Saturday, August 18, 2012

Celebrating Eid-al-Fitr


Statement by President Obama

Michelle and I extend our warmest wishes to Muslim communities in the United States and around the world as they celebrate Eid-al-Fitr.  For Muslims, Ramadan has been a time of fasting, prayer and spiritual renewal.  These past four weeks have also been a time to serve the less fortunate -- a reminder of the obligations that people of all faiths have to each other.

In the United States, Eid-al-Fitr speaks to the truth that communities of faith -- including Muslim Americans -- enrich our national life, strengthen our democracy and uphold our freedoms, including the freedom of religion.  That is why the we stand with people of all faiths, in the United States and around the world, in protecting and advancing this universal human right.

On behalf of the American people, we congratulate Muslim Americans and Muslims around the world on this joyous day. Eid Mubarak.

March for Peace on August 19

Congressman Meeks

Congressman Gregory Meeks, Russell Simmons, Rev. Al Sharpton and Erica Ford Unite Against Queens (NY) Crime Surge on August 19

JAMAICA, N.Y.-- Congressman Gregory Meeks (NY-06) is set to join philanthropist Russell Simmons, Reverend Al Sharpton, and community activist, Erica Ford, Founder of Life Camp Inc. for the “I Am Present 4 Peace” march on Sunday, August 19, 2012 at 6:00pm at the corners of Sutphin Boulevard and 111th Avenue in Jamaica, N. Y.

Russell Simmons

“With three of our precincts reporting 100% increase in crime, it is critical that we come together as a community,” stated U.S. Rep Meeks.   

“I am calling on parents, the New York City Police Department, civic leaders and elected officials to work together, share, information and implement strategies all in an effort to end the tragic violence taking place in our neighborhoods.”

Russell Simmons photo source: Own work
Author:  David Shankbone
Permission:  Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported

Weekly Address: Congress Should Back Plan to Hire Teachers

Bill Moyers: Share Your Stories of Voter Suppression


Bill Moyers wants your help building awareness about legal obstacles placed in front of valid voters across the country.

Airdate: August 16, 2012
 

Republican Party Keynote Speech


David Sherfinski spoke by phone about the Republican National Committee's selection of Governor Chris Chrisitie's (R-NJ) to give the keynote address at the Republican Party Convention.

Today in History: August 18th


Highlights of this day in history: Mongol ruler Genghis Khan dies; Women in U.S. clinch right to vote; James Meredith graduates from Univ. of Miss.; Vladimir Nabokov's 'Lolita' published in U.S.; Actor-director Robert Redford born. (Aug. 18)

Top Newsy Headlines: Syrian V.P. Defection Disputed


Sources:CNNeuronewsBBCSky News 

By Nathan Byrne

Anchor: Nathan Byrne
Video courtesy of Newsy.com

Other Newsy videos will play following this report. 

South African President Launches Probe Into Mine Killings


The women of a South African community are coming to terms with a week of bloodshed that culminated with the deaths of 34 workers were shot by police on Thursday during a protest at the Lonmin platinum mine in Marikana. Some have described the incident as a massacre while police are at pains to outline their case for using lethal force. Al Jazeera's Tania Page reports from Rustenburg, South Africa.

Russian Punk Rockers Jailed for 'Hooliganism'


Three members of Russian protest punk band Pussy Riot have been sentenced to two years in prison for their protest in a Moscow cathedral. The conviction has sparked international condemnation, as well as rallies around the world. Supporters have described the jail terms as President Vladimir Putin's "personal revenge". Al Jazeera's Melissa Chan reports from Moscow, the Russian capital.

Al Jazeera's Julie MacDonald Speaks to New UN Envoy to Syria


Speaking to Al Jazeera's Julie MacDonald from Paris, Lakhdar Brahimi, newly appointed joint Arab League-United Nations special envoy to Syria, says he was not confident he could resolve the situation, but he would do his best.

Americans Root for Ugandan Baseball Team


Uganda has made its historic debut at the Little League Baseball World Series. They're the first African team to compete in the tournament in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. The Ugandans lost their match against Panama but won over thousands of new fans. Cath Turner was there to watch the big game.

India Offers Pakistani Hindus Safe Haven


India has said that it would issue long-term visas to Pakistani Hindu migrants who allegedly suffered from persecution back home. Many Hindus who arrived in India last week say they have faced increased discrimination in Pakistan, a predominantly Muslim country, for their religious beliefs. Islamabad says it is cracking down on reported attacks on the minority group. Al Jazeera's Prerna Suri reports from town of Attari on the India-Pakistan border.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Press Briefing by Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest

West Wing Week 08/17/12

Proposals for Reforming the Presidency


Dan Schnur talked about proposals from his organization, No Labels, for reforming the American presidency, and he responded to telephone calls and electronic communications. Some of the ideas include more direct interaction between the president and Congress, and monthly news conferences, a line item veto, and presidential authority to "fast-track" legislation. He also outlined a plan for congressional improvements.

Today in History: August 17th



Highlights of this day in history: Hurricane Camille hits Gulf Coast; President Clinton admits relationship with Monica Lewinsky; Gold found in Canada's Yukon; Robert Fulton's steamboat ride; Rudolf Hess dies; Actor Robert DeNiro born. (Aug. 17)

The Power of the Pen: New Bills Signed Into Law



Statement by the Press Secretary on H.R. 1402, H.R. 3670, H.R. 4240, S. 3510

On Thursday, August 16, 2012, the President signed into law:

H.R. 1369, which authorizes the Architect of the Capitol to construct, operate, and maintain battery recharging stations in parking areas under the jurisdiction of the House of Representatives for use by privately owned vehicles at no net cost to the Federal Government;

H.R. 3670, the “Transportation Security Administration Compliance with the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act,” which makes the Transportation Security Administration subject to the requirements of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act;

H.R. 4240, the "Ambassador James R. Lilley and Congressman Stephen J. Solarz North Korea Human Rights Reauthorization Act of 2012," which reauthorizes the North Korean Human Rights Authorization Act of 2004; and

S. 3510, which (1) delays requirement that financial disclosure forms of employees of the executive and legislative branches be made available on official websites by one month, until September 30, 2012; and (2) specifies that periodic transaction reports of House Members and employees must include transactions of their spouses or dependent children (STOCK Act Amendments).

