Tag Archive: Blue Cross Rate Increases


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The Department of Defense (DOD) is planning to send 3,000 more troops to its Afghanistan operations in early 2018.  The NATO contribution would boost the training mission, called Resolute Support, to around 16,000 US troops.  About half of the additional troops would come from the United States and the rest from NATO allies and partner countries.  The additional personnel will not have a combat role but the alliance hopes more soldiers can train the Afghan army and air force.

In August a new strategy in Afghanistan was unveiled which includes providing more troops, a stronger Afghan army, support from regional allies such as India and a harder line with Pakistan.  The latest announcement of 3,000 more troops is in addition to the September announcement that another 6,000-plus ground troops from Fort Carson are slated for a future deployment to the country.

NATO allies have already promised almost $3 billion to help the United States fund the Afghan military until 2020, which is developing an air force to complement its ground forces.  NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told a news conference “We have decided to increase the number of troops to help the Afghans break the stalemate, to send a message to the Taliban, to the insurgents that they will not win on the battleground.” Stoltenberg said an attack on a television station in Kabul underlined the importance of fighting militants and supporting Afghan security forces. Islamic State claimed responsibility for the assault, without giving evidence.

Gen. John Nicholson, the top U.S. commander for Afghanistan, told reporters “My plan is to have U.S. forces focused on the things that only U.S. forces can do, so I would not like to have to divert U.S. forces to do things that allies could perform.”  “We have made it very clear to the allies that we really need their help in filling these billets that we’ve identified.”

Hundreds of soldiers with the U.S. Army’s first security force assistance brigade are expected to deploy to Afghanistan in early 2018 as part of that ANDSF training mission. The Army intends to have a total of six brigades by 2022 with the primary mission is to train and advise foreign troops.  In Afghanistan, the focus will be bolstering government forces, which have sustained heavy losses and huge swaths of territory to the Taliban since the U.S. combat mission ended in 2014.

 

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The Paradise Papers

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On Nov. 5, one of the largest data leaks in history revealed the offshore endeavors of some of the world’s richest and most influential people.  Shocking new revelations expose how companies and individuals avoid taxes through imaginative bookkeeping maneuvers as well as investments or purchases in countries with lower or no taxes.  The leak, known as the Paradise Papers, came in 13.4 million leaked documents revealing how a Bermudan law firm Appleby, helps corporations and the world’s wealthiest people evade taxes and obscure their ownership of everything from private planes to whole companies.

The documents expose the offshore assets of some of the world’s biggest companies such as Facebook, Twitter, Apple, Disney, Uber, Nike, Walmart, Allianz, Siemens, McDonald’s, and Yahoo! are among the corporations that own offshore companies,as well as Allergan, the manufacturer of Botox.  The documents also detail the offshore assets of many high-profile figures, including Queen Elizabeth II, singers Madonna and Shakira, and Secretary of Commerce and billionaire Wilbur Ross.

Most of the leaked files come from an offshore legal firm called Appleby, which was founded in Bermuda but has offices in Hong Kong, the Cayman Islands, Shanghai, and other locations. The firm is a part of an informal group of the world’s leading offshore law practices.  After media outlets started reporting on the documents, the company said that there was “no evidence of wrongdoing”, that they “are a law firm which advises clients on legitimate and lawful ways to conduct their business”.  They also issued a series of public statements insisting that the firm was not the subject of a leak but of a serious criminal act- an illegal computer hack. Our systems were accessed by an intruder who deployed the tactics of a professional hacker”.

While offshoring is controversial, it’s typically not illegal and allows businesses and wealthy people to avoid paying taxes, creditors, trade sanctions, and more all without technically breaking the laws.  When someone’s assets are in question regarding lawsuit and divorce settlements or child support, offshore assets are typically well hidden so they are not included.  The main issue is that when wealthy people have offshore assets, it has many economic and political repercussions for everyday citizens — like putting a heavier burden on “honest taxpayers.”  The IRS once estimated that U.S. taxpayers have to pay an extra 15 percent because of the offshoring industry.

