Trump's alt-theory to Puerto Rican death count report

Hurricane Trump Bears Down on Science

EXCERPT: President Trump’s general distaste for the nation’s “elites,” a broad moniker that comfortably includes the professoriate, was more narrowly focused Thursday on a single piece of academic research that the president finds politically inconvenient. In two early-morning tweets, Trump blasted the merits of a study from George Washington University that placed the death toll from Hurricane Maria near 3,000 — far more than the 64 deaths that the Puerto Rican government had originally acknowledged.

In his tweet, Trump posited that the independent study had been “done by Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible when I was successfully raising Billions of Dollars to help rebuild Puerto Rico.”

The tweets provoked an uncommon tangle between a president of the United States and a university over the merits of a piece of scholarship. The back-and-forth appeared to signal a new front in a long-simmering feud between Trump and higher education. This wasn’t a broad critique of pointy-headed know-it-alls, as is the president’s custom; this was Trump, in his own bellicose way, attacking scientific methodology and impugning the motives of a specific group of researchers.

At issue is a study, commissioned by the government of Puerto Rico, that was released last month by George Washington’s Milken Institute School of Public Health. In collaboration with scientists from the University of Puerto Rico Graduate School of Public Health, George Washington researchers analyzed death certificates and other related information to determine that there were 2,975 “excess deaths” in the wake of the storm.

The study, which examined mortality rates from September 2017 to February 2018, was designed to include deaths that occurred in the aftermath of a storm that eviscerated parts of the island’s infrastructure.

The Puerto Rican government has accepted the researchers’ count as the official death toll. But Trump, questioning the study’s scientific rigor without offering any specific evidence, said that the study must have counted “a person who died for any reason, like old age.”

The president’s assertions prompted a statement from George Washington University, stressing that the researchers had employed a “state-of-the-art mathematical model” to reach their conclusions.

“We stand by the science underlying our study,” the statement says....

1. The death toll of a natural disaster cannot make an individual look bad. Trump needs to be less insecure.
2. It's notoriously difficult to distinguish direct, indirect, and unrelated deaths of a natural disaster. So the numbers can only be an estimate.

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