Category Archives: News & Photo Features

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

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

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.

Sanders Spotlights His Humble Roots, Early Activism in 2020 Campaign Rally in Brooklyn

By Karen Rubin, News& Photo Features

Bernie Sanders at 2020 campaign rally at Brooklyn College: “Make no mistake, the struggle is not just about defeating Trump but taking an incredibly powerful institutions that control economy and political life of the nation.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Bernie Sanders held his first major rally of his 2020 campaign for president on the campus of Brooklyn College, just a few miles from where he grew up in a 3 ½-room rent-controlled apartment, and where he attended his first year of college. As many as 7,000 people crammed in to see him on Saturday, March 2 – like the 2016 campaign, mostly young people. Judging by the enthusiasm, The Burn is back.

Bernie Sanders is hoping the rock star status he achieved in the 2016 campaign carries through to 2020 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

While the agenda now has become pretty standard fare for all the Democrats running for President – universal health care, lower drug prices, gun safety, immigration reform, climate action – and while others have emphasized the need to restore civility to political discourse (in contrast to the crass vitriol that constantly spews from Trump), what was decidedly different about Bernie is his willingness to name names, to take on the corporatists and the billionaires: Amazon and Jeff Bezos, Netflix, Disney, General Motors.

In some ways, Bernie, while taking credit for the leftward shift of the Democrats’ platform, needs to stand out – and this is his way. He also seems intent to correct any missteps from the 2016 campaign. This time around he is emphasizing his humble origins whose father migrated from Poland on his own at age 17 with “not 5 cents in his pocket, not speaking English” to escape crushing poverty and anti-Semitism and make a better life. He described a hard-scrabble life, appreciating full well the stress and anxiety of 800,000 government workers furloughed by the record-long Trump shutdown, who live paycheck to paycheck, at the mercy of employers.

Nina Turner, Jane Sanders, Shaun King at Sanders rally at Brooklyn College © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The campaign emphasized his early years as an activist, protesting against housing discrimination and horrible public schools for Chicago’s black children – but he was too modest during the 2016 to focus much attention on his early activism on behalf of civil rights. This time around, Nina Turner, who heads Our Revolution, put Bernie on the same pedestal as Martin Luther King, Jr., and journalist/activist Shaun King connected him with Black Lives Matter.

This time, Sanders also made certain to include issues that concern women on a long “to do” list: child care and women’s reproductive rights.

Jane Sanders: “Today is only the beginning. not a moment, but a movement.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Taking to the podium to introduce her husband, Jane Sanders declared, “I’m honored to be his wife – that might not be politically correct to say, but it’s one of my greatest honors of my life.”

She added, “Today is only the beginning. not a moment, but a movement.”

But as Bernie is forced to differentiate himself from the rest of the dozens of Democrats who are running, most of whom are championing the same agenda, he has to go even further than he did, and that may well turn off centrists, moderates and independents, and fall right into the hands of Trump and his minions who are made to turn against the notion of affordable, accessible health care and pharmaceuticals as some kind of Communist takeover. Imagine, as Trump told CPAC, “taking away private insurance from 180 million people,” banning beef, airplanes, indeed, individual liberty.

“Medicare for All” among the signs carried by the thousands of supporters who turned out for Bernie Sanders 2020 campaign rally at Brooklyn College © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

And don’t Democrats want as their #1 priority to have a candidate who can beat Trump? Which means not just the hard-left and youth who still only vote at a dismal 39% rate and are easily made too peeved to bother, but centrists, moderates, independents, who might be put off by being branded a Socialist and not the European-style Democratic Socialist (which have universal health care, parental leave, child care) but the Venezuelan kind, especially with such radical talk of a federally guaranteed job and a Green New Deal?

“Every card carrying American who loves their Social Security, public schools, roads, police, and fire services will love their Medicare for All. Labels don’t define us, we come together around issues – Medicare for All; free college,” a campaign worker noted.

“Bernie believes another world is possible, that in a modern developed world, people don’t die for lack of access to medical care. The issues are not blue or red, they are human rights.”

In actuality, the Republicans have portrayed every liberal as a Socialist with images of work camps and everyone collecting the same wage – including Obama, Hillary Clinton, Edward Kennedy.

Why choose Sanders? “He’s been consistent for 30 years. He’s been there for 30 years and knows where the next steps are.”

