Monthly Archives: February 2018

Puerto Rico’s economy seems to be bouncing back from the effects of Hurricane Maria, an economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York said Thursday.

Puerto Rico’s employment declined 4.2 percentage points in the month after Maria but has since climbed a percentage point or two, said Officer Research Economist Jason Bram, referring to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ establishment survey data.

As international media, suppliers and buyers gathered under the roof of the Puerto Rico Convention Center last week in San Juan, Puerto Rico for the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association’s 36th annual Caribbean Travel Marketplace, it was hard to imagine just four months ago that the city was in an entirely different state.

The Caribbean Travel Marketplace was a chance for several islands highly-impacted by Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria to provide crucial updates to members of the travel and tourism industry, as hotels steadily re-open, and cruise ports welcome visitors once more. Hurricane Irma first made landfall in Barbuda on Sept. 5th, 2017 and left behind catastrophic results. As Puerto Rico welcomed residents with open arms, they were hit next, with winds lashing out at approximately 220 kilometres an hour; flattening houses and threatening mass flooding. Just over one week later, Hurricane Maria paid a visit, and when both storms were over, at least 64 were dead and power was knocked out across the island, severing communication and electricity for those living there.

The convention centre itself actually transformed into a shelter for the people of Puerto Rico, making the location an incredibly fitting place to discuss the island’s astounding recovery amongst residents who had seen the damage first-hand, and visitors laying eyes on the destination for the first time.

Bouncing Back from Devastation

Today, power has been restored to San Juan, but 35 per cent of the island is still in the dark, meaning that some residents in Puerto Rico’s mountainous regions near the El Yunque rainforest have seen more than 120 days of darkness. However, as many Puerto Ricans echoed throughout the conference, it’s time for the media to quit re-circulating photos of Puerto Rico days after devastation hit, and start showcasing a unified picture of strength and resiliency from the Puerto Rican community and the Caribbean people.

With all eyes on Puerto Rico last week, the Executive Director of the Puerto Rico Convention District Authority, Omar Marrero, and the Secretary of Economic Development Manuel Laboy Rivera took turns addressing Puerto Rico’s comeback during the CHTA’s Travel Marketplace.

“This has been an incredible opportunity to convey the right message to the world, which is that Puerto Rico is open for business,” Marrero said. “Our ability to transform in light of the circumstances as Irma came to Puerto Rico has been amazing. We had to transform this convention centre into a centre of relief for our brothers and sisters of the different Caribbean islands who were hit by Hurricane Irma. We were able to serve the people of Puerto Rico and the people of the Caribbean in another fashion, and that’s essentially what we want to convey, is that we are able to transform and adapt and come back.”

2018: Diversifying the Economy

Creating new jobs and promoting new economic opportunities has been at the heart of the Department of Economic Development and Commerce of Puerto Rico as the island continues to rebuild.

“Tourism is a major component of our strategy, and I think there are two main reasons this is so important: one is the fact that 2018 is the year of recovery and transformation of the government of our economy, and therefore starting the year with an event like this one is really magnificent; there’s a lot of hope and high expectations for the year and for the things that are yet to come,” said Rivera. “Number two, I think that the fact that we have 29 countries represented here, and close to 280 suppliers, 113 buyers, and more than 1,000 delegates altogether at this event is really a testament that we are open for business.”

There have been varying accounts on the state of Puerto Rico, but during the CHTA’s Caribbean Travel Marketplace, a series of hard facts were delivered that discuss the most recent updates to the travel and tourism sector, delivered by Carla Campos, chief marketing officer for the Puerto Rico Tourism Company. The following categories were discussed:

Cruise Industry

  • Incredibly promising for 2018.
  • Resumed operations 2.5 weeks after the passing of Hurricane Maria.
  • Post Maria: hosted 410,000 through the San Juan Port since Oct. 7, and set to welcome 633,000 more by June 30, 2018. Expected to hit 1,00,000 by end of season, representing an increase of 3.3 per cent.
  • Four more home-porting ships this season than last year, bringing the number up to 14 from 10 for the season in San Juan.
  • Forecasting next season 2018/2019 record-breaking; 1.7 million passengers to Puerto Rico this season, shattering 2015 record of 1.5 million passengers, representing $250M towards the local economy.


  • Two weeks after Hurricane Maria, San Juan received 20 flights per day; flights have increased to 110 daily flights on average.
  • Receiving 391 seats this January; expecting 81,000 more in July which means natural loss in air capacity after a hurricane hasn’t stopped Puerto Rico from receiving flights and international visitors; recovering at record speed.
  • Capacity levels will be on par to 2017 levels by early summer – Hurricane Katrina took 10 years to get back to capacity levels, and San Juan reports by May, they’ll be on par with 2017 levels.


  • More than 120 properties currently operational out of the 150 properties reported.
  • 12,458 rooms currently available in the inventory, representing more than 80 per cent of inventory stock.
  • Remaining hotel stock (2,670 rooms) are undergoing renovations, expected to be finished by Q3 and Q4; properties include Ritz Carlton Reserve and Old San Juan Hotel.


  • 22 attractions opened shortly after the hurricane; now, tourists and leisure travellers are enjoying more than 120 attractions.
  • 13 golf courses that are operational and 15 casinos.
  • 4,000+ restaurants open for business, with 1,500 in San Juan alone.
  • Old San Juan is as beautiful as ever; no major debris or damage.

“This is about recovering better and stronger, and a really great way to do both those things is to really seize, overhaul, and revamp our product,” Campos said. “A lot of destinations have done this, and we’ve done a lot of benchmarking to ensure we’re on track to reveal our renewed and revamped Puerto Rico.”

