New Yorkers Rally to #StopTheBans and Preserve Reproductive Freedom

New York City Stop the Bans rally to preserve reproductive rights: “I Survived.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News& Photo Features

As women rallied across the country in a national day of action against the rush of abortion bans, New York City said New York State would become a sanctuary and the city would seek to create a fund to help women who cannot afford to obtain abortion services.

Hundreds turned out in downtown Manhattan across from the US Court Building at a rally to #StopTheBans – the epidemic of increasingly draconian anti-abortion legislation designed to force the Supreme Court to render a new decision they believe will overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade which established that women have a constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy up until the time the fetus was viable outside the womb, 24 weeks. Many states not only put significant barriers that have forced clinics to close, chipping away at the “undue burden” provision that has endured subsequent Supreme Court scrutiny, leaving only one or two clinics in a state, but all but 15 states deny  Medicaid funding to cover abortions, while many private insurance companies also do not cover abortion services.

“A right without true access is merely a privilege,” said New York Abortion Access Fund’s Maddy Durante.

At the federal level, Republicans in Congress have tried multiple times to end funding to Planned Parenthood despite the Hyde Amendment’s prohibition of any federal funds to be spent on abortion services, is . Now, the Trump Administration is allowing private insurers to offer policies that do not cover maternity care, dismissing the rising rates of maternal mortality, especially among minorities and lower income women, as Trump reverses the gains in access to care made under Obamacare.

New York City Stop the Bans rally to preserve reproductive rights: “Maternal mortality is increasing.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

But though New York State’s recently adopted Reproductive Health Act not only allows for abortions beyond 24 weeks of gestation in cases where the mother’s life is at risk or the fetus is not viable, and also expands the professionals authorized to conduct abortions to certain physicians assistants, nurses and midwives, if the Supreme Court adopts the concept of fetal personhood, as these new extreme laws propose, that could jeopardize the legality of abortions everywhere.

That is a reason that many of the speakers at the Tuesday Stop the Bans Day of Action rally in New York called for a renewed rise in a nationwide movement to protect reproductive freedom, and insisted, “We are not going back.”

Here are highlights from the rally:

New York City Stop the Bans rally to preserve reproductive rights: “Together We Fight For All” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“From Alabama to Ohio, extremist politicians are trying to ban safe, legal abortions,” declared Leann Risk, associate director, community organizing for Planned Parenthood, NYC.  “Activists in all 50 states are engaged in a massive show of strength. We will not stand for the bans, not now, not ever, no way.”

Laura McQuade, Pres, CEO of Planned Parenthood NY: “We won’t stand for blatant injustice against our reproductive rights. ” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Laura McQuade, President and CEO Of Planned Parenthood NYC, declared,  “We say to delusional politicians, stop the abortion bans. ..We are facing a sick attempt to strip us of fundamental humanity and autonomy. This is a coordinated attempt to drive care underground, to force a showdown in the Supreme Court…

“Fact: 73% of Americans do not want to overturn Roe; nearly one in four women in the United States will have an abortion in her lifetime.

New York City Stop the Bans rally to preserve reproductive rights: “We Will Not Go Back.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“These are not lawmakers, but lawbreakers, trying to dismantle rights we have had for nearly five decades. We won’t stand for blatant injustice against our reproductive rights. Abortion is the law of the land – legal today, will be legal tomorrow, as long as Planned Parenthood (which has existed over 103 years) and ACLU and so many others exist.”

NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer declared, “It’s time for NYC to become the first in the nation to directly fund abortion care – guarantee access to abortion regardless of the ability to pay.” He is advocating a New York City Abortion Access Fund.

Gloria Allred: “We will never allow abortion to be criminalized again.. No elected official has the right to make a choice for us. Resist. Insist. Persist. Elect Pro Choice candidates.”   © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Gloria Allred, the high-profile attorney, revealed her own terrifying experience, nearly bleeding to death when she was in her 20s because of a back alley abortion after being raped at gunpoint.

“As I lay hemorrhaging in a bathtub, [the abortionist] said, ‘It’s your problem now.’ Back then, the only time you would be admitted to a hospital is if you were bleeding to death. I was running 106 degree fever. I was put in a ward with others suffering after an illegal abortion” where the patients were shamed.

“The nurse told me, ‘This should teach you a lesson,’” Allred said. “It taught me a lesson all right: abortion should be safe, legal, affordable and accessible!

“We will never allow abortion to be criminalized again.. No elected official has the right to make a choice for us. Resist. Insist. Persist. Elect Pro Choice candidates.”

New York City’s First Lady Chirlane McCray: “The bans are about control. The people pushing the bans are chipping away at our rights…We cannot be silent.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

New York City’s First Lady, Chirlane McCray, said, “The bans are about control. The people pushing the bans are chipping away at our rights…We cannot be silent. Women are more than half the population. We will tell [these politicians] ‘Women brought you into this world and women can take you out [pause] of office. We will march, organize, donate and vote.”

NYC Mayor Bill DiBlasio with wife Chirlane McCray: “We know women will die because of these laws. We know the American people will support freedom of women. The rights of women matter most.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

She was soon joined by Mayor Bill DiBlasio who said, “New York respects women. We are not going back. This is a fight for our lives. We know women will die because of these laws. We know the American people will support freedom of women. The rights of women matter most.”

Eve Ensler, who wrote The Vagina Monologues: “Get your invasive, violent hands off our bodies. Our vaginas, uterus, minds are out of the bottle and we ain’t going fucking back.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Eve Ensler playwright, performer, feminist, and activist, best known for her play “The Vagina Monologues,” shared her own experience getting an abortion. “That abortion was the smartest thing I have done…. Tell that predator-in-chief and those misogynists, ‘Get your invasive, violent hands off our bodies. Our vaginas, uterus, minds are out of the bottle and we ain’t going fucking back. My body, my choice. Are you up for the fight?”

“We are here because we are outraged,” said Andrea Miller, president and CEO of the National Institute for Reproductive Health (NIRH). “These anti-abortion extremists tell women they can’t be trusted to make our own decisions. They don’t believe we should have the right to control our bodies, our families, our futures. That we are not able to choose our destiny. We say no. The decision whether, when, with whom to have children belongs to us, not politicians.

Andrea Miller, president and CEO of the National Institute for Reproductive Health: The decision whether, when, with whom to have children belongs to us, not politicians. .” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“New York State passed the Reproductive Health Act. We knew what was coming, coming for our rights. We aren’t just seeing things go back. We are partnering with people moving forward. New York is not done if reproductive rights are not accessible, affordable.”

The NIRH is partnering with New York City on the first Abortion Action Campaign Fund – seeking $250,000 in the city’s budget to fund abortion care for those who cannot afford it. Call the City Council to show support.

“We know our health, our lives, our futures depends on stopping the bans. Make sure abortion is safe, legal, accessible, affordable.”

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer: “A frigging tough fight is ahead but we will never back down.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer urged support for the city to pass the funding. “To say we’re livid is an understatement… [The impact of these fetal personhood bills means] that a woman who suffers a miscarriage could be in the middle of a criminal investigation. Before Roe, women died, now abortion is one of the safest medical procedures that can be performed.

“A frigging tough fight is ahead but we will never back down,” she declared, prompting chants of “Won’t go back. Won’t go back.”

Clara Williams, a Planned Parenthood patient, related how difficult, how complicated and how personal the decision to seek an abortion is. At the time of her abortion, she was very young, her partner had left her, she did not feel she could properly care for a child.

Clara Williams, a Planned Parenthood patient, “What kind of life is it if we aren’t the authority, don’t have the right, to control our own destiny.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“That is a decision no one can make for you, least of all a politician,” she said. “The rash of bans sweeping the nation, to force a showdown with the Supreme Court, make abortion inaccessible to communities of color, people of low income. Banning doesn’t end abortion, just marginalizes it.

“Abortion is nobody’s business. Whatever the reason, it is not undertaken flippantly. But what kind of life is it if we aren’t the authority, don’t have the right, to control our own destiny?”

“Abortion is necessary health care, and health care is a human right. Punishing those who provide health care, the doctors, is inhumane and cruel.”

Donna Lieberman of the New York Civil Liberties Union said, “We won’t let them turn the 21st century into Handmaid’s Tale…If they cared about life, they would be expanding health care, not making it a crime.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Donna Lieberman of the New York Civil Liberties Union said, “We won’t let them turn the 21st century into Handmaid’s Tale. It is ironic that those who would ban abortion claim to care about life, but Georgia has the highest maternal mortality rate in the country, Alabama has the highest infant mortality rate. If they cared about life, they would be expanding health care, not making it a crime.

“I am fortunate to live in New York. New York has stepped up to pass the Reproductive Health Act, which codifies Roe, protects New York from criminals led by the philanderer-in-chief and his sanctimonious minions. He may have stacked the court, but we won’t let them turn back the clock.”

The ACLU is mounting legal challenges in Georgia and Alabama.

“We will tell the philanderer in chief, ‘We’ll see you in court.’”

The vast majority – almost three out of four Americans – support a woman’s right to choose and preserving Roe, and they vote.

New York City Stop the Bans rally to preserve reproductive rights: “The Handmaid’s Tale is not an instruction manual.

“We know New York supports women’s right to control their own bodies. We rallied to make New York a sanctuary city against the Trump crusade against immigrants. We must also be a sanctuary for women. Thanks to the effort of the ACLU and others, abortion is legal in all 50 states and we have stopped the bans [from being enacted] so far. New York City, New York State must be a sanctuary..”