Some examples of what the Paradise Papers have exposed are how four-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton avoided paying more than $4 million in taxes for a private jet.  Hugh Grosvenor, the Duke of Westminster, is named in the papers in relation to two offshore trusts set up by the Grosvenor estate in the 1960s and 1970s, long before his birth.  Grosvenor, who inherited the estate after the death of his father in 2016, reportedly managed, thanks to careful planning from his family’s estate, to avoid paying 40% “death duties” usually levied when assets pass from one generation to another.  The documents detail how Nike boosted its after-tax profits by, transferring ownership of its Swoosh trademark to a Bermudan subsidiary, Nike International Ltd. This transfer allowed the subsidiary to charge royalties to its European headquarters in Hilversum, Netherlands, effectively converting taxable company profits to an account payable in tax-free Bermuda.  Although the subsidiary was effectively run by executives at Nike’s main offices in Beaverton, Oregon, for tax purposes the subsidiary was treated as based in Bermuda.   This maneuver earned them tax free royalties in 2010, 2011 and 2012 totaling $3.86 billion.

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In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, men across the world are continuing to resign, be fired or face intense criticism over a slew of allegations of sexual harassment and assault that have surfaced.  Accusations against those in Hollywood, the media industry, universities, restaurants and the highest reaches of government have revealed inappropriate conduct from many notable men.  The list of those accused of sexual harassment or misconduct continues to grow each day and is sweeping many industries.  Let’s take a look at some of those recently accused.

Producer and director Brett Ratner was accused of sexually harassing six women, including actresses Olivia Munn and Natasha Henstridge.  Director James Toback was accused of sexually harassing over 300 women over several decades, including Julianne Moore, Selma Blaire and Rachel McAdams.  Chris Savino, 46, an animator and writer best known for creating The Loud House, was fired from Nickelodeon after multiple women lodged complaints against him, the network confirmed in a statement.

Actor Kevin Spacey has been accused of sexual harassment by actor Anthony Rapp, who claims he was 14 when Spacey made advances towards him in 1986. Spacey apologized to Rapp via Twitter.  The actor also came out as gay in the statement which drew criticism as an attempt at distracting from disturbing claims against a child.   Several other accusers have come forward against Spacey, including a former House of Cards crew member, filmmaker Tony Montana and actor Rob Cavazos.  On Oct. 31, Netflix announced it would shut down production of the sixth and final season of Cards “until further notice.”  In addition, the International Academy of Television Arts and Sciences said it would no longer honor Spacey with the 2017 Emmy Founders Award.

In the media industry, Michael Oreskes, NPR’s senior vice president for news, has resigned after multiple women accused him of kissing them without their consent during meetings for possible employment.  At least a dozen women have accused journalist Mark Halperin of sexually harassment or assault, with at least some of the incidents during his time as political director at ABC News.  Lockhart Steele, the editorial director for Vox Media, was fired after engaging in several incidents of sexual misconduct.  Roy Price, the head of Amazon Studios, quit five days after being put on leave after a producer accused him of sexual harassment.

Celebrity chef John Besh stepped down from the company he founded after about two dozen current and former female employees accused him and other male workers of sexual harassment in what they described as a hostile corporate culture where sexual harassment flourished.  The New Republic’s publisher, Hamilton Fish, has been placed on leave, after a slew of allegations of sexual harassment when he was the president of The Nation Institute.  The New Republic’s most prominent longtime editors, Leon Wieseltier, was also fired over sexual harassment allegations.

Meanwhile, two top staff members at the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), have been ousted over sexual harassment allegations.  National leader Kendall Fells has resigned and Detroit leader Mark Raleigh has been fired.   Three Dartmouth professors, Todd Heatherton, Paul Whalen and William Kelley from the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences- have been put on paid leave amid a criminal investigation into accusations of sexual harassment and misconduct.