Rebuilding to Rising

Puerto Rico’s Secretary of State, Luis G. Rivera-Marín, joined Omar Marrero and Manuel Laboy Rivera on stage to reveal even more updates on what Puerto Rico has in store for 2018. Not only is the Puerto Rico Tourism Company currently revamping its entire inventory, but it’s excited to announce that there are 25 per cent more rooms in the pipeline that will be built and developed in Puerto Rico, representing approximately 3,830 new jobs.

Properties under this umbrella include the J.W. Marriott, the Serafina Hotel Ponce, the Four Seasons Cayo Largo in the east, and new rooms at the St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort and the San Juan Marriott.

“This is an investment of $1.7B in hospitality and development in the pipeline in Puerto Rico, and that’s extremely significant,” Campos said. “By the end of Q4, our current total inventory will be completely revamped, but we’re also working to ensure that in three to four years, and maybe sooner, we’ll have 25 per cent new rooms in the inventory, and $1.9B as an investment, and more than 3,000 jobs created. Our government bet on tourism as the plan for economic growth and they had a plan to make sure that was the case. Now with the hurricanes, it’s not about making the goals that were previously established, it’s about actually improving on all of those goals, and those numbers speak for themselves.”

Crisis as Opportunity

Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria were devastating storms to say the least, and a huge loss of life and loss of land were recorded. However, both the Puerto Rico Tourism Company and the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association continue to look to the future, and work together to ensure September’s course of events do not repeat themselves.

“We have prepared contingency plans, and just five days after the hurricanes, we released our recovery plan to the entire industry, with specific goals and milestones mapped out along the way,” Campos said. “Strong partnerships have been key, not just with media who have been fabulous with us as we try to relay the different story of Puerto Rico, but also with airlines, who have allowed us to strategize in terms of capacity; and with the cruise lines, who were here just two weeks after the hurricanes, who continue to bring their vessels in bigger and better ways and continue to normalize Puerto Rico in terms of its cruising activities. In government, we’re working closely with different agencies to work together and to plan together to make sure that we’re on track.”

Puerto Rico has enacted a forward-looking approach, looking beyond crisis management to map out a more sustainable future for Puerto Rico.

“We needed to look to the future to understand the opportunities we had at hand, and that’s how we were able to understand that we needed to revamp our product,” Campos said. “Puerto Rico is recovered and ready to host you, and we’re expecting growth and an increase in visitors; we’ve revamped our offer for even better experiences, and we’re excited to revamp our existing collaborations and create new jobs.”

Volvería ilegal la importación, venta, fabricación, transferencia o posesión de este tipo de armamento

Mientras el presidente Donald Trump aseguró que él habría “corrido e ingresado aun sin tener un arma” a la escuela en Florida, donde el pasado 14 de febrero un joven asesionó a 17 personas, los congresistas demócratas David Cicilline y Ted Deutch presentaron formalmente ayer un proyecto de ley en el Congreso de Estados Unidos para prohibir la venta de armas de asalto a civiles.

La legislación, llamada “Prohibición de armas de asalto 2018”, haría “ilegal que una persona importe, venda, fabrique, transfiera o posea, o afecte el comercio interestatal o extranjero, de un arma de asalto semiautomático”, como la utilizada por Nikolas Cruz en el tiroteo en Parkland.

La nueva propúesta de ley es el último intento de los demócratas para implementar una restricción de las armas desde que expiró la prohibición federal de armas de asalto en 2004.

Mientras tanto, el líder demócrata del Senado, Chuck Schumer, se opuso ayer a aprobar una ley vaga de revisión de antecedentes, y pidió que se abogue por una revisión universal.

“Los demócratas creen que, como mínimo, la respuesta del Congreso al ataque de Parkland debe incluir una legislación de verificación universal de antecedentes que tape el hueco de las ventas en shows y en internet que permiten que las armas caigan en las manos equivocadas”, explicó el senador.

El presidente Donald Trump aseguró ayer que “luchará” contra la Asociación Nacional del Rifle (NRA), que se opone al control de armas, y pidió aumentar las instituciones psiquiátricas en Estados Unidos para ingresar a gente como el autor del tiroteo del pasado 14 de febrero en Florida.

En un encuentro en la Casa Blanca con la mayoría de los gobernadores del país, Trump dijo que podrá resolver fácilmente sus diferencias con la NRA en el debate sobre qué hacer para prevenir nuevos tiroteos en las escuelas del país.

Si bien el mandatario ha hecho dos propuestas al respecto, elevar la edad para adquirir armas y prohibir los “aceleradores de disparos”, la vocera presidencial Sarah Sanders aclaró que el tema debe ser determinado en un proceso legislativo.

La portavoz de la Casa Blanca aseguró que por ahora no existe ninguna iniciativa de ley específica y que el proceso de consultas continúa abierto.

The Supreme Court handed President Trump a significant defeat Monday, turning down the administration’s plea for a quick ruling that would have upheld the president’s power to end special protections for so-called Dreamers.

The court’s decision keeps in place a legal shield for nearly 700,000 young immigrants for the rest of this year, and perhaps longer, allowing people who have been covered by the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program to continue living and working legally in the U.S. Those whose existing DACA permits expire this year will also be allowed to apply for another two-year permit.

Although the court’s action removes for now the threat of job loss and deportation, it also will extend the long-term uncertainty for the Dreamers — young immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children. Congress has been stymied on a legislative solution to their situation, and without an immediate deadline to force action, lawmakers almost certainly will not try again to forge a compromise on immigration before this fall’s midterm elections.

Last September, Trump announced that he would end the DACA program and gave Congress until March 5 to pass legislation to resolve the legal status of the Dreamers. Then, in early January, U.S. District Judge William Alsup in San Francisco ordered the government to keep the DACA program running until legal challenges could be fully aired, ruling that Trump’s order had been based on a “flawed legal premise.” A district judge in New York this month issued a similar ruling.

