Governor Cuomo Signs Bill to Protect New York Taxpayers from Federal Tax Increases

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed legislation aimed at mitigating against the federal tax law which limits deductibility of State and Local Taxes (SALT) which will cost New York taxpayers $14.3 billion. The plan includes an optional payroll-tax system, new funds for charitable donations and de-coupling from the federal tax code © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Enacted Budget Includes Optional Payroll-Tax System, New Funds for Charitable Donations, and Legislation to De-Couple from the Federal Tax Code – Summary of Reforms Available Here

 Coordinated Response Provides Alternatives to the Devastating Federal Assault; SALT Limitations Cost New York Taxpayers $14.3 Billion

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today recognized Tax Day with the signing of legislation to protect New Yorkers from tax increases brought about by the federal tax reforms. These changes to the state tax code will help preserve New York’s economic competitiveness and protect state and local tax deductibility – a basic tenet of tax law that has been part of the modern federal income tax since it was created. The legislation provides new options for tax deductible charitable donations, creates a new Employer Compensation Expense Program so that employers can help their employees maximize deductibility, and decouples the state tax code from the federal tax code, where necessary, to avoid state tax increases brought solely by increases in federal taxes.

“New York will not stand idle while the federal government takes aim at the economic heart of our communities and takes from the hardworking men and women of this state to benefit this country’s wealthy and corporations,” Governor Cuomo said. “This bill ensure protections for New Yorkers against Washington’s targeted attack and we will continue to lead this fight and do everything we can to protect the rights and wallets of families across New York.”

The legislation signed today enacts a series of reforms to the New York State tax code designed to protect New York residents from the adverse impacts of the recently enacted federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. These changes follow a report issued by the Department of Taxation and Finance in January 2018 that outlines several measures for the state to consider in order to mitigate these negative impacts. After further study and extensive consultation with experts from state and local government, academia, and the private sector, the proposed reforms were found to be viable options for protecting New Yorkers and were included in the Executive Budget and, ultimately, passed by the legislature. Specifically, the FY 2019 Budget takes the following steps:

  • Promotes State Charitable Contributions to Benefit New Yorkers: The FY 2019 Budget creates a new state-operated Charitable Contribution Fund to accept donations for the purposes of improving health care and public education in New York State. Taxpayers who itemize deductions may claim these charitable contributions as deductions on their federal and state tax returns. Any taxpayer making a donation may also claim a state tax credit equal to 85 percent of the donation amount for the tax year after the donation is made. Taxpayers may also make qualified contributions to certain not-for-profit organizations for specified purposes. 
  • Authorizes Local Government to Establish Local Charitable Funds: The FY 2019 Budget authorizes local governments to establish charitable gift reserve funds and to offer real property tax credits to incentivize contributions to these new local charitable funds. Under the law, such funds may receive unrestricted charitable contributions for the purposes of addressing education, health care, and other charitable purposes. This is an optional program available to counties, cities, towns, villages and school districts. Local governments and school districts may also establish charitable funds and offer real property tax credits to incentivize contributions to these new local charitable funds. These funds will help support vital government activities while also helping preserve the tax deductibility that our tax system was built on.
  • Establishes the Alternative Employer Compensation Expense Program: The FY 2019 Budget creates new ways for employers to help their employees with their federal tax bill.  While Federal tax reform eliminated full state and local tax deductibility for individuals, businesses were spared from these limitations. Under this program, employers will be able to opt-in to a new Employer Compensation Expense Program structure. Employers that opt-in will be subject to a 5 percent tax on all annual payroll expenses in excess of $40,000 per employee, phased in over three years beginning on January 1, 2019. The progressive personal income tax system will remain in place, and a new tax credit corresponding in value to the ECEP will cut the personal income tax on wages and ensure that State filers subject to the ECEP will not experience a decline in take-home pay. The program is designed to be revenue neutral for the state. Employers would also not be adversely impacted, but they’d be giving their employees the opportunity to reduce their federal taxes.
  • De-Couples from the Federal Tax Code: The state tax code is closely aligned with the federal tax code. This legislation decouples the state tax code from the federal tax code, where necessary, to avoid more than $1.5 billion in State tax increases brought solely by increases in Federal taxes.

The new federal law disproportionally and adversely impacts New York State, which already sends $48 billion more each year to Washington than it receives in federal dollars. According to a recent report released by the State Department of Tax and Finance, the elimination of full SALT deductibility alone will cost New York an additional $14.3 billion.

“These reforms to our State tax code are the result of collaborations between state agencies, working with many tax professionals, businesses, and experts,” State Budget Director Robert F. Mujica, Jr. said. “This legislation will protect New York’s taxpayers, our State Budget, and our economic competitiveness.”

Westchester County Executive George Latimer said, “In Westchester County most residents pay more than $10,000 a year in taxes. These taxes are for schools, local government and state government. The last federal budget robbed Westchester – and our residents’ way of life was threatened. I want to thank Governor Cuomo for this creative plan to help county taxpayers, and Legislators for recognizing how imperative this issue is. We support it, and will do everything in our power to implement it.”

“Today is tax day, and New Yorker’s will again send billions more to Washington than our state will get back in the form of federal funding. As a sovereign state, it is critically important that we do whatever we can to protect the income of our taxpayers, and we applaud Governor Cuomo and state legislators for advancing legislation to do just that,” New York State Association of Counties Executive Director Stephen J. Acquario said,

New York State Conference of Mayors Executive Director Peter A. Baynes said,

“NYCOM greatly appreciates Governor Cuomo’s proactive leadership in offering an option to mitigate the harm inflicted upon New York’s communities and their residents with the new cap on state and local tax deductions. Working collaboratively with NYCOM and other groups, the Governor and the State Legislature have enacted viable options for New Yorkers to avoid increases in taxes, decreases in home values, and reductions in essential municipal services. We look forward to working with the Administration to successfully implement this program.”

These changes to the state tax code are part of Governor Cuomo’s multi-pronged effort to fight the federal tax assault. Along with the Governors of New Jersey and Connecticut, Governor Cuomo announced a coalition to sue the federal government. The new law effectively preempts the states’ ability to govern by reducing the ability to provide for their own citizens and unfairly targets New York and similarly situated states in violation of the Constitution.

New Yorkers March for Science

About 1000 people joined the March for Science in New York City to demonstrate for the importance of fact-based, evidence-based policy, and continued funding for research and development © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

About 1,000 people gathered in Washington Square Park in downtown Manhattan for a rally, teach-in, and March for Science. Speakers, including Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, decried the politicization of science, the censorship, banning and defunding of scientists and research, and warned that the United States will lose its economic and political leadership in the world if it loses its place on the forefront of scientific innovation and development.

All I could think about as I marched the 1.8 miles from Washington Square Park down Broadway to Zuccotti Park (famous for the Occupy Wall Street movement), is how sad, how pathetic, what an embarrassment for the United States of America to have to hold demonstrations to “Save Science.” We have regressed back to the Salem Witch Trials.

Leading the March for Science down Broadway to advocate on behalf of evidence-based policy and maintaining America’s leadership in science and innovation © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The New York City March for Science was one of many organized around the country during this Earth Month (April 22 is Earth Day). Last year, the first year of such demonstrations, brought out 1.3 million in support of  robust science research, evidence-based policies, and science education. “Today, we continue the momentum gained from last year’s inaugural march to show policy makers that the March for Science is more than a single-day event. It’s a movement.”

“The 2018 March for Science New York City recognizes the importance of an informed democracy in order to maintain a free, healthy, happy, and accessible society. That is why we come together as a community of non-partisan scientists and friends to show the importance of protecting and promoting people’s rights, the public’s access to scientific information, the environment in which we exist, and scientific research. We hope to use this march to spark increased community involvement for the promotion of science for the common good through sustained action.”

US Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney at March for Science NYC © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“Science is beacon to a better future, health care, technology, transport,” declared Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY). “Devotion to science is at the root of progress in every industry, lifting people from poverty; expanding opportunity, saving lives, feeding the hungry. We will never fund a better investment.

“But Congress wants to cut funds for research, cut fuel efficiency standards. [America] is losing leadership because of cutbacks,” she said. “We have to go forward….Science took us to moon.. America is the tech, innovation leader in the world because of science. Science brought us success.

“We must support science, truth, freedom and democracy,” said Maloney, a sponsor of the Science Integrity Act to shield science from ideology.

Paul Gallay of Riverkeeper at March for Science NYC © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Paul Gallay of Riverkeeper, which has helped to clean up the Hudson River and drinking water throughout the state, contrasted the backward movement by the federal government to the progress in New York State. Largely based on the data collection by Riverkeeper and other advocates, New York has allocated $3 billion to improve water infrastructure based on scientific data, and a new law that requires testing and regulation of “emerging contaminants, “because we in New York value science.

“The EPA has been decimated. Hundreds of scientists who were there in January 2017, are gone. Ideology masquerades as policy. There is no quantitative analysis, just press releases.

“You keep doing research, driving innovation and groups like Riverkeeper will fight for policies to get clean water.  And if politicians don’t, we’ll keep suing.

“We need to get politics out of science – get more active. And not just once a year. Make policies about science, not in spite of science. Pound pavement, so they can hear it in DC. Tell your state senators, local politicians to fight for science, save science,” Gallay said.

Bill Ulfeder, executive director of The Nature Conservancy at March for Science NYC © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Bill Ulfeder, executive director of The Nature Conservancy, declared, “Science is what makes America great. It is essential for health, prosperity, safety, security.

“This is Earth Month (April 22 is Earth Day). Scientists, including Rachel Carson, alerted the country to the dangers of pollution, pesticides. Science informed the Endangered Species Act.

“For 65 years, the Nature Conservancy has been guided by science. We believe in the power of science to solve the problems we face – climate change, food shortage, disease. Only through science can we create a world where nature and humans thrive together.

“Invest in science. Appreciate that science needs and deserves diverse voices – more perspectives – to inform, promote healthy debate to make the best choices.”

Lauren Kurtz of the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund at March for Science NYC © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Lauren Kurtz, Executive Director of the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund (CSLDF), charged that “Scientific facts are downplayed, rejected. Policies are advocated that run counter to known science, including climate science.” And when that happens, CSLDF, which works to protect the scientific endeavor in general and climate scientists in particular by providing legal support and resources to scientists who are threatened, harassed, or attacked for doing their job, fights back.

“We keep track: 126 incidents when the government silenced scientists. Regulations have not kept pace with science and of the health risk of certain chemicals. We want stronger rules.”

