Friday, August 3, 2012

Gabrielle Douglas and Liang Chow: Thank You!!


Duo's Amazing Accomplishment Sends a Strong Message to U.S./China Leaders and Inner City Youth

While America celebrates the phenomenal victory of the U.S. Women's Gymnastics team and the historic achievement of Gabrielle Douglas, I believe it is crucially important that the people of America and China, including their political leaders and other elected officials, take a very close look at the hidden message that was broadcast to millions via NBC Sports. 

Over the last several years, the United States and China have viciously attacked each other over issues like trade and human rights. It's reached a point where the situation between the two world powers has become extremely tense and could get worse. As I watched Gabrielle Douglas and Liang Chow embrace after every event Douglas won, I could not help but think about the political and social symbolism associated with their display of affection, love and support. 

As the applause rained down in the arena, and tears of joy fell from the faces of Douglas, her family, her teammates, and American spectators in the arena and back home in America, I said to myself, "This is what dedication, love, respect, support, and teamwork are all about. If U.S. and Chinese leaders would place greater emphasis on these vital aspects of our existence, the U.S., China, and the world would accomplish great things." 

Finally, I decided to post this statement to convey a powerful message to young people of color in poverty-stricken areas of the United States who think that joining gangs, selling drugs, and "wilding out" to get ahead are their only option. I want all of them to watch the video and realize that Gabriell Douglas, a 16-year-old from Virginia Beach, wasn't handed the gold medal. She trained for four years or more and dedicated herself to accomplishing her dream. Without question, she suffered aches, pains and maybe a few injuries along the way. However, she displayed the heart of a champion and "kept it moving", thanks to the love and support of her mother, extended family, Liang Chow, her Olympic teammates, and her true friends. 

I challenge all young people of color in America, particularly those who are seriously thinking about becoming a member of the Bloods, Crips, Latin Kings, MS-13 or other deadly gangs, to step up their game and follow the path that Douglas took. If you do, I can assure you that some form of award or praise awaits you in the future, and those who once viewed you as a bane or threat to society will embrace you as a champion that overcame all obstacles....just like Gabrielle Douglas. 

This commentary is from the heart and.....from The G-Man.    

Note - August 6, 11:00 am: This article originally contained a YouTube video summary of the Olympic events Gabrielle Douglas competed in and won, but it was removed from the site. My apologies.

Photo courtesy of http://www.facebook.com/LetsBreakthrough

Cass Sunstein 'Bounces'

Sunstein pictured in 2008

Statement by President Obama 

For the last three and a half years, Cass Sunstein has helped drive a series of historic accomplishments on behalf of the American people. From putting in place lifesaving protections for America’s families, to eliminating tens of millions of hours of paperwork burdens for our nation’s citizens and businesses, Cass has shown that it is possible to support economic growth without sacrificing health, safety, and the environment. Cass has shepherded our review of existing rules to get rid of those that cost too much or no longer make sense, an effort that is already on track to save billions of dollars.  With these reforms and his tenacious promotion of cost-benefit analysis, his efforts will benefit Americans for years to come. I can’t thank him enough for his friendship and for his years of exceptional service.

More on Sunstein's departure from the White House is available in the following report: 
Wall Street Journal

Photo source: Own work
Author:  Matthew W. Hutchins, Harvard Law Record
Permission: Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported

The Employment Situation in July


(Click on image to enlarge it.)

Statement from Alan B. Krueger, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers


The Employment Situation in July 

While there is more work that remains to be done, today’s employment report provides further evidence that the U.S. economy is continuing to recover from the worst downturn since the Great Depression.  It is critical that we continue the policies that build an economy that works for the middle class as we dig our way out of the deep hole that was caused by the severe recession that began in December 2007.  To build on the progress of the last few years, President Obama has proposed an extension of middle class tax cuts that would prevent the typical middle class family from facing a $2,200 tax increase next year.  In addition, to create more jobs in particularly hard-hit sectors, President Obama continues to support the elements of the American Jobs Act that have not yet passed, including further investment in infrastructure to rebuild our Nation’s ports, roads and highways, and assistance to State and local governments to prevent layoffs and rehire hundreds of thousands of teachers and first responders.

Today’s report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that private sector establishments added 172,000 jobs last month, and overall non-farm payroll employment rose by 163,000. The economy has now added private sector jobs for 29 straight months, for a total of 4.5 million jobs during that period.