In seeking to get Alsup’s order overturned, the Justice Department sought to leapfrog the U.S. appeals court in California, asking the Supreme Court to grant an “immediate review” of Alsup’s nationwide order.

The action the administration sought was rare. It has been nearly 30 years since the Supreme Court granted review of a district judge’s ruling before an appeals court could weigh in. And the court said Monday it had no interest in following that course in the DACA case.

The justices, without dissent, turned down the administration’s petition “without prejudice,” meaning that the government could return to the high court once the appeals court rules.

“It is assumed that the Court of Appeals will proceed expeditiously to decide this case,” the justices noted in a brief order.

Even though the action by the high court was procedural in nature, not a ruling on the substance of the case, it has significant impact because it keeps in place Alsup’s injunction for as long as the case wends its way through the judicial system, which could be quite a while. In their appeal to the high court, administration lawyers said the injunction would likely last well into 2019 if the appeals run their normal course in the lower courts.

That’s a significant victory for the Dreamers and a defeat for administration hard-liners, led by Stephen Miller, Trump’s domestic policy advisor. They have tried to use renewal of DACA as a bargaining chip to get Congress to adopt new policies to restrict legal immigration.

With DACA now effectively off the congressional agenda for this year, the possibility of new immigration restrictions is also much less likely. Democrats hope to regain control of at least one house of Congress in the midterm elections, which would give them considerably more of a say in any legislation.

Even if the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals does act “expeditiously,” as the justices suggested, a ruling from the appeals court would be unlikely before summer. That would mean the earliest the case could return to the Supreme Court would be in the fall, with a ruling possible by the end of the year.

That’s assuming a speedy path for the litigation. A scenario in which the case doesn’t return to the high court until a year from now is quite possible.

Speaking to a group of the nation’s governors on Monday, Trump complained about once again facing a case in the 9th Circuit, which hears appeals in federal cases from California and eight other Western states. A majority of the court’s active judges were appointed by Democratic presidents.

“I mean, it’s really sad when every single case filed against us — this is in the 9th Circuit — we lose, we lose, we lose, and then we do fine in the Supreme Court. But what does that tell you about our court system? It’s a very, very sad thing. So DACA’s going back, and we’ll see what happens from there,” Trump said.

The Justice Department’s reaction was more measured, acknowledging that the administration’s request for the court to take up the case and bypass the appeals court had been a long shot.

“While we were hopeful for a different outcome, the Supreme Court very rarely grants certiorari before judgment,” said spokesman Devin O’Malley. “We will continue to defend [the Department of Homeland Security’s] lawful authority to wind down DACA in an orderly manner.”

Los Angeles attorney Theodore Boutrous Jr. , who represented DACA recipients who challenged Trump’s order, praised the court’s decision.

“DACA is a lawful and important program that protects young people who came to this country as children and who know this country as their only home. The Dreamers have relied on DACA to make decisions about their education, jobs, and families and to make valuable contributions to society as doctors, lawyers, teachers, and members of the military,” he said.

“Two federal district courts have now recognized that the Trump administration’s abrupt decision to end the program was unlawful. We are confident that the court of appeals will reach the same conclusion,” he added.

“This was clearly the correct result — to let the judicial process work in the orderly manner,” said Mark Rosenbaum, another Los Angeles lawyer who worked on the case. “The larger message is also clear: that for the 700,000 Dreamers who continue to work and study every day to make our nation a better place, the responsibility rests with Congress to do the right thing.”

The administration’s legal strategy in the case was consistent with Trump’s approach to DACA since he was elected: He has not wanted to keep the program but has also not wanted to be blamed for deporting Dreamers, who enjoy widespread public support.

After Alsup issued his order, U.S. Solicitor Gen. Noel Francisco could have asked the high court for a stay, which would have put the order on hold and allowed the administration to end DACA. Instead, he surprised many observers by, instead, asking the justices to hear arguments in the case this spring.

Francisco asserted that a stay would result in an “abrupt shift” in the enforcement policy, while the administration favored an “orderly wind-down of the DACA policy.”

At the same time, he insisted that the court order was doing serious harm to the government. “The district judge’s unprecedented order requires the government to sanction indefinitelyan ongoing violation of federal law being committed by nearly 700,000 aliens,” Francisco wrote, referring to the DACA recipients.

In his ruling, Alsup said Trump’s advisors, led by Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions, had been wrong when they decided President Obama lacked the authority to extend relief to the Dreamers.

Alsup agreed “a new administration is entitled to replace old policies with new policies,” but nonetheless concluded that the “flawed legal premise” set out by Sessions could not serve as a basis for ending DACA now.

His preliminary injunction required the administration to “maintain the DACA program on a nationwide basis.” However, he said nothing in his order would prevent federal authorities from “removing any individual, including any DACA enrollee, who it determines poses a risk to national security or public safety.”

Five months after back-to-back hurricanes decimated Puerto Rico’s already-struggling infrastructure, the island’s governor, the MIT-educated Ricardo Rosselló, told a crowd at a forum in New York this week that Puerto Rico is officially “Open for Business.”

There is no doubt that Puerto Rico has a long, hard slog ahead of it. It was already drowning in debt. Now, as it is struggling to rebuild, hundreds of thousands of residents are leaving for the mainland, and the bankrupt U.S. territory is still working on a fiscal plan. Despite the uphill battle, the attitude at this week’s forum, called “Pathway to the Future,” was optimistic, as attendees expressed their hopes that the private sector could help Puerto Rico rebuild.

