRAINING ALMOSE EVER KILL BAD GUYS WITH GUNS.

JETHRO DOWN THE STREET IS MORE DANGEROUS WITH HIS 17 ROUND CLIPS (AND BOTTLE OF JACK DANIELS) THAN HE IS WITHOUT THEM AND WE ALL KNOW IT.

 

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Why Your Retail Experience Just Changed Forever — Amazon Swallows Whole Foods

The Whole Foods Market in Midtown New York. (TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

Last Friday, Amazon.com AMZN +0.93% sent another shock wave rippling through all retailers. The e-commerce giant announced the intention to purchase health foods grocer Whole Foods for $13.7 billion. Share prices for Wal-Mart, Kroger, and Costco all tumbled. The New York Times described Amazon as the “new breed of Silicon Valley conglomerates.”

The size of the deal is atypical. Since listing its stock publicly in 1997, Amazon has acquired nearly 80 other companies, including movie-and-TV information provider IMDB, the video game streaming site Twitch, and the audiobook service Audible, among others. In all earlier acquisitions, Amazon has eschewed big takeovers. The biggest deal thus far has been the 2009 purchase of online shoe retailer Zappos.com, for roughly $1.2 billion — dwarfed significantly by the Whole Foods announcement.

Stranger still was the market reaction. Economists and financial analysts routinely conduct “event studies,” examining how markets react to firm announcement, whether the market views the investment announced by a company as value-enhancing or value-destroying.

To successfully acquire a target company, bidders often resort to paying an acquisition premium, that is, the difference between the estimated real value of the target and the actual price paid to obtain it. Amazon’s offer represents a 27% premium to Whole Foods’ closing price on Thursday. Similarly, when Microsoft MSFT +0.51% acquired LinkedIn for $26.2 billion, it represented a 50% premium. Last year, when AT&T T -1.32% announced their acquisition of Time Warner, it also paid a 35% premium.

In the short-term, therefore, the target tends to win, while the bidder loses. For example, as expected, LinkedIn’s stock rose 47% to $192.21 while Microsoft’s stock fell 2.6% to $50.14 immediately following Microsoft’s announcement. Between October 19 and October 26, 2016, AT&T’s market capitalization shrank by nearly $20 billion, while Time Warner’s surged by $8 billion. Traditionally, that is exactly what happens after a takeover is announced. Except, that is, when you are Amazon.

On Friday, Amazon’s shares jumped by 2.4%, adding another $11 billion to its market valuation, thus making the whole acquisition nearly free. Whole Foods’ stock, meanwhile, soared by 29% to $42.68 a share, the highest level since May 2015. Then on Monday, it closed even higher, at $43.22 a share.

So exactly what is so special about Whole Foods — which has been struggling with a long slump in sales and a recent reshuffling of its top management — that could take Amazon to new heights? Why are investors warm to what CNBC’s Jim Cramer has called “the most disruptive deal in ages?”

Not All Acquisitions Are Alike

In 2001, Harvard Business School’s Joseph Bower wrote an influential piece in the Harvard Business Review where he described how managers often mistakenly lump all mergers and acquisitions (M&A) together, which in fact, represents very different strategic activities, each presenting differing challenges. Mixing them only makes it harder for an M&A to pull off. That explains, in part, the abysmal track record confirmed by nearly all studies: 70% to 90% of mergers and acquisitions fail.

When a CEO wants to boost corporate performance, the most common form of M&A in a mature industry is to consolidate capacity. In May 2016, Nissan acquired a 34% stake in Mitsubishi Motors. Carlos Ghosn, CEO of Nissan said, “We have the potential to be in [the] top three.” Such is the business logic of “to eat or be eaten.” The parent company closes the less competitive facilities, eliminates overlapping functions, shuts down idle capacity, and improves operational efficiencies. The goal is to achieve greater economies of scale to lower overall costs.

Alternatively, top management may use M&As to jump-start long-term growth by embarking on a “geographic roll-up” or “product-market extension.” The parent company lets the newly acquired entity leverage the existing model to turbocharge growth. When Spinbrush was acquired, it gained immediate access to the distribution channels that P&G had nurtured over the years. When VMware was acquired, it tapped into a long list of existing EMC customers. Few changes with respect to strategy or operating models were required on either side. Synergy was immediate and apparent.

Obviously, what may seem a perfect match on paper may not be so in reality. The success of Pepsi-Cola’s acquisition of Frito-Lay, owing to the direct store delivery logistics system which PepsiCo had honed over the years, didn’t translate well when PepsiCo later acquired Quaker Oats. As the latter acquisition unfolded, managers at PepsiCo painfully discovered that its traditional warehouse delivery method had very little in common with that of Quaker’s, and consequently, the acquisition failed to meet the financial expectations.