“Science not Silence.” March for Science in New York City © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“Removing ‘climate change’ [from EPA, Department of Agriculture and other government agency sites], staffing with ideologues… undermines out competitiveness and position on the  forefront of science, leader in scientific discovery.

“We have the power to fight back – shine spotlight – call attention to misrepresentation, to speak out when censorship. March, speak out, act where can have impact such as on the local level. Vote.”

State Senator Brad Hoylman at March for Science NYC © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

State Senator Brad Hoylman, who represents the district that New York University is in, noted “People think NY is deep blue state, that everyone smart, watches Rachel Maddow, reads NY times, understands a fact is not opinion. But things are different in Albany when comes to science. We need more evidence-based policy making.

“We know vaccinations save lives,” he said, drawing a cheer. Vaccination is one of greatest turning points in health. But when I introduced a bill to make vaccinations mandatory for elementary school children, you would have thought I called for destruction of society. The Anti-Vacs movement, even though the link between vaccines and autism has been disproved over and over again…

March for Science NYC: “Vaccinations work.” © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“Gay conversion therapy,” he continued, drawing boos.”There are mental health providers licensed by New York State who are trying to convert people from being gay. New York needs to yank their licenses.” People who are exposed to such conversion therapy, he said, “affects who they are as a person, sends a message to others, and  perpetuates myth.”

Another issue is climate change, “one of the most important issues of our time. When Trump was inaugurated, the White House page on climate change was removed. [In reaction], in Albany, we tried to pass a resolution about the danger of climate change but Republicans wouldn’t allow a vote, saying there was ‘disagreement on the validity. Science doesn’t back that up.

“We need to take this energy today and elevate public discourse, based on facts from people who know what talking about – scientists, researchers, academics, experts. Everything else is bluster…We will embrace our intellectual, academic, research to bring to bear the best policies for New York.”

“Where live shouldn’t Increase risk to pollution, toxins, pesticides,” stated

March for Science NYC: Health care is a human right. Pollution, infection, disease should not be tied to ethnicity, gender, zipcode © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Beverly Watkins, a community-based research scientist and health care provider who does “Big Picture Science” research into health disparities. “Health is a human right – growing up poor, your gender, sexual orientation, ethnic background should not have a higher rate of disease – diabetes, asthma, hypertension. Yet a difference in socioeconomic status perpetuates health disparities.”

Laurie Garrett, former senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) in New York, currently developing the
Anthropocene Disruption Project, raised the issue of global competitiveness.

“In a race with three centers- China, France and Canada are welcoming scientists, with the appeal, ‘America may not be a home for you.’

March for Science in New York City © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“America needs science. And Science needs globalization.” Take for example what happens when you destroy globalization and internationalism – Brexit. Already, Britain is experiencing an 11.8% decrease in technology investment because of its impending dissociation with the European Union.

But besides a reduction in investment, “Collaborative science is failing. There is diminished freedom to emigrate from the EU to UK.

“Democracy depends on science. Congress can’t protect us from Russian trolls, from surveillance by greedy companies. We need science to advise, create appropriate policies. If we don’t have strong science, Research & Development, our economy can’t survive.

“The good news after all the panic about [the Trump Administration’s determination to slash the science budget, it got its biggest increase, 12.2%. National Institutes of Health budget is up 8.3%; energy up 15%; NASA saw its allocation increased to $1.2 billion; the US Geological Survey’s budget was increased to $1.1 billion; EPA was allocated $8.1 billion. The American people get it.”

March for Science in New York City © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

But Science is not just global, international and collaborative, she continued, “We need to get out of our silos to solve the biggest challenges we face – climate change, microbiological resistance, cybersecurity, robotics, water and food scarcity, safety, acidification of the oceans. The world needs globalized, collectivized, interdisciplinary science.”

Why we march. Organizers of the March for Science NYC © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“Why we march? We march for evidence-based policy; for increased diversity, inclusion in the scientific community, for meaningful engagement between science and society, to build global community of advocates for science,” David Kantor, professor of environmental studies of NYU and the coordinator for New York’s March for Science.

Here are more images from the March for Science NYC:

Trump may think he is the sun king (“L’etat c’est moi”), but this marcher points to the difference between Trump and the Sun: “One’s an orange ball of gas. The other is the sun.” © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
March for Science NYC © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
March for Science NYC down Broadway © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
“Regress Data, Not Society.” March for Science NYC down Broadway © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Leading a March for Science NYC cheer: Who made those drugs? Science. © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
March for Science NYC passes Freedom Tower © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Symbolic: Carbon pollution blots out freedom (tower). Scientists are needed to come up with solutions to climate change, pollution, toxic waste © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Mount Sinai Hospital contingent at March for Science NYC © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

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© 2018 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Cuomo Sending $19 Million to Long Island to Cut Off MS-13 Gang Recruitment, Support Youth Programs

“New York will not tolerate the monstrous acts and fear that MS-13 has brought to our communities, and by focusing on educating and protecting our young residents, we are furthering our efforts to drive out these violent criminals,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said in announcing $18.5 million in programs aimed at cutting off gang recruitment and supporting youth programs on Long Island © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced $18.5 million included in the FY 2019 Enacted Budget to launch a multi-pronged program for at-risk young people that will help Long Island communities cut off the MS-13 gang recruitment pipeline. Of this funding, $16 million will support the expansion of after-school programs, case management services and job opportunities for vulnerable youth, as well as community and local law enforcement initiatives to prevent gang involvement. A total of $2.5 million in funding will also support the Gun Involved Violence Elimination initiative and SNUG street outreach on Long Island, which provide law enforcement agencies and community-based organizations with resources to help combat gun and gang violence using proven, evidence-based strategies. Together, this commitment builds on progress New York has made over the past year and ensures that young people have the tools and resources to avoid involvement in a gang.

 

“New York will not tolerate the monstrous acts and fear that MS-13 has brought to our communities, and by focusing on educating and protecting our young residents, we are furthering our efforts to drive out these violent criminals,” Governor Cuomo said. “The launch of this comprehensive plan invests in critical programming to help stomp out gang recruitment, engage young men and women during and after school, and help protect New Yorkers from being victimized, as we work to eliminate MS-13’s presence in this state for good.”

 

MS-13 is an international criminal gang that emerged in the United States in the 1980s. They engage in a wide range of criminal activity and are uniquely violent, oftentimes engaging in brutal acts simply to increase the gang’s notoriety. Despite violent crime being down dramatically on Long Island over the past several years, a recent uptick in violent crime, including a series of senseless homicides, has been traced directly back to the MS-13 gang. This funding is the latest component of a holistic approach laid out by Governor Cuomo to eradicate MS-13 on Long Island and protect New York’s communities.

 

Comprehensive Programs for At-Risk Youth on Long Island

 

Expand the Empire State After-School Program: $2 Million

The FY 2019 Budget includes $2 million to expand the Empire State After School Program this year to schools and nonprofit organizations located in at-risk areas on Long Island, which have been identified by the State Office of Children and Family Services, Division of Criminal Justice Services, and Division of State Police, as well as County Executives, and local law enforcement agencies. This expanded initiative will keep young people engaged in sports, music, art, and other educational programming during after school hours and help deter potential gang activity or involvement.

 

Increase Job and Training Opportunities for At-Risk Youth: $5 Million

The successful New York Youth Jobs program will dedicate up to $5 million to provide job and training opportunities to young people who are most at-risk of being potentially recruited into gangs. This program will guide youth toward employment and vocational training positions and provide tax incentives to companies that hire unemployed, out-of-school youth between the ages of 16 and 24. This engagement will help provide a pathway for young people who may be pressured into crime because of their financial disadvantage.

 

Provide Gang Prevention Education Programs: $2 Million 

Over the next three years, $2 million will be invested to support local education programs focused on early intervention and violence prevention that target middle and high school students. Working with school districts and community-based organizations, this initiative will provide students with counseling, group programming, and other social services to help them avoid gang recruitment, peer pressure, violence, and delinquent behavior. Law enforcement agencies working with schools and community-based organizations on gang prevention education to help both in-school and out-of-school youth will be able to share $500,000 of this investment.

 

Develop Comprehensive Support Services For Vulnerable Youth: $3 Million

To provide immigrant youth with the resources they need to succeed, a $3 million investment included in the FY 2019 Budget will be provided over three years to support comprehensive case management. This service will be used to support vulnerable young people, particularly new immigrant children who are often the focus of MS-13 recruitment. This case management will include medical and mental health support, addiction treatment, trauma and family counseling, language training, and other community support services to promote positive social-emotional development and strong ties to the community.  

 

Establish a New Community Assistance Team: $4 Million

To identify and respond to gang activity in “hot spots,” as well as support local requests for actionable intelligence and increased service, the FY 2019 Budget supports the deployment of a State Police Community Assistance Team to Long Island. The 11-person team will include six Troopers, three investigators, one senior investigator, and one supervisor designated to partner with local law enforcement and community-based agencies to support their efforts to curtail gang-related crime.

 

State Support for Violence Reduction Efforts through GIVE and SNUG Initiatives

 

Gun Involved Violence Elimination Initiative Funding: $1.9 Million

The FY 2019 Budget continues to support the DCJS Gun Involved Violence Elimination Initiative, which is a nationally-recognized approach to reduce violence using evidence-based strategies. This year, Nassau and Suffolk counties will receive a total GIVE award of $1.9 million to fund community outreach efforts, training, equipment, and personnel – such as prosecutors and crime analysts. This support will be shared among Long Island’s police departments, district attorneys’ offices, probation departments, and sheriffs’ offices.

 

SNUG Street Outreach Funding: $687,500

The FY 2019 Budget also continues support for the DCJS SNUG programs on Long Island. These programs, located in Hempstead and Wyandanch, provide community-based organizations, in partnership with local law enforcement, resources to conduct street outreach and steer young people away from violence. This year, these two organizations will receive a total of $687,500 – an increase of $78,500 over the previous year. 

 

Combatting Gang Violence on Long Island

 

Investments included in the FY 2019 Budget mark the latest effort to eradicate gang violence on Long Island led by Governor Cuomo. Last April, the Governor directed the State Police to deploy resources on Long Island to help combat MS-13, including 25 Troopers to conduct high visibility patrols in Brentwood and Central Islip, as well as undercover operations specifically targeting and saturating neighborhoods known to have high levels of gang activity. The State Police also provided six new investigators to the FBI-led Long Island Gang Task Force which comprises more than 30 members of federal, state and local law enforcement partners, and helps agencies combine intelligence and other resources to conduct comprehensive investigations into gang activity.