“Challenging times create enormous opportunities,” Rosselló said in his keynote address. Those should be enticing words for entrepreneurs. If they’re not—or if you’re feeling particularly Gordon Gekko about it all—keep in mind the words of noted rich person Baron Rothschild: “The time to buy is when there’s blood in the streets.”

Here are some (better) reasons to do business in Puerto Rico right now:

  1. It just passed a “gold standard” public private partnership law to encourage investment.
  2. It is building a new energy grid from the ground up, which leaves lots of room for innovation.
  3. Puerto Rico has had four governments in 16 years, meaning “change” has seen a lot of change. The current government has created structural reforms that separate economic development from government ensuring stability.
  4. Tax benefits: The newly-passed Act 20 provides a 4% income tax rate, 100% tax exemption on distributions from earnings and profits, and a 90% exemption from personal property taxes for certain types of businesses. Act 22 provides 100% exemption from income taxes on all dividends, interest, and capital gains for residents.
  5. Puerto Rico’s forthcoming fiscal plan, which includes nearly $17 billion in federal funds from the U.S. government, projects a budget surplus in six years.
  6. Products manufactured in Puerto Rico get a “Made in the USA” sticker
  7. Low costs: The average wage in Puerto Rico is $28,740 a year, compared to $49,630 a year in the mainland.
  8. Intellectual Property is protected by U.S. law
  9. Good neighbors: Companies like Microsoft, Lufthansa, Bacardi, and Medtronic have been working in Puerto Rico for a long time. Tesla and Google came to help in the island’s recovery, and Tesla may be staying put.
  10. Puerto Rico is revamping laws to make it easier for the sharing economy to take hold and bring cash to the community.

If you’re not looking to do business in Puerto Rico but still want to help, follow the advice of Manuel Laboy, secretary of the Department of Economic Development and Commerce: “You want to help Puerto Rico? Go on vacation there.”

Los jóvenes regresaron para recoger las pertenencias que dejaron abandonadas ante el pánico que causó el tiroteo del 14 de febrero

Por: AP

Estudiantes de una escuela secundaria de Florida donde fueron asesinados 14 estudiantes y tres miembros del personal regresaron el domingo para recoger las pertenencias que dejaron abandonadas ante el pánico que causó el tiroteo hace casi dos semanas.

Miles de estudiantes se unieron a sus padres en el trayecto frente al edificio de tres pisos en la Secundaria Marjory Stoneman Douglas, donde tuvo lugar la masacre del 14 de febrero. Ahora la estructura está rodeada por una verja, la que a su vez está cubierta con mantas de otras escuelas en señal de apoyo.

“Tan solo ver el edificio me dio miedo”, dijo la estudiante de primer año Francesca Lozano al salir de la escuela junto a su madre. De todas formas, le alegró poder ver a sus amigos. “Eso mejoró mucho todo”, afirmó.

Diecisiete personas vestidas de blanco como ángeles se mantuvieron de pie junto al monumento conmemorativo improvisado afuera de la escuela, antes de colocarse cerca de la entrada. El organizador Terry Decarlo dijo que los disfraces se envían a los lugares donde se presentan tiroteos masivos o desastres para que los sobrevivientes “sepan que los ángeles los cuidan y los protegen”. Muchos de los ángeles del domingo eran sobrevivientes del tiroteo ocurrido en 2016 dentro del club nocturno Pulse, de Orlando, en el que murieron 49 personas, dijo Decarlo.

La escuela comenzará a funcionar normalmente el miércoles, y los administradores dijeron que los familiares recibirán detalles vía telefónica. El evento del domingo se realizó a fin de facilitar el regreso a clases.

“Ya no están aquí dos de mis mejores amigos”, dijo Sammy Cooper, de primer año, quien recogió la mochila que dejó caer cuando vio al agresor Nikolas Cruz, de 19 años, comenzar a disparar. “Pero definitivamente vendré el miércoles a clases. Puedo manejarlo”.

Sebastian Peña, de segundo año, dijo que el encuentro le dio la posibilidad de ver a sus amigos y maestros, y “unirnos como familia”.

Horas antes el domingo, la oficina del gobernador Rick Scott dijo que le solicitó al comisionado del Departamento del Orden Público de Florida, Rick Swearingen, que investigue la respuesta policiaca al tiroteo. La agencia confirmó que iniciará la pesquisa de inmediato.

El jefe de policía del condado Broward, Scott Israel, ha sido criticado después de que la semana pasada se revelara que el agente Scot Peterson no ingresó para confrontar a Cruz durante la masacre. Su departamento también enfrenta repercusiones por el aparente mal manejo en algunas de las 18 llamadas telefónicas en las que se le advirtió a la policía de las posibles intenciones del sospechoso. Los avisos forman parte de lo que las autoridades describen como el fracaso en captar señales evidentes de que Cruz, quien tenía antecedentes de comportamiento perturbador, representaba una amenaza seria.

The Americans failed to reach their medal target, and other countries will catch up in the sports where Team USA thrived

By: Bryan Graham

On the surface the United States’ collective showing at the Pyeongchang Olympics doesn’t look so bad: 23 medals and nine golds, good for fourth on the table no matter how you sort it behind Norway, Germany and Canada. But appearances can be deceiving.

There is no sugar-coating Team USA’s lowest medal haul since the 1998 Nagano Games, when they won 13 medals (there were 68 events then compared to 102 this time around). The raw figures upon closer inspection only look worse and will be the subject of no small consternation as the United States Olympic Committee opens the inquest in search of where it went wrong for the biggest American delegation in history.

“We’re going to take a hard look at what occurred here,” chef de mission Alan Ashley said on Sunday at the USOC’s closing news conference.

