Monday Morning Open Thread: Look for the Helpers

Unlike the president, Homeland Security or the Federal Emergency Management Agency, José Andrés has no responsibility to respond to natural disasters, and yet the Washington celebrity chef has become a reliable presence in disaster zones, deploying his Chef Network to help feed thousands of displaced people.

Andrés was among the first responders in Haiti and Houston, and now he and his crew from World Central Kitchen are on the ground in Puerto Rico, improvising ways to feed countless residents who are stranded without electricity, drinking water and food in the wake of Hurricane Maria. With little ability to speak with the outside world, Andrés has used his Twitter feed to keep followers updated on his progress in the U.S. territory.

If President Trump has become a target of criticism for the administration’s response in Puerto Rico, Andrés has become a hero. The restaurateur’s social networks are overflowing with words of praise for the native Spaniard who became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2013.



Good Read: Happy Nice (No, Really!) PR Relief Story

Look for the helpers, as Mr. Rogers would tell us. Rebecca Everett, for NJ.com:

Joseph Badame, 74, has spent most of his life building and outfitting his home and outbuildings for the day when, he believes, an economic collapse will make it all necessary for survival…

Badame is an educated, intelligent, mild-mannered architect who is involved in his church, among other things. Until the death of his beloved wife, Phyliss, in 2013, the passion for prepping was something they shared.

The shelter he built and his accumulation of supplies — enough so that 100 people could live there — was Badame’s life’s work. The couple built the place, with its subterranean living area and lead-lined bomb shelter, along with outbuildings. For forty years, they filled them with everything they’d need, from coal furnaces and kerosene refrigerators to barrels of food and other supplies.

But he’s losing it all now, after the bank foreclosed on his property…

“I described myself as a spirit in search of a purpose,” he said.

Remarkably, he found what he was looking for before the estate sale this past weekend, when he met Victoria Martinez-Barber, 30. She and her husband, Anthony Barber, were hired to provide food at the estate sale through Tony & Tori’s Grill, the food truck they run.

Martinez-Barber told Badame that all the money from the food truck was going to help her family in Puerto Rico. They were alive, but homeless and hungry in Arecibo thanks to Hurricane Maria.

He donated $100. Then he showed her his food store room.
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Sunday Morning Garden Chat: “A Field Farmed Only By Drones”

A little something for both the gardening and the geeking commentariat. Now, if only they can program the drones to do the weeding… Nicola Twilley, in the New Yorker:

Across the United Kingdom, the last of the spring barley has been brought in from the fields, the culmination of an agricultural calendar whose rhythm has remained unchanged for millennia. But when the nineteenth-century poet John Clare wrote, in his month-by-month description of the rural year, that in September “harvest’s busy hum declines,” it seems unlikely that he was imagining the particular buzz—akin to an amplified mosquito—of a drone.

“The drone barley snatch was actually the thing that made it for me,” Jonathan Gill, a robotics engineer at Harper Adams University, told me recently. Gill is one of three self-described “lads” behind a small, underfunded initiative called Hands Free Hectare. Earlier this month, he and his associates became the first people in the world to grow, tend, and harvest a crop without direct human intervention. The “snatch” occurred on a blustery Tuesday, when Gill piloted his heavy-duty octocopter out over the middle of a field, and, as the barley whipped from side to side in the propellers’ downdraft, used a clamshell dangling from the drone to take a grain sample, which would determine whether the crop was ready for harvesting. (It was.) “Essentially, it’s the grab-the-teddy-with-the-claw game on steroids,” Gill’s colleague, the agricultural engineer Kit Franklin, said. “But it had never been done before. And we did it.”