 

Most recently, Governor Cuomo announced the deployment of a new Gang Violence Prevention Unit, consisting of 10 State Troopers. The unit will work to identify early warning signs of gang activity and coordinates closely with the Suffolk County Police Department on an “Educate the Educators” program to help teachers and faculty recognize the early warning signs of gang involvement and recruitment and provide training to students on the dangers of street gangs. Today’s announcement enacts the 4th Proposal of the Governor’s State of the State which was announced last December in advance of the legislative session.

 

Senator Phil Boyle said, “New York’s investments in gang prevention strategies, education programming, and gun safety initiatives have set us apart from the rest, supporting an increase in community outreach and, a decrease in violent crimes on Long Island. Thanks to the unwavering commitment and collaboration of Governor Cuomo, my colleagues in the NY State Senate and local leaders throughout the region, this latest investment will take our efforts to new heights and engage more students than ever before. I commend our communities for sticking together as we work to put an end, once and for all, to MS-13.”

 

Assemblyman Phil Ramos said, “MS-13 has wreaked havoc in our communities for far too long. I am proud to have worked with my colleagues in the legislature and alongside Governor Cuomo to ensure necessary funding is delivered to Long Island to help stop these dangerous criminals in their tracks and protect our some of our most vulnerable New Yorkers. I look forward to young men and women engaging in more after-school activities and taking advantage of new job training opportunities, as we work to build a brighter future for all of our residents.”

 

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said, “As crime in Suffolk County continues to decline and remains at historic lows, we are committed to eradicating MS-13 through a comprehensive approach by focusing not just on law enforcement but also stopping the recruitment pipeline. Thanks to Governor Cuomo’s leadership, this state investment will provide the necessary resources to help fund this anti-gang approach and keep our communities safe.”

 

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said, “I am proud of the joint efforts across Long Island to eliminate the fear of gang violence and return peace to our communities. Thanks to Governor Cuomo’s continued leadership he has ensured the state’s the FY 2019 Budget delivered the funding necessary to provide much needed education programs and gang prevention strategies that will help keep our kids safe. In addition, he again shows his support for the men and women of our police departments by making sure they are equipped with the tools needed to combat gang violence and hold perpetrators accountable. I look forward to working with state and local partners to launch these programs and help shape the lives of New York’s young men and women.”

 

Suffolk County Legislator Monica R. Martinez said, “The state’s holistic approach – educating and protecting our children while working together to put an end to MS-13, is the road map we need to ensure a brighter future for all our residents. Under the leadership of Governor Cuomo, crucial funding has been delivered to Long Island that will help drive out fear from our neighborhoods and equip community organizations and schools with the tools we need to wipe out this vicious gang for good. I applaud our state leaders for working together to ensure these investments are made, and for working side-by-side with our region to keep our students safe.”

 

NYCLU, ACLU, BDS File Class Action Suit Challenging Trump Administration’s Indefinite Detention of Immigrants

2018 Womens March NYC: Protesting to stop raids on immigrant families, save DACA © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

NEW YORK –The New York Civil Liberties Union, American Civil Liberties Union and Brooklyn Defender Services filed a federal class action lawsuit today challenging the recent cessation of bond hearings for immigrant detainees and the Trump administration’s indefinite detention of immigrants.

The administration’s halting of bond hearings in New York follows a February Supreme Court decision in a case from California, Jennings v. Rodriguez, holding that a federal immigration statute does not entitle immigrants to bond hearings. In that case, the Supreme Court chose not to decide whether the U.S. Constitution independently requires bond hearings and instead sent the case back to the appeals court in California to address that question. In New York, however, the federal appeals court already recognized that the Constitution requires such hearings in a 2015 case, Lora v. Shanahan. Nonetheless, the federal government has stopped providing them to immigrant detainees in New York. Today’s lawsuit seeks to restore bond hearings and due process protections for jailed immigrant New Yorkers.

“In the pursuit of its anti-immigrant agenda the Trump regime seeks to do away with basic legal protections that are fundamental to any notion of justice,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “Immigrants are entitled to due process, and bond hearings are a vital safeguard against the unjustified and prolonged imprisonment that the Trump regime seeks to impose on all immigrants. The New York Civil Liberties Union and our partners will fight to ensure immigrant New Yorkers can rely on the rule of law even under the Trump regime. ”

Hundreds of thousands of people both with and without lawful status are detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) each year. Immigration detention can last months or even years, as people fight their deportation cases through a slow and backlogged immigration court system. Bond hearings are an essential opportunity to demonstrate to a judge that incarceration is not necessary to ensure that someone returns to court. Without a hearing, immigrants, including asylum seekers and green card holders, may remain locked up indefinitely while they fight their cases.

“Without the opportunity to request release, our clients, including asylum seekers and long-time green card holders, are indefinitely detained and separated from their families, their jobs, and their communities in horrific detention centers,” said Lisa Schreibersdorf, Executive Director of Brooklyn Defender Services. “Indefinite detention is contrary to our most basic constitutional principles and we are proud to continue the fight for due process and justice for our clients and their communities.”

The lead plaintiff in the class action, Augustin Sajous, is a 60-year-old Haitian man who has lived in the US for 46 years, since he became a permanent resident as a child in the 1970s. He studied engineering, bought a house, and helped raise a family, but in recent years he has struggled with mental health issues, which led to bouts of homelessness. Mr. Sajous was arrested by ICE in September 2017 and is subject to deportation because of two 2015 misdemeanor convictions for bending MetroCards in order to use them with zero balance.

“The Supreme Court’s recent ruling does nothing to undermine the fact that the Constitution ensures that all people in the U.S. are entitled to due process protections,” said Jordan Wells, staff attorney at the New York Civil Liberties Union. “We are taking action now to ensure that immigrant New Yorkers who are currently detained get a fair opportunity to secure their freedom.”

In addition to Wells, counsel on the case include NYCLU staff attorneys Robert Hodgson, Paige Austin, and Aadhithi Padmanabhan, associate legal director Christopher Dunn and paralegal Maria Rafael, ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project staff attorney Michael Tan and deputy director Judy Rabinowitz, and BDS attorneys Andrea Saenz, Brooke Menschel, Zoey Jones and Bridget Kessler.

NYS Launches ‘If You Can See It You Can Be It’ Day for Girls to Visit with Leaders in Government, Business

New York State Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul addresses the Council on Women and Girls Regional Forum at Long Island University. The state is hosting its first “If You Can See It You Can Be It”- a day for girls to see what is possible, April 26, 2018 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the launch of “If You Can See It You Can Be It” – a day for girls to see what is possible. On April 26, 2018, New York State will partner with companies across the state to show girls from lower-income communities and in the foster care system what roles are available outside of the “traditional” career paths for girls, and particularly women in leadership roles, for a day of mentoring and career-learning activities. The initiative is part of Governor Cuomo’s 2018 Women’s Agenda for New York: Equal Rights, Equal Opportunity.

“The New York philosophy is that if you work hard, you can be anything you want to be,” Governor Cuomo said. “With our nation-leading policies that level the playing field and create opportunity for all, we will continue to raise the bar higher and higher for women in New York and show girls that they can do anything they set their minds to.”

Marian Wright Edelman, renowned civil rights leader and founder of the Children’s Defense Fund famously proclaimed, “It’s hard to be what you can’t see.” Building on the 25-year legacy of Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day, the Governor’s initiative will show girls a variety of opportunities available to them from science and technology organizations to construction to government to journalism to advertising.

Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, Chair of the New York Women’s Suffrage Commission, said, “Young girls in underserved communities of New York need to be made aware of the unlimited opportunities available to them to succeed in life. The ‘IfYou Can See It You Can Be It’ initiative will pair girls with leaders in New York to expose them to what is possible in diverse workplaces and to encourage them to achieve their dreams. I’m looking forward to teaming up with a young woman who will see firsthand a day in the life of a State official with a very energetic schedule.”

“A key goal for the Council on Women and Girls is to meet the needs of the next generation of New York women,” Melissa DeRosa, Secretary to the Governor and Chair of the New York State Council on Women and Girls, said. “With the first ever ‘If You Can See It You Can Be It’ day, we strive to meet this goal by providing girls with the opportunity to experience a day in the life of women working in a diverse range of jobs and careers. To close the gender and wage gap in all fields, girls must learn about potential career paths from a young age. I am thrilled that so many companies and businesses are participating in our inaugural program.”

The following companies have already solidified their commitment to opening their doors for girls in the New York foster care system and low-income communities:

  • AT&T
  • CA Technologies
  • Emblem Health
  • Etsy
  • Gilbane Building Company
  • Mastercard
  • Oath
  • Turner Construction Company
  • Warby Parker

To showcase opportunities available to girls in government, Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, and Commissioners from the Governor’s cabinet will have girls shadow them on “See It Be It” Day. Additionally, the following State Agencies have solidified their commitment to having young girls shadow female leaders in government:

  • Department of Civil Service
  • Department of Environmental Conservation
  • Department of Labor
  • Department of Motor Vehicles
  • Department of State
  • Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services
  • Dormitory Authority of the State of New York
  • Environmental Facilities Corporation
  • Higher Education Services Corporation
  • Housing and Community Renewal
  • Metro Transportation Authority
  • New York State Energy and Research Development Authority
  • Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services
  • Office of General Services
  • Office of Mental Health
  • New York State Police

Marissa Shorenstein, President, Northeast Region, AT&T, said, “Showing girls the opportunities available to them in the workforce can empower them to realize their full potential. Women from all industries and communities have seen and experienced the effects of gender inequality – and this fuels our commitment to lift up women and girls. AT&T is proud to support ‘If You Can See It, You Can Be It,’ and we look forward to helping our future female leaders cultivate their passions.”

Susan Warner, Senior Vice President for Internal Communications for Mastercard, said, “Mastercard is proud to partner with Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York State’s ‘If You Can See It, You Can Be It’ campaign.  For the past five years, we’ve reached more than 40,000 girls in 21 countries with our Girls4Tech program, and we’re pleased to host our 145th program at our New York City Tech Hub on April 26 as part of this campaign to show girls that it takes all kinds of skills to pursue a STEM career.” 

