lundi 17 août 2015

Red Cross CEO Tried to Kill Government Investigation

Despite public vows of transparency, CEO Gail McGovern lobbied a congressman to spike an inquiry by the Government Accountability Office.
by Justin Elliott
ProPublica, Aug. 17, 2015, 5 a.m.
This story was co-produced with NPR.
American Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern has long portrayed her organization as a beacon of openness, once declaring “we made a commitment that we want to lead the effort in transparency.”
But when the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, opened an inquiry last year into the Red Cross’ disaster work, McGovern tried to get it killed behind the scenes.
“I would like to respectfully request that you consider us meeting face-to-face rather than requesting information via letter and end the GAO inquiry that is currently underway,” McGovern wrote in a June 2014 letter to Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss.
McGovern sent the letter, which was obtained by ProPublica and NPR, after meeting with Thompson, the ranking member of the homeland security committee. At the request of Thompson’s office, the GAO had earlier that year started an inquiry into the Red Cross’ federally mandated role responding to disasters and whether the group gets enough oversight.
In her letter, McGovern suggested that, in lieu of the investigation, the congressman call her directly with questions. She provided her personal cell phone number.
In a statement, Thompson criticized McGovern’s request to spike the investigation.
“Over time, the public has come to accept the American Red Cross as a key player in the nation’s system for disaster relief,” he said. “It is unfortunate that in light of numerous allegations of mismanagement, the American Red Cross would shun accountability, transparency and simple oversight."
Craig Holman, a veteran observer of congressional investigations as an advocate with the watchdog group Public Citizen, said he couldn’t remember another instance in which the subject of a GAO inquiry asked for the inquiry to be called off.
“This is both a unique and particularly brazen lobby campaign by Gail McGovern to bring an end to an independent GAO investigation,” he said.
In a written statement, Red Cross spokeswoman Suzy DeFrancis said the group worked “cooperatively” with the GAO, providing documents and making at least a dozen senior officials available for interviews.
“We had discussions with the GAO and members of Congress about the purpose and intent of the GAO study so we could respond in a way that would meet their goals, which we are doing,” DeFrancis wrote.
The GAO inquiry continued despite McGovern’s appeal. The agency’s final report is expected to be released next month, according to a GAO spokesman.
McGovern’s effort echoes other instances in which the Red Cross has resisted requests for more information about its work. Last year, the Red Cross fought a ProPublica public records request about its Superstorm Sandy response by hiring a law firm and citing “trade secrets.” (The group later reversed its stance.)
The Red Cross has also declined to detail its spending in response to the Haiti earthquake. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, recently questioned the Red Cross for including rules barring the release of financial information in its Haiti contracts.
In her letter to Thompson, McGovern said dealing with the GAO was taking up too much staff time.
“Responding to the questions and participating in interviews (particularly because of the broadness of the questions) is using a great deal of staff resources while we are preparing for hurricane season and simultaneously responding to tornadoes, storms, wildfires and floods across multiple states,” McGovern wrote. “In addition, I feel that I can better address your concerns when we have a two way dialogue.”
According to its website, the Red Cross employs six full-time government and congressional relations staffers, as well as retaining an outside lobbying firm.
A GAO spokesman said the agency was not aware of McGovern’s letter and “it didn’t have any impact on our work.”
Thompson’s close scrutiny of the Red Cross goes back years. He led an effort to review the group’s troubled response to Hurricane Katrina, which hit his home state of Mississippi.
The Red Cross was chartered by Congress over a century ago and operates as a kind of public-private hybrid. It responds to disasters hand-in-hand with the federal government but that work is largely funded through private donations. A law passed after Hurricane Katrina reforming the Red Cross explicitly empowered the GAO to investigate the group.
If you have information about the Red Cross, email
To anonymously send us documents online, visit our SecureDrop site.
Like this story? Sign up for our daily newsletter to get more of our best work.

