Citizens' Issues
The Red Cross’ Secret Disaster

Americans sent hundreds of millions of dollars to the Red Cross, confident their money would ease the suffering left behind by Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Isaac. They believed the charity was up to the job. They were wrong

 

In 2012, two massive storms pounded the United States, leaving hundreds of thousands of people homeless, hungry or without power for days and weeks.


Americans did what they so often do after disasters. They sent hundreds of millions of dollars to the Red Cross, confident their money would ease the suffering left behind by Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Isaac. They believed the charity was up to the job.
They were wrong.


The Red Cross botched key elements of its mission after Sandy and Isaac, leaving behind a trail of unmet needs and acrimony, according to an investigation by ProPublica and NPR. The charity’s shortcomings were detailed in confidential reports and internal emails, as well as accounts from current and former disaster relief specialists.


What’s more, Red Cross officials at national headquarters in Washington, D.C.

compounded the charity’s inability to provide relief by “diverting assets for public relations purposes,” as one internal report puts it. Distribution of relief supplies, the report said, was “politically driven.”


During Isaac, Red Cross supervisors ordered dozens of trucks usually deployed to deliver aid to be driven around nearly empty instead, “just to be seen,” one of the drivers, Jim Dunham, recalls.


“We were sent way down on the Gulf with nothing to give,” Dunham says. The Red Cross’ relief effort was “worse than the storm.”


During Sandy, emergency vehicles were taken away from relief work and assigned to serve as backdrops for press conferences, angering disaster responders on the ground.


After both storms, the charity’s problems left some victims in dire circumstances or vulnerable to harm, the organization’s internal assessments acknowledge. Handicapped victims “slept in their wheelchairs for days” because the charity had not secured proper cots. In one shelter, sex offenders were “all over including playing in children’s area” because Red Cross staff “didn’t know/follow procedures.”


According to interviews and documents, the Red Cross lacked basic supplies like food, blankets and batteries to distribute to victims in the days just after the storms.

 

Sometimes, even when supplies were plentiful, they went to waste. In one case, the Red Cross had to throw out tens of thousands of meals because it couldn’t find the people who needed them.


The Red Cross marshalled an army of volunteers, but many were misdirected by the charity’s managers. Some were ordered to stay in Tampa long after it became clear that Isaac would bypass the city. After Sandy, volunteers wandered the streets of New York in search of stricken neighborhoods, lost because they had not been given GPS equipment to guide them.


The problems stand in stark contrast to the Red Cross’ standing in the realm of disaster relief. President Obama, who is the charity’s honorary chairman, vouched for the group after Sandy, telling Americans to donate. “The Red Cross knows what they’re doing,” he said.


Two weeks after Sandy hit, Red Cross Chief Executive Gail McGovern declared that the group’s relief efforts had been “near flawless.”


The group’s self-assessments, drawn together just weeks later, were far less congratulatory.


Multiple systems failed,” say minutes from a closed-door meeting of top officials in December 2012, referring to logistics. “We didn’t have the kind of sophistication needed for this size job,” noted a Red Cross vice president in the same meeting, the minutes say.


Red Cross officials deny the group had made decisions based on public relations. They defend the Red Cross’ performance after Isaac and Sandy.


“While it’s impossible to meet every need in the first chaotic hours and days of a disaster, we are proud that we were able to provide millions of people with hot meals, shelter, relief supplies and financial support during the 2012 hurricanes,” the charity wrote in a statement to ProPublica and NPR.


The Red Cross says it has cultivated a “culture of openness” that welcomes frank self-evaluation and says it has improved its ability to handle urban disasters. One reform, the Red Cross says, moved nearly one-third of its “disaster positions” out of national headquarters and into the field, closer to the victims.


But some Red Cross veterans say they see few signs the organization has made the necessary changes since Sandy and Isaac to respond competently the next time disaster hits.


Richard Rieckenberg, who oversaw aspects of the Red Cross’ efforts to provide food, shelter and supplies after the 2012 storms, said the organization’s work was repeatedly undercut by its leadership.


