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This year is likely to be worse than usual, with a forecast of 13 to 19 storms in USA. There could even be evacuation of low-lying neighborhoods in American cities. This is a compilation of the best news reports of hurricanes over the last ten years
Mid-August marks the start of peak hurricane season, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has warned that this year’s is likely to be worse than usual, with a forecast of 13 to 19 named storms. We’ve round up some of the best reporting on hurricanes and what happens after they’re over — from inept planning to police abuses to waste and misspending during the recovery.
After the Flood, This American Life, September 2005
The week after Katrina struck New Orleans, This American Life devoted its show to giving “people who were in the storm more time than daily news shows could give, to tell their stories and talk about what happened.”
One of those people was Denise Moore, who took shelter at the New Orleans Convention Center after the levees failed. “What they kept doing the whole time was tell us to line up for the buses that never came” she told Ira Glass. “It was like they were doing drills every four hours. You all have to line up for the bus. And if you bum rush the bus, they're just going to take off without you, and nobody is going to get to go anywhere. You have to line up. You have to be in a straight line. We're talking about old people in wheelchairs and women with babies in lines, waiting for buses that you know God damn well aren't coming, like they were playing with us.”
The Deadly Choices at Memorial, ProPublica and the New York Times Magazine, August 2009
ProPublica reporter Sheri Fink spent two and a half years reconstructing what happened at New Orleans’ Memorial Medical Center during Hurricane Katrina. She found that the exhausted, overwhelmed doctors intentionally injected a number of patients with lethal doses of morphine and the sedative midazolam during the chaotic evacuation of the hospital.
From Blue Tarps to Debris Removal, Layers of Contractors Drive Up the Cost of Recovery, Critics Say, The Times-Picayune, December 2005
The federal contractors hired using the $60 billion Congress earmarked for the Katrina recovery hired subcontractors, who hired sub-subcontractors — a process that sometimes produced sub-sub-sub-sub-subcontractors, or “fifth-tier subs,” and helped to drive up the cost of recovery. “In other words,” The Times-Picayune reported, “the guy spinning a Bobcat choked with tree limbs on a residential street may be earning as little as $1 per cubic yard of debris, although the prime contractor may be billing 20 times that amount for the service.”
After Katrina, New Orleans Cops Were Told They Could Shoot Looters, ProPublica, Frontline and the New Orleans Times-Picayune, August 2010
One commander told New Orleans police officers they had the “authority under martial law to shoot looters” in the days after Katrina, according to a videotape of his remarks. Two New Orleans cops said that the department’s second-in-command at the time, gave a similar order, even though police had no such authority under the law.
The story was part of a series on cop shootings after Katrina. Another story in the series looked at the case of Henry Glover, whose remains were found inside a burned-out car in the days after Katrina. Two witnesses said police had refused to help Glover after he had been shot and they drove him to a police command post. A cop later drove off with his body still in the car. After the stories, three officers were charged and convicted in connection with Glover’s death. An appeals court later overturned two of the convictions.
Behind a Call That Kept Nursing Home Patients in Storm’s Path, The New York Times, December 2012
The day before Hurricane Sandy struck, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg ordered a mandatory evacuation of New York City’s low-lying neighborhoods. But the city recommended that residents of nursing and adult homes in the same areas ride out the storm. The decision led to difficult evacuations through sand and debris after the storm, which “severely flooded” least 29 such facilities in Queens and Brooklyn.
How New Jersey Transit Failed Sandy’s Test, WNYC and The Record, May 2013
Hurricane Sandy inundated 19 of the 8,000 rail cars operated by New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority. It engulfed hundreds of New Jersey Transit cars, more than a quarter of the fleet, thanks to the decision in yards that flooded. An investigation by WNYC and the New Jersey Bergen Record found that NJ Transit had used maps built inaccurate numbers that showed the yards wouldn’t flood.
Suffering on Long Island As Power Agency Shows Its Flaws, The New York Times, November 2012
Two weeks after Sandy hit, more than 10,000 Long Island Power Authority customers still didn’t have power. A Times investigation found that the government-run authority had “repeatedly failed to plan for extreme weather” and had fallen behind on trimming tree limbs near power lines. At the same time, the authority had become “a rich source” of high-paid patronage jobs for politicians’ friends and relatives.