But even though New York State was one of the first to legislate reproductive rights, before the 1973 Roe v Wade decision, the laws were still surprisingly repressive, criminalizing abortion after 24 weeks.

Garin Marshall related his experience when he and his wife learned at 30 weeks that the fetus she was carrying, “a baby that was very much wanted”, was not viable. “We were denied care in New York State [because of the 24-week ban].” But they had the means to seek services elsewhere. Nonetheless, their experience helped change the law in New York, passing the Reproductive Health Act.

“Abortion was the right choice for our family. People are deserving of autonomy, dignity, respect,” Marshall said.

Garin Marshall helped pass the Reproductive Health Act in New York. “Men benefit from access to legal, safe, affordable abortion. Men created this problem. The house is on fire, but it is our house.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

But, he argued, this is not just women’s issue. Men have much at stake as well, for the women in their lives they love, and their families.

“Men benefit from access to legal, safe, affordable abortion. Men created this problem, especially white men, who held on to power and used it. Good men who do nothing have allowed this situation…This is our problem, too. The house is on fire, but it is our house.

“Fight for access to abortion throughout pregnancy, with no person left behind.”

NYC Councilmember Helen Rosenthal: “We can’t let these men who have no idea what they’re talking about get away with this crap. I used to walk around with a necklace with a hangar. We won’t go back, but only if we become a movement. Abortion access saves lives.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Councilmember Helen Rosenthal, who has been fighting for abortion rights for 20 years, declared, “We can’t let these men who have no idea what they’re talking about get away with this crap.

#StopTheBans Rally, NYC
New York City Stop the Bans rally to preserve reproductive rights: “Never Again.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“I used to walk around with a necklace with a hangar. We won’t go back, but only if we become a movement. Abortion access saves lives.

Planned Parenthood of NY Chief Medical Officer Ila Dayananda, “This is an attack on all of us. Under these laws, the fact a doctor can receive jail time for providing service is horrific. One in four women will have an abortion in their lifetime. Health care is a fundamental human right.

Planned Parenthood of NY Chief Medical Officer Ila Dayananda: “There is no banning abortion, only banning safe, legal abortion…People deserve to be empowered to make their own decision. We won’t go back. Smash the patriarchy.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“There is no banning abortion, only banning safe, legal abortion. These bans particularly hurt women of color, low income. They should receive nothing less than compassion, expert health care, and to be able to make the decision for themselves. There are many complicated factors in this decision. People deserve to be empowered to make their own decision.

“We won’t go back. Smash the patriarchy.”

[Poster: Keep your filthy laws off my silky drawers]

New York Abortion Access Fund’s Maddy Durante urged financial support for those in New York seeking abortion.

“Abortion access is out of reach for many for a long time – both financial and legal access. If private insurance doesn’t cover an abortion, it is a potentially astronomical cost. Often, people can’t use insurance because of privacy and safety, because they fear partner violence.

Maddy Durante of New York Abortion Access Fund: “Care has been inaccessible for a long time. A right without true access is merely a privilege.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“Our clients are immigrants, people living in affordable housing, undergoing family separation, parents and caregivers, and increasingly, people traveling to New York. They may have Medicaid but many states don’t allow Medicaid coverage for abortions.”

She said her organization has already provided assistance to 590 people through grass roots fundraising.

“Care has been inaccessible for a long time. A right without true access is merely a privilege. Petition the City Council to fund Abortion NYC.”

[Poster: I wish my uterus shot bullets, so the government wouldn’t regulate it.]

Shaavronna Newsome, Director of Operations for Black Lives Matter, NYC: “People imposing bans are hiding behind Christianity, but this is really about declining birthrate, capitalism, patriarchy. I am grateful to be in New York where I can choose.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Director of Operations for Black Lives Matter, NYC, Shaavronna Newsome. “People imposing bans are hiding behind Christianity, but this is really about declining birthrate, capitalism, patriarchy. I am grateful to be in New York where I can choose.”

Celia Petty, a founding member of NYC for Abortion Rights, told how she has had three abortions in her life – the first when she was very young and had just broken up with her boyfriend. “This was the 1970s. I wasn’t capable of raising a child. I was afraid I would regret. But I was relieved that I could wait until ready.”

Celia Petty of New York for Abortion Rights: “We seek full reproductive justice, the right to bear children in a safe, healthy environment. We want a grass roots movement to demand reproductive freedom – the right to control our bodies and our lives.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Her second was when she found she was pregnant with a six month old baby (don’t believe you can’t get pregnant if you are nursing). “I was trying to work full time and still care for a new baby. I couldn’t manage.”

The third time was again, despite using birth control, when she got pregnant with a 10-month old baby in the house. “I had to work to make ends meet. An abortion saved my life,” she says as her young granddaughter, clings to her leg as she speaks at the podium.

“A lot of women have abortions out of more desperate situations.”

An active founding member of New York for Abortion Rights, she said, “We seek full reproductive justice, the right to bear children in a safe, healthy environment. We want a grass roots movement to demand reproductive freedom – the right to control our bodies and our lives.”

That prompts the chant:  “Without this basic right, women can’t be free. Abortion on demand, without apology.”

#StopTheBans Rally, NYC
#StopTheBans Rally, NYC
#StopTheBans Rally, NYC
#StopTheBans Rally, NYC
New York City Stop the Bans rally to preserve reproductive rights: “Trust Women.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The New Yorkers who rallied in front of the US Courthouse in downtown Manhattan, were among tens of thousands of people gathered at more than 500 events in all 50 states, DC, and Puerto Rico on the Stop the Bans Day of Action.

Add your name to ppaction.org

Speak out on social media, #StopTheBans

See also:

Protesters Take to the Streets Against Escalated War on Women

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© 2019 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go towww.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging atwww.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us onfacebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Biden Opens 2020 Campaign for President with Pledge to Unify Country: ‘Let’s stop fighting and start fixing’

Former Vice President Joe Biden officially launches his 2020 Campaign for President at a rally in Philadelphia. “Let’s stop fighting and start fixing.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Joe Biden, two-term Vice President under Barack Obama, officially launched his own campaign for 2020 at a rally in Philadelphia, his wife, Dr. Jill Biden’s hometown and the city where the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, were birthed and for the first time, structured a government around “We the people.”

“I am running for three basic reasons,” he declared. “I want to restore the soul of this country…I want to rebuild the backbone of this country, this time bringing everyone along, the middle class — the middle class that built this country. And thirdly I want to unite the country.”

“In 1776, the Declaration of Independence: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident.’ Those words formed the American creed. Equality. Equity. Fairness. America didn’t live up to that promise for most of its people, for people of color, for women.

“But we are born of the idea that every single person in this country — no matter where you start in life — there’s nothing that’s beyond your capacity if you work hard enough for it.”

Unity – one America united around common values and a belief that each is entitled to the same opportunity – is a big theme for Biden, who blasted the divisiveness, the dysfunction of government, starting with Donald Trump.

“Some say Democrats don’t want to hear about unity. That they are angry– and the angrier you are – the better. That’s what they are saying to have to do to win the Democratic nomination. Well, I don’t believe it. I believe Democrats want to unify this nation. That’s what we’ve always been about. Unity.

“If the American people want a president to add to our division, to lead with a clenched fist, closed hand and a hard heart, to demonize the opponents and spew hatred —  they don’t need me. They already have a President who does just that. I am running to offer our country – Democrats, Republicans and Independents – a different path.”  

“I know how to make government work. I’ve worked across the aisle to reach consensus. And I can do that again with your help,” he said, often having to speak over a heckler and whistles.

“Compromise is not a dirty word; consensus is no a weakness – the founders designed constitution to require consensus – it’s what I did as Senator, what I did as vice president working with Barack Obama…

If I’m elected your president, I will do whatever to make progress on matters that matter most – civil rights, women’s rights, climate change policy that will save our children, grandchildren.

“I know there are times when only a bare knuckle fight will do –I can take on Republicans. That’s what took to pass the Affordable Care Act – it was a big… deal…

“Barack Obama was an extraordinary man…. Someone your children looked up to…I’m proud to have served as his vice president [and proudest of] passing health care. Past administrations tried and failed; it was done by Obama without a single Republican vote.

“The Recovery Act [at the time of America’s biggest economic crisis] was a big reason we have had 10 years of uninterrupted economic growth…

“Trump likes to take credit for economy and economic growth – but look at facts, not alternative facts- he inherited a strong economy from the Obama-Biden administration.

“The Recovery Act helped save the country from economic ruin –  we had to get the work done – if we hadn’t, we could have had another Great Depression . Working together matters. The American people want government to work.

“The country is sick of division, sick of childish behavior – there isn’t a single person in this country who could get away with that in their job. All people want is for their senator, their congressman to do their job, and above all, a president who measures the day by people he brings together rather than division he sows…a president obsessing over personal grievance.

“The rest of the world isn’t waiting. China not waiting – they’re building 5G, mastering AI, rewriting the rules of the internet, moving into areas that shouldn’t be abandoned by us. The rest of the world isn’t abandoning the Paris Climate Accord…

“The greatest challenge we face will be over technology, intellectual property, clean energy, a warming planet – and not a single thing that building a wall [or attacking immigrants] can address….

“We have to focus on the future .. we will invest in educational assistance our people need to succeed in 21st century because any country that out-educates us will out compete us.”

He declared. “Let’s stop fighting and start fixing,” prompting cheers of “We want Joe. We want Joe.”

On health care, he said that instead of starting over, certainly not tear down, “we need to go to the next step” with the Affordable Care Act.