Most interesting perhaps is the third type of M&A. It entails investing in a company whose business model has yet to be proven. The target company is often an upstart poised to disrupt an existing industry. The acquisition is as much about preempting future competition as it is about buying a disruptive business model. That’s what drove Wal-Mart to acquire Jet.com for $3 billion in 2016. The same can be said for Unilever’s $1 billion takeover of the Dollar Shave Club, or for General Motor’s $500 million investment in Lyft—made in the hopes of doubling down its ride-sharing efforts. Growth prospects notwithstanding, these startups were far from achieving profitability. However, they offered a promise to pivot the outmoded business of the established companies.

Acquire to Reinvent

Viewed in this light, Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods is truly in a class of its own. None of the conventional reasons can explain the acquisition. For one, Amazon won’t be consolidating the grocery sector. By the end of 2016, Walmart commanded the lion’s share with 14.45% in the food and grocery market. Whole Foods had a paltry 1.21%, while Amazon’s share was negligible at 0.19%. The product categories between Amazon and Whole Foods are also so distant that it’s hard to imagine a viable “one-stop shopping” strategy. It’s unlikely that quinoa lovers would pick up an e-reader or set of Wi-Fi speakers while shopping at Whole Foods. And Whole Foods itself is definitely not going to disrupt Amazon.

 

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WARNING: Bullshit alert – how do they get away with this crap? JOANNA GAINS TO QUIT FIXER UPPER AND SELL FACE CREAM

Joanna Gaines of Fixer Upper Breaches Her HGTV Contract, But You’ll Never Guess Why

UPDATED WEDNESDAY, JUNE 21, 2017

BREAKING NEWS: HGTV has ousted Joanna Gaines for breaking her contractual agreement, not even Chip knew what was going on. News broke of this legal whirlwind just a few days ago. Apparently, things have been going downhill for a while; but now it’s safe to say the boat has sunken.


It all started late last November when Joanna Gaines, host of the popular HGTV show Fixer Upper, signed a deal with Shark Tank’s Lori Greiner. The deal states that Joanna’s New Cosmetics Line will be picked up and promoted by the shopping channel QVC. Joanna is very proud of her line. She has been quoted as saying, “This is more than just a beauty line. This is what every woman has been dreaming of for most of her adult life.”

The problem is: HGTV and QVC are rival competitors. There is a clause in Joanna’s HGTV contract that clearly says she is forbidden from promoting or doing business with any other channel or media company. It was later discovered that not even her husband, Chip, knew what she was constructing in the background. When her hidden secret surfaced, it caused a rift in their marriage. Because of this, HGTV has decided to let him carry on the show by himself, without her.

The decision doesn’t seem to bother Joanna at all. She says the show was just a stepping stone to her real dream; which is running her beauty line. When the executives at HGTV discovered she has no intention of canning her cosmetics business, they fired back with a law suit. The law suit claims that she is contractually obligated to request permission of the network before she can start any new business. In response, Gaines has filed a counter suit. She says the only reason HGTV is giving her a hard time is because her miracle face crème really works, and they want to own a portion of her company.

What Is Her Beauty Product And What Does It Do?.

We were able to do a little snooping and found out what this mystery line was all about. The company is called Luminary and it is a cutting-edge Wrinkle Reducer And Anti-Aging Serum. Her product line is becoming so popular, even top beauty experts such as Bethany Mota and Michelle Phan are singing Luminary’s praises.

“Something was just telling me this is the next chapter of my life.” Joanna said in a recent interview. She continued, “There are lots of skin products out there that didn’t work for me… So, I got some of the world’s leading skin experts together to create Luminary. And this one actually works. I truly feel like the show was holding me back from realizing my true potential. But my new path feels right.”

But What About Chip?

Chip is such a great husband that he’s decided to decline HGTV’s offer to do the show by himself. Instead he’s opted to work alongside wife and become the director of operations at her new company.

Since her secret has been leaked to the public, Joanna has decided to break ties with QVC and focus on promoting Luminary herself.

We asked Joanna if she could provide coupons that would allow our loyal readers to try Luminary at a discount. Her response was better than we could have imagined. Joanna went a step further by agreeing to give 150 of our readers a supply of Luminary absolutely Free! You just cover shipping. TRY OFFER FREE NOW

Gaines said she is certain her magical face cream will work wonders for anyone who tries it. And she is so certain, that she is willing to let you try it for free.

So We Decided To Put her rising product to the test

Our interns sent out a companywide email asking both men and women if they’d like to try Luminary for our test. Some wanted to try it, some wanted to see how it worked for other people first. However, nobody wanted to be the first to try it… Except one brave soul. Brenda Talarico, our 54-year-old Senior Editor. She volunteered to go first and give this magical elixir a shot.