New York City Truck Attack

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In New York City, eight people were killed and 11 injured when a man intentionally drove a rented Home Depot pickup truck 12 blocks down a bike path along Manhattan’s Hudson River on Halloween.  The attacker, 29-year-old Sayfullo Saipov drove the truck down the bicycle lane, killing multiple people before crashing into a school bus.  He then reportedly jumped out of the car, waving a pellet gun and a paintball gun. Police say he yelled “Allahu Akbar” which means “God is Great” in Arabic before being shot  in the stomach by police.  He survived the shooting and is in custody.

Authorities say they uncovered handwritten notes near the truck that suggest Saipov had declared allegiance to ISIS and that he had planned the attack for weeks.   There is not yet any evidence that Saipov had direct connections to or support from terrorist groups.  Prosecutors say he waived his Miranda rights and confessed during a hospital interview to having carried out the attack after being inspired by ISIS videos he watched on his cellphone.  During the interview, he requested to display the black flag of ISIS in his room at Bellevue Hospital, where he is recovering from the gunshot wound in the abdomen.

Saipov made a court appearance shackled and in a wheelchair where did not ask to be released on bail.  A criminal complaint filed by federal prosecutors accuses Sayfullo Saipov of carrying out the truck attack that killed 8 and injured 12 others.  In the document, he is charged with providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization.   A second count charges him with violence and destruction of a truck that was used in interstate and foreign commerce.  He faces up to life in prison if convicted of the charges.

Saipov is originally from Tashkent, Uzbekistan and immigrated to the United States in March 2010 and has lived in Florida, Ohio and is believed to have been most recently living in Patterson, New Jersey with his wife and three children.  He is a green card holder with a “diversity immigrant visa,” meaning he arrived in the country through a lottery program.  Authorities say he worked as a commercial truck driver in the US but had been struggling to find work.  They believe that he was radicalized by information he saw on the internet about a year after arriving in the US.

Saipov worked as an Uber driver for more than six months and recorded more than 1,400 trips for the service, an Uber spokesperson said.  Saipov was subsequently banned from the app but Uber did not immediately specify why Saipov was banned from the service.  The company is now aggressively reviewing Saipov’s Uber history, but had not found any concerning safety reports, so far.   Uber says it is cooperating with the FBI as the investigation continues.  A media outlet reported that Saipov has received four previous traffic violations.

The eight people killed in the attack were two young Americans, a Belgian mother and five Argentine tourists visiting New York City to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their high school graduation.  Police identified the victims as Darren Drake, 32, of New Milford, NJ; Nicholas Cleves, 23, of New York, NY;  Ann-Laure Decadt, 31, of Belgium; Hernan Diego Mendoza-Espino, 47, of Argentina; Alejandro Damian Pagrucco, 47, of Argentina; Herman Ferruchi, 47, of Argentina; Diego Enrique Angelini, 47, of Argentina and Ariel Erlis, 48, of Argentina.

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In Somalia’s capital city of Mogadishu, two massive truck bombs exploded in quick succession on Saturday night, killing over 300 people and wounding more than 300 others.  It was the deadliest attack in Somalia since the rise of the al-Shabab militant group a decade ago and has been called “the 9/11 of the Somali people.”  The scale of the loss makes the attack, which involved a truck packed with several hundred pounds of military-grade and homemade explosives, one of the most lethal terrorist acts anywhere in the world for many years.

In the worst of the two bombings, a truck packed with explosives detonated near the Safari Hotel, collapsing the building and igniting a nearby fuel tanker. The resulting fireball set cars on fire and flattened nearby businesses and homes, trapping people under rubble.  The death toll is expected to rise as more victims continue to be dug from the rubble spread over an area hundreds of meters wide in the center of the city.

