Mayor Nutter: What You Can Do to Help Haiti

The pictures from Haiti aren’t burning into our consciousness every day due to more immediate issues and crises.  They are burned into our memories however and we must not forget.  We must not forget these people still need our help because they still need homes, schools, roads, jobs and stability.  We are now in hurricane season and thousands of Haitians are living under tarps.

The worst thing we can do is forget Haiti until the next catastrophe hits the island.  The first thing they need is a stable, democratic government, one which can design zoning and building codes with the ability to enforce them.  The massive refugee camp presence is a recipe for another disaster if something isn’t done soon to provide food, clothing and shelter.  Long term these people need jobs, sustainable jobs which will support them and their families.  They need new construction which will withstand the next earthquake, the next hurricane.  Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter speaks about how important economic development is and why we must not forget Haiti:

Drexel Haiti Reconstruction Forum

I’m at Drexel University this morning for a forum sponsored by the Department of Commerce for Haiti Reconstruction.  As all of you recall the island nation was devastated by an earthquake, impoverishment and substandard housing resulting in hundreds of thousands killed and millions left homeless.  The crisis in Haiti has not abated and the Commerce Department is conducting this forum to bring business people together with Haitians to talk about rebuilding the nation.

USAID provides humanitarian assistance in the areas of agriculture, trade, democracy, conflict prevention and disaster assistance.  The disaster in Haiti highlights the need for international aid and cooperation along with business investment to revive the country’s frail economy.  What this conference is doing is bringing together those with a capacity to help with the government agencies in charge of doing so and officials from the government of Haiti.There is information here from USAID, the U.S. Commercial Service, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, and the Department of Commerce.  Rick Wade, Senior Adviser and Deputy Chief of Staff to Commerce Secretary Gary Locke spoke this morning.

I’ll add to and update this article as the event progresses through the morning.  Congressman Chaka Fattah spoke to the large audience about moving forward on President Obama’s commitment to Haitian reconstruction when the Appropriations Committee goes back into session.

Haiti is a country of ten million people and encompasses a little less than 28,000 square kilometers.  Its main industry is apparel and garment making and they manufacture everything from t-shirts to pants, suits, sportswear,pajamas, medical scrubs, fleece and gloves and mittens.  The unemployment rate is a horrendous 27% and the country is in desperate need of investment and jobs to fuel and fund reconstruction.  The giant question, of course, is where the funding will come from to finance reconstruction.  On the other hand Haiti presents a tremendous opportunity, if they can maintain a stable democratic government, for growth.  The minimum wage there is a meager #3.13 and it is rather easy to invest and start a business venture.

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter also spoke:

Looking to Agriculture to Help Rebuild in Haiti

Cross posted from Nourishing the Planet.

A recent article in the New York Times highlights the critical role that agriculture will play in rebuilding Haiti in the wake of the devastating earthquake of January 2010.

Food security is not a new problem in Haiti, and development organizations such as the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Food Programme, as well as nongovernmental organizations like Heifer International and Oxfam, have been forced to halt food programs in the country as these groups themselves attempt to recover from the disaster.

Before the quake, FAO alone was implementing 23 food and agriculture projects in Haiti, hoping to improve access to food in the poorest country in the western hemisphere. Prior to the disaster, an estimated 46 percent of Haiti’s population was undernourished, and chronic malnutrition affected 24 percent of children under five.

Right now the most urgent need is to get food and water to millions of people in the capital city of Port au Prince and elsewhere in Haiti. But as the country looks to the future, the need for sustainable sources of food, such as those we are learning about in sub-Saharan Africa, is more important than ever.

White House Announces New Haitian Orphan Policy

In light of the continuing tragedy in Haiti Secretary Janet Napolitano announced a new Administration policy towards Haitian orphans this evening.  

WASHINGTON-Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano, in coordination with the U.S. Department of State, today announced a humanitarian parole policy allowing orphaned children from Haiti to enter the United States temporarily on an individual basis to ensure that they receive the care they need-as part of the U.S. government’s ongoing support of international recovery efforts after last week’s earthquake.

