Thursday, February 11, 2016

Jury Finds NYPD Officer Peter Liang Guilty of Manslaughter


The Obama Nominations: Judge Abdul K. Kallon


WASHINGTON, DC - Today, President Obama nominated Judge Abdul K. Kallon to serve on the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.

"Judge Kallon has a long and impressive record of service and a history of handing down fair and judicious decisions,” said President Obama. “He will be a thoughtful and distinguished addition to the Eleventh Circuit, and I am extremely pleased to put him forward.”

Judge Abdul K. Kallon is a United States District Judge in the Northern District of Alabama.  Before joining the bench in 2010, Judge Kallon had an active litigation and counseling practice, handling corporate civil defense matters at both the district and appellate court levels.

Judge Kallon was born in Sierra Leone, where he lived until he immigrated to the United States in 1980 when he was eleven years old.  He received his A.B. in 1990 from Dartmouth College and his J.D. in 1993 from the University of Pennsylvania Law School.  In 1993, Judge Kallon began his legal career by serving as a law clerk to the Honorable U.W. Clemon of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama.  The following year, he joined the law firm of Bradley Arant Boult Cummings as an associate and worked there until his appointment to the bench, becoming a partner in 2001. 

Throughout his career, Judge Kallon has been active in the Birmingham community and has served on numerous boards, including the Legal Aid Society of Birmingham, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Birmingham, and Children’s Village Birmingham.  He has also been involved in numerous state and federal bar associations.  

Source: The White House, Office of the Press Secretary 

Sanders Introduces Bill Allowing Photographing and Recording of Police



New York State Senator James Sanders Jr. (D-Rochdale Village) today introduced legislation (S.6735) clarifying that a person is permitted to photograph and record law enforcement officers performing their duties, when the officer is in a public place or public view, or the person is in a private place where they have a right to be present. 
 

Existing law does not expressly prohibit photographing and recording police. However, there is an offense in New York called "obstructing governmental administration" under which interfering with police activity falls. This legislation amends that section of the law to clearly establish that the acts of photographing and recording police officers are not unlawful.
 

Further, under this new legislation the officer must not intentionally interfere with the photography or recording; detain, arrest, intimidate or otherwise harass such person; search or seize the camera or recording device without permission or a warrant; or damage or destroy the device. A civil cause of action to recover monetary damages is created against any officer violating this law, as well as that officer's law enforcement agency.
 

"There are calls for more transparency and accountability in law enforcement, which include pushes for police body cameras and dashboard cameras," Sanders said.  "In today's age of smartphones, encounters with police are frequently recorded and the public, as well as law enforcement officers, should know the law permits capturing these moments. This effort can go a long way to bolster the public's trust in our law enforcement system." 

Source: The Office of State Senator James Sanders, Jr.

Susan Rice Meets with Southeast Asian Civil Society Leaders

 
National Security Advisor Susan Rice met today with civil society representatives from all ten Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN) countries in advance of the upcoming U.S.-ASEAN Leaders Summit at the Sunnylands Retreat in California. Ambassador Rice highlighted that U.S. support for civil society, good governance, and human rights is a focus area for the U.S. Rebalance to Asia and is a topic President Obama will stress at Sunnylands.  The participants—who included leaders in their home countries on women’s rights, civil-political rights, LGBTI rights, religious freedom, justice and accountability, and pro-environment economic development—underscored the need to respect universal rights and fundamental freedoms and expand political space for civil society. Ambassador Rice reiterated the United States’ steadfast commitment to sustaining and supporting civil society in Southeast Asia and around the world, including through the President’s Stand with Civil Society initiative. 

Source: The White House, Office of the Press Secretary

Veep Talk: President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine


Vice President Joe Biden spoke today with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. The two leaders agreed on the importance of making progress on the security and political aspects of the Minsk agreements, and expressed serious concern about the worsening security situation in eastern Ukraine. The leaders also discussed the political situation in Ukraine, agreeing that it is essential for Ukraine to continue to take action to root out corruption and implement reforms. The Vice President urged the governing coalition to quickly establish unity to allow Ukraine to move forward with reforms, in line with the commitments in its IMF program. 

Source: The White House, Office of the Vice President

Politics in Action: H.R. 2017

STATEMENT OF ADMINISTRATION POLICY
H.R. 2017 - The Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act of 2015
(Rep. McMorris Rodgers, R-WA, and 99 cosponsors)

The Administration opposes H.R. 2017, the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act of 2015.