“Sanders’ success has been to inspire a revolution at the grassroots,” says a young supporter. “Look at what has happened in localities and at the state level. He alone among the Democrats who now all champion the same ideals of social, political, economic and environmental justice, has inspired such local activism.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

I remark to a young fellow as we are crammed into a subway car after Bernie’s rally at Brooklyn College, how it is that with 30 years in Congress, Sanders has very little to show in the way of accomplishing the lofty goals he set out in 2016 and again for his 2020 campaign, and question how he would he be more successful as a president, given the obstructions Obama faced from a Republican minority willing to use ruthless tactics. His reply? Sanders’ success has been to inspire a revolution at the grassroots – look at what has happened in localities and at the state level. He alone among the Democrats who now all champion the same ideals of social, political, economic and environmental justice, has inspired such local activism.

Here are highlights from Sanders’ speech:

“Thank you for being part of the revolution, part of the campaign that will not just win the Democratic nomination and defeat Trump, the most dangerous president in modern American history, but with your help, will transform the country and finally create an economy and a government which works for all.

“The underlying principle of government will not be greed, hatred, racism, sexism, homophobia, religious bigotry, tax breaks for billionaires and efforts to take millions off health care. This campaign will end all that.

Bernie Sanders at 2020 campaign rally at Brooklyn College: “I came from a family that struggled. That influenced my life, my values. I know where I came from and will never forget. Unlike Trump who shut down government, left 800,000 employees without money to pay their bills, I know what it is like to live in a family that lives paycheck to paycheck.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“The principles of our government are based on justice: economic, social, racial, environmental justice.  Tell the insurance companies we will have Medicare for All, say to Pharmaceutical companies you will no longer charge the highest prices in world for medicines people desperately need. Your greed will end.

“We will raise the minimum wage to at least $15, rebuild infrastructure, and when we do, we will create up to 13 million decent paying jobs.

“We will have quality affordable child care…. we will make public colleges and universities tuition free.

“We say to seniors, you can’t survive on $14,000 Social Security; Republicans want to cut Social Security Benefits: we will raise it.

“We say to Trump and the fossil fuel industry: climate change is not a hoax, but an existential threat to the entire planet. We will transform away from fossil fuel into energy efficiency and sustainable energy, and when we do that, we will create millions of good paying jobs.

“All of us have moral responsibility to make sure the planet we leave our kids, our grandkids, is healthy and habitable.

”We say to the prison-industrial complex (boo), we are going to achieve real criminal justice reform. We will end the international embarrassment of having more people in jail than any other – take the $80 billion a year and invest in jobs and education instead. No more private prisons, no more profiteering form locking people up.

“No more war on drugs or keeping people in jail because too poor to afford cash bail.

“We will have real criminal justice reform –people have  records for possessing marijuana but not one Wall Street executive went to jail for destroying the economy in 2008. Instead, they got a $1 trillion bailout (boo).

“Instead of deporting undocumented immigrants, we will pass comprehensive immigration reform and provide a path to citizenship, legal status for 1.8 million DACA-eligible recipients. We will develop a humane border policy for those who seek asylum – no longer snatch babies from the arms of their mothers.

“We say to the 1% and the large profitable corporations in America, under a Sanders Administration, you’re not getting more tax breaks (big cheers). We will end their tax breaks, loopholes, and they will start paying their fair share; we will end the loopholes where Amazon, Netflix, General  Motors pay nothing in federal tax, where corporations and billionaires stash money in the Caymans and other tax havens.

“We will end the military industrial complex. We won’t spend $700 billion – more than the top 10 nations combined spend. Instead, we will  invest in affordable housing, public education, invest in our crumbling infrastructure. No more major investment in never-ending wars.

“Trump wants to divide us by skin color, where we were born, gender, religion, sexual orientation. What we are about is doing the opposite: bring people together – black, white, Latino, Asian, young, old, men, women, native, immigrant, we are together.

“As return to where I was born, as I launch my campaign for president, you deserve to know where I came from, the values I developed… I grew up a few miles from here on Kings Highway, in a 3 ½ room rent-controlled apartment. My father was a paint salesman who never made much money; my mother raised the two of us. I learned about immigration from my father who came from Poland at age 17 without 5 cents in his pocket and no English, to escape crushing poverty and widespread anti-Semitism. His entire family was wiped out by Hitler. Coming from a lower middle class family, I will never forget how the lack of money always causes stress in family. My mother’s dream was to move out of rent control apartment to a home of her own. She died young and never saw that dream.

