Cathedral City, CaliforniaLocal Weather Alerts
There are currently no active weather alerts.

Tag: Trump Administration

FEMA’s ‘Presidential Alert’ test postponed as some Americans want to disconnect

Plenty of Americans aren’t terribly keen to be receiving text messages from the president, even in an emergency.

And they’ll have a reprieve, if only briefly.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, which oversees the wireless emergency alert (WEA) system, announced that the test that had been scheduled for Thursday will be pushed back to Oct. 3, citing the “ongoing response efforts to Hurricane Florence.”

The initial announcement was met with concerns from social media users who stated that a direct message from President Donald Trump to the nation could be used for political purposes, similar to how he uses his official Twitter page.

One online user responded to FEMA’s announcement via Twitter, saying, “We don’t need presidential alerts! We already have public emergency alert messaging. This is not necessary!”

Many also went on to raise the issue of the alert being mandatory, with no way to opt of it. One user even messaged Verizon Wireless, one of the 100 wireless service companies that have agreed to provide the alert to their network, asking how she can avoid receiving it.

Some users even threatened to cancel their cellphone service, while others said they would protest the test by turning their phones off, creating the hashtag #GoDark920 in response to the original test date.

Stephen Cobb, a security researcher at ESET, a technology security company, tweeted via his verified account that the blowback against the test indicated the broader frustration with the president.

“This POTUS is so bad that folks are prepared to forgo the potential benefits of a national alert system – which already exists on radio and TV – because it is hard to believe Trump will not abuse it.”

Jeramie Scott, director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center’s Domestic Surveillance Project, also said that without more information on the breadth and reach of this system, there could be a risk of abuse due to it’s “intrusive” nature.

According to Scott, the WEA is an intrusive alert system because it stops all forms of communications to your mobile device while the alert is processing. The Emergency Alert System (EAS), which he deems less intrusive, displays emergency messages on T.V. and radio.

“With a system that affects so many people, it’s important that we step back and have a conversation about when such a system should be used and make sure there are safeguards put into place when such a system is abused,” Scott said. “We need to discuss what limits can be imposed to prevent the president from abusing this authority.”

Scott’s concerns of a potential abuse of authority were echoed online.

Lastly, some users were generally confused about the sudden reasoning for such an alert system.

“What problem does this solve? Like what is gained by the president — any president — having the ability to put a message directly into my nightmare brick,” tweeted data scientist Emily Gorcenski, from her verified account.

However, those large volumes of public concerns have been offset by excitement from emergency management workers.

“I think it is an outstanding tool in the toolbox,” said Nick Crossley, president of the International Association of Emergency Managers in the U.S. “It is a great way to get notification to anybody who has a cellphone.”

Crossley, who is also the director for the Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency in Hamilton County, Ohio, said that unlike local emergency alerts, mobile users cannot turn off the president’s wireless alerts, making it more effective in life-threatening emergencies.

“The challenge with these sort of alerts is that very rarely is the federal government sending these nationwide alerts,” Crossley said. “This responsibility usually falls to the local emergency systems, but if you have your alerts turned off, you won’t be prepared.”

This is uncharted territory for most employees in emergency response and management, since this would be the first wireless emergency alert from an American president since the EAS was put in place by the Federal Communications Commission in 1997.

In its history, there have only been three instances where the EAS sent an alert, each of them tests of the system. The alert system was initially created to enable the president to speak to the nation within 10 minutes through an audio message in case of a natural disaster or terrorist attack. The most recent national test took place nearly a year ago on Sept. 28, 2017.

Hurricane Maria kills 2,975; Puerto Rico updates official death toll

An estimated 2,975 people died in Puerto Rico in the five months after Hurricane Maria devastated the island last September, a far higher number than the government’s official death toll count of 64.

The new findings are from an independent study conducted by George Washington University’s Milken Institute of Public Health, which was commissioned by island officials for more than $300,000.

During a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló announced that his administration is updating its death toll count of 64 to match GWU’s 2, 975, “keeping in mind that it’s still an estimate.”

“The number of excess deaths is still very big and now, as a society, we need to come together and look forward to the future,” said Rosselló.

The Puerto Rican government said earlier this month that it was not updating its official death count until the findings were published.

According to the report, the number of excess deaths, which took place from September 2017 to February 2018, represent a 22 percent increase from what would have been expected during that time period.

This is not the first study that has tried to calculate the deaths following the storm; a Harvard University study out in May estimated that 4,645 more people died from Sept. 20 to Dec. 31, 2017, than in that same period in 2016.