The household survey showed that the unemployment rate ticked up to 8.3% in July (or, more precisely, the rate rose from 8.217% in June to 8.254% in July).  Acting BLS Commissioner John Galvin noted in his statement that the unemployment rate was “essentially unchanged” from June to July. 

The establishment survey indicated that manufacturing employment continues to expand and manufacturers added 25,000 jobs in July.  After losing millions of manufacturing jobs in the years before and during the recession, the economy has added 532,000 manufacturing jobs since January 2010 – the strongest growth for any 30-month period since June 1989. Within manufacturing, motor vehicles and parts added 12,800 jobs in July, its strongest monthly growth since January 2011, partly reflecting fewer seasonal layoffs last month.  To continue the revival in manufacturing jobs and output, President Obama has proposed tax incentives for manufacturers, enhanced training for the workforce, and measures to create manufacturing hubs and discourage sending jobs overseas.

Other sectors with net job increases included professional and business services (+49,000), education and health services (+38,000), leisure and hospitality (+27,000), and wholesale trade (+9,200).  Within leisure and hospitality, restaurant employment rose by 29,400 jobs. Government lost 9,000 jobs as State government payrolls fell by 6,000.  Local governments shed 7,000 education jobs.  Since February 2010, State and local governments have lost 485,000 jobs. 

As the Administration stresses every month, the monthly employment and unemployment figures can be volatile, and employment estimates can be subject to substantial revision. Therefore, it is important not to read too much into any one monthly report and it is informative to consider each report in the context of other data that are becoming available.

Top Newsy Headlines: Chick-fil-A 'Kiss-in' Protests Planned


Sources:CNNFoxBusinessBBCHLN 

By Nathan Byrne

Anchor: Nathan Byrne
Video courtesy of Newsy.com

Editor's note:
Other Newsy videos will play following this report. 

Military Rape Survivors Urge Accountability


The U.S. military is trying to deal with a growing rape scandal at a base that trains all new members of the Air Force. But, survivors of military sexual assault say it is time for Congress to do more to hold the Pentagon accountable. Al Jazeera's Rosiland Jordan reports from Capitol Hill.

Uganda Scurries to Curb Spread of Ebola


Ugandan health officials are monitoring over 200 people who had close contact with Ebola patients, as the country attempts to curb the spread of the deadly disease. But, residents in parts of western Uganda say they are too scared to go shopping or to visit churches or mosques. They fear that they will contract the virus, which has claimed 16 lives since early July. Al Jazeera's Malcolm Webb reports from Entebbe, where scientists are trying to contain the outbreak.

Oil Theft on the Rise in Nigeria


A sophisticated criminal network has stepped up its operations in Nigeria's Bayelsa State costing state and oil companies as much as a billion dollars per month. Royal Dutch, Shell Oil Company's Nigerian subsidiary, says that between 150,000 and 180,000 barrels of oil are stolen daily from its pipelines and wells. Government estimates are twice this amount. The trade in stolen oil involves international traders who provide oil at discounted prices to refineries in other parts of the world. And as Al Jazeera's Mohammed Adow exclusively reports from Bayelsa State, the impact of oil theft on the environment is devastating.

U.S. Job Rate Varies by State


The number of people seeking unemployment benefits in the US has risen as the number of applications increased by 8,000 last week. But the four week average of unemployment applications, a less volatile measure, fell to 365,000, the lowest since March. As Al Jazeera reports, finding a job in the US can depend on where you live. Rob Reynolds reports from Merced, California, on one of the worst places for finding a job in the US, while John Hendren presents a different picture of America from the farming state of Nebraska where the unemployment rate is well below the national average.

Syrian Rebels Strengthen Hold on Aleppo


The Free Syrian Army, the country's main armed opposition group, has said that it has control over about "50 per cent" of Aleppo, the country's largest city and commercial hub. Despite the strengthening hold on the city, government forces, which is amassed around Aleppo, have continued to shell rebel-held areas and bomb them with fighter jets. Anita McNaught reports from Aleppo.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Handcuffed Man Killed in Patrol Car

Spain Arrests Suspected al-Qaeda Trio


Police have arrested three people in Spain in what they claim is one of the most important operations against al-Qaeda to date. They also seized what they describe as enough explosives to blow up a bus. Al Jazeera's Barnaby Phillips reports from Madrid.