“We are committed to doing everything we can to help reunite families in Haiti during this very difficult time,” said Secretary Napolitano. “While we remain focused on family reunification in Haiti, authorizing the use of humanitarian parole for orphans who are eligible for adoption in the United States will allow them to receive the care they need here.”

Humanitarian parole into the United States may be granted by the Secretary of Homeland Security to bring otherwise inadmissible individuals into the country on account of urgent humanitarian reasons or other emergencies. The humanitarian parole policy announced by Secretary Napolitano today will be applied on a case-by-case basis to the following children:

   * Children who have been legally confirmed as orphans eligible for intercountry adoption by the Government of Haiti and are being adopted by U.S. citizens.

   * Children who have been previously identified by an adoption service provider or facilitator as eligible for intercountry adoption and have been matched to U.S. citizen prospective adoptive parents.

Under applicable laws, unaccompanied minors entering the country without a parent or legal guardian will be turned over to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Refugee Resettlement.  

Today’s announcement expands the humanitarian relief that the U.S. Government is extending to Haitians in response to the devastation caused by the earthquake. Last week, Secretary Napolitano announced the designation of Temporary Protected Status for Haitian nationals who were physically present in the United States as of Jan. 12, 2010-allowing eligible Haitian nationals to continue living and working in the United States for the next 18 months. Those who attempt to travel to the United States after Jan. 12, 2010 will not be eligible for TPS and will be repatriated

More information about humanitarian parole and TPS is available at or by calling USCIS toll-free at (800) 375-5283. DHS encourages U.S. citizens with pending adoption cases in Haiti to send us detailed information about their cases to

Pittsburgh Women Caught in Haiti

I received a call and email last evening from Mike Waltner, former Congressional candidate in the 3rd District (Erie and NW Pennsylvania).  He tells a tragic story of two women from Pittsburgh who run an orphange in Haiti.  Jamie Heckman and Ali McMutrie normally have 30 children but now have 150 and now facility.  They are sleeping in the open and are trying to get these children to America.  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton knows about the situation but we need people to contact their Members of Congress, especially Kathy Dahlkemper and Jason Altmire, to expedite their transfer.

While CNN initially covered the situation since then the number of children for which they are caring has increased dramatically.  Reports say the death toll from last week’s devastating earthquake will top 100,000 people.  There are scores of new orphans and American families are willing to adopt these kids.  Mike and his wife received this message from them via someone’s Blackberry:

“Our housé is falling b two also. Adoptions stoppéd five yrs at least.

We are living in yard no food water bank stores phone mostly. Only

idéa is if u no anyoné important who can give réfugee status to all

thé bresma u.s. kids. We trùly cant keep babys alive water

contaminated. This is our only hope -only private planes allowed. We

know its cràzy but can éveryone come togethér and find a person to help

us like obama? Thé kids r almost américan and will have homes. We try

to call all day and cant. Sending this from a strangers blackberry.”

Please contact those you know to help Jamie and Ali and these unfortunate children.

News & Notes January 14, 2010

This morning’s Democratic Talk Radio show with guest Patrick Slattery was great.  Patrick spoke about why he is running for the State House in the 134th District and why things are so bad in Harrisburg.  More on that later today.

The devastation in Haiti was horrible before the disastrous earthquake struck.  Now it is beyond grim.  While too early to really comprehend the extent of the death and destruction you can help.  Text the number 90999 and “Haiti” on your cell phone to donate $10 to the Red Cross.  Let us all be partially liable for this.  We haven’t done enough, as people, for the people in Haiti.  Too many died because buildings, houses and other structures weren’t built to withstand such an earthquake.  In this day and age we know how to build well but we ignored the people of this noble nation.  Why?

While assholes like Pat Robertson make horrible, despicable statements let us remember this was a natural act.  The earth didn’t slip its tectonic plates as punishment to Haiti for declaring independence any more than Hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans because we separated from Britain.  It isn’t time for despicable demagogues to lay some sort of Biblical blame it is time to work together to save people.  The right wing talking heads remind me I’d rather be a bleeding heart than be heartless.