The Administration is committed to promoting the public health and ensuring that Americans have access to information to make informed food choices for themselves and their families.  Today, Americans eat and drink about one-third of their calories away from home. 

To provide consumers with calorie and other nutrition information about the foods they eat outside of their homes, the Congress in 2010 required that calorie information be listed on menus and menu boards in certain chain restaurants and similar retail food establishments with 20 or more locations, and on certain vending machines.  In 2014, after extensive shareholder and public participation, the Food and Drug Administration finalized rules implementing the statutory menu labeling and vending machine labeling requirements.

H.R. 2017 would undercut the objective of providing clear, consistent calorie information to consumers. If enacted, it would reduce consumers' access to nutrition information and likely create consumer confusion by introducing a great deal of variability into how calories are declared.  The legislation also would create unnecessary delays in the implementation of menu labeling. 

Source: The Executive Office of the President, Office of Management and Budget

Hearing on the Iran Nuclear Agreement

 
State Department Lead Coordinator for Iran Nuclear Implementation Stephen Mull and John Smith, acting head of the Treasury Department Office of Foreign Assets Control, testified at a hearing on implementation of the Iran nuclear agreement. 

Click here for video.

Source: C-Span

House Speaker and House Minority Leader Weekly Briefing


House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) briefs reporters and responds to their questions on his party’s legislative agenda and responds to questions on a range of issues. 

Click here for video.


House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) briefs reporters on her party’s legislative agenda and responds to questions on a range of issues, including the presidential race and the looming battle over the president’s budget. 

Click here for video.

Source: C-Span

Proposal Aims to Increase Access to HIV Treatment for Teens

 
Albany, NY - A proposal will be introduced this legislative session to allow teens with HIV to receive treatment without requiring parental consent. Under state law, minors generally cannot consent to medical care. An exception was made decades ago for the treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, but HIV was not listed due lack of adequate treatments and frequently fatal outcomes. Medical treatments have simplified and improved significantly over time. Further, failure to treat can lead to serious health consequences. The Governor’s proposal adds HIV to the list of exceptions in order to increase treatment for minors that may be affected with HIV – preventing infection and ultimately saving lives.

“We should not allow stigma or personal circumstances to prevent someone with HIV from receiving support,” said Governor Cuomo. “This proposal helps ensure that teens living with HIV have access to the treatment they need, and it marks another critical step forward in our effort to end the epidemic. I am proud to stand up this vulnerable population, and I urge the legislature to join me by passing this proposal this year.”

In the early days, HIV was considered a death sentence and was a difficult disease to treat. Treatment was inaccessible, expensive and harsh. Further, there were significant collateral health consequences associated with HIV treatment. Today, HIV is not a death sentence and treatment is now simplified and in fact can be conducted in primary care physician setting. But, importantly, the failure to treat can lead to serious health consequences that often cannot be reversed – including disease progression, as well as increased transmission of the virus to others. In 2013, there were 141 newly diagnosed HIV cases in New York State among 13 to 19 year olds, and 951 people in this age group living with the virus.

These proposed changes make it easier for HIV-positive youth – who have lower rates of suppression in the state – to access important treatments that help to suppress the virus, enabling them to live longer and healthier lives. In 2013, only 48% of HIV-positive persons aged 13 to 24 were virally suppressed compared to the overall statewide rate of 63%.

The proposed legislation also includes the ability for HIV preventive services to be provided to minors. This is important as highly effective new approaches become available, such as Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, or PrEP, which is a once-daily pill that protects individuals from HIV infection. For youth who engage in high-risk sexual behaviors and experience repeated STD infections, PrEP may become an important prevention tool that is not currently available to them without parental consent.

The Governor’s proposal complements recently-enacted state regulations that ban discrimination and harassment against transgender people, and acknowledges the stigma that many face when diagnosed with HIV. Teens in particular who become infected with HIV may be reluctant to talk to their parents about their sexual health. Allowing treatment and HIV prevention without parental consent will also help teens who are estranged from their parents.