On infrastructure, he said, “Highways, ports, airports need to be greener, more rational. No one should have to drink poisoned water; protect the nation from cyber attack [and bring] solar and wind energy across the same lines.

“We know what we have to do.That’s why I’m running – stop fighting, start fixing… together.

“There is not much time left,” he declared. “We need a clean energy revolution, starting now. Clean energy and jobs creation go together…

“We have to work together to get it done….We need a president who will lead.”

Getting down to brass tacks, he said, “The single most important priority on my list: defeat Donald Trump…

“I’ve watched [Trump] for 3 years instilling fear, undermining every institution designed to check abuse of power- all to solidify his base and expand power.

“Attacks on free press as the enemy of the people is nothing to be dismissed – tyrants, dictators all over the world use the same [rhetoric]. Attacking the independence of courts – saying he cannot trust a judge because of his Mexican ancestry, that’s not America, Democrat or Republican.

“Attack on Congress to legitimately engage in oversight a without whimper of Republicans in Congress who should know better…

“This undermines our standing around the world.

“Are we a nation that believes in the moral equivalent between neo-Nazis and the KKK, and those with courage to stand against them? We don’t but Trump does.

“Are we a nation who believes it’s okay to tear children from the arms of parents at the border? We don’t but Trump does.

“Are we a nation that [coddles up to] a tyrant like Kim Jong Un? We don’t but Tump does.

“Remember who we are, what we stand for, what we believe. Every day I am reminded nothing is guaranteed by our democracy, we have to fight for it, earn it.”

Biden cited Lincoln’s Gettsburg Address, saying, “the great task remaining before us, that government of, by, for the people shall not perish from the earth.

“That challenge has been handed down to every generation. That challenge is now handed to us, that future generations will measure us by. Will we be the ones to let government of, by, for the people perish from the earth?

“We will not, I will not, you will not let perish on my watch or yours.

But while we confront “the biggest threat any of us have faced in our entire lifetime,” he added, “on other hand, we‘ve never had a future more promising.

“I’m more optimistic about America’s future today, than when I was first elected, too young to be sworn in. We are in a better position to lead in the 21st century. Our workers are 3 times as productive, we have the biggest economy in the world, the strongest military in the history of the world. Entrepreneurs…there are more great research universities in this city, this state, this country than all the world combined..

“We lead by the power of example not by the example of power. The only thing to defeat America is America itself and we cannot let that happen.

“Let them know who we are, what we stand for – unity over division.”

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© 2019 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

What I Learned From Traveling Around the World in 23 Days

Inle Lake, Myanmar. A trip around the world affords an opportunity to meet people on their own turf. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News& Photo Features

Bill Chalmers, the “ringmaster” and Chief Experience Officer of the Global Scavenger Hunt, launches us on this around-the-world-in-23-days mystery tour with what he calls a “chimpanzee test” – a test where a chimpanzee is likely to get more answers right than a human being who has news and information available to them. The test basically demonstrates that unlike the gloom-and-doom of headlines, the trendlines are positive and these are actually the best of times for human society.

Throughout this Global Scavenger Hunt, “A Blind Date With the World” – where we don’t know where we are going next until we are told when to go to the airport or get ourselves there, and along the way, complete scavenges and challenges –  we are encouraged, even forced, to “trust in the kindness of strangers.” To interact with local people even when we can’t understand each other’s language. To learn and understand for ourselves.

For me, it is an incomparable opportunity to see in close proximity and context what is happening in countries literally around the globe – to examine this notion of American Exceptionalism, America First; to see the scope of such hot-button issues as trade, technology, migration and how they have played out over the longer course of human civilization. (I have a theory that 98% of Trump’s so-called hard-core base have never traveled beyond their own provincial border.)

As Chalmers notes, it is conceit to think we can parachute into places and understand the nuances of complex issues, but still, travel is about seeing for yourself, but also gaining an understanding of one another, disabusing stereotypes or caricatures, and most significantly, not seeing others as “other”, which works both ways. In very real ways (and especially now), travelers are ambassadors, no less than diplomats. Isolating people is not how change happens – that only hardens points of view, and makes people susceptible to fear-mongering and all the bad things that have happened throughout human history as a result. “See for yourself,” Chalmers tells us.

This is particularly poignant when we arrive in Myanmar:  One of the first things I see upon arriving in Yangon, Myanmar (formerly known as Rangoon in its colonial days) is the National Human Rights Commission which at this juncture, strikes as ironic. But despite the awful headlines, we all find the people of Myanmar to be kind, gentle, considerate. And a complete lack of politics or angst.

And just after returning home, the two prizewinning Reuters journalists imprisoned for their reporting of the deadly crackdown on the Rohingya, were released.

War Remnants Museum, Ho C hi Minh City, Vietnam. Press photos from international journalists from the time of the Vietnam War document the atrocities committed and go unpunished © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Vietnam is a testament to the resiliency of human society to rebound after wars and other crises (as we see everywhere, in fact – in Spain, in Portugal, in Greece, places that suffered during World War II, and you reflect on the success of the alliances that set the stage for 70 years of progress, now being weakened). In Vietnam, visiting the Chu Chi Tunnels and the War Remnants Museum, you cannot help but feel ashamed at the war crimes that remain unpunished because of the wealth and power of the United States.

In Gibraltar, still a colony of Great Britain, I come upon a May Day labor rally that could have been New York City: Privatization. Nonconsultation and lack of transparency. Unfair distribution. Wage increases that don’t keep up with the cost of living.

May Day Rally in Gibraltar © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Abu Dhabi is like a fantasy of a society built on oil wealth, conspicuous ostentation, a gallery of skyscrapers that defy physics; Amman, Jordan, on the other hand, is the real world. But my side trip to Petra – a fantastic city carved out of the rock faces, showed how greatness is made possible by innovations in engineering a water supply. Petra was able to dominate (and protect) the caravan routes, and the result was fabulous art and culture.

This theme picked up again in Athens, visiting the National Archaeological Museum, where I am struck by the artistry from 2500 years ago (themes and imagery that I will see again repeated throughout history on our final stop in New York City, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art) and realize that the human species is not smarter or better than thousands of years ago, we just have better tools and technology.

But this panel about 6th Century Greece stood out that notes the nexus between trade, migration, innovation, democracy and culture and rise of empire:

“The nature of the economy underwent a radical change as a result of the growth of trade. A new class of citizens emerged who were conscious of liberty and its potential and now demanded the right to play an active role in the running of public affairs….The liberty that was characteristic of the Greek way of life and which governed their thinking finds eloquent expression in their artistic creations. …Works of art and artists moved freely along the trade routes. The wealth and power of the city-states were expressed in the erection of monumental, lavishly adorned temples and impressive public welfare works.

“Greeks turned their attention to the natural world and to phenomena that gave rise to philosophical speculation, formulative ideas such as those of matter, the atom, force, space and time, and laying the foundations of science…”

But then came the rise of the Persian Empire and the Persian Wars.

Banquet Relief of Malku with Two Attendants, ca early 3rd C, artifact from Palmyra. The ancient site has been destroyed by ISIS and the artifacts looted © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

These themes are repeated in New York City  where our “Global Scavenger Hunt” ends. At the Metropolitan Museum of Art where the challenge I take is to find objects from five of the countries we visited, and this leads me to a fascinating exhibit, “The World Between Empires: Art and Identity in the Ancient Middle East.” The museum rarely (if ever) becomes political, but in this exhibit, archaeologists comment on the destruction of Palmyra and other ancient sites by ISIS.

“It may seem frivolous to focus on monuments, museums when people are enslaved and killed. But to wipe out, destroy culture is a way of destroying people. We must protect heritage as well.”

Palmyra only exists now “on paper” and in photos after the destruction by ISIS © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

It is a humbling experience, to be sure, to go to the origins of the great civilizations, fast forward to today. How did they become great? How did they fall? Greatness is not inevitable or forever.  Empires rise and fall. Rulers use religion, art and monuments to establish their credibility and credentials to rule; successors blot out the culture and re-write history. Traveling around the world, you appreciate just what a small world it is, how interdependent we are, how vulnerable our societies are, and that individuals do have impact. Also, that people everywhere are more similar than different.

I come back to a monstrously disturbing New York Times headline: “Humans Are Speeding Extinction and Altering the Natural World at an ‘Unprecedented’ Pace:”

“Humans are transforming Earth’s natural landscapes so dramatically that as many as one million plant and animal species are now at risk of extinction, posing a dire threat to ecosystems that people all over the world depend on for their survival, a sweeping new United Nations assessment has concluded.”

The Barbary Macaques delight visitors to Gibraltar but the loss of 1 million species due to human activity and development is more threatening to society and civilization than the impact on tourism revenue © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

In this case, headlines are trendlines. And it isn’t just about aesthetics or seeing animals like the Barbary Macaques that delight tourists in Gibraltar, but whole economies and sustenance. It is a matter of national security, peace and progress. It is about food and water supply, disease, habitable spaces. Sea level rise alone is expected to trigger 300 million climate refugees, competing for dwindling resources. There have been periods of mass extinction in the past – in fact, homo sapiens (us) were touch and go there for awhile.

Chalmers started off our “Blind Date With the World” with the Nicholas Kristof model, that these are actually the best of times for human society despite the gloom and doom headlines. But I disagree: the trendlines are not that hopeful. We may well be living in a golden age of human capacity, but we must recognize that we now have the power of the Gods to shape, to destroy or to create. And we seem too short-sighted to see that.

