GOOD

“Hamilton” Creator And John Oliver Perfectly Explain Why Puerto Rico Is Screwed

Way to go, Congress.

Puerto Rico is on the verge of economic collapse. Compounding the Caribbean territory’s woes is the one-two kick in the crotch of total political irrelevance and a host of laws that seem authored by Wall Street. John Oliver dedicated Sunday’s Last Week Tonight to breaking down the ongoing crisis, and guest performer Lin-Manuel Miranda, the Pulitzer Prize-winning creator of Hamilton, gave a killer live performance calling on Congress to take action.


If you haven’t followed the news, here’s the skinny: Earlier this year, the government of Puerto Rico defaulted on a portion of its approximately $72 billion in debt to creditors. The U.S. has more than a little skin in this game. Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, and its financial woes directly affect 3.5 million American citizens.

But so far Congress hasn’t done much of anything. Why? Because “citizen” is a tricky word. I’ll let Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), take this one: “[Puerto Ricans] need help from Congress, but Congress has failed to act,” she said recently from the floor of Congress. “Why? A big part of the reason is because the people of Puerto Rico can’t participate fully in our democracy.”

Bingo. Puerto Ricans became statutory citizens of the U.S. (as opposed to constitutional citizens) in 1917, and that’s precisely the time Congress stopped giving a damn. The island territory’s residents can serve in the military, but they can’t vote in the U.S. the way natural-born citizens can. Members of Congress live and die by their constituents’ votes, so there’s not much incentive to spend political capital getting their hands dirty with Puerto Rico’s escalating crisis.

But being a territory must come with some perks, like the full economic protections and benefits afforded legal U.S. entities, right? Nope! Turns out Puerto Rico, once a tax haven for American companies, is suffering thanks to a tangle of laws conceived in greed and dedicated to the proposition that Wall Street rules.

While the territory had the right to file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy from 1933 to 1984, that privilege was lost in a strange piece of legislation for which there seems to be no historical explanation. Especially egregious, Puerto Rico is obligated under law to pay back its bonds—many of which are held by U.S. interests—before paying for basic services like schools and hospitals.

With a potential outbreak of Zika on the way, the timing couldn’t be worse. “Public hospitals have closed floors and are rationing medicine at a time when health experts fear a surge in Zika infections that can cause birth defects,” writes the Times editorial board. The Wall Street Journal is taking a more pragmatic look, pointing out that Congress really does have an incentive to act: The massive population of U.S. citizens with Puerto Rican heritage living in Florida could help oust Marco Rubio and vote in a Democratic nominee for president in November if the Republican-led Congress doesn’t intervene.

Of all the voies calling for action, Miranda’s may be the most eloquent. The composer and performer, who is of Puerto Rican descent, wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times, and on Sunday he performed on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. Standing on a sparse stage with piano accompaniment, it was an emotional personal appeal:

Yeah, my family's from

Puerto Rico. The tropical destination

Where you can spend your Washingtons,

The spot where you vacation

A commonwealth with not a lot o' wealth, a not-quite nation

Seventy billion dollar topic of conversation

Hopin' to God John Oliver's comical dissertation

Resonates with the Congress that got us in this situation

Along with suicidal tax incentive declarations:

"Yeah, we'll pay your bonds first. Close the hospital, fuck the patients."

This is an island a hundred miles across

A hurricane is coming and we're runnin' up a loss

You can check out the full lyrics here.

Articles
via Real Time with Bill Maher / YouTube and The Late Late Show with James Corden / YouTube

A controversial editorial on America's obesity epidemic and healthcare by comedian Bill Maher on his HBO show "Real Time" inspired a thoughtful, and funny, response by James Cordon. It also made for a great debate about healthcare that Americans are avoiding.

At the end of the September 6th episode of "Real Time, " Maher turned to the camera for his usual editorial and discussed how obesity is a huge part of the healthcare debate that no one is having.

"At Next Thursday's debate, one of the candidates has to say, 'The problem with our healthcare system is Americans eat shit and too much of it.' All the candidates will mention their health plans but no one will bring up the key factor: the citizens don't lift a finger to help," Maher said sternly.

Keep Reading Show less
Politics

There is no shortage of proposals from the, um, what's the word for it… huge, group of Democratic presidential candidates this year. But one may stand out from the pack as being not just bold but also necessary; during a CNN town hall about climate change Andrew Yang proposed a "green amendment" to the constitution.

Keep Reading Show less
test
Me Too Kit

The creator of the Me Too kit — an at home rape kit that has yet to hit the market — has come under fire as sexual assault advocates argue the kit is dangerous and misleading for women.

The kit is marketed as "the first ever at home kit for commercial use," according to the company's website. "Your experience. Your kit. Your story. Your life. Your choice. Every survivor has a story, every survivor has a voice." Customers will soon be able order one of the DIY kits in order to collect evidence "within the confines of the survivor's chosen place of safety" after an assault.

"With MeToo Kit, we are able to collect DNA samples and other tissues, which upon testing can provide the necessary time-sensitive evidence required in a court of law to identify a sexual predator's involvement with sexual assault," according to the website.

Keep Reading Show less
Health

Villagers rejoice as they receive the first vaccines ever delivered via drone in the Congo

The area's topography makes transporting medicines a treacherous task.

Photo by Henry Sempangi Senyule

When we discuss barriers to healthcare in the developed world, affordability is commonly the biggest concern. But for some in the developing world, physical distance and topography can be the difference between life and death.

Widjifake, a hard-to-reach village in northwestern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with a population of 6,500, struggles with having consistent access to healthcare supplies due to the Congo River and its winding tributaries.

It can take up to three hours for vehicles carrying supplies to reach the village.

Keep Reading Show less
Health
via Keith Boykin / Twitter

Fox News and President Trump seem like they may be headed for a breakup. "Fox is a lot different than it used to be," Trump told reporters in August after one of the network's polls found him trailing for Democrats in the 2020 election.

"There's something going on at Fox, I'll tell you right now. And I'm not happy with it," he continued.

Some Fox anchors have hit back at the president over his criticisms. "Well, first of all, Mr. President, we don't work for you," Neil Cavuto said on the air. "I don't work for you. My job is to cover you, not fawn over you or rip you, just report on you."

Keep Reading Show less
Politics