'We Need a System That is Not Virtually Safe, But Completely Safe and Dependable'



Congressman Gregory Meeks Responds to JFK International Airport Breach

JAMAICA, NY — Congressman Gregory W. Meeks (D-NY) released the following statement on the recent security breach at John F. Kennedy (JFK) International Airport:

“The recent security breach at John F. Kennedy (JFK) International Airport is of extreme concern we must figure out how this could have happened.  Whatever failure that occurred at the perimeter intrusion detection system at JFK International Airport should be fixed immediately. We cannot afford to risk the safety of the millions of passengers that travel through JFK Airport and constituents of the 6th Congressional District who work and live near the airport.  We need a system that is not virtually safe, but completely safe and dependable.  After spending $100 million at a time when we have critical security concerns at our airports and severe budgetary constraints in the State of New York, we must ensure that our investments into that security are reliable.  This incident should not have happened and I am looking forward to results of the investigation.”

Image courtesy of http://davidmquintana.blogspot.com.  

NY Initiative Aims to Expand Voter Registration



Expanded Foreign Language Application Options are Parts of New, More Efficient System

A sweeping new initiative has been launched to expand access to voter registration and streamline DMV services by allowing New Yorkers, for the first time ever, to apply to register to vote, or update their address or party enrollment, through a secure online site.

"Today, we are knocking down longstanding barriers that have prevented many New Yorkers from participating in the democratic process, while creating a more streamlined and more efficient system that will save taxpayers' money," Governor Cuomo said.

"At the DMV, or in their own homes, New Yorkers will now have a convenient and secure way to ensure they are able to register and exercise their right to vote."

"Governor Cuomo asked the Department of Motor Vehicles to re-examine how we did business and to find ways to make government more accessible to the public," said DMV Commissioner Barbara J. Fiala.

"Getting away from paper applications and making use of the technology we are announcing today will improve efficiency, be cost effective, and better serve the people of New York State."

New York currently ranks 47th in the nation in voter registration, with less than 64% of eligible residents registered to vote. 

The DMV processes roughly 300,000 motor voter applications a year. This is currently a cumbersome and time-consuming manual process, where drivers fill out paper forms at one of 129 DMV branches, which then have to be sorted and mailed by hand to one of the county boards of elections. This process is prone to human error, delays and, in some cases, to applications not getting processed. 

The new system will replace the vast majority of paper forms and allow for the centralization and digital transmission of voter registration applications. 

Under the new program as outlined in the attached Powerpoint presentation, persons with a driver's license or non-driver's ID seeking to register, or to update their address or party enrollment information, can do so: 

At DMV's "MyDMV" Website: https://my.dmv.ny.gov

MyDMV requires users to create a secure online account that is validated through the verification of personal information, such as date of birth, social security number, address, and license document number. Applicants must have a valid New York State license or identification card to qualify, which are issued after a rigorous, in-person identity proofing process at a DMV office. More than 700,000 New Yorkers currently have a MyDMV account and that number is growing daily.

New computerized electronic data entry (or VeriFone) devices at each DMV location. 

In every DMV office, new electronic terminals will allow registrants to apply to register to vote or update their registration information themselves electronically without completing any paper forms. These transactions will be overseen by DMV representatives and are subject to the same security standards as the current system. The devices are also equipped to handle credit card transactions for DMV business.

These new applications will include a digital copy of a voter's "wet" signature that drivers provide to the DMV when they are issued a license or non-driver ID. The signature transmitted to the county BOE is the same signature that appears on their DMV-issued license. 

Once the program is fully implemented, the applications will be electronically transferred via both XML file and pdf to the county board of elections, a process often referred to as "automated" registration. The county boards will thus be able to eliminate the manual data entry that is now required to process paper application forms.

In the interim, the DMV will print the electronically-captured voter registration applications with a digitized signature and mail them from their central Albany office to the county boards of elections. This will mean that DMV's batching and mailing from its local offices will be largely eliminated, reducing costs. The county boards will receive a single daily document drop that will be easier to process, track, and scan.

Increased Voter Registration Rates from Online & Automated DMV Registration

According to the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, 14 states—Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Washington—currently or will soon offer online voter registration.

Registration rates among 18-24 year-old citizens rose from 28 to 53 percent after Arizona introduced online and automated registration.

A recent study of Arizona's online registration system found that young and minority voters are disproportionately likely to register online.

After registration was automated at DMVs, DMV voter registrations nearly doubled in Washington and Kansas and increased seven-fold in South Dakota.

Cost Savings from Online & Automated DMV Registration

Studies in Arizona and Delaware have demonstrated substantial cost savings for DMVs and county governments from automated and online voter registration.

In New York State, cost savings for DMV alone are estimated to be at least $270,000 annually. Additional savings for the county boards of elections once their software has been programmed to accept electronically the voter registration applications is estimated to be at least $150,000 annually.

Automated Voter Registration is More Accurate

Officials in states that have adopted online and automated voter registration consistently confirm that paperless registration produces fewer errors than paper forms and reduces opportunities for fraud. A 2009 survey of incomplete and incorrect registrations in Maricopa County, Arizona found that electronic voter registrations are as much as five times less error-prone than their paper-based counterparts.

Expanded Foreign Language Access to Voter Registration

Beginning today, DMV will make its driver license application (which includes the voter registration application) form available online and in its New York City offices in Chinese, Korean, and Bengali. The application had previously been available in Spanish. Notices will also be placed in those offices to alert customers that those translated forms are available.