The idea for the project came about over a glass of barley’s best self: beer. Gill and Franklin were down the pub, lamenting the fact that, although big equipment manufacturers such as John Deere likely have all the technology they need to farm completely autonomously, none of them seem to actually be doing it. Gill knew that drones could be programmed, using open-source code, to move over a field on autopilot, changing altitude as needed. What if you could take the same software, he and Franklin wondered, and make it control off-the-shelf agricultural machinery? Together Gill, Franklin, and Martin Abell, a recent Harper Adams graduate, rustled up just over a quarter million dollars in grant money. Then they got hold of some basic equipment—a small Japanese tractor designed for use in rice paddies, a similarly undersized twenty-five-year-old combine harvester, a sprayer boom, and a seed drill—and connected the drone software to a series of motors, which, with a little tinkering, made it capable of turning the tractor’s steering wheel, switching the spray nozzles on and off, raising and lowering the drill, and choreographing the complex mechanized ballet of the combine…
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Heartbreaking Read(s): The Participant Who’ll Never Tell Us His Story

A news story about a police officer (in Salt Lake City!) manhandling an ER nurse for RESISTING HIS AUTHORITAY!!! seemed almost too on-the-nose as an analogy for life during the Trump Occupancy. But there are real people at the heart of this metaphor, and the Washington Post followed up:

William Gray, a commercial truck driver and reserve police officer, died late Monday of the injuries he suffered when a fiery July 26 crash left him with burns over nearly half his body, University of Utah Health spokeswoman Suzanne Winchester said.

Gray was unconscious at the Salt Lake City hospital when police detective Jeff Payne asked to draw his blood hours after the crash.

Nurse Alex Wubbels refused because hospital policy required a warrant or patient consent. Payne handcuffed her and dragged her outside.

Gray was hauling a load of sand in northern Utah when a pickup truck speeding away from police crossed the center line and hit his truck head-on, causing an explosion. State police had been trying to pull over the pickup driver after several people called 911 to report he was driving recklessly.

Gray was not suspected of wrongdoing.

The pickup driver, Marcos Torres, 26, died in the crash, and Utah police routinely collect such evidence from everyone involved in fatal crashes.

Dramatic video of Wubbels’ arrest caught widespread attention online amid national scrutiny of police use of force. Payne and the supervisor who backed him, Lt. James Tracy, were placed on leave amid internal and criminal investigations…

Gray, 43, served with police in the southeastern Idaho city of Rigby. Chief Sam Tower said he was dedicated to the community of about 4,000 people and plowed snow from a sidewalk last winter so neighborhood kids wouldn’t have to walk in the street.

“Bill was truly the best of mankind,” Rigby police said in a Facebook post. “Always willing to help, always willing to go the extra mile. Bill was a big man, with a bigger heart. Everything about him was generous and kind.”…

Amy Davidson Sorkin, in the New Yorker, explains “What the Utah Good-Nurse, Bad-Cop Video Says About Medical Privacy”:

The story began on July 26th. That day, the police had engaged in a high-speed chase on a highway that ended with a deadly multi-vehicle crash. But this was not a cinematic case of, say, fugitive armed robbers. It began around 2 P.M., when the police received reports of a Chevrolet Silverado driving erratically. As the officers began their pursuit, the Silverado, now on US-89/91, swerved into a semi truck that happened to be on the road, causing an explosion. The driver of the Silverado, Marco Torres, who was twenty-six, was killed instantly. The truck driver, William Gray—who, in one of this story’s many byways, was a reserve police officer in Rigby, Idaho—staggered out of his semi, his clothes and body on fire. He was airlifted to the burn unit. One might wonder why the police wanted his blood, when he was, essentially, a bystander. The Utah police have said that it was meant for Gray’s protection, but Payne, in his report on the incident, obtained by the Salt Lake Tribune, said that the officers who were dealing with the crash wanted to know whether Gray had any “chemical substances” in his system. Another, troubling possibility could be that they were looking for something that might place some of the responsibility for the crash on Gray, in case he complained that the police had been reckless in their pursuit.
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Open Thread: “Ungrateful” As the New “Uppity”

According to Jelani Cobb, at the New Yorker:

Sixty years ago, Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, became a flash point in the nascent civil-rights movement when Governor Orval Faubus refused to abide by the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education. Faubus famously deployed the state’s National Guard to prevent nine African-American students from attending classes at the high school. In the midst of the crisis, a high-school journalist interviewing Louis Armstrong about an upcoming tour asked the musician about his thoughts on the situation, prompting Armstrong to refer to the Arkansas governor as several varieties of “motherfucker.” (In the interest of finding a printable quote, his label for Faubus was changed to “ignorant plowboy.”) Armstrong, who was scheduled to perform in the Soviet Union as a cultural ambassador on behalf of the State Department, cancelled the tour—a display of dissent that earned him the scorn and contempt of legions of whites, shocked by the trumpeter’s apparent lack of patriotism.