Here Are Brenda’s Results:

DAY ONE:

“It’s just the first day and I could already see a big difference. Within seconds my loose, saggy skin began to tighten and firm up. I could literally feel the difference as soon as I put it on. It was a slight tingle, but nothing over-powering. To be honest it was actually kind of soothing and therapeutic. My husband even took notice, he said I look just like I did when we met 25 years ago! I’m already in love with Luminary and it’s just day one… Let’s see how tomorrow goes…”

DAY SEVEN:

After five days of using Luminary, I was shocked at the drastic results.

“Within my first 5 days of using Luminary, I was a total believer. Now it’s day 7 and I’m still seeing my appearance improve daily. I used to have blotchy, dry skin… But now my skin-tone is even, and moisturized. Those yucky fine-lines and dark circles under my eyes are beginning to vanish too. My results haven’t stopped yet, so I’m going to keep going and see how young I can truly look.”

DAY FOURTEEN:

“This is incredible! I ran into an old friend from college and she told me I look exactly the same as I did back then… She went on to ask me which plastic surgeon I used. I explained to her that I didn’t have any cosmetic surgery done, but she didn’t believe me… I had to show her my bottle of Luminary just to prove it to her. Wow! This stuff is truly amazing. Words can’t even begin to describe.”

Brenda’s Final Thoughts:

“I’m only 54 and had already given up skin products… I was convinced that none of them worked… However, I must admit; Luminary has proved me wrong… It has truly improved the texture of my skin dramatically. The dark spots have all disappeared and the puffy bags under my eyes have been deflated. I’m so glad I put my skepticism to the side and decided to give this amazing face saver a try. – Brenda Talarico, Senior Editor – PEOPLE Magazine

The Verdict:

Using the Luminary system has removed over 87% of Brenda’s fine lines and wrinkles. It has also tightened and smoothed out the skin on her face and neck. All while removing the sagging, aging, and dehydration from her skin

Here’s How It Works:

Decades worth of sound science has been used to develop Luminary. This incredible face cream contains high concentrations of Proprietary Biosphere and QuSome, which are well known for their age defying properties. This topical treatment also contains Dermaxyl (better known as a facelift in a jar), and Ester-C (an active anti-aging compound in Biosphere). When these ingredients combine, wrinkles and fine lines stand absolutely no chance whatsoever.

But Will This Work For You?

The short answer is yes. We asked Joanna if Luminary will work for anybody, and here is what she had to say. “If you have a face, and your face has skin, Luminary will work for you. Guaranteed. It doesn’t matter your skin type, skin condition, race, or age. Luminary was created with everybody in mind. As a mixed-race person, that was the first thing I made sure of.” – Joanna Gaines

NOTE: In order to achieve the best results, you have to use the entireLuminary system for a minimum of 30 days.

There are less than 150 free bottles of Luminary left, so act now in order to claim yours. .

offer

(*EXCLUSIVE OFFER FOR OUR READERS*)

Note: Brittany used both Luminary to erase her wrinkles, we suggest to use both products together to get the best results possible.

Update: Only 6 Trials Still Available. Free Trial Promotion Ends: Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Receive A Free Bottle Of Luminary

Take advantage of our exclusive link and pay only $4.95 for shipping!
Risk FREE Trial!

This special offer ends: Wednesday, June 21, 2017

 

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What exactly did happen to Uncle Ed? Or, Fear and Loathing while growing moss between the fingers in the Pacific NorthWest.

What exactly did happen to Uncle Ed? Or, Fear and Loathing while growing moss between the fingers in the Pacific NorthWest.

by Stephen Ulrich

Another beautiful rainy June day in Vancouver.   Washington, not Canada.  For some reason, we live here.  OK, I know why we live here:  Family, friends, Wide Open Spaces, Affordability…… certainly NOT the weather.

The month of February where it didn’t get over 28’F for two weeks, and marked the wettest weather in recorded history, was entertaining in it’s own right.  Not unlike Oakland (where I was born) boasting the Greatest Basketball Team of all time, the Pacific Northwest is smashing records left and right.  Trump be damned (please) we are hellbent on being singularly responsible for refuting global warming…. but I digress.  Suffice it to say that grey weather in the farking winter is just fine, but the middle of June?  No esta’ bien!

While waiting for my Gardner’s aid, helper boy, skilled laborer, (i.e. my hands) to arrive, I find that the caffeine has once again drawn my fingers to the keyboard.  I was, honestly, just stopping by to check the weather to see if it could possibly be drier this afternoon so we could plant the Dogwood.  Dogwoods are a most resplendent ornamental tree, and given the grey nature of the sky in this area, they are a modest accoutrement for an otherwise dreary backyard skyscape.  No wonder the wife has “bedazzled” the interior of our spacious abode with the maximum lighting the square footage would allow.  The photo above depicts the exact amount of light normally required to depilate the nose and body hairs from an adult male homo-sapien.