The Verifone terminals in each DMV office across the State will offer voter registration in Spanish as well as English.

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

Cuomo Streamlines Government



Signs Bills to Eliminate More Than 120 Inactive Local Authorities and Agencies

Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed two bills that will eliminate 28 local public authorities and 95 urban renewal and industrial development agencies that are inactive or no longer needed.

"Since taking office, my administration has worked to make government more efficient and accountable to taxpayers, including doing more with less and finding ways to reduce the costs facing localities," Governor Cuomo said.

"Given that these authorities and agencies no longer serve the public interest, it only makes sense to do away with them for good. I thank the bill sponsors for their work on these two bills." 

The two bills (A. 10288-A / S.5198-D and A. 8823-A / S. 5227-B) repeal the statutory authorization for approximately 95 urban renewal and industrial agencies and 28 local public authorities that are either defunct, were never ultimately established by local law, or are no longer needed to carry out the public function for which they were formed.

The affected agencies and authorities have no outstanding debt or other obligations. The law transfers the eliminated entities' remaining books, records, and rights to the municipality where each is located. 

Both laws take effect in 60 days. 

Senator Michael H. Ranzenhofer, sponsor of S.5198-D, said, "This is another victory for New York State taxpayers. For years many of these authorities have been defunct and not serving the residents of New York State. This law is an important step toward simplifying State government and eliminating wasteful and duplicative state agencies. I appreciate the Governor’s swift action to sign this bill into law."

"During these difficult economic times, as we seek accountability from all levels of government, it makes sense to eliminate layers of government that are no longer necessary and consolidate their responsibilities in our counties, towns, and villages. I want to thank the Governor for his continued leadership in partnering with us to right-size government," stated Senator Jack M. Martins, sponsor of S. 5227-B.

Assembly Member Jim Brennan, sponsor of A. 10288-A, noted, "This bill was a joint effort between the Governor, the Authorities Budget Office, the Comptroller, members of the Legislature, and local governments to carefully extinguish dozens of defunct public authorities. It also ensures that any remaining responsibilities are returned to local government. I appreciate the Governor’s continued leadership in streamlining state government."

"As Chair of the Assembly's Local Government Committee, one of our priorities has been to dissolve IDA's and other authorities that are no longer legally functioning. I support Governor Cuomo's efforts to streamline New York State's government agencies to foster better efficiency and effectiveness. This bill accomplishes the first step in eliminating inactive public authorities. In addition, this bill would advance the State's effort to maintain an accurate inventory of agencies, and abolish unnecessary sectors of local government," said Assembly Member William Magnarelli, sponsor of A. 8823-A.

A listing of the authorities and agencies that were cut is posted at 
CNY Homepage.

Top Newsy Headlines: Pussy Riot Found Guilty of Hooliganism


Sources:CNNITVHLNMSNBC

By Nathan Byrne

Anchor: Jasmine Bailey
Video courtesy of Newsy.com

Other Newsy videos will play following this report. 

Dozens Killed in South Africa Mine Shooting


The South African government says police killed more than 30 people during a demonstration by striking workers near a platinum mine. Police say it was self defence when they opened fire on men carrying machetes and sticks. Union leaders accuse the police of a massacre. Al Jazeera's Tania Page reports from Rustenburg.

Facebook Stock Plummets to Record Low


The California based company founded by Mark Zuckerberg has seen its lowest dip in investor confidence after shares sank to 6.3 per cent. The Palo Alto based social networking website went public in May this year with shares debuting at $38. But early investors pulled out their funds on Thursday sinking the value of shares down to nearly 50 per cent. Al Jazeera's Dominic Kane has more.

California Cities Struggle with Fiscal Pressure


California has started to see a bankruptcy domino effect among its cities. In June this year Stockton was the largest city in the US to declare insolvency. San Bernardino and Mammoth Lakes followed. The financial downturn has also affected the city of Compton, which is expected to run out of funds next month. Al Jazeera's Rob Reynolds reports from the city.

Police in Japan Take on the Yakuza


Japan's organised crime gangs, known as the yakuza, have been operating for centuries.   Their work involves extortion, armed attacks and corporate crime.  Now police are enforcing a new law in the battle against the criminals.  Al Jazeera's Chan Tau Chou reports from Tokyo.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

'You Didn't Kill bin Laden': Special Ops Group Slams Obama


Sources:CBSCNNLosAngelesTimesOPECS 

By Charles McKeague

Anchor: Jasmine Bailey
Video courtesy of Newsy.com

Other Newsy videos will play following this report. 

Voter Participation on the 2012 Election

David Paleologos talked about the results of a a Suffolk University/USA Today poll of eligible voters. Forty percent of respondents said they would not vote in the 2012 election.

Today in History: August 16th



Highlights of this day in history: Elvis Presley, the King of Rock n' Roll, dies at Graceland; Baseball's Babe Ruth dies in New York; Uganda's Idi Amin dies in Saudi Arabia; 'Sports Illustrated' hits newsstands; Singer Madonna born. (Aug. 16)

Olympic Gold Gives Ugandans New Hope


Uganda's first gold medallist in 40 years has returned home to promises of better funding for the country's athletes. Al Jazeera's Malcolm Webb was there as Stephen Kiprotich got a state reception, and an even warmer welcome on the streets of Kampala.

Update: From the Turkey-Syria Border


Al Jazeera's Stefanie Dekker reports from Latakya, a Turkish town on the Syria border, with the latest from Syria as the violence continues.

Japan Weighs Fate of Pro-China Activists


Japan is deciding whether to deport a group of Chinese activists for landing on some disputed islands. It just the latest in a series of disputes between China and its neighbour over the land in the East China sea. Al Jazeera's Gerald Tan reports.