The free-range lunacy of Donald Trump’s speech on Friday night in Alabama, where he referred to Colin Kaepernick—and other N.F.L. players who silently protest police brutality—as a “son of a bitch,” and of the subsequent Twitter tantrums in which the President, like a truculent six-year-old, disinvited the Golden State Warriors from a White House visit, illustrates that the passage of six decades has not dimmed this dynamic confronted by Armstrong, or by any prominent black person tasked with the entertainment of millions of white ones. There again is the presence of outrage for events that should shock the conscience, and the reality of people who sincerely believe, or who have at least convincingly lied to themselves, that dissenters are creating an issue where there is none. Kaepernick began his silent, kneeling protest at the beginning of last season, not as an assault against the United States military or the flag but as a dissent against a system that has, with a great degree of consistency, failed to hold accountable police who kill unarmed citizens…

Yet the belief endures, from Armstrong’s time and before, that visible, affluent African-American entertainers are obliged to adopt a pose of ceaseless gratitude—appreciation for the waiver that spared them the low status of so many others of their kind. Stevie Wonder began a performance in Central Park last night by taking a knee, prompting Congressman Joe Walsh to tweet that Wonder was “another ungrateful black multi-millionaire.” Ungrateful is the new uppity. Trump’s supporters, by a twenty-four-point margin, agree with the idea that most Americans have not got as much as they deserve—though they overwhelmingly withhold the right to that sentiment from African-Americans. Thus, the wonder is not the unhinged behavior of this weekend but rather that it took Trump so long to exploit a target as rich in potential racial resentment as wealthy black athletes who have the temerity to believe in the First Amendment…


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Long Read: “How Jared Kushner Is Dismantling a Family Empire”

This should probably be classified as a guilty pleasure, but a pleasure it is. Rich Cohen, in Vanity Fair:

It’s unclear if Jared Kushner ever really read the Observer before he bought it. He first noticed the paper while waiting for the Boston shuttle at La Guardia, his attention caught not by the articles or reviews but by a list: New York’s power Seders. He later told Gabriel Sherman he considered reading the paper—something an owner probably should do—to be unpleasant homework, a chore. “The articles were way too long,” Kushner told Gurley. “It wasn’t visually stimulating, and I thought that people today are more responsive to shorter, easier pieces like they get on the Internet. When you want to do something long, deliberately do that, but for the most part, stay within the mold and give the reader what they are looking for with minimum effort. Reading shouldn’t be hard.”

What probably made the Observer attractive as an investment was the price. Ten million dollars! For a newspaper in New York! What a cheap way to move into the city, change the meaning of Kushner from private dick and Jersey motel to pink broadsheet. Arthur Carter, who was losing about $2 million a year on the paper, told Kushner it wasn’t really for sale. After all, who was Jared Kushner? A 25-year-old N.Y.U. grad student, an intern at private-equity firm Square Mile Capital, a child. Jared persisted; Carter relented. Jared made his pitch in Carter’s apartment, explained how he intended not merely to keep the Observer going but to make it profitable. “I’d brought Clive Cummis, one of my father’s lawyers, who is well respected and wears a bow tie and has gray hair,” Kushner says in The Kingdom of New York. “I figured he’d give me some sense of credibility with Arthur. We sat down, and I put down on the table a check with the full purchase price and a signed contract, and I said, ‘Listen, I’m ready to go.’

