Study hikes Puerto Rico’s Hurricane Maria death toll to 4,645

Graves destroyed during Hurricane Maria in September 2017, are seen at a cemetery, in Lares, Puerto Rico February 8, 2018. REUTERS/Alvin Baez

By Gene Emery

(Reuters Health) – Hurricane Maria claimed the lives of 4,645 people in Puerto Rico last year and not the 64 long pegged by the island’s government as the official death toll, according to a survey of thousands of residents by a research team led by Harvard University.

The researchers estimated that most victims of the storm died between Sept. 20 and Dec. 31, 2017, as a direct or indirect result of Puerto Rico’s worst natural disaster in 90 years. One-third perished because of delayed or interrupted medical care.

While cautioning that the estimate of 4,645 victims may be too low, the researchers said the numbers “underscore the inattention of the U.S. government to the frail infrastructure of Puerto Rico.”

The tally, reported online on Tuesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, is likely to be controversial because it is far higher than previous independent estimates.

The emergency response to the disaster became highly politicized and provoked criticism of President Donald Trump, who was faulted when much of the U.S. territory remained without power for months.

Puerto Rico’s government released a statement on Tuesday welcoming the study and saying it would analyze it further.

In the aftermath of the storm, Puerto Rico commissioned George Washington University to conduct an independent study into the death toll, the results of which are due soon.

“As the world knows, the magnitude of this tragic disaster caused by Hurricane Maria resulted in many fatalities. We have always expected the number to be higher than what was previously reported,” Carlos Mercader, executive director of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration said in the government statement.

The chief author of the new study, Caroline Buckee of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, did not respond to emails requesting comment.

Maria, a major hurricane with winds close to 150 miles (241 km) per hour, caused an estimated $90 billion in damage to an island already struggling economically and many residents have subsequently left.

There is a wide margin for error in the study authored by Buckee. While the researchers estimated 4,645 deaths, the actual number could be as low as 793 and as high as 8,498, the study showed.

The tally of 4,645 dead is more than four times higher than a December estimate by the New York Times, which said the actual death toll was probably about 1,052.

A Pennsylvania State University study put the number at 1,085.

The Buckee team randomly conducted in-person surveys of 3,299 of the estimated 1.1 million Puerto Rican households earlier this year, making sure to include remote areas.

Respondents were not paid and were asked if a household member had died directly or indirectly as a result of the storm. Missing people were not counted as deaths. Respondents were also asked about deaths within a five-minute walking distance of their homes.

The Buckee team also said that in the aftermath of the storm households went, on average, 68 days without water, 84 days without electricity and 41 days without cell phone coverage. In the most remote areas, 83 percent of the households were still without power by Dec. 31.

(Reporting by Gene Emery; Additional reporting by Daniel Bases in New York; Editing by Tom Brown)

Harvard Black Mass Canceled

The planned Satanic ceremony at Harvard University was canceled after an outcry from students and alumni.

The Harvard Extension Cultural Studies Club announced on Monday it would not hold the event because negotiations between themselves and the bar where it was scheduled broke down without an agreement.  The Club says they were unable to find another suitable location.

The Club said the New York group Satanic Temple would still hold a mass because they wanted to “reaffirm their respect for the Satanic faith.”

The ceremonies held by the Satanic Temple are parodies of the rites of the Catholic Church.

Almost 400 Harvard students and over 100 alumni had signed a petition opposing the event being held on the campus.

“This form of satanic worship not only ridicules the central practice of Catholicism, the Mass, but it also mocks and offends all who have faith in Christ,” the petition reads. “Far from being an event that promotes an understanding of “cultural practices,” it, in fact, promotes contempt for the Catholic faith and religion generally. We are Catholics, other Christians, and supporters of genuine tolerance and civility, and we are offended and outraged this event has been permitted to take place at Harvard.”

Harvard University Holding Satanic Mass

Harvard University is holding a mass to celebrate Satan.

The Harvard Extension Cultural Studies Club said the invitiation for a service by the Satanic Temple of New York is being done as an “educational” event and not intended to advocate for Satanic worship by the University.

“We are hosting a reenactment of a historical event known as a Black Mass,” the HECSC said in a statement.  “The performance is designed to be educational and is preceded by a lecture that provides the history, context, and origin of the Black Mass. While a piece of bread is used in the reenactment, the performance unequivocally does not include a consecrated host. Our purpose is not to denigrate any religion or faith, which would be repugnant to our educational purposes, but instead to learn and experience the history of different cultural practices. This performance is part of a larger effort to explore religious facets that continue to influence contemporary culture.”

The Catholic community announced their deep opposition to the idea of open Satanic worship at Harvard and said that people need to be aware of the very real danger associated with underestimating the power of Satan.

St. Paul’s Church near Harvard will be holding a special mass during the same time asking for God to protect those who could be placed in harm’s way by the Satanists.

Harvard Professor Continues To Push Claim of Jesus’ Wife Document

A Harvard professor who presented an ancient piece of papyrus she called the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” is now claiming she had additional proof that the document is real.

Karen L. King claims that professors from Columbia, Harvard and MIT have performed “extensive testing” and that they have found no indications that the document is a modern forgery.

The Boston Globe said the professor claims the document likely came from eighth-century Egypt.  However, the newspaper also said that a master forger could access the proper materials and because the piece of papyrus is so small they could not do the traditional ink-dating tests.

One critic says the document is clearly a fake.

Brown Egyptology professor Leo Depuydt sayd the document contains “gross grammatical errors” that no one who was a native speaker of Coptic would be making in their writing.

Karen King who has never challenged the document says it doesn’t prove Jesus was married but she said that she wants people to discuss why Jesus being married makes any difference rather than be concerned if the document is authentic.