German Economy Headed Toward Possible Recession


Latest numbers suggest Germany is heading for a major economic slowdown, and maybe even a downturn. If German's economy weakens, who will be able to step in to lift the Eurozone out of its current crisis? Al Jazeera's Nick Spicer reports from Berlin.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Mitt Romney and the Mormon Factor


What is Mormonism and what would a Mormon in the White House mean for U.S. politics and the world?

Dozens Killed in Bombing in Azaz


Dozens of people have been killed after heavy bombing in the village of Azaz, north of Aleppo. The victims include a number of Lebanese hostages who were captured by Syrian rebels in May. Al Jazeera's Stefanie Dekker reports from Reyhanli in neighbouring Turkey.

'No Community is Immune to the Threat of Gun Violence'


Statement by Senator Joseph Addabbo, Jr. on Today's Gun Legislation Press Conference

Queens, NY – New York State Senator Joseph Addabbo, Jr., who serves as a ranking member of the Senate’s Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs Committee, released the following statement following today’s noon press conference at City Hall with his colleagues in the State Legislature (Senators Michael Gianaris, Liz Krueger, Jose Peralta, Gustavo Rivera, Daniel Squadron, Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel, City Councilman Jumanne Williams) who have introduced packages of bills to address gun control; The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence; New Yorkers Against Gun Violence; law enforcement officials and labor advocacy groups:
  
I want to thank my fellow elected officials for their efforts in addressing the critical issue of gun violence. From coast to coast, and certainly within our city and state, no community is immune to the threat of gun violence.

The legislation proposed by my colleagues is not seeking to impede upon the 2nd amendment, but to save lives. The 2nd amendment does not grant rights and protections to a person who criminally kills people in movie theaters, religious sites, parks or anywhere at any time.

We must do what we can to protect people, give law enforcement the resources they need, address the issue of a mentally ill individual who owns a gun, and illegal out-of-state gun and ammunition transactions.

As elected officials, we can either sit on the sidelines and do nothing but watch the bullets fly, or stand up and do something about this serious issue. I choose to stand up and do something about gun violence. I am hopeful other elected officials join me.

NYS Thruway Financial Review Completed


Statement from New York State Thruway Authority Executive Thomas J. Madison, Jr.
  
“The Comptroller issued a report today on the Thruway Authority.  The Comptroller, and his audits over the years, have actually contributed to past problems at the Thruway Authority by failing to report years of fiscal gimmicks and deferred expenses.

“This spring we conducted an independent financial review by a highly credible firm which found $800 million in risky financial borrowing that needed to be repaid immediately.  We will continue to do everything possible to control costs, and already anticipate cutting as much as $400 million in expenses.

“On the other hand, the Thruway must also be able to keep the system safe and reliable for our patrons by repairing roads and clearing snow and ice.  No one wants dangerous conditions on the roads.

“The fact remains that tolls for large trucks on the Thruway – mostly long distance haulers – are 50 to 85 percent less in New York than in comparable states like New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  And each of these trucks creates thousands of times more damage to roads and bridges than a passenger car.  Heavy trucks, not passenger vehicles, should bear these added costs, so that tolls can be kept as low as possible for all motorists.”

Photo courtesy of http://www.thruway.ny.gov/about/staff.html.

UFOs Over New York



MUFON State Director Urging Governor Cuomo to Submit Letter to President Obama Requesting Full Disclosure on All New York UFO Cases

A FROM THE G-MAN EXCLUSIVE

Over the last several years, there has been an increase in UFO sightings in the state of New York. While a good number of people tend to dismiss the sightings as weather-related phenomena, trickery, or covert military operations, others believe that we are being visited and that extraterrestrials exist. 

In order to get a better understanding of the situation, and the impact the sightings are having on the state of New York and its residents, From The G-Man contacted the New York chapter of the Mutual UFO Network, more commonly known as MUFON, and spoke with Sam Falvo. Falvo serves as the organization's New York State director. 

In this exclusive interview, Falvo calls for an official state investigation into the alleged crash of a UFO in South Haven Park, in Long Island, New York back in 1992. The MUFON representative also discusses why no one has been able to produce irrefutable proof -- via video -- of aliens or an alien craft, and why the U.S. government refuses to declassify important UFO documents when countries like the United Kingdom have made their files public. 

G-Man: How did you become affiliated with the MUFON? 

Falvo: While I was in grammar school, I developed a liking for science. Upon discharge from the U.S. Navy, I began a study of Astronomy and wanted to do scientific study. The UFO problem was looming out there, but no-one wanted to study it seriously. MUFON allowed me the opportunity to study the phenomenon first-hand with real cases by becoming a certified field investigator. Later I became a section director, chief field investigator, and now state director. I also serve as a MUFON photo analyst on the international level.

G-Man: Have you ever had what is commonly described as "a close encounter"?  

Falvo:
No, people find it hard to believe that, in my position, I have never seen a true UFO.

G-Man: Is there anything in MUFON's research, particularly over the last 10 or 15 years, which leads you and other MUFON state representatives to believe that aliens, if they exist, are hostile?

Falvo: Not really. There are cases which can be interpreted either way. But, if you look at the overall evidence, the opposite conclusion can be drawn. The aliens have been coming here for quite a while, perhaps thousands of years, at least since 1947. If aliens wanted to take something from us, it would have been much easier, even for a very advanced race, to do so from people with spears, rather than waiting for us to develop nuclear weapons and the missile systems to deliver them. But we don’t really know what their motives for coming here are.

G-Man: Over the last several years, the number of UFO sightings in New York has steadily increased. Witnesses have ranged from prominent doctors and lawyers to police officials and military veterans. However, many of the local news organizations have not devoted any coverage to this surprising development. Why do you think this has been the case? 