Many people are still missing and rescue workers say a definitive death toll may never be established because the intense heat generated by the blast meant the remains of many people would not be found.  Somali intelligence officials have said the attack was meant to target the capital’s heavily fortified international airport where many countries have their embassies. The massive bomb, which security officials said weighed between 1,300 pounds and 1,700 pounds, instead detonated in a crowded street after soldiers opened fire and flattened one of the truck’s tires.

Somalia’s President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed declared three days of national mourning after the attacks and while there’s been no claim of responsibility, Somalia’s government was quick to blame al-Shabab militants, who have been behind past bombings in Mogadishu.  On Sunday, hundreds of Somalis poured into the streets of Mogadishu to condemn the attacks.  President Mohamed urged troops to prepare for a “state of war” against the al-Shabab extremist group blamed for the country’s deadliest attack.

Army spokesman Capt. Abdullahi Iman said the offensive involving thousands of troops will try to push al-Shabab fighters out of their strongholds in the Lower Shabelle and Middle Shabelle regions where many deadly attacks on Mogadishu and on Somali and African Union bases have been launched.   A Somali military official who spoke on condition of anonymity said the United States is expected to play a supporting role in the new offensive.

In March, President Trump declared Somalia a zone of active hostilities, giving wide latitude to military leaders to launch airstrikes and ground assaults. In May, that led to the first U.S. combat death in Somalia since 1993, when Navy SEAL officer Kyle Milliken was killed in an assault on an al-Shabab radio station. In August, a raid by U.S. soldiers and Somali troops on a village outside Mogadishu left 10 civilians dead, including three children.

A Somali intelligence official investigating the attack told media outlets that a well-known man who vouched for the truck- persuading soldiers to allow it into Mogadishu is now in custody.  Also in custody is an accomplice driving a minivan packed with explosives that took another route but was stopped at a checkpoint near Mogadishu’s airport.  An accused mastermind of the attack may have been motivated by the deadly U.S. raid last August since he is from the village where the raid occurred.

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After more than three decades of medical work by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Afghanistan, it’s pulling most of its staff out of Afghanistan after a string of attacks on its employees.  The decision came after seven ICRC employees were killed in a series of attacks this year.  On December 19 2016,  ICRC employee Juan Carlos was abducted as he travelled from Mazar-e Sharif to Kunduz and held hostage for a month.  In February 2017, six Red Cross employees were shot dead by unidentified gunmen in northern Jowzjan province. Two others were abducted and later released.

Last month, Red Cross physiotherapist Lorena Enebral Perez was killed by a patient in Mazar-e Sharif.  Perez helped people who had lost limbs or had other forms of disability, learn to stand, walk or feed themselves again.  She was targeted by one of the patients, a man who had suffered polio as a child and had been coming to the rehabilitation center for 19 years, ever since he was two years old. He shot her with a gun he had concealed in his wheelchair.

The ICRC country head said the “painful decision” meant people in the north would no longer get help they needed.  She said they would not leave Afghanistan but they have to limit the risks faced by its staff as threats continue.  “After internal discussions with our highest level at the headquarters, we have reached the conclusion that we have no choice but to drastically reduce our presence and activities, and in particular in the north of Afghanistan.”

The ICRC’s operation in Afghanistan is the their fourth largest worldwide, with about 1,800 staff offering medical assistance, helping disabled people and visiting inmates in jail as well as enabling them to keep in contact with their families.  In some areas, particularly in the north, the ICRC is the only international group offering such services.  Many other humanitarian organizations have pulled out of Afghanistan in recent years as Taliban and Islamic State militants have stepped up attacks.

Head of delegation, Monica Zanarelli, announced the reduction. “After 30 years of continuous presence in the country, we are reducing our presence and operations.”  She went on to say that it’s hard to say whether they are being specifically targeted or if these are random attacks that they have suffered.