However, GWU researchers said on Tuesday that their study is different in that it factored in the number of people who left the island right after the storm.

According to their calculations, they estimate that Puerto Rico saw an 8 percent drop in population after the hurricane, which triggered one of the longest power blackouts in history and pushed thousands of people to the mainland.

The study said that the risk of dying over this period was 60 percent higher among people living in the poorest municipalities and 35 percent higher among elderly men. During a call with reporters, researchers said that the elevated risk of death persisted beyond the five months that were studied for these two subgroups.

“We still don’t know when deaths came back to baseline,” Goldman said.

Rep. Nydia Velázquez, D-NY, who has introduced legislation that would set federal standards for measuring death tolls following disasters, said the findings are evidence of the “enormity of the tragedy that befell Puerto Rico.”

“These numbers are only the latest to underscore that the federal response to the hurricanes was disastrously inadequate and, as a result, thousands of our fellow American citizens lost their lives,” Velázquez said in a statement.

Enrique Fernández-Toledo, director of Puerto Rico Relief and Economic Policy at the Center for American Progress, also criticized island officials for taking so long to update their initial death toll of 64.

“According to this serious study, the actual death toll is more than 46 times that of the official count, placing it among the highest death counts caused by an Atlantic hurricane in the last 100 years,” said Fernández-Toledo in a statement.

GWU also makes a series of recommendations to help Puerto Rico effectively account for deaths during a disaster, such as providing doctors with the proper training and resources to issue death certificates based on the newest guidelines from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and improve interagency communication protocols.

Rosselló announced that the Puerto Rican government plans to create a committee, made up by local officials and “people from other sectors,” to find ways to implement the recommendations brought up in previous studies, including GWU’s.

He also plans to start a registry that keeps tabs of the most vulnerable populations in the island, such as people with disabilities, elders and those with severe medical conditions, so emergency responders are able to quickly and effectively locate people in need during a disaster.

The recent findings are just part of the first phase of what GWU expects to be a two-part investigation, in which they hope to interview families of victims who died during Maria’s aftermath, in an effort to identify how many of the 2,975 deaths can be attributed directly to the hurricane.

GWU researchers told reporters they don’t expect the 2,975 number to change during the next phase, “but it might get subdivided as to what situation caused certain deaths in the months after Maria.”

For the first part of the report published on Tuesday, GWU interviewed “key leaders,” including seven mayors and other officials from local agencies and FEMA.

Unlike previous studies on the matter, GWU’s has not yet been subjected to the rigorous process of being published in a peer-reviewed medical journal. Researchers at GWU told reporters on Tuesday the study is still in the process of submission.

Trump approval ‘remarkably stable’ after a stormy week of bad news

After a week that saw President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman convicted on eight counts of fraud and his former lawyer plead guilty to felony campaign finance charges, the president’s job approval rating remains virtually unchanged, new polling from NBC News and The Wall Street Journal shows.

But the stability in Trump’s approval rating also comes as more than half of voters say he has not been honest and truthful regarding the ongoing investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller. And fewer than three-in-ten voters are convinced that Trump himself is not implicated in the wrongdoing of the six of his associates who have now either been convicted of crimes or have pleaded guilty.

Between Aug. 18 and Aug. 22 — the day after the news involving former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former Trump attorney Michael Cohen — the president’s approval rating stood at 46 percent approve, 51 percent disapprove.

In a separate NBC/WSJ survey, conducted Aug. 22 through Aug. 25, Trump’s approval rating was 44 percent approve and 52 percent disapprove. That’s within the poll’s margin of error.

Republican pollster Bill McInturff of Public Opinion Strategies, who conducted this survey with Democratic pollster Peter Hart and his team at Hart Research Associates, called Trump’s approval rating “remarkably stable” despite the Manafort and Cohen developments, both of which became public on the same afternoon last Tuesday.

Hart added that, for Democrats hoping to craft a midterm election strategy, the week’s news thus far “represents a fool’s-gold opportunity rather than a silver-bullet solution.”

NBC News and The Wall Street Journal originally planned to survey respondents from Saturday, Aug. 18 thru Wednesday, Aug. 22. But after the Aug. 21 conviction of Manafort on tax and fraud charges — and the news that Cohen is cooperating with federal prosecutors after his guilty plea— the news organizations took the unusual step of commissioning an additional poll of 600 respondents from Wednesday, Aug. 22 to Saturday, Aug. 25. That second poll included questions about Manafort and Cohen as well as a look at the president’s approval rating after the new developments.