Falvo: The mainstream media has felt the pressure from the government since the Roswell case. The “Ridicule Factor” has been the method of choice to downplay any serious UFO study. The media also feels the public needs to be entertained rather than informed concerning this subject. They treat the subject as if the U.S. public doesn’t care. However, a recent poll reveals that 59% of the American population believes in UFOs. These are not trivial numbers, so perhaps they should listen.

G-Man: It is very easy to dismiss the claims of "kooks" that are out there, but why have the public and those in powerful positions been so quick to dismiss the claims of people with stellar track records of accomplishments and extremely credible backgrounds?

Falvo: The entire subject of UFOs is highly classified by the U.S. government. The cheapest and most effective way to deal with this subject, en mass, is to deny the existence of UFOs, publicly ridicule those who do believe, and put out dis-information to the rest of the America people.

G-Man: Your website states the following: "MUFON has federal tax-exempt status as a scientific research organization. That has been the extent of our formal connection with the federal government. We continue our efforts to convince the Congress and administrative agencies to declassify UFO-related military and intelligence-agency documents." What measures have you taken to try and get the Congress and administrative agencies to declassify the documents in question?

Falvo: I have left the dealings with Congress and other elected officials to MUFON’s international director.

G-Man: Has it ever occurred to you, or other MUFON officials, that the reason for the stonewalling could involve national security? If so, how would you interpret that as an explanation?

Falvo: Actually, this is the best reason for withholding evidence that we can think of.  If we do have actual first-hand knowledge of alien technology, we would not want the enemies of the United States to gain this information.

G-Man: Has MUFON reached out to New York congressional members for assistance? If so, what are their names and what was their response? 

Falvo: I don’t know if this has been done in the past, but, as state director, I have not.

G-Man: Did you ever contact Governor Andrew Cuomo, or his predecessor David Patterson, to discuss the matter of disclosure? 

Falvo: No, I have not. Since the government has placed such a high level of secrecy on this subject, they are certainly not going to tell what they know to the states. Therefore, the states are about as ignorant of the subject as we are.

G-Man: In terms of New York State, has there been a recent sighting that MUFON believes warrants very serious investigation by the media and state and federal agencies? If so, please provide details. 

Falvo: In terms of New York, the most provocative case I would like to see thoroughly investigated is known as the South Haven Park Crash. In November 1992, multiple witnesses driving along a highway on Long Island reported seeing a UFO crash in the County Park. Neighbors bordering the park reported seeing the Brookhaven National Laboratory’s Fire Department, which is based about five miles away, at the scene. Ironically, the local fire department that had actual jurisdiction did not respond. The story says the Brookhaven Lab shot down the craft or caused the crash. Witnesses say the military closed off the area and prevented any access. The craft was recovered and removed. The land did show a scar where a portion was bulldozed. The County of Suffolk did acknowledge the South Haven Park was closed three days for duck hunting.  Really?!

G-Man: How many alien abduction cases have been reported through your MUFON office, and what percentage would you classify as authentic?

Falvo: Since 2008, we have had 11 abduction cases reported. Four cases did not have enough evidence to make a determination, and four cases did, indeed, seem to support the witness. Three cases are still under investigation.

G-Man: Nationally speaking, what do you cite as the greatest UFO case and why?

Falvo: I feel it was the Roswell incident in 1947. This was the first and only time the government did acknowledge the reality of alien technology. It also established the early, but still highly effective methods and cover-up strategies used by the government. This information was uncovered through the hard work of several UFO researchers.

(Click on image to enlarge it.)

G-Man: With all of the extraordinary advances in audio and visual technology, why hasn't anyone been able to produce irrefutable evidence of a UFO landing, taking off, or emerging from underwater? Now, I realize the government and military could already have this evidence, so I'm focusing the question on the average citizen. Your response? 

Falvo: There are actually two reasons for this. First, an actual UFO sighting is a very rare event. Approximately 90% of all sightings are mistaken identities, such as lens flares, etc. So, an actual piece of alien technology being photographed is extremely hard to do. The second reason is that, most people do not know how to use their camera. This is the age of “point & shoot” cameras. They work well most of the time, but a typical UFO photo is often taken at night, under high speed, and hand held. Without using any hand controls, the automatic settings often fail to produce a good image. Any professional photographer can take a great image with a throw-away camera. But the average person, given a Hasselblad, could not reproduce the image.

G-Man: A couple of years ago, the United Kingdom's Ministry of Defense, under the Freedom of Information laws, made its top secret UFO files public. Other countries are now following suit, but the United States remains steadfast in its attempt to keep the files closed. In addition, a significant number of Air Force-related UFO cases "vanished" after an inquiry by the Huffington Post -- leaving many Americans to believe the U.S. government and military officials are going to great lengths to keep the public from learning about something "that doesn't exist". As MUFON's New York State representative, would you be willing to make a public request, right now, that Governor Andrew Cuomo submit a letter to President Barack Obama, calling for full disclosure on all New York-related UFO cases dating back to Project Blue Book?

Falvo: Yes. This is not the method I would prefer to use when addressing the Governor, but I will take this opportunity to ask Governor Cuomo to write a letter to President Obama, asking for disclosure.

G-Man: We're inching closer and closer to December 21, 2012, a day that many around the world will mark the end of the world. Others believe, based on ancient texts and glyphs found on world landmarks, that the date will not mark the end of the world, but a return of "the sky Gods", which will usher in a new period of enlightenment and understanding for mankind. That said, will you or the MUFON organization be doing anything special leading up to December 21,, 2012? 

Falvo: No, we believe the sun will rise on December 22nd, giving us more time to continue our investigations into the UFO question. Besides, Santa will not allow the children of the world to be cheated out of Christmas after being good for nearly a full year!

New Bill Protects the Privacy of New Yorkers



Legislation Also Guards Against Consumer Scams

On August 14, Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed a series of bills to better protect New Yorkers' privacy and personal information, and help combat consumer scams. 