“I came from a family that struggled. That influenced my life, my values. I know where I came from and will never forget.

“Unlike Trump who shut down government, left 800,000 employees without money to pay their bills, I know what it is like to live in a family that lives paycheck to paycheck.

“I didn’t have a father who gave me a $200,000 allowance when I was three years old – my allowance was 25 cents a week. But I had something more valuable – a role model of a father with courage to journey across an ocean with no money, to start a better life.

“I didn’t come from a family of privilege, who entertained people on TV by saying ‘You’re fired.’ I came from a family which understood the frightening power of employers. I didn’t attend an elite private school, I was educated in public schoo0ls in Brooklyn.

“I didn’t build a corporate empire based on housing discrimination. I protested against housing discrimination. One of my proudest moments was joining the March on Washington with Martin Luther King.

Bernie Sanders, campaigning for 2020, calls for Medicare for All, free tuition at public colleges, investment in infrastructure, not military, ending private prisons, voting rights, gun control, reproductive rights, federal jobs guarantee and affordable housing © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“The last two years and before, you, I and millions, fought for justice in every part of society. Had some success against billionaires who attack unions, slash wages. We succeeded in raising wages to $15 across country – forced Amazon, Disney to do the same.

“We stood with teachers across country who went out on strike to fight for better schools.

“The forces of militarism kept us engaged in war. We fought back and for first time in 45 years, used the War Powers Act to end the Saudi-fueled war in Yemen.

“We fought to end the war on drugs, to get states to decriminalize marijuana possession and we are beginning to see records being expunged.

Bernie Sanders at 2020 campaign rally at Brooklyn College: “We won some victories but clearly have a long way to go.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“We won some victories but clearly have a long long way to go.

“Because of the work done, we are on the brink of not just winning election but transforming our country.

 “When we are in the White House, we will enact a federal jobs guarantee.

“We will attack the problem of urban gentrification and build affordable housing this country desperately needs.

“We will end the decline of rural America – so young people in rural America have decent jobs and can remain in their communities. We will reopen rural hospitals.

“We will end the epidemic of gun violence, pass commonsense gun safety legislation.

“We will address national, racial disparity of wealth, root out institutional racism wherever it exists.

“We will end the cowardly outrage of voter suppression, and make it easier to vote.

“We will protect a woman’s right to control her own body – that is a woman’s right, not federal, state, local government.

“Make no mistake, the struggle is not just about defeating Trump but taking an incredibly powerful institutions that control economy and political life of the nation: Wall Street, insurance companies, drug companies, the military-industrial complex, the prison-industrial complex, the fossil fuel industry and corrupt campaign finance system that enables billionaires to buy elections.

“Brothers and sisters, we have enormous amount of work ahead. The path forward is not easy.

“Wealthy and powerful elites will do all they can to defend their financial interests, and have unlimited money. But we have the people.

“This is what I believe: if we don’t allow Trump to divide us, if we stand together – not blue states, red – but as working people believing in justice and human dignity, love and compassion, the future of this country is extraordinary and nothing we will not be able to accomplish.”

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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

Womens March on NYC Led by Womens March Alliance Draws Tens of Thousands

By Karen Rubin, News& Photo Features

Women’s March on NYC organized by Womens March Alliance, Jan. 19, 2019

Tens of thousands took to the streets of New York City on Saturday, January 19, 2019 for the third annual Women’s March organized by the Women’s March Alliance, calling for action on a Woman’s Agenda that encompasses everything from pay parity, paid parental leave and reproductive freedom, to immigration reform, gun violence prevention, climate action, criminal justice reform – in other words, the gamut of social, political, environmental and economic justice. (See also With Cry of ‘Your Voice Your Power,’ Alliance Mounts 3rd Annual Women’s March on NYC Jan. 19)

The marchers got particularly animated outside of Trump Tower Hotel on Central Park West, chanting “Shame, Shame, Shame,” extending a finger, and waving placards calling for “Indict, Impeach, Imprison.”

