Things That Matter

A Warehouse Full Of Forgotten Supplies From 2017 Was Just Found In Puerto Rico After More Than 1000 Earthquakes Hit The Island

Over the past two and a half weeks, Puerto Rico has experienced more than 1000 earthquakes. This number may seem unbelievable, but it’s true: after a 6.7 magnitude earthquake hit the island on January 7—the largest earthquake to hit Puerto Rico in more than a century—aftershocks have continued to jolt the island, leaving hundreds of people homeless, lacking supplies and electricity. Among the aftershocks was January 11’s 5.9 magnitude quake, which caused even further devastation, particularly to the southern part of the island. So far, the earthquakes have cost an estimated $200 million in damages, including the destruction of more than 800 homes.

But the damage hasn’t only been structural—several people are experiencing extreme anxiety as tremors continue to strike the island.

Credit: Facebook / ASSMCA Online

Officials from ASSMCA, Puerto Rico’s  Office of Mental Health Services and Addiction Prevention, have been making their rounds at outdoor shelters where displaced individuals and families have taken refuge, offering mental health support to those most affected by the quakes.

“These aftershocks are triggers for people,” Abdiel Dumeng, an ASSMCA employee, said in Spanish in an interview.”But I have to admit that we’ve seen a decrease in these kinds of crises, because we’ve been working together for a while, teaching people how to stay calm.”

According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), aftershocks will continue to decrease in frequency over the next month and will be exponentially “lower in magnitude”. But in the meantime, Puerto Rico’s Office of Emergency Management estimates that more than 8,000 people are staying in these outdoor shelters—fewer than half are in government-run shelters, while the rest are taking refuge in either informal spaces or shelters run by non-government organizations.

What exactly constitutes an “informal” shelter? Well, some folks have simply taken their beds outside, staying close to home while avoiding the potential dangers of being indoors. Others are crashing with relatives in towns that have experienced less damage than other areas.

Credit: StarTribune

In response to the 5.9 earthquake on January 11, Governor Wanda Vázquez said that she had declared a major state emergency following an initial assessment of the damages incurred. Vázquez also announced the immediate disbursement of $2 million for the towns of Guánica, Utuado, Guayanilla, Peñuelas, Ponce and Yauco, which experienced the most damage due to their proximity to the earthquakes’ epicenter. This $2 million was defined as a way to meet the towns’ most urgent needs—but now, ten days later, la gente está harta, because these needs still haven’t been met.

Just a few days ago, Vázquez fired two high-ranking officials in her administration: Housing Secretary Fernando Gil and Department of Family Secretary Glorimar Andújar. She also fired former Emergency Management Director Carlos Acevedo. The Governor’s reason for the dismissals was an alleged lack of information regarding aid collection and distribution centers.

This lack of information had to do with the discovery of a warehouse in Ponce that was filled with seemingly forgotten disaster supplies. But these supplies were not sent in response to the current crisis—they date back to when Hurricane Maria (a Category 4 storm) hit the island in September 2017.

Credit: Carlos Giusti / Associated Press

And people are understandably angry. On January 20, scores of demonstrators gathered in front of the Governor’s mansion in San Juan to demand her resignation. While the Governor seems to have tried addressing the issue with the dismissals mentioned above, several people are accusing her of not taking accountability for this appalling error, urging her to step down. And with demonstrators vowing to stay in the streets until Vázquez steps down, the current situation looks a lot like last summer’s demonstrations, which ultimately caused Governor Ricardo Rosselló to resign.

When asked by NBC News what the “human impact” of this mistake is, Rafael Gonzalez—President of PROFESA, a Puerto Rican Professional Association that delivered aid during the aftermath of Hurricane Maria—said, “We saw it on [sic] Maria. We saw what happens when you don’t deliver the supplies that people need. People die.”

Indeed, more than 3,000 people died as a result of the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria (not to mention highly insufficient disaster response on the part of the United States government). At this point, the recent series of earthquakes has resulted in one death and nine injuries. In an attempt to keep that number from rising, Jennifer Gonzales, Puerto Rico’s Commissioner to Congress, joined forces with five other members of Congress to send a letter to Donald Trump, asking him to sign a major disaster declaration that would bring federal funding to the recovery effort.

On January 16, Donald Trump responded by designating six hard-hit towns in the southern part of the island as major disaster areas. Hopefully this will result in an appropriate disaster response—one that will not negligently result in more forgotten aid.

A Black Transgender Woman Was Killed On The Last Day Of Pride

Things That Matter

A Black Transgender Woman Was Killed On The Last Day Of Pride

@astoldbymelly/ Twitter

We’re now almost halfway through 2020 and the statistics tallying the number of murders that have occurred this year in the trans community are alarming. Sadly when it came to the sacred month of Pride the trans community did not receive a break in these numbers, unfortunately.