The overall total falls short of the committee’s target goal of 37 medals and baseline of 25 as revealed by an internal document obtained by the Associated Press this week. Ashley offered up a number of hypotheses for the United States’ underperformance. There was bad weather: the high winds that squeezed Mikaela Shiffrin’s alpine skiing program on either end and cost her two more shots at medals. There were near misses: the total of 35 Americans who finished just off the podium between fourth and sixth during the Olympics.

But the United States’ decline in sports it once counted on for medals is a major part of the puzzle. Consider speed skating (as opposed to short track speed skating), which has produced more US medals than any other winter sport in history. They’ve now won a single bronze over the last two Winter Games – in Wednesday’s women’s team pursuit – compared to 19 medals in the previous three Olympics combined. The once-proud figure skating program has fallen on similar hard times, although bronzes in the team event and ice dance prevented a total shutout.

But the United States’ decline in sports it once counted on for medals is a major part of the puzzle. Consider speed skating (as opposed to short track speed skating), which has produced more US medals than any other winter sport in history. They’ve now won a single bronze over the last two Winter Games – in Wednesday’s women’s team pursuit – compared to 19 medals in the previous three Olympics combined. The once-proud figure skating program has fallen on similar hard times, although bronzes in the team event and ice dance prevented a total shutout.

Ashley assured the assembled media that no stone will go unturned during the post-mortem, including a hard look at other countries such as Norway, whose 39 medals in Pyeongchang broke the previous Winter Games record of 37, set by the United States in 2010.

“We’re going to look at the other countries, [and ask], ‘What are they doing?’” Ashley said. “One of the things I’m curious about is that Norway had a runaway success here and they really did a great job preparing their athletes and I really admire them for that. I admire their athletes as well. I want to find out some things about what they’re up to. And I really want to sit down and get the feedback from the athletes about what sort of things they see in the field in the preparation of their competitors so we can learn from that and focus on some of those things moving forward, whether that’s in the areas of coaching, better training, better technology and innovation, more competition opportunities.”

But there’s no reason to believe answers will be found in emulation of the Norwegians, who clean up in traditional Olympic sports like cross-country skiing where the Americans seldom catch a whiff of the podium – the delightful exception of Jessie Diggins and Kikkan Randall notwithstanding. Yes, the other nations benefit from state-sponsored funding while the USOC does not, but there’s every reason to believe Ashley should be getting more mileage out of a budget estimated at more than $60m per Olympic cycle.

Geography no doubt played a role. The Pyeongchang and Nagano low-water marks – in addition to an anemic eight-medal haul at Sapporo 1972 – suggest the US underperform when the Olympics take place in Asia, which is something they might want to dissect with the countdown to Beijing already under way.

But most tellingly, only 11 of the Americans’ 23 medals came in events that were on the program at the 1988 Calgary Olympics where the United States hit rock bottom with six, prompting an overhaul of the entire winter sports infrastructure. The rest came from the newer snowboarding and freestyle skiing events.

One shudders to think where the Americans might have wound up in the table if not for the happenings at the Phoenix Snow Park, where the United States hoovered up the first four snowboarding golds awarded behind Shaun White (men’s halfpipe), Chloe Kim (women’s halfpipe), Jamie Anderson (women’s slopestyle) and Red Gerard (men’s slopestyle) before David Wise’s ski halfpipe win on Thursday afternoon.

Often these sports are dominated by North Americans for one or two cycles before the rest of the world begins to catch up.

So perhaps the easiest answer is to keep adding more sports where the Americans have a good chance of success. Because otherwise the questions, in cold light of day after the USA’s worst Winter Olympics haul in a generation, start to feel awfully difficult.


It’s been five years since Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a major investment to transform a Brownfield site on South Park Ave. into the largest solar panel production facility in the western hemisphere.

There are still questions about why the Buffalo Billion’s flagship project is still not completely up and running. We were not allowed inside the facility and the state would not go on camera to talk about the project.

Tesla and Panasonic started production at the facility last year. Over the next decade, the two companies are expected to invest more than a billion dollars here, plus create more than a thousand jobs.

“Overall it’s going very, very well,” said Terry VanEpps, Panasonic’s talent acquisition manager for the project.

Tesla recruited Panasonic to Buffalos’ RiverBend complex in the fall of 2016 to make solar modules and cells for Tesla’s solar roofs.

“Manufacturing started in October of last year for solar panels, or modules as we call them, and then our phase two which is solar cells should begin in a couple of months,” said VanEpps.

Panasonic has now hired 300 people. VanEpps told us about a third of those positions are hands-on production jobs. The rest are in support positions, including human resources, engineering, and maintenance.

The company plans to add another 150 positions by the end of the year.

“A good portion of those will also be production, either machine operators or general production associates, and the rest are going to be related to engineering, supply chain and positions of that nature,” said VanEpps. “We should be stabilized right around 450, beyond that we may do additional hiring, it all depends on how the business picks up.”

The state bought the land from the City of Buffalo in 2014 and pledged a $225 million investment to bring two California companies, Soraa and Silevo, here to create green energy jobs.

Empire State Development CEO Howard Zemsky sat down with area reporters when the project was first announced.

“We’re going to attract through this investment, make a compelling case, to bring in literally dozens of other companies in clean energy,” said Zemsky.

The state took on the task of building the facility, which it owns.

An early agreement with Silevo in 2014 pledged 1,460 high tech manufacturing jobs creating solar modules. Nine hundred jobs had to be filled in the first two years. It also called for the creation more than a thousand other jobs through contractors and suppliers in the region.

In total, Silevo agreed to create 5,000 jobs statewide through the project.

SolarCity eventually bought Silevo. In 2016, Tesla bought SolarCity.

Over the past four years, the state has upped its investment to $750 million.

As the site has changed hands, the agreement with the state has been altered.

“Their commitments are still 1,400 some odd people for Buffalo and Western New York,” said Zemsky during budget hearings in Albany last week.