Syria Receives an Additional $12 Million in Humanitarian Aid


Statement by Press Secretary Jay Carney

Today, on behalf of the American people, the President approved an additional $12 million in U.S. humanitarian assistance to support those most affected by the crisis in Syria.  After nearly 17 months of conflict, the humanitarian situation is dire and rapidly deteriorating.  The United Nations estimates that over 1.5 million people in Syria are in need of humanitarian assistance, over 1 million people are internally displaced, and more than 130,000 people have sought refuge in neighboring countries. With these additional funds, the United States is now providing over $76 million in assistance for food, water, medical supplies, clothing, hygiene kits, and other humanitarian relief to those most urgently in need.

The United States applauds the generosity of Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, and others who are hosting and providing assistance to refugees fleeing the horrific atrocities perpetrated by Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Syria’s neighbors, along with the United Nations and international and local non-governmental organizations, are delivering humanitarian aid wherever possible within Syria and in the region. Our additional assistance will help their efforts to provide lifesaving assistance and reduce human suffering.  As a leading provider of humanitarian relief to those affected by the crisis in Syria, the United States urges all countries around the world to contribute to the United Nations Syria humanitarian appeal.  We also call on all parties to ensure the safety of civilians and aid workers, and the safe and unimpeded delivery of relief supplies to those in need.

The quickest way to end the bloodshed and suffering of the Syrian people is for Bashar al-Assad to recognize that the Syrian people will not allow him to continue in power, and to step aside to enable a peaceful political transition to a government that is responsive to the aspirations of the Syrian people. We call on all members of the international community to support a political transition in Syria, and we will continue to work with the opposition and our allies and partners to support an inclusive transition that guarantees the Syrian people their universal rights.

For more details on how U.S. humanitarian aid is reaching Syria and neighboring countries, click here.

Photo courtesy of http://us-africarelationsupdates.blogspot.com.

Cybersecurity Act of 2012 Blocked

The Press Secretary also issued the following statement: 

Today, despite the strong leadership of Senators Reid, Lieberman, Collins, Rockefeller and Feinstein, an overwhelming majority of Senate Republicans blocked consideration of the Cybersecurity Act of 2012, the only comprehensive piece of cybersecurity legislation that would have begun to address vulnerabilities in the nation’s critical infrastructure systems.  Senate Republican opposition to this vital national security bill, coupled with the deeply-flawed House information sharing bill that threatens personal privacy while doing nothing to protect the nation’s critical infrastructure, is a profound disappointment. The Administration sent Congress a legislative package in May 2011 that included the new tools needed by our homeland security, law enforcement, intelligence, military and private sector professionals to secure the nation, while including essential safeguards to preserve the privacy rights and civil liberties of our citizens. Since that time, Administration officials have testified at 17 hearings on cybersecurity legislation and presented over 100 briefings, including two all-Member Senate briefings and one all-Member House briefing. Despite the President’s repeated calls for Congress to act on this legislation, and despite pleas from numerous senior national security officials from this Administration and the Bush Administration, the politics of obstructionism, driven by special interest groups seeking to avoid accountability, prevented Congress from passing legislation to better protect our nation from potentially catastrophic cyber-attacks.

The Big Lie: Unmasking the Truth Behind Gangs


As a follow up to the success of Virginia's first anti-gang video, 'The Wrong Family,' the Office of the Attorney General identified a need to create a video for kids. After careful collaboration with law enforcement and psychologists, 'The Big Lie' was produced to expose the dark reality of gangs preying upon our children through lies and manipulation. 

The video is a frank and unscripted documentary and presents an extraordinary opportunity for pre- and early teens to learn about the false promises gang members make to lure them into their ranks. 

The video features gang members, law enforcement, and children who speak directly to the audience about gang recruiting methods, specific ways kids can avoid joining a gang, and most importantly, lifestyle choices to help them stay away from gangs.

Editor's note: From The G-Man is posting this video as result of a recent rash of shootings in the New York City area that left a number of teens and young adults seriously wounded. In other incidents, a four-year-old boy was killed and a two-year-old girl was severely wounded. 

A few months ago, this news and information site contacted Matt Drudge of The Drudge Report and requested that he join our effort to try and quell the rising tide of racial discord and violence in America after the Trayvon Martin shooting and the attack on two white Virginia-Pilot reporters. Drudge was contacted because of his enormous following and the powerful influence he has over national and international media. For whatever reason, Drudge did not even bother to respond. That is most unfortunate. 

From The G-Man is respectfully requesting that Matt Drudge, the Huffington Post, The Grio, Glenn Beck, and all major news organizations across this country support our effort by posting this video on their sites or creating a link to it. As news and information sources, we are charged with the task of reporting and providing vital information that can save lives. Post this video! The senseless slaughter of innocent people, especially children, has got to stop! Please don't wait until someone you know or love is injured....or another innocent baby or toddler is left lying in a pool of blood.  

