Tech Giants And A Reality Star Do More For Puerto Rico Than Trump

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and President Donald Trump could learn a few things from these public figures who are offering and providing real help to Puerto Rico.

In the wake of Hurricane Maria, which left the island of Puerto Rico devastated, it seems the most unlikely sources are doing more to help rebuild the United States territory than President Donald Trump’s administration.

The tech industry, in particular, has offered innovative aid to assist in restoring power and cell-phone service.

According to CivSource, Google was granted temporary authority by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to launch their Project Loon high-powered balloons in Puerto Rico to provide Wi-Fi service for the ravaged island.

“More than two weeks after Hurricane Maria struck, millions of Puerto Ricans are still without access to much-needed communications services,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement on Saturday. “That’s why we need to take innovative approaches to help restore connectivity on the island. Project Loon is one such approach.”

Deploying these balloons will hopefully be a major help in Puerto Rico where 80 percent of its cell towers remain inoperable, forcing residents to depend on a restricted supply of satellite phones to communicate.

Additionally, Tesla CEO Elon Musk confirmed that, with permission from government officials, Tesla could rebuild Puerto Rico’s power grid using solar power.

Facebook’s safety check feature has also come in handy for residents to check in and let relatives know they are safe, as well as locate missing persons. Furthermore, the feature can help aid organizations assess needs in various areas by seeing where they are checking in and learning where displaced residents may be retreating following a disaster, NBC News reports.

It should be noted, however, that Facebook did face backlash for a well-intended project that went awry. The social media giant conducted a Facebook live-stream on Monday in which Mark Zuckerberg demonstrated their progress with virtual reality by exploring the devastation in Puerto Rico.

An animated avatar of Zuckerberg was seen traveling past shattered buildings and hopeless residents seeking fresh water. The stunt was met with criticism as many social media users deemed his efforts insensitive, calling it “voyeuristic tourism,” which is often viewed negatively for exploiting impoverished areas.

Zuckerberg, however, has since apologized for the blunder.

“One of the most powerful features of VR is empathy. My goal here was to show how VR can raise awareness and help us see what's happening in different parts of the world," he said. "I also wanted to share the news of our partnership with the Red Cross to help with the recovery. Reading some of the comments, I realize this wasn't clear, and I'm sorry to anyone this offended.”

Along with tech companies, Bethenny Frankel, a reality star best known from the “Real Housewives” franchise, made headlines for chartering 30 planes packed with supplies and resources out to Puerto Rico.

It’s no secret that reality television faces much scrutiny for promoting ignorant and childish behaviors, but it is refreshing and moving to see someone who gained stardom from it using their platform to give back.

It’s no secret that reality television faces much scrutiny for promoting ignorant and childish behaviors, but it is refreshing and moving to see someone who gained stardom from it using their platform to give back. 

According to the Daily Kos, Frankel estimates that there was about $3 million worth of supplies loaded onto those planes, and she is now taking things a step further by trying to get $20 million worth of aid to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. She has partnered with Global Empowerment Mission, WeDoBetter.Org, and her own nonprofit B Strong Disaster Relief to pull off this humanitarian effort.

Frankel and these major tech companies — even with Facebook’s slip-up — have done more for Puerto Rico than President Donald Trump, who tossed paper towels at a crowd of desperate Puerto Ricans during a four-hour visit and owns a whole fleet of planes that he hasn’t used to bring aid to any of the areas affected by our country's recent natural disasters.

They’re also making Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) — which recently tried to scrub information on Puerto Rico’s resources from its website — look rather pathetic as they’ve struggled to provide even the most basic of necessities to the U.S. territory. 

Needless to say, this current administration could learn a thing or two from these folks who are truly going the extra mile for our fellow Americans. 

Banner/thumbnail credit: Reuters, Alvin Baez

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