Dr. David Rosenthal, Director for the Center for Young Adult, Adolescent and Pediatric HIV at Northwell Health in Great Neck said: “It puts me in a difficult situation when I find a 14-year-old who has HIV. I can test the patient, I can tell them that they have HIV and that I have medications I can give them to treat them effectively, but I can’t do that unless I tell their parents. We need to realize that treatment of HIV should have the same level of protection for minors, as does other sexually transmitted diseases.”

Dr. Donna Futterman, Professor of Clinical Pediatrics Director, Adolescent AIDS Program at Children’s Hospital at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx said: “As a pediatrician and the Director of the Adolescent AIDS Program at Montefiore Medical Center, a program that has provided care to over 650 HIV+ youth since 1989, I applaud the forward-thinking leadership Governor Cuomo and the DOH are providing by calling for an end to laws that prevent minor youth from consenting to HIV treatment and prevention medications. Already youth are able to consent to treatments for other sexual health conditions such as STDs and birth control and access to HIV treatment should be no different.”

Under the Governor’s leadership, New York State has made great strides toward the Governor’s goal to end AIDS by the end of 2020. No new cases of mother-to-child transmission of HIV have been reported since August of 2014, the first time there have been no new cases over a twelve-month period since the outbreak of the AIDS epidemic. Additionally, New York State has been recognized as a national leader in the effort to increase availability of PrEP. Since June 2014, there has been over a 400 percent increase in PrEP use among Medicaid enrollees.

This fall, the Governor committed $200 million in new funding over several years toward HIV/AIDS efforts, which is in addition to the $2.5 billion in public funding that the state currently directs toward addressing the disease.

In addition to the billions of dollars the State directs to HIV/AIDS efforts, New York State will make additional financial and programmatic commitments to ensure that New York State Ends AIDS by the end of 2020, including:

Ensure all New Yorkers have access to HIV testing services;

Continue to expand access to PrEP for those with the highest rates of HIV infection; and

Work across systems of care to identify HIV-infected persons who are not virally suppressed and provide them with additional assistance.

Source: Press Office, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

Governor Cuomo Makes a Jobs Announcement in Dunkirk


Governor Cuomo announces that Athenex Pharmaceuticals is opening their North American headquarters in Buffalo and is building a manufacturing facility in Dunkirk, creating a total of 1400 jobs. 

Source: Press Office, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

SUNYSA Testifies at Joint Budget Hearing


Albany  On Monday, SUNY Student Assembly President Thomas D. Mastro testified at the joint budget hearing before the Senate Finance and Assembly Ways and Means Committees.

President Mastro first testified in the early afternoon alongside SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher and the Presidents of the University at Albany, Potsdam, and Monroe Community College. Mastro’s testimony carried one strong message: SUNY students overwhelmingly support the continuation of a fair, equitable and predictable tuition plan as laid out under NYSUNY 2020. After five years of the plan, Mastro says, “Our student leaders spoke with a loud, clear, and unified voice. They said we cannot afford to be left in the dark. They said we cannot afford sporadic and unpredictable tuition hikes." When the Student Assembly General Assembly met last spring, the renewal of NYSUNY 2020 passed 59-4 with one abstention.

Later that afternoon other leaders from the Student Assembly joined Mastro to speak on their larger legislative agenda. Testifying on behalf of students were Vice President Melissa Kathan, Chief of Staff Marc Cohen, and Director of Legislative Affairs Nicholas Simons.

Vice President Kathan testified on the importance of reinstating tuition assistance for graduate students, known as Graduate TAP. Currently, only undergraduate students are eligible for TAP aid. "Our nearly 41,000 graduate students should have the same access to aid as any student pursuing his or her education" said Kathan. She went on to discuss the importance of disability accommodations stating that, "A student’s opportunity to obtain an education must not be impeded by a campus’ physical or structural insufficiencies." As a senior who will enroll at the University at Buffalo’s Law School in the autumn, she strongly supports the expansion of TAP eligibility so that graduate students can succeed without financial worries impeding their academic growth.

Director Simons spoke at length with regard to increased funding for SUNY childcare centers. "Among the most significant issues facing our non-traditional students is the inadequacies surrounding childcare funding," said Simons. These centers serve students, faculty, and community members at 50 of SUNY’s campuses, and would be negatively impacted by the proposed $1.1 million cut as set forth in the Governor's executive budget.