The weather being confirmed as abysmal for the remainder of the day, the timing of the planting of said Dogwood has become secondary to its placement.  According to those in the know, the root system of a Dogwood is extremely shallow and likely not to require the three-foot pipes full of rocks I was intending to supply to direct the water to a deeper root system.  This is a blessing not to be taken lightly.  What it means is that I really don’t have to install a separate drip line/system for a Dogwood, rather it needs to be insured that the lawn gets watered regularly during those hot dry summer months which are apparently feigning complete avoidance of the entire area, all up in here!

Now my lovely and attractive wife is concerned that the placement of the Dogwood will not only interfere with the Badminton net/players that grace our yard at least twice a year, but endanger our view of the entire sky itself. I guess if we lay down under it?

The trees are gorgeous.  It is 80 degrees in San Francisco and I miss it.  The waterfalls are beautiful here and the trees are green all year long.   Except for the ones that lose their leaves completely. How am I supposed to spend the day in the garage working on my boat to enjoy the sunny lake we are visiting on Sunday when it is raining outside?  Maybe I should eat something.

What DID ever happen to Uncle Ed?

 

 

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What did I ever do to deserve this girl?


by Stephen Ulrich –

My wife is the most wonderful, inelligent, strong, loving, attentive, patient, beautiful, sexy, and dependable partner a man could ever ask for. Did I mention that I like her too?  And that her job pays for my health insurance?  It just doesn’t get any better than this.

I must admit I did work my ass off during the selection process.  Being a crusty 30 year veteran of nuts and bolts sales and marketing, I treated dating and Match.com like any other sales vetting process. The process was not romantic at all.  I sent out a simple statement “I like your smile” to dozens of probablle matches, and evaluated their responses for creativity and suitability.  There were dozens of meetings for coffee, scores of dates, and not a minor amount of frustration.

The sample population ran from those who wanted to boss me around, those who wanted a sugardaddy, those who wanted a “friend” to those who had a monicum of possibility.  A couple that were really suitable in my mind, did not share that opinion of me, but most never got to the second date stage.

When I first communicated with Mary, I thought “what a lovely, solid, professional girl.”  She had a great job, was quite sharp, was well polished in her commnication and seemed to be honest and of good character.  We had both been on Match for so long that we had pretty much given up the ghost, but felt it was worth “one last try.”

Our first meeting was coffee (per usual) at a Starbucks that ended up beind just below the window of ther apartment building.  Coffee after dinner, turned into another quick snack, followed by a nightcap at one of my local blues bars.  There had been no planning, but my flute happened to be in my car, and the band was on a break.  A quick conversation with the band leader sent me scurring to my car, only to arrive back to the table with a dozen red roses (from a street vendor) and a little black box containing my axe.   A couple of songs later, it was announced that “we would like to invite our friend Steve to come up and sit in on a song with us” and up I went.  They performed “Sweet Home Chicago” in the key of C so it was easy for me, and I’ll have to admit I crushed the song.

Arriving back to the table my date was suitably impressed, we kissed, and the rest is history. The storybook date was followed by her announcement that her entire month of November was spoken for……hmmm. Not the follow-up that I had expected, but it never got me down and the fact that it didnt ended up working to my advantage, as the month long absence never materialized either.  Aparantely there were plans with an old lover in Australia that were far more in her mind than his, but that again was MUCH to my advantage.

As the months, then years flew by I asked her to marry me.  She refused.  I asked again.  She refused again.  I am persistant, and for the sake of brevity in this writing suffice it to say that she did finally relent.  The wedding was as storybook as the first date had been.  

There have been ups and downs.  It is told that I am not the easiest man to live with. There is a certain critical nature, and inate arrogance in my otherwise perfect Arian demeanor that some find less than attractive.  That, and my propensity to consume massive amounts of spirits at even the slightest suggestion of a party, or celebration, or boredom, or frustration, or…  left me asleep on the couch far to many an evening. That, by the grace of a higher power I choose to call God, has been lifted and life has gotten far better as a result.

I have mastered the three words that make a marriage work, “that’s right dear.”  The work on my cynicism is, regrettably, ongoing. It is, however, generally accepted that it’s good to be me.  My wife is as good as they come, my dog is the same, we live in a beautiful home with great family and friends, and our basketball team is among the greatest this planet is likely to ever see.

Then there’s the Vancouver WA weather, but as stated previously, I’m still working on the negativity. 🙂

The secret to a wonderful marriage is simple.  Work your ass off to find the best woman in the world.  Get lucky beyond your wildest expectations. Work your ass off to get her to marry you. Get lucky again.  Work your ass off to keep your head out of said ass, and give FAR more often and far more than you percieve to be the “fair” 50% and there is hope for you yet!

 

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