This request is from the heart and......from The G-Man. 

Accused Child Rapist Wants to Show Videos to Victims


Sources:ABC NewsKCPQKOMO 

By Charles McKeague

Anchor: Lauren Zima
Video courtesy of Newsy.com

Editor's note: Other Newsy videos will play following this report. 

Turkey Doctors Appeal for Help to Treat Injured Syrians


Doctors in Turkey say they need more help to treat the injured fighters arriving from Syria. Hospitals are struggling to deal with the large number of wounded crossing the border every day. Andrew Simmons reports from Rayhanli, on the Turkey-Syria border.

Indonesian Authorities Questioned Over Boy's Killing


More than 100 police officers in Indonesia have been questioned over the killing of a 12-year-old boy who was shot during a crackdown on protests over a land dispute in South Sumatra. The boy's killing has angered the villagers of Limbang Jaya who say the police fired without reason. Al Jazeera's Step Vaessen reports from South Sumatra.

Congolese Protest Over Eastern Violence


Fighting has intensified in the Democratic Republic of Congo threatening the eastern city of Goma. The fighting between the M23 rebel group fighting against the Congolese government has been moving towards the city in recent weeks. But as the conflict escalates, thousands have come out in the streets across the country frustrated at the perceived lack of action from the government. Al Jazeera's Imran Khan reports.

Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Announces New Drought Assistance


Designates an Additional 218 Counties as Primary Natural Disaster Areas

WASHINGTON — On August 1, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced two new pieces of disaster assistance for farmers and ranchers impacted by the nation's worsening drought.

First, Vilsack is expanding emergency haying and grazing on approximately 3.8 million acres of conservation land to bring greater relief to livestock producers dealing with shortages of hay and pastureland.

Second, the Secretary announced that crop insurance companies have agreed to provide a short grace period for farmers on insurance premiums in 2012.

As a result, farming families now have an extra 30 days to make payments without incurring interest penalties on unpaid premiums.

Vilsack signed disaster designations for an additional 218 counties in 12 states as primary natural disaster areas due to damage and losses caused by drought and excessive heat. Counties designated today are in the states of Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Wyoming.

More than half (50.3 percent) of all counties in the United States have been designated disaster areas by USDA in 2012, mainly due to drought.

"President Obama and I will continue to take swift action to get help to America's farmers and ranchers through this difficult time," said Vilsack.

"The assistance announced today will help U.S. livestock producers dealing with climbing feed prices, critical shortages of hay and deteriorating pasturelands. Responding to my request, crop insurance companies indicated that producers can forgo interest penalties to help our nation's farm families struggling with cash flow challenges. The Obama Administration intends to continue helping those who farm or ranch and live and work in rural America through this period of hardship."

Emergency Haying and Grazing

In response to the expanding drought, Secretary Vilsack announced that livestock producers and other participants in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) will now be able to hay and graze acres that have been ineligible in the past. Many of these additional acres have wetland-related characteristics and are likely to contain better quality hay and forage than on other CRP acres.

There are approximately 3.8 million acres that will now be eligible for emergency haying and grazing, subject to certain conditions. Haying and grazing may only occur under strict compliance rules to help minimize impacts on these sensitive specialty practices.

In addition, USDA will conduct follow-up monitoring and evaluation of these opened CRP areas to study the effects of the drought and USDA's emergency haying and grazing actions. Producers should contact their local Farm Service Agency offices for additional information.

Federal Crop Insurance

Secretary Vilsack has announced that crop insurance companies have agreed to provide a short grace period for farmers on insurance premiums in 2012.

To help producers who may have cash flow problems due to natural disasters, Secretary Vilsack sent a letter to crop insurance companies asking them to voluntarily defer the accrual of any interest on unpaid spring crop premiums by producers until November 1, 2012.

In turn, to assist the crop insurance companies, USDA will not require crop insurance companies to pay uncollected producer premiums until one month later.

During the 2012 crop year, USDA has designated 1,584 unduplicated counties across 32 states as disaster areas—1,452 due to drought—making all qualified farm operators in the areas eligible for low-interest emergency loans.

The U.S. Drought Monitor indicates that 66 percent of the nation's hay acreage is in an area experiencing drought, while approximately 73 percent of the nation's cattle acreage is in an area experiencing drought.

During the week ending July 29, USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) reported that U.S. soybeans rated 37 percent very poor to poor, matching the lowest conditions observed during the drought of 1988.