The protesters use their bodies as message boards. Here are highlights:

Women’s March on NYC organized by Womens March Alliance, Jan. 19, 2019
New York City High School members of “NYC Great Girls” (Girls Reaching Every Apex Together), a leadership initiative of the NYC Department of Education, gather for the 2019 Women’s March NYC © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Women’s March on NYC organized by Womens March Alliance, Jan. 19, 2019
Alexandria OcasioCortez at 2019 NYC Women’s March © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Alexandria OcasioCortez at 2019 NYC Women’s March © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Women’s March on NYC organized by Womens March Alliance, Jan. 19, 2019
Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney with Manhattan Borough President Gail Brewer at 2019 NYC Women’s March © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Women’s March on NYC organized by Womens March Alliance, Jan. 19, 2019
Women’s March on NYC organized by Womens March Alliance, Jan. 19, 2019
Women’s March on NYC organized by Womens March Alliance, Jan. 19, 2019
Women’s March on NYC organized by Womens March Alliance, Jan. 19, 2019
Women’s March on NYC organized by Womens March Alliance, Jan. 19, 2019
Women’s March on NYC organized by Womens March Alliance, Jan. 19, 2019
Women’s March on NYC organized by Womens March Alliance, Jan. 19, 2019
Women’s March on NYC organized by Womens March Alliance, Jan. 19, 2019
Women’s March on NYC organized by Womens March Alliance, Jan. 19, 2019
Women’s March on NYC organized by Womens March Alliance, Jan. 19, 2019
Women’s March on NYC organized by Womens March Alliance, Jan. 19, 2019
Women’s March on NYC organized by Womens March Alliance, Jan. 19, 2019
Women’s March on NYC organized by Womens March Alliance, Jan. 19, 2019
Women’s March on NYC organized by Womens March Alliance, Jan. 19, 2019
Women’s March on NYC organized by Womens March Alliance, Jan. 19, 2019
Women’s March on NYC organized by Womens March Alliance, Jan. 19, 2019
Women’s March on NYC organized by Womens March Alliance, Jan. 19, 2019
Women’s March on NYC organized by Womens March Alliance, Jan. 19, 2019
Women’s March on NYC organized by Womens March Alliance, Jan. 19, 2019
Women’s March on NYC organized by Womens March Alliance, Jan. 19, 2019

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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

Cuomo Lays Out Ambitious Progressive Justice Agenda for 3rd Term, Draws Contrast With Federal Government Failures

Governor Andrew Cuomo delivering his inaugural address at Ellis Island: “I don’t fault our federal government for causing the underlying fear and frustration, but I fault them for something worse. I fault them for a failure of leadership and government malfeasance. I fault them, I fault them for manipulating and using the fear and deepening the divisions for their own political purpose.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

In an inaugural address worthy of a president, Andrew Cuomo, sworn in for his third term as Governor of New York State, pledged to fulfill an ambitious, progressive Justice Agenda: voting reform, strengthening gun laws, protecting health care, legalizing marijuana and reforming the criminal justice system. The venue was key to his message: the great hall at Ellis Island where millions of impoverished immigrants, the forebears of so many New Yorkers, escaped poverty and persecution to pursue the American Dream, and standing as the greatest symbol of difference with the federal administration.

The setting was relevant, as well, because the shutdown of the federal government, forced by Trump’s demand for billions of dollars to build a wall across the length of the southern border with Mexico, has caused a cascading series of closures at national parks and monuments, but New York State is paying to keep the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island open, and he used it as a symbol of what the state stands for and would strive for, and as a parable for the different approaches to leadership and governance.

Hallowed Ground: New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo gives his third inaugural address in the great hall of Ellis Island, where millions of immigrants passed through in pursuit of the American Dream © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“Let New York say that the federal government may shut itself down, but it will never extinguish the Statue of Liberty’s torch. It will never erase the words of her poem. They will never close our harbor. They will never close our hearts. They will never close this hall of dreamers. They will never disrespect the legacy they left,” he declared.

 “When they write the history books about this time and place, I believe they will record this period as one of global and national unrest. A time that saw thousands of new immigrants reaching for our borders in search of hope. A time that saw troubled, frightened, American citizens frustrated by economic stagnation and a deteriorating democracy, have grave new doubts about where our country is headed. 

“There is now a fundamental questioning of the viability of the American promise. A covenant that created our nation’s founding 242 years ago and reached full flower right here in this Great Hall for our ancestors yearning to breathe free, illuminated by the torch of our great Lady in the Harbor. A land that would work with you to lift you up to reach new heights, as high as your wings and work could carry you, with individual freedom and equal rights for all. An American promise grounded on the theory that we would work together.