The ICRC is laying off staff and closing two of its offices, in Faryab and Kunduz provinces, while its sub-delegation in Mazar-e Sharif will be “seriously downsized.”  Those three ICRC offices cover nine provinces in the north and north west of Afghanistan. Activities run out of the Mazar office will now be limited to the ICRC’s Re-establishing Family Links program (tracing separate family members, facilitating phone calls to detainees and arranging family visits) and cooperation with the Afghan Red Crescent Society.   The orthopedics center in Mazar, which treats those who have lost arms and legs and need prosthetic limbs as well as those with other disabilities, will remain open for now, but the ICRC is looking for others to run it. All other activities out of Mazar will be stopped, including the ICRC’s assistance programs.

Most international humanitarian organizations, including the ICRC, have already modified their operations to try to protect staff while continuing to reach the most vulnerable. The ICRC has a reputation for neutrality and service built up over decades but has had to accept that it can no longer work safely in parts of Afghanistan.  Many believe it is a sign of just how brutal the conflict in Afghanistan has become.

Harvey Weinstein Scandal

 

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An investigation by The New York Times exposed allegations of sexual harassment and unwanted physical contact by Harvey Weinstein that stretched nearly three decades.  The scandal was uncovered through interviews with current or former employees and film industry workers as well as legal records, emails and internal documents from the businesses he has run, Miramax and the Weinstein Company.  Among other victims, the Times piece revealed that Rose McGowan had reached a $100,000 settlement with Weinstein after an encounter in a hotel room during Sundance Film Festival in 1997.  Later, the actress revealed Weinstein had raped her.

Shortly after, The New Yorker published another expose that alleges the producer raped three women.  The New Yorker article contains on-the-record accounts from 13 actresses who reported Weinstein forcibly received or performed sexual acts on the women.  A slew of women have sine come forward to accuse Weinstein of sexual harassment, assault and rape.  Among his accusers are some of Hollywood’s most well-known actresses including Ashley Judd, Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, Rosanna Arquette, Kate Beckinsale and Heather Graham.

Many of the instances occurred during meetings that agents, studios and assistants set up for Weinstein under the guise of a potential movie role.  The common theme in the accusations is that the harassment took place early in their careers and they kept quiet out of fear that they would destroy their budding careers.  Other lesser known actresses and models have come forward as well.  Weinstein’s lewd behavior seemed to be an open secret in Hollywood for decades.  Fear of Harvey Weinstein’s influence helped keep his treatment of women shrouded for years with a network of aggressive publicists and lawyers helping.

New revelations have surfaced showing his studio, Weinstein Company, knew for at least two years that he had been paying off women who accused him of sexual harassment and assault. Weinstein was fired from the company shortly after the New York Times article was published.   Police in the US and outside the country are investigating allegations of sexual assault involving Harvey Weinstein as the scandal surrounding the disgraced Hollywood movie mogul mounts.

A spokeswoman for Weinstein denied the rape allegations in a statement.  “Any allegations of non-consensual sex are unequivocally denied by Mr. Weinstein,” the statement read. “Mr. Weinstein has further confirmed that there were never any acts of retaliation against any women for refusing his advances.”  Weinstein sent an official statement to The New York Time in response to the accusations saying “I appreciate the way I’ve behaved with colleagues in the past has caused a lot of pain, and I sincerely apologize for it.  Though I’m trying to do better, I know I have a long way to go. That is my commitment.”

Shortly after The New Yorker piece came out, Harvey Weinstein’s wife of a decade, Georgina Chapman, announced she was She said in a statement, “My heart breaks for all the women who have suffered tremendous pain because of these unforgivable actions,” the statement read. “I have chosen to leave my husband. Caring for my young children is my first priority and I ask the media for privacy at this time.”

 

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On October 1st 2017, the deadliest mass shooting in the US occurred at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas, killing 58 people and injuring 527.  The shooter, identified as 64 year-old Stephen Paddock, broke two windows in his suite on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel and sent more than 22,000 country music fans scrambling for their lives.  Between 10:05 and 10:15 pm, Paddock fired thousands of rounds at concert goers, turning the last day of the festival into a massacre.  The headlining performer, country music singer Jason Aldean was giving the closing performance when the first shots were fired.

