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Thursday, Aug 16, 2018
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FEMA contract for 30 million meals delivered just 50,000 for Puerto Rico; Trump gives ‘marching orders’; clever Girl Scout sells over 300 boxes near pot shop, but may have broken rules; more in U.S. news

Puerto Rico

FEMA contract for 30 million meals delivered just 50,000

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s mission was clear: Hurricane Maria had torn through Puerto Rico, and 30 million meals needed to be delivered quickly. FEMA tapped Tiffany Brown, an Atlanta entrepreneur with no experience in large-scale disaster relief and at least five canceled government contracts in her past. FEMA awarded her $156 million, and Brown — the sole owner and employee of Tribute Contracting LLC — hired an Atlanta wedding caterer with a staff of 11 to freeze-dry food. She found a Texas nonprofit that had shipped food aid overseas and domestically. By the time 18.5 million meals were due, Tribute had delivered only 50,000. And the food had been packaged separately from heating pouches. FEMA’s solicitation required "self-heating meals." FEMA contracting officer Carolyn Ward emailed Brown on Oct. 19: "Do not ship another meal. Your contract is terminated. This is a logistical nightmare." Four months later, a picture is emerging of the contracts awarded in the earliest days of the crisis, causing lawmakers to raise questions. On Tuesday, Democrats on the House Oversight Committee asked chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., to subpoena FEMA for all documents relating to the agreement. Lawmakers fear the agency under the Trump administration is not lining up potential contractors in advance of natural disasters, leading it to scramble to award massive contracts in the middle of a crisis. FEMA insists no Puerto Ricans missed a meal as a result of the failed Tribute contract. FEMA relied on other suppliers for "ample" food and water distribution, said an agency spokesman. But there is little doubt that in the immediate aftermath of Maria, Puerto Ricans struggled with access to food.

Washington, D.C.

Trump gives ‘marching orders’

President Donald Trump’s vision of soldiers marching and tanks rolling down the boulevards of Washington ŕ la France’s Bastille Day is moving closer to reality in the Pentagon and White House, where officials say they have begun to plan a grand military parade later this year showcasing the might of the armed forces. Trump has long mused publicly and privately about wanting such a parade, but a Jan. 18 meeting between Trump and the military’s highest ranking officials in the Pentagon’s tank — a room reserved for top secret discussions — marked a tipping point, according to two officials briefed on the planning. Trump’s seemingly abstract desire for a parade was suddenly heard as a presidential directive. "The marching orders were: I want a parade like the one in France," said a military official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the planning was to remain confidential. "This is being worked at the highest levels of the military." The cost of such a show of military strength could easily run in the millions, and military officials said it was unclear how they would pay for it.

Chief of staff: Some immigrants ‘too lazy’ to sign up for DACA

Some immigrants may have been "too afraid" or "too lazy" to sign up for the Obama-era program that offers protection from deportation, White House chief of staff John Kelly said Tuesday as he defended President Donald Trump. He discounted the possibility that Trump would announce a temporary extension of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, beyond March 5, when its protections could expire. He said the administration would not ask Congress to set a later date to give bargainers more time to reach a bipartisan deal, but claimed the government would not start deporting "Dreamers" who don’t have criminal records, saying "they are not a priority."


Ex-Olympic gymnastics coach Geddert facing investigation

Former U.S. Olympic women’s gymnastics team coach John Geddert is facing a criminal investigation following the final sentencing of disgraced ex-sports doctor Larry Nassar, who molested girls at Geddert’s elite gymnastics club. Police said Tuesday that people came forward with complaints against Geddert, but officials wouldn’t elaborate. The 60-year-old recently transferred to his wife, Kathryn, the ownership of Twistars. Some of Nassar’s victims have said John Geddert was physically abusive, was indifferent to injuries and forced them to see Nassar at Twistars. One also alleged Geddert was aware in the late 1990s of Nassar sexually abusing a teen girl. Geddert, who insists he had "zero knowledge" of Nassar’s crimes, was accused of assault at the gym in 2011 and in 2013. He did not face charges. Also Tuesday, Michigan State released its letter sent Monday to an independent special prosecutor to investigate allegations that the school ignored and mishandled old complaints against Nassar.

New York

Billionaire refuses to pony up property tax over geese poop

Billionaire Tom Golisano says he tried everything but nothing could rid his lakeside vacation home of the Canadian geese that turned his lawn into a minefield of poop. His next line of attack? Refusing to pay his $90,000 school tax bill until South Bristol officials control nature. "Here I am paying all this money in taxes and I can’t use my property because of the geese droppings," said Golisano, founder of payroll company Paychex and former owner of the Buffalo Sabres hockey team. Golisano’s stand over poop is just one of his protests against a taxation system he says is flawed and inequitable.


Dental students, professor took selfie
with severed heads during training

Graduate dental school students and a top University of Connecticut orthodontics professor took a selfie with two severed heads used for medical research at a training workshop at Yale University in June — an episode Yale officials called "disturbing" and "inexcusable." The Associated Press obtained a copy of the photo from a person who received it through a private group chat. That person, who demanded anonymity because of potential harm to their career, said the person who took the selfie would not give the AP permission to publish it for fear of being expelled. The people in the photograph include Dr. Flavio Uribe, who is also a visiting associate professor at the Yale School of Medicine. In the photo, Uribe and several graduate students are looking at the camera, while others work. All are wearing surgical masks. The two severed heads are on tables, face up. Uribe told the AP that he was showing how to place screws in the cadaver heads. "Somebody unfortunately took a photo," he said. "It was so quick." Yale and UConn Health said the universities have taken steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again.


Clever Girl Scout sells over 300 boxes
near pot shop, but may have broken rules

The San Diego Girl Scout council is looking into whether a scout who was photographed selling over 300 boxes of cookies outside a marijuana dispensary broke any rules. Officials were trying to identify the girl and talk to her family because she was in a commercial area, which is not allowed except for outside businesses on an approved list, the council said Monday. "We almost always discover that the parent was unaware of the rules." Urbn Leaf posted to Instagram a photo of the girl Friday outside the shop that sells medical and recreational marijuana and invited customers to buy Girl Scout cookies. Urbn Leaf founder Will Senn said the girl and her parents were just passing by with her wagon and he wanted to support local fundraising. "Cannabis is now legal in California and a direct result of that is the munchies a lot of times," Senn joked, adding he wants to talk to the council to clear up misunderstandings. — tbt* wires

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