“This sacred compact has held firm through the centuries, through world wars, internal dissension, and economic depressions. Through it all, we overcame, we rallied as one, and we built the strongest nation on the globe. There is no other nation that can threaten us. America’s only threat is from within: it is the growing division amongst us. The threat is when we see ourselves as black or white, foreign or native born, instead of as Americans. As Christians or Jews or Muslims, gay or straight, instead of as Americans. That, my friends, is truly frightening.

“And that is the threat that we face today. As our nation once confronted a great economic depression, we now confront a great social depression. People’s frustration is turning to fear and the fear is turning to anger and the anger is turning to division. It is impossible to overstate how dangerous, how malignant this condition is. It is like a cancer that is spreading throughout our society, a disease that causes one cell in the body politic to attack other cells, to turn one against one another.”

He added, “It may surprise you, but I don’t fault our federal government for causing the underlying fear and frustration, but I fault them for something worse. I fault them for a failure of leadership and government malfeasance. I fault them, I fault them for manipulating and using the fear and deepening the divisions for their own political purpose.”

He said, The hard, but true path is to confront and actually solve the problem. The easy, but false path is to use the anger to blame someone else, and the easiest target to blame is always the people who are different. And this federal government has sought to demonize our differences and make our diversity our greatest weakness, rather than our greatest strength. We always knew, we always knew that the concept of E Pluribus Unum, forging one people from many different origins would be difficult, we knew it.”

In setting out his progressive agenda and to counter the skepticism that it could be accomplished, Cuomo noted that now that both houses of the Legislature are Democratic, “I feel liberated. I felt like I was fighting with one arm tied behind my back. And we will not repeat mistakes of the past. We know hollow campaign rhetoric and false political posturing only aggravates the frustration…

“New Yorkers know the difference between rhetoric and results. We either perform by delivering real solutions that restore hope and progress in people’s lives or we fail. It is that simple. Either the government works or the government doesn’t work. Either the government delivers or the government delivers. And if we don’t deliver, we fail. But, in New York failure is not an option, my friends.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo is sworn into his third term by Justice Janet DiFiore, Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals of the State of New York © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Cuomo, who has in his prior two terms done bold things on the scale of Franklin Delano Roosevelt when he was New York State governor, in fact, invoked FDR, saying, “Just as FDR turned the frustration of the economic depression into a movement that passed the New Deal, let New Yorkers’ frustration of the social depression to pass a new justice agenda – advancing social racial and economic justice – and let us address our issues, our very real issues with a progressive agenda – not a regressive agenda – an agenda that moves us up, forward and united, not down, backwards and divided.”

He laid out an ambitious agenda: “Within my first 100 days, I will propose to the new Democratic Legislature the most progressive agenda this state has ever seen, period.

“From voting reforms, to Roe v. Wade for New York, to protecting a woman’s right to choose. To better gun laws, to healthcare protection, to legalizing marijuana, to protecting the labor movement, to a green new deal, to real criminal justice reform – we will make history and New York will move forward. Not by building a wall, my friends, but by building new bridges, and building new airports, and creating new middle class jobs and an economic future for the next generation and showing us how good we can be at our best when we are together.”

Cuomo declared, “We will get it done. And it won’t just be what New York got done at this defining moment, but how we did it. The way we’re going to do it is by bringing people together. Democrats and Republicans. Upstate and downstate. Young and old. All of us together because we believe, in New York, that we can be a people truly guided by our better angels. Because New York believes that our interconnection and interdependence come from our essential goodness.

“It is New York’s duty, it is New York’s destiny, it is New York’s legacy to bring the light to lead the way through the darkness and I pledge to the people of the State of New York, that’s what we will do together.”

The setting was relevant, as well, because the shutdown of the federal government has caused a cascading series of closures at national parks and monuments, but New York State is paying to keep the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island open.

Rabbi Arthur Schneier of Park East Synagogue, in giving the invocation, evoked memory of arriving in the United States from Austria in 1947 as a refugee of the Holocaust. Speaking about the four pillars of freedom – to worship, speech, freedom from want and fear, he called on leaders to fight “to restore freedom from fear for all Americans.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

One after another of the state leaders sworn into office – Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul, Comptroller Tom DiNapoli and Attorney General Latisha James – referred to immigrants and their own origins, coming from humble circumstances.