The new laws include measures to prohibit the hiring of inmates for any job that would give them access to the Social Security numbers of other people (A.8375-A / S.7594.A), to limit instances where entities are allowed to request New Yorkers' Social Security numbers (A.8992-A / S.6608-A), and to improve consumer regulations to prohibit prize award schemes that require a customer to make a pay-per-call service phone call (A.4365-A / S.7595).

"New Yorkers deserve the strongest protections possible to avoid scams and schemes that can be extremely costly and damaging," said Cuomo.

"The bills signed will ensure that New Yorkers' personal information is kept private, and will also help protect our residents from falling victim to enticing pay-per-call prize schemes. I thank the bill sponsors for their and hard work on these pieces of legislation."

Prohibiting Employing Inmates in a Capacity that Involves Access to or Processing of Personal Identifying Information

The new law prohibits the hiring of inmates in correctional facilities for any job that would give them access to, or involves them in, the collecting or processing of Social Security numbers of other individuals. 

The law takes effect in 90 days.

Improving Protections of New Yorkers' Social Security Account Numbers

The new law strengthens existing protections to prohibit certain entities from requiring a person to disclose his or her Social Security number (SSN) for any purpose, and from refusing to provide any service based on an individual's refusal to disclose his or her number. 

Current law prohibits persons and entities from intentionally making available to the public an individual’s SSN, including printing an individual’s SSN on a card or tag required for the individual to access products or services, requiring a person to provide his or her SSN over the Internet except through a secure connection, and printing a person’s SSN on the outside of materials being mailed to a person.

The law will limit the ability of entities to collect individuals’ SSNs in the first place.

The law's provisions are subject to multiple exceptions, including use of SSNs for government requirements, use for internal verification or fraud investigation, use related to banking and credit-related activities, use in connection with employment, insurance or tax purposes, and other instances. 

The law takes effect in 120 days.

Prohibiting Pay-Per-Call Prize Schemes

The new law prohibits prize award schemes that require a customer to make a phone call to claim the prize and the charge for the call is greater than rates authorized by current statute. 

The law is designed to protect New Yorkers from prize award schemes where the customer is told that he or she may be the winner, or has been selected to win a prize or contest, but is required to make a costly phone call to claim the potential prize.

So-called “900” numbers are a well-known type of pay-per-call service, but such a service can be any phone number where the caller is assessed a charge for completing the call and/or is assessed a charge based on the length of the call such as a per-minute charge.

The law takes effect in 30 days.

Senator Charles J. Fuschillo, sponsor of S.7594.A and S.7595, said, "I applaud Governor Cuomo for signing this legislation and working with us to protect consumers. Prison inmates have no right to the access of an individual's social security number. Additionally, consumers should not be preyed upon by scam artists that swindle them into paying exorbitant fees. These new laws will help prevent residents from being victimized by scam artists and criminals."

"The widespread public exposure of our personal information, especially our Social Security Numbers, coupled with the almost universal use of the internet, makes it that much easier for criminals to steal our identities,” stated Senator Lee Zeldin, sponsor of S.6608-A.

“This bill will help protect New Yorkers from these potentially devastating threats by restricting the dissemination and collection of Social Security Numbers, especially in circumstances where disclosing one’s SSN is unnecessary or not required by law. I commend Governor Cuomo for signing this important legislation and for his partnership in our continued efforts to help protect New Yorkers from Identity Theft."

Assembly Member Jeffrey Dinowitz, sponsor of A.8992-A and A.8375-A, added, "I am very pleased that the Governor has signed both of my bills into law. The problem of identity theft is more serious than ever, so it is important that we do everything we can to restrict access to personal information. Both of these bills will do just that and will go a long way towards protecting New Yorkers from identity theft."

“With the governor’s signature making this bill a law, scam artists can no longer use the allure of a valuable prize or cash award to prey upon unsuspecting citizens by having them place a phone call to claim their “winnings,” which will ultimately cost more than the prize itself,” said Assembly Member Nick N. Perry, sponsor of A.4365-A.

“The old adage, “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” is simply just a warning, but now we have gone a step further to protect New Yorkers against unscrupulous con-artists who spend their time inventing these scams to rip-off our vulnerable senior population. I thank Governor Cuomo for signing this bill into law."

Needed: A Third Force


 
A Special Guest Commentary by Renowned Activist Ted Glick

Needed: A Third Force 
By Ted Glick

I believe that we must build a movement that is explicitly and primarily focused on rapidly getting off fossil fuels and onto a renewable energy path. That has been my primary work for the last eight years. But I also believe, as I have for decades, that we need to build an independent political movement that is about not just the climate crisis but also the many other crises facing us today. We need to build an alternative to the Democrats and Republicans. We need a political force that is based in and accountable to the people, not fossil fuel and other corporate interests.

And I am explicitly saying that what is needed is NOT a new political party, a “third party.” I am saying this even though for over 35 years I have been a member and sometimes a leader of efforts to create such a thing and I still am today, as an active member of the Green Party in New Jersey. Indeed, it is my experiences more-or-less hitting my head against the wall trying to help open up our corporate-dominated, two-party-only system to other voices that has led me to believe and to publicly advocate since about 2010 that what we need is a “third force,” not (just) a third party.

What we need is an alliance which consciously brings together progressive Democrats—including some in office or running for it—Green Party members, other independents, people who see themselves as revolutionaries and those who are reformers, and open-minded grassroots Republicans. More than that, this alliance eventually needs to support and work to elect candidates running both as Democrats and progressive independents, and maybe even an occasional Republican.