Gov. Rendell announced another $161 million in budget cuts today.  These include a 1% cut across the board and significant cuts to things like public radio, mental health, agricultural product promotion which helps keep farmers on their farms and us with food, museums, etc.  It serves as a reminder of all the good things are tax dollars do.

Another heroic Pennsylvanian Marine died in Afghanistan.  Cpl. Matt Ingham of Blair County died while trying to save his fellow soldiers.

David Sirota, one of my favorite political writers, asks why America may be going soft on terrorists and what this may mean for the Ft. Hood killer.

While being interviewed yesterday by The New York Times I mentioned how important it is that Democrats do positive, constructive things this year to re-motivate their rank and file.  We watched an angry, disappointed Democratic voter bloc stay home on election day, disillusioned by the farcical efforts in Harrisburg and Washington.  Meanwhile Democratic leaders are saying they won’t touch controversial issues such as Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, immigration, EFCA and other major issues because they are afraid of voter backlash.   This is insane.  This is exactly when Democrats are looking to these “leaders” to do what they sent to do, provide leadership on important issues.  If they choose not to they’ll get what they deserve come November.

I saw a recent rumor that Faux News may be ready to dump Roger Ailes, the Republican operative who has run the network since its founding.  Mark Karlin of Buzzflash fame writes about Ailes and how American shock therapy foreign policy has destroyed Haiti.  Good reading.

President Obama has come up with a new version of bank fees.  This time instead of predatory bankers imposing fees on all of us we’re imposing one on them.  It will raise $100 billion over ten years.  What’s that old saw about paybacks?  Take our money and then refuse to lend it to get the economy running, give it to yourselves instead, yes, paybacks are heck.

President Obama has renominated Dawn Johnsen to be head of the Office of Legal Counsel at the Justice Department.  Republicans and some Democrats, including Arlen Specter, blocked her for her past activism for women’s rights and other progressive causes.  This is the same position for which these morons approved John Yoo who wrote the infamous memos allowing torture.  If Yoo was OK but Johnsen isn’t need we know anything more about their morals?  Specter has now turned around, for political expediency, and announced his support for her renomination.  Meanwhile, almost a year into the Obama Administration the position sits vacant.

The Massachusetts Senate election remains hotly contested.  Vicki Kennedy, widow of former Sen. Ted Kennedy has come out strongly for Martha Coakley.  It’s too bad the President didn’t see fit to give the people of Massachusetts the same effort he gave the Chicago Olympic Committee.

The Montgomery County swim club which evicted Black children last summer has now been sued for discrimination by the Justice Department.  The Club, already in bankruptcy because of its bigotry, is now in the deep end of big time trouble.  You might even, given a propensity for puns, say they’re in hot water.  It couldn’t happen to nicer people…

Singer Teddy Pendergass died yesterday.  A soulful crooner from Philadelphia he was paralyzed since 1982 after crashing his Rolls Royce.  His golden voice will be missed.  

I’ll be in Harrisburg all day Friday at a Keystone Research Center seminar about how the ARRA (stimulus bill) has impacted Pennsylvania.  Don’t expect to see much writing, I’ll catch up over the weekend.

As I write the above comment HUD sent me an email announcing $2 billion in Recovery Act grants to stabilize neighborhoods and rebuild local economies.  The ARRA is working as was advertised.  They are issuing grants, through review processes, over a two year period to foster economic growth and stop the economic freefall caused by the collapse of Republican ideology.

Congressman Paul Kanjorski is asking for the rejection of tolling on I-80.  I understand he has to do this because it directly affects his constituents.  However let’s be fair:  either we all pay tolls and contribute for bridge and highway construction or none of us.  I pay tolls all the time, it’s only fair that our neighbors upstate do also or none of us.

Sen. Arlen Specter is now calling for a hearing on fugitives avoiding arrest in Philadelphia.  The candidate is suddenly calling for hearings on every new sensational news item.  How about holding a hearing on the abominable fact that I haven’t won Powerball yet?  I want answers!