Governor Cuomo reemphasized the point: “we believe the promise that attracted 5000 people a day to come from across the globe to this sacred place, through this portal on Ellis Island, that this is not a faded memory of yesterday, but rather a shining beacon for a better tomorrow. 

“Ellis Island remains the place where Maud McKoy arrived from the poor island of Jamaica. Whose son was educated in New York public schools, and rose to become the United States Secretary of State Colin Powell.

“It is the place where Rose and Joseph Amster, Jewish immigrants from Austria arrived, whose Brooklyn-born granddaughter would become Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader-Ginsberg.

“This is the place, and this is the promise that made America, America. And no one can ever forget that. It doesn’t matter how high one is raised, or what office one’s occupying. Never forget where you came from, and never forget or deny this place. Because this is the place where Richard Cawley arrived fleeing starvation in Ireland, and whose grandson is now Vice President Mike Pence.”

“This is the harbor where Frederick Trump [Drumpf] arrived from Germany, and whose grandson would become President of the United States. Don’t you tell me Ellis Island isn’t real, and true, and the promise it made America lives today, because it does,” he said in the only part of his address in which he referred to Trump by name.

Referring to his father, Mario Cuomo, who passed away on January 1 four years ago, he said, “he would implore us all each and every one to stand against the tide to fight back and that New York should lead by example by the power of our example and lift up New York to show the nation the way forward, show them the better way. And he would be right.”

Here are more highlights from the event:

Letitia James, the first woman and first black to hold the office of Attorney General in New York State, is sworn in my Reverend Anthony L. Trufant, Senior Pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church.  “We stand today on hallowed ground… where refugees came looking for a brighter future under the torch of liberty,” and pledged to fight for justice for all against the powerful. “I believe the law is the greatest equalizer, the force against government inertia and entrenched interests.”  © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, who has spent 32 years in state public service, is administered the oath of office by Jenny Rivera, Associate Judge of the NYS Court of Appeals. DiNapoli pledged to continue his campaign for transparency and accountability, and to fulfill his responsibility to the 1.1 million New Yorkers vested in the state’s pension system © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Kathleen C. Hochul is administered the oath of office of Lieutenant Governor by Paul Feinman, Associate Judge of the NYS Court of Appeals © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul pointed to the “unprecedented social and economic progress of the last four years. We will build on that foundation” and reaffirmed her belief in the “power of public service to make sure tomorrows are better than yesterdays.” She reflected on her grandmother who came through Ellis Island to the United States 90 years ago as an impoverished woman from Ireland who became a domestic servant. “She achieved the ideal for her children, who built companies, became educators, served in the military and whose granddaughter became a member of Congress and Lt. Governor. She pledged to draw upon her grandmother’s strength to fight for women’s pay equity, child care, combat sexual assault. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
More than a dozen green energy activists arrive to send message to Cuomo and cabinet as they board the ferry to Ellis Island for Cuomo’s inauguration; two Trump 2020 supporters also showed up © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

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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

Trump Chairing Security Council, Calls for New Sanctions Against Iran, Accuses China of Interfering in US Election

Donald Trump chairs the United Nations Security Council meeting, Sept. 26, 2018 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

 

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

During a Security Council meeting on counter-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, Donald Trump, chairing the meeting, cited chemical weapons being used in Syria, aided by Russia and Iran, but proceeded only to chastise Iran, and used Iran’s support of terrorism in the region to justify pulling out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and reimposing economic sanctions on Iran.

“The regime is the world’s leading sponsor of terror and fuels conflict across the region and far beyond.  A regime with this track record must never be allowed to possess a nuclear weapon.

“For this reason, I announced earlier this year that the United States would withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.

“This horrible, one-sided deal allowed Iran to continue its path towards a bomb and gave the regime a cash lifeline when they needed it the most.  They were in big, big trouble.  They needed cash.  We gave it to them.”

“After that, the United States will pursue additional sanctions, tougher than ever before, to counter the entire range of Iran’s malign conduct.  Any individual or entity who fails to comply with these sanctions will face severe consequences.

“I ask all members of the Security Council to work with the United States to ensure the Iranian regime changes its behavior and never acquires a nuclear bomb.”

Donald Trump arrives last at the Security Council meeting to little fanfare© Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

In his remarks to the Security Council, Trump went on to thank Iran, Russia, and Syria “for — at my very strong urging and request — substantially slowing down their attack on Idlib Province and the 3 million people who live there in order to get 35,000 targeted terrorists.  Get the terrorists, but I hope the restraint continues.  The world is watching.