Last to testify was the Assembly's Chief of Staff, Marc Cohen. Cohen testified on the need for increased community college base aid, which had been touched upon by Chancellor Zimpher earlier. "For all the good that our community colleges do, all of the ways the students contribute back to their communities, they are grossly underfunded," said Cohen. "The proposal in the Executive Budget of a flat Base Operating Aid per full-time equivalent of $2,597 would mean a year to year decrease in direct state tax support of nearly $21 million,” he continued.

The full testimony can be viewed online through the New York State Assembly. The testimony of the Chancellor and President Mastro begins three minutes in, and the testimony of President Mastro, Vice President Kathan, Chief of Staff Cohen, and Director Simons begins at 6 hours and twenty-one minutes. 

Source: SUNYSA

Applications Open for 2016-2018 Empire State Fellows Program Class

 
The State of New York today announced the opening of the application process for the latest class of the prestigious Empire States Fellows program. Now in its fifth year, the initiative recruits exceptional and diverse talent from all around the country to serve in high-level positions in New York State government.

“The Empire State Fellows program has been an effective way to recruit talented individuals from a wide array of professional careers and brings their skills and new ideas to work for the people of New York State,” said Rossana Rosado, Acting New York Secretary of State. “Previous Fellows have included former assistant district attorneys, U.S. Army veterans, business professionals, and non-profit managers, showcasing the range of talent these classes have usually produced. We look forward to welcoming another diverse and dedicated class to Albany.”

To apply to be an Empire State Fellow, candidates must email a cover letter, resume, personal statement, and two letters of recommendation to fellows@exec.ny.gov, before 11:59 p.m. on Monday, April 4, 2016. For more information on the Empire State Fellows Program and the application process, go to http://www.dos.ny.gov/newnyleaders/fellows_app.html.
 
Source: Empire State Fellows

How 'Violence Interrupters' Are Trying to Stop Gang Shootings in Brooklyn

 

Note: This article was originally published on December 16, 2015. 

I first got a sense of what it means to interrupt violence in early September, at a vigil for a slain teen in Far Rockaways, Queens. The boy, NeShawn Plummer, hadn't even graduated high school when he was shot on a corner late one night while hanging out with friends. He died two days afterward, and detectives eventually determined the attack was likely over a minor dispute Plummer was involved in—gang-related retaliation for an earlier fight.

While elected officials and local activists berated youth violence on the corner where NeShawn was killed—in a terrible coincidence, it wasn't far from where his older brother had been killed three years before—I was approached by two teens from a nearby group called Rock Safe Streets, which formed earlier this year and is dedicated to ending the violence in the neighborhood.

The first teen, almost the same age as NeShawn, told me that she joined the group because she was tired of what she had seen, and kept seeing. "The only time that we come together as a community is when something tragic like this happens," she told me. "But we need to take a deep look at what's going on here. Gun violence is only a symptom of the system.

"It hits home, though," she continued, "when a 16-year-old has to have his life taken away," 

Click here for the full article.

Source: VICE 

Trailblazers in Black History: Ethel Waters


Ethel Waters (October 31, 1896 – September 1, 1977) was an American blues, jazz and gospel vocalist and actress. 

She frequently performed jazz, big band, and pop music, on the Broadway stage and in concerts, although she began her career in the 1920s singing blues.

Her best-known recordings include "Dinah", "Stormy Weather", "Taking a Chance on Love", "Heat Wave", "Supper Time", "Am I Blue?",  and "Cabin in the Sky", as well as her version of the spiritual "His Eye Is on the Sparrow". Waters was the second African American, after Hattie McDaniel, to be nominated for an Academy Award. She was also the first African-American woman to be nominated for an Emmy Award, in 1962.  

Click here for more information.

Source: Wikipedia

Today in History: February 11th


Harry Belafonte Endorses Bernie Sanders


Harry Belafonte has endorsed Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders for president, NBC News has learned.
The singer and songwriter who was active in the Civil Rights Movement and close with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. released a video Thursday detailing his endorsement that was given exclusively to NBC News.

"I would suggest to those of you who have not yet made up your minds, or maybe even some of you who have made up your minds, to maybe consider and reconsider what it is that Bernie Sanders offers," Belafonte said in a video endorsing Sanders. "He offers us a chance to declare unequivocally that there is a group of citizens who have a deep caring for where are nation goes and what it does in the process of going." 

Click here for the full article.

Source: NBC News