Top Red Cross officials were concerned only “about the appearance of aid, not actually delivering it,” Rieckenberg says. “They were not interested in solving the problem — they were interested in looking good. That was incredibly demoralizing.”

Continue Reading…

Courtesy: ProPublica.org

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COMMENTS

SuchindranathAiyerS

3 years ago

This is nothing new. In India the collapse was catastrophic even in the 1960s when I went to them and to the St John's Ambulance to get my Boy Scout proficiency badges. The Red Cross has been a moribund organization ever since it became Red Cross and Red Crescent. (The Boy Scouts and Guides are also moribund in India. Almost as moribund as the Courts and Governments!) Alaphia Zoyab exposed how the Tsunami relief was misused and stolen away by the Tehsildars of Mylapore and Nagapattinam on NDTV cameras. Naturally nothing happened. (One presumes that the Tehsildars, who looked very "reserved" and "distinguished" were promoted to the IAS cadre!

Nifty, Sensex highly overbought – Monday closing report

While Nifty may move up higher on news, rallies will be met with strong selling

 

On Friday, we mentioned that the Indian benchmark may move ahead with an upward bias. The Indian indices opened Monday with a gap up and immediately jumped higher to hit their intra-day highs. This is also the new life time high of the benchmarks.

 

However, soon the indices lost strength and declined to lower levels. For the entire remaining session, the benchmarks moved in the negative with a repetitive effort to come back in the green. The volatile move on the bourse ended with the benchmark closing flat today.


The S&P BSE Sensex opened at 27,943 while the NSE’s CNX Nifty opened at 8,348.

 

Sensex moved from the high of 27,970 to the low of 27,785 and closed at 27,860 (down 5 points or 0.02%), while Nifty moved from the level of 8,351 to 8,298 and closed at 8,324 (up 2 points or 0.02%). NSE recorded a volume of 106.68 crore shares. India VIX rose 3.33% to close at 13.7375.


The growth rate of India's eight core industries, which have a combined weight of 37.9% in the Index of Industrial Production (IIP), slowed down to 1.9% in September 2014 due to fall in output of crude oil, natural gas, refinery products and fertiliser, data released by government on 31 October 2014 showed. The core sector had grown by 9% in September 2013.


Speaking at the first meeting of the consultative committee attached to the ministry of finance Arun Jaitley recently said that he foresees India’s GDP growth in the range of 5.5% to 5.9% for 2014-15.


Indian market looked ahead for HSBC Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) for October 2014. Adjusted for seasonal influences, the headline HSBC India PMI rebounded from September's nine-month low of 51 to 51.6 in October. The latest reading was consistent with a moderate improvement in business conditions during the month, the survey showed. Manufacturing activity picked up modestly amid stronger output and new order flows, particularly from overseas clients. However, firms continued to trim purchases and refrained from aggressive inventory accumulation, according to the survey.


Indian stock markets will remain closed on Tuesday for Muharram and on Thursday for Guru Nanak Jayanti.


Today, Network18 Media (10.60%) was the top gainer in ‘A’ group on the BSE. Polaris Financial (10.19%) was among the top three gainers in the group. The stocks was recently in news as it informed BSE that the it had sought voluntary de-listing of equity shares from Madras Stock Exchange (MSE) on 24 September 2014 in terms of SEBI (Delisting of Securities) Regulations, 2009. Pursuant to this application MSE has vide its notice to members dated 14 October 2014 accorded its approval for delisting of equity shares of the company with effect from 15 October 2014.


State-run GAIL (5.70%) was among the top two losers in ‘A’ group on the BSE. It was also the top loser in the Sensex 30-stock. It has posted a net profit of Rs1,302.90 crore in September 2014 quarter as compared to Rs915.67 crore in same quarter last year.

 

GAIL’s revenues increased to Rs14,129.72 crore from Rs14,002.45 crore. The stock had hit its 52-week high on Friday.


Sesa Sterlite (2.17%) was the top gainer in the Sensex 30-pack followed by Axis Bank (1.34%) which hit its 52-week high today. Sesa Sterlite posted a net profit of Rs923.79 crore in September 2014 quarter as compared to a net profit of Rs737.63 crore in September 2013 quarter. Its revenues fell to Rs8,735.25 crore from Rs10,962.52 crore same period last year.


