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Author: Devorah Levy-Pearlman

George Washington University study estimates Hurricane Maria deaths in Puerto Rico at 2,975

It’s been a long, arduous process of putting together the broken pieces of the post-Hurricane story, as thousands were reported dead or missing in Puerto Rico after the disaster’s wake. The statistics that calculated the death toll were worryingly uncertain, and the media was left to report a reality obscured by gaping numerical inconsistencies. A recent George Washington University study may have cleared up a bit of the muddled picture, as researchers estimated 2,975 excess deaths following the hurricane. The study not only found a population reduction of 8% between September 2017 and February 2018, but it also examines...

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After court battle, plan to close Puerto Rico schools upheld

In April, the Puerto Rico Department of Education announced a controversial decision for public education: the closing of 283 public schools. According to CNN, schools had lost 38,762 students since May 2017, largely attributed to post-hurricane mainland migration. The disaster left millions of residents without power, running water, and for some, their jobs; sending droves flocking to the states. The outcome? A whole lot of empty classrooms. For one brief moment, Puerto Rican educators, students, and parents—and anyone affected by the government’s announcement to close hundreds of schools, and thereby opposed to it—experienced a promising, albeit tiny sign of...

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The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority CEO salary controversy, in context

Puerto Rico’s electric power company, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, awoke to a new day Thursday, July 12, and found itself suddenly without a leadership team. When Governor Ricardo Rosselló demanded the lowering of the new CEO’s exorbitant salary, the executive board and CEO decided that they’d rather step down than reconfigure their finances. In protest, five of the seven board members resigned. Outgoing CEO, Rafael Diaz-Granados, bid farewell to his new executive position just days after his appointment. His annual salary of $750,000—nearly forty times that of the median household income—turned heads in Puerto Rico’s legislature, and...

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Why there’s controversy on the death toll after Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, in context

Recently, the New England Journal of Medicine released a shocking report based on new data found on the death toll caused by Hurricane Maria. The Harvard University study found that last September’s hurricane may have been the nation’s deadliest natural disaster in 100 years. Moreover, the report says, Maria caused at least $900 billion in damages, which impaired the effectiveness of existing health surveillance infrastructure. The lack of accurate methods to determine mortality rates led to a gross miscalculation of the hurricane’s deadly impact. Recent new investigations estimate as many as 4,600 “excess deaths” between the hurricane’s onset and...

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The Puerto Rico-Josephson Institute scandal, in context

The Puerto Rico Department of Education found itself caught in a tangled web of media controversy amidst ongoing accusations of corruption. Puerto Rican media outlets have stormed on the Department claiming the Secretary of the Department of Education, Julia Keleher, is involved in shady financing behind closed doors. The controversy spun out in response to the Department’s recent awading of a grant to California-based nonprofit The Josephson Institute. The Department awarded the nonprofit a $16.9 million contract to teach values in Puerto Rico’s schools. The Josephson Institute describes its program, Tus Valores Cuentan, as “a character-building program for youth,”...

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