Erica Christensen, Vice President, Corporate Social Responsibility, CA Technologies, said, “We are excited to participate in Governor Cuomo’s ‘If You Can See It, You Can Be It’ initiative, encouraging girls to consider educational opportunities and careers in STEM fields. CA Technologies is committed to promoting gender diversity and the advancement of women in technology. This is a long-term investment by our company – we are dedicated to supporting the next generation of IT leaders and helping to close the STEM skills gap.”

Brennan Gilbane Koch, 5th Generation Family Member, Gilbane Building Company said, “At Gilbane, we’ve seen the positive impact of a diversified workforce with women in leadership. That’s why we are focused on continuing to raise the benchmark in recruiting and promoting women throughout our ranks. As the future is female, we are thrilled to join the Governor in this effort to encourage young women and girls to consider our industry and the opportunities that come with it.”

Lauren Tsuchuya, Community and Citizenship Manager, Turner Construction Company, said, “Turner believes that empowering young women is one of the best investments for growing the construction industry’s talent, innovation and future.”

Karen Igagni, President & CEO of EmblemHealth and Steering Committee Member for the Governor’s Council on Women and Girls, said, “EmblemHealth is proud to participate in the Governor’s Day for Girls initiative. We look forward to hosting a group of young, talented women, introducing them to our diverse and accomplished female leaders and lending a hand in their career development.”

Apply here by April 15th to have your company welcome girls from around the state to learn about the variety of opportunities available to them. Once a company fills out this form, the Governor’s office will work to connect the company with girls from elementary, middle or high schools from the region. If a company has an existing relationship with a school group, they can work directly with that group as well. For any additional questions, email Valery.Galasso@exec.ny.gov.

March for Our Lives in DC Signals New Focus for Gun Reform Activists: ‘Vote Them Out’

Gun activists at the March for Our Lives in Washington DC March 24, 2018 signaled a new focus: they are done entreating politicians to pass sensible gun control laws. They intend to Vote Them Out. © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

It doesn’t matter that Donald Trump and the NRA-toadies in the Congress had all skipped town ahead of the onslaught of an estimated 500,000 who joined the March for Our Lives in Washington DC calling for sane gun control. After Sandy Hook, Pulse Nightclub, Las Vegas, and the five school shootings that took place just since Parkland, the advocates for commonsense gun regulation are done trying to appeal and cajole lawmakers. The overriding theme of the event, called out in every interlude between the teen and t’ween speakers who so eloquently made the argument for banning assault weapons and high-capacity ammo clips and universal background checks was “VOTE THEM OUT.”

The call would come from down a mile-long stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue, and crescendo, until the buildings would shake.

Signs at the March for Our Lives, DC, signal a new activism: “It may be the 2nd Amendment, but in a second THEY WERE GONE.” © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Gun control advocates are done expecting tragedy to prompt action to protect public health and safety. They are done asking. They are demanding change – whether it be the policy or the politician.

“Either represent the people or get out … Stand for us or beware: The voters are coming,” was the manifesto from Parkland student Cameron Kasky to lawmakers. “To the leaders, skeptics and cynics who told us to sit down, stay silent and wait your turn: Welcome to the revolution.”

“Your children are the ones fighting for their rights.” © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The NRA has succeeded, despite easily 90% of Americans who want sensible gun regulations – keeping guns out of the hands of domestic abusers, the severely mentally ill, felons and terrorists, and want to keep weapons designed for war off city streets where 80 percent of Americans live – because they 1) buy politicians, but 2) because they manage to shepherd single-issue voters, fear-mongering the call for “sensible” gun regulation into “confiscate your guns” – and there are some 350 million of them in the hands of just 22% of the population (3% of gun owners own 50% of guns).


Why protect unborn children only to have them die in school © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Now, the single-issue voters will be gun regulation. That will be the litmus test for support or opposition to a candidate. And that’s okay, because it seems that those who embrace sensible gun laws tend also to support climate action, women’s rights, justice, health care and education. They tend to support diplomacy over war. They see gun control as a public health issue – an epidemic of lethal violence that must be addressed – and so also favor the other issues that support health and quality of life, or in the words of the Founding Fathers quoted on the stage: “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

And there will be 3.9 million high school seniors who will be eligible to vote, if not in the 2018 midterms, buy the 2020 presidential.

An army of volunteers were out with forms to register new voters here and in the hundreds and hundreds of “sibling” rallies held across the country – more than 800 in all including those that took place globally. (Several nations have issued advisories against traveling to the United States because of gun violence.)

Gun violence has affected 40 percent of all Americans © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

This was quite literally a March for Our Lives. More children have been killed by gun violence in the five years since Sandy Hook than soldiers have died in combat since 9/11, reported Newsweek. According to Everytown, on average, there are 13,000 gun-related homicides a year (another 20,000 suicides); for every one person killed by a gun, two more are injured; seven children and teens are killed with guns every day. In 2015, Politifact confirmed a statement by Nicholas Kristof that “”More Americans have died from guns in the United States since 1968 [1,516,863] than on battlefields of all the wars in American history [1,396,733].”

Never Underestimate the Power of a Woman © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

There have been 5 school shootings just since Parkland on February 14 – including the murder just two days before the March for Our Lives  of 16-year old Jaelynn Willey at Great Mills High School in Maryland, at the hand of a 17-year old former boyfriend, wielding his parents’ semi-automatic handgun.

Marching for Jaelynn. There have been 5 school shootings just since Parkland on February 14 – including the murder just two days before the March for Our Lives of 16-year old Jaelynn Willey at Great Mills High School in Maryland, at the hand of a 17-year old former boyfriend, wielding his parents’ semi-automatic handgun. © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

It wasn’t just Parkland or Sandy Hook and school shootings represented. The speakers were representative of the spectrum of gun violence that is epidemic in America and no where else in the world: gang violence that steals so many lives in urban center cities like Los Angeles and Chicago, that snuffs out the souls in church, concerts, movies, shopping malls; the victims of domestic violence and robbery. And assassination, as the remarks of Martin Luther King Jr.’s 9-year old granddaughter, Yolanda Renee King, recalled.

Crowd hears surprise guest Martin Luther King’s 9-year old granddaughter, Yolanda Renee King declare: “I have a dream that enough is enough. And that this should be a gun-free world – period.” © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“My grandfather had a dream that his four little children will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character,” said Yolanda Renee King. “I have a dream that enough is enough,” she said. “And that this should be a gun-free world – period.”

Then there was 11-year old Naomi Wadler from Alexandria, Virginia, who led the walk-out from her school for 18 minutes – 17 to honor those killed in Parkland and 1 more for the girl who was murdered from her school. “I am here today to acknowledge and represent the African American girls whose stories don’t make the front page of every national newspaper. Whose stories don’t lead on the evening news. I represent the African American women who are victims of gun violence, who are simply statistics instead of vibrant, beautiful girls full of potential,” she said. “For far too long, these names, these black girls and women, have been just numbers. I’m here to say ‘Never Again’ for those girls, too.”

Am I next? On average, gun violence kills 96 people a day. © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

On average, gun violence kills 96 people each day, who don’t warrant media notice. American women are 16 times more likely to be shot to death than women in other developed countries; When a gun is present in a domestic violence situation, the woman is 5 times as likely to be murdered. But in states where a background check is required for every handgun sale, 47% fewer women are shot to death by intimate partners, according to EverytownResearch.org.

How many more? (in front of Newsmuseum’s First Amendment banner © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The speakers, an extraordinary array of the most extraordinary young people, described  their trauma, their loss of siblings, parents, best friends, the constant anxiety they must now live with (187,000 school children today have been witness to gun attacks in their schools, according to a Washington Post study; an entire generation since the 1999 Columbine massacre lives with Live Fire drills just as the 1960s kids drilled for nuclear bomb attacks; 40% of Americans know someone who has been a victim of gun violence). They made their case with such clarity, poise, reason and most of all, authenticity, you had to contrast that with the absurdity and stupidity that is heard from many of the current electeds, like Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert.

Emma Gonzalez’ piercing 6 minutes and 20 seconds of silence © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

When Emma Gonzalez, with her poignant, piercing 6 minutes and 20 seconds of silence that mimicked the time it took for the Parkland School Shooter to kill 17, injure 17 more with his AR-15 assault rifle and simply disappear amid the fleeing students, you had the feeling of seeing a future leader, much as those who heard Hillary Clinton’s Wellesley commencement speech. And so many more on that stage. And then there was Malala, in her taped message, who defied the terror attack on her by Taliban determined to prevent girls from attending school.

Priest makes a statement, ‘Never Again’. Alex Wind of Parkland asks, if teachers are armed, where will it end? Priests, pastors, rabbis? Ticket takers at the movies? Shopkeepers at the mall? “That’s what the NRA wants.” © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

But more: you realized in a flash what was lost – to society, to civilization – the potential of what these young people could have been, their lives snuffed out by the dreck of our species. Did we lose a Steve Hawking, a Malala, an Obama, a Steve Jobs, a Bill Gates? And what of the hundreds of thousands who must live with life-altering injuries – what of the cost to society of their lost ability to fulfill their potential, of the cost of health care that might otherwise have been spent on education, professional training, investment in innovation? The high cost of trauma counselors after an event, of security officers, technology and construction to harden schools against gun violence (diverting scarce funds from computers and actual teaching), pales in comparison.

Teachers, unsung heroes on the frontline of wanton mass shootings, demand “Books over bullets.” © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

These Parkland survivor-leaders weren’t trying to appeal to politicians with reason or emotion, authenticity or compassion, as the Sandy Hook parents had futilely done. They are done with that.

The pacing of the production – mixing personal stories with PSA’s and data – even the NRA’s “greatest hits” – and top-notch entertainment that included Lin-Manuel Miranda and Ben Platt ; Miley Cyrus; Ariana Grande; Jennifer Hudson; Andra Day with Cardinal Shehan School Choir;  Common with Andra Day; Demi Lovato; Vic Mensa and an astonishing performance by the Stoneman Douglas drama club with a student choir of the song they wrote, “Shine”  (www.youtube.com/watch?v=MrZiB2jV7dw), was as fast and explosive as an AR-15 firing. The audience filled in the interlude with chants of “Vote Them Out” – except after Emma Gonzalez spoke, when the chant was “Vote Her In.”

They want to know why a minority of people get to threaten the vast majority of people.

March for Our Lives: Enough is Enough. © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Enough is Enough, the speakers declared. Never Again, was the reply back, perhaps more hopefully, given that there are still more than 200 days before the midterm elections, and 250 days before a new Congress is seated. How many more will die until then? If the law of averages continues, 96 a day, or upwards of 24,000 lives will be snuffed out in this gun violence epidemic, with thousands of more suffering life-altering injuries, that sap their ability to fulfill their god-given potential.