Owning the Observer made Jared interesting, powerful, a figure of fascination—I don’t know what it is, but something about you has changed. He was written up in society and gossip columns, discussed in a giggly tone as if he were a Kennedy or a member of a boy band, as if he had that kind of hair that covers one eye. In a single move—no one is sure if he planned it this way—Kushner had gotten into the big action. He found himself in a new crowd, at a new kind of party. Men’s Vogue. Vanity Fair. He stood in back, raising a glass, greeting men and women who dominated the dream life of the city. Bloomberg, Giuliani, Trump. Rupert Murdoch took the young publisher under his wing, becoming a kind of adviser. In this way, Jared Kushner swam into a previously unreachable stratum, a strange sea filled with exotic creatures, moguls, magnates, models. Not long after the purchase, he started dating Ivanka. They met at a business lunch. It became serious—because it made sense. Young, good-looking people, offspring of madly driven fathers, inheritors of gaudy real-estate traditions. It was an old story. A debased nobleman courting the daughter of a wealthy factory owner—each gives, each gets. He brings money, hustle. She brings beauty and the famous name, nothing in old America but aristocratic in the age of reality TV. Jared met the patriarch, got the look-over. Imagine it. Kushner and Trump in the morning of a great partnership, Table 1 at Trump Grill, regarding each other like rat and terrier in one of the pits of the old Five Points…
*****
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Update: Where to Donate to Help Puerto Rico & the Islands

From the AP:

The U.S. ramped up its response Monday to the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico, even as President Donald Trump brought up the island’s struggles before Hurricane Maria struck — including “billions of dollars” in debt to “Wall Street and the banks which, sadly, must be dealt with.”

The Trump administration has tried to blunt criticism that its response to Hurricane Maria has fallen short of its efforts in Texas and Florida after the recent hurricanes there.

Five days after the Category 4 storm slammed into Puerto Rico, many of the more than 3.4 million U.S. citizens in the territory were still without adequate food, water and fuel. Flights off the island were infrequent, communications were spotty and roads were clogged with debris. Officials said electrical power may not be fully restored for more than a month…

In Washington, officials said no armada of U.S. Navy ships was headed to the island because supplies could be carried in more efficiently by plane. The Trump administration ruled out temporarily setting aside federal restrictions on foreign ships’ transportation of cargo, saying it wasn’t needed. The government had waived those rules in Florida and Texas until last week…

Energy Department crews are working in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, coordinating with the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, FEMA and a team from the New York Power Authority, among others. An eight-member team from the Western Area Power Authority, an Energy Department agency, assisted with initial damage assessments in Puerto Rico and has been redeployed to St. Thomas. A spokeswoman said additional responders would go to Puerto Rico as soon as transportation to the hurricane-ravaged island could be arranged…

Here are some donor suggestions, via commentors to yesterday’s post:

Charity Navigator has a list of Charities Providing Assistance in the Wake of Hurricane Maria

So does the Florida Association for Volunteer Action in the Carribean & the Americas: FAVACA

All Hands Volunteers has a link dedicated to US Virgin Island Hurricane Response

Commentors who’ve adopted dogs from Second Chance Animal Rescue of Puerto Rico speak up for that group’s volunteers, and the many rescues they’re sheltering.

Multiple commentors also recommended ShelterBox USA: “ShelterBox provides shelter and life-saving supplies to communities overwhelmed by disaster, including people affected by the recent Hurricanes Irma and Harvey. They are actively evaluating needs in the Caribbean after Hurricane Maria and in Mexico following recent earthquakes.”

Habitat for Humanity:

“We appreciate that you are anxious to help, but please do not self-deploy. Shelter, food and water are in limited supply and the arrival of unexpected volunteers adds to an already strained situation. Volunteers from outside the immediate area will be needed, now is just not the time.

Habitat for Humanity has trained disaster response personnel on the ground now as a part of the initial response and assessment, which includes basic cleanup work. The next phase will be to repair and rebuild. This will take months and could take years to complete. These efforts are often the most difficult as media attention tends to move on before the work has even really begun. Please don’t let timing discourage you from being a part of the hurricane recovery efforts.

In the immediate aftermath of the hurricanes, it is important to give first responders and trained disaster responders the space and resources they need for their work. But as we move into the long-term rebuilding phase, we’ll be counting on volunteers to help, just as they have so many times before. Sign up below to join our hurricane recovery volunteer registry. This will give us the ability to keep you up to date on the situation, and call on you as volunteer teams prepare to deploy…

Global Giving’s Puerto Rico & Caribbean Hurricane Relief Fund

Operation USA — “Give and it gets there”

Please add your own suggestions below — and forgive me if I missed your comment yesterday.