Several videos of the attack show the terror as countless rounds of gunfire can be heard with intervals of just a few seconds in between.  Many concert-goers and performers still in the area initially thought the sounds were fireworks.  When the second round of gunfire is heard, Jason Aldean ran off the stage and fans realized it was automatic gunfire-but for many, it was already too late.  As terrified fans got down, many noticed people nearby who had already been shot.  Videos of the attack show fans running, and then dropping to the ground as another round of gunfire starts.  As people ran for their lives, many were separated and left not knowing if their friend or loved ones made it out.  The day after the attack, stories circulated of the many brave people helping people to safety, tending to those injured and loading wounded into their vehicles to get them to area hospitals.  Slowly, the identities of those lost were confirmed either through family confirming on social media or reaching out to news outlets.

Six minutes prior to the shooting, Mandalay Bay hotel security guard Jesus Campos was checking an alert for an open door in another guest’s room near Paddock’s room.  Paddock, who had placed security cameras outside his room, shot Campos through the door of his suite, which was outfitted with a camera to survey the hallway, as was a room service cart parked outside. Police said Paddock fired 200 rounds into the hallway, hitting Campos once in the leg.  Campos radioed the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department that the gunman was in room 32135 and began evacuating people from the 32nd floor, including a maintenance worker who entered the hallway moments after he was shot.

The first 911 call was at 10:08 pm but police officers were initially confused as to where the shooting was coming from.  Officers eventually spotted multiple flashes of gunfire on the northern side of Mandalay Bay and responded to the hotel.  At 10:12 pm, two officers on the 31st floor reported the sounds of gunfire on the floor above them.  Between 10:26 and 10:30pm, eight officers reached the floor but didn’t hear anymore gunfire.  They systematically searched and cleared rooms, evacuating any remaining guests using a master key provided by Campos.   At 10:55pm officers reported all guests had been evacuated and at 11:20pm, police breached Paddock’s room with explosives.  Paddock was found dead, having shot himself in the head before the police entered.

Police found 22 rifles and one handgun inside Paddock’s hotel room that he had occupied since September 28.  Police believe Paddock’s surveillance cameras and additional evidence found in the room suggest that Paddock intended to escape after the shooting.  Police, relatives, and neighbors described him as a wealthy, high-stakes gambler who kept to himself -with no political or religious affiliations.  They say he frequently gambled tens of thousands of dollars-earning him valuable comps from Vegas area casinos.  Paddock had no criminal record or known history of mental illness.  Police believed he acted alone but have not determined his motive.

 

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The U.S. State Department announced that it is evacuating more than half its embassy staff from Cuba and warning US citizens not to travel to the island after a wave of mysterious sonic attacks have harmed 21 American diplomats and family members in Havana.  The evacuation was announced after a series of unexplained health problems that embassy workers are suffering, including hearing loss and brain injury. The health problems appear to be caused by some form of sonic attack.   An official said “The decision to reduce our diplomatic presence in Havana was made to ensure the safety of our personnel.  We maintain diplomatic relations with Cuba and our work in Cuba continues to be guided by the national-security and foreign-policy interest of the United States.”  Several Canadian households in Cuba are also believed to have been affected by the sonic attacks, but Canada said it had no plans to remove any staff from Cuba or warn travelers against heading to the island.

Cuban officials deny any involvement in the apparent attack and Cuban officials are cooperating with U.S. officials to investigate the incidents.  Cuba’s foreign ministry official in charge of US affairs, Josefina Vidal, said “We consider the decision announced today by the US government through the state department is hasty and will affect bilateral relations.”  The decision delivers a significant setback to the delicate reconciliation between the US and Cuba, two countries that endured a half-century estrangement despite their locations only 90 miles apart.