“Governments must start putting people and the planet ahead of corporate interests and greed and act with the urgency this report illustrates,” writes Annie Leonard, Executive Director, Greenpeace USA. “Leaders must adopt strong targets and implementation plans to protect biodiversity with the active participation and Free, Prior, and Informed Consent of Indigenous Peoples and local communities. Instead of plundering the forests and seas for short-term profit we need to shift our system into one that respects planetary boundaries.”

The Greek Gods may well have the last laugh at the extraordinary ability humans have to destroy themselves.

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© 2019 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

Hundreds Join #ReleasetheReport Rally in Times Square, NYC during Nationwide ‘Nobody is Above the Law Day of Action’

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Hundreds turned out for a #ReleasetheReport rally and #MarchforTruth in Times Square, New York City, on Thursday, April 4 to demand the release of the full Mueller Report into Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether the Trump campaign colluded and Trump obstructed justice © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Hundreds turned out for a rally in Times Square, New York City, on Thursday, April 4 to demand the release of the full Mueller Report into Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether the Trump campaign directly or indirectly engaged. It was one of hundreds of protests around the country in a “Nobody is Above the Law Day of Action” to call for full transparency mobilized by the grassroots activist organization, Indivisible, along with coalition partners including MoveOn, Public Citizen, People For the American Way, and others.

“1 week later [after Mueller released his report] and we still don’t have the full Mueller report. But, here’s what we know: Mueller’s investigation has led to 34 indictments, 7 guilty pleas, and a conclusion that the President of the United States cannot be exonerated — and Attorney General Barr’s sanitized summary is not enough to close this case.”

Since then, the New York Times has reported that some Mueller investigators “have told associates that Attorney General William P. Barr failed to adequately portray the findings of their inquiry and that they were more troubling for President Trump than Mr. Barr indicated, according to government officials and others familiar with their simmering frustrations.” (“Some on Mueller’s Team Say Report Was More Damaging Than Barr Revealed”)

Stand Up America demands the release of the full Mueller Report. “If the report weren’t damaging for Trump, his lapdogs in Congress wouldn’t be working so hard to suppress it.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“If the report weren’t damaging for Trump, his lapdogs in Congress wouldn’t be working so hard to suppress,” said the speaker from Stand Up America, a progressive grassroots organization that formed just weeks after the November 2016 election. Citing the numerous instances of collusion between Trump campaign and Russian operatives that were already known: secret real estate deal with the Kremlin during the campaign; seven officials meeting with Russian agents; passing secret internal strategy to Russian agents, he declared, “If this is not collusion, collusion has no meaning.”

Mueller investigators were also looking into obstruction of justice “and boy did he find it: firing FBI Director Comey to stop the Russia investigation.

“Collusion and obstruction is included in the full Mueller report. Even Attorney General Barr said so.

“But instead of answers, gave Trump ammunition to say ‘no collusion, full exoneration’ but we have learned we have been taken for a ride. The report doesn’t let Trump off the hook.

“The Attorney General is nothing but a lying White House waterboy.”

The Senate Republicans have blocked the release of the Mueller Report – despite the House Judiciary committee’s subpoena – for the fifth time.

“If it weren’t incriminating, Trump would tweet it out, line by line.”

Here are highlights from the#ReleasetheReport  rally and march:

Sing Out Louise offers pre-protest show of song parodies to cheer the crowd. “Our Broadway debut!” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Jumanne Williams, New York City’s Public Advocate, at the #ReleasetheReport Mueller rally in Times Square © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Release the Muller Report rally and march, Times Square, NYC © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Release the Muller Report rally and march, Times Square, NYC © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Release the Muller Report rally and march, Times Square, NYC © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Release the Muller Report rally and march, Times Square, NYC © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Release the Muller Report rally and march, Times Square, NYC © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

See also: Thousands of New Yorkers Turn Out to Protect Mueller Investigation, Joining 1000 Protests Nationwide

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© 2019 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

Gillibrand, attacking Trump as a Coward, Pledges to Fight for Ideals of Opportunity, Equality, Justice

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), at rally outside of Trump International Hotel on Central Park West, New York City, vows as President to address Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, gun violence, workers rights © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Kirsten Gillibrand, the Democratic Senator from New York who is running for President in 2020, standing in front of the Trump International Hotel on Central Park West in New York City, drew a strong contrast between herself and those who would stand up for American values as “brave” while attacking Donald Trump as a coward and Washington in the pockets of special interests. Here are highlights from her speech –

Our president is a coward… that’s not what we deserve. We deserve a president who is brave, who will walk through fire to do what is right. We deserve a president who inspires us to stand for something greater than ourselves.

Look up at that tower, a shrine to greed, division and vanity. – now look around you, the greater strength by far is ourselves. We are here to reject the politics of fear..

The ideals of this country – opportunity, equality, justice – are worth fighting for. We are here to embrace our shared humanity and rise above our differences. We don’t build walls that are emblems of racism and fear. We build bridges, communities and hope…our unity of purpose lifts us higher than any tower.

We are here today because we know that when we join together and fight for our values, Brave wins. .Americans prove this with their own bravery every single day….. 

The people of this country deserve a president worthy of your bravery- who not only sets an example, but follows yours – your bravery inspires me every day, and that is why I ‘m running for president of the United States…. 

I will go to toe to toe with anyone to do the right thing – powerful institutions, the president, even my own party. I’m not running for president because of who I am fighting against, but who I’m fighting for.

I’m fighting for an America where power truly belongs in the hands of the people, where our leaders care about everyone in this country – and lead not from ego but strength of character – where compassion and integrity define our government, not self-interest and corruption – where we don’t just care about profits we make today but the future we are leaving to our grandchildren – I know we can be that America – but it means starting at the root of our problems – greed… 

Right now, the special interests are displacing the interests of the country …opioid manufacturers get a pass rather than the indictments while neighbors are sold addictive drugs on purpose, the NRA stops commonsense gun reform while stray bullets kill our children; dark money is at the heart.. We need to crack open government, …

I will fight against the dysfunction poisoning Washington. As your president, I will answer to you and you alone…

Our goals are ambitious, but truth is not controversial – Americans across party lines support commonsense ideas – make quality affordable health care a right not a privilege, must pass Medicare for All, I have fought for this since my first house race in 2006 – we have a plan to get from current system to single payer – and I know because I helped write it – we will create competition, get costs down, eliminate the greed

On education: it is time to guarantee universal pre-k, … provide high quality education for every kid in America no matter what block they grow up on… We must make higher education affordable, accessible for everyone, reduce the crush of student debt – the fed government shouldn’t be making money off the back of our students,. In my administration, we would refinance all student debt to lowest available rate.

Here’s a big idea: let’s improve and expand the GI Bill to make college free for anyone who agrees to do national public service – young people can pursue their dreams debt free while helping others.

To grow the middle class, we need to start rewarding work again- make full employment a national priority – invest in free job training through apprenticeship, free college at state schools, training, skills, jobs in their community in the fields of their interest. Workers rights are under attack more than ever, I would protect collective bargaining by unions; raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour nationwide,

And transform the infrastructure of work by finally making national paid leave a reality. It is outrageous that we are the only industrialized country in the world without it – you should never have to risk your job, your income to take care of new baby, sick family member or your own medical needs. I refuse to accept the false choice between your paycheck and your family.

I have led this fight in congress since 2013, when not part of national conversation – hear me when I say this, paid leave, equal pay and affordable day care are not just women’s issues – these are economic issues, ones that will determine whether or not our country succeeds.

We need to dismantle institutional racism that holds back millions of families – in health care, education, criminal justice systems- in growing crisis of black women’s growing maternal mortality, in criminal sentencing decisions, in the wealth gap between communities of color and white that only widens generation to generation – these challenges call for solutions both targeted and broad – like higher standards for maternity care, a national commitment to full employment, postal banking, ending cash bail, and legalizing marijuana.

We need to restore our moral leadership in the world – we must secure our borders effectively and fight terrorism relentlessly, but let’s be very clear – racism and fear is not a national security strategy. Building a wall, ripping apart families, banning Muslims and turning our backs on refugees and asylum seekers isn’t just wrong, it makes us less safe. We need to repair our relationship with our allies and stop fawning over our adversaries. We need to leverage our diplomatic tools ot make Americans more prosperous and more secure, and always treat military force as a last resort.

We must bring an end to the endless wars – America’s commander in chief is not a dictator, and the decision to deploy our troops can never be made lightly or unilaterally without Congress.

And we need to protect the integrity of our elections, by holding accountable any threats to our democracy from abroad or right here at home.

The stakes just got higher on Friday – the Mueller Report must be made public. All of it. No one in this country is above the law or immune from prosecution, not even the president. I don’t often agree with Nixon, but he was right to say the American people have a right to know whether their president is a crook.

Finally, we need to treat global climate change like the existential threat that it is. We need to pass the Green New Deal – let’s make this our generation’s moon shot – addressing a global challenge of this urgency will take massive effort, transformational vision, which is exactly why we should do it.

Let’s invest in our crumbling infrastructure, create sustainable green jobs, protect clean air and water as a universal human right. I would go further than others – I also put a price on carbon to use market forces to steer companies away from fossil fuels toward clean, renewable energy.

We can’t afford not to do this. We don’t have time to waste – John F. Kennedy said he wanted to put a man on moon in next 10 years, not because easy but hard. I believe we should look at global climate change in the same way –  look to zero carbon emissions in next 10 years not because it’s easy but because it’s hard, a challenge we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone and one that we will win.

None of these big fights, and equally big goals will be easy – nothing worth fighting for has been – but I have never backed down from a fight, and I am not about to start now.

