Loading...
Loading...
Click here if you don’t see subscription options
The EditorsDecember 13, 2017
Residents wait for soldiers in helicopters to deliver food and water Oct. 13 during recovery efforts following Hurricane Maria in San Lorenzo, Puerto Rico. (CNS photo/Lucas Jackson, Reuters)Residents wait for soldiers in helicopters to deliver food and water Oct. 13 during recovery efforts following Hurricane Maria in San Lorenzo, Puerto Rico. (CNS photo/Lucas Jackson, Reuters)

The official death toll from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico stood at 58 on Dec. 6, more than two months after the storm, but few on the ground took the number from the commonwealth’s Department of Public Safety seriously. Two demographers, one from the U.S. Department of Defense, heightened this skepticism with a report suggesting that the government’s estimate of fatalities was off by a factor of 10. The researchers found that 455 more deaths than average were reported in Puerto Rico in September. This matched a CNN survey of funeral home directors, many of whom also questioned the accuracy of the official data.

Puerto Rico is obviously overwhelmed dealing with the aftermath of the storm, but it is bizarre to imagine future historians writing that they have no idea how many people perished in one of the worst storms in U.S. history, as if it happened in a pre-modern era instead of in the 21st century. Then again, there seems to be an epidemic of vanishing data in a political environment where unpleasant facts are wished away.

The Trump administration has scrubbed data on climate change from federal agency websites, and the Republican leadership in Congress has dismissed attempts to measure accurately the effects of its health care and tax cut legislation. The Census Bureau is being starved of funds, and even the F.B.I. has inexplicably cut back on its publicly available crime statistics. It is time to reverse this trend and restore transparency in government. Getting an accurate picture of what Hurricane Maria wrought would be an appropriate first step. 

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Lisa Weber
4 years 6 months ago

The lack of data and/or transparency goes with the banning of commonly-used words and phrases in government budgets. "Evidence-based" and science-based" are no longer allowed. This fits perfectly with a president who ignores or twists every piece of data that displeases him. Our country is in danger from this misinformation.

The latest from america

FILE - Archbishop Gregory Aymond conducts the procession to lead a live streamed Easter Mass in St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans, Sunday, April 12, 2020. The FBI has opened a widening investigation into Roman Catholic sex abuse in New Orleans, looking specifically at whether priests took children across state lines to molest them. The FBI declined to comment, as did the Louisiana State Police, which is assisting in the inquiry. The Archdiocese of New Orleans declined to discuss the federal investigation.
The FBI has opened a widening investigation into sex abuse in the Roman Catholic Church in New Orleans going back decades, a rare federal foray into such cases looking specifically at whether priests took children across state lines to molest them.
Pope Francis, flanked by three priests, somberly elevates the Eucharist
The “sense of mystery” Catholics should experience at Mass is not one prompted by Latin or by “creative” elements added to the celebration.
Pope Francis, greets Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and her husband, Paul Pelosi before celebrating a Mass on the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, June 29, 2022. Pelosi met with Pope Francis on Wednesday and received Communion during a papal Mass in St. Peter's Basilica, witnesses said, despite her position in support of abortion rights. (Vatican Media via AP)
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi met with Pope Francis on Wednesday and received Communion during a papal Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, witnesses said, despite her position in support of abortion rights.
Noted primarily for his work on religious liberty, John Courtney Murray, S.J., provided much of the basis for theological and political reflection on the relationship between church and state on these shores through his voluminous writings.
James T. KeaneJune 28, 2022