NASS also reported that 48 percent of the U.S. corn crop was rated very poor to poor, while 57 percent of the nation's pastures and rangeland are rated very poor or poor condition.

Last week, President Obama met with Secretary Vilsack and members of his Cabinet to discuss additional steps the Administration could take to help farmers, ranchers and business owners manage and recover from the current drought.

Later in the week, President Obama directed Secretary Vilsack to convene a meeting of the White House Rural Council to update members and stakeholders on the Administration response to the drought. Vilsack will update Rural Council members and stakeholders again next week on new steps taken by the Administration to combat the drought.

Under Secretary Vilsack's leadership, USDA has announced a variety of steps to get assistance to producers impacted by the worsening drought, including:

Allowing additional acres under CRP to be used for emergency haying or grazing. The action allows lands that are not yet classified as "under severe drought" but that are "abnormally dry" to be used for haying and grazing.

Allowing producers to modify current Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) contracts to allow for grazing, livestock watering, and other conservation activities to address drought conditions.

Authorizing haying and grazing of Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) easement areas in drought-affected areas where haying and grazing is consistent with conservation of wildlife habitat and wetlands. USDA has expedited its authorization process for this haying and grazing.

Encouraging crop insurance companies to provide a short grace period for farmers on unpaid insurance premiums, as some farming families can be expected to struggle to make ends meet at the close of the crop year.

Reducing the emergency loan interest rate from 3.75 percent to 2.25 percent.

Lowering the reduction in the annual rental payment to producers on CRP acres used for emergency haying or grazing from 25 percent to 10 percent in 2012.

Simplifying the Secretarial disaster designation process and reduced the time it takes to designate counties affected by disasters by 40 percent.

USDA agencies have been working for weeks with state and local officials, as well as individuals, businesses, farmers and ranchers, as they begin the process of helping to get people back on their feet.

The U.S. Small Business Administration has also made 63 agency declarations in 33 states covering 1,675 counties, providing a pathway for those affected to apply for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL).

SBA's EIDLs are available to small, non-farm businesses and small agricultural cooperatives that are economically affected by the drought in their community.

Cuomo Signs Bill to Help Retired Kodak Employees



Retirees Will Be Able to Purchase Experience Rated Health Insurance Coverage

Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed a bill that will help provide health insurance coverage to former employees of Eastman Kodak.

The new law, which was unanimously passed by both the Senate and Assembly, authorizes the Department of Financial Services to approve a demonstration program to provide experience rated health insurance coverage to retired Eastman Kodak employees.

The new law takes effect immediately and has no fiscal impact on the State.

“Some of these employees have dedicated the majority of their careers to Kodak, and they should have options for their health insurance coverage,” said Governor Cuomo.

“This new law will enable an insurance company to provide retired employees with the option for experience rated health insurance coverage. I thank Senator Robach and Assemblyman Morelle for their hard work on this legislation.”

This legislation establishes a health insurance demonstration program for former employees of Eastman Kodak, a company headquartered in New York State that has been in operation for over 100 years.

Under the bill, Benjamin Lawsky, Superintendent of the Department of Financial Services, can authorize an insurance company to offer former employees of Kodak experience rated health coverage. This means premium rates would be based on the claims experience of the covered former employees.

Currently, New York State Insurance Law requires individual and small group health insurance policies and contracts to be community rated. A policy issued to an association group that consists of individual members of an association is considered a small group health insurance policy and must be community rated.

If a group policy or contract is subject to community rating, then their premium must be the same as the premium rate charged to all other groups holding the same policy in the same region.

The bill would exempt the group from being considered a small group under the Insurance Law. As such, the group health insurance policy issued does not need to be community rated during demonstration program.

The former employees in the group would be able to maintain the status quo by keeping their existing package of benefits at a premium rate that is based upon the collective claims experience of that one group.

“From the beginning, the goal was to try to comprehensively protect people at Kodak who could lose their health insurance before being eligible for Medicare,” said Senator Joe Robach, co-sponsor of the bill.

“This legislation, which was crafted based on Kodak retirees input, will give them this protection by providing an opportunity to get coverage at a good rate from competing insurers. I thank the Governor for sharing my commitment to resolving an issue that impacts so many lives.”

Assemblyman Joseph Morelle, co-sponsor of the bill, added, “This year’s changes at Kodak have created uncertainty for thousands of former employees. We still don’t know what the impact of bankruptcy will be in terms of health care benefits, and that’s why we’ve creating a safety net to protect these hard-working people and give them the security and peace of mind they have earned. I want to thank Speaker Silver, Governor Cuomo and my colleagues in both houses for their support, and especially Senator Robach for his partnership in making this a reality."