Haiti: Elections & Democracy in reversal

By EvanPallis

| Posted 17 août 2015 00:36
| Port-au-Prince, Haiti 1 There is nothing promised in the upcoming Presidential Elections in Haiti. With legislative Elections nearly four years over due and a society reeling from the pressures of compatriots being deported from Dominican Republic, some of which do not speak French nor Haitian Creole.
Many who are second generation Dominicans find very little assistance from the current administration. The current Head of State Michel Martelly seems determined to awaken his Jekyll & Hyde persona and run an election for his party PHTK . Sweet Mickey his alias most commonly used when performing his carnival like anthems. This persona is as unpredictable as a North Korean Missile.
Michel Martelly also know as Sweet Mickey may be one of the most colorful heads of States. From wearing women under garments to entertaining reveling concert goers, interviews where he admits to the abuse of crack-cocaine, gyrating on men at concerts to potently verbally abusing women on his most recent campaign trail. Michel Martelly a.k.a Sweet Mickey has arguably represented a reversal in Democracy, for a fragile society still finding its foothold on defining how democracy will look like in Haiti.
With nearly five years in office Martelly’s mandate as head of State has accumulated to 5 essential failures:
1. The lack of educational institutions for the youth in the country that represents nearly 60% of the population under the age of 35
2. 172,000 people still live in make shift housing homeless from the January 12th 2010 Earth Quake
3. Prevalence of global acute malnutrition (GAM) amongst Haitian children under 5 has risen to 6.5 percent
4. The corrosion of Democratic values during his term  impunity for the rule of law
5. The lack of fiscal accountability during his governments term

With August 9th 2015 Elections still in political paralysis, the media, the voters and the candidates seem intoxicated from the polluted voting environment which was presented to the citizens of Haiti.
After 10-Years of MINUSTAH United Nations Peace keeping Forces and the current Haitian Government provided the electorate with nothing short of a devilish carnival like atmosphere. Chaos, violence and ballot stuffing by Bouclier, P.H.T.K and Verite ruled the day with impunity.

The only people whom were satisfied with the conditions for voting were Michel Martelly, United Nations, Washington D.C, Paris and Canada.

But the questions lies; in a democratic society would any of these countries accept these conditions for there citizens? why should then the people of Haiti? are they any less deserving?

The Presidential Haitian Election seems to narrow down to five viable candidates from the crowded field all jockeying for the post of the hardest job in the Western Hemisphere.
Jude Celestin
Maryse Narcisse
Jean Charles Moise
Steeve Khawly
Steven Benoit
The world awaits as democracy in Haiti seems to be in jeopardy once again. The citizens of Haiti thirst democracy but there seems to be a simmering tension on the verge of implosion if free and fair elections is not at the forefront of everyone's agenda.
A former professor of London School of Economics and now and adjacent professor at Geneva University in Switzerland Evan Pallis is now based in Port-au-Prince, Haiti covering the Presidential and Senatorial Elections.

UN official criticizes violence in Haiti election

Port-au-Prince (AFP) - A top United Nations official who observed Haiti's elections has condemned the violence and other shortcomings that marred the polling day in the impoverished Caribbean nation.
At least two people were killed during voting August 9 that was disrupted by attacks and other problems that forced the early closure of at least 26 polling centers.
Sandra Honore, who heads the UN mission for stabilization in Haiti (MINUSTAH), told AFP the incidents were "regrettable."
"If you impose your position by force or violence, this means that your position is weak," Honore said.