My faith tells me to care for the least among us – to feed and clothe the poor, help the stranger, the sick, incarcerated. I believe we are all called to be the light of the world, to defeat the darkness and treat others the way we want to be treated.

I am running for president to fix what has been broken, repair our moral fabric, … this fight is so much bigger than any one election. It’s about making a choice and deciding who we are, and who we are going to be. After all, America is and always will be the home of the brave, no matter how difficult the course before us, no matter how dark the hour, the lessons of our history is that justice, fairness and truth are possible but only if we are willing to put everything we have on the line to achieve it – so each one of us has a choice today – will we defend this democracy, will we speak for what we believe in, will we reject the hate, fear, greed and corruption, will we fight with every fiber of our being because everything we care about is at stake.Will we be brave? You already answered that question just by being here, if you are with me, ready to fight and take on this fight with me, join my campaign, kirstengillibrand.com, contribute to help power this movement forward.

I believe in my bones that we can do this – years from now will look back at this moment in history and be able to say we did something about it, we stood up, locked arms and proved to America and the world that when people come together to drive out darkness, hope rises, fear loses and brave wins.

Long Island to Have First Stand-Alone Large-Scale Anaerobic Digester in NY Metro – Eliminates Waste & Generates Clean Energy

NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo with LIPA Chief Executive Officer Tom Falcone. LIPA has just approved a large-scale anaerobic digester which will will turn recycled food waste into four megawatts of clean energy. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Long Island will have the first stand-alone large-scale anaerobic digester – a type of food waste recycling center that converts waste into energy – in the New York City metropolitan area. When operational in 2020, It will produce four megawatts of clean energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions on Long Island by 85,000 metric tons a year, the equivalent to removing 18,000 cars from the road. 

The Board of Trustees of the Long Island Power Authority voted to approve the project which directly supports Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Green New Deal, a clean energy and jobs agenda that puts New York State on a path to a carbon-free economy and supports the State’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.

“New York State continues to lead the way with clean energy initiatives and innovative solutions that benefit both our neighborhoods and our planet,” Governor Cuomo said. “By implementing this groundbreaking technology on Long Island, we can not only produce clean energy and reduce greenhouse gases, but also spare our landfills and keep our communities cleaner and greener for decades to come.”

The project will create at least 10 full-time jobs and help retain more than 100. The facility provides a lower cost waste disposal option for food service businesses such as supermarkets, bakeries, restaurants, commercial food processers, cafeterias, catering halls, and hotels. The Town of Brookhaven will also have the capability to divert 10,000-15,000 tons per year of food waste to the project from the more expensive disposal options currently used.

The project, to be operated by American Organic Energy (AOE) at Long Island Compost in Yaphank, will process approximately 180,000 tons of local food waste per year. This waste would have otherwise been transported by gas and diesel-powered trucks to distant landfills, along with 30,000 tons of fats, oils and greases (FOG). Working with GE Water and Scott’s Miracle-Gro, AOE will collect, separate, pre-process, break down, and transform Long Island’s food waste into convertible energy, electricity, fertilizer, and nutrient-rich clean water.

Greenhouse gas emissions are expected to be reduced by 85,000 tons of CO2 per year, equivalent to removing 18,000 cars off the road. It will also reduce truck traffic on Long Island roads by 1.4 million miles per year, compared to current landfill disposal practice. In addition, Long Island Compost will convert certain stationary equipment from diesel to electricity, which is expected to reduce diesel fuel consumption by an estimated 200,000 gallons per year.

Anaerobic digestion is a biological process that occurs when organic matter is decomposed by bacteria in the absence of oxygen. During the decomposition process, the biogas released can be recovered, treated and used to generate energy in place of traditional fossil fuels.

The agreement also establishes annual and hourly limits on the delivery of energy to LIPA. The average residential bill impact would be approximately $0.10 per month, competitive with pricing of other comparable clean energy facilities under contract to LIPA. The anaerobic digester is expected to be operational by December 31, 2020.

The project is also supported by New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s (NYSERDA) Cleaner Greener Communities initiative, which provided $1.35 million and also was chosen for a $400,000 Empire State Development award by the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council.

“Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, New York continues to find innovative ways to produce and deliver clean energy to consumers,” Tom Falcone, LIPA’s Chief Executive Officer, said. “Turning food waste into energy here on Long Island diverts waste from Long Island landfills, reduces carbon emissions, and helps LIPA meet New York’s aggressive clean energy goals.”  

“By transforming waste into energy, digester projects like this will reduce harmful emissions and material going into landfills, while providing economic and environmental benefits to Long Island residents,” Alicia Barton, President and CEO of NYSERDA said. “NYSERDA is proud to collaborate with LIPA to advance clean energy solutions that support New York’s nation-leading clean energy goals under Governor Cuomo’s Green New Deal.” 

“This project, the largest this side of the Mississippi, has many societal benefits including creating renewable energy, reducing solid waste and reducing truck traffic,” Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director of the Citizens Campaign of the Environment said. “Today the project is cutting edge, tomorrow it will be standard operating procedure. This transformational project was seven years in the making, the permits are now completed, and we are thrilled the construction can begin.” 

Empire State Development President, CEO & Commissioner Howard Zemsky said, “Clean energy projects like this facility aren’t just good for the environment, they’re good for the health of our communities and help build a greener economic future for our entire state.”

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said,”Governor Cuomo understands the importance of investing in renewable energy initiatives to ensure a sustainable future for our communities and communities across the state. We are focused on expanding our efforts to create a cleaner, more efficient Long Island, and I thank the Governor for his continued support in making projects like these possible.” 

“Through this partnership, Brookhaven will continue to move forward with our plans to create an energy park at our landfill as we cap and close this facility, piping methane to this anaerobic digester to produce an estimated 1.5 megawatts of energy,” Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine said. “Using food scraps and other organic matter in this facility to create compost and energy is an important part of our overall strategy to reduce our waste stream on Long Island to benefit our environment. I want to thank Governor Cuomo for his support of this important an innovative clean energy project.”

Senator Todd Kaminsky said,”For a sustainable future, Long Island must stop sending excess food to landfills, and instead utilize state-of-the-art technology that turns waste into clean energy. The future is now, and the approval of this large-scale anaerobic digester is a breakthrough that marks the beginning of a new, green era.”

Sammy Chu, CEO, Edgewise Energy, and Chairman, US Green Building Council – Long Island Chapter said, “This project represents a very exciting opportunity for Long Island. It not only supports Governor Cuomo’s goal of decarbonizing our electric supply but also addresses our growing regional waste crisis. This is the type of creative solution that we need right now.”

Kevin Law, President, and CEO of the Long Island Association said, “The anaerobic digester is the most sophisticated food waste processing facility in the region. This technology will digest food waste taken from supermarkets, restaurants, and hospitals and turn this material into a source of clean energy. The LIA is in full support of this project which will benefit Long Island’s economy, environment and energy portfolio.”

Neil Lewis, Executive Director of the Molloy College Sustainability Institute said,”This project addresses the interconnection of energy, food and carbon emissions. This anaerobic digester helps with the solid waste problem on Long Island by reducing food waste, while also generating electricity. Biogas is a renewable form of energy that should be put to work for us, rather than causing emissions issues in landfills and being wasted.”

Julie Tighe, President, New York League of Conservation Voters (NYLCV) said, “We are in full support of this effort to deploy technology and solutions that can help New York State achieve its ambitious climate, clean air, and economic development goals.  We applaud LIPA and look forward to continued efforts to help Long Island develop a robust organic waste-to-fuel industry.”

New York State’s Green New Deal

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s Green New Deal, the nation’s leading clean energy and jobs agenda, will aggressively put New York State on a path to economy-wide carbon neutrality. This initiative will provide for a just transition to clean energy, spurring the growth of the green economy and mandating New York’s power be 100 percent clean and carbon-free by 2040, one of the most aggressive goals in the U.S. The cornerstone of this newly proposed mandate is a significant increase of New York’s successful Clean Energy Standard to 70 percent renewable electricity by 2030.

As part of the unprecedented ramp-up of renewable energy, New York has already invested $2.9 billion into 46 large-scale renewable projects across the state as it significantly increases its clean energy targets, such as: quadrupling New York’s offshore wind target to a nation-leading 9,000 megawatts by 2035; doubling distributed solar deployment to 6,000 megawatts by 2025; and deploying 3,000 megawatts of energy storage by 2030. To support this ambitious work, NY Green Bank intends to use its expertise in overcoming financing gaps to foster greater environmental impacts per public dollar by raising over $1 billion in third party funds to expand climate financing availability across New York and the rest of North America.

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© 2019 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

Governor Cuomo Holds NYS Budget Hostage Without Permanent Property Tax Cap; I Object

Voting on a school bond referendum, Great Neck, Long Island. New York State’s property tax cap removes local control over spending for education and local services including parks and libraries © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News& Photo Features

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo has said he won’t sign the state budget unless it makes permanent the property tax cap.

“The highest tax in the state is the property tax and it is a killer,” Governor Cuomo said.”We want to reduce economic pressure on families by making sure government is not aggravating the problem with increased expenses. We’re going to cut your state income tax and we’re going to cap your property taxes so you know it’s not going higher than 2 percent. And I will tell you this as sure as I am before you today: if we do not have the permanent property tax cap in that state budget, this hand will never sign that state budget until it’s in there.”

From the very beginning, I have objected to this trampling off local control with an arbitrary and unreasonable constraint designed to hamstring and ultimately destroy local governments. Cuomo’s original intent was to force school districts and other local governments to cannibalize their reserve funds; the second was to force consolidation and dissolution of local governments and the third was to use local taxes as the bogeyman, so politicians could appear to be on the side of taxpayers.