Pilot Health Insurance Program for NY College Students


Columbia University, Cornell University, New York University, and the University of Rochester
 Are Eligible

A new pilot program that will allow large universities to directly provide health coverage to their students at a lower cost has been implemented. 

The program is the result of legislation Governor Cuomo signed into law last week. The four universities that are eligible to self-insure are Columbia University, Cornell University, New York University, and the University of Rochester. 

“This program makes it possible for a group of large universities to provide comprehensive health insurance to their students at a reasonable cost,” said Governor Cuomo.

“Many colleges require students to have health insurance so that they are protected in case of illness or injury. While many students are covered by their parents’ health insurance, other students have to purchase coverage, which can be a burden for families already dealing with tuition and other costs. Allowing the schools themselves to offer health plans lowers the cost, while ensuring that students get the health coverage they need.” 

“Working with the universities, we came up with a creative solution that allows the universities to self-insure, providing better value health coverage to their students. Effectively, this bill creates a demonstration project that could eventually be extended to other colleges and more students,” added Benjamin M. Lawsky, Superintendent of Financial Service.

State Insurance Law does not permit a New York institution to self-fund a student health plan without a license to do business as an insurance company. As a result, an institution must purchase a policy from an insurer, or incur the costs of becoming a licensed insurance company. 

A group of large universities approached the Department of Financial Services to explore how to make comprehensive insurance available to their students directly in order to make the coverage more affordable by reducing administrative and risk costs.

Working together, the Department and the schools developed the bill. It permits self-funding of health plans by universities with strong endowments because they have the ability to provide financial security to such health plans.

Superintendent Lawsky stated, “Once we have experience with these large financially-strong institutions, we can consider whether the model will work for other universities.” 

“As higher education costs rise, colleges and universities are always looking for an edge to keep expenses down and compete with out of state schools,” noted  Senator James L. Seward, Chair of the Senate Insurance Committee.

“Clearing the way for a self-insurance plan will allow New York schools that take part to tailor their own health insurance plans that meet the specific needs of their student populations, while reducing administrative costs. I commend Governor Cuomo and Superintendent Lawsky for their support.”

Assemblyman Joseph D. Morelle, Chair of the Assembly Insurance Committee, said, "This is an important step toward making health care and higher education more affordable for New Yorkers, at a time when both present real challenges to families. I am grateful to the governor and all the partners who made this possible." 

The Superintendent of Financial Services will have regulatory oversight over the student health plans. To protect students, the universities will set up reserves to ensure funding will be available to pay health care claims. 

As Attorney General, Governor Cuomo investigated cost and coverage issues related to student health insurance plans.

The new bill provides comprehensive health coverage and ensures that most of the premiums students pay will be spent on health care.

Under the new bill, students will be provided with comprehensive health plans and the plans must spend at least 82 cents of every dollar collected on health care.

“This law allows students and families to access comprehensive health insurance at the best possible prices. As all of us in higher education are working to control our costs, this flexibility is an important element and has proven successful at schools in other states. The Governor has been a key leader in this effort,” stated David J. Skorton, President, Cornell University.

The following statements were also provided:  

“I want to thank Governor Andrew Cuomo, Senator Jim Seward, and Assemblyman Joe Morelle for their leadership on this important legislation. The rising cost of student health benefit plans has contributed to college attendance cost increases and is an ongoing concern for both higher education institutions and the students that need to purchase effective health coverage. This legislation will help the University of Rochester and other colleges and universities to provide their students with high-quality, comprehensive health plans that are both cost effective and address the specific needs of students.”- Joel Seligman, President, University of Rochester

“Student health insurance plan costs are rising, causing concern both for colleges and universities, and for students who need to purchase health coverage. With enactment of this legislation, New York State is providing the opportunity for a number of our research universities to consider self-funded plans as a means of helping students get comprehensive health insurance coverage that best meets their needs, at lower costs. This is a win-win, and we commend the Governor and the Legislature for making this option available.” - Laura L. Anglin, President of the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities, a statewide association for more than 100 private, not-for-profit campuses

“Columbia is committed to ensuring that our students have access to cost-effective medical insurance, a goal that is tied to the realities of the marketplace and therefore can be difficult to achieve. We commend Governor Cuomo, the members of his administration, and their partners in the Senate and Assembly for establishing the option of self-funding to help address our students’ need for affordable insurance.” - Jeffrey F. Scott, Columbia University’s Executive Vice President for Student and Administrative Services

Image courtesy of 
http://www.clipartpal.com.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Expert: U.S. Overdue for a Crippling Cyber Attack


The Department of Homeland Security says the U.S. has seen a 20-fold increase in cyber attacks. Bob Orr reports how every day, U.S. government and private computer systems are being probed by cyber thieves and state-sponsored hackers from China and Russia.