To sharpen the point even more: I am completely convinced after over 35 years of being active in organizations trying to build a mass, progressive third party in the USA, that such an approach alone will never, ever get us to a new society. The huge, historically-based, structural obstacles in the way of the formation of a truly mass-based, new political party make it essential that a different approach be used. Those obstacles include: the corrupting influence of the huge amounts of money needed when running for many local, state and definitely national elected offices; the role of the corporate-owned mass media in almost-always excluding serious coverage of other-than-Democrat/Republican candidates; a 19th century system of voting, winner-take-all, rather than proportional representation, or the use of instant runoff voting, in the winning of seats in government; and discriminatory ballot access laws in many states to make it difficult for independent candidates and parties to get on or stay on the ballot.

Other progressives, including proponents of the strategy of progressives working in the Democratic Party, have written recently about the deeply undemocratic nature of our electoral system:

Andy Kroll, writing in TomDispatch.com after the victory of Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker in the early June recall election, put it this way: “The takeaway from Walker’s decisive win on Tuesday is not that Wisconsin’s new populist movement is dead. It’s that such a movement does not fit comfortably into the present political/electoral system, stuffed as it is with corporate money, overflowing with bizarre ads and media horserace. Its members’ beliefs are too diverse to be confined comfortably in what American politics has become.”

Katrina vanden Heuvel and Robert Borosage had this to say in “A Politics for the 99 Percent,” printed in the The Nation in early June: “Americans understand that the system is broken—and rigged against them. They increasingly see both parties as compromised. . . Progressives must therefore be willing to expose the corruption and compromises of both parties.”

Bob Wing, in Notes Toward a Social Justice Electoral Strategy, wrote: “The undemocratic and elitist character of the U.S. electoral (and governmental) system is one of the main pillars of corporate rule . . . and one of the main obstacles to progressive work. . . Today’s ruling elite and ruling alliance have made sure that our electoral system still retains tremendous bias towards the rich, especially the corporate elite, and towards conservative white affluent and rural voters.”

And there are many other examples that could be listed of this widely shared view among progressives.

To have a chance of overcoming this state of affairs, which we must do if our children and future generations are to have any hope of a decent life, we must build a mass movement of millions, tens of millions, that cannot be denied. And to get to such a mass movement it is absolutely essential to form a broad alliance network that, by definition, is much, much broader than those people currently willing to be part of a progressive third party. That is why we must consciously build a new third force. When I say “third force,” what do I mean? Has such a thing ever existed in U.S. history?

The 80’s National Rainbow Coalition: I know of only one case on a national level over the last 100 or so years: the 1984-1989 National Rainbow Coalition movement led by Rev. Jesse Jackson. Rev. Jackson himself explicitly spoke and wrote about this movement as a “third force,” used those words, and he welcomed, at first, the active involvement of those of us working at that time for a third party. And in general, at least up until Jackson began winning big Democratic primary victories in his second Presidential bid in 1988, it functioned in a democratic way. Decision-making was done independent of the control of the established Democratic Party structures and leaders, even if there were connections and communication with some of them. The National Rainbow Coalition had a national convention, it elected a national board and that board had periodic meetings, task forces and an essentially democratic structure.

And the program that was put forward by Jackson’s 1984 and 1988 Presidential bids and the Rainbow Coalition movement connected to them was a very progressive program. A major 1988 campaign tabloid, “On March 8 you can help the South make history,” included these programmatic points:

-Guarantee a uniform national income benefit to needy families.
-Create a national health care system so that every American can be cared for no matter what their income.
-Repeal “Right-to-Work” laws.
-Raise the minimum wage to a livable income.
-Provide equal pay for comparable work done by women.
-Double spending for education and equalize funding between school districts so that educational quality is not determined by the community or region of the country you live in.
-Embark on a major effort to research and produce energy from alternative sources such as solar, wind, hydro, and agricultural products.
-Eliminate unsafe toxic waste sites, aggressively enforce the Superfund cleanup program and make polluters pay.
-End dual primaries, gerrymandering of districts, and at-large elections which make it difficult for blacks, Hispanics and poor whites to be fairly represented.
-Impose comprehensive sanctions on South Africa, end all aid to the contras, and ensure long-term stability in the Middle East by guaranteeing Israel’s security while creating a Palestinian homeland.
-Negotiate an end to development of new weapons systems and deep cuts in the nuclear arsenals of both superpowers.

And there was much more along these same lines.

In mid-1988, following the electoral successes of the Jackson campaign in a number of states in the spring, state Rainbow organizations began to organize state conventions to discuss how to build upon those successes and strengthen this burgeoning effort. I remember hearing about upwards of 8-10 of them which took place or which were beginning to be organized. However, in a tragic development, the national office of the Jackson campaign/Rainbow Coalition ordered that these efforts be halted. Soon afterwards, a restructuring commission was set up to look at how the Rainbow was organized. This commission ended up dividing into two groups, which came up with two proposals for restructuring. One, the majority proposal, would have the effect of restricting the Rainbow’s democratic character and centralizing power at the top.

At a Rainbow national board meeting in March of 1989, the restructuring proposal of the majority of the commission was adopted with virtually no discussion of the second, more democratic, minority proposal. This took place as Rev. Jackson, chairing the meeting, made it very clear that he wanted no discussion and the majority proposal. This turned out to be the end point for the democratic and progressive, “third force” Rainbow Coalition movement.

As I wrote in a book, “Future Hope: A Winning Strategy for a Just Society,” in 2000, “Ever since, Jackson has been a loyal Democrat, and the National Rainbow has become a shell of its former self. And, surprise of surprises, the Democratic Party has moved steadily rightwards. This was a classic case of retreat, co-opt, undercut and, as a result, continue to rule.”

Does this experience of the Rainbow mean that a third force, just like the Democratic Party, would be doomed to internal divisions and power plays? I don’t think so, although I’m sure it would have its share of internal differences and vigorous debates. I think that progressive organizers and activists of the 21st century are more appreciative of the importance of democratic process, participatory internal processes, than were those of us who grew to political maturity in the 20th century. I have seen this in many situations and organizations. One of the best examples is the U.S. Social Forum movement.