Of course the property tax is the largest state tax and of course school taxes are the largest component. Something has to be “largest”. What should be? But local property taxes are spent where they are used, and local people have the greatest ability to participate in spending decisions. In fact, school and library taxes are the only taxes we taxpayers directly vote.

What the property tax cap does, though, is remove local control. Communities should have the right to decide if they want to improve their schools or parks. The property tax cap which basically keeps the annual increase to 2% or the rate of inflation whichever is less says: we don’t want any growth or improvement or new investment in your community. We want the status quo, and if that means deterioration, so be it. (Little known fact: the property tax cap incentivizes bonding because the debt service isn’t counted toward the cap.)

Somehow, and fairly ingeniously I think, the Great Neck Public School district has managed to continue to be among the best in the country and still average only 1.8 percent increase in the tax levy since the property tax cap was implemented in 2012, despite increasing enrollments and unfunded state mandates. This year, though, through the complicated formula, the school district could have raised taxes by 4.09 percent and still fall within the cap, is only seeking 1.94 percent increase. .

I resent the property tax cap by which the Governor and state legislators can declare themselves champions of reducing or controlling taxes.

But here’s the thing: New York State’s property taxes are not the highest in the nation; Nassau County’s taxes are not the highest; and both of these do not take into account that Long Island and New York’s incomes and our housing values are higher.

According to a survey by Wallethub, a financial services company, New York State ranks 8th (not first) in property taxes. New York ranks 43rd in its real estate tax rate, at 1.68 percent. You know which states are higher? Nebraska (1.80), Texas (1.83), Vermont (1.83), Wisconsin (1.94), Connecticut (2.07), New Hampshire (2.20), Illinois (2.31), and New Jersey (2.44) (See the study: https://wallethub.com/edu/states-with-the-highest-and-lowest-property-taxes/11585/)

Even so, do you want to be Alabama, which is #2 on the list for lowest taxes, where the median home value is $132,000 and the tax is $558 (0.42%), or Louisiana, #3, where the median home value is $152,900 and median tax is $795 (0.52%)? Louisiana ranks 51st in health care, Alabama is 48th. New York is 17th (fourth most physicians per capita)

USA Today ranks New York’s public education 9th noting, “Between 2003 and 2015, the achievement gap between eighth graders living in poverty and their wealthier peers narrowed by the largest amount of all states…Annual public school funding totals $18,665 per pupil in New York, the third highest expenditure of all states.” (Top three are Massachusetts, New Jersey and Vermont). Alabama ranks 43rd (14th lowest in public school spending at $10,142). Louisiana is 46th, Mississippi is 48th.

Yes, total taxes are high: New Yorkers spend 17.07 percent of income on taxes, second highest after Connecticut (17.65 percent). But New York State is spending billions on a 21st century infrastructure and racing toward 50:50 clean energy by 2030. This is where I want to live. So do 20 million others, a number that is increasing, even as unemployment rates are at the lowest ever and the number of jobs is at an all-time high.

We pay a lot in taxes because our incomes are higher and our housing values are higher, what is more, we get more for our money, making for a higher quality of life.

The states that don’t charge an appropriate amount of state and local taxes – that is related to the cost of providing services and public investment – depend on federal handouts. New York is one of 11 states that send more money to the federal government than it gets back, in fact the #1 donor state, sending $36-$48 billion more to the federal government than it gets back. Alabama is 4th “most federally dependent state”; Louisiana is 10th.

New York sends the second highest amount in federal taxes, $133 billion (California sends $227 billion), and is fourth in the average amount of federal taxes per adult ($8,490), behind Connecticut $10,279), Massachusetts ($9,445), and New Jersey ($8,811).

(Here’s an idea: New York should do what tenants do in a landlord dispute and put that $36 billion into escrow until the SALT deductibility issue is fixed.)

But we shouldn’t be punishing our localities because of the criminality of Republicans to use the tax code as political weapon – according to State Comptroller Tom Dinapoli, the SALT deduction cap has driven down tax receipts by $2.3 billion, as wealthiest New Yorkers choose other places for primary residency.

But the tax cap is also a political weapon.

The larger objective is to eliminate local municipalities entirely – to force villages to consolidate into towns, towns into counties, school districts into larger school districts. But the fallacy in that is all that it saves is a few administrative positions. Villages and school districts already have cooperative purchasing, mutual aid; school districts even cooperate on transportation where feasible. Our school district spends 4 percent of its budget on administration, the lion’s share, 75 percent, on instruction (12 percent on building, grounds & capital projects, 6 percent on transportation). (To see where your schools spend every penny, come to Great Neck South High School this Saturday at 9:30 am for the line-by-line budget review.)

The state boasts that since implementation the tax cap has “saved” taxpayers $24.4 billion statewide – that works out to $1000 per capita, divided by 7 years, or $142 a year. I’m not sure that’s worth giving up local control.

But just as Cuomo and the Congressmembers decry Trump’s disparity in federal spending for blue states versus red states and the attack on state control over its ability to raise revenue and spend, it is the same thing with local spending: there is gigantic  disparity in the level of state aid to school districts, with the result that New York City only has to raise 50 percent of its school budget from property taxes, while Great Neck, which gets just 4 percent from the state, has to raise 95 percent through property taxes. Here’s another measure: Roosevelt, with 3270 enrolled students, gets $53 million in state aid; Great Neck, with 6399 enrolled students, gets $10 million – the difference made up from property taxes. That’s just the way it is.

What the property tax cap means is that virtually all Great Neck’s school spending is governed by the cap; other districts have much less that is controlled by the tax cap.

The responsibility for determining if our elected representatives are properly handling our tax appropriations is on the community, not an arbitrarily selected cap enshrined in law.

We see what our school taxes (and park and library and sewer district) pay for and I don’t want the state – or some politician looking to score points – deciding we can’t have low class size or a robotics club or a fencing team or an opera performance (Great Neck South High marks its 50th anniversary full-scale opera production, April 12). This community has decided these things are just as important to our district’s mission of helping every child fulfill their full potential as cramming the latest incarnation of ELA and math or operating school buildings as if they were prisons. Our mission has been to instill a love of life-long learning. And the investment this community has made in public education has brought solid ROI day after day.

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© 2019 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

Elizabeth Warren Releases Plan to Rein in Big Tech, Giant Corporations

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 2020 Democratic candidate for president at rally in Long Island City, NY © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), a declared 2020 candidate for 2020 presidential nomination, came to Long Island City, where local activists rejected Amazon, to propose a plan to rein in big tech and other giant multi-national companies that use their economic power to stifle competition and intimidate government. Here is her proposal — Karen Rubin, News& Photo Features

Today’s big tech companies have too much power — too much power over our economy, our society, and our democracy. They’ve bulldozed competition, used our private information for profit, and tilted the playing field against everyone else. And in the process, they have hurt small businesses and stifled innovation. 

I want a government that makes sure everybody — even the biggest and most powerful companies in America — plays by the rules. And I want to make sure that the next generation of great American tech companies can flourish. To do that, we need to stop this generation of big tech companies from throwing around their political power to shape the rules in their favor and throwing around their economic power to snuff out or buy up every potential competitor

That’s why my Administration will make big, structural changes to the tech sector to promote more competition—including breaking up Amazon, Facebook, and Google.

How the New Tech Monopolies Hurt Small Businesses and Innovation

America’s big tech companies provide valuable products but also wield enormous power over our digital lives. Nearly half of all e-commerce goes through Amazon. More than 70% of all Internet traffic goes through sites owned or operated by Google or Facebook. 

As these companies have grown larger and more powerful, they have used their resources and control over the way we use the Internet to squash small businesses and innovation, and substitute their own financial interests for the broader interests of the American people. To restore the balance of power in our democracy, to promote competition, and to ensure that the next generation of technology innovation is as vibrant as the last, it’s time to break up our biggest tech companies. 

America’s big tech companies have achieved their level of dominance in part based on two strategies: 

  • Using Mergers to Limit Competition. Facebook has purchased potential competitors Instagram and WhatsApp. Amazon has used its immense market power to force smaller competitors like Diapers.com to sell at a discounted rate. Google has snapped up the mapping company Waze and the ad company DoubleClick. Rather than blocking these transactions for their negative long-term effects on competition and innovation, government regulators have waved them through.
     
  • Using Proprietary Marketplaces to Limit Competition. Many big tech companies own a marketplace – where buyers and sellers transact – while also participating on the marketplace. This can create a conflict of interest that undermines competition. Amazon crushes small companies by copying the goods they sell on the Amazon Marketplace and then selling its own branded version. Google allegedly snuffed out a competing small search engine by demoting its content on its search algorithm, and it has favored its own restaurant ratings over those of Yelp. 

Weak antitrust enforcement has led to a dramatic reduction in competition and innovation in the tech sector. Venture capitalists are now hesitant to fund new startups to compete with these big tech companies because it’s so easy for the big companies to either snap up growing competitors or drive them out of business. The number of tech startups has slumped, there are fewer high-growth young firms typical of the tech industry, and first financing rounds for tech startups have declined 22% since 2012. 

With fewer competitors entering the market, the big tech companies do not have to compete as aggressively in key areas like protecting our privacy. And some of these companies have grown so powerful that they can bully cities and states into showering them with massive taxpayer handouts in exchange for doing business, and can act — in the words of Mark Zuckerberg — “more like a government than a traditional company.” 

We must ensure that today’s tech giants do not crowd out potential competitors, smother the next generation of great tech companies, and wield so much power that they can undermine our democracy. 