Empire State Development delivered its 2017 annual report late, just releasing it in the last week.

It says 1,460 jobs are still promised. Five hundred of those jobs will be in the factory.

According to the state, Western New Yorkers will have to wait until 2020 to see all of the positions filled.

Tesla told us, however, it will get hiring done within a year and a half. The company has agreed to create 5,000 jobs in New York State in the next decade, the same goal set by Silevo in 2014.

Tesla said there are more than 500 people working at the facility right now. The company said most of its employees are from Buffalo and Erie County.

“As far as we can tell, only a few people from what we would call the ‘old neighborhoods’ are working there,” said Mike Murphy, the president of the Valley Neighborhood Watch Alliance. “I attended the groundbreaking when Governor Cuomo was in town, me and one of my other board members, and they’re way behind the eight ball in terms of employment.”

Murphy has been disappointed in the number of job fairs held in the Valley, Old First Ward and South Buffalo. He said those are working class communities that  need solid jobs with benefits.

“We would just like to know, again, what their numbers are in terms of employment and where these people are coming from,” said Murphy.

Erie County Clerk Michael Kearns agrees. He left the State Assembly last year, where he was South Buffalo’s representative.

“When I talk to people in the community, they ask me, they put their application in and they’re waiting for a job,” said Kearns. “We did hear about job creation, we did hear about job fairs but we haven’t seen the results.”

Panasonic told us it’s recruiting from across the region.

“We started in the core in the city and then worked our way out from where we are located,” said VanEpps. “We’ve been as far down as Dunkirk in Jamestown Community College doing informational sessions.”

He us more than 1,100 people attended two job fairs in the City of Buffalo. The applicants competed for the company’s 450 jobs.

“We’ll hire people with minimal experience honestly, a lot of it has to do with the quality of the candidate, what their career goals are,” said VanEpps.

Tesla sent out a shareholder letter Wednesday evening.

It read in part, “..we are ahead of schedule with the hiring targets we’ve agreed to with the State of New York. As solar roof is truly the first-of-its-kind and there is significant complexity in both its manufacturing and installation, we are deliberately ramping production at a gradual pace. When fully scaled, Gigafactory 2 will be able to produce enough solar cells to add more than 150,000 new residential solar installations every year.”

“The goal is to make sure that we fill these jobs as quickly as possible and individuals across every demographic, across every single neighborhood in the City of Buffalo, and across Western New York have equal opportunity to gain access to these jobs,” said State Senator Tim Kennedy.

We met the Democratic lawmaker at his South Buffalo Office.

He believes 10 to 20 years down the road the state’s investment in the RiverBend complex will pay off.

“Tesla is not the silver bullet, and there is no silver bullet, but that being said it is going to be a big, big help and boost to the economy here in WNY,” said Sen. Kennedy.

Erie County Clerk Michael Kearns told News 4 everyone is rooting for the project to succeed.

“I’m hopeful that this is a successful project because if this is successful then Buffalo is successful,” said Kearns.

There are provisions in place to make sure Tesla reaches its hiring requirements.

“We do have clawback provisions in the agreement with Tesla,” said Zemsky, in Albany last week. “I don’t recall what the dollar amount is but it’s not inconsequential.”

The state is staying tight lipped about the RiverBend project.

We made more than half a dozen requests for interview over the past months, those were declined.

We also asked for the contracts between NYS and Tesla through the Freedom of Information Law. We filed four requests with ESD, Fort Schuyler Management Corporation, SUNY Polytechnic and the NYS Division of Budget.

All four parties have a role in managing or moving this project forward.

The budget office responded that it needs until May to come up with the documents.

State lawmakers made it clear during the economic development budget hearing they also want an update on this project.

“Do we still have an enforceable agreement in place after all of the changes as far as ownership?” asked Assemblyman Ray Walter.

The Republican lawmaker is calling for more transparency on state economic development projects.

“A database of deals where you can go onto a website and search a deal we’ve incentivized with state money and figure out where it is in the process, and how much money they’ve received, and how much they’ve lived up to their agreements,” explained Assemblyman Walter.

He told us there are a number of bills on the table this session to make sure state agencies are held accountable. One calls for penalties if state agencies, like ESD, fail to file required reports on time. It also says the state needs to hire an outside firm to do an audit of all state economic development projects.

Calls for transparency really started more than a year ago after top state officials were accused of bid-rigging.

Prosecutors accuse former SUNY Polytechnic head Alain Kaloyeros and others of favoring Buffalo developer Louis Ciminelli, ensuring he was awarded the $750 million project.

That trial gets underway in late spring, early summer 2018.

Sen. Kennedy told us this project has been a learning experience.

“Certainly there were hiccups along the way and some of those certainly could’ve been prevented,” he said. “We have to learn, the state has to learn, Empire State Development, and every single development agency has to learn from some of the mistakes that were made.”

Assemblyman Walter said there is momentum to get bills passed that would improve accoutability.

“We’ve made a $750 million investment of taxpayer money and we want to make sure that is going to pay off,” he said.


Boston Bruins' Zdeno Chara (33), of Slovakia, battles Buffalo Sabres' Evander Kane (9) for the puck during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Boston, Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

BUFFALO, N.Y.  In their final matchup of the season, the Buffalo Sabres once again knocked off the Boston Bruins, topping their division rival 4-1. With their win, the Sabres take the season series 3-1. Benoit Pouliot, Kyle Okposo, Evan Rodrigues and Marco Scandella scored for the Sabres, while Charlie McAvoy scored the Bruins lone goal.

The first domino falls – Rick Nash walked into KeyBank Center around 2:45 p.m. as he joined his new team. With his trade Sunday morning, Evander Kane likely becomes the most notable forward available before Monday’s deadline.