US indices closed Friday in the positive.


Data on Friday showed consumer spending in the US unexpectedly dropped in September as incomes rose at the slowest pace of the year. The Institute for Supply Management-Chicago Inc.'s business barometer rose to 66.2 in October from 60.5 in the prior month.
Asian indices showed mixed performance. Among the trading indices today NZSE 50 (0.56%) was the top gainer while Seoul Composite (0.58%) was the top loser.


The weak data released on Saturday showed that China's manufacturing slowing further in October. However, the data released on Monday showed that China's business activity outside of its factory floors dropped to a nine-month low in October, as a property market slowdown continued to drag on economic growth. China's official nonmanufacturing purchasing managers' index fell to 53.8 in October from 54.0 in September, data from the China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing showed.


European indices were trading in the red. US Futures too were trading lower.

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Black Money: Probe finds large-scale account inheritance

The probe has found that many such accounts have been 'inherited' by their current owners from their parents, other family members or now-defunct trusts and companies that were set up years ago

 

Accounts inherited from family members as also from previously-constituted trusts or companies have come to the fore in a big way, as India seeks further details from Switzerland about those suspected to have 'unaccounted' wealth parked in the Swiss banks.

 

Hundreds of individuals and entities, including 627 names mentioned in a list submitted by the government to the Supreme Court, are facing probe for allegedly having black money in foreign banks including in a Swiss branch of HSBC bank.

 

While Switzerland has agreed to provide 'prompt' assistance to India and reply to information requests in a time-bound manner, the Indian authorities are conducting their own probes before approaching the Swiss government.

 

The due diligence of names accessed by Indian government through various sources, including the so-called HSBC list shared by the French government, has found that many such accounts have been 'inherited' by their current owners from their parents, other family members or now-defunct trusts and companies that were set up years ago.

 

While the exact number of such accounts could not be ascertained, sources said that there are 'quite a few' such accounts on which India is seeking further details from the Swiss authorities.

 

Switzerland, long accused of being a safe haven for illicit funds, last month promised to extend all necessary assistance to India and reply to requests for information in a 'time-bound' manner, or at least provide a reason for denial.

 

Explaining the treaty provisions about disclosure of such 'secret' information, a Swiss Finance Ministry spokesperson had said that authorities from the two countries are having 'regular contacts on bilateral tax matters', but refused to comment on particular cases citing 'confidentiality' clause of the Swiss-India tax treaty.

 

The government last week gave to the Supreme Court a list of 627 Indians with accounts in a Swiss branch of HSBC bank, on which probe for suspected black money is underway.

 

While this list was given in 'sealed envelopes', three other names were made public a day earlier as prosecution had been launched against those persons.

 

There has been a debate on whether disclosure of names, without prosecution, could violate tax treaties under which these names and other details are shared by foreign countries.

 

The exchange of information on tax matters between India and Switzerland is based on the double taxation agreement (DTA) and the protocol that was signed in 2010 between the two countries. It has been in force since October 2011.

 

This agreement is in line with international standards and provides for exchange of information on request.

 

The list of 627 persons with accounts in a Swiss branch of HSBC bank was received by India from the French government, while it had earlier got another list of Indians with suspected black money accounts from Germany.

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COMMENTS

Chandragupta Acharya

3 years ago

Here, a distinction needs to be made between money where tax has not been paid but which is otherwise legitimate, and money which in itself is illegitimate (i.e. proceeds of crime) such as bribe money. I believe in the latter case, such accounts would not be covered under DTAA and the entire money is liable for confiscation. Most of the discussion on this issue seems to presume that tax is the only liability on these sums, which is not the case.

Chandragupta Acharya

3 years ago

Here, a distinction needs to be made between money where tax has not been paid but which is otherwise legitimate, and money which in itself is illegitimate (i.e. proceeds of crime) such as bribe money. I believe in the latter case, such accounts would not be covered under DTAA and the entire money is liable for confiscation. Most of the discussion on this issue seems to presume that tax is the only liability on these sums, which is not the case.

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