Despite the durability of Trump’s approval even after one of the most dire weeks of his presidency, most voters are not convinced that Trump himself is completely insulated from the legal woes of his associates.

Asked if they believe that the six Trump associates who have pleaded guilty or been found guilty of crimes signals only that those individuals committed crimes or that Trump himself may have participated in wrongdoing, 27 percent cite just the individuals (not Trump), 40 percent say Trump may be involved with potential wrongdoing and 30 percent don’t know.

A majority of voters also say that Trump has not been honest and truthful when it comes to the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Twenty-one percent strongly agree that he has been honest and truthful, 17 percent agree somewhat, 10 percent disagree somewhat and a plurality — 46 percent — disagree strongly.

Inside those numbers, however, there’s some evidence that Republican defense of Trump’s truthfulness is relatively soft. Among Democrats, 81 percent strongly disagree that Trump has been honest. Among Republicans, just 46 percent strongly agree that he has been honest.

And just about half (53 percent) of Republicans say that the guilty pleas by Trump’s associates are limited only to those individuals and not the president, while a third — 35 percent — don’t know enough to say.

Among Democrats, 71 percent say that Trump may be implicated in wrongdoing.

The Manafort and the Cohen developments are also solidly on voters’ radar screens. Asked if they have heard about Paul Manafort being found guilty of multiple tax and bank fraud charges, 46 percent say they have heard a lot, 38 percent say they have heard some and 14 percent say they have not heard about it. Asked if they have heard about Michael Cohen pleading guilty to federal felony campaign finance charges, 46 percent say they have heard a lot, 34 percent say they have heard some, and 20 percent say they have not heard about it.

(That percentage makes Cohen and Manafort a big story, but not a huge one. For comparison, it’s about the same percentage overall (around 80 percent of Americans) who had heard about former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal when it was receiving prominent news coverage, but a smaller share than had heard about the Access Hollywood tape (95 percent).


The earlier NBC/WSJ poll — conducted Aug. 18 through Aug. 22 — showed Democrats with an 8-point lead in congressional preference, with 50 percent of voters preferring a Democratic-controlled Congress and with 42 percent wanting Republicans in charge.

Last month, Democrats were ahead by 6 points on this question, 49 percent to 43 percent.

Voters were split on what concerns them more — Republicans not providing a check and balance on Trump if they control Congress (46 percent who say this), or Democrats going too far in obstructing the president if they’re in charge (45 percent).

They also were divided on what bothers them more — a Democratic candidate who supports House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s policies (47 percent), or a Republican candidate who supports Trump’s policies (45 percent).

And asked their opinions of Democrats winning control of the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate, 41 percent of voters said that would be a good thing, while 38 percent say it would be a bad thing.

Still, Democrats continue to enjoy an edge in enthusiasm: 63 percent of Democratic voters express a high level of interest in the upcoming elections — registering either a “9” or “10” on a 10-point scale — compared with 52 percent of GOP voters who do the same.

What’s more, 56 percent of Democratic voters believe November’s elections are more important to them than past congressional elections, versus just 38 percent of Republicans who think that.

“Democrats are going to win [House] seats in 2018,” says Democratic pollster Fred Yang of Hart Research Associates. “The question is: How many will that be?”

“The reason why the Democrats still have the upper hand is the enthusiasm issue,” Yang adds.


The NBC/WSJ survey conducted mostly before the Cohen-Manafort news also finds Republicans with a 14-point advantage in which party better deals with the economy — their biggest lead on this question in the poll’s history.

Forty-three percent of voters say the GOP better handles the economy, while 29 percent pick the Democrats.

Republicans also hold the edge on trade (R+8), taxes (R+5), guns (R+5) and changing how Washington works (R+4).

Democrats, meanwhile, have the advantages on the environment (D+38), health care (D+18), ethics in government (D+14), looking out for the middle class (D+12) and immigration (D+4).


Finally, the earlier NBC/WSJ poll shows 33 percent of voters supporting Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, versus 29 who oppose his nomination; 37 percent say they don’t know enough to have an opinion.

In July, it was 32 percent support, 26 percent oppose.

The earlier NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll surveyed 900 registered voters between Aug. 18-22, 2018. The margin of error is +/- 3.27 percent.

The second NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll surveyed 600 registered voters between Aug. 22-25, 2018. The margin of error is +/- 4.00 percent.