While Kane and Nash certainly have their differences, Jason Botterill has to like what the Bruins gave up to add a much older forward with fewer points this season. Not only did the New York Rangers receive a first-round pick for Nash, they were also sent Ryan Lindgren (solid prospect), Ryan Spooner, Matt Beleskey and a seventh-round pick. If the Sabres can get a similar haul for Kane, fans should be elated, especially considering Kane could walk for nothing in the summer. With less than 24 hours until the deadline things are about to get fun.

Poo-Poo-Pouliot – Benoit Pouliot loves playing against the Bruins. In the first period, Pouliot scored his third goal of the season against the Bruins to give his team a 2-0 lead.

With Pouliot’s name getting thrown around in trade rumors, his 12th goal of the season certainly didn’t hurt his value. Although he’s been erratic and at times a defensive liability, Pouliot has proven to be a pleasant surprise this season and could likely be a nice depth player for a team looking to make a deep playoff run.

Get them some oxygen

At the end of the second period, the Bruins had the Sabres pinned in their own zone for what felt like an eternity. Nathan Beaulieu had the longest shift while trying to fight off the Bruins attack and was on the ice for more than four minutes! Justin Falk, Jason Pominville, Johan Larsson and Pouliot were also on the ice, each for more than three minutes. It wasn’t pretty but they kept the Bruins at bay and off the scoreboard.

Solid night for Johnson

Before Sunday’s game Sabres head coach Phil Housley told reporters he chose to play Chad Johnson because of his strong outing the last time these teams met. Johnson was once again great, turning away 34 of the 35 shots he faced. Like Lehner and the rest of his teammates, Johnson has had a season full of ups and downs but lately has been much better. If Lehner is dealt on Monday like some have speculated, be prepared for plenty of Johnson down the stretch.

Gio takes another run 

Good for Brian Gionta. The former Sabres captain is officially a member of the Boston Bruins and will join the team at practice on Tuesday.

“We consider him obviously a proven NHL player,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy told John Vogl of the Buffalo News about Gionta. “I don’t know him well enough yet to see where he fits. I know he just played in the Olympics, but he hasn’t been playing all year, so where is his hockey stamina right now? “The thing we do have is a lot of games in March, so we have plenty of time to see where these guys best fit.”

Gionta has had a very successful NHL career and deserves to go out on his own terms. Despite his lack of production at the recent Olympic games with Team USA, Gionta will bring veteran leadership and add depth into a Bruins locker room poised to make a deep playoff run.


Experts and activists react to ‘bombshell’ decision to scrap two-term limit that was designed to guard against Mao-style personality cult in China

The news broke at three minutes to four on a chilly winter’s afternoon in a two-sentence bulletin.

“The Communist party of China central committee proposed to remove the expression that the president and vice-president of the People’s Republic of China ‘shall serve no more than two consecutive terms’ from the country’s constitution,” Xinhua, China’s official news wire, reported. “The proposal was made public Sunday.”

It was a typically dreary communique from the party-controlled propaganda agency. But to those who have spent their lives battling to decrypt the enigma that is elite Chinese politics, the text’s historic significance was unmissable.

“A bombshell,” said Susan Shirk, one of the United States’ foremost China specialists.

“I wasn’t anticipating such an open declaration of the new regime … I thought maybe he would stop short of this.”

“He” is China’s 64-year-old leader, Xi Jinping, a man who, after Sunday’s sensational and unexpected announcement, appears poised to lead the world’s second largest economy and one of its largest military forces well into next decade and quite possibly beyond.

“It means that for a long time into the future, China will continue to move forwards according to Xi’s thoughts, his route, his guiding principles and his absolute leadership,” said Shi Yinhong, an international relations professor from Beijing’s Renmin University.

Bill Bishop, the publisher of the Sinocism newsletter on Chinese politics, said the move confirmed Xi’s mutation into a species of “Putin-plus” – only Xi was “much more effective, much more powerful and, frankly, much more ambitious” than his Russian counterpart.

Shirk, who was US deputy assistant secretary of state under Bill Clinton, said: “What is going on here is that Xi Jinping is setting himself up to rule China as a strongman, a personalistic leader – I have no problem calling it a dictator – for life.”

The first five years of Xi’s reign, which began after he was named the Communist party’s general secretary in late 2012, have seen what many call the worst political crackdown in decades. Activists, dissidents and intellectuals greeted Sunday’s move with trepidation.

Xi Jinping to cement his power with plan to scrap two-term limit

“It will get worse, for sure … the consequences will be very severe,” warned Wu’er Kaixi, a prominent Chinese dissident who fled into exile after helping lead the 1989 Tiananmen protests.

Wu’er, who now lives in Taiwan, was among those who signed an “emergency statement” condemning Xi’s decision to scrap presidential term limits as another step towards “tyranny”. “We shall not stay silent … this country is our country, and we cannot allow the ambitions of a few people lead [it] into a dark abyss,” the petition read.

Predictably, state media – from which China’s authoritarian leader has demanded “absolute loyalty” – put a more positive spin on the decision to scrap rules that were introduced in the 1980s to guard against the kind of catastrophic cult of personality that grew up around Chairman Mao.

An English-language editorial in the Global Times, a party-run tabloid, claimed “all Chinese people” backed the move and saw Xi as the right man to lead them into “a new era for a hopeful China”. “The change doesn’t mean that the Chinese president will have a lifelong tenure,” the newspaper claimed.

“Removal of the two-term limit of the president of PRC doesn’t mean China will restore life-long tenure for state leader. Such speculation is misreading,” tweeted the paper’s editor-in-chief, Hu Xijin.

Shirk, who now chairs the 21st Century China centre at the University of California, San Diego, disagreed.