Iraqi Refugees Flee Syrian Violence

The unrest in Syria has left hundreds of thousands of Syrians internally displaced, and forced thousands to flee the country. Among those are more Iraqi civilians who sought refuge in Syria after the US-led invasion of their country in 2003. With the conflict worsenening in their adopted country, many have been forced to return to their homeland. Al Jazeera's Omar al-Saleh reports from Baghdad, the Iraqi capital.

Conservatives and the 2012 Presidential Election


Michael Warren talks about the 2012 presidential election from a conservative perspective, and he responds to telephone calls and electronic communications. Warren also discusses Mitt Romney's foreign trip to Great Britain, Israel, and Poland; possible vice presidential running mates; and some of Mitt Romney's strengths and weaknesses.

House Votes to Extend Bush Tax Cuts


Statement from Press Secretary Jay Carney

House Republicans tonight voted to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest few and shower millionaires and billionaires with a $1 trillion tax cut that will inevitably be paid for by gutting investments in critical programs needed to create jobs and strengthen the economy.  At a time when we need to make tough choices to reduce the deficit, we can't afford another massive tax break for the wealthiest two percent of Americans. We’ve tried this approach, and it didn't grow the economy or strengthen the middle class. And we certainly can't afford to raise taxes on 25 million middle class families like the Republican plan would do. The President called for a bill that would extend tax cuts for 98% of Americans and ensure taxes don't go up by an average of $2,200 for the typical family at the beginning of next year. He will continue to call on Republicans in the House to stop holding the middle class tax cuts hostage and the House needs to follow the Senate's lead and get this done.

Information on the vote is available here: New York Times

DNA Databank Expansion Law in Effect



New Law Also Expands Access to DNA Testing and Discovery for Defendants

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that the groundbreaking law expanding New York State’s DNA Databank by requiring anyone convicted of any felony or Penal Law misdemeanor to provide a DNA sample is now effective.

The new law also includes expanded access to DNA Databank comparisons for certain criminal defendants, allowing them to obtain DNA testing before trial or after a guilty plea to demonstrate their innocence.

In addition, the law provides for greater access to discovery of evidence after conviction where innocence is claimed.

“New York is the first state to expand its DNA Databank so dramatically, once again leading the way for the rest of the nation,” Governor Cuomo stated.

“This new law will enhance the effectiveness and fairness of the state’s criminal justice system by using this powerful technology to its fullest potential. This expansion will help solve and prevent crimes, bring justice to victims and prove innocence for the wrongfully convicted – and above all make our neighborhoods safer for New Yorkers.”

Prior to this law, New York State permitted DNA to be collected from only 48 percent of offenders convicted of a Penal Law crime, which comprised of only those individuals who were convicted of a felony or one of 36 misdemeanors under the Penal Law.

As of today, DNA samples will be collected from anyone convicted of a Penal Law misdemeanor or a felony in any state law – such as felony driving while intoxicated under the Vehicle and Traffic Law.

“DNA Databank expansion was the centerpiece of Governor Cuomo’s 2012 legislative agenda because he understood the critical importance of this technology,” said Deputy Secretary for Public Safety Elizabeth Glazer.

“This new law will help stop offenders from victimizing another person and assist law enforcement in finding the true perpetrator of a crime, so that New York’s criminal justice system can better carry out its purpose.” 

Executive Deputy Commissioner of the State Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) Michael C. Green noted, “Those of us who have spent our careers on the front lines of fighting crime knew that we were missing opportunities to bring offenders to justice sooner, and prevent future victimization. DNA technology allows for the exoneration of the wrongfully convicted, and is a powerful investigative tool to help police accurately identify those who commit crimes as soon as possible.”

“DNA technology has transformed the criminal justice system in New York State. Many criminals committing lesser, precursor crimes, were not previously included in the Databank,” said New York State Police Superintendent Joseph A. D’Amico.

“Now, the expansion of the DNA Databank, to include all crimes, provides law enforcement the additional tool that will prove invaluable in solving crimes committed by repeat offenders, exonerating the innocent and making our communities safer.” 

