Thursday, August 31, 2017

The "Cajun Navy" pays it forward; personal housing hosting requested in Texas by faith groups already

The “Cajun Navy” has been “paying it forward” by rescuing people from apartments and homes in privately owned boats in Houston and now Beaumont-Port Arthur.

There was one story of a man who bought a boat in Florida and drove it as a trailer all the way to Texas to help out.  I don’t know how he could have parked.  I don’t have the hands-on skills to rescue people physically.

The Dallas Morning News has a page on how North Texans (240 miles away) can help, here.  They are asking for volunteers in evacuation centers set up in Dallas and probably Austin and San Antonio.  The Airbnb offer was discussed in a previous post. 

The General Consulate of Houston and apparently a few other faith-based organizations have requested homeowners in Texas host families.  Here is the Google Docs form link. It does not appear that hosting from outside Texas is being requested at this time.  

Update: Sept. 6

Here is a story of how someone was "conscripted" into the Cajun Navy by downloading an app!

Monday, August 28, 2017

How will hundreds of thousands probably displaced by the Texas flood be housed?

As the rest of the country prepares for the news about the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, especially the flooding in the most populated areas (Harris County and Houston TX) from the stalling of the storm (the wind damage was, however traumatic, in a generally less populated area), it’s well to look at the costs and recovery from Hurricane Katrina in late 2005, as here.   

Shelters held up to 273000 people and FEMA trailers housed 114000.  600,000 households were displaced.  Insurance paid for about 30% of the claims.

Oprah Winfrey and Nate Berkus created a “sweat equity” community in Houston for those permanently displaced, but it hasn’t been reported yet how it fared in Harvey, link

Citylab has an analysis of the diaspora after Katrina.  40% wound up living in Dallas or Houston permanently, so some in Houston will be displaced a second time.  Dallas, San Antonio, Austin, and some other communities will probably take on more this time, but the totality of this makes one wonder if much more radical relocation would happen.  The map in the article shows some minor resettlement from Virginia to New York City.  I seem to remember that a few hundred were brought to a development in NE Washington DC but I don’t find the details.

Airbnb has authorized hosts in Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio to shelter residents for free.  It’s important to note that Airbnb allows shared rooms and apartments (as opposed to “entire”) where the owner is still in the unit., link.    This raises the broad question of public push to ask people in distant cities to host evacuees, even if not currently using Airbnb.  (That also begs a secondary legal question about old homes, lead and asbestos, and the like, which evacuees don’t have the luxury of being concerned about in practice.)  This reminds me of a similar question with immigrant asylum seekers and refugees, which I have covered on my blogs for the past year.  That has generally fizzled out somewhat, partly because of concern over legal liabilities in the Trump era.   The free service “Emergency BNB” also comes to mind.

By the way, I found the permissive tone of this article on under-the-table home sharing by legal advice site Nolo rather shocking.

If a lot of people have to resettle permanently, that could raise housing costs abruptly in other cities, especially in Texas. 

The Citylab question doesn’t address finding new jobs, or other financial dependency, which might be similar to refugees (although Americans have more legal rights).

One would think that, however distasteful to some, that mass use of mobile homes, placed on properties of the real homes as they are repaired, will be the most practical solution for many homeowners.  American manufacturers and truckers (and Walmart particularly) are good at handling this kind of volume quickly, much more efficiently that out-of-town church volunteers. 

That doesn't address the uninabitability post-flood of many garden apartment complexes, often two-story, in the building style popular in Texas (I lived in Dallas 1979-1988).  

This sort of discussion becomes necessary after other conceivable calamities, like large earthquakes (California) or even a North Korean nuclear strike in the future. 

I wrote about this on Wordpress after the North Korean flareup in early August, here

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Mitch reassures us on debt ceiling without specifics, but Washington Post mentions it in an editorial on what Trump ought to be saying

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said recently that there was “zero chance” that Congress would fail to raise the debt ceiling in time (Sept. 29). Mnuchin (who has been urged to quit by his Yale colleagues and is a valuable voice for stability) has urged a clean vote.  But it is still not clear where all the votes are and that there won’t be strings attached. The story by Damian Paletta Aug. 21 is here.

The Post mentions the debt ceiling in a well-conceived editorial this morning, Aug. 24, here
Today CNN points out that the federal government authorization to spend runs out Sept. 30.  The president has threatened a veto of future spending bills unless Congress gets started with “Build that Wall”.  Let’s hope that the politics of the Wall doesn’t lead the US to default on obligations. 

CNN says that the government will run out of money to pay its previously ratcheted up bills in early October (slightly after the original Sept. 29 date, when the fiscal year ends.) 

Quick update:

The "realDonaldTrump" tweets on the debt ceiling early this morning:

"I requested that Mitch M & Paul R tie the Debt Ceiling legislation into the popular V.A. Bill (which just passed) for easy approval. They.........didn't do it so now we have a big deal with Dems holding them up (as usual) on Debt Ceiling approval. Could have been so easy-now a mess!".