Ballots stop bullets. © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“We’re done hiding, being afraid,” Ryan Deitsch, a survivor of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, declared. “That’s not what our Founding Fathers envisioned when they wrote of ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’ This is the beginning of the end. This is the fight for our lives.

“REV up America: Register to vote. Then educate. Then vote.”

About a million people attending more than 800 rallies across the country and around the world, were inspired to take action. And vote.

Here are more photo highlights of the March for Our Lives in Washington DC:

Just Say No to Guns © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
“I want to play dodgeball, not dodge bullets” 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
More than 350,000 turned out for the March for Our Lives, Washington DC © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
March for Our Lives, DC © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
“We’ll Vote” (and tweet, rally, march and protest) © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Gun Owners Against the NRA © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Air Force Veteran at the March for Our Lives, DC. One of the PSAs features veterans who say that weapons of war they were trained to use have no place in civilian society. © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Dress codes are more regulated than guns” © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Iowa Senator Joni Ernst is one of the elected who may be on the garbage heap of history because of gun control activists. © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Students from North Carolina at the March for Our Lives, DC © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Students from Ohio at the March for Our Lives, DC © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
“You can’t put a silencer on me” © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Trump: “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and not lose any voters.” © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Signs of Our Times © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Signs from the March for Our Lives across street from National Archives where you can see original copies of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution. © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Warning signs © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
“I march to be the change” © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
“I Remember You”: Backstage notes at March for Our Lives, DC © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

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© 2018 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Foreign Policy Experts Nance, Stavridis Warn of Global, Domestic Threats to Democracy as Authoritarians Rise

Malcolm Nance (left), a renowned counter terrorism and intelligence consultant for the US government’s Special Operations, Homeland Security and Intelligence Operations, and 4-star Admiral James Stavridi (right)s who was the 16th Supreme Allied Commander at NATO, engage in a dialogue on foreign policy moderated by Errol Louis, a political anchor at NY1 News, took place at Temple Emanuel of Great Neck, Long Island on March 18, 2018. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

A dialogue between Malcolm Nance, a renowned counter terrorism and intelligence consultant for the US government’s Special Operations, Homeland Security and Intelligence Operations, and 4-star Admiral James Stavridis who was the 16th Supreme Allied Commander at NATO, senior military assistant to the Secretary of the Navy and Secretary of Defense, moderated by Errol Louis, a political anchor at NY1 News, took place at Temple Emanuel of Great Neck, Long Island on March 18, 2018. It proved to be a seminar on foreign policy, with some tough words for the need to defend democracy against a tide of anti-democratic, authoritarian forces both domestic and foreign. “We have to solve this –at the ballot box.” 

Here are highlights from the provocative discussion:

Errol Louis: Moderator: Both of you were at the Pentagon on 9/11; Nance was even an eyewitness. With the rise of terrorism, how safe are we? 

Malcolm Nance: Since 9/11, we went for a short while in the correct direction in counterterrorism, bringing the world together to confront global threat. Unfortunately the invasion of Iraq in 2003 broke the mechanisms in Mideast that were functioning – poorly, but indigenous – strongman dictators. Once we invaded, we unleashed demons we could not foresee. The ebb and flow of regional solutions all went out the window.

Before, the hardest problem was people trying to solve Palestinian problem. That’s nothing compared to radical Islam. You can negotiate with Palestinians, even Hamas, groups in Iran.

We have a bigger problem: just keeping the democratic norms in the world, not just US. Democracy as an ideology is now under attack, every day.

Admiral James Stavridis: I agree. Go back 100 years – 1918. The world is coming out of World War I, Spanish influenza pandemic sweeping, 40% of world’s population were infected, 20% of those will die. US walking away from Europe, isolating ourselves, rejects the League of Nations, erects enormous tariff barriers – cracked the global economy. You can drop a line from that to the rise of fascism and World War II. That is a dark global picture.

We have mechanisms to deal with many of the challenges but agree [with Nance] that the whole ideology of democracy is wrapped up in great power politics, the rise of two authoritarian figures- Putin [just “re-elected” to a fourth term]. President Xi Jinping isn’t even putting on faux election, he declared himself the new emperor. These authoritarian systems are a challenge to democracies in ways we haven’t dealt with in 100 years.

We have two other concerns: a new pandemic – don’t spend much time thinking – but every 100-200 years of human history, a pandemic rises, despite fact of enormous advances in medicine. We are due for one – ability to manipulate genome can allow dark dark work. [Consider how Trump has cut funding to the CDC, and would likely not step in to stop a new outbreak of Ebola or Zika outside the US.]

Our vulnerability is in cyber. We are utterly dependent on massive cyber systems. We are at great risk – that’s where the two strains – cyber vulnerability and way authoritarian regimes will come after us – those streams are crossing – we have work to do, tools,

So, how safe are we? We have challenges, but I am cautiously optimistic. The question is whether our democracy will put in the right people.

Louis: Pointing to [Trump’s] new direction in foreign policy [and the fact that the State Department is considering removing ‘human rights’ from its mission statement], why is it to our advantage to fight for democracy and human rights and why is this not a form of international charity? 

Nance: NATO, after World War II [was devised] to stop wars by creating a grand alliance – to spread that ideology around the world., not just American democracy, but allow others to develop their own form of republic, democratic governorship, whether a constitutional monarchy or a republic like France. That is under attack. Democracy is in retreat. ‘Democracy’ has been removed from mission statement of the State Department.

When we were struck on 9/11, it hurt me deeply – I spent my life in worst parts of world getting back. Now, that threat is from within – people in our country do not believe in democracy; autocracy, as being pushed by [Putin] former director of KGB, is better alternative to liberal democracy and European parliamentary democracy-Iit’s all under attack.

It is not a charity – America doesn’t do this as charity. We invented globalism – in WWII –we literally dropped it out of airplanes; people wanted our products at the end of war. Now people believe our system of economy is fundamentally wrong, NATO should be disbanded, the European Union should go away and every country in Europe should be its own autocracy with Moscow as polar center. There are people in US government who believe that.

Admiral Stavridis: “Why does democracy work? It’s not simply the value system. There’s a pragmatic element. With democracy, people [who are disaffected, aggrieved] get to change government peacefully – a safety value.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Stavridis: Why does democracy work? It’s not simply the value system. There’s a pragmatic element. With democracy, people [who are disaffected, aggrieved] get to change government peacefully – a safety value. That’s why we worry about authoritarianism –eventually [discontentment] will blow, and when that happens [authoritarian regimes] will go in search of monsters abroad, look for scapegoats, combat operations. We ought to be very concerned about authoritarianism.

What do we do about it? What’s our move? A couple of different things can do – continue to rely on a system of alliances – that’s why we should worry about tariff barriers, and walking away from NATO, that take global structures apart. We need to rely on those. We need to get vastly better at strategic communications, explaining our ideas. War of ideas? It’s a marketplace of ideas. We have to compete – democracy, liberty, freedom of speech, education, assembly, racial and gender equality – we execute them imperfectly but they are the right ideas. We have to communicate that in ways that get beyond ‘We have the right answer.’ Lay it out pragmatically: why it works. Because there are forces pushing against it.

Louis: Trump’s statements about NATO alarmed people, [yet] US deployed troops to Poland as part of NATO task force exercises. Is his rhetoric worse than reality?   

Stavridis: Candidate Trump said NATO was obsolete and he would consider pulling out altogether. Fortunately, on this subject, he [appears to have] listened to General Mattis, the Defense Secretary; General McMaster, National Security Adviser [so far], Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (oops). But on NATO, I am cautiously optimist he has gotten the message that NATO really works.

Nance: NATO is 28 nations, 52% of world’s GDP, 3 million troops under arms, 24,000 combat aircraft, 800 warships, 50 early warning aircraft – it is the richest, most powerful alliance in human history. US spends $600 billion/year on defense, the Europeans $300 billion. To put that into perspective, Russians spend $80 billion, Chinese $150 billion. We outspend in part because of our European allies – they should spend 2%, and are on track to do so in next 3-5 years. The alliance remains fundamental to US – it is pragmatic value for US to be in alliance.

Where did this idea come into Trump’s head that NATO wasn’t a good value, that US was connected to countries not paying their fair share? In November 2013, Trump went to Russia for the Miss Universe pageant and while he was there, he was brought to a private 2 hour meeting arranged by Aras Agalarov, [a billionaire Russian real estate mogul with ties to Putin] who funded the pageant, in a restaurant owned by Galaroff. [Trump] came out of that meeting spouting the Kremlin party line – anti-NATO, anti-globalization, anti European Union, anti treaties and alliances, believing that Russia is the premiere superpower. The only thing we don’t know is whether he believed it or whether some inducement got him to believe – he said it during campaign. Now he seems to have some change of view. NATO [which Admiral Stavridis once commanded] unilaterally evoked Article 5 after [the US was attacked on] 9/11 – for 10 years they gave their blood and treasure to defense of this nation. This is the single greatest force for good since world War II. Russia wants to do away with NATO – they call us Atlanticist, globalist – their philosopher Aleksandr Gelyevich Dugin [who holds fascist views] convinced Steve Bannon, almost the Goebels of the anti-democratic movement, goes around the world, trains, help foster other countries to believe the Atlantic alliance is the problem in the eastern and western hemisphere.

Stavridis: Why NATO matters: 1) The values we share. We will never see another pool of partners who have these values. It is no coincidence because [the Founding Fathers] got them from Europe, from the Enlightenment. 2) The geographic position of Europe matters – why we need those Cold War bases in Europe – those are forward operating stations in the global war on terror 3) It’s the economy and trade between US and the NATO countries.

Also, when I commanded 150,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan, the nation that lost the most on a per capita basis was Estonia. Number 2 was the Netherlands. The US was number 3. They were with us in that fight because we had been attacked on 9/11. This is an alliance that stands and delivers for us. (applause)

Louis: What does [Trump’s] firing of [Secretary of State Rex] Tillerson mean in the broader sense. Is it deliberate, a competence question, a larger crisis, an administration not executing?