The elections, which were four-and-a-half years overdue in a country still struggling from the effects of a devastating 2010 earthquake, were held to choose the Chamber of Deputies and two thirds of the Senate.
Haiti's 5.8 million registered voters had to make their selections from a field of more than 1,800 candidates from 128 parties.
Most political parties are calling for the creation of a commission to assess the impact of violence on the election process, and some even want results from the vote scrapped.
Honore, who is from Trinidad and Tobago and has run MINUSTAH since July 2013, said she wants Haitians to make their objections known peacefully using legal means.
Voters heading to the polls faced a litany of troubles. Even finding the correct voting station and then a voter's name on the electoral list was a challenge.
When people finally got to vote, they often had to deal with poorly designed booths that afforded little privacy.
Some voting centers were extremely small and had to cast their ballots from behind flimsy cardboard partitions, sometimes sharing the same table with officials checking election rolls.
Honore said that in many schools, which had been converted for the day into polling stations, "space was rather limited. The Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) will have to review the layout of the polling stations to ensure voters have an easier time exercising their democratic rights."
- Electoral marathon -
Haiti is undergoing something of an electoral marathon, with two other polling days planned by the end of the year.
The second round of legislative elections is set for October 25, and the first round of presidential and local elections will take place at the same time, raising the specter of even more cramped voting stations.
Honore said she was confident the CEP would take into account problems with available voting spaces.
Even though the elections are mainly financed by the international community, Honore says there is no foreign interference in the process.
Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, suffers from chronic instability and is still grappling with the havoc caused by its 2010 earthquake that killed more than 250,000 people and crippled the nation's infrastructure.
Parliament was dissolved on January 13, 2015 after lawmakers' terms were not extended, and the legislative chambers have remained empty for months.
In addition to violence, the August 9 elections also suffered from low voter turnout. Honore called on Haitians to vote in greater number at the next poll.
"The Haitian population can present its demands and ensure that its voice is heard and counted," she said.

Haitian Hearts Twentieth Anniversary Photo Exhibit

This year Haitian Hearts celebrated its 20th anniversary with a photography exhibit that was held last week at Prairie Center of the Arts in Peoria.
We have brought approximately 200 patients for surgery…the majority being pediatric heart surgery for congenital heart disease and valvular disease secondary to rheumatic fever.
Thank you, Maria, for putting this show together at Prairie Center and for posting all of the photos and their explanations on your Facebook page.
I also want to thank all of the Haitian Heart supporters, host families, and numerous medical centers and care givers in the United States, Dominican Republic, and Cayman Islands for your invaluable help during the past two decades.
John A. Carroll, MD

UN must step up, apologize, and help drive cholera from Haiti

By The Editorial Board AUGUST 12, 2015
When an earthquake ravaged Haiti in 2010, rescue workers from all over the world responded with medicine, food, and supplies for rebuilding. Unfortunately, a crew of United Nations peacekeepers from Nepal seems to have brought something else entirely: a deadly cholera epidemic that has killed 9,000 and sickened more than 700,000. This year’s rainy season has brought a new spike in cases, and health care workers dread the late-summer onset of hurricane season.

But justice for Haiti is slow in coming. Although there is ample genetic evidence that the peacekeepers contaminated a tributary of the Artibonite River with the virulent vibrio cholerae microbe, the UN has been tone deaf to international appeals for help and has prevailed in federal court, citing immunity to claims of damage. The case is now being appealed in the US Second Circuit in New York. Scores of human rights groups and legal scholars filed friend-of-the-court briefs in June. “There has never been a case like ours,” says Brian Concannon, executive director of the Boston-based Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, which brought the suit. “The liability is so clear and the damage is so great.”

Immunity in the court system is one thing, but moral leadership is another. The UN should set a high-level example in Haiti and should correct its mistakes and work with the world community to give Haiti clean water and sanitation.

Massachusetts officials should be commended for pressing the issue. Last year, State Senator Linda Dorcena Forry and other members of the National Haitian-American Elected Officials Network were there early, urging Secretary of State John Kerry to lead a concerted UN response to the epidemic. In late 2014, four Massachusetts congressmen joined more than 70 other lawmakers in calling for immediate action. The Haitian government can play a role as well. Haitian citizens voted in parliamentary elections on Aug. 9 — a glimmer of hope in a country embroiled for years in political turmoil. Any large-scale public health program will benefit from an accountable, stable government.
More immediately, a number of low-cost solutions are worth exploring and expanding.
Hundreds of thousands of Haitians have been given a low-cost vaccine against cholera, according to Dr. Louise Ivers, a physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital who is an adviser for Partners in Health. And UN officials should heed a team of researchers from the UK, Haiti, and Holland who urge new rules for hygiene and sanitation in emergency situations and who are testing simple chemical waste-water treatments that could be used for cholera, Ebola, or other diseases.

The UN should end this stalemate by acknowledging its responsibility for the epidemic and work with international aid organizations to drive cholera from the island once and for all.