Miami-Dade Cleans Up on FEMA Aid, The Sun Sentinel, November 2004
The Federal Emergency Management Agency sent $28 million worth of relief to Miami-Dade County in Florida after Hurricane Frances hit in 2004, even though the brunt of the storm struck 100 miles north of the county. The damage in Miami-Dade was limited to “a few fallen and power lines.” But FEMA shelled out for new cars, lawn mowers, thousands of appliances and even a funeral in Miami-Dade, even though no one in the county died in the storm. The story is part of a Sun Sentinel series investigating FEMA.
Weak Insurers Put Millions of Floridians at Risk, The Sarasota Herald-Tribune, February 2010
Big insurance companies like State Farm and Allstate fled the Florida property insurance market after Katrina hammered the Gulf Coast in 2005. A Herald-Tribune investigation found that millions of Floridians had turned to tiny insurance companies that had taken their place, which had nowhere near enough money to cover the billions of dollars in property they insured. Lawmakers and regulators had “ignored warnings and encouraged private companies to stretch their limited cash further.”
Want more hurricane coverage? Check out our ongoing series on FEMA and the challenge of rebuilding after storms as the climate changes.
In case of oil and gas, it is neither possible nor desirable to completely stop imports as we have long term supply agreements on hand. But, what can be done that needs to be put into immediate effect? Some measures that the government can take.
According to various financial experts, the efforts taken by Reserve Bank of
India, however laudable, have not produced the desired impact and the rupee continues its slide downward, to go beyond Rs65 to a US dollar!
Obviously, the government is trying to tackle the issue as the rupee battled and closed at Rs64.63 against the US dollar. The US plans to taper down its bond buying programme in September are in the minds of the operators, but in the meantime, it is imperative that some more steps are taken in the country to stem this rot. The assurances from RBI are encouraging but fear lurks in the minds of one and all. Will it go beyond Rs65 today, the last working day of the week?
As we have said before, one school of thought strongly recommends the disposal of gold in the international market to meet the current account deficit challenge. And yet taking into account the fact that festival and wedding seasons are close at hand, the government may not decide on this option, though it would ease the situation a bit.
The other major contributor for the crisis is our continuing dependence on the import of energy/ fuel requirements. In case of oil and gas, it is neither possible nor desirable to completely stop imports as we have long term supply agreements on hand. But, what steps can be put into immediate effect are:
a) Permit Cairn India to increase its production capacity by waiving any clearance obstacles that are preventing the output to 250,000 bpd and beyond.
b) Authorize them (Cairn) to repossess the surrendered areas for them to intensify exploration, instead of going through the mill.
c) Remove the pin-pricks associated with the 11 km pipeline that has so far prevented Gujarat State Petroleum awaiting environmental clearance for more than 5 years now.
d) Direct Reliance to expeditiously handle the issues relating to increasing the production of both oil and gas.
e) If ONGC has any pending clearance issues, then, these should be handled also on a war footing.
f) Like Iran has agreed to a barter in supply of oil, why not try to secure similar opportunities elsewhere?
g) In the case of Coal India's imports, it has been reported in the press, that the offtake of production by power generators has been lower and in the case of NTPC, they have also stated that they have no takers (poor consumption!) - and here again, we have long standing coal contracts to import coal - all these need to be seriously audited and immediate steps need to be taken to rectify the situation.
h) Domestic output of edible oils and pulses has increased, thanks to heavy monsoon. Besides, international prices have begun to drop. This will help India save some $4 billion in imports by relying on indigenous production. It is to be noted that international prices of pulses have also come down by 20% so far, coming from Canada, Myanmar and Australia. Since palm oil supplies have began to increase, edible oil prices will also fall. We reiterate that foodgrain exports must now get a further push and efforts be made to stop wastage and damage to stocks lying in the FCI godowns.
All these measures, if attempted seriously, can definitely bring in some much needed relief from the troubles that CAD has caused. Efforts to woo the NRIs to remit more funds back home needs by assuring them a guaranteed rupee exchange rate may also bring in favourable response, as most of them now may be holding up their regular remittances in the hope of a further fall and the uncertainty associated with it. No one wants to accept a lower exchange value for his hard earned foreign currency today, if he thinks that he can have a better return a few days from now!
(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce and was associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts; and later to the US.)