“Thank you also to Turkey for helping to negotiate restraint.  Anything the USA can do to help resolve this problem in order to save perhaps even hundreds of thousands of lives, maybe more, we are willing and able.  We are available to help.”

Donald Trump, sitting next to UN Secretary General António Guterres © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.commeeting, Sept. 26, 2018

Without missing a beat, Trump then accused China (not Russia) of interfering in the upcoming US midterm elections – by retaliating against US-imposed tariffs with tariffs on products impacting Trump’s voter base including farmers.

“China has been attempting to interfere in our upcoming 2018 election coming up in November against my administration.  They do not want me, or us, to win because I am the first President ever to challenge China on trade.  And we are winning on trade.  We are winning at every level.  We don’t want them to meddle or interfere in our upcoming election.”

Meanwhile, he overstated the progress being made with denuclearizing North Korea.

“As I also mentioned yesterday, we have seen the results of historic efforts to open new pathways to peace on the North Korean Peninsula — on the Korean Peninsula.  And that’s something we are extremely proud of.

DDonald Trump chairs the Security Council meeting © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“I am pleased to say that North Korea has not conducted a missile test since last November.  It has not conducted a nuclear test since last September.  And the hostages have been returned to us.  And very importantly, the remains of American heroes are now returning home.

“In June, I held a historic summit with Chairman Kim Jong Un in Singapore, where he reaffirmed his commitment to complete denuclearization.  Last week, Chairman Kim reiterated that commitment to President Moon at their third summit, and to me in a very strong letter form.

“I think we will make a deal.  But unfortunately, to ensure this progress continues, we must enforce existing U.N. Security Council resolutions until denuclearization occurs.”

John Bolton, Trump’s National Security Adviser and a hard-liner on Iran, and Chief of Staff John F. Kelly listen as Donald Trump calls for renewed sanctions against Iran © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

But he expressed concern that “some nations” (without naming Russia) are already violating these U.N. sanctions.  This includes illegal ship-to-ship transfers, which must end immediately.  The safety of the Korean Peninsula, the region, and the world, depends on full compliance with U.N. Security Council resolutions.  Very, very important.

“But most importantly, I believe that Chairman Kim Jong Un, a man I have gotten to know and like, wants peace and prosperity for North Korea.  Many things are happening behind the scenes — away from the media, which nobody knows — but they are happening nevertheless and they are happening in a very positive way.  So I think you will have some very good news coming from North Korea in the coming months and years.

“I also very much appreciate what President Moon of South Korea had to say about me last night in television interviews.  Working with President Moon has been my great honor.  And likewise, working with President Xi of China and Prime Minister Abe of Japan has been a pleasure and an honor.”

Donald Trump chairs the Security Council meeting © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Trump finished with flourishes of glory: “Each of us follows in the footsteps of countless world leaders, diplomats, and public servants who came here to the United Nations with the same noble goal: to build a future worthy of the patriots — true, true patriots — who sacrificed their lives for our nation and for our future.

“To be successful, we need a commitment of every nation represented in this chamber.  Acting together, we can replace the horrors of war with the blessings of safety and the beautiful promise of peace.”

But speakers afterward countered Trump that the way to foster nonproliferation was to save the Iran Nuclear Agreement and build upon it.

United Kingdom Prime Minister Teresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron at the Security Council meeting, Sept. 26, 2018 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

French President Emmanuel Macron said there needed to be a long-term strategy to manage the Iran issue and that it could not be done with just sanctions and containment. During a press briefing, Macron said that crippling Iran’s economy would be counterproductive and he would look to mitigate the impact of US sanctions.

French President Emmanuel Macron greets members of the African delegation at the Security Council meeting, Sept. 26, 2018 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

And in his General Assembly address, Iran President Hassan Rouhani declared the current US administration “seems determined to render all international institutions ineffectual.”

“What Iran says is clear: no war, no sanctions, no threats, no bullying; just acting according to the law and the fulfillment of obligations,” Rouhani said.

In his General Assembly address, Iran President Hassan Rouhani declared the current US administration “seems determined to render all international institutions ineffectual.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Rouhani said Iran was pleased other countries did not “acquiesce” to the US demands to break the deal.