The U.S. Social Forum Movement: Growing out of the World Social Forum movement which began in 2001 in Brazil, a U.S. Social Forum movement emerged about five years later. This overall movement is progressive, multi-tendency and diverse. More than anything it is a political space for people who are active on a wide range of issues to come together periodically to talk with one another, both with people working on the same issue and with people working on other issues and from other countries, cultures and backgrounds. The strength of a movement is its diversity.

An example of its importance is that it was through the WSF network that a call was issued in early 2003 for coordinated actions on February 15th of that year against the U.S. and Britain’s plans for a military invasion of Iraq. On that day 10-15 million people demonstrated all over the world.

In the United States there have been two US Social Forums organized, in June of 2007 in Atlanta, Ga. and in Detroit, Mi. in June, 2010, with a third one projected for either 2013 or 2014. 12,000 people came together in Atlanta and 20,000 in Detroit for five days of meetings, dancing, singing, listening, planning, marching and inspiration. The Atlanta USSF was described as a “beautiful coming together” by one of its planners, Ruben Solis. It was a classic example of how empowering it is to have an open and inclusive process and structure. Any organization which registered was able to organize workshops on subjects of its choosing as long as the subjects were politically consistent with the USSF’s broad principles. What this meant was that on the three full days where workshops were held, people could choose between 100 different options each workshop session, 900 in all.

The daily culture of the USSF—the way in which we interacted with one another—was deep and profound. During the Atlanta event, despite the heat and humidity of a deep South summer, logistical challenges like long waits for overloaded elevators, and the inevitable glitches and problems, the dominant spirit all throughout was collaborative, comradely and cooperative. It was truly beautiful rubbing shoulders, sitting next to, talking with, dancing with and feeling love and solidarity with thousands of sister and brother activists of so many cultures and nationalities.

Both of the USSF’s were very participatory, almost to a fault. This was partly on purpose and partly because this was necessary to attract the big numbers that were wanted. Probably a majority of the people at each of the USSF’s were under 30, young people who are prepared to struggle for change as long as their voices and feelings are respected.

It was similar with the Occupy movement of 2011. Occupy Wall Street, for example, would not have happened or would not have hung together for so long despite very adverse conditions at Zuccotti Park, if not for the general assemblies that allowed for everyone to have a voice.

These examples are indications that if a progressive third force came together, the chances are pretty good that it could avoid the internal democracy problems which had much to do with sinking the Rainbow third force of the 80’s.

Deciding What Candidates to Support: How would an alliance which included progressive Democrats, Greens and other independents decide what candidates to support? The simple answer: democratically, by the members within the particular electoral jurisdiction where there are potential candidates who are members of the alliance and want its support. In many, probably most cases at least for a while, more of those candidates are going to be running in Democratic primaries than are going to be running on an independent line. Where there could be a conflict is where there are two candidates who want to run in the same district, one as a Democrat and one as an independent. What might happen then?

One option, of course, is for the alliance membership to decide which of the candidates they are going to support -- democracy at work.

Another option would be something like this, if there is much support for both candidates and the alliance members are concerned about internal divisions resulting from choosing one over the other: a decision could be made to support the progressive Democrat in a primary. If that candidate wins, the full alliance would get behind him or her. If he/she does not win, then the alliance would support the candidate running on an independent line.

Inside/outside: Whoever and however candidates are supported, the alliance must never forget that we will only get changes in law, changes in policy, changes in society when we are able to combine the “inside” work of progressive elected officials standing up in support of strong people’s legislation with an “outside” mass movement that is visible, demonstrative, determined, creative and edgy, changing the political dynamics accordingly.

We saw a good example of what this kind of outside mass movement can do with the fall, 2011 upsurge all over the country of people-led occupations of Wall Street and other locations of the 1%. For several months that inspiring, youth-led, people’s movement held firm, and U.S. politics changed rapidly as a result. The dominant national issue went from being government debt to inequality and injustice. Those issues continue to resonate a year later, even after that movement was temporarily set back by government infiltration, police harassment and the mass media playing up of internal differences and weaknesses, all of which made it possible for most outdoor occupations to be shut down by December of 2011.

Summing up: It is encouraging that there are a growing number of calls for and some organized efforts toward what could become a new third force. We need this badly. The primary reason why legislation that is being produced on Capitol Hill is so weak and problematic has to do with the inherently undemocratic nature of a two-parties-only political system. Such a system muffles the voices of those tens of millions of people who have political views that are more progressive than those of the big money-dependent, corporate-influenced, national Democratic Party.

Much too often this system weakens progressive organizations and the overall progressive movement because we are given the choice of either backing problematic Democratic Party candidates and processes, supporting third party candidates and parties who face immense obstacles in their efforts to win and grow, or just not voting. These are not good choices, and this is why many activists consciously put their energies into the building of extra-electoral movements and organizations.

As someone who has been deeply involved in efforts to form a progressive third party since 1975, who was active in the Rainbow movement of the 80’s and has been part of the U.S. Social Forum process since before the 2007 Atlanta forum, I continue to believe that a key part of a strategy for fundamental social and economic transformation in the U.S. is the development of a strong, mass-based, political alternative to the Democrats and Republicans. However, hard experience has shown that it’s not going to happen solely by establishing a third party organization and/or running third party candidates. We need a broad, independent and progressive, united front, a progressive third force with an electoral and activist strategy.

It sure would be a good thing if those organizers with constituencies and bases who agree on the main outlines of this approach would connect and start communicating.

Ted Glick has been a progressive activist and organizer since 1968. His primary work since 2004 has been on the climate crisis. Past writings and other information can be found at http://tedglick.com, and he can be followed on twitter at http://twitter.com/jtglick.