A community in Dallas, Texas is currently coming to terms with the death of 22-year-old Merci Mack a Black transg woman whose body was discovered in Dallas on the final day of Pride.

Mack, whose body was discovered in a parking lot, is at least the 18th trans person to be killed in 2020.

According to reports, Mack’s body was discovered at 6:15 a.m and had sustained gunshot wounds. She was found in a parking lot of the Rosemont Apartments located in South Dallas. After her body was discovered, residents at the apartment claimed to police that they heard shots fired an hour beforehand. According to the Dallas Police Department, they never received a 911 about the incident. By the time an emergency response team came to the scene, Mack was dead.

Despite being an openly trans woman, reports by law enforcement and the local media deadnamed her.

The lack of support in using the deadnames of trans people has earned the ire of The Associated Press Stylebook  GLAAD and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). AP urges reporters to use “use the name by which a transgender person now lives” and HRC has published trans reporting guidelines for police and members of the media. In a statement to BuzzFeed News, a spokesperson for the department has said that their “hearts go out to the grieving family who are trying to cope with the loss of their love one… Our detectives, as with all murders, are working diligently to find the perpetrator to this horrible crime.”

In response to Mack’s tragic death, LGBTQ+ groups have released statements honoring her life and legacy.

“Another Black transgender woman has had her life stolen from her,” Tori Cooper, a director of community engagement for HRC’s Transgender Justice Initiative stated an interview. “We cannot become numb to the fact that our community has learned of more killings of transgender and gender non-conforming people in the past few weeks than HRC has ever tracked in the past seven years.”

Mack is at least the 11th trans person to die since 2017 in Texas because of violence. Almost all of them have been Black women. Most recently, in May of this year, Helle Jae O’Regan was stabbed to death while at a barbershop in San Antonio.

A Group Of Women Who Sued Harvey Weinstein For Misconduct Have Reached A Nearly $19 Million Settlement

Entertainment

A Group Of Women Who Sued Harvey Weinstein For Misconduct Have Reached A Nearly $19 Million Settlement

Spencer Platt / Getty

Disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein might be in prison but his legal woes continue.

The former film producer and convicted sex offender who founded the entertainment company Miramax and was toppled by allegations of sexual assault amid the early days of the #MeToo movement is still paying big time for his depraved acts of sexual assault and harassment. This week, Weinstein was successfully sued for sexual misconduct by a group of women and reached a nearly $19 million tentative settlement.

Late Tuesday evening, New York Attorney General Leticia James announced that the settlement, which is part of a class-action lawsuit against, meant the women would also be released from confidentiality and NDA agreements.

Speaking about the suit which was filed two years ago, Caitlin Dulaney one of the plaintiffs involved described the lead up to the decision as a “long and grueling battle.”

“Harvey avoided accountability for decades, and it was a powerful moment for us to band together and demand justice,” she said in a statement. “Knowing that we will help so many women who are long overdue for relief gives me hope that this settlement will continue to empower others to speak.”

If the lawsuit is approved by bankruptcy and US district courts, the settlement will give Weinstein victims between $7,500 and $750,000 each.

The suit also accuses Harvey Weinstein’s brother Robert Weinstein who co-founded the entertainment company Miramax with him as well as and other administrators of the Weinstein company of failing to prevent predatory sexual misconduct.

According to reports, the suit says Weinstein “created a hostile work environment by repeatedly and persistently sexually harassing female employees, including frequently remarking on female employees’ physical appearances, berating female employees, and requiring female employees to perform work while he was naked or only partially dressed.”

The suit also says Weinstein made employees help him with his erectile dysfunction injection. On top of this, women employees were also often forced to engage in sex to continue working for him or advance their careers. Some were even made to clean up for him after he had sex.

In 2017, The New York Times reported the first allegations of misconduct against Weinstein which ultimately helped spark the #MeToo movement. As a result, dozens upon dozens of women came forward to accuse Weinstein of rape and harassment.

The announcement comes three months after Weinstein was sentenced to 23 years in prison for raping Jessica Mann.

He was also charged with engaging in a criminal sexual act against Mimi Haley. Currently, he is being held in prison at the Wende Correctional Facility in Buffalo, New York.

Still, not everyone involved thinks the settlement is enough. Attorneys for six other women who have sued Weinstein for misconduct have called it a “complete sellout.” They also underlined that the settlement does not hold Weinstein accountable.

Speaking about the decision, Douglas Wigdor and Kevin Mintzer, two lawyers in a case against Weinstein said in a statement that they “are surprised that the Attorney General could somehow boast about a proposal that fails on so many different levels. While we do not begrudge any survivor who truly wants to participate in this deal, as we understand the proposed agreement, it is deeply unfair for many reasons. We are completely astounded that the Attorney General is taking a victory lap for this unfair and inequitable proposal, and on behalf of our clients, we will be vigorously objecting in court.”