Unilateral sanctions “constitute a form of economic terrorism and a breach of the right for development,” Rouhani declared.

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

Dignitaries Come out to Little Neck Queens 91st Memorial Day Parade, One of Largest in Nation, to Honor Fallen, Vets

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo, NYC Public Advocate Tish James, among the dignitaries holding New York State banner at the 91st Annual Little Neck-Douglaston Memorial Day Parade © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Little Neck, Queen’s presented its 91st Memorial Day Parade, considered one of the largest, longest Memorial Day parades in the nation, with 161 entities participating.

This year’s parade commemorated the centennial of World War I,  65th year since the Korean War ceasefire, 50 years since 1968, the bloodiest year of the Vietnam War. Grand Marshal Brigadier General William Seely, USMC representing the Department of the Navy, the featured branch,  “protecting our shores for 243 years”. The Honorary Grand Marshal was Deborah Crosby, who in 2015, retrieved the remains of her father, Frederick Peter Crosby, USN, from Vietnam.

the 91st Annual Little Neck-Douglaston Memorial Day Parade © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Among the dignitaries: US Senator Charles Schumer, US Congressman Tom Suozzi, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli New York City Mayor Bill DiBlasio, NYC Public Advocate Leticia James, the Democratic candidate for New York Attorney General.

Elected officials and dignitaries at the 91st Annual Little Neck-Douglaston Memorial Day Parade © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Also, First United States Volunteer Cavalry “Rough Riders’” Color Guard; Grand Marshal Brigadier General William Seely, USMC representing the Department of the Navy.

US Congressman Tom Suozzi joins the Rough Riders at the 91st Annual Little Neck-Douglaston Memorial Day Parade © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“At a time when this country is so divided, when there is tension, we have a day where we can come together and remember what our freedom, our democracy is all about.

“This Memorial Day, as we spend time with friends and loved ones, we remember those New Yorkers, from the North Country to Staten Island, who gave their lives for our nation, our values, and our way of life. Our nation’s armed forces have displayed extraordinary courage and made unimaginable sacrifices answering the call to serve, and we owe our eternal gratitude to them and their families.”

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo: “At a time when this country is so divided, when there is tension, we have a day where we can come together and remember what our freedom, our democracy is all about. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“On behalf of all New Yorkers, I extend my sincerest thanks to the brave men and women who have served and continue to serve, and honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice.  On this day – and every day – we commemorate those selfless heroes who laid down their lives to protect our freedom and our democracy.”

Here are highlights:

NYC Public Advocate Tish James with Teen and Jr. Teen New York . © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The 91st Little Neck-Douglas Memorial Day Parade marked the 65th year since the Korean War ceasefire, 50 years since 1968, the bloodiest year of the Vietnam War © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The 91st Little Neck-Douglas Memorial Day Parade marked the 65th year since the Korean War ceasefire, 50 years since 1968, the bloodiest year of the Vietnam War © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The 91st Little Neck-Douglas Memorial Day Parade, one of the largest in the nation © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The 91st Little Neck-Douglas Memorial Day Parade, one of the largest in the nation © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The 91st Little Neck-Douglas Memorial Day Parade, one of the largest in the nation © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Indigent Veterans Burial Fund contingent at 91st Little Neck-Douglas Memorial Day Parade, one of the largest in the nation © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Luke G, who was at the Battle of the Bulge, a “young” 94 years old © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Marching for the Jewish War Veterans of Queens contingent at the 91st Little Neck-Douglas Memorial Day Parade © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

US Senator Charles Schumer at the 91st Little Neck-Douglas Memorial Day Parade © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Francis Lewis High School’s Jr. ROTC at the 91st Little Neck-Douglas Memorial Day Parade © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

New York City Mayor Bill DiBlasio at the 91st Little Neck-Douglas Memorial Day Parade © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Manhasset-Lakeville Volunteer FireFighters march in the 91st Little Neck-Douglas Memorial Day Parade © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Harvest Church of New York at the 91st Little Neck-Douglas Memorial Day Parade © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Daughters of the American Revolution at the 91st Little Neck-Douglas Memorial Day Parade © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The Marching Band of Sullivan High School came from Sullivan, Missouri to march in the 91st Little Neck-Douglas Memorial Day Parade © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

For more information, visit www.lndmemorialday.org.

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