Archive for September, 2018

FEMA and Puerto Rico

Contrary to President Trump’s assertions, the effort to rebuild Puerto Rico was/is hampered by incompetence on many levels but the deficiencies of the FEMA response have been recently highlighted. Even FEMA admits its own problems in its after-action report. This viewpoint is buttressed by a recent GAO report – 2017 Hurricanes and Wildfires: Initial Observations on the Federal Response and Key Recovery Challenges. FEMA’s experience in Puerto Rico has informed its 2018-2022 Strategic Plan.

Of course, it must be remembered that FEMA is not a first-responder but is actually a coordinator or facilitator of responses to natural or manmade disasters. However, this in no way mitigates the under-performance of this vital agency in Puerto Rico. It can draw on many governmental offices and experts to help plan recoveries. FEMA “… coordinates programs to improve the effectiveness of emergency response providers at all levels of the government, initiates proactive mitigation activities….” (US Government Manual)

For those interested, here is the impartial George Washington University report that indicates that the mortality figure for Puerto Rico stands at nearly 3,000, not the dozens touted by the current administration.

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Socio-demographic Profile of the Hispanic Population of the United States

Based on the 2017 American Community Survey estimates, 18% of the United States’ population claim Hispanic heritage. This site offers 308 separate tables across 50 nationalities, a veritable goldmine of information; based on the 2016 ACS, here is New Jersey’s Hispanic profile Please read this informative article from the Pew Research Center – How the U.S. Hispanic population is changing.

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Pending NJ Legislation Mandating Colleges List All Their Fees

Sticker shock just does not relate to tuition; fees can comprise a substantial part of college expenses. (Consult 10 Surprising College Fees You May Have To Pay) The problem is fees are not always made public until one registers. To help combat this practice and provide greater transparency, A3625 would require colleges to develop written policies concerning all fees: “For each mandatory student fee the documentation shall include, at a minimum, the purpose of the student fee, the criteria used to determine its rate, the projected mandatory fee revenue, and the appropriate use of the revenue;…”(2) NJ Spotlight, as always, provides an informative review of this situation.


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Tour of the Renovated Main Branch of the Jersey City Public Library

Come here for pictures of this restored municipal treasure.

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Median Household Income Up, Poverty Rate Falls, and Health Insurance Coverage Rates Basically Unchanged

This information comes courtesy of the following reports: Income and Poverty in the United States: 2017 (income increased 1.8% over 2016 – this is the third year in a row of increases; poverty rates fell .4% – this is also the third consecutive year that this rate has fallen); and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2017.

More statistical breakdowns are available in each report.

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How Much Do New Jersey Teachers Earn?

This interactive feature allows you to view MEDIAN figures arranged by county or by district, as well as supplying salaries from 2016/17 for comparative purposes. Charter schools are also included. Please note that several districts/schools are not included in this list: East Newark Borough and Guttenberg Town in Hudson County, Palisades Park in Bergen County, Freedom Prep Charter School in Camden County and Ocean Academy Charter School in Ocean County.

For national AVERAGE salaries, please look at this chart that tracks salaries over the decades through 2016/17.

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The United States’ Role in Stabilizing Fragile States

As the United States slowly withdraws from world affairs, a power vacuum is created, and in many instances is being filled by either China or Russia. In certain parts of the world, these two powers are now the dominant players. The largest foreign presence in Africa is now China (see China in Africa from CFR) while Russia expands its influence in the Middle East and the Arctic, among other areas (see Containing Russia: How to Respond to Moscow’s Intervention in U.S. Democracy and Growing Geopolitical Challenge, especially pp. 15-17)

In these fractious regions, many nations are “fragile states“, states teetering on the brink of failure, chaos, and dissolution. Can the United States still play a role in these tumultuous times? Can this country still be a factor even as the current administration practices disengagement from world affairs/responsibilities? Can the United States mitigate the desperate circumstances in countries where infrastructure no longer exists and presents a breeding ground for terrorism? Can United States “soft power” offset the economic and geopolitical inroads developed by China and Russia? These considerations are examined in the just-released report – Beyond the Homeland: Protecting American from Extremism in Fragile States. This is an interim report; the full report will be released next year. But this slim volume does present scenarios and how the United States can counter or engage them.

An interview with the authors of this report, the same men who chaired the 9/11 Commission should be perused.



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