Stavridis: When Secretary Tillerson got the job, I thought it was a good choice –a  global businessman, contacts all over the world, quiet, laconic, very serious Texan, tough minded. I thought it an interesting choice, it might turn out well. But Tillerson simply was not a very effective Secretary of State. He couldn’t gain real connectivity in the White House – in a state of constant chaos. How can you be Secretary of State for a president who one minute, says, ‘We will solve Korea with fire and fury like never seen – a preemptive declaration of war –and three months later, be ready to go and cut ‘the deal of the century’ – a defensible policy choices but not for same person. So to be Secretary of State trying to articulating that –the work of Sisyphus, boulder rolling down. As a result, morale in the State Department cratered, applications for foreign service are down 50% in the last 2 years. You don’t get that back –you  lose a generation if you can’t fill those slots, let alone, not filling crucial ambassadorships [including South Korea]. This is as bleak a moment for American diplomacy. A chaotic inexperienced White House that sadly doesn’t seem to be getting better in 14 months (feels like 14 yrs).

Malcolm Nance: “Trump thinks diplomacy is a big stick. His way of negotiating is threatening..A generation [of diplomats] is gone. Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams –our first 3 ambassadors – must be spinning in their graves.”
Nance: It appears diplomacy has shifted over to war fighters. Trump thinks diplomacy is not speaking, thinks diplomacy is a big stick, and if everyone sees us as a big stick nation, there will be no communications. The acting Secretary of State is technically Ivanka Trump –Trump is using Ivanka and Jared as an alternate State Department because Trump doesn’t know what the state department is, what diplomacy is. His way of negotiating is threatening –he sees no value in the institution or maintaining. [He is defunding the State Department, institutes]. But the institutes (nongovernmental) are there to help foster democracy and republicanism within countries. They brought about change in countries that would otherwise become a dictatorship – gone. A generation [of diplomats] is gone. Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams –our first 3 ambassadors – must be spinning in their graves.

Louis: Will the opening of US embassy in Jerusalem bring about a cataclysm?

Nance:  It could happen. What’s happening in Mideast – so much change, dynamics. You can even see in how the Israeli-Palestinian problem is pushed off – rise of Iran, Syria, Turks invading northern Syria and setting up against the entirety of Kurds (who we fund), Yemen. Palestine-Israel conflict is the ‘good ol days.’. When the deed is done, and US embassy is moved, Saudis may give head tilt to that. I don’t know if there will be another intifada – the strings were cut after the Iraq invasion.

Stavridis: These kinds of conflicts – religious with a geopolitical overlay – are very dug in, and go on and on. The really bad news is that in middle is our greatest friend and ally in the region, Israel.

What should we do? Four things: stand with Israel – (applause)- the reasons are pragmatic, values, all the same things that make us want to be in NATO, should energize our alliance with Israel – 2) Need to work closely with Sunnis (Saudi Arabia, Gulf States, Egypt, Jordan). The Saudis are giving head nod on the peace plan, drawing closer to Israel, willing to exchange information, intelligence, missile defense, early warning. Why? because both are concerned about Iran (which is Shi’a). We ought to understand the Iranian self-view: we think of them as mid-size power, they think of themselves as inheritors of the Persian Empire which 2000 years ago, dominated the region. That’s what they want to reconstruct. Working with Israel, alliances, better in cyber, insuring missile defense strong, stand with Israel.

Louis: How to address the humanitarian disaster in Syria, knowing Russia is smack in the middle?

Nance: We had the opportunity to crack this nut in 2012 after Assad’s chemical attack. I advocated then to destroy the Syrian air force utterly – that’s the strategic advantage Syria has over the allies. Then you have put Israel in powerful position; limits Iranian involvement (because they won’t have a runway to land), and gives opportunity to show Arab States here is a chance to use ground forces to do humanitarian intervention. Arab League, Egyptians, Jordanians, Saudis have enough forces to be in Damascus in 72 hours out of northern Jordan. But so long as Russia backed and Syria can resist, won’t do it.

Stavridis: We last saw a problem like Syria in the Balkans, 20 years ago: Yugoslavia blew up – forced migrations, 100,000s killed – like Mideast – Catholic Croatians, Orthodox Serbians and Muslim Bosnians – a religious war with geopolitical overtones that was ultimately solved by partition. Yugoslavia was  broken apart and created sub-states. That was imperfect but at the end of the day, that is what will happen in Syria – it is broken now, and won’t go back- that’s 3-5 years away.

Why is Iran in Syria? Iran wants a land bridge so it can move missiles and fighters from Tehran to Lebanon because that endangers Israel. That’s why we need to move to international solution that somewhat marginalizes Iranian influence – can do with leverage over Russia – the White House needs to get tough on Russia. 

Louis: China. The notion they now have a president for life there, with no mechanism to change leadership – if there are internal problems, if there is a falling out within society or economy or ideology in a bad place, what happens?

Stavridis: The good news is that China will continue to grow at 5%. If they do, the population will stay relatively quiescent. But China’s road gets rough in out years- demographics – an aging population, the imbalance between men and women created by the One-Child policy which led to killing baby girls. We’ve never seen a society as ill balanced. Plus, China’s environment is disaster, requiring billions if not trillions to remediate. The housing market is overheated (reminiscent of 2008 in US). With no democracy, there is no way to relieve the pressure. Xi will have smooth run for awhile, but it gets rough in 5-10 years. That’s when we should worry about Chinese foreign policy that is nationalistic, seeks to find a scapegoat outside, and look for conflict in South China Sea. (See the movie, “The Last Emperor,” about Puyi and read Robert Kaplan’s, Asia’s Cauldron”.)

Errol Louis: What is Putin’s end game? © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Louis: What is Putin’s end game?

Nance: Putin has imperial goals – Atlantic Alliance between Washington and European states has since WWII brought economic, cultural influences Russia cannot stand – They believe it has marginalized Russia’s limited economic power.  All the good that has come from NATO, the EU single market, the US flow of traffic across Atlantic does no benefit to Moscow. Putin realizes that 75% of Russians live in the European part (75% of land in Asia). He believes Russia should be the pole in which Europe should do trade – EurAsianism. He is ruling more like Czar Nicolas I – religious orthodoxy, nationalism, autocracy (while France was creating fraternity, liberty, equality). Russia is buying every conservative, neoNazi group in Europe – owned, lock stock and barrel by Moscow.

Last march, for the second time in American history, France saved democracy – had Marine Le Pen won, France would have withdrawn from NATO,broken up the European Union and aligned France with Moscow, bringing along everyone to Moscow.

Stavridis: Putin’s end game: H will be the dominant force in Russia until the day he dies, and Russians accept it. This is Russian custom, history, culture.  Read literature- Dostevsky, Pushkin – how Russians look at powerful male leaders. Sometimes they get a Peter the Great, the next time Ivan the Terrible; sometimes get Stalin, but then get a Gorbachev – they are willing to roll the dice. But the dice have landed on Putin, he will not give up power. We have to deal with this operative. I met Putin a couple of times. Bush Jr. met Putin and was completely taken –he said, ‘I looked into his eyes and saw his soul. We can work with Putin.’ McCain, a true war hero, met with Putin  and said, ‘I saw 3 letters: K-G-B.’ I think McCain got that one right – and that’s what we will deal with.”

Q&A

Is climate change a national security issue?

Stavridis: Climate change is a significant national security threat. Because of global warming, ice is melting in the Arctic, opening up shipping lanes and hydrocarbons, creating a great power competition – on one side is Russia, on the other side US, Canada, Iceland, Norway – they are all NATO; 2) Rising sea levels gradually affect our ports, our ability to operate in major naval bases and ports 3) Global warming will impact our ability to operate globally because of cost – we will have to mediate against environmental concerns, which will put downward pressure on defense budgets 4) What should worry us most is that as oceans heat up, photosynthesis is diminished affecting oxygen in the atmosphere. Vice President Gore called the Amazon the lungs of the earth; Nope, 70% of oxygen comes from photosynthesis in oceans, and we are abusing them. These are major national security concerns.

What if in the next few months Trump abrogates the Iran Nuclear Treaty?

Stavridis: I expect Trump to abrogate the Iran Nuclear Treaty. 1) That will have chilling effect on negotiations with North Korea – they are unlikely to enter into grand bargain having just witnessed the abrogation of the Iran treaty. 2) Iranians will almost immediately restart their nuclear program – they are probably in primed position to do so. 3) The treaty is not perfect but ending it will put Israel at greater risk because of re-energization of the Iranian nuclear program 4) Allies will be furious, it will put enormous strains on the NATO alliance, and probably not lead to European allies walking away, so US will become even more of an outlier. I wasn’t a fan initially – it isn’t a good/bad deal, it is a done deal, the best we could have at this point.

Nance: I spoke with a senior briefer at CIA who briefed Obama on the details that convinced Obama to sign the Iran Nuclear Treaty: The way the agency assessed, Iran was 6-12 months away from developing an atomic bomb, but with the treaty, Iran gave up all components, 90% of its enriched nuclear material and was pushed back 15 years We do not want a war with Iran. Why would we put ourselves in a position to give Iran the ability to have a nuclear weapon? There is no limit to the mischief that would create. And if [unleashed], Iran would go straight to North Korea with $ millions to buy a nuclear weapon.

Malcolm Nance, Errol Louis, Admiral James Stavridis and Rabbi Stephen S. Widom who hosts the Cultural Arts events at Temple Emanuel of Great Neck, Long Island © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

How to solve the humanitarian disaster that is Syria?

Stavridis: A combination of defense, diplomacy, development – hard and soft power. [This was shown to work in Colombia, after a 60-year insurgency that destroyed the fabric of the country; and the Balkans.] You don’t have to choose hard or soft  power. So often, the long game is combination of all those tools – development, diplomacy and defense when need it – to get balance right, requires leadership. We are very good at launching missiles. We need to get better at launching ideas. We can do both. (Applause)

Nance: That’s smart power. We are a global force for good but have to be global force for diplomacy.

Considering the hollowing out of our diplomatic forces to the benefit of Putin, [possible collusion] in cyberwarfare, why is there reluctance to use the word ‘treason’ in regard to Trump?

Nance: There is a legal definition – Article 3 – to ‘treason.’ You literally have to be at declared war with an enemy and give aid and comfort to enemy. That is rarely invoked – we have sent people to prison for espionage, divulging secrets but the last time anyone was tried for treason was the Rosenbergs. I don’t think that word applies legally – from what we’ve seen.  Where the president violated his oath of office,  you can use ‘treason’ rhetorically if you feel betrayed, or ‘treachery’. I don’t think will be able to use ‘treason’ in legal sense . this investigation started as national counter intel – a spy hunt – still a hunt for citizens in direct communications with foreign intel officers.