Rep. Bill Kortz has ended his unsuccessful U.S. Senate campaign.  A nice and good man he never gained any traction among Democrats.  I’ll say one thing, he traveled all across Pennsylvania campaigning.

Will Democrats gain yet another candidate in the crowded field for Governor?  Recently exonerated victim Dr. Cyril Wecht is considering a run.  Persecuted unjustly by U.S. Attorney and “loyal Bushie” Mary Beth Buchanan, the famous coroner did get some black eyes though as testimony showed he used his assistants for menial personal jobs and errands.  While not illegal it would provide valuable fodder for opponents television ads.

So State Rep. Mario Civera’s first act as a Delaware County Councilman is to hit his taxpayers with the cost of a special election?  Is this man out of touch or what?

President’s Remarks on Haiti

The President is speaking about Haiti:

THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning, everybody.  This morning I want to extend to the people of Haiti the deep condolences and unwavering support of the American people following yesterday’s terrible earthquake.

    We are just now beginning to learn the extent of the devastation, but the reports and images that we’ve seen of collapsed hospitals, crumbled homes, and men and women carrying their injured neighbors through the streets are truly heart-wrenching.  Indeed, for a country and a people who are no strangers to hardship and suffering, this tragedy seems especially cruel and incomprehensible.  Our thoughts and prayers are also with the many Haitian Americans around our country who do not yet know the fate of their families and loved ones back home.

    I have directed my administration to respond with a swift, coordinated, and aggressive effort to save lives.  The people of Haiti will have the full support of the United States in the urgent effort to rescue those trapped beneath the rubble, and to deliver the humanitarian relief — the food, water and medicine  — that Haitians will need in the coming days.  In that effort, our government, especially USAID and the Departments of State and Defense are working closely together and with our partners in Haiti, the region, and around the world.

Right now our efforts are focused on several urgent priorities.  First, we’re working quickly to account for U.S. embassy personnel and their families in Port-au-Prince, as well as the many American citizens who live and work in Haiti.  Americans trying to locate family members in Haiti are encouraged to contact the State Department at 888/407-4747.  I’m going to repeat that – 888/407-4747.

Second, we’ve mobilized resources to help rescue efforts.  Military overflights have assessed the damage, and by early afternoon our civilian disaster assistance team are beginning to arrive.  Search and rescue teams from Florida, Virginia and California will arrive throughout today and tomorrow, and more rescue and medical equipment and emergency personnel are being prepared.

    Because in disasters such as this the first hours and days are absolutely critical to saving lives and avoiding even greater tragedy, I have directed my teams to be as forward-leaning as possible in getting the help on the ground and coordinating with our international partners as well.



Third, given the many different resources that are needed, we are taking steps to ensure that our government acts in a unified way.  My national security team has led an interagency effort overnight.  And to ensure that we coordinate our effort, going forward, I’ve designated the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, Dr. Rajiv Shah, to be our government’s unified disaster coordinator.

    Now, this rescue and recovery effort will be complex and challenging.  As we move resources into Haiti, we will be working closely with partners on the ground, including the many NGOs from Haiti and across Haiti, the United Nations Stabilization Mission, which appears to have suffered its own losses, and our partners in the region and around the world.  This must truly be an international effort.

    Finally, let me just say that this is a time when we are reminded of the common humanity that we all share.  With just a few hundred miles of ocean between us and a long history that binds us together, Haitians are neighbors of the Americas and here at home.  So we have to be there for them in their hour of need.

Despite the fact that we are experiencing tough times here at home, I would encourage those Americans who want to support the urgent humanitarian efforts to go to where you can learn how to contribute.  We must be prepared for difficult hours and days ahead as we learn about the scope of the tragedy. We will keep the victims and their families in our prayers.  We will be resolute in our response, and I pledge to the people of Haiti that you will have a friend and partner in the United States of America today and going forward.

May God bless the people of Haiti and those working on their behalf.

    Thank you very much.