The law is not retroactive and does not apply to children involved in Family Court matters or to youthful offenders. In addition, first-time offenders convicted of low-level marijuana possession (Penal Law Section 221.10, subsection 1) will not be required to provide a DNA sample.

Taking a DNA sample is not an invasive process: convicted offenders rub the inside of their cheek with a swab. The New York State Police Forensic Investigation Center uses an automated process to convert that material into a numerical profile that is unique to that offender.

The profile is only used to match convicted offenders to evidence found at a crime scene and link crimes that may involve the same perpetrator.

The profile cannot be used for any other purpose because the DNA is extracted from locations on the strand that cannot identify the person’s race, appearance, health or behavior.

Since its creation in 1996, the DNA Databank has helped New York State prosecutors obtain nearly 3,000 convictions, including in 1,470 burglary cases, 626 sexual offense cases, and 202 murder cases. DNA evidence also has helped exonerate 27 New Yorkers and exclude countless others from suspicion, often at the earliest stages of investigation.

With more offender samples being collected, the likelihood that more crimes will be solved increases, starting with new samples being matched against more than 40,000 crime scene samples – each representing an unsolved crime – currently in the state’s DNA Databank.

The Forensic Investigation Center in Albany is home to the state’s DNA Databank, and the DCJS Office of Forensic Services provides administrative oversight of the Databank.

The Forensic Investigation Center can process 10,000 DNA samples from convicted offenders each month. This expansion will not create a backlog.

Moyers and Company: Suppressing the Vote


In this preview clip, Bill Moyers talks with Keesha Gaskins and Michael Waldman of the Brennan Center for Justice about how voter ID laws enable voter suppression.  

White House Briefs

Top Newsy Headlines: Assad: Conflict Will Decide Syria's Fate


Sources:SkyNewsBBCWKRCMSNBC 

By Nathan Byrne

Anchor: Lauren Zima
Video courtesy of Newsy.com

Editor's note: Other Newsy videos will play following this report.

Ebola Outbreak in Uganda Spreads to Kampala


The death toll from an outbreak of Ebola in villages in western Uganda has risen to at least 16. President Yoweri Museveni has also confirmed that the deadly virus has hit the capital city, Kampala. He has also issued a national warning urging people to avoid physical contact. The virus is highly contagious and there is currently no vaccine or treatment for the disease. Al Jazeera's Malcolm Webb reports from Kampala.

Syria Spreads Landmines Along Borders


The Free Syrian Army are also operating on the Turkish border. It says landmines planted by the army are killing its fighters, so it sends out teams to clear them. And now the group says it will turn the recovered mines against government forces. Jane Ferguson reports.

France Passes New Sexual Harassment Law


French politicians have approved legislation that makes sexual harassment a crime. The new measure means some offences are punishable by up to two years in prison and a fine of almost $40,000. Al Jazeera's Emma Hayward explains.

U.S. Poor Fear Budget Cuts


Starting in 2013, the government of the United States will begin cutting $500 billion from the national defence budget, in a deal brokered between Republican and Democrat lawmakers. The matter is a major political issue, and was the focus of a congressional hearing in Washington DC on Wednesday. Many of the cuts are planned to be made by slashing budgets for support programmes for low income citizens, as welll as in defence and other sectors. Al Jazeera's Kimberly Halkett reports from Washington, DC, the US capital.

Pakistan Spy Chief Visits the U.S.


Relations between the US and Pakistan have been fragile in recent months.   But now ties are beginning to improve, as the chief of Pakistan's intelligence service visits Washington. Kamal Hyder reports from Islamabad.

New Tablet Could Revolutionize Kenya Education


A group of young technology experts in Kenya has invented a computer tablet with an educational programme that could dramatically enhance the way school children learn. The new interactive device, named E-limu, aims to engage children as a teaching aide with videos, diagrams and quizzes. Nazanine Moshiri reports from Nairobi.

Oval Office Chat Session: Obama and Monti


President and Prime Minister Discuss Eurozone and the Crisis in Syria

President Obama spoke with Italian Prime Minister Monti earlier today, continuing his discussions with European leaders on economic developments in the Eurozone. 

Their conversation follows recent statements by European officials regarding their commitment to preserve the euro.

The President has been in regular contact with Europe’s leaders on the state of the European economy, and today he reiterated his support for decisive action to resolve the crisis.   

The President also expressed his concerns about Syria and emphasized the need for close cooperation between the U.S. and our European allies in pressuring the Assad regime and supporting the Syrian people.