A senior US State Department official said some of the attacks were carried out in hotels; appear to have affected only the diplomats staying there and no other guests or hotel workers.  That gave them reason to believe the attacks were targeted, and that it may be unsafe for US citizens to travel to Cuba.  They still don’t know the means, methods and how these attacks are being carried out. Officials who announced the decision said it was still not clear who was responsible for the “targeted attacks” which have caused injuries including permanent hearing loss, brain injuries, speech problems, dizziness, tinnitus, problems with balance, visual impairment, headaches, fatigue, cognitive issues and difficulties sleeping.  The range of symptoms has raised speculation of some kind of sonic weapons, while some former intelligence officers have suggested they might be a result of a surveillance effort that went awry.  An official said the possibility that a third country was responsible for the attacks had not been ruled out but investigations are continuing.

The FBI and other agencies that searched homes and hotels where incidents occurred found no devices. Some US diplomats reported hearing various loud noises such as ringing or a high-pitch chirping similar to crickets or cicadas while others heard a loud grinding noise.  In some cases, the effects were narrowly confined, with victims able to walk “in” and “out” of blaring noises audible in only certain rooms or parts of rooms.  Others heard and felt nothing yet reported symptoms later.  The attacks seemed to come at night with several victims reporting that they were in minute-long bursts.

U.S. diplomats first complained of unexplained hearing loss in the fall of 2016 and the US first acknowledged the attacks in August – nine months after symptoms were first reported.  Some victims now have problems concentrating or recalling specific words, a sign of more serious damage than the US government initially realized.

 

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Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico as a Category 4 hurricane, one of the most powerful hurricane to strike the island in nearly a century. It destroyed the island’s entire electrical grid and caused severe flooding and widespread damage to homes and infrastructure.  Still recovering from Hurricane Irma two weeks prior, approximately 80,000 remained without power as Maria approached.

Immediately after Maria passed, the entire island was without power and 70,000 people were ordered to evacuate the areas around the Guajataca Dam after storm damage put it at risk of collapsing.  More than 3.4 million U.S. citizens in the territory remain without adequate food, water and fuel.  Flights in and out of Puerto Rico are still severely restricted.  Hospitals struggling to provide care are running on generators with limited access to electricity, no running water and dwindling supplies.  At least 24 people have been confirmed dead.

Six days after Hurricane Maria devastated the island, Governor Ricardo Roselló pleaded for more government aid in order to avert a total humanitarian catastrophe.  Officials said 1,360 of the island’s 1,600 cellphone towers were down, and 85% of above-ground and underground phone and internet cables were knocked out.

Thousands of tourists and residents who have been stranded in Puerto Rico since Hurricane Maria devastated the island nation were evacuated on cruise ships headed towards Fort Lauderdale.  Royal Caribbean cancelled voyages on its Adventure of the Seas ship to free it up for rescue missions.  Around 1,700 evacuees were picked up from San Juan before it headed to St Croix and St Thomas to pick up another 2,000 before making its way to Florida.  Norwegian Cruises has done the same as well as transporting supplies to affected islands.

Large amounts of federal aid began moving into Puerto Rico but distribution has stalled efforts.  Many of the island’s roads remain impassable because of debri.  There is also a shortage of drivers to help distribute food and supplies to some of the hardest-hit remote regions.  Port of San Juan held 9,500 shipping containers filled with supplies but with only 20% of the island’s truckers reporting back to work since Maria hit and a diesel fuel shortage- distribution has left many without any relief since the storm hit.

The Pentagon, which has troops working on disaster relief in Texas and Florida, promised to boost the number of troops in Puerto Rico from the current 2,500 to as many as 5,000 in the next several days. The United States currently has 16 Navy and Coast Guard ships operating near Puerto Rico and 10 more are on the way, said Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Brock Long. One of those vessels is USS Comfort, a Navy hospital ship.