“This was the one formal rule that could have blocked him from staying on and being leader for life. So eliminating it really brings the intentions out into the open and I think it eliminates any ambiguity about what is going on here,” she said. “He’s really made a power play that is stunning in its success.”

Jerome Cohen, a New York University expert in Chinese law and human rights, said China appeared to have forgotten “one of the main lessons of Mao’s long despotism” and be slipping into “another long period of severe dicatorship.”

For all Xi’s apparent dominance – achieved through a ruthless purge of rivals within China’s political, military and security establishment – experts believe his political project is not guaranteed to endure.

“A lot will depend on how the economy goes over the next 10 or 20 years,” said Steve Tsang, the director of the Soas China Institute. “If the economy continues to grow at 6% or 7% then the world will be a different one in 20 years time because China will be dominant.” A sustained economic slowdown, however, could consign Xi’s rule to the history books. “He knows that,” Tsang added.

Shirk agreed China’s “tragic” return to what she called “a kind of neo-traditional dictatorial system” was fraught with danger for both the country and its leader.

“When you are surrounded by sycophants, yes men, people who are too afraid to tell you what they really think, then there is a risk that the leader makes bad decisions,” she said.

“I’m not saying that we are going to have a famine like the Great Leap Forward or that China is going to turn into chaos like the Cultural Revolution. But … already there are some bad decisions being made.”

To illustrate her point, Shirk pointed to a new city being built near Beijing (“That is the sort of thing dictators always do. Don’t they love to do that?”) and Xi’s “overblown” signature foreign policy project, the Belt and Road infrastructure campaign which she claimed was facing a growing global backlash.

Xi’s relentless tightening of political and social controls also carried risks. “It’s hard for me to see how this kind of police state that puts such severe restrictions on civil society and on information and on the educational system is really going to be a successful modern China,” Shirk said. “I expect there is going to be some form of push back eventually – he’s already lost the intellectuals.”

Wu’er said was outraged but not surprised by Xi’s power grab and hoped it would serve as a wake-up call to western leaders who had ignored dissidents’ warnings about China’s leader and instead “nurtured” Xi’s ambitions to become “a new 21st century dictator”.

The international community had enabled Xi by showering him with gifts and praise, the veteran activist claimed.

“Now he has become this monster that we are about to see.”


Aplicó de metáfora la letra de la canción “The Snake”, sobre un reptil enfermo que recompensa con un mordisco venenoso a la mujer que lo ayudó a recuperarse

Por: AFP

El presidente de Estados Unidos, Donald Trump, equiparó el viernes a los inmigrantes con serpientes traicioneras, retomando una alegoría propia de su campaña electoral en su retórica anti-inmigración.

En una incendiaria diatriba, el mandatario fustigó a la oposición demócrata por no respaldar su política de endurecimiento de las leyes migratorias y urgió al Congreso a aprobar la construcción del muro fronterizo con México,una de sus principales promesas.

Ante la conferencia CPAC, uno de los foros más importantes de los conservadores estadounidenses, Trump leyó la letra de la canción de 1968 de Al Wilson, “The Snake” (La serpiente), sobre un reptil enfermo que recompensa con un mordisco venenoso a la “mujer tierna” que lo ayudó a recuperarse.

“Ustedes tienen que pensar esto en términos de inmigración”, señaló el mandatario, antes de compartir esa balada basada en una fábula de Esopo.

“‘Te salvé’, gritó la mujer/ ‘Y me has mordido, pero ¿por qué?’/’Sabes que tu mordida es venenosa y ahora voy a morir’/’Oh cállate, mujer tonta’, dijo el reptil con una sonrisa/’Sabías muy bien que era una serpiente antes de que me llevaras'”, recitó Trump, en medio de los aplausos de la audiencia.

“Eso es lo que estamos haciendo con nuestro país”, concluyó.

Trump, que también apeló a esta metáfora al cumplir 100 días de gobierno en un mitin en Pensilvania, subrayó que “una nación fuerte debe tener fronteras fuertes”.

“Hacemos un llamado al Congreso para que construya un gran muro fronterizo para evitar que drogas y criminales peligrosos ingresen a nuestro país”, dijo.

Trump aprovechó para repasar los logros de los agentes de control migratorio, diciendo que el año pasado arrestaron a más de 100 mil extranjeros que habían cometido “miles de crímenes” y para reforzar su rechazo a las jurisdicciones del país donde las autoridades se niegan a identificar a los indocumentados para su deportación.

“El Salvador solo toma nuestro dinero”

Más temprano, el mandatario había destacado el trabajo del servicio de control migratorio ICE, y la patrulla fronteriza para detener por “miles” a miembros de la pandilla MS-13, nacida en Los Angeles en los años 1980 de origen salvadoreño.

“El Salvador solo toma nuestro dinero, y México debe ayudar a MÁS con este problema. Necesitamos el muro”, tuiteó Trump.

El gobierno salvadoreño rechazó en una comunicación oficial las afirmaciones de Trump, considerándolas “en contra de la dignidad del país” y omisas en relación a los esfuerzos conjuntos por combatir el crimen trasnacional.

Las declaraciones del presidente de Estados Unidos “no están en apego a histórica relación entre nuestras dos naciones”, dijo en Twitter el mandatario salvadoreño Salvador Sánchez.

En su discurso ante la CPAC, Trump, muy cuestionado por presuntamente criticar semanas atrás la inmigración que llega de “países de mierda” como las naciones africanas, El Salvador y Haití, reiteró su idea recibir migrantes según sus “méritos”.

“Queremos personas que tienen habilidades, que pueden mantenerse económicamente, que pueden contribuir a nuestra economía, que amarán a nuestra gente y que compartirán nuestros valores”, dijo.



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