What check is there on this president who many think is a madman, is the military prepared to step in and save democracy? 

Stavridis: ‘I solemnly swear to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic – no expiration. The military isn’t going to step in and solve this. We have to solve this –at the ballot box. In 1840, Alexis de Toqueville wrote about this strange new phenomenon of democracy. He was largely laudatory, but the punch line: ‘the tragedy of democracy is that in the end you elect the government you deserve.’ We need to own this problem. No one will solve it for us. We need to get out in November, and again two years later, and we can solve this problem.

Nance: We have entered the greatest period of political activism – I believe it will even eclipse the Vietnam era – 1968. But since World War II, we have gotten fat and lazy and enjoy fruits of democracy.

We have guardrails – you have 246 days to solve part of this problem – but to do that you have to bring yourself and everyone who has not voted in last election.

The military is not designed for coup d’etat. We would really be a third world banana republic. But we can stop stupid – unlawful orders.

Emperor Xi. China building pipelines through Africa into the Stans, helping China, become #1 in world, developing 5G. How will that affect us?

Stavridis: China historically has not had global ambition, but 16 months ago, President Xi gave a “coming out speech” at Davos for China in the 21st century: One belt, one road philosophy – using economic power to further the interests of China. China just built its first overseas military base, at the Horn of Africa. China is on the move. When historians 300 years from how write about the 21st century, how that story comes out will be US and China and the rise of India. We need to be mindful of China, align with India, hold close our global allies, help develop this hemisphere to the south of US. That ought to be our strategy. And China should be top of the list to watch.

Nance: If this administration would understand strategy: China is brilliant. Go to sub-Saharan Africa –that used to be the land of the Land Rover, then Toyota, now you see Chinese Long March and Running Deer pick ups – they are $2000-$5000 but are everywhere. China is colonizing the sub-Sahara economically– buying whole sub-sections of countries to ship food to China. If China develops 5G cell telephone networks before the US gets it into Manhattan, China can export worldwide and own global communications. China is building wind plants, is now the world’s largest producer of solar panels (an industry we used to own). Without a strategy, where you think about where we are, where we will go and put together government resources to get there, we are dead in water. And that requires diplomats.

To what do you attribute Iran’s vitriolic hatred for Israel?

Nance:  Iranians love America –they are held down by an authoritarian regime using Islamic fundamentalism which the bottom 20% believe, not the people who used to run the country or could be, not the youth who all want what all in the Mideast want – a 2018 Toyota Corolla – they want trade, to be involved with world. Hatred for Israel is a schtick.  They don’t really care – they care about religion, family and to be left alone to do what they want. If they see a threat to Al Aksa mosque, they will respond. Palestinians smartest arabs in mide, most educated – everywhere but Palestine – if I were them, would work out public-private partnership to rebuild Palestine as moderate state, so don’t get Islamic cultism of ISIS. If that happens, will be zombie scene, walk into guns. Hopefully Saudi Arabia will focus away from ‘Death to Israel.’

What is impact of Erdogan of Turkey turning his back on western values toward Islamic fundamentalism?

Stavridis: President Erdogan, an authoritarian, is consolidating power rapidly, the most accelerated of all the authoritarian leaders in having taken his nation from functioning secular democracy to one man rule in 5 years. Extraordinary. The bad news is that Turkey is vital to Europe, to US. We need a stable western-looking Turkey – now drifting out of our orbit. We should pay attention, show respect, send high level missions, but behind closed doors, convince Erdogan the trajectory he is on will isolate his nation,. He will never have cozy relationship with Russia or Iran – that won’t work for Turkey. Turkey understands that at a fundamental level. We need to work with Europeans to exert pull on Turkey also. Turkey is more than a bridge (between Asia and Europe), it is a center of power – its population will exceed Russia’s. Turkey is on the move. We need to keep them in our orbit.

The intel community wanted the $120 million appropriated by Congress to fend off cyberattacks on our electoral system. Homeland security issued an alert that Russians already in our computers that run powerplants, and now could turn off electricity. What do we do about that?

Stavridis: We need to reveal more about what we know, to underpin the argument for retaliation –so we can be more aggressive in how we retaliate. We need better private-public cooperation. Government can’t solve this by itself – all our electric grids are intertwined. We have got to get government agencies working together on cyber – agriculture, interior – nobody is focused on cybersecurity.

Considering the rise of authoritarians, what happens If in the next 3 months, Trump fires Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein, and a new one fires Mueller. Will Trump be impeached? 

Nance: Trump won’t be impeached before November. But we have guardrails. John Dean said that the day after Nixon fired Watergate investigators, the rest were still at work, he just fired the leadership. If Trump fires [Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein] (and [Special Counsel Robert] Muller), he would have sealed his doom about obstruction of justice and the investigation will continue

Stavridis: I believe Congress, including enough Republicans, would respond – not impeach, but there would be a [Constitutional] crisis and the guardrails would kick in.

In the present nuclear environment, is the doctrine of mutually assured destruction still relevant?

Stavridis: Yes.

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© 2018 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

New Yorkers Need to Demand State Legislators Support Cuomo’s Women’s Agenda

New York State Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul addresses the Council on Women and Girls Regional Forum at Long Island University: “The torch has now been passed to us. Our job is not just to pass it along, but to make sure it glows even brighter, so we look back 100 years from now, and can say, yes, we made a difference in lives in a profound way © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

New York State, the birthplace of women’s rights, is pushing for a second round of legislation to address persistent and institutional gender inequity. The state legislature needs to hear from advocates before the April 1 budget deadline.

It is laudable that these initiatives – in categories of Health, Safety, Workplace, Girls, and Family being forcefully advanced by Governor Cuomo – came after months of information gathering, listening tours, and the formation of regional Women’s Councils, coordinated by the governor’s Director of Women’s Affairs, Kelli Owens. Just having such a position is notable.

As Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, a singular champion of women’s rights in New York State, said in her remarks that opened the Council on Women and Girls Regional Forum at Long Island University on March 1,The genesis for the Council of Women and Girls came because of Washington – on the day the president said ‘We don’t need to be concerned’ and abolished the [Obama-era] Commission on Women and Girls, our governor, as in so many cases [climate action, environmental protection, gun control], stepped up to fill void created by Washington.”

Trump has moved aggressively to roll back gains women have made: restoring being a woman as a “pre-condition” for medical insurance, overturning the mandate that insurance companies provide contraception without co-pays, attacking Title X funding for health clinics including Planned Parenthood, advocating for legislation to curtail access to abortion.

Unless Congress takes action, the Violence Against Women Act will run out of funding in September. This landmark piece of legislation is a life-saver. Since its original passage, domestic violence cases are down by more than 65% nationally. If Congress’ “action” on reauthorizing CHIP is an indication, the Republican-controlled Congress will likely let this lapse as well, even as they cut billions of dollars for programs that directly affect women and families.

New York State – which Cuomo never fails to point out has been a progressive leader for the nation, a status he has worked to reclaim – has made some important gains during his administration, including aggressively pushing for economic development opportunities for Minority & Women-owned Enterprises, for wider access to pre-K programs, gun control, access to health care and guarantee for women’s reproductive rights.

In this second round of legislation and policies – notably several of which need to be adopted by the State Legislature before the April 1 deadline for adopting the budget – he is going after sexual harassment, pay equity, domestic violence, expanding access to child care, educational opportunities, job training and business investment.

New York has been celebrating the centennial of Women’s Suffrage since 1917, the year the state on its own gave women the right to vote, three years before the nation adopted the 19th Amendment.

But despite New York’s progressive policies, New York women still earn less than men for the same work: white women 89c, African American 66c, Hispanic women 54 c in New York, “and we’re the good state, where people are better off. Does that not tell you we have a long way to go?” Hochul said.

“We are convening forums around the state, to drill down why this is happening – part is institutional, cultural, part is that women don’t have childcare but want to continue on a career track, have talent, brilliance, but are primarily responsible for making sure kids are okay and there is not enough child care.” Also parental leave, not just for a newborn or adoption, but when a child or parent gets sick.

“You should be proud your state recognizes this challenge – we now have the most generous paid family leave policy – to relieve the stress of possibly losing a job when you are home with a new baby.”

“It’s about economic empowerment: getting more girls into STEM education and careers. It’s about safety and security – domestic violence” – something that has been crystallized in the Trump White House, notably with the tolerance of a credibly accused wife-beater as Trump’s secretary.

Budget initiatives (see details at https://www.ny.gov/2018-womens-opportunity-agenda-new-york/womens-opportunity-agenda-proposals) include:

Health initiatives: passing Comprehensive Contraceptive Coverage Act codifying access to contraception; codifying Roe v. Wade into state law and constitution to insure health care professionals can provide these crucial services without fear of criminal penalty; mandating insurance coverage and insuring access to IVF and fertility services; combat maternal depression and establish a maternal mortality review board (NY ranks 30th in maternal mortality); add experts in women’s health and health disparities to the State Board of Medicine.

Safety: pass the Equal Rights Amendment to add sex as a protected class; remove firearms from domestic abusers; combat sextortion and revenge porn; extend storage timeline for forensic rape kits at hospitals (from 30 days to at least five years, or when the victim turns 19); advance legislation to amend the Human Rights Law to protect all public school students from discrimination.

Workplace: combat sexual harassment in the workplace; call on NYS Common Retirement Fund to invest in companies with women and minority leadership; reauthorize the State’s Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprise Program; close the gender wage gap; support women returning to or advancing in the workforce with job training and placement services; invest $20 million in Women-Owned Businesses;  encourage more use of flexible work schedules.

Girls: expand access to computer science and engineering (STEM); launch “If You Can See It You Can Be It,” a day for girls to see what is possible; create K-12 learning module on healthy relationships; legislation requiring school districts to provide free menstrual products, in restrooms, for girls in grades 6 through 12.

Family: invest $25 million to expand pre-K and after-school programs; increase state funding by $7 million  to provide working families with affordable child care; continue enhanced Child Care Tax Credit for working families; establish a new Child Care Availability Task Force.

“All these areas converge,” Colleen Merlo, Executive Director, Long Island Against Domestic Violence, said. “Gender equality cannot be achieved unless we address all these buckets….We see that women lose time at work because of domestic violence, so if we don’t create safety at home, they are losing time at work, so are not advancing, not getting equal pay or promotion – all are interconnected with safety.”

It’s also about making it easier to vote, adding early voting (which NYS doesn’t yet have), so women who work and care for children aren’t shut out of casting a ballot – part of Cuomo’s “Democracy Agenda.”