Restoring Competition in the Tech Sector

America has a long tradition of breaking up companies when they have become too big and dominant — even if they are generally providing good service at a reasonable price. 

A century ago, in the Gilded Age, waves of mergers led to the creation of some of the biggest companies in American history — from Standard Oil and JPMorgan to the railroads and AT&T. In response to the rise of these “trusts,” Republican and Democratic reformers pushed for antitrust laws to break up these conglomerations of power to ensure competition.

But where the value of the company came from its network, reformers recognized that ownership of a network and participating on the network caused a conflict of interest. Instead of nationalizing these industries — as other countries did — Americans in the Progressive Era decided to ensure that these networks would not abuse their power by charging higher prices, offering worse quality, reducing innovation, and favoring some over others. We required a structural separation between the network and other businesses, and also demanded that the network offer fair and non-discriminatory service. 

In this tradition, my administration would restore competition to the tech sector by taking two major steps:

First, by passing legislation that requires large tech platforms to be designated as “Platform Utilities” and broken apart from any participant on that platform

Companies with an annual global revenue of $25 billion or more and that offer to the public an online marketplace, an exchange, or a platform for connecting third parties would be designated as “platform utilities.”

These companies would be prohibited from owning both the platform utility and any participants on that platform. Platform utilities would be required to meet a standard of fair, reasonable, and nondiscriminatory dealing with users. Platform utilities would not be allowed to transfer or share data with third parties.

For smaller companies (those with annual global revenue of between $90 million and $25 billion), their platform utilities would be required to meet the same standard of fair, reasonable, and nondiscriminatory dealing with users, but would not be required to structurally separate from any participant on the platform.

To enforce these new requirements, federal regulators, State Attorneys General, or injured private parties would have the right to sue a platform utility to enjoin any conduct that violates these requirements, to disgorge any ill-gotten gains, and to be paid for losses and damages. A company found to violate these requirements would also have to pay a fine of 5 percent of annual revenue.

Amazon Marketplace, Google’s ad exchange, and Google Search would be platform utilities under this law. Therefore, Amazon Marketplace and Basics, and Google’s ad exchange and businesses on the exchange would be split apart. Google Search would have to be spun off as well. 

Second, my administration would appoint regulators committed to reversing illegal and anti-competitive tech mergers. 

Current antitrust laws empower federal regulators to break up mergers that reduce competition. I will appoint regulators who are committed to using existing tools to unwind anti-competitive mergers, including: 

  • Amazon: Whole Foods; Zappos
     
  • Facebook: WhatsApp; Instagram
     
  • Google: Waze; Nest; DoubleClick
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 2020 Democratic candidate for president at rally in Long Island City, NY © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Unwinding these mergers will promote healthy competition in the market — which will put pressure on big tech companies to be more responsive to user concerns, including about privacy.   

Protecting the Future of the Internet

So what would the Internet look like after all these reforms?

Here’s what won’t change: You’ll still be able to go on Google and search like you do today. You’ll still be able to go on Amazon and find 30 different coffee machines that you can get delivered to your house in two days. You’ll still be able to go on Facebook and see how your old friend from school is doing.

Here’s what will change: Small businesses would have a fair shot to sell their products on Amazon without the fear of Amazon pushing them out of business. Google couldn’t smother competitors by demoting their products on Google Search. Facebook would face real pressure from Instagram and WhatsApp to improve the user experience and protect our privacy. Tech entrepreneurs would have a fighting chance to compete against the tech giants. 

Of course, my proposals today won’t solve every problem we have with our big tech companies.

We must give people more control over how their personal information is collected, shared, and sold—and do it in a way that doesn’t lock in massive competitive advantages for the companies that already have a ton of our data.

We must help America’s content creators—from local newspapers and national magazines to comedians and musicians — keep more of the value their content generates, rather than seeing it scooped up by companies like Google and Facebook.

And we must ensure that Russia — or any other foreign power — can’t use Facebook or any other form of social media to influence our elections.

Those are each tough problems, but the benefit of taking these steps to promote competition is that it allows us to make some progress on each of these important issues too. More competition means more options for consumers and content creators, and more pressure on companies like Facebook to address the glaring problems with their businesses.

Healthy competition can solve a lot of problems. The steps I’m proposing today will allow existing big tech companies to keep offering customer-friendly services, while promoting competition, stimulating innovation in the tech sector, and ensuring that America continues to lead the world in producing cutting-edge tech companies. It’s how we protect the future of the Internet.

See: Warren Brings 2020 Campaign to Long Island City to Call for Breaking Up Big Tech, Corporate Giants

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© 2019 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

Warren Brings 2020 Campaign to Long Island City to Call for Breaking Up Big Tech, Corporate Giants

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), a declared 2020 candidate for 2020 presidential nomination, came to Long Island City, where local activists rejected Amazon, to propose a plan to rein in big tech and other giant multi-national companies that use their economic power to stifle competition and intimidate government. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News& Photo Features

The venue for Senator Elizabeth Warren’s rally was strategic for her message: a former warehouse with dank walls now used for an entertainment space in Long Island City, the neighborhood that booted Amazon, despite its promise to bring 25,000 jobs, in exchange for a $3 billion tax incentive.

The message the declared 2020 Democratic candidate for president brought to the 600 eager supporters was that it is time to break up the high-tech companies that have come to wield out-sized economic power more like government, dictating demands and reclaim government for the people.

“We have these giant corporations — do I have to tell that to people in Long Island City? — that think they can roll over everyone,” she said, comparing Amazon to “The Hunger Game.”

“Giant corporations shouldn’t be able to buy out competition. Competition has to be able to thrive and grow.”

“Who does government work for? Just the richest people and corporations? I want government that works for the people.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 2020 Democratic candidate for president at rally in Long Island City, NY
© Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“I spent whole life wondering what happening to middle class, why so much rockier, steeper, and even rockier and steeper for people of color – what has gone wrong in America.

“Our government works great for giant drug companies, not for people needing prescription drugs; for giant oil companies, not for people who see climate change bearing down; great for payday lenders, not for people of color and communities and poor people who are targeted, whose lives are turned upside down.

“It’s corruption plain and simple and we need to call it out.

“Whichever issue brought you here – income gap, climate change, affordable child care, housing – whatever issue brought you here, I guarantee decisions made in Washington that directly touch – runs straight through corruption in Washington…. We need big structural change.”

Some 600 people turned out for Senator Elizabeth Warren’s rally in Long Island City. “Whichever issue brought you here – income gap, climate change, affordable child care, housing – whatever issue brought you here, I guarantee runs straight through corruption in Washington…. We need big structural change.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Her prescription: change the rules of government, of the economy, of politics:

Where to start? Change the rules of government by taking corruption head on.

“I introduced the biggest anti-corruption bill since Watergate; it’s big, long, complex, but here are a few pieces:

“End lobbying as we know it. Stop the revolving door between Wall Street and Washington; make Supreme Court follow the basic rules of ethics. Anyone who wants to run for federal office, must release their taxes.

“We need workers to have more power, we need stronger unions. Unions built American middle class and will rebuild the American middle class.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 2020 Democratic candidate for president at rally in Long Island City, NY © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Warren is advocating an ultra millionaire’s tax: imposing 2% tax for those with over $50 million in assets.  That means the top 0.1% -75,000 households. She estimates that would generate $2.4 trillion.

In what sounds like an expansion of Obama’s oft-taken-out-of-context line, “You didn’t build that,” Warren justifies the wealth tax saying, “I’m tired of free loading billionaires. You built (or inherited) your fortune, good for you, but you built it using workers we educated, roads and bridges we paid to build, police – all helped. So yeah, you built a great fortune, so give a little back to the American people (who enabled you).

It’s a property tax, she said, not unlike the property tax that any homeowner, farmer, condo owner all pay, but includes the Picassos, diamonds and yachts.

What would it do? It would fund universal child care, and still have billions left over.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 2020 Democratic candidate for president at rally in Long Island City, NY © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

To change the rules of politics and protect our democracy, she said, “I want to see a constitutional amendment to protect the right to vote and make sure every vote gets counted. Overturn Citizens United.” (adding that she isn’t taking any corporate PAC money, but is depending on grassroots donations, ElizabethWarren.com.)

“I don’t go to closed door meetings with millionaires. I’m here with you.”

“My father was a janitor but his daughter got a chance to be a teacher, a college professor, a Senator and a candidate for President of the United States. I believe in opportunity because I’ve lived it. I want an American where every child gets a chance to build a future.

“This is our moment. Dream big. Let’s win.”

She then took questions (the questioners were picked at random):

Senator Elizabeth Warren and State Senator Michael Gianaris, at rally in Long Island City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Asked her view of Governor Andrew Cuomo trying to woo Amazon back after local progressives including State Senator Michael Gianaris, who introduced her at the rally,  she said, “This is like ‘Hunger Games’ – it is not just the enormous economic power, but  the political power they wield.

“A handful of companies spend $50 million lobbying Washington – a great return on investment if they get to keep Washington from enforcing regulations, antitrust laws, hold back oversight. That’s not how America is supposed to work. Corporate power… and billionaire power, all those who make their voices heard through money. They fund the think tanks that come to, predetermined conclusions, the public relations firms, the soft ads on TV, controlling government, they tilt the playing field over and over against everyone else.”

She reflected that she went to see Trump being sworn in, and realized that with control of the White House and both houses of Congress, the Republicans could have swept away health care and Medicare “by Tuesday.” “But the next day, there was the biggest protest in the history of the world.”

