From Albany to City Hall, from private law firms to a public power authority, New Yorkers are beginning to seek relief or a refund for money they lost in the blackout. \nA New York law firm has already filed a class-action lawsuit against FirstEnergy Corp, the utility that owns four transmission lines in northeast Ohio that failed in the hour before the grid went down. A Queens councilman is planning to file a similar suit in the next few days. \nOn Friday, Governor George E. Pataki asked President George W. Bush to declare a federal emergency in New York, a move that could begin pumping in federal money to pay for equipment and overtime costs. \nAnd on Tuesday, a host of city officials and local congressmen stood on the steps of City Hall and joined the chorus calling for federal aid. \n"This seems to me actually to be something of a no-brainer," said Gifford Miller, the City Council speaker. "It was a national disaster. The financial capital of the world, as well as eight states and 50 million people, lost power for, in some cases, more than a day. That's a disaster just as much as when flooding occurs and people lose power as a result of that. So, all we're asking for the federal government to do is to treat us the same." \nMayor Michael Bloomberg has ruled out suing to recover damages from the blackout, saying on Monday that he did not even know whether such a lawsuit was legally possible. \n"I suspect that the costs of those suits would far outweigh the benefit," he said, in remarks reported in The New York Post. "Some things happen, and there's just nobody responsible. Stuff happens, and you have to adjust to it." \nOthers were skeptical as well. Andrew Gansberg, an Albany lawyer who is chairman of the New York State Bar Association's Utility Law Committee, said he doubted the suits would bear fruit. To win a case stemming from the blackout, plaintiffs must prove gross negligence or willful misconduct -- in short, that power companies knew of a major weakness in the system and did nothing to correct it. \n"It's a very difficult standard to meet," said Gansberg, who represents utilities, not the customers who sue them. \nAlthough the Long Island Power Authority has not yet decided how it will try to recover the US$20 million it says it lost during the blackout, it has hired a law firm to explore its options. The authority's chairman, Richard Kessel, said lawyers would also represent Long Island customers who want to file claims for spoiled food, broken appliances or any other damage from the blackout. \nAmid the skepticism about the chances of lawsuits recovering any money, state and local emergency organizations are totaling the economic burden of the blackout to determine whether or how New York can somehow recover the costs. \nThough the state has not yet calculated its losses, the city comptroller's office estimated that New York City lost more than US$1 billion. The figure includes US$800 million in lost gross city product and US$250 million in perishable foods that restaurants and residents had to throw out.
A coronavirus-free tropical island nestled in the northern Pacific might seem the perfect place to ride out a pandemic, but residents on Palau said that life right now is far from idyllic. The microstate of 18,000 people is among a dwindling number of places on Earth that still report zero cases of COVID-19 as figures mount daily elsewhere. The disparate group also includes Samoa, Turkmenistan, North Korea and bases on the frozen continent of Antarctica. A dot in the ocean hundreds of kilometers from its nearest neighbors, Palau is surrounded by the vast Pacific Ocean, which has acted as a buffer against the
Dutch scientists have found the coronavirus in a city’s wastewater before COVID-19 cases were reported, demonstrating a novel early warning system for the disease. SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — is often excreted in an infected person’s stool. Although it is unlikely that sewage will become an important route of transmission, the pathogen’s increasing circulation in communities would increase the amount of it flowing into sewer systems, Gertjan Medema and colleagues at the KWR Water Research Institute in Nieuwegein said on Monday. They detected genetic material from the coronavirus at a wastewater treatment plant in Amersfoort on March 5, before
TRUE TOLL? Some Chinese are skeptical about official data, particularly given the overwhelmed medical system and initial attempts to cover up the outbreak The long lines and stacks of urns greeting family members of the dead at funeral homes in Wuhan, China, are spurring questions about the true scale of casualties at the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, renewing pressure on a Chinese government struggling to control its containment narrative. The families of those who succumbed to the coronavirus in the city, where the disease first emerged, were allowed to pick up their cremated ashes at eight funeral homes last week. As they did, photographs circulated on Chinese social media of thousands of urns being ferried in. Outside one funeral home, trucks shipped in about 2,500
‘LIKE A CASSANDRA’: Chinese residents of Prato went into self-imposed lockdown and warned their Italian neighbors about what was coming, but were ignored In the storm of infection and death sweeping Italy, one big community stands out to health officials as remarkably unscathed — the 50,000 ethnic Chinese who live in the town of Prato. Two months ago, the country’s Chinese residents were the target of what Amnesty International described as shameful discrimination, the butt of insults and violent attacks by people who feared that they would spread the coronavirus through Italy. However, in the Tuscan town of Prato, home to Italy’s single biggest Chinese community, the opposite has been true. Once scapegoats, they are now held up by authorities as a model for early,