“The torch has now been passed to us,” Hochul stated. “Our job is not just to pass it along, but to make sure it glows even brighter, so we look back 100 years from now, and can say, yes, we made a difference in lives in a profound way, that we spoke up for people without voices.”

What to do? First: contact state representatives to urge them to vote on the budget and legislation bolstering the Women’s Agenda. Planned Parenthood of Nassau County, among others, is mounting a lobbying day in Albany on March 13, to join Cecile Richards, President of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, and more than 1,000 activists from across New York State, to advocate for pro-reproductive health legislation.

Call and write representatives, yes. March, yes, Protest, yes. Spread the word with social media, yes. Vote, absolutely.

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© 2018 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Cuomo Issues Challenge to Trump: ‘This is the Moment’ to Stop Scourge of Gun Violence

New York State Governor tells Trump: “The American gun crisis has long been a plague and scourge on our country. You can do something about it and the American people would support it. This is the moment.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

 

New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo issued an open letter to President Trump.

Dear Mr. President,

The old adage is right: “go with your first instinct.” Your White House meeting with bipartisan federal legislators right after the Florida massacre appeared and was unscripted and productive. You essentially had one question that summed up what every American was feeling: “why?” Why sell guns to young people who can’t yet buy a beer? Why sell assault weapons that are designed to kill so many people so quickly? Why not take guns from the mentally ill before they hurt someone or themselves? Why not make sure every gun purchaser goes through a background check?

There was no answer from the electeds assembled, because there is no answer – except the one you suggested – they are afraid of the NRA.

Major political change comes when a window of opportunity opens and a leader seizes the moment. There are brief moments in history where attention, passion and drive combine to unite the American people and overwhelm the forces preserving the status quo and create change.

The American gun crisis has long been a plague and scourge on our country. You can do something about it and the American people would support it. This is the moment. The Republicans will follow your lead. Yes, they fear the NRA, but they fear the enraged citizen majority more.

In New York, after the Sandy Hook massacre, the nation had a similar moment. It was a moment of grief and pain and anger. Sandy Hook touched the hearts and minds of every day Americans. It was anyone’s child – it was everyone’s child. In the immediate aftermath of Sandy Hook we passed the New York Safe Act – common sense gun safety. It has made a dramatic difference, it didn’t negatively affect any legal gun owners, and I believe it has saved lives.

Mentally ill and dangerous people shouldn’t have guns so we need universal background checks. When a person shows signs of mental distress or violence, there should be a provision for police to investigate and determine the facts – a “red flag bill.” Domestic violence offenders should not have guns. Assault weapons are too dangerous in the wrong hands and not worth the risk. In 1938 we outlawed machine guns in this Country precisely for the same reason: they were too dangerous if obtained by the wrong person. Does anyone miss not owning machine guns?

For those of us who serve in government, if we are lucky, we may have a few moments that present a real opportunity to make a lasting difference. There are brief openings where transformational progress is possible and you have that opportunity now. The moments are rare and fleeting. They are leadership moments: don’t squander it.

The political advisers are wrong. NRA members will be nervous about any government change and intervention but they will ultimately realize a functioning system vindicates legitimate gun owners rather than demonizing all. If you lose this moment, I am sad to say there will probably be another shooting and the Country will be in the same place, and it will once again pose the question that you posed – “why?” “Why didn’t we do anything about this after Florida?” You have the responsibility to stop that from happening.

If You Value a Free, Open Internet, Push Congress to Act Now to Preserve Net Neutrality

Handing monopolistic control to Big Cable companies like NBC Universal, which aired the 2018 Olympics (Vice President Mike Pence ignoring Kim Yo-jong, sister of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un at opening ceremonies) by overturning Net Neutrality rules gives these companies the ability to censor or promote what we see and information we consume.

 

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Well, it happened. Despite overwhelming opposition, Federal Communications Commission Chair Ajit Pai, the former Verizon thug, overturned Net Neutrality rules. The proof of how evil this is: the next day, moments before Pai was to speak at the Neo-Nazi CPAC convention, the NRA honored him with the “Charlton Heston Courage Under Fire Award” for repealing the net neutrality rules.

They weren’t allowed to bring Pai’s “prize” on stage – a handmade rifle (how ironic) – but it was forthcoming.

Pai, a former Verizon lawyer who joked in December about being “Verizon’s puppet” argued that the net neutrality rules were too “heavy handed.” But net neutrality proponents – including consumer advocacy groups and tech companies – counter that the rules are necessary to prevent monopolistic broadband providers from engaging in censorship and from harming competitors.

February 27 was Operation: #OneMoreVote day of action to save net neutrality. “There needs to be a massive outcry from Americans across the country to stop Ajit Pai and the FCC from handing over control of the internet to companies like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T,” writes Katie O’Connell, Digital Communications Coordinator for People for the American Way (pfaw.org)

“Despite enormous public opposition, the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality has officially been entered into the Federal Register. Now the Senate must act in the next 60 days to stop the repeal and save the internet or big cable companies will have the control over the internet they’ve always wanted.”

Overturning Net Neutrality rules mean that Big Cable companies can censor content, slow or throttle sites, inhibit newcomers from ever taking hold, and shake down viewers for more and higher fees. It means it will be harder for the next innovator, the next Facebook or Reddit or Twitter or Netflix to get a foothold.

For instance, Comcast owns NBC Universal and, before, was not allowed to throttle Netflix streaming speeds to make it less desirable for viewers compared to its own NBC Universal content.

You would think this means that Google can accede to massive pressure to shut down NRATV, but that is doubtful. The NRA isn’t worried because they know that in the new paradigm, money talks, just as Citizens United turned political campaigns into a Fantasy League sport of billionaires.

Proof of how politicized and self-serving Pai is: he is under investigation by the FCC Inspector General for greasing the wheels for the Sinclair media company to acquire Tribune Media – which would create the largest TV broadcast company in the nation’ and result in unacceptable levels of media concentration – access to 70% of households, when 39% is the limit. This is a media company even more overtly political and conservative than (if you can believe it), News Corp/Fox. In 2016, Jared Kushner bragged that the campaign had struck a deal with Sinclair to provide access to his father-in-law, Donald Trump, in exchange for broadcasting pro-Trump segments without commentary, writes Murshed Zaheed, Political Director of CREDO Action from Working Assets.

Meanwhile, the Trump Administration set its Department of Justice to coerce Time Warner to shed CNN (vilified by Trump as a “fake news” monger) in order to allow the merger with AT&T to go forward.

A coalition of 23 state attorneys general are challenging the repeal of net neutrality rules in court, as are Mozilla, Vimeo and consumer advocacy groups. Senator Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts) said last week after Pai issued the new rules that he is pressing forward with a resolution to scrap the FCC’s recent move. So far, that effort has garnered the support of 50 senators. Just one more vote in the Senate could overturn the repeal.

Under provision of the Congressional Review Act, a simple majority of Congress in both the House and the Senate can overturn the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality if they act within 60 legislative days (which takes 4-6 months)—and the pro-Big Cable leadership can’t stop them.

Senator Chuck Schumer has announced that he’ll force a vote on reinstating net neutrality protections. A number of Republicans have at least claimed to support net neutrality in the past. On the other hand, there are so many deadlines and issues that have come to the fore – gun control, the federal budget – it will be easy for the Trump Administration to bury it.

A survey conducted by the University of Maryland late last year revealed that 83% of Americans — including 75% of Republicans — disapproved of the planned repeal. Last year, millions urged the FCC to keep net neutrality rules in place.(Though, ironically, despite evidence of millions of Russian bots, some using stolen identities, inserting comments, Pai refused to delay the vote, as New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and others urged.)

A free and open internet provides an important platform and access for small companies and communities of color. “The open internet allows people of color and other vulnerable communities to bypass traditional media gatekeepers. Without Net Neutrality, ISPs could block speech and prevent dissident voices from speaking freely online. Without Net Neutrality, people of color would lose a vital platform,” writes Free Press Action Fund. “Small businesses depend on fair and free communications to get the word out about their services and products, too. Imagine if a company could sell premium space to the highest bidder? How would we ever find that great mom-owned business, or start-up service in our town? We wouldn’t.”

The Trump Administration, which from public education to health care to Social Security, energy, environmental, trade and foreign policy has demonstrated that money talks, has nothing but contempt for free and fair flow of media. The federal budget proposes to slash funding altogether for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (PBS and NPR), yet has done little to force Facebook and Twitter to adhere to the same disclosure rules as every television and radio station, newspaper and magazine must adhere to, to prevent Russian agents from undertaking propaganda and disinformation campaigns intended to suppress voting and sow conflict and discontent.

But here’s the thing: news was supposed to be freely accessed in order to have an “educated” citizenry capable of casting ballots. Instead, free broadcast was replaced by the need to subscribe to some sort of cable or satellite provider; an internet provider; a cell telephone provider. I don’t know about you but I’m spending well over $200/month just on “telecommunications”.

Media providers become the conduit to culture, and culture is values. News Corp, Disney, Comcast, Universal – which dominate media – can decide which programs convey the social message they want and price accordingly, both to the content provider and the consumer: NRATV promoting gun violence under guise of “Second Amendment freedom? Free. Documentary on Elizabeth Warren and a fair deal for all? Expensive for both the producer and for consumers to subscribe to see it. Or think of charging a premium to producers of Will & Grace, a show which helped America see LGBT community as real people, or Murphy Brown, which promoted women’s rights, but giving evangelist Franklin Graham unlimited distribution.

Seem fantastical? Well, Facebook systematically charged the Clinton campaign significantly more for ad space than the Trump campaign because Clinton’s ads were less “provocative.” They could claim the difference in cost is how fast they want their video to download. Let’s remember that the Supreme Court “Citizens United” case that opened the floodgates to political spending was a group that had produced an anti-Hillary Clinton hit-piece (Scalia, an activist, not an ‘originalist’ jurist, resurrected the case in order to establish the precedent that cash is equivalent to speech.)

It goes to the overall theme of Trumpism: weaponizing wealth – dollars are not just “free speech” (as Scalia and the right-wing Supreme Court said in Citizens United) but a measure and means of political power – and pulling up the ladder to upward mobility for everyone else – public education, public access TV and radio.

Instead of “Got Milk?” Trump administration slogan is “Got Cash?”

Congress needs to act and legislate the reality that the online world, the Internet, the world-wide-web is an essential utility, a critical tool for nationhood and democracy, and access and messaging should not be determined by money.

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