“I want to rein in big tech. That won’t happen by talking inside the Beltway, but in rooms like this.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 2020 Democratic candidate for president at rally in Long Island City, NY © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Asked whether her wealth tax would cause billionaires like Trump to simply move outside the US, she quipped, “That would be a bad thing?” but explained the 2% wealth tax would be on all property where it is held, so a yacht in the Caribbean would be taxed.  More tax treaties mean it can be tracked. The IRS (now underfunded and understaffed) would step up enforcement. Even with a 15% cheat factor, you still get nearly $3 trillion in revenue. As for moving and renouncing US citizenship to avoid the tax? There would be a 40% exit penalty.

“You built your fortune here, you owe something to the American people.”

Asked about addressing homelessness and the lack of affordable housing, Warren said, “It’s a matter of values. In the richest country in the history of the world, people shouldn’t be sleeping in the street. I have a plan, a housing plan, but the first step is to diagnose the problem: Why has the cost of housing gone up? Wages, adjusted for inflation for four decades are flat, but housing costs have risen by two-thirds. That puts a squeeze on families.”

She said that over the years, government has withdrawn investment in housing, while private developers have build the more profitable mcmansions and luxury high rises. “There’s been an increase in housing at the top but no increase for middle class and down. The federal government is not making investment in housing for poor, working poor and middle class. Meanwhile, across America, the housing stock has deteriorated, shrinking in size, but the population is expanding, so people are paying more and more for less and less.

“The answer: build more housing. I want to build 3.2 million new housing units all across the country. That would decrease rents by 10%. I want more housing for purchase, so families can build equity over time.

“Housing is how working families have built wealth generation after generation – paying off the mortgage, and living on Social Security, grandma can live with the family, the home passes on wealth to the next generation.

“It is no surprise that for decades, from the 1930s, federal government invested in subsidized housing for white people, but discriminated against blacks. Red lined areas where federal government would block mortgages, so that generation after generation [was deprived of home ownership to build wealth]. In 1960, housing discrimination was legal, while the federal government subsidized whites and discriminated against black neighborhoods. Then, the gap between white and black home ownership was 27 points.

“Then civil rights made housing, voting discrimination illegal, and we see black middle class recover.

“But then the big banks came along – looked to black, brown home owners’ equity. They targeted black and brown people for the nastiest mortgages – Wells Fargo, Bank of America. Greed.

“Today, the gap between white and black home ownership is 30 points. Race matters in America.

“My housing bill has something we haven’t seen anywhere else: in formerly red-lined areas, first time home buyers or those who lost their homes during the housing crash, will get assistance to buy again.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 2020 Democratic candidate for president at rally in Long Island City, NY © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Asked whether she would support ending the filibuster which the Republican minority used to block progressive legislation during the Obama administration, to block his judicial appointments, even the Merrick Garland Supreme Court nomination, she said (not too coyly): “It’s all on the table, baby. I’m on record for filibuster reform. The Republicans used filibuster to block judicial nominees, the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Board, the National Labor Relations Board. “Republicans get to do what they want when they’re in power, and when we are, we drink a lot of tea. It’s all on the table.”

“I get that things I’m asking for all are hard – attacking corruption, changing the rules of the economy, democracy. I get that some people earn more or less, but everyone should have an equal  share of democracy.”

People, she said, saved the Consumer Financial Protection Board, which she created after the 2008 financial collapse. “The people saved it, and it’s already forced the biggest banks to return $12 billion to the people they cheated.

“I’m calling for big structural change, but you don’t get what you don’t fight for,” she said, citing the abolitionists, suffragettes, union organizers, the foot soldiers of civil rights, gay rights activists. “They were all told, ‘it’s too hard, give up now, and yet, every one of them stayed, fought, organized, persisted [she said to big cheers], and changed. This is our moment to change.

“Dream big, fight hard, and let’s win.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 2020 Democratic candidate for president at rally in Long Island City, NY © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

In an already crowded field of candidates – even the progressive faction – Warren is the only one who has clearly spelled out policy proposals and the underlying rationale, the powerful statistics of growing inequality, that she has studied and worked to change for years to level the playing field, “make government work for you”: campaign finance reform and government reform; housing; tax reform.

 And in this venue, it was fascinating to see how she could be so factual, so academic, but so enthusiastic  and personable, her audience asked for more detail about how she would address the critical shortfall  in affordable housing, even taking her by surprise.

The evening was organized a little like a townhall, with Warren moving freely about a stage in front of a giant American flag, taking questions, and then at the end, offering to stay as long as necessary so anyone who wanted to take a photo with her could get their chance.

See: Elizabeth Warren Releases Plan to Rein in Big Tech, Giant Corporations

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© 2019 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

International Women’s Day: For Better Gender-Balanced World, Workplaces Need to Offer Maternity Leave, Flexible Work

To achieve true gender parity in the economy and society, employers need to provide paid parental leave and flexible work solutions © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

With studies concluding almost as many women with children (74.1%) participated in the labor force as women without, in 2014, women who are juggling careers and motherhood benefit from flexibility at work the most.  


With women accounting for 40% or more of the total labor force in several countries, flexible working hours, extended maternal leave, breastfeeding rooms, free education and free healthcare are just a few of the ways that countries have adopted to build the best working environments for mothers.

To celebrate International Women’s Day, calling for a better gender-balanced world in the workplace, Instant Offices, a workspace innovation company, looked countries with the most progressive approaches into maternity, and general parental leave around the world, including additional benefits encouraging mothers to be comfortable and engaged at work before, during and after pregnancy. The results: European countries are some of the most progressive for maternity leave and benefits for working mothers.

Countries with the Most Maternity Leave

COUNTRY DAYS WAGES PAID
SWEDEN 480 80%
NORWAY 400+ 80-100%
CROATIA 365+ 100%
UK 365 90%
SERBIA 365 100%

Sweden – Provides 480 days of maternity leave

Sweden offers one of the most progressive working environments for parents, which exceeds international standards. Parents are entitled to up to 80% of their regular pay for 390 of the 480 days of maternity leave provided, while mothers in jobs that require heavy lifting, or more risky work are also entitled to take time off earlier during their pregnancy.

Each parent

  • Receives 240 of 480 days of paid parental leave
  • Is entitled to 90 days exclusively for him or her
  • Has the right to shorten their work hours by up to 25% until the child turns eight (although only being paid for the time worked)

Norway – Offers 49 weeks with 100% pay or 59 weeks with 80% pay

Mastering the art of the work-life balance, the Norwegian Parliament decided to increase the quota of paternity and maternity leave for new parents in 2018. Parents now reive 49 weeks of leave at 100% pay or 59 weeks at 80%

Croatia – Offers a year of paid maternity leave with 100% pay

In addition to a year of being able to bond with your new-born, full paid parental leave is available for 120 days in Croatia.

The country’s protective attitude towards mother’s at work has ensured there are laws in place to ensure:

  • Workers who are expecting are provided with free ante and post-natal medical care
  • Mothers have breastfeeding breaks of over an hour until the child is a year old
  • Workers are protected from dismissals during pregnancy and maternity leave

The UK – Required to offer one year of leave to new mothers

Receiving 90% of their original pay new mothers are legally allowed up to 52 weeks of maternity leave:

  • Ordinary Maternity Leave – first 26 weeks
  • Additional Maternity Leave – last 26 weeks
  • You may be entitled to take some of your leave as shared parental leave, although this must be taken within the first year after your child is born

Serbia

Mothers in Serbia are entitled to 20 weeks of leave at full pay after giving birth, with an additional year after that, however lowering over time:

  • For the first 26 weeks – 100% pay
  • Weeks 27 – 39 – 60% pay
  • Weeks 40 – 52 – 30% pay

On the other end of the scale, some of the countries with the shortest maternity leave/least benefits include:

Philippines – Previously only six weeks, the Philippines has recently extended the law for paid maternity leave to 105 days.

Australia – Although mothers can receive up to 18 weeks of leave, it is paid at the national minimum wage.

United States – The law most women rely on is the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) which protects women’s jobs for up to 12 weeks after childbirth or adoption, however it doesn’t guarantee pay for the time off.

Maternity Leave and the Gender Pay Gap

Research by the National Bureau of Economic Research reveals a sharp drop in women’s earning after maternity leave, with no decrease in salary for men. The study also showed, from the birth of their first child, women end up making 20% less than men throughout their career.

In Denmark, childbearing accounts for 80% of the gender wage gap, as women move to more flexible hours with fewer hours and lower wages once they’ve had children; versus men whose careers go mostly unchanged. 

With many European countries moving towards better equality around parental leave, men are more encouraged to take time off after the birth of their child, and policies which bring more equity to the workforce are growing as a trend.

The Instant Group: Flexible Workspace Specialists

Founded in 1999, The Instant Group is a workspace innovation company that rethinks workspace on behalf of its clients injecting flexibility, reducing cost and driving enterprise performance. Instant places more than 7,000 companies a year in flexible workspace such as serviced, managed or co-working offices including Sky, Network Rail, Capita, Serco, Teleperformance, Worldpay making it the market leader in flexible workspace.

Its listings’ platform Instant Offices hosts more than 12,000 flexible workspace centres across the world and is the only site of its kind to represent the global market, providing a service to FTSE 100, Fortune 500, and SME clients.  With offices in London, Newcastle, Berlin, Haifa, Dallas, New York, Miami, San Francisco, Hong Kong, Sydney, Singapore, and Kuala Lumpur, The Instant Group employs 230 experts and has clients in more than 150 countries. It has recently been included in the 2018 Sunday Times’ HSBC International Track 200.