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Trump administration halts study on mountatintop removal

The Trump administration has halted a study of mountaintop removal’s effects on the health of nearby residents, as Darryl Fears reports in the Washington Post today, here
The article shows a picture of a mine in southern West Virginia; it may be the Kayford Mine. 

Luke Andraka (brother of Jack Andraka) had won a science fair award (and MIT THINK award) for a project involving mine leakage  story and look at end of Wiki on Jack here. 
I last visited this area near Kayford in July 2012.  It is not clear that mountaintop removal has really increased.  It would not provide as many jobs as underground mining. 
By - Mountaintop Removal Mine Site above Route 23 in Pike County, Kentucky, CC BY 2.0, Link

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Parachute Teachers, a startup that addresses the substitute teacher shortage

Recently, there has been more reporting of shortages of substitute teachers, including some early AM reports on NBC Washington (no link yet).

There is a group called “Parachute Teachers” which is trying to bring people with real-life work experience into the classroom as subs, but apparently without distinct teaching licenses.  The Atlantic has a story from Feb. 2017 by Hayley Glatter here
The group’s own FAQ page is here.  Right now, it seems that the group is active only in the Boston area (and Rhode Island).  I like the idea of bringing “workplace” values to the classroom.

The American School Superintendent’s Association has a page “Dealing with the Substitute Teacher shortage” where it mentions the need for training in emergency issues (CPR, lockdowns), “classroom management” (discipline, especially in middle school or lower grades, or with special education or non-intact students), and “bags of tricks”.  

As I've explained here before, I subbed in northern Virginia 2004-2007 and ran into issues, especially classroom management.  

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Charlottesville right-wing terror event: Trump urged to single out white supremacists, neo-Nazis

GOP Senators and House members are calling upon President Donald Trump to publicly disavow white supremacists or white supremacy ideology and neo-Nazism tonight, after one woman was killed by a “vehicle” rampage apparently driven by a white supremacist today (the last allegation needs to be verified).  CNN’s story is here. The suspect is James Alex Fields from Ohio, charged with Second Degree Murder.

I was rather surprised to see the news this morning and note the violence of the demonstrations pick up, with police presence, resulting in cancellation of the march.

The motive for the demonstration had been related to a decision in the city to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee from a city park in Charlottesville.  There is an argument that the statute is part of history.

The UVa Cavalier Daily has video of the incident here
The Charlottesville Daily Progress has an account here, by time.  The incident apparently happened at about 1:30 PM.  I was in a movie theater, and did not learn of the event until later, after I got home, after 5 PM. I encountered some friends about 4:30 and the event was not mentioned. 

Charlottesville is supposed to celebrate gay pride in the park Sept. 16, 2017. 

Needless to say, the country still has to be very focused on North Korea.  

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Space weather is back: Risk of damage to power grids from solar storms estimated at 7% over 10 years

The Weather Channel has reproduced a Reuters story by Deborah Zabarenko, “Solar Storms could knock out U.S. Power”, link

The story says that many coronal mass ejection events might cause voltage fluctuations leading to outages but stop short of massive transformer damage.  However, up to 365 major transformers in the U.S. could be in danger of needing replacement.

There is a 7% chance of a major event in the next ten years, as if this were “slight” in SPC terminology.
I passed the story along to Sinclair-owned television station WJLA this morning, hoping that the Weather Gang can cover space weather. 

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

"Leaked" federal report on climate change says "do not cite, quote, or distribute": The New York Times Climate Papers

A federal scientist(s) has released a climate change report before the Trump administration can hide or squash it.  Chris D’Angelo of the Huffington Post summarizes it here  and the New York Times has its own summary by Lisa Friedman, here. 

The Scribd PDF of the report on the NYTimes site is here  (you may encounter a paywall).
Is this Trump’s encounter with the Pentagon Papers?  Not exactly.  I don’t think this is classified or counts as a “leak”.  But the draft pages read “Do not cite, quote or distribute”.  Well, we disobeyed.

The temperature in the US has risen steadily since about 1980.  At current rates, average temperature in the US will rise by over 5 degrees F before 2100, and the absolute minimum with the best practices would be less than 1 degree.

The climate change is largely manmade and is more marked near the poles.  

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Drop dead date on U.S. debt ceiling is September 29, 2017

I would normally add this to a previous post from July 23, but I noticed that talks between Congress and the White House on the debt ceiling seem to have stalled today.  The Washington Post is reporting now that the federal government would run out of money Friday September 29 (or is that Monday Oct. 2).  Default on a payment, the Post says, will cause a stock market crash and sudden rise in interest rates.
The brief story today by Damian Parletta in the Post is here. 

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Mike Mulvaney has come around to a clean increase in the debt ceiling, Yahoo Business Insider here

ABC News has a detailed recent explanation of the debt ceiling by Caroline Cohen and others, here

Jim Carney of the conservative Washington Examiner weighs in here on the "swamp".